For by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth. Colossians 1:16

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Have you noticed that when you are really excited for a certain day or event, time seems to move fantastically slowly? This weekend, I get to see a number of people whom I love dearly and likely wont see again for quite some time.  I've been looking forward to this weekend for about...15 months, ever since my brother proposed to the love of his life, who has been like a sister to me pretty much since they started dating.  I've had my bags packed for about a week now, and all that is left is to wait.  Sigh.

Though it is up for some debate, I fully believe that the Christmas season is upon us.  It may not be Advent yet, but the time for preparing for the coming of Christ is possibly my favorite time of year.  I graduated college in December, and given that there were not many of us, there wasn't an outside speaker for the ceremony.  The president of the university spoke compared the college years as the preparation period for the life into which we would enter as adults to the season of Advent as the time of preparation for Love itself coming down to the earth to bring us into the life that God designed for us.

Waiting for something that you are excited about is a slow-going process.  But when it finally arrives,  all of that waiting proves itself to have been worth it.

Friday, November 23, 2012

My home church has this fantastic tradition on Thanksgiving.  The church building is across the street from a lake, and every Thanksgiving morning, there is a hike around the lake followed by a time of sharing and hymns.  I just absolutely love it.

This has been such a weird week.  Not for any specific reason, but just knowing that the rest of my family was together this week and I wasn't.  It's not like I don't enjoy being here or I don't love what I do, it was just weird to know that my siblings were at my parents's house!  A couple days before Thanksgiving, I went to a choir rehearsal with a friend, and I got to meet the director and some of the other choir members.  When I was talking with some of them, they noticed that I have an accent, and when I said "I know, it'll always be there" they said "Oh but it's so charming! Don't you think it's charming? It's charming!"  I'm glad they think so, because I think it's obnoxious! :). After the rehearsal, I noticed that the percussionist looked nothing like a Frenchman (given that he had blond hair).  I asked him if he was American, which he was, and when I said that I was too, he said "Oh cool! Wait. Happy Thanksgiving!"  It is so funny to find other Americans here.

After finishing up work on Thanksgiving, I thought, "That's it. I need to make turkey and mashed potatoes tonight!"  So, I cooked a couple turkey fillets (not like the other year when I had to chop the head of the turkey-gross), mashed a few potatoes, and gravy and watched a Thanksgiving episode of Gilmore Girls.

I started thinking about this past year, and for what I was thankful.  As Josh Groban sings, "There's so much to be thankful for".  As I was thinking of God's faithfulness, how He has provided in sending me back here, the people that have been in my life, the generosity of different people, my family, the chances that I have to read and be creative, music, and all of a sudden, I found myself singing one of my favorite Swedish hymns: Thanks to God For My Redeemer.  It's such a beautiful hymn.

"Thanks for prayers that Thou hast answered,
Thanks for what Thou dost deny!
Thanks for storms that I have weathered,
Thanks for all Thou dost supply!
Thanks for pain and thanks for pleasure,
Thanks for comfort in despair!
Thanks for grace that none can measure,
Thanks for love beyond compare!"

I just love that hymn! Over this past year, I've been trying to be more thankful, and living more in light of 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18, "Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus." Even when things do not go as expected, I should always give thanks with a grateful heart to the Holy One.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

This morning I had the pleasure of doing something that I haven't done in a while: I took a walk with God. I discovered the utter joy that comes from literally walking with God and talking to Him last January.  I was up at camp for a few weeks, just for fun, and I was walking along the snow-covered trees heading to a friend's house, and I just started talking to Him, thanking Him for different things, telling Him what I was stressed about, enjoying, etc.
A friend of mine stayed over last night, and this morning I ran out to pick up some pain au chocolats, and as I was walking, I just started talking to Him.  In the months that I have been here, I have re-realized just how important prayer is. Pretty much any time I have been out with a friend, before we part ways, we pray together.  In the time by myself as well, it has become ever-increasingly evident to me that prayer is desperately essential and brings about peace.  When your heart is being filled with God's peace, your whole body can turn to peace, and strength to face the problems that arise daily, the mountains that appear when you don't expect them, and the difficulties from simply living in a world that is ever seeking God (even if they don't know it) can come, always through the grace of God.  Never, never, underestimate the power of prayer.
In the fifth chapter of Luke, he tells us, "But [Jesus] would withdraw to desolate places and pray."  I often find that I have the mindset that I can do things on my own.  But Jesus himself went to spend time with the Father everyday.  As a friend pointed out to me recently, when Jesus came down to be born as a human to save us all, it was the first time that he had ever been separated from God.  I find it terribly difficult to even spend this much time without seeing my family, but imagine not only being separated from your family, but also your best friend, as well as leaving a part of your very self.  And so, Jesus would leave those he was with, to commune with God.  We as Christians say that we follow Jesus, and perhaps it is just me, but I know that I don't commune with God like he did and like I want to.
How very deeply do I want to try to do just that.  Not just ask God for things, not just request that He care for others, but truly commune with Him.  And how great a gift it is to be able to pray.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

During this week of playing with kids, one little boy latched himself on to me.  We were playing a round of Duck, Duck, Goose (though we called it Tomato, Tomato, Catsup- yes, I still do refuse to spell it "Ketchup" unless I am talking about the actual Heinz product), and after being picked to run, he ended up next to me.  We were talking and all of a sudden, upon seeing that I had blue eyes, not brown like his, he began to recite a poem about the meaning of the different eye colors.  It was too cute, and my heart just melted.  After he finished saying the poem, my first thought was "Wow.  They sure do start the charm when they're young over here."

This week has been tremendously full of emotions.  Saying (temporary) goodbyes to dear friends, being filled with joy through talking to loved ones, working with wonderful but draining kids, and trying to get into a rhythm of daily life amidst changes.  Yes, you can most assuredly say that this week has been a roller coaster.

After spending a week in English at a wonderful conference, I was launched right back in to nonstop French.  That is, after all, one of the reasons why I am here.  Over the past three days, I've been helping with a Kids Club in the area.  It was a circus theme, so I painted a whole lot of little faces like tigers, bunnies, lions, dragons, and-because girls will be girls-princesses and butterflies.  Don't really going along with the theme, but it was cute.  On the first day, the kids rotated between three stations of gymnastics, juggling, and ribbon/scarf dancing.  I led the ribbon group and my, oh, my, it was like being in first grade again.  In elementary school gym class, we would have units on scooters, ribbons, tumbling, and all of the fun things little nuggets do.

On the second day, the kids chose which group they wanted to be in for the show they would be putting on for their parents on the last day of the Club.  I got a group of the elementary school kids who were super excited to play with the ribbons.  After letting them play for a while, we got in a circle and each kid got to pick one thing to do with the ribbon.  After every kid picked something, we put it all together and created a routine.  The scarf dancers would do their routine in the middle of the circle while the ribbon dancers made figure eights, lassos, serpents, spun around in circles waving their ribbons high in the air.  After we practiced a few times, I could tell they were getting bored, so we jumped around like different animals whilst twirling our ribbons above our heads, getting them tangled around our arms, and just had a grand ole time.

On the last day, after hearing the end of our story for the week, painting faces, making posters for out circus, and practicing once more for the show, parents arrived to watch the production on which their kids had worked so hard.  The kids did a great job and they were so proud of themselves!  It was a major success, and such a joy to be a part of it.
A few months ago, a friend of mine gave me a book entitles A Jane Austen Devotional.  Each day has an excerpt from a Jane Austen novel and then a reflection correlating to different passages of Scripture.  This morning's reading was entitled "Letting Go of Worry".  Now, I didn't really care about the excerpt from Emma, but I really loved the message of the devo.  Here is a bit of it:

A second-and equally important-consideration is that time spent worrying is time not spent trusting God.  That energy would be so much better put to prayer!  The Bible tells us, "Don't worry about anything; pray about everything. (Philippians 4:6)

I've typically been a worrier on my life, primarily about things that don't matter much, and as much as I have wanted to, I have yet to conquer worry.  Yet even though I have spent years trying to let go of it, it remains a daily comfort to know that God can change worry to peace through giving it to Him and allowing Him to change the heart.  It's just the giving it over part that is a difficulty.  Yet, it is the thing most people who struggle with worry want to do!  Why is it that the hardest things to release are the things that get us down?  It is so easy to forget that people love us and enjoy being with us, and always so hard to forget when one person said something that hurt us.  "Don't worry about anything; pray about everything."

Friday, November 2, 2012

I grew up in the Midwest, the land of corn and wheat.  When we would take family vacations, driving across states to see extended family, all we would see for miles and miles were rows of corn.  Very few hills.  Very few lakes.  It's farm country.  Two years ago, when I studied in France, I saw mountains for the first time.  We were up in the Alps at a retreat, but it was rather foggy and we didn't see very much.  Occasionally, the clouds would clear and we could see a little bit, but not very far.

A few weeks ago, I went to Annecy and saw the Alps for the first time clearly.  I always thought that I liked mountains, but now I really know.  Over the past five days, I had the chance to spend time with some truly wonderful people up in the Swiss Alps.  Every morning, we were able to see a double sunrise.  Obviously, Switzerland is not on Tatooine, so what do I mean by a double sunrise?  We were somewhat in a valley, and so when the sun really did start to rise, we couldn't see the sun because the mountains were blocking it.  We saw the dark sky start to melt into the colors of daylight, and then during breakfast, the sun would begin to crest the mountains outside of our hotel a d the light shone into the valley.

Yesterday morning, when I came downstairs and looked out at the mountains, I saw an overcast sky, snow atop the mountain peaks, and clouds resting above the valley but below the distant mountain peaks.  How great an artist is the LORD!  I could try to replicate the streaks of snow over the dark blue face of the mountain, but it would most assuredly fail to capture the beauty.  The greatest artist, greatest photographer, the most talented replicator, none could truly capture what God has made.