Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Christmas Constancy

Just finished reading other people's Christmas blog posts as I ate lunch and decided to try to crank my own out before leaving for work...

I've been thinking and wrestling through so very much lately (always?), and have a huge list of bloggable subjects to choose from. But here's one that's been on the edge of my mind this week...

Christmas is hard this year. It's logistically hard because all of a sudden, on top of getting my own home ready, my own family shopped for, etc., I'm also trying to be sure my two group homes have the Christmas celebration that they should. And that takes more energy than I have. It's hard because I just feel worn down in general, like I need a vacation, which I can't have until February at least.

Most of all, I think it's hard because of what it isn't. That magic of childhood Christmas fades a bit more every year, and consumerism and secularism seem so heavy. I miss the first 23 years of my life, where Christmas actually meant a vacation of some sort, more than 1 day off from work, time to rest and enjoy. I haven't even gone to see any Christmas lights this year, with time and energy lacking. Last Christmas was shared with someone special who isn't in my life anymore, and that brings extra heaviness too. Our family traditions also continue to change as people grow up and the family extends wider and wider, and that's hard on top of it all. I just finished reading some really sweet blog posts written by other Christians who, too, feel a weight that they wish they didn't at what should be a joyous time of year. I know I'm not alone in this.

We heard a great sermon this past Sunday on how to shepherd our hearts with scripture at Christmas, how to think rightly about it. I was encouraged by it, but still it is easier said than done. But that combined with other musings already in my head got me thinking about what has NOT changed about Christmas.

Jesus was still born 2 thousandish years ago. God still entered our world in the form of a baby, born in a stable to die on a cross. Born to die for ME. Born to redeem a people for Himself. Born to die that we might have life. Those events HAPPENED, and no amount of "festive cheer" can add to or detract from the history that we celebrate. There will be probably be happier Christmases in my future, and there will probably be harder ones. But the one that really matters cannot be changed and will be celebrated for eternity. Hallelujah, Hope has come!

Friday, November 12, 2010

in brief...

I came to a coffee shop today with another writing friend, with the intent of writing. It's National Novel Writing Month...but I wasn't quite ambitious enough for that. I at least figured I'd get some blogging in, but now I have less than 10 minutes before I need to leave to meet another friend for lunch. So instead, a little portion of a song I wrote the other day. I discovered Sunday that I so desperately need to continually have a creative outlet, especially now that creativity (at least in a classic sense) is not as much a part of my daily life anymore. I need to be a person who writes and creates and sings and plays her heart out. And I recovered a little bit of that person on Sunday. here's the chorus - I'm late for lunch! :

"Jesus you bind the broken-hearted
You make us into who we never thought we'd ever be
And this is not where I was headed when I started
But the road is clear to You where my veiled eyes can't see"

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Little bits of thankfulness

My job has proven to be even harder than I'd imagined it would be. I'm battling my anxiety more than ever, and thankfully God has given some sweet victory in that battle at times. But at other times, I'm pretty overcome by the amount of things to be accomplished, and the IMPORTANCE of these many things. So couple my perfectionism and desire to do all things well with the fact that these things MUST be done well or people in my care will suffer...and you have a Krista who has to beg the Lord daily for a calm, peaceful, trusting heart and the ability to do hard things.

Management was never in my plans, and yet here I am. But what GOT me here was a sincere desire to help people with disabilities, and I have to constantly call that to mind. When I'm pushing paperwork, disciplining staff, dealing with pharmacies, and attending meetings, it's easy to forget. But this week, when things were probably at their hardest (and an on-call weekend loomed in my future), God was so gracious in providing these short, amazing moments with the clients themselves. It was very much like He was saying, "I know THIS is hard, but you love THIS."

On Tuesday, I finished my grocery shopping for one of the houses and was exhausted. I came to the door of the house with my first load, and was greeted by one of the clients, with a HUGE smile, and the most excited little squeal ever. Granted, I think he was just as excited about the groceries as he was about my arrival, but he assured me that he was excited about both. All of the clients were super happy that day, and it was great to walk into a happy home and have a sense that I'm contributing to its happiness, even if it doesn't always feel that way. The smiles and the energy from all of the residents was contagious even to my weary, stressed-out soul.

I manage 2 different homes, and according to my schedule, my time is split evenly between the 2. One of these homes, though, has demanded much more of my attention in recent weeks, and I'd hardly been at the other home at all in about a week, with the exception of stopping by briefly. On Wednesday of this week, I was finally there in a mid-afternoon, following another stressful meeting that left me feeling like my plate was just too full. The clients came home from their day program, and one of the clients smiled a big smile when he arrived and saw me. He immediately signed, "I love you." He then made sure the staff with him knew that he loved me also, signing this several times and pointing to me. Then a big hug and another big smile. I really almost cried. He'd never told me this before, and he chose THIS day to tell me, when I so needed to hear that.

Yesterday, I was determined to get off early since I'd stayed til 10 pm the night before and have to be on-call all weekend. But my plans don't always work out - one of my guys neeeded to go to urgent care. I had one of our drivers drop him off w/a staff, but I needed to go pick him up and get to the pharmacy and get instructions to the staff for administering his antibiotic. So as to not leave the house with too many clients and not enough staff, I brought one of the guys with me for these errands. I was exhausted but strangely happy, and this guy was glad to get out of the house and sit shotgun. Some dance-type music was on the radio in the van when we got in, and we both started dancing along. I am NOT a dancer, and have said before that the only time I dance is with my clients. It was so freeing and fun and altogether fabulous, and again, the smile on that guy's face made my day.

Our small group is studying Colossians 3, and it's so full of mentions of thankfulness, thankful hearts. I praise God that I have an underlying thankfulness -for His gospel and His goodness, and even for this job - even on the hardest days, I'm thankful for it. And this week, God gave so many little gifts to help me with my thankfulness. He is GOOD.

Colossians 3:15-17 "And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him."

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Confusing Color

I went up to Flagstaff last weekend to visit with my friend Danielle, who recently moved up there for grad school. We had such a lovely time, and I'm excited to brave the cold sometime this winter and visit again...

I drove home Sunday evening right around sunset. Anyone who's ever done any driving between Phoenix and northern AZ is familiar with a place called Sunset Point - a well-equipped rest area with dramatic views. Many a vacation in my life has had its first stop at Sunset Point. A mocha with Danielle just before leaving Flagstaff necessitated a bathroom stop there on my way home this time around, so I counted down the miles as I approached it...

The rest area looks off to dramatic mountain views on one side of the highway, and the area on the other side of the road is mostly flat, which also adds some drama. But this time, as I got close, I noticed some mountains off in the distance on the flat side, that I'd never noticed before. And something about the light at the time of the day, hitting those mountains, was breathtaking. They were this odd shade of green (a color we Arizonans treasure) that I really can't describe, and couldn't capture on film once I tried. It was absolutely beautiful, and it got me philosophizing...please forgive me, this may be intensely cheesy...

So often in my life, especially in the past year or so, I've wished that things could just be black and white. I've wished that there was a correct answer to all of life's questions that could be deciphered by some sort of an equation. The messiness and unpredictability of life has been a source of much frustration.

And yet...how beautiful is color! And how beautiful a God who chose to include color as He planned the details of our world. Black and white would be a little easier to understand, but easy is not what God intended. Instead, He does things in a complex, artistic way, as only the Creator could do. The green on that mountain did not provide any concrete answers...but I certainly wouldn't have traded it for black and white.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

It is Good

"Sunny days, keeping the clouds away. I think we're coming to a clearing and a brighter day..." - Jars of Clay

It seems my personal season of darkness lies behind me - at least for now. There are still certain elements of my life that I would have planned differently, that I would change if that power rested in my hands. But overall, my circumstances look a lot more favorable. And more importantly, my heart seems to be healing. I sense in me once more a genuine love for the Lord - weaker, perhaps, that it has been in other seasons, but present and deepening again. The ways in which I have sort of "gone through the motions" in recent months are increasingly fruits of Spirit-granted desires again...and it is sweet!

I got to spend a good deal of time in the Word this morning, and I was reading Lamentations 3. This is one of those chapters that I love each time I come to it, but often do not call to mind between readings. I was so very refreshed by it today.

"The Lord is good to those who wait for him, to the soul who seeks him.
It is good that one should wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord
It is good for a man that he bear the yoke in his youth
Let him sit alone in silence when it is laid on him;
Let him put his mouth in the dust - there may yet be hope..."

There is so much about the last season of my life that I do not understand, but I can cling to this: that the Lord is good! And that somehow, it is GOOD that I had to wait quietly, that I had to bear my yoke, that I had to sit alone in silence and be humbled to a point of desperation. There is good in all of it.

"For the Lord will not cast off forever, but, though he cause grief, he will have compassion
according to the abundance of his steadfast love..."

May I never make God so small as to say that he only allowed or permitted me to grieve. No, He caused it. And he caused it in a way that by no means diminished His care for me or His perfect love. Today, my heart believes this.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Approval

I'm nearing the end of the 2nd week of my new job. I could probably write 10 pages about all I've learned, thought about, prayed about, loved, been stressed out by, rejoiced in, etc during this time. But I'll try to limit myself to one theme...

I'm a group home supervisor, working with 9 other group home supervisors to supervise 15 or so group homes. I have a boss, we'll call her "S." She's great - very capable, very organized...but also very quick, to-the-point, no-nonsense. She's been helpful and kind, but over the last few days I started worrying because I feel like i just keep asking questions, and I was afraid it was getting frustrating for her. I prayed about it, prayed that I would do my job with excellence, be a blessing to her, to my peers, to the staff I'm over, and to the residents we serve, and then also that I would not base my self-worth on her opinion of me. This is something I DEFINITELY dealt with in New York, during my internship, that hasn't been an issue the last 3 years cause my last job was very independent and didn't involve a lot of feedback.

Today S was in a meeting all day long. I met with her peer, who's the boss of 5 of the other group home supervisors. We'll call her "C." I was glad for the chance to bombard somebody else with questions for a little while, and she was super helpful. She also brought up the fact that "S" told her that I'm picking things up really quickly. That was her only comment regarding S's opinon of me, but it made me breathe SO much easier. Much as I try not to care, I DO care a lot about S's opinion, and just that little comment was so reassuring.

And then I tried to put things in perspective. My boss, a sinner like myself, seems to have approved the job that I've done over the last 9 work days. My God, the Creator of the universe and the only true God, has also given his approval. S's approval is based on 9 days of me learning and completing certain tasks, and probably certain elements of how I've related and communicated w/people in our company. Her approval could mean a good future within a company - an excellent company but surely flawed like every company. And even if I was to stay an employee of this company for the rest of my working life, that still is less than half a century. And S's opinion could change tomorrow.

My God's approval is different. It is eternal. It means eternity with Him. It is unchanging. And it is based only on HIS finished work, by Christ's death on the cross that covered my sins. Some truths from Colossians that this brings to mind:

"giving thanks to the Father, who qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in light" 1:12

"And you, who once were alienated and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds, he has now reconciled in his body of flesh by his death, in order to present you holy and blameless and above reproach before him." 1:21-22

"And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with Him, having forgiven us all our trespasses by cancelling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross." - 2:13-14

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Why I Went to College?

Going to college was never something I had to think about. From a young age, I knew that was the plan. It was never really something I prayed about, thought through, etc. Maybe about WHERE to go to college, but even that was an easy choice - full scholarship and then some at ASU, which had the degree I'd known I'd wanted since sophomore year of high school. So I went.

At several points along the way, I doubted myself a little. At at one point, i think it was junior year, I doubted myself a LOT. Classes were hard, piano lessons were stressing me out to the point of frequent tears, and I wondered if college was something that I wasn't supposed to finish. It got to the point where I actually went and met with my pastor to seek counsel on whether maybe I should drop out.

I don't remember everything that was said that day. I remember him saying that yes, perhaps it was the Lord's will that I quit school. But not to rush that decision. He told me to reflect on the ways that God had used the experience of college to grow and challenge me, classwork aside. And the part that I remember the most was that he pulled out a worship song, just a sheet with words and chords. He asked if maybe my schooling was helping me to be able to look at something like that and do something with it. And it was. At that time, I was still by no means confident in reading chords, but I was working on it.

Obviously, I stayed in college. Combo of the things he said and other factors, I'm sure. And I finished my classes, then headed off in 06 to my internship in NY. If I'd thought college was hard...the internship almost destroyed me, I almost quit, and I came to a definite decision that music therapy was not the field for me...

Then, I moved home, got my board certification, and got a full-time music therapy job. Apparently, I could do it after all. I loved my work, despite it still being intensely challenging, and it was evident that the Lord had known what He was doing, and that NOT quitting had been the right choice, both times I'd faced that decision.

3 years later, I've fought hard for music therapy. When budget cuts hit, I fought the cuts. When they didn't look reversible, I started my own little fledgling business, sort of, with my employer's blessing. When that didn't look sustainable, I started looking at music therapy jobs out of state.

And now, after all of that, I've stopped the fight, at least for now. I've gotten a new job, still in the realm of people with disabilities, but outside of the music therapy field. I'm thankful to take a break from fighting, because it's been exhausting. I'm excited for many elements of the new job, but deeply sad at the same time. So strange to think my weeks will not be filled with singing and playing and the laughter of children.

But something keeps coming back to me...that convo with pastor Scott so many years ago. That piece of music he flashed in front of me in that meeting, that now is something I can play effortlessly, really WORSHIP with without spending all my energies on finding the right notes. Post-internship, I finally joined the worship band at church, and I'm able to serve the local church in a way I never would have had the confidence to do before. And really, if that was the only reason I went to college, it would be worth it.

And then I think of all the other amazing things that came out of college - the Christian community I discovered there, the deep friendships that formed, all the growing up that happened there. I'll use the education I received in my new job, for sure, and hopefully one day I'll be able to reenter the music therapy world in some capacity, but if not, college was surely still worth it. God surely knew what he was doing.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Someone Else's Words

Over the past week, my battle for right thinking - to think rightly about things and to think about the RIGHT things - has been pretty intense. And what tends to happen when I start to loose control of my thought life is that I just let the reins go completely - like they're slipping out of my hands, and I just don't grab them fast enough. And a lot of this thinking has to do with my own desires and trying to figure out what GOD's desires are, and how to make mine line up with His, and how to think rightly on how to know and understand His will, and how to believe with all my heart in all of His promises...but in my weakness all of this just turns into worry and self-pity and fear, and even anger with this great God.

So, the other day I kind of lost it. And I was reading in the Psalms and was brought to tears as I read the following:

"The Lord is righteous in all His ways
and kind in all His works
The Lord is near to all who call on Him
to all who call on Him in truth
He fulfills the desire of those who fear Him
He also hears their cry and saves them
The Lord preserves all who love Him"
-Psalm 145:17-20a

I decided that rather than sit down and write a song about all my messy thoughts, I'd write a song using only these words - only divinely inspired, TRUE words. What a sweet process this was! Especially because songs pretty inevitably get stuck in my head, in a much more persistent way than words or sentences do. And so as I tried to gear up strength to face the rest of my day, I had TRUTH echoing in my brain - that the Lord is righteous, and kind, and near! That He fulfills desires and hears cries and saves and preserves His children. Oh, that this truth would be the constant soundtrack to my days!

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Beauty Will Rise, part 2

After almost a month, I'll continue my Steven Curtis Chapman series...though I'm tempted to ditch it and write about other things. Maybe those other things will make their way into this series anyway...

2nd song on the album is the same as the album name, "Beauty Will Rise." This song is incredible. Out of all of the songs on the album, I think it is the most powerful musically, and the lyrics are great as well. One part of the song has sort of become my theme over the last month or so:

"But buried deep beneath
All our broken dreams
We have this hope:
Out of these ashes,
Beauty will rise,
and we will dance among the ruins
We will see Him with our own eyes..."

I've kinda come out of the depths of my emotions, in recent weeks. But I sat there for awhile, under what really seemed to be the weight of all my broken dreams. And I've clung to this hope, that God and God alone can make something beautiful out of what looks so very messy and hard and hopeless.

There's this part of the song where the lyrics say,

"I can almost feel the hand of God reaching for my face,
to wipe the tears away, and say,
'It's time, to make everything NEW."

And at the word "new," there's this incredible instrumental build that has never failed to move me. And oh, how I'm so very eager to see this new something that God will create, and to see Him with my own eyes.

Ok, that's all for now...short and sweet :-)

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Beauty Will Rise, part 1?

So I came to a coffee shop with a friend today with the express purpose of blogging. I intended to bring my journal from my road trip and transfer and expand upon some of what I wrote during that journey...but I forgot to bring it along. Which brings me to plan B...blogging about my latest favorite cd.

2 years ago, Christian singer/songwriter Steven Curtis Chapman lost his daughter in a tragic accident. He didn't know if he'd ever return to the stage/studio...but then he ended up creating this amazing, heart-wrenching album, Beauty Will Rise. His songs are full of pain and heartbreak, but never without hope. Seems like my blog could, of late, take that as a theme - pain and heartbreak and striving for hope. So, needless to say, I relate well to this album; despite the fact that my recent losses have not included anyone's death, there are many of the same wrestlings with the Lord, and grief over things lost, and a struggling to bring the hope that lies deep within me up to the surface, to make it tangible.

So I'm going to write at least about part of the album, song by song...we'll see if this turns into a series...

1) Heaven is the Face

SCC looks forward to the day when he sees his little girl again in Heaven. I'm not sure what I think about counting on seeing people we love when we get to Heaven - I think we'll be pretty consumed w/worshiping Christ anyway. And I think SCC probably thinks that too...he even acknowledges that Heaven is going to be "so much more" than seeing his daughter but that right now, those specific desires are what his "heart is aching for." But my actual favorite part of this song is toward the end, where he lists off all the things that will be absent in Heaven - cancer and hunger and loneliness, etc. And he ends this list with:

"And there's no more goodbye
and no more 'not enough'
And there's no more enemy."

And nowhere else in the whole album does SCC talk about the enemy's role in his grieving process, and I'd be interested in knowing what he means exactly. But there's something in the way that he throws that line in and what he does with it musically at that point that makes me think that Satan has had a pretty active role in his attacks on this man. And oh! How I long for the day when there IS no more enemy - his lies have been so present in my own mind and heart over the last several months. And the battle is wearisome. But I know there is a victor, and I am His. Satan's attacks hurt immensely, and they incapacitate me for periods of time. But ultimately he will lose. And I take comfort from these words from 2 Peter 5:8-11:

"Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world. And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you. To him be the dominion forever and ever. Amen."

Amen!

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

musical musings

Not much time before my next session, but wanted to post a couple things. First, the lyrics to a sweet, sweet song that we did at church this week. This one resonates so deeply with me and I'm sure with many others. I love when, as believers, we can sing honestly about sorrow and pain, but always tinged with hope.

Dear refuge of my weary soul,
On Thee, when sorrows rise
On Thee, when waves of trouble roll,
My fainting hope relies
To Thee I tell each rising grief,
For Thou alone canst heal
Thy Word can bring a sweet relief,
For every pain I feel

But oh! When gloomy doubts prevail,
I fear to call Thee mine
The springs of comfort seem to fail,
And all my hopes decline
Yet gracious God, where shall I flee?
Thou art my only trust
And still my soul would cleave to Thee
Though prostrate in the dust

Hast Thou not bid me seek Thy face,
And shall I seek in vain?
And can the ear of sovereign grace,
Be deaf when I complain?
No still the ear of sovereign grace,
Attends the mourner's prayer
Oh may I ever find access,
To breathe my sorrows there

Thy mercy seat is open still,
Here let my soul retreat
With humble hope attend Thy will,
And wait beneath Thy feet,
Thy mercy seat is open still,
Here let my soul retreat
With humble hope attend Thy will,
And wait beneath Thy feet

And second, my amusing playlist for my "journey to joy" that starts tomorrow. I had a bunch of cds picked out, including multiple cds of the following:

Jars of Clay (obviously)
Caedmon's Call
Andrew Peterson
Enfield

pretty noticeable trend...and definitely my favorite genre. But given the nature and timing of my little journey, I noticed a serious lack of belt-it-out kind of music, you know, the kind that gets out a little bit of angst. :-) So I added Alanis and Rent...and now I'm satisfied.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

journey for joy

"He who forgets the humming of the bees among the heather, the cooing of the wood-pigeons in the forest, the song of birds in the woods, the rippling of rills among the rushes, and the sighing of the wind among the pines, needs not wonder if his heart forgets to sing and his soul grows heavy." - Charles Spurgeon

I read this delightful little quote a few weeks ago, and it turned my plans to go on a little getaway to Colorado from a far-off possibility into an almost-definite plan. My last week, by the grace of God, has been infinitely lighter, happier, and easier than the many weeks before...but it still seems a vacation is most definitely in order. My job is one that is fantastically rewarding but also unbelievably draining. It is not a job that is easy to function in while my heart is weary and I'm caught up in my own needs, as I'm supposed to be helping meet the needs of kids. And with 2 pretty devastating events having happened in my life at almost the exact same time in March, I never took even a day to breathe or recover. When I set my date for leaving on my trip (this Wednesday!), it still seemed like the best possible attempt to grasp at any inkling of joy. Thankfully, God didn't wait for my departure before granting me joy. I have experienced joy again in recent days, and it tastes oh-so-sweet after so many weeks without it. My hope is that this joy will only be magnified and focused and purified as I get away from the messiness that is my life in Tempe and spend some time away. I'm calling it my "healing journey," always with a sort of embarassed smile on my face. Jesus is the Healer, and He can of course accomplish His healing however He sees fit. But I expect to spend some sweet time with Him as I drive through the deserts and into the pines, singing and praying and just drinking in His beautiful creation that screams His praises. My soul longs to see and hear and feel His beauty...Colorado, here I come!

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Melody

First, a preface. I realize that my blog is essentially putting my heart out on the table in a way many people wouldn't do. And the fact that I have it feeding to facebook makes it seem all the more "broadcast." My intent isn't to draw attention to myself, demand pity, seek approval, or anything else. I just feel like things that are created are that much more meaningful when shared. In one of the several "ideal lives" I've pictured recently, I would like to quit my job and just become an author/songwriter/composer and somehow make a living off of it. But until then...blogging it is.

That being said, I wrote a pretty intensely emotional song the other night. What I WON'T do is go into gory details about what brought me to the point of writing this song. But in the middle of band practice for our church on Sunday afternoon, I literally looked down at my hands and started thinking about how crazy it is that they still work the way they've worked for years and are still able to make music. While my mind and my heart and even my voice feel so different for all that's gone on in recent months, my hands still seem strong. So between practice and church, I scribbled some thoughts down in my journal. And when I got home that night, it became a song. I suppose for facebook/blogging purposes, it remains more or less a poem...

Rest is near impossible, peace is all but gone
Hope lies somewhere deep but has not recently been shown
The truths that once rang clear and loud I'm straining now to hear
It seems the only easy things are sorrow, now, and fear

But still eight fingers and two thumbs go on, just as before
They strike each note, with strength and grace quite lacking in my core

Make melody, I beg, while my heart and voice still break
Make melody to Him whose mighty grasp noone can shake
Make melody, and someday soon may voice and heart join in
with power that bespeaks a mighty victory over sin

The strength that now seems only to exist in wrist and hand
I know this strength, supplied by Christ, will one day help me stand
Help me stand again and know once more with all my heart
That God's unfailing grace, which has called me from the start
will once again bring faith and joy and peace and hope and rest
And that all in me that's broken is such only for my best

And just as notes make chords and chords together make a song
So will God make something of this journey, hard and long
And each step that I have taken still has not escaped His plan
And my life will be sweet music as it's guided by His hand.

Make melody, O Lord, of these stumbling, doubting steps
Make melody, My God, as you pull me from these depths
Make melody, and someday soon I'll join a heavenly choir
as I praise the mighty Savior who's refined me through this fire

Monday, March 29, 2010

unexpected voices

Life's been rough. Real rough. 2010 thus far has been a process of God whittling away from me many things that I took much joy in - perhaps too much joy. I'm seeing where I've elevated things I treasure, like a relationship and a job that I love, to a place that only God should occupy. I will never suffer the eternal fires of Hell, because I have trusted in Christ, but I've been in the refining fire over the last couple months, and it burns intensely.

And in the midst of it all, I've desperately sought God's voice of comfort. And I've sought counsel from so many dear friends, and have received such sweet encouragement from family and roommates and church leaders and friends. And God has, at times, seemed quite silent, and that has been the hardest part. But He is a gracious God. And while I have not yet received my long-desired, "Thus saith the Lord to Krista: Do such and such at such and such a time, and such and such will happen in the future...", He has spoken in beautiful and unexpected ways. Some examples:

Two weeks ago, I taught Sunday school. I was beautifully distracted from my own distress as I led the kids through the account of Jesus' distress on the cross, and what it means for those of us who put our trust in Him. The kids were wonderfully responsive, and it warmed my heart. And at the end, several of the kids wanted to pray. I expected very general prayers or prayers related to what we'd just discussed, but one child prayed something I did not expect: "God, thank you that you give us all the things we need, and thank you that you don't give us the things that we just want but don't need." That little 6-year-old boy could not have known to prod my heart to thankfulness in this season, but God did know, and He spoke.

Last Sunday, I went to Romanian church in the morning. During a time of prayer, I just kept praying, Thank You, Lord, that you KNOW! He knows my heart, He knows my pain, He knows my sin, He knows my future. And He is good! This was what was on my heart. Later in the service, a man preached in Romanian about Jesus just before He raised Lazarus from the dead. And one thing the man emphasized was that God KNEW. God knew of Lazarus' death, He knew of the pain his family felt...and He waited, and He acted. The man preaching began to cry as He repeated over and over "God KNOWS!" And he reassured my aching heart yet again with the truth that just because God does not answer our prayers as we wish when we wish, this does not mean He doesn't know. God impressed this on my heart in prayer and then through this man's words and His own Word. And, once more, it was sweet to hear words of comfort in the language that God has graciously allowed me to learn over the last few years - there's something so different and wonderful about not just hearing truth in English.

Yesterday, I heard truth from a very unexpected source - myself several years ago. I was looking at old blog entries on my myspace blog (which I intended to delete years ago), searching for a quote I'd put on there from a book. And I found my own words from another really hard season in my life, when I was living in New York and doubting my ability to finish my internship or complete my degree, and was mourning the loss of a friend. And I spoke of how hard it was and how terrifying it was but how I'd been redeemed by my God and could rest in that. I was reassured yesterday not only by the truth that I'd spoken then, but by the fact that I'd spoken it. I've been, in recent weeks, frustrated by my seeming fickleness and inability to praise God with a joyful heart in trials, and there I was, doing just that, 3 years ago - praising God and speaking truth to myself and the people reading. And by God's grace, I will be there again, and I will look back at this period in years to come and see God's faithfulness and the way that He allowed me to persevere, and how somehow, in a way that only an omniscient and omnipotent God can devise, it will have served to benefit me and to glorify Him.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Be Still, My Soul

Without going into details, let's just say the last few weeks of my life have been intensely challenging. Work stuff, relationship stuff...and just plain old being a grown-up when it gets exhausting. I find myself overjoyed at the new birth of my little nephew and yet so saddened and anxious about other areas of my life.

I was digging through our sheet music at my house the other day, trying to find chords for a song our church does that Garrett wants to learn. 2 of my roommates and myself have quite a random assortment of songs srewn in various places in the house, and during my search I came across the song, "Be Still, My Soul." It's an old hymn whose tune is familiar but whose words were mostly new to me, or at least had been forgotten long ago. But oh, what a sweet balm to a weary soul. So because I can't say it better, and because maybe someone reading this is struggling with a soul that just isn't still as well...here are the words:

Be still, my soul: the Lord is on thy side.
Bear patiently the cross of grief or pain.
Leave to thy God to order and provide;
In every change, He faithful will remain.
Be still, my soul: thy best, thy heavenly Friend
Through thorny ways leads to a joyful end.

Be still, my soul: thy God doth undertake
To guide the future, as He has the past.
Thy hope, thy confidence let nothing shake;
All now mysterious shall be bright at last.
Be still, my soul: the waves and winds still know
His voice Who ruled them while He dwelt below.

Be still, my soul: when dearest friends depart,
And all is darkened in the vale of tears,
Then shalt thou better know His love, His heart,
Who comes to soothe thy sorrow and thy fears.
Be still, my soul: thy Jesus can repay
From His own fullness all He takes away.

Be still, my soul: the hour is hastening on
When we shall be forever with the Lord.
When disappointment, grief and fear are gone,
Sorrow forgot, love’s purest joys restored.
Be still, my soul: when change and tears are past
All safe and bless├Ęd we shall meet at last.

Be still, my soul: begin the song of praise
On earth, believing, to Thy Lord on high;
Acknowledge Him in all thy words and ways,
So shall He view thee with a well pleased eye.
Be still, my soul: the Sun of life divine
Through passing clouds shall but more brightly shine.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Remembering Blessings

So as a preface, I realize it's been a LONG time since I blogged. There have been probably about a hundred bloggable thoughts and moments in recent months, and most of them so happy, and so I hate the fact that now I finally blog and it's about something not-so-happy. Life is so sweet right now for the most part, and God is so good and so faithful.

The things that usually best motivate me to blog are analogies that I notice in life. and this one may seem like a stretch but I'm going for it...

So on Wednesday night, I was over at Garrett's and we were having dinner and I was talking about how very aware I was that day of how much I love my job. That I always love my job deep down but don't always like it day-to-day and hour-to-hour. But that that day I just really loved it, and was really thankful for it, and recognized it for the blessing that it is...

A little bit later in the night, it rained. Of course I got excited, and we went out on the balcony and enjoyed a little ten-minute storm.

After we went inside, I checked my email. I got an email with the news that my pay would likely be cut by 50% (this news became official Friday), resulting in the strong possibility that I will have to leave this job that I love, or that it will at least change drastically. After I emailed my boss, and Garrett and I prayed and talked a bit, I commented that I wanted to go back and read my blogs from the last time this happened (February/March last year), so that I remembered more vividly that the whole experience was a blessing, that I came out of it really thankful for lessons learned and for the way I saw God provide in so many ways.

When I left that night, I walked outside and it smelled amazing, and everything was wet, and I remembered that it had rained. I'd already forgotten. I'd been so thankful for the rain when it happened, and things got distracting, and I forgot. And it just pointed to how quick I am to forget, and how much I have to work to remember blessings and the God who gives them so freely. I really was thankful for the events of last February and March, and yet my first response to an email like the one I got that night is anxiety. Let me not forget that the God who cared for me 11 months ago is no less committed to caring for me perfectly today, and that his care for me might best be expressed in this season by taking me through another trial to conform me more into the image of Himself.