Approaching Him

Son,” said Aslan to the Cabby,

I have known you long. Do you know me?”

-C.S. Lewis, The Magician’s Nephew

The clouds were beautiful this morning, colors of blue and white leaving me in wonder, as I looked up at the sky and was reminded of the magnificence of His glory and power.

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Creation speaks of His glory.

I later saw a small yellow flower, and as I approached, I was left captivated by the beauty of it, as it reminded me of an apple pie.

Sheer Delight. Wonder.

There I stood, staring at it, that yellow flower, a symbol of freedom in the yellow bursting forth. The flower reminds me that God is very personal, knowing each one of us deeply and intimately, for He knew this yellow flower would bring me joy today.

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He didn’t have to create it; He created it because He wanted to. He delights to delight us, and in the absolute wonder of it all, I pondered upon Jeremiah 30:21.

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We are invited to draw near, to approach the One who created all things for His glory, to approach Him who is radiant in glorious splendor, not because of anything we have done, but because of everything He has done for us.

In each of our lives, He is inviting us to draw near, to approach Him. There is beauty in being known, being known by the One who gives life abundantly. There is beauty in receiving, receiving His invitation to approach Him.

In what ways is God causing you to draw near to Him? In what ways is God calling you into His “throne of grace with confidence”(Heb. 4:16)?

Will you receive His invitation to approach Him? With outstretched arms, He’s there, inviting you into His open arms. May you be embraced by Him, and know that you are loved, intimately and fully.

With joy,

-HM

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The Freedom to Try

The past few days, we’ve been working to put up some wall art at CIT. Before we began, my friend said these words to me. “Let’s try it and see what happens. If it ends up being a fail, it’s okay. We can say that we tried.”

After starting the project, we realized that it would take a lot longer than we initially expected, as each letter had to be taken off and carefully placed in alignment with the others. I continued to remember those words. “Let’s try and see what happens.”

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This project taught me about teamwork, and about trying. As we worked together, we were able to accomplish more, and we were able to encourage each other to continue until the project was finished. We gave ourselves the permission to fail; in the end, if it didn’t work out, we could start over and try again. We also gave ourselves the freedom to try, and in the end, it wasn’t a fail; it was a success. Yet we wouldn’t have known that if we hadn’t at least tried it.

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After the encouragement of the first one completed, we were also able to complete a second one, and even though it looked different than the first, we were able to use what we had learned to put this one up.

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This project got me thinking about trying.

Recently, I read a quote from Bob Goff, which says, “God doesn’t enjoy seeing us fail; He loves to watch us grow.”

This comes with the freedom to try, to grow, and we might be surprised when looking back, that the things were were afraid of failing at, were the things, that in the end, grew us the most.

Maybe your in the middle of language learning, or in the middle of making a big decision in ministry. What would you do, if you gave yourself the freedom to try?  What would happen if you tried it, and see what happens?

What are the areas in your life that He is calling forth growth, to trust Him more fully, and rely on His strength?

Give yourself the freedom to try, and see what happens. There’s some beautiful lessons intertwined within the daily.

Give yourself the freedom to try, and if there comes a moment to pause–take it and breathe– and then jump back in with renewed steadfastness.

Give yourself the freedom to try; in the end, you aren’t failing; you are growing, growing more into His likeness, as you learn about patience and steadfastness, perseverance and faithfulness.

Give yourself the freedom to try, and see what happens.

Venturing

image1-2.JPGI ventured into the forest at the back of CIT today, a moment of silence and solitude in the middle of the day. I heard the birds chirping, but other than that, there was silence.

The trees themselves spoke of stillness, as there has been an abrupt change of weather in the past few days, snow passing through, and still they stand, calm and still. Rain is forecasted for later this afternoon, and again they will stand tall together, calm and still.

I’ve been thinking about the word ‘wisdom,’ and what it means. Proverbs 2 talks about inclining your eye to wisdom, to search for it, like a hidden treasure. There are three words that go together in this passage–wisdom, discernment, and understanding, and that wisdom is given from the Lord.

There is this searching, this seeking, and then there is Him giving, giving a gift that we cannot find ourselves, but can prepare our hearts to receive openly. We incline our ears to the One who inclines His ear to us. We apply our hearts and search out wisdom, and we find it there, there in our very midst, given from the Giver of all things. “He stores up sound wisdom for the upright; He is a shield to those who walk uprightly; He guards the paths of Justice, and preserves the way of His saints”(Prov. 2:7-8).

Do not fear today. He is guarding your path. If you are seeking for wisdom it will be found, but the journey might be longer than you expect in finding it. Continue to press in, like the trees, and take root, for there will be a peace that comes that no storm can topple. Venture out into the unknown, and search for it like a hidden treasure. You might just be surprised as what you’ll find.

I ventured out into the forest today, and I learned about silence, about seeking, and about finding, and that wisdom calls forth, the intertwining of His handiwork in every day moments, moments of pausing in wonder. May we continue to seek to find, to find what we are seeking–more of Him, His invisible qualities seen.

Renewing Steadfastness

The sky is grey today, overcast for most of the day, and cold. It’s winter weather again, and maybe that’s how you’re feeling. Maybe you’ve come up against delay after delay in moving overseas, or maybe you’ve arrived, only to discover that you are still in a waiting period before yet, another transition.

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Maybe you’ve come up to a block with language learning, or maybe there seems to be way more on your plate than you expected, the list of things continuing to grow as your patiences thins, and then there’s a simple thing like missing the train in the morning, or stepping into a puddle on a cold, rainy day. Suddenly you’re feeling like you want to go home, and words like these come to mind:

Move back.

Done.

I  tried, and I can’t go anymore.

I can’t do this whole cross-cultural living. 

I’m done waiting. I’ve waited to come, and I’ve waited in line after line to fill out paperwork. I’m done waiting.

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I remember one time I had a moment like this in the shampoo isle at the store (yes, the shampoo isle), tears spilling over and guilt hitting me for ever thinking of moving back and quitting because of shampoo.

“It’s just shampoo,” I thought, but in reality, it was more than that. It was that I had tried over and over, multiple shampoo bottles that didn’t work, my hair feeling brittle, my head itchy from the cold weather in a new place, as I was adjusting to the colder temperatures than I was used to.

It was that I had tried finding shampoo at the grocery store, only to find that there was a separate store for shampoo, and that I had to find that location as well, and by that time, I really just wanted the convenience of what I had known in the US to be the same here. I wanted, for just this one instance (or maybe more than once), for things to be the same.

It was more than shampoo. It was about about steadfastness, to keep going when the road seemed like a hard climb, to remind myself of truth that God had called me to this place when thoughts came of moving home over shampoo, and to keep trying when I felt like I had come up with everything I could think of.

Psalm 51:10 says, “Create in me a pure heart, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.”

Renew.

It’s winter weather today, and yet, there are also signs of spring, flowers budding on trees, if you look closely.

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May He renew within you, a steadfast, unwavering spirit, to stand firm, for the enemy will try anything to kill, steal, and destroy, and he will use discouragement of the spirit to do just that. May we rest in the shadow of the Almighty, and may we see, anew, steadfastness. May it grow within us.

Just like the buds of spring.

-HM

You’re Valuable

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At a spiritual retreat hosted by CIT, one of the women I met this week brought up the imagery of “kinsugi,” a Japanese art that takes shattered pottery and fills it with gold.

As I sat with this imagery, I was reminded of Psalm 23, “my cup overflows.”  As I looked that up, I was reminded that it meant, “not in need.”

As people leave for the field, there’s a lot to think about. There’s plane tickets to purchase, bags to pack, goodbyes to be said, and the list just continues. And then there is the unknown of the new country, this new place, and what if when landing you forget something, something important? What happens when the unknown looms in front of you, like a stormy sea, a swirl of waves colliding? It’s almost like one wave hits and you are jolted, jolted to the other side of the boat, things scattered, and then another jolt, and then thoughts of, “Will I be swept away by the sea?”

This is where I want to continually be reminded of His goodness, His mercy, for indeed apart from Him, there isn’t goodness. This is where I want to anchor, in the hope found in His Word, that surely, yes surely, goodness and mercy continue to flow abundantly.

We sometimes have these pieces of a shattered pottery, pieces that we wonder if they can be fixed; the brokenness seems very real, and in the midst of that, Jesus comes in an asks us to offer what we have as an offering, included the shattered pieces.

And in His gentleness He comes, He comes and takes the pieces that are broken, and fills them with gold, the broken pieces swept up in the beautiful grace of wholeness. Not only that, but then He fills our cups and they overflow with goodness and with mercy.

He comes and says, “You are valuable. You are worth it. You are worth it and more, because I love you, and my very delight is in you.”

And His calmness dissipates all the fears of being swept by the sea, of drowning, for He reminds us that He created the very sea that we journey upon.

In His good pleasure, He smiles like a Father being handed a picture that His daughter or son made, an offering, and He takes all that we have and He smiles at us, affirming that we are His and He cares more about our hearts than even, we, ourselves, know. He continues to redeem and restore and make us whole again. Whole in Him, full, filled to the brim, and overflowing with goodness and mercy.

You are valuable, far more worth then even gold. May you rest in the truth that He is with you, and He will not forsake you. May you have courage to offer up to Him all that you have, even the parts that you, yourself, don’t deem worthy. You are worthy, because He is worthy. All of you. You are valuable.

How Do You Hold It All?

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Here I was this morning, stillness, quietness as I walked down this path, looking at the trees. Suddenly, I’m at the ocean’s edge, overlooking the waves crashing against the rocks, the sea where the tide rolls back and forth, the sea where I look across and see others traveling to a distant land, that we may one day gather around the table with more people.

And I’m asking myself the same question that others have asked me, “How do you hold it all?”

I keep seeing those waves, feeling the ocean breeze, and as I stand there, I breathe in the ocean sea and take in a deep sigh. The waves, they pound against rocks, the white foam gushing forth, and I’m there, watching it all happen.

So the question is still there, “How do we hold it all?”

How to we hold the transition and the change, and the goodbyes and the memories, how do we hold the cost, how do we hold the joy unspeakable? How do we hold the unknowns and the knowns, the ordinary and the extraordinary, the treasure in a jar of clay?

We stand there and we breathe, we behold, and we take it all in. And we offer what we have to the One who offered it all. We lose our lives to really find them. We love because we have been shown love by Love itself, the One who gave His very Son, that we might be His, forgiven and free.

We continue to say “yes” to holding both the hard and the good, because He already did. He said yes to us.

And so here I stand, at the sea’s edge, taking it all in, wind rushing with an ocean breeze, heart open and alive, arms wide, in adoration and praise to the One who created the very ocean and walked on water. I stand and I look out, and I hold the memories of this fall term at CIT.

I Don’t Like Uncomfortable

I accidentally clicked a software update today.

I wasn’t ready for it.

I like the old software. I found out how to use it, and all the sudden, here I was again, trying to figure out something new.

It also had an element of surprise, sleepy eyes this morning which led to accidentally clicking a button, not able to go back or hit a “stop update” button.

I wasn’t ready for it.

:::

Sitting at a table in a restaurant in Prague, I think about the past week, the me that I am at this moment, the fogginess from trying to go to the market that morning, the language barriers, the cold, and I want to go back.

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For a brief moment, I want to go back to the person that I was, the person that I was sitting on the plane coming over, the person who knew which isle to go for the shampoo, or toothpaste for that matter, but then I realize, I can’t go back. There isn’t a “go back” button.

Here I am again, trying to figure out something new, and I’m caught with an element of surprise.

I don’t feel ready for it. I’m molding into someone new, and the old skin just doesn’t fit anymore, the ways of doing things in normal, day-to-day life are needing reconfiguring and it creates a feeling of uncomfortable.

I don’t feel ready. I don’t like the uncomfortable.

:::

It’s foggy on the way to work today. I can only see what’s right ahead of me. There’s a veil of mystery and unknown, and I used to be uncomfortable in the fog, because I was afraid of what’s up ahead. But I’m not anymore.

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There were many moments that I wanted to hit a “go back” button, but there’s no going back–only forward. I learned to sit with the uncomfortable.

Sometimes, the only way forward, is through the fog, the fog that we weren’t expecting. There’s an element of surprise, like something being pulled out from under. We feel wobbly, teeter-tottering between jumping all in, cannon ball style, and wanting to stand on the edge of the pool and enjoy what it was like before getting wet.

There’s an element of the unknown, of not knowing the road ahead, of navigating language learning and cultural learning, and there’s no easy, mapped out, step-by-step-for-each-moment manual.

And in the midst of it all, we are invited to just be, be here, sitting in the uncomfortable, be present, and fix our eyes not on our surroundings, but on Jesus, the One who knows, who sees, and the One who is our very light.

And so we walk the road, through the fog, the narrow road that leads to life, and we know that we are not alone. Like a Shepherd, our Father takes us and holds us, close to his heart. He leads us along paths we wouldn’t have chosen for ourselves, and there is surrender and acceptance, and in the midst of it all, a joy that’s hard to even put into words.

His light shines in our hearts, and we hold our gaze on the Light itself, the True light, and we take one more step, into the wild unknown.

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We anchor our souls with hope, and we believe, we trust the One who is guiding us along this road, that He has plans to prosper and not to harm. We take one more step and then one more, and before we know it, the fog lifts, and we are on the other side, looking back at the places we came from with gratitude.

:::

I open up the new software.

Click. Wrong button. Try again.

Maybe one day it will get easier but today, it’s not easier. And for right now, I’m learning to be okay with the uncomfortable. Because I know, there’s something beautiful at the end of this. It’s not just about the software anymore. It’s this journey with Jesus who takes broken things and makes them beautiful. I know Him, the Life-Giver.

A Cup Overflowing

I remember sitting with a friend over coffee in Prague, and how she looked into the cup she was holding, and said, “We each have our cup.”

“We each have our cup.”

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I was in the midst of moving, feeling a little scattered, as well as preparing to move back to the U.S., and the reminder was just what I needed that day.

“We each have our cup.”

Everything in your life is purposeful.

Because here’s the thing–we don’t choose the path we walk on. God chooses it for us. And we can trust that the One who already knows are unknowns, who knows the plans He has for us, which are plans to prosper, is the same God who is with us in this very moment, in the moments where we wonder what God is up to. We can rest in the promises that God says in His word, and rely, not on our understanding, not on our feelings or emotions, which can easily change, but on Him who does not change, who is Constant, and who is perfect in knowledge, and in truth.

“We each have our cup.”

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A cup overflowing with the richness of Him, the One who fills all things in every way. A cup of blessing, for the very presence of God is with us and for us, a God who delights in us as His children and delights to give us good gifts, a God who fashioned and formed each of us, and is walking with us.

May our happiness and joy not come from our circumstances, on the outer, but inner, a steadfast assurance and hope in the Lord that anchors the soul, firm and unmoved.

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“We each have our cup.”

Psalm 16 continues by saying, “The lines have fallen to me in pleasant places; Indeed, my heritage is beautiful to me.”

We can find our rest in the One who is Glorious, the True Light, the Light of the world who came into the world to give us life. We can trust the Greatest of loves, this Perfect Love that gave up everything for us, that we might be His Beloved.

May you know that you are loved fiercely, and that the Lord is fighting for you, keeping you strong in Him. May you look to the Shepherd, as he leads the way, and may your cup overflow.

Language Learning

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I’ve been in the process of learning the piano again, after stopping as a child, and now as an adult, picking it back up again.

I’m realizing now, how many correlations there are to learning a new language. In a way, this is my language learning. Here are a few things I’m learning along the way.

  1. Practice and Patience I talked with a piano teacher this summer, and she said to practice 30 minutes a day, instead of several hours in one block of time. It’s helpful to spread it out. Spread out your language learning time, but be consistent! It’s slow work, but there is progress, even when you don’t see it. Give yourself the patience that you would give someone else. It’s a lot of work learning a new language! Your brain is working hard, and it takes time.
  2. Set Goals: Set a goal for yourself. “By x amount of months, I want to be this fluent in the language.” Take steps toward that goal, because each of those steps adds up, and remember, that just like children don’t walk in a day, so we aren’t going to be fluent in a day. That’s okay! Set a goal and work towards it.
  3. Reflect: Take some time to reflect on how far you have come. Remember when you first landed and didn’t know a single word in the language? Spend a day reflecting on where you have come from, so that you are able to see the progress. And just like piano, sometimes the teacher, and others, can see your progress more than you can.
  4. Be realistic and Be Yourself: I find myself comparing to others. Whether that’s piano learning or language learning, I think it’s easy to compare. It’s easy to compare to your spouse, a friend, a roommate, or teammate. Be yourself. Be you, and celebrate with others their progress, as they celebrate with you your progress. If others have begun the language process before you, be realistic in setting goals and let go of the comparison game(I’m very much speaking to myself as I write these words). May we find beauty in celebrating with others instead of comparing to others.
  5. Enjoy the journey: It’s as much about the journey as the end result. Enjoy the journey, knowing that each step of the way of needed. Language learning is a slow process, much like climbing a mountain. Enjoy the journey of the climb, and know that one day, the words will flow, even if right now they feel jumbled.

I pray that this season of language learning would be fruitful, that you would continue to press onward, taking one more step, and then one more. And Bon Voyage or, “Good Journey!”

A Step of Faith

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Monday is around the corner and we’re entering into our last week of the Summer Term.

Friday is coming, Friday and goodbyes and packing and traveling, and soon, airport terminals, departures and arrivals into a foreign land.

Time catches up doesn’t it? It doesn’t seem to slow itself down, and we’re all wondering how to keep out hearts open, when goodbyes come, when we’ve settled into a routine and then it seems as if time speeds up the clock. How do you keep your heart open when goodbyes seem often?

We remind ourselves that this isn’t our home, that we are not from this earth, but from another kingdom, living on this earth, this land of in-between.

We remind ourselves to camp where we are, but get ready to cross the Jordan River when asked, like the Israelites did, and prepare to move forward. They didn’t know which way they were going, but they knew which way to go.

And just like them, you’ll know the way.

Because the Lord goes before you, behind you, and with you, preparing the way, each step of the way.

You’ll know which way to go, but you haven’t been this way before. The Jordan will rage in front of you, and you’ll be asked to take a step of faith and step into the raging waters, and you will cross on dry ground.

That step of faith will give others courage, courage to do the same, and this is why we can’t stay where we are at, together, a community at CIT, even though we are thankful for this community that is built here.

There comes a time when you know that it’s time, time to pack up and cross your Jordan, a step of faith into the wild unknown, a test of deep trust and true surrender. 

An you’ll know the way.

You’ll know the way, this scattering that happens around the world, that we may join hands together with others to gather again, gather around a celebration in heaven, our true home. We don’t stop until we get there. Because this isn’t our home.

Let’s remind ourselves of that and keep our hearts open, hearts open to love others, to serve where we are called to, and to fix our eyes on the unseen, on the eternal.

Here’s your step of faith, and you’ll know which way to go.