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Jan 8, 2014

On (a) Mission!

On (a) Mission!


A few summers ago, I spent some time in China. You might not expect God to send you half-way across the world to minister to just one person, but that is nearly what took place during my time there. Sure, there was lots of ministry which my team and I took part in, however my specific focus became a local woman who worked as a translator, and whom I was paired with as a roommate during our stay. Before arriving, I wasn't sure how this time of sharing a room with a foreign stranger might go, but to my surprise Yvette and I bonded rather quickly. Amongst other commonalities that we shared, the most striking fact was that just about a year prior to our meeting, Yvette's mother had died from a brain tumor, the very disease my mother had also died from years before. She was still suffering from so much grief, and she had so many questions for me: How have you dealt with this grief? How do you keep going? How do you deal with your dad dating someone that's not your mom? Do you pray to your mother? And so on...

When the ministries of the day were done, Yvette and I would stay up late every night in our room and discuss these questions, and with each one I was able to present Scripture to her to show her where my answers were found. It was a thrilling time! When I met her, Yvette had been working alongside of missionaries for some time, but was not yet a believer. We stayed in touch for a good while, and just a few months after our team left, Yvette did give her life to Christ. I still remember the e-mails she would send as she processed this new found faith...those in particular where she started to realize that she could no longer worship her mother or any dead relative for that matter, and the eternal reality for those she loved who didn't know Jesus. I am so grateful to have known Yvette in that season of life, and really wowed that the Lord allowed me to be just one small part of her journey of knowing Him.

Tonight I depart for India. Once I arrive (nearly two days from now), I will join with a few others and we will mostly take part in the ministry of teaching the Bible at a week long conference in Mumbai. I will also get to visit and share in a few churches, as well as meet with some seminary leaders to discuss the future of theological education for women in India. Now those are the events on the actual schedule, but the extent of what God has for me to do is I'm sure, yet to be determined. Being a missionary doesn't start when a company bestows that occupational title upon you. It's everyday work no matter where you are. This mission for me isn't about India...yes, it's awesome that I get to experience this ancient and unique place...but it's about obedience to God to take any task He gives, and it's about people and the invitation I was given to join and serve in this work with my gifts and abilities. It's on the entire trip...every passenger next to me on flights, people in the airports, to the people of India and back again! Every single moment could be one in which God wants to use me, and I want to be ready.

I don't pretend to be the best at Bible teaching, in fact I am still working on all that I will share in India. But I do know that it's all of me for only Him, and I will share with people all that I have and give them my time and ministry of presence as long as we are together. What awaits on this trip? I have NO idea! But come what may, I know I am not alone, for the Father is with me always, and I expect He has a great adventure in mind! With the desire to have the heart of Peter and the head of Paul, I'm off!!! See you in 12 days!

Dec 30, 2013

Dec 25, 2013

A Time to Do Something

A Time to Do Something

Nearly two weeks ago I put on pantyhose for the first time in three years, which can only mean one thing...it was time for another graduation. I jokingly say that while most girls my age are birthing babies, all I seem to be birthing are degrees. Oh well, maybe one day that will change, but for now, I will keep walking in the path God has for me. This go round with school, I had the priviledge of finishing my Master of Theology degree at Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary. I also had the joy of being able to actually be back out in San Francisco to take part in the graduation ceremony, which was such a great time. Degrees are special because they represent much more than just seat time in a classroom. They represent a journey. They represent a host of people who have encouraged and been newly encountered along the way. In essence, they represent a time when something happened...when a decision was made and something very good came about as a result of action taken.

This Christmas I have been giving a lot of thought to those figures found in the New Testament accounts of the birth of Christ, who actually did something about some news they had been given. We learn more about the mysterious visitors from the east, otherwise known as the wise men or the magi,  from Matthew. Being Jewish himself and writing to a Jewish audience, Matthew includes details of the visit which these wise men had with Herod the Great, king of Israel at the time of Jesus' birth. Herod was unaware of the details surrounding the birth of this new born King of the Jews, and so he called together the chief priests and scribes of the people (i.e. the Pharisees and Sadducees) to inform him of the prophecies about the Messiah. Regardless of whether it was because they were preoccupied with the Roman census, were apathetic to the situation, or were possibly scared of what Herod might do to them if they went, these teachers of the law who knew the prophecies so well, did not go to see about this Baby after His "star" had appeared. Yet these foreigners, the magi, continued their pursuit and found the Child.

In the other gospel birth narrative, Luke tells us of another party whom God invited to the birth of His Son, only these were much more ordinary guests. They were simply a group of night-shift shepherds and their sheep, who were entirely on the fringe of human life. They became terribly frightened in a moment of encounter with an angel of the Lord who told them of the good news of the Savior's birth. This angel was then joined by a great host of other angels who sang the first Christmas carol ever recorded, and it was awesome. As soon as the angels departed back to heaven, these shepherds and their sheep (which makes Jesus being born in a manger a VERY good thing) hurried to find Mary, Joseph, and the Baby. And they were the very first humans after Jesus' birth, as far as we know, to affirm to His earthly parents this grand message on His behalf from heaven. The ordinary shepherds, and the mysterious wise men got the news about Christ, and they did something about it. They went, and were used by God to affirm to people the signficance of this Child as well as bring gifts to the Holy family that could be sold and used as financial aid in their flight to Egypt.

A degree represents a time when something was done. In a much bigger way, Christmas represents the same...God made a good decision toward all mankind to bring peace through the sending of His Son, Jesus. Some heard this good news and did something about it, and others did not. Who in this story will I be more like this Christmas and throughout my life? Who will you be like?  "Haste, haste to bring Him laud, the Babe, the Son of Mary..."              

Oct 26, 2013

At the Table with Dad

At the Table with Dad

Many a nights of my childhood were spent one-on-one with my dad at our kitchen table. Whereas that may sound like a very sentimental memory, let me assure you that those nights were not times of father/daughter bonding (or at least I didn't think so then). No, rather long after the dishes had been washed and put away, and my sister and mom had gone to bed, there he and I would sit, engaged in what seemed like the unending battle of me refusing to eat at least one bite of whatever food dish I had rejected during the family meal.  Squash, asparagus, okra, even once with a particularly bad scene over shepherds pie...with tears running down my face and these foods oozing out the sides of my mouth, I did everything I could to convince him I had swallowed that one bite (without ever actually doing so).  "Stonewall Veasey" was no weak contender however, and even up against his baby girl's tears he would not concede. He made promises of a grand future of actually liking these foods and appreciating this discipline if I would only believe him and try it...I wasn't so sure. However, over time, I came to see that he was right, and I can honestly say, that every food dish he ever made be try, I now love.  He disciplined me into being a non-picky eater, and this has proven to be of great benefit now being one who has been called to travel and adapt to many different contexts for life and ministry.  

I thought about my dad a lot today, and those long nights of struggle with him at the table over the food. I am nearly to the half-way point of both the current semester and overall in my doctoral degree process.  And once again today, now as an adult, I sat at my own kitchen table and cried and fussed with my Heavenly Father over the "food" He has asked me to digest and spend my time studying.  As I told Him how much I did not want to be at this table writing today and would much rather be out enjoying this beautiful Fall weather, He so gently yet firmly (He does that you know) brought me back to those lessons of my childhood.  It was as if He was saying to me, "You're going to really like this if you will just try it, and furthermore, we're not getting up from this table until you do..."  Then I cried all the more, not because of the paper, but because of how He chooses to speak to me as His child and because I know His discipline is good and worthwhile for my future and for the Kingdom.

So what about you? Is God having to "keep you at the table" over any area of your life in which you are resisting Him?  If so, be reminded and be encouraged from His Word that "He disciplines us for our good, so that we may share His holiness." (Hebrews 12:10)  Whatever "it" is, trust Him and try the "food"...who knows, it may even turn out that your Father actually knew what He was talking about all along.              

Aug 29, 2013

Eight Years Later...

Eight Years Later...

Eight years ago today, at the age of twenty-two, I learned a very important life lesson, which is to "hold YOUR plans with open hands."  I had just graduated college, spent the summer doing mission work, and then set off on my first "adult" adventure of moving to New Orleans to begin graduate school.  Three weeks after that move, I found myself back in Florida and watching in unbelief with the rest of the nation (and world) as Hurricane Katrina invaded our shores and brought with it, quite literally, a flood of devastation. I lived on a first floor apartment at the back of the school campus where most of the flood damage occurred...needless to say, when I returned nearly a month later to retrieve any belongings I could from the rubble, what could be salvaged was minimal.  It had taken two suv's to get my belongings there in August, and one carboard box to carry out what remained in September...humbling.  

Though losing all of my clothes, furniture, pictures, scrapbooks, computer and all other devices, ETC. was difficult, the hardest possessions to lose by far for me, were my journals from my time in college.  The Lord had done SUCH a huge work in my life during that time, and now the memories and evidence of that season were completely unrecognizable.  I tried to save them, wanted to dry out the pages and see if anything could still be read...but there in my soggy, mold-infested apartment, through my uncrontrollable tears I heard the Lord whisper to me, "If you try to save your life you will lose it...I will remind you of that season and continue to write the one to come."  I let them go, took what I could from the mess and returned to Florida. And one rainy night, while sitting in my car in my dad's driveway, still grieving and trying to sort out what God was doing and what was to be my next step, a song began to develop in my heart.  It was a gift from Him then to me, and it still ministers to me today.  Below are the lyrics to that song...they reflect that season of my life and proclaim the name of the One who has carried me since and will always be there for me (and for you if you will let Him).  

I have now returned twice to the city of New Orleans since Katrina to live...I love this city and the people of this city, and I'm thankful to be here to today to remember this defining time in our history alongside of them.  I Hope you enjoy the lyrics...and maybe they will speak to you today also in the midst of any personal "storms," you may be facing. 


Author of Life

The rain came down
Fell on the ink from my pen
Wiped away all the words 
That I had once written

Father all the lessons learned
And all that You’ve shown
Has now been washed away 
And taken by this storm
And in my sorrow 
His Spirit came and spoke to mine
He said, “Oh my child,
There’s still pages in your story left to write"

(Chorus)
[Cuz I am still the God
I was to you before
And I’m with you now 
To help get you through this storm

Your journey is mine 
And the words I will write
Will never be destroyed 
Cuz I’m writing them on
The tablets of your heart

Let my Son be your guide
Through this time
And trust in Me
Author of life]

There are times
You don’t really know
Which path to take
Or which way to go

And right now I’m at those crossroads
But I know He’ll lead the way

Cuz He’s my Deliverer
My Guiding Light
My Prince of Peace
And Savior through the night

And I will worship You
Through this time
And count all those things
As just as loss
In exchange for Your 
Cross

Cuz I know
Of THIS I know...

(Chorus 2)
[You are still the God
that You were to me before
And You’re with me now
To help get me through this storm

My journey is Your’s 
And the words You will write
Will never be destroyed 
Cuz You’re writing them on
The tablets of my heart

I’ll let Your Son be my guide
Through this time
And I will trust in You
Author of life]

Yes I will trust in You
Jesus Christ
And I love You
My very Author of Life.

Aug 20, 2013

Yes, Lord? Yes, Lord.

Yes, Lord? Yes, Lord.

It took many years of being misplaced in the school and church choirs, and many off-pitch notes which were unconfidently sung, to discover the fact that I am not a soprano singer.  The day I began to drift over to the side of singing the harmonies and discovering my giftings as an alto singer was a very freeing day.  I can hear the harmonies, I love to create them, to find them within the melody and offer them as a complimentary element which make a song hummm.  Yet even though I am gifted as an alto and enjoy singing those harmonies, there are still times when the meoldy part needs singing and I am the one being asked to do it.  

Other examples of this nature might be playing a sport.  Just because a person is better gifted as a point guard in basketball, doesn't mean that there aren't days when he or she has to go down low and play the potistion of forward.  Or think about tools...though a screwdriver is best used to tighten or loosen screws into place, sometimes it also has to be used more like a hammer to put a nail in place.

The same is true in our spiritual and life giftings that we use every day in our jobs, in ministry, etc.  There seem to be seasons when God, being fully aware of your gift set, personality, passions, etc. (since after all He created you with them), asks you to step into a role and perform in such a way that you are not naturally gifted and designed for.  These are not always easy times to understand, nor are they even enjoyable.  But if you are certain that this is something God has asked of you, then you can also be certain that while you can only see this one moment in front of you, His vision far extends down the road to a greater vision...Though He helps you and ministers to you through the seasons of questions and struggle, He also sees past these moments to the bigger picture where His glory is fully made known through you. It's not easy to remain in this place of trust (Even as I write this I am struggling to remain in Him and to trust), but it is necessary in the journey of faith. 

In John 21, Jesus did not ask Peter there on the beach during his time of restoration, if he "liked" Jesus.  No, rather three very distinct times Jesus asked, "Peter do you LOVE Me?"  Jesus knew that what Peter would be asked to do would not make him necessarily "like" Jesus very much...but Peter's love for Jesus would be the key to fulfilling his ministry and enduring his own cross which he would bear.  Honestly, there are times when I don't really like what Jesus has asked me to do in certain seasons...BUT, I love Him.  I love Him far more than anyone or anything else on this planet, and that love which He has cultivated in me, is that which carries me through the tasks each day. 

If you find yourself feeling misplaced in life when you read this, or even in somewhat of a "dry" season, join me in still praising Him, in bringing those late night tears to His throne, and in trusting in His character as a Father who would never give us a stone when we ask for bread.  Never doubt in the darkness what He has shone you in the light.

"Turn to me and be gracious to me, for I am lonely and afflicted..." (Psalm 25:16)  

Apr 28, 2013

The Living Word

The Living Word

As little orphan Annie said, "Yesterday was plain awful, but that was then and this is now..."  Yesterday, I experienced probably the most dramatic crash and burn meltdown that I have had thus far in post grad work.  But thanks to encouraging friends, prayers, hugs, my wonderful roommate cooking dinner, Coke-a-cola, and the grace of God, I survived.  Today has been better, though there is still much work to get done in the next few days.  This morning in church, I confess that I was somewhat listening to the preacher, but mostly engaged in writing down in my notes journal exactly how I feel at this moment in life and in the process of doing doctoral work, but seeing it through the very lense of the text I have been working so much with...

Today I find myself feeling like...

-Mary, being a single woman chosen for a unique but challenging task

-David, who left tending the sheep (a job someone else could do) to slay the giant (the one job only he could do)

-Gideon, hiding in the wine press, afraid though he was identified as a mighty warrior

-Moses, being concerned with his percieved inadequacies

-Caleb, having a different spirit, taking the mountain

-Hannah, pouring out her heart's desire to the Lord of Hosts

-Sometimes Pharaoh with his hardened heart

-Noah, building in faith toward an unknown future

-Samuel, saying "Speak Lord..."

-Nehemiah, doing a good work and not coming down off the wall

-Job, praising God though God slay him

-Ruth, who needs a Boaz

-Nicodemus, having many questions for Jesus

-Jesus, saying "Get behind me Satan..."

-Jesus, having a hot mess moment in Gethsemane, asking for the cup to be passed, but saying yet Thy will be done

-Peter, asking the Lord what He would require of others, only to hear Jesus say, "What is that to you? You must follow Me."

-Apollos, speaking the word powerfully, but still needing yet further understanding

-The Older Brother, blinded by bitterness unable to see all the lavish blessings that are his

-Barnabas, generous beyond control

-Paul, being pressed on every side but never crushed or abandoned

-Timothy, a charasmatic, godly and faithful servant leader...yet also young and timid

-Sometimes the Pharisees, still looking for more than what was right in front of them

-Wanting to be like Mary, but having to work like Martha

-John, looking forward to the return of the King 

Finally...

-Jeremiah, who was so compelled by his calling, that he knew even if he said he would no longer speak anymore in God's name, that the words would become as a fire shut up in his bones and he would be weary of holding them in...indeed, he could not. 

So it seems that the very Word of God, the Bible, that I can become so exahauted in studying, has become the single most influential book in my life...The Almighty has changed me through its message time and time again, and I believe He can and will continue to change the lives of others with it.  At the end of the day, I love it and I would be lost without it...and so I press on for truth, on in the journey...

Well, it's back to paper writing for me.  

Apr 18, 2013

A Heavy Heart

A Heavy Heart

Late this afternoon as I was driving out of the grocery store parking lot, I passed a nail salon where one of the employees was standing outside taking a smoke break.  I thought, "If I went into a salon, I wouldn't even let a person touch my feet or hands if they weren't a licenced technician...and yet hundreds (maybe thousands) of women everyday are walking into substandard clinics with bogus doctors and nurses to have abortions and receive "medical" attention.  This thought stems from spending some time today reading the grusome and sobering Grand Jury report of the trial of Kermit Gosnell of Philadephia, PA.  

I have been following this story of how, since the 1970's, Gosnell has been performing illegal abortions as well as leaving many women mamed for life, and even killing a few others.  Inducing these women at around 24.5 to 25 weeks into their pregnancy, Gosnell would then drug the women giving birth to a point of being incoherent, and then take their live, breathing, wiggling babies and stick scissors in the back of their necks and cut their spinal chords.  When the raid of his facililty happened earlier this year, the clinic was found to be overwhelmingly unclean and below regulation health care standards.  Blood stained blankets were laying on dispondant patients, cats were roaming around and their feces were found everywhere and their urine permeated the air...rusted and unfit medical tools, expired medicine, disposable medical supplies which had never been disposed of but rather were used over and over again, and the emergency exit bolted shut are just a few of the items listed that officials found.  The worst and most haunting of it all however, were the parts, pieces, and even full bodies of at least forty-five babies they found who had been murdered.  Jars on a shelf that contained the severed feet of babies, other limbs were found in plastic bags and the like, and then even full bodies were discovered in plastic jugs in a freezer.  The report stated that the site was a "baby charnel house."  Reading the account was like reading something that was a cross between the horrific crimes that took place in the concentration camps of WWII and the script of Silence of the Lambs.  

It has made me very somber this evening, to ponder of all of this.  How could this man be so evil, and how could these women continue to get caught in this trap?  And when I think of the hundreds (but probably thousands) of babies that have been killed just in this one place over the last three decades, I just feel sick and cry for them.  Abortion, oh wretched, WRETCHED noun that becomes a permanant verb of death...this truly is our American holocaust. 

In the news just this week alone have been these hanis crimes of Kermit Gosnell and his psudo "medical" staff, the bombing of innocent civilians in Boston, and the factory explosian and decimation of the community in West, TX.  And yet even here in New Orleans and within my own sphere of life, I have a friend who just lost a loved one in a car accident, another who is preparing to give his mother part of his kidney in a transplant situation, another friend being tested for cancer, and the list goes on...what do we do with all of this Lord?  What can we or I do?  Where do we begin praying and how?  Do we run into these situations like the proverbial bull in a china shop and throw prayer over everything and everyone?  Or does God have prayer projects just for us to listen to Him about and concern ourselves with?  I just find myself becoming very still and very quiet, trying to make sense of it all, learn what to pray for and how, and then to ask God if I have any part in making any of it better...

Ephesians 5:15-16 says, "Be careful, then, how you live--not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil."  These words have resonated within me this week as I think about this one precious life, one outrageous trip we are given on this planet. What will I do with it?  How will I spend my time?  I have resolved that every day must count. Every single day must matter, if only in my prayer life, it must matter. I want to live my life with the end in mind, and what I mean by that is, that if at the end of it (however long or short it may be), I want to have left it all "on the court"...to be so utterly spent that my God and other humans around me were never short-changed through my exisitence. 

Heavy as it is, this is my heart tonight, and these are my thoughts and ambitions...what about you?

   

Apr 11, 2013

Not Even A Shadow

Not Even A Shadow

Whew.  Excuse me while I catch my breath. I've just been running hard at God, ministry, school, and life in general since I last blogged.  So much has taken place over the last two months.  I've gotten to speak at a few girls conferences, have traveled to states on both sides of the country, celebrated Mardi Gras, have gone to Italy to do some studying and have some fun, and was able to go home to Florida for Easter...and in the midst of all of that, I turned thirty.  It has been a love-hate transition into this next decade of life.  

And now it's April...wow, when did that happen?  I am looking down the barrel at the close of the semsester coming at a rapid pace.  As those paper deadlines, future events and other responsibilites pound at the door of my mind, I find myself having to take many long and deep breaths, and renew my trust in God as I exhale each one.  Life is good, but life is full.  Life is exciting, but life is stressful. Last night I found myself in the midst of a worship service surveying all of this that I have mentioned, and recongnizing that I have been busy, I also found myself wondering if I have also been at all effective with any of it?

Lately I have been giving a lot of thought to Steven Spielberg's adaptation of the Peter Pan story in his film, "Hook." Since childhood I have loved the story of Peter Pan.  While other little girls wanted to dress up and be like Cinderella, Snow White and Belle, I wanted to fly like Peter and live in a place where all you did was play and no one had to grow up. Fully convinced I too could fly, I even once put on goggles and a cape, sprinkled "fairy dust" (A.K.A. dirt) on my head and launched myself from a high point on our back wooden deck...luckily I had placed a baby pool full of water (also on the WOODEN deck) "down below" to brace my fall in case I couldn't really fly. Perhaps the memory is still so vivid because I found out that I couldn't fly and that hurt...a lot.

But back to the movie "Hook"...The story goes that Peter Pan fell in love with Wendy's granddaughter and left Never Land for the "real world."  He grew up and became "Peter Panning," (Robin Williams) an overworking, cranky, unattentive, and unadventuresome lawyer, husband, and dad.  He had forgotten who he really was and where he had come from, until Captain Hook enters into the "real world," and steals his kids, forcing Peter to return to Never Land to retreive them.  

In the first scene back in Never Land, a crowd of pirates gathers as Hook orders that Peter's two kids be hoisted up in fishing nets.  Peter, disguised as a pirate throws off his garb and shouts, "Those are my kids!" Hook gets what he wants as he comes face to face once again with his great long-lost opponent...only this is not the Peter he remembers, but is an overweight-adult version of his arch nemesis.  Peter has forgotten how to fight, is scared of heights and can't get his kids from the net, and shows himself to be an overall coward in the moment. Hook then says a line that has resonated so deeply with me in my Christian life...he says, "You're not even a shadow of Peter Pan."

Wow...haunting.  But why?  I think back to the time when I was first really learning to surrendor to Christ in college.  I took the Bible as it was, and every day found new ways that it could inform and change my life.  I spent hours in prayer and endless days in homeless shelters and in other "dangerous" places, just by myself loving on people and sharing the gospel without giving any thought to fear or worry of my life.  Passion seemed effortless then.  And in many ways I suppose it still is in my life, but there just seem to be days now when I find myself overthinking messages and overanalyzing Scripture. I get more caught up in schedules than in the Spirit. I find myself fighting with all that's in me not to become "domesticated" so to say, and remain free and bold in Christ to live out His purposes for me in real and vibrant ways.

I think about this scene with Hook and "Peter Panning", and I reflect on my own life and wonder sometimes if the enemy, the Devil says, "You are not even a shadow of who Courtney Veasey use to be..." Oh I NEVER want this for my life...never to be stale, never to be so caught up in the Christian subcultue and "professional" world of ministry (whatever that is), that I forget who I am as a barbarian in Christ and from where God found me and redically changed my life. I never want to become a coward and forget what it is to love without counting the costs, and fight like hell against the one who lives there.   

What about you?  Are you still the challenge and threat to the kingdom of the enemy that you once were?  Do you remember who you were at your most passionate and vibrant times of life?  Are you still that person or are you not even a "shadow" of who you once were?  Remember what it's like to "fly," and remember always what it's like to fight.

Something to consider...  

Feb 5, 2013

Seen in the picture above with me, is my big sister Jenn. I called her tonight to check on her mental health as yesterday she received a call that every parent (but especially those of BLONDE-headed children) dreads...my almost eight-year old niece was being sent home from school with, you guessed it...LICE.  I listened as she described the fiasco that she has been enduring over the past twenty-four hours, and how by the end of yesterday, both she and my niece were crying together on the couch.  I can only imagine!

But then our conversation shifted from the topic of bugs and hair treatments used to kill them, to a variety of other things.  Unintentionally we ended up chatting for over an hour about things like weight loss and health products, to medicines and coupons, and then finally about stages of life, careers, marriage, and so on.  In the end I asked my sister who is eleven years older than me, "Jenn, am I on track in life...do you think I am doing okay with things?"  And she said, "Courtney I am always so proud to talk about you as my sister...don't be in a hurry to grow up, it will all come in its time."  

When we hung up, I felt really encouraged by her words, and I just reflected about my sis and our relationship.  We haven't always been this peaceful towards each other (I mean what sisters ever have been??).  We are eleven years apart in age, are apart of two different generations, we don't even have the same hair color for goodness sake...and so it has taken some time to get to where we are today. No one else can make me as mad as she can, and yet also make me want to apologize and say, "I love you," as fast as her either.  She makes me laugh, and always joins in (and creates) the antics during family times, and I really love that about her. She can ALMOST beat me in ping-pong, and thinks she is the better tennis player (*cough). But no matter whomever wins or loses, or those times when we differ in opinions or push each other's buttons, at the end of the day I always know she is for me and I am for her.

We have both been blessed with many great friends, but God only chose to give us each other as real sisters.  When I was little I wanted this to be different (as did she when I demolished her whole "only child" gig she had going for so long, AND as she wanted a brother), but now I can honestly say that I wouldn't change it for anything.  God has His purposes for each member that He places in each family.  And in the scheme of the entire world and over the span of many centuries, I'm glad in His wisdom that he chose to put Jennifer Rebecca and Courtney Jo together in this time.   

So, Jenn, even though you told me I was adopted from an Indian tribe and that my belly button was a sign of my iniation by way of being shot by an arrow...and I believed you...and that if I ate watermelon seeds, a melon would grow in my belly...and I believed you...I still love you, and I think you are the coolest.  Thanks for the advice and for the love, and for supporting me, even when it hurts or is scary to do so.  I love you sissy, the best is yet to come between me and you! 

 

Dec 2, 2012

Candid Desires

Candid Desires

Beloved American author and journalist Ernest Hemingway once said, "There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed."  I agree with Ernest, only for me, the "bleeding" happens while sitting down with my journal.  I don't recall when or where my love for journaling began...I suppose I have been writing things down in notebooks literally since the time I learned my alphabet. For some it seems that journaling is a challenging discipline to aquire, but for me it has always been more natural...it is my release.

A few days ago I was flipping back through my current journal and came across an entry from Nov. 8, where I was particulary transparent before myself and God.  In it I wrote:

"Will I be single forever?  And if so, is that okay? Will I ever get out of school? Oh Lord I hope so! Will I ever travel the country and world both speaking and serving as a missionary? Oh please may it be so!! Will I ever hold sweet babies of my own? Oh more than ANYTHING I want this! And will I ever have an old Jeep, preferably yellow?  I hope for that as well. I am certain that God is the maker and giver of all of these dreams and desires, and my task now and always, is to delight myself in Him." 

One of the greatest benefits of journaling down your thoughts, desires, prayers, etc., is that you can go back and see where God has answered (with either the yes, no, or wait) and the progress that has been made.  Only a few days after I wrote this, I received an invitation to travel to Central Asia in the days following Christmas to lead teen girls in times of Bible study during a conference that will be taking place for those serving in that region. Today I had a meeting with a gracious church who is covering my cost of travel.  Others as well have stepped in to make up the difference to send me to this place to serve. Consider my mind offically blown by Jehovah-Jireh ("The Lord who Provides").  My heart was beyond thrilled to receive this invitation and to have the ability and time available to accept. 

One of my heroes in the Christian faith, Corrie ten Boom, referred to herself as a "Tramp for the Lord," meaning that she "tramped" all over the globe bringing the good news of Jesus to others.  In my heart, I have desired for some time now that the Lord would allow me to be this as well.  Oh how I long to go anywhere and everywhere He will open doors to go...to serve, to teach Scripture and meet all kinds of people and see their way of life.  

I suppose only God could make the desire of one's heart to be that they would travel near or far, risk life, sleep, and comforts of taste and security to share the gospel, and/or teach others what they themselves have learned about the Bible. This hasn't always been my desire, but then I met Jesus for real and He changed my life.  No more fear, no more anxiety about disease or death. Only excitement for the journey, whatever it holds.  

And so at least one desire from this list above, He has chosen to give me now...and so I wait for the others...for the degree, for the husband, for those sweet babies, and yes, even for the Jeep...and I delight myself in Him...not even for these things, but only because His love for me and mine for Him is too great not to.

"The young lions do lack and suffer hunger; But they who seek the Lord shall not be in want of any good thing." --Psalm 34:10

   

 

   

Nov 17, 2012

FALLing For Truth...Lessons Learned From Leaves

FALLing For Truth...Lessons Learned From Leaves

I had never really seen the change and beauty of all four seasons until I lived in South Carolina. Unlike the hot and humid climate of Florida in which I was raised, in the upstate of S.C. the different seasons proudly make themselves known, each boasting with its own clear distinction.

There was this one particular spot just north of Greenville, where I liked to go on the weekends to lookout over the mountains and see God's beauty in creation. Treetops could be seen for miles and miles. I liked to go during all of the seasons, because each one had a beauty of its own...this was true even when it was cold and wintery and the trees had been left colorless and bare.

Of course the most brilliant season of all (at least to the human eye), was that of Fall, when all of the trees were bursting with reds, oranges and yellows. During my first Fall spent there in 2008, there were quite literally so many moments when unexpected turns in the road left me breathless at the sight of the array of color that God had put on display.

And yet, there was something that bothered me about Fall. You see, any other time of year, the climb to the lookout spot on the mountain was not crowded, and very few people would withstand the cold to gaze at naked trees and bare landscape. Outside of Fall, parking spaces were available, and no police escorts were needed to make sure the traffic kept moving at a decent (and civil) pace. But as soon as those colors started bursting forth, you could wave bye-bye to the uncrowded roads and say hello to fighting for a space on the mountain from which to take pictures.

One Fall, as I observed the people who were flocking to see the beautiful landscape (and rightly so), the Lord taught me a neat lesson. He pointed out to me how humans flock to things when the objects are in their prime, but very few care when something just looks (or is) normal or has died out. When something seems "important," then people take notice...and once that object no longer has its allure, its "importance" lessens and the attention fades away.

At the time, I was helping to disciple a group of teenage girls.  This lesson about people flocking to things when they are "beautiful," or "important," made me think differently about how I loved and taught these girls. I wanted to be present during every season of their lives, and recognize a beauty in them that the world had yet to see. I wanted (and still desire this with young people) to admire and love them before they could ever be in a place to offer me something in return.  And it's not just with young people...I pray that God let's me see importance and beauty in those of all ages and all types, whether they can offer me anything or not.  

And what about my own life?  With a lump in my throat I still think about this image I was seeing with the Fall leaves and the lesson Jesus was teaching me, and how He had me to consider those who had loved me before anybody ever called me somebody. Who are those who recognized and called out the beauty in a lost little girl and decided to invest in her life long before the world took notice?  And who are those even now that are loving and pouring into me as I still wait for much of my life dreams and work to "bloom?"  

One day, someone might actually read something I write or come to hear something I have say and call it "important."  Some may get to know me only for what I can offer to them at the moment, and once my "leaves have died," and I am no longer pleasing to their senses, they will walk away.  Yet it is those who have seen me even when I have been invisible that I am thankful for and aspire to be like as I serve in ministry and finish out my days before Heaven. 

"Dear Jesus, thank You for the beauty that each season has to offer, both in nature and in the human life.  Give us eyes to see You at work in all of it."  

Nov 7, 2012

Eyes To See

Eyes To See

One of my favorite places to get lost in on a Saturday afternoon in New Orleans, is the place pictured above..."The Green Project."  Every horder's dream and every germ-a-phobe's nightmare, this glorified scrap yard is bliss to me.  Everything from doors and windows to old sinks and light fixtures can be found among the treasures inside.  Instead of in some landfill, the hope of this project is that people will buy these old, broken down and tossed aside items, and repurpose them into beautiful works of art or simply into something else that is useful.  Recently I repurposed two old cabinet doors from there into chalk board/coat/key holders, and also turned an old white closet type door into a unique, bright green picture holder for my apartment.  I love doing this because in its own way, it's been one of the clearest ways I have been taught about the creativity and redemption of God, as well as how to see people from a ministerial stand point.  When I walk through the aisles of the warehouse I whisper aloud to God, "Show me something here that no one else can see...give me a vision to see what beauty and purpose can be found in this junk."  My eyes usually land on something and I am able to see past the damage, wear, dirt and cobwebs and envision something beautiful and functional for it...this makes my heart so indescribably happy. I treat clothes and food the same way...I love finding a unique piece at a thrift store and making it into something that looks new or at least can compliment other clothes.  I love mixing colors and patters and seeing what can come of it for an outfit. And with food, I like to take what is plain and see what can be added to make it special...mixing of foods has always been a win for my taste pallet!  I suppose this even takes place with me when I read and teach Scripture...I look at the text like one of those 3-D art pieces which looks like a jumbled mess until a defined picture stands out to the beholder...I say to the Lord, "Draw the message and image out for me that you want me to see in what looks to me now to be a jumbled mess." And He always does...

Is this cliche?  Probably so, but I can't help but see it (no pun intended).  Jesus sees in people a beauty and purpose, and perhaps even an innocence that others may not see...one that may not be able to be seen by the human eye. I envision Him cocking His head to the side and examining a human life or situation, and then after some time, showing a way to maybe look at a person or situation in a totally unique and different way.  He is always turning people and other things which have been disgarded or discounted, into beautiful and purposeful works of art.  I believe Him to be and do this, because I have witnessed Him do it in my own life.  And yet there are times, when it just seems like a person or more so, a situation might never be "repurposed"...these are seasons when the time table of transformation doesn't happen as quickly as we might like it to...what then?  One thing I have been taught and am trying to hold onto now, is that we should never doubt in the dark what He has shown us in the light.  In an instant He can turn something around, but will we (will I) be ready if and when He does?  I hope so...

Here's a verse to hold onto if you find yourself waiting for transformation to take place as you have seen it done before...and until it does, pray hard against bitterness, and stay faithful to the One who sees further and sees more than you do in this moment (this word goes for me as well):

"The end of a matter is better than its beginning, and patience is better than pride." -Ecclesiastes 7:8

Sep 11, 2012

“Neither Preacher, Priest nor Nun”

When I knew the Lord was leading me to pursue this PhD in the field of Biblical Interpretation, it felt very much like that scene from the movie “Princess Diaries,” when, after discovering her true identity as the Princess of Genovia, the already “uncool” Mia says in frustration to her mother, “As if I weren’t already enough of a freak, let’s add a tiara!”  Mia already knew she was different enough, and now this news was going to separate her even more from her piers.  And yet, in the end Mia understands the magnitude of her role, accepts it, and we know by the sequel film, does a fine job as Princess.

I am still finding myself somewhat back at that, “let’s add a tiara” phase when it comes to this new degree.  Going to seminary in the first place and majoring in Biblical Languages, then going again to work on another masters in Theology was one thing, but now God has taken this to a whole other level...

As a single woman in seminary, you are very frequently questioned (by those at the school and in the community and larger world) about your motives of being at seminary, of whether you are wanting to be a preacher (or the wanna be wife of one), or in the context of the predominately Catholic setting of New Orleans, a priest or a nun...no, in fact I want to be NUN of those things (nun pun absolutely intended). 

Even while I was evacuated to Alabama during the recent storm, Hurricane Isaac, a second cousin came to visit while I was at my grandmother’s and he asked, “Are you at Tulane?”  “No,” I replied, “I go to the Baptist seminary that is there.” He (literally) chuckled and said, “What, you gonna be a preacher?” UGH. (And this is only after my sweet Nana told her friends during a breakfast meeting one of the mornings I was there, that I was in school to study to be like Beth Moore...HA!  I almost spit my bacon, egg and cheese biscuit across the table and then gently gave a correction to that statement).   I shouldn’t get frustrated, and often I don’t really...I just try to be patient and explain that there are in fact other callings in the world of ministry, and many other avenues of study that take place at seminaries (and that contrary to what people may think about me, I actually am not studying to be like Beth Moore, though I respect her very much).

So to put it all to rest (at least in reference to my life), why am I here and why this degree?  Well, in short God told me to, and no matter how much on many days I really don’t want to walk this road, I can’t get away from or deny His leading in this direction.  When praying about the decision to go forward with applying or not, in a way that was particular to my walk with Him, the Lord showed me how I thought that all I had learned in my masters work was enough, but in fact there was still more to pursue.  He showed this to me in the context of a fine meal that wasn’t quite filling enough on the first round, and so I needed to go back for seconds.  After He gives me a personal word like that, God usually then backs it up with an affirming word from the Scriptures.  He gave me two Scripture references which in turn gave me the courage and vision to go forward, and the first was Proverbs 19:2, which says, “It is not good for a man to be without knowledge, and he who hurries his footsteps errors.”  The second was the account of David and Goliath, but not in the normal sense of David defeating the giant Philistine.  Rather, God showed me in that story something I had never seen before, and that was that David left a job that others could do and did do when he departed, which was tending to the sheep, to go and do the one job that only he would and could do...to stand up to and then kill Goliath.  I recognized that someone else could step in take over the ministry I was doing at the time, but this step towards this unique and new degree, would be something that not many people would be able nor willing to do...but I could do it and I was willing.   

And so, here I am.  Top floor study carrel reading and writing away.  The other real driving force behind all of this for me, is the fact that I believe the Bible to be the absolute true word of the Living God.  In it are the words of life and freedom, and its importance and influence are going to extend far beyond my lifetime on earth...and so, why would I not be compelled to study something that is useful for all things and to all people, and that by teaching it, I will be imparting something to the world that matters far more and far longer than I ever will? It just makes sense to me somehow.  I want to learn the Bible like the best guitarists and pianists in the world know their instruments, because this is my (our) instrument.  I have a long way to go and much to learn about the Bible, but I’m here and I’m willing, and above all I love the One who inspired it and want to be obedient to Him.

Am I training to be a preacher? No way (do you know how hard those guys work??).  But I am training to know the Word to be able to teach the Word as an itinerant minister to any audience the Lord will allow me to be with, in any context, in any part of the world, for the rest of my life.  As someone once told me, Cathedrals take a long time to be built, but that is so because they are meant to stand and serve as a place for people to gather for centuries at a time.  So may I (and you) let God build up my (and your) life and faith through devotion and study, as one of those great cathedrals that is meant to withstand the elements of time, attack and nature, and to remain. 


“Be courageous. It’s one of the only places left uncrowded.” --Anita Roddick

Aug 7, 2012

Lessons Learned on the Lake

Lessons Learned on the Lake

Besides the fact that I walk away every summer with an ear infection (this year included), still, one of my favorite places to be in the summertime when I can get there, is Kingsley Lake with my family. This lake is located about twenty minutes away from the front door of the house I was raised in, which makes forgetting anything and the trip back home after vacation, extrememly convenient.  My family (and many people who are like family) and I just spent one week at the lake, and at least once during each of those seven glorious days, I got to do one of my favorite water sport activites...wake boarding!  And, as it always is, my brain was running a million miles an hour, even while out on the water, thinking of so many ways that the Lord has used and is using this sport and being on the lake to teach me about life lessons...here goes two of the major lessons I have learned, and maybe this will help you somehow as well:

1) Last summer was the first time I had been on a wake board in a long time, and boy did my body pay the price to get back in the swing of the sport.  When you hit the water face-first, going 20 miles per hour plus, it literally feels like a car accident (both when it happens and the soreness in your neck afterwards).  And last summer, after what felt like falling a thousand times, by the end of the week I was able to get up, ride the waves and even jump with a little air and enjoy the sport.  When I arrived in California last year, that time on the lake came back to my mind so often.  It seemed like the same principle applied to me at school.  A new place, and a new and much more difficult level of education.  I literally felt like I kept "falling," all through the first semester...doing presentations wrong at first, struggling with time management with larger papers to write, having to re-write reviews, etc. And yet, by the time the Spring semester came along, I was able to "get up" much better, made good presentations, researched better, wrote papers faster, etc.  And then this year on the lake, the falls I took were still hard, but the number of them was so few I think I could count them on one hand. By mid week, I was up and enjoying the ride, and was even able to just look around the lake while on the board and enjoy the beauty that surrounded me.  I leave for New Orleans at the end of this week to offically begin my PhD...I am praying that my previous year of learning how to do post-grad work, has prepared me to not take so many "falls" as I embark on this next "ride."  Sometimes in life, you have to take some falls, but knowing that the joy of the ride, and the thrill of accomplishment in the end is worth it, keeps you getting back up for more.

2) I kept finding myself saying this year, "It's amazing what one year can do..." Where that came from was the fact that this year my nephew being closer to age 10, was able for the first time to get up on a wake board and ride, wheras last year he couldn't...good for him.  BUT, me, being one year closer to 30, was also a big difference, only in a more painful and fearful sort of way...bad for me.  It was very strange to even be just one year older and to be worrying about things that I had never given much thought to before.  I thought about the scum in the lake more, and kept finding myself worrying about falling from the board, and being scared to go across the wakes...DUMB, DUMB, DUMB I say!  BUT, all of this made me refelect on my faith as well.  I feel like the older I get, the more things I worry and think about before just jumping into the deep to serve Jesus...ugh, I HATE this!  I feel like I so often have to fight now to hold onto that freedom of serving Him with reckless abandon that I had earlier in my 20's.  And so with wake boarding last week, I finally just deternined to not be afraid, to relax, and just go for it...and I did that as a lesson to myself for a renewal in my faith as well.  If we fall, He is there...if there is hurt or injury, He is there...if the money runs out and people walk away, He is there...if you or I are the only ones left standing for righteousness and honoring the name of Jesus, He is there with us. As we get older, let us fight the tendancy to lose our tenacity for loving and serving Jesus boldy, and for doing other activities that He has given us on earth to enjoy.

"Every man dies, not every man really lives." --Braveheart

Jul 17, 2012

A Time Worthy of Grief

A Time Worthy of Grief

Adair Lara once wrote, "No matter how conservative and stuffy and rigid and career obsessed you may think you are, it's impossible to move to San Francisco and not soften a bit." Adair was right. I have two more full days left in this weird and wonderful place, where for the last year has given me a lifetime of joy and wonder and irreplacable experiences and memories. Whether it was God really leading me (I believe it was), or a burst of enthusiasm and longing for a new adventure that brought me to this place...either way, I'm glad the map of my journey in life took this turn out West. How can I put into words all I have seen, all I have come to know, all of the special people God has used to give me back a part of myself that I believe somewhere in the last few years I lost? I can't. It's like a youth returning from camp, or a soldier from war...they have seen and done so much, so much has happened, and yet they can't make you see and know all that they know, and so a part of that journey can only remain between one's self and God.  So where as I can't put it all into words, I will at least share a few things to help give the account of my time here...

God has shown me His love in radical ways. I have seen Him in His natural revelation all around me in this stunningly beautiful place that looks to me how I would picture "Never, Never Land" looking. The free and creative ways I have been able to minister to teenagers and college students here, has brought great refreshment to my formally dry spirit. I have hung out with prostitues and drug dealers, as well as with the rich and famous (thanks Jesus for showing me how to do life like YOU!). I have gotten to experience another Southern Bapitist Seminary, and by God's grace will have a degree from this school not too long from now. The professors and students at Golden Gate Seminary are some of the finest people I have ever met in my life. They have challenged me in the classroom and out, and in such a short time, have embraced me as their own. I will never hesitate to represent this school in any way in the future. I have hiked more than ever before, worn rain boots for the first time, experienced the goodness of Blue Bottle coffee, seen naked people walk the streets, taught in churches and at events from here to Oregon, and learned to absoultely LOVE avacodo on everything (or just by itself). So much more could be said, and probably much more of what I have learned won't even be revealed until I am away from here, but just briefly I need to speak about what the BEST part of being here has been...my friends.

From people I have met through Young LIfe and Domincan University ministry, to people in the city and at school, God has blessed me with some amazing relationships here. But, the ones who have influenced me the most, are my sisters in Mallory Hall, the girls dorm at GGBTS. I didn't even want to live in the dorm when I first arrived, but no lie, since day ONE, it has been awesome and I am SO glad the other plan hadn't worked out. I mean, where do I even begin to describe them or what they have meant to me? They are crazy fun, loud, adventurous, God-seekers, missionaries, determined women, humble, the best cooks ever, have loved me on my best and worst days here, ETC, ETC, ETC, type of people. For a solid year, God has allowed me to live with girls around my same age who share a like-mindness for pursuing excellence in school and life, and pursuing Christ in their lives, and I needed this more than I ever realized.  When I pull away on Thursday morning, I will be pulling away from more than just an old building, but rather people who have become like family.  A hard thing for my heart is, that those back home or in my next place of life, won't know them and they won't ask about them, and so it makes me afraid that somehow I will forgot them. But how can I forget the late night talks, sometimes with tears, most times with laughter?  Or the movies nights, study sessions, the "cook everything we have and see what turns out" meals, trips to the beach and hiking, parties and holidays celebated, random dance parties and music video shoots, prayer times, pranks, community bathrooms and showers (with separate stalls), Etc...I pray that it's impossible to forget.  This time, this place, these girls, have allowed me the space to let me into my own life and helped me to discover more of who I am, and who I am yet to be. I love them, all of them, for what they have brought to my life each in their own way. (Thanks girls!!)

So, in a time maybe not even too long from now, I will be in a conversation with someone and the subject of the state of California will come up. I will say, "I use to live there." They will ask where and for how long?  And I will say, "Oh Mill Valley, just outside of San Francisco. I lived there about a year."  To them, the mention of that year will be no big deal and the conversation will move on to other things. But for me, the mention of this year, will forever represent a bench mark of time in my life when I tested the waters of freedom, understood more of what it means to be a disciple of Christ, grew as a person, loved and was loved deeply, if only for a short time. It will represent a gift that God gave just to me, and for this time, I am forever grateful to Him. 

So here's to two more days...may they be memorable and rich, as this whole year has been.

(And here's to the DF...to us and those like us.)

Jun 24, 2012

A Poem



Wrestling


Would I still think His Presence great
If my name weren't up in lights?
Or if only two and not two-thousand
Showed up as the crowd tonight?

We place on high mere man
With his so called wisdom and strength,
Often blurring the lines
Of whose living waters we should (and should not) drink

We try to be genuine
But are we making the cut?
Can the world see beyond
Our denominational strut?

Critical is not
What I wish to be
But my heart is at war
Over all I do (and do not) see


Jun 20, 2012

Father's Day Lagniappe

Father's Day Lagniappe

I am my father's daughter, hence the lateness in posting this blog to honor him for Father's Day ("VF" Dad). ;)  The older I get, the more I see and understand what a special person my Dad, John Veasey, really is, and I see why God saw it necessary that he be the one to raise me.  A few observations I have made about my dad that I want to have in my life are these:  He is the same person with everyone he meets no matter what status, high or low in the eyes of society, that they hold.  He is one of the most honest and real people that I know.  I love the way he communicates because he has educated himself on a variety of subjects so that he can have conversations with anyone about anything.  He uses illustrations from everyday life (particularly sports) to teach me lessons, because he knows this is how I think and can understand what I need to learn in given situations.  He stays calm in every situation because he always seems to know that things will somehow work out.  He loves his daughters unconditionally.  He works hard and has earned great respect as a business man because of his work ethic, quailty product, and integrity.  He is literally the only person I have no fear in texting, calling or if I am home, just hopping on his bed, at any given time or day or night (or wee hours of morning), because I can't recall one instance where he was ever too tired or busy to talk with me when I realy needed him.  He is funny.  He knows when to be the life of the party, and when to just blend into the crowd.  Oh I could go on and on, but these are just a few things off the top of my head tonight...

My Dad did not start attending church with me until I was in my early twenties.  However, when I was a child and even as a teenager, Sunday was "our day."  He and I alternated each Sunday between going to the movies and going bowling.  When we bowled, we played the best of 3 out of 5 games, and when we were at the movies, it was a large refillable popcorn, two large Cokes and a box of Goobers (chocolate covered peanuts) all the way.  I wouldn't trade that time or those memories with him for any day at church, because I believe that through them, even back then, God was teaching me about His Father's heart that He has for his children.  In fact, God has taught me numerous lessons about who He is through my Dad's love and actions, without my dad even knowing that that was taking place.  We played catch together in the yard every night until it got dark and I could no longer see the "pop-ups" or "candy-skips" he would throw.  We couldn't go inside, however, until I had caught ten in a row of each.  He taught me about discipline and having a good attitude, and how to be a gracious winner and loser.  Most days I was in the game on my sports teams, but on the days when I rode the pine, he knew it was tough for me and would say to me, "Whether you are physically in the game or not, you are ALWAYS in the game...always be ready to go in, and until then you be the best cheerleader from the bench this team has ever seen."  

Though I may not ever fully understand the magnitude of what he went through and how his life changed when my mom passed away when my sister was 25 and I was nearly 14, I get it a little more now...and, well all I can do is take a deep breath and say, wow.  My life was now in his sole care...he could have lost it, handed me off to family members, gotten married again quickly as a large number of men do in that situation, or countless other things that would have made his life easier, but he didn't.  In fact, he made up his mind and has told me this, that he determined then and there that of anything else in his life, he would never fail me.  I see now that in many ways, he traded his life and happiness to give me life and happiness.  Neither of us knew what the heck we were doing...we ate peas from a can almost every night like they were going out of style, and we practically kept Chef-Boyarde and Hamburger Helper in business.  We both learned how to do laundry (and learned quickly about how to ruin clothes using bleach).  We learned to iron, and I think he still owes me a few shirts that he promised to replace after ironing over logos and stretching the names of brands FARRR across the front. He taught me to drive, both automatic and 3-speed on the column in his old Bronco.  He taught me to shoot guns and fish, to throw a football and read the newspaper and watch the news...you know, all the normal stuff other teenage girls were also doing...(ha). We bought my dresses at Sears and my shoes at Naturalizer (again, no clue). And the stories could go on...

It wasn't easy for anyone, in fact it was scary and uncertain times really...but there is no doubt in my mind that God kept his hand on our lives and without us even really knowing how to give credit to Him then, held us together by His grace.  My dad and me, well, I think we sort of "grew up" together, and in many ways we still are. 

Soon he will come once again to California, this time to pick me up, and we will drive cross country togther to start the next part of the journey of life.  I am a social person to say the least, and I could think of a number of people I could ask to make this trip with me in July...but, it couldn't be with anyone else right now...I need and want to do it with my Dad, one of my best friends, so we can talk and get ready for what is to come (and hopefully do a little fly-fishing along the way).  He calls his children and grandchidren his "best investment," and he means it.  I pray that my life can truly honor him and prove to have been worth all he has given to me.      

Thank you Dad, for believing in me, for pushing me to see more that I can do with my life even when I might get impatient when you do. Thanks for hanging in there and teaching me about commitment and sacrifice.  Thank you for never holding it over me when I need to borrow money, but instead for always telling me that I am one of your greatest investments.  Thanks for taking me to the ballpark and the movies, but also to the mall and the beauty shop.  Thanks for letting me go down the black slopes by myself, and in doing so teaching me about courage and not having fear.  Thanks for teaching me what the "minor leagues" are for... :)  Your wisdom and humilty are noticed by me now more than ever, and I am grateful to have you as an example.  In short, I love you Dad and am grateful to be yours. Happy Father's Day (again), and I can't WAIT to see you soon!!

DITYTTILY? N,BID! -Acegump

Jun 4, 2012

Bullied No More

Straight from my room in Cali-forn-I-A, some encouragement from Romans 12:1-2 in the Bible...The world and its system wants to bully you into conforming, and it's time to stand up for yourself...Listen and enjoy! :)

May 7, 2012

Today

I am sitting at my computer tonight desperatly trying to finish up two papers I have left for this semester. Long gone are the days when the final weeks of school involved having class partites and watching movies. It's been a good, but long semester, and I am pretty tuckered out.  But just when I don't think I can type one more page, I stop for a minute to think how incredibly BLESSED I am (yes blessed) to get to write these papers. This past week I was praying for the sister-in-law of a professor, and the thirty-year old drunk driver who crashed into her, as both of their lives are now changed forever.  A few weeks ago I sat stunned in my car in the parking lot of Panera as I listened to the breaking news on the radio, of a gunman taking the lives of students in a Christian institution in Oakland.  All I could do was weep and pray. And last year I remember meeting a guy in his early twenties who had not had a good homelife or education growing up and was in need of help in filling out his application to McDonald's.  I think of all of these scenarios as I sit here tonight with books all around me, pages dog-earred and highlighted and my ipad propped up nicely next to me.  I am BLESSED.  

TODAY, I did not experience an accident that would permanantly alter my mind and motor skills. TODAY, no one came into my classroom and opened fire. TODAY, I can read and write and even do far more than that educationally.  TODAY I have life and abundant grace in God that is so rich and so full and is never going to run out.  TODAY I am well. TODAY I can study and prepare and pray and dream of the day that I get to share with the multitudes the truths I am learning about Jesus and God's Word.  TODAY I am alive. TODAY I can make a difference. TOMORROW is not promised to either you or I...what will I do with my today?  What will you do with yours?

 

"I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus has taken hold of me..." (Paul)

Apr 19, 2012

Right about this time two years ago, I was at the lake house of some good friends in North Carolina wrapping up my last paper to complete my seminary degree at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary. THE Martha Garber, was being such a good host, making sure I was well fed and had everything I neeeded to complete the task ahead of me.  I was in a season of prayer during that time as to whether or not God would have me to go on to do even MORE schooling after completeing that degree. Some had talked with me about doing doctoral work, but when they had I honestly felt like looking over my shoulder and asking, "Who are you talking to?" It was an itch that I wasn't sure I was intended to (or even wanted to) scratch, but none the less I prayed about what God would have me to do.  And while at that lake house, on the very night I was to finish my last paper for school, God made it clear.  Mrs. Martha had made a wonderful meal of pot roast and other veggies, and I thought what I saw on the table was all there was to the meal. When all had been eaten (or so I thought), she asked if anyone wanted more? Well, I was actually still hungry but didn't think there was anything more to eat. Knowing that she would go out of her way to make me something else if I had said that I was still hungry, I just said, "No thanks," and proceeded to help clear the table. A few moments later, I heard Mrs. Martha scrapping what little scraps were left of the meal from the table into something else.  I turned around to discover that there was a HUGE other pot of meat that I was not even aware of that had been made, of which the smaller meal had been taken from.  And in that very moment, I stood there betwen this giant pot of meat and the set up I had made with my books to complete my paper, and the Lord spoke so clearly to me.  Just as I had thought all was done with the meal but yet I was still hungry and discovered there was more to be eaten, I was finishing up what I thought was the "last" of the "meal" from seminary, yet I was finding myself still hungry and God showing me there was "more" waiting for me to "eat".  He was leading me to further study, and thus began the journey leading up to where I am today in this process.

Since August of last year, I have been at the Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary near San Francisco, CA. working on my Master of Theology degree.  This degree has helped me to get my feet wet, so to say, in the world of seminars, research and writing. My time here has been nothing short of special, truly divine...Golden Gate will get its own blog post before the end of summer to be sure. Yet even though the Lord has blessed me here, I have long since missed living, serving and doing life in the city of New Orleans, LA.  It was brought to my attention in November of last year that my alma mater, NOBTS, would be getting a new major in the PhD program called, "Biblical Interpretation."  This major would keep the student in the Old and New Testaments for the purpose of application and proclamation of the text to an audience.  This very clearly seemed like a degree program I could see myself putting three to four more years into, and so as I approached the Lord in prayer about it, these words came to my heart, "A longing fulfilled is sweet to the soul." This phrase comes out of the book of Proverbs and is a verse I had forgotten I had even memorized.  I enjoyed that proimised "peace that passes all understanding," for days as I began the application process. Though the journey has been long, I was recently told that I have been accepted as the first applicant for this degree major at NOBTS...glory to God!!  Though I am very excited about this news, my excitement is somewhat subdued because it will be very hard to leave people who have become so dear in California.  I will remain here, God-willing, through the summer to work on completing my ThM, and will make the move back East most likely around the end of July and begin my doctoral studies in August.

I have always been ready to go, should God call me to serve in even the most remote village at the ends of the earth...and yet, in a most unexpected fashion for my life, God has called me, in no less terms, to the library. I have to depend on Him even more in the library and in school than remote villages perhaps, because it is with all of those books, journals and scholars that I feel the most inadequate and insecure. Yet, in my (and your) weakness, His power is proven real and strong.  God has this habit of using the most unusual vessels to accomplish His mighty works on the earth...I'm praying my life can be this in the midst of my calling and pursuit of being obediant to His voice and bringing Him fame and glory on the earth...even from the library.

Apr 7, 2012

Through "Anna's" Eyes, Good Friday

“Perfect,” I thought to myself. “Just enough left to brew one cup of coffee to enjoy while I talk with God and read the Bible.”  This is how my Good Friday started out this morning.  As I sat at the kitchen table, sipping my Starbucks Blonde Roast and gazing out the window, what was originally set to be a time of study, quickly derailed into a time of day-dreaming (which often is the case for me).  I was thinking about the events that happened on this day over 2,000 years ago, and was trying to visualize myself in the crowd on the Via Dolorosa as Jesus walked through, beaten and bloodied, carrying His cross to Calvary.  But then a story started forming in my mind that quickly turned into an idea for a monologue that I began sketching out in my journal (so much for filling it with prayers and Scripture references today).  What if the story of Jesus’ life and ministry leading up to Good Friday, was told through the lens of a young girl, about the age of 10?  But not just any girl, but rather she is the only daughter and the youngest of the seven children in her family, with her oldest brother being the Apostle Peter.  I think her name would be Anna, and I think her story would go something like this:

“I’m pretty tough and I hardly ever cry.  I mean, it’s all a girl can do growing up with six older brothers just to survive, much less cry in front of any of them…no way, they would think I was a sissy!  But today I have cried a lot.  You see a few nights ago, my friend was arrested and was being accused of all these bad things that he never even did…and then his sentence came…crucifixion! Oh it’s been just awful and the entire city is stirred up about it all. What’s that? Oh, who is my friend, you ask?  His name is Jesus, and well, he’s actually more of my older brothers’ friend, but I’ve gotten to spend plenty of time with him too.  How did we meet him?  Well it all started about three years ago, when Papa and Mama had taken some of the other boys to visit with relatives, but my brother Andrew and I got to stay behind with our oldest brother, Simon (whom everyone now calls Peter).  If it weren’t for Peter then I would never get to have ANY fun!  Mama says it’s not right for young ladies to be out fishing and running around with no shoes on, but I can’t help if that’s what I like to do. If she had wanted me to be more like a lady, then she should have had given birth to more girls for me to play with, that’s what I say!  Anyways, when Mama’s out visiting relatives or has gone to the market for a while, Peter always takes me fishing with him.  He hasn’t said so, but I know I’m Peter’s favorite, but [said in a whisper] don’t mention that I said that to any of the other boys, they’ll get jealous.

So that day about three years ago, I was hanging out on the shoreline trying to catch some fish with my little net that Peter had made for me, when Jesus walked up.  Seeing my two brothers casting their nets, He called out to them saying, “Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men.”  Suddenly both Peter and Andrew dropped their nets and went towards Him.  Not wanting to be left out, I ran up behind Jesus, tugged on the back of his cloak and said, “Hey mister!  I’m with them, so if they are going to be your disciples, then me too!”  I’ll never forget how when he looked down and made eye contact with me that first time, I felt totally warm inside.  He gently patted me on the head and said, “Not now little one, but one day.” His voice was strong, but yet still calming.  Disappointed, I folded my arms and looked away said, “Well who wants to be around any of those stinky boys anyways!” And I kicked a rock clear to the sea.  Jesus laughed and then picked me up and threw me over his shoulder as if he had known me forever, and we had fun as he carried me all the way back to Peter’s house. 

Oh what adventures I began to have as I often got to tag along with Jesus and his twelve disciples. I watched as he healed people, and gave sight to the blind and hearing to the deaf! There was even this one time when a little girl not much older than me had died and Jesus brought her back to life! I loved being right in the middle of it all, but sometimes some of the guys called me a pest and shoved me out of the group.  One time, even my own brother Peter snapped at me and told me it was time for me to go home, all because there was this demon possessed boy that had been brought to Jesus and I couldn’t help it, the words just came flying out of my mouth… “That kid is CRAZY!”  But Jesus never treated me that way.  He was always kind and gentle to me, and he protected me too…I tell ya, if he hadn’t scooped me up and put me in his lap that one time at Peter’s house, that paralytic man would have been let down right on top of my head!  I never tried to bother him while he was teaching, there was always so many people around…but somehow, even in a crowd of thousands, he would know where I was, make eye contact with me, if only for a moment, and give me a wink.

You know a few days ago I weaved in and out of the crowd trying to keep up with Jesus as he rode into the city on a donkey.  It was just like a dream, a marvelous parade fit for a king! Oh he really IS the Messiah I just knew that he was!  But then things started to change as those same people who had been waving palm branches and shouting, “Hosanna,” were later waving their fists and shouting, “Crucify him!”  And last night, even my own brother, the one I have always looked up to the most, denied ever knowing Jesus. Oh how could Peter do such a thing?! I was so angry and said that I would never leave Jesus alone like the others and that’s when I came here trying to find him again.  I found Jesus’ mother, Mary, and asked where he was…she was crying, and told me this was no place for a child and I needed to leave right away, but I just couldn’t. Not long after that crowds began to line the street creating a path apparently for someone to come through.  And then I saw him…I might not even have recognized him at first, except a Jewish man in the crowd suddenly shouted out in a mocking voice, “Save yourself now Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews!”  Oh how could this be him?! My friend, the kindest most gentle man I had ever met, now with whip marks and gashes all over his body, with his skin stained red from his blood from head to toe.  He was wearing a crown of thorns and carrying this giant cross.  No, surely not, surely someone will stop this, someone will come to his defense!  Peter? Andrew? No, they were all gone. As I had days before on the Mount of Olives, I then weaved in and out of the crowd trying to keep up with Jesus. And then, just like he had done so many times before, he stopped and slowly turned his head slightly to the side and found me in the crowd. I couldn’t move, I couldn’t breath, oh why was this happening to him? My eyes, now pooling with tears met directly with his one eye that was still able to be opened (his other had swollen shut)…and with no words being said, through my unbroken gaze with him, my eyes were crying out saying, “I’m so sorry! I’m so sorry!  I love you Jesus, I love you!”  And his eyes looked back at me in such a way as to say, “I know and it’s okay little one, I love you too.” And then, as he had done so many times before, as best as he could, he gave me his familiar wink, and turned his head forward again to continue walking.  I couldn’t move after that moment, I just stood there crying and shaking in unbelief of what was happening and was so angry at these people who once adored him but were now spitting on him and shouting nasty word at him.  He may even be dead by now, I don’t know…I am just waiting to hear, just waiting…

“Oh God, wasn’t he the One You sent to save us? Great God, is Jesus not Your Son and the Messiah?  Where are you now God?  God, is Jesus the One? Is He the One?”    

Mar 19, 2012

March 19

March 19

Every year when the calendar chart flips to the month of March, there are many days I am thrilled to annotate...some being the birthday's of my niece, myself and some of my closest friends, St. Patrick's Day, Spring break, etc.  But there is also one day in the month of March that sort of haunts me. And even though I wish the Hallmark people would just leave it out, there is it every year, looming right there in the middle of the page...March 19th.  Everyone has days that represent events that have happened which shape their lives forevermore...the Israelites had the Exodus, the Allied Forces had D-Day, there is Pearl Harbor and 9-11...things like weddings, graduations, first kissess, car accidents, births...all very significant. For me, March 19th is ones of those days, a day that holds a memory of an event that has forever shaped my life. It was this day, now 15 years ago, that my mom passed away.  

Here she is with me in the picture seen above, when I was about three.  Isn't she beautiful?  And she was just as beautiful on the inside, if not even more so, than she was on the outside.  In the nearly 14 years that I knew my mom, Marianne Martin Veasey, I can say that she was a woman of true class. She matched everyday, from head to toe, and made sure her daughters did too.  She would say, "Girls, toes are ugly enough, if you can paint them, please do." She not only loved people, but she showed her love by treating people of all colors and backgrounds well. More times than I can count, she took me to American Cancer Society events to help hand out baloons (as she had dressed me in a clown suit to do so), to run a race to raise money, to bag others' groceries, take women out to lunch, etc. People in our community not only knew her, but they loved her.

My mom made everything fun...from holidays and cooking to coming up with creative was to help me do my homework...I even remember her checking me out of school early from time to time, just to take me to Pizza Hut or Chuck-E-Cheese to play me in skee-ball. She had a cabinet set up for me FULL of any and all arts and crafts supplies a child could want or need, and also had a small boom box set up with those giant head phones attached where I could listen and sing along with books on tape she had gotten me.  Art, reading and music, three things she gave me early on that I still love today.  But don't get me wrong, she still got mad like any other mom, and on one occasion (my family can't get enough of re-telling this story), she even told me that due to my excessive talking, that if I didn't stop talking right that minute she was going to throw up! HA!  I can honestly say, that as a family we didn't have very many dull moments to say the least.

And then, very unexpectedly, a week before my mom passed away she had been diagnosed with having a brain tumor that had gone undected.  She underwent surgery to remove the tumor, but in recovery, her brain swelled prematurely and it crushed her brain stem.  I remember being in 8th grade at the time, and being called to the chorus room first thing that day.  I had just gotten superior ratings at a state singing competition weeks before with the song "Danny Boy." My mom had been there to hear me perform. That day, my teacher had me make a recording of the song, which I thought was going to be played for my class, but in reality, it was being recorded to be played at my mother's funeral.  Then a teacher, who was also our neighbor and the mother of one of my best friend's, came to walk me to the front office.  I remember asking her if my mom was out of the hospital and if so then I guess I would not go to softball practice that day...and then we turned the corner...

My dad and sister were standing on the front steps of the school weeping and holding each other, and then they embraced me as well.  She hadn't made it. She had died.  No longer was there four of us, but only three remained on the sidewalk that day.  Our lives were changed forever in that moment.  I wasn't so sure that my dad was not going to be too far behind my mom in dying after that...I mean, this was the love of his life whom he had known since elementary school and had been married to almost 30 years at that point. But wow, my mom couldn't have chosen a finer man to leave us in the care of.  Looking back on life then, we probably spent more time just "getting through," and "hanging on," than I realized at the time...and we defintely ate a lot of Tuna Helper and were on a first name basis with every deli man and fast food joint in town.  But I remember having a conversation in my early 20's with my dad and asking him when it was that he realized he hadn't failed with raising me...and I'll never forget what he told me.  He said that when my mom died, he knew at other times in life he could fail at something like a job or school and just pick something else up and be good at it, but when he looked at me, a barely 14 year old girl now in his solo care, he determined in his mind that failure in raising me would never be an option.  And he followed through.  My dad isn't a perfect man, but I know he is the perfect dad for me and my sister.  I could go on about him, but perhaps when Father's Day comes he will get his very own post! :) 

So why do I say all of this?  Why am I even posting about this?  It's an event, a touchstone in my life that has shaped who I am today.  Maybe in some small way, me writing about it helps me to remember her and take joy in who both of my parents were and are.  I still miss her a whole lot, and I am amazed at how much she taught me that I still use today, in just the almost fourteen years that I knew her.  I am grateful I was hers and she was mine, if only for those few wonderful years.

Yesterday in church we sang the song, "Blessed Be Your Name."  And as we sang, I closed my eyes and thought about the event surrounding this day, March 19th.  But it wasn't saddness that came. No, rather a flood of memories of the faithfulness of God at EVERY step of my life came washing over me and I sang those powerful lyrics with true conviction and sincere proclamation. He has been faithful, Oh yes He has.  And He is good, even is all around you seems bad. Yes Lord, though "You give and take away, my heart will CHOOSE to say, Blessed be Your Name..."

And forevermore, Amen.

Mar 3, 2012

The Tenderloin

During the week, my Tuesday nights are spent with teenagers, my Wednesday nights with college students, and when I can, my Friday nights are with the people of the Tenderloin. This district in the city of San Francisco called "The Tenderloin," or "The Ten," is notorious for homelessness, drugs, prostitution and violence. Not long after I moved here last August, while inquring with a local woman concerning a map of the city, she placed a big 'X' over that part of the map and told me never to go there. I think many here have this same attitude towards this district, and others like it across the USA and the world. I just smiled and said thank you to the woman, not mentioning to her that I had already been there a few times already. You see, a leader from the school I attend takes students to the Tenderloin every other Friday night to meet people, talk with them, build friendships, share prayer...we hand out socks, food, gospel tracs...we hand out hope. Loreen, Aaron, "Smiley," Ted, Robert, Cassandra...these are just a few of the many people I have come to know who live in the Tenderloin. Never have I been so close to drugs being exchanged, to having one prostitute be cracked out and hanging on me while another with her, being young and impressionable had just gotten off the bus from Ohio the day before and received Christ with my partner who was with me. Never have I received so many marriage proposals in one night, ha! Never have I ministered in such a place where I could so easily visualize Jesus walking through that very place...touching people, healing people, smiling at them, hugging them.  Above is a link (click on the title) giving more description to this unique part of this wonderful city; below is a poem I wrote reflecting my feelings towards this place after a Friday night there this past fall.

To tell me not to go to this place or others like it in our country and abroad, would do no good...places like the Tenderloin are the beat of my heart. So since I and others will be going, as the Lord leads, please pray...and pray not for my safety (for the Lord took away my fear of places like this long ago), as much as for sanity, for salvation and hope for the people of this district and others like them in your own cities and in the world. 

The Tenderloin

Broken faces all around,
Drugs and sex deals going down.
Lost and struggling, looking to be found,
Drugs and sex deals going down.
Most speak crazy, some profound,
Drugs and sex deals going down.
Trash and people on the ground,
Drugs and sex deals going down.
She works the corner, he plays the clown,
Drugs and sex deals going down.
Lord on High, O Heaven's Crown,
Please stop these drug and sex deals from going down.

Selah.

Feb 25, 2012

Different Sand for Different Beaches

Different Sand for Different Beaches

I needed today.  What was today?  Today was waking up and having coffee at an outdoor cafe with two friends from the PhD. program before they boarded their flights to head back to Oregon and Oklahoma.  Then, today was heading back to school to change into outdoor clothing and join another friend as we took off to one of our favorite hiking trails that leads out to a small beach on the Pacific Ocean.  We walked along the trail, enjoying God's creation, enjoying each other, enjoying life...and we made it to the beach and set up camp to then enjoy the afternoon for whatever it would turn out to be.

Being able to go to the beach in February isn't as crazy of a concept to me as it might be to some, because I grew up in Florida where no season of the year prevents beach days from taking place. But this visit to the beach was different. The sand for instance is not white like back home...no, it's more of a chocolate brown color, like browie batter.  I couldn't stop grazing my hands through this dark mix of finely ground rocks (no shells) and sand, and loved letting my feet sink deeper and deeper into its texture.  No bathing suits were worn on this beach today...no, it's too cold for that yet.  But people were all about doing their normal routine...families playing, couples sunggling, individuals enjoying their lunches and quiet moments of mediatation.  And then an event happened that perfectly captured the sentiments of the day, of being on this crazy planet everyday...a little boy (later we would learn that he was four years old and named Liam) came up just behind us and in the most powerful voice he could muster began yelling, "Daddy! Daddy!" towards the ocean.  Down at the edge of the water, was this boy's dad who was playing in the sand with the boy's 1 1/2 year old sister.  He continued to yell for his dad, until his dad looked up and said, "What Liam?"  To which the boy loudly replied in the sweetest four-year-old voice, "Daddy, I want you to carry me!!!" His dad rushed up to get him and picked up his son, and in joyful laughter they went back towards the water to join with the little girl in play.  This moment rushed over me as a picture of how we are to be with our God, Abba, Father.  I didn't want to dismiss this very important example that the Lord graciouly showed me through this father and son, and in my heart I found myself saying to God, "Daddy, I want You to carry me!!"  Just as God will never grow tired of hearing this request from His children, may we never grow too old or too proud to lift our heads and yell this request towards the shores of Heaven and to our Abba who is waiting.

I needed today.

Feb 21, 2012

One Wild Ride

One Wild Ride

One of my earliest and clearest childhood memories, is being four years old and riding down the escalator with my mom at the JCPenney store in Orange Park, Fl. I was facisnated by these magical moving stairs, and instead of being nervous on them like most children, I wiggled free from my mother's hand and proceeded to try and climb back up them going the opposite direction. Then I started dancing on them, all the while, my mother trying to get me to stop (my poor mother).  Maybe you can see where this story is going...in short, let's just say it's because of children like me that safety experts found it necessary to install those "emergency stop" buttons you now see at the bottom of escalators.  When I finally reached the "getting off point" that day, my clumsy gene took over and I tripped, fell, and within seconds had not only my long hair, but also my right ear hung up in the "teeth" where the "magical steps" dissapear at the bottom. I remember my mother yanking me up as fast as lightening, leaving a chunk of my hair and my ear behind. A store clerk threw me up on a cash register table and sprayed something cold on my ear to help with the bleeding until we could get to the hospital and get stitches. True story, have the nearly 25 year old scare to prove it. (Do I dare tell you that not too long after this instance, in the SAME JCPenney store, I ran and hid from my mother under a clothing rack and for whatever reason decided to shove a clothes hanger up my nose, resulting in another bleeding fiasco?? HAHA, that's a story for another day...)  I tell this story to say, that these kinds of happenings didn't stop for me at four years of age.  Nope, they have continued to follow me right into adulthood and certainly right into this past weekend I had while traveling cross country.

This past weekend, I was given the opportunity to travel back to Florida to represent the seminary I attend in California at a conference for college students.  (p.s. to everyone back home who reads this, this was a last minute trip and I was in and out of the state so fast...so sorry for not getting to see anyone!). The bonus for me going on this trip, was that this weekend was also my sister's 40th birthday, so I was going to have a chance to surprise her after the conference to tell her happy birthday in person. Before I give the happenings of the trip in a nut shell, let me preface it by saying this...I am reading through the book of Romans in the Bible currently and read this passage as the trip began: "And not only this, but we also exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance; and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope; and hope does not dissapoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given us." (Rom. 5:3-5) Little did I know this passage would become my anthem throughout the remainder of the trip...

Here's my journey:  It started out with being on the wrong side of the freeway (literally) on Thursday to be picked up and taken to the airport, and so I had to drive my own vehicle, which was going to be WAY more expensive. I pushed it to get to the airport in enough time to park and get the 40 lb. canister with all of the supplies for promoting the school in it, checked through.  Long term parking was FULL, they sent me to daily parking...lady tells me my SUV will not fit, and that I was going to have to go to the international lot...I tried it anyways, it fit (barely) in daily parking, but couldn't find a spot...finally found one, RAN to terminal, five minutes PAST when you could check a bag through...still tried to get through, passed off onto 2 other people (all sneering at me as if being late is the ultimate crime in the TSA world)...TWENTY minutes until take off time, I am in a line to get my flight changed because clearly I think I am going to miss mine, lady could see my angst, decided to get me and my bag through...HOPE!  I was rushed through security, SPRINTED to my gate, literally JUST as the man is about to give my seat to a woman on stand by, I showed up (sorry lady).  Took my seat, praised the King, and then we sat...and sat...and sat. Technical difficulties with our plane left us sitting on the runway for over an hour past the original take off time, which now meant that the majority of people on the plane (including myself) were going to miss their connections. Oh yeah, AND my personal bag with all of my belongings in it was to be a carry on, but instead was taken and checked through at the mouth of the plane...keep that in mind.  We finally took off, en route to Chicago.  By the time we landed there, nearly all had missed their conncections, and so I waited in this extremely long line to later hear them tell me that the next available flight for me going to Florida would be the following day at 1:30 P.M.  Okay. I was given a meal and hotel voucher for the night...picked up a spicy chicken Thai wrap (this may have been to my future detrament) and headed to the Double Tree Hotel in Chicago with only my backpack and the clothes on my back. I felt like Kevin from "Home Alone, Lost in NYC" that night...had this nice, giant hotel room all to myself!  Slept in the clothes I had traveled in, slept in the next morning...got up, took shower, put old clothes BACK on, used the hotel lotion for deoderant, headed out...hit up a Chicago Starbucks, bought a coffee mug, ate a famous Chicago hot dog and got checked in back at the airport.  Landed in Florida around 5 P.M., had to find my bags, pick up rental car and book to it conference that's was over an hour away from where I was at the time...found bags, went to rental car agent. He tells me that my reservation SHOULD be cancelled because I wasn't there night before, but he was going to make an exception (I was thinking, "Darn right you're going to make an exception!").  Then I had to charge an unexpected $200 safety deposit that they wouldn't charge to the school, but to me...yikes!  Whatever...had to go! Went to find rental in the lot, it was raining, hot and humid and I was STILL in the clothes I left in the morning before...my rental was not in the spot where he said it would be and so I proceeded to walk around the lot pressing the "Lock and Unlock" buttons until I located my vehicle.  I busted a move towards Gaineville, stopping at one of my favs, Captain D's, along the way to grab a quick bite to eat (this also may have led to my future downfall).  Finally made it to the conference, got set up, CHANGED CLOTHES (though my conditioner had exploded in my bag AND somehow my sunglasses had snapped in half) and all was well until later that night... 

After the conference ended, exhausted, I headed to the hotel the school had booked for me...the (not so) Quality Inn of Alachua, Fl. I was thankful for the room, but due to the rain and humidity, it did reak of mildew (classic to Florida). And the more I tried to settle in for the night, the more my stomach was becoming unsettled inside of me. I had a feeling that a LONG night of being very sick might be ahead of me, and I was right. Somewhere around 2:30 A.M. the throwing up began...and it wouldn't stop until around 2 P.M. that day...ugh.  Anyone who has been around me when I am throwing up (Jillian, Mrs. Diane), knows that it is my practice to praise the Lord even through the throwing up...I look at it as "practice for persecution."  Anytime there is pain, we can begin to praise God and prepare for a time when we may face real persecution.  And so, I tried to keep praising Him through it...however, there were these two flies in my room that just would not let me be! At one point I thought, "Satan has taken the shape of these flies and is tormenting me..." HA!  At 5 AM I mustered up enough energy to call the front desk, and said, "I am here by myself and very sick, can someone please bring me a Coke or Sprite and I will pay for it tomorrow?" (Now picture this response in the best country accent you can imagine) He replied, "Well, I don't have any cash or I would get you something...but there is a vending machine right outside your room."  Okay.  I stumble out, got a Sprite, tried to drink it, threw it up...awesome.  To wrap this saga up, I was finally able to pull myself together and get back to the conference late on Saturday...had to tell my sis about me being there though and somewhat ruin the surprise, but needed her to come and get me...on her way to come and get me, she ran out of gas (sorry sis, just sold you out)...ha!  And so, after throwing up one last time, I decide I feel well enough to try and drive to her house.  After stopping and passing out for a while at a McDonald's in Ocala, I finally made it to Tampa to see my sis, wish her a happy birthday in person and enjoy a few hours with my family.  Sunday night I drove to my hometown to visit with my Dad and grandmother for just a few short hours before flying back out to California at 6:45 A.M. Monday morning.  Flew out dark and early, made it to connection in Chicago, ANOTHER delay there, but this time not overnight, but just a few hours...and finally made it back to San Francisco and our beautiful school by yesterday afternoon. I don't think I have ever been so glad to see the dorm before this time. 

And so, I am back in Cali, and thankful that I don't have to travel for a few weeks and can catch up on my studies and on spending some much needed time with my friends here.  Wow, life can be one big crazy and ambiguous journey...but even in the craziness that sometimes comes, there is always an opportunity to grab hold of the God who is there through it all, and understand more about gaining perseverance, proven character and hope through facing trials of all types with not only endurance, but also with praise.       

Feb 15, 2012

In the chorus of one of my favorite songs that she sings, singer/songwriter Mindy Smith says, "Can't you see? It's amazing what you do to me...you took my heart and made me feel things I never felt before. It's changing me, switched directions so suddenly, it shook me up and it threw me around, helped me learn to breathe it all in, to breathe it all in..."  When I hear this song, I think of the girls pictured above (and others in the group who missed out on this photo op)...they are beautiful, they are brilliant, they are so FUN...they are the girls of Dominican University of Northern California.  Seven months ago, I didn't even know these people existed, and yet now, somehow they have taken up residency in my heart and my life wouldn't be the same without them. I was invited by the fearless leader of this group, Jessica (pictured above in her sassy pearls), back in August of 2011 to come meet these girls that she had been discipling and just "see" if it might be something I would want to take part in helping her with.  It took about 5 minutes into the first time I met with this crazy group of college gals to realize that I wanted to know them and be apart of their group and their lives.  But here's the funny thing...just when I thought I was going there to bring something to their lives, in actuality, they are the ones who have brought something to mine...and mostly what they have given me is freedom and joy. 

During a typical night of our Bible study, a few things can be counted on:  Cursing will take place, drama will be exposed, melt downs will be mended, yoga apparel will somehow make its way into the conversation, and boys...there is always something to be said about boys...but when the dust of the day has settled, we also pray together, study God's Word together, give hugs, fellowship, and laugh...if nothing else, there is always laughter.  Our slogan is, "More clothes, more prayer, less booze..." and I love that.  I can be myself around them, and as goofy as that can be sometimes (for example, tonight Devan, seen above in the middle after her baptism this past fall, asked me if extra shots of expresso had been put in my coffee, ha!), I never worry about being judged, but am just free to be me. Every Wednesday night, it makes my heart happy in just getting to have a small part in their lives and their journeys' with understanding more about God and how to follow Him in this crazy world. So here they are, some of my first friends God gave me in California.  Pray for them...pray that they wouldn't settle, and that they would realize that their lives have eternal significance, and that this...ALL of this, matters, more than perhaps they even realize.    

Feb 14, 2012

Speaking of love...

Many times, God uses the "not so great" moments and situations that happen to us in life to get our attention and focus our eyes back on Him...the Scriptures are clear, that He disciplines His children because He loves them, just as any good father would do.  However, we should never forget that Romans 2:4 tells us that it is actually through the KINDNESS of God that we are brought to repentence.  Sometimes God blesses people in such a large way that it is bigger and better than anything they could have mustered up on their own, and the magnitude of the situation brings their focus back to the only One who could have been big enough, smart enough and creative enough to design that moment or situation.  This is the kind of experience I had yesterday on my journey of traveling back from the East Coast to California.  

This past weekend, I had the priviledge of leading breakout sessions at a Mother/Daughter retreat in North Carolina.  Now, part of my story, is that the week before my fourteenth birthday, my mother passed away from a brain tumor that had gone undetected. And so, today, at 28, I am no longer a daughter to a biological mother, and I am single with no children, and yet I continue to get invitations to join in on mother/daughter retreats and conferences. HA! The amazing thing though, has been to see God use my story to help these younger girls see what a special time that is with their moms and to not take for granted those moments with them.  Normally taking part in these conferences doesn't conjure up any saddness about missing my mother, actually I take great joy from being around so many moms and their sweet baby girls and seeing their interactions...but for some reason, maybe even due to my tiredness by the end of it, this retreat did have an effect on my emotions.  I spent some time on Sunday reflecting on it, and by Sunday night as I lay down for bed, I had come to even feeling a tinge of discouragement.  And so, as I turned out the light and lay in the dark, in the last moments before falling alseep, with tears in my eyes, I simply prayed and asked God if He would encourage me in ways within the next day that would be unique to me and that I would know were from His hand.  God did nothing short of BLOW ME AWAY with His response:

Flight 1 (Raleigh Durham, N.C. to Nashville, TN.):  I was seated in the last row in the back of the plane (yeah, you know the location, the one by the bathroom), and not long after I sat down, a guy that also looked to be in his 20's sat down next to me.  It wasn't long before a conversation between us began, and come to find out, he was also a Christian.  And as we began exchanging stories of how God had worked in our lives and also on travels we had taken, etc., he mentioned that his mother had died when he was ten years old.  I asked him to tell me more about that part of his life, and after he shared, I revealed my story to him about also losing my mom at a young age.  WOW!  Not only were our stories very parallel, but the descriptions of our childhoods and even our mothers were strikingly similar.  He was such a kindred spirit, and it took everything I could do to not cry as he shared about his life, and how it resonated with mine.  Someone gets this, gets me...it was a moment of being truly understood, a healing moment really.  At one point, he said, "I never talk about this stuff..." I said, "Me either," and we both agreed that it had been a good conversation for the both of us to have.  When we arrived in Nashville, he had to get off while I stayed on the same plane to head to my connection in Phoenix from there. I was blown away by the encouragement I received from our conversation, and praised God that He had answered my prayers in that way...oh, but silly me to think that was the end of the encouragment that was coming from Heaven...  

Flight 2 (Nashville, TN. to Phoenix, AZ.):  While on my second flight yesterday, I began to think about two people who have become very dear to my heart.  They are Drs. Chuck and Rhonda Kelley, the president and president's wife of the New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, where I received my M.Div.  Though I know that they would have been fantastic parents, the Lord chose not to give the Kelley's children of their own, but yet has given them hundreds of students to love and care for.  I have this theory that as much as I know kids need to be loved by parents (and loved by people who are like parents when theirs may be absent for whatever reason), that parents also need to be loved by children.  We are designed for this exchange of love!  And so, often my prayer for the Kelley's is that God would use the students of the seminary and others in their lives to love them as parents should be loved, and that they would experience that kind of unique joy.  And so, as they came to my mind during this flight, I began to pray for them.  By the time we landed in Phoenix, the thought of them had become so strong, that I was was beginning to worry that something may be wrong.  And so when it was clear to turn on my phone, I pulled up Facebook and went to Dr. Rhonda's wall, to check and make sure no prayer requests or anything had been posted.  Nope, no prayer requests, nothing wrong...the only thing her status said was...THEY WERE ON THE WAY TO PHOENIX!  No way.  With a three hour layover ahead of me, I checked out flights coming in from New Orleans, and there was only one.  And so, I texted Dr. Rhonda to tell her that I may be at their gate when they land, still not certain that this was all really coming together.  And wouldn't you know it, an hour before I had to catch my next flight, they stepped off of theirs and we got to give big hugs to one another and visit for about 20 minutes in the airport!!!!  WHAT?!  Did that all really happen?  Remember how I had asked God to bring encouragement that was unique to me? He couldn't have made it much more specific that this.  The visit with them was so good for my spirit, and then Dr. Chuck even blessed me with money to buy my dinner that night!  BLESSED I tell you...just blessed.

Flight 3 (Phoenix, AZ. to San Francisco, CA.):  In short about this flight, from take off to landing I got to talk all things theology, ecclesiology, politics, etc. with the man sitting next to me. The conversation was exhilerating, challenging and a joy all in one. By the time we got to the baggage claim together, he told me that it had been a pleasure and that as a person, as a woman, I was a "force of nature to be dealt with."  HA!  Maybe so, maybe not...in any light, I may get together soon again with he and his son to talk more theology! YAHOO! :)  

As I rode back to school on the Marin Airporter last night, I was just speechless before my Maker.  This speechlessness carried over into today, and truly His kindess has overwhelmed me and brought me back to my knees in gratitude to the Almighty.  I mean, c'mon...He is God, He has A LOT going on in this great big world in which He not only created but also owns, and you would think that He wouldn't have time to concern Himself with my small voice, my one heart in the sea of millions of others...But this is who He is and what His Spirit does in the world and in the lives of believers. But it's not just for me that He does this...ALL can come to Christ, ALL are welcomed at His table...and His ear is turned down desiring to hear from you today.  Don't give up on Him or your prayers today, for it may be right around the corner when His timing and will align to bless your life more than you could have ever dreamed.

"You scrutinize my path and my lying down, and are intimately acquainted with all my ways..." (Ps. 139:3)

 

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