WOFC: Mental and Emotional Healing

I’d like to share some more of my notes and thoughts on the Women of Faith Conference with you today.


During Session 3, Patsy Clairmont spoke about emotions again, as well as fear. She shared a little of her story about overcoming agoraphobia.  The first command she felt that God was giving her to begin her healing was simply “Make your bed.” Well, to make her bed, she had to get out of it. Once she got out of it and made it, the next thing she felt told to do was to wash the dishes. At the time, she didn’t feel like she was getting better, but God knew that she needed to learn to be faithful in those little things before He could use her to do much. 
“In Jesus Christ, we are never stuck,” she said. “We always have a next step.” 
Patsy spoke about creating mental boundaries to heal our minds and emotions. She learned to Refuse, Replace, and Repeat. 
  • Refuse. We can refuse thoughts that are not truth, thoughts are not beneficial, that are lies from the enemy to hold us captive. Speaking of captive, we need to take every thought captive and then decide whether or not to refuse it. 
  • Replace. Just refusing a thought is not enough, we must replace it with the truth from God’s word. She mentioned Philippians 4:8, we need to replace with “whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.” 
  • Repeat. It isn’t a one time thing. Taking our destructive thoughts and emotions captive and replacing them with empowering truth is a continual battle.
She also learned that she needed to “Minimize her wordcount.” She discovered that not everyone needed to know what she thought of everything. She read Proverbs 29:11: “A fool vents all his feelings, but a wise man holds them back.” I recently saw that verse in a friend’s facebook status. How appropriate for the way we communicate online! 
Patsy also brought up that some people didn’t need to minimize their wordcounts, but instead, “find their voice.” Some of us don’t vent all our feelings, we bury them. Some of us need to ask God for courage to speak the words that He wants us to say.

I’ve written before about thinking right thoughts, whatever is true, and learning that lesson again, and I’ve probably mentioned it more times than in just those two posts. I need to come back to it over and over again.

Even as I reflect on what Patsy said, I’m realizing that while I need to work on all three areas, I especially need to work on Replacing. Perhaps if I was better about replacing the bad thoughts with good ones, I’d be re-learning the “right thinking=right feeling and right doing” lesson less often.

I’ve decided to read through a chapter of Proverbs every day, but I really need to work on scripture memory. I’ve never been good at it, but it’s important enough that I keep trying.

I found this video of Patsy’s story on YouTube, and I hope it blesses you as much as it did me. 

During the Q and A time, someone asked Patsy, “In your recovery, did you ever feel like the moment had come when you were completely healed?” Patsy didn’t hesitate, “No,” She said she’s never felt like she was completely healed. “I don’t think that will happen until heaven, when we will be perfectly whole and healed.”

Often in my struggle with depression and anxiety, I’ve often wondered, “Am I there yet? When am I ever going to be better? Will I ever be healed?” I found Patsy’s answer oddly encouraging. I won’t ever be totally healed in this life. All my life will be a journey, a journey to complete wellness that will occur when I stand before God. I don’t have to compare myself to others or wish I made progress faster. One day, I will be healed. Until then, progress is what I can strive for.

Have you used the Refuse, Replace, and Repeat process? What were the results? How well do you do at memorizing scripture? Do you think there’s a link between memorizing scripture and thinking healthy thoughts?

After The Honeymoon {My Guest Post!}

Seven months and twelve days.  As I’m typing this, that’s how long Brian and I have been married. On our one year anniversary of dating, Brian dropped to one knee and asked me to be his wife.

“Are you serious?!” was my response. How romantic, right? He just laughed.
“Yes, I’m serious!” and pulled out the most exquisite diamond ring I’d ever seen.
And thus began our nine month engagement. We were married on a perfect June day, and drove off into the sunset on our honeymoon.
Since then, we moved 1,518 miles to a new climate, a new city, and a new home in Arizona. Brian accepted a job here two days before the wedding, so we moved without knowing anyone where we were going, or even where we would live.  God has provided for our needs over and over in wonderful ways, and through it all, He’s taught me quite a lot about marriage…
See me at Rediscovering Domesticity and get the rest of the story!

***

In my guest post, I mention several resources that have had an impact on our marriage. I wanted to list those for you here, so that after you visit Rediscovering Domesticity, if you’re curious about the books I mention, you can find them all in one place! 


The first is “Love & Respect: The Love She Most Desires; The Respect He Desperately Needs” by Dr. Emerson Eggerichs. I don’t think I can recommend this book too highly! This book filled in the blanks for me: I learned what “respect” means to a man, how to give it, why love matters so much to a woman, why conflicts happen, and how to resolve them without all the emotional rampage. It shed light on the differences between men and women and how we can be sensitive to those differences and achieve greater harmony in our marriage. 

If you’re thinking about going through this book in a small group, I recommend the Love & Respect Workbook to dig a little deeper. Our church had a small group go through Love & Respect Live Marriage Conference: 7 Hours on DVD with the corresponding workbooks. If you don’t have time to read the book each week, this option might work better for a small group.

$13.39, regularly $22.99
Another book I mention is Sacred Sex: A Spiritual Celebration of Oneness in Marriage by Tim Alan Gardener. This is a great book to read if you, like me, struggle with understanding how sex can be good, let alone holy. It delves into the scriptures and the spiritual side of the married physical relationship, and I can guarantee you’ll have a better understanding and a greater desire to “become one” after reading it.

$11.19, you save 20% when buying on Amazon
I also mention For Women Only: What You Need to Know about the Inner Lives of Men. This book is a quick but powerful read, with short chapters combining life changing truth with fascinating statistics from surveys of thousands of men. It’s a true inside look at how men think!  After every chapter, I’d ask Brian, “Is that really how you feel?!” and I was shocked to discover that I really didn’t know him as well as I thought! I’ve recommended this book to many friends and family, because it’s a fun, fast read, but packed with life-changing truth.

This is a fun one for a women’s bible study! It’s great for engaged, newly-wed, and been-married-awhile women.

On sale now for $10.19!
For all you married couples, you’ll enjoy this book’s candid, fun loving, spiritual, and practical information for a more fulfilling intimate relationship. Sheet Music: Uncovering the Secrets of Sexual Intimacy in Marriage by Kevin Leman is also a great tool for pre-marital counseling, with specific chapters for engaged couples to read. I know those chapters were really helpful for me! We really enjoyed reading the rest of the book on our honeymoon!

$8.58- you save 43%! A crazy good deal on this book!

What books have had an impact on your marriage? Share them with us in the comments!

Ordinary People

It’s been a rainy couple of days here. Rainstorms come sweeping through, then they clear off and the sun shines for a little while, only to be covered by clouds again.

Source

We’ve had all the windows possible open (without letting in water) and the air conditioning off to make the most of the cool, 70’s and 80’s temperatures. I’ve enjoyed listening to the rain while I’m at my desk, working on school or blogging. It’s very relaxing…reflective…serene.

It’s nice to curl up in my desk chair with my trusty coffee and read my Bible and journal in the mornings. I’m reading Thessalonians, “My Utmost for His Highest,” by Oswald Chambers, and making joyness journal lists, interspersed with a few random sketches. But if feels like lately, I’ve been rushing through it, worrying about my Chemistry assignments and the dirty dishes in the sink.

So, here’s something to think about in a reflective moment:

“When they saw the courage of Peter and John and realized that they were unschooled, ordinary men, they were astonished and they took note that these men had been with Jesus.” Acts 4:13

Peter and John astonished the rulers of the synagogue, because they were “ordinary men.”

I so often fail to spend quality time in the Word, or talking to God. I’m sure you can relate. But, it’s my prayer that people will be astonished by my ordinary life, and that they can tell I’ve been with Jesus. I hope that’s your desire too!

Two Good Bible Study Books by Elizabeth George

 Happy Friday! Today I’m looking forward to spending some girl time! My hubby and Honormommy‘s are both gone for the men and boys campout, which means girly time is on! 
I’d like to start a new schedule for my posts by including a book review on Fridays. I adore books, and I’ve read a lot of them, both good and bad, so I would love to share my experiences with you. 
Since school has just started, my thoughts turned toward Bible studies. These are two of the best books I’ve used in women’s Bible study; the first as a participant and the second as the leader. They work wonderfully for a women’s group, but they’re also perfect for personal quiet times. 

 
“Quiet Confidence for a Woman’s heart” by Elizabeth George is a reflective study of Psalms 23. Elizabeth unwraps each phrase to reveal applications for every woman’s heart. Twelve promises from the familiar psalm deal with provision, protection, peace, rest, guidance, care, comfort, companionship, hope, healing, and our future home. 
Honestly, this wasn’t my first choice of Bible study material. I thought I knew all there was to know about Psalm 23. I soon learned how mistaken I was! The principles I learned from this book have helped me to battle my worrying and fears, especially during a difficult school semester. I especially appreciated the teaching on the names of God, and how they tie into the promises in the psalm. 
I found that the discussion questions for every chapter in the back are perfect for a group or a personal study. “Building Your Confidence in Him” sections throughout the chapters give additional information, applications, and focus points. 
For more information about this book, click here or check it out in my bookshelf on the left side of this page. 
 
This is the younger version of the well-known “A woman After God’s own Heart.” Again, it’s by Elizabeth George. I really enjoy her books for Bible studies; her layout is so organized and the application questions are  awesome for fueling great discussions or quiet soul-searching. 
It’s written for teenage to college-aged girls and divides into three sections: The Pursuit of God, The Pursuit of God’s Priorities, and The Practice of God’s Priorities. It deals with the pressing issues: getting along with parents and siblings, making and keeping friends, dating, why to have daily Bible reading, prayer, and serving others. It’s full of practical steps and thought provoking questions to encourage young women to develop godly attitudes and habits. 
I think every mother of a teenage girl should get this for her daughter. Going through it together is a great idea, as long as you’re willing to take a close look at your own heart! 
Click here for more information about this book; it’s also on my bookshelf. 
Feel free to browse the items I’ve selected for Scribbles Store. I’ve only chosen items that I’ve had personal experience with and that I can vouch for their quality and scriptural soundness. Eventually, I hope to have a review posted for every item I include. 
Enjoy your weekend! 
Do you have a Bible study book recommendation? Leave a comment about it!

Joyness Journal: Wednesday

Today so far it has been a little harder to be joyful, mainly because it’s been a rather boring day. But,

  •  I did get a phone call from my Mother-in-law 
  • And an email from Melanie of  Elegant Custom Blogs with the first beta edition of my new blog design!
  • I’m almost done with the laundry for this week
  • I will get my wedding pictures ordered very soon
  • It’s a gorgeous day outside; not too hot
  • It’s September! Hooray for fall and cooler weather!
  • I’m going to be receiving my tax rebate soon
  • Brian is not gone at work all day today!
  • I cannot wait to go to California this weekend and visit my sister-in-law!
In my Bible reading today I started Philippians 1. In verses 3-6 Paul writes:

I thank my God every time I remember you. In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.

The whole chapter has  a focus on joy, joy in all circumstances, even imprisonment. I spent some time today reflecting on the above verses and thinking of people I remember with joy. I came up with a list:

My Bible study leaders- Nikki from Campus Crusade, Kim from North Myrtle Beach summer project, and Sabrina from Campus Baptist Church.

 For most of the time, I was the only one besides the co-leader attending the Bible study Nikki led in my dorm building, and I sometimes wondered if she was going to cancel it and decide it wasn’t worth it. She never did, and I learned so much as we studied Ephesians together. That Bible study was a blast, we always had so much fun sharing stories and just talking, and she always made treats of some sort. I learned a lot from watching Nikki about how to lead a Bible study and how to evangelize in a very natural and understanding way. Nikki didn’t seem much older than college aged, she was really good at relating in a way that wasn’t motherly but mentoring.

Kim was also on staff with Campus Crusade, but from a different college. Kim was so much fun! She was full of energy and laughter, but was very sensitive and thoughtful too. She had a huge heart for prayer and missions, and that definitely passed on to me and the girls in our apartment. She was awesome at one on one discipleship, and she inspired me to lead a Bible study and disciple others. She prepared me well to take over the Bible study and discipleship of the other girls. We were all thrilled when her boyfriend proposed to her on the beach. Throwing her a surprise bachelorette party was one of the highlights of the summer, and we all missed her terribly when the staff left.

Sabrina has been inspirational to me as long as I’ve known her. She was probably the first person to welcome Brian and me into Cyclone Bible Fellowship. I looked forward to Bible study with her every week my freshman year, and discipleship my sophomore year. Her insight and wisdom never ceased to amaze me, and our discipleship times especially helped to prepare me for marriage. She was so willing to serve around CBF, and so open and real. I miss her a lot, so I’m glad she has a blog so I can kind-of keep up with her :).

I can think of sooooooooooo many others too I’d love to mention, but I’ll just have to save it for another post!


Who are some people you remember with joy?

Moving Resolutions

‘Twas the night before we’re supposed to leave, and all through the house, creatures are stirring, but not any mice 🙂 The boxes are almost packed, the trailer is….empty, the car is….almost running.

We’ve said goodbye to my sister and her family, my best friend, Brian’s best friend, my home church, and my home town friends. More goodbyes to come tomorrow, the hardest ones: both of our immediate families. I’m going to miss my siblings like crazy, and my new parents, grandma, and aunts, uncles, and cousins from Brian’s side. It’s been a tough week for me, emotionally and with all we’ve had to do: opening wedding gifts, changing name stuff, getting a cell phone plan, and all the stuff for our trip, including redoing the Durango’s brakes, shocks, and the rear differential (I’ve learned a lot about cars this week). I’ve been told that this is how the Conley’s do things; major re-hauling of vehicles before big trips, generally last minute, but somehow it always gets done. 
I’ve been researching apartments online without much luck. Either they’re too far away from where we want to live, or they’re way too expensive. We’ll just have to wait until we get there and can drive the area. 
Crazy as it seems, it doesn’t seem real to me yet, that we’re really leaving. Maybe I’m in denial, or just banking on coming back in August for my cousin’s wedding. 
Brian was worried about me today, he said he was afraid I’d break down when we got there and not be able to function. I don’t think that’s going to be the case. As worried and stressed as I’ve been, I do recognize that this is God’s leading. As my mom-in-law said, “If God wanted you in Fort Dodge, you’d be moving here.” My best friend mentioned that it’s crazy that I get a completely new start with a new city, church, school, and even last name. I could totally “reinvent” myself, if I wanted to. While I’m not planning to do anything radical, I do hope to change in a few ways. 
1. Get a haircut. Short and cool. I don’t think my long thick hair will fare well there, so I want to chop it off short and cute. And I do have Brian’s permission even!!!
2. Get a tan. No more of that self tanning crap. A real desert sun-kissed-light-toasty color. 
3. Find a sense of style. This will be more difficult. But, I’ll only need one wardrobe for all year, no more of this changing seasons thing, so that will enable me to be more creative with mixing and matching and creating complete outfits. Plus, now that I’m a married woman, I need to look like the part. 
4. Forge a strong marriage. We will really have to depend on each other and God for comfort, strength, courage, and grace with each other. I think this move will be the best thing for our unity and becoming one. 
5. Overcome fears. Crossing city streets, sleeping without a night-light, shopping by myself, meeting people and making friends, roll calls, and above all, driving, to name a few.
6. Become a better communicator. I’ve never been great at keeping up with people, although I think of people from time to time, I’m not good at making the the effort to find out how they’re doing. I want to still keep in contact with friends in Iowa, as well as my NMB friends all over the Midwest, and especially my family. Now that I have a real cell phone for the first time ever, that will be much easier! 
7. Learn to keep house, and make a house a home. I am SO EXCITED to unpack and decorate and arrange everything in our very own place! I’m not so excited to make and keep a budget, meal plan, cook, and do dishes. 
8. Continue involvement in ministry. Being a part of a Bible study and leading a Bible study has been by far the highlight of my college experience, and I really hope to continue it. But, perhaps God will lead me to a new ministry! 
9. Keep working towards getting a degree. With the whole out-of-state tuition thing, it gets a little tricky, but hopefully I’ll be able to continue at ASU this fall. If not, then online classes or community college, here I come!
10. Go deeper with God. So many Biblical characters developed into the leaders and teachers that changed the world AFTER spending extended time in the desert. Moses, Abraham, Elijah, John the Baptist, Paul, and Jesus to mention a few. My spiritual walk has been pretty dry lately; I’ve allowed many other non-essential things to push God off the throne, and it’s time to get things right. I’m ready for time in the desert! 
Please remember to pray for our travels and sanity this week! Love you all and miss you very much, 
Emily CONLEY 🙂

Stretching Towards Godliness

Last Sunday night, my little sister played her “Riverdance” CD for me and showed off some of her Irish dancing moves. Caught up in the irresistible rhythm of the Celtic music, I joined in the fun, quickly realizing that I had no idea what I was doing. Long long ago, all three of us girls had learned to Irish dance for an Irish dancing contest at our Nana and Papa’s Christmas with the extended family. Evi and I had kept going with it, but not possessing the natural coordination Evi has, I moved on to other things.
 So as we jumped and stomped around the living room, much to Brian’s merriment, Evi decided to slide into the splits, not the normal kind, with the legs out to the side, but with one leg straight out in front and one behind. She was just standing, and then in one smooth motion, she dropped with her legs like that. Not to be outdone, I attempted to do the same. The only problem was that Evi execises every day, takes dance lessons, and is actually flexible, while the most exercise I’ve gotten in a while is running from class to class in the fridgid air. I suddenly remembered all of these things as I landed with my knees bent at a crazy angle and my hamstrings screaming in protest. The next day, walking up and down stairs was excruciating, sitting was painful, but not as bad as getting up out of the chair. Even walking hurt. My hip joints ached, the inside of my knees ached, my hamstrings sent stabbings of pain to my brain to remind me of my stupidity the day before. Muscles I didn’t even know existed were aching!

That morning, as I settled myself into the generously padded rocking chair in the living room with my Bible to read, Edward started giggling from where he sat across the room from me on the couch. I noticed the book I’d given him for Christmas, and I assured myself he was laughing to himself at something he read, not at me. Just then he marked his place and got up to put it away.
“Do you like that book Edward?” I asked.
“Yeah,” He grinned shyly.
“Well, why aren’t you reading more?”
“I only read two chapters a day.” He explained.
“Oh,” I could picture him reading all day, and mom making the two chapters a day rule. A thought struck me, “Have you done your devotions today?”
“Devotions?”
“Yeah, I noticed your daily schedule typed up over your bed, and it says ‘Devos’ right after getting up.”
“Oh, well I don’t do that anymore.” He stated.
I asked him to name a friend of his, and he named a kid he knew from cub scouts, Nick. I asked him to imagine that he and Nick were friends, but he never talked to him. Nick would try to talk to him, but he would just ignore him.
“How could you still be friends if you didn’t talk to each other?”
He thought for a minute. “I don’t know.”
“Well, you couldn’t probably. It’s the same way with Jesus. In order to be friends and actually get to know him, you have to talk to him and listen to him every day. When we pray, we talk to him, and when we read the Bible, we listen to him.”
“Oh!” I could tell this was clicking for him. “I was reading John, I don’t remember where I was, so I think I’ll start over at the beginning.” After about two minutes, he closed his Bible and zipped the cover shut with an air of finality.
“Did you pray yet?” I probed.
“No,” his brow furrowed. “I don’t know what to pray about.”
“Well, you can pray about anything. You could ask him to help you become better friends,” I suggested.
He flopped back on the couch and stuck his fingers in his eyes. “Dear God helpmetobegoodandhelpmetobebetterfriendsamen.” With that, he sat up smiling, and put his Bible away.

It’s a start, I told myself.

Both of these incidents reminded me of 1 Timothy 4:7-8:
“But reject profane and old wives’ fables, and exercise yourself toward godliness.  For bodily exercise profits a little, but godliness is profitable for all things, having promise of the life that now is and of that which is to come.

Godliness is exercise! I hurt myself when I tried to do the splits, because my muscles weren’t stretched enough. Right now, reading his Bible and praying are kind of painful for Edward, because he’s not used to it. As this verse says, there’s only a temporary benefit to being in physical shape, but the benefits of living a godly life are eternal. It takes work to live in a holy way; refusing the temptations for the following, “sexual immorality, impurity, debauchery, idolatry…hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissentions, factions, and envy, drunkness…and the like” (Gal. 5:19-21) But as we painfully stretch ourselves towards godliness, it will get less and less difficult, and we’ll see more and more fruit in our lives; love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self control (Gal. 5:22-23).    

Lamentations???

In my devotions last semester, I started reading through the gospels with the intent of taking another look at who Jesus was and what he did. That was awesome, however, after reading Matthew, I felt like reading another gospel was too much of a repeat, since they all tell basically the same stories. I started looking for something else, and decided to read through Paul’s epistles. Having read Romans last summer, I started in 1Corinthians. Over the last semester and this summer, I’ve read from there through Hebrews (since technically there’s a chance Paul wrote it!). Next in line was the book of James, but since I’d read it first semester, I decided to look for something new. But what? I’d already covered the gospels and epistles, and though it’s not necessary, Revelations would be great to read with a study guide of some sort, which I don’t have here on project.

I don’t know about you, but I really don’t read a lot of the Old Testament, besides Psalms and Proverbs. We’re not under the law anymore, right? So what’s the point? I thought to myself, every book in the Bible is there for a reason. It’s been years since I read any of the minor prophets; probably not since before high school, when I read the Bible in a year. Hence, I’ve begun a journey into the Old Testament, starting with the book of Lamentations.

Lamentations? You might be thinking, isn’t that a depressing book about God’s judgment and wrath being poured out on Israel for their sins? That’s what I thought when I started reading it. I honestly wondered how I’d be able to glean anything from the doleful descriptions of the condition of God’s people during their captivity. But every day, God has revealed such amazing things to me!

First of all, I’ve been so convicted of the severity of sin. God is a Holy God! We know this, but sometimes we forget that it means that he HATES sin. Sometimes I think I can get away with sin. I tell myself that it’s just a little pride, a little lust, a little unforgiveness, a little impatience, nothing too big. I forget that for these ” little” sins, God has a fearful wrath!

 How deserted lies the city,

once so full of people!

How like a widow is she,

who once was great among the nations!

She who was queen among the provinces

has now become a slave.

2 Bitterly she weeps at night,

tears are upon her cheeks.

Among all her lovers

there is none to comfort her.

All her friends have betrayed her;

they have become her enemies.

3 After affliction and harsh labor,

Judah has gone into exile.

She dwells among the nations;

she finds no resting place.

All who pursue her have overtaken her

in the midst of her distress.

4 The roads to Zion mourn,

for no one comes to her appointed feasts.

All her gateways are desolate,

her priests groan,

her maidens grieve,

and she is in bitter anguish.

I’ve been so convicted of my own sin this week, and just how vile, how repulsive it is to a perfect God! It’s also such a slap in the face. I know Christ personally, I’ve been adopted into the family of God, and yet I chose to harbor sin in my heart, knowing that it’s against my Father’s will, and that because of it Christ died.

This was really discouraging to me at first! I realized how much I truly need God’s mercy. Sometimes I think, “God may forgive me, but I can’t forgive myself.” This week, I’ve realized how this mindset is such a rejection of the gospel. It’s not by works that I am saved, it’s nothing I have done! So ultimately, it doesn’t matter if I forgive myself or not, but saying that I can’t is really not accepting God’s forgiveness. And rejecting that is rejecting the gospel, and trying to be right with God on my own terms. As I was processing this, God gave me this verse in chapter 2:

19 Arise, cry out in the night,

as the watches of the night begin;

pour out your heart like water

in the presence of the Lord.

Lift up your hands to him(…)

I need to pour out my whole heart to God, confessing and repenting my sin. Then I need to have faith that he hears and will forgive.

This verse really spoke to me in another way also. I’ve been so burdened for Iowa State University, Cyclone Bible Fellowship, and all the lost people at school. I want to see a revival in the way we reach people and the way we love each other. However, the thought of going back, out of this nice spiritual greenhouse, was terrifying! Then I realized, God isn’t just here in North Myrtle Beach! He’s going with all of us back to our campuses! And only he can bring revival and change hearts; I just have to be obedient to do all he calls me too. So after reading this verse, I poured out my heart for campus and CBF, and turned it all over to him. I’ve also been burdened for two friends of mine from high school that I’m still in contact with. I’ve been praying for God to work in their hearts and bring them back to him for a long time, but I renewed my comitment to praying for them and poured out my heart for them, and placed them in God’s hands.

Today I read chapter 3, and was completely blown away! After the intense description of the suffering experienced as a result of sin, it transitions to this:

19 I remember my affliction and my wandering,
the bitterness and the gall.
20 I well remember them,
and my soul is downcast within me.
21 Yet this I call to mind
and therefore I have hope:
22 Because of the LORD’s great love we are not consumed,
for his compassions never fail.
23 They are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness.
24 I say to myself, “The LORD is my portion;
therefore I will wait for him.”
25 The LORD is good to those whose hope is in him,
to the one who seeks him;
26 it is good to wait quietly
for the salvation of the LORD.

Then skipping a couple verses:
31 For men are not cast off
by the Lord forever.
32 Though he brings grief, he will show compassion,
so great is his unfailing love.
33 For he does not willingly bring affliction
or grief to the children of men.

Wow! How encouraging is that! It’s so true, even though I do wander and pay the consequences for it, I have hope! The Lord is compassionate and merciful to me, and doesn’t give me what I deserve – death! He has new compassion for me, and new forgiveness to cover my failures every day! He is my portion, all I need to be fully satisfied forever! Even in suffering, he is good!

37 Who can speak and have it happen
if the Lord has not decreed it?
38 Is it not from the mouth of the Most High
that both calamities and good things come?
39 Why should any living man complain
when punished for his sins?
40 Let us examine our ways and test them,
and let us return to the LORD.
41 Let us lift up our hearts and our hands
to God in heaven, (…)

Instead of turning from God when experiencing suffering, we need to respond by examining ourselves, and turning towards him, not only raising our hands in confession, but also in praise. We know that we can trust him when we are being disciplined, because he “is good to those whose hope is in him, to the one who seeks him.”

My prayer for you is that you are placing your hope in him, even when experiencing his discipline. I pray that as you do, you will experience his great love and compassion every day! I pray that you are earnestly seeking him, because when you do, he’ll reveal amazing things to you from places you’d never expect it!

Strength through Weakness

The other day, our impact group decided to run over to the grocery store together, and being resourceful, one of the guys thought he’d try to ride one of the project bikes. The bike looked fine as far as we noticed. However, only a few moments after he started pedaling, the bike chain came completely off of the bike. It just fell off. It looked like it was in fine condition, when really the problem had been there for a while. Now, what can you do with a broken bike? Not much. You can’t ride it anymore. It’s unusable. Instead of carrying someone, it has to be carried.

The point of that illustration is just to say that these last two weeks, I’ve felt just like that bicycle.

Last week was the first week of leading the Bible study and discipleship with the girls and the first week of working at Wal-mart. I honestly didn’t think I felt terribly anxious about it. Crunched for time, yes, but I thought I was keeping my stress under control. Then I started experiencing the same abdominal pain and discomfort that I had my senior year of high school when I experienced problems with anxiety. It continued to escalate throughout the week, making every day a struggle.

My job is also entirely physical work; lifting crates containing four gallons of milk, boxes of juice, etc. from stacks higher than my head. With the cramped conditions in the freezer, twisting and straining is a given. I was exhausted after only two days.

 On top of the physical misery, I felt completely emotionally drained. I knew, intellectually, that I was just a messenger, that my responsibility was to convey truth and encouragement, and only God could use it in their hearts. At the same time, I felt guilty for being exhausted every day after work when I had to do discipleship. I often felt like I wasn’t doing enough. Discipleship lasts for an hour, and sharing is usually another half hour. There were several days when I could only do discipleship, and encourage them to go sharing another time, or I felt so ill that I had to cut discipleship time shorter than it would normally be.

I also felt frustrated. When I would get to call Brian at night, I was always tired, and so was he, which led to a lot of misunderstandings. After I confronted one of my girls about something during discipleship and she took it badly, and I wanted to be there for friends back home going through tough times, I felt like emotionally I had nothing left to give.

I was stretched, and then I broke. And that was the best thing that could have happened to me. I realized how self-sufficient I was trying to be. I realized how I was trying to look like a “good discipler” by pretending I had it all together, and that I could do it all. I realized that I still need the gospel! Here I am telling it to others, but I needed to realize it’s implications for my own life.

  • One, I don’t have it all together; I’m human and therefore, sinful. Trying to appear otherwise was pride on my part, and thus, sin.
  •  Two, I can’t do it on my own. Just like I couldn’t save myself, I can’t live the Christian life through my own strength. I don’t have enough wisdom, enough love, and enough compassion to give all of my Bible Study girls. 

But, just as it’s only through Christ that we come to God, it’s also only through Christ that I can lead them. I MUST depend on Him for all that I need, and leave the results in his hands. I am just the vessel for his wisdom, love, and compassion to flow through to the girls. I feel like I don’t even have the strength to get up in the morning and endure another day of work, much less go sharing, do discipleship, and the other project activities on top of that. It has to be all Christ. Like the bicycle, I need to be carried.

I think once I realized this, nothing really changed, but it just became better. It was and is still a struggle to find physical strength to get through every day, but I know that Christ is my strength, and I just need to keep leaning on him and having the faith that he will provide for me. It’s hard on me emotionally still, but in my emptiness, Christ can fill me with his love and peace. In my brokeness, I’ve found that God can use me in ways that he couldn’t before. It sounds weird, but I really do find joy in it! The pain and difficulties are still there, but the pressure isn’t. It’s been humbling, and I know now like I never did before just how much I NEED Christ, and the gospel. It’s so ironic, I’ve been reading through Hebrews in my devotions, and when I read Hebrews 12:5-12, it didn’t even connect with me until now. “Endure hardship as discipline: God is treating you as sons.”

Sunrise on my last day of Summer Project

It hasn’t all been rough though! Discipleship has been awesome. All of the girls are so teachable, even though they might not be receptive at first, the truth of God’s word changes hearts. It’s amazing to see! I’m so excited for every discipleship session and every Bible study. I learn so much from preparing the lesson, and then I learn even more when discussing it with the girls. They bring such unique perspectives and insights that I never would have seen on my own. Such surprising things happen too; I’ll say something and then wonder, “Where did that come from?” And it’s always much better than I could have come up with on my own. The Holy Spirit is definitely at work!

We’ve seen phenomenal results from sharing these last few weeks too! God is at work among the vacationers and the few high schoolers still here. People are motivated to continue evangelizing even though staff is gone.

We saw an amazing answer to prayer last week when one of our project leaders had to leave because her mother was undergoing surgery. They didn’t think she’d survive, so she had to leave project for the rest of the summer to say goodbye to her mom and be with her family. God answered our prayers, and her mom came through the surgery just fine! As a result of her leaving, new leaders have been chosen to fill her spot, and the spot left by the person who filled her spot. Kali, my roommate, was chosen to fill the spot as one of the leaders of the outreach team!

Me and Kali with Cracker Jacks

Please be in prayer for us as we make this transition in leadership as a project, and for Stephanie and her family. Please pray for our physical health here too, because fevers are going around, and one of the girls next door has pneumonia. We Bible study leaders are really feeling the strain of trying to fit in work with all of our responsibilities, so pray for us that we can manage our time well.

As always, I would love to hear back from you all! (I almost typed y’all…just shows how the southern accent is starting to affect me!) It’s so encouraging to me to hear your feed back and updates on how things are back home in Iowa. Thanks for your prayers! They make such a difference!

In Christ,

Emily

9 And He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. 2 Cor. 12:9

Agape Week

Hello everyone!

“Agape” may be a familiar word to you. I knew that it meant “love,” but I didn’t know that it was one of three words for love used in the Bible. One word is for a romantic, passionate love, one is for a brotherly love, but Agape is for love that isn’t an emotion or necessarily a feeling, but a choice. We as a project, but especially we as a Bible Study, deeply experienced this kind of love this week.

Our Bible Study Leader
Sunday night’s message was about God’s Agape love for us. It’s amazing to think that God doesn’t love us because of who we are, but in spite of who we are. “He doesn’t love us for our accomplishments, but in spite of our failures. He doesn’t love us because we have it all together, but he loves us in spite of our brokeness.” Those were the phrases that really stuck with me, along with the statement that God’s love has nothing to do with us, how deserving or undeserving we are, but it has everything to do with his character.

On Monday night, my apartment threw a surprise Bacheloreatte party for our discipler, which was neat because it happened to be the anniversary of when she and her fiance started dating. We all dressed up and took her to a very nice restaurant, had a candlelit dinner and took a ton of pictures, before heading to the beach.

Dinner
Photo Shoot
More Photo Shoot

 Dinner took a lot longer than expected, so the person we were going to have take pictures for us wasn’t available, but two teenage girls on the beach agreed to take them for us. The sun was setting, and the ocean was incredibly beautiful. It was so perfect. Kim told us that she never felt so special in all her life, and we still had more planned! We brought her back to our apartment, where we’d decorated the tables with sea shells, rose petals, and candles, and we set out the chocolate fudge strawberry torte we’d made, got everything ready, and led her in with her eyes closed. Her face was priceless!

After dessert, we each gave her a gift, and since it way too late to start Bible study, I just summarized what it was going to be over, and we discussed it for awhile. At the end of the night, we prayed for each other and for Kim. It was pretty emotional; we’re all going to miss Kim a lot!

Loving Strangers
Tuesday night is outreach night, but this week we did something a little different. Since we don’t have enough car space for our whole impact group, we usually go sharing on the beach or on mainstreet, but our campus director arranged for us to help out at the church’s homeless dinner instead. The church has a free meal, showers, and clothing give away every Tuesday night.

I was so impressed by the attitudes of the people who ran it. It wasn’t a duty to them. One lady said it was her favorite night of the week, and it was evident that all of them genuinely loved these people. One man who helped out must have been in his 80’s, but he cheerfully did whatever small tasks he could.


I helped serve the food, and I was surprised by the homeless people themselves. I think I always had this stereotype in the back of my head that they were lazy, greedy, free-loaders who just needed to get a job. But when we’d offer them food, instead of hoarding it and demanding seconds and thirds, they’d only ask for “Just a little.” They all had stories to tell; some of them had once been business owners, but because of financial struggles and addictions, they are where they are now. One lady had a 14 month old baby, and was pregnant, and she lived in the woods. I can’t even imagine that. In this heat, and sparadic weather, being pregnant, and living in a tent, getting showers once a week, not knowing where your next meal was coming from. It makes so many of the things we complain about seem pretty insignificant. I was pretty convicted about the way I viewed homeless people; I definitly wasn’t seeing Christ in them.

Loving My Bible Study
Thursday afternoon I met with Kim for our final discipleship time. We went through each of the girls in the Bible study and she asked me what things I noticed in them that could be worked on in discipleship, and it was very interesting to see that we both noticed exactly the same things! She shared her vision plan for me for the next five weeks, which listed things she saw as strenghts that I had, and areas of growth that I can work on for the next five weeks. They were exactly what I wanted to work on too; scripture memorization, leading with authority and confidence, and not worrying. She also suggested that I share my testimony with the entire project, a very scary prospect for me, but one I know I should do, and also that I make plans for what my ministry will look like this fall. I strongly desire to lead a Bible study, because I know that especially after doing it this summer, I’m not going to want to stop! I also want to find people to disciple next fall, to build into people’s lives on a one on one basis.

Then Thursday night our project had an Agape dinner before the weekly service. We didn’t really know what to expect when we were told to wear comfortable clothes and bring blankets and pillows. When we arrived at the gym, a section in front of the stage had been roped off by Christmas lights, and inside that each impact group spread their blankets and pillows and sat on them.

Some of us were wondering if it was going to be like the international dinner, but they then explained that it was going to be a little like the feeding of the 5 thousand; they’d pass trays of food to different groups, and then each group would take what they need and pass the tray to a different group, until everyone had everything. It was really fun! There was plenty of food for everyone too.

We had a time of worship there, and somehow sitting on the floor with the dim lighting, and acoustic guitar music, it just made it so easy to focus entirely on praising God. That all lasted about two hours, and then we went into the sanctuary for the service. All the chairs had been moved, so we all sat in groups again on the floor. Our project director challenged us to not turn back now that we were halfway through, to love each other and resolve any conflicts, to be all here, and not to stop spreading the gospel. We discussed with our Bible studies where we would rate ourselves in each area, and we all said that we wanted to do better in evangelism, because I think we’ve all kind of slacked off somewhat over the last couple weeks. It was so neat to hear the girls say they were challenged on things that I was planning to talk to them about in discipleship! God is so at work in them.

After that discussion time, we were all handed candles, the kind almost every church has for their candlelight service. The lights were turned off, and the only candles lit were those belonging to our project directors. They both spoke briefly about their confidence in our new leaders, but our responsibility as a project to grow spiritually and share the gospel. Then they lit the candles of our new student project directors, who lit the candles of people near them, and so on until everyone’s candle was lit. During that time, all of the staff had made their way to the back of the church. After everyone’s candles were lit, our project director gave us a last reminder to shine brightly and said, “The project is now yours.” At that moment, all the staff blew out their candles, and turned and walked out the doors of the church. I think we all felt mingled emotions, I felt sadness and fear, as it hit me that they really were leaving.

Our new directors instructed us to blow out our candles and move all the blankets and pillows to the side, and after we’d done that, they explained that as leaders, we were called to serve as Jesus did. As a practical demonstration of that, they asked all the Bible Study leaders to come to the front, and after they washed our feet, it was our turn to wash the feet of our disciples.

Ok, I thought, this won’t be so bad, because whenever I’ve seen it done before, all they did was dip the person’s foot in the water and dry it off, and that’s considered washing them. That’s not how they did it. They used a washcloth, and actually washed them, not hurrying through it, but taking their time and doing it well, and with JOY. Afterwards, they hugged us and prayed over us before we went back to our disciples. Well, after that I threw out the dipping and drying off idea.

It was probably the most amazing experience I’ve ever had, it really was. As I washed off their feet, I felt such an overwhelming love for each one of them, that all I can say is that it came from God. It wasn’t anything I could make myself do. Yes, I could make myself wash their feet, but I know that I could never love them like that on my own. As I hugged and prayed with each of them, I was so overwhelmed with the desire to see each of them grow in specific areas, and so overwhelmed with thanks for each of them, I could hardly hold back the tears. When I finished praying with the last girl, one of the other girls spoke up; “Guys, let’s pray for Emily too!” They all circled around and laid a hand on me, and one by one they each prayed for me. I cried then! I’m getting choked up just writing about it now!

Each of us experienced God’s love in an intensely personal way that night. I am still in awe of just how much God loves each of my girls. I’m in awe of how much He loves me, to give me this opportunity to love them, and to give them a love for me!

“No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, 39neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Rom. 8:37-39