Friday, May 24, 2013

It Is Well

At nine PM, the sheriff called to inform us that they were calling off the search. It was too dark. Too dangerous. They would send out more people in the morning to resume looking for my brother.
But I knew it was too late.
I hung up the phone. Crawling under the covers, I closed my eyes and wished with all my heart that I didn’t have to live this moment. That I didn’t have to believe what was happening. It hurt too much. I didn’t want to breathe, didn’t want to think, didn’t want to live. I wanted to open my eyes and see my big brother, home and safe.
As I lay there, trying vainly to block out the thoughts that pressed on me, I became aware of music playing from my mom’s iPod.
It is well with my soul. He is God in control. I know not all His plans. But even so, it is well.
It is well. Those words struck me. I remember thinking, How can it be well with my soul? My brother is either dead or freezing somewhere out there! How can I say it is well?
God never promised that life would be easy. Rather, He said the opposite. He tells us that life will be hard if we follow Him. But He does promise to give us the grace and the strength to persevere.
       If it is truly well with our soul, we ought to be able to say that in good times as well as bad. The wellness of my soul isn’t dependant on circumstances. It is because, despite the circumstances, I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that God is there for me. That He has forgiven and redeemed me. That He loves me, and will always do what’s best for me. Even if it hurts.
Because of this, I can say


Thursday, May 23, 2013

A Best Friend

I have many friends, and I am pretty close with all of them. In fact, I don’t think I have a friend that I’m not close with. I’m the kind of person who needs deep, meaningful relationships, and God has brought people into my life to fulfill that need. But there are certain friends with whom you share a deeper bond. It’s not that they’re more special than the others, but you find that you connect with them on a deeper level. You’re not afraid to be completely yourself. You trust in them implicitly, without knowing exactly why. The moment you meet them, you know you’ve found a kindred spirit.
That’s what I call a best friend.
God has blessed me with several such friends, and my life would be incomplete without any one of them. But today, I have a particular friend in mind.
Today is my wonderful friend Deanna’s 17th birthday. We met at church nearly seven years ago, and became friends at a party on Thanksgiving Day. Since then, our friendship has only strengthened, and now she is one of my very best friends.
All that being said…
What Is A Best Friend?

A best friend is…
        Someone you laugh more than talk with.
        Someone who loves you, even when you’re a total nutcase.
        Someone who always makes time for you.
        Someone who teaches you a lesson as they’re learning it.
Someone who knows how to make you happy.
Someone who will hold you when you cry.
Someone who will get up at five in the morning before a speech tournament to read the Bible with you.
Someone who doesn’t mind doing crazy things.
Someone who encourages you when you’re feeling low.
Someone in whom you can confide everything.
Someone who you can stay up all night talking to.
Someone who knows what you’re thinking before you even open your mouth.
Someone who isn’t afraid to tell you you’re wrong.
Someone you can laugh with about things only you can understand.
Someone who will never let you be an idiot alone.
Someone who randomly (or not randomly) sends you Bible verses.
Someone who you know will never leave your side.

That’s who my best friend is.
Deanna, thank you so much for all that you’ve given me. The laughter, the memories, the joy… all the lessons we’ve learned together. You mean so much to me, and I am so thankful that God put you into my life.
You have changed my life for good.
Happy birthday, bestie!! <3

Oh yeah… don’t break your water bottle. ;) 


Sunday, May 19, 2013

True Purity

         Beloved, now we are children of God, and it has not appeared as yet what we will be. We know that when He appears, we will be like Him, because we will see Him just as He is. And everyone who has this hope fixed on Him purifies himself, just as He is pure. 
~1 John 3:2-3

The Bible tells us countless times that we are to be like Christ and obey His commandments. Obedience to God is a demonstration of our love for Him.
The above verse mentions making yourself pure. But what does it mean to be pure? Webster’s 1828 dictionary defines pure as:
        -Free from moral defilement; without spot; not sullied or tarnished; incorrupt; undebased by moral turpitude; holy
        -Genuine; real; true; incorrupt; unadulterated; as pure religion
        -Free from guilt; guiltless; innocent.
        To be pure is to be forgiven and free of sin. To be pure is to be unblemished by the filth and corruption of the world. To be pure is to be as a light.
        To be pure is to be like God.
        Now, we will never be completely pure until either we die or Christ comes back. As long as there is sin, there will be imperfection. But when God redeems us, He begins to purify us. It’s a difficult process; our sin nature rebels against righteousness. Being a Christian doesn’t mean that we get to sit back and watch as God transforms our lives. We must work toward being like Christ. The journey is hard, but the reward is infinitely worth it.
I wear a purity ring to signify my decision to stay physically pure until marriage. I’ve recently noticed quite a few Christian girls are wearing them, and I think that’s really neat. It’s a way of showing the world that we value marriage and our purity.
But I decided today that I want it to mean more than that. I want it to be a symbol of my purity in Christ. A daily, visible reminder to stay true to Him, and follow His word.
We are in constant need of reminders. Life has a way of distracting us from our true purpose. Bunny trails promising pleasure veer away from the narrow path. We are consumed with thoughts of family, money, work, and deadlines, until there is no room or time to think of God. But we must make time for God. Our relationship with Him is the most important thing in our lives.
        So pray. Talk to God. Study His word. Strive to be a pure light, shining in a world of darkness.

        Let no one look down on your youthfulness, but rather in speech, conduct, love, faith, and purity, show yourself an example of those who believe.
~1st Timothy 4:12


Sunday, May 12, 2013

Words of Wisdom

         I love quotes. Writer quotes, photography quotes, spiritual quotes... they're amazing. There are hundreds of these "words of wisdom" that have more or less impacted my life. I would like to share a few of them with you.

         And just because I so relate to this...

What is one of your favorite quotes?


Sunday, May 5, 2013

Year of Grace

           May 5th, 2012 is a day that changed my life forever.
   One year has elapsed since we received the phone call telling us that Josh had fallen into the river. At this time, one year ago, my brother went home to be with his Lord.
         This year has been one of both immense blessing and incredible pain. But most of all, it has been a year of grace. God has broken me down, and built me up. I have walked through deep darkness, but God has always been there with me. I am a different person than I was last year, and it is because of my brother and my God.
   Josh was a godly man. Imperfect, but godly. He wanted to live for Christ, for his life to count for something. Through his death, Josh did just that. God used Josh and his passion to touch the world. To touch me.
   One of the first thoughts I had after Josh’s death was, Wow. Josh is perfect. He is spotless, and worshiping before the throne of God. Just the thought of Josh, free from the shackles of sin, filled me with joy.
         This year finds me a new creation. God has found me, captured my heart, and made me one of His children. I want to give Him my life in return. I want to show the world the goodness and grace of God.
          I miss my brother. There are days when I think, Lord, I don’t want to live today. But I press on, because I have hope. I know that my Savior will carry me through the hard times, hold me while I cry, and one day, He will take me to heaven, where I will be with Josh again. And together, we will worship God for eternity.
          Praise God!
   So for now, I will live. I will live the life that God has given me, because it’s the only one I have. And I will strive with all that I am to be like Christ.
           Thank you, Josh, for being such an encouragement and example. I love you like crazy, and I can't wait to see you again.

I would have despaired unless I had believed
that I would see the goodness of the Lord
in the land of the living.
Wait for the Lord;
be strong and let your heart take courage;
Yes, wait for the Lord.
~Psalm 27:13-14

           The following is something that I wrote three weeks after Josh’s death. I think it outlines pretty well what the last year has been like.

            What can I say?
            I’ve never experienced anything like this before. I’ve never felt pain like this, known fear like this, never felt so…empty.
            Empty. Like the joy of life was drained from my heart, ripped from my arms in the span of a moment. It was then that time stood still… I held my breath, hoping beyond hope, praying, begging, pleading that this was all a dream. A horrible dream that I would soon wake from and only keep as a memory.
            But I have yet to waken.
            Yet to waken from this terrifying nightmare. Yet to waken and embrace the reality that I knew. Knew, not know. I’m not sure what I know anymore.
            How can one moment change your entire life? One second, one breath, one word? It hits you in the chest and knocks the air out of you. And when that moment passes, you somehow know that life will never be the same.
            As the moment slips into another, you regain your breath, but the ache is still there. Each breath you draw takes effort, and you find no satisfaction in it. Everything has suddenly become pale – life and nature has lost its vibrancy.
            Reality gentle nudges me, but I push her aside. No. This cannot be real. He cannot be gone. My heart refuses to accept the inevitable. Persistence speaks to me, telling me to keep searching, that he must be out there somewhere, that I must keep up hope. I turn to Hope, but find her withered and dying, naught but the tiniest spark remaining in her.
            Acceptance preys upon my mind, squelching Hope. His cold, bitter words sting me, but I allow him to inflict them freely. I must…submit. I must make myself believe this terrible truth. Like a whip applied to my heart, his words strike again and again.
            He’s gone.
            You’re brother’s gone.
            He is dead.
            He has drowned.
            You will never see him again.
            He is dead.
            The words break my spirit and crush me. I collapse on the ground, my hands clutching my head. Sobs begin to wrack my body as indescribable pain presses itself on me. Tears pour from my eyes and form a puddle on the floor. I am broken.
            Behind the screams of Acceptance, I hear gentler voices speaking. As I lay on the ground, bruised and beaten, I listen to them. After several moments, I recognize them as Comfort and Peace – two voices I used to know well. Their gentle, soothing voices silence Acceptance and quiet my sobs.
            Your brother is not dead, says Comfort. He now lives.
            Yes, agrees Peace. Do not be afraid, Beloved.
            He lives with his Creator, Comfort says.
            And no longer suffers from pain, adds Peace.
            Comfort begins to take hold of my heart. He shall be eternally happy.
            Peace puts her arm around my shoulder. And you shall be with him someday.
            The sound of my gasping breathing is the only sound that breaks the following silence. I allow their words to sink in, like a soothing balm to my burning wounds. I flinch, but don’t pull away.
            My mind is slowly beginning to accept the fact that my brother is gone, but my heart is still resistant. It cannot comprehend living without him. I still ache; my whole body feels weak and deflated. I hug my knees to myself and close my eyes. If only I could leave…if only I could outrun Pain, outsmart Reality, outbid death. A low moan escapes my lips. How does one find the strength to live again?
            God is good.
            Rejoicing’s voice is glowing, joyous. I can see the pain she feels for me in her eyes, but that cannot keep her silent.
            God is good! She cries again. And He is worthy of praise!
            I shift, putting my knees underneath me. I raise my weak arms into the air above my head in an act of total submission. I lift my face upward, and feel the warmth of Him on me.
            “God…is…good!” I cry. My voice is shaky with tears. “God, You are so good!” Sobs again shake my frame, but I keep my hands in the air. “Lord, I give You praise. I give You glory!”
            Light pours through the darkness in my mind. The grief is still there, yes, but now there is Light. As I fall to the ground, I hear another voice speaking to me.
            It is Him.
            I love you, Mariah Elizabeth. And I love your Brother. He is here, with Me, and so happy. Joy radiates from every feature of his being, and wears a perpetual smile. He is beautiful – so beautiful. Every aspect of his nature is perfect, without blemish or defect. This is how I made him to be – and you as well. This is how all My children will be, but you must wait. You must wait for the right time.
            Do not lose heart, dear one. When you are weak, I will give you Strength. When you are lonely, I will give you Comfort. When you are afraid, I will give you Peace. When you are broken, I will build you up. When you are hurt, I will carry you in My arms.
            So trust Me.
            What can I say?
            I give it all to You, Lord. I place my heart in Your hands – do with it as You desire. You were my brother’s passion, his one desire. Be mine as well.
            I love you, Lord Jesus.


Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Security of the One Who Trusts in the Lord

He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High
Will abide in the shadow of the Almighty.
I will say to the Lord, “My refuge and my fortress,
My God, in whom I trust!”
For it is He who delivers you from the snare of the trapper
And from the deadly pestilence.
He will cover you with His pinions,
And under His wings you may seek refuge;
His faithfulness is a shield and bulwark.
You will not be afraid of the terror by night,
Or of the arrow that flies by day;
Of the pestilence that stalks in darkness,
Or of the destruction that lays waste at noon.
A thousand may fall at your side
And ten thousand at your right hand,
But it shall not approach you.
You will only look on with your eyes
And see the recompense of the wicked.
For you have made the Lord, my refuge,
Even the Most High, your dwelling place.
No evil will befall you,
Nor will any plague come near your tent.
For He will give His angels charge concerning you,
To guard you in all your ways.
They will bear you up in their hands,
That you do not strike your foot against a stone.
You will tread upon the lion and cobra,
The young lion and the serpent you will trample down.
Because he has loved Me, therefore I will deliver him;
I will set him securely on high, because he has known My name.
“He will call upon Me, and I will answer him;
I will be with him in trouble;
I will rescue him and honor him.
“With a long life I will satisfy him
And let him see My salvation.”

~Psalm 91