Sunday, December 13, 2009
I’ve been so busy this semester I’ve had little time to ponder or contemplate questions like this, and so many remain unanswered in my mind—in my heart. But I want to know what it means to be really, truly, thirstily desperate to know and love and see and experience my Lord. Sometimes it feels as though if I could just get a grasp on what it really means to be desperate to know Him—intimately, as a Lover—then maybe, just maybe I could shoot for that goal and have some hope of attaining it.
I love my Lord. I’m sure of that. But do I LOVE Him? Am I truly at a place where I willingly surrender each moment of every day to His direction, to His keeping? Do I truly, really trust that He has my best interests at heart? Is there anything within me, any traitorous thought that keeps me from trusting Him implicitly the way I long to? Sure, I’ve surrendered my life and my hopes and my heart and my dreams to Him. Sure, I submit them to His will. But I’m just as quick to take them back and hold on tight, foolishly thinking that somehow, maybe I can make things come to pass in a better way than He can. Silly me! Being in that broken place of complete surrender, of total submission is such a beautiful, marvelous thing—but I’m so quick to step out of it! It’s painful and hard and challenging and tough and I just don’t want to stay there, even though I do! If you’ve ever been there, you know exactly what I mean!
Consecrate. To declare or to set apart as holy. Holy. To be holy is to be set apart or devoted to the Lord’s purposes. The International House of Prayer (which has recently been experiencing an incredible move of the Holy Spirit!) places a good deal of emphasis on the vow of the Nazirite—a serious vow of consecration and holiness to the Lord, marked by the shaving of the head and the abstention from all things produced from grapes and avoidance of being around the dead—desiring to raise up men and women whose hearts are fully devoted to the Lord and His purposes. I have never had an inclination to take a Nazirite vow, but the root word of Nazirite is “naw-zar,” which means “to hold aloof, to abstain, to set apart (to sacred purposes), to devote: -consecrate, separate.”
Those of you who knew me back in the Xanga and Myspace days may remember that my username for both was “consecratedworship.” Consecration is a huge, abiding theme in my life; it is written into my life mission statement and is one of three words that made it into the condensed version of my life mission statement [[love.revolution.consecration]]. The Lord called me nearly three months ago into a season of intense consecration to Him, and the time since has been rather excruciatingly painful on the inside because so much uprooting and dross-skimming has been going on. That combined with the workload of my classes made for a very interesting semester I’m ever-so-glad I don’t have to repeat (basically the worst semester of my life), and I am moving now into a place I’ve never been. A place of greater purity, of greater holiness, of greater consecration to Him. He has marked me and set me apart for His purposes, and though I don’t by any means know the full extent of what they are, I do know that they will be beautiful, and that lives will be changed. Hallelujah!
Friday, November 13, 2009
Tomorrow (Friday) I get to see my sister and my nephew. :) :)
And in a little over a month, I will be DONE with this horrendous semester. :) :) :)
Thursday, November 5, 2009
This year has changed me a lot. My priorities have shifted and I see the world differently than I did a year ago. One of the biggest reasons for this was picking up a second sponsored child through Compassion International last year, and now that I have started sponsoring a third one (just a couple of weeks ago!), I have realized a few things. One, I have far more than I could ever possibly use or need. I am working on purging my belongings, which is difficult for me as I have sentimental attachments to everything! But I am determined to reduce the amount of junk I own and live simply. I refuse to be a perpetual packrat.
Two, this life is not about me. Not me, not me, not me. It is about others and what I can do to serve them and show them the love of our Father in heaven. So much of the world lives in abject poverty, and though I’ve said I care about them for years, my actions have not backed up my words. It’s time for that to change.
Since I don’t *need* anything (though I may *want* many things!), I have decided to do something this Christmas to give credence to my rhetoric. Rather than asking for more useless stuff that will merely accumulate in my room, I have decided that what I want for Christmas this year is to change the world. I have listed three of my favorite charitable organizations, and opportunities for giving to them that mean something to me. There are, of course, many other ways to give to these organizations, but for Christmas this year…I want to rescue a child(ren) from slavery, provide a bicycle for a missionary, save the lives of babies, prevent the spread of preventable diseases, and give a family a way to support themselves and be lifted out of poverty. The ones marked *** are my favorites, but I especially want to rescue a child from slavery and buy a bicycle for a missionary.
My challenge to you is, “What are you doing to make your Christmas count?”
Blessings and love.
***Donation to Compassion’s Tanzania Clean Water Projects (especially relevant now as I have a sponsored child in Tanzania!). Sixty percent of diseases afflicting Compassion-assisted children in Tanzania are waterborne diseases. Less than half the population has access to safe, clean drinking water. https://www.compassion.com/contribution/giving/Tanzania+Clean+Water+Projects.htm
***Donation to Compassion’s Child Survival Program. I love babies. Love them, love them, love them. And 26,000 children under five die every day, nearly all of preventable causes. This program helps provide prenatal care, health screenings, nutrition education, food, and church support for expectant mothers and mothers of small children to help ensure these children can survive until they are old enough to be enrolled in Compassion’s sponsorship program (around age 4-5, typically). You even have the option of supporting a single Child Survival Program project. https://www.compassion.com/contribution/giving/CSP.htm
***Donation to Compassion’s Malaria Intervention Fund. Most of the million people who die each year of malaria are children. Mosquito nets, available for only $10, can drastically reduce the rate of infections and save lives. https://www.compassion.com/contribution/giving/malariaintervention.htm
Gospel for Asia
***A bicycle for a Gospel for Asia missionary. For $110, a bicycle can be provided for a native missionary which dramatically increases the area able to be covered by the missionary, thus providing opportunity for more areas to be reached with the Gospel. http://www.gfa.org/gift/gifts-for-missionaries/
A rickshaw for a native family. For $133, a rickshaw can be provided to give a family a way to make a living and meet their family’s needs. http://www.gfa.org/gift/gifts-of-outreach/
***Biosand water filter. For $30, a sand filter can be provided for a village, allowing them water that is 98% pure of dangerous pathogens. http://www.gfa.org/gift/gifts-of-compassion/
***Vocational training. For $30, vocational training can be provided for an individual to give them a way to make a living and support themselves and their family. http://www.gfa.org/gift/gifts-of-compassion/
***Flock of chicks or rabbits. For $11, a small group of chicks or rabbits can be provided for a family, giving them food and an extra source of income. http://www.gfa.org/gift/from-the-stable/
Lambs. For $65, a lamb can be provided for a family to give them food and income sources. http://www.gfa.org/gift/from-the-stable/
Goats. For $60 a goat (or for $120 a pair of goats) can be provided for a family to give them food and a source of extra income. http://www.gfa.org/gift/from-the-stable/
***Gift 8—Rescue a child from bondage and abuse. For $75, a safe haven, basic necessities, and counseling can be provided for a vulnerable child. https://www.samaritanspurse.org/index.php/Giving/gift_catalog/
Gift 12—help stock a fish pond. For $50, you can stock a fish pond and give a whole village a source of food and income! https://www.samaritanspurse.org/index.php/Giving/gift_catalog/
Gift 16—honeybees. For $30 a hive can be provided to give a family a source of food and income. https://www.samaritanspurse.org/index.php/Giving/gift_catalog/
Gift 24—emergency shelter. For $100, emergency repairs can be made to a damaged home. For $200, an emergency shelter can be constructed. https://www.samaritanspurse.org/index.php/Giving/gift_catalog/
Gift 27—emergency medicine. For $60, fifty people can be provided with life-saving emergency medicine. https://www.samaritanspurse.org/index.php/Giving/gift_catalog/
Gift 28—help fight epidemic diseases. For $75, up to five people can be provided with vaccines, testing, and/or medications to fight some of the most common and preventable diseases. https://www.samaritanspurse.org/index.php/Giving/gift_catalog/
Gift 33—care for AIDS orphans and widows. For $45, an AIDS orphan or widow can be provided with a month of meals or other necessities. https://www.samaritanspurse.org/index.php/Giving/gift_catalog/
***Gift 41—bikes and vehicles for the mission field. For $100 a bike or other method of transportation can be provided for a native missionary or pastor, allowing them to share the Gospel over wider territory. https://www.samaritanspurse.org/index.php/Giving/gift_catalog/
Gift 46—“Jesus Loves Me” lambs. For only $4, a lamb that plays this song can be given to a child. https://www.samaritanspurse.org/index.php/Giving/gift_catalog/
***Gift 49—help a young doctor answer God’s call to missions. For $50, you can contribute to reducing a young doctor’s student loan debt, enabling them to get out on the mission field more quickly. As this is precisely what I want to do (except in nursing), this is something I feel strongly about! Let’s get these doctors on the mission field! https://www.samaritanspurse.org/index.php/Giving/gift_catalog/
Gift 50—help stop the spread of HIV/AIDS. For $25, a church worker can be equipped with training, materials, and other resources to fight the spread of HIV/AIDS. https://www.samaritanspurse.org/index.php/Giving/gift_catalog/
Gift 52—help cure tuberculosis. For only $15, medicine can be provided to save the life of someone who has contracted TB. https://www.samaritanspurse.org/index.php/Giving/gift_catalog/
Monday, October 19, 2009
The heart of me
It’s been well over a month since I returned to Panama. How was the trip, you ask?
It was excellent. It was difficult. It was wonderful. It was challenging. It opened my heart. It intrigued my soul. It brought things to surface that have been long buried. Insecurities I’d thought dealt with long ago, longings my heart has long known, dreams I’ve been waiting to see come to pass, love as I’ve yet to k now. The Lord did so, so much in Panama.
On our island, Soledad Mandinga, my team and I arrived to find no church and only a handful of young believers. I didn’t get to spend the whole week on the island due to an injury that necessitated me escorting a missionary to another island on which the clinic was located (the island of Carti Sugdup, where another of our teams was based). But by the end of the week on Soledad Mandinga, the people decided to plant a church, and they allowed us to be a part of its founding. Our project director, Ed, and our team leader, Waikiki, were able to baptize a dozen or so young people in the salty sea that ringed our island. That night, we held the first service of the new church on that island. Praise God!
The trip to the clinic island was an adventure and a miracle in itself. You see, we did not know that one of our teams was stationed on that island, Carti Sugdup. The contact on our island told us that no one on the island even spoke English! Since I had to escort the young man and I don’t speak Spanish, I was terrified. As we climbed in the little boat and headed away from our island, my prayer was, “Lord, please, please, please, let there be someone there on that island who speaks enough English to communicate! Someone who’s fluent would be even better!” I was so, so scared in that moment, so worried about what was going to happen, but as we boated over the open water in this little canoe-like boat, the Lord spoke to my heart. He reminded me, “Beth! I am with you wherever you go!” So I said, “Okay, Lord. I’m still scared, but we got this!” As I looked out over the vast expanse of water, I was overwhelmed by the realization of His love for me, for us, for the world. With every drop of water that covers the earth, He loves us. With every grain of sand that makes up the ground we walk upon, He loves us. With every drop of blood that fell from His broken, beaten body, He loves us.
Then we arrived at the island. As we drifted up to the dock, I gathered my courage and said another prayer, and climbed out of the boat and headed for the clinic nearby—and who did I see walking towards me but Andres, one of the team leaders for the team on this island! Just having another team on this island would be miracle enough, but you see, Andres is from Costa Rica, Panama’s neighbor, and therefore is a native Spanish speaker—and his wife, Katie (who was the other team leader on this island) is a nurse! Having the two of them there to take care of us was such a blessing, and hanging out with their team was a great experience.
One of the coolest moments from the trip was the last full day on the islands—the day of the baptism—when Waikiki (the team leader) asked David (one of the other country assistants) and me to go with two Kuna men to get fresh water for bathing. We got into a boat and went across to the mainland—maybe 10-15 minutes—and boated up a river a little ways. This river was in the jungle, and there were trees with viney-root things hanging down into the water, and all kinds of vegetation. It was a little surreal, like entering a whole other world—but it was SO COOL!!! When we got to where the water was fresh the Kunas stopped the boat and handed us five-gallon buckets to fill the big plastic barrels with. I, of course, managed to fill the bucket too full on the first dip into the river, and I couldn’t lift it! One of the Kunas came from the back of the boat, took the bucket from me, dumped the water into the barrel, and proceeded to the front of the barrel—taking my bucket with him. So I sat there feeling a little silly and embarrassed since I wasn’t helping at all but laughing because it was pretty funny.
Being in the jungle was a more challenging experience—the village we were in, Embera Puru, was an Embera Indian village, and they apparently did not know we were coming! The first questions asked by the locals when we arrived were, “What did you come to give us for free? What did you bring to give us?” That week was challenging mentally, emotionally, and spiritually, though I did love the children. I was with Katie and Andres’ team that week, and we had some very interesting logistical problems to solve—like how to hang our hammocks with high ceilings, barred windows and rope. We also dealt with some freak-accident injuries the first couple days, until we took authority over that and prayed against it and they stopped. It was a hard week, but a good one overall, and we were blessed to have two wonderful translators, Daniel and Jonathan, as well. We were able to encourage the Christians who were there and share the gospel with a number of people, and a few wanted to give their lives over to the living God. Thank you, Father!
What about now, you ask? How am I now that I am back in my home state and in my final year of college?
I have been well, but a month ago today, the Lord called me deeper, deeper, deeper in a way He never has, and the time since then...has been a fight. I am tired and weary, school is extremely challenging for me, and I am longing for fellowship. I went back to Teen Mania this weekend for alumni weekend, and though I enjoyed myself, I did not have the chance for fellowship with many of those with whom I'd hoped to have it, and that was disappointing. Living in Wilson has been a lonely experience, for lack of opportunity to fellowship and to talk about my favorite subject-the Lord. So I am trying to push through the discouragement and the loneliness and the weariness but sometimes, I just need a little encouragement, a little support, a little help holding my hands up. Being tried in the fire is a hard place to be.
May His name be glorified in all I say and do.
Sunday, August 9, 2009
I've stashed my lunch leftovers in the fridge upstairs in the admin,
I'm sleeping in the TL longhouse,
I ate lunch in a park, with friends old and new; the same park, in fact, where the Tyler 10k starts and ends...
I wonder what the future holds,
I'm wishing, wishing, wishing I didn't have to leave,
I've been asked when I'm going home,
I answer, "I am home...but I'm heading back to North Carolina soon..."
I wish I never had to leave Texas,
It holds a huge piece of my heart and every time...
It's harder to leave...
If home is where the heart is, my home is most definitely in Texas.
I still remember the first time I ever rolled onto Teen Mania's campus, in the bus from the airport to MA camp for my first Panama trip...we drove past the dorms and I had the strangest sensation that I had just come home...
It feels, every time I leave, as though I've just left a dear friend behind, and I've no idea when I'll see that friend again...
I'm so tired of goodbyes.
I don't know what the future holds for me. I don't know what I'll do upon graduating. I don't know where I'll go. I don't know where I'll be a year from now. I don't know where I'm going or what I'm doing or anything. Sometimes it's hard to know that I don't know, and to be okay with that. But maybe, just maybe, I can hope...
I hope that next time I come out here, I don't have to leave.
Thursday, July 23, 2009
Just wanted to drop a quick line saying hello! We just returned from the San Blas Islands (Kuna Yala), where each of our teams was on a different island. My team was on an island of almost 400 people called Soledad Mandinga, where we did VBS, English classes, worship gatherings, a baptism service-oh, and we planted a church. :) We did have a few mishaps, like one person falling out of their hammock which necessitated a clinic visit (guess who got to take them? ;), and the boat ride to the islands was an experience I´m not keen to repeat, but-all for the glory of God! We´re here in Panama City to rest up for a few days and then we are going to the jungle for another week or so! God is doing amazing things here in Panama, and I am excited to see what will come in the jungle!
Tuesday, July 14, 2009
Thursday, July 9, 2009
As I prepare for this return to Panama, I am getting more and more excited about what the Lord is going to do this summer. I can still remember specific things that were said when I went five years ago that altered my life irrevocably, and I want the Lord to do that much and more in the lives of each person on this trip. It is a large project-over 100 people I believe-but I think the Lord has something amazing, incredible, and awesome in Panama this summer and I am SO EXCITED to be a part of it!!!
I've been volunteering the last week or so and having a blast doing so, but I am disappointed that I have not yet managed to procure a snow-cone. That will soon be changing, I assure you!
Please be in prayer for the Lord to move this summer, in the hearts and minds of both the nationals and the missionaries, and that all would experience the freedom bought for them by Christ on the Cross.
May the grace of our Lord be with you, now and always.
Tuesday, June 23, 2009
Fast forward to February, I knew that the June trip dates I'd originally signed up for were definitely not going to work, and in early March I was switched to the July trip dates, though the destination was the same. Shortly thereafter I spoke to my new rep and then took off for Costa Rica (for a class trip) and then immediately after returning I turned around and went to Iowa for a conference for a few days. About that time, my rep called me to let me know that due to some of the arrangements that would have to be made, a deposit of $500 was needed. I was very uncertain about it but decided to put the money into my GE account anyway. A few days later I got another call from my rep letting me know that one of the trips for my particular destination would have to be cancelled-and as it turned out, it was the July trip that was cancelled. Since I couldn't go in June, I now needed to pick a new destination.
I chose Uganda because it's somewhere I've wanted to go for a while, as well as the home country of one of my Compassion sponsored children, and because GE will be working with former child soldiers for part of the trip-and slaves, child soldiers, and prostitutes are very important people to me. I still wasn't entirely certain, though. I went to GE's TrueNorth seminar at the end of April, and just a couple days later was offered a spot as a country assistant on the Panama trip. Anyone who knows me knows I LOVE Panama! So I was very torn between choosing a country I'd never been to but wanted badly to visit, or a country that has entwined itself thoroughly in my heart.
It took several weeks of indecision but finally the Lord spoke to me and directed me to Panama. The next day I called the leadership rep and committed to be a country assistant in Panama, and called my "regular" rep to let him know what I'd [finally!] decided. That was just a couple of days before finals began. Then I entered the whirlwind of final exams, and the next day I found out my good friend Sarah was in the hospital in critical condition. After several hours in prayer and petitioning, I found out she had gone to be with Jesus, and I cried for the next four hours. I finally slept around five that morning, and I woke up a few hours later and my family went to lunch. Sometime that [utterly surreal] day, I checked my GE account and found a friend of mine had given $100! The next day we held a yard sale, and raised over $400! The day after, I spoke at a church about my trip, and about Sarah because it tied directly in with the pastor's sermon, and was given another $250!
That week was incredibly difficult-going to Sarah's services is one of the hardest things I've ever had to do, and at times it still feels completely unreal. The day of her funeral, a friend of my youngest sister was killed in a car accident, so we travelled down for her services as well. The day after that girl's funeral was my other sister's baby shower, where someone gave me another $100 for my trip. The next day I spoke at two churches, from which I was given a total of $400 between them. I also had opportunity to use Sarah's story to minister to a young woman with many hurts in her heart, for which I am very grateful.
In the weeks that followed, I was given another $200 by friends and another $200 was raised at a second yard sale [in which I was also able to get rid of a lot of unneeded stuff!], as well as getting a darling nephew. :) Then, this past Sunday, I was given opportunity to speak about my trip at another church. Now, at each of the churches I have spoken at, I have given a small offering of $5-I believe it is important to sow into the lives and ministries that are sowing into yours whenever possible.
At the church I spoke at this Sunday, I was writing my check out, and for some reason felt impressed upon to write it for $6 instead of $5. I dropped it in the offering plate and then when speaking about my trip, I shared my project director's vision for our trip-GE's theme this year is "Touch the World," and my project director has a vision to expand upon that-to make it "Experiencing freedom to touch the world." His desire is that those on the trip would also experience the freedom Christ purchased for us on the cross, that they may be free to touch the world as He directs. I also shared about Sarah, because she was never able to break free of that which held her in bondage, and I do not ever want another brother or sister in Christ to be unable to break free of that which holds them.
This morning my dad got an email from the pastor of that church. There were thirty-six (36) people in attendance on Sunday, and when the offering was totalled up...
It was $636. From 36 people. When I gave $6 in the regular offering.
That is literally a hundred-fold increase. And I am in awe.
The Lord has done some incredible things to get me on this trip-to get me in Panama. I don't have any idea why He wants me in Panama, I only know that He does. I never got my support letters out [any of them, as I ended up writing at least three different ones, one for each of my three different trips I'd hoped to go on this summer], I didn't even get to bring my little trinkets from Panama to the church this Sunday, because I forgot the bag at home! It's been a difficult month in a lot of ways, but the Lord has absolutely been showing off how faithful He is when we obey Him. It's been awesome to watch this money literally pouring in from all over, from places I'd never expected, from churches where I personally didn't even know anyone! And as a bonus, I got to talk to a young girl at the church this Sunday about going on a Global Expeditions trip! Awesome!
The Lord does work miracles, friends. Crazy, awesome, extravagant, wonderful miracles. He loves to show off if we give Him opportunity to do so, and I am so, so thankful that He is my God.
Sunday, June 14, 2009
I have been thinking of adopting this blogger name [consecratedworship] for a very long time-probably from the time I first signed up for blogger under missionarygrrl. I still love that name, but I'm not really a girl anymore, and the name consecratedworship, which I first coined when an intern at the Honor Academy, really is much more indicative of the way I desire to live my life. Of course, I started missionarygrrl after a couple of years on Xanga [which I still keep up with], so this is probably about the twelfth blog I've started. Let's hope I don't have to keep starting them!
Last night I did not go to sleep. I wasn't really sleepy, then around 3:30 AM I had a sudden burst of inspiration to clean my room. These bursts come rarely, so I acted on it and now I have discovered there is actually carpet under the piles of books, papers, clothes, and various random assorted junk that previously covered the entire floor and part of my bed. Now it only covers most of the floor, and very little of my bed.
I want to get back into my artwork. I miss drawing, painting, sewing, making jewelry, piecing together mosaics out of scraps of colored paper, and all the other million things I have tried my hand at in the past. Sometimes I feel like if I don't do something creative, I'll just burst! And that would be bad. And messy. So to keep from bursting and making a huge mess, I shall simply have to delve back into creativity. Writing is one outlet for creativity, yes, but it is certainly not the only one, and not my favorite either. My favorite activity is whatever one makes the biggest mess. Writing does not make that much of a mess, unfortunately. Unless the keyboard exploded, in which case it probably would make a mess. But I digress. My sleep deprivation is peeking through here.
I am going to Panama in less than a month. In the last three weeks and one day, starting the day my dear friend Sarah passed away, the Lord has brought in about $1500 for my trip-I need only $600 more dollars, plus money to get to Texas and back, and some for spending money. It has been incredible and awesome to see how the Lord has brought in nearly all that I need in the midst of such a crazy, difficult time-made much better, of course, by the birth of my nephew, Ike, last Sunday. Though if you do not like his name, I shall tell you he otherwise was to be named Nebuchadnezzar Mephibosheth Bartholomew. So if you don't like it, tough. :)
Ok I am done and I need sleeeeeeepppppp!!!!
PS Less than one month till Tejas & Panamaaaaa!!!!!!
ETA: I just imported all the posts from my missionarygrrl page, all the way back to 2006!
PPS I also am very excited to have discovered how the feed reader works... ;)
Tuesday, June 2, 2009
It’s been over a week now since I received news of my dear friend Sarah’s passing. Since I learned of it before I went to bed for Thursday (May 21st), it feels like eleven days have passed; eleven days since I got socked in the gut; eleven days since I cried harder than I think I ever have in my life. That first night the tears came so fast and I sobbed so hard, I nearly made myself sick. Shock, grief, sadness, anger—I faced a whole gamut of emotions all at once. I found out about one in the morning; it was after five before I fell asleep. My journal that night details some of the shock and horror I was feeling:
“I hardly know…where to begin…approximately three hours ago, my dear friend Sarah Hill…passed into the arms of Jesus…I found out around one and cried for an hour…”
Included in that entry were the few details I had surrounding her death and the fact that I had chatted with her just a few nights before on Facebook…how I wish I had known that conversation would be our last! I would have told her I loved her at least a hundred times…I wish there was something I could have done to help, to prevent its happening, but I didn’t know…until it was too late.
I’ve never lost someone this close to me before. My aunt Melissa died of cancer my senior year of high school, but we knew she was reaching the end of her life—her last days were spent in a hospice bed in her living room, hooked up to a morphine drip, the cancer too aggressive to be stopped. With Sarah, I had no idea it was coming. I didn’t realize the pain she was in, how dark her world had become. I wish I had known; I feel like if I had known I could have done something, anything to help. Maybe I could have helped; maybe there’s nothing I could have done at all. It’s too late now for Sarah, and I grieve that fact, as I grieve the destiny that was cut short by Satan’s web of lies. God had such great things in store for Sarah—for this woman who loved so deeply and so well, whose love for others and for children was remarked upon by all who knew her.
It’s hard to know exactly how to feel. I grieve Sarah’s passing and the loss of a good friendship; all the memories I have of her and with her are now so bittersweet. We’d had some fun adventures together, and I’d always hoped to have more with her—but those will have to wait now, until heaven. I know she’s with Jesus, worshipping with the angels and the others who have come before; her world is no longer a dark and lonely place, because where she dwells, darkness cannot. She has no more pain or suffering, and for that I rejoice; I rejoice that she is free from the bondage of depression. But still I grieve that she could not find that freedom here on earth. I grieve for those who knew her and loved her even more than I did; those who, like me, did not see her often but cherished the times they did and the friendship they had with her. I grieve because the world has lost someone who brought so much joy and beauty into the lives of all who knew her—and because one of those lives was my own.
I feel fortunate that I was able to attend the services held for Sarah; we lived only two hours apart and had always talked of meeting halfway in Raleigh for lunch, but we never did. How I wish we had! We both could have used the fellowship and encouragement, but we were both just so busy…
On Monday of last week, May 25th, my sister and I drove up to Winston-Salem to our grandparents’ house (my dad gave her the choice between mowing the lawn or visiting the grandparents…). We ate dinner, during which it poured down rain, and then I hopped back in the car to drive the 45 minutes or so to the funeral home. The rain had stopped and I was heading eastward and praying for strength to make it through the viewing and I looked up—there, directly in front of me, a beautiful rainbow arced its way across the sky. One of the most brilliant rainbows I have ever seen, its vibrant colors were reflected in the shadow form of a second rainbow further up. Such a beautiful reminder of God’s faithfulness and promises brought tears to my eyes and solace to my heart, and I held that picture in my mind many times over the next few days, whenever tears threatened to overwhelm. It eventually faded, but I later saw another, fainter rainbow shortly before turning off the interstate. I followed my Googled directions and found the funeral home without any trouble (which is quite a feat for me!), parked and took a few moments to compose myself before heading inside.
Inside, there was a line snaking its way through the building; many people whose lives had been touched by Sarah or her family had come to pay their respects. I fought tears a number of times, whenever I remembered the reason I’d come, but holding the picture of that rainbow and speaking to the God above helped a great deal. There were two main rooms set aside for Sarah—one in which she was laid out and her family waited to greet everyone, and another through which the line passed first, with a guestbook at its entrance. The funeral home was very richly appointed, with ornate wallpaper, furniture, wall hangings, statues, etc. (though I do not pretend to understand the apparent fascination with monkey statues that the decorator had).
In the first room that the line passed through, there was a rectangular table to the left (across the room from the line) and to the right (next to the line) was a smaller table and an easel with a collage of pictures from Sarah’s life. The small table had pictures of Sarah and her family and two outfits—a pink onesie and a blue dress and bonnet—from when Sarah was a baby. The larger table across the room had different memorabilia from her life—pictures of Alex and Katena, the Russian-born children she babysat and loved so dearly; her diplomas from high school and her associate degree from Guilford Tech; her acceptance letter to the Honor Academy; a poem (most likely from her core) about sisters; a picture of her core in black shirts and jeans, laying side by side on the ground and smiling; her blue Bible she received upon graduating from the Honor Academy; a couple of notecards written to her from friends at the HA, and a memory book made of construction paper and bound with cloth, with pasted in pictures and handwritten notes—reading through it, it looks to be something made for her by her core when she had to go home for a bit shortly after coming to HA.
In the second room, the one with the family and the casket, there was a TV playing a slideshow of sorts, with pictures of Sarah’s life. I greeted some relatives—cousins, aunts and uncles, I believe—and then Sarah’s brothers, her father and her mother. Her mother remembered me from the times I’d been to Sarah’s house, and we hugged and held each other tightly and spoke for a few moments and hugged some more and she asked me if I was coming the next day and I said yes and we hugged again. And then. I don’t know if I can put into words the jumble of emotions I was feeling as I approached the casket…I can remember thinking, I’m not ready for this! I shouldn’t be having to do this! As I looked upon the shell that once housed my dear friend, I barely recognized it—because she, my friend Sarah, was not there. Her spirit had departed this earth and was now with our Saviour. But as I said a silent goodbye, I could not stop the tears from coming. It was then that I went to examine the table holding some of her memories from the Honor Academy, and when I went to watch the slideshow that was playing, one of her aunts approached me and hugged me and told me about some of the pictures in the slideshow. There was a picture of her on the first day of first grade, pigtails and bright grin firmly in place. There were pictures of her with her grandparents, now gone from this earth. There was a picture she’d taken—walking along the beach, she’d stopped, turned around, and taken a picture of her footprints in the wet sand—such a poignant picture of her journey through life. And there was a picture I was told was the last picture taken of her, just days before she died. She’d returned to her home in Savannah, gotten her hair cut into a shoulder-length bob, gotten her fingernails and toenails done and gone tanning—and she looked beautiful.
I lingered for a bit to impress in my memory the words on the screen at the end of the slideshow, and then I left, headed back to my grandparents’ house to rest before beginning a day I knew would be a difficult one.
Tuesday morning I awoke, ate some breakfast, and headed out early, in case I got lost (as I do, unfortunately, have a tendency to do that). I arrived at the church about half an hour early and remembered the last (and only) time I’d been at the church, for the Christmas cantata service once (I think it was after Sarah and I came back from New Orleans). I went and sat in an aisle seat towards the back. The casket, a beautiful brushed copper color, was set up at the front and was still open. When workers from the funeral home came forward to close it, fresh tears threatened, as they did many times during the service.
The service began with the song, “I Can Only Imagine,” and then Sarah’s pastor came forward to speak. He told of Sarah’s struggles with depression, of how depression is like a room into which one is locked without a key. He shared one of Sarah’s text messages (of which he had many) from the days and weeks preceding her death. She’d written something to the effect of, “I feel so numb, like everyone is spinning around me so quickly while I’m just standing still.” He told a story once told by a beloved member of his congregation before she passed, of the time when she, an elderly woman, got locked in her bedroom without a key. Apparently someone had put her doorknob on backwards, so the door locked from the outside and a key was needed on the inside, and one day this lady entered her bedroom and shut the door before realizing it was locked. She could not, for the life of her, remember where she’d put the key, so she was locked in her own bedroom! As she could not get out through the door, she searched for another means of escape—and spotted the window. She opened the window and dragged her eighty-something-year-old self out the window—her shoes caught, one after the other, on the windowsill and fell back inside the house, and one of her socks got caught and came off as well, and she tumbled out of the window and into the snow, with one sock on and one sock off, because that was the only way she could see out of her locked bedroom.
That was Sarah, he explained. She was locked in this room, this depression, and she could not find the key. Her friends and family were just on the other side of the door, shouting at the top of their lungs to tell her where the key was and how to find it, but for whatever reason, though she could hear their voices, she could not make out the words—she couldn’t understand what they were saying. She was desperate to escape and she took the only way she could see to get out.
He described conversations he’d had with her about the consequences of “taking such action.” He asked her if she understood the consequences of what she was considering. In his mind, he was thinking of the grief and the sorrow that it would cause those who loved her, but when he asked her this question—when he asked if she understood what the consequences would be, she answered simply, “I’ll be with Jesus.”
After he spoke, there was time to share memories of Sarah and the song “His Eye is on the Sparrow.” I shared a few humorous stories of our trip to New Orleans—driving through Atlanta rush hour traffic, the bridges that scared the mess out of us in Alabama, how she wore heels to walk the riverwalk in New Orleans, drinking Starbucks coffee every single night. Several people thanked me later for sharing these memories. There were a few others present who’d known Sarah from HA, though only one I really knew at all personally (Claire) and we chatted for a few minutes, sharing memories of happier times. Then I hurried (so I wouldn’t get left behind) to bring up the rear in the procession to the graveside service.
At the graveside, a few more words were spoken, a few bundles of flowers—carnations, I think—unwrapped so the family could place them on the casket, an announcement made of a meal prepared for us back at the church’s fellowship building, and it was time for the family to leave. As Sarah’s mom passed me, she reached out and we clasped hands and she asked me through her tears, “Are you going to stay? Please stay! I hope you’ll stay!” Of course I’ll stay. I could only nod, as I was too choked up to speak.
On the way back to the church, I took a wrong turn somewhere and drove over half of Greensboro, I think, before I figured out where I was and where I needed to go. Sarah would have laughed at that, as I also managed to get lost the first time I ever went to her house (and have an astonishing ability to do so elsewhere). So it took longer than I expected (by about a half-hour) but I did finally arrive and partook of the food that had been so graciously prepared for us. I sat beside some other of Sarah’s aunts and we shared stories and memories of her. Later I spoke with her pastor, who was raised not too far from where I currently live—he vaguely recognized me from the time I’d visited the church with Sarah. After that, I spoke with her dad about Sarah’s going to the Honor Academy, her mission trips with Global Expeditions to New Orleans, and some of the people who’d come out. I told him (and later told Mrs. Hill) that I knew of many people who wished they could be there but were unable to make it. Lastly, I spoke to her mother. She told me that they were looking for a way to print out Sarah’s Facebook page, with all the comments people had left for and about Sarah. I promised I’d write down every memory I could think of regarding Sarah and send it to her. She told me she was sorry she hadn’t been able to know me better, but “You were Sarah’s friend—and her friends were her life!” She gave me her email to share with anyone who wished to contact her about Sarah (so if you’d like it please message me!). After many hugs I finally turned to leave. I’d been doing well with not crying until I reached the cousin I’d spoken to the day before and as I started to speak to her I burst into tears (how embarrassing!) and she was asking me if I would be alright! I finally got to my car, sat for a few minutes getting ready to drive again, and then slowly pulled away…and cried.
There were times the last few days when I wondered if I’d ever run out of tears, if I’d ever stop crying, if it’d ever stop hurting so badly. My head knows things will get better, but my heart still aches for this beautiful, wonderful friend I’ve lost. No, she wasn’t perfect. But she was a joy to know. I cling to the promise in Psalm 23:4—“Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me,” (where the word for comfort is used to denote that God experiences the pain and the suffering right along with us, shedding tears with us) and Matthew 5:4—“Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.”
Though I wish this had never happened, that the past two weeks could be rewound and done over and that Sarah was still here with us, good has already come from her story. I find my heart awakened and so much more sensitive to the pain others are going through; I am less hesitant, less afraid to reach out in compassion to comfort someone in need. It has thrown into sharp relief what is and is not important in life, and I find myself caring much less about silly, unimportant things that not so long ago seemed to be all-important. And I find myself wanting to be all that the Lord has called me and intended for me to be—yes, I longed for this before, but it is even more important to me now. The last few days have been good ones, but I don’t doubt there are hard days ahead. I know I’m not “over” this yet. Perhaps I never will be “over” this—this is not the sort of thing one skips lightly past with nary a thought. This is the sort of thing that has the potential to impact the way one lives—and I hope it has. Whether or not I am ever “over” it is not important—what is important is to move past it and to come out on the other side a better person for having known and loved Sarah. I hope that this draws me deeper in my friendships and relationships with others. I hope this pain, this stretching, helps me to grown more into the woman God’s designed me to be. I hope it leaves me willing to share my heart with others so that they might also find redemption in Christ. I hope, I hope, I hope that after tasting such sorrow, I will come out loving more deeply and more purely than I ever have before.
I will leave with a few words that I took from the slideshow that was playing at the funeral home the night of Sarah’s viewing. I feel they really epitomize Sarah well—this woman so many knew and loved dearly. I will miss her deeply and I long for the day when we can again fellowship—over coffee, more than likely, some distant day in eternity. For now, I shall cherish the memories of our beautiful friendship and do all I can to reach out to others in pain.
She had the heart that cared completely,
The smile that brought so much pleasure,
And a love that brought joy beyond measure.
With love for Sarah Hill, 13 October, 1985 to 22 May, 2009.
Thursday, May 14, 2009
I hope this letter finds you well and full of joy in the Lord. I have been keeping busy with coursework in college, where I am a junior liberal studies major focusing on psychology and biology. Five years ago, in 2004, I had the opportunity to travel to Panama, in Central America, with Global Expeditions, a division of Teen Mania Ministries. In 2006, I again traveled with Global Expeditions, this time to Matamoros, Mexico. The Lord did a great deal in the hearts and lives of the nationals and missionaries alike on these trips, and on both trips I was able to be a missionary advisor, discipling a small group of younger missionaries throughout the trip.
This summer, I have the opportunity to return to Panama with Global Expeditions, this time in the leadership position of country assistant. As a country assistant, I will be working behind the scenes to assist the project directors (the ones running the entire trip) with anything that needs doing, whether it be making photocopies, running errands, or picking up food at a grocery store in-country. I think this trip will provide valuable training for my future missions endeavors, and I hope to have many opportunities to speak into the lives of the missionaries and the nationals alike. The support of country assistants is vital to ensure a trip runs smoothly. In Panama, Global Expeditions will be traveling into the Darien Jungle and to the San Blas Islands to minister to the Kuna Indians. The Kunas are known for their friendly nature and beautiful handicrafts, but many of them are engaged in idol worship and do not know the living God.
I hope to be leaving in early July to spend a week or so volunteering at Teen Mania Ministries’ headquarters in Garden Valley, Texas before my trip begins on July 12th. After a couple of days of training, we will head out to minister for several weeks before returning to Texas for debriefing, and finishing on August 6th. I anticipate that this will be an incredible summer in which many lives will be touched by the hand of our God and irrevocably changed. To accomplish this task, I am asking for your support. The trip will cost approximately $2500 for housing, airfare, food, and travel to Texas. Will you help send me to Panama?
Any support you can give will be greatly appreciated. I will be working hard over the next few weeks to fundraise, but if you are willing and able to help send me to Panama, you can make a donation online or by check. To donate by check, make checks payable to Teen Mania Ministries, and send it along with my name and ID number on a separate slip of paper to: Global Expeditions, P.O. Box 2000, Garden Valley, TX 75771-2000. Please do not put my name directly on the check (for tax deduction purposes). To donate online, log onto www.globalexpeditions.com and click on “Support a Missionary” at the top right corner. Search for me by name or by ID number.
If you have any questions for me, please feel free to contact me at email@example.com. You can also reach a Global Expeditions Specialist at 866.953.LEAD. Thank you so much for your time, consideration, and prayers. You are greatly appreciated.
May the Lord bless and keep you,
Thursday, May 7, 2009
I want a heart that is so pure and broken and open that I can cry unashamedly in front of others, not caring what they think of me crying in front of them
I want to cry at beautiful things
time in God's presence
How amazing he is
God, help me to maintain a pure and broken heart and to live a blameless life before you
That I may live a life pleasing to you
That others may see you through my life
Take my desires
Make them yours
Help me not to want things that aren't for me
I know your plans are better
So much better than mine
I am yours.
Friday, May 1, 2009
This past Saturday, I drove 2+ hours (on three hours of sleep, mind you) to Greensboro for the TrueNorth Leadership Seminar. I had the opportunity to be interviewed by my Project Director from my Panama trip in 2004, the trip on which the Lord captured my heart for the nations and the people of this world (and on which I left a piece of my heart in a little village named Santa Clara with the beautiful Panamanian people). Tuesday I received a call asking me if I'd be interested in being a Country Assistant on this summer's Panama B trip! I love Panama dearly and I do desire strongly to return to this land that captivated my heart so long ago.
I write all this to say that I honestly don't know what to do! Either way, I've got fundraising to do, but since my Father can bring all that money in with one fell swoop, I am not particularly concerned about the finances. Being a CA would mean more behind-the-scenes work rather than active ministry, but would be a great opportunity to experience how the trips work. On the other hand, I LOVE being a Missionary Advisor and having the opportunity to disciple the missionaries in my care. I also love playing with the kids wherever I go. :) My heart does, of course, long to return to Panama-but I have long desired to go to Uganda as well. I am confident that the Lord orders my steps and I pray He will guide me in making a decision here-if what He wants for me is to be an MA in Uganda, that's where I'll be. If what he wants is for me to be a CA in Panama, I shall be picking up some molas and Kuna bracelets this summer. :)
If you would, please pray for me as I attempt to make this decision (it is always difficult for me to make decisions when I want both options so badly!). I want nothing less than God's best for me, wherever and whatever that may be.
Thursday, April 16, 2009
So this is long (not that that's unusual...) but...it's some of what I've been contemplating for the last couple of months, especially now that I'm almost a year out of HA...a lot has been going on inside. Read it and be blessed.
some days I want to run away and be a gypsy
never settled in one place, but traveling
place to place to place
meeting people and seeing things few others have seen
just loving people and Jesus
some days I never want to leave
to stay in comfortability and safety
never stepping out on my own because the world
can be just so scary
some days I want to get married tomorrow
and have a whole passel of children
other days I never want to get married
or ever have children
but I know it's in God's hands, because I put it there myself
some days I wonder if things will ever change
if they'll ever be different
I wonder where my life is going
what is going to happen in ten years, twenty or thirty
other days I just don't care at all, because I know
whatever happens, my life belongs to the Lord
sometimes I think about ESOAL
about that weekend that broke me so hard
I remember the pain, the exhaustion
the lies to fight through
when I was called out to sing "the HA hymn"
just an hour or two before I rang out
"take my life, and let it be,
consecrated Lord, to thee."
I was told later
it sounded like an angel singing,
sweet and beautiful
that blessed my heart,
that this girl remembered that, ten months later, how it stood out to her
I remember the things the Lord taught me that weekend
about controlling my emotions, rather than them controlling me
and how this life
is not about me
I remember quiet times on the picnic table
under that beautiful old oak tree
or sitting by the fountain
the worship that we had
how wonderful it was to worship with people
who loved God as much as I do
how wonderful it was to converse with them
every time you ate in the caf
you could sit with someone you barely knew
and have the most amazing conversation of your life,
so edifying and encouraging
I miss that
I remember the friends who left
for various reasons
how it hurt to see them go, how I cried
and I remember the friends that stayed
and fought through with me
the people that spoke into my life
the way people just loved one another
and respected one another
the way brothers honored their sisters
and sisters respected their brothers
and the beautiful relationships that some of them are in now
so many weddings coming up, or recently had
so many beautiful people
brought together by God
those romances which are written by God
are by far the most beautiful
they are pure and holy and good
a reflection of the relationship God wants with us
that's what I want
that's what I'm waiting for
and I refuse to settle for anything less than extraordinary
in any area of my life
because it belongs to God
He taught me about consecration
it's one of the abiding themes of my life
consecration: to declare or set apart as holy
my favorite psalm is psalm 15
I think it speaks of the kind of life
a Jesus-lover should have
He taught me about love
what it means to love people regardless of their actions
how to see people the way he sees them
He's still teaching me about these
sometimes He gives me a revelation
of His holiness
it's indescribable, but know this, friends:
the Lord is holy
angels cover their faces and dance around his throne
and all they say is
"holy, holy, holy is the Lord,
who was, and is, and is to come"
I don't think the church today really realizes
just how holy He is, or
what this holiness is
or even who He is
God, the Uncreated One
I know what He's shown me is barely scratching the surface
and it blows my mind
every single time
He is holy
and if we are to be like Him,
we, too, must be holy
the Bible has a lot to say about holiness
look it up, there's so much to learn!
my desire to live a holy life, pleasing to God
is behind a lot of the lifestyle decisions I've made
I want every single aspect of my life
to reflect Him and bring glory to His name
every once in a while,
the desire to see nations reached
gets stirred up inside of me
and I get excited to see where He will lead me
next summer and in the future
I anticipate the visiting of many, many nations
from India, Nepal, Bhutan, and China
to Botswana, Zambia, Rwanda and Egypt
to Honduras, Belize, Chili and Peru
to Germany, Russia, Slovakia, and Lithuania
anywhere the Lord may lead me
I am willing to go
because my life is not my own
it belongs to Him
so much is going on inside
so many thoughts racing around unbridled
so many hopes and wishes and dreams and desires
all getting stirred up inside
like when you drop ice cream in a glass of root beer and stir it up
it gets all frothy and foamy and sometimes spills over
whatever is going on, it's good
so good, so beautiful
some days I wish God would show me exactly what my life will look like,
but then I realize that it's the journey to get there that's the good part
if I knew everything that was going to happen,
there would be no reason to trust the Lord
that's another thing He taught me last year
another thing still to learn
trust, and obedience, and waiting on the Lord
and it's learning that trust, and obedience, and waiting
that makes this relationship with Him sooo good
I fully believe God has my best interests at heart
and that He knows exactly what He's doing
in every relationship with every person I know
and in every aspect of my life
and I trust Him with that
because He sure as heck knows more than I do!
I like not knowing what will happen
because it lets me anticipate what God is going to do
and it raises my expectations
the Lord is good to my soul
and I love him so much
My dear friend Bridget marries her Aaron a week from Saturday
I'll be there to see it
and I'm excited about it
their romance is beautiful, and holy, and good
and it makes me excited for my own someday-romance
they have allowed God to write their love story
and boy, is it good!
I have rarely seen a couple so well-matched
it is truly a "match made in heaven"
I fully believe the Lord made them each
with the other in mind
the Lord is teaching me new things
and doing exciting things in my life
this little heart of mine is full to overflowing
with the love and grace and blessings
of a beloved Savior
He blesses my heart
and He wants to bless your heart too, friends
so let Him
He will grant you peace
and love you so completely
the Lord is faithful
even when I am not
for that, I am grateful
what if He was only as faithful to us
as we are to Him?
I don't know about you, but to me that's a scary thought
I'm so glad He's not
Seek the Lord today, friends. There is so much He wants to show us and share with us. We only have to let Him.