I’m glad heaven isn’t like grad school…

Don’t get me wrong: I am ridiculously excited for grad school (assuming I get in).

That disclaimer aside…

I’m glad heaven isn’t like grad school.

I’ve spent the past year studying for the GRE, taking the GRE, going to workshops on how to write a resume and personal statement, making a spreadsheet of possible schools, trying to decide where to apply, filling out online applications, ordering transcripts, asking people to write recommendation letters, putting together a resume, writing and editing 5 personal statements…I’m exhausted just thinking about all of it! Applying to grad school is not an easy, cut and dry process. Oh yeah, then there are all the application fees.

So all this made me ask myself, “What if this was how salvation worked?” Imagine having to take a test and prove you had earned the right to go to heaven someday.

That would suck.

I would fail the test and all the good things I could list on my resume would look like filthy rags (Isaiah 64:6).

For the past 4 years, I’ve been in classes with students who work hard so they can go to grad school, but our university only accepts 30 out of 200 applicants. That’s why we have to apply to several different schools in hopes of somehow getting in. And each school has its own application process, making things even more complicated.

Thankfully, there’s only one way to heaven, eliminating the stress of choosing the best options and filling out multiple applications. And unlike grad school, heaven isn’t limited by the number of desks in a room.

With grad school, we all deserve to get in, but only a few do. With heaven, none of us deserve to get in, but we are all offered a place. Heaven is like receiving an acceptance letter to grad school before you even start kindergarten! God wrote us the best acceptance letter ever, telling us “Congratulations, I want you to come spend eternity learning more about me. I know you could never earn this, but Jesus has paid all your application fees and the Holy Spirit has given you a wonderful recommendation. All you have to do is accept this offer.”

How crazy is that?

So while I’m thankful for grad school and the opportunity to learn more about speech pathology, I’m even more thankful for heaven. There’s no application, no competition, and no prerequisites. All we have to do is say, “Yes, I’m coming!”

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For the fatherless

Almost 10 years ago, we were eating out with some family friends when they told us they were going to adopt. It’s one of my strangely crystal clear memories. I remember my initial reaction and how surprised I was. Let’s be honest: I thought they were a little crazy. At the time, I didn’t understand why they would want to adopt, but in that moment God began to reveal His heart for adoption to me.

I’m blown away by how God has worked in my life since then. I now have 2 beautiful sisters from China and have worked in orphanages in Mexico and China. God has made it painfully obvious that I have a passion for orphan care.

Since November is adoption awareness month, I’ve been reflecting on all God has taught me about orphan care and adoption (including my adoption into His family!) and thinking about what the next step is for me. When I went to China this summer to work in Maria’s Big House of Hope, I expected God to make it clear what my specific role is in orphan care. When that didn’t happen, it was hard to come back and focus on classes and work.

I have a heart for orphan care, but over the past 4 years I’ve also discovered a love for speech pathology. I didn’t understand how I could reconcile these 2 passions! Then this semester God has shown me that these things can go hand in hand. I’ve found myself applying what I’m learning in class to some of the kids I met in China.

It’s like God has this all planned out or something. 🙂

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Of course I still don’t know exactly what He has planned for my future (I’m hoping getting into grad school is part of it!), but I’m excited as I continue on this journey. I’m so thankful that God gives us certain passions and desires for a reason. He interweaves different aspects of our lives together in such a beautiful way!

All that to say, I’m excited to see how God works in peoples hearts this month as He calls people to care for orphans, whether that’s through prayer, financial support, missions trips, foster care, or adoption. Please join me in praying for orphans around the world and considering our role in caring for the fatherless. Also, I’d like to challenge you to take some time out of your busy schedules to read one book about adoption or orphan care. I did this last year (because reading is another one of my passions!), and it’s a great way to learn more about these children’s needs. For book suggestions, click here. Or if you’ve read a good book on this topic, I’d love to hear about it!

It can be overwhelming to hear statistics, like how there are an estimated 153 million orphans around the world, but there are also statistics that say if every Christian family cared for one orphan, there wouldn’t be any more orphans. For me, getting involved and putting faces to the numbers changed my perspective. We can’t change this broken world, but through God’s power we can change the world of a child.

What a blessing to share in God’s love for the fatherless!

john1418_blog2image from showhope.org

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Love for the Broken

As I’ve reflected on my time in China, God has reminded me of the great need to love. No matter where God has placed me, I’m called to make the most of the opportunity to love those around me. I keep coming back to Ephesians 3:14-21 where it talks about the glorious riches of the Father, the mighty power of the Spirit, and the incomprehensible love of Christ. We’re told to love as God first loved us, and His love is active and life-changing. He loved us so much that he adopted us as his sons and daughters! I’ve really loved the idea of being adopted into God’s family ever since my family first adopted, but this trip to Maria’s gave Romans 8:12-17 a whole new meaning to me.

For those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God. The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship. And by him we cry, Abba, Father.’” (Romans 8:14-15)

In China, I realized that if we were adopted, we were once orphans.

During our orphan training on the trip, we explored what it means to be an orphan. An orphan is more than someone who has lost their parents. It’s someone who experiences utter brokenness in every area of their life. Children who are left without parents are impacted in their family life, social life, education, and every other aspect of life.

They live in a broken world.

And because of the fall, we’re all born into a broken world.

We’re all orphans, living a life filled with broken relationships.

But then God…

I love coming across that phrase in the Bible! After reading about man’s brokenness, it’s so encouraging to read “But God…”

“But then God our Savior showed us his kindness and love.” (Titus 3:4)

How beautiful is that? In order to call us His sons and daughters, God sacrificed His blameless, holy Son on a cursed cross in the place of dirty, hate-filled sinners.

I like how Show Hope’s training book redefined orphan:

“An orphan is someone who has experienced profound brokenness in fundamental relationships and systems as a result of the loss of God’s intended parental relationships. The Fall has ripped from each of us God’s intended relationships in many ways, and nobody has an unspoiled relationship with their parents or their Heavenly Father.”

God is restoring our broken relationship with Him. Meanwhile, we can (and should) help bring restoration to the lives of the precious children around the world who don’t have families. I’ve seen more of their great need through this trip, and it’s heartbreaking! We can show God’s active and life-changing love to these kids. Whether it’s through prayer, donations, missions trips, foster care, or adoption, I believe we are all called to care for them. John Wesley puts it very bluntly:

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So my challenge for myself and for you is to love. Love in a way that changes the lives of those around you. Pray and ask God how He is asking you to care for orphans.

Through this trip, my perspective of others has changed. Everyone was or still is an orphan. But for the grace of God, we’re all broken. I’m so thankful for His beautiful plan of adoption!

If we’re willing, God can use us to help mend and love the people around us who are broken. He places us in people’s lives for a purpose.

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Les Miserables

Les Miserables

Image from www.imdb.com

No doubt about it, “Les Miserables” is an incredible story! I first heard the story as a kid when I listened to the radio drama (Focus on the Family Radio Theatre). Years later, I fell in love with the book. I’ve always been disappointed with the movie versions of the book–until now! I would have never guessed that the musical would follow the book’s plot better than any of the movies I’ve seen! Beautiful music and an incredible, heart-wrenching story combined! Honestly, I was a bit skeptical about this movie, but I was pleasantly surprised! So now I’m rereading the book just because it is that good!

And in case you were wondering, after seeing the musical, Inspector Javert still is (and probably forever will be) my favorite character.

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Christmas

I’m so thankful that our all-powerful Creator was willing to become our Savior! He humbled himself by being born a human so he could grow up and die a horrific death in my place. That is incredible love!

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Defying the Rules

“And now, O Israel, what does the LORD your God ask of you but to fear the LORD your God, to walk in all his ways, to love him, to serve the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul, and to observe the LORD’s commands and decrees that I am giving you today for your own good.” (Deuteronomy 10:12-13 NIV)

Lately I’ve been reading and rereading Deuteronomy 10:12-22! It’s such a powerful call for Israel to live recklessly for God and a beautiful reminder of what a great God we have!

Often I want everything in life to make sense; I want a logical schedule of what’s going to happen in my life. But God has been reminding me that He isn’t bound by the rules of logic. The Creator of the laws of nature isn’t constrained by those laws! Just glance through the Bible and you’ll realize it’s full of unexpected events.

The entire earth was flooded.
A 90 year old woman had a son.
A bush was on fire, but didn’t burn up!
A man defeated 1,000 men with a donkey’s jawbone.
The sun stood still in the sky.
Dreams came true.
A city fell and became ruins after people marched around it.
A donkey spoke!
The sea divided.
A young woman “just happened” to glean in the field of her kinsman redeemer.
Hungry lions didn’t harm a man.
Three men went through fire and didn’t even smell like smoke.
A virgin had a child.
The lame walked.
The Creator chose to become the created.
The dead came back to life.
One of the greatest persecutors of the church become an apostle.

And those are only a few examples! Throughout history, God has done endless incredible things! I’m amazed when I read the stories of missionaries who witnessed the impossible. I’m in awe because I have seen God do the unbelievable in my own life! “He is your God, who performed for you those great and awesome wonders you saw with your own eyes.” (Deut. 10:21)

So how can I expect to live a predictable life when I have a God like that? In Mark 5, a desperate father pleads with Jesus for the life of his dying daughter. When men come to tell the father to stop bothering Jesus because his daughter is dead, I love how Jesus responds! He tell the father:

“Don’t be afraid; just believe.”

While people were wailing and mourning, Jesus raised that little girl from the dead! When everything seems hopeless, God reminds us that no obstacle–not even death–is too big for Him to overcome.

God wants to do great and incredible things in our lives. We serve the great I AM who isn’t restricted by rules or expectations. Are we willing to have faith and expect the impossible? If God asks us to do something as illogical and bizarre as spending years building an ark, are we ready to follow His plan? Are we willing to risk being called crazy by society to serve our Savior? My desire is to be willing and ready to give up the sensible plans I have for the impossible, unimaginable plans God has for me!

“Never be afraid to trust an unknown future to a known God.” ~Corrie ten Boom

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Show Hope

“Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress…” ~James 1:27

Looking back, it is incredible to see how God has changed my perspective of orphans. I used to have a very storybook, Anne-of-Green-Gables view of orphans and never really thought about how there were still orphans in the world I lived in! By the time my family had adopted two beautiful, sweet girls from China, my perspective had totally changed! God opened my eyes to the needs of these children and gave me a passion for the fatherless.

God promises to be a father to the fatherless, and I believe one way He fulfills that promise is by using us to care for orphans. I want to challenge and encourage people to follow God’s call to reach out to the fatherless. Whether it’s by adopting, giving money, or praying, anyone can have a huge impact on a child’s life!

One way to help is by becoming a Show Hope sponsor. This year, Show Hope is trying to double their number of sponsors to 10,000. That way, they can also double the impact they are making in the lives of orphans!

If you’re interested, here’s a video with more information:

God has loved us and adopted us as His own children. How can we chose not to also show that love to orphans?

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Psalm 138

I will praise you, Lord, with all my heart;
    before the “gods” I will sing your praise.
I will bow down toward your holy temple
    and will praise your name
    for your unfailing love and your faithfulness,
for you have exalted above all things
    your name and your word.
When I called, you answered me;
    you made me bold and stouthearted.

May all the kings of the earth praise you, Lord,
    when they hear the words of your mouth.
May they sing of the ways of the Lord,
    for the glory of the Lord is great.

Though the Lord is on high, he looks upon the lowly;
    but the proud he knows from afar.
Though I walk in the midst of trouble,
    you preserve my life.
You stretch out your hand against the anger of my foes;
    with your right hand you save me.
The Lord will fulfill his purpose for me;
    your love, O Lord, endures forever —
    do not abandon the works of your hands.

This is one of my favorite psalms! There is so much truth packed into these 8 verses, and God has used them so many times to encourage me! One of my favorite things about these verses is how they describe how God strengthens us to be bold and stouthearted. Yet while we are called to be bold for Him, these verses also remind us that humility is better than pride. C. S. Lewis said, “Humility is not thinking less of yourself but thinking of yourself less” which reminds us that humility isn’t beating ourselves up over our flaws or mistakes; humility is switching our focus from ourselves to others. When we think about ourselves, we hesitate to exert the energy to go to the extra mile or do something outside of our comfort zone. I want to strive to live humbly–to think less about me and more about God. And then, as a result, take action to live boldly according to His plan for my life (which is always better than my own, prideful plan!).

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Beauty of Words

Over the past few years, I have been awed by the gift of language we’ve been given. God has blessed us with the ability to communicate our thoughts, ideas, feelings, and knowledge with others. In addition, He has given us a love for stories. Whether it’s written, spoken, performed, or sung, we love stories! I can’t help but marvel at the beauty of words and how words can be put together like puzzle pieces to create a meaningful and breathtaking picture. That’s why I love books, quotes, and just words in general!

On top of all that, God has given each and every person their own life story. As a Christian, I am part of the most beautiful story ever written! I love catching glimpses of other people’s stories as the Author of life reveals–chapter by chapter–the story He has written for them. Hebrews 12:2 tells us:

“Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”

In a blog post, I’d prefer to share another person’s inspiring words or a captivating book rather than write my own words, but my goal is to also share some of my own thoughts and a few pieces of my story. Bear with me because I tend to ramble and be nerdy at times! When I add a book to my recommendations page, I try to chose books that I think many people would enjoy, because I realize that most people wouldn’t fall in love with Doesoevsky’s books as hopelessly as I have!

Thank you for checking out my blog! I hope you enjoy the quotes and books I find as much as I do. And if you find any beautiful words in books, quotes, song lyrics, or wherever, please feel free to share them in a comment!

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