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Rejoicing in suffering

Last week, four of my speech pathology friends and I piled our stuff into a car for a road trip. Risking fog, snow, and tumbleweeds, we drove to Colorado for the American Speech-Language and Hearing Association (ASHA)  annual convention. We joined approximately 14,000 other women (oh yeah, and a handful of men) for several days of nerding out about speech-language pathology and audiology. It was so fun to go on this adventure with some great friends and to learn more about this amazing field I’ve chosen.

I’ll spare you the nerdy details about the sessions I went to about co-teaching, counseling parents, treating patients with spinal cord injuries, and working with kids who have craniofacial anomalies.

One thing that stood out to me was the opening session by Kelly McGonigal on stress and dealing with challenges in life. She discussed several research studies that looked at how people cope with trials in life. Research shows that we are better able to deal with stress if we acknowledge it instead of trying to avoid it. One interesting study had participants sit with a family member or close friend who was about to have surgery. Half of the participants were told to think about how stressful the situation was and to take their worry out on a stress ball. The other participants were told to focus instead on the other person and that person’s pain. Instead of a stress ball, these people were told to hold their loved one’s hand.

Results from these studies showed that the best way to deal with challenging situations is to acknowledge the stress, think about the purpose behind the situation, and to focus on other people and their pain. When we do this, we still perceive pain but not as much as when we try to ignore it. Also, studies show that thinking this way results in neurological changes in our brain. People become more resilient, hopeful, and stronger because of these trials.

As Kelly McGonigal used words like “perseverance” and “hope” to describe how difficult situations can make us better people, I thought of these verses from Romans:

IMG_1690God promises that trials will lead to perseverance, character, and hope. He is able to promise this, first of all, because He is God. He gives us the Holy Spirit to supernaturally bless and strengthen us in the middle of stressful situations. After listening to Kelly McGonigal, I was struck by the idea that He can also promise this because he has neurologically set us up to respond in this way. When we are in the middle of stressful situations, God has given us a way to positively cope with trials by focusing on others and persevering to become a better person. He takes the bad and turns it for good. That doesn’t mean we won’t feel pain, but He’s given us the means to grow despite the pain. As a result, we can rejoice in our suffering.

We live in a world where science is too often viewed as the rival to the Bible. I was thrilled and encouraged to discover another example of research aligning with God’s Word.

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More than Conquerors

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“Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? As it is written, ‘For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.’ No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, not powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 8:35-39 (ESV)

Is there a power stronger than God’s love? Paul follows this question by listing several trials and struggles. This isn’t just a theoretical list. Paul experienced all these things himself. So when Paul answers his own question with a resounding NO, he’s speaking from experience. Paul doesn’t just think God’s love is more powerful than persecution and danger. He didn’t hear about it secondhand. He KNEW God’s love is more powerful because he experienced God’s love at work during difficult times.

As Paul expands on his answer, he says we are more than conquerors. For so many years, I quickly skimmed over Paul’s answer and explanation because it seemed obvious that God’s love is powerful. I never stopped to think about what it actually means to be MORE than conquerors. We know a conqueror is someone who has fought and won a battle. But what does it mean to be more than a conqueror?

When we have God’s love fighting for us, we don’t just barely overcome challenges. We are without a doubt, completely, and utterly victorious. This is victory unlike anything else we’ve experienced or heard of. It’s so incredible that Paul has to make a new word to describe it by combining two Greek words. It means to “conquer completely, without any real threat to personal life or health” (MacArthur).

Because we have God’s powerful love, we know we win the battle against the curse of sin in this world. No matter what anyone accuses us of, we have God’s love defending us. We can face tribulation, anxiety, regret, exhaustion, discouragement, and temptation without fear. No matter what sin I’ve committed in the past or what struggle I’m facing today, I have God’s endless love. Christ already won the victory, and now he’s chosen me to be more than a conqueror with him.
That is powerful love.

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Deeply Rooted

At the end of our week at Maria’s, our team chose the name Deeply Rooted when we signed the wall in Maria’s. Tonight I found some notes I had made earlier in the week on Ephesians 3 where it talks about being “rooted in love.” I didn’t make the connection between that passage and our team name till now; just another reminder of how God was at work through every detail of the trip! I’m missing my teammates, but I know God has unimaginable plans for them as they return to school and everyday life!

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Believe

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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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