‘Tis the Season…

…for sickness? Yes, it’s here! Flu shots at every pharmacy, hand sanitizer on every desk, and tissue in every purse.

Sickness is never fun, especially in a dorm. When I’m sick, I want to be in the privacy of my own home and left alone. In a dorm, there just isn’t that luxury.

A few weeks ago, I walked into these signs on the doors of our hall bathroom:

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At another time when I walked in, one of the girls in my hall was sitting on the floor of this stall wrapped in her comforter.

At another time when I walked in, one of the girls in my hall was sitting on the floor of this stall wrapped in her comforter.

I’m not a germ phob at all, so these signs mainly caused me to laugh. Yet, I couldn’t help but feel sorry for the poor girl up all night with sickness. Of course, this happened at one of the busiest times of the semester. I’m sure she had to cancel all her plans to take time to rest.

I experienced something similar over Thanksgiving break. Thankfully, I was at my grandma’s house instead of the dorm. I was able to lay on a bathroom floor without fear of someone walking in and I knew the floor had been cleaned that week. The people that greeted me were familiar and loving. My sister brought me gingerale and saltines, and my grandmother asked questions while feeling my forehead. Though I felt awful, I was comforted by the amenities of a familiar place.

I hardly ever get sick, but the first day of this break I think my body had enough. I needed to rest. I am a horrible rester. I’m not sure I even know how to rest. I normally run around all day until I’m so tired it’s time for bed. If I’m watching a movie, it’s hard for me to even sit there without a project or task. When I pray through the Ten Commandments, I always get to the Sabbath and pray faster…knowing God will convict me in this area. I need to rest.

Isn’t that what Jesus calls us to do? Yes, we are to “work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men,” but I think we often forget the last part of that verse in our workaholic, task-oriented society (Colossians 3:23 ESV). During this season, we are often caught up working to please men with our elaborate gifts, Christmas parties, extra work hours, baked goods, service projects, and more (in the case of a student, we are also caught up in the ridiculousness of finals, projects, and getting ready to go home). I believe that the Lord wants us to celebrate, which may include all the things I listed. Yet, I also believe the Lord wants us to take time to rest, trusting that we can be obedient with our time and He will meet our needs.

Christians seem to be the most frazzled during this season when we should be the most joyful and content. In the hustle and bustle of this season I hope to remember the true purpose of it: to rest knowing that our Savior has come and we can place our hope in Him, not our own works. 

Thanksgiving: One Joy at a Time

Thanksgiving.

Truly one of my favorite holidays.  I love all holidays—I’m never opposed to a time of celebration, food, and loved ones—but Thanksgiving has a special place in my heart.

Though my sister and I have alternated going with my mom’s family and my dad’s family some, the majority of our Thanksgivings are spent with my dad and Christmases with my mom.  Our grandparents in New York were always thrilled to see us when we arrived.  I think my grandfather may have been more excited than anyone.  Finally, someone was there to rake leaves with him! As soon as we got out of the car from the airport, he would begin showing us where our little-girl-raking-skills were most needed.  We would rake and rake in the crisp November air on Long Island while my uncle supervised and my grandfather and dad did more challenging work (or went over spots we didn’t do so well).  My grandfather was not the only one looking forward to our visits, my grandmother was also anxious for us to help her polish the silver, set the table, and prepare the food.  We were always grateful to go into the warm house and help my grandmother after a long day of raking (though let’s not exaggerate the work here…we did work hard, but my grandparents were hardly slave-drivers).  It was fun getting her prettiest dishes out and making the table look pretty.  My grandmother also gave us special cooking assignments, teaching us the secrets of her special Thanksgiving recipes.  As much work as we did each Thanksgiving, those are memories I cherish more than any with my family.

Within the past three years, my grandfather passed away, my grandparents’ property was destroyed in Hurricane Sandy, and my uncle passed away—all of which were key pieces in those Thanksgiving memories.  You could say that my family is in the midst of one of those loss seasons.  Yet, we still have many things worthy of our thanks-giving.

Isn’t it easy to let the darkness of this world crowd out the goodness? Our society literally goes out of its way to do this.  Black Friday, for example, takes more time out of Thanksgiving each year.  (Instead of doors opening at 5AM, they open at midnight.  Instead of midnight, they open at 5PM on Thanksgiving Day….and so on and so on…)  Though I do not have opposition to shopping on Black Friday, I do think it reflects a celebration of consumerism trying to destroy a celebration of contentment.  This mentality is one we are continuously battling in this world.  In my own family, I hope to celebrate the joys the Lord has provided for us:

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Each other…we may be smaller, but we can still share memories, laughter, tears, and food

A table waiting to be set with my grandmother and sister

A table waiting to be set with my grandmother and sister

Abundant food (especially dessert…mostly Italian dessert…I’m also grateful for quirky family traditions)

Abundant food (especially dessert…mostly Italian dessert…I’m also grateful for quirky family traditions)

There are so many more things I could list (apple cider from the cider mill down the street, leaves still needing to be raked, and ridiculous sleepover times with my sister to name a few), but overall I am just grateful for the joy the Lord provides.  It is not based on circumstance. He allows us to see Him in the easy and hard times.

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I’d like to end with this passage of Scripture that the Lord has placed before me more than once this November.  What better way to celebrate Thanksgiving?

Psalm 95 English Standard Version (ESV)

Let Us Sing Songs of Praise

Oh come, let us sing to the Lord;
let us make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation!
Let us come into his presence with thanksgiving;
let us make a joyful noise to him with songs of praise!
For the Lord is a great God,
and a great King above all gods.
In his hand are the depths of the earth;
the heights of the mountains are his also.
The sea is his, for he made it,
and his hands formed the dry land.

Oh come, let us worship and bow down;
let us kneel before the Lord, our Maker!
For he is our God,
and we are the people of his pasture,
and the sheep of his hand.
Today, if you hear his voice,
    do not harden your hearts, as at Meribah,
as on the day at Massah in the wilderness,
when your fathers put me to the test
and put me to the proof, though they had seen my work.
10 For forty years I loathed that generation
and said, “They are a people who go astray in their heart,
and they have not known my ways.”
11 Therefore I swore in my wrath,
“They shall not enter my rest.”

Him Who Lives Forever

Each week I feel like the Lord’s given me some sort of inspiration for a post—in fact, some weeks I feel inspired to write numerous posts. This week was not like that. This week my mind was filled with cramming for finals, preparing for presentations, and worrying about papers (why are all my papers due immediately after Thanksgiving break??). To give an example, I watched an animated movie one night after a long day of work and school. While watching it, I found myself considering the main character’s extensive trauma and need for varies types of therapy (one of which would likely be marriage counseling as she jumped into marriage immediately following these events). That’s when you know you need a break!

Despite my mind being focused on schoolwork, I’ve still felt the Lord teaching me through His Word. Not surprisingly, mental illness seemed to be the theme of one of my quiet times. I think the content is worth sharing…

I was reading in Daniel and Nebuchadnezzar’s bout with insanity struck me. The author describes it, “At that moment the sentence against Nebuchadnezzar was executed. He was driven away from people. He ate grass like cattle, and his body was drenched with dew from the sky, until his hair grew like eagles’ feathers and his nails like birds’ claws” (Daniel 4:33 HCSB). Later, Daniel states that “his mind was like an animal’s” (Daniel 5:21 HCSB). I’ve read many accounts of insanity and desperation, but few compare with the intensity described here. Though I think we all have moments where we feel this sort of desperation, rarely is it seen so tangibly. Yet after this agonizing season, Nebuchadnezzar proclaims, “But at the end of those days, I, Nebuchadnezzar, looked up to heaven, and my sanity returned to me. Then I praised the Most High and honored and glorified Him who lives forever: For His dominion is an everlasting dominion, and His kingdom is from generation to generation” (Daniel 4:34 HCSB). Doesn’t God draw us closer to Him in times of desperation? Our society may see this as we endure economic, social, or physical suffering (though I think we often fall short in these areas too), but rarely do we associate mental or emotional suffering with any sort of good. Let’s not forget how big our God is.

Please don’t misinterpret what I’m saying. I do NOT believe that mental illness is always caused as a result of sin. That is awful, works-based theology that I would like to be removed from our churches entirely. The point regarding mental illness that I feel the Lord revealed to me is this: God used Nebuchadnezzar’s suffering for good. 

Through suffering Jesus says, “Come to Me, all of you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28 HCSB). He doesn’t promise our circumstances to change, but He does promise that He will be there no matter what happens. Whether you’re suffering with the struggles of day-to-day life, grief as the holidays are just around the corner, or something else, know He is there. I am grateful for the truth spoken through Nebuchadnezzar that we serve “Him who lives forever.” He is always there.

The Nest

There is a bird’s nest directly above my window.  (In fact, there may be a bird neighborhood…) Each morning as the sun peeks through my slightly-too-narrow curtain, I begin hearing birds chirping and wings flapping.  Throughout the day, I continue to hear the activity of my winged friends as they busily go about their day.  Occasionally, one even hits my window.  (Thankfully, we’ve yet to have a fatality—rest assured, my window will never be clean enough that they’ll run into it head-on.)

Of the sounds I hear form these upstairs neighbors, the one I hear most often is chirping.  Although I am not well-versed in ornithology or even bird watching, I imagine this chirping is from baby birds.  Whether this chirping is or isn’t from my predicted source, these cries cause me to meditate on God’s provision.

These little birds chirp and chirp and chirp all day long.  I cannot see the nest(s) from my room, but I can see adult birds flying to a nearby tree gathering sticks, etc.  While the babies are left helpless, the mommy and daddy birds are off gathering means to provide for their young.  The tasks of the adult birds don’t seem deterred by the chirping, yet they are always working for the benefit of the babies.  Though the babies may feel hungry, abandoned, and fearful as they are literally left in the gutter of an old dorm building, their parents always return at the right time with what the babies need.

God never leaves us, but His timing and will may feel like abandonment in times where we helplessly chirp from the nests He’s provided.  God specifically addresses this very feeling in Matthew 10:29-31, “Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground outside your Father’s care.  And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered.  So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows” (NIV2011).  I am so grateful for a loving Father, who cares for us to a degree we cannot even imagine.  May we always look around our nests seeing His provision with each stick, worm…or even annoying, chirping, selfish neighbor.