Stones of Remembrance

2017 has been a full year! Much work, many adventures, abundant learning, and ample moments filled with joy to name a few. J I always enjoy looking back over the year and seeing what moments the Lord highlights!

​To help me remember those moments, I have a vase sitting in my living room that holds rocks. Each rock is dated on one side and has a word or phrase on the other side. These are my Stones of Remembrance. I got the idea for my rock vase from Scripture, specifically the 4th chapter of Joshua. The Lord instructs the Israelites to gather stones from the Jordan River as they walk through it.

The people came up out of the Jordan on the tenth day of the first month, and they encamped at Gilgal on the east border of Jericho. And those twelve stones, which they took out of the Jordan, Joshua set up at Gilgal. And he said to the people of Israel, “When your children ask their fathers in times to come, ‘What do these stones mean?’ then you shall let your children know, ‘Israel passed over this Jordan on dry ground.’ For the Lord your God dried up the waters of the Jordan for you until you passed over, as the Lord your God did to the Red Sea, which he dried up for us until we passed over, so that all the peoples of the earth may know that the hand of the Lord is mighty, that you may fear the Lord your God forever.” Joshua 4: 19-24

I love this passage! It challenges me to remember what God has done in my life. This is not the only passage that talks about Stones of Remembrance. 1 Samuel 7:12 says, “Then Samuel took a stone and set it up between Mizpah and Shen. He named it Ebenezer, saying, ‘Thus far the Lord has helped us.’”

The whole concept of Stones of Remembrance has been strongly laid on my heart this year. So as I thought about writing this blog, I got the idea of including a few of my Stones of Remembrance and sharing what the Lord has revealed and challenged me in this year.

Memorizing Scripture – I’ve never been good at memorizing Scripture word-for-word. I can paraphrase and find specific verses well enough, but struggle with the verbatim memorization. I’ve always known this was important (the Lord tells us to hide His word in our hearts), but I think I always kind of down-played the importance because it was so hard for me. In March of this year, I joined a discipleship group that prioritized Scripture memorization. I was very nervous at first, bet felt like I was not supposed to let that stop me. Thankfully, this group puts the verses to music and only has us memorize 1-2 verses at a time. I have loved this new gift! It’s such a sweet way to worship! I never thought of it as worship before, but there is something beautiful about speaking His words to Him, proclaiming who He is with His words, and allowing the Holy Spirit to use those words to encourage me!

Church – I grew up in the church, so going to church on Sunday is not anything new to me. This year, however, the Lord has been showing me that church is more than just a place to attend. He encourages us to fellowship together, but it is more than that. It is setting aside time to worship Him together. It is sacrificing my time to say how important He is to me! I’m learning to view church as a place where I can give back to the Lord rather than just receive. What joy He gives when I humbly come before Him and worship Him!

Choosing joy – At the beginning of this year, the Lord challenged my attitude. I was allowing my circumstances to grow bitterness in my heart and it was reflected in my attitude (even though most people weren’t aware of it, it was still affecting me). When I asked the Lord why He was letting my life be this way, He graciously told me that I was the one who was allowing bitterness to grow. I had the option of continuing to let bitterness grow or start choosing joy. I had not even been aware that I was making a choice to allow the bitterness to take root! Thus began the journey of finding His joy in the midst of hard situations. God is a God of joy and He desires to share His joy with us every day!

Praying that your Thanksgiving, Christmas, and 2018 is filled with sweet moments and reminders of Him! Praying that your time with family and friends this Christmas will be filled with laughter and much joy! And praying that your Stones of Remembrance are echoes of His love for you!

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Football and Discipleship

Nephew playing flag football


I love the sport football! I look forward to  afternoons napping and watching whatever game the local channels are carrying. I have not always loved football. I tolerated it when I was younger, because I had three older brothers and they outvoted me in regards to what we would be watching. 🙂 I developed this passion after college when I first joined my brothers “Pick’em” league (always a sweet season when I can hold the winner’s trophy!). A couple years later, I decided to join a friend’s fantasy league. Both of these leagues were created to help keep us close even when distance separated us. 

There are three reasons why I love football. 1) Having three older brothers (and being one of six kids), I learned that competition (when healthy) can be a lot of fun. 2) I enjoy chatting with my siblings and friends about what is going on with our teams. 3) I love watching the football teams work together. 

Each team succeeds or fails together. Each team has multiple players and coaches that must work together. When they work well together it is a beautiful thing! They have to have the same vision and goal. They have to be dedicated to hard work and continued growth. They have to be willing to challenge each other to move forward.

While I obviously won’t ever be able to play on a football team, I did start thinking.  What team am I a part of currently? This brought to mind Discipleship Groups (DGroups). I was introduced to DGroups at the beginning of this year. I had no idea what I was getting into! 🙂 

DGroup is a group of women (there are also men’s groups) who desire to go deeper. Each week we study Scripture together, memorize and recite Scripture, confess the sin in our lives, and walk shoulder-to-shoulder with each other. We succeed and fail together. We each have different roles and we have to learn to work together. We have the same vision and goals and we are dedicated to the work and continued growth of our group and each individual. We challenge each other to move towards the Lord.

Hebrews 10:23-26 has come to life in a different way for me because of this group!. “Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.” I’m so thankful for the opportunity to “stir up” others and be challenged as well!

These groups are all over the nation. If you’d like more information, feel free to reach out to me, or click on any of the above links.

Claire

My baby sister turned 21 today. Where has time gone? I still remember the little ball of energy and artistry that entered our home so many years ago. So in honor of her birthday, here are 21 things I know and love about her!

1. She loves coffee….in every form!

2. She is a very good writer, and I enjoy reading her thoughts and ideas.

3. She loves music and gladly shares her wealth of knowledge with her less then music savvy sister (me).

4. She is a gifted clay artist.

5. She’s the youngest of six kids, but can hold her own with all of us. 🙂

6. She loves understanding why people do what they do (hence a psychology minor).

7. She loves sci-fi and hero movies and is always game for watching a movie with any of her family members!

8. She loves basketball and played for 10 years. 

9. She’s majoring in English.

10. She’s from South Korea.

11. She’s a night owl.

12. She’s not afraid to call me out on my crap.

13. She and I are similar in many ways and very different in just as many ways.

14. She loves puppies, especially her miniture dachshund, Zane.

15. She puts up with my oddities (like going with me to see glass blowers even though that’s super boring to her, but she knows I don’t want to go alone).

16. She loves Jesus!

17. She is a loyal sister and friend.

18. She is an introvert, but enjoys sharing her life with the people she loves.

19. She was 9 years old when our first niece was born, so she was called AC because she was, “too young to be an aunt.” 🙂

20. She can sleep anywhere…I’m very jealous of this gift!

21. She has a head for trivia.

Most of all, I’m thankful she’s my sister and that I get to do life with her! Here’s to many more years and adventures together!

Gifts

No, I’m not prepping for Christmas…yet. Yes, I have a countdown on my phone already. 🙂 I’m talking about God given gifts. “As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace: whoever speaks, as one who speaks oracles of God; whoever serves, as one who serves by the strength that God supplies – in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ. To him belong glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.” 1 Peter 4:10-11.

I’ve started noticing a trend. I’ve recently started asking people about their gifts and strengths. The more I’ve asked this question, the more I’ve gotten shrugged shoulders or blank stares. This got me thinking. Why is this such a hard question to answer? I think I’ve come up with two possible reasons. 

1. We don’t want to be considered a bragger, boastful, or prideful. “When pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with the humble is wisdom.” Proverbs 11:2.

Or

2. We genuinely don’t know what gifts or strengths He has give us. “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” Ephesians 2:10.

I believe that God has gifted all of us in special and unique ways. “…and I have filled him with the Spirit of God, with ability and intelligence, with knowledge and all craftsmanship.” Exodus 31:3. I also believe that He calls us to use these gifts for His glory. “Let every skillful craftsman among you come and make all that the Lord has commanded.” Exodus 35:10. 

So if God has given us gifts then we must use them. “And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.” Colossians 3:17.

I believe that Romans 12:3-8 beautifully summarizes God’s perspective on gifts. “For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned. For as in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function, so we, though many are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another. Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, in proportion to our faith; if service, in our serving; the one who teaches, in his teaching; the one who exhorts, in his exhortation; the one who contributes, in generosity; the one who leads, with zeal; the one who does acts of mercy, with cheerfulness.”

I believe we can bring God great joy and honor by using the gifts He has given us. If you genuinely don’t know what your gifts are, I encourage you to seek Him and ask Him to reveal them to you, that you might start using them. If you do know your gifts, don’t be afraid to give Him the glory. The next time someone asks what your gifts are, humbly and thankfully share all that He has blessed you with and enjoy using them for His glory! 

Glass Half Full

I’ve been reading a lot this summer. So many good books and so little time! One of the books that’s been sticking with me lately is Anne Voskamp’s book One Thousand Gifts. A friend told me about the book a few months ago and I mentally added it to my “to read” list. A couple weeks later, a student asked to meet with me regularly and wanted to read that particular book and discuss it. The Lord must have wanted me to read it. 🙂

I’ve read and enjoyed Voskamp’s writing before, so I was looking forward to reading it, but it was nothing like I expected. She has a unique way of writing that makes you feel like you are processing with her. Her writing is raw and real. We are only in the third chapter, and yet my head and heart have processed so much!

I’ve always been a “glass half empty” gal since I was little. My parents always challenged me to think of the blessings in my life and I genuinely try my best to do this. But as any broken person will tell you, when they’re tired, it’s hard to fight the battle.

Voskamp’s book has been a great challenge to my heart in the area of gratitude. It’s actually been freeing in some ways. One of the points (to which I can’t do justice) is that gratitude is the vehicle which brings His joy and grace to us. Thankfulness also creates the space for us to recieve and hang onto His joy and grace.

So here’s a few things that I’m thankful for and the start “again” of my journey to deep abiding thankfulness!

Yummy food (especially homemade granola)

My job and all the women I get to pour into (and fun photo sessions)

Notes and snailmail (anything written)

Converse Tennis Shoes

Family time (any hour I can spend with my family)

Heart of Stone

A critical spirit. A couple months ago, a couple of friends wanted me to read an article. While it was very good, I honed in on the comments about women who have critical spirits. This got me thinking….do I have a critical spirit? I knew that Scripture talked clearly about the damage a critical spirit can cause. That night I sought the Lord and asked Him to search my heart. Realizing that I didn’t have a critical spirit was a relief, but I took it a step further and asked what spirit I did have. After a few minutes, I realized that I had a spirit of crankiness. 

I became aware of how cranky my heart was and how it was bleeding into other parts of my life. While most people around me might not have noticed my crankiness, I was suddenly aware of the depth of its roots in my life.

Everything was frustrating me. I internally fumed and whined at everything that didn’t go my way. I effectively was doing a toddler tantrum on the inside. I was sapping my energy and exhausting myself. I wasn’t living in any kind of joy or peace.  I wasn’t aware that I was actively choosing to live that way until the Lord revealed this spirit.

So now what was I to do? I didn’t want to live this way anymore. How was I supposed to stop something I didn’t realize I was even doing? I prayed. I wanted the Lord to reveal what might be at the root of my cranky spirit. I started looking up definitions and Scriptures. I found that the opposite of cranky is cheerful. Merriam Webster defines cheer this way:

Cheer: state of mind or heart; a shout of applause or encouragement

I realized that I wanted a joyful heart and a spirit of cheerful encouragement. 

Today, the Scripture verse from Ezekiel 36:26-27 came to mind.

“And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from you flesh and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statues and be careful to obey my rules.”

This verse makes so much more sense to me now! How grateful I am that the Lord is changing my heart of stone (crankiness) into a heart of flesh (cheerfulness) for Him! 

The picture above is a sunset I took on vacation last week. It’s a representation of the beauty and peace I now have. I still am taking everything day-by-day, but I have the energy and joy to see Him around me and to enjoy the moments He’s given me.

Praying Ezekiel 36:26-27 over you and that He will be glorified in your heart of flesh!

Eight Birdies Fly

Today was graduation. So many wonderful students stepped across the stage today and into their new adventures. Some of my girls will stay local and some will scatter across the country and the world. 

I’ve always been proud of my residents who have graduated in the past, but this group of girls holds a special place in my heart. They have journeyed with me the last 4 years. I don’t remember a time here without them and now they leave for different journeys.

I’m especially thankful, for the eight who have served on my dorm staff and let me pour into them. I’m so thankful that God allowed them to be a part of my life! I have loved watching them grow, gaining their friendship, and being challenged by them. I’m excited to see where they go and what adventures the Lord has in store for them.

To Madi, Lauren, Miranda, Whitney, Amanda, Andrea, Laura, and Magen (and all the other Mann and old Foster graduates), may…

The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you; the Lord lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace. Numbers 6:24-26.

  

Greatest Joy


A couple weeks ago, I was at a vocation conference for work. The above quote was mentioned in a breakout session. It was only said in passing. It wasn’t even the main point of the session and yet, it has stuck with me since then. 

This view of vocation spoke deeply to my heart. So often vocation/calling/work can be stressful, especially for college students. I think that’s why I love this quote so much. It seemed to take the stress away.

It reminded me of why I do what I do. I love helping people get where they want to go. One of my strengths (thanks StrengthsFinder 2.0) is developer, which basically means that I see people’s potential and I want to help them grow. 

As I pondered this new definition of vocation, I realized my developer strength is one of my “greatest joys” and is evident in every job that I have had. I’ve worked in the medical field, higher ed, a staffing office, and even an environmental company. Nothing seems to overlap in these areas, but they all carried the theme of my wanting to help people whether they be coworkers, patients, or students. I love walking life with people!

The Lord has gifted and equipped us in different ways to meet the world’s needs. “And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints of the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ” Ephesians 4:11-12.

How freeing to realize that maybe our greatest joys are God given. Maybe it’s ok to pursue a vocation in our deepest joys and using those skills/strengths to meet the “world’s needs.” Maybe we should be looking less at what we think we are supposed to be doing and more at what He is cultivating in us. Where do we find His joy in our life?

What is your greatest joy?

Smelling the Roses

A couple weeks ago the weather was amazing! I’m talking 70 degree weather, bare feet in the grass, sitting in the sun, wonderful weather! Thankfully, this happened on a day that I only had to work a half day! I ran a few errands and then grabbed my beach chair, my sunglasses, and a bag of books.

That afternoon was so good for my soul. I basked in the slowness and calm. I felt like I could breath again. It awakened a longing for more days like this. I realized that I so often get caught in the hustle and bustle of the day that I forget to slow down and appreciate life.

Now this is not a new thought or lesson for me. I’ve known of the Sabath rest for most of my life and yet, I still get caught in the chaos of my life. That afternoon brought this all to the surface again and I realized that I am the only one stopping myself from slowing down. When processing all of this, I came across Song of Solomon 6:11, “I went down to the nut orchard to look at the blossoms of the valley, to see whether the vines had budded, whether the pomegranates were in bloom.” 

In choosing to slow down and “look at the blossoms”, I have the opportunity to slow down and enjoy the small things as well as experience Him in a different way. Below are four pictures of when I slowed down and looked at the “blossoms” around me. Feel free to share any of your “blossoms” with me!

Watching the snow fall (I know you can’t see it, but I did and enjoyed it immensely!). Each snowflake was beautiful and reminded me that He crafted each one!

Enjoying time with family! I was able to get home and spend time with two of my brothers, parents, two sisters, a sister-in-law, two nieces, and a nephew! 

I’ve been going through pictures and found this one of my oldest brother and myself when I was 2-years-old. It was fun remembering our childhood!

This was the sunrise that I had the blessing of seeing early one morning. It took my breath away and slowed me down that day. His artwork is beautiful!

Alter of Sacrifice

Food. Who would have thought that such a simple word would invoke such varied and strong reactions! 🙂 Food is a constant subject amongst my students…what’s the healthy thing to eat, what do you enjoy eating, how do you eat healthy on a college campus, what do you eat when you are stressed, and so many more conversations. 

I myself LOVE food. I enjoy eating; especially my Mom’s cooking! However, over the last couple of years, I’ve been discovering that some foods are better for me then others. I specifically can’t handle eggs or sugar very well. This can get tricky at times. I’ve also been discovering that my body craves veggies and protein. The sinful part of me struggles at times that I can’t eat brownies (still waiting for the egg free ones to be created). However, I do feel better when I eat what my body desires rather then what my appetite craves.

So why the talk about food? I haven’t always understood my struggle with food, but I was reading “Hinds’ Feet on High Places” by Hannah Hurnard and it started to make a little sense. She wrote in her preface,

The only way is by learning to accept, day by day, the actual conditions and tests permitted by God, by a continually repeated laying down of our own will and acceptance of his as it is presented to us in the form of the people with whom we have to live and work, and in the things which happen to us. Every acceptance of his will becomes an alter of sacrifice, and every such surrender and abandonment of ourselves to his will is a means of furthering us on the way to the High Places to which he desires to bring every child of his while they are still living on earth.

Eating well for my body is one of my “alters of sacrifice”. Not only does my body function better when I eat correctly, but there is a beautiful surrender to Him that occurs as well. In these moments of battle, I am comforted by the picture of Zephaniah 3:17,

The Lord your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you by his love; he will exult over you with loud singing.

This reminds me that He is in the midst of the struggle with me. He will help me if I allow Him to, by laying my desire on the alter of sacrifice. And He will sing loudly over me when I surrender to Him! There is something soothing to my heart in the picture of him singing over me! It reminds me that I’m loved.

While food might not be your “alter of sacrifice”, I encourage you to see the beauty in what He is asking you to surrender. May you experience the “High Places” that he desires for you and hear Him loudly singing over you!

Photo credit:  http://sueswink.tumblr.com/post/12276229877