Sunday, August 26, 2012

God is... Exceeding Great Reward

My dear friends, I deeply apologize for not keeping up with the blog as much. Since arriving home, many things have proffered themselves, and blogging has had to take a back burner.

Exceeding Great Reward

Most of us are familiar with this verse found in Psalm 37: "Delight thyself also in the Lord, and He shall give thee the desires of thine heart."

My mom often reminded me of this verse as a child, to motivate me to love the Lord with my chores, my attitudes, and my finances. She was so right, but not in the way I first thought. As a kid, I always thought that it meant, if I love God and wholeheartedly serve Him, He will give me things that I really want. I couldn't figure out why God didn't "bless" me with the things I felt He should have given me.

A few years later, learning to live on my own in an apartment, I often found myself surprised with little blessings from the Lord. My job was sufficient, and I had enough money to live off of, but no extras. Somehow, one way or another, I'd receive a potted plant, a bedspread, a hand-me-down shower curtain, and so forth. Were these necessary? No. Not really. But God wanted to remind me of His love for me.
That summer I learned an important truth about this verse. Those who demand blessings don't receive them, but those that seek the Great Reward find themselves overflowing in God's goodness.

Obedience to commands brings blessing. This is a pattern that God has established from the beginning of time. Wouldn't it fit then, that the greatest commandment to love the Lord with all your heart, soul, and mind, (Matthew 22:37-38) would also reveal the greatest blessing?! For the pure in heart... shall see God. (Matthew 5:8) What a great truth! Seeking, knowing, and loving God is not only a command; it is the greatest blessing man could ever encounter.

Abraham encountered this truth in Genesis 15:1. He lived a long and righteous life. He loved and trusted the Lord, yet He was concerned about passing on the legacy of faith to... whom? He didn't have a son! God came to him in that famous discourse about the "stars of heaven" and the "sand of the sea," and the first thing He says to Abraham is: "I am thy shield and thy exceeding great reward." 

I found this a bit interesting. Why would shield and reward be coupled together? Shield means what it says. It's a piece of armor that is used to protect the body from battle dangers. Reward, in this case, actually means payment,wages, compensation, and so forth. Here is the greatest promise that God could ever make to mankind: the promise of redemption. He IS the shield to protect us physically and the payment to protect our souls eternally. I suppose you know the rest. WHO would that Exceeding Great Reward be then?

Jesus Christ who died for you, to pay the payment for your sin.

"The Lord is my Portion, therefore will I hope in Him." (Lamentations 3:24)

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Introducing... 2013!

Introducing... 2013.

Well, the calendar anyway. ;) It's hard to believe that another year is coming quickly. This year's calendar is amazing, thanks to some additional training and the help of a photographer/designer friend. The proceeds from this year's sale will help me take a mission trip to MEXICO!

You can check it out on the tab above, labeled "Calendar 2013."

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Pictures from the Indianapolis ATI Conference

Here are the promised pictures from the conference. Before I go on, I must say, I did NOT take all of these, but I copyrighted them so I could post them on the internet. My young cousins helped me with the photography, and you will get to meet a couple of them.
Most of my time at the conference was spent helping in Commit, a program for girls 12-15. We had a blast!

 Hannah Burnett, our amazing Commit coordinator.

 Interviewing game...

 My team is ready for the session!

Olivia. She is just simply amazing, both with the girls, and with skits.
Jinger Duggar. The Duggar girls came to speak to the Commit girls, with some very helpful tips on relationships with different people during this time of life.
My team of very precious girls. I'm so glad God gave me the opportunity to meet them!

During the rest of my time at the conference, I either ran the registration table (it was a great blessing to meet the many people that came!) or sitting in on the sessions.
Girls from my team in a children's program 6 years ago in Texas. 

A couple of my lovely cousins, attending another program for girls their ages. 

I played in the orchestra, and tried to catch a few minutes of practice when I could. 

Another cousin enjoyed a program for young men, learning how to be both physically and spiritually fit for life.

The conference was such a blessing to attend, and I'm so glad God gave me the opportunity to go on my way home from Taiwan.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Catching Up

Wait for me!!!! I can't run quite that fast!
The last three weeks have been a whirlwind. I feel like I'm grasping the reins tightly, trying desperately to stay on a galloping horse. God is so amazing you guys, and I am so excited to share what He's been doing the last few weeks. I apologize dearly for making you wait.... but then, that just adds to the suspense. :)

On Monday, July 22nd, my fellow team mates and I boarded the train for Taipei. HTC had been kind enough to ship our luggage ahead of us, so we didn't have to juggle 4 bags at once. The train took several hours, arriving in Taipei around dinner time. We took our bags to the spare bedroom at IBLP HQ Taiwan, and then set off for dinner. It didn't take long to decide on Mexican tacos. (Taipei is about the only place you can find Mexican food in Taiwan.)

That evening, I wasn't feeling well, and got to watch the sun set on the horizon, and then watch the stars come out one by one. It was beautiful! As I stood there, quoting Scripture to myself, the Lord began to speak to my heart and encourage me. He showed me a bigger picture than me (which is ALWAYS humbling), overwhelming me in the greatness of God. How He could use me in anyway, as unequipped an unable as I was, amazes me! I am the least of His servants. I didn't even want to go to Taiwan. I STRUGGLED THE WHOLE YEAR! Yet, He showed Himself strong in spite of me, and revealed Himself to the Chinese through my weakness. What an awe-inspiring, humbling, and holy meeting we had that night.

I was too excited to sleep, and at 4:30 in the morning, I bounded out of bed. I figured, since I was awake already, I might as well go enjoy the sunrise. -And it was beautiful. A lovely going away gift from God just for me. Thank you Lord!

Shortly thereafter, we headed down the elevator, with our tons of luggage, and jumped in a taxi to the airport. A 23 hour trip awaited, with little sleep. Yikes! No, I don't sleep well on planes; and on this particular trip, I was very sick. Not a nice way to travel at all. However, God took care of me. By the time I arrived in Chicago, I felt fine. -Must have been last minute jitters.

Friends of mine from IBLP HQ USA picked me and my bedraggled luggage up from the airport. (All three of my brand new suitcases had broken.) We talked about life at HQ, and my experiences in Taiwan, and then they dropped me off at the house I would be staying in for  a few days.

While at HQ, I tried to keep a low profile, going to staff meetings, but spending a LOT of time with the Lord and catching up on my sleep. I felt like I had been spiritually starved in Taiwan, and the messages I heard at HQ were like healing shots of vitamins and minerals to my soul.

The following Tuesday, (6 days after arrival in the US), I jumped in a van to go to a family encouragement conference. The deal was, I would go and help with a program for young ladies, and anywhere else they needed, and then my aunt who was also attending, would give me a ride up to MN.

It was VERY encouraging! I enjoyed helping at the registration table, and serving the young girls at the conference. The messages were so refreshing and revitalizing, and it was SO nice to hear everything in ENGLISH!  My team of young ladies was amazing, and I was blessed by their hearts to learn and seek the Lord. In one of the afternoon sessions, I found myself sitting behind a couple of girls that had been on my team for a children's program in Texas six years ago. Such a small world!

I also played in the student orchestra, which turned out to be more like an ensemble, and visited with various friends. I had gone to this conference last year, and really appreciated being able to attend with my cousins this year.

Then my aunt and her family gave me a ride back to Minnesota. I "paid them back" by helping with their church's VBS program that week. I taught a class of 8 Kindergartners, missions, beading, and photography. It was a VERY busy week, to say the least. It was amazing to see God work in hearts, my own included. By Wednesday, I felt I couldn't go on. I had contracted a cold, and the long days were just too much; but God faithfully gave me strength to finish as I leaned on Him.

Of course, you can imagine my excitement on Saturday to go home. It had been 12 months exactly since I had been home. Would you believe, my house is almost like a metropolis with all the black gold traffic. The train was packed (but quiet, praise the Lord!), and behind schedule. I had been warned it could run up to 5 hours late, so I was grateful to arrive in North Dakota just 2 hours late.

(-I know, you're thinking, NORTH DAKOTA???? I thought you lived in Montana...

I do, but the closest train station is in North Dakota, two hours from home.)

Since my parents were still at church, a friend picked me up and took me to lunch until they were free to come get me. It's been so long since I've smelled the freshness of country air- the rain, the dirt road, the pungent flowers, and the fields of wheat. Not to mention the silence... and my dog. My dog didn't know what to do when I got home, he was so excited. Ah! It is so good to be home!

And so, I finally made it HOME, on Sunday evening. It's been a long trip, with exciting steps along the way, many struggles, but one big adventure in God's hands.

PS: More pictures to come as I edit them...