he held me

October 28, 2014

I am weak.

I wanted to let you know… not that I expected you to think otherwise.

See, the thing is, today was great. I hung out with friends, ate chocolate ice cream, watched little snotty kindergarteners screech with excitement at science.

But now I sit in my dorm room, and I’m trying to be strong and hold back homesick tears. And I don’t want anyone to see me crying, but I don’t want to be alone because I fall to pieces when I’m alone.

But I have to face the pain because holding back only makes it worse.

Because now the tears fall onto my cheeks, and my nose sniffles.

I miss home. I miss my family and friends and knowing people.

I miss saying “hey, I know so-and-so!” and “Look, there’s so-and-so; they got married last month!”

I miss my hometown and my people.

This world is big, and I miss the small simplicity of hometown, Mississippi. I miss having a backyard and a kitchen. I miss singing to my dog and making my little brother dinner.

And that’s okay. Because the thing is, I have to remind myself that it’s like going college a year early, and I can’t expect to be strong every single day when I feel alone.

So today, as I pray that Jesus uses this time to prune my sinful heart, I am reminded that He felt this pain.

He knows alone. He knows longing. He knows desperation. He knows heartache. He knows sickness. He knows weeping. He knows oppression. He knows persecution. He even knows those pains that I do not know.

He knows the pain of being human.

And He will use moments like these to bring me closer to holiness and closer to His heart, which is closer to joy. Because I am completely dependent on Him, He is using this moment to remind me that I am weak. I am more than weak, and He is more than strong.

And, really, I don’t face it alone. Because He knows pain, and He will use this pain to bring me closer to His heart.


I wrote this a few months back, during a series of weeks when the world seemed so dim and lifeless. And homesickness (more like security-sickness) might not seem so hard to some, but for me, it was definitely difficult, more than I let people know.  I had moved towns, schools, and what seems like lives in some ways. As a result, I missed security and familiarity. (Apparently I don’t do change very well.)

And here I am, six months later, thanking Jesus for letting me experience the pain of homesickness and the sinking feeling of seventeen years of familiar faces and places out of sight.

I thank Him. Because without knowing that pain, I could not comfort next year’s juniors, who come to me, glassy-eyed and homesick. I could not appreciate the place I came from and the childhood Jesus blessed me with. I could not be as thankful and joyful as I am in this moment. I would not be able to say “He held me during that time.”

And, guys, that is part of this joy. Not just to say, “Today I am okay” but to say “I am okay because He held me during that time.”

He held me during that time. And He will continue to hold me.

And I am so thankful.

– Mary Madeline

And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perserverance; perseverance, character; character, hope. – Romans 5:4

The poor and needy search for water, but there is none; their tongues are parched with thirst. But I the Lord will answer them; I, the God of Israel, will not forsake them. I will make rivers flow on barren heights, and springs within the valleys. I will turn the desert into pools of water, and the parched ground into springs. – Isaiah 41:17-18

Advertisements

see you later

As I type at 10:13 P.M., tears are beginning to form at the corners of my eyes.

Michael Hart, my youth minster, is moving.

This family has been more than a blessing in my life. Michael has been there since before I really began to understand the gospel and has guided me in my Christian walk more than I can put into words.

The way Michael loves the Lord is undeniable. He is always trying to put into practice real, genuine worship. When he prays, he really thinks about what he is praying and believes it. Michael has loved our youth group so well.  He has imagined with us, dreamed, prayed, cried, sang, laughed, worshiped, and has been raw with us.  He is so near and dear to our hearts.

Miriam, his wife, has been such a wonderful example of a woman of God.  She is sweet as they come, and even with two children under three, she always seems to have a joyful smile.  Her constant effort to make guest feel like family is so warming to my heart.  She is always willing to listen intently to what others have to say and gives incredible advice.

At first I was a little bitter.  Why did they want to leave, anyway? Were we not good enough? How silly of me.

God is calling this household.  That is more exciting than I can imagine.  God is calling him to leave and follow Him.  Jesus is commanding his family to take up their crosses and follow Him.  And their Protector will hold them under Himself every step of the way.  He will be their true Refuge.  He will show them redemption and joy and love through this.  What an adventure.

Paul wrote this to the Christian church in the city of Philippi:

Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. – Philippians 3:12-14

God calls us to look ahead at what he has planned.  There have been so many amazing things that have happened while the Harts have been here, and God is saying, “Press on, explore more of what I have in store for your life.”  We don’t literally have to forget the memories; what would be the point if we did?  But we can’t live in them.  If even greater things lie ahead, I am like a child on Christmas morning eager for it.  My heart yearns for the things that our Father has planned, and I am sure that the Harts feel the same way.

So thank you, Lord.  Thank you for the memories that have already happened.  Thank you for the ones that lie ahead.  I pray that the Harts feel You with them in every breath. I pray that whoever comes to take the position Michael leaves, that you will guide them.  That we will love them just as much.  That they will love us just as much as Michael has.   I have fallen in love with this family, and my prayer is that through this you will break our hearts a little more for you.

I could say goodbye, but that would bee quite incorrect.  Because really, in the body of Christ there are no real goodbyes.  We will all see each other again one day.

So to the Hart’s: I love you, and I’ll see you later.

as myself

I can’t decide whether I’m lucky or blessed.

I know that luck really is only imagination.  Luck is just a lie— everything is providence.

But I don’t think that “blessed” quite gives me the connotation I hope for when I think of how… well, lucky I am.

I sit in my little cozy room, watching the world outside through insulated glass windows.  I lay on my bed, reading The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and listen to God move some furniture upstairs.  And I can’t help but think: how lucky am I?

I imagine the sweet children of Uganda, huddled under a tree to gain shelter from the cold rain.  Their stomachs are sunken from hunger, and they are tired from walking, taking care of younger siblings, and constantly rummaging for food.  Their tired eyes close for just a second to rest, before a younger sibling pulls at their leg, scared, wanting comfort. They are lost, not geographically, but spiritually.  Where is their father?  Why is mother sick?  They don’t know what it feels like for their stomach to be satisfied.  They don’t know what real love is.

And my heart breaks for these children that I do not even know.  I have never been out of the country, or extremely out of what seems comfortable, what seems bearable. And I punch myself for being selfish, wanting a car.  I punch myself for wanting more, for throwing around the saying “I’m poor.”  How could I be so blind?  So ignorant?

This week in Sunday school, I heard something that I do not believe will leave my mind conscience for as long as I live.

When we begin to ignore God’s callings and commands, we become immune and hard-hearted towards situations and problems that should tear us apart.

When we choose ignorance over action, we loose feeling. When we choose to talk about it and not change it, we become immune.

I remember when my mom first told me about the children in Africa who did not have anything like I had.  She read me a book with pictures make me understand how lucky I was.

I was distraught. How could a child not have food? I mean, I got to choose my food.  And no parents?  That must be terrible.  I guess they didn’t have to make their bed, but I kind of liked my mom every now and then.  I then decided I had to help them.  I would give them some of my oranges. (I didn’t prefer those anyway.)

So, I heard more about these children, and I became immune.  I mean, there were a ton of them.  Okay, I get it.  And it wasn’t until I read Kisses from Katie (the book, this link is the blog), that God really began to open up my heart to these children again.  He reminded me that they were real.  They weren’t some made-up stories.  They really did live just thousand of miles away.

Let me get this straight– I have never been to see these children.  I have not been to Uganda or Sudan or Kenya.  And I do realize that there are a billion places that need ministry.  Everywhere, really.

But when I read this book, my heart was so torn for these places that I understood what it felt like to care again.

So no, I might not ever go to Africa (although I really hope to.)  And, yes I know that there are many other opportunities to serve our Father, including in my school, church, and home.  I will go wherever he calls. But I must say that I cannot ignore the situations, and I pray that when I hear of these things wherever— in South America, the USA, Russia, Asia, or even my school and hometown— that they tear me to pieces, that it bothers me.

It bothers me when my family hurts; it makes me upset to think about someone picking on my little brother.  When my best friend cries because things are not working out the way that seems right, you bet my heart aches.

Because that is love.

One of the teachers of the law came and heard them debating. Noticing that Jesus had given them a good answer, he asked him, “Of all the commandments, which is the most important?”  “The most important one,” answered Jesus, “is this:  ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.  The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.  There is no commandment greater than these.” – Mark 12:28-31

at the blocks

Here it comes again, God.

backstroke start

State Championships.

loo

And I am freaking out.

I know that my identity is found in you.  I know that you are my heart’s true desire.  But— oh, do I love to swim.  Do I love my friends and dropping time and freezing water and winning and racing.  And I know this season— probably this last few months have probably been a valley in my years swimming, but I want to have a joy and peace that passes all understanding at this meet.  I want to swim my heart out and enjoy people and love the downcast at the meet.  I want to ask you for strength this meet for racing, for cheering, for accepting things I can’t change.

swim

Thank you for letting me swim. Thank you for supportive parents, teammates, friends, and other swimmers.  Thank you for the happiness it brings, but let me realize that only you bring true joy.

Let your will be done.

I love you, Jesus.

“God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.  Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea,  though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging.” – Psalms 46:1-3

around the states and back

This is my first blog post in…. forever.

I apologize, although you have probably forgotten that I even blogged by now!

I do have an excuse for the last week and two days though:

VACATION BABY!

My family and I took a road-trip.  We traveled from my mom’s hometown of Beavercreek, Ohio to Niagara Falls to Boston to NYC then back to our sweet southern home.  Here’s some photography of our adventure:

https://i2.wp.com/distilleryimage7.s3.amazonaws.com/60d3dbf8d53811e2aeb522000a9f14e4_7.jpg

https://i0.wp.com/distilleryimage6.s3.amazonaws.com/6d44518cd53911e2be0d22000a9f14df_7.jpg

https://i2.wp.com/distilleryimage9.s3.amazonaws.com/bab6c9a0d53811e2adac22000a1fbe03_7.jpg

So there’s your in-sight of that.  It was AMAZING.

My eyes were so opened on the trip in so many ways. Here are two things that I learned.

#1) He loves us all.

Growing up in such a small town I guess I have had a small view of the world, but the more I looked at Boston and the Big Apple, the more apparent it became to me how much seven-billion people is.

It’s a lot.

As I pondered the immensity of seven billion (this is the estimated amount of people on Earth), I began to question…

Can God still love me as much? I mean… that’s a lot of love to give.

Does He still have time for me and my prayers and my family and my church? I mean… that’s a lot to have on one plate.

The answer is yes.

He answers, “Yes, child. Don’t you see?  I know you by name. I am love… never ending.  I don’t change because there are two or seventeen-trillion people in the world. I just keep giving love and never run out.”

See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God!  And that is what we are! – 1 John 3:1

#2) He loves us still.

The more I studied the city life, the more it became apparent the reality of the depth of our sin.  Rich people, wanting more.  Poor people, begging for a bite to eat.  Lost people, searching for hope. Rude people, holding in bitterness.

And so I begin to question again:

How can He love this nastiness?  We have turned from His perfection.  Why would he long for our dirtiness?

And again he answers me, “Daughter, I don’t long for your dirtiness. I want to clean you.  I hate your sin. I can’t even look at it.  But I long for the person I made you to be.  I long to love you and clothe you in a beautiful white robe and turn you into the selfless person I have called you to be.”

He saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life.- Titus 3:5-7

I will pray for the people who read this, and please pray for me that we all realize that we are loved beyond all measure and that we live a life worthy of the calling we have received.

-Mary Madeline

uganda, please

If you have talked to me in the last month, you probably have heard at least one comment about this amazingly impactful book that I have read: Kisses from Katie.

Let me tell you… I only thought I wanted to visit the impoverished parts of Africa.
After reading this… I know I want to visit these places at the least.

After consuming Radical by David Platt, I had to do some more research on this guy and what he had to say about Jesus’s teachings.  (Radical is an amazing book, please do read.) However, as I went looking for David Platt, I found an interview he was initiating with a young lady named Katie. 

After the first few sentences slipped through her lips, I was captivated. 

I’m only sixteen, but if I could go visit now, there would be nothing stopping me.

This girl… her life is a picture of the gospel. 

This is short, because if I started talking about the book, I would end up plagerizing.  Going to jail isn’t exactly on my to-do list.

But let me leave you with this to watch:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TY0YGrGZdR4

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jGyYsA62CxY

Now you tell me… is that not amazing, abandoning love?

open eyes

I could definitely say that my life has taken a U-turn in the last few months.  In March of 2012, I  went to St. Louis, Missouri with my youth group. I was expecting maybe an hour… stretching  to two hours of “Jesus-talk,” but mostly a “good time.”  Plans did not go as expected.  Each day was a crazy new adventure.  From the moment we woke up, we were committed to service.  Every day was an challenge to heal broken hearts, tend to the widow, love the homeless, give hope the hopeless.  Even if it meant raking leaves in the inner-city, or hanging out with homeless people.  And get this— we actually enjoyed it.  Together, we learned more about God and ourselves than we ever expected. We learned how dead we are to our sins.  But also, how jealous God is for hearts of sinners like us. We would stay up past midnight talking, singing, crying, praising, and laughing, only to wake up at 6:30 every morning. It was life-changing.  Not just changing lanes either, but totally different highways.

We could not keep it to ourselves.  Such love calls us to spread the news, and we couldn’t help but do exactly that!  We were on fire for Christ (and still are.)  It turned out, that we were actually dead to our sin.. BUT by God’s great mercy and love for sinners like us, he gave us eternal righteousness.  A newness of life, as long as we trusted Him with that life.

However, trusting Him with my life had alot more that met the eye.  Everyday, I discover how dirty I am. I discovered the selfishness of the human nature. But the more I notice my sin, the greater God’s grace looked.  It is breath-taking.  Such abounding, indelible love however, calls me to radical abandonment.  I cannot simply sit in the pue every Sunday morning, listen to the words, and not allow it to change who I am.

Such love calls me to serve others, to give something of myself.  To sacrifice.  It calls me to love others more than I love myself.  Everyday, I am challenge to deny myself, and take up the cross. (Luke 9:23)

And in that, I have never found greater joy.