Friday, December 7, 2007

My elf family

Hey sisters! And you brave men out there!

I don't have much time, because I'm writing a paper at Panera on my theology of corporate worship comparing my background and an 'unfamiliar' church. Try not to be jealous though, m'kay? :)

Anyway, my brain is scattered because I have so much I want to catch you up on! But for now, I'm thinking you really should love yourself and go read 1 Samuel 21 and 22. David is something to behold. I am hoping to get to expound upon it soon...but finals are beating down my door!

I have 3 papers to finish writing, and 2 finals - all due next Wednesday. Big nerd party huh?

Anyway, I thought this would make you laugh, and be a fun thing to do for any of your friends or family. I keep cracking up over it...particularly with my brother in his dancing tights :) Go here!

http://www.elfyourself.com/?id=1206960567

Monday, November 19, 2007

I'm alive...I think

Siestas and miestas,

I'll refrain from writing much, b/c I still don't make much sense to my own self, and I can't even type without having to hit 'delete' from the number of typos I keep making! BUT, I wanted to say hello, and let you know that I've been absent from blog world b/c I've been sick for about 2 weeks now. Booh for colds and booh for stomach viruses, especially when they come at the same time.

1) I've been sick.
2) I've slept a LOT.
3) I've slept a LOT.
4) Gatorade has become a dear friend again.
5) Nate is wonderful to me. We couldn't see each other over Thanksgiving as had originally planned, so he hopped on a plane last weekend to surprise me with a visit. The boy knows my love language is quality-time, and despite my low-energy state, he made the visit great.
5) I have 3 weeks before the semester ends to get all of my work done. (WAIT...Lemme go try not to fall out over that one. THREE WEEKS! Hmm...prayer for the sickly child who hasn't been able to do her work).
6) Snow fell this morning. I thought someone had spray painted an area of our driveway with white spray paint; I was so flustered that they didn't evenly distribute it (in my Type A Personality self). It was 70 back in GA. Can you tell I've never seen snow fall before? Yep...

Okay...I'm delirious. And done! Happy Turkey Day sweet sisters. Do take the time to reflect over the faithfulness of the Lord upon your lives this past year. It so overwhelmed me. He is such the One to be praised.
From Nate's visit:



Saturday, November 3, 2007

Set apart for The King

1 Samuel 8:4-20 “…they (the Israelites) said to him, “Behold, you (Samuel) have grown old, and your sons do not walk in your ways. Now appoint a king for us to judge us like all the nations. But the thing was displeasing in the sight of Samuel when they said, “Give us a king to judge us.’ … The LORD said to Samuel, “Listen to the voice of the people in regard to all that they say to you, for they have not rejected you, but they have rejected Me from being king over them…The people refused to listen to the voice of Samuel, and they said, “No, but there shall be a king over us, that we also may be like all the nations, that our king may judge us and go our before us and fight our battles.”

The dark period of the judges exuded a signal of hope when God raised Samuel as a prophet, priest, and judge. Samuel, though imperfect, was committed to keeping the ways of His Lord. Though Samuel was appointed as a mediator to the Israelites' true King, they began to plead for an earthly king. They begged for one to rule over them in order that they may “be like all the nations.” They wanted a judge, one to go before them, and someone to fight their battles. Samuel was no longer enough, and as they cast their glances of comparison at their enemy nations, they opted that they too needed a king.

In 1 Samuel 8:11 – 17, Samuel told them of the LORD's words regarding the negative repercussions that would follow from them gaining a king. What would it look like for the Israelites to have a king? Here are some of the things the LORD said: he will reign over you, he will take your sons and they will run before his chariots, he will take your daughters for perfumers and cooks and bakers, he will take the best of your fields, he will take a tenth of your seed, he will also take your male and female servants and use them for his work, he will take a tenth of your flocks, and you yourselves will become his servants.

“Then you will cry out in that day because of your king whom you have chosen for yourselves, but the LORD will not answer you in that day.” (1 Samuel 8:18)

In His permissive will, God allowed the Israelites to obtain that for which they wished. Samuel appointed a man named Saul as the earthly king over the Israelites. Saul failed to obey the commands of the Lord, missing the mark towards the victorious king for which the Israelites had hoped. Nonetheless, a system of earthly kings ruling over the people of Israel had been established. All the kings to follow would be unsuccessful in meeting the Israelites' hopeful expectations.

Even in the midst of the Israelites' plea, which was actually a rejection of Yahweh, God's glory is not reduced. He does not fight for His rightful lordship over His chosen ones, but sets the stage for the completion of the Gospel by using the lineage of the kingship that He permitted. For in the disobedience and failings of Saul and all future kings, the kingdom clock ticked to display one who would disrobe His divine kingly garment. And this One would be the fulfillment of all that the earthly kings lacked. Samuel was a prophet, priest, and judge. Christ is the fulfillment of the prophecies, the Great High Priest, and the Judge. Christ is King. Christ is Lord. Christ is Master. Christ does indeed judge, go before them, and fight their battles. And His glory is made known.

It seems dumbfounding that the Israelites would know ahead of time the harmful consequences (v. 11-17) of their getting the king for which they asked and yet still plead for one! They would lose sons and daughters to the king’s service, he would reign over them, and even they themselves would become his servants. Yet they continued to ask, thereby rejecting the LORD.

And yet, don’t we do the same sisters? Do we not knowingly sometimes reject the LORD as Lord over our lives, searching and pleading for another ‘king’ to rule over us? We want to be like “all the others” even though the God of the Universe has called you unto Himself, chosen you for Himself, and declared that He would be YOUR King (Ezekiel 37:27). He would be YOUR Deliverer (Romans 11:26). He WOULD lead you in triumphal procession (2 Cor. 2:14). He WOULD love you with an everlasting satisfying love.

Sisters, when we forsake the Kingship of the Lord over our lives, we are allowing another to rule over us. It is not that there is a void on the throne of our hearts. Someone or something takes reign. Sometimes it is a relationship, sometimes it is a materialistic goal, sometimes it is the hope of a future job, move, or image. Sometimes it is even ourselves. Sadly, it often takes us too long to see the sin that results. In our rejecting His Kingship, we will set ourselves up for loosing our 'sons and daughters and the ‘best’ of our income and goods' to the false king. In allowing an idol to reign, we have become its servants. The thing we think we are in control of, or have by the reigns, likely has us in its grips if it is anything less than the complete freeing rule of Jesus Christ.

Sister, I love you too much to share only the ‘feel-good’ truth of His Word with you. If you feel that the reign of your Lord is constricting over your life, then tell Him. I assure you He can handle it. But if you could dare put any weight in these words of a sinner saved by grace, then I need you to know that His laws of perfect liberty really do set you free. His Kingship is of a perfect Kingdom that endures, that wins, and that goes before all things. For in Him, all things hold together. He is all that you could ever ask or imagine.

You are not supposed to be “like all the others.” You are called to be set apart (1 Peter 2:9). Choose Christ for yourselves dear one. “For the LORD will not abandon His people on account of His great name, because the LORD has been pleased to make you a people for Himself.” (1 Samuel 12:22). I beg you not to miss the beauty and freedom of Christ as King over your life in exchange for another earthly king. He is pleased to make you His own. I believe wholeheartedly that He is pleased when you make Him your own. Beloved, go for it.

PS - If you want to know what's been going on in my life lately, and ensure that I haven't fallen into permanent osmosis with my Greek textbook, go here :) I love you all!

Greek by osmosis...or so I wish sometimes

My sweet sisters, misters, and favored lurkers

(Longest preface I think I’ve ever written: The first thing I want you to know is how much I ache in not being able to keep up with your lives, blogs, and hearts better than I have. The Lord has recently convicted me in my own lack of posting (because it is such a thing between He and I), so I am doing my best to honor His ways for me. I want you to know that if I ever get a spare second, I’ll do my best to stop by your blog. You are so important to me, and I really want to show that better than I have been able to. For now though, the best way I can let you know how important you are to me though is to honor Him through these posts!)

Okay, so forgive me for how lame I am about to be, but I’m going to have to use list-format to update y’all. (PS – Did y’all know that they allow the use of ‘y’all’ in Greek, and consider it to even be proper! I just knew I should not have been ashamed of my southern language! Lol).

I 1) I'm LOVING my classes. Did you get that? LOVING. My favorites right now are Greek and an introductory New Testament course. As for Greek, it is just the Lord’s grace that I enjoy it, because for as much time as I have to spend in it, I’d probably have to drop out of school if I didn’t like it! J The author of my textbook is William D. Mounce. I have often told Nate that he should know that I am seeing someone else other than him…because Dr. Mounce and I have regular dates! As for the New Testament class, I don’t even have words to describe to you how incredible this class is. I am either so overwhelmed that I can’t even make myself take notes, or I am so digging everything He’s saying that my hand hurts from trying to get it all down. Y’all should know that as emotionally wired as I may be, I’m not one to just cry all the time. But I end up in tears every stinking time I attend this class (Praise the Lord it’s only once a week). The Lord just so overwhelms me in it, I leave speechless and in awe of who He is.

2) 2) I started a nanny position with my roomie about 3 weeks ago. She watches the little boy who is almost two years old. And I keep the little girl who is about 9 weeks old now. We have lots of fun, and they are just a hoot, who continually keep us on our toes. Not to mention they’re about the cutest things ever.

3) I have never encountered the season of fall until now. I wish you ladies could have seen the display of His splendor in the gorgeous leaves up here. Breathtaking… The sun coming in my window wakes me up in the mornings, and there is this beautiful tree right outside with bright red and deep orange leaves. I’d stare out at it, squinting my eyes with the strong reflection of the sun’s rays bouncing off of the bright colors, feel that Jesus must love me an awful lot, and plop back down into my pillow (where I usually would then be running late for class).

4) Should we insert panic now? Because I kind of feel like I should. Can someone please explain to me how it is already the beginning of November!? I’m going to need someone to tell me how I am about 6 weeks away from completing my first semester here. And while you’re at it, if you’d like to help me do any of my work, that’d be just fine too!

5) And I’ll close with telling you spiritual mamas out there that Nate and I are doing really well. It’s not always easy being so far apart, but we’re just really trusting the waysM and timing of the Lord to keep us walking abundantly despite being away from one another. Sometimes he’s more pitiful. Sometimes I am. But we trust Him. And yes, he’s treating me as wonderfully as ever. He’s leading me, protecting me, and sending me flowers to come home to when I’ve been gone (and we know that’s always a good thing. Wink wink!).

I could go on and on, so I’ll stop and just show you some pictures of my life up here the past month or so! I love you dearly girlfriend.

Mandy and I


Stephanie (a friend from back home in GA), me, and Mandy in New Hampshire


Me, Natalie, and Teal (my roomie) at a 'Vine & Cheese' Party that our dorm hosted!

PS - Did y'all know I am about to have a fit over the wacky lay-out of this respective post. I don't know why it's got the funk. But I give up. Please pardon the awkward spacing for those of you who are Type A's out there!

Thursday, October 11, 2007

From Nate to you siestas, miestas, and all of the in betweens

My dearest blog moms, sis' and select men of extreme bravery! Please forgive me for taking so long to post. I have to admit that this is one of the more intimidating things that I've been honored to do knowing that I am quite literally blogging to ' a cloud of witnesses' that would most likely have no problem taking me to the woodshed if need be! I am profoundly grateful for you all!
It seems that often the things that most alter the course of our lives happen without warning! Looking back on these last few months, I'm certain that somewhere there was some kind of epic drum role or mighty blast of music that had something very particular to do with the collision of my life with hers. I don't know, perhaps it did happen right there in that arena in Boon, North Carolina and I was just too distracted to notice! To this day, there seems to be a little confusion as to how I ended up with Shelly E's number, but I do remember trying desperately to think up something very business like and official sounding so that I wouldn't have to explain further my desperate desire to get this beautiful girl's number. Well, at any rate by the grace of God my business partner and I ended up having lunch with Shelly and Abby. I remember being ecstatic at the fact that this little tiny southern bell wasn't even a little bit afraid of diving into some fried green tomatoes (Thank you Jesus!) I think we even ordered a second round! Through out the course of our conversation I remember trying very hard to figure out if this girl was actually for real! My life is inundated with people who are, in one way or another, involved in ministry and who have the church culture and spiritual lingo down to a science! This woman was clearly special!
Well, I have to confess that I had no problem finding repeated and very excellent excuses to 'do business' in Atlanta over the next couple of months!I found that the most thrilling thing about this woman is that she truly is in love with Jesus! I think that as a man one of the most terrifying things to face is that of the prospect of a failure of any kind really! As much as I would love to always be Shelly's hero, I have no illusion as to the permanence of my many frailties. I'm so thankful for a woman who allows herself to be adored by me while consistently running first to her Heavenly Father for the validation and fulfillment that only He can provide! Knowing this, I am so free to seek the Lord first as well! I have so much to learn about leading and in some areas haven't the faintest idea what on earth I'm supposed to do, but the deepest desire of my heart is to keep us both free to be everything that our Lord always intended us to be. I take such comfort in Psalms 118:13 - I was pushed hard , so that I was falling, but the Lord helped me! James 1:4 is such a challenge to me! 'And let steadfastness have it's full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.' My precious friends, what a joy it is to know that our Lord is so much less concerned with our own ability to grow our faith than He is in our simply choosing to reside in the certainty of the giant portion of His never ending faithfulness to us!
I guess that what I'm trying to say is that in spite of, in the midst of, all of my many failures and much frailty my Lord somehow has seen fit to show me His unreserved love in the most extraordinary of ways! Knowing this my deepest desire is to protect this woman and serve her in every way I know how.
I can't thank all of you enough for the love and support that you show Shelly! Thank you so much for your faithfulness to her!
nate

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

In the midst of it all...

Dear siestas and miestas,

(If you don't know what that means, I'll have to get back to you on another day). For some time now, I have had a hunger to sit down in this blog world with you and share a word I received out of 1 Samuel. I'm itching to get the beatings of my heart to translate themselves to the rhythmic pounding noise of the keys on my laptop. But as you can see, I have yet to do so. You have all been so gracious and patient with me in my lack of typing anything serious in blog world as I have adjusted to Boston, seminary, and relationships.

I think sometime soon in these next few days, I may actually type something about my Beloved Jesus again :) But you see, I am receiving that for which my heart yearned here in seminary: some good holy beatings, some major humbling, and the grateful awareness of the poverty of my spirit. I have said it in the initial days of my blog, and for those who are newcomers, I'll say it again: I want to handle the Word with accuracy and Truth. I have a BIG God who I adore more than anything on this earth, and a BIG God who is so holy and powerful that His Word causes us to tremble. So, out of both love and a holy fear, I do not want to speak of something which I know nothing about, or have not already been taught and brought through by my Greatest Teacher. Otherwise, I receive a holy beating straight from Him :)

If I were to walk in my flesh and all of its insecurities, I am sure that I would probably never open my mouth again to share with you the things His Words speaks to me (Our insecurities can be so self-absorbing and prideful can't they girlfriends?) But dependent upon His resurrection power, I assure you I will not keep me mouth closed upon the things which He has asked me to declare from one generation to the next...to speak of His praises, to declare who He is, to boast in Him.

By His sweet grace alone, I have fallen more in love with my Jesus. Somewhere in the midst of parsing new Greek words, somewhere in the midst of pronouncing Greek with a southern accent, somewhere in the midst of taking so many notes in a New Testament class that my hand hurts, somewhere in the midst of going to Starbucks at 6:30 am on MWF to study Greek with my roomie, and somewhere in the midst of many of my paradigms being shattered by more defined interpretation and application teachings, He has captured me - again. His life-giving Word catapults my heart upon the spiritual floor of always-necessary- humility. The more I seek to know Him, the more I realize how much I do not know. Apart from a few other thoughts, I am not sure that I could ask for anything better while here at seminary. For it has been an absolute joy to see that somewhere in the midst of this new craziness, He Himself is in my midst. Again, and again, I ask Him to balance the passions of our hearts with the passions of our minds for Him. So my God has quite the job on His hands with me: I'm an undeniable nerd, and a passionate extremist! :)

The One who is ever More, invites us to know Him. The One who is unsearchable, invites us to discover Him. And to the One who alone can satisfy, I beg that He may grant us a holy dissatisfaction with our current state, only to be given the passion to know and love Him more. He is all that your hearts could long for sweet friends. I am so jealous for you to have more of Him. Not because you do not have Him now, but because He is so much more.

On a lighter note, I invite you to a few recent quotes that have occurred in my life lately here as a seminarian:
1) My roomie (Teal) about 6 am one morning getting ready for our last minute cramming session for Greek before a big quiz: "Uhm...Girl...Do you think they'll drop the lowest quiz grade? (Pause) Or is that just the undergraduate in me?!" (Me = bent over laughing...)
2) Our Greek teaching assistant to one of my hysterical girlfriends in class: "What do you suggest we do with these multiple prepositional phrases here in the translation of this sentence?" (My friend's response) "Girl! I say just get rid of those things!" (My thoughts exactly...that would be less to translate for my confused mind!).
3) Same friend mentioned in #2 in reference to her viewpoint upon the women's role in leading, teaching, etc. We had just had a very intense, unbiased, and wonderful discussion about this in class. (Note: if you're not feeling a bit humorous today, maybe skip this one. OR if you think I'm going to present my stance - theologically - here - there's no need to look for that either).
I'll paraphrase: "Giiirrrrrrll. I mean, I do not have a problem with my soon-to-be husband taking the lead and responsibility to be the pastor of a church. I'm okay not being an ordained pastor. 'Cuz you know girl ... Eve, she went and got all messed up in the Garden. I know myself, and as soon as somebody come bringing me some fake Prada, I'll be all deceived thinking its real, and bring everybody else with me." (Have you ever heard the mention of Prada in the same sentence of defining the role of a woman in the church?! lol)

I love you each and miss you dearly. Nate has a post coming soon, so stay tuned (And for clarification: He's still not allowed on my blog - it is too much of my heart. But I have agreed to let him post a blog back to all of you sweet and hysterical spiritual sisters and mama's that posted on the last one. He will email it to me, and I will post it.)
Hugs ... and so much more

Friday, September 21, 2007

Ladies and Siestas: May I Present to You Nate Griffin...

Shelly has given me (Mandy) the privilege and honor, as BFF extraordinaire, to write this most embarrassing post introducing her mysterious “friend” to y’all. And, this is an honor indeed!

WHAT IS HE LIKE?
He is tall.
He is dark.
He is handsome.
And (be not afraid!) he does not read this blog!

He’s a missionary’s kid – grew up on “the bush” of Papua, New Guinea (seen End of the Spear?)… He’s traveled all over the world and has landed in Nashville working in “the industry” with a heart for THE Church worldwide.

He also has a heart for Shelly (but that’s not so surprising, now is it?)! He’s charming. And he very much wants to lead this relationship in a godly and healthy way.

WHAT DOES HE DO?

He’s co-owner of a rather unconventional, but highly successful, business in “the industry”. “G.I. Inc.” is a production company that produces live multimedia events ranging from concerts to conferences to films (that’s “the industry”). At the heart of this company is a desire to influence the resounding voices of our culture and the world at large. He’s incredibly talented and passionate, and jumps at the opportunity to serve the Church with the revenue and resources of his company. Interspersed among business trips are mission trips, secret meetings with persecuted pastors of East Asian house churches, and trips to see Shelly.

Nate loves the Word of God, and gushes at the fact that Shelly is in Seminary. (this is important, since she’s headstrong about finishing!) And, as an eye-witness, I can attest to the fact that he is SMITTEN. As he stated, when he’s around her he feels like a 5th grader who can’t find the right words to impress her. “She’s just amazing… amazing.”

[everyone say it with me: “awwwww… Bless his heart.”]

HOW’D THEY MEET?

Oh, y’all…. Oh, THIS is a story y’all are gonna die over!

They met in the Spring at a Beth Moore Conference. He’s on the production team for Beth’s events! (Many of you have already found him and introduced yourselves to him at the LPL events! Which - by the way - he’s amazed every time because y’all tell him you’re one of Shelly’s blog sisters…and that you’re blessed by this blog that he’s NOT allowed to read! LOL!)

Anyway, at a conference shortly after that, Shelly saw him and re-introduced herself to him… BUT, as Nate put it, he’d already seen this beautiful girl and wondered how-in-the-world he could find some way to strike up a conversation with her. Next thing he knows, she’s walking up to him saying “I know you.” From there, he devised a way to have her and her friend (Abby) eat lunch after the event. Then, he just needed to find a way to get her phone number… And after that, he found LOTS of excuses to do business in Atlanta over the next few months. Yes, he chased her hard – even driving 8 hours out of his way to be in St. Simons with her one weekend in early summer.

From there the relationship has consisted of a LOT of phone calls, emails, pictures, and laughs.

And a trip to Boston to see her:

At the harbor where the Boston Tea Party occurred

Christ Church in the city of Boston where Paul Revere signaled for the hanging of two lanterns (which was to inform that the British were arriving by land and not by sea).

Paul Revere's grave

Nate and Shelly

Paul Revere's house - built in 1680

The 'Old State House' - the oldest in the city, built to house the government offices of the MA Bay Colony

Ship in the Charlestown Navyard with the USS Constitution

USS Constitution

Nate and Shelly eating lunch in some extremely historical place that she has now forgotten the name of ... oopsies!

B/c she felt it only right to share the fact that he has to take pictures of her, with you...

It made them laugh!

A Ben Franklin statue is actually above their heads, but the man taking the photograph kind of missed that part! lol

In Manchester Bay...a beautiful bay town

Manchester Bay

WHAT DOES THE BFF THINK ABOUT ALL THIS?

I like him.

*Disclaimer: My dearest siestas, You should know that my face is terribly red upon reading this myself! So I had to include some pictures of our time in the city of Boston that weren't just Nate and I, but some of the things we really did enjoy. :) In case you could care less about the relationship of a 24 year old, you could always enjoy the tourist shout-out I'm giving to my new 'home.' :)

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

I'm fah'len for Bah'ston

My dearest (missed) siestas,

I'm so sorry I haven't had a chance to catch up with all of you this past week. We had our first full week of classes last week. And now I have a friend visiting until Thursday. So, if I'm not being a major Greek nerd, I'm being a major Bah-ston tourist. And I have good news: Jesus is giving me a love for this strange new city! In contrast, I have had my head so crammed with Greek this week, that it is beginning to hurt a bit. I had a heated discussion with the language recently, but we're reconciled now. So don't worry :) I have to tell y'all something though, and if it makes you feel like you need to pray for me, I'll understand. My bff (Mandy) and her hubbie were dying laughing at me because ... well ... I have Greek flashcards on my keyring. I'm for real y'all. And yes - I use them. But y'all, it lets me love Him more...I have to!

Anyway, I've got to get back to things. I'll leave with you just a few pictures, but I promise to give you a lot more on my next post. (I'm just a visual person that loves photos, don't you?). I can't wait to give you all a big blog hug in catching up with your lives this weekend.


In Starbucks studying today. And yes, those are my keys on the ledge behind me with the flash cards attached.

Being tourist in front of the Paul Revere statue. It was really cool.

See all of those signs pointing in the respective position for its street? Seriously, could you even begin to know which direction to go? My mind feels a bit like this still when I drive around here in this city :)
Love you girlfriends!

Sunday, September 9, 2007

A Seminarian's plea

My dear sweet Jesus,

I love you so much. I love who you are to me: my Father, my Portion, my King, the One who sustains me by His very Word. You are Life to me Lord. Thank you for being my Friend - for I fear that my southern accent has nearly scared everyone up here in New England away. Lord you know that I am not really an extrovert. So why is it that whenever I see someone that I haven't met yet, I have this compelling need to introduce myself with way too much passion. It really must be a bit overwhelming for them to try to interpret "Hey yaaaa'lllll. My name is Shelly! I'm from Geeaaoorgiaa!" Please help me not to hug the new girls that I meet (as we southerners do) and at least give them a little time to decide if they can stand me or not.

Lord how I thank you for the opportunity to learn. I am begging you Jesus to balance the passion of my heart for you with the passion of my mind. I ask never to trade knowing who You are for merely learning about You. Let no textbook, no discussion, and no professor minimize You as the Glorious One; may they only be vessels for which I fall more in love with You. May the academic equipping You have provided me with serve only as means to love and know You more. Anything else must be an overflow of You being my First Love.

I went to Greek class on Friday Lord. I know you saw me. I was very nervous. Downright petrified to be honest. I tried to dress cute to redeem my emotions, but it didn't help much. I've had my first chance to study since then Lord. Can I confess something to you? I loved it so much that I studied until midnight one night! Really Lord...You're going to have to help me not be such a nerd. So I don't know what to do. Today is my Sabbath, so I won't allow myself to study. But my heart is really breaking a bit to not be able to pick up some Greek flashcards. I saw this other student with some today and I kind of wanted to snatch them away from him so I could look at them. I'm guessing that when passion leads to stealing it's probably not a good idea huh? Please love me despite my nerdiness...I trust that You do.

And please help some of the young men here know that as much as I love Greek, the following doesn't exactly serve as the best pick-up line for me: "Hey, I can help you with your Greek anytime you may need it. Just let me know." The Jesus dork in my heart resonates with such, but I would prefer some chivalry instead...really... :)

It's cold here Lord. I wore a sweatshirt and jeans today, but it is only the beginning of September. Please let the cafeteria serve more cookies and cake...I'm going to need it to survive the winter time.

And Lord, I know that just here lately my heart has been so overwhelmed. Thank you for the privilege of constantly being aware of my depravity. It so keeps me in love with who You are and the promises over my life. I thank You that regardless of whether or not my circumstances change, You remain. I am surrounded by new friends, a new climate, and new academics. The young man didn't understand me when I told him I wanted the 'fried chicken' option at lunch. And then I had to hold back the tears a bit that their fried chicken wasn't exactly like GA fried chicken. (Bless them!). Some young man was also saying the word "ruf" the other day...it took me a while to figure out that he was referring to the "roof." (Bless them!). I still say 'yes mam' and 'no sir.' If that is not okay with them, bless them. And for all the changing/molding that You are doing even now in my heart and mind, bless me!

You are the One whom my soul loves...


One of my girlfriends, Shaney, and I. She went to UGA, but I don't hold it against her :)


My roomie (Teal) and I being dorks under a big bell on another college campus :) Y'all, she is the coolest and I love her.

Sunday, September 2, 2007

For the joy set before you

"Why do you scorn my sacrifice and offering that I prescribed for my dwelling? Why do you honor your sons more than me by fattening yourselves on the choice parts of every offering made by my people Israel?" 1 Samuel 2:29

Hophni and Phinehas, sons of the priest Eli, were wicked men with no regard for the LORD (vs. 12). Whenever a man of Israel came to offer a sacrifice unto the LORD, the two sons demanded the choicest part of the offering for themselves, and threatened to take it by force if it was not given to them. Rather than let the fat of the sacrifice be offered first, as commanded (Leviticus), they required it for themselves. "This sin of the young men was very great in the LORD's sight, for they were treating the LORD's offering with contempt." (vs. 17). Additionally, the two brothers were sleeping with the women who served at the entrance to the Tent of Meeting (vs. 22).

The father Eli provided only a verbal rebuke to his two sons (vs. 23-35) and disregarded the laws in Leviticus that prescribed the consequences for such rebellious sons. The LORD asked Eli why he scorned the sacrifice and offering that He had prescribed for His dwelling.
"Why do you honor your sons more than me by fattening yourselves on the choice parts of every offering...?"

If I were a parent, I'd probably start pointing my finger at the parental faults of Eli here. However, I am not. And I've told you ladies that I could not and would not speak upon something of which the LORD had not already brought me through, or taught me. So, I'll let you contend with that one for me :)

My heart has been attached to this part of the verse: "
choice parts of every offering." The two sons demanded the first part of the offering, the best portion, for themselves. And I ached. I ached for the occasions in which I have demanded, and sometimes even kept by force, the choice part of my offering from the LORD. (Is it really even an offering unto Him at that point? Surely not). I ached for the moments when I deceived myself into thinking that the 'choice' part of the offering God had called forth from my life actually belonged to me. What ownership do I have over anything? None.

The KJV rendering actually poses the question in this form: "Why do you kick
at My sacrifice and at My offering..." To 'kick' here means 'to trample down.'

Have I not at some point participated in the same kicking session that Hophni and Phinehas have? Have I not trampled upon the altar of God with my demands to keep what I believed belonged to me?

Have we not clung tightly to the 'best' portion of our offering, pridefully convincing ourselves that what we did offer to Him was enough? Have we not allowed the sin of unbelief to inhibit us from offering our all to Him, believing that if we did, it wouldn't be for our own good?

Even more, as the sons slept with the women outside of the Tent of Meeting, have I not spiritually prostituted myself to another god en route to my sacrifice? The god of self undoubtedly was an idol that kept me from offering my choicest parts.
I have done as the father Eli: honoring myself above Him, "fattening myself with the choice parts of the offering".

I am not here to bring a spirit of condemnation against you ladies. I am only claiming that I have worn a Hophni, Phinehas, and Eli name tag during moments of my life, and it has cost me far more than what the 'cost' of the offering would have. And I don't want that for you.

Because you see, when you get the privilege of gaining more of Christ Jesus, the 'cost' of offering the choice part of the sacrifice is really no cost at all. When the Lord asks you to sacrifice something unto Him, He wholly consumes it. (Leviticus 9:24). He knows what your heart has had to lay upon that altar. But do you know the One who consumes it? Do you grasp that anything He has asked you to lay down has been for a greater gain for His glory and your life? Can you comprehend that one of the greatest blessings in the offering is the possibility of 'simply' getting to know and love Him more?

"
Why do you scorn my sacrifice and offering that I prescribed for my dwelling," the LORD asked Eli. And yet ultimately, the sacrifice and offering of the very indwelling form of God, made man, had to be scorned, kicked, and crucified. Our LORD did not keep for Himself the choice part of the offering - He gave it all: His Firstborn, the One and Only, His Son. "For the joy set before him, He endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God (Hebrews 12:2)." He knew that a greater joy awaited His obedience to His Father's will. It is the same for you siestas. He Himself is the exceedingly great Reward (Genesis 15:1). Where there is a sacrifice of death to something in your life, there is always resurrection power on the other side.

May we cease kicking at the altar of our hearts with our self-exalting 'sacrifices.' May we identify the lie that if we gave Him the 'choice' part of the offering, we would be left with less. He Himself is the joy set before you. Sweet sister, He is a for you God that is willing to give you all of Himself in place of that which was offered. Grab hold of the nail-scarred hand of your Father. What more could we ask for?

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Hi, my name is blondie

Siestas, ladies, gentlemen, and fellow-lurkers,

Let me invite you into my mental state and life right now. In case you haven't figured this out by now, I'm a nerd at heart. Which means, bless me, I tend to not be the sharpest box in the crayon when it comes to common sense. I love biochemistry, but couldn't tell you how to convert a basic measurement if my life depended on it. It's pitiful...really pitiful. So, this is my first Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary 'I am a first year student' embarrassing moment. You know the kind where you dream you've fallen down the classroom stairs or walked into the wrong room on the 1st day? Well, classes haven't even started, and 'blondie' here has managed to start the season of embarrassing first year moments.
It went something like this:
On my first day here, I received this to be able to access my dormitory room:

Yes. That's right. The 2 keys, the plastic item that says 'To Mailroom: Return to Campus Police," and the key ring which they were both on.
I have spent much of my time the last day and a half getting lost while trying to find this room or that room that I needed to sign this form or that form in. I have dropped off paperwork, picked up paperwork, and gone to and fro through the office buildings of this campus. So, on my 'to-do' list today was to kindly return this little plastic item on my key ring as it had so kindly suggested. I was a little confused if I was to take it to the Mailroom or our Campus Police seeing as that is where it seemed it would eventually be returned to. Soooo, I decided to be the nice girl that I am and save the sweet Mailroom employees the hassle of having to send it to the Campus Police (that just didn't make much sense to me anyway).

Off I go to return this plastic item to the Campus Security Office. Bummer...their office is closed. Oh well, I can just go back to the Mailroom and turn it in to the two sweet young men down there.

I return back to the Mailroom where I've already made my 1st year self obvious seeing as I had to ask them where the outgoing mail drop box was. And here is where it got worse (in case you haven't gotten it at this point).

Me: (in my nicest Southern charm demeanor because it's about all I have left at this point): Uhmm....Excuse me sir, I think I'm supposed to turn this into you. I...uh...guess y'all need them because it says "To Mailroom" on them here (points to the plastic item).

This is how I have walked up to this Mailroom Man. With this in my hand...
Young Mailroom man: (takes the plastic item from my hand and starts rotating it in his hands a bit)....(stares back at me a little confused).
Me: (not sure why he looks so bewieldered....hmm....)
Me:Oh! Sir, I'm so sorry. Mmm...You probably want the key-ring that the plastic item was on too don't you?! (begins to work on removing the key ring from the other set of key rings I have). I'm so sorry.
Young Mailroom man: (now just staring back at me trying to understand). What????
Me: (he's clearly confused) You see sir, I received this (holds up the key ring paired with the 2 keys and plastic item) the 1st day that I got here so I could move into my dorm! But I've moved in now almost and figured I should return to you the plastic item as it says 'To Mailroom' on it and it makes sense for you to have the key ring too! Give me just a second to finish getting it off my other ring, it's no problem!
Young Mailroom man's buddy who's been listening walks up by this point because clearly I'm creating a scene...
Young Mailroom man:
(in his most nice voice) "Uhm...well...You see...I think that - uh - you actually keep that on your key ring - in case - you ever loose your keys. Because then they'll just - be returned - 'To the Mailroom' - and the Campus Security can uh - get them back to you."
Me: (then immediately realizing the purpose of the plastic item on my keyring and feeling the heat of embarrassment come to my face). Ohh... (barely making eye contact now) Riiiight. M'kay. Yes. That would make sense. Well, clearly I have just experienced my first year new student embarrassing moment for the week, so please be sure to tell your buddies because I am sure it would really be worth laughing over. (turns and quickly leaves the room).

All the southern charm in the world couldn't redeem this 'blonde' moment. I went and told my bff Mandy immediately after it happened. After we had nearly fallen on the floor from laughing, she said "Shelly! That is the stupidiest thing I have ever heard!" LOL...I think I have to agree.

So now you know why I have yet to post anything about my word from the Lord here lately. I would be the biggest stumbling block to His voice in this current mental state that I'm in, I am sure that I would be citing the NT when I would need to be citing the OT and I would leave everyone in a tizzy! Here's to seeking Him first straight through His living and active Word; Here's to the incredible mind-blowing privilege of sitting before Him and waiting for Him to speak without reading about Him through another's words. Go to Him siestas - He is sitting right in front of you :)

I'll get back with you soon. When I can remember to use an umbrella during the rain outside :)

Monday, August 27, 2007

Dorm rooms, finished travels, and LPL

My siesta prayer warriors,

This will hopefully be the last of my blog posts about my transitioning to South Hamilton, MA, but I thought it only fitting to close with a few more pictures. I cannot believe that the Lord would allow me the blessing of having you on my 22+ hour journey drive here through your divine prayers. I am forever marked by your gracious hearts towards me.

I have found internet access, so will return to you in the next few days with some Jesus :) But for now, I wanted to let those of you who had asked, know how I was doing.

1) I was an absolute vegetable all day yesterday. I needed it in a desperate way though. If I sat still for more than 5 minutes without anyone talking to me, I was going to be on my way to a la-la nap land in no time.
3) It's 75 degrees here today and I feel like I need on jeans and a fleece. Seriously...I've been used to weather above the 100's lately, so this feels cold! Bless me! If anyone has any winter items/shoes/clothing that they care to get rid of, I will gladly take them off your hands. I'm going to have to redo this GA wardrobe I've got.
4) The walls of my dormitory room are so naked it makes me want to cry. I haven't had a chance to unpack yet, and even when I do, I'm not going to find any wall decorations unless Jesus threw some in my bags when I wasn't looking!
5) I keep looking up when people walk by me. And then I remember that I'm not going to recognize any of them, so I emotionally rock between getting the giggles at myself, or getting sad.
6) One of the girls left me a note saying that she had "moved my pop" to another refrigerator. I just stared at it for about 30 seconds trying to figure out what in the world "pop" was. Ooohhhh yea. (Sigh...doesn't she know that everything is called 'Coke.')
7) I met the president's wife of the school my first morning here, which was the sweetest and coolest thing ever. Except for that whole factor of my not having showered yet, still in my pj's, groggy demeanor, stumbling down the stairs, and trying to remember what state I was in at the moment (I'd been through 10 different states in the past 48 hours - it was only fair.) Yea...it was a 'cool' moment for sure. lol
I end with these:

This was one of the three moments of my drive where I sat in traffic for a very long time. I thought this was hysterical. Clearly, you can see that we weren't moving very fast since the sign wasn't even picking up our speed. I think I was hitting 5 mph every once in a while on this one. I applaud their sign efforts for trying.

I got to meet a fellow blogging sister at the RI LPL conference - Darla! How much fun is that!? She and her 15 year old daughter have been two of the many prayer siestas for me, and it was nice to at least be able to hug one of them in person and say 'thank you.'

Sarah, Mandy, and me at the RI LPL

Y'all. This little fellow (praying mantus) was on top of my car when I was leaving Hartford, CT for my last 3.5 hours of driving. I just stared at him, and stood in humbled shock over my sweet Jesus. I knew He was being my Rear Guard. And I know I had the covering of all of your prayers on this new upcoming season. I do not doubt that He was trying to make me smile and give Him His due praise that last morning. So of course I clapped for Him. I 'ooh'ed' and 'awe'd' over my dear Jesus, and felt the lump in my throat over thinking about His visual reminder of the sacrifice of your prayers for me. Know that He loves you dearly - He wanted to give you a praying mantus to say thank you :)

Sunday, August 26, 2007

22 hours later

I'm here in South Hamilton, MA...finally.

I'm tired.

I'm not fully mentally alert.

My heart is full.

Everything is terribly unfamiliar.

I had to hold back tears at my 1st meal in MA because I realized I could no longer order sweet tea.

And I am already very aware that I am going to get to know my Jesus in ways never before imagined...

Love you siestas...I'll post more soon.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Bah-ston

Edited with Day I AND DAY II below:
Sweet siestas,
Why the Lord would bless me with the spiritual sisters that you have become to me leaves me humbled on the floor. It is the least I could do to give you a brief update before I leave tomorrow!
The life of Shelly Bland lately:
1) If I have to tell one more individual 'goodbye,' I honestly don't know that I am going to make it. The words would probably refuse to leave my mouth. I don't like goodbye's. My El Olam has set eternity in my heart, and it's just stinking hard. So, if you need to tell me 'goodbye' anytime soon, I probably will run in the other direction and start making weird noises of denial!
2) I am leaving tomorrow morning sometime (aka - as soon as I can manage to get myself out of bed, load up the car, and get to the nearest Starbucks.)
3) I sat outside with my doggies tonight. My feet touched the newly cut grass, I was staring up at the stars, and I had on shorts and a t-shirt. I then got this disturbing ache in my heart when I realized I would not be able to do this when I got to Boston. Well, actually, I think I got a little mad too. I am already going to be having to put on long sleeve shirts and toss my flip-flops aside when I get there. People, I think 60 degrees is cold. No joke. It is going to be just as much of a miracle for me to survive the cold as it has been for my Jehovah-Jireh to financially get me there. Lord bless me!
4) I am actually driving to Providence, RI before I get to Boston, MA (they're not very far from one another). Mandy and one of her seminary buddies are meeting me in Providence for a LPL event. Being with some siestas, praising Jesus, and being in the Word - seriously - what better way to start off my semester?
5) I have had so many people lovingly tell me to 'be safe,' 'drive safe,' etc. that I am just about moved to tears over it. Either that, or I'm a bad driver and they are concerned for any human being that will be on the I-95 path from Georgia to Massachusetts in these following days :)
6) I have done the essentials before I left home: got my nails done (thanks to gift certificates), eaten at every possible restaurant I could fit into these 5 days (thanks Mom),and gone to the beach. This tan has to last me for uh...err...3 years, so I decided I should probably go :)
7) I have more laundry to do, things to pack, and it's almost 11 pm. Shh! Don't tell my Mom. She's got enough Mama anxiety knowing that her baby girl is going to be driving to Boston by herself in these next few days and she would probably have a Mama fit if she knew I were still up. So, because I love myself and I don't want to be drooling on my steering wheel tomorrow, I'm signing off. My heart is full. My mind is full. And I am so looking forward to my first hotel night. I am hoping it will have internet and I can talk more about Jesus with you sweet women instead of my traveling agendas! lol
Always a Georgia Peach
DAY I


This was my first state line I crossed. I thought I could keep myself entertained by taking photos of the rest of them. However, when I crossed the North Carolina one, the sandwich I was stuffing in my mouth inhibited me from grabbing the camera at my 70 mph speed and snapping it. So this is all I have! The rest of the state lines that I crossed, I did so on back roads, so I missed out on the fun signs :(

I really wanted to be this guy's new bff, but we had to part ways. I'm sure that we could've been good friends though.


Y'all. I pulled over at some random exit in SC, and saw THIS roller coaster at a park. I just nearly died. In case you didn't know this, I LOVE roller coasters. It was all I could do to make myself get back in the car. I really considered that 3 hours at the park would be just fine. But then I remembered the 17+ hours I had left to drive. So I pouted just a little bit and got back in the car like a big girl.

I spent many hours driving along the Blue Ridge Mountain path and I have been completely breathless at the beauty of His majesty displayed in creation. Clearly, my picture through my window at 70 mph doesn't do justice...but girls! If you could've just seen the way His sun beams danced and cascaded over the pines on the mountains. He stole my breathe away...again.
Too many hours in the car could, theoretically speaking, also cause one to:
1) Use bath foam mistakenly as lip balm and wonder what the intense lip-plumping (err...burning) sensation must be.
2) Talk to, and then began answering, oneself.
3) Make one think they sing just as well Darlene Zschech or Nichole Nordeman.
4) Cause one to be engaged in a new form of walking known to be similar to that of the Tin Man or your friendly penguin.
5) Beat one's head against the steering wheel at the gigantic size of the state of Virginia.
And PS - I have felt your prayers ladies. Seriously...I have thought about it almost every hour that I've been on the road today. I have been amazed at the thickness of His presence He has allowed me to feel and I know it is because of you. From a humbled and grateful heart, thank you...thank you sweet siestas.

DAY II
1) Well ladies, I've made it to Connecticut tonight and am about 2 hours from where I need to be tomorrow in Rhode Island for the LPL conference.
2) I was speaking with a couple of friends earlier and told them how much I felt your prayers and the thickness of His presence guarding my coming forth and going out.
3) So...THANK YOU! Thank you so very much. I have just smiled back at my Jesus multiple times today telling Him how much I love the adventure. And how humbled I am to get to be blessed by the obedience of your hearts. It leaves me overwhelmed.
4) Y'all. I need to confess something. I stopped in a total of 4 (or was it 5) Cracker Barrel restaurants today. It's not that I'm obsessed, it's just that I know that there are none in Boston and I was really trying to hang on to the thought of lima beans, chicken & dumplins, and corn bread for as long as I could. I knew when I reached one in northern Pennsylvania (near NY)that I needed to take my heavy heart to the Lord because the atmosphere had changed. I wasn't sure if I could order sweet tea, or if they would look at me funny if I said 'mam.' I bought some Buckeye chocolates for fear that I wouldn't get them again for a long time, and returned to my car (aka - looney bin by this point in the drive). I took a deep holy spirit breathe, lifted my head to the heavenlies, and told Jesus I was ready to embrace the northern part of the Mason-Dixie line :)
5) My weary body is telling me to go to bed. So I am :) I'll be at a LPL conference until Saturday, and moving in my dorm after that in Boston.

I love you dearly siestas. Jesus has captured my heart with a love for you and I cannot wait to get connected with you in the spirit again soon. Thank you for your grace over my life in my not being able to post anything about His Word to me lately. Keep seeking Him siestas. He Himself is the Greatest Reward. Hugs

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Getting my feet wet

"The priests will carry the ark of the Lord. He's the Lord of the whole earth. As soon as the priests step into the Jordan, it will stop flowing. The water that's coming down the river will pile up in one place. That's how you will know that the living God is among you. So the people took their tents down. They prepared to go across the Jordan River. The priests who were carrying the ark of the covenant went ahead of them. The water of the Jordan was going over its banks. It always does that at the time the crops are being gathered. The priests came to the river. Their feet touched the water's edge. 16 Right away the water that was coming down the river stopped flowing. It piled up far away at a town called Adam near Zarethan. The water that was flowing down to the Dead Sea was completely cut off. So the people went across the Jordan River opposite Jericho."

Dear precious sisters,

I hate that I can't be as involved in blog-land right now as much as I normally am, but moving is keeping me busy! And when I'm not busy, I need to be with my Jesus! I arrived home (where there's very limited internet access), and have been catching up with friends and family for more 'goodbye's.' My car is packed, bulging at the seams, and I am intending to leave for Boston this upcoming Wednesday.

In the past 48 hours, I have had two dear couples bless me financially (and love me), and received a letter from my Atlanta home-church (Northpoint Community Church) explaining to me that they have accepted my request for seminary assistance to help with my tuition. I sat on my floor, so overwhelmed, that the only emotional expression that decided to express itself was that of tears. I wept like a little girl. Wept - and my two small doggies came to make sure I was okay and help clean up the tears. The thought that the Lord would use others' obedience to bless me has knocked me off my feet and made me fall in love all over again with my Heavenly Father. I do not deserve one iota of His blessing or grace. But I never have. And yet He comes whispering His love to me - again, and again, and again. Girls - He is just too much for me. He is too much. But I love Him for that. I love that He is the unending 'more' for which my soul cries out.

Financially, I am still far from even being able to buy textbooks. (I wonder if they're really necessary anyway? Hehe. I'm kidding!) But I am still feeling the Lord calling me to step foot into my 'Jordan River', and watch Him part it. As New Testament priests (1 Peter 2:9) who carry the very Presence of Christ inside of us (Col. 1:27) , you and I are called to step out in faith to get our feet wet before He'll act sometimes.

So I'm standing on the banks. The heat is a little intense. The crowd behind me with whom I've said goodbye is mixed: some are cheering me on, some are thinking I've probably lost my mind. (Praise the Lord I have...I needed the mind of Christ in a desperate way!). And the waters are roaring a little ahead of me. Oh, but the hope of His glory (Col. 1:27). The privilege I have to lift up one foot, and then another, trusting that He will part the seas. Because then my sweet sister, I get to take another step, and another step until my feet start splashing into a dance of praise for the only One who would have been Able.

I have been moved to tears at each of your prayers, blessings, encouragements, and caring questions over this next step of faith. I hear your loud cheers ringing in the Heavenlies. And I cannot wait for you to get your feet splashing in praise with me in just a few short days. I trust my Jehovah Jireh to provide all that I need. For He is the "living God is among us..."


I had dinner tonight with some friends that I've known since elementary school. I'm thankful that these friendships will never really be a 'goodbye!'

Monday, August 13, 2007

Leaving my Atlanta loves

Can I get away with telling you about my entire weekend through a series of photos? Because that's the only possible way I can catch you siestas up on this journey! Know that my brief blogging disappearance was a result of this being my last weekend here in Atlanta (aka - need to be party). Since Friday, you could have found me: at a pre-conference Women of Faith day with Beth and squealing over getting to meet some blogger friends, shopping, eating Maggiano's, and 3 different going away dinners, and soaking up as much Chaput family time as I could before leaving. My weekend photo album:

I met these two precious women months prior in Boone, NC. They ended up being seated right behind me! I jumped up and down when I got to hug their necks again. God had so knitted our hearts together...
My Carole and the necessary cup of Starbucks required for all LPL events. Words don't come close to the unspeakable privilege I have had to sit at her feet in the Lord.

Y'all! Jennyhope and I got to meet up and sit next to one another! And, darling Emmy found us too! They were true siestas indeed - hugging and talking like we'd been long lost friends. And if you're looking for notes on Beth's teaching, give Jenny a big shout-out and go here. Did I mention that Beyonce Knowles sat right next to Jenny and I too? Okay, well...not really. But the lyrics "You must not know about me" from her song Irreplaceable started playing as the woman's cell phone ringer in the middle of Beth's teaching, and it was all Jenny and I could do to keep from slap out falling in the floor with the giggles.

And you have to have at least one non-blogging friend with you right? Because otherwise people might think I only have imaginary friends (from the www). Krissy is the real deal :)

Travis, Travis, myself and Nate at lunch, because everyone should have Maggiano's before they leave Atlanta.

Going-away dinner at Casa Grande (because I'm a bit of a chips/salsa addict).

Going away dinner at one of my favorite pizza joints - Fellini's

Top: Birthday party and all the girls. Bottom: the Chaput boys who steal my heart everyday

I will miss you all...
And PS - For those who asked, I'm still awaiting a withdrawal from the spiritual bank regarding seminary. I'll keep you posted! Countdown is about a week and a half! :)

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Call me Bitter?

"She said to them, "Do not call me Naomi, call me Mara, for the Almighty has dealt very bitterly with me." Ruth 1:20

Ruth has just lost her husband and two sons. (See Ruth 1:1-22 for the context of this story). Surely, if anyone has reason to be a little bitter, it would be Ruth. Yet we are commanded to keep a root of bitterness from springing up, causing trouble, and defiling many (Hebrews 12:15, etc.). Note that it defiles many. It is not merely a 'Pity Party for one please!,' but others in our lives are inevitably affected by our sin.

Naomi pleads with the residents of Bethlehem to call her Mara, meaning 'bitter.' Can't you just hear it? 'Just call me Ms. Bitter!' Sounds a little rough doesn't it? And somewhere, covered in the web of insecurities and unmet expectations over our hearts, I believe we may have whispered the same plea for a name-change. Oh sure, we may not have sent all of our friends an email asking for them to please change their address books to match our new name, but the cry of self-pity could be there nonetheless.

Naomi's heart touches a tender area of my own. I've not lost much in comparison to countless others, but I know what it's like to have joined in the suffering. My beloved Dad passed away when I was 20, our material possessions were depleted, and even now, someone I love dearly is facing extended jail charges. And my heart aches. It aches for the loss, while it simultaneously swells with anticipation because I know that I have the opportunity to know my Lord more.

Naomi continues, saying, "I went out full, but the LORD has brought me back empty. Why do you call me Naomi, since the LORD has witnessed against me and the Almighty has afflicted me?" (Sigh ... ). Our finite minds distort our vision. Our limited concepts of the Holy One paralyze us.

Have we not all in some manner, at some point, been a Naomi? We stay fixated on our specific 'loss' so long that we are blind to the 'gain' offered in Christ. We mope, pout, and keep our arms crossed at the foot of the cross in outright anger at the One who has seemingly "brought us back empty" and "afflicted."

Please
hear me. There is a season, even a long one sometimes, where you are meant to count your losses. You cannot wholly discover your 'gain' until you face, embrace, and have a girlie mourning fit and hiatus over what is 'not' anymore. There is nothing healthier than crying out to your Father at times.

But, when you refuse to go through the process of counting your loss, He cannot direct your wounded heart to the Truth of Himself. If all we gained in our loss was more of Christ, I promise you sister, He would be enough (Ps. 63:5)

Who do you say that you are? Maybe a more eye opening question is the following: who do you desire others to acknowledge you to be out of self-pity, self-protection, self-importance, self-loathing and more? Can I be brutally honest with some of the name games I think we women play?
  • Do not call me (insert name), call me afflicted one. (Girls, you need to know that if you sit in the sympathy pit with someone past the God-appointed time, you could be enabling them to stay there and hindering them from 'taking up their mat to walk' again!)
  • Do not call me (insert name), call me not skinny. (Because when we finally get that boyfriend, husband, or friend to agree to our thoughts that we aren't as 'thin' as we may desire to be, we can then lash out in anger over our physical insecurities. All the while the LORD has been begging you to open your eyes to the most beautiful creation He has ever made - you. Psalm 139).
  • Do not call me (insert name), call me unworthy or unable. (Once we've believed the lies that we aren't good enough, we accept the accusations of the enemy. Thus, the next time we fall into that sin again, we hear the enemy say 'I told you so,' and we nod shamefully, in agreement. Then, we permit ourselves to live in the vicious cycle of defeating strongholds, excusing ourselves from repentance or the seeking of victory, because remember, we are unworthy to even try to be different, or considered able to be anything but what we are in our flesh.)
  • Do not call me accepted, call me rejected. (He has made us accepted in the beloved. Ephesians 1:6).
  • Do not call me called of God, call me useless. (But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. 1 Peter 2:9).
What is it sisters that keeps us going around to others with our empty cups, seeking their approval or rejection to confirm what we already may think about ourselves? Quite possibly, it may be fear, pride, or false humility. Because if we are not the afflicted, non-skinny, unworthy, rejected, or useless ones that we may feel to be, we have to accept the Truth that we are disciplined out of His love, beautifully created, worthy, accepted, and chosen children of the Most High God. Can you receive that? Because you must. Do you have the courage to actively walk in the person He has already named you?

God shouts His names of love for you throughout the entirety of the Old Testament and the New. He displays it from the beginning of creation with a 'very good' all the way to His merciful redemption on the cross. You are who you are because of Him. To deny who you are, is to deny who He is. Next time you have a Naomi occasion, take your validly wounded heart to your Great Physician. And ask Him who you are. I suspect if you ask Him to please not call you 'such and such,' He will stoop down, impress His nail-scarred hand upon your bleeding heart, and gently remind you of your identity - His beloved, and the apple of His eye.

Count your losses. Weep. Cry. Give heed to the brokenness. But do not let your circumstances define who you are. Your El Shaddai calls you by a name rooted in His unconditional love for you. You bear the Name above every name - that of Christ - and nothing could be more wonderful...

Do not call me bitter, He calls me blessed.
Do not call me unclean, He calls me holy.
Do not call me not good enough, He calls me more than able.
Do not call me victim, He calls me victorious.
And do not call me unlovely, He calls me beautiful.

I love you girls. And I know the God of the Universe loves you with an even more tenacious love of perfection. He desires you to believe Him about who you are.

PS - Danny, Carole's sweet dog, refused to leave me alone during my Bible study time. He kept plopping on top of it while I was trying to read. Apparently, He has a heart for the Word. I mean really; He was fighting to get Himself on top of those pages. I finally got up and decided to capture the moment!