Monthly Archives: August 2013

Sweet Surrender

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On August 24, I will begin my freshman year at Trinity Bible College in North Dakota.  That is a deceptively simple statement, because the way I came to be saying that was not so simple.

Fall 2012 US road trip -- yeah, we look tired, but we're happy to be together!

Fall 2012 US road trip — yeah, we look tired, but we’re happy to be together!

I love my family, and I love being at home.  Even my own brother calls me a “homebody.”  I was homeschooled my entire life, and have never, ever been in a classroom or a “regular” school as a student.  (And no, I do not believe that I have missed out on any important life experience.)  If I ever got sassy or lackadaisical about doing my homework, my parents would threaten to send me to public school, at which I would burst into tears and beg not to be sent to school.  (That was the worst punishment I could imagine receiving.)

Silly time!

Being so great a “homebody,” then, the idea of doing college via correspondence was very attractive.  I’d heard of a wonderful online program through Liberty University in Virginia.  I wouldn’t need to leave my missionary family in Kenya to go to some college in some place in the United States where I had never been.  Instead, I could stay home and take care of my baby sister and my Yorkie, spending my free hours cooking and caring for my family.  I am already very good at learning at home – I always get good grades and am quite capable of managing my own time in order to accomplish whatever I need to do.  It sounded so safe and so certain; it sounded familiar….So that was what I should do, right?

I spent months praying about it but had received no “thus sayeth the Lord.”  I had no peace about my “decision,” and that really bothered me.  Something wasn’t right, but how could that be, when the situation seemed like it would be so perfect?  I thought that I should have felt peace, and that also bothered me.  To everyone who asked, I replied that I would be doing college via correspondence, etc.  But I started to really cry out to God.  Was this what He had for me?  Would I eventually feel peace or even a scrap of joy?  There is nothing wrong with doing college via correspondence, and there is nothing wrong with Liberty University.  We tend to think that, in any given situation, there must be one “right” decision and one “wrong” decision.  In some cases though, there isn’t really a “wrong” decision, but there is a best decision.  That was my problem: none of my options were wrong in and of themselves, but I didn’t just want something that was fine or even merely good – I deeply desire God’s very best in every aspect of my life.

“You’ve been too long upon this mountain
It’s time you journey to the sea
Sometimes to trust in your false comfort
Is easier than trusting me 
Some men only believe in what their eyes can see
Some men only believe in what their minds conceive”

Still I heard nothing.  But there was a reason I didn’t hear anything: I wasn’t ready.  For lack of another answer (answers are hard to come by when we don’t really want to listen to them), I was still telling people that I would be doing correspondence college.  In fact, I was emailing back and forth with a friend of mine and said that I would be doing online college courses, but the very next day everything changed.

Through a strangely indirect and likely unrepeatable online search, Mom found the Trinity web page (we weren’t even looking for schools).  She got really excited and said, “Sabra, I think this school would be perfect for you!”

trusting handsMy next problem was that I really didn’t want to leave my home and family (I am a homebody, remember).  This meant that I didn’t really want to hear that God had a different idea.  But a life of sweet surrender to my King is the life I want to live, and the same all-loving, all-knowing Father who literally brought me to my knees six years ago was waiting to bring me to my knees once again, though this time in a spiritual sense.  This time it happened to me as I was sitting in my bed early one morning journaling.  God was pretty clear.  He asked me if I wanted His best.  I was like, “Uh, yeah.”  That’s what I had been waiting for, wasn’t it?  But I should have

Sam jumping off Fourteen Falls

Sam jumping off Fourteen Falls – UNsafe

guessed what was coming next.  He asked me if I wanted to do what He was doing or do what was safe.

Wow.  Ouch.  Was I going to cling to the familiar or step out into the unknown, trusting that He will take me all the way?  Do I want to be (and be known as) the “eminently safe” girl, or do I want to grab hold of my freedom in Christ and run with it, being known for a bold faith?  I have to say, the thought of going to Trinity both excites and terrifies me, but God has really opened up my eyes on this matter.  As long as I am caught up in trying to be “safe,” I am never going to be able to trust God fully or be as free as He wants me to be.  A life fully lived for my King is going to have an element of risk and danger and passion, and that is part of the beauty of the journey.

“But believing’s like conceiving
This child that we’re receiving
A gift beyond our reason
Its more of what we need, and less of what we know
It calls not to our mind, but cries out to our soul”

The lyrics from Jason Upton’s “Burning in the Sky” really struck me.  Like the Israelites on Mount Sinai, there was nothing wrong with my “mountain” – God had been providing for me in the place I was at.  But, just as He wanted the Israelites to do, He wanted me to journey into my promised land, into a greater abundance.  God is indeed giving me more of what I need and less of what I know, and while my mind often protests, the rightness of it resonates in my spirit.

Trinity is a small school in a middle-of-nowhere town in North Dakota called Ellendale, which means that I will have the opportunity to know and be known rather than just be another member of a crowd.  (North Dakota may sound random, but my dad’s parents live only a few hours’ drive from the Trinity campus.)  I will be doing a double major to receive my Bachelor of Arts in Biblical Studies and my Bachelor of Science in Elementary Education, all the while getting to make new friends who are as passionate about Jesus as I am.  I am really going to miss my family (reality still hasn’t fully set in), yet this choice feels so right.  I won’t go into all my reasons as to why I made the decision to go to Trinity, but topping my list is that I know that I know – beyond a shadow of a doubt – that this is what God has for me.  So many things could have prevented me from attending this college, not the least of which were Trinity’s policy of accepting no student under 17 and my own late discovery of the fact that Trinity even exists.  (I don’t recommend choosing a college less than six months before you plan to attend it.)  But God knew exactly what would be best for me, and He worked everything out from there – no matter what it looked like to the rest of the world.  As I made my decision and am preparing to leave for school, God keeps bringing this one Scripture passage to my mind:

Still His Desert Rose, flourishing where He puts me

Still His Desert Rose, flourishing wherever He plants me

“Behold, I am doing a new thing!  Do you not perceive it?  I am making a way in the desert and streams in the wasteland.”  (Isaiah 43:19)

Some people were surprised that I “suddenly” decided to go to Trinity, but nothing is sudden to God – He’s had this planned for a long, long time, and His plans are always good.  Though the massive amount of change this decision will bring, makes me a bit nervous, I am also very excited.  I have “butterflies” in my tummy – in a good way.  I have no idea what the next four years of my life will hold, but I know that they are going to be amazing.

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Because He Said So

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You know how sometimes someone tells you to do something and you say, “Why?” and they reply, “Because I said so”?  And do you know how annoying that can be?  Oh, it used to drive me nuts when I was little!  I wanted to know why I should do the thing that I was being told to do so that I could decide whether or not to do it – whether it was worth my time or not.  (The questioning was instinctual when I was small.  The reason I asked “why” only recently occurred to me.)

My cousin, Maxwell, wondering WHY we can't play longer at the playground.

My cousin, Maxwell, wondering WHY we can’t play longer at the playground.

We often question those who are in authority because we think we might know better than they do.  Or we do it because we think that our personal time is so valuable that it we shouldn’t waste it doing something that doesn’t seem to have a “point.”  Honestly though, I have yet to see an action without purpose or a thing without a point.  I have not seen such things because they do not exist.  The truth is that everything – every person, every word, every action, every part of creation – has a purpose and a “point.”  why question in metal typeThe real problem comes when we question orders by asking what the “point” is.  If the point isn’t satisfactory to us, we refuse to obey the directive by deeming it “pointless.”  Now there is certainly a time and a place to ask questions, and there is even a time and a place to ask “why,” both to God and to others in authority, but please understand the heart of what I am saying.  We tend to use the “why” question in an attempt to get out of doing whatever we were told to do.  In fact, when we question the commands we are given, we are often already implying that we do not think we should have to do whatever it is that we were told to do.  The saddest thing to me is that we question God in this way all the time.

Often times God will prompt me – quite ardently – to do something that I don’t want to do.  I will then ask Him, “Why, God?”  But I will tell you what God told me one time: “Because I said so.”  I was like, “Wow.  Um, okay, I guess.”  Later, after I had done it (I don’t even recall what it was), God told me more about this response.  God revealed to me, very lovingly, that He wanted me to learn how to do things not because I could see how they would “make a difference” but simply because He told me to and I trusted Him.  That was pretty serious for me.  He wanted me to obey because I knew that His plans for me and those around me, though I may not understand them, are the very best in every way.  As brothers and sisters in Christ, then, let us learn how to obey simply because God said so, resting in the fact that He knows exactly what He is doing, even when we do not.

No Coincidence

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clockSometimes the devotional entry I read before I begin my day doesn’t just give general true principles – sometimes it speaks exactly to my situation.  Sometimes when fear and sorrow are crushing my heart as I write in my journal, the “random” verse at the bottom of each page happens to be not random at all.  Sometimes when I am in public, a song will start playing over the speakers and it will be precisely what I need at that very moment.  Sometimes when my dreams feel insignificant or unattainable, someone “randomly” bolsters my dreams with timely words.  Sometimes when I feel frustrated at the way people act and react, I will suddenly have a deep revelation about their heart that makes me understand and fills me with a fresh love and compassion for them.  Sometimes when my life feels crazy and all-consuming, I have a chance to drive through mountains, swim in oceans, or look down at the world from an airplane, and those vast displays of God’s majesty put everything back into perspective.  Sometimes when I am minding my own business, living my own life, I have a word for someone else – sometimes it is literally one single word, but it will make them burst into tears and hug me.  Sometimes these things happen every single day.

gandalf quoteCoincidence?  Some might think so, but I think not.  In fact, I know not.  How do I know?  Because I serve the Living God, and He speaks.  His words of conviction, of love, of hope, of peace are always timely.  And yes – He always acts right on time, too.  We like to think that our idea of timing is much better than God’s.  We often say to Him, just as Frodo said to Gandalf, “You’re late.”  How does God respond to that?  Well, to put a little twist on the original Lord of the Rings quote, He says, “I am never late.  Nor am I early.  I always arrive precisely when I mean to.”  Who better to decide timing than the One who is the timeless Creator of time, upon whom time has no hold?  God’s always got us covered.  And even more beautiful than the perfect timing of God’s words is that He speaks to each and every one of His children, no exceptions.

Confessions of a Brush-aholic

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hairbrushIt’s true; I can’t deny it.  I am a brush-aholic.  Every time I see my hairbrush, I feel this urge, this temptation to brush my hair.  I shouldn’t do it, I know, but I still do – in a nearly mindless fashion.  Sometimes I won’t even be fully aware of what I’ve done until I am already putting my hairbrush down.  Then comes that sinking feeling, because I know what results from this bad brushing habit.  First I end up with that charming “triangle head” look.  And, because that fluffy style impedes my vision, I pull it back with clips, which gives it that equally charming cocker spaniel-esque look.

It started years ago.  From the time I was little, I had super fine, stick-straight hair, which I kept until I was about thirteen.  But then it got thicker and wavier and thicker and wavier until it finally decided to do whatever it wanted – and apparently it wanted to curl.  By that time, I treated brushing my hair much the same way as I did brushing my teeth – it was a task that needed to be done in a habitual and zealous manner.  Alas, was there ever to be any hope for my hair?  I usually didn’t intend to brush it; it just…happened.  Paul really got it right:

“I do not understand what I do.  For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do.”  (Romans 7:15)

larrys-hair-brushBut no more.  I have decided to quit brushing my hair for my own good.  I marched up to the bathroom mirror, looked my reflection right in the eye, and said, “I do not have straight hair.”  So I am going to stop treating my hair like it’s straight.  Curly hair does not deserve to be subjected to the abuse of multiple daily brushings.

Scripture tells us to resist temptation and it will flee from us.  Well, I have been resisting my temptation for nearly five days now.  However, in the best interest of my hair, I have decided to give the temptation a head-start in fleeing.  My hairbrush has received the death sentence; it is going to the trash can.  There shall be no mournful renditions of “O Where is My Hairbrush?”; I know exactly where my hairbrush went, and I say good riddance!  Free the curls!

Bye bye, brush!

Bye bye, brush!

Family Time

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…Ah, the glorious sound of silence.  Too bad it’s been such a long time since I heard it.

My family moved back to Michigan in June after spending nearly four years in Africa as missionaries.  As wonderful and exciting as life is for us right now, the logistics of moving are usually not very logistical at all.  Moving is just crazy no matter which way you cut it.

Thankfully, we have an amazing extended family.  We have been camping out – the five of us, our two dogs (does that make seven of us?), and all our stuff – at my grandparents’ house for the past month and a half.  (They have been so long-suffering!  Thanks, Grandpa and Grandma!)  We’re still waiting to close on our condo (which will probably happen mid-August).  In the meantime, however, I have found that when living in a three-bedroom, one-and-a-half bathroom house with eight people, five dogs, two gerbils (Aviya calls them “gerbas”), two frogs, and a fish, there is never a dull moment.

take a numberFirst of all, let’s just start with the number of bathrooms per quantity of people.  Considering that two of the people in this house are convinced that they must shower at least twice a day for personal cleanliness, you practically have to take numbers to decide who gets the next turn.  (And no one really wants to use the “back bathroom,” the four-foot-by-four-foot space where the gerbil cage has taken up residence for the summer.)

Secondly, you may have noticed that there are only three bedrooms.  My parents and baby sister are sharing one room, and Sam and I each got a couch.  (Mine is in the living room; Sam’s is in the unfinished basement.)

Fast Fact!  One generally finds that couches are much less comfortable than they thought after sleeping on them for six weeks.

The good news is that, because I am so easily accessible these days (living room = zero privacy), I have been able to become my family’s very own version of Google in the late hours of the night:google

“Sabra, has the dishwasher been run?”

“Sabra, where are my two little exercise balls?”

“Sabra, will you unlock the door in the morning?”

“Sabra, where is my book?”

“Sabra, where is my dog?”

“Sabra, when you are quoting something that ends with a semicolon, where do you put the punctuation?”

“Sabra, how do you spell ‘Cincinnati’?”

If not for me, how else would all these questions get answered?

Now let me tell you about a third thing.  There are only eight people in the house, but there are six toddlers.  How is that, you wonder?  I’ll give you a hint – five of them have four legs.  Anyone who has dogs will understand what I’m talking about, and anyone who doesn’t – well, I’ve already given it away, haven’t I?

Fast Fact! Dogs are wonderful creatures, but they are like small children who never grow up…ever.

A quick look at the last thirty minutes of my life will bear evidence to this fact….

I was trying to feed our two dogs lunch (they always eat at 2 p.m. and won’t let us forget it), and my grandparents’ littlest dog, Lily, (admittedly still a puppy) was trying to help herself to the food, which made our older dogs snarl at her pesky antics.  Amidst the frantic barking and skittering around of my grandparents’ other dog, I finally managed to feed our dogs, only to find that Lily had peed right by the door.  (She couldn’t possibly have gone any of the four times I let her out in the past fifteen minutes – after all, the grass was damp.)  As soon as they finished their food, our two dogs ran outside and began barking at the squirrel sitting smugly in the tree, eating birdseed just out of their reach.  (Poppy and Ginger are utterly fascinated by squirrels, having seen only monkeys and birds in

The Reigning Queen of the Pack

The Reigning Queen of the Pack

Africa.)  And did I mention that Poppy is obsessed with the gerbils (you know, the ones in the dreaded back bathroom)?  Now two of the dogs are wrestling together in my clean sheets, and all of this going on while the 11-year-old German Shepard (who is no less of a puppy at heart than the rest of them) surveys the entirety of her kingdom with a look of bored detachment.

Coupled with the added fun of my eighteen-month-old sister and the two-day-a-week fun of my three young cousins, this house can get pretty nuts.  But I wouldn’t trade it for a thing.  My family is just right – perfectly quirky and perfectly my own.  And so today, as the extremely close proximity of my family was beginning to grate on my nerves, I just had to remind myself how thankful I am for them.  Family is a God-given blessing, and I’ll take a noisy house full of love and laughter over a quiet, empty house any day.

“Be joyful always;….give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”  (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18)

Silly time!

After this, college life will be positively boring.  Whatever will I do with myself?