A Foggy Day in Lincoln-town

Fog is a natural phenomenon that has always fascinated me little bit. There are few things in this world that are more beautiful to me than an open field blanketed with a thin fog, especially at twilight. When I was a little kid, I thought running through fog was the coolest thing ever. I mean, essentially, the clouds had come to me (and yes, I was nerdy enough to have gotten into the science of it, even at the young age of maybe seven), so I was basically running through the clouds.
Fog is what you might call amorphous. It has no distinct shape. It’s not solid. That’s why I could run through it. I could run through the fog, and it would part right where I was, and then it would close back up again as soon as I moved a little. It wasn’t something I could really touch. If I reached out my hand, it parted where my hand was, always staying just out of reach.
That’s how I spent my junior high and high school years picturing God’s will. I heard a lot of messages urging me to consider God’s will for my life, to determine to follow it and go after it. But rare was the challenge that told me how. I understood the general concept of God’s will. I understood that I was supposed to follow it. And I understood that there wasn’t going to be writing in the sky.
When I asked how exactly I was supposed to understand what God’s will for my life was, I was told to read the Bible and pray. That’s a pretty trite, Sunday-school answer, especially when you’re talking to the average church kid, and nothing has ever turned me off to seeking counsel like receiving a trite answer to a deep question. When you’re talking to a high school age kid (even one who has grown up in church and understands that prayer and study of Scripture are important), that’s simply not a helpful answer in and of itself. The Bible was written thousands of years ago, so the content isn’t going to change. And it’s not going to tell me what to major in when I’m in college. And as far as prayer, God doesn’t do the whole writing in the sky thing, so isn’t that kind of a one-way conversation? So how does that help me figure out what I’m supposed to do with my life?
I struggled with this concept for a long time. Every time I heard a sermon on God’s will during my preteen and teen years, I was consumed by this feeling of guilt because I wasn’t following God’s will. I didn’t know how to find it, so how could I be following it? Maybe I wasn’t putting in enough effort. But I just couldn’t see how to do more. So I would sit through the service, let the guilt eat at me, and then go off to my room feeling hopeless and helpless, telling God I didn’t know how to know what He wanted of me. In my head, trying to find God’s will was like trying to reach out and grab fog– an amorphous cloud that stayed just out of reach. But that didn’t fit what I had been taught about God’s character either.
I don’t remember anyone ever going into specifics about the way God leads, they simply said that He did. They would talk about God opening and closing doors, but it was never something that made sense– it sounded like just another trite phrase. Something all the Christian people said. Another part of church-people vocabulary. They never connected God’s will to the “doors,” or the “doors” to Scripture study and prayer. It wasn’t until I was a rising college sophomore about to change my major that it finally clicked.
I took my mom out to dinner for Mother’s Day last spring, and we were discussing how I wasn’t sure voice performance was a good fit for me. I expressed my frustration over not knowing what to do because I didn’t know what God’s will for my life was. She asked if I was spending time in the Word and in prayer. I remember exclaiming, “Of course I am, but short of writing in the sky, I don’t see how that’s supposed to tell me what to do!”
That’s when I finally got the explanation I had spent years wanting to hear. That’s when it all finally clicked into place. My mom explained that the reason we spend time in Bible study and prayer is so that we can better understand the character of God and have a greater desire to imitate Christ in our lives. Ok, I knew and understood that. And then she told me that no person who truly desires to be in God’s will and be obedient to Him can ever leave His will.
Whoah. That’s a pretty powerful statement. So what’s the reasoning? If you’re deep in the Word, if you keep communicating your desire to follow the Lord, if you continue obedience in the mundane, daily things of life, you’re following His will for you each day. And as far as future plans, that’s why God gave us talents, brains, and common sense. Beyond that, that’s where “doors” come in. Your talents, brains, and common sense may lead you toward one opportunity, but if that’s not what God has for you, He’ll “shut the door.”
Maria in The Sound of Music said, “When the Lord closes a door, somewhere He opens a window,” but I don’t believe that. I don’t believe that fits God’s character. Nor do I believe that “until God opens the next door, we should praise Him in the hallway.” In my head, the idea that God has a plan and foreknowledge doesn’t mesh with the idea that God would make me fold myself up and awkwardly squeeze through a window in order to fit His will. Nor does it seem to mesh with the idea that God would leave me sitting in a spiritual “hallway.” No, I believe that when God closes a door He opens another. And if He hasn’t opened another, it’s because the doorway I’m standing in hasn’t closed behind me.
God’s will isn’t foggy and amorphous. God’s will isn’t cryptic and difficult to figure out. God’s will is for me to fellowship with Him daily and minister to those around me. He doesn’t write in the sky, but He does make the rest readily apparent. So take a deep breath, and go study some Scripture. Make sure your life reflects Christ, and ask the Lord to help you stay faithful. No worries. He’s got the rest.

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Mickey Beyond the Looking Glass

I’ll come clean and admit it: I, like most young women, struggle with self-image. If there were one thing I could change about myself, it would be my smile. You see, I’ve never had braces. One of my top front teeth protrudes noticeably forward, so I’ve been self-conscious about my not-so-straight smile since junior high.
In junior high, they nicknamed me “Nanny McPhee” after a popular family movie. The nanny in this movie had warts, an awful nose, and, as I’m sure you suspect, the exact type of crooked tooth that I have. I don’t think I have to go into how scarring that nickname was. And it didn’t matter that the nanny in the movie had turned into a gorgeous babe by the end. Sure, maybe someday I would get out of my awkward-looking junior high stage and be beautiful, but that didn’t exactly help me right then. Everyone has rather scarring experiences in junior high, though, so I eventually got over it.
Every once in a while, the issue popped back up, especially toward the middle of high school when everyone else was getting braces off of teeth that hadn’t even been that crooked to begin with. But overall, I assured myself that it wasn’t a big deal. I still got a decent amount of male attention, and no little children were running from me in fear, so I convinced myself that my teeth were not a huge cosmetic issue. Instead, I focused my efforts on everything else.
Maybe if I had perfect hair and makeup, no one would really notice my teeth. So by the middle of high school, I would spend half an hour to an hour in front of the mirror, depending on the circumstances of the day. After all, it’s important for a girl to look her best.
The personal hygiene habits I developed then have continued to this day, gradually modified to fit changing trends and growing skill with makeup brushes and curling irons. But in this last year, I’ve noticed a growing self-consciousness again. I’ve started to feel like that awkward junior higher again and become even more obsessed with my appearance. I’ve become obsessed with hair, makeup, and clothes to the point where I’m scaring myself a little. Why is this popping back up? I thought I had this conquered. Why does this matter so much to me?
I’ve been told I’m pretty, gorgeous, beautiful, ect. But there’s something in me that has never believed it. Why? Because I’m obsessed with drawing attention away from one physical imperfection, and I’m never convinced that the rest of me looks good enough to hide it. Again, why? Because in my mind, I’ve prioritized the wrong thing. I’ve prioritized physical beauty over inner beauty. And every young woman does it. And every young woman gets preached to about it. But no young woman is ever quite convinced that inner beauty is more important.
Goodness, I don’t know how many devotionals I’ve sat through on I Timothy 2:9-10 and Proverbs 31. I don’t know how many times I’ve been told that the beauty of my heart before God is more important, but I’ve never been convinced. I especially looked at the Proverbs 31 woman as an unattainable, unrealistic standard for married women. I figured that no man looking for a Proverbs 31 woman would have much luck with me, so I’d never get married, so the passage would never really apply to me anyway. I even got to the point where I would kind of just skip over Proverbs 31 if it came up in my devotions.
BUT WAIT! There was so very little logic in that thought process. This passage isn’t just for married women. It’s a description of a virtuous woman, and that’s something we should all be, married or not. I started to realize this when attending a Bible study at school, and my friend who was heading it up chose this passage as our focus– becoming the Christ-like women we should be. Suddenly the passage applied to me. And what’s more, though I still have a lot to work on, by God’s grace, I’ve seen a lot of progress since the days when I simply skipped the chapter.
Right now I’m at the age where I tend to refuse to think about growing old, but the fact is, it’s going to happen. Eventually I’m going to start aging. My skin will lose its elasticity and start to sag. Someday this awesome hair color God blessed me with is going to fade to gray, then white. And when that happens, all the makeup in the world isn’t going to make me look young and beautiful again. But even now, all the makeup in the world can’t cover up an ugly heart.
There are days when my appearance is close to flawless, but my attitude is ugly. On those days, the way I look doesn’t make anyone want to be near me. In contrast, there are days when I forgot to set my alarm and rush off to start the day looking like I slept in a gutter. I tend to be a lot nicer to people on those days, and they repay me by not acting embarrassed to be seen with a ragamuffin like me. Consider this thought: how often do we choose our friends by how they look or dress? What blessings are we missing by focusing so much on outward appearances? How many people do you know who are absolutely beautiful but just plain mean?
Man looks on the outward appearance. God looks on the heart (I Samuel 16:7). It’s time for me to spend more time working on my relationship with the Lord than I do looking at my face. It’s time to look beyond the mirror.

Comparison, Contentedness, and Concierge: Summer 2014 has Begun

So this isn’t going to be the most epic summer of my existence. I’m at home in the far north, isolated from any school friends, and working part-time at the local bed and breakfast. I’m not going to go anywhere. The only thing that lies ahead to break up the monotony is VBS, and that’s a lot of exhausting work. That, and my birthday is the day after VBS is over, so even I will be too tired to do much celebrating.
Meanwhile, Facebook is keeping me wonderfully up to date on everyone else’s epic summers, which revolve around such things as mission trips to places like the Dominican Republic, Korea, Australia, Peru, Portugal, and Germany (my #1 most desired place to visit) or counseling cute little kids at Bible camps across the country. So here I sit, scrolling down my news feed, past all the pictures of all these epic things, and it’s so tempting to think about how I was asked to audition for the musical mission team to Europe and my dad informed me that we’re too poor for me to spend a summer doing something which did not involve a paycheck. Or how I really, really wanted to spend the summer counseling at camp, but didn’t make the cut due to my slightly younger age. But there’s a problem with that.
I told God way back at the beginning of last school year that I would be content with what He had for me this summer. So when I had to turn down the musical mission team, it was hard, but I was ok with it. And when the contract to work at camp didn’t come, I said, “Ok, God, I get it. Home is my mission field this summer.”
Those attitudes are pretty easy to adopt when you’re living at BJU. There’s chapel every morning and prayer group every night. You’re taking Bible classes. You’re constantly around other Christian young adults and godly teachers. You’re absolutely saturated in the truth of God’s Word, day in and day out. Saying these things, adopting these attitudes, making these commitments– it’s easy, especially compared to what happens when summer finally does come.
When summer finally comes and you step off the airplane or out of the car, you start living a different life. There’s no chapel every day. You only have church on Sundays and on Wednesday nights. You’re not taking Bible classes. You don’t have prayer group. There aren’t nearly as many Christians around you, and you’re not likely working in a Christian environment. Suddenly you find yourself desperate for your time in the Word each day, and that commitment you made to have a good attitude, or be a good testimony, or whatever it was is a lot harder to actually live out.
So I’m struggling a bit, but trying to find the good in my life here. For example, I actually truly enjoy my job. Call it housekeeping, maintenance, concierge, or whatever (it’s a bit of all of that), but keeping up with the inn is kind of fun. It’s a cozy little place, and the only one in town with a Keurig machine. I don’t mind laundry or making beds, and I’m pretty used to scrubbing down a bathroom at this point. Not to mention how much you can tell about a person from their hotel room. For example, the scrubs hanging on the back of the door tell me that there’s a nurse staying in unit seven. The amount of reusable shopping bags tells me that she enjoys the idea of saving the planet. The lack of a suitcase suggests that she won’t be staying long. Or there was the doctor who stayed in unit eight for about a month. I actually met him, and he was quite nice, but before that I guessed that he was approaching middle age and was Southern due to the button-down shirts and matching bow ties he had hanging together in his closet. Sure enough, when I met him, he was in his early fifties, had just a hint of a Southern accent, and even tipped his golf hat at me. Yes, working at the inn is kind of a blast.
VBS is always fun. I can’t wait to see how it goes this year! My mom is writing the material herself this time, so there will be some new challenges. And I get to put my speech skills to work to teach one of the Bible lessons.
Other than that, I suppose adopting a bit of a carpe diem attitude wouldn’t hurt. It’s a lot better than sitting around on Facebook, Pinterest, and Netflix. Maybe I should grab a notebook, head to the park, and see if I can start writing again. I’ve already been working quite a bit on my piano skills– I’ve come quite a long way with transposition at sight. I’m applying for my driver’s learning permit, and there are always books to be read. This summer doesn’t have to be gloomy because I’m not in an exotic land or going crazy at camp. Home is my mission field this summer, and step one is maintaining a good attitude. There are seventy-eight days left before I go back to school. It’s time to make those days count.