Saturday, August 27, 2011

Joy and the Mundane

Cultivating joy. An easy thing to say. An easy thing to do when life is exciting or engaging or fun. A grueling challenge when life is seemingly mundane. A challenge that I will own and love. A challenge that will pierce to the heart of how I choose to view life.

I'm one week into nursing school. My temptation is to say, "Only 59 more weeks to go!" My temptation is to look past all that the next two years have to offer and fix my eyes upon the completion of the goal. My temptation is to only take joy in the opportunity that God has provided for me once I have my degree. My temptation is to ignore that which He has planned and set before me for each moment of this afternoon and the upcoming week.

It is so tempting to look to the next "exciting" part of life: receiving a college degree, marriage, children, career, travelling, settling, retirement, etc. Our culture operates and thrives on this notion. I have done it before; unfortunately more than I can properly record. I would cite it as a strategy to survive the struggle in which one is currently.

Thankfully, that is not how God has called me to live my life. God has called me to find my joy in Him for every moment of every day. He is my supreme delight. He is my ultimate satisfaction. He has asked me and enabled me to seek delight in Him in all struggle and all celebration.

The word "mundane" is often synonymous with lifelessness, thoughtlessness, lacking of excitement. Why do I allow my life to become mundane? Allow me to rephrase that question: Why do I ever choose to view my life as mundane? It isn't. The trees outside are growing and the leaves are green and the bark brown. It doesn't have to be that way. Tress could grow down. Trees don't necessarily have to grow at all but God has provided them. Be amazed by the beauty of a simple leaf once again. Stand in awe of the Creator once again because His hand has allowed such beauty.

This life will be over before I realize it. It is a vapor. As my birthdays pass each year, this becomes more and more evident. If I continue to find my joy in the anticipation of the future circumstances that this life will provide, I will always be dissatisfied. Even more than the dissatisfaction that would plague my life, I would be missing the purpose. My God has saved me that I may know Him. Knowing Him brings deep joy. Knowing Him brings deep satisfaction in any circumstance.

I choose to rejoice in 150 pages of reading for Theory and Fundamentals because it is where God has me. Where God has me is good because it is where I am most able to glorify Him. I don't use the word "good" as most people would. I use it in reference to that which causes me to turn to my God once again and that which reflects my God. This is good. Moment by moment, I will rejoice in where God has me because it is good.

I will cultivate joy. I will work for it and fight for it. God has set me here specifically and purposely. I will be content because my life is not mundane. It is new and fresh because the gospel is what I stand upon every morning. Viewing life as mundane is not an option because it's not.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Excited Expectancy

I have attended orientation. I have been finger-printed. I have filled out background check release forms. I have had a drug test. I ordered my books. I received a stethoscope. I picked out scrubs. I am shopping for non-skid, non-porous shoes. I have had a second set of transcripts sent. I have gotten my TB skin test. I have made sure all my shots are updated. I got physical forms filled out. I have my carpool organized.

I am ready for Nursing School!

I attended orientation a week ago. Most of it was preparing us emotionally, physically, and mentally for the stress and pressure of the upcoming four semesters. I have been told it will take sixty to seventy hours of study time outside of class to do well. I have been told there will be times in which I will think I won't make it. I have been told there will be nothing happening in my life over the next sixteen weeks other than my schooling. I have been told this will consume my life.

I am excited to pursue excellence to my God's great glory over these next sixteen weeks. I look forward to Pharmacology, Fundamentals, Medication Calculation, Clinicals and Sim Lab. I am finally on the downhill slope of my schooling where I am able to pursue my passion. I get to express my passion for people as well as the inner workings of the human body by showing compassion, by sharing joy and by loving well.

My passion for people and the human body is fueled by a much deeper passion: my precious Savior, Jesus Christ. He is the one who sustains me day by day. He is the one who has created me and given me the passions I have pursued. He is the one who has enabled me to be at SFCC this semester. He is the one who has sovereignly placed every other student there this semester. Over the next sixteen weeks, I get to study, work, and encourage thirty two peers. We are going to be forced to live life together. I could not be more excited about this.

At UNM, I would attend my classes. I would sit alone. I would seek as little interaction as possible. God, beginning fall 2010, had different plans for my time at UNM. There was a girl in three of my classes--one of those requiring a study group. I was forced to interact; this was God's grace. Kendra and I became quick friends as many of our interests intersected and overlapped. She was not a believer. This was the first unbeliever that I interacted with enough to call a friend. We studied together. We rode the bus home together. We figured out how the heart and lungs functioned together. Because of the relationship built, I could talk about the gospel. I asked what purpose she had in her life if she knew nothing after death. That conversation changed my life. I hope it changed hers.

This semester, as I switch schools, I am going to be sharing life with thirty two nursing students over the next two years. I am carpooling with two of them. I am doing clinicals with eight others. I am interacting with the entire group four times a week.

My heart has an excited expectancy as I look to these next two years. There will be times where I am broken and exhausted and think I cannot go on. There will most likely be times where my heart is starved for fellowship. There will be times where I will be discontent before my God because I don't like where I am at the moment. In such times, I pray and hope the gospel is brought back into focus. May the gospel exude from me by God's grace alone to these thirty two students. I pray they see a difference. I pray they see Christ. I pray that in my weakness, His strength is seen. I pray that I direct every ounce of ability back to my Creator who gave it to me. I pray His name is on my lips. May these students know Him. Excited expectancy is what I call it. Excited expectancy for all God is going to do in, through but mostly in spite of me. I am so excited to be able to watch.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

The Beauty of Grace

The school year is fast approaching. The "normal" Albuquerque group is returning in the next couple weeks. Some of the Nav boys are living right next door. I am working out details for my commute and my classes this fall. I am cleaning, cleaning, cleaning as the dust in New Mexico accumulates quickly in every crevice possible.

In the midst of logistical preparations, my heart remembers and dwells upon that which the Lord taught me over the summer. I look forward to this being a spring board to deeper growth as well as fellowship with the Body this upcoming fall as it was last year.

Conversations from last summer about love, joy, fellowship, and the glory of God were built upon throughout the duration of this past school year and were further burgeoned with my girls over the course of this summer. I praise God for the depths of who He is. He is infinite and thus we can continue to search and seek the depths of our Lord for all of our time on this earth and not reach the end of our great Creator.

This summer, though, as much as I planned on building upon that which the Lord taught me last summer, He had greater plans. He built upon last summer, providing the grasping of concepts I did not previously comprehend but He presented the understanding of a beautiful, age-old truth as well. I remember talking to Sarah last fall over blueberry pancakes at Flying Star about truth and grace. She asked, "Are you more of a 'truth' or 'grace' person?" After some thought, I soundly answered, "A truth person." I have a more difficult time understanding our God's great love, mercy and grace than His righteousness, justice and holiness. God possesses all of these qualities in perfect completion and He made that abundantly clear over the summer.

Every Wednesday morning, we had a lecture entitled, "Law Breakers" that waded through the book of Galatians. It drove home the idea of grace every week for me. It hammered it into my hard, dense head. It caused me to stand in awe of our God's grace that He pours upon His children moment by moment.

Grace--the theme of the summer. Grace. Our team operated on grace. It was a beautiful situation in which to find myself. It supplied the opportunity to pursue excellence in celebration of that which Christ has done for me rather than the drudgery that accompanies morality oftentimes. Celebration--my God has freed me to serve Him. He has taken away my chains of bondage--the chains that I cherished--forever. He has cleaned my wounds. He has loved me. And now He has set me before this world and has said, "LIVE! Live because I have freed you. Celebrate."

This grace is not dependent on anything that I do. It was taken care of on the cross 2,000 years ago. There is no expiration on grace. It is not dependent on how much I sin or how much excellence I actually achieve. It is dependent on my God and His sacrifice for me. Praise Him!

Quinton led worship throughout the summer. On Wednesday evenings, following evangelism, he would often say, "The gap caused by sin between God and man is infinite. This means His grace toward us is also infinite." Infinite grace! There is an ever flowing rushing river of grace toward me. Be amazed at such beauty! Stand in awe! Allow it to cause you to be awed again.

In the face of grace, the depth of my sin is even more disgusting. I sin because I am a sinner. It is innate and pervades every inch of my being. Apart from Christ, all I do is sin. His grace covers me. He has washed me clean. I am justified--He sees me as righteous!

Because His grace is infinite, I am able to enjoy Him. Ah, our God is a holy, loving, righteous, merciful, just, grace-giving Creator and the Body of Christ has the eternal future of being enraptured by Him forever and ever. Ah, what joy!

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Cultivated Rejoicing

I have officially returned home. Home meaning my home rather than my parents’ home. The fans are on, the swamp cooler on high, windows open. Reopening an empty house alone after eight weeks is more emotionally taxing than I would have assumed. The bleach I poured down the drains hoping to dissuade the cockroaches from entering and the grass in front that needs to be mowed are both small reminders that Narnia is over and reality has hit once again.

Encountering reality was not as horrendous a concept at the end of my eight weeks with Worldview this year as it was last. I had been preparing myself for it before the summer started as I remembered the end of camp last year; upon my return home, I quarantined myself because of the emotional despair I was feeling. This simply was not an option this summer. Such a reaction did not serve my family, friends, church or staff from the summer with excellence. My resolve this year was to rejoice in that which the Lord did through me and the team, in me and the team, and despite me and the team. Sitting here facing reality once again, I have found I must be reminded to rejoice. A deep rejoicing must be cultivated in such circumstances.

Rejoicing is not flowing freely because it is masked by my desire to share life once again with the staff. It is masked by the longing once again to have one task set before me—serving my students to the glory of our great God. It is masked by the craving to “feel” God’s grace so tangibly in the work during the camp week and to see it so tangibly in the life of the students once again.

These are beautiful opportunities a summer at Worldview affords—something that is only in Narnia. I rejoice in them and look back fondly upon those moments when they were such clear realities that I could have pulled them from the air, touching, smelling and tasting them. I rejoice in God’s providence displayed in setting Narnia apart.

And yet, our great God works outside of Narnia. His work at camp is meant to fuel us on to pursue His glory and grace in reality. I am able to wake up rejoicing in His grace because He enables me to do so whether I’m at home or whether I’m at camp. I rejoice in the memories of His grace: when I had an impromptu theological conversation with almost every one of my fourteen year olds in Oklahoma, when I saw how the Lord had preserved and grew my repeat students from Texas, when one of my students in Mississippi came to me Friday morning saying, “Lauren, I get it!!”, when I had deep, refreshing and challenging one on ones in Florida, when my girls in Georgia understood and applied the concept of servant leadership two days into camp, when I had a student in North Carolina who spewed out joy like a shaken soda can every moment of the entire week, and when my girls in Virginia understood and grasped the importance of leading with an attitude that responds like Christ would.

It was a beautiful summer. It was a beautiful summer because God worked and His work is clearly seen. All glory be to Him. A simple reflection on His work, which reflects who He is, brings about rejoicing—deep, lasting rejoicing. Praise Him for His visible grace.