Wednesday, July 18, 2012

for the enemy.

I've been reading Romans lately and have been enjoying learning and relearning about Christ's sacrifice and love. Paul's letter has been teaching me new things about who Christ is and who I am.
Some of the verses I read this morning, Romans 5:6-8, describe Christ's love as follows:
"You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous man, though for a good man someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us."
I thought about one time when I experienced a minor minor example of what it might feel like to love someone so much that when they're still hurting you, breaking your heart, taking from you, bashing you, or taking advantage of you, you still feel that all-encompassing love for them and would do anything for them.

(this is somewhat of a long story, but I promise it's worth it)

I used to work at a group home. It is a home for children who are in the custody of the state either temporarily or permanently because of a lack of guardian; that could be because of abuse, neglect, death, or any number of other unfortunate circumstances. I spent the majority of my day with the girls. My job was to plan and implement events and activities for the kids, but mostly I felt like a mama. I spent time talking, guiding, directing, and just spending time with the girls that I had grown to love.

I had an interaction with one particularly difficult girl in the home who was decidedly rebellious and edgy: two things that are the complete opposite of my personality if you know me. I avoid confrontation, she looks for it. I like to please people, she likes to stir the pot. I dress preppy and modest, she goes for the shock-factor. You get the picture. For whatever reason, I felt inclined towards her because I could see heart in this girl. When everyone else (staff and girls included) saw her as a nuisance, I saw her as someone to be pursued. Don't ask me why. It was NOT the easiest or most natural reaction when I met her. I know it was because the Lord wanted to teach me a lesson about His love, for which I am so grateful for.

Long story short, I had one particularly rough day. Essentially my girl was in deep trouble at the home. I went to bat for her and got her some privileges that she should not have had based on her behavior. It was because I believed in her and loved her. She was required to do ONE thing in order for me to allow her these privileges, and I was in charge of making sure she did so. I'm guessing you know what happens next: she did not follow that ONE rule. (surprise!)
I had to do my job and follow through with consequences. She got mad and said and did things that only your worst enemy would say or do. It brought me to tears right there in front of her and I did something that I'd promised myself I'd never do: I yelled at her. (This goes back to the fact that I knew her story and knew that yelling was not the answer when she was in trouble.) But this was different. I was not yelling because I wanted to punish her. I was yelling because, well, for one thing she would not have heard me otherwise. I yelled because I could not contain my heart. I yelled, "Stop doing this, the reason I want you to follow the rules is because I love you!"

She stopped yelling. She stopped cussing. She stopped her tantrum. I saw the one thing that I'm pretty sure nobody else at the home had seen in her, tears. She became completely quiet. She stopped breaking the rule. She wiped her eyes. And that was the end. That was all I needed.

I went home that day in tears myself. I was SO tired, frustrated, and worn down by this ONE child, yet I was not crying for any of those reasons. I was crying because of the overflow of love I had in my heart for this girl. That day (and many others) she was my worst enemy, but I sacrificed so much simply because I love her. She may never know fully how I felt about her. I may never see her or hear from her again. But that day I felt a glimmer, certainly not even so much as a hint, of what Christ feels for His children.
When we were still hurting Him, sinning, He died for us.

My story was impacting in my life and taught me a great lesson about forgiveness and love. I attached this video to bring another larger perspective from a group of people who I feel really get this concept. This example completely trumps mine on the scale of hurt and suffering, so I thought I'd pass it along as well to provide an example of people who are really living out what they believe and learning about Christ's love.


Friday, July 13, 2012

justice.

My sweet mama is up in Lynchburg visiting us this week. I could not be happier to have such a guest in our home. (PS: if you have a loving/caring/hospitable mama like my own, you'll find when you "host" her for the first time, she really ends up "hosting" you) We are enjoying talking, shopping, watching movies, cooking, and just resting in each other's presence.

Just for the sake of giving my mom a highlight in the blog, I'll describe her: Tina Broach Fagan.
A genuine soul. 
Embodies the word self-sacrifice. 
Intentional. 
Counselor to many: regardless of their past or present. 
Listener. 
The most talented person I will ever know with needles and yarn. 
Lives by quiet steady example. 
A blessing. 

One phrase my mom always says whenever she's truly enjoying where she is or who she is with is, "now, if only time would just freeze." I completely resonate with that idea. If you're genuinely enjoying where you are, you want the time to slow considerably or stop completely so that you can enjoy it forever.
I started to think about moments when I've wished the opposite: that time would speed up. When I'm in mourning or going through a difficult time, the phrase, "if only time would just freeze" is nowhere near my mind. All I want is for time to pass.

I think time is a cool example of how the Lord exercises His justice. He is completely just in His timing. Time remains the same whether we are loving it or hating it. While some people are enjoying 12 hours in a joyful state, others are enduring 12 hours in a hard place. Either way, the Lord keeps time running just as it is. I'm learning to lean on Him both as we enjoy as well as when we endure those times.

Enjoying the sweet moments I have now, and also enjoying the just God we serve.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

always growing.

Something I found this morning on desiringgod.org:
All gracious affections that are a sweet odor to Christ, and that fill the soul of a Christian with a heavenly sweetness and fragrancy, are broken hearted affections. A truly Christian love, either to God or men, is a humble broken hearted love. The desires of the saints, however earnest, are humble desires. Their hope is a humble hope; and their joy, even when it is unspeakable, and full of glory, is a humble broken hearted joy, and leaves the Christian more poor in spirit; and more like a little child, and more disposed to a universal lowliness of behavior.
To love someone with humble broken hearted love is something I want to make an effort to do better. I want to be better at loving my Harris that way, loving my family that way, loving my friends that way, and loving random strangers that way. I think that knowing and owning humility is a great way to approach any situation in life. It would (ideally, if you're truly humble) erase all quick judgements. It would level out the playing field. It would make the small secondary things remain small secondary things. I want to be quick to be a servant, slow to run towards pride and anger, and genuinely considerate of others thoughts, feelings, and actions first.

I have run into many situations where my own sin comes out in the most shocking ways. I literally look back at times and am amazed at how poorly my gut reactions or thoughts showed themselves. I spend a good amount of time thinking about how the other person could've improved their words or actions, yet spend a fraction of that time reflecting on what I could've done better or how I possibly misunderstood them or their motives. Believing the best in others and approaching life humbly will likely bring a lot more understanding and peace into relationships. I think that's my focus for this season. The Lord is so good to teach me ways to be more like Him. I've got a lot to learn.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

better to give.

I have a new perspective of what it feels like to be the "new person" in a city, group, or community. I genuinely think that this move has made me really appreciate the challenges and nuances it takes to be new. [And I plan to remember that as best I can for whenever I meet someone who is in that position] One particular aspect of this new perspective is how it feels to be accepted. We had the great fortune of meeting a young couple in our neighborhood the other day. They were very welcoming and truly made us feel wanted and accepted in our community. They have already helped us in so many ways and we have felt so grateful for this new friendship!

They invited us to meet their group of friends in the community at a gathering they have later in the month. They offered to help welcome us into their sunday school class on Sunday. They even offered Harris to join a group of guys for man-time and me to go for walks with the women who get together weekly. It seriously taps into that deep longing in our hearts to be known and to belong and there's no other feeling like it. We have already felt so "taken care of" here in our new town.

When you're offered all of this welcoming and hospitality, you cannot help but try to think of a way you could "give back"; but we're the new ones, we don't have much money, and we don't have a ton to offer people who are already integrated in community.

Two nights ago in Lynchburg (and across other nearby states) there was a severe windstorm/thunderstorm that swept over homes and streets. It took many trees, parts of buildings, and most detrimentally, power lines. There are about a half a million residents in the state of Virginia without power in these most dreadfully scorching hot days. For whatever reason, our home and the few surrounding us, were only some of the rare few that did not lose power. People all over town are sweating in their homes and have lost all of their groceries among other inconveniences.

Our new friends called us around 10pm last night and mentioned that they were having about 3 other small families come over to stay the night because of power outage. They had run out of blankets, pillows, and were in need of some extra basic groceries. I really don't know how to describe the excitement that came over us to be able to help out! We don't have much to offer these days (don't get me wrong, we are abundantly blessed with what we do have, but relatively speaking we're low on budget and resources) and yet we were given the gift of being able to offer our assistance. We happily gathered what we do have to spare and joyfully delivered it to our new friends.

I get it now. It really does feel better to give! Not that I would ever discount the joy that we have in receiving new friendships and community, but to be able to give, especially when we have little, was truly a blessing to us. I look forward to watching these new relationships grow.