Beautiful Outskirts

“Behold, these are but the outskirts of his ways,
and how small a whisper do we hear of Him!
But the thunder of his power who can understand?”
Job 26:14

Arise, my soul, arise.

He stood there – Jesus, in the garden of Gethsemane, after being betrayed by one of his followers, and let them take him away, “…but let the Scriptures be fulfilled” He said, and all of those men who swore to follow him even to death, the ones that He had loved and taught so earnestly, left. Ran away. But let the Scriptures be fulfilled.

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He didn’t retaliate. He didn’t complain. He was betrayed and He was fully a man and yet His response was not that of a man – not the response of a human who has been betrayed by the ones He trusted the most. He could have responded with vengance, but He didn’t.

“How can I give you up… how can I hand you over… ? My heart recoils within me; my compassion grows warm and tender. I will not execute my burning anger; I will not again destroy Ephraim; for I am god and not a man, the Holy One in your midst, and I will not come in wrath.” Hosea 11:8-8

He responded by showing compassion. He didn’t go to battle; He went to the cross.

All we see is the outskirts of what He has done, the edge of his marvelous ways — but past the outskirts? There is no limit; there is no measure to His lovely compassion.

see? the mercy of our King, and with trembling, rejoice!

She said, He said

setting // eating Chipotle in the library with Jeremy, Sunday after church

Me: Hey, Jeremy, did you see the music video that Ben did after the earthquake in Tiawan?

Jeremy: no!

we watch it together, I get teary again, even though it’s probably the 83rd time I’ve listened

Me: It only has 300 or so views. I can’t believe that it hasn’t gone viral yet. It’s so beautiful and powerful.

Jeremy: Well, it probably needs to get picked up by media first.

Me: Hm

//end conversation

…10 hours later the Chinese Christian Tribune posts this article.

And now? Less than four days after uploading his video of the song he and Jodie wrote just hours after the earthquake left too many dead and homeless the night before Chinese New Year? Over 100,000 views. That’s right, over one hundred thousand.

What in the world? How is this possible!

That’s my little brother, y’all!

And without further ado…

translation:

when I finally broke out,
I couldn’t believe that I was still alive
a deep breath
a heart full of fear
It’s New Year’s Eve –
how will we celebrate?
who will be we with?
Where will we go from here?
Where will we go now?

chorus
God is on your side,
you don’t need to hesitate
even if the sky is falling,
we can still have hope
because God is by your side

At dawn the light breaks,
but my heart is dark as night
how will we all go on?
As we slept there was a shaking,
in a moment, the room was full of cries
I see this all before my eyes,
but I cannot do anything
my heart trembles and cries,
who can understand?
who will take care of all of us?
In the end, when it’s all over, who will I depend on?
But I hear a voice say to me…

God is on your side,
you don’t have to give up hope
even if the ground is shaking,
we will still have hope
because God is by our side

Keep praying for Taiwan. There is brokenness all over the world all of the time, but when it’s in a city that you just visited? In the country where your loved one lives? The earth quake a little bit closer to home…

Focused // the word is life and the life is the light

Today is February 6, 2016. How is it possibly already February? And nearly a week in, at that. The last few weeks have flown past. Delightfully busy, overwhelmed at moments, but those moments quickly pass.

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Despite the busyness, I feel grounded. “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.” (John 1:14)

In him was life, and the life was the light of men. (v. 4)

I keep thinking about this – that the life was the light of men, the life IS the light of men. It almost sounds better to say that the light was life, but no, the life was light. And this light? Shines in the darkness and the darkness has not and will not ever overcome it. The Word, the fulfillment of every covenant, Jesus, has come and He brings life which is light.

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These truths keep me steady, they overwhelm the overwhelming list of assignments and new things to study with the ultimate overwhelming nature of what Jesus has done. When I am focused on this, then I am fixed and secure. Only then is earthly productivity of any eternal value – right? When my mind is fixed on Christ and I pursue the challenge to know nothing but Jesus Christ and him crucified, then it is so much easier for the temporary things of this earth (studying, careers, relationships) to be used for the glory of the Lord.

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yet even when I fail… God works. Ah, He works in such mysterious ways. This poem by William Cowper has been on my heart all morning–

God moves in a mysterious way
His wonders to perform;
He plants His footsteps in the sea
And rides upon the storm.

Deep in unfathomable mines
Of never failing skill
He treasures up His bright designs
And works His sov’reign will.

Ye fearful saints, fresh courage take;
The clouds ye so much dread
Are big with mercy and shall break
In blessings on your head.

Judge not the Lord by feeble sense,
But trust Him for His grace;
Behind a frowning providence
He hides a smiling face.

His purposes will ripen fast,
Unfolding every hour;
The bud may have a bitter taste,
But sweet will be the flow’r.

Blind unbelief is sure to err
And scan His work in vain;
God is His own interpreter,
And He will make it plain.

O fearful saints, fresh courage take; the clouds you so much dread are big with mercy and shall break in blessings on your head. What wondrous love is this, O my soul!

But who am I?

“Who then will offer willingly, consecrating himself today to the LORD?” 1 Chronicles 29:5b

I hear Him asking this… asking me, “will you, today, offer willingly? consecrate yourself?” And my prayer is that my answer will be — that my answer IS! — yes, Lord. Yes, Lord!

“Then the people rejoiced because they had given willingly, for with a whole heart they had offered freely to the LORD.” 1 Chronicles 29:9

This daily journey to knowing Christ better, the Gospel deeper, and my stitch-in-the-tapestry role in His creation clearer is full of opportunities for joy. Rejoicing didn’t always come easily to my wayward heart and soul, but because we have a God who not only has the might and power to speak the universe into existence, but also the gentle hands to heal a wounded soul, here I am. Rejoicing.

“Yours, O Lord, is the greatness and the power and the glory and the victory and the majesty, for all that is in the heavens and in the earth is yours. Yours is the kingdom, O Lord, and you are exalted as head above all. Both riches and honor come from you, and you rule over all. In your hand are power and might, and in your hand it is to make great and to give strength to all. And now we thank you, our God, and praise your glorious name.

But who am I, and what is my people, that we should be able thus to offer willingly? For all things come from you, and of your own have we given you. For we are strangers before you and sojourners as all our fathers were. Our days on the earth are like a shadow, and there is no abiding.”

(1 Chronicles 29:11-15)

But who am I? That I should be able to thus offer willingly… for all things come from you.

En Mei came to Richmond two weeks ago to spend four delightful days with me. We spent hours geeking out about the Gospel (because What Wondrous Love is This! O my soul…) and cooking and singing Chinese hymns with the guitar and going to visit friends and make new ones. The end of Winter Break was a bustling time of reconnecting with people after spending those three lovely weeks in China.

I had to take En Mei to the airport on the Monday before classes started and that was just sad. It took a good deal of restraint not to steal her passport…

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Then it got cold and I decorated for Chinese New Year (February 8th!) and a wanna-be-blizzard came to Richmond.

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We were snowed in on Sunday, and all of the local churches canceled services were canceled, so my housemates and I held a little service, just the five of us. We sang and read and watched a sermon and had communion.

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…doing life with these ladies has been delightful. (Sarah too! She just wasn’t on the couch when I took the photo).

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The roads were plowed, school started up again, and now I have 100s and 100s of pages of reading to do, quizzes to take, study guides to fill in and clinical hours to attend. This semester is going to be so busy that it’s probably going to fly by. My prayer is that, in each and every moment, none of His great grace would be missed. Open the eyes of my heart, Lord, I want to see you highly lifted up!

Yes, He loved His people…

And so it begins.

Semester 3/5 of nursing school has begun. In approximately 11 months I will graduate. I’m not sure what’s more intimidating; how fast the time is going to go by, or how much I have to learn within the next 11 months. It’s going to go by so quickly and I just want to savor each and every one of these moments in between now and the next unknown season of my life.

So much unknown about the future, but it’s crazy-exciting because I know that God has such good plans – the best plans. I can rest in that, which is an adventurously comforting place to be.

The verses that I have been flipping to in my Bible over and over these days (either to remind a friend, or my own heart) are Deuteronomy 7:6-9

“For you are a people holy to the LORD your God. The LORD your God has chosen you to be a people for his treasured possession, out of all the peoples who are on the face of the earth. It was not because you were more in number than any other people that the LORD set his love on you and chose you, for you were the fewest of all peoples, but it is because the LORD loves you and is keeping the oath that he swore to your fathers, that the LORD has brought you out with a mighty hand and redeemed you from the house of slavery, from the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt.

Know therefore that the LORD your God is God, the faithful God who keeps covenant and steadfast love with those who love him and keep his commandments to a thousand generations…”

He (God) loves us because He loves us. Because He loves us. Because He loves us. Few truths speak so powerfully to my heart as this one — the reason that He loves me has nothing, literally nothing, to do with me. He loves me because He set His love upon me and chose me. Gah. What wondrous love is this, O my soul?!

And then, as I’ve been pouring through these Old Testament passages, I keep seeing the words, “compassion” and “treasured possession” and “inheritance” and it makes me laugh and cry and feel all sorts of wonderful, undeserved emotions.

“Yes, he loved his people,

all his holy ones were in his hand;

so they followed in your steps,

receiving direction from you.”

Deuteronomy 33:3

This semester is going to be my busiest one yet, but in so many good ways. I get to learn all about things I literally don’t have a clue about, like Psychiatric Nursing, which I’m shockingly extremely excited about. (nope, not planning on being a psych nurse, but giddy to get to study some of the science behind hurting minds). In the meantime I still work as a care partner (basically “nursing assistant”) in the PICU at the hospital 2 miles downtown and the more I work there the more I love it and cannot wait to be an actual nurse.

And in the gaps of time between classes and clinicals and shifts in the hospital? I will have people over and cook for them. I’ll be having tea and Bible study with dear friends. Jeremy and I will be taking last-minute road trips to somewhere not-too-far-away and reading aloud to one another or singing loudly to random songs on the radio.

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Richmond is due for a deep snowstorm this weekend, and so it’s good that the heat has been turned back on. 8* outside and drafty windows makes for a chilly bedroom, but I love the challenge of “jian chi” (enduring). Lots and lots of tea and studying is in my future, methinks.

So this semester… it’s begun. It’s going to be sumthin’

But First, Cookies

I have much to recap… Christmas morning, evening, Ben’s concert, travels… return to Richmond, life and school and family and hilarity… but I found more pictures of cookies. So, cookies first.

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We ordered some confectioners sugar online and it went far.

Oh my goodness my beautiful baby sister isn’t a baby anymore.

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Up next: The Enormous Catch-up

Wintertime Sojournings

Two handmade quilts on my bed in this little corner of Richmond because it’s 20°F out there and the heat isn’t turned on for my drafty room, and I don’t know how to turn it on. But, two quilts are warm and I can endure… so I’m not complaining, because the kettle works and I’ve got enough tea to last me a very long time. (warning: over-caffeinated Hannah possibly on the loose)

But back “home” in Inner Mongolia. Folks. It’s Negative Two Degrees Fahrenheit. -2° F “Feels like -15°F” I’m not even kidding.

Yesterday I worked a 12-hour shift at the hospital and sometime in the later morning one of the residents said something about snowflakes and all of the nurses thought that he was lying to us. Maybe this is because nurses don’t take doctors seriously when they’re not talking about diseases and drugs… or maybe it’s the fact that Virginia has been experiencing such a balmy winter that it hasn’t even felt like winter. Now it’s finally here- winter, that is, and I’m loving the crispy wind and the blue skies and all of my many cups of tea. And my pile of quilts.

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It’s been a week, exactly, since Jeremy and I returned to the USA after about three weeks in Taiwan and China. Someone asked me at church on Sunday, “How was/is it being home” and I couldn’t tell at first if they asked, “How was it being home?” or “How is it being home?” because both questions applied and it really made me catch my breath before I could answer… Yes, we went home. Home was wonderful, the time in China went by too quickly but it was such a treat to see how well my family is doing, and also to be reminded of ways that I can be lifting them up. But also — it’s nice to be back home. Here, the USA… home.

Confusing? Yes. Unsettling? Potentially. But as I’ve leaped into the Old Testament this January the word “Sojourner” keeps popping up. It’s funny, because when I first returned I was chatting with a friend about the weirdness, and she sent me some references in the Word about “sojourning,” and now I’m in Genesis and Exodus and the word is everywhere.

“Then the Lord said to Abram, “Know for certain that your offspring will be sojourners in a land that is not theirs and will be servants there, and they will be afflicted for four hundred years…” (Gen 15:13)

“And the Lord appeared to him and said, “Do not go down to Egypt; dwell in the land of which I shall tell you. Sojourn in this land, and I will be with you and will bless you, for to you and to your offspring I will give all these lands, and I will establish the oath that I swore to Abraham your father…” (Gen 26:2-3)

“And Jacob said to Pharoh, “The days of the years of my sojourning are 130 years. Few and evil have been the days of the years of my life, and they have not attained to the days of the years of the life of my fathers in the days of their sojourning.” (Gen 47:9)

“And Moses was content to dwell with the man, and he gave Moses his daughter Zipporah. She gave birth to a son, and he called his name Gershom, for he said, “I have been a sojourner in a foreign land.” (Ex 2:21-22)

“I also established my covenant with them to give them the land of Canaan, the land in which they lived as sojourners…” (Ex 6:4)

Kind of neat, yes? And then today I read the Song of Moses in chapter 15 and I saw the theme again! But this time it was a reminiscing, a “looking back” if you will, to how the Lord had led his people- Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and Moses through their years and years of sojourning, and how the Lord had been so incredibly faithful throughout.

“You have led in your steadfast love the people whom you have redeemed; you have guided them by your strength to your holy abode… You will bring them in and plant them on your own mountain, the place, O Lord, which you have made for your abode, the sanctuary, O Lord, which your hands have established.” (Exodus 15:13, 17)

So, throughout this new and interesting season, where home is both here and there (and therefore, nowhere here or there), I am content, because I have full confidence that the Lord is leading in His steadfast love, that he is guiding me by His strength, and that He will bring me and plant me in the places that His hands have established. How overwhelming is that?