Grace upon Grace

“…worship must rest on a true perception of God.” -John Piper

There is none like you, O LORD; you are great, and your name is great in might. Who would not fear you, O King of the nations? For this is your due; for among all the wise ones of the nations and in all their kingdoms there is none like you. (Jeremiah 10:6-7)

“…In the person of Christ do meet together infinite glory and lowest humility. Infinite glory, and the virtue of humility, meet in no other person but Christ. They meet in no created person; for no created person has infinite glory, and they meet in no other divine person but Christ.

…In the person of Christ do meet together infinite majesty and transcendent meekness. These again are two qualifications that meet together in no other person but Christ.

…There meet in the person of Christ the deepest reverence towards God and equality with God.

…There are conjoined in the person of Christ infinite worthiness of good, and the greatest patience under sufferings of evil.

He was perfectly innocent, and deserved no suffering. He deserved nothing from God by any guilt of his own, and he deserved no ill from men. Yea, he was not only harmless and undeserving of suffering, but he was infinitely worthy; worthy of the infinite love of the Father, worthy of infinite and eternal happiness, and infinitely worthy of all possible esteem, love, and service from all men.

And yet he was perfectly patient under the greatest sufferings that ever were endured in this world.

…In Christ do meet together self-sufficiency, and an entire trust and reliance on God, which is another conjunction peculiar to the person of Christ.” -Jonathan Edwards

And from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. (John 1:16)

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I’ve been checking days off of my calendar this {summer} semester, and there are only ten days until the final final exam. Today was the last official day in class until September, the next two weeks will be for clinicals and studying and examinations… and slipping away to cross-stitch onto fabric the promises my heart needs stitched onto its flesh.

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Time and I have a way of not understanding one another and I’m never sure if I’m shocked at how much time has already passed, or how little. But I’m shocked, and in trying to look back at the past days and weeks and months I see that the Lord has, once again, taught me precious lessons of His kindness.

His kindness as a refiner, as a shepherd, as a father and as a king.

I read through Isaiah and Jeremiah and I am completely overwhelmed with how compassionate, merciful, and forgiving He is. The God of the universe? His standards are high and his reign is sure and disobedience to him is not without cost because He is righteous and just (because He is good!) but His love and delight in the children He created is inexplicable in the most beautiful sense.

You will say in that day: “I will give thanks to you, O LORD, for though you were angry with me, your anger turned away, that you might comfort me. Behold, God is my salvation; I will trust, and will not be afraid; for the LORD GOD is my strength and my song, and he has become my salvation.” With joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation. Isaiah 12:1-3

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And so this season? With family in country, I am trying to keep up with where they are, and praying about how I can help this flurry of people and traveling mingle with some encouragement and refreshment and rest. There’s a brother about to move away and start his new exciting adventure… and another one across the world living his own character-building adventures. And then me? Moving and changing and making small decisions and bigger prayers about the future. Answering all of the “what’s next” questions with honest unknowingness, while begging that my heart-answer is always, “…and may the lord do what seems good to him.”

Because He has done what seemed good to Him, and that took Him to the cross. For me. Grace upon Grace.

“Give thanks to the LORD, call upon his name, make known his deeds among the peoples, proclaim that his name is exalted. Sing praises to the LORD, for he has done gloriously; let this be made known in all the earth. Shout, and sing for joy, O inhabitant of Zion, for great in your midst is the Holy One of Israel.” Isaiah 12:4-6

I see it again — I keep seeing this theme in the Word — obedience. We can praise, sing, worship and call upon His name… but then we obey. Sing praises to the Lord, for he has done gloriously… and now let this be made known in all of the earth.

“Then I will gather the remnant of my flock out of all the countries where I have driven them, and I will bring them back to their fold, and they shall be fruitful and multiply. I will set shepherds over them who will care for them and they shall fear no more, nor be dismayed, neither shall any be missing, declares the LORD.” Jeremiah 23:3-4

My soul will sing, He has done great things!

dinner guests and air mattresses

Phew, what a week! After sending the family out Sunday night for their next little family adventure in North Carolina (to see grandparents) I had to shift from family-mode back to school/work-mode. But only for a few days! After class and a couple of final presentations and paper submissions on Thursday, it was time for family-mode again.

This time, they were stopping through overnight between NC and flying out Friday morning for a week of camp/conferences/other stuff. It ended up being easiest and simplest to have everyone spend the night at my apartment, so the hunt for air mattresses began a week ago and by the time Daddy and Mommy and the girls walked through my front door we had three huge mattresses and I wondered if maybe we should invite some more people to join the massive sleepover. My roommates quickly vetoed that idea. God does provide for our needs extravagantly, though, doesn’t He?

Muffins to send with the travelers for their early morning flight…

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The table set in the corner with rotisserie chicken and discounted star wars napkins (“they were a great deal!” -Jeremy). We added five chairs later.

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Pasta salad to feed a posse. I’m so very close to using up all of the pasta that I inherited from dear friends who moved a year ago. Thank goodness there’s no expiration date!

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This picture makes me so happy.

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Sleepover time. It all went so very well, and we tried really hard to get to bed early, as the next morning was very early for many of us.

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I had to say goodbye to the girlies before 6am the next morning, on my way out the door, but when I got home the mattresses were deflated and the sheets were folded and Naomi texted me that they had arrived safely.

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This summer is full of adventures, and tastes of God’s grace in kindness. Each morning the mercies are new, and His faithfulness is great. The travels will continue, along with the studies and transitions and all of these wondrous opportunities — great and small — to experience His awe-inspiring majesty. There is no Rock but my God!

I love my God, but with no love of mine,
For I have none to give;
I love Thee, Lord, but all the love is Thine,
For by Thy life I live:
I am as nothing, and rejoice to be
Emptied, and lost, and swallow’d up in Thee.

{weekend} pictures of parties and people

What a weekend.

Saturday was family day. Nana and Papa treated all of the aunts and uncles and cousins to Pirates of Penzance that afternoon, and we had family dinner afterwards. It was so lovely to have everybody (except for Jeremy and Ben) together for the first time in a long time.

Nana and her three grown up kids…

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Little ones on the floor…

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The younger half of the grandkids, all together. This photo is a recreation of one that was taken 2 years ago. Everyone is about a foot taller.

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…and the great-grandkid and one of his many uncles _MG_0753

Leaving a legacy… so much faithfulness in his picture.

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For some hilarious reason, it was black-and-white stripes day. Nana, Mommy, Elisabeth, Naomi and I all wore b&w stripes to the show. We made ourselves giggle.

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Aaaaand, we celebrated Chris’ 23rd birthday because that’s today and you can’t gather an entire family together and not celebrate something, right?

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I took Elisabeth back to Richmond with me Saturday night, and the rest of the family joined us Sunday morning at church. Going to church with your family for the first time in years is super special. After the service we all came back to my apartment and met roommates, cleaned up, relaxed a little bit (for some people) and I prepared for MAC (Meal After Church). The menu was spaghetti and bread, salad and banana pudding for desert. The sauce was put in the crockpot early that morning, and Elisabeth and I made the pudding before Family Skype that morning (it was a small turn-out, just Elisabeth, Jeremy, Ben and I representing two countries).

Nana sent me with two bags of leftover rolls from dinner the day before, so I was excited that I wouldn’t have to make quite as much bread. You see, every-time I make homemade bread for MAC, it gets devoured, and Jeremy told me to plan for a huge crowd, so I thought that I would have to make at least 6 loaves. Well. So I found my recipe and only tripled it, thinking that 3 loaves would be enough, with the rolls. But I didn’t pay attention to how much bread the recipe made and ended up kneading a massive amount of dough (which would probably explain my sore arms this morning). And then it rose… and I ended up with 7 loaves. As of this morning there are three slices left so I guess that wasn’t a problem. Guys and bread. Goodness gracious.

Alrighty– back to Sunday. Avery, Jeremy’s roommate, met the rest of our family for the first time and it was quite an emotional moment.

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Lily and the G girls together, finally. This is a meeting I’ve been eagerly anticipating for months and months.

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Hungry men

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Old friends and new; such a treat to introduce them all to our family. All 33 of them. ‘Twas such fun.

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After most of the guests had left, the rest of us settled down for slurpees (with all of those people and no AC, it got hot inside) and strong cups of tea (never too hot for a cup of tea) and card games and music.

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And then? Before the Five Traveling Samuels left upon the next leg of their journey, a picture of all of these cousins. What followed was porch-sitting for us big cousins, and then a dash to Chipotle because I didn’t feel like cooking anymore.

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We are all so greatly blessed, highly favored, imperfect but forgiven, children of God.

“Come and see what God has done: he is awesome in his deeds toward the children of man.”

Psalm 66:5

Save

“can you wait to see me… or not?”

I got a call from the five traveling members of the Samuels family this past Sunday night. They had arrived in the USA safe and sound with all of their luggage (an impressive 5 backpacks and 5 carry-ons, one of which is full of duffle bags #packinglight) and were on their way to the first of what will be many temporary homes during this time in the States.

Lily asked, “Hannah, can you wait to see me… or not?” Of course I answered, “not” and told them that I’d see them on Saturday, and then hung up and giggled gleefully to myself because I was plotting something. Initially, due to my schedule this week, I was not planning to drive to Charlotteville (the 2nd of many temporary homes) until Saturday. But this past Saturday, I realized that if I got ahead on my studying and homework, and felt good about my exam this Thursday, I would have a few free hours Tuesday night to drive up and completely surprise the whole family as they sat down to dinner. Just writing about this makes me so excited. So I literally buried myself (actually, not literally) in the books from Saturday noon onward, and Tuesday afternoon, after working a few hours and then studying for many many more hours, I hopped into our sauna-mobile (the van has no AC, so we get a free sauna for the price of gasoline. whoohoo) and sped off to Cville. Eeek!

I arrived at Nana’s house about 10 minutes before they did, and decided that I do not like surprises, because I was nervous! Lily cried out, “My sister!” from the car and we gave sweaty hugs (my sweat) and it was lovely to see them again and chat and have dinner and run around in the grass taking pictures and getting bit by chiggers.

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The evening went by too quickly. I had to drive back to Richmond that night because I’m working today. I’ll head back on Saturday, and I still can’t wait to see them.

Sunday {7.3.2016}

–beginning with,

“How precious is your steadfast love, O God! The children of mankind take refuge in the shadow of your wings. They feast on the abundance of your house, and you give them drink from the river of your delights. For with you is the fountain of life; in your light do we see light.”

Psalm 36:5-9

Next? Can’t chose a favorite verse, so here – four of them,

Praise to the Lord, the Almighty, the King of creation!
O my soul, praise him, for he is your health and salvation!
Come, all who hear; now to his temple draw near,
join me in glad adoration.

Praise to the Lord, above all things so wondrously reigning;
sheltering you under his wings, and so gently sustaining!
Have you not seen all that is needful has been
sent by his gracious ordaining?

Praise to the Lord, who will prosper your work and defend you;
surely his goodness and mercy shall daily attend you.
Ponder anew what the Almighty can do,
if with his love he befriends you.

Praise to the Lord! O let all that is in me adore him!
All that has life and breath, come now with praises before him.
Let the Amen sound from his people again;
gladly forever adore him.

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And then the beauty of the Gospel in James 2:14-26… living faith vs. dead faith. Faith that can save and faith that cannot. Faith that is visible and produces fruit, and faith that doesn’t. We must understand the difference; we are so easily deceived.

The demons have an intellectual understanding and even an emotional response to God… and they shudder. But Living Faith — it’s more than an intellectual understanding or emotions; and how much of what we place religious value on is just shuddering? Do we merely have the faith of the demons?

Living Faith — it produces a love for Christ. Dead faith? It’s produces nothing more than servile fear – a knowledge of how God-like God is, but within the heart there is no love for God. And perfect love? that casts out fear. Living faith leads to a love for God, which is followed with obedience.

yes yes yes the theme of His reminders to me this season– trust and obey, because He first loved us

Abraham’s faith was justified by his works when he offered up his son Isaac on the alter… and God made a way for Isaac to not die, and Abraham’s faith was counted to him as righteousness and he was called a friend of God.

But God. He was also a father who walked up a mountain with His son. And His son actually was sacrificed. What wondrous love is this, O my soul? How can I keep from singing His praise? When we were dead in our trespasses and sins He made us alive with Him in Christ Jesus. By Grace I have been saved!

tonight?

tracking the family who is due to land finally, after hours and hours and days of travel, in ten minutes.

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so very very close

packed and on their way

at 12:20pm, on Friday, Naomi reported that the family was “almost done” with packing.

then, at 9:58am Saturday morning, En Mei texted that the family was “heading out in half an hour!”

a day-train from Inner Mongolia to Beijing on Saturday, spending the night with friends in the city, and then they fly out Sunday… and arrive in the USA on Sunday.

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I’m so very excited that they’re so close, but also bummed that I won’t be able to see them until next week (school doesn’t adjust for families coming in from China, and I have tests and clinicals all next week. Phooey.)

A couple of prayer requests:

safety; sleep on the plane; smooth layovers; supernatural energy for the already-weary ones; incredible provision to those left in China manning the fort; sweet reunions; easy jetlag; grace-filled conversations; peaceful hearts

“Remember to extol his work, of which men have sung. All mankind has looked on it; man beholds it from afar. Behold, God is great, and we know him not; the number of his years is unsearchable.” Job 36:24-26

Sunday {6.26.2016}

“He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will abide in the shadow of the Almighty.” (Psalm 91:1)

Thou who wast rich beyond all splendour,
All for love’s sake becamest poor;
Thrones for a manger didst surrender,
Sapphire-paved courts for stable floor.

Thou who art God beyond all praising,
All for love’s sake becamest man;
Stooping so low, but sinners raising
Heavenwards by thine eternal plan.

Thou who art love beyond all telling,
Saviour and King, we worship thee.
Emmanuel, within us dwelling,
Make us what thou wouldst have us be.

Last weekend? Precious people and prayer and praises… feasting and fellowshipping and ignoring the next day’s exam (which went fine, despite having 20+ people over for lunch the afternoon before).

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The week? Full of surprising reminders of His grace. That prayer meeting we prayed for, hoping that new students would come? Completely out of our control but some came and we gathered in an upper room of the School of Nursing and interceded for His precious sheep to have ears to hear His voice. Awesome. Work and study and seeking Him for wisdom for how to use the days and hours and minutes in a way that would bring honor to the One who is beyond time itself — “whatever the LORD pleases, he does, in heaven and on earth, in the seas and all the deeps.” (Psalm 135:6) — Just Grace.

deep, rich conversations… and deep, rich cups of tea

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This week was full-to-bursting as always, and Friday ended with a sugary-sweet bang. Little friends and a paint-splattered table, marshmallows roasting on the gas stove (with chopsticks, of course), singing musicals from the second-floor porch, spontaneously baking macaroons and gluing googly eyes on painted rocks… sweet in so many ways.

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This weekend was one for Chronicles and being overwhelmed with how great God is (Behold, heaven and the highest heaven cannot contain you!), how knowing He is (for you, you only, know the hearts of the children of mankind), and how merciful He is (…that all the peoples of the earth may know your name and fear you.)

O Lord, let this be my response, my breathed-out prayer at every moment, every turn, each surprise and plan and thought —

“…and may the LORD do what seems good to Him.” (1 Chronicles 19:13)

And may the LORD do what seems good to Him.

These days, the themes that He has been opening my eyes, and softening my heart towards, are these: walk, according to all that He has commanded. And run, towards the prize of the upward call in Christ Jesus.

“For He is good, for His steadfast love endures forever.” (2 Chronicles 5:13)

MacArthur reminded me of truths that resonate over and over in my head– the gift of the Holy Spirit is something more wonderful than I think I will ever fully comprehend. God is an incredibly generous Father who gives really, really good gifts to His children.

“We ask for comfort, he gives us the comforter. We ask for help, he gives us the helper. We ask for truth, he gave us the truth teacher. We ask for power, he gave us the spirit of power. We ask for wisdom, he gives us the spirit of wisdom. We ask for guidance, he gave us the guide. We ask for the gift, he gives us the giver. We ask for the product, he gives us the sources. He gives us ACCORDING to his riches, not out of his riches. We ask for some money… HE HAS GIVEN US THE BANK.”

And now, because tomorrow is a full day that comes early, I’ll sign off with thoughts swirling through my head about His wondrous love.

I once was lost in darkest night
Yet thought I knew the way
The sin that promised joy and life
Had led me to the grave
I had no hope that You would own
A rebel to Your will
And if You had not loved me first
I would refuse You still

But as I ran my hell-bound race
Indifferent to the cost
You looked upon my helpless state
And led me to the cross
And I beheld God’s love displayed
You suffered in my place
You bore the wrath reserved for me
Now all I know is grace

Hallelujah! All I have is Christ
Hallelujah! Jesus is my life

to end–