seeing God in the good.

So I drank some coffee and took Excedrine to fight off my second migraine this week so I’m still pretty awake at the moment. Thought I’d use some of this time to post some of my gratitude list, in the spirit of November’s Thanksgiving. Ever since I read Ann Voskamp‘s One Thousand Gifts I’ve started the year off listing things I’m grateful for. I am currently on #708 and know I will reach at least 1,000 by the end of the year! Life isn’t without pain and this isn’t about ignoring pain. My last couple weeks have been far from easy. There have been goodbyes, annoying headaches, and overwhelming amount of work to do, frustrating roadblocks,  a friend is currently distancing from me, I haven’t slept or exercised enough or eaten super well. Etc. But here’s what focusing on the crappy stuff does. It just creates a spirit of complaining. Worst of all, it causes you to miss the good and it trains your eyes to see the bad. It’s amazing what listing the good things can do for your soul and for the way you look at life.

Some of my highlights from the past couple of weeks…

642. Father Fred asking me to share thoughts on prayer with teenagers in his Catholic religious education class.

650. People pointing out my spiritual gifts at Bible study.

659. Phil Stacey & Trevor Hager leading worship at staff conference.

662. My staff goodbye and all the words of affirmation given to me.

668. Rapping some old school DC Talk around the bonfire with Phil and Trevor.

669. A random and meaningful bear hug from a friend.

672. Making my first-ever work-related phone call to a longtime friend who will soon be a coworker.

676. A student reading me her poem about bullying and having self-worth rooted in what God thinks about you.

685. The Shack.

690. Dancing at the military ball.

691. Snuggle time with the bestie talking about how cool God is.

699. The awesome Eagles game against the Raiders.

703. A volunteer leader saying that being around all of us leaders is uplifting.

704. Drew Holcomb’s music.

In her club talk the other night, one of my leaders spoke about how we always ask if God is good, why is there so much evil in the world? when we should also, and maybe instead, be asking, Why is there so much good in the world? Everything good comes from God. I’m so bad at looking for the good. I’m an expert at looking for the bad, inside and outside myself. But when we look for the good, we see God Himself. I want to see more of Him and less of the crap in the world and in myself. There is so much joy in gratitude. Sometimes I look at what I’ve written and feel incredibly selfish and self-involved, and I miss all the things God is trying to show me with each of those things on the list. I feel like with each tiny thing on my list He is saying, “I know the bad stuff is hard. But I want to show you some good things to encourage you, to redeem the bad, to let You know that I am here and that I love you through the hard things. Don’t give up.” He does that throughout the entire Bible, too. He is always telling the Israelites to build altars and stuff to remind themselves of how He delivered them in the past, so that when they run up against something else that’s difficult and painful they can look bad and remember their deliverance and God’s goodness. God knew we’d easily forget, easily focus on the hard stuff. Practicing gratitude is like the modern-day version of building an altar. I don’t write things down to check a box. I write them down so that my negatively-focused soul will remember my God and know He is with me in the present just as He was with me in the past.

You are good, You are good
When there’s nothing good in me
You are love, You are love
On display for all to see
You are light, You are light
When the darkness closes in
You are hope, You are hope
You have covered all my sin

You are peace, You are peace
When my fear is crippling
You are true, You are true
Even in my wandering
You are joy, You are joy
You’re the reason that I sing
You are life, You are life,
In You death has lost its sting

Oh, I’m running to Your arms,
I’m running to Your arms
The riches of Your love
Will always be enough
Nothing compares to Your embrace
Light of the world forever reign

My heart will sing no other name
Jesus, Jesus

Forever Reign by Hillsong

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jj heller – when you come back

I don’t know how to follow you without losing my way
Jesus come and take me by the hand
I don’t know how to trust that you will do the things you say
Spirit teach me how to understand

That your love can heal the wreckage of my soul
The beauty of your light shining in me

I don’t know when you’ll take me home to paradise with you
The day when I will finally be free
Oh the day when you come back for me

welcome home sky soldiers!

Nine months ago some of my closest friends here went to go fight in a war. Today we welcomed them home. After signing on my German friends (and one Irish friend visiting one of them) to the post, we arrived early, expecting it to start at 1500. False. Then we realized that most welcome home ceremonies end up being late, because we have to wait for the soldiers to get there from the airport. The ceremony didn’t start until two hours later. We were getting anxious! However, I can’t really explain to you what it was like to just sit there and people watch at something like this. Moms herded their children to a seat, some kids had made signs for their daddies, some were carrying balloons, and some were wearing t-shirts with their daddy’s photo on it. They handed out American flags and pins to the crowd, and even my German friends waved theirs proudly. I saw a couple of my high school kids there too, getting ready to welcome home their dads. It was an amazing sight and an amazing feeling as the anticipation and happiness in the air was contagious.

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My high school friend Tori and her family

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Setting up

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Kat, my new Irish friend, Salome, and Jess, having fun “being American”

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DSC_0020The German/American crew waiting patiently

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Suddenly and without warning, the curtain slowly went up, and the sight of over 100 combat boots standing in formation representing friends, daddies, mommies, husbands, and wives was enough to make me tear up and get goosebumps. As they stood right in front of us, they weren’t supposed to smile and we had to wait. It was torture! My friend Chaplain Martindale offered a prayer and the post Commander said a few words but dismissed us fast! I took a video- the whole ceremony was only about 3 minutes long (sorry for the blurryness):


It’s impossible not to be proud to be an American after that. And to enjoy the glorious reunions!

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DSC_0031Jonathan came bearing German gifts 🙂

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The Huisjen kids (whose missionary parents run the Hospitality House- a ministry to soldiers) missed Karl

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Monte and Brook

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He sets the lonely in families. Psalm 68:6

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Snapped this one as we were leaving- don’t know them but this was beautiful.

So grateful to God for bringing my friends home safe, and grateful for what they do for us. Being in the Army is hard in many ways, but these guys do it with an incredible reliance on God to get them through each day. So glad to have them back with us! The reason I think things like this strike at our emotional core is that we are relational people. We are not meant to be apart. This ceremony was a reminder to me of the beauty of the reunion we will have in heaven one day with everyone we love. The anticipation builds.

stirred up grief.

If there was ever a blessing behind the curse of grief, the sneaky kind that stalks and pounces on you at the last minute, it’s that you can know you’re one step closer to really learning something, and can understand the suffering of Christ on a more real and deeper level than ever before.

“Suffering is redemptive, beautiful, meaningful and very important to the Christian life. It shouldn’t be avoided, but instead consecrated to Christ.”
-Audrey Assad

This song she wrote is beautiful.

You could plant me like a tree beside a river
You could tangle me in soil and let my roots run wild
And I would blossom like a flower in the desert
But for now just let me cry

You could raise me like a banner in a battle
Put victory like a fire behind my shining eyes
And I would drift like falling snow over the embers
But for now just let me lie

Bind up these broken bones
Mercy bend and breathe me back to life
But not before You show me how to die

Set me like a star before the morning
Like a song that steals the darkness from a world asleep
And I’ll illuminate the path You’ve laid before me
But for now just let me be

Bind up these broken bones
Mercy bend and breathe me back to life
But not before You show me how to die
Oh, not before You show me how to die

So let me go like a leaf upon the water
Let me brave the wild currents flowing to the sea
And I will disappear into a deeper beauty
But for now just stay with me
God, for now just stay with me

-Audrey Assad – Show Me

why we are always homesick

“If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world. If none of my earthly pleasures satisfy it that does not prove that the universe is a fraud. Probably earthly pleasures were never meant to satisfy it, but only to arouse it, to suggest the real thing. If that is so, I must take care, on the one hand, never to despise, or be unthankful for, these earthly blessings, and on the other, never to mistake them for the something else of which they are only a kind of copy, or echo, or mirage. I must keep alive in myself the desire for my true country, which I shall not find till after death; I must never let it get snowed under or turned aside; I must make it the main object of life to press on to that other country and to help others to do the same.”

-c.s. lewis, mere christianity