Summer! When, I think of vacations and well, social media is full of amazing vacations some probably cost a lot and some maybe we made a budget or it was a gift. Sometimes, even when we don’t mean to we make assumptions about what others are doing because maybe we are trying so hard and we just can’t or maybe we have different priorities right now.
Each one should test their own actions. Then they can take pride in themselves alone, without comparing themselves to someone else, for each one should carry their own load. Galatians 6:4-18 NIV
We all have different resources and priorities. God has challenged me to make my life mine and not compare or make assumptions. I try so hard to be forever determined to be Christ like. To be obedient with what his plan is. We need to be intentional, to not to confirm to this world. Let us not pull put the credit cards or spend all of God's money on a few days of rest, when you can make memories and rest, using our resources wisely. God does instruct to rest. Maybe your staycation, vacation isn’t a week long, maybe it’s not even a day. However, whatever it is make it amazing for you.
By the seventh day God had finished the work he had been doing; so, on the seventh day he rested from all his work. Genesis 2:2
Now your idea of fun, memories, rest are going to look different from anyone else is because there yours. Let’s take the Beach! I live in Kansas and the beach is not in my budget right now, but I can find a local lake and maybe bring a CD of ocean music, maybe invest in a bag of sand, some sand toys and a blanket and instant beach. Can’t get to a lake, how about beach in the backyard kiddie pool, sand, beach towel umbrella and music. Relaxing day at the Beach and you didn’t even have to leave your home.
Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will. Romans 12:2
What about a taking a day drive with no itinerary and see what adventures you can find. Have you ever taken a trip to your home town visitors center? Take a day and act like a tourist. Check out Google, You Tube, Pinterest, local library, and of course your visitor’s center are great resources. Key words to search are Staycations, or Vacation on a budget.
The possibilities are endless.
Jurassic Park 3ology
When Jurassic Park first hit theaters in 1993, I was senior in high school. I saw it and loved it. So, I saw it again. And again. Six times I went to that terrific film. So, naturally, when the sequels come out, I had to see them as well. With the exception of Jurassic World, they did not live up to their predecessor, but they were still enjoyable. Throughout the series, the gist of the story remains the same: Dinosaurs are alive and well and living in a protected environment, something bad happens and the dinosaurs attack. Pretty straight forward. No matter how prepared the humans think they are for any potential problem, unexpected things catch them off-guard. What the character of Ian Malcom calls ‘chaos’.
There is a moment in Jurassic Park III where Alan Grant’s assistant, Billy, picks up two velociraptor eggs as souvenirs. Raptors have been established throughout the films as highly intelligent and vicious. Grant discovers the stolen eggs and is immediately concerned that the raptors are going to come looking for them. He holds them over a cliff and is about to drop them when he pauses. He decides not to drop them but instead puts them in his backpack. A member of his party worriedly says, “Those things are still after us. What if they catch us with them?” to which Grant replies, “What if they catch us without them?” Chaos.
We all go through life pretty content, thinking that we are more-or-less ready for any potential problem. We protect our kids, we lock our doors, we get insurance, we wear our seat belts. But every once in a while, unexpected things catch us off-guard. Maybe the doctor calls with bad news, maybe you lose a loved one, or get betrayed by a friend or spouse. Chaos.
Faith in God is the one thing in our lives that remains constant. When things go off the rails, he doesn’t. When life throws chaotic events at us, he remains firm. God is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow. I recently had a very difficult year. Unexpected things happened to me and nothing went as I expected. I spent hours in prayer and conversation with God. Joy, sadness, anger, disgust, worry, and every other emotion not in Inside Out were wrapped up in those prayers. When chaotic times come up for a Christian, they have two options: Blame God for letting them down, or turn to God to help them through it.
Let me assure you… Trouble WILL come. No ifs, ands, or buts. The raptors WILL find you. What if they catch you without God? The peace that God provides in times of trouble is priceless. I could have suffered through that year blaming God, and ignoring his comforting presence. But leaning on him and trusting him to get me through changed my year from ‘chaotic’ to ‘doable.’
There is no doubt in mind that when the raptors came into my life, I had what I needed. I had the love of a never-changing, hope-giving, joy-providing God. I’m so glad I kept him with me.
Recently one of my cousins and his wife took in 4 children through the foster parent program.
Rescued from unspeakable circumstances.
They were each given baths the first night. None had ever seen a wash cloth and didn't know what it was for.
They'd never heard about Jesus.
Never heard a prayer or been prayed for.
Never seen Gone With the Wind or The Wizard of Oz.
Never rode a bicycle before.
My cousin has shared with me how each of the children is unfolding and blossoming on a daily basis.
One learned to ride a bike in a day and his self confidence has soared. We are all like these lost children.
We have been saved, for some, from unspeakable circumstances.
We were dirty and didn't know how to be washed clean.
We've never heard the name of our Savior.
We haven't experienced the joys of living in His care.
But He took us in.
He loved us even though the only love we knew was dark and ugly.
He showed us real love.
As we grow in His love and acceptance our self confidence also grows.
We unfold and bloom in the sunshine of His smile as we realize what true love is really like.
Twelve years... Twelve years of being an only child.
Did I mind? Nope. Was I lonely? ...Nope.
Well, that all changed when my dad and step-mom adopted a little girl. But hey, it's just one sibling, right? Not that huge of an adjustment.
One year later...one short, brother-less year later... My mom remarried. And her new husband...had three children.
*cue dramatic music*
Okay okay, so this is a little exaggerated. Honestly, having siblings was a nice change. I'm an extremely social person, so an extra sibling...or four...was enjoyable for me. Well, once we established the pecking order and they all knew who was really in charge (me, in case you were wondering) everything was just dandy.
In all actuality, the biggest ripple caused in the ever-growing river of my family was my littlest sibling. Sheppard Kristian, the hybrid product of my mom and stepdad, my only blood related sibling, the kid who topped a blended family off with whipped cream and a cherry...the tiny little whirlwind of energy that sets the house ablaze and then douses the flames with an outpouring of adorable...
This is the story of the entrance of that little boy on a (very unsuspecting) family.
I guess before I start this off, I should clarify that my dad and my stepmom lived in Knoxville, TN, and my mom and stepdad lived in the west coast. At the time, I alternated living 6 months in Tennessee and 6 months in Washington. Well, on the day I received a very special phone call from Washington, I was sitting on my couch in Tennessee.
I looked at the phone to see that my stepdad was calling me. I answered, and he put me on speaker phone with him, my mom, and my 3 step siblings. "We have a surprise for all of you," he said. "I want you each to guess what it is." I, being the smart mouth that I am, jokingly said "Ha, Mom's pregnant." My counterparts all guessed random things, like "Dad got a new job" "We're moving to Alaska" etc.
"Well, one of you was actually correct." Uh oh... "It's Amberly. Mom's pregnant." At this point, we hear an eruption of "WHAT!?!?" exploding from me and my siblings. "Are you serious?!" "There's more," he added. "It's a boy...and she's 5 months along."
Speechless. Utterly speechless.
A few short weeks later, I was sitting on an airplane across the row from my mom, heading back to Washington after they met me down in Tennessee for my stepdad's family reunion. I just remember sitting there, looking at her, thinking about how I never would've imagined seeing my mom carrying another human...wondering if she looked the same when she was pregnant with me. Also, I was marveling at the fact that she was on board an airplane while in her third trimester...
Three months after that, I was sitting in a doctor's office with my mom for her pre-op appointment. Because she had me by c-section, and since she was...*cough*...older...now, she'd have to have Sheppard by a scheduled c-section as well. All I remember of that pre-op appointment was the reality of my mom going into a major surgery and the fact that they'd have to put a needle in her spine - the explanation of which nearly put me on the floor.
On an afternoon in September, I sat in the waiting room with my stepbrother and a couple of friends, awaiting the arrival of my little brother. I was anxious out of my mind, thinking of my mom on an operating table, when the only other surgery she'd ever had was when I graced the world with my presence (ha! As if...)
I don't remember how long the operation took, or what I did while I waited (aside from being amused by my youth pastor purposely tripping and falling on his face in the middle of a hospital hallway.) What I do remember is finally being allowed in the room with my mom, turning the corner and seeing this tiny 5 pound human. I looked at him in awe, trying to fathom the fact that he was my brother - and how crazy it was that the 15 year gap between us didn't seem to change how that felt. I vowed right then and there that I'd love and protect him no matter what, and that I'd always be his big sister.
It's been almost 6 years. That little boy has turned into this whirlwind child who has a mind that sometimes confuses my own with its genius. He got his daddy's brain and his mama's heart - he got the energy, adventurousness, and stubbornness of both of them combined.
That little boy is going to change the world someday. He comes from a dynamic family of creative, logical, forwarding thinking people who are passionate about the Lord and never stop working hard. I'm blessed to be called a part of that family.
I'm blessed to be called a big sister.
I have the honour of being a year adviser at my Christian school in Sydney Australia. This is a job that allows me to look after 30 18 year old girls as they approach the end of their schooling. I have been the year adviser for these girls for the past three and a half years, and have had the pleasure of walking with them as they have grown and matured. It has been strange watching their growth and watching them rebel against different aspects of their schooling experience as they have matured.
Over the years I have heard of fights within groups, and between groups, of young love, and young heartbreak, of anger and frustration with teachers and assessment tasks, and as they have grown older, dissatisfaction with the whole concept of schooling.
These girls have begun to push all of the boundaries they have been given, wearing their uniform incorrectly, complaining about work load, coming late to school, not completing homework and then getting snippy with staff when they get them in trouble for any of these things. These girls, they are groaning for the next stage of their life, groaning for the part where they aren’t treated like children any more.
One of my roles in this job is to discipline these girls, and this part gets harder and harder as they get older and it becomes increasingly clear to me that they are almost adults, and it really doesn’t matter if they wear a necklace or not. I see their future too, as fulfilled adults working in jobs they love and wearing whatever nail polish they choose, it just feels right for them. It feels like they aren’t made for this world at school anymore.
That said, I don’t think this attitude is good – while they are in school they should respect their teachers, and respect the school rules, no matter how silly they may seem. That being disrespectful is still sin, and sin is still sin.
As I thought about this, I realized that I too often focus on the bad things in creation groaning with the hurts and sadnessesand stresses of this creation, frustrated that it isn’t perfect, that it isn’t right, and in turn, choosing a sinful response rather than a hope filled, Heaven focused one.
I’ve been telling the girls that they need to focus on the good things of school, but be looking forward to next year, working in the situation they are in but with their eyes on the new stage beginning soon. As I’ve been telling them this, I have been realizing that I too need to be applying this to my whole life.
We don’t live in a perfect world. We don’t live in the new heaven and new Earth promised us. It is so easy to focus on what is wrong here, without casting our eyes to the hope that is before us, to the next stage - the one we were made for!
Suffering will come, difficult times will continue to affect us. We will still groan under our sin, groan under the pain of this current Earth, but let’s be encouraged to obey these Earthly rules as we were commanded, but to not let our hope of a new creation fade. Because one day, there will be no more tears, there will be no more suffering, for God is making all things new.
21 Then I saw “a new heaven and a new earth,”[a] for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. 2 I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. 3 And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. 4 ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’[b] or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”
5 He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” Then he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.”
- Revelations 21: 1 – 5 (NIV)
When I was a sophomore in high school, I thought I knew what I was going to do in my life; I was going to attend Northwest Nazarene University to earn my bachelor’s degree in psychology then become a police officer. During my senior year, I thought I was going to join the military. I tried for the Air Force right after I graduated in 2015, but quickly discovered it wasn’t for me (thankfully before I signed any commitment papers). During my attempt at enlisting, I was studying for the ASVAB, the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery, I discovered a love for studying (I know, I’m a little nerdy). I decided to not go down the military career path and start community college. Through some browsing on the internet for careers, especially ones that focused on science, since I seemed to understand that more than anything else, I discovered astrophysics, or physics in space. I had never taken physics before and I wasn’t good at math, but I thought “Why not give this a go?”
After acceptance to my local community college, I had to take a couple math and English placement tests. I was placed into an English class that was one level below the college level, and the lowest math class offered at the college; pre-algebra. Quite literally, on the first day of that class, our practice problems were “what’s 300 plus 200?” and “what’s 353 minus 274?” Obviously, chances of me getting into the field of astrophysics wasn’t great, but I still tried. Nine months later, I was taking a college-level math class and a physics class. Physics was a struggle; the teaching method didn’t work with my learning style, the math was complicated and the concepts were over my head. During that quarter, I decided that I needed to consider a different career and degree option.
I was then left with no plan, career wise or life wise. Should I just work at the job I have now for the rest of my life? Was I not meant to go to college? What now? Wasn’t I made for something other than clerical work? I just wanted to know what I was meant to do. Eventually, I realized that I was trying to do is what I wanted to do, not what God wanted me to do. That was a pivotal moment. I began to pray. I asked other Christian adults for guidance. I asked friends what they saw me doing. I took multiple personality tests to see what would best correlate with my Myers-Briggs type. Even with a decent amount of the facts about myself, I just wasn’t sure what God wanted me to do. My mind was telling me I should do one thing, but my heart kept saying “no, not that.”
In Fall of 2016, one of my colleagues was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. As I’m sure you’re well aware, pancreatic cancer is one of the most fatal cancers out there, with a survival rate of around three months when it is caught at an advanced stage. I remember being sympathetic for her situation, but also curious about the facts behind it. I found myself thinking “do they know how the tumor developed?”, “why can’t scientists find a cure for cancer?”, “what makes cancer cells divide so rapidly?” and “why is pancreatic cancer so deadly?”. My dad had a milder form of cancer when I was a teenager, so I knew a little bit about the disease, such as what chemotherapy was and how it worked to some extent, what cancer was, and so on, and that knowledge acted as a sort of platform to launch me into realization. As I saw my co-worker dwindle away right before my eyes, I realized God might have made me to study cell biology and help with cancer research.
Thus, began my journey into the world of biology. I was able to begin majors-level biology courses at my college in January 2017 and completely fell in love with the subject (ask anyone who hangs out with me, I’ll spurt out random facts about biology all the time. Fun fact; the human heart, if removed from the body, can still beat on its own. Cool, huh?). With this newfound love of the study of life, I began to research universities and degrees, looking for what I felt what type of degree God wanted me to earn.
Currently, I am praying that I will be able to attend University of Washington, Tacoma after I graduate from community college in 2018 to earn my bachelor’s of science in Biomedical Sciences, and from there, attend graduate school for a doctorate in cellular and molecular biology. Since I began this academic odyssey, God has opened more doors for me; I recently discovered the SMART Scholarship for Service Program, which is a full-ride scholarship given by the Department of Defense (yes, you read that right, FULL-RIDE) for people pursuing a degree in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics, or STEM for short, as well as a summer internship at one of the DoD laboratories and a post-graduation position at one their labs. I’m eligible for it and now I just wait until applications begin in August, then pray I’m accepted! There’s big victories, like that, or smaller victories, like getting an A (and the highest score) on your Calculus for The Life Sciences midterm (yes, I, who tested into the lowest math class got an A on my calculus midterm! Even I can’t believe it!). I'm also not 100% sure that this is what God wants me to do; it feels right, but I have a lot of mental doubts. I'm still doing my best to listen to His voice, but I'm definitely not always in tune to Him.
Regarding my doubts, I think that I won't be able to handle the rigorous coursework that comes with graduate school, if I get in. Acceptance rates of grad school programs are low, so what if I don't get accepted? What if I have to drop out? What if I get buried in debt if I don't receive the SMART scholarship? What if I make it through school, but can't find a job afterward? What if God didn't make me for this at all, and I'm just thinking this is His will? This phase of my life is stressful, if I can be honest. I don't like not having a plan. I don't like 'floating'.
Yet, I know God has something special planned for me. Maybe He did make me to help find the cure for cancer. Maybe he made me to be a doctor. Maybe He made me to be something else entirely. I just know His plan for me is going to be incomprehensibly amazing. I'll just keep reading my Bible, praying, praising Him and listening for Him, so He can lead me down the path He chose for me. I can't wait to see how all this unfolds!
“Blessed is she who would believe that the Lord would fulfill His promises to her.” Luke 1:45
“For with God, nothing is impossible.” Luke 1:37
I love Jesus. I think my two daughters can change the world. I think you can too.
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