Saturday, December 18, 2010

carry us home

so often i want to write something that describes what i am thinking through or how i am feeling in a moment or what my perception of life is at the current moment... and SO often i have serious trouble trying to do so! and then often, i stumble across words written by others that are beautiful and communicate truth clearly... i have been trying hard to not get overwhelmed with christmas "stuff" this year and stay focused on truth, on God's grace in sending His sweet Son, our Savior. i read a part of a chapter yesterday that i want to share here... like i said, so often, others are much better at communicating through the written word than i am... and i love this, so i thought i would share it with my friends...

"can anything separate us from the love Christ has for us? God answered our question before we asked it. so we'd see his answer, he lit the sky with a star. so we'd hear it, he filled the night with a choir; and so we'd believe it, he did what no man had ever dreamed. he became flesh and dwelt among us.

he place his hand on the shoulder of humanity and said, "you're something special."

untethered by time, he sees us all. from the backwoods of virginia to the business district of london; from the vikings to the astronauts, from the cave-dwellers to the kings, from the hut-builders to the finger-pointers to the rock-stackers, he sees us. vagabonds and ragamuffins all, he saw us before we were born.

and he loves what he sees. flooded by emotion. overcome by pride, the Starmaker turns to us, one by one, and says, "you are my child. i love you dearly. i'm aware that someday you'll turn from me and walk away. but i want you to know, i've already provided you a way back."

and to prove it, he did something extraordinary.

stepping from the throne, he removed his robe of light and wrapped himself in skin: pigmented, human skin. the light of the universe entered a dark, wet womb. he who angels worship nestled himself in the placenta of a peasant, was birthed into the cold night, and then slept on cow's hay.

mary didn't know whether to give him milk or give him praise, but she gave him both since he was, as near as she could figure, hungry and holy. joseph didn't know whether to call him junior or Father. but in the end called him Jesus, since that's what the angel said and since he didn't have the faintest idea what to name a God he could cradle in his arms.

...don't you think their heads tilted and their minds wondered, "what in the world are you doing, God?" or better phrased, "God, what are you doing in the world?"

"can anything make me stop loving you?" God asks. "watch me speak your language, sleep on your earth, and feel your hurts. behold the maker of sight and sound as he sneezes, coughs, and blows his nose. you wonder if i understand how you feel? look into the dancing eyes of the kid in nazareth; that's God walking to school. ponder the toddler at mary's table; that's God spilling his milk.

"you wonder how long my love will last? find your answer on a splintered cross, on a craggy hill. that's me you see up there, your maker, your God, nail-stabbed and bleeding. covered in spit and sin-soaked. that's your sin i'm feeling. that's your death i'm dying. that's your resurrection i'm living. that's how much i love you."

-Max Lucado, In the Grip of Grace

i love pondering all of these words. a great songwriter, andrew peterson, writes, "behold the lamb, the hope of man." and that He is. my Hope. my Jesus. and as peterson also writes, and as we anticipate Christ's promise to come back someday again, to meet us once again on this broken ball... "glory to Jesus, ancient and strong, come to your people, and carry us home..."

the hope of man... in your overwhelming grace, carry us home.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

all the difference

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I--
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference...

robert frost

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

the baby's gettin' hitched!

my little sister (well only by a few years, but hey it is what it is...) is getting married in just a little over a week! i couldn't be more excited! (the wedding location, florida, only increases the excitement!) just wanted to put this out there so you all can be praying for her, jack (the lucky guy), and all of our family... that it will be a week and a wedding that is fun, enjoyable, and one that brings glory to our God! shawn and i are out of here in just a few days, just missing the cold that is imminent here in chicago... sweet... like i said, couldn't be more excited. :)

wandering and pondering

i absolutely love this season... i don't know if it's new colors or being cozy inside or the anticipation of fun holidays... i do know that i love the promises that this season faithfully brings to mind, year after year, season after season... our God is faithful to work. i was thinking the other day about why i ever wonder how or when or even IF God will continue to work. i love this season because it really calls me to ponder, just to sit and think. i look back at every season of life and even if in that moment i did not see God bringing about His purposes, i can look back now and see in tremendous ways how He did so. sometimes it is obvious. sometimes life is so painful that you really can't doubt that God must be doing something! sometimes life is so full of happiness and blessing that you also cannot doubt that God is involved as well... sometimes life is quiet and i wonder what He is doing. though i know i would never grasp it, i wish i could look into the mind of our God and see His pathways that He plans for our lives. and then, i write that, and i know that i would probably not want to always see what is ahead. but i do find so much hope in knowing that God is working.

i find hope and happiness in knowing that whatever crook or cranny i find myself in tomorrow or the next day, God is in each, and working completely and bringing about a life for His followers that is WHOLE. i find so much love and grace in knowing that in everything, EVERYTHING, (excluding nothing!) God is making me and my life what He wants it to be... and what He wants it to be is nothing short of the fullness of His grace... which i know i feel as if i have tasted in such big ways and yet i know there will be feasts of this grace still to come. so i guess in all this wandering and pondering, in change and in stability, i praise our God that He remains. His grace remains... and as a result, His work remains.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

i found it...

ever since i moved to chicago i've been searching for a place, beautiful and at least somewhat untouched compared to most of the city... i think my alaska roots are always trying to break through to find some spot where i can find some bit of solace from the hustle and bustle. i love chicago... i really have come to enjoy it and every day it feels a little bit more like home. this past sunday shawn and i were biking around the downtown area... we had come back to our car to head back home but decided to check out northerly island... i never knew what was waiting for us! at the end of the strip of land there is a beautiful wildlife sanctuary that you can bike through and i absolutely fell in love with this spot. :) from a distance the city is quiet and peaceful and a background to the beautiful landscape of wildflowers. on the other side is the lake... deep and blue. i do praise God for the world He has created for us. it is not often that i find these nature ah ha moments in chicago, but i was blessed by this beautiful spot and God's intimate knowledge of my heart...

Saturday, April 17, 2010

thanks for praying!

i know a lot of you have been or were praying for my sister while she was in haiti. i just wanted to say thanks and give you a quick update... she's home! the experiences that she had in haiti definitely have already changed her life and perspectives and i wanted to share an article with you that she wrote after returning. thanks so much for caring for steph in this way and for loving me as well. caring and loving each other is SO what this life should be all about and i am blessed to be surrounded by people here in chicago and around the world that care about my life and the lives of those who are important to me. THANK YOU! :)

here's her article...

Operation Unified Response: Practicing Physical Therapy in Primitive Conditions

Haiti 2010

“So, are your bags packed?” These were not the words I was expecting to hear in the midst of seeing patients on the morning of January 13th at Womack Army Medical Facility on Fort Bragg. I received news that the GRF, Global Response Force, was being activated due to the earthquake which had devastated Haiti just the day before. Within hours I was preparing and four days later deployed with the 2nd Brigade Combat Team of the 82nd Airborne Division. Assigned to serve as their physical therapist in Port-au-Prince, the physical therapy team was completed with the addition of SGT Valerie Ramirez, physical therapy technician from Fort Drum, NY. Upon arrival we quickly discovered the primitive conditions and I was suddenly grateful for past camping and field training experiences. No shelters, showers, work space, equipment, nor computers or phones were available. Language barriers added to the significant challenges we encountered each day. Our daily patient load consisted of outpatient orthopedic injuries of Army, Air force, Navy, and foreign military Soldiers along with local nationals. All military were treated at our “tent clinic” located near the main airfield in Port-au-Prince. Diagnoses for these military personnel were representative of our environment and mission, mostly lower extremity sprains and neck and back pain. Our equipment was rudimentary: braces, crutches, theraband, splint materials, and lots of athletic tape. Thankfully for manual therapy all you need is your hands! Things we needed but didn’t have we created, if possible (ice wasn’t available anywhere!). Our PT mat table was fashioned from a folding table and an air force sleeping mat, and served its purpose. Every week we treated approximately 30 military patients at our tent.

Due to the city’s immense need for rehabilitative care, we were both challenged and surprisingly blessed to make several trips into city hospitals. Our experiences at University (General) Hospital were eye-opening; the devastating effects of the earthquake on the hospital grounds were unavoidable. The nursing education building had collapsed and all patient pre- and post-operative care was transferred from the remaining hard standing buildings to the temporary tents thrown up on the grounds. Filling the tents were row upon row of patients lying on hospital beds, cots and all available surfaces. It was overwhelming to see such a great need, but lingering wasn’t going to help anyone and doctors were sporadically present, at best. So we dove in. The majority of those we treated had crush injuries, externally fixed broken bones, or amputated limbs although we also provided care for patients with gunshot wounds, burns and even a patient who had had a breast mastectomy. Patient charts, when present, consisted of a piecemeal collection of papers with scribbled words in English, Creole, or French at the foot of the bed or cot. Pain medication for patients was sparse and in spite of this they performed transfers, exercises, and ambulation with nothing except ibuprofen. “Beki,” crutches in Creole, became a very popular item and brought constant smiles to the Haitian faces, no matter the age. I believe bekis were just one of the little ways we helped Haitians to get back on their feet and to continue on with life.

Amidst immense suffering that Haitian determination to live another day with a smile was tangible and contagious. Daily I walked away from the hospital amazed and humbled by their strength and hopeful spirits. We have since packed our bags and returned home to our redeployment briefings. As I continue to process all I encountered these last three months, I am realizing this experience will truly have a lifelong impact. Practicing physical therapy in Haiti was an amazing opportunity in learning how to overcome challenges. A few of lessons learned I’ll share with you,

A smile goes a thousand miles, especially when you don’t have a translator.

On a humanitarian aid mission you can never have enough crutches and post-op shoes.

Alternating treatment days of local nationals and Soldiers helps prevent burnout and fatigue.

Books and hard copies are priceless when computer, internet, and your peers aren’t accessible. What book or two would you grab in a moment’s notice?

Make every patient session count. You may only have one opportunity at treatment.

Make friends with everyone, especially the Air Force.

All of this being said, in the end I am so grateful to have been a part of Operation Unified Response.

1LT Stephanie Pauls, PT

2BCT, 82nd ABN DIV

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

what to do while we long...

my mom shared with me an e-mail from a friend who is dying of cancer. this e-mail was sent out as a "last e-mail" to friends and family and i wanted to share just a small paragraph from the message. as this woman, who is just a few years older than me, considers life from the perspective of limited days, this is what she wrote:

I have learned so much through this process. Do your best to enjoy your loved ones; God created us for relationship with Him and our loved ones, so cut the drama, love fiercely, practice forgiveness, and treat ALL other people kindly and with honesty.

i don't know what it is when you hear words from someone who doesn't have many days left, but you sure are convinced that this is something you really need to listen to and take heed of. shawn has always encouraged me to think about "numbering my days", taking advantage of every day here on earth because they are few and short.

"Teach us to number our days aright, that we may gain a heart of wisdom." Psalm 90:12

"Show me, O Lord, my life's end and the number of my days; let me know how fleeting is my life." Psalm 39:4

as someone who so easily gets caught up in "drama" as she referred, these compelling words have made me begin to evaluate what i consume my life with... and as i think about them, i realize that doing these things, numbering my days and living out of love for my God and every person He created, i MUST be unselfish with every day. i've been thinking about how cutting drama out of life requires not thinking about myself and how others actions might be wrong towards me, but i have to live out of love for God and that person in each and every situation. the days here on earth are short and we must take advantage of each one. for the last month since i have not been working i have been thinking a lot about how i want to spend my time and how i should spend my time. i do not want to waste it. this last month has been a fantastic reminder of how i should think about each day that God has given me here. do i use the days that i have to love others or to make myself happy and comfortable? are my days about what i want or are they about what others need?

sometimes when life is hard i am moved to long for our final home in heaven. as much as i want this longing to characterize my life, i do not want to be so caught up in wanting that home that i do not take advantage of the time i have at this home. may our longing for home motivate us to remember our time here is short and each day must be used to love God and to seek to love those who are in great need of His love.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

After the last tear falls...

i feel like i keep posting things that aren't my own, but at the same time i'm posting them because i so much appreciate the wisdom and insight of others that know the Lord and trust Him. Andrew Peterson is a guy that shawn and i both love! :) he's a great artist and songwriter but even more so such a great storyteller. and what i love is that he tells stories that are about life and about our life in Jesus. this is one song that i love so much. this world is broken and torn up by sin and the effects of it. this song makes me long for home. i love the thought of looking back at the tears that have fallen here on earth as old tales. i long for days with Jesus where tears are something of the past.

After the last tear falls
After the last secret's told
After the last bullet tears through flesh and bone
After the last child starves
And the last girl walks the boulevard
After the last year that's just too hard

After the last disgrace
After the last lie to save some face
After the last brutal jab from a poison tongue
After the last dirty politician
After the last meal down at the mission
After the last lonely night in prison

There is love
Love, love, love
There is love
Love, love, love
There is love

And in the end, the end is
Oceans and oceans
Of love and love again
We'll see how the tears that have fallen
Were caught in the palms
Of the Giver of love and the Lover of all
And we'll look back on these tears as old tales

'Cause after the last plan fails
After the last siren wails
After the last young husband sails off to join the war
After the last "this marriage is over"
After the last young girl's innocence is stolen
After the last years of silence that won't let a heart open

There is love
Love, love, love
There is love
'Cause after the last tear falls
There is love

Friday, January 29, 2010

what do i want?

i just started reading "searching for God knows what" by donald miller. in the first chapter he discusses i guess you would say sometimes our obsession with books, even Christian books, self help books you could call them, that talk about "formulas" or ways that we can bring about the life that we desire to live in God... what we can do and how this is accomplished... he talks about life with God as something that is not a formula but instead relational. often i feel that i do such a poor job at communicating what i want to so i am just going to quote what he wrote... i felt like it was good and wanted to share it with you. do i desire the things that God can (or that i want him to) bring about in my life or do i desire God?

"To be honest, though, I don't know how much I like the idea of my spirituality being relational. I suppose I believe this is true, but the formulas seem much better than God because the formulas offer control; and God, well, He is like a person, and people, as we all know, are complicated. The trouble with people is they do not always do what you tell them to do. Try it with your kids or your spouse or strangers at the grocery store, and you will see what I mean. The formulas propose that is you do this and this and this, God will respond. When I was a kid I wanted a dolphin for the same reason.

"I remember watching that television show I dream of Jeannie when I was young, and I wondered at how great it would be to have a Jeannie of my own, who could blink a grilled-cheese sandwich out of thin air, all the while cleaning my room and doing my homework. I realize, of course, that is very silly and there is no such thing as a genie that lives in a lamp, but it makes me wonder if what we really want from the formulas are the wishes, not God. It makes me wonder if what we really want is control, not a relationship.

"Some would say formulas are how we interact with God, that going through motions and jumping through hoops are how a person acts out his spirituality. This method of interaction, however, seems odd to me, because if I want to hang out with my friend Tuck, I don't stomp my food three times, turn around, and say his name over and over like a mantra, lighting candles and getting myself in a certain mood. I just call him. In this way, formulas presuppose God is more a computer or a circus monkey than and intelligent Being. I realize that sounds harsh, but it is true."

the other part about this section of the book that i love is when he talks about whether or not what we really want is control or God. i know so often i want control. i want to know how to fix relationships, not feel left down when blank happens, and find joy and happiness in all that i do. books that provide answers for these always leave me wondering if there is more... and it might be encouraging for the moment and there are some great books out there that don't just offer formulas but instead truth of pursuing God... but i do want to desire Jesus. i don't want to desire a life free from difficulty and a life that i can fix if i just do this and this... and i know that doesn't even work... i feel like we've all tried it and so often we are left empty. i want to desire the person of Jesus, i want to desire God my Savior, more than what he can do for me and bring about in my life but instead him, as an individual that wants to know me too... and that in itself is a reason to work on this.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010


i should pray specifically more often... well really i should pray specifically all the time! shawn and i have been praying a lot for my sister lately, for so many different things since she arrived in haiti and even before she left. we prayed that sometime soon she would get a tent. we prayed that someday she would get a shower (she told us about the humid heat and the helicopters that are constantly stirring up dust). we prayed that she would somehow get a cot to make sleeping a little easier. we prayed for these things to make life a little more comfortable and to make the days a little more tolerable... we prayed for even more things... for friends and good relationships with people there (there weren't very many people she knew going into haiti)... that there would be not only friendships but relationships with people who love the Lord as much as she does... for fellowship, study of God's Word, and moments to take time with the Lord...

last night we got a quick email that steph was able to send to us... i have to tell you that all of these things God has provided for her! so many of these things happened in just the last day or two... God is so good. He is good always in any circumstance, but at the same time He is so good because He answered all of these things specifically to how we prayed for them! someone down there even has a guitar that they are going to be able to use for some worship times... i really do know that God is concerned about our lives. i'm super excited for my sister and the ways that God is working to make life in haiti just a little bit more comfortable.

i've been thinking about prayer a lot after i got that email. i was kinda evaluating, wondering how often i pray for specific things... like very specific things and how often i look to see how God is working in these situations. prayer is so mind-boggling to me... i don't always get how it works or sometimes i know we all wonder if God is in such control why is it always needed... i know that it is and i know that God desires and tells us to pray. but it still is confusing sometimes, right? so i was thinking about how much prayer affects me and how it affects my life when i am committed to praying fervently for something or someone. when i pray specifically, my heart is hoping and looking to see how God will work in the situation. and when he does i see how God is actively involved in big and little events in my life and others lives. God shows himself to me through prayer and i don't want to keep on missing out. i want to pray in a way that i anticipate and look for the activity of God.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

on my mind...

Psalm 46

"God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear though the earth gives way, though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam, though the mountains tremble at its swelling. There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God, the holy habitation of the Most High. God is in the midst of her; she shall not be moved; God will help her when morning dawns. The nations rage, the kingdoms totter; he utters his voice, the earth melts. The LORD of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress. Come, behold the works of the LORD, how he has brought desolations on the earth. He makes wars cease to the end of the earth; he breaks the bow and shatters the spear; he burns the chariots with fire. Be still, and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth! The LORD of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress."

James 1:27

"Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction and to keep oneself unstained from the world."

Revelation 21

"Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, 'Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God.' He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning nor crying nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away."

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

pray for steph!

i thought i would post a fun family picture as a reminder for us all to pray for my sister while she is in haiti. she is serving there with the 82nd airborne. stephanie trusts Jesus and i know that she knows that she is in His hands while she is there...

(as a side note, isn't our snowman fantastic!?! i think it's the best one i've ever helped make... my dad even added the christmas lights! so fun!)

my "Home"

when i started this blog and came up with a title for it, shawn was confused and wondered if i was talking about missing alaska and that was what the blog was going to be about and so forth... as much as i do miss my home state, i laughed with him and said no, of course not... we went on to talk about longing for our future "home" in heaven and how we have a desire to long for it even more as we continue on this journey in our present home...

i have to say, my husband wasn't too far off from thinking that i missed alaska enough to name a blog after my affections for it... :) i do miss it, a lot... there are things that i miss that everyone misses from where they started off life. i miss friends and family friends, church and the feeling like you are just at home... i miss the state too and the beauty there...

we went up to alaska this recently past christmas and spent two weeks with my parents, sister, and friends. it really was a great time... i have to admit though that as much as i love home... home starts to feel less like it was when it was "home home". not so much with family, but i noticed it in relationships or how i didn't always know where things were or how people were doing... there are new people (gasp! :) and new places and changes all over that you never notice if you just live there. life keeps on going and i think i just expect it to stand still till i come back.

sometimes when i am in chicago i wonder where in the world am i!?! i drive down roads all the time that i have never driven on before... the city is so big and there are so many things to experience that sometimes i feel like i'm on vacation checking out a new place! i love this but at the same time sometimes i get this feeling like i don't even know this city that i live in... now there are lots of areas i love and appreciate but there are just times where chicago doesn't feel like home either...

i went to alaska expecting to have this "home" feeling and it just wasn't there... i came back to chicago and couldn't quite find it here either... i got to thinking if there could be anywhere that really feels like home... a place where peace is found... a place that fits... i found myself longing for home, my real home, my future home, the home that i am on the road to... and at the same time in my desire to just feel that "homey home" feeling i found myself knowing that as much as life changes back home in alaska or at home in chicago, there is a Constant in all of it.

when i came to chicago i held onto verses in psalm 139 that tell me that i cannot go anywhere to get away from God. if i sailed across the seas He would hold me up just as much as if i stayed put. i find so much peace in this... i think in this and in Him i find "home"... and i desire for a perfect home in the future where that feeling of being home is completely fulfilled and completely satisfying...

do you ever just feel like you don't quite fit in? sometimes i do. sometimes i wonder where i am and what i am doing and who am i doing this with... and i know that though all these answers aren't always clear i do know that God goes before me and with me. He is constant. i love that. constant. always the same, never different, no matter where i am or where i go... though places and people and relationships change... though places and people and relationships are tainted by the stain of sin... though places and people and relationships never quite fulfill... the constancy of my Savior takes over and overwhelms.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

desperate longings

i don't get it. i don't understand why things like the earthquake in haiti happen... i hate it. i hate that our world is devastated and tortured. these kind of days make me long for home even more and more. i was talking to God and thinking about these things last night... praising God that events like these make me want Him to return even more and redeem this world... but at the same time so sad that things like this even have to happen... or even being disappointed in myself for "needing" things like this to make me want God more... wanting to know what "the plan" is and yet knowing as we all want to know what is going on God is the one who directs our steps and the things that happen in our lives every day.

yesterday my sister called and said that her army unit was going to be sent to haiti sometime in the next few days... that made all the news a little bit more personal... knowing that she will be where all this destruction has taken place. i think about the things that are happening there and though it's kinda crazy and sad to have steph go not knowing when she'll be back and all... i think it is just exactly what God calls us to do as His people. the opportunity is crazy and unreal and all of a sudden, but when have we ever been asked to just sit around and respond when we feel like it. i am so proud of her and the people that are already there working to help people that are unable to do anything to help themselves. my heart is hurting for the people there and i just wish so much that we didn't live in a place where earthquakes devastate people who had nothing to begin with in the first place.

i feel my heart longing for Jesus. longing for Him to come back and make things perfect. longing for Him to once and for all take care of the effects that sin has had on us and this world.

"...creation waits in eager expectation for the sons of God to be revealed. for the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God. we know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. FOR IN THIS HOPE WE ARE SAVED." Romans 8:19-24