Tuesday, October 29, 2013


Lately, a small collection of 3x5 cards have appeared on my walls. By my desk, one's a quote, one has song lyrics, and the other has a list of my priorities. And under my mirror I have one with two words: Nothing Else.

Why? I'm tired of forgetting.

After the Israelites crossed Jordan, they set up a memorial of what the Lord had done.

"And he [Joshua] spake unto the children of Israel, saying, When your children shall ask their fathers in time to come, saying, What mean these stones? Then ye shall let your children know, saying, Israel came over this Jordan on dry land. For the LORD your God dried up the waters of Jordan from before you, until ye were passed over, as the LORD your God did to the Red sea, which he dried up from before us, until we were gone over: That all the people of the earth might know the hand of the LORD, that it is mighty: that ye might fear the LORD your God for ever" (Joshua 4:21-24).

God's been doing some great things in my life this semester, but as I'm often ungrateful and forgetful, I've taken the advice of friends and made a way for myself to remember.

Now each time I sit to study, I can remind myself of my priorities. When I look in the mirror I can remember that Nothing Else besides God can hold highest value in my heart.

What kind of reminders do you have in your life? Are you making a way to remember what God's teaching you?

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Where Are You, Part Two

Here's the conclusion of the story from last Thursday.

I was back at the house at 8:00 the next morning when the call came. It had been obvious, but Dad still felt he should call me when the miscarriage was official.

I hung up the phone feeling guilty about everything. Not wanting a sibling, being behind in school, hating my job, rarely having time for friends, and being rude to Mom.

Jerking my shoes on, I ran down the stairs and out the door. I didn’t even know what to feel.

I hit the track and started flying.

What was wrong with my life? My parents were great, when it came down to it. I didn’t have to go to public school, I went to church, I had a decent paying job, and I was looking at going to college.

It’s not enough.

I screamed in frustration. “Why isn’t it enough?”

I closed my eyes, following the path by feel. “God, what’s wrong with me?”

The truth was that I hadn’t been content in a long time. I had covered it up, tried to push through, work it out, live on. It hadn’t worked though. I was sick of the schoolwork that piled up every day. I missed the days when I had made time to spend with friends. I missed the days when Mom and I had gotten along … oh, I missed them more than all the rest of it. And I hated going to sleep at night knowing the next day would be a re-run of the day before, an endless hamster wheel.

What was wrong?

Nothing and everything.

And now, my baby sibling was gone. I hadn’t expected it to hurt, but it did. Slowly, as I ran, I felt the pain begin to crush me. My feet faltered, and I slowed down. The weight I felt finally stopped me. Falling to my knees and then laying down in the grass, I started crying.

“God, what is wrong? Why am I never happy? Why do I hate my life?” My sadness melded with bitterness. “And why can’t I feel your presence? I thought You said You’d never leave me.”

The bitterness gave my legs strength, and I jumped up and took off screaming again. “Where are You, God?”

I ran faster. Now I didn’t feel anger and I didn’t feel sorrow; I didn’t feel anything but loneliness and frustration.  I looked up at the blue sky broken by clouds and hidden by treetops. “God … where are You?”

I tripped, falling into a pile of leaves. Silence. I realized this moment was quieter than any I had known recently.

 A voice spoke to my heart.

“Sydney … where are you?”


I grabbed the family Bible off of the coffee table and opened it in my lap. Genesis 1, Genesis 2 …. I skimmed the pages wildly. I knew the voice I had heard in my heart, and I knew it had said a very similar thing before, long ago. Near the beginning.

Genesis 3:9 read, “And the LORD God called unto Adam, and said unto him, Where art thou?”

I looked at the page, trying to understand. What had He meant, asking me that?

I read the story. It had been a long time since I had done that. Adam and Eve had hidden from God after their sin. They didn’t want Him to find them.

Then God said, “Where art thou?”

Tears began to trickle down my cheeks. “Where art thou?”
God wasn’t missing.
I was.
I was the one who had been hiding, not finding time for Him. I had let school, work, frustration over the pregnancy, and frustration with my mom crowd out my God.

And that’s why I had been feeling so lost.

I sniffled and put the Bible back. Curling into a ball on the sofa, I whispered, “I’m here, God.

“And I’m sorry.”


I didn’t do so much running after that. It still felt good when I did, but I didn’t need it to think and I didn’t need it to feel something. Not anymore.

Because I'd finally stopped hiding. I was honest – respectfully honest – with my parents, letting them know what was really going on in my heart. I apologized to my mom for the way I’d treated her. I also worked harder on keeping my school under control, not letting myself hide from it like before.

The best part wasn’t that I stopped hiding, though. It was that I started seeking. Seeking my God again. It had been too long.

And it was better than ever.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Where Are You, Part 1

Today I decided to give you part one of a story I wrote some time ago. It is one of my older writings, but I hope you'll still enjoy it! Part 2 will come out on Tuesday.

Light exploded around me.

Forcing more strength from my legs, I pushed away from the old tunnel and into the sunshine. My route was almost done, but my legs still had more to give. I grinned as I whipped through the forest.

This run was a good idea. True, it was early, and true, I’d probably come close to being late for school, but I didn’t mind. A run always cleared my head.

It would be a good day.


I walked slowly into the house, cringing as the hinges squeaked on the screen door. Like I had expected, my mom awaited me at the kitchen table, her grade books around her.

"Where’ve you been, Sydney?" 

"Running." I didn't meet her eyes.

 "Is that a good reason for being 48 minutes late to school? And I am assuming you still need a shower, right?"

"No and yes." I wiped sweat from my forehead. "No, I shouldn’t have been late, and yes, I need a shower.”

She turned to the window, away from me. "Then I suggest you go take one and get to work as quickly as possible." She kept her voice down, probably trying to keep me from getting angry, which had been happening a lot lately. Life had just been… difficult. 

"Okay." I turned and hurried away, through the living room and up the stairs to my room. I had known it was a stupid idea to take those extra laps on my homemade track, but the running had felt amazing this morning. I could actually think clearly while I ran outside, away from school and friends and Mom’s unexpected pregnancy and everything that was going on. I rustled around in my drawers for a clean T-shirt. 

I wished real life was as peaceful as my morning runs. 


Halfway through the afternoon, I took a break from school. Being homeschooled had many advantages, but for me they were somewhat nullified by a mother who assigned schoolwork in bulk.

I hopped up from my desk and looked at my bookshelf. Gotta be a good read here somewhere. I glanced over the titles. Some I had read, most I hadn’t, but … oh, wait. My Bible was in the middle of the shelf. I hadn’t had time to touch it before running that morning.

I snatched it off the oak shelf and hoisted myself up onto my bed to read a bit. Psalms was usually my book of choice, mostly because it has a lot of short chapters, and today I flipped to Psalm 6.

"O LORD, rebuke me not in thine anger, neither chasten me in thy hot displeasure. Have mercy upon me, O LORD; for I am weak: O LORD, heal me; for my bones are vexed."

There were more verses, but I didn’t really feel the Psalm applying. I didn’t think the Lord was angry with me. Why would He be? I was a Christian.

Switching over to prayer, I said, "Dear Lord, thanks for this day. It’s really gorgeous outside. Thanks for helping with my schoolwork, and please help Dad at work…" One of my eyes peeked open, and I saw the title of an interesting-sounding book on my shelf. "Please help all the sick in the church. Amen."

Within a moment, I had escaped into the fresh pages of an unread book.


The phone rang shrilly above the sound of the TV in the next room. I glanced up at the handset in my room, trying to read the caller ID. It's Jessica. 

Tossing my science book off of my lap, I sprang up to answer the phone. "Hello?"

"Hey, Syd, what's up?"

"Nothing much, why?"

"I was wondering if you had time to come over and hang out. We're watching a movie tonight, and I was going to ask Shelby to come, too.'

"Sounds like fun." I looked at the clock. It wasn't even seven PM yet, but still, I had loads of schoolwork to do. "What movie?"

She named one of my favorites.

I looked down at the pile of books on the floor – history, English, literature, and the science book lying face down where I'd thrown it. "I don’t know. I’ll have to ask my mom."

"Oh. We can do it some other time if you need to."  She knew how things had been lately with my mom.

I frowned. I didn’t get many chances to see Jessica besides church. Didn’t I deserve a break?

"I’ll call you back, okay?"

"Yeah," she said. "Bye."

I tossed the phone on my bed and walked over to my parents’ room. Knocking barely louder than the TV, I waited for an invitation to come in.

"Syd?" my dad called.

"Yeah, can I talk to Mom?"

My mom opened the door. "What’s up, Sydney?"

"Can I could go to Jessica’s tonight? She’s inviting Shelby to come, and we were going to watch a movie."

Mom frowned slightly. "Didn’t I see you carry a big stack of schoolwork up here after supper? You can’t be getting further behind, Sydney."

I felt frustration creep in. I knew what I was doing. Really. "Mom, I know. But I want to go. I’ll make it up tomorrow." My tone was a bit south of respectful.

"Don’t talk to me that way."

"What’d I do?" But I knew.

She pursed her lips. "Fine, you can go. But tomorrow, you’re catching up. No matter what."

I felt a twinge of hesitation. Mom’s no matter what’s were serious. But now I really wanted to get away from everything. From my messed up life. From my newfound attitude problem I couldn’t seem to control. "Okay, then I’m going."


The next day I dragged myself to work after fighting through my mountain of homework. Flipping burgers was not my ideal job, but it was one of the only openings in Riley, the nearest town to my home. So I cooked burgers.

"Five juniors," my manager, Hannah, called from the front. I started slapping together sandwiches and then slid them into their racks, barely avoiding a collision with my friend Blake and a strainer full of hot fries.

Getting back to the grill, I stared at the spatula.

"So what’s up, Sydney?" Blake asked.

“Nothing. Nothing much.”

"How’s your mom doing with the pregnancy?"

“Fine.” Honestly, it was the last thing I wanted to talk about. After being an only child for so many years, the idea of a sibling was unsettling. In fact, the day she had announced her pregnancy was the day things had become strained between us.

"You don’t sound fine." He was pressing me, and he knew it.

"Seriously, I don’t want to talk about it."

"About what?"

"Everything! I don’t know." I paused for a moment. "I don’t even know what’s bothering me."

"Let’s go over the options." He smiled as he measured out another batch of fries. "Parents?"

I saw another order come up on the screens and started a new burger. "Not really. Mom and I have been a bit… off. But it’s my fault. I know that." My heart twinged. I knew that my problems were deeper than my attitude, even though I couldn’t identify them.


I moaned, slapping a burger into a bun with more force than necessary. "I’m behind. As usual. I get up every morning thinking that I’ll have time for everything and there are plenty of hours in the day, and then I get to the evening and I realize that I’m out of time without getting everything done."

"Are you using your time well?" His voice held a tinge of a deeper question; I didn’t know what he meant.

"Not too well. But I’m kinda keeping up with school. I mean, things are working out."

"Sydney, I meant ... spiritually." Blake was a serious Christian, and I knew it. But I still wasn’t getting his point. "I mean have you--"

He was cut off by the phone ringing. The manager grabbed it, leaving the other girl in the front to handle the customers by herself. After a few quiet words, Hannah hung up and turned to me.

"Give me the spatula, Sydney. Your dad’s coming to get you."

I looked at the clock. 8:19 p.m. My shift ended at 9:30. "Why?"

She paused. "It’s your mom."

I ran to the parking lot.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013


It's illogical, and most Christians know it. But I'm pretty sure we all think it, or at least we are tempted to think it sometimes.

I've done something God can't forgive.

We know from God's Word that a Christian can never lose his salvation or the precious love of God. But when we blow it--and sometimes, let's face it, we majorly blow it--we think God won't love us anymore.

I won't go on and on explaining why this is wrong, because I think most of you reading this know that already (if you don't though, contact me and we can talk). Today, I want to present a reminder of how much Jesus loves even people who have sinned greatly.

In speech class today I'm doing a presentation from Luke seven. This passage talks about the sinful woman who anointed Jesus's feet. Verse 47 says, "Wherefore I say unto thee, Her sins, which are many, are forgiven; for she loved much: but to whom little is forgiven, the same loveth little."

She loved much. And in verse 50, Jesus statement to the woman shows His own love for her: "And he said to the woman, Thy faith hath saved thee; go in peace."

Next time you're tempted to pout over your sin (and yes, at some point genuine remorse turns into pouting), remember that, while this by no means justifies sin, being forgiven of much is a chance for you to love much. And Jesus loves you even more.

The fact is, we all have sinned much.

May each memory of Christ's forgiveness teach us to love Him more.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Just ... Life

I'm sitting in my dorm room right now, looking at a bit of a mess. Things aren't put away, I have shoes tumbling out of my closet, and I need to wash a couple of my dishes.

And while I'm doing pretty well on my schoolwork, I have a short paper due Wednesday that I'm just beginning, and next Thursday holds an exam and quiz I haven't prepared for at all.

For tonight, my itinerary holds speech practice, dorm devos, a possible Skype meeting with a friend who's on the other side of the world, an important e-mail, and writing the next segment of my book-in-progress. All before midnight!

Each thing in itself is little. My mess is relatively little. My schoolwork is manageable. And nothing I have to do tonight is difficult in itself. But when each detail gets piled on the other, I get discouraged.

But I have to refocus on the incredible life God has given me.

I'm in college. And just when I was sure our college had the prettiest campus ever with its amazing views, now the leaves on the trees are turning for fall, and I wake to pink sunrises that make me think something like, God, how on earth did I get the chance to go to college in such a beautiful place?

Even on the days I'm stressed, I come back to my room and I like it. I'm fortunate enough to have a private room, and this year I've been able to make it cute and cozy. I feel like I have a place of my own; it's a good feeling.

I've written a book, and no matter how long this publishing journey takes or what twists are in the path, I'm so privileged to be on this road at all!

And tonight in a special message I've been reminded of just how much Jesus loves me, and what it means that I'll get to spend eternity with Him.

So my messy room? My homework? My business?


God has given me a path to walk, and even when it's hard, I can walk it praising and holding His hand.
"I will bless the LORD at all times: his praise shall continually be in my mouth."
(Psalm 34:1)

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Locked Away


That's what I felt in chapel recently. I sat there listening to the message, and I was convicted about an area of bitterness in my life. One I've had for a while.

I tried to justify it. The circumstance I was angry about was legitimately wrong. Something God wouldn't be pleased with. I pouted too. I mean, come on, this had hurt me. I know we're supposed to forgive, but can't we nurse our wounds for a little while? We aren't going to be perfect, so should we expect ourselves to forgive right away every time? Is that realistic?

All of my complaints and excuses fell flat.

Not forgiving is as sinful as the thing I didn't want to forgive!

So I sat there in chapel and prayed. I had to admit that I wanted to obey God, but the truth was, I didn't want to obey in this situation. My lack of forgiveness wasn't just me nursing my wounds. It was blatant rebellion against a command of God. But, by His strength, I made the choice to forgive then and there.

I don't want to live with fractions of my heart held away from God. I don't want to pretend I can hide my sins and my wickedness from the One Who knows all. It's futile. I'm acting like Adam and Eve in the Garden trying to hide and cover my sins and having to realize that it's impossible.

I can't allow myself to lock up any part of my heart away from His sanctifying power.

All the keys have to go to Him.

Saturday, October 5, 2013

What God's Given YOU

Tonight I was practicing the piano for a special I'm playing in church tomorrow. I worked on the song, and I felt pretty good about how it sounded.

Until I stopped playing.

In some other practice room, someone was playing something that sounded incredibly hard (it actually may have been a duet ... I don't know how one person could do all that!). And I suddenly felt inferior.

The truth? That other song had burst my little bubble of pride.

I felt sorry for myself. I guess the way I play isn't very special compared to that. 

But then I started playing again. I began to see how wonderful, how amazing it was that I could play the piano to my skill level. The ability to play the piano at all is a blessing in my life.

And I don't have to compare my blessings with anyone else's.

Don't waste time envying the blessings of others. Thank God daily for those He's given you.