The blessing of friends

30 07 2012

Ever since I first heard of your strong faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for God’s people everywhere, I have not stopped thanking God for you. I pray for you constantly, asking God, the glorious Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, to give you spiritual wisdom and insight so that you might grow in your knowledge of God. I pray that your hearts will be flooded with light so that you can understand the confident hope he has given to those he called—his holy people who are his rich and glorious inheritance.
I also pray that you will understand the incredible greatness of God’s power for us who believe in him. (Ephesians 1:15-19 NLT)

This is a prayer that Paul prays for his friends, the church at Ephesus, and I want it to be my prayer too. God had blessed me tremendously through the people in my life. Friends across the WORLD that I love dearly and who also love Him. I want for them this wisdom, this knowledge of God’s greatness and most of all the confident hope promised to those he has called.

In His love,

Stacey

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More than I want, more than I dream

9 07 2012

“Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.” Ephesians 3:20-21 ESV

 

I am so thankful that I serve a God who is good. Each day I wake up and God is already at work, working out my day. Lately, I have begun a new practice in the mornings of acknowledging and thanking God for the fact that He is already working while I am sleeping. I am reading the book God is Closer Than You Think and it has inspired this new practice. In biblical times and still today in the Jewish faith, the day does not begin at sun up, but instead at sun down, allowing time for God to work while the rest of the world is at rest. Then when we wake up, we join Him in what He is doing, not the other way around. If we begin each morning by acknowledging our dependence on God, giving Him our worries for the day and inviting Him into each moment, we can train our minds to fall more in line with His will. His wants become my wants, His dreams are my dreams. Because God is the ultimate dreamer.

If you know me well, you know that I am a dreamer, mostly a day dreamer, and its easy for me to get lost in my own head pretty easily, for good or for bad. But each time I read this verse I am reminded more and more than no matter how big I dream, God is so much BIGGER. And I love that. I ask and ask and beg and plead for things and they do not always work out the way I want, and sometimes I think God has made a mistake.But God doesn’t make mistakes. I know with confidence and assurance that God can and will do more than I ever could dream up.

So I return to Him, asking Him to do a mighty work in me, to make my will surrender to His, to make my dreams pale in comparison to His dreams for me. God today am I asking for something great,and if it is your will, let it be done, and if it is not, give me a bigger dream that is not my dream but your dream for me.

 

In His love,

Stacey





My God is the God of the wind and the sea

9 05 2012

And they went and woke him, saying, “Save us, Lord; we are perishing.” And he said to them, “Why are you afraid, O you of little faith?” Then he rose and rebuked the winds and the sea, and there was a great calm. And the men marveled, saying, “What sort of man is this, that even winds and sea obey him?” (Matthew 8:25-27)

 

What am I afraid of? That is a great question, one I have been asking myself quite often lately. If I believe in the God who created the wind and the sea, the God who brings humanity into being, the God who knows the numbers of hairs on our head, and the God who loves me like a father, then what am I afraid of? When I come up with a list of things like spiders, needles, finances, moving, CHANGE, uncertainty, my list seems daunting. It makes me anxious and concerned. I have no idea ow i will ever find answers to my growing list of worries. But then when I compare my list to God’s glory, my list pales in comparison. ‘Who is this man who controls the wind and the sea?’ the followers asked each other this question as they struggled to come to terms with the great power of God. Sometimes I forget just how BIG of a God we serve. When I focus on myself and how all I can do is barely hold a cup of water without it spilling, I wonder how I will ever do anything great. And the answer is I cant. I can’t do anything on my own, but I have God on my side, the God who doesn’t just hold and comfort the ocean, by controls it, makes it toss and turn, makes it still, creates and tides, and the beauty of it all.

 

So my question can’t be, “Lord, why are you doing this to me? Why did you toss me into the waves and the sea?” But instead, “Lord, since you are here with me already, can You create a sense of great calm in me, a calm that comes only from knowing You are in control? And the answer is always YES. Image

In His love,

Stacey





God is a god of Redemption

27 03 2012

Psalm 130

A song of ascents.

“Out of the depths I cry to you, LORD; Lord, hear my voice. Let your ears be attentive to my cry for mercy.If you, LORD, kept a record of sins, Lord, who could stand? But with you there is forgiveness, so that we can, with reverence, serve you. I wait for the LORD, my whole being waits, and in his word I put my hope. I wait for the Lord  more than watchmen wait for the morning, more than watchmen wait for the morning. Israel, put your hope in the LORD, for with the LORD is unfailing love and with him is full redemption.He himself will redeem Israel from all their sins.” (Psalm 130)

 

Thank you God for your promise that you will redeem my sins, my struggles, my shame. Thank you that you promise blessing to those who fear you, to those who wait patiently for your timing. Your unfailing love overwhelms me.

In His love,

Stacey





Renewed strength and hope

12 03 2012

Do you not know? Have you not heard? The LORD is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow tired or weary, and his understanding no one can fathom. He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles;  they will run and not grow weary,  they will walk and not be faint” (Isaiah 40:28-31)

Why do I want strength? Why do I desire a new hope? I know Jesus was not sent to this Earth to give me the things I want. But even as I meditate on this verse, my sinful nature tells me that God will renew my strength so that I can wholeheartedly pursue the things I WANT. But is this true? NO!

God wants to renew my strength, He wants me to soar, to be free in Him, to live a life of love, not of worry. He wants me to be unburdened, to completely surrender to the hope that He is Lord and everything is under His ultimate control and authority. But what if I want never materializes? What is the things that are burdening me and pressing down, causing so much worry and weight never change? Will I always be burdened by the things I want, those things that the world tells me I deserve? I cannot.

I know what it is like to be free in Christ, to be so genuinely joyful, even in the midst of difficultly that is so sharp. But the only way to find that freedom, that renewed hope and strength in the face of challenges is to surrender completely to the Lord. Without agenda, without even holding a small corner back. He leads my life. I cannot lead Him. And when I try, this is when the problems seem too great to bear, and he seems too small to handle them.

In all hard times there are lessons to be learned. God has a purpose and plan. He will redeem all the evil in this world with His love and salvation. And I surrender all, because His way is greater. What Lord do you want me to learn today? I am desperate for you.

In His love,

Stacey





Turning to God alone

13 02 2012

“Those who cling to worthless idols turn away from God’s love for them” (Jonah 2:8)

 

After many attempts to get my attention, I think God finally got through to me yesterday. Actually its more like this: God is always there patiently waiting for us to come to him, gently asking us “Do you trust me, do you know that I love you?” but I was just being stubborn, like a little kid going “LALALALALA I’m not listening.”

But alas, I stopped talking/ thinking/ dwelling/ worrying long enough to realize a few things.

1. Idols are not something of just biblical reference but a very real and very dangerous part of our lives. What is the one thing you can’t live without? Finish this sentence:  If only I were/ had/ did/ could __________________________, THEN I would be happy. Whatever goes in that blank, that is your idol. The thing you look to for fulfillment, for salvation, for joy, for validation.

2. Once you can name it, all of a sudden it seems to be everywhere. Everyone has ____________________. This is not a coincidence, God is trying to get your attention.

3. The only thing that fits in that blank line correctly is Jesus. We were created by God to worship Him. That is our one and only purpose on this earth. Everything we do is to bring Him glory.If it doesn’t glorify God, it is not what He intended. Sin in our lives does nothing but draw us farther from the truth, idols do nothing but draw us into worshiping something other than the one, true God. We are worshiping the created thing instead of the Creator Himself.

So what do we do? Once we begin the process to remove our idol of ________________, we have to replace it with Jesus, if not we will quickly find a new blank line, a new idol to worship, a new something or someone that we think will bring us ultimate fulfillment. And these things aren’t all bad. Most idols are something that God has created for us to enjoy. Money is not bad, but the love of money over God is. Relationships aren’t bad, but the desire for a boyfriend/girlfriend over God is. Marriage, kids, jobs, friends, beauty, power. All these things are wonderful blessings from God, until they become our God. Created things don’t make good Gods. They will always let us down. But He will not. God’s love will never fail. He is everything I need. 

 





Oh Kait, I have so much to tell you

22 12 2011

“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” (Romans 8:28).

Kaitlin LaBuda is my best friend. On November 25 she left this world and went to be with Jesus in Heaven. How bittersweet, gone from this life but so alive in the next At home with Him, reunited with our Creator, exactly where we all hope to be. But yet, for those left behind, a time a loss, and sadness and lonliness trying to figure out what life will look like without my precious best friend. Someone told me that the loss of someone special is not something to get over, but something you get used to. I pray everyday for the Lord’s comfort, that I can rejoice in the knowledge that Kaitlin is with Him. And know that He is still good, He is still loving, He loves me and He loves Kaitlin. He is redeeming humanity, He is salvation. That is the greatest story of all.

The following is the speech I presented at Kailtin’s memorial service in St. Petersburg, Fla. on Dec. 19:

I was up to my elbows in laundry. It was a Sunday afternoon in November, and I’d just arrived at the laundry mat when my iPhone started ringing.  I looked down and saw it was Kaitlin calling.  “Hey Kait! What’s up?” I said, trying to juggle the phone in one hand and three weeks’ worth of sweaters and jeans in the other. We talked for a minute about finals, dates and the number of times we worked out that week (me 0, her 5). It was the normal stuff, but not the reason she had called. There was a pause as I loaded my cardigans into the machine “So hypothetically speaking, if you were getting married tomorrow, would I be in your wedding?” she asked, unsolicited.  I couldn’t help but laugh at the unexpected question that had such an obvious answer. “Are you kidding?” I said. “I couldn’t have a wedding without you! And I’m not getting married either.” I laughed it off. “Right, yes I know that, she said, but seriously, like, what number bridesmaid would I be?” she continued. “This is important, Stacey.”

If you had told me THEN that I would be standing here today, I would have said you were crazy. The reality of the past few weeks could not be possible, because Kaitlin and I already had too many plans. Too many standing dates to bake cookies each Christmas. Plans to see each other complete grad school and law school next  year. Plans to be in each other’s weddings.

Three weeks ago, those were the first things that flooded my mind, those plans unaccomplished. And I was sad. But what flooded my mind second, and third, and fourth were memories of Kaitlin that weren’t sad at all. They were funny and wonderful and happy, just like her. There are Funny memories like the weekend we became best friends on a Campus Crusade retreat. Kaitlin left her alarm clock in her dorm and asked if I would wake her up each morning for the sessions. I think she missed half of them. Waking her up turned out more difficult than I imagined. “Just a few more minutes I promise!” she would plead.

There are Wonderful Memories of being her roommate and sharing EVERYTHING, shoes size 8, clothes, I won’t disclose the size, craft supplies and even dates. On more than one occasion we turned our room into a crafting workshop making gifts for sorority bigs and littles. And once we contemplated turning our walk-in closet into a bedroom and the bedroom into a closet. We needed more space for clothes and “important” things. Being her roommate was the best, even the time when she tried to dye my hair in the sink and it turned grey.

For Kaitlin and I, our friendship was… fun. To me, that is the best word to describe it. Things were just better when we did them together. If we went to Swamp on Monday or a kappa sigma party on Saturday, it was more fun with Kaitlin there. Everywhere we went, Kaitlin knew everyone. We always joked that at the end of the night, we were the last ones to leave because Kaitlin hadn’t said hi to everyone she knew by the time the bar closed or the party was over.

But it was no surprise to me why Kaitlin knew everyone, her smile was infectious, her kindness, extraordinary and her determination was inspirational.  Kaitlin always set out to do something great. She excelled in school. Got accepted into Cicerones, which was the most coveted organization on campus. And she always had the best story to tell. Just like I am telling stories about Kaitlin to you, Kaitlin and I were always telling stories to each other. We talked on the phone often even though I live in California and she was in Arkansas. And almost always the first line was “Oh My Gosh you will never believe what happened to me”… And if we called and one of us didn’t answer then there was a long string of text messages saying the same thing: OMG I have so much to tell you, funny story call me now, where are you? Hello? I need you!

One of the last conversations I had with Kaitlin was just that. Right before Thanksgiving I got potentially the worst haircut of my life and needed her to tell me it was going to be ok. So I called. No answer. I knew she was probably at work or studying (where else would she be?) but I knew Kaitlin was the only one who would understand my plight. So my text said, “Remember when you died my hair and it was grey? This is worse. Call me.” In fewer than 10 seconds, the phone rang. She was on the other end, staked out and hiding in the corner at work trying to talk me down and convince me  that it didn’t look “ thaaaatt bad” from the picture message I sent. I reminded her that she said the same thing when my hair was grey. “Well, ya’ know, that turned out okay. Right?” she said, reassuringly as we both laughed.  Kaitlin was always there to lift my spirits when I needed her. When I broke up with my college boyfriend, Kaitlin was over in fewer than 20 minutes. She looked me over from top to bottom and proclaimed “Girl, you know you are way more legit than him anyway. Put on some heels.  We have to go make someone jealous.” And we did.

When I look back at all these memories I have of college and of Kaitlin, I can’t help but laugh and think oh wow Kait , I couldn’t have done it without you. God truly brought us together that first month of freshman year, at a Campus Crusade Scavenger Hunt with 6 people piled into my red mustang and Kaitlin trying to give directions from the back seat. He brought us together right after both of us dropped out of sorority recruitment the first time and thought we would never make any friends in college. God had a better plan that year. He knew that Chi Omega would hold a special place in Kaitlin’s heart one day, but He gave us each other first. Kaitlin came into my life and each of our lives just for a season but her memories will last forever.

And I continue to have hope in the knowledge that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose as Paul says in Romans 8:28. Even on days when I know I’ll miss her, when I pick up the phone to call her and realize I can’t, when I do walk down the aisle one day and my number one bridesmaid won’t be there, I know that even on those days God is still good because he gave me a roommate, a best friend, and now an angel. I can’t wait for the day I will see her again and say Oh my gosh, Kait I have so much to tell you.

Kaitlin and I at graduation

 

One Day Kaitlin,  we will walk the streets of Heaven together

 

In His love,

Stacey