only help my unbelief

They say getting out the door is the hardest part
September 30, 2008, 5:58 pm
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On the other hand, it’s pretty easy to turn the car around halfway to the gym and head back home.

As I pulled into a school parking lot to make a U-turn, I contemplated the fact that I had put my gym clothes on, gotten my iPod all ready and had even pondered what workout I would do.

It probably would have been some great exercise. If I had made it.


The best entertainment is free and comes from fourteen-year-olds
September 29, 2008, 6:50 pm
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On the way home from Moe’s tonight, my 14-year-old sister shared a conversation she had with a friend today at school.

FRIEND: I have this thing on my back, and I don’t know what it is.

SISTER: Is it a wart?

FRIEND: Maybe. I thought it might be cancer, but I don’t think it is, because my hair hasn’t fallen out yet.

After 47 days of waiting, 1 day changes it all
September 26, 2008, 7:50 am
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“It happened so fast,” my mom said at dinner last night.

“I guess you could say that,” I said. “But then I remember I haven’t had a job since August 9.”

As I counted out how many days that was, I kind of surprised myself. Forty-seven days.

In many ways, the title of my blog has been the theme of the last month and a half.

Lord, help my unbelief.

I couldn’t count how many times I felt myself on the edge of a cliff, ready to jump off with abandon. How many more job applications could I submit? Would I really have to type in that phone number one more time? Honestly, I hoped that for most of them, they weren’t even bothering to look at my resumes. Because if every place I applied called all my references, I was going to expect a few e-mails from former professors asking me to please not list their phone numbers as a reference anymore.

Wednesday night, I went to bed sobered at the realization that my checking account was, eventually, going to be emptied out. Babysitting consistently had prolonged the inevitable, and the late arrival of my stimulus check had helped, but I didn’t have a consistent source of income. I calculated out my expenses for the month of October and had enough, but after that, what was I going to do?

Lord, help my unbelief.

Thursday morning I woke up to my cell phone ringing.

“Chelsey, there’s a company that wants to interview you,” said the woman from the temp agency. “Can you go this morning?”

I jumped in the shower, pulled out my suit, and headed to a company that’s maybe five minutes from my house.

The interview was mostly small talk about how much growth there’s been in our area. He did ask me if I was detail-oriented. I think most of you probably know my answer.

Nothing bad happened, but I left disheartened. What if I didn’t get this job?

Lord, help my unbelief.

In tears and heartache, I drove home and crawled into my bed. I felt like staying there forever. That I was discouraged would be an understatement.

I was tempted to stay there all day, but in my despair, I cried out to the Lord.

Lord, help my unbelief.

And in the whisper through which only God can speak, I knew that I had to get out of bed. I changed into comfortable clothes and called Christian, telling him I would meet him for lunch. After lunch I went to Starbucks, armed only with my Bible and notebook. As I headed to babysat for several hours for some dear friends, I thought about what faith really is.

Jesus said that faith is still faith even if it’s as small as a mustard seed. And yesterday my faith was probably smaller than that. But God was gracious in giving me just enough faith to get out of bed and do what I would have done if I had felt completely fine. And in doing those normal things, my heart was being trained by the Spirit to trust God even when I didn’t feel like it.

Though my flesh was weak, God made my spirit willing.

Lord, help my unbelief.

I was told I would know today if I had been offered the position.

At 4:45 yesterday, I got a phone call.

In the middle of coloring Hello Kitty pictures with M.W. and S., the woman at the temp agency told me I had been offered the position.

It’s not a glamorous job, and I won’t be making thousands upon thousands of dollars.

It’s not the kind of job I’m proud to tell people I have.*

But I think the rollercoaster of the past 47 days has taught me that God really does oppose the proud, but He gives grace to the humble.

And so I accepted the position, praising the Lord in the middle of sorting out crayons. I shot off a quick text message to Christian and quietly rejoiced while I continued to babysit.

On the way home, tears flowed freely.

My unbelief is not cured. I still don’t know what the future will bring. But in one day, God fulfilled promise upon promise.

He did not leave me or forsake. He gave me new mercies. His grace was sufficient.

Next time, I think my heart will be a little more ready to believe.

And that’s what sanctification is all about.

* I’ll be working at a manufacturing plant super close to my house. It’s an 8-5 work day, and I’ll basically be doing administrative work, mostly data entry. The people who work there are very nice, the atmosphere is casual, and it’s a growing and thriving industry. Thank you to everyone who has been so gentle with me during this time, and for all of you who have let me know you were praying for God to give me contentment. “Taste and see that the Lord is good!”

Nurturing a taste for heaven
September 24, 2008, 7:00 am
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When I think of heaven, sometimes I don’t want to be there, because all I can picture is a bunch of angels singing the same song over and over again for millennia.

I was comforted the other day when one of my friends said she felt the same way.

She said she sometimes feels like she doesn’t want to go to heaven – yet – because there are so many places to go, so many things to experience here on earth. I know what she means.

If I’m honest with myself, I would say, I don’t want to die before I know what it’s like to be a wife.

And there are other things. I want to write a novel. I want to go to the mountain in Switzerland that Christian once described to me. I want to have kids. I want to grow old and see grandbabies crawl across my hardwood floors.

In our discussion, there were moments of silence where I think each of us was imagining all those things we want to do before we have to go to heaven.

And therein the problem lies.

I think because the world is so close and so visible and so tantalizing, to leave seems like a forced decision. There may be wars and shootings and car wrecks, but there are good things, too. Things I love. People I love.

And yet we know that we’re merely passing through. So why do we struggle so much at the thought of letting go?

I think it’s because we don’t have a proper taste for heaven.

I don’t know what heaven is like. Are the streets really gold? Are there angels floating around like fairies? What kind of room will I get – or will it be a mansion like some think?

But there’s one thing I know.

Jesus will be there.

And maybe that’s all we really need to focus on in order to let go of all the things we hold dear in this world. The fact that the One who bled and died to free us from everything that entangles us will be waiting, with open arms, for us.

In His presence there is fullness of joy. At His right hand, pleasures forevermore.

In which I don’t much feel like blogging
September 22, 2008, 2:21 pm
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Over the weekend I came up with a fairly long list of things I wanted to write about.

Then I had a hard time sleeping last night and had to get up at 5 a.m. for boot camp.

Then the physical fitness test at boot camp didn’t go as well as I wanted it to.

Then I slept for several more hours, wasting away the morning.

Then I went to the store to get ingredients for something I wanted to cook, but when I cooked it, it didn’t turn out right.

Now my mom has turned off the air conditioning, and I’m hot.

There’s just not much motivation anymore.

The day I almost went blind, or how I became Reformed
September 19, 2008, 8:00 am
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Note: Parts of this post are taken from a post I wrote for my first blog about 18 months ago. I don’t think it’s possible to plagiarize yourself, but just in case, I’m giving myself permission to adapt that post.

O Father, You are sovereign, the Lord of human pain,
Transmuting earthly sorrows to gold of heavenly gain,
All evil overruling, as none but Conqueror could,
Your love pursues its purpose–our souls’ eternal good.
Margaret Clarkson, “O Father, You are Sovereign”

It was four years ago today. And while the date doesn’t hold some aura of terror that still haunts me, every year, on September 19, I think about that night.

It was my freshman year of college, and I’d been at school for about a month. I was going to a Christian comedy show that was (and still is) performed weekly where I went to college. It was opening night, and one of my new college friends had been encouraging me to come all week. A bunch of other people I knew were going, so, as freshmen are prone to do, we traveled to the event in a large herd.

As three friends and I filed into the huge room with hundreds of other people, I remember being at the front of our group and pausing to let my friends go in front of me.

The show opened with a skit that had us all rolling in the aisles with laughter.

The second skit made fun of Antiques Roadshow. A guy had a big ceramic vase that he kept taking around to different people. They kept telling him it wasn’t worth anything. The punch line of the skit was going to be that it was actually worth a million dollars, but right as he found out, the vase would break.

That actually was how it ended, only the vase wasn’t supposed to break. He was just supposed to pretend to fling it up in the air, but not let go, and the lights would go out. He pretended to fling it, the lights went out, and the handle on the vase broke off in his hand, sending the vase soaring into the crowd.

It all happened really fast. I remember thinking, “That vase hit someone,” and I remember saying so to my friend sitting next to me. There were screams from right behind us, and I realized it had hit someone close to us. That’s when I realized my forehead kind of hurt. I told my friend that I thought it might have hit me, so she suggested we go to the bathroom and take a look (because, as I mentioned, all the lights were still out).

I honestly didn’t think anything serious had happened, although at some point between standing up and getting to the lit hallway, I started to realize that I couldn’t see. Once my friend could see me, she started screaming, and that was when I started thinking I cannot see anything.

I remember handing her my cell phone and telling her to call my mom. I remember someone coming up along beside me and telling me that he was an eye doctor. I remember sitting in a chair, with people holding my hand and telling me it was going to be alright. But mostly I remember planning a future when I wouldn’t be able to see out of my right eye.

People said later that I was really calm considering the circumstances, but I think I was partly in shock and partly sobered at the thought of not being able to see.

As it turned out, the vase hit me almost directly in my right eye, but I didn’t go blind. The reason I couldn’t see when it happened was because there was so much blood in the way.

I ended up in the emergency room getting forty stitches in a portion of my face that probably measured about two square inches. The doctor said that if the vase had been flung with any greater strength, and if the shards of glass lodged in my skin right below my eye had been to the right or the left any more than a millimeter, I would have lost all eyesight in that eye. As it turned out, my vision was still 20/20 an hour after it happened, and now, four years later, you can’t even see the scars.

That event shaped my entire first semester. I missed a week of classes and had a hard time catching up, and I ultimately ended up going to see a counselor. I was super emotional, had panic attacks and, looking back, was an intolerable person to be around. But it was because of that event that I ended up going to Reformed University Fellowship, where I met many of the dear friends whom I have today. It was also through RUF that I started getting to know the female intern at the time. She took me out to lunch numerous times and we talked about what had happened, and who God was, and how I could find comfort in my justification — a word that up until that point I didn’t really know the meaning of. As I read Scripture, and continued to relive the events of the night that vase hit me, the sovereignty of God took on a whole meaning.

I had known God for a long time, since I was six years old. I knew of His love, His compassion and His mercy, and they had been my comfort through many moves and deaths in my family. I knew of His forgiveness. But that night in September, I met with His sovereignty. At first glance someone might say the event was completely random. But as one who personally felt the full ramifications of how close I came to losing vision in my right eye, in time I came to look back on the event as if God was holding the vase in His hand, directing exactly where it went.

And there were so many parts of the story that I just couldn’t ignore. The fact that I had let my friends go in front of me. They could have been the one sitting where I sat, but they weren’t. God wanted me to sit there. The doctor who put the stitches in? He was the father of the guy who had “thrown” the vase, and he was one of the most reputable eye doctors in my area.

Certainly God would have been just as good if I had lost vision in my right eye. But like I said, it was not predominantly His mercy that reached me in this situation. It was the knowledge that all of me, all that happened to me, was completely and securely in His hands. My mom said later that if I ever doubted God’s care for me, if I wondered if He really knew what He was doing, if I feared His love or His ways, then I could look back on this incident as my own personal crossing of the Red Sea.

The God who made my face, the God who created our physical bodies to heal themselves, the God who was the reason behind the creation of the comedy show in the first place, the God who planned for me to go to my college, the God who ordained the skits that would be done, the God who comforted me in my pain, the God who brought me closer to my friends through the situation, the God who carried me through weeks of heartache and did not forsake me — He is the God who predestined before the beginning of the world that He would show grace to me in calling me to Himself, that He would grant me the gift of faith, that He would impute the righteousness of His precious Son to me, that He would sanctify me daily into the likeness of Christ, that He would perfect a good work in me until the fullness of the times when I am glorified, and He is glorified above all.

A thing to be loved
September 17, 2008, 8:00 am
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When you wake up one morning to work out at 5:30 a.m., and you wake up the next morning hardly able to walk because your legs are so sore, you start to wonder if it’s worth it.

And you end up deciding it is worth it, but you don’t want to do anything to ruin all your hard work.

For me, that means watching what I eat. Which is hard. Because while I’m not a glutton, I do enjoy things that taste good.

Take last night for instance. Somehow my dad managed to get 5 pounds of fresh shrimp from someone he works with. He brought it home, he and my mom peeled it, and then he cooked half of it in a wine and butter sauce and grilled the rest on skewers, soaking them in lime and garlic.

Ummm. The shrimp was delicious. I could have eaten all 5 pounds.

I believe that as a Christian, we’re not to be slaves to anything – especially food. But I’ve always thought that different people look at food in different ways. My mom can eat a pretty boring salad every day for lunch and not get tired of it. I can’t. It drives me nuts.

And finally, I ran across someone who understands what I’m talking about. Over at Get Fit Slowly, J.D. says,

“I think there are three types of people… There are those for whom food is an experience, a thing to be loved. I’m one of those. For another type of person, food is merely nourishment, a source of calories. And a third type doesn’t notice food at all.”

Yes, J.D. You have hit the nail on the head. Food is an experience for me. I love to cook, and I love to taste things that just look delicious. I’m being careful now because the scale awaits me every day, but I don’t think that I’ll ever stop seeing food as a thing to be loved.

Photo by Gaetan Lee