only help my unbelief

I really should be in bed
December 21, 2008, 11:24 pm
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Today was a full day.

I woke up this morning and got to church early to greet the kids in my Sunday school class. Almost all of them were there, which is rare, and we had a special craft to do courtesy of Lee – picture frames to decorate, with pictures of our class that we took last week. The kids loved the pictures, and decorating the frames took an incredibly long time, which was actually great. I loved sitting there helping them put the stickers on and talking about the pictures.

After church Christian and I drove back to my house and ate a delicious lunch. Then my mom took us over to her friend’s house, where her friend and her friend’s daughter took some engagement pictures for us. I don’t know how they turned out yet, but we did have a good time making each other laugh and feeling somewhat awkward at trying to look like we weren’t posing.

That only took about an hour, so we came back to my house and relaxed with my parents until it was time to drive back to church.

We were in the 2- and 3-year-old nursery tonight, so it was the same kids I have in Sunday school. They were super sweet tonight, wanting to sit in our laps and read books and take silly pictures. My heart was full of them when we left.

After that we went to a Christmas party where we got to fellowship with friends from church. It was a really relaxing, joyful time, and we felt refreshed when it was over.

We drove back to church to pick up Christian’s car.

I dropped him off and was about to drive off, but I waited because he didn’t have his cell phone with him. God was so gracious.

Christian’s car wouldn’t start. Even though a couple weeks ago it was in the shop for two weeks. And we paid almost $1,000 to get it fixed.

We were able to jump it, but we still don’t know what the problem is.

We have a lead on a car someone is trying to sell before they go on the mission field, so we’re going to call them again tomorrow to see if that’s a possibility, but we know it’s all in God’s hands.

If you think about it, please pray for us. It seems kind of like we’re drowning. There’s the wedding to plan, and we’re still looking for an apartment, and now we need to find a new car as soon as possible. We know God is big enough to handle all this and more, but our faith is being tested, and we know that God hears the prayers of the saints.

Honestly, though, I’m thankful for these trials. Tonight on the way home the song “Come, Thou Long Expected Jesus” came on my iPod, and it was just what I needed to hear. I don’t think there’s ever been a Christmas when I wanted Jesus to come and overshadow me more than I do this year.

O come, thou Dayspring, come and cheer
Our spirits by Thine advent here
Disperse the gloomy clouds of night
And death’s dark shadows put to flight
Rejoice, rejoice, Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel

Exceedingly abundantly beyond
November 8, 2008, 2:24 pm
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On Thursday I left work to grab a quick lunch at Taco Bell. I checked my phone for messages and found that the director of the temp agency through which I’m employed had called.

She said my company was laying off all its temps at Thanksgiving.

I choked through the rest of the conversation, then hung up the phone. And in the Taco Bell parking lot, I cried for ten good minutes.

Was this really what God had in mind when He gave me this job? I thought.

It just seemed like a cruel joke.

I finally composed myself and ventured inside the restaurant. As I waited for my food, little vapors of memories passed through my mind. I remembered phone calls for babysitting jobs when I needed money to pay my health insurance. The phone call the day I found out I got this job. The brothers and sisters who told me they were praying for me.

By the time I was done with lunch, the future didn’t seem so fearful. God spoke to me mightily.

I fought off tears back at work, though, as I e-mailed my closest friends to let them know what was going on. I asked for their prayers.

Yesterday I was pulled aside at work and told that through a special arrangement, I would be able to stay there until at least the end of December. And at the end of that time, they might be able to work something else out.

I wanted to collapse in a puddle on the floor. I was so humbled that they would go to such great lengths to keep me. Not only that, but I’ll be getting a small raise, which was not expected at all.

It’s kind of like God scooped me in His hands and said, “Chelsey, I could just give you the promise of at least another month at work, but because I’m overflowing with grace and mercy, here’s some icing on the cake.”

I told a friend last night that I had been pondering scenarios that would allow me to stay, but never in a million years could I have come up with the way God actually worked it out.

And, I’m finding, that’s pretty much the way it always is.

And now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly beyond all that we could ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to Him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus both now and forevermore. (Ephesians 3:20-21)

November 3, 2008, 8:13 pm
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I went to eat dinner at Moe’s with my family tonight. When I got home, Christian had sent me a Facebook message:

“So, I can’t find my cell phone anywhere. The last time I remember having it was when you called last night, and past that, I don’t know what I did with it.”

In the past, this would have sent me into a tizzy. Part of that was because Christian lived far away, and talking on the phone was the only method of reaching him.

I almost went into a tizzy tonight. What if his phone was lost for good?

In the past, I would have let the questions keep going and going and going.

I forced myself to answer the questions that made my mind race.

If his phone was lost, he could get a new one. He has insurance for his phone. Tonight we could talk online, or not at all. Tomorrow – the same. Either way, God would provide.

Wow. That was much easier than getting freaked out. Seriously.

Praise God, from whom all blessings flow.

From online to long distance
July 9, 2008, 6:00 am
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Note: This post is part 2 of “How I met Christian.” You can read part 1 here.

After I headed home to South Carolina on April 9, 2006, reality sank in.

Sure, I’d met an awesome guy through the Internet by the providence of God, but now I was back at school, taking 19 hours and trying to work part-time during the week. I hardly had time to be, let alone stay in touch with a boyfriend. Before it had been official, there weren’t many expectations. But now that I had met this charming young man and he had expressed interest in pursuing a relationship with me, I really wanted to talk to him!

As exciting as our relationship was, it came at an interesting time. It came at the right time, I know, because God is sovereign, but in the couple of months before I met Christian in person, I had started having sleeping problems and panic attacks. It wasn’t because of Christian initially, but once we started dating, the problems were compounded.

Even though he had remained firm in his commitment to me, I still wasn’t sure if he really meant it. And it didn’t matter how many times he told me, I still just wasn’t sure.

As you can imagine, this was a hard time for both of us. I wasn’t trusting God or Christian, and he was 400 miles away trying to do well at school and spend time with friends and still be there for me.

I wish I could say that the problem quickly subsided, but it didn’t.

Instead, the anxiety turned into dependence, which turned into some behavior that I’m pretty embarassed about and would rather not disclose completely. In short, the summer after we met, I dishonored my parents, ignored most of my friends (which really hurt them) and didn’t really resolve any of my anxiety about Christian.

And so that summer was a rocky time, and not indicative of what our relationship would become. I get really sad thinking about all the opportunities that I wasted during those months, but God is a good and loving God who redeems bad things for good. It took me a while to see any good out of those things, but if nothing else, I can see that God sustained me through a period of time when I deserved grace less than anyone.

At the end of the summer we had almost two weeks together. He stayed with some friends of mine in Columbia, and we got to see each other every day. This was good, but almost too good. When he went back to school, it was really hard for me. Over the summer we had been able to talk pretty much whenever. But now he had a schedule and so did I, and we had to fit each other in.

The first semester of my junior year was rough, because our relationship was really and truly long distance. He wasn’t just some guy I talked to through AIM who I thought was really great. This was someone who was pursuing me, who wanted to know me better, who wanted to know my family and friends, who really and truly loved me. The only thing was, he was a six-hour drive away.

We managed to visit each other fairly often. He came down for an Andrew Peterson concert. I went up for our six-month anniversary. He came down for fall break. I went up when we had a Monday off school. But the fact remained that we did not live in the same town, we didn’t get to see each other much, and it was really, really hard.

There was a light at the end of the tunnel, though it was a temporary light. After Christmas 2006, he was going to spend six weeks in Columbia… before he went to Germany.

To be continued.

Trusting the Lord in all things
March 28, 2008, 9:13 pm
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Last week at the Bible study I attend, we looked at Romans 8:28-29. I think that passage, especially the first verse, has become kind of cliche in Christian circles. Many situations leave people comforting one another with the fact that “all things work together for good.” But at Bible study, my friend Clara pointed out the connection between verses 28 and 29:

“And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose. For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren.”

She said the conjunction at the beginning of verse 29, “for,” is key to understanding this passage, because it brings the two verses together. What God is really saying in these two verses that the “all things working together for good” means “being conformed to the image of Christ.” I had never seen that before in these verses.

It changes our whole view of suffering and trials, because I know that in my own life it’s sometimes difficult to concur with God that certain outcomes are good. I’m a sinner, so I don’t see things the way God sees them, and I don’t always think that what He puts in my life is good. Thankfully, God doesn’t expect me to always understand. What He does expect, though, is that I trust that whatever He puts in my life has been given to me that I might become more like Christ.

I’m currently struggling with trusting God about the future, most specifically about jobs. Like I said yesterday, I received an internship at The State newspaper for 12 weeks, but another job prospect opened up yesterday that I wasn’t expecting. I’m starting to get confused about what I should do, and how I should be use the skills God has given me, and how I should trust Him about the more mundane things of life like health insurance and credit cards.

I kind of fell apart today when I thought about it all, but a talk with my mom reassured me that the Lord really is capable of taking care of everything in my life, and my mind went back to those verses from Romans 8.

Even if I end up working at Starbucks for the rest of my life, God will take care of me, and He will not only sustain me at a constant level, but He will keep challenging me so that I look more and more like Christ every day.

And isn’t that all we want? To be one of the many brethren among whom Christ was the firstborn.

I’m going to keep praying that I would look at every circumstance with spiritual eyes, setting my heart on the eternal instead of the temporal. I encourage you to do the same.