Friday, July 30, 2010

Farewell at Care Net

Yesterday, my sweet friends at Care Net Pregnancy Center gave me a going-away luncheon that was a wonderful time of blessing and fellowship! It has been a tremendous privilege to serve with this Christ-centered ministry both as a volunteer and a staff member over the past four years. Along the way, I have met some amazing women whom I count it an honor to call my sisters in Christ. It was such a joy to see many of these ladies yesterday!

Due to a lot of guests coming in and out for the luncheon, I neglected my camera most of the time in favor of visiting with such dear friends! I wish I had thought to snap pictures with every person who came, but these are the only ones I have.

Christine and I used to work the same volunteer shift together as peer counselors. I so enjoyed seeing her again!

The delicious, homemade chocolate cake below came as compliments of Christine. :-)

Julie has been both a dear friend and a huge inspiration to me when it comes to speaking Spanish. She is nearly fluent and demonstrates a genuine heart of compassion for our Hispanic clients at the center.

Bonnie used to be a part of our volunteer staff but recently had to take a sabbatical due to some family situations that arose unexpectedly. I have missed Bonnie's sweet, cheerful, ever-encouraging presence! It was so fun to see her again.

And this is a VERY important person. May I present Care Net's newest receptionist, Whitney! We've had such fun together throughout the month of July as Whitney has been in training. She has proven to be a quick learner and very competent in taking over this position.

Whitney in action at my old desk.

I was so blessed by the out-pouring of love and support that my Care Net family gave me yesterday. Their cards, gifts, well-wishes, and prayers meant so much to me.

To any of you reading this post, thank you from the bottom of my heart! You all enrich my life!

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Attention Girls!

Leslie and Harper Ludy (age 3)

For, maybe months!...I have been eagerly awaiting the newly designed launch of the Set Apart Girl magazine on Leslie Ludy's personal website. Just tonight, I clicked over to, and to my delightful surprise, found that the new magazine is not only available to read, but the entire website has undergone renovations! What used to be a four-article magazine has morphed into a beautifully laid out 40-page collection of edifying articles, soul-stirring quotes, incredible photography, and helpful information about upcoming Set Apart Girl conferences.

I highly recommend taking a look at the lovely remodeled website and perusing the magazine when you have some free time. Be prepared for encouragement and inspiration! (Oh, and you absolutely must check out the latest pictures of Leslie's adorable children under the "About Me - My Kiddos" tab! They will make you smile!)

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Quote for the Day

"No Jesus; no joy.
Know Jesus; know joy."

~ Adrian Rogers

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Thoughts From Tonight's Sermon

Tonight, a gentleman in our church preached a great message on the topic of "contrary winds." His text came from Matthew 14:22-33.
"And straightway Jesus constrained His disciples to get into a ship, and to go before Him unto the other side, while He sent the multitudes away...But the ship was now in the midst of the sea, tossed with waves: for the wind was contrary. And in the fourth watch of the night Jesus went unto them, walking on the sea. And when the disciples saw Him walking on the sea, they were troubled, saying, It is a spirit; and they cried out for fear. But straightway Jesus spake unto them, saying, Be of good cheer; it is I; be not afraid..."

The preacher made several good points, but two thoughts especially stand out to me from tonight's message.

1. Contrary winds do not mean that you are not in the will of God.
You will certainly experience troubles and trials even when you are smack-dab in the middle of God's perfect will for your life. The disciples had done exactly what Jesus instructed them to do and then they found themselves in the midst of a storm. Following God doesn't mean smooth sailing the whole time. The end of Hebrews 11 outlines what many of His followers have endured that involved suffering and hardship. Paul describes in II Corinthians 11 all the difficulties he experienced for the cause of Christ. "Contrary winds" of trouble and trial will certainly come. When they do, we shouldn't turn the boat around and try to get back to comfortable living but rather, we should stay the course and remain faithful to the Lord.

2. Lack of progress does not mean that you are not in the will of God.
The disciples had been toiling in the boat all night and they were only in the middle of the Sea of Galilee. They had only gone about 3-4 miles when Jesus came to them in the fourth watch of the night which would have been somewhere from 3:00-6:00 a.m. That's a long night of hard work to not get very far. But yet, the disciples were not acting against God's will. They were doing exactly what Jesus had told them to do. So just because we may not see much progress in a certain area of our lives or in a ministry with which we are involved, that doesn't mean we should give up. Jesus knew what was going on in His disciples circumstances, but He deliberately delayed showing up until the fourth watch of the night. When He did arrive on the scene and got into the boat, the winds ceased and, according to a cross reference of this text, they were immediately on land. God's timetable is not ours, but He certainly knows what He is doing.

These thoughts from tonight's sermon were especially meaningful to me as I prepare to go to language school in two weeks. I am sure I will encounter contrary winds somewhere along this new chapter of life, if not many times. But that doesn't mean I'm not in God's will. Contrary winds test and try my faithfulness. I am also guessing that there will be days when I will feel that I am not making much progress learning Spanish, or that I'll never get a certain verb conjugation correct! I am grateful for this reminder that a lack of progress doesn't mean God isn't at work, but that His timetable for success and accomplishment may be different than mine. That doesn't mean I give up, but rather that I toil for as long as it takes until land is reached.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

An Update from Katelin

I know many of you blog readers are also subscribers to Katelin and Nathan's newsletters and blog, but in case you missed the latest installment of "Katelin's Kronicles," click here to read!

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Tools for the Articulating Truth

Tonight, my neighbor Stephanie came over for our weekly Wednesday evening Bible study. (You may recall a past post I wrote about Stephanie here.) We recently finished studying through the book of Ephesians verse by verse and were planning on starting the book of James tonight at Stephanie's request. However, when she arrived, Stephanie whipped out her Bible and journal and stated emphatically, "I have questions."

She went on to describe how she had gone out for a meal with friends from school and the topic of religion came up in conversation. Her friends started asking all sorts of questions about Stephanie's beliefs and challenging Christianity in a way that Stephanie found she could not defend. Some of these questions and statements included:
"What's the difference between Baptists and other religions?"
"How do you know that what you believe is right and everyone else is wrong?"
"All religions are basically the same, right?"
"I don't believe in hell. How do you know there's a hell?"
"What's the difference between what Catholics and Christians believe?"
"I'm too much of a sinner to go to church; they wouldn't accept me there."

Stephanie sat in a chair at my kitchen table tonight with a spark in her eye declaring, "I was so frustrated with myself! I know what I believe, I just don't know how to explain it to my friends. I need help answering their questions. I told them I would get back with them after Wednesday! What should I say?"

Setting aside our plans for a study on the book of James, we instead tackled this important issue that every Christian eventually faces of learning how to articulate why you believe what you believe, starting with how to prove the Bible is the absolute standard of truth.

For two hours we talked, studied, looked up Scriptures, and wrestled through these honest, legitimate challenges that Stephanie faced from her friends. All the while, she scribbled away in her journal trying to capture our conversation on paper so she could share these answers with her friends. It was a most exciting, invigorating night!

As this conversation is still fresh on my mind, I thought I would pass along a few tools that have been helpful in my own experience when it comes to knowing how to articulate the truths of Christianity and defend why I believe what I believe.

In this fascinating book, Mark Cahill writes a simple, easy-to-understand description of logical questions and answers on a journey for spiritual truth. Starting with creation and the validity of the Bible, he builds an argument for why Jesus Christ is the only way to salvation. This book is my top pick for non-believers giving concrete evidence and logic for believing in the Savior. I also highly recommend his other book, One Thing You Can't Do In Heaven, as it has great ideas for answering the skeptics and helping them see fallacies in their own worldview.

I often refer to my Evidence Bible for its extra commentary and the many pages scattered throughout containing "irrefutable evidence for the thinking mind" in regards to the truths of God's Word. There are some excellent resources tucked all throughout this publication! I also like the fact that it is the King James version written in comfortable English, making it an ideal study Bible for those who struggle wading through all the "thees," "thous," "haths," and "rejoiceths" without compromising the integrity of the text. This is the Bible my Chinese girls and I use every Friday night for our group studies.

This film, The Perfect Stranger, has become a new favorite tool in my library! In the story, a lawyer is invited to dinner with Jesus Christ. Despite her initial skepticism and disbelief that the man she joins for dinner is really Jesus, she hurls every argument and asks every question she can think of to challenge Him. The conversation between the two of them, which takes up most of the movie, is intriguing and enlightening! I have gotten so many ideas from this film in learning how to respond to those who challenge Christianity. While the movie isn't as high-quality of a production as you might be used to seeing from Hollywood, it contains excellent material that is certainly worth watching.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Final Farewell to Ariana

Ever since I was 16 years old, teaching piano has been a major part of my life. I love music, especially piano music, and have greatly enjoyed the opportunity to pass on this love to the various students God has brought my way over the years. Ariana has been with me for four years and demonstrates great talent as well as a dedication to practicing regularly. Due to a variety of commitments in my life this past year, I cut back in my teaching load and kept only Ariana. She has been a joy to teach! A week ago, Ariana completed her years of training with me by performing a personal concert for family and friends in my home. Here is a little glimpse of the event.

Refreshments ready to be served.

Ariana warms up at the piano.

She also performed a couple pieces on her harp to add variety to the concert. I did not teach her harp, although my sister was the one who inspired her to begin playing. She has picked it up swiftly and is developing a real passion for playing this beautiful instrument!

Sugar cookies anyone?

There are plenty of notes to go around!

Another picture with Ariana. She is now thirteen years old and just about all grown up! :-)

As a reward for diligent effort this past semester in accordance with an incentive program I designed to help her practice, Ariana earned a trip to the Houston Symphony with me last night!

Welcome to Jones Hall.

We went to see "The Planets in HD." It was a unique experience which included visual images of planets portrayed on a giant screen while theme songs that had been composed for each planet were played by the orchestra. The concert also included film score music from various space-oriented movies like Star Wars and E.T. ~ which was my favorite part!

Ariana had never been to the symphony before. She enjoyed it tremendously!

A view from the balcony.

A view from our seats.

We had amazing seats. And watching the conductor up close and personal was so entertaining! He was enthusiastic with a capital E!

Going to the symphony made for a memorable farewell to a most beloved student. Now, as I embark on a new adventure in life, it is time to send Ariana on to a more advanced teacher. She has outgrown what I am able to teach her and I look forward to seeing her continue to blossom in her music as she learns under new tutors.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

A Season of Transition

It's hard to believe that August 7 is almost here. Only a few more weeks to go before a brand new chapter of my life begins at the Missionary Language School of the Rio Grande Bible Institute.

I am excited and full of wonder as to the experiences that this next school year will hold. I am also fully aware of the intensity of study I am about to embark upon as I immerse myself in the Spanish language for nine months. What a reassurance it is to recognize that, as with every other new chapter in life, my God is the One writing this one. He is the One who has led me every step in my journey with Him. Now, as He leads me to South Texas to continue preparations for a life of service on the foreign mission field, I am confident that I do no go alone. He is my constant Guide and Companion. He is the One I am trusting in, even as I step toward the great unknowns of the very near future.

Right now, my life is in a season of transition making for days that are full to the brim with projects needing to be finished and preparations needing to be started...

~ The Bible college degree that I sometimes thought would never be achieved is almost complete. A couple final essays on the Book of Revelation, and I will be done! Thank You, Jesus, for working miracles in this department!

~ Training is underway at Care Net Pregnancy Center as a new receptionist learns to take my position in the ministry. I am so grateful for the years I have spent here at the center both as a volunteer peer counselor and more recently as a staff member. But it is time to move on, and so I am thankful for God's provision of a delightful, experienced young woman who will do a wonderful job serving as the new receptionist.

~ My piano student wrapped up a year of diligent study with a personal concert for family and friends this past weekend. Now, suddenly, Tuesday nights are free, allowing me to attend to other pressing needs.

~ I am still praying for a like-minded Bible study teacher to take over my class at American Chinese Fellowship. Meanwhile, I am soaking in every Friday night spent with my spunky group of precious girls!

~ Still researching insurance options regarding necessary eye care now that I have rolled off my parent's coverage upon reaching the ripe age of 25. I am realizing that time is quickly ticking for picking a new policy and ordering a new supply of contacts before August 7!

~ I catch myself mentally making lists in my head of items I need to purchase or gather before packing my bags. I'm thinking that I need to write these lists down before they fly away!

~ Praying for wisdom in time management as there are yet many people I wish to see, several social gatherings I wish to participate in, and yet so few weekends left before my departure. I am trying to find the balance between people I care for and time in the home I love where rest and peace are realized.

I'll be sure to keep you posted as further developments in this latest adventure continue to unfold. Blog posts aplenty are rolling around my mind all the time - but alas, the opportunity for crafting such posts so often seems to elude me! Thank you for your patience as I strive to juggle all that is a necessary part of this busy season of transition.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Little Cabin in the Ozarks

Our family vacation in the Ozarks was absolutely delightful!

The scenery was beautiful.
The weather was breezy.
The opportunity to bask in nature was refreshing.
The cabin was cozy.
The R&R was exactly what we all needed.

Some days we hiked. Some days we swam in the Buffalo River. One day we went to Silver Dollar City. Another day we visited the cute little shops in quaint, downtown Jasper. It's so small it only has one grocery store, two gas stations, and no stop lights! Quite a blessed change from the hustle and bustle of the city!

Nearly every day we spent time loafing around our log cabin with the spectacular view and porch that always beckoned. Reading, playing games, taking naps, and laying around filled many an hour. It was pure bliss. :-)

I am so grateful for this vacation that the Lord (and my hard-working Dad) provided! I have returned feeling rested, refreshed, and blessed by God's creation.

Pictures await you here...but be warned - they don't do justice to the glorious beauty we encountered!