It was a simple question, but it caught me off guard.
We talked about our perfect heavenly bodies tonight in class, and as an example of our imperfect bodies here, I told the kids about RP. I explained that I’ll be disease-free in heaven.
But, I wasn’t ready for the questions.
“Wait, Ms. Elizabeth, you mean you know you’ll be blind one day?”
“No, because God works miracles, and every case is different. I may never have any major issues with it. We’ll see what God allows.”
“Does it scare you?”
“Yes, sometimes it does. But do you know what makes it OK? I can still tell others about Jesus even if I can’t see.”
I don’t think about my eyes often, and it’s something I choose not to obsess over. I have a “What if…?” for every situation, and I could easily work myself up over this, but I will not do it.
Still, when one of my students asked that question about if it scares me, I had to be honest. It does scare me sometimes. It’s not always OK. Sometimes I think about all the things I might never see again, and it crushes me in my moments of little faith.
But God… That’s one of my favorite phrases. It shows up in the most hopeless of situations throughout the Bible, and it’s shown up in the most hopeless situations in my life, too. Read about Noah, Joseph and David, as well as from the many letters in the New Testament. You’ll see those “But God” moments everywhere.
Even when thinking about RP has me down, I can’t help but remember the faithfulness of God. Remembering how He has brought me through some desperate moments and difficult situations comforts me and assures me that my eyes are safe in His care. He is not surprised by this, and as I have said before, I won’t be able to see one day longer than is in His plan.
I may be scared and have little faith sometimes, but like I told my students tonight, I still can tell others about the love of God and the Gospel without vision. It won’t stop me from teaching His great promises, and that does make it OK.
Update: I had a good report last month, and it turns out the FDA has approved a drug to treat RP, so if my eyes take a downward turn, the specialist will discuss the drug with me. God works through medicine!
Would you skip lunch one time if it meant a starving child could have a meal every day for a month?
If you’ve followed me on social media for very long, you’ve probably heard me ask that question a time or two. The reason is because I’ve seen how far a handful of dollars goes, and it’s further than you might think.
I want to tell you about two important groups to me and give you the opportunity to get involved in them. The first organization is Feed My Starving Children, and the second is The Hope Project International.
Feed My Starving Children
Feed My Starving Children partners with mission groups and humanitarian organizations around the world to distribute food. But they’re not just giving food away. FMSC wants to help develop sustainability in the communities receiving the food. You can read more about their mission here.
I’m part of a Bible study group, Two or More, that has organized FMSC MobilePacks for a couple of years, packing meals locally to send to starving children worldwide.
To date, we have packed 246,888 meals, which feeds 676 children every day for one year. I can’t wait to break a quarter-million meals this year!
During the MobilePack event, volunteers pack meals of rice, soy, vegetables, and vitamins. Each session is two hours long, and those who wish to do so will gather and pray over the meals packed when the session ends.
Once FMSC ships the meals, they notify us where the meals will be used.
Participating in a MobilePack lets you make a global difference with the help of your community, and it’s truly a beautiful thing to see. But for me, it doesn’t end at the MobilePack.
The Hope Project International
The Hope Project International is a ministry in Nicaragua that brings hope to the hopeless through a range of programs: nutrition, education, child sponsorships, sewing programs, academies, shoe distributions, and so much more. They’re meeting physical needs to build the foundation to meet spiritual ones, and they’re showing people that they matter. You can read more about them here.
The president of the board of directors leads worship at a church I once attended, and he organized a trip to Nicaragua that I was a part of. I saw people whose circumstances would have given them every reason to be bitter. But instead of being bitter, these precious adults and children were finding hope and joy through the different ministries of The Hope Project. It was incredible.
We washed feet and distributed shoes, fed children, delivered food to families, and so much more. I had a place in my heart for the poor before the trip, and this trip gave me experiences that solidified those feelings. I was able to see and smell and touch that which my heart already seemed to know. It’s hard to explain, but it felt like I had been there before; it felt like coming home after being away for a long time.
A piece of my heart is still there, and it always will be.
I went back the next year, 2017, and I have plans to go back this summer. God is working in amazing ways in Nicaragua through The Hope Project, and I’m excited to see how far God’s taken the ministries in the course of one year.
Connecting the two
During the mission trips with The Hope Project International, I worked part of the time with the nutrition program, where I served children FMSC meals just like the ones we had packed back in my community.
Seeing the FMSC meals in full circle was amazing, and knowing that 22¢ was all it took to feed one of the children I helped serve drove home for me the idea that even the smallest of gifts can make a difference.
When I got home, I started paying for my fast food lunches with cash and saving the change to pay for the meals of children who don’t have enough to eat. A meal for me, a meal for them. I’m not sure how much is in the jar yet, but it’s pretty full!
The first way to get involved is to pray for the third Two or More MobilePack, for The Hope Project International, and for my upcoming mission trip there. Prayer is the most important part of each of these, I would ask that you set an alarm to remind you each week to say a prayer for these different events and groups.
Some have asked me how to get involved further, so here is some information about the upcoming events.
Two or More MobilePack
DeKalb County Schools Coliseum
You can make a tax-deductible donation and/or volunteer to pack by visiting our webpage. Registration will open March 1.
The Hope Project International
You can make a one-time donation or set up a recurring one by clicking here. You can also sponsor a child by clicking Hope Friends Sponsorship at the top of the page.
If you’d like to donate to my upcoming trip, email me to find out how. If you’re local, I’ll be selling ferns for the next month or so and will deliver them to you if you’d like to order one.
Thank you for reading this piece of my heart, and thank you for the well wishes and prayers as these things take place in the coming months. I look forward to sharing with you what all God has done once these events happen!
Here is the next roundup of the things I took time to notice and appreciate the past couple of weeks. It’s hard to believe January is almost over. I think 2018 is going to pass just as quickly — if not quicker — than 2017 did.
First, I’m grateful to have a job where I have the ability to work from home on cold days like we had during the polar vortex week. I know many people who had no choice but to go out during those days, but God gave me a wonderful job with wonderful employers who let me work from my warm bedroom.
Remember, too, to pray for those experiencing the harsh winter and have nowhere to take shelter from it. Provide for them if you can.
My mom’s oldest brother was honored as the Rainsville Person of the Year. He has always loved helping people, and when God put it on his heart to start a ministry, Helping Hands Mission Center was born. It doesn’t matter how big or little the need; Uncle Donny will help. He takes God’s love with him everywhere he goes, and he uses each encounter to spread a little bit of it with those he meets.
Uncle Donny also helps with disaster relief, and he’s traveled all over to help the broken. I’m very proud to know him, as he truly has a heart for others.
I started reading this book to assist in my Bible study, and it’s been a wonderful journey so far. Revelation may seem like an odd book to enjoy, but I’ll be honest. I love it.
When I started reading novels, I never could seem to get to the end of the book fast enough. I didn’t want it to be over, but I wanted to know what happened. I even flipped to the back and spoiled some books for myself a few times because I couldn’t read at the pace I wanted to. I was a fast reader, but I just had to know.
The same goes for my Bible reading. When I get to the end, I can’t get enough of my Jesus in all His glory. I get excited about His return and about an eternity worshipping the One who redeemed me.
At the same time, it keeps me aware of a world who doesn’t know Him and reminds me that time is short. I want others to know the God I know, to experience the love I know every day, and I want them to be able to eternally celebrate a victorious King, too.
That’s what reading the whole Bible does for me, but getting to the end and being reminded of what’s coming moves me in its own special way.
Ethan was born the day after my mom’s birthday, and since he was home this year, I made them a joint cake. It has about 1,000 grams of sugar and 6,000 calories per slice*, but it’s my mom’s favorite chocolate cake.
How many times a day do you pause to look at things you love? Do you notice them at all? I’m one of those people who is always thinking about schedules and getting everything accomplished on my to-do list. I haven’t taken enough time to stop and enjoy the world around me, but that’s begun to change in the past year or so.
I started thinking about the beautiful things in my life when I learned about my retinitis pigmentosa. What would it be like to no longer be able to see the beauty of the world around me? What would I miss the most?
I thought about those questions for a while, and I decided to be intentional about noticing my world. While I’ve never been one to take many photos, I’m trying to take more than usual of the things I notice. Sometimes they’re silly things, sometimes they’re serious things, and sometimes they’re simple things. Still, each has meaning to me for various reasons; therefore, they are beautiful to me.
From time to time, I’ll share a few of my favorites with you. Here are some from the past few weeks to get it started.
I would miss seeing flowers and sunsets, my family and friends, and beaches and mountains. Still, how amazing would it be for my next vision to be that of my Savior? I smile just thinking about it.
I don’t know what tomorrow holds, but I know the one who does, and He’s promised that His plans for me are greater than my plans. Time and time again He’s proven himself, and so I will trust Him with this little thing called RP and enjoy the sights He gives me for as long as He continues to give them.
Leviticus is a difficult book to read. When I was little, I would just skip over the laws and the genealogies because they didn’t seem as important. My family didn’t sacrifice goats and rely on priests to intercede for me, so those books really didn’t matter as much as the other ones, right?
I recently started back at the beginning in my Bible reading, and I’m working through Leviticus right now. Let me tell you: There’s nothing that makes me feel more unworthy than reading commands of God, no matter where they fall in the Bible. God’s Word throws my brokenness and weaknesses in my face, showing me my desperate need for my Savior.
I found myself reading Leviticus 21 last night, which covers rules for priests. Back then, not just anyone could come to God and perform the duties associated with worship and sacrifice, among other things. Not everyone could come before God’s throne. The priests were holy — meaning set apart for a specific purpose — and they had a special ordination ceremony to prepare them to serve. They were males who came from a specific tribe and bloodline.
While reading about the different rules for priests, I hit these verses:
The Lord said to Moses, “Say to Aaron: ‘For the generations to come none of your descendants who has a defect may come near to offer the food of his God. No man who has any defect may come near: no man who is blind or lame, disfigured or deformed; no man with a crippled foot or hand, or who is a hunchback or a dwarf, or who has any eye defect, or who has festering or running sores or damaged testicles. No descendant of Aaron the priest who has any defect is to come near to present the food offerings to the Lord. He has a defect; he must not come near to offer the food of his God. He may eat the most holy food of his God, as well as the holy food; yet because of his defect, he must not go near the curtain or approach the altar, and so desecrate my sanctuary. I am the Lord, who makes them holy.’” (v. 16-23, NIV)
I felt the Holy Spirit poke me a little and went back and reread it, not wanting to miss what He wanted to show me that night.
Besides the fact that I’m a woman, even if I had met the genealogical qualifications of priesthood, I wouldn’t have been able to serve as a priest because I have defective eyes. If I take off my glasses and look down a flight of stairs, I can’t see individual steps to try to walk down them … pretty rough.
I wouldn’t have had what it took to be able to go near God’s holy place. These sacred, holy places would have been unapproachable to me. I couldn’t have reached the standard set in place on my own.
But do you see that short verse at the end? “I am the Lord, who makes them holy.”
Friends, God had a bigger plan than the law and sacrifices that could never have taken away sins. He had a bigger plan than worship confined by means of earthly priests. His plan would include a one-time sacrifice that covered all sin for all time. The plan would also make those of us who couldn’t meet the priestly standards holy and acceptable with the ability to draw near to our Creator.
But do you realize what that took? It took the most painful separation of all time with Almighty God sending His precious Son away from His presence and to a sinful world to walk with mankind for 33 years, ending in the most horrific shed blood of Christ and the most glorious resurrection of the One who defeated death. The full wrath of God was poured on His sinless, spotless Son because that’s what it took to satisfy God’s holy and just wrath. Nothing was held back.
The writer of Hebrews tell us that by one sacrifice, He has made perfect forever those who are being made holy, that the sins and lawless acts God remembers know more, and that where these have been forgiven, sacrifice for sin is no longer necessary. (Hebrews 10:14-18)
And he goes on to write what connected with Leviticus last night:
Therefore, brothers and sisters, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, his body, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near to God with a sincere heart and with the full assurance that faith brings, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. (v. 19-23)
We aren’t denied access to God’s dwelling place or His altar anymore no matter our lineage or defects. We can come close to God with confidence because we have been washed clean by the broken body of the Great Priest. He opened the curtain for us and invited us to come close and be cleansed.
It brings tears every time I think about the fact that I’m made perfect forever, that my God sees me as holy with sins already atoned for. I see my daily battle between the spirit and the flesh, and it sure doesn’t make me feel clean. But what a precious gift that we as Christians can approach God right now, while we’re still in our sinful flesh, and worship Him freely in His presence despite our earthly shortcomings, for Christ’s blood has made us holy.
Praise God for that! Praise God for sacrificing His Son and for Christ’s willingness to be the sacrifice. Praise Him for His love, grace, mercy, forgiveness, and compassion. Praise His holy name!
So, while Leviticus may not be most Christians’ pick for their favorite book of the Bible, God sure used it to speak with me last night about my position before Him in Christ, a position that allows me to draw near to Him. What a beautiful reminder of God’s goodness and unfailing love. For that, I’ll move Leviticus up on my list.
Adversity and faith. Those topics were at the center of our young women’s Bible study discussion tonight. How do you respond to adversity? How do you keep your faith strong when you face trials? What are some situations where you find it difficult to give them to God and instead try to control them yourself?
Tough questions. Questions that remind me how far God has brought me in the past three years, and questions that remind me how far I have left to go.
When my family broke apart three years ago, I fought to believe that all the pain would be worth it. I told myself multiple times a day that God works all things together for the good of those who love Him. If I could stay strong in my faith, I would get to see good someday. Even when I wasn’t sure that I believed it deep down, I said what I knew to be true. Eventually, I came to believe that truth with all my heart.
I had asked God to prove Himself in that situation, and He did abundantly. He proved Himself faithful in the little things and the big things surrounding that trial, and my faith grew as a result. I trusted Him more, and I looked forward to what all He had in store with that part of my story.
But not long after that God moved me from my church. Honestly, that was a harder trial than the family one. I had anger with that one on top of the sadness. What brought me through the hard days was remembering God’s faithfulness in the previous trial. I remembered how He had provided everything I needed to help me overcome the grief, and I knew that He would do it again. Just as before, I repeated the truth until I believed it: God works all things together for the good of those who love Him.
God proved faithful again and gave me the peace I needed. I wasn’t happy about the situation, but He gave me exactly what I needed to make it through.
And then came the retinitis pigmentosa. At that point, though, I was getting used to tough situations, and it took all of two minutes before I told God, “You’ve used blind people before, so I know you can use me with or without eyesight.”
Now, I’ve had some days where I was simply not OK with having RP, but for the most part, I don’t even think about it. God has this in His hands, and I trust Him to work out His plans in His timeframe. From watching Him work in my life the past three years, I can’t help but believe that He has amazing plans for my life. They may not look like what I envisioned or what I even wanted, but they’re good plans, and I’m excited about what the future holds for me.
In our discussion tonight, we talked about different ways we get through those hard times. For me, it’s mostly through prayer and digging into the Bible. However, sometimes a song will speak to me, and it becomes a theme of sorts throughout the trial.
One of those songs was “My Savior My God” by Aaron Shust. (It’s actually a revamp of a hymn.) The opening words are: “I am not skilled to understand what God has willed, what God has planned. I only know at His right hand stands one who is my Savior.”
That became my song for a season. I may not have all the answers, and God may not allow me to see what He’s doing in the difficult things. Still, I know for certain that I have a loving God and a living Savior, and those truths alone means that this life is worth the adversity. The Gospel means that I can have a right relationship with God, and one day I will be with my King forever.
I don’t have a perfect faith or a perfect trust; however, I do have a God who has never failed me. He’s faithful, and I will thank Him tonight for the trials that have brought me to a greater understanding of who He is and of His great love. Truly He is worth it.
“It’s one thing to know Bible stories; it’s another to know the story of the Bible.” — Matt Smethurst, associate editor for “The Gospel Coalition”
For someone who grew up in church, I had a hard time figuring out how the whole Bible connected. I had a stack of devotionals, Awana books, The Mailbox Club studies, prayer journals, and daily Bible reading plans beside my bed, and I did my best to faithfully complete every one of them every day. Honestly, it frustrated me more often than it helped me, but that’s a part of my testimony that I’ll share at another time.
Even with all the input I was receiving, I was still having trouble connecting all the dots and seeing how the whole Bible was actually one story of God getting us back. I knew sin entered the world in Eden and that it meant we all have a sin nature and need a Savior. But really, I skipped from there to Jesus on Earth as that Savior, to Him becoming the sacrifice for us. The Old Testament stories weren’t on any timeline in my 8-year-old mind; they were scattered somewhere before Jesus.
I asked Jesus to be my Savior when I was about 8 years old, and it took about eight more years before I understood the big plan. I stumbled across a sermon series from Oak Hills Church based on The Story, a story Bible written in chronological order. (It’s written like a novel more than a Bible since there are no verses to follow.) I didn’t have the book, but I listened to all the sermons.
My walk with God changed when I listened through that series and understood the overarching redemption story that flows from the first page to the last page of the Bible. I saw God pursuing mankind from the moment sin entered the world until the end of time, and I realized that the story of man’s salvation isn’t limited to everything that happened once Jesus came and made things right. The story of man’s salvation absolutely includes the Old Testament stories, too, and I finally understood the timeline. How had I missed that for eight years?! My faith took off once the puzzle was put together.
The quote by Matt Smethurst at the beginning of the post has challenged me these past few months as I’ve studied and prepared to teach my class at church. I’m not using a curriculum or Bible study but instead am writing my own lessons with Matt’s quote in mind. I want these kids to come away knowing the Bible story instead of Bible stories. I want them to see how the whole Bible speaks of God’s pursuit of our hearts and of His desire to get us back. I don’t want them to miss these basics that somehow I missed.
I filled in for a Sunday school class this week, and one of the girls mentioned that the lesson didn’t seem to fit. They had just talked about Jesus’ death and resurrection, and the lesson I taught was about creation. I know it was that way because the new quarter rolled around and with it new books, but still … she knew that it was out of order and had wanted it to fit. That only reinforced my decision to walk through the Bible with my kids on Wednesday nights.
Pray for me as I take my students through God’s Word this year. Pray that they will have a deeper understanding of who God is and of His story. Pray that God speaks with them and moves in their hearts and lives this year. And, pray that they know God and trust Him as their Savior.
If you’re interested in learning more about God’s story, check out the links below.
Click here to listen to the first message in the 2008 Oak Hills sermon series “The Story.” This is where my journey with it all began.
Click here to listen to the first message in the 2016 Oak Hills sermon series “The Story.”