I Am All He Says I Am

I have one week left in Chiang Mai. One week! Where has the time gone? In the last six weeks, the Lord has taught me more about Himself and His heart for me. He has pursued me when I was tempted to run from Him. He has showered me in grace and reminded me that I must offer myself grace. He has continuously offered His forgiveness to me. He has allowed me to feel broken and see the brokenness of those around me. He has told me again and again that I am loved and I am whole. I am free from past experiences and I can walk in freedom. He has told me that the men and women in the bars can also walk in freedom, because of the sacrifice He made on the cross for them. Even while He has told me these things, at times I still have a difficult time believing them.

As my team and I enter into the bars of the red light district, I remember that my own brokenness is not any less than the brokenness of those around me. Something happened along the way for a man to choose to spend his nights in the bars, flirting with random women and buying them at some point in the evening. Something went wrong. He was hurt or felt pain in some way and is trying to find satisfaction and identity in something that will never fill the holes in his heart. Something happened along the way for the women in the bars to go along with or accept the injustices they experience on a daily basis. Maybe they were taken from their homes and asked to provide for their families by working in the bars. Maybe they lost a parent or loved one and they have lost all hope. Maybe they are searching for love that they never received from the person who they thought should have loved them most.

I don’t know. Only the Father knows. He knows exactly what they have gone through and the pain they have experienced. He knows the depths of their heart and the emptiness that resides there. He knows exactly what they need. He knows how to love them because HE IS LOVE.

Last night half of my team and I were interceding through prayer and worship as the other half of my team went out to talk to and build relationships with the women in the red light district. One of the girls on my team shared a song with us that resonated deep within my soul. As I listened to the words, I knew Jesus was speaking the words over me. He knew I needed to hear the words and believe them about myself. Below are the lyrics to the song:

All He Says I Am by Cody Carnes & Kari Jobe

“He whispers in my ear, tells me that I’m fearless.

He shares a melody, tells me to repeat it.

And it makes me whole, it reminds my soul,

I am all He says I am.

I am all He says I am.

I am all He says I am.

And He says I am His own.

I was blinded by scales upon my eyes.

And He came like a light and burned up all the lies.

Oh He set me free, He reminded me…

I am all He says I am.

I am all He says I am, and He says I am His own.

Chains are broken, scales are on the floor.

Truth is spoken, I’m no orphan anymore.

No orphan anymore.

I am loved.

I am new again.

And I am free.

I’m no slave to sin.

And I’m a saint.

I am righteousness.

And I’m alive!

I’m alive!

Oh, I’m alive!

I’m alive!

I’m alive!

I am all He says I am, and He says I am His own.”

———

Jesus is teaching me to believe that I am fearless, forgiven, whole.

I am not bound by past hurts and sin.

I am loved and made new.

I am FREE.

I must believe these things about myself so that I can help other women believe them about themselves, too.

I praise Jesus for who I am to Him, and who the men and women in the bars are to Him, too.

Here is a link to the song!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z5x32LP4Qeo

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November 20th: Natural Light

November 20th: Natural Light

Today I am thankful for the natural light that streams into the living room, as I sit and write this blog post with a cup of chai tea in hand. I love the light. I love it’s warmth, it’s welcome, it’s signal of a new day. I appreciate it’s beams and it’s streams of revelation. I enjoy the way it feels on my skin and the way it illuminates the unknown. I love it’s ability to brighten up gloomy moods and it’s willingness to cover soft light over a beautiful scene.

Today my heart is grateful for natural light.

November 19th: 12 Years of that Smile

November 19th: 12 Years of that Smile

On November 19th, 2001, Annalise Marie Schraa was brought into the world. I was nine years old and ready to spend my days playing with this new, tiny human. I still remember watching Annie sleep in her bassinet, swaddled in warm cotton blankets. I remember helping to give her baths, and feeding her baby food peas in her high chair. I can recall holding her close and singing to her while sitting downstairs on the couch. I had made up a song, her song, only to be sung to her. I absolutely loved when she looked into my eyes with a huge smile painted across her face as I told her she had dazzling eyes and a sparking smile. Many times during these soft moments she would fall asleep in my arms, and I would be in heaven.

My love for Annie was evident. When she was able to crawl we would chase each other around the reclining chair. I would pop out at her and she would burst into laughter. I lived for those moments with her. Sometimes I would lay awake in my bed at night and wonder if Annie was awake, too. If my curiosity got the best of me, I would quietly get up and sneak into her room. Sure enough, she would be sitting up in her crib, with rosy cheeks and a sweet look in her eyes. One of my favorite memories with Annie was when I would tip toe into her room and find her awake, ready to snuggle and be comforted by her big sister. Often times she would raise up her arms for me to hold her, and I would rock her in the chair until she fell back to sleep.

My memories with Annie from when she was a baby are meaningful and precious. However, my memories with her, now a 12 year old young lady, are special and meaningful, too. I have had the privilege of teaching her volleyball skills and drilling her in our backyard. I have been given the opportunity to explain to her the importance of being herself and embracing her quirks and goofy nature. I have been able to braid her hair and have sleepovers at night. We have made videos and watched movies and danced to music that was way too loud. I have been able to tell her how much Jesus loves and adores her, how significant she is to Him and to me.

Today Annie celebrates her 12th birthday. The whole day I keep thinking to myself, where have the years gone? How did she get this old? I still remember changing her diapers and pushing her stroller as she smiled at the adventure awaiting her. The Lord has blessed me with 12 years of that smile.

Though I wasn’t able to go home to be with Ann on her birthday, I was able to talk to her on the phone. As she talked to me she could hardly contain her excitement, because she had gotten her very own cell phone.

Words cannot express how proud I am to call Annie my sister. She gives me so much life and can truly light up a room with her presence.

I thank God for giving me Annie 12 years ago today. She is a blessing and a gift. She is beautiful, spunky, opinionated, sensitive, and fun loving. She is my little sister but also one of my closest friends.

I love you with all of my heart, Noni! Happy 12th Birthday!

November 18th: A Nanny for Two

November 18th: A Nanny for Two

At the beginning of my sophomore year of college, I began searching for a job that would fit into my class schedule and provide me with some extra cash. After being interviewed by a family in Madison who lived just a few blocks from my apartment, I was given the job of nannying for two rambunctious and sweet boys, then 7 and 9 years old. A year and a half later, I am still nannying for this family. Every Monday, and some Wednesdays, I spend a few hours with my boys and take them to gymnastics, baseball practice, the tutor, and other random places like Barnes and Noble. 

The boys and I have definitely had our fair share of fun. From jumping on the trampoline to swimming at the local pool to talking about the cooties from the girls at school, we have enjoyed our time together. Well, most days we have enjoyed our time together. Some days I get the opportunity to learn how to deal with a child having a tantrum, or only wanting to eat popcorn and cookies for lunch, or being asked to be dropped off a block away so that his friends won’t see he’s with his spunky and cool nanny. 😀

These boys, as well as the whole family, have brought a lot of joy into my life. It is sweet, sweet time when an 8 year old finally opens up to you and shares about his fears and what he wants to be when he grows up and why. When a 10 year old, who is often times moody and wants to be alone, chooses to sit next to you and talk about playing football at recess and his favorite movies, I know it is precious time.

I am grateful for the conversations I have had with my boys and the adventures we have experienced together. I am blessed by this family. They have been so welcoming and good to me. Not only did they allow me to borrow one of their bikes last year to get to and from their home, but they always provide their car for me to use to transport the boys to and from their activities. 

Today I am thankful that I am a nanny for two wild and crazy, quiet and loving and curious boys. I am so grateful that this family gave me the job of caring for their children. 

November 17th: The Gift of Grapes

November 17th: The Gift of Grapes

Today on our way back from Life Ops we stopped at my friend Emily’s house to have lunch. Her Mom invited us over to enjoy sandwiches, chips and dip, cookies, and some of the biggest green grapes I have ever had. Everyone at Emily’s house can attest to the fact that I was ecstatic about these green grapes. I probably ate one too many of these delicious, crunchy little fruits, but I didn’t care. No regrets, right?

After we were done eating, Emily’s Mom told us we could take any food that we wanted back to school with us. Some took barbecue chips, some took lunch meat, and I took a huge bag of grapes. I thanked Emily’s Mom over and over again for her generosity and willingness to give us all of the leftover food. As I mentioned in a previous post, I love fruit, and most grocery shoppers can agree that grapes are not cheap!

Today I am thankful for the gift of grapes. I am thankful for generous souls and their willingness to feed hungry college students. I am grateful for people like Emily’s Mom, who welcomed strangers into her home and graciously served us. 

November 16th: Surrender Your Heart

November 16th: Surrender Your Heart

Today myself and a car full of friends left Madison around 730am and drove to Minneapolis for a one day conference with Cru. The conference, called Life Options, exists to give students a time to process their future and think about life opportunities for the months and years ahead.

During my time at Life Ops, I listened to our speaker, Roger Hershey, give several talks about fitting into God’s will and making wise decisions, the glorious returning of Christ, and the stewardship of our brokenness. I greatly enjoyed listening to Roger because he spoke with humility, passion, and urgency. He shared personal stories regarding his own life and experiences as well as things the Lord had placed on his heart to share with us.

I was overcome with awe as I was reminded of the splendor of Christ’s return. I cannot wait for the day when my Jesus will return on His white horse and bring His children home. I live for that day. Talking about that day helped to give me perspective on time and eternity. I must remember that I am but a mere human, a dot on an endless line. I must live not for the dot, but for eternity.

As I mentioned before, Roger also talked about being stewards of our brokenness. A steward is someone who faithfully engages with what they have been entrusted with. They are diligent, and intentional. Some of us may have heard about being good stewards of our time, resources, or our gifts and talents. I have never heard someone include brokenness in this list, but as Roger’s message progressed, it made more and more sense to do so. He talked about how we can thank God not only for our strengths, but also for our weaknesses, because those weaknesses are what drive us to our Savior. We can thank God for what’s happened in the past because the tragedies, heartache, and pain we endured caused us to run to Jesus for strength and comfort.

In 1 Corinthians 15:9-10 Paul writes: “For I am the least of the apostles and do not even deserve to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace to me was not without effect.”

Roger used that passage to explain that God uses us more in our brokenness than in our togetherness. This is a beautiful reality.

During my time at Life Ops, the Lord didn’t clearly point me to any ministry that I must be a part of after graduation. He didn’t tell me what line of work I would specifically be doing. Instead, He told me to give Him my whole heart. When I made the decision to follow Jesus in 6th grade, and throughout other points in my life, I have given Him my heart. Today, however, He made it clear that I must surrender my emotions, my insecurities, my fears, my dreams and desires, and my hurt. I realized, through His whisper, that all of these things stem from the heart and overflow into our decisions, relationships, and mindset about ourselves and others.

I know this process of surrender will be long and very difficult. I also know that the Lord is good and His plan for me is good, too.

Jeremiah 29:11 “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord. “Plans to prosper you, not to harm you, plans to give you a future and a hope.”

Today I thank God for revealing Himself to me through a faint whisper during my time at Life Ops. He wants my whole heart, and that was made very clear today. I praise Him for knowing me fully and wanting what’s best for me. I thank Him for the words of Roger Hershey, and the time I was given to process my next steps.