the best year of my life

January 18, 2011

Here’s just one preview of our new flat. This is the lounge (a.k.a. living room). Notice the large table in the bay window (many, many flats don’t even have a table), the fireplace, and decorations that come with it! Moving here is interesting because there are always an assortment of things for you that stay with the flat. For instance, what’s that on top of the TV? A travel guide for Australia.

The big day is coming! I turn 30 this Saturday (this is also the first night I will sleep in the new place). Maybe Edinburgh’s sunshine (although it’s windy), maybe getting back to the gym, or maybe all the good chats and meals with friends recently have put me in a good mood, but I am very happy to gain another year. I am very happy that there’s a place for me in this city. I am very, very happy that I took a step in faith to venture here.

I am impressed with God’s work in my life. I could not imagine being or doing anything else. In 30 years, I have never been on antidepressants (I’ve come close!), I am on no prescription medication for any serious health issues, I barely have to wear glasses, and except occasional back pain, I don’t find much ailing me.

I told you in the post before this one that I had read the 30th Chapter of every book of the Bible that has a 30th Chapter. Isaiah 30 is by far my favourite. As a church, we are studying the book of Exodus (the Exodus slide on the website is my handiwork!). Isaiah 30’s title is “Do Not Go Down to Egypt.” After miracles, after being led out of slavery, and after coming into the Promised Land, the children of Israel are hungry for their old life.

It’s good to look back. It’s great to rehash good times and enjoy memories. What’s better is to remember the ways you’ve changed and celebrate that you have the wisdom not to go the ways you went in the past. I thank God for bringing me through some really difficult times that formed my character, and I rejoice that I won’t have to learn the same lessons in the same way. New things are ahead!

Over the last few weeks, I have seen the fruit of the past 5 months of being here. I feel a lot healthier for walking and exercising frequently. I am still thrilled about having time and a place in my schedule for art. On the left is a photo of the gallery in my art studio complex. The third block after the pillar is my painting in our studio’s Christmas exhibit!

I have found this often-quoted verse from Isaiah 30 (v. 18) to be particularly true in this season: “Therefore the Lord waits to be gracious to you, and therefore he exalts himself to show mercy to you. For the LORD is a God of justice; blessed are all those who wait for him.”

Verse 19: “You shall weep no more. He will surely be gracious to you at the sound of your cry. As soon as He hears it, he answers you.”

Rejoice with me! This, and every year after, will be the best year of my life!

 

don’t settle

January 8, 2011

Since October I knew I was moving flats. Enter Sarah. We met for coffee shortly after I found out that I needed to make a decision about moving, and she casually mentioned she was looking for a flat. I knew we were meant to live together (so many reasons: similar age, lifestyles, and she’s just about the sweetest girl I know). We soon discovered that we wanted to both move at the same time, and when I learned that she wanted to live in Bruntsfield, I knew God was doing something: our church is moving to the same area.

We started looking – at first for three bedrooms because I met another lady who was interested in sharing with us. It turned out she found a great place a few weeks later, which put us back to searching, this time for two bedrooms.

I don’t know if I can adequately describe how difficult it is to find a flat in Bruntsfield (very nice area of Edinburgh). Basically, you can scan a few good websites, but maybe find two flats this time of year (Bruntsfield is filled with students, so it’s not easy to find something in January when students are not moving). The two flats that are online are both going for £1000/month. (For you U.S. citizens, that’s about $1,600).

So, we started to think about other areas that were near (and still not too far away for me since the church office is about a 45 min walk away). Maybe Newington or Tollcross. There were flats online well within our price range (£600-650). When I left for the States in mid December, I hadn’t really viewed any of these, but I was hopeful that it wouldn’t be a problem.

The first week I was back in Edinburgh, I got right to calling and emailing these letting agencies. Sarah did the same. I viewed, she viewed. Between us, we visited about 8 flats during the week. On Thursday evening, we met up after I had just viewed an enormous flat that had absolutely no character (felt like a university residence – been there, done that). Another flat I had viewed that week smelled like someone had died in the kitchen. I was starting to get restless, starting to wonder if even a decent place existed that wouldn’t kill me financially.

Then, I started to hear God’s whisper. The same God who whispers to me all the time about how much He loves me, how detailed He is, how He owns it all.

“Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?” Matthew 6:25,26

I started to thank God for the process. His purpose has included educating me about the city. He’s given me a good understanding of how the South side of the city fits together since I’ve spent some time in several portions of it.

Just before viewing our flat today, Sarah was telling me the story of how God provided a house for her mum. It was an amazing testimony that I can’t fully do justice, but it’s one that involves an anonymous check in the mail. It is so easy to hear those stories (even from people you know well) and think, “Yeah, God is good. He does that sometimes for a few people.”

I was so desperate this morning I even considered bringing the cash for the deposit to the first viewing of the day. Sarah was more hesitant, thinking we could get more. I am always challenged with God that He wants to give us more – more than we dare to ask (Thank God for Sarah challenging me on that!). A friend called Sarah this morning saying that her uncle was letting a flat in Bruntsfield and was only in town for the day. I didn’t even want to go, thinking it’d just be hopeless. We discussed how we’d be willing to go up to £700, which we were just hoping he’d take. We prayed and went.

Walking up, looking at the dining room through the gorgeous bay window, Sarah points at the ground-floor entry, and says, “This is it.” We’re both looking at this thinking, “Yeah right.” As we’re viewing the flat, we’re gasping, and hiding from the people showing the flat, so we can ooh and ahh together.

The landlord (Sarah’s friend’s uncle) asks how much we’d been searching for, and we give our low numbers rather pitifully. He stares at his wife for a second, which felt like ten minutes, and says definitively, “£500.”

Sarah asks, “Is that each? or for the two of us?” It’s definitely what we’re paying together. I do not cry in public very often, but my immediate reaction is, “I could cry,” and I definitely got teary eyed. God sees. He knows. Sometimes He’ll put us in an uncomfortable spot for a little while just so He can show how good He is. I’m not sure I would notice otherwise.

Thanks for all of your prayers and encouragement during this time (especially those I cancelled or rescheduled on because I had a flat viewing). We’ll be moving in a few weeks. Pictures coming soon!

stuff to talk to God about

January 3, 2011

This year, I desire to hear God more, to spend time with Him, to read His Word. He always has so much to say. However, I’m always running around doing stuff, talking to Him while in the midst of great activity. I’m praying I’ll make it a priority to pause a lot more and listen.

Last year, I had this big picture goal: get to Scotland. We all have moments like this in our lives where there’s massive change and that’s all our brain can handle. Our Pastor reminded us this morning that there’s a season for everything (Ecclesiastes 3:1-9). Now that I’ve had four months to look at the big picture, I feel that I’m in a season of more detail. It’s time to focus.

On Saturday, I heard an idea from God. My 30th birthday (22 January) is quickly approaching, so I got the idea to read the 30th Chapter of each book of the Bible (more Old Testament than anything). I journaled what I believe God spoke to me about each Chapter. I’m pretty sure I want to do this every birthday for the rest of my life. (Imagine that: something that will get a bit easier every year!). Here are some thoughts:

Exodus 30 is a beautiful Chapter about making an altar of incense. Everything the altar touches becomes holy. I thought about prioritising God’s voice and how I desire for my life to touch others that they might become closer to God.

In I Samuel 30, David and his men lost their wives and children in battle and were “bitter in soul.” Here, God is teaching me my great value as a woman, how I’m worth fighting for. David’s men were ready to stone David because they were so angry they’d lost their wives. David rescued these women without hesitation!

2 Chronicles 30 talks about how people had stopped celebrating Passover. The priests who were meant to lead the people in celebration had neglected to do it, so King Hezekiah motivates the entire kingdom to do it, which brings a lot of joy to the people. I don’t want to forget that one of my roles as a minister should always be to help people remember to celebrate God!

I hope to share more of these gleanings with you in the coming weeks. One of my resolutions is to blog weekly.

“Every word of God proves true; He is a shield to those who take refuge in Him.” Proverbs 30:5

As an added note, I just have to thank you for reading my blog last year! I was really astounded by how many views I had in 2010. This is one reason I’m encouraged to blog a bit more this year!