The Most Good of Fridays

Friday, April 18, 2014

I don't want to say much today because it is Good Friday and it's currently 1:19 p.m. - between the hours of Jesus's crucifixion at noon and his death at 3 p.m.

I do want to say that Good Friday just hits my heart. I cry easily (I'm sensitive), but Good Friday just takes it to another level. I'm going to the service at church tonight with my mom, and I know I'll need tissues. I have been this way my whole life, and it's really very hard for me to understand not feeling so weighted down by the gravity of today. If you really stop and think, well ... it's just too much to bear. It really is. The weight of our sin and the enormity of what Christ did for us.

I think this picture really sums it up:

Pope Francis at the beginning of the Good Friday service in Rome this evening.

I don't believe I have ever attended a Protestant Good Friday service so this may happen there too, but in the Catholic Church, the priests begin the service this way, lying prostrate at the foot of the cross. Yeah I'm pretty much crying as I write this. Toward the end of the service we all go forward to kiss the foot of the cross. It's just almost too much for my heart to bear. It is just the most beautiful, sad, reverent and heart-hitting service.

A few years ago, Father Jim gave a wonderful homily (as he always does). But one thing stood out and has always stayed with me. He was talking about what Jesus did for us and God's unending mercy. He said:

We will do things wrong, and we'll go to God and say "God, I promise I'll change. I want you to love me." But what God says is, "No. I will love you so you will want to change."

I will love you so you will want to change. 

Maundy Thursday

Thursday, April 17, 2014

I just barely made it! I just got home from the library, late again, but I'm going to post today's readings from both books.

Jesus Today:

Daily Reflections for Lent:

I hope you had a blessed Holy Thursday and have had time to prepare for the gravity of tomorrow. Until then ...

Holy Wednesday

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

It is 10:12 p.m. and I am still at the library studying for my exam. It looks like I may be home too late to publish today's readings from Jesus Today and Daily Reflections for Lent, and I'm sorry. But what's great is that instead I will share a brief story about God's goodness and answered prayers, and I cannot think of anything more appropriate for Holy Week.

I entered the library today a little before 6 p.m., plugged my computer in, pulled out all my readings and notes and settled in for a long night of studying. Once I'd laid everything out I realized I had forgotten to bring water with me. Now, if you know me you know this is a travesty because I have a huge fear of thirst. I can't go to a movie or anything without a drink because I am afraid of being thirsty. And being thirsty is the worst I think. Like being hungry stinks, but I can deal with it. Being thirsty, on the other hand, takes up allllllllllllllllll my brain power and all I can think about is how thirsty I am. (The only person I have ever met who shares this fear is Story.)

I panicked for one second because I am here alone and have no one to watch my stuff while I look for water. As I was about to enter full on freak out (Am I thirsty yet? How about now? Thirsty yet?) I realized that there was an easy solution: pray. So I quickly looked up and said to God, God please send me some water. I figured we should ask God to meet all our needs, so I did.

A short while later, my best friend Melissa and her daughter Mackenzie showed up at the library with, you guessed it, water. And also with donuts. :) The Lord really blessed me and answered my little prayer for water, probably shaking His head with what little faith I have. He showed me that if He can be faithful in the little things, He will be faithful in the big things as well. And the fact that Mel showed up with water AND donuts? Well, as Saint Paul would say: Now to Him, who is able to do far more abundantly beyond all that we could ask or think.

A blessed Holy Wednesday indeed.

Holy Tuesday

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

I hope you all had a great day. I am still very much struggling with my fear and anxiety over my upcoming exam. It is a minute-to-minute struggle for me, and today's readings - especially from Jesus Today - really helped.

Holy Tuesday: Jesus Today

I have to say, the last sentence of this reading has ALWAYS been one of my favorite Bible verses. You will seek Me and you will find Me when you search for Me with your whole heart. - Jeremiah 29:13

Holy Tuesday: Daily Reflections for Lent

I had a conversation with my friend Ashley once about Judas. The gist of my thoughts was God gives us free will, so Judas had free will, but in order for prophecy to be fulfilled, he had to betray Jesus. Like someone had to do it in order to fulfill prophecy and open the gates of Heaven. That is obviously a big thing to think about, but Ashley shared something that has always stuck with me. Judas and Peter did the exact same thing; they both betrayed Jesus. While Judas gave in to satan and his sin and killed himself, Peter realized his grave error, repented and asked for and accepted forgiveness from the Father. Beautiful.

Holy Monday

Monday, April 14, 2014

It is Monday of Holy Week.

Holy Week is such a wonderful time of year. It centers you, grounds you in your faith and truly makes you focus on something greater than yourself and your every day life.

In his homily this week, Father Jim said something that really struck me: If you find that you have been weak in your observance of Lent, Holy Week provides the opportunity to double down and get serious. I don't feel that I've been weak per se, but I definitely could have done a lot better. One of the hardest things for me this Lent is that my big exam is coming up April 26. So basically, I have spent the entirety of this Lent worrying, stressing, fearing and having loads of anxiety. That's not really how one should feel during Lent (or ever), and it is also very selfish.

I've been studying pretty much every single day, whether it's hours at a time in the library or snippets of time I can steal at lunch or between obligations. But I've decided that, even though the exam is a week and a half away, I am not studying on Good Friday. I am going to take time for prayer and observance of this so important day.

And since I've spent this Lent stressed and anxious to the max, I've decided to devote my blog this week to Holy Week readings. I have been using a devotional book called Jesus Today by Sarah Young and I really like it. (It's the sequel to Jesus Calling, another AWESOME book for both adults and kids. I like both versions!) It's not separated by date, so I've just been going in order from when I received it. Father Jim also gave me a book called Daily Reflections for Lent, which I have been using. I'll post photos of the readings of the day from both books.

Holy Monday: Jesus Today

Holy Monday: Daily Reflections for Lent

Seven QTF: Sickness, Snickerdoodle, Scared

Friday, April 11, 2014

Linking up with Jen for Seven Quick Takes Friday!

1. You know what stinks about not feeling well? Other than not feeling well of course. I'm hot, then cold, then hot, then cold, then hot, then cold ... you get picture.

2. I'm not SICK sick but I am feeling rough. I don't know if it's a cold or allergies but man, I'm wiped out. I didn't even want to eat a corn dog tonight, so that should tell you something. And you know what unites us all when we feel sick? No matter how old we are, what we're suffering from or where we're located ... when we're sick we all want our mommies.

3. On The World Over last night Raymond Arroyo interviewed Rick Warren. It was awesome! I love it when Christians of different denominations can talk about what we agree on and how we can work together. Also Rick Warren said he watches EWTN more than any other Christian channel! Pastor Warren also shared that he recently read a headline that said "If you like Pope Francis, you'll like Jesus." He said he liked it so much he saved it! Isn't that awesome?

4. You know who is just the cutest little thing? Baby Snickerdoodle! Obvs. I just love watching him do things. And really, he never does anything. Like not a dang thing. Mostly I love watching him sleep (that's not creepy) because it is just so precious. I just look at him and think, God made this teeny little rabbit just for me and cleared the path for us to find each other.

This picture makes him look FAT. In reality, he weighs about 5 lbs.

5. Tomorrow is the last Lenten Fish Dinner. Sad, sad day. Because I'm really spiritually mature I feel like I should share that fish dinners are my favorite part of Lent. :) Also, it's been nice seeing my parents every Friday evening for dinner.

6. I have to say that I am so tired from studying for this test. So very, very tired. What is especially terrifying is that I am spending so much time and energy studying for the exam - to the detriment of anything else in my life - that if I fail it, all this will have been for nothing. That scares the living daylights out of me. I'm studying so hard, but this test is really an enigma to me since anything could be on it. ANYTHING. From the five core subjects I had to take for this Master's, one of which I took almost four years ago. I need so many prayers - for concentration and motivation to study, for the calming of my anxiety, for the wisdom to pass - so if you think of it, I'd appreciate any prayers.

7. And if you're already on the line with God, would you also pray for my heart kid Anna Marie? She desperately needs a mama and a dad. She's at risk of aging out of being available for adoption. And I don't know if you know what it's like to not have any parents - I certainly do not know and I hope you don't either - but it just seems like it would honestly be THE WORST THING. Like I really can't imagine anything worse. Like I said the other day, I'm almost 30 and I still need my parents.

Go see Jen for better takes! Happy weekend!

Mel and Story

Thursday, April 10, 2014

You know what's so awesome? When God speaks through someone else to tell you something you have to hear.

Tonight I was scrolling around on Facebook as I do on Thursday nights in between blog reading and TV watching, and I saw something that literally made part of my soul die a little. Before I show it to you, I'm going to post this pic I took of a rainbow the other day because I can't have what I'm about to show you be the thumbnail of this post.

Okay, now that we're safe, here's what stabbed my heart:

Things have been not so great lately and I'm really good about letting bad things get into my head and take root, making everything look grim and hopeless.

I wanted to wash that meme from my brain, but I just could not. But a little while after I saw it, my BFF Melissa posted this on my Facebook wall:

The door about to be opened is not nearly as important as the story that led you to that door. 

Isn't that so beautiful? Mel was at a worship service this evening and heard that and said that she immediately thought of me when she heard it. I think God told her to remember it and let me know. Because I really needed to hear it.

Also, if you capitalized the "s" in "story" and made it Story, that sentence would take on an even better and more beautiful meaning.

This post is part of a series on Turning 30. To see the other posts in the series, go here, here and here

To Colleen, on her 29th Birthday

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Today is my friend Colleen's 29th Birthday! Yay! I met Colleen several years back, and since she lives in D.C. we don't get to see each other's faces more than once a year, but we talk pretty often. Mostly about important things.

For instance, if not for Colleen I probably wouldn't be on the NSA's watch list for whatever they think "Bob Costas's eye" is code for. (I'm a Verizon customer.) Little do they know, "Bob Costas's eye" is actually code for nothing because, yes, two people CAN actually text back and forth that many times over a period of two weeks about that very thing. I think we got so involved we were actually more worried for Bob's health than our own about 3 days in to the saga.

As the Olympics drew to a close, we were wondering what our next big topic of intense conversation would be, and then Malaysia Airlines flight 370 made the news. Since that sad story has obviously still not reached a conclusion, Colleen and I are now on our fifth or sixth week of discussing that. Honestly, if Courtney Love can provide her opinion (really?) then we can provide ours. And, as Colleen pointed out, we're not sure why we're not being asked to go help investigate as we clearly know more about it at this point than anyone else. Oh, and you cannot imagine the peak of excitement that occurred when the Navy got involved because Colleen works in public affairs for the Navy, so now it's like she's actually involved, not just fake involved like I still am! (Pinger locator is really fun to say.)

Without Colleen there would be a lot fewer emojis being texted to me in my life and a lot less dissection of weekly episodes of Scandal. Also there are only so many people in the world for whom you can purchase a Christmas Chillow or an unauthorized biography of Lil' Wayne and it be received with love, just sayin.

Also, I suppose, a lot less supportive friendship too. But that obviously pales in comparison to Bob Costas's eye. :)

Love you Colleen! Happy Birthday.

A Wholly Unoriginal Idea

Monday, April 7, 2014

You guys, I am seriously floundering.

I'm at one of those times in my life where I'm looking around wondering where all the vegetables went, barely exercising and Googling things like "Can rabbits eat Craisins?" because that's the only fruit we have in this house.

I'm looking around and feeling like a massive failure because I have dirty dishes in the sink, I pet Snickers for a grand total of three seconds a day and I don't think I've asked any of my friends how they're doing in a really long time.

I was driving home from the library tonight wondering what the hell, when I realized ...

Bare minimum mode.

I'm in bare minimum mode. And it's okay.

It's a phrase and idea coined by Jen, and it's so spot on for this time in my life. It basically means that you allow yourself to only do the minimum amount of what you must do to survive. Apparently this is not only for moms and families, but applies to single adults as well.

Because she says it better than I ever could paraphrase (and really, what's the point?) you absolutely must go and read it. I bet it will help you too.

I give you: bare minimum mode -- the explanation. And bare minimum mode -- some tips on surviving.

Listening to People Smarter Than You is a Really Good Idea

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Have you ever made a decision you were really happy with and felt feelings of happiness, excitement and hope? And then three weeks later, thinking about the same decision, you suddenly started feeling feelings of confusion, fear and defeat?

Yeah ... that's not because you made the wrong decision. It's spiritual warfare.

I made a decision a couple months ago I was really happy with and was looking forward to the future. I had prayed a lot about it and really felt like God was calling me and opening doors for me. But in the last several weeks, I've suddenly felt like I made the wrong decision, I'm confused, I feel hopeless and scared. I was telling my friend Melissa about this today. Telling her I think maybe I've made the wrong decision and maybe I'm just a loser and I'm lazy and stupid and make bad decisions.

Melissa was like ... Anna, do you know what that is? That is satan getting in your head and pulling you away from what you are supposed to be doing, which is following God's path. The closer you get to God's path, the more that satan is going to work to pull you away from it.

Of course. Of course.

I believe that spiritual warfare is a really real thing. If you're not walking anywhere near God's path, then satan really doesn't have much work to do on you. But if you're really following it, seeking His will, then you become satan's #1 project.

I told Melissa that if my doctor who saw me about six weeks ago when I was telling him my plans and he said he could tell how excited, hopeful and raring to go I was saw me today he'd be like ... what happened?

Spiritual warfare. THAT is what's happening. Melissa said, and I agree, that if God opens a bunch of doors for you and you're praying and actively seeking His will, then you aren't making a mistake. Happiness, joy and hope are from the Lord. Confusion, despair and hopelessness are from the devil. And I'm a terrible case - or an easy one for the devil - because I'm spiritually weak and also of weak mind. I can easily take one setback and turn it into the Downfall Of My Whole Life. You know what I mean?

Melissa advised that now is the time to draw closer to God than ever. Pray hard and frequently, read the Word, read devotionals, etc. When you're under attack, then you need to put on the armor of God.

Guys ... it's a real thing. Even as I'm sitting here, I'm like -- well, maybe I'm wrong, maybe this isn't spiritual warfare, maybe I've made too many mistakes in my life and I don't deserve to be happy.


It's a real thing. And it's scary.

Weirdly, Melissa brought me a bracelet today that she said she found last night and knew she had to get for me. It is AWESOME.

She said she thought it was really pretty, but she flipped one of the charms over and saw that it says "Celebrate Your Path." She said when she saw that she thought of me. I put it on right away and I so deeply love it.

And when I got home, I looked more closely and I saw what the back of another charm said:

Love This Life.

Guys ... if you think God is calling you to do something and you feel peace and joy and are seeing doors opened, but the next thing you know you're confused and upset and hopeless ... that's not God. And I need that reminder every day and probably more than anyone.

This post is one in a series on Turning 30. See other posts in the series here and here

Good News to End a Week of Bad

Friday, April 4, 2014

Usually on Friday I link up with Jen for Seven Quick Takes (which I love) but man ... it's been a week. And I'm afraid anything I say might come out really negative or stressed-sounding, so I'm going to share just one piece of really exciting news instead ...

I got matched with a Reece's Rainbow kid to be my heart kid!

Well, the official term is I'm her prayer warrior! THIS IS SO EXCITING.

This is her:

Her name is Anna Marie. And my name is Anna too! :) Isn't she the cutest? She is 16 years old. You can read her whole profile here. She also is at risk of aging out of adoption eligibility, so she needs lots of prayers.

Will you please join me in praying for this sweet girl? She REALLY needs a mom and a dad. Because who doesn't?

Also, since this is a praise-worthy and a prayers-needed thing, I'm linking up with my friend Miranda for Fellowship Friday, her new link up.


And remember Don Michael from yesterday? This is his new family. Eeep!

Maybe you'd consider being a prayer warrior too? I mean, if you're talking to God anyways, maybe you can make time to mention one more name? :)

The Least of These

Thursday, April 3, 2014

I've written a few times lately about reading Amy's blog and how much I love it. I discovered it totally by accident, which is how so many awesome things start. Amy writes about lots of things concerning her family life (like most blogs do I suppose!) but it's a lot about adoption. Amy and her husband Andrew have one biological son, who is 3 or 4, and then adopted two children from Russia: a girl who was 10 at the time (who is now 12) and a son who was 18 months at the time and who is now also 3 or 4. I think her boys are about 6-9 months apart. At any rate, Amy is about my age, so obviously adopting a 10-year-old makes Amy a really young mom. But she writes so beautifully about her experiences.

Because Amy's two adopted children are from Russia, she definitely has a special place in her heart for Russian orphans. Imagine her dismay when President Putin outlawed all American adoptions of Russian children. What is worse is all the families who had MET THEIR CHILD and told him or her they'd be back ... and now can't bring their child home. My heart is ripped out. Guys ... I had NO IDEA how bad the odds are that Russian orphans will survive if they are not adopted before they are basically kicked out of their orphanages when they age out. Look at these statistics Amy shared:

- Every 2.2 seconds another orphan ages out with no family to belong to and no place to call home.  These studies also show that 60% of the girls become prostitutes and 70% of the boys become hardened criminals.

- In Russia and the Ukraine, studies have shown that 10% – 15% of these children commit suicide before they reach age eighteen.

- Another Russian study reported that of the 15,000 orphans aging out of state-run institutions every year, 10% committed suicide, 5,000 were unemployed, 6,000 were homeless and 3,000 were in prison within three years

Guys... GUYS. Are you reading this? These are children. Go and read Amy's stories and look at these photos. Your heart will stop. These are the faces of those statistics.

I didn't know much about adoption or even think about orphans that often (I am ashamed to admit) before I started reading Amy's blog. Now I really think about adoption all the time. Amy and her husband found their daughter through Reece's Rainbow, and from time to time I look through the site, just reading about the children and looking at their faces. Is that weird? I don't know. I feel something stirring in my heart to adopt an orphan - especially an older one whose chances of adoption are not good - but I know that now is not the season of my life for that. But I thought maybe I could spiritually adopt one, pick one from Reece's Rainbow and pray for that sweet face until he or she is adopted.

Amy has a real adoption experience and her whole blog is one heartbreaking, inspiring, gut-wrenching, joyful post after another, and I really suggest you read. We've all heard the saying "God doesn't call the equipped, He equips the called." Well here's another one for you: God doesn't look at your ability as much as your availability. 


Amy said that on her blog and it's really stuck with me.

Maybe you're available? I know adopting a kid is a ton of work, very expensive and will change your life forever. But what I think about myself all the time is -- I am spending money on clothes and eating out and whatever else, and there are children out there who are literally dying. Can you imagine never knowing the love of a mom or dad? Like I truly cannot even imagine that. I can't imagine it at all. And it breaks my heart.

How much does God love His children, especially the orphaned ones?

A father to the fatherless, a defender of widows, is God in his holy dwelling.
- Psalm 68:5

Defend the cause of the weak and fatherless; maintain the rights of the poor and oppressed.
- Psalm 82:3

In everything I did, I showed you that by this kind of hard work we must help the weak, remembering the words the Lord Jesus himself said: "It is more blessed to give than to receive."
- Acts 20:35

He called a little child and had him stand among them. And he said: "I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. And whoever welcomes a little child like this in my name welcomes me.
- Matthew 18 

You get the picture. Also, I heard this on the radio today and, after having read Amy's blog, it is weighing heavily on my mind: Russian just annexed (or whatever) Crimea from the Ukraine. Ukraine allows adoptions by Americans ... Russia does not. So now even more orphans will not have homes and more mommies and daddies have met their children and then weren't able to bring them home. My heart hurts. 

This little fella was an orphan once ... then his mommy found him! It is not at all lost on me that Snicks is better fed, better cared for and better loved than many children in the world -- children in my own city. 

Join me in praying for these children with no moms or dads? Pray for the older ones especially who are less likely to be adopted and the ones who, today, will be kicked out of their orphanages for being too old. 

Oh, and guys -- this little boy had touched my heart and I would look at his profile from time to time. I just went back to check because I decided he would be my heart kid. And I saw HIS FAMILY FOUND HIM. So now, of course, I'm crying. 

So now I'm signing up to be an official prayer warrior and I will tell you just as soon as I know who my little one is. Maybe you'd like to sign up to pray for one also? 

"And the King will say, 'I tell you the truth, when you did it to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were doing it to me!"
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