Only One Life || My High School Grad Speech

Monday, May 28, 2018

It's hard to believe that it has been over a year since I graduated high school! So much has occurred since then; Jesus has truly been so faithful to hold me fast through everything that these past few years have included. He truly is our Strength and Shield; ever and always watching over us. 

Today we are sharing the speech I gave at my high school graduation. It was an immense honor to be able to share with my class; each of us were heading in different directions, but it was the plea of my heart to every single one of them to hold fast to Jesus, regardless of the pressures around us.

As a disclaimer, I wrote this presentation before I understood hermeneutics..... And thus I failed to give context for the Scripture passage I quoted, or the condition of the promise. So, please, as usual, don't take my word for it, but be a Beren and try every feeble word of mine to THE Word. :)


“Only one life, t’will soon be past; only what’s done for Christ will last. And when I’m dying, how happy I’ll be, if the lamp of my life was burned out for Thee.”

These words were spoken by a spectacular missionary to China, named C.T. Studd, in the 1800s, but every letter of it is applicable to us today. We are graduating. Wow, It’s starting to set in that it’s for real now, isn’t it?! 

It’s kind of like we’ve all been taking a nice walk together for the past twelve years or so, and now we’ve landed in the airport, all about to take off to different destinations. Some of us will soon be found serving kids in developing countries, others, writing notes on Calculus 2 (it won’t be me!); some of us will adventure into our own apartments, while others will take true delight in sharing a dorm with four new friends. Some of us will travel far away and cross oceans, and some of us will enjoy the cute town of Rockford longer.

But wherever we go, whatever may change, there is one thing that does not change. Or I should say, there is one Person who will not. "I the LORD do not change” (Malachi 3:6a). Most of us are about to be thrust into an environment that completely denies our Jesus. I have a friend who came from a spectacular Christian family, and had a great, bright future when he graduated from high school, going forth as a believer into an extremely liberal college. Sadly, after several years of school, this guy has decided his professors have greater credibility than our Maker. He has decided that our God isn’t as “trendy” as his twenty-something friends. I am shocked each time I see him, and I am also confronted with a question:

Will I be there in a few years?

Have you thought about this, grads? Have you watched others walk away from the foot of the Cross, wondering if you can truly stand, going against the current?

I have news for you: if you walk out of this room today in your own strength, you will definitely be taken under in the strong flow of our culture. You can’t do this. Simple as that.

But if you know you cannot do this alone, if you have come to grips with the fact that only Jesus has enough strength to carry you through, then, with a sense of your great need for your Savior, will you be able to stand. Not because you’re strong. Not because you were home schooled. Not because you grew up in a Christian family. Not because you go to church on Sunday. We can each leave this room victorious over the powers of the enemy because of Jesus! He never fails us; whenever we feel unable, it’s a great reminder that we need Him. He is always able; He is never limited by our circumstances.

“Though the mountains be shaken and the hills be removed, yet my unfailing love for you will not be shaken, nor my covenant of peace be removed,’ says the Lord, who has compassion on you… In righteousness you will be established: Tyranny will be far from you; you will have nothing to fear. Terror will be far removed; it will not come near you. If anyone does attack you, it will not be my doing; whoever attacks you will surrender to you… No weapon forged against you will prevail, and you will refute every tongue that accuses you. This is the heritage of the servants of the Lord, and this is their vindication from me’” (Isaiah 54:10,14-15,17).

We only have one life. Each of us. If you live to age 72, then ¼ of your life is already history. It’s already in the books.

“Lord, stamp eternity on my eyeballs!” 

Jonathan Edwards cried out. It’s a worthy cry for us as well!

When I’m dying, how happy I’ll be, if the lamp of my life was burned out for Thee, Lord. May today be a launch pad for all of us; it’s time to stand up, in His great strength, and go forward. There’s a dying world who needs Jesus out there. Let’s go, friends!

7 Practical Encouragements For the New CNA {part 2}

Monday, April 23, 2018

On Saturday, we started a series called “7 Practical Encouragements For the New CNA.” Today we will conclude the series with part two. Missed part 1? Click here to read it!

As we continue our discussion on being CNAs, today we’ll be looking at a few especially real-life points. There are so many opportunities as a Nursing Assistant to either speak words of life or discourage those around us. As we look at four new points, I’d love to focus in on a few practical ideas for keeping your head up even in an extremely difficult job, encouraging your coworkers, and lifting all eyes to Jesus! Let’s dive in!

4.  Give thanks and don’t lose heart

It’s easy to complain when you work in healthcare. The truth is, I don’t usually go five hours at work without someone accidentally getting some kind of bodily fluid on me. Sometimes people yell at you. There are days coworkers lose patience and take it out on you. Every now and then, you’ll serve to the best of your ability, and a patient will lecture you on the things they think you should be doing differently.

Do not lose heart! If Jesus has called you to it, He will absolutely bring you through it!

If you want to thrive as a CNA, be willing to completely pour out and expect no recognition from anyone around. In a sense, your job as a CNA does seem to fall to “the bottom of the totem pole” in others eyes. People sometimes do treat you like “just a CNA.”

When others don’t expect very much from you, don’t fall to their low expectations. As we talked about earlier, you aren’t doing this simply so you can leave on time and chart everything right; you are here to worship Jesus and serve others.

What kind of a servant was Jesus when He was physically on earth? Think about this: He is God, and yet He served in the everyday, mundane tasks of life, all to glorify the Father. He was a carpenter! People probably didn’t thank Him very often, either!

In the second chapter of Philippians, Paul exhorted the church at Philippi to serve others just as Jesus did:

 “Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross” (2:5-8).

If you find that you get discouraged often in your job, try memorizing the above passage, and bring it to mind whenever you’re tempted to lose heart. Jesus is with us in the hardest moments of our job.

Instead of griping over all the things you would change if you could--be that better hours, improved medical technology, respectful patients, less showers assigned to you, or a certain coworker you’d prefer not to be around--make the conscious decision to praise Him, even in the worst. Speak words of thanks to those around you, and share what you’re thankful for. When you get home from work, instead of venting about all the pressures, choose to speak of all the things there are to be grateful for (even if you can only think of a few). Start somewhere.

5. Encourage your coworkers 

Better than anyone else on the outside of healthcare, you know how hard it can be to work at the facility you’re employed at. Use this to your advantage. When a new CNA joins the team, go out of your way to welcome them and express gratitude that they have started working with you.

If you notice particular coworkers looking overwhelmed, if you are free, take a moment to ask them how you can help. Encourage them and thank them for pouring out; call to mind a specific memory of something they did especially well a few days before and tell them why you appreciated it.

There are so many practical ways you can encourage those you work with. For example, where I work, every shift each CNA has to take out a big bag of trash from their wing. One day, I realized my trash was gone! My coworker had taken both their own and my trash for the day. Sometimes it’s the little acts of service that go the longest way.

When others encourage you, take time to honor those who have trained you and taught you. A certain lady I work with took me under her wing when I was new, and she helped me organize my tasks, gave me practical tips on handling specific situations, and sometimes even made beds for me. It meant a lot. She knew that, at first, I had a hard time picking up my pace, so she came alongside me and made sure I felt confident in my job. The other day at work she told me: “Wow girl, you’re really doing it!” when I had finished all my tasks early; instead of assuming it was just experience, I realized she had been one of the main reasons I was able to improve. In giving words of encouragement, she gave me the opportunity to honor her for all she had taught me.

Think about your job… Who trained you and showed you how it’s done? Thank them. Who gives you a hard time? Encourage them.

6. Embrace the art of caring for others as a CNA

I’ve always loved the art of music and drama, but I had never considered nursing to also be an art. It’s always felt like a systematic science kind of profession to me, but then I read these words by Florence Nightingale:

“Nursing is an art; and if it is to be made an art, it requires an exclusive devotion, as hard a preparation, as any painter’s or sculptor’s work; for what is the having to do with dead canvas or dead marble, compared with having to do with the living body--the temple of God’s Spirit? It is one of the Fine Arts; I had almost said the finest of Fine Arts.” [1]

It’s so neat to take this perspective on your job as a CNA. We have the incredible opportunity to care for human beings; we care for the temple of the Spirit of God. What an honor! By His grace, we are working to sustain and improve life--rather if that is helping them fight off a bacterial infection in the hospital, or maintaining independence in assisted living--we get to care for the only creations made in the image of God: human beings.

We are CNAs. We wipe away tears, clean up messes, put smiles on faces, respond to moments of emergency, give hope to the hopeless, share a laugh to encourage those who face heavy diagnoses, give bed baths, reposition patients, shower, bathe, dry, and maintain the health of the largest organ in the human body: skin!

Take a moment to realize the honor you have in being a CNA. Even if you would rather be an RN or a doctor someday, while Jesus has you in the place of serving as a nursing assistant, do it to the fullest of your ability. Most likely, if you get a different position in healthcare in the future, you’ll never again have as much one-on-one time with your patients. Embrace it while you have it!

See your residents as individuals with real needs, realizing that the Lord has uniquely equipped you to serve others by assisting them to maintain their health (within your scope of practice).

7. Remember those who have gone before you

When I was training to be a CNA, I read through a biography of Florence Nightingale’s life. It was so encouraging to me to be able to see the example of another nurse who had experienced many of the things I see on a daily basis in my profession.

When we have examples of other healthcare workers who have gone before us in serving others, it can give fresh inspiration, especially if you have a job that tends to be repetitions of the same skills again and again. It’s easy to feel like you just need to get through the day as an aid, but when we see the “full view” of a life of a nurse--through a biography, documentary, etc.--it inspires one to think of how care can be given in light of improving the individual’s overall life.

When you go to work every day, you don’t always realize that the patterns and habits you set make a lasting impact. We can share Christ’s love intentionally or we can float through from one day to the next. Let’s purpose to be the kind of CNAs who do the former! We have special opportunities to care for others needs that not many other people do. And we can do so with joy unspeakable!

There are a few particular resources I have enjoyed so far:

And there are so many more that could be added to this list! Learning to care for others well in the healthcare setting truly is an endless frontier in and of itself. I don’t know about you, but I am often very encouraged by those who have gone before me and have been faithful to live life to the fullest, right where God had them.

My friend from missions school who is a Registered Nurse once made this statement:

“Yes, I care for people’s physical bodies, but it should only be a tool to rescue their souls. This life is so feeble and insignificant in comparison to the eternity… people are experiencing” (Emily Stoltzfus).
Regardless of where we work--a hospital, homecare setting, long term care facility, or anywhere else--we know Who it is that has called us to serve others: Jesus. He is with us at every moment and will lead us through each task and patient He places in our path. The only reason we can serve others well is because the Servant of all dwells in us; He is the One who will give us the grace, kindness, and strength we need for every task.

All because of Jesus, we can face our often difficult jobs as Nursing Assistants with joy, and find purpose in each task, since it can all be done as worship to Him.

[1] Florence Nightingale, as quoted by S.L. Page in her book How To Pass Nursing School (S.L. Page, 2013), p. 5

7 Practical Encouragements For the New CNA {part 1}

Saturday, April 21, 2018

Today marks one year as a Certified Nursing Assistant, and in celebration, I'm sharing a two part series with practical encouragements for CNAs. :) 

It was four days into clinicals at a veterans’ facility. My mind was tired and groggy that morning on the bus as I pondered how close the semester evals were; I had a lot of practice to do in the lab, and I needed to review the infection control unit. I looked out the window at the deep snow. We were about ten minutes away; quickly, I checked my ID and scrubs to ensure I had everything I needed for the day.

How am I going to do all this on my own someday?

The thought of having to give full care to multiple individuals by myself in the future seemed quite baffling. During a regular morning of clinicals, two or three student CNAs would be assigned to one resident, and we would have over an hour to complete a bed bath, brief change, dressing, sheet change, oral care, shaving, transferring, and ambulating the individual. I couldn’t imagine how I could do all that by myself on one shift, not to mention the fact that there would probably be eight to twenty people under my care.

What would I do about call lights? What if I get assigned four showers? What if my resident faints? How do you handle inappropriate patients? What if the facility I work for doesn’t train me well?

My mind was filled with questions. Seeing healthcare up close and personal was quite different than lab, textbook, and lecture learning. They had given me a great knowledge base, but I found it difficult to practically take charge over someone else’s personal health when I was given the assignment. If I’m responsible for keeping them healthy as much as possible, how do I handle when they reject care? If they won’t let me brush their teeth, then their oral health will get worse…

I have to follow HIPPA, OBRA, resident rights, infection control, the facility's policies, and my charge nurse’s instructions. How do you keep all those plates spinning at once?

It seemed impossible! As the bus hit a bump, I opened my clinical folder and looked over my previous clinical write ups. Underneath was my nursing assistant textbook with a bunch of index cards. I flipped through them, half distracted as I thought about how experienced aids seemed to handle everything they were assigned so well. How to get there was the question on my mind.

Now that I have been a licensed CNA for one year, and since these clinical memories are almost a year and a half old, I thought it would be a great time to address some of those new CNA jitters.

7 Practical Encouragements For The New CNA

1. Remember the purpose of your work
As a CNA, you will not lose your motivation to do well because of your job, but because you forget why you do your job.

Think to when you first decided to sign up for your CNA class; what sparked your interest? If you’ve been through clinicals or internship, or have had some other kind of first-hand experience in healthcare, then you have an advantage.

When you begin studying to be a nurse assistant, it’s easy to romanticize the profession. You picture smiling patients that are oh-so-grateful for everything and love having you as their aid. You think of getting to sit back with “the cool people” at the nurses' station, and laughing at a sweet moment of the shift. You see yourself performing CPR to rescue a patient who stopped breathing, only for them to sit right up and cough--a sure sign of life--and leave knowing you made a serious impact on that individual, because they couldn’t have lived through that morning without you.

Having experienced a veteran’s home, the acute neuro floor in a hospital, and an assisted living facility as a nursing assistant, I can tell you for sure that these moments do happen sometimes! However, when you go into work with the perspective that you have to do some great big life saving performance in order for your work to be valuable, the “normal” moments of being a CNA being to drag and feel like they are not worthwhile.

But if you go into any job, internship, or situation with the heart to serve others and share Jesus’ love with them, regardless of the circumstances, you will be equipped to pour out well in any healthcare setting.

Remember that it’s not about being a hero; each task, even just pulling open the blinds, is all to be done as worship to the King of kings.

A.W. Tozer once said:

 “Let every man abide in the calling wherein he is called and his work will be as sacred as the work of the ministry. It is not what a man does that determines whether his work is sacred or secular, it is why he does it. The motive is everything.”

He continues:

“Let a man sanctify the Lord God in his heart and he can thereafter do no common act. All he does is good and acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. For such a man, living itself will be a priestly ministration. As he performs his never-so-simple task, he will hear the voice of the seraphim saying, ‘Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord of hosts: the whole earth is full of His glory’ (Isaiah 6:3).” [1]

All our work is sacred. It is important. Each moment we give care to someone is not simply to keep them alive and well (it is), but our true purpose in serving others is to worship Jesus. This perspective can change everything about your job and life! Instead of looking at your care plans first thing in the morning and feeling overwhelmed by the amount of work the day will require, you can be entirely thrilled for an opportunity to worship Him! See your every assignment as a chance to magnify Jesus.

2. Know that you answer to the Great Physician before anyone else

Sometimes we work under doctors who are rude to us or ignore us, but the Great Physician is always with us. Jesus is the healer; it’s His nature to bring about fullness and fruitfulness where there has previously been brokenness and disease. Although He does not always physically heal others, we know that if our patient knows Jesus, then they have everything they need for life and godliness.

Let your soul’s first turn be to Him. When your patient is unstable while you’re transferring them, be quick to ask for help from other healthcare workers, if you need it, but let the first cry of your heart be to your only Solid Rock. (Of course, in moments of crisis, outwardly it probably looks like we first call the nurse [which is a very good idea when problems arise!], but we know Jesus is the one who truly delivers us. Let your heart turn to Him for help).

Who would better know how to care for a physically or mentally ill individual than the One who created the body? Our God invented fingertips, red blood cells, your tongue, the arterioles and venules, and brain waves. He is the One who told our hearts to start beating just five weeks after conception and has sustained it through this day. Remember this truth when you’re at a loss for how to give care to your resident or patient. Jesus knows.

The highest authority in your life is Jesus. Here’s where this comes to play in healthcare: if one of your patients is pursuing medically assisted suicide or the hospital you work at performs abortions, remember what matters most. It’s not getting an award for working for thirty years at the same facility. It’s not blindly agreeing with a doctor of nurse above you in leadership if they instruct you to do something that defies the Word.

If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor. If an elephant has its foot on the tail of a mouse and you say that you are neutral, the mouse will not appreciate your neutrality // Desmond Tutu

 When it comes time for you to pursue employment, I encourage you to ask the hard questions in your interview. Does this hospital ever, for any reason, perform abortions? Even on another floor? Even for tubal pregnancies? Does this facility have a policy regarding medically assisted suicide? (At the moment, it’s illegal in MI, but it’s gaining approval and popularity around the US, so be watchful).

In short, even in the secular world we live in, we must have conviction. Honor and love those who are above you in leadership, while knowing that you will answer to Jesus for what you’ve done in your work, not the MDs and RNs. As long as what they ask you to do is ok, follow their instructions to the best of your ability and treat them as individuals who are made in the image of God. Remember how Jesus longs for them to come to know Him; no one is beyond His ability to redeem. Keep in mind that you are showing them, and everyone else around, what it looks like to live out the Gospel.

Whenever someone recovers, you know the One behind it. Worship Him for His faithfulness to heal, and His sovereignty to allow some to pass even when we don’t understand why.

3. Don’t be overwhelmed

When I got my first job in healthcare, I was completely over the moon! My first morning of learning under one of my soon-to-be coworkers, I went out and bought new scrubs just for the occasion. Even though I had already experienced clinicals and an internship, I felt a bit overwhelmed as I observed. Watching the CNA who I was shadowing had me back to the day on the bus. How in the world will I be able to do all this alone?

 It’s easy to feel you are in over your head when you are new to healthcare, but realize that every nursing assistant you work with has been there. At first, when I finished training, I was not as productive as I wanted to be. I was supposed to be able to leave by 10:00 each evening, but sometimes I would leave as late as 11:30. Since I was also balancing classes and two other part time jobs, the inconsistent schedule was not working very well for me. I was getting four hours or less of sleep each night, which made me feel more pressure at work.

I encourage you not to do what I did in my first job. Because I was saving up for missions school I had to work three jobs and didn’t have another option, but, if you are able, I strongly encourage you to scale back your schedule when you first start working in healthcare. It will greatly reduce the stress and restlessness you might otherwise experience if you are taking on too much.

Maybe you do have a balanced schedule and get enough sleep, but still feel overwhelmed in your job. Ask yourself a few questions: why am I working here? What is the purpose of my job? (See #1). What is stressing me out? Why do I feel overwhelmed?

Sometimes, in long term care facilities like nursing homes, assisted living, and veterans homes, you feel a lot of pressure. It can be very hard to work with slow individuals on a fast paced schedule. If you are having trouble with your residents or patients being upset with you for taking too long or not getting to their room quickly enough, try your best to evaluate your productivity. Am I moving as quickly as I can while also being thorough and making sure my patients are doing ok?

Another very important key is communication.When it takes you awhile to get to a call light, explain to your resident that you were assisting someone else and came as quickly as possible. Sometimes, for whatever reason, patients assume that you’re being lazy or ignoring them. Taking a brief moment to tell them why it was a bit of time for you to arrive can ease the situation (don’t forget to observe the HIPPA Privacy Rule while explaining); if your patient is still flustered, then sincerely apologize for any inconvenience, and quickly distract them by helping them with whatever they need assistance with.

Make sure you are also communicating with your charge nurse and fellow CNAs. If you truly have too much on your plate, be willing to ask for help. As time goes on at your new job, you will find out who to ask for help and who not to ask. Some people will act inconvenienced when you ask them to help you; be sensitive to their schedule and priorities, but also realize that healthcare is not a solo act; it’s teamwork! As you quicken your pace (trust me, you will get faster!) you will eventually be able to return the favor more often. When you have a free moment, ask your coworkers how you can help.

If you want to do well in healthcare, you absolutely must be a team player! It will be a key that helps you keep your head above the water.

Ultimately, remember that your security does not come from doing everything just-so in your job. Your security comes from Jesus Christ alone. You are complete in Him.

Curious about the next four points of encouragement? Join us Monday on the blog!

1 A.W. Tozer, The Pursuit of God (Chicago, Illinois: Moody Publishers, 2006), 130-131.

Gaining Lasting Security

Friday, April 6, 2018

It was a normal Wednesday afternoon. I was in the kitchen, cleaning up after the kids I nanny (who had just gone down for nap), when I suddenly froze and stared at the floor. It wasn’t the crushed chips and sandwich crusts that caught my attention, but a painful memory. It was as if I were reliving the moment, my mind flashed a past situation before me. On a warm Windsor day, I was looking into the eyes of a teacher whose expectations I had not met. No words had been used as I walked by the individual, but volumes were spoken to my heart. You knew better. What were you thinking? You have not met the standard of this school. I don’t care for you. Maybe you shouldn’t have come here. Would this teacher actually have said these things to me if the moment had allowed? I do not know. As my eyes glazed over the brown hardwood floors, I realized that I was allowing this past circumstance to shape me. I was letting a memory paralyze me.
I remembered the temperature of the room. How I felt. The way I wanted to disappear. Yet none of that helped me to move forward. I came to the realization that I could either continually let this memory steal all my confidence and peace whenever it came up, or I could place it in Jesus’ hands and move on. What are we to do when those around us reject us and we feel out of place? Should we cave to insecurity and give others control over our sense of worth? Praise Jesus that we never have to live like that since we are in Christ. And if we have been living in that way, He is fully able to help us to move on and place our confidence in Himself alone.

3 Thoughts on Gaining Lasting Security

Evaluate your perspective

How do you see your circumstances? Do you believe they have the power to dictate the response of your soul? If I look at life this way, I am seeing everything out of the lens of a victim. Even if the worst has come to worst, never forget that the work Jesus accomplished at the cross on your behalf cannot ever be undone! He has been entirely Victorious over the enemy; He has set you free. And we are held in the hollow of the hands of this Victor. You are being carried at this very moment in victory! Hurt cannot undo redemption. Problems cannot undo redemption. Others disliking us cannot undo redemption. Cling to the Truth that absolutely nothing can separate us from the love of God. It’s what His Word tells us!

"What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? Who shall bring any charge against God's elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? As it is written, 'For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.' No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord" (Romans 8:31-39).

Don’t allow the opinions of others to make or break you

Security does not mean that everyone thinks well of us and likes us. It is very well possible that the teacher I mentioned above actually does feel that way about me, but, you know what? Others’ dislike or harshness can never change the reality of our position in Christ. The work Jesus accomplished on my behalf will never be changed by the opinions of those around me. When I sidewalk counsel, there is a pro-choice lady who I try to reach out to who regularly tells me, “I do not like you!!” Does that mean I should quit counseling and go home? Nope. Wherever Jesus has led us, we need to remember that we answer to Him for what we are doing. I will not answer to that pro-choice lady or to that missions school teacher but to Jesus. (Of course we must still respect authority, but my teacher does not have authority to change my sense of security because my security is in Jesus. I do not have to be shaken regardless of what is said because I am founded on the Rock whom no storm may ever confound).

Set your mind on the Sufficient One

Remember that life is too great a burden to carry yourself. You cannot do this alone (John 15:5). You NEED Jesus in order to thrive in the spot in which He has placed you. In our culture, the message of self-sufficiency is continually preached. “You are stronger that you think.” “You don’t need others! You’re a strong, independent woman.” But the Word of God shows us that humanity is insufficient. We could not save ourselves—we did not have what we needed to be rescued—only Jesus was strong enough to conquer sin, death and hell. Jesus, our Victor, lives in us and He is the One who has promised that His grace is sufficient for us. Preach to your soul the reality of His ability and strength in our weakness. He goes with us through every circumstance of the day. As we continue on, we will experience difficulty. The enemy loves to try to shake us up, but what’s amazing is that our Jesus does not only walk with us through the beautiful open fields of life, but also the wilderness. In seasons where we feel a regular propensity to cave to insecurity, may we then, in a new way, regularly experience His grace, which brings us to victory!
My security is not found in everyone enjoying my presence or in perfected circumstances, but solely in my Redeemer. We are free in Christ, and we may experience this liberating reality of victory most when challenges arise. The next time insecurity comes knocking, lift your soul’s vision to Jesus. And, in the words of a lovely old hymn, the things of earth will grow strangely dim, in the light of His glory and grace. [1]

1. Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus by Helen Howarth Lemmel

Even So It Is Well With My Soul

Sunday, March 18, 2018

This season of life has been unique. Kind of like the mornings of sidewalk counseling when the brisk, bone chilling temperatures threaten to turn you blue, when suddenly the sun peeks over the clinic for just a moment. Light exposing the shadows. Clouds moving. Darkness fleeing. Warmth growing.

If I could have written the story of my life, I would not have included the chapters of much of what 2016-2017 included. But I am not in control, and these have been, shall we say, different times of life.

"Growth of any kind demands difficulty."

My missions school teacher preached these words to my class this summer. It's a comfort in the regard. that it must imply that Jesus so desires for me to grow that when worst has come to worst, He is still my True Vine and is growing His branch. 

Between living in a broken family, my health having a hissy fit, encountering work problems, and trying to clarify plans for what's next, life has felt kind of odd. 

You know those people in your life who care but are harsh in the way they respond? (As in have to lecture you whenever they have an opinion about something you said?) We all have individuals in our lives like that; however, not every person will treat us in this manner. Yet whenever someone asks, "So how are you doing?" I am thinking about how I would prefer not to expound lest I be lectured on how I need to keep my chin up.

I'm not looking for optimism. I'm looking for Him here. In the dark. In the pain. In the brokenness. In everything that has not made sense, He is yet present. He is God and He has already overcome. This means that I have grace to push through, because He is always strong when I feel weak.

When I get to cancel my plans because my stomach is sick and tired of being a stomach. When family situations flare up and we have to sort through things. When my coworker is angry with me for being "too nice" to a resident, because she believes we should have a drill sergeant approach. When three timeouts have to be given within an hour to the same child while nannying. When a random guy yells at me outside the abortion clinic because He doesn't want to hear a single thing about Jesus.

In each of these moments and every one hereafter, He is God. He will never change. He is my Healer, my Peace, my Joy, my Discernment, and my Hope. 

When peace like a river attendeth my way
AND when sorrows like sea billows roll

At both seasons of life, He is faithful. Do I understand why some things in my life are falling apart without explanation? No. 

BUT whatever my lot
Thou has taught me to say 
"It is well with my soul."

No matter how much everything around me threatens to fall in, He will never be shaken. He is my Rock. Because of who He is and the grace He provides for me each day, each hour, and each second, I'm going to make it. Up one more mountain. Through a thousand storms. Beyond the valley.

This God of ours is able when we're just not able anymore. 

When the stress, sadness, and pressure are there under the surface, He sees. Even when no one else does. He is our only place of rest when this world has us exhausted beyond taking the next step; what good moments these are to show us how empty we are and how full and able He is. 

It's not as the world says. "You're stronger than you think!" No, I'm weaker than I think (in and of myself), but He is always strong, able, and faithful. The moment I think it's about me and anything I can do, I stop living out of heaven's resource and start living just how the enemy wants. Without abiding in the Vine. And my goodness does our strength ever run out quickly when we do not live by His grace. 

He is Here with us, and He will enable us, if we will look to Him.

An Egyptian servant woman found herself being used for the purpose of growing someone else's family. She discovered that she was expecting a baby, and the wife of her child's father treated her very harshly. Probably feeling overwhelmed and hopeless, she fled into the hot wilderness to get away. Pausing to rest at a spring of water, an angel came to her. The angel asked where she was going, to which she replied, "I am running away from my owner." 

Things were broken in her life. Pain, difficulty, and sadness were likely deeply rooted in her heart. How would this messenger from heaven respond? Tell her to get over it and move on?

No, the messenger told her to return to her owner, and gave her a promise. He shared some of God's plan for what was to come, and reminded her that the Lord had heard her affliction. He had noticed, and had not overlooked even the slave girl. She was important in His sight. She called upon the name of the Lord who was speaking to her and said, "Lord, you see me!" 

This is the only place in Scripture we see Jesus called El Roi: He sees me. (Genesis 16). 

How incredible is it that He revealed more of who He is to her at a place of brokenness in her life. What if she had never faced the troubles with Sarai and Abram? Would she ever have come to call upon Him and know Him?

As I walk through what feels like a wilderness, I want to remember Hagar, and where she was met by Jesus. 

Jesus is worthy of this. If what I'm experiencing now will cause me to need Him more desperately... If all the changes of plans work together so that He might be glorified.... If the pain, sorrow, and heartache cause me to remember that He alone is my Home, then it will be worth it all.

If He will be known better (and how He is worthy of being known and proclaimed), then I want to face whatever He has coming. When I awake to a hundred new challenges tomorrow, He will be there. He sees me; it's who He is, and He never changes. I will not be abandoned while I walk a path that seems dry and dusty. 

There is no pit so deep that His love is not deeper still // Corrie ten Boom

El Roi is with me; He dwells in me, and nothing in all creation can separate me from His love. Nothing at all. There is nothing I could face that He has not first seen; He doesn't ever abandon His children. We are always in His sight.

God wants to take our problems and turn them into building material for His miracles // Corrie ten Boom, Tramp For the Lord

He is working everything together, at this very moment, for good unto those of us who love Him. He will be glorified here, if I will obey and surrender. If I will listen and follow Him in what seems strange and unexpected from my perspective, He will accomplish His eternal purposes in and through this existence. 

And Lord, haste the day
When my faith shall be sight
The clouds be rolled back as a scroll
The trump shall resound
And the Lord shall descend 
Even so
It is well with my soul

Because He is God, tomorrow is possible. Pain may be included. Sorrows may produce silent aching. Troubles may create a strain. But if He is with me, then it is possible. He sees me, and He is here, so I may push on. He is worthy, and He alone makes it well with my soul.

Agents of Change: How Every Person Impacts the World

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

We live in a world today with celebrities, talk show hosts, well known news anchors, sports professionals, and touring artists; people who get up on stages and say things that others think are oh-so-profound because of their status: famous in the eyes of the world. They sell millions of books, have adoring fans that would rush up to them in the grocery store; they're deemed a voice of our generation. If Carrie Underwood buys that brand of pants, you better have them too!

All this in our culture seems to leave a sort of residue; a type of thinking that leads us to believe that only certain people change this world. If you're famous. If you're admired by many and have a million followers on Instagram. If you have loads of money. If you get a trillion views on your website.

We think these are the people who change things.

Even as Christians, I've heard it in many conversations. We think only the Christians who have the stage, the followers, the blog everyone wants to contribute to, the trendy books, and the must-hear podcasts...

"They're making a difference."

And they are, but what we often don't see is the fact that every single person who has ever lived has changed the world.

What do you mean by that, Cassidy?

James, who was aborted, changed this world. He never spoke to anyone with his voice, and his parents didn't even bother to name him, but his life touched other lives. His mom physically held him in her womb, and she chose to use her story of choosing abortion as an example for Planned Parenthood on how great abortion is. But this little boy's voice could not be silenced by the instruments of death.

James changed this world.

People have been challenged by his story. Every life is made in the image of God and is worth protecting. He didn't ever stand on a stage and have a profound speech recorded by all the news sources, but his twenty-one short weeks of existence impacted others. My life is not the same because of this sweet boy.

Perpetua was born into a wealthy family. She was expected to do great things and be of exemplary influence, but at the end of her life, her family could only shake their heads. "Why would she waste her life?" they wondered. Perpetua died a martyr around the young age of 22. According to those who had previously known her, she had just thrown her life away. Obviously, she must not have been very influential if the Roman government would just throw her to the beasts like that. Who would choose the death of a martyr with faith in Jesus, instead of burning just a pinch of incense to the emperor and living a wealthy life?

Perpetua did. And she changed the world for Jesus more powerfully than all her critics.

A young factory employee living in a poor family didn't exactly live a life that would be the next cover story for Time Magazine, but she was surrendered to Jesus. Before she knew it, she was on a ship, with a one-way ticket to Calabar, Africa. Soon, she could be found living among a fierce group of tribal people. She would rush through the dangerous jungle after a group of men and one woman--they were about to burry newborn twins alive--because the animistic views of these tribal people led them to believe that one twin in every multiple pregnancy was raised by the devil.

Mary Slessor, with her short stature and vibrant red hair, didn't look very intimidating. But she was the only advocate for these children. She rescued countless babies and brought the Gospel to some out-in-the-bush Africans.

Mary changed the world.

His mother died while he was young. His life he described to be a struggle. He had strong giftings in leadership and communication, and was bold to the core. This man came to the conclusion that only some people should be able to live in the world: Aryans. Eventually, he was given a position of power and influence and used it to promote his horrible agenda. 

Hitler was responsible for the death of millions of people (six million of whom were Jews). In a horrifying way, Hitler changed the world. The lives of all the people who died were, obviously, affected, not to mention their families, friends, and the rest of the world.

Everyone changes the world--everyone influences and impacts the people around them--everyone makes a difference.

The question is not: "Will we change the world?" but "how will we change the world?"

Today, your life is changing the world. What is changed by your existence? Will I or will you be one more passive human being, just wavering through life, letting the world shape our hearts and minds and telling us how to live? Or will we be some of the few who pursue Jesus with all our heart, soul, mind and strength?

Will we be the ones who push the boundary of expectation?

(Today’s general expectation is that you will do nothing more than the average).

You and I may never make history books, but if you are in Christ, then your name is in the Lamb's Book of Life. How much more world altering it is to be one who refuses to compromised by the pressures of this world, and finds delight only in gazing into the face of Jesus. If we are pursuing His agenda, things will be changed for His glory.

Even if He has called you to something that seems small, or if you're in an "in-between" season of life, He can be glorified, magnified, and made known through your existence.

We will both change the world today--we'll impact others’ lives and leave a fragrance. Will the impact be for His Kingdom? Will it be the fragrance of Christ?

How will your life change the world today? Let's push forward, being ambassadors of Christ with every step we take; in the gas station, at church, on a walk, through the long hours at work. These normal places our daily lives take us are where world-altering so often happens. Right in the home, exposing the beauty of the Gospel in an up close and personal way.

Everywhere we go.

Are we the ones who are so consumed with Jesus Christ--so in love with the Lover of our souls--that the world just cannot stay as it is? Is your life radically surrendered to Him? If so, His very life dwells in you. Jesus is the one who changes this world and brings about His eternal purpose of life. Vessels unto honor, let us not forget the impact our lives are making--and the huge responsibility that comes with--we represent the King of kings.

I don't want to change the world passively. I want my life to be a song of ardent worship to Jesus; with eyes fixed on Him and His ability. This world will be changed all the more for Jesus Christ, if we are given up fully for Him.

Do You Love Abortion Clinic Workers?

Thursday, January 4, 2018

It was a cloudy November morning. As always, in a notoriously Michigan way, it was freezing outside. I drove into the parking lot of a sketchy Detroit diner, as I got ready to meet up with a friend of a friend at a local abortion clinic. I was planning on a regular day of sidewalk counseling: offering expecting women options other than abortion, post-abortive women help and hope, and hopefully reaching out to the clinic workers too.

I was new to sidewalk counseling. I had only been training for a month, and up to that point, I had only counseled at one clinic in Grand Rapids, once or twice weekly.

A sidewalk counseling friend had mentioned that there was a pro-choice activism meeting and/or protest happening the following weekend in Detroit. Knowing that the pro-choice counterpart can sometimes be a violent and harsh crowd, I asked for more details. Eventually I was given the name of a sidewalk counselor in Detroit. I looked her up on social media, expecting to ask if I could help at all with the weekend. It turned out that I had a commitment that weekend I couldn't avoid, so the lady invited me to join them the following week.

I got out of my car, thinking about all the stories and statistics my dad would tell me about Detroit since he used to work there. It can be a dangerous city, but I knew the Lord was with me. As I made the half mile walk to the clinic, I thought about what I might see in the day. I was not prepared for what was about to occur.

It seemed like a odd spot for a clinic. I turned the corner and saw at least 10 anti-abortion signs (some of which were copies of the same sign), and three people standing on a sidewalk. I approached and found the friend I had been writing to (who we'll call Anna). Anna seemed a bit stressed as she explained some facts about the clinic. It was before opening time, and some of the abortion employees were just arriving.

A nurse got out of her car, frowning in our direction. Anna called out to her in a frustrated tone of voice, trying to reprimand her for taking part in the death of a child. The woman made her way in the door, eventually returning with someone else. The employees were very on edge.

The three pro-lifers I met earlier that morning, including Anna, pelted the employees with pushy questions, apparently not noticing how their approach was only turning the two women away.

Eventually, at around ten o'clock in the morning, the abortion doctor arrived. He drove into the already quite-full parking lot in a fancy car, avoiding connection with any of us on the sidewalk.

Anna had brought a megaphone that she apparently used every time she counseled. I asked if I could talk to the doctor. Not realizing that he had not yet gotten out of his car (and probably could not hear me), I tried to tell him that I cared about him just as much as the women and the babies, and that we could help him get out of the industry.

Feeling like I said all I knew to say, I gave the megaphone back, at which point Anna began her lecture. "JAMES! You murderer! Why do you keep coming back here! You're killing babies!" She yelled, with an unfriendly, harsh expression on her face.

My jaw dropped. Did I really just hear that?! Abortion absolutely is the murder of a precious, unborn child, however, we close the door of escape from the industry when we treat these employees as if they have zero value and are stupid.

I rushed over and said, "Oh no, no, no." The doctor looked up, responding to Anna's harsh, love-less words with a straight faced, almost knowing expression. I had the impression that it was not the first time he had been screamed at by pro-lifers, particularly this group. (It’s no wonder that the police visit them so frequently).

I didn't want to be associated with that kind of behavior. "You matter to me!" I wanted to yell.

I explained to Anna how this kind of angry, you're-so-horrible approach can be so hurtful, and counterproductive. He's just going to walk right into the clinic and perform abortions, thinking that pro-lifers just hate people like him, and that we would probably be happy if he died on the spot.

 My mind went to my friend Melissa who had been training me; she was so grieved over abortion and wanted all women and babies protected, and at the same time she cared so much about the Grand Rapids clinic's employees. Urgently praying for them to be set free and to come to know Jesus, smiling at them, and sharing resources with them to help them get out of this type of work.

Upon hearing my rebuke of her anger, Anna became extremely unhappy with me. Being thirty or forty years older than me, she was not thrilled that I would suggest any kind of change. After all, what could a little trainee know? She had years of experience.

"It's not right to yell at them," I told her. Angrily, she proceeded to lecture me on a past clinic worker she treated the same dehumanizing way who apparently quit working there. It was victory in her eyes.

Had she thought about the fact that working somewhere where you get screamed at isn't very pleasant? Abortion is already a horrible industry. It's already the murder of a beautiful child; you don't have to kill others with your words in an attempt to get them to leave. I bet that clinic worker just started working at a different abortion clinic. That's not victory AT ALL. Now that individual probably has their heels digged down deeper, thinking that pro-lifers hate everyone.

She tried to rebuke me. "Cassidy, just listen to me! You need to let the Holy Spirit lead us!"

Apparently, she believed that the Holy Spirit leads us to treat people like pond scum.

When Pro-Life Outreach Isn't So Pro-Life Anymore

The little title of "pro-life" should say several big things.

God is the Giver of life, not us. We love life. Every life matters. No one is an accident. Every person--baby, teen, adult, grandma, mom, dad, etc.--is created in the image of God, and exists by His will. Because God is the Creator of every life and sovereignly plans the existence of each person, who are we to question His timing of when they come into existence and when they die?

I know I'm stepping on toes here, and I'm ok with it. Dislike me if you will, but hear this out. You cannot call yourself pro-life and continually treat abortion workers like they're worthless. You just can't.

You cannot stand there on the sidewalk telling a woman that she matters to you and that you care about her baby if you don't care also about the workers inside who were also once little babies in the womb. Your God desires that all would come to repentance [1]. He wants to redeem even the liberal, confused employees.

Don't tell me you love life if you still hate these people. I'll never believe it.

If you profess to know Jesus Christ as your Savior, then you should have the greatest desire of all people in the world for these clinic workers to be set free.

Charles Spurgeon has once said: "If sinners be damned, at least let them leap into hell over our bodies. If they will perish, let them perish with our arms about their knees. Let no one go unwarned and unprayed for."

Do you desire redemption that badly? Christians like Anna would be more likely to mockingly laugh while the lost clinic workers reach desperation. Would you stand in the gap for the abortion clinic employees too? For the sometimes pushy pro-choice protesters, will you pray? For those who are without hope and think the entirety of their existence is about them and what they think to be right and wrong, won't you show them Jesus? Who else do you expect to show love--Jesus' love--to these people than us?

Either be pro-every-life, or stop saying you're pro-life.

Would you be willing to lay down your life for these people? Jesus laid down His life for yours! Somehow we think that it wasn't as hard for our God to save us as it would be to save someone "like that."

Apart from Christ you're just like that. Your mind and heart are like that without Jesus. Your life had the same sinful potential to lead to being a worker of death; we cannot credit anything but the mercy of our God that we weren't also hands that shed innocent blood.

Jesus didn't spill one less drop of blood for you than He did for the abortion clinic workers. HE LOVES THEM, and if you don't, it might be time to search your heart to see if you really know Him, or if you really understand what it cost your Jesus to redeem you.

I want to be there with open arms the day the doctor of the Grand Rapids clinic says, "No more!" to abortion.

How expectant are we really if we don't pray for and expect these individuals to come to know Jesus. We underestimate our God's ability to redeem when we think they're too far gone. You seemed too far gone once too, and yet, if you believe in Jesus as your personal Savior, then because of Him you are secure before the Father.

You'll never deserve that.

No matter how nice, pro-life, and anti-abortion you are, you can never say you've earned your redemption. You need Jesus just as desperately as these people do; they are so valuable in His eyes that He died what is thought to be the most painful death humanly possibly. Some physicians speculate that Jesus' heart literally exploded when He died. He defeated sin, death, and hell with His very life.

Our God is always bringing about greater life as we obey Him, and I can only imagine how many people could be rescued out of the abortion industry if each of us prayed for ONE. Showed His love with one. Shared the Gospel with one. Discipled one.

He is able to redeem them; are we living like it as pro-lifers?

Jesus shed His life’s blood for them. He was forsaken for them. He suffered, bled, and died for them. Will we now lay our lives down and live out the beauty of the Gospel before these abortion clinic employees and pro-choicers?


*All names changed for anonymity (other than Melissa). 
1. 2 Peter 3:9, Isaiah 56:8, Ezekiel 33:11, 1 John 2:2, see this also