Where I'm At: Victoria

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I realized something cool near Thanksgiving. I realized that it’s called thanks giving. It’s like a gift we give for the gifts we’ve been given! It’s neat to think that gratitude is giving. Speaking of Thanksgiving, check out the Psalms for some great verses on praise and gratitude. Some examples are Psalm 147:7, which says “Sing to the Lord with thanksgiving; sing praises to our God on the lyre.”  Two more examples are Psalm 148 and Psalm 65, which talk about how God blesses the earth.
                
God has also been showing me lately that I need to surrender completely to Him and His will. I had the opportunity this summer to go on a Journey to the Heart, an intense Christian retreat in the upper peninsula of Michigan. There, I was challenged with surrender, and when I got home have been, again and again, confronted with this need. This type of surrender is full of seeming paradoxes. On one hand, you feel a need to be in control of major decisions, but on the other hand, you know you’ll never experience freedom until you give it up to God. The other Sunday at church our pastor spoke on surrender. And I knew it was a message meant for me. Each of us were given a paper “key” to place at the foot of the cross, as a symbol of giving Jesus the key and letting Him be in the driver’s seat in life. Though surrender is a struggle every day, I know God is helping me.

Over the past year I’ve developed an allergy to dairy products. Thankfully, it’s not as severe as Joanna’s allergy was, but it’s pretty annoying. I’ve had to learn to look at ingredients and make do with what I have. I’m glad there are such things as dairy-free chocolate chips and dairy-free “ice cream”. Even though there are now a lot of foods I can’t eat, I really don’t have a good reason not to be grateful. When I just think of how many people around the world don't have enough to eat, I feel overwhelmed that I would complain just because I can’t have dairy. There’s a lot out there I can have, and being thankful for that kills those "weeds" of bitterness and grumbling. So, if you have an allergy, or some other situation that doesn’t seem fair, start looking for all you can eat or do.  And remember, God knows what He’s doing, even though you don’t.

I also have a health problem that only improves if I run. So I jog practically every day. I have no idea how many times I’ve run in the park or elsewhere. It’s been a struggle, especially when I’m tired and don’t feel like doing it. But I know God is building faith, endurance and patience in me. A passage that seems just right for my situation is Isaiah 41:29-31: “He gives strength to the weary, and to him who lacks might He increases power. Though youths grow weary and tired, and vigorous young men stumble badly, yet those who wait for the Lord will gain new strength; they will mount up with wings like eagles, they will run and not get tired, they will walk and not become weary.”

Have you ever wondered what it’s like to be blind? I have. So a few weeks ago I had a “blind” day. I blindfolded myself for eight and a half hours (I stayed at home, of course), and learned more than I would’ve just sitting and doing my schoolwork. It was amazing. I still think of that day with fondness. Now I wouldn’t want to be blind for life, but not being able to see for a day was so interesting - and so hard.  At different times throughout the day I would go outside, take up my stick, and wander around. The first time I went outside I didn’t have my stick and I barely went twenty feet from the door. That didn’t stop me from getting “lost”. When you can’t see it’s so easy to lose your bearings and not know quite where you’re at. After a while, I found my way back, thankfully. Those trips outside with my stick, listening to the wind and the birds and feeling my way around, were my favorite part of the day. And I know God was watching out for me!

Once, when I was trying to get to the mailbox I accidentally wandered onto the street. Thankfully, I realized it soon enough. But God was there and He didn't let me get hurt. So what have I learned from this? During my “blind” time I felt God’s protection, and I knew there were angels around me. It was reinforced to me that God does keep me in His hand. Another thing I learned is to identify more with people who are blind. I learned to listen, and to feel, and I learned to be still. I learned that beauty isn’t confined to things you can see. I felt more patience that day than usual, and enjoyed simple pleasures immensely. I like to be independent, but that day, I had to have help. And it felt good. I learned that dependence is alright.

I’m a homeschooled junior in high school now. Sometimes it’s scary to think about the future. Where will God want me? Will I be in Africa, helping others in poverty? Will I be just a “normal” person, in a normal place, with a normal job, and a normal life? I’m scared of either. But if God wants me to go somewhere, He’s got a great reason. And if God just wants me to help others by living a “normal” life, then that’s okay, too.

God has been showing me a lot. But I realize that God is always showing me lessons in life, if I’ll only look and listen with an open heart. I encourage you, too, to think of the lessons God has been teaching you and share them with others. And always be on the lookout for more proofs of God’s goodness and love and the depth of His understanding. They’re there, all around, if you’ll only look!

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