Answers In the Woods

There is something phenomenal about youth camp with the fact that it leaves you feeling refreshed and on fire for God, like gaining answers in the woods.

Youth camp this Summer was the last thing I would do before going back to school for Fall semester. We arrived for check in on Thursday night and left Sunday afternoon. Monday after, I would start school. I had a desire for camp to not only be fun but to really help us draw closer to God. I really wanted there to be good worship and prayer more than anything else.

The drive to youth camp was about two hours and I had the responsibility of bringing dinner and snacks for that night. I ended up driving alone because my other carpool rides didn’t work out. But I like to think of myself as an independent person so I was like eh, its fine. I’ll drive alone and have some time to reflect on life by myself. Well, I ended up losing service and getting lost when I arrived on the camp site. I had to leave the campsite and drive off to find service until I eventually found some. And I got a hold of our youth leader who helped me get to camp safely. Almost cried and went back home. And that was the start of a very interesting youth camp. Luckily things got way better after that rocky start!

Camp was indeed very fun. The nightly highlights were going to the dock in the middle of the night and stargazing. Those deep talks though! We played volleyball for majority of the day and night (well not me as much because I suck), we went zip lining, canoeing and swimming, we played group games, had good talks, explored, and watched a movie. I personally did not have a bored moment.

But the most amazing part of camp was getting closer to new and old friends but also seeing how God worked in all of us. It was amazing being in God’s presence and looking out with tear stained eyes for a split moment to see everyone in awe of the Lord and worshipping at his feet together.

I really prayed for God to work in this camp. I felt we all could use a little extra prayer and Jesus to shake up our life a little bit. I’m so glad that God worked in us. The beginning of camp was great because everyone was getting along. But somewhere in the middle of camp problems arose amongst some of us. And I look back at that moment and it makes my stomach drop. Because in the end we didn’t even know why we were upset in the first place and the problems that happened were stupid and pointless. It was as if the devil came in and tried to shake things up and keep us from getting close to God.

But luckily we worked things out. In the end we all wanted God to touch this camp and for us to leave feeling refreshed and renewed. On Saturday night we had our last church service with our pastors. At this point we had all made up and talked things out but things may have been a little bit rocky still. With each song that our worship group sang, I began to forget about yesterday and it’s problems but focus on God in this very moment. We ended our worship list with “How He Loves” where Dima asked us to repeat the lines before ending in prayer. After this, the Holy Spirit really amplified in the room. I don’t think I was the only one who could feel His thick presence.

Our youth leader asked if anyone wanted to go to the front to receive the Holy Spirit or be prayed over. Everyone was praying but no one went up to the front. He asked again, but still no one went up. I felt a tugging on my heart to go to the front. But then immediately the negative thoughts came up that said, “After the way you were acting yesterday, you don’t deserve it. And you might be the only one going up.” So I stayed in my place up in the front with the worship team frozen in fear. But then I heard the Holy Spirit say to me, “Go to the front and the others will follow. It doesn’t matter what happened yesterday.” And I responded back with, “But what if I’m the only one who goes up” and God answered me with, “I wouldn’t call you to do something and leave you all alone to fight for yourself.” Well with that I went to the front on my knees and started weeping, overwhelmed by the Holy Spirit. Sure enough, others followed and we were there on our knees praying together.

I have never wept so hard in my life or prayed so hard since probably the day I was first baptized with the Holy Spirit. And here I was at camp feeling ashamed and regretful for some of my actions and conflicts from the other day but God was still working on my heart and filling me with His Spirit. Our youth leader asked us to pray for one another and my best friend and I wrapped each other in one another’s arms and bawled together. At one point I was bawling so hard that I was actually choking for air. Truth is, I was so hungry for God.

Camp really was great and I’ll never forget that service. I know that you don’t need camp to have a close encounter with God. And you cant go into camp expecting that you’ll be a completely changed and renewed person after that. But camp does have some mysterious way of helping you get answers and draw closer to God while tucked away in the woods.

This verse Psalms 12:01 will always remind of camp which says “I took my troubles to the Lord; I cried out to Him and He answered my prayer.”

I think the fact that nothing over the top or really out of the ordinary happened at camp is good because it will help us stay focused on him and hunger for him as camp is over. The most important part of camp was the fact that we humbled ourselves before God and that the Holy Spirit touched us and left us with a stronger hunger for God.

At camp I learned that it doesn’t matter the mistakes I made the day before, because God can still work in me and use me for His glory. God can redeem any broken relationships and cleanse their broken hearts and hurt and restore them to be healed.

Camp was a success not because of the activities or because of radical revivals but because God was in our presence and we could encounter Him. I believe that we will not let this experience be a one time thing but that we will continue to pursue him after and have the desire to grow in our relationship with Him.

It’s funny how He can grow beautiful flowers out of the inner most darkest places of my heart as He showers me with His grace.

God restores all things, even in the midst of brokenness.

I found the answers I was seeking in the woods.

Blessings,

Angie

I Forgive You but I Cannot Forget You (Part 1)

“For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you” Matthew 6:14

Forgiveness is not always easy. What does it really mean?

I decided to name the title as part 1 because thinking about forgiveness, I realize that it is actually a complex topic. As I grow and learn more, the more I want to reflect on what forgiveness is and to see how my heart has changed. I don’t think I can only write once about this topic. The act of forgiving is a beautiful thing because it means showing grace and love unto someone who has wronged you, and you yourself being separated from the bondage of resentment and hurt. But that being said, forgiveness is not always easy as it often comes after a time of deep hurt and deep trial.

The Back Story

Last night I had our annual Monday night Bible Study session with some of my friends at 7:30. We have been doing this since the New Year started, I think. We have a No-Cancellation-Policy which means that some nights we would have Bible Study really late if needed. Anyway, we go through this book of Bible Verses every week and each week there is a different topic to discuss. Last night’s topic was Forgiveness.

Everybody sat around my couch eating popcorn and sipping on their coffee. Once we stopped getting distracted by laughter, the doorbell ringing, and my Grandma coming in ranting and making funny jokes in Ukrainian, we dove in to discussion.

As we went through, we realized that forgiveness is much more complicated than we ever initially thought. What is forgiveness? Did any of us still have unforgiveness in our hearts, even though we were Christian? How did we deal with forgiving others before? If we don’t forgive others, will we not be forgiven by God? Is forgiveness a one time act or is it a constant decision? And lastly, how can we really forgive someone who doesn’t care or doesn’t ask for forgiveness?

These questions boggled my mind all night. It still does. I don’t have all the answers. I’m still learning and praying for wisdom.

Discussion

As the night went on, people began to share personal stories of battling forgiveness. Some lives have been forever changed by one person’s actions towards them, and that makes forgiving hard. And knowing someone just doesn’t care to even ask for your forgiveness, makes it even harder. We struggle with forgiving others and then feeling guilty because we know that God has forgiven us of all our trespasses and that he calls us to forgive others as well.

As the night went on I was a bit silent at first. Soaking in the confusing topic and trying to understand the meaning of forgiveness. Sitting in that room, I unfortunately knew that even though I wanted to be completely forgiving of everyone, that deep down I still carry some resentment and unforgiveness deep down in my heart.

So this is what I asked the rest of the group, “Do you guys think that forgiveness is a one time thing where you forgive someone and get over it? Or do you think it is something that sometimes you have to choose to do daily. Even if you’ve already forgiven someone, sometimes the pain still haunts you almost daily and you have to choose to forgive that person instead of thinking negatively about them. I have times where I think I have completely forgiven someone but sometimes the hurt creeps back in and I feel guilty and think, what is going on?!

In which case they responded, “Angela, I think you just answered your own question.”

Forgiving and Loving go almost hand in hand

I say almost because love is an even more complex topic and forgiving is only one aspect or side of loving someone, there are more sides to loving. But yes, forgiving someone is an act of love. God sent his son in the ultimate act of love to die for our sins so we may be forgiven. (1 John 3:16)

I personally believe that love is not just a feeling but also an action. We must choose to love every day. Being human, loving doesn’t always come easy. It’s easy to love your family and close friends, most of the time it comes naturally and unconditionally. It’s harder to show love to someone who is a stranger or to someone who is against you. Similar to forgiving. I used to believe forgiving someone is a one time act. That once you forgive them once for something, that you will no longer care about it and it has gone away. Sometimes that is the case. Especially for minor things. But, sometimes it’s not the case. Sometimes it’s an every day decision, (this is what I concluded at the end of last night’s Bible Study). Especially when the hurt they caused is now something you must live with for the rest of your life.

So what do you do when forgiveness doesn’t come easy? Here are some suggestions.

  • Realize that you have hurt others before and you need grace just as much as them. That we are all human and fall short.
  • Pray for them. Even when it hurts, pray for them.
  • If you can, please please please try and talk to them! Let them know what is wrong and try to come to a mutual understanding if possible. This is not always possible in certain circumstances, but when it is you should try. Sometimes you may need time to get to this point.
  • Vent to a trusted friend who can comfort and pray for you.
  • Distance yourself if needed. You can’t change anyone or make them understand what you are going through. But you can change yourself (with God’s help and other means of help). You can keep yourself from negativity.
  • If you must see them a lot, try to kill them with kindness and show love. Eventually it will become easier. Almost like fake it till you make it.
  • Avoid gossiping about the person who you have something against. Fueling gossip only fuels your own anger and hate!

Obviously every situation is different and complex, these are only my suggestions. And I write them for myself as a reminder because I have been struggling with forgiveness. I’m honestly a very emotional person. And it makes me feel even guilty to say that because I am a Christian and I know God calls us to forgive and he forgives me even when I seriously mess up over and over again. But that’s why we can all learn and encourage each other.

Good points made by my friends:

  • Often times people don’t really understand the extent of how much they have hurt you. If they did, the would feel just as heartbroken.
  • Just because the other person is over it, doesn’t mean you have to be. It takes people different amounts of time to feel ok and to process what happened. Take as much time as you need.
  • Don’t wish someone bad or curse them. Wish them well and actively try to change your mindset. If a negative thought pops up about them try to diffuse it.
  • If you forgive someone, doesn’t mean they have to be back in your life.
  • Forgiving doesn’t mean you forget what happened. It means you let go and used the situation to better yourself.

MY BIG BELIEF: JUST BECAUSE SOMEONE HAS BEEN A CRAPPY PERSON TO YOU OR IN GENERAL DOES NOT MEAN THAT IS THEIR SET CHARACTER OR BEHAVIOR FOR LIFE. ANYONE WHO IS WILLING CAN CHANGE. TREAT THEM WITH THEIR POTENTIAL AND MAYBE THEY WILL BELIEVE THEY CAN ACHEIVE IT. GOD LOVES US BECAUSE HE SEE’S ALL THAT WE ARE. HE DOESN’T SETTLE ON OUR MISTAKES OR SINS. FORGIVING AT THE TOUGHEST TIMES IS THE WAY THAT YOU CAN SHOW THE LOVE OF GOD TO SOMEONE WHO NEEDS IT!! YESS!!!

I will be thinking about this and also trying to live this out in my life. I will write hopefully a part 2 when I receive more insight and experience on the topic. One friend from Bible Study had an epiphany and is now going to ask someone for forgiveness. We must also realize that if we feel guilty for something we did, it is never too late to apologize to someone that we hurt. Even if it’s years later! We all need to be intentional with loving, living, and forgiving every day of our lives!

Whoever you are, reading this..if you want to shoot me a little prayer, that would be great. 🙂 If you need prayer. Let me know!

Hope:

“The Lord our God is merciful and forgiving, even though we have rebelled against him” Daniel 9:9

Have a great week my friends,

Angie ❤

 

 

 

Stuck In the Same Old, Same Old

“Hey, how’s it going?”

“Oh you know…just the same old, same old stuff.”

Anyone else find themselves in this type of conversation lately? I know I have. Or maybe I have just imagined it. Who knows. But sometimes you get stuck in the same old routine and it seems like nothing exciting is happening.

This last week has been a drag because I was studying for finals all week and could not hang out as much with my friends as I am used to. But today I finished my finals! Woohoo! Summer is about to approach. I don’t know what will occupy my time this summer but the options are endless.

break

This is a picture of me taking a break from studying after Starbucks closed early. Why am I looking out in the distance? I had a great conversation with the barista who I used to have a class with and he wants to apply to my school that I go to right now. And I didn’t leave my phone number. Why. So many RAGRATS. But anyway back to the main point…

Yesterday I spent most of the first half of the day studying after Church because I was scared of my upcoming finals. After studying for what felt like eternity, I decided to go youth and young adult service in the evening and just worship and see my friends to freshen up my mind. After Church service we went to a local beach and some of my friends and I walked along the water with pizza slices in our hands and discussed our summer plans. Thankfully Evelyn was smart and put together a Summer bucket list of things we need to accomplish during summer.

That includes:

  • Camping
  • Fugitive
  • Game Night
  • More Hiking
  • Canada trip
  • Night Swimming
  • Road Trips
  • No boring days

And a lot more things! Summer 2016 is about to be the best summer ever! (Haha we actually say this every year but this year will be different. Mark my words (; )

But in life of course we should always try to embrace the moment and live each day to the fullest that we can. But sometimes thinking about future plans and goals can be really exciting and make you want to go out there and accomplish them. So I thought I would write down some of my long term goals/dreams and see what will come about the future.

Life Plans:

  • Get a Masters degree (preferably counseling)
  • Rent a house and live there for a while with best friends/roommates
  • Get married to the love of my life
  • Travel to Ukraine (the home land) as well as Paris, Iceland, and Bora Bora
  • Publish a book (this would be amazing ahhh)
  • Adopt a child (already looking at possible adoption agencies)
  • Build this blog up

Whenever I feel bored with my life, I try to think of these things and keep myself moving.

Cheers to the end of Finals!

finals

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hope you have a great rest of the week.

Stay beautiful.

-Angie<3