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grace upon grace

From His fulness we have all received grace upon grace. John 1:16

Expect Jesus

As most of you know, due to my extreme excitement and love for this place, I am a counselor at Camp Glisson this summer. We have just finished our third week of camp, and we are in the transition process from session one into session two. Going into this summer, I was excited, and still am, to be at my favorite place with my favorite people praising Jesus on the daily. Being a camp counselor at Glisson is something that I have wanted to do since I was about ten years old, if not younger, and I was amazed at the fact that I was one, old enough to be a counselor, and two, that I was actually doing it. However, this great excitement and joy I had was also accompanied by great fear. I went into the summer feeling inadequate praying “Jesus, why me? I’m your average everyday sinner that does not have it all figured out.” This fear stayed present within me from the time I was told that I got the job, all throughout staff training, and until my first camper ever walked through the door. I remember her so vividly, her cute little eight-year-old smile, the excitement and nervousness she, too had on her face. It was her first time at camp and we were going to figure this out together.

I went into the summer expecting that I would know what to expect. This is my eleventh summer at camp, after all, I should know what to expect. Well I sure was 100% wrong. Every week, every day, and every hour is different. It doesn’t matter how many summers you’ve spent there as a camper, or whether you were on crew before becoming a counselor, or whether you walked through those gates for the first time ever that first day of staff training. There is no way that anyone has any idea what they are going to expect when it comes to campers and how the week will go. However, we can expect Jesus. We can expect Him to show up even when we are least expecting him to show up. When it’s pouring rain at campout and you have just about used all your dryer lint, and you’ve been fanning that dang fire with a Frisbee for two and a half hours, and two of your sweet campers are standing in that rain holding a rain jacket over the fire, and you say to all of your campers “okay girls, we might just have warm canned chicken, carrots, potatoes, and onions instead of fully cooked and I’m so sorry but that’s just how it is because of the weather”, and they look at you and every single one of them says “It’s okay, Katelyn. Thank you for working so hard on the fire for us”, and just when you’re about to say “God where are you? My sweet campers do not deserve warm food; they deserve cooked food.” There He will be, because by God, and God alone, we all ate cooked food for dinner that night. I expected that night to be a blowout. I had this picture in my head of all thirteen of us sitting in the shelter eating chicken out of the can and biting raw potatoes as if they were apples, I am ashamed to say I didn’t expect Jesus, and there He was.

There have been about a trillion other circumstances where I wasn’t expecting anything and there He was. I see Him on the ball field when I’m kicking a soccer ball with a camper that doesn’t want to play with everyone else, and she is vulnerable with me and opens up to me about her life. I see Him in the chapel when my camper that hasn’t said a word since he got here starts singing and lifts his hands in worship. I saw Him again in the chapel when my sister walked up to me with tears in her eyes to which we then began to pray together and she accepted Jesus into her heart for the first time. I see Him in the cute little notes I get from my campers that say “You are the best counselor ever” because that is by no means me, but God. Let me get something straight, I am in no way the best counselor ever, but I’ll be real in that I do my best to show my campers patience, grace, and love that are all the closest thing to Christ-like that I know of. I do the best I can to lead them to the best counselor ever, Jesus (which is cheesier than Velveeta, I know, but that’s the best way I can explain it).

Be in the business of seed planting, friends because that is by far the most rewarding and encouraging work for the Kingdom I have ever done. And when planting those seeds, expect nothing less than Jesus because He is there even when you think He is not.

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6 Things I Wish I Had Known Before My Freshman Year

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1. It is perfectly normal to have a feeling of doubt upon arriving to campus on move-in day. Honestly, I was second guessing my choice about coming to college in a tiny little town in the mountains. In a matter of less than 24 hours, I was suddenly 101 miles from home, my parents weren’t down the hall if I needed anything, and I had absolutely never lived all alone before. To say I was doubtful is an understatement. However, in a matter of weeks God began to show me what He was doing with putting me here and I’m so glad I didn’t transfer after one semester like I said I was going to. I am thankful that I gave Young Harris a chance because it’s one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.
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2. Get involved with some sort of religious life. Find where you fit when it comes to your world view. Work towards figuring out what your beliefs are and then find a group of people that will support you in those beliefs. Being involved with religious life here has helped me to express who I am with others that support me in my personal relationship with Jesus Christ, however religious life is for everyone, not just Christians. The third weekend of college, I went on a spiritual life retreat and there I made some great friends that have held me accountable to keep Jesus as the center of my life.
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3. People that really care about you will make time for you. Throughout middle and high school, I struggled with friendships and never feeling like I was first choice to anyone other than my family. College friendships are so different than anything I’ve ever experienced because people actually put time into caring about, and for, each other. You probably won’t keep in touch with most friends from high school, and that is okay. I think I’ve talked to a total of about 7 people from high school because people that really care about you will make time for you.
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4. Rush, even if you don’t want to or don’t think you’ll join a Greek organization. I registered for rush on the deadline day, and it was the second best decision I’ve made other than coming to Young Harris. I didn’t want to rush because I didn’t want to join any organization, but it has completely changed my life for the better and I am so glad that I have these sisters to play a role in making this place more like home. Dove love, ladies!!
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5. Girls night is so much fun. Happy? Have a girls’ night. Sad? Have a girls’ night. Girls’ night is made for all seasons of life and it can truly relieve stress! Treat yourself to a face mask with some nice cucumber slices over your eyes, your closest friends, and a good Nicholas Sparks movie.
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6. College is hard, but so worth it. There will be nights that you don’t sleep. There will be nights that you forget to eat dinner before the dining hall closes. There will be nights that you make decisions you regret. There will be professors that you don’t like. There will be times when you miss home. All of that being said, it’s all worth it, every single second. I thank God every day for putting me here and I am so glad that His plans are greater than my own.

 

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Have Your Way

To say that this week has been easy for me would be far from an understatement. This week has been nearly unbearable. The Lord has challenged me in all aspects of my life and He has brought me to a place where I feel like I have hit rock bottom. A place where I find myself in my room alone and I just burst into tears. I feel like life has sucker punched me in all different directions this week, and, to be completely honest, I am having a hard time figuring out how to handle it.

I feel as though nothing is going the way I want and I can’t help but sit here and ask God “Why? Why do I feel this way? Why is it that my desires for my life and your desires for my life are not lining up? Why, God?” Well, God sure has shown me the raw truth through this, that I am spending way too much time focusing on the things that I want in life. I sit here and beg God for things to go a certain way, the way that I have planned out in my head. It wasn’t until now that I realized that I am praying the wrong prayer. I’m going to God with the struggles I face in life like He is some magician that will somehow magically make everything turn out the way I want. I am going through life wasting my time by dwelling on the things that will not matter tomorrow, or next week, or even two months from now. I could be fully seeking Him with every ounce of love that I have in my heart, every bone in my body, every hair on my head, every word that comes out of my mouth, but here I am praying for something to go the way that I, Katelyn Spinks, have to have it.

I do not believe that The Lord inflicts pain on us in order to teach us something. The God that I know is loving, caring, and understanding. Under no circumstances, does He hand us pain. However, He does say that life isn’t always going to be easy, but that He will be right there in times of joy and in times of sorrow. He says, “I’ve commanded you to be brave and strong haven’t I? Don’t be alarmed or terrified because the LORD your God is with you wherever you go.” (Joshua 1:9 CEB). I have this verse on a canvas in my room and it slapped me right in the face last night when I was crying out to Him asking what He was doing with my life. Then, there it was on the wall and I just burst into more tears. How can I not be courageous and strong and brave and all the things He commands me to do? How can I not have enough faith in my Father for Him to give me that courage?

With the reality of the way I realized I am viewing God, it occurred to me that I need to change my prayer. My prayer is no longer “Lord, give me this” or “Lord, give me an A on my mid-term” or “Lord, give me this job” or “Lord, let me date this guy.” My prayer is “Lord, have your way and let me see that your ways are greater than my own” and “Lord, align my desires with yours” and “Lord, let me fall so deeply in love with you that I can’t stand on my own two feet when I think about it.” Lord, have your way.

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You Are More

As we draw near the end of first semester and finals week, and approach Christmas, I often find myself in a state of constant comparison to those around me in nearly all endeavors of my life. I dwell on the Earthly things that do not matter when I should be reflecting, resting, and celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ. I find myself asking one question: why am I in a constant state of comparison in a season of life where I should be celebrating the birth of our One True King, who created beauty with me in mind and calls me His masterpiece?

When I think about how Christ views me and how I view myself, I think of a rose. It is one of the most beautiful flowers because of its simplicity. We face hardships, temptation, and sin that causes us to wilt, like a rose that goes through the season of winter, yet God still sees us as His beautiful sons and daughters because He spent time creating each and every one of us individually. No matter what this world may define us by, He finds each of his children beautiful because we are more than earthly, materialistic, temporary things.

The more I find myself in reflection on the way He sees me, and the way I see myself, the more I hear Him saying: “You are more than a grade on a final exam, or even a final grade in a class. You are more than a number on a scale, or the size of that slice of pie at the annual Christmas party. You are more than the amount of money you spent on your family and friends for Christmas. You are more than your hardships. You are more than your sin. You are more than the sin you keep committing when you know it is wrong. My daughter, you are more than enough.”

Someone once told me that when I compare myself to other people or tell myself that I am not good enough, I am insulting The Heavenly Creator. This is so true! He created me in His image, and I am His masterpiece. Just as I should not walk into an art gallery and tell the artist all of the things that are wrong with his or her art, I should not look in the mirror and tell myself that I am not good enough. However, I do it anyways, we all do, and Christ still loves us which is enough of a reason for us to see Him as perfect, and to know that He creates good and perfect things. He doesn’t expect perfection from us, though. He created us knowing that we would sin, yet this creates room for Him to show his grace, mercy, and love time and time again. Though grace is not intended to be put to use with the knowledge that it will be given no matter what, if that were the case grace would become insignificant and meaningless. Christ has our best interest in mind at all times, He wants us to see ourselves as beautiful for the content of our character first and physical beauty second all because He loves us.

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Called Into the Unknown

I am about to experience my whole world become completely different. In about 48 hours I will have moved out of the place where I have spent countless hours playing tea party, house, doctor, mom, barbies, polly pockets, and groovy girls, the place that I have eaten dinner with my family night after night, the place that has a road in front of it where I learned how to ride my bike without training wheels, the place that is just down the street from the col de sac where neighborhood kick ball tournaments took place, the place that has a door where I watched two new-born babies come through for me to call each of them “sister”, the place that has walls that have seen me cry tears of sorrow and tears of joy, the place I call home. I never would have thought how much this house and the memories that are held here mean to me until I was faced with “goodbye” to all of the things it has been for me in just 48 hours.

However, it is not just the memories or the house that present a whirlwind of emotions. It is the fact that God has called me into the unknown. I have never step foot in a college class, I have never seen what it’s like to be independent from your parents and to live on your own for a whole school year. These things are overwhelmingly terrifying and comforting all at the same time. Terrifying because I have no idea what God is doing by calling me to Young Harris, Georgia to be a college student, but so comforting and peace-bringing because God has called me and He knows me better than I ever will. God chose me! He has a plan and He said to me “my daughter, go and do and be and show others the face of Jesus Christ.” And He wants me to do that in this setting. He wants me to do that in whatever setting, for I am called by Christ to love others as He loved me.

God has called me beyond the pearly gates of Gwinnett County and into the unknown. I have no idea what will happen tomorrow or the next day or the day after that, but I do know that I am a daughter of the One True King and that He will provide for me my needs and the desires of my heart in this life. I know that His love is steadfast and it endures forever. I know that He is so so good, and my prayer is that He continues to call me into the unknown because what a privilege it is to do something so fulfilling for Him when you don’t even know what it is yet.

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It is Finished

“When he had received the drink, Jesus said, ‘It is finished.’ With that, he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.” In this verse from John in the 19th chapter, verse 30, we come to a conclusion of Jesus’ earthly life which seems to be the most painful moment yet. Jesus, the most righteous, kind, loving, perfect man to walk this earth, has left. The One that set the captives free, the One that healed the blind man, the One that humbly says “let the children come to me” has fled this dark and broken world. Not only did he flee this world through a torturous and painful death, he fled leaving all in a state of mournful curiosity of what was to come.

This day is one that left Jesus’ disciples and followers feeling as though the world was once dark grey and that it suddenly became a midnight black. They felt lost, ashamed, and heart broken. Little did they know, three days later Jesus would raise from the dead, ascend into heaven, and sit at the right hand of God the Father Almighty, for this day is one for the books. This day is a day that frees captives, a day that heals the blind, a day that calls us all as children of God to come to Him. No act of grace this extravagant has ever been done other than through Jesus simply because he takes away the need for it.

What is so outrageous to me is that Jesus’ death as an act of grace was done so that the most undeserving individuals might receive His grace, including myself. I am so unworthy. I mess up time and time again, yet He still died for me and for you all because of love. He died so no one would have to pay for their sins again. He died so that women having sex outside of marriage would not be stoned to death. He died so that the thirteen-year-old boy that stole a loaf of bread from the market place would not be hung. He died out of love. Jesus paid it all. The stone was rolled away. The tomb is empty. It. Is. Finished.

And I Will Seek First Your Kingdom

Oh the things that college can teach you. I went into this school year with intentions of focusing on my relationship with The Lord first and foremost. I wanted that to be the one thing that was the most prominent in my life. I wanted to seek the Lord at all times and put Him first in a way that I had never wanted to before. The crazy thing is that I feel like the Lord placed this desire for me to know Him on a deeper, more intimate level on my heart.

 

What I found with putting God first and everything else second, is that I was satisfied through Him. Through Christ, I have all I could ever want. I see the desires of my heart being fulfilled all because I wholeheartedly put Him first. I put Christ first and life itself seemed to fall right into place. His desires for me have become my own. The moment I realized that God loves me so much and that He will never leave me nor forsake me is the moment I felt my soul be renewed through Christ Jesus. God has revived my soul once again, and for that I am so thankful.

 

I can remember this time last year, thinking that I would end up at a different college, with a different degree. In fact, if someone were to ask me a year ago where I would see myself in a year, I never would’ve said that I would be here at Young Harris College getting a degree in Early Childhood Education, but here I am. Christ is working in my life in tremendously beautiful, and unexpected ways, but I can wholeheartedly say that I am content with where I am at and the things He gives me on a daily basis, not because I have low expectations of Him, or that I don’t want Him to take me out of my comfort zone I’m in, but because I wake up in the morning with a smile on my face fully trusting in Him that He will satisfy my every need if I seek first His kingdom. Psalm 37:5-6 (CEB) says, “Commit your way to the LORD! Trust him! He will act and will make your righteousness shine like the dawn, your justice like high noon.”

 

And Lord, this I know, that all your promises are yes and amen.

The Lord Giveth and Taketh

“The Lord giveth and The Lord taketh away, but blessed be the name of The Lord.” The 21st verse from the first chapter of Job is one that is much easier to read when life is going well. To pray to God by saying “Lord even if you take away, I will still love you.” when things are going well is often a simple task. I find myself in a place where I would “prefer” for God to just give to me. No need for Him to take away. I am happy where I’m at. Well friends, I am dead smack in the middle of my first semester of college and let me tell you now, The Lord has been taking way more than I want Him to. I find myself in my room at the end of a long day with my head in my hands crying out to Him because I just don’t get what He is doing and why it is that I feel like life is hitting me from a thousand different directions.

When it feels as though my burdens that were once the size of a pebble, have become the size of a boulder that I know I cannot carry around without a bulldozer of a God, I find myself on my knees begging Him to take them away. To relieve the stress of grades, friendships, and the multiple organizations I’m involved in, that is where He shows up. What didn’t occur to me until this week, is that the Lord is giving through the things He takes away. God has taught me a multitude of  things about myself in the past seven weeks of college, and I have learned most of that through the “taketh”. I look back on things that I felt like the Lord was taking away from me at the time and now see where He gave me something far greater than I ever could have imagined.

I often pray for God to take me out of my comfort zone. I pray that He will give me an opportunity to completely surrender, yet when He presents me with these opportunities, I don’t want to take them because I like living in my own little bubble and being safe and secure and warm. Crazy right? Did I not just ask Him to take me out of my comfort zone? Well, in case you thought I was fooling you, I definitely did just ask Him that which makes no sense at all. The one thing I have realized, but that I am still trying to comprehend is that God loves me so much and He has my best interest in mind. If I completely surrender my life to Him with all that I have and all that I am, he will give me the desires of my heart. When I completely surrender, I can rest assured that even though the Lord may taketh away, he will giveth in His timing and not my own. That is reason enough for me to say “blessed be the name of The Lord.”

Love never fails.

Love. The most powerful combination of four letters anyone has ever created. Who knew we would encompass it in one of the most used phrases in the world: “I love you.” We say this phrase to our significant others, our family, our close friends, or sometimes to your boss on the phone out of habit. We say it when we leave somewhere or when we see someone we haven’t seen in a while. Seldom do we look at a person and say “I love you” just because. “I love you” has become a habit which has caused it to lose its meaning. However, the meaning is still found when we recognize the love Jesus Christ has for us.

1 Corinthians 13:4-8 (CEB) says “Love is patient, love is kind, it isn’t jealous, it doesn’t brag, it isn’t arrogant, it isn’t rude, it doesn’t seek its own advantage, it isn’t irritable, it doesn’t keep a record of complaints, it isn’t happy with injustice but it is happy with the truth. Love puts up with all things, trusts in all things, hopes for all things, endures all things. Love never fails.” I find myself reading this verse and all I can think of is Christ’s love. How much He loves me. His love never fails, never gives up, never runs out on me. Jesus’ love is the epitome of what I hope to be able to show to those around me, so that they may know the love I experience from Him. Because there is no greater love than He who would lay down his life for us, His friends.

Jesus’ love for us is not like your everyday, run-of-the-mill love. It’s a love that surpasses all understanding of what love could even begin to look like. It’s a love that loves me and you regardless of what lies we’ve told or been told. It’s a love that loves me and you regardless of the way I dishonored my parents by telling them I had done my homework when I actually hadn’t. It’s a love that loves me and you regardless of what I’ve done, what I’m doing, or what I will do. It’s a love that loves me and you so much that it suffered under Pontius Pilate, that was crucified dead and buried. Love that rose on the third day. Love that ascended into heaven and sitteth at the right hand of God The Father Almighty.

Jesus loves you, He loves me, He loves us all. His love is a love that forgives before we even ask. A love that doesn’t want us to sin or dishonor him, but that loves us anyway. There is no way we can run or hide from Him. He is steadfast and immovable in times of sorrow and in times of joy. He rejoices with us when we are happy and mourns with us when we are sad. He loves us at all times. He is always there with open arms waiting for each and every one of us to run to him and call him “Abba Father”. He says “I love you” and doesn’t need a reason to say so.

 

 

 

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