A Sense of Wonder

Author: Kate Franken

Hours before walking across the stage to receive my high school diploma, my mother presented me with a heartfelt gift that I’ve treasured in the years since. While I sat on my floral bedspread in my downstairs bedroom, she walked in and put a CD into my black boom box. She let the words of Leanne Womack’s song “I Hope You Dance” speak of her hopes for me and the uncertain future. It was a CD I wore out easily in the years to come. The  frequent replay of the song reminded me of my mother’s love and expressed so many desires I had for myself.

These lines have not grown faint as years have passed:

“I hope you never lose your sense of wonder.”

“I hope you still feel small when you stand beside the ocean.”

“Give the heavens above more than just a passing glance.”

These words resonate deep within my soul. They speak to the yearning I have for something more, something outside of myself. They draw my eyes to the author of wonder. And at Him, they urge me to stare.

Carve the sky wonderWonder ignites our faith. It invites us to look beyond the things of this world. It opens our eyes wide to the greatness of our God. Who performs wonders that cannot be fathomed. Like a moth to a fire, I am drawn in, craving to know this God of Wonder.

I often wander down a winding dirt trail on a hike up a tree-covered mountain, or drive the back roads to marvel at the wonder of His creation. He never ceases to capture my heart with the beauty of the sun, with its rising and setting.

“So that those who dwell at the ends of the earth are in awe at your signs. You make the going out of the morning and the evening to shout for joy.” -Psalm 65:8

Innately, I’m drawn to how God carves the Earth and paints the sky. His work falls nothing short of a masterpiece.

As I sit in awe of His creation, my heart swells with joy, for the beauty that surrounds me speaks of His love. He created this beauty for our eyes to witness. His love lacking in nothing.  His love is not broken. It is complete.

He loves us so much; He wants a relationship with us. And through the wonder of His creation, He reveals Himself.

“The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims His handiwork.”-Psalm 19:1

Wonder stareGreat is His glory. His strength is mighty. He sustains all things. He is faithful. He is peaceful. He is worthy of all worship. He is incomparable. He is without equal. He alone reigns.

I didn’t quite know what a sense of wonder would yield, as I put on that blue graduation gown. Now, a decade out, I am grateful. To know the riches of that wonder, feeds this strong, ever-deepening relationship I have with my Creator. There is nothing that compares.


Readers, What do you do to keep your sense of wonder alive?

kate-squareKate Franken is a 4th grade teacher and a volunteer coordinator at her church in Oregon. She enjoys indulging in raw conversation whilst savoring a cup or more of coffee. Her hunt for good books and podcasts is endless. She finds refuge surrounded by trees, on hiking trails, with her two dogs in tow. She is especially fond of mountaintop views, wit, “best teacher ever” love letters, breakfast, a painted sky, and Jesus. She has a heart for connecting people to His church and encouraging others into relationship with Him.

Embracing Vulnerable Beauty

Author: Kate Franken

“Do you have children?”

“Are you married?”

I get that these are questions most women often ask as a cordial attempt to get acquainted. Their success rate in forging a connection amongst my female counterparts is high, but their ability to alienate someone in my current stage of life is just as steep.

beauty-vulnerableMy 20-something self detested being asked such questions. With each passing year, as I became more and more the minority, my reflex to cringe upon hearing them became quicker. I hated how they made me feel vulnerable. Because once I revealed my single, childless state, the magnifying glasses seemed to emerge from in front of puzzled faces. Attempts would be made to put the pieces together as to why I fell short in growing a family my own. Suggestions would be made as to how I could fix the problem they found in me. Some would even be so bold as to ask, “What’s wrong with you?”

I sought to avert situations that might turn into an  exposé of the supposed truth of my circumstances, so I clung to the safety of masks, walls, pretenses, hermit-like living and the lie “I’m okay.” A hard heart became my shield. I thought it would protect me.

Fortunately, God grabbed a hold of me. He knew there was more for me than a hidden life. He placed His love over the clenched fists that were wrapped around my semblance of control and tenderly loosened my grip. He squeezed me tight until I could finally see He was everything I needed. He taught me to sing a new song, one of surrender. He revealed the beauty of vulnerably giving one’s life.

He led me through one story to the next and spoke to me through the printed divine wisdom locked firm and true in the pages of the Bible.

David

David confronted Goliath, the towering 9 foot something  Philistine beast, with five smooth stones and a sling. David stood before this man, known to be the strongest of warriors, without any protective covering to shield him, having previously declined the King’s armor. He relied solely on his faith in God to deliver him and he victoriously prevailed (1 Samuel 17).

Paul

Paul identified himself as the worst of sinners (1 Timothy 1:15-16) to point to the saving grace of Christ. He remained fervent in preaching the good news of Christ, knowing it would inevitably result in violent persecution.

Jesus

Jesus came in human form, sharing in the sufferings of humanity, to pave a path for us to follow. In the years that He walked this Earth, He sacrificially gave of Himself to the needs of others. The most vulnerable moment in all of human history was His crucifixion, in which He gave of His own life so that we may have life eternal.

A theme was evident. When they chose faithfulness to God, they made themselves vulnerable and it pointed to the beauty of God’s faithfulness. Then God carried this theme from the pages, I loved, to the existence I lived.

His Disciples

The lyrics of this new song God was teaching me penetrated my heart all the more as I sat again and again across the table from godly examples both married and single. I entered into community and found my heart ministered to by the stories of others. They sat unmasked before me, drawing my eyes to Jesus. With their vulnerable words, they were His disciples and they were doing the work of the Great Commission.

God knew just how to prod me into being vulnerable myself.  He knew I was drawn to beauty.  He created me that way. And beauty is what I saw in the women across the table from me, in David, in Paul, and in Jesus.

vulnerable-beautyI now look at vulnerability with new eyes. When I see vulnerability, I see courage, unthwarted by imperfections. I see a resistance to the chains of fear and shame. I see a softened heart. I see a confident trust in what God has done. I see rest with a rightly placed hope in Jesus’ perfection and not one’s own. I see a healing agent. I see love shining through. I see an expression of who God is. I see it to be altogether beautiful.

God did not leave me the same, once He got ahold of me. He freed me. He told me I was more precious than jewels. He wrapped me in the security of Christ. He made me content with my mistakes, scars, brokenness, and the truth that “I don’t have it all together”, knowing God’s grace is sufficient for me, and His power is made perfect in my weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9). He has changed me into now being the woman that vulnerably shares her story of God’s saving grace to minister to hearts of others, and has given me a heart to encourage others to walk forth with a vulnerability that speaks of His goodness,inviting others to grasp its beauty.


 Readers, It is important that we seek to understand others and their experiences. There is a great treasure hidden in friendship with those that are different than ourselves. Our circumstances do not threaten our identity when our identity is rooted in Christ which empowers us all to hear the story of the other.

kate-squareKate Franken is a 4th grade teacher and a volunteer coordinator at her church in Oregon. She enjoys indulging in raw conversation whilst savoring a cup or more of coffee. Her hunt for good books and podcasts is endless. She finds refuge surrounded by trees, on hiking trails, with her two dogs in tow. She is especially fond of mountaintop views, wit, “best teacher ever” love letters, breakfast, a painted sky, and Jesus. She has a heart for connecting people to His church and encouraging others into relationship with Him.

Identity Crisis

Author: Kate Franken

The words “identity crisis” generally evoke images of a pimple faced teenager and a middle aged silver-haired man that seeks comfort in adultery and a new red sports car.  This worldly association leads one to believe that identity crisis is largely confined to two occurrences, once in adolescence and then again somewhere between 45 and 60.  It is commonly believed that within these periods that the psyche is distressed as one suddenly finds themselves stuck in the midst of questioning who they are. Thus begins the quest to develop a sense of self. After a prolonged period, many assert that the answer can be found in a relationship, a job, or the objects one possesses. I believe Identity crisis is far more widespread, and more debilitating, than the stereotypes lead one to believe. I think a more accurate portrayal would be the individual living in hidden anguish brought forth by seeking fulfillment in anything else other than Christ (i.e. the curse of the idolator). When one fails to find their true purpose in life, to bring praise and glory to His Kingdom, the weight bears down.

It really wasn’t until a series of events this past year that this 30-something came to this understanding.  While reading Tim Keller’s “Counterfeit Gods” I was awakened to the identity crisis I was in.  His definition of an idol spoke loudly to me, “…anything more important to you than God, anything that absorbs your heart and imagination more than God, anything you seek to give you what only God can give.”

My heart broke upon reading these words, knowing that I’d dishonored Him in my failing to properly esteem Him. I had some firmly established idols in my life. The most pronounced idols were that of the relationship I was in at the time and my determination to construct the map and steer my life in the direction I decided it should go. I earnestly prayed to shed the false idols and to find my identity in Him alone.  Initially, when I prayed this prayer, I didn’t truly understand what it meant.

Then I opened up Jennie Allen’s book “Anything”, and her words spoke God’s truths just as Keller’s had.  In “Anything”, she paints the picture of what it is to have one’s identity in Christ. It is a surrender that is willing to abandon EVERYTHING, to do ANYTHING for God.  Instantaneously I tasted the words “I can’t” and shame fell upon me, for it exposed the holes in my faith.

I didn’t want to leave the false security of my idolatrous dreams.  And yet I hungered and thirsted for God.  I was divided.  I wanted to have God in my image. I wrestled like Jacob.  And the end result was just the same, I was drawn closer to Christ. The truth of the bigness of my God and the smallness of my idols pervaded the discord.  I experienced the grace God mercilessly pours out to us, as undeserving as we are.

I must feed on the gospel habitually, for my identity in Christ is always under attack.

I must dwell on the greatness of my King, for old idols can easily steal back my  heart’s affection when my eyes fall short.  I must give up my life as I’d like to orchestrate it, to truly find life, life that is eternal and fulfilling.  I must let Christ alone define me, and disregard the lies the Devil whispers. I must pray fervently for His protection, for without Him I am weak. I must trust Him, “being confident of this, that He who began a good work in (me) will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 1:6).

I must surrender. My “I must” statements help me to guard against the vast empty pit of discontent from a misplaced identity.

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Readers,  What threatens your sense of identity? How can you find freedom from the pressures to define yourself?

Kate Franken is a 5th grade teacher, a lover of books, and a coffee connoisseur. She enjoys a good conversation, chases after her beautiful dogs, and serves as the volunteer coordinator at her church in Oregon. You can find her previous posts here.

The New Page

Author: Kate Franken

I was going through school to become a teacher, I remember expressing delight in having chosen a career in which I could embrace change each school year. Change was plausible, whether it be a change in students or a change in grade level. And now, in my tenth year of teaching, I detest September. With the start of each new school year, melancholy begins to loom. I miss my old students, I experience an inner lament for the children from the year before. Together we were a well-oiled machine. They know how I operate. They know the routines. They know my expectations. They get my sarcasm. They know me. The fresh faces of September, however, are haphazard and helter-skelter. Starting anew is just plain hard.

This past year, September’s song of starting anew brought distraught outside the classroom as well. I had just said goodbye to a relationship that I felt with certainty, for the first time ever, would lead to marriage, to a family. I loved deeper than ever before and at many levels. The man I had been in a relationship with had come with children that I embraced, loved, and cherished. It felt very much as though we were already a family, but we weren’t. And I wrestled with the truth that we would not be. Sitting in the midst of hopes not realized, left me discombobulated. As I faced what looked like a desolate frontier in front of me, I had my feet in the mud, not wanting to start anew.

I must hold fast to the assurance that The Lord has purpose in what He is doing. He is still sovereign each time He puts uncharted waters before me. He knows what is best and does what is best. As His servant, I am to humble myself before Him, in seeking to live in accordance with His will. My feet in the mud demeanor just won’t do, if I truly trust in Him. My ever-present prayer is that The Lord increase my trust in Him. I meditate on who I know Him to be. My hope. My rock. My salvation. My refuge.

Perspective shifts when we put our eyes on The Lord and properly esteem Him. No longer do things look desolate or devoid of ever receiving oil. Draw near to God, and He will draw near to you. (James 4:8) Much joy is found in the midst of deep waters, because it’s in the midst of those deep waters that we see Him. We see Him to be our one and only constant. Through it all, He remains. We see His steadfast love in the innumerable blessings He pours out into today. But we miss this opportunity, if we’re lost in yesterday or tomorrow. Seek Him and see the love and grace He has for you.

We are all errant people, and forget His goodness in a split second. This is true of me in September and other times throughout the year when things seem to be steered in unwanted directions. To diminish the frequency of such, I seek to talk to Him always, to faithfully read His Word, and to surround myself with a community of believers that will point me towards him again and again.

I know I am not alone in this. May we all move forward confidently, trusting His ways, and rest in the knowledge that He writes each of our stories beautifully—flawlessly. We may feel like we’re starting anew, but it’s just simply a new chapter in His book where more of His heroic nature is evident. As rescued people, we can rest in knowing that He is at the helm. With Jesus cast as the hero, hope is written on every page.

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope. (Romans 15:13)

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Readers, What new thing is God asking you to trust Him with? How can we pray for you this week?

Kate Franken is a 5th grade teacher, a lover of books, and a coffee connoisseur. She enjoys a good conversation, chases after her beautiful dogs, and serves as the volunteer coordinator at her church in Oregon.