Conditioned

If I find in myself desires which nothing in this world can satisfy, the only logical explanation is that I was made for another world. -C.S. Lewis

I’ve never really felt like I fit in. In high school I was well liked, made good grades and was successful in athletics, but I still felt out of place. Something inside my heart told me I wasn’t where I belonged. Even in college, surrounded by some of the greatest friends and community I’ve ever had, I never felt like I found where I truly thrived. Since I started truly chasing after Jesus I’ve learned those feelings were because I’m not created to fit in. I absolutely love the blessed life I’ve been given, but it’s a temporary fix because I’m a temporary resident on earth. I’m an alien (1 Peter 2:11). I’m a sojourner passing through this place for a few years before I meet my Maker. I’m not created for this world (John 15:19). I’m created to be in an intimate, satisfying relationship with the only One who truly knows my deepest desires and how to fulfill them. Until I meet Him face-to-face I will always feel out of place and in the mean time I’m called to use this life to make an impact that’s greater than popularity, making straight As and being on the starting lineup. I’m playing the role of a lighthouse.

The purpose of a lighthouse is to steer mariners, whilst in dense fog or dark nights, away from cliffs, land and shorelines, coral reefs and other potentially hazardous areas.

That’s my role on this earth – to emit a light that steers others away from the disaster of an eternity spent completely separated from their Maker. I’ve been called to shine so that others can sail into the safest harbor – God’s warm embrace.

My whole life has conditioned me to shine. And when I say shine, I’m not in the spotlight. There’s nothing above average about me. I just serve a God that uses ordinary people for His extraordinary glory. It’s not about me, it’s about Him. I am powerless, but He is POWERFUL. The only reason anything is accomplished through me is because the Holy Spirit is in my heart. I can love others and tell them about Jesus, but He is the One who
IMG_8811saves.

The same goes for Mission of Hope in Haiti. They are literally a city on a hill. Their main campus is located on a mountainside and their buildings are lit for people to see for miles in the dark. They are a beacon of hope shining the light of Jesus into the lives of others in their darkest hours. The organization is doing crazy awesome things in Haiti, but it’s all a result of God flexing His muscles and transforming lives. The Mission of Hope staff is simply walking in obedience to God’s will for their lives.

While in Haiti, it was evident that I was conditioned for the bugs, dirt, sweat, cold showers, long days and tight living quarters. I live in Austin now, but I grew up in the country. I may dress nice for work, but there’s a backwoods girl underneath the pleated slacks and mascara. As a child, I spent tons of time at my family’s deer camp, which happens to be six miles from electricity. In a nutshell, dirt becomes an accessory, bugs are IMG_8088everywhere, summers are HOT, and showers are optional. Playing collegiate volleyball also conditioned me to keep going when my body told me there was no gas left in the tank. In Haiti the days are long, the sun is brutal, but God is so good! There were points where I thought I couldn’t possibly keep going, but when my strength was failing, my Savior was strong. There is something beautiful about being at a point where you can no longer rely on your own strength. After years of afternoons in the outdoors, tough off-seasons, and spending tons of time with teammates on charter buses for hours, the Haitian mosquitos, bed bugs, dirt and our living arrangements felt like coming home.

As I’ve settled back into life in the States, I’ve realized I’ve found a home away from home and left a huge piece of my heart about as far away from the American Dream of a white picket fence and six-figure salary as you can get. Over the course of the week I spent in Haiti, God showed me that the fullest life can be lived in flamingo pink, ocean blue and sunshine yellow block homes that IMG_8179house some of the most beautiful and vibrant ivory smiles I’ve ever seen. He showed me that success isn’t measured by a good salary or nice home, but instead is measured best by obedience to His call.

God rocked my world in Haiti and I can’t wait to share more stories of His power and goodness. Stay tuned!

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The Least

“Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’

“Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’

“The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’”

Matthew 25:34-40

Clear Eyes, Full Hearts, Can’t Lose

What, then, shall we say in response 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, along with him, graciously give us all things? Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. Who then is the one who condemns? No one. Christ Jesus who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? As it is written:

“For your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.

No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 8:31-39

Holding-Hands-sunset

Five months ago I said “Yes.” Five months ago I committed to go to Haiti for eight days. In five days I leave with 13 others to serve and love like Jesus. I’ve never been more excited and I’ve never been more in love with people I haven’t met. With eyes clearly focused on the cross and hearts filled with the Holy Spirit, we are armed with the power of the Gospel, and we can’t lose. Victory was won over 2,000 years ago.

Protection, Provision and Port-au-Prince, Haiti

We have this hope as an anchor for our lives, safe and secure. -Hebrews 6:19

I’m just a product of grace spreading hope to the hopeless. In everything I do, I want to shine a glimmer of hope into people’s lives in their darkest hours. As a Christ follower, I want to help people realize better days are coming and have been promised by our Sovereign God. When we feel like the flood of life threatens to drown us, God is still sitting on His thrown making all things work together for our ultimate good. In the storms of life, He is the anchor of our soul keeping us afloat.

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away, and look, new things have come. -2 Corinthian 5:17

Over the course of my college career, God has transformed my heart and He continues to mold me into who He wants me to be daily. In the past four years I have served wholeheartedly for Fellowship of Christian Athletes at St. Edward’s University and throughout Texas at summer camps and retreats, and in Memphis, Tennessee over spring break. Every opportunity to serve has impacted my life and closer aligned my heart to God’s ultimate plan to make His name known across the globe. I’ve felt unworthy, uncomfortable, and fearful many times, but God has revealed to me that all of those insecurities are lies and has used these experiences to show me that my love story defined by His passionate pursuit of my heart has the power to impact lives for His kingdom.

A man’s heart plans his way, but the Lord determines his steps. -Proverbs 16:9

Recently God has laid it on my heart to once again use my spring break to make much of Him and less of me. In the last month, I’ve been praying for discernment for where He wants me to go. All of the options were appealing (Memphis, South Padre Island, Haiti) and would require me to take a leap of faith outside of my comfort zone to share the Good News of Jesus Christ. Internally and externally I’ve toyed with safety issues and the uncertainty of raising support for whichever trip I chose. After all, I’m graduating from college in a month, have no definitive plans, a dwindling savings account, and currently no place to live. So much of my life is up in the air, but oddly enough I’m worry free. Maybe, just maybe, this control freak is beginning to grasp what it truly means to let go, and let God determine my steps. Woah.

Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?” And I said, “Here am I. Send me!” -Isaiah 6:8

After much prayer, two weeks ago I made my decision. I’ve never felt more convicted or excited to share that I will be spending a week in Haiti with Mission of Hope. Serving in Memphis revealed to me what it’s like to have little in the United States and how God can make beautiful things out of dust. In Haiti, I look forward to seeing beauty amidst destruction, seeing joy in smiles of the children at the orphanage, and witnessing to the hope found in the Haitian communities.

As soon as I committed to the trip I had butterflies in the pit of my stomach in anxious anticipation for how God is going to reveal Himself to the Haitians I will be serving and to me. All the fears of safety and finances that consumed my thoughts have dissolved and as I begin writing support letters through tears of joy I’ve never felt more trusting of my loving Father. God has had His hand on me from the beginning of time and looking back it seems ludicrous that I ever feared for my safety or questioned His ability to provide for something that is apart of His will for my life. No, I have not raised enough support for the trip, but I have five months to watch God work and have complete faith in His provision. In the process, through conversations, support letters, and blogging, I get to share why I’m going to Haiti as another way to attest to God’s glory. How cool is that?!

Bondye Bon (God is good),

Meredith

P.S. If you are interested in supporting my trip, prayer is greatly appreciated. If you feel called to support financially, you can donate online at the link listed below. Be sure to include HAITI & MEREDITH BARD in the description line.

Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe everything I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age. -Matthew 28:19-20

 

Mission to Memphis: Day 6

“Consider it a great joy, my brothers, whenever you experience various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. But endurance must do its complete work, so that you may be mature and complete, lacking nothing.” -James 1:2-4

As I’m writing this, it’s 1:38am and our crew just finished playing sardines and signs throughout the church. My alarm is set for 5am to pack and head back to Tejas…it’s going to be a struggle to wake up, but that’s beside the point!

Another phenomenal day has come to a close in Memphis. Today we served at a church organizing rooms, libraries, wiping down walls, picking up “spiky balls” in the front yard and conversing with people who stopped by for the free lunches provided by our partners in crime from Iowa.

The highlight of the day was a conversation I was blessed to have with a mother and daughter. As we began to talk, the pair opened up about their lives and how they got where they are. My heart broke as the mother recalled being beaten by her boyfriend causing her to become disabled and miscarry her child. It took just about everything I had to hold back tears and continue listening. I couldn’t get past the pain this beautiful woman of God had endured.

When the pair left briefly, Jenny turned to me and pointed out how joyful the mother is despite many trials. That struck a cord as I recalled her finishing the tragic story and immediately following it by singing one of her favorite Beyonce songs. While I was consumed in her misfortunes, she had already moved on to discuss how much she loved music. What a beautiful display of JOY!

To top the conversation off, the daughter revealed her plans to attend college to study science and also shares her mother’s love for music. Hope and joy abound from two lovely ladies.

I’ll forever owe the two women a huge “thank you” for giving me a whole new perspective on what it means to be joyful through trials!

Grace and Peace from Memphis,

Mer 🙂

Mission to Memphis: Day 5

Laughter – such a joyful noise.

For those of you who know me, I’ve been blessed with an interesting laugh to say the least. You never know which one your going to get or how long it will last. Sorry I’m not sorry for the obnoxious sounds God has blessed me with. 😉

Today’s journey in Memphis was filled with laughter and it was absolutely beautiful. Our crew of 15 continues to grow together and become more of a family with every passing moment. So many inside jokes have surfaced and brocabulary is contagious. It’s absolutely amazing to see how God can throw together a diverse group to glorify Him and grow His Kingdom. We may have our different quirks but we have the most important thing in common – Jesus Christ is our Lord and Savior. Above any relationship, we are each other’s brothers and sisters in Christ and that is the strongest bond possible.

This week has certainly been “a time to laugh.” (Ecc. 3:4)

Grace and Peace,

Mer 🙂

Mission to Memphis: Day 4

“Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?” -1 Corinthians 15:55

I was served a slice of Humble Pie today as our group worked to clean Zion Christian Cemetery. And when I say clean, I really mean chopping down trees and brush with hand saws, axes, machetes, and loppers while digging up tombstones that were buried a foot underground. It was labor intensive work, but the Lord’s strength prevailed.

Here’s a little background information about our location: The cemetery is one of the first African American cemeteries in the country. The last person was buried there in the 1970s. Since then, those buried across the 17 acres have been disrespected tremendously. The cemetery has been used for drug deals and as a prostitution site. The project to restore the cemetery began in 2005 and over 100 groups have served on site.

My experience was capped off when I began clearing out some low brush with loppers. At first I thought I was going to chop down a few bushes and move onto the next grouping until I hit concrete. Underneath all the shrubbery was a tombstone. The Spirit took over as I was digging and I kept thinking “O death, where is your sting? O death, where is your victory?” Despite all the evil that has taken place on that soil, it was being destroyed. Those who’s bodies laid to rest were being dignified again.

My beautiful sister, Claire, eloquently stated her view on the Cemetery as follows:

Looking at the cemetery for the first time, the task seemed daunting. Only five acres have been cleared since the project began (in 2005) and there are at least twelve left to go. It’s easy to become disheartened by the task facing us. It’s only when we started to uncover the gravestones, one by one, that we realized that the mission is not simply to clear land. Every time a headstone revealed the name of someone who was laid to rest ages ago, that person springs alive, into the minds of a generation that had no knowledge of how time is simultaneous to God. Those who lay in Zion Christian Cemetery are now brought back into the lives of the living, and their families will no longer see an empty space in history where their ancestors were lost. One uncovered headstone is a victory for God and all of His children, those living and dead. THAT is the point of our mission, and it will be fulfilled, no matter how long that may take.

Grace and Peace from Memphis,

Mer 🙂

P.S. We celebrated God’s victory with Sonic Happy Hour!

Mission to Memphis: Day 2

“The word of the Lord came to me: I chose you before I formed you in the womb; I set you apart before you were born. I appointed you a prophet to the nations. But I protested, “Oh no, Lord, God! Look, I don’t know how to speak since I am [only] a youth.” Then the Lord said to me: Do not say, “I am [only] a youth,” for you will go to everyone I send you to and speak whatever I tell you. Do not be afraid of anyone, for I will be with you to deliver you. [This is] the Lord’s declaration. Then the Lord reached out His hand, touched my mouth, and told me: I have now filled your mouth with My words.” -Jeremiah 1:4-9

God doesn’t call the equipped, He equips the called.

This has been a reoccurring theme in my life the past year and today as we were introduced to Memphis.

This morning started with an awesome worship service led by Alex and a devotional led by John, two of the guys on the trip. It couldn’t have been more appropriate. The Spirit was moving as we made a joyful noise and talked about the ministry of Jeremiah. In 42 years he encountered pretty much everything you could imagine. Although no one responded to his ministry, it wasn’t an accident. Despite his youth and feelings of inadequacy Jeremiah happily served our awesome God.

Mark followed the devotion with his testimony – it was awesome! It’s so amazing to see how God writes each of our love stories and that each is absolutely perfect.

Our next stop was at Fellowship Downtown. The message was on Jesus’ transfiguration in Matthew 17:1-13. The message was absolutely incredible. What stood out the most was that Christ’s transfiguration must lead to our transformation. If you’ve accepted Christ and nothing about your life has changed, something’s wrong. Talk about powerful words that call for a gut check!

And of course there was a tie in to God calling the weak and unequipped. History is proof of that. God’s used murderers, youth, and prostitutes to show his strength in those who are weak. His majesty is manifested in our weakness. He uses our brokenness as a platform to show His glory.

Next our day included a talk on Jesus calling his disciples. During Christ’s time, becoming a Rabbi was the highest honor that all Jewish men ultimately desired. Those who didn’t make the “cut” for Rabbi school were sent home to learn their families craft. Here’s where it gets super awesome – when Christ called Peter and Andrew to follow him, they’d already been sent home. They didn’t make the cut, but Christ changed the game. He said they were worthy to spread the Gospel and that’s exactly what they did. Absolutely incredible.

Still having doubts about God’s ability to use you? Cast them aside, they’re lies from the enemy. God calls you where you’re at. All you have to do is say “YES”! Nothing God does is an accident. He’s ordained you to be exactly where you are to serve as His hands and feet.

Grace and Peace,

Mer 🙂

P.S.

After spending time at the Civil Rights Museum, playing a little Wah and Ninja outside the church, eating an amazing dinner homemade by our team, learning how to play signs and recounting how our lives have been impacted today, you’d think we’d call it a night – WRONGO! Worshipping again and loving it!