take heart

I won’t pretend a blog post shared on Facebook carries a ridiculous amount of influence, but the truth is that I have a voice and I want to use it.

In case you’ve missed it, the Syrian city of Aleppo has become a hell on earth over the last few years as varying forces battle to take control of the city. The past few days have seen heavy escalation of fighting, and there have been hundreds of civilian deaths. I won’t get into the details or politics of it all because admittedly, I don’t know enough to comment on all of that. Just know this: what is happening in Aleppo is ugly and evil and people are dying.

No, I can’t tell you the specifics of the international relations within the mess that is Syria. But I can tell you this: this summer, I spent 5 weeks in Germany, hearing stories and meeting friends in various refugee camps. So many of the kind and gracious people that I met were Syrian, forced to flee their homes in the face of unimaginable violence. Their heartbreaking stories are hard to forget. But even harder to forget is their strength, their generosity, and their stubborn hope.

As I sit here, reading the news from the battleground that is Aleppo, stomach turning, one face stands out. A beautiful, bright, 9 year old girl that I spent an afternoon laughing with at one of the camps this past July. Let’s call her S. She and her family had fled from their life in Aleppo earlier in the year.

I can tell you she was wearing a dress with purple flowers, and that we ran around together and played volleyball for a few hours. I can tell you that through some beautiful act of hope and resilience, little S was brimming with laughter and couldn’t stop smiling. I can tell you she had a butterfly painted on her hand.

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I can tell you she’s just a child – no different than us, than our children – who by the grace of God was able to escape her city, her home. Her home, where in just one day this week at least 13 innocent children have been killed, and possibly more than 100 children were trapped beneath a collapsed building under heavy attack.

These are hard pills to swallow. We see the headlines, the heartbreaking news stories, and we almost have to distance ourselves, to compartmentalize it all as “someone else’s problem.” We tell ourselves that someone else will help, that there’s nothing we can do.

Friends, we have to stop feeding ourselves those lies. This crisis is not a distant problem, affecting a faceless group of people somewhere far away. These are human beings, our brothers and sisters – and we have to stop looking away. We have to stop looking away.

I think of my friend S and her smile and her dress and the butterfly on her hand and I praise God that she is safe in Germany – but there are so many just like her who are not.

Here’s the thing we must realize: Aleppo, and Mosul, and Raqqa, and all of these broken and hurting cities across Syria, Iraq, and beyond are not hopeless. They are not helpless. 

In the face of unimaginable tragedy and evil, we ask ourselves “what could I even do?” and too often end up doing nothing. But the good news is this: there’s a lot to do, if we’re willing.

You, person reading this, can help. And I really hope that you do. Even if you’re a poor college kid stressed about finals, there’s something you can do. Even if you’re someone who knows nothing about what’s happening in the Middle East, there’s something you can do. This last part I’ll borrow from Ann Voskamp’s post because she presents it perfectly:

We can look you, the kids of Aleppo, in the eyes right now and do just these 3 things:

1. Donate to Relief Efforts:

Preemptive Love Coalition is on the ground, feeding fleeing families. 

2. Support Global Refugee Efforts:

Because when we’re pro-life, pro-human — we are always pro-refugees

If we say that we stand with Christ — now is the time to stand with the fleeing.

Because the Christ Child who came to this pale blue marble in the cosmos, He was the Child who knew violence and fleeing, who knew bloodshed and bodies of children laying in the streets, and how can we celebrate Christmas and not stand with the refugee — because that is exactly what Jesus was?

Now is the time, the world needs you to stand as one of the  10,000 people needed to take a stand with the refugee by January 20, 2017 —

 Sign your name as one of the 10,000 on the petition at WeWelcomeRefugees

3. and be one of the ones who Welcome, Jesus, the Refugee: 

Welcome/sponsor a fleeing refugee family in the United States 

How but for the grace of God go I — go all of us? 

Our  children are breaking in Aleppo and there isn’t one of our hearts that shouldn’t be breaking too.

So please, take a minute to not just be shocked or scared or saddened, but to be the hands and feet of our King. To pray. As in actual-get-down-on-your-knees-right-now and pray for an outpouring of His mercy, His peace, His rescue and comfort and strength in Aleppo and beyond. We need Jesus. The world needs Jesus. This is the season of celebrating our Savior’s coming, celebrating that He is Emmanuel, God with us. He is a King that came to us, as a baby in a manger, to be a rescuer and redeemer – so let’s pray for rescue and redemption. What a perfect time it is to love and give a little more, because He loved and gave it all first.

There is so much to be done. We cannot do it all, but we can do something. So please, take a minute, and do something.

heidtkes take colorado: summer edition

It’s that time again, folks: another fam vacay means another fam music video. This time, we got to spend a few days in the exceptionally beautiful state of Colorado. (I’d never been there in the summer and was/still am amazed by it all.)

We’d like to give a huge thank you to the wonderful Womble family for letting us stay at their home! We’re thankful for y’all.

So here it is – enjoy!

bring them here to me

Now when Jesus heard this, he withdrew from there in a boat to a desolate place by himself. But when the crowds heard it, they followed him on foot from the towns. When he went ashore he saw a great crowd, and he had compassion on them and healed their sick. Now when it was evening, the disciples came to him and said, ‘This is a desolate place, and the day is now over; send the crowds away to go into the villages and buy food for themselves.’ But Jesus said, ‘They need not go away; you give them something to eat.’ They said to him, ‘We have only five loaves here and two fish.’ And he said, ‘Bring them here to me.’ Then he ordered the crowds to sit down on the grass, and taking the five loaves and the two fish, he looked up to heaven and said a blessing. Then he broke the loaves and gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the crowds. And they all ate and were satisfied. And they took up twelve baskets full of the broken pieces left over. And those who ate were about five thousand men, besides women and children.”  Matthew 14:13-21

This is the passage I cracked my Bible open to a few mornings ago. It’s a story those of us who grew up in church have heard countless times – it’s a classic picture of the Lord’s power and provision, and would certainly have a spot on Jesus’ “Greatest Hits” album.

But as I read it again in the bright quiet of the morning, five words stuck out to me in a way they never had before: “Bring them here to me.”

The thing is, the disciples were completely within reason to suggest that the Lord start wrapping up the day’s work and let the crowds head home for supper. They had probably heard a few stomachs growl, or maybe someone had asked them if they had a package of those little peanut butter crackers to spare – they knew the people were getting hungry.

I’m trying to imagine what my reaction would’ve been if I had heard Jesus’ response of “you give them something to eat.” A deriding laugh would probably be my first move, if we’re being honest. “Okay, that’s sweet, Jesus,” I’d say, “and I mean, I like the idea. But, listen – we literally only have five loaves of bread and two fish. There are over 5,000 people out here. I don’t think that it’s gonna happen.” I may not have taken a math class in over a year, but I don’t think those numbers divide super easily.

Jesus could plainly see the small amount of food that was available. Jesus could plainly see the swelling crowds. And yet, his response was not, “Oh shoot, y’all! My bad, you guys are so right. Why don’t you run down to HEB and pick up – lemme think, one, two, three, uh, a few thousand more loaves real fast?”

No, He saw the loaves, and He saw the fish, and His response was simple and straightforward – “bring them here to me.”

Jesus knew that logistically there was not a lot to work with, that the disciples had little to offer on their own. He knew that what they were bringing was certainly not enough to complete the task at hand. But those realities did not concern Him.

The story doesn’t tell us how the disciples’ reacted to this command – if skepticism, or cynicism, or pessimism flitted across their hearts and flashed on their faces. We don’t even see a direct line in the story saying that the disciples gave the food to Jesus. But we know that someone handed it over, because the next thing we see is the Lord blessing the food amongst the crowd. And before we know it, everyone’s had a share – and not just an Oliver-Twist-please-sir-I-want-some-more portion, but a serving that was satisfying, plus a 12-basket overflow.

What the disciples neglected to take into account is that the Lord delights Himself in taking our “not enough” and, by His power and for His glory, making it “more than we could ever dare hope or imagine.” God is a God of multiplication, of abundance, who lavishes us with grace.

And that command He so simply laid before the disciples is the same command that He lays before us each day: bring it here to me.

Lord, I feel like I have nothing to offer you. I am not enough.

Bring it to Me. 

God, there are ugly parts of me that no one knows about. What could you do with those?

Bring it to Me.

Jesus, I so want to be used by You, but don’t think I have what it takes to make a difference.

Bring it to Me. 

He doesn’t ask us to spend years striving to be perfect, and then one shining day bring that finished project to His feet. That day will never come. We’ll never have anything of ourselves that is enough for Him. We’ll never have 5,000 loaves on our own. But He doesn’t ask us for perfection. He asks us to bring what we have and leave it in His hands that are open and waiting. He asks that we trust that He is faithful to take the little we bring, and multiply it for His glory.

As Elisabeth Elliot so beautifully said, “leave it all in the Hands that were wounded for you.” That is what the Lord is calling us to, moment by moment. Bring it to me, my child. All that we think we are, all that we think we aren’t. Our hopes, fears, and passions. Our whole, messy lives, laid in His hands, surrendered.

“I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.”  Romans 12:1-2 

I am so quick to think that the Lord could never use me for anything more than a simple, contained life. Just like the disciples, I look at the little I have in the same way they saw their loaves and fish, wondering how it could ever make any difference when there are thousands of empty stomachs out there. I hear them desperately say, “It’s simply not enough food, Jesus.”

And like them, I hear myself say, “Lord, I am not enough. There are so many people who don’t know You, there is so much injustice and pain in this world that it’s impossible to fathom. I want to live for your glory, but how could You ever use me?”

And I hear Him call back, “Hannah, you’re right. You are not enough.” He says it simply, gently. “But I never asked you to be. I, my child, am enough.”

He is more than enough. Yes, the need is great. The task seems impossible. I have little to offer. But He is God. And He is in the business of using the obedience and surrender of a few to bless the many in abundance. He desires to use us to unleash the Gospel in the world. And the first step is to bring it all to Him.

Lord, that we may bring it all to You. That we may lay our lives down at Your feet and be willing to follow where you go. That we may trust You to use our surrender in mighty ways for Your glory. You are good, God, and You are worthy of it all. Thank You for being more than enough.

heidtkes take colorado: christmas awakens

I usually write a little blurb when I post our family music videos…but this one really just speaks for itself.

o come, o come

Last night as we were driving around, my dear friend Meredith turned to me and asked how I was doing with what’s about to be the second Christmas without Mom.

I’m going to be honest here for a minute: sometimes it feels like Christmas sucks. A lot of that can be attributed to the months of hype – the sensi holiday commercials, the storefront decorations that seem to come out in October, ABC Family’s 25 Days of Christmas (and now ABC Family’s Countdown to 25 days of Christmas – because 25 days simply isn’t enough), all promising you that this will be the best holiday yet, that everything will be perfect and shining and magical.

But the reality is that rarely is anything perfect and shining and magical. No, a lot of things are broken, and dirty, and painful. And when you hold the reality of many of our lives up against this glistening ideal of Christmas, it falls short. Really short.

December rolls around, and suddenly we’re being bombarded with messages that this is the season to revel in the holly-jolly-joyfulness of our lives. But the plain fact is that there is deep and real pain in so many of our hearts, and it makes this holly-jolly-joyfulness seem far, far, away.

Now obviously, no one wants their Christmas to suck. But we live in this fallen world where depravity, disease, divorce, and death tear ragged holes in our hearts, leaving aching wounds that the holiday season all too often pours salt on.

We are indeed a weary world.

It’s easy to stop there, to subject this Christmas season to a time of sadness, loss, and dashed hopes. It’s easy to hold on tight to the heaviness of the pain we’re carrying and keep our heads down in an attempt to just pass through this season as fast as we can.

Yes, we’re a weary world. But when we look up, we remember that we are a weary world rejoicing. And I’m not talking about the flimsy, sleighbells-ringin’ jolliness. I’m talking about true, deep, lasting, and ever-present joy.

In these last few weeks I’ve felt that I’m in some way excluded from the excitement and delight of Christmas, because in my life, this time of year carries with it so much hurt. It’s as if I’m standing outside in the damp cold, watching everyone else laugh and dance by the glow of the fire through a snowy window, longing to be inside but the doors are bolted shut. But to let myself believe that – to feel alone and hopeless – is to miss what Christmas is entirely.

Because the fact is, it is only because of Christmas, because of our Savior’s birth, that this weary world can rejoice at all. Jesus Christ is our thrill of hope, He is the new and glorious morn breaking through our darkness and bearing peace. He came to bring us all from the dark, bitter cold, and into the steadfast warmth of His presence. And He doesn’t just see me through the window out in the snow and leave the door unlocked – He throws it open and runs out to carry me in.

But before He could come to me, to you, He needed to first come to earth. And that is what we celebrate this season.

O Come, O Come, Emmanuel. You can so clearly hear the eager, aching longing.

O Come, O Come, Emmanuel. He did, and we rejoice in that.

O Come, O Come, Emmanuel. And yet it’s still the song of our hearts as we, broken people, walk through this broken world.

O Come, O Come, Emmanuel. But what’s most beautiful of all is that He is coming again.

And this season (and every season), it is because of this promised and coming second Christmas that we find hope, joy, and peace, even and especially in the midst of our pain.

Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel, shall come the thee, O Israel. 

“For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” – Isaiah 9:6

be still

So, it’s been a while, and now I’m 20 years old and this blog is three years old and both of those things are crazy and wild, and life in general is crazy and wild, but I’ve realized at this point that that’s a given. Another given that I’m daily reminded of is the fact that God is good and He’s good and He’s good and He’s good, and I could type a five page blog post with only those two words and it would still not even begin to represent the heaviness and bigness of His goodness.

This morning, for the first time in too long, I cracked open my window to let in the crisp, fresh, it’s-mid-November-and-finally-starting-to-feel-like-it air, sat down at my desk with my Bible and a pen, and threw my phone to the other side of the room. It was quiet, save the gentle whisper of wind and the not so gentle sound of the train horn every now and then. And wow, it was beautiful.

To put it simply, I was still. And the sad truth is, I think this morning was the first time I have been truly still since this summer, when I was sitting on a deserted island in the middle of Indonesia (no annoying train sounds there). Can you believe that? Four entire months have passed since I last fully felt the quiet that I did this morning. That’s not good.

Something that the Lord has been trying to show me throughout these past few months of sophomore year is the importance of being still, of resting, of trusting, of soaking in His presence and letting it cover and fill me. And throughout these past few months, I haven’t listened at all.

It’s hard to be quiet, you guys. It’s hard to focus your mind and still your thoughts when there are so many other things screaming for your attention. I think what’s most difficult to balance is the fact that not all of the things we find distracting are bad – some are good, and helpful. But there is one thing that is best.

A few weeks ago, I was tired of feeling like I was in this funk with God – so I ran off to Mugwalls and just journaled for an hour or two. If you looked at my first few months of college on paper, I shouldn’t have been in a funk –  I was reading my Bible most days, going to church and Bible study, spending time in prayer. But my heart was caught up in other things. I may as well have been reading the back of a cereal box most mornings, with the way I was quick to let God’s truths fly in one ear and out the other, absorbing nothing, mind elsewhere.

So that night at Mugs, I word-vomited into my journal, admitting that something needed to change. At the end of my spiel I made a checklist of things to do that would hopefully get me and Jesus back on track. And I woke up the next morning and tried to start working for God. And two weeks passed, and nothing was really different. And then a few days ago, I opened up to Luke 10 and read about good ol’ Mary and Martha.

And shoot, I realized what it means to say the Word of God is a double-edged sword, because it stabbed me right in the face with truth.

Now as they went on their way, Jesus entered a village. And a woman named Martha welcomed him into her house. And she had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to his teaching. But Martha was distracted with much serving. And she went up to him and said, ‘Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her then to help me.’ But the Lord answered her, ‘Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.’” – Luke 10:38-42

I am Martha. I think a lot of us are Martha these days. My checklist that night at Mugwalls, while good-intentioned, was purely about works. Doing more of this, less of that. The thing is, having tangible actions of obedience are good, and Martha wanting to serve was good – but nothing is as good as just sitting at the feet of Jesus and being still, soaking up His presence.

The care you can hear in “Martha, Martha,” floors me every time. I imagine our girl Martha flustered, with stray hairs everywhere, wiping sweat off her brow and letting out a frustrated exhale – when Jesus stands up, smooths her hair down, rests His hands solidly on her shoulders, and says, with the utmost gentleness and authority, that one thing is necessary, and that one thing is Him.

Yes, faith without works is dead. But I cannot work and strive to bring things to Jesus. I can’t come running up to Him with my journal, saying, “look, Jesus! I read my Bible today and wrote some things down! We’re good now, right?” He doesn’t ask me to run to Him, showing some list of “look what I did for You.”

No, He calls me to simply come and sit a while at His feet and soak up His presence, as He stretches out His arms and says, “No, child, look what I did for you.”

We don’t have to work to earn His presence, His love, His grace – they are gifts freely given. And when we sit under the waterfall of who He is, His love and grace pour out in power. Oh, that we may just stand under it and be consumed. Covered. Drowned. Filled. By Him and His truth alone. That we may just be still.

But gosh, sometimes things in life happen where it is hard to be still. Storms come screaming in, and can seem to rage on endlessly. This morning, in the quiet, I read Psalm 107:28-31, which says: “They cried to the Lord in their trouble, and He delivered them from their distress. He made the storm be still, and the waves of the sea were hushed. Then they were glad that the waters were quiet, and He brought them to their desired haven. Let them thank the Lord for his steadfast love, for his wondrous works to the children of man!”

We serve a God that stills storms and hushes the waves of the sea. Jesus rebukes the wind and waves in Mark 4, and they obey. And yet it is so hard to be still, to trust, to rest in the midst of life’s tempests. Yes, storms come and they snap the masts off our old wooden ships, and frigid crashing waves take the breath out of our lungs and knock us straight to our knees. One day skies are bright and clear and the next day your mom is battling cancer. One day you’re eighteen years old and your mom dies of cancer. One day you’re twenty and are still nowhere near done processing through the fact that your mom died of cancer. Yeah, those are storms, to say the least. Yeah, those are hard times to be still and know.

When we’re in the midst of the sea with a broken ship and wrecking waves, we have options. I could stand and exhaust myself trying to mend a mast the size of a redwood – a choice that, despite my best intentions, would only leave me more tired, hurt, and anxious. Not to mention the fact that I’d be working tirelessly on a task I simply couldn’t do on my own. My other choice is this: I could go against every natural instinct and stay on my knees, trusting that not only can the Lord right my mast in the blink of an eye – but knowing that He can calm the storm itself.

The waves that break me answer to Him. And at last, He will bring us to a haven where storms are nothing but a distant memory. His love is steadfast in the midst of both the most terrifying storm and glassiest sea. When wind and waves come, He doesn’t leave.

He doesn’t promise to stop every storm – that we will gently float through life, perpetually warm, dry, and comfy with the wind at our backs. But He tells us that no storm will ever sink us completely.

This isn’t the Titanic where Rose says, “I’ll never let go, Jack,” but then freakin’ lets go when they totally could’ve both fit on the door. Jesus says He’ll never let us go, and so He never lets us go. Storms and icebergs may shatter us to our core, but because of Jesus’ work on the cross, because of His death and resurrection – we are guaranteed in the end to drop anchor in a safe haven. For eternity. All we have to do, all we can do, is believe, accept, and be still.

Psalm 16:11 tells us that in His presence is fullness of joy – a joy that I do not have to work for, a joy that I could never earn, a joy not dependent of life’s circumstances, and a joy that is attainable even in the middle of life’s ugliest storms. It’s a joy that is waiting for me, and for you, if we just take a quiet moment to sit in His presence and be still.

“Be still and know that I am God, I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!” Psalm 46:10 

 Be Still My Soul
words by Ka­tha­ri­na A. von Schle­gel, 1752
trans by Jane L. Borth­wick, 1855

Be still, my soul: the Lord is on thy side.
Bear patiently the cross of grief or pain.
Leave to thy God to order and provide;
In every change, He faithful will remain.
Be still, my soul: thy best, thy heavenly Friend
Through thorny ways leads to a joyful end.

Be still, my soul: thy God doth undertake
To guide the future, as He has the past.
Thy hope, thy confidence let nothing shake;
All now mysterious shall be bright at last.
Be still, my soul: the waves and winds still know
His voice Who ruled them while He dwelt below.

Be still, my soul: when dearest friends depart,
And all is darkened in the vale of tears,
Then shalt thou better know His love, His heart,
Who comes to soothe thy sorrow and thy fears.
Be still, my soul: thy Jesus can repay
From His own fullness all He takes away.

Be still, my soul: the hour is hastening on
When we shall be forever with the Lord.
When disappointment, grief and fear are gone,
Sorrow forgot, love’s purest joys restored.
Be still, my soul: when change and tears are past
All safe and blessèd we shall meet at last.

Be still, my soul: begin the song of praise
On earth, believing, to Thy Lord on high;
Acknowledge Him in all thy words and ways,
So shall He view thee with a well pleased eye.
Be still, my soul: the Sun of life divine
Through passing clouds shall but more brightly shine.

heidtkes take italy/greece (ft. the aggie men’s basketball team)

For the past ten days, the fam has had the incredible opportunity of tagging along on the Texas A&M Men’s Basketball Team exhibition trip to Italy and Greece. We spent a week and a half taking in all of the beautiful sights, eating our weight in delicious food, and watchin the Ags BTHO various international teams. It was, as our British tour guide would say, bloody brilliant.

And of course, as you may have come to expect by now, we made a music video – featuring a few cameos from some of the team, and even Coach Kennedy himself. Thank you to everyone on the trip for making it such an unforgettable experience!