Sunday, November 3, 2013

Becoming Bitter.

I'm tired of blogs about waiting for your prince charming, things to do/you're not a failure articles for 20 somethings, and "relevant" Christians weighing in singleness in the church.

Just stop.

Why do we search for comfort in other peoples' triumph stories and cling to hope birthed from their earthly happiness? Why do we rank accomplishments in our life such as getting married, having kids, and having a successful career in front of the one thing that God put us on this earth to do?

Don't get me wrong, I am all for all of those things. Though these things are good, I'm not going to throw away what I believe are wonderful opportunities out of fear of going into ministry as a single woman. Yes, I want to get married. That is something that has been one of my deepest desires for as long as I can remember. Yes, I want to have children. I want to raise them up in knowing their God-given purpose and instill in them the hope that needs to be spread through this world like wildfire. Both of these are things that I desire deep down within my heart, but neither of them will ever debilitate my ministry if they do not become a reality in my life.

I have grown so worn, saddened, and tired from the question of whether or not I am going to wait until I find a husband before I start my ministry.  Am I so crazy for thinking that God isn't limited by my marital status? Not only do I get questioned about my future love life, but I also get drilled about how I need to look for a job that will make me some good money so that I can live a life that is financially comfortable. The last time I checked, Jesus said "go." He didn't say "go" after you find a husband, "go" after you are settled in with children, and he didn't say "don't go" because you've found yourself a wonderful career opportunity. He flat-out just said to GO.

"Go" for some people may be 5 minutes down the street or it might be in a country you barely know anything about. Where does not matter... God can use you wherever you may find yourself. What matters is that you are being obedient to His commands and telling of the hope that is in Christ.

Here's my beef with Christians who are posting these blogs: We, as a church, are feeding ourselves the idea that God owes us something whether it's a partner, a good job, children, etc. We've become demanding consumers of God's blessings. We see others' circumstances and we demand that God honor those desires of our hearts. But here's the problem... God doesn't owe us anything. In fact, we all deserve only one thing, and one thing only. That one thing is death. It doesn't matter if we have sinned once or a million times, we all deserve death. Depressing, right? But here comes the wonderful truth: God gave us hope through His son and He defeated death by death. As far as I'm concerned, Jesus is enough.

JESUS. IS. ENOUGH. He is more than any happiness marriage, children, or worldly success could ever bring me. He will sustain me and give me joy in all areas of life. He is all I need.

So whenever I start to doubt whether God can use me as I am, I will ask myself, "Is Jesus enough?" The moment I stop answering that question with a "yes" will be the moment that I have failed myself and God. I pray that moment will never come to pass and that I never put limitations on God's ability to use me as a single woman. Jesus is enough and He is everything.




Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Wake Up Call

I read a startling and sad statistic tonight:
20% of "non-Christians" in North America do not know a single Christ follower...
WHAT?!?
http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2013/august-web-only/non-christians-who-dont-know-christians.html

This is not okay. At all. Not only are we, as Christ followers, dropping the ball in the realm of loving our neighbor, but we are missing valuable opportunities to invest in peoples lives... people whom God loves deeply and from whom we could learn a lot from. This statistic screams disregard for the second greatest commandment that Jesus gave: LOVE OTHERS.

We need to step out of our protective and comfortable "Christian bubbles." I do not say that to belittle the importance of community within the church, but there comes a point when we restrict ourselves too greatly out of fear of people who are different from us. Jesus went to the Gentiles, and we need to go to people of other faiths to share in community with them. Own the lostness around you and start loving people without discrimination due to religion.

If we aren't proclaiming the gospel, what are we doing? Answer: Not fulfilling God's call for our lives. We have an incredible opportunity as Americans. Our country is bursting with diversity. Take advantage of that and expand your worldview. We have the greatest truth that anyone could ever hear and it would be awfully selfish to keep it to ourselves. In fact, if we love God as much as we like to say we do, we wouldn't be able to keep the gospel to ourselves. We are commanded to be the hands of feet of Jesus... so, GO!

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Fear.

Since coming to here in June, one phrase has been burned into my mind and heart: You're living in fear. Usually, it's used for simple and almost comic circumstances, such as when I fled in fear of the massive June bugs as we racked hay one evening or when Jeff would get a little crazy behind the wheel on our way to GoraĹžde. But in the few times that it hasn't been a joke, there are deep and almost sickening implications laying behind such a seemingly simple statement. You're living in fear. What does that even mean? Well, I am here to tell you what that has meant for me in the last two months.

First, I think it would be beneficial to see what the world defines as fear:
Fear (noun) is an unpleasant emotion caused by the belief that someone or something is dangerous, likely to cause pain, or a threat.

What does fear mean in the lives of those who follow Christ?
Living in fear should not even be an option for those who are pursuing Christ with everything in them. "The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship. And by him we cry, "Abba, Father." (Romans 8:15) Fear is not of God, and it is God who casts it out with His love. Not living in fear is realizing that your life is not your own. What would happen in the world if Christians quit living in fear? Fear of discomfort. Fear of rejection. Fear of leaving the American dream. Fear of leaving family and loved ones. Fear of failure. Fear of the unknown. Fear of death... I am convinced that this world be completely turned upside-down.

Jesus told His followers to "go". Whether that is in your neighborhood, community, state, country, or in a country you didn't even knew existed, GO. Too often we skim over those uncomfortable and challenging passages in the bible such as The Rich Ruler in Luke 18. Church, we have become too attached to earthly things like family, marriage (finding the right person and then you can worry about serving God after), the American dream, possessions, and being comfortable. We have become so afraid of leaving the things we have become used to behind and fail to realize that we are actually elevating those things above God. Just thinking about leaving those things makes us anxious because we have never known anything else.

Fear is a choice. It is a choice to place a veil over your eyes to block out things that God could be calling you to. If we truly love God and truly believe in His promises, there is no room for fear in our lives. "There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love." (1 John 4:18) My guess is (and I am speaking for myself at this time) is that if fear of "going" is holding me back from building God's kingdom on earth, I need to seriously reevaluate my love for and commitment to Christ.

I often think of Dr. Seuss's Oh, the Places You'll Go! and subconsciously replace the word "you'll" with "you could." "Could have" is probably my least favorite phrase in the English language, closely followed by "would have" and "should have." These phrases carry the implication of failure to me. Usually, they come to mind when I think of missed opportunities. I am not one to dwell on past, but I would be lying if I said that they don't bring me some sadness when I hear them being spoken of my life. It for this reason that I have recently challenged myself to immediately stop and go back as soon as I realize that a opportunity is in danger of becoming a "should have," "would have," or "could have" situation. The grips of my fear of certain situations and what could come from them is becoming less and less powerful. Let's not be a church of "would/should/could haves" and let's be driven by our love of Christ to serve.

All of this craziness to say, I have been prayerfully considering coming back here full time after school. The more I am here, the more God is revealing to me truth that I, myself, have veiled my eyes from seeing and ears from hearing. I am pursuing God's plans for me here and I truly believe that God is opening my eyes to the lostness here and opportunities that exist for me to involve myself in here. Fear is not going to have a hold on my life in this decision. Yes, I love my family dearly and will miss a lot of really important events in their lives being here. Yes, I will miss my incredible friends and their company. Yes, I do believe that God could use me at home, in America. BUT 1) all of those things are comfortable and 2) none of those things come before God. None of them. This is me making the conscious decision to put God first and not living in fear. He already crushed fear on the cross... hallelujah!

That's where I am in this very moment. Stay tuned for updates and more of the craziness that happens in my head.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Never Ceasing.

Rest seems to be scarce these days.
Not because I don't get enough time to sleep at night.
Not because I have been working too vigorously.
Not because I don't take opportunities throughout the day to take a moment and recollect myself.
No, this is more like a spiritual unrest. Why? Honestly, I have no idea. Is it bad? I don't think so. What I do know is that because of this state of unrest, I have had many opportunities arise from it.

My mind never stops going. Or should I say my prayers never stop going. No, they are not fancy, complicated ones. Just simply prayers about doubts, fears, feelings of inadequacy, being overwhelmed, asking for strength, opportunities, clarity, and the list goes on and on...

For the overwhelming majority of my life, prayer had always been an incredibly intimidating action to me. Perhaps it was through the fear of being the one in the youth group called out to close the evening of fellowship with a group prayer or listening to people (who I believed to be much higher than me in "God's ranks of spirituality") who had these wonderful, complex prayers with words I had never even dreamed of. Bottom line: I felt inadequate when it came to corporate prayer. But those feelings didn't stop there. My fear carried over into my personal prayer life. I felt as though I shouldn't talk to God unless I had something important to say or unless I had this eloquent doxology prepared. My view of God was extremely flawed.

As a young believer, I read 1 Thessalonians 5:17 and instantly felt this strange sense of oppression. Was it even possible to go throughout your entire day without ceasing to pray? I didn't think so, at least for myself. This passage, which was meant to eschatologically encourage the believers in Thessalonica seemed to have the opposite effect on me. I have only begun to understand what Paul meant in this past year. Being in constant prayer isn't fumbling around like a man trying desperately to keep an inevitably dying conversation going with a woman who is clearly not interested, but being in a union of spirit. It's seeing the world around you through spiritually tuned eyes. It's about constantly being open to opportunities and then being obedient to the ones that the spirit leads you to. It's about making God a part of every aspect of your day and always being mindful of the hope that He has given you.  

As I reflect on this past week, I am thankful for this "unrest". In fact, I think I have finally fallen out of a deep sleep of sorts and am finally trying to become in tune to where the spirit is leading. Throughout the next weeks, months, etc., I am going to challenge myself to look at the world around me in a different way. I have been "resting" for far too long, and the result has been me becoming numb to my surroundings, even in a somewhat new context, such as Bosnia.

How has my view of prayer changed in the last few years? Now I see that prayer is:
Prayer is communion. Prayer is a refuge. Prayer is vulnerable. Prayer is messy. Prayer is desperate. Prayer is comforting. Prayer is stretching. Prayer is love. Prayer is encouraging. Prayer is direct. Prayer is something to be treasured. Prayer is a necessity. Prayer is personal.

God knows the depths of my heart. All day, every day. He knows what I need before I ask for it. I am thankful that God desires me as the filthy human that I am, who is in desperate need of His love and grace. Recognizing that is enough for Him. I thankful for a God who is in constantly opens doors, encourages us, challenges us, and speaks to us. He desires to be in communion with His people (which blows my mind). HALLELUIAH!

Monday, June 24, 2013

Saying Goodbye and Swallowing Pride.

This has been a sad week for my friends here:
This week we said goodbye to our friend, Sega, who has been close friends with The workers here basically since they moved to Bosnia. On Saturday morning, Sega ended his battle with liver cancer. Though I did not spend a ton of time with Sega, I do not that every second spent with him was a joy. From doing corny push ups on the wall of the house while he waited on us, to almost getting run over by a semi while doing aerobics in the road, Sega kept us entertained. His kindness will never be forgotten among those whose lives he touched.
Another dear friend to The full time workers lost her husband yesterday morning. They have been spending their time trying to comfort these two families and helping them out in any way possible.

I say all of this to say that though I have only been in for a little under 2 weeks, this summer has been nothing like I thought it would be. But I am now realizing that that is OKAY.

My selfishness has been in overdrive this week, and I am embarrassed to even share this. The in the past few days, two sweet families' lives were being changed forever and all I could think about is when I'm going to be able dive into my projects for the next six months. Sometimes, I get so caught up in whether or not I'm being "used" by God and I'm not even giving God room to use me in the place that He needs me most.

God has a way of smacking us in the face with hard truths in times of extreme selfishness. As believers, we want to believe that God has a huge and complex plan for each and every second of our lives...

Church, we've missed the point.

Yes, we are vessels of love. Yes, we are the hands and feet. Yes, God has given us purpose. But, am I so crazy for thinking that maybe God doesn't have a specific plan for our lives? Am I crazy for thinking that God doesn't present us with a right or wrong path when it comes to college, jobs, etc.? Why do we have to limit God's ability to move in our lives?

To relate back to my situation: Why do I believe that I have to be in a specific outreach/role to be effective here? Answer: I shouldn't, and I think this belief is rooted deep within the pride of believers today. Maybe what God is trying to teach me is to be in the moment and not to limit His ability to move in my everyday conversations and actions. After all, our God-given purpose is to solely live it out and tell of the hope that He has given us. If we are doing that in whatever place or situation we may find ourselves in, I truly believe that God is at work.

All of this craziness to say, God can use you wherever you are. Quit worrying about pleasing Him with your decisions on where to go in the future and live out your God-given purpose NOW. Own the lostness around you and just live for Him.

Note: I'm not saying that God doesn't call certain people to certain places to work. I'm simply saying that many believers are wasting precious time trying to figure their direction out, while they missing the chance to let God move in their current setting. God is not limited to our situations.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Things to Come.

This week, my team sat down with the full-time workers here to discuss options for the rest of our time here. I will be spending the next 6 months with two wonderful girls, both of whom are staying in Bosnia for a year. Coming to Bosnia, all I knew was that I needed to fulfill my teaching English but that certainly is not all I wanted to do while I was here.

Before I came to Bosnia, I knew that whatever I did overseas, I wanted to work with special needs. In Haiti, that was an easy ministry to get into because there was a special needs orphanage right now campus. The Miriam Center is such an incredible ministry and it was a blessing to be able to be apart of ministry there all of that summer. Like in Haiti, people with special needs are somewhat outcasts in society in Bosnia. Until recently, there really wasn't any programs or intuitions to work with them. Not knowing if there was even an option to do so, I asked the full-timers if there was any chance of me connecting with a special needs program here and they said YES! I will be going with Jeff (full-time worker) to check out a place where I potentially serve for the next 6 months.

Another wonderful surprise that should be starting up soon are accordion lessons. Words cannot even describe how happy I am about this! Jeff told me the possibilities of this happening. The most likely option would be to trade me teaching English classes for accordion lessons from a man up in one of the villages I will be working in. No matter what, I will find a way for this to happen. I was made to play the accordion!

Lastly, our team will be conducting a women's health conference in Pepelari. Breast cancer is the number one killer of women in Bosnia. We will be teaching the women how to give themselves mammograms and teaching them practical ways to ensure that they are keeping themselves as healthy as possible. I am so excited to spend a few days in Pepelari and it has been said that the women will be teaching us folk dances while we are staying there.

Basically, for the next 6 months I will be learning language, teaching English, learning new skills, and trying to make friends with younger people in the city. Jeff and Beth kept telling us longer term interns that their goal for us is to become as independent from them as possible. Therefore, I'm hoping to have a lot of coffee dates and a lot of home visits in the coming months. AND I hope to be able to play you all some awesome folk songs when I get back :D

Thank you all for the prayers and support. I'm only a week in and so excited for the things to come!

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Leaving on a Jet Plane

Day 1 of this awesome adventure was split between the 12th and 13th as a travel "day." I am beyond exhausted but I am safe and sound in Bosnia.  Here is a little something that recounts the traveling day that was written on the runway in Sarajevo, my final destination:

One of my biggest fears coming into this trip was making the journey to Bosnia alone. I've learned that traveling alone can be a lot fun though. So many nice strangers looked out for me by doing everything ranging from retrieving one of my bags that I left at security and to making sure I got to my gate for my flight even when this man was late for his. Kindness is all around and my faith has (somewhat) been reinstated. It's amazing how God provides in our seemingly biggest times of needs. I've never traveled internationally alone and have been dreading it for weeks. There are just so many things that could happen that could have left me stranded half-way around the world all alone. God has humbled me today. He took me way out of my comfort zone and has dropped me in the mercy of nameless strangers.


So to the guy who climbed half of an escalator to retrieve my forgotten carry-on... thank you. To the kind women who held my hand in the strongest turbulence I've ever experienced... thank you. To the man who put himself at risk of missing his own flight to make sure I got to mine... thank you (my parents probably appreciate it even more than I do!)  Lastly, to my new friend from Moldova, who made my 8 hour flight fun... thank you. Completely blessed by this traveling experience and hoping it's setting the tone for the rest of my 6 months!

Thank you for every thought and prayer as I headed into today. God truly answered in small but significant ways. Please continue pray for me as I go along with through this journey that God has presented me with.

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Hold On.

This week, my family relived the day that my aunt was senselessly taken from this world a year ago. I still remember that call, almost to exact verbatim. There I was, in Louisville, for my week-long internship training and I was going to on a plane to Bosnia in less than 3 days. My world froze. The thing I remember feeling the most was helplessness to comfort the ones I love the most in their despair...

Here we are, one year later. Still broken, but still fighting to not let the evil of this world triumph. This year has grown me more than any before. I wasn't very close with my aunt, but I certainly loved her and the ones she loved most. I've felt more emotions than I knew I had the capability of feeling. I've learned to love better and fiercer. I've also learned about the Father and His love for us... finite, angry, messy, prideful, and imperfect humans.

When tragedies happen, why are people so quick to blame God? For the longest time even before my aunt was murder, I was haunted by the question, "Why do horrible things happen to good people?" and "Why would God allow such a thing to happen?" The answer is simple: This world is a cold, evil, and vile place that is "not under" God's authority. This world is Satan's playground and his forces are at work to cause any destruction he can.

Some may look at that answer and think that it is a cop out. However, this is clearly displayed through Jesus' temptation in Luke 4. How did Satan gain His power over the world? People fell to temptation. God is holy, which means "set apart." God cannot have a part in anything unholy. God did not want or allow Michelle to be cruelly murder. God does not desire for us to feel pain, depression, or anger. So, He did something about it and that is what allows me to celebrate Michelle a year later with hope for the future.

God redeemed us and defeated death.... HALLELUJAH! The chains are broken and we are free. Christ went to the cross with the sorrow of a mother that lost her child, with the evil of a dictator that slaughters half of a races population, with the cruelty of the man who took my aunt's life and with every conceivable evil in this world. And you know what that means? He ANNIHILATED it. It is defeated and has no power over those who love Him. He is the rock on which we can stand even through the darkest, most severe storms that this world can throw at us.

In closing, the simple words of an Of Monsters and Men song come to mind when thinking of this past year and wear my family is now:
The rocking of his house
Had me holding on,
But I knew that I was safe
From there on out.
-From Finner by Of Monsters and Men
As Tony Campolo said in one of our school's chapels this year, "It may be Friday, but Sunday is coming!" In other words, we may not see any good in the situation that we are facing in the present, but God has already beat evil. Hope is here, now, and forever. Amen.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

God is Sovereign

Bosnia:
A place of beauty.
A place that reminds me to pray for my Muslim brothers and sisters daily.
A place that changed my heart in a BIG way.
A place I will be spending 6 months of 2013 in.

In the end of May/ beginning of June, I plan to leave America to spend 6 months in Bosnia as an internship for my ESL degree. What's crazy about that last sentence is that just 6 months ago, I never thought that I would be saying that. Last summer, I was able to spend an amazing summer there and now that I look back on it, my life was changed. However, while I was actually doing my internship, the only way that I can describe how I felt is to say that I thought I had been dropped on Mars. I was in a place with people that held completely different values and beliefs than other people I had worked with before. The language was much harder for me to pick up than any other one that I had learned before. Finally, I was in a place where I didn't feel my gifts from the Spirit were being used and that feeling alone made me mad, sad, and selfish. Don't get me wrong... I loved the time I had been spending there, but I couldn't help but feel misplaced.

So, why do I desire to go back? Easy. God changed my heart. That may not sound like such an easy process but believe me... it was the easiest transformation I've gone through. I do not have knowledge as to why that is, all I know is that God met me in a very desperate moment. It happened in a time of fasting and prayer on the Muslim calendar near the end of my trip. Our team had committed to fasting for the remainder of the time that we had in Bosnia (10 days) and use the time to grow in discipline and prayer. I had spoken to many people about what I had been feeling all summer and I came to the conclusion to stop whining and start praying. So, I did.

I am constantly amazed by the dimensionless capacity of God's grace. Even when I am nothing but a whiny and pathetic girl, God brings me out of that and sets me back on track. Praying for a heart for Bosnia was one of the strangest experiences I've had. I had never had a prayer answered so quickly and I wasn't sure how to handle the change. Though it was strange, the experience opened my eyes to the power of God and how He grants us the desires of our hearts in His will.

Where am I now? Preparation. The biggest part of preparation, besides praying for God to pave paths for me once I am there, is support raising. As of now, I still have $7763 to raise. For the doubting and human side of me, that number makes my stomach hurt. But for the part of me that holds a lot of faith in the providence of God.

I am so excited for what God has in store for the 6 months that I will be in Bosnia. I will be teaching English while I am there. I ask that you will please pray for God to raise up supporters so that I will be able to go.