Saturday, May 14, 2016

n{ever} ready

I don't think I'll ever be at a place of "readiness". As a child, I was never ready for a new assignment, never ready for another move, never ready for change. But we did it anyway. We didn't wait for our hearts to catch up to what our minds and bodies knew we had to do. We just did it - we took steps in obedience, hardly ever feeling ready. We did it with expectancy, but we weren't ready.

But maybe that's what this life is about - taking steps in obedience to God without the assurance of feeling ready, qualified, well-suited, and prepared. Because if we were to wait for those feelings of security (which are often misleading anyway), we'd end up missing out on the beauty of God - those moments of realisation that make us surrender our abilities, plans, pride, and dance in the storm of His grace that works within us, creating better work than we could ever do on our own.

So I may not be ready to leave Australia, and I may not be ready to leave my dear friends here, and I may not be ready to leave my family again, and I may not be ready to work at camp for ten weeks, but I'm learning that's okay. You just do it. You trust God and you recount His {GREAT} faithfulness in the past (& in your past), and you walk forward in expectancy. You don't bottle up your emotions and pretend they don't exist, constantly conflicting with one another inside you, but you surrender them. You follow Him when it hurts and when it doesn't because He's worth it. And He tends to provide beautifully regardless of whether or not you choose to be faithful, but oh my soul (& yours), why not be faithful when He's given you the chance to be a part of His glorious story?

And so I am committed to following Him, and I ask for your prayers. Please pray that I would be faithful to Him and that I would rest in His grace for the times when I'm not.

Just a couple of pictures from this autumn in Australia:

 St. Kilda
 Yarra Valley Dairy
 Phillip Island - my favourite place down under.

Monday, May 9, 2016

plot {twist}

Czech Republic
China (x3 airports)

This has been my itinerary for the past several months, with the last location being decided just this past week. For those of you that are just catching up, I spent three months studying abroad in Israel with Moody Bible Institute, three weeks backpacking/road-tripping with dear friends of mine from Moody all over Europe, a couple of days in Turkey with some new friends, and the past month in Australia with my friend, Pippa, and her sweet family. 

I'm a planner - the desire for control is engrained within my fibrous being. But following God means yielding that fleshy instinct of self-reliance and submitting to a God whose much better at planning than myself. It means trusting Him even when everything within me wants to give up and rely on my own poor abilities. 

Isn't it funny how silly we humans look usurping power that isn't ours to begin with?

Although I don't fully understand it, there is a balance, isn't there? To trusting God to work it all out while also taking steps forward? There are certain times in my life where I ask God for wisdom when making hard decisions, and it seems like both options are good, God-glorifying options, and they usually are. But then, when I don't have that sure-fire feeling of direction from Him, or no clear direction is given, at some point, I just have to choose. The decision I made last fall to spend these eight months abroad was one of those decisions. 

I felt the Lord leading me to study abroad in Israel from January until March, but I wasn't sure what to do after that. After Israel, I would have April - August free, as I would plan to return to Moody in Chicago in the fall for my next semester. So, I tried to find a way to spend that time working so that I would be able to afford going back to Chicago for the following semester. And every option given to me was good.

Five of us from our Israel group decided to travel together throughout Europe because it would only add about $300 USD to our trip to Israel, so why not? Also, this turned out to be a HUGE blessing because it meant that we got to spend three weeks in 10 countries visiting other believers and making new friends along the way. 

Therefore, the undecided bit was left trying to decide what to do between late April and August. These were the following options:

1. Return to live in DC with my family at the end of April until August where I would hopefully find a summer job as a nanny.
2. Spend April - August in Australia with Pippa's family and find a winter job as a nanny. 
3. Return to the States after Europe and spend a month with my family in DC and then go back to camp (Winshape) in GA until August. 

All seemed like viable options, and I spent several hours praying and praying and chatting with people I look up to. Tears from the stress of choosing, and that feeling in the pit of your stomach that says, "your life is crazy" seemed to consume me in those days. Pippa and I even spent a couple of days apart because we wanted to decide what to do separately instead of influencing each others' decisions. So after lots of prayer and countless conversations, I decided, and felt amazing peace, in spending the summer in Australia. 

Pippa and I even wrote our decisions on pieces of paper and exchanged them (because basically I'm into theatrics). And we both chose Australia. So the fall was spent preparing for Israel, applying for a Work & Holiday Visa for Australia, and planning our itineraries for the Europe trip. 

Although I felt peace in making this decision, I also had to go through a season of grieving not going back to camp. I spent days encouraging others to go to Winshape, and I spent nights in tears pleading with God to help me get over not going back. The grief led to increased trust. 

Rely on Me, not your plans.

With this new (and maybe not-so-new) lesson learned (or so I thought), I withdrew my application from Winshape and went all-in preparing for Israel/Europe/Australia. 

Then I went, and lived, and learned, and grew, and explored, and did, and saw, and found in the countries listed above. 

Then Australia hit me like a thunderstorm in a desert - unexpected and overwhelming. 

After 40+ hours of traveling from Istanbul (via three stops in China), misplacing (/getting stolen) two passports and having them returned, and lots of hilarious stories, we finally made it to Melbourne. That first week I had a mix of culture shock, lots of paperwork, proving my Australian residency, etc. Then came job applications - and lots of them. Combined, Pippa and I applied for over 100 nanny jobs within the city and each one came up short. In a strange fashion, each hopeful interview and response came back negatively - poor timing, need of a longer commitment, too long of a commute, too few hours, etc. 

For me, this became a process of unraveling. I had four months of different cultures and experiences to process and the layers of sinful self-reliance to be stripped of. 

So after about four weeks of applying and seeking, and being frustrated and anxious, I gave up. I spent time with the Lord and I yielded it to Him. And He was so gracious with me. 

After a couple of conversations with my parents and Pippa's family, I started praying about other options for the summer, including applying for nanny/summer jobs in DC and Chicago. And then, in an almost last-ditch, "it doesn't really matter what happens; no is the worst they can say" fashion, I emailed my camp director from last summer and asked if there was any need of a back-up position. 

I'm hesitant to even write the rest of this story, because I feel like it lacks the authenticity of how graciously and perfectly the Lord laid all of this out, but after several days of prayer, a dream, and the confirmation of a stranger (all which happened before my director's response), the Lord prepared my heart to go back to camp for the summer.

Then came an email from my director saying that she wanted to chat with me about some summer options, and a Skype call at 5 am that offered me the opportunity to go back and be a Cheyenne counsellor (year 7&8) with WinShape. 

So, that's what seems to be next. 

And it's a major mix of emotions - grief of leaving this new adopted family & Australia, excitement of returning to camp, sadness of missing my family this summer, nervousness of joining a new, huge tribe, joy of reuniting with campers and meetings new ones, etc. 

But I will hold onto truth in this season. He is in control. He is the God of details. Even when I can't see it or feel it, He is faithful. 

And that's what I'm learning. With every plot twist, every unexpected moment of life, I am learning to trust Him - now, in the midst of the crazy. 

That's what is to follow Him, to trust Him instead of our feeble plans. 

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Thanks, God

As I sat in Flagstaff Gardens on a little stony place with the sun shining this morning, God spoke through one of His daughters to me. It doesn’t happen often – that we get a sign, a wonder, a miracle. Often times this faith journey is one of just that, faith. It’s taking steps forward, following a God that sometimes sounds silent and feels distant. But we press on, holding to the truth of His Word and to the goodness of His presence, even when we can’t feel Him there. But this morning was an unexpected blessing, a gift from my Father.

As I was sitting in that stony place, I prayed, and I cried alligator tears as I contemplated what this summer just might hold. I’ve given up on my plans and I’m now at a crossroad, unsure of where the Lord is leading me, but praying for the strength and courage to trust Him. And at this endeavor I’ve often failed. I’ve put my hope in my own abilities or plans for so long (blindly) that it’s been such a process of tearing down the walls of my heart in order to be raw enough to trust Him.

So I read Psalm 62 and Amos 4, which have been my comfort passages for a while now. And I cried a little more. And then this girl walked by, and although I can’t exactly explain this, I knew she was a Christian the moment she walked by. So I prayed that Jesus would bless her mightily. She paused behind me for what felt like five minutes, and then came back, smiling. She asked if I was a Christian, and when I answered “yes”, she gained confidence and said, “God told me to come and tell you that He is with you”. I smiled, and then cried, and we exchanged our stories of what God has been doing in our hearts over the past year.

Trust. Andrea and I are learning trust. And although that carries clich├ęs and Christianeze, it’s tangible, and it’s hard. And it’s one of those concepts that’s a lot easier said than done. But I’m learning, and I’m thankful for the God of the universe that isn’t done with me yet. And He’s with me.

He is also with you. 

Psalm 62
For God alone my soul waits in silence; from Him comes my salvation.
He alone is my Rock and my Salvation, my Fortress; I shall not be greatly shaken.
How long will all of you attack a man to batter him, like a leaning wall, a tottering fence?
They only plan to thrust him down from his high position. They take pleasure in falsehood. They bless with their mouths, but inwardly they curse.
For God alone, O my soul, wait in silence, for my hope is from Him.
He only is my Rock and my Salvation, my Fortress; I shall not be shaken.
On God rests my salvation and my glory; my mighty Rock, my refuge is God.
Trust in Him at all times, O people; pour out your heart before Him; God is a refuge for us.
Those of low estate are but a breath; those of high estate are a delusion; in the balances they go up; they are together lighter than a breath.
Put no trust in extortion; set no vain hopes on robbery; if riches increase, set not your heart on them.
Once God has spoken; twice have I heard this: that power belongs to God, and that to You, O Lord, belongs steadfast love. For You will render to a man according to his work.

Sunday, May 1, 2016

in the season of {unknowingness}

What does this next year hold?
That I do not know.
Teach me, oh Lord, to hold my plans lightly,
To let go of them and be humbled rightly,
Because You are God, and I am not,
You know each day, and every lot,
My thoughts, my dreams, my desires for You,
You know me, God, and I can trust You.