You Could Always Stay

It amazes me how a year of little lessons can culminate into one grand decision at the end of December. It came as unexpected as a rookie’s interception, yet welcomed and beautiful as one that’s run back for a touchdown to win the game. No one saw it coming, but they’re sure glad it did.

2013 was a year of growth like I’ve never known. I got to write about a lot of that growth, including articles on craving to follow Yahweh into the unknown, actually following when He beckons, living in fear of my calling, trusting Jesus to provide, and building a house of expectations. Each of these lessons brought me to my knees in humility and desperation to walk faithfully before my King. And as I neared the end of this growth packed year, I really thought I had it under control.

I successfully finished my first semester in an accelerated graduate program for a Master of Divinity, and after 4 months of non-stop reading & writing, I finally had a chance to process. Just as quickly as I allowed myself to consider, “Is this the best program for me?” I felt my heart releasing every aspect that I held dear about my school & community. It didn’t take long for me to recognize and acknowledge the leading of my Father to go, but still strongly considered the outcome & consequence of staying.

Staying is so, so easy.

And that’s the thing: I could stay. I could keep shoving those longings under the area rug of my wildest dreams and continue to challenge everyone else to Go. Go when He calls you, always go. I could keep writing, keep speaking, and keep urging the ones around me. I could pretend to not feel the stirring, surrender to the contentment my heart feels in this comfortable place, and trek through a program that I could finish in less time than any program in the country. I could stay.

I could stay and no one would know the difference. No one would feel the pinch in my heart to go. No one would hear the still, small voice. No one would question why I’m still here. Instead, professors would tell me I’m gifted in writing in the world of academia. My pastor would give me opportunities to lead the women in my church. Friends would indulge my love for Paris Café and the Green Market on breezy Saturday mornings. I could stay… but I would know the difference.

My struggle to obey echoes my heart nearly four years ago as I battled the pull I felt to serve in China. Concerning my fear and doubt, I wrote:

And so I questioned. Day after day I questioned whether or not I should stay on this team. The question I told myself was, “Is this really where God wants me?” but that was a mask for my true thoughts of, “This isn’t what I want. This isn’t what I planned.” Yet every time I would think those things, I would get the same feeling in the pit of my stomach. Almost as if God was challenging me: “I dare you to disobey me.” Not in a harsh and threatening way, but in a way that promised me that what He had in store was better.

I could literally speak the same words in regards to leaving West Palm Beach. It isn’t what I (thought I) wanted. And it sure isn’t what I planned. Several months ago, when I wrote about the expectations we set for ourselves, I said, “On the sweeter side of things, this allows me to trust in a God who knows my heart, my dreams, and my desires far better than I ever will. It makes me grateful for the intention of His heart to lead me where I ought to be instead of where I want to be… [especially when they are different destinations].”

(And does. He. ever.) I’m awakened to my childish thinking: I thought I was writing for others. I thought I was reflecting on hindsight. I thought that someone really needed that message and Jesus was using me to speak it.

I didn’t think it still meant me.

My only explanation for leaving is Jesus. Jesus and my wildest dreams have stirred together in a beautiful way and though it took me weeks to believe it, I’m here & I’m giddy with excitement because I’m learning:

1.    Jesus cares about what we want.

“What are you seeking?” (John 1:35) – Dear One, you must abandon the thought that in order to follow Jesus you must forsake everything you desire and succumb to a life of monotony. We are so quick to over spiritualize every aspect of every decision that we miss the beauty of choice. Do you love Him? Are you seeking Him? Are you living in surrender to His word? Then it doesn’t much matter where you go or what you do – you can’t mess it up. He isn’t going to stay in one place and make you cast lots to figure out if you made the right decision. He’s with you, wherever you go & whatever you do. Just keep your eyes locked on His.

2.    You will only have to answer to One.

In the midst of believing that Jesus is calling me on this grand adventure, I had unending thoughts of fear concerning how the news would be received. By professors, by pastors, by mentors, by friends… I legitimately thought, “No one will understand; I should just stay.” Oh, the nonsense. We must remember [Yeah, I have to remember] that we will only ever answer to One, and “I didn’t think they’d understand” is not the answer we will want to give. Obedience will always be worth it.

3.    You can trust His heart.

He loves you, Little One. He is the author of your desires and the fulfiller of your wildest dreams. Let Him woo you. Let Him take you on adventures. He isn’t going to lead you by fear, but rather by peace and joy. Are you walking in peace? Are you living in joy? You can trust His heart to lead you where you need to be.

And so, with shaking hands laced in His, I couldn’t be more excited to walk into this unknown. Oh, yes. The best is yet to come.

The Sound of Goodbye

We spent the day exploring Sydney and feel as though I could be woken from this dream world at any moment.

I let that sink in as I realize the beauty of dreams coming true. Little dreams (like traveling the world) matter much. Though not quite as much as the big ones (like leading women to know Christ more).

Getting to this point, on the other hand, wasn’t so sweet. Our last few days in Fiji loomed with the pending goodbyes and saddening reality that this couldn’t last forever. We will return to our corners of the globe, likely to never see each other again. (On better days I’m more hopeful.)

Goodbyes began Friday night and continued until we boarded the plane. Fifteen hours of sucker punches that made me wish I could shrink the globe.

Before that, however, were wonderful weeks of teaching and learning. We spent a week equipping Fijian believers in how to share their faith and train others to do the same. The privilege of sharing a devotion and teaching on discipleship that week brought overwhelming affirmation from my team. There are few things sweeter than doing the thing you love most and then being told you were made for it. And the truth of that further renewed the vision that Yahweh has sweetly spoken into my heart.

This was, perhaps, one of the most impactful elements of my time here. Unintentionally, I had in many ways stopped believing in the vision. I wouldn’t have ever admitted so, but the act of renewal that took place this summer revealed that I had stopped actively chasing it. What good is a vision that remains in your mind? The unrealized joy of a stagnant dream threatens my resolve. And more often than not this year I let it win.

The week after leading the clinic was a week of theology training with an Aussie mate called Nello. Spending time in such study sparked my mind in a beautiful way! It made me realize how truly excited I am for grad school. Though I didn’t agree with all of his theology, it was fun to study and discuss again after a year out of the classroom.

I’m astounded that this chapter of life is over, yet wildly grateful for all it held. I’m better now than ever at living in the moment and loving it for all it’s worth. There is such beauty in being where you are. There is joy to be found in every moment and so much is often missed.

Thank you for carrying me through this journey with your prayers. Thank you for believing in, supporting, and loving me when I’m far away. Words can’t express the comfort it has brought through the course of this summer.

May you ever be delighting in where you are and what you’re doing. May your heart find true contentment in the chapter of life that is being written with every breath. And may your passion for life make it impossible for you to ever remain stagnant.

Cheers to life, adventure, and unwritten chapters yet to unfold.

xox

When Yahweh Makes Me Coffee

One of the unrivaled joys of my life is the way that Yahweh makes me coffee.

You see, my Maker has crafted me to simply love a hot cup of joe. My addiction to the bean first started while serving on mission in Brazil. I can still smell the rich blend and see the liquid, black as the starless night, pouring from the pot to fill my mug in the morning. I didn’t drink coffee before that… it’s a life I try not to remember. 😊

Since that trip in 2009, I have grown to deeply love the way that coffee brings people together. Over coffee I have reconciled friendships, grown giddy with unexpected affection, written papers, read theology, watched movies, talked about Jesus, and shared stories. With laughter and tears, with new friends and old, in the morning, afternoon, and evening.

While in Malta last year, on one of my hardest days to date, my students invited me to her room at the refugee camp. She made me coffee and we talked about Jesus. It was a sweet way that Yahweh unexpectedly gave me that which I love most. {You can read more about that day here!}

Now in Fiji, I was struggling again, as I did in Vanuatu, with the way some of the methods we were teaching were playing out in the community. I confessed my frustration to my King, and my longing to see methods played out appropriately and effectively – something I had yet to see.

My prayers were expressed in conversation with Adina, my beautiful fellow intern from Romania. As we set out in the afternoon for our intentional gospel sharing time, we told each other of our struggles thus far. I said how much I wanted to see a relationship built with a family. She said how badly she wanted to see someone respond emotionally- not for the sake of tears, but because Jesus genuinely moved in their heart. We wanted to meet someone whose day would legitimately be better because we talked with them. Not an inconvenient nuisance, or burdened interruption, but a true blessing. Unimportantly, I mentioned that I was hungry. And off we went.

Totally by God’s leading, we ended up on a street and at the first home we passed, we saw a boy in the driveway. We told him we were helping with a church down the road and wanted to get to know some people in the area. He eagerly invited us inside where we met his brothers and grandmother, Kalo. We learned that Sam’s family had just returned to Fiji after living in the States for two years (which explains his incredible English!). We quickly discovered that Kalo is a strong believer, and she shared her beautiful testimony with us. We learned about her life and family, and she told us specific things that she needed prayer for.

When we finished praying, we opened our eyes to see Kalo weeping. She was so moved by our time together and so encouraged by our faith in Yahweh. She wiped her eyes and asked if we would stay for afternoon tea. She sliced bread and brought out butter and peanut butter.

We built a relationship. We saw true emotion and gratefulness… even in tears! She fed us. Every longing in our hearts was met in a stunning way.

Adina and I sat smiling across the table. It was easy to see Yahweh’s hand at work and hear His gentle whisper. Though it was tea instead of coffee, it was my King. Knowing what I love, seeing what I need, and stirring them together like the milk and sugar in my mug.

xoxo

A Lovely Start.

I find it delightfully sweet when Yahweh takes my meager expectation and lavishes glory wildly upon it. That is the best way my jet-lagged mind can wrap around what I am currently experiencing.

We arrived in Fiji at 5am on Monday morning, and made it to the training center around 7:30am after customs, baggage, etc. For the sake of teaching our bodies to adjust, they (our leadership) encouraged us to stay awake and push through the exhaustion (by filling our day with activities).

When we first arrived at the training center, several of us noticed an adorable cottage just a few yards away from the main building. We commented on how cute it was as we followed the group up the main steps. It was here that they were sorting luggage and giving room assignments. All the other names were called and I was left standing with Sabrina, Olivia, and Charlene (a new friend from North Carolina). Langdon (intern leader) says that the four of us will be living in the cottage out front.

Umm. What? All summer? No way…

Yes way. And it’s every bit as adorable on the inside as we thought it might be from the outside.

The intern team is amazing. We have ten countries represented among us – USA, Australia, Romania, China, India, Mexico, Fiji, Vanuatu, Kazakhstan, and England. Conversation often becomes giggling about the differences between the English pronunciation of various words in England, Australia, and home. We’ve all acknowledged that we wish we had someone else’s accent and that our own is just boring.

We spent some time playing volleyball at the beach on our first day, and so the staff built us a court in our backyard. The food is delicious, the conversations are rich, and we feel God’s presence in everything. I have never in my entire life seen a more beautiful sunset than in this place. There’s a cool breeze in the morning and at night. We take morning and afternoon breaks from the schedule to have coffee, tea, and cookies. They have adopted dogs that live around the training center and one of them just had puppies. You see what I mean? Everything is simply lovely.

This week will be full of training: personality, giftedness, evangelism, and more. We’re learning from incredibly gifted people who are exceptionally passionate about seeing Yahweh become famous all over the earth. We leave for Vanuatu on Saturday and will be teaching and training church pastors and working with a team of high school students from Australia.

This is, hands down, one of the most humbling communities I have ever been a part of. I’m so grateful for your prayers and look forward to sharing more. Now while you greet Tuesday, I will bid it farewell. I hope it’s as sweet for you as it was for us.

Goodnight.

xoxo