Sunday, July 28, 2013

Balloons, Mountains, and where God does His Best Work...

   I don’t know where God most often speaks to you, but for me it’s usually in the shower (maybe it has to do with the complete vulnerability... In every way…that I have in there).  Anyway, this morning I was getting ready and thus was in the shower and God began to speak to me.  Now to be honest, I’ve never heard the audible voice of God, and this morning was no different, but I still know it was Him.
  Standing there with the water crashing over me and my soul laid bare before God, this picture popped into my head of this balloon being blown up almost to the point of exploding, and then being deflated….over and over and over again.  It was like with each “blow up” the balloon was being stretched just a little further than the time before, and the capacity for air inside of it kept growing and growing.  It sounds weird, but I immediately felt like this was just a visual description of what God’s been doing in my life lately.
  The Past few weeks and months have been stressful and stretching…and a part of me has felt like I’ve been pushed to my limits time and time again, with a few days of rest and calm in the midst.  In fact a week or so ago... after a time of overwhelming guilt, sadness and shame over my sin,...I was enjoying a very precious time of calm in my life, when I felt like God was telling me to savor it because we still had further down the mountain to go and things weren’t going to get easier just yet.
   It’s funny….I hate this place I am in…. this place of uncomfortableness and vulnerability and feeling like I am walking down the mountain into the valley.  BUT that’s just it…. in the valley is where God does His best work and things do their  best growing! the valley...God’s there!  And I honestly, truly believe that God is leading me there and whatever He is doing in the midst of that leading is EXACTLY what I need!
  So down the mountain I go again, allowing the balloon of my life to be inflated to its limits once again, so that God can do His work IN me, in order that He might have the space to do His work THROUGH me.  Amen

Friday, July 26, 2013

Things that Turn that Frown Upside Down...

  Today after work, I planned to get in my car and just cry.  I was feeling stretched and overwhelmed and stressed to the point that it seemed only a good cry would do.  And then... I got a message from a friend and it made me laugh...and laugh...and laugh some more...until I forgot all about crying.  And yet, some how, I still felt better.
  It's amazing that friends can have that kind of effect on me.  I remember not so many years ago, pretty much swearing off having people as friends.  I had trained myself to believe that nobody ever really cares about anyone else, and I didn't want to be hurt by that fact any more, so I kept people at bay.
  I will admit that these days it's still sometimes pretty easy to fall back into that routine.  To be struggling and failing...and feel like everyone has abandoned me in my time of people have finally seen my dark side and realized it's just not worth it to try and be my friend. 
  Thankfully for me though, over the past several days, I've had a few of my friends really step up and show me that our relationship isn't just one sided... and that I do matter to them... and that in my time of need they will be there (even with snot-rages to clean me up after all my tears).
  It's strange to go from a place of trusting no one to realizing that there are actually people out there who are worth trusting....people who won't turn their back on you when they find out just how HUMAN you are...and people who will choose to forgive you and to continue to stand by you even after you have hurt them.
  I'm not always thankful for the blessings God gives me in life....and I sometimes forget that God has blessed me with such good friends...and I belly-ache and complain about people not being who I want them to be.  BUT then...completely out of the blue...when I least expect it and yet most need it....a friend is there and I am remind how good God has been to me in this area.
  The funny thing is, I had spent much of my day writing a completely different blog post in my head...and then this afternoon in the twenty minutes I had between dinner and heading out the door again... I tried to write in on here and it just wasn't coming back to me.  In all honesty, I'm pretty sure it had a lot of complaining in it....but now...tonight....after spending time with some friends....I'm really glad I couldn't remember it, cause I've got so better things to meditate on!

Thursday, July 18, 2013

You Be You...the message of the day!...

  So I am pretty sure I have shared this before, but in my head I have this idea of what I think a missionary "should" look like.  They are these charismatic, extroverted people, who draw people in and eloquently point them in the direction of Jesus.  They are people who are go getter's and driven....outgoing and un-afraid to step out of the box.  They like the lime light and having all eyes on them, and they feel comfortable in situations when they have to think quickly on their feet!
  In all honesty, I'm sure not all of that is true...some missionaries are gifted or better at some things than others...and some missionaries have different skill sets than others.  But when it comes to comparing who I am with what I think I should be, I can't help but think how far I fall short of this idea in my head.
  BUT then.....and thanks be to God there is a BUT....I have these moments where God finds a way to remind me that even though I'm not who I think I should be, I'm exactly who HE created me to be and who HE has called into the ministry!
  I think it was last Wednesday...I was at work and just thinking about the different people I know who are involved in God's work.  I thought about my current pastor and other pastors I know, missionaries, and people who work in inner-city ministries....and I started talking to God about how much respect I have for these people and how I'm not sure I could ever be like them!  And then somewhere deep in my spirit, it was like I felt God said "I never asked you to be"! 
  It's so true, God never asked me to be like someone else!  He created me to be me and thus I'm not called to be anyone else...or to act like anyone else.  I don't have their giftings or talents because I have my own.  And I also have my own calling, which I wouldn't be able to fulfill if I didn't walk out in who I am!
  But because I'm thick headed...and usually need to hear things a few times before they really take root in my spirit, God took the opportunity to remind me of all this again yesterday when  I had a phone conference/meeting with an OM staffer who specializes in raising support.  He was a wealth of information, and encouragement!  BUT the best...most important....thing he shared with me was this...."You just need to be yourself!  God could have called anyone to this ministry, but He is calling you...that means the gifts and talents He's given you are what HE needs in this moments to carry on His work.  So don't try to be anyone else....just be you!".  The funny thing was I didn't share anything that was going on in my heart that would lead him to say this....he just said it and moved on, as if God was like "Before we go any further, let me remind you again that you who I am calling"!
  And I know those both sound like really corny examples, but they are honestly exactly what I needed to hear and be reminded of at exactly the right time!  God has this great way of doing that....being so precise and specific with His reminders and confirmation!  And while I am sure that I'll probably need another reminder...and another...and another...from Him, I am confident of this, that HE will give me exactly what I need when I need it!  I see the proof of that every day!

Sunday, July 14, 2013

A Holy Fustration...Hopefully!

  So I find myself a little...perturbed... at THE church recently (Note the capital THE...meaning, not my church per say, or even every church....just certain branches of the church.) (OKay so maybe my punctuation is a bit off too, but hopefully you get the point)! 
  For one, about a week or so ago I was watching a video of some missionaries in my heart country of Ecuador and just felt myself becoming more and more annoyed as I listened to these wealthy, white, American's preach to these children that they should dream big and that if they just trust God enough, He will give them every thing they WANT in life!  Seriously?!?!  First of MISSIONARIES shouldn't you're main message be THE GOSPEL?!  You know...Jesus on the CROSS, already giving us EVERYTHING!  Second of all, how irresponsible to tell a little child whose parent's probably make just a few dollars a day that if he just prays hard enough God will do whatever he wants Him to do! 
  And I'm not saying I don't believe that God can provide for this child, or that we, as Christians, shouldn't offer hope to those who are suffering.  BUT... shouldn't our message be JESUS?!?!  Wasn't it Paul...the greatest missionary ever....who said "I resolved to know nothing among you EXCEPT JESUS CHRIST and him crucified"?!?!  I just find it very wrong to set a child up to believe that God's some sort of genie in the bottle you have to rub a certain way to get your wish!  Or to force the "American Dream" on a child who most likely won't ever achieve it (as if the "American Dream" is really worth reaching!). 
  Anyway, I also took some time to watch the documentary "Hell House" today, which is about a church in Texas that puts on a production every Halloween where they set up different a girl having an abortion, or a homosexual dying, or someone killing a "haunted" house .and talk about how all these people are going to hell because of their choices.  And I know...or at least I believe...that the point of their message was these "people" go to hell because they never accepted Jesus, but through out the whole documentary it comes across like it's their other choices...NOT their choice whether or not to serve Jesus...that determined their place in either heaven or hell.
  This kind of attitude annoys me so much!  This belief that THE church seems to have sometimes, that we need to clean up the people OUTSIDE of our church and make them live by OUR standards without ever leading them to the feet of the ONE who created the standard!!  How is some one who does not have an understanding of the LOVE and GRACE of God suppose to try and live this MORALIST life we proclaim, when they don't even know the ONE who empowers us to do it?!?!
  And I know I don't know everything....I have A LOT to learn still ...but it seems to me, that it's the people who claimed to be Religious...the Pharisees and Sadducees in the Bible...that Jesus had the harshest words for!  In fact it seems to be that while everyone will be judged at the end of time....that judgment will be based on whether or not you know Jesus.  And THEN of those who know Him and accepted him as savior,  there will be a judgment on how you lived.  It's not those OUTSIDE of the church but those INSIDE whom Jesus calls to this high standard of living! this doesn't just sound like a babbled rant that means nothing.  Hopefully you see my heart in the midst of THIS....that it's FIRST all about JESUS and knowing HIM...and THEN about  living our lives in such a way that points back to HIM...not us!  Cause ultimately.....that's exactly what I want my life to be about!  It's ALL to and for JESUS!

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Jesus in Disguise...

  Mother Teresa, once said “The most terrible poverty is loneliness, and the feeling of being unloved” and that “The greatest disease in the West today is not TB or leprosy; it is being unwanted, unloved, and uncared for."  Today....I saw the reality of that...up close and in a personal way.  And even though it was only a tiny moment of my day...that moment changed me...and broke me.  I am different.....and it's all because of one little boy who I'll probably never see again...
  For those of you who haven't been reading this blog for long or don't know me that personally, I work in a bookstore and am lucky enough to spend most of my days back in the children's department interacting and imparting the love of reading to the generation of the future (I love it)!  This morning I was back there, kind of bummed that not a single child showed up for story time (which we host once a week)...and in walked this young boy, looking just a little lost in a world full of books.  Now I have a tendency to get caught up in trying to get my work done, that I sometimes overlook the customer....but for some reason this boy caught my attention. So I walked over to him and struck up a conversation...
  Within the first few moments of talking, he shared with me that he was six years old and that he didn't know how to read, because there are 8 kids in his family and nobody really pays attention to him.  It was one of those moments when I almost wanted to clean out my ears to make sure I was hearing him correctly, but I knew just by looking into his eyes that every word was true!  How be 6 years old and feel like nobody notices you...that nobody has time for you...that nobody really cares!  I just kept thinking...he's the same age as Marissa (my littlest niece) and I couldn't imagine her not knowing how much I love her and how much I care for her!
  I wanted to cry right there....but instead I picked up the books I was going to read for story time and I read to him....and then we did art together....and I watched him smile... and listened to him joke!   Then just as quickly as he came into my life, he was summoned out by a woman who called him by name and demanded he come NOW...  And I watched him scurry off knowing I will probably never see him again!
 After they left...I couldn't seem to get him out of my mind.  I just kept playing the whole scene over and over in my head... feeling like Schindler at the end of "Schindler's List", that I could of done more!  I never know what to do in situations like that...when confronted with the uncomfortable, messiness of somebody else's life.  My immediate reaction is to want to fix somehow make it better or right.  But in that moment....there was no way I could do that.  I wanted more than anything to scoop him up in my arms and hug him while reading stories to him for the rest of the day....but I couldn't do that either!  All I could do...was be there in that him my full attention and loving him as best as I could...trusting that some how, some way he would feel the love of a stranger and it would make a difference.
  A little known fact about me is that I keep a folder of pictures of the children I met in Ecuador last summer, on my computer...and every week, at least once, I look through the pictures and pray over and cry for the little ones I met.  When it comes to the little 6 year old I met today, I don't have a picture to add to a folder on my computer...but his image has been engraved on my heart and I don't think I will soon forget about him.  I feel honored that today I met Jesus in disguise!

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Running, a Metaphor for Life....

  This past Saturday I participated in a local 5k with some friends from work!  It's the first race I have done in almost two years and I was really nervous about it...because I knew my time would suck...but thankfully it was a woman only race and since it was so hot, there was a lot of walkers.
(My friends and I after we all completed the race)
I really enjoy running.  I'm not fast by any stretch of the imagination, but I like knowing I can push myself to do something that five years ago I never would of dreamed I could do.  But, every time I run a matter how long or short it is....there comes a point in time when I hit a wall and everything within me wants to shut down and stop.
  Saturday's race was no different.  I was hot, sweaty, and was having trouble breathing cause of the heat (for some reason this always happens to me when I run in high humidity...I struggle to get enough air and then I feel all light headed!!).  Plus everyone in my group...minus one...had passed me out within the first few minutes.  It would have been so easy to quit and say that I can't do it any give up on myself and give into the fear and the sense of failure that I was feeling. 
  But I didn't....I just kept putting one foot in front of the other and setting little mini goals for myself (things like, I just have to make it to that tree, or don't let the person in the red shirt pass you)...and eventually I crossed the finish line.
  Turns out the race ended up being a great metaphor for life for me.  There are so many different aspects to my life, so many different things I am involved in....but in every single part of my life there always comes a point when I hit a wall or feel uncomfortable and want to give up or shy away and not do something.  I have a choice in those moment....just like in a quit or to keep moving.  And when I choose to just keep moving forward....and choose to live in the uncomfortable-ness and face the fear....I end up being a part of something that makes me proud or happy or even just blessed.  Even when things don't go according to my plans or don't turn out as smoothly as I had hoped....if I just keep moving forward and choose not to give's always worth it in the end!

Sunday, July 7, 2013

This, These, HIM..and NOT I....

Lately I have been feeling pretty overwhelmed by looking at all I need to do to prepare to go to Ecuador.  I think about all the things I have to pay for, all the paperwork that needs to be filled out, how much of the language I still need to grasp, and all the details that need to be worked out, ....and I just want to cry...because I don't know how to do this...and I don't know how it's all going to work out....and I don't think I'll ever be ready....
And yet...
I can't NOT do it..
   THIS is why I was created...THIS is why my heart beats in my chest and why it breaks... THIS is why I ache in deep unexplainable ways...and THIS is what sends me to my knees!  I can't explain it....but there's an ache in my heart that says THIS is where I belong....THESE are my people....THESE are the ones God has laid on my heart...that THEY would know HIM...that THEY would experience HIS life and HIS love...and that THEY would know how DESPERATELY HE LONGS FOR THEM.
And some how...
in the midst of remembering THAT...
I am reminded...
that THIS ....
is NOT about ME!
  So I fall on my knees and I cry out to God...because THIS is for HIM and for HIS people....and thus HE has to make a way!  I can't do THIS....not in my own strength...not trying to make my own way....I NEED HIM...DESPERATELY!...and I think that's what He's been waiting for....that moment of SURRENDER...when I say God, it has to be YOU!...Here I am...I am have YOUR WAY!
And THAT is where I am...
On my knees...
...and even though it's uncomfortable...
It seems so right...
like THIS...right here...
Is exactly where I am suppose to be...

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Because..this was NOT How this was Supposed to Be...

  I have been struggling to blog so much lately...and it's really starting to bother me!  I started this blog several years ago as a way of sharing my weight loss journey, and while over the years it's morphed into a place where I now share a more important journey…my spiritual journey.., I've kept it going because it's always been such a place of release for me....somewhere where I can just share what I am thinking and how I am feeling, without having to worry about what the immediate reactions of others might be or how people might view me.  There’s an anonymousness of being able to share on here that takes away the fear I feel in doing so in real life….and I like that.
  But lately....that’s all been changing and instead of the freedom I’ve come to enjoy in writing, I’ve found myself  constrained… second guessing what to write  and worrying about how people might take the things I say.  It’s like the very thing I've loved about having this blog is slowly fading away....and I think I might have discovered why.
  You see, in my mind I have this idea of who I am supposed to be....not just as a person, or a Christian...but as a future missionary. I feel like missionaries…..or really anyone in ministry…are these put together people, who are talented and capable and ready to take on the world.  They have their faith journey figured out….know exactly what they believe and don’t believe about God and his calling on their life…and they trust God completely in everything that they do.  There’s no hidden worries, doubt, or fears…there’s no self-centeredness or self-concern…there’s no inner struggle or personal demons to work through.  They just know God has called them and in that they boldly step out in faith without any sense of failure.  It’s all so picture perfect!
  And obviously I know not ALL of that is true!  Missionaries aren’t perfect and they struggle…In fact I just finished reading this book about a missionary from Papua New Guinea who shared throughout the story her own struggles with her calling, and her relationship with God, and how different God’s plan looked being lived out compared to how she had imagined it!  But I can’t help but have this idea…this standard in my head…that now that people know I feel called to missions, I’m supposed to live up to. 
  And  that’s where the problem comes in….because I know I don’t live up to that standard….in fact I’m nowhere close it.  I don’t feel qualified….I’m not all that talented….I don’t like to stand out…. I struggle to find my place in the body…I doubt God sometimes….I don’t understand everything in the Bible…..I still don’t fully grasp this concept of grace…I’m still learning who God is….I wonder why God would ever choose me….and there’s a whole mess more I could share…but I think you get the point!
  So when I come on here to write….to share and work through some of these thoughts and feelings…I start to type out the words and realize that if I’m going to be honest on here and say things like what I started to say above…then….I’m basically proving to the world how much I’m failing to be who it is I’m saying I’m called to be.  In fact I seem to be saying….look at me, I don’t measure up….see all the ways I’m not qualified…and how incapable I can be!  It’s  scary to admit that….even through the computer screen….especially when I know the very people reading this are the people I’ll be counting on to support me as I pack up and ship out to live out this calling!
  I don’t know if that makes any sense…..but basically, I’ve been struggling to blog because blogging is a place of honesty for me…and…well…I fear in being honest and sharing my struggles, I’m giving people reasons NOT to support me!  But if I am not honest in my writing then it basically defeats the whole purpose of this blog to begin with….so it’s all pretty much a catch 22…and I’m not sure what to do!
  Why can’t it just be easier to fake it until I make it?!?!