Thursday, June 30, 2011

"Let It All Out"

Thursday's I go to Franklin for a book club meeting for my Africa team. We are reading a book called "When Helping Hurts." Parts of it are very difficult to read, especially if you are involved in missions or any kind of ministry that serves the poor, but I HIGHLY recommend this book.

This weeks chapter was specific to short term missions, which I am involved in right now. I have never gone anywhere on a mission trip. But I attended a church, First Alliance, when the leader of our group, Kevin, took his first team to Burkina Faso. It is a country in Africa that Kevin has been involved in every since he took the first team in 2005 (I think). He has gone several times and I am unbelievably excited to be going with him this time.

But I am also getting very scared. Firstly, the book really convicted me and has made me think a lot about why I am going. Am I going for the experience for myself? Am I going because this is what God wants me to do? Will I actually be helping people? Spreading the Gospel? Forming genuine relationships with people through Christ? Honestly, I think it's a little bit of all this. I pray that I will be helping and not hurting. I know I am going a little for my own experience.

But I think the experience is necessary for everyone who lives in America. We are so spoiled. We have so much. Even the poorest person here has more than the majority of people living in Burkina. I mean, we have public transportation here in America, clean water, soup kitchens. This doesn't exist in Burkina, or in many countries. We don't even understand just how rich we really are until we see it and I cannot wait to see it and to really get it.

MAIN REASON I am writing tonight though is that I think God is doing so much more in my life through this trip. This trip is going to turn my world upside down. He is going to break my heart with what I see and what I feel and with what I want to do. I have not been on a mission trip yet so I am not sure if this will hold true. But tonight I just got this feeling that this 2 week trip is not going to satisfy me. I am starting to feel that God wants me to do more. That He maybe wants to use me in full time missions. And this is before I have even set foot in Africa so it may change--the feeling might get stronger. And this scares me so badly.

Full time missions. Leaving the comforts of this country. Leaving my family for long periods at a time. I can't even imagine how this conversation would go with my mother, it would break her heart! Not just because she will miss me. But I feel that my mother and father so love this country; they don't desire to go anywhere else. And I love America too. I have so many luxuries here, God has blessed me. However, I have to go and share it and share the good news with those that don't know it. I have to do what He calls me to do, no matter what sacrifices I have to make. And I don't want to do something that will upset my family, my friends, those that I love. But I want to do what God has called me to do.

My heart longs for my eternal home. And sometimes, I feel very alone, aside from my God who is always with me. I know I have people I can talk to about all this, maybe even people who feel the same way. The church I am involved with is so supportive, it's been such a blessing. I think it's this idea that I don't belong here. This is just a stop on the way to eternity with God. I am here to do His work and then, one blessed day, I will go on to join Him in all His glory and I will be with Him forever.  

This is a lot tonight. I just feel scared and overwhelmed and all I know to do is pray. I especially pray for the people who will be around me these next few months especially; I think this will just get more intense after I actually go to Africa.

Last, I want to leave on this blog some lyrics to a Relient K song that came to my mind as I wrote this blog. I think for God to work in my life, He has to break my heart. Africa will do that. I want to be ready for it. Here are the lyrics. Thanks for reading and have a blessed week!

"Let it all out
Get it all out
Rip it out remove it
Don't be alarmed
When the wound begins to bleed

Cause we're so scared to find out
What this life's all about
So scared we're going to lose it
Not knowing all along
That's exactly what we need

And today I will trust you with the confidence
Of a man who's never known defeat
But tomorrow, upon hearing what I did
I will stare at you in disbelief

And you said I know that this will hurt
But if I don't break your heart then things will just get worse
If the burden seems too much to bear
The end will justify the pain it took to get us there

And I'll let it be known
At times I have shown
Signs of all my weakness
But somewhere in me
There is strength

And you promise me
That you believe
In time I will defeat this
Cause somewhere in me
There is strength

And today I will trust you with the confidence
Of a man who's never known defeat
And I'll try my best to just forget
That that man isn't me

Reach out to me
Make my heart brand new
Every beat will be for you
For you

And I know you know
You touched my life
When you touched my heavy heart and made it light"

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Crazy Love

This phrase is just the motto of 2011 for me, in so many ways.

My heart is full of love right now. I started out the year with a trip to Passion Conference in Atlanta, GA. It was an amazing, uplifting experience where I was able to spend a few days making friendships with people my age in the Spirit of the Lord. We worshiped together, learned together, prayed together. It was wonderful.

In February I think, I attended a Crazy Love retreat with some women from my church. It was incredible. the speaker was amazing, the women were uplifting. It was an intense weekend and near the end I recommitted my life to Christ and made the decision to be baptized. It was kind of the first time that I really got it, that I really started to understand His crazy love for us. The He made the stars and the universe and the ants and trees and He made you and me and He loves us so much that He gave His only son for us. Crucifixion and humiliation and suffering for our sins. So that we might know Him and enter into our Heavenly home one day.

So the past couple of months I have been growing spiritually but I have also been experiencing a different kind of love. I have never felt this before. I have never dated much, I've only been in one serious relationship previous to the one I'm in now. But after the first relationship, a year and half ago it ended I think, I was a mess. I wasn't where I am today spiritually and I think this had a huge impact on how the relationship affected me. I felt like I was alone and like I just wasn't worth anything. I felt so helpless and vulnerable and unloved, and I have never felt like that before. I think it was a combination of factors--the boy probably wasn't the best guy I should've been with. I had kind of rushed things and I had become emotionally attached very quickly. I had made him such a priority in my every day life that I didn't know what to do without him. It was bad. But through that, I learned what heartbreak was like. I learned what not to do in future relationships. And I learned that I was not spiritually strong. If I was aware of God's immense and crazy love for me, I wouldn't need the love of a boy so much. I learned this through a few bible studies I attended in the year (and continuing) after the break up. I realized it didn't matter what the boys on this earth feel about me because my Heavenly father, my creator, my savior, He loves me with all of my faults, with all of my sins, with all of my baggage. Always and forever not just while it's convienient or fun.

Anyways, after all of this, the past couple of months I have been experiencing new love. And I don't like getting emotional or mushy or anything like that. But I have to try to articulate what is going on in my head and my heart even though I don't really know how to. I have been reading a book called Crazy Love by Francis Chan. It's what our retreat was based on. It's about God's crazy love for us and how we should be responding with a consatant, whole-hearted, crazy love for Him in return. It's very convicting, I highly recommend it, Chan is an inspirational man, truly trying to live his life for Christ. In the book, there is a chapter titled, "When You're In Love." 

Now, don't misunderstand me here. Typically what I get out of the book is how to strengthen my relationship with God, how to love Him more, how to serve Him and others every day. There will be a book closing blog all about that, I promise. But with this chapter I realized something else, about romantic love, not Godly love. With my limited relationship experience, I am not quite on the same page as most of the other people at the book study I attend for this book. They are mostly married or have been married before, etc. They have two views on what crazy love is, I assume. One for our Heavenly father and one for their spouse.

Here is where I am not going to say much because it's personal and honestly it scares me and writing it all down makes it more real. There is a paragraph in the chapter about when you're in love.
"When you are truly in love, you go to great lenths to be with the one you love. You'll drive for hours to be together, even if it's only for a short while. you don't mind staying up late to talk...When you are apart from each other, it's painful even miserable. He or she is all you think about; you jump at any chance to be together."
My current romantic situation is wonderful. As I was reading this excerpt, I just kinda got scared honestly. I am dating a boy who I have known for a couple years but have only been romantically involved with a couple months. But some of this already rings true. Especially the being-apart-being-painful thing. Now don't worry, I'm not going to jump the gun here and rush anything. I'm just taking it a day at a time. Just one text/phone call/face-to-face conversation at a time. I am 21, no need for big commitments. But my mind just looks back to this passage and thinks about the feelings I have right now and the feelings Chan describes as those you have when you're crazy in love.

That's all I really want to say. No dilemma, I don't need advice or anything. I just needed to write down somewhere that I'm so full of love right now. Love for my God, my merciful, gracious, mighty savior. Love for my family and friends who are always very supportive no matter what. And love for this boy, who has filled these last few months with an earthly joy that I had not up to this point experienced.

Crazy love is the theme for this year for me. I am experiencing it on so many levels. I am overwhelmed and overjoyed.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Completely Overwhelmed

I'm not sure where to begin. My heart and my mind are so full right now. For many reasons.

Today, something I surrendered to God months ago came to a climax. Months ago, I decided to go to Africa on a mission trip. It was something I'd wanted to do for years but was too scared about money and being spiritually prepared and other little things. I finally just decided to do it--I knew God was calling me to. I began to worry about money as looked at the medicines I would need, the payments we had to make. After some time worrying, I stopped and I listened to scripture. Philippians 4:6 says, "Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God." Why not practice what I preach? Truly live out what the bible says. That's what we should be doing anyways right?!

Anyway, I stopped worrying, I started praying. I still worked and attempted to find a new job, which I found in May (thank you Lord for providing). I fund raised, asked friends and families for donations. And then, two amazing things happened. First, I was shown support from my amazing new church family at First United Methodist of Sylva. I say new because I was recently (May 15th) baptized and joined the church. Another member and I are going on this trip and one of the groups organized a spaghetti lunch for us to raise money for the trip. We raised enough for each of us to have $500 towards our trip!!! AMAZING! I thought I was overwhelmed. I was definitely overjoyed. God was so good. Then, today, I visited a friend whose family I have been friends with for a few years. They said they would donate. When I got there, I was handed a check for a donation of $400.

Time out.
  • The total trip (minus visa and medicines) is $1500.
  • With other donations I have received from friends, families and neighbors, I had raised $670.
  • That plus the spaghetti lunch ($500), plus the amazing, outrageous, incredible donation from my friends family ($400) equals $1570.
  • That's more than I needed.
  • That means that will pay for some of the medicines I still need.
  • WOAH!

This completely generous, self-less, crazy donation has put me over what I need. I am completely, totally 100% overwhelmed not only by the generosity and love of the people in my life but also of how God provides. When I finally trusted Him, gave it all to Him, let Him have my worries and concerns; He came through as it says in His word. He always provides, He is more than we need. Why is it so hard to remember this.

And as I looked up that scripture, Philippians 4:6, again tonight, I read the next verse. Verse 7 "And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus." Amazing. He is so good, so gracious, so mighty and yet He will guard our hearts. If we let Him.

Just something to think about. Much more in my heart and mind right now, but this for starters.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Beginning to Blog

I have never really been into blogs. But recently, I am feeling overwhelmed at the changes in my life, my heart and my mind. I need to release these new ideas and feelings that are invading my mind, and I thought a blog would be a good way to do so. I am not doing this so I can get followers and comments—I am doing this to articulate what is going on in my mind and heart so that my thoughts will be better organized in my head and my heart when I speak to others in real life and as I carry out the works God created me to do.

I chose this scripture to represent my blog because I love how Paul writes that we, God’s people, should shine like stars when we live our lives for Him. I want to be a star in this crazy world; I want to be an example of how Jesus lived and loved. I am still learning every day how to be more like Jesus and how to live in this world. One way I am doing so is by being baptized, joining a church and becoming involved in different book and bible studies that focus on living as Jesus did.

In this blog I will probably share much of what I am reading and learning from the book/bible studies. I will also use this blog while I am on a mission trip in Africa next month. This is another exciting way that I am living my life for Him—going and making disciples in other nations.

There will also probably be lots of pictures and lots of random information about my life. Just whatever is giving me particular emotion that present day—I will write about it.

I look forward to sharing my thoughts on here. If you’re reading this, beware. I am on quite a spiritual ride at the moment and am feeling quite passionate about many things. This passion may cause intense and/or unorganized blogs.

Let the blogging begin!