Accepting Solitude, Declining Loneliness

It has come to my attention these past few days that within the next few weeks here in India I am going to be forced into a season of loneliness. Those of you who know me, you know this is super difficult for me.

I am an extreme extrovert. I LOVE being around people. I thrive from positive interactions with other human beings. It could even be a total stranger and I’ll leave the conversation feeling more energized and re-focused on the purpose for my life. Almost like a breath of fresh air.

Today it hit me the hardest. I was still in bed when I got the text from one of my best friends asking if I wanted to join for lunch at a place literally 10 steps from my front gate. I called up my boyfriend and we met her there with a bunch of other friends.

Wow. Is all I can say. I had so much fun just sitting there talking for a bit, even with another dude I just met. After, my boyfriend and best friend came over to help me with a video project for a class I am in.

After laughing our hearts out because it was just too hard to try to stay concentrated, we finally finished the video. My friend left and my boyfriend decided to finish a movie he was watching on my phone.

So, I did what anyone else would do. I napped. When the movie was over, my boyfriend had to leave immediately to go home. As he was leaving, he told me he couldn’t come back until probably next Monday.

That’s four days from now. YES, I can handle being away from him for that long. BUT, I basically broke down crying because I just knew that all my other friends would be busy between now and then also- thus I would be stranded in my little dorm/apartment style room. All. By. Myself.

After he left I texted some friends and asked if they had dinner plans. YEP. Everyone had plans. Cool. I thought. I hope they have fun. Looks like it’ll just be me and trusty Netflix tonight… at least I can try to finish my Netflix series sooner than I thought… those are good goals right?

After one episode my stomach was growling its way into another dimension. I didn’t want my leftover hillbilly vegetable pasta (derived from my mom’s hillbilly hamburger helper), so I packed my bag with my tablet and my wallet and I hit the road for Café Society– my usual when there is no one else to grab dinner with.

I sat there reading through some other WordPress blog posts and then it hit me. I can use this time of being alone as solitude, not a time of loneliness. I mean c’mon. Though, my cheesy boyfriend would say “But you’re not alone, God is always with you.”

The more I thought about it, the more I realized that maybe God is doing this to me intentionally so that I will learn how to be alone– and learn to practice solitude. There are so many things I can do in this time that I wouldn’t be able to do if I were with people.

For example, I can focus more on my blog, or finishing the last few weeks of this semester. I can work on reading the two other novels I brought with me. I can focus on praying for the salvation of my friends and family. I can relax and watch Netflix or play Sims (okay you caught me, I’ve already been doing that).

These times of being alone don’t have to be a time of loneliness. They can be a prosperous, productive time of solitude leading to growth and independence. You may even gain guidance on what the next step of your life is (at least that is one thing I am hoping for).

Our dearest Apostle Paul reminds us to “make the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil” (Ephesians 5.16).

So friends, join me in making the most of the lonely time and accepting the growth that can take place in solitude.

*I also have to give a shout-out to my boyfriend because I used a photo he took as the featured image!*

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The Master Recipe

A few weeks ago I went to this cute café called Twisty Tails with some friends. At this place you can order food and play with doggies! Pretty cool right?! (especially when most of the dogs in India have rabies and other diseases so you can’t pet them!)

As I dove into the chicken tikka pizza that my best friend and I split, I realized something I had never paid any attention to before…

In this culture, it is the most normal thing to put ketchup on your pizza. In fact, I evenIMG_1165 started doing this. But on this particular occasion, I realized that the reason the pizza needs more tomato sauce is because there is none on it.

If you order pizza in the Western World, you will look forward to seeing the bright red pizza sauce peeking between the cheese and other layers of toppings. There’s no question about whether there will be pizza sauce (tomato-based sauce) on the pizza. I guess our problem in the Western World is that we drown our deliciousness in Ranch dressing…

Anyways, as we continued to dip our pizza in the ketchup, I also was taken aback by how many other extra things we had to add to it.. chili flakes, oregano, more ketchup… It’s almost as if the pizza was not “up to par” and we have to keep adding things to it so that it meets our standards.

My heart goes out to the poor chef that made this pizza… I hope he isn’t offended that we all thought it needed a little more just to satisfy our hunger.

It just made me think of how the Word of God is our spiritual food.

The apostle John records Jesus sharing this basic fact to the crowd of people that witness Him walking on water in chapter 6. Jesus says:

“I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.” (John 6.35)

Because Jesus was the Word that became flesh, we can make the inference that the Word is our spiritual food (John 1.14)

Unlike the pizza I ate, the Word does not need anything added to it to make it more satisfying. The Word and the Word alone is enough to quench our spiritual hunger and thirst, no ketchup necessary!

It’s like Jesus is this Master Chef that cooked up this unfathomable recipe. Not a single person can do better than it. Nothing is needed to improve it… no salt, no pepper, no sugar, no ranch. There is no water other than the Living Water. The water of eternal life:

Jesus answered, ‘Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.'” (John 4.13-14)

It’s actual pretty stress relieving. To know that there is and always will be this food that I can rely on to satisfy me is just unthinkable. It’s not like wondering if you want Chinese or Mexican, a milkshake or a soft drink. It’s do I want some Old Testament or New Testament? or am I in the mood for some major prophets, Gospels, or letters of Paul? 

I am so happy that I do not have to worry about adding spices to make this more satisfying and hunger quenching because, man, I really don’t know my spices!

Jesus says: Very truly I tell you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise them up at the last day. For my flesh is real food and my blood is real drink. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me, and I in them. Just as the living Father sent me and I live because of the Father, so the one who feeds on me will live because of me. (John 6.53-57)

IMG_1270Tonight I went to another cafe and I had another reminder of this when I ordered my cappuccino. I took one sip and it was bitter as all get out. Luckily, the nice served had brought me a little boat of sugar.

In order for me to drink my cappuccino and enjoy it, I had to add something to it. How glorious to know that we do not need to add a spoonful of anything to God’s Word.

Yours is the Victory

Do you ever do something where you aren’t really sure if you have the confidence to do it, but then when you actually do do it you are so darn proud of yourself? Not like a bragging kind of proud, but like a wow, I actually did it! kind of proud?

I mean, I’m talking that feeling were you are crazy nervous and anxious to do this one thing that you don’t even realize you are doing it. THAT kind of proud. The kind where you’re like woah.. did I seriously just do that?

Right now, I am sitting in Café Coffee Day (shocker that I’m in a coffee shop right?) with the leftover nerves and anxiety streaming through my veins. Or maybe that’s the chocolate ice cream and coffee I had for lunch about 30 minutes ago…

ANYWAYS. The point is, I did it. I accomplished a fear! I took a chance and stepped out of my comfort zone! You’re probably so excited for me right now… don’t you want to know what I did?? Okay… you talked me into it, I’ll tell you!

As you know from my previous posts, I am living in India right now. I was here before, but when I was here before I was scared to even walk to the grocery store alone. I don’t really know why. Maybe I was afraid I would get hit on, or just hit in general in attempts to cross the street in this crazy traffic.

But this time, I’m not as scared. I feel confident in walking to the grocery store, and even crossing the street. I think that it’s because of one thing and one thing only… OLA. Ola is like the cheap Uber of India (although they still have Uber). It’s just a simple app where no matter where I am, basically, I can get an auto or car ride for a decent price. WOW. Can you say life changer?

BUT here’s the thing folks. Ola is great, but not everyone uses it. In fact, while it is cheap to Indians even that can be pricey. Why would you take an Ola auto when you can take a Share auto for only 20 RS, or the bus for 15 RS.

This is the dilemma I am in. I have enough money to stay here for the rest of the time I have planned, if and only if, I live the Indian way. This means, it’s okay to walk or take the bus. That’s the problem. I don’t have the confidence to take the bus on my own… or at least didn’t.

I woke up on this humid and hazy Sunday morning at about 10:30AM. I’m a bad girl and didn’t go to church. Actual, I have a valid reason for that. I’ve been very sick and coughing up a storm, so I didn’t want to go to church and disturb the sermon every three seconds because I needed to clear my throat. I also thought it would be good for my body to catch up on some zzz’s.

So I woke up, took my cold shower, and went to lunch with another American bloke image_123986672that’s here. We went to one veg restaurant with a hankering for a Masala Dosa, but they weren’t serving them at the time. Naturally, we left and went to another veg restaurant, a little further away, to get our dosas. Only to find out this place didn’t serve dosas until after 4pm… hence the chocolate ice cream and coffee for lunch.

After we finished the food that we did end up getting we walked back to the main gate of the college. Across the street from the main gate is a bus stand and a share auto stand. My plan for the rest of the day was to get a share auto to Café Coffee Day and spend the day slaving over my computer and textbooks with a hot cup of Joe (yes, another cup of coffee).

I asked one Share auto if he was stopping in Sembekem, the place where Café Coffee Day was. He did the weird head bobble thing that I recognized as a big fat “no”. I started walking through the bus stand to get to the auto stand. Then, another auto drove up next to me, clearly seeing that I was just rejected, and asked where I was headed. I told him the location and he just laughed in my face and drove away.

COOL. I thought to myself. We continued to walk through the bus stand and there was a bus that said 95 on it waiting to take off. Without hesitation I walked to the front of the bus and through the window I asked the driver if the bus was stopping in Sembekem. He did the head bobble thing that I took to mean “yes”.

I was like see ya later Gary, I’m hopping on this bus and going to Coffee Day! So I did. I sat down and waited for the bus to leave and my mind was like what am I doing??!?!?!? I don’t even remember what the Sembekem stop looks like! I’m going to miss it and embarrass myself. I DO NOT have the confidence for this!!

When the conductor (is that what they are called? Or is that just for trains?) came and I paid, again without thinning I said, “Sir, can you tell me when we stop at Sembekem?” He rambled something in Tamil and I was like thanks man.

Sure enough, he mentioned to me when Sembekem was next. I even started to get off the bus before the bus was fully stopped! Okay cool, so I took the bus. No biggie right? Except for the fact that now I had to cross the street!

I took a deep breath, pulled up my big girl pants and just walked into the road. I waited for these slow as all get out bikes to pass and made my run for it. There were two bikes waiting at the median to turn, so I waited with them and as soon as there was an opening in the traffic I skedaddled my little legs as fast as I could across the street!

As I finished the short walk to Café Coffee Day it was like I had two little Jenny’s sitting on each shoulder. One was like who do you think you are young lady? You could have died! You could have gotten on the wrong bus! And the other was like I am Jenny Freaking Bushnell and I just conquered the only fear I have in India. I am victorious. And then a bike drove through a puddle next to me getting my feet soggy. (insert face palm emoji here –>).

Anyways, I know that was a long story for such a small punchline, but c’mon folks! If we don’t conquer our fears with confidence and poise, aren’t we letting the devil get the best of us? I could have very easily just taken and Ola auto back to my little place and end up losing my motivation to blog, or do any type of work, and just binge watch “The Good Wife” for the rest of the day.

But I didn’t! Because instead I said not today dear Satan. I walk with the blood of Christ covering me and I am victorious because of it! What is holding you back from conquering your little fears? Are you afraid to admit that you even have a little fear like I did? It’s OKAY! Just let it out and then stomp it out! You got this! Start living your best life today!

 

Broken Candles

One day I was shopping at the good ol’ Phoenix Market City Mall here in Chennai and I found this candle. I wasn’t looking for a candle, but it it just kind of stumbled its way into my path.

IMG-0889

I had seen it before in the store, but it seemed too much to spend on just a candle to burn every now and then. Then, I turned the corner and there was a whole shelf with tons of discounted candles. That’s where I found this little guy. He was a whopping 30 rupees, which equals about 41 cents in U.S. Dollars.

He was marked down because the glass on the bottom of the candle had been chipped and broken. It looked like it had been poorly handled or maybe even dropped on the ground.

Tonight as I winded down from my long Monday and watched this candle burn, the chipped part of the candle made me think of something.

Ya know, we are all a little chipped and a little broken in some way, shape, or form. And we all know what happens to things that are broken. They become of lesser value (like my candle). They get thrown away, or someone tries to fix it with tape. In essence, the item is useless.

BUT, I am here to break the stereotype that broken things are useless. Even though this candle has a few chips on the bottom, its light is still shining and it is still burning bright.

So, when it comes to our own brokenness, we have two options on how to interpret it. We can either:

1. Give in to the stereotype that because we are broken we are useless. 

OR

2. Acknowledge that even in our brokenness our light can still shine. 

Jesus wasn’t kidding when He said, “you are a light unto the world” (Matthew 5.14-15). If I were you, I wouldn’t even give the Devil the time of day in thinking option one.

In reality, we are all just broken candles, flames lit and lighting the world with our faith. Don’t be discouraged if you are feeling broken or useless because of your past- or even your present! Remember that Jesus has come to “heal the brokenhearted and bind up their wounds” (Psalm 147.3).

My candle may have been mistreated and discounted, and you may have been treated poorly and as if you do not have worth, but in Jesus’ eyes, you are still beautiful and He still desires to use you to let the Gospel spread throughout the nations!

Yes, my friend, that includes you! So go broken candle friend! Let your light shine!

You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden.  Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house.

Matthew 5.14-15

One and Done

Recently God reminded me of something very important.

If you have been following my blog/stories on here, you know that the past few months I have been praying for the Lord to grant me the desire of my heart to go back to the nation of India to serve in some way, shape, or form. You also know that the Lord provided in miraculous ways and here I am, writing this blog from the depths of my own place in my favorite country, my home away from home… literally.

Well, you see, it’s funny that we talk about how God answers prayer. I think there are so many times we focus on the prayers that God doesn’t answer. But I mean, come on, who else is actually thanking God that He didn’t answer the prayer for you and your high school sweetheart to get back together? (It’s okay to raise your hand).

But when we focus so much on these unanswered prayers, with or without the hidden blessing deep inside, when our prayers do get answered, we take it for granted.

Here’s what I mean… for the past three to four months I basically begged God for a few specific things. One of them being that I can come back to India. At first, I didn’t think it would work out, but then I realized how much God was asking me to sacrifice so that He could bless me and give me this desire. I actually hate using the word sacrifice because I feel like it makes me look like some type of hero or something, but I’m not. It was a choice. Something I wanted to do to deepen my relationship with God.

God pulled a few strings and provided for me, just like the Word says He would. He got me finances, got me an online job, got me a really nice (and affordable) place to stay, and showed me that my education isn’t the only important thing in my life. So, with my Visa approved and excitement in my heart, I bought my ticket back to India.

It’s been officially three weeks in India. And while I have been so grateful that God has provided me this opportunity, I have been a selfish and spoiled little brat about it. It’s like I said, “hey God, I got what I wanted catch ya on the flippity flip!” But God was like, “oh no ya don’t young one. You can’t do this on your own!”

That’s slang for I lost my online job and am freaking out about not having an income. You would think that if I had enough faith to hop on an airplane and move across the globe for seven months that I would have enough faith that God would provide me with another source of income. But no. My human self actually got mad at God. Crazy right? Like who do I think I am?

I blamed God. I asked Him why He gave me this job and then took it away. Why did He open these doors and now I feel like they are slowly closing. Okay, maybe that’s a bit of an exaggeration. But honestly, the Lord dropped a big heavy revy (revelation) on me when I was actually attempting to lash out at God for letting this “failure” happen in my life.

I was reminded of the image of God as our Father. I thought immediately of earthly fathers. What do they do? They provide. They care. They make sure you are safe and have everything you need. So, I picked up the phone and called my dad and asked him for $1,000… kidding. I wish I could do that.

What actually happened was the Lord continued to show me that just like an earthly father doesn’t just provide for you once and then he’s done, but he must continuously provide for you. God the Father is the same way. He is not a one and done kind of God and never will He be one because He is an eternal provider that I can always count on. Can I get an AMEN?

God is saying to me that I cannot (and will not) do this on my own. I do not have enough strength and power in the world to be successful in my own might. I need Jesus. I need Him to carry me. I need Him to provide for me. I need Him to lead me and guide me. I need Him to be my vision because sometimes everything is super blurry.

I am reminded that God is the God that gives, but God is also the God that takes away. God is calling this generation, these people, us, to trust in Him in some radical ways. Even when the world is turning upside down and we lose something crucial (like an income), God is asking us to put our faith in Him like we have our earthly fathers. And if your earthly father did not provide for you God is saying that’s okay because He is still going to move in your life.

So instead of running the other way and letting Satan get a hold of our thoughts and emotions when these trials come, we need to remember who our Father in Heaven is. He is not a one and done kind of God, but He is the eternal provider that longs to see us thrive. And when He does provide, we cannot forget Him. We must continue to praise Him, thank Him, and allow Him to move in our lives. Just because He gives us what we want does not mean we have the authority to do what we want.

And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus. 

Philippians 4.19

Remember, “in the world you will have tribulation, but take heart, Jesus has overcome the world,” John 16.33. Trust my dear friends. Trust in the promise of our providing eternal Father.

The Heart’s Desire

“Delight yourself in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart”

Psalm 37.4

How many times have you heard this verse in church or Sunday school? This verse is one of the most popular verses referred to when it comes to waiting.

You want to get married? Delight in the Lord and He will give you your desire. You want to have kids? Delight in the Lord…. You want a new car? Delight in the Lord… Any true desire that we have, the response is “delight in the Lord…”

Let me tell you about a time when the Lord put this verse on my heart, but I honestly did not know what the true desire of my heart was.

It was the end of my first year of college. I had just joined this missions group on campus called Ekballo. Shortly after I joined, we had a leadership retreat a few hours from the college at the vice president’s mansion. Now, I have to be honest and tell you that there was a very cute boy that was also going to this leadership retreat.

We were already pretty close friends, but I wanted to get to know him a little more. Ya know, see if there was any potential. So that was one of my missions for the weekend. On one of the days we did a prophecy exercise. All of our names were put into a hat and we drew a name and asked the Lord to give us a word for that person. The catch is that we couldn’t open the paper until after the word the Lord had given was shared.

As soon as I picked the piece of paper from the hat, I knew I had my own name. There was no doubt about it. The Lord said to me, “I am the God of the impossible and I will give you the desires of your heart (Psalm 37.4).”

My human mind immediately thought that was a promise that things would work out with this cute guy. For so long, I took that literally. I prayed and prayed and prayed that the Lord would send us out to the nations together. Then, we went on a missions trip to Southeast Asia together. I thought that surely the Lord was making this happen.

Things did not go as I had hoped with this guy though. He didn’t have feelings for me and then at some point we tried dating but realized it was just awkward, so not we are just good friends, and at one point, we were best friends.

So, that led me to still ask the Lord “then what is this desire of my heart that you plan on giving me?” As you may know from previous blogs I spent the beginning of 2018 until about April living in India for a study abroad experience. You may also know that I fell in love with that land and the people there.

Before I go any further, I need to share another little snippet of my past. After this guy and I went on this trip the Southeast Asia, we went to a missions conference back in the states. At this conference, they asked those who are willing and desirous to go the nations one day and serve overseas to fill out a commitment card. I knew I still had two more years of school left, so I said, “okay Lord, in two years, I will go and live on foreign soil to spread the Gospel and bring justice.”

Okay, now back the story… After getting home from my time in India, I did what most college graduates do. I got a job and started online classes towards my masters degree. I actually ended up having to get a new car too.

At first, I loved my job and was happy to be home with my family. I enjoyed hanging out with my cousin and best friend every weekend. I started playing tennis and doing all sorts of other exciting things.

Soon, I realized that this happiness was not lasting. It was so hard to be away from the land that I fell in love with. Not a single day went by where I did not think of India. I talked to friends from there everyday.

After a few months of working, I needed to re-evaluate my plans. It’s not that I hated the job, but it was not up my alley in what I wanted to do. The experience was incredible, nonetheless, but I wanted something more. So, I prayed.

I said Lord, I want to go back to India. I began searching for ways I could go. Maybe I could use education as a clutch again. I searched for an online job to keep me financially secure, and I reached out to my contacts in India to find proper housing. I didn’t expect any of it to work out in such an easy way.

Then, all of a sudden, housing fell in place, people wanted to partner financially with me, I had a project lined up for me to do when I got there, the only thing that was not set was the education piece. The school that I go to wanted me to go to a different part of India to complete field placement. They were not satisfied with where I had proposed I did my field education at.

I had a choice to make. Either I moved to a different part of India where I didn’t know anyone or the area, or stayed home. Then, the Lord put a third option on my heart that I didn’t even think would be possible. I could drop down to part time for my masters degree and complete it in two years, instead of just one.

That would mean that the educational piece would be eliminated altogether. After much prayer and surrendering my own plans to the Lord, this is what I decided to do. I felt so much peace about it. Probably because I knew God had a greater plan through all of it.

I texted my professor from my undergraduate college and told her everything was set into place and I was going back in just one month (this was at the end of July). She replied, “the Lord is giving you the desires of your heart!”

At that moment, the past two years of my life in wondering what the Lord meant in what He said to me at that leadership retreat all fell into place. While I do have the desire to be married one day, my biggest desire, and promise I made to the Lord, was that I would live overseas for an extended period of time serving the Lord.

That being said, I quit my well-paying job, hopped on an airplane and moved to India for the next 7 months of my life. As I sit here in my own room that I am renting with the funds the Lord so graciously provided, I am filled with the most joy I have ever felt because I know that I am completely and utterly in the exact place that the Lord wants me.

The Lord has gave me the desires of my heart. Friend, if there is anything that you get out of this post, get this: The Lord is faithful to bring His promises. It takes a little effort on our end. We are called to be obedient, no matter how fearful we are, and to trust that He is in complete control. So, take a step back and delight in the Lord because He wants to give you the desires of your heart too.

Many Waters

Probably over a month ago I stopped at a small park with a little lake on my way home. It was pouring rain and I could just imagine how beautiful the rain look thrashing against the still water. Normally I would go the actual lake (lake Erie), but it was late and I didn’t have time for those shenanigans. My dad used to take my sister and I to the lake all the time to watch storms roll in and reside, that’s where I got this idea from.

I did a very quick drive by and tried to swipe a good picture of the nature scene, but because it was so dark and rainy it did not turn out. But as I sat there for a small moment and watched as the sky saturated this already soaking wet land with its rains, I couldn’t help but just desire the same.

I was reminded of the verse from Song of Solomon. You know, the one that Jesus Culture turned into an incredible worship song? Song of Solomon 8.6-7:

Set me as a seal upon your heart, as a seal upon your arm, for long is strong as death, jealousy demanding as the grave. Its flashes are flashes of fire, the very flame of the Lord. Many waters cannot quench love, neither can floods drown it. If man offered for love all the wealth of his house he would be utterly despised.

Let me repeat the very specific portion that I am referring to:

Many waters cannot quench love, neither can floods drown it.

My basic, human, non-Bible or non-theology major interpretation of that is this: you can never have too much love in your life and there is very little that can extinguish love (or satisfy it). In other words, only love will truly satisfy us.

We can thirst and drink as much water as we want, but the only thing that will really satisfy us and bring that “quenched” feeling, is the love of God.

I’m not talking about some mushy-gushy-cheesy-romantic-Jack-gets-Jill-in-the-end kind of love. No. I am talking about the deeply rooted, never-ending, all-consuming love that Christ offers us.

As I watched the rains spill its guts all over that lake, the already wet, filled to the top with water lake, I couldn’t help but imagine that the water was actually God’s love. The lake was a lake of Jesus’ love and the clouds were Jesus showering even more love!

I want that.

We use the term “saturated” to describe things as being soaked that absorb a lot of liquid. That’s want I want. I want to be over-saturated in the love that God has for me. I want to be so caught up and consumed in His love that I don’t even think twice about what is means to delight in Him.