I did not know how thirsty I was until I took the first sip.
Last night, I had a great opportunity to ride the metro for the first time with some friends. In order to do this, however, I had to skip dinner in the mess hall of where I am staying. I was perfectly okay with this because I was not a fan of the meal being served. By the time the metro fun was over, my group was very hungry. So, we did what any group of friends would do, we stopped for food.
We went to a place that was famous for its biriyani. However, I ordered a parotta because I get biriyani quite often in my mess hall. The parotta came with a reddish-looking sauce that had a whole chili pepper floating in it. I have been a little more gutsy with the spices lately, so I took a bit of my parotta and dunked it like an Oreo in a glass of milk. To my surprise, it was not as spicy as I expected, but it was still higher on the spice chart than what I was used to.
I continued to eat it with no problem. As I enjoyed my meal, I utilized the cup and pitcher of water that was sitting in front of me on the table. after every few bites I would take a sip of the cold refreshing water to help balance out the spice. I did not know how thirsty I was until I took the first sip. It almost became addicting to drink (not that that is a bad thing, right?).
Throughout the meal, I am pretty sure I refilled my cup at least five times. Living in a country where it is almost 100 degrees each day and where the humidity is unbearable, I am encouraged to drink a lot of water. There is much fear that with the heat and the amount of walking I do, that I will fall ill from dehydration. This concept of drinking a lot of water is so hard for me to grasp.
It’s only a struggle for me because of my surroundings. Sure, the heat makes me thirsty and want water more… but what happens when you drink a lot of water? You tend to need a restroom more often than not. At home, in the U.S., I admit, I probably would not have this problem. Then again, when I am there I am not as concerned about my H2O intake either.
The problem lies in the fact that I do not always have a restroom readily available to me. I spend at least two days out of my week in hamlets and villages where most homes do not even have a toilet. Once we are in the main city area, many public places do not have public restrooms. In fact, if they do, such as at the train station, you will have to pay in order to use- and that’s if the bathroom is even working!
On the other days, I have access to a a very nice, and usually very clean, Indian style toilet. If you do not know what an Indian style toilet looks like, please click here. The problem with this is that on those days I am inside and typically under a fan. I’m not usually quenched for thirst and do not think to drink a lot of water. Take heart, I have not yet fallen ill from not drinking enough water.
As I sat in this air-conditioned restaurant, chowing down on my parotta and basically inhaling the pitcher of water in front of me, I became aware of something else. When we go for days on end without spending time with God, we do not realize how thirsty we actually are until we drink from His living well again.
There are times when we may do a really great job of spending x amount of time reading y amounts of scripture and saying z amounts of prayers. We also have times where x, y, and z all equal 0. In these times, we think we are okay spiritually. We say: there is nothing inherently wrong with my life right now and I am trusting God with my future, or, I know He’s with me. Then, we may fall into the thought process that skipping just one day of quiet time with the Lord isn’t going to hurt anything.
Before I go any further, let me ask you something, when you neglect to spend time with someone you love and care about, does that hurt the relationship you have with them?
When we “opt-out” of spending quiet time with God daily, we are hindering our relationship with God. Now, I am not saying that God is forsaking us and is not with us. I am saying that we are choosing to spend time with other things besides God. We are prioritizing other things above God. And that, hurts God.
He longs to spend time with us. He longs to reveal things to us in scripture.
So, back to the concept of water… even though I did not realize how thirsty I was when I was eating, I figured it out when I took the first sip. For too long I had let the environment influence my actions of drinking water. And I suffered from that because I did not get to enjoy the satisfaction that drinking cold water on a warm day gives.
Are you allowing your environment to influence your decision to daily drink from the living well? Are you choosing to “opt-out” of the daily satisfaction you can get from spending time with God each day?
Dear friend, I want to encourage you that even if you have, God is still there waiting for you. He is longing to spend some time with you, waiting to take your relationship with Him further! Render your heart to Him and let Him be your priority.
“‘Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again,but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.'”
These are the words I hear. These are the words that Jesus has been speaking to me.
He says “come to me and I will strengthen you. Come to me and I will make you well. I will feed you. I will quench your thirst. I will fill your cup and give you eternal peace. All you need to do is come to me”.
These are three simple words that are so easy for us to grasp. They are words that we might read over in Matthew 11.28-30. We may skip over the “come to me” to read the part that says “I will give you…”. Before we can receive, we must obey.
These are three simple words where Jesus is inviting us to be intimate with Him. He wants us to share our lives with Him. Just as you may go to a best friend, husband, or mentor, Jesus wants us to seek Him. He wants you to trust Him.
These are three simple words that Jesus speaks to us in our most difficult times where we are tired and worn. When we are weak and need rest.
These are three simple words where Jesus wants us to be obedient so that He can give. In Matthew 11.28-39 Jesus says, “come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light”.
He wants to give you rest. He wants to remove your heavy burdens from you. He wants to bring healing to you. These three simple word offer is a hope of seeking Jesus and exchanging our heavy laden for His easy yoke. Take hold of His light burden and find rest for your soul. Breathe in the gentleness of Jesus and breathe out your burden. Feel the release of what is holding you back.
It has been a few weeks since I have written about my adventures in India. I would like to say that it is because I have been busy, but in all honesty, I have been just pure lazy. Not only that, but to find the correct words to string together that describe all I am experiencing here is just no task man can handle alone. Not only have I been too lazy to write, but unsure of what to write. Now… where did I leave off last? Oh yes, I ended my last post with something about God’s strength being what I needed to survive here.
Yeah, that pretty much sums up my last few weeks. Shall we proceed?
Before we jumped into our field placements, we went on a trip with the other social work students to the west side of South India. We took a train for 7 hours, then got on a bus for another 3 hours, and then walked for about an hour through hilly lands. We were staying with an NGO that worked with tribal families in the area.Throughout our visit there, we spent time meeting with, collecting data, learning from, and talking about the tribal groups. We learned that they are being exploited and had several debates on how we, as social workers, can help stop the exploitation. No, we did not come to a conclusion.
On one of the nights we went to a village deep in the Western Ghats and spent an evening with a tribal family. The other students put on a program for them. We slept on the cold hard floors in a school building (one room) with about thirty other people… and spiders. But let me tell you, it was rewarding waking up to the sun rise over the mountains. It was one of the most beautiful views I had ever seen.
Meeting some of the tribal families was at times uninteresting for me. This is mainly because of the language barrier. Not only did they speak a different language, but some also spoke a different language then the students I was with. This made it very challenging for me to do anything other than sit and watch. But then again, when else would be a better time than to practice the spiritual discipline of silence and to just observe and breath in?
I was expecting to leave there feeling very guilty about my choice of lifestyle at home, but honestly, I didn’t. Sometimes I feel guilty for not feeling guilty, but then I have realized something. I have realized that they are content with what they have. The tribal people don’t worry and fret about eating the next day and only worry about a single day’s wage at a time. They do not usually save either. I come from a culture that plans weeks, months, and sometimes even years in advance. I do not feel bad about it, but am learning to accept this cultural difference.
To get back, we hopped back on the bus for a three hour ride. Then, we departed from the rest of the students that were heading back to the college campus. We were going to do some touristy sight seeing the next day and then head back. We went to a palace that was beautiful. Then, a few temples. We took a sleeper train back to Chennai the following evening. Now, I had never been on a sleeper train before, but it was so cool. There’s little beds everywhere and they hang off the walls, mostly bunked, and they give you a blanket, pillow, and sheet and you basically just sleep until they reach your stop.
Even though we slept on the train, we were pretty much exhausted when we got back. We took the whole day to recover. Then, the following day, I started my field placement.
I have chosen two agencies to intern at. One where I will be with four other students from the college and we will write grant proposals and create programs to help out the tribal groups just outside of the city. The second is with my classmate from home that is here with me, Abby. We will be teaching at-risk students life-long skills.
As the weeks have passed we have gotten into the routine of our placements and are finally getting a sense of what our lives for the next three months in India will be like. I am proud to say that I have successfully crossed the street and gone to the grocery store by myself. I am also excited to say that we have found the nearest Starbucks and it is just train ride, then an auto ride away. But if you know me, you know I’m willing to do anything for my Starbucks.
That’s exactly the thing though. I am learning how to do things and live life like a local. It is one of the hardest things I have ever done. I mean, I have never ridden a train before… or not been able to just get in my car and drive twenty minutes down the road to get my Starbucks. I have never walked from place to place more than I do now.
There are little things that I get frustrated about doing too.. For example, bucket laundry. My clothes hang drying I cannot simply put my clothes in a washer and dryer. I have to make a bucket of water and then let my clothes soak for 30 minutes, then proceed to rinse. I’m not gonna lie though, I’m pretty sure all of my clothes still have laundry detergent in them because I am definitely not wringing them out enough. After you hang them to dry and turn, you can then proceed to take a bath in the same bucket. Remember when you were a kid and you would take a bath and to get the soap out of your hair your mom would dump a pitcher of water over your head, covering your eyes? That’s basically what you do, except Mom’s not here doing it for you. It just gets exhausting and makes you question how bad you need to shower… then you remember that your clothes probably aren’t very clean and see how the bottoms of your feet are basically black… so you shower.
one Sunday afternoon all I wanted to do was just do my work, alone, at a coffee shop. Can’t be hard right? I just needed a little introvert time. So, I got my stuff together and was planning to check out this little coffee shop called Cafe Coffee Day. I knew I would have to take an auto-rigshaw from the campus gate to get to the road near it, but that was only 10RS. I could handle it.
So, I flagged down one of the buzzing, yellow tuk-tuks and simply said “Camp Road” to the driver. He knew exactly what I was talking about and motioned for me to get in. Luckily, my program direction, Anu, who we have been calling our Mom of India, taught me that you don’t get into the auto until you know how much they are charging. And you always go to them with a set price in your head. So I asked the guy, “how much?” He says “10RS”. So, I got in.
I was trying to keep track of how far we were going in case I wanted to try to walk back. After awhile, however, I realized that it was further than I remembered. Then again, I hadn’t been there since my first day of being in India, so that was understandable, or at least I thought. He pulled off to the side of the road right at an intersection. I knew it was the right spot because of the giant green sign that said “Camp Road”. Some things never change between cultures…
I knew I would need to walk a few minutes to reach a corner before I got to the little shop. I also had landmarks to look for. I was told there would be a KFC a little ways from it on the opposite side of the road and a Papa Johns directly across from it. I started my walk and kept my eyes peeled for these places. By now, I was ready to sit in the cool air conditioned shop and sip some type of iced coffee beverage while writing my field log and reflection paper.
After a bit, it seemed as if maybe it was taking too long for me to get there. I pulled out my phone and tried to type the shop into my maps app, but it said it was no where close. “This has to be wrong,” I thought to myself in desperation for a cup of coffee. But as I kept walking, there was still nothing. I was becoming more and more disappointed. Finally, I flagged down another auto driver, giving up and ready to return to the college to pout.
When I asked the guy how much, I realized he did not speak English very well. He showed me a “5” with his hand and I hopped in. I thought it was a good deal… but after I got out and I handed him the coin that is 5RS, he laughed and then signed “50”. I said “you mean 50?” At that point, I wasn’t going to argue. I pulled out a 100 and he gave me my change. I walked away not knowing whether or not I had been jipped. Either way, I just wanted to get back and figure out how to get to this coffee place next time. But, it’s been a few weeks since that point of utter frustration, and I still have yet to go. Instead, I made the trip to Starbucks.
It’s little things like trying to saree shop in a four level building and not knowing how to say what you are looking for so the store clerk just keep sending you to other levels of the store hoping you find what you look for or when you are in the Big Bizarre (a store very similar to Walmart) and all you want is marinara sauce for your rigatoni noodles, but have to get pizza sauce because this week they don’t have marinara sauce that you just have to remain calm, and even laugh at. In that same trip to the Big Bizarre, the Indian Republic Day, that is, Abby and I were just trying to find the right food so we could cook in our little kitchenette because the Mess Hall was closed for the Holiday.
We finally gave up on finding some things because of how crowded the store was. Also, there is no such thing as personal space, being rude by walking in front of someone while they are looking for an item, or even problems with cutting in line. When we were ready to checkout, we hopped in different lines to get out of there quicker. I was third in line and the first person in line was almost finished. Then, out of nowhere, a woman comes with a cart of items and cuts me. I realized that it was her husband in front of me, so she was just finishing up the rest of the shopping while he stood in line. Then, as if that was not bad, their daughter comes with yet another loaded cart of stuff. Abby and I looked at each other from across the checkout lines, her being the next in line, and we just can’t help but laugh. How humorous this was. Eventually, I switched lines and made it out. We decided after that to try to never have to go back to the Big Bizarre and to try to maintain our stopping at the Pik-N-Pak or Fresh, which were smaller, but much closer to campus.
So friends, as one who is learning to live in the country of India, let me tell you that it is not an easy thing to do. I struggle with it, most of the time. Not because I dislike the culture, but because of how foreign it really is. It becomes less frustrating and less surprising each day, but that doesn’t take the difficulty out of it.
Some things I have had a hard time adjusting to. One of those is food. It’s not that I don’t like the food… it’s just really spicy and I don’t like spicy food. I have my nights in the Mess Hall where I know it’s food I will like and I usually always have some rice with gravy. But I don’t eat nearly as much as I do when I enjoy the food. I can’t always have rigatoni 😦
On another note, I have never been more sick in my life than I have been this past month of being here. Between getting sick the second day and random times of exhaustion and this past week (I mean like Tuesday night to Sunday night) of being bedridden with two trips to the doctors and a full round of antibiotics and not eating anything but a slice of bread for four days… I think I’ve got the rest of my life’s worth of sicknesses while I’m here too.
The one thing I love, however, is how easy it is to see God in the small things. While I am living here, I am almost forced to live in simplicity in some ways. I am actually enjoying it and God is opening my eyes to see Him in a new light in the midst of it. It’s like no matter how bad something seems to me, like being sick and missing three days of fieldwork, I just cannot stop falling more in love with God. There is no limit to it. If the reason He brought me here was to show me that, then I am glad I am here. I am blessed to even have this opportunity in my life and God is teaching me to cope and live life with the things He has provided for me, not with the things that I think are necessary.
That being said, I know I am going to struggle with the rest of my time here. I just will. But that is okay. God has never failed to pull me back to Him and remind me of His all-consuming love. I even could not contain the idea of not having my guitar to worship, so I splurged a little to buy a new one here. I don’t want to live my life in India as if God is waiting for me back in America. I want to live it as if Jesus is walking with me daily. That means, living in confidence, freedom, and contentment in all circumstances.
I hope some of my struggles may have been able to speak to you today. Maybe you are finding things difficult lately and you just need to bask in the presence of Jesus. Let me encourage you dear friend, do it. He is with you through that hard time. He is sitting with you while you are sick. He is making dinner with you after your long day at work. He is jogging with you on your morning run. Just know, that you can get through it because Jesus.
I haven’t even been in Chennai for a full week, but I feel like I have months and months of experiences to share. On our first day here, we met with a lot of people. We had to meet the director of our program and the director of our department and everyone else. I honestly do not remember everyone’s name or what their role is and why they were important for us to meet. They were all very kind and asked us how we were doing in regards to jet lag. Honestly, It was so hard for me to stay awake towards the end of the day. I could barely keep my eyes open through one of the meetings.
By the time we got back, it was only around 4PM, but I allowed myself to lay down for just a minute and ended up falling asleep. After that, we decided maybe it would be best to just try and wake up earlier in the morning. I had an apple and went to bed around 6PM and got up around 7:40AM. I did wake up at about 10PM and thought I must have slept for four days straight because of how good I slept, but I still had a lot of sleep left in me.
The next day we proceeded to meet with a lot of professors and other important faculty members of the college. We were even invited to have dinner at the Principles house. Before that, we spent the majority of the day shopping for “kurtas” to wear to our field placements. There were so many options and so many beautiful colors and designs. It was very difficult to decide which ones I liked and to stay within my budget, although we did find some decent sales!
We left in our nice new kurtas for dinner at the principle’s house a little early to take pictures of the campus and with each other. Unfortunately, as soon as we stepped outside we realized that we would definitely need to learn how to use the flash on our cameras because it was dark! It wasn’t even 7:30PM yet and it was dark. Now, I realize that at home right now it gets dark around 5PM, if not earlier. But I guess we were just thrown off by the heat and expected that because it was so hot out, the sun would stay out later. But we were wrong! It was fun trying to take pictures in the dark though!
At the dinner with the principle another group of college students from the states joined us. They were taking a class for their “Jan term”. I did not get to talk with them very much, but I did get to chat a little bit with a faculty member in the social work department and a political science professor from Appalachian State that reminded me of my favorite political science professor from home.
So now you’re probably thinking, okay that’s cool, but what about the food? Let me tell you about the food! Honestly, I was a little afraid of Indian food because I knew coming here how spicy it was going to be and how I do not tend to eat very spicy food. However, we have been full blown thrown into the Indian food and you know what? It doesn’t have to be spicy! I really enjoyed a cauliflower gravy that we had on the first day. Then again, if anyone knows me, they know how much I love my cauliflower.
One of the most important drinks besides water that we learned about is the fresh lime soda (pictured to the left). You can get this just sweet, or sweet and salty. Ironically, most students from previous semesters have only liked it sweet, but my small group loves the salty one! I have some foods pictured about with captions on what they are. One of the most popular food items is naan (pictured to the right). Now, if you have never tried naan, you better go find a place where you can because it is the best flat brad I have ever had.
What I have noticed about the culture is how important meals are to the community. You eat with your hands and split dishes when out to eat.
The picture to the left is chicken tendoori. The sauce in the middle of the plate is kind of minty, but I loved it! In the other picture, the rice dish is called biriyani and is basically rice cooked with a meat. Underneath all the rice is a giant chicken leg! The other dish is a gravy called paneer butter masala. The masala was my favorite as well. Lastly, the picture with the little silver bowl that has little white dots in it, is sauf sugar coated fennel that tastes like licorice. It is given at the end of meals, just as we would get our olive garden mints. People take them in handfuls! They were very good! At another restaurant they actually gave us mini sugar cubes too!
As much as I would like to say the food agreed with me and everything was fine, I simply cannot. You better believe that on the second night at 2:30 in the morning I was sicker than a dog. Actually, I don’t think I have ever felt so terrible before in my life. As I laid on the bathroom floor I found myself thinking, this is it. This is the end. I am going to die because I tried to be adventurous and go to India for a semester, but my weak body couldn’t handle the food.
There was also a point somewhere between laying on the bathroom floor and in my bed that I thought I would not be able to survive the full semester here. In fact, I was one Google search away from finding the cheapest flight home. It’s not exactly “whimping out” if I’m sick is it? I mean come on, health should always come first. However, despite the fact that I was letting these negative thoughts overtake my mind while I was ill, God helped me through it.
After feeling defeated (I will spare you the details), I felt like God was saying “that is what the enemy wants you to think”. I thought about this for a moment. Then realized that I shouldn’t let myself give up so easily just because I got sick within the first week. Despite the fact that it felt like I was dying, I had enough strength to recognize that God was trying to tell me that I cannot do this on my own.
I cannot just go day-by-day in this foreign land and expect to be successful. I simply do not have enough strength to carry on in a place where I have to try extra hard just to understand what someone is saying. I need a supernatural strength, a spiritual strength. It’s the same strength that God gave me to get through all of the other overseas trips I have been on. It is the same strength God gave me through all of my other college semesters.
It was like God had to take away all of my strength to show me that I need to use His to get through this semester.
I spent the majority of the next 24 hours resting and when I was not, I was in class (which was held in our room so that I could stay in bed). It was the reminder I needed to keep inviting God into my daily life. Sometimes we forget to do these things when there is so much change happening in our lives. But God wanted to remind me that despite all of the change, He is that one constant.
There is much more I can tell you about my first few days in India for the semester, but I think I will save it for the next post. What I want to leave you with is to just bask in the presence of the Holy Spirit. Remember that God is good. He is such a giving God. When we are weak, He is strong. When our lives are forever changing, He is forever the same. Where our circumstances seem to defeat us, God reigns in victory because of these truths. It may be hard, but as my best friend texted me this week “Don’t give up!”
Two days ago I started this journey to an unknown land. Over a year ago I learned that I was able to study abroad and earn credits towards my undergraduate degree in India. If anyone knows me, they know I have a huge heart for this area of the world. Well, the plan was to study abroad spring of 2017, but it just was not logistical. So, I did what any planner would do, I planned to go the following spring.
Throughout the past six months I have been preparing for an adventure of a lifetime (I hope to be at least). There were countless email conversations with my resident director in India. I was filled with stress to make sure I got my student visa in time. And of course, the endless (and I do mean endless) applications for scholarships and five jobs I worked to pay for it.
And now, it’s here. I finally get to experience the very thing I have been dreaming of and raving about. On January first of 2018, I hopped on a plane to India for the next four months.
Before I get too carried away, let’s take a step back and look at the events that took place the past few days that got me to where I am now. . .
First, I did not start packing until Monday morning. Now, my flight did not leave until 8:30PM, but I still caused myself a lot of unnecessary stress. Then, as I was packing, I had to do some laundry to make sure I had clean jeans to bring. We all know that jeans take FOREVER (not just a normal “forever” but like a Sandlot “FOR-EV-ER”) to dry. Well, with my luck, the awful snow that has been sweeping across the midwest of the United States continued its course to ruin my plans.
Snow built up on our power lines, and the power went out. My jeans were still very damp AND I had to finish packing in the dark. Finally, I gave up the thought that the power might turn back on in time and hung them on an exercise bike in front of our coal burning fire. And of course, then, the power comes back on.
Yes, my jeans dried in time and I was able to pack them. Thank you for your concern.
NOW, the snow was still going strong, so we thought we should leave for the airport early to prevent us from being late. After trudging through the winter wonderland, we made it.
So we get to the check-in and get our boarding passes, then move on to give up our check bags. I somehow managed to heave my giant purple suitcase onto the scale. Fortunately, the Lord blessed and my bag was only 48 lbs, when the limit is 50. My friend that was traveling with me threw hers on the scale and it came to 49.5lbs. Then, the agent was worried she had too many batteries and we spent the next 15 minutes digging through her bag to find them… but then realized that they were not in there.
On the first flight I sat next to a guy that was pretty quiet. He only chuckled at some dad joke the pilot made about a famous person- or maybe it was when the flight attendant thanked us for flying Delta instead of American Airlines, when it was actually American Airlines. I just listened to my music and watched out the window for the 50 minute flight.
The next flight, form Chicago to London was a six hour flight. I had a window seat on our Boeing aircraft that would take us across the great Atlantic. Because our first flight was delayed, I was late getting on the second. Therefore, the people who were in the first two seats were already sitting. I immediately felt bad because I would have to crawl over them to get to my seat, and the chances of me getting up whenever I wanted were very slim. They filed out and let me in. The guy sitting next to me in the middle seat said,”Get in your prison”.
As the flight went on, this guy became very interesting. First, as I tried to rest after our meal he reached his hand in front of me and pressed the button to close the window. I opened my eyes and all I saw was his arm. Later on, after my first nap, I woke up to him digging through his bag with the reading light on. After that, I didn’t mind asking him and the other lady to let me out to use the restroom (I know, who uses the restroom on an airplane? Well, if you had a nine hour flight, you would too.)
One of the things I am trying to be intentional about throughout this journey, and maybe even a New Year’s Resolution, is to learn from other people, even strangers, and to be observant. Needless to say, I learned something from this man. I learned that it’s okay to not worry about disturbing other people to tend to your own needs. This all falls back on my other goal to not be such a people pleaser all the time.
On the next flight, I was in the middle seat between and Indian woman who lived in Montreal and an Indian man that was just on vacation in San Francisco. The man did not talk much, but the woman was very friendly. She seemed to know what she wanted in life and knew how to get it. She was also not afraid to continuously ask the flight attendant for water or ask the child sitting behind her to stop hitting the back of her seat.
One thing that I found myself doing on each of the flights was watch the person sitting next to me and observe how they eat so I wouldn’t eat the wrong way. The first guy was from London and I certainly did not want to offend him by eating the wrong thing first, or putting the wrong sauce on the wrong food item. In the middle of my meal, however, I realized that I don’t really care what other people think of me when I eat my meal. Besides, why would the man judge me if I ate wrong when I, myself, am not even from London?
I began my meals on the second flight with this newly found mentality. But as I was eating, I could tell the lady sitting next to me was watching me. She seemed to be very intrigued by how I cut my roll in half and put butter on both sides. I just brushed that aside and continued my meal while watching Ferris Beuller’s Day Off.
My journey was not that extravagant, but it was still eventful. I mean, I did not miss my flight or anything crazy like that. It was the little things that made it enjoyable to travel for three days straight into the future without getting a shower.
As I continue to recover from my jet lag and get settled in my home for four months, I am reflecting on how I can take these small lessons from the passengers that sat next to me into my semester abroad. I have decided that while I am here, I am going to practice simplicity (which means I may not wash my hair every single day), not people please (I may speak up about what I want to do), and most importantly, be myself.
I am hoping to continue to give updates and share about what else I am learning here and through my journeys. Until then, I am going to rest up and learn how to say my favorite food in Tamil.
Have you ever been held up in chains? Taken captive by the lies of the enemy? Been controlled?
Have you ever prayed for something, devoutly, I might add, and the Lord never brought it to be? It’s not that He ever said a clear “no”, but just led your life in another direction. Or, maybe He did say “no”, but you don’t want to let go of that desire. But in the midst of actually trying to make an effort to let that desire go, or maybe for the chains to be broken, you are tempted to continue praying for it. After all, we are told in scripture to have faith of a mustard seed right?
This is something I have been going through.
Let’s start with a Bible passage. If you have the word of God near you, please open it to Matthew 4. Read verses 1-11. In this passage, Jesus is drawn into the wilderness by the Spirit… to be tempted by the Devil.
I know what you are thinking because I am thinking it to… what the devil?why would the Spirit draw Jesus to the wilderness for that particular reason? We will get to that in a moment, but continue reading with me.
Jesus fasts for forty days and forty nights. Then, Satan comes along and begins to tempt Him. The first thing to notice here is that the Devil calls Jesus by His identity. He recognizes that Jesus is the “Son of God”. Interestingly, in the last verses of Matthew chapter 3 after Jesus is baptized the voice from Heaven says “This is my Son, with whom I am well pleased” (Matthew 3.17). Take note of the fact that the Devil knows who Jesus is.
Then, the Devil goes on to say, “command these stones to become loaves of bread” (vs. 3). Jesus responds by the one thing He knows by heart (literally). He states, “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God” (vs. 4).
Recognizing that Jesus was not going to fall into that specific temptation, he tries again. What he does next is risky on his part. He quotes scripture thinking that it will most definitely get Jesus to stumble. He takes Jesus up to this very high point and tells him to jump off. He says, “He will command his angels concerning you,” and “on their hands they will bear you up, lest you strike your foot against a stone” (vs. 6).
Jesus, was not having any of this. Knowing the Word and the heart of the Father, Jesus states, “Again, it is written, ‘you shall not put the Lord your God to the test.’” (vs. 7). Satan was not giving up just yet.
He took Jesus to the top of a very tall mountain that overlooked kingdoms and cities. He told Jesus that if He bowed down to worship him, he would give Him all the kingdoms. But, our faithful Jesus responds with, “Be gone, Satan! For it is written, ‘you shall worship the Lord your God and Him only shall you serve’” (vs. 10).
Then, the Devil gave up, recognizing that Jesus was not going to give into the temptation.
So, back to my introduction questions. . .
When you feel bound up in chains, or when you are trying to “let go” of that one desire the Lord is clearly saying is not for you, do you ever feel tempted?
When the Devil tries to tempt you does it sound somewhat familiar to what he said to Jesus?
He may say, “if you are a son/daughter of Jesus” or “if your God really is all powerful” then “can’t He makes this happen?” or “then why would He withhold something so ‘good’ from you?”.
This is true. God is all powerful and can do the impossible (Matthew 19.26). But maybe your impossible is not getting this one thing you have been praying for. Maybe your impossible is setting your eyes to Jesus and letting go so that God can bless you in other ways.
Friends, the enemy is just as relentless as God. He knows who you serve. He knows who he’s up against Heck, he knows your name. If he can recognize that Jesus is the Son of Man, then He knows you are a child of God too. And sure enough, he’s going to use that to his advantage. After all, doesn’t it sound more appealing when someone calls you by your identity or name then just “hey kid”?
Another important thing that we need to look at in this scripture and how we can apply it to our own lives is how Jesus responds to Satan each time. Jesus is consistently responding with the Word of God. He’s not just pulling some random knowledge out of nowhere, nope, He’s quoting the very word of God. Specifically, He pulls scripture from Deuteronomy 8.2 in verse 4, Isaiah 7.12 in verse 7, and Deuteronomy 6.13.
Do you know what is so significant about the Word of God? Look at Ephesians 6. In this chapter, Paul is telling the church of Ephesus to put on the armor of God, because they are going into battle. Not a battle with flesh and blood, but a spiritual battle (Ephesians 6.12). Throughout verses 14 to 17, Paul is telling them to put on things that will protect them, a belt, a breastplate, shoes, and to carry a shield. But lastly, he states to pick up the sword. This is what they will be doing their battling with. It is “the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God” (vs. 17).
Jesus used His sword when battling the temptations of the Devil. He is setting a perfect example of what and how we are supposed to overcome and begin to step into deliverance.
Now, back to the reason Jesus was led into the wilderness to be tempted by the Devil. Do you remember in the Old Testament where the Israelites were delivered from Egypt? If not, please glance over Exodus 14. In this chapter, Moses parts the Red Sea and the Israelites are led into freedom.
You may recall, however, that things were not “la-dee-da” fine and dandy after that. They were promised this land of milk and honey. But, they were disobedient to the law of the Lord and led into the wilderness for 40 years (woah, that’s a long time). They still had a hard time gripping this concept of the Ten Commandments. They continued to live in their sin, casting up idols and worshiping other gods. In other words, they were unsuccessful in being tempted by the Devil.
That is why Jesus, the perfect image, the Son of Man, the one that reconciles us to the Father, had to go into the wilderness before starting His ministry. He had to be victorious because the Israelites could not.
With all of that being said, friends, we are all going to be tempted. We are all going to be thrown into the wilderness, there’s no doubt about it. How we respond is the key. We need to pick up our armor, including our swords, and fight this battle before us. And we can pray the part in the Lord’s prayer that states “lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil”, knowing that Jesus already reigns in victory!
Do you have a favorite pair of shoes? I do. They are TOMS brand Cordones. My mom got them for me for Christmas my junior year of high school (that was four years ago). They were not cheap shoes, even with the coupon I had for Journeys (one of the most popular shoe stores in the mall). This was my first pair of shoes that I had ever gotten from Journeys. This is the shoe store that all the cool kids shopped at. It’s the shoe store that when I was a kid I thought I would never be able to afford a pair of shoes from.
Well, my favorite pair of shoes have just about had it. There are holes everywhere, the inside soles have just about ripped out, and I cannot wear them on just any occasion anymore.. I have to wear them when the ground is not even the slightest bit damp or else I will have wet, cold (probably smelly) feet. That being said, last weekend I set off on an adventure to buy a new pair of shoes.
Now, I was not looking for anything too significantly expensive. I had a specific pair of shoes in mind, however. There is a pair of black, ankle high, slide on booties. I thought, those would be perfect for the upcoming fall/winter season. Plus, they would look adorable with my flannels and cuffed jeans. So, I began the search that ended up being the search for the impossible.
First, let me tell you how rainy it was. That automatically put a “damper” on my day (no pun intended). I thought that maybe I would get lucky and find a nice pair at a hand-me-down store before I went to a more expensive store. So, I started at Goodwill. Apparently, I did not read the sign, because when I walked in I looked about as lost and confused as a polar bear in the middle of Hawaii. It was a distribution center and I did not know how to “work it” or shop there. I did a quick loop and was on my way.
Next, naturally, I went to Plato’s closet. Surely, they would have SOMETHING. Well, I did end up getting a new pair of New Balance tennis shoes because my Nikes have also just about had it (if you are guessing that I probably hate shoe shopping you have guess right). I took that visit as a win.
There was a Burlington Coat Factory right around the corner, so I thought maybe I would stop in there and see what they had. As I was browsing the shoe selection, I noticed how anxious and anticipating I was. Everyone knows that you have to start at the beginning of your shoe-size section, look through every shelf and shoe, and then work your way down the aisle. I was just so excited that this might be the place that has the shoes I want. I wanted to peek ahead, but I didn’t want to spoil it for myself, and I didn’t want to miss anything.
Eventually, I got to the boots section. And low and behold, they had my shoe. But there was one problem, they were in the wrong color. These shoes were brown. I wanted black (because everyone knows black matches everything). So, it was a no deal there. There was a TJ Max next door and I thought, well, while I’m here I might as well look. Now, this store also had my shoes. BUT they were like $150. That was certainly well over my budget. So, again, another no deal.
I proceeded to go to Target, where I had done previous online research and knew they had a pair similar to what I was looking for. But once I tried them on, I was not impressed. This simply would not do. The price was right, but my overall satisfaction in the shoe was not. They were not what I was expecting. So, I continued on my hunt for the pair of impossible shoes.
I went to Kohl’s, which usually has every shoe known to man, but apparently, not mine. Then I went to the mall, where I looked at Sears, Payless, Journey’s (where the store clerk commented on my now drenched TOMs), Bath & Body Works (obviously I did not find shoes here, but I did get a new wallflower for my dorm room and a car air freshener that smells like flannel), Macy’s, and then accidentally stopped a skater store and almost bought a $15 hat and a long board for $150, but realized that if I did that, I would most definitely not get my shoes. I left the mall disappointed.
Then, I drove to 5-Below, looking for some type of hope that maybe they would have a cheap pair of rain boots that I would make-do with. But, again, I left in disappointment. That’s it, I thought. I had decided to go to a somewhat expensive shoe store. I looked at Famous Footwear before heading into DSW Shoes. They had nothing, so I proceeded to the store that I knew I would gasp at the prices, but I thought maybe, just maybe, if I found the right shoe I would be willing to put the money into them.
In DSW Shoes I was getting to the end of the aisle and getting worried, but then I saw them. In the flesh. The exact pair of shoes I wanted. Another lady was looking at them. Immediately, I marched right up to the shelf, pulled the size 8 off, found a seat and tried them on. I stood up, took one look in the mirror, and I gasped.
I did not like these shoes one bit. They did not compliment my legs like I wanted them too. They made me look shorter than I already am, even with a cuffed jean. They were what I was looking for, but they were $59.00 (on sale). I was not in love. So once again. I walked away empty handed.
Sad, full of disappointment, near starvation, and ready to give up, I thought I would give old faithful Walmart a try. But, that was a quick in and out. Now, my focus had changed from “get these exact boots” to “get the shoes that are going to keep your feet warm and dry”. I did not like Walmart’s selection of rainboots. So, just as I was about to give up and head back to campus, I thought it might be worth the slightly distant drive to the nearest Shoe Dept. I walked in, praying to our God who created all things, that they would have shoes I would like. Sure enough, they had a decent pair of paisley black and white rainboots. I was so content, that I even bought two pairs of socks to wear with them. Now, I could sleep at night.
SO, you’re probably like okay, is this post just a rant about your horrible shoe shopping experience on a rainy Saturday? The answer is no.
You see, shoe shopping is kind of like trying to figure out God’s will for our lives… except one is a little more important.
We might go out on this hunt, knowing exactly what we want and being willing to go to the ends of the Earth (or for me Canton, OH), to get what we are looking for. We tell God that we are open to anything and willing to abide by whatever He says, but in the back of our minds we know exactly what we want to happen.
Sometimes, we want to peak ahead and anticipate anxiously what might be up there, but then we are scared that we might miss what is in the moment, or directly in front of us. We might find what we are looking for, but not be satisfied. We might think we know what we want and need, but then when we finally get a glimpse of it and see what it might be like, we are instantly dissatisfied.
I thought these booties would be perfect. I thought they would do their job and would mesh well with my style, but when I saw them, I was not happy. I was disappointed that I let myself get so carried away trying to find these “perfect” shoes that I didn’t even like once I saw them. But then, eventually, I found an alternative. I found a pair of boots that did the job. They were also satisfying when I wore them through puddles and a rain storm.
Sometimes, we think we know what we need/want in our lives. But then we might get a taste of that and not like it. If we are so open to go to the ends of the Earth to seek God’s will for our lives, then we need to be accepting of what the will might be, no matter what. We need to just give up control and trust the God of the universe with the outcome.
Because He knows just what we need. He knows how to fulfill those needs. God is all knowing and all powerful, so why not put our trust in Him?