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!*

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.

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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.

Human Trafficking

Today I am going to write a little bit different of a post. Technically, this post is for one of my classes, however, that does not discredit the fact that I am VERY passionate about this topic. So… if you are willing to bare with me, please check out the video below!

Did you know that human trafficking is something that not only takes place on the other side of the world, but also in America? I know, it’s not really a fact the “home of the brave” and “land of the free” wants to admit. But sometimes, we have to come to grips with the things we don’t want to hear, or believe to be true.

The above video is a “mock” journal entry of a man who was in dire need of finances to support his family. He lost his job due to a cyclone that swept across south India. It also destroyed his home. His wife was pregnant and he had one daughter already. When he met the owner of the brick kiln, he was promised welfare, job security, livelihood, and housing. He was told that he would always have access to resources, such as schooling for his children and medical facilities.

Little did he know, he was falling into a trap of deceit.

He took out the loan to try to pay for a new home for his family. Unfortunately, the owner of the brick kiln would not give the full 20,000 rupees (RS) he had asked for. But the owner forced him and his family to work long hours each day to pay back 20,000 RS. The owner soon made the family refer to him as master. He would set high quotas for them. He would make them work for up to 14 hours at a time, if not, more.

When it became time for the children to start school, the master only stated that until the loan was paid off, the children would not be allowed to go to school. He also stated that they would not have access to a doctor or other medical facilities, ever. He took away the children’s birth certificates (because the parents did not have any). He took all of the identification cards. They were now “stuck”in the system of bonded laboring and would not be leaving anytime soon. At least not until the master freed them or an anti-slavery organization found them.

I know what you are thinking. This is slavery. You’re not wrong. This type of thing is illegal. Even in India. But it is still taking place. There are three things we can proactively do as Christians to abolish trafficking in all nations:

1. Pray

We can pray for several things. Pray for justice, peace, and for laborers to be sent to the unruly part of the world where no one wants to go. Check out the following verses: Micah 6.8, Proverbs 21.151 John 5.14, Ephesians 6.18, Matthew 9.35-39

2. Give

There are many anti-human trafficking agencies spread across the globe. Some are even faith-based! Many are also non-profit organizations and need dedicated donors to help keep them going. A few organizations are: International Justice Mission, Rahab Ministries, Anti-Slavery International, and Polaris Project. Check out the following verses: Matthew 6.21, Malachi 3.10, Matthew 19.21

3. Do

Just as these agencies need finances, they also need workers. Now, you may be thinking well most of these are only volunteer based. Yep! That’s so true! But, Jesus did not get paid to do His work either! We are called, income or no income, to bring justice and spread the Good News! You may also be thinking that you are not educationally competent to work for an agency like this. However, the jobs range from social worker, policy analysts, businessmen, human resources, media/marketing, and even medical. There is a plethora of opportunities! Check out some of the agencies above to see how YOU can get involved and make an impact! Take a look at Jesus’ heart for going: Matthew 28.19-20, Luke 10.1-4, Isaiah 6, Acts 1.8, Luke 4.18-19

Personally, I feel called as a social worker to utilize the skills I have learned in my classes and field experiences to bring justice in this area. Specifically, social workers can advocate and help meet human needs. While I was in India, I had the incredible opportunity to work with the International Justice Mission and the college I was studying abroad at that held a rehabilitation training program fro released bonded laborers. This program focused specifically on unity in numbers and bringing the released bonded laborers to a point of self-sufficiency. As a social worker, I can not only advocate, but facilitate empowerment among victims and previous victims of human trafficking.

For many, this is a touchy subject. This is a topic that is very sensitive, not only to us, but also to victims. It is important to remember that the victims are not just statistics. They are mothers, daughters, sisters, brothers, fathers, sons, etc. They matter just as much as we do. They are just as much God’s creation, just as we are. Let us rise up as an army of the Lord to battle this heinous crime against humanity.

 

Wide-Awake

It was about 11:30PM on a Thursday night when I realized my eyes were actually open and I was staring into the dark abyss of my bedroom. The whole time I thought my eyes were closed and I was trying to sleep. Instead, I was literally wide-awake with my mind racing a million miles a minute.

Apparently, my mind thought (no pun intended) it was a good time for me to go through every detail of my day, the next day, and the next 5 years of my life. Thus being so, worrisome thoughts crept into my mind. Will I ever finish school? Will I find my dream job? Will I ever find a spouse? Can I really accomplish these goals?

And of course, if you’re anything like me you can relate to being the “midnight goal setter”. Personally, I set high goals for myself late at night that I am supposed to attempt to achieve the next day. Things such as going to the gym in the morning, eating a healthy, well-balanced breakfast, or even just doing something different with my hair. Of course, by then I have so much motivation (on top of worry) streaming through my veins that I most definitely will not be sleeping anytime soon.

Eventually, however, my intuition kicked in and I realized I wasn’t super exhausted because I was out of my allergy medicine that put me to sleep. However, even though I did not have to set my alarm to intrude on my beauty sleep the next day, I realized if I wanted to even be remotely productive, than I really needed my beauty sleep! So, I chose the natural approach of coaxing myself to sleep by slapping a dab of lavender under my nostrils. I can still hear my mom saying, “a little dab will do ya!”

While laying in bed and awaiting the lavender’s natural powers to kick in, I considered the following:

When we declare ourselves to be followers of Jesus, we are hyped during that moment. We are so ready for this new lifestyle; ready to be transformed and begin living this new, amazing Christian life. We are on high alert, applying scripture left and right, praying our little hearts out, and even sharing this new experience with some co-workers.

Eventually, Sunday after Sunday goes by. Years upon years of volunteering at VBS fade into distant memories. Reading the Bible seems pointless because you have no time to actually delve into what it means and how to apply it. We become tired and drowsy in our walks with the Lord.

When we sleep, we are technically unconscious. We can’t really hear anything. We aren’t really in control of what is running through our minds (dreams, that is). And in all honesty. We are more prone to being attacked (whether it be by your cat that thinks you’re playing when you move your feet, or something else).

The same is true when we are spiritually asleep, with minor exceptions. When we are spiritually asleep, we are more prone to being attacked by the enemy because we are not on high alert, pouring into our relationship with Christ. Though we technically have the power to control our thoughts, we don’t even realize that they are even toxic and need to be taken captive.

My point is this: we have fallen into a deep spiritual slumber. So deep that it’s like we have neon signs strapped to us inviting the Devil to come and take his place in our lives. We have put our weapons down and left ourselves open and visible for an attack.

But I don’t believe that is what Christ has called us to be. I believe that we are to be alert, praying in the Spirit constantly, fervently. We are to be taking captive our thoughts to the obedience of Christ. Worshiping Jesus in every moment. And spreading the Good News just as much as we complain to our neighbors of how tired we are!

So my question for you is… are you sleeping? Or are you wide-awake in your spiritual life?

It is time to stop hitting snooze and to arise from our slumbers!