Not-So Knew Year

So here we are. Officially 20 days into 2019. I would like to think that I jumped into this new year like a kid jumping into a pile of leaves, excited and happy to be doing it. But I actually feel more like I did when I was a teenager and my older cousin pushed me into the freezing cold pool when I wasn’t quite ready to get in yet.

It’s not that I wasn’t ready to let 2018 go, but there were so many things that happened this past year that I just don’t know how to begin to process. Unfortunately, it’s things that I can’t even write about to process. I need time. But 2019 just came barging in like a rude neighbor ready to become friends and get to know each other over a burnt casserole.

Thus, either I respond respectfully to the efforts of making friendship with the new year, or I live here being stuck up because the casserole was burnt and a neighbor that most definitely won’t move.

You know how everyone is always like “new year, new me,” or always talking about how excited they are for the things to come in the new year? Well, here’s my argument, what if I don’t want a “new me,” but would rather have a slightly better, more composed, graceful, sweeter me? Okay so I won’t dream too much about being graceful…

Also, what happens when you don’t really know what is to come in the new year and you’re just settling in that pit of anxiousness? I’m not talking about the anxiousness you get when you’re on a roller coaster, no because I quite enjoy those and that adrenaline rush. I’m talking the full-blown, feeling of what-the-heck-am-I-going-to-do-this-year?

Maybe it’s a new form of anticipation I should be welcoming in, but maybe it’s not. Maybe it’s my fears of not knowing that are causing me to not be ready for this new year. When I think to my past, all the new years that I have lived through, yep, all 22 of them, I always knew what to expect.

2018 was a painfully good year for me. I say that because I lived most of the year in a country I loved, but the fact that I’m not living there now hurts. I got into a relationship where I learned that I needed to let go and move on for my own good. I graduated from college, got a full-time job, started my master’s degree, and purchased my first car.

A lot of it was bitter sweet, but I let my heart get so attached to it. The kind of attached a child gets to a toy or blanket. When I was kid I had this Teletubbie pillow and Winnie the Pooh blanket and I would not go anywhere without those things! that’s how I feel about 2018.

The memories, the goals achieved, the future plans that didn’t work out, they are all things that I don’t want to go anywhere without, including 2019. I guess I’m that child that still has the baby blankey at the first sleepover when everyone else matured out of that stage.

If you can relate in any way, shape, or form, I just want to tell you that it’s okay. In this day and age there is so much pressure to have everything figured out. But let me be the first to tell you that it’s okay to not.

If you’ve known me for any period of time, you know that this is so unlike me. You know that I usually have a five year plan marked with specific dates and all. But not this time. Sure, I have options and general ideas of what I want to do, or what God has planned for me, but nothing set in stone.

While at first this was a very freeing thing for me, it has started to consume me. It’s like it’s taking up my time because I’m trying so hard to figure out what I’m supposed to do this year that I forget about the things I am already doing.

Fortunately, Jesus reminds me that it’s okay to not know what’s next, but that He is guiding me every step of the way. Maybe I’m not supposed to know exactly what’s in store for this year, but I least I can know for a fact that there is something great and exciting waiting for me. I only have to trust God on His timing.

I believe this for you too. So, my fellow blog reader, we might be 20 days late and a few dollars short, but let’s jump into 2019 with the expectation that God has something beautiful for us and we don’t have to know what it is.

Faith like a Child

Something odd but interesting happened to me on this fine Sunday afternoon. After church I went to my favorite “me” place, Starbucks, to take some time to get organized for my next semester of classes that starts tomorrow.

As I was sitting there minding my business I continuously kept looking at my phone. I was waiting, waiting, waiting. Specifically waiting for one person to read my messages and finally respond to me.

I knew things were over between me and the guy, and they needed to be, but we were friends before we started dating. And he had even said on the day that we broke up (not even a week ago by the way) that we could still be “best friends.” I use the quotation marks because those were his exact words.

Although despite the concept of being “best friends,” he was not treating me like a best friend should be treated. This doesn’t say much because he didn’t really treat me like a girlfriend deserved to be treated either (hence why the relationship needed to end), but that’s another story, for another time… or maybe not.

About a week ago, Monday December 31, 2018 at 7 am my Fit Bit’s vibrations shot anxiety through my veins like no other, waking me up in a panic. It was him. He was finally calling me, as he had promised he would days ago. I was nervous because I knew this was most likely the last time he would be calling me for a while… because this was it. This was the end, whether I wanted to believe it or not.

In fact, this had to be it. Because it was the last day of 2018 and I needed to make sure I could do the whole “New Year, New Me,” thing on the first day of 2019. How could I do that with an unhealthy relationship hunkering me down?

I answered my phone and just cut to the chase. We both had a mutual agreement that it needed to end, but that we could still be friends. Although, I was still pretty angry with him because I’m not sure he completely understood why I needed to break up with him. I mean, he bluntly admitted that he knew I wasn’t happy and could find someone else, but deep down, I knew he had no idea the amount of pain that he had caused me throughout most of 2018.

I hung up the phone and went back to sleep, waking up later feeling a bit anxious, but a bit lighter. The only problem was that now a huge part of my life had changed. No, not changed. This was my new normal. And whether I liked it or not, I needed to get used to it.

I powered through the week still trying to communicate with him. He blocked me once and continued to just read my messages (or delete them without reading them) and never respond. This hurt even more.

We had big dreams together to get married and live as powerful social workers. Yet somehow, someway, he was able to throw me away like an old, used pair of shoes- used and unworthy. At least this is how I felt.

Finally, I got sick of it. He told me throughout the week that he would call, but he never did. So, I tried calling him. Each time he rejected the call. By the third try, he blocked me. He told me he would too. This is where the story continues…

I was sitting in Starbucks on this Sunday afternoon chugging away at my work, and a skinny cinnamon dolce latte, when I noticed he had, yet again, ignored my messages. I can tell because like Facebook Messenger, with this app you can see when people have come online.

Fed up, but knowing what was coming to me, I tried calling him. Of course, the call was rejected, and about three seconds later I received a message, “Goodbye,” and just like that his little icon picture disappeared and I was blocked.

As tears filled up my eyes I gathered my belongings and rushed out to my car. I could not let myself break down in the middle of Starbucks. Once I got to my car, I tried calling him on his regular number, rather than the app. His phone was switched off.

I checked Instagram and messaged him, asking him to unblock me and call me. By this moment, I had completely lost it. I was upset, angry, confused and so much more.

So I went home and sobbed on my bed with the comfort of my mother and my sister’s cat. But on my way home, I saw something very unusual.

Between gasping for air, screams, and sobs, I was able to maintain my concentration

tenor
If you don’t know what the “floss” is, check out this video of this grandma rockin’ it!

driving. And I was able to do this enough to see three school-aged boys standing at the end of a neighborhood road dancing. One kid was doing the floss.

I made eye-contact with one of them. I’m pretty sure they saw me upset and crying because when I looked in my review mirror they all ran together in complete disbelief– probably that they saw a grown woman crying while driving.

Through the midst of my pain and suffering I was able to let out a little chuckle and remember my days of young walking around town and doing similar things.

Oh the youth and the crazy things they do, am I right?

Well, here’s how their little act of fun impacted me positively today. After I spent some time sobbing and relaxing in a steaming hot shower, I grabbed my bag and headed back to Starbucks. I needed to keep myself occupied and I needed to get my work done!

I drove by the same place where I saw the kiddos getting boogey with it and I was reminded of a Bible verse.

“And he said: ‘Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.'” Matthew 18.3. Here we see Jesus stating that to enter into the Kingdom of Heaven, we have to change like little children

We have all probably heard the phrase “faith like a child,” too. I was quickly reminded of this.  These children had faith.

They had faith that they would not get hit by a car.

They had faith that they would make someone laugh.

I want that. I want that faith. Not faith that God would restore this relationship, I mean yes, I hope he does unblock me so we can be friends, but in due time things will happen the way they need to for both of us to move on and heal.

Not faith that I would be miraculously healed from the pain, although that would be nice… But that is not necessarily Biblical. We can see examples of suffering throughout scripture, such as, Job, Paul, and the greatest example of all is Jesus.

Peter also tells us: In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.” (1 Peter 1.6-7)

That’s kind of a beautiful scripture isn’t it? That we are being refined and have greater worth than gold. Woah man. That’s pretty neat if you ask me.

The faith that I want like these little guys dancing on the road is that God would protect my heart and keep me emotionally safe through this trial. I understand that my emotions are already somewhat bruised and on the line, but that’s nothing Jesus can’t heal. 

9780718084646As Lysa TerKeurst states in her novel Uninvited, I want the faith that through the mess of this there will be a miracle– it may not be healing right away, but something will come of this.

Lastly, I want the faith that will give me strength to rejoice in my suffering (James 1.2-3; 1 Peter 1.6-7). Faith that will allow me to turn my mourning into dancing (Psalm 30.11). Faith to remind me that God is in control and He still has a plan for me (Jeremiah 29.11).

Through all of this pain and messy relationship situation, I just want faith like a child.

And through that faith, I will receive healing.

He said to her, “Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace and be freed from your suffering.” Mark 5.34

 

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.

The Whole Heart

I stepped out of my air-conditioned room and into the kitchen area. Perfect. The counter was clean, free of any green peppers or grains of rice that may have escaped from the pan when someone was cooking on the hot plate. I set my devotional, Bible, notebook, and novel on the counter in front of the toaster and sat down on the plastic sandstone grey chair. Double checking that the counter was clean, I put my arms down on the counter and slowly closed my eyes and put my head in my arms.

Peace, at last.

It had been a long few days where I had chosen to try to go to bed early instead of spend time with the Lord. From a long day trip learning about Indian music and eating Indian cuisine on Sunday to a Monday filled with an important meeting, a two hour Hindi class, and dinner at my supervisors house. Instead of fighting the exhaustion and trying to keep my eyes open, I chose to lay my head down and try to sleep.

Despite my efforts to go to bed, I laid awake until 3 a.m., two nights in a row, tossing and turning, contemplating my future, what I would have for dinner the next day, and what kind of shoes I would wear to my future big-kid job. Of course, I have woken up the past two mornings feeling even more exhausted and still unsure of what to do with my future.

As soon as I put my head on my arms I hear these words: What does it look like to follow me with your whole heart? 

I began to list out things such as spending time in the Word daily, trusting God with my future, leaning on God for strength, praying, using the gifts He has given me to glorify Him, etc. Soon enough, I realized these were not the answers God wanted from me. Sure, these things are good and Godly, and obviously the Sunday School response, but God wanted something deeper that was personal for me.

God wanted me to answer according to my nitty-gritty, day-to-day life. He wanted to know what specific things I could do to follow Christ with my whole heart. This is what God wants from us. He wants all of us.

Growing up (and still to this day), I remember something my mom used to always say. Whenever we would jokingly fight I would say “you want a piece of me!?” and she would always respond with, “no! I want the whole thing!” That’s the key right there. God doesn’t just want a piece of our hearts, He wants the whole thing. He doesn’t want just half of our attention, He wants all of it.

I am going to do something a little differently in this blog. I am going to start a list of things I feel I can do to live my life with my heart completely rendered to God and I want you (yes you, the reader) to comment and add things you can do as well. Please do not feel compelled to share anything too personal. I have learned that when we voice things, it helps them become more realistic in our lives. It is also important for us to remain in unity, supporting each other, as the body of Christ! So. . .

Following Christ with my whole heart:

–  Think before I speak, as to respond with love, not an attitude 

– Thank God more often (even for the not-so-good things)

– Limit expectations on my days, conversations, and relationships

– Put my phone away and be “present” with the Lord and those around me 

These are just a few things God is speaking to me about to draw closer to Him. What is He speaking to you about?