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!

The End All

It was a warm Monday afternoon with a slight breeze shifting the sun’s rays from beating directly down on my already sun-kissed skin. I was trying to figure out what I did to deserve the blessing of getting off work early on a Monday afternoon. I had two and a half hours to spend doing whatever I wanted. After stopping at the LifeWay store to check out good deals on books, selling a pair of old jeans to Plato’s Closet, and using my buy-one-get-one coupon at CoreLife Eatery on two healthy-as-all-get-out salads, I had a decision to make.

I could either go to my grandmother’s house and accompany her in her scorching living room and do nothing, or go to the Starbucks that I basically live at to finish, yet another, assignment for my graduate classes. I chose neither. Instead, I went to a park with a river. I wanted to just rest. I wanted to spend time with myself. I wanted to just breathe for one moment before I had to go to yet another commitment.

I got to the park, grabbed one of the books I just bought (and the free journaling notebook with my purchase!), a pen, and my aqua blue water bottle and headed for the shaded bench along the riverside. There were several dads walking along the river with their young children. It was so precious watching the little ones laugh and giggle while walking in the smooth river.

As I sat there, I breathed in and thought this is it. This is what I need. A moment for me. I opened my book and began to read, but only made it through the introduction before the wind sent goosebumps up and down my spine. I got up and walked to another bench in the sun. Perfect.

I continued reading and sipping my cool water. I was in such unbelief that on a Monday afternoon I could actually take time to just be. This was a moment I longed for more of. No rushing. No cell phone. No worrying. A moment of pure bliss, I would say.

I kept reading and observing the beautiful wildlife around me. God had such an imagination when He created. I had enough time to read through four chapters of this new book I just got (the chapters were less than 10 pages!). The book seemed to be exactly what I needed. It was like the words sprang right off the page and into my heart.

The book, An Intentional Life by Karen Stott began by talking about passion and pursing the things that God has called us to. Karen shares her own personal testimony to help readers relate. And boy, could I relate! The words that she probably put her heart and soul into were some of the most empowering words I have ever read.

Eventually, I put the book down because I needed to process what I had just read. You see, we all have so many hopes and dreams, so many desires, so much passion. She described this one moment where she was doing something she absolutely loved and she could tell it was what she was called to do because she was thriving and just at complete peace. Have you ever felt that?

I felt that once, when I was in India. I loved the work I was doing. I loved the people that I was surrounded by. Sure, I missed home, but this was it! This is what I was passionate AOAM0562 (1)about! Someone even captured a candid of my pure joy of me doing what I felt called to do. But now, now I am home. I am back in the States, living with my parents while I finish (hopefully) the rest of my education in my masters program.

There is not a day that goes by where I do not think about India or my time there. I miss it. Even though there were so many times when I was so frustrated and did not understand anything, I miss it. Because that was clearly where God had called me to. I feel like one day, hopefully sooner than later, I will be traveling back to those not-so-foreign grounds that I fell in love with.

Eventually, it was time for me to leave the peaceful moment and head to my church to serve at our summer sports camp outreach for children. As I walked to the car I had only one thought: this is not the end-all.

After getting home from India, an experience that changed my life and that could never be topped, I graduated college and did what any other college graduate does, I got a job (and started my masters program). I started working full-time, getting re-engaged in my church, catching up with friends, going to school full-time, heck, I even picked up Tennis as a hobby! But something was just not right. I was not happy. I was not happy with where I was career-wise, or several other areas of my life.

I had this aching and passion to do other things. I wanted to move to Washington D.C. and work for the International Justice Mission or move to New York and work for the United Nations (I still do!). But I couldn’t. Not yet. It wasn’t “my time” to do that. Even though those are my dreams and passions and goals for myself, they were not what God had in mind for me fresh out of college. God had something else in store for me. He wanted me to work and get this other college education and focus on bettering myself (maybe I should say “becoming” myself?)

This meant, once again, putting my dreams on hold. I even had to recognize that I had to put a really important relationship on hold, trusting that if it were meant to be, God would make a way. This is a time where God wants to transform me. God wants to lead me to still waters. God wants to plant a yearning so strong in my heart for the things that I am already so passionate about that I will not ever be able to give up on my dreams.

This is my season of growing.

I was talking to my best friend (my best friend for over half of our lives now). She is also in a season of growing. We talked about how difficult it is. We are both in places where we don’t want to be, but where God has ordained us to be. It comforts me to know that my closest friend is in this with me.

Before recognizing this (and even after), I realized that at some point along the lines I lost my fear of God. I lost my reverence and awe for the one who created me, the very thing that connected me with God on a level I couldn’t even begin to describe. My heart hardened. My well was dry. I was in a desert. I was so stubborn, that I did not even recognize this.

I was angry with God. I was confused at why I had just experienced something so incredible and so life-giving that I loved doing, but was brought home to something I was not passionate about. I was upset with him that I met an amazing man, but the relationship was put to a halt. I asked God if He was punishing me, but He did not answer. He was silent. All of this warped my thoughts and made me question if I should even continue pursing the dreams I have. Should I even trust God that if it is His will, He will make a way with this relationship?

I felt like I would be stuck in this rut for the rest of my life.

But after this moment at this park, I felt renewed. After reading a few words of encouragement from another sister in Christ, I felt that it is possible to get through this. Even though right now, in this day, I feel like I am getting no where, or achieving any of the goals I have set for myself, God is taking me everywhere and I am achieving the goals He has set for me.

So while I am not living the “perfect life” I thought I would be right after I graduated from college, I am living the life that God has called me to live at such a time as this. And in this time, come hell or high water, I want to be so immersed in what God has for me that I will never be distracted. I want God to mold me, transform me, prune me, make me new. I know it will be painful, but it will be worth it. He is preparing me for something mighty ahead. He is answering my prayers in His own way, in His own timing.

This is not the end all and the best is yet to come.

Now, it is time for me to allow the Holy Spirit to soften my heart and to submit to what He has placed before me. Are you ready to join me on this journey?

 

Imperishable Goods

Do you remember in elementary school when you would go home and ask Mom for “imperishable goods” to donate in order to win a pizza party for your class? Mom would give you a few cans, maybe of creamed corn or some Campbell’s soup that you and your siblings never liked but it always seemed to multiply in the pantry. You’d take your plastic bag filled with cans to school, put them in a box and they would be shipped to a homeless shelter or food pantry to be donated to those who need it.

It was always stressed that it had to be “imperishable”. If you brought something that had some type of expiration date on it, it was not accepted and you were stuck carrying the item home to put back in Mom’s pantry, only to try again to get rid of it next time. You see, the imperishable part is important because they never knew when the item would be used by or given away. It needed to last forever.

Google definitions defines “imperishable” as an adjective meaning “enduring forever”. Synonyms include: enduring, everlasting, undying, deathless… you get the point? It doesn’t expire.

Paul tells us in the second book to the church in Corinth:

And even if our Gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing.” (2 Corinthians 4.3)

“Perishing” means the opposite of imperishable: death, expiration, not enduring forever. Now, we know that in Jesus Christ we can believe that we have everlasting life (John 3.16). But what about these people that are perishing in 2 Corinthians? These are the people that are veiled to the Gospel. Picture a wedding where the Bride and Groom are standing at the alter. The Bride has the veil over her face and it is blocking her from fully being able to see the Groom. That’s how it is for these “perishing” people… they cannot see the Gospel.

So, what?

Well, as followers of Jesus Christ (who we know we can have eternal life in), we are called to share the Gospel with these “perishables” to allow the Holy Spirit to tear the veil and reveal Jesus Christ to them.

Jesus tells us specifically, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” (Matthew 28.19). Jesus also says, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few. Therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest. Go your way; behold, I am sending you out as lambs in the midst of wolves” (Luke 10.2-3).

In other words, we are imperishables being sent out among the perishables. We are the carriers of the Gospel whom are equipped with the Holy Spirit to plant seeds of life in those that are deemed perishable. Through Jesus, we are called to preach, teach, pray, and say to make disciples and bring His Kingdom.

We are the hundreds of cans of creamed corn that are donated each and every day to those who are “in need”. But instead of creamed corn, created, saved, and donated by Jesus, we hold the Gospel, delivering a message of salvation to those who are in need.

Living life as a Christian, a follower of Jesus Christ, is not all about just going to Church and getting Spiritually filled so you can keep your life insurance. It is so you can grow, become equipped, and be fueled to “sell” the life insurance to those who need it. We are imperishable goods.

A Beautiful One

I have not blogged in a very long time- obviously. But there’s a reason for that. If you look at my past blogs, they are all about my time studying abroad in India. Around the time when I stopped blogging, is around the time when I had about one month left in the amazing country. Now, it has been a little over a month since I have been home, and I still have not blogged.

It’s not that I don’t have time. It’s not that I don’t want to. You see, the thing is, I don’t know what to write. I didn’t want to write an “ending” to my time in India. I didn’t want to write about all the goodbyes I had to say, my airport stories, or how excited my family was to see me when they picked me up from the airport. Honestly, there are just not enough words in the English (or any other) dictionary for me to describe the experiences I had.

Now that it has been a little over a month, I have had time to reflect more on my time abroad. I have re-integrated into my complex American life and now it is time to share a little bit about what is going on in my heart and head.

If you read my first few blogs while I was in India, you know that I had a rough time. I was sick, I was missing home and my family, I was not very fond of the bugs, and overall, the culture shock got the best of me. Fortunately, as I spent more time there, I develop amazing relationships with locals that love Jesus and have compassion for community. These were the people I clung to.

I started being more intentional about my relationship with Jesus and allowing Him into my everyday life to cleanse me and heal me of past issues. When I started doing this, I was filled with so much joy and I became so content with myself and where I was at in life. I began to fall in love with the land that I had convinced myself previously I hated.

One of my closest friends began tutoring me in Hindi. We would have “tutoring” sessions at the Cafe Coffee Day (CCD) down the road. We had a deal. She would tutor me and I would buy her coffee. Sometimes, we just got so caught up in talking about life that we never got to Hindi. Either way, this was one of the sweetest friendships I have ever made in my entire life. I learned so much from this girl and cannot wait until our paths cross again.

When I hopped on my flight from Cleveland Hopkins Airport with the intention of landing in Chennai, India three days later, I had no idea what to expect. I knew I would learn, but I didn’t know what I would unlearn. I knew I would struggle, but I didn’t know how I would succeed. I knew I would grow, but I didn’t know how I would learn so much about myself. You see, I learned more about myself in these 3 1/2 glorious months than I have in my entire life.

Being in another country stretched me thin and pushed me to my limits at times. But ya know what? I think we all need to experience that in our lives. We all need to be tested and put on trial in a land we are not familiar with. That, my friends, is how we grow. I want to share a few more things…

In India, I became another person. I gained more confidence in myself than I ever thought possible. I learned to accept who I am and who Jesus wants me to be. And through that, came a wonderful fullness of joy.

I learned patience. I learned that you do not always have to be doing something crazy and adventurous. Want to know why? Because being a foreigner in such a “hectic” culture is adventurous enough… I mean, getting on the right train and bus is crazy enough!

Lastly, one of the most important things I learned is that it is okay to not know what is happening next. From day one of walking around nearly unconscious due to the horrid affects of jet lag, to the very last day trying to say goodbye to newly found lifelong friends, I was always in a state of not knowing. Now, if you know me, you know this is completely against what I stand for. Everyone knows that I have my life planned out 5-years in advance. But that was nearly impossible for me to do in India.

Indians are very flexible people. They are people that are adapted to change wherever, whenever. This grew on me. The whole time I was so scared of going home because I didn’t know what to expect. My parent’s house had caught on fire and they moved to a new one while I was away. I was graduating college, trying to find a job, trying to figure out if and how I would go to graduate school. At times, it spoiled my attitude and left me bankrupt of the contentness and joy I had just found.

Now that I am home, I have found that I’m actually okay when I just go with the flow. I CAN find contentment. I CAN adjust. I CAN succeed. And you know what? I actually kind of like it. There is something adventurous about being spontaneous that reminds me of my life in India.

Folks, in no way, shape, or form, does this blog post shed the slightest light on my time in what has become my most favorite country on Earth. But, I can tell you this, my life has been forever changed and until the day comes when I venture to that land again, I will do what I can to get my “India” fill. (Yes that means every time I see a person from India in public I will say “Namaste” and attempt to speak in the little bit of Hindi that I know).

To sum it up, my time in India was “a beautiful one”.

You make known to me the path of life;
    in your presence there is fullness of joy;
    at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.

Psalm 16.11

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?