Trusting Through Fear and Uncertainties.

I’m a little bit tired these days. I’m a little bit stressed out and a little bit overwhelmed.  I’m a little bit anxious and a little bit afraid. I am having a difficult time staying present, yet I feel I’m walking blind down the path of my future. I’m also a little bit excited and a little bit enthused. I am a dreamer, and even in the midst of changing seasons I have great vision and high expectations.

I’m reflecting a little bit these days. I’m packing boxes and choosing which of my belongings are coming with me when I move and which are remaining back at home. I am rediscovering old photographs and unfolding the pages of old notes and letters from friends and family. I’m feeling a little bit bittersweet these days as I cry tears of joy and sadness.

Am I making the right decisions, God? Is this really where you are leading me? Am I following and obeying your instructions? Can you hear me, God? Are you listening? Why are you so silent? Why do I feel empty? Be gracious and merciful, God. If I stepped off the path you prepared for me, redirect me. Open my ears that I may hear you and you alone. I want what you have for me. I want to follow your ways for I know that they are higher and greater than mine. Hear my heart and know me, Lord, as I cry out to know you more. Send me reassurance.

I remember learning to ride a bike as a child. My parents bought me a bicycle with training wheels and after a little while they removed the training wheels because they believed I no longer needed them. I remember going to a dirt road behind a local playground where my parents strapped on my helmet and sat me up on my bike. “Ok now start to peddle,” dad said as he placed one hand on my back seat and one on the handle bars. “I got you. I won’t let go.” I trusted dad, so I peddled. I kept my eyes focused on the road, and I heard mom praising me from behind, “You got this kiddo! You’re doing great!” Then like all good dads do, he let go of my bike. Dad let go and I fell. Dad let go and I fell and I got beat up and bruised. “It’s ok! Get back up and hop back on! I’ll get you started again!” Despite my torn up elbows and knees I trusted dad, so I peddled again. Dad guided and dad let go. I fell and he reached his hand out to lift me up once more. All the while mom was there to champion me and comfort me. Eventually dad let go of my bike and I reached a point where I didn’t fall. I didn’t need the training wheels and I didn’t need him to hold onto my bike any longer. I was free and able to balance and steer on my own. I felt confident and grown-up and mature. I chose which pot holes to avoid and which bumps to joyfully ride over. I went from riding on the abandoned road behind the playground to riding out on the streets, but even on the streets mom and dad were still there guiding me. They gave me instructions. They wanted to be sure I stayed protected. “Always wear your helmet! Make sure you watch for cars! Look both ways before crossing. Don’t stop and talk to strangers. Don’t ride too far and make sure you stop at the stop signs!” Despite my ability to ride my bike on my own I still needed those instructions. I needed guidance and their wisdom prevented me from potential danger.

These days I find myself getting too wrapped up in a fear of abandonment. I’m leaving behind much of what I know and am comfortable with. I had to make some big girl decision all within the past few weeks, and most days I can’t decide what I want to eat for breakfast let alone where I want to live and how I want to share my love. I began to fear I would make choices and decisions apart from God and be left alone, even though I daily seek his instruction. I pray and wait on God to speak, but these days I find he isn’t saying much. My trust band is being stretched.

I believe God is much like my own parents when they were teaching me to ride a bicycle. As God’s child, he provides the means for me to grow and become the woman he created me to be. He is constantly guiding me and protecting me. He instructs me, and at times he calls me to walk upon the waters of life with no more training wheels. If I fall and scrape my knees, God my heavenly father, will surly pick me back up. He will guide me once again until he gives me the opportunity to take a few more steps of faith. I believe he wills for me to trust him and make choices on my own. His guidance is still there. “Yet I am with you always; you hold me by my right hand (Psalm 73:23).” His protection is available always, “Put on the full armor of God.. (Ephesians 6:11).” I have come to realize that I am not God’s robot, but I am his daughter. As his daughter, he shepherds me, but also trusts me to make choices according to his will.

Not just these days, but all the days of my life, I wish to live for God. To serve. To love. To encourage. To shine the light of Christ in the darkness that fills this Earth. That is my heart’s desire, no matter where that leads me or what that looks like. But if I want to live for God, I must start living. I must propel myself into action and move. I mustn’t fear making decisions because my father knows the depth of my heart. I mustn’t fear abandonment because God promises to never leave me nor forsake me.  I mustn’t get caught up in changing circumstances because he who is in me is greater than he who is in the world.

Remain in me, as I also remain in you. |John 15:4|

If you find yourself entangled with indecision or if you find yourself tangled up in fear, remain in God through it all. He will unwind you with love and kindness. If you make a decision apart from his plan for you, he will lift you up and put you back on the correct path. He will cheer you on and give wise instruction along the journey. Don’t give way for fear to enter into your life. I fear abandonment from God, but quite the opposite is his promise over me. These days I am made brave and bold and free. These days I am loved by love itself. I am human and I have been given the great gift of freedom from Christ Jesus. I will not take advantage of the freedom given to me, but I will make mistakes. I will question and doubt and fall and get back up, but I will not allow fear to stop me from living. I’ve been created for a purpose and on purpose and so have you.

These days we all need a little reminder that we are strong, capable and significant. Each and every day the maker of heaven and earth is the proud maker of you. He is for you, not against you. He is on your side and wants you to stay close to his. I’m a little bit tired and a little bit unsure, but today I say no to fear and yes to love. Join with me!

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Searching for Purpose.

Slowly, surly and a little painfully I am becoming more aware of areas in my life that need a little tune up. I will be the first to admit I am not perfect. Never have I struggled with feeling the need to be perfect, but I have (and still do) struggle with the idea that I might miss the perfect mark. I’m typically an indecisive person, and I think that is because I fear I will make a wrong decision. I fear I will mistake the voice of God with my own voice. I fear I will not hear God clearly and do what he otherwise instructed me to do. In major life decisions, in relationships, and in much of my thinking I often fear I will do something apart from God’s will.

What will happen if I do something apart from his plan? Certainly my whole life will be screwed up. Certainly God will shake his finger at me, take a deep breath and struggle to find a way to put me back on track. Certainly God’s purposes will be put on hold until I start making the right decisions. Certainly I will miss out on the brilliant things God has in mind for me because I didn’t make the right choice.

Certainly I am being a little bit sarcastic.

But I do struggle with similar thoughts nonetheless. I know this about myself, and I have been woking on conquering my fear of mistakes for quite a while. I learned God’s plans cannot be shaken. He is too big of a God to be thrown off track, and I am too selfish a person to think that I can stop his purposes from being fulfilled. The Message version of Job 42:2 says, “I’m convinced: You (God) can do anything and everything. Nothing and no one can upset your  (God’s) plans.” When I spend too much time worrying about missing the mark, I take too much time away from being present and trusting God is faithful in all his ways. I take too much time away from enjoying the simple things in life because I get too wrapped up in the bigger picture. I end up putting chains on myself even though Jesus paid the ultimate price to set me free. 

So I once again return to him. I once again to stand firm on his promises. As David stated,  “The Lord will fulfill his purpose for me; your steadfast love, O Lord, endures for ever (Psalm 138:8, ESV).”

If you’re anything like me you’re prone to wonder. I’m an over thinker and I ask top many questions. Even in my surrender I ask God, “What are your purposes for me?” After searching and practically begging for signs, I am left with one simple answer.

Jesus replied: ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’This is the first and greatest commandment. (Matthew 22:37-38)

Straight from the mouth of Christ I find my purpose. My purpose is to love my God and to love others. I no longer have to be terrified of missing the mark. I no longer have to beg for God to reveal my calling. I am called to love, and because there is no fear in love there is no fear in living a life of love.

Sure it would be nice to know if I should attend grad school and pursue a degree in professional counseling. Sure it would be nice to know if I’ll become a “real” teacher or if I will continue to substitute. I see before me so many doors of opportunities, but I’m not sure which door to open..or which door God will open for me. It’s difficult to take steps towards certain doors because my fear of missing the mark or making a wrong decision still creeps up now and again, but I remain confident that God will fulfill his purposes in me as I fulfill my purposes in him. My hope is that here is a secret passage way, a door I do not see yet. I hope he leads me there. I hope he continues to lead me on a grand adventure. He has yet to disappoint. My faithful God is full of surprises and brilliant plans. I love his works. I love his love.

His grace is sufficient for me. His grace is sufficient for you, right now, today and for all your days to come. God is King of Kings and Lord of Lords yet he still cares about each and every one of our journeys. In our obedience to Christ, we need to take more leaps of faith rather than more time to second guess uncertainties. In our obedience, we are to love God and love others. In return, God will surely fulfill his purposes.

Lessons From Chiang Mai — Time.

It’s a funny thing coming home. Nothing changes. Everything looks the same, smells the same, even feels the same. You realized what’s changed is you. -F. Scott Fitzgerald

Time is an interesting concept. Sixty seconds makes a minute. Sixty minutes equals an hour. Twenty-four hours add up to a day, and so on and so forth. I spent the past thirty days traveling the other side of the world. That’s four weeks, seven hundred and twenty hours. We’ve heard it said time flies when we’re having fun, but fun or no fun, sixty seconds always equals a minute and there is always only twenty-four hours in a day. Still, we all experienced moments, days, and seasons of life when time…well, it flies by doesn’t it? Other moments, days, and seasons drag on for what feels like forever.

Sometimes we desire more time. There just aren’t enough hours in the day. We want to make the good times last. Sometimes we wish time away. We want to forget the past, maybe fast forward through pain because for whatever reason there isn’t joy in the moment. Other times we waste time. We spend our days waiting and longing for something better, waiting for summer, for love, for the life we’ve always wanted to live but haven’t lived it because we spent too much of our time in the yearning rather than in the moment.

Coming home is a funny thing for me. Everyone has their daily routines in place. Though time has passed, everyone’s lives seem to be just as they were before I left. If I didn’t know any better, I would think the pause button was pushed at home, and someone decided to press play again when I returned. Meanwhile I experienced time so differently than most people at home could imagine. I’m not the same having spent the past seven hundred and twenty hours in Chiang Mai. I have a heart full of precious memories. I want to share those memories with everyone on the home front, but I’m not so sure anyone will fully grasp the emotions and meanings behind my experiences. Time. I need time to process, and I believe God will show me how and when to pour out all he filled me with throughout the past four weeks.

Most of my time in Thailand was spent communicating with friends, strangers, and strangers who became friends. It was a very relational adventure. It was more of a journey of my heart than anything else. I learned a lot about myself. I was forced out of my comfort zone and recognized areas of weakness within me. I learned a lot about others, how to communicate in love, how to communicate with kindness yet with confidence and bravery. I learned a lot about purpose and a lot about God. I look forward to continuing my journey with those willing to hear my heart.

In the mean time, I invite you on an adventure. We don’t need to be world travelers to experience a new world. We don’t need a plane ticket to see new sites. All we need is to recognize time is of great value, and what we do with out time determines what great experiences we will have. You are not stuck somewhere unless you decide to be. Complacency is a deadly foe, and I think most of us need to learn to live more from intention than out of habit. Don’t let your time go to waste. Don’t fall victim to pain or anxiety, but allow yourself to process through those moments with hope in your heart. Enjoy the present and make the most of it. Don’t be afraid to take risks. Don’t be afraid to be bold. Speak what’s on your mind. Change up your routine. Try new things. Add a little spice to your life! ..and add a little spice to your food, too. It’s quite tasty. Eternity is set in our hearts. Let’s embrace that. The possibilities are endless.

|There is a time for everything,
    and a season for every activity under the heavens:

      a time to be born and a time to die,
    a time to plant and a time to uproot,
      a time to kill and a time to heal,
    a time to tear down and a time to build,
      a time to weep and a time to laugh,
    a time to mourn and a time to dance,
      a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,
    a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing,
      a time to search and a time to give up,
    a time to keep and a time to throw away,
      a time to tear and a time to mend,
    a time to be silent and a time to speak,
      a time to love and a time to hate,
    a time for war and a time for peace.

  What do workers gain from their toil?  I have seen the burden God has laid on the human race. He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end.| Ecclesiastes 3:1-11

To The Crazy Ones.

Now to Him who is able to [carry out His purpose and] do superabundantly more than all that we dare ask or think [infinitely beyond our greatest prayers, hopes, or dreams], according to His power that is at work within us, to Him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations forever and ever. Amen.

Ephesians 3:20-21

I love this verse. It is one of my favorites and one I remind myself of often. For me, this verse has become a promise, and God has proven himself faithful time and time again. Countless times has God done more in my life than I could have imagined. My greatest testimonies come from experiences I never dreamed of. God gives great gifts in the form of many surprises, and like the power of his faithfulness in my past, I have no doubt there is more in store for me than I can dare dream.

I leave for Thailand in three days. Seventy-two hours stand between me and the other side of the world. Pinch me because it still feels so surreal. There are many things I look forward to. I look forward to seeing new sights. I look forward to breathing in new air. I look forward to watching the sun rise and set in the eastern hemisphere. I look forward to trying new foods, but most of all I look forward to experiencing God through an entirely new lens and through an entirely new culture. My list of “I look forward to’s” goes on and on, however, I am trying to move forward with no specific expectations. I expect God to be God as I remind myself to abide in him moment by moment. His ways have always been greater than mine.

As the big day approaches, I am surrounded by people asking all sorts of questions. Two of the biggest questions I have been hearing are..

  1. Are you crazy?
  2. Aren’t you the slightest bit scared?

My answers..

  1. Maybe a little bit.
  2. No

Adventures are a great way of learning for me. I like to live on the front lines. Reading about adventure and living vicariously through the experiences of others doesn’t suit it for me. I want my own adventures. I want my own experiences. I want to learn hands on.The way I see it — the crazier an adventure sounds, the crazier the experiences will be. If it sounds crazy and is crazy I’ll probably learn like crazy, too. Maybe my logic is off a bit, but I have yet to walk away from a crazy life experience without learning a tremendous amount. I think God likes crazy. After all, what wasn’t crazy about Noah building an ark for a flood which was to last forty days and forty nights? What wasn’t crazy about a young boy using a slingshot and stone to kill a giant? What wasn’t crazy about a virgin giving birth to the son of God? What wasn’t crazy about a man who transformed from murdering thousands of Christians to one of God’s greatest apostles? I definitely think God likes crazy. I like crazy, too. Crazy keeps my on my toes. It keeps me begging God for more.

I lied a little bit when I said I wasn’t the slightest bit scared. I know for certain I have absolutely nothing to be the slightest bit scared of, but I am human nonetheless. A few things trigger fear within me as I think about going to Thailand. Every day, throughout my day, I continually remind myself of God’s fearless love. Occurring countless times in scripture God instructs us not to be afraid and provides reasons not to fall victim to fear. He provides promises of safety, protection and provision. I am about to do something I have not yet done in my life. I am doing something some people consider crazy. Most people wouldn’t consider flying around the world alone the best and safest idea. Maybe they’re right, but I have a different perspective. A former student of mine told me I taught them an important life lesson. “Miss H., you taught me fear is a choice.” I don’t recall outwardly teaching such a lesson, but those words stick to me like glue. Fear is a choice, and I choose not to fall victim to it. I chose to put my hope in a love which casts out fear.

To Mom, Dad, and concerned family members, I am not flying to Thailand alone. I will not be sitting in the airports alone. I will not be navigating foreign territory alone. When I arrive in Thailand I will begin a beautiful journey of building upon relationships with people God has purposely placed in my life. God has a plan, and even though trust may be difficult, it releases the heavy burdens which fear places on our shoulders. I have no need to fear, and neither do you. I trust in the One who calls me to walk on the waters. I trust in the savior who calls me according to his purpose. I trust in the promises of a God whose words will not return to him empty. In Thailand I will be surrounded by the prayers of the righteous, I will be led by the great Shepard, and I will be comforted by the ultimate comforter.

Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.

Deuteronomy 31:6-8

Deep breath.. Deep breath, Mom and Dad. Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified. God is before us. He will never leave us nor forsake us. God will carry out his purpose and he will do superabundantly more than we dare ask or think..infinitely beyond our greatest prayers, hopes, or dreams. To him, to the fourth man standing in the fire and the one who conquered death, to him be the glory forever and ever.

Three Joyful Moments.

If procrastination were a career option, I would be a millionaire. I always wait until the last minute to do things and I have a habit of forgetting to do things, especially if I don’t have them written down. I have sticky notes that remind me to look at other sticky notes. I am 24 years old and I still write on my hand at least four days out of the week as a reminder for something somewhere at sometime.

I also have a habit of trying to figure things out before they actually happen. I overthink things and often act as if I have a plan which will work out perfectly. While I have gotten much better at trusting God with my life, I can sometimes struggle with the concept of being present. I have learned to become more comfortable with living in the moments of  life rather than days, weeks or months of life, which is probably why surrendering my plans to God has become a good thing. When I know what is ahead I tend to loose my enthusiasm for present moments.

So tonight I challenged myself to reflect on three moments of my day which really encouraged me or brought joy in the moment.  Here’s to being present.

  1. My commute to work today was roughly 35-40 minutes one way. I drove to work alone, as most of us do, and I can honestly say I enjoyed my 40 minutes of alone time. I take Route 81 and I have one rule set for myself — Do not drive over 81 miles per hour on 81…so I like to keep it at 80 😉 But today I kept it at a steady 65-70 miles per hour. I clicked on the Bible App on my phone and listened to 2 Corinthians while admiring the warm colors of this morning’s sunrise. On my way home, I cracked the windows open a bit, enjoyed the smell of fresh air and listened to United Pursuit’s latest album. My commute today allowed me to celebrate the introvert side of myself. I prayed God would quiet the thoughts in my mind and open my ears to hear his fathering voice. Nothing extravagant happened, but for me it was a quiet time of worship when I was able to unwind and soak up God’s love.Processed with VSCOcam with hb2 preset
  2.  I keep a sunshine box in my room. I highly recommend everyone keep a
    sunshine box. They bring light to life’s duller days. In my sunshine box I keep special notes and cards from friends. I keep pictures of precious moments and tiny treasures in remembrance of days when I was overwhelmed with goodness. After a very emotional week, I opened my sunshine box and reminded myself of the light which has always surrounded me. It was a nice reminder that even in dimmer days, light still shines.
  3. Hugs. I received a lot of hugs today, and I really like hugs. While I embrace all hugs, I don’t particularly care for the wimpy ones. I like strong hugs, the ones that really embrace you so tight. Those kind of hugs seem to last longer. I like that. For me hugs express many different emotions — I miss you, I care for you, I’m here for you, thank you, I love you. They’re simple yet powerful reminders that someone is willing to reach out to you. From my mom to former students to friends, God knew I needed hugs, and he supplied them in multitude today.

While I may be a procrastinator, I will never procrastinate worship. I pray that in all I do, say and think I will honor and worship God. I may have a habit of trying to figure out my future, but my past has proven God is good, faithful and constant. His love keeps me secure. All my days are full of joy, but some days I need a little nudge to be reminded of that fact. God’s gift of hugs certainly lit up my day, moment by moment.

____________________________________________

I leave for Thailand in 15 days, and boy is it difficult to remain present and try to get things together so I am not rushing around the day before I take off. For those who have been praying for me I thank you with much sincerity. The prayers of the righteous are so so powerful and mean so so much to me. I ask that if you are praying, please pray I remain present without getting too caught up in what’s to come.

If you would like to hear updates on my trip or a more in-depth prayer request, feel free to contact me. I would love to chat! Thank you for all the support and encouraging words. I have been overwhelmed by kindness and love. God is good all the time and all the time God is good!

The Land of Smiles.

Tuesday February 9th — While crying to my parents about the unfolding events of my life I finally blurted out, “What am I doing with myself? Life is not going as I planned! Ugh. I want to travel again. I’m young. I have nothing holding me down. I should travel! That’s what I’m meant to do! That’s what I love to do! I need a new adventure!”

Wednesday February 10th — A friend who’s serving in Thailand messages me, “So I think you would love it here and next time we come you should totally come with us. Haha.” To which I replied, “I would love to! Can I come now?!” Friend’s response, “I’m not even kidding. Come over now! That would be the bomb.com.”

Six days later I purchased my plane tickets to Thailand.

I love roller coasters, but as much as I love them I hate them. What I love most about them, is what I hate most about them. It’s the wait to sit in the front seat, the BEST seat. It’s the anticipation of the next drop after chugging up a mountainous peak. It’s the feeling in my stomach upon every downfall. It’s the wind in my face. It’s the slight fear that at any time the cart could very well veer off track and…well… It’s all in the thrill. It’s when the car finally arrives back at its station, I catch my breath and instantly want to ride again.

Upon each great adventure God has called me on I felt those same feelings. As much as I loved scheduling those adventures I hated it. Wrestling with mom and dad. Westling with God. Wrestling with myself. It’s the wait to see exactly what God has planned for me. It’s the anticipation of the joy set before me. It’s the pit in my stomach knowing that I’m about to step onto foreign land and potentially face great challenges. It’s the wind in my face, and I have to choose to believe it’s the peace of the Holy Spirit and not the wind of a storm. It’s the slight fear that at any time anything can happen. What has always terrified me most became my most prized treasures.  It’s all in the thrill, the fearful, anxious, exciting cry of my heart.

Here is what I know:

April 1st I (uno solo) will depart from Dulles International Airport in Washington D.C. I will be in air a little over thirteen hours before landing in Doha, Qatar. After a five hour layover I will board another plane to Bangkok, Thailand. This time I’ll be in air for a little over seven hours. Next I’ll spend approximately three hours in Bangkok before my final two hour flight to Chiang Mai where I will finally step on Thai soil and breathe in air I never imagined would kiss my face.

I will be met by the most encouraging friends who will help me get established for the month that lies ahead. I will be serving alongside my friends and a wonderful non-profit organization called The Sunshine House. The Sunshine House is a home for woman saved from sex trafficking and abusive relationships which provides care and work opportunities for women in need. I will also be exploring the beautiful land of Chiang Mai and following every lead and every road the Father calls me on. I will be learning and growing and facing my fears. I will be brave and courageous and open. I will be resting and abiding.

On April 29th I will returning home and begin a new season of life.

Things I don’t know:

I don’t know how to fly alone. I don’t know how to speak Arabic or Thai. I don’t know where I’ll be living or the specifics of what I’ll be doing. I don’t know the layout or design of the city. I don’t know Thai culture. I don’t know what my purpose is in going, only that God has made it very clear for me to accept his invitation to Chiang Mai.

Quite frankly I don’t know what bravery looks like, but I know God has made me brave. I don’t know what comfort zones I will need to step out of, but I know I have a comforter. I don’t know what God’s plan is, but I know He has one. I don’t know in which areas God will strengthen me, but I know in His kingdom He calls his children from glory to glory.

Two things I will hold onto:

  1. Though [I] have not seen him, [I] love him; and even though [I] do not see him now, [I] believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for [I am] receiving the end result of [my] faith, the salvation of [my] soul.” 1 Peter 1:8-9
  2. “But for you who fear my name, the sun of righteousness shall rise with healing in its wings.” Malachi 4:2

There will be few times in our lives when all our instincts will tell us to do something, something that defies logic, upsets our plans and may seem crazy to others. When that happens, we do it. Listen to our instincts and ignore everything else. Ignore logic, ignore the odds, ignore the complications and just go for it (Judith McNaught).

So, I’m just going for it. I have that stomach drop-the coaster is about to take off- God is always good-but holy crap this is happening feeling in my stomach. And it’s good. It’s real good. I’m going to Thailand, The Land of Smiles. Thank you, Jesus.