Five Months Ago…

Five months ago, I sat in the same spot I do today… in O’Hare, preparing to board a plane to Atlanta.
I’m on my way to see a few of the of the same faces that I was off to see five months ago.

But instead of seeing stranger’s faces and being a bit nervous to spend two months with them, I’m seeing family. The people that stood, worked, lived and laughed beside me for two months. The ones I slept, cooked and snored beside.

I love these people.

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He Cares.

Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God

so that at the proper time he may exalt you,

casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you.

Be sober-minded; be watchful.

Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion,

seeking someone to devour.

Resist him, firm in your faith,

knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world.

And after you have suffered a little while,

the God of all grace,

who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ,

will himself

restore,

confirm,

strengthen,

and establish you.

 

 

1 Peter 5:6-10

 

 

30 Seconds and 2 Words.

Tonight is the first time I’ve had to just sit and reflect in a while. Not for the first time, I am finding myself caught up in awe over the journey God has me on.

If you had asked me when I was 10, 16, or even 18 years old, where I thought I would be when I was 21, the answer would gone something along the lines of “finishing up college, getting married right after graduation and working in the field I had majored in”.

Instead. I’m 21.5, have a bachelor’s degree, no boyfriend, live in Indiana (where I told myself I would NEVER end up), working as a secretary in a school with absolutely no relation to my major, and I’m considering spending the next year of my life traveling the world as a missionary. Also, my life goals include running a marathon (hopefully more than one), hiking the appalachian trail, backpacking through Europe and eventually adopting kids.

… My 10 year old self wouldn’t recognize me. Nor would my 16 year old self or my 18 year old self.

This is the girl who was scared of spiders up until two years ago. And hated running. And now I laugh as I kill spiders and run for fun. Who am I?

It’s crazy to see how true some of the lamest “christian cliches” are. “There’s beauty in the brokenness” is so true and I am a living testimony of that.

The last three years have been the hardest years of my life. And yet, they have completely shaped who I am right now. Jesus is taking my anxiety-ridden, comfort-seeking, obsessive-compulsive-perfectionist heart and completely re-molded it into how he intended it to be from the beginning. He has redeemed my life through the brokenness of the last three years.

Three years, two months and five days ago, Jesus started ruining my life. A rollover car crash should have taken my life. Instead I was broken, bleeding and surrounded by broken glass. Before then, I never knew that 30 seconds could change your life. But that 30 seconds spent completely out of control, rolling and skidding and screaming, listening to glass shatter and metal crush – that 30 seconds changed my life.

From that moment on, I bore scars reminding me of life’s brevity. Of it’s uncertainty. Of my own mortality. And that scared me more than I ever cared to admit.

However, this realization of how short life is has affected how I live every day. I don’t ever want to miss opportunities to share love. Or laughter. I don’t ever want to get to the end of my life without ever having gone out of my comfort zone and without ever following the Lord’s voice. This realization is the reason that I choose to live my life the way I do – spontaneously, lovingly and recklessly for the Lord.

Fast forward two months and two days. September 17, 2010. That was the day that I learned how 2 words could also completely turn your world upside down. “Mallori died”. A freak accident. A terrible, awful accident that left a friend dead and another a quadriplegic. I wasn’t just broken – I was shattered. I felt like someone had taken a bomb and detonated it over my life. I was worn out just thinking about trying to pick up the pieces.

And yet. God had a greater plan than just surviving life for me. He slowly began to stitch my broken life back together. The day I was able to speak about life without crying was a day for celebration. Then I slowly began to actually look forward to the future. And what God had planned for my life. I began to seriously question the purpose of life because of Mallori’s short life. It was yet another reminder to never live life in my comfort zone, to leave a legacy of hope and of purpose. To show Jesus to the world.

Two years later, I was dating the guy I thought I was going to marry. I had been fighting God and choosing to ignore what I knew he was saying about our relationship. So God decided to take the choice away from me and I was blindsided by the break-up because it didn’t come from my end. I was brokenhearted and broken in spirit. It took months before the pain finally eased up.

Funny thing is, the very next week after the breakup, I signed up to go to Guatemala for two months. And it was there I learned all about what trusting the Lord actually meant in real life. I learned to listen to His voice and to just rest in His presence. I learned to truly seek Him out. I learned what it meant to love Him and His people. I learned what real love looks like. 

Now I’m looking at all of these possibilities for my life that would have never been possible if I was about to get married to the guy I thought I was going to, or if I was in the job that I thought I would be in. No. I’m not living a normal life. No, I’m not successful by American standards.

Jesus has changed my heart and my mind and I am no longer okay with simply being normal or successful by the world’s standards. The only words of affirmation I live for are the ones that will come when I meet Him for the first time – “Well done, my good and faithful servant”

Before we went to college, my church ran a program called “Senior’s Only”. Before we could go on the retreat at the end, we had to memorize Psalm 103. I didn’t really understand the verse then. Only on an intellectual level. Now I understand it on a heart level because I’ve lived it. I love this passage.

Psalm 103

“Let all that I am praise the LORD;
with my whole heart, I will praise his holy name.
Let all that I am praise the LORD;
may I never forget the good things he does for me.
He forgives all my sins
and heals my diseases.
He redeems me from death
     and crowns me with love and tender mercies.
He fills my life with good things.
My youth is renewed like the eagle’s!

The LORD gives righteousness
and justice to all those who are treated unfairly.

He revealed his character to Moses
and his deeds to the people of Israel.
The LORD is compassionate and merciful,
slow to get angry and filled with unfailing love.
He will not constantly accuse us,
nor remain angry forever.
He does not punish us for all our sins;
he does not deal harshly with us, as we deserve.
For his unfailing love toward those who fear him
     is as great as the height of the heavens above the earth.
He has removed our sins as far from us
as the east is from the west.
The LORD is like a father to his children,
tender and compassionate to those who fear him.
For he knows how weak we are;
he remembers we are only dust.
Our days on earth are like grass;
like wildflowers, we bloom and die.
The wind blows, and we are gone-
as though we had never been here.
But the love of the LORD remains forever
with those who fear him.
His salvation extends to the children’s children
of those who are faithful to his covenant,
of those who obey his commandments!

The LORD has made the heavens his throne;
from there he rules over everything.

Praise the LORD, you angels,
you mighty ones who carry out his plans,
listening for each of his commands
Yes, praise the LORD, you armies of angels
who serve him and do his will!
Praise the LORD, everything he has created,
everything in all his kingdom.

Let all that I am praise the LORD.

“I love you.”

I’m not going to sugarcoat it… this new season of life is hard.

It’s good, yes.
It’s necessary, yes.
It’s enjoyable sometimes, yes.

But it’s hard. And I’ve had a lot of days where I’ve just wanted to throw my hands in the air and say forget it.

I feel like I never have time to do anything. And it’s a lot of my own fault. Because I value relationships so highly, I’ve spent just about every free moment spending time with friends, catching up with friends and making new friends.

In doing this, I’ve put off the most important relationship in my life – the Lord. And I’ve felt like a failure because I’ve been neglecting it after a whole summer of pouring my heart and my time into it. I don’t like failing. I don’t like feeling like I’m messing up. I don’t like falling back into sinful habits I had kicked over the summer. I don’t like who I am without the Lord at the forefront of my life.

So on Thursday, I was driving home from work feeling like an utter failure – unkind words I had spoken, an uncaring and an unforgiving spirit were haunting me. I had my radio turned to the local Christian station in an attempt to get a little God in my day, and not only did I “get a little God in my day”, but He spoke directly to my heart. Directly to where I was hurting.

“I love you more than the sun and the stars, that I taught how to shine. You are mine, and you shine for me too. I love you! Yesterday and today and tomorrow I’ll say it again and again, I love you more.”

He told me he loves me.
More and more.
Doesn’t matter what I do.
It’s all about him.
He never loves me less or more based on what I do.
He just loves me.
And his love is ALL I need.

I don’t need anything else.
I only need my Abba’s love. Because of that, I can take on each day.
I can fall. I can hurt. I can fail. But his love remains.

Post-Grad Lessons

I’ve already had some eye-opening realizations and lessons about being adult. My bank account learned another one today. Who knew jeans and tshirts wouldn’t cut it for adult life?

Let me just clue you in:
1. Putting gas in your tank is literally burning money. It’s painful to watch.
2. Going to bed at 2am is apparently not sustainable in this “real world” life. Reaching old lady status.
3. Living next door to your college campus is really great and really awful all the same time. Reminds me how much freedom I don’t have anymore, but almost all my friends live there or close by. That’s niiiice.
4. IM WORKING FULL TIME. FULL TIME. let that sink in. what is this life. i can’t do my laundry and nap at 2pm. Or nap anytime, really.
5. Adult life does have it’s perks for my OCD-tendencies. I can schedule out my life because all my schedules are “regular” as opposed to “college”
6. It’s nice that my life is truly “my own”. Nobody else pays for it. My extremely independent streak loves it.
7. I DONT HAVE TO DEAL WITH THE STRESS OF CLASSES. OR HOMEWORK. so thankful  to have a break.

 

I’ll keep you posted. I’m going to sleep. At 11:11.  No shame.

One Week, Two Days.

It’s been one week, two days almost to the minute that I said goodbye to the last of my teammates and boarded my plane with some of the puffiest eyes you’ve ever seen, still sobbing.

Today, I’m in Tree of Life in Winona Lake, drinking $1 coffee and filling out job application after job application, still struggling to process everything that happened this summer. And still dreading the frequently asked question:  “how was Guatemala?”.Image

How do I even begin to answer that question? It was the hardest thing I’ve ever done. It was the best thing I’ve ever done. It hurt like you-know-what to leave. I miss my team on a daily/minute-to-minute basis. I miss the simplicity. I miss the orphanage dearly and I think about it on an hourly basis. Like right now,it’s 1:09 in San Gaspar, and at this very moment, the kids are out of their wheelchairs, hanging out on their mats, watching barney (“elephante, elephante”), squirming around, screaming or sleeping.I miss them.

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I miss running upto Ruth and hugging her/smothering her and hearing her giggle. I miss sitting on the mat with Griselda, watching her waving her little fingers around with a sweet little smile on her face. I even miss her fingernails digging into my skin every few seconds and my hair being pulled out of my head anytime I forgot to keep it tucked away.

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I miss getting up really close to Alex’s face, watching him purse his lips and give a little “oh!” as he slaps me because I’m a) not Daniel or Ben and b) I’m being annoying. I miss running up to Juan Carlos, arms out wide, making airplane noises and hearing him laugh hysterically. I miss getting my hand suddenly yanked towards Adeli’s mouth so she could give me a kiss and then a sweet, crooked smile.

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I miss watching sweet little Aleida drift off randomly, looking like she’s drugged and then getting woke up and watching her just giggle. I miss yelling “CHOCOLATE CAKE” and watching Diego crack up from across the room because I’m being dramatic.

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I miss “Jefe” telling us to go fold laundry. I miss speed-feeding Daniel and getting food just about everywhere except actually in his mouth. I could go on and on and on about how much I love them and miss them. They’ve got a piece of my heart and I won’t be getting it back anytime soon. Or ever. 

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I miss my team. I miss every single one of them. I’ve talked to a few of them since we’ve been back, but it’s not the same as sharing a little house with all 19 of them and constantly being together.

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I miss Guatemala. I really do. But I am also settling in to life here in Winona Lake. I’m so thankful to be here. I’m so thankful for the house and the housemates that I have been blessed with. I’m thankful to have my closest friends close by. I’m thankful to have been able to see one of my childhood/lifelong best friends get married this weekend. I’m thankful for a coaching position that God gave me.

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I’m thankful for a Godwho cares about the little things in life and is so faithful in everything. I’m excited about this year. I’m trusting God with my future. I’m just learning to enjoy each and every moment, in each and every day and not worry about what’s next.
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So, I still don’t have a clue how to answer “how was Guatemala?” in 30 seconds. I don’t think I’m ever going to truly be able to do that. But life is full of joy, hope and peace for me because my God is faithful. He is faithful in Guatemala and he is faithful now.  He has given me life in abundance and I am so thankful to just soak it up and enjoy every second of it.

“I have come that may have life, and have it to the full” –Jesus

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Reflection.

I’ve been putting off writing this blog for three days now because I just don’t even know where to begin.

I guess I’ll just start off with Sunday, aka, “The Day of Tears”.

I had one of the last flights out. So from 9am to 3pm, I hugged, sobbed and watched as one by one, each of the people I’ve called family for the last two months walked away to catch a plane or a car that would take them home indefinitely.

I watched as the last two months flashed before my eyes – the awkward training camp where nobody really knew anyone and we were all wondering what we had got ourselves into, to the third week where everyone’s real personalities began to come out and we began to laugh more genuinely and know each other more deeply, to the last two weeks where I knew deep in my heart that these people weren’t just teammates, they were family.

Saying goodbye to each one of them was one of the hardest things I have ever had to do in my life, but also one of the sweetest because I knew in that moment just how much I loved each one of them.

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So. In the last few days I have really been reflecting on all that God taught me this summer and have realized that it would be so easy to just slip back into my old ways of life.

The way of life that was not fully surrendered to the Lord and his calling.

The way of life that was characterized by too much stuff, too little Jesus and way too much of my selfishness.

But I’ve realized that I don’t want that.

I don’t want my need for things and need for selfish desires to take over my life.

What does that mean, practically?

It means that I’m currently sitting in a disheveled room, surrounded by stuff that has been accumulating for months and years in my closet, my desk, my dresser, etc. It means that as I’m packing up for school, I am deep cleaning and getting rid of anything that I don’t use. I came back completely overwhelmed with the sheer amount of stuff I own. I lived out of two backpacks for the last two months and never in my life have I felt so free and so joyful. I am done with buying things that I don’t need or won’t really use. I want to live simply so that I can give generously and live freely.

Simplicity = freedom.

It also means that I am surrendering my life and my finances to the Lord. Not just in the future, but in the here and now. I want to give sacrificially of my time and of my money. I want to give until it hurts and then give some more. I want to follow his voice and his leading in regards to my actions on a daily basis. I want to be able to bless people with my life so that they can see Jesus.

Giving freely and generously, with love.

Living in such close community taught me a lot about loving people. It is an intentional action, a choice that you make. I want to choose to love people even when I don’t feel like it. I want to make that choice. I want to do the hard things.  It’s a daily surrender, but I am so glad for all the practice that I got in Guatemala when I couldn’t escape it.

Choosing to love, even when it hurts, on a daily basis.

Seeking the Lord with all of my heart. I have a burning desire to know who Jesus is and understand what He has said in the Bible. I love to learn about the context of the Bible and see all of the deep meaning it has. I want to talk with Him continually each day, know His heart intimately and personally. I want more. I never will have enough. This fire in my soul is something that I don’t ever want to go away, and especially not now, when God has just started something so big in my heart during this trip. I want to continually feed it.

Seeking the Lord with all of my heart, mind and soul.

This trip has also led me to a place where I give up control. I am not going to plan my future out years in advance. Not even months. God is going to lead me. I am not going to freak out about jobs, money, relationships or housing. I am not going to have a ten-year plan. I am going to take life in stride, take opportunities as they come across and step out in faith knowing that God’s plan for my life is far better than anything I could imagine.   I am not going to waste my time waiting around for the “perfect man”. I am not going to stop living my life because everyone else around me is getting married and I feel like my time is ticking. No. I refuse to believe the lie that in order to have a full life, you have to get married in this small time frame, or at all. I believe that no matter my relationship status, God is the only one who can truly fulfill my heart and I want to walk in that belief.

Trusting that His plan is better than mine.

Guat fam, thank you for teaching me so much through your life, your love and your friendship. I love you guys so much and am so thankful for each of you. Supporters, thank you so much for helping me get to where God was calling me this summer. So much work was done in my life, as well as the lives of the Guatemalans and my teammates. I’m so thankful for you. Jesus, thank you for loving me immeasurably. Thank you for never giving up on me. I love you.