Tuesday, October 25, 2011

On the right track, at last

I recently started a devotional on the purpose driven life, and it starts out talking about how different people are driven by different things. Some people are driven by anger, some by fear some by materialism and others by the need for approval. Of course when we’re driven by those things we don’t realize it, we can spend our whole lives letting those things be our motivation for life without stopping and realizing we’re headed in the wrong direction. It’s not until you’re headed in the right direction that you look back and wonder what you were thinking.

I did not realize until arriving in Kenya, and not fully until leaving Kenya how much my life was driven by the need for people’s approval. It wasn’t so much the need for everyone to like me or to impress people but really just the need to make everyone else happy, so that they’d be happy with me. I made sure my life was so completely busy that I didn’t have a chance to think about whether or not I was happy. It was nonstop go from morning to night; school, work, church, work out, musical, lessons and meetings. It got to the point where even meeting with friends was more of an appointment to get through so I could meet with the next friend or person that needed my help. I felt like if I could do all those things and still put on a smile then people would think highly of me.

But the thing about being driven by something other than God and fulfilling God’s purpose for your life is that you very quickly get off track. I filled my life with so many things I thought the perfect Christian girl, and daughter would be doing. But really I was going nowhere, I didn’t stop to think what God wanted for me, I didn’t sit still and wait for his answer instead I tried to predict what his answer would be, and I think I wasted a year of my life.

The cool is that, when you are on the right track it’s so obvious. It’s like God is sitting up in heaven laughing at me saying of course this is what I wanted you to do, why didn’t you listen to me a year ago when you asked? And so the more time I spend here in South Africa the more I’m realizing what God wants me to do, because of the fact that although I am here doing work. I have a lot of time to sit and listen to what he’s telling me and even the work I am doing now I know he had planned in order to prepare me for the future he had in store.  It’s so cool when you know so clearly what God had planned all along. It gives me a nice sense of peace.

Lesson learned, Psalms 46:10 “Be still, and know that I am God” 

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

The Art of Being Uncomfortable

As Americans we tend to think the whole world revolves around our need to be comfortable. To have the best new camera equipment or the new apple product that will make life easier, or more comfortable. We carry around pounds and pounds worth of luggage when traveling to make sure we have everything necessary to make ourselves comfortable. We eat the same foods; we drink the same drinks and if you’re me you might even carry around your pillow across the world, to make sure you’re comfortable.
But how boring does that sound, how selfish does that sound? Why don’t we risk our comfortableness for the sake of others having more? Or even risk being comfortable for an adventure, for growth. I think we miss out on so many things when trying to stay in our “comfort zones”.  And so, Life becomes a routine.
Imagine if every day you did one thing that made you feel uncomfortable. You did one thing that made you a little nervous, or even made you want to cry. Imagine how much you would grow in that time into a whole new person just by being flexible, doing something different. Experiencing the unknown and embracing it!
I write this as I am sitting in the airport of Nairobi, Kenya. By myself, but sitting next to my iPod, iPhone, camera, my three lenses, my diet coke and chocolate, my pillow AND the laptop I am writing on as well as the luggage underneath the plane I’m about to board.  As I’m sitting here I’m starting to think of exhilarating it would be to take just one of those items, leave the rest behind and start my new adventure.  
But, maybe traveling to South Africa alone is enough discomfort for one day. As I face the discomfort of the trip that awaits me, the weeks I’ll be staying with people I’ve never met. The work I will be doing which I’m still unsure of and the idea of standing in front of a bunch of people and sharing the love of God. There’s something that makes my heart beat a little faster, something that makes my stomach a little nervous to where I’m shaking a little inside. At the same time I’m thinking this is the best kind of feeling. The kind of feeling that I know that I’m being stretched into a new person and facing fears I never really wanted to face and it might actually be fun.
I’m starting to think how good it feels to be uncomfortable... well for now.

Monday, August 29, 2011

In God Alone

Before going on my mission trip everyone said coming home would be hard, some said it was the hardest part of the whole process. Of course I didn't understand this, I didn't see why coming home after two amazing weeks wouldn't just be a time to praise God for the amazing things we have back home. In fact I didn't see why going on a mission trip would be hard at all, I'd done if before.

But there was something completely different about doing a mission trip because it sounds cool, and going on a mission trip because you really want to share God's love with other people. My previous mission trip had been during a time in my life where I wasn't really sure if I was a Christian, I had a lot of anger in my heart for my family and God, and I didn't want to trust him with my life. But the whole process of this mission trip has been completely different, I realized it was something I was called to do in a time in my life where I felt closest to God. The time following my decision to go was extremely hard. I finally understood what people meant when talking about spiritual attacks. I was brought down to a place where I hadn't felt further to God in years and though I tried and tried there was this weight holding me down.

Nothing went right before the mission trip and I was convinced I wasn't going to go just a week before I was supposed to leave. I had decided that life was too hard and I couldn't do it. But somewhere in the midst of the decision I began to hear God again and realized that I had to do this. I won't go into the details of my trip just yet. But everything about my time working with CCP was breathtaking, life changing and completely indescribable. For me to sit here and tell you about it you wouldn't begin to understand it. It was amazing. The team bonded perfectly and we all loved the kids and the CCP Staff members.

When going in to this mission trip I never expected these goodbyes to be so extremely hard. You think that in two weeks you can't really make great relationships. But when you're stuck in a place with people for two weeks and all you can do is trust in them, rely on them and love them pretty soon you can't imagine life without them. Coming back to Africa felt like coming back home to me, there was a part of me that suddenly felt peace when I walked off the plane or as I walked through the villages, it was like this was exactly where I was supposed to be.

Though I didn't go home with my team, and though I am still in Kenya. This process has not been easy. I said goodbye to the kids I'd poured my heart out to, I said goodbye to the staff members I worked with and I said goodbye to my team members who I'd learned to trust, and to love. I feel like a piece of my heart has been ripped away, these were my people.

And now as I'm about to face Africa, what feels like completely alone, though before I'd been so excited I'm now faced with every possible emotion that is telling me not to go. Emotions that are telling me to get on that plane tomorrow, to run back home and go back to my comfortable life back home. But that's the thing, this trip is not about being comfortable and its not about it being easy. This trip is hard, and hurts but it is also so right, and rewarding.

And so every night, and every morning as I find myself feeling this unexpected sadness and loneliness, and having absolutely no one to rely on but God alone I have to find strength in reading Psalms 62 over and over.

Psalms 62:5-8

My soul finds rest in God alone, my hope comes from him. Truly he is my rock and my salvation; he is my fortress and I will not be shaken. My salvation and my honor depend on God; he is my mighty rock, my refuge. Trust in him at all times, you people; pour out your hearts to him, for God is our refuge.