The Year Of Me

The Year of Me.

This is what I titled this year. It sounds selfish, but it’s really not. It’s only been a year and a half since I almost died. By God’s grace, and only God’s grace, I’m standing here before you. I wished the process would move a whole lot faster, but like a wise friend once told me, “You almost died. You can’t except to bounce back to your same bubbly self so quickly.” It has been a year and a half. I think I should be all better. I think other people think I should be all better. They have less patience with me when I still have trouble getting my thoughts out, or when I walk slower. I guess mostly that is me transferring my impatience with the slow healing onto others.

I had ambitions before my accident that 2 years after college, I would have paid off my student loans and be getting ready to move overseas. I had it figured out that if things went as they were going, in 25 months I would be debt free and be financially able to support myself overseas. I guess God had different plans. I was living in Akron and then I had to move home. It just seemed like everything that was moving me forward closed down. And I even took a few steps back. Last year, after my accident—in the deepest part of recovery—I would never have considered going to Ukraine. There was just still a lot going on with me that I didn’t think traveling overseas as possible. God, though, kept opening doors, closing others and pushing me forward. I have no idea why but God seems to want me to go and isn’t just opening doors he’s flinging opening the doors and removing any barrier that I place in the hopes of slowing things down.

The year of me.

This year, I decided to pick one or two things and excel, rather than commit to a lot of things and not be able to follow through. I chose being a Jr. High youth group leader and being the nurse at Mansfield Christian. I think I did those well. The extra energy I did have was put into my healing—driving, swimming and managing my fatigue. I’ve seen God do some remarkable things already, and we are only halfway through 2018.

Also, in this journey, I’m striving to know Jesus more personally. John Eldredge writes, “What is missing in our Gospel reading—in our attempts to “read” what Jesus is saying and doing in own lives right now, this week—is his personality, undraped by religion”.

If you read the Gospels with an eye out for his personality, you realize that he’s playful, sassy, cunning, and fierce. You can kinda make sense of some of the things he does, because you know his personality. A couple things I have already learned in this year I’ve titled, “The Year of Me and Jesus”.

  • Jesus is creative and playful. I mean think about it. He made the wind, music and flying squirrels. How creative do you have to be to think up flying squirrels? Laughter is from God also. Think about the story of Abraham and Sarah. They were in their 90’s, and God told them to expect a child. Sarah laughed, and I’m sure Abraham joined in because it seemed impossible. They were old enough to be great-grandparents but God had a different plan for them. In the same way, Jesus was playful and loved laughter. In John 21, after he was buried, his disciples were fishing for hours and they caught nothing. Jesus sauntered out of the tomb and eventually onto the beach. He called out to them and suggested that they try to other side. They did, and the nets were teeming with fish. Jesus rose from the dead. He could have shouted, “It is me. I’m alive”, but instead he stands on the shoreline, hands in his pockets and asks, “Catch anything?” The story is made richer when you see the playfulness of Jesus.
  • Jesus is necessary for existence. “We need Jesus like we need oxygen. Like we need water. Like the branch needs the vine. Jesus is not merely a figure for devotions. He is the missing essence of your existence. Whether we know it or not, we are desperate for Jesus….To have Jesus, really have him, is to have the greatest treasure in all worlds. To have His life, joy, love, and presence cannot be compared. A true knowledge of Jesus is our greatest need and our greatest happiness.” John Eldredge. Some days, I can’t get through the day without Jesus’ help. I won’t say I’m glad for my accident because my life won’t ever be the same as much as I wish for it, but I am thankful for this season because it brought forth a dependence on Jesus that I never had and probably wouldn’t have had if not for my accident.

We are about half way through 2018, and I’m already blown away by the doors God has opened and the adventures he will take me on. In the next half of the year, I’m praying to become closer to God and understand more of his personality. I continue to pray that God uses my story and continues to change my heart as I’m impacted by the wonderful people of Ukraine.

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How Beautiful are the Feet

«¡Qué hermoso es recibir al mensajero que trae buenas nuevas!»

How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!

I’m thinking about this. Feet are not pleasant at all. Now we are told beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news.

What makes their feet any more special?

I think it goes back to ancient times where there wasn’t anything like phones or internet. When a general won a battle, he would send a runner back to town to announce his win.

Think about the runner’s feet.

Dirty. Caked in mud. Sweaty. Bloody.

Not at all what we would think of as beautiful.

But to the townspeople, they were flawless because they bought news of a victory.

They couldn’t care less that they were dirty and bleeding. The news the runner brought was worth celebrating.

How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news. That phase has more meaning now when you think about the circumstances it was written in.

Now, it’s used in situations where someone is bringing the gospel or the good news to a community.

John Eldridge writes, “We need Jesus like we need oxygen. Like we need water. Like the branch needs the vine. Jesus is not merely a figure for devotions. He is the missing essence of your existence. Whether we know it or not, we are desperate for Jesus.” In that situation, we are in fact bringing good news, because if we need Jesus like we need oxygen or water. We are bringing them their life source as we know it.

May your feet be beautiful as you bring the good news of a savior to those near and far.

My Story: God’s Story

My story.

Before when people would ask me to share, I would be terrified—I never knew what to say, or how they would react.

Now when people ask me about my accident, I don’t mind talking about it. In telling my story, I get to tell everyone of my God who puts the stars in the night sky.

This story is about hardship and trials, but also about a God that holds me close. He wraps me in his arms and whispers in my ear, “I love you, child”.

In being His child, I’m not promised a life of ease, but He says that He will be right next to me and hold me through it. Even in the hard days—the days where it takes everything within me to get up—I see the threads of grace that God has woven into my story.

The threads He has woven into my story speak of a God who holds me when I cry but puts people in my life that understand that but don’t let me wallow in it. They speak of people that celebrate the small victories that we often take for granted like walking up stairs.

Then, it becomes His story.

His story of grace, of life, and of peace.

My accident—a year and almost 5 months ago—will forever be a milestone. It will be a time that I look back on and say “if God can do that, then He surely can do this smaller thing.”

It’s my story, but it’s also His story.

The Blessing of Community

College was strange.

It is the only time in your life where you are placed in a community of people who are the same age as you for an extended period of time. You get to live life with other humans who have a similar purpose, but come from vastly different backgrounds.

My first apartment was strange. I was so used to walking across the hall for something. I had to plan to hang out with people whereas in college, they were just there.

Henry Nouwen writes, “Community is not an organization; community is a way of living; you gather around you people with whom you want to proclaim the truth that we are beloved sons and daughters of God.“

Living in a community allows us to call out in each other the aspects of God that we find in each other. The thing about living community like this, it that we first have to is to recognize in our belovedness. Nouwen shares that ministry starts “because your freedom is anchored in claiming your belovedness”.

My freedom lies in believing that I am beloved.

I remember one time, as an RA, we were asked to spend some time in solitude. It was an amazing experience because I was able to sit, just me and God, after the craziness of training. We were given this article called “Moving From Solitude To Community To Ministry” by Henry Nouwen. The article reaffirmed the vast majority of what God had been teaching me this summer.

I sat there in solitude, simply dwelling in the silence and being with God and God alone. It was important for me to sit still and listen to the voice of the one who calls me beloved.

God calls me beloved.

The more that I dwelled with that phrase, God began to speak to the corners of my heart, the center of my being, and slowly I began to accept his love for me. I sat on the edge of a pond where a gaggle of geese were relaxing. I began to watch and study the geese. A group of them flew to the opposite side of the lake to feed.

I watched as a clear leader stepped out of the water.

He took one timid step, intently watching his surroundings.

He stretched his leg out as he took another timid step.

He was constantly on guard and he took small steps forward.

Sometimes I feel like that goose. I know what God is asking us to do or accept, but I timidly step forward. Kind of like this idea of being His beloved. I step forward timidly believing that I am loved, but constantly looking for the other foot to drop. It sounds crazy because you would think that being loved would be an easy thing to accept. Meanwhile, God had become so vulnerable in his pursuit of us. He became so little, so dependent in a manger and on a cross and is begging me, “Do you love me? Do you love me? Do you really love me.” How crazy is that? The God of the universe loves me.

It is a gift freely offered by the creator of the universe.

As a result, I am more prepared to do and capable of loving others when I accept that the King of the World and Creator of the Universe loves me.

The aspect of community changes when you don’t live in the dorms anymore. I have to be more intentional about seeking out people to do life with. I am beginning a new journey.

One that reflects my belovedness.

Tenth Avenue North wraps this idea up well in their song “Beloved”.

You’re my beloved lover
I’m yours
Death shall not part us
It’s you I died for
For better or worse
Forever we’ll be
My love it unites us and it binds you to me
It’s a mystery

I am choosing to walk in the freedom of accepting that God desires me to be exactly the way he created me. He chose me to play in his story of redemption. I have a purpose in his plan. I desire to choose to live in the freedom of God. The freedom that doesn’t worry about what other people think of me.

The freedom that accepts myself for who I am—crazy, beautiful, smart, and weird.

The freedom that steps out of my comfort zone. The freedom that loves God with abandon.

The freedom that crosses oceans and roads to share the gospel.

I want to choose in to God’s desire to change the world. I want to choose in to loving people without judgement. I do not know what God has planned for this year, but I know that his plans are better thqan my plans.

I Won’t Let You Go

I am a piece of work.

I have a lot of faults.

I compare myself to others.

I complain A LOT.

I have trust issues (sometimes even with God).

I push people close to me away because I am afraid of them leaving and getting hurt.

I am often too proud.

These are only a few of the faults that make me cringe.I have a lot of faults.The beautiful thing is that even though I am a mess of faults, I am a living human being. This means that I have the potential to change or grow. I have grown. I am a different living human being than I was 6 years ago, when I was a senior in high school. I have outgrown some of my insecurities and gained new ones. I have pushed myself out of my comfort zone so many times, that my comfort zone has changed. Insecurity has the power to push me into the corner, causing me to become a wallflower, not growing but wilting in the feeling of being alone right in the middle of a crowd—a crowd that loves me for me. The thing about insecurity is that just when you think you have won, it rears its ugly head again.

I have a lot of faults.

I know I am not perfect. That thought rolls round and round in my head until God stops me in my tracks and tells me over and over again. “Beautiful daughter of mine, you don’t need to be perfect. You are already perfectly loved.”I am loved through my faults.That does not mean that I do not have the responsibility to fix my faults if I can. I fail. I hurt my friends when I get insecure because I say things I don’t mean. I push people away and hurt them. I often push people away before I could possibly get hurt. That’s really no way to go through life. I need to take responsibility for my faults.I try to hide from my responsibilities and put the blame of my faults on other people and things. As I try to hide, I become encamped in a place where God is preparing me. He is working in me.I may be encamped in a way that I do not understand. I don’t know how to fix my faults. God offers hope.“He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.”Phil. 1:6

God began a journey in my life and heart and He promises to finish it in his perfect timing. He is working out His plan for my life while helping me work on my faults.

I cannot change who I am and how God made me: I do not want to do that.

I run with my head down.

-I cry when I am stressed.

-I laugh at myself even though I am not funny.

-I act like a kid sometimes.

-I love colored pens and organized schedules.

-I desire spontaneous adventures.

-I am a romantic at heart.

These and other quirks make me who I am. A brown-eyed, curly-haired, laughing, and romantic, brave individual.

I am a work in progress, but I do not want to change who I am. I just need to work through my faults.I am God’s beautiful, loved, cherished daughter, and He wants me to live fully. As God works in me, helping me fix those parts of myself that need fixing. The areas that need work, because I am not perfect. He is there when I can’t change myself. He walks beside me as I wrestle with being present when I want to run away. He encourages me as I choose to trust people. He sits with me as I learn to love who I am through my insecurities. He cheers me on as a give up my pride and base my abilities on Him.I don’t have to be perfect because God is. In the quiet spaces of my heart, God continually whispers “You are loved more than you could ever know.” No matter what our story is-where we have been, what we have done-God’s love can never be diminished, tarnished, shaken or taken. Our response is to abide in that and fully live loved. The amazing thing about God is that even when I fail, God doesn’t loosen His grip on my soul. Even when it feels like He’s let go-when things aren’t going anywhere near my way-He’s still right there beside me, holding my heart. He’s still working in me-figuring out the sinful kinks in my soul. It’s always an adventure with Jesus as He works in me and makes me more like Him.

Giving in to Negative Thoughts

A bad day does not make for a bad life (Sometimes it doesn’t feel like it).

This week, I gave into my fears, of failing, of letting people down, of being imperfect.

I have learned over the years that the only difference between an adventure and an obstacle is attitude. I gave in to my negative attitude this week. I allowed myself to follow the mental tracks of self-doubt, negativity, hesitation, and uncertainty.

I failed.

I failed in almost every area of life this week-oversleeping, and not having words. Utterly and absolutely failed.

I gave in when I allowed my failures to define my life.

I fell into old patterns of fear.

I had a bad day-a few bad days-but that does not give me permission to go down this trail fear.

I gave in and allowed my thoughts to define who God is and what He meant.

In my failures, I gave in and decided to control my life myself.

And, guess what….

I failed miserably.

I had no control of my emotions, of my life, of even my alarms.

It hurt.

Failure humbles me and reminded me that I am not the One who breathed the stars.

Just when I thought I knew that being brave and audacious meant, I was reminded that I need to be brave in my failures.

Admit my shortcomings and buck up.

Offer the failures up to the King of Kings and move on.

King David writes, “Let all that I am wait quietly before God, for my hope is in Him” Psalms 62:5. He knew all about failure. He failed at many things, but he kept returning to the steadfastness of the Lord. He presents himself, his failures and successes, before the Lord.

Finally, at the end of the week, I gave in and accepted that God was God (C. S. Lewis). I relinquished control of my life and emotions to the One who created me.

Audaciously, I cried letting God meet me in failures. Humbly, offering them up as a meager sacrifice of my messy life.

Bravely, I accepted my humanness and let God be God.

Redeemed, I allowed myself to focus on His grace and not on my failings.

“I learned to dance with the fear that I’d been running from.”

Ben Rector.

I gave in and let God instill joy in my heart in the midst of my fears.

Waiting

Waiting.

This simple word causes many people to wince because it is associated with hard times. It is often associated with moments of disappointment or things that we want but can’t have yet.

Waiting.

There is an art of living life fully while trusting that God has a plan for you. Patience is not a virtue that I possess in any capacity. I do not like to wait for things in life, especially when I know that it is something good and worthwhile.

Remember when you were a child, waiting for Christmas day. Remember the expectations and excitement as you lay in bed thinking about the presents under the tree.

The shapes.

The noises.

The surprises.

Remember how you jumped out of bed and ran downstairs on Christmas morning because the awaited time had come.

That feeling is one of the most exciting and frustrating feelings to have.

Expectations.

Excitement.

Waiting.

Waiting for God, the Creator who breathed stars into existence, to reveal aspects of his magnificent plan.

Waiting for that next right step to take in a situation that is sticky and messy.

Waiting for that wonderful man to ride in on his white horse, or possibly a turtle, depending on how long he takes.

Waiting for those dreams, those deep, heartfelt passions, to begin to unfold in a beautiful and holy way.

As a result of this waiting, we spend a lot of time praying to God because we desire to live life completely and utterly in His will.

I was recently challenged to use this time of waiting to prepare. The first thought I had was, “Prepare for what?” I have no idea what I am supposed to be doing with this time, so how am I supposed to be prepared.

Sometimes, it feels like I am blindly preparing for a future that could go in any direction. How can I be prepared for every possible situations? What can I do in my season of waiting to keep myself from going incredibly crazy balancing the excitement of knowing?

Waiting does not mean that I am useless or stuck, it simply means that I am waiting. I can still move to further God’s kingdom in the moment. Sarah Bessey writes, “It’s a scary thing, a life-changing, paradigm-shifting thing, to honestly ask yourself this question: Am I moving with God to rescue, restore, and redeem humanity? Or am I clinging fast, eyes closed, teeth clenched, to an imperfect world’s habits and cultural customs, in full knowledge of injustice or imperfections, living at odds with God’s dream for his daughters and sons?”

Sometimes, I get so caught up in the frustration of hearing “Wait” from God that I forget to act. I forget to continue to play my part in the story God is writing for humanity. I am a small blip on in the story, but, as I wait, I should not forget where I am.

As I wait for my brain to heal, there are things I need to be doing to help make that happen. In the same way, as I wait for God to move in my life, I need to be continually seeking His will, and loving others as God loves me. Sometimes, I need to take that leap and take steps toward where God is leading as I wait for Him to reveal Himself step by step.

As I continue to wait on God, I desire to use this time to grow into the woman He is molding me into.