30 in Review

“No fear can hinder now the promises You’ve made. “

In May of last year I turned the big 30 and entered an officially adult decade.  I’d say it’s been one of my best years to date, probably the best year of my life so far.

It’s flown by. It’s been a bit of a whirlwind honestly.

I furnished my first apartment and experienced the bliss of living alone. I saw my dreams come true as I was able to make space around my very own table and love on people from all over the world.

It was a gift.

There were many mornings and evenings of quiet, just me and Jesus and my coffee. I could see the sunrise over the ocean from my apartment windows. I got to make a home from scratch.

I also had no one to blame when there were dishes in the sink.

Prayers, worship, tears, laughter and lots of good food were exchanged in that little 3 bedroom apartment, my home.

Old dreams were dusted off and brought back into the light. It can be painful to exercise renewed hope, but we’re not fooling anyone, including ourselves, when we pretend like we’re okay with unfulfilled dreams and desires. It’s scary and vulnerable, but there is no great gain without great risk. At least that’s what I’m banking on.

I’m feeling increasingly like myself these days, more so than I ever have before, if that makes sense. It’s taken almost a decade to become okay with who I am and who I’m not and discover the essence of who God has made me to be. I’m finally coming into that peace and settledness and rest that comes with knowing Him and therefore knowing yourself. I still have my moments (and even days) of fear and insecurity, but I walk in victory far more than in defeat as of late.

I spent most of last year with 4 little Australian cuties and had the luxury of a work visa. This meant less travel (bummer) but less anxiety about immigration (celebrate!).

In 2016 I went to two new countries, Laos and Myanmar, and fell in love. I also discovered a little piece of paradise in Koh Lipe, Thailand that makes for awesome visa run trips.

I made the trek back to my motherland after almost 2 years of being away. It was filled with love and good friends and great family and delicious food. I got to stand up with one of my very best friends as she vowed her life to another. I was back in Colorado after a 6 year absence, and the San Juan Mountains confirmed what I already knew to be true – I love this place!

Home was filled with meeting new family members and reconnecting and resting. It was the sweetest time. There’s really no place like home and being with family. It was a joy to meet my new little foster sister in person and immediately fall in love with her whole person.

My time ended in NYC with one of my besties. The whole trip was more than I could’ve hoped for. I went back to Malaysia filled up with joy and lots of tears. It was harder than usual to leave this time around.

Things began shifting a lot after I got back.

I ended up moving. I sold almost everything and tearfully turned in my keys and stepped into a new position of managing a hospitality house for missionaries.

Bittersweet.

I signed up to staff again at the house of prayer, something I thought I’d never do. It’s funny how the very thing that you can fight the hardest against can become the thing that you become most passionate about in the end. What a difference three and half years has made. A real life testimony of that classic Bible verse:

“My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is made perfect in weakness.” II Corinthians 12:9

2017 has been full on, more so than I really care for honestly. On top of my 4 part-time areas of service I took the plunge to go back to school and finish out my bachelors degree after being MIA for almost a decade.

Things have certainly changed.

I lost my work visa at the end of 2016, so it’s been back to visa runs and immigration lines and required travel expenses. 2016 just seemed too easy in a lot of ways, but I think it was the rebuilding and strengthening I needed after 2 years of feeling broken up.

The last quarter of my 30th year has been a bit crazy to say the least. Major changes (with more to come), new roommates, new home, loss of visa, lots of sickness, loads of work.

In the midst of it all though, there is a sweetness. I am overflowing with thankfulness to be back on the team at the prayer room. I’m treasuring those little moments more than I used to. I feel an increased privilege in living out the life God has called me into.

I know, I know, most people think I’m a bit crazy. They’re partially right, but I’m okay with that! I’d much rather live at peace with God than have favor with man, and that generally doesn’t fit into a nice, tidy box.

As I press on, I’m learning the delicate balance of being resilient in a healthy way. Still hoping and risking and loving in the midst of rejection and being misunderstood and not picked. I’m learning how to keep my heart soft instead of putting up walls. I’m learning humility over pride and to be vulnerable without feeling ashamed.

All in all this decade is off to a fabulous start, and I’m anticipating good things in the midst of the uncertainty ahead. I’m trusting that He is taking me from glory to glory. I’m believing that He is for me and not against me. I’m believing and pressing in for the more.

So cheers to another year of life and love and adventuring with Jesus!

“But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord.”  

II Corinthians 3:18

 

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Choices

We make choices every day.

Some are good choices.  Some not so good.

Our “little” choices add up and influence the bigger decisions that we make.

I’ve been reflecting on this lately as I’ve been thinking about my walk with Jesus.  For me, I didn’t start off my walk with Him jumping head first into the deep end.

It’s been a series of small and seemingly insignificant choices at times that have led me to make the big ones the way that I have.

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I’ve had people look at my life and say “Oh, I could just never do that.”  I know they mean it as a compliment, but I actually struggle with how to respond to them because the truth is I never would’ve thought that I could “do this” either.  And I didn’t just wake up one day and decide to move to the other side of the world.  It is definitely in my weakness that He is made strong.

We are all on a journey.  We all have the opportunity to say yes or no to things in life every single day.  These choices determine which way we will go, which path we walk down.

I had absolutely no idea what I was getting myself into when I decided to follow Jesus.  It’s far deeper and bigger than I could’ve ever imagined.  His dreams for me have far exceeded my own.

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I would say that I’ve found a deep satisfaction, a rest even, in choosing Jesus.  Now that doesn’t mean that it’s been easy and felt good to choose Him every time.

Let’s be honest.  I haven’t always said yes to the Lord right away or even made all of the right choices.  I feel like it’s been a slow and steady journey; one that a lot of times seems to be taking longer than I’d like it to.  Sometimes I seem to be taking steps backwards instead of forwards.

My point in this is that we all have choices to make every day, but sometimes we act like we are mere victims to our circumstances with no control over what we do or what happens to us.

There are many things that are out of our control, BUT there are many things that we do have control over.

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We can decide whether or not to spend time with God in the mornings or to sleep an extra 30 minutes.  We can choose to stay home and watch a movie or spend time with friends over dinner.  We can decide to say yes or no when asked on a date.  We can choose to smile at people as we walk down the street or avoid eye contact.

The choices that we make are pretty much endless, and a lot of times we don’t even realize that we’re making them.

I think it’s time that we start paying attention to what we’re choosing.  What are we saying yes or no to every day?  Are our choices in alignment with the direction that we want our lives to go?

Choosing to say yes to God in the little things is what will strengthen us to say yes to Him in the big things.  And they won’t seem as big or even as hard as they would have after saying 500 “little” yeses.

The first time I ran across The World Race in 2007 I skimmed right past it thinking,”Wow that looks cool, but I’d never do that.”  And wouldn’t you know that 4 years later I found myself traveling around the world and doing the very thing that I never dreamed I would do.

I had the opportunity to make a lot of decisions in those 4 years that would actually help build and deepen my faith in God and my relationship with Him so that when the time actually came for me to jump in, it wasn’t so near the unimaginable thing that it was at first.

Yes, it was scary.  It was out of my comfort zone.  It was new.  It was unknown.

But it was also just the next step.

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We take a tiny step out of our comfort zone.  We say yes to Jesus.  We see that His way is good.  What was once scary and unknown becomes comfortable and normal.  Then He asks us to step out again.  Hopefully we say yes again and step out.  The process is repeated.  Before you know it you’re doing things that you never thought were possible!

Take a look at Mother Teresa’s life.  Her journey was one of saying yes to Jesus over and over which eventually led to the legacy that we all know today.

Our choices matter.  If you’ve been making bad choices, don’t worry.  You don’t have to continue to make them.  There is hope.  Your life can change.

It’ll take time and effort to start new patterns and break off old habits, but if you have the Holy Spirit inside of you you are more than a conqueror!

If you’re having a difficult time deciding what the right choice is, ask yourself a couple of questions.  Will this produce good fruit in my life?  Will this bring life or death?  Does this decision produce God’s peace in my life?

the end is just a new beginning

Sometimes there are lots of good options on the table, and the Lord lets you pick which one you want.  You can read more of my thoughts on that from a previous blog HERE.

So let’s be proactive instead of reactive.  Let’s make choices towards life instead of death.  Let’s choose what will bear good fruit.  Let’s live our lives in the light instead of the darkness and see what we find there!

little by little

Don’t worry about what’s ahead.  Focus on today, right now.  Make good choices today and the next day and then the next and see where those get you in the next year.  You probably won’t see the results right away, but I think over time you’ll be surprised at what you discover.

What do You do with a Broken Heart?

I want to talk about broken hearts today.

Not in the romantic sense of a broken heart, but what feels like happens to your heart when you live different places and do life with many people.

For me it all started when I left home in 2008. My whole world was in Mississippi and Alabama. Most of my life experiences. All of my family and friends. Pretty much everything.

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But I had this feeling in me. I’d even go so far as to say it was whispered in my ear for many years. The life that I was living wasn’t satisfying me, and I just knew in my depths that there had to be more to my life than what I was currently doing with it.

After much prayer I quit my job and a new chapter began. I moved to the beautiful San Juan Mountains of Colorado and fell in love with a sleepy little mountain town called Lake City.

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I found people that loved me, and I loved them back. My eyes were opened to so many things that I’d never seen before. I had many new experiences. My world-view was shifted and expanded in ways that I never expected.

Cruise 2It was also one of the hardest times of my life and one of the most intense seasons of growth for me. It was a crazy mixture of pain, peace and joy.

I did not know that the decision to move would position for me for many more moves over the next 6 years. Each one would be significant and seem unconnected, but it was all a part of the Master’s plan for my life.

As I’ve moved from state to state and country to country I feel that I’ve left at least a small piece of my heart that I will never get back.

I ache for people and places that I may never see again. I long to reminisce with friends that will probably never be altogether in the same place again.

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It’s a bittersweet thing to be honest.  My heart feels like it’s been broken to pieces and scattered across the globe, and I truly don’t know how to handle these feelings and emotions sometimes.

Because you see, there’s a piece of my heart in Chicago. There’s a piece in the jungle in Honduras. Part of it’s in the San Juan Mountains in Colorado. A large piece is in Delhi, New York. Another big chunk is in Mississippi and Alabama with my family and grandparents. What about the piece in Georgia? Then there are all the other little pieces in the different countries in East Africa, Asia and Eastern Europe and the U.S.

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I don’t feel like I’ll ever get those pieces back…and I don’t think that I really want to.

Even though the heartache is hard to take at times I believe it’s a result of love between people, investments made, things experienced together and lots of pain and growth along the way.

Sometimes I’m tempted to put up walls and keep people at a distance, debating whether or not it’s going to be worth the effort and the risk. The pain of loving and then leaving is a familiar one. The longing to be in 15 different places is strange and something that can never be satisfied.

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The only common denominator in the memories and people and places is my Father and I. No one else seems to fully get it. So sometimes I feel left feeling alone and very unknown by those around me even though I love them very much.

Even though I feel all these crazy emotions and can’t make sense of it all in my head I’m learning a lot in the process. I mean I haven’t figured it out yet, but I have learned a few things so far.

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I’ve tasted and seen that Lord is good, and there’s no turning back. I’ve been marked by His love and His creation. In the midst of my heart being broken I believe that it is also being enlarged.

If I had to do it all over again, I would, and I desire to continue to live my life in a way that will keep growing me.

Now this means risk and pain and stepping into the unknown, but with this comes great reward.

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I’ve experienced love in ways that I never dreamed existed though travel and people and places. It has caused me to be dependent on Him to a depth that I’ve never known until now.

The truth is that my life is turning out pretty much completely nothing like I had planned.  If you would’ve told me at 18 that a couple of weeks before my 28th birthday I’d still be single as ever and living in Malaysia as a missionary while partnering with a house of prayer I pretty much would’ve freaked out.

But looking back at the journey so far, the friends made, the experiences – both hard and easy – the failures and successes, I wouldn’t trade it.

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You see, it’s all boiling down to this one thing.

It’s worth it.

 He is worth it.

I don’t feel that I’ve “arrived” in any sort of way.  I feel like this is still very much a journey that I’m on.  I don’t know if this broken feeling will ever go away, but it reminds me of where I’ve been and who I’m becoming as it causes me to continue to trust my Father for whatever’s ahead.

There is joy in pouring out and investing.  There is a harvest and much fruit that comes from giving your love away.

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Loving is risky business as we all know.  We’ve all been hurt by people.  We’ve all given parts of our heart away that we can never get back.  We’ve all experienced rejection.  Things haven’t worked out like we hoped. Sometimes we feel left with absolutely nothing in return for opening up our hearts, and it leaves us wounded and scarred and wanting to self-protect.

So what do we do with our broken hearts?  Do we build higher walls to keep us isolated and others out in order to avoid any pain that might come?

I think not.  I mean, you can if you want, but I don’t think that you will find true life there.

I think that we need to keep pressing in.  We must keep loving and risking and investing.

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The greatest things in life will come from risk.  Yeah, you don’t know how it’s going to turn out, but if you’re trusting in the One who created you then you can know that in the end it’s going to be worth it.

Through the pain and the love and the heartache I’ve been transformed by His love.

I know I’m not the only one that’s experiencing this. It’s very hard to put into words and summarize, and I know I don’t have all the answers.

But here’s what I suggest we do with our broken hearts today and in the days to come as we keep learning.

Let’s decide to keep on loving.  Let’s continue treasuring the memories while moving forward.  Let’s decide to keep risking. Let’s be teachable through the ups and the downs instead of becoming bitter.

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The joy and hope and love and peace that we’ve found far outweigh the heartache.

We know that it is worth it.

He is worth it all, and that’s all that really matters.

A Time of Refreshing

A couple of Saturdays ago I had the most fun day that I’ve had since being in Penang.

It wasn’t anything extravagant.  I didn’t spend a lot of money or do anything extreme.

What was supposed to be a hike to Monkey Beach, an afternoon spent at the beach with new friends and a boat ride back turned into a boat ride to and from the beach.

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It’s rained twice that I know of since I’ve been here – for about 15 minutes in the middle of the night, but on Saturday afternoon the dark clouds rolled in…

It made our day out much more interesting.

Taking the boat to the beach was one of the roughest boat rides I’ve ever been on.  The driver was driving a bit fast for the windy, bumpy conditions if you ask me.  I sat in the front of the boat wanting to take in the wind and the water as much as I could.

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I thought I might actually get a headache from the front of the boat going up and then crashing back down onto the sea, but I had a blast and was excited to be out on the water even when it started to sprinkle and the raindrops stung my skin as we arrived at Monkey Beach.

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A small group of us began throwing the frisbee and then attempted to play a game of Ultimate.

Soon after we were too tired to keep playing the skies opened up and the rain began to
come down.

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This is when the split happened.

About two-thirds of the group took cover under a nearby shelter and the other third headed into the ocean.

I was torn.

I wasn’t wearing my bathing suite and there didn’t look to be a convenient place to change, plus I’m not 100% comfortable with myself with so little on.  It would be easier and safer and less trouble to just stay under the shelter.

I deliberated for a minute or two and decided that I had to go out in the rain and get into the ocean.  I knew that I’d regret staying under the shelter and watching from a distance.

So I found a place nearby that I thought I could change in.  There was a nearby outdoor squatty potty that was far from clean and smelled like…well you get the picture.  Thankfully there were nails to hang my bag on.  I got in and out as quickly as possible and made my way back to the beach and rain and then into the ocean.

The wind was blowing, the rain was falling on and off, and the waves were steadily rolling in.

As I looked back at the beach I could see the tropical mountains in the distance with the low lying clouds covering the tops.  A few birds were soaring overhead.  Friends were laughing and joking as we played in the water.

It was just good.

We ended our beach trip by taking the boat back to our starting point, but we couldn’t go quite all the way back because it was low tide.

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They tied our small boat to a larger fishing boat and we began our journey to the pier.

We jumped from one boat to another and then to another trying not to slip or step on anything dangerous or fall between one boat while jumping to the next.

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I loved getting to see these fishing boats up close!

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We finally made it to the last boat and then saw that we would have to climb up a ladder of sorts made out of tires tied together to get up onto the pier.

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We went to dinner, soaked and smelly, but filled with joy.  We drank coconuts and ate fresh spring rolls and fried noodles and continued to just enjoy the day and one another.

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That evening I got home and took a nice long, hot shower.  It cooled down so much that I was able to put on my comfy pajama pants,one of my favorite things to wear.

I ate a couple of spoonfuls of Nutella (don’t judge me), made some honey lemon tea and then snuggled into my bed to finish reading Packing Light while the rain beat down on the roof.

I can’t even describe the peace and satisfaction and deep rest that soaked into my soul.

And to think that part of me didn’t want to go on Saturday.  It was so hot and humid and just uncomfortable, but I went anyways and had a lovely day of adventure and of deepening friendships.

We didn’t go hiking like we planned, and I only saw one monkey at Monkey Beach.

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It didn’t matter though.

As I’ve been reflecting today on the events that took place and why it was such a great day to me the Father revealed to me a few things.

He knows me.

He knows that I’ve loved riding in a boat ever since I can remember.  I have my dad to thank for that.  We’ve spent many days out on the river and the lake fishing and boating.  🙂

He knows that I love beholding His creation.

I love to hear the rain and the waves.  I love to feel the wind blowing through my hair, the sand between my toes and the raindrops on my skin.  I love to see the ocean and mountains and trees and colors in the sky.

IMG_0481He also knows how much I need to laugh and let my guard down and just be able to be myself with people.

He knew that a hot shower, tea and pj pants with a good book and the sound of the rain on my roof would be the perfect ending to my day like this.

I was able to breathe deeply and rest in His perfect peace.

Lately I’ve been feeling a bit overwhelmed with life.  I feel like I’m constantly learning new things about the culture and God and myself.  I feel stuck between where I am and where I want to be.  I feel like I’m failing because I’m constantly comparing myself with those around me, and honestly I’m just weary of starting over, again.

But on Saturday the Father did what only He could do: He refreshed my soul.

He brought His richness into what started off as an ordinary day. 

I’m finding that we never know what surprises the Father has in store for His children.  He’s inviting us into a grand adventure if we chose to take His hand and come along.

There will times you will want to give up, days you won’t want to get out of bed.  You’ll wonder why you ever started this journey.

Then the Lord will pull you close.  He’ll remind you that He loves you and that He knows you.

Take heart.

A time of refreshing is coming.