Welcome to 2015

Just before 2013 dawned, I heard about a program called OneWord365. Instead of creating a list of New Year’s Resolutions, program participants are encouraged to spend time reflecting on one word over the course of a year. I selected the word grace as my 2013 OneWord. It was bumpy, it was tough, it was crazy… But I learned a lot and had an awesome experience.

For 2014, God hit me in the face with the word discoveryI knew I would be undergoing many changes, such as spending three months in Chiang Mai, Thailand; graduating from college; moving, looking for jobs, and looking for a church/community. There were also many new changes I was not expecting: a new, wonderful, amazing boyfriend (my first); working out my relationships with close friends (including a decision to not move in with them); feeling my heart torn between three cities and three families; finding a friend/mentor in the sweet girl who had my job before I did; starting a new ministry opportunity through her and her husband; and having a new “re-calling” to overseas missions. Much of 2014 is not what I expected. I often feel tossed by the wind, unable to grab hold of anything firm and stable.

But I forget that God is my solid rock. Oh, how I forget that so easily! Maybe 2014 is a transitional year. Maybe it’s supposed to feel out of control… And not a good out-of-control, either, but often a frustrating, disappointing out-of-control. Often, I feel alone. I feel that I have more on my to-do list than hours in a day. Yet, I also occasionally feel bored. I feel dissatisfied. Maybe that’s okay. Maybe God is reminding me that this is not my home. My home is an eternity with Him.

The word I’ve chosen to focus on throughout all the days of 2015 is LOVE.

1 Corinthians 13:4-7

I know, I know… It’s cliche. Everyone else has picked “love,” too. A couple nights before New Year’s Eve, I literally could not stop thinking about it. It was all I could to go to bed with “love” on the brain. It wasn’t emotional or sexual love, either. It was selfless love… Agape love…

1 Corinthians 13:13 says that faith, hope, and love are the three things that remain when all is said and done, but that love is the greatest of the three. John 3:16 states that the reason we have the gift of salvation through Jesus Christ reconciling us to God is because “God so loved the world…” He LOVED us. That’s why we’re here. We are called to LOVE others, because “by this everyone will know that [we] are [His] disciples” (John 13:35). The word “love” shows up in the NLT Bible 759 times, more times than faith (507) and hope (190) combined.

One reason I’ve chosen love is because it is difficult. People are sinful and selfish and annoying and rude and close-minded. It is difficult to love anyone! In addition, love is not a feeling, but a choice. I have been dating an amazing guy for six months. It has been awesome, difficult, and wonderful. But if I relied solely on my feelings for him, there would be times I would want to give up on this relationship. Feelings change. However, I am learning to rely on what I know to be true instead of what I feel. I know that this guy is after God’s heart. I know that he wants what is best. I know that he has a servant’s heart. I know that consistency is practically his middle name (it’s actually Stephen, but you get my point). I care deeply about him even when he forgets important things or even when we struggle with boundaries because I have chosen to care about him. Love is not a feeling, but a choice. It hopes and perseveres and sees potential. And the cool thing is that he does the same for me.

So, welcome to 2015. I know it will be another year of transitions and changes and moves. I know it will be another crazy year. Too crazy for words. But I know that God is my solid rock on which I find my footing, and I know that I will be intentional about choosing love this year and learning how to love well, as Christ loves the church.

Dissatisfaction: Trusting God in Un-Ideal Circumstances

When I went to buy a Christmas present for a relative today, the cashier asked me to take one of those phone surveys by calling the number at the bottom of my receipt. He seemed quite excited about it, and I figured it couldn’t hurt. I dialed the number as I walked out of the store. It seemed as if the automated voice told me over and over again: “Press five for extremely satisfied… Press four for satisfied… Press three for neither satisfied nor dissatisfied…” And so forth. It went on and on.

I realized during the phone survey that I am not satisfied with my current circumstances. Nothing is working out the way I had planned, even the good stuff. Like, for example, the fact that I am teaching six year olds after just graduating with a degree in Secondary Education. I never expected to hold so many hands and stick so many Band-Aids and settle so many disagreements over erasers or line leaders as I have so far this year.

It’s December ninth, almost seven months since I walked across the stage to receive my college diploma alongside a couple hundred of my peers. For many of you, me included, life since graduation has not been exactly what we’d hoped. Some of you haven’t gotten the jobs you expected. A few haven’t gotten any job at all. If you do have job in a field you chose, colleagues or working conditions may not be up to par. If you’ve moved, there’s an added level of finding your way around a new place, locating the good grocery store and a local Bible-believing church. Many of you are in un-ideal living conditions, such as living with your parents if you wanted to move out or living with new roommates you aren’t quite sure you actually like. And then there’s the whole money issue, like when your car needs a new battery the same month you have to go to the doctor and get a prescription filled on top of student loan payments and car loan payments. Awesome.

It is easy at this point to give up. To give up because you are tired, because things are not working out like you’d hoped, because your plans are not coming to fruition. Or, at least, to give up on the inside. You may still go to work because you need the money, but you may give up on being cheerful at your job. You may still cook dinner for your roommates on your assigned day, but you aren’t open to having good, honest conversations with them. You may still go to church, but you aren’t soaking up the lessons from the sermon or connecting with the body. You may show up to your service commitment or help someone out of obligation, but you may not be letting it change you. You may still have fleeting moments of awareness and hope and joy but, in general, life falls flat. Life stinks. A lot.

Let me tell you this, friends: This is only temporary. This spot you’re in right now may not be ideal, but it will not last forever. On one hand, you should be open to and serious about the next step for you, whether that is applying for a new job, enrolling in graduate school, pursuing and officializing a relationship, whatever. On the other hand, keep in mind that there will always been greener pastures. There will always be a next step you are looking towards. Therefore, consider that even though your current circumstances may not be ideal, God is working in them.

The book of Genesis is full of barren women and childless couples who felt like they were in a holding place of un-ideal circumstances. Consider Abraham and Sarah, who didn’t have Isaac until they were ancient… Literally. Also note Isaac and his wife Rebekah in chapter 25: Isaac prayed for Rebekah to have children when he was forty years old. She didn’t give birth to their first children (twins) until he was sixty. That was twenty years of prayer and work and effort and wondering. However, the Bible doesn’t say that Isaac complained and gave up and blamed God for not getting what he wanted. It says that Isaac “pleaded with the Lord on behalf of his wife” (v. 21). He pleaded; He didn’t doubt. And God did great things. In Isaac and Rebekah’s case, we don’t know what God did in the meantime. However, we do know a lot of Abraham and Sarah’s journey and all the adventures God took them on between calling them away from Abraham’s family and bringing Isaac into their lives.

This quote has stuck with me for a while: Never doubt in the dark what God has revealed in the light. Dear friends, have you gotten to the point where what you knew to be true in more ideal circumstances has fallen by the wayside now that you are in un-ideal circumstances? Go back to what you know. See, God doesn’t change. The way we perceive him changes, but he himself does not change. Not even a smidgen. Therefore, all the truth he revealed to you when you were sitting in chapel service after Bible class after prayer meeting in college is still true. All the truth he revealed to you when you sat by an ocean in a foreign country with your journal and your acoustic guitar is still true. Go back to that. Read your old blog posts or journal entries, Skype with a friend who went overseas with you, or revisit old places where you heard God clearly. Remember that he has not changed… The truth is the truth wherever you are.

Just as a great guy loves his girl and shows that love through his actions and his attitude whether she is near him or far away or whether she is a joy to be around or an emotional wreck… So God loves us (even deeper and more unconditionally). You have already been made holy, righteous, and redeemed before him. He loves you regardless of your current circumstances because your current circumstances do not explain or define his attitude towards you. They are, however, where he has put you for the time being. And he works in them, too, every moment of every day, even when you can’t see him.

What if God chose these un-ideal circumstances for a reason and put you in them for a reason? Sounds a lot like Esther, huh?

If you keep quiet at a time like this, deliverance and relief for the Jews will arise from some other place, but you and your relatives will die. Who knows if perhaps you were made queen for just such a time as this?

– Esther 4:14, NLT (emphasis mine)

Allotted Grace

[The future] sometimes feels impossible. Impossible when we forget that we are kept, loved, walked with in our hard [times]. When we sit and imagine future hard without the grace that is provided to walk in it- then we are walking away from the very air that helps us breathe. We sin when we imagine our futures. We are lonely in that future place, because we are too finite to understand how Jesus will meet us in those impossible moments. But we do, we spend moments wondering over those future fears.

– Kara at Mundane Faithfulness

On a warm Sunday in September 2014, I made the decision to ask God for direction for my future. I had been putting it off much the same way I had been putting off asking God for a job or a mentor or money between paychecks. I know I will not live with my parents for the rest of my life, but I’m not sure what’s next.

When I was in my early years of college, I told God I would serve him and obey him… as long as he didn’t call me overseas. When my eyes were awakened to God’s work overseas, I told him I would follow him anywhere: from the mansion in the country club in the Carolinas to the shack in the middle of the poorest part of India… as long he didn’t send me to Africa. When God called me on short term trips, I told him I would go whenever he sent me… as long as he didn’t want me to be a career missionary.

God has broken down so many walls I built up around myself, that I think I it’s time I stop giving him ultimatums.

My Monday morning commute the next day found me pouring out fears and worries and unknowns about my finite future to a God who sees the entire spectrum of eternity in one glance.  I prayed hard that God would reveal my next step (not the whole plan, yet) and give me peace about whatever it would be. I prayed hard that God would align my future with that of my future husband. I prayed hard that even now, God would be preparing me for what he has for me.

When I imagine my future, I see a few different alternatives, each one with its own immense difficulties. I am guilty of imagining my future without also seeing the future grace allotted to me. I look ahead and imagine difficulties but don’t imagine God meeting those needs or providing that strength or opening those doors. How can I? I don’t write the future.

That’s why the words in the blog post I found this morning grabbed my attention. Kara writes: “We sin when we imagine our futures.” This upset me, because I think imagining one’s future is healthy and normal, but Kara wasn’t saying that thinking about the future is sinful. She was saying that worrying about expected difficulties without also hoping for God’s expected grace is sinful. God will not leave his children out in the rain. He will not do it. Therefore, worrying about what might or might not happen is just plain wrong.

The truth is that God gives us what we need right when we need it. He always has. I have never been without food or money when I needed it. I have never been without God’s grace or strength when I needed it. He always provides, and he provides in the most unlikely of ways. 

Whether God sends me to the middle of Africa or the middle of a suburban neighborhood or some nondescript place in between, he will give me the grace I need to make it through each day. I must stop worrying about future fears, but instead allow God to take the reigns and prepare me for what he has for me one step at a time. He knows what he’s doing. He holds tomorrow in his hands. He knows what he’s doing, and I can rest in that.

But you will not even need to fight. Take your positions; then stand still and watch the Lord’s victory. He is with you, O people of Judah and Jerusalem. Do not be afraid or discouraged. Go out against them tomorrow, for the Lord is with you!

– 2 Chronicles 20:17

Last Updated Mar 7, 2017

Two and a half years later, I am developing as a blogger and as a person. I am now happily married to the “future husband” I wrote about in this original post. We are both working at an International school just north of Atlanta, Georgia, and we are {still} considering where our next steps might have us. At this time, however, we are happy and contented knowing that this is exactly where God wants us right now. We recently took our first big trip via airplane, and I wrote a fun post about that. Thanks for stopping by!