21 April 2015

Will you trust Me – for today and for tomorrow?

 It was a hot July evening in 2012, sitting on the grassy bank of a stream, as the evening light began to fade and the mosquitoes started making their presence known. It was a quiet place to think. A place to get away and alone with my thoughts... which, this particular evening, was a scary prospect.

I had been away from East Africa for a year now, yet I was still awaiting the morning I would wake without a heaviness in my chest and an ache in my heart of missing Africa with every fiber of my being. I was back in the States on purpose, to further my education, and prepare for a move to SE Asia. That had been the plan all along. At least, that had been my plan. In fact, I had spent the last year reminding myself of this. And I was no further along this evening than I was the first days of arriving "home" to American soil.

My heart was in knots. My spirit in turmoil. And to add to the plot, there was also this one guy... the one I kept resolutely factoring out of the equation when his name was whispered continually through my mind. After all, we were just friends. We were of different cultural, linguistic, and social backgrounds. We lived on different continents. We came from very different communities. And yet, my mind (and my heart) were continually drawn back to him. Despite all my denial, we were skyping on a weekly basis and corresponding even more frequently.

I was a mess. All my "well laid" plans and expectations were now a complex ball of limbo. Internally, I was battling fear of being my own worst enemy and making the wrong choices and the wrong decisions and royally messing everything up. So, that night on the bank of that stream, I was too consumed with swarms of fear and confusion and questions without answers to even heed the swarming bugs.

As I poured my heart out into a journal, hoping the verbal processing would bring some sort of order to my mental chaos, I wrote until I could no longer see the page through tears. I finally dropped the journal into the grass and cried out, "Why are You silent!? I NEED answers. I need to KNOW what You want me to do. I don't know, and I need to know. Why won't You just tell me??"

As the words faded into the buzz of mosquitoes, His voice gently flooded into my agonized spirit, "B, do you trust me for today?" Still in an attitude of frustration and impatience, I irreverently snapped back at Him that since it was already night time, that was a dumb question. Unfazed and ever patient, He whispered, "Ok then, will you trust me for tomorrow?" Realization flooded through me, that this was about to be a significant decision point. Mollified, I said yes. "That is all you need to know. Trust me, love." He finished tenderly.

Each morning following that evening encounter, He whispered the same two questions to me when I woke: "Do you trust me for today? Will you trust me for tomorrow?" He was asking me to surrender my need to know, my need to plan, my need for the answers... to, rather, trust Him, and His love, and His sovereignty, and His goodness and guidance. Yes, Lord, for today and for tomorrow, I will trust You.

And I discovered that in trusting Him--one day at a time, and walking in trust and obedience THAT day, and then the next day, and then the next--I found peace in His capable hands. He shifted my focus from the problems, the confusion, the limbo, the questions, to His heart.

Today, almost 3 years later, I am amazed to see what God has done with that simple trust. You know, that guy--the one on a different continent who I kept factoring OUT of the equation. He is now my husband. And I still wake up each morning with a love and ache for Africa, as I wake up on her soil;  she is now my home.

Linking up this week with The Grove @ Velvet Ashes.

"to be a help" or just "to be"?

THIS. I have been looking for THIS quote for over a year now. It is one of those that has shaped my own view of "ministry."

"I found a very subtle snare... I sought their fellowship in order that I might minister to them, 'be a help,' you know, to these 'weaker' ones. What a rebuke came when I sensed my real motive--that 'I' might minister. Love hacks right at this, for she refuses to parade herself. I learned to recognize no 'spiritual planes,' but simply to LOVE, purely, in every group. Trying to 'be a help' even has a smell of good works in it, for it is not pure. Our motive is only to BE--do nothing, know nothing, act nothing--just to be a sinful bit of flesh, born of a Father's love. Then you see, Beloved, there can be no defeat." 
(Excerpt from "The Shadow of the Almighty: The Life and Testament of Jim Elliot")

What do you think?

04 February 2015

a decade of (single) ministry: standing at the edge of what's familiar

In less than 3 weeks from now, I will stand before a gathering of witnesses and formally commit my heart and life to my long-awaited Love. Our friendship, courtship, and engagement have stretched across 4 years... with great chunks of time spent in different countries, continents, and timezones. In these past 6 months especially, however, the theme of this post has been winding its way around my heart and mind.

You see, I've spent the last 29 and a half years of my life single. I didn't date in high school or college. I did have a ridiculously dramatic & immature "more than friendship" in college which ended (by God's mercy), albeit with a broken heart. I did have one courtship with a good friend after college, which was brief and successfully showed us we weren't suited for marriage to each other. Yet, the majority of the formative years of my life have been as a single woman - high school, college, career, ministry, and then moving, living, and serving in multiple countries and communities.

This past summer, as I co-taught a summer course at a Stateside University, I was asked a couple times by other faculty members (wholly unaware of my pending nuptials) if I would teach the young ladies on what it is like to live and serve overseas as a single woman. In the past, I have happily accepted; but after a draining and overwhelming year for many other reasons, I declined. Only hours after saying no, I realized... I was standing in the last window of time where I could feasibly talk to fellow single women about the struggles, joys, and challenge of living and serving overseas as a single woman. Because in less than 3 weeks, my credibility goes down to almost nil. Not because I haven't served as a single for over a decade. But because I will be married. Married at younger than 30 (just barely!).

My voice will soon be added to the dismissed voices of other married women who "don't understand," or "don't know what it's like, because you married 'young'" (which really just means younger than the person who is being "advised"). I know, because I've been there on the other side, and I've said these same things. (Examples: When I am 26 and told I should talk to another young woman who recently married about "how to wait gracefully" because "she waited so very long for the right guy too" and come to discover she is 21 years old. When I read books on how to patiently trust God to script my love story by someone who married at 18 years old. When another authoress writes on how to find the right guy and yet she is still single at 40.) Credibility, for singles, is kinda (very) important.

_________________________________

Someone once said the present is really just a thin line which is constantly translating the future into the past.

Living life as a single woman is easy for me. Singleness is familiar...comfortable even. I know its ins and outs, both Stateside and overseas. I know what to expect, what not to expect, and all that is in between. I know its joys and its sorrows. I know its versatility, its unique opportunities, its special challenges. It is safe, predictable, assuring. No, it hasn't always been easy, but it hasn't been all that terribly hard either. Yes, making decisions as a single woman can be overwhelming... finding someone to process with can be hard... but it's still just me calling the shots for, well, me.

And yet this morning, I stand on the ridge between a familiar place called singleness and an unfamiliar realm on the other side called marriage. In less than 3 weeks, I will be transferred to inside the boundary lines of that new world. So, as I stand, still on the edge of this familiar territory, I have a few things I want to say.

I am grateful, appreciative, and so thankful for the beautiful gift of singleness for the last decade of ministry. And for the blessing of un-attachment in my formative teen and early college years as well. I would not be who I am today nor in the place I am today, had the Lord not thought it good to give me this precious gift of undivided attention and focus. Thank you, Jesus. It has been an incredible, beautiful journey with You alone as my Lover, Companion, Provider, and most Intimate Friend.

I have been able to do things that only a single person can do... make spur of the moment decisions to go last minute places and meet unexpected people and do unplanned things. I have done countless back to back trips, sometimes without stopping to rest in the middle. I have met so many people and found new family in friends in far off places... people who loved me, cared for me, and took me in... because I was single, and they knew I needed them.

I have been able to pour out and spend myself, my life, my energy, my attention -- fully for Christ, and for others... that they might know Him and understand His heart better. I'm so thankful for friends, mentors, and a God who all urged me not to put my life on hold and wait... but to get out there and live it to its FULLEST with the glorious gift of singleness. I have been able to live undistracted... unattached... with a sole focus and purpose... and I am so, so, so thankful beyond words.

I love my fiance. More than any person on this planet. I am SUPER excited about the journey that lies ahead, and having him be the one at my side to walk the way with me... the ups and downs. TOGETHER.

But, for these remaining weeks, as wedding planning takes over our lives, we remind each other this too is just a season and the real deal lies on the other side of the necessary evils of invitations, clothes fittings, shoe shopping, decor choosing, and car rentals.

In the meantime... I am enjoying stretching out and having the entirety of my queen size bed all to myself. I am enjoying the remaining days of doing whatever I want whenever I want (well... within the reasonable hours of a given day and time not already eaten fully by aforementioned wedding preparations). I am enjoying cooking and eating the things I like, having the early morning hours all to myself, only washing one person's clothing, only factoring in my own movie likes/dislikes when I choose something to watch, and not feeling guilty spending a couple hours online reading facebook, email, or blogs in the evening. Because... very soon... that is all going to be a thing of the past.

Already, it sinks in. As every future decision now factors in TWO personalities, TWO plane tickets, TWO nationalities, TWO perspectives on where to live, TWO peoples likes/dislikes factored into every equation, and so much more in dual.

As I said. I am excited. It is right, and good. But it is also different. Unfamiliar territory. Anticipated. And yet... still much of an unknown learning curve, as we are ever continually woven into ONE.

I relish the journey with this incredible man holding my hand and Christ as our Faithful Guide, no matter what terrain we traverse together. Yet, this morning, and also during the last few months, I have been reminded of HOW very, deeply grateful I am to have had this beautiful, FULL, blessed, precious gift of a decade of singleness to have be given by Him, for Him, and back to Him.

God gives good gifts. May we be fully present to receive them and enjoy them in the today.

10 January 2015

rain clouds & thunder

I was flying to Kauai, for a mental health break. Flight paid for by colleague-friends who recognized I needed some much needed breathing space before returning to my home and work overseas. We took off from Portland, the rain and the muck. And it was really coming down.

Thunder, rain, lightening... all things I don’t really mind if I’m warm, safe, and dry. In fact, I have come to truly respect and appreciate  powerful thunderstorm. But I don’t like flying through them… not so much. Because they always mean something scary: turbulence.

Now, turbulence while flying is normal. And as much as I’ve flown in my life, it is something that isn’t really all that bad anymore. I’m more likely to die in a car accident or crossing the street. But ever since a flight from Philippines to Thailand, and a very scary swing and drop turbulence moment… which forever has imprinted itself on my stomach in particular… I’m not as big a fan as I used to be. Severe turbulence these days can bring me sweaty palms, shortness of breath, and a pounding heart.

But this day… I was so overwhelmed and exhausted… it didn’t so much matter anymore. It had been a whirlwind trip to the States, home, working, and teaching at various organizational events. Things were stressful in both my personal and public life, filled with tension and stress. So Hawaii had been the answer and solution to my needing a few days … just … away.

As we started to ascend, the wind and rain and thunder and lightening pummeled us. I stared out the window, in awe of what we were courageously, stubbornly attempting… to ascend and soar in the midst of this crazy weather. The turbulence, even taking off, caused us to shimmy back and forth on the runway as we lifted off the ground. I was listening to Tenth Avenue North’s album “the Struggle” and “Worn” on my iPod again and again, repeated.

The storm, as we climbed, actually became worst. I could hardly see out my window, as rain pummeled against it – gray and wearying. The clouds became, darker, blacker. The thunder became louder. The lightning even more bright and ominous. And then, not knowing how many minutes had really passed, we came soaring out the other side… and the beautiful, unworried sunlight burst forth against a vibrant blue sky, blinding me. Once I regained my eyesight, I looked down at the other side of the clouds… and how very tame and mellow they looked from the other side.

Spiritual truth revelation: There is a place we can dwell in Him, above the storms of life. From our perspective, they can be terrifying. Looking only from the lowest point. But when we let Him lift us into the place of His love, His grace, His mercy, and His goodness… we are reminded He is Lord OVER the storms, and He is sovereign. And we are being carried in His arms.

sunrises whisper hope

For as long as I can remember, I have loved sunrise. From the time I was only 6 years old, getting up at 5:30am with my maternal grandpa – hearing him making coffee in the kitchen (though it was hot cocoa with marshmallows for me). To crawling out of bed, wiping sleep from my eyes, for early morning fishing trips leaving the house at 6am with my dad and older brother.

Sunrises… early morning… soothes my soul and whispers through my spirit of new life and hope.

In 2006, my family uprooted and moved to southern Oregon. I was only a year out of college, a year into my career as an interpreter, and a year into a new year out of an unhealthy relationship. I was also in a season of limbo, trying to figure out what exactly God was doing and where He wanted me in this big world and in life. We moved to a little map dot in the woods, just off the lake. That lake… in some ways… became a place of calm for me, a refuge. I would find myself, in the midst of roiling questions in my heart and befuddlement in my mind, sitting in my car at the lake in the wee hours of the morning… facing where I knew the sun would rise.

Because of the lake, in the cooler seasons, fog would be thick covering the lake, and the mountains just behind. It was always a gamble, whether or not I would actually get to see the sun itself. At first, this would frustrate me. To get up, brave the chill, and sit alone in the cold, gray semi-darkness… and not even get to see a sunrise, especially as that was exactly how my soul felt many of those mornings in that season of life.

Some mornings, the sun would rise in glorious might… rays shooting majestically through the fog, burning it away with ferocity… daring it to try and resist. Other days, the sun would come up softly, gently, quietly… slipping into the sky without fanfare. The fog remained, and yet the light of day still came.

The Lord spoke sure truths into my spirit through those many mornings we spent together on that lake… waiting for the sunrise together.

Whether or not I can see it — whether or not it is veiled by fog or clouds — the sun still rises. Every. Single. Morning. Whether or not I “feel” it – God’s mercies are new. Every. Single. Morning. His love is real, present, NEAR… regardless of the fog or clouds in my heart or mind. He is still there. Faithful. True. Unfailing. DAILY.

Sometimes He chooses to rush in with power and glory… pushing aside all the fog and darkness and confusion, with a triumphant authority and ferocious love. With LIGHT and TRUTH. And other times, He is content to be there, still NEAR and no less present, but without the fanfare and lights… stealing through the circumstances in my life, pulling me to TRUST and worship Him even in the mundane and unremarkable days… being faithful to praise and obey even in the grey.
He whispers through my spirit, reminding me…

“The path of the righteous is like the light of dawn, that shines brighter and brighter until the full day.” (Proverbs 4:18, NASB)
and
“The Light shines in the darkness and the darkness cannot comprehend or overpower it.” (John 1:5)
and
“God is Light, and in Him there is no darkness at all.” (1 John 1:5b)

And my soul finds itself calmed and at peace, cradled in His love, hope, and faithfulness.

28 December 2014

Lord, give me Your heart

"In John 13, Jesus knew where He had come from and where He was going to. ... If we know where we've come from and where we're going to, we could spend the rest of our time on earth with a towel around our waist... it wouldn't matter. If we knew where we'd come from and where we are going, we could like happily in obscurity just washing a hopeless old man's feet. ... In order to understand how to minister, we need to know where we've coming from and where we're going to, and then it matters not the tiniest bit whether our ministry looks successful or not; neither do we mind... Our satisfaction is in Jesus' heart." ~Jackie Pullinger