Wind, Earth, and Fire…

I sincerely apologize to anyone who is following this blog, I have not been giving it the attention I should. A part of me had nothing to say and another part of me didn’t want to even try to communicate anything. However, not sitting down and reflecting on what God is doing in my life is the very thing I wanted to avoid. How can I really notice what God is doing if I don’t take the time to sit in his presence and reflect on His redeeming love? I am missing it and 11 months ago that was the very thing I wanted to avoid.

It’s hard to think that my very first post ever on a blog was exactly a year ago today, the only difference was, I was on the other side of the world. A year ago, I was in Asia, embarking on an adventure that would completely change my life. It’s almost surreal. I did that? Me? God are you sure that actually happened? You blessed me in such a way to allow me to do that? And yet a year ago, I was crying because it was all to real.

As I began living my life in the United States again, my heart was torn in two. When I was in Asia, all I wanted to do was come home and be with my family. Now that I am home, all I want to do is go back out. It’s been hard. I spent most of June and July in depression. All I wanted to do was be at home. I didn’t talk to anyone and I didn’t even want to do the very things I loved most. I was working, only to be able to continue to pay off my loans, but mentally and emotionally, I wasn’t in it at all. I think I cried at the minimum once a week… however, if I remember correctly it was probably at least three times a week. I missed being in Asia, I was struggling to adjust being back, there seemed to be no meaning in my life, the things I thought God wanted me to do were not being carried out, and receiving a rejection letter daily after applying for 100 jobs was getting old. I didn’t know what God wanted for my life and coming back from what felt like another world, to standing at a heat press all day, was not what I pictured my life as when I came back to the States. I was driving the struggle bus and felt I was the only one in the vehicle. I tried to explain what was wrong, but I couldn’t communicate it. After a while I stopped trying, but it was obvious to those who had been walking with me through it, that I wasn’t myself.

So I just sat, in my depression. There was nothing I could do. I prayed, but my words just seemed to vanish into thin air. I began to understand why people contemplate suicide. Did I ever think about actually killing myself, no, but I have to imagine that the deep pain in my soul was similar to those who feel like they have nothing left to live for. Don’t get me wrong, people who struggle with suicide have a special place in my heart as I myself have lost a friend to it. I am also not trying to downplay the seriousness of it. The pain is so deep, it’s almost agonizing because there is no quick fix in sight. I am surrounded by people who love and care about me and would do anything for me, yet I feel like I am standing alone. Then, the pain I feel, is causing those around me to have pain (which only makes the wound deeper) because though they try to take the sting away, it doesn’t work. Any words I use to try to communicate my pain seem useless and I can only take so many blank stares before my cause seems in vain. Finally, the icing on the cake and the cherry on top, is I had no reason to feel this way. God has blessed me so much, through so many people, and I have the audacity to sit and complain? Like a whiny Israelite. Nevermind the fact that God has given me this mountaintop experience and revealed himself to me in more than I could ever imagine. Nevermind the fact he saved my life and is continuing to change it because he loves me enough to do so. Oh no, sitting here in my depression sounds much better. That doesn’t even make sense. However, I have to believe, that the deep agony of my soul was not about me, but rather God continuing to refine me and allow me to see him in yet another way. God is a God of healing and Him being the only one who actually knew the extent of my hurt, was the only one I could turn to.

It wasn’t until August when things started to change. I moved back home and quit the job I was at. My sister and brother-in-law flew in from Arizona and came to visit. My biological Dad also decided to pay us a visit. Again, what I thought God had for me didn’t exactly match what He actually had planned for me. Rarely does God ever ask us to do things that are comfortable, and to be honest, everything was uncomfortable for me at this point. I had prayed God would place me wherever he wanted me thinking that I already knew His answer to that prayer. I didn’t. I received a call about a coaching job which was in the area I had just moved back home from. I originally turned the job down. Thanks to some helpful advice, I ended up calling the head coach back and the position was still available. So, I moved out again, crying on the car ride back because this isn’t what I wanted to do at all, and move back in with family friends (who honestly have made all the difference in the world). Only having my coaching job wasn’t enough so I began applying for even more jobs, which is basically like a full-time job. Thankfully, they took me back at my old job, though again, not what I had in mind, God gave me a new perspective and I have made very close friends because of it.

The next four months until now, God has completely turned things around. I am joyful, I dare say. I don’t say that to boast, but rather to boast about what God has done in my life! New friends, new relationships, a new job, deeper relationships, having two families to live with and come home to, and spending time with the people I care about most who also love Jesus, what cold be better? Do I still have the dream of returning to the mission field? YES! However, I am learning more and more, that the things of my life are not going to happen the way I expect them to at all. As I am finding out, God’s way tends to be better, a new surprise and the blessing of life everyday!

A few months ago, I was out running because that is just my time with God. I was throwing a fit. Yes, like a five year old child. I didn’t understand why things were the way they were, God wasn’t listening to me, I didn’t know what he wanted from me and why he would withhold his plans from me when I desperately just wanted to do what he wanted. I was getting angry. And this was his response…

” And the word of the Lord came to him: “What are you doing here, Elijah?”

He replied, “I have been very zealous for the Lord God Almighty. The Israelites have rejected your covenant, torn down your altars, and put your prophets to death with the sword. I am the only one left, and now they are trying to kill me too.” (And I thought I had it bad)

The Lord said, “Go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the Lord, for He is about to pass by.”

Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. After the earthquake came a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper. When Elijah heard it, he pulled his cloak over his face and went out and stood at the mouth of the cave.”
1 Kings 19: 10-13

It dawned on me that I was looking for God in all the wrong places. Not that the places I was searching out were bad, no, much like Elijah, they were still acts of God, but he wasn’t in them. At that moment in time, my wind was my music. Granted, it was Christian music, but the voice of God was not in the music. My earthquake was the people who I care about. Were they incredible blessings that God was using to impact my life, yes. But, God’s voice was not in the people I care about. My fire was worries, concerns, my job, things that were burning up inside of me and could consume if I let them. Were they bad things, not necessarily, but God’s voice was not in those things either. Don’t get me wrong, sometimes God does use music, people, and the things of this life to communicate with us, and they are not bad things. I however, needed to listen. I couldn’t find out what God was doing or even pay attention to his plan because His voice is only His voice. It is that still small voice that I can only hear when I sit in silence and meet with Him. When I stop listening to my music, stop being with people, stop working and worrying, and when I be still and know.. only then can I hear the gentle whisper.

Did God tell me what He was going to do? No. But out of his grace and mercy, He knows that I don’t need to know. Since things have been going completely opposite of what I expect, would I believe Him even if He told me?

As I reflect on this past year, God has blessed me in more ways than I could ever imagine. He has brought me through, even though I am pretty sure He carried me through most of 2014. I am in awe of Him. He has given me so much hope and so many things to praise Him for. I cannot help but give all the glory to Him, because I am a sinner, saved my grace, washed by his blood, swimming in his unconditional love, and he continues to shower me with blessings that I do not deserve. But then again, it isn’t about me.

I would like to end with a quote by Oswald Chambers: ” Have you been asking God what he is going to do? He will never tell you. God does not tell you what He is going to do; He reveals to you Who He is.”

Whatever my lot, though has taught me to say… It is well, it is well with my soul…

2014… you will be missed…

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Bearing the Burden…

In my previous blog posts, I always tried to convey one thing that I was learning, something that struck me the most and something I would hope would strike anyone reading this as well. This time, I am struggling. It’s not that I haven’t learned anything or God hasn’t shown me anything new, rather, how am I supposed to put all I have learned this past month into words in a single blog post. I can’t. There is a reason the bible is thousands of pages long… and God continues to go way beyond anything we can comprehend. When God’s mercies are new every morning and when he continually reminds me how small I am and how big he is every day, it becomes very difficult to convey, especially when I am still working on understanding it myself. So, with that being said, bear with me as I try to give bits and pieces.

As another month as flown by, I am realizing more and more how God is in the details. He takes care of everything, literally everything, in our day to day lives. He knows us better than we know ourselves and he allows us to battle on for him by turning our weaknesses into strengths.

This past month has been solely focused on students which has been both a blessing and burden at times. As the school year came to an end and we were able to watch many of the students we have come to know so well graduate and move on, we have also been blessed to know more students. Summer classes have started, and with that, a whole new group of Freshmen have come in to pass the college entrance exam. As part of helping the students pass the test, the organization I am working with offers tutoring sessions everyday for English and Math. Needless to say, I am back into teaching. I have never thought of myself as a teacher, much less a teacher in English. Again, God uses our weaknesses for his glory. My days now consist of teaching English (which has always been my worst subject) with Christine (my roommate) from 10:30-12:00 to a class of fifty students. I then spend the last portion of the day lesson planning, spending time with students and the other interns, finishing up what I can of the business plan, and just enjoying my time here.

Our English Class

Despite my weakness in teaching, God continues to remind me that my weakness is not about me, it’s about Him and letting his strength shine through. I have a new respect for the students as they take on learning English, in addition to the five languages they already know. I also realize how confusing languages can be, but also how being able to speak any language is a gift from God and a work of his creation. Listening to several languages daily and trying to understand in any way I can, it’s amazing how much languages have in common. There is similar structure and similar basic principles, but also it’s amazing how many similar words different languages have in common and it all points to having one creator!  The fact that God even gave us the ability to communicate and how he orchestrated our bodies to be able to produce different sounds is quite remarkable. Think about it. Every sentence spoken requires several different actions to take place in the body before the sentence is ever heard. As the sentence is being said, the inner actions continue to take place, and the body remembers how to say certain things in a certain way. For example, in English, we use the “th” sound all the time and think nothing of it. Our mouth has been preforming the proper action to make that sound for years and it’s nothing to say, “this, that, these, and those” with perfection. However, in the Philippines, “th” is not a common sound and it is a struggle to say it correctly. In the same way, the Filipino language has the “ng” sound, which is something that we don’t generally use in the English language. I am still trying to say it correctly. Language is quite the work of art and it all points to the uniqueness, beauty, and creativity of our creator.

God also continues to convict me in areas which I have a hard time facing. To start, I am incredibly selfish. I think some of that is cultural, but a majority of it is my own flesh and will. I struggle to have a servants heart to people who have no appreciation for what I am doing for them or who could care less of the sacrifice I feel I am making. For example, teaching. It is a struggle for me to teach, as I said before. The way the education system works here is students generally run the class. Teachers may or may not show up and there isn’t a set curriculum that is followed. Also, I am teaching to a class of college freshmen, these freshmen are as young as fifteen and as old as twenty-five. Their level of English speaking is all over the board as some can use English correctly and fluently and others are too shy to even speak a sentence. How can I effectively give my time and energy to the students if I am so focused on myself and how I feel unequipped to teach them? How can I help them excel if how I “feel” and my negative attitude constantly get in the way? How am I showing them Christ by allowing my selfishness to take control instead of calling on God for a spirit of selflessness?

Another way God is convicting me is revealing my judgemental nature and how I take time for granted. Being in another culture, I have struggled with things that I never even thought to struggle with before. It is because of these struggles though however, that I began judging myself using the standards that I judge other people with. I am a horrible judge and it was extremely convicting as I began examining myself in the same way I examine others. It was hurtful and depressing. On the other hand, God was able to reveal to me a new compassion for myself and the people who struggle with the same issues I do. Let’s just say, “Love your neighbor as yourself,” came to life in a whole new way! Finally, Time. Something, that I take for granted everyday as if I can freely waste it. As if it’s mine to waste. I came across this quote the other day that seemed to hit my conviction spot on. “Imagine there is a bank account that credits your account each morning with $86,400. It carries over no balance from day to day… What would you do? Draw out every cent, of course? Each of us has such a bank, it’s name is time. Every morning, it credits you 86,400 seconds. You must live in the present on today’s deposits. The clock is running. Make the most of your time.”

As a part of our CBP class, we asked the students to write about: “why do I believe what I believe?” Not only were the responses thought provoking and caused me to ask myself the same question, but it’s amazing how God’s light shines through no matter what one believes. Satan’s reign is prevalent in our day to day world; however, instead of focusing on the sin, this caused me to stop and look and see where God’s light is shining through. It’s not always obvious, but when I stop and take the time to notice it, it’s glorious. More than half of the CBP class is Muslim, so I was eager to see what they had to say because I am quite curious. After reading through their papers, I was filled with compassion for them and in some ways a burden of sadness, but also a burden to show them the love of Christ more and more. In an assignment that could leave one feeling hopeless, God’s light is still shining through in the Muslim culture.  As one student wrote, “I believe in the oneness of Allah. Nothing else has the right to be worshiped but Allah and Allah alone. I also believe that Eisa or Jesus is just a prophet of Allah. He has a mother named Maria, but he doesn’t have a father because Allah wanted to prove to humans that He can create a miracle.” This student believes they are a true follower of Islam and that Muhammad was the final Prophet given to us by Allah to proclaim Islam as the true religion. Through all the sin that has entangled them, right in the middle of it all is Jesus. Though they don’t believe the same things about God as we do, they know of Jesus and the miracle he was. God is here, he is present, and he is working. Even though that is just a single sentence, it is the beginning of the light that breaks the darkness.

The student's response.

The student’s response.

This past month I decided to read Hinds Feet on High Places. Never have I read an allegory that applied so much to my life and allowed me to put a face to the sin I battle every day. This allegory is about a young girl named Much Afraid and her fight to reach the High Places where the Shepherd is waiting for her with the promise of an everlasting love. Much Afraid lives in the Valley of Humiliation with her Fearing family including Craven Fear, Pride, Bitterness, Anger, Deceit, and Jealousy who try to hinder her in her quest to the High Places. If her relatives aren’t enough to hinder her, she is also crippled. Living among the Fearing Family are workers of the shepherd and the Shepherd himself visits various times during the day. Much Afraid meets the Shepherd in the morning to ask him what he would have her do for the day, and every evening to talk about the day. As Much Afraid learns about the Shepherd more and more, she asks to join him the High Places. The Shepherd is more than thrilled, but he explains the journey will be difficult, but he must plant the seed of love in her heart in order for her to begin. This seed is a thorn that the Shepherd plants in her heart, though it is painful at first, the seed will grow into something more beautiful than anything she can imagine. As the journey begins to the High Places, the Shepherd chooses two companions to help Much Afraid reach the High Places, Sorrow and Suffering. At first, Much Afraid refuses to use the help of her companions, avoiding them, which makes the journey slow and more difficult. Also, her family is constantly sending people after Much Afraid to bring her back. As the journey continues, Much Afraid learns to rely on her companions to help her make the journey and grows in trust for the Shepherd as she calls out to him in times of trouble. Along the way, Much Afraid endures much hardship and questions if the Shepherd will fulfill his promise to her. There are many moments she begs the Shepherd to allow her to choose a different path to the High Places and there are times when she wants to give up. Despite her insecurities and doubts, the Shepherd continually reassures her, loves her, and encourages her to press on because he knows her better than she knows herself. During this journey, Much Afraid builds little alters along the way in which she lays down her fear, insecurities, doubts, and chooses to hold on to the words of the Shepherd despite her current circumstance. Before reaching the high places, Much Afraid must lay her entire self on the altar as the Shepherd pulls out the humanly/fleshly love she has once known and replaces it with His everlasting Love and his desires.  As she enters the High Places, Much Afraid receives a new name of Grace and Glory. Her Fearing family no longer has a hold on her, and the companions of Sorrow and Suffering are now Joy and Peace. With that, the Shepherd introduces Grace and Glory to his everlasting Love, and prepares to send her back into the valley from which she came to allow others to experience the High Places as well.

Talking with one of the long term missionary’s here, she reminded me of a verse that I have heard hundreds of time before, however, this time it struck me in a completely different way.

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” Matt 11:28-30

These verses, probably some of the most well known throughout out the entire bible, came to life in a whole new way. Yes, Christ always provides us rest when we give our hearts to him. The “rest for my soul” is what I have always focused on when studying this verse. It doesn’t matter how bad anything gets, God will always come to my rescue. But there is so much more to this verse then just finding rest. This verse also represents the great commission perfectly! We become weary and burdened as we try to carry our sins on our own and Christ provides a divine rest. He does this by trading in our burdens for his yoke. As we rest in him and learn from him by studying him, talking to him, meditating on the things he says, we learn about his gentle and humble heart. In the process of this learning, we grow more in love with him and his love begins spilling over as he sends us back out with his yoke and his burden. Yes, Christ takes our burden, but he also gives us one. One that allows us to carry our cross every day and the burden and the desire to make sure the world know of his love! It’s a burden of selflessness rather than a burden of selfishness and it’s incredible.

Yes, I continue to struggle, but just when I think it is too much to bear, God provides and fills me with an inexpressible joy that I know only comes from him. He provides peace, motivation, endurance, and awe as I live each day here. He puts me in places where I need to lay myself on the altar and choose him. Yes, it’s painful and my flesh fights back with everything it can. However, that is what it takes for God to mold me. That is what it takes for God to make me what he wants me to be. That is what it takes for Christ to have all of me and that is a burden I am willing to bear.

Philippines 310

 

 

 

Stepping into the fire…

As I reflect over this past month, I cannot help but be in awe of what God is doing and how He hears the prayers and desires of every heart. He sees us, He hears us, He loves us; not because he has to or because of anything we have done, because he wants to and He paid the ultimate price to do so.

This month, God has allowed three things to happen to me that have changed my heart: I broke down, I officially moved in, and He gave me love and joy. All these things may not seem like anything monumental (or they are things I typically take for granted), but trying to live in a new place and find myself in another culture, these are milestones. The best way I can think to say it is, THINGS GOT REAL. Let me explain.

First, I completely broke down. I don’t even remember the last time I cried so hard for a long period of time. I guess having my life turned upside down can do that. After being here for two months and working on my third, I couldn’t simply hold it together like I had been trying to do. Every time I had wanted to let my emotions go, I just did something else, or willed myself to pull it together, and usually that worked. Every time this “hole” in my heart meant for my family and friends seemed overbearing, I did whatever I could to take my mind off of it. I knew God could hear the cries I was holding inside and he could see the hole, but if I was going to be here and serve and honor him, I was going to be strong and not let those things get to me. Despite my efforts, I couldn’t serve God wholeheartedly with this gaping hole growing inside of me. I couldn’t genuinely love and serve the people here when all I wanted to do was go back home. Thankfully God had other plans instead of me just “holding it together”.

Post-race team photo...

Post-race team photo…

Towards the end of February, I had the opportunity to run a half marathon. I didn’t really want to do it because I hadn’t been training for it.. and the race started at 4:30 A.M. But, one of the other interns on the team was challenging me and I let my competitive side get the best of me (which happens more often than I would like to admit), and with that I signed up. If nothing else, it would just be a nice long run under the morning stars. The night before the race, we decided to stay in the homes of the long term missionaries (which was a tremendous blessing). I love living with Filipinos, but there is something about staying in a home that is more like what I know that allowed me to really rest and relax. The next morning was the race and it was so worshipful and everyone on the team did very well. It was so encouraging. For just a brief moment, the hole didn’t seem to be so overbearing and I was doing something that I loved. After the race we went out to eat and then back home to get ready for church. As I was waiting to get cleaned up, I had the opportunity to FaceTime my mom. She was at the conference meet watching Cornerstone Track and Field compete and I was able to watch the last distance event. Though this was also a blessing to be able to see everyone, I couldn’t hold it together anymore. I missed everyone so much, I could feel right to my core and I broke down completely. I didn’t realize how big my hole was until I saw all the people who were missing from it. I pulled myself together as much as I could and went to church. I didn’t even make it through the first five minutes of the service and I was crying again… and then again at the end of the service.. and then throughout the day into the next morning… It was through my weakest moments that God was able to humble me (I needed to ask for help), he was able to bring me closer to the team here, he allowed me to encourage and be encouraged, he allowed me to look past myself and realize the struggles of others, and he was able to mold my broken heart into what he wanted it to be… not what I was trying to make it be.

By falling apart, I realized how I was trying to simply “survive” here, not “thrive”. I was just wanted to “get by” and not fully embrace this experience and what God is doing. God was able to show me how weak I am and how strong he is. Also, how his love is the most powerful thing in this world because it has the power to change hearts and minds for his glory. With that, I began to realize what I needed to do to really “thrive” here. At a team meeting, as interns, we made a list of what we needed as individuals to be right mentally, physically, and emotionally, so we can serve God wholeheartedly spiritually. Within the next few days, I officially moved in. I hung pictures, notes, and cards all over my room from friends and family. I began making my own food, instead of just eating what was always put in front of me. I became more motivated to run in the mornings as I realized that is what I need to start my day…to spend quiet time with the Lord and after my run dig into his word.  To start the day serving him and learning how he has been serving and loving me since before the creation of the world, and he hasn’t stopped yet. Spending time with people who encourage and uplift me so I can uplift others. As interns, spending more time together and having bible studies and praying for one another. It’s amazing the people God put in my life to help and uplift me; one specific person is my roommate, Christine. She is from Germany and she is the person I laugh with the most. We talk about anything and everything, and she has been such an encouragement. She always seems to understand and is genuinely interested. She also holds me accountable to my commitments and constantly reminds me how good life is and how God has blessed us. She has been here almost a year now and has made such a difference in the lives of so many people; I am very thankful God allowed our paths to cross.

Christine and I

Christine and I

By moving in and making this place my home, things began to change as God continued to mold and shape my heart. The first thing I noticed was I began to laugh again. Not just a smile or smirk, actually laugh until hurts. Learning to laugh at myself and situations that I can’t control puts things in such a better perspective. Laughing with others and just enjoying being with them. Before, walking out of my house and spending time with students seemed to be such a chore. I did it, but my heart wasn’t in it. God fixed that too. This past weekend I went with students to a farm and we stayed there overnight. I didn’t want to go. I started feeling the hole again and I just wanted to stay in my room and watch movies. However, I wasn’t going to leave Christine hanging and it was her birthday, so I had to go (birthdays are a big thing here). The moment I got on campus and saw the girls waiting for us to pick them up, my attitude and heart instantly changed. I noticed it immediately because for the first time, seeing them brought me a genuine joy. Not that I didn’t enjoy being with them before, it was just different. Loving them and being with them wasn’t forced, my heart was in it and it was a genuine joy that I know was from God. To see these girls and the students here through his eyes instead of being self-absorbed with my own problems. The weekend got better and better from there as we hiked, learned about farming, made crafts, and then at dinner had the opportunity to share with them the story of Esther, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, and Jonah.

The girls at the farm

The farm weekend with the girls:)

 

Reflecting back, I see now God had to break me down and let me fall apart. I had to let things go; let go of myself, my family, my friends, my worries and insecurities, and give it to Him. By allowing me to fall apart, God put me back together the way he wanted me to be (and I am very thankful that he did). As a result, I was able to move in and really be comfortable being here. I was able to realize what I needed mentally, physically, and emotionally, so I could grow and serve spiritually. As a result of that, I was able to experience joy and love the people here naturally. It wasn’t a forced love anymore. It was a love that only God can provide and allow me to share with others and with that came an inexpressible joy.

By spending more time with my savior and making him a priority in my life and also as a team of interns, he always shows us something new and encouraging. This month it was the story of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. Though I have heard this story more times then I can count, this is the first time I have really taken it to heart and let it impact my life.

King Nebuchadnezzar has just decreed that everyone under his rule must worship his gods and the image of gold he has made. Every time they hear the music playing they need to bow down to it and worship it and whoever does not obey this decree will be thrown into a blazing furnace. Despite the decree, three Jews (Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednigo), refuse to bow down. As word gets around that there are people disobeying the king, these three Jews are brought before the King. As the King is questioning them (and is “furious with rage”), he commands Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednigo, to bow down when they hear the music, and reminds them of the consequence of the furnace. Except this time, he challenges them and God by saying, “then what god will be able to rescue you from my hand?” As the king is ranting and going on, the three men (in great respect to their king) kindly reply, together, that there is no need for them to defend themselves. “The God we serve is able to save us from it, and he will rescue us from your hand, O king. But even if he doesn’t, we want you to know, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up.” This response only added to the king’s rage, and he had the furnace heated up seven times hotter than usual and commanded the strongest soldiers to tie them up. The king wanted the three Jews thrown in the furnace immediately. “So these men wearing their robes, trousers, turbans, and other clothes were bound and thrown into the blazing furnace.” The king’s request was urgent and the flames were still so hot, it killed the soldiers who took on the task of throwing Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednigo in the furnace. With in seconds, the king notices that there are men walking around in the furnace. Except, there are four men, not three, and the fourth “looks like a son of the gods.” The king then calls out to Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednigo, recognizing them as children of the most high God, and the three walk out of the furnace unharmed, un-singed, and there was no smell of smoke on them. (Daniel 3: 9-27)

What amazes me about this story is the willingness of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednigo, to be thrown into the fire. With great respect, they told the king they would never bow down to his golden image, despite his rage and his coming wrath. These three men knew, no matter the outcome, God was going to get the glory, and they faced the fires of that furnace with great faith, and God came to their rescue. Though I am not being thrown into a fiery furnace, this story encouraged me greatly, especially in this past month. God takes ordinary people and does extraordinary things, however, I have to have the faith to be able to step into the fire. To face the flames head on, to step into what God has for me, to give up my very life for the one who laid down his life for me. It’s not easy, and God told me the fires would come, but the extraordinary part is when he meets me in the fire, when he changes my life and the lives around me. I was never standing alone. God gave me people to encourage me and step into the fire with me. Whatever my fire may be, whether it’s being in Southeast Asia or simply just letting go, God has provided, he has met me there, given me people to take on the heat with me, and changed my life and hopefully the lives around me just a little bit more. He brought me out of the furnace with a changed heart and a greater faith.

“Then King Nebuchadnezzar said, “Praise be to the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednigo, who has sent his angel and rescued his servants! They trusted in him and defied the king’s command and were willing to give up their lives rather than serve or worship any god except their own God….for no other god can save in this way.” (Daniel 3: 28-29)

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Don’t miss it….

It’s amazing how God’s love and grace shines through in every culture. All of creation truly shouts and displays God’s glory! Despite our sin, despite how far we have fallen, God is still reaching down and revealing himself!

This first month has been quite the experience… it’s been hard, but nevertheless, the struggle has been worth it. Just continuing to adjust, soak in the culture, learn the language, and see the beauty of these people has been very humbling. Yes, I have frustrations daily, but thankfully, despite my sinfulness, God is still working in ways we cannot see.

The second week here was medical week. During this time, we spent four days going to different communities all throughout the area delivering all different kinds of medical help. This was truly an amazing experience. It was busy, but with the efforts of the team and volunteers, we were able to reach over a thousand people. Each person had their vitals checked, received a health lecture (so they can make their own efforts and adjustments to take care of themselves), counseling/doctor/dental care, pharmaceutical care, and we were able to pray over them in Jesus name. I was on the dental team, and yes, I did get to pull two teeth. I was also able to help in the pharmacy area, help the doctors write prescriptions, and help in the glasses area (and it was amazing to see people have sight again!). There are so many things we take for granted on a day to day basis that these people can only dream of having, yet they are so hospitable and so caring to everyone they meet. The Holy Spirit was with us that week providing everything we needed as the occasion arouse, and we can only pray he was opening people’s eyes to the love of Christ just a little bit more.

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The next week, was the grand opening of the new student center! This new center is right on campus and it offers computer, internet, and printing services as well as tutoring and other educational benefits. The old student center was almost a mile off campus, and though some students made the trek to come use the services, we will be able to reach more students by coming to them and having a convenient location. The grand opening was also a success as many students showed up and even the chancellor of the college came to speak! We were able to put on a program and the student volunteers preformed a tribal dance for us! Now the college is asking us to get involved in more ways with the students and that is truly a blessing.

After these busy weeks and doing some recuperating, I now have a more set schedule.  My main focus is the students. Getting to know them, spending time with them, learning about them, and just loving on them. I have also been able to join in on studies where we take students who are willing and tell them stories about the way of God starting with creation. It is a blessing to not only have a hand in what God is doing here, but to be able to see what he is already doing and continuing to do. As humans, we play such a minimal part, we can do as much as we can, but the Spirit of God is what opens the eyes, ears, hearts, and minds to his love. There are many who are seeking and there are many who refuse to even look.  I am also working on a business plan for the organization that can be implemented and shared to other communities (God-willing). I am also writing about how to write a business plan and using bible stories to illustrate the values needed for a successful business. Not only will the men and women in the communities be able to start/improve their business practices, but they will be hearing a story from God’s word and a seed can be planted with the moving of the Holy Spirit.

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I am continually seeing God in new ways and learning more about him, his people, and about myself. As I was reading through the book of Exodus, I was going through the chapters where Moses has led the people out of Egypt. God has finally answered the Israelite’s cry for help and is leading them to the Promised Land! However, despite what God is clearly doing right in front of them, the Israelites still disobey, have doubts, fear, and even begin worshiping something other than God himself. As I continued reading, I began getting frustrated with the Israelites. God is literally revealing himself, meeting their every need, and proving himself faithful over and over again. Instead of obedience, faith, and love, he gets disobedience, complaining, unfaithfulness, and a golden calf. The Israelites even wish that God would have left them in Egypt! God is raining down bread from heaven so they don’t starve, and they are missing it! God is meeting Moses on the mount in a way the Israelites know and see and they are missing it! My frustration continues to build, but then God convicts me. How is God revealing himself in my life and I am missing it? All of creation reveals God’s glory and I am missing it! Every breath I take is a sign of his grace and goodness and I am missing it! I doubt, disobey, and repeat the same sins. I am unfaithful, ungrateful, and there are times when I wish God would have just left me where I was at, even though God is displaying himself right in front of me. I am missing it! I guess the Israelites and I have more in common than I would like to think. I am humbled. I am so glad God does not give up on me and he continually reaches down with grace, love, and mercy molding my heart and pulling me to him. Wow… just wow…

I will conclude with a quote from Francis Chan:

“Have you ever wondered if we’re missing it? It’s crazy, if you think about it. The God of the universe—the creator of Nitrogen and pine needles, galaxies and e-minor—Loves us with a radical, unconditional, self-sacrificing love. And what is our typical response? We go to church, sing songs, and try not to cuss. Whether you’ve verbalized it yet or not, we all know something’s wrong.”

Don’t miss it!

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My journey to Southeast Asia…

I am still amazed at the fact that I am writing to you from a foreign country. Looking back on my life, I never thought I would be here. Not because I didn’t want too, but because I didn’t know if I would have the courage to do it. However, God has been so gracious to me and I have my friends, family, and supporters to thank for that as they pray for me and encourage me on this adventure.

The desire to get into mission work was planted in my heart many years ago, however, I didn’t begin to take it seriously until my sophomore year of college. At that time in my life, I was at a very low point. Nothing seemed to be going right and everything that I held dear to my heart or was ever considered important to me, was slowly being stripped away. No matter how hard I tried, I kept digging a hole deeper and deeper. I guess at this time, you could say God rocked my world, but as I write to you today, I am so thankful that he did. Hitting a low point was probably the best and worst thing that ever happened to me. It was because of the trials and blessings that I am who I am today and it was how this adventure all began.

I arrived in the Philippines on January 4, 2014. Though I was not at my final destination, after being in an airplane for 20 hours total, I found myself having an overnight layover in Manila. Unfortunately, I have heard more bad than good about that part of the country and I didn’t sleep at all, which did not help trying to adjust to the time change. After a long night and meeting a Filipino who noticed I was traveling and went out of his way to help me, I boarded my next plane at 6:30 in the morning and arrived at my final destination at around 8am. I didn’t know what to expect, but as I got off the plane and walked out of the airport, the team I am working with was waiting for me with a sign that said, “Welcome to Paradise Julia!” God knew I needed that. After traveling for so long, it was good to see familiar faces (I had met part of the team earlier in the year through training) and be welcomed by them.

Since there is a 13 hour time change and it was morning when I arrived, the team worked together to make sure I stayed up for the rest of the day, or at least until after dinner. That day I moved in, went out to eat (and I tried calamari and raw fish for the first time), went to the mall, went grocery shopping, rode in a trike and a jeepney (pictures to come later) and explored the local market. It was an information overload, but the team was very understanding and caring and this first week my job is basically to adjust, learn, watch, listen, and figure out how things work around here.

Up until now, I am still learning, sitting in on meetings, being introduced to a new culture, language, and people, and so far I am thoroughly enjoying it.  There have been some good moments and bad moments, but God has been such a comfort to me. I was finally able to start running and exploring on my own, I have been able to talk to my family almost everyday, and I have been able to do my devotions morning and night. This culture and the team are so caring and hospitable, they understand the hardships, the adjustments, and the joy. Spending time with the team and the Filipinos are what I have been enjoying most as they always seem to lift my spirits and they don’t even know they are doing it. I have God to thank for that as he has been blessing me all along the way and placing people in my life to come along side me. These next two weeks are going to be busy as we do a medical outreach in various cities throughout the area and move our main facility (the student center) to a new location that was just built on the local college campus. At the end of the two weeks there will be a celebratory grand opening as this center will be able to house interns, provide classrooms for tutoring, and a computer lab to help students excel in their education. There will also be a few free days for scuba diving and hiking a volcano:)

As I was doing my devotions, God’s word seems to come alive more and more. I am not sure if it is because I am in another culture or because I am desperate for his comfort and guidance.. probably both, but I am so thankful that God is meeting me where I am at. It is such a comfort and a joy.

He brought me to the parable of the hidden Treasure and the Pearl in Matthew 13: 44-46. Though I have heard this parable many times before, God provided a new insight that was of great comfort to me. I had always thought this story was about God and how having him in my life is like having a treasure or a pearl. I give up everything in my life and devote it to him or the “treasure” in joy because He is my all. However, through a bible study I am going through, it never occurred to me that this story has a double meaning. Christ is the man in the field, and when he found the treasure or pearl (us) he bought the field with his life because he loved us that much. Does that not blow your mind? I never thought of myself as the treasure in the field or a fine pearl. We forget so many times that we are worth dying for! I matter! What I am doing matters! My purpose matters! That motivates me even more to give everything to him and to serve him wholeheartedly. It is an honor and a blessing to serve a God that is worth it and who reminds me that I am worth it too…

The sun lighting up the morning sky on one of my runs.

The sun lighting up the morning sky on one of my runs.