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…

P1150892
P1160207
P1160493 P1160496
The end of 2014 145
P1160157The end of 2014 001More fun in the Philippines 095 The end of 2014 064 Zach Graduation and Running and Coming home 032 Zach Graduation and Running and Coming home 113IMG_5128
The end of 2014 074
The end of 2014 114 The end of 2014 115 Summer 2014 013 Summer 2014 018 The end of 2014 165Summer 2014 056 Summer 2014 067

Advertisements

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.