Tuesday, September 26, 2017

How did I turn out this way?

As I was driving to work this morning there was a thought that crossed my mind.  In the past few days it has become apparent that I am not as conservative as some of my friends, and family.  I mean I kind of knew that anyways, but it has become even more apparent in the last few days.  As I was driving I was thinking about this, and how everything about the way I was brought up, and where I lived, where I went to church (Southern Baptist), all those signs point to me seeing the world with a very narrow minded view.  All of those things one would think would make me just like those that grew up in the same fashion I did, mid-west roots, conservative values. 

As I drove and thought about this, I went through some of my life choices.  Maybe it was me being overseas, and the experiences I have had over there.  Seeing first hand, experiencing first hand what it is like to be looked down upon because of your class, skin color, or beliefs.  But my sisters I feel like see the world in a similar way and neither of them have ventured to live in the four corners of the earth.  I also have friends that have lived overseas that are just as conservative and narrow-minded as those that have never left.  So, what is it?  What is it that allows me to see the world in this way that others don't?  Why don't I hold to a flag the same way that my fellow Americans do?  Is it because I am not patriotic?  Is it because I was gone for so long during the time in my life that most likely would have shaped my sole American identity?  I love America, I love that I was born in America, but I would die for a person from another country even a Middle Eastern country before I would die for a flag.  I will never put a flag over valuing someone's life.  It's not in me, and it is not who I am. 

Everything about my life had the makings of a conservative, Southern Baptist Christian girl, but I am not your typical anything.  I don't see the world the way that most do.  I see people for who they are.  I admit to myself that sometimes I am racist, sometimes I have prejudices, sometimes I hold my purse a little tighter when I walk in "that part of town."  I admit those things to myself.  But you know what I also admit to myself, that there is no way that I will ever agree that I am the best, or that my country is superior.  Maybe God just chose to put this in me from early on, or maybe the experiences He has allowed me to have were to shape me into this person that is able to understand things from many different sides.  If that is my one thing... I will take it! 

I don't want to ever come across as being superior, because I don't think that is who Jesus was/is.   He called people out, yes.  But you know who He called out the most?  The hypocrites, the tax collectors, people that were using their authority to take advantage of others.  That's who He was calling out.  Jesus wasn't one to just stand back and watch the world fall apart, He got into the midst of the pain and suffering.  He took it on himself. 

I guess today's post is really just to say that I am thankful.  I am thankful that I was brought up the way I was, that I have been able to experience people of all kinds of backgrounds, nationalities, and political foundations.  I am so thankful that I know just how lucky I am to be born in a place where people can kneel during the national anthem, and not get arrested or killed.  I am thankful that I don't have to agree with everyone, and I am thankful that all of it can be done in love. 

So for today, I look at my experiences, and see how things could have been very different.  I am thankful for the grace I have been given, and the everyday opportunities I have to see things from more than one perspective. 

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

He is >

I have moments in life when I do things that I instantly regret, because I am scared to death that one thing will be enough to send someone running in the other direction.  Why does it scare me so much?  Probably because it has happened.  Probably because we live in a world of messed up relationships.  A world where we want to be the boss, be in control, and have everyone agree with everything.  We want everyone to see life, see the world the way we do.  We give in to the fear of being rejected or alone, and allow ourselves regrets for what was said or not.  We compare ourselves to this person or that person, and we forget that it isn't actually about any of that. 

I was reminded again today how easily it is for me to do things that I instantly regret.  A word here, a look there.  Or maybe it is just the words of self-doubt that I allow myself to continue saying over and over again, instead of truths that will build me up.  The words that I allow to echo in my mind as I try to push past them and live the best way that I can. 

For some reason when I always think about putting God first, it seems like that means that I have to be in this lowly position.  That I have to allow myself to not feel as worthy as others, or continue to compare myself to them.  I feel like I am required to just let people beat me down, believe them when they tell me or show me I am not good enough, and ultimately let their words run my life. 

These past few days the more I have thought about and pondered what it means that Jesus is greater, I can't help but think that my journey in this area has only just begun.  My life is too busy.  I can't be busy every night of the week, and still take time for prayer, reading, and pondering.  I can't fill every spare moment I have with people, and events, and keep Him as greater.  My life needs to be less focused on what I look like to everyone else, and more focused on the only one that truly matters.  For as long as I keep going on empty.  As long as I keep trying to fill every second of my day with things that aren't growing my relationship with Him, I will just keep feeling empty and unsure.  I will just keep seeing every action as a mistake. 

It is through growth and time with Him, I will be the best version that I can be.  Not filling every second of my day with stuff to do, doesn't mean that I am less worthy or popular.  It simply means that I need Him to be in control of my life more so than I need my own self to be in control.  I need to be able to stop, breathe, and just be sometimes. 

I need His love, grace, mercy to be at the foremost of my being.  So that my selfish, harshness is constantly being changed and deleted.  One day I hope that all people see of me is Him.  Until that day I have to just do the best that I can, knowing that my mistakes only make Him love me more. 

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Why Being on My Own Isn't My Greatest Fear

As I sit here typing this I am listening to a podcast on Singleness.  There are so many things in this podcast that I am latching on to that I want to share, but really I don't even know how to understand all that I am learning.  What I do know is that I am constantly trying to fight the fear I have of being alone forever.  Yet, that is not my greatest fear.  I don't fear being alone.  For I don't ever truly feel completely alone.  I know that I have a God that loves me, I know that I have people in my life whether they are here or across the ocean that I could call up, send an email to, or message and they would be there for me in a second.  I know that God ALWAYS provides for me in way of community.  Every single time I am praying for Him to show me what community means, He goes out of His way to help me see all that I have, and all the people I have.  He always shows me what it means to live in community.  Sometimes community shifts, sometimes there are misunderstandings, but I have grown through those times too.

I long for marriage, for that one person to come in to my life that I just click with, but I also have come to the realization that I don't want to give up my calling because of it.  I also don't want to be looked down because of it.  No matter how many times I say that singles in their 30's-40's don't feel welcome in the church I don't think we are still getting it.  I think that there is still this misconception that the best thing to do with singles is to try and marry them off, or give them extra ways to serve in the church because they don't have as many "responsibilities" as their married counterparts.

But I think that it starts with me.  It starts with me not looking down on my life or myself because I am single.  It starts with me not allowing the words that I have been called by those that rejected me, "whackadoodle," "piece of shit floating down the river," "golddigger" just to name a few to not keep replaying in my mind.  It starts with me understanding that I am not going to ever be perfect, but I was made perfect for the work I am to do on earth.  I was made perfect for those that are in my life.

I don't want to pretend like every day I am just fine being alone, because not everyday is easy.  Not everyday do I wake up thinking that I am SO glad to be single.  But you know what?  I don't mind the life that I am leading, in fact I am happy.  I am thankful for the opportunities that I have, and I don't look down on my singleness as something to be scoffed at.  I don't look down at my role as something that is lower than those around me that are married and trying to raise kids.

My life doesn't have less meaning because I am single.  Nor do I have less of an impact on this world.  One day I hope and pray that God brings someone into my life with the same desire for the nations that I have.  Someone who would jump on a plane at a moments notice to go share His love in the deepest part of the world.  To sacrifice time, money, and a comfortable life for furthering the Kingdom.  That's my prayer and hope, but until then I will be thankful for my singleness, and I will keep showing the church how to welcome singles.  I will keep having conversations with my married friends, teaching them  that saying "God's timing" doesn't really help.  Guiding them to understand what it truly means for singles over 30 in the church to be accepted.

For my greatest fear isn't being on my own.  My greatest fear is that I will allow my singleness to become a bitter way that I keep myself from loving God with my whole heart.  My greatest fear is that I allow my singleness to become my focus, instead of my desire to go to the nations.  My greatest fear is that I forget who my King is and replace Him with something that is less than.  That is my greatest fear.

Sunday, September 10, 2017

What does it mean to be focused on Jesus....

Do you ever come to a place where you wonder what you have been believing in?  You wonder how you continue to walk down the path of faith when everyday seems to be a struggle to understand who Jesus is, what He did, and if you even really believe that it is true.  Not too long ago I thought I was the only one.  I thought that this struggle to understand my beliefs was an original thought for me.  Little did I realize just how wrong I was/am.  Every day I encounter people that are perplexed by faith.  They feel like the deeper they get into knowing who God is, the more they get away from understanding Him.  It seems to be this crazy battle between what we want to believe, and what is truth.  We want to make our own way, figure it out, but we are unwilling to sacrifice time and people to do it.  We don't want anyone to look down on us for our beliefs, we don't want to stand out.  We just want to keep going on this path that makes us look good to the world, but is doing just enough to get by with Jesus.

I am guilty of it.  Guilty of wanting to "fit in."  Wanting people to like me, and so I don't stand up for my faith the way I should.  I give in when it is convenient, and I let others determine what my faith means to me.

Today's sermon had an illustration about water.  Righteousness is obtained by thirsting for it.  Thirsting for it like nothing else.  When I examine my depths, and look at who I am.  My thirst isn't for Jesus.  Not like that.  Not like He is the only thing I want and need.

My thirst is often times for things that easily distract me.  Drinking my problems away, or gossiping, or just filling my time with people before I go to the throne of my King.  Leading a life that is trying to fill the voids with anything and everything but the love of Jesus.

How different would my life look if I found as much joy from  getting up early to read my Bible and pray, as I do getting up early and teaching kids in China.  I don't know how to describe how happy it makes me.  I hate mornings.  I really hate them, and I never once hit my snooze button and go back to sleep when I have a class to teach.  Why can't I never hit my snooze button when it comes to getting up to read my Bible and pray?

Why am I not longing for time with Him the way that I long for time with my students?  Why is He not bringing that kind of joy to my life?

Sometimes I think it is because I don't feel Him all the time.  I don't always understand his presence, and I can't just check him off a list of things to do.

It takes time and effort.  It takes moments of longing.  Moments of quiet.  Moments of pondering who I am, and where I come from.  Moments of understanding that I don't deserve to be saved, but I have been anyways.

Mostly it takes moments of boldness.  Boldness to sacrifice a little bit of sleep in order to pray and read.  Boldness to stand up for what I believe, even if I am going to get scoffed at.  Boldness to love from the deepest part of me.  Boldness to be a follower of Christ.  Boldness to hunger and thirst for righteousness.

Boldness to stay focused and keep moving forward on the journey.


Tuesday, September 5, 2017

When we say love...

It seems to me that a lot of emotions are because of expectations that I have for other people that they don't meet.  Is it possible that my expectations continue to be unrealistic, or is it just possible that I haven't yet met people that care to meet the expectations?  Maybe it is a little bit of both.  I definitely feel like I go in and out of moments of feeling like I belong to one group or another.  My life is a tapestry that weaves in and out of people like wind passing through an orchard.  Sometimes people leave marks that hurt me.  Most of the time they leave marks that heal me, that fill in the broken places and help me find my way again.

What does love really mean though?  Does it mean allowing people to bring you down, or does it mean that you sometimes have to be okay letting go?  Does it mean that sometimes the most loving thing to do is walk away and say good-bye.

Walking away is so hard.  It isn't in my blood, it isn't a part of who I am, or want to be.  The older I get (I know how that sounds), the more I understand that there are just some people that can't be in your life.  For whatever reason they don't value me as a person, or I am not in their radar right now.  Maybe my life is too much for them, or they think I am too needy.  For whatever reason they have chosen to make our lives cease to cross, or only cross in very shallow, artificial ways.

That's not what love is about.  Love isn't making time for someone when it is convenient.  Love is sacrifice, and time for just that person.  Love is making sure that those around you feel your love no matter what.  That you don't just replace someone in your life with someone else because they are easier, or because they allow you to just be the worst version of yourself.  Love is crossing oceans, listening to hear not argue, and understanding that there are going to be quiet growth moments.  Love is communicating, and not always giving the harsh answer.  Love is loyalty, and celebration. Love is never forgetting to apologize.  Love is humble.  Love adores.

Maybe my expectations of love are unrealistic.  I don't really think they are.  I also don't think that there is anything wrong with a broken friendship.  For in the broken pieces I feel like I am able to see and touch Jesus even more.  In the brokenness I am able to grasp that no one has it altogether.  A harsh word here, a stab in the back there.  Each moment allows me to understand the grace that I have been given.  The grace that I have been given allows me to give it to those that have bruised me.  It also allows me the strength to let them leave.  For holding on would be worse for both of us, than just letting go.

I hold on to grace, I breathe deeply, and I let the wind move through the orchard, weaving a beautiful tapestry in my memories, and emotions.  I am not the worst person in the world, and I don't have to let that tapestry be filled with dark places of doubt and insecurity.  For there are more colors waiting to be woven through.  Colors that want to fill my life, to be a part of my everyday, and to build me up.

I'm thankful for the wounds, because they just make the colors that much more bright!  Thankful for my colorful tapestry that finds beauty in the ebbs and flows of life.