Saturday, January 31, 2009

Now I'm really livin'

Up until last week I was finding myself somewhat stuck. Sorry for the vagueness, if you are wondering what the heck "stuck" means, imagine how I felt, I was living it. We finished up an entire three days of classroom time dedicated to personality testing and as a result my mind was a tornado of, well, swirling, uh, craziness?? Whew, that was a bit of a stretch, eh? I just got out of another doozy of a class.
Ok, last week. On Thursday we had a community meeting with all of Mercy Ships where they showed one of Rob Bell's nooma videos, Today. I more or less cried through the last 5 minutes of it (for those of you who laughed at this because you are aware his videos are only 10 minutes long, its ok, I understand)
Basically he talks about a whole bunch of stuff including not living in the past and living for today. I have always backed this line of thinking and have always strived to apply it in my life. The three days before that left me examining my S/C personality and although they tell you not to consider the terms negative I found that nearly impossible. Basically I was looking at myself under a microscope. My relationship with God, readiness to ever be in a relationship again, the quality of friend I am, if I am ready to be a missionary, if God was happy with how I am living, absolutely nothing was safe from my self-imposed scrutiny. I continued my day Thursday with a lump in my throat that practically choked me until I could just sob when I got back to my dorm. I went to bed around 6 and nearly slept through until 7 the next morning. I felt a little refreshed and my mind eased a little in talking with some friends here who expressed the same grief. Friday was one of the prettier days we have had here and I felt a strong pull to return to my quiet sun drenched spot after class and talk all of this over with God.
I could hardly hold back tears as I neared the fence, I craved the quiet and aloneness with God so much it ached. As it turns out the tears didn't flow like I thought they would. Within minutes I leaned up against the cold metal and felt the sun on my face. I felt absolute stillness, followed by what I can only describe as God speaking into my heart. More or less this is what I knew I was being told~

Lets go. Pick yourself up and be confident in me and yourself. You don't have to have it all figured out. When the times comes for something new I will be there with you, leading you each step of the way
. Stop dwelling on things you cannot change. Stop thinking about your past, if you need more lessons from that I will show you then when you need to learn them. Right now its time to get up and get going.

This was not exactly the gentle prodding I am used to. I don't know if it was because I was standing on the border of big field in Texas, but I kept thinking about the phrase "pull yourself up by your bootstraps", haha. What are bootstraps anyways??
I walked away feeling lighter and overall pretty well-adjusted. I am learning about confidence, and honestly its pretty freakin' awesome. I was saying to someone I can't wait to get to Africa so God can start stretching me and challenging me. The person I was talking to was like "oh, you mean you want to start living?" um, yup.
As I reflect on the last few days I realize that I have slowly started to live more and more. It is strangely liberating and simultaneously scary to leave behind everything I know and follow a God I know is there but cannot see. What I am realizing is this is what living is. Here are some marginally comical illustrations of how I have been "living" lately:

~Singing worship in a old hippie commune in E. Texas before class every morning.
~Driving down country rd 724 at 2:30 am listening to daft punk with a fellow American, a Brit, and an Australian all of whom I have met in the last 3 weeks.
~Finding God by an old rusty fence.
~Singing and fully participating in the hokey pokey around a campfire with a bunch of people, none of whom were children.
~Praying corporately with a group of people who all have hearts desperate to see change in the lives of the poor.
~Real, raw conversations with people who also admit to not having everything figured out and desperately seek to trust God.

The list goes on, and I am loving and living for every moment in each day.

Joshua 1:9
Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go."

Sunday, January 25, 2009

A little QT

Since arriving in Texas I have had two very special times of complete quiet and good reflection on my relationship with God. The first time
was impromptu, and I stole away to a little spot along one of the many trails on campus here. It was a perfect "date" (I'll get to why I call it that later). The pictures below are from that afternoon (someone told me yesterday to put more pictures of myself on here...I digress)

Yesterday we took off for Tyler State park for an official "date" with God. Oh yeah, why I call it a date. The instructions we were given were to bring just a notebook and bible. No to do lists, no books or music. This was to be a silent retreat. Basically we were told to treat it like a date and not do things we wouldn't do while on a date. So there ya go, nothing special or profound. I just like thinking of it in that way now, makes it a little more special.
So 30 something adults bundled up (its only 40 here!) and trekked into the park. I wasn't sure what to expect but right off the bat I read Romans 8:6 "The mind of a sinful man is death, but the mind controlled by the spirit is life and peace." I wasn't sure exactly if this would at all relate to my day but I went on and really had some good time of prayer. At one point I wondered if it would be selfish to ask God the question "what about me". Around that time it got almost unbearably cold, I think I had been sitting still for almost an hour and a half. I walked up to a little bench 15 feet behind me and after a few jumping jacks sat down wondering "whats next". Instead of telling you, I suppose I'll throw the picture in now, its as good a time as any...

Yup, 6 feet in front of me sat this cross on the ground. All of a sudden I knew I had to read about the crucifixion so I opened my bible to John and started in chapter 16 which talks about the Holy Spirit. Then I get to chapter 17 and can't believe what I see. John 17 : 20-25 tells us that Jesus prayed for us. Did you catch that? Jesus prayed for me, and He prayed for you. Very specifically He prayed that we may have the love God has for Him inside us. By the way, this prayer came right before He died for us. I cried an apology out to God. I am amazed that someone so pure and holy not only died for me and my gross sins, He prayed that I may live with the knowledge of the greatest love on earth. Almost immediately I realized all was forgiven. I joked a while ago that I didn't know just how much I had to repent for all of the years spent away from God. Do you do it in, "I am sorry for all of the actions that took place between 99' and 01'?? Hah, nope, I don't think so either. Basically I have repented as I remember specifics, or felt convicted to do so.
I got on my knees in front of the cross and truly thanked God. I would never say my prayers of thanks up until yesterday were disingenuous, but I know they were never said with such a clear understanding of the sacrifice made for me. I cried for the suffering Jesus went through and *cough, cough* cried again when I read about Him rising from the dead. Now seriously, how many times have we all heard the Easter story? Wow, I just realized Easter is when I re-committed my life. Honestly, that just now dawned on me. I guess I have come sort of full circle since then. hah, God is so good.
Ok, now for the wrap up...
Remember I told you about the verse at the beginning of my day? I won't make you go back and look for it.
Romans 8:6
"The mind of a sinful man is death, but the mind controlled by the spirit is life and peace."
Best date ever ;)

Thursday, January 22, 2009

I think my head may explode...

I'm not kidding.
I feel like Rob Bell writing like this
(however, it certainly seems to get the emotion behind the point across)
Ok, for real.
The last three days of class have been taught by Dean Sherman who has spent 35 years discussing and preaching on spiritual warfare. He has an incredibly dry, witty sense of humor and challenges your mindset on just about everything. Basically, he's a cool dude and I really appreciated listening to him. In giving him any justice I am going to go through my notes and hit the big stuff. Please excuse the bullet points but I have seriously been assaulted mentally and trying to form sentences and paragraphs that make sense of what I learned over the course of nearly 20 classroom hours makes me want to cry a little. (As evidenced by that huge run on sentence I just made you read)

~This is the perfect time to start talking to people about the "ways of the world" and how we can be different. Everyone, including Obama yesterday said our current environmental state is secondary to selfishness. Haven't Christians been trying to say for years that selfishness is a bad thing?! This mentality paves the way for people to hear the gospel.

~People right now are not buying into "belief systems". They will however look at someone with a different lifestyle and wonder what is different about them. What if people see us serve eachother like the firemen did on 9/11?? They went into those buildings risking and subsequently lost their lives for people. What greater love is there than to lay down ones life for a friend?

~Did you know that if you are a Christian you were delivered out of darkness by a foot washer? Our savior was the picture of humility. We need to toss aside our pride, now.

~My salvation is secure. This is one of the biggest ones for me. I seriously think this statement slapped me across the face on its way out of Dean's mouth. Nothing short of renouncing God and Jesus is changing this. None of my efforts will ever make me more righteous. Righteousness is unattainable except as given by God. Let me list what went through my mind in the 30 seconds after hearing this:
-Ok, I'm definitely going to Heaven
-My motivation has changed, I'm not trying to "earn" it anymore
-Why do good things?
-A true servant does good things to better the relationship
-A true servant does these things out of love
-Thank you God, for showing me how to be a true servant to you, I can't wait.

I am truly skipping hours and hours of notes but I figure I should probably hit a little bit of what the actual topic was on, that being spiritual warfare.

~Do you think people in 3rd world countries want to be poor? Do you think they are poor because they are stupid or don't care? Do you think that maybe it could be because of a spiritual stronghold on them? Because I never thought of it that way...

~The enemy want those people to be poor. He will lie to them and tell them to be fatalistic, i.e. just accept what is and that it will always be. We need to bring the heat on through prayer, in a big way. Benin is the birthplace of voodoo for all of the world. I'm thinking it is going to be more important to be coming in with the weapon of prayer than with our medicine.

~Love is like a terrorist (I know, I raised my eyebrows at that comment too.) A terrorist is someone willing to die for what they believe in. Are you willing to die in order to serve and love God and people? We must be motivated by this kind of love. Rev. 12:11
And by the way. If you say this you can be assured there are hundreds of scriptures that promise Gods protection as a result of our willingness to die for those we serve.

Ephesians 6:10-20 Sums up what this is all about. Putting on the armor of God is being part of "An eternal state and daily sequence".

I'm off to go sit with this and about sixty five thousand other thoughts right now. This subject is not easy to swallow and to be honest scares me a little bit. However, God has NOT given me a spirit of fear, and now I am just more well-equipped. If one thing stood out to me these last three days is that I worship and serve a powerful God. One who loves me and whose character is flawless. That's an amazing side to be on if you ask me!

Saturday, January 17, 2009


I have been debating on what to call this post. With so many transitions on the horizon I feel like I don't want to waste the word on one of the smaller ones. Forgive me if I repeat it, but hopefully I will come up with something catchier (is that a word? it looks funny to me) by the next time this topic undoubtedly comes up.
Week one of training is over here in Texas. It was weird saying goodbye to people I felt had become such close friends in such a short time. Knowing I will see most of them this summer is awesome (Hi guys!!)
After talking to one of my best friends last night I felt numb. There is honestly no other way to describe it. I find myself feeling torn between here and home. Its like my legs are ready to run ahead at full speed but my arms are wrapped around my family and friends back home. I said last night to my dad that I know God wants me here and in Africa so I suppose He wins.
:side note: I get the feeling that if I don't put a disclaimer that I am sarcastic some of you reading could mistake the last comment as crass. So consider yourself warned.
I will quickly rewind to my first 5 minutes here in Texas. As we were driving through the boondocks to the town right smack dab in the middle of nowhere, I suddenly found myself wondering how the HECK I got to where I was. I left my job, left my home, and signed up to live on a ship off the coast of Africa. So there I was, sitting in front of my closet organizing my clothes feeling totally bizarre. All of the surrealism of weeks past had come slamming down on me in one moment. I'm here, this is starting. So guess what? I prayed. I prayed for God to meet me in my little corner of my new temporary home. Guess what else? He met me there. Last night I prayed for God to be with me again. I surrendered this whole situation to Him. I prayed for the strength to continue this transitioning and accept my circumstances. He was there in an instant, comforting me and re-affirming me as I curled up under the covers and talked to Him from my tiny corner of the world. I think of a sermon given on being fishers of men. When Jesus asked the disciples to drop their nets and follow Him they did. No questions. The pastor giving the sermon asked if we would drop our nets or end up with rope burns from hanging on to them. Hmmm, ok, I get it now.
So here I am, taking this all one day at a time, trying to soak up every moment. I wanted to leave off with a verse and I think I found the right one. It has come up several times (the reference) and I finally looked it up just a few minutes ago.
Phil. 4:6
"Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God"
One of the men teaching last week said the following phrase several times. It has certainly stuck in my mind, and I am excited to remember it for years to come.
"Gods work done Gods way will never lack Gods supply". Oh, oh, and an even better one...
"The safest place in the world to be is in the very center of Gods will". Whew. Whatever corner of the world I find myself in I hope I can always be right in the center Of Gods will. I can only imagine what an adventure it will be.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Answered Prayer

Day three of training complete. I am in my temporary home of Garden Valley for training. I am settled in and enjoying the simple life that comes with the atmosphere that emulates East Texas. Each morning finds me up early and sitting in the little coffee shop in a sunny spot sipping coffee. I'm not sure if this ever referred to as "God's Country" but I will sure remember it as such. I have a game night creeping up soon and need to do some catching up before hand so I will keep this post short and sweet (shocker, I know)
Today I was sitting with a few of the girls who will be part of my small group in the coming weeks. Our team leader, Pam wanted to hear a little about our stories and how we came to Mercy Ships. I started telling her about how I got here and a little bit about what I will be doing in Africa. We talked about the woman I would be working with and Pam said she was unaware that this woman would still be doing Palliative care this year in Benin. She mentioned this past year in Liberia had been really taxing. She asked when I had been asked to consider the position and I told her it was back in October. She smiled and told me that the woman had asked for prayer at the end of September/beginning of October concerning finding a nurse to join her long term as part of the palliative care team. God is good. He is faithful. He answers prayers. Get it? Got it? Good. Moving on.

The stories I have heard so far in these past days have been awesome. I feel without a doubt that I am in the right place at the right time doing exactly what God intends for me to do. To close it up I will quote one of the guys who works here and has been doing a lot of our training. He said that having a passion for something wakes you up in the morning and renews your excitement every day. I'll tell you right now, I can't wait to be in my sunny spot tomorrow thanking God for putting me here. Exciting times folks!

Sunday, January 11, 2009


I have been brainstorming a title for this post and as you can see it was all in vain. I am unable to put into words what I'm feeling right now, but I will tell you its awesome! I am going to try and make a list of a few of things that have been going on in the last couple of months. In no way will this be an exhaustive list. I may even 'edit to add' when I think of more things that will fit on this list. So, in no particular order here ya' go.

(So I just tried to start with being called to Mercy Ships and there is no way I can go that far back and be able to sleep before my flight in 7 hours).

~Started out with fundraising feeling a little weary about the impossibly big number hanging over my head. Started struggling with trust and instead of holding it in decided to share here on this trusty blog and with friends. Within days I received an email from a friend telling me a donation was made to my account. The next email from the same friend had a story about Mother Theresa and the difference between asking for clarity vs. trust. This gave me a boost and I joyfully learned another valuable lesson in trust.

~I woke up one day with the weight of preparation heavy on me. I prayed for relief that morning. When the mail came in I got an anonymous letter and support money with Phil. 1:3 written on it. I smiled at the incredible gift.

~I was standing in the grocery store and while shopping for veggies I heard a woman ask where the "gahlic" was (garlic for any of you non-bostonians reading this). This set off a twinge of sadness in realizing I would be away from home for quite a while and I felt a little sad thinking it might be hard to find someone who shared the familiarity I love about having lived here my whole life. The NEXT day my partner for next year (two of us women are the palliative care team). She said 2 different people from the ship had contacted her about me and she wanted to get to know me a little. In the first few sentences she wrote "I am from the Boston-Cambridge area". Ha, why was I surprised?

~Last Thursday I found myself surrounded by the people closest to me. It was incredible to be able to see everyone and I must say I was humbled yet again by peoples generosity. My small group of girlfriends who haven't all been together since a falling out over a year ago were all together again. This was only made possible by intense forgiveness and love shown all around, good stuff.

~Tonight at church I felt an overwhelming sense of community, one that brought me to tears. Not only was I surrounded by friends, I was standing amongst brothers and sisters. I looked around at all of the people who have stood by my and walked beside me. A lot of them surprised me with their interest in what I am off to do, most surpassed all expectations of what I consider a "friend" to be.

~Tonight I also received two checks which brought me to 100% in my fundraising goal. I had to tell myself over and over during the last months not to worry about having full support until I got closer to Africa. That I didn't need it by the time I went to Texas (in 6.5 hrs). I trusted all would work out. Well, hows this timing?? The night before I leave for Texas I deposit the final checks. I am still in awe of this one...

~And finally what I loved most about today. Once I got home from church my whole family sat down and prayed for me. I found myself thanking God for what an incredible support I have here at home. We are struggling between celebrating this great beginning and feeling sad about the separation from each other, but that doesn't ever stop us from trusting God is in control.

Ok. I need to wrap this up. I just set my alarm to go off 3.5 hours from now. Thank you for all who are reading who have supported me financially, and more importantly through prayer. I would not, and cannot make it through 2009 without all of your support!!!

Monday, January 5, 2009

A Lesson for the Road

As I sit here at the end of a long, productive day, I can't shut my mind off to everything I have learned. Just today. I consolidated all of my things that will definitely not be coming with me on my adventures this year. This absolutely does not mean I am packed, just a step closer I suppose. While reorganizing and semi-packing I listened to a couple of podcasts from a church called Mosaic out in CA. The pastor there is Erwin McManus and I am really liking his messages. The second one I listened to was titled "Enjoy" One of the last points he made was incredible. I was about to start de-cluttering a section of my room and literally stopped to sit down, rewind, and start writing every detail of what he was saying. Hopefully I can deliver the point to a certain degree of understanding...

"For so many of us the only emotions we believe are authentic are the ones that come out of brokenness. Because real despair is a more genuine, profound human emotion than false hope. See real loneliness and isolation, the authenticity of that human experience, is more profoundly authentic than superficial love. Despair and being overwhelmed is more profound, more often experienced, and more significant than joy." The idea of love, peace, joy, and enjoyment often seems to be a language of the superficial (its not easy being green...I mean, being a Christian) Despair is an easier emotion to get to than joy. You can't get to joy without God. Take bitterness vs. forgiveness. Forgiveness is harder because it is a deeper emotion, it is easier to stay bitter than it is to forgive. The deeper emotions cannot be reached without God. Without God we are stuck in our darkest moments. Superficial emotion is just as bad. Have we not been called to a life of joy, peace, love, enjoyment, hope, mercy, forgiveness, and compassion which are all the most profound of all human experiences? "As hard as you try you will never find joy in life, you have to bring joy to life"

So there you have it. I'm not sure about you, but this lesson was one I needed to hear, rewind, and write down. I prayed last night for more of a connectedness with God, and this seemed to be about as practical a way as possible to show me what it takes, and what the product of that closeness looks like. I am pretty sure there will be opportunities next year for despair to gobble me up and swallow me whole. Even though it will be harder to push on and bring joy (and mercy, and compassion, and love...) I will gladly do it. Life and faith cannot be sustained by superficial emotions, and I don't intend to pack any of those in my carry on.

:side note: Did anyone get the Kermit reference? Last night I heard someone talk about how they always thought being a Christian meant being happy all of the time, which would be superficial, hence me throwing in a bad joke within the sermon. Sometimes I can't help myself, sorry Mr. McManus.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

There is a Season

So today was my last day of work. I have been at Children's Hospital Boston for 2 years, and have loved every minute of it. I knew today would be hard, saying good bye is not my strong suit. At the end of the day as I tried to stay composed in the back room at work people started talking about our staff and job. We aren't a group of nurses who complain or gripe about being overworked or stressed out. We laugh together,cry together, and then laugh telling stories about the times we have cried during work. I worked with a very special group of people the last two years, and I think I have killed the word "bittersweet" by using it everyday lately in talking about leaving. I will have snapshots of this job ingrained in my head forever, and knowing that I only have these memories to hold onto is hard. I explained closure to my friends the other day. I get the whole "its not goodbye" spiel,and honestly, its getting old. I have come to look at my life as a book with all of its many chapters. This is the end of a chapter, not a closed book, but still an end of sorts. I need to treat this closure for what it is, and I'm actually doing a pretty good job considering my aversion to goodbye's.
I have left something incredibly comfortable and fun, an idol at one point. I am psyched to see what lies ahead because as I see it, it can only get better. I expect the unexpected and I am up for the challenge. I am on to another chapter, and man I love a good book!
This song was stuck in my head driving home. It actually brought me some peace as I drove. I'll let you know the Byrds did not write the lyrics to this song (shocker, they got famous off of stealing other peoples stuff to begin with ;)
The following is Ecclesiastes 3:1-8, cut and pasted by Pete Segeer, then made into a classic rock hit.

To everything (turn, turn, turn)
There is a season (turn, turn, turn)
And a time for every purpose, under heaven

A time to be born, a time to die
A time to plant, a time to reap
A time to kill, a time to heal
A time to laugh, a time to weep

To everything (turn, turn, turn)
There is a season (turn, turn, turn)
And a time for every purpose, under heaven

A time to build up,a time to break down
A time to dance, a time to mourn
A time to cast away stones, a time to gather stones together

To everything (turn, turn, turn)
There is a season (turn, turn, turn)
And a time for every purpose, under heaven

A time of love, a time of hate
A time of war, a time of peace
A time you may embrace, a time to refrain from embracing

To everything (turn, turn, turn)
There is a season (turn, turn, turn)
And a time for every purpose, under heaven

A time to gain, a time to lose
A time to rend, a time to sew
A time to love, a time to hate
A time for peace, I swear its not too late