Friday, February 27, 2009
"Search me, O God, and know my heart;
test me and know my anxious thoughts.
See if there is any offensive way in me,
and lead me in the way everlasting."
Anxiety is a funny thing, eh? Sometimes its source is so vague there is no figuring out why your stomach won't stop flip-flopping. I don't struggle with anxiety very often, rarely actually. Days like yesterday and today seem foreign to me, but it seems like when you are trapped in the moment it can sometimes be hard to break out of it.
God is good, I know that. I guess I needed a reminder today from Oswald Chambers before I start my day.
"Suppose there is a well of fathomless trouble inside your heart, and Jesus comes and says - "Let not your heart be troubled"; and you shrug your shoulders and say, "But, Lord, the well is deep; You cannot draw up quietness and comfort out of it." No, He will bring them down from above. Jesus does not bring anything up from the wells of human nature."
Wait, there's more...
"When we get into difficult circumstances, we impoverish His ministry by saying - "Of course He cannot do any thing," and we struggle down to the deeps and try to get the water for ourselves. Beware of the satisfaction of sinking back and saying - "It can't be done"; you know it can be done if you look to Jesus. The well of your incompleteness is deep, but make the effort and look away to Him."
I don't want these posts to always be rosy. I don't want to avoid writing down something just because I don't like what I have to say. I also don't want to only write about negative things once I have emerged on the other side of them. I'm in the middle of this, and its not terribly fun. I don't know the source, there is no pin-pointing exactly why my stomach feels like there are ninja's fighting each other inside, but I know how to combat it.
"Search me, O God, and know my heart;
test me and know my anxious thoughts..."
Thursday, February 26, 2009
Ok, for real. I am so excited after a fun night with one of my oldest friends. We met back when we were 11. Both of us had moms that didn't let us drink coca-cola. My dad used to sneak me a 6-pack a week of the (contraband) deliciousness packed into those shiny red cans. I would bring 2 a day to school, sharing one of them with my new friend. It was the beginning of a wonderful, special, hilarious roller coaster that has lasted 15 years (and we both still agree that the best way to drink coke is out of an ice-cold can, nothing beats it). As with any long term friendship, throughout the years our time spent together has waxed and waned. When tragedy struck her life one night we spent nearly every day together for the 6 months following it. There were nights that stretched into mornings, her dad finding us still up chatting at the kitchen table at 6am. There were many days where we never left the couch, knees tucked into our chest, side by side doing a crossword puzzle with a funny movie playing in the background, an effort to make the sadness cease, to take away the sting of reality. Those 6 months were heart-wrenching and incredible all at once. I can't believe it has been 5 years since then.
Tonight started out with a sweet gift, a build-a-bear creation with a story to go with it. Its awesomely funny to me, and won't at all transfer if I try to recall to you why its so funny, so you'll just have to trust me. She told me there was a note and a card to go along, to read it later, and off we went to dinner.
When I came home I opened my card and found the little note stashed away in hunny-bunny's purse (yes, its a bunny with a purse, and its awesome. Laugh all you want, I have zero shame with this one, I love it)
The card was insightful and sweet, incredible is really a more appropriate word. What got me was the little 2x2 note inside the purse, meant to travel with me to the ship.
"Return to old watering holes for more than water, friends and dreams are there to meet you" ~African proverb
"Remember your friends are always here to help you. Don't let yourself feel homesick. Call or write and we will be there"
I have always described this friend as the person you could go 10 years without seeing and call up if you needed her. She would be on her way before you hung up the phone. She has a genuine, good heart. The note isn't a cheesy "Just call my name and I'll be there" deal, its a "I'm always here, I'll always be here" sentiment. In talking about peoples perspective on me going to Africa she said she wasn't the least bit surprised when I said I was leaving.
"That's you, it always has been"
While driving home tonight I couldn't help but let my mind wander to how much I am loving these moments recently. I had to say goodbye for now to one of my best friends, and as much as I could have let it be bittersweet I instead smiled at how good tonight was. Still friends after 15 years, we sat at a crowded pub, classic rock playing in the background, laughing at ourselves and stories of old,
Monday, February 23, 2009
We learned about God's character, how he is good, full of grace, loving kindness, the whole spiel. We learned to be confident in that. Guess what the pastor at church talked about for 3 straight Sundays? Confidence, of course. Confidence in God, His love, His grace, etc, etc...
"Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need."
Then the personality testing comes. Ugh. I can still almost feel the gnawing in the pit of my stomach that this brought on, yuck.
That lesson was a big one
Lets go. Pick yourself up and be confident in me and yourself.
Got it God.
Then we have someone praying for me, they tell me three words that popped into their head.
Caring. Comfort. Confidence.
I'm starting to see a trend.
Now its time to say goodbye to training. More than one person spoke to me before I left, saw things about me that I have failed to see for years, good things. "I don't see the person you say you used to be" one says.
So then I'm on the plane coming home. I do the old 'flip to a page in the bible and see what it says' thing.
v 5 "You hem me in-behind and before; you have laid your hand upon me"
v 9-10 "If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast"
And the kicker~
v 14 "I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well" wait, wait...Did I know that? I do now.
Apparently that's not all. I'm sitting down one night, flipping again and come across 1 John 4:18
"There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out all fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears in not made perfect in love." Sounds good, right? (All you Canadians are to blame for me now using the word "right", I can't ditch it)
My eyes wonder down to the notes at the bottom of the page, read on:
If we are ever afraid of the future, eternity, or Gods judgment, we can remind ourselves of God's love. We know that he loves us perfectly. We can resolve our fears first by focusing on his immeasurable love for us, and then by allowing Him to love others through us. His love will quiet your fears and give you confidence.
Ok, seriously, wouldn't it have been easier to just hit me over the head? It just took a lot of work to get me on board with this whole confidence thing. In talking with my mom she commented about how I was always a confident kid. I had courage. She loves the story of dropping me off at pre-school. I never once looked back, bee-lined it right to the blocks I'm sure (those things were awesome, you know, the old school wood blocks?)
I lost it for a while there, but its back now, safe and secure deep inside me.
I have never been so confident that I am doing exactly what I am supposed to be doing. One woman my mom was praying with about me said she had an image of an arrow pointing right into the middle of Gods will, I like that one.
One last thing before I end another long-winded post (I start off with the intention of keeping it short and sweet, like that will ever happen)
I was talking with someone the other night about how we have been reading scriptures out loud since one of the sermons in TX. The pastor made the point that we should do this because it forces us to hear what the bible says, makes sense to me. I shared I am doing that with Ps 139, and here is what they shared with me:
Is. 41 (I'll pick up in v 9)
"I took you from the ends of the earth, from its farthest corners I called you. I said 'you are my servant; I have chosen you and have not rejected you'. So do not fear, I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous hand."
I can't help but smile, this was a fun lesson.
Sunday, February 22, 2009
~On Feb 19th and 20th thousands of patients were seen for screening and to be booked for surgery on the ship. Many showed up the day before just to wait in line.
~Benin is ranked #163 of 177 countries in the United Nations Development Index, which basically means its one of the poorest countries in the world.
~More than 50% of the population is under 15 years old
~The average life expectancy is just 54 years old
Here's the link to the video
I also just found out today that one of the Doc's from Children's will be joining the ship in October to do two weeks worth of surgeries, which made me smile big today!
As for me, I'm still trucking along, trying to absorb and process what is going on around me, yet not over-think it. I am fully immersed at home and everyone around me which is exactly what I have been praying for. I want to enjoy the time I have here before I go as much as possible, and I am doing just that. In a normal day I find myself pondering mundane and then profound things, jumping from one to the other almost on an hourly basis. I'm soaking it up, every last detail. From the movie I saw today with Jenny which made me laugh (Hotel for Dogs...finally made it, and totally worth it!) to sitting with my mom, tears in our eyes as she talked about how she will miss me this year. I am fully present, yet I have given up ownership of a lot of things in my life here. Its a good balance, I am happy for every new day, and I know who to thank.
"Teach me your way O God, and I will walk in your truth. Give me an undivided heart..."
Thursday, February 19, 2009
"We all think you're crazy for going to Africa"
"I mean, you've gotta do what you've gotta do, but when you start talking about "Gods" plan, and "His" purpose it scares us".
This is one of my oldest friends, and if I'm being honest, she got the toned-down version of my support letter.
After some talking back and forth, or rather, some vain attempts at me to explaining myself and my purpose, and God, and...you get the point, she was on her way out the door.
So I cried.
I cried out of frustration and hurt. I cried because while listening to the song "Hallelujah" I felt that indeed I was singing a "cold and broken Hallelujah". I cried because that's apparently what I do these days (that's meant to be funny, laugh with me people) She sees the changed life in me, she sees that I'm happy, she knows about God, albeit not in the same way as me, but there is some understanding. And she thinks I'm nuts.
Why God, what do I do with this? How can I explain? What could I have done differently?
I got home with my mind racing. Before I could even shut off my car God cleared my mind.
Keep doing what you're doing, all you can do is trust me to do the rest.
And then my phone rings, and now 1 1/2hours later I am sitting here trying to recap what just went on, desperately trying to recall what was just said. I'm realizing now I had prayed for the right words to use, and I think I said them.
I have been craving some realness, someone to look me square in the eye and tell me exactly what they are thinking about me leaving. I guess I just didn't realize one of my oldest, closest friends would be thinking I'm crazy. Thankfully this particular friend wanted to hear what I had to say, and will talk to me on levels that most won't dare to tread. We don't believe the same things, and the root of our whole conversation comes down to the fact that she is scared for me, nervous about what I will be doing and that I'm doing it for the right reasons. That's not reason to be upset or frustrated, its real and its honest, and that's all I'm looking for here.
I haven't been outright in inviting my friends to church, and instead of wondering "what if" or I "should have" and feeling guilty, I'm inviting them all this week. All I said to her tonight was come and see. Come and see what my life looks like now, come and see why I'm doing this.
"Don't try and convert me"
"I'm not, but it doesn't mean I'm not praying for you"
These friends have seen me at my ultimate worst. They were there for all of those years that I have spent the last two trying to heal from. They have been loyal and steadfast, and even after tonight I know they still think I'm crazy. But that's ok.
My life looks different, it is different. They see that, and I think that's awesome. That's the point after all.
After I convinced my friend that I am not drinking some crazy kool-aid and that although this is hard, and I'm not scared or trying to "find myself", we said "I love you" to each other. We meant it, its a love that resides deep in our hearts. Its a love whose roots go back a lot of years. I don't know if we will ever be on the same page, or if she will ever understand why I am doing this. She may always think I'm crazy.
But I love her, and it doesn't mean I'm not praying for her.
Monday, February 16, 2009
"Arise from the dead." Ephesians 5:14
All initiative is not inspired. A man may say to you - "Buck up, take your disinclination by the throat, throw it overboard, and walk out into the thing!" That is ordinary human initiative. But when the Spirit of God comes in and says, in effect, "Buck up," we find that the initiative is inspired.
We all have any number of visions and ideals when we are young, but sooner or later we find that we have no power to make them real. We cannot do the things we long to do, and we are apt to settle down to the visions and ideals as dead, and God has to come and say - "Arise from the dead." When the inspiration of God does come, it comes with such miraculous power that we are able to arise from the dead and do the impossible thing. The remarkable thing about spiritual initiative is that the life comes after we do the "bucking up." God does not give us overcoming life; He gives us life as we overcome. When the inspiration of God comes, and He says - "Arise from the dead," we have to get up; God does not lift us up. Our Lord said to the man with the withered hand - "Stretch forth thy hand," and as soon as the man did so, his hand was healed, but he had to take the initiative. If we will do the overcoming, we shall find we are inspired of God because He gives life immediately.
Sunday, February 15, 2009
To try and put into words the change that has occurred in my heart over the last 5 weeks would be impossible. There were days when my own thoughts threatened to drown out Gods still, small voice. Two years ago you would have found me a different person than I am now. The same could be said going back to only 5 weeks ago. I came to Intro to Mercy Ships and Gateway with expectations of going to class and maybe having some fun. I didn’t count on forming relationships that slowly invaded my heart and subsequently brought me pure joy. I didn’t suspect I would or could feel the way I do now. For 5 weeks I have been filled by the knowledge and faith of people who are walking or have walked right through these same steps. Each individual spoke to me in different ways. I have been challenged and stretched, and although I am exhausted, I am good, really good.
Yesterday I was telling people that I have never felt the power of people who cared about me so individually. Does that make sense? For example, one morning I was running late getting ready. I figured everyone had left and when I walked outside my roommate was waiting with breakfast (I’m loving go-gurts now) and walked up with me, sacrificing her own timeliness to class. Late in the week I walked out to see packing tape hanging on the outside of my door. The night before I had been packing up a box to put on a container going to the ship. My friend made a trip to Wal-Mart and had grabbed me tape, even after I had said I would figure something out and not to bother. Little things like these make my heart smile, the simpler the better, honestly.
Once the goodbyes were over and we were tucked into the car on the way to Dallas I sat trying to hide tears behind my sunglasses, and then the thoughts started flowing. I could hardly write them down fast enough. As I looked to my new friend in the front seat, sunglasses on, hair whipping around in the wind I realized how excited I was to be exactly where I was at that moment. When I said goodbye to one of the instructors she said we would pick up were we left off the next time we talked, and I know that’s true. I learned that when you let people into your heart you can finally know what it feels to be alive. Sometimes it makes you ache, but that’s real, and I want realness, I want to live. In the last few weeks people have said some of the most incredible things to me, I believed them, and that’s a feat in itself. I believe there is an inherent desire in most people to go on some sort of pilgrimage, to go ‘find’ ourselves. It’s actually selfish in ways, unless you surrender the control to God. Its better with God and the parts when you are speeding down the highway, with new people and relationships embedded deep in your heart, you realize that when you are in line with Gods will he will give you the bonus and fulfill that desire in your heart to go on an adventure.
Life moves so fast, we only get this one chance. I’m coming out of this knowing that without taking chances and trusting God will work everything out according to His perfect timing, I will never actually live.
Now I am going to wrap up this post from home. I walked out into the freezing air last night and filled my lungs with Boston, with home. I let myself melt into arms that wrapped around me. I am with people who want to hear all about everything but will also let me sit and contemplate in the silence.
I woke up this morning and fumbled around my suitcase for my toothbrush. When I couldn’t find my toothpaste I wondered around a bit, somewhat dazed, toothbrush in hand. I wasn’t sure what to do. Thankfully there was coffee already made, and if you know me then you know the world is a much better place for me once I am holding a cup of goodness in my hands. Later on, still feeling disoriented I came downstairs where my friend is packing and listening to her “Boston” play list.
It’s breaking up the quietness and its making me feel a little more human (not to mention I just took the last sip of my second cup of coffee). It’s good to be home, even if it’s only for 3 weeks. I’m taking this all in, one day at a time, one foot in front of the other.
(and I found my toothpaste so all is good)
“…Seek peace and pursue it”
Thursday, February 12, 2009
And just when you thought I would go on forever and get to my point after some ridiculously long intro and babbling about matters of the heart, I bring you my story~
This week has been centered around Basic Safety. Two days ago we covered fire safety where we got to gear up in firefighter outfits (haha, I'm such a girl...really Suzanne, firefighter outfits?). I'm leaving that because it is just too funny to me to take out. Laughing at yourself is good medicine.
Alright. So on Tuesday we were loaded up (adorned in our sweet outfits) and dropped off at the fire testing area. This included a huge, 30-something-foot metal container which at first was filled with smoke (fake stuff for now) and also had a dummy (Buck) placed somewhere inside. Our job was to go in as a pair and "search" the container for Buck and move him out of danger. In order to search, one person keeps their hand against the side of the container and with the free hand holds onto their partner. The partner is then free to search with one free hand, while keeping one on their partner as they do so. You do this while crouched down on your knees because in an actual fire the temps would be up near 6 or 700 degrees near the ceiling.
I dubbed the heavy clothes "cozy" and the mask "fun". And then I realized something...that container was pitch black inside. To many of you this seems silly, for me it brought on fear. I struggle a lot with the dark. Its hard to explain but I feel crushed and yet at the same time weightless when I am surrounded by darkness. Bring on fire, sharks, snakes, spiders, :insert scariness here: ... no worries. Darkness, ugh. I reminded my partner of this little fact as it was something we had discussed at some point over the last few weeks. Now may be a good time to mention that my partner happens to be a firefighter. He gave me a quick rundown of exactly what we would do. He asked me if I wanted to be the one next to the wall or on the side searching. He mentioned the far side is sometimes disorienting but that we both just hold on tight to each others shoulder. I chose the outside to start. We zipped up and got ourselves in line. He checked me over and made some adjustments, making sure I was all covered up and properly tucked in with everything secure. As we stepped into the container he grabbed my jacket tight and we went ahead to complete our job. Not once did his grip loosen, not once did I feel lost or scared, he knew exactly what to do and talked through the whole thing.
The next time in the container was a bit more technical. They started an actual fire at one end and our job was to go in one in front of the other with a fire hose and fight it. The heat was real, the darkness even more enveloping now that it was mixed with thick black smoke. They told us our lifeline was the hose, just stay close and we would be fine. I was checked over once again, mask adjusted and collar fastened. My partner took the lead to start, we knew we would switch places once inside and I was happy to have him go in front of me. Within the first few steps he told me to grab his shoulder. We crawled into the darkness until we could see the flames. He did his half and then it was my turn. As I walked around his side he grabbed my jacket until I was in the right place, and again held my shoulder with that reassuring grip. Once finished we backed out, his hand never leaving my shoulder until we stepped out into the fresh air.
Firefighters are protectors, and I have learned they watch out for each other with a fierce loyalty.
Not once throughout either instance did I feel fear. I never felt alone or suspended in uncertainty with the walls of blackness bearing down on me (melodramatic, I know, unfortunatly its quite real).
And now for what my mom said after I told her how I made it through the day...
"It like an analogy for your relationship with God"
Without re-stating everything I'll draw some of the lines. Before anything happens in life, especially the tough things, God checks me over and makes sure I am prepared, secure, and protected (its called the armor of God for a reason).
Once inside the situation God grabs hold of me with a strength like no other. Each step of the way I can listen for reassurance. Even when I come face to face with the fire He is right behind me, grasping me tight, holding me up. Until I am out the other side He never lets go, and not even then does He really ever let go. If I draw near to God in all things He will remain steadfast, He will never leave my side.
And now for my "wrap up", which I didn't come up with either. Here's a shout out for you Ali, we'll discuss how absurdly long this post is tomorrow because I think you are already sleeping by now ;)
Without further adieu~
But now, this is what the LORD says—
"...Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire,you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze."
Truly Awesome stuff.
And here is a picture of me rocking out in my sweet outfit.
Thursday, February 5, 2009
Can’t you see?
Can’t you see there are people suffering in this world, people with just as much worth as you?
Or do you not think they hold the same value, and simply don’t deserve our time?
What does it take to reach the poor in this world, when will people see we need to act?
It’s simple really
It may take sacrifice, it may take time.
You won’t always be comfortable, but you will be acting out of obedience, simple obedience.
Anyone can do it, because through God anything is possible you see.
You say you have sympathy, yet you don’t realize we have to do something beyond send money into the hands of misuse.
Can’t you see the need for love; is it not written on your heart?
Some must go and some must send.
But we must understand why it is worth doing at all.
I am equal; my worth is no greater and no less than anyone else.
I go there and let my heart break when I hear children in an orphanage sing “Jesus Loves Me” because the words “They are weak but He is strong” ring true when you look out the door to a street full of trash and decay conquered only by the sweet voices of children singing to their savior.
Is it becoming clearer?
Can you see?
Would you offer your hand out to grasp a small dust covered one?
What about 50 hands, desperate to touch and hold onto a little piece of you, only because they just want to feel love?
Please hear this, let it settle deep inside you.
I have felt the tight, swollen belly of a child pressed up against my arm, felt their hand on my shoulder, and their slow, gentle breaths as they studied me, quietly stroking my hair.
I sat and watched a naked child trace the Nike symbol on my sneaker with his sweet little finger, marveling at the wonder in his eyes and the simplicity of his awe.
What about now, is it sinking in yet?
These are real people, living and breathing.
Why do people give up their lives to work among the destitute?
We serve a King who washed feet, and we know in our heart we are to follow in those steps, you just need to listen.
There is a time when you must give up yourself and just follow.
Even with no common spoken language you may still pick up some lessons along the way, especially that love transcends words.
When another human being presses her face into your neck in new found friendship and gratitude, any walls built around your heart quickly crumble. You cannot deny the quality of that life when you feel your pulse quicken against their warm face.
A message of hope needs to be delivered. We must forge new prayer and break down boundaries.
This is important, please hear.
God is big enough; He will meet us and guide us to where He wants us to work. We must be willing to follow though
We just need to see more clearly.