Questions for myself

Acts 4:16-22

When you look at my life, does it look as if Jesus is the only reason I can be where I am? I’m not talking about just circumstantially, but also with my character? Does how I live my life reflect what I believe? Does the way I interact with my friends and my family? How about when I’m by myself? Alone in my thoughts? When I’m at work?

Do all these places I question reflect my faith in Jesus or my lack of pursuing Him and letting Him be enough?

Renewal

I am in the process of being reset – financially, church wise, friend-wise, and especially spiritually. Coming from a broken engagement and a year of isolation and healing has brought me on a long, hard road. I’ve seen clearly the ugly side of myself. I’ve seen I wasn’t following Jesus well. I’ve seen what it is like to live out of community and yearn for it.

It has been a long couple of years, but like all things in my life Jesus has used the bad to point me to Him and grow me through it. I’ve made a lot of mistakes but through those I’ve learned about Jesus’s kindness and love. He has shown me grace upon grace. He opened the door for me to transition out of my desert season and into one with soothing rain. It has been refreshing to my soul like a shower on a hot, dusty day.

Everything smells so fresh and new. It has brought about so much growth in me. I’ve been rediscovering my heart for people and for ministry. Before, I was in an isolated shell and couldn’t wait to be out of it.

I’m now in a community (Riverside Church in Ft. Myers) that has shown me again what it is to love and live like Jesus. People pursued me, and wanted me to grow with them in our relationship with Jesus. Slowly, day by day I’m being rejuvenated and healed by Jesus working through the Porch (young adults).

Slowly, I’m feeling like I’m gaining a sense of direction and purpose again. I don’t feel like I’m at the mercy of whatever current is pulling on me, but rather I’m seeing the River I am a part of. It’s beautiful and simple. It’s biblical. It’s what Jesus wants and has called me to do. It’s the mission statement of my church – to make and send disciples who love and live like Jesus.

Something that we talk about frequently is the Upper story perspective and the Lower story perspective. The Upper is the big overarching story that only God knows fully and understands. The Lower is us and our circumstances. For a long time, I was caught and paralyzed in the lower. Being here has reminded me that though I don’t know or understand everything that God has my best interests in mind. HE knows what’s going on, and He’s brought me all of this even though I’ve bumbled along.

I’m so thankful to be in this cool spot, along with many others who have a passion for this. It is renewing to my soul and bringing the passion back to my bones that has cooled over the years from hurt and loss. I’m part of something larger. This week we celebrated our 100 year anniversary. We remembered our past and the hard work the people before us did to get us here. We also looked at the future with hope and a desire to bring Jesus to our community.

I’m excited to see what He does and where He brings me in the coming years. I’m excited for Him to teach me. I’m excited to pour into others and to learn how to make disciples. There is so much good, and that is all because of Jesus. It is His grace and mercy that I am here and in a place to be writing this. And it’s awesome.

STOP

image

How often do I treat a stop sign as a yield sign when I drive? Admittedly, quite a lot.

It got me thinking about my life. Where are the areas where I should really stop and look at what is coming before I proceed? What do I miss coming from the other way while I treat it as a yield sign? What does it do to my heart as I don’t take this law (boundary) seriously?

Moving outward, as a culture what does this do to us and our families as we collectively are soft on this boundary? Culture has spoken a lot about free choice but hasn’t given many signs to tell us to pause and look at the implications of our forthcoming actions.

A challenge to myself – stop – look, and continue on the road aware of what continuing in the direction I’m going means.

Kindness

So the other night I learned about God’s kindness.

On Monday I sinned, and then that night I hurt my shoulder working out. My immediate reaction was to think in exasperation, ‘Well I deserve this and it feels like punishment.’ I know enough mentally to move away from that, but the next day I still felt far from God and not good.

Paradoxically, throughout that day I just felt…. Kindness. It is hard to explain but that’s what I felt emanating in my mind. As I was in worship at church I was trying to work out what this distinct feeling of kindness was. Then I remembered something about kindness leading to repentance, but wasn’t sure if I was making that up because I wanted it or if it was in Scripture.

Since I like the back I could easily Google it without distracting anyone, and I was thankfully stunned to find that in Romans 2:4. Once I read that, Jesus brought me through many of the times I could remember Him being kind to me even though I messed up somehow… Including this time. He also brought me to remember Scripture and how kind He is throughout so many stories… namely the adulterous woman and the cross.

His kindness takes many forms but it is so present everywhere. It has coursed through my life and has been a steady refreshing stream of something I can fall back and remember. I’ve never felt so loved by God until I remembered, truly remembered, how kind He has been to me.

If this is what I consistently experience, I want to know the heart behind this. I want to know this Person who has been so kind to me, because I don’t understand it. It’s beyond my grasp. It’s baffling, but it’s there. I want to know the heart of the One who can be so kind and loving to me. The mystery makes me want to know more. I want to honor His kindness, because I’m so thankful for it.

Mourning

American Christians don’t mourn well. It makes us uncomfortable. We withdraw. We are left alone. Our isolation during our most painful moments is unbearable. We are a haunted people, having hidden ourselves away as others withdrew during our most vulnerable moments.

Our coming to light and community will be through grieving what is lost. It will be through learning to mourn together in a community. It will be through coming along side each other in grief.

Grief will not be a disease or a weakness. Mourning will be a beautiful and intimate process we go through together. We will love in the darkest of times and bring His life into suffering. Christ Himself will complete and make you what you ought to be, establish and ground you securely, strengthen, and settle you (1 Peter 5:10 AMP).

My adventure

What a crazy, crazy past couple of days. A routine drive turned into an adventure I didn’t see coming.

It all started near Jacksonville, FL with a flashing check engine light. My night ended with my car stalling as I thankfully made it off the highway and into a gas station. Since it was so late at night and I needed to get it to a shop early, I decided it was best to sleep in my car. I’m glad I was prepared and had warm clothes, because somehow in FL it was close to freezing!

I managed to get some sleep and got it towed to a shop that had good Google reviews. I quickly realized the reviews belied this shop’s honesty. After getting advice from my dad and mechanic, we decided it best to get it to an honest mechanic and to someone we know. I told them to stop any work immediately. Having paid them an exorbitant amount for doing nothing to speak of and an expensive tow bill, I left.

After managing to get a costly uhaul and trailer for the first time ever (and having a scary moment of having to merge blind once) I brought it to the shop. There I had to back in a trailer with a 20ft uhaul so I could load my car. This was the second time I’ve done that, the first was when my dad taught me. It ended well. Thankfully the guy at the shop helped me push it on the trailer. They put the bolts and little bits in a box. Everything else in the engine bay that they had unbolted unnecessarily I put in the car. This includes a belt literally left hanging, an air box and several bits just sitting there. Not cool. Finally secured it all.

Then began a five hour journey south on about four hours of sleep and hardly anything to eat. It started with rush hour traffic. First time driving a uhaul and being as long as a semi, this was a baptism by fire. It soon calmed down, and I had no incidents. I finally arrived at 11pm.

A kind friend and mechanic helped me unload my car into his shop. Thankfully, there was a guy staying late to help us. Then we went to return the rental truck and trailer.

At the first place we went to, we couldn’t find the entrance. Then a man pulled in front of me and walked up with red eyes and what looked like water coming from them. He was very kind, and told me that this was his shop. It used to be their family business and they had closed it three weeks ago. He’s still looking for work.

He told me about uhaul places that were open and was incredibly kind. He also began to tell me about his wife, Janet, who is in the hospital. After seeing three doctors, her condition is undiagnosed. She is on so many pain killers she is barely cognizant.

After talking to him and learning about how much was going on in his life I realized that his red eyes and wet face were the makings of actual tears. This man, who had gone through so much tonight was helping me. It helped me to realize my problems were completely insignificant to what this man has gone through.

So God gave me and my friend the chance to pray with him and encourage him. He was genuinely glad and my friend gave him his business card so he could update us on how his wife is doing.

I suppose the crazy thing is I wouldn’t have had the chance had all of this not happened. I don’t understand completely why I have a broken car (with an expensive new-engine fix, if I decide to take that route), unforseen bills, and a now terrible financial position because of this (the money I had saved to last me for two months of job hunting is now gone), but I do know the first night I arrived here God has given me the chance to be used through those circumstances and despite them.

It is incredibly humbling to be in this position. It’s also incredibly tough. However, I know I am trusting an old Friend who has Todd’s (the man’s name) and my best interests in mind. I don’t know His ways, but they have been good for my heart. I ask you as my readers to join me in continuing to pray for Todd and Janet.

So things might not be easy, but God is always good and put an incredible capstone of blessing to my adventure down to Florida.

My heart

“When a writer gives something for you to read, they are showing you their heart.”

I resonate with this quote because whenever I write something, I feel as if I’m sharing a part of me… an essence of who I am in the form of print. Sometimes I share very vulnerable parts. Sometimes I take risks, some larger than others. I tend to imagine that my audience extends beyond my circle of friends. In essence, anyone.

I ask if those parts that I show will glorify God. I ask if those risks in what I say will further the Kingdom. That’s something I’ve been wrestling with a lot recently, especially the fear of getting it wrong. To be truthful, I’ve procrastinated and haven’t finished a piece for a long time because of this.

As I branch out and continue to speak about the things that impute passion on my heart, I worry about the implications of what I say might have. On the positive side, I imagine the change that may come from my words. It’s an exciting world of Christians dedicated to taking action and loving the individual like Christ has loved the Church.

With my next piece I’m working on, loving the individual is my heart.

Healing

I bear the wounds of the past.
As much as they want to fester
I have more compassion for yours,
For you to find healing at last

Time and years go by,
And memories are still poignant.
Yesterday is the same as years ago.
I want to see you free from the lie

Coming from a place of fear,
Rejection is a very real thought
Frought with worry and doubt.
There are ones with ears to hear

There is hope on this side,
A place where Jesus comes near
With people who will love
Community by your side

So put down the mask
That hides the beauty of who you are.
Nothing you can fashion can match,
Seeing the true you is all I ask

Transition

Life is full of transitions. Sometimes they are simple, like adjusting to a minor change in the way things are run at work. Sometimes they can be more life changing and complex. In my case, it is the latter.

For many months I’ve been thinking about what is next in life. I knew surveying was temporary. Working that job allowed me to heal and grow in a desert season. I gained new skills and worked the best job I’ve had to date. However, consistently being torn away from community was frustrating. I want to grow, and the best way to do that is within a community.

Since I knew surveying wasn’t going to be a lifelong pursuit for me I began to ask what will be that pursuit. For the longest time (and still somewhat) I didn’t know how my gifts and talents line up into a lifelong career. Nothing I enjoyed doing as a hobby wouldn’t pay the bills, and I’m just not good enough to turn them into profit. That is perfectly ok, because I get to enjoy them for what they are. For me, jobs are an avenue in which I can interact and influence those around me. It’s a way for a people person to be a people person.

After thinking for a while along those lines and reflecting on what God has done and they ways He has used me, I kept coming back to counseling. Had I chosen a different major in college, that would have been it. Over the years, God has given me the avenues and encouragement to start seriously looking at counseling. So I began the search for schools and ways I could achieve the goals I wanted to achieve. I wanted to be able to work mostly full time to support myself and pay down debt while I’m in school. I also wanted to be able to be consistently involved in a church. Because of these things, an online degree seems to be the most convenient.

After talking to friends and random people I’ve met I kept hearing great things about Liberty University’s program. No school is perfect, but being in the top five of online counseling programs is hard to beat. I applied and was accepted in the summer. Then came financial aid, and there was none except for more loans. That was a road block for me for a while. The debt I have from undergrad is already annoying. At the same time I view this as an investment into my life, and in time it will pay for itself. Even beyond that, I’m trusting God that I can go through this and be provided for. He took care of me during college and in the years after, He’ll continue to be faithful. If this is the path He is leading me down, He will be there.

This line of thinking coincides with my move. So far, I’m still looking for a good job (Uber driver is my backup, and a few potentials). I’m trusting Him with my finances and getting to know a new set of people. I’m also trusting Him during the pain of transition. Moving isn’t easy, especially away from those I’ve grown to love here. Everyone here has been a shelter to me, and for that I am overflowing with thankfulness.

Figuring out where I am moving to was a rather difficult process. I sought to weigh my options and pray through all of them. I did this for months as well. After many conversations I made my decision. A few brought to light that in making this decision I wasn’t going to make a mistake. Fear tends to rule my decision making, especially that I’ll hurt the ones that I love as a result. One conversation in particular asked me this question: What does your gut say? My answer was that have a gut feeling that Fort Myers, Florida is next on the list in the places I’ll live in this life. I’m excited to sink my roots into this community. I’m excited for another place to call home.

I’ll be flying back in a week. I’ve yet to sell my car and wrap up a few things. Time is flying, but God is good. I know I’ll be taken care of.

Hopefully this isn’t too disjointed. Feel free to message me if you have any questions.

On to the next adventure in life. God is good.

Life, Change, and Living as a Transient

It’s been a while since I’ve posted anything like this. This has sat in my drafts in various forms for a long time. I haven’t mainly because there were many issues in my life where I’ve needed to heal from. I’ve needed time and space to write something personal. What I have written has come indirectly from dark times and good times. I’ve written what God has put on my heart. I feel like I now have the freedom to go deeper and more specifically about my struggles.

This past year and a half has been really difficult one for me. I was working at a retail store in Georgia. I was barely making ends meet and constantly searching for a better job. I was feeling all the pressure to “be more successful” and be a provider for a new family that was about to start. The problem was, no matter how many hundreds of places I applied they went nowhere. They had promised me a promotion, but it didn’t come to fruition. I had a college degree but couldn’t find any positions where I could use my degree. It was incredibly frustrating and made me feel like I wasted money on something that wasn’t going to earn its keep back. I felt as if I’d be doomed to the world of retail, a place I had become increasingly frustrated with its politics. There were few managers who cared. On top of the this, there was a rash of firing people. Lots of good employees were terminated or left. Fear emanated through our workplace. We didn’t know who would be next. Thankfully, things eventually stabilized but I knew this company would never be one I could see myself growing in. At the time, it had the hallmark of many typical American businesses, which is all about the money and your employees are simply tools. Being in that position was very stressful on top of what was going on in my life at that point.

This leads me to telling you earlier this year I was engaged to someone. I’d rather not go into details in public to protect her, but I do not mind explaining more in private. In May of last year, our relationship ended. It was a relationship where I did everything in my control to do things right, and still ended up making mistakes. I ended up hurting her beyond words. I left myself a wreck. Those are hard lessons to learn when you have the best of intentions.

Right after this a great opportunity presented itself. I had the chance to move to Calgary, Alberta and work as an assistant surveyor. After much prayer and deliberation I took the job. It was a rather difficult decision, because not only had I just begun to transition out of a serious relationship, I was moving away from my support while I dealt with that. I knew with all of its green (and eventually snow) I was moving to a desert time. I knew I was going to live alone among the sand dunes of memory and grief. In the end, I was right. That summer once I moved up there was a very dark time for me. I went through depression and I had to live alone every night the memories of what had happened this past year. If anyone knows me I am one who empathizes. I am really in tune with peoples’ emotions when they are in pain. This was especially true of her. I had known her very well, and even though we didn’t talk I knew what she was thinking and feeling. I took those emotions on as my own and was drowning in the guilt and pain.

On top of this, the reality of the nature of my job was overwhelming. Work itself was great, but the pain of isolation was at times almost unbearable. My work required me to be away for weeks at a time, on top of having moved away from my relationships in the US. I didn’t know how hard it would be in practicality to only have myself to spend time with the majority of my days. Every night, it was always me left alone to my thoughts and reliving the nightmare that had happened during the year. I had no one to spend an evening to talk with and simply hang out.

It took me a long time to pray through and gain a correct perspective over the situation. I had to learn to own the emotions and forgive. I had to make intentional choices about how I thought and lived my life. I could drown in isolation and my floods of emotions or I could choose a life raft. I had thought about simply giving up and living like everyone else around me. The carnal life didn’t sound so bad, it numbed many peoples’ pain. No one would know I was any different, and I was away from anyone who would. I could have put on a mask and did whatever I wanted. However, every time I thought about going through with this I kept coming back to one thing. That thing was where my identity was. It wasn’t about others’ perceived identity of me, but what I perceived my identity to be. I was struggling in my faith at this point, but I knew still at the end of the day I was a follower of Christ. After all my mistakes and loneliness, this is still who I was. Realizing my identity and its implications marked a turning point in my processing of my whole situation.

I still thought there was a lot of vanity in my interactions with people. I would get to know people, or spend time with them and have to leave. My time was always short lived. If anyone knows me, quality time is one of my love languages. I haven’t been able to fully express myself in a long time because of that. At the time, it was incredibly frustrating and fed into my depression. I couldn’t stay around those I loved. Jesus did something here too. He taught me value in the moment, instead of what I’m missing or can’t do. He also brought wonderful friends and family into my life though my traveling. I’ve had an incredible chance to get to know my cousins and the rest of the family. A group of friends accepted my crazy life and brought me in.

As time has gone on, I’ve also adjusted to the pace of life at work. I still don’t like being away all the time. Even so, God has blessed me with good friends from work. I’ve embraced the loneliness. I still fidget under it, but I also know I can grow and learn while I’m longing to be with people. Being lonely doesn’t have to suffocate. Instead, it can invigorate. My best nights are with a book and coffee. I’ve been able to intentionally seek Jesus when I could turn to so many things to distract and fill the void (shows and games). It has been a long process, but a good one.

God taught me it was good in the end and a lot like the missionary life. I can’t always be where I want to be. It has been my struggle since I was a Third Culture Kid and it will be throughout my life. I will likely leave friends in another place. My heart will always be left wherever I go, and its strings will tug at me to go back. It’s a reminder I’m not of this world, and of the much greater one to come. All I love will be in one place, with Jesus. Nothing can get better than that. My heart will finally be in one place, at peace with joy. Until then, I’ll keep giving pieces out for them to return later. My life’s goal is to give until there’s nothing left. Christ can fill the rest.

I’m blessed. I came into a desert to find an oasis. An oasis of friends and family who stuck with me through my shortcomings. My dad would constantly keep tabs on me, tell me he was praying for me, and ask how I was doing. My mom checked I’m on me and gave advice when she could. So did my brothers. I’m thankful for my family. I have friends who are doing similar things, and followed me through my hectic life. I couldn’t ask for more love. It dumbfounded me, and taught me a deeper truth.

The oasis is Jesus. He has sustained me and has been super patient with me. I’ve made mistakes and wanted to do my own thing. He stuck with me. His love is loyal. I found a place to drink in wisdom and experience. I rested in peace in the shade of a God who let me sweat my mistakes out. The coolness of trust passed my parched lips. In a desert void, I found teeming life.