Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Change in Perspective

The last month has been filled with a lot of decisions that resulted in a lot of changes. A month ago, I had a departure date in January. I was having final coffee dates with people that I may not have seen for a few years. I was preparing my heart and mind to move to a new culture and context. I was avoiding the hard goodbyes while trying to figure out how to pack up my life in only a few suitcases. That has all changed.

It has been a difficult road to walk as I followed God down a path and prepared my heart for His plan. The path has lead to a stop sign. There is a bend in the road. It was not where I thought the path would go. It means I will be here a while longer. I will invest here. I will continue to build community here. It raises many questions for which I don't have a clear answer. I feel like Abraham when God asked him to sacrifice Isaac then provided a ram instead. (Genesis 22) I do not know what my ram looks like but I know God will provide as I continue on the path He has laid before me. 

In light of all of the decisions and changes, my heart feels like it has taken a beating. I have been happy, sad, joyful, frustrated, disappointed, mad, angry, excited and apathetic as the changes became a reality and I would no longer be moving to Peru in January. I was frustrated at starting over. I had no motivation to pursue other ways to do ministry overseas. I felt stuck. It was not until today I realized I needed a change in perspective. Instead of being disappointed at the direction of the journey, I needed to be joyful for all the new possibilities. Instead of being frustrated at the process, I needed to be thankful for direction. 

Today I dreamed. I met with a friend over coffee and we talked about the messiness of life. We agreed that building community means diving into the mess with people we love. We talked about our desire to follow God into the hard places. We talked about what it looks like to love people. It was fun to dream about the future. About marriage. About careers. About living radically. About loving well. Today I allowed my heart to dream.

Today I laughed. I laughed a lot. It reminded me of what it felt like to be engaged in life. I saw the joy of friends coming together to reminisce about working at camp. I saw genuine laughter after talking about how stressful college can be. I was reminded the good times always outweigh the hard times. I let myself laugh. I let myself enjoy the moments. I laughed at the little things. It felt good to live in the moment while finding joy in the past.

I realized I can let the uncertainty steal my joy or find joy in the time I have with the people I love. I choose joy. I choose laughter. I choose love.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Lessons from a Child

This is Josiah. He is two and a half years old. In this picture he is Peter fighting the witch in Narnia. He doesn't realize a rocking horse and wooden spoon can not defeat evil, but in this moment, good will always win. 

One thing I have been thinking a lot about lately as I have conversations with students or just spend time with kids is they still have the ability to dream. They dream about becoming a doctor or a professional athlete. They dream about becoming moms and dads. They dream about living in a mansion and driving around in a limo. (Anyone remember playing M.A.S.H?) They dream about attending UCLA or USC. They still have the freedom to dream. When do adults lose the ability to dream? Is it in high school when we realize our dream college is out of reach? Is it in college when we realize we have papers to write and work two jobs just to pay for school? Is it after college when we don't get the dream job we worked four years to prepare for? Is it when the bills start coming and there never seems to be enough money to dream and live life? 

The first time I realized I had stopped dreaming was when I realized my dreams had not come true. I had worked hard in college to double major and have internships so that I would be set up to make my dreams come true. The funny thing is that God had different dreams for me. He sent me to Africa so I would hear simple dreams of going to school. He sent me to Ecuador so I would understand dreams in another language. He sent me to China to see the reality that owning a Bible is a dream. He sent me to Indonesia to watch dreams change as someone learns more about Christianity. He sent me to India to see the strength it takes to dream again after dreams have been shattered. He is keeping me here for the moment so I can learn what it means to dream when things don't work out. 

I have been reading Bob Goff's Love Does and he uses words like whimsy, imagination and wonder when it talks about dreaming. He very clearly shows that loving and living are intertwined and sometimes all we have to do to make dreams come true is to show up. I have had the privilege to work with thousands of students as a substitute teacher, youth group volunteer and camp counselor. I have made dream comes true many times by just showing up. Sometimes it was showing up to cheer them on at a sports meet/game/event that I didn't understand. Sometimes it was showing up with a frappuccino in hand to catch up on life. Sometimes it was showing up at the hospital just to say hi. Sometimes it was showing up to after a long night of bad decisions because they needed to talk. I learned this from people who showed up for me. They investing time which has left a lasting impression. 

I do not know the plans God has for me, but in the mean time I am going to love people and make some dreams come true. I will leave you with this final thought from Goff's Love Does:

"I learned that fully loving and fully living are not only synonymous but the kind of life that Jesus invited us to be a part of."

Bidwell Park in Chico is whimsical and fully of possibilities for dreamers.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Then Sometimes There is a Pause

Have you ever followed God down a path that you couldn't have planned yourself? I have followed God into some pretty incredible places. Some were incredibly beautiful. Some were incredibly hard. Some were incredibly broken. Some were incredibly joyful. Most of the time, the places God leads encompasses all of these things. The journey to Peru to been filled with joy and sorrow. It has been filled with excitement and fear. The journey will continue. At the moment, I am on pause.

I had a departure date. Now I do not.

I am fully confident in my calling to Peru but the path to get there may be changing. It has been a year since I started this process. Now it is on hold. It is mentally hard because I feel like I am back at step one, but I know God is good. The plans He has are better than I can ever hope or dream.

Many are the plans in the mind of a man;
but it is the purpose of the Lord that will stand. 
Proverbs 19:21

As we read this verse in Bible study this morning, I realized it doesn't matter what I have planned because ultimately God has a way better plan. I am keeping my eyes focused on God as I take each step in my journey. 

Monday, October 14, 2013

27 Dresses....or Something Like That

I have had the honor and privilege of standing beside two of my good friends over the last month as they tied the knot. It has been an exhausting month filled with bridal showers, bachelorette parties, dress fittings/alterations, pedicures, rehearsal dinners and wedding day hair and make up. There are years of friendship and memories that lead up to standing beside my friends as they embark on the journey of marriage. I have 11 dresses hanging in my closet reminding me of the honor it is to have participated in the joy and celebration of 11 of my friends finding their media naranja (their other half). I was in a wedding a couple weeks ago and another bridesmaid was asking me how many weddings I had been in. I told her that wedding made 10 and she reminded me that means I have 10 people that consider me important enough to them that I get to stand beside them on the happiest day of their life. I sometimes compare my life to the movie 27 Dresses and a friend reminded me that after the 27th dress, the main character married the hot guy in her 28th dress. I am honored to be part of so many weddings and the way those friends have loved and supported me as I roamed the globe. I am loved.

I am writing this on the eve of my 28th birthday. Ten years ago I was a senior in high school taking the SATs and dreaming about meeting Prince Charming in college and having kids by the time I was 30, which seemed so far away. I realize God had way bigger plans for my life than I did. In the last ten years, I have had the opportunity to travel to 20 different countries on 5 continents. I have done youth ministry with some amazing human beings and thousands of high school students. I have seen joy on the faces of starving and dirty kids in Uganda, Ecuador, Indonesia and India. I have spent countless hours talking about hopes, dreams and fears over coffee. I am looking forward to the next 10 years of adventures and living life with those I love. I am blessed.

Here is to my 28th year. It will be filled with fun, love, adventure and following God where He will lead me. 

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Choosing to be Present

I was having lunch with some friends last Sunday, and I was telling them about the process of leaving. I was sharing with them my frustrations with support raising and the pain involved with leaving my community. After I was done sharing, my friend looked at me and said, "I don't know what to say, but I am here for you." Those words were so beautiful in that moment. Sometimes there aren't words that can bring comfort or fix our problems or calm our anxieties, but in that moment, the willingness for my friend to sit and listen were a huge gift.

I am trying my best to be present before I leave for Peru. I treasure the conversations I get to have over coffee. I look forward to sharing life over lunch or dinner. I love sharing life with my community. There was a phrase that caught me off guard more than once. A friend would be updating me on their life, and they would pause and say something along the lines of what they were going through isn't nearly as bad/difficult/life-changing as going to Peru. I want to be present. I want to hear how life is going. I want to spend hours dreaming of the future. I want to participate in community here instead of watching it from the sidelines.

One part of my life here is substitute teaching. I have loved getting to know students over the last few years and watch them move from elementary school to jr. high to high school. It is such an encouragement when they remember my name or my travels. I have enjoyed seeing my students from church or camp wandering around the halls of Charter Oak. It is life-giving to walk around the halls and have students remember my name and ask when I will sub for their class. I have become a part of the community that poured into me as a student. It is a privilege to give back. I believe these students will change the world one day so I encourage them to dream big.

I want to leave you with a final thought from Henri Nouwen's Compassion.

"But what really counts is that in moments of pain and suffering someone stays with us. More important than any particular action or word of advice is the simple presence of someone who cares. When someone says to us in the midst of crisis, 'I do not know what to say or what to do, but I want you to realize that I am with you, that I will not leave you alone,' we have a friend through whom we can find consolation and comfort. In a time so filled with methods and techniques designed to change people, to influence their behavior, and to make them do new things and think new thoughts, we have lost the simple but difficult gift of being present to each other."