daughter of the King

Yesterday, after a day out and about in Colombia, completely oblivious to anything going on in North America, I went on Facebook to see a lot of posts about a recent Supreme Court decision in the States. A number of these posts included classmates from high school saying something along the lines of “I’m not religious, but…” and sharing a post about sin, or “this is why I’m not religious” and sharing a post from a Christian who didn’t think before voicing their opinion on social media. It’s weird sometimes, to see a post like that, because that could have been me. These old classmates, or people I’ve met somewhere along the way and befriended on Facebook, have this idea that Jesus is not for them and don’t mind advertising it. And that, five years ago, could have been me. In conjunction with a Timehop memory from 4 years ago the other day, I felt compelled to write this…

Growing up, I always believed in God. I believed He was up there, somewhere, floating around. I attended vacation bible school programs with neighborhood friends and sometimes went to Sunday church (but never really wanted to because hey, big church when you’re nine is boring) and that was that. By the time I was in high school, I wasn’t going to VBS activities anymore because once you’re like 12, they stop those things. The thought of going to a Sunday service anywhere probably never even crossed my mind. As a teenager, I never got into any type of trouble, but not for any religious reason — I was just brought up well by my parents that the thought of drinking or sneaking out (or however else high schoolers rebel? I don’t really know) never even crossed my mind.

I have this particular memory from the summer before senior year of going to my friend’s house. We were about to dye my hair, and she let me borrow a t-shirt that she didn’t mind getting hair dye all over because it had a Bible verse on the back — she told me, “I would never wear this in public so here, it’s okay if it gets dirty.” I laughed like, I don’t blame you, and put the shirt on and we dyed my hair and got black dye all over the shirt. It didn’t matter because what else would we do with a tshirt that talked about God?

About a year and a half after that t-shirt incident, I was off living in Athens for my freshman year at UGA and having a particularly awful time. I was in a pretty deep pit of depression, although I didn’t fully realize it at the time. I didn’t see anything getting better, and then a friend suggested to me that I seek God in the difficulties. I had spent my entire life up until this point believing that God existed, but never realizing there was more to it than that — more to Him than thinking He’s in heaven just hanging out. So I downloaded a sermon from a college pastor on iTunes and listened to it, and felt like the Lord was truly speaking to me through that. I started going to church and pursuing God, slowly beginning to trust that things in life would work out in His timing.

That March, life started its downward spiral again and I was so desperate for something to change that I signed up to go on a mission trip to the Dominican Republic with my best friend over the summer. I didn’t know what to expect, or even what my purpose would be on that trip, but I knew I needed something to happen. And in the Dominican Republic, by the Atlantic Ocean and under the palm trees, I felt God stir in my heart. There was never a particular moment where I was like, “oh! I get it!” and everything was suddenly good. Life still sucked for a while, actually, but now I had a rock to stand on. Over the course of a year, the Lord was teaching me that He didn’t just want me to believe in Him but that He wanted a relationship with me — He wanted to know me and wanted me to know Him fully. He wanted me to grasp that even a pretty-moral, never-been-in-trouble girl needs His love and grace. Over the course of that year, I began to understand (as best as any human can, at least) that God sent His son to die for me. Jesus, on the cross, for me. Jesus, rising again. Death beaten. The grave conquered. Victory. That is the King who is my Father.

I never, ever thought that I would be the girl who is tweeting Bible verses, downloading sermons to listen to in her free time, or living in a foreign country to share the gospel. I never thought I would be talking to friends about what the Lord is doing in our lives, attending or hosting Bible studies, or trying to help girls younger than me not get trapped in the same pit of despair I was in. I never thought. But God did. When I was 16 and listening to my Spanish teacher talk about her semester in Spain, the Lord was stirring up the desire in my own heart to travel, intending to eventually use that desire for me to serve Him. When I was 18 and dealing with a sadness I never wish to deal with again, God knew He would be using that story two years later for His glory (and over and over again countless times since). I never would have thought, but God knew all along.

So I share that story to say this: those people saying, “I’m not religious” on Facebook? That could’ve been me at one point. I didn’t have a desire for it, I didn’t think I was missing anything at all, I was just living my life. And then along came Jesus and I was transformed by His love and grace and mercy. I went from being weirded out by a t-shirt that had a Bible verse on the back to selling a t-shirt with a Bible verse on the back to raise money for this summer in Colombia. Five years ago on June 24, I was a high-strung 18-year-old girl who had a belief in God but nothing more to speak of. Four years ago on June 24, I got baptized in the Atlantic Ocean after a year of God changing and molding my heart. This year on June 24, I was living in Colombia working with a church to share the gospel and make disciples. Life changes. Life changes in the craziest, most unexpected ways, and for that I am so, so thankful.

Advertisements

I’m starting my third week in Colombia, and I honestly can’t believe the difference in my mindset from now versus when I got here. Obviously just plopping yourself down in the middle of a completely new and different country, alone, for two months is going to be hard, but for some reason, I was surprised with how difficult my first few days here were. For my first several days, I would go back and forth between “I love it here” to “counting down the days until I go home,” sometimes even in the same breath. Now that I’ve got two weeks in Colombia under my belt, though, I’m in a “literally don’t know how I’m going to to leave this place” mindset. I remember hearing a quote once that is something along the lines of, “How lucky I am to have known somebody and something that makes it difficult to say goodbye.” Been thinking a lot the past couple days about how true that is. Time is starting to speed by here, and I can’t believe it’s already June 22.

The past ten or so days have been spent getting accustomed to the life and lifestyle of the Colombians. I finally tried my first cup of coffee, and let’s just say I’m never going to be able to go to Starbucks again. I’ve watched so much soccer that I’m now able to recognize the names/faces of the Colombian soccer team. The other day, when talking to Aby about the outcome of one of the games, I subconsciously said “if we win…” He goes, “We?” and I laughed. I guess I’m officially one of them, at least where soccer is concerned. I’ve learned more about the soccer camps that happen at Tierra Alta and the evangelism side of things, and I’ve learned that it’s impossible to remain invisible as a blond American in Fusagasugá/Chinauta.

 

My English classes are going really well at Sueños de Vivir, and I’m excited about the relationships I’m forming with some of my students there. I’m not going to lie — it’s not always fun. There are some students who obviously couldn’t care less about learning English. There are some who ask inappropriate questions. But for the most part, we enjoy ourselves. There are a few students who have an obvious desire to learn and are really good at English. And of course, the best part is that the classes are opening the door for relationships to be formed apart from teaching English.

I’m really excited to see what else the Lord has in store for Sueños de Vivir and Tierra Alta as the summer continues. I’ve met some seriously awesome people here in just two weeks, including a group of Argentine missionaries who arrived a couple days after me to work with Aby coaching soccer through the Highlands sports camp ministry. I got to have some fun conversations with these guys (and see some frustrating card tricks haha), and just might be planning my next international trip for the near future ;)

Colombia is, in a word, great. I still have moments where I’m grumpy and don’t feel like working, but then God reminds me that I’m here to serve Him and I’m humbled again by His power and divine appointments. Prayer requests for this week include specifically praying for some of my English students — it’s obvious that some of them are resistant to the gospel and don’t want to give up a lifestyle that they perceive is better than life with Christ. I know, though, that the Lord can change anyone’s life, even though it might look impossible to us.

And once again, I love hearing about what’s going on in Georgia (even though it might not seem like much to you), so feel free to shoot me a message! I talk about Colombia all day long, so sometimes it’s nice to hear about life elsewhere. Thanks for praying

 

 

Colombia week 1, or “I don’t have a good title for this”

Hola from Colombia!I’m wrapping up my first week here, and boy has it been one for the books. I arrived Monday night after a day of goodbyes to friends and family, one of my best friends bringing me to the airport, a four hour flight (the quickest flight I’ve ever experienced helped along by Cinderella and Matt Chandler) and then an hour and a half drive to Chinauta, a city I’m working in down here.
I’m writing this post on Thursday, though our internet is out currently so I don’t know when I’ll be able to post it. This morning I woke up feeling the most homesick I have felt since I was like 11 years old. I honestly felt like I wasn’t going to be able to make it through the rest of the day without crying sixteen times because I wanted to be back in the United States so bad. However, instead of crying, I prayed that the Lord would guide me, fill me, and help me. I’d been feeling really overwhelmed at the prospect of teaching English to a bunch of people that I don’t know, especially when my Spanish is as rusty as it is. Today was my first day teaching, in a foundation called Sueños de Vivir, a drug rehab facility I’m working with about 20-30 girls and boys there who are mostly between the ages of 15 and 20. It is absolutely through God that I was able to teach them today without totally massacring my Spanish (or English haha) in the process. If there’s one thing I have learned from other years in Spanish-speaking countries, it’s that there is always a way to explain your way around a word that you don’t know…although it’s exhausting to talk that way. We had a pretty successful morning, though, learning the alphabet, numbers, and some vocabulary words. I ate lunch at the rehab facility with some of my new “students,” and there’s something to be said about sharing a meal with others. I also went on my first motorcycle here (sorry dad!) since that is what the family I’m living with drives — I even have my own helmet now, so we can all take a moment to laugh about that.

The Lord showed me today that He is truly with me wherever I go, if only I remember to continue to seek Him. I must be more disciplined in my time alone with Him because it is easy for me to get caught up in doing other things here (like texting friends and family back home when I have an Internet connection). After a couple hours in the morning of extreme homesickness, that feeling went away almost completely and I am realizing that the Lord will equip me to do what He has called me to here. I am praying that He will teach me and grow me in order to allow me to teach others and encourage them, sharing about His love for them in the midst of whatever they may be facing.

My biggest prayer requests right now are for any lingering homesickness to go away and stay away, that I will be encouraged to continually spend time with the Lord, and that my Spanish continues to get better so I can have more quality conversations with others here. I am so grateful to those of you praying for me! I’d also love to hear about what’s going on at home, so always feel free to iMessage me (or download the Viber app for those of you who don’t have iPhones) and stay in touch :)

go

In 43 days, I’m leaving the USA once again to spend the rest of the summer in Colombia.

(*insert emoji of monkey covering his eyes*)

When I served in the Dominican Republic in 2013, God taught me a lot of things. I could literally write a book with the good and the bad (and the really bad) things I learned about short-term missions during my time there. I became cynical. I questioned a lot about Americans and the American church and whether mission trips were even a good thing. The Lord taught me more than I ever expected in that time, and I vividly remember one night, during the last week I was there, the Lord speaking to me through prayer about these things. It was difficult to explain then, and it’s still difficult to explain now, but He was saying to me that night that I was done. Done with short-term missions, done with these comfortable, almost easy trips that I had done so many times now. I could feel Him calling me into something bigger, but I wasn’t sure what. So I came home, and if we fast forward a year and a half (you can read about that here), that’s where this story picks back up:

A couple months ago, I met someone who unintentionally reminded me of the Lord’s call on my life to serve Him and His people. I finally scheduled a meeting with Dustin, Hebron’s missions pastor, to talk about options and next steps. Dustin is one of the most inspiring and awesome people I have ever had the privilege of knowing, and it brings me joy that he spends so much of his time investing in others in order to advance the Kingdom of God — investing in ME, making time for me and helping me figure things out. So on a Tuesday morning, Dustin and I sat in his office and talked through options for me. One of my greatest concerns in going anywhere was that I don’t want to go somewhere where someone is finding a job for me to do — I want to go because someone like me is needed. So Dustin mentioned a missionary he works with who is working in local schools in a few different communities, teaching English in the Bible, working to plant churches and raise up leaders to be able to lead these communities to know, love, and serve our Lord. Colombia. What did I think of going to Colombia?

Funnily, for several years, I’ve been dying to go to Colombia, and I had no real reason why. Dustin prayed with me in his office that day, told me he would talk to the pastor in Colombia, and encouraged me to continue to pray about it. Thirty minutes later, I received this text message: “I just talked to Pastor Aby. He stands astonished and amazed by God once again. He said they have been praying for someone just like you to help with the discipleship and to help in the local schools they are doing ministry with. God is so good.”

God IS SO GOOD. So after prayer, figuring out logistical information, etc., my plane ticket is booked and on June 8th, I will be on my way to two months serving the Lord in Colombia. After that? Who knows. I just know I never want to take lightly Jesus’ command to go and make disciples of all nations. As David Platt said during Secret Church on Friday night, “The inevitable reality is that the beauty of the gospel creates a burden for mission.” Christ died so that we may LIVE and I can’t wait to share that good news in Colombia and beyond.

(If you’re interested in learning how you can support me financially in going to Colombia, shoot me a message or a text! I am so appreciative of both prayer and financial support for this trip)

When I came back from serving in the Dominican Republic in 2013, I felt a huge call from the Lord to do missions long-term. In the two weeks I had between returning to the USA and starting my senior year at UGA, I could not get the “anywhere but here” thought out of my mind. I desperately wanted to be serving the Lord and sharing the gospel with people who have not heard it. I started reading Follow Me by David Platt, a book that only furthered my urge to go, and I went as far as looking into options for how to make it possible. And then school started again.

Once I got far enough into my final year of undergrad, I stopped seeking the Lord’s will. I could sugarcoat that, I could say I got busy with school, but ultimately, I stopped seeking God because it was almost easier to take the opportunities that I was being presented with: score well on the GRE? Apply to grad school. Get accepted to grad school? Go. Doors were opening for me, and I went through them, never realizing that just because an opportunity presents itself, you don’t need to take it. I continued to put missions on the back burner, so much so that I essentially forgot that that’s what I once knew the Lord was calling me to.

This morning, I had a conversation with my college pastor at church about life lately. He asked how post-dropping-out-of-grad-school life is going (he was one of the people who knew just how miserable I was last semester), and I told him it is great (because it truly is). We started talking about what’s next for me, and I told him I’m tentatively back in the spot I was at a year and a half ago when I felt called to long-term missions. “I’m still not sure,” I told him, “but I’ve been really convicted lately by what I’ve been reading and sermons I’ve listened to.” His response: “Well, I hate to be the guy that’s going to confirm it for you, but people do say that when you ignore God’s call on your life, he will make you miserable until you listen to him.” Ha.

I’ve been thinking about that tonight – about whether God was making me miserable last semester so that I’d start seeking him more fervently again – and I remembered Jonah. Jonah was commanded by God: “Go to the great city of Nineveh and preach against it, because its wickedness has come up before me.” Instead of obeying, Jonah ran away from the Lord, and as a result, God turned Jonah’s life upside-down. Jonah literally got swallowed by a fish because he did not obey the Lord’s command. Yep, I am Jonah. At least for me, I didn’t get swallowed by a fish; instead, I was drowning in the misery of grad school. It also took me a lot longer than 3 days to repent and obey the Lord. Jonah repents during his time in the fish, is vomited back up, and then the word of the Lord comes to him again, commanding him to go to Nineveh. This time, he obeys.

I can’t figure out why there are times that I just decide to ignore what God is telling me. What I do know is that I’m starting to feel stuck, and the only times I ever feel stuck with where I’m at is when I’m yearning to truly obey the Great Commission. David Platt said, “We have taken the costly command of Christ to go, baptize, and teach all nations, and morphed it into a comfortable call for Christians to come, be baptized, and listen in one location.” I don’t want that to be my life. I don’t want to sit back and listen and pretend everything is great when I know I’m called to more – we all are. I have no idea what or where my Nineveh is, but this time I plan to listen to the Lord.

I’m dropping out of graduate school.

How does someone word that without sounding overly dramatic? I haven’t quite figured that out yet. Maybe a more appropriate phrase would be “taking a semester off.” No matter how I word it though, the fact remains that as of Monday, I am no longer a graduate student working on my masters in communication disorders.

What?!

It’s funny, because the last time I blogged, I mentioned how I wasn’t sure I even wanted to be in graduate school. Well, here we are four months later and I decided. Those who have been around me a lot in the past few months are well aware of one main thing about my life: I’ve been miserable. School has sucked any sort of joy completely out of my life. And I’m trying really hard to not sound dramatic when I say this. I have not been happy. Part of me knew why I wasn’t happy, but the rest of me didn’t want to admit to it, because admitting it meant admitting that I’d made a mistake. Let me tell you, it is really hard to admit you’ve made a mistake when it influences everything your life is currently based on. So I tried to deal with it and push the other thoughts to the back of my mind and focus on things like “well you graduate with a masters in 2016, yay!” It didn’t work.

Over the past couple of weeks, anytime anybody asked me when I head back to school, I would give a brief “The 12th, I don’t want to talk about it” answer and quickly change the subject. The thought of going back to school filled me with so much dread. – and not the normal “ugh” that everyone feels with the start of a new semester. This was pure dread at returning to classes, therapy sessions, and my GRA. Dread because there was no light at the end of the tunnel for me. I finally let myself think the words, “I don’t want to do this with the rest of my life,” and that was just kind of it. There’s no going back when you let yourself think the thought you’ve been avoiding for five months.

I never thought I’d be the person who was taking a semester off of school. But here I am, and honestly, I’ve never felt so much relief in my life. The hardest part of making the decision was having to tell everyone — because although in the long-run, it shouldn’t matter what other people think, we all know that in some capacity it matters to all of us. I couldn’t bear to disappoint people or have anyone think anything less of me because I’m not getting my masters (at least in speech). And then I realized that my happiness matters way, way more than feeling the need to prove myself to anyone (something I struggle with daily). So here we are. I’m confident in God’s plan for me, and that this is part of it. What’s next, I’m not quite sure of, but I know what’s now and that’s what matters. Thanks for reading :)

ETA to anyone who reads the post below this: don’t worry I’m not leaving school to work at AE for the rest of my life ;)

The grass is always greener

I just finished my first official week of graduate school. I could say it was a bit of a struggle, but that would be the understatement of the century. This week has been overwhelming, and there were a few points throughout it where I had the thought, “Can I actually do this?” And the saddest part is that I didn’t even have a full week yet. Two of my Tuesday classes don’t start until next week, I don’t start real work with my assistantship until the following week, and it’s not like we started learning (much) during the first week of school anyway.

Yet I found myself praying constantly throughout these days for God to just get me through the week. I had to remind myself pretty much every hour that what I’m doing has been done before and so I can do it too. I had to call/text my best friends multiple times daily to complain or freak out or have a meltdown, and I really don’t think I’d have made it through the week without their listening ears and encouraging words.

So I struggled this week. And the thing I’ve been struggling the most with is “Do I even want to be in graduate school?” Crazily, the one thing I keep going back to is how much I just want to work a shift at American Eagle: see my coworker friends, sell some people some clothes, and do something familiar—work at my job that where I know what the heck I’m doing. But on the other side of that, I remember my feelings halfway through the summer when I was so over AE that I thought I couldn’t work one more shift—when I couldn’t wait to be done.

The grass is always greener on the other side.

Now that I’m in graduate school, I just want to be at my retail job. When I was at my retail job, though, all I wanted to do was get away from it. I have friends who are out in the “real world” now who would pay to be back in school, but then those who are in school are dying to get out. Why do we always want what we can’t have? Why do we see the other side and think it looks so much better than what we’ve currently got?

So earlier I was thinking about this, and then I remembered this revision of one of our favorite cliches: The grass is greener where you water it. I can sit here and wish that I to not be in grad school, instead living my life away at AE…but the reason I like AE so much is because I’ve devoted time to making that place a place where I can thrive. I’ve made awesome friends at work, I’ve put in the effort to learn how to do the job, and I’ve become familiar with so many different aspects of it. I’ve “watered” it, in a sense. And I can do the same with grad school. I realize that I could just complain my way through getting my masters, stressing out and feeling overwhelmed the whole way, or I can “water” it and flourish. If we tend to the hand that we’ve been dealt, developing relationships, learning new things, experiencing life to its fullest, then we won’t suffer from “the grass is greener on the other side” syndrome because we’ll have the green grass right underneath our feet. If we water our own grass, we won’t be envious of our neighbor’s fields.

My friend tweeted this John Piper quote the other day that I fell in love with: “So we embrace the hand we’ve been dealt because we know the Dealer, and He never deals badly.” God knows us, and He knows our future, and as much as I forget it sometimes, He knows what He’s doing. He doesn’t deal a bad hand. Once I remembered this about midway through yesterday morning, my attitude changed drastically. I’m still struggling, and still unsure that there are enough hours in a day for me to do everything I’m supposed to do at State (literally uncertain, but I haven’t done the math quite yet), but I do know through all of this that God is with me and He will meet all my needs. God knows what He’s doing even if I don’t have a clue. So I intend to water my grass where I’m at in Atlanta, with school and my GRA and all this other craziness, and I can’t wait to see what grows. (Sorry that was so lame)