Thursday, January 29, 2015

"Go forward through the sea..."

(Brace yourselves...this is going to be a little long winded...but I needed a venue to talk out what God has been doing. It's pretty exciting stuff and I hope you will bear with me to the end and find out what next big adventure He has in store for me ;)

The other night, I had a Skype interview to teach Kinder (aka preschool) at a Christian school in Guadalajara, Mexico. in...I would be spending every day in a classroom, in charge of several little three year olds (who don't speak English for the most part but need to learn it) IN MEXICO.

I was excited. I was ready to say yes then and there. I had been thinking and praying and wondering and running around and around the idea for months in my head and in my heart.

Then the lady interviewing me mentioned that moving there with a puppy might make things more complicated and she wasn't sure what to tell me about that...

So, I hung up and sat on my bed endlessly scrolling through the "everything" category on Pinterest and eating cashew butter from the container.

I couldn't even begin to process any of it. The excitement The fear. The uncertainty. All of the things and people I am going to miss here. Planning another HUGE move...

She told me I would probably receive my acceptance letter in a few days. I was hoping this would give me at least a couple days to just not think too hard about it and process it naturally...I woke up to the ding of the acceptance letter less than twelve hours later...

When I went to pour myself a cup of coffee, I tried to be very neutral in choosing my mug. No loyalties. No city mugs today. Too much pressure. I went with a plain, non-threatening, non-committal floral mug. It felt safe. I could hardly get myself out of bed. In fact, I went back to bed.

Of course that's what I do when I am trying my hardest to avoid thinking or processing at all costs. Because staying awake and choosing not to think or dwell is basically impossible. And honestly sometimes I force myself to sleep and still wake up feeling exhausted and drained because I'm pretty sure my overactive brain finds a way to keep on thinking even while I sleep.

I made a feeble attempt at the gym, but of course that was futile because my brain was dying to process rather than think through squats and pushups and bent over rows. It's not even that I dislike thinking or processing. Believe me when I say...that's my specialty. I guess it was just NOT how I was expecting to feel the day after I received an amazing job offer/ministry opportunity in a foreign country. I just woke up under this cloud of heaviness and sadness. I finally forced myself to realize the source of this dark cloud hovering over me.

I am afraid to face this call on my own and potentially without Lincoln. Don't get me wrong, I know he's just  a puppy, but sometimes taking all these crazy risks and leaving everything I know is hard and lonely and he's such a constant source of joy and comfort for me.

Not to mention this is my first major move/life decision without my daddy. Somehow there is just a sense of security in knowing that your dad is backing you and there for you every single time you call. He probably would have been apartment hunting and finding places and comparing locations on google maps and sending me slews of e-mails with places to call (which He probably would have called himself except that he didn't speak Spanish.) I never realized how much his excessive involvement and support meant in my life or how much I would miss it in times like these. It's not that I don't have a ton of other wonderful family and friends and mentors to talk this through with, but he just had this incredible way of refusing to believe there wasn't a way...even when it seemed like it just wouldn't work. He would keep fighting for a way to move forward with what He knew God had given me. And it's just hard moving forward without a good dad chat...especially into big crazy things like this! Not to dad in Mexico would have been a good time!

At first I was worried that the way I felt was an indication that this was not the right step to take...but I quickly ruled that out. I thought back to the initial days after I had decided to pursue a move to Africa and the nights I had fallen asleep clutching Lincoln and sobbing, thinking that I might have to leave him behind.

No. I am just beginning to come face to face with the realities and practicalities and challenges and sacrifices that come with the life that God has called me to. Often leaving behind things and people and places that I love dearly. Of course I've always known these sorts of things in theory, but no amount of imagining it or mental preparation can make you ready for when they start becoming your reality. Here. In these places, are the real tests of my faith and my trust in God and His character and my commitment to obey and follow no matter the cost.

This immense, overwhelming sense of fear and doubt and the flood of questions and uncertainties were simply Satan weakly attempting keep me from following and obeying after I had already decided to...and in my humanity, it took something as silly and as small as my little puppy to make me think twice and reconsider REFUSING this call. This is a moment when I can either leap into something lovely, or stay cooped up "safely" in the nest wishing I could fly forgetting that I could all along. I can decide that if He's pushing me out of the nest then He has made my wings ready to soar, or I can decide that I just don't think I am ready and miss what's waiting for me over the edge. I can take my own route in my own time or I can trust that if He knows the ending He also knows the best route to get us there even if it doesn't make much sense to me or anyone else.

It took a day or so, but slowly and gently, Jesus began to show me, in the very sweet, very personal way that He speaks to me, that this was indeed a leap He wanted me to take and that He had been leading me this way all along.

It happened in the usual ways but in words that stood out enough for me to realize He was speaking very clearly and that He would continue to confirm and reassure until I gathered the strength and courage and confidence and trust to go forward toward the sea.

Thankfully I knew right away that this whole little Lincoln issue was a matter of trust. It was a matter of trusting God not only with the things I didn't have figured out but also with the things I thought I had already figured out on my own. We don't get to half trust. It's all or nothing. So, I began to let Him remind me of all of the ways He had been faithful to me before. When I remembered how He had paid my college tuition in full after I moved on what seemed a crazy whim to Springfield Missouri and how He provided the perfect job and the perfect places to live more than once in a city that I loved after I had moved with NO place to live and NO job, my little Lincoln issue began to seem silly. Let me just say...I believe that timehop is God given and God ordained...I cannot tell you how many times something pops up from years ago and speaks to me exactly where I am! THIS is why I love social media!

One of my all time favorite authors wrote this of one of my all time favorite missionary ladies...

After realizing how He had been faithful with much bigger things in my life and so many times over, how could I not trust Him and His kindness with something so small and so simple. It seemed silly in light of all He's done in the past. 

So I began to pray and believe in faith that just like every time before, God is going to bless and handle every single detail because He is always faithful when I am faithful to follow and obey and leave the rest to Him. In fact, He's already been working behind the scenes because, "He remains faithful even when I am faithless." And what's more, He cares about the deepest longings and desires in my heart...even my little white puppy. He knows what it means to me and He does not overlook it! Mark Batterson says, "God is not just great because nothing is too big for Him. God is great because nothing is too small for Him either."

He also says in His book In a Pit with a Lion on a Snowy Day (which I am currently re-parusing) 

"Our most defining moments will double as the scariest. They are one in the same."

How true this has been in my life over and over and OVER again. My heart pounding, my hands shaking, my mind racing faster than I can even begin to keep up with. The deepest parts of me knowing that it's God and all the other parts of me trying to ignore the deepest part and talk myself out of it...But so goes the lyrics of my all time favorite song and the very cry of my heart...

"Before my head agrees, my heart is on it's knees."

And if I wasn't quite ready to say yes and leap out of that nest just yet, further confirmation came in passages from my daily reading. Roots of confidence and trust began to reach deeper inside of me...

"Quite often we fail to receive the blessing He has ready for us because we are not moving forward with Him. While it is true we miss many blessings by not waiting for God, we also lose numerous blessings by overwaiting. There are times when it takes strength simply to sit still, but there are also times when we are to move forward with a confident step. Many of God's promises are conditional, requiring some initial action on our part. Once we begin to obey, He will begin to bless us. When the Israelites were entrapped by Pharaoh's pursuing army at the Red Sea, they were commanded to "go forward." NO longer was it their duty to wait, but to rise up from bended knees and "go forward" with heroic faith." -Streams in the Desert

I have been retracing the wilderness journey of the Israelites while I have endured and walked my own wilderness season. This particular passage has been challenging me for a couple of weeks now. Was it my time to stand still or my time to move forward toward the sea...those questions had been running through my mind in a million different ways a million different times a day...

Of course by this point I knew that I knew that I knew that this was most certainly the next step I needed to take. God was affirming in my spirit that it was no longer my time to stand still, it was indeed time to "move forward through the sea..." It scared me more than I even know how to express. It still does. For all of the usual reasons. I didn't see it coming, it doesn't seem to fit into the "plan" it blows my timeline and my vision of ministry and missions out of the water. It changes everything. I have been mentally prepping for Africa for more than a decade and now I have to somehow mentally, spiritually, and practically prepare for an entirely different place and culture in under six months. I don't know how to be a preschool teacher let alone to bilingual kiddos. I could go on. 

I couldn't even bring myself to push the send button on the e-mail I wrote accepting the position. Some of my lovely, supportive, Jesus-filled friends stood with me as I finally took that leap (which this time came in the form of a sent e-mail with my YES response to their job offer and to Jesus.) I am so grateful for them! And then Jesus used timehop ONCE AGAIN to remind me of others He's used before to encourage me to take giant leaps of faith....even the scariest ones...

The leap, the risk, the call looks different every time for every person. It seems that no matter how many times I think I have figured out where we are going and how we are getting there, there is inevitably a rerouting instruction or another detour. Every time the fear and the doubt and the confusion and struggle is the same. Every time it is very real. 

But every time, no matter how many times I forget, God is faithful. And every time, no matter how many times I try to convince myself otherwise, I realize that I wouldn't have it any other way!

This is life with Jesus. This is the adventure! It looks and seems and feels reckless and crazy and risky and messy and absolutely STUPID! But the last time I checked, it shouldn't look anything but! We...I have got to be willing to go or stay, risk EVERYTHING at any moment that Jesus calls. TRUST me when I say it's all worth it for the thrill of living life in His presence and under His hand and His favor!

Just this past March I took a different crazy step. I flew from Seattle to Columbus and attended an interview where I was approved to be a Missionary Associate in South Africa. I keep a little folder with small journal entries documenting ONLY my missions journey. (That's a whole other post in itself) Just trust me when I say that God has used this thing countless times in my life and my journey to keep me on track and remind me of where it all began. This is the entry that I wrote last, just when I was sure that I was finally and surely headed to Africa...

"The truth is, Africa is His. It's not mine. It's a calling so graciously given to me that I humbly accepted.But this path is not mine to plan. It never has been. I've always just been along for the ride. Who knows what the next entry in this little notebook will hold-certainly not me! But this has been the adventure of a lifetime and I'm content to simply keep trusting my good, kind, faithful Jesus and adventuring on."

So, here I am, adventuring on and doing my very best to trust Jesus all the while. And this is me making a very public declaration of faith. That I know with all certainty (and believe me this is the ONLY thing I know with all certainty) that Jesus is good and kind and faithful. Jesus knows the desires of my heart. And Jesus has already gone before me to Mexico preparing the perfect place that will feel like home in a foreign land. I am believing Him for windows that let in lots of bright, Mexican sunshine and bright, obnoxiously colored walls or cabinets or something. A place that I can afford comfortably and most importantly a home for Lincoln and a place that we can be a light for Him to our neighbors. And I am saying all of this here on a blog that everyone on the world wide web can read because I know that He is more than able and that He delights to give me the desires of my heart and to take care of me. AND because when He shows Himself faithful AGAIN, you better believe I will be bragging about His goodness to the world wide web and everyone else who will listen! This is just another chance for Him to get the glory and for me to stack my life story with testaments to Jesus and Who He is! 

I will leave you with the wise words of an often overlooked Disney princess...also brought to me through timehop just the other day....

"To be safe we lose our chance of ever knowing, what's around the river bend!"

All of that to say, though there are a few details to yet be worked out and official contracts to be signed, I will be moving my life to Guadalajara, Mexico in T-minus 6 months. Let the countdown and the chaos and the crazy ensue, and most of all my complete reliance on Jesus so that I can sit back and enjoy the adventure!

*Make sure to catch up with the blog next week! I will be coming to you from a surprise location!

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