Thursday, May 25, 2017

"So What Are You Going to Do There??"

The number one question I have been asked regarding my upcoming trip to Tanzania has certainly been, "So, what are you going to do there?". This has been interesting for me to consider because I haven't really had the words for an answer. No, it's not a mission trip. No, I'm not going with a group from church. No, I'm not practicing medicine. I'm simply going to "come and see."

In Shane Claiborne's book Irresistible Revolution, he talks about his time spent in Calcutta with Mother Teresa. When he called her to ask about coming to spend the summer at the Missionaries of Charity, she simply said, "Come." He writes, "Whenever folks asked Mother Teresa about her work in Calcutta, how it was going, what her life was like, she would say, 'Come and see.'" This principle has stuck with me for years since I first read it. There are numerous times throughout scripture where people are invited to "come and see" Jesus for themselves, not just what they had been hearing around town. In being drawn to the African continent for years now, I always wondered why, what for, and where, among many other thoughts. However, my beckoning from the Holy Spirit rose up saying, "come and see." So, I'm going to see.

I want to see a place the Creator formed so intentionally with beauty and originality beyond my wildest dreams. I want to experience the renewal and redemption of a Serengeti sunrise. I want to meet people groups I've never been exposed to. I want to witness the joy that lives in Tanzanian villages among the Sukuma people. I want to learn bits of a new language and culture. I want to see life beyond my sphere. But more than anything, I want to see what God is doing in this massive world, outside of my own little corner. I want to learn strategies and ideas being used to advance God's Kingdom. I want to sit at the feet of great leaders and teachers that I'm privileged to call friends.

You don't have to travel halfway around the world to be "on a mission trip." Every day that there is breath in our lungs, we step outside the door of our homes and enter "the mission field." I forget this a lot. But, when people ask about my "mission trips," I'm reminded of that disconnect. I want my "mission trips" to be indecipherable from what I am doing with my everyday, ordinary, simple life. This is my challenge to myself and to other Christ-followers, that we always be on mission to further the cause of Love and Redemption, bringing Heaven to earth, regardless of our geography at any given time.

So, I suppose my most burning and pressing question at the moment is for God in regards to my upcoming trip to Tanzania: So, what are YOU going to do there? I'm eagerly expectant to find that answer!

Until next time...

Thursday, April 6, 2017

The Anxiety and the Storm

To say I know where to start would be the utmost untruth. Recently I've been feeling the pull to write again but the questions remained: Why? About what? Who will even care? Then, I remembered what I've been learning about living loved and that the love God has for me isn't dependent on me and is inseparable from me. So here we go...

In the last several months, I have become restless after over a year or two of a very sweet peacefulness with life in general. The anticipation grows as I begin to perceive a shift in the course of my life. My "type A" self that loves plans and goals has been nothing short of a hot mess. As a result, I have battled some intense anxiety. Don't get me wrong, anxiety is nothing new for me, but this was a whole new level. Every interaction, both in my personal life and professional life, has yielded an unwarranted level of stress and self-doubt unlike I've experienced in years. Add that into the mix with several new opportunities and possibilities that have been presenting themselves for discernment, and I'm smack dab in the middle of the perfect storm.

"Storm" is the key word here. Over the last few weeks, in my readings and in listening to several speakers, the stories of Jesus and storms have been prevalent. However, one has stood out and been specifically mentioned over and over. It's the story of Jesus walking on the water and Peter walking out to him. In Matthew 14, you can read the story in its entirety, but I want to explore a couple of points.

Peter and several guys are out on a boat. They left where they had been with Jesus, where he had just fed over 5,000 people with a sack lunch. Jesus, however, stayed put. Later on, Jesus begins to walk on the water toward where they were on the boat. Initially, as any sane person would be, the guys are all freaking out thinking He's a ghost. Then Peter, the "brave one," says to Jesus [as I paraphrase] Lord, if that's really you, let me come to you. Jesus tells him to come. As Peter begins to walk towards Jesus, things start out going well. Peter is focused on Jesus and begins to legitimately walk on the water. Then, as always seems to be the case, the wind picked up and started to swirl around him. Peter became distracted by the wind and his circumstance, took his focus off Jesus, and began to sink. Jesus reached out and picked him up. He asked Peter, "Why did you doubt?"

In reading this story and many others over time, I had never realized how much I assign my own perception of agendas to Jesus based on my experiences in life. Rather, my goal now is to remove my preconceived ideas and notions, and simply look at Jesus for who He is and who He was in those moments.

First, let's look at Peter for a second. He didn't start walking out to Jesus on the water because he thought it was a cool party trick. He did so because he believed in Jesus for who He truly was, God in flesh, and Peter trusted Jesus with his literal life.

Secondly (and this is where I really identify with Peter), the nearer Peter got to Jesus, the more the wind started swirling. Peter starts to become distracted by his environment, his circumstances, his humanity, his fear. As Peter's focus shifted onto his circumstances and away from Jesus, he began to sink into the water he'd once been walking on with Jesus. Here's where the story gets good...

"IMMEDIATELY Jesus reached out His hand and caught him."

IMMEDIATELY. Jesus didn't give Peter a 20 minute lecture about how he should've had more faith and trusted Him more. He didn't give him a list of the things he should have done differently. Jesus didn't look at Peter and tell him that he just wasn't good enough or couldn't cut it. He didn't assign him 17 hoops to jump through to atone for his misstep. He IMMEDIATELY reached out and caught him, rescued him, delivered him.

As a sort of regroup, Jesus then asks Peter, "Why did you doubt?" Not "I just fed a mob with a sack lunch. How could you doubt me?" Not "Am I not enough for you?" Here, Jesus asks Peter the reason behind his doubt, as if giving him an opportunity to acknowledge it for himself and heal whatever that reason or struggle was. Jesus needed Peter to become Peter, the rock, not the Simon that he was before he met Jesus.

The final thing I'd ask you to consider is something has really been working on me the last couple of days. It's bringing more peace to my anxious heart. It's bringing clarity to what is true. When Peter began sinking, he was close enough to Jesus to be reached. We must be seeking to walk as close to Jesus as we possibly can. So, when the winds come and the storms rage, and even if we start to sink, we are within His reach. He reaches out and catches us.

Thankfully, we aren't having to fly through this life without a safety net. He is waiting to catch every failure. He's willing us to trust Him and take a step out onto the water. Peter didn't walk on water because he was already capable of doing so. He walked on water because Jesus said so and empowered him to do it. I don't accomplish things in this life because of what I'm capable of doing. I accomplish things in this life because He said so and empowers me to do it. The pressure is off!!

Sometimes I just have to process things out loud. If you made it to the end, bless you. I hope you saw yourself somewhere in there, and saw what sweet Jesus has for you.

Saturday, October 22, 2016

When the Dead Start Walking

Sometimes this world has me absolutely exhausted. I become easily frustrated with culture and people, as well as myself and my wandering heart. I get anxious for no reason just in the unrest. I get ticked off at watching people engage in behaviors that stem from their own pain and inflict it on others.  In busy seasons, even full of goodness, I get tired, burdened, and crave more. I want more of God within me. I don’t want to be selfish. I don’t want to be easily set off. I want my interactions to be a living, breathing image of Jesus. I want the world to be changed by knowing Jesus and His goodness and by some act of insane grace, that He would use me to do it.

There are several illustrations and allusions to dead being made live in the Bible. Jesus made lots of references to such in explaining what He came to do and will do. Dry bones are brought to life in Ezekiel. Creation was life made from nothing. These intense images have always made such an impression on my heart, but lately the Lord has been bringing the story of Lazarus to mind.

Jesus’s friend Lazarus had become very sick in a town called Bethany. Lazarus had 2 sisters, Mary and Martha. They sent a message to Jesus to let Him know of Lazarus’s illness, saying, “The one You love is sick.” Jesus did not run to his aid in an instant, but stayed where He was for a couple of days. When His disciples questioned Him about going back to a city where the people had just tried to stone Him, He told them “Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep but I’m on My way to wake him up…Lazarus has died. I’m glad for you that I wasn’t there so that you may believe.” When Jesus arrived in Bethany, the sisters told Him that if He had only come sooner, Lazarus wouldn’t be dead. But Jesus said to them, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in Me, even if he dies, he will live.” He then cried with them and His love for Lazarus was apparent. He then had them remove the stone of the tomb, where Lazarus had been prepared for burial and placed 4 days prior. Jesus spoke his name saying, “Lazarus, come out,” and Lazarus came out alive and whole, ready to live life at a whole new level.

I’ve heard it said and truly believe that my generation is and has to be a “Lazarus Generation.” It is so easy to get so bogged down in all the wars, killing, stealing, racism, hate, division, and all darkness in our present generation. It’s easy to get frustrated by watching families be dominated by technology and not relationship, or completely shattered. It’s sickening to know of the horror that is human trafficking and slavery is being perpetrated by my generation. It’s easy to get riled up taking up for the refugees the Bible calls us to care for yet be fearful that they may be radicalized terrorists. It makes me ask at times, “Where are you God? Why is this world so jacked up? Why is my generation the one seemingly causing it to get worse?”  In essence, we could be called a dead generation, with the Church dying at rapid rates.

If we look closely though, we will see that if you put us in the place of Lazarus, Jesus wants to bring good. Jesus is moved by His love for us. Jesus is capable of speaking and creating new life within us.

But as with Lazarus, sometimes death must come so that new life can be breathed into empty spaces, and that God may be glorified. It is my prayer that, as this country and my generation lay stinking it up in the tomb we have created for ourselves by seeking out our selfish desires above all else, that Jesus is calling our name and saying “Come out!!! Wake up!!” I pray that when this resonates in our souls, we cannot ignore it but must rise up out of death and destruction and, dare I say, absolute indifference and stagnation. I pray that as we walk out of the grave, we are dripping with the goodness of God and His love for us and for each other. I pray that we rise up with eyes that may only be set on Him and hearts that burn to know Him more, the One who spoke and gave new life. God, let us be a Lazarus generation, no longer dead but alive in You and that the world be forever changed because of it.

Sunday, September 18, 2016

“Do great works wherever you are. But also, do not be afraid to go (and do not be afraid to stay.)” –Jennie Allen

It’s true. I have always struggled with staying put and being content. I’ve lived in 4 cities as an adult. Even in those cities, I’ve lived in various apartments and houses with multiple combinations of roommates. I’ve traveled all over the United States, United Kingdom, Caribbean, and Central America. I make friends and acquaintances easily in new environments. I am a self-admitted chameleon, ready to shift my colors to adapt to my surroundings in an instant to a glaring fault.

This trait has inevitably landed me in lonely places, conforming to the influences around me. I have looked in mirrors and stared, wondering who the stranger was looking back at me. It has made me hesitant to lay down roots anywhere, for fear of wasting my time, keeping my life on the brink of “meaning” without any purpose at all. I have never been content, always restless and weary, looking for the next place to run.

I have begun learning that while this characteristic has brought much exhaustion and heartache, it was placed in me by the Creator for His purpose. I am not to be content here on earth, because it’s not where I belong. I was not formed to be content with ordinary life. Now, don’t get me wrong. Ordinary in this sense is being used to simply describe “without purpose.” Some of the greatest Kingdom work is done inside the home behind closed doors doing seemingly meaningless tasks for no credit on this earth. THAT’S NOT ORDINARY, THAT’S HOLY. But I digress…

I wrestled and fought like hell against moving back home when every piece of my world was literally falling apart and crumbling around me. I had never felt so lost and broken, filled with pain that aches in the deepest spaces of your bones. It was nothing like I have ever experienced. All that little voice inside of me wanted to do was run as fast as I possibly could to anywhere but home. However, home was the only thought that brought peace and rest. Doors opened what seemed like effortlessly to ensure this transition occurred.

In the last 2 years at home, I have learned what it means to be content in any place. I have witnessed what it looks like for every moment of a day-to-day routine to have purpose. I have come to realize that the restless heart within me is truly restless for HOME. I am slowly learning to bloom where I’m planted (and that it in no way means an eternal commitment to that plot of soil thank Jesus.) I am no longer afraid to make commitments to serving or building relationships because I know without a shadow of a doubt that God will use that long after I’m gone from this place. I long for my routine, my normal, my every day ordinary mundane days because when God is present in them, HOLY COW. I have witnessed amazing relationships, moments of joy, presence in pain, miraculous healing simply by saying yes to walking out my front door and being engaged in the life going on around me. By no means do I have all this figured out. I’m simply just beginning. But, oh what a much needed lesson. I’m no longer afraid to stay.

On the other hand, I’ve always had that desire to go. I have learned in the last couple of years that there’s nothing wrong with that…when I’m not running away from anything. In fact, my insatiable desire for travel and adventure is seemingly innate, initiated and manufactured by the God who knows the number of hairs on my head.  For at least 10 years, Africa has absolutely fascinated me: her people, her landscape, her music, her art and culture. Every single aspect of the continent has intrigued my wanderlust. Throughout the years, I have witnessed friends visit her dusty streets and return forever changed, or perhaps choose to stay. At first, I was ready to go in a heartbeat. I remember my junior year of college being ready to drop everything and go. Then, I settled for doing what was safe and acceptable and continued school. That urge has never left although somewhat changed. For several years I told myself that I didn’t need to go to Africa, that I didn’t need to be what I viewed as “hardcore” to spread Jesus’s love. I convinced myself that living life and serving in the US was equally important (which it SO SO is, don’t’ get me wrong) and harder for me, because I wanted to run away. (see above about learning to stay put)

Recently, I was talking with a friend about how the desire in me to visit Africa had grown so strongly recently. I have gone years moved by the sight of African children playing and dancing. I have cried watching and reading stories of illness and disease taking lives. I have lain in my floor with my heart aching for those being trafficked for sex and money. I have been overwhelmed by emotion and brought to tears simply when hearing an African song. I can’t deny the Holy Spirit’s involvement in my fascination with this place. But, I had no idea where to even start.

I have friends who have visited/are from Malawi and sponsor a child there. I have another family I met in college who does work in Tanzania. Even still, others are doing great things in Uganda and Kenya. Where do I even begin to start to make this happen? For months, this was my struggle. Then, last week, sitting at RFC I mentioned wanting to go to Africa. My friend Dean was emailing back and forth with the family we know that has lived and worked in Tanzania for several years. I explained to him what I wanted to do and within a single email, I was working on details to travel to Tanzania to “come and see” life and the work there. A week later and plans are set, airline tickets about to be bought, time off work approved. I am ecstatic, overwhelmed, humbled, and honored.

God places desires in our hearts with purpose. I cannot wait to sit in that beautiful country and learn at the feet of Brett and Christie about life in rural Africa, and what missions and development look like there. I have no idea what this foreshadows for my life, but I feel my questions can’t be answered from here. I know I have to come and see.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Confession Time

So you read it right, time for a little confession time.

For the last year or so, I have been completely self-absorbed. I have been so concerned with my life and my circumstances that those were all I saw. In talking to GOD, I was constantly asking "Why me?" or "When are YOU going to step in and help me?" or "Make me feel better." I have just been very selfish.

Some may say, "Don't we have the right to be selfish with GOD sometimes?" and sure we do. I'm not saying that. But HE built me with innerworkings to be most at peace when my mind is on the needs of others and meeting those needs. I have never been more restless and not at peace than in the last year. It's amazing to look back with some insight and see how ridiculously affected I was by this simple notion. My mind got smaller, my sleep became less, my closet got bigger, my fridge got fuller, and my heart got colder.

But thank GOD for HIS interventions. In the last couple of week, HE has been showing up in the most random places, reminding me of who I am and who HE made me to be. My heart immediately began bleeding watching a documentary about the Darfur genocide. Then, I began to think on the thousands of orphans in Ethiopia starving to death, the people proclaiming JESUS in the Middle East and China at the expense of their lives, the young children being trafficked into sex slavery across the world even here in the US. All of this has been occuring whileI sat comfortably with tons of clothes and food, getting an education for a medical career. What the #$&* is wrong with this picture?!?!

My world is slowly being tilted back to the way HE intended, my heart slowly being molded to feel the way HE feels about these hurts and injustices, my eyes being opened to the needs of those around me.

THANK GOD that HE doesn't give up and leave us at the dumpster to go off with the trash like we're willing to do to each other. Praying HIS love presides over these situations and over my heart and yours that we may not watch silently while HIS kids starve, hurt, die, etc at the hands of redeemable situations.

In HIS love.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Months in Review

I know I know, I'm a horrible blogger. Let me catch you up..kind of.

May- Alright, at the beginning of May I finished up my 3rd semester of PA school. I was planning on doing my first triathalon in New Orleans before heading home but my knee decided differently. Instead, I headed home to TN early for an Ortho consult. I also got to spend alot of fun family time. Due to the knee ending up needing surgery, I got to stay home for the Memorial Day crawfish boil with my family and go kayaking too!

June- The first week of June I was supposed to begin my 4th semester of PA school. Instead, I stayed home to have my knee scoped. Then, Dad drove me (hauling my car) 2 days postop to Montgomery to meet some friends who drove me and my car the rest of the way back to Mobile since I still couldn't drive. At the end of June, we celebrated one of my friends' birthday early by spending a weekend in Atlanta at a WNBA game and Six Flags. We sat on the front row right behind Diana Taurasi..we were all in basketball heaven.

July-This month has been full of school, school, school. I have had tons of tests this semester because it's so short. I did manage a trip home for the 4th of July weekend which was much needed with a short stop in Montgomery. I finish my didactic year in a week and take my PACKRAT (mock board exam) next week. Then I'll have a 3 week break before starting my year of clinical rotations (I start out in pediatrics!!) For that break, I'll spend most of it on the road in Atlanta, Chicago, and Guatemala. Things are getting exciting around here!!


Monday, April 18, 2011

Just Keep Swimmin..

Well, as you know, I'm training for the Iron Girl triathalon in New Orleans on May 22. The swimming has been and will continue to be the hardest part for me, but today was a MAJOR accomplishment. The swim in the race is a quarter mile. Today, I swam my first full distance without stopping!!! I just got in the zone and felt so accomplished when I finished, like I may actually do this after all.

In other news, my birthday is Wednesday so this past week some friends and I went over to Pensacola so see Sugarland, Little Big Town, and Matt Nathanson. Let me just say it was the best concert EVER! We were AT the stage. Jennifer Nettles of Sugarland called me gorgeous and told me happy birthday. One of the guys from Little Big Town walked over and put one of his guitar picks in my hand. And, for the whole night, my friends and I sang at the top of our lungs. From the time we left the hotel to go to dinner, from dinner to the show, all through the show, and all night long we were rocking out some Sugarland! I'm not a big country fan and those that know me know that, but they are definitely one of my favorite music acts, period.

Anyways, it's birthday week and I've already taken my one test of the week so it's time to CELEBRATE!