Sunday, April 16, 2017

Rooted in His Word

"But none of these things move me; nor do I count my life as dear to myself, so that I may finish my race with joy, and the ministry which I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God." ~Acts 20:24

Over the years, this has been one of my favorite Bible verses. It's one that I often go back to, one that I can read again and again, and still find much encouragement.
Right now, at this particular season in my life, I find the most encouragement in the first part of the verse, where Paul declares, "But none of these things move me."
If you look at the context in which he spoke these words, you will see that he had already faced many trials and persecutions, and he knew that the future held more trouble. We're talking intense trials, and yet still somehow he declared, "But none of these things move me." This amazes and humbles me, it encourages and convicts me. I look at my own life and see how easily I am moved. How easily I let little things disrupt my peace, how quickly I am moved when faced with a challenge or struggle.

Being in Uganda has been such an amazing experience, and I'm so grateful to be here. Words can't express my gratitude and praise to God for making the impossible possible for me. I'm so thankful for that, though it has not been without some challenges.

Cultures vary, and thus what is culturally acceptable to say varies from culture to culture. I knew this beforehand, but it still has been something which I have been learning more so as I'm here. Let me just say that it is completely different living here for three months versus coming for less than three weeks. You begin to see and learn things that you simply can't know in a short amount of time. I'm going to be very honest right now and say that some of the things that are deemed culturally acceptable to say I have found to be hurtful. This has been a real struggle for me, but God is using that struggle to teach and refine me. I had read this quote on a day that was especially hard for me:

"At home you can never know what it is to be alone – absolutely alone, amidst thousands, as you can in a Chinese city, without one friend, one companion, everyone looking on you with curiosity, with contempt, with suspicion or with dislike. Thus to learn what it is to be despised and rejected of men – of those you wish to benefit, your motives not understood . . . and then to have the love of Jesus applied to your heart by the Holy Spirit . . . this is worth coming for." ~Hudson Taylor 

God's timing is perfect, because on that specific day I found so much encouragement and comfort in those words. It was as if God spoke that directly to my heart.
I found those words to be so very true! Maybe I have not experienced all of what Hudson Taylor said, since I have been blessed with such sweet friendship with fellow missionaries (Thank You, Lord!), but I have really found the rest of those words to be so true. Even the ones you come to serve will sometimes hurt you, and sometimes wound you with words, but Jesus is so gracious to give us His love for them. He doesn't just ask us to love others, He gives us that love. It is worth coming for indeed.

This brings me back to my verse, Acts 20:24. I realize how Paul wasn't moved by the trials and tribulations he faced (which mine are nothing in comparison), and I must confess that I have allowed myself to be moved by the words of others. I have let the words of others have far too much power in my life, I have let them move me when instead I should be standing firm on the rock of God's Word. This makes me think of Psalm 1:1-3:

"Blessed is the man

Who walks not in the counsel of the ungodly,
Nor stands in the path of sinners,

Nor sits in the seat of the scornful;
But his delight is in the law of the Lord,
And in His law he meditates day and night.
He shall be like a tree

Planted by the rivers of water,
That brings forth its fruit in its season,

Whose leaf also shall not wither;

And whatever he does shall prosper." 

Oh, how I love God's Word and how He so faithfully speaks to me through it. I realize that it should be His Word, and His Word alone, that moves me, that breaks me, that changes me, not the words of others. I want to be so firmly planted and rooted in His Word that the words of others would have no dominion over me, that I wouldn't be moved by them. Instead, I want to be moved and blessed by the words of my Savior. When I go to His Word, I'm reminded of how great His love for me really is, how He is with me, how He strengthens me, how He is enough, how I'm fearfully and wonderfully made, and that's all that really matters. I want God's Word to be what defines me, not man's.

Paul was not moved by the trials of life, but instead, he counted his life as nothing that he might finish his race with joy. That's how I want to live, not counting my life as dear to myself, but daily giving it in surrender to the Lord's plan and purpose. By God's grace I want to run this race well, and I want to testify to that amazing grace.

What a good God I serve! I'm so thankful for His faithfulness to work in my life, I'm very thankful for the ministry He has called me to here in Uganda, and for all He is teaching me through it. God is faithful!

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Life Lessons in Uganda

Sometimes, it doesn't make sense what God is doing. There is so much that happens in this life which we just simply cannot understand in our flesh. God's ways are past our understanding. While that can be hard and cause us to question at times, I'm thankful to serve a God who is so much bigger than anything I can comprehend.

As most of you know, a week before I left for Uganda, I lost my beloved dog, Gidget. It seemed like such bad timing (though really, there never would be a good time for such a thing), and I really lacked motivation to prepare for my trip. It even caused me to not want to leave home, as I struggled more with leaving my loved ones, thinking more about the "what ifs".

I realize it was God's grace that allowed me to be there for Gidget at the end, and that it was also His grace which allowed me to leave soon after, because it was really a good thing for me to go at such a time. Everything at home seemed to remind me of her, and it was really the best thing for me to leave the surroundings that constantly reminded me so much of her.

Don't get me wrong, I still miss Gidget so much, I still think of her often, and I still cry. I still feel the pain of losing her; my heart does still grieve. But at the same time, I have a deep joy in my heart as I serve the Lord here in Uganda. I have a joy that comes from doing what I feel as though I was created to do, serving and loving His children. I can't really even describe it, but being here has brought such a deep sense of fulfillment, it feels so right, and like I said, it feels as though I'm doing exactly what I was made to do. I'm so grateful for that!

Since my arrival, there have been many deaths here. I wondered if this was normal, and Danyal said that it's not. I've gone to just two of the burials. The most recent one I went to was for a woman just a little younger than me, who was murdered. The whole thing is so horrible. I stood close to the front (honestly it seemed too close) at the burial, and someone told me that the man in front of me was the father of the girl. It was heartbreaking to see him weep as his daughter's casket was lowered into the ground. I cannot even imagine the pain he must have felt, the pain he must still be feeling. I cried, though I didn't even know her myself, but I cried for the loss of the family, and was thinking of my own recent loss and how painful it all is.

I think of Romans 12:15 which says, "Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep." We are called to have compassion and empathize with others, and I've realized that the pain we go through ourselves helps us to do that. I know that it may sound silly, and maybe even bad, to compare losing a dog to losing a daughter, and so know that I'm not doing that. I'm simply saying that I felt the deep pain of loss in having Gidget pass away. She was my baby for 13 years and it hurt so much to have her leave me. So, I feel as though I now better understand the pain of losing a loved one, and the deep sorrow that fills the heart.

Maybe that's part of the reason God took Gidget from me when He did, because He knew that coming to Uganda would mean encountering those going through sorrow and the grief of losing someone. He knew that me going through it myself would give me a compassion and an empathy for these people that I don't think I'd have otherwise; a heart that weeps with those who weeps.

I'm not saying I'm glad that God took Gidget when He did, because I still hurt, and I'm still sad. I'm simply saying that I feel as though I might have caught a glimpse of the reason for the timing of it all. I'm thankful for that.

I'm thankful most of all to know that Jesus has conquered death, I'm thankful that my Savior lives, and because He lives, I will live also. I'm thankful that He is the resurrection and the life. I'm thankful that although there may be tears and sorrow now, one day He will wipe away every tear, and everlasting joy will fill the hearts of His children. I'm thankful for the hope of heaven; it's hope that no sorrow can diminish.

Soon we will be celebrating Easter. I feel as though this year's celebration will be extra special for me, as I have a renewed thankfulness for the meaning of it. I'm so thankful that my Savior defeated death, and that death is not the end. I'm thankful that He is the resurrection and the life, and even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, He walks with me all the way. ❤️

Jesus said to her, "I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me, though he may die, he shall live."
~John 11:25

He will swallow up death forever
And the LORD GOD will wipe away tears from all faces;
The rebuke of His people
He will take away from all the earth;
For the LORD has spoken.
~Isaiah 25:8

Therefore you now have sorrow; but I will see you again and your heart will rejoice, and your joy no one will take from you.
~John 16:22

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort those who are in any trouble, with the comfort with which we ourselves our comforted by God.
~2 Corinthians 1:3-4

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Uganda 2016 Update

It's hard to believe that I have already been home from Africa for over a month! I have been wanting to write about the trip for awhile now, but each time I think about doing so, I feel as though I don’t even know how to adequately express all that God allowed us to be a part of there. I know that I still can’t put it all into words, but I would like to share a little bit.

First of all, I want to thank everyone who prayed for us. We could not have been there without the prayer and support from those back at home. Prayer is so vital to any mission trip, and as those of us on the team had a great need to be in continual prayer, we also greatly needed the prayers of others. Thank you for being a part of our trip through your prayers. It means so much to me! 

Our trip began on April 25th. We flew from Portland to Seattle, and from Seattle we flew to Dubai, where we spent the night before flying onto Entebbe. We had so, so much luggage that we took…not only did we have our personal things, but we had things for the missionaries there in Uganda, medical supplies, and suitcases full of glasses for our vision clinics. Because of this, checking in at Portland took a good amount of time, and I was thankful when we were finally past that and on our way. In Seattle we had a bit of a scare, as a worker for Emirates got out a scale and began weighing each individual’s carry on suitcase. Never before has this happened, and so most packed the carry on as heavy as they could get it. We soon found out that Emirates really is strict about the weight restriction.

Thankfully, for those who did have carry on suitcases that were too heavy, Emirates checked them for no additional charge. I had tried my best to get my carry on close to the weight limit, and almost all of the things it contained were medication. I didn’t want to check the medication in case the luggage got lost, and Pastor Kevin explained this to the lady who worked for the airline. Thankfully, she let me by even though it was a little over the limit.

The flight to Dubai went so much better than I had anticipated! I was actually really nervous about that flight for some reason, mainly because I had never been on an airplane for that long of duration. I mean, two hours had seemed like an eternity to me when my mom and I would make our trips to Oakland, and so I was a little nervous about fourteen or so hours! I remember as we were getting on the plane to Dubai, literally walking on, I said to Deanna, who was ahead of me, “I hope we make it”. She just looked at me with this sort of nervous look and said “What do you mean?” Deanna also has a fear of flying, and so perhaps my sharing that thought and my fear with her was not exactly the wisest choice!

A lot of people were jealous of me when I said we were flying through Dubai, and it was neat to see a different airport and go to another country that I had never been to, but, since we were just passing through, we really didn’t see much of Dubai at all. The airport was nice though, and it was interesting to get even just a small glimpse of the culture there.

I woke up at the hotel really early the next morning. I think it was three or four something. My friend, Joey, and I had coffee and got ready for the day before we headed downstairs to meet the rest of the team for breakfast. It was exciting to think about the fact that that very afternoon we would be arriving in Uganda! Last year, when the Lord first made it possible for me to go, I remember waking up each day with such a feeling of thankfulness simply to be there. I had waited for what seemed like a very long time (in reality only two years) to go on another mission trip, and I didn't expect to be able to go to Uganda! Because of my treatments for Cystic Fibrosis, I didn't really picture myself being able to go there, and so it seemed almost unreal to wake up each day in Uganda! I was on my way back to that very place, to the place where I didn't think I would be able to go, and now I was going for the second time. God is good!

Because this trip was a medical mission, it was very different than the previous year. Instead of going straight to Ishunga, where Bill and Danyal (missionaries from our home church) live, and spending all our time there, we spent the first part of our trip in different cities. I will be very honest with you; I was disappointed that we weren’t going to be spending the whole trip in Ishunga, though of course I knew this long before we even left. I am thankful, however, to have been able to see different parts of Uganda, as well as for having the opportunity to also partner with others in ministry there. 

On the trip, I soon learned that I needed to continually lay my expectations down at the feet of Jesus, surrendering them to Him. On my very first mission trip to Germany, I remember being told to go with no expectations. I never really had a problem with this, as I knew each trip would be different, but, for some reason, this year I really did struggle with this. I think it’s because I so loved my first trip to Uganda, and, like I said, I awoke each day with such a thankfulness simply to be there, that I expected the same feelings and emotions to fill me again. I struggled with this, and even felt guilty for not feeling those same emotions as on the first trip, though I really was so thankful to be there again. A song by Kari Jobe, “You Are Good”, greatly ministered to me so many times during the trip. I love the lyrics..."Every day, I’ll awaken my praise, and pour out a song from my heart. You are good. You are good. You are good, and Your mercy is forever…” Even though, as I said, I struggled with not feeling the same emotions, I did feel so thankful for God calling me back there. 

As I mentioned before, this was a medical/vision mission trip, and I helped with the vision clinics. There were four of us who did the clinics, Bryan, Karla, Brandon, and me. This was the first time for all of us doing vision clinics like this, and I really had no idea what to expect. I’m very thankful for Global Eyeglass Ministry, and for all the training we received before we left. I still wondered how it was actually all going to work out once we were there! I’m so thankful that God went before us, and for Him allowing us to be a part of those clinics.

We saw so many people come to the clinics. It was amazing to me how many people would sit and wait, and how patiently they waited! Even if it was all day, the Ugandans did not seem bothered by having to wait their turn. To me, this was huge, as I’m used to working in a fast paced environment where nobody wants to wait! 

We did our best to stick with our numbering system so that it remained fair and that those who came first would be seen first, but it did get a little difficult at times. People would come with a really good reason as to why they should be bumped to the front of the line. Sometimes it was because they traveled from far away and really needed help, or sometimes it was due to their medical condition/age or because a doctor referred them to us. It could become overwhelming at times, and it was hard to know what to do sometimes, especially when so many people were waiting ever so patiently. It was hard not being able to see everyone who came. I remember thinking about Jesus and how the multitudes would come to Him. I wondered if Jesus was ever overwhelmed by the amount of people and their needs. Of course, He is God, so on first thought I would think no, He would not feel overwhelmed, but, as I think about it more, I know that though He was God, He also became man, and He experienced our weaknesses and limitations to a certain extent. One thing I do know is that Jesus had compassion on those who came to Him. He loved each one, and I really hope that that same love and compassion was felt there in Uganda. It is such a privilege to have been able to go and be a part of the vision clinics, and I am so thankful that, by God’s grace, He allows us to be His hands and His feet.

In the vision clinic, we tested the distance vision of the patients at the eye charts. If they saw any less than 20/30, we would send them onto the autorefractor, which is where their eyes were measured to see what prescription of glasses they needed, and hopefully, we had the right one. After testing at the eye charts, and before sending them onto the autorefractor if needed, we would test to see if they also needed reading glasses. For the most part, I helped at the eye charts and at the table where we tested for reading glasses.  I had said before the trip that I didn’t really feel comfortable doing the autorefractor, and so would prefer not to if possible. On our second to last outreach, however, I needed to help at the table with the autorefractor. I found that I actually really enjoyed it! After matching the patient with a pair of glasses, we would then test them at the eye chart again to make sure there was improvement. It was really neat to see how much of an improvement the glasses did make! I found that I actually did like to work back by the autorefractor, and so the next day my team made sure that I got to work back there again.

I really enjoyed getting to know our interpreters and building a relationship with them. We depended upon them so much! This year, I tried more than last year to speak a little bit of the language, and I had so much fun doing so! I loved greeting the Ugandans and seeing them smile and, yes, laugh at my attempt to speak the language. My go to word was “agandi”, since that was a simple greeting I could use at anytime of the day. I remember hearing one of the people in the crowd saying, “She only knows agandi”. Instead of being offended by this, I found it humorous. They really did appreciate me trying, and I enjoyed it too.

One conversation that I will always remember is a conversation I had early in the morning while it was still dark. I was sitting outside at the hotel where we were staying, having some quiet time. One of the men who worked at the hotel came up and started talking to me.  I told him about why I was there, and I will never forget his words to me. He said, “Thank you for loving us”. This touched me so deeply. I struggled with feeling inadequate, even though I worked at the vision clinic; I still struggled with feeling as though I wasn’t really doing anything of importance. I know that this was self focused, and that those thoughts were not from the Lord, but still it was a struggle for me at times. The words that Chris spoke to me ministered to my heart so sweetly. I felt as though God had sent Chris to speak those words to me, because I needed to be reminded of why I was there. Even though I was telling Chris why I was there, Chris was really the one who reminded me of why I was there…to show Christ’s love. It was easy to get consumed in what I was or wasn’t doing, but really what mattered was loving the people as Jesus loves us. It didn’t matter so much as to what I was doing or how I was serving, but what mattered was showing the love of Jesus. God knew that I needed that reminder.

Last year, I met a little girl named Halima who quickly stole my heart. I spent quite a bit of time with her on that first trip, and am so thankful that I was able to see her again this time! She is so sweet, and she says the funniest things. Her smile lights up the room! I’m very thankful that I was able to spend some time with her. Here is a picture of Halima and me:


When I look at this picture, my heart is filled with thankfulness, and I remember a couple of my favorite Bible verses.

“Trust in the LORD, and do good;
Dwell in the land, and feed on His faithfulness.
Delight yourself also in the LORD,
And He shall give you the desires of your heart.”
~Psalm 37:3-4

 For two years I struggled with being home and not being able to go on a mission trip. I struggled with waiting for the Lord to fulfill the desires in my heart. I struggled with waiting on His timing, and wondered when and if He would allow me to return to the “mission field". I’m so very thankful for the Lord’s perfect timing. I now see how He was indeed working, even in my waiting. He was preparing me to go to Uganda, making it possible for me to be able to go. I felt as though the study for my new medication was keeping me from the mission field, but in reality God was actually preparing me to go, because with the new medication I have been so much healthier than ever before. I honestly don’t know if going to Africa would have been an option for me without it. God is so good! I’m thankful that He is so faithful to do what He knows to be best, even when we don’t understand.

I am so thankful and blessed that I got to be a part of this trip. I’m so thankful for all my team. We blended really well together, and it was a blessing being able to serve alongside one another. I’m thankful for the prayers and encouragement of my team in the rough moments, and how God’s love was displayed through them. I’m thankful for the good moments, the laughter and conversation we all shared. There was one night when a few of us girls were up really late, and we were laughing so, so hard. There is something about being overly tired that makes everything seem a thousand times funnier, but those are memories for which I am very thankful. One night, my roommate, Nancy, was helping me put a band aid on a cut, and she said something like, “You do realize we have only been here one day and already we are both falling apart".  It cracked me up. She would say the funniest things and it was such a joy to be there with her. 

It was hard coming home, and I guess I was prepared for that, but then again I wasn’t. 
During one of our outreaches in Ishunga, I remember shedding tears as I felt overwhelmed by the needs of the people, and I wondered how I could possibly go back to work after being there. How could I return to “normal” life after being a part of the clinics? How could I leave? There was so much need there, but I’m learning that there is so much need here. Too often I though think I’m just blind to it, to the need right in front of me. There in Uganda, the need was pretty obvious, but I think here in the states people do a pretty good job of covering up the need, of hiding their brokenness. Some may look like they have it all together and that nothing is wrong, but the brokenness might be shown in how they rudely respond to me at the checkout, or how they still complain when I do my best to make them happy. These are things I deal with at work, and honestly, sometimes I have a really hard time loving others and wanting to serve them. It’s hard for me to love the woman who is so demanding, or to want to serve the man who speaks to me rudely. And yet, I’m called to love. I’m called to serve. I’m called to love and serve wherever Jesus places me, right here, right now. Even though the need might have been more obvious there in Uganda, the need is just as real here. I want to have a heart that loves, a heart that reaches out to the needy. Chris thanked me for loving them, and how his words touched my heart! I want that love to be seen here in America just as much as in Uganda. I’m also very aware that God doesn’t need me. He doesn’t need me to serve. He lets me do it. Even though I had to leave Uganda and the great work that was happening there, God hasn’t left. He’s still there, and that’s all that matters. He loves the people more than I do, and His hands and His feet are more than able to serve in the places where I cannot. He is always faithful to care for His people. 

I recently finished reading in Colossians, and one of the very last verses in that book really stood out to me:

“And say to Archippus, ‘Take heed to the ministry which you have received in the Lord, that you may fulfill it.’” ~Colossians 4:17

I want to fulfill the ministry the Lord has given me right here. Maybe sometimes the ministry isn’t the one I wouldn’t have chosen, but it’s the one He has given, and I want to fulfill it with a joyful heart.

Thank you again so much for your prayers and support. I’m so very thankful to have been able to go back to Uganda. I’m thankful for all that the Lord did there, and for all I know that He is continuing to do. I’m thankful that God lets us be a part of His work. What a wonderful God we serve!

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Growing Where I am Planted...


My Mom recently got me a new journal, which is one of my favorite things, and on the front it says "Grow where you are planted". She thought this was very appropriate for me, and she was right!
I've been having a very difficult time with where I am at right now, and honestly I have been struggling so much with being content. I was realizing how I can read quotes on contentment and write devotionals on contentment, but when it comes down to it, contentment is so much easier said than done, and I have been so discontent. I've been bringing this to the Lord, asking Him to help me to be content. He already knows my feelings and struggles, and I am so thankful for this. I don't have to pretend I have it all together when I come to Him...I can confess everything to Him, knowing that He doesn't despise my weaknesses.

As a lot of people know, I am currently in a study for a new drug for Cystic Fibrosis. While the possible benefits of this study are very exciting, this really has been a hard thing for me, and something which I have not wanted to do. I'm not exactly sure the reasoning for this. I have known that I don't want to be a part of this study, but why? It makes perfect sense to do it, and deep inside, I know that I know that I know that this is what the Lord wants me to do, so why have I been so against it, and why have I been feeling resentful inside about it? People ask me about the study, both at work and at church, and while I know I should feel so loved and blessed that people care enough to ask, it has been a hard question for me because inside I have been struggling so much with it. I believe that this all comes down to discontentment. I so need the Lord's grace and mercy, for Him to come and help me in this area of my life! I have been so discontent with where I am, and have wanted so much to be able to go back to another country and serve there, but right now this study is keeping me here. I need to look at it as not the study keeping me here, but instead, it is Jesus keeping me here for now because this is where He wants me.

One thing the Lord has been teaching me is that I can trust Him with the desires of my heart. Too often I let fear control me, and I even fear what will happen if I trust the Lord with the desires in my heart. I feel as though it's "too easy" to simply surrender it all to Him...when in reality sometimes it's really hard. The Lord has been so good to me, He has given me every reason to trust that He will take care of me. He has been so amazingly faithful to me. He knows the desire in my heart to be a missionary, I mean, after all, He put it there! He has led me to Germany, to Belize, to Montana, to Costa Rica, and I have followed...so if He leads me to stay here and travel to and from California, shouldn't I follow just the same? I want to follow Him with joy in my heart and not begrudgingly.

As it's been especially hard lately as I walk through this season of waiting, I know I must trust that this season of waiting doesn't mean He's forgotten me, but rather that He is preparing me. I am so comforted by the passage in Isaiah 49:15-16..."Can a woman forget her nursing child, and not have compassion on the son of her womb? Surely they may forget, yet I will not forget you. See, I have inscribed you on the palms of My hands; your walls are continually before Me."  

Some thoughts I wrote in my journal today...
Lord Jesus, help me not to despise where I am planted right now, but to grow where You have so lovingly planted me. I pray that I would remember Ecclesiastes 3, and that there is a time for every season. You make everything beautiful in it's time, and are faithfully working in all seasons of my life. Though this is a very hard season for me, help me to embrace it, to be thankful for every blessing You pour out on me, even through this hard time, please be my joy. Please help me to have strength to get up every day, even when I feel I lack all motivation to do so. Please use me where You have planted me.

I have a friend at work who always is such an encouragement and a blessing to me...he brightens my days so much, especially the hard ones. One time I had asked him to be praying for me because I was having a bad day, and he prayed for me right there on the spot...while standing at the door making sure people had their Costco cards. I still remember one time when I was talking to him he told me that right there (Costco) is his mission field. He then said something that has stuck with me. He said "Is it the one I'd choose? No. But it's the one He's given me." I feel as though those words speak so much to my heart right now. I've been so disappointed and hurting because of where I'm at, but am I going to allow my feelings to get in the way of how and where God wants to use me? Or will I humbly accept where He has placed me, just like my friend at work has, and allow Him to use me how He sees fit? A flower does not choose where it is planted, but grows wherever the Gardener plants it. 

Through this season in my life, I want to rejoice in Jesus, instead of walking around in discouragement. This is way easier said than done, as daily it has been a battle for me. I love the song "Good to Me" by Audrey Assad because it speaks to my heart:

"When I’m bowed down with sorrow I will lift up Your name
And the foxes in the vineyard will not steal my joy
Because You are good to me, good to me
You are good to me, good to me
You are good to me".

The Lord IS good to me. When I feel bowed down with sadness and discouraged, I want to CHOOSE to lift up His name, and not let circumstances steal the joy that is found in Christ.
God is good, and I want to serve Him where He has planted me. I want to be His light at Costco, in the airports, and at the hospital in California. I don't want people to look at me and see discontentment and a girl who wishes she was somewhere else...I want them to see Jesus. Oh Lord, help me in this. It's one thing to write a blog about this, but it's another thing to get up and live this each day. Thank you so very much to everyone who has been praying for me. Thank you for being excited for me as I do this drug study, and for caring enough to ask me about it. I really, honestly, appreciate it so much. God bless you all!

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Strength and Comfort

There have been many times in this life when my strength has failed; times I have been so weak and weary.
As hard as these times might be, it is when I am weak that I see His strength; it is when my strength fails that I realize His is still perfect.
I've read Psalm 71 many, many times, but today as I read it, verse 16 jumped out at me:
"I will go in the strength of the Lord GOD; I will make mention of Your righteousness, of Yours only."
How comforting it is to know that I can go in HIS strength. I don't need to try to go through my day in my own strength. From the moment I wake up to the moment I put my head on the pillow, and all the moments in between, it is His strength which enables me to keep going.
When God places a calling on my life, He gives with it the strength to fulfill it...His perfect strength.
Verse 21 of Psalm 71: "You shall increase my greatness, and comfort me on every side." 
I love this...comfort on every side. No matter what the struggles, trials, setbacks, or disappointments I might be facing, His comfort is mine, and it is protecting me all around. I can run to His Word, rest in His arms, and lean close, knowing that nothing can take me from His loving embrace. There is so much comfort in Jesus, and the harder this life is, the more opportunity I have to experience that sweet comfort. Likewise, the weaker I feel, the more I will experience His strength.
How thankful I am to be living life for Jesus! When my strength fails, His is still perfect, and when I'm discouraged, He comforts me.
Strength and comfort...these are mine in Jesus.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

God IS Good

There is so much on my heart and my mind, so much I feel that I could write that I don't even know where to begin, but I will begin by saying this, God is good. He is so very good, through all the ups and downs in life, I can confidently say that He is good and I am so very thankful for His unending, undeserved goodness to me.

I got back home from Montana on May 4th, and while it is a blessing being able to be home again, it was really hard to leave Montana. I had been home a couple times in the last 10 months, but both times were short and I wasn't really able to "settle in" - I was either preparing to leave for Costa Rica or to return to Montana. When I came home in May, it was hard for me to realize that my time with Potter's Field had come to a close, and I felt a strange let down - which can maybe be compared to the let down one might feel after Christmas, although for me it was much harder, and if I'm honest, it still is hard for me. When I came back from Costa Rica and went to Montana for my month of reentry, I wasn't really struggling with being back in the states - not that I didn't miss those in Costa Rica, but I felt strangely content and was so thankful to be where I was, and was so blessed to spend that month pondering all that the Lord had done. I felt it harder once I returned home, which I think for me is because, like I said, it was the let down of everything coming to a close. I also felt overwhelmed by the questions people asked, such as, "So what's next?" I knew that I would be asked questions such as these, but I quickly learned that knowing this doesn't make it easy when it happens. For me, each time I am asked this is a reminder that I really don't know what's next, and I struggle so much with that - more than I thought I would. Don't get me wrong, I don't hold it against anyone for asking me questions such as these, in fact, I'm actually very thankful that people have asked me and are showing an interest in my life and what God's doing, it just has been hard and something through which the Lord is growing me. He is teaching me to be content even in this season of uncertainty. 

I got home from Montana on a Saturday, and then the following Thursday I went into the hospital for IV therapy to try to rid my lungs of infection and bring my lung function back up. I had been expecting this soon upon my arrival home, but not quite so soon! Nonetheless, I know that God's timing is best, and though my hospital stay was also longer than I had anticipated, He taught me much through it and I'm so thankful. For me, it was especially challenging to just have that time where I couldn't be busy and active - especially after being busy for the last 10 months! I knew that one of the reasons the Lord brought me there was to MAKE me rest. He also taught me things that I don't think I would have learned otherwise. One of the lessons was the lesson of not hanging onto that which He has already forgiven. This is a lesson He has been teaching me time and time again for such a long time, and one I thought I had learned, but I found myself once again struggling with guilt and trusting in the Lord's grace and forgiveness. For the first days of my hospital stay, I was hooked up to my IV for a considerable portion of the day, and so I had to take it with me (and I learned what a bad idea it is to put my cell phone on the stand - but that is a whole other story) wherever I would go. It wasn't terrible, but it was a hassle. I would stub my toe on the stinkin stand and it would just be nice when I was disconnected and FREE. Well, in the midst of all this, the Lord brought me to Romans 8, which has always been a favorite passage of mine.
"There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made me free from the law of sin and death." (Romans. 8:1-2) Verse 2 especially stood out to me - Jesus has made me free! I thought about me being hooked up to my IV, and what a challenge it was to constantly drag that with me everywhere. I realized how I don't have to drag around my past, constantly stubbing my toe and stumbling over it, because Jesus has set me free from it. When my nurse would unhook me from my IV, I didn't beg to be hooked up again, I didn't take the stand with me just because I was so attached to that (how weird would that have looked haha), but instead I took advantage of my time being free. The same is true with my past - it is so silly when I drag it around behind me because Jesus has already freed me from it. I don't ever have to be hooked up to that again. PRAISE THE LORD! I listened to a sermon this morning and the pastor said, "Never remind God of something He has chosen to forget, and He has chosen to forget our sins." I'll say it again, PRAISE THE LORD!

When I was in the hospital, I happened to see a little baby just lying there on the hospital bed in the room next to mine - nobody seemed to be in the room with it. My heart instantly went out to that child! Sometimes I would be in my room and I would hear a baby crying, and how sad that was to hear, not because I was annoyed by it, but it was sad because in my mind, babies shouldn't have to be in the hospital. This was only the 2nd time of me being hospitalized in my life, but there was a little baby there who has the same thing I do and he was only 2 weeks old. To make matters worse, I asked about the baby next door to me (because I had seen it), and I heard that it was all alone - nobody was there with it. My heart broke. I really struggled with the thought of a baby being there with nobody there to love it and comfort it. It really put things in perspective for me. I wanted so badly to go and hold the baby, and I tried, but there are far too many rules in the hospital that hindered me from doing so. I just wanted to be able to love it. I was really burdened, and I kept asking questions about the baby - though nobody was allowed to tell me ANYTHING I managed to get some information. :) There were multiple babies there so it was really hard to keep track of which was which - especially when they weren't allowed to say names. I found out that the baby wasn't alone, although it is not unheard of for a baby to be there alone, and that even though she had a messed up family life, she now has a foster mom there who is very loving. This made me feel better - but I still wanted to go see her! The night before I went home, I was questioning my nurse about the baby in the next room, and I asked him if it would be okay if I visited her after I was discharged (because then I wouldn't be a patient anymore), and if it was okay with the foster mom. He asked me how I knew there was a foster mom but I wouldn't tell him (I protect those who give me information haha), and he told me it would be okay, but I just needed to be sure to get permission.
The next day was very long and didn't go as planned, but I did finally get discharged and my Mom went and asked the foster mom if I could come in to visit the baby. She gave permission and I was able to go and visit sweet baby Stevie :) What a blessing to end my hospital stay by visiting her.

Being there at the hospital, I once again learned how everywhere I go is a mission field. It was so easy to focus on myself when I was in my room, but as I got out around others, I realized how there are so many there who are hurting, whether for themselves or for a loved one. When I got out and looked for ways to minister to others, I felt so blessed myself. The Lord uses us even in our weaknesses, especially in our weaknesses.
One of the songs that came on when I was in the hospital that really ministered to me is called "Aslan" by Kendall Payne. The lyrics that really spoke to me are these:

"But He won't say the words you wish that He would 
Oh, He don't do the deeds you know that He could
He won't think the thoughts you think He should
But He is good, He is good"

How true these words are. So often the Lord doesn't do what I wish He would do, He doesn't do what I know He could do, He doesn't think like I think He should think, but He IS good. Are there things I don't understand in this life? For sure. I don't understand why babies and little kids have to be in the hospital, why parents leave their children, or why we have to walk through some of the things we do, but I do KNOW that He is good. I am so thankful that He doesn't say, do, and think the things I think He should, because His ways are so much better than mine. Even though it hurts to see the pain and suffering of others, I am so comforted to know that He is good and He will be faithful to care for all those children. If I don't even know them and I love and care for them, how much more does He love and care for them, who intimately knows them. He doesn't even have to try to get the information out of the nurses, He just KNOWS. God is seriously so good! 

During our month of reentry in Montana, we worked through a book called "Blueprint for Life", and we had to write down our dreams, goals, etc. One of my goals was to be able to go to the hospital and visit children. How cool it is that the Lord helped me with that goal in a way that I wouldn't have expected.

I will close with something short I wrote while in Costa Rica, because lately I have been needing to remember that God's strength IS perfected in my weakness, and that even my weaknesses are a testament of His love for me, because my weaknesses are what draw me closer to His side. Thank You, Lord, for choosing to use weak people for Your glory.

2 Corinthians 12:5
"On behalf of this man I will boast, but on my own behalf I will not boast, except of my weaknesses."
Paul boasted of his weaknesses. How contrary to human nature! Yet Paul knew his weaknesses kept him dependent upon the Lord, thus his weaknesses became his strengths, his weaknesses became God's strength magnified in him. We can either let the enemy use our weaknesses to tear us down, or we can let God use them to build us up in His strength.


Thank you all so very much for your prayers for me these past months. I am so thankful, and I still appreciate your prayers as I seek His direction for the future. I need to keep my eyes fixed on Him!

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Obedience Is Better Than Sacrifice

I'm so very thankful for the Lord's faithfulness in my life. Even though my time here in Costa Rica has been very different than what I expected, it has been so very blessed. I once heard something said about how the problem with expectations is that most of the time we don't realize we have them until they are not met. How true that is!

On my very first mission trip, which was to Germany, the pastor who led the trip said to go with no expectations. I think that is great advice full of wisdom. The problem is, as humans, we do often have expectations in some way, shape, or form. I think something we need to consider is how do we respond when those expectations are not met? Do we become bitter and question God, or do we humbly submit to the Lord's plan, saying, "Not my will but Yours", knowing His ways are so much higher than ours?

I came here to Costa Rica expecting it to be much like my time in Belize was almost two years ago.
My time in Belize was incredibly hard, and also very primitive. We had no electricity, no running water, and there were seven of us who slept in a one room cabin. I was super homesick, but every moment that I talked on the phone to my family was costly, and internet was not something we had access to on a daily basis. There were times it was really scary living out in the jungle, and so many times I cried out to the Lord, knowing I needed His strength to carry on each day.
It was hard, and yet each time I cried to the Lord, He so faithfully strengthened me. My times with Him were so sweet. Though physically and emotionally I felt so weak, spiritually I was being strengthened daily.

All that being said, I guess I came to Costa Rica expecting the same hard times (though I knew it wouldn't be nearly as primitive), and also expected the same sweet times, but therein lies the problem... I was expecting the "same" times, and nothing remains the same except Jesus Christ Himself.

When I found that I was not experiencing the same hard times, as well as the sweet times of crying out to the Lord, I began to feel as if I was doing something wrong. I have had my challenges and hard days here, but, again, not as in Belize, and thus I began to think maybe I'm not a threat to the enemy. I know this probably sounds really silly, but it is something through which I have been really struggling.

I've longed to have the same sweet times with the Lord, and I've felt so frusterated, wondering what is wrong with me.

This all comes back to the expectations that snuck in with my luggage and came with me. I made the terrible mistake of focusing on feelings and what I'm doing, rather than on what Jesus is doing. I worried so much about how my time on the mission field now is different than it was then, which blinded me to all that the Lord is doing presently.

Recently, I talked to both my Mom and the pastor's wife here, and they reminded me that the Lord only desires obedience. Sometimes I can get it into my head that I need to be suffering for Christ, experiencing an excruciating trial, in order to be really living for Christ, but this mindset is so wrong. Of course, suffering does sometimes follow obedience, but we must not gauge our obedience based upon our suffering, based upon how much we are sacrificing.

The Lord desires obedience and not sacrifice. The Lord sees not as I see in my limited point of view. The Lord looks at my obedience, whereas I look at my sacrifice. If my sacrifice doesn't seem grand enough or good enough, I despair, thinking I'm not living in obedience.

Here in Costa Rica, I have running water, electricity, and most of the time access to internet, which means I can talk to my family pretty much whenever I want. These are all huge blessings, and I am so thankful for them. Though being here in Costa Rica does not "feel" like much of a sacrifice, I know that this is where the Lord has called me.

Though I brought with me my expectations, I do not want to carry them back home with me... unmet expecations are far too heavy and thus far too costly to carry.

God's ways are so much better than mine, and He always gives His best to those who leave the choice with Him.  Though different than what I expected, my time here in Costa Rica has been so very blessed.

This morning as I was on a walk, I saw some of the children in my neighborhood. One of them was a little girl who stole my heart one of my first weeks here. When she sees me, her face lights up with a beautiful smile that makes my day. With her was a little boy, who was anxious to show me he lost a tooth.
A little further down the road, I passed by a couple girls who live across the street from me, and they greeted my warmly with hugs. I love these children!

 It has been very hard not being able to really communicate with them because of the language barrier, but it is so humbling that they are still excited to see me and eager for me to take them into my arms and love them.

I'm going to miss my morning walks, I'm going to miss seeing the children walk to school, I'm going to miss the girls greeting me from across the street when I'm coming and going from my apartment.

Was Costa Rica what I expected? I guess it wasn't, but I know it was what God knew I needed. I don't have to go home carrying unmet expectations, I can go with a heart filled with love for these children, a heart filled with gratitude that for almost six months God saw fit to give me children to love, and somehow they loved me back.

Thank you for your love, prayers, and encouragement while I have been away. I am excited that I will be able to see many of you soon!

Please pray for my team and I as our time here comes to an end. Please pray that by His grace we finish well.

God bless,

Emily

And Samuel said, "Has the LORD as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the LORD? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to listen than the fat of rams." 1 Samuel 15:22

For My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways My ways, declares the LORD. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways and My thoughts than your thoughts. Isaiah 55:8-9