Sunday, June 3, 2018

The God of Peace

Last night I sat outside for awhile, drinking lemongrass milk and enjoying the clear night with the stars above. I was again reminded of how thankful I am to be here in Uganda, and I am so thankful for God’s faithfulness to work in my life. 

The last week or so was hard for me, not so much with any outward circumstance, but inwardly I was battling much anxiety and fear. I felt so discouraged by the amount of anxiety I felt inside, and I felt like I was failing, because as much as I would pray and cry out to the Lord, the anxious thoughts and feelings did not leave. 

I felt very under attack, and I wanted so desperately to feel the Lord’s peace and for Him to calm my heart and mind. I think that the Lord allows me to go through those times so that I learn deeper dependency on Him. I have been listening to many teachings lately, and have found such encouragement in them. The pastor I was listening to said that worship is our greatest weapon in our darkest night. He said that we have to lift our eyes higher to the One who is above it all. That was such a good reminder for me! 

One day this last week, during my quiet time, I was reminded that God is the God of peace. I looked in Scripture at different places that describe who God is, and these verses greatly encouraged me:

“But may the God of all grace, who called us to His eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after you have suffered a while, perfect, establish, strengthen, and settle you.”
~1 Peter 5:10

“Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” 
~Romans 15:13 

“Now the God of peace be with you all. Amen.”
~Romans 15:33 

I thought about that. God is the God of all grace, He is the God of hope, He is the God of peace, and He is my God. I’m so thankful for that. I know I needed this reminder. Anxiety gets my focus on myself and on circumstances, but the cure for anxiety is getting my focus back on my God. It’s when I recognize the One who is with me, and who He really is, that I find peace. 

The Lord is so good, and He is so faithful to bring me back to Himself.
This morning, I read Proverbs 16:18 - “Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall”. 

I thought about that, and how really anxiety is a form of pride, thinking that everything depends on me. I become anxious when I take things upon myself that I should be casting upon Jesus. I get anxious when I fail to commit things to my faithful Heavenly Father. I get anxious when I try to carry things I was never meant to carry, when I choose to carry the anxieties instead of casting them on Jesus. He is the One who is able to carry it all for me. I can give Him my anxieties in exchange for His peace. 

I’m so thankful for the peace that I have in Him, the peace that comes when I recognize He is my faithful Creator and Father. I can confidently trust Him with my life, and with the lives of those I love. I can confidently commit things to Him in prayer, and leave it all at the cross. The cross is proof that He will do what is best. Anxiety stops when I choose to leave it all at the cross, recognizing He is able to carry it all. 

So, as I sat outside last night, looking up at the stars and thinking about life, I was filled with peace as I thought about the Creator of the stars. I’m so thankful that the same One who created the stars loves me and holds all things in His hand. Because of that, my heart rejoices, and I have peace. As I sat there last night, I listened to one of my favorite worship songs, “Only You”, and I love the lyrics:

“Take my heart, I lay it down
At the feet of You who’s crowned
Take my life, I'm letting go
I lift it up to You who's throned
And I will worship You, Lord
Only You, Lord
And I will bow down before You
Only You, Lord
Take my fret, take my fear
All I have, I'm leaving here
Be all my hopes, be all my dreams
Be all my delights, be my everything” 

That truly is the prayer of my heart, to bow before Jesus alone, and to recognize that He has it all under control. Far too often I bend under the weight of anxiety and fear, but I want to bend my knees before Jesus, knowing all things are safely in His hand. 

“Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time, casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you.”
~1 Peter 5:6-7 

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

His Mercy Endures

I love how the Lord is faithful to speak to me through His Word, and I love how He uses everyday circumstances to teach and show me new things.

We lost power early on Monday morning. Now, this is pretty common here in Uganda, and I never really know if the power outage will last a few moments or a few days. Needless to say, it is always very disappointing when we lose power! It’s one of those things you don’t really think about until it’s gone. 

It really isn’t terrible when we lose power since we have a generator and most things run on solar anyway, but there are certain things you can’t use on the generator or on solar. It’s not the end of the world by any means, but life simply isn’t as convenient without electricity.

All that being said, still I usually get frustrated when the power goes out, and I hope and pray it comes back quickly. That morning, however, the Lord actually used the brief power outage to speak to me powerfully! I love how He works and uses all things, even the little things.

I was finishing up my devotions when we lost power that morning. I read Psalm 118, which I had read many times before, but suddenly verse 1 held so much more meaning for me:

“OH, give thanks to the LORD, for He is good! 
For His mercy endures forever.”

I thought about how the power had just gone out. It can easily be used up and sadly doesn’t last. I was reminded that the Lord’s mercy is not like that. His mercy endures. Endure means to continue to exist; to last. His mercy continues to exist; it lasts forever. I don’t have to live each day hoping and praying it will last. I’m promised right in His word that it will.

I’m so very thankful that God’s mercy and love lasts forever. Each day He meets me with renewed mercy, and thus, renewed strength. So much in this life wears out and ceases to exist. His love, however, endures throughout all the pressures and stresses of this life. His love and mercies are inexhaustible. I can rest confidently in God’s mercy because it will never fail me, even when all else does.

“Through the LORD’s mercies we are not consumed,
Because His compassions fail not.
They are new every morning;
Great is Your faithfulness.”
Lamentations 3:22-23

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

Seeing Jesus

Recently, I found myself feeling anxious and struggling. That same morning, I had music playing in my room. A song came on which I had heard many times before, but it suddenly ministered so powerfully to me. Many of you probably know the song - “Open the Eyes of My Heart”:

“Open the eyes of my heart, Lord
Open the eyes of my heart
I want to see You
I want to see You
To see You high and lifted up
Shining in the light of Your glory
Pour out Your power and love
As we sing holy, holy, holy...”

As I listened to those words, I was reminded of how desperately I needed my eyes to be opened; to see the Lord high and lifted up. I needed to see His glory, which makes all else fade in the background. I thought about how so often I only see my anxieties. So often I only see the things that cause me stress or the challenges I face throughout the day. Admittedly, far too often all I see is myself, instead of seeing the Lord high and lifted up. Too often I see much of my anxiety, and little of Jesus. When I see Him high and lifted up, everything changes. The words to this song became my prayer. I want the Lord to open the eyes of my heart, to have eyes that see Him, even in the daily struggles and challenges. I want to have eyes that look past myself and unto Jesus. 

On another day that was especially challenging for me, the Lord brought to my mind Hebrews 11:27:

“By faith he forsook Egypt, not fearing the wrath of the king; for he endured as seeing Him who is invisible”. 

I love that! Moses endured because he saw Him who is invisible. He saw God, and that gave him the strength to keep pressing on, to keep going, even through the difficulties that came his way. I want to have eyes that see God’s goodness, even in the challenges. I want to have eyes that see His grace, even in my failures. I want to have eyes that see Him in all things. I’ve learned that when I see Jesus, everything changes.

I long for the eyes of my heart to be open. I want to see Jesus high and lifted up, on both the good days and the challenging ones. When I have eyes that see Jesus, I can endure any challenge with great joy, because He is beautiful. 

“Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”
~Hebrews 12:1-2 

Monday, February 19, 2018

Resting and Waiting

“Rest in the LORD, and wait patiently for Him;
Do not fret because of him who prospers in his way,
Because of the man who brings wicked
schemes to pass.”
~Psalm 37:7

I’m so thankful that I can rest in the Lord, and wait patiently for Him, because He is so faithful. 

It’s far too easy for me to become impatient and begin to question what God is doing, but that all begins to fade as I focus on the character of my God.
He is loving and kind, compassionate and faithful. He delights in giving His children good things. 
Sometimes He says no, not to hurt us, but because He loves us too much to let us have our own way. He uses the trials and disappointments in this life to refine us, to draw us closer to Himself, and to show us that our hope in Him goes deeper than anything we face in this life.
Remembering the character of my God greatly encourages me, and feeding on His faithfulness today helps me to trust Him with tomorrow.

Before I was able to come to Uganda, God took me through a long season of waiting. There were days I waited very impatiently; days when I felt so discouraged in the waiting process. Now, as I sit here in Uganda, I’m deeply thankful that God loved me enough to take me through that season of waiting and preparation. I can now see how He has a purpose in every season of waiting, whether or not we can see it at the present moment. 

I’m thankful that I can rest in the Lord and wait patiently for Him. He is a good Father who delights in blessing His children with good things - in His perfect timing.

Friday, January 19, 2018

God's Timing

I can't believe that two weeks from now I will already be in Uganda! It seems like time just keeps moving faster and faster. I feel nowhere near ready, but I know that somehow I'll be on that plane on the 29th, and everything will be done that needs to be done.

Before going on a mission trip, there always seems to be a lot of spiritual warfare. I’ve been on many mission trips, and each time this has been the case. I wish that knowing this would make it somehow easier when the attacks come, but it really doesn't. 

One of my biggest fears of going to Africa is that something might happen to a loved one while I’m there. It’s hard for me to think of being so far away if something happens. I know that God has called me to Uganda and will be faithful to take care of me there, but somehow I struggle more with trusting Him to take care of my family here.

Some of you might know that my grandpa passed away a few days ago. He had been very sick for a little over a week, and it was a hard week for our family. It’s hard seeing someone you love suffer, it’s hard seeing someone you love hurt, and it’s hard seeing someone in the process of dying. I had never before witnessed this, and it’s difficult. We knew grandpa’s time was short, but we didn’t really know how long. We didn’t know if it was weeks, days, or hours. Only God knew. Because of this, I began thinking of my upcoming trip to Africa, and how it’s quickly approaching. I struggled at the thought of going while my grandpa was so ill and close to passing. I felt as though me leaving for Uganda was me walking out on my family during a difficult time. I felt like maybe I was being selfish. I struggled, wondering if maybe I should postpone my trip. Also during this time, I found out that if I leave on the 29th as I planned, I would be flying alone. I planned to travel with a couple others, but things happened and they were having to postpone their trip. I had been so very excited and thankful to not have to make this trip alone, and so I felt really disappointed. I also felt really nervous about making the trip alone even though I did it last time. I wondered if maybe it was God telling me I too should postpone due to my family’s circumstances. Somehow though, I felt no peace about postponing, even though that’s really what I wanted. Don’t get me wrong, I’m super excited to be back in Uganda. I can’t wait to be back with the James’ and to be with the children once again, but with everything going on here, I was struggling with the timing of it all. Last week, one of my pastors prayed for me as I shared these struggles and how I felt so torn inside on what I should do. He told me I needed to ask not what should I do, but how would God be most glorified in this situation? I came home and I talked to my parents and they assured me they still wanted me to go to Uganda when originally planned if that’s what I wanted to do. I felt better after talking to them, but I still felt a little unsure.

The next morning I was having my devotion time, and I felt so amazed by how God so clearly spoke to me through His Word. I have been doing the One Year Bible reading plan, and that day’s reading included a section in Matthew that spoke of the cost of discipleship.

“Then another of His disciples said to Him,
‘Lord, let me first go and bury my father.’
But Jesus said to him, ‘Follow Me, and let the dead bury their own dead.’”
~Matthew 8:21-22

This spoke so powerfully to me…it was as if God bent down from heaven and spoke right to my very situation. I struggled with wanting to be here when my grandpa passed, and for the funeral and all that goes along with it. I struggled with wanting to be there for my dad through it all, and yet I felt in my heart the call that I needed to go. Those verses spoke so loudly straight to my heart, as I was reminded that Jesus had called me, and I needed to follow. 

My grandpa passed away on Monday at 8:02PM. I’m thankful that I was able to be here.

Last year, a week before I left for Uganda, my dog passed away, and now it’s my grandpa. It can be hard for me to understand the timing of things like this, but honestly I feel that it is God being merciful to me. God is so merciful and good to have allowed me to be here. God is also so merciful and good to allow me to go to Uganda in less than two short weeks. He knows that I love it in Uganda, and that it brings a special joy to my heart; a joy that I need right now. There may be pain in the night, but joy comes in the morning. 

Last week I really struggled with the thought of going to Uganda alone as originally planned. I wanted to change my ticket and go with the others, and it seemed to make so much sense to do so! I now see why I felt no peace in that, because God knew my grandpa would pass before I left. It also sounds like I will not be going alone anymore, and I’m very thankful for that. I’m thankful that God gave me the grace to trust Him and follow His lead. I think that last week was God asking me, “Are you still going to trust and follow Me?” One thing I’ve learned: it is always worth it, even when it’s painful and makes no earthly sense.

As hard as the last couple of weeks have been, I am so thankful for the greatness of God and His faithfulness to walk beside us in the hard times. Though the death of my grandpa awakens my fear that something may happen to a loved one while I’m away, I know that it’s all in God’s hand. I may not always be able to be here when things happen, but I’m thankful that this time I was. I’m thankful for those sweet moments I was able to sit at his bedside and tell him I loved him, I'm thankful I've been able to be there with my grandma as she mourns the loss of her husband, and I’m thankful I’ve been able to be here with my family during this time. I may not understand God’s ways or timing, but with all my heart I know that His ways are merciful and His timing is perfect

"It seemed to her at that moment that all the pain and the postponement, all the sorrows and trials of the long journey she had made, were as nothing compared to the glory which shone before her."
~Hannah Hurnard ("Hinds Feet on High Places")

“When we arrive at eternity’s shore 
Where death is just a memory and tears are no more 
We’ll enter in as the wedding bells ring 
Your bride will come together and we’ll sing 
You’re beautiful”
 ~Phil Wickham

Thursday, November 23, 2017

Finding Rest in His Goodness

Today I was thinking about the ways God has blessed me this past year, and my heart is truly so full and thankful. I thought about how good God has been to me, not just this year, but my whole life. Truly I could never deny His goodness. Yes, there have been trials and sorrows over the years, but even in them God has always been faithful to show up and show me His goodness. I don't say God is good because that's what I've been taught, but rather that's what I've experienced firsthand.

Something that I like to do on New Year's Eve is journal about my year, the blessings as well as the hardships. I like to write it all out as it helps me to see how the Lord has once again proven Himself so faithful, and it helps me go into the new year with His goodness and faithfulness in mind.
I know we still have a ways before this year is over (and I'm definitely not trying to make time go by faster!), but today I found myself already thinking about this last year and how truly good He has been.

This year, God truly gave me the desire of my heart by allowing me to go to Uganda for three months. There were times when it seemed impossible and I didn't know how it was all going to work. There were times I was tempted to let fear stop me from going, and yet God was faithful. I was so scared to fly to Uganda by myself, and I honestly didn't think I would be able to do it because the fear was so overwhelming, but God met me even in my deepest fear and in those moments of doubt.
If I had let that fear stop me from following God's call to Uganda, I would I have missed so very much! My heart felt so full throughout my time there, and I'm so thankful that God blessed me beyond what I could have imagined as I served Him there. I guess that's just what He does isn't it? He calls us to places that at first might seem scary and unknown, and yet as we follow, He shows up every step of the way. I can't even tell you the number of times the Lord so faithfully and so sweetly met me as I called out to Him, starting from the night before I even left. The night before I left for Uganda was a very hard one, as I had lost my beloved dog just a week prior. My heart was so heavy and so sad, and on top of that, I had so much fear about making the trip alone. I remember going into my room and crying so hard as I thought about what lie ahead. God is so faithful, and I believe He allows times like that, times where we feel completely at a lost and completely overwhelmed, so that we look up to Him, the One who has it all in His hand. The next morning I awoke, still afraid, and yet God met me even there. I've been doing the One Year Bible reading plan, and Psalm 34 "just happened" to be part of the reading for that day. I love verse 4:
"I sought the LORD, and He heard me, and delivered me from all my fears". Though my heart felt so fearful, I was reminded that the Lord was able to deliver me from that.
The Lord filled me with His supernatural peace, and I truly felt His presence with me as I traveled.

Though I felt so fulfilled and so thankful to be in Uganda, there were still days that proved to be challenging, days when it was hard to be in a different culture and away from home. There were days I felt totally inadequate and overwhelmed. I loved all the children so much, but there were days in class when I knew I was in way over my head! There was one day in particular that I remember going to one of the vacant classrooms, feeling so overwhelmed and so unsure. I felt so inadequate for the tasks at hand, and I literally cried out to the Lord. He met me so faithfully as He brought to my remembrance the very verse I had read that morning. There were so many times like that! Times when I would need a word of encouragement from the Lord, and He always met me.

It's good for me to remember these things. It's good for me to remember how good and faithful God has been to me, because though I know God is good, it's still so easy to fear the future and the unknown. My mind still quickly goes to the "what if's", and I forget that even if my worst fear were to become reality, God is still good and He is still on the throne.

I am so excited to return to Uganda, and daily I find myself missing it. The Lord often brings to my mind a memory, and I find myself feeling "homesick" for Uganda. I know that it's the Lord preparing my heart to return, because as much as I want to return, I'm also feeling sad at the thought of leaving my home here. It is really hard for me the months right before I leave, as I begin thinking of all that I'm going to miss, but even in this time of preparation before I leave, God is faithful to meet me.

As the doubts and fears come - and they do - especially as I lay in bed at night and try to rest - God is faithful to meet me. As there are times I wrestle with my doubts and I question things, I am reminded to walk by faith, and that He is enough. There are times that I honestly feel tired of walking by faith, when my faith itself feels tired, but how thankful I am that even those times, God never grows weary. Instead, He comes to me in His perfect love and walks with me through the questions and the doubts, reminding me of His all sufficient grace.

A verse that I recently read has stuck with me:

"Return to your rest, my soul,
for the LORD has been good to you"
~Psalm 116:7

Though there are times when I feel so restless and uneasy, I'm comforted as I go back to the truth of God's Word. He has been good to me, so very good, and because of this, truly I can rest. I can rest knowing that the One who has been faithful to me in the past will continue His faithfulness to me in the future, whatever it brings. I can rest knowing that no matter what tomorrow may bring, He will still be good and He will still be enough for me. I can rest knowing that even though I leave behind my family, the same God who goes with me and takes care of me will stay with them and take care of them. I can rest knowing that my God is good, and He is working for my good, even in the ways I don't yet understand.

Truly God is good, and I'm so thankful that I can rest in His goodness.

Sunday, September 3, 2017

Uganda Bound!

I'm so thankful for how good God is, for how full of patience He is, and for how faithful He is. 
I will never get tired of recounting all the ways God has shown me His faithfulness, and I know He will never cease to amaze me by His faithfulness.

When I came back home from doing the IGNITE program through Potter's Field Ministries, my heart longed to return to the mission field. I had such a hard time adjusting and being back home, but the Lord was telling me to wait. He was in fact making me wait, and if I'm honest, sometimes I waited not so patiently. Sometimes I really struggled with what He seemed to be doing in my life, or more truthfully, I struggled with what He wasn't doing in my life. 

I was at a hard place in life, caught in what seemed to be the "in between", not knowing what was next except for getting a job and waiting on the Lord with the desire in my heart to be a missionary.

While I wanted so desperately to return to the mission field and full time ministry, the Lord was calling me to something different. He was calling me to something that was not what I wanted, but something which He, in His perfect wisdom, knew I needed.

I became part of a drug study, which many of you knew about and prayed for me during that time. It was for a new medication to treat my Cystic Fibrosis, and it was actually taking place in California. I struggled with the length of the study because it was about two years.  At the time, two years seemed like an eternity. I struggled with being "held back" from the mission field. I struggled with being kept in the states because of a study I didn't want to do. My parents were really excited about the study and the possible results, but to me it seemed like an interruption in my life that I didn't want to welcome. 

Looking back, I know that my parents were excited about this study because they only want the best for me. I know they want me to be as healthy as I possibly can be, and the advances in medicine are exciting. 
For me, I had felt so willing to go wherever the Lord would lead, and to do whatever He called me to do, but I hadn't pictured His will for me being me going to and from California for doctor's visits. It seemed like a waste of two years. If I had only known then what I know now, I would have realized that those two years were certainly not a waste! In fact, I believe those two years were crucial, and it was the Lord preparing both my heart and my body for the plans He has for me. I'm so thankful for this. 

That new medication has made such a difference in my health. My lung function stays up, and I haven't been in the hospital since before I started the study. Before beginning the study, and even during it, I had such a fear of flying. I hated the fact that I had to fly to my doctor's appointments, and there was a point during it that I actually told my mom that I couldn't do it. I was so afraid to fly, even with my mom beside me. I remember saying that maybe the Lord was using those trips to prepare me to fly somewhere far away, since that was my desire. Little did I know that He really was! 

I am so thankful to say that, even though I initially didn't want to go to California for the study, some of my sweetest memories were made on those trips. I had the best days there with my mom. We would get up early, fly to California, go to my doctor's appointment, and then spend the rest of the afternoon shopping, relaxing, talking, laughing, and simply hanging out before we flew home that evening. Funny how the trips I didn't even want to take are the very ones I now find myself really missing. 

Much time has passed since finishing the study, but I remain so grateful for all that God did in my life during that time. I've now been to Africa three times, with the last time being for three months. God did indeed give me the desire of my heart. Though there were days of waiting and preparation that seemed painful, though there were days it seemed like God had forgotten me, He has proven Himself so very faithful to me. Never once has He forsaken me, and I now see how He was working a beautiful plan even through those days of waiting. 

I loved being in Africa, and being able to recently spend three months there teaching and loving the kids of Uganda was an incredible blessing. I loved being a part of the ministry there, I loved being able to spend time with the kids almost every day, and my heart has been missing it since I've returned home. It is safe to say that I left a huge piece of my heart in Africa with those kids. 

I'm so excited and thankful to be able to say that God is once again giving me the desire of my heart and is making a way for me to return to Africa, and this time long term! I never thought this would be a possibility because of my need for health insurance and the costs of medications, but I've learned that God likes to do the impossible. Nothing is too hard for Him. The plan is for me to be in Uganda February-November each year. I'll be teaching and helping at UKP Academy like I did last time. I will come home for two months while the kids are on break, and then will again return
to Uganda for another ten months. I honestly don't know for how long I will keep on doing this, but I will go for however long the Lord leads me there. 

I am so thankful, and my heart is so full. Truly God is good and He does delight in blessing His children. Even when He says no or wait, still He is good and is working a greater plan. I'm so thankful for the years of preparation and how God has shown me His faithfulness time and time again through many different seasons. I know that there will be challenges and days of difficulty ahead, but I know Jesus will be faithful every step of this journey. 

I ask that you would please be in prayer for me as I get ready to leave. February is still a ways off, but I know time goes quickly. Please pray for me regarding all the preparations, and also please pray for me as there are inevitable spiritual attacks. Please pray that I would grow in trust and have a deep peace through it all. Please also pray for the provision that is necessary to make this possible. I know God is faithful, but sometimes I am just like that man who cried out in Mark 9:24, "Lord, I believe; help my unbelief!"

If the Lord places it upon your heart to support me through prayer during my time in Uganda, please let me know and I will add you to receive my prayer updates. I would be so encouraged and blessed by this. Prayer is so vital to every missionary. 

Thank you for taking the time to read this, and I look forward to sharing all that God does in the coming months and years. He is faithful, and I want to spend my life telling of His great faithfulness. 

"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

"He says no in order that He may, in some way we cannot imagine, say yes. All His ways with us are merciful. His meaning is always love."
~Elisabeth Elliot