Saturday, December 31, 2016

Remembering 2016

In the midst of the busy holiday season, I always try to spend some time reflecting on the past year and looking ahead at the new one.  It's a helpful way to remember what God has done, and I think He wants us very much to live a life of remembering what He has done-not just in our own lives, but throughout the generations and the history of mankind. In the book of Joshua 3 and 4, He commanded them to build a memorial for this very purpose!  

Like every year, there have been highs, and there have been lows.  Successes and victories, disappointments and frustrations.  But as I look back, I definitely see God's hand; and this post is to remember and celebrate what God has done this past year.  Actually He's done so much more, but this is mostly focusing on the call I'm responding to.

As an attempt to discern God's will about going full-time with EE, I attended the European Conference in Vienna, Austria.  It was affirming, and I met Helmut, my future boss.

With former 2015 interns Pete and Jasmine at Europe Conference in Vienna

On a phone call with Rod (EE leader), I was invited to a couple of EE events in the upcoming months, one of them mandatory for me to go full-time.  This answered my question about not renewing my contract to teach this year.

Within 24 hours of informing my principal and head of school that I would not be renewing my contract, we received a random email with a qualified replacement!

After several encouragements, I attended the New Wineskins Conference in Asheville, NC.  Not only was so encouraged and affirmed, but I also met SAMS' director and interim director and began to dialogue with them about a partnership.

A huge surprise to run into the Powells from my BFA days (2008-10) at New Wineskins Conference...and they introduced me to SAMS' leaders!

Made my first visit to EE International headquarters in Asheville.  Had a bittersweet finish to three amazing years of teaching amazing students with amazing colleagues at First Baptist.

Traveled to Switzerland to meet the leadership team I would join and get a taste for what is ahead.

Re-connecting in person with long-time friend Gunnhild in her homeland of Norway

Got to re-connect with long-time and newer friends in Europe before heading to Australia and re-uniting with more friends and attend a missions conference at a church I knew from the previous year's internship.

With Aussie friends at FAC's Missions Conference in Wollongong, Australia

First time to Asia (Indonesia) for my first Congress of Nations!  A very sweet, exciting time as I gained a big picture and met the "whole family" as well as the team in Europe I'll be joining.  Also attended Crossroads Conference in Ambridge, PA as a SAMS candidate.

With European team at Congress of Nations in Malang, Indonesia

Found buyers for our condo before it ever went on the market (It's a God story).  Packed and moved before leaving for Fiji at the end of the month.

Joined 21 others from 13 different nations to attend the Leadership Development Training for full-time staff with EE.  Our condo closed while I was there.

At EE's Kennedy Training Center in Fiji for 6-week Leadership Development Training

Had my first opportunity to share about my journey at St. Matthew's Parish in Fort Motte, SC, where I recently learned my grandfather lived during his childhood!  Also, started my first one-on-one XEE training!

XEE training with new friends Dot and Chris...
At our old condo...because they were the buyers (Only the Lord!)

Encouraged and touched by the many people God has put in my life to encourage and support me through the ups and downs of life and especially to spur me on to continue on and embrace the call and vision God has given me.

2016 was a year of risk-taking, 100% yes, and some dreams coming true. It hasn't been easy, but it has been exciting and fulfilling.  I'm thankful that we have a God who is faithful to lead us and love us. Here's to remembering what He has done.  And since I'll be without Internet when the New Year rings in, here's a cheer to the New Year 2017!

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

God Is With Us

It's true that life is full of unknowns and "not yet's."  But it's also true that God will sometimes very graciously give us a heads' up and help guide us through the waiting process.  I've seen Him do it in a variety of ways in my own life, the lives of others, and throughout Scripture.

If you've been following me, I was hoping and planning to leave for Europe by January. Yet within a week of my return from training, the freshly-determined goal was shattered with a reality check: I cannot leave till I have 100% of my funds for the first year.  

When met with a challenge like this, I prayerfully wrestled with one of two options: either the Lord would not be intimidated but simply show off and provide everything really quickly, or He was behind this seeming delay and overruling my timeline.  To be honest, I was sensing the latter was the case, though strongly wanting the former.  

And I love how God lovingly communicates with us.  I had some dreams that opened me up to hearing things I might not want to.  Then I was reading Acts 22 where God warns Paul that the Jews won't accept him. Paul objects, pointing out all the reasons why he would be the perfect person to tell the Jews about Jesus. And where I totally see Paul's point, God had a different plan: to send him to the non-Jews.

As I interacted with the text, I felt convicted to let God search my heart for where I have objections and think something is obvious or perfect, but God may have a different plan. And so where do I need to accept some things I may not want to hear?  Like getting to Switzerland in January.  That's just one example.  They keep coming!

"For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts." Isaiah 55:9

But you know what?  When I found out Monday morning that my projected leave date is February, I had such peace.  No objections this time because I'd already brought them to the Lord.  And while I really don't have to understand, I already recognize the wisdom of having the necessary time to visit churches and complete a checklist before I go.  Not to mention the emotional relief of a timeline to say goodbye to family and friends.

It reminds me during the last week of this Advent season that though waiting is a purposeful part of life, our God's name is Immanuel because He is a God who is With Us in our waiting.

Saturday, December 3, 2016

Ready or Not?!

If you're at all familiar with the church calendar, it's Advent season.  As I shared with the church I visited this past Sunday in Fort Motte, SC, I love this season: not only do we look back in history to when God fulfilled His promise with Jesus coming to earth, but we also look ahead when God will fulfill His promise of Jesus returning to earth.  It's not the festivities and stories I like so much, but the implications behind them: Jesus paid the price no one else can pay so that relationship can be restored both with God Himself and with others! While God offers us SO much here on earth like forgiveness, physical, emotional, and relational healing and reconciliation (to name a few) because of His first coming; He offers us so much more--an eternity of a world where we are whole and no longer in need of healing--through His second coming!

When asked which mug I wanted for my tea during St. Matthews' Sunday School, would you believe they had the same exact mugs I always chose in Fiji in their cupboard!?!  With my friend and childhood Sunday School teacher, Janet Echols.

So, back to my original sentiment, that I love this season! least in theory.  The reality is that Advent is a season of waiting and preparation for the "not yet."  And when you figure in the added element of the unknown "when," it can get a bit uncomfortable if we don't heed God's instruction to get ready!  

I can very much relate to this tension in my personal life as it depicts exactly where I am: I have already let go of things here--like my job and condo--and am preparing to move to Europe and join the EE team there; but I have no idea when, other than soon!  I'm in a holding pattern and cannot give the precise date to myself, much less those who ask.  But then again, this position is consistent with God's warning when he tells us to be ready for Him to come like a thief in the night (Matt 24)!  He doesn't say how long, just be ready!

So I guess the next question is "How?"  Well, John the Baptist's job was to "prepare the way" for the Lord's first coming; and his message was to change their thinking about God.  In particular, He announced it was the King who was coming to bring the restoration and hope to their unique, personal situations that all mankind throughout all history has been desperate for. I believe the message is the same this time around.  

If that's the case, a good question is What's in the way?"  What in my/your heart and mind needs to go? For I'll be ready to join the team in Europe? I'll be ready to meet the King when He comes?  When I look at things this way, I see any potential delays or "extra" time as a form of grace to prepare so that I will be ready when the time comes!  So, I'm trying to embrace and accept the unknowns and focus on the goal ahead, with the means to reach it being readiness.  

The signs are all around.  We may not know the "when," but we know the what and the where! Ready or not, He's coming!  Let's be ready!