Thursday, February 15, 2018

Surrendering Comparison, Performance, & Perfection for a Greater Longing

For years I have struggled with comparison. The sins that easily entangle me are perfectionism, performancism, and comparison. In short, I have spent most of my life living in a state of "not measuring up." Unfortunately, we do live in a society that aggressively adds to a need for competition. Thankfully, Jesus is greater than the struggles we face. He is doing a huge work in my life, changing my thought processes from slavery to freedom, and reminding me that my longings are good. Our desires are for our home, we are longing for something greater.

C.S. Lewis, in The Weight of Glory, has this spectacular quote about our longings:

“In speaking of this desire for our own far off country, which we find in ourselves even now, I feel a certain shyness. I am almost committing an indecency. I am trying to rip open the inconsolable secret in each one of you—the secret which hurts so much that you take your revenge on it by calling it names like Nostalgia and Romanticism and Adolescence; the secret also which pierces with such sweetness that when, in very intimate conversation, the mention of it becomes imminent, we grow awkward and affect to laugh at ourselves; the secret we cannot hide and cannot tell, though we desire to do both. We cannot tell it because it is a desire for something that has never actually appeared in our experience. We cannot hide it because our experience is constantly suggesting it, and we betray ourselves like lovers at the mention of a name. Our commonest expedient is to call it beauty and behave as if that had settled the matter. Wordsworth’s expedient was to identify it with certain moments in his own past. But all this is a cheat. If Wordsworth had gone back to those moments in the past, he would not have found the thing itself, but only the reminder of it; what he remembered would turn out to be itself a remembering. The books or the music in which we thought the beauty was located will betray us if we trust to them; it was not in them, it only came through them, and what came through them was longing. These things—the beauty, the memory of our own past—are good images of what we really desire; but if they are mistaken for the thing itself they turn into dumb idols, breaking the hearts of their worshipers. For they are not the thing itself; they are only the scent of a flower we have not found, the echo of a tune we have not heard, news from a country we have never yet visited.

Practically, I don't know what this means for you. I know from my experience that Jesus is continually leading me to deeper levels of freedom and joy. Notice that I did not say He is leading me to greater levels of "success and happiness," but of freedom and joy. Freedom and joy can come in the midst of pain, trial, suffering, and all manner of human struggle. 

For me, one temptation is to turn my longings for heaven into a competition for perfection and the notice of men here on earth ("performancism"). This means that I must constantly take my thoughts captive, giving them to God. Thankfully, He is faithful. "I will say to the Lord, 'my fortress and my refuge, my God in whom I trust.'" (Psalm 91:2). I know that "He who began a good work in me will be faithful to complete it" (Phil. 1:6), so I will trust the God whose "love endures forever" (Psalm 136). 

I tried to paint a picture of how this feels in my blog, AdventuringThroughTheGreatWideWorld. Check it out in my post "On Psalm 91."

In the meantime, I have grad school work to do, and a lot to contemplate with the things God is doing in my heart. 

I hope this makes sense, and I'll be praying that you experience the same freedom and joy in your life that God has given me in mine (he is not a respecter of persons in his gifts, meaning they are for everyone!). 


-A Fellow Adventurer

Monday, September 12, 2016

Three months and still building community.

Tonight I was humbled by the words of one I would call a friend.

She apologized, in front of several people gathered, for being standoffish.
She specified it to myself and my boyfriend, explaining that it was a defense mechanism, due to hurts received by other short term members of the organization we are a part of.

I was so struck by the apology-
Because for all of my whining and complaining about the difficulties of finding community in new places, I see that I am guilty of the same as this brave soul- if not more.
I have held myself apart, I have let myself judge and condemn those I could have loved... I have not sought the hearts of those around me, and yet have expected total vulnerability from people who, like me and any other walking, breathing person, have been hurt by none other than people.

Love is not instantaneous. Friends for life don't appear overnight. In fact, you probably won't even like half the people you come into contact with- at least not immediately.

So what do we do?
We're all longing for those deep relationships, with people we love, and who love us back. If we've had healthy relationships, we get frustrated when people in new places don't 'click' with us exactly like the old ones did... If we haven't had healthy relationships, we try to hard or just close off completely. And if you find yourself in the middle of those things, mix up what I just said and you'll see we all struggle with relationships. Not just dating- community.

I guess we all have to face the facts.
Good, worthwhile community takes time, a lot of patience, intentionality, and a conscious decision to love the people around you. Not erotic love, but the kind of love that causes us to honor one another above ourselves. Consider your neighbor's needs befor you complain about your own not being met.

Let's try some 'new' old tricks. Add your own as per your experience & needs.
-don't ask how people are unless you're willing to take the time to really know the answer
-smile more. Plus, it actually burns more calories to smile than it does to frown. ;)
-take care of yourself. Half the time we want to turn into hermits or turtles, it's really our brains telling us we need something, like sleep. Who knew?
-know yourself. Who you are, what your needs are. How do you rest? What do you do for fun? When you know who you are and are taking care of yourself, it's easier to go into a conversation or relationship thinking about the other person's needs rather than your own.
-be intentional with the people around you. Actually ask them what their favorite color is, and remember it. Learn how to pronounce their name.... Maybe even go do something fun with them. And let them choose- maybe you'll get to try something new!

There's tons more we can do to build community.
For me, it boils down to this: love God, love people.
An old mantra I was taught at school, but it works.

If you're loving God, your perspective will be right, and you'll know who you are. Loving people comes naturally after that. ;)

And don't forget to be real- laugh and cry and share the hard stuff. If you're rooted in God, it's not quite as scary, cause you'll know He's got you. Then you can be really vulnerable, just like my friend.

Then maybe you can blog about it. Or sleep, like I'm about to do. That really helps stuff marinate in the brain. (Crazy talk signifies it is way past Megan's bedtime. Adios y'all.)

Saturday, April 9, 2016

Sick Days = Rest Days

This past week I was pretty sick.
Like stomach virus blech.
Need I say more?

Anyway, by the end of it, I found myself glad for the days off, thankful for the time of rest.
And why not? Rest is from God, even if it is rest my body practically forced on me ;)

But seriously, I couldn't help but marvel at how good God is.
For some reason I found myself thankful for all manner of things that, well, usually I complain about.
I thought about how I used to hate lightning storms, and how the Lord has shown me to have wisdom in the storm (physical, spiritual, whatever respect you take it), and yet to see the beauty in it. Where as a child I used to cower in the heaviness and finality of the thunder, now as a lover of art and beauty and music, I see the dance of the lightning in the sky, and I hear the rhythm of the thunder. Somewhere the storm resonates with my soul, and what was frightful has become a thing to be amazed at. Indeed, it lulls me to sleep!

Then I thought about all the times (even recently) I have complained to God about being sick so much, and "missing out," and laughed to realize that my tired self was thrilled (though slightly delirious from nausea) to have a few days to just be oblivious to the world. I didn't have to worry that it would stop moving or that I would miss out. In fact, I just trusted the Laws my Jesus put in place, that they would keep the earth spinning. And I recognized the peace in resting to be greater than the 'benefit' of participating.

Then my mind went to deeper, darker parts of my life- times when I have been betrayed or hurt, times when through my own actions or those of others, my being was compromised. And I remembered days gone by when I had thought there could never be any good that would come from these hurts and pains. But the Lord reminded me how He had brought me closer to Himself, how He had shown me beauty, and how He had given me freedom. He reminded me of the joy He brought out of the darkness, and the life that came when painful parts of my life were buried in Him and His word. This life is still coming, even though not all the pain is gone. In fact, He caused me to see with new eyes. I see now even those events with a thankfulness and a joy. And out of this burst a flower, and He and I called it love.

And of the sudden, I cannot hate even the "painful" memories of past- for through them I have learned to love the storms, and the "forced" times of rest (though the sickness and pain are still trying,  of course!)... I have even come to love those who have hurt me. In my heart, and now in prayer and in public, I hope and pray the best for them. I believe that the Lord wants life for them as He gave to me.

Call me crazy. Maybe I am.
But I'm finding new meaning in that call- the one that said "rejoice in the Lord always, again I'll say Rejoice!"
I thinking I'm seeing fingerprints of Someone in all these situations-
I'll call Him "Restorer."

Thursday, August 20, 2015

A Senior's Wish

Before I start, let me clarify. I am not about to die, as I am not old. In fact, I'll be 21 next week. I am a senior in college this year, and let me tell you, that has got me thinking quite a bit about my future, about life and God and what is little me supposed to do about it all?

I have been serving the Lord my whole life- since I was four years old, in fact. There was a Sunday school where I gave my life to God, where I decided that I didn't want to live without this awesome Jesus guy that everyone kept talking about. And yet, while God has done so much in me and through me, for much of my life I have only scraped the surface, only scratched a little of who God is.

I've decided recently that it's simply not enough. It's either all in or nothing. I want to dive in deep into who God is.

Thankfully, as per the norm, God is one step ahead of me, because He has spent my whole life showing me different aspects of Himself.

Maybe I started to get it when I was 12, and I started speaking in a heavenly language that I couldn't understand.

Maybe I really connected with God when He healed my asthma, and gave me dreams and visions and hope for a future beyond high school.

Maybe it was later in high school, when concussions and health concerns almost made me quit high school. He carried me through then, and let me tell you, it was like a dream. One that should have been a nightmare, and tried REALLY HARD to be, but somehow never succeeded.

Maybe it was this summer, when He gave me such an intense revelation of my daughterhood, that my heart is finally starting to grasp. In India He showed me His heart for me. Then He expanded and showed me His heart for orphans and street children. Talk about WOW.

I could tell you other times, like right now, when I am going through senior classes and millions of questions about "what are you going to do after graduation," and countless other thoughts on life... And yet I keep finding myself in these quiet places where all I can notice is the peaceful way my heart sits, regardless of the breeze.

Regardless of when exactly my Dad (the Heavenly One) started showing me Himself, I know for sure what my desire is. I may not have a clue what I am doing after May 1st, where I'll be next year, or even if I'll make it through this semester.... But I do know where I want my vision to be.

I wrote a blog about pennies (found on my other blog). I found one today and was shocked at the vision to be found in one small item. I do want that kind of vision for my life. I want to be able to dream big, and dream small... But mostly, I want my vision to be focused on Jesus.

So here's my wish (I know, took me long enough, right?). It's pretty simple: I want to live my life with my gaze FIXED on Jesus Christ, my Dad. If He is in front of me, I want to be doggedly pursuing His exact footsteps, with my gaze no where but right on His back. If He is behind me, I will slow down to be with Him, or walk backwards if there is no other course! If He is next to me, I'll probably hold His hand, because I really like physical touch. (lol, it is possible. In the spiritual sense, but none the less Possible). And if He is carrying me, I might not always be able to look, but I will listen for that heartbeat, and let mine join with His.

It's pretty simple, really. Yet I will spend the rest of my life working towards this goal. The good news is I am not alone, and I am not WORKING to gain His attention or to please me. Jesus' love for me is the same yesterday, today, and forever, AND it is always enough. Even more, He is actively seeking me and helping me.

So Be Thou My vision, Oh Lord of My Heart!
Naught be all Else to me, save that thou art;
Thou be my best thought, by day or by night,
waking or sleeping, thy presence my light.
Be Thou my wisdom, and Thou my true word;
I ever with Thee, and Thou with me, My Lord. 
Thou My Great Father, and I Thy true daughter,
Thou in me dwelling, and I with Thee one.
Riches I heed not, nor man's empty praise;
Thou mine inheritance, now and always;
Thou and Thou only, first in my heart,
High King of Heaven, my treasure Thou art.

High King of Heaven, my victory won,
May I reach Heaven's joys, Oh Bright Heaven's Sun!
Heart of my own heart, whatever befall,
Still be my vision, oh ruler of all.

I will Be Still, and know that He is God, and I will praise Him with all that I am.
There is no other way that I wish to live.

(To give credit where credit is due-- 
Be Thou My Vision is a classic and very old 
Irish Hymn, and Be Still is both tattooed 
onto my wrist, and a reference to Psalm 46:10.) 

Monday, June 15, 2015

Home Again and Still Looking for God

Hey friends!

I hope you aren't misled by my title. Let me explain.

Some of you may know, because you helped me get there, and you prayed for me while I was there. For the rest of the world's knowledge, I just spent the last month in India, in the state of Andhra Pradesh. I went on a missions trip with my school, and we worked with a wonderful organization to do a series of 4 summer camps for orphan children.

It was an incredible month. I can't even begin to tell you all of the things that God did in me, my team, and in the kids. Mainly, he gave us a "heart to see" his father heart. His heart is so big and kind and full of love, that He has called us his kids, and he has set his love for us in the heavens. His love is so great that it is never more, and it is never less, but it is always enough.

I had the privilege to see God's heart, and to understand it in my heart like I have never understood it in my head. Going in to the trip to India, I was physically, emotionally, and even spiritually drained from a busy junior year of college. As excited as I had been in November when I signed up for the trip, I found myself equally dreading the upcoming experience. My team of 10 students was headed to one of the poorest, darkest, and hottest places in the world. We were expecting health issues, dehydration, no AC, lots of rough stories from children, and broken hearts. In some ways, all of our expectations were met. You may have seen it on the news, but while we were there, 1400 people died in the state of Andhra Pradesh. The heat index averaged 130-140 while we were there (Fahrenheit). It gets to a certain point in heat where you don't notice temperature anymore; it's just plain hot, and you sweat buckets. We didn't always have AC, and the stories and things we saw definitely grabbed our attention and grieved our hearts.

But we didn't break, not once. Not on that day when it was 125 (without the heat index), when we all had stomachaches from the extremely spicy food (makes you sweat, your eyes and nose run, your mouth to burn, and your insides are destroyed. But it is SO good), and that second camp seemed to be falling apart compared to the first one. Even then we were held together, and we found ourselves rejoicing at the end of the day. God pulled things out of our hearts that we didn't expect, and he used us even at times that we felt grouchy or noncompliant.

For me, God startled me by changing erasing my expectations, and writing a new story with me. Not just for me, but with me. God is the greatest lover of duets, I think... (but more on this later). Not only did I end up falling in love with the place and people of India, but it happened in the first few days. And yes, my expectations were met, but to be honest I barely noticed the few times we were sick, and the heat didn't bother us nearly as much as it should have. Even greater, the Lord gave us hearts to see his love and his plans for the children we encountered and the families and staff we worked with. Suddenly they didn't look so much like men and women and children raised in poverty and in darkness. We saw them as brothers and sisters, as aunts and uncles, as sons and daughters of the Most High God.

And more, God pulled my heart. I have been following Jesus since I was four years old, but now I am not just following my savior or teacher or even just my healer. I have been branded with a family name, and I am trotting after my Dad, holding on to his hand or his coattail, skipping from one of his footsteps to the next. My whole life he has been trying to teach me this, to get it into my stubborn head that I am HIS. Then He gave me the choice to follow him. He said "won't you wander with me, child?"

Well, I said yes. And I'm going to spend the rest of my life saying yes.

On this trip, the Lord renewed and made firm my dreams to work with orphans, and to spend my life wandering around the world with him in long term missions work. I don't know when or where I'll be (though I truly believe that I will go back to India at some point. I'll share that in another post), but I look forward to this adventure.

It's possible because I'm following my Dad. He is leading me and walking with me. Wherever I go, or even if I stay, I will have my home in him.

I can't wait.

But it starts now. That's why I'm still looking for him. I'm home, and I am entering a season of rest before I jump back into my final year of undergrad. Yet even now I am seeking my Dad, talking to him about my next move, resting in him, and getting to know him better.

I hope you can join me. Join me in your walk, and we can walk together with our Dad. Share your adventures with me, even as I share mine. Sometime in the future, I may call on you again, to pray for me and stand beside me as I do Dad's work.

I'll be sharing a lot more about this in the coming days. God has done so much in me, and I want to speak of His goodness to you, so that you can know him better.

In the meantime, for those of you who joined me in this good work, thank you. I could not have made it without your prayers and support lifting me up.

For all of you, keep dreaming, and thanks for bearing through another long post!

With love and prayer,

your Sister and Fellow Adventurer

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Finishing Touches on a semester

Hello Friends!

With everything coming to a rapid close for this semester, I figured I should give you all an update on the "happenings" of my life. ;) Sorry about my stream-of-consciousness writing here; homework has been a constant today, and my brain is starting to be tired.

My whole life I have loved reading stories, and always wanted to be in a story, to be the heroine in one of those beloved tales. And here I find myself caught up in the adventure that is LIFE.

Living with God... what a joy each day brings!
And yet, I think to myself that even if I were to die tomorrow, I would be utterly content. There is nothing I need more than my relationship with God, and that is totally assured. Yet I could live 100 years more and be more content and overjoyed with each day that comes before me. I am learning how much of an adventure (wrote about it in my other blog) life is with God. Not because of its perfection, but because of its continuation. Two things I know to be true, that will Never change: 1) I am, and always will be, a beloved daughter of the Most High God. 2) This wonderful Dad of mine (aka Jesus) will Always be with me, no matter what I face.

This is where I get to the update part, I suppose. :)
Like I said, God has been Good. He has been teaching me about Himself, healing my body even more... I have been finding joy in my work, and love for the people around me. I was blessed this last weekend to visit my family, and am Amazed by the way my relationship with my Heavenly Dad has conquered even the beautiful friendship and life and trust I have with my two marvelous earthly parents (and yet, they still reflect his love so well).

Anyway, I have been adventuring, I suppose. There have definitely been some downs, as I had bronchitis and a couple other sicknesses recently. But overall God is still good :) hehe and I am thrilled for the future. Right now I have three more intense but exciting weeks of school before the semester draws to a close and I head out to India.

Life with God may be a huge adventure, but sometimes it seems that some little adventures stand out more than others. There is no doubt that India is one of these times. I am beyond thrilled to visit this beautiful country in Asia, and to help children have their childhoods back for a little. For those who do not know/remember, my team and myself will be traveling in the country for about one month, working with orphans and street children in a series of children's camps. We will be working mainly with 5-11 year olds, teaching them about how Jesus and his servants in the Bible are heroes. If you think of us, pray for us, will you not? I have found some of God's greatest works tend to be behind the scenes. He's that great God who coordinates our escapes and miracles ahead of time, you know?

Anyway, I hope your lives are also filled with joy, peace and rest! I pray that your Easter went well and you are discovering God more each day.

Adventure well, my friends!

~A Fellow Adventurer

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Quick Midterm Update

Hello Friends!

You may have noticed that I changed my name on my blog, and removed my pictures. Considering missions and life in general, I have become more aware of both the beautiful and the terrible things of the world. So I am trying to have wisdom and discernment in my doings.

I will still keep you all updated, of course. But if you want names or specifics, you will have to contact me via telephone or letter-- or even in person (I know, so old fashioned).

That in mind, I am going to update you all about my upcoming trip to India soon. I have so many fun details and prayer requests to share!

In the meantime, I have midterms this week. Keep rejoicing, and keep thriving.

Never get to the point where you seek just to survive. Remember that God created us to have life-- TO THE FULLEST.

Much love,

--An adventuring Friend