Eyes on Jesus

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We live in a complicated, broken world. There is so much hurt, so much anger, so much confusion, so much conflict. It’s a world that is suffering and struggling.

Each day I wake up and make intentional choices. I choose to be positive. I choose to treat people well. I choose to smile. I choose to love.

But life continually throws unexpected curves. This chaotic world will constantly try to make us fall.

We can choose to be kind, but some will still be unkind to us.

We can act in love, and may receive hate in return.

We can take risks, and sometimes we will fail miserably.

We can put ourselves out there, and may end up broken hearted.

We can trust people, and they could betray us.

We can do what is right, and others respond with what is wrong.

We can open ourselves up, and someone may shut us down.

This world is hard. It can be dark and cruel. It can make us want to run away and isolate ourselves. It can take away our ability to trust. It can make us give up on love.

In my life, one thing I have learned and practiced – through all of the noise, the stress, the chaos, the heartbreak, the missteps – as long as I keep my eyes on Jesus, everything is going to be ok.

With my focus on my Saviour, He shows me how the good triumphs over the bad. He blinds me to the negativity and shines a light on the positive. He deafens my ears to the noise, and blares the kindness. He guards my heart from the hate, and softens it to the love.

We can choose to be kind in the face of unkindness if our eyes are on Jesus.

We can act in genuine love and know that the love of Jesus conquers all hate.

We can take risks and have the opportunity to succeed beyond our wildness dreams, or experience something amazing that we never thought possible.

We can trust people and forgive any betrayal because we know Jesus died so we could be forgiven.

We can do what is right, no matter the response, for we know we honoured our Lord.

We can open ourselves up, and be ok with rejection because with Jesus, we are always accepted.

Yes, this world is hard. Yes, we face many struggles. But with our eyes on Jesus, the joy and love we experience is unfathomable.

With our eyes on Jesus, darkness will become light.

With our eyes on Jesus, hate can transform to love.

With our eyes on Jesus,  hurt is healed.

With our eyes on Jesus, mess can be made beautiful.

So goodbye negativity, I don’t have time for you. I choose to be positive.

I’m sorry hate, but you are not wanted. I serve a God of love.

Farewell betrayal – you can’t have me. I choose forgiveness.

My apologies rejection, but you cannot break me. I belong to Jesus.

And my eyes are on Him.

 

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The Places You’ll Go

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Two weeks ago I returned home from Toronto after a week of Pre-Departure training with TEAM, the organization I am partnered with to be a missionary in the Czech Republic. This was a week I had been praying for and anticipating for months. I was looking forward to connecting with friends I’d made at my Missionary Orientation, as well as TEAM staff, making new friends, and taking the next steps in my training.

The week did not disappoint. Although it did go a little faster than I would have liked.

It was cool to have this training in Toronto, a city that love and spent many years in. I had fun introducing my American friends to Tim Hortons, All Dressed chips and poutine. We got a chance to experience the diversity of this amazing city through food, and more food.

I got to meet more amazing people who are giving up their lives to go out in the world and make disciples through church planting, music, sports, and simply building relationships. Soon we will all be spread throughout the world, sharing the gospel and spreading the love of our Lord.

It is so exciting to be a part of.

It’s amazing to hear the stories of everyone and learn how God called them to their respective missionary locations. And it’s inspiring to see so many walking in obedience to God. He has called everyone to a different place – whether it be Japan, France, Guatemala, Mexico, Africa, Spain, Asia – and He has called us each for a specific purpose. To further His Kingdom.

I was (and still am) humbled and honoured to be among these incredible people.

I know when I am on the field, and I face times of struggle and trial, these will be the people I reach out to. And I pray they will reach out to me in their times of need.

Even though we only spent that short time together, we are forever connected as we each set out to fulfill God’s mission in our lives.

All of us will experience things that can only be understood by others who have been in the mission field.

All of us are giving up everything we know, and everything that is comfortable, to share the love of Jesus.

And while our individual struggles may differ depending on the country we’re going to, whether we’re single or married, and what our specific ministry will be, there are common challenges we are all sure to experience.

In our training we talked a lot about cultural values and cultural intelligence. We talked about personal bias and how easy it can be for us to be judgemental when faced with something different. We’ll each face difficulties in language learning, adjusting to cultural norms in our new homes, and dealing with homesickness.

But as long as we know we are fulfilling God’s purpose for our lives, and we trust His path instead of trying to find our own, we will be fine.

We will all commit a cultural faux pas at some point. And we’ll have embarrassing and frustrating stories to share regarding language learning. We’ll have days full of tears where we’re desperate to return home. And we’ll have moments of satisfaction when we can finally order a coffee properly in our host country’s language.

And there will be moments of pure joy – that moment when someone we’ve been building a relationship with, someone who previously didn’t know or care to know Jesus, declares that they believe.

In that moment, all of the cultural mistakes, the frustrations of language learning, and the tears of homesickness, will be worth it.

That’s what we are doing this for.

We are here for God. For His glory. To build His Kingdom.

Throughout the last 8 months of this process – through the highs and lows of fundraising and sharing my calling – I have asked God many times, “Why me?”

I’m not a pastor or a teacher. I’m not a counsellor. I’ve made lots of mistakes. I’ve done things I’m ashamed of. I’m overly sensitive and take things too personally. I’m not great in large groups. I can be anti-social. Sometimes, I have a temper.

I am imperfect.

I am so very flawed.

I am also saved.

I am forgiven.

I am loved.

And I want everyone else to know that they are too.

And that is why me.

 

 

He Provides

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As I look back over the last year, one key thing I have been reminded of over and over is this: God is faithful.

Of course, this is something I already knew, but in times of struggle and uncertainty and stress, it is amazing how quickly I forget. I get caught in the worry, the fears, and the “what ifs?” I forget that God is in complete control, and I try to take over. In moments of insecurity, facing the unknown, I unconsciously think that I can do better than Him. Or I convince myself that He has forgotten me.

Yet each time I go back to my Bible, to church, to my friends who are Christ followers, it is so clear and simple: God is faithful. He will provide.

What’s important to remember in this is that, not only does He provide, but He does it in His time. In my own impatience and stubbornness, I often try to speed ahead when I think God is not working fast enough. I try to push forward and force things to happen. And that always ends up in a huge mess.

And again, God gently and graciously reminds me to wait on Him because He will provide at the time that is right.

Consider the ravens, for they neither sow nor reap, which have neither storehouse nor barn; and God feeds them. Of how much more value are you than the birds?”                                                                                              Luke 12:19

For the last 6 months, I have been support raising as I prepare move to the Czech Republic to be a full time missionary. It has been a rewarding and challenging journey with times of great excitement and times of discouragement.

I would joyfully celebrate each time a new monthly partner signed up, but then weeks would go by without any new partners despite my constant support raising efforts. In those times I would question. I would wonder if I’d ever reach the next goal. What if I didn’t make the 60% of my monthly support needed to attend the Pre-Departure training in October? If I missed the deadline, the next training is not until February 2019, weeks after my planned departure date.

What if I can’t get my Bible courses done in time? What if I can’t pay off all of my debts before I go? What if I can’t raise the $40,000 in upfront costs I need?

What if? What if? What if?

I doubted. I became discouraged. I grew impatient. I let frustration set in. I tried to take control.

He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?”                            Romans 8:32           

Then God said, “Why are you worried? Why do you doubt? I called you to this – I will provide.”

And provide He has, as He always does.

I currently sit at 64% of my monthly support, weeks before the deadline, and I am already registered for the Pre-Departure training in October.

Support is coming in regularly, tickets are selling for my upcoming fundraiser, I have nearly half of my upfront costs, my debts are dwindling steadily, and I’ve completed 3 Bible courses and I’m nearly done the 4th.

Why did I doubt? Why did I worry?

God is faithful.

If we are following Him, and the purpose He has chosen for us, we have nothing to fear. He tells us that again and again throughout the Bible.

This is the God who loved us so much, He sent His only son to die, so that we can be saved!

He loves us so much that He knows the number of hairs on our head!

How amazing is that?

How could we ever doubt His faithfulness?

What could we possibly fear?

For if He is for us, who can stand against us?

I want to live every day in utmost joy, knowing my God provides! Knowing He is faithful! Knowing He knows what’s best for me!

In times of struggle and trial, I pray that I don’t doubt or worry or fear. I pray that I stand firm when faced with uncertainty because I know He is in control.

God is all powerful, relentless in His love, and generous in His provision.

There is no reason to fear.

For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”           Jeremiah 29:11

 

Joys and Challenges

DesignI haven’t written on here in a while. Life has been a bit of a whirlwind as I continue to move forward as a Missionary Appointee of TEAM. There have been lots of ups and downs as I prepare to move to the other side of the world to do God’s work. As my time to move to the Czech Republic gets closer each day, my excitement for this journey increases, as I also recognize, and prepare myself for, leaving behind everything I know.

The joys that have come out of this process have been too many to count. Number one is, without a doubt, the chance to share God’s incredible love and power through what He is doing in my life.

My life has changed drastically over the last decade – from the girl the who spent days in bed due to depression, and would, at times, stand at her front door for hours because her anxiety wouldn’t allow her to open it and walk through – to the woman who is on fire for Jesus and is being sent half way across the world to share the gospel. And I take zero credit for this transformation.

I can tell you: Nothing is impossible with God. God is GOOD!

God took the broken mess that I was and transformed me from the inside out.

How do I thank Him for that?

One way to honour His grace and mercy in my life is to obey Him. So when He said, “I want you to go to the Czech Republic as a full time missionary”, I said “Ok.”

And here I am, almost a year later since He first called me to this.

Another incredible joy has been the people I have gotten to meet and connect with as I have engaged in support raising and training.

My fellow missionaries, whom I met at Missionary Orientation, who have become friends and family, and who I am cheering on as they all prepare to go to their respective countries.

The staff at TEAM, who have been unbelievably supportive and available at all times for any needs, questions or care.

I have had the privilege of meeting new people within my church community as I share God’s calling on my life at small groups, ministry groups, and during a Sunday morning sermon.

I have been able to meet with people within my community who have a connection to the Czech Republic, such as a Kingsville pastor who spent many years in ministry in Prague. He has shared his knowledge of Czech, the people and the needs that are there, as well as offered advice on living there, and connected me with people who currently reside in and around Prague.

Yes, God is good.

I have been blown away by the generosity of people throughout the first 3+ months of support raising. There are so many who have partnered with me because they believe in what God has called me to. There are people I have never met who have become monthly partners or one time donors because they heard me speak at church or heard about me through my friends or family.

Yes, God is good.

But I am not going to pretend these past few months have not had challenges. Support raising has been steady, but it has also been more difficult than I expected. In the past I have only done short term trips, where I needed a specific amount of money (usually $2000-3500), and support raising for ongoing monthly partners is quite different.

I am also very good at getting in my own way. I am still mastering the art of patience, and still learning to let go of control. Daily I need to remind myself that I am NOT in control. God has this – He started it and He is going to provide. It’s not about me.

Hopefully one day I’ll get it. Until then, I will continue to remind myself.

I am also starting to think about things that I am leaving behind. I am trying to process as much as I can now, and start the greiving process, in the hopes that it will help when I actually leave.

I am facing the fact that I won’t be here for my nephew’s 5th birthday or my niece’s 7th. I won’t be here when my other nephew graduates middle school, or when my older niece turns 16.

There will be many family gatherings without me. I won’t be able to grab dinner with my parents, or take my sister’s kids to the movies. Friends will get married and have babies, and start new jobs, and I’ll watch from afar.

It’s going to be challenging. There will be times of struggle.

But I am not going to change my mind about going.

I still have no fear about moving to the other side of the world.

I am not going to slow this process down for a minute.

Why?

Because God said “go”. He is making a long time dream of mine real.

He is the one who brought me out of darkness, and changed me from the inside out.

He is the one who promised to never leave me.

He is the reason I need to go to the Czech Republic because His unending love is so amazing and so powerful that I have to share it with the Czech people.

Wherever He leads, I will follow.

Because He is the one who saved me.

So I will embrace all of the joys and all of the challenges.

I will miss the family gatherings and birthdays and celebrations that happen while I am gone. I will miss the weddings and babies and graduations.

Because it’s not about me.

There are people suffering because they don’t know God. There are people without hope because they haven’t opened their hearts to His love.

How can I stay in my comfortable life when He asks me to go?

Everyone has a calling in life, a purpose He has given you.

Mine is to go out into the world and make disciples.

But I am not doing it alone. Everyone who has partnered with me in prayer and monthly or one time givings is going with me. All of my loved ones are going with me. And most importantly, God is going with me.

If He is for me, who can’t stand against me?

I invite you to check out my profile page on TEAM. And if you are interested in supporting my missions, you can click on ‘Give Now’.

https://team.org/about/profile/1638

 

 

When God Calls

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I started this blog over 4 years ago. My original intention was to write about my struggle with mental illness and how I stay happy and healthy despite my disease. I called it Experience Each Day because I wanted to highlight the importance of living each day to the best of our abilities. It is also a reminder not just to live each day, but to experience each day, and embrace all that we encounter, both good and bad.

The blog has evolved and changed over the years to become more than about living with depression. It’s been about life lessons, hope, faith, joy, passion and what really matters in this crazy world. But experiencing each day is still the substance of each post.

In the last couple of months I’ve been writing about my journey into missions. I am moving to the Czech Republic to be a full time missionary.

This was not something that was on my radar a year ago.

I’ve had a heart for missions for many years, and always hoped I would one day do it full time, but of all the places I imagined going, the Czech Republic never crossed my mind. I didn’t even know there was a need there until recent years.

Then God set out steps to get me there on a short term mission last summer. And it was there He revealed His calling for me. The Czech Republic is where He wants me.

So I said  “ok.”

I immediately began the application process with TEAM (www.team.org), and haven’t looked back since.

Once I was accepted and began sharing what I was doing, many people told me I was brave.

Am I brave?

No, I don’t think I am.

I’m obedient to God’s calling, not brave.

Brave is the person who faces a cancer diagnosis with hope and faith. Brave is the woman who testifies against the one who sexually assaulted her. Brave are the students who refuse to back down against the fight for gun control.

No, I’m not brave. I’m going to a beautiful and safe country where I get to tell people about the love of Jesus.

I am blessed.

Something else I’ve heard a lot since I began this journey, “You must be nervous.”

No, not really.

This has been orchestrated and controlled by God from the beginning. Why would I be nervous?

To this people say, “But you’re going all alone – that must be hard.”

I’m not going alone.

I am in the process of building a team who will be supporting me throughout this adventure. I am going to work with other missionaries who are already in Czech. TEAM, the organization sending me, has provided enormous support in training, mentors, advice, direction, prayer and preparation for my transition.

And I’ve got this incredible group of people that I met at my Missionary Orientation, all of whom are going out into the world to share the love of Jesus. It’s amazing that this group of strangers from all over North America came together for one week and instantly felt connected because we each had a calling to be missionaries. Now we get to support each other, pray for each other and cheer each other on as we each follow the path laid out for us.

I am definitely not doing this alone.

And even if I didn’t have all that I’ve mentioned, I still would not be alone. This is the road God chose for me and He will travel it with me.

When God calls us, He is calling us to join Him. He is inviting us to experience His special purpose for our lives. And He’s going to walk with us the whole way.

See, I’m not brave. I’m not nervous. I’m not alone.

I’m blessed.

God called me to do this.

Why me? That is the question.

I’m not special. I’m not a pastor or a teacher. I can’t easily get up in front of a crowd and give an epic speech. I’m not gifted at hospitality or making friends quickly. I’m no good at small talk and don’t do well in large groups.

I don’t have any spectacular talents. There is nothing that makes me more qualified to do this over someone else. In fact, I am certain there are many many many others that would be better to do this than me.

But God called me and I am choosing to listen. I am choosing to obey. Because if He is calling me, then He will equip me with all I need to succeed.

While I may not be a pastor or a teacher, and I may not be the life of the party or the most popular person in the room, I do know how to love fiercely. I am a good listener, a great encourager, and a loyal friend. I am caring, kind and fun. Some even think I’m funny.

And more than anything I want to share the unbreakable joy and ever-lasting peace I have because Jesus loved me enough to die for me.

And that is enough.

He is enough.

Again I think back to when I first started this blog. It was something God asked me to do. He called me to be a voice for those suffering from mental illness.

Now He calls me to be a missionary.

When God calls, I answer.

What an incredible gift He has given me, to go to the Czech Republic to bring more people to Him. And if He is for me, who can stand against me?

Therefore, go and make disciples of all nations…Matthew 28:19

 

The Big Ask

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I have been home from Missionary Orientation for just over a week, and I have spent my spare time getting prepared for the next steps in this journey. Today I spent my afternoon completing my timeline, making a list of contacts and working on some marketing pieces.

I briefly talked to a friend and told her about my day and she’s asked how I was feeling about everything. My honest answer was “I’m a little overwhelmed.” She was incredibly encouraging telling me it was all going to be worth it and that “I’ve got this”. In that moment I realized, no, I don’t have this, but God does.

And that’s all that matters.

God has gone before me and knows exactly how this will play out. He knows who will support me, how long the fundraising will take, and when I will move to the Czech Republic to begin my mission work.

God is using this process as an opportunity for me to grow. Grow in patience, in faith, and in something I find unbelievably challenging:

The Big Ask.

I am not good at asking for help or support. I love to give help and support to others, but asking for it for myself is intimidating.

This may come from messages I received as a child where I was told not to be a burden to others. It may come from a fierce independence I developed at a young age when I felt like I had no one to depend on. And it may very well come from pride.

God is challenging me to humble myself in order to seek the support I need. He is stretching me in ways like never before. And I am grateful.

In the Bible, when Jesus sends his disciples out to share the message, He tells them not to bring food or extra clothing. He advises them to search out meals and lodging from people in whatever town they are in.

If Jesus and His disciples can humble themselves to ask others to provide for their needs, why can’t I?

Exactly. Why can’t I?

The answer is that I can. God will provide the support that I need. He will bring people forward who believe in my missionary work and want to partner with me.

But he needs me to do the work too.

He needs me to overcome my fears and my pride, and ask.

I need to remember that although I am asking for financial support for my ministry and living expenses in the Czech Republic, it is not about me. I have been called to the Czech Republic, a country where 90% of the people are atheist, to spread the gospel. I have been called to “go out and make disciples of all nations…” as Jesus commanded in Matthew 28:19.

So when my fears and insecurities and pride try to get in the way, I need to remember that I am doing this for Him and His kingdom.

As I move through this process, I recognize that it is not just about getting people to give me their money. It’s about building relationships and partnerships. It’s about praying for one another and encouraging one another. It’s about spreading the love of our Lord together.

I may be the only one physically moving to the Czech Republic, but I am not going alone.

As I reflect on all of these things, I realize that ‘The Big Ask’, when done for Jesus, is not so big.

If He is for us, who can stand against us?

 

If you’d like to check out my missionary profile, visit https://www.teamcanada.org/about/profile/1638

Feel free to contact me anytime to find out more about what I am doing, or to partner with me.

 

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It’s Worth It

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Last week I was in North Carolina for my missionary orientation for TEAM. As most people in my life know, I will be moving to the Czech Republic to work as a church planter and to teach English.

Orientation was one of the best experiences of my life. I learned so much and I am so grateful to the TEAM staff for all of the work, effort and care that goes into the training and into each individual preparing to go out into the field. My brain is still on overload from all of the information, but I feel confident and equipped to take the next steps in this journey.

I also had the honour of meeting and getting to know some incredible people. I wish there had been more time to talk to everyone and hear their stories, and learn about what they are going to do. It was inspiring to see so many like-minded people coming together, and to share an instant connection because we’re all going out into the world to spread the gospel.

I could go on and on about how wonderful the experience was, but I want to focus on something that really stood out for me. One of the TEAM staff members shared about his years of working in missions, and all the stress and joy and struggle and excitement that goes with it. He warned all of us that being in the missions field will often mean having to give up our lives. He talked about how hard it is to leave family and friends, comfort zones, and ministries, and how the unexpected will happen and things will often be beyond on our control.

And he finished this with 3 simple words. “It’s worth it.”

Powerful.

I began to reflect on my own journey to be a full time missionary up to this point. It has happened fast, and somewhat unexpectedly, but it has been very God driven from the beginning.

A year ago I was not thinking about moving to the Czech Republic to be a missionary. Now I look back and see how God placed each stepping stone on my path to get me here.

I completed the lengthy and overwhelming application process in 4 months, and never once had any fears or doubts about what I was doing.

Because God told me to do it.

Everything has simply fallen into place since the very beginning. Because it has all come directly from God.

This has made me reflect back on various times in my life – through struggles, joy, frustration, laughter, and stress; in the times and events where I was following God and surrendering to Him, it was all worth it, both the good and the bad.

In the times where I tried to control things and step ahead of God’s plan, the outcome was never worth it. I was often left with pain or regret.

As I look back over the years, I see how God has led me here. Even when I ignored Him or pushed Him away, He has always found a way to steer me back to His purpose. And His purpose has always been worth it.

Missions has been a passion of mine for many years, but I look at my journey and where I am now, and recognize how perfect God’s timing is.

I wasn’t ready for this 5 years ago or even 3 years ago. I was still dealing with too many struggles, too many unhealed wounds, too many fears. It was something I wanted, but I was not equipped for. And God knew that.

God placed me on a journey to grow spiritually, emotionally and mentally, so that He could bring me here to this moment. He planned it all so perfectly.

So I could be ready.

And all of the time it took to get me, all of the stress and struggles and uncertainties, it was all worth it.

Anything we do for God and with God is worth it.

It’s easy to get ahead of ourselves and try to push our own agenda on Him. As humans, we are generally not good with the unknown, and we are often not very patient. We want the answers here and now.

It’s important to remember that it’s not about our timeline – it’s about His.

The waiting and the unknown are worth it if we are following His will.

A few years ago I finally, truly surrendered control of my life to God. And it has been worth it ever since.

In surrendering, I finally found freedom.

I found peace.

I found joy.

I found a deep, deep faith.

I discovered how truly powerful, amazing and breath-taking God’s love for me is.

And it is so worth it.

 

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What I’ll Miss the Most

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It’s been nearly 4 weeks since I found out I’ve been appointed a missionary to the Czech Republic. Since then I have been busy telling friends, family, acquaintances, and anyone else who will listen! I’ve signed up for my orientation and training which is from February 10 to 16 in North Carolina (one week away!), and I have been answering questions as best I can without having a lot of information just yet.

It’s been an exciting few weeks.

As my excitement continues to grow, and I wonder what God has in store for me, the realization of what I am leaving behind has begun to sink in.

Don’t misread this – I am not having any doubts or second thoughts. The more I think about this journey I am on, the more I see how right it is for me, and how God’s hand has been directing it from the beginning.

But it would not be healthy if I didn’t acknowledge and prepare myself for the things I am going to miss here.

Today I went to my nephew’s birthday party. He turns 4 on Wednesday, and it hit me that this may be the last birthday party of his that I attend for a number of years.

Those who know me well know that I adore my nieces and nephews. They mean the world to me, and because I do not have kids of my own, they are my kids. I love that I am very involved in their lives. I love that I get to pick them up from school, and make them dinner, and be a part of their daily norms.

And I know that, in order to follow the path God has laid out for me, I have say goodbye to seeing them often. And that is what I’ll miss the most.

I’ll miss not being here for birthdays and holidays.

I’ll miss picking them up from school.

I’ll miss giving my oldest niece clothes I’ve hardly worn, and books I think she’ll enjoy.

I’ll miss teasing my oldest nephew, and trying to give him big hugs when I know he doesn’t like hugs.

I’ll miss going my young niece’s ballet class to watch her dance.

I’ll miss the way my young nephew runs to give me a hug when he sees me coming.

I will miss key events in their lives.

I will miss watching them grow, and seeing them discover something new.

I will miss them more than I can express.

I am grateful to be a part of time where it is easy to connect despite distance. I am grateful for Skype, FaceTime, email, texting, and all the other ways I can still be a part of their lives.

No, it’s not the same as being here, but it is something.

And no matter where I am in the world, I will ensure my nieces and nephews know how much I love them. That I can promise.

As I move forward on this new path, and get excited about the adventures ahead, I will also recognize and grieve what I am going to miss.

And I plan to cherish each moment I have with my nieces and nephews, my parents, my sister, my extended family, my friends, and my church family, up to the moment I step on the plane.

Although I’ll miss so much here and it hurts my heart to move so far from everyone I know and love, I am confident in my decision to move to the Czech Republic for mission work.

I want to obey God and His calling for me.

I want to do His will.

And I want to share this journey with everyone I love.

And I hope to have lots of visitors! 😊

 

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When Dreams Come True

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If you ever had a dream come true, you likely know the exact day and time it happened. It’s logged in your memory, impossible to forget.

A dream of mine came true last Tuesday, January 9, 2018 at 5:03pm. That is when I saw the email. Technically the email had been sent the night before and therefore my dream came true at that point, but I didn’t see it until the aforementioned moment above. So it was 5:03pm on a Tuesday evening when the dream became reality.

I had been accepted.

I should probably start at the beginning. I’ve wanted to share this for over 5 months, but felt it was best to hold back until it was confirmed. The last thing I wanted to do was explain to everyone if I didn’t get approved.

In July, I went on a short term mission trip (12 days) to the Czech Republic. I have been passionate about missions for a little more than a decade. Before the Czech Republic, I was part of 5 previous short term missions.

I first dipped my toe in the missions pool when I was 16; I joined a youth group from a church I didn’t attend on a trip to Pennsylvania, where we spent a week painting and repairing houses for those who couldn’t afford to do it themselves.

The next mission trip I participated in wasn’t until I was 26 years, when I went to Romania for 2 weeks to work with orphans. After that experience,  I knew it was something I wanted to do for the rest of my life.

I continued to do short term mission trips, but in the back of my mind, and deep in my heart, I imagined the day when I would be a full time missionary.

I had no idea what that would like, nor did I know where I wanted to go.

Until July 2017.

Nearing the end of the team’s time in Czech Republic, I started to realize that I didn’t want the mission to end. I wasn’t ready to return to Canada. And as I sat on a bench in the mountains of this beautiful country, God whispered to me, “Don’t worry. You’re coming back.”

His voice was so clear that I was tempted to turn around to see if someone was standing behind me.

In the Czech Republic, we were working with a family who have been missionaries there for over 20 years. That night I looked up the organization they are partnered with, TEAM, to see what opportunities there were.

I prayed for a while that night as God’s message spun around my mind. By the next morning, I not only felt God telling me I’d be returning, but I realized the next time I would be there, I would be staying for a long time.

Returning to Canada, I had no doubt in my mind. However, before moving forward, I talked to my parents, as well as the executive pastor (my boss) and the senior pastor at my church/work. Their support and encouragement affirmed the message God had given me.

A few days later, on the TEAM website, I put in a request for application.

The application process was long and intense. They were forms to fill out, Biblical and belief questions to answer, references needed, a medical exam, blood work, an X-Ray, a 5 hour assessment test, and interviews to go through. I was warned the application process takes most people 6 months to a year to complete.

I did it in 4.5 months.

My direction was clear. I knew what I wanted. I knew where I was supposed to go.

Then came the waiting.

And on Tuesday, January 9, 2018 at 5:03pm, I got my answer. I was officially appointed as a TEAM missionary.

I was still at work when I saw the email. My co-worker was just exiting her office to leave for the day, and I ran up to her, tears already falling, and shoved my phone her face.

“Look! I got accepted!”

She held me as I cried and laughed.

Next I interrupted a meeting between the senior pastor and his assistant, who is my closest friend at work. Still crying, I shared my exciting news.

Then I bolted out of the office for my sister’s house, where my parents were watching my niece and nephew. I alternated between laughing and crying throughout the 10 minute drive.

When I burst through the door, and both my parents came into view, I again shared my news. More laughter and tears ensued, along with hugs.

As I approach the week mark of having been accepted, I think the news is only now settling in. The first few days were emotional and overwhelming.

Now it feels real.

I have been appointed as a missionary, a dream I’ve had for more than 10 years.

I am officially moving to the Czech Republic at some point in the future.

God is good.

Of course the journey has only begun, and a lot needs to happen before I step on a plane. But I am so ready for what lies ahead – all of the emotions, all of the challenges, all of the joys, all of the struggles.

I know this is what I am supposed to do.

I know this is where God wants me.

I will keep writing about this experience as things move forward. I hope you’ll keep reading.

 

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2017

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2017 was a bit of whirlwind for me. I’m sitting here on the first day of 2018 and wondering how the past year went by so fast.

2017 started with me living in a small, poorly constructed one bedroom house that didn’t have enough heat to allow me to survive the winter without shivering constantly. Aside from gifting me with an ice cold body, this place featured a large hole in the porch directly outside the front door, pipes that would freeze for days and therefore not drain water or allow me to flush the toilet, and a small furry friend that I discovered in my dog’s bag of food.

But at the time, it was all I could afford.

It’s not a secret that I have struggled to find my place since returning to Essex County nearly 5 years ago. I moved from job to job, some good, some not, trying to find a good fit, and never getting paid enough to really survive on my own.

In January, I was working at a job that was unable to follow through on things that had been promised to me, such as a raise, benefits and full time hours.

However, less than a month into 2017, things started to change, and now 2017 has turned out to be one of my best, most memorable years yet.

It was not a perfect year, but we all know that perfect doesn’t exist. The year included some disappointments (mainly, the difficult choice of re-homing my dog, who I loved deeply), but it also included the learning (in some cases re-learning) of important life lessons, and the re-discovery of my biggest passions.

First, I learned never to say ‘never’.

The initial good thing that happened in 2017 was that I got a new job. It was unexpected, and not something I had sought out. They approached me and asked me to apply. The position was for an Office Administrator. The role was perfect for me – I love admin and I’m good at it. It was precisely the type of position I had been seeking since I left Toronto.

But there was a massive red flag waving in my face. The job was at a church…

I had nothing against this church – it’s a fantastic church that I had attended as a teenager and continued to attend when I was visiting from Toronto. I already knew some of the staff well, and all are fantastic people. My faith was stronger than ever and my desire was to serve God in all ways.

But after my last experience working for a church, I swore I would never work for a church again. It’s not that it was a completely horrific experience, but it was a difficult experience that left me with some deep wounds; wounds that were still healing.

So I hesitated.

After talks with my parents and lots of prayer, I felt God telling me to apply. So I did.

Which leads me to the next thing I [re]learned in 2017 – letting go and listening.

I was reminded to let go of control and listen to God. I surrendered all my anxieties and concerns to Him, and promised that where He led, I would follow.

So, I was offered the job and I took it. And it was the right choice.

Shortly into the job, I was asked if I would consider joining the mission team that was heading to the Czech Republic in July.

Again, I hesitated. I wanted to go, but I was worried about the timing of it, the financial burden of fundraising, and the amount of vacation time it would eat up for me. I swam in the pool of indecision for weeks before deciding that I would wait for the next mission trip.

Then I began to really listen to what God was saying to me. He told me to go, so I went. Everything fell into place with the team and the trip – we managed to raise almost double what we needed, and the experience was incredible.

The trip re-ignited my passion for missions, and started me on a path to fulfill a dream of doing more mission work in the future.

This year I also re-learned the importance of patience and grace.

I have a tendency to place high expectations on the people around me, especially Christians. And when they don’t behave as I feel they should, my reactions can sometimes be quite harsh.

I am someone who feels things very deeply. I’m sensitive, often over-sensitive, as a result of some things I have experienced. Like many people, I have been deeply hurt over the years and the pain of betrayal has led to trust issues, as well as a thick defensive wall that shoots up the moment I feel someone has not acted in a way that I deem “acceptable”.

However, I was reminded again and again that we are not a perfect people. I’m not and neither are you. And I truly believe that most people in this world are good. When people do or say things that are insensitive or hurtful, most often they are not doing it on purpose. Frequently they do not even realize they may have hurt or angered you, and when they find out they are devastated and deeply sorry.

We are all human, full of flaws and imperfections. But we are also loving, caring, kind and generous. We make mistakes. We don’t always think things through. And we need to show each other grace in times of mishaps.

Finally, I was reminded not to let the negativity of others affect me.

I have worked for years to be a positive person. It does not come naturally to me. In my early twenties, I decided that only I could change my negative perspective of the world to a positive one. So I worked at it. I woke up each day and made a choice to be positive until I started to wake up feeling positive.

My downfall is that I can still easily get sucked into the negativity. If I am around it too much, it creeps onto my body and I wear it like clothes. If I allow it to linger for too long, it seeps beneath my skin, and I start to become the person I don’t want to be.

There were a few times this year where I allowed the negativity of others to dig deep into my being. In some cases, I was trying to help someone, but their negativity was overpowering what I was attempting to do.

These times reminded me that it was ok to extract myself from the situation when it was doing me more harm than good. I felt guilty for removing myself, but I also knew that I was not going to help anyone if I became increasingly negative.

It was a good lesson (again) for me. It made me stronger, and it reminded me of why I am here. I am here to bring light and joy to others, to serve God and pour out His love. I can’t do that under mounds of negativity.

I could go on about things I’ve learned and re-learned this year – the importance of family, being able to stand up for myself, taking chances and being bold, and embracing the good. But this post is probably long enough.

I will say that I am excited for 2018. I look forward to pursuing my passions in mission work, as well as with writing. I am thrilled to embrace new adventures and challenges. And I pray that I can do it with grace and love.

I feel like I woke up in 2017.

Now I’m ready to face 2018 with an open heart and an open mind.

Happy New Year.

 

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