Category Archives: Faith

A Life-Changing Year

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It was exactly a year yesterday since I said goodbye to the life I knew. I got on a plane, with three suitcases and a carry-on, and moved half way around the world.

Why? Because God asked me to.

Was it difficult? Yes.

Was it heartbreaking to leave loved ones? Absolutely.

Do I get homesick? Regularly.

Do I regret doing it? Not for a second.

This last year has arguably been the best year of my life. On January 15, 2019, I got on a plane with a one way ticket. I landed in the Czech Republic in the early afternoon of January 16. It was exactly one year and one week from when I learned I had been appointed as a full time missionary with TEAM.

 

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For years I had dreamt of being a missionary, but I had no idea where to go, what organization to partner with, and how to make it happen.

I was also being held by back by fear and struggles with mental illness.

Until that fateful summer in 2017, when I joined my church for a short term mission trip to work at an English Camp in Czech. There, God changed my life when He finally revealed to me His plans for me to be missionary.

By that point I had pretty much given up on the idea of working in full time missions. I was content with working in church ministry in Canada while doing short term mission trips each year. But God had other plans.

That desire He had placed on my heart so many years before had finally come full circle. It was unexpected, and a little scary, but I never doubted for a moment. God said “Go”, and I said “Ok”.

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It was one of the easiest decisions of my life, and without a doubt, it was one of the best. In this last year I finally found my purpose. It took a while to find it. I had some mess and trauma to work through first.

Now, after being a missionary in Prague for a year, I see the purpose of everything in my life that led up to today. All of the chaos, struggle and pain I endured was to prepare me to be here. It strengthened me and gave me the tools I needed to face the challenges of working in global missions.

In the last year God has repeatedly shown me how He can use my troubled past to help others. He has taken my trials and my hurts and created beauty from them.

I’ve developed relationships with Czechs who struggle with mental illness, and God has used my past and my experiences to allow me to help them. This has helped me create some deep friendships in a short time.

I’m not going to say that the transition of moving here has been easy. It hasn’t. But in the last year, I’ve grown in ways I never would have imagined. My faith and trust in God is stronger than ever. I am physically the healthiest I have ever been. Emotionally, I’ve stood firmly in the face of things that would have crumpled me in previous years.

God has been so faithful.

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Even in the frustrating moments of language learning and adapting to new cultural norms, I have been able to see such beauty and grace.

In the times of loneliness and homesickness, God has provided a friend, a text message, a FaceTime call or a sweet memory for comfort.

In the ups and downs of adjusting and adapting to my new life, God has assured me again and again that I am where He wants me. He’s given me a deep joy that cannot be hindered or damaged by anything.

A month I was telling friends and family that for the first time in my life I know that I am exactly where I am supposed to be. There is such a peace in knowing that.

Life is not perfect. But God is. He is perfect in His plans, in His grace, in His love.

I spent so many years before trying to control everything, losing patience with God when I things didn’t turn out the way I wanted.

If only I had known.

If only I had trusted Him fully.

God is so good.

In a year of change – of ups and downs, trials and victories, sadness and joy, faith and doubt – the most important thing I’ve learned is that God is constant and His way is always the best way.

I’m so thankful I listened to His voice and allowed Him to lead me here.

And I am so grateful for the many people who have taken this incredible journey with me.

The encouragement I offer you today is to focus on His goodness. God is faithful. He is love. He is grace. He has a purpose for you.

“For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope. In those days when you pray, I will listen. If you look for me wholeheartedly, you will find me.”          Jeremiah 29:11-13 NLT

 

 

Hope in God

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This month is suicide prevention month.

Many people will let it pass without giving it a second thought. Not because they’re insensitive. Not because they don’t care. But because they’re lucky enough never to have been touched by suicide or the affects of it. They’re lucky enough never to have lost someone to it. They’re lucky enough never to have contemplated it. They’re lucky enough to have never tried it.

Some of us are not so lucky.

So this month touches us deep down in our souls as we remember.

We remember those we lost.

We remember almost losing ourselves.

We remember the excruciating pain, the darkness, the emptiness, the confusion, the fear.

We remember silently crying out for help.

We remember the loneliness.

We remember what it was like to grasp at nothing, to imagine the world without us, to cry for our family and friends, to truly believe this world would be better off without us.

We remember that we didn’t want to die, but we didn’t know how to live anymore.

We remember a suffering so horrific that it left us writhing on the ground, agonizing in pain, and praying for anything, ANYTHING to make it stop.

We didn’t want to die. We just needed the terrorizing hurt to stop.

Some, like me, are blessed to be able to remember because we didn’t succeed in our attempts or desires to leave this world. Something stopped us. Something saved us.

I know God saved me. He intervened each time I wanted to end it all. In those moments, I didn’t know it was Him, but looking back I can see it. He sent someone or something that helped me to hold on a little longer.

And He used the time to help me heal a little more, to help me grow a little stronger.

I can remember in my younger years crying out to God and asking what I had done to deserve such suffering. I begged Him to take my depression away. I promised to ‘be better’, I promised to ‘be good’.

I wanted a reason for my pain. I needed someone to blame. I assumed it was my fault.

It was in the times of quiet, when I was exhausted from the tears, and the unending battle within, yet my mind would not sleep, that I was able to turn to Him and grow closer to Him.

I was too weak to pray, to move, to question. The anger and struggle had worn me out. So I lay in stillness and He used that time.

He spoke to me.

And I heard Him.

It was not my fault. There was no one to blame.

My depression is the result of a fallen world. God never wanted this for me.

But He used my pain to draw me close to Him. He showed me Jesus, who understood my suffering because He suffered so greatly. Jesus knew my hurt. He knew my struggle. He felt my pain.

And He told me to hold on to Him. He took my hand, validated my feelings, and said “You are not alone”.

He picked me up and told me He would fight with me. He told me we could conquer it together because nothing is impossible with Him.

He saved me. Again.

And now I am here today. I can share my story. I can share how things got better, how I got healthy.

I did it with Jesus.

It doesn’t mean life is perfect. I still struggle. I still have to fight my depression. There are still days when it’s hard to get out of bed.

But I know I can do it. God has given me the strength to fight when the war wages within. He goes before me and endures the hardest attacks Himself. He shields me from the worst of it.

And He gives me hope. Hope for tomorrow. Hope for the future. Hope in Him.

He reminds me He has a purpose for me. He reminds me that I’m here because He wants me here. He reminds me I’m not done.

Amazingly, He shows me how He can use my suffering to create good. He’s allowed me to help others who struggle with mental illness. He’s given me the strength and wisdom to counsel them, walk with them, encourage them, pray with them, love them, and point them to Him.

He’s shown me how He can take something so messy and horrible, and turn it to beauty.

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Because nothing is impossible with Him.

If you are struggling today, I encourage you to turn to God. Take the hand of Jesus, let God go before you, and fight your battle together.

It can get better. It will get better. Surrender it to Him.

And don’t stay quiet. Don’t suffer alone. God gives us people to reach into the pit of despair that we’re drowning in. They want to help pull us out. Grab that hand. When you climb out of that pit, grasping that hand, you’ll see not one, but many people behind the hand that pulled you out. People who love you, who need you, who want to help you.

Don’t give up. God’s got you.

 

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Wanted. Worthy. Loved.

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Unwanted. Unloved. Unworthy. Not good enough.

There are days when these words float through my head on repeat.

We’ve all experienced this. Something happens in our lives and these negative images of ourselves circle our minds.

You’ve lost your job, so you feel as though you’re not good enough.

Your friends ditched you so you feel unwanted.

Your partner left you so you feel unloved.

Someone yelled at you so you feel small and unworthy.

These negative depictions of ourselves can spin like a broken record, repeated over and over and over.

I found myself allowing some of these words in my mind recently. I got my feelings hurt and instead of placing the blame on the one who hurt me, I placed it on myself.

Because it must be my fault when someone treats me poorly, right?

WRONG!

Oh so very wrong.

Unwanted. Unloved. Unworthy. Small. Not good enough. These words that we too often give power to are from the devil.

And the devil is WRONG!

When I realized I was allowing these negative thoughts to affect how I feel about myself, I worked to put an end to them.

How did I do that?

I turned to Jesus.

Jesus, am I loved?

“More than you can imagine” He said.

Jesus, am I wanted?

“So much,” He said.

Jesus, am I worthy?

“You’re so worthy that I died to save you,” He said.

Jesus, am I good enough?

“You were made in the image of God,” He said. “So, what do you think?”

It is so easy for us to doubt ourselves when someone does us wrong. Even for those of us who are confident, self-aware and self-accepting, it can puncture our hearts when we’re hurt or betrayed. And that puncture, no matter how small, can lead us to question our value. In those moments of uncertainty, when our usually strong resilience falters, the devil sneaks in quickly and silently. He takes hold of that uncertainty and pummels it with bullets.

When that happens to you, do what I did. Turn to Jesus. Let Him show you how much you are loved, how much you are wanted and how much you are worth.

You are made in the image of our Heavenly Father and that makes you so precious and so valuable.

I look back on the many years of misery I spent seeking acceptance in this world. I sought my worth in what others thought of me. I judged my value by how others judged me. And I never felt good enough. There were days I couldn’t even look in the mirror because I deeply hated the image that stared back at me.

Then I turned to Jesus and sought my value in Him. I prayed and asked God that I would see myself as He saw me.

And suddenly I was free.

I realized I didn’t need acceptance in this world because this is not where I belong. I belong with Jesus.

Does this mean that I can’t get my feelings hurt? Of course not.

Does this mean that I don’t doubt my own worth? Of course not.

Does this mean I am always confident and able to love myself? Of course not.

But in those moments when I falter and the devil tries to sneak in, I can stand up to him because I have the shield of Jesus.

When someone hurts me or betrays me, I am able to realize that it has nothing to do with my value. I can have compassion on that person because often those who cause hurt are orchestrating out of their own pain.

Remember always, no matter what happens in life, that you are a beautiful child of God, made in His own image.

Remember that you are loved and valued so much that He sent His son to die so you can be saved.

Find your worth in Jesus.

 

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Who Are You?

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Have you ever been asked this question? Have you ever asked this question of someone else?

Usually this inquiry would be made in a casual setting, or perhaps occasionally in a hostile environment as one person challenges another. In either of these situations, the first response would likely be a name. This may be followed by a statement of job profession or perhaps a reason for being in that place at that present time.

In a casual instance where you are meeting someone for the first time, other information may be offered as small talk ensues. A person may share where they live, what car they drive, what sports they play, how many children they have.

These are expected responses to the question,(or some version of), ‘who are you’?

Have you ever been asked ‘who are you?’ by someone who wasn’t interested in what you do for a living, or what car you drive, or where you live? They didn’t want to know your resume, but wanted to know you.

They didn’t want to know how you keep your lawn so green or how you organize your challenging job. They wanted to know what makes you smile, what makes you cry, and what is below the exterior that is presented to the outside world.

In today’s world of Instagram, Facebook, Tinder, Match and Tumblr, we seem to be lacking the ability to truly get to know a person. We throw words into a profile, put up pictures of our best selves, share the adventures of our “awesome” lives, and allow others – strangers, friends, family and acquaintances alike – to judge us on the things we share.

Internet dating is the worst aspect of this as single men and women fill out extensive profiles, display photos, and then spend hours browsing through the same things others have placed online. Quick judgements are made based on how someone looks in a picture or the clothing they are wearing, or a few specific words focused on in the never-ending questionnaire of most dating websites.

Because of social media we’ve become so quick to judge someone, and the life they appear to have, that it seems to be causing us to judge more quickly in daily encounters as well. We don’t take the time to get to know someone, really get to know someone, anymore. And we have very little grace when someone we’ve just met makes a mistake or does something we see as “wrong”.

The reality is that in social media, as well as in person, we often have no idea what is really going on in someone’s life. We have no idea what is going on in their heart. We have no idea who they really are. And we often don’t take the time to find out.

Then we’re shocked when we hear that a certain couple is divorcing, or that our friend’s husband has been diagnosed with cancer, or that our co-worker is in the hospital after a suicide attempt. And we can argue that we didn’t know or they didn’t tell, but did we ask?

Our eyes are so glued to our phones that we don’t notice our friend sitting next to us with a trembling lip as she tries not to cry. We’re updating our statuses while a child is being bullied on the playground in front of us. We are seeing who swiped ‘yes’ for us on Tinder while sitting on the bus and we don’t notice the elderly gentleman who just got on and is struggling to stand because there are no empty seats.

We need to move off social media and talk. Really talk. We need to communicate in person, show grace and offer love to one another. We all crave deep connections and intimate relationships, but we are depriving ourselves of exactly that when we hide behind social media, or when we fail to truly get to know a person outside of Facebook and Whatsapp.

Instead of judging without mercy, let’s listen with kindness.

Instead of ignoring without care, let’s help without selfishness.

Instead of dumping someone without grace, let’s love without boundaries.

Instead of being in today’s culture, let’s be like Jesus.

Jesus asked us to love our neighbours. Can we really love them without truly engaging in knowing them?

Jesus dined with outcasts and listened to sinners. Let’s invite everyone in, just as they are, without judgement or criticism.

None of us are perfect, but we are all made in the image of our perfect God.

We are flawed. We make mistakes. We lose our tempers. We lack mercy. We judge.

But we are also valued. We are worthy. We matter. We are loved. We are beautifully, intricately, and uniquely made. There is no one exactly like you. There is no one exactly like me.

That’s how amazing our Almighty Creator is.

Take the time to get to know who someone is. Take the time to get to know who you are. Take the time to share who you truly are.

Because God made you and He doesn’t make mistakes.

“Don’t pretend to love others. Really love them. Hate what is wrong. Hold tightly to what is good. Love each other with genuine affection, and take delight in honouring each other.” Romans 12:9-10 NLT

Thorn in the flesh

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I am currently reading a book by Charles Swindoll called ‘Paul: a Man of Grit and Grace’, which is about the life of the Apostle Paul. The chapter I just completed focused on suffering and the “thorn in the flesh” God gave Paul to keep him humble.

Though many have speculated, it is unknown what Paul’s thorn was, whether it was physical, mental or emotional. All we know is that it caused him great pain, and he pleaded with the Lord three times to have it removed. We also know that God’s response was ‘No’.

Each time He said, ‘My Grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness’.”    2 Corinthians 12:9a

At this point, Paul could have responded in many ways. He could have walked away from the Lord in anger. He could have wallowed in his suffering and given up on life. He could have refused to do God’s work until he was healed.

But instead he accepted his thorn.

So now I am glad to boast about my weakness, so that the power of Christ can work through me. That’s why I take pleasure in my weaknesses, and in insults, hardships, persecutions, and troubles that I suffer for Christ. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” 2 Corinthians 12:9b-10

Wow.

I don’t have another response to that, so just, “Wow”.

Paul’s faith and trust in the Lord was so strong that he simply accepted his thorn knowing that in his weakness, God would make him strong. Paul chooses to boast in his weakness so that God may be glorified. He accepts his suffering and trusts God’s promise that His grace is sufficient.

In ‘Paul’, Charles Swindoll writes, “The world needs more followers of Christ who embrace pain and hardship rather than deny it.”

So often people come to Christ and expect that life will suddenly be significantly better. They expect instant happiness, no more pain, and a life without drama. I’ve heard this and witnessed it many times. They think that after they accept Jesus, God will give them everything they need and desire. Then they get so angry and discouraged when that doesn’t happen.

This is why it is so important that those of us who are followers of Christ are open about our struggles. We must be able to show our suffering and reveal our weaknesses. Then we can also show how God uses our times of trial to reveal His grace and strength.

God never promised us a life without suffering. In fact, He promised us the exact opposite. Jesus told us that as His followers, we would face struggle, trial and pain. He was very clear that His way is difficult, but He also promised He would be with us and give us strength, and that our reward in heaven would far outweigh the suffering of this life.

Paul is an inspiring example of true faith and trust God, despite enduring much pain and suffering. Charles Swindoll writes, “The secret to Saul’s contentment was knowing Christ’s strength was perfected in his weakness.”

We all have a thorn in our flesh. For some it is a physical ailment. For others it’s a constant, sinful temptation.

My thorn in the flesh is my mental illness – the depression and anxiety I’ve struggled with since the age of 11.

For many years, my thorn caused me excruciating pain and suffering. I remember nights of sobbing and begging God to take my illness. I remember pleading with Him and offering to do anything to be relieved of the hurt that ravaged me from the inside out. I remember asking what I had done to deserve it, and then promising to be good all my life if He took it from me.

But He never took it from me.

As my suffering and desperation grew, I turned away from God and tried to numb my pain with alcohol, drugs and self-harm. I was drowning in self hatred, anger and hurt, and too many times I came close to ending my life. But in those times, He always saved me, even when I didn’t realize He was.

It was only when I finally turned to Him in my suffering, when I finally laid myself at His feet and asked for His grace that I learned how He could strengthen me in my weakness. In His grace, I found healing. In His strength, I found hope. In His love, I found joy.

And I began to understand Paul’s acceptance and contentment even when God did not remove his thorn.

I discovered that in my weakness, Christ’s strength can be made perfect. I learned that God’s grace in my suffering is sufficient.

He revealed to me how He could use my suffering and use me to bring glory to His name.

God has used my struggles with mental illness to help others. He has used me to help others who also suffer with depression and anxiety. He has given me strength to not only overcome my struggles, but to help others find hope, joy, strength and healing in Him. And that is an incredible gift.

I know that I will always be at risk for my depression and anxiety to attack. I will never be free of my illness as long as I am in this world. But now, with God’s strength and grace, I am prepared for it when it comes.

In fact, just last week, my depression began to surface, so I had to get into “battle” mode and put my fight plan in action. But it’s a battle I cannot win on my own. I am weak and I am broken. But when I turn to Him, He pours His strength into me so I can endure my thorn and battle my demons.

In His grace and strength, my weakness is made strong. With Him, I have nothing to fear, even when my thorn brings me to my knees.

Because of this, I, like Paul, am grateful for my suffering. It has brought me closer to God and allowed me to experience His grace, mercy, power and love.

 

Being Vulnerable

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Working in ministry, I have a lot of conversations with people that can end up being very deep. One thing I see over and over is the struggle many have with vulnerability, and the fear of being vulnerable.

I get it. Being vulnerable is scary.

I’ve spent years working on being more vulnerable and opening myself up. However, with being vulnerable and more open, comes fear of rejection and judgement. I am at a place in my life where it’s less scary to be vulnerable and honest because I know who I am and I know my worth. Through years of therapy, conversations, reading, writing, and prayer, I’ve become very self-aware, and I’ve learned to genuinely love myself. Everything changed when I began to pray that I would see myself as God sees me; I stopped looking for my value in this world and instead sought out my value in Him.

As I spend time with people and engage in conversations, I see so many who are yearning for a deep connection with another human being, yearning for realness and honesty in relationships, and desperately needing a sincere relationship with God. But their fear is holding them back from truly seeking that thing they so desperately desire. Their fear of being vulnerable, and of facing rejection or judgement keeps them trapped inside their guarded walls.

I understand.

I also fear rejection. I also fear being judged.

Like most, I have been rejected and judged multiple times in my life. And it hurts.

I’ve been judged for my choices.

I’ve been judged for my beliefs.

I’ve been judged for my mental illness.

I’ve been judged for not being married and not having children.

I’ve been judged for my mistakes.

I’ve been judged for being “too good”.

I’ve been judged for being not good enough.

I’ve been judged for being too thin.

I’ve been judged for being too big.

I’ve been judged for what I wear.

I’ve been judged for what I’ve said.

I’ve been judged for what I haven’t said.

The list goes on and on.

It’s painful. It’s painful to be judged. It’s painful to be rejected.

While that pain is often never erased, it can be overcome.

It can be overcome by being accepted.

By being welcomed.

By being loved.

By loving others even if they reject you.

By being honest even if some don’t like what you have to say.

By being vulnerable even though you could get hurt.

By not judging even when others are judging you.

And most importantly by knowing you are forever accepted and unconditionally loved by our Father in heaven.

He will never reject you.

He will always want you.

He will always welcome you.

He will always accept you.

He will always love you with a fierceness that none of us can fully comprehend.

So I encourage you to be vulnerable. Be open. Be honest. Be accepting. Be welcoming. Love. Love as our Lord loves us.

Because even if you are sometimes rejected or judged, that love will overpower the hurt.

And you can feel secure knowing that the Almighty is always there.

When I look back and see all the opportunities I missed because I was afraid of being vulnerable, afraid of being judged, and afraid of being rejected, I am filled with sadness. Pure sadness. Yes, I may have avoided being hurt or embarrassed, but I may have also missed out on meaningful relationships, best friendships, chances to love and be loved, and so much more.

As I have gotten older, and my faith has grown, I have realized that all I want to do is love and care for people. Even if they reject that love and care from me. I want to know people, to connect with people, to be vulnerable, to be open, and to be honest. I want to help others and allow them to help me.

And if I am hurt or judged or rejected, that is ok.

At least I’ll know I did what Jesus asked me to do. I’ll love my neighbour, and I’ll serve others.

And I will always know that I am fully loved and accepted by the One who matters most.

 

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Provision

IMG_4998I had an interesting conversation with a friend yesterday about how, when and if God provides in every situation when we ask Him for something. We had some differing views but came to realize that we actually felt similarily, but how we interpreted the word ‘provides’ played a part in how we discussed our views.

My reasoning was that God always provides in some way even if it is not in the way we want. For me, when God doesn’t answer a specific prayer that is an answer in itself. By Him not giving me what I want, I see that He has a different plan and what I want is not what He feels is best for me. In not giving me what I asked for, I see that as an answer. I still feel He is with me always and that He has a plan and purpose for me, and therefore will provide for HIS purpose.

My friend, who has experience working with people who believe in the prosperity gospel, (ask God for what you want and He will always give it to you, which often looks to Matthew 6:25-34 as reasoning for these views), felt we must be more careful in our word choice and that the word ‘provides’ can be understood by many to mean God will give you everything you ask for. As he explained his reasoning, I understood why he chose his words so delicately when speaking of God’s provision. His thoughts are that God does not always provide, but He is always with us and leading us toward His plan.

So ultimately our viewpoints were along the same lines.

Since this conversation I have been thinking about the requests that we, and I especially, make to God in our daily lives. Currently I am searching for answers on a couple of things, and anyone who knows me well, knows that I am not naturally a patient person. Therefore I find myself getting frustrated and begging God for answers on the same question again and again.

I have to remind myself to be patient. I have to remind myself that I don’t need the answers right now. I want the answers, but it is not about what I want. I need to just trust God and His plan for me and that He will provide answers on what I am seeking in His time, not mine. Otherwise I am simply going to stress myself out unnecessarily trying to control something that God has already figured out.

So often we turn to God only when we want something. We want a specific job. We want a boyfriend/girlfriend. We want a new house. We want more money. We want to move to a new country. We want to punish someone who hurt us. And we get angry with God when He doesn’t provide what we ask for. We claim He’s not listening or He doesn’t care. We may even question His existence and our own faith. All because He didn’t give us what we want when we want it. We expect that because we’ve chosen to follow Him, He should fulfill all of our desires in return.

Why?

How is that true faith?

Why is our belief in Him dependent on Him providing us with exactly what we want?

As I ask these questions, I’m not trying to call anyone out, but I’m pointing the finger at myself.

What right do I have to be so demanding of my God who saved my life? Who sent His son to die so I could be forgiven? Who loves me more than I can possibly imagine and only wants His best for me?

I need to stop demanding from God what I want and ask Him what He wants from me instead. I need to stop being so entitled and simply say, ‘Thank you, God’

As I look back over my life, I see God’s presence in everything. No, He did not give me everything I wanted. And there were times of deep pain and struggle, but God was always there. He was there to comfort me. He was there to strengthen me. He gave me earthly support through people and opportunities. And when I asked Him for something that would not have been good for me, He protected me by not providing it.

God is not a magic genie who will grant our every wish. God is our father who loves us, strengthens us, helps us grow, and leads us. Like any good father, He doesn’t give us everything we want just because we want it. Like any good father, He tells us no when He must and accepts our anger and frustration in response, while still loving us fully and unconditionally.

God will never abandon us. He doesn’t promise us that our lives will be perfect. He doesn’t promise us a life without struggle. He does promise He will always be with us. He does promise that if we follow Him and accept His son, Jesus, that when our time on this earth is over, He will take us home to be with Him for eternity.

And that is more than enough for me.

Nature

 

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It’s been quite some time since I have written on here. I apologize for the silence, but it has been a busy few months. It’s been two and a half months since I moved overseas and began a new life in Prague, Czech Republic as a missionary.

On this beautiful day, after completing a language test I have been studying for all week, I knew I needed to get outside. The sun is shining, the sky is blue and it is 19 degrees Celsius. I decided it was time to do some more exploring in my neighbourhood.

In my attempt to find a place known as the Prosek Rocks (my neighbourhood is called Prosek), which I did find, I also found a wonderful walking trail that is engulfed in trees and nature, that feels like a little peace of heaven in the middle of a busy, metropolitan city.

Those who know me well know how much I love nature. It’s where I feel closest to God. Going for a walk on a trail or in a park energizes me, refreshes me, and brings me a sense of peace. I enjoy my solitude and love having quiet time surrounded by creation.

Usually when I walk alone, I like to listen to music, but after I left my home today I realized I had forgotten my headphones. I like having music on walks because it blocks out all the other noise and helps me relax. I was disappointed I couldn’t enjoy it on my walk today, especially as I headed down a busy street toward the trail I would soon discover.

As I was walking on the path, surrounded by trees that arched over my head like a bridge, I began to notice the sound of the birds chirping around me. Then I tuned in to the sound of the leaves blowing in the wind. I realized I was not without music. God was providing the music of nature to accompany me on my walk.

And as I walked, I could feel stress sliding right out of my body.

The last couple of months have been amazing, but also challenging in ways I didn’t imagine. I’m in a place where I don’t know all the rules and norms of society. I can’t understand 99% of what is being said around me. I can’t read the majority of the signs or understand directions in a city where streets are not labelled on every corner or intersection.

I also can’t understand the song of the birds, but I can recognize it’s beauty.

You don’t always have to understand something to appreciate it. I may not  understand what someone next to me on the metro is saying, but I can respect and appreciate the fact that they offer their seat to an elderly person or pregnant woman.

I don’t have to know or understand every detail of this country’s culture and history to recognize the pride, beauty, strength and courage in the people of Czech.

It comes down to trust.

Trust is not something that comes easily to me. It takes time for me to completely trust people and be vulnerable with them. That has been one of my biggest struggles since arriving here – those that I have built deep, trusting relationships with are thousands of miles away. I want to create relationships like that here, but it takes time.

So what do I do on a bad day when I need a shoulder to cry on?

I trust God. I turn to Him.

I have experienced the excitement of meeting new people and making friends in my new home. But there have been moments when I’ve missed my friends and family back in Canada so much that it physically hurts. So what do I do?

I trust God.

I trust that He brought me here because this is where I am supposed to be. I trust that He has a purpose for my life here. I trust that He is going to provide those deep relationships I am desiring.

And it’s on days that I go for walks and experience nature that I am reminded that He has a plan for each of us. Just as He planned every piece of Creation, He has an intricate plan for each and every one of His children.

I have heard people say that they like being in nature because it’s getting away from everything and enjoying “the simple things”. But if you pay attention to anything in nature, you quickly realize there is nothing simple about it. From the bark of a tree, to the shape and size of a leaf, to the petals of a flower, the detail and beauty of each little thing is exquisite.

And if God put that much detail into a tiny flower petal or blade of glass, think about the incredible detail He has put into the plan for each of our lives. He loves us so much that He knows the number of hairs on our heads. He sees every second of our lives, and He yearns for us to know Him.

And that is exactly why I am here in the Czech Republic.

It’s unacceptable to me that someone could see the detail in the bark of a tree and not know the love and care that God put into creating it.

It’s heartbreaking that people do not know the magnificent and unfathomable love that God put into creating them, and continues to pour out to them every single day.

The beauty and peace of nature is an example of the beauty and peace of God and His unlimited love.

And it is a reminder to all of us who follow Him, that we must share His love.

 

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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.

 

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.