Sunday, February 26, 2012

The Story of my heart

Since the moment I was old enough to fully comprehend it, I've been in love with Africa. As a little girl, we always had visiting missionaries in our church who'd share stories & show slides from every country imaginable. But there was always something about the stories and faces from Africa that my spirit had a particular connection with. Going there has always been on the very top of my list of things to do. Seriously. In elementary school I had a list. Even at that young age-across the top it said "Move to Africa to start and run an orphanage/ministry". 

Then life happened. Things got messy and confusing and I ended up in a lot of deep bondage. Things like Africa were a dream shoved so far into the back of my head I forgot it was there.  About five years ago, God decided it was  time. And a crazy chain of events began to take place that would ultimately heal, restore, redeem, grow, and equip me for one wild ride of a life. This past summer, God clearly and specifically told me "This is it. Congratulations. You've made it, Baby Girl. We've walked through the fires of healing  together & you're free. Done." 

In the moment I realized the last 5 years of intense healing work was over, my eyes were opened to the life I was living. To all I was doing and surrounded with. I saw it all in a completely new light. And while it was all very "good" things, there was a voice somewhere deep within me that was saying "hey! Don't forget that the "good" is often the enemy trying to keep you from the "best"." I began questioning who I am. What I'm doing. If it's what I want with my life. And I began a gigantic wrestling match with Jesus. I argued over every single area of my life with Him. Why I'm great where I am. Serving at church, being Him to my co-workers who don't yet know Him. Being a Zumba instructor in an Image-obsessed culture. These are all good things, right!?..........

Don't try arguing with Jesus. You won't win. You'll just get very tired. I finally got to a point where I actually admitted that I'm not satisfied with my life. I can't handle the normal. The Christian life I was living that was just like everyone around me. There is something in me that is wired completely different. That makes me actually unhappy with the normal. I am meant to be doing crazy abnormal things in crazy places. I just fully realized and accepted this about 10 weeks ago or so. And since then I've been on the wildest ride of my life. I've moved. I've changed jobs. I've been re-evaluating how I want to do church. And I am actually and finally going to Africa.....

This is like my biggest dream coming true. And a weird way of that item on my list coming true. Because my church-Big Valley Grace-actually built the orphanage I'm going to work in. And they're sending a small team of us to go over there this June.  I  am only going for a few weeks this time around. We're going to work on the orphanage and with the kids. I may even be painting a mural on the outside! The more I plan for the trip, the more I am falling in love with Africa already and all over again. And the more I am dreaming and asking if there's a place for me to be there for a very long time. I believe so deeply that I am meant to live there that for the very first time in my life, I have not made plans for myself past this year's trip. I am open. I am ready. I am free. I am so excited to jump on the crazy roller coaster of what He's doing without looking back. I'm ready to be crazy and live crazy. And I can't wait! 

The hardest part for me? Money. It costs a lot to do this stuff. If you would pray for my fear of this-that it wouldn't take over-I'd appreciate it. And yes. I need a lot for my trip this June. I don't want this to be all about support,but I do need it. If that's something you think you're interested in, just let me know. 

If not me, who? If not now, when? It's time. 

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Blame it on James.

I'm completely overwhelmed. Tomorrow is my last day at Starbucks. I went into it kicking and screaming and now I'm leaving it in much the same way. I love my co-workers and my customers so much & it aches to think of not hearing their lives every day. I'm also pulling away from Zumba again to help with Big Valley High School's next musical- Little Women. Theatre is one of my largest passions. However, I feel part of my Identity is ripped away when I'm not involved in the Zumba world. I'm being asked a whole lot lately to explain WHY all of these changes are occurring in my life. My answer? 
It's James's fault.  

Let me warn you about studying James. If you're gonna dig in, you best be buckling your seatbelt and holding on tight. He gets in your face. The whole book is massively challenging. But there's one thing in it that really gets me:

"But don't just listen to God's word. You must do what it says. Otherwise, you are only fooling yourselves." (1:22) 

Hmmmm. I wonder. Up until 2011, I thought I had James down. I was convinced that because I am so involved at church I had works to back up my faith. But have I really? Look at the verse again. It doesn't say "be involved." it doesn't say "do as much at church as possible." Or "Sacrifice your vaca time to go to Mexico with the high schoolers every year."  It says if you aren't doing what God's word says you are fooling yourself. Those are some harsh words. Last year I began to look at my life critically. Have I been fooling myself? Wait. What does that even mean?!?! Have I been doing what God's word says?  What DOES God's word command? What exactly is it we are to be DOING? 
*Deep sigh* 
Thus begins the stage of feeling like a new baby in the study of scripture as if I've never read it before. Simultaneously one of the biggest blessings and frustrations of scripture being alive and active. 

 I thought and sought and prayed for several weeks. I buried myself in cross-referencing. And, well, I was hit hard and knocked over & I'm not sure the wind has returned to my lungs quite yet. But I found some answers.....

" Pure and undefiled religion before our God and Father is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself unstained by the world." James 1:27

Jeremiah 1:17
"Now, get ready. Stand up and tell them everything that I command you. Do not be intimidated by them or I will cause you to cower before them."

John 15:1
"You are My friends if you do what I command you."

John 15:17
"This is what I command you: Love one another."

These aren't easy to read. They convict. They go against comfort. That doesn't leave a lot of room for argument. And to know I'm being commanded to live in such a way leaves absolutely no options for me. I've been taught my whole life how to manipulate scripture. How to simultaneously be a believer and fit into this world. How to be involved in ministry, know my Bible, yet work hard to get comfy. Retirement. 401k. Savings. A house. A nice car that lasts forever. Nice vacations. Bible study on Sunday but work boots on Monday. Separation. The last year has been about my eyes being opened to a certain way of doing Christianity that is utterly ineffective and all I've ever known. And with the new year, I threw up my hands and loudly claim I know nothing except that Jesus has gotten so deep into my marrow that I can do nothing BUT give up control. It petrifies me. This new commitment to following Him with every penny and when He says rather than when it's convenient is a whole new life. I feel like a different person completely. I'm terrified of everything changing. Of the fact that all I seem to be able to dream about at night is being in Africa. Permanently. It scares me that my mind is constantly pre-occupied with the possibility, and that I love the thought so much. I've let go. It hurts to give up parts of who you are. I'm changing so much I don't know who I am. That is freaky. I'm broke. It's awesome. I get to facilitate my beautiful high school girls in being Jesu's hands and feet in Mexico. I get to go to Africa and be with these jewels.

And I already know my heart is to actually live among the orphans and widows if He allows. I get to make every day be about telling others truth. Showing them Grace, freedom, and redemption. I get to speak the intensity of the insane journey I've had. The miracle I am. Gently show other women how to live against our culture with grace, as a rare light in the dark places. I get to jump into the roller coaster of what He's up to and just shut up and hang on tight. It's like being at Disneyland every day of my life. And if you know me, you know how well THAT goes over! 

He gave me a beautiful promise today. Yes, giving up any life I had or want is hard at times. But then He says THIS:
Deuteronomy 11:13-15
 "If you carefully obey my commands I am giving you today, to love the LORD your God and worship Him with all your heart and all your soul, I will provide rain for your land in the proper time, the autumn and spring rains, and you will harvest your grain, new wine, and oil. I will provide grass in your fields for your livestock. You will eat and be satisfied."

Get it? If you walk in obedience to His commands, you don't need to worry about anything at all. He's more than got your back. He'll shower you with whatever you need. It just doesn't get any better. Give it up. Give in. Jump into HIS ride. 

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Culture shock, New jobs, Musicals, & Africa.

There is so much happening all at once that I can't even explain it all! 

I am experiencing a culture shock with the recent move. It feels like I'm in a completely different country. A bit hard to adjust to. 

I have been invited to help with the musical at BVG high school. I want to have something good to offer. 

Because of involvement in more ministry I'm having to give up Zumba at the gym for a while. It feels like part of my identity is being ripped away when I'm not going or teaching. Which is a big problem. 

In a two day period of time, I was offered an old job back, put just over a week's notice in at Starbucks, and was presented with the opportunity to go to Africa in June on top of Mexico in April. This is all very crazy for me. My heart's been in Africa since about 5 years old, and I've missed several opportunities to go in the past because I struggle with a paralyzing fear of raising the support. But this week I knew God was giving me the chance to really believe Him. He's going to use the fundraising as the means by which He will free me up from this fear and even redeem what it's destroyed over the years. I'm about to learn and change drastically. I'm so full of emotions about all the changes I'm experiencing it's hard to write. I'm shaking. But I have an idea this is about to blow my mind!!