Transition – A Year Later

Starting in 2011, I felt the weight of my spiritual emptiness, emotional distress, and slavery to sin, and decided to drain my bank account, leave my career, friends and family back home and follow God’s calling into Youth With a Mission (YWAM)

Advertisements

Starting in 2011, I felt the weight of my spiritual emptiness, emotional distress, and slavery to sin, and decided to drain my bank account, leave my career, friends and family back home and follow God’s calling into Youth With a Mission (YWAM).

I spent approximately five years traveling and lived in different countries to serve as God directed. Each experience was uniquely beautiful, and not a a day goes by where I don’t think of my days spent in Hainichen, Germany, a small eastern town near Poland, or my days in Tahiti serving alongside the Christians there, or the weeks in Israel that brought the Bible to life, or the many other places I served and grew in Christ. Countless memories continue to supply me with moments of joy as they spontaneously spring up in my mind daily.

20626664784_be039271b3_o
Hainichen, Germany
M (9)
Picking a leaf from an olive tree in Jerusalem

Writing this today, it’s been a year and a few months since I transitioned out of the missionary lifestyle and moved back home to working full-time in northern Virginia. YWAM leaders taught courses on “re-entry” so that their missionaries were aware of and prepared for the challenges of going back to a more “normal” lifestyle.

I never really took this teaching seriously until I experienced it myself. For instance, I had been living in constant Christian community in YWAM, and that was suddenly stripped away. I never recognized the amount of the love that filled my life in living with like-minded, Christ-worshipers until it was removed. Of course I have Christian friends back home, but we’re not living and serving together as in YWAM.

The Monday through Friday, nine to five work schedule also came as a shock. Even though I had done this for several years before YWAM, I had become so accustomed to a different work schedule in the mission field (not to mention a different kind of work), that it became very wearisome quickly, even if forty hours a week isn’t considered so much these days.

Additionally, I still had to get it out of my thinking that I would ever live the normal life that most people live. For example, it’s more normal than not for people my age to be married (especially Christians), and though I’m almost certain this is in my future, I find that I actually really enjoy being uncommitted at this point. I also see that focusing on God is granting me more and more spiritual freedom faster than I would receive if I were focused on someone else.

But it did take me a while to realign my priorities with God’s. Only in recent months have I understood (again) that chasing after temporal thrills and happiness, whether it’s fun activities, people, money, etc., is empty. I’m now re-committed to making the main thing the main thing: relationship and joy in God, and making Him known.

That isn’t to say I haven’t enjoyed God’s physical blessings either. He led me to a great company where I’m paid well and get to travel on the company’s expense. Even though I thought I was done with traveling after doing it so much in YWAM, God knew my heart more. And now I get to go over all of Canada, a country I honestly had no interest in before, but now am finding so much joy in discovering!

God also blessed me with a car I love and a one-bedroom apartment close to work. He’s reconnected me with my former soccer team, old friends, and of course family that I missed while away at YWAM. He also led me to try new things, like Crossfit, a program I was afraid of before, that has now become another blessing in my life. I also discovered a new joy in dancing, something I never really thought I could ever like doing.

These things are wonderful, but again, it’s very easy to make these physical blessings something to pursue for happiness. They are still temporal, and God is showing me that only Himself, and the knowledge of His unchanging, everlasting love for every part of who I am, is what will bring me lasting joy, worth, life, peace, and security.

As the previous sentence suggests, God has been revealing more of His unconditional love for me, a love that will never forsake me. He’s not surprised by what’s in my heart. He’ll never be shocked by me and withdraw His love. Instead, in spite of the darkness I’ve allowed in my heart, He is fighting the enemy on my behalf because of Jesus’ atonement for my sin, and filling my heart with His light and love.

These recent revelations have brought my soul so much peace, a peace that seemed lost the past several weeks. But God is so faithful to restore.

Now the God of all grace, who called you to His eternal glory in Christ Jesus, will personally restore, establish, strengthen, and support you after you have suffered a little.The dominion belongs to Him forever. Amen.

1 Peter 5:10,11

All I can say is that life with God is beautiful. It’s not always pleasant, and Jesus even is upfront with us that we will have troubles, but all things taken into account, living completely surrendered to God is certainly the most blessed life I could ever imagine. I hope and pray that anyone reading this discovers their best life in Christ themselves.

img_2526_16248606643_o
Tahiti, truly a magical place

My Amazing God

Do not be conformed to this age, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may discern what is the good, pleasing, and perfect will of God.

Romans 12:2

The above verse highlights just one of my many experiences in following Jesus. The pattern of this world seeks to enslave people to certain rules to achieve greatness and/or freedom and happiness, but Jesus seeks to free us from these rules and exalt us in His own way.

Jesus has set me free (and continues to do so) from worry and unnecessary concern of what others think. He has enlightened my mind in a way I cannot even describe in words, where I’m led to His wisdom, solution, understanding, and/or peace in almost every single problem I face each day.

His favor is so ridiculously for me, and for any who submit to Him, it is almost too good to be true. It’s what births hope each day in my heart. I don’t live without pain and stress and tears, but every time I feel this way, I try reminding myself that it only means another opportunity to experience the goodness of God, in His own unique and sometimes unexpected way, and in His timing.

Sometimes I wish the Bible could receive a makeover so everyone could capture the goodness written there. But I realize words alone cannot fully convey the immeasurable joy that comes from being transformed and walking in holiness. It must also come through experiencing God and these truths personally, through trust and obedience to His guidance.

I know Satan once blinded my eyes. I believed that holiness equated to boredom and dullness. But now I see that the holiness God is working through me makes me the best possible version of myself…creative, funny, kind, compassionate, patient, and the list goes on.

I don’t say that to brag about myself – I don’t think I’m close to perfect, nor do I think I’m anymore valuable than the next person. I still have my whole life to live and experiences to shape me.

I say this to bring attention to God’s promise and heart toward all who trust in Him. I believe every person of every race, nation, and socioeconomic background in this world is amazing and can find their greatest potential walking with Christ.

Those who look to Him are radiant with joy; their faces will never be ashamed.

Psalm 34:5

Since I’ve been home from YWAM, God has given me a long season of rest and renewal. He has given back to me more than I could ever “give” to Him. I feel strengthened once again, not just in my body, but in my mind and spirit as well. He really is a God who values rest and wants people to experience His rest, even in full-time employment.

…but those who trust in the LORD will renew their strength; they will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary; they will walk and not faint.

Isaiah 40:31

Sometimes my heart is spilling over in thankfulness and praise for what God has done in my life and continues to do, but I cannot always find an appropriate outlet for this praise. That’s why I’m writing today.

God is good, what more can I say?

Good Expectations

As I lied there in bed, I unintentionally began reflecting on my life, wondering again if I had made a big mistake traveling so much, having all of these short-term stints across the world as a missionary. What if I had committed to a single community? Would I have found more fulfillment? Would I have found more meaning in life?

One night this past week I had a restless sleep and a disturbing dream that woke me up at 1am. Great, I thought, I have slept for two hours and I am now wide awake.

As I lied there in bed, I unintentionally began reflecting on my life, wondering again if I had made a big mistake traveling so much, having all of these short-term stints across the world as a missionary. What if I had committed to a single community? Would I have found more fulfillment? Would I have found more meaning in life?

This time, there was no precious reminder from God of this Biblical truth that had helped me through these thoughts before:

And everyone who has left houses, brothers or sisters, father or mother, children, or fields because of My name will receive 100 times more and will inherit eternal life. – Matthew 19:29

Instead, I was just left with these uncomfortable feelings of doubt and regret.

So this led me to the swift decision to either commit to the community I had in Hainichen, Germany, or to the one I had back home in Virginia, in my own effort to wipe away these feelings and fix my problem.

As soon as I had made up my mind, however, Jesus came in like the AWESOME SAVIOR THAT HE IS to give His perspective.

He showed me in my spirit that He is the only One who can bring me meaning. He is the realest thing. Yes, people and creation have life and are real, too, but none but Him are constant in all the changes and so He has become the most real thing in my life.

I was flooded with peace and comfort again as I understood the redemption of my ever-shifting circumstances: I have come to rely on Jesus alone for security and not necessarily the security that physical stability can bring.

Not to say that commitment to a single community/job is a bad thing, I think it is very honorable and good and would like that for myself, too.

But Jesus answered my self-condemning thoughts by showing me just one of the eternal benefits of following Him around the world. I didn’t even realize it, but all of this traveling and changing circumstances has helped me find stability within, where Jesus lives.

Through all the different experiences and times of immense fear, God never left me. This truth, I believe, is one of the most important truths for everyone to discover for themselves.

I love that Jesus wants to answer our doubt and doesn’t always require “more faith” in the written word. Of course what is written in the Bible is good and enables us to find peace and hope in periods of darkness and silence, and often God wants us to simply trust these words without seeing the results beforehand (since that is faith).

But there are times when God wants to reveal to us as individuals and as His beloved children how these Biblical truths are actual realities played out in our lives on earth. It’s the place where our faith becomes sight, and gives us the necessary encouragement to keep trusting Him.

I believe that the Bible shows us reality, and that the further we walk in faithfulness and intimacy with God, the more the Biblical truths turn from being “nice, but-not-my reality,” to actual life experiences.

And when this happens, I believe our expectations in life become more realistic and in line with God’s truth – they are neither fantastical and over-excited and idealistic, nor pessimistic and doubting and cynical. 

And this is another nugget of salvation Jesus has been giving me: to finally come into agreement with His expectations over me and for life rather than others’ or my own. False imaginations, fears and fantasies really cause us to stumble and taste bitterness and disappointment.

I also had to deal with this, to deal with my own expectations being false and having to reconcile God’s goodness in spite of many disappointments. With help from friends as well as getting over my own pride, I have been able to trust God again and see that He really is good. It was my own unrealistic expectations as well as lack of revelation of God’s love in the middle of pain that caused my mistrust in Him, not just the difficult circumstances themselves.

I believe it is a worthwhile question to reflect upon and solve: what disappointment(s) is causing bitterness and mistrust to spring up? How can I overcome this, even if the disappointment is tragic and therefore seems to justify the bitterness?

Make every effort to live in peace with everyone and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord. See to it that no one falls short of the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many.

Hebrews 12:14,15

Very recently, my repentance over putting my hope in a false reality has led me to experience His perfect acceptance over me in a way I had never felt before. I realized, for perhaps the tenth time in my life that, this is what I actually want, not my own imagined idealized circumstances (they are simply false illusions), but the deep knowledge of Jesus Christ, who is for me in every imaginable way.

He says, “Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.”

Psalm 46:10

For you have delivered me from death
    and my feet from stumbling,
that I may walk before God
    in the light of life

Psalm 56:13

So as I figure out my future plans, I will continue to do my best to trust Him in the process, though I might occasionally have those moments of, “WHAT THE HECK AM I GOING TO DO WITH MY LIFE?!”, and grow in the deep knowledge of His intimate, every-day love for me.

30 and Still Out of Control

And as I turn 30, I’m far from the picture of a woman who is totally secure with herself. I do not have it all together and I’m not perfectly self-controlled…

This morning I began to reflect on just how much Jesus’ love has transformed me since I started following Him eight years ago. And as my heart filled with worship, I really couldn’t help but sing and dance in my room this Easter morning, a stark contrast to the days I spent in my bedroom steeped in depression and darkness.

God’s love is so real, and so relentless, and so powerful. More powerful than death.

20151205_131309
A crowded German Christmas market.

 

And He chose me to receive His forgiveness and love. He chose me to receive peace, joy, freedom and love forever. And not because of me, but because God is love, and true love has no conditions. We only need to accept it.

And when I accepted it, I had no idea that eight years later, I would feel like a brand new person, that I could feel whole inside, healed, and emotionally stable and satisfied.

I actually remembering being afraid of change, not really knowing whether or not I’d like the person I would become. But it was just fear lying to me again.

Admittedly, however, my recent update letter triggered a bit of shame as it communicated my lack of upcoming plans. How can I be thirty without any plans? What do I have to show for my life?

And then God reminded me of this verse:

And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife or children or fields for my sake will receive a hundred times as much and will inherit eternal life. But many who are first will be last, and many who are last will be first.

Matthew 19:29-30

Looking back, I know that I have followed Jesus from a pure heart. I do not regret spending most of my twenties following Jesus and going across the world to be blessed and be a blessing, despite the criticism and opinions fromIMG_3274 others.

All major, life-changing decisions I have made have been out of faith that I was hearing God correctly and that He was guiding me – to leave my career, my family, my home, my comfort-zone, sell my car and spend all my savings. And I’m hanging on to the truth that following God’s voice, in faith, no matter what, is the right thing to do, even if it doesn’t look wise to others, and even if at times I hear him wrong. I’ve come to realize that it’s not up to me to hear perfectly, but up to Jesus being my good Shepherd, who is in control and far greater than my mistakes.

But you know, I really miss my car. I also miss my comfort zone. I miss many things, but I have also learned that I can’t really hang on to anything in this world. And this realization really has been a gift from God, since I’m often tempted to put my hope in these nice circumstances. But He has shown me that everything is passing away until His kingdom is eternally established. So what is the point of trying to hold on to what I find so lovely, like summer nights out in the city with friends, or sweet times with family at home? Instead, I will thank God for these times, and treasure them, but hold them with an open hand, putting all of my hope in Jesus instead.

And as I turn 30, I’m far from the picture of a woman who is totally secure with herself. I do not have it all together and I’m not perfectly self-controlled, but I am finally realizing that it’s okay.

I can laugh and learn, rather than condemn myself, when I accidentally buy a more expensive all-day train ticket instead of a one-way because I was in an unnecessary hurry, or when I take three wrong shuttles at the Frankfort airport because I read “Ukraine Airlines” as “United Airlines” because, again, I was in an unnecessary hurry, or when I left my backpack wide open on my back and my hand-luggage behind at the security line because one of the security workers was flirting with me and making me nervous, or when I spilled red wine on myself for NO APPARENT REASON as the flight attendant handed it to me (yes, this all happened on my previous journey home).

I have discovered a real friendship with Jesus, who accepts me and loves me despite my weaknesses because He chose to forgive me. The knowledge of His constant friendship helps in the process of growing smarter and enjoying life without needing to perform.

This is really a great treasure, to have a living friendship with the Creator. Otherwise, I really can find no meaning to life. But I find meaning each day when I wake up, reminding my heart that God is with me and that He is alive and in control of all things.

And I believe that none of us can be truly satisfied until we find meaning in Him, which I discovered more and more of over the past couple months when I led an outreach to Israel and Egypt.

On outreach, I really lacked comfort. I mean, I had a roof over my head, a shower, a bed, and food, but other than these accommodation comforts, there was nothing else in terms of familiarity for me to hang on to. Basically, God made it just hard enough for me to receive the blessing He so desired me to have.

No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.

Hebrews 12:11

God could have given me more comfort, but He didn’t, and I believe it was because He wanted me to learn to trust that He alone was enough, and to not rely so much on having good feelings all the time.

Finally, after two and half months, I received the comfort of God that I really wanted yet admittedly lost hope for, the kind of comfort that brings so many good feelings that go deep and stay there. He has sent this comfort in small yet amazing and unexpected ways.494

And I realized He wanted me to wait for His comfort because it took a certain amount of time for me to die to old ways of finding comfort – for example through familiar people and circumstances. He was making me ready to receive greater meaning and identity in Him, the one thing in this life that stays the same, the constant that will be with me no matter what age I turn and where I find myself.

So as I write this today, about a week into a new decade of life, I am filled with God’s love, comfort, and joy. I am very confident that whatever path God has me on next, that it will reveal to me a new side of God and free me into greater depths of love and joy never yet experienced. Therefore I am not afraid of getting older, especially knowing that wrinkles and worn down bodies will give way to something more glorious one day 🙂

But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body.

Philippians 3:20,21

Perfect Vision

I honestly confessed to Him my bitterness and mistrust toward Him.

You reveal the path of life to me;
in Your presence is abundant joy;
in Your right hand are eternal pleasures.

Psalm 16:11

When I first came to Hainichen in the spring, I realized I was far from praising God in the way David did in times of deep distress. Instead, I literally found myself pounding my fists on the floor in anger that God was “doing this to me,” sending me to an unknown place in east Germany, as if I was His slave and had no choice in the matter but to obey His “cruel” will toward me. This was all subconscious thinking – at the time I did not think that I viewed God this way.

I realized during this transition that I actually did harbor a lot of mistrust toward Him. I didn’t really believe in His goodness.

 

Helping to prepare a family outreach event on base with a giant sausage in hand.
Helping to prepare a family outreach event on base with a giant sausage in hand.

I had to seriously deal with these deep heart issues over the past few months. He started “challenging” me to come to believe in His absolute goodness in all things, no matter the circumstance.  And the more and more I sought truth (with the pure desire to understand God’s perspective), the more I found healing in my relationship with Him.

Happy is a man who finds wisdom and who acquires understanding.

Proverbs 3:13

There were many steps in my healing process, but one of the highlights was reading C.S. Lewis’ The Problem of Pain. In this book, Lewis offered the best explanation I have ever heard on reconciling the truth about God’s perfect goodness with the fact that evil and inhumanity exist in this world.

I also watched a short video that explained why God doesn’t heal all people. I found so much peace watching this because it confirmed my deep down belief that it was my lack of truly knowing God’s goodness and character that quenched His healing power through my prayers.

The prayer of faith will save the sick person, and the Lord will restore him to health; if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven.

James 5:15

And as the revelations of God’s goodness came, I began repenting of lies that I held on to about God that I didn’t even know were there until someone pointed them out to me. I honestly confessed to Him my bitterness and mistrust toward Him.

This confession and repentance led to God’s deep ministry in my heart. Over the recent months He has been lavishing me with His grace and love by giving me understanding of who He is. He has really built me up in faith to believe that He truly does make good out of all situations and redeem the worst of things if set my will on trusting Him:

We know that all things work together for the good of those who love God: those who are called according to His purpose.

Romans 8:28

This verse, if you think about it, is a challenge to profess actual faith in when things go terrible.

But I have come to know more and more that whenever I set my heart to find His goodness, to find understanding, even in hard times, or even in just annoying every-day times, He reveals His goodness. He gives me His perspective and teaches me and speaks loving words in my heart so that I’m comforted.

I’m not going to explain how He does this, how I hear His voice,  because it’s so personal and I believe that God really does speak to us in different ways that each child of God must discover on their own. And I believe that this journey in learning to hear His voice and hearing it more and more clearly is the one of the most important journey anyone can ever go on.

So the point is that my faith is being built up more and more to believe that the Lord is good and therefore doesn’t want to hurt me. This truly does set free me to go quickly into prayer and find Him when I need His love, no longer thinking that He just wants to correct me, come down on me, to tell me to do more, to do less, etc. Not that He is always going to tell me what I may selfishly want to

20151103_151720
Outreach in Berlin with the students!

hear, but I assume less often that He’s going to criticize me.

Of course I believed in the goodness and love of God for some areas of my life, otherwise I would not have obeyed His call to join YWAM.

But there were other parts of my heart that held onto bitterness and disappointment that God has healed me off. He didn’t just want part of my trust or part of my heart, He wants it all, so that I can experience the fullness of all that He has for me in life.

Everything that God wants to speak to me, and every situation that comes my way, He wants to impart life and understanding into that situation, to bring me closer to Him, and help me overcome.

20151104_132504
Berlin outreach @ Brandenburger Tor

I believe this is the kind of faith that God wants from us – the belief that God is good in all ways, that He is trustworthy and wants to give us understanding, speak personally, and be in constant relationship with us. This is the kind of faith David had, who praised and believed in God, (though at times the praise was small in comparison to his expressed anguish) in times of despair.

And God will use even the smallest ounce of faith we have profess in Him to help us in our time of need, and help us renew our mind toward Him. He just needs us to stop focusing on fear for just a second, and honestly declare our faith in Him.

It’s a daily challenge to invite God’s goodness into our situations. I feel resistance from the enemy who deceives me into thinking that any other thing but God is what I need. I get distracted and then miss out on what God has for me.

This is when it is good to recognize the enemy’s work, and to resist Satan by rebuking him in my thoughts and sometimes out loud, so that I can experience God in relationship with Him in whatever daily challenge I face:

Therefore, submit to God. But resist the Devil, and he will flee from you. Draw near to God, and He will draw near to you.

James 4:7,8

So basically, since being in Germany, God has been healing my perception of Him and bringing me closer into perfect vision, so that I can see things how He sees it, and so I can see the way He sees me.

Sometimes it is hard to really receive His goodness because at times I don’t think I’m worthy of it, or that sooner or later, it will run out. But in this, too, is a lie, and He has taken me to deeper levels of healing in my identity and the way I view myself.

There are certainly still challenging times in my life. Not everything is rainbows and butterflies and frolicking happily through lush flowery meadows with a big basket of freshly baked biscuits in my hands (something like the below picture comes to mind). I’m often challenged, and things can be hard and painful.meadow

I can still harbor ugly thoughts about myself and others. I still act out in rebellion to God’s will. At times I avoid going to God for prayer out of unbelief.

But what has changed is that I believing more and more of God’s goodness and ability to bring comfort and understanding into all negative situations. He truly does answer all of those who seek Him for answers:

Taste and see that the Lord is good.
How happy is the man who takes refuge in Him!

You who are His holy ones, fear Yahweh,
for those who fear Him lack nothing.

Young lions lack food and go hungry,
but those who seek the Lord
will not lack any good thing.

Psalm 34:8-10

Even though I was mad at God for “sending” me to Hainichen (only now do I realize how deep in false-thinking this previous attitude was rooted in), I have fallen in love with the place and the community. And the fresh and beautiful scenes of nature around the town totally  reflect the growth He is producing within me this year. Although this place is small and quiet, it’s the perfect place for me right now. God knew I needed a place like this with minimal distraction where I could grow closer to Him while at the same time live out and grow in my calling as “salt” and “light” of the world. He truly is a Good Father!

Beautiful Hainichen
Beautiful Hainichen – behind the YWAM base

Strengthened

But for so long, I didn’t know who I was or that I was of value.

It’s October in Germany and I’ve been thinking a lot about the pending winter. If you have been thinking about sending me a care package (which I know all of you have), then hand warmers, wool things, etc., are appreciated 🙂

Staff taking a day of rest at the beach
Staff taking a day of rest at the beach

For the past few months I have been keeping very busy staffing the Discipleship Training School (DTS) here in Hainichen with Youth With a Mission. I am extremely happy to be serving here. I really love Germany, mostly for their different perspective on life and the world. It makes me sharper (although I’m sure there’s a lesson or two Germans can take from my book =D )

And Germany is also so beautiful! I love taking pictures of all the different skies I see behind our base.

I am thankful for this opportunity to staff the DTS for many reasons. For one, I feel challenged every day, so I rarely get bored. Learning German has big one of the bigger challenges. It isn’t very easy to just pick up. And the problem is that I want to be perfect in it, and I have to get over that. I also have to get used to the fact that it will take me longer to learn since I’m more focused on staffing the school than on learning German at the moment. But, after the DTS, my hope is to go to school for German lessons since I plan on staying for a while.

But it isn’t always just about some task to complete (although there are plenty of those). Often my character is tested. I love this about God, that He disciplines me, because truly my heart’s greatest desire is to grow in righteousness even though sometimes it can be painful.

For example, God is teaching me to live by truth instead of my own thoughts and feelings. A couple weeks ago, I had to repent of the thought that I would never learn German even though truly right now I can hardly get out a couple of grammatically-correct sentences. But God wants me to stand on the truth that I am His child who has a sound mind and that I can do anything in Christ. So whenever it gets really hard and I don’t think I’ll ever get it right, that is when I have to stop myself from falling into a negative attitude and see more clearly. And God has sent me a few people a long the way to keep encouraging me in the process 🙂

It is usually so easy for me to allow a flood of negative emotions and thoughts defeat me. In the past when that has happened, I have experienced God’s comfort in my prayer time. But now, God is no longer accepting that I allow myself to slip into a downward spiral every time I feel sad or afraid or worried or unloved. He is showing me how to calm myself down. So when I get into one of those fearful moods and go running to God, He doesn’t usually comfort me but instead reminds me that I know the truth and to exercise my faith by declaring something like the following: that He is with me, that His favor is over me because of my submission to Christ, and that He does love me and that He will guide me.

This has made me a stronger person because I believe who God is more than I trust my feelings, though it does take a lot of effort at times to fight against the onslaught of negative thoughts and emotions and instead listen to Him. But it is the only way that I break free of it, to set my will to fight against it.

Here is another everyday practical example that might not seem quite holy but I know it a major issue for most woman: physical appearance. Though I struggle to really see myself the way Jesus does, God has shown me the truth not just in my head but also in my heart, that I am made in His image and am therefore beautiful, despite my own perception shaped by society’s general idea of beauty. He has

DTS in Hainichen
DTS in Hainichen

shown me many other things regarding beauty besides this, and it’s my choice to believe and receive God’s truth or not. Maybe that issue seems trite, but I don’t think it is trite to God. I think it is a part of our identities that God wants us to believe about ourselves.

These lessons have helped me know another aspect of fear of the Lord – I am choosing to submit all of my own thinking to Him.

I’ve always wanted to live in fear of the Lord, knowing that it is what the Bible says leads to many good things, including wisdom and life:

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.

Proverbs 9:10

The fear of the Lord is a fountain of life, that one may avoid the snares of death.

Proverbs 14:27

The fear of the Lord leads to life, so that one may sleep satisfied, untouched by evil.

Proverbs 19:23

And if I want to fear the Lord, I cannot fear man.

I believe that the fear of man exists whenever a person gives greater weight to what man can or does think, say or do, rather than the thoughts, words and abilities of God:

Listen to Me, you who know righteousness,
A people in whose heart is My law;
Do not fear the reproach of man,
Nor be dismayed at their revilings.
For the moth will eat them like a garment,
And the grub will eat them like wool.
But My righteousness will be forever,
And My salvation to all generations.

Isaiah 51:6-8

I say to you, My friends, do not be afraid of those who kill the body and after that have no more that they can do. But I will warn you whom to fear: fear the One who, after He has killed, has authority to cast into hell; yes, I tell you, fear Him!

Luke 12:4,5

A big temptation for me is to fear man, and want their admiration, approval, and acceptance. I am the type of person who easily finds identity in others, too much to the point where I can lose myself. This is because from a young age I didn’t know my value and worth, and it was my conscience decision to find it in people. And this really has led to death, though of course physically I’m alive. But for so long, I didn’t know who I was or that I was of value.

Over the past seven years since following Christ, He has been helping me discover exactly who I am, and with this new lesson in fear of the Lord, in laying down my own perspective and choosing His, my sense of value and identity has only sharpened and has found more of a home in Jesus (the Truth).

So I have been learning to listen to Him first in regards to what His word says about me, about my eternal righteousness and good standing with Him because of Christ. I am not righteous later, I am righteous now in Christ by faith.

Righteousness seems like a “holy” word that doesn’t seem relevant to us today, but the effect of righteousness in Christ is eternal acceptance, starting here on earth and lasting forever, and the only true acceptance that can be found.

This truth of my eternal righteousness frees me from putting too much weight in the opinion (good or bad) of others (although of course there is still some value from what others say). This is because only Jesus has the wholly correct perception of me.

I think it is easy for followers to forget and/or miss the actual worth of what God says in His word. Perhaps because deep down we don’t believe it is enough or don’t think that it really applies to our current situation. But I am finding that truly, the Word does answer the questions I need answers to. Of course it doesn’t tell me specific instructions. But it does tell me I can trust God to guide me in the specific instructions that I need, and this is an answer to a heart issue (trusting God), which is what I believe God cares about the most.

So over the past couple of months here, that is just ONE of the things God has been teaching me – that His Word and who He is is truly enough for me and for finding identity. And now when I read this truth, in the light of truly believing in eternal acceptance through Jesus, it brings so much life and joy like never before!

Hainichen, Germany
Hainichen, Germany

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christs, just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we would be holy and blameless before Him. In love He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will, to the praise of the glory of His grace, which He freely bestowed on us in the Beloved. In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace which He lavished on us.

Ephesians 1:1-8

So now, unless the Holy Spirit convicts me of something that He wants to renew, then my intention is to hold on to this truth about God’s amazing love, forgiveness, grace, and acceptance for myself and for everyone. I do not want to allow the accuser of this world have any influence over my thoughts about myself or about others.

I am thankful that God has brought me to a place where I am strong enough to do this more and more, to choose to receive His truth rather my own. I am not sure that before, when I was still very weak in my faith and when my heart was even more broken, that I could have done this. Fear which led to pride kept me from really believing what God had to say and instead I relied much more on my own false understanding. So I’ve had to first obey His calling over my life and then experience His faithfulness over time in different situations to really see that God is good and trustworthy!

…those who keep waiting for the LORD will renew their strength. Then they’ll soar on wings like eagles; they’ll run and not grow weary; they’ll walk and not grow tired.

Isaiah 40:31

Taste and see that the Lord is good.
How happy is the man who takes refuge in Him!

Psalm 34:8

One of the Reasons I Need God

Over the past few months, God has been preparing my heart for something totally new. I have been really longing for geographical stability. Although I am truly grateful for all the traveling I’ve been doing, it can be exhausting to get to know a new place and community every few months.

During the Family Ministry School I did in Hainichen, Germany, God helped me get over the idea of staying home in northern VA. The idea had especially grown on me as I started to think about the fact I already had an established community there and could live comfortably. I was also thinking about earning money, which was especially appealing to me since I was coming close to zero dollars in my bank account!

But then God started teaching me about this thing called procrastination, which I tend to do in life. I procrastinate on what seems to be a difficult challenge, as well as hard decisions, both small and large. And what I learned was that procrastination never fulfilled what I thought it promised, which was the complete avoidance of pain. I learned that I just had to suck things up and go through whatever it was I dreaded, in the correct timing.

Along with other impressions from God, this lesson culminated in me deciding to finally make the move to where I felt God was calling me longer term – to Germany – almost immediately following my graduation from the Family Ministry School (and not in another six months as I had originally planned when I first sensed God calling me to Germany).

God made His will very clear to me, which is pretty cool because it was in response to my fearful plea to Him: Please God, if you really are calling me here, which I think you may be, please make it VERY clear to me that Your purpose is to send me back to Hainichen. Unlike other YWAM bases, there aren’t too many single people my age for me to hang out with, and I realized I had really missed that during my FMS. Plus, it’s a pretty small town, unlike the very exciting and beautiful Amsterdam where I was last year, and it will probably get very cold in the winter. My blood is warm and I prefer Tahiti’s humidity to Europe’s frosty winters.

In His graciousness, He made it so that I had no doubt this was where I was supposed to go, which is actually rare for me. Most times He has called me somewhere, I questioned myself and wondered if I had made the right decision. Now I know that these doubts are from the enemy, and God doesn’t speak to me in that way. For me personally, He speaks to me in peace, and I have learned I can trust that instinctively.

Me, my sister and twin brother.
Me, my sister and twin brother.

After the FMS, God gifted me with an amazing time back home seeing family and friends. My twin brother, Kevin, had graduated from school and was home for most of the time I was. This was such a special gift from God, having not spent much time with him in years.

And then all the sudden, I found myself needing to learn to let go.

First of all, I love this store called Trader Joe’s. It’s amazing. And I bet many missionaries and/or expatriates miss familiar foods.

Second, I would be selling my car. My car to me represented control, independence, freedom, and a carefree youth (although this is a mere illusion, my youth was never carefree).

Third, I would have to humbly rely on others as I slowly learned the German language and culture/lifestyle. And the thought of not being able to immediately connect with others through language, humor, etc., pained my heart.

Of course I would be missing friends and family and the comfort I found in them as well. I knew I couldn’t expect to connect with Germans in the exact same way I could connect with Americans.

Inside a Trader Joe's
Inside a Trader Joe’s

So all of these things accumulated in my heart, and I got so resistant to the idea of finally agreeing with God to make the move. Perhaps sharing this all makes me look like a soiled brat. And like a brat would, I cried out to God one day in my parked car waiting on a friend for lunch.

It’s not that Germany is such a bad place to go to, but I was focusing so much on what I was leaving behind (for what this time is more permanent).

This is why I need God. He reminded me that He has the higher perspective and He knows what lies ahead, and I don’t. I just have to trust Him with the unknown. But that is impossible without putting my faith in Him. Without this, I would settle for what is good but not what is best. This is because I could never dream of on my own what is best for me. I totally need God if I want to live to the fullest, which includes serving Him and His creation in the place that He decides.

Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life…”

John 14:6

And as soon as I cried out, and got real honest with all of my “petty” issues with God, that is when I experienced His peace and comfort like no other. It was real. I felt it. And it completely freed me of the pain I felt.

Perhaps this is just a part of what Jesus meant when He says that Christians must become like children:

“I assure you,” He said, “unless you are converted and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.

Matthew 18:3

If you really want God to allay your fears, just be honest. No matter how silly or wrong the feeling or thought is. Get it out. It has to. It’s an act of faith that pleases God. If you sugarcoat everything for God, or be too diplomatic and say all the “right” things, I’m pretty sure that’s manipulation, and I’m pretty sure God doesn’t really respond too much to that.

…let us continue to come near with sincere hearts in the full assurance that faith provides, because our hearts have been sprinkled clean from a guilty conscience, and our bodies have been washed with pure water.

Hebrews 10:22

God is love, and there is no fear in love, because fear has to do with punishment. God is not going to punish me for having this “silly” thought that letting go of Trader Joe’s is too great a sacrifice (He already knows that thought is there anyway, so there is no use trying to in hide it). He created me and knows that I just have a penchant for personal comfort, perhaps more so than other types of people who are called to places where you really have to “rough it,” like in Africa, Asia, etc.

If you are really struggling with a decision or some kind of fear or negative thinking, just say your real thoughts out loud to Him no matter how silly they seem, even if it is in regards to “smaller” things in life, like doing the dishes.

But this “whining” must be done in desire and in faith that He will give you something new in return for your negative thinking (so you actually have to be willing to let Him change your mind and believe He will). Otherwise, it’s just complaining and makes you and any innocent bystanders worse off.

Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding,will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Philippians 4:6,7

And for the record, now that I am here in Germany, I still have a ton of peace about being here, and my fears of loneliness and discomfort have not come true. I am full of joy as He continues to reveal His unconditional love for me and continual presence that surrounds me at every moment in every situation. Plus, I know the most of the families here, and they really are so friendly!

I am truly excited to grow in new ways and point people to my Jesus. I feel honored to serve those who are giving six months of their lives to do this Discipleship Training School in Hainichen. My life has never been fuller since deciding to follow Him wholeheartedly seven years ago – He is faithful!

This is me, getting into the spirit of a German grocery store called
This is me, getting into the spirit of a German grocery store called “real” while sporting a genuine German backpack 😉