Going to Korea

Flying to Switzerland was easy. I am a nervous flier, historically. My stomach gets all upset and torn up. But getting on the plane to go to Switzerland was one of the most natural things I’ve done in a long time. I felt the same way when I went Belize last summer. It was like falling in love, which I always feel is akin to coming home.

I’ve only been in love twice in my lifetime, which is shocking considering the long line of boyfriends I’ve had over the years. I first fell in love when I was 23, and then again five years later. Both times, it was easy. Yes, I felt like I was coming home, but I also felt more like myself than I ever have before. I feel like myself single, but being in love, I feel accepted. It’s very liberating.

Upon my return from Switzerland, I had four interviews lined up for different language schools in Korea. I’d attended school with my cousin, who showed me what school abroad looked like. Suffice it to say, it was beautiful to see that education is still valued in some places around the world. I had a taste, and like most of international travel, I wanted more.

I was offered a job immediately after my first interview. It was good paying, and located in Seoul. But I didn’t have an overwhelming sense of peace about it. I asked for more time to consider the offer. I interviewed with a second job, another school in Seoul, and I didn’t receive an offer right away. I knew I’d have another chance with my two other interviews lined up, so I didn’t sweat it. I knew God was going to either open or close doors. Two days later, I interviewed with a woman at a school in Incheon, a city just west of Seoul, and a port town. There’s a beach there. And mountains are nearby. It’s beautiful, according to Google images.

I did a Skype video interview with the director of the school, who is a Christian woman, according to my recruiter. She was a beautiful Korean woman with red lipstick and a smiley disposition. I respect women who wear red lipstick. Usually interviews for schools are about twenty to thirty minutes, but we were on Skype for nearly an hour. She asked me all sorts of questions, both personal and professional. While we chatted, I sensed that if we’d been in the same room, we’d later become friends, and I always say the best interviews are the ones where you walk away feeling like you just had a conversation with a friend.

I knew I’d receive an offer, and I did within the hour.

I accepted.

 

The next day, I signed my paperwork and scanned it to my recruiter’s office. And that was that. In less than 24 hours, I made a major life decision to sell all my belongings and relocate half way around the world to Incheon, South Korea. I didn’t talk with anyone about it, really. I didn’t make a Pros/Cons list. I just signed the paperwork and sent it over. I wasn’t nervous, either.

It was just like boarding a plane.

It was just like falling in love.

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What Makes You Richer

I went on a date a little over a month ago with a gentleman I met online. We’d had coffee initially, and then he took me out for Valentine’s Day. When we had coffee, it seemed we were on the same page. I’d just bought my ticket to Switzerland, and had told him when we initially met. He seemed receptive to it.

When we went out later that week, he got around to casually judging,

“Airfare and travel is so expensive! That’s why I haven’t done it much.”

I nodded, because I get it. I am by no means privileged enough to travel as much as I’d like to. He explained further,

“I mean, I’ve always had the money to do it, but I just can’t always justify the cost to myself.”

He was chewing with his mouth full at this point.

“What did you spend on your ticket?” he asked, critically. I could see the mental scales being erected in his brain, with a specific number on one side, waiting anxiously to see if what I’d spent was worth it.

I was shocked he’d asked at all. Money is a touchy topic and like politics and religion, should be approached delicately. But here he was, stomping around the topic. I went ahead and told him anyway. If he thought it was fair, I figured he was maybe a little more decent than I’d previously thought. If he thought it was unfair, I’d kindly thank him for dinner and then leave…as soon as I was finished with my steak.

“Just for airfare?” he asked.

Yes.

“That’s ridiculous.”

I sipped my wine and reasoned that I did have the cash for it, and it was my money to do with what I wanted.

He went on, elaborating on his bafflement over what people spend on travel, when they can just relax at home.

I wanted to say, That’s just the thing though. People don’t spend money on travel just to relax. Travel is the only thing you spend money on that makes you richer.

Instead I only said,

“Well, I am staying with my cousin, so that cuts down on the cost.”

Suffice it to say, we didn’t go out again. I found him terribly boring, and I think he must have found me far too independent or opinionated or … who cares what?

 

Before I left, I was talking with my dear friend and confidant, Dana, who is a nurse practitioner. She’s brilliant and insightful and a lover of life, and over the course of the past two years, has been a fine encourager to me as I’ve grown and broken out of my shell of heartache and adult independence. More than that, though, she has been someone who inspires me. As a fellow caretaker, our professions have much in common, just from different angles. But she is further along in her career, and has been a sort of personal career mentor for me. She listened to me talk about going to Switzerland and all the jobs I’d been applying for overseas, and she said, simply,

“I support it. You’ll get a job somewhere, and it’ll be great and you’ll go, because you’re a badass.”

Now, I consider myself to be many things, but a badass is not one of them. But somehow, because she is so badass herself, I found myself to be immensely honored by her statement. Yes. Honored.

I got lost my first day walking around Luzern solo. I’d spent Saturday and Sunday with my cousins, and they walked with me everywhere, but I was very jetlagged and still riding the international travel adrenaline rush, and forgot which way to turn to get to the bank. European streets are very unpredictable, and I am easily distracted. It took me an hour to find the bank and by the time I found it, I was starving and freezing. I found coffee and then a pizzeria. The waiter was less than enthused to find me dining alone, and didn’t seem to take too kindly to my lack of German skills. Whatever. I had pizza and it was warm in the restaurant, so I didn’t care. When I left, I found a clothing boutique and hid in the dressing room trying on clothes and texted two girl friends about my woes and disappointment with myself. It’s discouraging, getting lost in a foreign country. So I packed up my sad ass and walked back home to take a nap.

When I got home, I took a minute to check my email, and spent the next hour or so emailing about different job options in Korea. I also received a rejection email from the school in China, and reminded myself I’d prayed for God to open or close doors for me. I walk in trust on this. I have more to say on this, but for now, you should know I shamelessly crashed on the couch for approximately two hours. Rejection requires rest, even if you’re at peace about it.

 

The next day, I walked to the train station (and didn’t get lost!) bought a coffee and croissant, and boarded a train for Lugano, a city in the Italian speaking portion of Switzerland. There is an idyllic lake there, and pizza, and gelato, and gorgeous Italian speaking men. When I arrived in Lugano, I never felt more like a badass. I had managed to successfully get myself to the station in a foreign country, navigated the train system, and arrived safely in my desired destination with no unplanned detours. It is no easy feat!

The beauty of Lugano made me question all my life’s decisions. The weather was warmer in Lugano, and sunnier. I walked along the water’s edge all day, curious about the shops, restaurants, docks, and general life there. I spent the day just curious about life there, and quietly observed. I read and ate pizza. I had two glasses of wine with my lunch. I got an affogato with chocolate gelato so dark and perfect I perhaps could have held off on the espresso. I went back for my gelato, and got two scoops: one of the dark chocolate and one of the stracciatella. Bellissimo.

I was heading back to the stazione, eating the last of my gelato when a crew of hunky construction workers catcalled me in Italian.

“Ciao, bella!” they sang out, along with a slew of other Italian words that probably objectified me and would have ordinarily led to returning a terse word toward them, but it was all in Italian, and so musical. I didn’t mind so much that I was tempted to turn around, twirl my hair, smile prettily and ask them to tell me again how beautiful they think I am.

I’m not even remotely kidding. This is the pull of the Italian language. It’s very sensual.

When I got off the train in Luzern, I felt even more like a badass. More than that, I thought to myself, I love every part of this life, a life abroad; a life of adventure.

Swiss Miss

This post is of a much more personal nature.

I’m trying to stay up to date with my thoughts on this world we live in, and how we as Christians are called to live in it and what that looks like, exactly. I’m seven years into my walk with Christ, and some days it still feels overwhelmingly new and like I don’t know what I’m doing.

My work

I am a teacher. I love teaching. It feeds me in ways I never imagined it would. Seeing my students light up when they understand a concept doesn’t just gratify me, it energizes me. And I’m an introvert, which by very definition means that when I spend time with other people, they tend to suck the energy and life out of me, and students happen to be particularly needy with my energy. But when they light up with learning, I light up. Without going into all of the unnecessary details, I am dying a slow and painful death at my current position. For the record, I’d like to state my administrators are quite simply fabulous and wonderful. They are the only things at work holding me up presently. But policy, the combination of students we have this year, certain colleagues (whose identity I will honor and protect for their innocence as well as guilt), and my need to teach a different grade level are all working together to create a perfect storm of job dissatisfaction. I became a teacher to change the world, and I was once told that’s the only real reason to become a teacher. But all I end up doing most days is disciplining students and accommodating colleagues, at best. I thought I’d stick around for another year, but I have no peace about that idea. I hate change, but the only thing more impossible than leaving is staying.

Whatcha gonna do about it?

Today I had pre-screening interview with an English-immersion American style college prep school in China. If I got the job, I would live on campus in an apartment they have for their faculty. There are other things involved, which are wonderful, and I do not yet feel at liberty to describe the potential situation further than this, but my heart I fear is already very tender toward the idea of living there and teaching. It’s a job I’d be perfect for, and I think it may be perfect for me.

I’ve also applied to an ESL recruiting company in South Korea, hoping for a placement there. I’m growing in frequency with my prayers about it.

Sometimes a broad just wants to go abroad

More than three years ago now, I asked my boyfriend at the time how he would feel if I went overseas to teach English in Korea for a year. He said he supported it, but didn’t know if our relationship would survive the year. He was an oil company man, and he would be staying here in Texas. I stayed, and got a teaching job in a nearby district, and we broke up not long after that. I spent the next year and a half getting over him, and when I emerged from my heartbreak, I was not the same meek, insecure girl I was before. The funny thing is, he always found me to be strong and bold when we fell in love, but somehow along the way, he broke me of that, and then longed to have that part of me return. He broke it, but he couldn’t mend it. Only God could. If only he could see me now. A part of me, the part that knows we always hold a little bit of love for our old flames, knows he would be so proud of me. But another part of me, the part that has healed or grown from that heartache, knows his thoughts and opinions no longer matter.

I suppose he doesn’t have any thoughts or opinions of me anymore, however. He’s getting married next week. I truly do wish them both all the love and happiness in the world.

But this isn’t about them or my broken heart.

After my first year of teaching, I opted to stay for a second, and then a third, having recently gone through too much life upheaval between a breakup, four moves, a death of a parent, a reuniting with family, a death of a grandparent. It was too much. I spent most of 2015 recovering. I applied to grad school, convinced it would heal me or somehow prove I was moving on with my life. It did neither, and only left me even more exhausted than I had been before. Then I met someone and fell very deeply in love with him in a very short time.

For the record, I am not the kind that goes falling head over heels in love very quickly. I enjoy infatuation, very much, but real love is a rarity for me. But this man and I, this sweet, foodie, banker and middle school worship band leader and piano lessons teacher, half Asian man and I worked so well together. Early on one afternoon, I finished a sentence of his and we were both in total agreement regarding the topic of something deeply important which shall remain unmentioned, and he just looked me in the eye in complete agreement and amazement and said, “Where did you come from?” It was like we’d known each other all our lives. I know that’s the stupidest, most cliché line in every damn Hollywood fairytale, but seriously, it happened. It was true, and I didn’t believe it ever would be. As time went on, I only fell even more in love with him. I will spare you the details of how wonderful he was, and how I was wonderful to him (at least, I hope I was), but trust me when I say I loved him.

So what happened?

He’d been divorced, you see. And the closer we got, the more it stirred up stuff from his marriage. Or divorce, whatever. It doesn’t matter what was stirred up exactly. The only thing that matters is, it was enough for him to justify calling it off with us.

I was sick with sadness.

I am better now, and am coping better. Sometimes, I still miss him, but I no longer pine for him. I’m old enough by now to know I don’t want to be with someone who isn’t ready to be with me. Or doesn’t want to be with me. Or considers me an option. Not all of these apply here, but you get the idea: I know what I’m worth.

It’s been several weeks now, and since our relationship was short, several weeks is a good amount of time.

He and I used to talk about packing up our things and just picking a place on the map and going. We never did, though. But who’s to say I have to wait on him? Or anyone? Being with the sweet Whasian Banker Man did reveal this truth to me: As much as I love Fort Worth, it’s time for a new adventure. It’s true, I do wish he was coming along, but that’s a choice he’s made. I’m going to continue to move forward.

A few weeks ago, I was praying to God, asking him for the next steps in life to be revealed to me. I wrote down a question to him, “God, do you want me to stay in Fort Worth or leave?”

And He said to me in a voice so loudly in my spirit that had it been an audible voice, I’m sure it would have broken windows due to its’ decibel, “My Child, you are not meant to stay put.”

I’m beginning to think He’s taken my wanderer’s heart, sanctified it enough to the point where I trust him wholeheartedly, and is now sending me out again in the world, to represent Him.

So what’s next?

I’m going to Switzerland. In approximately 36 hours, I will board a plane bound for JFK, then Zurich, and spend the week in the Alps in Luzern with my cousin and her wonderful husband, enjoying life.

She also is a teacher, but at an International School. I’m going to learn a bit about life abroad. I need new adventure. I need time to see the world with fresh eyes. I’m praying for opportunities to live and work abroad. I am praying for a miracle while I’m there. I’m praying for a voice from God. He is there, and He is not silent.

Knowing When to Go: A Millennial’s Guide to Knowing When to Get the Heck out of Dodge.

The first sermon I ever heard preached as a believer was over the Parable of the Prodigal Son. It was in a small East Texas fellowship church with strong Southern Baptist leanings. The preacher was middle aged, bald, and spoke with the firey conviction of a southern Baptist preacher. I was new enough in the faith that I soaked in every word, and furiously took copious notes, circling and underlining in my Bible, writing in the margins. On that day, the preacher highlighted the lack of grace and forgiveness in the heart of the older brother, thus making him a prodigal son of a different sort. The wanderer’s heart in me needed that level of grace and lack of condemnation.

A few weeks ago, I heard a pastor at our church preach over that same parable for the first time in nearly seven years. A lot of life has been lived in those seven years for me, and for the first time I saw the sins of the wandering son. I found myself recognizing him in a younger version of myself, but also saw the older brother in my present-day self. If I were honest with myself, I’d say both brothers reside in my heart. I am a committed, confessing, and baptized Christian, but my heart is prone to wander. I came to Christ as the younger brother, and so my heart understands the desires of the wanderer. But years of sanctification and my prideful nature has led me to resemblance of the older brother. It’s my suspicion that on some level, we all spend some amount of our Christian walk as both.

God can heal our wandering hearts, but He also is willing to use them for His advantage. How else would he convince people to go on mission? To be on a mission does require a healthy dose of a wandering heart, in the sense that we desire to see His world and His people, though not that we desire to stray from Him. It’s a fine line, but one He refines over time, I’m coming to believe.

Often times, Millennial believers fall into the trap of believing they’re called to radical changes, and that if they’re not running off to Africa to build wells for drinking water for tiny villages that have never heard of Jesus, they’re not bringing Him glory or living within His will. By and large, as a generation, Millennials are wanderers by nature. They are the new Lost Generation. They’ve always had choices that are bigger, sexier, more adventurous than any other generation before, and that affects their outlook. I recently wrote that sometimes Millennials are required to stay put and the reasons they should. But sometimes, they need to get out and have their faith strengthened. They need to step out in faith and shake things up and see the ways God will show up. So for all you Millennials who have always played it safe, for all you Older Brothers, or Wanderers-turned-Older-Brothers, and you’re wondering if this safety net you’ve built is right, this is for you.

Reasons to Go

Go because all your friends around you are exactly like you. Do you all dress similarly? That might be a first clue. Do you all listen to the same music? Do you all have the same political, spiritual, theological, beliefs? If so, you’re stuck in a rut and should get out. Have friends that aren’t believers. Live a life that is akin to how Christ lived. Dine with sinners.

Dare to have Christian brothers and sisters who have a different stance on pre-destination, believer baptism, or tongues, or their opposing ideologies. They have testimonies regarding those topics, and the book of Acts says we have far more in common than we think. You will learn from them, and they will learn from you. That’s what God does with His church: brings His people together to refine and sanctify them.

Go because it’s the random dream you’ve always had in the back of your mind.

God put that dream there for a reason. Explore it. Don’t idolize it, but explore it. He’ll either open doors or close them. And you are His child. He won’t leave you just because you sin and disobey. As Bethel Music says, “I’m no longer a slave to fear./You part the sea so I can walk right through it./I am a child of God.”

Go because you’ve been staying for all the wrong reasons.

I once dated a gentleman who’d been divorced, and he chose to keep the house he’d purchased with his ex-wife. Sometimes we’d talk about life and he’d say something like, “Do you ever just want to sell everything, pack the rest up and move somewhere?” My answer was always the same: Yes. Pick a place on the map; let’s go. Not long after we broke up, he went away to visit his family on the west coast. We got together for a drink when he returned, and he described being there like putting on an old pair of shoes. He yearned to return back to his home region, but he’s staying in the house he and his ex-wife purchased because he hates moving. He’s staying for all the wrong reasons.

Reasons not to go

Just as there are reasons to go, there are reasons to not go. It’s important to weigh your heart on them first before you commit to any of them.

Don’t go because you’re comparing yourself with anyone else. I applied to graduate school last year because I was comparing myself to everyone else in my age group at church. Bad idea. I hated my life for the first six weeks of grad school. So I quit.

Don’t go because someone just broke up with you, a death has occurred in your family, or another major life change has happened. There’s a reason adoption agencies won’t adopt out a child to a family that has recently lost a grandparent; it’s simply too much life change in less than a year. It roughly takes six months to adjust to any major life change, including new jobs, new schools, a new place to live, breakups, relationships beginning, births, etc. Give yourself time to adjust to the major life changes.

Don’t go because you feel like your small life is closing in on you. It’s not. You might just need a getaway. You might just need to take up some new hobbies, get a new group of friends. Do those things first, and then, if after six months to a year, you start to see the reasons to go taking root in your life, begin to prayerfully consider it then.

These are just a few reasons to go. Can you think of any others that might also apply?

Knowing When to Stay Put: Reasons to Stay

“Have you ever thought about moving back home, Jennifer?” my aunt asked me last summer, while visiting my Memaw’s home. A series of unfortunate and disappointing life circumstances had recently plagued my life with instability, and her suggestion was not invalid. I am no stranger to uprooting my life, driving away, and plopping down all my belongings in a new place and calling it home. My college years were fraught with moving not just for me, but my father as well, and separately we both experienced some transience during The Great Recession. Moving back home sounded like a nice comfort. But it was simply out of the question.

I looked at my aunt like she was crazy, and responded with something that was respectful, but also let her know her suggestion was simply that. However, it’s not an uncommon offer to the millennial generation anymore. We finish school, and stay where we’re planted until some life crisis hits us. We recover, but somewhere in the midst of that recovery, the comforts of moving home beckon. Some of us millennials choose to stay wherever we are planted and endure the storm, and others choose to start fresh with the support of their family. Neither choice is incorrect, but if you are a millennial who chose to stay, or is thinking about choosing to stay, this is for you.

 

Stay because you’re sick of moving.

When I chose to stay in Fort Worth, I chose to stay in part because I was sick of picking up my things and trying to make it in a new place. I needed to be physically rooted. Even though I was spending large amounts of time in prayer and God’s Word, I needed to be physically still. I quit working out that year. I love yoga, hiking, and lifting heavy things for my physical health, but that year, it was an act of God to get me to go for a short walk. I think I craved the idea of being rooted so much I literally had to remain physically still. Psalms 46:10 tells us, “Be still, and know that I am God.” Sometimes we need to take this literally.

Stay because everyone expects you to go.

Everyone expected me to move home to Austin. My mother had died. I went through a traumatic break-up. I wasn’t at peace with my job as a teacher. It was the perfect storm for a move home. It would have been understood. I prayed about it, but all I felt was a simple emptiness. It wasn’t a fear of financially affording the much more expensive city of Austin, or having to make new friends or finding another godly church, but it was a simple emptiness. So I chose to stay, even though it didn’t make sense for a 27 year-old who was recovering from my first year as a teacher, without the man I thought I’d marry, and reeling from the sadness of burying a parent. If I wanted the comfort of my hometown, no one would fault me. Yet somehow, it was the last thing I craved. No, what I truly craved during this time was God. It was there that I found sometimes God will not stop the storm, but let it rage and calm His child. It was there I found just as Jesus said to Peter while he was walking on water and the waters rose, “Oh ye of little faith! Do you not trust me?” Jesus had him, and would not let go. Sometimes we must stay because that’s where Jesus will show up.

Stay because it’s important to finish something you started.

Okay, so this one is more principle based than scripture based, but so often our generation doesn’t finish things they start just because they don’t “feel” like it. It’s one of the reasons why older generations don’t respect ours. We’re too susceptible to our whims and feelings and don’t know what it means to have a backbone. Begin something, and then finish it. Don’t be discouraged just because obstacles arise. And don’t let those obstacles be God’s “sign” unto you that He doesn’t want you to finish your race. Let it be the refining fire that removes the dross (Proverbs 25:4). You might find He will see a good work through to its completion (Philippians 1:6), and through our principle of finishing whatever we started we will also grow more Christ-like.

Stay because the best thing about God is His constancy.

Some might argue this point with me: His grace is pretty fantastic. But hear me out. I believe in the power of growing to be more and more like Christ. When my ex broke up with me, he said, “I want the sun to rise and the sun to set, and know that person [my future wife] will be there.” At the time, this confused me because I knew I was a woman of that caliber of faithfulness. Now, what I think he wanted was to know and feel God’s constancy. We all want to know that like the rising and the setting of the sun, God is there and that He is for us. A large part of our humanity is wrapped up in questioning God’s very existence, and for those of us who have ever doubted, it has been quite the relief when we find His existence and grace to be true. There isn’t a thing under the heavens that isn’t temporary or has never been experienced before (Ecclesiastes 1:2-9). Years begin and end, worship songs begin and quickly die, generations come to pass, seasons change and bring about new emotions, and we as God’s people endure it all. But the sun will rise and set, and rush to rise again, and God is still there, for you, and ready to commune with you. (Romans 8:31-32)

So commune with Him.

And then go out, and commune with His people. Be for Him and His people like He is for you. Stay and grow in constancy.

 

I never moved back home. I never left the church I share with my ex. I never left my job as a teacher at a Title I school. Instead, I made a new home. I made new friends in my church. I kept going back to work, even when it wore me down. And God has blessed me because of this. He is in control. I can trust Him. I know He is for me. And He is constant.

Reasons to Go on Misson

A blog post I made for Renovate about a month ago:

Last July, I boarded a plane with 12 other twenty and thirty-somethings bound for Belize with one goal in mind: share the gospel of Jesus. I hadn’t been on a plane in three years, and hadn’t been out of the country in 13 years. My passport had arrived two weeks prior after a whirlwind application process that involved a 5:30am alarm and a five hour wait at a post office in north Fort Worth, partly due to my procrastination, and partly due to the recent SCOTUS decision regarding gay marriage. I had no idea what to expect on that trip, and I wasn’t even exactly certain of why I was going. I had wanted to go the year prior, but a series of life circumstances made this near impossible. As the 2015 mission trip approached, however, I found myself not feeling very soft toward it, and it baffled me, considering how differently I’d felt a year ago.

The day I was supposed to go to the first trip meeting was on a Sunday. That day, our wonderful head pastor, Ted Kitchens, preached a sermon on what it means to love Christ and His church. He broke down the Greek meaning of “phileo” and “agape,” referencing John 21 where Jesus was talking to Peter and asked him,

“Peter, do you love me?”

And Peter replied, “Yes, Lord, I love [phileo] you.”

And Jesus had to ask him again, “No, Peter, do you love [agape] me?”

In typical fashion, Peter eventually understood what Jesus was getting at, and I couldn’t help but feel a bit like Peter also. I loved the church for what the church had done to love me and care for me in one of the worst years of my life, but how was I showing the church unconditional love? How was I showing Christ unconditional love? I ached to better serve God, but had no idea how to go about it. Ted never read the ending of that story in John 21 that day. He just asked us, with conviction, “Do you love our Lord?”

Pastor Tyler had told us that if we went on this trip, we’d never be the same. To be honest, this completely terrified me. I had just gone through a year of moving, heartache, loss, buried my mother and grandmother in the same day, and I did not always recognize the woman I saw in the mirror. The last thing I wanted was to have yet another unrecognizable version of myself looking back at me. But the desire to know what it means to love like Christ loved me wouldn’t leave me be. I recounted all of this to my friend Wendy, who is the daughter of missionaries, over dinner that evening and she smiled and replied, “Well, a mission trip is a good place to start with learning how to agape-love Christ.” And so with that, I was going. It is still one of the best decisions I’ve made in my walk as a believer, and I don’t suspect it would ever be a bad decision for any other follower of Christ also. But in case you need reasons to go, I have compiled a short, but meaningful list to hopefully convince anyone to go on a mission trip.

Reasons to go on a mission trip:

  1. Go because we’re called to go and make disciples. Matthew 28:19 doesn’t leave much wiggle room for interpretation. Jesus said, “Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.” There are three verbs in that sentence: go, make, baptize. And he was clear in saying, “of all nations,” meaning he knew this world 2,000 years later would still be divided into different governments, kingdoms and nations, but all needed his grace and salvation.

This is the only reason to go on a mission trip, truly. Jesus commanded it for the salvation of others, and so we should go. Often times, we show him our love in our obedience. It’s that simple. But our God is a good God, who loves us dearly and wants good things for us. So, as a gift, He often ensures blessings upon us while we are missionaries. Which brings me to my second point.

 

  1. Go because you will grow in your walk with God. Our God is jealous for our love, and He will make the trip so we cleave to Him in ways we’ve never done before. When I left to go on the trip, I thought God would use me as a teacher to help develop lesson plans for the youth we would minister to in Belize. But others felt very called to that endeavor, and I felt the Holy Spirit commanding me not to get in the way of that. I thought I might be used to do laborious work. But the food and humidity affected me negatively, making me physically weak most days. I was able to paint and do light work, but I was limited. I kept saying to God, “Why did you send me here?” But when there was a chance to pray, a chance to listen to others, a chance to encourage, the Lord put those things on my heart, and I spoke up. I have never been one to solve problems by praying over them. (Why would I do that when I can pull myself up by my bootstraps?) In my years as a believer, I always knew that God knew my needs, so why should I pray over them? But He wanted to dwell with me, to commune with me, to know me intimately. It was in Belize that God and I began an intimacy of which I never imagined when I accepted Christ nearly seven years ago. He will do the same with you and your mission trip.

 

  1. Go because you should worship God’s creations in places you’ve never seen before, and to know your brothers and sisters you might otherwise would never meet on this Earth. This one is simple. God has created a glorious, beautiful Earth. We created the Eiffel Tower and The Golden Gate Bridge, all fine feats of engineering, but God created Yosemite’s El Capitan, The Grand Canyon, rivers that flow through caves, and the Belizean Keys. Go see his creations as a way to worship Him. And go meet his children in those places because they are our adopted brothers and sisters. Acts 2 talks about how all the believers came together, shared their lives and possessions together, and even though they were culturally different, they suddenly had everything in common because of the grace of Jesus. Go find and meet those brothers and sisters, for the tie that binds us together is stronger than our differences.

 

Feed my sheep.

It wasn’t until after I returned from the trip that I sat down and read the ending of John 21, and the story with Peter and Jesus. Jesus asked Peter three times if he loved him, and on the third time, Peter was very upset because he said he loved Jesus. You see, Peter didn’t quite understand Jesus the first two times when Jesus replied, “Then feed my sheep.” But Peter eventually heard Jesus the third time.

Did you?

2016 Resolutions

The week between Christmas and New Year’s serves as spiritual no man’s land reset button. It’s the time to contemplate the past year or even the past years, and mentally and emotionally prepare for the next one. It’s a time to consider what resolutions to make (if any) and make plans for how to attain them.

The past several years of this week have been too full to truly consider the changes I’d like to make, and prepare for the new year, and I’ve usually found myself in the middle of spring suddenly wanting to make the changes, but feeling behind. Of course, that perception has always been a lie, and when I’ve sought to change mid-year, I’ve generally fared well, save for some hiccups along the way.

This year, however, begins the second year in my home, and for the first time, I’m able to pause and take a breath during this no man’s land week. Instead of packing my earthly belongings, I’ve unpacked my spiritual treasures and needs, emotional hurts and highs, and mental conquests and this is what I’ve found.

I am learning how to live with boundaries.

I’m learning to draw a line in the sand and not let everyone zap me of my time and energy just because they needed it from someone. I am learning to let my “Yes” be my “Yes,” and my “No,” be that. It’s important to be a woman of her word. In the past, I’ve said “Yes,” with the goal of winning over people’s loyalty and hearts, but it has never failed me, time and time again, those very people to whom I say “Yes,” always disappoint me. They don’t always have my back, saying “Yes,” when I need them most. It took me a long time to realize they’re not being disloyal necessarily, but they’re knowing when to draw the line, as evidenced by their seeming unending amount of energy and emotional health. They look out for their best interests and needs first, and then look out for others. At first this seemed selfish to me, but as time has gone by, I’ve come to conclude they’re not selfish. Au contraire, it is rather by taking care of themselves that they are able to care well for others. And let’s be honest, if you cannot care well for others, you’re coming up short and definitely disappointing them. Thus, I conclude it is far better to draw boundaries of what you are able to do well, and then tend to your needs.

Know when to quit.

I used to spend a large amount of time with a workaholic. Let me clarify. I used to date a workaholic. And it never failed, he commonly compared my work “ethic” to his, and by and large, it always came up short, slowly chipping away at my self-worth. I was deemed not as tough or gritty as he was if I took on a project that needed a deadline extension because I found myself overwhelmed. Why couldn’t I just work nonstop, never make emotional commitments, avoid feelings, and just work? I was something of which to be ashamed, in his eyes. He tried to understand, but ultimately, he didn’t see how a lack of sleep affected my overall health, when he did just fine without such needs. This year I started full time online graduate school. I figured earning an MFA in writing would be easy, especially while teaching a non-tested subject. I barely even read the syllabus of one class while trying to stay afloat in two others and adjust to my new teaching content. I averaged about four to five hours of sleep a night. My workaholic ex-boyfriend usually did as well, but I guess I’m a weaker vessel; I need my rest to teach 7th graders and write well, damnit. And if that makes me a bad person with a poor work ethic, I guess I’m all right with that. So I quit grad school, and focused on becoming a better teacher and servant in my church body, and you know what? I found a good, hardworking banker and musician man at church who loves my cooking and willingly reads all my writing when I ask and makes me feel loved and like I’m more than enough of a woman for him. Know when to quit; you just might end up winning.

Pray, damnit.

I feel like this really sank in when I went to Belize. Everyone there was better than me at whatever you’d like to fill in the blank. I mean, everything and everyone. It was minorly infuriating, and so I’d find myself praying, “God, what do you want me to do here? I mean, geeze, why did you send me here? I’m certain you didn’t send me just for the view, although that’s a nice bonus, thanks…” And it was with each passing prayer that it became more evident just how much I was leaning on the Lord, and at some point along the way, I started praying for the team more and more. God was even faithful to keep me down for the count, physically, while there. I got the Belizean flu a time or two while there, incapacitating me to anything other than the couch and God’s word. When we were out ministering to the people of Belize, I’d often find myself bowed in prayer over someone or another. Later, my teammates would come to me and comment on my prayer being powerful. I don’t suspect my prayers were anymore powerful than the next believers, but I do know I said those prayers with heart and intention behind them, and I do believe God heard them and will answer them if He hasn’t done so already.

 

So going into this New Year, I don’t make any major resolutions that I can easily fail at, because quitting grad school is enough for one year’s worth of time. Instead, going into this new year, I resolve to:

Make a Prayer Space: to spend more time with the Lord. Simple as that. I recently picked up The War Room from a Redbox kiosk, and I kid you not, watched it back to back. I may or may not have cried a time or two as well.

Use the Prayer Space: What use is it to have one if you’re not using it? I will probably spend a crazy sum of money on journals this year, since I’m a prayer writer.

Feel my body be strong: I’ve spent the past two years recovering from bodily injury and weakness and also emotional injury, which usually leaves my spirit sore and in no position to care about my physical strength. This would also include proper nutrition. Read: more whole foods.

That’s it. Those are my resolutions.