"Speak Lord, your servant is listening." What an amazing position to enter into. Freely and continually, He pours into us, but how often are we truly, really listening?
Putting the middle east into (a concise amount of!) words has been harder than expected, but it is by far one of the coolest experiences of my life. I experience such incredible heights in such a short amount of time. I still have visions of rich sunsets, the scent of Turkish coffee, and the smiles of kids juxtaposed the alarming noise coming from competing minarets that is a constant reminder of the 1.5 billion unreached Muslim people.
1/3 of the world does not know the truth simply because it is hard. Hard to reach, hard to enter in, hard to gain trust. But God, only God, continues to open doorways into the souls of His people around the world. What an honor to be a small part in that vision!
This past trip was incredible for so many different reasons. I love how God is constantly surprising us, and working in and on our hearts in the least expected ways. It's no surprise the spiritual transformation that takes place on short-term mission trips, but still every single time it astounds me to see how much more God pours into me than I could ever serve in the role intended or into the supposed school/people/environment the trip is targeted to reach and invest.
I found myself grappling with stereotypes I didn't even know that I held about people that I had never served. I delved into a culture I knew nothing about, and asked questions in the most honoring way I knew how. How often would you imagine yourself getting ready for bed in the West Bank wishing, "I wish I had a good Muslim book to read!" (true story). While so much has not been revealed, it is clear that God opened my eyes to my brothers and sisters on the other side of the world. Never did I think I would have a connection with people so far from what I centered my life on - the one true God.
Our time in Palestine was replete with ah-ha moments and beautiful revelation of God's character - again such irony.
Biblically speaking, I gained so much perspective as I traveled through the lands of our Fathers Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. From attending church in Bethlehem, driving through the Judean hills, hiking the Mount of Temptation, and walking through the lands where David wrote, "I look to the hills, where does my help come from?" each time I my heart rejoiced in such a gift to be able to see this amazing place.
Some of the places we went:
-Church of the Nativity
-part of Nehemiah's wall
-Israel's current wall
-Mount of Temptation
-Herod's palace remains
Historical (vs. Biblical)
-Swimming, mud baths, and lunch on the Dead Sea
-Mount of Beautitudes
-worshipping on the Sea of Galilee
-walking through the Old City (both the Jewish and the Muslim quarters)
-praying at the Wailing Wall
-Garden of Gethesmane
-Walking where Jesus journeyed and where the people gathered to listen to his teaching
-Mount of Olives
-eating dinner overlooking the city at the Legacy hotel
I am so grateful to have had the opportunity to truly plant seeds. It's such a freeing perspective to know that I don't have to save the world and that I am not called to convert everyone I meet because we have a perfect savior that already did. Part of His gift is allowing us to be a part of His redemption story. And for this, I am grateful. I saw beauty, experienced friendship, adventure, grace, brotherhood and confirmed my true dependence on God.
Thursday, December 20, 2012
You can read the same verse, quote or book a million times, and it never hits you the same twice. I've heard the quote, "We can never be satisfied with existence once we've tasted purpose" so many times, but tonight it hit me differently.
In reflecting on 2012 and praying about 2013, I've continued to ask God what and where next? I have dreams of orphanages and schools across Africa, a full-time ministry position, and a big family in the big picture, but ask with expectation for the Lord to lead me into the next year, one fully-dependent on the next. I don't want to direct my own steps or ask Him to bless my plan. I want to listen. I want to soak in His presence and hear Him in ways that only a father can relate to His daughter through true intimacy. And with great faithfulness, He reveals the next small step. I stare and listen with wide eyes, open ears and a willing heart. The scripture I've been pouring over centered around release of self and submission to Him: "Here I am Lord, send me!" (Isaiah 6:8) and "Behold, I am the servant of the Lord, let it be to me according to your word," (Like 1:38).
This year has been one of great beauty and growth. I've fallen in love with my career again. I've battled boundaries in and out of work. I've risked a lot for the Lord's will. I've seen more places then I ever dreamed. I've spoken more truth and honestly sought truth in order to grow. I've had hard conversations. I've also had some of the most encouraging, engaging conversations of my life. I've entered into new friendships and honored those that have paved the way. I witnessed the most enriching relationship begin to unfold: my mother entered into the most significant relationship ever with the lover and pursuer of our souls. I've seen things I wished I hadn't and walked alongside friends on the other side of the world who face great challenges each day, far beyond my typical struggles. Can't decide what to wear? A student didn't do their homework? My sweet mother is calling again?! Why is it taking so long to get to work. Will I have time to go to the gym between A, B, and C? Then I think for a moment, I am woman with civil freedoms beyond all compare, educated with an amazing career - a privilege and a calling. I drive in my car, along safe roads, with no real imminent threat to my life. I live with so much freedom and opportunity. I find myself thankful for perspective and quite frankly annoyed at my own forgetfulness and selfishness amid a Western world. It is then that I am reminded that I am loved with an eternal love but a Perfect One who is sufficient at all times, faithful in all things, and somehow still loves me beyond all compare.
I thank the Lord for it all. For what He has taught me, what He is doing, and for allowing me a small part in His grand story of redemption and love. I thank Him for my friends in Palestine, Kenya, and Haiti - for each of them so humbly and generously opening their hearts to me. For teaching me and giving me a small taste of His purpose. For opening my eyes through their stories. I thank the Lord for the fun - NYC, the Grand Canyon, the mountain retreats, the lake weekends, trips to Florida, a Chicago reunion, a lavish trip Paris and a whirlwind time in Israel. For a little girl in a big world, I am certainly being chauffeured around by the best tour guide ever - our Creator!
I fail often, fall short, and forget the radical grace bestowed upon me everyday. But this life is a journey and a gift I am willing to share. Follow along as He reveals my journey piece by piece.
How are you reflecting on 2012? What are you doing to intentionally seek His plan and listen to be able to discern His will? Are you willing to listen?