May 31, 2016

"I'm right here."

If any of you have ever tried fundraising for anything perhaps you'll be able to relate to these reflections.

Fundraising is a really challenging aspect of being a missionary and probably my least favorite.  I dislike asking for money.  I dislike depending on other's generosity.  I dislike the worry that I always seem to feel about a situation that is entirely out of my control.  I dislike most things involving numbers and accounting and the like.  However, despite all of the things I really don't enjoy about fundraising, God has used it to challenge me a great deal spiritually.  During my last week in Vermont before leaving for Uganda, I found myself getting discouraged that I hadn't been able to raise 100% of my budget before then.  I kept telling myself that I didn't need 100% of the funds raised prior to leaving.  All I needed was enough for my "daily bread" right?  At times I felt like maybe I wasn't doing it right.  Maybe I should do this or that or the other thing.  I had to remind myself that this whole thing is God's thing.  I'm the instrument, the pen with which He is writing this part of His story.  He has done everything to make this possible up to this point and so I chose to believe that He would continue to do so in the days and months to follow.

I was particularly struck last week by the generosity of my parent's church in Vermont.  It is a Mennonite church whose normal attendance on any given Sunday is between 30 and 40 people.  I haven't attended this church regularly in four years though I have been able to remain connected to them.  They have financially supported me in various mission opportunities and many of its members have been prayer warriors for me over the years.  I was encouraged to inquire with the church council about support for my time in Uganda; little did I know what the response would be.  I expected a commitment of prayer support and that in itself would have been priceless but this tiny church has shown me once again their incredible generosity!  I haven't figured out quite how to respond when people want to financially support what God is doing in and through my life so I usually just give a hearty thank you that is genuinely felt.  Many people have committed to supporting me and I am often overwhelmed with gratitude.  I was so thankful for the support Taftsville committed to contributing.  Later on after learning that this body is once again going to walk with me in this new chapter of my life, it fully sank in just how important it is and how much I value all of you who have walked me at different times and in different ways.  I started sobbing as I reflected on all that God has done in the last few months to bring me to Uganda.  He spoke right to my heart in that moment, I'm right here.  And I'm taking care of you.  Those words reverberated in my heart every day several times a day throughout that last week in Vermont.

He is going to continue to enable His will to be accomplished no matter what my own thoughts and fears and worries are.  I am striving to love and seek Him more and walk forward in obedience.  He's got the rest!  He's got ALL of this!  

May 20, 2016

Loving God more than...

Soon after accepting the child care teaching position, I was offered a house cleaning job as a supplimental income.  God seemed to be continually affirming this transition to PA by providing needs and opening doors to make it possible to be there.   At the child care center, I made some awesome friends with the girls I worked with and had a blast playing with one and two year olds!  Those girls were an irreplaceable blessing in my life at a time that would have been more lonely to bear I think.  We had many days of laughter, tears, prayers, encouragement, sharing, playing, and being silly!  They were a special group of people that I am so so thankful for.

Soon after starting my job, my PA dad helped me to find an awesome apartment in Telford, PA that was my home for the next year and a half.  At first, when I found the apartment, I felt like I needed to pass it up because once again, rent was more than what I was looking for but after much prayer and consideration, I ended up making the decision to take it and coordinated with my landlord when I would plan to move in.  After I told him that I would take the apartment, he decreased the rent!  What?!  

This next year and a half was epic!  Many hard things happened.  Many amazingly wonderful things happened!  It would take too long to write it all but it was one of the most spiritually growing times ever in my life.  I learned so so much about living life on my own and how to resettle in a strange place.  If you ever try it, you're in for a challenge.  I wouldn't change any of it though!

God refined my trust in Him so deeply that I despite my worries about how I would pay my bills or buy food, God continued to show me that He was taking care of things and I really didn't need to concern myself.  He provided every detail and every need.  Living alone was a new experience.  It was quite lonely at times but it deepened my relationship with God to a level it had never been before.  There was a sweet intimacy and closeness in my solitude that I fondly remember and long for.  I discovered my spiritual gifts and began intentionally learning how to embrace and live into them and use them for good.  Let me tell you, it is an ongoing learning process that has shown me how awful and how wonderful spiritual gifts can seem.

The things that God called on me to do during my time in PA have happened in some way shape or form but extent to which those things were fulfilled were never more apparent to me than on my last night spent there.  Jeremiah 29 does not only say "For I know the plans I have for you says the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm, plans to give you a hope and a future."  It also encourages the Israelites to put down roots and make themselves attached and settled in the place of their exile.  They are given a promise that after what may be quite a long while, they would be allowed to return home, they would be called up out of their exile but in the meantime, they must make lives for themselves.

Now I don't want to necessarily be so bold as to say that I was exiled by God to PA however, I sensed God calling me there to accomplish many of the same things God needed to accomplish in the Israelites when He caused them to be brought to Babylon.  I had an idol that I was stubbornly holding on to and didn't realize how much of an idol it really was until I had lived in PA for two years and was on the brink of making a commitment that could have kept me in PA for the majority of the rest of my life.  I believed that making this commitment was something God was calling me to do and looking back I see it not significant because of what I was about to do but because of what God accomplished in me through it.  This idol?  I desired to be a missionary overseas, specifically in Africa more than I wanted to walk in whatever God's plans were for my life.  My passion and desire for missions had gotten too big and it needed to be redirected and downsized.

Over the course of several months, I prayed that God would help me want to follow Him enough to not care what He called on me to do.  It was a PAINFUL process!  As God broke me down, He also enabled me to build a community of friends and a support system like I have never had before!  He brought me to PA for many hard and wonderful reasons some of which I may never know, but He met me where I was, brought me to where He wanted me, and didn't bring me there and drop me off.  He walked with me all the way!  And now I can say with genuine pleasure and wonder that I love God more than I love missions!  I continue to pray that He would reveal to me my idols and help me to daily grow to more deeply love Him.

May 11, 2016

Are steps of faith really by faith if they make perfect logical sense to human understanding?

The story continues...

I moved to Pennsylvania on August 21, 2012.  Upon arriving at my soon to be PA parents' house, I settled myself in and began the job search.  I had calculated how much money I had in my account and how long it would last me before I needed a job.  At the latest I needed employment by September 14th.  Two days after I arrived, I was offered a job at a child care center as an assistant teacher in a one year old classroom.  It was just the kind of work environment I had been hoping and praying for.  A ministry where I could make some quality Christian friends, work with children, and be active!  However, living expenses were much higher in south eastern PA and the salary of this position was not adequate to meet my approximate budget.  So after a couple of days, I turned the position down and kept up my search.  

I spent the next three weeks applying for countless jobs of all kinds, all to no avail.  

Initially, I was determined to not get a restaurant job again but as my search for employment continued, I relented and filled out some applications at some local restaurants.  On Monday, September 10th, I sat for an interview at one of the restaurants, was offered a job on the spot, and was told that I would be contacted within the next 24 hours about scheduling a time to start training.  The next morning (Tuesday), my PA mom went walking with a couple of friends and was sharing with them my situation.  One of the friends was a board member of the child care center I had been offered a job at.  When she returned that morning, my PA mom told me that the position I had applied for was still available and the board member was wondering if I would still be interested in the job if they were able to make an adjustment to my salary.  I was absolutely interested!  The director of the child care center called me the next day (Wednesday) and offered me the position again with a higher salary but it still didn't meet the budget I had estimated.  What to do?!  I asked if I could let them know my decision by noon that coming Friday.  

In the meantime, I was still waiting to hear from the restaurant to start training; but Tuesday came and went as did Wednesday and Thursday and I still hadn't heard from them.  I didn't understand what was happening or what to do about this situation.  Did I accept a job that wouldn't pay enough to live off and just trust that somehow the Lord would provide the remainder of what I needed somehow?  That didn't make sense!  Did I turn it down and make contact with the restaurant about starting my job there?  I really didn't want to be in the restaurant scene again!  Did I let both opportunities go in the hopes that something better would turn up?

Thursday evening I felt like I should call a past boss, director, and wise friend to hear his thoughts about what I ought to do in this situation.  I don't know why I felt led to call him over other people but the response I got was just what I needed to hear!  Sometimes God calls us to do things that don't make sense so that He gets more glory!  Miracles aren't miracles when they are humanly possible...  He challenged me to just get creative in how to handle my finances.  And first and foremost, seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness and all these things will be added unto you (Matthew 6:33).  So that night, I prayed this verse and decided the next morning to accept this twice offered position and trust the Lord to provide for my daily bread.  At noon on Friday, I contacted the child care center and accepted the position with great joy, relief, and peace!  

45 minutes later the restaurant called to schedule a time to start training; which I promptly turned down. 

 It was September 14th!!

I regularly remember this story of how God moves and provides and works in mysterious and flawless ways in exactly the right way and at exactly the right time!  It continues to challenge and encourage me to take steps of faith, seeking God first and trusting Him to provide in situations that just don't make sense!