Shoes

I have a pair of shoes in my closet that I’ve only worn once. You know when you have a special occasion and you feel the need to buy new shoes to go with the new dress? That is what happened with these shoes. Now honestly, these shoes aren’t cute or comfortable, but I found them necessary for my outfit, so I bought them, wore them once, and stuck them in my closet.

That was three years ago, and for some reason I STILL have the shoes. Like I said, I haven’t worn them since and don’t really even like them. But I keep them around, thinking that maybe one day I will need them again.

The other day I was talking to my friend and she mentioned these ugly shoes, which reminded me of the fact that they are still lurking on my shoe tree. Later that day, I realized that sometimes we keep sin like I keep my shoes.

We all have at least one sin that is a habit. It is different for everyone, but I know that we all have something in particular that we battle with. Sometimes we do it because it is fun and cute, other times we just feel like its necessary. And when we aren’t actually sinning, we tend to keep it in our closet so we can pull it out just in case we need it.

Just like my ugly shoes, the sin in our lives takes up space and can keep us from other things that are so much better. I am running out of room on my shoe tree (girl problems, I know) and if I get rid of those shoes I have room for another pair! It is the same with the sin. Not that we should trade sin for sin, but that we should rid ourselves of the sin and make room for the great things God has for us.

I recently heard someone say that when Jesus came He not only conquered sin, but He conquered the power of sin in our lives. Not only did Jesus save us from death and separation, but He brought us the opportunity for the best life possible. Because of Jesus we don’t HAVE to sin anymore!

Now I’m going to be honest. Most times I’ve found that sinning is typically easier and way more fun, but there are always consequences.

So what is the sin that you’ve been keeping around, “Just in case”? Once you’ve identified it, GET RID OF IT. Open yourself up not only to Jesus forever, but to Jesus today.

As for me, it is probably time for some deep cleaning. Deep cleaning in my room, but more importantly in my heart.

Why Missions Matter (Part Three)

Last time I blogged I left off with my return from Baja, drained of all emotion and thought. I’m pretty sure I left Baja more confused about God’s calling on my life than ever. Mission trips had always brought a sense of clarity for me, they had always been a time of refocusing on what is important and remembering God’s call on my life. But this time was different. I didn’t feel refreshed, renergized, or refocused at all. This made me wonder if missions wasn’t my call after all.

I graduated that summer and we had yet another change in leadership. Our youth pastor left and then we experienced this odd time of guest speakers and interviews that went on for a while. With all the transition that went on in youth group and in our church, we went all of 2011 without a single mission trip. I’m going to shoot straight here, that year was a hard one spiritually. I am in no way blaming the lack of mission trips on my spiritual life, but that year was the first year since 2005 that I had not gone on a trip. And it effected me more than I thought it would.

In May of 2012 we had a new youth pastor, one who had mission work as a focus point. I was so excited for that. I had already, with my dad’s help, signed up to go on a medical mission trip to Haiti in June, and I was anticipating that trip like it was Christmas.

In June of 2012 I went to Haiti. This trip was, like all trips are, different than the ones I had been on before. This trip was through a gentleman at our church, and it wasn’t exactly a God-based trip. I went with a group of about forty doctors, surgeons, and nurses that preformed surgeries starting four hours after we arrived and ending six hours before we left. There was no large group Bible studies or worship time. It was a big change, but not a bad one. Having no prior medical experience, I put myself in a supporting role and helped out in the kitchen. I cooked and cleaned from 5:30am to 12:00 midnight every day. I was exhausted by the end of the small amount of time I was there, but strangely refreshed.

 In between my cooking and cleaning duties I was able to sit outside and do some thinking while gazing at the prettiest scenery I’ve ever seen. I had been struggling that year with the question every young person asks themselves, “What am I doing with my life?” I thought for sure that the mission field was my calling, but after my feelings in 2010 and 2011, I simply didn’t know. 

At one point in Haiti I simply said to God, “I don’t know what You want from me anymore! I was so sure, but now I don’t know!” In that moment of absolute frustration, God made it clear to me that He didn’t care what I did.

I know how that sounds. But what God said to me was that if I was a teacher, then I should use that to bring people to Him. If I was a children’s minister, use that to bring people to Him. Missionary? Do the same. And let me tell you, I felt a peace that day that I hadn’t felt in a long time. My decisions won’t ruin God’s plans.

 Holding on to that promise, I came back home and the next month was able to go on a mission trip with our youth group as a leader. I’ve never felt so old in my life. I was just taking part of these trips as a student, how am I old enough to be a leader? It was insane. Being with those students in Atlanta really helped me see how mission trips can change you at a young age. I spent time with girls on their first mission trip and thought to myself, “Wow, look at what God can do.” I was their age on my first trip. It was exciting to watch them change and grow even in that week. It reminded me of myself and how much I had changed.

Do I know for sure what God wants from me because of the mission trips I’ve been on? No. But I do know that I know more about God and His nature than I ever have before. I know, without a doubt, that God has a plan for me, and I know that it will be an adventure, no matter where it takes me. I also know that mission work will always be a part of my life, no matter what.

My heart has been changed, my faith has been strengthened, and my soul has been filled. That is why missions matter.

Why Missions Matter (Part Two)

In my last post I began to tell the very long story of how God has used mission trips to change me. I left off in 2008 with a girl who received a word from God and had no idea what to do with it. So what did she do? She told EVERYONE. I remember that night so vividly.

I went to Jamaica with a group of 45-50 people, and I spent that night pretty much walking around and saying, “Guys! God wants me to do mission work! ME!” I was so amazed that He would even consider using me, someone who wouldn’t think of stepping outside just a few short years before.

When we got back from Jamaica, I was pretty confused. I wondered what mission work meant for me. Where would I go? What would I do? When? With whom? For how long? And what about my future? Will I ever get married and have kids? With all these questions rolling around in my head, I almost lost sight of what God said to me.

That year was an odd one for me. We had a transition in leadership within my youth group, something that always makes life uncomfortable. But 2009 brought in a new leader and a new way of doing missions. Previous to this year, all of my mission trips had been led by adults with students who do the work. But that changed.

Our mission trips in both 2009 and 2010 were both entirely student led trips, with adults there only for supervision. It was very different and stretched my limits of patience and endurance.

In late June of 2009, a small team went to Costa Rica. I was one of three people who were in charge of VBS. And when I say in charge, I mean completely in charge. We had planned for months prior to the trip deciding on Bible stories, verses, crafts, games, worship, and everything else that comes with putting on a VBS. It was difficult and challenging, but so very good for my leadership skill set, which up till that point was fairly void.

We also built a sidewalk in those two weeks, marking the hardest physical labor I’ve ever done. Ever.

I can easily recall some challenging moments from that trip. I remember when we had our first run-through for VBS. It was just a rehearsal, but boy did we bomb it. No one was prepared, and I was stressing out. We started VBS the next day! But God, who is always reminding me that He has all the little things under control, had given me a verse that day through a letter from my dad, a verse that was able to encourage the team. That moment was one of the moments that I felt like God wasn’t speaking to me, but through me.

Fall of 2009 brought about yet another change. The trip that summer was to be student led like the last trip, but there were to be two student leaders who would be in charge of leading the team in everything. These leaders would interview students and decide who was going, place them in their leadership positions, mentor them and help guide them through their decisions, and all sorts of other things that grown-ups typically do for students. It was a huge task, and I was approached about interviewing for it. I was terrified, but I said yes.

I ended up getting the position, and after a crazy string of events, became co-leaders with one of my best friends. We had a ton of last-minute changes and rescheduling to do for the trip, and somehow, in all the spare time you have in your senior year of high school, we got everything done.

There are just too many moments from our trip to Baja to recount them all. But in spite of us, God showed up. He showed up in so many ways. He showed up in the clouds that would keep us from overheating during our work sites. He showed up through the woman who, the same day we ran out of food, generously gave her fruit to us. (Oh, Melon Lady!) He showed up in the almost instant healing of one of our students. He was so present there in the desert. It was beautiful.

All during the process of preparing and during the actual trip, I couldn’t help but wonder if this is what God had for me. Is full-time mission work my calling? If it is, when do I leave? And where do I go? And just like that, those questions came at me again. I had to really discipline myself out of asking the questions and start simply trusting God and that He would reveal the answers to me in time. In His time.

I usually hated coming home from mission trips, but Baja was different. I was exhausted. Mentally, emotionally, physically, and strangely enough, spiritually too.  This was something I hadn’t experienced on past trips, and to this day I can’t really figure out why. It may just be because of the amount of leadership I had. I don’t know. Whatever the case may be, I was very glad to no longer be in charge.

I promise I’ll finish this little series in my next post; I didn’t realize I had so much to say! So until then.

Why Missions Matter (Part One)

If you were to ask me to list moments in my life that God has been present, speaking, and obviously working in my heart, I would immediately begin to talk your ears off about the mission trips I’ve been on. The experiences I have had have been like nothing I could imagine, in good and in bad ways.

I can still remember my first mission trip. It was the summer of 2005, and I had just finished the 7th grade. I had decided that I was not going on a mission trip; I had no desire to leave home and as an almost 8th grader I knew everything, right? But my parents made me go, and I went ALL the way to Tampa, FL, a full two hours away from my house. But for me at that point, that was very much out of my comfort zone, I could have been in a different country and it would have felt the same. Halfway through our week-long trip, something changed in me. I began to realize the meaning behind the trip, the reason I was there, was so that God could get me away from my little world, break me down, and then fill me with Him. It was beautiful and it was hard, but I know I came back different. Yes, I know that is cliché, but it is true.

In the summer of 2006, I was actually a bit excited to go on a mission trip. We went to New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina had come and ravaged the city. I remember this trip being the first time I had seen devastation to that extent. I clearly recall praying, God where are you? How could you let this happen? Why? The lost lives and homes seemed so pointless. As this week went on though, I came to the realization that there was a serious spiritual battle going on in this city, and it was obvious as we walked down Bourbon Street. Everything was up and running, as if the hurricane had never come. People’s homes were destroyed, but the night life was thriving. I was disgusted. That was the week that my prayer life grew from cookie-cutter prayers to outpourings of my heart.

The summer of 2007 brought a lot of firsts in my life. In June I went on my first plane ride and in the very same day left the United States for the first time, ever. This mission trip was to Jamaica and let me tell you something, it was amazing. The culture was so different from mine, and the beauty all around me was overwhelming. Going to Jamaica and becoming a part of the culture there for a short time made me realize a few things that were missing in my own culture. I distinctly remember my first Sunday service there. We sang/danced/bounced? to a few songs out of a hymnal, a book that many people in my group had never seen before, and then the pastor came up and preached. He probably spoke for an hour, during that time many “Amen!”, “Hallelujah!” and “Praise Jesus!” were exclaimed, something I wasn’t really used to. After the message, we sang some more and then the floor was just open to whoever felt led to speak. Being used to a definite program, this surprised me to no end. Jamaica in 2007 taught me that it is always better to let the Spirit lead.

2008. That was a game-changer. I went to Jamaica again, same place, same church even. One of the girls from the year before had taken a picture with me on my last day in 2007, and she came up to me with that photo and said, “Do you remember me? Because I remember you!” My heart melted. One night, our pastor asked us one simple question. “If you could do anything without fear of failing, what would you do?” My heart said missions. My mind argued for quite some time, and honestly still does. I don’t know if missions is my full-time calling, or if it is simply supposed to be something I constantly do, but I do know that in 2008, God told me that mission work needs to be a part of my life. So I made it just that.

To be continued…..(because I have so much more to say still!)