People have been asking me if I’m excited to go to the Dominican. Yes, I am excited. But my excitement is masked by a slight terror. I’m terrified to leave everything I’ve known and go to a foreign country that speaks a foreign language to eat foreign food for 10 (foreign?) weeks.
There has come a point where I’ve had to decide if I truly trust the Lord. I’d love to say the choice came easily, but it really didn’t. It’s an obvious choice, but it’s not an easy one. Obvious because of course the Lord is trustworthy. He created me. Doesn’t that make him worthy and capable to fulfill my needs? To be my friend when I’m lonely? The answer is yes. My head knows it but my heart fears full dependence. To fully depend upon the Lord is something I’m definitely learning.
As I was thinking about what I’m afraid of – how to prepare and get ready, not knowing anyone, not being totally sure what I’ll be doing there, fear of having no freedom –
I started praying about it and i felt like God was clearly saying one thing to me-> “Do you trust me?” Not an accusation, just a question.
Do you trust me?
I started to seek out in scripture verses that related to this, Jesus Christ being my sustenance and here is what I found.
Psalm 18:2-3: “The Lord is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer, my God, my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield, and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold. I call upon the Lord, who is worthy to be praised, and I am saved from my enemies.”
When Paul is being afflicted by a thorn in his side, he asks the Lord three times to take it away. But to keep Paul humble, the Lord does not answer Paul’s request to take the thorn away. Paul then writes in Philippians 4, “I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound… I can do all things through him who strengthens me.” Paul recognized that it was through the Lord that he received his strength. He chose to be content.
Philippians 4:6-7: “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”
Philippians 4:19: “And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus.”
Deuteronomy 31:6: “Be strong and courageous. Do not fear or be in dread of them, for it is the Lord your God who goes with you. He will not leave you or forsake you.”
Isaiah 41:10: “Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”
The director at the camp I’ve worked at in the past says that God allows our inadequacies to increase in order to become more dependent on the Lord.
Trust is a choice. That’s what it comes down to. Even though life can be terrifying at times, his word says that He is my rock and my stronghold. I can do anything with his power that strengthens me. He brings peace. He supplies our needs. Our God is with us wherever we are! All we have to do is trust Him and be willing to go where he calls us.
Last week I was wrestling with a decision I had to make. I was recently accepted to be an intern to serve in the Dominican Republic this upcoming summer. (So exciting right?) Well I found out through an email during a really stressful week so I never quite had time to process or commit to it. I got the email and the next step was to sign some forms and get them sent to the ministry I will be serving with. Before I did that, I wanted to know if I could come back for this wedding of one of my good friends. The wedding fell about halfway through the summer and also happened to be during a really busy time in the Dominican. I found out that I couldn’t go to it and I was disappointed.
I was still wrestling with feeling uneasy and not feeling peace about going to the Dominican. It was partly because of not being able to come back for the wedding, but mostly because I hadn’t sat down and prayed and sought the Lord in my decision to go. I had made a decision to go, but I hadn’t fully committed. When I found out I couldn’t come back for the wedding, that was the tipping point for me. I just felt really uneasy about the whole thing. I ended up talking to my brother about it and he suggested I ask again if I could come back for the wedding, explaining how much it meant to me. [side note- I’m a really loyal person and weddings are a big deal to me] He helped me write out an email to send. I sent the request to go to the wedding again and got a reply that baffled me. The response was about what I considered sacrificing for the Lord meant and what I thought Luke 14:25-30 meant. At first I was taken aback by the in-depth questions, but then I realized that I did need to answer these questions. If this was what the Lord was calling me to, I should be willing to dive into this and study what the Lord says.
Sacrificing is an interesting subject. I think sacrificing for the Lord is giving up what I value in order to serve the Lord and to value what He values. Reading about the Biblical definition of sacrifice, certain articles talk about sacrifice being more all encompassing, meaning that sacrificing requires complete surrender to God’s will.
Concerning Luke 14:25:30 – I’ve read these verses before, but never really intently looked to see what Jesus meant when he said that. At first, I was confused that Jesus would ask his disciples to hate his father and mother, brother and sister because in other places in the Bible like Ephesians, it mentions honoring your father and mother and a verse in 1 John that talks about loving your brother. I did some research and found that what Jesus was saying, was not exactly to hate your family, but only to love them less then you love the Lord. So basically, our love for God should be greater then our love for others. Jesus isn’t demanding just our physical service, but he demands our hearts and our minds. Most of the time, I think that we can love both God and family and friends, but we should always be first loyal to the Lord. When deciding whether or not to commit to something, we should first decide if we are willing to sacrifice what it is going to take.
As I realized this, it sunk in. This means living in surrender to God’s will. It’s when we are asked to sacrifice that we can truly see where our value lies. I should be willing to sacrifice everything to serve the Lord. So I continually prayed “God I surrender. I surrender. I surrender.” And I meant it. I didn’t know what it looked like, but I was surrendering.
Okay, so I figured it out right? No, this is when the real wrestling started. How do I know what God’s will is for my life? When I first applied to go to the Dominican, I was incredibly excited. But when I found out I got to go, my excitement faded and fear took hold of me. It was like the devil was attacking me. Reminding me of how hard it would be and all the things I was giving up to go. I prayed and prayed that God would show me His will. I was willing, but I wanted to know for a fact that going to the DR was God’s plan for me.
The time came and I had to send my reply to the staff in the DR. But the time had also come for me to decide, was I willing to give up my own plans for the summer (such as going to this wedding) for the Lord? Would I submit to His will even if it wasn’t clear exactly what that was?
But still I wrestled. I was willing to do what the Lord had, but how was I supposed to know God’s will. I talked to my sister, Meagan, and said one of the reasons I didn’t feel peace was because I didn’t know if this is what the Lord wanted me to do. And she asked me “Well why wouldn’t He want you to go?”
Wow. Okay. I couldn’t think of one reason God wouldn’t want me to go. Every door had been opened for me to go. I had spent so much time in prayer asking that God would give me peace instead of seeking out an answer in His word. Don’t get me wrong, I do think that God gives peace, but it’s definitely in His timing. My heart wasn’t in it, but Jeremiah says, “The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?” We shouldn’t always trust what our heart is telling us.
After Meagan asked me why God wouldn’t want me to go, I found these verses – “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit,” “You will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all of Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth,” “and the gospel must first be preached to all nations,” and “go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation.” Over and over again he says go and tell others the good news. That’s what I will be doing this summer. Evangelizing in the Dominican.
The question was how was this not God’s will?? I wanted Him to give me this feeling that it was right. But I didn’t need that; all I needed was my Bible because it’s literally HIS word.
As I read the verses about what we are commanded to do, I felt more peace. I sent the email stating that I was committed regardless of whether I could come back for the wedding. Immediately after sending it, I got excited again. It was at that moment that I fully committed. I had prayed and thought a lot about what the summer was going to take, and I decided that I could do it, but only with the Lord’s help. I would trust and abide in Him. I surrender.
It’s easy to get caught up in what we’re feeling, whether that’s fear, uneasiness, or maybe just feeling unequipped. All I needed to do was focus on His word and his instruction. He doesn’t say “Go and make disciples of all nations if you feel led to” or “If you feel qualified then go preach to the nations.” He just says “Be my witnesses. Go and make disciples. Preach the gospel.” He is all-powerful, he doesn’t need us to be too. I heard a saying once- God doesn’t call the equipped, He equips the called – and I couldn’t agree more.
I would never be able to do this on my own. I’m moving to the Dominican for two and a half months. I’m not typically an adventurous person. Nor do I enjoy doing things out of my comfort zone. But it is in my weakness that HIS power is made strong! He is glorified through my weakness and fears, because that is where he shines! I’m no longer scared because God’s got me.
I’ve never had a lot of pain in my life. That is, pain from someone leaving.In the past year and a half, two people I love passed away, but one was especially dear to my heart. The pain I went through the week my Papaw passed was insurmountable. It compares to no pain I’ve ever felt in my life. It was horrific and terrible. I cried more that week then I ever have in my life. I didn’t just cry, I broke down and sobbed uncontrollably.
No. Life’s not fair. And no, I didn’t think I could get through that week. But I did. With the help of Jesus, family, and my dear friends. But you never really “get over” these things. They stay with you. You carry them forever. I will never forget Papaw and the tremendous impact he had on my life. I made it through that week and thought that the worst was far behind me. Don’t get me wrong, it hasn’t been worse. But there have been some really tough times since then. Times I miss him so much it hurts. I wish I could just call him. Talk to him. Hear his voice. Give him a hug one last time. Tell him how much I love him and miss him. But last week I experienced something worse than just missing him. I experienced a flashback. A flashback that felt like it was all happening over again.
My other granddad was in a horrible motorcycle accident a week ago, Wednesday. After sustaining life-threatening injuries, he was resuscitated and care flighted to the hospital in Tyler. This hospital also happened to be the exact same hospital that we found out Papaw had cancer in. A “good” cancer to have they told us. A “bump in the road” they told us. “Totally manageable” they told us. He was gone within 2 months of that diagnosis. And now my other granddad was there, injured and hurting. And I had to go back. Go back to that dreadful place that started everything. Go past that room we spent thanksgiving in. The last thanksgiving with Papaw. The room that we took our very last family picture he will ever be in. The place that I headed to after I found out about his cancer. As I drove to Tyler Wednesday, I sobbed. I cried out. My vision was blurry as I was driving. I couldn’t stop. I was having a mini panic attack. All I could think was I CANT DO THIS. This CANNOT be happening again. It brought back all of the fears and emotions of that night with a renewed vigor. The night I knew he was dying. The night my mom said come home now. Come see him. The night I said goodbye to him. It all came rushing back. And I couldn’t go back. The memories and pain flooded in. I couldn’t stop it.
Pain. Life is pain. If we had no joy, we would have no pain. It’s those we love, that will hurt us the most. Because when you love someone, they become a part of you, you give them a little piece of your heart. And when they leave it feels like they’re ripping your heart right out. Your very breath. I couldn’t do it again that night. But the good news is that I didn’t have to. And neither do you. Jesus sustains us.
As I drove, sobbing, back to Tyler, I called one of my best friends. She lives out her love for Jesus more than anyone I know. As I talked to her she listened. And then she prayed for me. That I would have the strength to go for my granddad and family who needed me. Immediately I felt calmer. I felt peace. A part of me wanted to live in that pain. Because it reminded me of the life my Papaw lived, and the impact he had on my own life. It’s easier to remember it all when I feel the pain. I feel guilty when I’m not hurting for him. But we can’t live in that pain. Yes, when bad things happen, grieve. Let. It. Out. But let Jesus be with you in your pain. He doesn’t take it away. He sits with you in it. He feels it. And He brings peace. As soon as my friend prayed, I calmed down. Because I knew I wasn’t alone. I couldn’t do it, but there was someone who could.
We aren’t meant to live in that pain. Jesus blessed me that night. With that peace and strength to go back, but also because of what ended up happening when I got to the hospital. When I arrived, I was still nervous of reliving those memories. Thinking about walking on that skywalk from the parking garage to the hospital, to my granddad, still scared me. Seeing the room Papaw was in would be so incredibly hard. Why did the circumstances have to feel so similar. But because I got there after midnight, all the normal entrances were closed, even the skywalk I had walked so many times to go see Papaw. The only entrance open was one I had never entered, the ER entrance. It felt like a totally different hospital.
When you hear the words “a year ago today,” you know something really great or something terrible happened. Something worth remembering. Maybe a graduation, a first date, a wedding, first day of a new job… But sometimes when you hear the words “a year ago today..” It means something more. It means something that broke you and changed you. Something you will never get over. And never forget.
For me this is what that is. Just a little over a month ago, I had a “year ago today” moment. August 14th, 2014. Forever ingrained in my memory. I got the call while I was working at camp, the call that changed me, broke me. It was the day I experienced death truly for the first time. But it wasn’t just any death. It was a life that was stolen from this earth. He felt he had no reason to live, so for him that meant he had a reason to die. A reason to not live. A reason to leave this lonely world in hope of something better. The pain he carried in his life, is now carried by those who loved him. Those whose lives were impacted by him. There were a lot. A lot more than you would expect for someone who felt he didn’t matter.
I read an article recently called “the day after I killed myself.” It’s written from the view of someone who did just that. But what she writes is interesting. She wrote that the day after she killed herself, she fell in love. She fell in love with the way her mom looked at every little picture of her and cherished her old stuffed animals. How her mom went into her closet and held her clothes just to smell her scent as if she was still there. It’s hard to accept reality sometimes. She fell in love with how her dad took all the gifts she had given him and cradled them. How he kept calling her number just to listen to her voicemail. Just to hear her voice. One. More. Time. She fell in love with the way her brother broke over her. The love he expressed for her. The way he could talk to no one. Because they were best friends.
How can you explain that to someone? How do you explain the way death effects you? You can’t. She fell in love with the fact that she was needed. She was wanted. She fell in love when she saw her dog walking happily along the trail they used to walk together. The beauty of the outdoors. The shining sun she had never quite noticed before. The warm gentle breeze that wraps itself around you. The day after she killed herself she went back to her corpse and tried to convince herself not to do it. But it was too late.
Everyone has an impact they don’t realize.
Always remember that.