Lost and seeking

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I came back from the Dominican more drained and spent than ever before. I had no energy to do anything, let alone serve or be intentional with others. The continual overwhelming feeling of exhaustion and isolation felt so foreign that I didn’t recognize myself. I felt alone and confused and lost in a way that I have never felt in my life.

I’ve always wanted to be the more generous person in a friendship. I want to give more, buy more, do more. But being so overwhelmed made that nearly impossible. I did, I tried. I tried to continue, but it was wearing me out. I was already so spent.

I felt like God was trying to teach me that my friends would be faithful. That they would love me even when I had nothing to give. But I’m stubborn and I didn’t want to learn it. I couldn’t imagine letting my friends be there for me when I couldn’t reciprocate the support and intentionality they were offering.

I had fallen into believing this lie that I needed to love my friends more. [Don’t get me wrong, we are called to love people deeply, but it shouldn’t be a comparison] I felt like if I didn’t love them well enough that they would not value my friendship any more. That it wouldn’t be worth it and that they would stop being friends with me. Prior to the Dominican, I continually gave and gave and gave and I was fine with that. The fear of being a burden somewhat fueled my desire to serve. But coming back from the Dominican I was tired and lonely and at a lower point in my life than I had ever been. I had nothing to give. No energy to give much physically or emotionally. And I felt valueless because of that. I felt worthless without the ability to love and serve like I wanted to.

Serving had become something I found my identity and value from. My identity had been found in the quality of my friendships and my ability to love and serve well. When I couldn’t do that, I felt lost. I didn’t know what to do with myself. I didn’t know how to ask for help knowing I couldn’t give it. I didn’t know how to receive knowing I was incapable of reciprocation.

I was talking to my cousin about this and what all I was going through and he reminded me of my aunt’s sister, Holly, who has severe MS. He reminded me how her husband, Brad has selflessly served and loved her throughout their marriage. How it’s such a beautiful picture of unconditional love. My cousin and I talked about how we both aspire to be the Brad, to serve others in their brokenness. And I shared with him how I wanted so badly to be the Brad, but I felt like the Holly right now. So drained I didn’t even have enough energy to take care of myself, and how I felt so valueless in that. But as we talked, I thought about Holly’s situation and how her MS does not define who she is as a person. She is a beautiful person, inside and out, and her value has nothing to do with her physical capabilities. She is still an incredibly joyful and loving person.

God has been teaching me that my identity is not found in what I do, (praise the Lamb), but my identity is found in who I am in relation to Christ. I am His BELOVED child. I got caught up in my service that when I no longer had the energy to serve, I didn’t know who I was. It was like I lost a part of myself, when in reality my identity has never changed. I am, still, and will always remain His child.

I think God has been challenging me to stop idolizing my service. Finding my identity and value in how much I give will never satisfy. I’m learning to be vulnerable and ask for help. It’s hard and humbling. And I continually feel like I’m fighting the feeling of depression and oppression right now. An ever-present feeling of being burdened and weighed down. But it’s in this time that I feel like God is teaching me so much. And it’s a process. I’m still learning, that just like my friends will love me through my neediness, so will God. His love is not conditional and is not based on my ability to seek him out and be intentional. I had no energy to do anything, including read my Bible sometimes. I’ve been so overwhelmed with processing stuff from the Dominican, yet God continually shows me his steadfast faithfulness. He shows me who he is again and again and again in answering my prayers and continually blessing me. With all the instability in my life, I’ve learned that He is my rock. He is my anchor in the storm.

Sometimes we go through rough times in life. Sometimes we feel like we’re drowning and fighting to stay afloat in the storm. Sometimes we need people and can’t give much in return. And that’s okay. All I have to say is keep fighting. Keep your head up. It’s okay to be vulnerable. Others have been there too. It’s okay to ask for help. That’s what I’m learning. Friendships that glorify Christ are give and take. My value is not found in how much I can give, but the fact that as a Christian, I am a part of Christ’s family. That’s what I’m holding onto. The earth was never meant to be my home. So, I feel a little lost and life feels a little foreign, but you know what my consolation is? My citizenship is in Heaven. We were never meant to feel 100% at home here because this isn’t our eternal destination. We have hope in a future with no suffering.

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Wandering

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I’m currently transitioning between two totally opposite cultures and it’s hard. There are positives and negatives to both cultures, but they are very very different from each other.

It’s funny cause I still find myself trying to control things and the Lord just being like-do you trust me?

I wrote in an earlier blog about how I was learning to trust God. –

“He created me. Doesn’t that make him worthy and capable to fulfill my needs? To be my friend when I’m lonely?”

But the funny thing is, I never felt that lonely in the Dominican. God gave me people that became family to me. It’s actually been the transition back that I have felt alone in. Disconnected to everything here in America and back in the Dominican. It’s like my minds trying to decide where I’m going/ where I’m headed/ where is my home? What is my purpose here? The foreignness makes me feel lost in my own culture. I’m in this awkward middle ground that I honestly don’t understand. Everything still feels weird. I get frustrated easily with people around me and the excessiveness and high maintenance requests that some have. Sometimes I pridefully think to myself – ‘oh wow you could never live in the Dominican.’ As if I was perfect and not excessive before I went. As if I am not guilty of the exact same thing even now. Maybe not anymore, not to the extent I was prior to the Dominican. It really has changed me.

Everything feels foreign. Things that use to feel normal, that I expected to feel normal feel weird in a way that’s hard to put into words. I knew it would feel weird coming back. I lived there for 10 weeks. Life there became my new normal. But I never expected being “home” to feel this foreign. Sleeping in my bed at home feels weird, the quietness is weird. It made it hard to sleep at first. Hanging out with my family is weird. Even being with my friends is hard sometimes. I miss the community I had in the Dominican.

I don’t know what to do with all I learned. Honestly I don’t even know what all I learned. I’ve never gone through so much and seen so many things and met so many people in a span of 10 weeks before. It’s like I just had a life time of experiences packed into that 10 weeks and how do I process that in just a couple days? Weeks even? I’ll probably be processing that for the rest of my life.

I came home so drained in every way, and I still feel that way. More needy then I’ve ever felt in my life. I just feel like I have nothing to give. Like I’m so poured out that I need to recharge. I’m not sure what that looks like as I continue to remember to depend on Him through it all. I’ve never been so spent in my life.

One thing one of my camp leaders used to say is to be spent for the Kingdom. And that’s how I feel. Completely and utterly 100% spent and it kind of feels terrible. Like I gave and gave and gave and I have nothing left to give. Maybe I didn’t depend on God as much as I should have? He definitely sustained me but I have scars from this summer. I came home dehydrated and malnourished (it was difficult being GF in the Dominican) and exhausted in every way shape and form. I came home with a lot of anxiety and a continual feeling of burden in attempting to process it all and re-adapt to the fast-paced and overly materialistic American culture.

The more I connect here, the more I long for the relationships I had in the Dominican.

Honeymoon phase

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I like to think there’s a honeymoon phase in every big commitment or adventure. There’s the nerves and adrenaline that come prior, but as you take that leap into a new adventure there’s this excitement and naivety. It’s like this huge blank canvas that you’re starting to write. It’s a clean slate and it’s (somewhat) easy to start.

Being in the Dominican the first two days didn’t feel real. It was all so foreign to me that I felt like I was going to wake back up in my air conditioned room at home. I kind of think it was my body’s way of taking it in – not letting me realize that this is what the next 10 weeks would look like. At least until I was ready to accept it.

It was a short “honeymoon phase,” but the first couple days I looked around like – how cool I get to do this! The other interns are awesome! This is gonna be my best summer yet! And while those are all still thoughts I have, I’m also coming to the point I’m realizing it’s going to be hard. I always knew that, but now I’m experiencing it.

I miss home. Not necessarily my house, but I miss the people in my life at home. My family, my roommates, my friends… I miss being known. I don’t think your past defines you, but your past helps define who you’ve become. There’s other random things I miss too: Chick-fil-a, driving my car, easy access to anything I need (aka target), air conditioning…

I know that it will get better as this becomes my relative home for the summer, and I really am so incredibly excited to see how the Lord will work here this summer. What an amazing opportunity to get to live in the Dominican for a summer and be able to evangelize and build chapels and most of all get to know the people here!

The “honeymoon phase” is ending. I’m starting to realize that this is a really big blank canvas I’m writing on. It’s not just a short-term, mini trip. It’s gonna take determination and grit and most of all Jesus to joyfully serve these next 10 weeks. It’s when things are hard that we allow the Lord to work through us. It’s in our discomfort that we truly learn and grow. I can’t wait to see what He will do here.

Do you trust me?

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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.