But I Said I’d Go Anywhere.

Way back when, I told Jesus that I’d go anywhere He wanted to send me. I’d be obedient to anything He told me to do. I’d hold nothing back.

And in classic Maddie fashion (is this just me, y’all?), I had a sort of idea about what that would mean. The sentiment to go anywhere was genuine, but my imagination and affinity for biographies won over my expectations. I was ready for “anywhere” to mean the 10/40 window, somewhere without running water and that I’d have to wear a head covering. Honestly, I’m still ready for it to mean that.

I was not ready for “anywhere” to mean Europe.

If I’m brutally honest, I didn’t want it to mean Europe. When I returned from my vision trip to Turkey, the Lord was quick to highlight Europe and I was as quick to shut it down. Decades of prayer leading up to these practical, “rubber meets the road” moments of my future and calling, and I found myself arguing with the Lord over the specifics. Excuse me Jesus, I said anywhere. Going from first-world to first-world on mission wasn’t what I had in mind.

Note: what I had in mind. Per usual, Jesus has different, and infinitely more incredible, plans.

Maybe you don’t get my hesitance. You’re pumped about what God’s doing in Europe; it makes perfect sense that He’d call me there. You’d love to partner with me, and really, with Jesus, in this.

If that’s you, thank you. The response of your heart amazes me.

That wasn’t mine. And for as much as the Lord has spoken about His heart for Europe and His Kingdom strategies in sending people there, I’d be lying if I said that the questions don’t still creep in. He’s graciously and patiently undoing years of preconceived ideas about missions, effective ministry, and serving the Lord.

When I was first introduced to the concept of missions, I met missionaries serving in Europe and the Western world. I loved what they were doing and got excited about God’s movement when they told stories, but I still held a subconscious notion that it was the missionaries working in the 10/40 window who were doing the hardcore work. I never would have said it (because, I like to think, who am I to judge what God is doing in other people’s lives), but I had this idea that those who were willing to go anywhere were sent to the cool places, the gritty places in Asia, the Middle East, and Africa. You must not be as hardcore or obedient if God calls you to the minority world. If you get sent to Western Europe. 

There are so many reasons it’s strategic and practical. But even more than the things that make sense about ministry in Europe, God has been abundantly clear about His hand in highlighting and leading me there. Or at the very least, undoing my preconceived and prideful notions about His heart and work there. I’ll go into more detail when there are more concrete answers, which lends to more specifics on why and how. I’m just giving you the precursor to that.

Consider this permission to question how it makes sense for me (or anyone else) to be “called” to a place that traditionally missionaries have been sent from. The kinds of questions I never really felt free to entertain.

This summer, I wrestled with the Lord over this for weeks, afraid to ask Him for His heart for Europe because, deep down, I knew He’d give it to me. And I didn’t want to be called to Europe. We’ve done a 180 since then, but it was weeks of His tender, but firm, guidance and opening my eyes to how much of His Kingdom and plans I don’t get. So know that when I tell you, with all humility and open palms (aka if Jesus does a sharp-right-turn redirect, we won’t be shocked), that the Lord is opening both practical and emotional doors to Western Europe, I’m also giving you permission to have questions. I’ve spent months wrestling with the Lord through mine.

These are not “the hardest questions that missionaries get asked.” These were my questions to Jesus this summer. They come from the deep, often ugly, childish, or confused places of my heart. Way back when, I had these sorts of questions, buried deep down, and it never felt right to honestly ask them. Maybe if I had, there wouldn’t have been so much arguing with Jesus this summer. You don’t have to feel rude or like you’re being judgmental, because I’m going to voice them for you.

And if you’re past the questions, thank you for being one step ahead in the journey.

Lance and Heather, Hillary and Sol, Becca, Kristin, Dr. Pierson, Phillip and Stephanie, the women at Velvet Ashes, Kathy and Peter, Lane, and many more – It is your faith, your stories, and your prayers that have literally carried my heart to a place of more complete obedience. I’m eternally grateful for y’all and your heart for all the nations.

1.) Questions about the surety of “my call,” rooted in the idea that there’s no way that I’m actually hearing God fully – I’ve deluded myself, for some reason or another.

You’re just afraid. You said you’ll go anywhere, but deep down that terrifies you. Western Europe feels safer and you’ve convinced yourself that it’s God because of your own fears.

You’re right to assume that I’m scared. I’ve differentiated the posture of my heart between being afraid and being scared. Being afraid means that I’m living into a debilitating sort of fear, the kind that would causes me to to doubt God and His goodness. I’m not afraid. But I sure am scared, and I’m scared because I’m human. Yes, the idea of moving overseas by myself scares me. The prospect of making all new friends, of starting my life over in an unfamiliar place with unfamiliar customs scares me. All the logistics involved in the process scare me. The thing about being scared, that makes it different than fear, is that it can live in tandem with excitement and obedience. None of those things feel like a weight that would keep me from getting on the airplane; they just feel like being human. I’m not invincible and I’m not omniscient and therefore, things scare me. And the things that scare me? They’re as true for moving to Western Europe as they are for moving to Turkey, Uganda, South Korea, or Laos. It’s still a different culture and it’s still moving overseas.

This process has been a decade of the Lord doing and undoing things in my heart. I might not have been able to say two years ago, five years ago, or eight years ago that there aren’t certain fears attached to particular places. Or being single. Or being a woman. Or living among people with a language that I don’t speak. Or any of it. Jesus had not shied away from doing the work where He puts His finger on things and says, “can I have that? What about that? And this too? Are you willing to give me this too?” I groan, we wrestle, and, after awhile, He always wins.  I could point you to specific points in time, reference nuanced journal entries, where the Lord brought things up and we dealt with them.

If you’re calling me out for being scared, I won’t argue with you. You’re right. Call me crazy or normal or human, but it’s true – there are parts of this process and the reality of the unknown that feel scary. But if you think I’m afraid and am basing my obedience on that fear? I’d be open to that wise counsel if it was coming in the context of mentorship and deep relationship, because believe me when I say I know I don’t have it all figured out. But with all honesty, I can say that it is not fear that is guiding my decision or my prayers; if anything it’s the kind of foolishness and faith that Paul says is a mark of following Jesus.

 

You’re in it for comfort. There’s no way that you’re genuinely called to the place your family vacationed this summer. You’ve convinced yourself that it’s God just because you want to live somewhere you’ll have running water and a nice bed.

The best way to answer this question is to be straightforward and honest about the part of it that is true: there are some physical realities that are much easier in Europe, particularly Western Europe, than in other parts of the world. Running water, electricity that doesn’t cut out, and access to grocery stores are a few simple life realities that missionaries often struggle to adjust to in developing countries; you don’t have those challenges in developed countries. But that doesn’t mean that life, or more specifically, ministry, in developed countries is easy. Stigmatized Christianity, closed cultural attitudes towards relationships, and independent attitudes makes adjusting to specific places in Europe difficult in their own way.

Along that same line, it’s also helpful to clarify the kind of life I’m committed to living, both currently and on the field. Just because the overall culture may live in wealth and comfort doesn’t mean that will be true for me (or other missionaries, for that matter). Living like Christ means living generously, simply, and radically close to the marginalized. This means things like living in the same apartment complex as refugees, driving a used car or taking public transportation, and shopping second-hand. In places where the exchange rate is higher, support money doesn’t go as far. That requires budgeting, trusting, and a faithful frugality in stewardship.

To be transparent about the process, part of my conversations with the Lord and my mentors also included looking at the practical realities of my situation: I’m aware that I will be a young, single, white, privileged, recent college-grad. A place of difference that touches on every area of life – new dress, language, cooking, sleeping arrangements, lack of running water, no electricity, etc – would feel jarring. Obedience may mean foolishness for the sake of the Gospel but it doesn’t mean stupidity. I don’t want to find myself burned out after two years because I needed, in my own strength, to go to “the hardest place” I could think of. There’s going to be culture shock wherever I go, but if the goal is long term sustenance on the mission field, there’s a way (and people who’ve gone before know this) to do that transition well.

I genuinely believe the grace of the Lord is sufficient and that He will sustain me wherever He sends (both now and in the future). In my heart, I am genuinely ready to give up every comfort that I’ve grown accustomed to in my twenty-something years of life. Jesus knows better what my embodied personhood actually can and can’t handle (and for how long), and, to use an education term, scaffold me into deeper places of discomfort.

 

2.) Questions about the effectiveness of missions in Europe or strategic advancement of the Gospel in the nations.

But the unreached need it more. It’s not that the people of Europe don’t need the Gospel, it’s that the unreached people have never heard it. There are workers in Europe – there aren’t in other places of the world. How can God be calling you to people who have access to the Gospel and not to those who don’t?

The short answer to this is yes, people should be going to the unreached places of the world – but there’s a lot of complexity in that. First, in many of these unreached places, Westerners can’t even get in. And if people do cross the border, they often aren’t free to share the Gospel; their lives become a dance on eggshells, wondering who they can trust and doing the difficult work of contextualizing the Gospel in an unfamiliar place. I think that’s why, the more I study missional movements and read testimonies of the Lord’s work in unreached places, the more I’m noticing how often it comes from nationals. And in a lot of places, like South America, Africa, and places in Asia – they’re already doing it. There’s something to be said for the empowerment of locals, particularly in developing countries, in pioneering their own ministries. Let them be the ones to share the Gospel – they know the language, the culture, the nuances. Trust is present by nature of who they are. That’s not to say Western missionaries don’t have a part to play – it just often looks a little less glamorous than we may like. It’s often a background part, of support through resources, prayer, and short-term trips in the context of long-term relationships.

This is part of what makes Europe, particularly Western Europe, so strategic. The recent refugee crisis has people coming by the millions from unreached, creative access places. People who you could never share the Gospel with on the streets of their hometown are now living in places where you can. And the recent political and international climate has a lot of them open to it. It’s created new opportunities to walk with the marginalized and do life with people. And there are incredible practical, felt needs – for things like English teachers. I’ll be working with people from these unreached areas in a setting where they are more open, the government is less restrictive, and I have more freedom to build mutual relationships.

However, I want to be careful about minimizing the fact that it’s still Europe. It feels too trite to claim that I’m trading one way of working with the 10/40 window to another; I don’t want to make it seem like I view them the same way, because I don’t. Going to Syria is different than working with Syrian refugees in Europe. Because even if my “primary calling” to Europe is to work with refugees, that won’t happen in a vacuum. Having a heart for the nationals in Europe is important because they need the Gospel too. And in their post-Christian culture, most of them have never heard it. They need invested relationship, discipleship, and the Holy Spirit too.

Christianity is in decline in Europe and even though it’s still considered the major religion of the continent, most of it is an ancestral identity. State churches and cultural legacies can lead to the mindset that to be European is to be “Christian.” Secularism and Islam are both thriving. In many European countries, a vibrant life in Christ, rooted in the love of Jesus and active in the Holy Spirit, is all but non-existent. Working with my middle and highschool students has also highlighted that I’d love to do youth ministry with students who haven’t grown up in church and don’t know the Gospel.

To read more on global Christianity and Christianity in Europe, see European Christianity’s Failure to Thrive, Christianity is Shifting DramaticallyRestrictions on Religion, and an Interactive Map on Global Christianity. And beyond the statistics, listen to some of the stories of the people who’ve lived and worked in places like Germany, France, Sweden, and Scotland; believe me when I say they need the Gospel too.

 

But there are refugees in America. If you want to work with refugees, you can do that in America. It’s a lot of work and resources to move overseas, especially when there are similar needs in the States.

I know it’s a lot of work to move overseas. And I love working with refugees in the States; I’ve built a lot of connections working with refugees in the States. I wouldn’t be pursuing this if I wasn’t sure it was the Lord. Like I said before, while the “primary” motivation may be to work with resettling refugees overseas, there is also a motivation to work with the nationals. It’s not a matter of numbers, it’s a matter of obedience. Jesus is on the move everywhere, including in America; the U.S. needs more people working for transformation and caring for refugees and immigrants (if you want to get more involved, let me know!). But so do other countries. There’s a couple reasons, beyond obedience, why working with resettling refugees overseas makes sense.

First, it gives the grounds for a different sort of relationship. To teach people English in a place that is also not my home means that I’m offering a practical skill while also being a fellow sojourner. I need their community and fellowship as much as they need mine. A different level of trust and vulnerability can be established on the basis that I’m figuring out a new culture too. Because of the location of Europe, working overseas also enables easier (and cheaper) access to working in other places that need more short-term or establishment type work, like in a refugee camp. It may not be sustainable or appropriate to relocate to some of these places, but the ability to set up a short, cheaper flight to help set up something like an intensive summer English program makes the location of Europe strategic. It’s also more connected to the heart of refugee resettlement, like the UNHCR headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland or the receiving base for Syrian refugees in Lesbos, Greece.

 

Don’t let the conversation stop here. If you want some outside resources on this topic, here are some good ones: TEAM: Does Europe Need Missionaries, World Venture: 9 Misconceptions About Being a Missionary in Europe, 10 Reasons Not to Become a Missionary.

When Jesus Speaks

It’s no secret that I’ve done a lot of prayer these past few weeks regarding where the Lord is leading me. Specific, bold, expectant prayers for clarity and provision. There’s been a lot of asking, listening, and keeping an awareness of His voice throughout the day. What country. What people group. What city. What timeline. What organization. What are you doing, Jesus?

Sometimes, I slip into a mindset that says the more others-focused my quiet time is, the holier it is.

Intercession has a place and a critical one at that. It deserves more energy and attention than we often give it. I need to spend time everyday praying for specifics and going before the Throne of Grace on behalf of others.

BUT, that is not the point of my intimate time with Jesus. I go to Jesus to just be with Him, not for the sake of getting answers about my life. The idea isn’t to walk away with some revelation about what He’s calling me to or where I’m going (although, that’s often a part of it). It’s not to figure things out for someone else. It is literally to just be with the God of the universe and savior of my soul. To read His Word, to worship Him, and to hear His voice.

I go before the Father to hear what He thinks about me, because my soul needs to be reminded who I am and who He is.

May the magnificence and the humility of that not be lost on us! That we get to approach the Maker and Sustainer of the world with boldness and in our brokenness because He wants to be near us. He chose and chooses still to be near us. Over and over again in Scripture, even with the separation between God and the people in the Old Testament, we see Him drawing near to His people. His judges, kings, and prophets speak words about the compassion of God again and again.

Don’t forget: He cares way more about His will and His glory than you do. He’s not going to withhold specific answers or prayers that will disrupt His glory (as if that was possible). It’s okay for your time with Jesus to be selfish, in the sense that you sit with Him to hear His heart for you. It is from that place, of knowing our belovedness, that we become generous in giving, convicted in sin, abounding in service, overflowing with grace, and aware of His work in the lives of others. It doesn’t replace intercession, it needs to be what it flows from.

We hear our God telling us, not in a trite, cliché sort of way, just how much He love us and is for us. And we are, in turn, able to worship more fully the God who loves us enough to walk among us, to indwell us with His spirit, and to sing His faithfulness over us!

The other night, He was clear, in the classic “gracious but firm” sort of God-way, that my orientation and questions have been a little off in my recent moments alone with Him:

You hear me clearest when you hear me saying I want to be with you. I delight in you! I love you. I love being near you. I love watching you draw near to me. You move my heart. I see you – I redeem you! And I take delight in that. You ask to hear me for clarity and you will; you do. But clarity on the specific things you ask comes in a moment. My love for you is everlasting. Knowing what country I’m sending you to is one thing, but knowing just how deeply I take delight in you is another. That’s what you need to hear. It’s what Israel needed to hear. Over and over and over and over – I’m never going to stop reminding you, never going to stop singing it over you because there will never be a time it won’t be true. There will never be a time where you won’t need to hear it. I want to make you glorious! I want to make deserts into gardens more beautiful than you’ve ever seen. I have compassion, such compassion. I have more mercy, grace, and justice than you could ever even comprehend. My plans are good, my hand is strong, and I do not fail. I am your God, I am here, and you are mine. As a treasure, as my beloved, as my delight! Feel my heart for you, read about my heart for you, hear my heart for you, because it overflows and it will never stop. Know, deeply and daily, that I love you.

Let us not forget – our holy, holy, holy God, the Almighty on the throne, not only allows but delights in our approaching Him. For love, for compassion, for grace. Ask Him what He’s doing, ask Him for specifics, but don’t forget or be afraid to listen to His heart for you. Ask Him what He thinks of you. And sit in His presence, letting Jesus speak words of love and delight over you. Open the Scriptures, notice the Holy Spirit. Let Him love you with His everlasting love.

Because when Jesus speaks, things change. Because when Jesus speaks, people are seen. Because when Jesus speaks, His sheep know it. Because when Jesus speaks, it is good. Because when Jesus speaks . . . there is love.

Don’t be Like Usain Bolt, Be like Jesus.

The realities of how our world, and more specifically our American culture, is structured are such that the demands are never ending. What concerns me in this? The church has structured herself in the same sort of way.

It’s not uncommon to have a pastor who is planting a church, while sitting on the city council board, leading local outreaches, is working on his PhD, and raising half-a-dozen kids. It is not just one missionary who feels the pressures of both her local context and her supporters, trying to meet all the needs around her by working from sunup to sundown, babysitting kids, leading worship, discipling women, running English camps, working at homeless shelters, and doing street evangelism, only to come home and answer emails after dark. It is not just one person, one family who has left ministry, the mission field, or whatever it is they were doing because they found themselves tired, overwhelmed, burned out, and disillusioned.

The needs were great and at some point, the exhaustion becomes greater. I’m worried that the people of God are going to run themselves into the ground if we keep up this Usain-Bolt-type-pace.

We may not be sensitive to the biological and physiological issues caused by overworking (which in and of itself is concerning), but I find myself confused that we don’t seem overly concerned with Jesus’ model for it either. If we’re supposed to be “imitators of God” (John 13:13-16, 1 Corinthians 11:1, Ephesians 5:1-2, 1 Peter 2:20-22, 1 John 2:6), shouldn’t the primary basis for our action, response, and engagement in ministry be that of our Lord?

Even the Gospel of Matthew, which seems focused on thematically emphasizing the works and preaching of Christ (Matthew 9:35-38), still makes space to note the significance of solitude with the Father. In one chapter alone (14), Matthew mentions twice that Christ went to be alone and even sent people away to go “up into the hills by himself to pray” (14:22). Matthew is also the only Gospel who records Jesus saying the following about life in Him:

“Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy to bear and the burden I give you is light” (11:28-30).

Even the writer who seems predominantly focused on the scope of what Christ is doing finds it necessary to record that He offers rest.

For all of that, Matthew has nothing on Mark and Luke when it comes to recording Jesus’ pace and emphasis on being alone with the Father. Mark’s description about the life and ministry of Jesus includes different details than Matthew, often recording the ways Christ not only pursues rest Himself but often calls out His disciples for neglecting self-care and having an improper orientation. We don’t get a chapter into Mark and we already see the city stirring for the presence of Jesus, the disciples eager to send Him out before the people. Christ’s first response is one of movement away: “We must go on to other towns as well, and I will preach to them too. That is why I came” (1:38).

Another example of this sort of pulling away, even from places of considerable stirring, is in Mark 6. The disciples come back to Jesus, excited about the ministry that they’ve just gone out and done (6:7-12). Yet, Jesus’ response is not one of enthusiasm, planning, or eagerness to send them back out. There seems to be little focus on the needs of the villages. Jesus calls out the apostle’s orientation and need for rest. Honestly, he seems more concerned with the fact that they haven’t eaten:

“’Let’s go off by ourselves to a quiet place and rest awhile.’ He said this because there were so many people coming and going that Jesus and his apostles didn’t even have time to eat” (6:31).

IMG_6360

Are we comfortable with the idea that there are times in Scripture where Jesus moves away from places where we perceive potential fruitful ministry? That there are places where people need Him, need the Holy Spirit, and need healing, and we see Him walking away? This isn’t to say that Jesus ever moves or acts lightly; when He walks away from a city or a crowd, He’s not being neglectful, unloving, or unfaithful. Even in His humanity, He is still God. He knows the will of the Father because He’s making space to hear the Father. We see Christ underscore that in places like John 5:17-23 and John 8:28-29.

A missionary mentor in Asia wrote the following once: “The need is not the call. The call is the call.” A mom to some incredible, adopted children, she has constantly been bombarded with questions of why she closed the doors on taking in more children. After all, if anyone could do it, she could. The Lord could do it. And gosh, look at the need. But that has been exactly her point: We aren’t called to look at the need, we are called to look at Jesus. There’s always need, and until we reach eternity, there is always going to be need.

Our view of maximized efficiency and meeting the most needs aren’t the same as the Lord’s. We don’t see things like He does (Isaiah 55:8-9). The needs of the world orient us towards our calling and the heart of Christ, but if we keep our focus on them then it is no wonder why people don’t last more than two years when serving in ministry. Jesus was acutely aware of every need and we see Him stopping to meet needs when the Spirit, the same Spirit that lives inside of us, compels. He’s not afraid of interruptions. But it is always rooted in rhythms of rest and a nearness to the Father. He’s also not afraid to say “no” and pull away.

If Jesus, as a human, recognized his own needs and limits, where did we get the idea that we’re somehow being holy by ignoring ours?

An orientation towards calling, knowing what God is asking you specifically to do and operating from a place of intimacy with Him, makes it easier to say “no” to everything else, no matter how good or needed it seems. I’m not saying that’s easy or that I’ve figured it all out, but the more I read about the ministry of Christ, the more central it seems to become. Obedience and faithfulness may seem counterintuitive to modern principles of efficiency, but we know that God’s order is very different than ours (1 Corinthians 1:26-29). Knowing that comes from a deep and intimate knowledge of the Father and His voice.

I’m not saying that the needs aren’t important. I’m not saying that Christians should be content with laziness or apathy, or that it’s okay if our hearts don’t break at the places of brokenness in our world. Christians are not allowed to throw their hands up, shrug their shoulders, and live blind to the screams of a dying world. Our hearts should burn, leap, and weep for the world. If anyone modeled that, it’s Jesus. He felt and feels more deeply for the needs of the world and the “lostness” of the people than I ever will. His heart moves with compassion and He often welcomes the interruptions of those who call upon Him (i.e. Matthew 10:36, Matthew 14:14, Matthew 19:2, Mark 3:20, Mark 7:24-25, Luke 8:27,).

Yet, and this is what I’m concerned the church has lost, even in those interruptions, His focus is solely and unashamedly on the Father and what He is being instructed to do. There are an equal number of times where He dismisses the crowd or leaves what seems to be places of potentially fruitful ministry (i.e. Matthew 10:30, Mark 1:36, Mark 3:12, Mark 5:36, Mark 7:17, Mark 8:33, Luke 5:42).

We should pray with a fervency for all the things that are wrong in the world! We should learn to lament places of hurt and pain! We should be giving ourselves passionately and wholeheartedly to the things that God has called us to! But all of that must happen from a rootedness in the Holy Spirit, a dependence on Christ, and an intimacy with the Father. We only cultivate those things by having time and space for them. Give yourself wholeheartedly to what God has called you to do. I’m not you, but based on what I see in the life of Jesus, I find it hard to believe that He’s calling you to a-hundred-and-one-thousand things in this season, especially if it’s at the expense of your primary calling (and the place every other calling flows out of) to love and worship Him.

Christ knew the will of the Father because half of His time was spent listening for it. I see Him operating from a place of refreshment and rhythms of rest, by saying “yes” and “no” based on obedience and faithfulness, rather than the perceived needs around Him. The question for you and I then, is are we?

IMG_6330

 

Summer Updates

To those of you who are praying for me, planning on supporting me, or are just generally nosy, this is for you. I’m here to give you more than just the “my trip was great; it gave me lots of pieces of things to process” answer about what the Lord is doing and how the summer has been. Thank you for your patience in giving me space to do the emotional work of sifting, journaling, and verbalizing all that I needed to before being able to produce an update like this. Also, thank you for letting me do it over writing, because we all know I articulate myself better that way.

I appreciate your patience. I’m grateful for your prayers. And I literally couldn’t do this without your support. I’m going to try and move through this as systematically as possible.

First: I graduated college and moved back home.

DSC_0670

At the beginning of May, I officially checked “get a Bachelors” off my bucket list. While it was somewhat of an overwhelming time, finishing up undergraduate and graduate finals (I started an accelerated masters program in the Fall), saying goodbyes, and packing up a house where ten girls had accumulated stuff, it was also a sweet time of reflection on all the things the Lord did over the past four years. I’m so so grateful for the preparation, the growth, and the friendships that have come out of my time living at Wheaton. I can honestly say that I’m not the same person I was four years ago, for so much the better. It’s been neat (and sometimes strange) to watch my friendships transition into long-distance and to watch my friends move into new stages of life. But honestly, I’ve been ready for this movement for awhile. I started moving in a life outside of Wheaton when I began teaching with World Relief, working for the church, and meeting with sending agencies back in the Fall of 2016. My senior year was a wonderful time of sealing up that season of my life.

Despite the fact that I said I never wanted to move back home, it has been more of a seamless transition than I could have anticipated. It’s been a nice change to come home to open and empty spaces, something that rarely happened in a house full of ten girls. I’ll be living here for the next year while I finish up my masters, saving money on rent, and commuting 45-minutes to school. Part of me sees it as a time to honor my parents and all the sacrifices they’ve made over the past twenty-two years; a time to invest into my familial relationships, especially if I do end up moving overseas. One of my best friends from school will also be living here with me, so I’m pumped about that as well.

Second: we went on a family vacation.

For all the reasons this trip intended to be memorable, it was. The three siblings were reunited for two weeks, and more than that, I got to share a room with my sister and catch up on life. We got to hang out with our cousins and celebrate our grandparents. It was a meaningful time of being together. We’re fifteen years out from the first trip my grandparents took us all on and it was sweet to bring a level of closure to the season of being young, unattached, wide-eyed kids.

This trip was also significant in ways that weren’t the initial intent. This trip, though structured for leisure, was something of a mini-vision trip for me. My “spiritual senses” were heightened, as I moved through places prayerfully, aware of the work of God in them. Before going, I skyped with people working and serving in most of the cities we visited, so my radar was up in terms of where God could be leading me.

In all the years that I’ve prayed about going overseas, Europe never really jumped out on the map. After all, I’ve been willing to go just about anywhere and Europe isn’t the first place people talk about there being need. My heart has been predominately for Middle Eastern people groups. Yet, as I’ve prayed, listened, and processed the past few weeks, there’s definitely something going on when it comes to Europe. I’m not jumping to any conclusions here, but stay tuned.

Third: I “vision tripped” in Turkey.

After some retrospective reflection, these were the four goals my sending coach and I came up with for the trip:

  1. Draw me closer to the Lord and give me an increasing sense of what He’s doing.
  2. Help clarify the kind of work that I want to do/where I feel led to do it/the people groups I feel drawn to do it with.
  3. Answer questions specifically about work in Turkey and more generally about work overseas.
  4. Give me the opportunity to pray for the workers, the ministries, and the people in the city.

This trip far exceeded every one of those expectations. I could not have planned more holistic answers to every one of those questions and prayers if I had tried. It was amazing.

AF9B8BD0-D3C6-41F5-997B-D6F0FF4F409DHowever, if you heard some of my initial talk about the trip and it didn’t seem to match a sense of “fulfilling expectations,” that’s because I came back a little unsure that it had. I was viscerally aware of the “vision trip” nature of the trip, and subconsciously assumed that meant I needed to come back sure of whether or not Turkey would be right long-term. I was hoping it would be the more encouraging of the two options; how fun is it to talk about a vision trip that clarified where you’re not supposed to be?

I’m not saying that I’m never going back to Turkey or that it’ll never be “right.” I’m also not making plans right now to move over there in a year. I’m still discerning, still putting pieces together. And that’s where this vision comes up strong – it has given me more pieces, more deposits of the Lord than I even realized I needed. There is a practical side to “discerning the will of the Lord,” as well as a spiritual one. It’s been amazing to watch the Lord walk me through both.

Also, the trip was just generally really amazing. I’m summarizing a week of watching the Lord do really incredible things into a paragraph on discernment.

Fourth: I’m starting my year as a full-time M.A. student

As we head into August, I’ll be finishing up the program I started as an undergrad, graduating in May with my M.A. in TESOL/Intercultural Studies. During the year I’ll be continuing tutoring and teaching refugees through World Relief and working as the youth director for middle school/highschool ministries at my church. I’m also looking into another part-time teaching opportunity, working with kids from Chicago’s inner city.

The focus of the year, besides studying hard and finishing up the degree that makes me crazy excited, is preparation. The Lord is clearly moving and opening doors, I’m doing my best to be faithful in walking through them. I’ll spend the year, particularly the next few weeks/months, continuing to talk with agencies, skyping with more cross-cultural workers, filling out applications, and praying hard into all that God’s doing. It’s the year where the rubber will meet the road on things that I’ve been praying into for a decade.

I’m not here to presume on how it’s all going to look in six months, a year, or four years. If there’s one mantra that I’m comfortable living by it’s: “His glory is His prerogative.” I’m just here to love and serve the Lord, however He sees fit to best work that out is up to Him.

And I’d love for you to join me.

If you’re partnering with me in prayer, here’s a few points to guide you (but, as always, feel free to pray into whatever the Spirit leads):

  1. Processed with VSCO with t1 presetPray for my time with the Lord. It’s been incredibly sweet and deep to just be with Him and hear all the things He’s speaking. Pray that I would continue to prioritize my time with Him and that my ears, eyes, and heart are opened to all He’s saying and doing.
  2. Pray for my awareness of the Holy Spirit. Something the Lord has been highlighting is my need to cultivate an even deeper awareness of the Holy Spirit and dependance on His power. Pray that I would be increasingly filled with the Holy Spirit and would live my life from that place!
  3. Pray for my leadership of my youth kids. I love these students so much! There are six students moving up, which is a lot for a small group with one leader! Pray that I would be sensitive to their needs and that they would grow to love one another and the Lord in deeper ways!
  4. Pray for continued discernment and provision, in regards to the future. There are so many things that need to fall into places, things I can’t control, for me to ever end up overseas. Pray for God’s will to be done, for my faith to be stirred, and for His glory to be magnified!

How to Navigate Transition

I just fell down the stairs. I was walking downstairs to make a cup of coffee, my drug of choice for writing a month’s worth of Sunday School lessons, and I slipped. It’s been awhile since that happened and I forgot just how terrible it is. I slid my way down half the staircase until… Read more. . .

Impatience.

This impatient heart inside me yearning for answers . . . to know unsatisfied with in-between, spiteful of my need to grow. • • • The heart within me groans – how I hate the call of waiting! how I hate all that’s unknown! • • • He tells me His work is slow, His… Read more. . .

Top Eight Lessons from the Past Four Years

When I started this crazy college journey, I wrote a post with my top ten lessons from the first two weeks. In it, I share, with the honesty of an eighteen-year-old, some of the things that I hadn’t realized would be so prevalent in my transition away from home and into autonomy. Some of them… Read more. . .

Stuck in Montreal

I’m currently avoiding two research papers, so I thought I’d engage in some good, old fashioned procrastination and tell a story. A couple weeks ago, I told you a little about what the Lord was doing in my heart over our Spring Break adventure to Europe. This is one of many stories from that trip. It’s not… Read more. . .

Abba

As a Christian Education and Ministry major (the best decision of sophomore year), I have the privilege of going to department chapel in the Billy Graham Center museum. We meet in the rotunda, a dimly lit circle where we congregate to worship, pray, and listen to a 30-minute message, tailored to us as CE students. It’s… Read more. . .

Definitely Talking About Me

I’ve been reading through the Bible over the past few months, but during the past week of spring break, I took a little hiatus. Galavanting across Europe and changing hostels every night made it hard to find moments alone with the Lord, much less in a state where I was awake enough to pay attention… Read more. . .