Category Archives: Cross-Cultural Updates

Open Palms and Applications

Trust is not a new topic for my thoughts, my prayer life, nor for this blog. Here are some of the things that I’ve learned and written about trusting Jesus over the past five years and a little update about where we are now:

In 2013, I wrote about what it looked like to trust the Lord in moving to Wheaton.

1.) Trust is harder when you feel the need to prove yourself. Control is a natural feeling when situations seem to necessitate changing other people’s perceptions. I’m young, I’m single, I’m currently living at home while I finish up my M.A. – it can feel like all eyes are on me when it comes to my future. What is she going to do next; how is she planning for it? When the goal is less “pleasing God” and more “appeasing  man” (Galatians 1:10), it becomes a lot harder to step into crazy places of trust. Because, as might be self-explanatory, it can make you look a little crazy.

2.) Trust is synonymous with peace; it’s not synonymous with comfortable. There is tension, impatience, and anxiety when I’m trying to figure things out in my own strength. Manipulating variables so that I feel like I have a handle on something usually means I spend most of my energy trying to keep my handle on it. When I’ve submitted something to the Lord and am walking in what I know to be His will, there’s an inhuman level of peace and security. It’s the kind that surpasses understanding (Philippians 4:7), because you feel it permeate everything even when the variables don’t make sense. He offers peace and it’s amazing. But peace doesn’t mean it ever really feels comfortable. It’s imbedded in my human nature to want to be in control of things. Just because I’m feeling divine peace doesn’t mean that I’m ever like, “wow, it feels so natural, comfortable, and easy to give up everything that makes conventional sense so that I can trust Jesus and watch Him show up!” Feels good, exciting, and full of security in who He is – but it’s rarely comfortable.

3.) Sometimes, trust is less about the emotion and more about the action. If God says to do something, I wouldn’t second guess it, regardless of how much sense it makes. Scripture is full of stories of those kind of commands. My life is full of those kind of commands. Chances are, if it’s something that brings Him glory, and is something you wouldn’t choose or didn’t bring about, you can probably trust it. What’s more, if you’ve prayed, fasted, been honest about your humanity in it, and sought wise counsel (remember 1 Corinthians 1:27 here), and the consensus is that it’s right, I wouldn’t hesitate. This may mean giving away the money, signing up, buying the ticket, getting in line, or getting rid of most of your army (a la Gideon in Judges 7). You’re heart still may be wrestling, the doubts may still creep up, and the discomfort may feel debilitating at times, but sometimes, you’ve gotta force the step and pray for faith as your wait. Believing with unbelief is not an unfamiliar concept to our Lord (see Mark 9:23-25). Thankfully.

In 2014, trusting God was less of concept that I was trying to wrap my head around and more of a gracious, nudging, reassuring command of the Lord.

4.) Trusting God starts with the small things. How am I supposed to believe God for miraculous provision or impossible actions if I’m not believing that He will sustain me today? You can pray for God’s glory and for miracles and you can want Him to show up all day long, but if you aren’t willing to give Him the little places of dependance this hour, your soul is going to struggle when trusting Him means turning everything on it’s head. You’ll struggle when trusting makes you look really crazy. Have faith that God sees everything, including your emotions, your frustrations, and your confusion. If you don’t see Him as big enough for your daily slough, then your conception of Him is still too small. I’m grateful for all the crushes, tough classes, and “small” prayers that had me clinging to the Lord; every time I believed Him and He proved Himself faithful, my heart gained that much more resolve in trusting Him with all my finances, healing for my body, and open doors for my future.

5.) Trust is strengthened when we look back. Journaling may not be your forte, but I highly suggest writing your prayers, your stories, and the works of God in your life – big and small – down. Or speak them into your iPhone voice memos. Set up rocks in your bedroom. It doesn’t matter, just find some way to keep an account. When you see His faithfulness in the details, when you see pieces of the story that connect in ways you missed in the moment, it becomes easier to trust that He is who He says He is and that He knows what He’s doing. Help your heart out here. Not only that, but it makes it easier to tell the stories and give the Lord glory when you have a way of looking back on what you believed Him for and how He showed up. You can’t tell the stories of how the Lord has shown up if you don’t remember them.

 

2015 had me smack-dab in the middle of the trusting God, confused and frustrated by things that didn’t seem to be working out or lining up, and using truths from my past to propel my faith.

6.) Trust rarely makes sense in the moment. It feels uncomfortable. It’s often not what we want or had anticipated, both on the front-end and the back-end. Trusting God doesn’t mean we ask for want we want and then open our hands to receive; we ask Him what He wants, open our hands in submission, and then act, pray, and live accordingly. And the things that He gives us are usually not the things where we go, “this is exactly what I thought, happened exactly the way I anticipated, and is exactly what I wanted to do!” From what I can see, that’s not typically the reaction when God says He’s going to light wet wood on fire (1 Kings 18) or asks you to march around a city for a week (Joshua 6). If it makes sense to my rational mind, it’s probably in my control, which means that it’s more about me than it is about the glory of the Lord. When it feels a little crazy and like it doesn’t totally make sense, that’s when I know I’m probably on the right track. That doesn’t mean that we’re rash, unthoughtful, or idiotic; quite the opposite, in fact. The things of God should demand more thoughtfulness, prayer, care, and processing. Just because we step into them with care and intentionality doesn’t mean that they likely make logical sense. Jesus gets the glory in things that are impossible or strange for our humanity; it makes sense that those are also the things that tend to raise an eyebrow.

A big year for my trust in the Lord, the health issues, life changes, and future plans of 2016 deepened my trust in ways that I hadn’t anticipated.

7.) Trusting God means confidently believing that He can . . .We need to have a bigger view of God than we often do. To use some good, adjectival conditionals: He’s stronger, more loving, more faithful, more powerful, bigger, better, and greater than we dare to imagine. The response that people have in Scripture to those who doubt or question the craziness of their trust is always, “who should speak against, stand against, or hold back the armies of the living God?” (1 Samuel 17:26). How can I not be all in with my God when I know who He is? As Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego say, not only do we believe that He able to do it, but that He will (Daniel 3:17). A little future imperative to demonstrate just how resolved they are in the belief that God not only has the abilities but the trustworthy characteristics that define His actions. We should have that same confidence.

8.) . . . but also believing so fully in His sovereignty that you are okay with “He may not.” If our “trust” is contingent on a certain outcome, it’s not real trust. That is just us believing for something that we want. Our view of God should be big enough that it leads us to believe Him for impossible things, but it also has to be big enough that we believe any outcome means that His sovereignty is still in control. It doesn’t mean we have to love all the different outcomes equally, but they should not affect our trust. As soon as we put our hope in the expectation of the thing itself, we’ve missed the point. In that, we run the risk of having a disappointed or offended heart. The end result of trust CANNOT be the object of the trust, it has to be Jesus. If all we ever gain in this life is Jesus, that is more than enough. And if our “trust” leads us to be disappointed, disillusioned, hurt by, or offended with Jesus, then it somewhere along the line we lost real trust. Ultimately, we don’t get the healing, the home, the open door, the family, the city, the situation, or the resolution, we get more of Christ.

9.) Trust comes from intimacy. That is why trust has to come from a nearness to the Lord. First, we only know the heart of God and what He’s leading us into by being near to Him. That means investing time, emotion, and energy into the relationship – like with any human relationship. What is Jesus asking you to do? Don’t ask me; ask Him. Ask Him to speak. Sit and listen, without any pretense. Soak yourself in Scripture. Learn what it means to be intimate with our incarnate God. Experience the nearness of God with others, in community. Second, if the real prize of trust is gaining Jesus, that’s going to feel pretty lame if you haven’t experienced the life-changing, radical, consuming love of the Lord. If you don’t quite get how Paul can say that everything is a loss compared to the infinite value, the surpassing worth, the excellency of knowing Jesus (Philippians 3:8), then let your journey with trust start there.

And here we are, nearing the end of 2017 . . .

I’ve submitted an application that pretty much every current plan for my future is dependent on. I’m walking forward in things that aren’t, by any human terms, for sure. I’m doing things, talking about things, and praying for things in a way that is a little crazy. The rubber finally meeting the road on some of the biggest places of trust in my life. And I’m all in with trust. I’ve stepped off the ledge and it’s up to Jesus. I’m not betting on any human process here; I’m betting on Him.

When it comes to believing my God, I’m all in.

I know, it’s crazy. It’s always crazy. And believe me when I say it’s not always comfortable. I’m not under any illusion that everyone understands. But if God is who I believe Him to be, that means He either gets everything or nothing. So, He gets everything.

And time and time again, He’s proven that He’s worthy of that.

More than that.

Here’s how it goes: He asks me to keep my palms open. To let Him work. To step out of the way, give up my control, so that He can get the glory. He, graciously, slowly, and methodically places things in them. His dreams, hopes, things to believe Him for.

The hardest part for me isn’t opening my hands in the first place or getting okay with whatever Jesus puts in them.

It’s keeping them open when He fills them.

When something is in our hand, our biological reflex causes us to want to clench our fist. We want to grasp onto, wrap our fingers around whatever our palms feel. As soon as I do that, I take the glory away from Jesus, I throw away my trust, and I try and manipulate His plans into something I can control.

It’s easy to trust when my palms are open and empty. It’s a heck of a lot harder when I’m holding something concrete, something He’s given and grown in me, something that I’ve come to love. THAT is when He asks me to trust Him. To hold the things in my hand with steadfast, unwavering faith. To believe that He can. And to keep my palms open, so that He can give and take away as His sovereignty demands.

To be unoffended with the outcome.

To gain Jesus.

This is what I’m learning about trust nowadays.

10.) Trust really has very little to do with us. If you think that trusting God is solely about His faithfulness to you or your role in it, you’re probably missing the point. Our God is faithful just because He is. It is, very simply, who He is. And chances are, the things that we are trusting Him for reflect more than His faithfulness to just us. Remember, His vision and glory are for the nations, the marginalized, and the grand narrative of humanity. It’s less about your ability to hear him, to pray steadfastly, to fast continuously, or even how well you live into the other nine parts of what it means to trust the Lord, and more about who He is. Because, ultimately, it’s not about you. A small part of it may be, because, in His infinite love and mercy, the God of the universes chooses us and cares for us. He demonstrates His faithfulness to us because He’s not just a God of the macro things but delights in the details of who we are. But we’re kidding ourselves if we think that we, in some twisted and subconscious way, are in control because of our trust in God. We’re not. He is. Which means all of it has very, very little to do with us, and everything to do with who He is.

That’s the story. And He’s the only one who gets the glory in it.

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.

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.

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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!