Tag Archives: overwhelmed

when do you become a cross-cultural worker?

Does it happen when you actually set foot in your new town or country? Is it when you raise support or when a missions agency agrees to take you on? Perhaps it is when you agree to live sacrificially and people associate your love for the Lord with what you do? Or does it happen when you make up your mind and resolve in your heart, that no matter the cost, you’ll follow the Lord wherever He leads, regardless of where that is or what it may look like?

I’ve felt “called” (whatever that even means) to ministry since I was little. While there were little dreams interspersed between my childhood, including becoming a cruise dancer or an actress, my journals and memories are full of “all I want to do is love Jesus and His people forever!” kind of remarks. I didn’t realize that might mean overseas until years later.

I caught a love for the nations when my grandparents took us on multiple trips overseas, but it wasn’t until my senior year of highschool, when I went to Asia, that I realized there was a deep-seated desire in me to serve cross-culturally. I just could’t shake this burden for people who didn’t know Jesus. After spending time with a missionary who had significant impact on my life, I returned to the states convinced of this illusive “call to missions.” The call hasn’t been without it’s ups and downs, questions, and clarifications, but one thing is sure: when the Lord says He goes before you, He does. However that ends up looking.

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At the end of the day, I’m still not sure what this “call to missions” is going to end up looking like. As I’ve started practically pursuing and talking with missions agencies, financial aid, and other incredible connections the Lord has put around me, I’ve been simultaneously amazed and overwhelmed at how prevalent His hand has been and will need to be in this process. If I end up overseas in a few years, it will be nothing short of a miracle, considering the things that would need to fall into place. Besides Jesus, who even knows what His plans are for the next season of my life?

Writing this is interesting because I feel like it’s the sort of thing people talk about when they are sure – when they’ve secured an agency, when they’ve raised support, or when they’ve decided on a team, country, or people group. I’m basically sure about nothing, other than that I can’t ignore the Holy Spirit’s prompting in my heart and the ways people, opportunities, and wise counsel has almost seem to drop into my lap these past few months. It’s kind of crazy, but then again, what part of life with the Lord isn’t a little crazy?

Sometimes I think we do a great job of looking back and talking about the Lord’s faithfulness, but it’s often easy to forget reflection in the moment. I think it’s dangerous to think that I’m limited to sharing my life only when there are answers and conclusion paragraphs. This was some of my tension when I wrote 22 drafts; it might be easier to talk about becoming a missionary when things are more assured. What if I don’t end up overseas – do I look like a failure or an unfaithful follower? Like I can’t really hear or discern the Lord’s will for my life? I’m not even sure of what I’m learning or seeing in this season, so how am I supposed to write about that?

The thing is – people don’t just end up where they often pick their story up at. When I tell my story of coming to Wheaton, it’s a summary of how the Lord led me to that decision – the past-looking reflection doesn’t include all the nights of questions, tears, arguments with others, excitement about other schools, and pro/con sheets. There’s questions, tears, feelings, roadblocks, and diverted paths that pave the way to anywhere we end up. We aren’t always as excited to talk about these, often because they don’t feel helpful or important in the moment. But they are, because they remind us that the journey doesn’t always make sense or radiant a brilliant clarity. That doesn’t mean the Lord is any less present or that it’s any less significant.

All of that said, looking into becoming a missionary is an overwhelming process, with the reality of the fact that the door could shut at so many stages of the process. Recognizing that there’s a high chance that I’ll find myself wrestling with disappointment, unanswered prayers, and unmet expectations at multiple points in the journey. Yet there is also the reality that if this is what the Lord has, that going overseas won’t just be a dream anymore. It won’t just be “oh yeah I’ve always loved the nations; there’s some general regions that I have a heart for;” it will be a specific place, city, people, and team. It will be my real, tangible, day-to-day life. A life halfway across the world from everything and everyone I’ve ever known. Inevitably included in that life are nights of loneliness, missing family, seeing friend’s get married and have kids via Skype and pictures, and living a reality that many do not have a context for.

This season of praying, pursuing, and talking with lots of people about what my life could look like after I graduate with my masters, is full of wrestling, reflection, questions, and excitements. It’s meant meeting with lots of people, reading encouraging books, spending lots of time with my Bible, journal, and Jesus. Everyday feels like a new surrender – of my desires, my expectations, and my dreams – while simultaneously acknowledging more of how I was created, where my heart thrives, and places I feel the Holy Spirit moving. It’s exciting, it’s overwhelming, and ultimately, it’s just another stone of remembrance on this dusty path that I’m walking with my sweet Jesus.

You’re Gonna Miss This

Remember when I wrote about crying in a coffee shop? Well, the other day I was sitting in the basement of my campus library, misty-eyed and sensing Jesus. I was literally in the middle of writing a paper about the natural sciences, minding my own business and looking at pictures of rocks. I don’t know why Jesus chooses meet me in some of the most unexpected moments in my life, but He does.

I was just sitting on the hard wooden chair, shivering and typing my paper, trying to figure out how to cite an unpublished Theories of Origins textbook. While unashamedly listening to my Sam Hunt pandora station (my favorite homework motivation music), You’re Gonna Miss This by Trace Adkins started playing in my headphones. I wasn’t even listening to worship music, y’all. Jesus chose to meet me in a country song. Just sayin’.

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The thing is, I’ve heard this song before. It wasn’t one of those “oh-my-word-this-is-a-new-song-and-the-lyrics-are-just-speaking-to-exactly-where-I’m-at” kind of moments. I’m not even the biggest Trace Adkins fan. Yet as the southern drawl enunciated lyric after lyric, I found that my typing slowed and my spirit stirred. . .

She was staring out the window of that SUV
Complaining, saying “I can’t wait to turn eighteen”
She said “I’ll make my own money, and I’ll make my own rules”
Momma put the car in park out there in front of the school
She kissed her head and said “I was just like you”

Before she knows it she’s a brand new bride
In her one-bedroom apartment, and her daddy stops by
He tells her “It’s a nice place”
She says “It’ll do for now”
Starts talking about babies and buying a house
Daddy shakes his head and says “Baby, just slow down”

Five years later there’s a plumber workin’ on the water heater
Dog’s barkin’, phone’s ringin’
One kid’s cryin’, one kid’s screamin’
She keeps apologizin’
He says “They don’t bother me
I’ve got two babies of my own
One’s 36, one’s 23
It’s hard to believe

The chorus goes like this:

You’re gonna miss this
You’re gonna want this back
You’re gonna wish these days hadn’t gone by so fast
These are some good times
So take a good look around
You may not know it now
But you’re gonna miss this

They may not be the most profound lyrics in the world. Maybe you hate country music and don’t even think they are that good. Regardless, they met me in the library with a glorious weight of conviction.

I get that the world, our culture in particular, moves at a “get-to-the-next-thing” kind of pace. We spent highschool dreaming about the day we’ll be in college. College is spent stressing about how we’ll get a job when we graduate. When we get employed after graduation, we wonder when we’ll get married. And when will we have kids? When will we move to a bigger house? How soon until retirement? Grandkids? Great-grandkids? Vacation? We spend our lives looking towards whatever is next. The funny thing is, this futuristic way of thinking often lends itself to idealistic reminiscing. We look back on our lives and wish that we only knew how good we had it back then. We remember tidbits of the past with a fondness that we didn’t feel when we were living it. All while rushing full steam ahead to the next season.

I just wonder why, as Christians, are we okay with living our lives like this? Why do I live like this?We live at the same rushed pace as the rest of the world. Most of the time we do it in the name of “ministry” or for the glory of the Lord. And while Jesus traveled, healed, spoke, and lived out a vibrant, busy ministry, He never did so at a pace that would’ve caused him to miss the moment. Jesus was all about being present where He was at. He found stillness in the midst of pressing crowds. He found joy in the midst of questions. He found purpose, growth, and the Father during times it would’ve been easier to just look ahead to whatever was next.

My internship coordinator has been helping me walk through the process of looking for a summer internship. As I ramble on and on about where I’m going to intern and the frustrations of the application process, he continues to remind me that my internship doesn’t start my first day on the job. My internship started the day I realized I needed to get an internship. It includes every opportunity that has fallen through, every application that I’ve spent hours writing, all the prayers over the places I could go and things I could do. I’m quick to want to get past all of this – the discomfort, the questions, the busywork, the unknowns. I want the internship. Or better yet, I want the potential job after the internship ends. I want the summary paper that I’ll write at the end of the internship class that ties up and makes sense of the whole thing. But that just causes me to miss what’s happening right now. The process. The journey. The ways Jesus is moving, even before things seem to be happening.

It’s fun to dream about what’s next, whether that’s tomorrow or ten years from now. It’s often more fun than focusing on the heartbreak, confusion, schoolwork, diapers, tantrums, questions, drama, and dirty dishes of the moment. But I think Trace Adkins is onto something. Something that I need to be constantly reminded of. It’s not just about moments that we are going to miss someday. It’s about whether or not we are missing Jesus in the moment.

All we’ve been promised is today. This moment. And someday, I’m going to look back on that day in the library and writing this blog post when I should be writing a paper, as a growing, maturing, often overwhelmed Junior in college. It doesn’t always feel good or fun or exciting, but I know that I’m going to look back and miss this. These moments of laughter. Moments of clarity. Moments of tears. I just don’t want to miss them while I’m here. And I really don’t want to look back and say that I missed Jesus in them. Because He’s here, and so are we.

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Ever Just Have Those Weeks?

Not necessarily a bad week. Just one of those weeks? Where even the things think you are doing right somehow end up wrong or frustrating or humiliating?

Now, I’m a glass half full kind of person. I live a rather ridiculous life anyways and I’m almost always doing something stupid, so I usually choose joy when I do things like drop my ID in the toilet or tell someone I live east of Chicago (which, if you aren’t up to date on your geography, would mean I live on Lake Michigan). But every so often those kind of days pile up. Where more life things happen than I can handle with laughter. I’ve had a couple of days like that.

Days where I try to be kind and get my dad’s car washed, only to have it rain an hour later.

Or when I try to deep clean my own car and misread the bottles, only to realize I am scrubbing the carpets with bleach and wiping the windows down with clorox.

The kind of days where I buy new running shoes that I’ve been ridiculously obsessed with, only to have them inspire me so much that I sprint for the first five minutes of my 5K. Needless to say, I never quite recovered.

The days where I’ve diligently tracked my food with a new confidence, only to have the scale move in the wrong direction.

Days where even my bank account laughs at me by sending me a notice that I’ve dropped below my checking account minimum.

The days when I have to multiple life conversations in a row. The kind that you have to have when you are an adult and need to talk about paying for college, buying a car, or getting an internship.

When silly thing after silly thing happens and they all start to seem less silly. . .

Like when I stand outside too long and end up with 53983 mosquito bites.

Or I paint my nails and think they are dry, only to smudge them while emptying the dishwasher.

Or I pick up the guitar again, just to realize my sense of rhythm really isn’t improving.

Or I make myself a cup of tea and trip as soon as I go to sit down with it.

Or I’m instructed, criticized, or scolded one too many times about something small.

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It hasn’t been a bad week. Not by a long shot.

And I’m really not looking to throw myself a pity party. I’m actually doing great. There’s a lot of amazing things that the Lord is doing. But I just wanted to let you know that you can be doing well and still be having one of those days. Because it’s all a little overwhelming and you are having to try a little harder than usual to convince myself of truths I already know.

So if you are having one of those days or weeks, know that I feel ya. You’re going to have some hilarious stories on the other side. Keep speaking truth and letting Jesus show you the joy in the midst of it all.

And no one is even going to notice that my hands smell like bleach and my nail polish is smudged. Probably.

For Sophomore Year and the Rest of My Life

If I’ve heard “Mads, lighten up!” one time in my life, I’ve heard it a million times. When I was younger, my dad would get me to chant the word en-thuuu-siastic, hoping to drill the idea of excitement and energy into my brain. When people call me “pensive” or “serious” or “deep,” it’s not because they don’t want to insult me by saying I’m acting standoffish and uninterested. It’s because I am. I process things. Everything in my life is deep and meaningful – which can be both good and bad.  And generally, I’m pretty even about the whole thing. I’ve never been an emotional roller coaster. That’s why sometimes my deep thinking comes across as quiet or reserved; I’m just not going to go round up a group of people to enthusiastically proclaim my newest revelations to. I love people, but I’m an introvert by nature. Welcome to the paradox that is Maddie’s life.

And I forget the Enemy knows these things too.

I feel like I’ve been on a uncertain ship the past few weeks of this semester. I couldn’t seem to get a grip on my life or my thoughts or my emotions. I didn’t understand what I was feeling or thinking, or why. One minute things were great, and the next I wasn’t sure of anything. Excuse me, this isn’t supposed to be how sophomore year goes.

Scared and confused, I ran to what I know best – processing. Crazy emotions mean something is up in my heart, right? So I need to find what that is. So, more time with Jesus? More sleep? More people? Less people? More time alone? More journaling? More worship music? More Scripture? More memorizing Scripture? I need to identify what is going on in my heart, why I’m being so affected by external things, and then I need to fix it. . .with Jesus, of course.

And so, after several weeks of this, you can imagine my exhaustion. I don’t understand what’s wrong, why I can’t get a grip on things and myself. This isn’t me. I think deeply, but when it’s in Christ it leads me to a place of enthusiasm and renewal. There is so much in my mind. What’s up??

Here’s the funny thing about emotions – they aren’t representative of our relationship with Jesus. They aren’t rational. They often don’t line up with the truth we know and believe. And that doesn’t make them any less valid or legitimate. I’m queen of ignoring what I’m really feeling because I don’t want it to conflict with the truth of who Jesus is and what He is doing. The beauty of our security in Christ, is that it is from that place of truth that we can safely bring our emotions. We can admit to Jesus how we are really feeling in the moment because we know He already has the victory. We are free to admit how we are feeling to a Savior who felt them all – but then He takes them and replaces it with His joy. . .if we’ll let Him.

“Why are you down in the dumps, dear soul? Why are you crying the blues? Fix my eyes on God- soon I’ll be praising again. He puts a smile on my face. He’s my God. When my soul is in the dumps, I rehearse everything I know of you.” Psalm 42:5, The Message

The deal with life is that it is up and down. Welcome to a broken world. Someone says something encouraging and I’m refreshed. Lunch plans get cancelled and I’m thrown off. I bomb a test and I feel like a failure. I get a CPO note and I’m encouraged. I laugh with friends at dinner and I’m grateful. I catch an unflattering glimpse of myself in a window and I’m filled with insecurity. Someone ignores me and I’m frustrated. Me. Me. Me. It’s all about me. It’s all affecting me. My life revolves around me. . .and it can happen even when I’m trying to focus on Jesus and process this life with Him.

This wasn’t where I was planning on going when I started typing this, but hey, it’s real.

I know the “joy of the Lord is my strength,” but do I know it? Joy isn’t faking being ok when you aren’t. It isn’t ignoring the crappy emotions. But it’s not living in them either – because living in my emotions, sometimes over-processing my emotions, negates the sovereignty and victory and strength of Jesus for my life. He is consistent when my circumstances aren’t. And if I’m not focused on that, and I’m focused on myself, even myself with Jesus, it’s no wonder that I feel tossed about by the waves of life.

Look, the authors of the Psalms get about as real as you can. Life is hard and it’s messy and external things do affect us. I won’t deny that it bothers me when people use the prayer chapel for things other than the Lord or that I can get a little cynical when I’m tired. It makes me feel good to receive encouraging notes, when my friends make me laugh, or when people intentionally pray over me. But none of those things can be my focus. I can’t focus on how they make me feel; as soon as I do more with it than submit the very real feelings to the Lord, the Enemy has a foothold. My joy is gone and I become contingent on externalities (a term that took on new meaning after I took economics).

Obviously I wouldn’t be writing this if it hasn’t been an issue all semester. I’ve been pressing into circumstances and emotions, trying to fix them and understand them. But we aren’t called to press into things, we are called to press into Jesus. He is where consistent joy and love and peace and hope are found.

So, that’s where I am. Learning to step back and confess and release. And then press into the only One who’ll get my eyes of myself and onto Eternity. Because life is messy, but the joy of the Lord will be our strength. He’s the only one who can put a smile on our face, regardless of the storm or sunshine around us, because He’s the only One who’s above it all. He’s already won, y’all. Our sovereign God is on the throne and He is loves us with a love that is beyond the fraction of our comprehension. Let’s press into that; let’s press into Him.