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A Season of Socks?

I got a lot of socks this Christmas.

Socks are one of those Christmas gifts that get a lot of attention because of their disappointing nature. With the exception of something like a plunger, socks are one of the most lackluster, practical gifts you can get. When they’re in competition with literally any other gift, socks seem to lose every time. The younger the recipient, the more likely the loss.

In fact, the only reason that my privileged self was excited about getting socks this Christmas is because, at twenty-three and living in the Midwest, I see the value of keeping my feet warm. And when you work part-time for a church, socks can quickly become a luxury item that eats away at your budget.

What do socks have to do with anything? I think, and stay with me on this, that these next two months are season of getting “socks” from the Lord.

If you know me or are following the story, you know that I submitted an application that, at least at this point, the current plan for my future is dependent on. By early November, I had confirmation, on all sides, about specific, future missions work. Not only was it confirmation from the missions organization and the city’s current team, but it seemed like consistent confirmation Lord. Believe me when I say I’m ready to go. Perhaps even more than just “going,” I’m ready for clarity. I’m ready to move forward in the plans of the Lord, regardless of what they end up looking like.

But I can’t.

My hands are tied until at least the end of January, more likely the beginning of March.

There’s nothing else to process or pray about. The search for confirmation and discernment has been called off. There’s nothing else for me to do but wait. I’m living the epitome of “it’s out of my hands and all up to Jesus.”

I was praying, admittedly from a place of impatience, the other night. I found myself a little disoriented, fumbling around my Scripture reading and worship, in light of the question-heavy nature of my relationship with Jesus these past few months. All the sudden there was nothing to ask, no specific thread that needed pressing into.

This time is a gift, Maddie.

“Okay, sure. All my time with you is a gift, Lord. Times of waiting are always a gift.” I brushed it off. Believe me when I say that I’ve done seasons of waiting with the Lord before. But then again:

This time is a gift, Maddie.

Since the summer, my prayers have revolved around questions of missions and calling.

Come March 2, regardless of the outcome of the application, the reality of my life will resurface that.

But for two months, there aren’t questions driving my spiritual life. Everything is in a rhythm (or out of my hand). And here is Jesus, saying that this time is a gift.

 

It was only after a Holy-Spirit-inspired revelation, after I heard my answer to a friend’s “how are you doing” inquisition, that I got it. That I realized that He’s giving me a season of socks – and how simple that may seem, but how necessary it really is.

My answer to a simple “how are you doing” revolved around the future, my waiting, the application, and missions. It seems innocent enough but, without realizing it, I had linked what I may be doing with how I actually am. Those are two very different things, and they are both grasping for control of my soul and identity.

The reality of who I am in Christ had become dangerously muddled with what He’s leading me into. Season that force me to ask questions about work, calling, vocation, and ability run that risk. It is so easy for my identity to get tied up in my circumstances when, realistically, those are the things that I need the Lord to speak into. I know that in March the temptation will return to sync my identity with what I’m doing and what God is calling me to.

But, for two months, He’s all but removed that temptation.

He’s giving me a gift that is practical and necessary, however lackluster it may appear. I need a season, regardless of how short, of re-learning what it means to just be Jesus’. Because He loves me, is for me, and is good. Full stop.

I need to be reminded of what God thinks of me and what it means to be with Him, irrespective of anything else.

I’m not saying that I’m 100% sold on this “gift of socks season.” It’s a hard sell that waiting is the greatest thing in the world. Like with socks, I appreciate them a little more than I might have five years ago, but there are other gifts that I think I’d prefer. But that’s why He’s the Giver, and I’m not.

Because what could be better, what could be more necessary, than the gift of just being His?

Stop complaining and put on the socks, Maddie. Enjoy this time of learning what it means to just be with me. To be loved by me. If my love for you never went beyond this, right here, knowing that I love you, it would be enough. I want this to be a time that you look back on when the demands are a lot, when you forget that I don’t see you as “faithful servant” first. There’s nothing that you can do these next two months, nothing you have answers to, no spectacular story to share, nothing that makes you look spiritual. So find me when you feel like you have little to give, when your faith feels small. I’ve wired your for things and set about my plans in your life, which you follow in costly obedience, but Maddie, what you were ultimately built for was just to be mine. I want to teach you about the consistency of my nature in a season where I’ve given you little else to hold onto. You may not know what I’m doing, but you know who I am. You may not know what you are doing, but know who you are. Let me remind you of exactly who you are. 

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!

A Prayer Journal Entry

Brace yourselves. I’m about to get real, real over here.

When I was praying the other night, I had to have some Maddie and Jesus honesty time. And while normally Maddie and Jesus talks stay between Maddie and Jesus, I felt like I needed to share these. First, I want to let you know where I’ve been spiritually. I should only be sharing highlights if I’m not afraid to be real about the less than ideal stuff too. Second, I want to let you know if you have been in/are in/will ever be in a weird, confused, and kind of upset but also still in love with Jesus place that doesn’t totally make sense, you aren’t alone. I’m pretty sure it’s just part of the journey. And finally, I wanted to let you read how I write when I pray, since I’ve found writing things down often helps me sort through what I’m thinking or what I feel like the Holy Spirit is speaking. I love learning how other people connect with Jesus or use their journals, so maybe you care about that kind of thing too.

This is a genuine, recent entry out of my prayer journal (excluding some personal details). Welcome to the heart of a girl whose life isn’t always on-my-knees-first-thing-in-the-morning and praying-for-the-cashier-because-the-Holy-Spirit-said-to kind of love for Jesus. Sometimes my love for Jesus, in a very non-glamourous way, means I have to tell Him I’ve had some expectations that He hasn’t met. And we have to deal with that. So this entry actually has a lot of uncomfortable vulnerability and bad theology. Yeah, I know. Don’t say I didn’t (…say I didn’t) warn you.

• • •

Where’s my first love, Lord?

Where’s the love and zeal I used to have for you?

It’s not that I stopped loving You. Or stopped pursuing You. Or stopped believing in You. But I’m lying to myself if I say that we are okay. That everything is like it used to be.

I’ve doubted Your power. I’ve questioned Your love. I’ve believed that You aren’t wholly trustworthy. I’ve relied on my own strength. I’ve dismissed the ways You’ve moved and spoken in my past. I’ve ignored Your voice. I’ve accepted some easy, powerless rhythm with You as normal and comfortable. I’ve stopped clinging to the truth that You are as good as You say You are. Because, why?

I used to run to You. To prayer. To listening. To community. To worship. To deep places and deep things. To just being with You. 

It’s like my Spirit was all dried up by questions and confusion and unmet expectations. 

I think I’m angrier with you than I want to believe. I’ve followed you so wholeheartedly. My family has followed you so wholeheartedly. I could go down the list Lord. I just don’t understand. . .

And I know. I know what You’ll say. Maybe that’s why I’ve let the fire fade, or something. Because I don’t want to hear, “You aren’t supposed to understand. You have to just trust me.” Again. 

I can hear the bad theology reverberating in my head. I know what lies sound like. But I can’t help but feel like You’ve broken promises to me. I feel like You’ve let me down.

I hate that because I know it’s not true. I hate that because my life isn’t dramatically or catastrophically falling apart. And maybe, even more, I hate that because I don’t know how to fix it. I don’t know how to get back to the old us.

It’s not that I don’t love You. It’s not that I don’t want to love You. I want to want You again. I want my first love. I want pictures and discernment and just being with You. I want to believe in the power of prayer and the weight and glory of everything You can do. I want hours in your presence that feel like just a few minutes. I want You to the be the first and last thing I think about everyday. I want to pray for people and encourage people and see Your heart for people again. I want to remember what it’s like to be overwhelmed with all the finite love I’m capable of for You. I want to be overwhelmed by Your infinite love for me. I want to be reminded. I need You to remind me.

Wanting it is enough, right? It has to be enough. I feel like it’s all I have.

I don’t know when my Spirit dried up or died down. I don’t know when one of our wheels slipped off the track. I don’t know when I started building up cynicism or anger or hurt towards You. But I need you to teach me how to seek Your face again. Because I really do love You.

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How am I Doing?

“What’s going on in this wandering heart of mine, Lord? I’m so grateful that You care infinitely more about Your glory and my good and everyone else than I do. Teach me how to abide. Do more than I could ever dream. And open the eyes of my heart to see it.” 

…I’m a little distracted.

…I’m tired.

…I’m exhausted.

…I’m so cold.

…everything’s a little overwhelming.

…I’m so wonderful.

…the Lord is just so faithful!

…it’s good.

Anyone who has asked me how I am in the past week has gotten any one of these answers. EvenIMG_3907 sitting down to type this, I don’t know what to say. I guess I’m good at re-typing the lessons of the Lord. Not so much at being honest with what’s up in my heart.

I think it’s because I have this tension. Obviously I can’t tell people how I am all the time, so I pick the biggest things. And they tend to be the most extreme – good and bad. Amazing and difficult. Struggles and victories. And where do I start with those?

This year isn’t last year. The pace has picked up with new joy in my classes, freedom and confidence from the work that Jesus so graciously did in me over the summer, the blessing of deeper relationships, excitement in new opportunities. I am overwhelmed, yes, by the amount of it all, but in the best possible way. I am overwhelmed with gratitude. I call my parents after class and events just to share the goodness of the Lord. I spend most of my time smiling (that is, when I’m not trying to sneak a nap). Half of my journal space is prayers of thanksgiving.

But the other half. . .

is His refining me. I’m a dirty, yucky sinner. I’m so fickle in my affection for Him. I’m so easily distracted by things that I KNOW don’t matter. I forget to dwell on truth and then I wonder why I’m going crazy. Just the other weekend, the Lord made it very clear that I was doing a pretty crappy job of slowing down and caring for my soul. That I need time with Him and sleep. That my life, my time at Wheaton, my days, THE NEXT HOUR aren’t a sprint. Which is such a gift, because we all know that Maddie doesn’t sprint. She walks, at her own sweet pace, usually with motivational music that she sometimes involuntarily dances to. So why am I trying to rush through everything?

I love to jump in with both feet. I don’t know if it’s because my heart thrives on deep things or if it’s the way my strengths wire me, but when I’m all in, I’m ALL IN. I do it with my major, with my mentors, with church, with my friendships, with my desires. I want it all to go deep and fast and now. And the fast pace of this year has magnified that. In the best and worst ways. The Lord, in His graciousness, reminds me to slow down. To breathe. To abide. . .

But now faith, hope, love, abide these three; but the greatest of these is love.” 1 Corinthians 13:13

So how am I doing? I’m good. I’m really good. I get to spend my days learning how to listen to Jesus and love His people. And it is far from perfect; I get so distracted and tired and unfaithful and frustrated. But I’m doing good because He is good. So that’s how I am. And I hope that’s how, whatever is going on in your life, you are doing too.

Beautiful Fall Days Call for Random Updates

I don’t know where the time is going. I’ve been here for 6 weeks now – A Quad, or half of the semester, is 3 weeks away from being over. It’s October. My mind no longer has any concept of what time means. College is a frenzied mess between having too much to do and… Read more. . .