Monday, December 19, 2011

The Lady Bountiful

Sometimes I like to picture myself as The Lady Bountiful. Not particularly in the sense of personal wealth—a huge mansion, acres of garden, and a closet entirely full of hats and shoes (although that wouldn’t be a bad thing, would it?!)—but more in the sense of having money to give away.

I’d love to be able to give lots and lots of money to whoever needed it. Buy a big house for my parents. Sponsor a dozen orphaned or underprivileged children, and adopt a dozen more. Send the gospel to the ends of the earth via donations to ministries. Feed the hungry, clothe the naked, do every good deed I could possibly do.

In reality, I am a poor student. Often I'm tempted not to give at all because I don't think my measly dollar (or pound) will make any difference. But it does. (And imagine what would happen if everybody who thought that way gave something!)

Perhaps I will never be really wealthy, cash-wise (there's so much more to riches than what's in the bank!), and that's OK. I'm trying to learn to give anyway-- and not just money. Time. Words. My talents and abilities. Even if I don't always think I have a lot to give, all the little things, when taken together, make such a difference. Besides, isn’t what I do with what I have now some indication of what I would do with something more? 

"We must not, in trying to think about how we can make a big difference, ignore the small daily differences we can make which, over time, add up to big differences that we often cannot foresee." Marian Wright Edelman

"I long to accomplish a great and noble task, but it is my chief duty to accomplish small tasks as if they were great and noble." Helen Keller.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

passion (or absence thereof)

I’ve been having some big issues with motivation lately – or rather, lack of motivation. I procrastinate on my papers, sweep over my Spanish, and tackle my other homework half-heartedly. I still get by well, although I am frankly uncomfortable giving less than my best. Except...I feel like I have little energy or inclination to give my best. 

I almost can’t see the forest for the trees. I seem to forget why I wanted a college education—and why I chose Southern—in the first place. It’s as if I’ve lost something of myself along the way; I’ve forgotten my dreams and what used to make me excited. I’m tempted to look at life with a tired and cynical eye.

And I hate that. I hate feeling like all the fire inside of me has died. I don’t know how to feel alive again, but I want to...

All is not lost yet, however. Over the last weekend, as I helped out with various aspects of Student Missions Emphasis week, and as I stumbled across some old writing I’d done for this blog (and never posted), something inside me stirred. Passion. It was far from consuming, but it was there, and that was all that mattered to me in the moment. I wasn’t completely dead inside after all!

There have been some rough spots again this week, for one reason or another, but on the whole I think things are slowly beginning to look up once more. I’m glad. Perhaps I’ll start dreaming again.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

A Painful Realization

“What am I doing here?” The thought played on repeat as I stood in the prayer circle that August morning, listening to the young people around me. I was very uncomfortable. I hadn't been so uncomfortable in a long time, and I had certainly not expected to feel that way at prayer meeting.

God was close, so close. I hadn’t felt His presence that strongly for quite a while, and somehow I felt I couldn’t stand before Him – I was like Isaiah, crying out when He saw God’s glory, “It’s all over! I am doomed, for I am a sinful man.” (Isa 6:5)

All at once I was painfully aware of my utter lukewarm-ness as a Christian, my unwillingness to truly surrender, my pride and selfishness, and the mixed motives I had gone to the prayer group with. When I arrived back at my dorm I got out my journal, and began to weep in spite of my best efforts not to as I recorded what God was saying to my heart.

I wanted to impress other people. In fact, I cared much more about what certain people thought of me than what God knew about my heart. I wanted everything that came out of my mouth during prayer to be deep, eloquent and inspiring – honestly, I was addressing my prayers more to the other young people in the circle than to God, and the realization shocked me. 

I was reluctant to surrender fully to God (and this wasn’t the first time He’d been speaking to me about that). I knew that it had to be all or nothing, and that if I was serious about growing in my relationship with God, I was going to have to address some things in my life I’d rather ignore.

Would I pursue God for God? Would I follow Him when there was no one else around to see and think what an awesome, spiritual person I was?

I was completely crushed by the realization of the true state of my heart. Yet even as the sense of God’s nearness brought me to my knees in shame at my ugliness, I felt something else in God’s presence – overwhelming love. It sounds so cliché, I know, but I can’t describe it any other way. Somehow I knew that God was worth pursuing, that I could trust Him with my heart, fully surrendered. And I made the choice to yield. 

The decision to surrender is one I have to wrestle with every day. I still struggle with my pride and desire to impress people, caring too much about their opinion of me.  Some days I don’t want to ask God to take my whole self and give me an undivided heart. Yet each day God is showing me more and more that He is worth it. I am praying with ever-increasing honesty that I will love Him as He loves me – consistently and consumedly – regardless of who else is around and what they think of me.

(And for any SAU students reading this, if you haven’t been to the 7 am prayer group at the flagpole – check it out!)

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Doing More Hard Things

“I’m trying to scare you now so you can decide whether or not teaching is for you, before you waste any more time!” Our professor’s tone was half-joking, but his eyes were serious. “Well, it’s working,” I said to myself, reflecting on all the material we’d just covered in the lecture.


Teaching is a huge responsibility. It’s going to require a huge amount of effort and dedication not only to successfully graduate with my B.A. in English-Education (and probably go on to get a Masters in ESL at some point in the future), but to be a successful teacher. I don’t want to simply get by. Nor do I only want to inspire my students with a love for English. The classroom is a mission-field, whether I end up teaching in America or going somewhere in Asia/other foreign places (as has been my leaning for a while). I'm a little scared. I don’t feel up to the job. Yet the conviction that teaching is what I’m meant to do with my life doesn’t go away. 


“We want you to be more than a teacher; we want you to be a leader.” I’ve had quite a lot of experience in being a leader by now (how thankful I am for my time as a student missionary!). I’m not half as shy and retiring as I used to be (my roommate surprised me this week by stating I had a strong personality). Yet leadership and being “out there” still doesn’t come as naturally, and certainly not as comfortably, to me as it does to others. Being a leader is hard; being a follower is so much easier.


Maybe that’s the point. Maybe God wants me to do hard things this year. There are opportunities arising that I’ve wanted to say an emphatic No to, except that after praying about it I’ve been reluctantly convicted to say Yes. I can’t do it all on my own. I’m increasingly impressed with how much I need God's Spirit.



And so He whispers to me: “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” (2 Cor 12:9)

"Learning, talents, eloquence, every natural or acquired endowment, may be possessed; but without the presence of the Spirit of God, no heart will be touched, no sinner be won to Christ. On the other hand, if they are connected with Christ, if the gifts of the Spirit are theirs, the poorest and most ignorant of His disciples will have a power that will tell upon hearts. God makes them the channel for the outworking of the highest influence in the universe... As the will of man co-operates with the will of God, it becomes omnipotent. Whatever is to be done at His command may be accomplished in His strength. All His biddings are enablings." (From Christ’s Object Lessons by Ellen White)

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Will you still love me?


“If you’re English, how come you don’t have a cool accent?”

“Are you British? Don’t ever lose your accent; I love it!”

“I thought you were Australian.”

“So, Lynny, how do you feel – British, American, or Asian?”

These are just some of the comments I’ve heard over the past few weeks at Southern. Whether I laughed or groaned over them, they kick-started a whole train of thought about my identity.

 It seems that every time I enter new circumstances – whenever everything that I’m comfortable and familiar with is taken away – I begin to think more deeply about who I am, and what exactly gives me self-worth.

Growing up, I was always a high-scoring student, quiet and polite and good, a major people-pleaser. This is how I've come to define myself. This is what gives me self-worth. 

The first couple of weeks here were tough not only because of all the new things to get used to, but because I was pushing myself to perform exceptionally. The intensity of the class was exhausting; I was afraid I wasn’t doing well enough. I thought that if I got anything less than top marks my worth was suddenly cut in half (in my own eyes, and, I was sure, everyone else’s). I was hired as an English reader, grading papers etc, based on my previous experience (I hadn’t done the ACT or College Comp 101 yet), and I was anxious in case I wasn’t working to the standard I thought my boss would expect of me – indeed, that I expected of myself. If I wasn’t performing well, I wasn’t anything.

Subconsciously I guess I wanted to know, “Will you still love me if I don’t always get A’s? Will you still love me if I sound American?! Am I valuable to you even if I don’t always attain perfection?”

I wasn’t actually doing as badly as I thought. I shared with my parents the results of my first tests, and how my job was going, and they congratulated me. (I told them what people had been saying about my accent too, and they laughed!) Then my mum told me, “Don’t worry if you don’t always get these sorts of results. Always aim high but don’t risk your health or sanity to expect those results in every subject.” Hearing that was so incredibly freeing!! It was the reassurance I needed that I would be valued and that I was someone even if I didn’t always score A’s or if I missed the occasional grammar mistake in an essay I was marking.

I'm still figuring out my identity, but I am learning that I'm more than what I do, more than what I score, more than my job description.

What is it that makes you who you are? What gives you self-worth? 

Sunday, July 31, 2011

I can't stop thinking!

It's been an intense week. In the course I'm taking this summer, we cover in one day roughly what one week would cover in a normal semester. I have 50+ pages of reading a day, and am beginning to feel rather googly-eyed! This next Friday, we have our mid-term exam, and the Monday after that, I have an ACT exam. So as well as staying on top of all my reading, I have to find time to squeeze in math and science revision for my ACT, and balance a job too. (I'm incredibly thankful to have this job! Thanks for your prayers about it! I officially start tomorrow.) I'm tired just contemplating everything that's coming up!!

In spite of feeling like I've been thrown in the deep end, life is good. I'm already feeling much more at home, and meeting a bunch of fun, interesting people to hang out with when I'm not studying. I've been having several little adventures...which I would write about...except that I really need to get back to my books!

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Uncharted Waters

As I looked out of the plane window, noticing the American landscape rolling out beneath me, I began to panic. "What the heck am I doing? I'm British - I should stay in England! Take me back right now!" I turned my gaze firmly to the TV screen in front of me and tried to put my mind elsewhere. The feelings of fear began to subside, replaced by growing excitement as the plane landed, and I started my journey through customs and baggage and into the arms of a waiting friend. "Things are going to turn out just fine," I thought as I hugged her.

The first couple of days on campus, as much as they were exciting, were also hard. I was incredibly thankful for my friend and her mum, who fed me, took me shopping, and generally looked after me as I began my adventure in uncharted American university waters!

I'd chosen to arrive on campus a whole week early, so I had time to sort out my head (which was spinning trying to figure out everything that needed to be done) and my affairs, and look for work. However, not many people had arrived yet, and I had no room mate, so I was a little lonely. The first Sabbath was hard - going to a huge church - not knowing anyone - missing my friends at Stanborough and not having a social to go to - and I choked back the tears a couple of times during the service, although I did meet some welcoming older people, including a lady from England who actually knows my family.

Things began to get better over the next couple of days. I found a prospective job (please pray that it works out!). A few more people arrived. I bumped into an old friend who I had no idea would be starting here. I met some new friends on my hall. A bunch of people who I consider almost family (from my team in South East Asia) arrived back in the area, and we had a reunion supper together, sharing memories and catching up on all the things that had happened in our lives over the past year. I spent an afternoon with a friend's sister (who I'd heard lots about but never met until now), and she introduced me to the joys of the dollar movie theatre (people in England - be jealous!!!), and also took me bowling!

There are going to be lots of changes to get used to. Dorm life is one of them! I've been used to living independently for a long time, so living in the dorm with its curfews and regulations is going to be...interesting...! My classes begin on Monday, so things are going to start getting very hectic then. Please don't forget to pray for me!

I think I'm going to enjoy it here. I know God has me here for a reason, so I'm trusting Him to provide the energy and brain power, the friends, and the finance I need to survive and thrive at Southern!

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Leaving

My room is a complete mess. Clothing, electrical items, knick knacks and paperwork are all in a jumble, further disturbing my already spinning mind. What more do I need to pack? Have I forgotten anything important? I’m trying to fit everything into two suitcases, which might sound like a generous allowance…but then, this is me we’re talking about. Me, packing for four years away. I can’t believe this is happening already. I’m leaving.

The first couple of months in England, all I wanted to do was go back to America or South East Asia; I dreamed of going to university and marked the weeks on the calendar, telling myself I didn’t have long to go. But then things just got better and better, I stopped counting down the days, and began to feel at last that this was home. Even when things were tough with my job situation, and my Mum said wistfully, “I hope you don’t feel that this has been a wasted year,” I could honestly reply, “No, it hasn’t!” Not least because of a bunch of amazing people that I never would have met if I hadn’t come here!

Now the time to leave has finally arrived, but instead of bouncing with joy and raving to get out of here, as I once envisioned, my emotions are bitter sweet. I am super excited to be going to Southern. I can’t wait to see old friends and make new ones. I’m anticipating new experiences and adventures. But I’m nervous too:  Things are going to be so different. I’ve been out of formal education for a few years now, and I’m a little anxious that it might be a bumpy transition back in. The American culture is different, even if we do speak the same language (well, kind of. Numerous people have commented on the irony of me going to the US to study English.). I have to think seriously about my future and take adult responsibilities. After at last becoming contented here, change is suddenly looming on the horizon. All change, even when it’s something good, is uncomfortable at first, so I guess I’m nervous about that too.

And I’m going to miss everyone in England! I almost wish I could split myself in two (no, make that 5 or 6!) so that I could be with all the people I love around the world at once!
"All changes are more or less tinged with melancholy, for what we are leaving behind is part of ourselves." - Amelia Barr
"For everything you have missed, you have gained something else, and for everything you gain, you lose something else." - Ralph Waldo Emerson
Well, let's see what God has around the corner for me. Judging by the pattern of my previous experience, it's going to be quite a ride! 
 
 

Friday, June 24, 2011

The Voice of Reason

I always thought Moses was a very sensible man. There’s a story in Exodus 3 where God appears to Moses in the wilderness and tells him to go to Pharaoh and lead the Israelites to freedom. Moses has a bunch of questions for God, and points about himself to make:

  • What if the Israelites ask who sent me, what should I tell them?
  • What if they won’t believe me?
  • Who am I to go anyway - isn’t there someone better qualified you can send?
  • I’m not good with words – never have been, never will be.


I thought that these questions/ points were full of common sense. In fact, a lot of them sounded like points I’d made when I felt God was asking me to do certain things...things I wasn’t super comfortable doing... things I didn’t really want to do.

Perhaps “logic” is sometimes a disguise for fear.  What if “being reasonable” is simply an excuse for not stepping out of your comfort zone? After all, even when God had thoroughly replied to each of Moses’ questions, and reassured him of His power and presence, Moses still said essentially: “Send anyone else but me!”

 Besides, “reasonable” is not always the way God works.

Think of God commanding Gideon to go fight a huge Midianite army with only 300 men (Judges 7). (And the 300 men won.) Think of when God promised to part the Jordon River for the Israelites to go through on dry ground (Joshua 3, 4), but the priests had to get their feet wet first. Think of the fishermen Jesus sent out on the lake during the day, when it was harder to fool the fish (Luke 5). (They went anyway, and were rewarded with a catch so phenomenal that their boats were on the verge of sinking, and the seasoned fishermen were awestruck.)

In my own family’s experience, God has asked us to do some things that seemed pretty insensible...at least to my thinking!

When my parents were first impressed to consider mission work and joining Adventist Frontier Missions (http://www.afmonline.org/), my mum had been in a wheelchair for the past two years, unable to stand for more than a few seconds and chronically tired. She had ME. Because of her condition, we hadn’t even been able to move an hour or two North to my dad’s new church district. Obviously, world travelling and mission work was out of the question, totally unreasonable, right? (And much like Moses, I had a whole list of questions, and reasons why this was not a very good idea for me personally.)

But my parents didn’t let human logic, the fact of my mother’s long illness, get in the way of what they felt God was clearly asking them to do. They persisted in the path that was being progressively marked out, and prayed that God would show them that this was the right thing by healing Mum. And she was healed! From that day to this there have been no more problems with her ME.

If you know that God is asking you to do something, to get out of your comfort zone, but “the voice of reason” is putting up a fight... listen to God's voice instead. If God is leading you, it doesn’t matter what it looks like from a human perspective, whether it’s “reasonable” or not. God knows what you’re capable of when you attach yourself to Him. Do it anyway, and watch how He opens up the way and does some amazing things because you said “Yes”! 

Friday, June 10, 2011

A Fine Romance

I remember the first time I fell in love. This boy was my hero; he could do no wrong, and, young as I was, I envisioned a blissful future. Meticulously I recorded every glance, every smile, every word he spoke in my direction. In my diary I listed and gushed over every good character trait I saw. “I don’t deserve him at all,” I wrote, “but I can’t help hoping…”

I remember the subsequent heartbreak.  “For the first time in my life I know what it feels like to have deep, mind-numbing pain in my heart. My whole body is shaking, but I can’t cry right now. I did enough of that earlier…I don’t know how I’m going to get through this.” It was so difficult that I pledged I would encase my heart in a wall of iron, and never fall in love again. (I think I succeeded quite well at the whole ice queen act.)

However, time passed, and I found myself walking down the same road. I was a bit more hesitant this time round, but I had the delightful, half scary realization that my heart was melting again… only to be followed a short while later by disappointment.

These guys were genuinely good people. They had some sterling qualities, but in my romanticism somehow it never seemed to click for me that they weren’t perfect. I guess I looked upon the objects of my affection as demi-gods! When they hurt me, I felt betrayed, confused, disillusioned. I seriously wondered if there ever could be someone who would never let me down.

Well, no…

Even the best of men (and women) disappoint. They are wounded human beings, fallen and forgiven and “in progress”. As I’ve found – and continue to learn – they can’t fill you and validate you in the deepest way you need, no matter how great they are otherwise.

I’m learning that I can’t let a man be the verdict on the worth of my soul. I can’t treat him as my god. I can’t mistake his opinions (or anyone else’s for that matter) for the opinion of God. I’m learning how to let God have access to the deep places in my heart that were made for him to fill. I’m learning how to let him validate me as a woman, how to let him call me beautiful.

Indeed, how to let him romance me.

God’s love isn’t a generic love, a “group love”. He loves me. He loves you, personally, passionately. "
He will rejoice over you. You will rest in his love; he will sing and be joyful about you." Zephaniah 3:17


I’ve just finished reading this amazing book, Captivating, by John and Stasi Eldredge. I’m going to be sharing several quotes from the chapter “Romanced” below. 

(Apologies ahead of time to my male readers - you might find this post relates more easily to women. But hey, you might find something in it for you too!)
“As women we long to be loved in a certain way, a way unique to our femininity. We long for romance. We are wired for it; it’s what makes our hearts come alive….
“This doesn’t need to wait for a man.
“God longs to bring this into your life himself. He wants you to move beyond the childlike ‘Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible tells me so.’ He wants to heal us through his love to become mature women who actually know him. He wants us to experience verses like, ‘Therefore I am going to allure her; I will lead her into the desert and speak tenderly to her’ (Hos 2:14)….Our hearts are desperate for this. What would it be like to experience for yourself that the truest thing about his heart toward yours is not disappointment or disapproval but deep, fiery, passionate love? This is, after all, what a woman was made for…
“The root of all holiness is Romance.” (John and Stasi Eldredge, Captivating)
So often I've walked through my life blind to the ways God has been romancing me. But his “love notes” are all around! Not just written in the Bible, but in all the things that delight my heart. A song. A favourite book or movie. Something beautiful or awe-inspiring in nature. Time with or words from a friend or family member.
“You might recall that the Scriptures use a number of metaphors to describe our relationship with God. We are portrayed as clay, and he is the potter. We are sheep, and he the shepherd. Each metaphor is beautiful and speaks to the various seasons of our spiritual lives and to the various aspects of God’s heart toward us. But have you noticed they ascend in a stunning way? From potter and his clay to a shepherd and his sheep, there is a marked difference in intimacy, in the way they relate. It gets even better. From master and servant to father and child, there is a wonderful progression into greater intimacy. It grows more beautiful and rich when he calls us his friends. But what is most breathtaking is when God says he is our Lover (our Bridegroom, our Fiancé), and we his bride. That is the pinnacle, the goal of our redemption (used in the last chapter of the Bible, when Christ returns for his bride) and the most intimate and romantic of all.” (Ibid)
I'm discovering that the truest expression of all I admire and desire is found in God. He is the only one who can fill me, who fully knows me and loves me deeply in spite of my flaws, and He is the only one who will never disappoint or hurt me.


God wants to be loved. Love was his idea in the first place (1 John 4:7, 16) , and he loves us with an "everlasting" love (Jeremiah 31:3)! You, and I, each have an irreplaceable spot in his heart. 


Will you let him begin to captivate your heart?

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Shall We Dance?

High heels. Sports shoes. Cute flats. Funky sneakers. Footwear at the ready, we crowded merrily into the living room as Sara began to explain her idea to us – a music video to the song “Footloose”. Each of us would show off our shoes and our fancy footwork as she recorded short clips ready to edit together for part of the video.  

“I have no idea what to do! I can’t dance!” I wailed, only half-joking, to a friend.
“Me neither,” she laughed. “Let’s go into the hallway and practice.” Three of us slipped away to stand before the full length mirror in the hall and tap and shuffle around to the beat.
“Somebody choreograph for me!” I part-giggled, part-sighed. “I have no idea what to do with my feet. My creativity is gone!”  
Eventually, with the help of my friends, I figured something out. It’s definitely a challenge to dance in 4-inch stilettos! 
(These were the shoes. Aren’t they gorgeous?!)

I’ve always had a love-hate relationship with dancing. When I was a little girl, I would put on classical music and whirl around the room with my invisible partner, dancing with blissful abandon. I loved watching Riverdance and musicals, and went through a period of being obsessed with ballet. I bought ballet slippers and practiced standing en pointe and doing perfect arabesques. I felt so elegant. As I got older, I gradually broadened out my dancing interests, adding, for example, swing, Latin, and breakdancing/street to the styles I liked. I loved dance movies. 

But somewhere along the way, I’d lost all interest in actually dancing myself.  I got shy and awkward. I didn’t think I was beautiful dancing, or at any other time for that matter. I wished that I could dance. Occasionally, in the privacy of my room, I would practice sexy nightclub moves and then laugh at how ridiculous I thought I looked! I couldn’t dance. I had no rhythm. My body wouldn’t flow into the patterns I admired other people doing. Whether I actually looked as absurd as I thought I did, I don’t know. But I was hugely self-conscious, painfully aware of other people’s opinions, and too fearful to let myself dance.

In fact, the random foot movement in my towering heels for the music video was the first “dancing” I’ve allowed myself to do in a long time. I was not elegant. Frankly I felt like an elephant attempting to be graceful, causing a small earthquake with each step…but I had fun! And I contributed to something bigger than myself.

There are other things I haven’t let myself do because of fear. Fear of looking silly, fear of other people’s opinions, fear of not knowing all the steps, as it were. I’ve missed out, and worse, other people might have missed out because I wouldn’t offer myself.

“Do not give way to fear.” 1 Peter 3:6.

God is asking me to dance again, the dance of my life. I want to let myself go in blissful abandon. I want to get lost in the music. I’m still a bit scared. I certainly don’t know all the steps. But God, I’m discovering, is a good partner – a strong lead I can follow. I don’t have to be embarrassed to learn, because he’s a patient teacher. I just have to lean into his arms and let him lead. Eventually his steps will become my own, as I let his perfect love cast out my fear, and get swept away in the beauty of the dance. 

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

He loves it

He was four years old. Dressed in a miniature tuxedo and carrying his baby violin, the audience cooed collectively as he walked onto the stage. His chubby face sombre with concentration, he began to play.

“Twinkle, twinkle little star.” It was just a simple tune. Perhaps it was the first the child had ever learnt; the notes were scratchy, drawn out, and missed here and there. “Twiiiiiiiinkle, twiiiiinkle….starrrrr.” Compared to the other children in the concert program, this little boy was a beginner of beginners, but he was utterly unconcerned about how his piece compared to the more complicated melodies that came before him. He played on.

It was a masterpiece. The audience went wild! The applause was thunderous. Cheers and wolf whistles rang out across the room as he took his triumphant final bow. I clapped as enthusiastically as the rest of the crowd as the boy trotted off stage, cradling his instrument.

Looking at my own life, sometimes it feels like my attempts to please God are like the four-year-old’s “Twinkle, twinkle little star” to another child’s Beethoven. Simple, scratchy, and sometimes out of rhythm. But God loves it. He goes wild for the smallest thing I do because I love him. Instead of being worried about my "melody" and my ability being compared to someone else, I should just continue to play. Knowing that God thinks it’s beautiful.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

The Weakness of Champions

I used to think that heroes were perfect. Knights in shining armor- beautiful warrior princesses - strong and fearless and wise. 

I wanted to be perfect. I would try to avoid doing things I knew I wasn’t good at. From a young age I taught myself to keep my true feelings under an icy cool, composed surface. I trained myself to choke back emotion and not cry in public, so no one could see how they could hurt me. I tried to do all the right things. As a teenager rebellion wasn’t really on my agenda. I strove for a perfect appearance. Anything less was unacceptable, unthinkable, and I wouldn’t admit to it.

Then I became a student missionary. I had no idea how that experience would strip me to the core and make me face my imperfection in all its ugliness. Other people could see it too. It was terrifying. (And the process of discovering my weakness hasn’t stopped to this day!) But I needed it, and I've been learning a lot from it - a lot about heroes.

“The Bible is a strange book because it repeatedly features people as heroes who admit their weaknesses and needs.” (George R. Knight)

An aggressive and self-confident fisherman. Hot-tempered young people, nicknamed “sons of thunder.” A fearful shepherd with a speech problem. A coward from a weak and obscure tribe, the youngest in his family. These aren’t the kind of people I’d think of as hero material. But these are exactly the kind of people God pictures as heroes.

The amazing thing to me is that God sees past their flaws to their potential. When they fall he doesn’t kick them off the program, as it were. He works with them, no matter how long it takes for them to see their own inadequacies and their need of something bigger than themselves.

The champions the Bible paints are great because they admit their own faults, and their helplessness to do much about it.

They show their strength by admitting their weakness.

Then Peter became a fearless preacher who ended up dying for his faith. Moses led a nation out of slavery. James and John became major leaders of the early Christian church. Gideon defeated a marauding army with only 300 men.

Some of the greatest strength is shown in admitting weakness. Only then can God step in and do something really amazing.

“And He has said to me, 'My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.' Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me.” 2 Cor 12:9 NASB

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Mum...

...you have given me so much. I don’t think I can scratch the surface, and I don’t think “thank you” quite covers everything I want to say, but I’m going to try.


Thank you for being an amazing teacher. You were a pioneer in homeschooling and endured a lot of raised eyebrows and “checks” from the authorities, answering the same questions again and again from curious or skeptical onlookers. You made my education fun! Even when it wasn’t fun (such happy memories of math…), and I threw tantrums, bawled tears of hopelessness, and couldn’t seem to understand, thanks for not giving up. You gave me my love for music, teaching me what you could on the piano and encouraging me with my practicing, even when I played the same tunes a dozen times a day because I was so nervous about an upcoming exam, or playing in church.

You didn’t throw me out of the kitchen when I had butterfingers and dropped everything, or put salt instead of sugar into the cooking, or put way too much spice in the chili. When you got sick and I had to do all the cooking with Stephen, you put up with me yelling frantic questions every two seconds about what to do. Thank you for your patience! I believe it’s paying off now J

From my earliest memories, you showed me what a relationship with God looked like. You eagerly listened to my “sermons” on a Sabbath afternoon, included me in family worship, and I learnt what a devotional life was from watching you and Dad. Thank you for all your prayers for me, and for not giving up on me when I was unsupportive of what God was asking you and Dad to do. You helped show me what God is like.

As I grew up, you told me some of your own experiences of being a teenager and gave me good advice – although I didn’t fully appreciate a lot of it until much later. You put up with slammed doors and moody silences. When I wanted to stretch my wings, or when God called me to work on the other side of the world from you, although you shed tears in airport terminals, you let me fly. Thank you.

Even when I called you “Mom”, you didn’t mind! (Or perhaps you didn’t notice?!)

Now, in times of massive change, I so often feel like an ignorant little girl even though I’m supposed to be an adult, but you continue to support me, direct me, pray for me, and love me. Thank you.

I don’t know what I’d do without you!

Sunday, March 27, 2011

I did things that scare me. I feel good.

"Do one thing every day that scares you." Eleanor Roosevelt
I like to be comfortable. Anything involving pain or fear I will generally try very hard to avoid! But God is very good at getting me out of my comfort zone and catapulting me into situations where my heart begins to pound, butterflies fill my stomach, and I become painfully aware of my limitations.


This weekend I did two things that scared me. Pubbing for ADRA was first on the list. Although I know collecting money for a relief agency is a great thing to do...I hate asking people for money. I especially hated the thought of going round throbbing city pubs on a Saturday night to ask people for money. What if they were really drunk, and rude, and hated to be disturbed from their pints and footy? The guys I was going with, however, assured me I was going to have fun. "They might banter with you a bit," one of them said laughingly. "Tell you they'll give you a fiver for a kiss!" Oh joy.


The first pub we went into was small and sparsely-populated. Swallowing my natural instincts to hide behind my fellow collectors, I pasted on a smile and went up to a table of three men. "Excuse me," I began politely, "I'm collecting for a charity..." and launched into my spiel. "Would you be willing to give anything?"
"Sure, love, just a minute," said one of the men, fishing out his wallet. His friends followed suit. Maybe the evening wasn't going to be so bad after all, I thought.


People were great. Some gave first and asked what I was collecting for later! One man I approached at a snooker table emptied his pockets into my tin and then complained good-naturedly that he had no money left for a beer! I got a little bit of banter -  a table full of tipsy lads asking my age and wondering if I was actually old enough to be in the establishment. As I left them, I heard over my shoulder, "You should've tried to pick her up!" I got a few Nos, too, but on the whole everyone was generous - and I did have fun! 


The second thing I did that "scared" me was helping out in a crèche. I like kids, but when they're a bit older. I have no idea what to do with 0-5 year olds, and when they're crying they're absolutely terrifying. 




I dragged myself out of bed later than I intended this morning (bother the time change!), skipped breakfast, and dashed out to help set up the tables and chairs and play equipment. We were expecting lots of kids, while their parents went out collecting for ADRA again, but in the end we only had two - a 3 year old chatterbox and a shy 2 year old. Three hours later, and I'd discovered that I was very good at creating play-dough pies, eating plastic pizza, engaging in long games of "mamma and baby", and singing "the hokey-pokey"! And I was still alive! In fact, I'd actually enjoyed myself...




 

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

I love what I never wanted

I never wanted to come back to England. When I left my life in Asia, I felt like my world was coming to an end, and that there was nothing God could possibly give me that would match the joy and fulfillment I'd experienced in the past 18 months abroad.


I spent the first couple of months in the UK culture shocked, stressed, and dreaming of the day I would get on a plane and fly back to the US and university. It came as a surprise six months later when I suddenly thought, "I'm actually happy here! Not just plodding on because I know God's put me here, but genuinely happy!"


God has given me so many gifts while I've been here. Some of those gifts have come wrapped with great pain and frustration, and yet that pain has helped me to grow in leaps and bounds and opened the way for deep friendships. I wouldn't change anything that's happened. I'm so glad I came back to England!



In about three months I'll be on my way again. There are a lot of uncertainties in my future, and there are still a lot of things I get stressed about. But I can look back and know that the God who has continually given me more than I was expecting, is more than able to provide for the days ahead.

"There are always uncertainties ahead, but there is always one certainty--God's will is good."  Vernon Paterson