Tag Archives: adventure

Out of Neverland

Standard

“Never!” – an oath we make far too easily and carelessly.  There are certain things that I said I would “never” be willing to do.  Never, no, not a chance.  I looked at my life, peered blindly toward the future, and declared, “Never will I ever!”  Therein lies my conundrum.  Years ago I told Jesus “yes” while silently attempting to add stipulations.  My mouth claimed I wanted Him, but places in my heart were not yet surrendered.  I ensconced myself in the safety of my Neverland, a place I could be comfortable and in control of, a place that was enjoyable and sweet – or so I thought.  Ah, dear heart, have you ever done the same?

Is the comfort of Neverland really our best hope?

Is the comfort of Neverland really our best hope?

If you’ve watched (or read) the story of Peter Pan, you know that Peter and his lost boys want to stay in Neverland, the place where they will never have to grow up or stop having the comfortable, carefree fun they so enjoy.  I confess that I had not understood the draw of Neverland.  To me, it seemed like a place to hide.  If things got too hard or growing up became too tedious, Neverland was the alternative; yet I always wondered if that was merely a shadow of a life fully lived.  (By the way, I am a fascinating annoying great movie-watching companion, if you appreciate an analytical dissection accompanied by running commentary.)

There are times when my conversations with God are laced with please-don’t-make-me cries.  I’ll do anything You want, but please don’t make me ________….. – just fill in the blank.  It’s my own indirect way of begging “never.”  Then there are the times when I tell Him that I simply don’t want to do what He is asking.  Being comfortable is easy.  It’s familiar, and I can understand it.  I’d rather play games in Neverland than grow into a mighty woman of valor, because on the horizon I fear an Adventure with Jesus that I can’t control, a future wild and unpredictable to my finite imagination.  I don’t want to sing in front of people, don’t want to be a classroom teacher, don’t want to live in cold places, was never interested in traveling to India, don’t, no, never…. – or, at least, I thought I didn’t.  So flesh conflicts with spirit as my head struggles to comprehend the stirrings of my heart.

Piece by piece, word by word, the Lord has been tearing down my every “never,” stripping me of excuses.  My never-oaths hold no weight in the eyes of my King of kings.  Recently having found myself frustrated by His lack of acknowledgement regarding these never-oaths, I declared to God, “There you go again, changing my heart to be passionate about something I didn’t even want!”  Yet my indignance was born of my need to surrender – not of true frustration.  Finally coming to the end of myself, I am giving up my whole heart to Him.  In these moments, what else can we do but laugh?  Life with Jesus is one surprise after another, and still we are totally safe in the constancy of His nature.  To quote Graham Cooke, “God is unpredictable but consistent.  You never know what He is going to do next, but you ALWAYS know what He is going to be like.”

Happy in my saree -- a secret wish I never thought to experience!

Happy in my saree — My little-girl dream come true!

The true adventure is found not in my self-satisfied Neverland but in the Wilderness with the Love of my life.  True adventure is utterly terrifying.  I am now in a place that I had not expected, a point in life I never wanted to be.  And I find it beautiful.  This is the difference in doing life with God.  What we so often miss is the power of our own choice.  When we choose Him, He sets us free – but He’ll never force us to walk in that freedom.  He wants His best for us – but He’ll never force it on us.  It isn’t about Him forcing you into a life you don’t want.  It isn’t about your becoming His henchman, obligated to cater to the His mysterious and changing whims.  In fact, He alone is the One from whom all good things come (Jas. 1:17), and He doesn’t change – ever (Mal. 3:6).  His ways and wisdom are no mystery, for He “has revealed them to us through His Spirit” (1 Cor. 2:10).  So if God isn’t some vague, unknowable force, waiting to strike us down or toss in a shocking plot twist just for thrills, if He truly doesn’t strong-arm us into choosing His best, what IS this all about?  It is about allowing Him to change your heart to desire the things He desires.  As your heart changes, you will sincerely long to see His will done on earth and in your life as it is in heaven (Mat. 6:10): the full-blown picture of His glory and goodness.

Good morning, India! I would never have thought that the bar-covered windows, the bright plaster homes, and the spice-scented air, filled with the sounds of family stirring in the early morning -- could become beloved so quickly.

Good morning, India! I would never have thought your bright plaster homes and spice-scented air would become beloved so quickly.

God didn’t demand that I go to India, a country about which I had always shrugged my shoulders and declared I had no particular intention of visiting.  Instead, He brought people into my life, offered opportunities, and began to speak to my heart about this new place and culture for me to love.  He began to reconcile my heart to His, causing the desires of my heart to match the desires of His.  Like a checkbook being balanced, all the columns began to add up correctly and the totals make sense.  It was an Adventure born of my decision to say “yes” to the One who alone is good in all His ways.

Whether it's teaching the kids in my church family or teaching students ranging from Kindergarten to high school, teaching is my passion.

I love kids. Teaching is my passion.

God did not demand that I teach classrooms full of students.  It began years ago when He whispered to my heart, “This is what I’m doing.  If you want to do what I’m doing, you’ll do this” and I found myself attending college for Elementary Education.  Reconciling.  In the four years since, I continued to say that I would never be a regular classroom teacher.  Yet now I find myself eager to take on classrooms of bright-eyed and belligerent students alike, falling completely in love with every student as I see the Father’s heart reflected through each one.  I cannot resist the intense compassion and desire to nurture that swells within me as I teach.  It has been an unexpected but freeing journey for me to admit that my never-oaths were holding me back from the fullness of what God has for my life and His glory.  Reconciling my heart to His.

Sometimes we don’t understand the depths of His freedom until we comprehend the depths of our own bondage.  I chose to surrender.  Every day, every moment in which I forget that choice – I choose again to surrender, letting Him reconcile my heart to His.  Hand in hand, He’s leading me out of my Neverland into a wild place with Him.  The cry is no longer “Never!” but rather, “Here am I!” (Is. 6:8) – and all the wild, glorious adventures that follow.

helen-keller-quoteAs we begin to step out of our Neverlands, we walk into greater freedom.  We become free in our laughter and our loving, free in our dreaming, free even in our hurting and our longing.  The loveliness of life lies in allowing yourself to dream with Him.  The Adventure is in the limitless of His kind nature and the richness of His heart toward you.  In what areas of your life have you been holding back?  Where is the Neverland that you’ve been hiding in?  Is it fear keeping you there – or is it just the comfort?  What dreams would you dream if your heart was truly free?  Where have you chosen “safer” or “easier” or “less risky”?  Where have you told God “no” or “never” – and what might you be missing because of that?  Do you truly long for the things He longs for – do you really desire His best in your life?  Talk with God about it; ask Him what He has to say.  These are not easy answers, but honesty is the birthplace of freedom in our lives.

Join me in the journey out of Neverland, braveheart.  No more hiding.  It all begins with one decision: say yes to Him.  This is a life without regrets, a life lived in freedom.  The one “never” I can proclaim with confidence is that it is never too late.  May our hearts be reconciled to His, one in desire and aim, because there is no other Adventure worth living.

joseph-campbell-quote

Advertisements

The Air Smelled of Spices

Standard

“How was India?”  This has been the question of loving and curious friends, family members, classmates, and acquaintances in even the few days since I returned from India.  That question is so broad to encompass all the precious things God has worked (and is working!) in and through me from this journey.  So, I will graciously answer this ubiquitous question with some stories and snippets of a time happily spent.

img_0510

One of the many small Hindu temples that can be seen all over this area of India.

On my arrival in India, the people I was with were surprised, saying that they’d never had any visitors adjust so flawlessly to the time change and strain of travel.  Apparently my “flawless adjustment” didn’t extend to the return trip, as I am currently in possession of my first true (and rather severe) case of jet lag.  As I sit very still with a bowl of (dry) Cornflakes, I’m trying to pretend that my ever-loving dad didn’t just attempt to offer me such a stomach-churning item as milk to put over top of them.  But I digress.

How was India, you wish to know?  It felt like going home.  Until I am in other places and other cultures, I rarely feel just how pseudo-American my own culture (and that of my family) is.  I have had to repeatedly admit to myself just how much not only my faith and my family but also the places I’ve lived have influenced the woman I’ve become and the values I hold dear.  Just because I look (and sometimes sound) like a Midwest-American, Dutchy girl from Michigan, that is not the setting that makes me feel most myself.  The sunshine, the smells, the languages, the people, the spicy food, the ministry, even the traffic – I was so wholly well.  In changing my environment and reaching out to others, I regained my perspective and found again my quiet place with Jesus.  It’s amazing how looking past yourself and breaking from rigid monotony (even of “good” tasks and endeavors) can refocus your eyes on the most important aspects of life.  So allow me to give you a tiny glimpse of India through the eyes of a girl who fell instantly in love with the beautiful country in which the air truly does smell like spices….

From a Mother’s Wisdom

A young coconut was whacked open for me, and voila! The best coconut water I ever drank.

A young coconut was whacked open for me, and voila! The best coconut water I ever drank.

Apparently, no matter what culture or country they are part of, mothers provide some of the most reasonable advice.  While staying in Hyderabad with a friend’s family who welcomed me with astonishing kindness and love, I was given my favorite piece of advice.  This moment was made all the more splendid by the fact that I speak practically no Telugu and Mama speaks practically no English.  As we rode in the car one afternoon, Mama admonished me to not spill my coconut water on my saree, as the stain wouldn’t come out of the fabric.  This admonishment to be cautious was accompanied by miming of what I should, under no circumstances, do if I wanted to keep my saree in good repair.  For this white girl wearing her first saree, it was a much-needed piece of motherly advice!

img_0471

Outside the Medak Cathedral in Telangana

In the Tradition of India

Yes, you read correctly above – I really did wear a saree, and not just one I’d picked up and attempted to put on in tourist-like fashion.  My friend’s mother chose sunshiny-yellow (how could she have possibly known it is one of my favorite colors?) fabric and had all the proper pieces of a true saree made for me.  Mama and sisters laughed and flocked around as they all fussed and pinned, dressing me in the true tradition of India – not as an outsider but as a guest and one of the family.  I’m not sure who enjoyed it more – me or Mama!  Secretly I have always wanted to wear a saree, but I would never have had one made for myself.  Utterly comfortable in my own skin and appropriately garbed as a daughter of India (complete with a full set of bangles!), I enjoyed the day exploring Hyderabad with the family.  I never realize how much I stand out at times, but among only Indian people wherever I went, I (especially with my blond hair) was quite a novelty.

As Only the Holy Spirit Can Do

Me and the ministry team from Hyderabad

Me and the ministry team from Hyderabad

I was invited to share at the family’s church in Hyderabad, having met the pastor and zealous children’s and youth leaders the previous week during the awesome leadership-ministry training which I helped facilitate.  (It was neat to build new connections there simply by knowing friends in the U.S.!)  There was some discussion: perhaps I would guest-lead the children’s ministry that Sunday, or perhaps I could introduce the ministry model for the congregation and share a bit about myself.  So what actually happened Sunday morning?  When I arrived, I was handed a microphone and invited to preach the Gospel, minister to my brothers and sisters in Christ, and explain and implement a whole new ministry model of listening prayer and learning to hear God’s voice.  As my dad would say, it was my first “full preach” – my first time acting as teacher-pastor for the whole church body.  Oh, and it was beautiful!  God had been preparing my heart with a message, and I was prepared to be flexible in whatever was asked of me and whatever God wanted to do.

This precious blessing spent all his time with me in Vijayawada, snuggling in my arms and chattering about any subject that struck his fancy.

This precious blessing spent all his time with me in Vijayawada, snuggling in my arms and chattering constantly.

I was blessed to have an effective translator to support my weak area (i.e. my current non-command of Telugu).  Though he had as much prior notice about his task as I did mine, I was truly humbled by his willingness to take on such a daunting job for the first time.  In that sun-warmed church, my heart was awed afresh as I watched the Holy Spirit do what only He can do, ministering directly to the hearts and needs of each of God’s children, be they grown or small.  As we moved into a quiet listening time as a church, waiting to each hear what God was speaking to us, the Holy Spirit spoke in ways that these brothers and sisters could understand.  Visions, descriptions of colors, and precious new prayers poured forth as we began to share and pray into the things God spoke through His Spirit.  Though I began the morning tired and deeply saddened by the long-distance loss of my beloved great-grandmother the previous night, there was nothing more refreshing than to place myself in the community of brothers and sisters in that place.  God is so faithful to meet us in each moment!  (Feel free to ask for more specific stories, as I’d love to share!)

Good Morning, India!

Though the weather during my first week was certainly more cloudy, I enjoyed waking up to twittering birds, sunshiny warmth (rising beyond 80 degrees Fahrenheit on many afternoons), and the sounds of trade and traffic stirring for a new day.  While in Hyderabad, I had the further pleasure of enjoying the sounds of family waking, as well as the 5:45 A.M. call to prayer from a nearby mosque – the quirky alarm suited my love of early mornings!

A beautiful day spent with the family!

A beautiful day spent with the family!

At the Heart of Family

I knew some of what to expect from extensive conversations in which my dear friend graciously answered dozens of odd questions ranging from how best to exchange currency to how I should address his various family members.  Still, even armed with so much knowledge, one must be ready to go with the flow and learn through experience.  Even knowing how much my friend loves his family, I was struck by how close-knit the family was.  I met dozens of aunts, uncles, and cousins, being bolstered by the aid of brothers who acted as impromptu interpreters and the recipients of my many, many more questions.  Much more so than American culture, family is at the heart of Indian culture – and the heart of family is in togetherness and care for one another.  With the little cousins crawling on me and calling me “big sister” in Telugu (akka), I was reminded of just how precious a blessing family is – and how much there is to learn from other cultures.

At Meal Time

As I learned when I arrived, the Indian states of Andhra Pradesh and Telangana (together as the single state of Andhra Pradesh until a couple years ago) are known for the spiciest food in all India.  I almost started dancing with glee – bring on the flavors of India!  Other than the fact that I couldn’t consume a satisfactory quantity of food to please the family I stayed with (love = lots of food), I enjoyed the new textures and spices.  There are enough types of curry to boggle your mind, and I was blessed to enjoy delicious homemade meals in both areas where I stayed.  Very little beef or pork is eaten in the area, if at all, based primarily on the general religious beliefs and customs.  Chicken, vegetables, or lentils provide the base for many types of curries.  Biryani and tamarind rice are two special types of rice dishes made for special occasions, and they have very specific spices that each cook prefers to use.  And if the heat gets to be too much in your mouth, don’t worry – most meals are served with curd, a type of cool, thin yogurt-sour cream, that you can mix with your curry or eat at the end of the meal with rice to soothe your palate.  If you get really delightful curds, like I tasted, there might even be freshly sliced bits of red onion and cilantro mixed in – yum!  (And no, I do not really have any photographs of food.  That is too millennial-hipster for me, and it is hard to photograph something when you already literally have a hand in it!)

Did You Know…

There are interesting mountainous areas around Hyderabad, where the "mountains" are giant piles of rocks naturally stacked atop one another.

There are interesting mountainous areas around Hyderabad, where the “mountains” are giant piles of rocks naturally stacked atop one another.

In the areas where I was, families eat together while simply sitting around comfortably, often without a table.  (Where I was, the lack of table simply made more space for family to crowd close and enjoy the meal.)  And, coming from a part of Hindu culture that has permeated India in general (whether Hindu or not), you eat particularly with your right hand – no utensils.  I actually became fairly good at this in a short period of time, helped by the fact that rice is a main staple and provides an excellent tool for “sticking” the curries together.  I used a spoon the day after I got back to the U.S., and it seemed a bit foreign at first!

img_0283Beep, beep!  The horns on vehicles in India are not merely accessories.  They are, in fact, vital and constantly-used tools to let other street traffic (whether wheeled or otherwise!) know where you are and where you want to go.  After living in Nairobi, Kenya, for a couple years, I found the traffic of India comfortingly familiar in its hectic bustle – and not nearly so shocking as I was preparing myself for!

And Just Because Traveling Can Be Amusing…

Upon being escorted to the airport at the end of my trip, I was happy to have my friends wait with me until my flight was boarding.  As we sat sipping on a variety of hot and cold drinks (definitely a cold one for the MI girl who felt like it was summer in the winter of India!), an elderly British man walked past, and I stared in bewilderment.  Much to the amusement of my companions (who were looking at me oddly), I began to laugh, because, just as he looked like an anomaly to me, that was how I probably appeared to everyone else.  I just hadn’t seen any white people in some time, and it was difficult not to stare!  It’s amazing how unobtrusive I felt after only a handful of days, even walking the streets with my friends.

Posing for some quick selfies with people for whom I was as much a novelty as the famed Medak Cathedral.

Posing for some quick selfies with people for whom I was as much a novelty as the famed Medak Cathedral.

There are a variety of ways to wear sets of bangles, often a matching set on each arm. Women often coordinate their bangles with their sarees (or other outfits). If anyone knows how to accessorize, it is definitely Indian women!

There are a variety of ways to wear sets of bangles, often a matching set on each arm. Women often coordinate their bangles with their sarees (or other outfits). If anyone knows how to accessorize, it is definitely Indian women!

After two weeks in India – and hearing almost exclusively Telugu for the second week – I was traveling back to the U.S.  (albeit somewhat reluctantly!).  As I waited in the Paris airport, a flight attendant asked me a question about my checked luggage.  I stood staring blankly at her, trying to translate in my mind what she could possibly mean – until I realized that she had spoken in accented but flawless English.  It took several minutes for me to understand that I hadn’t recognized my own language being spoken!

Speaking of the Paris airport, I was made to remove all my bangles form my arms while going through security (not a quick task, I assure you!).  As I somewhat grumpily removed them, I started to laugh at how different the Indian airports had been in regard to security measures – after all, what good reason would there be to remove all one’s jewelry?!  Even though it seemed silly to me after the places I had just come from (and to others coming from other parts of India or Africa), with stern Parisian TSA officers staring me down, I decided it was best to follow directions.

At Home in Adventure

Standard

Some people wander by nature.  Others wander by choice.  We all seek what we were created to crave: adventure.

Now that I’m back in in Michigan for the time being, everybody asks me, “How does it feel to be home?”  While a conversation in passing typically includes my (truthful) reply that it is so good to be with my family, I am going to give a more complete answer here for a question that is asked in both love and curiosity by the people who are most precious to me.

How does it feel to be home?  I don’t actually know what that means.  Do you refer to the house in which I’ve never lived with my family in a state that I left when I was twelve?  Until my family picked me up from my college campus in North Dakota at the end of the semester and brought me back to Michigan, I have not lived in any one place for seven years.  Though I moved plenty of times prior to that, during this particular seven-year period I lived in three countries and moved a dozen or so times.  I came back to the U.S. and, after six weeks of sleeping on a couch at my grandparents’ house, I moved to North Dakota (a state I’d never lived in) to attend college (having been a lifelong homeschooler).  This is the first time since 2009 that I have had all my possessions in one place and am not living out of a suitcase.

You were made for so much more than a mere pedestrian life,

You were made for so much more than a mere pedestrian life,

“There is no domestic heart,
So what have we become: just pedestrians?
There is no domestic heart.”

I am no longer quite “American” – sometimes I don’t know how to define my place. “Home,” as most people define it, is a rather fluid concept for me.  I told my mom last summer that it has been three-and-a-half years since I left the U.S. – three years since I have been in Africa.  I left a piece of my heart in Africa – or Africa has become a part of me.  I have friends and family in different countries and on different continents.  As I began teaching our Missionary Month with the kids at my church, I was struck with an intense wave of homesickness not for a location but for a type of life I’d left behind.  To be perfectly honest, I am still finding my place now that I am back in Michigan, no longer in the steady certainty of my missionary life in Africa or the consistent structure of my time at college.

“The Wilderlove is hidden within us.
And we reckon with it; we wrestle with it.”

But let me explain the girl behind the story.  Once upon a time I dreamed of a quiet, “secure” life – a life that played out in one location, in one house, with a few people I loved.  My goal was to never move again – ever.  Even when I came back from Africa, I practically vowed I’d never cross an ocean again.  My whole life I despised what I could not control or predict – because I was afraid of what might happen.  I couldn’t control places or people or even my own life.  And this is the girl who today lives with a heart full of adventure and a desire to live boldly.

We were not made to hide in a safe, neat life. We were born into freedom, designed for adventure.

We were not made to hide in a safe, neat life. We were born into freedom, designed for adventure. (Photo from This Old House)

You see, there was always a restlessness deep within my soul, a wildness I dreamed about in the deep of night.  I grew up in Africa – I found myself there in a way that I never had before.  I had always thought of myself as rather studious, perhaps a bit boring and reserved – because surely my dreams were too big, too wild.  Instead, I found that there was within me a mighty woman of valor waiting to be released into the fullness of her God-created beauty.  What I mistook for my “dream life” was, in reality, only the unwillingness of my mind to embrace the dreams and desires as big as God’s heart for me.

You are the Wilderness, and I fall fast drawn
To the rise of Your vast expanse

I feel so underdressed so civilized and small
By the powers that You possess.”

The craving for adventure was always there, buried deep within me.  Now it has been unearthed – now it has found its home.  This adventure is soul-deep, indelibly etched into the core of my being by the One who has called me to the greatest Adventure of all time.

Adventure has awoken in my heart and found its place.

And oh, how I crave it!  I laughingly admitted to my family that I might have a serious case of wanderlust.  The girl who hated sleepovers because she never liked being away from home for a single night has become a woman with a heart for the nations and a longing to travel the world.  Living out of a suitcase is not a hardship but a privilege.  There is joy in staying, and there is joy going.  For me, adventure isn’t about breaking beyond the mundane or the daily hum of life; it is about finding freedom in who God created me to be.  It is not about the location or the particular duty – it is about the adventure of simply being with God.  A life wholly surrendered to my Creator is inevitably a life of adventure.

What areas of your life is God asking you to surrender to Him?  In what places is He calling you deeper into the vast expanse of Him?  I shared above some of the lyrics from John Mark McMillan’s Wilderlove, and the song is beautiful in that it recognizes how we often struggle with the piece of us that longs for something wholly Wild.  We seek safety in becoming mere pedestrians in life’s adventure, but we were made for more.  Our God is the Wilderness: untamed, unpredictable, yet consistently good and glorious.  You, braveheart, were created with a wild, untamed heart to long for a life with Him.  You may, as I do, feel afraid of something so beyond your understanding.  But the there is a piece of you that will never be fulfilled until you allow yourself to acknowledge that He has made you for adventure – and He has made you well.

not-all-who-wander-tolkien-quote

This week I pack my bags to begin another part of my great Adventure.  I will be spending almost two weeks in southeastern India, doing ministry training to teach leaders how to teach others to hear the voice of God.  Through listening prayer, journaling, rich storytelling, and intentional conversation, my heart is to teach young participants to have a personal relationship with God.  Afterward I will even have the pleasure of spending a weekend with new friends.  There are dreams I was too afraid to dream fully, but God is calling me out of fear.  I’ve been born into freedom.  Even as you join my journey into India through my words and pictures, join me in letting go of control and letting your heart dream boldly with the One who designed you in His image with that wilder-love in the depths of your soul.  Adventure calls, beloved.  Freedom is calling your name, drawing you toward a life lived to the fullest.  What will your answer be?

Alaska's Gates of the Arctic Wilderness by Sean Tevebaugh

What does the Wilderness look like as you adventure with God? (Photo: Alaska’s Gates of the Arctic Wilderness by Sean Tevebaugh)

I Suggest You Run

Standard

Every day we have opportunities – opportunities to learn, to grow, to step into destiny, to embrace adventure.  Yet all too often we shrink back, afraid of where opportunity might take us, of not making the “right” choice, or of failure and disappointment.  Life, relationships, choices – I often fear doing the wrong thing.  My greatest fear in this is:  what if I take an opportunity and then it doesn’t work out somewhere down the road?  Does that make it wrong to take the opportunity?  Does that put me at fault because I “should have known better”?

I struggle most with these questions when I feel that God is asking me to take an opportunity and then it doesn’t have the results I expect.  Did I miss God’s voice?  Did I do something wrong?  I imagine you can relate to these questions.

The truth, however, is that God doesn’t ask us to know the beginning from the end – that is His job.

My parents told me something that, at the time, I thought was odd: “You don’t know until you know.”  What they meant is that sometimes you simply have to take the next step without trying to analyze all the steps that will come after.  God asks us to take one step at a time and let Him take care of the future.  The problem with my thinking is that I tend to look for the results I expect But if it isn’t my place to know the beginning from the end, how would I know what the end should look like?  Ecclesiastes 3:11 states that God “has made everything beautiful in its time.  Also He has put eternity in their hearts, except that no one can find out the work God does from beginning to end.”  We are designed with a yearning to know (and it is good!) that will never be fully satisfied on this side of heaven.  He knows the paradox of our fragile frames and our thirst for the fullness of eternity, and He is tender with us.  He unveils the splendor of our journey step by step so that we can learn to trust in Him and not in ourselves.  Trust would not be trust if there were no question of the path!  (Check out Timeless Trust for more on this subject.)  Someday we will know fully, but now we know only in part (1 Cor. 13:12).

puzzle piecesSometimes life feels like a jumble of puzzle pieces that have no box to tell you how many pieces there are or show you what the picture looks like.  I have two options: I can clumsily attempt to make the pieces fit – or I can simply trust God, the Master Designer, and allow Him to add the pieces and put them together into a masterpiece.

Every time I watch Ever After, I have to appreciate the meddling of Gustav, Danielle’s faithful friend, who sends Danielle’s true love searching for her.  In an excited panic, Danielle yells to her friend in disbelief, ‘“And now he is heading for my house!”’  With a bright grin, Gustav simply replies, ‘“Then I suggest you run.”’  Danielle’s face lights with delight, and she darts across the field to meet her love.  How I wish that were always my response to opportunity!  All too often, though, I hide from situations that I am uncertain of and wish that someone (particularly God) would tell me what the best choice is (i.e. the one that works out most agreeably in accordance with my expectations).

ever after

Potential does nothing unless you take the opportunities that are set before you.

Yet even as part of me shrinks back, there is another part of me that longs to stretch my legs and run freely into opportunity.  As I tackle my final year of college, I have many exciting (read, “terrifyingly exciting”) choices before me, choices that have me at a crossroads in some ways.  As I consider the potential outcomes and ramifications of each decision, my poor mind is spinning in circles.  But the truth is that God started me on this path long ago, whispering His faithful promises over my life and sheltering me in His grace.  It is not my job to BE God and know how everything will work out.  It is my job to TRUST, obey, and simply take the next step that is before me.  I will never know until I know – and only God knows what the fullness of my future looks like.  Though not knowing exactly what lies ahead bothers me, I know that God is good and that He wants me to focus on the opportunities He is giving me now.  After all, opportunity disregarded is nothing but wasted potential — a journey never taken, a life never fully lived.  And I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that I do not want to look back and see only “potential” in my life.  (Check out Live Wild for more on living adventurously.)

What opportunities have been set before you now?  What step is God asking you to take next, trusting Him with the results?  Perhaps it is time to simply start running and see where God will take you.  The results may not be what you expect, but consider that your expectations may be different that God’s intentions.  This is the essence of God’s working all things together for our good (Rom. 8:11).  Do not allow fear to make yours a life of wistful if-only thoughts and “great potential.”  God always uses all the pieces – nothing is wasted in the puzzle of your life because He already knows the end from the beginning (Is. 46:10) because He is the Beginning and the End (Rev. 1:8).  All your days were written by Him before one of them came to be (Ps. 139:16), and His intentions toward you are good (Jer. 29:11).  He longs for us to walk boldly with Him in His sure mercies (Is. 55:3), knowing that, ultimately, it is He who sustains us and nothing can snatch us from His hand (Jn. 10:28-30).

And so, my dear friends, I suggest you run.

Live Wild

Standard
Leopard's Leap at Oribi Gorge, South Africa - 2010

Leopard’s Leap at Oribi Gorge, South Africa – 2010

Fear is a peculiar thing.  It compels us to avoid “risk” and idolize so-called safety.  I had never thought of myself as a fearful person until I realized that I was allowing my life to be completely ruled by fear.  It was not a fear of heights or darkness or strangers; rather, it was a fear of not being in control.  Until my family moved to Africa in 2009, I had no idea that, in the quiet steadiness of my young life, I had never really had to give God complete control.  I was so un-free in my carefully controlled life that it pains me to think of it.  Yet, at the same time, I look at where God has brought me now, and I smile for all He has done in me.

Despite being someone who has moved twenty or so times, lived in multiple countries, and done all sorts of fascinating things, I never really liked adventure.  To my mind, “adventure” was synonymous with “uncertainty” – and that was something I couldn’t bear.  Adventure meant risking trust because I can’t be in control.  Adventure meant that things might be different than I’d hoped or planned.  Adventure meant adaptability.  And if I was one thing, I was unadaptable.  Was.

Now I can confidently and joyfully say that I love adventure.  It is still scary sometimes in that it holds the possibility for so many unknowns, but I am safe in the hands of the One who knows all.  Adaptability and flexibility are things I have been learning relentlessly over the past few years, and many of these moments have been exhausting and difficult for this list-loving, plan-making girl.

Lion kisses at the Lion and Rhino Park in South Africa

Lion kisses at the Lion and Rhino Park in South Africa

I still have those moments where I think I just can’t cope with not knowing precisely where this adventure will lead me – I even had some moments earlier this week!  But now that I have had a taste of this freedom, there is no going back.  I will live out this adventure with passion, my eyes fixed on my Lord, or I will not do it at all.  I can’t do it alone; I need the joy of the Lord to be my strength, and I need Him to be strong where I am weak.

A few weeks ago I told God, “I feel like I jumped off a cliff, and I can’t see the bottom.  Please catch me!”  And God in His gentle way replied, “Sweetheart, you never left my Hand.”

“The eternal God is your refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms…” – Deuteronomy 33:27 NKJV

I am discovering more each day that adventure is never a risk with God because He is both wholly sovereign and wholly good.  A life of adventure is not a life of ease – it is not a place for clinging to false security but rather for recognizing the trustworthiness of my God.  God alone is my safe place, and in Him I am free to live wild and love well.  He has freed me to fearlessly embrace the fullness of the adventure He has called me to.

In Christ, our freedom is given all at once but lived in over time.  It is the way of every great victory that the victors must learn to live in the fullness of what they have attained.  All too often we act like we are still captive to the fears that we were in before Jesus.  But that is the key: before Jesus.  Once we have received Jesus as our Lord and Savior, we are set free by the redeeming power of His blood.  This freedom is not merely a release from our sin nature; rather, it is an invitation to live in the fullness of the victory He has already won.

Ready for some fun on the ropes course with my cousins!

Ready for some fun on the ropes course with my cousins!

I went on my first zip line recently, but it didn’t seem very zippy – or very high.  It definitely needed more adventure.  I am laughing to myself as I contemplate this – I, the girl who was once unable to cope with unplanned situations, have become a lover of adventure with a desire to seek new things.  I still have much to learn about walking in this kind of freedom, but I am enjoying noting the outward manifestation of true heart-transformation.  The victory of Jesus at the Cross was total; fear and cowering no longer have a place in my life.  I am learning to be a thrill-seeker in the best sense, because, deep within my spirit, I know the truth is that there is only One who is wild enough to satisfy my craving for adventure.  Imbedded in the very core of who we are is an unquenchable longing for adventure because we are made in the image of our God, and our God is a God of adventure.  So no matter how diligently we try to squelch it or how wrongly we try to satiate it, our longing can only be satisfied in the One who is adventurous by nature.

Rich Mullins said, “God is a wild man.”  He went on to say that most of us would prefer a tame God who would always do the expected. But then again, that would be terribly dull – and terribly unlike the amazing nature of our God.  There is a difference between “wild” and “crazy.”  God is wild because He is untamable – utterly unconquerable.  Living adventurously is about living wild as our God is wild – not about doing crazy (i.e. dumb, thoughtless, insane) things.  Our God is a God of adventure, and He is calling us into a Great Adventure with Him.  Adventure is about a process – it is about the doing and the going.  To be fixated simply on “getting there” is to miss out on the beauty of what God is doing now.  We are called to live lives that are as wild and limitless as our God.

May His kindness release you to live wild and love well.  Be free, my friends!

If there is anything that has taught me to be flexible, it is being in the Teacher Education program. Thanks to Rachelle, my amazing professor for two years, who showed me every day how to embrace all the lovely, random moments.

If there is anything that has taught me to be flexible, it is being in the Teacher Education program. Thanks to Rachelle, my amazing professor for two years, who showed me every day how to embrace all the lovely, random moments.