The Real Reason I’m Going to Spain This Summer

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“The purposes of God not only include specific plans but also very specific timing” (Shirer 92). My story proves just that.

Let’s rewind to my freshman year at Campbellsville University. One night I heard about the mission trips Baptist Campus Ministries were offering, and I was determined to go on one. Since Spanish had been a gift and passion of mine for a while, Mexico seemed like the obvious choice–not to mention that going to a Spanish-speaking country was on my bucket list. Well…my mom was not very happy when I said Mexico; it was too dangerous. Still, that wasn’t enough to stop me. I started to pray. Since I was praying for God to bless my own plans instead of praying for His will to be done, it is no surprise that every door to Mexico closed right in my face. Why would God not want me to go? What could be wrong about going to serve Him in Mexico? Why has He given me this love for Spanish yet isn’t letting me use it? All of these questions would be answered later.

Now fast-forward just a few months later to a normal day in the library. A guy walks up to me while I’m studying. I don’t think we had talked more than once at this point, so you can be sure I was freaked out when he handed me a brochure and said, “God told me to give this to you.” There’s no way I was able to hide my expression in that moment. Is this what a Christian college is like? These people are crazy. But, then I saw the pictures on the brochure. Hispanic children. This caught my attention. How did he know? What is this? Rico told me about Project Transformation, an amazing organization based out of Dallas, TX that serves children and young adults. I went back to my dorm and looked up more information about PT. The opportunity to work a children’s day camp that summer seemed perfect for me. I applied, got accepted, and while PT serves a variety of children across the area, of course I ended up working at the church where 72 of 75 children were Mexican. God showed me that I didn’t have to go to Mexico to serve Him that summer. He had me right where He wanted me.

While in Dallas, each intern was supposed to speak at a church that supported PT—tell them how their prayers and donations are impacting lives, that sort of thing. Well, the church I was supposed to speak at cancelled on me, so I went with another intern to another church. She felt a little uneasy about speaking in front of everyone, so I was happy to help and excited to share my PT stories. Although I thought I wasn’t supposed to be at this church, God knew better. After speaking, a man walked up to me and gave me his business card for Camino Global. Honestly, it was meaningless at the time, but a while later, I got curious and Googled it. After the moment with Rico in the library, I didn’t believe in coincidences.

Camino Global is a Christian organization that works in Spanish-speaking countries around the world. They do short-term and long-term missions. They do preaching, teaching, and so much more. I was sold! I asked for more information about opportunities in Guatemala and Honduras. After study abroad, this is what I would do! I started putting aside money right away. I had no doubt that God wanted me to do ministry with Camino Global. So, the next summer, I requested more information and had my heart set. BUT my plans crumbled. Mom desperately needed a knee-replacement, and she needed me to help out. I was not leaving the country. While I wanted to be there for Mom, I didn’t understand God’s timing. How could I feel this strongly about something and be told “no” again? It had already been two years since I got that business card in Dallas. So, I told God the same thing. I prayed, I questioned, I even doubted Him.

I finally realized that a “no” that summer didn’t mean a “no” forever. Maybe the “no” was really just “wait.” I could still do it! Once I regained my faith, my cousin got engaged. I was thrilled for her, but I anxiously waited to hear the chosen date, because I knew I couldn’t be across the world on her big day! Once Sarah and Nick decided on July 22nd, I looked online again for opportunities. Would the dates work? Could this really happen? Then, I saw it. SEVILLA. The very first trip that popped up was Sevilla- the city I had lived in, studied in, and fallen in love with. I had never seen this opportunity before. I don’t even think it had been offered in past summers. Ok, but just because it’s Sevilla doesn’t mean I can do it. It could be only for pastors or something else. Nope. The job description was teaching English to children. WHAT. If you know me at all, there could be nothing more perfect. Ok, but now the dates. I was shaking at this point. I clicked, and I read that the last day of the internship was July 20th. Literally just in time for the rehearsal dinner on the 21st and the wedding on the 22nd!

In that moment at my kitchen table, everything came full circle. God doesn’t ask us to wait unless He sees fit for us to wait. He said “no” to Mexico, Guatemala, and Honduras… because He knew about Sevilla! Why had I ever doubted Him? He is faithful again and again. I was accepted to the program and I start in just a couple weeks!

I hope you have been encouraged by my story. If you are waiting and praying for something, remember that He is faithful. If you desire His will, He won’t let you miss it. “The authority of His message will strike your inner man with such a blow that it will shake loose your old agenda and replace it with His new one” (Shirer 62).

                     Shirer, Priscilla. Discerning the voice of God. Nashville: LifeWay Press, 2006. Print.

The Problem with Avoiding Sadness

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The documentary The White Helmets has been on my watch list for months, but I put off watching it because I didn’t want to feel sad. I didn’t want to think anymore about the tragedies in Syria. I didn’t want to cry during the scenes in which someone wasn’t rescued in time. I didn’t want to feel guilty for lying on my couch while things like this are happening in the world. But I watched. And even as I watched, I was tempted to distract myself. I avoided fully immersing myself in the emotions that came along with the situation in Syria. I told myself I would follow up with a light-hearted show after the 41-minute documentary was over.

That’s when I realized it. We avoid sadness like the plague. In the 21st century, we don’t want to feel anything but happy. That’s normal – sadness isn’t of God. Grief and sorrow didn’t come into the world until Adam and Eve sinned. Sadness isn’t something we’re drawn to because it never was supposed to be.

But, while we are still on Earth, sadness is here. And we must feel it. Now, you need to know when I say sadness, I’m not talking about depression. Sadness is a more temporary state. Psychologists say that sadness and other negative emotions motivate us more than positive emotions. “Sadness… operates like a mild alarm signal, triggering more effort and motivation to deal with a challenge in our environment” (Forgas).

I can think of plenty of times sadness has motivated me. Sadness is the reason I learned Spanish. My heart broke for new immigrants who didn’t know anyone and who couldn’t speak English. Sadness is the reason I raised money for an orphanage in Guatemala. I heard the news of a riot, a fire, and lives lost. So, with the help of Baptist Campus Ministries, hundreds of dollars were sent to help the victims. Sadness is the reason I pray and the reason I want to teach. I could go on and on, but the bottom line is this: sadness motivates.

Sadness is not what we should fear, because it leads to empathy and action. What we should fear is becoming numb– becoming numb and oblivious. If I hadn’t watched The White Helmets because I didn’t want to feel sad, I wouldn’t have prayed for Syria that night. If I avoided reading the news article about the orphanage in Guatemala because I didn’t want to feel sad, I wouldn’t have raised money for the cause. Sadness is beneficial. Feel it. Embrace it. Act on it.

“…a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance,…” Ecclesiastes 3:4

 

 

Forgas, Joseph P. “Four Ways Sadness May Be Good for You.” Greater Good. N.p., 4 June 2014. Web. 17 May 2017.

Instead of Pursuing a Godly Man…

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Yesterday, I was watching a rerun of Steve Harvey when I received some unexpected advice. Guest Eric Thomas was on the New Years special, and he was giving some members of the audience tips for how to reach their goal for the new year. I anticipated “lose weight” and other cliché resolutions, but the first person to ask for help was a 35-year-old female who held up a sign that said, “find a man.” This lady had been to Home Depot and the grocery store at night with hopes of finding a man. She was serious about her goal! And while I laughed about the extreme measures she took, I couldn’t help but think about myself and my single friends. We are constantly making jokes about our singleness!

Eric Thomas’ advice is what’s important, though. Instead of being active in your search to find a man, “become a wife. Become a woman that somebody wants. Keep workin’ on you, and while you’re workin’ on you, he’s somewhere workin’ on him. And at the right time, y’all are gonna come together.”

I never guessed that I would get such great advice from someone who is also called the “hip hop preacher,” but God works in mysterious ways. In my own study of 1 Corinthians, I recently read this:

Are you married? Do not seek divorce. Are you unmarried? Do not look for a wife.” (7:27)

Do I think God is asking that I remain single forever? No. But I do think he is asking me to shift my focus. Instead of pursuing a godly man, why not pursue God himself? At a small Christian university where I should be pointed toward the cross, I’m constantly pointed towards marriage. Marriage is a fine goal, but I should never want it more than Jesus. Easier said than done, I know…

But here’s my challenge for the both of us: In 2017, don’t make it your goal to find a man. Make it your goal to find Jesus in your season of singleness. Acknowledge that there is a purpose to such a time. Like C.S. Lewis says, “I am sure God keeps no one waiting unless He sees that it is good for him to wait.”

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Is it okay for a Christian to feel lonely?

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Surely someone will be there to sit with… If not, it’s okay, I convinced myself. Sitting in my usual pew, I thought, There’s still a few more minutes; maybe someone will show. When no one I knew walked in those doors, I subconsciously gave myself a little pep talk. Maybe church alone will be neat. Just me and the Lord. But as the music started to play, I felt alone. Christians aren’t supposed to feel alone. Why do I feel like this? I’m at church. I’ve grown up in church…

And you know how it is…once your mind starts, it doesn’t stop. Well, I guess I better get used to this. The rest of my friends are graduating this year- most of them in just a few months…Then I’ll really be alone. What if I don’t find a housemate? What if next semester my extroverted self does nothing but eat, sleep, and do homework? I can’t take a year and a half of that. I’ll go crazy.

I was still mumbling the words to a song as my mind was racing faster. I knew I had to put a stop to these thoughts before they consumed me. I prayed. I prayed that God would remind me of His friendship, His love, and His plan for me. I began to think about the promises in God’s word- that He will never leave me nor forsake me (Deuteronomy 31:6). That He is truly ALL I need.

Then, a tear fell down my cheek. I’m not even sure if it was a tear of joy or sadness. As I tried to wipe it away discreetly, I noticed what song I was mumbling the words to…

He knows my name
He knows my every thought,
He sees each tear that falls
And hears me when I call

I have a father,
He calls me his own
He’ll never leave me,
No matter where I go

This brought everything back into focus. I’m never alone. Christians can FEEL lonely, but they are NEVER truly alone.

Loneliness is a part of our human nature. Even Jesus in the flesh felt lonely at times. “Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani” My God, My God, why have you forsaken me? he said just before he died on the cross (Matt 27:46).

Sometimes we’re not as honest with God as Jesus was in that moment. Instead, we reach out to something or someone more comfortable- family, friends, pets, food, money, and even social media. Sure, these things can temporarily soothe our loneliness, but they can never take it away. “Loneliness is a homesickness for God.” Expecting someone other than God to cure our loneliness is unfair and unrealistic.

Instead of reaching out to someone the moment you feel alone—go to God first. Wait for Him to make himself known. Before you even send that text or make that call, take time to be with the Lord. I can guarantee he has nothing but truth and love to speak into your heart. You are never alone!

More, More, More

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I know when God says “no,” it’s a blessing in disguise, but what if He says “no” 5 times, 20 times, 100 times? That’s the way it has felt with my summer plans. As if I wasn’t dreading being home enough, everything that I thought would make it tolerable fell through almost instantly. Last summer, I had the most amazing trip of my life studying in Spain for two months. The summer before that I spent 10 weeks working with precious kids in Dallas. So, a summer stuck in my hometown of Louisville seemed terrible. My heart had been set on interning with a Christian organization in Latin America, but that wasn’t going to happen, so I decided to work on saving money for that trip next summer. Long story short, God said “no” again. So, as of now, my summer plans include taking a class online and taking care of my mom after knee surgery (No, Mom, you’re far from a burden. Just keep reading).

Lately, I’ve been trying to dodge the question “What are you doing this summer?” because to be honest, it has been hard to accept my mundane summer plans, especially in comparison to my past summers.

After weeks of wallowing in self-pity over my lame summer plans, I had a wake up call. We always want more, more, more. Bigger summer plans. Better memories. Cooler pictures. However, when we want more, we are indicating that everything else in the past is worth less- even in terms of spirituality.

I was underestimating what God could do with me in my hometown. I wanted to serve Him in Honduras, and I pray that there will still be a time for that, but for now, I have to love and serve where I am. And that should never be a burden.

1 Thessalonians 4:11-12 says “…make it your ambition to lead a quiet life: You should mind your own business and work with your hands, just as we told you, so that your daily life may win the respect of outsiders and so that you will not be dependent on anybody.”

A quiet life for the Lord is still a life for the Lord. A summer at home is still a summer I can serve the Lord.

So, instead of saying “I have to stay at home. I have to take care of my mom. I have to take a summer class.” I’m learning to say, “I get to have time at home. I get to take care of my mom. I get to earn some extra college credits this summer.”

And with this newer, more positive attitude, I’ve added more exciting possibilities. “I get to join a college-age bible study through my new church. I get to take a family vacation. I get to volunteer with Spanish-speakers in my hometown.”

May my summer and your summer glorify the Lord wherever we are.

I Was Not Created for Marriage.

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Where do you see yourself in five years? No really. What would your answer be? If I had to guess it would include your ideal spouse and dream job. The reason I say that is because I know what my own answer would be: “Married (or at least engaged) and teaching.” While there’s nothing wrong with that, I hope I always remember that I was not created to simply get married and then die. There is so much more to life than a romantic relationship and even a good career. Like any college girl, I do want Prince Charming and a family, but I’ve finally learned that I was created for more than one man. God’s #goals for me include so much more.

Couple holding hands

It’s depressing when you think about it- that our society, even our Christian community, has made it seem that our sole purpose in life is to get married. If it were that simple, the Bible would be one verse: “Fall in love with your high school sweetheart, get engaged (oh and 100 likes on the picture of the proposal), have a beautiful wedding, and then have perfect children.” But last time I checked, that’s not what it says.

In fact, Paul actually encourages singleness. Read 1 Corinthians 7 if you don’t believe me. Verses 34 and 35 say “…An unmarried woman or virgin is concerned about the Lord’s affairs: Her aim is to be devoted to the Lord in both body and spirit. But a married woman is concerned about the affairs of this world—how she can please her husband. 35 I am saying this for your own good, not to restrict you, but that you may live in a right way in undivided devotion to the Lord.”

Okay, take a breather. To us not-yet-married people, this doesn’t mean we have to be single forever. And for the taken/married, it’s not to offend you either. God loves marriage. He even says, “it is good for man to not be alone.” He created Adam and Eve! But like Paul says, it’s also okay to be single. As we’ve all heard, “there’s a reason for everything,” or as I prefer to say, “God gives a reason for everything that happens.” That includes the seasons of singleness.

I guess all I’m saying is stop searching for Mr. Right. Live in the present, and “Step back and be amazed how short Valentine’s Day, marriage, and even our lives really are by comparison to glory. Know that they will all pass away in an instant and pale in beauty, worth, and happiness before … our Savior.” You were not created for marriage. You were created to glorify God. If that is through a marriage, so be it. But don’t wait to get married to do that.

Take a moment to ask yourself- can I imagine a full, happy life without a husband or wife? If you can’t, your focus is more on a person than Jesus. Your self-worth, joy, and peace come from a temporary thing that isn’t even guaranteed. The Lord assures us that true joy is in Him alone.

“You make known to me the path of life;
    in your presence there is fullness of joy;
    at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.”  Psalm 16:11

So, “…as much as God loves marriage, he didn’t design it to bear the burden of our eternal purpose and happiness.” We were made for more.

Calling Bull on “Self-fulfillment Trips”

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Okay, the talk of the town (at least at my Christian university and among my Facebook friends) is whether short-term mission trips are meaningful or not. I recently read the article “7 Reasons Why Your Two Week Trip to Haiti Doesn’t Matter: Calling Bull on ‘Service Trips’,” and it filled me with sadness and anger. I must say- the title is much harsher than the article itself, but my point is: short-term mission trips have real value. Yes, motives vary person to person and trip to trip, but as my friend puts it, “don’t ever put someone down because they aren’t serving in your ideal form of ministry.”

Popular arguments against short–term missions include abandonment issues- can you even bond with the people you’re working with in so little time & if so, is it fair to love on them for a week and then leave? At first, this seems like a valid point, but how many Christians say that week-long Vacation Bible School is a waste? Not near as many as those who say that week-long overseas trips are. But why? Just like a short-term trip, at VBS you’re investing in kids you’ve never seen and probably will never see again. But that doesn’t mean you’re wasting your time. I accepted Jesus as my Savior and became a Christian at a VBS at a church that was not my home church. Without that week, my entire life would be different. Thank you to those VBS workers who realized five days was worth it.

Also, we as Christians have got to stop being so quick to judge! I think we judge our own family of believers even more harshly than we do nonbelievers. Those that do not support my short-term mission trips may look at my photos on Facebook and roll their eyes. And if you only think about 17 days in Cambodia or 8 days in Guatemala, it’s easy to assume that each trip was to check “good deed” off my annual To Do list. But hear me out…

By no means am I perfect, and evangelism is still not totally comfortable for me, but do not judge my heart based on my Facebook album of my short-term trips. You don’t know what I do the rest of the year or behind-the-scenes. Do you know that I’ve been learning Spanish for the past 8 years? So that I can love on those who are different than me. So that I can do international missions without being that white girl who knows nothing about the culture she’s serving in. And do you know that I donate? I help out organizations on a regular basis. Because when I’m not serving in places like Guatemala, others are. And finally, do you know my plans for the future? Do you know that I’ve always considered and prayed about being a teacher and missionary full time in a third world country? Do you know that I’m saving up for a long-term trip to Central America? The internship I have in mind is one that you have to pay for, and it’s a lot. Yes, pay to do work. To help people. To teach. To love. To serve. All for the sake of the gospel.

I know there are plenty of stories like mine. Plenty of people have found their calling and chosen their careers based on what some call “self-fulfillment trips.” I don’t know many missionaries who left the U.S. spontaneously to serve in a foreign country full time without ever seeing the suffering in another country first. Likely, that full-time missionary you’re thinking of went on short trips first, felt a call, and answered the call.

And if short-term trips are so useless, why do full-time missionaries organize them? Because they have a purpose.

You see a self-fulfillment trip …. I see a mission trip

You see a desperate GoFundMe… I see a chance for those who can’t go to support those who can

You see selfies with the poor… I see a newfound joy in the one holding the camera (and the children huddled around)

You see a meaningless short-term mission trip… I see relationships built, hope renewed, and souls saved

The Bible tells us to go. To love people. And to spread the Good News. It doesn’t say to do these things only if you have a long time to do them. It simply says “go.”

If you’re curious to learn more about short-term missions, check out an older blog post of mine here.

Note: not every short-term mission trip is done well or with the right heart, but these types of trips are a disgrace to the church, and they should not be used to stereotype all short-term trips