In my daily devotional a few days ago, I read a passage about worrying. It's been rolling around in my thoughts now and I keep coming back to it. While I don't consider myself a worrier (anymore...see post below), this hit home on so many levels:
"Our problem with worry is a heart issue. It's all about whether we are surrendered to God. Do we really trust Him to take care of us? Do we believe that He will lead us in His will and that His will is always good? Do we really value his plan, even when His plan leads us through difficult circumstances? If the answer is "yes" to all of these, then we have perhaps recognized Jesus as Lord in the way that He desires. But for most people the answer to these questions is "no"---at least occasionally, if not frequently.
Think about what's really in your heart when you worry. If we are worried and anxious, we don't really accept His lordship, do we? If we have really submitted to Him, we trust Him to handle our lives. They are in His hands, and whatever He chooses to do with them is all right with us, even if His will is difficult. The path is His, the means to live it are His , and the outcomes are HIs. This is what surrender is all about. And if we're really surrendered, we're not worried about it." -Chris Tiegreen
"Worry is an intrustion into God's providence." -John Haggai
Tonight during Church the older youth who was sharing was talking about really seeking God's will for your individual life and grabbing a hold of it. Of not letting your friends decide what's right for you and where you should go in life. God has a plan for each of us and it make be very different from your friends, it may even take you far away from them, but it is God's plan for our life and to live inside of His will is the closest we can get to Him this side of heaven. After that, a group from one of the dorms came up and recited a passage that they have been memorizing:
"The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters. He restores my soul. He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name's sake. Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and staff, they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the LORD forever." -Psalms 23:1-6
When I first heard God calling me to Africa, I really had to struggle through these passages. Did I really trust that God would take care of me...that he was leading me to a good place....that He could even use me here...that it wouldn't be too hard and too tough and too big of a sacrifice. I wasn't totally surrendered to God. I wasn't ready to accept FULLY His grace and mercy and forgiveness as my own. Because when I FULLY did, I saw myself completely, wholly as His daughter, the way He sees me; ready to take on the world, fight His battles, go to the ENDS of the earth to share His love with His people. And then I knew that He who had called me, who had proven time and time again that He was good and gracious and merciful, would NOT call me and then neglect to join me on HIS journey. No! He's here with me every step of the way....He's even gone before me and made my paths STRAIGHT! He does all of Psalms 23 and more. I have truly and utterly, whole heartedly surrendered my heart and my life to the Lord. If we don't really surrender, than we are often just fighting to do it out of our own strength. I cannot do most everything here on my own. I promise you that. This place is too hard, too lonely, too hot, too cold, too uncomfortable, too frustrating, ect. With Him...He has shown me HIS path, given me His means to walk it, and the fruits that come from it are His too. I often find myself wanting to take back the control, when I don't like or I doubt His provisions.....when the mountain just seems too high.....but I find myself coming back to these passages and surrendering again....to the one that has EVERYTHING figured out and IN CONTROL and all times. and I am thankful to be released from having to figure it out or keep it under control all on my own.
As I'm preparing to leave Mozambique for a short break and travel back home to the States in just 6 days, as well as looking to the future and all it might hold, I find myself returning once again to Psalms 23 and reminding myself to just surrender into His hands, because it is ALWAYS good and even better than I could have ever asked or dreamed!
Posted by erin at 22:31
WARNING: Very long, but exceptionally well written, thought provoking, totally true, and beautiful post to follow. Continue reading please....
As I'm preparing for going home again, I've been thinking a lot about where I am now and where I've been. Some of you have known me, well, since kindergarten, a few from birth, but the rest of you have come in somewhere along this journey and only know who I am as it relates to the experiences we've shared. There's also some of you that have never met me and only know of me what I decide to put on this blog or in my newsletters. So I thought I'd share a little about how God is good and faithful....this isn't the story of how I was called here (to Moz), so if you're looking for that one, it will have to be another day.....this is just for how God has changed me.
I don't have this remarkable story about how when I was younger, I was lost and a sinner, and God found me, and saved me, and today I'm a changed woman. Nope, not like that at all. I mean, I guess everyone can say that, in truth, I just mean....I was raised in the Church with my family going weekly. I went to Sunday School and Youth group. I don't remember a time in my life where I didn't believe, not only in God, but that I wasn't WALKING with him. I didn't have that time in high school or college where I wondered away, and then God brought me back. I questioned, and prayed, and learned more about the Faith I was raised in, but I never completely walked away. My mother said I had a conversation with her and my grandparents when I was 2 about how I really wanted Jesus to live in my heart and that I knew what that meant and what it was all about....after a long 2 yr old conversation (yes, I was brilliant and well articulated even then), they prayed with me and we asked Jesus to come live in my tiny 2 yr old heart. How's that for child prodigy?? no, but, really I can't attest to that as I have no memories from when I was 2. So, all this to say, my story focuses more on how He changed me from the flesh I was created and into the daughter of God He desires me to be.
I'll just go back as far as high school, because it was the first time I probably, cognitively realized, that perhaps, I wasn't completely normal in some senses of the word. I was a perfectionist down to how I crossed my t's. This mainly came out in schoolwork....B's weren't good enough (not that I never got any, I'm just saying). I took every honors and AP class (advanced placement for college credit while still in high school for those of my non-American friends) I could. I actually took 2 years of Latin, just because it would help me on the SAT's (standardized, stress-inducing, insanely hard, and terribly irrelevant test used for college entrance) and because it was the only class in 8th grade that counted toward your high school diploma. I took the maximum number of classes I could every year except for one semester because it would give me extra points, per say, on my high school diploma. I graduated in the top 10 of my class and top 10% of my nursing class. Yup, I was that girl. I would stress over the most minute thing. I had an ulcer my sophomore year in high school. I couldn't eat, was always nauseous, and generally felt lousy, all due to the stress I was putting on myself. I, of course, would never dream of not studying for tests or not doing just one homework assignment. Then there's the OCD/neat freak in me....oh yeah. In high school, my friends noticed how I always packed and ate my lunch in a very organized fashion....they started dumping out my lunch on the table to see how long it would take me to put it back in the sack and eat it one item at a time in a certain order. As if time would stand still if all my food was laid out on the table the entire time I ate. In college, my friends called me Monica (yeah, that's right from Friends.....go back and watch the early episodes and her crazy neurotic behavior). They would de-alphabetize my cd or movie collection, or pull one slightly out in front of the others so they were not perfectly aligned, and then wait to see how long it took me before I went on a frenzy to fix it. In high school, I would spend over an hour each NIGHT cleaning and perfecting my already organized and unmessy room before I could safely go to bed, because if one item was out of place, it didn't matter what time in the morning it was, I would NOT be able to sleep. Even after I graduated, I noticed that I would get stressed out if everything wasn't exactly perfect or the way I needed it to be. Come to think of it, I can't believe I started working in a high acuity intensive care unit with tiny babies that NEVER abide by the rules.....chaos is the ONLY thing that is consistent there. I was the girl that lived with her face glued into her day planner. I would spend HOURS each day figuring out my game plan for the day as to how I was going to get all the things done (clearly wasted precious hours, but not the point). When done with one item, I would cross it off, and reassess my game plan. If something happened that somehow wasn't preplanned in my day planner....I would write it down and cross it off just because I need that to function properly. I'm not exaggerating or kidding. I kept zillions of post-it notes EVERYWHERE to remind me of things I needed to do....you could often judge my stress level by the number of post-it notes: 2-3....doing great, 4-6 ok day, 7-8 moderate stress, 9-10 stressing out, 10+ watch out and I was pretty much dysfunctional at this point. I'm amazed I've made it through life without therapy or medication (note here: I am not saying anything negative about either one, I very much support both methods of coping depending on the problem at hand). Post college, I once spent 14 days without sleeping more than 1-2 hrs a night from severe stress. and ok, follow up to my last semi-lie....I had to take sleeping pills for the next month to function because I was so sleep deprived it took me 4 tries to turn on the kitchen light one day, after which I believe I broke down into tears and cried for a long while (True story). Everything had to be pre-planned, orderly, neat, clean, and well, just perfect in order for me to function....without these things, my stress level would fly through the roof.
Why was it necessary that God change these things in me to a drastic level??? I was functioning quite fine in the States, living my life, working my job, without much interruption from all this control freak in me. Even my mom will admit she didn't noticed this behavior until my first year out of college. I mean my closer friends noticed, but not to the point that they were concerned. And believe me when I say, that for all the stuff you just read, I somehow managed through and got things done and lived "normally" without disruption. Well, simply put....cause I do NOT live in the States and I have no control over anything here in Mozambique. Nothing is ever clean or neat, organized, predictable, or "normal". You cannot plan on anything going as planned (except for the fact that nothing will go as planned), and you simply have to go with the flow to get through the day. Many examples to follow here:
-I just showered in the dark.....not for fun....because the electricity failed yet again....and so did the generator.
-I haven't talked to my parents in over a month. Cause the only method that's affordable is the free kind which just happens to be skype. And this would involve internet. I kid you not, EVERY TIME we have scheduled to talk, the internet goes out, or my computer refuses to connect to the network, or connects, but says limited connectivity and won't connect me to the internet the rest of the network computers are using. EVERY TIME.
-I've taken my showers for the last week in another missionary's house because the gas to our hot water heater was out and the kitchen (who does the shopping) couldn't find any in the city. And it's not quite warm enough to be taking freezing cold water showers yet.
-This summer I took 6 weeks of freezing cold showers every day because there was absolutely NO gas in the entire metro area and we had to conserve....being that gas is the only source we have for cooking....I choose food over warm showers.
-I have on multiple occasions gone to the ATM when it was out of money.
-I have on multiple occasions gone to the store to buy much needed and staple items like eggs, milk, or peanut butter, only to find out they were OUT for the 2nd or 3rd wk in a row!
-2 Sundays ago, we had to stop the service for 10 minutes and squeeze everyone into the center and bring in giant basins to catch all the waterfalls that were pouring through certain spots in our church building's roof....then the giant basins had to be emptied several times throughout the service because they were overflowing.
-My cleaner (yes, I bless a Mozambican once a wk with money to simply clean my room for an hr or 2) likes to move things around on a weekly basis because she thinks it looks better that way. And when I say move, I mean, my furniture ends up in a different location. I absolutely NEVER know where anything is in my room, and just when I find it.....it moves again.
-I cannot stay clean for more than 10 minutes, ever...and this is not JUST because I work with 50 babies and toddlers every day all day long which is, well....messy on all accounts. No it's because this place is a giant never-ending sandbox and the moment you step out of the shower till your next...you will have sand all over you. Just own it, accept it, and move on. It's worked for me.
-I have peed in a latrine (you know where there's a few reed walls surrounding a hole in the ground) on multiple occasions.
-I have taken a cold water shower out of a bucket in the same place people pee....because in some parts of the world...their shower is for peeing....and the latrine, is for, well...that other thing.
-Come to think of it now, I often pee in places (called restrooms) that my momma would, never in a million years, consider a safe or ok place to pee. but she's not here, I'm grownup, and if you know me well, you'll know....I have to pee often.
-There are jumping spiders all over my room. They jump. At you! Especially when you are trying to kill them.
-I have killed a bazillion bugs, spiders, and cockroaches......most I make up names for cause I've never seen them before.
-I have been in the car with other missionaries when we have been pulled over by cops, not because we did anything wrong, or they wanted to give us a ticket, simply because we are white, and they wanted a bribe from us. BTW...I refuse to pay these....I'll pay for a ticket (even if it was made up), but I refuse to pay a bribe...even if it takes me 20 minutes of saying no over and over again....eventually they give up, because they have nothing to write a ticket for, and give the driver's license back and then we are on our way.
-I have had to improvise on what meds to give a child because we couldn't find it anywhere in the country (and these were the normal kinds that they use all the time over here, not the ones I would love to use, but you simply can't get here).
-I daily drink and use this stuff called long-life "milk" that resembles and tastes NOTHING like milk and can sit in a box in the heat for years. there's no fresh milk to be found here.
-I have almost forgotten what jewelry, makeup, a hairdryer, and perfume are, along with how and why I should use them. But just so you know, I'm still using deodorant, even if no one else here does.
-I have ordered, eaten, and enjoyed an entire meal in a pitch black restaurant with a meager 1 candle to see where my food was. not because it was some posh restaurant, or cause it's romantic....because they blew a fuse, had no generator, and couldn't get the lights/electricity back on. Thank goodness this country loves to cook with GAS! my garlic bread and crumbed prawns were delicious, even if I could hardly see them! and believe me, if you had tasted the food....you'd have done it too!
I could go on forever, but you'd probably stop reading this blog by the time I have finished.....so.....moving on.....
I do not list these things to make you feel sorry for me....in fact, you shouldn't be....I feel blessed and these things, honestly, hardly bother me at all most days. I know, too, that I live like a queen compared to most of the rest of this country. And sometimes, I feel guilty. It's just to open your eyes to the other way to live life, where stuff, beauty, success, and money aren't really that important. And to make the point that there is no way I would survive here without the change God worked for many years to create in me. Believe me, I know me, and I am amazed daily at how I survive here. I know it is simply by His daily grace, strengthening, and mercy that allows me to work, live, and minister here without the daily trivial things getting in the way of His bigger purpose and plan. If you asked anyone that has just met me and gotten to know me at this portion of my life, they will tell you that I am the most laid back, go with the flow, rarely get riled up and flustered about anything girl that they know. And none of this is out of my own strength. I know this because, simply put, when I have a LOT of stress, I notice a few of my old habits/coping mechanisms slipping back in. I try quickly to squash them and figure out what is going on in my life that is causing me to regress a little. It's usually because I'm running on empty, too tired, over-worked, or simply just need more God time. I pray that each of you will allow God to mold you, change you, and be blessed by God, to be transformed into His sons and daughters in His likeness. Because it's truly incredible and freeing!
"I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect." -Romans 12: 1-2
Posted by erin at 14:23
Here's my updated schedule for my time at home! 2 speaking/sharing engagements are firm and are listed. Several others are still in the planning phase. Please let me know as soon as possible your interest and your availabilities to help me figure out which dates will work best and the number to expect. I am planning for one in New Orleans, Clemson, and Birmingham...and possibly a 2nd in Nashville. If you would like me to speak to your group, please contact me as soon as possible so we can work something out.
Schedule (pretty set at the moment):
Aug. 27th Arrive in Atlanta
Aug. 29-30 Atlanta for pre-wedding festivities
Sept 4-8 Mandeville, LA
Sept 11-13 Charlotte, NC for wedding
Sept 13-24 Marion, NC for medical missions intensive class
Sept 24-Oct 1 Nashville, TN
Oct 1-3 Birmingham, AL
Oct. 9-13 Boston (family only wkend)
Oct. 13 Leave from Boston to return to Mozambique
**all other time will be spent in Clemson, SC with family
Speaking/sharing opportunities (times are rough estimates at the moment):
Nashville, TN-Sept 25 (Fri) @6:30 pm at Kathleen Sim's house
Pendleton, SC-Oct 4 (Sun) @10 am at Pendleton United Methodist Church
Tentative speaking/sharing opportunities (dates, times, and locations still to be confirmed):
New Orleans, LA-Sept 5, 6, or 7?? with Michelle Lewis's youth group
Nashville, TN-Sept 26 (Sat) evening (if interest is enough) at Courtney Wolf's house
Birmingham, AL-Oct 2 (evening) or 3rd (mid morning or lunchtime) ?? (no location at present)
Clemson, SC-Oct 5-7th sometime at my parent's home
I look forward to seeing each of you and sharing what God's doing here in Mozambique, the ministry that you have been supporting, and what God's been placing on my heart for the future. I miss all of you and am so blessed for everything ya'll have done for me since before I left last June. I hope you will consider attending a share session near you so that we can share a meal, catch up, and I may share with you a culture that has touched my life!
Posted by erin at 13:26