The next chapter...

So I know most of you have been wondering what I’ll be doing next, when I’ll be returning to the field, and where I’ll be going.  I have to say that you’ve been in good company because I’ve felt the exact same way.  And at the end of May I think God started getting through to me and I began actually HEARING what He had been trying to tell me since at least February.  I know what you’re thinking….it’s been 4 months.  I’m going to open this by apologizing for not sending this any sooner than now, but as you read on and discover where I think God is leading me, you’ll start to understand why I’ve waited, and sat, and listened, and sought counsel, and prayed through this hard before letting ya’ll in on it.  I wanted to make sure this is where God’s leading me….and sorry for the length of this post...it's the only way to get you up to speed!

It never ever ceases to amaze me that no matter how much I am seeking His will and I think that I am listening, I often find that my will is crowding out His still small voice....but eventually God gets through and I always lay down my will to submit to whatever it is that He has planned for me, which is when He begins to truly reveal His plans to me.  Back in February I felt God once again speaking to me about laying down my own dreams and plans and things of the flesh and being willing to say yes to Him in whatever capacity that looked like, even if it might be different than what I had begun to treasure up and envision in my heart for the past 12+ months, ever since I came home with the intention to just be here for 6 months and then return to the field.  Well, as we all know, those 6 months have come and gone, and the beginning of June made a year.  And since then, I've been praying and seeking that God would show me exactly WHAT it was that I was clinging to instead of clinging to Him.  I had a discussion with a Godly missionary friend of mine serving in Kenya right now and I felt God undoing something in me I couldn't really put words to at that time.  I know God called me the first time to serve Him as a single missionary for those 2 years, but since returning home I cannot say that I feel Him telling me to return to the field and serve Him full-time long-term as a single female in this current season.  And I’ve noticed that the passion I had originally and daily struggled with of so wanting and waiting to return to the field has been removed over the past months.  I still yearn to serve Him in missions (and He keeps opening up those doors), but I felt like I was just waiting on Him to give me the next big passion to replace that which He had removed. 

God really started speaking again to me about His plans versus mine...and it came at a perfect time (as is all God's timing is) that I would leave for 14 days to be in Alabama with the only distractions being the physical training and grad school work during a missions training course through SIFAT which I attended back in May...but the rest of the time I spent seeking Him in the quiet moments and praying through WHAT my next step was to be.  In those days I had a lot of discussions, a lot of prayer time, and a lot of revelations, but I felt like it was all too overwhelming to make sense of while I was there.  So when I came home, I took a full day and spent it with God dealing with all of it, getting really honest (once again) with myself and God.  I prayed through what He started in me in February, to a specific prayer I prayed in early May turning over all my desires, goals, agendas, and dreams to Him about what the next mission chapter of my life will look like-to be in alignment with Him no matter WHAT that looked like, to the discussions I had while I was at SIFAT in AL.  What came out of that time is that I'm still quite uncertain about the tiny details of where the Lord's leading me and what the next chapter is going to look like, but I'm completely at peace with the fact that it will NOT be living full time in Mozambique or another developing country in this present season.  In fact, it was just what I had been clinging to instead of what God had been calling me to…..and as I let go of that God started reminding me of what He had placed in my heart before I left Mozambique and started my trek back home……

Some of you may remember that vision and passion…..it was beginning to meld a few passions I’ve always had into one big one-loving on children, mentoring and walking alongside women and teens, and helping people get healthy (in all ways beyond just the physical).  I felt Him combining it with the new passion He was placing in me which was to move into a community, walk alongside it, live within it and be part of an amazing transformation from the inside out-starting with one person, moving to one household, and extending to one community.  I had this sense that it would be a bit beyond my comfort zone and not the safest idea for a single 30 year old female, but I’ve trusted God time after time in some of the most outrageous of His plans, and always seen Him prove faithful, so I have no doubts in this one too.  That’s when it happened.  I took that tiny seedling and I wrapped my tiny 2 year old fingers tightly around it, shoved it deep into my pocket and started conjuring up my own dreams of how that was going to look.  I had twisted the simplicity of the plan He had put in my heart and began thinking He was calling me to get more education (which He was) and then return to Mozambique, move into a more rural community and then share Christ and help transform lives from a malnutrition clinic of some sort.

As I began listening to Him closely and loosening my grips on the plans I had begun making, He started revealing His true vision for the next chapter of my life.  I started acknowledging that since February I’ve felt God telling me that my time for this next chapter is back here in Nashville and after all this time of being home, it’s only been in the last few months I’ve finally felt released to get back involved in my community, replanting roots that I was honestly a bit scared to start putting back down.  I’ve felt Him speaking to me on how to meld all of this together.....I have been blessed with an amazing part-time job at Baptist hospital as a nurse that gives me the time, flexibility, and finances (while living extremely missionally) to share the rest of my life as a missionary here in America-tent making along the way.  I’m praying with and talking to a missions group based out of the States which would allow me to help them prepare, plan, lead, and mentor small teams to developing nations working alongside indigenous missionaries and focusing on community health and transformation projects...starting sometime in Jan (hopefully depending on my finances with finishing off paying for school)...but I also feel very led to how my life should look when I am here on the ground in the States.  God has been speaking to me very specifically about moving to East Nashville and living and walking life alongside a community....which is where that vision He had planted, which I twisted, and then He not quite so gently untwisted, and firmly revealed to me, comes very apparently crashing back in again. 

To some of you the mention of East Nashville means nothing….to others your first thought is of the super trendy part with the cute shops, local restaurants, ect is.  But that’s not quite the part I’m talking about (though that’s less than 2 miles away).  I’ve been looking in a small area of East Nashville on the other side of the Cumberland River from downtown called Cleveland park which has the highest African and Sub-Saharan Africa descendants (about 10%) living in it than any other Nashville neighborhood, predominately African-American populated, with the highest single-mother headed households in Nashville, and a higher rate of childhood poverty (those falling below the US federal poverty line).  This brings along with it other problems such as higher rates of high school drop outs, higher crime rates, drug use, prostitution, ect.  I’m sure for those of you who hadn’t already thought I was crazy, are now beginning to speculate on how crazy I just might be…..well for those of you who are still with me and haven’t quite wanted to pick up the phone and tell me I might be crazy before reading to the end of this….there’s still time.  Cause that’s not quite where it ends….God’s been speaking volumes and opening doors wide open for me to not just live and walk alongside this community but to purchase a home there and physically live there.   So that’s where I am… I finished up with school the first week of August and began praying seriously about whether or not I had heard God correctly on the whole home-ownership in the middle of a transitional neighborhood thing correctly or not with my part-time job situation (which if you had tried to sell me on all this 8 months ago I would have laughed in your face and told you that YOU were the crazy one) all while picking up as many shifts at work as they’d possibly let me.  I’ve been trying to figuring out how to connect and weave together living here, planting roots, with looking internationally.  And during this time a few song lyrics were stuck in my head that God used to continue speaking to me….

Lead me to the Cross-HillSong
“Everything I once held dear/I count it all as lost/Lead me to the cross/Where your love poured out/Bring me to my knees/Lord I lay me down/Rid me of myself/I belong to you/Lead me, lead me to the cross”

Slumber-Need to Breathe
“All these victims stand in line for/The crumbs that fall from the table./Just enough to get by/All the while your invitation…/Wake on up from your slumber/Baby, open up your eyes”

Blessings-Laura Story
"We pray for healing/For Prosperity/We pray for your mighty hand/To ease our suffering/All the while you hear each spoken need/Yet love is way too much to give us lesser things/…../What if my greatest disappointments or the achings of this life is the revealing of a greater thirst this world can't satisfy? And what if trials of this life, the rain, the storms, the hardest nights, are your mercies in disguise?"

The truth is, I know I’m not called to a life of complacency or much of a life that looks anything like what most would call, the American Dream….and I’m more than ok with that.  Cause I’ve been blessed beyond belief and have more than enough….and what I feel most led to do is share that with those people around us whose blessings are going to come when the Church stands up and pours out the blessings God has entrusted them to use for His glory….there’s a quote that goes something like….”Sometimes I would like to ask God why He allows poverty, suffering and injustice when He could do something about it." "Well, why don't you ask Him?" "Because I am afraid He would ask me the same question."   My response is…I’m not afraid He would…I KNOW He would….and I know this, cause He does…..daily.  I feel ever indebted to those of you who continue walking this journey with me, praying with me, holding my hand, encouraging me, giving me such wise counsel, and helping me continually seek Him in all of this.  Ya’ll are amazing and I couldn’t continue to serve Him here at home or abroad without the sum of all of you.  I’m excited, a bit anxious, and hopeful about this next season, but I know one thing for sure….God has already gone before me, is completely in each of these details, and all things will hold together for His glory (Colossians 1:17)….and in that…I’m completely at peace.

Thank you.  Thank you.  Thank you for joining me on this journey….I’m aiming to keep you more updated now that I know where I’m headed and what I’m doing and things are speeding along now (oh and now that I finally have a LOT more time on my hands with school being done).