Sunday, October 23, 2011

for our culture class we had to write an essay about our faith and how we feel we've grown these past two months... I thought it was only appropriate to share it with my faithful crew of readers, to share with you guys where I'm at in this stage of the game. So here it goes. I hope it gives you an insight into my heart and what God is doing in me and hopefully through me!

When I met with my sweet friend Sally before leaving for this trip, she spoke incredible wisdom into my life and inspired me with this scripture.  Hosea 2:14,19 say, “Therefore, I am now going to allure her; I will lead her into the desert and speak tenderly to her.  I will betroth you to me forever, I will betroth you in righteousness and justice, in love and compassion.  I will betroth you in faithfulness and you will acknowledge the Lord.”  She said that she really felt like these four months away were going to be the beginning of my love story with Jesus.  Another friend sent me this scripture, “Listen, O daughter, consider and give ear; forget your people and your father’s house.  The king is enthralled by your beauty; honor him, for he is your Lord” (Psalm 45:10-11). 
August 12, 2011… Hasta la vista bebe!  “Well Lord, here we go! I cannot believe this semester is already here! I feel like I’ve been preparing for this adventure forever, and now that it’s here I am in awe.  As of right now my heart is so anxious and excited about what this is going to look like. I pray Lord that you will mold my heart to love you more and to every day spend time in your word.  I desire to grow in you in these next four months! Open my heart!”  I wrote this on the first leg of our flight to Houston, and I remember bawling tears of joy and excitement, anxiousness and expectancy.  Knowing that God had amazing things in store for me in these four months in Mexico, I was so anxious to see how his plan played out in my life here.  On the plane I started reading the book “Passion & Purity” by Elizabeth Elliot.  She writes, “Lord, I have said the eternal YES.  Let me never, having put my hand to the plough, look back.  Make straight the way of the cross before me.  Give me love, that there may be no room for a wayward thought or step”.  This passage, obviously, jumped off of the page for me.  At that point sitting on the plane, this is exactly how my heart was feeling.  “I said yes to you Lord, make straight the way of the cross before me here in Mexico!  Give me love overflowing and help me to follow your plan for me.” 
One thing that God has reveled to me is the importance of time in his word.  Because of the spaced out schedule that we are so blessed to have here, I have a tremendous amount of time to spend in the word.  At home previously, I tended to see that spiritual discipline as something that was great for me when I had time, but I had a struggled to make time for it.  Since the very first week, the Lord has placed on my heart a burning desire to spend time diving into his word, and discovering new truths that I have never had time to truly ponder.  As I look back on my beginning diary entries, I realize how many of the pages are full of scripture.  In the beginning of the semester I read Romans.  I always knew that this book was full of incredible encouragement, but never before had I taken the time to really submerge myself in it.  Through reading this book God fueled me with a great number of new truths to cling to about his character.  In turn, these truths about his character confirmed and encouraged me in my identity in him, especially amidst the hard times.  “Yet she did not waver through unbelief regarding the promise of God, but was strengthened in her faith and gave glory to God, being fully persuaded that God had the power to do what he had promised” (Romans 4:20-21).  In reading this verse I found immense comfort in the truth that God did not call me out to Mexico, and send me alone.  In fact he came with me, and promised to complete the work in me that he started in August.  Another verse that encouraged me is Romans 8:18 that says, “I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.”  Sara Barr and I were both having a super hard time at this point in the semester (September 7) with being content and joyful here.  We both missed our men painfully and wrestled with questions like, “why are we here for so long??”, “this semester is never going to end”, and “I just wish I was back at Westmont”.  However, God met us both there and used each other to remind us that he has us here for a specific reason, which he is going to reveal to us through experiences and different conversations here.    
With that being said, another major theme of this semester for me is learning to trust God’s plan for my next five semesters at Westmont and beyond into my future.  I have the strange obsession with checking webadvisor and the course catalog and trying to plan out my life.  This is the way that I love to procrastinate and avoid doing other work that is clearly more important and pressing.  I found myself with an entire screen full of sticky notes with possible life plans, semester plans and class selections.  Knowing that I want to major in Spanish, I set up a date with Mary when she was here to plan out my Spanish life at Westmont.  Literally the next week when we were talking in Engaging Cultures class about the idea of spirituality and religion here in Mexico and I popped off with the random thought “maybe I should be an Religious Studies major??”.  On my way home I talked with Jennifer, who is a Religious Studies major, and we talked about how amazing of an opportunity we have to study under the wise RS professors at Westmont.  I told her that God has the funniest sense of humor with me.  Right when I think “my plan” is all set, he throws a curve ball in there, and reminds me of another passion I have.  Now I just laugh, because even though he keeps bringing other things into the mix, they are things that I could completely see myself doing.  I feel that being away has really allowed me to assess my values and the passions that I have and come to a place of, “Ok Lord, literally whatever you have for me, I am one hundred percent in”, which has been the coolest process ever.  I feel so incredibly certain that God’s plan is going to be one thousand times better than anything that I could ever plan up myself, and so I’m learning to rest in that truth and completely trust him in whatever he has for my life.
Relationships are another aspect of my life that are growing and being developed and strengthen as I am away.  As I am out of the Westmont bubble, and away from the close friends that I made freshman year, God has revealed to me those relationships that are truly encouraging and edifying.  Not only has he shown me the people who I truly value back at school, but also he has brought new and incredible friends into my life here among the team.  We have the most incredible conversations about how God is showing himself faithful to us in all circumstances, and also encourage each other with scripture!  He is so amazingly sovereign that he knows exactly what we need!  I need to be surrounded by fun friends who I can laugh with and who can appreciate who I am, but also who can challenge me in my faith and walk with our Lord.  At Westmont he was faithful in providing those people for me, in my close section mates and my boyfriend.  Saying goodbye to Wesley was so incredibly hard.  However, he is so supportive of my following God’s plan, so I knew that I had his blessing in leaving.  God has allowed us to grow in a deeper and has knit our hearts together over, even through our limited communication with Skype and texting.  September 21, 2011… “AHH!  Wesley sent me a letter and it just came!!! I praise you that we inspire each other to love you more.  Would you allow us to maintain that in the forefront of our relationship.”  As hard as it was to leave, I would not trade this time away from him for the world.  I feel that God knew that he needed to take me away from what was comfortable and known to really reveal to me how sufficient he is for me, and that a solid relationship with him is more fulfilling than any other relationship in this world.  Being an incredibly relational person, the time away from the people that I love so dearly has allowed me to redefine my identity in the Lord and to be rejuvenated in the truth of his word. 
Also, he has placed on my heart an immense desire and passion for lifting my friends up in prayer.  Twenty day after I get home from this trip, I leave for a mission’s trip to India with a group from my church including my family and Wes.  In this time away, God has allowed me to pray for the team and to realize that the trip we are about to take off on should not for a second be about us.  It is easy for short-term missions teams to focus too much on themselves as a group, and in doing so, neglect to keep Jesus at the forefront.  Missing the team meetings has been tough, but has forced me to fully rely on God’s ability to unite us together from far away, and really unite us when we are on the ground in India.  Also, I am joining the Vespers team at Westmont in the spring when I get back.  It has been so neat to be away from the team this semester and pray that God would use them in humility to lead people into a place of worship.  We as Christians frequently use the term, “I am praying for you”, but fail to actually pray for the person.  This is something that I have felt convicted of lately, and am learning to become disciplined in.  I have an incredible ability to pray for my needs, but I forget to lift up the needs of those who are close to me.  In this way God is developing my heart and causing me to focus more on others.
With regards to the Mexican community, I am amazed by their devout spirituality.  In class a few times we have discussed the issue of religion and spirituality, both in the time of the conquests and today.  A few questions have been raised for me, which I am not sure I will ever find answers to.  I would love to know what God thinks of the rituals held in the Catholic Church, of the veneration of the Virgin and their method of verbal confession.  I am not saying that these things are wrong, nor do I hold the typical stereotype of the Catholic religion that they worship saints and Mary.  I simply desire to understand if their view of sanctification and justification align with Gods view of us, and our need for the grace of a savior.  My dad was raised catholic and struggled that his relationship with Jesus did not feel personal.  I am coming to believe that salvation is dependent on one’s relationship with the Lord and faith in his sovereignty as Lord.                         
Before I left I invited family and friends over to pray and send me off with a blessing.  I felt so encouraged by the support of those near to me as I took off on this adventure.  My prayer requests were: to be fully present here and really enjoy the time that God has divinely appointed for me here, to rely on God’s power and that he would be sufficient for me, to develop my linguistic abilities and to listen as God revealed new things to me about his character.  I can honestly say at week ten, God has come through with every one of these requests.  Not only has he given me peace in being here, but also he has caused me to absolutely fall in love with who he is.  The time that I spend in the word fuels me to live every day joyfully, the friends surrounding me inspire me to love him more and the language provides another lens through which I see his love for all of his children on display.  In my life thus far this is the most formative time that I have ever encountered and I feel so blessed that I have forty-four days left to learn and grow.

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