Thoughts That Lead To Death. Thoughts That Lead To Life. (Or Navigating Culture Shock…)

Thoughts that lead to death:

I am done.
Cooked.
Completely overwhelmed.
This was not at all what I expected it to be.
The demands are too high.
The price tag is, too.
In lots of ways.
This is impossible.
And I can’t do it.
So I might as well quit.
Or at least stop trying to so hard.
I mean, does it really matter?
Do I really matter?
There is no point.
Why bother with any of this, anyway?
Why not look out for me?
No one else is – so I need to.
Because, let’s face it, no one really understands what I am going through.
Sure, God says He does but let’s face it – He’s not physically present.
His arms can’t hold me.
He’s here – but it sure doesn’t feel like it.
And I am doing all this stuff for Him and He doesn’t even appreciate it.
I mean, it is getting harder, not easier.
I thought He blessed people who walk with Him?
I thought He cared about me?
I thought He was good?
Can’t see that in my life right now.
So I might as well throw in the towel.
On all of this.
I can’t do it – so why try?

Thoughts that lead to life:

I am done.
Cooked.
Completely overwhelmed.
This was not at all what I expected it to be.
The demands are too high.
The price tag is, too.
In lots of ways.
This is impossible.
And I can’t do it.

But You said I can do all things through You.
It sure doesn’t feel that way right now.

I really want to quit.
But I know You have called me here and You have promised to finish the work You began in me.

But can I at least stop trying to so hard?
I mean, does it really matter?
Do I really matter?
There is no point.

But You say to do everything as if I am working for You, not for people.
So yes, of course it matters.
Because You prepared good works in advance for me to do.
You brought me to this point in time, space and eternity to accomplish Your will “for such a time as this.”
So no, I can’t stop trying so hard.
Because I am not doing this for them – or for me – but for You.

But I feel like no one understands.
No one “gets me” here – and the people at home can’t really “get it”, either.
It is a unique kind of loneliness.
I know You say You understand.
Do You really?

Oh.
Yeah. Right.
Jesus left heaven.
He, who had never experienced sin, was immersed in it.
He, who could hear thoughts and read minds and knew hearts, was in it over His head.
He, who spoke the world into existence and knew no limits to His power, was trapped in a body.
A frail, human, bleeds-when-you-cut-Him body.

And that’s why He so often went off by Himself to meet with You, isn’t it?
Because it is hard.
Hard to live away from Home.
Hard to be constantly misunderstood.
Hard to love the unlovely.
And hard to complete the work You have assigned.

And Abba, it’s true that You are not physically present.
But You have sent so many messengers of Your love.
People
Beauty
Blessings
Protection
Provision
I cannot see Your face – but oh, how I can see Your fingerprints!

So this is hard.
Harder than I thought it would be.
For different reasons than I thought.
But tonight I rest in the fact of Your goodness.
Your enemy wants me to doubt it.
He wants me to believe You are not good.
That You mess with people.
That You have messed with me.
And that the task at hand is greater than I can accomplish.

And on that point, that bitter, nasty serpent right.
I do not have what it takes to live cross-culturally.
To teach such a wide range of kids.
To deal with four different cultures in my classroom.
To work with unfamiliar resources.
And to meet stringent demands.
To have every single thing be unfamiliar.
And to have a learning curve steeper than the paths my friends at Bethlehem routinely climb.

I can’t do what needs to be done. And do it well.
All I have are a few loaves and fishes that are my life.

I can’t.
But You can.
I am incapable.
But You are fully able.
I am powerless.
But You are the mountain-mover.
The ocean-splitter.
The water-walker.

And so the enemy’s reminders of my weakness backfire.
They simply drive me to Your arms.
Your promises. Your character. And Your heart that is for me and not against me.
Leading me to expect You to make great things out of my weakness.
You will take all that is flawed in me, all that is flawed here, all that is impossible, all that I cannot do, and turn it into the best wine, the most bread and fish, an incredible feast.
For me.
For the kids I serve.
And for their parents who are serving as well.
But mostly for Your glory, God.

When I am weak, You are strong.
When my circumstances are impossible, You make all things possible.
When I am overwhelmed, You calm the storm.
And even when You don’t, You calm me.

So back to the original thought.
“I’m done.”
But You have just begun.
Lead on! Show me what You can do – for Your glory!

The Mounds and The Mountain

The Mounds and The Mountain

They were all around me.
Scattered and tossed about.
So I very carefully took them
and piled them up neatly.

They made a very large stack.
Impressive, really.
And as the pile grew, tears choked my throat
and threatened to spill down my face.

Trouble after trouble sat in a pile before me.
Little things
Big things
And everything in between.

They made an impressive mound.
And it seemed to grow bigger the longer I looked at them.
Until the mound became a mountain.
And I became defeated.

So I turned ever so slightly to the side
and thought to myself,
“I’ll make a new stack. A gratitude stack.
A stack of good things in my life.”

And that pile was also impressive.
But it didn’t have the massive weight of the troubles before me.
And instead of growing as I stared,
it seemed to shrink, dwarfed by all that was bad.

And the tears that choked my throat
found their way to my face.
I slumped to the ground,
Defeated.

But then I felt a hand on my shoulder.
I heard a familiar Voice.
And He said, “Turn around, sweetheart.
Just turn around.”

And as I did a 180 from the piles before me,
I realized that there was a mountain looming behind me
A real one –
not a mound-turned-mountain like those I had created

It was a Rock
A real and present Mountain
A Strong Tower;
Mighty and Massive; filling the land and scraping the sky.

It was the faithfulness of God
The character of the One who calls me “Daughter”
The heart of the One who calls me “Friend”.
The Truth.

That mountain of Who He is – not who He was –
towered over my piles
Both of them
The good and the bad; the wonderful and the difficult

All of my circumstances were dwarfed by His presence
The record of His dealings with me
And I whisper with the Psalmist,
“I have seen in MY history the faithful love of the Lord”

Miracles; Messages
Mistakes He has redeemed
Masterpieces of His glory
Magnificence unveiled

This is the Rock that stood behind me.
This is the Strength that surrounded me.
And in the shadow of This, I am undone.
And so are my piles.

The good, the bad and the ugly all crumble
in light of The Eternal.
Because as I stare at His magnificence, I remember two things:
Who He is. And who I am not.

He is the Great I AM. I am the great I’M Not.
He is perfect in all His ways. I am perfectly capable of every sin in the book.
He is the King of Kings and Lord of Lords.
I am incapable of running even a kingdom of one.

He is the Just Judge.
I am the guilty convict.
He is the One Who is worthy to call me condemned.
And I am the one who deserves it.

He is Truth and Justice and Righteousness.
I am Lies and Corruption and Sin.
And yet, He is the One who calls me “Forgiven.”
So that I am the one who is shattered by love.

I turn back to my piles of good things and bad things.
I glance over my circumstances, once again in tears.
But this time they are gratitude and love and awe
Streaking down my face.

The hard things are still hard
And the thankful things are still good
But I am different now.
I am the one who is changed, transformed by His goodness.

So I leave all my stuff at the base of the mountain.
I slide my hand into His and say, “Lead on.
Today is Your day. And I am Your girl.
Do as You will – I can’t wait to see it.”

O.V.E.R.W.H.E.L.M.E.D.

I am about as overwhelmed as a person can be.
I moved to Guatemala this past weekend to teach missionary kids for a season.
I left behind my church – which is also my job and ministry.
I left behind most of my stuff (although it certainly feels like I brought A LOT with me.)
I left behind my family – bio, spiritual, and chosen.
I left behind my freedom in many ways. No car here – which means limits.
I left behind my (beloved) pets.

And I am currently in the chaos that is a new school year.
That is true for any teacher in the weeks before school starts.
But I am teaching a “split” this year of 3rd and 4th grades.
In a new-to-me school.
With two classrooms to manage.
And a new co-teacher to work with.
Juggling four cultures – Guatemalan, US, Canadian and Korean – since I will have kids from all four places.
And all new curriculum to learn.

Living with a new roommate who I met last night.
With new routines that impact everything from how I use the bathroom (don’t flush the TP!) to how I cook (disinfect the produce!)
In a new bed
In a new room
In a new place.

With a new laptop
New phone
New friends
New church

O.V.E.R.W.H.E.L.M.E.D.

Without God in the equation I would be a mess.
(Or more of a mess.)

But He is not absent from the equation!
He is the Author of it.

He called me here.
Made the way for me to come.
He goes before me.
He walks beside me.
He knows my needs.
And has already made provision for them.

The same power that raised Jesus from the dead is at work in me.
And God is working all things together for my good.
And more importantly, for His glory.

He is my strength.
My song.
My deliverer.
My fortress.
My strong tower.
The Voice of Truth.
And the Good Shepherd who daily carries me in His arms.

The One who does all things well.
And the One who is completely and utterly in control.

He has orchestrated my life and my circumstances to bring me to this place, this time, these people.
And He has a plan and a purpose for all of it.

So while I am completely and utterly overwhelmed by change and by the task at hand, I am more overwhelmed by Him.
By His goodness.
By His grace.
His incredible mercies that are new every morning.
By His faithfulness.
And His unfathomable love for me.

And I am grateful to be overwhelmed by my circumstances.
Because it drives me to His arms.
He has shown over and over again that I am right where I need to be.
And that He is in this.

So when I am weak – and overwhelmed – then I am strong.

How can He show that I can do all things in Him unless those things are overwhelming?
How is His power made complete in my weakness unless I am weak?
How can He get the glory if I can do everything in my own strength?

So bring on the overwhelming.
It is not a bad thing.
It is an utterly good thing.
Because He is good.
And He is mine.

I don’t know where you are today, what your circumstances may be.
Perhaps you, too, are utterly overwhelmed.

But He is never is.
And He longs to be your strength today.
But it is up to you.
You have to surrender.
Revel in the chaos even as you stand on His promises.
Taking every thought captive to Christ.
Resting in Who He is.
Trusting that He will bring you through.
Asking Him for wisdom, heartbeat to heartbeat.
Allowing the Holy Spirit – literally the Breath of God – to be the air in your lungs.
Delighting in His Word.
And allowing Him to lead.

He wants to do magnificent things in you.
Through you.
For the benefit of a lost and dying world.
But you have to give up control.
Allow for the chaos.
Fight the spiritual battle.
Surrender your will.
Will you do it?

And in the meantime, here’s to being overwhelmed!