Friday, October 14, 2016

Facing my Fears

I am a little afraid to write this post. While God has done some amazing work in this area over the last few weeks, I am still afraid of what he has called me to share. I am afraid of being misunderstood, afraid of being judged, and afraid of saying it the wrong way and sounding silly or trite. I am afraid of the vulnerability and granting friends and strangers insight into the inner workings of my mind and heart, but today my trust in God is greater than that fear so I will leverage that trust to move forward in what he is calling me to write. 

This particular lesson started after I agreed to co-lead the next trip to Guatemala. I had been on the trip twice before and was excited to step into this new role yet nervous about what it might mean. I was quick to say I will lead this trip but did not want to commit to indefinitely leading the team twice each year. You see, part of my dream, the vision I had for my life, was to do international mission work with my husband. Since I hadn’t met him yet, if I committed to this team indefinitely how would he fit into the equation? This question lead to others and I spiraled quickly into one of the darkest weeks of singleness I’ve had in awhile. I started entertaining questions that ripped apart my security and assurance of who I was and why I was still single to the point where I was physically ill and wanted to retreat into myself and away from the world. 

The bible study I was completing during this time was the book of Hosea. For those of you unfamiliar with this book, it is not exactly warm and fuzzy. God tells Hosea to marry a prostitute, Gomer, who keeps running off with other men and is continually unfaithful to him. God meant it as a picture of his faithfulness to Israel though they continually run after other gods. I took it as even Gomer, an adulteress prostitute gets to be married and I don’t. It was pretty ugly. But God met me right where I was. There is a novel that is based on the book of Hosea that I had read a couple times before called Redeeming Love by Francine Rivers. During my escape from the world, he lead me to this book to read for a third time. The first time I read it was in college. I was dreamy-eyed over Daniel Hosea, the leading man, and hopeful that someday I would find my own version to have and to hold forever and ever. The second time I read it was after grad school when I first started working. At that time, I was learning more about the world of human trafficking and began to work with a local organization that rescues women from a life of prostitution. It stirred a yearning for justice for women and children around the world who have been forced into unthinkable circumstances with seemingly no hope of rescue. When I read it a few weeks ago, God used it to speak words of love and life into the broken places of my heart. The story became less about the romantic love of Daniel and Angel or the redeemed life of Angel and her broken past, and more about the length God has gone to love me. He doesn’t just love those with hard pasts, or those who are marginalized, or those who need justice. He doesn’t love me because of what I can do for him or have done for him, he loves me because I am me. He saw the pain I was in coupled with the guilt over that pain because there are so many worse things that people experience, and spoke his healing balm of love into the questions and doubts for my future. It was from this place of love that he lead me to confront my fears so they wouldn’t have power anymore.
Last week, I started a new work schedule. I work 4-10 hour days and for the last 5 years, my day off during the week has been Thursday. Last week, it switched to Friday so I enjoyed the first of many 3 day weekends. It was during this time that God did the most work on my heart and it was one of the best weekends of my life. My sister-in-law sent me a talk given by Annie Downs at a single’s conference put on by North Point church in Atlanta, GA. It was part of a series called Fear Less. Before the weekend was over, I had watched the entire series and a whole other series I found on their website. I laughed, I cried, and I allowed God to use the questions they posed to dig into the deep seeded fears I had harbored for years. You see when fear is allowed to fester beneath the surface as this great unknown, unspoken entity, it has power over us and the decisions we make without our permission. But fear loses some of its power when we call it into the light and see it for what it is. There are two fears that God called me to face, to name, and to surrender to him. It is also these fears that God has called me to share with you.
Fear #1: I am going to make the wrong choice. I often find myself paralyzed by indecision because I am more afraid to make the wrong choice than to stay where I am and make no choice. This has manifested in my social life, dating life, academic life, professional life, and in my day to day decision making. I find I can sit for hours in front of the TV because Netflix decides for me that the next show is going to come on. I waffle for days before committing to attend a concert, sporting event, or social gathering because what if there is something else that comes up and I’ve already made my choice, and it was the wrong one. At the root of this fear is pride. The truth is, and I know you are all going to be shocked by this, I have been wrong before and I am still here, I have survived making wrong choices. I just don’t like to be wrong. Being wrong means I am flawed, I am weak, and I don’t have all the answers. If I never make a choice and allow things to just happen to me, then I don’t have to take responsibility for the consequences. I can appear strong as I navigate as a victim of those circumstances instead of the cause of them. But in actuality, this is no way to live. Living in fear of making a mistake is not living. In fact, the times I have felt most alive are when I have made a choice without knowing if it was the right one or the wrong one. God used my uncertainty to stretch my faith and expand my dependence on him. He also taught me that not all decisions are black and white, right or wrong, there is room for free will to be His will. As long as I am pursuing Him, he has granted me freedom to choose left or right because he will go with me no matter which path I choose.

Fear #2: I am not doing enough. This is the fear the enemy of my soul likes to whisper when I am most vulnerable. When I am facing another day as a single woman, he whispers that I am not doing enough to put myself out there, to open myself up to opportunity, or to attract a man that could be interested. When I am grieving the pain of my friends who don’t know the hope of Jesus, He whispers it is because I am not a good enough example, I don’t share enough or love enough. When I am grieving the pain of a broken world where people don’t have enough to eat, those they trust are delivering violence instead of love, or they are betrayed by their own bodies through injury or disease, he whispers I can’t do enough to make any difference, why do I even try? My whole life I have been a doer. I make lists and check off accomplishments: good grades, get into college with scholarships, get into grad school, earn doctorate, get a job, get promotion, and so on. So how do I quantify the intangible things on a list to know that I am doing enough? How do I answer the enemy with his accusations?  If I don’t speak this fear out loud, if I keep it hidden and allow his accusations to ruminate until they take root I am held captive, limping through life trying to prove to myself that I am enough. But God, in His infinite love and wisdom, allowed his light to shine in the darkness of my fear and expose the lies for what they are. The truth is I am a child of God and THAT is enough. I have been bought and paid for, accepted, forgiven, and redeemed by the blood of Christ. My hope and future is secure though the world around me crumbles, because the One who defeated death dwells within me. He has given me gifts and good works to complete, but does not leave me to do it in my own strength or power. I am no longer a slave to this fear, because I am a child of the God who sees me as I was, as I am, and as who I am becoming and delights to walk that journey with me. 

These pictures may seem random, but they were taken as I wandered
through the woods listening to worship music and allowing
God to saturate my heart with truth. 
Does speaking these fears out loud mean I am cured from them? No. But courage is not the absence of fear, it is doing what is right even when you are afraid. So I will be brave and make decisions, even if I turn out to be wrong. I will be courageous and rest in the assurance that I am enough and will not be defined by what I do or don’t do. I will claim the truth that God speaks into my life instead of allowing the whisper of lies to paralyze me from moving into the best that God has for me, whatever that may look like.

So how about you? Do you have a fear that needs to be exposed? Do you have an area where God is calling you to be courageous despite your fear? I encourage you to share your fears with trusted friends or family. Invite God to calm your fear and give you the strength you need to do what he is calling you to. Here are a couple resources I found helpful on this journey:

God is our refuge and strength,
    an ever-present help in trouble.
Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way
    and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea,
though its waters roar and foam
    and the mountains quake with their surging.
There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God,
    the holy place where the Most High dwells.
God is within her, she will not fall;
    God will help her at break of day.
Nations are in uproar, kingdoms fall;
    he lifts his voice, the earth melts.
The Lord Almighty is with us;
    the God of Jacob is our fortress.
Come and see what the Lord has done,
    the desolations he has brought on the earth.
He makes wars cease
    to the ends of the earth.
He breaks the bow and shatters the spear;
    he burns the shields with fire.
He says, “Be still, and know that I am God;
    I will be exalted among the nations,
    I will be exalted in the earth.” 
The Lord Almighty is with us;
    the God of Jacob is our fortress. ~Psalm 46

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Saying Good-bye

I can’t believe how quickly a week can go. The team has arrived safely back in Minnesota after only a few minor delays. I’m still processing a lot of what I saw and what God has taught me throughout the week but want to finish sharing some of the experiences we had before I forget them. 

On Wednesday, we worked with the kids in the morning, continuing with our evaluations and recommendations for each child. In the afternoon, we met with the parents. When I started at Gillette, there was a story that was shared during new employee orientation that I shared with the parents. It is a beautiful story about taking a trip to Italy but ending up in Holland. We switched up the locations a little bit so it would translate better but the message stayed the same. Having a child with special needs is difficult in any culture. Through the story we were able to give parents permission to grieve the normal life and child they expected and celebrate the beauty of the child they have been given. Many parents felt they were cursed or had done something wrong to receive a child that was different, but we were able to share that their child is a gift from God, not a curse from him. He loves each child, each family and has a purpose for their lives. There was laughter, a few tears, and many asking when they can book their ticket to Italy. After the story we shared a few general tips for use at home after completing most of our evals such as correcting W-sitting and allowing kids to try new things, fail, and be available to assist not complete the task for them. The teacher and social worker from Guatemala shared about violence against kids with special needs and the laws in place that protect the kids. She shared about alternative forms of discipline and how harmful violence and abuse can be in a family. This was probably the most impactful part of the presentation in coordination with the Gospel presentation given about the Good Father who loves his children. One of the fathers came up to her afterward and thanked her for sharing. He was ready start over, stop hitting his kids and wife, and gather more information that could offer him support to change.

Wednesday night, I got to work with another one of my favorite kids of the week. Eddie’s parents were told when he was born that he would never walk or talk. His grandmother didn’t accept this and whenever she heard there was a therapist nearby she would take him by bus or on foot to wherever that therapist was. Eddie is now 15, enrolled in mainstream school and able to walk without an assertive device. He lives at the mission where we stayed with his family. His grandmother and advocate passed away a couple months ago and I was asked if I could evaluate him to give ideas for exercises. He is an incredible kid, extremely hard worker, and talented artist who dreams of becoming a graphic designer. We had a lot of fun working out together. Once we were done, he stayed to help us with drawings for flashcards we were making for the school. He also taught me that donkey’s were brown, not grey, who knew?

Thursday was our last day with the kids. We worked with the teachers to develop a morning routine that involved physical activity, social interaction, counting or letter practice, and the calendar. There are a couple kids in the class who are unable to speak or have difficulty speaking. Stephanie, our speech therapist, is fluent in American Sign Language so she taught a few signs and put together a book that can be used for further study in communication through signs. During our morning greeting, each person took a turn greeting the person next to them by name. There was a boy named Fransisco who is deaf standing next to a boy named Juan who has down syndrome. Fransisco greeted Juan in sign language and Juan returned the greeting in sign language. Juan then turned to Maylissa, who likely has undiagnosed cerebral palsy, and greeted her with his voice. It was neat to see he could differentiate how to communicate with each of his classmates.

The parents and teachers surprised us on Thursday with gifts and tasty treats as a thank you for working with their kids throughout the week. There were more than a few tears as we said good-bye and left that day. The kids had worked their way into our hearts and it was difficult to let go. Rachel reminded us during devotions the next day that God loves these kids more than we do. We have to trust him that there was purpose in our coming to meet them just as much as there is purpose in our leaving. He will take care of them and grow the seeds of love that were planted throughout the week. 

We left San Lucas on Friday and made our way to the coast and black sand beach. We spent the afternoon in the sun chasing waves and being chased by the waves that crashed into the surf. We swam, collected sand in our swim suits, and enjoyed one another’s company before heading to Antigua for a debrief and day of sight seeing. It was a great end to a fun and busy week.

Thursday, August 18, 2016

More news from San Lucas

On Monday, we were introduced to the kids we would be working with for the week at the school for kids with special needs. There are 20-25 kids enrolled and about 10-15 will show up on any given day. Many of these kids don’t have an official diagnosis but from our evaluations there are kids with cerebral palsy, autism, down syndrome, and a variety of learning disabilities such as dyslexia. The model for teaching in Guatemala is a lot of copying and rote memorization. The teachers working at this school aren’t given special education training and the current school model doesn’t work well for this group of kids. The teachers must also grade the children the same way they would grade a typically developing child. It appears that the parents of the children and the government have high expectations for these teachers wanting the kids to read, write, and learn math when just counting and copying numbers is difficult. The teachers are eager to learn new techniques for how to teach these kids in a way that is meaningful. 

We completed arena evaluations for each child, taking one child, one Guatemalan teacher, the U.S. therapists, the U.S. teachers, and an interpreter. The teacher explained the struggles each child is experiencing and as a team we asked questions, had the child demonstrate different skills, and gave recommendations based on what we observed. The rest of the team worked in the classroom, giving examples of different activities and new ways of learning using visual, auditory, and kinesthetic techniques. Our team consists of a speech therapist who is also fluent in American Sign Language, two occupational therapists, myself as a PT, a teacher specializing in literacy and ESL, a paraprofessional with experience working in special education, a business administrator, a Guatemalan teacher working toward a degree in social work, an interpreter, and a grandma who also knows Spanish. It has been amazing to see what each person contributes and how God has hand picked this team to work with this particular school.

If it were allowed to have a favorite student, mine would be Dylan. He is a 10 year old boy with cerebral palsy. He is very active and loves to play soccer. At school, he has a hard time paying attention and writing. What I noticed was when he is sitting in his desk, he is working so hard to keep himself stable, he has a hard time controlling his arms and hands to write. He is constantly moving to the floor to do his writing activities so the floor can assist with stabilizing his body. I added a piece of foam to the bottom of his feet when he was sitting at his desk to give him stability at his feet. He really liked it and was able to write easier. He was so excited he drew straight lines in his picture, he wanted to show everyone his drawing. 

Tuesday, we were able to join the kids for gym class. It just happened to be soccer. It was so much fun to play with the kids and a few of them have some skills! My wonderful teammates took some videos that I could watch later to look more closely at how the kids move and offer suggestions for exercises. I am still amazed at how soccer is the same in any language. We continued our evaluations at the school as our sunny day turned to torrential down pour, turning the street into a river. We hoped the rain would slow enough for us to walk from the school to where we eat lunch, but it didn’t so we hitched a ride on the back of a truck driven by one of the student’s father. We ended the night playing the game of Things which lead to much laughter and team bonding.

Even though that is only the beginning of the week, I’ll have to post more later. There is so much more to share! 

Monday, August 15, 2016

Bienvinedos a Guatemala!

Our travel morning began yesterday with a 2:30am wake-up and rendezvous at the airport at 3:30. No one over slept and no one had bags over 50 pounds (although mine was close.) The flights went without a hitch and we had enough time in Atlanta to walk to concourse B for Dunkin Donuts coffee and breakfast. We arrived in Guatemala just behind the Guatemalan Olympic gymnasts and the media frenzy that was their entourage. After lunch, we hit the winding, curvy, bumpy road up the mountain and made our way to San Lucas and home away from home for the next week. Some of us stole hour naps along the way, but once it started raining, the ride got a little more exciting and sleep was elusive. 

The retreat center where we are staying is gorgeous. The top level has a beautiful view of the lake and the mountains while the rooms are tucked into the natural flora of the region. It feels a little bit like camp with boats on the lake and bunk beds in each of the rooms. Although, none of the summer camps I went to had roosters crowing at 4am to alert everyone the day was about to begin. 

The team that arrived with me yesterday, turned in last night around 9:00 after visiting the village for ice cream. Personally, I was fluctuating between staring off into space and that delirious laughter that accompanies late nights during dinner around 6pm so while the rooster may have crowed at 4am, I didn’t get out of bed until 6:30am. I am feeling well rested and excited for what the day will bring.

More to come later! Happy Monday!

Saturday, August 6, 2016

Blessings in the Storm

I awoke on Thursday to the rumble of thunder and that cozy morning darkness that accompanies rain storms. It was my day off and I wanted to roll back over, close my eyes, and go back to sleep. The rain was threatening to ruin my morning plans anyway so why should I get up? But after a few minutes of an internal pep talk I did. I got up, got dressed, and made my way to the Caribou Einsteins across the street for my morning coffee, bagel, and quiet time with God. As I read through the She Reads Truth study of Ruth, I knew it was not going to be an ordinary day.

A few months ago, I joined a team of about 100 people from Wooddale church to launch a new campus in Loring Park located in downtown Minneapolis. We leased a gorgeous piece of real estate called the Music Box Theater situated a few blocks from the park, a few blocks from eat street, and right in the middle of 3 large subsidized housing projects. Because of my love and experience with kids, I joined the children’s ministry team, so if there were kids from the neighborhood that wanted to come to church, they would have something just for them. As summer approached, God laid a vision on our hearts to provide a weekly kids program on Thursdays and the Music Box Kidz was born. We kicked off with a movie night, showing Zootopia, and inviting the kids to learn about what we had planned for the summer. We had about 15 kids show interest in attending our camp, so our first day we planned for 15 kids, although we had no idea how many of them would come.  We ended up having about 8 kids. The second week we also had 8 kids, but not the same 8 kids. That night we hosted a worship night at the Music Box for the community. Families of the kids who attended in the morning came and told us how much their kids loved coming and couldn’t stop talking about what they were learning. We expected to have steady growth as the summer progressed, but Week 3 only 2 kids came. Week 4 again only 2 kids. Week 5 there were 6 kids. Each morning the kids talked about how they loved coming and didn’t want to leave when it ended, but our numbers stayed low and only a few kids came more than 1 time. Our plan for week 5 was a sports day at the park, but when I awoke to a torrential downpour I knew that was not going to happen. Would we have any kids come? Was it really worth getting out of my nice warm bed after a really long week at work to trek downtown in the pouring rain only to be disappointed when no one showed up?

Thankfully, God knew where my heart was as we met for coffee that morning. The Scripture He highlighted from Ruth is found in Ruth 2:12: “May the Lord reward you for what you have done, and may you receive a full reward from the Lord God of Israel, under whose wings you have come for refuge.” As I read the commentary written by Amanda Bible Williams of the She Reads Truth team, this bolded statement wiped away any lingering doubt: Your small and steady acts of faithfulness are being used in big and beautiful ways in the kingdom of God. It didn’t matter how many kids came each week or how many kids would come that morning. He would use the work we put into this summer for His eternal glory whether we saw the fruits of that or not. So with a fresh perspective, I made my way to church.

Our theme for the summer was fruits of the Spirit, each day we picked 1 or 2 fruits to highlight and would read a story out of The Jesus Storybook Bible that related to that fruit. Thursday was kindness and I planned to read the story of Zacheaus and how Jesus was kind to him. We were able to adapt our sports day to indoor sports games that could be played in the church lobby including walking soccer and relay races with an agility ladder. At 10:05, 2 smiling faces bounded in to greet us, excited to be at the theater. We walked around the building across the street to see if any of the other kids wanted to come, but none were home. 

Still excited about God’s encouragement from the morning, I knew God was going to do something special for these two kids. The morning began to unfold in it’s typical fashion, but once I was finished reading the story, the kids started to ask questions about Jesus. Was he real? Is that a true story? Why was he so nice to that man? As we gave answers the questions started to go deeper. Who killed him? Why did they kill him? Why didn’t he stop them? Was he really God’s Son? I turned to the story of Jesus’s death and resurrection in the Jesus Storybook Bible and started to read. These 2 bouncing kids sat listening, anxiously waiting for me to turn to the next page, asking more and more questions. The story of hope and redemption unfolded before them, a story they had never heard before. The story of a father who loved them, even though they have done bad things. A father who made a way for them to live forever with him because he loved them so much. The story of Jesus, who can help them when they are afraid or angry or sad. Eventually the wiggles won out, the story ended, and their attention went elsewhere, but God allowed the seeds to be planted. I have a feeling those seeds are going to grow into beautiful fruit in each of their lives and that God is going to use them for a very specific purpose. Will you join me in praying for Kevin, Shania, and their mother Dorian? 

We all face storms that make us not want to get out of bed. Life has a way of generating uncertainty, leading us to question our purpose, our worth, and if the things we do actually make a difference. Let me encourage you friends, you have purpose, you have worth, and you are making a difference. Every time you take a chance and step out in faith, God will reward your effort. We have the chance to live extraordinary lives by taking one ordinary step at a time. What is God calling you to step into? What small and steady step of faith is He going to use in big, beautiful ways for His kingdom? 

Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen. ~Ephesians 3:20

Saturday, June 4, 2016

Trust for Today

We all have dreams and visions for our lives. If you are like me, those dreams and visions have evolved over the years. My dream of becoming an author and illustrator of children’s books was crushed by my second grade art teacher when I was given a 2 on a project I turned in. I was devastated. But like most kids, I found new dreams: either a singer, a soccer player, just an author without the illustrator part, or a missionary doctor. These were my wouldn’t it be awesome dreams. The vision I had for my life was a little different. It was always a given that I was a wife and mother. No matter what dream I entertained at the time, it was always secondary to the role I would play in taking care of my family. I planned out each dream and what it would look like: I could write stories during nap time, my family could come watch me play soccer but it wouldn’t actually take up that much time, I would become a doctor and once the kids grew up we would leave for Africa to be missionaries. I could orchestrate everything to turn out just how I wanted to make all my dreams come true, I was certain.
I recently finished a study of Proverbs guided by She Reads Truth. There were two verses that stuck out to me during this study and provided space for me to reflect on my current dreams and visions: Proverbs 19:21and Proverbs 3:6-7. The vision I had for my life, the one where I am wife and mother, hasn’t happened yet. While I pursue this vision in a variety of ways, online dating sites, going on dates, and putting myself in situations where I could meet men, at times I am frustrated with what appears to be lack of progress. This wasn’t a part of my plan, this waiting before my real life starts. Oh but God, in His infinite grace and wisdom, has given me hope and life in the waiting. Proverbs 19:21 says: “Many are the plans in a  person’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails.” As I look back over the last years of my life, I see a time of preparation, of God drawing me near to him for sweet fellowship and intimacy that may not have happened if I had different responsibilities. If I would have sought purpose in my role as wife and mother, I could have been sorely disappointed when that didn’t offer the satisfaction and fulfillment I expected, the fulfillment and satisfaction only he can provide. God allowed this waiting period to remind me that I have a greater purpose, a greater role as daughter of the High King of Heaven. He wants to be my purpose, my hope, and my vision. It is from this place, this identity, that I can be a good wife and mother. 

Looking back at the list of dreams I had as a child, many of them have been fulfilled, but just look a little different than the way I had planned them. I am currently singing in a band, not that we will be landing a record deal any time soon, but it is fun. I was blessed to earn a scholarship to play division I soccer through college. I still write stories and while I don’t post as often as I would like, I enjoy writing this blog and the release that follows putting my thoughts into written word. And while I didn’t go to medical school, I became a doctor of physical therapy and have been given opportunities here and abroad to spread the love of Christ while providing hope and healing through the gift of therapy. Proverbs 3:6-7 says: “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not rely on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight.” God knows the dreams and desires of my heart because he knows me. He created me. He also sees the bigger picture, the view beyond today for what is best. While my heart may be restless, he calls me to trust him. We aren’t guaranteed tomorrow so why worry and try to plan for and control what may not be? He hasn’t asked that I give up my vision of being a wife and mother, just that I am patient and trust in his timing while he prepares me and develops new dreams to compliment the old ones. He asks me to live day to day, surrendering daily to Him. So I will trust him for today, trust that he will guide my steps, trust that he will lead me, and trust that he has placed dreams and visions in my heart for his purpose.

What do you need to surrender to God today? Where do you need to have trust for today?

Our band recently started rehearsing new songs for an upcoming gig. This song has been a huge encouragement to me: Trust in You-Lauren Daigle I hope you enjoy!

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Hurry Up and Wait

This morning I didn’t plan on sprinting through the airport as the overhead page called my name for final boarding call. Before the sprinting commenced, it was a morning full of hurry up and wait, hurry to validate my passport, followed by a long wait to drop off my checked bag, then hurry to the end of the security line that spanned from door 6 to door 3 only to wait in another long line before I could enter the terminal. It was once I finally cleared security that my name was called and I was still at least 4 moving walkways away from the gate. I ran faster than I had at 6am since soccer practice in college, arriving sweaty and breathless just before they closed the cabin door. And now here I sit, for a 6 hour layover, and I think after 3 hours in I have finally caught my breath.
I’ve been reflecting a lot on my life recently, the times of hurry and the times of waiting. The year that I turned 30 was amazing, going almost according to plan. I went on some incredible trips, spent a lot of time with people I care about doing really fun things, like using a chop saw and nail gun to remodel our cabin, and stepped out of my comfort zone and into the unknown waters of online dating. It was a whirlwind of a year and before I knew it, I had turned 31. The magical year had ended quicker than I anticipated, revealing unexpressed expectations I had placed on myself and what I thought the year would bring. Truth be told, I was hoping online dating would lead to real life dating, but alas, it was not to be. 
For a season of life, I heard God telling me to wait when it came to dating. It’s not that I was refusing dates, but I was not pursuing them. It was a paradoxical time of loving my independence and longing for a partner to share the journey with. It was a time of refining, learning to rely on God for my strength, identity, and value. As Andy Stanley would say, I focused on becoming the person I’m looking for is looking for by seeking God first and trusting Him through the process. I had gotten in a rhythm, comfortable with that season of life. So when the season began to change, I didn’t trust it and questioned the message I was receiving. When I returned from Guatemala, it was clear that I knew how God communicated with me and when I step out and obey, cool things happen. So my season of waiting officially transitioned into a season of action and I hurriedly signed up for online dating. I thought the cherry on top of a stellar year would be to meet an incredible guy, or two, with potential to be a happily ever after. When the year transitioned and my dating subscription ended, I was disappointed but learned some very important things. 

Here is what I know to be true: God is good. I am blessed to serve a faithful God who is never late, even if His time table is different from my own. I know that He is able to do immeasurably more than all I can ask or imagine according to His power that is at work in me. I know that though the outcome of my obedience was not what I had hoped for, there was purpose in the process and He will use it and is using it to strengthen my faith and give me hope for the future. I know that my life is not my own, I have surrendered it to Him. With that surrender my life is in His hands fully and completely, whether in the United States or traveling to another part of the world, whether single, dating or married, whether waiting in line or sprinting through the airport. I am a daughter of the most high king of heaven, and I am blessed.