Lay it down

It’s Tuesday night, 10pm to be exact. I’m laying in my bed in Hawaii, and all my roommates are asleep. If it wasn’t for the soft pounding of “Clair de Lune” rushing through my headphones, I’d hear the slow in’s and out’s of their sleep cycles. Today has been a long day. Not because of the hours I’ve been awake, nor the amount of things I’ve had to check off my “to do” list. Today has been a long day because my heart is tired of one little word.

It’s a word I can’t get used to. A word that only has deep meaning when someone becomes important to you. It’s a word that doesn’t ever get easier to say, and actually has the potential to build up a bit of bitterness inside you. I know it has for me, not just in the past, but also today. I hate goodbye.

Goodbye sucks, and let me tell you something- God never intended for us to say goodbye. If only we had listened. If only Adam and Eve didn’t fall into the temptation of something lesser than Him. If only, if only.

Let’s face it- I could live in the land of “if only’s”, but that wouldn’t help me. It wouldn’t move me closer to my friends, it wouldn’t stop me from missing my family, and it wouldn’t let me receive His heart in this situation. So what do I do? How do I live knowing that goodbye sucks, that goodbye is inevitable, and necessary?

Sometimes I’ve been tempted to shut off, and mum can tell you that I’ve succeeded multiple times in doing so. It’s how I safeguard my heart. Here’s my logic: Goodbye only hurts when you say goodbye to someone you love. SO: If I stop loving people, then when they leave me/I leave them, it won’t hurt anymore.

I’ve lived this out, sadly, and let me tell you, it’s a rotten idea. We are meant to love. We’re meant to live together, through the joy, the pain, the excitement and sadness, we are not meant to do this all alone.

Our lectures last week were about fear of the Lord. No, not fear that He is going to smite you, not fear that He can and will wipe you off the face of this earth, but healthy fear. Part of fearing Him is laying down our rights, and I’ve talked about this before I’m sure, but He is always speaking newness, and so I’ve been listening. “What does hating goodbye have to do with me laying down my rights?” Do I have the right to have all my friends in my life forever? Do I have the right to walk with the same people always? How about to keep them to myself, even though they were meant to do great things in new places? Do I have the right to get to know them when I want, or to spend as much time with them as I want?

Nope.

Not even a little.

See, I’ve learned that God, He’s a good God. He knows my heart, even the nasty, disgusting parts that I try to hide from you. He sees all of that, and He sees that my hate for goodbyes comes from a place deep within. I’ve learned that He knows best, even though I fight with Him all the time, being so sure that I’ve got it under control. Does it make it easier when my friends get in vans and airplanes and leave? Not always. But I don’t have to pretend with Him. Today I sat in the middle of the sidewalk with a friend and we just sat and cried. We cried because people mean something to us, they sit in our hearts, and we are thankful for them. We cried because yes, saying goodbye is hard, but we also know that they are meant for greatness. I will let them go (as if I have a choice), and serve the best way they can: by listening to Him.

So: when goodbyes suck, tell Him. Tell Him how much you hate them, and I guarantee He will agree. But one day, one glorious day, there will be no more goodbyes. No more.

Take that, Satan.

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With Strength that is not my own. Sam

Before I go….

Watch this:

 

 

Wasn’t that amazing?? This is the extreme talent that I get to accompany to Togo in 17 short days! This video was produced by my team, and this is just a taste. We have been praying and seeking God out so much in the past week, just really asking Him what His will is for our team. What do the people there need most? How can we meet that need, or even just be a part of it?

If you pray, please pray for protection from distractions and for safety. We have just heard from our student Selina, and her doctors have cleared her to come with us to Togo. (She took a hard fall and broke her elbow, and since then has travelled back and forth between Hawaii and South Korea in order to get surgery and check ups). We know that when we face great resistance, it can be because of the work we are doing, and so please pray for strength and wisdom for my co-leader Anna and I as we endeavour to take this team across 2 oceans and through 5 countries within the next 3 months. (Did I just say 5 countries??)

I’d personally like to thank you for reading so faithfully (even if you’ve missed a few…too many). The work I do out here is a balance of such a joy because I feel alive, and of exhaustion because even in your afternoon off, your work is never done. But please hear that with ears of appreciation, because although this job is never ending, it is also so  rewarding. Walking through discipleship seems ideal until you’re in the middle of it, but I wouldn’t change it for the world. I am so blessed and thankful to God for the places He’s brought me over the years, and so thankful that I get to share it with you.

And think long term! I will be home in October and would love to sit with you and tell you stories of Hawaii- of the discipleship school process, what it looks like on a daily basis, what it’s greatest joys and challenges are, and life in Togo- of abandoned babies, street children, voodoo markets, and the overwhelming God of Africa who is SO in love with His people and their culture.

I’ll leave you with a quote I read this week. I’ve been walking through theologies and denominations, and have come to realize that there is beauty in the brokenness. Although I would love for all to attend one church and be one Body, I do accept that we are all so different, and as long as we work together, different churches are ok. Anyways, I digress, I found a quote by Martin Luther, a man who had more courage than many of us combined.

“Sometimes when we are called to obey, the fear does not subside and we are expected to move against the fear. One must choose to do it afraid.”

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So here’s to travelling across land and sea, to jumping into foreign-for-now cultures. Here’s to committing to a cause greater than ourselves, to moving against fear, and to seeking Him in the beautiful mess.

Join me?

With Strength that is not my own, Sam

Philippians

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I just finished Philippians. I’ve been taking it one chapter a week, asking God “What does this look like for my team? What lessons are for me in this?” Ask and you shall receive, He said, and I’ve seen the lessons popping out at me ever since. For your sake I will keep it to a minimum, just highlighting a few from each chapter, but I’d like to encourage you to take this on for yourself. Pick a book and ask Him to speak about it, about what was going on when it was written, and what it means for you today. So here we go!

Chapter 1: “And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns.”  Phil.1:6 

This was a big one for me, as I look towards leading this team (with my beautiful Anna, of course). First of all- God is the one who began the good work among the Philippians, not Paul. Even though Paul was doing the “dirty work” of discipleship, God is the one who begins it, and therefore: He is faithful to complete it. God isn’t someone who does things halfway. If we only learn a lesson halfway, it’s because we didn’t push through to the other side, not because God deserted us in the process.

Another major point I took from this verse is something that I gleamed from my own outreach to Papua New Guinea in 2011. Paul was separated from the Philippians, he isn’t able to be with the people who bring him great joy because of his suffering for Christ. That means that he was shepherding them for a time and then had to leave before he saw their transformation completed. What does that mean for me? For our team? Well #1 it means that the students, as well as me, will be learning lessons that may not be fully understood while we are together. The learning process will continue after the outreach, and I may not be around to see it. Will I be ok with that? And for us as a team, we will see issues that we won’t like. We’ll see corrupt orphanages, street children, a devalued nation and it will break us. There’s no way we’ll be able to “fix” it all in 11 short weeks. Will we be strong enough to walk away, after pouring out our hearts, even if we don’t see the change?

Chapter 2: “Then make me truly happy by agreeing wholeheartedly with each other, loving one another, and working together with one mind and purpose.” Phil 2:2

Unity is something our team is striving for, yet isn’t something that can be forced. Unity comes when we are honest with each other, when we repent together, when we lay down our desires and hopes for this trip, and we come together and ask God for His heart, His vision, and His plans for us. Unity comes when we work together to pursue God, because all good things come from Him. Paul is pleased when the people work together, pursuing love together, being Christ-like together. Our team will have a lot going on, but we will be together, and that is one of the most important things.

“Though He (Jesus)  was God, He didn’t think of equality with God as something to cling to. Instead, He gave up His divine privileges; He took the humble position of a slave.” vs. 6&7

This one hit me. Big black letters are scribbled in my journal, simply saying “Sam, lower yourself.” I am here to serve- serve Him, serve my team, and serve Togo. Sometimes I catch myself thinking I deserve a special acknowledgement, I mean “I always serve…” but that’s my job. Do you congratulate your washing machine when it washes your clothes? No- because that’s it’s job. My job is to serve, and if Jesus Christ, our LORD, could lower Himself to a person who couldn’t even control His own bladder (an infant), I need to lower myself. I need to serve my team, and treat them with love and respect and admiration. Samantha Nicole- get over yourself.

Chapter 3“I want to know Christ and experience the mighty power that raised Him from the dead. I want to suffer with Him, sharing in His death, so that one way or another I will experience the resurrection from the dead!” Phil. 3:10-11

I want to know the mighty power!! Yes Lord! Pick me! I want to see miracles, I want to see you raise the dead. I want, I want, I want. But do I want the suffering that goes with it? I’m reminded here to be wise with my prayers- I want to see miracles, but I never finish the verse. Am I as eager to suffer as I am to see His glory? This was definitely one that I had to double check with my spirit, because to be frank, I’m a selfish person. What do you think about this?

Chapter 4: “Not that I was ever in need, for I have learned how to be content with whatever I have.” Phil. 4:11

This one especially makes me stop and think, mainly because I don’t think much about this verse until my “rights” have been exposed as “privileges.” Will I be ok in 3 weeks when I don’t have internet in the palm of my hand, when I can’t text my mum real quick, or send her a photo of those sweet babies immediately after I take it? Will I be ok when I have to sleep under a mosquito net, or when all we have to eat is starch and water? Will I be content when I have to hand wash my clothes and limit my shower times? What about when my team gets on my nerves, or we’re short on cash, or our transportation is uncomfortable and my head hurts? Will I be content?

Will I be content when “all I have” is Christ? When all the comforts of this life are stripped, and what’s left is my mess of a heart and what little knowledge I have of Him? Will I be content? Would you?

It’s my prayer that by the end of this school, by the time we land back here in Kona on September 14th, that I will have learned even just a sliver of this, to be content no matter what. Whether I have mum’s home cooking, my single bed, no shower, shelter from the rain, my family, my team or no one at all- I hope to be content. Pray with me?

With Strength that’s not my own, Sam