La Vie en Togo

 

 

Different

It’s the word we choose when we try to compare our lifestyles. Different because we don’t struggle with the same things. Different because of the things we have or don’t have. Different because of the languages we speak, or the way we express affection or anger. Different.

Different has a way of poisoning us. What is really just a word turns into a barrier, a wall, a separation between what “we” do against what “they” do. Somewhere along the lines, our way becomes better than theirs, but we won’t admit to believing that, we just say “we’re just different.”

I’d like to challenge that. I’d like to challenge the belief that we all seem to have and say that even though the circumstances may not be identical, that our lives are made of the same things. I’ve been in many places, and I’ve seen the same things. Joy, life, excitement, frustration, boredom, anger, confusion, sadness- these things are everywhere. When we choose to open our eyes, we can see that, but there’s that magic word- choose.

Take a moment and look outside yourself. Look at the people around you and see the way they do things. Is it different? Quite possibly, yes. But can you relate to them? Can you relate to the mum who is visibly frustrated with her children, whether she portrays it the way you would or not? Can you relate to the teacher who is so proud of all of his students, regardless of whether they meet national standards or not? Can you relate to the father who would do anything to provide for his family, even if he works a different job than you?

What I saw in Togo was different than what I saw in Canada, or Australia, or Papua New Guinea. What I saw in West Africa is even different from what I saw in South Africa, but do you know what tied it all together? There’s a common theme in all of these places, something that, when I chose to look for it, I could relate to? It’s people, doing life, right where they are. I smile because they are beautiful, and they smile because they’ve never felt hair like mine before. I cry because they deserve more than just trying to survive, and they cry because someone is hearing their story. I laugh because they are unashamed, and they laugh because I dance and look ridiculous doing it.

You see, we’re not that different. There is no “us” and “them” in my eyes. I am a girl of 22, seeing life and death, joy and pain, new and old, all over the world. She is a girl of 22, seeing the exact same things, but through her own eyes, her own perspective, her own experiences. We all laugh. We all cry. We all sing. We all dance. We all live.

So let’s live. Let’s live as if there were no barriers. We need to look past our differences and realize that He created us to live this life together, with Him. Look inside and ask yourself where you have created those barriers, the fences that keep you on different sides. Ask yourself where you’ve used the word different in place of better. It’s not an easy process, but you have to do it. Walls and fences and barriers make for a lonely life, one full of comparisons, loneliness and pride.

So breathe. Laugh. Cry. Dance. LIVE.

Live life out loud, knowing that the only differences that keep us apart are the ones you choose to hide behind.

It Is Well

When peace like a river attendeth my soul

When sorrows like sea billows roll

Whatever my lot, you have taught me to say

It is well, it is well with my soul.

These past few weeks have been rough, to say the least. I won’t go into details for fear of tears, but we don’t pick our moments. After each funeral, I had too much time to think. To think about life and our purpose here, to think about things I haven’t said, or done. I’ve thought about pain and death, and how I hate it so much. And each time I thought, God said the same thing to me. “You have a choice. Right here, right now, in the midst of your pain and hurt and grief, you have a choice. Chose Me.”

I rolled it around my mind a few times, flabbergasted that He even thought I wasn’t choosing Him. “God, I’ll always chose you.” (Isn’t that what we’d all like to believe?) And slowly, softly and gently, He said- “In your mind yes, you have chosen me. Nothing else makes sense. But in your heart- deep in there with all the hurt you’re holding on to, all the confusion that clouds everything up. Deep in your heart, chose Me.”

Pause.

What does it mean to chose God in the midst of our pain? When nothing makes sense?

It means you most likely will never get the answers to your questions, but yet you will have peace. It means when life scares you and you feel like locking yourself in your house to avoid all danger, you can walk tall with bravery and confidence in Him. It means that though the tears keep coming and your life is not the same, you have joy and hope knowing the promises God has made to you.

And it has to be a choice. Because that’s how God works. He’s a Father who gives us choices.

So what do you chose? There’s a song by Kari Jobe called “Steady My Heart”. It’s one of those songs that you don’t understand until you’ve experienced pain, which I think we all have by now. God promises to comfort us in our sorrow. Ask anyone who knows true joy how they got it, and I’ll guarantee you it’s because they were once at the bottom of sorrow’s pits. It doesn’t mean we’ll always understand it. And it doesn’t mean we’ll get all the answers we want, but He’s still there handing us everything we need.

Right in the middle of her song, Kari sings, “Even when it hurts, even when it’s hard, even when it all just falls apart. I will run to you, for I know that you are ‘lover of my soul, healer of my scars’. You steady my heart.” Sometimes we don’t get answers- but will we run to Him anyways?

“Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” James 1.2-4

 And trust me, if you don’t know how to chose God in the midst of your pain, you’re not alone. Just ask Him. He is faithful, and  He’s the only thing that keeps me hanging on.

With Strength that is not my own, Sam

Dish it

Just four days ago I sat here behind this screen typing my heart out. Words were pouring out like a fountain, I was unable to stop them. But I couldn’t post it. After reading over it about 15 times, I realized that no one else could possibly follow it. My messy heart transformed itself into a messy blog post, and I feel its a bit too personal to display for you. I was rambling, which I’m famous for, jumping from one heart string to another. I suppose I was frustrated. But this beautiful thing happens when I write… I figure it all out. Or maybe I should say God gives me a new perspective, which is SO appreciated. Seriously. I think my family can attest to that. I’m a better person when I’m seeking God out. Duh.

Sunday was a beautiful day, for no particular reason except for God. I didn’t do anything spontaneous or overly exciting. I went to church, left a bit confused, spent some solid time with the family, and then went for a much needed walk. Needed both physically and spiritually. Mostly spiritually. I’ve been lacking in the joy department lately, for various reasons, and I’ve gotten sick of it. So I did what I do best, and I knocked on His door. “God, you’ve got me here for a bit for your reasons. If I’m to do this, I need an upgrade. I’m down with whatever you can dish out to me, but I have a few requests.” And so I rattled them off. Thankfully He knows what’s best for me, and He’ll deny the silly, selfish ones, but let me tell you, does He ever deliver.

I am blown away by God. Completely. He is so faithful. He is the best comforter I know. He sees each tear that slips off my cheeks. When I lack insight, joy, determination, patience, love or direction, all I need to do is ask Him. Today I was reading and came across this too-true chunk of script,

“Think about your life. What are the moments that have shaped you the most? If you were to pick just a couple, what would they be? Periods of transformation, times when your eyes were opened, decisions you made that affected the rest of your life?

How many of them came when you reached the end of your rope?

When everything fell apart?

When you were confronted with your powerlessness?

When you were ready to admit your life was unmanageable?

When there was nothing to do but to cry out?”

That’s from Rob Bell’s book called “Jesus Wants to Save Christians.” Please, don’t ask me what I think of the man and all the controversy surrounding him. What I do know is that this hit me. Big time. And no, maybe I wasn’t at the end of my rope, but I was close. I think. I asked for a few things, mainly joy and direction, and I feel like He delivered big time. And it’s funny, because I’m the type of girl that once she receives direction, joy doesn’t take long to show its beautiful face either.

So, these are a few things I’ve been dreaming of. And most of them are my plans, and interestingly enough, I find a way to rationalize each one of them:

-Return on staff at the YWAM base in Townsville, where I was earlier this year.

-Do a BCC (Bible Core Course) or SBS (School of Bible Study) anywhere on this earth

-Attend the PhotogenX course offered by YWAM Kona    (This one is my dream. Photography, writing, Bible study and exposing injustice around the world, all rolled into one? Check.Mate. Not to mention travelling to 10 different countries in one year.)

-Find myself a wonderful little orphanage in South Africa, fly there, and be Jesus with skin on to those little babies. Oh, S.A. There’s something to be said about the fact that our initials are the same. Predestined? I believe so.

And my friends, the list goes on. School. Invisible Children. Photography. A family of my own.(One day….long from now) My plans are limitless. But why not dream? Why not set my sights high, and see where I go? I understand that God’s plans are bigger and better than mine, but just recently I’ve come into a new heart knowledge of this. So dream I will. Watch out world.

What about you? What would you do with no barriers on your life? Where would you take your kids? Your spouse? Your group of friends? What would you give to someone if you could afford it? What passion have you set aside for something more “logical”, more “successful”, something less you? What would you say to that person you’re thinking about right now? Dream. Please, dream big. Bigger than you could ever think would be possible. Ask God to reveal your talents, your gifts, what you have to offer this world. Trust me, you won’t be disappointed.

Oh! And one more thing. I’m dying to know… who are you? I’ve had over 3500 views on this thing, which is amazing to me. Who knew my thoughts could be so interesting. Please though, tell me your names. Here. On Facebook. In a text. Even better, in real life. Let me know who’s sitting on the other side of the screen. I’d be oh-so-grateful. Thanks.

With Strength that is not my own, Sam