Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Dear Diary...

"I want to have the faith of a flower - to be earnestly and joyfully resting in God's grace, completely surrendered and dependent on the provision of God, persevering in every season and not afraid to bloom beautifully and reach towards the sky - soaking in the Son and by my very existence humbly proclaiming His glory and beauty. Being gentle in disposition but boldly growing tall, letting the Gardener tend to my every need and prune and graft where needed - even surrendering to a long winter, the promise of spring and new life sustaining. And with the glory of God cultivated in each season and in every petal (even the ones that wither and die), encouraging those who are yet seeds to burst forth and receive the love of the Tender Gardener, knowing it is He that plants the seed, and He that makes it grow into something beautiful." - May 2012

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Wow, God.

I have been putting off writing a blog post for a while now, simply because I do not know how to adequately  explain or describe what God has been doing in my life. This summer has been overflowing with God's blessing. Not that it hasn't also come with challenges or difficulties, but that God has been so evidently present that those challenges have paled in comparison.

I'm not even sure where to begin. I have been pulled deeper and deeper into a real, active, and dependent relationship with my Heavenly Father. I guess I'll start at the beginning, so this post might be a long one!

 It's strange, but I never thought I would live in Brantford or with my dad. I dreamed of going to Queens or Western or McMaster, not a small satellite campus of Wilfrid Laurier in Brantford - a city that held some not so pleasant memories for me and a city often insulted and the butt of jokes. It was in Brantford that my parents were divorced, and it was in Brantford that my dad and his side of the family resided - whom I was not close with at all. Of course I loved them, but because of where I had been living and the limited amount of time that I saw my dad (once a month, maybe), I always felt uncomfortable when I did visit them. But, lo and behold God called me to Brantford, and He called me to live with my dad for the first time since I was 6. I was nervous about living with my dad - I really didn't know him that well (or at least it seemed that way) but I just had this feeling that this was what God wanted me to do.

God confirmed that this was indeed where I was called to be when I received a full tuition scholarship from Laurier that covered all of first year including my textbooks - a scholarship that I had been specifically praying for, but only received it because someone dropped out! Further, I attended a city conference in Hamilton six months after living in Brantford that was about loving the city of Hamilton, but God clearly spoke to me that Hamilton was no longer my city. He clearly impressed upon me that my city was now Brantford, and that He was calling me to serve and love there.

My first six months in Brantford were not without struggles. I'm not sure if it was because I was in a new city, and living with my dad for the first time, but I went through a bout of depression (or something similar). The funny thing is though, during that time I felt incredibly close to God, and He continuously spoke to me about His love. During that time he made me realize that I had never mourned my parents divorce, and He was putting His loving fingers on the painful parts of my heart that I had never dealt with. In the midst of this as well, God was building around me a solid community of christian's who loved and cared about me, and were willing to pray with me and listen to me talk about my family. It was in the Inter-Varsity Christian Fellowship group that I became involved with almost right away after starting university, that I found a community that felt like home to me. They had a heart to serve our campus that really inspired me, and Andrea, our staff leader, was so dedicated to loving students and raising up leaders and took the time to care for me.

During the school year I realized that my main priority was not to get good grades and devote myself to  school work, but that I was first and foremost there to serve and love, and grow, and that my campus and city are my current mission field. It amazes me that I managed to get a GPA of 11 when school was not my main priority - I can definitely see the grace of God in that! And during the year God specifically spoke to me that He was "building a solid foundation" in my life. I was building community, drawing close to God in the midst of dealing with some painful issues, and seeing my relationship with my dad get a little better (but it still has a long ways to go). But, as the school year came to a close I began to dread the four months of summer that seemed to me to be four long months of boredom (it didn't help that I had been hoping to go to Ghana for an internship), and I really wished that school would just continue.

Although I had been editing my resume and applying for jobs here and there, I was really just going through the motions. I didn't want to just spend my summer working to make money, I wanted to be doing something for God's kingdom. I knew that every job was an opportunity for ministry, but I wanted something more. Although I couldn't put my finger on exactly what my heart was longing for -  I didn't feel content at all about getting a job. As I started voicing my feelings - most people's response was to insinuate that I was just being lazy, and that I should just suck it up because that's what everybody does, and after all I had tuition to pay for! But I felt really confused about what I should do.

As I sought out the advice of Godly people in my life - they really encouraged me to ask God directly. What should I be doing this summer? What does God have in store? Should I get a job? Asking God direct questions and actually listening for His voice was something so new to me but something that I could tell God was leading me in. Near the end of the school year Andrea and I sought God's voice about our campus ministry, and He so clearly spoke as we waited in silence for His still, small voice. So I knew that God definitely does speak when we seek Him and listen, but it was something I was learning (and still am!).

The first time I sought God's voice about my summer in the context of community, was with Andrea and Sarah (IVCF leadership team) at the end of April. I asked God, "What is Your desire for me this summer?" and I heard three things that I wasn't entirely sure was Him at the time, but in hindsight I can see how each came to pass. I heard that His desire for me was to, 1) Be in His presence, 2) Be born of the spirit, and 3) Reap what I did not sow.

I had recently started attending a church downtown called Freedom House (a church that I believe God was calling me too when I first arrived in Brantford but out of fear/commitment to another church I hadn't attended until this summer), and I am sooo thankful that God led me here. I was so hungry for what God was doing at Freedom House, and it was exactly what I needed. God has become so much more real to me than He ever has been - and it began with going to the place where God wanted me to be! My desire was to attend a church that was serving and loving the city and reaching out to the lost, burdened, homeless, hungry, mentally ill, and imprisoned, a church that wasn't afraid to dream big  and take risks but also wholeheartedly wanted to follow God's leading and listen to the Holy Spirit. And God answered that desire so profoundly! After attending Freedom House once, I immediately felt like a part of a caring, loving community and knew that I had found a group of believers that I wanted to serve alongside. As one of the Freedom House leadership began to meet with me, she also began speaking about asking God directly and listening to His voice. She also talked about speaking in tongues with me (because it was something that I was pretty skeptical of but occurred regularly at FH!). While at Freedom House I experienced a freedom in worship that I had never experienced before - instead of being self-conscious or afraid, I felt completely free to worship God in whatever way I felt compelled to - and I felt God's presence so strongly.

 About a week or so after attending FH, I met with a member of the leadership team and told her about my confusion over getting a job. She suggested we ask God directly together, "Should I get a job?" and just wait for Him to speak. So although I was a little doubtful, I also knew that God is a good father, and that good fathers speak to their children. Almost immediately after asking the question I heard a string of NO's, and she confirmed that she had heard NO as well. After our conversation, I was feeling a bit more peace, but now I had another question. What in the world was I supposed to do with my summer?! So once again I prayed and asked God for direction, and I heard Him clearly say that He wanted me "to build a house." I had no idea what that meant, and so I asked Him! And He led me to the verse Ephesians 2: 19-22, "Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and aliens, but fellow citizens with God's people and members of God's household, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone. In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit." I decided to take God at His word, and committed to not getting a job that night, even though I didn't understand fully what God intended or had in store.

(To be continued!)

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

And so, I am done first year.

It has been almost three months since I last wrote on here, and in some weird way it seems like time has gone by so fast that it feels like its been much longer. Speaking of time, I can hardly believe how fast my first year of university went by - it feels like just yesterday I received a call from Laurier offering me the full tuition scholarship that paid for my first year. I subsequently moved to a new, much smaller city to live with my dad for the first time since my parents divorce, and began my university career. I am not sure what I was expecting university to be like - exciting, I suppose, and full of valuable academic achievements, but what I actually experienced was not exactly what I had imagined.

Laurier Brantford is a small university that is, without a doubt, still trying to find its identity and from what I have heard has been growing in spurts - but growing nonetheless. However, it would appear that not many people, and students especially, take Laurier Brantford seriously, which is a topic I don't feel like addressing at the moment, but I might later (but for the record, I am slowly starting to love Laurier Brantford). On top of it being a semi-new campus, the program I enrolled in (Child and Youth Studies) was a newly offered program this year which might explain why I still don't fully understand what my program is about exactly. I have thus far learned that from the beginning of time youth have been rebelling against social norms, and that the concept of childhood is a social construction. Maybe this is because its only first year, but I really hope I will learn more practical information that will help me when/if I actually work with children and youth. But hey, maybe this information will help me later, and I just can't see that yet!

Either way, I have slowly come to the conclusion that even if I don't learn a single useful thing in my  4 years here - if I just get the degree, I will be labelled a successful and intelligent person ready to enter the real world. I am not saying I'm not learning anything, because I am, its just its hard to see how what I am learning will be of use to me when I am in the field, because its all theoretical. But, there are three more years to go, and who knows, second year may blow first year out of the water (and actually, I found the history of childhood fascinating!). I will also be doing a placement somewhere next year, so hopefully this will help me put all the theoretical stuff in perspective, and I might just develop some handy skills.

But in reality, all of this academic stuff is beside the point, because I have the not-so-slight suspicion that I am not at this university to simply study, procrastinate, and then be stressed about it. And nor am I simply here to get good grades or feel important, or to get a well-paying job one day, or for whatever other reason people choose to go to university. And I do believe that education is important, and that going to university opens up doors and gives students the chance to pursue their dreams, and that we should definitely not waste our education. But if that is all its about, then it still seems empty to me.

Because, as with any season in life, it has got to be about Him, and be for His glory. I was told to go to university so I could get a well-paying, fulfilling job, but God has been teaching me how to live a fulfilling life, even in the midst of exams and never-ending papers. At the end of these four years, do I really want to look back and just see someone consumed by achievement and self-importance? Or do I want to look back and see someone who viewed university as an opportunity for ministry, an opportunity to grow deeper with God and in community with fellow students, as an opportunity to see God in the every day - to find inexplicable joy in even the most mundane tasks? I really do believe that God has me here, in Brantford, at the Laurier campus, for a purpose, and I can bet its not to get an A (although getting A's doesn't hurt!)! I am learning, but the majority of what I am learning isn't found in textbooks or lectures (but some of it has been found in a couple of really good books that I might suggest later).

It's hard to put into words what I have been learning this year - because I am still learning in it, because sometimes (most times) God has to really hammer the nail in for me to get it, and I know I only see the small picture. But, one major lesson that I still struggle with is: trust. I don't know what the future holds, and I don't know what I want to pursue for a career, and I really don't even know if I am in the right program, and sometimes its hard for me to see how where I am is part of God's plan for me, because it is so... ordinary, and sometimes simply difficult and...boring. the list of things I don't know or understand can sometimes be overwhelming.

But a lot of this comes down to a poor attitude, an idolization of the 'mountain top,' and a lack of trust in God. God is good, and He is faithful - and when I can only put one foot in front of the other and don't know where the path is headed - that is when my faith and trust in God is really put to the test, and strengthened. thank goodness His grace and mercy are overflowing - because I need them every day, in every moment to help me to have a good attitude in this place.

It's hard for me because I am someone who thrives on the "vision," I am an idealist and a dreamer, and I need to be able to envision an amazing future event/goal to keep myself motivated. In high school, the 'vision' was of going to a prestigious university, studying in a prestigious program, and becoming a missionary or working for the UN, or something really cool and exciting. throughout high school I did a number of really cool and exciting things: lived in Japan for a year, built a house in a rural village in the Dominican Republic, studied human rights and the holocaust in a prestigious independent program, went to Washington, D.C. to be a world-changer, went on a mission trip to Camden, New Jersey  (the most dangerous city in the US), founded a club to raise awareness about human trafficking, and worked in a non-profit organization for at-risk and homeless youth.

And now I am here. In this place where I don't have a 'vision' for anything, and cool and exciting is not even close to what I experience, and everything, everything, seems up in the air and out of my control, and yet so... ordinary. I have no direction and I almost feel lost. Almost.

Because in reality, I have a direction. I have a vision... and it's the only one worth having, but, to see it, and to keep seeing it, I have to let go of my hold on everything else, everything cool and exciting and what this world deems as success or fulfillment. But I fight letting go, especially now, when it seems like I don't really have that much that I am holding on to anyways. How can I let go of the little I have? It's painful, the process of being emptied. It really makes you ask the hard, deep questions that sometimes don't have clear, tangible answers.

What have I really been living for?
Why am I even in university?
Why am I in Brantford? 

What is God's purpose for my life?
What really, does it mean to live fully?

 But it also clears away all the things that keep me from beholding Jesus, and makes me realize how full my life truly is.  Jesus is here. His abundance is overflowing - His grace is covering me and it is spilling over, and over, into the dry places of my heart, and into the dry places of this city. Jesus has me here for a purpose, and although I may not see clearly what that is yet, I know it begins with trusting Him. 

Tuesday, January 31, 2012


Boy, has it been an intense and interesting, and fairly difficult, couple of weeks! If anything, I have become more and more aware of my own insecurities, weaknesses, and most significantly, my own wounds and brokenness.
I know that this is part of the healing process, but man it can be a sucker punch! Especially to just come to accept that I am powerless to change it on my own or to heal myself, and to realize it is only in God's timing, power, and grace that any real victory will be made. Ah, this means patience and perseverance... and trusting in God rather than my own limited abilities!

Thank God that Jesus came for the sick, the broken, and the desperate. That is the place I am in, but I also know that the one, true firm foundation in my life is Jesus and His work on the cross, and that I can trust in that.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

The Cry of My Heart

I am excited and so humbled by what God has been doing in my heart. He has been increasing my hunger for Him, and has been drawing me deeper and deeper into His presence. Deciding to spend time with him, every day... even if I am busy and school work is calling, has really been changing my life. Truly committing to it - to just... pray, read, and soak in His presence has been exactly what my heart needs. I have also been praying, and reflecting on the call to be a missionary - and what that means, for me on a daily basis, even now. Because I know that if God is calling me to be a missionary, it begins now. We are all called to be missionaries  - we are all called to be the hands and feet of Jesus to those around us - we are all called to love. And that is really, the heart of a missionary. To love and serve, completely dependent on Christ and boldly living in Him and through him. But, to love, you have to act... and you have to learn to truly love as Christ does - and its a journey of growth and trial. I can not fly to Africa or Asia, or even to the broken places of America, and expect to magically be able to love as Christ does, to love powerfully and sacrificially. I have to allow God to build it in me - to build a firm foundation and to teach me how to love while acting it out, on a daily basis - like a muscle, and I also need to know that I am His precious and loved daughter, not an orphan.

So, this is the journey that I am on - to spend time daily in my Father's presence, and to spend time daily loving - whatever they may look like. I am sure I will fail many times... but I know that my Father's grace is sufficient.

God has really been speaking this to me through many different ways... even as I was watching the movie Taken - God whispered, "My love for you and all my children is more ferocious than this, and more gentle!" If you have seen the movie, you know what I am talking about!

But I have also been reading a book, by Heidi Baker (co-founder of the missions organization Iris Ministries) called Compelled By Love - and it has literally echoed the cry of my heart and has really helped me understand what it means to be a missionary.. and simply what it means to be a lover of Jesus and in relationship with Him! Literally I have cried and laughed and been driven to my bible and into prayer because of what God has been doing in my heart through the words of this book! So, below I will share some of passages in the book that just grabbed me and made me feel like - this is it! This is the heart of the Gospel! I hope they stir your heart like they did mine!

"The Lord is calling for servant lovers who will call in the outcasts, who will go into the dark corners of the world and compel them to come home. And they will come. Who will go and leave their life of comfort and call in the broken? Who will go and be a learner? Who will go among those who are mourning and lay their life down for Jesus? The Lord wants His house to be full. It is time for us to go to the poor, to the broken, to the homeless, to the dying, and to the lonely and call them in. Thousands and thousands of "sent-out ones" need to go out to the darkest places, to the poorest places, to the forgotten places, because the wedding feast is about to begin. So many still must be called."

"Our lives must be living incarnations of the love of Christ Jesus if we will ever have an effective ministry. What is our motivation for ministry? The Lord is looking for servant lovers - people who are passionate and filled with love for Him, people who desire and are longing for the Bridegroom's return, people who can already taste the feast and know it's about to begin. These people can no longer stand to stay in their comfort zones. They will literally run out and call in the poor, the crippled, the blind, and the lame."

"So there is only one direction in ministry: lower still."

"How do you become good news to both the poor and the rich? How do you become love manifested in physical form and see this gospel fulfilled? If you are called as a missionary - a "sent-out one" - then you are called to comfort those who mourn. You are called to love the broken until they understand God's love - a love that never dies - through you."

"What does it look like to be Jesus to this person, to a people group, or to this nation?"

"Some of you may think ministry is a grand adventure. Ministry, however, is simply loving the person in front of you. It's about stopping for the one and being the  very fragrance of Jesus to a lost and dying world...Ministry is simply you loving like Jesus. It is the beatitudes manifest through your life, Missions are when you have the love of God so that He can demonstrate His very life and nature through you...If you can find someone who is sick, help bring them healing. If you find someone who is hungry, feed them. If you find someone who is thirsty, give them water to drink. If you find someone naked, clothe them. If you can find someone who is broken, weak, or weary, love them to wholeness. And if you find someone who is mourning, give them comfort."

"We must acknowledge that all suffering is valid pain. The suffering in rich nations is loneliness. The suffering in rich nations is internal psychological pain. It is extremely relevant; it is deep. People feel it, and it is just as real as a bloated belly, people starving or disease and death...If we are to be Jesus' hands and feet, we need to care about the needs of others - internally and externally...To heal an orphan spirit in America takes love, compassion, a lot of time, and undivided attention toward one another. Both are valid, both are real, and both are costly."

"God's plan for strategic church growth was for us to simply stop what we were doing, go sit with the poor, and learn how to love."

"True apostolic ministry only flows from being immersed in the presence of God. This creates continuous supernatural fruitfulness."

"None of should want to build our own ministries - that is the opposite of what God called us to. We are called in love and meekness to establish God's kingdom on Earth."

"We will not concentrate on weaknesses in ourselves or the dark forces of danger on all sides, but rather on His face. We are sustained by beholding the beauty of His gaze, and we are confident in His cross - His gospel is sufficient." 

"We were chosen and handpicked and have full access to the heavenly realm because of the finished work of the cross. This is a key for accessing the heavenly realms by faith."

More to come!!