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!)