A Fabulous Weekend!

Just an update for those who want to know how my birthday was… I had an awesome weekend!

My parents surprised me by sharing the mailing address with some friends so that they could send cards as well. As a result, when I went to check the mail I found not only the 3-4 cards I knew would be waiting, but 6 others!

Many friends sent greetings via Facebook, and I was able to talk to my parents and grandparents.

A highlight that may seem odd, is that I finally took the time to mostly unpack my suitcases. For the first time in nearly 5 months, I don’t have to dig through a suitcase to get ready in the morning! I didn’t realize just how exciting that would be.

Friday evening, I took myself out for dinner and a show. It is truly hard to beat Caesar salad and pizza. Add a show put on by the Irish National Clown Orchestra, and you’ve got a brilliant evening. ūüôā

Oh, and I should mention another thing. I had been asking God in the weeks leading up to my birthday to show me that I am not completely undesirable. While I am grateful that I don’t typically attract weird guys, I’ve been wondering of late if I would ever attract ANY guy, or if there is something about me which is wholly unattractive to the opposite sex.

As I was walking to dinner Friday night, a guy smoking a cigarette outside a bar tried to talk to me. While I didn’t stop to chat, the interaction that occurred as I walked by left me with a huge smile for the rest of the night. It may sound strange, but that short conversation seemed like a gift from God, just what I needed to assure me that one day someone else will be interested and attracted enough to speak up. ūüôā

Saturday was also a great day. I got to see the first film I’ve seen in the cinema since leaving the States: “How to Train Your Dragon 2”. I was so excited to see it, and I thoroughly enjoyed myself. ūüôā

Upon leaving the theater, I received a voicemail that there was a very promising housing option coming available in 2 weeks! Finally, on Sunday I was able to connect with the lady regarding the details, and it sounds like this place is PERFECT! (I’ll provide more details once I’ve seen it, and it’s official that I’ve found a home here.)

Over all, the weekend was filled with fun, excitement, surprises, and smiles. I have such a feeling of anticipation for the future as God continues to open doors and surprise me with His favor.

Time to Party?

So, tomorrow is kind of a big deal in my world. When it comes to birthdays, I’m still a kid at heart. I still wait with anticipation as my chance to celebrate a new year in my life comes along. If I’m being perfectly honest, I still love ¬†the cards and gifts,¬†the kind words and feeling special.

Some people seem to have outgrown this childlike fascination with their birthday, or they never really celebrated the day to begin with. Others dread the anniversary of their birth because it means they’re getting older, and aging is seen as the worst thing in the world. Um… I’m guessing they haven’t thought through¬†the alternative to having birthdays and getting older.

The countdown to this birthday has been different. I’m torn between wanting to hope that it will be amazing and being afraid that it will be depressing. I’m living in a new country, and I’ve traveled enough during my time here that I don’t have a lot of¬†close friends yet. Many of the friends I have made are currently out of town. I don’t have a permanent address and most people don’t have the temporary one, and with postage being expensive for overseas stuff, I don’t expect many cards or packages. I may end up taking myself to dinner and to a ¬†show of the Irish National Clown Orchestra.

Another layer in my¬†reasons to be wary of hope is that this day¬†marks the passing of another year in which I didn’t accomplish so many things I had hoped to do. Like many others on the planet, my life hasn’t quite worked out the way I expected. Tomorrow, I enter my mid-30s, and I thought I’d be a wife and mom by now. I thought maybe I would know what I’m meant to be doing in ministry and even actually be doing that by¬†this point. I thought life would be different.

Don’t get me wrong on this. I LOVE my life for the most part. If any of those other things had happened before now, chances are I wouldn’t live in Ireland, and I wouldn’t trade this for anything. Most days, I feel fulfilled and truly happy with where God has brought me in life. It’s just that I know there’s more.

Despite my attempts to be content in every circumstance, and give my desires back to God, and all of those other things that well-meaning people “encourage” me with, I know there is more. Just when I reach the place where I feel the contentment we’re taught is the goal, HE begins to whisper to me that there is more, the best is yet to come.

So, despite any indications to the contrary, there is the potential for this birthday and the coming year to be the best so far! I am on the brink of new and BIG things. Most days, I feel it Рthe expectancy that something is just around the corner.

On the days when I don’t feel it, He reminds me, challenging¬†me to hope beyond the seen, beyond the risk that disappointment is what awaits around that next corner.

I don’t know what’s waiting. I can’t see around the corner yet, but I know someone whose view is far superior to mine. He has whispered to me of the things that are waiting and I am learning to trust His voice.

I am also learning to hope without demands or score-keeping – because, let’s face it, I lose that count every single time. I discovered earlier this week that I was subconsciously beginning to tell God all that I’ve done, the sacrifices I think I’ve made in my (nearly) 34 years of life. I can almost hear Him chuckle. He must think how cute and silly I am to play that game again when all He has to do is remind me of one moment in time that changed everything.

In the moment when Jesus defeated death, paid my debt to sin, and made¬†abundant¬†life possible, He ¬†won forever and always¬†– not only against Satan, Hell and death, but against my selfish attempts to blackmail Him with my supposed “sacrifices” on His behalf. ūüôā

Does God love me and want to give me more than I can even imagine? Yes, without a doubt! Do I believe there are huge things ahead of me, and that this year may hold surprises that I haven’t even dreamed of? Most of the time. ūüôā Does God “owe me” for sacrificing or stepping out of the boat to follow Him on this adventure? Nope, not a darn thing!

I am excited about tomorrow. I think it’s going to be a fun day and the beginning of an exciting year. Will it bring along great friendships, ministry direction/opportunities, a place to call home, and maybe even a bit of romance? Who knows! Whatever it brings, though, it’s going to be full of life, laughter, love, tears, pain, uncertainties, and so much more! It won’t be perfect, but it will be abundant and full of Him!

This Summer – Time for a BBQ?

God has been stretching me lately. Trust has become a major theme in my story. As you may have picked up in previous posts, He is asking me to trust Him in new and big ways, and the process is rather uncomfortable at times.

As I was journaling one day during my recent travels, I wrote the following words that I felt like God was speaking to me:

“How far out of the boat are you willing to come? So far, you are still close enough to grab hold again if you get scared… Are you willing to come out where you can’t reach back for security? How about coming to where you can no longer see it?”

Those are some fairly unnerving questions, and He continues to challenge me to move farther along with Him. The words C. S. Lewis wrote in “The Last Battle” ring in my ears, calling me to “come further up and further in.”

Sunday, 29 June, was my first Sunday back in church after being on the road for so long. The pastor was beginning a sermon series on Elisha, and the text was out of 1 Kings 19.

19¬†So he departed from there and found Elisha the son of Shaphat, who was ploughing with twelve yoke of oxen in front of him, and he was with the twelfth. Elijah passed by him and cast¬†his cloak upon him.¬†20¬†And he left the oxen and ran after Elijah and said,’Let me kiss my father and my mother, and then I will follow you.’ And he said to him, ‘Go back again, for what have I done to you?’¬†21¬†And he returned from following him and took the yoke of oxen and sacrificed them and boiled their flesh¬†with the yokes of the oxen and gave it to the people, and they ate. Then he arose and went after Elijah and assisted him.”

The pastor brought out several points regarding Elisha from this passage, and there were two that spoke to me in particular. The first was that while Elisha was working in the field, God was working on His behalf. He had no idea that God was speaking about him behind his back to Elijah.

Who knows what God is up to behind our backs? He is intimately involved in the details of our lives, and in one moment our whole life can change. Elisha was hanging out with oxen in a field one minute, and the next he is running after a prophet of God, knowing that he has been called into that life as well. No warning. No knowledge that God had been at work on his behalf.

I don’t know about you, but I find that to be an extremely encouraging thought as I spend my days doing seemingly small things and hoping that one day breakthrough will come!

The second point that stood out to me in the story was in Elisha’s response to the sudden opportunity. He immediately left what he was doing and went running after Elijah without a word ever being spoken between them. Even more impressive, as the pastor talked about, was the fact that he didn’t just run after the opportunity. He made sure that there was nothing to run back to. He burned his exit strategy, “barbecued his livelihood”. He ensured that there was no longer any option other than following God’s call on him.

There seems to be a theme in my life. The last sermon I heard before leaving Ireland for several weeks was on Joshua chapter 1. One of the points made was that the children of Israel had to move on and leave the past behind in order to enter the promised land. Moses was dead, they had mourned, and it was time to move forward into something new.

Last night, I went to the opening night of a conference, and the first point in the sermon? “Moses is dead. We have to leave the past behind in order to move into the new thing that God is doing.”

I believe I’m on the brink of something new, something big, but I think I need to make sure plan B isn’t an option. It’s time for a BBQ, a bonfire to get rid of any past security that I could run back to when the promised land starts to look scary. Yes, I’m mixing the stories, but they have the same message, and it’s a message that seems as though it’s being shouted at me from every direction.

I don’t know yet exactly what things I need to leave behind. I don’t know exactly what the boat, yoke of oxen, or Moses represents in my own life, and I’ll admit that I’m a little anxious to find out. I’m already uncomfortable in this place, and I know that leaving behind things in which I’ve found security will only enhance that discomfort. However, I also know that moving forward into what God is calling me into will have benefits that FAR outweigh any momentary discomfort.

I have a feeling I’m not the only one on this journey. I’m guessing there are others being called not only out of, but away from the boat, into the unknown depths with Jesus. It is a scary place to be, but it is also well worth the risk.

If you are joining me in¬†going “further up and further in”, into the unknown, I’d love to hear your story. What is it that you are having to walk away from? What are you walking toward? Do you know yet? Leave a comment, and let’s encourage each other along the way.

Finally, if you do find yourself in this place, here is a song that I have found encouraging many times. It’s likely you’ve heard it, but just in case you haven’t… Enjoy!