Sunday, May 26, 2013

Half Way Mark: Excitement and Exhaustion

            I have to apologize for the absence of my blogs! I have to catch you up on a lot of things, so bare with me in length. It has been about 2 weeks since my last blog entry and my only excuse is that I’m slowly but surely reaching the point of COMPLETE EXHAUSTION. Even though I am being stretched to the point of TRANSPARENCY, God is doing some awesome things with it. I am making such incredible friends here and am already filled with anxious thoughts about saying GOODBYE. We have experienced so much together. Whether it be exploring the Mountains and Caves of Slovenia, praising God, getting lost, dancing like American fools or experiencing the struggles of ministry, I without a doubt consider these people my BEST FRIENDS. I haven’t known them for very long, but am comforted that I know they will be my FRIENDS for a LIFETIME.
      I am also making genuine friendships with the Slovene students here. I have gotten the incredible opportunity to meet up with two students that I met on campus. I felt so privileged being able to talk to each of them about their life and get to share the beauty of the gospel. I look forward to continuing a friendship with them that I will get to carry back home with me. Both of them were so excited to have American friends. 

     Being an American and a visitor to their culture here, I feel very well loved and respected here. I can say with confidence that I love living here. I love the people, I love the restaurants, the endless rows of Cafes and Gelato stands. It is beautiful here, especially since COFFEE is served everywhere. My signature drink is the BELA KAVA, which means white coffee and I usually order it because it is the only thing I can read. I am suffering with the portions of coffee, however. Due to the bulks of coffee I consume when at home, I am struggling with the small serving sizes. It is a rarity to order a BELA KAVA bigger than a Dixie cup. I miss big cups of coffee and FOLGERS.
     Above all, the Gorgeous scenery is impossible to escape here. Last Saturday, some of my team and I went to Lake Bled. If you GOOGLE image Slovenia, Lake Bled is one of the first images you see.  It is mind blowing how beautiful God’s Creation is. The Masterpiece of his designs are still running through my mind. We hiked and walked for hours while the Julian Alps followed us the whole way. We were completely separated from civilization outside the occasional sheep farm. We blindly followed signs to a Pizzeria for miles and found it empty and closed. We finally found a restaurant along the river we were following where we ate TROUT! I literally watched the Chef run out of the Kitchen to catch the fish that he put on our table 20 minutes later. It was quite the experience. We were so exhausted by the time we got back to Ljubljana, I don’t remember how I got to bed.
            While the weekend was busy and eventful, we were all ready for a fresh week. Everything that has happened these passed few weeks and with my time here can all be summed up in the moment we all gathered together, both American and Slovene people, to worship God.  

            After this I looked, and there before me was a great multitude that no one could                
            count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and             
            before the Lamb.
                        -Revelation 7:9

Last Monday Night, we gathered for our weekly meeting called TOGETHER FOR CHIRST and we got the incredible opportunity to sing worship in Slovene. Trying to imagine every tribe tongue and nation singing His name is hard to picture, but we got a taste of it that night.

We fall down, we lay our crowns
at the feet, of Jesus
The greatness of, mercy and love,
at the feet of Jesus

We cry, Holy,  Holy, Holy
We cry, Holy, Holy, Holy
We cry, Holy, Holy, Holy
Is the Lamb

Poklonim se, vse izročim
k Jezusovim nogam:
ljubezni moč, usmiljenje
k Jezusovim nogam.

Kličem: »Svet si, svet si, svet si!«
Kličem: »Svet si, svet si, svet si!«
Kličem: »Svet si, svet si, svet si ...Ti, Gospod!

            That summed up that last week that I missed and it was incredible, but so busy that it’s hard to recall what took place on each day. The days have been flying by, and each day has brought new struggles and triumph. I love sharing this good news with students over 4,000 miles away from home, but sometimes it just gets hard. I think I run into this difficulty because of the notion that THE GOSPEL is too good to be true. The fact that this guy Jesus Christ died so that we could have a personal relationship with our Creator just doesn’t seem plausible. The reality is that it IS too good to be true. But that’s what Grace is. We don’t deserve this gift of righteousness, but it is given to us and all we have to do is open it. In this world, brokenness is inescapable, but the truth of the gospel is that God’s heart breaks for the depravity of this world, but He still wants us to choose Him in the midst of it. So many people I encounter have a hard time with this, but it is TRUE. And in a world full of chaos and confusion, it is the only thing that is CONSTANT. Sometimes I find myself questioning how this Omnipotent God could choose me, but he continues to choose us even in the midst of our doubt.
                        If we are faithless, he remains faithful, for He cannot disown himself.
                                    -2 Timothy 2:13
            Faith in Christ, is such a difficult concept to grasp, but I think it is okay to have faith in something that transcends our own understanding. We can’t do anything to make up or justify our past or our CONDITION, but the truth is, it is not about what we can do it’s about what He HAS DONE!! As hard as it is to believe, Christ turned our BROKENNESS into BEAUTY and nothing in this world can change that.
            My goal in being here is not to force people to believe in something that they don’t want to believe. It is to present this undeserving gift of grace. If they reject it then I did what I could. Ultimately, it’s not my responsibility to change people’s hearts. One of our STINTERS who has been here a year told us that it’s not about the MESSENGER, it’s about the MESSAGE. We are just beggars trying to point other beggars to the bread. My heart's desire is to present this message and leave the results to God. The reality is, who needs God when things are going good right? But the truth is that things aren’t good, and until you realize the world is broken, you won’t see your need for a Savior.
            Overall, incredible things are happening here. Excitement and exhaustion continues, and I am growing more than I had ever imagined in the midst of it. For those of you reading this, I ask that you continue to pray for our team here. We have reached the halfway point in our time here in SLOVENIA and so much has happened that I can’t even fathom what God has in store for this coming second half. 

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Week One: New Culture, New Friendships and Renewed Grace

     Well, Week One has officially come to an end and I already feel like I have been here for Months. If I am going to be honest, the first morning I woke up in Ljubljana I was frozen with fear at what I had gotten myself into. I had made it! A year of prayer and planning, months of stretching my faith in raising money and 24 hours of traveling, and I was right where I wanted to be. Only I couldn't bring myself to get out of my bed! I don't know why I was so nervous, but it took me all morning to lay my fear down and put my faith into action. No one likes to be uncomfortable and unfamiliar with what's ahead, but it is this process that makes our FAITH grow so much stronger. This process had started the moment I opened my eyes that morning. However, once I got passed this stillness of fear, I was immediately comforted by exploring this beautiful city and the grace that brought me here. That first day I got to explore and decode this new environment and the people within it, and I loved talking to the students. It was great when they could speak better English than me. The fact that I was talking to people who lived thousands of miles away from my home about their lives was mind blowing. I'm getting a clearer perspective on not only the size of this world, but the infinite number of life experiences that exist within it. What is so crazy is seeing our vast differences while recognizing how we are all the SAME. 
     As aforementioned, I feel like I have been here for months, and I think it has to do with the incredible group of people that I am here with. We have only known each other for 5 days, but it already feels like we are a family. Everyone genuinely cares about each other and are truly invested in the stories behind how we all ended up here. It is incredible to listen to each story and recognize how uniquely God has designed them to GLORIFY Him. YESTERDAY, 5 other girls and I stared at each other after spending 6 hours sharing God's story in our lives. It was such a refining moment because we had just shared the depth of our sin to each other, yet we all responded in love and rejoiced in what it has brought us to. I was introduced to the reality of GRACE about a year ago when I finally confessed the depth of my past to a good friend of mine, and it was such a moment of FREEDOM. Since that moment, I was able to experience God's grace TANGIBLY. This same experience of RENEWED grace returned when I told my life story again to this group of women who looked at me and smiled while I resurfaced my own history of brokenness. But each story, while revealing brokenness, revealed healing and restoration and told the beautiful story of JESUS CHRIST. This was a moment when I was reminded of why I am here and in an instant, whatever was left of fear was gone.  
     Within a week I can already feel God reshaping my heart to be more like His. I think I still get a little nervous as each day comes to a close and I have to prepare for a another day of unexpected movement, but I am getting to the point where I am giving up all control. We start a full week tomorrow, and I'm excited to see what lies ahead in this incredible city! I can honestly say that I hate being uncomfortable, but I  am looking forward to where it brings my heart and those around me. I am just so THANKFUL that God brought me here...

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

On my Way...

            So, I have never blogged before, and I figured leaving the country would be a good place to start. I’m not sure how to go about this, but I’m going to share with you what’s on my mind. At this very moment, I am headed to Ljubljana, Slovenia to minister in the growth of the Cru ministry that began a few years ago. I am truly at a loss for words that this is actually happening. I have been planning this trip for months, and God has been planning it in my heart for the past year. There have been so many moments where I felt so alone in this process, but God has been so faithful in providing me support and continued to show up in the midst of my doubt.  Yesterday, we had briefing and I got to meet 30 some more people who God has intricately shaped to be apart of this journey, and I was so humbled at how He had worked in each of them throughout this process. Sharing our stories and our hearts for this project gave me such a sense of comfort and peace as I follow through with this calling.
            If you ask me whether I am ready, I wouldn't be able to answer. I have had several people ask me that question, and I can humbly tell you that after months of thinking I was preparing myself, as I sit here now, I can say I have no idea what I am doing. But I trust that in the midst of the unknown, God is going to radically transform me. I just pray that He places people in front of me whose story has been intricately shaped with mine. This is going to be an incredible journey and the only thing I can do is let the Holy Spirit lead me moment by moment as I walk through the Campus of Ljubljana and share the beautiful story of Christ’s grace.
            So, this is the beginning of a long journey, and I want to look back at this first post and laugh at how much change has come about since. I am so excited about every person on this team, and I am filled with anticipation to get to know each of them and share with them how God has told my story and hear how He has told theirs. I am overwhelmingly grateful for everyone out there who has continued to pray for my team and me as we take these stories of redemption to the hearts within Slovenia. I have no idea what to expect, but I want to walk into this experience with my hands wide open.  It doesn’t seem real quite yet, with 15 hours of traveling still ahead of us, but at the end of it sits an experience that will leave me and countless others changed forever. So with that, I am anxious about the challenge but ready for the transformation.