Thursday, June 27, 2013

Sacrificing is Hard to Do.

Let’s talk about sacrifices. When I committed my life to God’s purpose and mission I committed to sacrifice. I knew this meant that I might be called to give up having nice things, being near family, etc. but I was fine with that.

Then God sent me to Pasadena.

And I was kind of frustrated at first because here I was willing to give up everything, but instead He sent me to California to live in a nice studio apartment. So I complained, “really, God? Why not me? Why not let me give it all up?” And He was all like, “Just hold your horses.” So I did. 

And I got comfortable. I enjoyed having Trader Joes and all the clothing stores at my fingertips. Sure, I never went shopping because graduate school sucks up all your extra cash, but it was there if I needed it. And even though I began to lose the disillusioned thoughts that I might get married anytime soon, I got comfortable with the fact that there was still a possibility, however so slight, as long as I was living in a place where I could potentially meet someone (so many possiblys, so little actuallys). 

Fast-forward 2 years and God decides it is go-time. So He says (in not really these words), “ok, I’m ready now. And I’m actually giving it to you pretty easy. You are just a few hours from the comforts of American consumeristic society, you can fly home for holidays, and you get to live in a nice cabin in the woods. You are welcome. Oh, and your work will be really hard but don’t worry, we’ve got this. Teamwork!”

And then all of a sudden the “sacrifice” talk comes up again. I realize that I don’t mind giving up the shopping and the Trader Joe’s and the (relatively) easy access to the beach, I really don’t. I don’t mind that I am far from family and friends, even though it is hard, and I don’t mind that I have to live in Arizona. Truly, it could be so much worse. But then there is that one last thing that I don’t really want to give up. In fact, what I want to tell God is that I will give up everything if I can just have this one thing. 

All I want to hold tightly to is finding someone to share my life and ministry with. 

I almost resent writing that because it sounds so girly and ridiculous. It is a single-woman-broken-record, and I promise that I fight it as much as possible. I try every other minute to prove that I am a strong and capable woman without a man, and I am. I carry heavy boxes and I fix things that are broken and I am perfectly capable of living this life on my own (except for when I have to zip up the back of my own dress. That is really hard). But behind the independent, confident exterior, I worry that this is the one thing that God will call me to sacrifice that I do mind. Yes, I know that I can do this life alone. I know that I can serve God in ministry and that through His strength I can get through all things, but when God calls me to actually sacrifice the thing I hope for most dearly, I get a little nervous. Sacrifice actually becomes real. 

But I pack my bags. I close up my life in CA and even though I’m nervous and uncertain, I choose to comply, sacrificing my own desires for the desire of the God who knows me. With a deep breath I work toward being ok with the fact that God might be calling me to do this on my own for a while, even a long while. And even though I don’t like that idea, I remember and believe that serving God is far more important to me than being married. I would never give up His calling on my life just to be comfortable. 

The lie of Satan is that my life will suck and be awful if I don’t get married until I’m 30, or later. 

The truth of Jesus is this: 

Anything I leave behind is worth it. There is no greater joy than sacrificing one’s life for the Creator, for the One who saved us, who sacrificed His own life for mine.

When I think about it that way, I realize that I would be silly to hold onto anything so small as earthly love when I am loved by the Creator of the Universe, who has chosen me to fulfill His mission. I realize that I am already loved far more than I can even fathom. So I go, with slight trepidation and a strong will, with good faith and a lot of textbooks, and I take His hand. I take the risk, I leave behind the possiblys, and I jump. 

I jump into His mission as one loved enough to be called to sacrifice it all. 

Monday, June 24, 2013

Let's Be Honest.

Let's be honest. Driving to Pinetop, Arizona last week, I kinda freaked out. One minute I was in Pasadena, with the world at my fingertips, and ten not-so-short hours later I was in rural Arizona passing Wal-Mart and the Boot Barn. Granted, it had been a long day, after a long week, and a long quarter, but it was just all a little too much to take in at one time. What had once been abstract was now real and unavoidable. As I moved my things into my cabin in the woods I realized that the future was here, and it included lots of trees and not a lot of city.

I got worried. And not just because I am afraid of being in the woods in the dark. 

My anxiety began to rise and I began to question these important decisions I had already made. Was this really what I wanted to do? Did I really want to live in the woods in small town Arizona? The answer was honestly, at that point, a "no, not really." When I was alone in my new place waiting for my roommates to get home I had the urge to run outside and yell, "wait! God! Can I change my mind?" To which I assumed I would receive a stern don't be silly kind of look, so instead I just texted a few friends and waited for the anxiety of the transition to pass.

The next day I was able to drive down to the reservation and show my family where I will be working, as they met a few of my students and my other team members. On the rez I felt better, I felt home, I felt right. In my place of ministry I was reminded of why I was there and why it was exciting and important. The anxiety of the transition began to pass as I remembered that in this place I was loved and I was needed.

Why am I telling you this? If I want you all to support me financially and in prayer, I probably shouldn't tell you that the first thing I did in my new home was second guess myself. I probably should just stick with how excited I am, that way I seem like the kind of missionary you want to support. But I don't want to be perfect on this blog, I want to be real. I want you to know that this move is going to be hard for me. I want you to know that I love these Apache teens so much that even though I don't want to move to Pinetop, Arizona, I am going to do it. I want you to know that sometimes I am going to get upset, sometimes I am going to want to run away, but that I am not going to give in. Because I know that this is my calling, and I know that where God has brought me He will not leave me alone. 

But I also want you to know that I need you. 

When I texted one of my friends that I was feeling overwhelmed I was hit back with the reply that I have "the skills, gifts, and prayers" supporting me. Though I replied that I would need a constant reminder of this, I think that this was the perfect reply to my worries. God has been cultivating all the things I would need in my life for a while. It is the skills that have been cultivated in me by my Fuller professors that will hold me up when I don't know what to do. It is the gifts that have been given to me by a God who loves me that will enable me to be effective and loving. And it is the prayers of everyone who reads my blog or hears my story that will keep me encouraged, reminding me why I am there in the first place. Because the fact is, I can't do it alone, but I can do it with you. 

In the end, I can reassure you that I don't want to change my mind. Yes, I am sad to leave my friends and life in Pasadena, but I can't imagine anything I would rather be doing than serving the Lord in whatever He calls me to do. He has plans for me that I can't even fathom, and I will go willingly. . .

. . . even if it means living by the Boot Barn. 

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Steps toward being a Grown-up

Oh golly ya'll. These past two weeks have been crazy. I feel like I blinked and 2 weeks were gone. There have been some important adult-life progressions in the past 14 days, of which I will now enlighten you.

First, I "got" a Masters degree. I use "" because I technically have to take 3 summer classes, so even though I walked and got celebrated and wore the cool hood and hat, I won't have my real Masters degree until September. But shhhh, let's all pretend I'm done.

Second, I drove a pick-up truck to Arizona! This is important because:
1. I drove a truck
2. I moved my stuff to AZ!!

We can leave out the parts where my brother actually drove most of the way and where I backed into a mailbox and left a huge dent in the rental truck, and simply be proud of my grown-up moving skills, right?

Moving was everything from fun to not fun and stressful to...not stressful. It was a little bit of a shock to drive into Pinetop, AZ and realize that I was actually moving there, like for real. It is quite a world away from Pasadena. But even though I kind of freaked out and got really nervous and considered reconsidering for just a brief second, I eventually calmed down and realized that even though living in Arizona won't be easy, it is where God wants me. And if it is where God wants me, then even in the hard moments I will be fine. Plus I am joining a great team and I absolutely love my students, so I am sure that once the initial shock passes I will get to just be super excited and pumped to finally get started with AYM. One day at a time!

So that is two important weeks in a nutshell. I am a grown-up with 2 degrees, halfway moved to AZ.

You can feel free to start calling me Master Meredith if you wish.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Wisdom from inspirational elementary school posters

My mom used to be a guidance counselor in an elementary school. Her little office was filled with inspirational posters that I suppose were there to make you feel better and more confident about life. One of the sayings that I remember being among her favorites was

“Character is who you are when no one is looking.” 

Living alone I guess I get to see a lot of my character. 

It turns out that my character involves leaving a lot of messes and singing a lot of songs at the top of my lungs while producing awesome dance moves no one will ever get to see. Sometimes I find myself sitting at the bottom of my stairs in my studio loft with a bowl of cereal, because naturally all the chairs are filled with clean laundry, books, and other things I don’t care to move when all I want is a bowl of cereal. And I find myself sitting there as the minutes pass, staring at the wall, thinking. I think of life and love, my future and my past. I revisit old wounds and old joys, and sometimes I think of almost nothing at all. 

And as I spend all of this time by myself I have found that I actually rather like myself. 

As I spend time dancing, singing, making messes and writing letters, I start to hope that one day someone will get the chance to know the me that I know. One day someone will get to know the me that, when alone, lives without abandon or apology. They will get to know the me that makes faces at babies in the grocery store and spends the evenings opening and closing the sliding door, never quite able to decide if the noise is worth the fresh air. They will get to know who I am when no one is watching, because hopefully they will be the person I am to share my life with, and with them I will simply get to be me, with nothing to prove and nothing to lose. 

Three years ago I would have run around screaming senseless mumbles if you would have told me that I would spend close to two years living in California by myself, but now as I go to the next stage of roommates and a full home, I think I might miss the solitary moments that I have grown used to. Though I cannot wait for the dinner parties, the movie nights, and the late night girl chats, I think I will miss getting to come home and not worry about how I will be perceived. Though my new apartment lacks stairs, I hope that maybe my new roommates won’t be surprised if they find me in a corner, eating a bowl of cereal, staring at the wall and silently contemplating life. Maybe, if I am lucky, they might just grab a bowl and join me. 

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

A Glimpse into My Future

This is basically the last post I will ever write that begins with "It's finals week at Fuller....again."

I am of course, as always, inundated with papers, that as always, I end up finding joy in writing. So for now I will leave you with this lovely photo that describes, almost perfectly, my future.

I'm coming AYM, I'm coming!

Proof that last week my AYM team and some of our students came to Los Angeles, enabling me to put off my schoolwork and hang out with these lovelies instead. Also, proof that I am really white. I would say my future looks pretty fun! 

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

The Unlikely Missionary

I think its safe to say that if there was a list of ideal candidates for missions, my name would not be on it.

2 years ago I came back from India, and upon reflection asked God to please not send me as a missionary to any place where my hair did not do well. It was a serious request.

As a teenager, I was less concerned about my hair and more concerned about why God let bugs on Noah’s ark in the first place. I was the kid who changed my pillowcase if an ant came within 2 inches of it, who refused to speak to my dad for 24 hours because he wouldn’t get up and kill the spider I found, and who to this day still sometimes goes to bed uttering the prayer, “Dear God, please don’t let any bugs crawl on me tonight.”  

In fact, just yesterday I almost had a heart attack when a spider came down right in front of my face while I was driving. I spent the next half hour in Trader Joes compulsively checking to see if it was on me while my whole body shook like I had just endured a trauma. I almost refused to get back in my car, but seeing as I had to get my groceries home I sucked it up. 

So with all of this in mind, let me dispel any romantic ideas you might have left about missionaries. Sure, I would like to think of myself as slightly heroic, brave, and tough in the face of adversity, but the truth is that I am actually the odd kid from girl scouts who would only wear tropical scented bug spray. In reality, I hate sweat, dirt, not showering, germs, and being uncomfortable. My idea of camping is the cabin I stayed in in North Georgia last week. It was in the woods and there were ants in the bedroom: I was camping. 

The list of what I do like also sounds nothing like a missionary either. I like dresses from Ann Taylor Loft, good hair and makeup, splurging on adorable kitchen accessories, and watching movies from the 40s. I love air conditioning, cute scarves and hats in the winter, and getting my nails done. This one speaks volumes: my only ticket was received when I wasn’t wearing my seatbelt in the passenger seat. When the officer asked why this was, I held up my freshly painted fingers and innocently said, “My nails were wet?” I cried the whole way home over that fifteen dollar ticket. 

The point is that when I reflect on all of this, its an absolute wonder that God chose me to be a missionary. You would think He would have lovingly patted me on the back and instead said, “sweetie, I think you might be better suited as a tv host on the Food Network.” But alas, He did not. Instead he chose to pull me out of my comfort zone and give me a calling in a hot place with tarantulas. He chose to change my life on a trip to Mexico, where He placed a bunch of dirty kids around me and told me to hug them, to hold them, to kiss their little faces. 

And the amazing thing is that when I get into these contexts, all of my quirks and needs fly out the window. It doesn’t matter that I am surrounded by “germs” or that my makeup has all sweated off. I kill the bugs, I hug the kids in dirty clothes, and I sleep in a tent, or a mattress on the floor, or wherever else they put me. And sure, sometimes I complain, or freak out it, or ask God why, but here is what is so great:

God fills in the gaps. Where I can’t do it, when I am scared, when I feel so uncomfortable I simply want to crawl out of my skin, God fills in. He becomes the strength, the bravery, the hero. He dusts me off and reminds me that its ok to like cute dresses and kitchen accessories. It is because of these unlikely missionary characteristics that the work that God can do through me is so much more impressive. Its pretty evident that I couldn’t do any of the stuff He has called me to by myself, therefore it is the power of the Lord that has enabled me to serve Him in Mexico, India, and on the Apache reservation. The transformation seen in me is the stuff of a great God, who has infinite power, and who chooses to even use even the most unlikely servant in his mission. 

And I thank Him for reminding me that though my comfort zone is not something I can stay in, I can still be a missionary with painted nails and cute shoes. 

Saturday, June 1, 2013

On Losing Keys and Feeling Stretched

I lost my car key. It is simply gone. Kapoot. Outta here. No idea. And its not gone in the “silly, you, its in the couch” kind of gone because my apartment is small, like uber small, and its not here. And I just want to add this to the fact that I move my stuff to Arizona in less than 20 days, return to live in an expensive bare apartment, then move in with friends, then drive back to Arizona to fly out to Georgia to move in with my parents, until I have raised $3,600 of monthly support, and can move back out to Arizona. 

Without a car key. 

Oh my life. 

In addition to my car key fiasco, I am feeling these days as if my limbs have all been stretched in different directions. I’ve got one foot in Georgia, with my college friends, my family, my church, my life. And I’ve got another foot in Arizona, with my AYM team and my Apache students. Add to that an arm in Pasadena and another arm being tugged between Virginia, Chicago, Kansas and anywhere else I’ve ever been in my life or have friends to keep up with. In all of these places there are relationships to sustain, things to be done, and things I am missing. 

And the problem is that I don’t feel fully in any one of these places. 

Instead of being able to live wholly in one location my mind is constantly wandering to the lives and places that move on without me. 

In the missions world they call this phenomenon “third culture.” American kids who grew up in another culture never fully feel at home anywhere. I think at 24 I have become a TCA, a third culture adult. I have trusted God to lead me where He wants me, and that means that I have people in multiple states (and countries) that I love and desire to live my life with. And I never feel like I fully belong or am fully at home in any one of these places that I connect with.  

Its exhausting. 

So this post ends without answers and more of a statement, that my car key is gone and my limbs are stretched, and I look forward to the day when I can just sit down and chill for a full 24-hours. No papers to write, no students to tutor, no messy apartment to be cleaned. Oh yea, and a car that has a key. 

A girl can dream, right?