The battle

God has been doing a number in my heart. He is stretching me, refining me, showing me the state of my heart, and pulling me out of my comfort zone. I have always been hesitant to talk about spiritual warfare – I don’t know why. It’s a real thing, but I guess sometimes it may seem far-fetched, uncomfortable or weird; but the reality is, there is a battle going on for our hearts and minds, and it is very real.

This has been one of the things that has been so prevalent in my life since moving to Lusaka. I’ve seen God move in powerful ways. I’ve also seen how the enemy has messed with people’s lives, including my own. I have really struggled with believing the lies of the enemy, and it wasn’t until about two weeks ago when I realized how much I was letting these lies get to me, fill my head, and drive out any truth that was left there. The Lord had literally sent me an angel; that being a friend at church. We first met a couple of months ago when after our church service she came up to me, told me that she felt God telling her to pray for me throughout the service, and she encouraged me by speaking truth into my life about a particular situation that I was facing. She had no clue who I was, what I was going through, and God used her to speak into my life, leaving me FILLED with a peace that I can’t explain. Through that experience we started a friendship. A friendship that I thank God for. Just two weeks ago after chatting about life, she asked me to come over because she wanted to talk to me and pray for me. As I had been talking to her she could tell I was struggling, without me actually saying it. She told me to go home and pray that the Holy Spirit would reveal Himself to me in a mighty way, and convict my heart of things that needed to be changed. That night she also texted me the passage about putting on the full armour of God.

When I went over to her house the next day she helped me work through those struggles – struggles that I didn’t even know were struggles until she called me out on it. She pointed out to me that the things I was saying, and the mindset I was developing sounded like I was believing the lies of the enemy and forgetting God’s truth. So we went through things one by one. We would acknowledge the lie, replace it with what God’s Word says (His promises), give that struggle to Jesus (willingly asking Him to take it), and nail it to the cross (understanding what it meant when Jesus died for me). She prayed over me and reminded me that we need to daily put on the armour of God to protect our heart and mind from the lies that the enemy is trying to throw at us. When the enemy sees something good, he wants to destroy it – so we need to be ready.

I thanked her as I left and told her that I was so appreciative that with her busy schedule of working, being married and having three kids, she would take the time to sit with me and pray over me. And she said to me “Melissa, I don’t even know you that well, but I love you so much”. Honestly, I thank God for her!

We are all facing a battle of some sort. Some are big and obvious, and some are quietly destroying us. These battles have the power to push us to Jesus, or to push us away from Him. It’s all in how we fight. My friend reminded me that the way I need to fight is by reading and memorizing scripture and praying to God that He would fill my mind with His truths, while acknowledging those lies as lies and destroying them. She told me to get rid of anything in my life that was distracting me from God. Even if it wasn’t necessarily a bad thing. If it was keeping me from having more of a love for God’s Word, it was a waste of time. Daily put on the full armour of God – why? So you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. She told me that there are some days where it isn’t enough for her to read about the full armour of God, but that she will physically and mentally put on each piece.

I encourage you to be alert, be ready, and fight the right way!

10 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. 11 Put on the whole armor of God,that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. 12 For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. 13 Therefore take up the whole armor of God,that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm. 14 Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, 15 and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace. 16 In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; 17 and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, 18 praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints, 19 and also for me, that words may be given to me in opening my mouth boldly to proclaim the mystery of the gospel, 20 for which I am an ambassador in chains, that I may declare it boldly, as I ought to speak.

Ephesians 6:10-20

Leonard

It’s crazy to think that we are half way through April. Lately, when people ask me how long I’ve been here, I’ve been saying 6 months, but I just realized that it’s been 8 months! Where has the time gone? I literally never look at the time here because there is always something to do and see and the days just fly by.

The past 8 months have been filled with excitement and anxiety; there have been tearful days, joyful days, frustrating days and the list can go on and on. No day is ever the same (which can be exciting and a little scary) but the one thing that I am reminded of is that God has continually proven Himself to be faithful as my provider and source of strength day after day.

The past month has been a whirlwind of problems. I’ve dealt with mildew issues in my vehicle, leaky air conditioners, fixed air conditioners (and then leaky air conditioners again!), expired road tax on my vehicle, plumbing issues, and I’m sure some other things that I’ve chosen to block out of my mind. You’re probably thinking – Melissa, get your act together! But now that those issues are dealt with and over, I’m thankful for those times. Yes, they often make me feel ready to lose my mind, but they also continually point me back to Jesus. Reminding me that following Him doesn’t mean I’m free from troubles, but instead, allowing me to be with the One who I can go to for guidance, direction and comfort.

The past month has also brought be so much joy. I have been able to travel to Livingstone and Kitwe with friends, have a special visitor from home, focus on work, and spend time with the kids at the village. Within the past month, I have also met a bunch of kids on the street – either selling things or asking for food and money. One little boy that has stood out to me, and who I have been able to see often is Leonard. My first encounter with Leonard was about a month ago, and I couldn’t stop thinking about him. I would drive and look for him. Now, whenever I see him, we talk for a bit, or wave at each other, and he is just the cutest little thing! It’s not uncommon to be driving, or stuck in traffic, and see children and some adults walking up and down the lane ways on the road between cars. They often have things to sell, but will normally come knock at the car window and ask for food or money.

The day I met Leonard, my friend and I were stuck in traffic and he passed by the car selling brooms. They are your typical “Zambian” brooms that you see here. They look like a wad of hay joined together on one end with some duct tape, but everyone here uses them. I’ve always wanted one for some reason and that day I saw Leonard, my friend and I bought two from him. He seemed so surprised – these two white girls wanting these brooms! Because we were stuck in traffic we were able to talk to him for a couple of minutes. He was polite and quiet, but as soon as we asked him his name, he had the biggest smile and his demeanour changed. Since that day, that boy has been on my mind. But also since that day, all of these kids that I drive past have been on my mind. It’s difficult to know how you can help. Is giving money ok? Is it better to give food? Do you help every single person that knocks at your window? It can be tough, and it has been something I’ve really had to pray about because it’s not possible to help every single person you see on the street. However, there will be times when you just know you need to give that kid your banana, or you need to give that mom your water bottle you just bought. I pray that I never get to the point where seeing people walk up and down the road would just become scenery to me that I wouldn’t notice over time. I asked that God would really tug at my heart when I should roll down my window and help, and when it was best to keep driving.

Meeting Leonard, and any other person I meet on a daily basis has reminded me of my purpose here. I know I am here to volunteer with Village of Hope, and I am enjoying it greatly. However, since very early on, I have felt that a large part of my ministry was to build relationships with the people I see daily. The lady selling fruit at the market, the kids weaving in and out of cars, my little neighbours that knock at my door, and the list goes on and on. It is a constant reminder for me that serving shouldn’t be loud, in your face and for anyone else to notice. Serving in simply making time for the people and the needs that they have, and sharing Jesus’ love for them in the process.

Learning to kiss the (darn) waves

After about a week of a leaky air conditioner, and nothing ever fully drying because of the rain and humidity here, Nancy and I discovered that my truck has mildew. It’s bad – like really bad. I’m sure it was even there before the leaky AC. Actually I’m convinced of that. I always thought the truck smelled bad because it was old. So I would just spray it with febreeze…little did I know. So we pulled out the mats, and we dried out the inside. This morning when I opened the doors I was slammed in the face with the worst smell ever..and couldn’t stop coughing. So after researching if inhaling mildew would eventually kill me, I found different ways to (attempt) to clean it. Again, the thoughts were running through my head – if I was at home I could just bring it somewhere and get it cleaned well. But, I’ve started to remind myself lately that thinking the thoughts “well if I was in Canada…” doesn’t actually solve anything, but instead leaves me feeling frustrated and annoyed. So, I decided today that I was not going to let a little (ok, a lot) mildew get me down. No way.

I was waiting in line at the grocery store with my 5 bottles of baking soda that I was going to douse my truck in, and started reading this mornings’ devotional by Charles Spurgeon. Side note: if you don’t have “Morning and Evening devotional” by Spurgeon you must get it – or download the app for free. Of course it was all about never getting comfortable when it comes to those easier seasons in life, but to gladly welcome the trials. It’s the trials that bring us back to Jesus. And we need them because we seem to forget about Jesus a bit when things are good – well, maybe it’s just me. I’m learning more and more that trials don’t have to be these BIG things. It could be the daily annoyances that just keep adding up until you feel like you’re at your breaking point.

Today Nancy told me about a friend of hers who was working in Kitwe, Zambia. He expressed his day to day annoyances as being “stoned to death with popcorn”. It doesn’t actually hurt, but man oh man it can be a bit much at times…you know that feeling of “if one more person cuts me off…if they run out of fuel one more time…” I thought it was such a great analogy.

Spurgeon puts it so well:
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It’s about learning to kiss those waves, and embrace those trials that ultimately push us to the Rock of Ages (if we let them). It’s very easy for us to get mad and frustrated at those events, and it’s very easy for us to pray to God to take away everything that is hard on us. Difficult times have the power to push us to God, or away from God. However, when we choose to change our perspective and realize that yes, those difficult times are in fact very difficult, but that those difficult times in our life can push us to Jesus – our refuge and strength, our very present help in times of trouble, our guide who is with us in every moment – we can come to terms with the fact that we don’t have to face anything on our own. We may still go through it, whatever “it” may be, but we are not alone.

And with that, let us live each day embracing those waves, kissing those waves, letting those waves push us to our Father.

Lastly, if anyone has any tips on how to get rid of mildew, please let me know! 😉

 

Conveinence, Meltdowns and Lamentations

Is it normal to have meltdowns when you’re 30? Please say yes.

In the past week I have had three. And as I type this, I am laughing because as much as it feels like such a big deal in the moment, it’s really not that big of a deal. The thing is, these little meltdowns never really involve people – I am surrounded by the nicest and kindest people and they greet me with so much love everyday. What gets to me is just some of the day to day stuff where my responses usually look like this: “ok, that’s fine, that’s no problem” and then it just hits me. A mixture of no power, heat and humidity, traffic, late nights/early mornings, and saying “yes” to too much too quickly is what usually sets me off.

I’ve been thinking a lot about convenience lately. As much as I love Zambia, the people, the work – it is the convenience of life in Canada that I miss. It’s those simple things I miss like having power all the time, running into a store quickly to grab something, getting coffee at Starbucks…you know, those things that make life seem so much easier. But maybe God is not calling me to a life where I can get everything I need as quickly as running into Walmart. Maybe I need to wait on Him and let HIM provide the things that I need.

I had been working on a painting for a Village of Hope project. I was excited to do it as I love anything art related. The thing is, I gave myself such a small time frame to complete it and basically spent two full days working away. My goal was to be finished by late afternoon on Sunday because there would be no power in the evening and it would be dark by 6. At 7pm, I was still working on it with my lantern in hand. It was hot, I had my doors closed because there were too many bugs, and I was painting in the dark. I already wasn’t too happy. I also knew that I had a bunch of work emails to send out, so I took a break from painting to do that. I then realized I had basically run out of data. I got in my car and quickly drove down the street to the guy who is always there to sell data, but he wasn’t there. I drove to the next spot where there was always a guy – he wasn’t there. I knew I still had that painting to finish, I had to send out emails, I couldn’t find any one to buy data from and I was just so hot and tired. I drove to a gas station and in tears said “do you sell data here?” The poor lady looked so concerned. Meltdown number 1.

I take a Thyroid medication daily, and have been for years. Yesterday when I went to take it, I noticed that the pills had a really bad smell. Had they always smelled like this? Did they just go bad? I still had 4 months worth of pills to take, how could they be expired already? All these thoughts started running through my head. If I was home, I could just quickly see my doctor and he would write me a new prescription. Thankfully, my mom is the best and takes care of me from far away. She went to the pharmacist and then texted me saying “throw them out!” Because of how hot it has been here, they had gone bad because of the moisture of the humidity. She ordered me a new prescription and thankfully there are visitors from Canada coming next week who will bring it for me. I just didn’t know what I would do for a week of not taking them until the visitors arrived. The pharmacist had told her that I would probably just feel very tired and sluggish, and that there was nothing I could really do until I got my new prescription. Earlier that day I had prayed for wisdom. I wasn’t sure if it was really bad or not that I had no pills for the week, and I even googled to see if it was really that bad to take pills that had been spoiled. Later that day I suddenly remembered that I had kept a bunch of those pills in a separate container that I would bring with me for short trips. I found them in a cupboard in my room – there was no smell at all, they were completely fine – and there were exactly 7. God is so good, and He provided exactly what I needed. I kept trying to remind myself of what God had done during the rest of my day, but things started to build up again. No fuel, no power, long days, AND thinking about those pills going bad – not thinking about how God had provided the amount I needed, or the fact that the visitors would bring my prescription in a week, but getting worked up about the fact that I am living in a place that is so hot that even my stinkin’ medication had gone bad. Meltdown number 2.

And then there was this morning. I didn’t sleep well, and I really didn’t feel like driving into the village again to teach. It had been such a busy week and all I wanted to do was sleep and not have to talk to anyone. Meltdown number 3.

Oh man, I know, I am such a complainer. It gets better, I promise.

As I ate my breakfast and frantically just flipped through my Bible to find SOMETHING, just something that would be my fuel for the day, I landed on this:

“But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope: The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. ‘The Lord is my portion’ says my soul, ‘therefore I will hope in Him.’ The Lord is good to those who wait for him, to the soul who seeks him.” Lamentations 3: 22-25

Yes, there may be difficult days, but I can recall to mind all that He has done for me, and His steadfast love for me – and that will give me hope.

He is my daily portion and I can stop searching for other things to satisfy – and that will give me peace.

Waiting on Him and seeking Him helps me to trust Him more – and that will give me joy.

I didn’t drive to the village feeling super happy and ready to start the day, but between meditating on those verses and listening to Chris Tomlin’s ‘Good, Good Father” on repeat for my 40 minute drive, I was certain that God would me be my strength today. Reminding myself that it takes action to recall to our minds how faithful God is. It takes action to stop searching for other things to satisfy us, and it takes action to wait on Him and trust in Him. Sure, I can look at all of the annoying things that happen day to day and dwell on that, or I can choose to see those things and be assured that my God is greater than all of the crazy that takes place – that He is my helper and none of us have to face these days on our own.

Rainy days

When the rains come, everything changes so quickly. It can be blazing hot and sunny, and within 5 minutes it is cloudy and windy. Doors around my house are slamming shut and the sky is getting darker and darker. I have never heard thunder so loud in all my life. People have been praying for the rain to come – and it has arrived in full force! I am loving rainy season – my hair is not.

I love when it gets dark, windy and stormy. I usually have a warm drink and watch from the window. Never in my life have I sat and reflected so much until coming to Zambia; and the loud rains pouring down on my tin roof always help to relax me. I think to myself over and over again that the Lord had to literally pluck me out of my comfort zone and daily routine back in Canada for this particular time in my life, in order for me to really learn, grow and hear His voice. There are things that I am learning that I think to myself I’ve been a Christian for so long, and I’m just getting this now? I know that our walk with the Lord is a relationship that we are constantly learning from and growing with – and yes, through life I have been stretched, convicted and taught tough lessons, but it hasn’t been until coming here that those things are happening a lot more often and usually very close together.

And with all of the lessons that I’m learning, there are days where it feels like the Lord is (lovingly) ripping my heart apart in order for me to be renewed and refined.

He is teaching me the importance of praying for grace and patience towards the sweet grocery store cashier and the mini bus driver who just cut me off. He’s teaching me to extend true compassion when I see a friend going through very difficult days. He’s teaching me to get rid of my pride when I forget that I am not here to point out what people have done wrong, but to work together with them and help as a team. He’s teaching me to see things in a different perspective when I see children whose life is more difficult than I will ever have to go through.

Ultimately He is teaching me that He is way more concerned with changing my heart and my mind, then changing my circumstances.

And as much as it’s hard, embarrassing, and truly sucks to see the state of your heart, I welcome it. I encourage you to welcome it in your life too. I welcome the Lord to do what He wants in me and through me because really at the end of the day, it’s not about me. Yes, the Lord cares for me; He cares for us, but it’s about Him being glorified in me while sifting through the junk in the process.

Themes

Do you ever go through seasons where you feel like your life is defined by a certain theme? Me too. Since the beginning of my time here in Zambia, God has continually reminded me that He cares about my every thought, detail and need, and He desires that I speak to Him daily about it. My theme has been: Prayer.

I have found so much peace in being surrounded by people here who are so real and honest with their prayers. It doesn’t matter if it seems little, silly or inadequate to us; our Heavenly Father promises that He hears our prayers. He knows every worry and anxious thought we’re thinking anyways, and He tells all those of us who are weary and heavy burdened to come to Him and He alone will give us rest – so why are we keeping it to ourselves? We need to get into the habit of going to Him for everything.

I wanted to share with you two key moments where God has reminded me that I can go to Him for anything.

Moment #1 Part of my job is to audit monthly reports for each village. I had received a report from one of the villages, went through it, and found that some numbers didn’t match up. I looked at this report over and over again, and for the life of me I couldn’t figure out what the problem was. Both the village director and I were stumped – and we were both starting to get discouraged, and stressed. I can’t even tell you how many times I looked over the reports and here is what was running through my head each time:

You’re the wrong person for this job

They should have picked someone else

You’re never going to figure this out

On Monday morning I woke up early, and prayed that God would help me with that report. He knew where the problem was – couldn’t He please just show me? I went to Him, told Him that I had exhausted all my efforts and asked Him to intervene. I opened the report later that day and guys, no word of a lie, I saw the problem. Just like THAT it was fixed, and I know that it was only because God had helped me.

*Disclaimer: God doesn’t always answer our prayers just “like that”. There are times when He answers them, times when He answers them differently then what we expected/wanted, and times that He answers them in a different time frame that we had hoped. Don’t be discouraged – rest assured that He hears your prayers and is at work in you, even if you don’t feel like things are looking good.

Moment #2 Bible study was supposed to start up again last week, and because of the new school year, class times and breaks had been changed and we weren’t able to meet. To be totally honest, I was relieved. I know it sounds bad for a missionary to not want to lead Bible study – how unspiritual of me – but guys, it’s true. I was consumed with that “I don’t feel like it” attitude. On Tuesday we were going to officially start. We had figured out the time and had arranged for everyone to meet at 11:30. Driving into the village that day I asked that God would help me, change my attitude, and use me to teach the girls. When the girls arrived we did a little review of what we had learned so far, and started reading Esther chapter 8 – how Esther saved the Jews. The fact that Esther was an orphan has come up many times during our study. Many of the girls will continually bring up how Esther had no mother and father, and I really think they find comfort in identifying with her. What was amazing on Tuesday was that it was so clear that the girls understood that God had used Esther, an orphaned girl, to do something so huge. He had great plans for her, and the girls were engaged, asking questions and really really understanding the concept that God has not overlooked them because of their circumstances, but instead that their worth is found in Him alone. I sat in that room, and looked around at the girls and my heart was so overwhelmed. They were getting it. If God could use Esther, He could surely use them – and He has been using them and will continue to. I left Bible study feel so encouraged – it was only God that could change my attitude like that.

Let us all remember that prayer is not a quick fix. Prayer is what we use to build a relationship with God – how will we truly know Him if we never speak to Him, and listen for Him? Prayer is admitting that we cannot do this daily life alone, and we don’t have to. Prayer is knowing that we have a guide and helper that WANTS to hear our concerns – let’s be honest, most of our friends don’t.

Go to Christ first, and everyone else second.

A little book review

Guys, I have read some amazing books lately. Books that are so good I thought I should share them with you. I am no scholar, but here is a review of three of my favourites:

1. The Cross and the Switchblade by David Wilkerson. When I read this book, it changed my life. I started telling people all about it and everyone I knew had read it. I had never heard of this book until my friend lent it to me. I brought it to Zambia with me on my second summer here, and started reading it shortly after I was asked to go to Kenya for a year. I started reading it and couldn’t put it down! It’s the true story of a Pastor from Pennsylvania who had heard about the ever growing problem of gangs inhabiting the streets of New York City. He left his home, and spent time in New York ministering to the young kids in these gangs by simply telling them about Jesus’ love for them. Many of them came to know Christ and through his work with gang members, David Wilkerson started Teen Challenge.

While reading this book, God was doing a work in my own heart. Reading about the life of David Wilkerson challenged me to do more for God. This guy spent so much time seeking the Lord and giving of himself to make sure those kids knew how much Jesus loved them. I knew that once I had finished that book there was no question I would commit to serving the Lord in Africa for the next year (now two!).

2. Run Baby Run by Nicky Cruz. This book is unreal! Nicky Cruz is one of the former gang members highlighted in The Cross and the Switchblade. He was the leader of New York’s biggest gang, The Mau Mau’s, and spent his days drinking, doing drugs, and killing people. This story is brutally honest and hard to read at times, but it’s real. It’s the real details about Cruz’ daily life on the street. This story is also a story of redemption and grace. How God can transform a life so dirty, hopeless and evil and make all things new. He talks about his encounter with David Wilkerson – how he knew that something was happening in his heart when Wilkerson would tell him over and over again that God loved him. In the foreword of the book, Edward D. O’Connor wrote:

“It is natural to suspect the genuineness of changes that are so radical and abrupt. But there is no theological reason to discount them. God’s grace can take hold of a man in an instant and transform a sinner into a saint. Human effort cannot produce such changes, either in oneself or in others, because nature needs time to develop gradually; but God can do in an instant what takes man years and years.”

After reading that, I was hooked. If you want to read a story about how God can radically change a life, and use that person’s filthy past for His glory, this is the book for you!

3. Keep a Quiet Heart by Elisabeth Elliot. Ok, first off…Elisabeth Elliot is the best. This is a book that I use as a devotional because each chapter is short and to the point. The point being that in a busy and crazy world, filled with good times and awful times, it’s only through Jesus that we can keep a quiet, peaceful and calm heart. I love Elisabeth Elliot because she is so direct and doesn’t sugar coat anything. Some of my favourite lines in this book that I refer to over and over again, underline and highlight are:

“Jesus slept on a pillow in the midst of a raging storm. How could He? He could because He slept in the calm assurance that His Father was in control. His was a quiet heart.”

“We’re not naturally inclined to love God and seek His Kingdom. Trouble may help to incline us – that is, it may tip us over, put some pressure on us, lean us in the right direction.”

“But is it our business to pry into what may happen tomorrow? It is a difficult and painful exercise which saps the strength and uses up the time given us today. Our lives are His, our times in His hand, He is Lord over what will happen, never mind what may happen. Today is mine. Tomorrow is none of my business.”

Now with that said, what are some of your favourites?

Saying yes

At the end of September I decided to stay in Zambia for two years. I had already committed to a year with Village of Hope Africa, but was open to staying for two going into this.

I felt no pressure from my directors, or anyone else really. I felt torn – I loved the work that I was doing, I loved being in Zambia. I felt content staying, I felt content leaving – and plus…I had JUST started. How was I supposed to know right now that I wanted to stay for two years? So I did what I always do when I have no idea what to do. Pray.

Before I had even stepped foot on Zambian soil, I had been praying that God would make it clear to me whether or not I should be staying for a year or two. I felt no clarity, but kept thinking to myself that maybe it was because I didn’t need to know right now. But when I started to realize that the person who would replace me would need to know so that they could take a year to support raise and prepare like I had done, things started to get much more real. So I decided to step things up a notch – I decided to fast and pray. I know that in the Bible it talks about not letting others know that you are fasting – as if you are tired and hungry…so by telling you, this is not to seek attention or brag – not at all. It is solely for the purpose of sharing what God has done through that time of fasting and praying. I had actually never fasted and prayed, and had talked to my sister the week before where she told me how amazing it can be when we take those distractions away, and hear God clearer than ever. I didn’t fast from food, but from social media instead. I was in a conference all week and knew that I would be having lunch and dinner with groups of people, so fasting from food wasn’t going to work. I started to think about what distracted me the most from day to day and I knew that it was Facebook and Instagram. So anytime I thought about grabbing my phone to look at my newsfeed I would pray. And in the evenings when it was so tempting to lay on the couch and mindlessly scroll through Instagram, I read my Bible and prayed.

I learned two big things. First: It is insane just how much time I spend on social media. Secondly: God speaks LOUD and CLEAR when those distractions are put away and He is put first. While I prayed, I would simply tell God what I wanted (which was to stay and to go home – a little difficult) and asked Him to help me surrender to exactly what He wanted to me do. To change my heart if He was telling me to go this way, but I wanted to go that way.

It was about the third day into our meetings, and the different village directors were working in groups and I was setting up a power point. I was finished and as I waited for the groups my first instinct was to check my phone – so I prayed instead. And honestly, in that moment, God spoke to my heart so clearly. It wasn’t an audible voice, and it wasn’t anything big. He simply reminded me of what I had prayed two summers ago. I completely forgot that prayer. I was at the Village of Hope Chongwe and had prayed that God would provide an opportunity for me to serve overseas for longer term than just a month in the summer. In that moment, I remembered those prayers and thought to myself that this is exactly what I had been praying for. What was running through my head: There is a need, I am able to help fill it. My work permit had just been approved for two years, why leave after one? Just keep saying yes to God day by day and He will work out the rest.

Right then and there, in that conference room, I felt flooded with peace. It didn’t have to be a big deal – it didn’t have to feel like I was sacrificing everything else I wanted to do instead of this – it simply felt perfectly right, and exactly what I needed to be doing for this time.

It’s so easy to stress and wonder what God’s will is for us. But it’s really not as complicated as we make it out to be (something I need to remind myself of often). It is simply spending time with the Lord daily, telling Him what we desire, but being willing and ready to surrender that to Him if it doesn’t mesh with His plan for us, and saying yes to God day by day. He will make it perfectly clear.

Oh that honeymoon stage…

I think the honeymoon stage is over.

You know when something is new and exciting? You take pictures and want to talk about it all the time? When that stage is over, it’s not really all that bad. I actually kind of like it, because it feels like normal life. However, it seems that with “normal life” comes more frustrations and annoyances.

The past week or so has been tough, and I keep thinking to myself that this isn’t as exciting as it used to be – ha! I am someone that gets very easily excited over the simplest of things, and I try my best not to get frustrated over things I can’t control (like the power!) so I don’t mind when things just start to feel “normal” but I do find that it takes a bit of a toll on me when things don’t work out the way you planned…especially when it’s happening over and over.

I don’t even know where to start because like I’ve mentioned before, there is nothing particularly bad. I think, actually I know, that a lot of how the day goes has to do with my attitude and what I allow to bother me, and what I try to just let go. But there are days where it does just feel like too much. Where I keep thinking about how easy and nice it would be to go back home where the power is on all the time, where I don’t have to second guess if the food I’m going to eat is expired or gone bad, where I’m not faced with many cultural differences that lead to miscommunications, where things move at a quicker pace, and where I can just quickly run into a store to buy something without having to wait 20 minutes in line. And believe me, I KNOW that I don’t have it bad. I know that there are people in much worse circumstances then me. Honestly speaking though, it can just be hard sometimes.

I just came home from Zimbabwe last night, and the visit to the VOH there was so nice! I had such a nice time working with Nancy and Sergio, Everlyn (the VOH Kitwe director) and Rev. Zowa and his wife (the director of VOH Zimbabwe). The week leading up to my visit though was what I had mentioned earlier. I felt anxious, annoyed, frazzled and each day I kept thinking “I want a do over! I need this day to end so tomorrow can start”. That didn’t seem to make a difference – because each day felt the same.

What I did finally realize though was that although the week was busy, and lots of things had to get done, I spent very little time with the Lord – having quiet devotion with Him. As I get older, I learn more and more that He is my calm and my peace. When I try to live my life without Him I become all of those things that I mentioned before: frazzled, annoyed and anxious. The circumstances don’t change, but my perspective does. I’ve had some of my best days even with car problems, waiting in long line ups, miscommunications and no power – why? Because I’ve given my day to the Lord and trusted in Him when things didn’t look the way I wanted. Once I stop putting him first, those circumstances can really bring me down.

Over and over again I think to myself that God needed to send me to a place like Zambia – a place that has been experiencing power problems for over a year now. With the power out and a dead computer and phone, it forces me to slow down. It’s still difficult at times – it’s so easy to think of all the OTHER things you would rather be doing, or things you feel like you need to be doing, BUT, I’m learning more and more that those things can wait. They need to wait.

And with that, I’m reminded of one of my favourite quotes from Elisabeth Elliot:

“The secret is Christ in me. Not me in a different set of circumstances.”