Friday, August 29, 2014

She is just my cat

She is just a cat,
so she will never know what life was like before her.
She is just a cat,
so she doesn't know what anxiety or depression is,
She is just a cat,
so I can't tell her how often the breakdowns were happening.
She is just a cat,
so she'll not understand the peace she has brought me,
She is just a cat,
so she won't realize that I needed her more than she needed me,
She is just a cat,
so I can't explain to her how dark the world around me was becoming until,
She became my cat.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Bring on the Wall!

Life is incredibly unpredictable when you let God lead you. We have had so many thoughts on how our life would be, so many plans changed, and so many blocks in our way. Has it been easy? Definitely not. Has it been worth it? Oh heck yes.

When I first met Branden we thought we would get married and move to Vancouver, BC for the first part of our marriage. Then we thought he would try to go to the UK for his PhD, and then finally make it to Ireland where he would become a lecturer and we'd live our life out with him teaching and me raising our family. Ha!

Three months before our wedding Branden called me to say he found a Master's program in Scotland and 2.5 months after our wedding, we were there. It wasn't what we planned but it was what God wanted for us, and boy did He have to sort a ton of stuff out to get us there! Do you have any idea how difficult it is to get married, change names on legal documents, get a passport, and get visas in less than 6 months? Since I couldn't change my name until we were married, we actually got legally married 20 days before our actual wedding so we could start the paperwork process early. We didn't count it as being married so we signed the papers in Branden's parents' kitchen. So technically we had about 3 months to get everything changed and mailed to the UK embassy in San Francisco to be processed and sent back to us in time to fly out for our new life.

Two days before our non refundable flights were scheduled, our passports were still 2 states away and we had no way of contacting the embassy without someone's name to get through their phone system. In panic and prayer we thankfully received an email within an hour that gave us the name of someone we could call. Unfortunately the email said that the financial document we submitted wasn't acceptable, so we needed to mail a new hard copy and then they could finish our visas in 4-6 weeks. More panic and prayers as we called the only lead God gave us in the form of a name and we watched with amazed eyes as He gave us favor with both the embassy and the financial company as they made exceptions and 24hr express mailed our visas back to us with less than 24 hours to spare.

When we got to Scotland, we had the plan for Branden to get his Master's and PhD from the University of Edinburgh, but then the doors started shutting in our faces for the PhD. All of the potential advisers were either retiring, going on sabbatical, or maternity leave. He looked to other universities that had advisers in his area of expertise and only found two universities. One in Wales and the other in Ireland. Since we missed the date of renewing our UK visas, and knowing that Ireland was always where we were called to in the first place, we jumped for Cork, getting to Ireland years before we ever thought or planned.

Once we were in Ireland, Branden continued his plans of pursuing the PhD with the goal of becoming a professor and we would start a family and settle down after his degree was over. God still had to come through for us when we got here, as promises of me being able to work fell through and we had to survive almost a year on support from family and friends. You could say we lived off of prayers as that was all we had.

The three years of being here have not been easy and again God changed our plans. Ireland is still the place He has called us to but we have been broken, ground down, and are being remolded for a life we never saw and still don't know what looks like. Branden won't finish a PhD but will instead get an MPhil and he won't go on to become a lecturer but will instead look for work anywhere outside of the university. Our plans for children have been removed, along with our thoughts of being 'settled down', as God has displayed over our entire relationship that He wants to use us in miraculous ways, ways that constantly change, and we can't make plans that will make us "sedentary" or "settled".

Even now the time is ticking down to when we have to renew our visas and there is a major roadblock in our way. We face either breaking right through the wall in front of us or being deported back to the States at the end of the month. But we know in our hearts that we are in the land God wants us in and this is His battle to get us to stay. Let the wall come, let it loom over us and leer at how pathetic we are to defeat it, but thankfully it isn't our wall to break through. God's got it and we will be there to rejoice at yet another wall crumbled at our feet.

This is the life of letting God take the lead. It is unpredictable, sometimes chaotic feeling, but there is always a plan, even if we can't see it. We can still have some plans as they can guide us in the right directions but we have to be willing to take the scary side roads we never saw coming.

Monday, February 24, 2014

Beyond Myself

Over the past year and a half while volunteering on the streets on Saturday night I have had my heart opened up so many times. I can't tell you how often I've held a crying girl as she shed her pain over my uniform but also over my own emotions. The amount of middle aged men who have just walked right up to me and released the stories of their harsh pasts and let me share their hurting hearts is incredible. All the moments of cradling an unconscious person while waiting for an ambulance and whispering out my prayers over their broken bodies have broken parts of me.

I live with social anxiety and there are days where I pray for God to just take it away and heal me of this sometimes crippling fear of other humans. But when I look back at the moments on the streets, the pain and the brokenness I have shared with others on the streets, I can see that it just makes me a living testimony to God's miraculous power. It is only a powerful and loving God who can take those people who can create in me such panic and fear and bring me on my knees, pouring out His love and compassion on these beautiful souls that are so precious to Him. How can I have such a bursting heart for so many strangers when it is them who terrify me if not for God's miraculous working in my life.

Maybe someday God will take the anxiety away, but for now, I will look at it as a gift and a reminder that God wants to use me in ways that are not my own.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Back to Basics

I'm discovering a lot about myself as I hang about in this waiting period of my life. It's not necessarily good either, as my rather impatient attitude has me mimicking a 3 year old on the verge of a tantrum because she just wants everything right now! There have been quite a few times this past month that I have stomped my feet, clenched my fists, and scrunched my face to a ridiculous pout before God as I have tried to remind Him of what "I should be entitled to". It hasn't been pretty, or productive, or very Christ like...just very, very human.

When Jesus was overwhelmed with the future (just before he was crucified), he cried out to God in a way I didn't even come close to.

"My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will." 

My prayer looked a bit more like this, "Alright God, could you just take this cup finally! If you won't then could you at least fill it with wine, pair it with some steak, in a wonderful atmosphere so I can be happy while I wait?? I'm not sure you realize how unpleasant this all is and I don't want to do this anymore so could you just hurry it up?"

Christ like? No. Human like? Oh heck yes. Thankfully God does know who He's dealing with which is most likely why He has to be full of grace...or else I should have been a lighting bolt smudge a long time ago.

I obviously need to work on my attitude, my sense of entitlement, and my level of patience. This is not exactly easy but I was reminded by God to look back to where I've come from. That is where I will find strength and hope. God has brought me through some incredible times and that is what I need to focus on to find my hope that this time is no different.

So how far back to go? Well, I suppose I can go back to the very first time I remember God delivering me out of utter darkness and despair. I was 13 or 14. This may seem awfully young to consider life to be dark and desperate but it was my first time of depression, I was going through some really horrific stuff, and I even got to the point of seriously considering how to take my life. In the summer, I went to a Christian summer camp with a friend of mine. Everyone was singing wonderful songs about our "loving God" and "merciful Savior" and sharing happy testimonies of how fabulous Jesus was. I had grown up around this but after the past 6 months I had gone through, I was no longer buying it. My world had been shattered and I learned a new lesson: Don't trust anyone because they will hurt you. I'm not going to go into why or how I learned this but as a new teen, this wasn't an easy one to face, especially for a bottler who didn't let on to how bad things were.

One night I was in my bunk while everyone was asleep. I was angry, hurt, frustrated, and confused as to why God would let me be so miserable, let me go through the things I had gone through, and I told Him that I didn't really want Him if that's what the life He created was going to be like. It was utterly pure, raw emotion that I poured out and unleashed upon Him. And He didn't say a thing back to me; not a word. However, in that bunk, racked with emotional pain and torment, silent tears flowing as my mind screamed out, I undeniably felt physical arms wrap themselves around me in the warmest, loving, most tender hug I have ever and will ever feel. He didn't have to say a word. I knew. He didn't control us like robots and couldn't keep the pain of the world away from me as if I lived in a perfect bubble. What He could do was be there.

That night the harsh lesson I had recently learned of "Don't trust anyone because they will hurt you" changed to "People aren't perfect so they will let you down sometime in your life, but God is perfect so He will never let you down".

That's the beginning I'm thinking of today. I will never forget those arms around me and I'll also never forget my Dad sharing about the time he was in utter despair and crying out to God that he had the same thing happen. God may not give me the answers but He will just hold me. I just have to let Him.

I was recently reminded of this song that I hadn't heard in years. It has spoken to me in so many ways at so many different times.

Monday, January 6, 2014

In the Waiting Room

I keep telling myself over and over again, "We've been here before and it always worked out at the last minute". Unfortunately my whining human nature side seems to cry out louder, "But I don't want to wait till the last minute again! I hate all the stress of it coming down to the wire! Haven't we been through enough to prove that we will do whatever He says so we don't have to be left on the edge of our seats right to the very last every time?". Being human can really suck at times, especially those moments when you really, really just need to be able to dwell in the Spirit so you can have the peace you desperately crave.

For now, I need to accept that things are going to be down to the wire, or even worse, but I am really struggling with it this time for some reason. God called us to Ireland. We are here, and there was a lot of down to the wire situations that got us here but we also had a lot of direction on where to go. This time we know we are running out of time but we also feel like we are running out of path. We don't know where we are going, we don't know what is next, and we don't know how it will happen but we do know that we only have about 2 months left.

We live here on student loans. It is how we pay rent and bills. Branden's part time job is how we pay for groceries. The student loan runs out around the beginning of March and Branden has been applying for full time jobs since August 2013 with no bites and no leads. Most of these jobs would require us to move but with funding quickly running out, we would need to move soon. Even if we don't move, we can't survive off of his part time job and we face the potential of having to go back to how we started here in Ireland, living off of donations from friends and family that supported us.

Being financially supported was an amazing but also very difficult thing to go through. Maybe it's a pride problem of mine but I find it very hard to ask others to give up their hard earned money. Although now as I write it out, it may actually be an issue of worth. I have never been good at taking compliments, I dislike being pointed out or acknowledged, and I most certainly don't feel worthy of having my life supported financially by others. It's just me. Plain, simple me and I am nothing special, I don't heal people, give prophetic insight to people, or even speak in tongues. I am worthless at reading my Bible every day and struggle to find where I fit in at my church that makes my anxiety peak whenever I think about going. It is not easy to ask others to lay things on the table for you when you feel you bring nothing to it.

I know that things will work out somehow, I know that we have faced having no finances before, I know God has brought us through some crazy, last minute deadlines in the past in ways that weren't humanly possible. So why is this time finding my faith fading when past instances have shown me that this is the best time to be caught up in a miracle? I think it's back to the worth thing. All the other times we knew where we were going and what we were doing, and this time we know nothing. We don't know where our ministry is going, what type of job Branden will be in, where we will be living, or anything. It is all up in the air and I don't know how I will fit in when it all hits the ground.

Today I will be making a miracle jar. I'm basically just going to get some sort of jar that I have laying around and start documenting every blessing and miracle God does. It may not answer my fear of having nothing in a couple of months but at least it will give me hope in the moment I am living. Right now I think that's all I can cling to.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Granny's Story

I wrote this the day after my Granny passed away. This was the beautiful moment of her passing. It is still very difficult but I am so grateful that I was there with her. 

Yesterday was a good day as Granny finally went home to be with Jesus. We brought her home from the hospital late afternoon on Saturday and she was so much more at ease and peace to be in her own home surrounded by all of her family.

Just before she passed, I sat next to her side by myself as my mom and aunt were talking with hospice in the kitchen. God just told me what to say as I talked to her for about 10 minutes. She couldn't respond and hadn't been opening her eyes all day but as I talked of past family memories with her, I could see her lips move in an attempt to smile. I reminisced with her about all the fun we had growing up with her. The summers that our family would spend out at Uncle Greg's cabin at the lake, all of us cousins using the pool at her neighbor's house, playing bocce ball in her backyard and lots of other memories. I reassured her that we were all okay and wanted her to just let go and not wait for us, we would be fine. She taught us how to live and how to enjoy life as she never let anything get her down.

Near the end of our talk, I brought up the wedding quilt she made for me and Branden. I told her that it was our prized possession and has always been on our bed, in every country we've been. Then I talked about all of the quilts she had made for all of us kids, grandkids, and great grandkids over the years and how each patch of those quilts were a piece of her that we would have with us forever. She would always be with us. A single tear ran down her face as I spoke and she suddenly opened her eyes and looked right at me as I continued to talk and tell her that it was okay for her to go now and how much we all loved her. Her eyes shut fast and her breathing dramatically slowed down. I called my mom in and she held Granny's hand while whispering in her ear, "Just look to Jesus, just look to Jesus". It was only a couple of minutes later that she passed.

What a beautiful moment given to us by God. It is such a relief to know that she is with her Lord and Savior and that no disease can ever ravage her body ever again. It's still difficult and painful but our God is incredible in taking care of His hurting children.

Our wedding quilt

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Moments that I hold dear

You never know what sort of difference you may make to someone if you just stop and ask. I was out on the homeless run last night and even though I know it's a common response, I was still shocked to see two men walk right past an older drunk man who was on the ground, clearly unable to get himself up. There were only three of us out last night, all women, and if we hadn't stopped to help him, who knows how long he would have sat there. He even had a previously injured hand that was all wrapped up and seemed very sore, making it even harder for him to try and get himself up.

A younger drunk man showed up soon after we got him on his feet and started hassling the poor guy for money. At one point the younger man started to act like he was going to start a fight, but with two women praying like mad behind me, and the obvious fact that both men were so drunk that I could have blown on them to knock them over, I got them apart and we moved the younger man on. Not wanting to leave our new friend on the street to stumble home and possibly get beat up if the younger guy came back, we asked if we could walk him home. He agreed and over the next 15 minutes or so, we travelled about a block while he called us angels, became emotional several times, and in one passionate speech, managed to shower my entire face with drunken saliva. Even his swimming eyesight saw what he did and he gently apologized to me as I turned my head and wiped my face with my hand, telling him "It's alright".

After discovering that he lived quite a ways out and didn't have sufficient taxi fare to get home, we got him on the main street through town, on a very visible bench (in hopes he wouldn't be hassled there), and prepared to let him sober up a bit before he headed home himself. We prayed with him before we left and he started to choke up as my friend prayed that he would be kept safe from any harm. Again he called us angels and he kissed our hands goodbye through his tear filled eyes. We left to find if there were others we could help, and even though we went into an alleyway and Purelled the heck out of our hands, and my face, I had to think about what would have happened to him if we hadn't stopped like the others had.

He could have easily been taken advantage of, beaten up, or even just left in the cold. The man could hardly stand, so even if he got to his feet he may have fallen again and done some serious damage. Even when we were with him he almost pitched himself head first into traffic on the main street but I managed to catch him by the arm and swing him back to his bench. There are so many people out there that are overlooked everyday. What kind of difference could be made if someone just stopped to ask them if they were ok?

I came home, took a shower, and just kept thinking about the man we left on the bench. Would he even remember us at all when he finally sobered up? It really didn't matter, what did matter was that he got to a safe place and for the short time we were with him he felt people care for him. So many people are aching to feel someone care for them and love them. Why is it such a precious commodity in the world today?