Hidden in Plain Sight

IMG_0503.JPGSince the time I started thinking about college around age sixteen, I’ve been obsessed with the concept of finding “God’s will for my life.” I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard the word vocation during my years in the christian community, and at my university in particular. In my mind, God’s will was this giant, life-altering thing that was up to me to decipher, and if I missed the mark, might as well just throw in the towel on the good life right now.

The thing is, up until a few weeks ago I wasn’t even allowed to legally drink alcohol in America, so how could I be trusted to discern God’s will for my entire life at age 21?! It seemed an impossible task for a flawed human like me. Couldn’t someone else just tell me what God wants for me?

Then when I arrived in Germany I started reading the book “Follow Me” by David Plath as part of my summer internship. Plath’s writing is filled with convicting, even radical, truths about the Christian life– truths moderns cultural Christianity often wishes it could just ignore. He writes:

“With good intentions, we try hard to use various methods to find God’s will. But what if God’s will was never intended to be found? In fact, what if it was never hidden from us in the first place? What is God the Father has not sent his children on a cosmic Easter egg hunt to discover his will while he sit back in heaven saying, ‘You’re getting colder…warmer…colder…’? And what if searching for God’s will like this actually misses the entire point of what it means to be a disciple of Jesus?…God has a will, and he has made it clear. From cover to cover in the Bible, God wills is to redeem men and women from every nation, tribe, language, and people by his grace and from his glory.”

Lightbulb! It’s so simple, why didn’t I realize it sooner? God has no specific will for my life. Yes he created me with unique gifts and talents, but he also created me with a functioning brain and free will. We don’t have to ask God to reveal anything to us, he has already revealed his will for all of us. We just have to ask him to help us align our lives to his will. His will is not something intended to be found, but rather to be followed.

I no longer have to stay up at night nervously asking God, “Do you want me to live in Germany or America? Should I major in Creative Writing or Journalism? Should I date this person or wait for you to show me someone else?”

The holy spirit lives in us and is constantly in the process of shaping us to be more like Christ. Therefore, our decisions should naturally be coming ever more and more in line with Christ’s decisions and our lives organically looking more like his. When you are in constant relationship with Jesus, you experience total liberation, ease and delight knowing that if you make a wrong decision he will check you. And if he does check you, stop at once, reassess, and keep moving forward. To be able to do that is a sign of true spiritual maturity and friendship with God. And who doesn’t want that?

I hope this was somewhat interesting and helpful! I would highly recommend reading “Follow Me” if you get the chance. Have a good one friends.

 

 

Ten Iranians and an American

IMG_5378Last night I went to a house groups that my internship supervisor leads. It was at a couple’s apartment who moved to Germany from Iran about seven months ago with their five year old son, who is adorable and full of energy. The group consisted of ten Iranians, nine of them men, plus me and my supervisor. She gave the lesson in English and one of the men translated to Farsi. Though I couldn’t exactly grasp everything everyone was saying, I could definitely sense the Holy Spirit’s presence among us. I even played around with the little boy for quite a while, no words necessary!

I’m not going to lie, I was really nervous going into it, and fumbled through some awkward conversations full of misunderstandings and moments lost in translation. But everyone was so kind, hospitable and open. A few of them showed me pictures of their families back in Iran and expressed how much they miss them. They are working hard to learn German (which is not an easy language!) and establish their new lives here. The German government requires them to complete a certain level of language courses before they can get a job, and one man conveyed how frustrating it is to not be able to work when you are free and willing. But their sense of gratitude was palpable none the less, and it certainly rubbed off on me. The whole time I kept thinking what is my life?! Who would have thought I’d ever find myself in such an interesting situation? I feel so incredibly blessed to be here this summer and add these opportunities to my treasure trove of life experiences. One over-arching theme in our discussion was finding peace in Jesus Christ no matter our circumstances. They inspire me to remember that no matter what, we can have abundant peace because of what our savior did for us.

I hope this is encouraging and that things are going well across the pond! I miss you and think of you all often 🙂

P.s. A few more photos from Frankfurt below!IMG_5414IMG_5411IMG_5401IMG_5375IMG_5374

Magnifications: Dying to Live

IMG_8990.JPGHey there friends, are you managing to stay cool? It is mighty hot in this part of the world, and we don’t have air conditioning, so It. Is. A. Struggle. But I really can’t complain about the one or two weeks of bad weather a year in California, now can I?! Today I thought I’d share with you a piece I wrote for the site Magnifications, a blog that publishes theoretical reflections written by women from the Church of Christ. My piece is a reflection on my time abroad, and how it ties in with the message in John chapter 12. Keep reading below to read the whole thing or click here to view it on the site!IMG_9019.JPGEven now, three months later, I remember the moment like it was yesterday. I stood at the entrance to my flight departure gate at LAX airport, backpack slung over my shoulder, passport in hand. I waved goodbye to my parents and turned around, just in time to hide the tears forming in my eyes. They weren’t tears of sadness as much as tears of change. I knew I’d made the right decision, and was confident God would take care of me, but I also knew this moment marked a drastic change in my life. I say so because this moment signaled the death of my old life in this world and the start of my new life in Christ. And here’s why.

The plane I boarded was bound for Hildesheim, Germany, where I would spend three months working as a youth intern for a Church of Christ. My job responsibilities included investing in the middle school and high school aged youth group members, planning events, attending summer camp, and helping fill any of the church’s needs. And while I felt extremely fulfilled and content with my work, I also felt extremely uncomfortable at times. Living in another country is a lot of things, but comfortable is certainly not one of them.

Going into the experience, I spoke hardly any German, was unfamiliar with the cultural subtleties, and knew a total of two people. The first few weeks were full of doubts, fears and frustration. I constantly found myself in awkward situations, such as accidentally buying sour creme instead of whipped creme, or calling someone pregnant instead of beautiful! In my defense, the words sound incredibly similar.

But slowly God began the process of melting me down and reforming me to be stronger than ever. He led me outside my comfort zone and used my discomfort to shape and retrain me to be fully reliant on Him. I often fought the process kicking and screaming, as I tried to lean on my own understanding and failed. Previously trivial tasks like grocery shopping or holding a conversation with someone in German, became huge victories that I had no choice but to give God the credit for. In this reshaping process, God also revealed to me that I have a serious lack of self confidence, and showed me that the only lasting source of self confidence I will ever find flows from the cross.

With time, I started to notice that the further outside my comfort zone He led me, the more confident I felt. He blessed me with deep friendships, wise female mentors, and travel experiences I will never forget. He showed me how capable and worthy I am to do the work laid before me.

Jesus too had to die to this world in order to live again. In John chapter 12, he enters Jerusalem on a donkey to celebrate passover, and is greeted triumphantly with palm branches and praises from the adoring crowd. A short while later, Jesus predicts his fast approaching death and ultimate glorification in front of the people, saying, “The hour has come for the son of man to be glorified. I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds. The man who loves his life will lose it, while the man who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. Whoever serves me must follow me; and where I am, my servant also will be. My father will honor the one who serves me” (verse 23-26).

Before my experience abroad, I was only a single seed, serving no one but myself. I had to fall to the ground by saying goodbye to my southern California life and everything I knew, in order to produce more seeds. The conversations I’ve had with the youth group members here are not more than seeds at this point, but I’m confident they will one day grow and bloom into beautiful plants.

If we claim to follow Jesus, then we are obliged to actually follow Him, whether that be to another country or right next door. The statement, “Whoever serves me must follow me; and where I am, my servant also will be” has never rung truer. I was called to follow Him half way across the globe because, contrary to what I sometimes believe, Jesus is not American. He is universal, and is actively working in every heart, in every country.

Friends, I encourage you to examine your life today. Is Jesus calling you to follow Him in some new direction? Does it make you uncomfortable? Thats probably a good sign you’re headed down the right path! Jesus does his best work when you are completely and totally reliant on Him. Maybe that looks like asking someone you usually don’t converse with out to coffee, or signing up for that mission trip you’ve been thinking about. Perhaps you need to die to part of yourself in order to bring glory to Christ, and that death is precisely the place you will find new life.