The Call to Stay… For Now.

                My salvation story is long and messy, involving years worth of stories about how God pursued me, and I was absolutely clueless about how to respond to His grace. Basically, I’ve understood Jesus as Savior since childhood, but I didn’t surrender to Him as Lord until August of 2012. I was going through a heart-wrenching break up that had reached its absolute lowest point. I took a bath to clear my mind and for the first time in my life, I prayed. I told God that what I was doing was not working and that I needed His help. I told Him that I believed that He could fix me, that I needed Him to heal me, and that I would do whatever I needed to for Him to do that. I remember almost every word of that prayer because it’s the prayer that brought me to life. That afternoon, I invited myself to church with my roommate. God allowed me to sit under the preaching of His word and experience a time of worship that I could actually connect to. My obsession with Him began. I was hungry and I couldn’t get enough. Over the course of a couple months, I devoured the Bible, constantly listened to sermons from other churches, read books by authors like Francis Chan, John Piper, and David Platt. In November of 2012, I was baptized and I told the world that I was His. I learned how to respond to His grace through constant praise and adoration. He healed me. He fixed me. He change everything about me. In December, I made the decision to take some time off of college to figure out where He was calling me. Within a couple of months, He began to reveal a call to ministry. He opened my eyes to see that the brokenness of my teenage years was something He wanted to use to lead others out of darkness. In January, I wrote a blog titled “The Call to Stay” and I began it with this paragraph:

Since God reveled my call to ministry, I have struggled with knowing how He is specifically calling me. Where and when details have been important to me. I have felt almost 100% about the idea of moving to a foreign country to influence the world in the name of Jesus. I’ve felt almost 100% about staying in America and working as a student pastor. At times, I’ll be honest, I’ve felt discouraged from either of those ideas and wondered if what I originally understood about my calling was some child-like fantasy that I made up on my own.

As I’ve experienced this struggle, I’ve started to run from God… saying, “Ministry is okay with me if… (insert long list of conditions I’ve tried to put on God here).”  In the past couple months, I’ve been so convicted by the Holy Spirit to remove every item from that list, to surrender more of myself. It’s left me with two things: 1) an unchangeable, overwhelming desire to follow the Lord regardless of what He wants me to do and 2) a burning passion to proclaim the gospel and live life with people from all over the world. AKA – Missions. God is calling me to missions. God is calling me to leave everything I’ve ever known. God is calling me to travel into unfamiliar places. God is calling me to an uncomfortable, out of the ordinary, potentially unsafe life. To be completely transparent with you, I was mad at Him for a couple weeks. I had always hoped that the excitement of my first mission trip last summer to Romania had just caused me to become delusional in thinking I was supposed to move onto the mission field one day. As usual, I was wrong. In retrospect, I see the way God stitched so many experiences leading up to this trip into a clear calling to that country.

I ended “A Call to Stay” by announcing that God has called me to stay this summer, to make disciples here or wherever I am. I still wholeheartedly believe that my mission field in Oconee County. However, I understand now that this is only a temporary field, a field of preparation. This is a place for God to use me while He prepares my heart for the next season and He prepares my place for missions. This is a place where I can develop lifelong friends who will support me in prayer as I journey into the next chapter of my life. I don’t know when I’m going. I don’t know exactly where I’m going. But I know that eventually, I’m going. Being detail oriented makes this unknown trip even more confusing. 

I know that His plans are greater. His timing is perfect and that He will reveal things to me in the perfect order, as He always has. 

Hopeful Romantic

I’m sure most of you have heard the comparison that’s drawn between a husband and wife and Christ and the church. The sacrificial love, the self-denial, the continual acts of service, etc., etc., etc. For a single person, that is terrific to hear. It helps to paint a picture of what my future marriage is supposed to look like, centered around The Lord and reflecting His love into each other’s lives in every single way. However, as a single person, this is also terrible to hear, especially when it’s heard constantly by every pastor who preaches on marriage. I love everything that has to do with love. Some would probably call me a hopeless romantic. This gets me into trouble at times, but one day, my husband will appreciate it.

As a hopeless romantic and 21 year old Christian woman, singleness can suck. (Notice that I said it can and not that it does.) It is seriously difficult. Especially when everything you look at revolving around singleness points you into dating and marriage. It’s rare to hear a sermon that doesn’t idealize dating and marriage while addressing singleness.

In the past months, I’ve been trying this new “intentional singleness” thing. I want to learn as much from this season as I can. Instead of wishing it away and longing for my perfect Christian husband and our perfect little house with our perfect little children, I want to think about how perfect my God is regardless of anything else that I may have or may receive later. Here are a couple places in Scripture that God has led me to that have helped me stay grounded in focusing on my walk with The Lord rather than on my singleness or my future marriage.

1 Corinthians 7:7
“I wish that all were as I myself am. But each has his own gift from God, one of one kind and one of another.”

Paul, who was never married, writes this to the church in Corinth as he speaks to them about sexual impurity and principles for marriage. Though he wishes that all were single as he is, he recognizes that God bestows certain gifts to certain people – some receive marriage, others receive singleness. The key take away of this? BOTH ARE A GIFT FROM GOD!

Romans 8:18-25
“For I consider that the sufferings of the present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from bondage to corruption and obtain freedom of the glory of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in childbirth until now. And not only creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. For in the hope we are saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? But we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.”

That was a lot, I know. Basically these verses are a reminder of the Gospel. We are subject to futility. We are in bondage to corruption. Though we are set free through faith in the work of Christ on the cross, we still suffer presently along with all of creation until the return of Christ. Everything is built on our faith that He has come to save and that He will return to us again. We wait, eagerly, with patience.

Now… singleness is the most beautiful representation of Christ’s current relationship with the church. We are waiting, patiently and eagerly for Him. Singleness, when done right, is waiting eagerly and patiently for God to bestow the gift of marriage upon you. You wait in patience, in purity, and in faith that God will provide.

But here’s the best part of that… even if He doesn’t give you the gift of marriage, your singleness is still a gift. And the passage from Romans 8 still applies to you. Because CHRIST IS STILL COMING BACK FOR YOU. & until that is the thing we long for more than anything else in this world, we will not know true joy – regardless of being single or married.

So. Roman’s 8:18-25 will be my first tattoo on my ring finger. To remind me of my gift of singleness, to remind me of the proper way to wait for my gift of marriage (because I know I’m getting married one day).

And when I do get married, as my husband slides my wedding band over my ring finger, I will be reminded that, underneath it all, my joy is found in the promise of Christ, The Husband, coming to redeem the church, His bride.

Because it’s ALL ABOUT JESUS! God started with the end in mind and before creation He knew of the second coming of Christ. It all points to Him. And I pray that every breathe of my life (even though I know I will fall short) will point to Him.

So, while some have called me a hopeless romantic, I prefer the to label myself a hopeful romantic because the object of my life’s romance – marriage or not – is Jesus, and with Him there is nothing but hope.

Psalm 27:14
Wait for the LORD; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the LORD!

So, today I basically got fired, but God is sovereign!

A few weeks ago, my phenomenal pastor gave a message on commitment versus surrender. The Holy Spirit wrecked my heart through it. In a nutshell, committing to God means holding on and keeping control. Commitment sucks. I can say that because in so many aspects of my life, I was merely committed. I made Him Lord in November of 2012, but there parts of my heart that I was refusing to give Him Lordship over. I was just committing those things to Him. After this message, I asked the Lord on a daily basis to call out the things within me that need to be surrendered. What happened in my heart and in my life over the next two weeks… there is no word. Wrecked would be a vast understatement in describing with the Spirit did within me.

I saw my pride for the first time. I was able to see the things I said in the past with clarity and literally see the stupidity of some of my words and actions. I made a list of the self-righteous things I catch myself doing regularly, I laid it down on the ground, I bowed down before the Lord, and I surrendered my pride.

I realized my desire for a husband began to consume a lot of me. I surrendered my future marriage in the same way. I’ve grown so content in my relationship with the Lord and all the things that He is able to teach me through my season of singleness.

There have been a lot of situations and relationships with people in my life that I had to surrender. I’ve experienced more love from those relationships since and been able to gain more wisdom from them. Some of my friendships ended but there was no void left.

Seriously… it has been an INSANE too weeks. & again, insane seems like a downplay of the work the Lord did in me.

Today, though, was the wrecking ball to everything that I was.

For five and a half years, I’ve worked at Wendy’s. I’ve learned so much from the people I’ve encountered there and the situations I’ve been in. After five and a half years, I’ve never received a complaint. I am great at customer service. I’ve been promoted multiple times. I had my own keys to the store. I was an A+ employee. Last night, I received a complaint because someone’s order got messed up and I apparently was rude. The first complaint ever and my job, all that I had ever known, was danged in front of me because of the zero tolerance we have for rudeness. I was told that I could come in and try to refute the claim, but that friendliness was expected at all times and that if an example needed to be made through me for the store to achieve that, then it would be. Basically, I was pretty much fired unless I could prove I wasn’t rude to these people, who I didn’t even remember. How can I refute a situation that I don’t remember?

All of this happens via phone call on my way to a Super Bowl party with my church youth group. In the midst of my meltdown, I got slightly lost trying to get there and had to call my mentor to re-give me the directions. She told me and then I told her that I had basically just got fired. Without hesitation, she offered me a job with the marketing company she owns. I laughed and told her that I would let her know how the meeting went at work.

Thanks to the advising of some incredible people that I get to serve alongside, I saw God working in that situation. Showing me the need to surrender Wendy’s… my comfort. All I’ve ever known. My safe haven through my dad’s death. My safety net through family fights. I have always worked hard because I have always channeled all my problems into my work at Wendy’s. Those are not God’s intentions. My work is supposed to be surrendered to Him, just like everything else in my life and in my heart. Work is not supposed to become a comfort zone because comfort zones don’t allow growth.

It took a lot, but I called my mentor and asked again if she was serious. When she affirmed the offer, I accepted the job. I called Wendy’s back and told them I wouldn’t be refuting anything. I quit. I have no idea when I’ll be working, what I’ll be paid, or what I’ll be doing, but I know that God has provided and called me to something new and exciting.

He’s opened a door for me to work in to community that my heart is so deeply invested in. I’ve felt Him calling me to Oconee County and have recently made the decision to move there this summer when my lease is up. He confirmed that tonight by closing yet another door for me in Clemson and swinging one wide open in Oconee County. Within minutes! MINUTES!

Those 30 minutes were an emotional roller-coaster, but hours later, I’m still in shock at how the Lord had His hand on me. I’m amazed that the reward I reaped through my surrender to Him. I am absolutely captivated by the goodness that is Jesus.

Seriously, if you want to step further in your walk with Christ… ask Him for help in your surrender. He will answer. He will hear that prayer and He will answer in a mighty way. Have faith.

I love those who love me, and those who seek me diligently find me. Proverbs 8:17

And he said to all, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it. Luke 9:23-24

So I basically got fired. Then hired elsewhere. So I just quit. The Lord never ceases to amaze me at His faithfulness. I am ready to begin this journey with Him at my side as he invades every quiet place of my soul, continually guiding me into the denial and repentance of who I am so that He may receive ALL glory.

In the valley, Oh God, you’re near 
In the quiet, Oh God, you’re near 
In the shadow, Oh God, you’re near 
At my breaking, Oh God, you’re near 

Oh God, you never leave my side 
Your love will stand firm for all my life 

In my searching, Oh God, you’re near 
In my wandering, Oh God, you’re near 
When I feel alone, Oh God, you’re near 
At my lowest, Oh God, you’re near 

Height nor depth nor anything else 
Could pull us apart 
We are joined as one by your blood 
Hope will rise as we become more 
Than conquerors through 
The one who loved the world

-Oh God, Citizens.

Yes, I have a wedding board on Pinterest. No, I’m not obsessed with getting married… anymore.

Before I dive into this, I need to warn you: this is lengthy. Just bare with me. I’m going to share a very shortened version of my testimony with you and share what God has taught me in the past few months of my current season.

My parents’ marriage was slightly dysfunctional. They loved each other, but there was a lot of fighting and a lot of tension. By no means am I bashing them; they did the best they knew how in raising us. They weren’t the best example, but they were far from the worst! My dad, also known in my heart as my childhood hero, passed away when I was sixteen… during my junior year of high school. The world kept spinning, life kept happening, but I was a WRECK. Even that is probably an understatement. I had “daddy issues.” I filled the gap of my father with the attention and affection of dumb teenage boys who always had bad motives. This continued through High School and into college – failed relationship after failed relationship. I was treated like crap and I tolerated it, but I was clinging to the idea of love. I was left empty. I felt abandoned. I felt used. I felt like trash. I felt worthless. I can’t even begin the explain to you the darkness that entered my life as I clung to anyone who could potentially offer me love.

I never really went to church growing up, but I accepted Jesus as Savior a long time ago. I allowed my mind to accept that He died on a cross and now I can go to Heaven. But I never understood what that had to do with my life on Earth. This is a completely different topic, but I bet a lot of “Christians” in South Carolina are in the same boat that I was in. In the pit of my darkness, I was all of a sudden aware of the fact that I needed God. I knew that He was the answer to all the question, and the only explanation of the awareness and need is the Holy Spirit. I took a long shower and I had a real prayer time with God. It was the first time in my life that I had prayed on my own without being led by someone or just bowing my head while someone else prayed. That afternoon, I invited myself to church with my roommate and I didn’t look back. I surrendered, slowly but surely. I finally understood that Jesus demands to be Savior and Lord. So that’s what I made Him. My life changed radically. He made me a new creation.

Being that my past with guys was such a huge part of my hurt and a huge thing for me to surrender, I spent a lot of time listening to sermons & reading books on dating. I needed to know what true, biblical relationships looked like. The more I learned, the more I was excited about having a boyfriend, getting married, starting a family, etc. I knew what I was supposed to expect and receive and I wanted it immediately. So again, I searched for love. I had two short-lived “relationships” over the course of a few months with nice guys who went to church, but they both failed miserably. I lost focus of the love I had from God in Christ and I tried to hold onto my past and drag it into my new life. I soon realized that I’m called to abandon ALL and so I did. For real this time.

Being intentional is so important in relationships, but no one talks about being intentional in singleness. After a lot of prayer, God spoke to me and allowed me to realize that I needed that – a time of intentional singleness to grow absolutely and completely content in His love alone. Basically I needed to get really serious about being intentional with Him. So October 21, 2013, that’s exactly what I did. At first I put a date on it and decided to do a year of singleness. But for many reasons, I felt pulled to nix that and simply be intentional in my singleness, continually growing in Him, until whenever.

A little over three months later, I’m the happiest I’ve been ever! I’m more satisfied in The Lord than ever. I’m more prayerful. I hear from Him more than ever. My ability to discern situations seems to have increased. I made a prayer list for my future husband, and I pray over His life and I pray for His heart every single day. The Lord has opened my eyes to so many new things in His Word that have opened my heart to His love on a much deeper level.

Today, I want to share the main verse that I have clung to and prayed into my life.
Proverbs 18:22 (ESV): “He who finds a wife finds a good thing and obtains favor from The Lord.”

This Proverb is packed with SO much meaning! Firstly, it says that the man is supposed to find a wife. I am not supposed to pursue him; I am supposed to be found. One of my favorite things about this verse is the definition of the word find: to recognize something valuable in an unexpected way. That’s how it’s supposed to happen… he will recognize me and pursue me. My job? Be a good thing for him. This portion of the verse is reference back to Genesis 2:18, “Then the LORD God said, ‘It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him.'” I’m supposed to be a helper fit for him- someone to serve him, to uplift him, to encourage him, etc. (More on what God has taught me regarding this will come later.)

Being a good thing takes preparation and work. In growing content in The Lord and serving selflessly, I have been preparing for the day that I become a wife. I already love my husband, whoever He is, and I am excited for the day that I stand across from him at the altar (or wherever we get married), looking into his eyes, knowing that he is the man I have prayed for and the man that God is giving me. I am still a hopeless romantic. I still love weddings. I still love love. I still love learning about biblical relationships and marriage. But more than all of those things, I love The Lord! I am obsessed with His love for me, and that is my only obsession. I have surrendered my marriage to Him. It is His to establish, and when it happens, it will be solely for the glory of His name. I love The Lord enough that I can say with no hesitation that I am being still and waiting on The Lord, just as He asks me to. 

“Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him, rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving. See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to the human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ. For in him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily, and you have been filled in him, who is the head of all rule and authority.” Colossians 2:6-10 ESV 

The Call to Stay

Since God reveled my call to ministry, I have struggled with knowing how He is specifically calling me. Where and when details have been important to me. I have felt almost 100% about the idea of moving to a foreign country to influence the world in the name of Jesus. I’ve felt almost 100% about staying in America and working as a student pastor. At times, I’ll be honest, I’ve felt discouraged from either of those ideas and wondered if what I originally understood about my calling was some child-like fantasy that I made up on my own.

For the past 2-3 months, my focus has shifted from long term, lifelong plans to short term, summer break type plans. I have been worried, anxious, and terrified of what May, June, and July will hold for me. And personally, I don’t think those are feelings God desires for us to carry when we think about our call to ministry. I’ve prayed. A lot. I’ve applied and interviewed for multiple camp staff jobs and been rejected by them all. I’ve prayed over the possibility of a mission trip, which is financially. Now… throw in summer classes, my roommate’s wedding, and the fact that I have to find a new place to live and move there this summer.

            What am I supposed to do this summer, Lord?

That has been the question I have asked over and over and over and over again. And every single time I’ve received the same answer.

Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” –Matthew 28:19-20

From day one as a Christian, I understood this as my calling. There is no doubt in my mind that I am here on this earth to make disciples.

However, as Christians (and yes, a lot of us do this), we try to apply this Scripture to our lives. We try to discover its meaning in the context of our world and apply it in the way that best suites us. That’s what I did for a while. However, as I grew in my relationship with the Lord, I realized that this Scripture in not intended to be applied to my life. My life is intended to be applied to this Scripture.

In fact, most Scriptures are viewed in this same way. We make the Scripture fit into our lives, rather than making our lives fit into God’s Scriptures. How undermining is it to the God of the universe to take His word and try to make it fit onto our corrupted, sinful lives without being willing to change our lives to fit His holy Scriptures? I will be the first to admit that I did this. When reading the Bible, we think, “What does this mean to me?” When we should be thinking, “What did God mean by this?” The two are completely different questions that will give you completely different answers. And by asking, “What does this mean to me?” we take away all the divinity of the Bible. If the meaning, intent, and application of the Bible is determined by me… what good is the Bible?

So through this revelation what did I learn? Firstly, that it doesn’t matter if I’m summer camp, in Africa, Romania, or any other country this summer. It doesn’t matter where I am this summer. It only matters that I’m making disciples. Whether I make them at church, at work, at school, or in Wal-Mart doesn’t matter. God’s call for us to “go” doesn’t always mean that we have to spend two weeks in another country, but it does mean that we have to take action and make disciples.

So this summer, I’m going to stay right here in South Carolina and make disciples as I go. I’ll make disciples at church. I’ll make disciples at work. I’ll make disciples at school. I’m even praying for the chance to make disciples in my apartment complex, where there is a high population of Muslims.

Secondly, I’ve come to understand that one of the millions of amazing things about God is that He will accomplish His purposes regardless of what I do. The entire Old Testament is proof of that statement. Jesus came even though no one was obedient to what He commanded. He fulfilled His purpose despite the fact that we couldn’t/wouldn’t cooperate fully. I put so much weight on being in the right place this summer that I lost sight of the Almighty God who is capable with or without me. And again, I believe that as a whole, Christians are too often focused on being in the right place at the right time… looking for that one brilliant moment that God is going to “need us,” undermining the Lord and His glory.

Through this journey, I’ve been praying Proverbs 3:6 into my life a lot. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths. Notice that the price for having our paths made straight is acknowledgement of Him. Not just once, not just occasionally, not just when we need help or advice, but in ALL of our ways. Allow yourself to meditate on this. Begin thinking of Scripture as God’s Word and not just as an instruction manual, as we are so quick to do.

My prayer as I write and publish this is that readers will experience God in a new way, allowing their hearts to be opened and acknowledging the yearning desire we have to be in relationship with Him through Christ. Quench that desire with His Word each day, applying yourself to His work, and making yourself available to fulfill His purposes. In doing this, you will experience peace, joy, and fullness like you’ve never known.

Who? What? When? Where? But mostly why?

In terms of my testimony, all you really need to know is that who I was and who I am are two very different people and it’s only because I’ve surrendered my life to Christ. Prior to doing that, I was a train wreck. My friendships, family relationships, and all dating relationships were a disaster. My teenage years were a whirlwind of bad decisions that led to more bad decisions as a result of trying to deal with the repercussions of the original bad decisions.

I was missing THE key relationship and that was one with my Savior!  Through surrendering to Christ, I learned so many things about who I am and who I am in relation to my Almighty God. As I learned who I was in relation to Him, I prayerfully sought wisdom on how I could better my relationships with others and redeem the sad story of my dating life. God has taught me so much! As I speak with others in their own sticky situations, I am reminded of God’s call to love and encourage one another as He has loved and encouraged us.

As a pursue my college degree and discern my future plans, it is my honor to share with those around me the lessons I’ve been given. I pray that as I share God uses what He has taught me to mold hearts. Because as He changes our hearts, he equips us to change the world for the gospel and that is something I pray we can all play our part in!