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August 13.  A pretty momentous date in my mind. It marks one year since I moved in my little house in the woods. It may seem insignificant to have lived somewhere for only a year. Since moving to Alaska in 2012 I have moved 10 times and never spent more than 8 months in any dwelling. It’s hard to make roots, settle in, and make a place my own when I know I’ll be packing up again shortly.

Rewind to 2012. I had packed up all my belongings, gotten rid of anything that couldn’t fit into an 18-gallon tote, sold my car, said goodbye, and purchased a one-way ticket. It was an adventure, but I didn’t feel like I was going somewhere I might spend the rest of my life. One year full of tears, laughter, friendship, growth, and challenges…. I felt like I had a place here. But at the end of each season I would pack up, move out and put things in storage. Then I would move in with someone new at the beginning of each new season. There were always unknowns. Where will I go? Who will I live with? What will the dynamics be? Will this feel like home? Can I make it more inviting and comfortable than the year before? In so many wonderful ways I loved the unknowns. I could walk hand-in-hand with the Lord into those situations. I had to relentlessly trust that He would navigate through all the questions I had, excited to lead me since He already knew.

Then 2015 came along. Andrew proposed. Many more unknowns rose to the surface. Now where would we live? What would it be like to be married? How do you navigate differences when it’s a lifelong relationship? What will my role be? Will I be a good wife? Will he think I’m a good wife?  And the list could go on.

There weren’t any houses available in our town. None. Housing shortages are not something that I was accustomed to. I was trying to prepare my heart for living in a house where I would haul water, that wouldn’t be big enough to have guests, that would be sub-par in my mind, but adequate for living. But Andrew kept reminding me that God wasn’t stumped by our need. He owns it all and He knows are needs.  So regularly I would lay my need back in God’s hands and choose not to worry or fret, or even try to fix my need.

A few weeks later, I found myself walking through a house with Andrew. It was not just a house, but it was better than I could have imagined. It has two bathrooms,  guest room, storage, running water, and lots of character. It wasn’t so much the house that I loved the idea of, no, it was the idea of the things we could do with the house.

The Lord has allowed me to see dreams fulfilled in our home. We’ve been able to host guests, people in need, and small groups. We’ve had people sit on our couch and weep. We’ve laughed with people over meals, hosted game nights, and just had people here to rest.

I’ve had the honor and privilege to make our home a place of refuge. It’s a safe place for people to be real, to rest and be refreshed, a place to seek prayer and counsel, a place for quiet, or a place to come and rid yourself of loneliness. It’s a place where my husband can rest or get work done. I always dreamed of having my own home, but more than that my heart ached to mirror my Creator in being one who shapes the atmosphere of a place. I didn’t even know my heart longed for this role until I had it. It’s been one of the most fulfilling years of my life because I am doing something that I believe God instilled in my heart.

I have gotten to decorate, serve, love, give, host, cook, clean, organize, arrange, and all of it has been worship. I simply get to walk in the things that God has for me and I love it. Whether I am sweeping floor, doing laundry, getting the guest room ready, or feeding my chickens – I am the steward of this domain. My home is not my pride and joy, but it is my responsibility. I get to set the tone and I think that’s delightful.

I know that this will not be my forever home, but I do know that I will cherish the things that God taught me while living here. I will remember fondly the memories made and the opportunities it presented. I remember learning that I am a grower of things. It brings me great pleasure to grow flowers, vegetables, and my little flock of chickens.  But I also love to grow relationships and be used of God to help people grow. I believe the theme of this year has been of finding roots and of growing. I find it so beautiful how those things go together. The Lord gives good things and He takes great joy in watching us steward those things to His glory.

Is Transition a Teacher?

I have gone through a lot of change in the last year. This time in 2012 I was sitting in an office working and day dreaming about what my life in Alaska would look like. I spent hours wondering how God would provide and about what the student and staff would be like. Wondering what winter in Alaska, or even just life in Alaska would be like often preoccupied my mind. In all that time I spent thinking I never realized how much I would learn in all this transition.

If time turned back and I was back there and knew what I knew now I would have done things a bit differently. Prayer would have been a bigger part of my day. I would have talked differently about what my role and this ministry look like.  In my defense, I had no idea what I was walking into. I walked in excitedly (and still do), but I really was naive about what my life here would be like.

Most of the lessons I have learned are not intellectual. They have penetrated in deep and have changed the way I live. Transition has a way of taking me away from what is comfortable and familiar. In doing so, I am vulnerable to learning lessons that I would miss in the monotony and mundane routine of scheduled life. It’s a job to try to condense all I have learned, but I think I have some of the top lessons.

1. The Power of Prayer – When people talked about the sweet hour of prayer I sometimes wonder if they really are praying. Prayer is hard work and can be exhausting. I have prayed more and more fervently than ever before because of the experiences I have had here. Prayer have been answered and God has moved. I have been completely at a loss for what to do or say many times and I just pray – often and in great length. Because of that my faith has been challenged and built.

Image2. Living in Community is Beautifully Hard – When living in close quarters with people they rub on me. The good and bad of them rubs off on me and mine on them. Sometimes the rubbing sharpens and other times it does damage. I have had a lot of unhealthy and sinful patterns in my life exposed while living here. It’s been hard, but wonderful to see God using this process to refine me. I sin against others, they sin against me. I need to ask for forgiveness and I need to  forgive. Most times it doesn’t happen that neatly, but working through sin and moving toward unity is amazing. It’s freeing and it reflects the love that God has for us. It’s definitely not easy, but it’s worth it. I am profoundly impacted by the lives of the beautiful women that I am privileged to call my housemates.

3. I Have So Much to Learn – There is so much out there that I just don’t know. I oftentimes have no clue what the right answer is, or even if there is a right answer to any given question or situation. I love learning and I want to continue to learn forever, but there are times when I just wish I knew right now. Learning takes time and it takes patience. There is one thing that I know for sure; I don’t have all the answers and it’s hard having people depending on me to teach. I am learning along with them and sometimes I feel like God is teaching me more than those that I am supposed to be teaching.

4. Human Expectations Are Awful – Having a title is intimidating. It makes me feel a lot of pressure. When people have unmet expectations if causes a lot of hurt, disappointment, anger, and the list goes on. Whether or not people are willing to admit it, we all have them. We all get our feathers ruffled a bit when they go unmet. I have them for myself and I get frustrated with myself when I don’t meet them. In my mind I know they are too high, but I want to live up to them. Other people put expectations on me and I can’t possibly make everyone happy. But what if that’s not at all how life works? I am God’s workmanship. I am His and I only have to fulfill His purpose for me. I need only to live up to His expectations. The best part is, I just need to trust Him, and He will do the work in me. How amazing is that?

5. Don’t Touch God’s Glory – It’s not my ministry. It’s not my time. It’s not my money, character, talents, life, etc. It’s all given to me by God and He is using me as His instrument to do His work. I cannot take credit for what I have not done. I take responsibility for the bad attitudes, harsh words, prideful thoughts, and impatience. But those moments when people are grateful for who I am or what I’ve done, those are the moments that it’s not me. It’s God at work. He is the artist working to create a beautiful result. I cause blemishes that He so gently fixes and turns into something that is worth looking at. I do hope that gazing on the canvas of my life give people a desire to meet the Creator. I don’t want people to get distracted by His masterpiece and ignore the Artist, who is worth far more than I am. Look to the one who does abundantly more than I can ever ask or imagine. His power is at work. Give Him the glory.

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Redefining Ministry

Life is not always what I dreamed it would be.  It’s full of surprises and often those are pleasant surprises.  They tend to be more pleasant if I don’t get uptight, and just realize that I am not the one running my life.  For most of my adult life I’ve wanted to be in ministry, but that’s such a vague goal.  I loved the idea of sharing my love for Christ and Scripture with others and I absolutely love seeing people grow.  Although these desires have not lessened (if anything they have gotten more intense) my idea of what ministry is has changed drastically.

My days in ministry are not glamorous.  I live with five ladies who are 18-21 years old.  My main responsibility is to mentor them (yet again, another somewhat vague term).  I typically get to the end of a day exhausted.  I lay awake waiting for the last girl to arrive home even though I wanted to be asleep hours before.  There are days that start off with someone bursting into my room with a personal crisis right after I get out of the shower and I’m less than fully clothed.  It seems as though the deep, life changing conversations only come after 11pm.  I play hours of Uno and SkipBo, not for the love of the game, but because those moments become beautiful and precious.  All of these moments that are not prestigious or earth-shattering are some of the most cherished moments to me.  These are the times when God chooses to teach me some of the most heart wrenching lessons.

  • I get tired, but God teaches me how to receive strength and provision from Him.
  • I lack wisdom and insight to share in those late night conversations, yet, God gives me love and speaks truth through me.
  • I get embarrassed or annoyed at those intrusive moments, and God give me joy, the ability to laugh and see the humor in daily life.
  • I feel inadequate for the responsibilities before me, but God covers me in His love and it overflows from me into the lives around me.
  • I sometimes don’t know what I need at the moment, God sends someone to meet needs I didn’t even know I had and teach me to receive.
  • The sleepless nights are worth it, because God reminds me that it’s an opportunity to pray and He deepens my love for others.
  • I want to be selfish and do something for myself, and God teaches me that sacrifice is easy when you love people.
  • When I am struggling with negative thoughts and emotions, God reminds me that I am in a spiritual battle and Jesus is the victor already.
  • When I am frustrated with immaturity and one of the girls comes to me asking for forgiveness or comfort, and God grants me love, mercy and grace beyond what I thought possible.
  • When that annoying song is playing on repeat for the 23 time that day and it makes me want to pull my hair out, and I realize that God is answering my prayer for patience. (just not how I wanted it)
  • When I decide to play that game or watch that movie (even though I don’t want to) because I was asked, and God shows me that real love is selfless – I receive joy.
  • When I realize at 4pm that I haven’t even had a chance to eat that day because I have been taking care of everyone else, the Lord sustains me and meets my needs.
  • When the truth seems blurred by the lies running through my mind, God sends me people to pour Truth into my life.
  • When I am empty and feel like I can’t give anymore, God gives me rest and refreshment.
  • I feel alone, and I am reminded that people pray for me everyday and that God never leaves my side.
  • When my heart feels broken because of the choices people I love are making, God comforts me and shows me His heart hurts for them too.  But His love remains.

In the moments that I don’t understand what I did to deserve this life I dive deeper into understanding God’s grace.  I did nothing to have the privilege of living with these girls.  I don’t deserve to be called their mentor, but it is a gift from the Lord, just as each one of them is.  I surely didn’t know it was possible to love them this much and it is an honor to get to know them.  At times it’s terrifying when they entrust wounds from their fragile hearts to me.  In those moments God gives me more love, more grace, more compassion than I knew was humanly possible.  I wouldn’t change my life with them for anything.  I love them deeply and I get to see them mature, grow, and learn.  They are becoming more like Christ and it’s incredible!  God used them to teach me and each day I see what kind of love parents have and why mothers go to such (seemingly) insane lengths for their children.  Honestly, they have become a part of my heart and my life forever.

I am not a special person who is naturally inclined to do any of these aforementioned things.  I realize, my parents probably aren’t either.  The people who pour into my life and give so much for me probably aren’t.  But the character and ministry that is displayed to me doesn’t reflect on them.  It is a reflection of our Savior Jesus Christ in their lives – in my life.  He’s taking people who naturally don’t have anything good in them and is allowing His Holy Spirit to work and move.  He’s allowing the world to see Him through His people.

I have been so tremendously fortunate to have a long list of people who have spoken the Truth of Scripture into my life through their words and actions.  I have people who mentor me and show me what it means to serve and love others.  I see Christ reflected and I can imitate them as they imitate Christ.  I am also blessed to have people who view me this same way (even though at times I don’t have a clue why).

My prayer for the ladies that I live with is that they will see Christ for who He is and what He’s done for them.  In turn, that they will serve Him, not to gain His love, but because they love Him with the love He has lavished on them.  I want them to know that nothing they do will qualify or disqualify them for the grace they receive.

God has loved me with an everlasting and it’s all-encompassing and insurmountable. What do I do with that love?  I choose to serve Him and give people a glimpse of that love.  It may be a dim reflection of His glory, but it’s all I have.  God has allowed me to be this reflection and because of that I am enough.