I’m Back!

I cannot fathom how 8 months have gone by since I last wrote a blog post.

At the 2 month mark I attempted to write an update on every event from the prior two months.

…but my post ended up being novel length before I was half finished.

At the 6 month mark, I attempted to write something, ANYTHING! But I stared at a blank word document trying to figure out where on earth I should start…I never figured it out.

Now here I am…nearly 8 ½ months since my last blog post, I’m about to write one, and I have no idea how this post is going to end up.

I’ve made two resolutions to guide me for this post though:

  • This post is dedicated to sharing what God has taught me the past 8 months.
  • I am not leaving this bench on our veranda (unless it’s to refill my tea glass) until I’ve finished writing this post. I’m going to finish this time!

So here goes…

My past 8 months can be perfectly summarized by the poetic Charles Dickens in his opening lines to A Tale of Two Cities where he writes, It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us,…”*

This season has been one of high highs and low lows; sometimes the next step can be seen clearly and other times, I feel in the midst of thick fog. It’s been a time of humbling discoveries yet encouraging growth.

Through all of this, God has taught me a great deal and that’s what I want to share with all of you.

Slow down, be patient, and wait– I hate waiting. No matter the reason I have to wait (whether legitimate or illegitimate), no matter the length of time (whether 15 minutes in a check-out line or months for God to reveal the next step for my life), I just really despise waiting!
I do everything quickly.
I’m a fast eater.
I’m a fast walker.
I’m a fast driver.
I’m a fast talker.
The list could go on…
Oftentimes, I don’t slow down enough. I don’t just stop, wait, be patient, and enjoy the moment.
However, God has been showing me there is a lot of value to waiting.
Seasons of waiting are actually seasons of opportunity; especially for growth.
I could use those 15 minutes in the grocery line to share the gospel with someone around me or spend time in prayer.
I can use those months I’m waiting to move forward with things in life to grow more spiritually and devote more time to God and His Word.
I can use the time I’m waiting for God’s plan to come to fruition to further my potential in the areas He’s called me.
Without these seasons of waiting in my life, without learning how to be patient, without taking the time to slow down, I would make (and have made) a lot of foolish and immature mistakes.
Whereas, if I utilize these seasons of waiting to grow in the Lord, be teachable, and learn, I’ll be much better off and have fewer missed opportunities than if I am impulsive.
Waiting is beautiful. It’s hard, incredibly hard, but beautiful.

I am not called to please people. I am a huge people-pleaser. I prefer to keep everyone happy and for people to have a positive opinion of me.
Not only does my attempt to please people reveal a deep root of pride in my life; it’s also an impossible goal to strive after.
Scripture has a lot to say about the pit of people pleasing (see Col. 3:23, Prov. 29:25, 1 Thess. 2:4b, Psalm 118:8, Eph. 6:7, and Acts 5:28-29).
Galatians 1:10 even goes so far as to say if we are attempting to please men, we are no longer servants of Christ…ouch.
Not to say we shouldn’t strive to live at peace with those around us. Scripture clearly says we should (see Rom. 12:18); but ultimately, God should direct our steps. It’s important we be sure of God’s will and calling before acting. Then, if we are sure of God’s leading in our lives, what people might think should never hinder us from doing His will.
At this phase in my life, when life decisions start becoming my own, is when my personal loyalty to the Lord is really put to the test. Am I going to willingly, loyally, faithfully, and wholeheartedly serve and commit my life to the Lord? Or am I going to surrender my life to the empty, hopeless goal of pleasing men and ultimately end up empty and lost?
I choose to serve the Lord; wholly and completely. It will have a cost at times; but as the chorus goes “I have counted up the cost, and You are worth it!”.
This is one reason why my next point is so important…

My relationship with God must ALWAYS come first! I know this is cliché and every Christian knows this; but do we really know it?! When times are easy and going great, when life is smooth-sailing, do we still put God first always? Do we only come to Him when we feel like we need Him; or do we recognize we always need Him?
What I have recently observed in myself is that I can sometimes only come to God when I need answers. “God, I have a really tough decision to make here! Can you help me make that decision? What’s the right path?” “God, please give me the words to say right now as I’m helping this person!” “Lord, Your Word is living and active! I’m so confused and broken right now. Please let the Scriptures encourage and help me!”
All those prayers are wonderful and good. Don’t get me wrong, I’m NOT discrediting our need to seek God when we’re struggling!
My point is, how often do I wake up, even when I don’t have a “need” or unanswered question, and pray, “Lord, guide me through each moment of this day. Show me Your plan for my life today. I know these are my plans for the day; but help me to be led by You and be walking in Your spirit through each moment.”
Sadly, I don’t do this very often…
Our walk with God should be a day-by-day, moment-by-moment walk. It’s not an “Uh oh, I’m no longer able to do this by myself…let me run to God for help” relationship. It’s an “I can never do this on my own…God guide me through each moment” relationship.
My personal experience has been that even when life is going great, the road and directions are clear, the minute I make my relationship with the Lord secondary, the road becomes rocky and difficult, and I’m unprepared for the situation.
However, if I’m steadfast in my dedication to God, when obstacles arise and the path becomes rocky (which will happen!), I’ll always be ready.

I’m not as mature as I thought– When I was 14, I was at a cookout and a woman in her mid-20’s asked how old I was. I told her and she looked shocked and said, “Only 14!? Oh my gosh you act like you’re 22!”
However, now that I’m actually entering this scary realm of life called “adulthood”, I’m realizing I’m not nearly as mature as that well-meaning girl (or I) thought.
It’s easy to think I’ve totally got this “life thing” figured out; but I really don’t.
These last few months, with all the newness, decisions, changes, possibilities, opportunities, and uncertainties, I’m learning there is a lot I have left to learn and a whole lot I don’t know. And sometimes even when I “do know”, I fall captive to snares of impatience, people-pleasing, and thinking I can handle things on my own.
I have a long…Long…LONG way to go; which means I need to be teachable and a good listener (areas I could certainly improve). I need to seek wisdom from those around me through observation and inquiry and take to heart what I observe and hear; seeking God ultimately for His will.

As I reflect on the past 8 months, the highs and lows, the best times and worst times, the wisdom and foolishness, the hope and despair, I look back with gratefulness.

Have these months been easy? Not at all. At times they have; but for the most part, they’ve been crazy hard! But without all the struggles, without all the waiting, without all the humbling lessons, I never would’ve grown like I have.

As James 1:2-4 says, “Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.” (NASB)**

Thank you all for reading! I hope to write more posts soon.

God Bless,

~Megan

*http://www.quotationspage.com/quote/29595.html
** “endurance” in this passage is translated as “patience” in the KJV.

What’s Next?

What do I do when there are so many options to choose from? How do I decide between so many good things and opportunities? How do I make sense of the right path to take? What IS the right path?

How do I distinguish between my own feelings and emotions and the Lord’s leading in my life?? What do I do when my mind is overwhelmed and swimming with ideas and I can’t make sense of anything??

Have you ever experienced these emotions or wrestled with these questions? Maybe you’re experiencing them right now….just like I am.

So what do I do??

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Summit Ministries campus

On May 15, I traveled across the U.S. to Manitou Springs, Colorado. There is an incredible ministry located there called Summit Ministries. Summit is a two week long worldview conference for 16-22 year olds geared toward training young people in developing a Godly worldview and learning how to articulate and defend their faith and what they believe.

My time at Summit was the best two weeks of my life. I, along with app. 140 other young adults, spent 60 hours in lecture in 12 days. That’s the equivalent of a whole semester’s work! Yeah, it was definitely intense!

Not all our time was spent in lecture however. Lasting friendships were developed more quickly than I’d ever experienced. During afternoon free time, my friends and I enjoyed going to town for custard, hiking nearly every day, swing dancing, playing chess, and getting to know each other better. I also had the grand experiences of white water rafting and laser tagging!

(a few highlight photos. 😉 )

Summit was a lot of work on the brain; but it wasn’t at the expense of fun and enjoyment. I learned more in two weeks than ever before in my life, but I also had more fun than I ever had as well. I would just like to say this: if you are a 16-22 year old Christian: GO TO SUMMIT! (check out their website for more details: summit.org)

I had been wrestling with the above questions for a long time before going to Summit. I’m still wrestling with a lot of them…but God used Summit to give me some of the answers and a game plan for finding answers.

God particularly used one young man, whose name I didn’t even know at the time, to encourage and advise me.

One evening, a particular lecturer was speaking on world poverty. His place of focus was Tanzania. Tanzania borders Zambia (where I live) and the stories he shared pierced my heart deeply and my emotions were uncontainable.

During a break between lectures, I went up to the speaker and told him through tears how much what he was saying was impacting me and why; because I live so near.
The man started tearing up himself and gave me a huge hug while encouraging me that God has a purpose and plan for my life and the lives of those I love in Zambia.

I sat back down in my seat as we were about to begin part two of our lecture. The first part had been about making us aware of the poverty…that’s why my heart broke so badly because he shared some difficult stores. The second part of the lecture was about hope; how there IS hope for poverty!

As I listened to what the speaker had to say, I was encouraged, but all the questions I listed at the beginning of this blog post began to flood my mind. I feel called in SO many directions! I have a heart for world poverty. I have a heart for orphans, widows, troubled teens, rape victims, United States government, EVERYTHING! I want to fix it all!!

But I can’t…

The harsh reality is that I can’t do it all. God isn’t calling me to end world poverty, straighten out our Supreme Court, counsel every rape victim, end abortion, and clothe every orphan. It’s not possible for me to do all those things. It just isn’t!

So what IS God calling me to do!? How do I make sense of things when my heart is going in all sorts of directions??

During Q&A, I raised my hand and emotionally and asked my lecturer how I can know God’s will for my life. I asked him how I can block out my own thoughts and just listen to the Lord.

I didn’t really get my answer at this point. He encouraged me to keep praying and seeking the Lord, but what I really needed to know was how to listen for God instead of listening to myself! Even when I’m praying, my mind easily becomes clouded by my own emotions and thoughts.

After the lecture was finished I headed into the dining hall at Summit to get a cup of coffee. I passed by a table where two fellow students sat and one of them, Austin, called out to me.

“HEY! Megan!” he said, “I wrote your name on my arm. See?”

I looked down at his forearm and saw a bunch of names written there including my own. He continued…

“I’m keeping a list of people I want to pray for, and I just felt I should add you to my list. I could tell you’re having a hard time tonight. Are you okay?”

Austin’s thoughtfulness in praying for me and his welcoming spirit to check on me and give me the freedom to vent encouraged and helped me so much! I pulled up a chair and made myself at home at their table. I restated the emotions I was feeling and the pain I was going through with feeling uncertain about what God wants for my life.

The other young man at the table, who up to this point hadn’t spoken up, thoughtfully looked at me and then said words that literally changed my life.

“Look, I know what you’re going through. I know it’s hard…but listen! You need to stop focusing on everything. All you’re seeing is the big picture. You’re only looking at EVERY possibility! With that mindset, you’re never going to go anywhere because there’s no way you can make sense of it all…Hone in on one or two small things, move forward with them, and if they aren’t what God wants he’ll show you! Stop focusing on everything and focus on one thing at a time and then you’ll go far. You can’t do anything when all you’re focusing on is everything. The other thing is, you’re probably capable of doing far more than you really think you are capable of. Start out small, but God will use you for great things. Be faithful with little and then you’ll be faithful in much.”

My mouth gaped wide open in astonishment. I didn’t even know this guy’s name at this point; yet he said exactly what I needed to hear! I’d never in my life heard something so on point with what I was dealing with and so insightful about how to do better. God used him and what he said in my life more than I think this young man realizes. God used both those young men that evening more than I can say! (Austin and Wesley, if you’re reading this, I know I didn’t know you guys super well, but gosh, God used you both a TON in my life! So thank you!!!)

When I finally spoke, my words came out in a rather spacey tone. I just muttered something like, “Wow. C…can I just give you both a hug? That was incredible. Wow…that was exactly what I needed to hear…”

Wesley’s (yes, I learned his name) advice has never left my mind. I’ve even moved forward with putting his advice into action.

It’s easy for me to become distracted by my own thoughts. It’s easy to get lost in my own feelings and only see the big picture (and analyze every minute detail ;)), but what God said through Wesley helped me realize I need to take a step back; or maybe rather, a step forward. Sometimes thinking about all the options is good; but it’s not good when at the expense of focusing on the here and now and making a move toward a goal.

I heard this quote while at Summit: “One person submitted to a cause is more valuable than 1,000 who are interested.”

I don’t want to be someone who is simply interested in a cause…or even many causes! What kind of legacy would I leave like that? “Here lies Megan. She never DID anything in her life, but she was interested in ____” No. I want to leave a legacy of having DONE something for the Lord! I can’t do that if all I’m doing is showing interest.

So if you’re going through what I’m going through right now and trying to find your path at your stage in life, here is my encouragement:

Calm down. Carefully examine each possibility one at a time. Then, move forward with one or two opportunities.

For example, one of my possibilities was getting a correspondence job with our local newspaper. For me, moving forward was going and talking to the manager about it and seeing if it was even an option. I prayed as I drove to the office: God, if you want me to have the job please make it work; and if You don’t want it to work, please close the door. He closed the door. Awesome! God gave me the answer to that question and I can check it off my list, at least for now.

This hit on my next point, PRAY! As you move forward with the difference options, pray through them at all times. Put each circumstance in the Lord’s hands and trust Him for the outcome.

Lastly, know that you are valued and God has a great plan for your life! Like Wesley told me, “you’re probably capable of far more than you think you are capable of”. Don’t discourage yourself, but rather be encouraged! You CAN do great things for God! Sometimes we just need to take it slow and focus on one thing at a time. Don’t sit still like I did. Actually move forward!

So what’s next for my life? I’m not exactly sure yet…There are so many unanswered questions and possibilities for my life right now. I don’t know all the answers yet. What I do know is that I’m going to start moving forward and taking action to seek out answers. I’m going to pray harder than ever before for God to reveal His will for my life. I’m going to seek Him, and focus on one thing at a time.

I’m writing this from the perspective of still going through this myself. I don’t have all my answers yet, but I now have a better game plan of how to get the answers…and I hope you do too!

God be with you all! Oh…and PLEASE go to Summit! It’ll be the best decision you ever made. 😉

Our Surroundings Affect Us?

You know the saying, “You become like the five people you are around the most” ?

I, for one, fully agree with this statement.

My last post I talked about reverse culture shock. This post kind of ties in on the heels of that post: how our surroundings (including the people we’re around) can affect us, and how they’ve affected me.

I was having a conversation with my friend and her mom about this yesterday and it got me to thinking even more.

See, when I was in the U.S., much of what defined who I was came from my surroundings. My friends, my church, my favorite places to go, how I related to people, etc.. All of those things were determined by my surroundings.

Since coming back to the U.S. after a year in Zambia, it’s been interesting to see how I’ve changed according to my surroundings in Zambia.

The people I’m spending time in Zambia are different. How I relate to people and even sometimes the language I use is different from when I was in the U.S.. What foods I eat have changed (at least somewhat).

Basically, “normal life” has a new meaning to me now.

Let me pause here and talk about reverse culture shock for a minute and then I’ll come back to the original topic. 😉

In my last post I wasn’t really able to explain why reverse culture shock exists, but after pondering it for a while I think I have a possible explanation.

When our surroundings changed, like it or not, we change as well. Sometimes these changes are good. Sometimes they’re bad. Still other times these changes are simply just changes and aren’t necessarily good or bad (i.e. like our favorite foods). And the bigger the change in our surroundings, the bigger we change personally.

Yet even still, what was once normal is still in the back of our brains somewhere. That part of our brain just hasn’t been utilized in a while. Haha!

So when we return to what used to be normal all that time ago, we become overwhelmed by the fact that this should be normal but isn’t. We tend to see more of the negatives in our “old normal” and that is also overwhelming as we see how we used to be.

This is just my theory based on how it happened for me personally…So don’t take this as a scientific law or anything! Haha!

I have been praying, evaluating, and trying to process all these overwhelming and shocking emotions since I’ve come back. After ¾ of our time here is complete I’ve fine been able to get over the overwhelming side and really look at how I’ve let my surroundings affect me from all angles.

Had someone told me before moving to ZA “your friends and surroundings are affecting you drastically!” I probably would’ve thought “ehh…maybe a little”; but would not have really evaluated just how much I’ve allowed myself to be affected.

I had let my mind be at ease in my comfort zone in southern Missouri. I didn’t really think much outside of Missouri! I didn’t sit and ponder what was going on in other nations or other parts of my own country; or even my own state. I had a pretty closed-minded outlook on life. =P

Moving to Zambia has helped me to see life from a new perspective. It’s helped me to step out of my comfort zone and take on life with a new outlook.

Here are a few examples of what I’ve been evaluating and what God has been revealing to me.

One way Zambia has affected me positively is that God has used it to help me grow closer to and value my family more. Being back in the U.S., I’m seeing the negative effects of being away from my family more often.
The surroundings in the United States had the positive affect of allowing me to be more independent. This helped me to grow in confidence as an individual. I’m far less independent in Zambia making me sometimes less confident of myself.
A neutral (not really good or bad) effect of life in Zambia is that I now use words from another language frequently. I also now have cravings for certain foods I can’t find easily here.

If I could leave you with an encouragement it would be this: Even if you’ve never left you hometown before, take time to ponder and pray about how your surroundings are affecting you. Ask God to help you weed out the good from the bad and then make any necessary changes.

Believe it or not, our surroundings have a HUGE effect on our lives and if we’re not careful we can let our surroundings control us. It’s important to examine every aspect of our lives and seek the Lord to lead us; not other things, people, or our surroundings.

Romans 12:2(a) “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind…”