Patience Is a Virtue

This past week in my quiet time I’ve been studying patience.

It began last Sunday when I listened to a sermon by Dr. S.M. Davis called, “What Impatience Does”. Now I’ll be honest, I likely would not have chosen that sermon to listen to, but I had limited options that day. God clearly had a reason for making this the one I had.

As I went about with my earbuds in hanging laundry on the line, tidying my room, and cooking I realized just how engaging and incredible this sermon was! I had my volume on 100% and *ahem* became a little impatient 😉 anytime someone needed me because it meant pausing this incredible message.

As I listened to more and more of this teaching I began to feel my heart grow heavier and heavier with the weight of my failure in this area of my life; particularly in my family…and particularly with my brothers.

I even went back and listened to the sermon again a couple days later!

Here are a few definitions Dr. Davis shared for patience in his sermon…again, you can find all these definitions in his message. Purchase HERE

“Patience is accepting a difficult situation without giving God a deadline to do something about it.” {original source for this definition unknown}

Patience is being confronted with frustration and not becoming frustrated.

Patience is dealing with immaturity without acting immaturely.

Patience is dealing with impatience without becoming impatient.

Patience is dealing with anger without becoming angry.

Patience is facing evil without developing an evil attitude.

Patience is the recognition that God is in control and that being impatient will not speed God up, but will only ultimately slow me down.

As I listened to him list those definitions I realized how much of a failure I was. My brothers can easily frustrate me and I easily fall into frustration. They act immaturely and I respond immaturely in my impatience. I want to have all the answers to “what’s next?” right now and only slow myself down in my impatience to wait on God.

Honestly, I’d never thought of myself as an impatient person before. I’d always associated impatience with anger in my mind. Dr. Davis even calls anger and impatience “sister sins”; but the anger is rooted in impatience, not the impatience in anger.

Impatience can manifest itself in many more ways than just anger. I’m not someone who becomes angry easily, but I am someone who can be disrespectful, frustrated, annoyed, incessant, rude, and harsh.

As I think about those things I just listed as weaknesses in myself, I realize the root of many of those sins is impatience…and the root of impatience is pride.

As Dr. Davis goes through his sermon, he discusses 7 points regarding “what impatience does”:

  • Impatience produces anger, bitterness, and unforgiveness. (Matthew 18:23-35)
  • Impatience demonstrates a lack of true love. (1 Cor. 13:4)
  • Impatience indicates pride. (Ecc. 7:8)
  • Impatience cuts us off from God’s blessings. (Heb. 10:36)
  • Impatience keeps us from spiritual maturity. (Luke 8:15)
  • Impatience guarantees an increase in trials. (James 1:2-3)
  • Impatience stops the production of Godly fruit. (Luke 8:15)

If you didn’t already, I encourage you to go back and read the verses I listed alongside those points. The verses are what really helped to solidify these points in my heart and mind. After all, God’s Word is living and active (Heb. 4:12)!

Seeing all these negatives that come from impatience, and seeing how many of these negatives I suffered from, I realized how much work I had to do. Davis said patience is not an “elective” in God’s list of attributes we should attain as Christians. It’s a MUST! Without patience we won’t go very far; and I couldn’t agree more! It is, after all, one of the fruits of the Spirit (Gal. 5:22).

Throughout his sermon, Davis also shared stories and quotes about how our impatience impacts those around us. The stories he shared broke my heart thinking about how I’ve most assuredly negatively impacted those around me; particularly my brothers. My harsh words and impatient tones I’m sure have left deep scars…Oh how I wish I could take so many things back!

After hearing his sermon twice, I decided to look more into the Greek translation of “patience” and do some more Scripture research for myself these last couple days.

I’ll share a few of my favorite finds with you. I mostly use the NASB Bible which may translate as “endurance” or “perseverance” instead of patience; but the Greek words are the same.

{Emphasis Added}

1 Pet. 2:20, “For what credit is there if, when you sin and are harshly treated, you endure it with patience? But if when you do what is right and suffer for it you patiently endure it, this finds favor with God.”
This is likely the most convicting verse for me in Scripture because I fail at both…

1 Cor. 13:4, “Love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant.”
‘patience’ is the first word used to define ‘love’ in this chapter.

2 Tim. 2:24-25a, “The Lord’s bond-servant must not be quarrelsome, but be kind to all, able to teach, patient when wronged, with gentleness correcting those who are in opposition,…”

2 Pet. 3:9, “ The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance.”

Mt. 10:22, “’You will be hated by all because of My name, but it is the one who has endured to the end who will be saved.”’

1 Cor. 13:7, “[love] bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.”

James 1:2-4 (from KJV), “My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations; Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience. But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing.”

James 5:7-11, “Therefore be patient, brethren, until the coming of the Lord. The farmer waits for the precious produce of the soil, being patient about it, until it gets the early and late rains. You too be patient; strengthen your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is near. Do not complain, brethren, against one another; so that you yourselves may not be judged; behold, the Judge is standing right at the door: as an example, brethren of suffering and patience, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord. We count those blessed who endured. You have heard of the endurance of Job and have seen the outcome of the Lord’s dealings, that the Lord is full of compassion and is merciful.”

Prov. 14: 29, “Whoever is patient has great understanding; but one who is quick-tempered displays folly.”

Rom. 12:12, “Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.”

Prov. 16:32, “Better a patient person than a warrior, one with self-control than one who takes a city.”

Rom. 8:25, “But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently.”

Heb. 6:15, “And so, having patiently waited , he obtained the promise.”

After reading these verses, praying a great deal, and pondering over the character trait of patience I see my great need of improvement. I also I see my great need for repentance and change. I praise the Lord for showing me this area of weakness and my need for improvement!! I only wish I didn’t have so much to regret…but thank God for His mercy and forgiveness!

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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…”

In Need of Prayer

I’m someone who loves people deeply; and I deeply feel the hurts of those I love…

I have many, many weaknesses and more short-comings than faults. One gift God has given me though is compassion.

When someone is hurting, especially when it’s someone I love and care a lot about, I feel their pain immensely and want to do everything in my power to fix their problems…

Sometimes I can “fix the problem”, but oftentimes it’s out of my control.

One of the children at Wiphan I’m incredibly close to and love like my own brother was not himself today. He’s generally the “life of the party” kind of 12 year old boy. He’s the popular kid and the leader of the crowd. He always smiles, always laughs, and likes to tease people in fun.

Today he acted like the outcast no one loved. He never smiled. He wasn’t laughing and being his cool, good-natured self. He stood off from everyone else, even his best friend. He didn’t sing with us in class…he didn’t even stand up with everyone else. He sat silently.

Everything was all wrong and backward.

I actually pulled him aside and asked if he was okay and a few other questions. He looked like he was about to cry after a couple of my questions, but he did his best to hide whatever it is underneath.

It’s not common for kids to come forward with issues in this culture. They are often made to fear speaking out and treated as if they don’t have a voice. So the fact that this boy I love so much didn’t tell me what is wrong didn’t surprise me.

I didn’t want to pressure him. I did everything I could to let him know I was there and he was free to speak and could trust me…but he still remained silent on the issue.

This boy doesn’t like me to hug him. I give most of the kids hugs, but I think it’s a matter of “coolness” and he just doesn’t really let me hug him (which is fine, I get that), but today was different.

We finished talking and got up from where we were sitting. I went to give him a hug, which I planned to be rather quick so as not to make him uncomfortable; however, he held onto me so tightly and for so long it just reconfirmed my suspicions of something being wrong.

As he hugged me I told him how much he was loved. I told him I was here for him whenever he needed me and he was free to be open with me about anything going on.

He just looked up at me with his sad, far off eyes and went back into the classroom.

Mom and I left Wiphan a short time later and as mom was talking to someone through the window before we pulled away, he stood at a distance and stared at me for a long time. I waved and smiled at him. He never just looked at me for a while. I did my best with my demeanor to make him feel at ease if he wanted to talk to me…I couldn’t quite read his expression for certain and I didn’t want to push him if he didn’t want to talk.

Finally, he gave a half-smile and went on his way.

imagesI can speculate about what’s wrong. I have certain suspicions after our conversation, but even if I’m right, the situation is outside of my control.

All I can do for him at this point is pray, Pray, PRAY and let him know I’m here, I love him, and he can trust me. Ultimately though, it’s in God’s hands and it’s up to the Lord to work this out because there is nothing else I can do but call on Him!

I was just talking to my mom about all of this a little bit ago and she said exactly what I was thinking. Prayer is powerful! Even when problems I face are things I can fix, I should call on the Lord. I’m not always good at this. I often try to take things into my own hands.

But the truth is, I need the Lord! I always have and always will need Him. As life goes on, I’m seeing my desperate need of Him more and more…in every situation.

I’ve sent out a handful of prayer requests to different friends for this sweet boy. So if you’re reading this, would you please pray for him as well?? My heart aches for this marvelous boy! I’ve cried more than once today wishing I could physically do something, but knowing I can’t.

argadgI’ve always come back to prayer. It’s powerful I promise you! God hears our prayers; and when people from all over are praying, God hears those prayers too!

I post this to ask you to pray for this boy…my wonderful and dear friend! I also encourage you to exercise prayer in your own life for your own “situations” whether you feel like they’re already in your control or not. I’m still learning to lean on Christ more and more…but what I do know is the more I lean on Him, the closer I grow to Him, and the more at peace I am in life.

Prayer is powerful…this situation is out of our control…my friend needs prayer! Will you join me?

 

The Way to My Heart

There are lots of things that make my heart smile and could be labeled as “ways to my heart”. Examples would be a white chocolate mocha from Starbucks maybe, ice cream (specifically the most chocolate loaded thing you can find…just make sure there are sprinkles on whatever it is. That’s a MUST.), a handwritten letter or drawn picture, or a hug.

A couple other ways, and probably the biggest ways, to my heart are through music, smiles, and laughter.

Whenever I discover my future husband someone can tell him these things for me! ;D

   If someone can make me laugh and smile…if someone is comfortable enough to tease me, I can tease them back, and we can laugh about it, they’ve found their way into my heart.

If someone loves music as much as I do and we can pass the time singing, dancing, and playing instruments, they’ve found the way to my heart; and chances are we’ll laugh and smile throughout. 😉

 

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Students writing letters to their sponsors!

Yesterday was one of those days where my heart was completely engaged and “all in” at Wiphan.

The day started with making copies for mom while she prepared letters for the students to write to their sponsors. I helped out some with their letter writing explaining this word or that…

After a while, we ate lunch and I got out my guitar at someone’s request. We tinkered around a bit and it ended in about 10 different kids taking turns “playing the guitar”. Then I sat in the office and played guitar with Richard, an employee, for a while.

After this, I joined the hospitality class for their time of singing.

 

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Hospitality class 12

 

 

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My dear friend Emily and a new friend Henry!

Before we went into class, I visited with some of the students; learning more about them…their names, about their families, etc. (they’re a new class). I told them a funny story about one of my nicknames which opened up a time of sharing funny stories about names. We ended up laughing together for a number of minutes!!

 

After going into class, we all stood in a U shape around the classroom. I stood next to my good friend Emily, and Madam Getrude (the teacher) stood in front to lead all of us in song.

We sang and danced for at least 30 minutes! During this time, we had the biggest laugh of the day! Two of the guys in the class were dancing in such a hilarious fashion that even Emily was unable to contain her laughter and was holding onto me for support so she didn’t fall down. Madam Getrude was also laughing and later tried to imitate their dance moves in an attempt to tease them. Haha…

Madam decided to tease me next in front of the whole class. She was speaking in Bemba and I couldn’t quite understand everything, but Emily was translating for me. Everyone was laughing and it was embarrassing, but ultimately just very funny. I love Madam Getrude so much!! She’s found her way into my heart in every respect. ^_^

 

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Mom preparing chibwabwa (pumpkin leaves) for lunch with Mamma Monica and Tabu.

I left the classroom shortly after music time and went outside to find my mom teaching different staff members what a back massage was and proceeding to show them how it’s done. She began massaging Mamma Monica, the 70(ish) year old cook, who then proceeded to point out the specific places she wanted mom to massage her. Haha!

 

I found a few of the kids I enjoy spending time with: Mike, Evaristo, Davis, Cornelius, Cathrine, Cecilia, and others and we had a fun time together!

Mike and Evaristo showed off their head-standing skills and of course they all wanted me to take “one picture”…which of course turned into far more than one. ;D I love these sweet kids!! 10 year old Mike just made my day when he hugged me and said “I love you so much Megan!”.  ❤

I found myself back in the office playing my guitar shortly after this. Pastor Aaron (one of our dearest friends) came into the office as well, grabbed his guitar, and decided we should be a duo.

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Dueling guitars with Pastor Aaron! XD

Mamma Monica, Mom, Richard, and Mary (another employee) joined us and the 6 of us played, sang, and danced to a number of different Bemba songs. From where I was sitting I could see out the window and saw we had attracted a small crowd of people and a few students who were listening to us and singing along from a distance. What a special and unforgettable moment this was!!! ❤ And thanks to my sweet mom, most of it is documented on video. XD

Yesterday was one of those days where when I would take a moment to reflect, all I could think was “God you are indeed an AWESOME God!” I’m beyond grateful to Him for bringing me to Zambia!

I laughed and smiled so much!! I spent a great deal of time singing, playing guitar, and dancing…Nothing could’ve made the day better! ❤

 

 

One Year in Zambia (things I never expected)

One year has come and gone. One whole year in Africa.

March 4th, 2015 marked the day I first set foot on Zambian soil. I was exhausted beyond words. I’d hardly slept in four or more days. The last week was a complete blur in my memory. I have faint memories of different moments, but everything just runs together.

I remember landing at Ndola airport and it feeling like a dream that I’d soon wake up from. I’d never set foot outside of the U.S.A. before and now I was MOVING to Zambia! It didn’t seem real! Everything was hectic as we tried to collect our bags and assess how many and which ones were missing AND sign paperwork…or whatever it is my parents were trying to do while I was falling asleep standing.

When we finally were able to leave the airport, we were met outside by a handful of new friends who kindly helped us load our bags and take us to our new home.

Mom and I rode with a missionary family who has three daughters my age and who have since become some of our very best friends. The girls pointed out different things along the way and all I remember about the ride was thinking, “Wow…there are a LOT of billboards around here!” haha…

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This was taken the day we arrived; exactly 1 year ago…We were BEYOND tired that day!! haha..

We arrived at our new home. Our friends stayed a short time to visit, but I honestly remember none of that. I just remember them leaving and then immediately crashing on a bed at 5pm and not waking up until 6am the next day.

That’s my “this time last year” flashback…but now, what was our first year in Zambia like?? Well, it’s impossible to put it all in one blog post…or even to put it all in one book. Haha!

I’ll say this though: There have been lots of things about life here I didn’t expect!

-I never expected electricity to go out so often.
-I never expected all the annoying speed bumps, police checkpoints, parking fees, and crazy bus drivers.
-I never expected so much of my hair would fall out! (Like, how do I even have so much on my head still?)
-I never expected to miss tacos, enchiladas, Dr. Pepper, chocolate chips (an unlimited supply), and *real* cheese.
-I never expected the grocery stores to be so unpredictable. For example, the stores may go days and days without something as basic as butter in stock.
-I never expected my vocabulary to change so much whether it be using Bemba terms or saying things such as “trousers” “that side” “sorry sorry sorry sorry” or learning terms like “SIM card” “talk-time” and “ZESCO”.
-I never expected to find so many lizards, spiders, ants, cockroaches, and even tarantulas in our house!
-I never expected to learn military time so well that 12 hour time is now confusing.
-I never expected to love icitenge material so much
-I never expected the music to minister to my heart so much!! (talk about “the feels”! It’s most definitely my favorite thing! <3)
-I never expected to lose water frequently or for our hot water to be the color of copper.
-I never expected to fall asleep most nights to the sound of distant music. Sometimes it’s that of a noisy bar…but other times it’s the beautiful sound of a distant African drum with harmonious Zambian voices. =)
-I never expected it would take so long to learn the language.
-I never expected to miss the rain so much during the dry season.
-I never expected to find plugging a device into an outlet so challenging and frustrating. It’s a process: find an adaptor, plug the adaptor into the outlet, plug device charger into adaptor, and flip the switch to turn on the outlet. (this is 10X harder in the dark…and 10X more stressful when something flashes “10% battery remaining” and I have no idea where an adaptor is)
-I never expected to cook on charcoal so often and do this in the dark or by candlelight.
-I never expected to learn how to operate a breaker box, switch water on and off to toilets and sinks, balance what things to turn on and off when a generator is running, or how to manually flush a toilet when there’s no running water.
-I never expected to say “goodbye” so much. We’ve said “goodbyes” so often it’s crazy! It never hurts less, but at the same time, I’ve had to “get used” to it on some level. =P

I never expected to cry so much. I never expected to fall in love. I never expected to change…

I lived in the U.S. all my life. I lived in West Plains, Missouri for 14 years. How could 1 year away change my heart so much?? Don’t get me wrong! I don’t love West Plains any less. WP will ALWAYS hold a large piece of my heart…and who knows? Maybe I’ll end up living there again in the future…but what I’m saying is that my heart fell in love with a new place. With Zambia. With Ndola. With Wiphan. With the children and their priceless smiles. With the people and their friendliness and wonderful sense of humor.

I never expected to cry so much…
I never expected it to become so REAL to me when I saw a room full of widows for the first time. I never expected my heart to be so overwhelmed by the poverty. I never expected to feel the urge to adopt 10 kids on the spot and do whatever it takes to take care of them. I never expected to see a boy beaten by his friend or hear a woman screaming because her husband was beating her. I never expected to visit the home of a potential wizard and see the impoverished state she and her grandson are living in and want so badly to carry the boy away with me…I never expected so many things to make me so emotional (on top of my already emotional self).

I never expected to change. This one is impossible to explain fully because there are so many aspects to this…
I thought I would move here, love the life we are living here, develop new friendships, new memories, and new experiences…but I expected I’d remain the same person I was before moving.
Boy was I ever wrong!
I can never look at life the same way again… My priorities in life have changed. I can never go through life, no matter where I live, without my heart coming back to Zambia, to the little boy with no mommy, to the abused wife, to the little children I’ve grown so fond of, to Wiphan, to the reckless teens without a father, to the pregnant girl who has no one to help her, or to all the children dying from simple illnesses …I can never go through life with the same carefree attitude I used to.
Every time I eat a meal, I think of different friends and acquaintances and wonder if they’re eating too…
Every time it’s raining at night I wonder how many children are out there alone and frightened.
I’m not the same as I was before I moved here. My personality and the things that make me “me” haven’t changed, but my mindset sure has.

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Our first day at Wiphan! And our first day (for us kids anyway) to meet Pastor Aaron and Ba Kathryn! =D

Something else I never expected was for my faith to be challenged so much, for God to reveal so much sin in my life, yet at the same time to grow and feel stronger in Christ than ever before!
Here’s part of a response I recently sent to a friend’s question:
“Since moving to Zambia I would definitely say I’ve faced more challenges. Many of my friends here are Christians, but don’t always hold the same standards I do. I’m also exposed to a lot more non-believers than I was in the U.S. and therefore have to seek God’s help in not falling into negative peer pressure (something I rarely faced in the U.S.). I’ve had to learn to live without consistent electricity, without family close by, without my church family, my good friends, and so many other things! I’ve had to see people who are starving, children who live in such horrible conditions I can hardly bear it, and people who are being misused and ill-treated so much I want to puke!
All these things tend to bring out the negatives in me and really bring a lot of sin in my life to the surface…these things also tend to put my faith to the test and challenge me! However, this has ultimately been a good thing. I’ve grown so much spiritually during this time and I would say my faith is now stronger than ever!!”

God has used this last year in Zambia to grow me more than ever. I never expected to grow in some of the ways I have, but I’m glad I did!

If I were to summarize my first year in Zambia I would summarize it like this: An indescribable adventure full of unexpected learning experiences and meaningful life lessons I will carry with me for the rest of my life.

Someone shared this article with me last year and I ran across it again recently. It didn’t really make sense to me before I moved to Zambia, but now I can honestly say that I can relate to nearly every point the article makes (point 3 REALLY hits home!): http://masedimburgo.com/2014/06/04/17-things-change-forever-live-abroad/

If there’s anything you would like to ask about feel free! Thanks for reading.

What God Taught Me (through a Dream about the Hunger Games, a Facebook Fast, and My Mom)

God has been teaching me a hard lesson lately; a lesson that leaves me with a feeling of regret about how I could’ve lived the past decade or so of my life in a more godly way.

The lesson boils down to me having my priorities all mixed up. Something that should’ve been a priority was being replaced by things that were much smaller priorities or things that shouldn’t hold the title “priority” at all.

Now what do Facebook, the Hunger Games, a dream, and my Mom have to do with anything? Well, those are the tools God used to teach me that I have not been putting my brothers at a high priority level in my life. I’ve not spent the time with them they deserve. I’ve miserably failed as a “big sister” in so many ways. I turn them down when they ask me to play or do something with them because there are other things I’d rather be doing. I speak harshly to them. I make degrading comments. I make so many mistakes…

Facebook’s role in this lesson:

A couple weeks ago, I was lying in bed one night and God put it on my heart to take a Facebook fast. I wrestled with this for a while wondering what the point of it was and why I needed to do it.

God spoke to me with an argument entirely unbeatable, “Tell me, what would it hurt for you to take this fast?? If your account was deleted right now, what would you truly be missing??”

The answer to both questions: nothing.

God won my heart and I decided to take a four day Facebook fast. That sounds like a short amount of time…and it is…but to me it felt like forever as I anticipated it.

At first, I didn’t want to tell Mom and Dad simply because I knew if I told them I would have to stick with it. However, if I was going to do this then I needed to actually do it and not bail from it right?? Soooo…I climbed out of bed and shared my plan with my parents.

God brought a lot of things to my attention while I took this fast. One of those things was how much I ignore and don’t take a lot of time to spend with my four younger brothers. Facebook has its place and it’s not a bad thing per-say. However, when I refuse spending time with my brothers because I’m “busy” on my computer, how often do I have a valid reason?? Alex, Jackson, Anderson, and Cameron are far more important than Facebook and I need to treat them that way.

Lesson #1- People are more important than technology.

My Mom’s role in this lesson: Saying “I love you.”

“How often do you tell your siblings you love them?”

Mom asked my four brothers and I this question early last week. Right when she asked the question it suddenly hit me that I don’t tell my brothers I love them very often! I tell them now and then, but it’s not something I’m intentional about.

Double-whammy: I tell my friends I love them. I’m fairly intentional about that. Why was I telling my friends I love them when I’m not even telling my own brothers?? Punch to the gut right there…

Lesson #2- Tell the boys I love them.

A Dream About the Hunger Games:

I haven’t even seen all these movies. In fact, I have yet to completely finish the first one (nobody tell me what happens). However, it came up in a recent dream…

In my dream, my 9 year old brother and I were chosen to represent our district in the Hunger Games (I realize 9 year olds are too young, but remember it’s a dream). The games had begun and I allied with a small group of friends. We wound up finding my brother, Andy, in my grandmother’s bedroom (don’t ask me why that was the location…if it has significance I have yet to discover it).

Andy’s image in my dream was incredibly vivid while every other image was a bit clouded. Andy’s face wore a look of pure terror as he feared what could come. He was looking me square in the eyes as if hoping I would save him somehow.

One of my allies was like the voice of satan in my dream. She kept saying, “You have to do it! Just kill him!” I struggled internally and told her repeatedly I couldn’t do it!

“He’s my brother! I CAN’T kill him!!”

My ally: “Well, if you can’t kill him, just injure him.”

My internal struggle was so real in the dream…Andy’s fear-stricken face pierced my heart, but my own fear won over and I took a sword and stabbed my brother in the shoulder.

The heartbroken look on Andy’s face mixed with the bitter weeping from physical and emotional pain struck my heart in the dream (and even in reality) and I immediately fell down, wrapped him in my arms, and cried; sorely regretting what I had done.

This is obviously a moot scenario and I can honestly say I would never EVER do this, but it put something into perspective for me, similar to an object lesson: How many times have I “stabbed” my brothers with my words? How many times have I broken their hearts and damaged their trust when I constantly say “no” to their requests for me to play with them?

The first thing I did the morning after I had this dream was find Andy, give him a big hug, and tell him I loved him. I was actually teary-eyed and later on when I told each of my parents about my dream I cried again. It was dream, yes, but it was so vivid and Andy’s emotions were so real in the dream!

Lesson #3- My actions and words can either encourage or damage my brothers. I need to be more thoughtful about my words and actions. Both leave lasting scars…the question is: do the scars bring back good memories or bad ones?

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For anyone reading this, whatever title(s) you bear (sister, brother, mother, father, daughter, son, etc), make sure you put your family first!! Waking up and realizing I hadn’t been and realizing how much precious time I wasted…time I can’t get back…was heartbreaking.

I’ve spent 17 (well, technically 13) years of my life not being the best sister I could be. Of course I’ll fail, but the problem is, there was a lot of those 13 years I wasn’t even trying to be a good sister! I’m a decent sister, but that’s not good enough. I want to live every area of my life with every bit of my God-given potential. The only way to do that is through Christ. I haven’t been seeking Him to help me in this area like I should, but I’m incredibly grateful He saw fit to open my eyes to this sin in my life.

It has been a hard and painful lesson to learn…after all, I may not have many more years under the same roof as my brothers. It’s saddening to know I spent a majority of the years I should’ve been developing bonded relationships with them putting our relationships on the back-burner.

I can’t change the past, but I can do better in the future….and that’s what I plan to do!

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