Saturday, April 23, 2016

Rest and Fear

Last weekend, I participated in an online retreat for women serving overseas, and it was a wonderful time spent with my Savior. The retreat is called Velvet Ashes, and the theme this year was "Commune," which was exactly what I needed to spend some time doing with the Lord. I can't say I had any huge light bulb revelations, but the Lord just showed me more about myself, and Him, in some areas where I know I struggle, so I'd like to share some of those things with you.

Before starting the retreat, it asked you to reflect on how you were feeling, and what you wanted to get out of the retreat, and I wrote that I was tired and feeling to need to be filled with more of Christ, so I hoped this weekend would give me time to go deeper, to wait, and to listen to Him. Mainly, I just felt God telling me I needed to stop striving and just spend time enjoying Him and His presence.

The first main scripture of the retreat was Psalm 23, which is one of those super common passages that everyone has memorized, but is really awesome when you take the time to go through it slowly and let the words minister to your soul. I clearly heard the Lord's invitation to just lie down in green pastures as let Him lead me beside quiet waters as He refreshes my soul. He told me to stop working so hard, but just walk in the work He has already done, following where He leads me.

Confession: I can be a bit of a workaholic. I don't rest well. I'm not sure where it came from or when it started, but if I'm not doing something productive, I feel like I'm wasting time. I'm the queen of multitasking, and I have a constant to-do list running through my mind. But rest is one of God's commandments that He set an example for us in Himself. so the first thing God showed me was that I need to allow Him to teach me to rest in Him.

Another part of the conference involved listening to ten-minute testimonies from women who served as missionaries around the world. One of the women referenced Psalm 23 in talking about identity, and how so often we try to find our identity in the "pasture" we are in, rather than in the Shepherd. Reflecting on this is comforting as I prepare to come back to the States in 5 weeks. Sometimes, the "pasture" of the States is hard, because it's only a temporary, 2-month stay before I head back to the "pasture" of Honduras, which is hard for a whole different set of reasons. Then there are other, less-geographical "pastures" where I place my identity, like in people's acceptance.
The last part of the conference had you go through a journaling process about your fears. The first fear I identified was fear of the future, which I feel like is something that continually tries to take over my mind and is one of my more obvious fears. But then the Lord revealed to me a fear that I wasn't so aware of, and that is the fear of rejection, which stems from that desire for acceptance. I don't know where this came from or when it started, because I don't think I've always had this fear, but the Lord showed me all the areas in my life where I allow this fear to show up and take over: in how I interact with people, in how I do my job, even my fear of public speaking comes out of this fear and desire for acceptance. I want validation that I am doing a god job, on the right path, etc.
But the Lord says:
Find your acceptance and validation in me.
My desire for acceptance has already been fulfilled, because God says I am accepted by Him!
This post has turned out to be a lot longer than I thought I would be, so I'll wrap it up by telling you how God wrapped it all up for me.
The Lord has told me to embrace His rest and acceptance. I can rest in the truth that I am loved and accepted by Him, and I don't have to work and strive for His approval, or anyone else's. And when I remember this truth, He casts out that fear, and allows me to truly rest.


Saturday, April 9, 2016

An Oldie But A Goodie

The Lord has shown me a lot lately, and a lot of it has been revealed through Scriptures I'm not super familiar with that He just brings to my mind and I have to go look up and read what it says. And so I am ashamed to admit that last weekend when I was praying and Jeremiah 29:11 popped into my head, my first thought was, "No, I know that verse. That's not from the Lord."

Then I stopped myself. REALLY? It's a verse I know so well. I've had it memorized for who knows how long, it's the theme verse for my mom's preschool at FBC, and I'm pretty sure I have it on a t-shirt back home. But in that moment, I actually took the time to stop and think about that verse, and what it meant to me. Here's what it says:

A lot of my prayers recently, and things God has been revealing, have been centered around the future (but that's a whole different blog post for another day). And typically for me, worry accompanies thoughts about the future. And so the Lord brought me to this verse, a verse I almost blew over because it's so common, to tell me to TRUST Him and HOPE in Him, because He has a great plan for my future.

How many times do we do that, just blow over a verse because we've heard it a million times, or had it memorized since we were 5 years old? I don't hate much, but I hate that! Those verses that we hear all the time are because they are AWESOME verses, and we memorize them because they are perfect PROMISES that we need to remember! 

-End Soap Box Rant-

Anyways, thinking on this verse and everything the future will bring, I realized that He didn't just give this verse to me personally, but it was for all of our "team." We all have future things we're worried about right now that comes with the "changing of the guard" for a new school year. So I gave this verse with accompanying notes to all the American teachers and the ministry director.

But the Lord wasn't going to let me forget this verse too easily. It was still on my mind as we started another week of school with an awesome spiritual conference on Monday, and on Thursday, when the Lord maybe thought I was starting to forget about His promises for my future, it showed up in my email inbox. (Side Note: I've decided the Lord uses my email to speak to me, but again, that's a different blog post for another day.)

The email simply had the Jeremiah 29:11 verse, and underneath it said:

Be encouraged today...

Your greatest days are not behind you;
they are ahead of you!

Encouragement. Another thing I had been needing recently. 

The Lord's plans for my future are so much better than anything I've already experienced in the past. The days are just going to keep getting better and better. And what more could I ask for my future than that?