Saturday, June 22, 2013

Who am I, Lord?

Disclaimer: The line spacing and hyperlink color issues on this post are driving me batty. Maybe I'm a little OCD? I can't get them fixed though. Fellow bloggers, is WordPress easier to deal with?

Considering it’s been six whole months since my last post, and before that, posts were pretty sparse, it’s safe to say a lot of life has happened that I haven’t been recording here. I hate that because this writing (and photographing) thing is probably my favorite “outlet,” and I have the memory of a goldfish so I need to log my thoughts and smatterings of life to have any hope of recollection. But I’ve just had to resign myself to the fact that during the school year, my days are just too jam-packed to squeeze in writing for myself. (Especially this year when I changed schools and grade levels mid-October! Ahh! But a really good “ahh!” God is so good.) So in lieu of blogging, I’ve been thankful for Instagram—it’s like a quick, mini blog for me. Anyway, that was an extremely long and maybe pointless introduction to the real reason I’m writing today: I’ve just returned (on 6/17) from a mission trip to Ethiopia. And I’m not the same. And that’s what I was praying for.

I’m still trying to process everything I saw and experienced while I was there and praying that God will continue to work out all that He taught and is teaching me into my daily life back here at home in the U.S. So I’m sure this won’t be the only post that revolves around this place on the globe that now has a huge chunk of my heart. Actually I wasn’t even planning to write today, but as I was filling out the trip evaluation form (something our church asks each team member to complete), my answer to one of the questions became a bit longer than what is probably typical for a response on a “form;” hence this post.

This question led me to explain probably the most significant thing God revealed to me while in Ethiopia.

Q: “How has your perspective and understanding of God changed because of your experience?”    

A (expanded a little in this post): I think this experience gave me a more tangible understanding of a truth I have been trying to learn for the past couple of years now (first presented to me in a book I read, One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp): “All is grace.” I had a moment during/after our debrief on Monday night (6/10) where I was really wrestling with the fact that these precious kids I had just been with all day, two of whom were going to sleep in a tree that night, didn’t “deserve” this terrible, poverty-stricken, lonely, hopeless life they were living. I remember thinking, “They didn’t ask for this, didn’t do anything wrong—they’re just kids—kids who were born into a mess.” And then it hit me—and hit me hard—just like these kids don’t deserve this “bad” life, I don’t deserve my “good” one—my abundance of family, friends, material comforts, and assurance of Hope. Of course, I have always said that everything I have/am is a blessing from God and that I am thankful. But I didn’t fully understand at the heart level that what I view as my hard work and accomplishments doesn’t make me “deserve” this “good” life I live. I deserve nothing. Who am I, Lord? And just this morning I read Job 38-42 and was reminded vividly that there is none like God and man is powerless in comparison to Him.

God speaking to Job:

“Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundation?

Tell me, if you understand.”

Job 38:4

“Have you ever given orders to the morning,

or shown the dawn it’s place,

that it might take the earth by the edges

and shake the wicked out of it?”

Job 38:12-13

{I have to say as a nerdy English teacher who gets a real thrill out of the use of great imagery, I was wishing I could high-five God when I read these two verses. I mean, seriously! The dawn taking the earth by its coattails and shaking the wicked out of it?! Who but God could orchestrate that image?}

“Do you give the horse his strength

or clothe his neck with a flowing mane?”

Job 39:19

“Do you have an arm like God’s,

and can your voice thunder like His?”

Job 40:9

Job’s response to God:
“I know that You can do all things;

no plan of yours can be thwarted.”

Job 42:2

So to answer the question, I think this mission trip experience re-centered and, more importantly, elevated my view of God and humbled my view of self. He is the Sovereign Creator and Sustainer of the universe and yet He gave all up for me and daily pursues me in my mess. When I have the right view of God, worshiping him with my life—being on mission with Him—becomes a joy and the only natural thing to do.

And if I truly believe that God is good—only and wholly good— and that He is sovereign, then I can trust that all—the good and the bad— is a gift. Somehow—even the despairing mess of many of Ethiopia’s children’s lives—all is grace.

I’ve quoted this musing from G.K. Chesterton on my blog before, but I just have to again:
            Here dies another day

      During which I have had eyes, ears, hands

      And the great world ‘round me;

      And with tomorrow begins another.

      Why am I allowed two?

So as jumbled and rambling as it is, there’s my first post on Ethiopia. I wondered what it might be. There have been and are a myriad of things swarming through my mind and heart since I hit the ground there and then returned here. I journaled pages and pages throughout the trip, and there are countless images of faces, especially the sweet little ones, that are seared in my mind. I’m praying for the grace not to forget and to continue putting His love in action here in the U.S. and somehow there, too.

*If you are interested in reading a day-by-day account of our trip, you can visit The Forsaken Children’s blog. I was blessed to have the opportunity to try to capture the time for our team and those supporting us back home.

A few of my favorite snapshots (in a really weird order and only from my phone since I mainly relied on one of our awesome team members who acted as photographer all week!)…

{Loved hanging out with these fun boys at the half-way home and watching the one in blue show us his dance moves!}

All the girls except for 2 on our team!

{The little boy who stole my heart and stuck to me like glue for most of the week.}

{God's majesty on the flight into Frankfurt, Germany on the way home.}

{Again God's great artistry from the plane on the flight to Ethiopia after our brief stop in Sudan}

{Loved getting to know this sweet and hilarious girl from the half-way home!}

{On a street near where we stayed. The domes have chickens for sale in them.}

{View of the city, Addis Ababa, from a restaurant.}

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