Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Burst....to....Overwhelmed

It's funny how one day we don't see, feel, or acknowledge something. We go about our daily lives, doing the mundane and ordinary, not knowing that "something" is just about to.....burst. Literally. As you all know, my appendix burst last week. And man, O, man that was a painful experience. I was sent to the hospital to wait for surgery and then stayed a few days to make sure I was "out-of-the-woods" and that infections wouldn't pop up. 

DISCLAIMER: My intent in writing this is not to get your pity but rather to walk you through the lessons I learned through this last week. 

While I waited for confirmation that it was my appendix and that I would need surgery I remember thinking that all I wanted was my mom to be there. This sounds silly coming from someone who has been independent and taking care of herself from a young age but it makes sense with what God has been teaching me this summer. When I went to Taipei, Taiwan in June, I learned that it's okay to be vulnerable and depend on others, in fact, it's refreshing. For too long, I have tried to be the "strong" one, the girl that could take care of herself and those around her without any help.

God has been walking alongside me, telling me that I don't need to do it all, can't do it all, and that I shouldn't do it all. 

I've learned that I have limitations, I cannot help everyone, I cannot do it alone. And I have found such freedom in God's truth. I'm not superwoman and He doesn't want or expect me to be. Stemming from this truth, I've begun to practice letting friends and family know what I can do and what my limits are. This terrified me in the beginning because I used to be such a people-pleaser but I have found that it has strengthened my relationships instead of hurt them. 

Okay, back to the hospital. It was confirmed that I needed surgery and I was waiting in the hospital room and I remember thinking, "I'm glad I came in when I did." It wouldn't be until after that I realized how profound this thought was. It was a simple phrase that ran through my head but today leaves me speechless. 

Timing. God's Timing. It is, was, and will always be PERFECT! You see, last week I was in a wedding of a dear college friend and this next week I am back to school. It just so happened that my appendicitis was perfectly sandwiched in so that I had plenty of time to recover and so that it didn't interfere with these two beautiful events. I'm so thankful!!!

After surgery, I was greeted by my aunt and my MOMMY :) She had driven down from Bemidji to be there with me. Oh! And did I mention, this all happened on her birthday?!?! Poor mommy. I felt awful having to call her and worry her but I knew that all she wanted was to be there supporting me. She came back in the morning and patiently helped me. It was a sweet moment that I will never forget and I know that she was so happy I still needed her. 

My hospital stay went smoothly and I actually really loved it there because I felt safe and secure. The nurse-call button was in my fingertips, the bed was perfectly positioned, and the pain-meds came exactly when I expected them. I think this is how we sometimes wish our lives were. Safe and protected, predictable and catered to us. We want to feel secure. We LOVE safety nets. We crave for the safe zones of life. 

But just like you can't stay in the hospital forever, you can't stay in the safe zones of life forever. I'm not going to lie and say that everything was a-okay after I left the hospital. It wasn't. Guess what? There was more pain! I didn't have an adjustable bed, or room service, or nurses to reassure me that the pain was normal. I struggled with physical pain, anxiety, and doubt that I would ever get better. I wanted relief NOW. I wanted to be healed. I prayed that God would at least do me the small courtesy of knocking me out at night so I could escape the pain even if for only a few hours. It was a struggle to be thankful for much of anything. 

Throughout my time of being back at my aunt and uncle's recovering, I was encouraged by so many people. And I can't say how much each message or call meant to me. You kept me going. You spoke truth when all I could hear were the lies and the temptation to curse God. Even though I am so GLAD this painful week is over, I can't help but be thankful for it. It showed me that I can endure a lot of pain and attacks from the enemy and still remain faithful to God.

This morning as I was driving back from my follow-up appointment with my doctor the song "Overwhelmed" by Big Daddy Weave came on the radio. And wow, through this song I was able to see God's face and experience a sweet time of worship as tears ran down my face. I'll end this post with the words that gripped my heart and kept me in awe of Jesus Christ.

"All that you've done is so overwhelming, I delight myself in You, In the Glory of Your Presence, I'm Overwhelmed, I'm Overwhelmed." 


Saturday, July 19, 2014

One Thousand Gifts

Words have always had the powerful ability to captivate my heart. I search for the perfect sentence to express some feeling or experience, one which I have never found the perfect explanation. A phrase that will say it all. This searching has led me to books, and songs, and famous quotes that will serve to bring the depth of my heart out into the open.

Right now, I am reading the book "One Thousand Gifts" by Ann Voskamp. This book's author shares her journey of giving thanks to God by numbering the gifts he has given her. She challenged herself to list one thousand gifts and thank God for them.

I've been learning from this book the difference that gratitude and perspective can have in our daily lives. Each day we can choose to the way we are going to perceive the world. We can choose to see the good, the difficult, painful, and confusing parts of our lives as gifts from God. Or we can decide that we are going to let angry take control, allow ourselves to complain and whine, and become ungrateful for every day we are alive.

"You would be very ashamed if you knew what the experiences you call setbacks, upheavals, pointless disturbances, and tedious annoyances really are. You would realize that your complaints about them are nothing more nor less than blasphemies--though that never occurs to you. Nothing happens to you except by the will of God, and yet [God's] beloved children curse it because they do not know it for what it is." (Voskamp, p.125)

Our perspective is narrow and limited. And often we look past blessings right in front of us.

People become nuisances that we would rather look through instead of look at. We avoid eye contact, personal connection, and community because we have been burned by people in the past. We don't let people in because we have become hardened in an attempt to protect ourselves.

But all these defensive maneuvers have done is hurt us more. Healing is restricted and sight is blinded. So how do we begin the process of changing our perspective? How do we begin to change our ungrateful and anger-ridden hearts? If we desire to be people that are thankful and at peace with God, others, and ourselves, where to do we begin?

One Thousand Gifts suggests that we first need to begin to see the gifts that God gives us. And I believe that there is something powerful in allowing Jesus to reveal his goodness to us through the mundane blessings, the painful and confusing moments, and through the joy that comes through experiencing him through his creation. By worship God for the gifts he has given, our hearts soften and we begin to understand how much he loves us.

I am not finished with this book but I am thankful that it has made me ponder what it means to live in the present moment, fully invested and seeking him. In the past two weeks God has been bringing me back to the same verse. I know that He is trying to answer my heart-deep question: "What is your will for my life God?" And he responded with 1 Thessalonians 4:16-18.

"Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus."