The Beginning of the End of the Beginning

blog 2.jpgDoes that title confuse you?  I hope not!  The past two weeks were the beginning of the end of this season of preparation.  This season of preparation was a long and important phase.  A phase full of learning to trust, growing personally, and letting go of my own expectations and plans for my life.

My subconscious is trying to help me improve in my areas of lack.  I say that because I had my first panic dream this week.  I hardly ever remember dreams.  For this particular dream, for some reason I ended up in Malawi much earlier than I had planned.  I realized I didn’t have any malaria medication and where I was staying didn’t have mosquito nets.  I woke up in a panic.

At first, I didn’t understand why this was happening.  I’m really and truly not worried about going to Malawi.  I am beyond excited about this adventure and what God has planned for me through it, so the panic didn’t make sense.  The more I thought about it and processed it though, I realized the panic stemmed from my lack of practical preparation.

In the past, I probably wouldn’t have even recognized the cause of my anxiety.  I would have just continued to sit with it. Thinking, of course it is natural to feel stressed out about leaving for a year.  I also would have continued to function under my status quo of disorganization and procrastination.

This is where the personal growth and trust in God comes in.  Instead of sitting with my stress and anxiety I took steps.  The next night after my dream before I went to sleep I prayed.  I prayed for God to remove any anxiety I was feeling and to help me to understand where it was coming from.  I had a great night of sleep and I felt empowered the next morning.

Instead of continuing to put things off, I made some purchases that will hopefully make my time in Malawi a little more comfortable.  I made doctor’s appointments to get medication I will need for the year.  I began the task of packing and organizing what I will bring with me.

Something I’ve learned in this season of preparation, is that just because our natural tendencies lack in certain areas doesn’t mean we have to just accept that.  We don’t have to lean on our own strengths, but instead turn to God and seek his help.  I have grown both spiritually and practically already through this adventure, and it’s still only the beginning of the end of the beginning!

 

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Update

I am now down to less than 50 days until I leave.  There is still a lot up in the air, but there has also been a lot of great things happening.

First of all, I have been absolutely blown away by the support I’ve received.  People have prayed for me, sent me encouraging notes and emails, organized fundraisers, and generously donated financially.  This has all helped me to feel even more confirmation that this is God’s plan for me to go to Malawi.

I had the opportunity to share my story at a church who is partnering with me this last weekend.  In the past I have not been a fan of public speaking, but in April I had the opportunity to participate in S.C.O.R.R.E.  This is a workshop for public speaking, and it made a huge impact on me.  It helped me to be more organized in my approach and gave me so much more confidence in my ability to share.  For the first time, I actually enjoyed speaking in front of a large group and walked away feeling really good about how I did.

On May 25, I found out that my application for a leave of absence was denied.  I actually was ok with this decision because I trust that God has a plan for me and that he will provide for me.  However, my principal and coworkers felt strongly that I should appeal the decision.  I struggled with this a little, because I truly was ok with the decision.  I understood their perspective though and was willing to go along with the appeal.  I should know the final decision on Monday June 4.

I have one week of teaching left at my current school.  I’ve been there for six years, and have really enjoyed my time there.  I’m so excited to see what this next year in my life will bring, but it will definitely be bitter sweet to leave next week not knowing for sure if I will ever teach there again.  I finally got to share with my students about my plans to move to Malawi.  Word spread pretty quickly, so a lot of them knew before I actually got to share with them.  Some were sad to know I wouldn’t be there next year, some were really surprised,  but the main sentiment was that they were excited for me.

There is still a lot left to do, and a lot of unknowns.  I’m doing my best to be ok with those things and just take it one step at a time.  Please pray for me as this season of preparation winds down and the next stage begins.  It has already been an adventure so far and I know it will continue to be.

 

Insecurities

I definitely struggle with feeling insecure about a lot of different things. I talked in my last blog about not always feeling worthy of what God is calling me to. This is one of my major insecurities. I don’t want to screw this up and I don’t want to fail. I was really struggling with these kinds of thoughts the past couple of days. For me, when those kinds of thoughts come in to my mind I’m able to recognize that they are unhealthy and not of the Lord, but I struggle with how to stop them and set my mind straight.

Something else I’ve been working on is being vulnerable. It’s not always easy for me to ask for help or to share my feelings and personal struggles. I tend to not want to burden others with my issues or to come off as dramatic. Thankfully, there are people in my life that I’ve learned I can reach out to for prayer and encouragement. People who genuinely care about me, don’t judge me and who are able to offer sound advice.

When I woke up this morning I recognized that I was feeling worse about myself and that my negative thoughts were getting stronger. I decided to share my feelings and ask for prayer from two different people. They both quickly agreed to pray for me which was a relief. In addition to that, one friend offered encouragement and shared some scripture.

This is what she wrote:

“Amy, you have been such an example to me of my need to get back to The Word. So I opened to the Psalms to try to find a word of encouragement and saw a note about 1 Peter 5:10 in the margin. Checked it out and hope that verses 6-11 will encourage you.”
The verses read “So humble yourselves under the mighty power of God, and at the right time he will lift you up in honor. Give all your worries and cares to God, for he cares about you. Stay alert! Watch out for your great enemy, the devil. He prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour. Stand firm against him, and be strong in your faith. Remember that your family of believers all over the world is going through the same kind of suffering you are. In his kindness God called you to share in his eternal glory by means of Christ Jesus. So after you have suffered a little while, he will restore, support, and strengthen you, and he will place you on a firm foundation. All power to him forever! Amen.”

This was exactly what I needed to hear, and was such a great reminder of how to deal with difficult situations that I’m facing. First it’s important to stay humble and recognize God chose me for this faith adventure and it’s not about me and my own strength, but his mighty power. Next, when I am feeling worried or insecure, I need to turn it over to him and remember that he cares about me. Third, these insecurities are not of the Lord, and I need to remember they are from the enemy who is trying to derail me. Finally, I am not alone in the difficult times. Fellow believers are going through similar situations. These situations are temporary. God will restore me to a firm foundation when I depend on him.

Whatever your insecurities are, remember you are not alone. You can lean on friends for prayer and encouragement. More importantly lean on God both through The Word and through prayer.

100 Days and Counting

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I am down to 100 days until I leave for Malawi. In this time of preparing for my year in Malawi, I think one of the most frequent questions I get asked is “So, are you getting nervous?” My response is always “No, but I’m excited!” I think this surprises a lot of people.  If I’m being totally honest it surprises me too. I’m an overthinker and worrier by nature. I have spent a lot of time in my life thinking about what I could have said or done differently or wondering what did that person mean when they said that. As a kid, I was a hypochondriac.  If I heard symptoms of a disease I could almost always convince myself that I was experiencing those things. I’ve spent a lot of time in my life hyper focused on things that don’t really matter.
The decision to go to Malawi had the potential to drive me crazy with endless streams of worry, anxiety and overthinking, and it did at first. When I first began to pray about going for a year, I felt the Lord tell me to read John chapter 1. What stood out to me when I read the chapter was Jesus calling his disciples. I felt like this was confirmation from the Lord that this was a journey I was supposed to take. Even with that confirmation though, I still felt like a wreck inside. I didn’t feel worthy.  I didn’t feel like I had anything to offer.  And it felt like giving up a huge portion of control over my life that I wasn’t necessarily too keen on giving up. At the same time though I wasn’t saying no, there was still this excitement and curiosity of what it all could mean.
I continued to pray, and on this particular occasion I was very specific with my prayers to God. I was concerned that on some level I was manufacturing the idea of me going to Malawi, and I wanted reconfirmation that this was his plan for me and not my own. I knew that I could not continue to function under the level of anxiety I was feeling about this decision, so I prayed that my anxiety would turn into excitement. Finally, I had very specific desires for my life, and I wanted to understand why those hadn’t come to pass. I also needed God to help me to be ok with the reality that it was looking like his plan for my life was very different than my own.
The Lord does answer prayers, and for me it is frequently through Scripture. As I was praying, I felt I needed to read John chapter 16. Within that chapter, literally every prayer I had at the time was answered. The chapter starts out talking about the Holy Spirit coming to be able to speak to us and guide us into all truth and that He will declare the things to come. This reconfirmed for me that this was God’s plan and that I was not manufacturing this on my own. The chapter then goes on to talk about sorrow being turned into joy. This answered my prayer about my anxiety turning into excitement, a real weight was lifted off of me when I read that. I can honestly say that from that day forward I have had so much excitement and joy and no real anxiety about taking this faith adventure. The biggest impact came in the answer to my final request. John 16:23-24 says “…Truly, truly, I say to you, whatever you ask of the Father in my name, he will give to you. Until now you have asked nothing in my name. Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full.” I realized that though the desires I was seeking weren’t bad, at the same time I was not seeking them in the name of Jesus.  I was not asking for them to serve his will and his kingdom. I was looking for ways other than God to feel fulfilled. This was a huge realization and completely shifted my perspective on how I wanted to live my life.
I have experienced so much freedom from my new perspective. This time of my life has become all about obedience. I want to continue to say yes to what God is calling me to, I want to be where God wants me to be and I want to be doing what God is asking me to do. I still don’t always feel worthy of the call, or that I have a lot to offer, but the good news is that God knows what he’s working with and I don’t have to worry about any of it as long as he is with me.

A Moving Experience (Malawi Part 5)

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There were so many things that impacted me while in Malawi, but the children were definitely a highlight.  They were beautiful and so excited to see us.  It was so fun to hear them practicing their English, especially through song.  I think they thought it was really funny to hear us practice our Chichewa too.

One of the most moving things I experienced in Malawi was hearing them worship the Lord through song.  There’s is something so special about not understanding the words, but still feeling the Holy Spirit move through music.  I think it is a small glimpse of what heaven will be like when we are all worshiping together regardless of the language we speak.

The other things Malawians do that is so moving and inspiring is worship with their whole bodies.  There’s no standing still.  They dance and move like nothing I’d ever experienced before.  This is not my style generally speaking, but I have a feeling I will pick up at least some of this over my upcoming year there.

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Not in My Own Strength (Malawi pt. 4)

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My original roles on the team were photographer and communications.  My role for communications was to keep Sheryl, the missions coordinator, and other interested parties at home up to date on our trip.  These were both very much behind the scenes type roles, exactly where I was comfortable.  That was not God’s plan for me for this trip.

With Candie back in the United States there were significant gaps that had to be filled.  Mainly, a lot of the teaching that would be done.  Though I am a teacher, I teach physical education.  I didn’t feel like I was prepared, qualified or confident to do the kind of teaching that would be required.  I also knew that it wouldn’t be fair or right to put it all on the other team members.

As I mentioned in past blogs, the further we got in to the trip the more and more God’s plan was revealed.  When I began to look at what Candie had planned to teach, the first lesson was on “The Woman at the Well.”  This was the main story that was talked about in the one podcast I listened to in the airport!  This was a game changer.  This connection and evidence of God’s provision completely changed my attitude and outlook.  I realized it wasn’t about me, my abilities or my qualifications.  In fact the lack of those things was really the point of the whole situation.  I wasn’t supposed to do this on my own.  This was an amazing opportunity to trust God!  One of my favorite sayings is “God doesn’t call the qualified, he qualifies the called.”  I didn’t have to be confident in myself or my own qualifications, I had to be confident that God had called me to this and that He was with me throughout.

Having the opportunity to share and teach in Malawi was one of my favorite parts of the trip.  It stretched me and I grew in ways I didn’t even know I needed to.  That opportunity showed me a different perspective and has helped me to be outwardly focused instead of focusing on myself.  It was the beginning of this journey of learning to trust God even though I didn’t realize it at the time.

Malawi Part 3

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As I mentioned in my previous post, we were down from four to three with very little understanding of what was going on and what the implications of all of it would mean.  By the time we arrived in Ethiopia, I had settled it in my heart that though this would be tough, God would work it all out for our good.  We got some information during our layover that Candie had arrived home safely, and that her daughter was doing ok.  She delivered the baby within a few days and it was again more confirmation that this was God’s provision.  This was an opportunity to learn to trust God.

We finally arrived in Malawi we were greeted at the airport by Louise, one of the             Y-Malawi partners, and our driver Isaac.  We would be staying in Lilongwe for the first couple of days at Mukani.  Mukani is the headquarters for Fishers Trainers and Senders (FTS), the discipleship partner for Y-Malawi.  This was key, because they have excellent Wifi there.  That made it significantly easier to communicate with Candie and get our bearings on who would be taking over what for the trip.

Thankfully, Candie had done a lot of the prep work.  Fortunately she had given us all copies of her notes on what she would be teaching shortly before we boarded the plane in D.C.  I learned from her in a text while in Malawi, she had not originally intended to go into detail with her notes.  This was because she was already very familiar with the material.  This was evidence of God’s provision, because with out the detailed notes it would have been much more difficult for any of us to step in to teach.

Another major piece of evidence of God’s provision came in the form of a podcast.  I mentioned in an earlier blog that I had downloaded LOTS of podcasts to help keep me entertained for the long plane ride.  Do you know that I only listened to one podcast the entire trip?  I listened to it in the D.C. airport, before I knew anything was going to happen.  And do you also know that the podcast I listened to related directly to one of the lessons Candie planned on teaching.  I had over 50 hours worth of podcasts, and the one I listened to was the one God planned for me to hear.

God showing up in these ways made it much easier to move forward and to step into roles I didn’t know I was ready for.