Choose God – A Reflection on 2017

I am pretty blown away by this past year…

2017

Kenya, Montana, Massachusetts, and Guatemala mark places I lived throughout the year. In a lot of ways, this was a very difficult year. But I look back with nothing but thankfulness.

I have a paper with my ‘New Year’s Resolutions’ for 2016 (written, of course, at the end of 2015) pinned to the wall in my room here in Massachusetts. The first resolution?

Choose God.

Tears well up in my eyes as I consider the gravity of those words, as well as what they have meant to me in these past two years. Twenty-year-old me had no idea of the implications of what it would mean to ‘choose God’. Even still, twenty-year-old me set her eyes toward one glimpse of hope: the only thing she knew mattered in this life and therefore catalyzed a life focused on being resolved to this very resolution.

I had no idea what it meant to deny myself, pick up my cross daily, and follow Christ (Luke 9:23) . I have not always applied each portion of this call to action in its entirety. I have failed time and time again. But I can say this year I learned. I received the message, grasped it’s meaning, and have practiced applying it.

God wants my all and absolutely nothing less.

“For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will save it. For what does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses or forfeits himself?” Luke 9:24-25

These verses are the culmination of what I learned this year. You can have all you want (or thought you wanted), but still be so unsatisfied. It will never make you fully happy or fulfill you. The second you let go of that white-knuckled grasp you have on your life (your plans, your goals, your desires, your hopes, dreams, fears, rights…) is the same moment the Lord can and will give you true life. Beautiful and abundant.

Giving my life away for Christ is surely where I have found life. When I held tightly to bits and pieces of myself I was miserable. But when I surrendered fully, while it didn’t necessarily feel great at first, I can look back on this year and say it was the best thing I ever did. It was the beginning of me finding true life.

It will never be worth it to gain what the world has to offer, if it comes at the cost of losing connection with God. I desire to continually live my life for Him, no matter what it costs-no matter what I have to give up, no matter what I lose. God blesses obedience and has greater things in mind for my life than I could possibly imagine. I’m holding onto that truth.

In the upcoming year I look ahead to uncertainty. I’m very okay with that. I don’t have all the answers, or any really. I’m okay with that. To the annoyance or disappointment, even, of some I answer many questions with “I don’t know”. It doesn’t bother me. The Lord is on the throne-sovereign and in control and I believe that with all of my being. I will continue serving with Potter’s Field Ministries in Montana. I am hopeful and expectant, knowing that God guides my steps. He isn’t finished working in my life. He has called me to serve, pouring my life out for others, ultimately pouring it out for Him, alone.

So, my resolutions for 2018? I have only one:

Choose God.

“But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you”. Matthew 6:33

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The Beauty in Goodbye

Romans 12:5

“So we, being many, are one body in Christ, and individually members of one another”.

I have been back in Antigua, Guatemala for just over a month, now. Even as I type that out, I’m taken aback by it. That’s not a huge amount of time, by any means. Yet, it often feels like a lot longer. As quickly as I wonder how that could be, I receive the answer in both my mind and heart.

Thirty-four days ago I came back to Guatemala and thirty-four days ago I was adopted into a new family. This family is made up of the twenty-nine training interns of IGNITE Class 13, five serving interns of IGNITE Class 12, and the staff, all living here on property. Entering into a new family can be a daunting task. Not only can that, in and of itself, be difficult, but I would find myself the newest member of a family that came together two months prior to my coming. I truly had no qualms about my late arrival. I was beyond at peace coming back, knowing it is exactly where the Lord would have me during this time.

I guess the only way to describe what I’m feeling right now, is to say that I was blown away by the way my new family took me in.

This morning we said good-bye to the training interns. And it hurt. It was sad. But I’ve always been encouraged that the distinct ache felt deep in your chest as you wave others on into the season of their lives means that you invested. It means that you bonded and that you care. And as I received hugs and wiped tears away at 3 am, I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that these people really do care about me. They embraced me into this family, took the time to get to know me, asked me questions, we shared laughs and shared tears. My heart hurts this morning as I miss my family.

Thirty-four days. That’s all it took.

God works in ways I don’t always, and really more often than not, don’t understand. At times that makes me uneasy and question what, exactly, He’s doing. Yet, in this circumstance, I can say it makes me stand in awe of Him. I really can’t wrap my brain around the fact that God would bring me to live with all of these amazing people, and that we would all bond as deeply as we did. It isn’t logical that anyone could get so close in such a short amount of time. But it happened. I’m reminded of Isaiah 55:8-9:

“For My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways,” says the Lord. “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts”.

IGNITE Class 13, thank you for loving me. Thank you for welcoming me into your family with open arms. I could never accurately express just how much you all mean to me. The only thing I have at the moment to express it is the pain. And I’m thankful for it. I’m thankful for each of your lives. I am blessed by your hearts to serve the Lord, your hearts to serve myself and the rest of the staff here, and your hearts to go out into the world and share the gospel. I love you all dearly. It was a pleasure to do life with you, and I will be praying for you all as you serve in your respective field locations.

Romans 12:10-12

“Be kindly affectionate to one another with brotherly love, in honor giving preference to one another; not lagging in diligence, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord; rejoicing in hope, patient in tribulation, continuing steadfastly in prayer”.

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“I Will Do a New Thing”

I have been back in Massachusetts for twenty-four days, now. Twenty-four days of re-establishing myself in a place I once called home. But since July of 2016, I have referred to three other places as ‘home’.  In Guatemala during my training, home was the beautiful compound in the heart of Antigua. During my field time, when I said “Let’s go home”, I was speaking of the house my team and I all shared in Acacia Park. In Montana with the other girls from my class, it was the condo we were staying in on Big Mountain. Today, it’s the white house with black shutters at the end of a cul-de-sac, where my family lives. I’m back to where I started.

In a way, that’s been comforting. There’s nothing quite like seeing the familiar faces of people you care about, no matter where you go. There’s no comparison to getting to visit my favorite places, once again. I remember how to drive my car, and get to particular destinations. It’s not hard, in fact, it’s easy. Just like ‘riding a bike”, as they say. Yet, there’s a strange sensation attributed to all of it, especially when I recall that a little less than a month ago I was not here, but in Montana. A month before that I was in Kenya. Six months before that I was in Guatemala, and three months before that I was in Massachusetts, a very different person than I am in Massachusetts, now. Needless to say, being home has been a journey in and of itself.

To be honest, I’ve struggled in many areas. While some aspects have been easy or reflexive in a way, others are difficult and overwhelming. Some little things are daunting. As I mentioned, I have changed a lot. That comes with facing issues and dealing with everyday tasks in new ways. Figuring out how ‘new’ me handles things while still remembering how the ‘old’ me used to. Right away, upon arriving back home, I felt the extreme need to re-organize. I couldn’t go to sleep before I took care of something like sorting through the piles of clothing I had in my closet. Other things about myself surprised me, such as how much I enjoy hot weather, when I never liked it that much before. Even still, I lacked trust that God would provide for my needs as I started to put the pieces of my life back together.

The number of days that I have cried certainly outweigh the ones in which I haven’t. I miss the family I had in all the other places I have called home. During Ignite there was a sense of security in knowing every day would be mapped out for me. There is none of that security here. My old habits of thinking push me to deal with things the only way I knew how to: don’t. My flesh so desires to sit and wallow in the fact that I’m overwhelmed in this place and everything is uncertain. I’ve had moments in the past twenty-four days that I have wanted to give up.

But like I said, I’m a very different person now than I was nearly eleven months ago. The Lord has shown me so many things throughout this time. He has faithfully taught me lesson after lesson, the biggest of all being to rely on Him when circumstances are difficult, or when I don’t understand. And wouldn’t you know, I’ve been placed in a season of difficult circumstances and overall uncertainty about what the future holds.

One thing I can say for certain, though, is just how much God is in this season, despite the struggles. He is right by my side. I have been so blessed with many amazing opportunities that humble me day after day. As a part of my two months of serving in my home church, Calvary Chapel Boston,  I am serving at Calvary Chapel Academy. If anywhere is ‘home’, it’s this place. I grew up in this church and in this school. I attended CCA from 2004-2013 when I graduated. I once walked the hallways as Gabby Darmetko, a student. Today I walk the hallways as Miss Darmetko, the art teacher for Kindergarten through 6th Grade. Words do not accurately describe how strange and mind-blowing this is. Teaching is not something I ever remotely considered doing in the past, yet it is something I find more joy in than I can say. I love teaching the students at CCA. I love being there with the other teachers who I know love the Lord and genuinely love what they do on a daily basis. I am humbled to be a part of something so special. And teaching is just one of the things the Lord allows me to be involved with weekly that absolutely blesses me.

When things get hard, I simply need to turn to God. I simply need to take captive the lies or negative thoughts in my head, throw them out, and replace them with truth. He supplies all my needs (Philippians 4:19). He comforts me (2 Thessalonians 2:16-17). He has perfect plans for my life (Jeremiah 29:11). In my weakness, my God proves Himself strong (2 Corinthians 12:9). These moments of difficulty are opportunities for me to draw closer to Him. That is His desire, and mine. I want to be more like Him, and seek Him no matter what it is I’m facing. I’m thankful for all that He’s done, all that He is doing, and all that He WILL do. If you are struggling, too, I encourage you not to grow weary (Galatians 6:9), do not lose heart (2 Corinthians 4:16), and continue serving Him whole-heartedly (1 Corinthians 15:58).

Isaiah 43:18-19

“Do not remember the former things, nor consider the things of old. Behold, I will do a new thing, now it shall spring forth; shall you not know it? I will even make a road in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.”

 

Is God Enough?

3/6/17

1 Samuel 8:6

“But when they said, “Give us a king to lead us,” this displeased Samuel; so he prayed to the Lord”.

Life…it is not easy, nor is it fair. We can have so many questions, but ultimately, whether we believe it or not, God has a plan for every person. Not only does He have a plan, but it’s good.

God had a plan for the Israelites. They were His chosen people-His children. He governed and protected them. How does it get any better than that? They witnessed miracles. The Lord was with them, but time and time again, that was never enough for them. The Lord was not enough.

Instead of focusing on the things of God and being satisfied in Him, the people looked around. What did they see? Other nations ruled by kings. And so what did they want? To be just like everyone else.

Samuel was deeply upset by this. His first move? He prayed. I see this as a beautiful example to follow. Things happen all the time that are upsetting, disheartening, painful, and downright “unfair” or undeserved. Where do I turn when those things occur? Where do I seek comfort? As Samuel demonstrates, it is imperative to turn to God in those times.

If I don’t look to God, I’m going to look to something or someone else. I will look around me and see the ‘kings’ of the lives of those around me. What rules my life? Will I become just like the other people around me? Driven by money, pleasure, the things of this world that will never satisfy? Is it worth losing my soul to gain the world and be just like everyone else?

No. I’ve been there before. It is a truly miserable existence, and it never satisfies. But we serve a God who has given us free-will. He does not, and will not force our hand to follow Him. He will give us over to what we want. We must choose daily to focus on Him, to turn to Him in our moments of despair or in circumstances that do not make sense. WE must allow God to be enough in our hearts, lest we go astray.

 

Run

3/5/2017

We ask things of the Lord. “Please help me love”, “Please give me strength and patience”. And that’s amazing. He wants us to commune with Him-to ask for help or anything we need.
The difficult part, though, is when He truly desires to give things to us. Love, strength, and patience, for example. They are righteous qualities. These will never not be things God wants us to possess or walk in. So when we pray for these things, He will surely answer ‘yes’, for this is praying according to His will and His desires.
But we don’t always like the process of attaining these qualities. How does anyone gain muscle? How does a marathoner run 26.2 miles? It first takes a break-down, and then a build-up. It is a process. Our God delights in the process of making us more like Him.
We can’t fight the process. We can’t ask for things and then push away the trials or circumstances He has set in place to answer our prayers. Life is not a restaurant. You can’t send the meal back when you don’t find it adequate enough. You have to trust that whatever you go through is answering prayer, breaking you down, only to build you back up and make you more like Christ, if you allow it to.
So run. Run up hills and climb over boulders. Push yourself. Cry, sweat, trip, throw up, walk, do whatever you need to do, but don’t give up. Don’t stop. Do not lose heart and do not grow weary. Our God has set the path before you, and knows every rock or obstacle that is on it. He has a plan and a purpose. Hold His hand, He is beside you in the refining fires of life. When you fall, He’s there. When you grow tired or weak, He is strong and faithful to lift you up, so that you may keep going on your path. So that you may finish the race set before you.

Never quit. Trust in His process. This is the call.

Acts 20:24  But none of these things move me; nor do I count my life dear to myself, so that I may finish my race with joy, and the ministry which I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God.

Victory

2/6/17

2 Samuel 5:19

So David inquired of the Lord, saying, “Shall I go up against the Philistines? Will You deliver them into my hand?” And the Lord said to David, “Go up, for I will doubtless deliver the Philistines into your hand”.

The Philistines…the enemy. They heard David had been anointed king, and so they went to find him. They went to destroy him. Immediately, David does none other than seek God for guidance. He doesn’t act off of impulse or emotion, although I would imagine he is probably feeling a lot of things right now.

“What should I do, Lord? How would you have me act in this moment?”

I do not ask this nearly enough. When difficulties arise – when the enemy tries to attack me – how often do I find myself inquiring of the Lord? Instead of saying, “Help me, Lord, what do I do?” I too quickly base my actions and thoughts off of what my feelings tell me I should do in the moment. This, I know, is so wrong. Forgive me, God, for acting on impulse and feeling.

So I certainly need to take a lesson from David here, as he models this amazing example of how to act in the midst of a difficult situation. But there’s something else that strikes me about this passage. David asks, essentially, how he should respond to this circumstance. He asks the Lord if he should fight. Then he asks if the Lord will help him win, should he fight. THE LORD ANSWERS. I repeat, we talk to a God who not only listens, but replies. That’s incredible. He tells David to fight, and that He will absolutely give David the victory.

The Philistines represent, to me, difficulties in life. Be them personal struggles, temptations, thoughts, etc. “God, should I fight against these things? And if I do, will you give me victory over them?” This is a timely passage, as, in one way or another, I have been inquiring this of the Lord. In the same way He answers David, He answers me. God wants me to fight, to do battle daily, not to fall prey to my enemies: my thoughts, feelings, and struggles. He has already given me the victory over these things of the flesh. “My enemies did their best to kill me, but the Lord rescued me. The Lord is my strength and my song; He has given me victory” Psalm 118:13&14.

Come to My Rescue

1/23/17

Psalm 91:15

When he calls to me,  I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble; I will rescue him and honor him.

Oh Lord, my God. You are infinitely beautiful in all You are. Thank You for hearing me when I cry out to You. No matter what time of day or how many times I stumble and fall, You are so gentle and loving to run to my aid. I need rescue absolutely constantly. At every moment I need Your protection and embrace. The enemy is out for destruction. I am in war. There isn’t a moment when bullets aren’t flying past me. I’m surrounded. And when I get shot, You run back from Your position and bring me to safety. You are next to me in this battle. In every battle. You don’t leave my side even when I ‘feel’ deserted.

The Lord has been teaching me to cry out to Him more. Especially when it comes to spiritual warfare going on in my mind. Just those little prayers of, “God, please help me” in a moment of attack have been so important. And this verse brings comfort. It reminds me that I have a loving and compassionate God. One who not only listens, but answers. One who is by my side through every struggle. But there, too, He goes above and beyond. He’s not only with me, but He rescues me. He snatches me away from the enemy-from myself. He pulls me out of the burning building, out of the ocean I was drowning in. He sees where we are, but never leaves us there when we ask for His help. And that’s the only ‘thing’.

We have to be faithful to the little things. To that first step of crying out. So often I am not. I’m somehow content to stay in the building that’s aflame, trying to find my way out. Eventually, my lungs fill with smoke. I’m fine with letting the waters wash over me, and take me to the depths. But He’s with me. I only need ask for His help and admit I do not have the capacity to save myself. It has to be an issue of none other than pride that holds someone-that holds me back-from asking for help.

I don’t want to go up in flames, and I don’t want to drown. I have the ultimate protector. The faithful shield and refuge. And He desires to rescue me from whatever trouble I face. “Come to Me all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” Matthew 11:28.