The Full Effect of Steadfastness

“And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing”. James 1:4

Six months in Montana. It feels as though I have been here forever. I attribute that feeling to the inordinate amount of growth, change, transition, and general life that happens while working in full-time ministry. It is crazy, but there is not ever a dull moment. I wouldn’t trade it for anything! God is certainly outside of time!

I barely recall arriving here a day later than planned (due to unforeseen weather issues my plane was unable to land in Montana. I had to fly back to and spend the night at the airport in Seattle). I was nervous to come up here. I had no idea what God wanted to do with me: in Montana, in Potter’s Field Ministries, in Mudman, and in my heart. I asked the Lord for a ‘word’ when I flew out from Seattle. That ‘word’ was that God desired to work into me the full effect of steadfastness.

Through all the (seeming) chaos, through all the great joy and great sorrow, through the mundane and the truly inspirational, through all the time that passed as I was living life, I had mostly forgotten that the Lord told me what He was going to do in me. Forgive me for so easily losing sight, Heavenly Father. 

I have learned that walking through the Refiner’s fire does include being burned. And that hurts. It is a reality. Yet, I have come to the place where I never want to stop feeling the heat and un-comfortability of the flames. Whatever it is that brings me to my knees before God is something I’ve learned to be thankful for. I’d rather be pressed and pushed to run into His arms than to be complacent, self-deceived, and in the place where I think I can handle everything on my own. I cannot. I just cannot do it myself. I am weak. I am sinful. I am in desperate need of my Savior every moment of every day.

But I am guilty of forgetting. Guilty of losing vision. Guilty of doubting and believing the lies in my head. I am guilty of not giving all of me to Jesus who died for me.

I am guilty.

But He washes me clean- free of all guilt and shame. I am free to live fully for Him. How does this freedom manifest itself? By pouring my life out as a drink offering. Giving ‘it’ (whatever ‘it’ may be in that day) my everything. Recklessly abandoning myself to and for the Lord. Living, whole-heartedly for Him at absolutely any cost.

Simply put, it more often than not looks like Mudman: a gourmet burger joint that is being blessed by God to abundance. We serve an amazing burger that serves an even more amazing purpose. All profits go back to feeding kids around the world. It is a beautiful opportunity to share with the customers about the Lord. That might look like talking about Potter’s Field Kid’s Clubs and the time spent in our field locations (my six months in Kenya, for example), or that could be through genuine care and concern for each person that walks into our two restaurants, up to the food truck, or drives up to the hut.

Even when it is hard- even when it hurts- I live a life with the Lord I could never have imagined in my pathetic, low-reaching dreams. He used Potter’s Field Ministries to breath life back into me. I was revived from death and destruction. The road I walked led to a place completely devoid of hope, joy, or love. I now have those things, as well as much more, to overflow. The encouragement I have received in little glimpses are things I am seeking never to let go of. They remind me of what I was and what would have been. I am alive today. That is a miracle of God.

And so, as per usual, I have no idea what the future holds. My only expectation these days is this:

“…exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think…” Ephesians 3:20

God is moving mightily in my heart, in the Flathead Valley of Montana, and around the world. I am running this race with all that I am and I will not stop. I am locking arms with some of the coolest, craziest, and most Spirit-filled/Spirit-led people I get the distinct pleasure of calling my family. We are all-in.

At any cost.

‘Til the whole world hears.

I will press on. I will be steadfast and immovable through the power of the incredible God I get to serve. To Him be the glory.

 

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“I Will”

Isaiah 45:2

“I will go before you and level the exalted places, I will break in pieces the doors of bronze and cut through the bars of iron”.

We start with a promise. If I’m being honest, this is scary already. Not as in, “Ah! I’m scared!”, of course, but, I must begin by taking God Almighty at His word. What is His word worth to me?

From what I’d call a ‘cultural’ standpoint, I was raised as most from the east coast are raised. Unfortunately, we’re taught to pretty much always assume the worst of every person. We don’t say “hello” when we pass by someone walking down the street. We always make sure to lock the house door (even when we’re home), and our cars get locked when they’re parked in the driveway. If you’re a little ‘out-of-the-box’, maybe you’re friends with your neighbors. I could continue this list for too long of a time, that adds up (and make living in a place like Montana very interesting!) to my general skepticism toward people.

To add to this, it’s something I’m positive I’ve shared before and will likely share again, but I’m not exactly a trusting person. I am the doubter and natural skeptic. People promise things all the time. As I look back at my life, I see the damage of humans making promises to me. The wreckage is vast, coming in the form of general sentiments of friendship, intentions of making ‘good’ things happen in the future, prevention of ‘bad’ things occurring, and my personal favorite: “I love you”. All fell short. Painfully short, leaving me to wonder, time after time, who could possibly be worthy of my trust.

All of that to say, this is what I bring to the table whenit comes to a promise. The Lord is (and has been) teaching me quite a bit about the fact that He is unlike any other person. That lesson is prevalent in this verse and the others that follow it. So already I must decide: do I trust Him? Will I?

He has gone before me. If I’m resting in this promise, it brings exactly that: rest. I have nothing to fear. He will bring victory into my life. He means what He says. The ESV reads:

“…and level the exalted places…”

It makes a note of literally meaning to level the mountains. What an amazing image to have! I live in a valley here in Montana, so no matter which way I turn I can see mountains. They are huge. Logically, I think there could be no way even one of these mountains could be brought down a little, never mind completely flattened.

God faithfully parallels mountains to the trials in my life-these big, breath-taking things that are constantly in my face. Everywhere I turn I see them. Physically and figuratively, I am surrounded. But God. He promises that He will (and has!) leveled the mountains. He has already won the battle. My God has declared victory. Not only have the mountains been conquered…He has LEVELED them! I am meant to continue walking forward without trouble, for there is nothing standing in my way- the obstacles have been eradicated.

I really don’t live with this in mind enough. I look around. I size myself up to these mountains, shrinking back cowardly. How could I climb this? How could I ever move past it? It’s enormous! This is where fail to take God at His word. I belittle Him as if my mountains are too big for Him to handle.

Other times, I just grow weary. I fight in my own strength, wasting my breath because God has already fought and won. I lose momentum. I’m tired of climbing this same mountain. I’m done facing it. I can’t do this anymore…So I don’t. I hold onto my rights and stay inthe valley. The low place. Ultimately short-changing myself and disobeying what the Lord has asked me to do daily: pick up my cross and follow Him.

In fact, I have mountains tattooed on my arm as a huge reminder for me. They are encapsulated by a triangle. The three sides representing the three parts of the trinity. God has the mountains. He contains them-He sees them, He knows them. At the top of the triangle reads: At any cost. That means regardless of what these mountains hold, regardless of if I am tired, no matter what I lose in the end, I will climb these mountains. I will press on through trials because I can always hold onto the simple truth:

He will go before me. He has already had victory. He has and will and is fully capable of bringing down any and all mountains in my life.

“…I will break in pieces the doors of bronze and cut through the bars of iron”.

There is also strong imagery, here. Literally! I picture huge doors- those guarding the entry to a fortified city or a castle. They are heavy. Unable to be lifted in human strength. You would be crushed under the weight of a bronze door. And bars of iron? I think of prison bars. Not escapable. It would take a powerful saw to cut through those bars. But in merely human strength? Impossible to do.

I can see the God I serve is in the business of promising me impossible things. And I am clearly in the business of shrinking Him down to human standards. But in this verse, He promises to essentially shatter any stronghold in my life. He is promising to set me free of the jail cell I so often willingly sit in. The Lord promises:

“I will”.

Father, forgive me for my unbelief. You know, by nature, I am skeptical, and You know of my trust issues. But You are so much bigger. You are deserving of my trust. You have never left me nor forsaken me, and I thank You for that. Remind me of truth when I begin to doubt. When I look around and only see the size of the mountains, will You please teach me to step forward in faith, believing You have already won the victory in my life? 

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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

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.