Getting what I asked for.

Say hi to my best friend and roommate for the past two years, Amy! 

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For those of you who don’t know, I have been preparing to teach conversational English in Mongolia this summer. Throughout the past few months of preparing for the trip, my heart has had one specific request: use me. However, my request came to life last week a lot sooner than I had thought it would.

I received an email a couple of weeks ago asking if I would be willing to consider changing my location for the summer. Meaning, instead of going to Mongolia, I would go to Hong Kong. I was torn. I thought of the conversations I’ve had with people and the research on the country that I’ve begun. Could I really change my plans so easily?

After a few days of thinking on it, I decided I would reach out to the program, see if the positions had been filled, and go from there. As divine timing would have it, the program actually reached out to me first, and asked once again if I would be willing to change locations. This time though, my roommate and best friend was included in the message.

We learned only one other person was considering changing their trip to go to Hong Kong instead of their current plans. At this point, we realized the urgency of the need. For two days, we sought wisdom from the Father and discussed it with one another nearly nonstop. During this time, my heart remembered that consistent request: use me. I couldn’t shake it, and I don’t think it was a coincidence. At the center of that request was the decision I knew I needed to make.

I wrestled with doubts, but ultimately, they all came back to temporary concerns and fears. As I thought back on the story that has been unfolding, I was reminded that the consistent string is my desire to serve with the program’s mission; location was never at the forefront of my mind. That might sound backward, but ultimately, the Father is nurturing a season in my heart that simply wants to get to work. I was reminded (what felt like) incessantly of my heart’s request: use me.

When I got back to the dorm the night before we needed to confirm our decision, I told Amy, “I think I need to go to Hong Kong,” and she agreed. Just like that, our minds were made up. We were going to Hong Kong. Immediately, we started freaking out because we get to travel across the world together and couldn’t be more excited.

But just to be sure, I slept on the decision. When I awoke at 6 AM the next morning, Hong Kong was my first thought. Amy and I told our program manager at the same time, and an excitement filled my heart because I didn’t doubt it anymore. We were making the right decision.

So what does this mean now? I will leave for my trip about 1.5 weeks later than I had originally planned, but the basic structure of my role as a teacher will be the same. Other than the fact I will be in a huge city instead of a rural area is probably the biggest difference in my trip planning now.

Obviously, a change of plans was not in my agenda. But, I trust in the Father and His ability to respond to my heart when it repeats: use me. I’m sure He could have used me in Mongolia, but I also knew there was a desperate need in Hong Kong for teachers this summer— I don’t think I could have gone anywhere else this summer without wondering about the work there.

I have asked for a lot of encouragement and financial help from loved ones, and want to put it to good work. I know this isn’t a very brief update, but the more I think about this story, the more amazed I am. The Father’s faithfulness is abounding, and has become increasingly evident in this story these past several months. I’m thrilled that He would plant me in this place at a time like this, and graciously guide every single step.

Not to mention, I get to do incredible works and experience an entirely new culture with one of my best friends — yay! 🙂

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A messy, wonderful, completely humiliating story.

 

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I have been working on a fundraising letter to inspire others to partner with me on my trip to Mongolia. For weeks, the contents of this one piece of paper have been at the forefront of my mind.

And during those weeks, my mom and I have printed hundreds of pages on a printer that is honestly a miracle. Travis has begun tri-folding dozens of letters, and even worked it down to a science knowing exactly which paragraph to bring the corners of the paper to. Like a bed time story, I spend most nights typing in a few more addresses and writing a few more notes of encouragement. And when the morning comes, I put a rubber band around the few sealed and full envelopes, checkmark the name on my list, and carry them to that big blue box.

No one told me how difficult this would be. I’ll say that up front, because I love letters and I love snail mail, but this hasn’t been a stroll around a white picket fence. This has been extremely difficult to do with excellence and grace. I’m a little more brave about this now. But the night before the first bundle left my grasp, I couldn’t fall asleep and I dreamt about it when I finally did.

It was a Monday afternoon when I made that first drive with the bundle in my hand. I counted the stack at least a dozen times just as I sat in traffic. And every time, I came up with 10. Ten letters. Ten stamps. Ten addresses. Ten people– at least.

As I thumbed through these thick white envelopes, I realized that after hours of preparing to send a story of belief and humility to my best friends and family, it was finally happening. My request for advice, prayer, and financial support was finally inked to a page that would be read by hundreds of eyes; it was completely humiliating.

I made it to the post office. And again, by the grace of my Father I walked with dignity to buy the first two books of stamps and send the first bundle away. I bought the ones with the flowers on them, and then stood to the side to triple-check each envelope and seal them shut. Even though I knew they were ready to go, my mind made up every reason to check them again; I was nervous. They were both tiny and mighty, and it made me nervous to see them like that.

I remembered once more that within just a few days, people would tear through these letters and read about the things that terrify me and excite me all at once. My heart uttered a few words, and it was one of those moments where I just needed to audibly hear someone else’s voice. It was one of those moments where you call your mother just so you can hear her say hello, and feel less alone as you tell her every little detail about that moment you’re standing in. I gave her a moment by moment commentary, from the time I walked to the big blue box, to the moment I shut my letters inside.

And just like that, it was out of my control. There were no fireworks. There was no one there to pat me on the back and throw me a high five. There was just that sealed blue box, my mother’s resounding “Yay!” on the other line, and me. It was the most mundane, wonderful moment I’ve ever experienced.

That was the first moment I realized how long this process would be. I stood fully aware that the first round of support letters would made their routes to Indiana, Idaho, and all over Tennessee— from Knoxville to Dickson– and that was completely out of my hands now. Literally.

Honestly, that terrified me. But, I couldn’t stop. I couldn’t stop marking those envelopes. I couldn’t wait to get back to my dorm, and start bundle two. I couldn’t forget why I came to do this work in the first place. Because here’s the thing: it’s so much more than asking for things. Those letters aren’t just humiliating requests for the things I so desperately need right now. Those letters aren’t just me taking away the bricks that make up the wall of pride in my heart—

Those letters are invitations to walk into this story with me. Those letters are invitations to hear the heights and depths of my heart. Those letters are invitations to hear my voice shake when I tell you how hard it was to make this decision, and to see my smile when I tell you why I made this decision. These words are the season of life I am in and the realization that life is so much bigger than just me. 

I know there is power in a story. He tells me my times are in His hands, and I believe who my Father has said I am. Yes, there is power in a story and in those “humiliating” letters I’ve been sending.

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The beautiful thing is when the letters began to arrive. The people on my send-list— they got theirs and they went out of their way to tell me. In the coming days, I smiled real big when a few of those friends did tell me they were praying for me and loved the note I sent them. Their sweet, sweet encouragement meant so much and I am still carrying it with me today. If you ever wonder if you’re important, and all the kindness and encouragement that comes with you, the answer is yes. Yes. Absolutely. Without a doubt.

Today, I have sent over 40 and am still looking at at least another 75 to distribute. My passport came last week, and it was a physical realization that this is happening sooner rather than later. And tomorrow, I’ll admit that I’m still trying to learn all I can about Mongolia every day.

Especially tomorrow morning, I’ll keep pushing to get these letters in the box. That blue box, or the mailbox just outside my parents’ home in the country, is becoming a different meaning within my heart. It’s becoming a symbol of how empowered, yet totally limited I am. I can write these letters, and in my heart utter all the love and grace I can muster toward their recipients. But the truth is, once they’re sealed and put in the box, I have given away my control and have given it to the work of a Story I alone could not write. 

Throughout this entire journey, I’m still in awe that I have this chance to continue. Even now, things are coming together and working themselves out. The wonderful thing is I have no clue what’s happening and how; and yet, I am completely enjoying this. No stress. No worries. And whatever fears are attempting to creep in, I am banishing by the grace of my Father. My spirit is rejoicing and my heart is yearning to continue growing like never before.

May this truth become bigger every day.