Sunday, August 22, 2010

I have rotten ears. Not in the literal sense, of course, but figuratively it describes my newest challenge.

Think of an apple. If an apple is not eaten and used to fulfill it's purpose (provide nutrients for the human body) it begins to rot and decay, leaving it nasty and useless. This is how I feel my "listening ears" have become. I have realized this week that I am an awful listener. Most of the time when someone is talking to me, I'm thinking about the next thing I'm going to say. How rude! Our ears are supposed to be used for listening to others and learning about others' needs, wants, experiences. If I'm so focused on me, how can I ever truly sympathize with someone, relate to someone, hear someone. Maybe it's not even me thinking about myself, but being concerned with my cellphone, the Internet, or someone else. I know if the tables were swapped and I was the one being treated like this, I would feel very inadequate and unheard.

My newest challenge is to really listen- even to the point of sharing in others' joy and pain. I'm turning my listening ears on.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010


Here it is. The blog I've been waiting so long to write. The blog description of my summer.

Honestly, it's impossible for me to describe my summer in a word, a sentence, or even 5 pages. It was an experience that unless you were there, you couldn't understand. I feel like that's how everyone's summer was. Even the people that I was with this summer had different experiences and came out differently changed than me. But maybe, as I tell you the aftermath of the summer, you can get a feel of what it was like for me, and how I've been changed.

Arriving in Birmingham on Friday, August 6th, with the team I had spent 75 days enduring, ministering, and loving with, was as surreal as leaving my family and friends for three months of work with 25 people I did not know. I say this, because at the beginning of the summer that's what I thought I was doing-leaving home to work a simple job that would be over in three months. Yeah, I would get to know the people, and I would travel to many different states and see many places I had never seen before. And yes, I would leave with a pretty good paycheck, only to return to Alabama with the same plan and goals I'd had for years.

Later that Friday evening with only one of my team members riding beside me, I returned home. Thankfully, I was able to ease into real life, as Nabo and I got pedicures, went to Walmart (without a time limit!), watched the End of the Year video, and cried our way through Dear John. We went to bed around 9:30, easily drifting into sleep in my cozy bed. The next day, we met her mom for lunch, and I drove back home. I was by myself, driving, and not on a schedule-three things that had been remotely impossible for the 75 days prior. Surprisingly, I was okay. I didn't even cry.

Then came Sunday. It hit me sitting in the pew of my home church. I was only a couple rows over from where I gave my life to Christ, my brother sitting beside me, watching my mom play the piano as beautifully as ever, surrounded by people who love me. But it hit me. It took all I had not to stand up and run out, knowing that I was about to start the ugly cry. Sitting in a church that I had grown up in, watching the same people do pretty much the same thing, with about the same enthusiasm they've always had. Not saying that their worship was fake, or that the Spirit was stagnant, but it was all just so familiar. EVERYTHING that I had experienced for the last three months had been unfamiliar, new, and life-changing. I was used to participating in every service, hearing new modern worship songs played every morning and evening, and seeing the Lord move in so many different ways that I didn't know how to handle it. It wasn't strange to see students and leaders running out of the service, so they could confess, repent, and surrender to their convictions. I was accustomed to worshipping and ministering beside people whose heart beat to the same tune as mine, and equally, if not more, pursued the Lord's face daily. Everything was amazing. Everything was a blessing. Everything was a miracle waiting to happen.

I knew it would be hard returning back to normalcy after such an incredible summer. It's in the little things, like accidently bumping someone in line at a restaurant and not apologizing, because you were used to having your team surrounding you at all times. Like needing gaf tape to make a label for something and not having any. Like wanting to put drape up around the stage at your church, because the bare screens annoy you. Like thinking you're dreaming, because you're spending time with your brother. And finally, thinking constantly about what the other 25 people you experienced this with are doing throughout the day.

But back to the life-change. During the summer, the Lord really opened my eyes to how much I love ministry and serving Him. At one point during the summer I was ready to go straight into the mission when I returned home. Pack up my bags and move to Africa-thinking that it would be the only way to serve the Lord like he wanted. Satan knew that I was weak, and so he constantly sat on my shoulder and told me that I was being selfish staying in America and getting an education. I was very emotionally unstable and fearful of what God's plan for my life might be, so I confessed to my team my fears and asked for prayer. I am so thankful that I was given boldness for this, because through my brothers and sisters, my Heavenly Father began to speak. The words of advice spoken to me directed me towards insight and understanding, which ultimately brought my heart peace. Because sometimes we get in our minds what "missions" looks like. We get our concept of how we would best serve our Maker, but that might not be the path God wants us to take. I know that I want to serve in another country someday, but that doesn't mean I need to be ignorant and move to another country without investigation. The Lord of compassion gave me community, showing me that I'm not alone, and many other of my team members have the same yearnings and desires as me. He gave me a new trust in Him, and the desire to wake up every day and ask Him to use me as His disciple in whichever way He sees fit. He gave me the peace to return to school okay with the fact that I might not want to pursue dentistry, but maybe teaching, or maybe something else, but just the peace to be okay with uncertainty.

He also gave me 25 brothers and sisters who taught me, invested in me, and ministered to me in ways I could have never imagined. For that I am grateful, and because of them I am forever changed.

So as this summer ends, and I return back to "real life" and school, I have a new understanding, knowledge, and desire to truly seek Abba, our Heavenly Father, His work, His people and His will daily. All I have left to say is thank you. I love you, OT'10.