Friday, April 25, 2008

My journey starts here...

The world sends us messages to tell us who we should be or how we should act.  Before I became friends with God, I listened to what the world was saying to me.  It led me down a path of pain, emptiness, and despair.

My parents separated when I was two and divorced when I was four.  My dad came in and out of my life as he pleased, leaving me void of the father I really needed.  This led me to a struggle to feel beautiful, I never felt pretty enough the way that I was.  In fourth grade, I was sexually abused.  In fifth or sixth grade my brother moved out, and after that it was just my mom and me – through middle school and high school.  My mom developed physical and mental health problems, so oftentimes I was acting as the mother rather than the child.  I felt so lonely and often like an orphan.  All I wanted was a mother to love me and to take care of me.  Along the way, I found depression to be one of my closest companions.  I often had thoughts of suicide and self-harm.

I began to listen to the world in search of the guidance I was missing.  As a result I began to compromise my purity.  I often told dirty jokes and my mind was usually in the gutter.  I started to do things that fed my sexual cravings.  I looked to the world to find my beauty and they said, “Sir…err, uh…ma’am.”  My femininity was stripped from me.  I had the body parts of a female, but I felt masculine in nature.  Soon enough, I became confused about my sexual orientation.  The world told me that the answer to my problems was to be gay.  The guidance for which I looked to the world, only made me more confused and empty.  I had no hope for a better family, my impure thoughts and actions always left me wanting more – I was never satisfied, and I just didn’t like the thought of being gay – I hoped that there was another option.

About this time of desperation, my next door neighbor invited me to her church’s youth group.  My mom had taken my brother and me to church when we were young.  I remember accepting Christ at a young age, but I didn’t fully understand what that meant.  I understood that God had rules for me to follow, so I aimed to be a good person and follow the rules.  I thought I did a pretty good job, and because of that, I considered myself a Christian.  Since I was already a Christian, it seemed logical to go to church with my neighbor, so I did.  It was then that my life began to change.  I learned things about God that I didn’t know before.  I learned that this God could be my Father.  I really liked the sound of that, so I started to talk to God and read my Bible.  In this new relationship, I found hope, a hope that gave me the strength to keep on living amidst the pain.  God told me that he had a plan, a good reason why my life was so hard.  His Bible says that “we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”  This verse meant that God had a reason why I was going through hard times with my mom and my family.  Whenever I was faced with thoughts of suicide or self-harm, I remembered this verse, and it gave me a reason to keep pressing on.  I now had a hope and soon I found a new family – God’s family.  God was now my Father and I his child, and I gained brothers and sisters who loved me and looked out for me.

Then I started to understand about Jesus.  I had been doing these things that were bad in God’s eyes.  I wasn’t the goody-goody I always thought I was.  I realized that because I had done these things I had put a barrier between myself and God, a barrier that I could not remove by my own efforts.  I also found out that because of my disobedience, I had to pay the penalty.  The penalty for disobedience is death, which is separation from God.  I loved God, He was my Father, and I desperately wanted to be with him.  What could I do?  Then, I remembered Jesus.  I had heard that Jesus paid the penalty of death by dying on a cross.  He paid my penalty, so that I didn’t have to.  I told God that I was sorry for the bad things I was doing and that I wanted to stop.  I trusted that Jesus took the punishment for my disobedience so that my relationship with my Father, with God, could be restored.  But the best part is that Jesus didn’t just die on a cross, he was resurrected, meaning he was brought back to life.  God said that if I trust in Jesus’ death and resurrection, that I too would die and start a new life.  This new life would be free from my past; I would no longer be haunted by the things I had done.  Jesus took my old identity and replaced it with his, so when God looks at me he doesn’t see my past acts of disobedience, he sees Jesus and his perfect obedience.  What a joyful realization it is to know that Jesus did the work to remove the barrier between God and me and that because I trust in Jesus, nothing can ever separate me from my Father again!  I had started a new life with God.  I had finally found the love and family I always wanted, and I was finally freed from the guilt that held me captive.

From then on, it has been a continual growth process – I didn’t change overnight.  I began to ask God for my identity.  I started reading my Bible to find out what my life was supposed to look like.  Some things were easy to quit, but other things took years to overcome, and even now I still struggle with wanting to disobey God.  Even though I have started a new life with God, I am not free from hard times.  God is still in the process of healing the relationships within my family, so some days are good, but other days are like things have never changed.  Life is still hard, but now as I walk through life I am never alone, though I may sometimes feel lonely.  At the end of a hard day, I have a Father who wraps me in his arms and comforts me.  He finds me lovely and delights in blessing me everyday.  I have a new perspective on life that comes from my new identity.  I have a purpose filled with love that drives my life forward.  I am no longer confused or guilt-tripped by what the world says, for now I listen to God, my Daddy, to define who I am.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

A longer update will be coming soon

So a few things have happened as far as financial support is concerned, 1) I forgot to add in my $200 deposit before, so that kicked up my totals quite a bit, 2) I got another check today, yay!, and finally 3) I've set my own financial goal. I need $4700 for my trip but I'm setting the goal of $5100. I added in $400 to pay for my stateside plane ticket. I am praying in faith, and feel very confident that God will provide abundantly. My mom is praying for $5200, but I don't really know what the extra is for, but knowing how God uses her, she's probably on to something I don't see. So right now I need $375 by May 1st and I am 25% of the way to my new goal. God is just so awesome!

I am almost finished with this semester. Two more papers and I'm free for a couple of weeks, when summer classes will start. Once I'm done writing papers for school I'm going to get on here and write a lot. This semester has been really difficult and I want to reflect on what God has done, because He's done a lot. He's been teaching me a lot and I want to share that too. Hopefully, I will remember it all.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Another update because God is good!

18.62% with $875.00

$775.00 to go for my first deadline on May 1st (Wow, I just realized I'm more than halfway there, cool!)

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Support update

I received two more envelopes today. One that really made me smile came from the Z radio station (88.3 FM). I love that they don't even know me, yet obey God by faith, and support a sister. Ahh, I love family. : ) So now I have 85% to go! Awesome! God is good.

My first financial deadline is coming up in two weeks - May 1st. I need to have $1650 total by then. I have $925 dollars to raise in two weeks. =O So far 92 support letters have been sent out...that is amazing! I remember last year when I struggled to come up with 50 names of people to whom I could send letters. Of those, 9 have responded thus far. : ) Aside from letters I guess I'm starting to brainstorm ideas for fundraisers. I'm thinking maybe a field day, bake/dessert sale, movie night-in (stolen idea), ooh, maybe even a walk/jog-a-thon! That would be sweet!

With that said, please be praying for the development, planning, and implementation of a fundraiser (most likely the walk/jog-a-thon for now). Ask God to give me wisdom about location, date, time, etc, and the logistics of how it works. And of course, be praying for God to call on people to participate and help me raise money - without people it will be pointless.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

So I just wanted to write a little update

I now have $625 in financial support, and $4,075 to go. I also have five reported prayer supporters, though I'm sure others are praying, I just don't know it.

Aside from that, school is out of control, but after Tuesday the hectic-ness should be over...for a little while anyway (I've already received one summer class' required book list). I had a great day on Saturday. I traveled down to West Palm Beach to visit family then to go see a friend's dance show. I had the best day at the beach playing with my cousins, then back at the house playing with Nerf guns. Haha, it made me feel like a kid again. : ) Then, I went across town to this amazing show complete with live dance (of course), an orchestra, and live opera singers. Did I mention it was amazing?!!! I could definitely go to those kind of shows every weekend. It was the best vacation that I've had in a while, it was a nice surprise and break from my life. I wish the happy effects lasted longer. : / But that's it for now, seeing as I need to sleep and finish my homework.

Friday, April 4, 2008

God's calling is getting louder

So I'm a junior at UCF and I will be graduating next spring. As this realization has made it's way to the surface of my thoughts I have begun to think about what's next. I can't stay with my uncle forever and I would like to move out into a place of my own, and preferably live with some friends, but who knows. But more so than that, what's after graduation? God had revealed some options last semester and they have become more clear over the course of this semester. Some have already started to fade in light of God's plan being revealed. I have been really praying and asking God "What's next?" for about, a week I guess. Tonight, I think I got my answer, or at least the beginnings of one. I was driving home from Crave tonight and the song that just 'happened' to be playing (God does this a lot - uses music to speak to me while I'm driving) was "Lead Me to the Cross" by Hillsong (AmAzInG band!). Here are the lyrics, the bold, italicized ones are the words that really reached my heart tonight.
Savior I come
Quiet my soul remember
Redemptions hill
Where Your blood was spilled
For my ransom
Everything I once held dear
I count it all as lost

Lead me to the cross
Where Your love poured out
Bring me to my knees
Lord I lay me down
Rid me of myself
I belong to You

Lead me, lead me to the cross

You were as I
Tempted and trialed
You are
The word became flesh
Bore my sin and death
Now you're risen

To your heart
To your heart
d me to your hear
Lead me to your heart
So like I said I've been praying a lot about what God has next for me. Basically the options that I see are get a teaching job and/or continue school, or intern with Crusade (Campus Crusade for Christ). Originally I thought I would be interning with Student Venture the high school ministry of Cru, but tonight I had a new thought. I thought about this semester. I have been so overwhelmed lately with school and homework that has been put on the back burner, mainly just one class, but nonetheless the back burner. I love school and especially the curriculum that I'm learning. I love going to class and learning this stuff and when I leave I can't wait to go study it...but it doesn't happen like that. (Everything I once held dear I count it all as lost.)

Rewind a second. Last summer I went on summer project with Crusade to Newcastle, Australia (and I'm going again this summer!). God did a major work in my heart and when I came back I had a fire burning within me. I had a passion for prayer and evangelism. So I started some prayer meetings, that eventually fizzled out (because they were at 7:30 in the morning) but the times we met were amazing and I really miss it. Somewhere toward the end of the semester I met up with a friend and we started to do spiritual surveys once a week. This semester we continued with the weekly evangelism. It is one of the greatest blessings in my life. I meet so many people and although I haven't seen much fruit from it, I see God working in students' hearts and I see fruit in my life, as well as others who join me. God has continued to increase my passion for His people and expanding His Kingdom.

So to finally tie all these loose ends together...I feel like God is calling me into full-time ministry (wow, that's a scary thing to say, admit, realize, and accept). Probably not my whole life, but at least for a period. Each week I am so encapsulated by doing His work that homework doesn't even matter anymore. It sounds terrible, I know, and I feel bad sometimes that I'm not giving more attention to school, but this is where God has taken my heart. I am currently discipling a fellow college student. I can't explain how much of a joy it is to spend time with this girl and tell her about Jesus and the wonderful things He has for her. I can't even describe with words how it makes my heart soar, to be used by God in such a life-changing way, and make that kind of an impact in somebody's life! You can't get any better than that! I also am a part of giving free hugs on Wednesdays, which is way cool. I mention these things not to try to make myself look good or righteous but to give you an idea of the passions God has put on my heart. When I think about all that I have to do right now, I would much rather be producing eternal fruit rather than just finite knowledge. All this to say that I have a passion for high school and middle school students, but I also have a passion for college students and maybe God is calling me to intern with Crusade at UCF and then Student Venture a little later. I can't think of anything better than sharing God with students all day.

This is big, scary, and I know it. I feel it and it's slightly terrifying. What will my family say? Will they understand? But as terrifying as it is, it's so wonderful and good, because God is calling me to such a larger adventure than I would have taken, and it's exciting! I know He will take care of me, I just have to find rest in that peaceful truth. So please be praying for me as God continues to reveal His will and continues to show me where He is taking me the next few years. Pray for confirmation and peace to come to my soul. Thanks.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

My first post

Hello! So I decided to start a blog mainly for those of you who have joined my support team as I travel to Australia this summer, but I'm sure the rest of my life will creep in as well. I have sent out most of my support letters and have received $425 in financial support and five prayer partners in only a matter of days. Can I just express how good God is?! He is amazing! I have been so encouraged by all mys supporters thus far and I can't wait to see how God is going to use so many others. Well, I can't stay long because I have many homework assignments waiting for my attention. Talk to you soon!