Tuesday, December 29, 2015

It Was Tough...But It Was Good!

This past year has been amazing.

 I graduated from high school. I got my full driver's license and have been enjoying driving my siblings around town. There were coffee dates with dear friends and kayaking adventures. Saturday morning Bible studies and soccer games. Another amazing week at Worldview Academy and an mission trip to Asia. New friends were made, old relationships were renewed, and existing relationships were strengthened.

But it's also been a tough year in a lot of ways. With the change of graduating high school and becoming a young adult came some changes in friend circles and a lot of new, rather important decisions that had to be made, which weren't very easy. I continued working at Bed Bath and Beyond this year, and that too had many challenges. Let's just say, retail isn't what I want to do for the rest of my life...

But when I look back on this year, the amount of growth that I experienced really stands out. And to be honest, a lot of that growth came from working through the tough situations. This year, I've really come to appreciate the trials in life. They aren't easy, but with perseverance and trust in God, they can bring a lot of good.

God did a huge change in my life this year.

For most of my life, I believed that I could never be a missionary in a foreign country. It seemed scary and dangerous and I didn't think that I had the qualifications necessary. I hoped that God would never call me to be a missionary. I had always had a heart for reaching the lost, but I wanted to do it from the comfort of home.

But the mission field seems to be where God is leading me right now. And I'm going rather willingly and excitedly! It still seems scary sometimes, but in light of how truly awesome God is, it really doesn't matter as much anymore.

This past fall, I went on a mission trip to Asia with a team of 5 other people from the Grace Church of Orange. In three weeks, we visited Cambodia, Singapore, and Vietnam. Although visiting Asia had previously never been on my bucket list because, honestly, I was scared to go, I felt like this was still a trip that God could use me on and grow me through. It was also my first opportunity to go on a mission trip. So with a mix of excitement and a bit of nervousness, I braved the 20+ hour flight to Cambodia with my team. The first couple of days were a little rough as I tried to adjust to my new surroundings. There was enough about where we were staying that was similar to home that it didn't feel too foreign, but it was still different, and the thought of staying there for 2 weeks was rather intimidating. But through prayer, God totally changed my heart and perspective towards my surroundings. Within days, I had developed a sincere love for the country and the amazing people that lived there. 

 (Bottom two pictures: PC-Michelle Goodyear)

There were definitely hardships about the trip, but to say that I was very glad that I went would be an understatement. God truly taught me so much through it. The biggest thing I learned is to not let my fears hold me back, but to instead trust in the One who is so much bigger than all of them and follow where He seems to be leading.

Which is what I'll be doing this coming year. Despite my former hesitations, I will be pursuing the mission field further. From January 5 to February 11, I will be attending a five-week cross-cultural ministry training course in Atlanta, GA. The course is through Encompass World Partners, a missions organization connected with the Grace Brethren Churches. It has been such a joy to get to know some of their staff the past couple of months as I went through their application process, and I can't wait to learn from them next month! In addition to class time, we will be serving with refugees and international students in the Atlanta area.

This year has been amazing, both because of the wonderful memories made and the amazing people who I got to meet AND because of the trials and what I learned through it. I honestly wouldn't trade any of it. And I am so very thankful for all of the people who supported me throughout this year through prayer and encouragement. The events of this year have certainly made the Body of Christ more precious. It has been so encouraging to see the various ways that God has been working this year, and I am looking forward to seeing what He does next year!

May you all have a wonderful New Year!

Friday, February 20, 2015

A New Adventure

For at least the past four years, I knew exactly what I wanted to do after high school.

Well, somewhat. I knew that I had a great interest in filmmaking and have enjoyed making several short productions with my siblings. (You can see some of our work here) At my parents' request, I had spent some time searching to see if there were any other interests that I could turn into a career, but I couldn't find anything else that I both wanted to do as a career and that I would want to go to school to learn. Filmmaking seemed to be the only thing that fulfilled both of those. I also was beginning to have a heart for helping people, and thought that maybe I could do that somehow through film.

But I had some doubts. As a young woman, if I ever had a family of my own, filmmaking would probably be a hard profession to balance along with running a home. I was interested in the areas of directing, editing, and cinematography, but I wasn't completely confident that I had the character qualities necessary, although people have complimented me on my work before. Directing would require me to be over people which requires a lot of confidence in myself and my abilities which I hadn't yet gained. I've had a somewhat shy personality for as long as I can remember and it still hasn't completely faded. I have also struggled with being able to get my ideas out clearly and explain things concisely and quickly. Filmmaking is very much a communicative industry. However, I figured that these were all skills that could be learned and gained with experience. Since I didn't know what else to do, and I liked the idea of making films for a living, I decided to move forward.

Moving forward for me meant spending hours of time researching colleges and the college admissions process. I wanted to learn as much as I could on my own since my mom was already busy homeschooling four other younger siblings. After scanning hundreds of college profiles, I narrowed down my list of prospective colleges to three private Christian colleges: one in California, one in Indiana, and one in Virginia. When it came time to apply to the colleges, for various reasons, I decided to only apply to my top school: the one in Virginia.

At the same time that I was going through the application process, my brother and I were taking a government class with several other home-school students. As the weeks progressed, I found myself taking a greater interest in certain people-related social issues such as abortion, homelessness, orphans, etc. Then for Christmas, my parents gave me a book entitled Kisses from Katie by Katie Davis, and I began reading it at the beginning of January. In this book, she tells the story of how she moved to Uganda straight out of high school with the intention of serving there for just a year and then going to college. But God had different plans for her and she has adopted several Ugandan girls and is continuing to live there past her one year agreement. I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book and several times it brought tears to my eyes as I read about the awesome things that God was able to do for people through her.

Because financial aid was going to be a major necessity for my college attendance, I decided to apply to a competition at the college that would be giving $40,000 to each of the 25 students selected to compete and a full scholarship to the final winner. I went through the process of submitting an essay and information on my extracurricular activities, and then I waited to hear back.

The application was submitted on Thursday, January 1. I heard back on Monday, January 12. I hadn't made the cut.

The very nice lady who called me said that although they had been impressed with my application, I hadn't been chosen to compete, but that if someone wasn't able to make it, she would see if I could fill the spot. For various reasons, I didn't think that it would be likely that I would be able to go back. But I wasn't discouraged. I knew that if I was really supposed to go to this school, God would bring it about somehow! I had no idea how, but I knew that I could trust Him. He has proven Himself faithful numerous times. My parents and I still needed to submit the FAFSA, so we figured we would wait and see what happened with that.

We never completed the FAFSA.

The Thursday after I had heard back from the college, God totally flipped everything upside down. As I was thinking back through the events of the past month, and especially the past few days, a thought came suddenly to my mind:

I don't think going to college to learn about film production is what I'm supposed to be doing.

Over the past few months, my desire for God to use me in others' lives has increased greatly, and I finally realized that this was my primary goal for life, more so than working in film. Since serving God and people is really my goal, I didn't see a good reason for me to go to college when I could begin serving Him right now. Why spend several years of my life all the way on the opposite side of the US paying thousands of dollars when I could get involved with a ministry here in my community for free? I think God gave me the interest in film for a reason and I might still use it in the future, but I don't believe anymore that that is what God is calling me to do with my life. I am now hoping to get involved weekly with a local organization.

I thought that I was pretty confident when I was pursuing film that I was following the right path, but now I am even more confident that I am headed in the right direction. The confidence has only increased with more time and thought.

Although the future still looks a little vague since I don't know which organization I will be working with, I know God will bring along the perfect opportunity for me and I'm really excited to see what God will be doing in my life in this next year! It will certainly be an adventure.  =)