Preparing for Poland
You steady me
Slow and sweet, we sway.
Take the lead, and I will follow.
Finally ready now
To close my eyes and just believe
That you won't lead me where you don't go.
When my faith gets tired,
and my hope seems lost,
You spin me around and around
and remind me of that song
the one you wrote for me
and we dance.
WE DANCE by Bethel Music
I'm in the home stretch. I leave for Poland in about a month. There are so many thoughts and feelings bubbling up inside me at all times.
Anticipation, excitement, anxiety, fear, hope, wonder, and so many more.
This trip will be my first time out of the country, my first time traveling by myself, and my first time being in a foreign country.
Unlike Ron Weasley, I don't have the emotional range of a teaspoon. I'm more of Rapunzel from Tangled right after she leaves the tower. In a short amount of time, I go through a wide variety of emotions. Especially when I start thinking about the fact that I will be leaving for Poland soon. In this sea of conflicting emotions, the only thing that seems to steady me is God.
I was feeling a whirlwind of emotions when my friend Faith sent me a link to the song above. You can listen to it here as you continue reading this post.
You steady me. Slow and sweet, we sway. Take the lead, and I will follow. Finally ready now to close my eyes and just believe that you won't lead me where you don't go.
For the most part, I'm really excited to go to Poland, but there's also this fear and anxiety that keeps creeping up.
A few weeks ago, I felt like all of the people around me kept bringing up people that were martyred for their faith, so I started thinking to myself: What if I die in Poland? What if I'm martyred? What if I'm going to die young? Especially with everything going on in Ukraine, these fears seemed plausible and I started to feed them. If it wasn't for a friend, who went on a similar trip last summer, speaking truth into my life and gently encouraging me with, "Madi, you're not going to die in Poland. No one has ever died during this program," I probably would still be convinced that every time someone brought up suffering, that was a sign from God preparing me for martyrdom.
The human heart likes to tell lies. But God and His Word are the truth.
In a sea of fears about being martyred or about support raising or even sharing the good news of Jesus with people, God is steadying me, slow and sweet, we sway.
When I am afraid, I put my trust in you.
In God, whose word I praise -
In God, I trust and am not afraid.
What can mere mortals do to me?
Psalm 56: 3-4
To close my eyes and just believe that you won't lead me where you don't go.
When I go to Poland in a month, I'm going to one of the most spiritually dead areas in the world. It might look beautiful, but spiritually, it's very dark. Apart from my team, there are very few believers in the town that I'm going to. The community of believers is small, but we're not alone. I won't be alone. God won't lead me where He won't go. God is going with me, and that gives me so much hope.
When my faith gets tired, and my hope seems lost, you spin me around and around and remind me of that song the one you wrote for me, and we dance.
Right now, I'm at the end of the semester. I am tired. I'm ready to be done. The only thing getting me through is the fact that summer is so close and that Jesus suffered far worse than my measly papers and films due. But I think this "suffering" and exhaustion is preparing me for Poland. I'm guessing that there will be times this summer when I'm exhausted, believing lies, tempted to despair, and afraid. But God will remind me of that song that He wrote for me then as He reminds me of it now.
But when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God.
When Jesus died on the cross for the sins of the world and was raised from the dead, the battle was won. It was finished. God is victorious. He is the hero of the story. He has won the battle. But the Enemy doesn't get that he lost, and he's still trying to fight the war. So until Jesus returns to show the Enemy once and for all his rightful place, those that believe have an opportunity to share the good news, the gospel. And the good news is that Jesus has won. He is victorious. He defeated sin and death, and he died for the sins of the world so that we could be made right with God. This summer, and for the rest of my life, I get to share that message. I don't have to, but I want to!
Why? Because wouldn't you want to share really great news?
So in the moments when my faith gets tired or my hope seems lost this summer, I will have to be reminded of the gospel and the good news! And that will restore my faith and my hope.
And we dance
When I imagine heaven, I honestly imagine dancing with God. When I sing to worship music, I imagine dancing with Jesus in a field of flowers. Why? Because dancing is AWESOME and it just gives me this overwhelming sense of peace and rest. But I also dance with Jesus in real life, let me explain before you start thinking I'm crazy.
When you dance with a person, you are connected with him/her. The two people have to be connected in order for progress to be made in the dance, and for them to move smoothly and in unity. In that case, dancing with Jesus looks like finding ways to connect with Him. That means praying and talking to Him, journaling, reading God's word, and just worshipping Him. These are the ways that I can dance with Jesus now and how I will stay connected to Him in Poland, or else I'll stumble during the dance.
This song's lyrics are so helpful as I prepare for Poland physically, financially and spiritually. And it really hit on the main things I need to focus on as I prepare to go.
1. Only God can steady me.
2. God will be with me.
3. There will be hard times.
4. In those hard times, remember the gospel.
5. Just dance with Jesus.
I have no idea what God is going to do with the two months that I'm abroad, but I have no doubt that He has a lot of things in store for me. Who knows how God will use a weak, emotional creature like me? But I'm excited to find out!
Logging Out to See the Light
I love social media. I love how social media connects so many people from so many different backgrounds, and provides new means of communication and sharing. The world is practically at our finger tips. It has its blessings.
But it also has its curses.
As much as I love social media, this week I started feeling some of the curses of instant communication, sharing, and the "like" button.
You see, I am a recovering people pleaser. I want to win people's approval. I want people to be happy with me. I want people to agree with me. I want people to like me. I want people to build me up. I want people to love me.
And it's exhausting.
"He (Jesus) must become greater; I must become less."
As a recovering people pleaser, Facebook and Instagram can feed into my idol of approval. If I get a lot of likes on a status, I'm elated. If no one likes something, I'm so tempted to delete it. This means that my actions are being dictated by the approval of others.
"Am I now trying to win the approval of human beings, or of God? Or am I trying to please people? If I were still trying to please people I wouldn't be a servant of Christ."
I don't want to be a slave to people's approval. I want to serve and please God, not man. So I decided to lay my idol on the preverbal altar and I logged out.
I decided to go completely dark for a day. And you're probably sitting there thinking, "Big deal, Madi. It's one day." But one day for me is HUGE. It's a baby step in the right direction and that direction is not feeling like a slave to others approval. And let me tell you, it is hard to break a bad habit such as constantly checking those sites.
I'm not sure what logging out looks like from here because social media does have its blessings. It makes it easy to communicate with groups and a number of people. As a college student, it would be really hard to go cold turkey.
BUT I do plan on making it a habit not to check all of those mediums right when I wake up or right when I go to bed. I might even set up a time to check it for 15 minutes in the morning and 15 minutes at night. Maybe even turning my phone off for certain hours of the day. I'm not sure yet.
All I know is that it is so refreshing to just say "no" to it. To not check it. My brain doesn't feel as distracted, and it's been so much easier to focus on the things that do matter.
So here's to logging out for some moments of much needed light and not being distracted from the things that really matter.
I have a long way to go when it comes to Jesus killing the idol of a need for approval within me, but logging out and critically thinking through why I use social media is a start.
Do you struggle with feeling like you need approval? Or with exerting self-control over your time spent on social media sites? Do you ever take time to log out and go dark? What are your tips for taking a break from social media?
P.S. Credit goes to my friend Marisa for letting me take a picture of her phone with my phone.
Sometimes I encounter songs that speak to my heart from the moment I first hear them. I experienced a song like that today while getting in my car to go to work. As I started the car this morning, the radio began to play the song "What About Now" by Daughtry, and a specific set of lyrics caught my attention.
What about now? What about today?
What if you're making me all that I was meant to be?
While Daughtry probably wrote this song with a significant other in mind, I listened to this with my own lover in mind, Jesus Christ.
You see, before getting into my car this morning, I had a moment where I started to think about all of the things on that perennial to-do list. And I thought: It feels like this is never ending.
And I was tempted to despair as well as think through all of the things left to do for my classes this semester and all of the things left to do before I go to Poland. But in that moment, I had to stop and remember the lesson that the Lord taught me last week: slow down, rest, and reset.
But also, a small still voice spoke in my mind, "Just one day at a time."
One day at a time. Breathe. One day at a time.
So I was just thinking about that when I heard the lyrics to this song. One day at a time and then BAM: "What about now? What about today?"
And then I realized something. Why is it so hard to live in the present? WHAT ABOUT NOW? Why can't I just enjoy right now?
I think a lot of it has to do with culture, but then it also has to do with the essence of me. You see, I'm a crazy dreamer. I think in potentials, in futures, in dreams, and in hopes. I daydream. I set goals. And why? Because my brain is always thinking about how to get to the next thing.
But If I get to the next thing, I'll just think of how I can get to the next next thing, and then another next thing, and then another next next thing, and then another next next next thing. It goes on and on. Are you bored yet? My point: if I'm living for getting to the next thing, I will never be satisfied, and I will never enjoy the journey.
So... What about now? What about today. What if you're making me all that I am meant to be?
God has given me today. He has given me 24 hours because honestly that's all that I can handle. He knows my destination. He knows where I'm going. He is making me ALL that I am MEANT TO BE. I don't have to live for the next thing. I just have to live for the final thing.
And the final thing is eternal life with Jesus in heaven.
And that frees me! That frees me from feeling like I have to do ______ before I die. Or _____. Or feeling like I have to get so many things done at one. It really frees me. I can take my time. I can take a breathe. I can take a rest! I can just enjoy today.
I know where I'm going, and I know not only who I am meant to be but also who I AM.
In the words of one of my favorite songs "I Am New" by Jason Gray:
Forgiven, Beloved, Hidden in Christ, Made in the Image of the Giver of Life
Righteous, and Holy, Reborn, and Remade
Accepted and Worthy, this is Our New Name
So looking at the Daughtry song, I can just enjoy right now. I can enjoy today. I don't have to wonder if I am being made into all that I am meant to be, because I am. I don't have to worry about the future or getting to the next big thing or even the final thing. Because I will get to it whether I run or I dawdle. And that gives me peace in the moments when it feels like there are so many things to do to get to the next big things.
I will get there... eventually. Until then, I'm going to enjoy today.
P.S. Right after "What About Now" finished playing, "Let it Go" started playing, and I felt so loved!
Slow Down, Rest, and Reset
I have a problem with resting. For a while, I denied this fact. I looked at my life and thought, "But I do rest!" I take time to read books and watch movies. I love sleep. I spend time with friends. AND I still get all of my other things done. However, for a while now, I've been learning that these things that I consider to be rest are just lumped along with everything else on my to-do list. Instead of thinking, "I have an hour to sit down and read and enjoy a book," my mind has morphed that enjoyable activity into, "How many books can I read to feel like I've done something." That my friends, isn't rest.
I've taken things that are usually restful for me and turned them into things to get done. Why? So that I feel accomplished.
As you can probably tell, I like crossing things off of my to-do list, which is why getting the stomach bug this week, at first, seemed like a catastrophe. Why? Because it forced me to sit down (or rather, lay down) and rest. REALLY REST.
It's sad thinking about the thoughts that ran through my head as soon as I felt the bug coming on: But I can't get my stuff done! How am I going to finish this project? But I have to go to this meeting! They need me to be at this event! What am I going to do about support raising for Poland? This puts me a few days behind on this assignment! I won't even be able to read without getting nauseous. God is definitely trying to humble me.
As I slowly sank into the pit of despair that is the stomach bug, all I could really do was talk to God. Some of my monologues included:
Madi: God, WHYYYYYYYYYYYY?
God: Madi, you need a rest. I'm giving you one.
Madi: But I don't have time to rest!
Madi: I have things to get done!
God: Will they still be there after you get better?
God: Then they can wait. Take this time to rest.
It's funny how being sick shows you how helpless you really are. It really humbles you, and it shows you that you aren't infinite, you aren't self-sufficient. I needed to be reminded of that. I needed to be reminded that I can't do everything. I am finite. Sometimes I need to slow down, rest, and reset.
Midway through the day yesterday, as the bug was winding down, I learned this lesson. When I start getting anxious about work, when I stop taking the time to rest, when I feel like there are a million things on my to-do list, when I feel like there is so much work to get done, when my restful activities turn into things on my to-do list, I need to slow down, rest, and reset.
So what does this look like practically for me (and maybe for you)?
As soon as I see the signs of stress and anxiety affecting my life, I should stop what I'm doing and run to the Lord. I just need to stop and focus on what really matters and that's Jesus.
1. Remember Scripture
"Come to me all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls." Matthew 11:28-29
2. Give Jesus My Burdens -- tell Him what's going on, what I'm worried about, what's making me anxious.
3. Rest in Jesus -- true rest comes from the Lord, for He is rest. He's the Prince of Peace! So, spend rest in Him by spending time praying, listening to worship music, or spending time in the Word, or evening just doing something that is restful but with rest in mind.
Take the time of rest, and use it to reset (essentially refocus) my mind on Jesus. When I was sick yesterday, I decided to read a devotional called Jesus Calling by Sarah Young, and it said something that was really helpful in thinking through how to refocus on Jesus.
"I have planted peace in the garden of your heart, where I live; but there are weeds growing there too: pride, worry, selfishness, unbelief. I am the Gardener, and I am working to rid your heart of those weeds." Entry for 4/2
I definitely have those weeds in my heart. They make me anxious, they stress me out, and they make me think that I don't need rest. BUT the Gardener is working to rid my heart of them. He's working to bring me peace and rest.
Being sick was pretty awful, but it did force me to slow down, rest, and reset, which is something God knew that I really needed. So I guess the stomach bug wasn't so bad after all. I finally had the time to re-watch The Hobbit, sleep, and spend extended time reading.
P.S. The things that definitely needed to get done that I had been dreading ( a la editing a film project and mailing some letters) seemed so easy to finish in light of the fact that I felt free to take my sweet time doing them. How lovely!
Thanks for the rest, Lord!
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