Follow your map and no one else’s

1534289_10151799014316573_1371136033_nWe grow up believing that we’re each given the same map. It tells us where to go and when, and we believe that if we don’t follow the map, all hope is lost and our lives aren’t “right.”

The basics of the map are this: birth, happy childhood, elementary school, high school, college, marriage, babies, retirement.

But the truth is, our maps aren’t all the same. For someone like me, who assumed my map of life was the “normal” one, it took me years to learn and accept the fact that we’re all given different maps.

I haven’t always been pleased with my life map. There were times I begged God to give me a different one. For more than two years I begged Him for the heart of a man who I eventually found out was full of false promises and other lies. I begged God to move me to Indianapolis. I begged God to send me a man to marry.

And it was just a few years ago that I not only accepted the map God gave me, but I embraced it. These days I’m thanking God every single day for my life map. Why? Because it’s MY map. MY life. MY experiences. My map of life was tailored just for me by the one who loves me most.

It still baffles me that if I haven’t seen someone in years, and the first questions they will ask are, “Are you married? Do you have any children?” Then I sound like some sort of failure because all I can respond with is, “No. I just travel the world going on mission trips, lived in Uganda for a year, volunteer at a homeless shelter twice a week and have a job that I love at a nonprofit. But sorry, no husband or babies.”

I remember having a conversation with a few of my female students in Uganda. One of them was already fearing she wouldn’t get married. It sounded like a matter of life and death to her, although she was only a teenager. It killed me that she, like I had, felt that we all had the same map, and if you don’t find someone to marry by the time you finish college, all hope is lost.

All hope is lost? Although I went through years of feeling inadequate because I wasn’t married, I wouldn’t trade my life for anything. Now that I’ve fully embraced the life map that God gave me, everything has changed. Hope hasn’t been lost, it’s been restored!

Maybe you’re in the opposite position that I’m in. Maybe you did get married and start a family, and you haven’t done all the other things you wanted to do in life. I encourage you to embrace what God has given you, and pray that He will provide you with the opportunities you desire. He can make a way! Or, He will put your heart and soul at peace with not attaining the things you desire.

If you were going on vacation and driving to Texas, would you go to Google Maps and punch in Florida as your destination? Of course not. That map isn’t for you. That map won’t lead you to the happiness that awaits you in Texas. Stop trying to get somewhere that God doesn’t have as your current destination.

We’re all given different maps. Follow your map and no one else’s. We only find happiness when we follow it how God wants us to. Trust the map He’s given you.

“I will instruct you and teach you
in the way you should go;

I will counsel you
with my loving eye on you.”

Psalm 32:8

Beautiful feet… where will you go?

My darling feet have been through a lot. Despite their polished toenails and trendy toe ring, they have seen some IMG_20131223_153745bad days.

I remember a day at church camp when I was in about the fourth grade and I dropped a can of Faygo on my right foot. The edge of the can smashed into my pinky toe and squished it into the cement. It burst a blood vessel and hurt like crazy.

I remember having warts removed from my feet multiple times as a child.

Then there was the instance last summer when I hurt my toe getting into a boat. It turned nice shades of blue and purple, and I was in pain for more than six months.

We put our feet through a lot, but we really have no idea the things that some people go through, simply because they don’t have access to clean water, and they don’t have shoes.

Yesterday I went with about a dozen of my co-workers to help at a jigger clinic near a village outside of Kampala. I saw feet like I’ve never seen before. My silly injuries and even warts don’t compare to the infections and jiggers I saw yesterday. (For more information on jiggers, go here.)

IMG_5435Some of my brave co-workers actually removed the jiggers using safety pins and razor blades. I would be worthless in that position, considering I would probably pass out at the first sign of bodily fluids and jigger egg sacks. So I served yesterday by washing feet.

It was our job to wash the feet of the people who came to the jigger clinic, check them for jiggers, dry their feet and give them a pair of shoes. Those who had jiggers (which ended up being most of the people we checked), were sent inside the clinic to be treated. Jiggers cause great infection, and if left untreated, can kill.

I wasn’t disgusted by anything. Although toes were covered in fungus, bottoms of feet filled with jiggers, and dead toe nails so black they literally fell off, I wasn’t disgusted. I was heartbroken.

At the time I didn’t think too much about it. We were so busy scrubbing and washing, looking for jiggers, finding the right size shoes and getting people into the clinic that I had little time to really think about the situation. But I did pray. I prayed for the feet of the toddlers, the teenagers, and the adults whose feet I washed, and I prayed that I won’t see them with the same issues when we go back at the end of the month.IMG_5427a

The Bible talks a lot about our feet and the paths we go on. Whether our feet are perfectly pedicured or filled with jiggers, how are our lives end up are all dependent on where we allow our feet to take us.

“My steps have held fast to Your paths. My feet have not slipped.”
Psalms 17:5

“I have restrained my feet from every evil way, that I may keep Your word.”
Psalms 119:101

“Watch the path of your feet and all your ways will be established.
Do not turn to the right nor to the left; turn your foot from evil.”

Proverbs 4:26-27

In order for the beautiful African people in the village to stay healthy, they must take proper care of their feet by washing them and wearing shoes. Their feet simply can’t be ignored. And you know what? We need to do the same thing for our lives when it comes to where we allow our feet to take us.

IMG_5458We all have a choice. We can allow our feet to stay dirty and become infected, or we can take care of our feet and wash them clean. We can allow our feet to lead us to evil, or we can allow our feet to lead us to Christ.

You might not have jiggers or fungus all over your feet. You might even have the most beautiful feet on the planet. But if your feet aren’t leading you on a path towards serving Christ, none of that even matters.

“Watch the path of your feet and all your ways will be established.”
Proverbs 4:26

A quick thought on forgiveness…

forgivenessIt’s a little random, but sometimes, out of nowhere, I’ll get really mad about something that happened quite awhile ago.

The person I’ve loved the most, also hurt me the worst nearly two years ago. I’ve moved on, so has he, and he’s now one of my best friends. While I’m not “in love” with him, I don’t think there are many people in this world who I love more than him.

But sometimes, for no reason at all, I remember what happened. And I get really, really angry and hurt all over again.

I’ve forgiven him, but I haven’t fully adopted “forgive and forget.” That’s when I realized the other day, that as humans, we CAN’T forget. It’s just not possible. But you know who DOES forget? God does. Isn’t that amazing? He can forgive AND forget. And that’s exactly what He does. He doesn’t hold a grudge. Ask for forgiveness and BOOM! You got it. And God won’t ever have a day when He thinks about that time you messed up.

As far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us.”

Psalm 103:12