God just said, “Here you go Natalie…”

1395377_the_blood_3Lately I have been anxious. My feelings about certain things and certain people have really been confusing me lately. I was pondering some of the things that were causing a stir in my heart this afternoon, when I realized I hadn’t read my daily devotion yet. I reached for my cell phone and pulled up today’s verse:

“Patient endurance is what you need now, so that you will continue to do God’s will. Then you will receive all that He has promised.” Hebrews 10:36

Wow. It’s like God handpicked that verse just for me today. Some of the things I’ve been worrying about are things I’ve taken into my own hands that I need to just let God take care of in His time.

This verse tells me to step back and be patient, so I can continue to do what God wants me to do right now. Then, when the time is right, God will give me what He has promised.

I don’t need to be anxious anymore. God’s got it all in His hands, and things will work out exactly as they are supposed to.

Jesus Film in the Fulani village

Another entry from my journal when I was in Niger in 2009:

Saturday, June 20, 2009 – 3:15 pm.

As usual, we went to the university to witness. I found out that there are almost 12,000 students and only enough women to fill two dorms. So, our time is spent in those two places.

Our first room on Thursday we met with a girl named Amina. She was pretty nice, kind of shy. A male friend of hers came in and I was afraid he might be Muslim, but he wasn’t. They 4788_103259756572_2227864_nlistened to my testimony and Saratou (our national) presented the four spiritual laws. They had a lot of questions and seemed really interested. The guy actually seemed more interested than the girl. They didn’t make a decision. The guy said it was a very important decision and that he needed time. So, we left him with some information. I felt good about what we accomplished!

The next room was Jamila. She had a room to herself. She was very pretty and had nice clothes. It made me wonder about her story and where she came from. I gave my testimony, Kaeli read the four spiritual laws and Jamila accepted Christ! This time I could really feel the Holy Spirit. I think Christ will do great things in Jamila.

It really made me think about the stigma attached to Christians in the U.S.- that we’re all weird or that loving Jesus isn’t cool. These people don’t think that. I’m amazed at how quickly they accept Jesus. Then I realized, many of them have never even heard of Jesus until we bring Him to them. I forget that while Americans often know about Jesus, they don’t accept Him, while many African people haven’t even heard of Jesus.

We returned to the office for lunch. OK. Let me vent for a moment. Lunch is GROSS. We have same weird stew every day, it’s just always poured over something new. On Thursday, it was couscous. Yuck! I ate out a few chunks of meat, but that was it. We are all pretty sick of the same lunch every day.

After lunch we went to the bank to exchange money, and then we rested for a bit before returning to the office.

Let me explain how they pray here. Apparently it is a Korean style of praying. The pastor might say, “We will pray for thanks for what God did at last night’s film showings.” And everyone will pray out loud at the same time. Then he’ll say, “Now we will pray for protection at tonight’s showings.” And we pray out loud again. We’ll pray about five or six times like that and then the pastor will close. It’s odd.

Anyways, for the Jesus Film showing I ended up with the group that really was in a village.4975_102901466572_6106736_n Wow. Talk about a VILLAGE. It was way out-of-town. The kids were totally different from the last place. These kids were filthy. But, they were much more needy and loving. They held our hands and were obsessed with our white skin. They kept wanting to touch our skin. These kids were much darker than the other bunch.

One little girl who kept holding my hand was covered in some sort of skin disease. It looked really awful, but she wanted to hold my hand so bad. Maybe I shouldn’t have, but I felt safe. I knew she needed love and I believed that God would protect me from whatever was on her skin.

4788_103254726572_3645351_nBefore the film we met Steve, the village pastor. He is 29 years old, single and adorable! He was so sweet and knew quite a bit of English. He wanted to show us his house, which he said was close. We walked. It was REALLY far away. At least a mile or two walk in the sand. And we had about 40 kids following us!

I got to know Steve pretty well. We exchanged email addresses. It was weird because he was very modern in his clothes, and yet he talked about the tribe he came from. All the guys in our group from the college were from tribes, too.

The showing (all four reels) went OK. There were a couple hundred there. A lot of people laughed at some of the things Jesus said in the movie. I don’t know why.

After the film we stood in a circle and held hands to pray. As we did, I could feel someone tugging at the flashlight tied around my wrist. Kids were also trying to get into my backpack with held my camera, passport, etc. Just as the prayer ended, my flashlight was gone. I saw the boys sprint off. The pastor felt awful. He said he would get it back but I said not to worry about it. But sure enough, he got it back to me the next day! And the rope that was with it around my wrist was CUT. The kids had used a knife to cut it off of my wrist!

Jesus + Nothing = Everything

A friend of mine, who also does some mission work, said something the other day that I could totally identify with. Someone had emailed her and said, “You’re such an inspiration! I wish all young women were like you.” My friend said to me, “It was nice, but sometimes I don’t know what to say to that. I wish people knew how imperfect I actually am.”

I know how she feels. And there’s a message that needs to be spread – NO Christian, no matter how many good things they do or say, is without sin. Myself included. DEFINITELY myself included.

My pastor is doing a series right now called Jesus + Nothing = Everything. You need Jesus. That’s it.

No really. That’s it. It’s not Jesus + mission trips = everything. It’s not Jesus + volunteering = everything. It’s not even Jesus + church = everything. Jesus is enough. Jesus, plus nothing else, equals all you need. It equals everything.

God loves all His children the same. I never ever want to give the impression crossthat I do mission trips, go to church, read the Bible, hang crosses on my walls, etc. etc. . because I’m seeking out a higher level of love from God. It’s not possible. He couldn’t love me any more than He already does.

He didn’t love me more after I went to Niger in 2009.

He doesn’t love me more now than before I went to Nicaragua in 2011.

When I go to Zambia in June, He won’t love me any more than He does at this very moment.

So why do I do it? I do it because God has given me the heart and the desire to do so. I don’t get an extra car in heaven because I’ve done international mission work. What I get is the satisfaction of serving my King, I do it because I WANT to do it. Not because I feel like I HAVE to do it in order for God to approve of me.

JESUS + NOTHING = EVERYTHING.

You don’t have to add anything to Jesus to make Him real or to make Him love you. You have everything you need, just by having Jesus. That’s all He requires- is that you believe and accept Him into your heart.

New friends at Niger’s lone university

Wednesday, June 17, 2009, 11 p.m.

SO. TIRED.

Bruce told us this morning that now is when the jet-lag will really start to set in. We noticed. Everyone looked like zombies at breakfast. Even the nationals got to the office late. Guess they were tired, too!

Our adventure on campus today was a great one. The first girl we talked to in her room 4788_103259756572_2227864_nwashing her clothes in a bucket. She was very quiet and sweet. I told my testimony and Kaeli did the translation. Then our National (I can never remember her African name!) went over the four spiritual laws with her. And she accepted! She accepted Christ! She read the prayer and asked Him into her heart. I was a little skeptical because it all seemed so simple. Then I realized that as Americans we make everything so complicated and dramatic. All that isn’t necessary!

The next girl we saw was nice and welcoming as well. She was Muslim. She listened and was very respectful but did not accept because of her Muslim beliefs.

The final room we visited was really fun. There were three girls in that room who were super outgoing and friendly. They really responded well to my testimony and even asked a lot of questions. They said they were very touched by my testimony.

Once we got into more about Jesus, the discussion was pretty crazy. They said they have always been told that Christians believe God had sex with Mary to make Jesus. How awful! That wasn’t just something they thought, it was something they were told we actually believe! The girls were so relieved when we corrected them. They didn’t accept Christ, but they certainly were very open and listened to what we said.

We took some pictures with them before we left. It really felt like we made some friends! A few of them even spoke a little English.

Lunch was another interesting concoction. I spent my afternoon free time washing some clothes in the sink and I took a short nap.

For the Jesus Film viewing we went back to the same place. We met lots of new people who were excited about the movie. A lot of people were out cultivating. A lot of naked kids were running around. We saw a very scary guy. He followed us for awhile and it was creepy. He was covered everywhere but his eyes.

4975_102902161572_6749683_nThe kids went crazy again when I pulled out my camera. I couldn’t get good pictures because they literally swarm you to be in the picture. They won’t back up for anything. Then Abby and I whipped out some bubbles. They went NUTS over that. They chased them, tried to eat them, tried to hold them, etc. They loved it!

When the film started, I didn’t feel very well. I got really hot- almost like I had a fever. I was literally drenched in sweat. I felt light-headed too. It was a little scary (knowing medical help was next to impossible if it came to that) but I felt better by the end of the film. Well, we only showed the first half. The second half we’ll show tomorrow.

Tired. Must sleep!

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

 

Sometimes, my faith sucks…

I was doing so well.

Praying multiple times a day, doing my devotions, being thankful for what I have, and having faith that God has a plan for my life and trusting that He knows what’s best.

And then, I had to ask my boss for time off for my mission trip to Zambia. I would need to use my week vacation, a personal day, and two unpaid days. I felt confident that this wouldn’t be a problem. After all, it wasn’t like I needed the extra days because I was going on a cruise. While we would see some amazing things on the trip, the majority of it would be spent working with the students and teachers at Lifesong for Orphans.

My confidence was high. I just knew everything would be fine.

Then it wasn’t.

My boss, who is one of the greatest people I have ever worked for, said she would have to talk to HR about it. She didn’t seem thrilled. She didn’t say, “Oh I’m sure that will be fine!” She wrote down the dates and said she’d let me know tomorrow.

Yes, this could all work out. But let me tell you, sometimes… my faith sucks. The pessimist inside me says, “It probably won’t work out!” Or maybe that’s the devil I’m hearing.

I should have great faith right now that God will work this out. How this whole trip came to be is an amazing thing in itself, why would God NOT work this out? Because sometimes God has other plans. And that’s what scares me. Even though God knows what’s best, I don’t always like it.

I will be devastated if I can’t go on this trip. I’ve already psyched myself up to meet all those orphans- to play with them, sing with them, show them God’s great love. Tearing that away from me now would just crush me. It’s also the number one thing in my life I have to look forward to right now. It’s what’s keeping me happy right now, keeping me going each day.

So often, I tend to expect the worst. That’s a terrible trait to have, and I’ve even told others lately to expect great things, amazing things, and they will start to happen! But sometimes, it’s just so hard. Like I said, sometimes my faith sucks.