Saturday, August 24, 2013

The Perfect Relationship, and How We've Got it All Wrong

Every time I've begun to write this, a little voice in my head reminds me how intimidating the prospect of writing on this subject is, and I'm inevitably drawn to try something safer, like wetting my finger and seeing if all my light sockets work. I can't say the subject itself scares me. I'd be fairly confident saying that during my involvement with Christian ministries and churches in college, romantic relationships were one of the most heavily discussed subjects among my peers. Unfortunately, saying the topic bordered on obsessive more often than not is a bit of an understatement. There is (and was) nothing inherently wrong with the sheer amount of discussion the topic inspired. We are relational beings with relational desires and I would be the first to say I believe that those are wonderful and healthy God given and God pleasing attributes. But even healthy God given yearnings can earn a place in our lives they don't deserve.

Then there are these constant nagging voices saying that people will think I'm prideful because I've had successful relationship thus far and I'm simply throwing my wealth of knowledge in their faces. But truth is, I've been single for 96% of my life, and after a year of being in a relationship, I still struggle with a lot of single-minded (selfish) tendencies. Yes, in case you missed it, I just equated singleness with selfishness. They are certainly mutually exclusive, but there is plenty of overlap as well. More on that later; I'm getting ahead of myself. The point I've so successfully skirted up until now is that my ideas of what a relationship looked like were severely challenged and reworked after I found myself in one. Unfortunately, many of the false and outright ridiculous ideas I'd developed were directly inspired by...other Christian singles. Ugh. Why doesn't anyone realize what a bad idea that is? Shouldn't we look to someone who actually knows something about the subject to discuss it? It's like a bunch of guys sitting around looking at pictures of Lamborghini's and deciding they know everything there is to know about the mechanical realm of expensive automobiles. Would anyone take these people seriously?

I think one of the biggest issues is that we allow a lot of anxiety and uncertainty to take root in this area of our lives. We ask questions like, "Does God want me to be single all my life?", or "Is there a 'perfect' match for me somewhere out there?", and on and on it goes. It certainly isn't the only area of our lives that inspires worry. I'm sure the same could be said about academic and career challenges. It's an enormous unknown staring us in the face and it scares us (rightfully so I might add). One of the biggest things I've learned in regards to life in general, that certainly applies to relationships, is that we want explicit answers so badly. We want to make an equation that will solve all of the unknown questions in our lives. Throw out your user manuals, my friends. Trash the self help books and take a minute to sit down and calm your breathing. There is no formula. Not in relationships, and certainly not in life. What's worse is we take this attitude of wanting all our questions answered, wanting everything "ready made", straight into our relationships. We want to know how many kids we want, what kind of school we'll send them to, and whether or not we'll have a dog before the first date. Who came up with this lunacy?

I always heard that a sign of a "Godly relationship" was a couple who was thinking about marriage right from the get go. This is a point well worth expansion, but more often than not I think the ball gets dropped on this one. It's like when you were a kid and the fact that Jonah was a total asshole got left out of the big fish story and we all sat wide eyed soaking up the parts about fish vomit and the scary Nineveh people. Thinking about marriage for most of us means worrying about marriage, which then gives way to a "job interview" mentality when looking for potential partners ("I could never go out with someone who..." I'll come back to this one in a minute). The point that should be made here is you should have a direction in mind while dating. As a Christian I think this should be true in any relationship, and much more so in a romantic one. So what's wrong with thinking about marriage right from the start? Nothing. And everything. Remember when you were little and you'd have a new best friend every five minutes? Or you'd decide someone was going to be your best friend before you even met them? It's kind of like that. Isn't it funny how those relationships felt so forced, trying to turn that person into your best friend? While in contrast, the friendships you just allowed to develop and grow on their own often went much further? Okay, clearly I'm not saying we shouldn't think about marriage as an end to dating. What I am saying is that we allow or worries, anxieties, and selfish attitudes towards relationships to overcome us to the point where we want everything worked out before we even find our footing in the relationship.

With the former points in mind, I come back to my previously unresolved comments concerning selfishness and pride. "I'd never date someone who..." is the beginning of a very dangerous game, and I've heard this statement thrown around a lot in Christian circles. Clearly as Christians we should have standards. But they need to be the right standards. I see so many people caught up in this "ready-made" attitude they lose their focus and start developing unrealistic standards for the hypothetical person they will never meet. I was just as guilty here as anyone else. I swore I'd never date someone who wasn't as "spiritually mature" as me (of all the disgustingly prideful and pompous attitudes one might have, I think this one would rank right at the top). Who do I think I am? Who am I to put my own sinful standards of what I qualify as spiritual maturity on someone else before I would think of dating them? While this idea began innocently enough--a desire for the person I date to build me up in my faith rather than drag me down and stunt my growth--it turned into an embarrassing display of my pride, selfishness, and ignorance concerning the way life and relationships happen. If you're preparing for the obligatory cliche, "It's not my place to judge", don't worry, you won't hear it. I think this area should absolutely be approached with discernment and wisdom. But that does not give us excuses to have our potential partners filling out applications and matching them with our preconceived list of the ideal match for this position in our lives.

I'm not saying it's wrong to consider different issues that pose challenges to us in our dating relationships as Christians. It's not wrong to read books and talk to our peers about them. These are all profitable and I benefited greatly from many of these things. What I am saying is that somewhere along the way, it seems this aspect of our lives became monumental. It became such a huge part of our lives that we developed unrealistic ideas about its place in our lives. The point, if there is only one to be made here, is that this is what happens when we give things, even good things, supremacy in our lives over God. Relationships are wonderful and vital to our walk with Christ. But they are not God. When we hijack something that should simply serve as a very small, visible, albeit imperfect representation of what a relationship with a perfect Savior should look like, and make that thing our standard of perfection, we are bound for disappointment, disillusionment, and failure. Our relationships, romantic and platonic alike, will never replace a relationship with our Creator. He is the only person who will ever satisfy our need for a perfect relationship.

Friday, November 16, 2012

The Things Under My Bed

I'm still really bad about cleaning my room. It's odd because overall I like to keep things neat and in order. My DVD collection is organized alphabetically. My books are arranged in a way that makes sense to me, at least. I'm not someone that's necessarily comfortable living amidst a mess. That being said, I can't help but think back to my room cleaning methods of years past. What happened to your messes when you were a kid? There's really no reason to build this up—because we all did it. Pile of laundry? Under the bed. Toys? Books? Magazines? Under the bed. No exaggeration—I couldn't even hide under my bed sometimes when I was playing Hide & Seek with my brothers and sisters because there was so much crap under my bed that there was absolutely no room for me.

While I'm happy to say that most of my laundry is in its proper place (or thereabouts), and there is plenty of empty space under my bed at the moment, I wonder if this attitude hasn't lived on throughout the years. Anyone that's had any kind of interaction with a young child will know that the concept of logic isn't something that comes very naturally to most younger humans. It's something that we (hopefully) develop as we grow and mature into adults. I can look back now and realize that it was silly of me to think I was making my life easier by shoving everything under my bed. My “logic” at the time was flawless. It was fast, painless, and it solved the problem of everything being in the middle of the floor. Of course, inevitably my mom or dad would notice, and then my logic and easy fix quickly fell apart. I made nothing easier. I can still hear the ever-knowing voice of my parents in my head, “It would have been easier if you'd done it right the first time”.

It would have been easier if you'd done it right the first time. Sad to say I still relate to this statement far more than I'm willing to admit most days. Why do I still cling to this attitude; that somehow if I shove all these nasty attitudes, bad habits, and things that I don't want to deal with (much less want other people to see) underneath the place that I sleep that this will somehow make my life easier? Somehow I have continued to allow the logic that dominated my 8 year old brain make a comeback and if I'm honest with myself, do far more damage than it ever did when I was harmlessly childish. Outwardly I have almost everything together. I have my life arranged alphabetically. In a way that makes sense to me and most people who might scrutinize it. But the truth is, there isn't a whole lot of space under my bed for me to hide.

I don't do bugs. It's not a serious phobia, but I'd much rather them stay in their natural habitat and allow me the peace and sound mind of being in mine without disturbance. I don't like things crawling around where I sleep. However, my bedroom is located in a basement that is partially underground, and this means that more often than I'd like, things that creep and crawl and have 8 legs find their way into my cave. I can't go to sleep when I know there's something sneaking around my room—especially when I've just witnessed it crawling out from under my bed, which happens far more often than I'd even like to discuss. For me, this also hearkens back to my childhood and the classic fear of what creature might be hiding under the bed. How many of us had that persisting irrational fear that something would reach out and attack our bare feet when we swung them off the bed?

I see these attitudes and habits that I am so quick to shove under my bed and the fear associated with what's hiding there very much connected. I'm not making my life any easier by shoving these things out of sight and refusing to deal with them out in the open. I have made an already existing problem an even bigger one, and now, on top of that, I face the fear of being discovered. Not only have I made a mess of the already existing one, but now it has grown into something else; something I don't want to dig up and face for fear that it is now beyond my ability to suppress. I don't like things crawling around where I sleep. And yet, I continue shoving things under my bed, letting them grow there, wondering why I sleep restlessly—wondering when the monster will strike.   

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

I Am

I am proud

You don't know me. What you think you know? It is only what I let you know. Nothing more. You can't help me; I don't need help.
I don't speak, because I'm better than that.
I take greater pride in my humility than anything else.
I am better than you, but I'll never say it, because I'm better.
I've never been given anything. What I have is my ability to overcome obstacles and get things done.
I don't want handouts. I despise charity.
I am completely independent. I rely on no one.
I don't need you.

I am irrational

The more people know me, the less they'll want to.
I'm a burden.
An obligation.
An annoyance.
I am unnecessary. I am unneeded.
The closer I am, the more hurt I'll bring you. I've done it before, and I'll do it again.
I don't want to hurt you, so I don't speak; even when I should. But I do so much more harm and speak when I shouldn't.
I don't want to be hurt, so I remove myself emotionally.
I turn to humor in pain. It's a strong coping mechanism. Truth is, I laugh it off because I can't find the emotion to cry.
My thoughts won't let me sleep, but thoughts elude my tired mind.

I am fearful

Of being known. Of being unknown.
Of being dismissed, or missing.
Of pain. Of feeling, and unfeeling.
Of reckless words and loving words.
Of weakness, failure, and vulnerability.
Of understanding and misunderstanding.
Of rejection and acceptance.
Of everything and nothing.
Of what I know, what I don't know, and what I wish I could forget.

I am weak

I can't help you, because I can't help myself.
I'm broken,
and bruised.
Knocked down; and too tired to get back up.

I am humbled

Spoken to existence.
Known intimately.
Understood fully.
Given everything.

I am stable

Cared for.

I am unafraid

Of anything. Of everything.

I am strong

I can help you, because I know I can't help myself.
I'm broken, but not beaten.
Bruised, but not crushed.
Persecuted, but not abandoned.
Knocked down; but not destroyed.
Joy will come at dawn.
In His grace.
In His redemption.

I am His.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

A Dirty Word in the Church: Why Abortion is Our Problem

In the past few years as a Criminal Justice Major, I’ve had a number of opportunities to do some pretty in depth research on a topic that is heavy and disturbing, to put it mildly. There is without a doubt a very real and very deep hatred and distaste towards those who prey on children. It’s a subject that will have even the most passive people up in arms almost immediately when the subject is brought up, and it’s not been uncommon in past years, with the introduction of notification laws such as Megan’s Law and Jessica’s Law, to hear stories of pedophiles being attacked and killed upon release from prison. Some of them don’t even make it out of prison. Such is the disgust that people feel towards these predators. And rightfully so. I’ll never forget the story of Jessica Lundsford, for whom Jessica’s Law was named. In brief, she was kidnapped one night by a neighbor, John Evander Couhy, who unbeknownst to Jessica’s father, had a long rap sheet and was a registered sex offender. Couhy kept 9-year old Jessica, bound and gagged in his closet, for close to three days. After he was done with her, be buried her in his backyard. Alive. We are appalled by stories like this, and yet we fail to even shed a tear for a much greater tragedy that happens every single day all around us. We are almost entirely apathetic to the killing of those who don’t have a voice—those who will never have a day in court or people to mourn their loss or show disgust for those who perpetrate and ignore this crime.

It is estimated that around 6 million Jews were murdered during the Holocaust. On September 11, 2001, 2740 Americans were killed in terrorist attacks across the East coast. On December 7, 1941, 2403 Americans were killed in Pearl Harbor. An estimated 800,000 deaths occurred during the 1994 genocide in Rwanda. And across the world, there are approximately 126,000 babies murdered. Every day. An estimated 42 million per year. The U.S. (using the year 2000 as an approximation) accounts for 1.31 million of these deaths each year. According to Finer and Henshaw (2003), abortion is one of the most common "surgical procedures" in the U.S. today. And one out of every six woman who has an abortion claims to be an evangelical Christian.

We feel so good about ourselves when we decry the injustices in Africa, when we mourn the losses and devastation in Japan, when we solemnly look to where the Twin Towers once stood. And this week, we danced in the street celebrating the death of one man who was responsible for the deaths of so many others. We are continually appalled by the stories of helpless children preyed on by old men and other trendy human tragedies that populate the newspapers and evening television. But bring up that one dirty little controversial word—people start looking for a door, or in this case (after you’re finished reading this)—a noose.

The last thing I want to do is further a political viewpoint. In the past when I’ve made this very point, people have told me I was ignorant for bringing up the topic and not expecting it to get political. I would agree that I am indeed ignorant, because I find myself entirely unable to comprehend why Christians would try to hide such a horrific issue behind something as petty and useless as politics. I can’t stand politics. So let me say this explicitly. If you call yourself a Christian, I don’t want to hear a political or logical argument from you. I won’t listen to a word that comes out of your mouth. You are appalling in your attempts to justify one of the most disgusting human tragedies that has ever occurred, and you should be ashamed of yourself for even trying. I’ve seen dying children. Believe me, there is absolutely nothing political about it. It is tragic. It is heart wrenching. But somehow we shrug our shoulders and yawn. We shove the issue into the political realm so that we can turn what is undeniably a moral issue right at the heart of the Gospel, into an intellectual exercise in debate, and don’t have to worry about the blood of innocence haunting our safe, two-dimensional dreams.

During the holocaust there were many people who were ignorant of what was really going on. The upper echelons of the Nazi regime did quite an impressive job of covering up what was really going on to the general public. But there were some things that just couldn’t be hidden. The majority of normal everyday citizens may not have known explicitly what was happening in the concentration camps—but they knew something was happening. The church didn’t know how to respond. Decrying these human wrongs was basically akin to putting a target on your back; on the backs of everyone in your congregation. It wouldn’t be responsible to draw attention to themselves—to take actions that could result in innocent bystanders getting hurt. This whole thing was really about politics, was it not? The church doesn’t need to be involved in matters of government. The church shouldn’t be. And so, this was how the church rolled over and played dead. They played a mean fiddle while the city burned around them.

Hitler’s philosophy was pretty straightforward. Inconvenient people should die. Of course he dressed it up a bit. The handicapped, the old, the inferior, the ugly—they needed to go. The mentality behind abortion isn’t terribly different. We have deemed a certain type of people, much like Hitler did, to be inferior. Inconvenient. That’s all there is to it. We hid for years behind our scientific ignorance. It’s not a human, it’s a blob of tissue. But what do we find now that technology has torched this argument? Nothing. Nothing has changed. There is no more scientific ignorance about the issue, just plain human selfishness and complete indifference to the lives of future generations. The former United States Surgeon General, Dr. C. Everett Koop, supported this when he stated that only 3-5% of all abortions performed are because of rape or incest, or the possibility of a deformed child, or even a threat to the life of the child’s mother.

Unlike some who lived in Germany (and other countries) during World War II, we do know what’s happening. We have no ignorance to hide behind anymore. No excuses. But one thing persists. As soon as someone brings that word into the conversation—we chastise them with our eyes (at best—I’ve seen some conversations almost reach blows), and turn the conversation to legislation, comparisons to prohibition, and all the inconveniences that would be caused by getting involved in such messy procedures. What are we going to do with all of those children, someone once asked me? It is one thing to say abortion is wrong, but the church needs to provide a clear plan and alternatives for people who are thrust into these situations, and even be prepared to deal with the repercussions from the outlawing of abortion, should it ever occur. First off, let me just say that I am neither condemning the women and girls who find themselves in these situations, nor am making light of the problem. I’m not trying to simplify the situation either. What I am trying to simplify is this—there is a very simple alternative to murder. Don’t do it.

On the other hand, maybe we overcomplicate it. When I was in Africa, there was a fairly wealthy, predominately white church (not unlike our churches here in the States) that had a very simple solution: they had a baby drop-off box. Once a baby was placed in the box, it would lock, and alerts would immediately be sent to appropriate authorities, as well as several members of the church responsible for responding to this very scenario. Of course, this was not their only solution, but the point still stands—maybe we don’t want to deal with the alternative. Maybe it’s easier to just ignore the slaughter that is taking place every single day right down the street and chalk up the answer to something that only political theories can fix.

Sadly, for the church today I don’t think abortion is even the heart of the issue. It’s just the tip of the iceberg. It’s a catastrophic, visible reality that is simply a symptom to the much larger, deadlier, more horrifying truth. That we are neglecting an integral theme; a blatant and unyielding facet of the Gospel: to take care of the poor. This is not a copout answer, so hold back your sigh of relief until I’m finished. This is a direct response to those who sit around and say there is nothing we can do outside of politics to make a change. My response is that we have ignored a stewardship; we have neglected a command that was given to us in the first place. This is not a political issue. This is not an issue of law, or the Constitution. It is not an issue of legislation. This is OUR ISSUE, and we’ve let politics wander through our doors, drag it off and beat it to death. This is not a question. It’s not a suggestion. It is a mandate given directly to believers in the church. Whatever you do for the least of these, you did for me. Maybe you still aren’t seeing the connection. You should.

"Open your mouth for the mute, for the rights of all the unfortunate. Open your mouth, judge righteously, and defend the rights of the afflicted and needy." (Prov. 31:8-9)

"The righteous is concerned for the rights of the poor; the wicked does not understand such concern." (Prov. 29:7)

". . . Defend the orphan, plead for the widow." (Isaiah 1:17)

"Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world." (James 1:27)

"A father of the fatherless, a defender of widows, is God in His holy habitation" (Ps. 68:5)

"Thus says the LORD, ‘Do justice and righteousness, and deliver the one who has been robbed from the power of his oppressor. Also do not mistreat or do violence to the stranger, the orphan, or the widow; and do not shed innocent blood in this place.'" (Jer. 22:3, italics added)

"Defend the cause of the poor and the fatherless. Vindicate the oppressed and suffering" (Ps. 82:3)

There is a plethora of scripture just like this in just about every book of the Bible—yet when was the last time you heard anyone preach on any of them? The General Social Survey (GSS) in 2005 shows that there is a very significant and direct correlation between poverty and abortion. Now obviously we know that poverty is not the only factor. But what if, in this one particular area, the church stood up and did what we are commanded to do in the first place? What if the church stepped up and made this our mission? What impact would it have if we decided to take this issue back? To make it ours again? What if we had baby drop-off boxes as a regular feature of our church buildings? What if we hung signs on our church that said “Give us your unwanted children”? I wonder if we wouldn’t see a direct impact on these figures after a decade or so.

You can call me ignorant. Call me intolerant. Allow yourself to believe that I am biased and blinded by an extremist political point of view in spite of my clear attempts to distance myself from a political agenda or ideology. Justify these attitudes by telling yourself that you are helpless in this situation to do anything useful anyway. It should be clear by now that your shallow excuses don’t matter to me. I understand that there will be things that I’ve done in my life as well as things I’ve neglected to do, that I will come before my Creator one day and have to provide an answer for. But my hope is, that some of the questions He will not have to ask me is, "Why, when I made it so clear how passionate I am towards the helpless, how heartbroken I am for the fatherless, how much I hate those who prey on the innocent, did you stand by and do nothing? Why did you turn your back? Why did you stay silent?" I don’t want to answer those questions. I pity those who will have to.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

It Will Be Worth it at the Top (South Africa Journal, January 19, 2011)

So much of what we do seems meaningless. I don't say that to sound negative or dismal. When you think about life--at least the way that most of us live it--most of our daily activities are not memorable. On Friday, most of us won't remember what we were doing at 7:21 pm on Monday night. That's just the way things go. Time passes while we go about the tasks that fill our days. Days become weeks bleeding into months sneaking into years. And at the end of it all, do we really feel that most of our time spent was meaningful? Have all of the steps I've taken meant something? If they have then I certainly can't see what they all mean or how they all fit in to the journey.

This past Saturday, along with my 11 compatriots, I made the trek up Table Mountain, South Africa's most famous. While I was in better shape (better than I even gave myself credit for) for the endeavor than I'd anticipated, it was far from easy--especially at midday. Most of trip up is at extreme angles, using large stone steps. The peaks loom far overhead, and just when you feel you've made some progress, you realize that the path cuts off to the left or right for another hundred yards or so before you can continue your upward progression. There are points where you can't help asking yourself, Why am I doing this? All I see in front of me are stone steps. Above me, the mountain taunts, seemingly taking a few steps back every time I take one. Where is the meaning? What is this accomplishing? I want shade. I want to sit down on a block of ice and then take a nap. Then I'll get up and finish. Tomorrow.

We pressed on and finally made it. The top is mostly flat and can be picked out even as you fly into Capetown--hence the name. My brain is screaming at me for more liquid; I've made it this far with about 20 ounces--something I was proud of myself for until about 20 minutes after I ran out. But something gives me pause as I stumble up the last few steps. There is nothing but the expansive emptiness of sky above me. Aside from the sounds of other jubilant and exhausted voices, there is complete stillness. I am, quite literally, on top of the world. Every direction I turn I can see where sky meets ocean. Breathtaking in this case doesn't even begin to do it justice, and the most beautiful camera lens could not capture this moment. I turn around and look back from the direction we came. Between the two peaks we came between to reach the top, I can see the entire city. I can't see the bottom, but for the most part I'm able to distinguish our path up the mountainside. Part of me feels like it wasn't even me that made the journey.

It's because the journey is what changes us. It's not the beginning or the end. It's what got us through. It's what pushed and pulled us, from the first chapter to the last. The things that kept us moving even after we'd lost track of the "why's" and "how's". We won't always feel like our steps have meaning. Sometimes we can see our destination. More often we may not even know there is one. But now and again, we have the opportunity to turn around. To see where we came from. How far God brought us. And when we reach our destination, whether it's in this life or the next one, we will see the value in each meaningless step. The purpose in the menial progression. It will be worth the wait, I promise.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Greater Things (South Africa Journal, January 12, 2011)

On the outskirts of the township of Capricorn you will find what looks like a small, unimpressive rectangular building. Next to it is a small, unimpressive slab of pavement. Both are contained by a small, unimpressive fence, with an unimpressive gate topped with unimpressive razor wire. Things aren't always what they appear. Permanent buildings are not allowed to be built in Capricorn indefinitely, so what appears to be a building is, in reality, several storage containers with a wall filling in the gaps between, with a makeshift roof to protect the interior from the elements. I can tell you right now that on any given day, you would pass it by without noticing or recalling a single, unimpressive detail.

We are surrounded by big. Bombarded with it, seduced with it. We flaunt it, we work our whole lives to achieve it, and we will in some cases die for it. Yet we fail to realize that we die without it.

It's difficult to even express the ways in which one's perspective changes when you have caught a glimpse of what real life is all about and how it feels to live it. It takes hold of you like a drug. Sometimes you wonder why you put yourself through it, but again and again you find yourself craving more. You can't go back to the way things were. I find myself caught up in something that is not bigger, rather, something that is greater, than I could ever imagine. Things that in pursuit of something else, I may have passed by. The affection of a child. Late night conversations about life and faith. Friends that have become family. The more I experience of this journey, the more I realize that it is the little things that become big things. The unimpressive, the insignificant--becomes greater.

On any given day, you might pass the Capricorn center and not even know it. But had you walked by today, you may have heard the sound of hundreds of tiny voices lifted to heaven. The sound of praise amidst loss and suffering, hope amidst abuse, and dependence amidst poverty. The sound of triumph and joy carried by the wind, singing, "Greater things are yet to come, and greater things are still to be done in this city . . . "

“Enjoy the little things, for one day you may look back and realize they were the big things.”

-Robert Brault

Saturday, January 8, 2011

So Unfit (South Africa Journal--January 8th, 2011)

I feel an overwhelming sense of gratitude, sitting where I am right now. There is a sense of desensitization that happens sometimes when you have been blessed with opportunities like this one so many times--it's a shame, really. As we waited to board our connecting flight in London, one of my teammates pointed out that I have been incredibly blessed to have had so many opportunities to travel overseas before even entering or graduating college. I continued to think about that as we boarded and well into our 11-hour flight. It's not like I don't think about it. There isn't a day that passes where I don't. But for some reason I just feel even more grateful to be here. Maybe it's because my fundraising didn't go very well. There were a number of times that I was convinced that I was done. That I'd been beat. That this trip just wasn't for me.

My faith is so fragile; so easily thrown about. How many times must I have the Creator prove Himself to my meager and wavering understanding of His plan before I finally surrender and admit that it may actually be superior to mine? In spite of this, He continues to bless me. I'm not just talking about my location--which is breathtaking. The house we're living in for the month sits right on the beach. Our backyard is composed of several mountain ranges. We have front row seats for the sunset every evening. But for all its beauty and allure, it is not my surroundings that I am so grateful for.

I am so unfit for the place I have been put. My words are awkward and fumbling. I feel like I have so little to offer. There are so many people who could do this better than I. Yet I am the one here. These things breach my understanding; my way of rationalizing things. I have no explanations--I simply know that I am here, and that God will use me in spite of myself. I know that His grace is great. I know that He has blessed me with an incredible spiritual family that will see me through this task, both in prayer, and in standing beside me this month.

I am so unfit. And yet for the first time--I'm okay with that.