Thursday, 5 June 2008

1 Day to Graduation

“I don’t want to occupy this small space in time in mediocrity.”
– Beth Moore

Photos of life since Sweden here (or copy and paste:

Photos of a special little seaside holiday here (or copy and paste:

A— It’s been Ages…again
I hope you'll excuse the absence of tremendously long updates from England these past months! These last few months of college have intensified as I’ve worked toward the end, including meeting the deadline of my year long project of dissertation! 38 pages of hardcore research and thought and deep emotions later, I have lived to tell about it! My work has been securely bound into a proper-looking book and sent off to be marked 3 times over-- here's to hoping it goes okay!

N—New Lessons
Dissertation was difficult in ways far beyond the obvious sheer amount of work because I chose to research and write on the topic of childhood abuse. Vulnerable children are very close to my heart, as is ministering to wounded hearts. I wrote to the title: "Holding our Palms against the Wounds; Christians Supporting Survivors of Childhood Abuse". I knew from the start that I was choosing a very heavy topic that it would be hard to be objective and academic about, what I didn't realize was how much God would use elements of my research to speak to me, to convict me, to change me, and how much the experience of doing my dissertation would interplay with my relationships here. It has been an emotional journey.

E—Enthusiasm to Finish Well
So, with dissertation out of the way, I stumbled right into my last 2 essays (Philosophy and Leadership) and an exam (Leadership), praying desperately for a final thrust of intellectual and emotional energy to finish well! Although I always knew this day would come, I could hardly know what it would feel like to tear my life away from this college which has been such a home to me, from these people who have been such a family to me. The life lessons, the faith lessons, have been more intense in these past 3 years here than any other time in my life, and my roots into this place go deep. As such, graduating will be a bittersweet accomplishment…

X— The eXciting Adventure of Following God
I never ever could have imagined that following God would lead me here, to this enchanting little college called Redcliffe, into the lives of all of these fabulous people, into Christian work in Northern Ireland , Romania , Sweden , and beyond. I never could have imagined that the draw to Europe would become a long-term call to World Mission. I know I sound like a broken record, but I am forever stunned at His desire to use someone even such as me. I can be so frustratingly shy, I never have instant answers but must think through something thoroughly before I can say much of anything about it, I am not a public-speaker, I have a horrendous memory for details of sermons, teachings, verses, other Languages don’t come naturally to me at all, and I am forever in a heavy process of growing and becoming which I don’t envision will ever come to completion this side of heaven. But somehow He’s willing to meet me where I am and teach me to ever open up my heart to Him and others wherever in the world I am.

In this way, I suppose, my life is showcasing His glory. And that’s, after all, the purpose of it all. So I continue the adventure…

“Life is not a problem to be solved;It is an adventure to be lived.”
-- John Eldridge

T—Tough Goodbyes
God’s given me great gifts here at college. Not only in maturing my mind, challenging my faith, and opening my eyes to the world, but in maturing, challenging, and opening my eyes to my own styles of relating—especially through enveloping me in cross-cultural relationships. I LOVE THESE PEOPLE. College Community is an intense experience of relationships because we are living together, learning together, hurting together, laughing together, eating together, playing together, worshiping together, being challenged together, and on and on the list goes. In the context of these intense, cross-cultural relationships God has taken me a long way in my own personal journey and I have shared my very heart with these lovely college friends, and held theirs as they’ve shared them. There have been tears—oh boy, have there been tears!—and there has been MuchMuchMuch laughter J, along with everything else in between! And we’ve been here for one another in it all; living right down the hall from one another; there for one another day or night, rain or shine, smiles or tears…

S—Staying in Europe…
So, in serving God, my passion for and interest in the cultures and people of this continent haven’t lessened, and though my degree is reaching completion, I get the feeling my life in Europe is only just beginning… I have a lot of seeking God to do for the details of my future and a lot of researching to do and contacts to make, but at least for the summer I’m going to be based here in Gloucester . It’ll be the first summer I don’t head for home!
The basic plan so far is that for the month of June I’ll be on the move. My mom and two of her friends from church (Faith Baptist Church in Park Rapids, MN) will be coming in just a few days for my college graduation! Afterwards, the four of us will be touring around England and Wales until the 21st of June. After a long-awaited camping trip on the beach in Cornwall with some college friends, I should be headed back to Gloucester where I’ll be staying with my pastor’s family (Steve and Debs Austin-Sparks of Kendal Road Baptist Church in Longlevens, UK, and their daughters Bex and Megan) until mid-August when my friends Lizzie and Neil are getting married and I’m reading at their wedding. After the wedding, it’s looking like I’ll head back to Sweden for awhile, to live with and learn from the missionary family I did my placement with this year.
From there, only God knows, and I’m expecting He’ll be helping me to know too as I enter this summer of seeking Him…

T—Trusting God…
"Now listen! Today I am giving you a choice between life and death... For I command you this day to love the Lord your God and to keep His commands, decrees, and regulations by walking in His ways. If you do this, you will live and multiply, and the Lord your God will bless you and the land you are about to enter and occupy... Today I have given you the choice between life and death, between blessing and curses. Now I call on heaven and earth to witness the choice you make. Oh, that you would choose life, so that you and your descendents might live! You can make this choice by loving the Lord your God, obeying Him, and committing yourself firmly to Him. This is the key to your life."
--Deut. 30:15-16, 19-20
I opened my bible to this verse one night sitting teary-eyed in the garden and feeling very alone and afraid of not knowing what comes next or how I can cope with it. It is shrouded in uncertainty and I shroud myself in my own shame and inadequacy. But God tries to remind me that he has a plan to not only bless me, but to bless the (yet unknown) land I am about to enter and occupy... My place is to love Him. No more, no less. Because out of that love flows obedience in walking in His ways. And He is more than capable of caring in every way for one of His own.
“...All of You is more than enough for all of me...""...I can only make my one desire holding onto Thee..."

E—Enormous Love of God
In these three years of cramming into my mind theological views and doctrines and debates, God startled me this year by taking me right back to the very foundations in a powerful and sometimes painful way. As I’ve been busy pouring over Biblical commentaries and discussing ontological arguments and deontological ethics and analyzing cross-cultural leadership and all the rest, attempting to be educated, He’s been whispering to me of the one thing I must learn the deepest, the truest, the farthest. He’s been teaching me of His enormous, mind-boggling, grace-drenched, unconditional, un-understandable love and what it means to live in the soul-reaching knowledge that this love I confess isn’t just for the people I long to reach with it (duh!) but even for one such as me…. It’s an education I haven’t completed yet. But I can honestly say it’s a subject I’m very much taking in, and not just to regurgitate into an essay :)

“In His love and mercy He redeemed them. He lifted them up and carried them through all the years.” – Isaiah 63:9

“…You fear and tremble, as all your strength fails, and you feel utterly weary and helpless. And all the while He is spreading His strong wings for you to rest your weakness on, and offering His everlasting Creator-strength to work in you. And all He asks is that you should sink down in your weariness and wait on Him; and allow Him in His Jehovah-strength to carry as you ride upon the winds of His omnipotence. Dear child of God! I pray you, lift up your eyes, and behold your God!”
– Andrew Murray

P—Plea for Prayer!
My plea of prayer for you guys is for direction. I'm attempting to plan my next step. I have only a few certainties:
1.) My life is meant to be in Europe right now
2.) I've been offered a room rent-free with my English pastor's family ("my English family," as I more affectionately refer to them!) here in Gloucester for the summer. This would allow me to, hopefully, work a part-time job in the month and a half I have un-booked-up from the beginning of July to Mid-August.
3.) I've committed to reading at my friends' wedding here in England in August
4.) My English student visa runs out in October
5.) I've been invited back to work with and learn from Mike and Brona Van Weiden and Rescue Mission Sweden anytime and feel that God has a lot to teach me through these two with their lives devoted to ministry in Europe, but also pretty sure Sweden's not the place for me long term... at this point. So I’d like to possibly go to them for a few months after the wedding with the aim of getting home for the holidays and at the same time sorting out visas and such…

So, my dilemma comes in seeking direction for a next step after that. For those of you who pray, will you please start directing your prayers toward that end? And in my next email (because you’ve already sat through MORE than enough from me for now!), I’ll fill you in on the myriad thoughts in my head regarding a next step beyond the waif-like state I’ll find myself in these coming months!

So, as my college graduation approaches (7th of June), my mom and her friends Lucy and Joyce storm the country on the 6th (England won’t know what hit it!), and I get caught up in the bittersweet experience of moving on from an extremely challenging yet dearly loved stage of life, I write to you looking out over my romantic English garden view for the last time. I want to thank you for coming along on this journey with me as I consider the end, and thank you for coming along on this new journey with me as I consider a beginning. I can’t pretend I’m not scared, but I know perfect love casts out all fear, and I know you’re praying for me and Heaven is moving His ear to listen… So, thank you. And I’ll be in touch soon (far sooner than last time—sorry!!)

In His Love,

“With His love He will calm all your fears…” (Zeph 3:17)

“In waiting on God, His greatness and your littleness suit and meet each other most wonderfully.”-- Andrew Murray
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