Come As You Are

 

I think if I were to poll one hundred people, most would be like me. In life, we tend to look at things that happen to us. We react. We ponder. We worry. We wonder. We change. We move. We ebb and flow within our circumstantial limits. A lot of what happens to us defines how we move forward. Something good happens, all is okay that day. If something bad happens, it affects who we are. Simple, right?

Nope.

Sometimes I feel like for 27 years of life, there’s been a lot that has happened that has directed my steps. Through others sin, hurt, abuse, and pain, it led to my reaction of my own sin cycle of addiction, cold-heartedness, and eventually jail – chains I put on myself. This cycle led to depression and an unwavering self-doubt that I had any purpose in life. Undoubtedly, I reacted in a bad way to the circumstances in my life. I was fickle in my thinking that I could handle life on my own.

You see, something happens when we rely on ourselves. We simply just cannot do things in our own strength. About a year and a half ago, my life changed. That’s almost an understatement. Through a divine encounter with broken, messy grace, God captivated my heart fully while in the middle of an African desert. I came with the pretense that I would be serving God, but really what I found out is that I didn’t really know God. But, He had other plans to save my life.

I can’t really pinpoint what exactly happened. It was a mix of having nowhere to go but God. And also, people that God placed in my life, that for the first time, spoke words of life into me about God and His love that I still hold onto today. I think God is sometimes funny like that. He knows me, His child, so well that He knew He had to bring me out into the middle of nothing to get my attention. If you know me, you’re probably laughing right now.

It was here in Africa that I started to realize that I had to face what had happened but not on my own. In Christ’s strength, He took every single circumstance that had happened to me or that I had created on my own and nailed it to the cross. The grace of the Cross is messy and beautiful. Tragic and amazing. Hard but wonderful. When I finally believed that I had worth and identity in Christ, my whole world changed. 

“You have to make what Jesus did for you bigger than what has happened to you.”

When I first heard that quote, I was so convicted. I think we tend to live our lives reacting to things that happen to us. We blame our circumstances on others or what is going on around us. For the first time in that African desert, I had to come to the conclusion that the blood of Jesus Christ took care of every pain, hurt, mistake, shame, or hopelessness that I feel. Jesus died for ME. For you. For all of us, so that we may live in freedom. There is absolutely nothing less or more I could do to be saved. Christ redeemed me.

It’s been a little over a year and a half since I first came to Africa and I find myself here again. But not here by my own effort. Only by the loving kindness and grace of God. He brought me this far to write this part of my story in using what had happened in my life to speak to others. I can walk in freedom because of Christ. I can look at the things that happened and not be completely and utterly devastated because I can look to a savior who is the ultimate comforter.

“The Lord is my shepherd. I lack nothing.” Psalm 23:1

As I sat there and read this verse this morning, one I’ve read a thousand times, I am amazed that it puts right there how we need to live. I lack NOTHING. This doesn’t mean that everything is okay but could be better. It doesn’t mean that I need to be defeated because of situations in my life. It doesn’t mean I need to worry about what is going to happen. It literally means there is NOTHING that I need more than Jesus. If I am resting in His love and freedom, my life lacks nothing.

And that’s where I find myself. God brought me out of unbearable chains so I can turn around and tell others that they too, lack nothing. On the days where life seems a little bit harder, I constantly am reminding myself that the Lord is my shepherd and I lack nothing. Nowadays, instead of singing the tune of living in the hurt, I can absolutely say that freedom in Christ is better when I truly step into it. When we fully surrender to His love, we are consumed and from that, want to love others.

I’m amazed daily that this is the story God is writing in my life. I’m amazed that God put me back in the place that is home with people who are family and allows me to tell of His life-saving love. I want to always remember that there is nothing in this world that is greater than God’s love for us. And for you too, friends, there is nothing too big that God cannot handle. He loves you just as you are.

Jesus didn’t say “come to me when you are perfect.” He simply says, “Come as you are.” Let’s come to Him today. Life may be messy but God just wants to love you right now. Rest today in that. I know I am.

 

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Oh, He is good

I’ve only been in Africa a few days but I still have to constantly remind myself how faithful God is. I know He is.  Very few know the process of what it took to actually get here. He moved mountains, stood with me in the hills and valleys, but even in knowing that, as soon as I got the chance to sit down, I got scared. I was worried about the future, scared of adjusting to African culture (again), I missed people, my dog, my daily Texas sunset. But in all of those, I am reminded that the price Jesus paid for me is so much bigger than those tiny worries.

None of those comforts, trials, valleys, or doubts can describe what He did for me and you and how good God truly is. His love reaches far and wide even when I’m nearly out of everything it takes to feel love and love in return. God remains when everything good in me does not.

In Romans 8:31- 32 His word says, “ If God is for us, who can be against us? He did not spare his own son, but gave him up for us all – how will he not also, along with him, graciously give you all the things?”

Amazing, isn’t it? The God of the universe, the creator of the heavens and the earth gave his son for me. For you. For sinners. For poor and rich. For Americans. For Africans. There is nothing that we can do that can separate us from His love. As I sit here, trying to grasp that, the present worries seem to fade. Life on the mission field brings lots of discomforts, but the big picture of Hope is life giving.

Daily already I’m brought to praise as God shows his faithfulness to me through seeing the people I became so close to and daily I’m reminded if I don’t turn my face to God, I am easily distracted from the purpose He designed me for. God’s love is so vast and I’m so thankful I can see Him in action here in Africa.

Adjusting is always hard. If you know me, you know change is not my thing. But my thing is to follow a God who loves us so deep, cares so much, and is in every detail of our highs and lows. I want to sing of His goodness when things are smooth and I want to be brought to praise and say He is good when life doesn’t feel good.  He is good. 

The last few days have been filled with reunions, hugs, love and returning to show God’s faithfulness to others. To be the person God uses for that cannot be matched. I’m humbled, thankful, and praying to never lose my wonder in a creator who is so, so good.

My team and I are off to Darling, South Africa for a month of farm ministry. I’m thankful for each prayer and person who is there through this process. I am in kind of a twilight zone with jetlag and lack of sleep but I stand in awe of actually being here. As I enter this next month, my prayer is to remain steadfast in love and bear in love with one another – my team, the community, and anyone we come in contact with. 

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Ntombi - such a sweet reunion  

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Street view - Centurion  

3m South Africa  

3m South Africa