More Grace, We Ask for More Grace

“Adele has the kind of music that makes you miss that person you made eye contact with on the subway 7 years ago.”

Someone posted this meme this week when her new album 25 dropped. She has incredible ability to put into words how so many people feel when they deal with loss.

This fall has been one of mourning, and thanking; loving new things, old things, people, places and everything in between for all they are worth. Some people say goodbye by starting to pull away before they’ve left. Some people ignore the goodbye and pretend its not there. Some people cry, and some people hide.

When I was leaving Lebanon this last summer I tried to make the very most of all it had to offer. There were friendships I made at the very end that are closer to my heart now than friendships I had all year that died with the wave goodbye.

The first 30 days home were not numb, but they were certainly not embracing each moment for all it was worth. The first month home was “what now?” despite knowing what was next. I didn’t know how to feel, how to fit back in again. This last 30 days have been some of the most concentrated growth I’ve had since trusting Christ 6 years ago. I wish I had the energy to spill my guts and tell you the whole story but honestly, I’m exhausted. This last month has allowed me to see the the brokenness of our inability to act upon anything but the past. A few years ago a friend told me in midst of relational struggle, “We ask for more grace. Grace upon grace.” That has been something I’ve clung to many times since but tonight it is even more real as I repent in mourning over my inability to see past the feelings of the moment. Who can blame me, I can’t act upon an experience of the future, I’m not there yet.

This last 30 days have shown me more about loving and losing than I imagined possible. Like the changing seasons, things will always come and go. I crave the day I wake up in heaven and everyone is fully loved, fully known and there are no goodbyes.  I look forward to the environment where eI’m not stiff armed, held back from or let go but embraced in pure intimacy. I’m so worn out from trying to read between the lines and attempting to convey what I want people to know without having to say it. Life is not a film where everyone knows how everyone feels, because none of us are watching life go by, separated from the tensions.

I wish I could pour love out without having to take time to be filled. I wish I could give more than I have. I so often forget that my value comes from whose image I was created in. I forget that I’m not inexhaustible; I’m mortal, and finite. I so easily become depleted of what I have been given, and without filling from the one who never ends, I will never be able to continue.

Tomorrow when I wake up I have to actively choose to see whats around me as a gift. As a grace from the God of heaven who gave His son in my place. Tomorrow I wake up and say yes to the Lord so I can continue to give from His overflow, instead of my own futile efforts. I will not be satisfied in anything else. Papa, help me to chose you. Papa, help us to see we cannot run to each other. Help us to embrace one another without idolizing the idea of heaven before we are there.

Jesus help us to feel deeply when we want to shut off the pain from being shut out, from being disappointed and unsatisfied. Help us Lord Jesus to ask for more grace.

 

Healing at Home

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I’ve been home for 2 months now and have days that are up and down. My most standard response to “are you glad to be home?” is most certainly, “I’m learning to take one day at a time” while smiling softly and nodding my head.

I’ve heard countless times from my step dad the bible verse in Matthew that says “do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will take care of itself.” I’ve been told not to get ahead of myself being a dreamer of the future, an easily excitable event planner and one who almost always has a 10-year plan. That 10-year plan was to be in the Middle East. I thought that I loved it there after an 8 week visit in 2011 but little did I know how much my heart could grow for such a place in as little as 10 more months this last school year.

In my future being changed, I have learned more than ever to hold my hands open to the Lord’s ways of sanctification and change. I’ve never had a more unclear future. I do have the next 2 years or so mapped out for me, but still so much is unknown and there is a lot to learn and grow from.

When I lived in Lebanon I didn’t realize how the unwritten cultural standard for marriage being so much greater, both in financial stability, age, wisdom, and provision was as big of a difference from my private Christian school culture of young marriages, that is, until I arrived back home. I had forgotten what it was like to be around married couples my age. In Lebanon I spent a year with singles who didn’t talk about marriage like it was anything to be grasped in the near future. It was like being in High school again, marriage wasn’t even a question until “after college”. When I arrived home and came back to small group, a group that 3 years ago was all singles, and when I left, was 80% singles had turned into mostly marrieds, engaged couples and serious dating couples. Where had my free friends gone?

It has made me feel so much more lonely than I expected to feel in the community I had loved and missed so much while abroad. It was tempting to pull away while wallowing in this difference; a group that I no longer felt apart of in the same way. I have to fight the urge to believe the lie that this is not God’s best for me.

I’m learning this summer that its okay to need people, its okay to be an extreme extrovert and be energized by being around others. Its okay to not want to be alone and for the need to schedule time around people or go to coffee shops, target or the library just to avoid being alone. I fall into thinking that God should be enough. King David cried out in the Psalms, “whom have I in heaven but you God?” I have clung to that verse in despair, convincing myself that I don’t need anyone else, that God alone should be enough. God created Adam out of an overflow of Love and Adam lived in a garden of perfection, without sin and without pain of longing. God said it was not good for him to be alone. Its okay to need people.

I stopped watching TV regularly when I was a sophomore in high school because my schedule and homework was too much to be consistent for one show. Ever since then, I wasn’t really a TV watcher but I started watching a show online in Lebanon that was really addicting. I downloaded the second and third seasons alongside the first season of a sister show for my time back here in America. When I came home I started filling my nights with these shows. I realized this week that I had been believing the lie that I could be alone for countless hours and still be “energized”. I tried to convince myself that I was becoming more introverted because “introverts don’t need people” and thats what I thought I wanted. I wanted not to need people, that I could be self sufficient. I wanted to believe that I didn’t have to hurt anymore from missing certain people. If I don’t need people, then I don’t have to get close enough to miss anyone. The emotional draw to the characters in this show, watching their stories unfold gave me a false sense of being with people. I was investing energy and emotions into this plot that isn’t real. Sure, I processed some things about the way people think, the way they hurt, how they deal with conflict and see the world but the nights I didn’t immediately pass out from exhaustion after turning it off, I would lay awake and feel completely empty.

TV can give you a very false sense of love, acceptance, and belonging. I’m finding myself stuck in a rut of trying to be satisfied in fiction. Reading can do the same thing, you can invest yourself in a story, feel alongside the main character and get wrapped into a fake world that distracts you from the hurt, and pain of real life.

You E/i N/S T’s out there are reading this shaking your heads at my ability to be emotionally attached to something so illogical but being a feeler is not a weakness. Being able to empathize and sympathize in ways that thinkers typically don’t is a gift despite my best efforts to wish away my feelings when I want them to disappear. I am not ashamed of my ability to feel, but I do wish things were a little more black and white. I wish I could find the best possible solution to the problems at hand and step by step work towards a solution but my brain and heart do not always work that way. I am becoming something greater, a vessel of God’s love in ways that need to be controlled. I struggle with controlling the things around me and one way I am learning to channel that desire is over my mind and over my feelings. Sometimes it is sheer chaos inside me but God is faithful and I am learning that I need him every hour. He is teaching me to take one baby step at a time.

**introverts do need people, please do not mistake the monologue of my faulty thought process for misinformation.

for more information on personality profiling here is a page on feeling vs thinking. Here is a page on Introverts vs extroverts.

A Humble Move to Huntington

Eight months ago I posted this picture on Instagram:

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I posted about turning twenty five and how I had fulfilled my biggest dream; I lived in an area of the world where people didn’t know who Jesus was and why he came to die. I also wrote this to encourage those reading who had not yet fulfilled their dreams:

I’ve come to see that wherever you are is where God most wants to sanctify you. Life is not about chasing your ideals or finding them but being open to what is set before you and committing to pursuing Godly character over perfection of your dreams.

Little did I know that this post would be a foreshadow of changing those big dreams of mine in the coming months. I am not heading back to The Middle East early 2016 anymore but I am not done chasing my dreams, in fact, dreams can be chased in a lot of places. My dreams will be chased by college students I hope to mobilize to care about the world, like I have learned to.


When I sent in my application to move to Lebanon long term, it was with every intention (and the only for that matter) to be placed Internationally in the Middle East, since I had loved my study abroad year so much. I had my interview towards the end of May and found out 3 weeks before leaving the country that I was being recommended without other option to be placed on a stateside campus for development. As you can imagine, I was heartbroken and not very thrilled about having to leave in 20 days without a return date to the life and community I had spent the last 10 months building.

After about a week of coming to terms with my placement at some university in the Mid-South region of the US (NC,SC, KY, TN, WV) I was given a job opportunity from Pastor Charlie to stay in Lebanon instead of solely spending time with university students. Pastor Charlie is very convincing, and incredible at casting vision. I was almost set for the next week and a half to take his offer to work for RBBC (Ras Beirut Baptist church) as one of his assistants; running all the social media for church and being sort of a blogger/reporter on the different ministries that are apart of RBBC and its sister churches in Spain, Syria, Jordan, Egypt and South Sudan while still getting to spend about 1/2 my time on campus and working with Athletes In Action (AIA, the soccer ministry).

I had multiple conversations with different people and all of them pointed me to taking this new job because its everything I’ve ever dreamed of doing; soccer ministry, working with the orphanage, discipleship on campus, writing, traveling, taking pictures, and living among the unreached. I was so excited to be apart of a new way to testify to God’s faithfulness to His kingdom in multiple parts of the Middle East. I don’t have a deep sense of loyalty to this university program and don’t love all of its attics for fruitfulness and thus, this job at RBBC seemed to be much more up my alley.

I still wasn’t sure about it and feeling anxious about trying to pack with a decision not yet made but after church on Sunday, (the day before I was leaving) I went to talk with Nicolas and his wife Jen (the Life Agape National Director) which helped make my decision. He asked me earlier in the Spring when I told him I wanted to stay long term if I had a confirmation from God’s word about this decision. I sheepishly quoted “make disciples of all nations?” and he chuckled and encouraged me to spend time in God’s word until I was sure.

When I went over to their apartment for lunch he asked permission to give his opinion already seeing the tears running down my cheeks at the stress I was internally battling. I had told him I was afraid of being judged for not taking counsel to be developed and afraid for not being healthy overseas in the future. He said,

“Samm, if you don’t pursue your holiness, no matter where you are, you aren’t going to be fruitful.”

We talked more about what it looks like to put God first.

I went to be alone after that and thought “If you love me, you will obey my commandments” like it says in John 14:15 and if thats true in God’s word and the greatest commandment is “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength” (Mark 12:30) then it’s more important for me to pursue holiness right now than my dream job. If this job Pastor Charlie is offering is meant for me, it will still be there after the 2016-17′ school year. I know that he won’t run out of vision, money or ideas so it can wait. I get the opportunity to be poured into for a whole year and still get to mobilize American college students to care about the world.

I intended to write sooner, anxious about what to do next but as you know, moving is busy and I never got around to it. I decided to accept my placement at Marshall University in Huntington, West Virginia (they are the Mid-South Lebanese partnership) and when I am done raising support (hopefully by New Year’s Eve) I will go to New Staff Training in January and then move to WV after.

Like I said, I was heartbroken to leave Lebanon but hope to return as soon as the Lord provides a way. I am not the same person I was when I left for Lebanon and I’m not even the same as I was 2 months ago when my plans were my own. The Lord has shown me so much, humbling me and giving me new wisdom about what its like to hold my hands open and for that I am thankful for each day I get to see my life is not my own.

This is not the first time my heart has been shaken by my plans being taken from me but thus, I have learned that when life starts to feel comfortable, I shall expect something to change. Life really isn’t about chasing your dreams but about being sanctified; being made like that of Christ.

“The Lord gives and the lord takes away; blessed be the name of the Lord.”     –Job 1:21

The Week of Goodbyes

This is a season of change. For many thats starting school, for some its new jobs and for others its watching their kids start school for the first time, or maybe for the last time. For some parents, its becoming empty nesters, or beginning a new life together. For some its adding a member to their family and for others its just the change in the weather. Whatever your change may be, it brings joy and it brings sorrow. There is so much excitement it the starting of a new season, a new dream, a new job or accomplishment with the new stage of life but thats not always the case. For some its the reminder of a loss, perhaps of a loved one, maybe the reminder of another year having not accomplished a dream, or of infertility, or of adoption papers having not been processed.

The season is just about to change, the weather is dropping and the leaves are beginning to turn as school started this week, the fair ended and our lives are taking on new things. Perhaps is appropriate to say that fall is by far my favorite season with pumpkin spice latte’s, crunchy leaves, jeans, scarves, and sweaters. Its time for football games with wild rice soup, chili and hot apple cidar. This season is full of fall ball, (soccer of course) and the biggest change, I guess, I’ll ever experience: the move of a lifetime.

In less than 10 days I will be leaving the country to start a new adventure of learning, and growing and making new memories. This time is surely a time of joy as I am preparing to fulfill a dream I’ve had since returning from the Middle East in the Spring of 2011. I am getting to do what I’ve thought and planned and prayed about for so long which is incredibly sweet! I know there are a lot of people out there that cant say that, so I know this is an absolute grace from above and a blessing to be cherished with my utmost.

So far I’ve said goodbye to co-workers, many supporters, a few friends, my old team, my coach and my grandma. I’ve been prayed over countless times and blessed by so many kind words that sometimes it hinders the real processing of leaving all that I’ve come to know and to love.

I know that saying goodbye as I walk through the airport doors will be filled with sorrow and tears but it will also be a time full of so many ideas and empty lists to fill. I’m thankful for all of the times I’ve had this summer to spend talking and playing and making memories that will last so far beyond this season.

May the Lord give us all grace in time of change, to accept and to cherish and to look forward for all the things to come. I love you all so much and can’t wait to share in this new adventure with you, thank you for being apart of what God is drawing me towards.

Here are some of my favorite memories from this summer:

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