The Sufficiency of Grace

Almost four and a half years after making the decision to give my life to Christ and to dedicate my life to Him, I find myself in a new room and a new country, with new friends and new lessons. As a second year in University, there was no way I would have guessed how one decision would have lead me here. But looking around at older believers in my life at the time, I thought my life would look similar to theirs. I would be a leader in the faith, a guide to younger generations, with a clear understanding of the gospel and the implications it has on every person and nation. In summary, I would have a better grip on what it means to be a follower of Christ and I would be building in skills rather than taking beginner courses. As I stepped into this new role of being a cross-cultural campus minister, I thought the same principle would apply. I figured I was already pretty good at this whole Christian thing by now, so it was my turn to share the word and guide those who were called into the faith. At this point, you can probably tell where I am going with this. I was wrong… mostly. 

The part of me which had it right was how I am called to share the gospel and to make disciples of all nations (Matthew 28:18-20). I am called to be an ambassador for Christ (2 Corinthians 5:20-21). These will always be true, and I hope I continue to live my life by these principles. 

However, after a series of unforeseen circumstances, obstacles, and just straight-up mistakes, I became incredibly frustrated with myself. 

Why was I still struggling with adjusting to this country even after six months?

Why was I failing to have a quiet time every day?

Why is this sin area still in my life?

Why don’t I understand how to effectively share the gospel?

Why can’t I understand the issues my friends are having with church or Christianity?

and on and on and on…

Ultimately, I was asking why I wasn’t perfect. Looking back, I can see that now. However, at the moment I was just mad.  Whenever others were trying to encourage me or calm me, I kept hearing the same thing: “Zoë, you have to show yourself grace. You have to be patient with yourself.”

Now, anyone who has known me for more than a day, knows I am not good at being patient in general and it extends even more so with myself; its a pretty difficult concept for me to grasp. But grace, I understood grace. 

Grace is receiving good which I don’t deserve. 

It’s the love and mercy I received when Christ entered my life. Romans 3:24 says, “and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus”.

I began thinking about what grace looked like when I had first accepted Christ.

Before Christ, I was building my own kingdom, and I was stressed about it. I worked hard to be the best in school, in activities, and even among my friends. But no matter how hard I tried, everything seemed to fall down around me. I was weak, I couldn’t control anything or build anything on my own because no matter how hard I tried, it would fall. Then Christ became my solid foundation, He was the one my life could be built on. What he did in and through my life would stand strong and would stand for eternity. And yet, here I was four and half years later, still thinking I could do it on my own. Still thinking I had to perform to be perfect in order to present myself to God. 

So, because I knew my past, I had hope. Verses like Philippians 1:6, “being confident of this that he who began a good work in you will carry it out unto completion until the day of Christ Jesus” allowed me to breathe. I wasn’t finished, God was still transforming me. But this still wasn’t the full picture. I was still mad at myself for being weak. 

Yet, every time I go back to those first days when I started following Christ a memory rings out.

At this point, I had been following Christ for about a year and my parents were visiting me at university, we had just finished hanging out with the director of the student ministry I was involved with. Driving away, my dad observed, “Zoë, you used to be this stressed-out kid, but now you are really happy and you seem to have peace. I thought I taught you this through the way I lived my life, I didn’t realize you had to hear the gospel.” The biggest testimony of the transforming power of Christ in my life was evident in my own dad’s words. 

I cherish this memory but I also saw it in contrast with later memories. 

I had begun trying to lead a bible study in my sorority house, and I was telling a younger woman in the house a little bit about my life before Christ. She was surprised, she had not known me before following Christ, until then she didn’t fully understand the transformation which was to take place upon accepting Christ.

One thing this taught me was my testimony is an essential tool in sharing the gospel. 

More importantly, it also reminded me how God is a transforming God, He intends to transform us more and more into his image until the day of glory. I wanted this truth to be evident in the way I lived my life and in what I said. But how could I do that if I was trying to be perfect all the time? 

If I was working on my own strength to be righteous then how would others see how God’s transforming word and power is what makes me righteous before Him?

I came across a verse in my reading which struck a chord with me more than ever before, Luke 5:31-32.

“Jesus answered them, ‘It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous but the sinners to repentance.” 

Jesus is speaking to the Pharisees, who were law-abiding Jews, and they counted on following the law perfectly in order to be righteous. In the end, they missed out on grace, the great and fullness of grace which is found in trusting your life to Jesus. They turned from the free grace Jesus offered them, to rely on their own righteousness.

In order to be healed, I need to recognize I am sick. In order to be refined by the perfecter of my faith, I need to recognize my own sin. 

By acknowledging my own weaknesses and shortcomings, I am able to share Him who is my strength and who fully forgives me. 

In this role, I have a tendency to think I need to appear as if I have it all figured out. But what the girls I lead actually need to know is we follow a God who is continually healing us. If our weakness overcomes us and we fall into sin, He is still calling us deeper into a relationship with Him. He is calling us to repent so His grace transforms us, and He is our strength who keeps us from falling, and He is the grace which picks us up when we do fall. 

Going forward, my hope is when I do fail, when I do fall, instead of hiding it or trying to pick myself up to be better, I will fall at the feet of the Father who says,

“My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” and therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. 2 Corinthians 12:9.

To Wait on the Lord

After a period of time of feeling very weak and exhausted, I have been encouraged by how the Lord has answered my prayers in giving me enriching time in His word. I recently celebrated being in the country for two months and there was a part of me which felt I was done with adjusting and I was ready to move into focusing on working and being in the field. And yet, it seemed the Lord did not have such a transition in mind for me just yet. But, in typical fashion for a task-oriented person, I became frustrated with not getting to do what I thought I was ready for. I was eager to move on to the next phase because surely this adjustment period shouldn’t last much longer. Then I began to wrestle with what the scriptures seemed to be teaching me. 

Joshua 7 tells the story of Achan, how he sinned against the Lord by taking treasure from Jericho that was intended to be consecrated to the Lord and how this obedience led to destruction as the Israelites attempted to move further into the Promise land. The beginning of Joshua 7 tells us of how Achan’s sin hurt the Israelites and eventually led to his demise. In isolation, the story of Achan clearly states that we must not disobey the Lord. Something similar happens in parenting, if you disobeyed your parents growing up chances are you received some type of reprimand for your transgression against them. 

So the Israelites go on, after Achan is punished for the sin he committed, the Israelites have victory over the next city, Ai. While I read Joshua 8, one verse took on a whole new meaning to me. Joshua 8:2 states, “You shall do to Ai and its king as you did in Jericho and its king, except that you may carry off their plunder and livestock for yourselves…”. I was shocked, in the very next city they went to attack, the Lord commanded them to take the plunder for themselves. If only Achan would have waited, then he could have received all he desired and maybe more. 

I went back to Joshua 7, and I began to meditate on why Achan disobeyed the command. Although I can’t perceive Achan’s heart in this situation, I can think of why anyone would disobey a command. Inherently, I believe it comes from a distrust, a lack of faith, in the person who gives the command. Achan could have feared that the Lord wouldn’t provide all that he needed, or maybe that he thought he needed more than what the Lord was going to give him. Either way, he took matters into his own hands. He took control of the situation instead of trusting the way God was leading him. 

I thought of the ways that I try to take control of my life. When I try to choreograph what my life will look like. In my sin, I don’t want to wait, I want to have what I want right now. Whether that is a thriving ministry, a relationship, or a sense of comfort. I tend to try to make those things happen for myself as quickly as I can. I am not patient, and it is because I don’t trust that where I am right now is good. In Joshua 1:9 God says, “…Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.”

What a promise, the Lord tells His people that He will always be with them. Not trusting where God has me reveals how I think I know better. I think I know what my life should look like now. I have to examine myself in those times, do I think the Lord is not slow in keeping His promises as 2 Peter 3:9 says. So instead of attempting to maintain total control, in faith I wait on the Lord to provide all that I need.

The Lord is not slow in keeping His promises as some understand slowness. Instead He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish but everyone to come to repentance.

2 Peter 3:9

So what does it mean to wait on the Lord? For the Israelites it was an active obedience. The beginning of Joshua is riddled with God’s promise that He has already given victory to the Israelite army. He has already delivered their enemies into their hands in order to fulfill His promise of delivering His people into the Promise land. Joshua, leading the army, receives this promise and leads the army into action. Joshua didn’t attack before the Lord commanded and he followed the Lord’s instructions in their war strategy.

Even in the battle of Jericho, despite the city being in an almost impenetrable fortress, the Lord had promised that they would have victory over Jericho. So when God instructed them to simply march around the city for seven days, Joshua obeyed. The walls fell, the Lord’s power and Joshua’s obedience led them to victory. Joshua could have tried to take control of the fight by relying on his own strategy, but instead he trusted that the Lord would fulfill His promise. Joshua exemplifies what it looks like to be a person who trusts in the Lord with all his heart and to not lean on his own understanding as Proverbs 3:5 describes. 

Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to Him, and He will make your paths straight.

Proverbs 3:5-6

So I ask myself, “Do I trust that God is working for my good?”, “Am I being faithful and obedient to what He is asking me to do right now?”. 

These are the questions I want to continually ask myself as I fix my eyes on where I am now instead of where I could be in the future. Focusing on consecrating this very special season I have been given to glorify God in rest and in dependence on His strength rather than glorifying myself in my works.

Breaking Independence

Almost my entire life I have been categorized with a personality of independence. In typical middle child fashion, I would often strike off on my own and tend to isolate myself from my family. Throwing myself into school and activities, I gained leadership skills and developed a sense of responsibility to care for myself. My parents would describe how I rarely ever asked for money and as soon as I started driving I had even less of a need to ask them for things. Throughout high school, I looked forward to going to college and truly getting to be on my own.

While I was in college, I strived to figure things out on my own. I didn’t want to have to ask others for help, so I did everything I could to learn on my own. My self powered responsibility, strength, and motivation is what powered me through college and I would argue, it even powered my relationship with God.

The two disciplines that I quickly latched on to when I started following Christ were obedience and scripture memory. These were things I enjoyed because I appreciated the clarity in what I was being told to do. My task-orientation took over, I looked forward to the bible studies and the scriptures that told me how to live a life that aligned with God’s will. I wanted leaders and studies to tell me what to do in order that I could change my life and look more like Christ. 

Want to grow in holiness? Great, stop doing these things.

Want to disciple women in my life? Show them these illustrations.

Want to be a spiritual leader? Memorize these verses.

Want to have a deep relationship with God? Read these passages. 

I wanted to have something tangible in my relationship with God and there was something that met that desire in me when I made a list of things to do. 

At first glance, this all seems great. Most people struggle with obedience and being told what to do, but not me.

But somewhere along the line, there was a shift in my heart. My joy was not rooted in God, it was rooted in the things I did that made me feel close to God. When I felt as if I was going through the motions, I looked for other things to do in order to revive my relationship with God. I wanted someone to tell me what to do so that I could feel close to God.

While I was support raising, it started to be clear to me how this shift was affecting my heart and my perspective on the grace that God had given me. My support coach once said to me, “Zoë, you can’t change your heart. Only the Holy Spirit can transform you, you can’t transform yourself.”

This was a direct hit against the way I had been living my life, I relied on my works and my tasks in order to provide transformation in my life. In support raising, I grew a lot in what it meant to depend on God for the fruits of my works. I learned that I could only be faithful to what God had asked for me to do, but I couldn’t make people join my support team. When support raising was finished, I thought I had learned all I needed to learn when it came to dependence on the Lord.

Then I got to South Africa.

The first few weeks were a true honeymoon season. I reconnected with so many friends that I hadn’t seen in over a year, I got to buy things to decorate my room, and I was really enjoying my seminary classes.  

But after a weeks, it all started to catch up with me. I was struggling with the fact that I didn’t have an established ministry so I didn’t know what to do most days, I couldn’t drive so I relied completely on my house mates to take me to meetings and to drive me to my events, and I felt so tired.

I had lost the joy in my time with God tasks, some nights all I wanted to do was watch shows and not talk to people, and I kept looking for things that were going to snap me out of this funk I felt l was in.

I believed that if I just kept doing the things that I had always prescribed to myself: a dose of reading the word, reviewing scripture memory, and writing my single page of prayers that eventually I would be more adjusted.

But, when you move to a different country and a new job, your capacity is a whole lot lower than you are used to. I truly felt exhausted and I wasn’t feeling refreshed in my time with God. 

Then one Sunday, God revealed to me what I was missing. At the church we attend here, we go to a service in the morning and a service in the evening that preaches a different service. 

In the morning I was reminded that if I wanted to be growing in godliness, I needed to spend time with God, but that growing in godliness starts from within, my right behaviors will not fix my heart. Our pastor spoke on how godliness grows from a knowledge of the truth of the gospel, loving and knowing the truth will lead us to godliness. He finished by going through 1 Timothy 3:16 and sharing that true godliness springs from the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus.

“Beyond all question, the mystery from which true godliness springs is great: He appeared in the flesh , was vindicated by the Spirit, was seen by angels, was preached among the nations, was believed on in the world, was taken up in glory.” 1 Timothy 3:16

I walked away determining that I needed to find the root problem for why I wasn’t growing in godliness since arriving in South Africa. I know the gospel and the price that God paid in order to have a relationship with me but there was something missing.

At our evening service, I found that piece. The message was based in Ephesians 2:1-10 and was entitled, “Disciplined by Grace”. He highlighted the fact that we are sinful and we can do no good thing by our own desire, we were dead and could do nothing. But out of His great love, He gave us grace so that we could be made alive in Christ. It is only by His grace and His revival that I am able to do any of the works that He has given me. 

And that was it, I sat in the pews after the service and felt convicted about how I had been trying to live off my own strength and been trying to motivate myself in order to deepen my relationship with God. I was reminded of 2 Timothy 2:1. I was not letting the gospel strengthen me to do all these works. I didn’t just need to depend on God for ministry needs but also, I needed to depend on Him for my relationship with Him.

“You then, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus.” 2 Timothy 2:1

I need to depend on Him for my joy, for learning in His word, for strength in scripture memory, to care for my anxieties, for everything.

So I decided to go back to basics. I lamented, I laid out my heart before God in prayer. I asked Him to give me the strength to be in His word. I asked Him for joy in the works that He had given me to do. I asked Him for strength, just to get through the day.

Psalm 51:12 has been my life verse these past weeks, and I have prayed it each night. He has answered this prayer by reminding me of the gospel through teammates and training and He has blessed me with the desire to be in His word each day. 

My prayer is that you will ask God to transform you and to deepen you relationship with Him, because He alone can change your heart. 

“Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit to sustain me.” Psalm 51:12

Changing Seasons

When the Leaves Start to Fall

During my last week in Missouri, I was sitting at a park bench enjoying some chai and great company when a leaf fell from the tree above and smacked me directly on the nose. The event completely interrupted the story I was telling and I looked around and above me to see all the leaves that had already fallen and were arrayed around us.

In Missouri, as August fades into September, you can tell Autumn is coming because the leaves begin to fall. Autumn in the midwest is one of my favorite experiences. I normally look forward to Saturday tailgating, layers of clothes, and the landscape of Missouri being painted with shades of orange, brown, and red. When the Autumn is coming, I know what to expect and what to plan for.

This year, I am trading in my treasured midwest Fall for a South African Spring. As I am sitting in the airport watching time pass by, I wonder what to expect in this next season. I replay the two main questions others have asked me and I vaguely answered.

“What will my daily life be like?”

“How am I feeling?” 

Although reasonable questions, I only have guesses at the answers. 

Expectations, both good and bad, are imagination. They aren’t inherently bad but you can’t live in imagination, you can’t put your hope in what is imaginary. 

I wrestled with this idea I had to re-learn during my last few weeks in Missouri. I wanted to know the specifics. I wanted to be able to prepare for what was ahead. Knowing my expectations would most certainly fall short of reality, I set aside my desire for planning, trading it in for patience and trust. 

“In the morning, Lord, you hear my voice; in the morning I lay my requests before you and wait expectantly.” Psalm 5:3

This verse was posed to me by my mentor as we drove to the airport, and she asked what I was expecting the Lord to do.

I was hesitant to answer as I had been wrestling with expectations for the past few weeks. Nonetheless, we began to discuss it and she implored me to remember what I am laying before the Lord so when He proves His faithfulness and His kindness, He would be glorified.

What I Lay Before the Lord

I am asking the Lord to transform and refine me into the woman He has created me to be. To grow even beyond the way others and I character-type myself to be. To grow in my innate strengths and to be developed in flexibility and my dependence on the Lord.

To experience persecution and suffering as I know I am promised (2 Timothy 3:12), yet to be unwavering in my rejoicing of the Lord and His goodness despite my circumstances (Habakkuk 3:17-18).

To prioritize serving and caring for others and their needs (Philippians 2:3-4).

To deepen in my relationship with the Lord and my role as a reflector of His glory (1 Peter 1:6-7 & 1 Corinthians 3:18).

When the leaves meet the grass

Though it seems impossible to fully grasp, or even imagine, what it will be like to live in a different country for two years, I wait expectantly on the Lord and what He will accomplish.

The closer it gets to boarding time, the butterflies in my stomach flutter with eagerness and anticipation. My nervousness is dismissed by my confidence in the Lord’s great sovereignty over my life.

Yet, I can’t put my finger on the feeling I am left with.

Like a dancer waiting the wings for the curtains to be pulled. Like a batter approaching the box.

I don’t know what’s about to happen but I have a feeling it’s going to be beautiful and it’s going to be grander than I could even begin to imagine. 

Wishing Away Circumstances

“I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.”  Philippians 4:12

The idea of being content has always seemed to be an unattainable state of mind for me. In theory, it should be easy. Just be happy with what you have in life right now.  But as a natural achiever, I also feel as if there is always the next step. There is somewhere else to move to, some other higher level. I’ve noticed this is not only true for me.

Being surrounded by young adults, it is easy to desire what others have when we see the significant strides others are making in their careers and their relationships. Also, young adults look to those who are many seasons beyond where we are and can be jealous of the steady, lack of change pace. There is always something in someone else’s life to desire. Or as the adage goes, the grass is always greener on the other side. 

The sweetest month of support raising I had was the month of April. It wasn’t the sweetest because of how much support came in or seeing God do big things through my life. It was merely because, for the first time, I truly enjoyed where I was in life. I loved support raising and talking with others about what God is doing in South Africa. I had a lot of little moments at work or with friends I could acknowledge at the moment, wouldn’t have happened if it weren’t for my extended season of support raising. In addition, I could feel God was going to get me to South Africa in His timing and it would be perfect. 

But as the month passed, and another goal launch date passed. My only desire was to get to South Africa. I couldn’t imagine anything sweeter than finally being done with support raising and getting to buy my plane ticket out of rainy Missouri. I would imagine what it would be like to reunite with my friends and to move into my new house. All of it glittering with the hope it would be better than what I was doing right now. It started to take a toll on the way I viewed support raising and the way I talked with potential supporters. I was desperate. I just wanted to be done so I could finally be where I was supposed to be. 

I didn’t realize the flaw in my thinking until I was talking to others in my life who had also been wishing for the next phase of their lives. Whether it was a new job, marriage, or having a baby, it finally dawned on me, so many of us hope and wish for the next season no matter what we have. 

In one particular conversation, I remember my “wise advice” was encouraging this other person to stop trying to skip into this next season because although it was the next logical step, there was no sign the season was going to come soon. “Why are you trying to rush into a season that is going to limit you and completely change everything you are doing and can be doing right now,” I told her. 

Little did I realize, I might as well have been speaking to myself. Here I was, hoping and wishing to be in full-time ministry but forgetting all the ways it would dramatically change my regular schedule. Although being in full-time ministry would mean I was getting to do what I felt like I was called to. I would also miss the freedom in each day to spend 3+ hours at a coffee shop by myself studying the word, reviewing scripture memory, and pouring into a prayer journal. 

The more I thought, the more I realized how much I doubted God’s goodness and timing by considering what would be next is better for me then where I am right now. 

If I genuinely believed God knew the plans He had for me and they were to prosper me and not to harm me (Jeremiah 29:11), then why wouldn’t I fully trust if it were best for me to be in South Africa right now, then I would be. 

So, if I know God has me here right now, doing exactly what I am doing, for a specific reason. What does it look like to be content?

I would argue, I don’t just want to be content but I want to rejoice. I want to experience the abundant joy because I am here right now. I want to take every opportunity to discover how God is going to be glorified because of where I am. 

Practically, I think this could mean taking inventory of what would change whenever I reach full support and then with a glad heart, investing entirely into those things.

For me, this means taking advantage of the freedom I have to focus on my relationship with the Lord. It means spending time with friends enjoying the humid Midwestern summer and spending time in fellowship with people who have walked me through the highs and lows of support raising and encouraging them. I could probably come up with some more, but those are the ones are on my heart this week. 

So how do we encourage others who sincerely hope for their next season of life? The verse that comes to mind is 1 Corinthians 4:18:

“So we fix our eyes, not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.”

Focusing on what God is doing in and through our lives rather than the fleeting circumstances around us. 

Although I am definitely not refined in this, as every morning I hope I will open my computer to an email stating all my support has been raised. I know this is something I want to continue to challenge myself in. 

The Smooth Path

“I will lead the blind by ways they have not known, along unfamiliar paths I will guide them; I will turn the darkness into light before them and make the rough places smooth. These are the things I will do; I will not forsake them.” Isaiah 42:16

Isaiah 42:16 has become a significant verse to me during my support raising. It has helped to keep me grounded. When I don’t know who to call next or even how I could ever get to 100%, it helps to remind me that in the darkness, He still has a plan. He will shed light onto the situation when it is most necessary. Even when the path ahead seems to be so dark, I can trust that He is still working, and He will guide me.

The verse was first introduced to me when I was trying to figure out what my future career and plans should be. I was trying to plan but didn’t have anything to prepare. I would become very frustrated every time I even tried to look into leases or flights. This verse reminded me that although, concerning my future, I felt blind. I could trust that He would lead me. He was with me in my darkness, and He was helping me to navigate every step. After a few months, He did make clear to me what His next steps for me were, that was when I received the offer to join the staff team in South Africa.

Recently, this verse has gained more depth with respect to following Christ amidst a culture that is growing more and more averse to the things of God.

In typical Missouri fashion, some friends and I recently ventured to a swimming spot they had discovered deep inside one of the local state parks. Since this was a pretty secret swim spot, the path there was long and arduous. Although I could easily compare this to the way of the Christian life in general, comparing this beautiful swim spot to the end of our journey and acknowledging the trials that come with aspiring towards such a beautiful and worthy destination. Instead, I want to focus on a particular aspect of my personal experience.

My feet.

To get to this swimming spot, we mostly had to walk through a small portion of the creek. This creek was riddled with all kinds of rocks, of all sorts of shapes and sizes. Due to my unfortunate luck, the only shoes I had were my high-top American flag converse. As one of my favorite pairs of shoes, I wasn’t going to walk through the water and rocks to potentially ruin them.

So, I went barefoot.

This led to some very achy feet even though I stepped very carefully across the rocks, each one felt like it was digging into my feet. Although this is partially hyperbolic, my feet do ache as I write this.

I took the longest out of the group to get there and even longer on the way back. One of my friends was also barefoot during a portion of this journey, and so I asked him how he managed it. In effect, he responded that his feet were used to walking across these kinds of surfaces and it didn’t hurt as much anymore.

During my prayers this morning I was thinking of this verse and this part of it jumped out to me.

“I will turn the darkness into light before them, and make the rough places smooth.”

My first thought was how much I wished that He could have made my path smoother during my journey to the swimming spot.

In His goodness, He desires to give us a smooth path which doesn’t cause our feet to ache. The way of following Christ isn’t an easy one. There will always be obstacles trying to divert us from the path. But it is truly the best life possible. In submitting to His plan and following His ways, He makes our path perfectly designed for us to follow for our good.

Deuteronomy 29:5 says “Yet the Lord says, ‘During the forty years that I led you through the wilderness, your clothes did not wear out, nor did the sandals on your feet.’”

During their time in the wilderness, the Israelites complained many times, but they couldn’t complain about their feet because God had protected them and kept them from aching. I bet they didn’t have any rocks digging through their divinely sturdy sandals.

The rest of the world hardens themselves to the pain and the brokenness because they don’t know that there is a better life for them. They build up callouses because to them, there is no other way. They just have to survive it and hope that the end is worth the pain of the journey.

With faith and hope in knowing that this path leads to the best possible destination. I rejoice, because it is a way that is smooth and leads to an eternal relationship with the Creator who cares for every step we take.

Remembering the Trustworthy

“Lord, you are my God; I will exalt you and praise your name, for in perfect faithfulness you have done wonderful things, things planned long ago” Isaiah 25:1

When I was growing up, my parents wanted my sisters and me to grow into independent and self-sufficient women. And that is exactly how I turned out. Almost to a fault.

Therefore, I have difficulty when it comes to asking for help and giving other’s responsibilities. It used to take a lot for a friend or a person in my life to prove their trustworthiness to me. To show they will do what they say they will. If they didn’t, then I would take it over myself.

Unfortunately, this tends to transfer over into how I view God. In my relationship with God, I know that I want to be utterly dependent on Him, but this is counter to how I was raised to be.

This tension has become especially evident during support raising. When I feel like God isn’t providing for my support, I feel as if I need to work harder and I need to do more to move forward in my support. I feel as if I need to take more control. When in reality, I need to trust that God is faithful and His word is trustworthy, giving up all of my control.

“He who did not spare His own son, but gave him up for us all- how will He not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?” Romans 8:32

So how do I grow in trusting His trustworthiness? Well, I have to remind myself of the ways that He has already proven Himself to be faithful and trustworthy.

One way that I remind myself of His faithfulness is to remember all that He did to get me to South Africa in the first place.

This is that story.

Going into college, I expected that in four years I would be graduating with a degree in chemistry and would be on my way to a medical school in California, destined to be a pediatrician. During my sophomore year of college, that goal only slightly changed.

I had decided to place Jesus on the throne of my life as my Lord and Savior. So, in addition to medical school, I wanted to use that degree to go into missions somewhere overseas.

The original plan changed a lot more at the beginning of the second semester of my senior year of college and it kept changing during those last four months.

I had thought about the idea of doing missions long term but wanted to have practical experience before committing to anything. I was able to join a short-term trip that was scheduled to launch to Dubai mid-March for a week. But, as I was starting to support raise, the endeavor was canceled.

Still determined to go on a short-term mission trip, a StuMo staff member and I started looking into more organizations that had summer mission trips.

Each one of them fell through.

After returning to Mizzou from spring break, I got a call from a StuMo staff member about a spot that opened up on their short-term trip to South Africa, and they were inviting me to go. This call came in on a Monday.

Tuesday I talked with the team leader about the specifics.

Tuesday night I discussed the opportunity with my parents.

Wednesday I confirmed that I would be on the team.

Thursday they bought my plane ticket.

Friday, I went to Kansas City for training, and I began support raising.

Within a week my summer plans had changed, and though I didn’t know it, all of my future plans were about to change too.

To top it off, this all happened only five weeks before the departure date.

At the time I didn’t realize it, but the team leader had made a massive leap of faith by buying my plane ticket before I had even started support raising. The rest of the team had the whole semester, at least 4 months, to raise their support. And even with all that time, not everyone reaches the full amount before departing.

I officially started support raising April 9th I reached full funding, about $5,300, by May 8th. The Lord provided all the financial support I needed more quickly than I could have imagined, even giving me the week before to take finals and get ready for graduation.

In similar fashion to the beginning of this journey. The weekend following finals week, I graduated on Saturday, got baptized on Sunday with all my family present, and then on Monday my parents drove me to the Kansas City airport to leave for South Africa.

I remind myself of this story because it is proof that His plan and His timing is perfect.

All this happened not because of my excellent planning and organization skills but in spite of them. Only God could have made that happen; He alone deserves the glory for the vast and immeasurable ways that He provides.

I went into the second semester of my last year of college unsure of what I would be doing and what my life would look like, and it wasn’t until the last two months of my time at Mizzou that He made clear to me a portion of His plan for me. And a year ago this week, I was preparing to leave on the adventure of a lifetime.

Doors were closed, and doors were opened. My patience was tested, and it will be tested again. But the Lord is always faithful, and He is steadfast in His plan for me and for His name to be known in every nation.  

Though I can’t see what He is doing behind the scenes right now. Even though it feels as if I am on my own. I can take a step back to remember what God has done in my life and to remember God.

“Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, Yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will be joyful in God my savior” Habakkuk 3:17-18

Finding Hope in the “No’s”

Throughout supporter raising, I have found that there are several similarities between supporter raising and sales. Since I received a chemistry degree and had never taken a business class, the notion that I was now in a profession that required a skill I didn’t feel I had was incredibly scary. Persuading someone to buy something or do something has never been a strength of mine. Even with my one-year experience in Girl Scouts, I don’t think I could sell Thin Mints well.

Occasionally, I notice in the way I talk and the way I text, I speak with hesitancy and low-confidence. Which I know from business people, is not how you make a sale. Words like, “potentially,” “might,” and “maybe,” are scattered throughout my speech. In support raising, as in sales, you hear a lot of “no” and unfortunately this does not help the way that I “sell myself.” Each time I hear “no,” there is a part of me that starts to believe I won’t ever hear “yes.” This doubt causes me to be even more hesitant and insecure in the way that I invite others to be a part of my support team. But to continue and work towards the magical 100%, I continue to analyze the way I pitch my opportunity and the way I approach people, continually trying to be a better saleswoman. But, no matter how much I change my tactics, often it doesn’t affect whether or not a person decides to join my support team. I could give the best pitch missions have ever seen, but if God has not convicted a person of joining my team, then it wouldn’t matter.

But there’s good news since God is in every single support appointment I have. He is always the determining factor. Although this could make me feel as if my hard-earned efforts aren’t worth it, it also gives me hope because I can have confidence God will provide for me whether I give the best presentation or the worst.

“Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.”
Psalm 139:16

I used to wish I would be able to take a peek at the list of people that God already knows will be on my support team, then I would know who to ask, and I wouldn’t have to continue to call people who seemed to be a lost cause. Gone would be the days of going into every appointment bearing the stress and worry of whether they would be able to join my team because I knew that God had already decided that they would.

Then I realized, learning such a thing would only hurt my ministry in the future. This lesson is another connection that God has shown me between support and evangelism.
If I saw the names of every person that would come to know Christ through me sharing the gospel with them, then I would undoubtedly not share it with anyone else since there would seemingly be no point. But, I don’t share the gospel because I want to convince them to give their lives to Christ; the salvation of souls does not belong to me. I do not save people. Jesus saves people.
So, therefore, I share the gospel, and I have joined this ministry because that is what God calls me to and I want to be faithful to Him. It is not my job to make others believe the good news, and it is only my job to share it.

“So, neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow.
The one who plants and the one who waters have one purpose, and they will each be rewarded according to their own labor.
For we are coworkers in God’s service; you are God’s field, God’s building.”
1 Corinthians 3:7-9

That being said, I also have to remind myself that in evangelism and support the fact that I do not have control over the outcome doesn’t change what being faithful to what He has called me to means. In this season, being faithful is pursuing the goals to make appointments through calling people, preparing well for speaking, and continuing to follow up with those that I meet. The outcome of a situation shouldn’t affect the integrity I have in how I treat appointments and the way I pursue how He has called me to support raise. Instead, I feel I should continue being faithful even more because He is faithful and patient with me even when I am not deserving of it.

In the same way, it is not my responsibility to convince others to join my support team; it is my job to be faithful to inviting those in my life to be a part of it. So, although it is still difficult to hear that someone will not be joining my support team, I know that I can have hope that God will provide the people that will, and it is more than likely I have not met those people yet. But I know that God will bring me to full support, so I am going to stick to being faithful to the work and let Him decide the details.

“Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourself fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.”
1 Corinthians 15:58

When Do We Arrive?

I’ve been thinking a lot about arriving. I wonder when I am going to arrive in South Africa, I wonder when I will arrive in heaven one day, and I wonder when I am going to be fully mature in my faith.

“Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” James 1:4

As a task-oriented worker, my hope during a project is the completion of that project. I push through trials and setbacks with the determination of finishing the goal in front of me.

Throughout my life, this mindset has given others comfort in knowing that I finish the tasks assigned to me and will work quickly to complete it. For my whole life, this characteristic was always admonished by those I worked alongside.

I have recently seen how this mindset has also caused me trouble and pain.

I was sitting at a round table, on a Wednesday morning looking at all the women who were sitting with me and we’re talking about our Bible study lesson for the week. On average these women were at least 40 years older than me and yet, we were still relating and discussing the ways sin still causes us to slip up and how much more we need to depend on praying. I have been following Christ for roughly three years, but all of these women have at least three decades of pursuing their relationship with God on me, and yet I understood and could see how we wrestled with sin in similar areas of our lives.

This realization was both uplifting and discouraging to me all at the same time.

It was comforting to know I wasn’t alone in the ways that I was struggling with sin, but in the same breath, I also wondered if these women were my future. Would I still be in the same wrestling match for the next 20-30 years with little progress to show?

“Being confident of this, that He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” Philippians 1:6

I had hoped and longed for the day that I would be fully complete and mature. Now that fantasy day in my mind was threatened, and I despaired at the thought that I wouldn’t get to be complete, my task would never be finished. That was until I was reminded through a different conversation that no one is complete until we get to heaven. That my joy is not in the imaginary version of me where I am a perfect reflection of Christ. Although the day I arrive in heaven is sure to be a glorious one, if I focus too much on accomplishing the result then what did I do with all the time in between? What do I miss out on experiencing if I think of the result as the only day worthwhile of rejoicing in?

“And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into His image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.” 2 Corinthians 3:18

What I discredit is the promise in Philippians 1:6, He is continually transforming me. That each day I pursue and deepen in my relationship with God, I am becoming more and more like Him. I am a work in progress and each day the Spirit is shining through me more and more. I tend to focus so much on the kind of woman I will be in 20-30 years, and I disregard the beautiful work that He is doing in me each day.

When I had set out to start support raising, I was fixated on what it will be like when I arrive back in the Johannesburg airport. I imagined who would be there to pick me up, what would be the first thing I had to eat, and I pictured the immense joy that I would feel in being welcomed back with bear hugs and “We missed you”s.

I would fixate so much on this imaginary moment that the joys of support raising were menial and sub-par in comparison. I wasn’t taking the time to focus on the beautiful work that God was doing in and through my life daily. How He is transforming me to be more like Him, and how He is using me in little ways to make His glory known here in Missouri while also preparing me for my future in South Africa.

When I had started support raising, others I respect significantly told me how much support raising would be a blessing to me and how I would not dread support raising but love it and then miss it when it was over. At this moment, it’s hard for me to believe that when I arrive in South Africa, I will miss this season of support raising. But then again, God is continually transforming me, so I can trust that He will help me to see and experience the joy that He has allowed to me to participate in during this season of my faith and transformation.

My prayer going forward is that I would not focus so much on the completion of the task but rather on the beautiful process that He has crafted so uniquely and perfectly for me.

The Truth About Feelings

If you got here from my update email, then you know that my name is Zoë and that I am in the middle of support raising in order to move to South Africa with a campus ministry.

This is a situation that I never thought and sometimes never wanted to be in, but I am truly excited for my time to come in South Africa and am enjoying support raising more and more.

Though, to no surprise, support raising has not been what I had hoped it would be.

I made the decision to go all in and to apply to join the campus ministry’s staff, no more than two weeks after I got back from a 7-week summer vision trip in South Africa.

Out of my grief for missing my friends in South Africa and deep desire to start the work that God had called me to, I decided that I wanted to launch in January after a mere two months of support raising. Although, at the time, I justified this desire because I felt that it made the most strategic sense for me to be back at the beginning of the school year, so why wouldn’t God think so too?

I thought that I knew what God specifically wanted to do with my life, I wanted God to use my life to show how great His power is, to be able to have a big story to testify that God does always provides, and He provides in big ways.

Though January has now come and gone, and I have had to face the fact that I was wrong and that I didn’t know specifically how God wanted to write my support raising story.

I still strongly believe that all those things are true, that God does always provide and that He does provide in big ways, but also in small ways.

But I can’t pretend to know what that is going to look like specifically in my life, I know that God will bring me to full support, that He knows that day that I will step foot back in South Africa.

I feel like I continue to repeat these things to myself because I know they are true, but I don’t always really believe that it is true. But luckily, even if I don’t believe the truth, it doesn’t change the fact that it is true.

But, my feelings affect my actions. When I don’t feel like the truth is accurate, then I don’t work for and towards that truth. I don’t step out because I don’t actually know if the truth is gonna catch me. That is what I have been doing these past few weeks.

After realizing that I wouldn’t get to go back to South Africa in January, I started to doubt if I would ever get to go back. I started to feel like God wasn’t going to provide and that He wasn’t going to be there to catch me. So, I started to sink into a depressive state. I didn’t want to spend time with God, I didn’t want to talk to people about support, and I didn’t think that God was actually working for my good. 

But at first, I didn’t want to find out the root of that depressive season. I didn’t want to admit that I didn’t trust that God. I didn’t trust Him with the perceived delay that He had given me. Because that didn’t seem Christian. I didn’t want to admit that I was struggling because I thought that I should be stronger, more mature than that and I shouldn’t need help to believe that truth. I was in a cycle of not trusting God and then feeling guilty about not trusting God, and then questioning why I was going through this, and then all the way around again.  

I felt stuck and I couldn’t get myself out of it.

Romans 8:39 says, “neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord”

By God’s grace, I am grateful to be in community with people who recognized my feelings and my guilt and reminded me of my identity in Christ. That I don’t earn God’s grace or His gifts, that they were a gift through Christ’s death and resurrection. His approval of me wasn’t based on my support percentage but who I am as His child.

In 2 Corinthians 12:9 Paul says, “But he (Jesus) said to me, ‘my grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ “because of this Paul continues, “therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.”

Support raising has reminded me that I am weak, that I can do no thing a part from Him. That only God can lift me from feeling stuck and give me strength. That it is only God who will work in people’s hearts to bring me to full support. I have felt the weakest during this season, I have had to stand on the faith of others and hold fast to the truth that the Bible brings me.

That’s what makes the truth that much more important, because how I feel about truth doesn’t change the truth, but the truth can change my feelings and it can bring me strength.

Because the truth is that God is good and that He wants what is best for me, but I don’t always feel it, there is a disconnect between what my head knows to be true and what my heart is telling me.

Right now, I am weak. There are some days that I feel weaker in my faith then I ever have before. I don’t like it. I had always prided myself on being a strong independent woman who didn’t need help to get where she was going.

That’s not the case, I am in desperate need of the Lord. Everyday I need His graciousness and His comfort to get through the day. I am humbled and brought low by that idea. But above all I rejoice that He is the one who is helping me, the maker of heaven and earth guides me and strengthens me in each day.

So, though I grieve that I am not with my teammates and my friends in South Africa, I am grateful that God is mending that disconnect, in hopes that it’ll be stronger for any other battles with doubt in the future. That I am being reminded of truth from Jeremiah 29:11-13, Romans 8:28, and Psalm 139:16.

My feelings are still not fully aligned with what’s true. But faith isn’t knowing, it’s trusting. It’s stepping out onto the water, believing that He will catch my steps, just like He says He will. But that is something that I am still wrestling with.

My prayers have changed, from bring me clarity, to strengthen my faith to walk where you lead me even when I can’t see what’s in front of me. 

I have been praying more and more that I would have a strengthened faith in the God who says in Isa 42:16, “I will lead the blind by ways they have not known, along unfamiliar paths I will guide them. I will turn the darkness into light before them and make the rough places new. These are the things that I will do, I will not forsake them”.

I am praying that God will use these words to encourage you as His spirit and words have encouraged me.

For His Glory,