Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Beyond The Wardrobe: Further In And Further Up!

"HIS divine power has granted to us ALL things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of HIM who called us to HIS OWN glory and excellence, by which HE has granted to us HIS precious and VERY GREAT promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature....."  2 Peter 1:3-4

Friends, it is my delight to share with you the new door God has opened to me as I seek to probe further into His heart and climb further up in the purposes of His kingdom!

If you have been following my posts about the Lamplighter Guild and the impact that it made on my life, then you can probably imagine how thrilled I would be at the chance to become more involved with the ministry behind it.  When I learned that Lamplighter Ministries has internship opportunities for former Guild students, a seed was planted in my mind.  I began praying about the possibility soon after Guild week.

Every student was sent a post-guild survey to fill out, allowing us to give feedback on the week....what God taught us, what we enjoyed the most, how can they make it better, etc.  It took me over a week to sit down and fill mine out, because I had so much to testify about my experience that I didn't know where to start.  Imagine my surprise when I received an email in response to my survey, saying that they saw something in my writing which caused them to ask if I'd be interested in doing some writing for Lamplighter Ministries!  I was overwhelmed with the possibilities that seemed to be suddenly blooming on my see, I had already been approached about the opportunity in Romania.  I was praying about that and already sensed that it was a God thing.  So now I began to wonder if I could do both....go to Romania and write for Lamplighter!  I sincerely hoped the two would not oppose each other, because I thought both were open doors from God.  Working with Lamplighter was becoming my new dream, and I was intensely interested in pursuing the invitation!

Over the course of the next several days I was in contact with Lamplighter leadership and waiting to hear more details on what they had in mind, yet I knew that I needed to give my answer about Romania soon.  As I was praying one morning about the tension in my heart, God showed me that I was holding back from deciding about Romania out of fear that I would lose the Lamplighter opportunity, but that I had no valid reason not to say yes.  I believe He was telling me to give my yes to Romania in faith and surrender the results to Him.  So that day I wrote to my missionary friends and told them I was coming to Romania.  And the very next day, I was finally able to speak with someone about the opportunity with Lamplighter.  I learned that what they had in mind would require me to come to their headquarters and start within weeks....even sooner than I would have been free from my current commitment with my grandparents.  Because I had already made the decision to go to Romania, the timing would not work out.  Yet even during that conversation, I had peace that I made the right decision, and in my heart I knew that the door to Lamplighter could still be open for another time.  They encouraged me to pray about coming for an internship, which was already on my heart.

So during the next few months, as we worked to get my grandparents through their transition and I embarked on my two-month venture in Romania, I continued to pray about Lamplighter.  The dream to work with the ministry in whatever capacity I could stayed alive in my heart, and shortly before I returned from Romania, I officially applied for an internship.  By the time I got home, I was 90 percent sure that I'd be going to serve with Lamplighter Ministries.

The month and a half since has been a time of wrestling, of seeking confirmation, of discussing details with Lamplighter leadership, of fighting enemy attack....all in the midst of the holiday clamor at home and travels and family drama!  This has felt like an uphill climb!  But if it had been smooth sailing, there would be cause for concern.  Lamplighter is a God-honoring, fast expanding ministry....a bright light in the darkness....and the team there is frequently experiencing enemy attack because of the threat they pose to Satan's kingdom.  It should come as no surprise that I've been under attack in my quest to join fact, I take it as confirmation that God is leading me there!

What is Lamplighter all about, you may ask?  At the close of Jesus' earthly ministry, before He returned to Heaven, He gave all of His present and future followers a command: "Go therefore and make disciples of all nations....teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you...."  Matthew 28:19-20

Biblical discipleship is at the heart of Lamplighter's ministry.  Borrowing from their website, 'The mission of Lamplighter Ministries is to make ready a people prepared for the Lord, by building Christ-like character one story at a time.'  How did Jesus communicate life-changing truths?  Through story telling.  As a publisher of exemplary books and creator of compelling audio dramas, Lamplighter Ministries strives to produce stories that will do the same.  Since the printing of their first book in 1997, Lamplighter now has over 200 titles....each carefully chosen because the Word of God comes alive in these stories with the power to transform lives.  As they seek to creatively connect God's Word to the hearts of those who are perishing, the leadership at Lamplighter is also committed to inspire and motivate the next generation of Christ's disciples to live a life of excellence.
Their focus is two-fold: 'Preparing people to serve the Lord through internal character development and external career preparation.'  2 Peter 1 tells us that as followers of Christ, we are called to partner with Him in His divine nature!  As Master Creator, Jesus' nature is to create....and He invites each one of us to imitate and reflect His creative excellence in the unique gifts He has given to us, in a way that tells His redemptive story to the world.

The mission of Lamplighter's internship program is, and I quote: 'to promote the development of gifts and talents in an atmosphere where passion and faith meet purpose.  Each intern will be encouraged to grow in wisdom and an intimate knowledge of God's Word, to become a lifelong learner, and a dedicated follower and creative reflection of Jesus Christ.'  I believe God is leading me to Lamplighter as an opportunity to embark on a path of greater discovery.  My hope is to discover how I can develop and cultivate my God-given abilities into the highest level of skill and excellence.  As an intern, I will be there to serve the ministry wherever there is need.  This may or may not involve writing, which is my primary creative passion, but there will be plenty of opportunities to learn and grow.  The possibilities include work in the book bindery and bookstore, assisting with office support, customer service, promotion and marketing, landscaping and general maintenance.

This is not a platform for self-promotion, but rather a stage for God to showcase His incredible strength through my weakness.  I've been fighting a lot of fear and doubt because I know my history, I know my own failure to make the most of every opportunity, and I know I am not sufficient for the task that lies before me.....BUT MY GOD IS!  In His amazing mercy, God continues to work to strip away self so that I can fix my eyes on Jesus, who is the Author and the Finisher of my faith!  I've been told to expect my weaknesses to be exposed in my time with Lamplighter, and that the more vulnerable I'm willing to be, the greater potential there is for growth and transformation. With this in mind, my prayer is that God develops the humility of Christ in me, teaches me to glory in my infirmities that the power of Christ may rest upon me, and brings me to the full conviction of His all-sufficient nature!

This post is my attempt to create a basic picture of where I am headed for the next few months.  I hope it is coherent and interesting.  I'm leaving in two days (this Friday!), it feels a bit like jumping off a cliff, and focus is hard to hold onto in the chaos of last-minute preparations.  I will be interning at Lamplighter headquarters in Mount Morris, New York.  The internship is potentially three months long, but it will be evaluated one month at a time.  There may be possibilities of a longer, more in-depth internship after three months.  I hope to keep my readers informed about my doings, but I don't know how much time I'll have for blogging. However, keep your eyes open for a Facebook page where I will try to keep my friends updated, post prayer needs, and provide links to any related blogging.  I will also post links to Lamplighter's website, for those who are interested.

Until next time, my friends.....let us run with endurance the race set before us!  "Behold, I AM with you always, to the end of the age."  -Jesus, from Matthew28:20

Sunday, January 3, 2016

Romania: Turning The Page

Hello my dear friends and readers! My apologies for not posting more while I was abroad. Writing is my passion, but it also requires a large investment of personal time and concentration for me to capture my thoughts and impressions and pin them to the page. Sometimes I chose to invest time in the people around me rather than write....and other times I was just plain lazy. So now I find myself a month past the end of my short sojourn in Romania, but I would like to share with you a bit more of what we did while I was there.

Since Thanksgiving is an American holiday, it is not traditionally celebrated in Romania, although I believe some Romanians have adopted a Thanksgiving Day of sorts....I'm not quite clear on that, though.  The missionaries who work together in this city have a big Thanksgiving meal and celebration with friends, but this year they were waiting for Scott and Carolyn to return from the States.  So we had no special plans for the day, but I wanted to do something to celebrate, since I couldn't be with my family.  I invited our friend Edith to join us for dinner.  It wasn't turkey with all the trimmings (I confess, I bought rotisserie chicken to make it easy on myself)....but we made a yummy meal, shared it with a friend, and enjoyed a game of Sequence....followed by dessert!  We enjoyed ourselves quite well.

One chilly Saturday, the girls started pulling out Christmas decorations and craft supplies.  They love getting creative with crafts!  The four of us ended up making hours of fun with glitter, glue, and foam cutouts.

By late November, Christmas had come to the city! I can handle living in the city for short periods of time, but it is definitely not my abode of choice. However, I do love the way cities get decked out for the holidays! One Sunday evening, the girls and I enjoyed a stroll through the light-decked center of Arad.  There was a rock concert going on, and let me tell you, the place was packed!

Then on the first of December, we hopped on a train to visit the nearby city of Timisoara for the day and see the festivities in honor of Romania's national Union Day! This is the celebration of three major regions becoming the country of Romania. That happened in 1918, if I remember correctly. Of course, you can always google it if you really want to know! We met a friend who lives in that city and spent the afternoon eating and hanging out at the lavish mall. In the evening, we all walked to the town center and participated in the countdown to officially light up the night! The display in Timisoara is bigger and more beautiful than Arad's. The center was packed with people and it started raining later in the evening, but we enjoyed ourselves nonetheless.

In front of the grand orthodox cathedral in Victory Square.

Two of the girls with our friend Andrea.

The Opera House through a veil of lights!

As you can see, we made a lot of fun memories!  Everyone loves sightseeing and celebrations, but I am also grateful for the many little daily opportunities God gave me to enter into the girls' lives. Things like attending Friday night youth church with them, working together to help clean the church and set up for a garage sale that raised money for a new church building, going to watch a basketball game, walks and photo shoots in the park and with the dogs, eating together, practicing Romanian words, playing basketball, going to the movies.  Ana and I were able to read all the way through the Jesus Storybook Bible by the time I left.  This was a special bonding time for the two of us, and it was great to watch her grow in her English reading skill and to talk about the Scriptures together.

I wish I had something really profound to wrap up my two months in Romania, but I don’t.  Maybe the profundity of life is hidden in the small things.  Like day by day, moment by moment, just being faithful in the things God puts before us.  Learning to be present for the people around us.  Smiles.  Laughter.  Making paper Christmas chains with mental patients.  Cuddling and playing with a baby in the hospital.  Reading Bible stories from a kids’ book.  Fitting puzzles together with a friend.  Glue and glitter and creativity around the table.  Playing a game.  Eating together.  Hugs.  Playing worship music.  Popcorn and a movie.

Like learning a new language, life often feels like it is made up of a lot of disjointed “words”….unrelated events, random encounters….making sounds but not making much sense.  It is hard to put full sentences together, let alone have an intelligible conversation!  Living intentionally doesn’t come easy….it takes long, hard practice.  Daily practice.  If we take the time to contemplate our life and make the effort to live well, day after day, I believe we will begin to see patterns and better recognize the hand of God.  God gives moments of clarity, but they may come years down the road.  

I don't know if God will call me back to Romania.  He may take me someplace altogether different. Maybe He will plug me into a place where He wants me to fully invest my heart for the long-term. Or maybe I'll always be a wanderer.  But I believe that my Sovereign God uses every situation, circumstance, opportunity, and person in my life to shape me according to His purpose....that I may be a vessel fit for His glory and a bold proclaimer of His story to the world.