Fall(ing)

“Rejoice always! Pray constantly.”

1 Thessalonians 5:16-17

The first month was so busy, frustrating, and required a lot of adjusting to the new school year. Now that it’s mid-October, everything is settling into routine and I feel a lot less out of control. There is still something I’m worried about, though.

Burnout.

Like, big time burnout. I’ve come home nearly every day, crashed on my couch, and slept for 2-3 hours before I can even get up and make something to eat. Part of it is I have to wake up early for my cat (6:00 am on the dot), but I honestly have no energy left by 4 pm. Maybe I need more vitamins, or going to bed earlier (that’s an issue, too), or to pick back up my exercise regimen I’ve abandoned since the summer. I don’t feel like I have the time or can motivate myself enough to just do it.

From what I’ve been reading in John Ortberg’s book Soul Keeping, the likely culprit is ‘soul fatigue.’ It’s not just mental or physical exhaustion alone, but deep inside, I feel hurried even when I don’t have anything planned for the day. There’s a perpetual to-do list that hangs over my head every hour and I can’t seem to make it smaller or check off enough things to feel at peace. Plus, my “busyness” has knocked time with God and inner rest off my radar. I’m so preoccupied with things I need to do/should do/should have done that I forget to take care of my inner self. My soul needs rest. My soul needs peace. I can’t get that without time for prayer, meditating on a scripture, and uninterrupted, quiet space. Just to be still.

Even knowing this, I struggle to apply it on a daily basis. Mondays, like today, are especially hard when I spend all day at school teaching six 45-minute lessons, half of which I have to stop 4-5 times to tell kids to listen. This is a whole other post, but I feel like I’m failing as a good teacher. That really beats me up because I try so hard to make my lessons interesting and it never seems to work with some of my groups.

And being in the mission field, I feel this sense of having to serve in as many capacities as possible because people are supporting me with their finances to be here. If I’m not working my tail off every free moment, I’m somehow taking advantage of their generosity. I know this isn’t true. Rest is a fundamental part of faith, and well needed if I’m going to serve with Proem, the school, and among my relationships here effectively. But it’s that nagging sense that I’m not doing enough and that someday, my support won’t be there anymore — as if I have to earn this.

Looking back at that last sentence, I’m realizing how skewed my perspective is lately. I’m here because of God’s plan and providence. I definitely worry about money because this year is more expensive than the last by far and I’m not the best fundraiser, but I really want to try and trust Him as I had in the beginning. I didn’t even know if I’d make it to Poland, but somehow, I’m still here over a year later and taken care of. Amen.

Rejoice and pray. Let’s see how this plays out in the next few weeks.

 

Hugs from Heaven

Yeah, the title is a little cheesy, but it suits the story I’m about to share.

So, last month was pretty rough for me. My mom sent a message on June 5th that my grandma had passed away. It was a lot sooner than everyone expected (although, these things tend to happen suddenly). I was bounced back and forth between my ticket agent and the airline that whole week in vain. I stopped trying eventually out of frustration because nothing was making a difference, and I was going to miss my grandma’s funeral. She and my mom had told me earlier that they understood if I wasn’t able to go, but it was still hard for me to accept that. Then, I broke up with my boyfriend at the end of the same week. I had been dating my close friend for 4 months when a situation made it clear that things were not working. It didn’t end the way I had imagined and it just capped off the terrible week I was having.

As you can imagine, by that next week, I was so emotionally and physically done. I’d slept poorly for the last 3-4 days, and I prayed a lot. That Tuesday, I had made a video with remarks about my grandma to send for her service. And the rest of that day had felt really heavy. I didn’t sleep well. I ended up dozing off and on, eventually feeling like I needed to pray. It was exactly during this prayer — where I started to really surrender my brokenness and accept His peace — where I heard this sound. It was about 4 AM and the sun was already up. I figured it was a bird at first because the magpies sometimes make a crying noise. But it came again and I could tell it was inside the building, and that it was definitely a cat.

I went out and up the stairs to the attic/storage space, and in the dark, I saw this little white creature scurry across the floor to duck behind some suitcases and boxes. I recalled hearing a crying sound like this the morning before, but I had been half asleep then and more distracted. And my roommate had said something ran across the floor when she went up there later that day. The distress in his cry told me he must be pretty hungry.

So I hurried downstairs to scrap together whatever I could find. I had a can of tuna and some bottled water, so I grabbed a food container and went back up to the attic. He cried very loudly and had come all the way outside the door to watch if I’d come back. As soon as I approached him, though, he ran right back into the bags and boxes, afraid. I tried coaxing him out with a piece of tuna, but he was too scared. Leaving had worked once, so I pretended to go away and hid behind the door to the attic. He cried, walked out, noticed me right away and the minute I took a step, he ran back inside quickly. We went at this for about 15-20 minutes before I finally cornered him in a dirty, cob-webbed corner of the attic and wrapped him up in a worn t-shirt.

 

He didn’t cry after that much. There was a little bit of struggle, but wrapped up snug and gently pet on the head, he calmed down right away and started to doze.

Now, besides being a sweet story about how I found my cat, there’s some symbolism behind it. I grew up with cats and have a deep fondness for them. In fact, my love language from God is whenever I see a cat or have a chance to encounter one, it’s like God reminding me how much He loves me and is thinking of me in that moment. After all the hurt and stress I’d gone through the last week, for me to encounter this random animal in my attic, seemingly out of nowhere, was kind of an ‘a-ha’ moment for me.

Most of that morning, I looked after him. He had some tuna after a while and napped a little bit. He looked pretty healthy: no mites or fleas from what I could tell. And he was pretty young. A friend of mine said about 5-7 weeks.

At first, I went about trying to find him a new home, but no one I asked wanted to keep him or couldn’t. There aren’t any cat shelters in Tomaszów, or really much of anywhere in Poland, and I was leaving for the States in a few more days. I thought to just let him go outside again where he probably came from, but he flipped out and scrambled around the parking lot at my apartment building, running under the parked cars and looking terrified. I caught him up again and he immediately calmed down. “Well,” I thought, “I have a cat now.”

nor

But still, I had a problem of where to keep him while I was in the US. He was too young to fly and would need to get his vaccinations in order first anyway. God totally provided. A friend’s family said they could help me by keeping him while I was away and that settled my decision. And so, I named him Miłosz  because he’s a symbol of God’s love and thoughtfulness of me and also because he’s really quite a sweet, loving cat.

Currently, he’s doing quite well and making some new friends where he’s staying. I promise he does more than sleep, but I do think that’s his favorite activity.

milo i mietek.jpg

Still

Twenty days until I get on the plane. There’s a lot of emotions that I’m not sure how to process yet. I’m anxious about leaving home and being on my own. I’m a bit concerned about how people there will receive me. I’m nervous about communicating daily with kids who don’t know English. And whether I will be speaking to their parents as well. (I’ve never been good at that in my own language, much less Polish.)

There’s also the great unknown of moving your entire life to a foreign country for a year to serve God’s purpose that isn’t completely laid out yet. The only certainty I have right now is “go.”

I suppose it’s exciting. This is an adventure as much as it’s a risk. All possibilities are open right now. But it’s kind of terrifying that all possibilities are open, too. I anticipated difficulties. I’m going through some before I’ve even got a bag packed. Funding obstacles, family relationship troubles, self-doubt tied to both these things…it feeds into the part of missions and risk-taking that requires one to lean hard on God’s mercy and sovereignty. He’s driving this train toward the right destination, so I just gotta hold on. He knows how the tracks have to twist and turn to make it. Doesn’t mean I’m not still clinging for dear life to my seat, though.

If my posts seem redundant, it’s because I constantly need to remind myself of this: God knows. I’m in the midst of transition, and it’s frustrating, stressful, and just plain hard. There’s joy in knowing that I’m going, that I’m really taking a great leap toward my devotion to Christ. But really, I’m worried, too. I can tell because I haven’t had a full night’s restful sleep in weeks. My soul feels unsettled.

Then Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.”

Matthew 11:28-30 NLT

This verse came to mind. I know it’s exactly what I need to do this week. Breathe and be still in him. Amen.

 

Bring it all to Peace

In my last post, I was really feeling helpless. My anxiety and worry over the details made me feel like the road ahead was too much. Like I couldn’t possibly make this happen. I couldn’t see how God was going to move the obstacles in my way.

Well, happily, I’m not in that space anymore. For now. Reality is, I’ll probably end up feeling that way again at some point down the line, but God’s been encouraging me and through my helplessness, drawing me closer to trusting him. I’ve been praying daily, multiple times a day over this journey, the people in my life, to have patience and faith in his provision, and for continued courage to keep moving forward boldly. I’m memorizing scriptures like Exodus 14:14 (NLT), “The Lord himself will fight for you. Just say calm.”

All of this has helped tremendously, and most of all, I’m encouraged to know that I’ve gotten some monthly donations already submitted. It makes such a huge difference to know I’ve got people on board with this, to see concrete evidence of that. I’m so grateful to have you guys backing me up in prayer and with finances because the spiritual warfare has been real lately. Between some small but annoying setbacks to push-back from family, I’ve been on a rollercoaster of emotions and feeling less secure about what I’m doing. But there have definitely been more open doors than closed ones. I’ve had some cool opportunities to share my mission with people outside my usual circle and seeing their enthusiasm for me gives me that extra boost I need to keep going forward with confidence.

Anyway, the weekend is going to be a busy one. I’m doing a push for donations by next weekend so I will have enough commitment to purchase a plane ticket by my birthday in 2 weeks and getting ready for my flea market table on Saturday morning. I ordered cards to pass out to people, which has already come in handy, and need to pull together all the things I plan on selling. Then I’m serving this weekend at church Saturday and Sunday, and have a possible test drive for my car on Sunday afternoon. Needless to say, I will be exhausted, but in a really good way. Looking forward to seeing what God does in the next few days.