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Archive for June, 2012

A Mission Field?

At a writers conference a few weeks ago, I shared with a colleague that I was moving back to North Carolina. Her initial response to me? God is sending you on a mission field. 

Strange.

Of all the different ways I have viewed this move and transition in my life, mission field was not one of them. Six year ago, I prayed for God to send me on a mission field. He answered by sending me to California. Are you kidding me? California? This was not what I had in mind, but I felt I needed to go.

For the last several years I have worked among a culture that was different from my Southern roots — a faster, very performance-driven life-style that I never really adjusted to. I have been a stranger in a strange (but beautiful land). But I watched God grow me into the person I am today. And as I leave, I take with me the many good memories or people who have touched my life in such a short time. 

But the next step is go “back home” – back to to my roots, back to the culture I love and the familiarity I’ve desired for such a long time. But a mission field? I wasn’t sure how to interpret that comment. Sure, to someone who had grown up on the West Coast, the Southern states may seem as culturally distant as the West Coast once seemed to me. But for me, it’s not. Can “going home” be considered a mission field? 

I know this transition is far from being compared to the experience of a cross-cultural missionary. But I do believe that my life mission is changing. I will now be writing to audience much broader and diverse than ever before. Will my words be entering a culture very different from my own even if my home is with the familiar? I don’t know. The journey of taking one step at a time with God continues. And as I follow his lead, I trust that he will do just take – my me and my words places they have never been. 

What a great adventure lies ahead! 

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God, what am I doing?

I don’t know if you’ve ever asked that question. I have. Frequently. In the grip of fear, my response is pretty predictable: I freeze. I can’t move forward. At times, it clutches my throat so I can barely breathe. I’m pounded by an invasion of What if…?

  • What if I fail?
  • What if I look like a fool?
  • What if someone hates what I’m about to say?

The list is endless.

As Bruce and I face a major cross-country move from California to North Carolina, I find myself repeating “I’m not afraid. I’m not afraid.” Why? Why should this scare me? The door is wide open. Bruce has so many more job opportunities in the Southeast. We’ve spent hours praying for direction and sought the counsel of many friends. The universe seemed to be screaming at us to take this step forward. But a step forward into what?

There it is. The unknown. Shouldn’t the unknown fill us with anticipation? The excitement of what is yet to come if filled with so many possibilities. I will finally be able to teach and write — set my own environment within my best working hours. This is what I’ve always dreamed. But — and there seems to always be a but — I’m afraid. How can something I’ve desired for this long cause me such fear? Where is my faith?

Why are you afraid? Jesus already knew the answer. His disciples were afraid. In the midst of a storm, how quickly had they lost their faith. Just like me, they had forgotten he was there all along.

What will this next stage in life hold for me? I don’t know. But I have to walk them for they were meant for me. Like each new story, the words on my page may lead in a direction I had not anticipated. But the story moves forward. And the surprises along the way keep me longing and wanting for more.

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Stories have a power over me. Few things in life exert that same power. They grip my heart and twist it into tears, anger, or simple giddyness. For the course of a few moments – or sometimes a few weeks – I enter the life of someone else…someone I had not previously known. Whether he or she is real or not doesn’t matter. For me, during those moments, she is real. He holds power over my heart. Why? Why do we allow simple words to steal us from our reality and drag us into a world not our own – fiction or non-fiction? Are those moments wasted time?

I think all of us yearn for something more. Stories bring that to us. Stories shine a flashlight into a part of the world we didn’t know existed. Stories open our eyes to what is really going on in our communities. They shock us. They surprise us. And sometimes, they cripple us. These stories leave us wondering: What do we do? They change us. They move us. They pull us forward. Why? Because we are human. Something in those strand of words captured our hearts, stirred our emotions, and changed us.

Over the course of our lifetime, we will forget many of the stories we have heard. But some we will never forget. We will carry them with us. We will tell others. Hopefully, we will do something as a result to change things – to make life better – to make a difference.

I am built by the stories I have come across in my life. They have shaped me, molded me, changed me. Have they changed you?

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