This psalm written by David speaks so loudly to everything that I’ve learned and how I’ve experienced God this year. The Lord is my shepherd. I am comforted by his rod and a staff; the tools used by a shepherd to guide and to protect his sheep. Comforted by guidance and protection…yes. He gives me rest. He provides all I need. Through it all, the valleys and the mountain tops, He is present. It is all for the sake of HIS name, not mine. And it ends with the peaceful reassurance and faithful expectation of: “Surely your goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.” And that right there is why I do what I do. Everyone is invited to dwell in the house of the Lord forever. It’s our job to give them their invitation.
As I attempt to share with you what I’ve learned this year, keep the words of this Psalm in the back of your mind. This scripture brings everything together. God is so good. He has taken every experience this year and transformed my heart to become more like his.
WHAT I’VE LEARNED ABOUT GOD
1. We serve a God who wants to dwell with his people. From beginning to end, the Bible is a story of God’s constant pursuit of wanting to be WITH his people. He is so holy and good. And we’re so not. Yet, he does everything in his power to once again be with us. Try to let that sink in for a minute.
2. The power of God is something beyond compare.I don’t even know how to elaborate on this one. The stars in the sky, the beautiful mountains, the flower that falls off the tree and lands on my shoulder. The walls broken down. The relationships built. The “coincidences”. God is good at what he does.
3. He is so unpredictable. The more you study the character of God through the Word, the more he will open your eyes and heart to how he works. The way he uses everything in creation to make his name known continues to blow my mind. Don’t expect Him to do things the way you think they would be done. Just know that He is constantly moving, and keep your eyes open.
4. He uses our weaknesses. The world needs qualified people with beautiful resumes. God doesn’t. He blesses us with gifts and talents. But his power is made known in our weaknesses as well.
WHAT I’VE LEARNED ABOUT MYSELF
1. I am chosen. One of my favorite spanish worship songs goes like this, “Yo soy quien Tu dices que soy, yo soy Tu hijo muy amado. Los errores del pasado no defineme mas. Tu eres mi futuro y mi eternidad. No tengo que temer.” “I am who You say that I am, I am your beloved child. The mistakes of my past do not define me any longer. You are my future and my eternity. I have no fear.” I am a daughter of the King. This is no longer some cliche sentence to me. This sentence defines my attitude when I wake up in the morning. It gives me courage to love people. It gives me hope to persevere through the dark times. Living in my chosen-ness is defining who I am, how I live my life, and how I love people.
2. I am not my own. The Holy Spirit spoke to me very loudly this season about how strong my flesh is. It’s so freaking strong and annoying! But we all know that. Then one day I was thinking, “All I really have on this earth to offer to God is this body that I’m in.” And then God said, “Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.” (1 Corinthians 6:19-20). This body is not my own. It was bought with a price. Glorifying God with it is so much more than fleeing from sexual immorality. Do you actually treat your body like it is the TEMPLE of the LIVING GOD? Back in the Old Testament days, they went through some seriously detailed instructions on how to build and transport the temple of God. And here I am living life all willy nilly thinking this body is something I have ownership of. It’s not. What I eat, what I watch on TV, what I read, how much I sleep, what kind of music I listen to, the people I let speak into my life…Am I giving glory to God in all of these things?
3. I am called. “By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers. But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him? Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth” (1 John 3:16-18). I am called to love my God and love my neighbors. Sometimes we get stuck on the big picture question of “What is my calling? What is my life’s purpose?” Being called to follow Christ is so much more than the big picture. We get stuck on dreaming about the big picture because it is there where we are able to see the results of our work. As opposed to following Jesus in the small moments daily moments. Obeying the Holy Spirit in the little moments. Jesus can use us and we might not ever know it. How many times has Jesus invited us into something, but we simply looked over it? Pay attention to what God is calling you to here and now. We are called to motivate others to become who they are in Christ. “What good are we to the people around us this week if we have the word of life and all we talk about is the trivial matters that so infuse all of our conversations on a week to week basis?” (Follow Me, David Platt. Good book. Check it out).
4. I am totally an ENFP. In the beginning of the year, our YL international team took a “Leading from your strengths” personality test. This test was SO HARD for me to take. While trying to take the test and answer the questions, I would yell out to whoever was listening in frustration, “I can’t answer these freaking questions! I don’t even know myself well enough!” We would laugh. But it was so true. Being outside of everything I’ve ever known and solely relying upon Jesus has given me a chance to really get to know myself. I love people. I honestly think strangers are just friends I haven’t met yet. I hate being labeled. I am passionate, and sometimes stubborn. I really don’t like not getting along with people. I process things out loud. I’m pretty observant of my surroundings and of people. My attention span is kind of short…kind of. I really don’t like being micromanaged. I’m not the best at following rules simply because they exist. Anything I do, I like to do wholeheartedly. I believe there is good in every situation. I get excited about the little things. The list continues to grow.
WHAT I’VE LEARNED ABOUT MINISTRY AND LIFE HERE
We are not allowed to pick and choose who we show Jesus to. Ministry isn’t just with your “assigned” group of people. It is with every single person you encounter. Go where he leads you.
Ask for guidance from the Holy Spirit in all situations. Even the best intentions will fail if the Spirit isn’t in it.
People want to be known. We all have a story. Take the time to ask people. Whether it be the old lady at the bus stop, the guachiman, or the taxi driver. We’re all longing to be known.
Don’t expect, just accept. The world is a big place, and people will do things differently than you would. It’s not weird. It’s not wrong. It’s just different.
Don’t try to contain the holy spirit inside of you. Be courageous. Give kindness, give a smile. Be bold.
We are at war, spiritually. Don’t leave the house without your armor.
Do hard things everyday. Wake up. Get on your knees. Pray bold prayers. Stop watching Netflix, there is such thing as too much Netflix. Talk to that stranger. Pray for that person. Run that extra mile. Challenge yourself.
Don’t get comfortable. Never stop exploring. Nothing happens when you’re comfortable. When you get comfortable, you stop dreaming, you stop seeking. Keep growing.
Kids are kids, no matter where you go. If you’ve been around Young Life, or any youth ministry, you’ve probably heard this cliche statement. But its true. They love to dump water on or throw a pie in their leader’s face. They love doing weird and gross things, dancing silly, dressing up weird, and singing obnoxiously loud on a bus. Boys vs Girls is always the best form of competition. They will act too cool when you show up at their lunch…but when you miss a day, they’ll ask why you weren’t there. Fart noises are always funny. They’re all seeking love and acceptance. Having the privilege to stand in front of kids on a friday night and tell them about this amazing God that loves them beyond belief is such a big deal. How did I get the honor of holding such a position?
The metric system makes so much sense. Come on, USA, get on board.
Grace upon grace is a real thing. Learn it and live in it.
God is sovereign. Your feelings don’t determine or change the characteristics of God. God is good all the time, all the time God is good.
A hot shower is such a luxury, not a necessity. And a cold shower builds character.
You don’t need to speak the same language to show people love.
There is never a wrong time to wear a soccer jersey.
And that’s a wrap, folks. The school year has come and gone. It’s had its share of ups and downs. I’ve fallen in love with this country, this culture, and the people here. At the end of the day, it all comes down to knowing Christ and making his name known.
Every kid, everywhere, for eternity. That’s what this year was about for me.
From the bottom of my heart, thank you for being in this with me.
I pray that you and I continue to go and tell the world that they are invited to dwell in the house of the Lord forever.
You may be asking now, “So what’s next, Ashley?”
SO MANY AWESOME THINGS! I’ll fill you in on that in my next blog post very soon. Get excited! I love you people.