Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Roller Coasters and Good Grief...

NOTE: I began writing this post in April while I was still in Taiwan. It is now August, and I am back in the US. So towards the middle of this post I am writing from a reflective position on how I felt back in April and how things are going now.

Please bear with me as I ramble...I have a lot of random thoughts in my head needing to get out and I don't know how much of it will make sense....

From as far back as I can remember, I have always enjoyed roller coasters. I grew up in Cincinnati, Ohio, home of a fabulous amusement park called King's Island. As a little 4 & 5 yr old girl, I loved going on the little kiddie roller coasters. Then at about the age of 6 or so, my uncle decided I was tall enough to ride a "big kid" (aka an adult) roller coaster called the "Screamin' Demon." How's that for a name?! There wasn't much to this ride. It consisted of one track with one loop that you would go upside down in a few times (forward and backwards). Now even though there wasn't a lot to this ride, it was scary nonetheless to a 6 yr old! My uncle had to actually hold me down so I wouldn't fall out! (I may have been tall enough, but I was a little toothpick!)

Looking back though, I think that it was probably a good thing for me to go on it that young. It probably helped me get over my initial fear of really big roller coasters. I've been told that marriage is often like an amusement park, which is probably true (I don't know that first hand yet though!), but I'm sure that analogy can be applied to what life is like also.

Inside an amusement park there are all sorts of attractions. Here is a brief list of some of the types of rides and attractions you may find at any amusement park:

1) The safe and relaxing-fun-for-the-whole-family rides
2) The scary-white knuckle-praying-you-don't-lose-your-life and get-me-off-now rides
3) The laughing-till-your-side-splits-and-tears-come-out-and-you-keep-wanting to ride over-&-over-because-they-make-you-so-happy thrill rides
4) The nausea-and-possible-vomit producing-you-almost-want-to-die rides
5) The lame-lamer-mclamerson-what-is-the-point-of-this-where-is-this-taking-me-in-life-and-why-did-they-waste-time-and-money-building-these rides
6) The stunt-your-growth-because-it-twists-turns-shakes-rattles-and-rolls-your-whole-body-until-your-spine-falls-apart-and-you-are-unable-to-walk-correctly-for-a-few-days-afterwards rides

And who can forget...
7) The I-almost-want-to-hurt-someone-because-I-stood-in-line-for-47 hours-(or what seemed like 47hrs)-in-the-sweltering heat-behind obnoxious people-for-a-1.2 second long ride!!!!!

Some rides may have a combination of these characteristics, but for the sake of your time and sanity, I'll stop here for now.
These would probably get more ridiculous if I keep going, especially since it is after 1 am for me. So yeah, I'm done with the descriptions of rides (feel free to add more via a comment! haha!). Some other attractions at amusement parks may include, but are not limited to:

The cool shows, yummy food, junk food (which is criminally overpriced I might add)...and much more!

All of these things to say:

The last 7 months have been quite a roller coaster ride of emotions for me; not really in a "I'm psychologically unstable" way....(at least I hope that's not the case! haha!) but more of a "this life is a wild ride" kind of way...and I am certainly "white knuckling" it right now because I know the ride isn't over.

Obviously, I spent this past year teaching in Taiwan. It has been quite an adventure with God. I started out last year (2007) in January/February praying about what God wanted me to do next. What was my "next step"? I had finished my masters degree in counseling and had been living in Virginia for 4 years. I felt it was probably about time to do something different. Although, I absolutely ADORED my job at Liberty University in the missions department. I especially adored the people I had the amazing opportunity to work with. During my searching time when a few opportunities came and went, and teaching in Taiwan became the dominant opportunity for me to pursue, I was scared. I had already spent a year teaching English in Taiwan back in 2002, and "God, why are You leading me there again?" was my question.

I had many mixed emotions last year as the next step was heading towards Taiwan again. When I arrived in Taiwan, I was scared, sad, and excited all at the same time about what the Lord had in store. I had my initial "freak out" session after a few days of teacher orientation wondering how in tarnation I was going to make it and do the job I was hired for. The first couple of months I was definitely relying on and talking to God a lot. It was difficult and scary, but I felt His presence so near.

Then October came and I began to feel an extreme distance and coldness towards God. That distance lasted until my winter break in December. I struggled immensely in those 2 months. I had NO motivation or energy or will to even talk to God. It was like there were iron walls that closed in around my heart. I couldn't break through them. Then winter break came, God made the way for me to go to Thailand to visit some dear friends of mine that I know from college. You can read my post about my time there (Soul-refreshment in Thailand does a body good...or something like that!). It was an AMAZING time that I will not soon forget.

I returned from that trip revived and ready for the second school semester. I had new vision and energy and a passion to share Christ intentionally with my students rather than sporadically. I also returned from that trip with the goal of praying about my "next step" once again after my contract here ends in June. Before Thailand, I hadn't thought much about next year. Once in Thailand, I began slowly thinking about looking into going back to the US, mainly Atlanta, Georgia. Much of my reasoning I think stemmed from a desire to start-a-new, in a new place, with a "world of possibilities" that I had hoped to pursue there.
I gave my answer to my principal in the 1st week of April (I was supposed to tell her in the last week of January!) that I wouldn't be returning because I "felt" God gave me the go ahead for Atlanta.

I thought all was set until the 2nd week of April when all things changed majorly. Plans changed in what seemed like a flash of lightning with the girl I was going to be roommates with. When I was made aware of the changes, I struggled!! I have been going through what I am calling a grieving process of letting go of my desires, dreams, hopes, plans, to pick up HIS.
I feel like so many times this year I have been knocked back to "square one" again and again. But I am learning.

After the dissolving of my plans, the only option I kept thinking of was going back to Ohio (my roots), but so much of me did NOT want to go back there. I have been avoiding it for years. I love my family, but don't want to live that close to them. There is so much that goes on that I don't feel like I'm strong enough to handle it...but that's just it...I'm not...but JESUS is.

Now it is August 1st, 2008. I am currently living with my aunt in Ohio. Daily, I process the things that have happened over the course of this past year, these past few months, weeks, and even days. So much has happened. I don't want to miss a single lesson that I am supposed to learn from all the opportunities, trials, joys, etc. Lord, may we learn to live life WIDE AWAKE.

I am overwhelmed by God and how personal He really is. I am humbled by the fact that He loves me and how He truly works all things out for our benefit and His glory. 2 Cor.4:16-18; Rom 8:18, 28-29

Many songs have become amazing encouragements to me over and over again during this time of "grieving" my plans.

I will post a few of them in other blog posts (if I can remember!). "I will lift my eyes"-Bebo Norman; "Jesus will still be there"- Point of Grace; "I will trust in You"- Erin O'Donnell; "Hold onto Jesus"- Steven Curtis Chapman; "You breathe"- Nouveaux; "Something More"- exodus; "This Road"- Ginny Owens; "God is God"- Steven Curtis Chapman; "Let Go"- Lindsay McCaul

I am so thankful to God for the gift of music and how He uses it to bring truth, comfort, inspiration, encouragement, and conviction.

Here is another song that has been used to minister to me by Rita Springer. It's called "Worth it All":

I don't understand Your ways
Oh but I will give You my song
Give You all of my praise
You hold on to all my pain
With it You are pulling me closer
And pulling me into Your ways

Now around every corner
And up every mountain
I'm not looking for crowns
Or the water from fountains
I'm desperately seeking, frantic believing
That the sight of Your face
Is all that I'm needing
I will say to You

It's gonna be worth it
It's gonna be worth it
It's gonna be worth it all
I believe this
It's gonna be worth it
It's gonna be worth it
It's gonna be worth it all
I believe this

You're gonna be worth it
You're gonna be worth it
You're gonna be worth it all
I believe this
You're gonna be worth it
You're gonna be worth it
You're gonna be worth it all
I believe this

Thanks for taking the time to read such a long post! I appreciate you!

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