|Posted by Alyssa on March 22, 2016 at 8:30 PM||comments (0)|
“Stop reading your Bible,” He inaudibly spoke to me.
I ignored Him and kept on.
“Stop reading and go outside,” He spoke again.
I know God can speak through many means but this was my quiet time, my time in the Word, this is how it’s always been done.
“Go, go up the mountain to that spot you like.”
I gave in. Putting down my Bible I slipped on my shoes and headed up the mountain.
It was a very short trek to my spot and once there I sat on a big rock and waited.
“Okay, God; I’m here. Now what?”
You see, at this point in my life I had been going through a lot of changes—working out areas of my life that needed to be given over to Him to fix…to heal.
It was rough; it was painful. But I knew it would be worth it. I knew it needed to happen.
But sitting there on that rock that day I felt like I had been fighting—fighting for a better me and yet never winning anything. When would I get better? When would I see results?
And then I saw and He spoke.
You see, just like the changing season unfolding before me, I too was coming out of a long, cold winter.
It was ending, I was healing; there was green, there was growth.
It wasn’t over yet but He showed me how far I had come and how far I needed to go.
Yes, the grass was radiantly green but it was still amidst the rocks and the dead branches and leaves.
He gave me this real, beautiful visual of my journey. (He knows—He knows I’m a visual person—He knows me. *little girl grin and giggle*)
I spent the next hour soaking in this image—His words to me, His presence—praising Him for all He had done and all He had yet to do.
You see, when God points out an area that needs tweaking (or a complete remodel) He doesn’t just leave it at that.
“You could use work here. Okay, do that, have fun. I’ll be over here when you’re done.”
Like we are useless to Him until we’re “finished”.
Like we are unworthy of His help.
Like He can’t stand to be around us in our junk.
When God points out an area of concern it’s because it’s His concern. He knows you can’t do it on your own and He’s not about to let you stumble through it haphazardly; you’re too important.
So He’s there, walking you through recovery, every single nanosecond of the ugly.
“And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns.” –Philippians 1:6 (NLT)
|Posted by Alyssa on March 13, 2016 at 8:50 PM||comments (0)|
4 months ago my dreams were finally realized, prayers answered.
After almost 9 years living with a debilitating illness I can finally say it controls me no longer!
That part of my life is over.
The struggle is no longer a reality.
The micro-managing has ceased; the fear is gone.
I was skeptical that this day would ever come. I knew the possibilities, the statistics, the norm…but nothing about this is normal.
Some of you have no idea what this means but for those of you who’ve known me at all during the last 9 years—heard any bit of my story pertaining to this struggle, prayed your heart out for healing—you know.
You know that I’m still sitting here, four months later, hand covering my mouth, water in my eyes, heart contracting, asking my brain if this is really real.
I’ve had four months to come to terms with this news and I still feel as stifled and lost as the day I took the test. I mean…it’s been 9 years.
6 months without a clue—floating from doctor to doctor, missing volleyball practice after practice, explaining over and over and arriving at the same conclusion: confusion.
A year and a half operating under the wrong diagnosis—making incremental improvements, home schooling and online classes and going to school two hours a day (if I could).
7 years under the correct diagnosis—countless classes missed, countless events never attended, emotional ups and extreme downs, thoughts of suicide. (I mean, was I even really living?)
Relationships strained, ER visits, judgmental stares. Wrong assumptions, pills and doctor visits and heart monitors. Missing weeks of school and rushing every assignment, salt a major food group, diet restrictions.
Too nauseated to think, talk, move or breath. Too weak to walk, stand, sit up or roll over.
Keeping my emotions in check at all times. Choosing when to get excited, to laugh, to smile when any rise in my heart rate could be disastrous.
Feeling like I was alone but not wanting to be with people—being with people took energy, energy I didn’t possess.
Feeling like the downer of any party—I didn’t exactly light up a room.
Feeling sorry for myself.
Feeling like I could never be truly honest about how I was feeling—voicing it didn’t change anything, except for introducing a quiet awkwardness into the room.
The fear of passing out in front of people, of getting hurt, of being a spectacle.
The fear that I would look lazy, disinterested.
The fear that if I did too much today I would be unable to do anything tomorrow.
The fear it would never stop.
The fear that I would never do anything, be anyone.
The fear that my dreams were over before they were realized.
This was my life, my world, my reality.
But my reality has changed.
Even if it doesn’t feel real; it is real. It happened.
|Posted by Alyssa on January 21, 2015 at 12:55 AM||comments (1)|
It seems as though everything has gone completely wrong.
Round two of my FBI background check took two more days than expressed. I checked the tracking number on the package so many times that I was able to type it in from memory. (For those of you who know my relationship with numbers, this statement means quite a bit.)
Every time I typed that number and it came back as “not found” my heart sank. All we could do was wait, push back plans, wait, push back plans again.
It finally arrived Wednesday afternoon and we could head to Chicago the next day.
The South African Consulate in Chicago says that visa’s take five business days to process. What was our time frame? Two business days. Yeah, it wasn’t looking good but I knew that if God wanted me to leave on the 19th then He would make it happen.
That was not His plan.
I was sad, angry at myself for all my mistakes (and the office lady’s angry, defensive disposition did not brighten this reality).
I felt shot down, confused as to why God would allow all of this.
When we got back to the hotel I went to work changing my flight. I was stressed but so thankful I had purchased flight insurance. That is, until I learned it did not cover visa issues.
Breath completely left my body and was replaced by intense anger. At God.
I have a tendency to keep things bottled up deep inside where they are “safe”. I knew I needed to vent. And I did.
The anger that poured out scared me. And I was holding back.
I felt completely discarded by God, like He had played me.
Between a night of much needed sleep and prayers from just about everyone we’ve ever met, I woke up on Friday relatively calm. Whether by God’s grace or the power of the vent, I was no longer angry at God. (Sometimes it takes a day to realize how completely misplaced our emotions can be.)
It took most of the day— between differing time zones, phone calls, emails, faxes, and prayer— but it was finally resolved.
New departure date: Tuesday, February 3rd.
God is in absolute control. I can’t say with certainty why God decided to put my family and me through this but I have at least one idea.
The JAM year officially starts on February 3rd. I was going early because I had been invited to help out with the first two camps as well as to spend a little extra time with some of my best friends.
I had wanted extra time with them before the craziness of the program started but I had never told them. When I received the email inviting me to come early I was elated. God is good.
I love figuring out the reasons God may have allowed or prevented something in my life.
I struggle with insecurity in relationships, always have. My struggle is intensified by distance.
Through all the stress and anger and dejection of this whole process I believe God was trying to communicate with me: You are loved, even wanted.
Wow. What a perfect way to start a ministry.
Could this message have been accomplished in a less disastrous way? Apparently not.
God is all knowing after all.
|Posted by Alyssa on January 9, 2015 at 1:40 PM||comments (3)|
10 days left to go. No visa.
I’m stressed. I’m confused.
Didn’t God just provide me with over 100% of my support? Didn’t He give me peace when I booked my flight for January 19th? Didn’t He provide me with the perfect first solo international flight itinerary?
Doesn’t He know I already have enough to deal with just preparing to leave my life?!
I don’t know what God is doing; I don’t know what He’s trying to teach me. I don’t feel as though He has turned His back on me—quite the opposite. I feel Him here, always at my side.
We live in a culture that’s hell-bent on self-helps and independent living. Accepting help is often seen as weakness.
I’ve always been pretty independent but when God told me He was moving me to South Africa I decided that if I didn’t do everything by myself then once I was on my own, in a foreign country, I would crash and burn.
So I did.
I think I had good reason (after all, my parents won’t be able to make all my calls and fix all my problems once we live on opposite sides of the world) but maybe through all of the struggles of the past few months God is trying to show me that I was wrong.
I live with an acceptance/denial of the value of independent living. I want to show that I’m strong enough—smart enough—to take care of myself, not putting the burden of my problems on anyone but myself. I also don’t want to live this life alone on Independent Island.
It seems as though God may be trying to teach me to rely on other people. Although—ironically—my faith in the expertise of others is exactly the reason why everything has seemingly begun to fall apart.
If He is trying to teach me to trust then why did He use situations that have taught me to verify, verify, verify…and take a shot in the dark because it still may be wrong? It doesn’t make sense.
Where is the happy turn around?
Yeah, it’s not coming.
I absolutely believe that I will be in South Africa when God has planned. He told me 2015 and He is the only being whose word I can fully trust.
I believe everything happens for a reason, even if it doesn't affect us directly.
But knowledge alone cannot change emotion. I’m still confused. I’m still stressed.
God give me strength.
|Posted by Alyssa on December 30, 2014 at 12:05 AM||comments (1)|
I love questions. I want people to fall in love with South Africa the way I have. But not all questions are constructive; in fact, they can be very damaging.
Questions like: “What about your health?” “What if there is unrest in South Africa?” “What if you don't reach full support?” “What about Ebola?"
What do these seemingly harmless questions have in common? They all focus on one thing: the negative.
If you're interested in reading my answers, click here.
Do you remember that blog post from a little while ago where I shared my struggle with negative thoughts that led to my depression? If you missed it the first time, read it here.
I can come up with a million reasons not to go (and I have) all by myself. There aren’t many questions you could ask that my over analyzing brain or my mother hasn’t already considered.
I’ve been down this road and I will not go back willingly. Negative thoughts derailed my college graduation, alienated my friends, and gave me some pretty intense anger toward God.
Please don't force me back. Help me fight.
I read a blog post about a year ago (couldn’t find the link. Seriously, I spent like an hour…) written by a missionary who had experienced the pain of a thoughtless comment. After explaining the situation and why it was so hurtful she began to describe what it’s like to live a life divided between two countries.
That post gave me the first real look into the ups and downs of missionary life, preparing me for unexpected bouts of homesickness and senseless comments.
I believe a writer’s purpose is to speak truth— especially hard truth. This post is my attempt to speak truth. Not only to protect myself or cause you to stop and think about the questions you ask other missionaries but, most importantly, to call attention to the meaning behind your questions. What are you conveying about our God?
These questions grieve my heart. I believe they reveal a belief that God’s power can be limited.
I honestly believe that most of the people who have asked me these questions are Believers. And that’s what terrifies me.
Do you really trust God? Do I?
I know how easy it is to believe I trust God without actually trusting Him. When I said “yes” to South Africa I felt like I had made it to the Olympics of the Christian walk.
I was going to be a missionary—the occupation of the “Super Christian.” Ha! God said, “Nope! You’re wrong.”
I’m still learning to trust and it’s a constant battle. Please don’t encourage the fight.
Should I be realistic about the dangers and potential obstachles? Yes. But I want be able to face those issues in a way that’s pleasing to God.
I want to say, “Okay, God, You’ve got this under control. Bring it on.”
|Posted by Alyssa on September 28, 2014 at 4:35 PM||comments (0)|
I placed the order for t-shirts this week! Thank you to all who purchased one to help fund my year in South Africa. My plan was to be done with selling t-shirts but, as always, God seems to have a different plan. The Cornerstone University paper, The Herald, will be writing an article about my selling t-shirts to raise money to go to South Africa so I guess I better keep selling them! I'm excited for this opportunity to share my passion for South Africa with my fellow students. I pray it will incite interest in purchasing a t-shirt of their own but, more importantly, I pray God will use this article to increase JAM's staff in South Africa! Wouldn't that be amazing? So, if you realized you made a terrible mistake by not ordering a t-shirt, don't worry. They're still for sale.
On October 12th I will officially be a full-fledged missionary. No, I'm not going to South Africa early, I'm speaking at First Baptist Church of Vestaburg in Vestaburg, MI. This will be my first time ever speaking about South Africa like this and I'm excited for this new phase of support raising. By now, hopefully, you all know that I am a writer. You may have inferred from this fact that since I am a writer--a person who records thoughts, edits them and re-edits them--speaking is a bit terrifying for me. There are time constraints to worry about, preparations, travel plans to be made, and dress to be determined. Not to mention that ever difficult question: What do I talk about? I can't possibly tell them everything in 30 minutes so what do I leave out? This is the first church my dad ever pastored so many of these people have known me my entire life, they are like family. This gives me great comfort as I prepare my presentation and I’m sure they will be merciful to me as I stand before them and stumble over my words.
In other news, my support has risen to around 50%! (I don’t have an exact number at the moment as I don’t currently have a firm number on the amount raised from the first shipment of t-shirt orders.) My support raising journey began like a rushing faucet and has since diminished to a slow and steady drip but I am ever so thankful for those little drops. It seems that every time I begin to get discouraged God drips another little drop in the bucket. He has been faithful. Now we’re nearing the end and it’s time to test my trust in God’s plan. I believe He wants me in South Africa in January of 2015 and so I believe them second half of the money will come in. God is always faithful and He always provides, in His time.
|Posted by Alyssa on September 17, 2014 at 1:35 PM||comments (0)|
Over the past month life has gone into overdrive.
Update: I made it to Cornerstone. The first couple weeks of classes were good. My roommates are great.
It’s good to be back, and, at the same time, it’s been completely overwhelming.
This semester looks a bit different from any of my previous semesters here. I will only be taking four classes (12 credits), I will be working part-time, and I will be continuing my fundraising/preparation for South Africa.
Seems simple, right? Well, I think that’s the problem.
I’m so conditioned to a full schedule of classes that I don’t know how to manage my time. I’m a planner. You can’t plan for the unexpected.
That’s why they call it unexpected.
I also struggle doing many things at one time. Now I will be a student, an employee, and a missionary. I can’t put anything aside this semester as I’ve done in the past. My support for South Africa has come a long way but it has just as far to go in the next four months.
I’m not worried about the money, I know it will come in, but I do stress about my involvement in the process. Am I doing the fundraising techniques God wants me to use? Am I doing enough? Should I have done more? I don’t want to slack on my part. I don’t want to let Him down.
I desire to do well in my classes, work hard at my job, engage in good discussion, and connect with my community.
This semester (Lord willing) will be my last at Cornerstone and I want to be able to do all the things I’ve always wanted to do but never had the time or the guts.
I have fears of being overwhelmed—fears of missing out.
School is a constant battle of priorities; offering countless events to attend, involvement opportunities, chances to connect, classes to attend, requirements to fill, homework to be completed…
I want this semester to be different than all the last. I want to choose wisely. I want to stay on top of my work. I want to avoid stress. I want to meet new people. I want to grow in Christ. I want to enjoy my time left here.
I’m overwhelmed by the possibilities—overwhelmed by the separation between my wants and God’s plans.
I don’t know what this semester will hold. I don’t know why God has put me in this place at this specific time. But He does. Nothing in this life happens without His approval.
|Posted by Alyssa on August 5, 2014 at 3:05 PM||comments (0)|
I live in a rather small town with a moderately busy main street. When I was in young I viewed this street as a barrier between my house and the school playground. My friends and I (for good reason) were not allowed to cross this street without an adult.
I was an especially observant child and I noticed that when the crossing guard helped us cross the street after school all she had to do was walk out into the middle of the street and hold up both of her hands. (However, I did not account for her bright colored vest or hand-held stop sign.) Noticing this simple solution, I decided to implement her tactics. When I wanted to cross the street I walked out into the middle of traffic, held out my little hands, and trusted that the vehicles would stop to let me pass.
As I think back I find myself asking, “What happened to that little girl?” When did she first begin to loose trust?
After God first called me to South Africa, and I said yes, I felt like I had arrived spiritually. I was going to be a missionary— in Africa. How much more trusting could I be, right?
But God quickly showed me that I was wrong. Yes, I was following His lead but there were so many little details that I wasn’t letting Him control.
As I learned to trust Him, really trust Him, I began slipping into a dark place. I was finally giving in and Satan was determined to remind me of all I would be giving up in the process.
Along the way I had lost some of my excitement—forgotten what God is doing in South Africa and my important role in His plan. I focused on what/who I was leaving behind and almost forgot why I fell in love with South Africa and JAM in the first place.
Last night it all came back.
A friend of the family threw a Thirty-One fundraising party for me where I was able to share my “South Africa” story. I talked about how God started to direct me during my first trip to South Africa, what made me fall in love with the country, and what made me fall in love with Jabulani Africa Ministries.
I shared a little about JAM—their purpose and the huge impact Christ has made through them. I was reminded of how badly I want to be a part of what God is doing through JAM in South Africa.
I’m still scared—scared to leave, scared I’m not ready, scared He’ll take down my walls all at once. But it wouldn’t be faith if I wasn’t scared. There would be no need for trust if I had it all together.
God can use me no matter what I’m going through. I’m never going to be ready, there’s never going to be a perfect time.
JAM Year 2015.
Ready or not.
|Posted by Alyssa on July 29, 2014 at 11:45 AM||comments (3)|
I am an awkward person. I generally feel awkward in “normal” situations. I’m working on it and I’m getting better but I generally take great pains to avoid as many awkward situations as I possibly can.
Then I became a missionary.
The life of a missionary (I’m learning) is like a never ending carnival of awkwardness. No other profession in the world requires its workers to ask people for money with no promise of material goods or services in exchange.
Fundraising is terrifying. It’s uncomfortable. But it’s worth it.
There’s nothing quite like the feeling you get when someone understands your passion and is willing to sacrifice to make it happen.
I’m discovering that there is a lot more to fundraising than I ever realized.
For past mission’s trips I’ve sent out bundles of letters and participated in auction dinners and garage sales but for the most part, I wasn’t the one doing the planning. Now, in case you don’t know, I LOVE to plan. Sometimes I love it so much I never actually get the thing done that I took months to plan.
As I began to piece together my fundraising strategy I scoured the internet for ideas. And I found them…a lot of them. Which ones do I choose? It’s all a bit overwhelming. And like I said before; I’m good at planning, bad at executing.
I’ve written letters. Boy, was that a different experience. This is the big leagues now. I can’t just write a measly letter, put it in an envelope, add a stamp, and call it good. No. I wanted to show that this is important to me, I wanted to be professional. Sometimes professional is downright exhausting!
I had no idea how much work would go into sending out those packets. And it was completely worth it. God began bringing in the money immediately. I had prepared myself for slow responses but I’ve experienced the exact opposite. I have felt so loved and encouraged by the outpouring of support and funds for my ministry.
But it isn’t time to rest. God has brought in almost 40% of my support (which I still can’t even comprehend) but we’ve got another 60% to go!
I have some totally awesome t-shirts in the works to help raise support and a Thirty-One party. (https://www.mythirtyone.com/forms/frm_event_my_events.aspx) But there’s so much more I would love to do. Auction dinner, change drive, movie night, craft night, garage sale, internet/Windows courses, slave labor…I can’t decide and I can’t make it happen on my own.
Help me choose! Or help me do them all! I want to hear your thoughts and opinions. If you have other ideas, throw them onto the pile. But most importantly, I need some executers!
There’s five months to raise my remaining support. Is it possible? Completely. But I can’t do it alone.
The locals absolutely love to watch American's attempt the traditional dance pictured below. I was petrified. I hate looking like a fool and could not bring myself to step out of my comfort zone during my first trip. But I forced myself the second time around. I was still nervous and felt like an idiot but, this time, I was not alone.
|Posted by Alyssa on January 31, 2014 at 9:55 AM||comments (0)|
I’ve stared at the blank page for far too long, but what can I say? How can one define an experience such as I’ve had? “It was amazing; It was refreshing; It was as if I’d never left.” No, they’re all too cliché. I hate being cliché.
Let me start from the beginning.
During the first week of the past fall semester, I saw Professor Bonzo (who led the trip last year) in the hallway outside his office.
“Hey, are you going to come with us again this year?”
I froze, calculated his seriousness. The last time he asked me this very question it resulted with the belief that a second trip would not be possible. His expression remained, expectant.
“I thought you were teaching the same course?” I asked with hesitancy as I told my heart to slow down.
“It’s going to be a little different.”
This was new information.
“You’re freaking me out.”
“Don’t freak out, not yet. Talk to the registrar. I’ll make sure the course is different enough so you will receive credit.”
As I left the building I pulled out my phone. “Mom? I might get another chance to go to South Africa for J-term.”
I wore the pattern of my Vans tennis shoes onto Cornerstone’s campus as I traveled from office to office, gathering information, checking and rechecking, and rechecking again. I wanted to be sure before I said the words out loud. During the summer, God revealed to me a significant deficit in my understanding of what it means to trust Him and it was showing through once again.
I felt Him leading me to take the class in South Africa but in my desperation to be sure it wasn’t just wishful thinking, I didn’t realize He had already given me the answer to my prayers.
One morning, while praying about whether I should go on the trip again, He finally broke through.
“STOP, STOP, STOP, STOP! I already told you I want you to go. Stop questioning and TRUST ME.”
That day I spoke the words for the first time. “I’m going back to South Africa for J-term.”
My stomach instantly churned. What if I’m wrong? “Trust me.”
I filled out the application, I paid the deposit, I registered for the class. It was happening. And then the migraines came. And they didn’t go away.
I had had a migraine every single day during the two months leading up to the trip. I began to stress. I was confused, once again, and my trust faltered.
Two days before we were scheduled to fly out, my migraines put me in the ER. The doctor was pretty confident that they weren’t being caused by anything life threatening but advised me to cancel the trip. Not only would cancelling the trip have crushed my spirit, it would have also sent my entire spring semester into disarray, no longer allowing me to graduate on time. But if I continued with the trip and my health suffered, it would have produced the same result.
I agonized. Should I risk my health—threaten my carefully micro-managed life?