Strong

We barely finished our introductions before my new friend rattled off her first question. Have you ever been in love? Our little group of four all shared our ideas on love, sex, and relationships. The next question: what would your ideal life look like? Again, we went around and answered. Then the next: why believe in God?

When it was my turn, I shared with them about how my life looked like before I surrendered my life to my Creator: trying and not-surprisingly failing to attain perfection. I told them about how because of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection I can be brought back into the presence of Almighty God and all my shortcomings be redeemed through Christ.

This same new friend from above sat and listened, but I could tell there was something fiery on the tip of her tongue. Sure enough, she didn’t let even a second of silence pass after I had finished speaking.

“I think you’re weak because you believe in God.”

I almost laughed. Her words didn’t cut, didn’t hurt…the thought just seemed outrageous to me.

To her, the source of strength comes from within ourselves. When we feel that we are lacking, she believes we should dig deeper and cultivate it from within ourselves. So in her mind I’m not strong enough to gain that strength from within, and therefore I need to believe a “higher power” can intervene on my behalf.

And guess what, she’s right!!! I’m not strong enough on my own. But it took me a looooooong time to admit that.

I want to say that it is just the fact that I am a firstborn that makes me independent, but it’s not. According to my mom, I was always a “free-spirited and strong-willed child.” I operated under the mindset that whatever it is, I can do it. On my own. By myself. Without help. And I’m going to prove something to someone in the process. While this has softened as I entered into adulthood, this manifests in me wanting to be the person who can help everyone else but never wants to be on the receiving end of said help. When asked, “what do you need” I love being able to answer, “nothing, I’m fine.”

Because if I’m fine, I’m not lacking anything.

Turns out I am never really fine.

Turns out I am human.

Being human means being in a constant state of brokenness. Being in a constant state of brokenness without God is like living in a wooden house infested with termites and no exterminator left on earth. The house is going down, it’s only a matter of time.

When God created the world, He deemed it perfect in His sight. As the epitome of holy and perfect, God’s standard for His creation was to bear the same image. We make it two chapters into the Bible before things go south. Real fast. When humans decide to do things on their own, imperfection (sin) enters and overtakes God’s perfect world. On its own the world is still as broken now as it was 3,000+ years ago. Try as we might, solving the brokenness of humanity is not up to us; we will always fall short of God’s perfection.

Enter: Jesus.

Jesus has been, and will be, the only man to ever walk the earth and live a perfect, blameless, and sinless life. When Jesus, God’s one and only son, died on the cross He took on the imperfections of the world making total forgiveness possible. Now, when God looks at me, a Believer of Him, He sees the Perfect Son and not my sin. (And no, I don’t think I will ever fully grasp that!)

I love how the Gospel of Mark jumps right into why Jesus came, sharing how Jesus Himself said, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.” (Mark 2:17)

This means God doesn’t need me to be fine. In fact, He wants me to admit my dire need for Him. He wants me to admit how I can’t fix myself, how I am weak left on my own. I can slap some bandaids on a mortal wound but I’m still dying. He is the Great Physician.

It seems counterintuitive, but the only way we receive healing is by laying our lives down and in total humility declaring our need for God’s saving grace. We admit where we have fallen short, that we are too weak to fix ourselves, and ask God to forgive us.
“If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:9)
“If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.” (Romans 10:9)
“For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.” (Ephesians 2:8-9)

I don’t know about you, but I have seen PLENTY of times when I cannot do even life in general on my own. My pride doesn’t want to admit it, yet it is so true. But if I wasn’t broken and in need of help, would I actually see my need for a Savior? Probably not.

I will never forget the first time someone shared with me Psalm 73:26. I was at summer camp with my family and one of the super cool college counselors wrote out part of Psalm 73 for me. After some digging, I found that the New King James Version is the closest translation here: “My flesh and my heart fail; But God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.” The Hebrew verb used here for “fail” is definitive, meaning it will happen. I can vouch for that, because there are, again, PLENTY of times when my flesh and my heart have failed me. I am not strong on my own. I am not fine.

But Psalm 73 is not the only place we see a need for greater strength. In the book of Psalms alone, there are 45 times* where the Psalmist sings of God’s strength, asks Him for strength, and admits that human strength is not enough. Paul prays that the church in Ephesus would be “strengthened with power through his Spirit” (3:16) and continues to attribute strength to God in many of his other letters. Peter reminds us that as Believers, “after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you.” (1 Peter 5:10) Strength cannot come from ourselves because we are not the source.

When the girl told me she thought I was weak for believing in Jesus, the rest of the table squirmed for a few moments due to the directness of her comment. Then her friend across the table jumped in. “I disagree. I think she’s strong for believing in God. I wish I could.”

I simultaneously wanted to high-five this girl as well as weep for her that she thought she couldn’t believe in God. I’ll tell you what I told her: “you can.”

If you’re tired of trying but always failing, never feeling like you’ll measure up, or ready to give up the “I’m fine” act, I encourage you to know the Source of all good things. God is a whole bunch of incredible things like unconditional love, hope, and joy, but do you know Him as your Strength?

“O my Strength, I will watch for you, for you, O God, are my fortress.” (Psalm 59:9)
“The Lord is my strength and my shield; in him my heart trusts, and I am helped; my heart exults, and with my song I give thanks to him.” (Psalm 28:7)
“God is our refuge and strength” (Psalm 46:1a)

*Psalm 8:2; 10:17; 18:1; 18:32; 18:39; 21:1; 21:13; 22:15; 28:1; 28:7; 28:8; 29:1; 29:11; 31:10; 32:4; 38:10; 46:1; 59:9; 59:16; 59:17; 65:6; 68:35; 71:1; 71:9; 73:1; 73:26; 81:1; 84:5; 86:16; 88:4; 89:17; 89:21; 93:1; 96:6; 96:7; 105:4; 118:14; 119:28; 138:3; 140:7

FreehandTruth_Ps73.26

Reclaim

Normally I wait until the end of the year to explain more of why I chose that particular word for the year and what God has taught me about that word. But this year is different. (It’s actually different for a lot of reasons but more on that in the months to come.) My word for 2019 is “reclaim” and here’s why…

I have been reading Genesis and Exodus in my personal Bible study time and it is no coincidence that we are covering those exact books in one of my seminary classes. I am sooo thankful that the Word of God is alive and active because even though I’ve read these passages before, this time God taught me something else: I have already admitted defeat.

Before we go any further, here’s a brief overview of the beginning of the Israelites who are identified as God’s chosen people. Back in Genesis 12, God tells Abraham that He will give him land (the Promised Land), seed (descendants), and blessing (provision). God blesses Abraham and before long he is incredibly wealthy (Gen 13) and has a son with his wife Sarah (Gen 21). One of Abraham’s grandsons is Jacob (Gen 25), who God later renames as Israel (Gen 32). Israel has twelve sons (Gen 29,30, 35), who were then fruitful and multiplied (Ex 1), thus forming the Twelve Tribes of Israel, aka- the Israelites (Ex 1). While the descendants and provision parts were going well, the Israelites did not have possession of the land. In fact, they are enslaved to the Egyptians (Ex 1). God anoints Moses to petition the Egyptian ruler to let God’s people go (Ex 3), and after the tenth disastrous plague, the Israelites are set free (Ex 12). A year-ish of trekking towards the Promised Land God’s people finally arrive at the border (Num 13). Twelve spies are sent to scout out the land that has already been promised to the Israelites (Num 13); ten return and say “no can do, the current inhabitants are giants” and two say “God has given us this land so let’s do it!” (Num 13). The people side with the majority and accept the defeat, rebelling and complaining against God for not giving them what He had promised. God’s response: I said I was giving it to you but you chose not to believe me; therefore, you will wander in the wilderness for forty years and you’ll know that I am displeased (Num 14).

Yikes.

Thankfully, I believe that God deals differently with us now than He did with His people in the Old Testament. So when I don’t please God He won’t set me in the Sahara and say “good luck, see you in four decades.” But even without the desert wanderings, I can’t help but see the similarities between the Israelites and myself. Just like them, I doubt God.

Both the Israelites and myself were/are not believing Truth about God; that He is good and loving and wants good for me. Instead, we are believing the lies of the enemy. Ephesians 6:12 says that our battle is not against flesh and blood, but against Satan. Since the very beginning of time, Satan has been trying to deceive us into believing lies about God (Gen 3). The problem is, just like the Israelites, I sometimes think the promise of God is too good to be true.

We have the complete written Word of God and the redemption of Jesus which means we are not on the pursuit for land, seed, and blessing, but rather for the Kingdom. Jesus says that we should pursue the kingdom of God and his righteousness (Matthew 6:33). And for me that means I have to uproot the lies that I believe about Him. I need to reclaim the Truth of who God is in my life. He has already given me the promises of who He is, His perfect character, and now it’s up to me to live believing those.

Here are a few of the things I am reclaiming:

  • God is good. (Psalm 145:9)
  • God is for me. (Matthew 7:11)
  • God is love. (1 John 4:7-12)
  • God is perfect. (Psalm 18:30)

I am super not perfect which, for the record, does not mesh with a holy and perfect God. Thankfully, Jesus’ death was payment for my imperfections and brought me into the family of God. Because I am a child of God, I have been given access to know the Father. (Seriously, I have been given that!) When I use my circumstances to determine how I feel about God, I get a really misconstrued view of the Father.

I like the word “reclaim” because it implies action. I have to be active in identifying what lies I am believing to have an accurate view of God. I have to be active in fighting off Satan to remember that God is the good ruler of my life. I can’t just look at what has been promised to me and instead turn around and throw the world’s most pathetic pity-party because it doesn’t look probable that God will come through. No, God is who He says He is.

Below are some verses and passages that God has been using to re-orient my heart towards Him. I’ve found more significance in what these verses say about who God is, rather than what pertains to me. As I study God’s character, I reclaim the “broken” areas of my life because my perspective is realigned.

This year, I’m asking myself what has God promised to me that I have given up on? What parts of His character am I struggling to not only see, but also to trust in? Which circumstances am I allowing to cause doubt about God? And I’m also remembering that even when I fail or give up, God’s character is not dependent on me.


“But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.” (Titus 3:4-7)

“Have nothing to do with irreverent, silly myths. Rather train yourself for godliness; for while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come. The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance. For to this end we toil and strive, because we have our hope set on the living God, who is the Savior of all people, especially of those who believe.” (1 Timothy 4:7-10)

“For though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds.” (2 Corinthians 10:3-4)

“Do not be deceived, my beloved brothers. Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change. Of his own will he brought us forth by the word of truth, that we should be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures.” (James 1:16-17)

“And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you.” (1 Peter 5:10)

“If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:9)

“[Jesus] emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him ehe name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should boy, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” (Philippians 2:7-11)

“For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.” (Galatians 5:1)

“For this we proclaim is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, with ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake. For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.” (2 Corinthians 4:5-6)

Worship

In May I was diagnosed with clinical depression.

Depression looks different for everyone. I had a friend one time who described his as “walking around with a lead x-ray vest on.” I can relate. One day the lead vest is Gorilla Glued to my body…and then the next day I will be cracking jokes and asking friends to grab lunch. On the whole, I am having many more “good” days than “bad” days (PRAISE HANDS) and I celebrate the healing. I also celebrate that I get to return to a culture that similarly wrestles and share with them the hope I have in Jesus!!

When I was diagnosed, I was relieved to have an explanation for my symptoms but I also knew there was a long road ahead. My doctors and I were all in agreement that although there were many components at play, the chemicals in my brain simply were not playing nice and needed some help in ways I couldn’t control on my own. So I started medication. My doctors and I came up with a treatment plan that has additionally included counseling, more rest, wisely reducing commitments, exercise, and healthy eating.

But I knew that would not be enough. The ache in my soul was even deeper than my exhausted and depleted body. My soul needed care.

I’ve closely monitored what media I am consuming: television, podcasts, social media, movies, and music. I’m aware of my need to have honest conversations about what is going on inside my head, speaking Truth to lies. I’ve been more purposeful about the Books I read, as well as setting aside time for prayer and cracking out my journal more often. I find the most comfort in the Word of God (especially Psalm 30) and have found that my heart needs a way to proclaim this Truth of who He is.

I know worship is so much more than just the songs we sing, but in this season I’ve needed the literal psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs. (Eph. 5:19).

Pause for a sec: Let me be up front about this –– I do not only listen to Christian worship music. I will debate you all day long about how a good dance party to Yeah! by Usher or Perm by Bruno Mars can be highly therapeutic. (For the record, this is my favorite performance to date.) Plus there’s so much value in being part of culture through music. There’s a wise way and a wrong way to engage with secular music and everyone has different boundaries. So I am not saying that a certain approach is better than another, but rather this is just where I am right now.

The hardest part for me has been that I can’t be all for all. My capacity isn’t what I’m used to. I’ve dropped the ball with friends, forgetting birthdays and anniversaries and other special days. I’m used to being the one giving help, not asking for it. I have no problem admitting that I’m not perfect, but when it comes to asking for help that’s a different story. I love helping other people, but for some reason when I ask for other people to help me I immediately think that I am being a burden. It’s really sad how that’s transferred over into my relationship with God.

What I love about hymns specifically, or other Gospel-centered songs, is that they remind me how God saved me and chose me when I was broken. It gets better…He keeps choosing me and won’t ever stop. My counselor this week asked me if I ever think about how God is happy that He chose to create me. It’s hard for me to ignore the subconscious mantra of “my brokenness is too much” and instead walk in the freedom that God is infinitely bigger than my brokenness. He delights in me, whatever my state.

The beauty of brokenness is that there’s that much more room for Him to shine.

The following are some of my favorite lines from hymns. I need these sweet reminders to replace the nasty lies. These songs remind me of how God delights in me. I am not too much. He’s got this all under control.

“I hear the Savior say, “Thy strength indeed is small; Child of weakness, watch and pray, Find in Me thine all in all.””
Jesus Paid it All

“Pardon for sin and a peace that endureth, Thine own dear presence to cheer and to guide; Strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow, Blessings all mine, with ten thousand beside!”
Great is Thy Faithfulness

“All to Jesus I surrender, Make me, Savior, wholly Thine; Let me feel Thy Holy Spirit, Truly know that Thou art mine. All to Jesus I surrender, Lord, I give myself to Thee; Fill me with Thy love and power, Let Thy blessing fall on me.”
I Surrender All

“Amazing grace! how sweet the sound, That saved a wretch; like me! I once was lost, but now am found, Was blind, but now I see.
’Twas grace that taught my heart to fear, And grace my fears relieved; How precious did that grace appear The hour I first believed!
The Lord hath promised good to me, His word my hope secures; He will my shield and portion be As long as life endures.
When we’ve been there ten thousand years, Bright shining as the sun, We’ve no less days to sing God’s praise Than when we first begun.”
Amazing Grace

 

FreehandTruth_ItIsWell

Full

Choosing a word for the year is not a new practice. Maybe it’s safer to say it’s a new fad. Regardless, I’m a believer. Here’s why: when chosen with care, as a result of submission and asking God to reveal what He wants to teach my heart, it can function as a spiritual barometer. It forces me to be really focused on one area. It gives me a centering point for prayer. I can ask myself, “how are you doing practicing or believing [word of the year]?” Am I resisting God or pushing in to Him?

2017 was my second year to claim a word. In 2016, my word was “worthy” because I wanted to see God as worthy of my affections, what He called worthy in the world/people around me, and how I am worthy as God’s beloved.

My word for 2017: full. Because I have Christ, my life lacks nothing. I chose it because so much of my 2016 prayer life had involved phrases like, “Help me be content with…” or “Why am I not…?” or “Why is everyone else….?” I would read verses about God’s gifts and while knowing the Word of God is True, I would have a hard time feeling it.

  • “No good thing does the Lord withhold from those who walk uprightly.” (Psalm 84:11) 
  • “If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!” (Matthew 7:11)
  • “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.” (James 1:17)

If I’m being quite honest, I felt like God was withholding things from me. I watched as friends received things I wanted. I watched as friends got their dream jobs. Got married. Traveled to cool places with their friends. Had (what looked like) effortless relationships with their families. And the list goes on.

I love what Chad Ashby shared in his article “Is God Keeping Something From You?” over on Desiring God. We make it three chapters into the Bible before we see people confused by God and convinced that God is withholding good from them. God gave Adam and Eve an entire garden and they wanted the one tree they couldn’t have. I would definitely recommend reading Ashby’s entire article, but here are two of my favorite excerpts:

“Look at your life. Is it possible that you’ve fallen for Satan’s oldest strategy against us? Are you fixated on the one thing God is withholding? Has the Serpent convinced you that God is actually wrong to keep something good from you? Is it possible that your life is really a garden full of fruitful trees, but you’re stuck on the one tree God won’t let you have now?”

“God withholds good things from us to teach us to treasure him above every good thing. When he refuses to give us the good thing we plead for, he is actually giving us something even greater: himself and his grace to us in Christ.”

When I got to the root of it, the only thing that can bring me complete, lasting satisfaction is God himself. What if I stopped trying to figure out why my life didn’t look like I thought it should, and instead started thanking God for what He had given me?

“For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.” (Ephesians 3:14-19)

Now let me get in front of one thing: moving to Greece did not automatically make my life more full. In a lot of ways, my life became a lot simpler. A big life change, such as I don’t know maybe moving half way around the world, can make your life feel more chaotic but when the dust settles, is still only a distraction.

Here are some questions I had to face over the last year that helped me practice seeing my life as “full.”

  • Do I believe that God is works for my good? (Romans 8:28)
  • Do I trust God’s timing is better than my own? (Proverbs 16:9)
  • Can God use suffering for good? (Romans 5:3-5)
  • Can loneliness contribute to fullness? (Luke 5:16; Hint: yes, it’s called solitude)
  • Is God’s presence what truly fills me up? (Ephesians 3:14-19)

One other way I practiced thanking God for my life being full is by recording a short video every day. Some days produced clips of groups of people together celebrating. Others were of still small moments I experienced by myself. As I watch this video (posted below) from the last year, I cannot help but stop and thank God for all that He has done and is doing in my life.

He is teaching me and meeting me here. My life lacks nothing because I have Jesus.

How full is your life?

Oh, and my word for 2018? Gentle. TBH, not very excited about it. But I trust Him to be a gentle teacher.

Prayer

10…..9…..8…..

The mental countdown had begun.

7…..6…..

I could feel the grooves on the inside of my cheek from where I had been biting it for the last hour.

5…..4…..

I could hear the fast “thump thump thump” of my shoes echoing down the tiled hallway.

3…..

I swallowed hard. The lump was still there.

2…..

If I could just make it to the bathroom I could avoid the questions. But what if someone saw me before I left? Flushed. Wide-eyed. Panicked.

1…..

The click of the stall lock functioned like a marathon gun. The gates opened. My tears freely flowed down my face.

I would be lying if I said this was a one time occurrence.

 

 

I really wanted this month’s focus to be on prayer. I have been practicing praying in different ways (journaling, through song, praying Scripture, setting reminders, etc.) As we walk around campus, I’m praying for the people we pass and those we are about to meet. I’ve seen God answer very specific prayers as well as what it looks like to come before Him daily to lay it at the foot of the cross.

But I wasn’t expecting God to teach me about prayer through weakness. With every turn He has been reminding me that I am nothing without Him.

It’s really natural for me to pray for other people. I am so grateful for this! But it is hard for me to pray for myself. I don’t want to admit that anything is wrong.

There is nothing that will humble you faster than living in a foreign country.

I have learned that I have to prepare for battle. Or what feels like battle: Language class. Campus evangelism. The grocery store. Every time I step foot out my door the enemy is looking for opportunities to get a foothold.

Y’all. The enemy attacks hard. And if I’m being honest, he’s gotten the better of me a few times. BUT, he hasn’t won. I’ve started getting faster at acknowledging the lies I’m believing. I’ve started getting faster at remembering to pray against the enemy’s attacks.

Here are a few of the lies I’ve heard, what I’ve learned to pray, and truth that I choose to believe.

I am not enough.
God, remind me that you have a purpose for me.
For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. (Ephesians 2:10)

I am a failure.
God, remind me that I am not earning your approval.
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption to himself as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved. (Ephesians 1:3-6)

I am a lost cause. 
God, remind me that you are making me more into your image.
Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. (James 1:2-4)

I am not as loved or effective as my teammates.
God, remind me that I get to celebrate my teammates and not be in competition with them. You are using all of us for your glory.
For as in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function, so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another. Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them…(Romans 12:4-6)

I am defeated.
God, remind me that you restore.
Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light. (Matthew 11:28-30)

I have let God down.
God, remind me that your power is made perfect in weakness.
But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness. “Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” (2 Corinthians 12:9-10)

Prayer isn’t just an emergency flare. Prayer aligns our hearts with His’. I’ve noticed that as I pray more – for my friends, for injustices, for my own heart – I am comforted by His presence. There’s a familiarity that brings immense comfort…and as I spend more time with Him, I’m more in step with the Spirit.

If I wasn’t constantly faced with my weakness, I wouldn’t turn to Him.

2Cor12:9_FreehandTruth

 

Different

She put down her fork and leaned in across the table. She sure had my attention. “Don’t forget this. Repeat this to yourself over and over: ‘Different is not bad. Different is just different.'”

It was purely by chance (aka- the grace of God) that I ran into this friend on one of my final days in the States. She has spent the better portion of her time since college  traveling the world for humanitarian work or once-in-a-lifetime internship opportunities. You better believe I listened to every word she said…and especially what she deemed ‘unforgettable.’

Little did she know that God had practically written the word “different” in marquee letters in my journal the week before. August’s word and focus has been on not just tolerating, but celebrating different.

Living in a different culture has certainly challenged my mindset when I encounter the unfamiliar. I’m drawn to the similar. An American brand of shampoo, foods I can easily recognize, and my wardrobe for the year is essentially the same Old Navy shirt just in six colors. You get the idea.

I wish it stopped here. I wish my pattern of familiar things stopped with objects. But the (sorry for this, but there’s not a better word) sucky reality is that if I’m not careful, I treat people the same way.

Similar hobbies. Similar humor. Similar style. Similar beliefs.

It’s easier that way.

We’re not the same. No two humans are the exact same. I have said for years that I am thankful for this, and I still am, but I’m learning to practice it. I’m facing it head-on. Why is it hard for me to celebrate people with different giftings, interests, or backgrounds? Timothy Keller would say it is pride. And you know what, I’m going to have to agree with him on that.

I love (and also cringe…conviction) what Timothy Keller says in his book The Freedom of Self-Forgetfulness:

“True gospel-humily means I stop connecting every experience, every conversation, with myself. In fact, I stop thinking about myself. The freedom of self-forgetfulness. The blessed rest that only self-forgetfulness brings.”

And furthermore,

“The thing we would remember from meeting a truly gospel-humble person is how much they seemed to be totally interested in us. Because the essence of gospel-humility is not thinking more of myself or thinking less of myself, it is thinking of myself less.”

If my eyes are not on myself, I remember that we are the Body of Christ.

“Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who empowers them all in everyone. To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.” 1 Cor 12:4-7

“There is one body and one Spirit––just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call––one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.” Ephesians 4:4-6

“There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” Galatians 3:28

Suddenly, I’m not in competition against Different. I’m fighting for it. I need it. We need it.

Different doesn’t have to be scary. Different should exist. Different should be celebrated.

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Moving 6,000 miles away guaranteed some change to daily life. Knowing that I’ll be here for longer than a few weeks, I’ve tried to approach daily life with the mindset of “this is what I do now” by choosing to celebrate what’s different. Without further ado, here are a few of the differences I’ve encountered in my 2.5 weeks of Greece so far:

  • Cash is how you pay for everything. Bills, restaurant meals, shops. A good Greek memorizes ATM locations. The supermarket, IKEA, and H&M do accept cards though.
  • If you ask for a Coke, they think you’re asking for drugs.
  • Walking is the #1 form of transportation. I hit my 10,000 step goal every. single. day.
  • Meals:
    • Breakfast: a pastry, cereal, toast…but no meat. Pick up a treat from the bakery on your way to work or eat at your house. According to one Greek friend, it is “weird” to eat breakfast at a restaurant and certainly not brunch.
    • Lunch: anytime between 2-4pm. But not before 2. To eat earlier would again, be “weird.” Lunch is the family meal of the day so most schools release around 1 so that everyone can eat together. With the exception of restaurants and supermarkets, shops close down for “quiet hours” from 2-5:30.
    • Dinner: 8pm is pushing it…so 9-11 would be more culturally acceptable. Most Greeks use this time to go out for drinks and munch on the free appetizers that are brought out.
    • Coffee: consumed at all hours of the day. If you sit and drink it at a cafe (coffee shop), you’ll most likely get a complimentary treat.
  • When driving, do not turn right on red. Just don’t do it.
  • Motley’s is home to the greatest “cookies pasta” known to man. Here, pasta could describe one of three things: noodles, cakes, and something else that I can’t remember. All that’s worth remembering is that cookies pasta (cake) is the reason my jeans will need an expansion pack by the time I return to the States.
  • Motley’s is also home to a billion cats. I watched a cat straight up snatch an unattended sandwich quarter off a plate this afternoon. I have the video to prove it. The Greeks didn’t even flinch.
  • Pita gyros are manna in the modern form.
  • Greeks don’t know how to respond to the walking boot I wore at the beginning. They would literally stop in the middle of the street and stare. The Yayas (grandmas) were the most intrigued.
  • Toilet paper is not to be flushed.
  • Trash is taken to community bins located every couple of blocks.
  • I can walk to the lake any day that my heart desires. At the lake, there is a castle, incredible views of the mountains, and an abundance of waterfront cafes. Much to my hearts disgust, I discovered today that the lake is also home to a few snakes. Booooooo.
  • Greeks have cell phones, but they don’t use them like Americans do. Believe it or not, if they’re with other people, they’re not on their phones.
  • Your house is too warm? Open your windows. Our apartment has A/C units, but I have yet to turn it on. I love opening my windows every morning!
  • Everyone smokes. Ash trays are on pretty much every table. But surprisingly it’s only overwhelming in a few places.
  • Everyone might smoke, but only a few use deodorant.
  • What Americans call “Greek Salad” is just “Salad” here. Our Greek friends have gotten a good laugh out of us asking about the “Greek Salads.”
  • Marco Polo is the best app out there. Take that, 8 hour time difference.
  • Clothes dryers are totes not a thing here. Also, our washer is in Italian. 3 points to Sarah for navigating that one.
  • Hot showers can be taken approximately 30 min after turning on the hot water heater. Be sure to flip the breaker back though before showering to avoid electrocution.

 

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