Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Frame of reference

HAPPY CANADA DAY!!!

The tiniest detail in which I obey has all the omnipotent power of the grace of God behind it.
-Oswald Chambers, My Utmost for His Highest (June 15)

The past couple weeks have been action-packed and wonderful. I've done a lot of reflecting on how the Ashley of today is different than the Ashley who moved to Central Illinois in September 2009. Thank God for the transforming power of the Holy Spirit. And for grace. And for His love...
I keep challenging myself to keep God as my "frame of reference" through which I view all little aspects/details of life in this world. It has been difficult and uncomfortable but truly a growing experience and I am so thankful for my beloved family in Christ who keep me on track and speak gracious truth to me! Believing/trusting and living what [Romans 8:28] says, that God works all things for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose has been SO freeing and scary all at once. Letting go of my agenda, my hopes and my plans for the "perfect conditions" or "perfect scenario" has allowed me to be receptive to God's direction, God's plans, and God's conditions and scenarios... which of course are THE BEST directions, plans, conditions and scenarios! It's so cool how He does that; promises us the best (which, admittedly may not be what we categorize as "the best")..... and then carries it to fruition. How little we think of Him to question and hem and haw when faced with the tiniest bump in the road of our existence!

I am still awed by how God has blessed and opened doors this year, especially in the area of Cambodia.
I had read the books, researched articles and watched the video clips, but I had experienced a couple closed doors and was at one point looking into just booking a flight on my own and had even asked a friend if she was interested in accompanying me. I knew I had to somehow get to Cambodia. Dennis (THANKS, Dennis!) suggested I look into OMF for summer mission trips, and I was very excited when the Cambodia team coordinator (hi, Bonnie! ^^) replied right away. Ever since that first email I sent, I've been prayed over and encouraged and I am so so grateful for everyone at OMF and especially for Bonnie for giving me wise words of advice and guidance! She's off to Japan for her own mission trip and I'm looking forward to hearing about what she learns during her time there...
Now it's the end of June. Just over ONE MONTH until I fly to Cambodia... and I still do not know what to expect. It was SO wonderful meeting my Cambodia teammate Carmen Chow at the OMF training session in Toronto on June 11-12, and my prayers are with her and her family in Hong Kong right now. Our plane tickets were booked last week, which makes the pending trip much more real to me... but still it hasn't really "hit" me that I will ACTUALLY be GOING to CAMBODIA. Praise God that He is big enough to handle (and guide... and teach) my small-mindedness hahaha.

So! Quick overview of my current Cambodia Preparation Status
(Let's also make this double as a Prayer Request List! Please pray for all items that are un-CHECKed~)
  • Met with, am keeping in contact with and praying for teammate Carmen: CHECK
  • Valid passport: CHECK (remember to tuck in $25US for traveler's visa!)
  • Plane tickets: CHE- wait. They're booked, but have not yet received e-ticket from OMF office
  • Travel insurance: CHECK
  • Immunizations: Please someone keep me accountable for this! I should have done this ... a long time ago.
  • Finances: Still a few hundred dollars to go, but I totally trust that God will provide! There is still time for this.
  • ...
*****
Woo! I took a break from writing because I was getting sleepy and MAN did anyone get outside tonight??? I went for an exxxxtra-long run, just to enjoy the black, velvet-y, star-dusted sky! AAAND as I was cooling down and stretching, an orange moon rose and... .. I really revel in moments like these. MMmmmmmM.

I've been trying to go easy on the Cambodia reading as of late, because I found that around May all my reading and thinking about the nation had started making me feel veryyy burdened and heavy and weighed down. I do want to keep up with current issues, especially in the Phnom Penh area, but I also want to do so with discernment and wisdom. Please pray for this with me.

Oh I have so much more to say, but lest I bore you I shall stop for now! ;)
You do have a video to watch, after all (PLEASE forgive my lapses of major nerdiness). I clearly cannot gauge time when recording videos... watch til the end for a couple "bloopers". HAHA!

video
If you've stopped by and read this update, please do leave a comment! Whether to respond to the question I ask you in this video, or just a word of encouragement.. I would really appreciate it. Thanks! :)

Once again, I thank God for my friends and family in Christ who have prayed me to this point and I am so excited to see what MORE God has planned. Whether it be joyous revelation or painful heartbreak, I am praying that I maintain a teachable heart.

I love you! Thank you! Talk to you soon.

Blessings and Love in Him,
~Ashley

For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. To Him be the glory forever! AMEN.
[Romans 11:36]

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Like sunlight burning at midnight.

This past weekend I attended the OMF Pre-Departure training retreat at the OMF Guest House in Toronto, ON.
The traveling required on this 3-day, 1400-mile, multiple-modes-of-transit trip is something that I am not used to and I am still quite tired from, but thank God that I had a safe and enlightening trip! The weekend was one huge blessing: people I encountered on the way up to Ontario (the nice ones!), the OMF training itself, meeting my sweet teammate Carmen and team coordinator Bonnie, seeing family, being able to worship at my home church London Korean Christian Church, and having good catch-up chats with a couple friends. God is gooood.

I am still so awed at the Lord's provision and guiding hand in my life. I truly feel that this past year in Peoria has been a blessed growing experience; I am learning to stretch out my legs and walk with Him. I feel that I am finally growing past the infancy of my spiritual journey and it excites me to the point of fear! Fear for what this growth could mean: boldness, learning to live a life worthy of His calling, martyrdom even!!! An area I really need to grow in is that of prayer. I desire to pray bold, powerful prayers like in [Acts 4:31]! I believe that the lack of an active, passionate prayer life is indicative of an embarrassingly small faith; if we truly believe that God
is Who He says He is, our prayers should be moving mountains! Shaking meeting places! At the very least be changing our lives! Oh, Lord increase my faith.

Haha I'm rambling.
I wanted to update on my finances situation and give God PRAISE and THANKS for moving
people's hearts to give so generously. I have been BLOWN AWAY by how my friends have been giving. Five supporters have brought me to more than 80% of my total amount ($2510)!!! Thank you so much for trusting God with your finances. May He continue to move in your heart, bless you and increase your faith! (HAHA, byyyy the way I haven't used Excel in a long time and this graphic took me FOREVER to make)

I have learned so much by seeing God move people to give to this mission trip. My understanding of sacrifice and giving is being challenged and I appreciate that these sacrifices my friends have given could have been painful for them. May God teach me to give of myself with such generosity and faith!

To be honest, May was a difficult time. I was very spiritually dry, I felt like I was being pulled in 15 different directions and being very distracted and I found myself trying to "muscle it", as Pastor Tim Harkness would say. It's HARD! I do believe I am coming up out of this and refuse to let Satan maintain a hold on me.

Prayer Requests
I'm struggling with an issue that I thought had passed a couple years ago, but once disciplined time in the Word and time with God went out the window this issue cropped up again with a certain vengeance. It is an issue of self-image and self-esteem and it is physically taking a toll on me. I do ask that you could pray with me through this. May God be sovereign in my heart, MIND and body.
Lord, I believe; help my unbelief! [Mark 9:24]

I know not to "expect" things on this mission trip but I KNOW that God will exceed any subconscious ones that I do have.

My Recent Activities
  • learning to play songs on the guitar: Thank You by The Katinas, I Will Go by Starfield, general chords and strumming :) I would love to be able to play guitar (well) so I could take this skill to the mission field!
  • madly journaling
  • running, on and off. and by on and off, I mean one week I'll be on, one week off. hahaha. I want to be more disciplined in this!
  • co-counseling with Pastor Steve at the Harvest Peoria office
  • assisting with the younger high school kids group with speech, writing, communication for the Korean summer program @ PCS
  • saw Can You Hear Us? at Grace Church in Morton and am still BLOWN AWAY by Kaitlin Pflederer's voice and lyrics
  • preparation for Cambodia!!!!!
Okay! This is my mid-June update. Thank you for your prayerful and financial support so far and please contact me if you have any questions or personal prayer requests!

Love and blessings,
Ashley

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Gracious uncertainty

The title of this blog comes from Oswald Chambers' My Utmost for His Highest. The devotion from April 29 is titled "The graciousness of uncertainty" and struck a chord with me at the time (and now!) A beautiful excerpt from this devo is as follows:
Certainty is the mark of the common-sense life:
gracious uncertainty is the mark of the spiritual life.
To be certain of God means that we are uncertain in all our ways,
we do not know what a day may bring forth.
This is generally said with a sigh of sadness;
it should be rather an expression of breathless expectation.
We are uncertain of the next step, but we are certain of God.
...
Leave the whole thing to Him, it is gloriously uncertain how He will come in,
but He will come.

I don't think I'm called to a life of celibacy, but right now I want to live like I am.
To find fullness in Christ and in Him alone... and the STRENGTH to abide in Him alone!
I want to live IN this fullness until it pleases God to call me out of singleness, not just hoping and waiting for the future to come.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Lift-off

I am going to commit to staying off of a certain social networking site until I leave for a short-term mission trip to Cambodia on August 8, 2010.
As it has come to my attention that my use of said site is not of a beneficial and/or healthy manner, I believe that this two-month hiatus from it will be good for me. Perhaps I can acquire perspective and the wisdom to use it in an appropriate manner (i.e. not to stalk the wedding album of a friend's friend's friend's sister!).
On a spiritual level, Facebook has become an idol (Pronunciation: \ˈī-dəl\ an object of extreme devotion) and I believe that eliminating it from my life for the time being would free up some of my wasted time to do more productive things.

I want to be very deliberate with this blog. Less of my usual random rants and more intentional, thought-out and (I hope) coherent ponderings.

I'd like to start off by introducing my plans for this summer.
Since August 2009 I have been moved to pray for and learn more about Cambodia and especially the issue of sex trafficking in that land. God has been so faithful and has aligned various things in my life to allow me to be part of the "Love for Cambodia" team, which will be serving from August 9 - August 30. My heart breaks over the tragic stories I have read about and for the ones I know are being scarred onto the hearts of little girls at this moment.

I went to a concert by Can You Hear Us? last night at Grace Church in Morton, IL and was just wrecked by it. Kaitlin Pflederer's voice was so pure and pleading; she is definitely gifted in story-telling and I was so blessed to hear God speaking to and convicting me (and I'm sure ALL who were present) through her music.
I had heard and read many similar stories, but was particularly challenged to do something IMMEDIATELY and in the environment I find myself in NOW. I am very excited and nervous and expectant for the trip in August, but even if Jesus returned to take us home tomorrow, I want to be like the faithful and wise servant, whom the master has put in charge of the servants in his household to give them their food at the proper time. It will be good for that servant whose master finds him doing so when he returns. [Matthew 24:45-46]

I hope to record my journey as I walk in faith of God's provision and revelation in me and the people around me.
May my vision become greater and greater as You shape and grow this sinful, reluctant heart.

Give me increase and progress in grace
so that there may be
more decision in my character,
more vigour in my purposes,
more elevation in my life,
more constancy in my zeal.
(Puritan prayer)