Thursday, March 24, 2011

Mercy Ships...One Chapter Closed, Another Beginning...:)

Wow! I'm home and it's been almost three weeks since I stepped off the plane here in FL after my time with Mercy Ships. What an experience! It's hard to believe it's over. I will always treasure Everything I experienced along with every person God brought into my life through Mercy Ships. I've learned SO many things.
I would say, with no doubt this has been one of the most influential, if not THE most influential time in my life. I never imagined God would teach me SO much, and bring me into such incredible friendships that I believe will last a lifetime.
You've followed me in the many experiences I've had and the variety of different opportunities and work places I've been in. It has been simply incredible! I have come away with some very vivid realizations, and some extremely meaningful lessons. I feel like God used everything combined in this incredible 20+- months to shape me more into the woman he created me to be. He began by stripping me of myself, and showing me things I didn't even realize were there. One example of this is I found out through a co-worker and friend that I did not respect everyone as I thought I did. I did not give them the opportunity and freedom to grow and learn for themselves. Instead I would make them feel inferior simply by the tone I used and proceed to do something myself, because it was "just easier." This implied that I believed I was better and more qualified, smarter and just above another person. I realized I had some things to work on and went to the Lord. I asked him to forgive me for this attitude in my heart. And I asked him what caused it and what I should do to change it. I heard him say, "learn to love people with my love; love as I love." So I began to pray that prayer. Also I got the idea to pray against the spirit of 'Entitlement' in my life. I realized this attitude was a huge underlying reason for this high and mighty attitude. I felt things should be a certain way, people should be a certain way. People should act and treat me a certain way. And if things didn't turn out the way I expected or thought they should, for some reason I was entitled to be upset or disgruntled about it. But as I prayed about all this, I realized it was all a lie and it resulted in more disappointment and frustration anyway. I realized I wasn't in control of anything and the world in no way catered to me, nor should it.
As I prayed that God would take this spirit of entitlement from me, I began to gain an new understanding of a better way to live, and it was SO freeing! There was so much more joy and peace. If you don't live by expectations, and flexibility is the characteristic way you respond to situations, life is so much more enjoyable.
Next God began to teach me more about His love. He began to show me that he truly Does love me, no qualifications, no strings attached. And his love was overwhelmingly more deep and encompassing than I had ever understood before. And I knew it was just the beginning. At that point I began to ask God to show me how to love him more, and I felt prompted that it required I know him more. So I began to pray daily that God would show me himself. I wanted to Know HIM. Not just about him, or what he can do. But who he is, like a best friend that you know all about, what they like, how they think, what makes them laugh, cry, angry. How you get to the point you know them so well that you even end up gaining some of their characteristics, or quirks, or phrases, and you automatically know how they would respond to different situations or what they would want or choose. I asked God if he would help me to know him like that. Because I know there is SO MUCH to know about him that we can never stop growing to know him more. Through this process of getting to know God more, I began to love him more as a result. Because the very essence of who God is, provokes an incredibly deep love from us.
I began to ask God to reveal his truth to me in such a strong and deeply rooted way that I truly grasped it and fully believed it in the very depths of who I am, so that it would shape the way I live! I realized after going through a video teaching called The Truth Project, that I apparently did not fully believe all I thought I did about who God is and what he says he can do. The way I realized this was I suddenly saw that I didn't live as though I believed these things! If I truly believed them, my actions and living would naturally follow. And they did Not.
For example, God says he loves us and wants what is best for us, and that he is in control, and able to see everything, and he is ABLE, and trustworthy! If I really believed that, then why did I worry about things? Or get frustrated when things didn't turn out the way I planned or thought they should? I realized it was because I didn't fully believe that God loved me that much, maybe I loved myself a little more and would care a little more than him to look out for what's best for me. Maybe he really didn't Always know what was best for me, because I think this over here looks better...maybe I know a little better. And if things go "wrong" (in other words, differently than i planned or expected), I shouldn't get stressed or annoyed if I really believe God sees it all and the bigger picture for that matter and he has a purpose he's working out nomatter if it seems to make sense to me at the time or not. He's trustworthy and so much bigger than me, so I have no qualification to worry about anything! Nomatter what the circumstance. Now of course I did not master all this. But God just opened my eyes, so I saw it clearly. It was a revelation to me. And I began praying for God to help me truly believe and truly trust him and his truth claims about himself. And I began to see changes in my attitudes and responses to things. I wasn't as easily annoyed, or riled up by things. In fact it was really difficult to get me legitimately frustrated even if things seemed to totally go south, or the plans were completely changed around. I began to see life as an adventure, and the changes were just part of the ride to be enjoyed. Some new exciting path that my guide must know something important about, but I just don't see it. But I could enjoy it and not worry, because I knew my guide was in control and knew what was happening and where we were ultimately going, and I knew he loved me and cares deeply for me and would never let anything happen to me that he though would damage me in the big picture. So I learned to live in trust. And I really found freedom, excitement and joy in it!
I also learned that I definitely do Not have the strength to make it day to day on my own. I came to the point where I just cried one day and told God, I didn't understand why, but I was just tired, and so worn out, and I just felt like I could never catch up. And I just couldn't do it. And He reminded me that I was never meant to. So I realized and grabbed onto the understanding that I have to draw on him every day, to live it to the fullest the way he intended and to be the person he wants me to through everything. So I realized that spending time with him, talking to him, and drawing truth and strength from his word, was my lifeline. It wasn't an option, it was a necessity. Even if I thought I was ok, I need him, and I know I'm not ok without him. And I realize that is the best place to be. I had to go to him, in every thing that came up, any little concern. Instead of taking it and thinking and worrying about it, I began to give him my concerns and talk to him and ask him about them and ask for his mind, and thinking, and perspective on all the things that came my way. It was like for the first time I realized how I'm supposed to live. I'm supposed to let go of everything, and give it to him. None of it is supposed to stay pent up inside me. God created me to be in relationship with him and go through life WITH him. And in all honestly, he takes the brunt and weight of everything if I will live it with him the way He designed me to. It's incredible. Thank you Father for loving me like no one will ever fully grasp, and being everything you are. Thank you for all you've grown in me. Please continue to make me more like you and draw me in to know and love you more for the rest of my life. I know there is so much of you that I'll never get to the end of the depth I can know and love you. Thank you Lord for everything!!!! I love you Father.
So as this chapter of my life closes, I believe it has simply prepared me for the next. I pray that everything I've gained from this experience stays just as vivid and becomes the foundation for the rest of my life, and another stage of growth as the Lord sees fit.
Now that I am home, It seems I still have not stopped running. I'm actually thankful that I've had many things to preoccupy me, so I don't have time to get bored and wonder what to do with my life. God has moved me right on to the next adventure, and I'm extremely excited!! I came home and was blessed to spend time with my grandma and aunts from IN. The week after, a very special man in my life (Joey Waddell) came to visit for spring break.
This is where the next chapter begins...
I picked him up from the airport in the morning on Saturday, March 12th. We decided to drive straight to the beach to just spend some time together and catch up after not having seen each other for 10 months. When we got there we decided to take a walk on the beach together. It was wonderful. I absolutely love the beach, the beauty, the freedom, the smell of the water, the sound of the waves, the feel of the sand between my toes. All of that, and the Man I love was right beside me, walking with me, his arm wrapped around me. There couldn't be a more perfect moment.
After a while we stopped and just enjoyed watching the water, standing there in each other's arms, savoring the feeling of finally being together again. I felt like I was finally home. I realize all this may seem sappy and over dramatized, but I truly love this man, and there is nothing more wonderful to me in this world than being in his arms. I truly am home when I am with him. He is a gift that I feel God gave me, simply to show me the depth of his love in a way more special than I ever fully understood or realized.
Joey turned me to him and hugged me and said "Well, we're here!" I responded, "Yes were finally here together!" Then he told me how much he loved me and how he loved everything about me, my quirkiness, and goofiness, my heart, smile and laugh, and a bunch of other wonderful things. ;) Then he said, "In spite of all this, I haven't been totally honest with you..." That struck me as odd, but I wasn't gonna let my imagination run away with itself. He continued, "I don't want to get married in August." We had been talking about getting married in August, and it had seemed quite difficult to get to that decision for various reasons. Now I was a little nervous, and He paused long enough to read all of it on my face. ;) I think I said something like "ok...?" ;-p hehe Then after he let me be nervous for a bit, he got down on his knee and said, I want to marry you a lot sooner than that! Leah will you Marry me? And he pulled out an absolutely gorgeous ring! It was amazing. I was So surprised and I felt so spoiled! Half of me wishes I would have said something like "Maybe..." or "I'll have to ask my dad" or "I'll have to think about it" just to tease him a little for making me sweat, ;) But there was no question in my mind. I said Yes!!!! and hugged him around the neck, and of course gave him a big kiss. ;) and a little later I said it again "Yes! Yes! Yes!!" hehe finally he sat down in the sand, and pulled me down next to him and we began to discuss and plan and get excited about our future together! Oh and we started calling everyone! :)
So, I am engaged! And the best part is the man I'm engaged to. ;) I love you baby. You are the most precious thing on earth to me. I am so excited that you are the man God gave me to love and share the rest of my life with. I can't wait! I know we have so many adventures to look forward to. And We will experience them together! Finally!
So now we are planning a wedding! OUR Wedding! on June 25th. :) What an incredible God we have. Lord you are the best writer of love stories anywhere in History. I guess it's because you are the author of the first and ultimate love story, our love story, with you. Thank you for first loving, and pursuing us Lord. Thank you that you are the source of passion, love, and the depth of all the mystery you've made these to have. It is the most beautiful thing in eternity. Teach us more about your kind of Love. And draw us deeper into our love story with you.

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