I’m a pretty honest person, so I’ll just put it out there: until recently, I did not enjoy my life. In the past, questions that were running through my head were How can I rearrange my schedule so I can fit in another activity and another lesson? How can I make more money? How can I learn even more so I can become more equipped? All of those questions are not bad, in and of themselves. But when they were the only questions I was asking myself, it showed me I was so concentrated on….ME! On top of that, I had been waiting for three years to move over to Zambia and had gotten pretty good at moping around. But instead, I was in Indiana, working at a job I did not want to go to some days and still doing homework for my master’s degree. Many times, it was not the life I was wanting; I was just counting down until my life in the States was going to end. Then I could go over to Zambia and do what I was really “supposed” to be doing. I often thought that being in Zambia was the key to a happy life, and I could finally fulfill the calling that God has for me.
But a couple of months ago, it finally hit me. There are way too many people HERE to love, care for, and invest in….I don’t have time to be anxiously waiting to serve somewhere else! My life can’t be on hold because I’m not in Zambia. I shouldn’t be playing this ‘waiting’ game when there’s so much to be done right where I’m at. I can’t constantly be living in the future, especially if I can’t focus on what is in front of me right here, right now.
The big change happened after reading the book Choosing Gratitude by Nancy Leigh Demoss. (If you haven’t read it, check it out! It will probably change your life!) I started learning how to be thankful in ALL things–in the good, and even in the things that did not seem like they could possibly be good. And boy oh boy, God is SO good and powerful and wise to somehow use even the worst things to shape us into His likeness. Like this feeling of being stuck in Indiana? I’m for sure going to feel that way in Zambia too. So God is teaching me how to live purposefully even when I may not want to be here. Or this thing about how I had to wait three years before going to Zambia. To some, that may be a short while. But for me, it was the longest thing that I’ve had to wait for! But God was teaching me to persevere and trust in what He is doing. Because of these lessons and more, even in the midst of hardship, I can be thankful. When I become thankful, I realize it’s not about me. It’s about what God is doing in my life and in the lives of those around me.
So now, by God’s grace, I am learning to focus outwards instead of on myself: How can I love my students well when everything is chaotic in the classroom? How can I show a student compassion when they are having a rough day? Even during times that I am intentional about caring for myself, I hope to do so in light of serving others. I want to make time so I can meet with someone one-on-one and encourage them. I want to get enough sleep so I can love and respect my kids even when they are going wild. It’s definitely still (and probably will forever be) a work in process though.
As I head over to Zambia in about three months (EEK!), I know the temptation to focus on myself will still be there. You might be saying, “Wait a minute. You’re a missionary! That means your life should be about other people.” Well, that may be true. However, it doesn’t mean I’m not human, which equals weak and sinful. Thankfully, God is patient and has an overabundant store of kindness. He will guide me through this.
But that’s what I want to be about–focusing outward, not inward.