Monday, December 21, 2015

Moving Forward.

A year ago, on this very day, I was at the lowest point of my life. You see, the one thing that made me really happy was taken away. I didn't even see it coming, but it happened. The next thing I knew, I was alone. I can't quite explain how I felt in one word, but I knew that I felt hurt, lost, and confused. 

The timing couldn't have been worst. Not only was it a few days before Christmas (seeing as I already felt sad that it was my first Christmas away from home), but it was also a day before my trip to LA. What followed within the next few days were countless breakdowns, a loss of appetite and really, just pure confusion. I'd go out, put a smile on my face and do all the touristy things with my friends but at the end of the day, I'd lay in bed wide awake just overthinking things. I'd wake up super early in the morning to lock myself in the bathroom and I'd just sit against a wall and cry my heart out. It was a daily occurrence throughout the week.

At that time, I didn't understand why it happened. I didn't understand why God did what He did. I could've easily been angry at God and really, it was tempting to do so but I decided that I was going to trust God. From the moment things ended, I made the choice to trust God and to pursue Him even more. I chose to move forward.

Instead of feeding my sadness with emotional songs, the only 2 albums that I listened to on my seven hour bus ride to LA was Steffany Gretzinger's The Undoing and Bethel's You Make Me Brave. These two albums really got me through this season, especially The Undoing - it was constantly on replay for most of the seven hour journey. This explains why the album is really significant to me. Also, after my morning breakdowns, I'd pick myself up and spend time with God right then and there. I spent hours just seeking Him and choosing to remain in His presence.

As time went by, the pain started to ease a little. I was more optimistic and I remember constantly praying that God would give me the opportunity to serve Him here in the States. What came out of that prayer was the opportunity to start an International Student Ministry small group with InterVarsity. It's crazy how the ISM small group came together but it was then that I was slowly starting to understand why God did what He did. 

Fast forward. I can now look back at how my life has been since then and I must say, the things that happened in the past year made me understand why things ended. I wasn't growing as a person and I was pretty much miserable here in the States because my heart was stuck back home. At times, I'd even feel guilty for leaving home and being able to have this life overseas. So there I was, having this amazing opportunity to study overseas but all I wanted to do was to go home. I was throwing away my golden ticket. 

My God is amazing and because He loves me, He wanted what was best for me. He took away what was not only causing my focus to shift away from Him, but He also took away what was holding me back from being able to fully experience life here with no guilt. I had to learn to trust Him even more and to let go of certain things in order for Him to truly move in my life in the way that He wanted it to. When my focus shifted back to Him, everything started to fall into place over time. 

I guess what I'm trying to say is that time heals the pains of yesterday and God can not only free you from that pain, but He can also use it for His benefit. Today, I'm the best version of myself for now. I know that it can only go up from here. Although I was at my lowest on this day last year, I'm at my highest today. I have truly experienced His joy in my life and I don't ever want to turn back. This past semester was so crazy amazing because of the countless experiences that I was able to have. God gave me so many opportunities this past semester and it doesn't even end there. He continues to let me have amazing opportunities and experiences. I mean, here I am, sitting in SFO waiting to board what is only my first of many flights for the next three weeks. If I was still the person I was last year, would I be where I am right now? Would I allow myself to do these things so freely?

I think the most important lesson to me was that even though I felt so hurt and confused initially, I was not alone. God was with me and He was moving through my situation. Again, I didn't see it then but now when I look back, I can see how He was working through every detail of my life. If this situation didn't happen, I definitely wouldn't be the person I am today and I probably would not be doing what I'm doing today. I know that God used my situation for His benefit. Not only did my relationship with Him grow stronger, but my relationship with those around me grew stronger too. My family was a constant pillar of support during that rough season of my life and even though they were miles and miles away from me, their love and support was so evident. 

Today, I can look back and smile because I know that all that has happened was for the best. I'm proud of the person I am today because I know that God has brought me a long way from where I was. I may not have understood it then, but I now see the bigger picture of what He is doing in my life. The best part? I know this isn't the end. I know there's so much more to come, so much more that I can't even imagine.

He made known to us the mystery of His will according to His good pleasure, which He purposed in Christ, to be put into effect when the times reach their fulfillment—to bring unity to all things in heaven and on earth under Christ. In Him we were also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of Him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of His will.
Ephesians 1:9-11

Love, Ainsley.

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

"Who am I?"

I woke up today and felt ready to head back for the last few weeks of school. I had a great thanksgiving weekend away from the realities of life and I got to just sit, chill and not worry about assignments or finals. Even though I didn't want to leave Sacramento, I was looking forward to the next few torturous weeks of school that I had to endure because I just wanted winter break to come already. By some miracle, I had some time to spare before I had to head to school today. So, I decided to sit down and I spent some time with God. As I got further and further into my journalling, I realised that I was starting to go deeper into the things that were bothering me but did not really want to address. So many questions began going through my mind but the one question that kept repeating itself was, "who am I?" 

I'll be honest, I've been struggling with my identity. Yes, I know that I am a child of God and that I shouldn't have to struggle with these kinds of things but I'm still human, I have my doubts and fears. It may come as a surprise but those close to me know that I struggle a lot with my self-worth and often put myself down. I won't go too much into it for now, but it's just something that I've been constantly going through. Every time I struggle with something that has to do with my identity, God tends to show up and remind me of who I am. Today, it wasn't any different.

As I said, I kept questioning who I was. Why? For one, the things that I was once confident about was in a way, being taken away from me. I thought my skills weren't sufficient enough and it felt like I was no longer needed. In my mind, I was being replaced. I was also feeling hurt because in certain situations, credit wasn't being given where credit was due. I know I shouldn't expect anything when I give, but a part of me just always hoped that I'd at least get a bit of recognition or gratitude from whoever I'm doing a favour for. After all, it's a basic thing to say thank you or to give credit where credit was due, right?

Anyway, I went about my whole day feeling down and unsure of myself. I wasn't in any mood to be social. I couldn't wait to get home and to just be by myself but God's always funny, isn't He? I got home and everyone happened to be home too so I had to be social. Then, I decided to take a nice, hot bath to escape from everything but I was interrupted for a bit. Don't get me wrong, I'm not blaming anyone. I actually find it quite funny right now. But at that time, man, it was hard. I wasn't getting what I wanted. On top of that, I was also developing a headache and was strongly considering skipping this meeting that I had to attend in the evening. I somehow ended up at that meeting in the end and I'm glad I chose to be present.

I once went through this tough week where I struggled to feel God. I was so tired and stressed up that I just wanted time to myself. I had so many weekly commitments to attend to and I just wanted to skip out on them but for some unknown reason, I chose to attend all those meetings even though I was quite reluctant. I found, however, that with every meeting I attended, God spoke to me and He slowly revealed more and more of Himself to me. It was crazy but it was happening. By the end of the week, I had been able to feel God once again. In fact, I felt Him so strongly at church that Sunday and it just so happened that the theme for that week was about perseverance. That's when I knew that it was God and that I wasn't alone that whole week. It didn't matter that I didn't feel Him, He was still there. He never left. "Faith > feelings." I will always remember this line that I heard from a sermon sometime ago. That's exactly what got me through that week and I'm glad that I held onto that.

Back to today, I made the same exact decision. I chose to attend the meeting even though I wanted to use my headache as an excuse and to just rest at home. In the end, the same exact thing happened as the previous time too. God showed up! I wasn't expecting anything and I definitely wasn't expecting for God to speak to me about my situation so soon but that's exactly what happened. I'm not quite sure what happened but during a time of prayer, I popped into one of my staff leader's mind. Later, he told me what he felt so strongly about. To my surprise, it had to do with what I was struggling with today. I was just mind blown at that point. God was reassuring me of my identity again and in a way, He was showing me the bigger picture. In my own blindness, I couldn't see that God had blessed me with multiple skills that I could use in different areas. I was so focused on the little details and thought that I was no longer significant that I couldn't see the bigger picture. My insecurities tried to take over once again but God wasn't having any of that!

I'm blessed because God placed certain people in my life to help me see things that I myself can't see. Whenever I'm in doubt of my own abilities, God uses the people around me to reassure me and remind me of the things that I fail to see. I'm ever grateful to Him for His faithfulness towards me. God is real, He is so SO real. It's amazing.

You give life, You are love
You bring light to the darkness
You give hope, You restore
Every heart that is broken
Great are You, Lord.

Love, Ainsley.