Monthly Archives: June 2012

God’s Checking Account

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When I first heard about the opportunity to go to Japan, nothing but excitement and joy spread throughout my entire being. But as the trip got closer, two things struck fear and doubt in me–the 20 hour plane travel, and raising the necessary funds to go. In just a few months I needed to come up with nearly $2,700. Impossible.

To give you a little background, I have traveled with Knott Avenue Christian Church on two major mission trips in the past, to Western Samoa and Australia. Both of these trips costs around the same amount as Japan, but I was at a completely different place in my life financially when I took those trips. I was working full time, single and rent free. Although I still work full time now, I am happily married and rent full, with a mortgage payment, that apparently has to be paid EVERY month.

You might see where I am going with this. I have always been so incredibly uncomfortable asking people for money to fund my mission trips, that for Samoa and Australia, I just wrote a personal check to the church and called it a day. In my mind, if I asked people to support me, they would be thinking, “If she wants to go on a mission trip, she should figure out how to go on a mission trip.” Why should I ask people to give up their Starbucks addiction for a month to have the funds to pass along to me when I should just give up MY Starbucks addiction to pay for myself?

Well this time around, our bank account and my husband said just paying for the trip was not an option. Panic set in.

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But God quickly comforted me by bringing me words my father often says. By the way, my siblings and I must publish a book of my dad’s sayings, as they’re all brilliant, though many reference manure. Anyway, Ron Rallis Sr. regularly tells me that the race is already won; all I have to do is go through the motions to make it so. In other words, I don’t need to be worried that I won’t succeed, because God has already determined that I will succeed, for His glory. If I simply follow the steps to get to the goal, victory is ours.

Now many times we don’t know what the final goal is, or we have a goal in mind and God has a different goal, but that’s neither here nor there. All that matters is that God loves us and always has an ideal plan for us. Though we’re often inadequate, if we just put one foot in front of the other, He will fill in the gaps and shortcomings. Though we don’t always know where God is taking us, there ARE a few times in our lives when we know exactly what God wants us to do. And those are the times when God has already won the race and all we need to do is be obedient in going through the motions to follow Him there. God has already told me that I will be going to Japan. He already knows our financial situation. He already knows how much I need to raise. He already raised the money. I just need to go out and collect it

And boy, did the Lord provide. With just a few Facebook posts and Facebook messages, I am almost at my goal, and I still have 2 ½ weeks to fundraise! The craziest part is, none of that money came from my three sets of parents. I was sure I was going to have to go to the bank of mom and dad to make up the difference. Almost $2,700 raised, and no hate mail saying, “pay for yourself and leave me alone.” Quite the opposite in fact. People WANT to give. They’re not giving because they want to get rid of me or because they feel guilty, but because they believe in the work God is doing in Japan. It has very little if nothing to do with me! What a relief! It’s not me asking people for me, it’s God inviting people for Japan. Wow, I started this fundraising journey so selfish and I didn’t even know it.

I have been selfish in past mission trips by not allowing God to move in the hearts and wallets of other believers, and I have been selfish this time around by thinking people were giving to me when they’re really giving to God to bring Him glory and further His Kingdom. I officially feel like a chump. I’m so glad God loves and uses chumps.

Not only has God humbled me through this process, He has brought me a mission trip family. Though I didn’t realize it at the time, I felt very alone on my trips to Samoa and Australia. I went with great teams and did some great work, but after a long day or difficult conversation I felt homesick and alienated. I had no connection to anyone who wasn’t in the thick of it with me. No one standing behind the ropes that mark the race, cheering us forward, giving us water and snacks, and telling us there was a celebration party waiting at the finish line. Boy, did I miss out on a big aspect of the trip. And who knows for sure, but I was probably less effective than I could have been if I had felt a team behind me back home.

ImageAs I look at the team of people contributing to my trip, either through funds or prayer, I actually get emotional. It is such a wonderful and diverse group. Men, women, children, college-age, young marrieds, single sensations, empty nesters, people who will hardly notice that funds even left their account, people who picked up a shift to cover the loss. This is the team. We are now all connected. Thirty-five very different people all coming together for one trip that could make an eternal difference for many. I’m overwhelmed by how beautiful that is.

To all my financial supporters, your generosity is humbling. And to all my prayer warriors, your prayers will directly contribute to the effectiveness of my trip.

One lesson I’ve learned through all of this is to not let the fear of naysayers rob you of experiencing the joy that comes from yea-sayers. Sometimes the naysayers are actual people, sometimes it’s our own insecurities, and sometimes it’s the devil. But regardless, they’re the minority and shouldn’tprevent you from going through the motions to finish the race God has already won.

Now to figure out how to conquer that 20 hour plane ride. Hmm.

Thanks for bearing through the mind that is Jessica. Until next blog entry.

Love, Jessica

“If anyone, then, knows the good they ought to do and doesn’t do it, it is sin for them.” – James 4:17

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My, scratch that, God’s To-Do List

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Here we are, five weeks away from traveling to Japan for a two-week mission trip. It’s something Matt and I have been dreaming about doing for the past couple years, and now it’s only five weeks out! I have to take this opportunity to quote FRIENDS, because heaven forbid I let one of those opportunities pass.

Joey: Am I psyched? The lead in my own TV series? I’ve dreamed about this for years! Why have I not been preparing?

Me: Am I psyched? A mission trip to Japan? I’ve dreamed about this for years! Why have I not been preparing?

In the late hours of the night, I often become overwhelmed with the list of things I have to do, and sheer panic sets in when I realize there are some things on that list I just don’t have time to accomplish…like learning fluent Japanese, mastering the art of vocal harmonies, memorizing that box of flashcard Bible verses, and tactfully keeping down fish heads after consumption.

But I am learning to at least attempt obeying that phrase I’m so sick of hearing and wish people would stop saying: let go and let God. Crud, I just said it myself, huh? Well you see, I am a major planner. I like to joke that I have to-do lists filled with to-do lists. For example, an item on my to-do list might be: “make a list of things we need to complete our living room” or “make a list of goals to accomplish during June.” While this is laughable, it’s also very real. I live by my to-do lists, and I get very anxious when things aren’t getting checked off.

God has been yelling to me this week, since I’m usually deaf to His whispers, that I don’t need to be overly worried about having every little thing perfectly prepared, because He has been working hard over the last couple years to prepare me as a person. God is a refiner’s fire. He has been slowly, and often painfully, refining me. Melting me down, separating out my impurities that decrease my value, ridding me of them, and leaving me much closer to the gold He originally created me to be. I HAVE been preparing for this trip, but not in a way that’s easy to check off my to-do list. And that’s okay. In fact, it’s better, because it has eternal value.

My pop always says, “There are only two things in this world that last forever: God’s Word and people.” Although my never ending to-do list looks important and matters in my day-to-day life, I can feel already accomplished in knowing I have been investing the last couple years of my life in God’s Word and in people.

I am by no means where I hoped I’d be at this point in my life. I really thought as a teenager that by age 29 I would have more success, more control and more sanity than I do, but I have come leaps and more leaps from where I was a couple years ago. Maybe my biggest hang up in progressing has been decades of focusing on my to-do list first, and God’s “Will list” second. Too much planning can leave no room for God to move and do things I never thought to add to my to-do list.

As I reflect on what’s important to me in life, I keep coming back to “being in God’s Will.” If I can make this my focus: seeking God’s Will, finding God’s Will, following God’s Will, then everything else will fall into place. It just has to. And even if it doesn’t, it doesn’t matter because I’m in God’s Will. I want so desperately to know that I am in His Will, because then I can release all the pressure of doing other things. I’m not an actress on Broadway, oh well, I’m in God’s Will. I’m not debt free, oh well, I’m in God’s Will. I’m not a mom of three kids, oh well, I’m in God’s Will.

Now don’t get me wrong, being in God’s Will does not mean being lazy on pipe dreams, it means having freedom from guilt tripping myself for not being something I was never created to be anyway. I am not one of those people who grab on to excuses for not doing things, I am a person who feels worthless if I’m not doing everything. So being in God’s Will allows me to focus and be content where He has me now, because why would I want to be anywhere else if He wants me here? I wouldn’t!

So, to sum up, “we’re having fun, you look young.” Sorry, another FRIENDS reference. But seriously, to sum up, to-do lists are only good if they don’t overshadow the time and energy put into becoming the person God wants you to be. And secondly, actively seeking and living in God’s Will is all you need to be concerned with.

Hopefully these revelations will calm my spirit enough to allow me to get some much needed sleep between now and the big trip. And even more importantly, will give God the opportunity to intervene as much as possible, both while preparing for Japan and while being in Japan!

Thanks so much for reading my very first blog entry in the history of Jessica!

Stay tuned, as next week I’ll be writing about The Bank of God: trusting God with the financial aspect of a mission trip.

If you’d like to read more about our Japan mission trip, or contribute financially, please click here.

And, for your viewing pleasure, I’ve attached one of the FRIENDS clips I quoted. This is the worst/best “define the relationship” conversation in the history of mankind. Enjoy!

Love, Jessica

“Tell of His glory among the nations, His wonderful deeds among all the peoples.” -Psalm 96:3