Monday, November 23, 2009

Lyrical Connections

I’ve often said that without music, I’m not sure I could feel. Of course that’s not true, but I can’t deny the way music unlocks something inside me, allowing me access to thoughts and feelings seemingly kept just out of reach. I was reminded of that again this past Friday as I walked through a store. Brooke Fraser’s “Shadowfeet” played in the background, bringing me an instant feeling of familiarity and warmth as I was missing home. My friend Jessica introduced me to Brooke’s music several months ago, and because Brooke is a New Zealander, it’s not at all uncommon to hear her streaming through radio waves all throughout the country (“walking, stumbling, on these shadow feet...”). Before coming to NZ, I came to know her music well - her calming words of truth and hope, the graceful melodies. I am certain God arranged this meeting as hearing her music now is something of comfort in my home away from home. Another small way God is reminding me of His provision.

Another reminder came the following day. Saturday mornings have a long-standing tradition for my house-family. They load up the kids and dog, make a morning trip to a local bakery for a delectable treat and a coffee, then head onto the beach to stroll amongst the waves and sand. This particular Saturday I was once again hit by lyrics streaming overhead as we stood waiting for our hot cups of caffeine...

Just give me a chance to hold on
Just give me something to hold onto
It’s so clear now that you are all that I have
I have no fear ‘cause you are all that I have

A few lines from Snow Patrol’s “You’re All I Have.” I’ve heard the song several times before, but hearing it after a few days of extensive time spent with the Lord, it came to mean something new. For me, this song meant that God is all I have, I have nothing to fear because I have Him. I’m pretty certain that’s not the meaning the writer had as he or she penned the lyrics, but it means that to me. My heart took these lyrics to the beach and silently sang them as I walked. I love it when supposed secular songs have underlying spiritual meaning. I notice this quite often actually. Just today in One Fine Frenzy’s “You Picked Me” and Matt Nathanson’s “Car Crash.” Why do so many songs have spiritual ties? I wonder this time and time again. Part of me thinks it’s because of the undeniable Creator and the way He makes everything spiritual. Even if a writer doesn’t see the connection, it doesn’t mean it isn’t there. I think whether they realize it or not, there is something inside of them that longs to connect with the spiritual, that longs to have the peace of God. Their lyrics are crying out for it.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Journey Within A Journey

I am quickly discovering on my journey around that world that there will be many journeys within that journey. This past week I had the privilege of hiking the world famous Milford Track. A four day, three night 54k/33.5m hike through the Southern Alps from Glade Wharf to Sandfly Point via MacKinnon Pass.

It all began with a 10 hour bus ride from Christchurch to Te Anau. I met some neat people on the ride, befriended the bus driver (always a good idea), and gave my brain and heart an opportunity to engage. The first reminder God gave me - especially in the face of fear - is that He will always be enough. I couldn't tell you how many times I listened to the Shane and Shane song "The Blood," but I can tell you it was enough times for the message to really sink in..."The blood, oh the blood, the blood/It washes me/For it's only by the blood/He makes atonement for my soul/It will always be enough." Over and over, 'til I got it, really got it.

Next came a lesson on learning lessons. I think all these years I've had it wrong. Once the lesson is actually realized, see that's when the work is just beginning. It's a little bit like when I was baptized as a young girl. I remember thinking, "Alright! This is it, I've arrived. I've made the decision to become a believer in Christ. I'm done." Little did I know I was only beginning the journey of a lifetime, with lots of work ahead (oh to be young and naive again!). God teaching me a lesson - and me actually getting it - is great. But then it's up to me to apply it to my life. That takes work. And that's where the breakdown begins for me, I think. Once I realize the lesson, I can't just file it away and move on to the next one. They require a little more attention than that.

I knew as soon as I arrived in Te Anau I was in for a treat. The next few days in the mountains were just what the doctor ordered, and God had me primed right where He wanted me. The morning after the bus ride, I checked out of the hostel, eager to meet up with Karen and Mike (two friends from Charlotte who were tramping the track with me). Walking to the check-in point, I saw a rainbow over the mountains - God's first love message! Karen and Mike arrived within minutes of my arrival. With everything needed for four days of tramping through the unknown wilderness strapped to our backs, we took a bus ride and a boat ride to the start of the track, and then began putting one foot in front of the other! What followed was four days of witnessing firsthand God's glorious creation. It's hard to find words to describe it. Everything from lush rainforest to ominous snowcapped mountain peaks, babbling brooks to wildly rushing waterfalls, quiet still air to madly whipping wind. I kept thinking to myself, "God, you've gotta be kidding me!" He wasn't.

We slept in huts each night - no electricity, no fires, just gas stoves. 40 trampers from all over the world, cooking together, laughing together. Trampers from Holland, Scotland, Germany, England, Australia, the US - what fun! If a day of hiking with 50 pounds on your back wasn't enough shock for our muscles, Karen, Mike, and I rose to the challenge of swimming in 41 degree F water - fresh from the melting glaciers. Uff-da! That's stinkin' cold!!! Honestly though, I'm not sure if I've ever felt more refreshed. On day three we headed over MacKinnon Pass - sunny and spectacular. Breathtaking views! I even got to use "the toilet with the world's best view" (check out view below). Mike and I finished the day off with going behind New Zealand's tallest waterfall, Sutherland Falls (480 meters). I was soaking wet, had an ice cream headache, and found it difficult to breathe, but the feeling as the water pounded all around was such a rush! Day four, hiking through trees with a million shades of green, over bridges and rocks, with birds singing all around...a perfect ending. So, a million sandflys, 15 peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, one massive dark chocolate bar, 3 sets of sore legs, and countless shared struggles and triumphs later, Karen, Mike, and I finished the incredible walk.

This, my friends, is what it's all about.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Stupid Four Letter Word

Fear. I sense myself being paralyzed by fear. It's an odd thing, really. I can fly from country to country and navigate around cities and airports on my own without the slightest hint of fear. I can think it easy to galavant around for 6 weeks in different places, meeting up with friends, knowing in some sense that that part of my trip was "just for fun." But I find myself afraid as I settle in New Zealand. I first began to notice the ever-growing feeling as I sat on a plane crossing over the Tasman Sea, speeding full force into an unknown realm. Tears welled in my eyes as I stared out the window - tears of excitement, anticipation, weariness, and...fear. It's not a fear of safety, nor the people, nor the country. I fear myself.

I am afraid I will fail on this journey. I am afraid I will miss what God wants to show me. I am afraid I will return the same person I was when I left, only broke - and I will be the one to blame. I think I am feeling the weight of the trip now as I get to know Christchurch and look for a job. I am noticing that tendencies I didn't like about myself in Charlotte...lack of discipline, drive, organization, etc...well, all these things have followed me here. Was I running from them? No, I don't think I was. I just began to feel like change wasn't possible where I was. I was stagnant and caught in my life. I needed a catalyst for change. And for me, that was this trip, my move to New Zealand.

I've come to realize I learn the same lessons over and over. I wonder if God gets tired of teaching me? Why am I not able to learn the first time, change, and move on? I find myself coming back to some of the same old things. But I guess that is me. I am who God created me to be. As me. John 15:16 says "You did not choose me, but I chose you..." It doesn't say, I chose you because you are strong, wise, fearless. God chose me (and created me!) because I am me, and He will use me, as I am. So then, what do I do with me if I am frustrated by me? I am still searching God for the answer, but I do know that each time I learn the lesson, I get to be a better version of myself. I will always be me, but I can be a me that is better. So I guess I have to back up. I will tell all of these self-imposed expectations to find a new home.

So I head into these next few days and weeks with the goal of accomplishing what I set out to accomplish - one-on-one time with God in his pure creation. In that I will not fail. It's that simple really. That was my goal. That still is my goal. All other things will fall into place as I learn and relearn lessons. God has this thing. Way more than I could ever think He does. I am still me, the same me that walked onto a plane in Charlotte, the same me what will get off in March. What happens in between isn't always gonna be easy, but it'll give me the opportunity to get to overcome my fear as I get to know God, and therefore myself, a bit better.

Psalm 139.

*A special thank you to Sarah for being my sounding board and opening my eyes to a few things.