The End of a Season

As my time in South Korea comes to an end, I find myself working to process the fact that the end of a wonderful season is here. South Korea has been a haven and a refuge for me. I feel like God literally plucked me out of my old life and placed me here, 7,000 miles from home, knowing that the best thing for me was to be separated from the support network I had taken for granted.

While I am struggling with the fact that I am leaving 4.5 months sooner than anticipated, I have to thank Him for what I have been received during my time here. For over a year, I worked, on average, 70 hours a week and was exhausted and angry all the time. I rarely did anything but work, which damaged relationships and was physically breaking me in the form of an ulcer, and panic attacks. Here I learned what work-life balance looks like. For the first time in a decade, I can say I am free  from my nicotine addiction. For the first time in my adult life, I consistently attended church. I learned what a life group was and joined one. I’ve been blessed to be here and experience this. I have met some of the best people and know that many of them will remain life-long friends.

Most importantly, I drew closer to God. My relationship deepened and I grew in a ways I couldn’t even imagine. People here describe South Korea as a pressure cooker because you grow faster here than you would back home. I got baptized in the East Sea, despite my fear of the water and public speaking. I started this blog and learned to be vulnerable and open in sharing my Christian walk.   I learned to trust in the Lord and not be such a control freak.

I’m sad to be saying goodbye. I loved this season of my life. Living abroad has been such a blessing and a dream come true. There were struggles along the way but I learned to trust in the Lord and He has not let me down. He showed me to trust in His plans and to obey even when I can’t see the way.

“Behold, God is my helper; the Lord is the upholder of my life.” – Psalm 54:4

I know I’ll shed some tears on my flight Thursday morning but I also know that my life is much brighter because of God’s work and the people He brought into my life during this season.

I’ll close with one of my favorite quotes that sums up how I am feeling. I hope you like it.

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How do you handle the end of a season? Do you have any advice or verses that help as you began a new season? I love hearing from y’all! Thanks for reading!

 

 

 

Perspectives on Testimony Types

A friend and I were talking the other morning about our testimony and how friends have judged her for having an “easy” journey because she grew up in a Christian household and remained faithful in her walk. I don’t want to share her testimony because I know she will be sharing it here soon but our talk really fired me up and got me thinking our testimonies.I see testimonies divided into two types: “the dramatic” and the “the steady.” I will try not to generalize too much.

I see testimonies divided into two types: “the dramatic” and the “the steady”.  I hear about a lot of people who are moved or wowed by the “dramatic testimony.” The ones that deal with battling and overcoming addictions or other big turning points. These testimonies are important – mine includes a battle with several addictions but I think it’s a mistake to discount or downplay the testimony of people who haven’t dealt with the big, public struggles.

Everyone’s addiction is different but in many ways overcoming my addiction wasn’t as hard as some of the sins I battle with. Once I acknowledged I had a problem and reached out, I was given a lot of support. I’ve been clean from one of my addictions for almost ten years and while there are still times I think of it longingly, it’s a black and white area; I’m either clean or I’m not.

My biggest struggles are with my thought life and words.   My “unseen” sins are where I really struggle and it’s a lot harder to ask for help and be held accountable. Nobody knows that I’m coveting that girl’s outfit or that I’m judging someone else or lusting after someone. I can hide it. I also find that it’s harder to talk about with friends because most of us deal with these struggles in some form or another.  The unseen struggles are the most dangerous ones to me.  They are the ones that I can hide and downplay because no one else knows.

It’s easy to overlook the straight and narrow path testimony because they don’t contain the huge climax but to me they contain treasures. They remind me to persevere. They show me what it’s like to choose to carry the cross daily. They show me that the people who I sometimes think are “super Christians” have struggles too and that I am not alone.

They show me the value of transparency and being honest instead of trying to show only the “good” side. Everyone has a testimony and they are all equally valued. Some testimonies speak to us in different ways during different seasons. No matter what your story is, it matters. Your life is a story of God’s grace and no matter what it looks like, He uses it to for His glory.  You are His Grace in Action.

Have you seen this type of mindset or is it just me? What’s your testimony like – the “dramatic” or the “steady”?  How do you think we can support each other with the “unseen” struggles? I love hearing from y’all!

If you’re interested in sharing your testimony as a guest blogger please email me at ah.taylor413@gmail.com!

Baptism Update

“Spoiler Alert: He has already won.”

Easter just might be my favorite Christian celebration. This is the foundation of my beliefs and the way the war was won. Easter is when we were all redeemed and given true life. I attended a church service in the main campus located in Busan, which is about an hour away. Our church there is located right on the ocean and since it was a beautiful day we took the opportunity to walk along the boardwalk before church.

Church was crowded with people from both campuses, and visitors. We had some people visiting from Los Angles who wanted to attend Easter Service before flying home! I love the welcoming atmosphere of the church and the diversity of our church. The scripture verses on the resurrection were divided and spoken in about 8 different languages, including Korean, Spanish, French and Afrikaans.   It was very moving. I teared up several times during our worship songs because the lyrics brought Jesus’ actions to life and made me realize that He did it for me! He’s already won and I am saved.

Then, I went and got baptized!!! Our pastor drove the four of us being baptized down to Haundae Beach. At the gathering on the beach, we took pictures and shared our testimonies! It’s so funny because I was so nervous about the public speaking and the water but I felt NONE of those emotions as soon as I stepped foot on the beach. I felt a combination of peace and joy.

Before the Baptism

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From L to R: Riette, Me, Warren and Mariana

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Pastor Dan posing with us before the baptism. (I seriously have 
the best pastor ever!)

I should mention that it was also low tide when we went out so we had to go further out than I had anticipated. J Pastor Dan and the four of us ventured out into the water. The water was not as cold as I was expecting, which was nice and bonus – no sharks! The act of baptism was quick and wonderful.

After the Baptism

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From L to R: Warren, Me, Riette and Mariana. (Apparently I was 
a rebel and didn't need my towel in the picture. LOL)

I am so happy that I was baptized on Easter Sunday in South Korea with my church family. I am leaving Korea this week so it made it that much sweeter. This is my first church that I’ve faithfully attended as an adult and it has been such a blessing to me. My Pastor and Elders have been amazing and have helped me grow so much. My church gave me amazing friends, that I know will be lifelong friends and gave me such a strong foundation in Christ that I know will stay with me throughout my life. I am also so happy that even though my family wasn’t here, one of my dear friends, Mariana, was also baptized with me. She was one of my first friends in South Korea and has been such an encouragement and blessing to me that it was nice to share this experience with her.

Thank y’all for your encouragement when I was letting nerves interfere with such a joyous time. I hope y’all had a wonderful Easter!

Baptism Approaching

I am so excited to share that I am getting baptized this Sunday! I am looking forward to it but am also a bit nervous.  I attend a foreigner church here in South Korea that I love but we don’t have a baptismal pool.  This means we had to look to other options.  I am not a fan of water where I cannot see the bottom, so when I found out that I was going to be baptized in the ocean I was not thrilled.

Fear crept in. Jaws music played in my head.  I began to think of backing out and getting baptized when I found a church back home. Since this church is the first church I have faithfully attended in years and has been a true rock and place of growth, I know that it would take a lot of time for me to follow through with this.

When someone warned us about how cold the water was going to be, my Pastor gave us some tough love. He jokingly/not jokingly said that if we can’t handle a little discomfort for Jesus then we should talk about our decision to get baptized.

This was exactly what I needed to  hear at the time.  Sometimes living for Jesus means being uncomfortable and facing our fears. I’m still a bit anxious about the water AND public speaking but I’m focusing on God and trusting Him.

A friend will be taking photos so I will share those when I blog about the experience.

When you were baptized were you worried about anything? Do you have any advice? I love hearing from y’all!

 

 

Trusting God in Uncertain Times

“When I am afraid, I put my trust in you. In God, whose word I praise, in God I trust; I shall not be afraid.” – Psalm 56:3-4

My heart breaks for the world. The attacks in Brussels serve as a stark reminder that the world we live in is a hostile place and that life can change in a heartbeat. It hurts me to see lives taken senselessly in a battle that they didn’t sign up for.

We all live in an uncertain world. If we put our faith in the world we will never experience true peace.  The world cannot offer us what we need. It may seem alluring at first but it is a lie. We won’t find our peace in a job or a pay check or a significant other or children or alcohol or drugs or whatever you’re looking to but we will only find this in Christ.

Life changes in the blink of an eye and it can seem overwhelming. It can come in the form of unexpected loss, health issues, an unplanned pregnancy, a layoff or a terrorist attack. It can be confusing and for some, hard to see God at work in tragedies like this. I don’t understand why God allows things like this to happen but I know that He is with us.

No where are we promised peace in this world. In fact, we are warned to expect the opposite and to be thankful for the trials that we endure.

“Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed.”
– 1 Peter 4: 12-13

I don’t know about you but I struggle with this a little bit. I want to grow more like Christ but I’d prefer to do it the easy way. I’d like God to work a miracle and transform me and I envision this happening with the wave of a wand and a very instantaneous, and painless approach.

I’ve shared in previous posts that my life situation has changed a bit due to a family member’s health and while I know that God is good, I can’t help but struggle with the emotions of leaving a place that I’ve grown to love. I know He will provide for me and I see Him at work but I hate not having a blueprint on what to do.

To learn trust I must cede control. Every time something occurs that isn’t planned for I can either lean into God or lean away. When I lean into Him, I grow in faith and trust and He has never let me down. When I think that I know all and can do better and refuse to relinquish control, I regret it. Maybe not in the moment but eventually I regret some step on my path.

So as I bring this season of my life abroad to a close, I lean into the Father. I remind myself of His promises to me and how many times He has shown me that His ways are good and He knows the full picture. I put the worry aside and focus on Him and all of the blessings He has given me. Life isn’t easy and it’s not always good but God is so I encourage you to look to the Father for true peace. He’s a refuge and He is consistent.

Have you struggled with unexpected events and trusting God? Have you experienced a season ending when you didn’t think you were ready? Are there any verses that lifted you up that you’d like to share? I’d love to hear from you.

 

Relationships with Other Believers

I am so thankful to have so many kind people in my life. I have some of the best relationships with family and friends and coworkers and I am so thankful for all of them. I used to take these relationships for granted but the truth is that all relationships require effort to be maintained.

I had relatively good relationships before I committed to God, although for full transparency, all of my relationships suffered from neglect when I wrapped my identity in my job. With that said, I have seen some friendships really transform and bloom with family and friends who share a common faith with me. Our shared faith has truly made us brothers and sisters in Christ and has given these relationships an additional level of closeness/intimacy I didn’t know existed. This isn’t saying anything negative about other relationships but is highlighting that for me there is a closer relationship with those that share faith.

I love knowing that I have numerous people who I can share my struggles with or send prayer requests and know that will act on it. I like knowing that I have friends who will hold me accountable to the faith I profess. I like sharing how God is working in my life and being encouraged by how God is working in their life too.

“Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers” -2 Corinthians 6:14

The Bible talks about our relationships with believers and nonbelievers. I’d always wondered why we were warned not to pair up with nonbelievers and while I know some of it is because people have a tendency to be pulled down, I wonder if some of it is simply because of the additional intimacy that exists when you share a common faith.

Jesus was pretty close with his disciples but there are a few who shared several significant spiritual moments with Him. They shared a fellowship with Him that the others didn’t. I can only speculate why but I notice that they stay close through the end. I am sure most of you think of Peter and yes, that is one of the disciples I am referring to. Peter wasn’t the first disciple called but he is the one that is always seen with Jesus and whom is called by Jesus to take care of His sheep (see John 21:15-17). I also see James and John with Jesus a lot. All the disciples are with Him but when Jesus goes to pray at Gethsemane, he brings Peter, James and John with Him, while the others stay at a distance.” (Mark 14:32-33).

Jesus knows how relationships among people work. He knows that they can be complicated and He knows that there are varying levels of closeness. He gets it and He wants to help us. He knows that our lives aren’t going to be easy and that we need people.   In the letter of Hebrews, we’re reminded to meet together as believers to encourage each other.

“…not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another…”
– Hebrews 10:25

Jesus knows that we need each other both as people and as a church. We could do it alone but that was never what God intended. He made us to have relationships. We’re called to have a relationship with God, with our brothers and sisters in Christ and with nonbelievers. These relationships are all different but are all important, which is why the Bible addresses these topics.

How have your relationships changed with your faith? Are there any verses that helped you understand certain relationships? As always, I love hearing from y’all!

Who I am

I have a need to label things and noticed that this tends to be addressed mostly to myself. It’s how I identified myself. A friend and I were responsible for a church event and were working on crafts for a church event. I was quick to let everyone know that I am not a crafty person or an artist. My friend told me to stop worrying and telling everyone what I wasn’t and just get to crafting. It was one of those simple conversations that has stayed with me and made me consider how I see myself.

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I saw myself as not being an artist but really it was because I was worried that others would think of my lack of skill so I wanted to point it out before anyone else did.  For the record, with a change in attitude, I did just fine and nobody really cared what my work looked lik but I was busy telling people what I am not.  For example, I am not married, I am not rich, I am not poor, I am not good at public speaking, I am not athletic, I have no spiritual gifts, I am not “holy” enough, I am not…

I have a lot more “I am nots” but you get the drift. I identified myself in a negative light in many ways and I’m not the only one. In some ways, it’s easier to say what you’re not than what you are. I’ve tried labeling myself with “I ams” too.

I tried doing it with my job/career, gender, race, my paycheck, my geographical location, etc.   These are pieces of me but they aren’t me. Yes, I am female but that doesn’t define who I am. I am single, but that doesn’t define me. I tried defining myself with my job and it almost broke me. At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter.

While all of my I am’s and I am nots have shaped me but they don’t define me. Where then do I find my identity? The only place we can find ourselves is in Christ. I am defined by what I believe. I am a Christian and am the daughter of a God who loves me, who sent His Son to die for me and has gifted me with the Holy Spirit as a guide. My God surpasses any labels we could come up with. Anytime I’ve tried to use a label as an excuse, He’s shown me how to overcome it.

When I identified myself by my job and my paycheck, He made the path difficult and ultimately called me to leave it all behind. When I’ve cloaked myself with pride, He’s humbled me. When I’ve identified myself as a majority, He brought me to a place where I would know that I was a minority.

I am a Christian but this doesn’t mean I’m perfect. It doesn’t mean that life will flow smoothly and all will be well. It means that I am set apart, not above, but apart. It means that I have a family of brothers and sisters that are related to me through the blood of our savior. It means that I am His. My identity is found in Him and so is yours. We are in this together and the only label we have that matters is “His”. Everything else is artificial and temporary but it can be a bit scary allowing yourself to be vulnerable and looking past the labels.

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“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.”

– John 3:16

 

How do you identify yourself? I love hearing from y’all!

 

Grace in Action – Corrie

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Today is not a traditional “Grace in Action” posting in the sense that this is not a guest post or a current testimony.   I didn’t have anyone slotted for today’s posting, so I decided to highlight a “historical” figure’s testimony.   I hope you will find her story as fascinating and interesting as I do.  It always amazes me how God works in people’s lives in such varying degrees.  It makes me pause and realize how small some of my concerns really are.

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Corrie ten Boom was not a name I’d heard of when I stumbled across a book review on “The Hiding Place.” I am an avid reader and was on the look out for reading material that would help me in my walk with the Lord. I had no idea how much this book would inspire me.

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Corrie was a Dutch woman who lived during World War II. She was a devout Christian, who along with her father, sister and other family members helped smuggle Jews out of the country to escape the Nazis. She and her family were arrested and she was taken to a concentration camp with her sister, Betsie. Despite the losses she endured, Corrie remained devoted to the Lord.

Corrie was released from her concentration camp due to a clerical error. She went on to travel the world, sharing her testimony and encouraging people to turn to Christ for salvation.  She passed away in 1983 at the age of 91. Her writings touched me because they were so real and transparent. She shared her struggles and vulnerability in a way that just reached out of the pages and touched me.

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She had amazing tidbits of wisdom that made things seem clear to me and which I have tried to scatter throughout this post. She wrote several books but her most well known one is “The Hiding Place”. I strongly encourage you to check it out.

If you are interested in sharing how you came to know the Lord or how He is working in your life as a guest blog, please comment or email me at ah.taylor413@gmail.com so we can coordinate. Sharing our testimony is to glorify Him, encourage other believers and introduce people to Christ.  Is there anyone historical who has inspired you in your walk with the Lord? I love hearing from y’all. 

A Foreign Ambassador

“Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind…” – Romans 12:2

The Bible talks about us as foreigners and not belonging  to this world, but it wasn’t until I began living abroad that I truly began to understand what this meant. In South Korea, it is very obvious that I am a foreigner. I do not look remotely Korean, so sometimes I am stared at or even avoided. I can tell that I am different and am very aware of how I don’t blend in. In a sea of black hair, the dirty blonde shines like a beacon. It is obvious that I am not from here. I am always representing my country when I am interacting with people and while I am not the only foreigner in my town, I may be the only foreigner some of these people ever meet. This means that if I am short-tempered, they might make the assumption that all Americans are short-tempered. I have the opportunity to influence how people view Americans.

But I am not just an American foreigner; I am a Christian. I will be a foreigner even when I go back to America. Since I chose Jesus Christ as my Savior, I became a citizen of a new world and I do not belong here. I am visiting as an ambassador of my Father. I may be the only Christian someone meets or I may have the ability to challenge someone’s perspectives on Christianity just by my attitude.  Our story might be the only testimony someone hears.

Christ has set me free but I must live in my freedom, as a daughter of God. I am free but I have responsibilities. I am a foreigner living in a new world who has a choice to point people to or away from God by my actions. I think we all know someone who is anti-Christian because of an experience with the church or with someone they know to be a Christian. I also know that none are perfect and that people make mistakes but overall, we should strive to be an example and to live like Christ.

“Live as people who are free, not using your freedom as a cover-up for evil, but living as servants of God.” – 1 Peter 2:16

Living as a servant of God is freeing. It isn’t a list of do’s and don’ts, although there are things that God tells us to do and not to do. Being a Christian is more than that; it’s about having a relationship with God. It’s about growing in Christ and becoming more Christlike. It doesn’t mean being perfect – that’s not going to happen in this world. It’s about trying your best, asking for forgiveness when you mess up, and loving.

“Honor everyone.” – 1 Peter 2:17

This goes back to loving your neighbor like yourself. We are called to love and respect people no matter what they’ve done. This doesn’t mean we overlook sin, but it’s not our place to judge. We’re to welcome people and point them to the Father and let Him take care of the rest. We’re ambassadors who are meant to wander as foreigners in this world until He calls us home.   We are to represent Him and the only way to do that is through love.

“You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” – Matthew 22:39

Do you feel like a foreigner in a foreign land or have you ever lived abroad? What do you think about being an ambassador for Christ? Are you doing a good job? As always, I love hearing from y’all. 

Versatile Blogger Award

I am so excited to have been nominated for the Versatile Blogger Award and want to thank Rose at Seekingyoufirst.com for nominating me. She has a wonderful blog and I suggest that you go check it out!

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To accept this award you have to:

  • Show the award on your blog (insert the picture in your post)
  • Thank the person who nominated you
  • Share 7 facts about yourself

Nominate 10 blogs – link your nominees’ blogs and let them know.

Seven facts about myself:

  1. I went to boarding school in middle school after my family moved to Minnesota. I couldn’t stand the cold and begged my parents to let me go to school in South Carolina.
  2. I love reading and my favorite book is To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee.
  3. I have seen Phantom of the Opera in 3 different countries.
  4. I still watch Grey’s Anatomy and am not ashamed. LOL.
  5. I love traveling and have been to over 10 countries
  6. I used to be a vegetarian
  7. I love debating and being challenged to view things from a different perspective.

 

I would like to nominate the following blogs:

Joyfull Mom

Aunt Bubba

Amanda Yvonne

Brave Blue Bird

Mirror Dimly