Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Reflections on a year gone by...

I'm 23 today! Yay! Yikes! Yay!

It has been quite a year, with many changes, both good and bad. I was Initiated into my [women's] fraternity. My sister moved back to Tennessee and then back to North Carolina a few months later. I experienced joys and frustrations, happiness and sorrows, love and extreme dislike, and most everything in between. I never got to go to Texas as a 22-year-old, the first year since I was 18 that has happened. I made some friends and said goodbye to others, found myself (mostly unexpectedly) in leadership roles, was prophesied over and prayed over, watched friends marry or give birth (mostly from a distance), prayed for my someday beloved and learned more about the One who calls me Beloved. So, now that this crazy-hectic-never-to-be-repeated year has ended, where does birthday number 23 find me?

Here, for now. A few weeks ago I applied for a Global Expeditions trip and two Saturdays ago, I was accepted to go-to Azerbaijan. I wasn't sure it would be able to happen, but since that day, the Lord has been working on me, as I've spent more time with Him, awakening within me things that have long lain dormant-wishes, desires, dreams, and hopes, but most of all, and more importantly, Love.

When I was at the Honor Academy, and after I graduated, one of my most frequent prayers was, "Lord, break my heart for the things that break Yours. I want to see people as You see them, not as I see them, I want to feel for them what You feel for them, and I want to love them as You love them." The Lord taught me a great deal about brokenness in that year, and grew within me a deep, abiding love for the nations-all nations-and the people within them.

It's been a long time since I prayed that prayer. I wish that weren't true, but it is, and my heart has been toughened & hardened since I stopped praying it. I'm not even sure how long it's been since I stopped praying that prayer-months, perhaps a year or more. But in recent days, the breaking has begun anew. Little cracks in the wall, the dam that my heart has somehow become, and I know that soon the cracks will become bigger cracks, and bigger ones, and finally break the whole thing down if I allow Him to do it-and I want Him to. The deeper His love within me for people and for the nations, the straighter I'm able to keep my priorities. Otherwise, other stuff creeps in-stuff I'd like to have, and stuff I want-because I forget ever-so-quickly that this life is not about me.

Back in December, after a night of great presence of the Lord in our church, I was prophesied over, and this is what was spoken: "The nations are to become your priority. No longer are relationships to be your main priority, but the nations, and what I am calling you to." That thought has been within me, growing roots and taking hold, because I would be content to remain here in the States for years doing one thing after another, before I'd do what I know I am called to. But souls hang in the balance, and they are too important, too precious, too beloved for me to ignore the calling on my life. Yes, it means I'll have to make sacrifices, and yes, it means I don't get to do all I want, have all I want, gain the recognition I'd like to have for my achievements. Yes, it's going to hurt to give some of those wants up. But people's lives are too important for me to care the most about me.

As I face the growing possibility of a transfer to another school, the possibility of going to nursing school within the year, the possibility of being on the mission field (part-time or full-time) within as few as five years (after gaining nursing experience in the States first), the possibility of paying off my student loan debt (and hopefully not gaining any more), my heart steps slowly out of the timidity to which it is accustomed and begins to step into this new season. It's been a long time since I've had to trust the Lord this fully. But as He's spoken to me several times the last week or so-and will likely speak to me again-"You only see all that you are giving up, but I see all you have to gain."

It's time to stop thinking logically and start thinking faithfully. And I want to do that, in ever greater measure, because it is required for the life God has in store for me-if I obey him and follow His leading. My dad started my birthday off by having us take Communion at midnight-a very auspicious beginning to a new phase of life-the phase where I begin to move into my calling. To close, I want leave you with what my dad emailed me-right after midnight on this, my 23rd birthday-with only a tiny part cut out because I'm not authorized to share it with the world yet. :)

"My Dear Sweet Bethany!

"I want to take this time to wish you a very, very Happy Birthday! Your 22nd year was full of adventure and interesting developments. May your 23rd year be the very best you've ever had. May you find joy, peace, contentment, and lot's of fun as you enjoy life, friends, family, and the world around you. I bless you, in the name of Jesus of Nazareth. May you be blessed in your walk with God, your friends, your family. May you find strength and joy in His presence. May you increase in your knowledge of Him, may the joy of knowing Him increase in you. May you be blessed in all you do.

"We love you,

"Mom & Dad

"(This of course, is from Dad.)"


P.S. I'm looking forward to Azerbaijan next summer! ;-)