Ready To-go?

15 September 2011

I have an odd personality in that doing something like asking a waiter for an extra spoon stresses me out to the max, but drop me off in an unfamiliar country and I am extremely laid back.  I think it’s because in foreign countries I am not in my comfort zone…I am in Gods.  In foreign situations I know things are outside my control…in comfortable situations I try to control everything.  In foreign place I know I do not fit it…in familiar situations I try to fit in.

This desire to have a home, a place to belong.  I’m a foreign potted plant…placed in one place for a time then moved on to the next.  In some climates I survive, but barely.  In others I thrive…too much…I become like an invasive species.  The only constant is that I am continually moving.

People seem to be under the impression that I love this life…and there is a part of me that loves travelling from place to place and seeing people’s hearts, but I think people forget it’s not some Hollywood movie.  It’s everyday life, just in a different setting.  There’s laughter and tears.  Rest and work.  Peace and conflict. Adventure and monotony.  Just like everyone else’s life. 

You know the saying is the grass is always greener on the other side?  In my case it is more like the life is always better outside the pot.  There are many many many days that I am tempted and fall into the sin of wanting a different life.  And I have to tell myself over and over again that I do not have a lesser gift, just a different one. 

Often I feel like a person on the outside looking in, the puzzle piece that doesn’t quite fit because I’m from another puzzle.  And then I read:

“For here we have no permanent city, but we are looking for the one which is to come.”
Hebrews 13:14 AMP

The one that is to come… I haven’t missed it…It hasn’t come yet…but what do I do in the mean time?

“Through Him, therefore, let us constantly and at all times offer up to God a sacrifice of praise, which is the fruit of lips that thankfully acknowledge and confess and glorify His name.”
Hebrews 13:15

Praise him.  Praise him because he is.  Thank him for the person who took my seat when I got a drink of water.  Confess jealousy of the people who do not have to lug all of their things every time they move.  Praise him I can make this trip alone.  Praise him I am free to focus on him and him alone.

Back to the Field

"God is in the résumé-building business. He is always using past experiences to prepare us for future opportunities." Mark Batterson

Recently I have gotten into the really bad habit of checking my e-mail as soon as I wake up.  This is probably due to the fact that soon after being accepted to the Togo program I realized that because of the time difference e-mails from Togo would arrive in the middle of the night.  Anyhow, a few Wednesdays ago I awoke to an e-mail that made my jaw drop.  One of the in country managers for the program I am going on had sent me an e-mail asking if I would feel comfortable working with a group of male teenage soccer goalkeepers in the city.  (Would I ever!)  I love working with inner-city males and I love coaching.

Of course I wanted to reply “YES” right away, but I knew I needed to give myself time to pray and think before replying.  That day as I sat there thinking about the opportunity it became very clear that God had been preparing me for an opportunity like this for a long time. 

Until the 1999 Women’s World Cup sparked girls’ interest in soccer I played on all male teams.  When I began playing on the all female team I became interested in goalkeeping.  I was blessed to have the same goalkeeping coach for six years.  Using subjects such as math, physics, and psychology he taught me the technical and tactical aspects of being a goalkeeper.  At 13 I began to help him coach the younger goalkeeper’s practice and at 16 I took the courses to get my “E” License.  I started recording every single goalkeeping practice I was a part of either as a player or a coach.  In college, after becoming tired of seeing the corruption that existed in many of the soccer programs I was a part of, I very deliberately stepped completely away from the sport. 

Each of these experiences prepared me for this opportunity.  My coach taught me the technical and tactical knowledge necessary to coach.  The “E” License gave me the ethos to get the position.  I have an entire semester of coaching plans from my detailed notes.  And most importantly the 3 years away allowed me to be led to solid ground and to begin the healing process.

“As for everyone who comes to me and hears my words and puts them into practice, I will show you what they are like. They are like a man building a house, who dug down deep and laid the foundation on rock. When a flood came, the torrent struck that house but could not shake it, because it was well built. But the one who hears my words and does not put them into practice is like a man who built a house on the ground without a foundation. The moment the torrent struck that house, it collapsed and its destruction was complete.”
Luke 6:47-49

I have no idea what awaits me on that field.  There are times I find myself wondering how they feel about Americans, females, or tactical skills.  Then I remember that is not what matters.  What matters is that my eternal coach has called me back to the field...a solid playing ground. 

In Every Fairytale is a Dangerous Forest

“Keep your eyes straight ahead; ignore all sideshow distractions.  Watch your step, and the road will stretch out smooth before you.  Look neither right nor left; leave evil in the dust.” 

Proverbs 4:25-27 MSG
Instead of fixing my eyes straight ahead I have been watching sideshows.  The titles of my current sideshows of choice are Insecurity, Lies, and Fear.  On Friday I noticed that they had distracted me so much that I had not thought even once about Togo (major red flag).  Quietly I slipped away to find a place to think. 

The sideshows themselves are nothing new.  I have seen them all before (I even expected them to appear during this season), but this time something was different.  It was not just one sideshow vying for my attention, it was all of them.  It was overwhelming.  For most of my life I have been wandering through this dark forest full of wolves.  The vines of insecurity wrapping around me holding me back, the quicksand of fear causing me to sink deeper and deeper, and the beautiful poisonous flowers of lies beckoning me to leave the path... For years I fought and struggled to find a way out, but my efforts were fruitless.  Nothing I could do would save me.  Then one day in the deepest part of the forest a shepherd appeared and he said “come, follow me.”  Slowly and cautiously I began to follow his lead.  As he worked tirelessly fending off the wolves I walked slowly behind listening to the poisonous flowers as they broke into chorus: “you’re not wanted there” “you will fail” “they’ll be glad to see you leave” … Off the path I would bolt deep into the forest entangling myself in the vines.  Each time I did this the shepherd would find me, look me in the eyes, and say “Lock, what do you think? If a man owns a hundred sheep, and one of them wanders away, will he not leave the ninety-nine on the hills and go to look for the one that wandered off?”   

When I became stronger he started to teach me how to identify which flowers were poisonous.  My bolting became less frequent and then one day I noticed that the edge of the forest was only a valley away…I was almost free.  Soon I discovered how dark the valley is.  The edge of the forest is heavy.  Every resource is devoted to trying to keep people from leaving.  My unruly independent spirit started trying to fight everything in sight.  As you can imagine I was quickly overtaken.  About this time the shepherd stepped in, picked me up, and carried me back to the path. 

I stood there refusing to move telling myself that there was no way I would make it out and he said "Lock, I will go before you and will be with you; I will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.  When you go through deep waters, I will be with you. When you go through rivers of difficulty, you will not drown. When you walk through the fire of oppression, you will not be burned up; the flames will not consume you."

He is good.  This is truth.  I will leave this forest.  I am not an exception…He loves me too.

“If you say go I will go
If you say wait I will wait
If you say step out on the water and they say it can’t be done
I’ll fix my eyes on you and I will come…
Your ways are higher than my ways
And the plans that You have laid are good and true
If You call me to the fire You will not withdraw Your hand
I’ll gaze into the flames and look for You…”

Postscript: This post was supposed to be about what I am actually doing in Togo, but obviously it is very much not that…so excuse the mess and check back soon for an actual Togo post :)