This first section I have already thoroughly assessed through the writing of my “autobiography” so to speak called Set the World On Fire. I finished this I think in December of 2010. So far I have only shared this with a few select people. I do not know what God will do with it in the future, but it really did help me to answer these questions listed at the end of Chapter 3 and many more:
Recall your spiritual experiences, both pleasant and difficult, that brought you to where you are now. Here are some aspects to consider:
-Begin with your family heritage, moving on to your first memories of God or church
-List key events, mentors, doubting and faithful times, and milestones
-Note how God was present, in retrospect, in major transitions, in difficult or hurtful experiences, and in your celebrations and successes
-Describe your relationship with God at these milestones in your life
Here are the five reflection questions and my answers to them:
1. What means has God used most to get through to you?
I think the times that God has used the most are when He physically moves me from one place to another. For example, when I traveled to South Africa, when I worked at Mount Rushmore, when I lived in Ecuador and the Dominican Republic, etc. However, I think also God works on my heart in times of confusion. Not too long ago, I was thinking seriously about getting a different job, and through this God really showed me a lot and spoke a lot to my heart. Also, as I was seeking God’s will about seminary, I spent a lot of time talking to people I trusted and listening to the voice of God. It helped me to realize how God was moving me forward in my walk with Him. It woke me up in a sense. Also, going through the interview process and everything of ordination the last few years has grown me. For the last two years specifically I struggled with whether or not I should continue with the process. Last year I decided to do it, and I was glad that I did. I met a lot of amazing people and learned a lot about God’s place for me in ministry. However, once I learned that lesson, He shook it up again, and this year I felt led to quit the process, at least for this point in my life. I have no idea what God is doing right now, but I feel very sure about the fact that I am in the center of His will for my life right now and that I am truly listening to Him.
I have been thinking a lot about the times that I have felt that I was exactly where God wanted me to be. I know there were times when I was there and I did not feel like it, like when I was working at Mount Rushmore and I had my emotional fit for about a month and a half. When I was in the Dominican Republic, in the midst of a lot of things, I knew that God was pleased that I was there, seeking His heart and His will for my life. This past year, I knew that God wanted me in the ordination process, and now, just 6 months later, I know that He does not want me there. If I understood the plan and will of God as linear, then that would make no sense at all. However, I am content in knowing that God leads me specific places at specific times for specific reasons. There were things that I needed to learn in all those places. There were ways that He changed my life in all those places, just as He is continuing to change me.
2. In what situations do you experience God most easily?
I think there are several places, depending on the point in life I am in. I have always experienced God clearly in nature, and especially around water. There is just something about the power and cleansing of water that speaks so purely to my heart. Also, God speaks to me when I am around people and not necessarily communicating with them, but merely observing them. That is one of the reasons why I love to spend time at the restaurant. Maybe it is my deep desire for community that does it. I don’t really know what it is, but the chaos of screaming children, the smell of scrambled eggs, and laughing waiters and waitresses gives me a sense of peace.
I think God also speaks to me in deep ways through children. I have such a deep desire to be with children for the rest of my life. I love the way they see things. I love their innocence and passion for living. I love the way they love, so deeply and without reservation. There is something pure about the eyes of a child. There is so much promise.
God speaks to me through piano music. I love listening to Tom Ameen. I think he is one of the best artists I have found to take me away and draw close to God. In fact, as I am writing this, I am listening to him. Along the same lines (and I haven’t done this for several months) but I used to go once a week or so to a nursing home in the area and just play piano for their dinnertime. God really grew me through those times, especially when I seemed to make a ton of mistakes, and several of the people came up to me and told me how much they appreciated my coming and spending the evening with them. It reminded me of the passage in James where he says that “religion that is pure and faultless is this: to care for orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.” It is through ministering to those two groups that I have realized the pureness of loving God.
Sometimes God speaks to me in really random ways. Like today as I was walking into Walmart, this little girl looked at me and a huge smile came to her face and she said excitedly, “Hi! What’s your name?” The other day I saw my friend Patty in her electric wheelchair going home from the grocery store. I saw her on the sidewalk and God told me to stop and walk with her. That was one of the neatest walks. At first, I was afraid for her safety, as she was crossing several streets on her way back to her apartment, but I realized that God moved me to walk with her more for my benefit than for hers. If anyone has a reason to be sad or to feel sorry for herself, it is Patty. Her body is so distorted from the many illnesses she has had. Her neck muscles have no strength in them, so her head lies to the side. She now is battling cancer on top of everything else; this sweet lady who is always joyful, never misses church, and is always concerned about the wellbeing of those around her. She is a sponsor for the junior high students at the church and they absolutely love her. The other night I went to the altar to pray with her, and she reached up and grabbed my hand. Her grip was so strong and full of life. I literally started crying as she said, “You know, someday in heaven if you see someone doing somersaults, that’s me! I can’t wait for that day when I go home!” What a lady. What a God that has so touched her life and speaks through her to everyone around her. I want a love like that.
3. When do you feel most loved by God?
Hmmm…I think I’m going to make a list:
-When I glance out my window in the morning and see the sunrise, or when I go to the lake and watch the sunset.
-When I come home and my fish gets really excited to see me
-When I spend time thinking and writing about God and how much He has done in my life
-Through my friends who have been so wonderful, especially lately
-When I listen to music
-When I color pictures
-When I take time and think about all the ways that God has blessed me…I am overwhelmed by His love for me
4. What barriers or obstacles have tended to keep you from deeper intimacy with God?
I think definitely my busy schedule kept me from that, and through God’s leading, I have spent this Lenten season away from that. I don’t think I’ll ever go back. Also, I think I can keep myself from deeper intimacy with God. Sometimes I get in moods where all I want to do is complain to Him. It’s good to be honest with Him, but there’s a difference between being honest with God and just complaining that life isn’t going the way you want it to go. Usually during these times, God tells me that I need an attitude adjustment and I agree with Him. I think my desire to be admired and respected by those around me is a huge obstacle. I am so concerned all the time what other people are thinking of me, everyone that is except God. We’re working on that. I think in the past, not so much now, the fact that I have a tendency to be a workaholic can be an obstacle. I used to spend so much time at work that I had no life outside of work. If I didn’t finish a project that day, then I would stay until it was done, and neglect my needs. I grew very tired of work (for obvious reasons), but my workaholicness (is that a word?) and my perfectionism really has a tendency to stand in the way. I think fear is a big one for me. There is a lot more to this than I want to share right now (perhaps I will share a little more when I come to the chapter about the Dark Night of the Soul), but fear on every level has been a huge obstacle. I really think I’m going to wait to explain this one. That is a little more personal than I want to get publicly right now. Sometimes lack of discipline gets in the way. I often would “rather be doing something else” and so I choose to not spend time with God. There are probably more, but this is what I can come up with right now.
5. What patterns in you, and in God’s work in you, seem apparent?
Hmm…that is a very good question. Is unpredictability a pattern? God is notoriously unpredictable in my life, which is really what I’ve always wanted. My biggest reason for not serving God more in high school was because I was afraid I would be boring, that God would ask me to be a Sunday School teacher and work a 9-5 job and that’s it. I wanted far more out of life. I wanted to do something crazy. I told God that, and you know what He told me? “Don’t worry, your life with me will be anything but boring.” I didn’t really believe Him, but I told Him “ok” anyway, and it turns out He was right (as He always is). So in this whole paragraph: God is unpredictable and always right.
I don’t mean this in a prideful way at all, but I do feel that my heart is always seeking God, even when I am ticked off at Him or struggling. No matter what I’m going through, I always love Him, and I always seek to keep my heart open to hearing whatever it is that He has to say. Even when I was angry with God for sending me to Mount Rushmore, God still broke through and taught me a valuable lesson. I really did want to hear His voice even though I was angry with Him. And I have always wanted to obey Him, even when I did not like what He was asking of me and I did not want to do what He wanted me to do. Even through times that I don’t understand why I’m going through what I’m going through, I feel that with the help of God, my heart has always been tender to learn from Him and to rest in Him. He has not spared me the pain that accompanies suffering, but He has given me such a peace and blessings beyond compare. I do see my openness to Him to be a pattern, and I pray that with the help of God that will never change.
I do see in myself a tendency to freak out when God changes my plans, but when I freak out, I run to Him. I think for about half my life, He is up in heaven laughing at me and my idiosyncrasies. Sometimes He says to me, “Chelsea, you prayed for this. Why are you complaining that I gave it to you?” That’s a humbling question if you’ve ever heard one.
I could go on…but this is a little further into my heart…and next chapter starts the first of the seven mansions.