Time

35 Days.

In 35 days I will be across the ocean. In 35 days I will be doing something that was never in my plan for this year. In 35 days I will begin a new adventure that God has been preparing for me since before I was created.

For those of you who know me, I am a planner. When I was in middle school, I decided I wanted to graduate high school with an associates degree. Years later I am preparing to graduate in a little less than a month with about a year and a half of college courses completed (which has given me a huge head start on nursing). Last fall, I planned to attend Blue Ridge in the fall of 2019 for nursing while participating in JMU’s co-enrollment program. this would allow me to graduate only three years later with my BSN. In 2021, I would graduate from BRCC and could work at the hospital as an RN, and a year later, I would graduate from JMU with my BSN. Then, I would work for a hospital in the area for a couple years, maybe start a family, and be a stay at home mom until my kids were in school so I could return to nursing.

Structure makes me feel secure. Without it, or when something shifts and changes, it often scares me or stresses me out. But often, my plans can be exhausting, especially when life happens and I haven’t scheduled out the time for anything other than work and achieving my goals.

Back in November, I was sitting and talking with my mentor, Sylvia, and at that point was sharing with her how school was stressing me out, how exhausted I was becoming, and how I just needed a break. Something she repeated over and over that afternoon was something that has stuck with me since:

Time is your friend.

I had no idea what that meant at the time, honestly. A few minutes later, she asked me if I had considered taking a gap year after I graduated. I said no, because I already had everything planned out for the next five years. So, she asked me again if I had (and would) consider a gap year. All I could think when she asked was: No, I can’t. It would mess up all my plans.

But, one thing I remember so clearly is feeling of relief that filled me when she mentioned it. I felt like I had just taken my first breath of fresh air after being stuck in a hot, stuffy room for months.

As our conversation continued, she brought up Mercy Ships, a volunteer medical ship that docks off the west coast of Africa. They provide medical care to people in the area that have no, or little, access to it. The ship has provided many incredible, life-changing surgeries and has changed the lives of thousands of people.

My mom had brought it up several weeks prior to my conversation with Sylvia, and I had dismissed the idea, saying I could do it later after I had my nursing degree so I could be more useful on the ship. When Sylvia brought it up again, though, the idea stuck in my head. For a couple weeks, I thought about it and prayed about it. Finally, I went to my parents and asked them if I could look into taking a gap year and volunteering with Mercy Ships. I had so much peace about this decision despite the fact it interrupted my plans and also meant I would be an ocean away from home. (I am a home person, and even chose colleges based on how close they were to Harrisonburg because I didn’t want to leave.)

In December of 2018 I applied to serve as a Hostess from July 2019-June 2020.

Fortunately, things didn’t go quite as planned. I was contacted in February of this year and was told I was accepted for the Hostess position, but would be put on a waiting list. I wouldn’t be able to serve in July because they were already staffed. The closest to July I would be able to serve was December. So, I asked about applying for a different role. I was put on the waiting list for several other positions and was waiting to hear back when I was contacted again.

Instead of being approved for the other positions I applied for, my placement facilitator told me they were in urgent need of a Receptionist, asked if I would be interested, and asked how soon I could be available. Although it was much sooner than I expected, I let her know I would definitely be interested and would be available by the end of May.

Over the next couple months, I had many different tasks, an interview, more paperwork, and finally, on April 11, I was officially accepted for the Receptionist position. My official date of arrival on the Africa Mercy is now May 26, and I will be serving for 10 months until the end of March 2020. During my time on board, I will be serving in Guinea, visiting the Canary Islands, and then sailing to Senegal where we will be docked the remainder of the time I am onboard.

This has been such an answer to prayers. Something I have been reminded of over and over again is how eager I was as a child to serve with Mercy Ships as I raised money to help support our friend Colleen (who is a lab technician on board). The desires of our heart when we are younger do not go unnoticed by our Father. He is faithful.

I am absolutely overjoyed and extremely excited for this opportunity. God has been so good through the whole process, lining so many things up so perfectly. Blue Ridge even deferred my acceptance to the nursing program to the fall of 2020 so I will not have to reapply. I still have a lot of preparation to do in the next month and will need a lot of support through prayer, encouragement, and financial gifts.

If you’d like to hear more about Mercy Ships or what I will be doing over the next year, feel free to get in touch with me!

If you would be interested in committing to supporting me financially, I do have a fundraising page set up at: https://hscreations.net/LauriannaMercyShips

The next month is going to be crazy, and I’m extremely nervous to be leaving and to be gone for so long, but I know God has some amazing things planned for me. I am trusting His plans are better than mine. My plans may be pushed aside for a time, but the time I am investing into Mercy Ships will be worth it. After spending much of my life scrambling to find time to do everything, I now can now rest in knowing time is my friend.

“Do-er”

Time to be real.

The last few months have been difficult. But not in the way that I would say I have a bad life or nothing goes my way. In fact, everything is going amazing. School has been great, work has been great, I’ve had more time to be at home, my health has been better, and God has been blessing me in every way.

My “problem” with this season is a heart problem. It’s me not being open to change. Actually, it’s me not being open to rest. At the beginning of the semester I had prepared to take on a very heavy work load for school. I was going to take five courses at Blue Ridge over the semester plus one class at home. The first week of school, I dropped two of those classes because I was overwhelmed.

Saying “no” to something like that is not something I typically do. I’ve always been the person to push through the stress and anxiety, push through the exhaustion, and push through the chaos because it will make the break at the end feel so much better, right?

Except, what happens when I don’t have a break on the other end?

Last semester, I had a friend gently remind me that it’s okay to take a day to myself and just not DO anything. Those days were the most refreshing and peaceful days I had all semester because I was able to escape the craziness and breathe. This semester, I have so much more time to breathe, but instead I find myself trying to fill that time with whatever I can, whether it be productive or just something mind-numbing.

I am addicted to “doing”.

As odd as that sounds, as I go through this semester of “withdrawal”, I can’t help craving the chaos I was so used to for years. I find myself wishing I could go back to the way I was last year and be that driven and be doing that much.

What I have struggled to realize is resting is doing something, too. Although it’s different, resting is just as important, if not more than doing everything. In Matthew 11: 28-29 it says:

“Are you weary, carrying a heavy burden? Then come to me. I will refresh your life, for I am your oasis. Simply join your life with mine. Learn my ways and you’ll discover that I’m gentle, humble, easy to please. You will find refreshment in me.”

Matthew 11: 28-29 (TPT)

Something that has also changed over the last semester is I am pursuing my relationship with God more than I have in a long time. And breaking down this verse, you can see that as we join our lives with him, we have to learn his ways. As we draw closer to God, we find refreshment. That’s not optional.

Another part of that verse is seeing that as we discover more of who he is, we also learn that he is easy to please. This is something I forget often and I think a lot of my trouble with resting stems from it. When I am not doing something, I feel like I am letting people down, even if “people” is God or myself. When I’m not doing something, I feel like I become useless. I have placed so much of my identity in the things I do, I forget that the one my identity is secured in doesn’t care. That B on my midterm I beat myself up about last week? God doesn’t love me any less because of it. In fact, he doesn’t even see it. What he does see is me hurting myself because instead of focusing on his incredible love for me I have chosen only to see my minuscule, unimportant “failure”.

God cares about us. He loves us so much. He wants us to be full, refreshed, and rested. As we align ourselves with him, part of our walk will have to change to allow more time to let him refresh and fill us. There is still a time to work and get things done, but he teaches us we can’t do that alone and we shouldn’t ever be doing it to try and please him. And, he teaches us the power of saying “no”.

“No” is a negative word in nature, but God teaches us it can actually be a positive. Because when we say no to something, we say yes to something else. When I say no to eating lunch, chances are I will be very hungry in a few hours and result to eating half a bag of chocolates that are sitting in my room. But, if I realize what I would be saying yes to later before I decide not to eat lunch, I probably would make a better decision. (Not that chocolate is a bad decision, of course. I love chocolate.)

When I learn what my “yes’s” are in this season, it makes it much easier and healthier to say “no” to things that don’t align with them. Saying no still sucks, but I have a good reason for doing it.

This season, as hard as it may be, I am having to learn how to say “no” to the chaos, because instead, I am saying “yes” to God. I am saying “yes” to resting. I am saying “yes” to taking care of myself. I may not be doing as much or doing what I want, but in reality, I am doing something that will impact me much more in life than an A on a test in one of my classes.

Father, thank you for not holding me to my standards. Thank you for loving me so much and showing me how to rest and be refreshed by you. Help me to grow in that and learn to truly appreciate this season of rest. Thank you for everything in advance.