Home is Where the Heart Is

So far I’ve celebrated Thanksgiving on the ship…dressed up, ate delicious food, watched last year’s Macy’s Day Parade…all surrounded by friends from all around the world. If was cool, but not the same. When I called back home to talk, I really felt odd. I knew I was meant to be here, but here is not where I wanted to be.

Two weeks later, I turned 25 years old. This time, I spent my day with friends. Ate delicious food. Got a massage. Sat by the water. Had presents from the States and from people here. Ate cake in the evening and had Happy Birthday sung to me.

This time, I felt MORE than at home…
People kept asking if I had talked to family yet…and I realized that the thought had not even crossed my mind. I was among family and celebrating with them!

I didn’t document it all with photos, but rest assured that my heart was firmly imprinted with the love I felt on that day.
>Morning coffee and waffles with Christine and Melissa (mine was paid by someone else!),
>massage/pedicure and lunch in town with Ivanna,
>collecting and opening mail from home,
>dinner with a beautiful view on the dock with Rachel, Dylan, Melissa, and Christine,
>opening presents, chilling and chatting on the cafe barstools (They’ve always been my favorite. Maybe it’s the height thing?),
>eating delicious birthday cookie cake and then donating the rest to the nurses on duty,
>walking around midships in my new christmas, fuzzy socks (thanks Bear!) like a rebel (we have to wear shoes outside our cabins haha), and then probably more chatting under the stars.

I have been blessed immensely by the love and care of new friends and acquaintances. I honestly can’t imagine having a better birthday.

For now, it is in the books as the best birthday ever.


A Harsh Lesson

So far, the only thing I’ve been able to equate to shiplife is college–which is funny because I never went away to college. The girl who never left North America experiences community living for the first time 8,600 miles away from home on a ship docked in Madagascar.

It really doesn’t make human sense. Why would a young woman with an established profession, no debt, and a newly purchased home just put a pause on all that, when she has a jumpstart on establishing her “American dream”, comfortable, convenient life? Even as you read those words, you probably get where I’m headed. What REALLY is the purpose of life? Are we intended only to “get ahead” of the rest of our peers? Are we only meant to create a life for OURSELF? Maybe its because I’m too pensive, but I simply cannot ignore the shallowness of work, effort and even prudence if it does not somehow serve a higher purpose than to secure the financial future of the next generation–or shallower still, my own happiness.

So I hated life, because the work that is done under the sun was grievous to me. All of it is meaningless, a chasing after the wind.  I hated all the things I had toiled for under the sun, because I must leave them to the one who comes after me.  And who knows whether that person will be wise or foolish? Yet they will have control over all the fruit of my toil into which I have poured my effort and skill under the sun. This too is meaningless.”

-King Solomon

If I’m dead honest, I identify with those words. I will most certainly hate my life if I return to my usual routines and motivations when I get home. I am not sure if it’s accurate to say that I have changed yet…but my eyes have definitely been opened. There is a different kind of “work” to be done in the world, and in my heart I know I must be a part of that work.

Now, most of you reading probably know that I follow Christ, or at least aim to. I do not believe God wants us to be miserable slave workers. In fact, I know he does not. However, I do believe God knows that deep down we desire greatness. Unfortunately for many of us, we pursue to make ourselves great or to be recognized as great (or great at something). Fortunately, God does not leave us to flounder in our vain efforts. He knows that the recognition of man will never quench that longing; and so, he allows us to take part in the greatest endeavor known (or unknown) to mankind. For he knows, that when we put our efforts into a matter of the truest substance, we will find the truest satisfaction.

“And now, compelled by the Spirit, I am going to Jerusalem, not knowing what will happen to me there.  I only know that in every city the Holy Spirit warns me that prison and hardships are facing me.  However, I consider my life worth nothing to me; my only aim is to finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me—the task of testifying to the good news of God’s grace.”

-Apostle Paul

It is a great relief to me that God’s Word is in written form. In order to process big decisions (or small daily tasks), I have to write it down. Fortunately for me, the most sound principles are already written down for me…all I have to do is read. God doesn’t leave me to figure these things out on my own. There is an easier way.

In order to build a life that matters in eternity, all I have to do is follow through on what God has already graciously laid out. It is harsh to hear that your work could be meaningless (as King Solomon puts it), but wouldn’t you rather know now? Wouldn’t you rather change now, and save yourself from a grave disappointment later in life?:

“What then is Apollos? What is Paul? Servants through whom you believed, as the Lord assigned to each. I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. […] For we are God’s fellow workers. You are God’s field, God’s building (it’s all about people!) 10 According to the grace of God given to me, like a skilled master builder I laid a foundation, and someone else is building upon it. Let each one take care how he builds upon it. 11 For no one can lay a foundation other than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. 12 Now if anyone builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw— 13 each one’s work will become manifest, for the Day will disclose it, because it will be revealed by fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each one has done.”
1 Corinthians 3:5-13

Please do not mistake me. I believe that one can do “fireproof” work in the typical marketplace, but we must keep our main initiative in focus. God has given us work to carry out and a message to bring with us. How easy it is to get distracted by the acquisition of money and pleasure. Neither are bad/evil by themselves, but if they obstruct your mission they do become so.

“And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves (it’s a matter of motivation. Where’s your heart at?)  but for him who died for them and was raised again. 16 So from now on we regard no one (not even your boss) from a worldly point of view. Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer. 17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come:[a] The old has gone, the new is here!18 All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: 19 that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. 20 We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God. 21 God made him who had no sin to be sin  for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” 2 Corinthians 5

I’m sorry (eh, not really) about the large amounts of scriptural text. I just want everyone reading to understand that these realizations I’ve made of my own life and work in general are not merely high-browed opinion, but rather based on biblical truths that the Holy Spirit has illustrated for me in practical ways here in Madagascar. This has personally been a difficult thing to wrap my head around, and I have chosen to trust God in the midst of my enlightened panic
–that I could lead a meaningless life. For now, I will leave you with one last scripture:

“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. 20 But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal.” 
Matthew 6

Feeling challenged,