Wow, I’ve finally gotten around to the blog post I’ve been both wanting to write, and avoiding.
Well, February has begun and so much has changed since my last update. It’s amazing how a few weeks can change almost everything that you thought you were absolutely certain about. I can’t say it’s been a particularly fun or enjoyable process these past few weeks, but looking back I’m getting emotional just considering how much God has carried me through. Perhaps I should make some attempt to relay to people what has taken place.
Prepare for a lengthy post, sorry people.
I’d been faced with some difficult decisions over the past few months, and things came to a point when February (the month that I’d been saying I’d depart) drew closer. I began to panic and agonised over things for a while, and I kept hearing similar advice from a lot of people during this time when I shared my thoughts with them. The recurring pattern in everything I was reading in the bible, hearing from people and felt in my spirit was that God was telling me just to trust him, and that things will work out. I have a habit of asking God for a set of specific instructions for fear of doing things wrong somehow. This has been my idea of trusting God; finding out the set of steps I need to take, and the order in which to take them, so that, as much as possible, I can avoid getting hurt or having things not work out perfect. I realised, though, that God doesn’t work like that. When I kept praying and no answer came, I had to face the reality that perhaps he wouldn’t give me an answer to my request for instructions because he wants me to choose for myself. I was reminded that sometimes God lovingly presents his children with choices (often difficult choices), with opportunities to pick what they want, and he works with them through those choices. We have a God who loves us too much to dictate us. He is a God of grace and redemption, and he wants us to succeed on his terms, not on ours. He gently guides us with his word and his Holy Spirit, but he allows us to choose the path we go down. I found it interesting when reading passages in Proverbs this past month that God blesses the man who seeks the Lord in all that he does, and that while “many are the plans in a man’s heart”, it’s the Lord who shapes his steps.
When I wrote in my last update that I didn’t want to leave home for 6 months, it was possibly the most honest thing I’ve written in this blog so far. I’d begun to approach this trip with an attitude of resignation and obligation, assuming that this was the only possible plan because… well, because. And admittedly, there was a bit of pride in that, where I was perhaps getting full of myself and my idea of self-sacrifice and being a good Christian and putting up a face of someone who gives up everything because they’re somewhat “better” and all the rest of what comes with this toxic mindset. Yes, I love Cambodia and I look forward to going back this year, but in my heart I always became distressed about the idea of going there for so long. So this was my dilemma. So far I hadn’t asked questions or reconsidered what I’d thought was the “right thing”, because I was afraid if I changed anything then somehow I was disappointing God or deviating from his plan for my life.
I caught up again with a wonderful lady from Global InterAction called Mel, who I’ve now become somewhat well-acquainted with over the past few months in our meetings and catch-ups. She and I talked about my options and we brought up issues and thoughts that I hadn’t even considered before. When I answered her questions truthfully, I found out a lot about what was important and what I should be basing my decisions on. She suggested the hypothetical situation that I only go for 3-4 months instead of 6, and we talked through all the pros and cons, all the motivations for why I would and wouldn’t go, and why I’m seeing things the way I do. I’ve heard a few times over the years, in light of similar situations where I’ve been a deer in the headlights of imminent decisions, that you can only steer a moving ship. In other words, God can’t guide your steps if you’re not actually taking any steps. God loves to work in his children’s lives, but he needs something to work with, and so far I wasn’t making any concrete decisions, or even any temporary ones. I was avoiding decisions at all costs for fear of making the wrong choice. I had vague time frames in mind and an idea of what I wanted to do, but I was afraid to step forward and actually do anything. During the course of the discussion with Mel she and I decided, tentatively, that I instead only go for 3 months, between June and September, and we’ve both since been praying for confirmation on that path. Suddenly things were a little less fuzzy on the horizon and for the first time in a very long time I came away from a discussion about this trip to Cambodia actually feeling like a weight was lifted from my shoulders. I still felt guilt in my own mind over changing my plans but in asking for confirmation God has not only given me peace in my heart and carried me through a difficult few weeks like I could have never imagined, but he has also showered me with amazing new blessings and opportunities.
In in the same week of this happening a staff member from my work left her full-time work position and suddenly they needed someone to fill in for a few months. A day or two after I’d had this meeting with Mel, I received a phone call from my boss offering me a promotion to a few months of full-time work with the procurement team at my current workplace. I went in for an interview and things went pretty clumsily for me. I talked my abilities down without realising what I was doing (I have a striking tendency to say exactly the wrong things in every situation, it seems) and, without wanting to, made my boss and the procurement staff seem less sure about giving me this position at my work. I came away realising that if God wanted me to get this job, he would have to work hard to convince my boss that I should have this position!
Amazingly though, I received a phone call last week from said boss, informing me that I could come in on Thursday and start full-time work then and there. For the past week and a half now I’ve been blessed with a full-time job that I am good at, with people I like, in an office 45 minutes closer to home than the location of my previous position. I’m now blessed to work in Sydney CBD, and I’ve been told I’ll have this job until at least May, which is unbelievably timely! God is so good!
In other news, I’ve been playing with the idea of enrolling in an online Diploma in Professional Photography course this year, but I’ve been worried that it would be disruptive more than anything else, so I was considering putting off the decision until next year. Photography is something I am really passionate about, and completing this course and starting a photography business would help me to combat an idea that’s been instilled in me for a long time that “all the things I’m good at can’t/won’t earn me money”. As a result of tentatively deciding to go to Cambodia for only three months, this course has also become something possible to do this year, and so I bit the bullet and enrolled. I haven’t looked back! I’ve managed to complete three modules (1 and a half months’ worth of work) in the space of two weeks, and I’ve loved it. God is so amazingly good and he’s already provided me with some staggering, wonderful opportunities this year. I’m continually blown away with how he’s carried me through a difficult month and given me blessing upon blessing in the process.
Just as a side-story and a bit of encouragement, my job in the city has given me the opportunity to spend my lunch hour taking my camera and exploring the city every day, taking photos of interesting people and places that I stumble across. I’ve already met a few bartenders in the hole-in-the-wall licensed basement bars that are almost empty during the day in the city, as well as having a wonderfully inspirational conversation with a man called Gary at Hyde Park. Those who have followed the photos I put up on Facebook or www.365project.org/lostapostrophe/ may have seen photos that I’ve taken in the city already, but for those who haven’t this man has to be the most inspiring person I’ve met yet whilst working in the CBD.
Gary lost most of his sight last year and is now legally blind, but I found him in Hyde Park sitting on a park bench with his folded cane next to him, painting these meticulous images of scenes from the Hawkesbury River. He works with his face a few centimetres from the canvas, using the tiny amount of sight remaining in his left eye to guide his fine-pointed skewer which he uses to paint the dots to colour his pictures. He spent a bit of time talking to me about his story and his background, telling me about the Indigenous Australian festival that he was selling his artworks and jewellery at, and the handicapped Olympian who inspired him when he was younger. He quoted to me, with a grin on his face, “no one told me I couldn’t do it. So I did it.” He proceeded to tell me that I could achieve anything if I put my mind to it, his motivation for continuing his art being the hope that he will inspire others who don’t think they are capable for one reason or another. He seemed to have an interesting view on the spiritual realm (very much influenced by his Indigenous Australian heritage), and I hope to be able to see him again sometime to hear more of his stories, because he had so much to say and such a beautiful heart beneath it all.
It’s amazing how blessed I’ve been by reaching out and finding new people and places. Photographing strangers is something I’m not used to doing, and the idea of it still scares me quite a lot, but it’s caused me to talk to people who I wouldn’t have before. In all of this I’ve been taught quite a lot about relying on God in the past month, and particularly about being faithfully obedient to the little things so that God can give me more instructions as I go along.
- Please pray for me in the coming weeks as I settle into this job and encounter people in the city. Pray that I’ll have the courage to say what is on my heart, and that God will guide my steps as I go. In this job, I think God’s beginning to prepare me for the kinds of interactions I will have while working in Poipet in a few months’ time, particularly (but not limited to) the people I am meeting on the streets.
- Please pray for my preparations in the coming months as plans start to materialise and I begin to finalise my application for this journey and set dates.
- Please pray that God will continue confirming and speaking to me about what he wants me to do. I want to be attentive to his voice in this, and part of me still feels guilt for shortening the time that I will be away because I somehow feel I’ve failed my own plans. In all of this, though, the peace that I feel over what’s happened in the past month, and the seemingly endless shower of blessings that have been poured into my life has been so comforting; I suspect this guilt must be my own sense of pride talking! If that’s the case I need to be able to recognise it and reject it, so please also pray that I can be discerning and act accordingly. I’m aware that not every voice I hear is necessarily that of God, and I need to be wary of that.
Thank you everyone who has been reading this and journeying with me; the reality is if I didn’t have a community, a church family, surrounding me and praying for me and encouraging me through this process, then I don’t think I would’ve ever followed through with anything. Thank you for keeping me accountable and joining with me in my struggles and my victories, and helping me be a part of the whole, the church. You are so important and I thank God for each of you.
Taking Jesus’ hand and inching nervously forward,