I bet a lot of you clicked on this solely on the fact that “F***” is in the title.
Well, folks, it’s not what you think.
Go free yourself.
Almost always we are our own limitations. We place ourselves within made-up parameters so that we never go very far. So many times we, as humans, are so afraid of failure or rejection that we put on our own shackles, just to hold ourselves back to a level far below our potential.
Don’t be like that. Unlock those shackles you clasped around your own feet. Break down those invisible walls. Reject those parameters.
You were made for beautiful, wonderful things. Big or small, you are filled with purpose. You are full of life. You have been given talents and passions, dreams and capabilities to make a difference, to be a help.
What are you waiting for?
“You are not limited by us, but you are limited by your own affections.”
(2 Corinthians 6:12)
“For you were called to be free, brothers; only don’t use this freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but serve one another through love.” (Galatians 5:13)
“For we are His creation, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared ahead of time so that we should walk in them.” (Ephesians 2:10)
I have seen so many “I am thankful for _______” posts in the past month that it got me thinking: What would I put on such a list? Of course the normal things came up: my family, friends, health, home, safety, freedom, love, Jesus, faith, the World Race, America, clean shaven men, hand-holding, soft rainstorms, mountaintops, laughter, joy, hugs, kisses, smiles, frozen Greek yogurt, technology, fuzzy blankets, cold weather, bonfires, music, snuggles, accents, books, education, ASU, random acts of kindness, God-following men, letters via snail mail, and the list goes on and on.
Then, I got to really thinking and decided I was missing two important things: heartbreak and failure. Yes, at first I argued with myself. “Heartbreak? Failure? Those aren’t so pleasant. Why should I be thankful for them? I usually try to avoid them. It makes no sense at all to be thankful for having had a broken heart or having failed.” Oh, but it does!
You see, we are all naturally inclined to be thankful for the pleasant things, the things we want more of and hope to never be deprived of. I am among the world’s worst at simply trying to avoid unpleasant or uncomfortable things/situations/people. Someone breaks my heart? That’s fine, I’ll just move on and try to pretend it never happened. You know, avoid those memories like the plague. That’s totally acceptable, right? Unfortunately, no.
I believe a part of growing up is accepting that life is not always a series of pleasant, enjoyable moments that come together perfectly as long as you “do things right.” Things are going to happen. Despite perfectly executing that “next step” agenda that we are taught to strive for (college, career, marriage, kids, etc.), there will be unpleasant moments. There will be broken hearts. There will be failed attempts, plans, ideas, and relationships. That’s part of the process, and really, it’s one of the best parts if you think about it.
I happen to love the metaphor that places God as an artist and we, as people, are His masterpieces. Instead of thinking of us as paintings or sculptures, I like to think of each of us as mosaics. Each tiny piece has been broken off from somewhere, rearranged, fitted into the whole, and is an integral part of the big picture. Each time your heart has been broken, whether by a friend, a partner, a family member, boss, or even a stranger, those pieces are scooped up, rearranged, put back onto the canvas, and fitted into making the big picture beautiful. Same thing goes with every failure. Every failed test, failed relationship, failed plan, failed job, failed idea – it’s all used into making your big picture beautiful.
A song out right now by Casting Crowns that I have grown quite fond of states:
One day I’ll stand before You
And look back on the life I’ve lived
I can’t wait to enjoy the view
And see how all the pieces fit.
On that day, I do believe I will be seeing the most beautiful picture of my life – my life’s very own mosaic masterpiece crafted by God Himself. Each heart break, each failure – it’s all working together along with all of the joy, the love, the excitement, the adventure, the pleasantness of this life.
So, nestled on my list of things to be thankful for you can find “heartbreak” and “failure” somewhere amongst the others, probably hanging out somewhere between “traveling” and “men wearing ties.”
Tonight as we were sitting together in the family room watching the news, my Granny turns to me and asks, “Have you raised any money yet for your trip?” It always makes me shudder a little that she refers to the calling to be a missionary I have surrendered to as merely a “trip.” Brushing the mental note of her using that term away, I responded with a “No.” I’m not sure what annoyed me more, the fact that she asked or the fact that I have no funds in my support account.
Worry tried to sneak it’s vicious head into my thoughts and into my heart.
I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that God called me to The World Race. I know that I can do great things through Him while I’m on it. I know that it is where I am suppose to be. And I know that as of right now, I have only $150 of the $16,285 that I must have to go. I am also acutely aware that there is no way that I, myself, can come up with that money in the 250(ish) days until I am set to leave the country.
See why I was so vulnerable to worry?
My Granny asked me another question right after my response to the first. She asked, “Well, do you still plan to go?” Defensively I said, “Yes, Granny. I am still going. Why would I not go?” She retreated from her questions with an “I don’t know”, but we both knew what she was thinking. She was thinking, how could I go if I didn’t have the funds?
I know that’s what she was thinking because that’s exactly what I keep thinking. I haven’t any donors yet. My family is in no position to say, “Here Mary Elizabeth, we’d like to give you $16,135 to complete your funding needs for the World Race.” I have no doubt my sisters alone would gladly do that if they could. But they can’t. And I know that.
I keep thinking: If I had known at graduation that this would be my life trajectory instead of law school, I could’ve gotten a job back in May, not signed a lease and had to be paying it long after I moved back out of that apartment, saved on the expense of moving (twice), and the list keeps going on. That worry snakes it’s way deeper and deeper into my thoughts.
And then there’s Jesus.
When everyone and every situation seems to keep telling me “this is virtually impossible” or “you haven’t enough time” or “your needs are too great,” Jesus offers up the truth.
He says, “Mary Elizabeth Bailey, do I not love you? Does My Father not love you? Didn’t He send me to die so that you can live with Us and rest in Our love for eternity?” Of course, I’m over here with teary eyes saying, “Yes, Jesus.” And Jesus continues on saying to me, “Do the birds of the sky worry about being taken care of? Does My Father leave them without food? And the flowers that adorn the Earth and remind you of natural beauty created straight from the hand of the Father, do they worry that there is no one to clothe them day after day?” And I answer with tears still in my eyes, “No, Jesus. I know our Father takes care of them. But —” And Jesus cuts me off saying, “But what? But you do not think He has the power to take care of you? You do not think that when you died to sin through my blood that the Spirit within can work to take care of you? You worry, but about what?! The birds are fed, the flowers are clothed, and Father doesn’t even love them near as much as He loves YOU.” Ugh, sometimes I want to cross my arms like a toddler and pout when Jesus calls me out. He’s right. He’s always right. But instead, I just sit with a half-smile on my face. So Jesus goes ahead and says, “I’ll remind you again: I love you. Father loves you. You have no reason to worry. When you worry, it’s like you are doubting Him. We can both agree that doubting Abba Father’s love and provision is crazy, right? Look at what I have been through. Look at what you have been through. Has He not provided every step of the way? So child, stop worrying.” I can’t help but smile now. There’s just something about being told that I am loved and being shown the truth. Truth sets me free, and this time I’m being freed from the chains of worry. How dare I doubt my Father! I tell Jesus, “I’m sorry, Jesus. I don’t doubt Father God. I know He’s taking care of me and that He always will. I need Your constant reminders, so thanks!” Jesus wipes the drying tears from my eyes and tells me, “Just seek God and His righteousness. When you do that, not only do you have no time to worry, but also you’ll be awed with the perfect provision He gives. Don’t worry about tomorrow — or the next day or the next day or months down the road. Father has you taken care of. You can’t see it, but I can. Trust me. I love you.” He never ends a conversation without making sure I know that He loves me. Ah, what a sweet Jesus!
After this chat all I can do is continue to trust in Him. Trust in the One who made me, called me, and loves me. Trust the One who provides for me always. All I can (and want to) do is what Jesus told me — stop worry and seek God.
If you are knee-deep in worry and your heart is feeling overwhelmed, I encourage you to have a chat with Jesus. I promise you, He loves you just as much as He loves me or anyone else. He wants you to bring your worries to Him. My chat with Jesus came from Matthew 6:25-34 tonight. Yours can, too — if you want.
Love you, my sweet blog readers!
And so does God.
He actually loves you much, much, MUCH more than I could possibly imagine loving you. 🙂
P.S. I actually am leaving in July 2014 to go across the world (11 countries in 11 months) to bring the message, the hope, the love, and the light of Jesus to people I have yet to meet, but already have places in my heart. I DO need $16,000+ in my support account to be fully funded. I am confident that God will use His people (many of you reading this) to make this happen. So, if you feel led to make a donation (which is actually tax deductible — yay!), you can go to my World Race page (http://maryelizabethbailey.theworldrace.org/) and click “Support Me” on the left side. Even if you can’t donate, I welcome and ask you to check out my page and the World Race site in general to get to know what I have been called to. 🙂
It is an honor to be accepted into a good law school.
It is an even bigger honor to be given a scholarship to law school.
I have been honored, but more so blessed.
I finished 1L Orientation week last Friday, which means a week spent at the law school 9am-4(ish) being “broken in.” Mock classes, real classes (just Legal Research and Writing), lots of networking, case briefing, listening to speaker after speaker, being given a ton of new things (mailbox, locker, passcodes for material, class lists, etc.), and anything else you can imagine to go along with an orientation for law school. It was a good week, sort-of like “law camp.”
I learned that law school isn’t as scary as people try to make it sound, or at least it doesn’t seem like it. I found that going through orientation I am even more confident that I could succeed in law school. (Please don’t mistake this confidence for arrogance.) I learned that as pretentious as a lot of law students are, there are still the good ones in every class. I think I found those “good ones”, too. I now can say without a shadow of a doubt that I know I am capable to get through law school, and probably even enjoy almost all of it.
To all of the beautiful friends I made in that one week: I barely know you but I know you have a BIG future to walk into. Each one of you is going to go on to do great things, either as a lawyer or as something else. You hold a place in my heart and I will be praying for you all as you go through this law school journey. You have a good community in the U of A Law School Class of 2016 – take care of one another (especially of my dear friend and roommate, “T”). Friendships are never by chance, so know that God above put each of you in one another’s path for a reason.
I asked my Heavenly Father to let my law applications find favor. He did. I asked Him to provide – He did. But then I asked for something else: I asked for Him to give me complete and total surrender to Him and His plans for me. I asked Him for direction. I asked Him to use me right now where He knew I could shine brightest for Him.
It’s true what they say: “Don’t ask for something if you don’t want it.”
I wanted God to give me what I asked for: a surrendered life, obedience, direction, guidance, which all comes down to: a calling, His calling for me. Right now. In this moment at this exact second in life. Every single day. Every minute. Every moment. That’s what I wanted and that’s what I continue to ask for.
The thing is, after I started asking God for that which is listed above and truly meaning it, something changed. My carefully laid out plans didn’t seem quite as significant as they once had. In fact, I couldn’t help but think there was something BIGGER planned for me, if only I let Him do the planning.
That’s when I realized: law school isn’t the biggest plan for my life right now. Read those last two words again. Right now. I have no doubt that God gave me a passion and capabilities for the law. I have no doubt that God set everything up for me from my inquisitive nature and natural inclination to persuade to placing me in undergraduate classes that taught me basic skills needed for law school success like how to read court cases and brief them (thank-you, Dr. Hacker). I sincerely do not doubt that at some point in my life I will go to law school and become a lawyer.
However, the question is when. I have been struggling for weeks with the decision to go ahead and attend law school or not. It’s hard when you have an amazing opportunity and confidence in yourself to fulfill the responsibilities therein, but yet you don’t feel at peace with going through with it. It’s hard to willingly exile myself from this community of beautiful, big-hearted, wonderful people I just barely became a part of. It’s hard to leave something I enjoy and am capable of doing. But guess what?
Faith is hard.
If I truly have the trust and faith in my God that I claim to have, I will trust in His plans for me and confidently hand over my own. Yes, I have a lease that I signed for a year in Fayetteville that I either have to pay or get someone to take over (if you or someone you know is interested in an awesome apartment, let me know — please!). Yes, I have no job lined up, especially here. Yes, my savings are getting smaller and smaller since I haven’t been employed since May. Yes, it’s scary to give up your careful and well-made plans for uncertainty. But that’s what faith is. I can’t see the future, but I have faith in God to provide for me to follow the path He has laid out for me. I don’t know what is going to come my way, but I trust that God does and I have faith He will carry me through it.
Now, let’s talk about what faith does. Faith moves mountains. Faith heals the sick. Faith overcomes death. Faith makes change. That’s who I want to be: a world changer, with the most literal definition possible.
I wear a ring every day that says, “Be the change you wish to see in the world.” Pretty simple, right? The change I wish to see is people treating one another with love and respect and genuine care for their neighbor. I wish for people to look for justice in the right places and lavish mercy on one another. I wish for people to know that there are second chances. I wish for people to know that it doesn’t matter what you “can” do – it matters what you are called to do. I wish for people to know that there is a mighty God who loves them more than anyone or anything ever can. I wish for each person to know that they are important. I wish for people to know how precious each one of them is, a preciousness that is not contingent upon their past, what they have or have not done. If I embody those wishes every day and spread that to the lives I meet, I think the world would change – at least for some people.
I’ve been thinking long and hard for months now about this thing called the World Race. Some of you, if you know me well, know about The World Race. I mentioned it several times between last winter (or late fall) and now. For those of you not acquainted with The World Race, it is a mission trip in which you go to 11 countries in 11 months spreading the love of Jesus. This can be seen in a lot of different ways – prison ministry, helping build or rebuild homes/churches/schools, playing with kids who often feel unimportant and unloved, caring for and helping widows, teaching English, etc. It’s an all-together amazing ministry. If you have time and would like to, check out the website: www.worldrace.org
I know that following God’s plans for our lives and living like He wants us to is not always found in mission trips. I know that ministry is found everywhere: in an orphanage in Romania, at a church in Turkey, in the slums in Thailand, or even somewhere like the classroom of a law school. There are no parameters to where you can minister to people in action. I mean, we see from the Bible that Paul even made prison a place of ministry. I want you to be clear that I’m not saying that I could not spread the love of God in law school or that doing so there is less of a ministry than on the World Race or any other mission trip. It’s not.
But, and that word is such a “changer” in and of itself, I believe God calls us to our ministry wherever it is and it’s high time I start listening to that calling. To illustrate, there is a fantastic woman that I worked for all through college named Linda. She not only became like a second mom to me, but she was (and still is) a spiritual rock for me. I have no doubt she is for others as well. Linda isn’t a preacher. She isn’t in some forgotten, impoverished community sitting down with people who never heard of a man named Jesus and telling them the Gospel for the first time. Linda works on a college campus at a science research facility. She lives the Gospel everyday by loving those she works with, works for, and those who work for her (like me). She prays diligently for those that intersect her life. Her calling is there. She knows that. She lives that. And trust me when I say, it’s a beautiful thing to see and be a part of. (Thank-you, Linda!)
I want to be like that. I want to live according to my calling. I want to be able to act with love and patience daily to those I encounter. I want to feel the divine calling of God with each person He places in my life and each step I take, whoever and wherever that is. For me, I think my calling is the World Race. Right now – not five years from now.
Now, the World Race is a process: you have to apply and be accepted into a Route. Then, you have to be properly vaccinated, get a passport if one is not already had, acquire the necessary gear, and the big thing – come up with the funds. The World Race is not free. The monetary cost is $15,500, without figuring in travel insurance or any “spending money” during those 11 months for things like shampoo, soap, socks when what you bring wear out, and other things. That’s a lot of money for a just-graduated-college twenty-two year old like me. The government will give you loans to go to law school, but not to fund an 11 month mission trip.
So here we are: I have withdrawn from law school to pursue my calling to go on the World Race. I have no job (I’ve applied places, I promise), I live 4+ hours away from my family and all the people who love me, and I am stuck with this lease until July 31, 2014. I want to leave on a World Race route in this upcoming year – 2014. I’m going to try to be that change I wish for in 12 countries – starting with this beautiful place I call home, the United States of America. But until I embark on the World Race, you will find me not in law school.
Ending note: I sincerely apologize to all of you who may feel disappointed in my choice. To every classmate, friend, family member, and past professor – I can only hope that you can support my calling as you have my plans that I had made for myself. I can only pray that each of you who may feel some sense of betrayal (trust me, I almost feel like I’m betraying myself) can realize that God has bigger plans for me than either you or I could dream up – and I want those bigger plans. Also, don’t give up on me being a member of the law community. Just because I am not starting my law career (which begins as a 1L, per the words of orientation speakers) this year does NOT mean I won’t in a future year. I hope as much as many of you do that my future will include law school. If any of you want to hear a more detailed account of things, just let me know and we can discuss it all. For all of you who have been generously supportive of law school, thank-you. It means a lot to have so many people believe in you. Truly, it does.
There’s comes a time when you realize you aren’t sure what happened to your old habits, old characteristics — and you miss them. The good ones, anyway.
I used to think everyone was inherently good. I used to never tell secrets because I grew up realizing that people are never as trustworthy was you want them to be. I used to want to help people no matter if they were rude to me, nice to me, or seemingly worthless individuals. I used to guard my heart so well that I could never get broken — but that came with a price. I used to say what I thought because I had innocent, naïve, loving thoughts. I used to welcome anyone and everyone as a new friend. I used to go after whatever I loved, whether I was good at it or not. I used to chase joy instead of reputation.
When did I become someone who forgot these things? Someone who lives differently, and loves selectively.
I’ve become vulnerable, but for the wrong reasons and to the wrong people. I forgot how much I know that trusting someone wholeheartedly is a great risk, reserved only for ones I know are worth the risk. I became someone who doesn’t always use words kindly. I have become a person who is no longer all inclusive to others; someone who runs from others as soon as they offend or hurt me. I’ve become someone who chases a “good reputation” and lives in fear of doing anything that might “look bad,” rather than chasing joy and delighting in my freedom.
My advice to myself?
Search for the good in someone until you find it.
Help whenever you see a need.
Use your words kindly.
Chase after joy.
Be bold enough to embrace failure.
Be true to God.
Dream big. And bigger.
Never give up hope.
The truth is, sometimes I just don’t know what kind of person I’m becoming. The person my parents are proud of? The person my friends are entertained by? The person chasing after success? The person afraid of truly going after her dreams? The person who looks good on paper? Or the person doing all she can to become who she wants to be — not who her world and the people in it are trying to make her into?
For now, I’m going to take my own advice and see what happens. After all, the one person you know you can trust is yourself.
I am a freedom lover. (Not to be confused with liberal — I am not all that liberal.) I cherish the freedom that living in America has afforded me my whole life. I can say my oppositions to whomever and whatever I so choose at any given time. I can make my likes and loves known, even if not a single person really cares. (Who really wants to know how much I enjoy salsa this week? The answer is slim to none.) I have the freedom to move about from state to state, city to city, home to home. I have the freedom to select any career path and pursue it. Then, if I change my mind I can start all over. I have the freedom to shop wherever I want. I have the freedom to love whomever I want. I have the freedom to laugh, to smile, and to cry whenever and wherever. I have the freedom to live in a way that allows me to choose what I want. America is the land of the free. That’s something hard to argue against.
However, as much as I love America and my freedom that comes with being blessed to be an American citizen, I love my freedom in the Lord even more. The Lord my God said in Jeremiah 15:11, “The Lord said: I will certainly set you free and care for you. I will certainly intercede for you in a time of trouble, in your time of distress, with the enemy.”
Let that sink in for a moment. God says He will do three things for you here:
1. He will set you free.
2. He will care for you.
3. He will intercede for you.
Now, if you have been brought up in church or attend church now, you have probably heard the sermon about how God set us free from our bondage to sin through the sacrifice of His Son Jesus Christ. The consuming, merciful, forgiving love of Christ is what broke our chains. He is what rescues us from slavery to sin, and all that encompasses. So, there is God’s first promise: He sets us free.
This second point is where I sometimes skew the promise. It seems that I constantly am begging God to care for me. I am constantly asking Him to please, please, please do this or do that or take care of me in this situation or that one. It gets to where it almost seems as if I don’t believe His promise that He will care for me and am trying to convince Him to make that promise over and over again. I don’t need to convince the Lord my God of anything, and certainly not of something He promised long ago. He doesn’t just set us free and wish us well. He sets us free and takes care of us. It’s like taking care of a baby deer for so long that it doesn’t know anything different than captivity, then just letting it go in the middle of a forest. It would be lost. It wouldn’t understand how to find food or interact with other animals. God doesn’t just drop us off in a forest of the unfamiliar and let us attempt to figure it out on our own. He promises to care for us, as lost as we may seem to be in our new, unparalleled freedom that we find in Him.
God promises, also, to intercede for us. I don’t know about you, but I’m not a big fan of confrontation in my own life. I don’t particularly like being involved in drama, either. However, if a loved one of mine needs me, I will intercede for them as best as I know how. God does this to us as our loving, caring, merciful Father — and on a much, much bigger scale. God intercedes on our behalf against the enemy, which is Satan and sin. What I find particular comfort in is the part where God says He will intercede for us in our distress. I have a bad habit of getting stressed about most things. A big test? Stressed. Friends fighting? Stressed. Sick family members? Stressed. Lost loved ones? Stressed. Over obligated schedule? Stressed. The list goes on and on. Additionally, I let people hurt me at their discretion. I’m one of those people who internalize pain and keep loving and giving despite that hurt. God sees that and He steps in on my behalf in that distress. God promises to intercede for me when I am in distress, which I take to mean He will take that distress and turn it into peace — if I keep my faith and hope in Him, that is.
Freedom is a beautiful, precious thing. To capitalize on freedom, seek God. Take Him at His word from Jeremiah 15:11. For remember, He is the same yesterday, today, and forever (Hebrews 13:8). Let Him care for you. Let Him intercede in life for you. Let Him fill you with peace.
According to Moshe Dayan, “Freedom is the oxygen of the soul.” So, let your soul breathe in deep. Breathe in God. He is the One with the breath of life, after all.