I sit here writing, all warm and cozy, in my comfy fuzzy pajamas and my dad’s old, oversized sweatshirt. I have my music playing while I sip on my hot chocolate (Nesquik, of course) that has a mountain of whipped cream on top. None of this comes as a surprise to my loved ones reading this. I’m just being Whitney per usual.
It’s the end of the second day of January 2016. While everyone is busy taking down their holiday decorations and making resolutions for the new year, I’m over here trying to unpack my life back into order. I had an amazing trip back to my hometown to spend Christmas and New Year’s Eve with my family and friends. I’ve been traveling so much these past two months— twice to Illinois, once to Israel (yes, I said Israel. Crazy, right?!)— so I’m just trying to live out of my closet now instead of my suitcase. At least for the next sixteen days.
In only sixteen days, I’ll be boarding a plane for the farthest journey I’ve taken yet. Destination: Tanzania, Africa. My sister, Alicia, and I will be traveling with a group of people from our local church for two weeks ministering to widows, orphans, and women. We will be working with an orphanage and holding seminars for widows and women in the local communities. The objective of the seminars is to teach the fundamentals of Christianity and entrepreneurship. If these women can grab a hold of these truths, tools, and the plan of God for their lives, they can provide a better life for themselves, their families, their communities, and for the generations to come. Alicia and I will be leading many worships sets, speaking, preparing, praying, and spreading the love.
I was so excited when this opportunity was first presented to us. We haven’t been on a mission trip since 2013, so it felt about time to get back on the mission field. There are so many channels that encompass mine and my sister’s ministry, and world missions has always been one of them. This may sound like Whitney per usual to you. Many of you have only known me post missions. I took my first trip to work at an orphanage in Honduras when I was eighteen. Not many people know the Whitney that was scared to death to step out that first time.
In fact, up until that first trip, I never had any desire to travel. I had no reason to ever leave the continental United States. Everything I needed was here, or so I thought. Looking back, I think a lot of it was just a fear of the unknown. Why step out into the unknown when I’m so happy in what I know? Complacency. It’s a dangerous place in which to live. It’s a place that God will evacuate you out of if you let Him. When I finally pushed past my fear (mainly because of my sister’s relentless urging of me to go) and took that first trip, I fell in love. I fell in love with the children, with the Honduran people and their Spanish language, with a country I had never dreamed of visiting. I enjoyed it so much, I returned two more times.
As I said earlier, world missions is only one of many channels of our ministry. The next two and a half years, God had us focusing more on some of the other channels. We began writing songs and recorded our debut album, Core, in Nashville, TN. I wrote and self-published my first book, Beauty for My Ashes, my sister got married to her husband, Jim, and we spent a lot of time ministering in our local mission field (because we believe our mission field starts at home and extends to the world). As it says in Ecclesiastes 3:1 “There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens.” Many, many, many seasons have come and gone, and I find myself back in another season of world missions.
In sixteen days, to be exact. It’s funny how we can be such creatures of habit. As much as I have enjoyed my past travels, I’m beginning to feel complacency set in again. Let me be honest, I’m beginning to feel the fear of the unknown set in again. As the date approaches, I’m faced with more thoughts like, “You’re not good enough for this.” “Who do you think you are?” “Do you think you will truly make an impact on these people?” I’m reminded of the fact that I’ve never been to Africa before. I think of the long hours, the sleepless journey, the heavy luggage to haul around. I think of the money we still need to raise, the shots I need to go get on Monday, and the packing I have to do. I push all of these thoughts back and focus on the task at hand. Today, it was unpacking so that I can live out of my closet for a couple of weeks.
I felt the urge from the Holy Spirit to do some closet cleaning today as I took everything out of my suitcase and put it back into its place. I knew that I needed to go through my cardboard keepsake box that is falling apart because it’s loaded down with over fifteen years of memories (I sound so old after saying that!). It’s a box in which I throw everything that has the slightest sentimental value to me. As I separated what I wanted to keep from that which needed to be thrown away, I found a letter I wrote to myself as a senior in high school.
At the brink of high school graduation and moving away from my hometown where I had lived my entire life, I wrote some words of encouragement to the future me. I felt a calm sweep over me today as I read these two lines:
“Be courageous in taking new steps and in doing things you’ve never done before. If you’re following God’s will, He will supply you with everything needed to accomplish the tasks.”
Do I have all of the details? No. Am I still uncertain about what is in store for this trip? Yes. Am I taking a step out into the unknown? I am. But what I do know for certain is that God is a good Father. I’ve seen Him take care of me over and over again, especially since my earthly father passed away. I recognize that fear doesn’t come from God, and that as long as I live in complacency, I’ll never fully live out God’s plan for my life.
I’m not perfect, I’m not fearless, and I’m not yet completely who God has created me to be. But I’m making the decision in this new year to not live in complacency. I’m making a conscious effort (because it won’t happen on its own) to push past the real fear that I feel. I’m deciding to become less of the Whitney that I want to be and instead become the Whitney I was created to be. I don’t know what this will look like, I just know that God must lead the way. I invite you to take this journey with us by reading our blogs. I hope they will encourage you to take this journey personally for yourself. We don’t have to be perfect, we just have to be willing to be used by God.