Last summer I traveled overseas for the first time (w/o my family), on a journey with college students to learn the basics of a new language, to explore, make new friends and play music.
I had no idea what I was getting myself into.
This is the view from my dorm window of the campus where we lived and took classes
I wish I could say that being in Turkey was one of the best times of my life, but it wasn’t. Being overseas brought up so many insecurities in me that I didn’t even know existed. If I’m honest with myself, most of my insecurities were with body image. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think I’m fat or ugly, but when you’re in a foreign country where every one is size 6 or under and you’re traveling with 14 young and beautiful college students, it gets harder and harder to convince yourself that that’s true.
On top of that, my identity is in Christ so body image shouldn’t even matter, I mean after all, I’m not defined or loved based on the way that I look but instead I’m defined by Christ’s love for me as displayed when he gave his very life for me on the cross. So throw in some guilt for focusing on myself and essentially focusing on things that don’t matter, i.e. my appearance.
Our very good-looking team 😉
Did I mention that I’m supposed to be a leader on this trip?!?!?! How am I supposed to lead students when I don’t even feel confident in who I am, and when I feel like my faith is weak because I’m insecure?!? And how exactly am I supposed to be confident when beauty beyond my own is staring me in the face daily?
Well, I did it, because I wasn’t alone. I had the truth of God’s word, His Spirit living inside of me and a big group of friends to remind me of His truth.
One of the first reminders I needed was that we have an enemy.
That’s right, the Bible tells us that we have an enemy, and he is the father of lies (John 8:44), and he comes to steal, kill and destroy us (John 10:10).
I’d be lying if I didn’t say that every day that I was in Turkey I had to remind myself that the voice in my head, telling me that I’m not pretty, that I’m not worthy to lead students, and that ultimately, that I have nothing to offer, was a liar.
The reason this lie is so easy to believe is because it’s partially true.
Rylee and I found a starfish by the sahil, it’s not perfect but isn’t it beautiful?
I’m absolutely not perfect. My beauty is tarnished by a long history of mistakes. I am not pretty. And because I’m not perfect I’m not worthy to lead students anywhere. I don’t know everything, I don’t always have the capacity to recognize right and wrong and sometimes I just don’t know all the answers. That’s what makes the enemy so believable, he twists little bits of truth.
But here is what’s really true:
I am beautiful because He created me, because I am his masterpiece, not because of the way I look. (Ephesians 2:10)
I am worthy because He lives in me, because He has made me new, not because I’ve never made any mistakes. (2 Corinthians 5:17)
I have something to offer because God doesn’t ask for my perfection, He just asks for me. (Romans 12:1)
You see, I am lovely because He loves me.
(before you get too excited about the cleverness of that line, know that I borrowed it from the Jesus Storybook Bible, it’s amazing, you should check it out, it’s absolutely a work of art!)
A selfie in the Hagia Sophia
For me, what it really boils down to is this, 2 Corinthians 12:8-10 “But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.
My weaknesses are a direct testimony to the power and strength of Jesus Christ. What a gift my weaknesses are and what a liar the enemy is!
So even though it wasn’t the best summer of my life, I’m so thankful for the way the Lord grew me. I have so many great stories from playing music on the sahil (shore) with my friends, from helping some very special women grow in their faith, and from the great joy and privilege of playing a part in introducing some Turkish people to Jesus!
the sahil at sunset
And so, I leave you with this truth:
Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.
Thank you God for the joy of trials, for great friends, and the truth that, with you, I lack nothing.
Playing music by the sahil, I messed up so we were laughing 🙂
Some of our Turkish friends at a picnic!
The ladies 🙂