Sunday, December 4, 2011

Shell of Perfection

So, earlier this week I had one of those days where Jesus was just all up in my business.  You know, one of those days that no matter how hard you try to just consume your mind with other things He just keeps tapping you on the shoulder with a gentle “psst... hey you!  Yes, you.  I have something to tell you.”  One of those days when you try to just push Him off, knowing what He has to tell you is probably something that you need to hear, but don’t necessarily want to.  And, yet he wouldn’t give up.  Relentless, that one.  “I need you to hear this.  It’s really good.  Trust me.”

Did I happen to mention that this was the start of my day?  Yes.  First thing in the morning.  Can’t a girl at least get some caffeine in her system?  So, I chugged a cup of scalding hot coffee, threw a hoodie on over my pjs, grabbed my car keys and jumped in the car.  Ready to listen.

I was a bit reluctant to start the conversation.  But, about 5 minutes into the drive, I found myself crazily ranting out loud about all the things that laid heavy on my heart.  The things that I had allowed to build up, to be pushed down deep, the burdens that I left sitting.  Then, in true World Race fashion, I pulled over to a spot on the road overlooking the vast beauty of Cape Town, stood on a rock.... and began declaring.  Declaring who I am, declaring what I am capable of, declaring my purpose.  And, just as I finished out of my mouth slipped the words, “and, Papa... remove this shell; this shell of perfection and expectation that has trapped me from letting people see me, in the depths of who you created me to be.”

Wait.  What?  Where did that come from?  

And, although it was as if the words formed themselves, I couldn’t deny their truth.  Somewhere in the depths of who I was, I realized that I had spent years and years striving for perfection.  Striving to meet expectations.  Striving to be the image of what other people thought I should be.  Only allowing the bits and pieces of myself come out that I knew would be accepted, that I knew would be appreciated, that I knew would be enjoyed.  Those annoying, quirky, weird things... let’s just keep those inside.

On the drive back, I quickly began to realize the truth of this statement.  Of the resistance I had perfected.  Of the shell I had been carrying around for a very long time.

As I parked the car and walked back towards the house, something happened to catch my eye... a small, white, perfectly whole, shell.  You know the curly, hermit crab type shells.  At first I picked up the shell, admiring it’s perfection.  Not a single crack.  And as I went to slide it into one of the side pockets of my purse I immediately heard God speak... “That shell is meant to be broken.  Isn’t that what you asked for?”  I smiled, raised the shell high above my head, and quickly catapulted it toward the ground, expecting a shattering explosion of victory.

It bounced.  No, seriously.  The shell hit the concrete ground and bounced, rolling over into the grass.  Not a single chip, not a small crack.  Completely whole.

Twice more, I threw the shell towards the ground with the exact same response each time.  Okay, God... real funny.  “Micah, my dear.... I know you are a strong girl.  But, you can’t do this within your own strength.” he responded.  Fuming in defeat, I held the shell in front of my face, said “I’ll deal with you later” and then shoved it away in my purse.  

I went along my day, trying to ignore the happening of the morning, but the shell weighed heavy in purse and even more so on my heart.  Sure, it was just a silly shell.  But, it symbolized something in my life that had been weighing down on me for years and years; a weight I had become so accustomed to carrying that I had forgotten that it wasn’t naturally a part of who I was.

It was time to break this shell once and for all.  I kicked off my shoes, and excused myself from my company, and slipped off to the nearby beach.  It was midday, and the dark, rocky street I was walking along was anything but comfort on my feet.  As I stopped and considered turning back to grab my shoes, I heard God speak “This journey isn’t supposed to be an easy one.  Part of freedom is allowing yourself to first remember the pain.”

So, I finished the walk, feet writhing in agony, sweat forming on my brow arriving along a secluded area of beach.  I placed the shell in the middle of my hand, held it out in front of me, and finally allowed myself to speak the words...”I need you.  I need your help.  I can’t break this shell by myself.”  As quickly as finished that sentence, I looked down to see a very large rock to my right.  One that coincidently had 4 iron nails sticking out of it.  Symbolic, at all?  I gently set the shell upon the rock, picked up another nearby rock and dropped it upon the shell.  The pressure of the two rocks was more than the shell could handle, and despite its look of strength and perfection, it shattered along the sand into a variety of pieces.  The pieces were still beautiful, the still represented pieces of strength.  And, for the first time, I was able to see the iridescent beauty that formed the inside of the shell.  An odd, squiggly array of colors that was hidden until that point.

Maybe it was just a shell.  And maybe finding it was just a coincidence.  But, God spoke such freedom into my life that day.  God allowed me to finally see that imperfection does not equal failure. God allowed me to realize that the me that is often times hidden away is really the person that the world needs to see.   A weight was lifted, a shell was broken.  And, a new, quirkier me is being released.  Watch out, people... things are about to get crazy.  :)



Sunday, November 13, 2011

A Taste of Heaven

I think I got a taste of Heaven today.

It was phenomenal.  Like time stands still, never want to leave that moment phenomenal.
Beauty that cannot be captured, that cannot be described.

I went on a prayer walk with about 50 other locals through Ocean View (the township I live in).  As we walked through the streets, there was a steady melody of hymns and praises being sung gently and sensitively over the land.  Local voices calling out praises.  Interceding on behalf of their people, of their family, of their community.  Walking together.  Side by side.  Step by step. 

An army of the living God.

As we ended the prayer walk, we stopped and gathered in this small park.  The weather was surreal, the sun beating down just perfectly.  As we circled, I couldn't help but just close my eyes and listen to the voices sing.  Surrounded by the scenery of one of the worlds most beautiful creations, trying desperately to soak in the absolute beauty of the moment.  


In the circle around me stood men, women, children, grandmothers.  A people of mixed races, of all ages, of all types of backgrounds.  Standing in one place.  Singing to the glory of the throne.  


Enveloped with love.  Surrounded by grace.  Immersed in beauty.  

A small taste of Heaven.



Friday, November 4, 2011

Nothing

"...apart from me, you can do nothing."  John 15.5

Ever heard that verse before?  You know, the ever popular vine & branches analogy.  Get's you every time, right?  Yeah, me too.  

But, have you ever really considered what the word "nothing" means?

Nothing (adv): in no respect or degree; not at all.

Nothing.  Nada.  Zip.  Zero.  Nothing we do, apart from God, is worth it.  Nothing.

I've had to remind myself of that a lot lately.  And when I mean remind, I mean blatantly remind.  I've written it in big block letters across my journal.  I've doodled the phrase with pen a time or two on the inside of my arm.  I've highlighted and underlined the verse in every version of bible I possess.  I've all but tattooed the words across my forehead.   

Because, it's been that important.

You see, lately feel a little bit like I've been trying to do it alone.  You know, I've done this before.  I've lived among the poor.  I've hugged the necks of the needy.  I've prayed prayers of love and of freedom and of healing.  And, somewhere along the way... I let my guard down.  I thought that I had some kind of control over this crazy thing called life.  And, this past week... I all but cracked my head open on the sidewalk as I took a unexpected fall into the pit of my own inadequacy.

I can't do this alone.  No amount of money, no amount of love, no amount of wisdom I have to offer these communities will change things.  

Apart from God... I can do nothing.

In this week alone, I followed a local friend of mine into house after house, hugging the necks of women who struggle from drug addition.  Women desperately seeking to be free from the chains of bondage; women desperate to be good mothers; women desperate to simply feel alive.  This week, I stood in front of a group of 50 women, calling out the identity and beauty that exists in each and every one of them; watching, as tears fell down their cheeks and as arms embraced.  Women in desperate conditions, claiming to walk down this road together.  This week, I've seen hungry children.  I've heard the cries of poverty.  And I've certainly felt the wrath of the enemy.

And I can't do this alone.

But, if I'm honest.. I don't really want to.  Because, while apart from Him I may be nothing... with Him, nothing is impossible.  Nothing.



Friday, October 21, 2011

Guest Blogger. What, what?

Guess what?  I had my first official guest blog post.

That's right.  It's kind of like I'm an official blogger now.  What's up?!


Except, really I was just writing a blog for the ministry I am working with here in Cape Town.  But, that's neither here nor there.

All that to say, that you should go check it out.  http://looklistenlove.org

Not only should you read the blog I wrote, but you should also check out their ministry here in Ocean View.  These incredible friends of mine are dedicated to seeing the love of God absolutely explode over this area.  The way the have become a part of this community is absolutely mind blowing.  Seriously.  They might be some of the coolest people I've ever met.  

That, and my girl Sarah is way better about keeping you updated on what life and ministry looks like here on a daily basis.  Not nearly as much as a blog procrastinator as myself.

So, go.  Right now.  I mean it.  Check it out.  It's worth it, I promise.  

Friday, October 14, 2011

True Missionaries

Missionary.

I have a hard time calling myself that.  Is that weird?  I don’t know what it is exactly.  I’ve spent the last year and a half of my life traveling overseas, living in poverty stricken lands, trying desperately to be the hands and feet of God.  And, yet... when someone asks me about myself, about what I am doing with my life, about my job, I find it incredibly difficult to choke out the phrase “oh, you know... I’m a missionary!”

Don’t get me wrong.  It’s not because the term holds any sort of derogatory connotation in my mind.  Maybe it’s actually that it holds so much weight.  From a young age, whenever I heard the term in church, I immediately pictured a lovely woman, with her crazy, unkept hair, wearing a long, flowing skirt, with a beautiful smile on her face; living among the poorest of poor, with 700 babies in her lap.  Okay, so maybe that’s a bit of an exaggeration, but you get the point.  To me, a missionary was someone who was willing to sacrifice everything...luxury, money, fashion, showers, and even mexican food!  And to be honest... I’m not sure I ever really wanted to do that.

Last night, as I sat in a room in Cape Town, South Africa surrounded by faces that belong to beautiful, mighty, amazing women of God... my definition of missionary changed once again.  These women have seen life at its worst.  They haven’t just seen poverty, they’ve experienced it.  They haven’t just seen devastation, they adorn scars that boldly speak of the battle.  And, they don’t just pack their bags and do this for months at a time....day after day, they pick up their swords and return to the battlefield.  

These women.  These amazing, strong, courageous township women.  They are the missionaries.  They are the ones giving everything they have to see their community survive, to see their families unite, to see that injustices are no more.  Their scars may run deep, but their love runs deeper.  

Maybe one day I’ll get there.  Maybe at some point I will feel a bit more deserving of the term “missionary”.  But for now, I relent to just being a student, to being a learner, to being a disciple.  This place is incredibly blessed with warriors, with intercessors, with life bringers, with world changers.  People who are willing to give it all, to see it through. To fight the ongoing battle of hopelessness, to never give up.  

True missionaries.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Jesus in a Tattoo Parlour

I met Jesus in a tattoo parlour.

And, no it wasn't anything like that picture.

But, seriously.

Don't worry, don't worry.  I wasn't going in for a second tattoo.  This time, I was simply accompanying a friend as moral support.  Trust me, the pain is still very real in my mind... no new needle artwork for me anytime soon.

Anyway... let me set the stage for you.  So, there's this tattoo parlour in Gainesville, Georgia.  And if you didn't know any better, you might be a little suspicious.  I mean, it is located in a building that sits behind a gas station.  But, it's legit, I promise.  And they have very nice curtains in the windows... which, sadly to say, was the basis on which I originally picked this place.  Super intelligent, I know.

So, back to the meeting Jesus thing.  As we walked in the door, we were instantly greeted by this, big, tough, burly, tatted-up biker dude.  You know, the stereotypical guy that comes to your head when you think tatto parlor.  Exact replica.  There he is, just sitting back, ever so nonchalantly scanning the room.  We gently slide into the nearby chairs, and as all good missionaries do, start up a quick conversation.   One thing led to another, and soon we were talking about the Race and all of our adventures from the past year.  All of a sudden, as if the guy's chair caught on fire, he quickly shoots up and says... "hold on, i'll be right back" and all but skips out of the room.

Awesome.  Our stories even scare off tough, biker dudes.

However, within seconds he returns holding this crumbled up piece of paper, words blotted and scattered throughout the page.  He sits back down, looks shyly at his paper and says "I wrote something down this morning and I just really want to share it with ya'll.  I knew someone would need to hear this today."

He sits up straight, clears his throat, and begins reading these beautiful, gut wrenching, lines of poetic verse.  He speaks so eloquently about the scars, the impurities, and the imperfections of our lives.  He reminds us that those things aren't reminders of disgrace or defeat.  That instead they are reminders of VICTORY.  Those wounds are our badges; they are our medals of HONOR.  Those scars tell of our experience, of our journey, of our story.  Those imperfections are a reminder that we choose to fight alongside the greatest warrior of all time.  These blemishes tell of our commitment to choose into this battle to follow Christ.  And he finishes with a line that says...

"and if you don't have any deep scars to show... then you haven't really been chasing after Jesus."

Umm.  Excuse me, who are you again?

As he finishes up, he looks up at all of us and with such great sincerity in his eyes and continues speaking.  "Yesterday was a hell of a day.  As we woke up, my wife and I, we could feel the enemy lines approaching.  We knew that they were starring us right in the face.  And at that point, early in the day, we knew we had a choice to make.  We had to decide then and there if we were going to fight or be overcome."  He pauses for a bit, as if picturing the battle scene in his own head all over again; then with a grin he says "And at the end of the day, before we went to bed, we looked back on the day; we looked back on the battle.  The one we chose to fight.  Our bodies were tired, pierced, and wounded.  There were newer and deeper scars to add.  But, we were still alive.  We were still standing.  At the end of the day, we were able to look back on the battle field and physically see the VICTORY that is promised."

See.  I told you I met Jesus in a tattoo parlour.

I don't know who this guy is.  I don't know his story.  I don't know what life looks like for him on a daily basis.  I don't know why he chose to share this absolutely beautiful nugget of wisdom with us that day.

What I do know, is that God works in unexpected ways.
What I do know, is that God lives and dwells in unexpected places.
What I do know, is that God doesn't just live in the church.
What I do know, is that He doesn't just exist in "holy" places.

This guy may not be accepted in our modern day church, but he absolutely knows his Father.  He may not hang out in the crowds of people we consider to be "christian", but neither did Jesus.  He may not look like your typical missionary, but he certainly knows what it means to stand in the middle of the battlefield.

There's a battle to be fought, and victory to be won.  And you better believe I want people just like him standing beside me on the front lines.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Part Two: Tattoo

It's official.

I got a tattoo.

WHAT?! That sweet, little Baptist girl from the bible belt of Arkansas permanently marked her body with Satan ink? Yup. well, something like that.

I've actually been thinking about this tattoo thing for a while. Well for 11ish months anyway. You see, this year has been such a pivotal year in my life and I wanted something to commemorate that. To be a reminder of the amazing truths revealed in and over my life. And, what better way than a tattoo, right?

So, I should probably go ahead and preface this story with the fact that needles quite often cause me to pass out. Awesome. Like the time that I gave blood. Or the time I had to get 473 shots to make sure I didn't contract any crazy diseases while overseas (okay, so maybe it was more like 5). Or the time when a transvestite pierced my nose, without using a piercing gun, I might add, for $1.50 in Thailand. (Just ask Stacey Hume, she will be more than happy to give you the dramatic version of that story). Long story short, I don't do well with needles. There, I said it.

So, a couple weeks back I was sitting across the table from my good friend Ashley Musick. Just chatting about life, eating a scrumptious meal after a morning at church, when I notice the tattoo on her wrist. I quickly begin to inquire about the design, where she got it done, and the ever famous question of "how bad did it hurt?" She sweetly answers all my questions and then pauses to ask... "wait, do you have a tattoo?"

Before I know it, I am sharing with her about this huge theme of my life. About my identity in Christ. About how this year has been absolutely monumental is establishing who I am as a daughter of a King. About the fact that I no longer am obligated to the things of this world, that I belong to a greater kingdom, and that I am ROYALTY.

That's it. My tattoo. ROYALTY.

That word alone reminds me so quickly of who I am. Not what I do, but who I am. Of that one thing in my life that can never be changed, never be taken. I forever am the daughter of the King of Kings, and while I am here on earth I have a responsibility to that Kingdom.

Royalty.

"That's perfect." Ashley replies. "Let's go get it."

Wait. What? Now. Oh yeah... P.S. I am probably going to pass out. Maybe throw up. And you will have to hold my hand. Still wanna go?

We called a couple of friends and then quickly searched the internet for local tattoo shops, scribbled down a few addresses, and jumped in the car. All to soon be reminded that it is Sunday. No tattooing on Sunday. Bummer. Apparently making sure you can't buy alcohol or get tattoos on Sundays makes you holier. Hmmmm....

To shake off the "no tattoo" blues, I settled for a very large cone of Bruster's Ice Cream, most which most ended up on either the ground or my dress (yes, I still have a couple of 5 year old tendencies). However, still very determined to be brave and go through with this.

Finally the day arrives. Tattoo Tuesday. My friend Ashley and I march back down to the tattoo place, brave pants pulled up high. I walk in, expecting to have at least a short wait, and quickly find myself sitting on a vinyl covered, black stool with my left arm extended in front of me, the layout of the word ROYALTY starring back. In front of me sits a very burly man, tattoos up and down his arm, ink gun in his hand. Yup. We're at the right place.

I am determined that I will not pass out. Determined, mind you. I quickly look over at Ashley and say "Just don't let him stop at ROY. Whatever happens, he must finish." She gives a quick giggle and before I know it the buzzing of the gun begins. I turn back to Ashley "Quick, tell me a story. Anything." Bless her heart, she does her very best to keep me distracted... but soon enough I find my eyes getting a little blurry. And then there's that blasted ringing sound. Sweat droplets start to form on my forehead. I've only made it two letters in and I am not fairing well. This can't be good.

The lady behind the front counters steps in to check on me, and quickly sees that I am not doing so hot. Before I know it, she has a jar full of sugary snacks in front of me, asking which one I want. "Do you want cherry, or strawberry? or Watermelon or grape?" Really, lady. I don't care. I just want it to be in my mouth. Now.

Left arm still on the table. Right hand holding Ashley's. Sucker stick hanging out the side of my mouth... I finish my tattoo like a champ. Even found the courage to watch as he finished off the second half. Brave pants still on. Tattoo adventure. Success.




Will I still love my tattoo 40 years from now? Who knows? But, even 40 years from now it will still speak boldly of who I am. Even now, multiple times a day my tattoo will catch my eye. And each time it's a quick reminder of this year of my life. It's a quick reminder of my purpose. Of my identity. Of my responsibility to the Kingdom. Of life abundantly greater than I can ever imagine.

I am ROYALTY. And so are you.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Part One: Identity Crisis


just a couple of days ago i officially started packing up the room i grew up in.  i removed all the plaques from the walls, and then stared down into boxes full of trophies, awards, pictures, and other mementoes of my childhood.  don’t worry, even at 25 my parents aren’t kicking me out just yet.  instead, i am packing up and repainting this room so that when the time officially comes, my new haitian sister will have a room to call her own (which is a whole other blog in itself).

piece by piece, i was vividly reminded of who i am.  maybe more so of who i was.  you see, i’ve always been the kind of person who got something in my head, went after it, succeeded, and then had the paperwork to show it.  a box full of academic awards; scholarship achievements, 4.0 plaques, the most outstanding graduate award from my college, and the dried up flowers from my homecoming court debut.  a box of church related awards; scripture memory achievements, religious debate awards, service project acknowledgements.  a box full of leadership achievements and fancy invitations to special events and conferences.  and finally, a box filled with athletic achievements; player of the game awards, all conference team acknowledgements, along with trophies and medals from multiple summer league championships.

and while all those shiny awards and achievements once claimed the walls and shelves of my room, it felt fitting to finally pack them into boxes.  that’s not to say that any of those achievements were wrong or unwarranted.  the issue lies within the fact that competition, success, and perfection were the driving forces of my life.  they defined who i was, they defined my expectations, they defined my identity.  without them, i would have fallen short.  i would have failed.  and failure was never an option.

yet throughout this past year, God has slowly (and quite painfully) begun to strip me of what i once thought was my identity.  what i once thought i had to live up to.  of the perfection i thought was necessary in my life, especially in my walk with Him.  instead of perfection, i experienced failure.  instead of always being able to succeed, i found myself in situations that i could not change, circumstances i could not overcome.  over and over, i fell on my face.   over and over, i sat in brokenness.  over and over, i was reminded that falling short is what warrants my desperate need for my Papa. 

each time i fell, my Papa picked me up and spoke graciously into my identity.  into who i really was.  those things, all the expectations i had once lived up to, they aren’t who i am.  they are temporary, all set by my own expectations.  instead, this year i have been reminded that who i am is a child of God.  who i am is a daughter of a king.  i am ROYALTY.  i did nothing to deserve that status.  nor can i do anything to take it away.  it's who i am, it's ingrained deep into my being.  nothing about that is temporary.  that’s who i am, that’s who i’ve always been.  nothing, not even life can take that away.

no amount of awards or successes can increase his love for me.  no amount of memory verses will change the way he sees me.  i already belong to him, i belong to his kingdom, i have been adopted into the royal family, and i have an inheritance to claim.  my identity lies in Him and Him alone.  i am called to step into that royalty, to acknowledge my responsibility to the kingdom, and walk alongside the king of kings.  the one who created all claims ME as his own... that’s all He expects of me, to simply be His.



Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Training Camp Recap

This particular blog goes out to my WORLD RACE ALUMNI. Just a little bit of life for me post race, and you need to read it. Okay, so maybe NEED is too strong of a word.


A couple of weeks back, I loaded up all my WR gear again (what was left of it) and jumped in my car for a long drive into the woods of Tennessee to help out at the most recent training camp. It wasn’t necessarily something I had planned on attending, but after exhausting all forms of entertainment at home, I figured at least it would be a nice change of pace. I mean, it had been a whole month... isn’t this when I am supposed to pack up my bags and move somewhere new?


I don’t know exactly what my expectations were. I went ready to cook, to clean, to set up, to tear down, do whatever needed to be done. I knew I would be surrounded by my community, get some hard truth from Michael Hindes, and be able to experience some crazy, spirit filled jam sessions with the Helser band... that was enough for me.


What I quickly found out was that I actually needed that training camp, maybe just as much as the new squads who had yet to embark on this crazy whirlwind journey. I needed to be reminded of my purpose, of my calling, of my freedom, of the fact that being home from the race doesn’t mean that the lifestyle I adopted and fought hard for over the last 11 months has to end. I needed to be able to share my experiences with my generation, to be able to be on the return side of things and assure those eager, scared, anxious faces that this crazy journey would absolutely be worth it.


There’s definitely a beautiful thing about being on the other side of a training camp. To see the process, to rejoice in the huge changes in life, and to be able to fall facedown and admit that I still don’t even slightly have things figured out! And to be able to experience that while surrounded by a community of people that can fuel that process and love me fiercely while doing so. A community so much bigger than just my squad. An extended family like no other; an extended family of some of the most amazing, prophetic, life speaking, world changers you will ever meet.


Returning for a training camp turned out to not only be a phenomenal experience, but also vital part of the whole re-entry process for me. I’ve decided that the world race community is kind of like chocolate (hang in there with me, this gets good). You know that chocolate is great. Chocolate definitely adds some flavor to life. But it’s not until you go spend 11 months overseas that you realize chocolate is not only really great, but it is absolutely a vital part of daily survival!!  This community, this truth, this freedom is vital, and it doesn’t have to end just because we are back in the US. We now have the experience, the opportunity and the responsibility to be a part of this process for other people, don’t miss out!

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Current State: Uncertain


oh, july.  you are proving to be quite an interesting month.

in the past two weeks, i’ve spent around 22 hours on the road, been in 5 different states and slept in 6 different beds.  sadly enough,  life almost feels normal again.

last week i met up with my world race family in the woods of tennessee to shake up another group of world changers as they got a small taste of the kingdom journey they are about to embark on.  we sang, we danced, we cried, we laughed... and, just as promised, the Holy Spirit showed up in a mighty big way.  i ran around like a mad woman all week long; loving, serving, praying, and enjoying the ridiculously amazing community that is my world race family.  very little sleep was had, but it was absolutely worth every minute of being there.  those are my people, hands down.

after saying another round of “see ya when I see ya” I headed even farther south to alabama for a week on the beach with the family.  RELAXATION.  finally.  or so i thought.

day one of vacation, i crack my tooth.  awesome.  shouldn’t be too bad, right?  i’ll get it taken care of when i get back home.  wrong... by day two my whole upper jaw is throbbing.  i try to tough it out, thinking a nap out on the beach should do the trick.  45 minutes later i was literally crawling back to the room and dialing the phone number of the first dentist i could find.  so much for relaxation.  to add to that, the next open appointment they have is the following morning.  a whole night of intense throbbing pain.  excellent.  this news may have warranted me to extend the normal dosage for ibuprofen that evening, but did in fact make it through the night.

day three of my relaxing beach vacation and i find myself sitting in the local dentist office.  two x-rays, a poking around, and $87 later they send me off with two prescriptions and advice to see my dentist when i get home.  yup.  that just happened.  the only upside, one prescription is for a strong dosage of hydrocodone.  hollar!  maybe i will get some rest after all.  or at least be able to forget about the fact that when i get home, i will have an expensive dental appointment to schedule.  did i mention that i have no dental insurance?  more drugs, please?

day four turned out quite well.  that of it which i managed to stay awake.  day five was even proving to be off to a good start, made it all the way though dinner before the next catastrophe; dropping my two week old iPhone on the pavement and cracking the entire screen.  shattered.  completely.  definitely wishing i had found the otter box a more important investment.  oops.

another expense to add to the list, so it seems.  and as i all but banged my head against my car door, i couldn't help but wonder how in the world i was going to pay for all of this.  the term “poor missionary” was now becoming much more of a reality, and before i knew it i sat there questioning my future.  is money going to be a constant battle?  am i ridiculous for thinking that all the things i will ever need will just be provided?  is this sort of life actually do-able?

in that moment, i was reminded of the words of prophecy spoken over me throughout the year.  words from my teammates, words from friends back home, words from women in south africa, words from a korean women in malaysia.  all confirming God’s call on my life.  that i am called to something greater.  something bigger.  something that doesn’t make sense in the mind of man.

so, despite the unrelaxing state of my vacation, despite the nagging pain in my upper left jaw, despite the disabling of my connection to the outside world... i choose not to be discouraged.  i choose not to be overwhelmed.  i choose rest.  i choose peace.  i choose to trust in the provision of my Papa.  

i am well aware that this promise of provision may not look anything like i think that it should, but i also know that it’s a promise He intends to keep.

“and my God will meet all your needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus.” (Phil 4.19)

Friday, June 3, 2011

Stories to Share

as i sit here typing on my big comfy couch, wrapped up in a blanket, sitting in front of a television too big for my own good, with the smell of home cooked food in the air, i can't help but feel on edge.  so little has changed.  and yet this time around i feel so out of place.

as i looked into my closet yesterday, the abundance made me utterly nauseous.  the fact that i happened to have 7 different bottles of shampoo in my shower didn't help.  in just a few hours after getting home, i quickly found my big, red, beaten up backpack looking luxurious again.  part of me desperately wanted to just throw my three outfits and two pairs of shoes in the bag and call it a day.

but, this is reality.  this is my home.  these are my people.

and while i find it overwhelming to try to figure out how the person i now am fits into the world of who i once was, i know that i'm here right now for a reason.  i now have a story to tell.  i now have words that can't go unspoken.  and there are so many people that deserve to hear it.  more, even so, that need to hear it.

so, after spending the whole day sorting through and downsizing my entire wardrobe, i think i have regained a small bit of my sanity... for the time being anyway.  i'm not quite ready to face the world (or go shopping in walmart), but hopefully i'll get there eventually.  

because this story is BIG, and my world needs to hear it.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

The Cat Lady

Sometimes I wish you all could meet the interesting characters we run into on this adventure around the world. I can confidently say that in this year alone I have seen, done and experienced some of the most random things ever possible. One thing is for sure, every day has the possibility of being highly entertaining. 

For instance, let me introduce you to one of my newest friends, Iing. I like to refer to her simply as the cat lady of Penang. Please, note that this is not just a cat lady... this is THE cat lady. You see, Iing loves the cats. All the cats. But, especially stray, street cats. Actually to say that she loves them might even be an understatement. Iing spends her days browsing the streets for cans and other recyclable items in which she can cash in to buy cat food. Then in the evening, she sets up camp on a local sidewalk, lays out food... and voile, instant cat lady. 

Last night, myself, my friend Jon Bunford, and a couple other volunteers made a visit to Iing's part of the neighborhood. As we approached her street, Iing was pacing up and down the sidewalk, bantering under her breath in rapid Mandarin. She was clearly worried about something. After some interpretation, we found out that the nervous pacing was due to the cats. This night in particular, there were about 5 or 6 cats in the area. Iing begins pointing at the cats one by one, still speaking rapidly in her local tongue. Worried about Iing, we inquire as to what we can do for her. After a couple of seconds, with a small grin on her face, our translator looks up at us shyly and says "she says she wants you to pray for the cats. All the cats need prayer, but especially the small black one over there. That one needs prayer the most." 

Pray for the cats, huh? That's definitely a new one. 

I quickly look over at my friend Jon trying desperately to figure out how we are going to go about doing this all while keeping a straight face. In being culturally appropriate to the gender rules in Malaysia, he simply smiles and says "so, should we check underneath and see which one of us has to do this?" 

 Just about this time, one of the cats lets out a deep hiss. "More importantly," he adds "have you had your rabies shot?" 

Trying to hold it together, I take one glance back at my friend Iing, give her a slight head nod and walk towards the cats. Then and there, myself, Jon, and another volunteer stretch out our arms and begin to pray.

"So, God, I never thought I would be standing on a street corner praying for cats. Especially ones that are hissing, possibly diseased, and that could attack me at any moment. But, here I am. Father, I know your probably more of a dog person, like me, but considering you made the cats you probably still love them too. So, bless the cats. Bless the yellow cat, and the gray cat, and the spotted cat, and the black cat. Especially the black cat.
Apparently he needs your help a little more than the others. Amen." 

And that was that. 

We then finished up our conversation with Iing, who had calmed down considerably since the cats had been prayed over, and I just stood there and grinned as I thought about all the ridiculous things I have experienced this past year. And yet, every bit of it has revealed small pieces of God's character. A bit of God's character exists within the crazy cat lady on that street corner. A bit of his character exists within the exuberant woman who sings at the top of her lungs from the alleyway. A bit of his character exists within the highly animated tricycle driver who claps along to a tune only he can hear. 

God is much more exciting than we sometimes give him credit for. And more importantly His sense of humor never ceases me make me laugh.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Follow Me

Follow Me.

Apparently God is trying to tell me something.  In the past week, I have seen those two words plastered literally everywhere I look.  In huge block letters on the front gate of a random business, across a blatantly large banner hanging at the bus station, on the label of a whole row of shampoo bottles.  All repeating the same phrase...

Follow Me.

Okay, God, I get it.  But, where is the rest of the sentence?  I feel like you have forgotten a couple of terribly important details.  Do you mind to expound on that just a little?

I can't help but feel a bit like I've been given a beautiful invitation to the event of a lifetime only to find that the host left the inside of the card completely blank.  

Follow me.  That's all I've got.

All this to say to myself, and to all of you... I don't know what's next.  I don't have any of the details.  There is no timeline.  There is no absolute direction.  

All I have is "follow me"... and for now, that's going to have to be enough.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Beauty Defined


I'm trying out this new thing.  I know when I blog that I tend to write about what is going on around me as opposed to the journey and the struggles going on inside my own life.  In sharing with a friend the other day I was challenged to be real not only with the outside journey but also the things going on inside my head... so, here we go.  :)

A couple days back we arrived into Penang, Malaysia, which just so happens to be a pretty bustling city.  Malls, restaurants, movie theaters... you name it.  Being a girl, one of the first thing I explored was, of course, the shopping.  It's been a while since I've been in a big mall and this time as we walked through surrounded by stores and stores of ridiculousness, I couldn't help but feel overwhelmed.  There was such an shocking array of sparkling, colorful merchandise, this overwhelming abundance of things that society defines as beauty.  Stores and stores of manmade things, claiming to add to your beauty, to speak into your identity.  

Don't get me wrong, I've been in malls time and time again.  But, this time, something about it all just didn't sit well with me.  It was if all I could see was a facade of what really existed.  Nothing about that spoke beauty to me, and yet I couldn't help but feel compelled to feel like it should.

As I tried different accessories on, I would take a glance into the mirror in front on me.  Mirror after mirror, I found myself looking at each one, trying to decide if I did in fact, actually like what I saw.  Each time, my thoughts soon turned from the merchandise to the image behind it.  "Maybe if I had put on make-up, maybe if I had fixed my hair, maybe if I wasn't wearing miss matched, worn out clothing... maybe then I would be more pleased with what I saw." 

It was funny to sit here and have all these thoughts.  You see, beauty and self-image are not things I have typically struggled with.  Sure, I have those moments, as every woman does, where I wish I was a few inches taller, a few pounds lighter, and a few shades darker.  But, I was fortunate enough to grow up in a home with a mother and a father who spoke so graciously over my identity.  Parents who never asked me to be anything different than what I was.  Parents that never opposed my tomboy stage of wearing gym shorts and a pony tail.  Parents who loved without criticizing my identity.

Yet, here I was, letting the lies of Satan slowly creep in.  Lies of my self worth, of my beauty, of my importance.

It was in that moment that I also realized that in just a few short weeks, that beast is exactly what I am going back to.  It wasn't until walking back from that mall that I realized just how much freedom I have been walking in this year.  I had almost forgotten what that bondage felt like.   Bondage that exists so heavily back home.  The idea that self worth can be purchased.  That beauty is defined so strongly by materialistic things.  I have spent a year walking in a new freedom of beauty, so much that I almost forgot how heavy, how fierce it was.  And, here I was, four weeks away from returning... completely and utterly overwhelmed by it all.

As I stood on the street with my friend Stacey, praying, and just letting tears fall down my face, I realized that the struggle here was that my idea of beauty no longer coincides with the rest of the worlds.  I was finally realizing how much my perspective has changed; how much my definition of beauty has changed.  Back in the store, as my eyes tried to take in all of the glitz and glamour around me, I had realized that nothing in that store was beautiful.  Beauty is no longer an accessory, or a piece of jewelry, or an article of clothing.  Beauty is an African woman with her shaved head and handmade clothing; beauty is the smile on the face of a child running barefoot and filthy through the slums of a third world country; beauty is the prostitute wiping the makeup off her face, packing her bags, and reclaiming her self worth.  

Now, this is not to say that I won't ever again wear girly accessories (in fact I have some pretty great earrings on today!)  But, never again will those "things" define my identity, my beauty, my self worth.  This year, I've seen the beauty of God, the beauty of his rawest creation.  And I am part of that creation.  You are part of that creation.    We, in our simplest form, completely encompass the definition of true and absolute beauty, with or without any added glamour.  It's time, my loves, to reclaim that beauty!

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Your Love Never Fails

i'm at a loss for words. 

my thoughts are jumbled. 

i sit here staring at my computer knowing that i need to write a blog, but doing it more out of necessity than desire.  it's just that i am finding it really difficult to put into words the things i have experienced in the last month and a half...

i've seen and felt some really dark stuff.  i've experienced the bondage of a country void of religious freedom.  i've lived in a country so dark that even the stars can't find the light to shine; a country marked by a wall that screams of slavery.

i've walked through the busy streets of thailand. i've seen faces of utter brokenness.  i've looked into the eyes of darkness, felt it's fury, and almost crumbled at its overwhelming presence. 

it's one of those times where words wont do justice to what i have seen.  where words most definitely can't describe what i have felt.  my words fail me.

but my failure, my inadequacy, is what brings me back to my first love.  everything within my own strength will never be enough to heal these nations.  never be enough to heal my own soul.  but, luckily i have arms to run into.  arms of a father, arms of a savior, arms of a healer, arms of a lover.  arms strong enough break down walls.  arms big enough to wrap around brokenness.  arms powerful enough to conquer all evil.  

thankfully, even when my words fail me... His love never fails.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Jump In

Sometimes in life you just have to do things that are ridiculous...

like jumping in the ocean fully dressed.

You see, despite the fact that I am legally of age to be considered an adult, I often feel like I still have the heart of an 8 year old.  But then again, I think maybe that's true for all of us... we just don't allow ourselves to believe it.

Just yesterday we took a stroll to the beach.  We didn't have a whole lot of time, and I had already showered for the day (which is a big deal), so I hadn't planned on getting in the water.  In fact, I was perfectly content just to sit on the beach, digging my toes in the sand, enjoying the beauty around me.

Soon enough, I found myself up to the edge of the water.  As much as I hadn't planned on getting wet, I suddenly had this huge urge to just run and jump in the water.  In fact, I could picture it in my head, I could see myself, just like a young child running straight into the waves, giggling the entire time.  I stood there for a long time and rationalized all the reasons why that would be ridiculous.  First off, I absolutely hate walking around in wet clothes and would undoubtedly not have enough time to dry off. Second, I had on clean clothes (which is pretty rare these days) and I had just recently showered.  Thirdly, there was a huge boat full of people docked at the beach, all of which were already staring at me as I stood at the water's edge, clearly pondering the meaning of life.

I stood there for a long time, just rationalizing with myself again and again... over something to silly.  Then, I realized... sometimes in life, you just have to do things that are ridiculous.

So, I turned around, gave my good friend Alicia a huge grin... and then took off into the water... jumping straight into the waves.. giggling the whole time.

In a crazy way, jumping in the water was another step of freedom.  Too often we let ourselves be restrained by rationalizations of what should be, of what society tells us, of the lies that we have allowed ourselves to believe.  It's time to jump in the water, it's time to break down the walls of legalism, it's time to let yourself free.

So what if I was going to have to walk 15 minutes home in wet clothes, so what I had to be a little bit icky for the rest of the day, so what if my clothes and hair were no longer clean... for that moment in time, as I floated in the water just laughing out loud, I was free.  I could have easily let myself miss out on that experience, out of that joy... but for that day, I chose otherwise!  Just like our relationship with God, sometimes we miss out, sometimes we try to rationalize His greatness, sometimes we don't just let ourselves fall head first into His love.

Are you ready to jump in?


"Daily I live with fear- a healthy fear... that I will miss something God has for me... I don't want to be robbed of even one of God's riches by not taking time to let Him invade my life.  By not listening to what He is telling me.  By allowing the routine, pressing matters of my minutes to bankrupts me of time for the most exciting, most fulfilling relationship in life."

Friday, February 11, 2011

Change of Pace

I can be extremely selfish.  There, I said it.

Sometimes that realization cuts me to the core... mostly because it's true.  Prior to the World Race, I had very few responsibilities outside of myself.  Back in those day, I could do things in my own time, in my own way, and I could control every single detail.  Needless to say, that's not really the case anymore.  Back then, I had a specific pace, and I stuck to it.  I took care of me, I looked out for me, and I only worried about what was best for me.

I think our Christian walk can actually look a lot like this sometimes as well.  We can serve the Lord and still be completely selfish about it.  We constantly fall to our knees in prayer asking God to heal us, to make us whole, to make us better.  We continually ask God for more of His presence in our own life, for more of His blessings, His spirit, and His gifts to fall upon us.  We spend hours pleading our case and only seconds pleading for others.  We spend so much timing making sure we are taken care of, making sure we are looked out for, making sure we are getting what is best.

We spend so much time running life at our own pace.

As some of you may know, I had the opportunity to run a 5k around Manila a couple of weeks ago.  At first I had agreed to run the race with two of my teammates, Alicia & Stacey.  About halfway into the race, I was feeling really good.  It felt so nice to stretch my legs again, to compete in a race again, just to run with a purpose.  I looked over at my teammates and could tell they weren't quite thinking the same thing, they were ready to slow down... but I was ready to plow ahead.  In this moment I made the decision to set my own pace, to move ahead, to push forward for what was best for me.  On the turnaround route there just so happened to be a huge monster of a hill.  The joy I had for running just minutes ago had all but disappeared... my legs were burning, my lungs were screaming, and I was all but ready to just call it a day and start walking.  Just about that time, one of our squad leaders, Lia comes running up the hill behind me.  Just to give you a little background on Lia, running is not just an interest for her, it's a passion.  Needless to say, she could easily run circles around me.  As she approached me from behind, I completely expected her to give me her best encouraging grin and pass on by... but much to my surprise, she ran up beside me and instantly stepped into stride with me.  Without saying any words at all, I knew in that moment she had agreed to run right beside me the rest of the race, all the way through the finish line.  I knew that if I needed to slow down, she would slow down and if I needed to run faster, she would run faster.  She was there to see me through.  She changed her pace for me.

Just through that experience God taught me so much about how I should be living life.  Don't get me wrong, this life is a race, and we should never stop moving... but it's not a competition.  There's no prize at the end.  There is no big medal to be draped around your neck.  There is no glory in finishing first.  The glory is in finishing together.  The glory is in fighting for our brothers and sisters.  The glory is in opening our eyes to the people around us, to running the race beside them, and to doing this thing we call life together!

Let's run this race together.  Are you ready for a change of pace?




Saturday, February 5, 2011

Taste of Reality

Reality kicked me in the face yesterday.  And I felt every bit of it.. the shock, the pain, the nausea, the stumbling.  I thought I was prepared.  I thought I was ready to fight.  But the battle snuck up on me... and it all but knocked me out.

I knew coming into Asia that prostitution and trafficking would be present.  It's something we've talked about since day one.  It's a normal topic of conversation when discussing the ministry opportunities on the race.  In fact, it's one of the reasons many of the girls on my squad signed up for this adventure.  It's something that I knew to expect.

But my expectations absolutely failed me.  

While walking along the beach yesterday, I saw this injustice first hand... and it absolutely blind sided me.  I was nauseous, I was broken, I was hurting.  I wanted to scoop up this young girl, look her in the eyes and tell her over and over again that she was loved and that she was worthy of so much more!  I wanted to stare that man in the eyes (after I got over the urge to punch him) and ask him who hurt him, who left him so empty, who broke him.  I just wanted them both to know that there was more... so, so, so much more.

I stumbled my way past.  I took in a deep breath.  I regained my composure and I was reminded that my God is big enough even for this.  This place, despite its breathtaking beauty, is a dark place... but my God is so full of light!  It's time to hit our knees in prayer!  It's time to fight!  It's time for us to prophesy life over the death in this world.  It's time for the nations to see and feel the presence of His love!  It's time for injustices to be broken!  It's time for His promises to be fulfilled. It's time for HIS radiance to shine! 

"Arise!  Let your light shine for all to see.  For the Glory of the Lord rises to shine on you.  Darkness as black as night covers all the nations of the earth, but the glory of the Lord rises and appears over you.  All nations will come to your light; mighty kings will come to see your radiance."  Isaiah 60:1-3

Monday, January 31, 2011

The Journey

Some days I can't believe this is my life. 

In the past 3 days I have flown over 17 hours, passed through over 6 different time zones, and suffered from a severe case of jet lag.  In the past 3 days I have given up caffeine (we'll see how long that lasts!), ran a 5k through the Philippines, and gotten an hour long massage for 4 dollars!  My life is so random, and so crazy... and yet I absolutely love it!

Some days I can't believe that in the past 7 months I have lived on 4 different continents and been in 12 different countries.  Seriously, who does that?  What is even harder to believe is that now I can't imagine life any other way.  I can't imagine life without community. I can't imagine life without poverty.  I can't imagine life without my my beautiful, spirit filled, crazy, prophetic family of 64 people known as the "P-SQUAD".   

My life has changed so drastically in the past 7 months.  I think, speak, and process so differently.  The baby I was 7 months ago has grown up.  My heart yearns for things I never thought it would before.  My life will absolutely never be the same, and for that I am so thankful.

This journey for me hasn't ever really been about finding Jesus.  I found Him a long time ago.  This journey instead has been about learning to surrender, to listen, to speak, to trust, and to love in a way that I never knew was possible.  This journey has been about being exposed to and equipped for whatever God has in store for me after this race comes to an end.  I don't have a clue what the final 4 months will look like (seriously, only 4 months left?!), but I know that my God is a God of great adventure... so I can only imagine what he has in store!

Here's to a new month, a new country, a new continent, and a new season. 

 "It's gonna be wild, it's gonna be great, it's gonna be full of Me!"

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Follow

My bags are packed.  It's time to move on once again, not only to another country but onto another continent.  Usually about this time I start getting antsy to leave.  Usually, I am ready for the chance of pace and the excitement of a new adventure.

...but this month is very different.  

This month I can't help but think of all the people I am leaving behind.  This month I can't help but think about all the great and wonderful things that I will not have the opportunity be a part of.  This month I can't help but think of all the friends that will now be an ocean away.  This month it feels almost like leaving home again.

I think i've known for a long time that I had a heart for Africa, but that I just played it off as being the typical missionary place to go.  Then two months ago, I finally get here and after struggling through those months I was honestly kind of ready to leave.  Don't get me wrong, it had been a great experience, an irreplaceable experience... but one I was not really all that sad to see come to an end.  I had changed my mind about this Africa, I had decided it was not at all what I had expected, and again just thought that I had bought into the cliche of being a missionary here.

Then God brought me to Cape Town.

I never would have realized that in 18 days I would be able to feel like part of a community.  That I would develop lasting relationships.  That I would have such a yearning and a desire to see the hope of these people become reality.  Something about this place has definitely stolen my heart and I can't wait to see what exactly God has planned.  

"Where you lead me... I will follow."