This Wasn’t My Idea: A Missionary’s Thoughts on Surrender

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I.

Surrender is an interesting concept.

When we talk about Jesus and “receiving him into your heart” – an abstract, modern phrase designed to summarize the process of both agreeing that Jesus Christ is, indeed, the Son of God and paid the price for our sin through his death and resurrection and as such allowing for him to become both the Savior and the Lord of our lives – what we’re saying is that we are consciously giving up our rights because of our need for rescue. Continue reading “This Wasn’t My Idea: A Missionary’s Thoughts on Surrender”

…And Back to Guate I Go

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The month of October has been a bit of a whirlwind – between booking a last minute flight to Atlanta to attend ministry training, reconnecting with many people, meeting many more, and receiving more supporters – I’m at a bit of a loss for words.

I am preparing a newsletter and a few new blog posts in an attempt to process the ups and downs, so stay tuned for a few new stories that will hopefully shake you up in the best kind of way as they did for me.

That being said, I’m headed back to Guatemala… TOMORROW! My bags are packed. My passport is ready. My heart is at rest. I think I’m still in some shock that this is even happening, because it all felt so impossible for so long. But the Lord is faithful, and what He speaks comes to pass. Even with no words, my heart whispers the unspeakable melodies of his steady and intricate love.

Concerning my support raising, I have reached 83% in my monthly support goal. It’s definitely not too late for if anyone is interested in reaching out to join my support team for any amount on a one-time or monthly basis! I’ve been given permission to return early to Guatemala before because of a really special project I am a part of that I will be announcing in greater detail later this week. I am still looking for partners who will consider joining my monthly support team at any amount, however. If 7 people commit at $50 a month for the next year, then I would be fully supported!!! (Click here to give.)

Please keep me in your prayers as I travel and as I am in the homestretch of raising financial support for the 2014-2015 year. Thank you for all who are praying, supporting, encouraging, and loving! It totally takes a village, and I am blessed to have an incredible village.

And to those who have emailed me recently and still haven’t heard from me… I am working my way down the list and will get back to you sometime this week! I thank you for your patience – it means so much.

U.S.A., it’s been real. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed evenings with the family, Saturday mornings browsing Target, small road trips down wide open roads, and the smiling Florida sun.

Guatemala, I’m ready for new evenings with my other family, cobblestone roads leading to volcanoes, perfect breakfasts with rooftop views, and flowers flowers flowers everywhere.

Sending my love! xo.

A Quick & Simple Test to Find Out If It’s Too Late

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Dreams are a scandalous thing.

At the surface we may not believe so, but they are. Think about it. Consider everyone you know personally that has dreams, and what their dreams are. If you talk about the real things in life with these folks, then you probably know what makes their heart beat faster, what makes their soul spark. If you don’t know, go get some overpriced coffee together and find out.

I am sure that you also have at least a few dreams yourself, and if you don’t know what they are, I am certain your heart does – even if it has not released such information to your brain yet. Spend some time mulling it over; talk it through with a trusted person. I am sure that somewhere inside you, they are there. Continue reading “A Quick & Simple Test to Find Out If It’s Too Late”

She Teaches Me

It started with the vegetables.

I was taken to the market a week before with the others to help shop for dinner; to know who our regular vendors are and to learn how to get there. On the way there, they tried teaching me how to barter. I nodded my head as if I understood but remained overwhelmed by how entirely different this new world was from my own. The market in Antigua is a spider web of sorts—filled with twisting hallways and hanging meats and the heavy smoke of fresh tortillas.

Processed with VSCOcam with m5 presetOn that February day in the market, I stood behind a few teammates as they made their way through and tried to remember how we got to there. But everywhere I turned were more baskets of food, more bouquets of flowers, more and more and more of the same kinds of things. I took quick mental notes—the colors of the walls (blue), vendors nearby (party decorations, exotic flowers, iced fish), the width of the hallways (increasingly more narrow).

My teammates introduced us to one another as they pulled out the shopping list. The vendor smiled as she shook my hand and told me her name. To her left was her husband. She wore colorful clothes with intricate Mayan patterns and a brightness that rested lightly on her face.

The girls began to list their order—cucumbers, carrots, red peppers, spinach, and cilantro—and the man helpfully began to arrange all the food. The woman kindly approached me.

You’re new? she asked. When did you arrive? Are you enjoying Antigua?

I smiled meekly as I introduced myself in a trembling Spanish that hesitantly crept off my tongue. She nodded and smiled, coaxing the words out. To the left, the girls debated about how much to multiply tonight’s dinner recipe. The woman asked me what we do in Antigua, why we live here.

“We’re evangelical missionaries,” I said timidly. Such words felt strange coming out of my mouth. But she smiled. “¿De veras?” she exclaimed. “¡Qué alegre!” She caught a tomato from falling off a crate as she told me that she is a believer, too.

I am certain my face lit up. “Really?” She nodded and before I could say another word, out spilled the story of her faith. I wondered at the thought of it: two women from different ends of a hemisphere meeting one another and constructing quiet ebenezers in the middle of the afternoon in a concrete building on market day. Building memorials of his faithfulness. Breathing memoirs of his love.

And so our very first conversation, wedged in between broccoli and eggplants, was about the unlikely miracles that have collided with her life—the fingerprints of the Father finding her again and again and again, the continual faithfulness of his promises quite literally through generations.

When we parted ways, all our bags of food in tow, I barely had words. And every time since then for the last 4 months, when there has been time and we’ve had the chance to talk, I am humbled and amazed and stunned and blessed. I came here because of the Father’s invitation, and all I have wanted is to show other people the depth of his love. And initially I wondered how I might even begin to teach anyone about the Father’s heart, but the truth is that all this time right here in the middle of the market, in the hallways, in the streets… wherever we are when we are together, she teaches me instead.

I am left speechless by the intricate beauty of such a well-worn faith. And I am reminded that every last piece of this greater story, of this whole life, is the Lord’s. He is the one bringing hearts back to himself. There’s nothing for any of us to conjure up.

All he is asking of me and you and any of us, really, is one thing: to come along with him on the journey ahead.

And Then We Were Seven

Processed with VSCOcam with t1 presetWe said rushed goodbyes because the public shuttle was already running late and people had planes to catch. The driver climbed up onto the top of his van, a dull shade of gray, and piled up the girls’ luggage, securing it while we all kind of stood around each other—fumbling around the reality of the moment. Someone held Misha, our rambunctious guard dog. But strangely even she seemed melancholy.

I hate goodbyes. It’s the hardest part about this lifestyle, the constant influx and outflow of people. When the moment finally arrives, I can’t make eye contact and I definitely can’t speak without becoming a tiny little puddle on the floor. On this day, standing outside the gate of our house, I say nothing and look nowhere and am still in great danger of puddling quite inconveniently all over the sidewalk.

When the driver hopped off the van, he said loudly in a gruff English that they needed to hurry. I bit my lip. The van was filled with older Western tourists wearing straw hats and billowy shirts, their eyebrows furrowed at the prospect of being late due to the prolonged goodbye of strangers. I traded quick hugs with closed eyes and hoped that the tiny notes I had written them both would be enough to convey how important they have each been to me in this season of my life. My hilarious, protective, insightful older sisters; how I missed them already.

They were brave, with cheerful smiles no doubt fueled by the adrenaline of finally returning to the familiar landscapes of a life in north Georgia—a land filled with old friends and enough plumbing capacity to flush toilet paper!—after months and months away. (It’s the little things, folks.)

So we each had a quick moment and then they jumped into the van; the doors slamming shut and the van speeding off, leaving a trail of dust as we stepped out into the street to wave goodbye until they turned the corner. I sighed.

We returned inside the house and sat back down at the table. Our numbers were getting smaller, and would continue to shrink in the weeks to come. Next week, three more people leave. But to be honest, we can’t say we didn’t see it coming. We did. We knew. But we hardly expected it so soon, all the changes clustered together in a tangled knot of calendar days barely weeks apart.

Things are shifting here. The snow is melting. Responsibilities are being transferred, fresh ideas are brewing, new opportunities are opening. At first it was slow, but the pace is quickening; with changes coming more rhythmically, like the contractions that preface a birth.

It’s uncomfortable, to say the least.

In the midst of these contractions, some days I wake up and ask Him if the risk is worth it. Will we end before we begin? Will we die in the middle of this painful labor? Will the complications become too much? Will we even know how to take care of what will be given to us?

I wait for carefully laid out solutions. Instead, He holds my hand and tells me that we’re ready.

These are the birthing pains. He’s making way for a new thing. I don’t know what it is, but I know it will be good. I can feel the excitement that’s budding, the anticipation that is blooming in fields peppered with young flowers unfurling like question marks. He hasn’t promised me all the answers, but He has promised me Himself.

And even with the risks that hang in the balance, even with the answers I don’t have, I trust Him when He whispers that yes-yes-yes: what’s being birthed will be worth it. 

faith leaps and pilgrim’s feet

It’s funny how songs become part of seasonal soundtracks without our even realizing it.

This song, as well as its entire album, became the continuous loop playing in my room around this time last year. I had a regimen: wake up, make breakfast, eat, open Spotify, get ready for the day. I had a research fellowship on my university’s campus, so on many mornings I would be pinning my hair up and putting on slacks to the sound of this song.

There is something particular about it. This song stirs more than emotion. It’s an anthem that calls out our appetite for more than apathy, for the deep and the beautiful and the radical and the holy. It asks one question. Do I dare to trust You beyond what I know?

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I leave for Guatemala tomorrow.

My ticket was confirmed about 2 weeks ago. Purchasing a one-way ticket to a country that you have not yet even visited is a much more emotional experience then you might expect. It involved a lot of blank staring and pacing. I will confess that this whole process has been as un-Pinterest as they come. Instagram and Pinterest do a great job at idealizing the beauties of travel and wandering, but they’re not telling you the whole story. I forgot how much I like constant access to a full closet. To a dresser. How much I enjoy the independence that comes with driving my own car. In my own country.

But the sojourn is about sacrifice. It is not for the faint of heart, let me tell you.

For the last 2 months I have asked myself at least once a day if I know what I’m doing. I have wrestled with doubt and fear and insecurity and the unknown. And yesterday, this little song pops up again. I stop what I’m doing.

There is something much more tangible for me about borderless trust and wandering feet these days.

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I look at this next chapter of my life and it’s lots of unknowns. Lots of trust falls. But there is something steady inside of me, an anchor in the middle of emotional chaos, that reminds me that this is the right thing. It’s the risky thing, but it’s the right thing.

I could spend my whole life doing the “right things” (i.e. meeting all the social expectations) and still miss God. Do we realize that? We could sit in the middle of a church building every time it’s open and still miss Him. At what cost are we choosing the comfortable? I cannot tell you how deeply this moves me.

Life looks different for everyone, of course. Opportunities come in seasons. How dull I should think the world would be if we all lived the same exact life. It is my hope that whatever our lives, whatever our opportunities, we would live in the borderless trust of His faithfulness and the simple rest of His love. Do not be afraid to let Him take you deeper. Keep your hands open. He wants to show you more of His heart.

I myself am a little ragamuffin being drawn by her Great Love to a beautiful story of deeper depths and higher heights. And I am excited and I am nervous and a little scared. But expectant and hopeful and open, all at once.

Here’s to the journey. I’ll let you know when I land.

pilgrimfeet

eucharisteo

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I first saw it scrawled out in italicized font on her arm, a permanent reminder. I tried not to stare, but it was so beautiful. I asked her about it, and her green eyes lit up as she explained it to me.

Eucharisteo. Life-filling gratitude.

The word is beefy, comes from old Greek; an interesting collection of sounds strung together that make my mouth dance as I say it. Eucharisteo. The kind of thankfulness that fills your life. The kind of thankfulness that is a wellspring of joy.

Isn’t that what we all want–a full life? To bubble over with joy? Could it be so simple?

Well, all I know is that I forget how to be thankful. But today, I fight the lie that whispers that I do not have enough. That I need so much more. That I live an empty life. Today, I am thankful. Continue reading “eucharisteo”

found

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At the end of 2011, I prayed for a word that would serve as a marker for the shiny new year of 2012–sparkling with adventure, promise, and wonder. I thought for days, and the word that settled, the only one that kept ringing in my head, was “find.” (You can find that blog post here.)

Find. Okay, I thought. I can do that. I can find something. I mean, I had 365 days, right? I would be travelling to the other end of the globe for a couple months. Surely I would find whatever big thing Jesus had for me.  For some reason, I always think it has to be this “big thing.” Fireworks, flyers, and neon signs included. Oh, what a small box I fit Him in.

I did find a lot of things this year. I found that I love Lay’s Seaweed chips. I found that living in community is really hard but really worth it. I found that I don’t need anywhere near the amount of clothing that I thought I did.  I found that, try as I may, my GI tract is not a fan of Thai curry. I found that public transit is not as scary as I thought it was. I found my voice, found that my words matter. I found the immense power in the prayers of the faithful. I found so much beauty in so much simplicity.

I also found that the world is a much darker place than my wide-eyed and fresh-faced nineteen year old self really understood as I prepared all winter and spring for a summer working with a ministry in Thailand that seeks to eradicate the sex trade. Things change in your understanding of reality when red light district vendors continually invite you to live sex shows, when they show you a menu of fetishes and even encourage you to “mix and match,” when you watch the women you call sisters trapped in an industry that continues to commodify them by way of empty men swimming in entitlement and hard alcohol.  Continue reading “found”