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”

Dear Worry: A Breakup Letter

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Dear Worry,

Ok, I’ll come right out and say it: We need to talk.

This isn’t working out. I want to break up.

It’s not me. It’s you.

Worry, it’s over.

Before you say anything else, before you recount every single one of our last 24 years together, before you tempt me with another outrageous to-do list, before I can give you the chance to celebrate our 25th worry-versary with another stress-induced all-nighter… For once, it’s time that you listen to me. Continue reading “Dear Worry: A Breakup Letter”

My Family Fled, Too

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When I was twenty-two years old, I had the opportunity to go to Cuba for the very first time. Both sides of my family left the island in the sixties, at the dawn of the Revolution, and never returned. They were allowed to leave only with what they could carry. It had been more than 50 years since someone in my direct bloodline had stepped foot back on that island. And I would be the first one. Continue reading “My Family Fled, Too”

On Grief and Gratitude

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We had not said a permanent goodbye to a single person in a whole year. One whole year. I would be lying if I didn’t say I hadn’t felt so lucky in a long time. That’s the thing about overseas missions, most especially when everyone is single and young. There’s a lot of movement. We don’t necessarily have any “lifers.” This isn’t bad; it’s just different. While we’re here, we’re just as committed. While we’re here, the work is just as important.

We could see it coming for miles, the way you know the end of a novel is near not only because the problems are getting solved and the characters are coming back together but also because the stack of pages held by your right hand is becoming thinner with time. We were not surprised, and it came with our blessing. The next season was near for the two staff members who helped start this whole thing.

Continue reading “On Grief and Gratitude”

…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”

There and Back Again: A Thank You Letter

I brace myself for the two questions that follow me everywhere:
(1) How did it go? (2) What did you miss the most?

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I smile and answer the same way each time:
(1) Great! Nothing I expected, but everything I hoped for.
(2) My family, of course, and the overabundant American availability of cheese.

It sounds silly, I know. We always laugh a little afterwards. But it’s true. If you’ve been away for an extended period of time, you recognize both the questions and the unfortunate inability to answer them accurately. How do you explain in a fifteen second conversation the intricacy of a new life? The plain truth is that you don’t. You can’t. So, you tell the truth in snapshots. Continue reading “There and Back Again: A Thank You Letter”

Ordinary Tuesdays: Part 2

IMG_3152It started in Oklahoma. But if I am honest, I suspect it was already beginning long before that. (Read part 1 here.)

My last meal in Oklahoma City was an impulsive breakfast at a Guatemalan café just before my afternoon flight home. I stared at all the murals and wondered if indeed this place might ever happen to me. I spent the rest of that summer dreaming. And then on the whispered invitation of a whim, I applied to join the base and soon enough I was accepted, then suddenly dressed in my graduation gown, walking across a stage, moving back home, packing for Guatemala, and arriving in a country I had never before known to live in this house mostly full of people I didn’t yet know.

Sometimes that’s how life is. The best decisions are also the hardest ones are also the ones that made the least sense in the beginning.

This year has been one massive paradigm shift after another at the base in Guatemala. I have been here for about three and a half months… Things have changed more times than I can count. But I don’t think I’d have it any other way.

Over the last few months, I watched the way things started to align in correlation to our developing relationship with orphanages in the area but said nothing about that Tuesday in an Oklahoma City homeless shelter where prophecy was poured out underneath fluorescent lighting because it simply wasn’t time.

And sometimes that’s how prophecy is: God sharing his heart and inviting you to celebrate the delicate beauty of it before the promises bloom.

In this case, it was his surprise to reveal, not mine. There was no rush, no need to conjure anything up. I did not wait with baited breath. Because when they’re his blueprints, the building schedule will be right on time.

Now here we are making our way through May and I am thrilled to announce that yes, we are beginning partnerships with local orphanages and other organizations. Yes, we are building those relationships and seeking ways to develop discipleship. Yes, we are asking the hard questions, like:

What does it look like to love well? In what ways can we specifically honor these children—many of whom have suffered unthinkable tragedy and abandonment—and provide them with an atmosphere of stability and safety? What does it mean to be ‘long-term’? What is faithfulness on a practical, tangible level? What does it look like to adopt a child into my heart and be as present, as involved, as invested as I can be for the rest of their life? How can we improve already-existing ministry structures? How can we make this the best it can possibly be?

So yes, we are getting involved with orphanages. We’re listening to the Father’s invitation and as a result inviting others to know him, too. But no, this is not an orphan ministry.

These are girls and boys, daughters and sons, with names and birthmarks and favorite sweaters and talents and hobbies and dreams.

So, this is not an orphan ministry. Rather, we are a hands-and-feet, right-in-the-thick-of-it, figuring-it-out-as-we-go ministry. We are a sons-and-daughters ministry. We are a ministry of prodigals learning how to be children again ourselves, understanding what it means to come back home. And it is therefore our deepest hope to echo the Father’s faithful heart for the physically orphaned, the emotionally orphaned, and the spiritually orphaned.

“Once you were Orphan,” I hear him say, “but now you are Daughter. Once you were Orphan, but now you are Son.”

Join me as we pray and seek and strategize and plan. Join me as figure this thing out, as we stumble our way into spring. I’m excited to see where the Lord leads us, and for the chance to sing more stories of his faithfulness on the ordinary Tuesdays of life. It’s hard work, but it’s work worth doing. And friends, I’m all in.

These precious ones are the future. Old labels will no longer bind them. Freedom is calling. The offer is open. Will we answer? Will we start the conversation? Will we partner together as we show the next generation the way?

Such is the gospel. May we always be a people who say yes to such an invitation.

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 Photo by Kara Yohan

Ordinary Tuesdays: Part 1

It was a Tuesday evening and we were sitting on the gymnasium floor after dinner and the boys were dribbling the basketballs again. It didn’t matter how many times I hid them when they were not around; teenage boys have a radar for this kind of thing and it was never long before the screeches of sneakers against the sleek resin of the hardwood floors and the bounce-bounce-bounce of the multiple games of one-on-one and the cheering and the shouting echoed the padded walls of this not-quite-large-enough gym that the lot of us called home for the week.IMG_4144

We sat next to one another in a small circle as far away from the ongoing game as we could. I had already showered but somehow still felt like the fields of central Oklahoma—covered in debris and scorched by the heat of a Midwestern July.

“It is a mystery to me how they still have the energy to play basketball after hours of physical labor in the hot sun,” I told her, laughing I said it. We had already been here for days, spending most of our waking hours removing debris from farm fields and rebuilding houses and neighborhoods destroyed by the tornadoes that ripped through Oklahoma in the spring of that year. The days were long. Somehow the boys kept playing.

She smoothed her hair and arranged a few of the belongings she had underneath her cot.

“It’s true.” The group she brought from northern Texas was almost entirely made up of middle school girls. They made duct tape flowers and willingly prayed over grieving mothers in hope tents. “Who knows?” she said smiling.

There are some people you meet in life that you know walk the talk everyone else spends their life just babbling about. They know they carry the Spirit in them and really believe in the power of God. They are genuinely more interested in his plans more then any other thing they could conjure up themselves. They carry his peace quite tangibly. They’re perfectly pleased with being mouthpieces and instruments in the greater orchestra of heaven’s heartbeat. Such people are rare gifts in this life.

She was such a person. A kind-hearted prophet if I’d ever met one.

Earlier, she asked if Robin had a moment so that she could pray over her about the next season of her life. Robin was preparing to move to a new missions base in Guatemala in September, and was figuring out those details as we led our team. I stood nearby and asked to join along.

So we laid hands and laid out concessions: for wisdom and discernment for Robin in this new season, for peace in the transition, for purpose to be found only in the Lord. And when we finished, we opened our eyes and the woman took a deep breath and said very pensively, “Does that missions base work with orphanages?” Robin said she didn’t know, but she didn’t think so. I took a sip of water.

“Well, I sense the Lord saying that you’re going to be working with orphanages down there.” I smiled big, Robin sighed undecidedly, and the woman laughed with a deep delight that mystified me entirely. I wondered about what she was saying, about the mechanics of it all. What might it look like? Secret hopes began to take root in my heart—if only, if only, if only. But I still had a semester of school to finish. Oh, this restless heart of mine. Perhaps another day.

We finished our chat and then gathered everyone for our evening worship session. I made sure to journal our conversation that night in the lit hallway to the bathroom, rapid scribbles in a dilapidated notebook, because I knew we were standing quite inexplicably on the borderlands of something holy.

(Check out part 2 here.)