Wednesday, October 28, 2015


 Sue* was 98. Short, petite, hunched over, and wrinkled. Full of arthritis. But she would walk circles around the facility with her walker, and she would hum and sing. She was quiet and unassuming. The type pf person who's always around and just fades unnoticed into the background. Nobody knew a lot about her or talked with her a lot. Nobody thought much about it.

I would play music from the WWII era on the sound system in the background. It played quietly all day. This helped everybody feel comfortable. It was the music all the residents had loved and lived by in an era where there was no television, men were off fighting a dangerous war, and food was rationed for everyone. Music was the glue that held our nation together and these people had in engrained in their souls. I loved it, too. I found it to be very therapeutic.

One day, Sue began singing a familiar song at the top of her lungs. Perfectly. I laughed and asked her if it was her favorite....
 "Oh yes. They played this one in the factory every day. We all loved it!"
"The factory? Did you work outside the home?"
"Of course I did! We all did. It was just the way during the war."
"What did you, do, Sue?"
"Oh, you know. Just the usual. Worked a rivet gun in the airplanes."
"Wait. You were a riveter? Like......a Rosie The Riveter?! That is the coolest thing I have ever heard. I have always been in love with that concept. How amazing! How glamorous! You women did so much to pave the way for women in society. For what women do today and how they are viewed! This is unbelievable! A real riveter right in front of me! I want to hear all about it! Tell me everything. How fun!"
"Honey, come to my room a shake. I have something to show you."
I went to Sue's room. She pulled a framed picture out of a drawer and handed it to me. It was a much younger and most beautiful Sue. I almost wouldn't have recognized her except for the fact that her blue eyes were exactly the same. She was in overalls. Standing in front of a plane holding a rivet gun. Covered in grease. With bright red lipstick on. Everything you would imagine from the posters we've all seen. Except her eyes held a sadness to them. They didn't sparkle with excitement and glamour.
"Sue. This is amazing. You are an icon. You stand for so much that happened and is today. Why don't you talk about this? Why doesn't everybody know about this?"
Sue just chuckled. "You young ones always about the glamor and recognition. To you, Rosie the Riveter is some amazing beautiful deal. But to us, it was just a normal thing on a normal day. We never thought it was fun, wonderful, glamorous, or that it was changing history. We were simply seeing a need and wanting to help with the war effort. Wanting to do our part. It was exhausting, dirty, painful, dangerous, and lonely. It smelled bad. And it was utterly common. There is nothing special about it."
"Well, Sue, it turns out it was a pretty amazing thing later. How do you feel, knowing how people feel about it all now?"
"Darling, it just goes to show you. The most normal and mundane things can end up having the biggest impact later. The question is whether you go looking for that or whether you're just trying to do your part in a world that is desperate for someone to do the exhausting and dirty work unnoticed.  Don't you forget that."

Sue, I haven't.

*Name has been changed for privacy reasons

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Sunday afternoon daydreams, shattered hearts, and new chapters.

As she sat at the table furiously penciling out how to make this paycheck cover everything, her mind wandered. She was transformed into a street in the middle of Kenya. A crowded, dirty street. There was a huge garbage dump there. And that little boy was digging through it. Looking for what, she didn't know. Food probably. Hoping to find something to sell, maybe. But something. The friend she was with seemed to know the boy. He shouted out a greeting in Swahili and before long the boy was walking and talking alongside them. She marvelled at his young age. It was apparent that the child had been living on these streets. He was filthy. No shoes. Smelly. Too skinny. And higher than a kite. It was the glue. The kids who tried to survive on the streets usually ended up huffing it to subside hunger and numb the hopelessness and fear they were feeling.
The whole concept crushed her. She just wanted to wrap them in her arms, tell them their creator is crazy about them, and let them play as kids should. As they walked the streets chatting with other kids, some joined them and some refused. They all had the same problems: Running away from home or told to leave and having nowhere and nobody in which to find safety. A few of the kids agreed to walk away from the streets and come back to the boy's home for rehabilitation and reintegration. But she wondered, would it work? Would it stick? And the ones that came only to run away would break the hearts of the missionaries she worked for. Hundreds of thoughts were flying through her head and she was struck by the harshness of the work that her friends did day in and day out. 

Her mind then flashed to Texas and the strange time she had there. Living as a "missionary" in the midst of a wealthy southern town. Taking buses everywhere and experiencing for the first time how difficult it can be to live without a car. Trying to offer hope to the thousands of homeless but seeing little improvement. Working to end human trafficking in brothels. Educating the church. Trying to help the girls. Being chased by pimps. Understanding more than she wanted to about this dark underground world. And seeing just how much evil and damage a person can cause. 

How did she go from there to South Africa, where kids live a life of tough experiences and dangers? Rape statistics at an alarming high. Parents often abandoning their children. Segregation causing deep economical and emotional wounds. And her friends live and work here every day. She was there just long enough for it to feel normal before being ripped away and sent home. And that was enough to break her heart for the country and her friends that struggled to make a difference in it. 

And her mind wandered back to the table she sat at. And the budget. These memories seemed so removed from the worries before her. Like a distant dream that almost seemed to be scenes in a movie rather than real life. After all of that, how is she here? No money. Not able to even afford renting a place to live. Working a "normal" job again. Trying to make ends meet while desperately longing to be making a bigger difference in the world. Starting school all over again, sure of what she's working towards but not sure how to handle living while she does? The most simple, mundane season she's had in decades is suddenly the most painful, most difficult. Because she no longer fits into the box she's found herself back in. She no longer wants to work in a job many are content in for years. She's seen too much and can't forget it. The heart she left with when she flew across the world got shattered along the way and the pieces are scattered in the soil of Kisumu. The concrete of old brothels in Houston. And the bush of South Africa. 

Tomorrow she will turn the page to the next section of her story.  A very different and less colorful section: America. College. Studying. Broke. Not sure where and how to live. And trying to figure out how this new person she's become will do in this environment. She feels like she doesn't have much to show for the last 4 years: Debt. A very old car. No home and no possesions. But the one thing she does have has come to mean more than it ever did before. She has hope and absolutely nothing can take that away from her. 
She an

Monday, June 15, 2015

Hidden in Plain Sight.

Today I was quick to judge a customer, placing them in a category I had no right to and was thoroughly embarrassed when I later learned of their very tragic situation. As I contemplated this on my drive home, I began to recall many times in which I have seen people misunderstood. Or when I myself overlooked someone right in front of me, failed to see how painful their life may be, or just plain sat in self-absorption until I was oblivious to the needs placed at my feet. There have been too many instances to count. And in the last few years, I have also been on the other end of things more than I like. I'm becoming pretty darned sure that is because I need to understand what it's like if I will spend my future counseling others.

I have only tasted a fraction of what a life in ministry and missions may be like. I am fully aware that I have dear friends who understand these intricacies with way more depth than I ever will. But none-the-less, let me use my tiny window of experience to paint a picture of what someone dear to you may be experiencing. I'm not saying these things to get feedback for myself.  My goal is simply bringing awareness to this stuff....

In the last few years, I have worked for several ministries.  Being a missionary in a place like Texas doesn't seem like too huge of a thing. But while there, I experienced most of the issues missionaries would: Isolation, culture shock, severe loneliness, unhealthy authority, spiritual abuse, no way out, exhaustion, weariness, too much pouring out and not enough getting poured into, unrealistic expectations, financial hurdles, physical harm. These are all things that I would find most understood by my friends living in foreign countries.  Going from that to Africa was beautiful, but African living isn't always easy and at times it was very lonely. Being in a place where people and things have a completely different rhythm and having to navigate it is a hard thing. I didn't always try to talk to friends back home about it because if they haven't been, they don't understand. Then the decision to come home and plant myself was one that began in excitement over being back where I know everything and everyone. Except that didn't happen.......things were suddenly different at church. I was beyond broke from the years of ministry and found I can't find a way to get back on my feet. Going from "missionary" to nothing without a way to provide and survive and feeling none of your skills apply here is a very common struggle for those reintegrating. Most of my friends had bonded in my absence and I suddenly felt I had no place. Wasn't needed or noticed or wanted. Things had gone on and changed. But even more than that, I had. I am a different person than the last time I lived here. Very different. In a lot of positive ways (I learned, am wiser, have grown, and understand the world a bit better). But also in some painful ones. I now have people and places that my heart has grown to love and I'm always thinking about them. Missing them. I suffer from some severe grief or even PTSD from some of the darker things I experienced where I was. Some days I have no energy and start crying at random times because I'm too emotional to stop myself. It might be that I really miss a friend in SA or the things I got to do there. Sometimes it's a sudden memory of something crazy that was said or done to me in Texas and in the moment I am overwhelmed with pain from it. With grief that it wasn't what I had envisioned and dreamed and I had to remove myself. And the problem is that it's hard to explain and the people who are used to the old you aren't able to understand this time. I am really struggling financially, too. This is something else that all missionaries and a large number of those in ministry deal with but don't like talking about. We often serve full-time until we have to stop for a while because we're more than broke. Not because we're trying to look good enough or do good enough. But because we love it and we're wired for it. We only stop when we have to. These are things I feel often go un-noticed by the very bodies who sometimes commission us. We come home and a lot of the details are missed or forgotten. It's hard.  It can feel as if we are hidden in plain sight. Seen, but not seen. And I only share it all because I don't want people who work so hard in the Kingdom to become jaded and burnt out due to lack of care. Let's have our eyes open. Let's think about and notice those who need someone to love on them, care for them, simply see where they are and what they're going through, and help them heal and restore when it's needed.

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

A couple years, 7 ministries, and a continent later.

The most common question I am asked since returning to the states is "So, is it hard to go between cultures?" Most of the time I answer "You have no idea." But what I'm really thinking about is the people I have worked for and what I saw.....
The last few years of traveling and working for various Bible teachers, pastors, missionaries, and ministries have taught me one truth: People in these positions have a LOT of unique hardships that are rarely seen. And a lot of issues that their position brings with it. Things rarely talked about. Rarely understood by anyone who isn't in a similar place. Rarely dealt with. And they spend years feeling shame and the need to hide it. But how do I explain that to people here? How do I make it come to light? And what can I do about it, anyway? How do I handle the passion I've developed to see refreshment, wholeness, hope, and healing brought to people in these places?

Add to that that I've been going through a season of really struggling with my life. The last years, what I've been doing, where I am heading. I've been overwhelmed with all of it. I've often felt like I've simply wandered and floundered around the globe and when long-term missions or the ministries in Texas didn't work out like I'd hoped, I became convinced it was due to my short-comings. That I am just not good enough for anything but making coffee. During this last trip to Africa, I found myself having a bit of a freak-out. Single, in my 30s, more than broke, no plans after the trip, nowhere to go, nobody to go "home" to in any of my places. I was depressed. 
Until a friend helped me look at things from the outside. 

One day over coffee, she suggested that I think about what my passions are. What do I really want? What has God wired into me? And what's stopping me? So I thought. And I realized that I could help those in unique positions. That perhaps the very reason for the experiences I've had the last few years may be to see the need that needs to be met. To experience a taste of what it's like to be in difficult positions, and to know what it feels like. And then to get trained to help. 
So I decided to return home after Africa, scratch everything, and begin all over again. Make every decision based on what I love and know I can do and be, rather than on what is easiest, fastest, or other people's opinion.  It's been lonely, scary and exhausting figuring everything out. But it's also been kind of exciting. I've decided to go back to school. The best way for me to help others is to spend a few years getting equipped and trained.  For the next season of life, I will be studying and working hard to get a degree in Behavioral Sciences and Psychology. I'll add a class in Pastoral Counseling and then see where the Lord takes it. 

I also decided to do some of the things I've always loved but believed didn't matter. 
I recently picked up my guitar again. I've marked MJC's theatre tryouts on my calendar. And since I was 3, I've wanted to dance. I was told my whole life that I should stick to my music because I was overweight. But no more. In September I will be slipping my feet into ballet slippers for the very first time. 

It's never too late. And your passions are put there for a reason. What have you always felt strongly about? What have you always longed to do? Learn? Experience? Don't let age, opinions, or easy ways out define your decisions. God designed you with certain passions unique to you for a reason. Go. Do it. Be scared. 
But sign up for it anyway. 

Saturday, April 25, 2015

To be brave would be an awfully big adventure.

It's a word or phrase that seems to be everywhere. 
When you pick up a book it's hidden until the 3rd chapter, when you suddenly see it pop out at you. It's somehow in all the sermons you listen to, cleverly woven it. 
Regardless of the chosen playlist or genre, it will find it's way into your Spotify. 
And when you try to watch a movie to stop thinking about it for a few minutes, it ends up being the theme of the entire film. God's so incredibly creative and clever like that. When He wants you to learn something, there's just no use whatsoever trying to run from it. Might as well buckle your seatbelt and get ready for a ride. 

It began in a conversation with a woman in South Africa. As I briefly explained what I did, she said "You are very brave." I kind of snickered before I could stop myself. Brave?! Nope. I just hang out and help people. It's fun for me. Nothing very brave about that.  But more people from home kept using that word in communication with me. I just thought of how ridiculous that is. Especially because as I was in South Africa, I began to experience some pretty intense anxiety and depression. Something I had not dealt with in quite a number of years. That certainly pointed out that I wasn't brave. I whined and complained to a dear friend about it all the time and the only thing I felt was unstable. (Thankfully she reminded me it's okay to be a mess.)

When I found out I was coming home sooner than expected, it hit me hard. I cried. And complained. And was angry. A LOT.  I freaked out about leaving. I freaked out about separating from my friends. I freaked out about changes. I freaked out about coming home. I freaked out about the future. I just felt not ready for all of it. My "older sister" brought me to the airport. She hugged me and told me I could "be brave."  But all I was that day was so afraid of everything that the moment I had to separate from her at security, I simply began sobbing and didn't stop for about 7 hours. (The poor man next to me on that plane probably had the most awkward flight of his life.) 

After getting home, I couldn't decide if I wanted to see people or hide out. My emotions were all over the place and quite unpredictable. The thing that was so hard for me was that everyone wants to meet up with me and then spend time telling me I'm so brave. Which feels like the biggest lie in the world. I don't like that people see me that way while I'm sobbing as I drive home every night and texting Africa in tears saying "I can't do this. I don't want to do this. I'm so lost here. I just want to go back." But the thing is.....every time I turn on music, there's this theme of being brave going on with all the top songs. Every conversation with Africa ends up with "Be brave." Every book I open has the word popping out within pages. Every podcast I click on wants to tackle the idea. I can't get away from it! So I decided to do the only logical it. Understand it. Dissect it. And be it. 

The more I've dived into studying the concept of bravery, the more I see that I knew nothing about it. My ideas of bravery before now included superheros seemingly without fear. Firefighters marching straight into flames. Soldiers working hard to fight for and protect our freedom. Those are all the pictures I'd put on the posters that plaster the wall of the grade-school classroom. And of course, when asked who the bravest person in the world is, I'd say Jesus. So naturally, I turned to scripture to study how He did things. My ultimate goal being to strive for His example.
This is when things began to get very interesting.

Jesus. Brave. Okay. What kinds of things did Jesus do? 
He stood up for what was right despite what was popular. 
He defended and protected to unseen and forgotten. He redeemed the ruined. 
He faced the painful and the ugly rather than hide from it. He wept with those He loved. He felt all the emotions all the time about everything. He put others first. He served. He was humble. He didn't stop to build any form of home or empire or estate, even though He could've had the best. (“Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.” -Matthew 8:20) He loved deeply. He hurt deeply for others. He noticed others-like really noticed them. He was honest. He rested when He needed it. He was real and vulnerable and raw. He often hid away to be with The Father. He truly sat with and listened to others. He looked into the eyes of the unwanted. The vile. The dirty. And told them of a King who was crazy about them. He believed when nobody else did. And He was simply himself. At all times. As I was thinking through these things, the whole picture of bravery in my head took on a new life. A new color. And a new form. I began to see what it could look like for me to be brave:

I can be weak. I can cry all I need to. I can be messy. I can be in a season where I have no clue what I'm doing with my life. I can feel lost. Homeless even. Unsure. Small. And I can be completely open about it without feeling any shame. As long as I am loving, leaning on, and putting my trust in the Lord. As long as I live in obedience to Him. As long as my daily goal is for others to experience His love, redemption, and grace. As long as I am serving and selflessly loving others. And as long as His Kingdom is what matters to me at the end of the day. As long as the mess isn't an excuse for inaction. You see, we don't have to have it all together. In fact, we don't have to have any of it together. Being brave just means that even in the junk we don't cease being crazy about who Jesus is and willing to be like Him. He takes care of the rest. Is that beautiful news for you today? It sure is for me. I think I'd like to try being mighty brave.

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Easter Lessons.

This Easter was unlike any I can recall. 
Sure, I love Easter. Best day of the year! 
Everything about this world, life, who we are and how we do it rests on one man, an incomprehensible sacrifice, and an empty tomb. I adore Him. 
Most Easters consist of either being with the high school ministry in Mexico or celebrating at Big Valley Grace. It’s been years since there’s been any change in that. Until today. 

All week, the Lord has been convicting, teaching, working overtime on me. 
It hasn’t been the warm fuzzies. In fact, it’s been the total opposite.
Hard. Harsh. Tears. Conviction. Asking for a contrite heart and brokenness. 
Eish. (As South Africans say.) Watch what you pray for. 

I began the week being disappointed and trying not to sit in hurt and hold any form of a grudge. In the middle of desperately wrestling through forgiveness, I felt God saying “I want you to specifically do ____ for them."
“But Lord, I’m in the middle of explaining to you why I’m upset. 
How can I possibly do that when they’ve hurt me?” 
“Because I said so.”
So I begrudgingly obeyed. Feeling myself acting like a spoiled little child who stomps off to obey what she’s been commanded to do because she knows she can’t win this round. 

As the week progressed, the Lord gave me several opportunities to love on several people I just didn’t want to. Over and over. I did it with a grudge. What I really wanted was to withhold myself from them until they saw the light of things. Until they knew how I was feeling about their actions. And THEN. THEN I might decide to love them well. If they earn it. But knowing this to be quite an unhealthy way of doing relationships, I obeyed Jesus. In the middle of all that, I heard Him tell me very clearly that I needed to expand my willingness to love selflessly and give until it hurts. Now that’s one of those concepts that we often talk about, but it’s been a long time since He gave me a serious opportunity to learn this through action. I fought that. I could handle being selfless and forgiving and even loving well someone who has been really affecting my heart. But to give to them until it hurts? That was a very sore subject for days. And I finally gave in, knowing it’s pointless to try to argue with Jesus. And besides, it’s something I knew deep down I needed to be re-learning right now. 

This morning I was given another opportunity to lay aside what I wanted to do in the name of loving well. It was hard, but I knew the action itself is sometimes a physical act of forgiveness for us, so I stomped to it, mumbling grumpy things under my breath. And then thoroughly crying afterwards. (Hey. Forgiving someone doesn’t just make it all happy again overnight!) Then I went to church. And the pastor asked us if we’ve ever had to work at forgiving someone who didn’t even know they were hurting us. And how hard was it? He proceeded to remind us that Jesus did just that on the cross. His act was extravagant, totally selfless, forgiving, and giving until it hurt. (More than we’ll ever be able to comprehend.) He did all of this for every human-knowing how full of sin and ugliness and selfishness and rejection for Him we would be.  Can you imagine?!?! I can’t! He did all of that. with full foresight! 
And here I am whining about things that in comparison don’t matter one little iota. Can I live a life of generosity and extravagant love and forgiveness and selflessness? Without expecting anything back? Can I give until I am hurting and sacrificing, without it being tied to what the recipient will do for me? Freely and in joy? Perhaps without them even knowing what it cost? I have to try. Because my Jesus did it. And I want to reflect Him. 

This year, Easter has been different. It’s been a good long look at the self-centered person inside. It’s been brokenness over the ugly thoughts and desires I can have. It’s been realizing I’ve barely begun to grasp what loving lavishly and extravagantly at all times looks like. And it’s been the knowledge that I truly don’t know what it really means to give until it hurts. But I have the perfect example. The empty tomb meant resurrection. New hope began. The world was changed. And He continues all of those things.  It didn’t stop that day. He is always at work on beautiful resurrections of things in our lives, hearts, homes, families, relationships. He restores. He brings things back from the dead. He makes them beautiful and gives new hope and a new beginning. And He even changes our entire world. The empty tomb doesn’t just mean Jesus was raised from the dead. It means everything else gets to be, too. 

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Broken Tiles.

It's been an interesting season. South Africa has swept in and whisked me off my feet. I've found myself falling in love with this place and missing others all at the same time. Living in a foreign country that sometimes feels so familiar and sometimes feels totally alien. Learning new things daily. Taking in the colorful tapestry of culture, language, accents, and places. And then-like being hit over the head from behind-suddenly trudging through the mud and muck of some very difficult things that I didn't see coming. Finding myself in the presence of that old familiar voice I never wanted to hear again. Anxiety. Depression even. Waking up one day and being shocked when I glance in the mirror to see that brokenness and messiness have hit me in a new and unique way and the person who was once inside this shell is somehow very different right now. That realization is quite frightening at first. And was fought against. Despised, even. Until finally accepted. Which is actually the best moment of all, because even though I may not see it all leave at that moment, I begin to learn the meaning of it. I begin to understand that only when I am shattered and helpless on my own can I truly begin serving others well.

I have rarely felt this many emotions at once. A visa extension was denied and instead of coming home in June or July, I am on a plane in 2 weeks. I went through some serious sobbing when I found out. Anxiety flooding my veins as if it was taking over and draining me of my life. I don't feel ready to leave this place. The people. New and old friends. The way Jesus has absolutely blown my mind with sunsets, people, nature, animals, children, culture, ministry. There've been days of watching Him work overtime. And days of talking, exploring, learning, and laughing with dear ones. Days of working alone and quietness and wrestling with myself. Sickness. Good health. Loneliness. All of it. And it's going to end more suddenly and abruptly than wanted. 

Yesterday I awoke a bit different. A bit more like the person I am used to. 
A spark in my eye and an extra jump in my dance. (My feet aren't thanking me. Zumba blisters is a thing and they're not happy that I'm "all about the bass" lately.) There may be many things that are disappointing me right now-places and people and things that are taking me by difficult surprise. There may be the biggest mix of emotions ever felt at once. Emotions that change by the hour sometimes. Trepidation over a future I know nothing about. Will it be hard to adjust to things and will others understand? Will I fit back in or have to start over? Is there a place for me? What'll I do? Who will do it with me? How do I live? No idea. No plans. No fall-backs. No "Well, if THAT doesn't work out I'll just......." 

Yesterday the Holy Spirit whispered to my heart. He reminded me that this is the opportunity for the greatest adventure yet. And that it's okay to have a huge knot in my stomach right now. It's okay to say "I have no Earthly idea what the heck I'm doing." As long as I still choose to step onto the ride, lift my hands, and allow the operator to be in charge rather than insisting I understand where it's headed, how fast, what waits for me, and how long it'll take to get there. 
It's okay to feel all the things. It's okay to be in a million pieces. I am seriously learning that there is a way to absolutely flourish in that state. And do it beautifully. 
Being honest about things and refusing to sit in a dark self-focussed corner. It is possible to use that soft and sensitive state to love even better and gentler and more fully than before. After all, Jesus served all of humanity the very most when He was in His messiest, weakest, and most shattered state. One beyond any I will ever know. He spoke, encouraged, loved, took care of, and lived an example in the middle of unbearable pain. And that is the balance I must learn. To stop being ashamed of it and allow it to make me more beautiful even if I don't understand how that works. All I know is that when you have a bunch of shattered pieces of broken tile from different things and places, and you pick them up and put them all together, you have one of the most beautiful inventions of all time. A mosaic. Some of it is bright, bold, and beautiful. Some of it soft and lovely and inviting. Some of it even reflects whatever is around it back onto itself to be glimpsed in the light of the colorful beauty. It becomes something to behold, one piece at a time. And that is what I long for. That is what we should all want to be.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Living In The Blender.

Most of last night was spent laying in the dark with eyes wide awake. 
That seems to happen a lot these days. 
I was upset about so much of the injustice I have seen and experienced here. 
A vivid imagination was playing scenarios over and over on the walls of my mind, 
continually upset about the unfairness that I have experienced even in a few short months. Ridiculous fees that were unwarranted. Someone (I probably trusted) stealing good money and a phone from me. Anger burned under the surface, wanting to find just the right moment and spot to explode. 

This morning my dear friend reminded me that these are common things in South Africa. I must not allow anger and bitterness to consume me, or I will be swallowed whole like so many here. This is the way the enemy is at work in these parts, and I have to let it go. (Let it GOOOOO. Let it GOOOOO. There. It’s in your head for a week now. You’re welcome.) All of this was coming from someone who’s repeatedly been robbed, mugged, and treated unfairly by those who should’ve been safe. To witness her attitude completely put me in check. I can’t imagine all she’s been through. 

My entire morning and then some was spent in tire shops, trying not to impatiently tap my foot and make it obvious that I am not a fan of the pace with which things are done here. Can’t they see I was dressed in my dance gear and trying to squeeze Zumba in at the gym? What was their problem? I thought to myself how it will be such a comfort to be back in the states. And as soon as that thought entered my mind, something in me immediately said “Will it, though?!” I had a sinking feeling that little voice was very onto something. Something unsettling. I didn’t want to think about it, so I tried to get lost in my book. And ran smack into Kelly Minter describing the challenges of re-integration and reverse culture shock after spending time in the Amazon. Her beautiful and colorfully crafted words resonated so well that I believe she just may have taken a glance into my brain before writing them. 

Here I was, sitting in a tire shop, reading about what I will soon experience upon returning to the U.S.  A sweet woman sat down next to me and asked me where home is. ( A question I am asked daily because as soon as I speak I give myself away.) 
For some reason, I completely froze. I didn’t quite know how to answer her. Nothing I could have said to make it simple seemed right. I tried to maintain my calm composure as I slightly freaked out on the inside. Home. Well, do you mean the small Dutch community I was raised in? Haven’t lived there for a long time.  How about the mountains my grandparents were forest rangers in-where I hiked and explored every summer? Or the beautiful Oregon coast that hosted my Spiritual growth and taught me about unconditional love? Perhaps it’s the Santa Cruz redwoods and the small conference centre where I worked and lived nestled away- finding Jesus and myself among the canopy of those old beautiful giants? Maybe home is the safety, beauty, and serenity of my friends and their property in the Washington countryside. A place where I know I shall always find peace and be allowed to simply be. Or the big southern charm of Texas, where my tendency towards big hair, country music, cowboy boots, and serious women’s ministry is completely normal. So much of myself needs not be explained in the big city and big ministries among the southern heat.  Right now I’d say home feels a lot like South Africa. I’m used to the way things are here. And the various cultures, the beauty, the frustration, the visible scars that I see all over this place daily but love deeply none-the-less. The children and their un-briddled enthusiasm over the camp of a lifetime. The slower pace that life takes. The way my friends tell me I am considered “family status” and are always available and checking on me, making time for me, letting me share in meals and game nights and loving me well. The thought of “home” becomes suddenly quite overwhelming and lost to me all at the same time. And like Kelly describes in the book I’m reading, I will forever be missing all the paces I am not. Nowhere will ever feel complete to me again. And the gravity of a life lived with that fully begins to set in for the first time. When I am here I miss the states. When I’m in California I miss Africa and Texas. When I’m in Texas I miss Washington. It’s a puzzle. A puzzle of life in ministry and missions. I have only experienced a slice and I’m forever ruined for normalcy. This makes me even more amazed of my friends who’ve lived this for years. The puzzle is never solved outside of knowing my true home is waiting for me in eternity. Amidst the constantly feeling “out of place” with any group I’m around, I recognize the strange and unique blessing of living this way. Learning to love in all conditions. Extending mercy and grace especially when I may not feel like it. Especially when the people I most want to understand don’t. They can’t. 

As I contemplate these things, I simply say the the sweet woman sitting beside me: “Home is many places. I’ve been privileged.” Just then the car is ready, and I smile, knowing that when I get to the gym, the same songs that we dance to in Modesto and Texas will loudly fill a room filled with at least 4 cultures. Suddenly everything feels a little less big and shaky.  Sure, I have an interesting road to navigate from now on, but the little things like this make it all okay. 

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Just Liz.

I have been making some changes to some of my social media. 
It’s an attempt and a stand to go back to my roots and stay there. 
Let me try to explain, because I think there’s serious truth here for anyone.

Without realising it, we all fall under a certain stream or category of thinking. Unintentionally, we listen to, study under, read, talk like, and begin to act out of the people we are “following” and highly revere. It just slowly happens. Most of the time we are unaware that we tend to head in a certain direction. I know I didn’t see it. It took God dragging me back over here-half a world away- to truly rip off all the Americanised extras I have and sit me in the middle of having to slow down and be quiet and think. 

At first I had a very difficult time with the lack of connection and wifi. I didn’t want to say it out loud, but I struggled being off of texting and social media. Something in me felt a consistent agitation over not being able to “be out there.” And the day I realised that was my problem was the day everything started making more sense……..

I have always been vocal. I’m loud. I write and say things constantly. Most of it encouraging others to be outside the box. Rebel against our society. Stop the social media madness, blah, blah, blah……And I mean that. But here’s the thing. A lot of the people I really look up to and follow are very into all that. They teach that in order to truly get out there, truly become known and advance to the place you want to be, you’ve GOT to be on social media in certain ways, at certain times, posting these certain things. And boy have I ever followed that to a “T”. Sometimes I thought I was being super smart about what or how I was doing things. Sounds a lot like manipulation, doesn’t it? Sometimes I did it because I knew certain people would see it and I wanted them to think a certain way in response. Control issues much? And yes, we all succumb to this behaviour. But I didn’t see just how much I have until the last few weeks. 

I hit a point recently of literally crying and saying to God “But if I’m not posting people will stop supporting me financially. They might forget about me. I will move home and have been totally disconnected. What if they don’t want me for ministry because I haven’t been saying amazing things online? What if I’m nothing to everybody?” And as those words left my lips, it was like a veil was torn from my eyes. I saw just how much I’ve fallen into several traps. Traps of insecurity for one-which is hard to admit because guess who likes to portray herself as secure and all put-together? And traps of listening to man rather than my King. Man, who tells me what kind of thing I need to be doing with my life. Man, who says it’s a waste if I’m not passionately out there every second in ministry. Man, who makes me feel if I’m not rescuing victims of trafficking off the streets and locking myself in a prayer room I am too weak, can’t hack it, don’t understand what the spiritual battle in the heavenlies is all about. Man. Who says I HAVE to live in the slums of Africa or India to truly be living out what Jesus really said. That’s the biggest one. Do you know that until extremely recently I actually believed that? Because a teacher I had at Theology school actually says that the only true thing a believer should do is global missions. Period. No other option. And with his carefully chosen scripture to back it up, I felt I had no choice and I must do this or be disappointing God. So much poverty and need. Surely that’s what He wants. And why isn’t everyone seeing this, dang it? Wake up, guys!!!!! I thought that if I don’t end up on the streets of Houston or LA or here in Africa long-term, I am a weak failure. The pressure of people like that teacher and the trafficking fanatics and the mega-ministry gurus have made me feel like I’m going mad with desperation. Desperation to make something of myself. I learned to swing conversations my way when I meet a new pastor or important person. I know how to sweet-talk and even name-drop some of the “big” people I’ve had the pleasure of being around or working for. (The funny thing is the biggest name I like to drop would never ever be okay with that. But others taught me that’s how you get ahead.) I have fallen low enough in recent years to actually sign up for stuff just to rub shoulders with certain people. And then the other day with just a few sentences, God blew it all out of the water. 

I was sitting in front of the most beautiful waterfall. Just listening as the water cascaded over the rocks. Telling God I was here if he happened to have something to say........
(That was dripping with sarcasm, btw…) 
And it came. Simple. But profound enough to blow my world apart: 
“Stop. Stop all of it.” 
“What do you mean? Stop WHAT?”
“Everything. Push every bit of it aside. Now answer this: Without all the ‘should’, who are you and what do you love? No churchy answers!” 
“Okay. I love color. Lots of color. Art. Music. Oh, how I miss singing and playing piano and guitar! Theatre. Theatre makes my soul come alive. I just want to work on musicals every day of my life. I love the ocean. feeling girly. Literature: the smell of old books. Small cozy spaces. Traveling a lot. A corner of my own. Little House on the Prairie- why do I love that show so?! Older time periods. Nature. Animals. Food. Flowers…...” 
“That’s more like it. Do all that.”
“WHAAAAAT?! I can NOT do all that. I can scarcely do ANY of that. Life is too short and this world is falling apart. I have to serve. To be in ministry. I need to influence people. Mentor people. Work at the church. Work in trafficking. Keep going to Africa…….” 
“I don’t understand.”
“Stop it. Stop trying. Stop name-dropping. What do you think would happen if you never told others about working with _____ and being with ____ ministry? What would happen if you stopped it all and just did the things you listed and loved people passionately with my eyes? I wired you with all of that, you know. You think it’s all about ministering to others. But you walk away from the stuff that ministers to MY heart. Be you fully and simply. Those things do change a world that is falling apart."

And my world was shattered. It was like a high note had been reached and these glass walls that have been surrounding me fell into a million pieces at my feet. 

For the first time in my life, I understood the invitation to live simply and quietly. And I feel the freedom to just be……it doesn’t matter who sees or knows what I am doing. The ones who He wants to glean from it will be there. And that’s up to Him. What matters is that I fully do what I’m wired to do. All the way. That I stop listening to man and listen to my King. Will I work in ministry? Probably. Will I return to Africa? It’s likely. But I will first and foremost understand and make time for who I really am. And I will learn not to be ashamed of it. I will learn to enjoy the moments of doing what I love because I know He loves it. I will be colourful and artsy and imperfect and messy me. I will just be Liz.  No other titles. Because that’s what really matters. 

Monday, March 2, 2015


A friend asked me the other day what I’ve been going through.
As I tried to describe it, I struggled to come up with the words. 
After careful contemplation I came up with the best thing I could-
wrestling with God. 
Now, at first I hardly dared mention it, something about that seemed so wrong. 
As if I shouldn’t ever do such a thing or at least admit to it. 
But as I drove home I considered that. And I remembered Jacob. 
Who, after years of being selfish and deceptive spent one very long night locked on the floor mat with God himself. Wrestling. Working out his issues. 
What exactly did that wrestling entail? Was it physical? Very. 
Was is spiritual? Commentators suggest that is was. The chapter that tells us the story even tells us he cried out during the night. Probably exhausted on every level. Probably facing his past and his mistakes. Asking with desperation for God’s hand in his future. And refusing to unlock himself from the grasp of God until he was blessed. It’s kind of an odd story, if you think about it. Whenever I read a story in scripture, I can’t help but ask “Now why is it that this particular passage made the cut? What about it was significant enough that God would want it in here for thousands of years and generations to come? And as I mulled that over with Jacob, I was again reminded of some serious truth….

Wrestling by nature is extremely intimate. Extremely intertwined. You don’t wrestle with someone without getting to know them better. You pick up on their strength. Their go-to moves. Their way of weaving and moving. It’s almost a unique sort of dance, but there’s even more contact. And it can be stretching. Or painful. You can hurt yourself. You can’t ever really predict the outcome. Think about all of that while wrestling with God, and it can seem a bit frightening. Ah, but it can also be the most amazing, exhilarating, and beautiful experience in the world. 
If God has allowed (or perhaps even invited) you to wrestle with Him, it’s actually an invitation to know Him more. Almost nothing could be more intimate that getting down on the floor and locking arms, legs, and bodies. Going head to head. You get to know Him better. You see new things about Him. You learn more about His strengths-and yours while you’re at it. You are tangled up together so closely it might almost be difficult to tell who’s leg that is sometimes. 

It’s exhausting. But exhilarating. It may be painful but your muscles have gotten stronger. And you never really leave that match without learning something new from the experience. So if and when we have the opportunity to wrestle things out with God, let’s not walk away. Let’s not refuse. Let’s be ready for the challenge. Let’s bear down and lock ourselves into it. And let’s not let up too soon, either. For the blessings that will come after a long match will change us from the inside out. 

Sunday, February 22, 2015

A quiet Sunday's thoughts.

Sometimes it feels strange to be in a another place for long.
The cultural differences can get to you. 
Patience can be hard with things that don’t work like they do at home. 
Everything takes longer. And doesn’t function like you’re used to. 
Things can seem to close in and make you feel cut off. 
Longing for what is familiar. For what you know and are used to. 
Your eyes can forget to see the beauty around you. 
Forget to appreciate what’s right there. 

But then. Then you sit over coffee with a dear friend and laugh about those very things. You make jokes about what is difficult. And you realize “Oh, they get it!” 
You chuckle as you discuss home and the things you know so well. 
From now on when you’re alone and stuck with a cultural frustration, you laugh out loud remembering that your friend too knows how this is. Knows how you feel. And it’s not so bad. 

You pick up the Word one morning and realize it too hasn’t changed. You read familiar passages. You glean from them just as you have in other states and other countries all over the globe. They are familiar. They are unchanging. They apply to this culture. And your culture. And every culture. That’s pretty amazing to consider when other things rarely translate well. 

You sit in a class of at least 5 cultures. Looking around, you seem to notice the differences. But as everyone begins to discuss issues and share what they’ve written, you hear common threads running throughout the room. Emotions. Painful times and times of overflowing joy. They are common to man. 

And as you sit in church Sunday, you look around at the colourful faces. You don’t know any of them. You hear different languages being spoken, none English. There are various styles of clothing from all over this continent, none like yours. But you’ve noticed they all sit in the same section each week. They all worship similarly. They all seem to relate to what the pastor says. They all amen and agree with the points he makes. 

As you leave church, you see the one familiar face you know from home in the crowd. Suddenly it doesn’t feel as if you are in a foreign place. It doesn’t feel as if you are so different, plopped in the middle of something unfamiliar. It just feels, well, normal. It feels like the oldest most familiar thing in the world. This doesn’t look that different in any country or culture. Sure, here you may see colourful dresses and head wraps. In Texas there was major bling and very big hair. At home there are sandals and flat-irons. But the people you are with anywhere….they all struggle with the same issues and same emotions. They read the same scriptures. They even sing most of the same songs. They know and love the same God who has delivered them from many of the same trials and loved them through many of the same heartaches. Halfway across the world and you have a flash of feeling….well….home. 

Thursday, February 19, 2015

African Evenings.

I sat at the edge of the lake. 
Expecting a quiet sunset. 
Wanting some time to gather my thoughts. 
As I let my mind sink into the world of deep thinking and imagination, 
I forgot where I was. 
Before long, I was interrupted by sound. What was that? 
Birds. All kinds of birds. 
Different colors. Different families. 
It began suddenly. With one unique note being repeated over and over. Setting the time. It was as if the director had raised his baton and that first anticipated note had emerged from the orchestra and suddenly broken the hushed silence... 

Another note. Echoing the first. In perfect unison. Back and forth. Back and forth. As If the bird was saying “I was BORN to perform this one. Listen up.” 
Suddenly, out of all corners, there came the largest variety of notes. Some loud and shrill. Some low and soft. Each coming from a bird that seemed to inherently know exactly what it was meant to add to the mix. The African Dove landed in the Willow tree above me and joined in, not wanting to miss the opportunity to perform. His familiar coo and pattern keeping perfect time with the rest. 
They just sang. On and on and on. As if the song was the only and very reason for their existence. 

I wondered for a moment what it must be like to live like that- not worried. No stress. No concern over where your next meal will come or where you will tuck your head in to sleep tonight. Just wild, raw freedom. Singing songs about the sunset. About the beauty you live among. And I looked up. I watched the sun begin to set behind the lake-as if the lake dropped off the edge of the earth and the sun with it. As the sky began to darken and shadows began to form, everything suddenly took on a new character and feel. Things seemed more mysterious. And larger. The willow trees in the shadows suddenly sprang to life-appearing to have very human-like qualities. I watched the reflections in the water as the sky turned from it’s vivid orange hues to a deep purple. And I sat back, breathed deeply of the fresh evening air, and thanked God once again for peace. For stillness. For symphonies of birds composing a wild concerto. And for the beauty that reminds me  “The Lord will fight for you. You need only be still.” 

Monday, February 2, 2015

Morning thoughts.

Being halfway across the world, I am out of the loop. For me there's no smartphone. No Instagram. no apps. No Netflix or Hulu. There's no superbowl here. There's no baseball season. There's alone-ness. Quietness. The only noise is the thoughts in your head that you can't drown out with a hundred distractions. I listen as the birds outside my window sing me a wake-up tune. The sunrise over the water is so silent I can hear the fish jumping. And I sit there with a cup of tea, tearfully letting my broken heart lay out before the Lord and the day. And I realize that until we can submit ourselves to a period of no phone, no T.V. and no constant postings of selfies, we have no clue what it's like to allow the King of this Universe to be the only affirmation and voice we seek. We don't even recognize Him anymore because He refuses to shout louder than the noise we let in every day. To have a spirit of stillness and quietness of soul for weeks on end is the most difficult and most beautiful thing one can experience. But I want it. I want to know His voice better than the oldest and most familiar friend. I want to have the gumption to say "Life has made me tired. I'm broken. I'm worn out in my spirit. I'm fragile. I will not decide what I'm doing next until I hear HIM tell me with crystal clarity. I will not hurry. I will sit at His feet and listen. For weeks. I will wait on Him. I will stop striving for a title and just be."

Thursday, January 29, 2015

A Day in the Life.

For a laugh, I thought I'd give you a picture of the way this week's shaped up.
You just never know how things are going to go here. Sometimes it's amazingly smooth. Other times you have to be the most flexible person on earth.....
Monday: 6 hrs going into one of the townships to mediate some issues.
Tuesday: I wanted to do laundry, answer some PLAY email and finish the first PLAY newsletter. I put laundry into the tub to soak. I tried to email but the internet connection kept going out. I worked on the newsletter but our power was out and my laptop battery died. A huge storm hits and I can't hang the clothes out to dry.
Wednesday: It's still raining. The clothes are still in the tub.
Still no internet due to rain. So I finish the newsletter.
Thursday: I wake up and the sun is out, so I figure I can finally hang clothes to dry. I get that email done. I decide to wash some sheets. I bring them outside to dry. I then drop them in mud while trying to unravel the wet ball of cloth. So I wash the sheets again. I bring them outside to dry. And again, they end up in the mud. So I wash the danged sheets a 3rd time (mind you-this is all by hand in a tub), and I bring them out to hang. You guessed it. I drop them again. (Hey-unraveling wet sheets alone when you're so short is not an easy task!) I then gather sheets, give up, throwing them into the tub. I walk away trying not to curse. I then try to email the newsletter to Lisa. But the internet goes out becaaaaaaause..........a huge thunderstorm begins and it's downpouring on the wet clothes I just hung out to dry. Welcome to Africa, folks!
(By the way, I've been waiting 6 hrs for the storm to end & internet to return so I could post this.) Grin.

Friday, January 23, 2015

Believing again.

I've written and re-written this post more times than I can count now. Every time I try to put my jumble of emotions into eloquent enough wording, I just start getting overwhelmed and frustrated and cry. I want to say it all crisp and clean and precise and organised. The thing is, it's hard to do that when you aren't any of those things on the inside at the moment. So I won't say it all nice and pressed. I will say this through the tears that are already flowing.

 I have this continual health problem. It's been off and on for several years. And when it's "on" it's debilitating. I mean, it absolutely takes over and dictates life. It's extremely inconvenient. The pain in excruciating. And everything in my body is affected by it.
After countless doctor appointments and the debt it's caused, after no help from any of them, after getting on medicine before I left for SA, I am finding it to be worse than it's been in years. I gave up last week. I found myself curled up in a ball sobbing with pain and the defeat of no answers and feeling so alone. Lost. Not knowing what in the world I can or should do about it. I began trying to calculate what I can do when I return home. How to come up with the money to get tests run. Pay for procedures that may need to happen, etc... and entertain the thoughts of worst-case scenarios. A hysterectomy now and no opportunity to have my own children someday. What a downer post, huh? Don't worry. This is about to look up. Keep reading.......

Several years ago I began a journey that radically changed my life. I began a Bible Study called Believing God. And it reached down into the marrow of my bones and became part of my DNA. Yesterday I began reading the actual book that it's based one. I hadn't read it before. In the book, there are some extremely good points about believing God for something big for a while but then becoming weary and giving up on, well, Him after a while. (I hate to say that but that's really what we're doing.) Resigning ourselves to misery and the hopeless thought that whatever miracle we need isn't important and going to happen. Which is so harmful because God delights in performing miracles for those who believe Him and continue to ask with expectancy.
Beth also made another good point. Perhaps He's just dying to use our situation to activate in a brand new way amongst a body of believers. We never know the many reasons for something taking place. There are so many possibilities. I know for a FACT that I do and will understand the weariness of chronic problems now and can encourage others with it. I also know that down the road, I will minister to others out of a season that is really testing and trying me in many ways. But I wonder.......could there be even more to this? Dare I let a spark of hope begin? What if.....hang with me, now, what if God has allowed all of this for years so that I will speak about it. So that others watch me go through it. So that when He DOES heal me, it's apparent to all in my life that He does indeed still perform the impossible miracles every single day? What if? He reminded me this morning that I am sitting here stressing about paying for tests and procedures when the one who literally formed my very body lives within me. And knew while He was creating me that this season would happen to this body. I spend all of my time thinking about what I need to do. How to get control of the situation. Maybe the best thing I can do is absolutely give up control and do NOTHING. Maybe, just maybe, He wants me to talk about it more. Be more vulnerable. More open. Maybe He wants everybody to ban together and expectantly ask God with belief and expectation for healing. Maybe the very hands that formed me want to be the ones to heal this. Maybe.

Am I opposed to doctors? If I was I wouldn't be in debt from them!
Would I rather see Him heal me NOW than going through tests in months when I get home? Duh. But more than that, I would love to see Him perform a straight-up miracle. Because I preach so much about big faith and believing God Is who He says He is and can do what He says He can do. But I lay on my bed and sob in hopelessness over my own body. It's time I begin practicing what I preach in my own life. It's time I return to Believing God. Will you join me? Will you pray for me-with only expectations that He can do what He says He can do? That He wants to heal me? And will you in turn let me pray with you? What miracles do you need? What have you become weary and given up on? What seems impossible? Let's Believe God again together.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

The Unmentioned.

I’ve been thinking about something for quite some time now but have struggled to put in down into physical words. Without good explanation it can become a sticky subject. For years I’ve also feared that wherever I am and whatever I am doing when I write this will be looked at as the subject of what I want to say. The truth is that it’s a theory and observation accumulated over several years. It doesn’t involve any one person and is a mix of all the places, ministries, people, and churches I’ve worked with and for. It’s pieces of a puzzle gathered a bit from here and a bit from there to create a picture that I believe I can finally label. I want to talk about it now, but I want to make sure everyone knows I am not thinking and speaking of any particular person here. (For instance, the missionary I currently live with has nothing to do with much of what I’m about to say. Please know that!) 

Missionaries. Pastors. Laymen in ministry. We all know them. We are all connected to them. We ARE them. With my travels and adventures working for various churches, pastors, missionaries, and leaders in ministry, I have seen a thread that runs deep through most of the situations I’ve been in. It’s hard to explain to people who haven’t exactly been where I have. But it’s important to understand….

Isolation. Lack of proper accountability. Unintentional neglect because they’re out of sight. The assumption that because they’re in some form of ministry they are healthy, honest, ethical, strong, and don’t need our listening ear, shoulder to collapse on, or the chance to be a mess and fall apart sometimes. When you’re knee-deep in ministry, you carry the burden of whatever heavy issue you work in on your shoulders and after years that gets heavy. I have seen missionaries who are tired, worn by years of living in cultures that aren’t theirs, over-burdened with the issues they wade through. Even jaded. Feeling that they’ve given up having anything at all in the world and all the work has barely made a dent and does anybody at home really understand? I’ve seen good intentions turn into something unethical over time. And other missionaries who truly feel they can’t say or do anything about it. Which builds up on the inside until they aren’t healthy any longer. Or they DO speak up and get extremely hurt and burned because of it. Feeling betrayed by loved ones and completely on their own in this world. 

I’ve seen leaders become angry and short-fused to those they minister to. Patience thinned over time. Very worn out. Years of rest and care overdue. Needing rest and counselling but not even aware of it and unable to bring themselves to voice their struggles. After all, aren’t they supposed to be the amazing examples of the great commission? The world-changers? The wise ones who pour their experience and knowledge into the younger generation? Are we even able to look at them as simply our brothers and sisters who love Jesus and who’ve worked too hard and are worn and simply needing reprieve? Do we ever stop to think that when we write them or when they’re visiting, maybe they’d like to simply be a human with their friends? Not sharing all about how much they’re doing? They’re tired. They want a break from whatever “it” is. (If I'm wrong in this tell me why when trying to contact Elisabeth Elliot, you will see a website that states she isn’t taking messages because she is old, tired, and doesn’t want anything but to rest and be left to peace.) 

I have seen many pastors and teachers. Genuine. Passionate. Longing to see their “students” on fire with Jesus and zealous to be world-changers. Seeing the potential in them and envisioning the amazing things they could do. But after years of watching their flocks sit in the mud of the same pits and self-focussed issues they become exhausted. Frustrated that their people aren’t making the progress they could. I’ve watched as these teachers are looked at as super-human. Treated as some form of celebrity. People hanging on their words as if they have all the answers to having an extraordinary, brilliantly bright life. It makes them feel they can’t be honest if they’re having a bad day, month, or year. Feeling they always have to have it all together. And just wanting to be left alone and allowed to crumble into a heap or be with friends and family. Not interrupted. Not stalked. I’ve personally watched Miss Beth lose it and cry in front of 30,000 women. Desperation for understanding in her eyes. An exhaustion over the mobs of followers who care more about her attention than learning and growing. And her sweet southern drawl, voice cracking with emotion:
“Seriously. I am NOTHING special. I’m just madly in love with Jesus and I want that for you. He is EVERYTHING. DO YOU GET THAT?!?!” 

For example: Here I am. Living on support for 15 months. No job. No titles. Not technically anything. Except a 32 year old woman who has been radically redeemed from a hundred pits and is in love with her Jesus. I have had many adventures and am blessed to experience and know many people and ministries. I often do feel the pressure of the “leader” I am looked at as. The need to be spiritual and wise and put together and an example. And I don’t mind that most of the time. It keeps me accountable and keeps me on my face before the Lord. But I do often leave things unsaid. Afraid of not controlling the way people respond to or view me if I speak up. I don’t often talk about the deep pain that being single is for me. The way it exhausts me. The feeling that I have to totally take care of myself and figure things out on my own. The debt I’ve accumulated from medical problems I don’t often discuss. The way that each time I hit a new season in life I have to make a big decision about where and what I’m doing without help. Without anyone else to go and do WITH. The way I just want a family of my own and at the end of the day I have no home of my own to return to (Because even when I work, one income can’t afford it!) and nobody to discuss the day or my thoughts with. I don’t have a place to put my things, to call mine. A corner of solitude that is my own little spot or world. That’s why I love Disneyland so much. It’s familiar. Home. Comfort. Happiness. Joy. A Haven. A place I can be me fully. A place I can always come back to and know every inch of like the oldest of friends. Everything a home should be and is. Disneyland is that.

Yes, I have my Jesus. And I am continually learning Him as my husband. I get to know and depend on Him in ways no married friend experiences. And for that I’m thankful. But it’s still painful. I’m here in Africa. I love it, I do. It’s the most beautiful season. One I will remember for the rest of my life as incredible. But it’s also isolating. And then what? I’m more than broke. I don’t know where to go or what to do from here. I feel inadequate for much. I have no degree. I don’t know that many people even know my deepest talents and desires. I can’t plan on working at a coffee shop forever, nor do I want to: I have huge dreams that blow any of that normal junk out of the water.  But I would like to return home after this. I feel I need my church. I’ve been way too cut off from them. But everybody has their own lives and families. Where do I fit now? What shall I do? How to afford it?  Will anyone listen to the dreams I DO have? Will it matter that I’m there?

These are not uncommon things for many of the people I adore to be dealing with as well. Do you see the issues that even the most amazing people in ministry might struggle with? The point of all of this is to say that we are the Body. And I believe it can be the most beautiful thing on the face of this earth. But it’s not going to naturally function as it should. Taking care of each other takes thought. Work. Sacrifice. Asking the Holy Spirit for wisdom and insight into what we can do for others. And the continual willingness to step out and respond to His promptings. Even if it’s inconvenient. We all have something to offer those who are in the thick of the mud. And what we have to offer is unique. 
Don’t assume somebody else is reaching out to your friends in ministry. 
Often nobody is. They need YOU.
You are important and what you have to bring to the table matters to them. 

Let’s each ask the Lord how we can bless our friends on the “fields”. 
And let’s all be a part of something incredible. 

Thursday, January 15, 2015

PLAY 101

It's often hard to describe what goes on half-way across the world in a way people can grasp. Especially if your ministry is in it's grass-roots beginning stages. But I want my friends to know more than "She's helping with some kids thing." So here's my attempt to explain PLAY as best I can...
What Lisa does is run Christian leadership outdoor adventure camps for Jr. highers. Here it is quite normal for the more wealthy kids to go to a camp out in the wilderness that contain things like high ropes courses, ab-sailing, wall-climbing, and military-style obstacle courses. But Lisa offers these camps for free to the kids who wouldn't be able to afford something like that otherwise. Each child is nominated by their teacher as a potential leader in their school who should experience some leadership training. The camp is designed to train up leaders, teach a break in the segregation and racial issues that plague South Africa, give tools for facing common difficulties here like rape statistics, and present hope and Jesus to these students. Camp takes place 4x a year on school holidays. Each camp has students from several different schools. The curriculum is derived from The Purpose Driven Life and everything all flows together quite nicely. It's hard to understand all of this without seeing it. But after being at camp this last week I get it. It's beautiful. And very effective. They do physically challenging things all day as a team that push them beyond their comfort zones and teach them to be a leader while they hear talks about how that fits spiritually. Out of the 54 kids that came to camp last week, 43 chose to follow Jesus and were baptised! A lot of these kids just haven't been loved on enough or told Jesus cares about them personally and when it's put in a game and lesson written for their age and cultural challenges, it clicks and it's amazing to watch. The impact and difference a week like this makes in these student's lives is absolutely mind-blowing. And each person who supports Lisa or me is a part of Jesus radically making a difference right here. I wish every one of you could come on out and PLAY with us!!!!