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.