Friday, May 30, 2014

I hate packing

       I absolutely hate packing. Something about it seems so final. You can spend the weeks before a trip talking of what you're going to do-all the cute, fun, romantic, whimsical things that make the trip (and the leaving) seem so exciting, almost magical. But once you put everything into a suitcase that's it. That's your life for the next few weeks-just me and this big blue bag of stuff. Why do I have so many clothes?! I'm really not sure I'm ready or equipped for this summer. Too many uncertainties, too many questions. But, then again, these are the same doubts I have almost every time I pack. Different situations, different bags, different clothes but the same possibilities, the same promise of adventure and change. Over the years I've packed for long weekends at the beach, fall breaks in the mountains, debate trips across America, funerals of dearly loved friends and family, summers that I'll never forget, and countless adventures that I couldn't even begin to list and recall.
      In each suitcase there are memories, people who waltzed in and out of my life yet left something behind-something that still shapes me today, there are laughter and tears, regrets and never forgets all neatly zipped up and below 40 lbs to comply with the airways travel standards. You'd be surprised how much promise, hope, and fear can fit into 40 lbs  And yet, here I am again, wondering why I have so many clothes, wondering what could lie ahead, wondering what I'm leaving behind, and wondering if it's worth it. But it is far too late to change my mind now, so I suppose the only thing to do is zip up my 40 lbs of possibilities and run after every adventure the summer may hold.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

The Big Apple's Core

      I am still grappling for the words to describe what I saw, smelt, and experienced in New York City last week. It is a world all of its own, a city like no other. A bustle of activity, horns blowing, people talking, pizza drifting out into the street, buildings and lights so bright you are unsure of the time of day-it is a sense overload. While in the city we rode the subway...A LOT-and looking at these people I was both awed into silence and broken down to tears by what I saw. Every person in the city is so unique, different heights, eye colors, nationalities, styles, hopes, and dreams and yet they are all a bright and perfect reflection of the amazing, mighty God I serve. Genesis 1:27 "So God created man in His own image; HE CREATED THEM IN THE IMAGE OF GOD, male and female he created them" [emphasis added].  They are all made in His image, they are all the reason He suffered and died, they are all loved more than they could ever comprehend. But, I also saw a city full of lonely people. People crammed on the subway that did not even seem to notice other human beings on board with them-they jumped on and jumped off, stared into space or at their cell phone and rarely smiled. This city needs God, needs love, more than they could ever know or comprehend. New York City is home to over 22 million people and yet it has one of the highest suicide rates for lonely people-to be alone among 22 million must be the worst feeling in the world. And yet, they aren't alone! God is watching them and God cares-He just needs His hands and feet reaching out to the world around them.
     NYC is home to 22 million people, of these people 4 million come from what the International Mission Board considers "unreached people groups" meaning they come from a place where less than 1% of the population are believers. If you reach these people, if you reach New York, you literally reach the world. On Saturday, in the freezing snow, we stood on a corner and passed out free coats to people in the city. As I handed a coat and a Jesus DVD to one woman tears rolled down her cheeks literally freezing as they hit the pavement. She told me how she had been laid off three years earlier, how she was hopeless, and how today was the day she was planning on leaving this Earth, but for the first time in a long time, through a simple coat (something I have a closet full of), she finally saw that someone cared. SHE WASN'T ALONE! I wish I could tell you of a miraculous salvation however she did not accept Christ, but for the first time she had a tiny taste of this love. It is time for us to stop living inside of our comfortable little lives, reaching out to those who look nice and fit our image of a "good christian" and start reaching to the outcast, reaching to the untouchable, reaching the lonely, reaching the lost, reaching those 7 billion we share this planet with that are all made in the image of God.
      I am very guilty of looking around at the people around me and thinking "he looks like he will make fun of me if I tell him about God, but she looks very nice" and walking over to the person in my comfort zone, the one I think I can relate with. But, the fact is I cannot see their hearts and in my own selfish ways I could be walking straight past a heart that is completely ready for the message of a loving Savior. I am done picking who looks ready to receive Christ and I am ready to proclaim from the rooftops what my God has done for EVERYONE. Who am I to judge the heart? I am no one, a dirty sinner that was bound for hell until someone took the time to share with me, it is time for me to stop hoarding that gift, to shout it, to LIVE it, to be that light.
     The last, and most valuable lesson I learned in NY was that I cannot always just stand there and preach to someone-that can be a major turnoff to people, but I can always live my life the way God has called me to live. My life might be the only glimpse of Heaven people have ever seen and it is time for me to live the way I am called, not with words but with actions, deeds and sincere love. I will return to the city someday, I will ride the subway again, and I will love the lonely without my own personal prejudice-I will love the city through the eyes of the Cross.

Monday, December 9, 2013

Her Secret

      The Christmas Season in a traditional church is one that is filled with Lottie Moone, Christmas Music, and lots of fellowship meals. Last night we started off the Christmas Cantanta Season with our Senior Adult Program. The lights dimmed and I slouched down in my seat along the front pew with the rest of my family. The show began with a few of the most beloved Christmas songs sang by the matriarchs and patriarchs of our church. Men and Women that taught Sunday School to my Sunday School teacher, the one's that grew the church out of nothing, the one's who paved the way for people like me.
       One particular lady on the front row of the choir caught my eye. I do not know her name, only the nickname that men and women in the church call her, but I see her there every Sunday Morning, Sunday Night, and Wednesday Night-rain, snow, or sun-faithfully in her pew second from the front. At 92 years old she has seen generations come and go, mission doors open and close in multiple countries, history unfold before her eyes. As the piano began the old familiar chords of "Tell me the story of Jesus" tears welled in her eyes. As she opened her mouth to sing this beautiful woman began to sob, looking to the wooden cross on the back wall. The emotions unfold in her face and her posture-revealing a deep, unending love. Oh to be so in love with Jesus!
       This woman has found the secret that so many long to uncover. The secret of eternal life with a Savior whose love has no beginning or end: He is not only the author of love, not only the creator of love, He IS LOVE. I long for this kind of relationship with my Savior. Some days it is easier than others. Some days I can glimpse Heaven. I remember that this life is just a fleeting moment but that my soul will spend forever with my loving Creator. I remember that man can do nothing for me or to me. But, most days, if we are being honest it is difficult to keep my eyes on the other side of eternity. I get so caught up in final exams, my weight, the stupid joke the guy made that hurt my feelings, college-transfer applications, lunch appointments, preschool choir performance coming up, that paper that's due, my sisters surgery, my best friends boy problems and so much more that I completely lose sight of the love and grace that I am literally swimming in every single day.
       This year I hope to slow down my crazy life for a while, to smell the Christmas tree, to watch the lights twinkle, and to hear the old angels proclaim "Glory to God in the highest." I want this love for my Savior. I want to know the Secret that this woman in my church knows, the secret that makes people look into the eyes of those who want to harm them with love and compassion, the secret that opens the door to the small glimpse of Heaven on Earth in my life every day.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Christmas-not a plan B

So, First I would like to apologize for not posting anything in so long-assuming anyone is still following this blog.
     God has rocked my world in the past few weeks. My heart is in shambles, and yet down here from the dust I cannot get enough of His love and grace. It's as if I am being newly formed and He is breathing life into my body-just as he did at the beginning of time with Adam. I am such an awkward person, really have about a fifteen minute conversation with me and you'll get that, but God totally digs that about me. He loves it: he knows my obsession with Toms, Coffee, and good literature is totally unhealthy and yet He smiles down and says "She's so beautifully and wonderfully made."  I am sitting here ready to cry. In case you missed that last sentence allow me to explain. THE GOD OF THE UNIVERSE, THE GOD WHO CREATED MUSIC, AND LOVE, AND ART, AND TREES, AND THE SPIDERMONKEY TOTALLY DIGS YOU-HE THINKS YOU ARE BEAUTIFUL! If that doesn't get you excited, maybe you need to be reminded that this is the season of hope.
      This time of year it is so easy for me to get distracted: to love the lights, the music, the family, the food (aka peppermint mocha from Starbucks) and in the chaos and beauty I lose sight of the hope, the joy, the love, the peace, that started in a manger. As a human, it is easy for me to say that the Christmas story began when human kind began. That God's plan of redemption starts with the prophets of old that proclaim of a coming Messiah. But, the story does not begin there. The story begins in John 1:1 "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God and the word WAS GOD." The story of love, the story of redemption, begins in the beginning-before time, the Earth, or Space existed-when it was just God and the expanses. Jesus was not God's plan B. Jesus was not an afterthought. Jesus was and is the Way.
      So, knowing that Christmas was not an accident, how do you change the way you live? You live with intention. Telling God that He can have anything can and will be the most difficult, rewarding, and confusing prayer you will ever have. God's anything could be a new life of wealth so you can give to others, it could be poverty, it could be the relationship of your dreams, it could be singleness, but it will always be full of Hope. Because, I promise, that when you are walking in the light of eternity, when you taste and see that the Lord is good, even your worst days aren't that bad. And then you walk throughout this season with love for your fellow man. You walk day after day reminding yourself that this was not an accident and that the hope that happens at Christmas can be shared all year round.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Meet the Family (Continued)

Boys will be boys:
        Chris, like a big brother in the group. Chris has a deep passion to disciple those he comes in contact with and loves to see the name of God lifted high. There is nothing he likes more than worshiping and being alone with his creator. It is not unusual for us to find Chris sitting alone on the back porch, bible open in his lap, eagerly scanning the pages for more truths of God's word. An introvert by nature that has been forced to be an extrovert it has been fun to watch him come out of his shell and reach out in ministry to those around him. Chris has a serious demeanor yet a charismatic personality underneath, you just have to dig a little below the surface to get there.
         David, well...it's David. David's family is from Nigeria where he attended two years of high school. He loves a good laugh and you can often hear his all over the house: booming down the halls and bouncing off the walls. David has a passion for God and is highly energetic and can attract people just about anywhere we go. David loves to laugh and every conversation he has seems to point to God. He has a deep desire to see people know God personally and reaches out to everyone we meet.
         Sean, very sarcastic yet highly hilarious. Sean has a sense of humor and ease that he never seems to lose. When talking to him one can easily get confused as to being serious or joking around, but that is part of the reason we love him. Sean has a great way of connecting to older kids when he tells Bible stories and he never seems to shy away from the deep truths of scripture, no matter how difficult they may be to relate. Even when things appear to be going wrong Sean's wit stays firmly in place and seems to pull him out the other side.
          Brian, hilarious hilarious Brian. Brian is one of those people that others are naturally attracted too and love being around. He has the ability to make just about anyone laugh and have a good time. Brian tries not to take life too seriously and makes sure that those around him do the same. He is a great missionary in reaching out to kids who do not understand love and longs to help them see what it truly means. He is a nursing major, which fits his nurturing yet comforting attitude perfectly and I honestly believe he will go very far in life.
           Nick, very laid back. That pretty much sums him up. I've never seen Nick stress out about anything, but rather is always prepared for the ministry task ahead. Even though he only works with us on weekends his passion for Christ is very evident in the way he carries himself. He is a level headed leader on our team on the weekends and a compassionate friend all the time. He has the ability to make anyone feel at ease or comforted in their time of need and is very encouraging to those he meets. I believe he has the ability to change this community around for Christ and I cannot wait to see him do it.
        Nate and Alicia, our boss and his wife. Both of which have beautiful hearts for God. They will bend over backwards to make sure our needs are met and that we have what we need to minister. I don't think either of them ever rest but rather they continuously move forward in the face of opposition to reach a darkened world with the glorious truths.
        Zach and Eli, precious little boys. At ages 3 and 6 the world is full of wonder and excitement. I cannot wait to see how they turn out when they get older because currently they are both hilarious. They make everyone feel like a part of the family with their arms open wide to us everyday once we wake up or walk in from a long day at work.
         This is my summer family and I love them all dearly. I am so blessed to have each and everyone of them in my life.

Friday, July 19, 2013

Meet The Family

     I was sitting in devotion this morning with my team, laughing at everything that has happened this summer, crying together over hardships back home, praying and worshiping when suddenly it hit me. I have not introduced my summer family to everyone back home. I know I cannot do justice to each and everyone of these unique individuals but I shall honestly try.
     Let's start off with the girls:
     Lindsey, the attitude of our family. Lindsey is a beautiful and incredibly smart girl who just recently graduated with a four year in psychology. She has a laugh that can make anyone want to laugh right along but she also has a tough as nails attitude. We are constantly joking with each other in the house that we are going to get a "Lindsey look" (a glaring look that makes you feel instantly dumb). Even though she has an attitude to boot this little blonde haired green eyed beauty has the most genuine heart of most people I have ever met. She has a contagious passion for God, she has the ability to make anyone relax, have fun and dance, and she has a desire to reach out in new and unique ways to lost, forgotten, and abused people. This girl has taught me so much about standing up for myself and my faith but also about forgiveness and growth.
     Nikki, crazy Nikki. She has a four year in photo journalism and she has a true eye for beauty: not only for God's outward creations but for the heart of those she comes in contact with. Nikki tends to be our mediator when we have problems in the family and she seems to easily mend bonds by not taking sides but rather loving everyone equally. She has easily fallen into a big sister role and can talk to anyone and everyone whether through tears or smiles. This girl has a true talent for showing what love without favoritism is and is an inspiration to those she comes in contact with.
      Mary Jenn, our residential meteorologist. MJ is studying the weather quite literally. MJ has a true servants heart. She tends to be an introverted person but when you break through the outer shell you find a heart of pure gold. You find the heart of a girl that would literally bend over backwards to help anyone and everyone within her reach. Whenever we need the dishes done or sweet tea made she is the first to jump on the task without being asked or asking for any kind of recognition. She has taught me a lot about the heart of God and what it means to work behind the scenes and I have loved the opportunity to get to know her.
      Christina, Cray-cray Christina. This is our mother of the group. She has the most hilarious (yet sarcastic personality). Christina loves to reach out to those around her. She has an extremely and naturally comforting presence about her that makes one feel loved and safe around her. Whenever someone is going through a hard time she tends to be the one we turn to for solid advice. She has a love that reaches beyond words and goes straight to her actions. She has a deep love for Christ that manifest in the way she leads daycamps, the way she communicates with those on our team, and the way she lives her life in general. But, she is not your typical mother because she can light up a room with her crazy personality and constant ability to make a joke about anything and everything. This girl has taught me what it is like to enjoy Christ and to enjoy the circumstances he has put us in and I love her to death.
        Sara Beth, the beautiful one and only. Sara Beth is a social work major in hopes of going to grad school to be an adoption agent. Sara Beth's heart is beautiful and never full. She can always find space for someone else that she comes in contact with and never turns anyone away. She has a childlike attitude: one of wonder for the Creator and His creation. She has taught me what it means to stand in awe of God and to truly love. She has never met a stranger and has a way that makes everyone feel at ease around her. Everyone is her best friend because of her bubbly and warm personality and I truly believe that she will start a love revolution that will cross the globe. I am honored to call this girl my soul sisters. Those big brown eyes of her always look for the good and beautiful and those around her and she always seems to be able to see it, a skill that I am trying to learn everyday. Such an inspiration.
      It is time for work I would love to introduce everyone to the guys later.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Two worlds, One family

      "Being a summer missionary is..." Go ahead, finish the sentence in your own mind. Maybe you completed the sentence with the words unique, difficult, weird, fun, crazy, hard, impossible, exciting, or any other adjective you could think of to place there. I'll tell you that just about every word you could put in the sentence would be an accurate one. This life is hard, unique, difficult, weird, fun and crazy all at the same time. No two days are exactly alike (although many of them share many similarities). It is hard to get out of bed every day and constantly remind myself that it is a new day, it is a new day to love, it is a new day to work, it is a new day to teach, it is a new day to be present, it is entirely new. The Bible tells us that God's mercies are new every day (see Lamentations 3:23) and that means that every day we need to serve, work, love, be present with everything we have. Our hearts should be renewed everyday to serve, even in a world we do not understand. Every emotion, every tear, every laugh, every hug, every prayer, everything is new for that moment and I have to be extra careful to not miss it.
        The world I live and work in is one entirely different from my comfortable suburb life back home. Yes, I am still in America, yes I am still working with Americans, and yes I understand the traditional customs, but nothing about living here is the same as being at home. I work in an inner city housing community-a world light years away from my own. I see gangs huddled in the corners, I hear girls as young as eight talk about what has been taken from them, I see broken beer bottles smashed against the concrete, hungry children, fighting adults, houses that seem to be falling apart around the inhabitants. All of this only twelve hours from the comfort of my own home. How could this be? Does God love these people less? Did they commit some type of terrible sin to deserve all of this? The answer is a deep and emphatic NO! NO, God does not love these people any less-but maybe God's children do not love enough. NO, they did not (mostly) commit some terrible sin to deserve living like this-they were born into this life, just as I was born into mine. And, unfortunately, too many people write them off from a very young age, saying they will never be more than drug dealers or living off welfare and they do not try to invest in them. It absolutely breaks my heart. Maybe I am old fashioned but I believe in John 3:16 "for God so loved THE WORLD". NOT GOD SO LOVED THE WEALTHY, THE PRIVILEGED, OR THE EDUCATED BUT THE WORLD! So, what has gone wrong you might ask. Why do people have to live like that if there is a God who loves them so deeply. Unfortunately, I do not have all the answers, but what I can tell you is that he didn't create the world and then turn away. He is still actively involved in what happens here, He left his children here on earth to reach out and show love to a forgotten and hopeless world. I am so guilty of sitting on my rear at home, satisfied with what I have, but that life is empty, and it is a life I never want to revert to. I want to love with abandon, I want to serve until I don't have the energy to stand, I want to teach until my voice is gone, I want to see God back in his rightful place as Lord of my heart that controls my life.
         So, how could this be? How could a a nineteen year old girl reach out and make any kind of difference? Only through him. I wake up every day and realize that even if the kids I work with do not look like me, talk like me, or think like me they are still God's creations and He still longs to know them. That means we are one family. So, even if their world seems light years away from mine we belong to the same Father, and when I learn to function inside of that realization my life becomes so much easier.      
      I greatly appreciate your prayers, as does my team. Specifically we would appreciate prayers for energy, safety, and boldness as we are reaching the end of our journey.
In His Love and Service.