as you come home. (a letter to my favorite squad).

dear brian, katie, elliot, ryan, jayda, kristen, nikki, kevin, stefan, andrew, abby, riely, andrea, kaci, karson, laura, arielle, kaitlyn, krista, cherub grace, carly, kacey, and sami :

tomorrow you’re boarding a plane and you’re coming home.  you’re coming back to all of the things you left behind.  you’re trading in your backpacks for full closets and you’re broken mattress pads for queen sized beds with fresh sheets.  you’ll hand in your less than stellar diets of mostly rice and beans for an equally less than stellar diet but now it will consist of whatever you want.  don’t try to make up for all of the chick fil a you missed your first week home.  just don’t.

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you’re returning to see all of the friends and family you left behind nine months ago.  you’ve missed holidays, birthdays, graduations, babies being born.  you’ve had days where you wanted nothing more than to be on your own couch, eating your mama’s home cooking and clicking through the channels with your closest friends.  and you’ve had days where you forgot you were sleeping on the floor with people you barely knew.  because somehow, it all starts to feel like home.

right now, you’re caught smack dab in the bittersweet.  i get it.  really, i do.

as you come home and you transition into whatever the next season is, let me offer you a few things :

you’re not the same people you were.  you’re not boys and girls wandering around the world.  you are sure footed men and women who have unveiled a bit more of their identity.  don’t forget that.  and walk confidently in who you’ve been made to be.  but keep in mind that everyone has been watching as closely as possible, which is still from a distance when you’re on opposite sides of the world.  have some patience with your friends and family and don’t become arrogant because “they just don’t get it.”  give away the same kind of grace that people have given you.

generally speaking, people here practice pretty good hygiene.  please jump back on that wagon.  the showers are hot now, so there is really no excuse.

focus on what you’re thankful for.  as you process the last nine months; the places you have been and the people you have encountered you’ll realize that not every bit of it was a bed of roses.  that’s okay.  that’s life.  don’t dwell on all of the things you wish had been different.  don’t wonder about the what might have beens.  take your entire experience and be grateful.  while you’re at it, stand on some chairs and shout about what you’re thankful for.  we’ve all learned that it makes all the difference.

get some sleep.  seriously. you’re tired.  take a nap.  or two.

remember that you are not alone.  jesus is with you and all of that. yes.  but you are each surrounded by friends and families that love you and have missed you like crazy.  and now, as cheesy as it sounds, you’ve got a whole slew of new friends and family that also aren’t going anywhere.  you’re not abandoned or forgotten.  you are loved.

okay, i’m out of wisdom.  at least for today.

i love each of you deeply.  i am beyond proud of you for how you have served the nations and each other so well.
you have two days left.  don’t get into any trouble now, kapeesh?

uncomfortable rides.

david, katie, brian and i have been staying with team willow in chanthaburi, thailand.  we’ll be here for almost a week before we head back to bangkok and i have to get on a plane and say goodbye next week.

yesterday we drove in the back of a truck for about three hours so that we could attend a celebration for a church that was opening up their new building.  we were greeted with smiles and ushered to dinner where we were served a nine course meal.  of course we were asked to sing a rousing rendition of “lord i lift your name on high.” people took pictures with us and of us and we were given gifts; screen printed hand towels.  we enjoyed ourselves and were thankful to be a part of something so special.

and then we had to get back in the truck.  and we had to drive three hours home.  and it was freezing cold.  it was the most uncomfortable i have been in a really, really long time.  eight of us laying on top of each other, huddled together trying to stay warm.  those hand towels came in handy as little blankets that helped block the wind.

so, there i was.  really, really uncomfortable.  except, in the middle of it, there was also some sweetness.  there was a starry sky.  a cuddle sesh with some of my favorites.  extra squeezes when we went over bumps.  there were laughs and screams and sighs of relief when we finally made it home.  for all of the uncomfort, i couldn’t help but be thankful that this was life.  because how many times will i get to sit in the back of a truck in thailand?

and then i started thinking about how uncomfortable the next several weeks are about to feel.  leaving the people i’ve fallen in love with.  figuring how to fit back in to certain molds…again.  feeling like i’m missing out.  making adult decisions and adult plans for my life.   it’s hard and doesn’t feel good.  but.  there is sweetness in it, too.  there are stars in the sky and christmas celebrations to be had.  there are cuddle sessions with other favorites that are long overdue and coffee that’s brewing.  uncomfortable?  you bet.  but there is sweetness and goodness to be found in the midst of it.  and i’m determined to find all of the gifts the lord has hidden away.  even if i’m looking for them through tears.

lice, lice baby.

i only remember bits and pieces from the time that my sisters and i had lice when we were growing up.  one of us had picked it up from either school or daycare and brought it home to share.  i was maybe eight which would have made my sisters four and six-ish.  for one reason or another we happened to be in kansas city when my mom discovered our infestation.  we had to go through hours of shampooing and picking through our hair on top of sealing up and washing anything and everything we owned.  despite not recalling details, i can tell you that it was a pain.  my head itched something fierce, i am sure there were  tears and i’m positive my mom did 37 loads of laundry and washed our hair 82 times.

last week my squad discovered our own lice infestation.

a few girls had been complaining about their heads itching, but had chalked it up to dry scalps because of the tea tree oil in their shampoo.  and then, somehow, they realized they actually had bugs and eggs taking over.  david and i were in town when the call came.  “we need lice shampoo and a lot of mayonnaise.”  we came home to find nearly everyone covered in mayo and plastic bags on their hair.  it was a sight to see.

things have calmed down and picking lice out of each others hair has become our new favorite pastime.

i’ve spent hours picking minuscule white eggs out of hair.  hours and hours.  strand by strand.  picking and searching and removing. it’s tedious to say the very least.

as a good missionary, this is the point in the story where i should probably launch into how jesus picks through our eggs even though its tedious and it doesn’t seem to make a difference sometimes.  he digs through all our stuff just to pick out the stuff that shouldn’t be there.  he loves us enough to sit with us for hours upon hours; years upon years, if it means we are getting more and more clean.  and how sometimes, even though our head still itches and even though there are still bugs crawling around, we need the reminder that we are actually getting somewhere.  it does matter.

but, i don’t want to launch into a long dialog about how jesus makes it better.

i just want to tell you that i have lice.  and scabies.  which means i’m really itchy.  and kind of bitchy twitchy.

i’m not allergic to wasps.

i know that i’m not allergic to wasps because i’ve now been stung by two of them in less than twenty four hours.  the first one attacked me right on the nose.  i cried like a baby and then put wet tobacco on my face.  my nose isn’t, as allison would say, quite as gross today as it was yesterday.


this morning another little demon creature got me on the finger.  a little more gracious of a spot, i suppose.

despite the wasps, life in honduras continues to be great.  we’ve developed so many strong relationships with the hondurans and it will be a sad day when our squad leaves here in a few weeks.  thank you for all of your continued prayers and support. we couldn’t do any of this without you!

one of those days.

in the last three years i’ve trekked to eighteen different countries.  i’ve been a part of many different ministries.  i’ve talked to and prayed for a countless number of people.  i’ve seen churches, red light districts, four of the seven wonders, dumps, mansions and shacks.  i’ve walked on cobblestone streets, beaches, dirt roads and sidewalks.  i’ve seen poverty like you can’t imagine and the wealth that exists next door.  i’ve met and held prostitues, orphans, the handicapped and forgotten grandmas; the regular, hurting, broken people just like me.

i’ve seen some stuff.

but no matter how far i travel or how many people i meet, i still find myself walking through the streets of honduras, day after day, and thinking “this is not okay.”

it’s not okay that last saturday i saw an eighteen year old handicapped boy wearing a diaper and laying in a box.  a box.  on the side of the road, in front of a packed mcdonalds.

it’s not okay that, while we were praying for a drunk man, a well dressed man came out of a church and told us we were wasting our time.

it’s not okay that baby genesis lives here five days a week and then is forced to go back to a shack where there are no clean clothes, no diapers, no nutritious food.

it’s not okay that amalia, dania, and arielle lost their father to suicide.  he hung himself in their one bedroom plastic home because he’d reached such a place of desperation and depression that he saw no other option.

it’s not okay that marcos’ mom called tony last week and said, “you can keep him.  i don’t want him anymore.”

it’s just not okay.

and, yet.  i can only do what i can do.  i can only stop for the one in front of me.  feed the hungry man that needs food, hold the orphan who isn’t wanted, pray for the family who has nothing.  i can only ask god to come.  i can only teach a group of wide-eyed college kids how i know to bring kingdom to earth.

some days it’s exhilarating and exciting.  some days i’m thankful beyond measure.  some days i’m tired and frustrated and want to stay inside my tent all day long.  some days it’s easy and some days it’s really hard.  some days the kingdom feels very at hand.  and some days it just doesn’t seem like enough.

today is one of those days.

a story to tell.

i love knowing where people come from.  hearing people’s stories and understanding how god has worked in their lives is one of my favorite things.  i’ve had the privilege of listening to a lot of my squad share their lives with me.  at eighteen and nineteen years old, these people are no stranger to heartache, pain and regret.  they’re also no stranger to grace, redemption and second chances.

a few of them had asked me to share my story with the squad. ha. no thanks.  it’s just not something i have a habit of doing.  i usually give people the version that goes something like, “i was born.  life was hard.  i found jesus.  the end.”  but, i knew it was something i probably needed to do.  and as much as this thing is about me helping them find freedom – i also wanted a little more of my own.  so i put on my big girl pants and stood up and told the story.  i told the parts that have previously only ever been discussed on a certain red couch.  i cried a little bit and maybe said a bad word.  or two.

i told them about how when i was twelve or thirteen years old i would cry myself to sleep and the only thing i could think to pray was “why me, god?”  i didn’t understand why my life was happening the way it was and i certainly didn’t understand where god was and how he could possibly be good in the midst of such hard circumstances.  i told them about how i spent a lot of years feeling forgotten, abandoned and alone.  how i spent so much of my life choosing to be defined by what was going on around me because there was no settledness within me.

but then i told them about how god has worked.

about how he’s slowly but surely, through a lot of processes and screaming and declare-unto-faithing turned my bitter, confused, angry “why me’s” into “why me’s” that could basically be interchanged with “thank you’s.”

thank yous for the way he continues to redeem the people and situations in my life.  for the experiences i’ve had, the people i’ve met, and the things i’ve seen.  thank yous for how he’s always brought me people to fill the holes.  because he was always there.  thank yous for the ever increasing understanding of who i am.  for the voices that remind me over and over of the things that are true.  thank yous for the ways he continues to use me for the kingdom and the reminder that it’s really not about me.  thank you’s for the scars i carry and the tears that have washed me.

today, i’m thankful for each of those “why me’s.”  because they brought me here.

getting to honduras.

it’s no surprise that me actually committing to this trip wasn’t the easiest journey in the world.  remember that time i said no?  but the deepest parts of my getting to honduras can wait for another time.

after three days in hot cabins in the woods of georgia my squad was off.  we went to airport at 11 pm to catch a 7 am flight.  about an hour of sleep in the airport.  awesome.  from there we flew to miami where we waited for a few hours before finally getting on the long awaited international flight to tegucigalpa, honduras.

we’re working with zions gate ministry for the next few months.  tony and his wife nidia are heavily involved in a close little community called los pinos.  it’s there where they have spent the last few years forming relationships and looking to make an impact.  they’ve taken in over a dozen teenage boys who were once addicted to paint thinner and living on the streets.  today, these boys are in a loving home, learning about jesus, going to school, and learning to be all they were created to be.  it’s incredible to be a part of.

the ministry property is nestled in the mountains, our view is amazing and the weather has been perfect.  rain on a tin roof every night while i sleep? yes, please.  our teams are throwing themselves into all kinds of ministries. everything from teaching english to working in the dumps and facilitating church in the streets.  it’s an incredible thing to watch these guys come alive.  i’m finding so much joy in walking alongside of them as they discover more of who God is and who they are to him.

it’s not so easy this time around.

when i made the decision to go on the world race almost four years ago it felt like the easiest thing i’d ever done.  i was a senior in college, graduating in a few months, forced to decide what my next step would be.  there was some opposition and raised eyebrows at the thought, but mostly i was supported and encouraged.  sure, i was nervous about raising the money and was unsure of who would become my teammates and all of that, but the actual decision of saying “yes” to it felt like a piece of cake.

because it didn’t feel like i had to give much up.

sure, the showers and beds and decent food would be missing.  and i would miss my family and friends.  but i felt, more than anything like i was getting to gain everything i’d been dreaming about.  i got to travel the world, see new cultures, have new experiences and meet new people.  for jesus.  it was the best thing i could have ever imagined.

the decision for me to go back to the field as a leader was anything but easy.  at the risk of sounding dramatic, it was one of the hardest decisions i think i’ve ever had to make.  and the impact of the decision still makes my head reel when i try to fall asleep at night.  i leave soon.  real soon.  emotions are high across the board and the reality of my being gone is beginning to sink in.  don’t get me wrong.  i am over the moon excited about this.  i feel like i am finally getting to walk into some things that the lord promised me years ago and i am totally and completely obsessed with and committed to the 23 people i’m leading.

but.  there’s a lot more at stake this time.
and today i just need to let myself feel that part of it.

the messy, ugly, crying all day long because i can’t help myself, will someone please hold me part of it.

no, it’s not the showers and beds and decent food.  it’s not the fact that i have to go live out of a backpack again.  or sleep in a tent again.  it’s none of that stuff.  it’s the family and friends and life and routine i’ve come to know and love.  it’s cinnamon roll saturdays and church on monday nights.  it’s spontaneous lunch dates with people i can dream with.  it’s staying up late to clean up the mess from the dinner party we just had.  it’s phone calls with best friends and coffee with mamas and papas.  it’s the routine and the rhythm i have found.  it’s the all day long Skype conversations, the ramen noodle roommate dinners.  the knowing i’m surrounded by people who are always for me.  the feeling at home in so many houses.  it’s the little stuff and the big stuff.

it’s all of my life.  and this time, it’s just not quite so easy to give it up.

a sunday stream of consciousness.

it’s been awhile since i’ve just sat down to write.  write about what’s going on – what i’m thinking and feeling.  i sometimes think about it and then i start thinking about how i have to make it sound good.  i’d have to whip out the thesaurus so i sound smart on the interwebs.  i think about how i need to gather my thoughts and formulate adult opinions on things before my words will mean anything.  i think about how i shouldn’t waste my time filling people in on my little life but instead should probably write about thought-provoking global issues that are affecting our society and humanity as a whole.  or something.

but i don’t want to write that way.  it’s just not my forte.  [no, i did not use the thesaurus for that one].

i’d rather just let my thoughts a’flow.

coming off of catalyst last week,  we hit the ground running.  things are changing [again] in marketing world.  we’re facing yet another transition and the tension that comes with it.  in a meeting with one of our fearless leaders the other day he said, “the option is to just keep going.”  it’s comforting to know i’m not doing transition alone and that even though there could be much frustration and anxiety in the midst of the unknown, i’m really so much at peace.  the lord has been good to me in that way lately.  i’m just peaceful and stable.  which is still new territory for me, but it’s becoming more familiar as the days go by.

i leave for guatemala in the morning.  of course i haven’t packed or really thought much about it.  i’ll only be gone for four days [unless i accidentally get stuck for a few extra].  i’m heading down there to help do a mid-point debrief for our passport team.  it’s been fifteen months since i’ve left the country.  wowzas. it’s about time.  it’s a good thing for me, in so many ways.  i need to travel – even for just a few days – but i also need to start exercising my voice in new ways.  i’d be lying if i said i wasn’t at least a little nervous.  the whole field support, participant thing isn’t something i’m usually involved with.  but i need it. i need to be uncomfortable and be forced to do the thing i’m called to.  i need to be forced to prophesy and pour life into these students and leaders.  i need to, once again, be placed in a position where i have to hear God’s voice in order to move.  even if it’s just for a few days.  it feels good to be trusted with something so important.  it feels good to be a part of people’s development.  and it really, really feels good to have my passport out of the box it’s normally kept in.

i ate cinnamon rolls two days in a row this weekend.  i also stayed in my pajamas for long periods of time, enjoyed four hours around the dinner table with friends, went to a movie, journeyed to the library and purchased travel-sized shampoos.  i love simple weekends.  simple weekends make me feel blessed.

then i come home and read stuff like this.  or watch videos like this.  and i have to wrestle with the blessings again.  i have to reevaluate why i have it so good and other people are suffering so much.  gah.  i hate that internal fight.  i still can’t always reconcile the things i’ve seen and the life i live.  i have to remind myself that in my own way, i am actively choosing to be a part of a solution that is bringing hope to a world.  but sometimes it just doesn’t feel like enough.

and with that weighty question i guess it’s a good place to end this blog?  sometimes i have trouble ending things.  so i just keep talking and repeating myself and coming up with new things to say.  conclusions have never been my strong point.  maybe it’s because i struggle to find resolve.  maybe i should take bob newharts advice and just stop it.

embedded residue. i’ve been home one year.

well.  it’s official.  i can no longer start a sentence with “last year on the world race…”  i’ve been on american soil for three hundred and sixty five days. [minus the week-long stint in ireland last fall].  whoa.  deep breath.

i landed in lax sometime in the afternoon a year ago.  the lady looked at my passport and said “you’ve been gone for quite some time.  welcome home.” to which i offered a fake smile as i fought back tears.  then i stood in customs for three hours before finally walking out into american civilization.  i spent the evening with my world race bff’s before hopping on a red-eye back to missouri.

i walked off of a plane in springfield and hugged my family.  we drove home.  the first thing i did was try on an old pair of jeans to make sure they still fit.  then i took a nap.  we ate lasagna for dinner.  and normal life just kind of began again.

countless times over the last year when i have thought back to my time on the world race i’ve  felt like it was nothing more than a dream.  a crazy adventure that just kind of happened but it wasn’t real.  except that it was real.  so real, in fact, that the residue is still on me.  not the africa dirt and asia smell.  but the residue of the things i saw.  the prayers i prayed and people i met.  the residue of feelings i felt and dreams i dared to dream.  it’s still on me, the glory of it all.

in fact, it’s just being embedded deeper and deeper into who i am.

i spent three weeks at home.  mostly i tried to catch up with the friends and family i had missed for eleven months.  i ate a lot of food and drank a lot of coffee.  i packed up my life and drove to georgia, where i’ve spent the last eleven months on a brand new adventure and at the same time discovering a new kind of normal.

my first few months in georgia were mostly spent in tears.  i cried because i was lonely.  i cried because i missed being on the field.  i missed holding babies and praying for sick people.  i cried because i had no plan.  i cried because i had absolutely no idea how to do my job.  sometimes i cried because it was the only thing i knew to do in the midst of trying to process and re-enter to so many things.  but, over the months, slowly but surely the tears have become fewer and farther between.  i promise.  ask allison.

i’ve become somewhat settled.  in gainesville, yes.  but mostly in my spirit.  i’ve got a bit of handle on why i’m here.  i’m not so lonely anymore. and i’ve figured some things out about my job.  i feel like i’ve processed the things i’ve seen; even though i still miss the african babies.  i guess i don’t really have a plan.  but i don’t feel like i really need one right now, so that’s refreshing.

anyways.  a lot has happened in the last year.  a lot of good things and a lot of hard things.  some broken places have been exposed and some other broken places have been healed.  i’m more whole than i was a year ago.  i’m more confident and hopeful than i was a year ago.  i’m definitely more free than i was year ago. and i am so much more thankful thank i was a year ago.

i’m thankful for the journey of the world race.  i’m thankful for the journey the last eleven months in georgia have been.  as thankful as i am for the past, i want to be the kind of person who looks ahead to the future with hope and great expectation.  there’s really no telling what’s in store for the next three hundred and sixty five days.  but my prayer is that the residue of my past journeys would become more deeply embedded as i set my eyes and heart towards the journey ahead.

with that.  enjoy the video i made of our world race journey.

happy home-one-year-aversary k-squad.