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.