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?

simple reminders.

so, here’s the thing.  seven weeks ago i left a group of twenty three people.  i’d basically fallen for all of them and was devastated when i had to say goodbye.  since returning stateside i’ve been keeping myself busy; traipsing all about.  sleeping on couches, in other people’s beds, hotel rooms, and plenty of naps on plenty of planes.  tomorrow i’m starting my last big trip (at least a trip that’s planned) to south africa to see my people.

i’m basically beside myself excited.

i’ve been packing and prepping all week long and here’s what i’ve noticed.  i think that  the lord feels similarly about me as i feel about them.

i was writing notes to them and over and over and over again i just kept writing “i’m proud of you.”  and i am.  incredibly.  so proud of who they are becoming, the ways they are saying “yes” to whatever the lord puts in front of them.  i’m proud of how they have fun, how they celebrate each other, how they earnestly pursue the voice of the father.

and because i love them i’ve been running around like a crazy person to get them the stuff they want.  starbursts.  check.  chapstick.  done.  new underwear because, let’s be honest, six months of hand washing them suckers…..  but it doesn’t feel like a hassle to bless them.  i’ll spend all of the time and money i have because they’re worth it.

and, i don’t know.  maybe my sentiments are just extra strong these days.  but its been such a good picture this week of how the lord thinks of me.  he’s proud.  even in the mess and the brokenness and the having nothing figured out…he’s delighted.  and he’s happy to give me the things i ask for, just because i ask.  i don’t do anything to earn them.  i’m just worth it because he says so.  he’s happy to bless me.

so, that’s it.  nothing incredibly profound for you today.  just a simple reminder.  he sees.  he knows.  he’s proud of you.  he’s happy to bless you.

with that, i’m hopping back across the pond.

unanswered prayers.

at the risk of sounding cheesy and cliche and potentially making someone gag at my christianese :

have you heard that country song about unanswered prayers?  i couldn’t tell you who sings it, but the line has been on repeat in my head for several days now.  “some of god’s greatest gifts are unanswered prayers.”

last year around this time i started looking for a new job.  i felt like i needed to begin exploring options outside of aim, outside of what had become really normal and comfortable.  i looked and looked and prayed and cried and looked.  and finally i found it.  it was the perfect job at what seemed like the perfect school.  it was far enough away that i would be on my own, but not across the country from my community and my people.  it was the ultimate blend of discipleship and administration. it was flexible.  it paid well.  it would offer me a chance to continue my education.  it was exactly right.  and i wanted it.  i really, really, really wanted it.  more than wanting it; i was absolutely, positively convinced that it’s what the Lord had for me.  every door opened up.  and i knew that in august i would be starting a new job in a new place.  and i was thrilled.

and then the door slammed right in my face.  

and i didn’t get the job i had dreamed about, hoped for and begged for.  i was upset, confused and spinning.  i had no idea what i was going to do.  and then i showed up to training camp.  and you all pretty much know what happened there.  the lord said that if i wanted a gift, i could have it. so i said yes.  mostly because i really wanted it.  partially because i didn’t have a better option.

i can promise you that the last three and half months have been one of the best gifts the lord has ever given to me.

it’s been an emotional and exhausting few days as i’ve wrapped up and said goodbye to my squad.  i’ve handed things over and worked really hard to not enter this transition kicking and screaming.  i’ve been sitting alone in the beijing airport for the last twelve hours and as weird as it is to be boarding a plane again, my heart and my spirit are really at peace.  if i’m overwhelmed by emotion it’s just because i am so very thankful for what this season has been.

thankfuli’m thankful for the ways i’ve come alive.  for the passions the lord has reignited in me.  i’m thankful for the way my kids have opened themselves up and let me be a part of their own processes and journeys.  i’m thankful for the fun i had on busses and beaches and malls.  i’m thankful for honduran street kids that reminded me that kingdom living doesn’t have to be complicated.  i’m thankful that i got to be a part of walking people through freedom…even if it was in the middle of the night.  i’m thankful for conversations and tears that came in my tent, for every coffee date i had and for furniture to stand on when i taught 23 timid people how to do declarations.  i’m thankful that they aren’t so timid anymore.

i’m thankful for people at home who love me and support me.  for instagram likes and blog comments and emails and facetimes and text messages.  i’m thankful for the ways he showed up when i needed him most.  i’m thankful for a new season of rest and celebration and provision.  i’m thankful that i’m more settled in who i am today than i was yesterday. or two weeks ago.  or six months ago.  and i’m thankful that as good as this was – it’s not the best thing or the only thing he’s ever going to give me.

i’m just.  yes.  thankful.  that he works all things together for the good of those who love him. and that despite my begging and hoping and praying – he had something good in store for me, even in the midst of my disappointment and confusion.

and at the moment, i am most thankful that even though i’m not there anymore, i get to cheer and pray and encourage and remind and blog stalk and visit the 23 kids i fell in love with. that now i just get to sit back and watch what they do and what the lord does.  it’s been a privilege to be a part of it.

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.

bittersweet transitions. and new squad leaders.

as is par for the course with most of the transitions in my life, i find myself currently sitting somewhere between the bitter and sweet.  i felt the same sentiment of a few months ago when i was scared to death to leave my friends, my routine, my comfort.  although this time i’m sitting in the middle of thailand; sweating to death and hoping to not see white rice again for a long while.

i’ve begun the process of transitioning out of this squad.  we picked and announced new squad leaders a few weeks ago.  we’ve raised up new team leaders and put people on new teams.  we’ve traveled to a new country.  we’ve settled into new ministry locations and have begun to embrace a new culture.  i’m learning how to share a role with two more people.  more than share it, i’m learning how to give it up. hand it over.  set it aside.  it’s no longer about me finding my footing or figuring out how to be a squad leader.  now it’s my job to see them do it.  push them into it.  watch them succeed.  bend down so they can stand on my shoulders.

there’s not a doubt in my mind that katie and brian will be amazing.

brian, who’s affectionately known as chino, is such an incredible man of god.  he’s got more passion than anyone else i’ve known.  his heart for the lord and his heart for people inspires me to be better. the way he pursues the lord with everything inside of him is both a conviction and a comfort.  when he prays, i tear up.  every single time. brian walks in a gentle kind of strength that he’s not even aware of.  his humility and willingness to serve those around him will gain him respect that he cannot imagine.  he chooses the stuff in front of him because he wants more than anything to look like his Father.  brian has surprised me around every corner with the way he jumps into things, the way he motivates and challenges people, and the way he always goes above and beyond.  i am sure that squad leading will be no different and i cannot wait to see what surprises both brian and the lord have in store.

and then there’s katie.  katie, katie, katie.  a fierce little lamb.  if the lord hand picked any one person for me on this squad it’s her.  she’s been both a little sister and a friend.  she’s said yes to everything the lord has put in front of her, especially when it was the hard thing to do.  she is covered in more strength, peace and crazy faith than she even recognizes.  the way she walks with the spirit and calls people into who they are inspires me to do the same.  she leads from her identity in a way that i’ve rarely seen and only recently tapped into for myself.  she isn’t concerned about positions and titles and merit.  she just wants more of jesus and everything that he has for her.  she’s gotten much more than she bargained for and she’s handled it with grace, honor, faith and maybe a few snickers along the way.  i am thrilled that she gets to be the one to stand on my shoulders and lead this crazy crew.  there is no one else i would rather be cheering for.  and you better believe i’ll be cheering.
and yet. for as much as i love these two and as confident as i am in their ability to be amazing leaders over the next six months, i don’t want it to be over just yet.  it’s probably a mix of things.  the fact that i have not even a semblance of a plan for what to do when i go home.  maybe it’s because i forgot how much i loved being overseas or how right all of this has felt.  it’s probably partly due to the fact that i still don’t always believe for good things on the other side and i’m afraid that if i’m not needed i also won’t be wanted.  maybe i don’t want it to be over because it’s just been so sweet.  and jesus has been so close and i’ve felt more like myself than i have in so long.  maybe its just because i never like change.  i always struggle through transitions.

and that’s okay.  it’s how i’m wired and it’s who i am.  and i know, with full assurance, that the lord can handle my struggle.  so i give it up.  i lay it down.  i set aside.  i push and promote and bend down for the people i believe in.

and while it’s hard and bitter and kind of makes me want to cry. i also can’t help but be thankful for the people who have done the very same thing for me. and that’s the sweet part.

enough.

if i have wrestled through anything the past several years, it’s getting to a place where i actually believe that i am enough.

not that i will be enough when i figure a bunch of stuff out.  not when i get all of my stuff together and stop being messy.  not enough in spite of x, y, and z.

just.  i’m enough.  right now. with all of my stuff.

in as much as i’ve fought to believe i am adequate, sufficient and legitimate the new battle seems to be fighting the lie that i am also not too much…but that’s another blog for another time.

yesterday, the plan was to enjoy a free day with one of my girls.  we would have breakfast and catch up and romp around the city for the day.  i sat down at mcdonalds, opened up my computer and proceeded to check my emails.  a certain email sent me into a tailspin.  for whatever reason, one little well intentioned comment got me thinking about all of the things that i’ve done wrong.  all of the things i’m lacking.  all of the reasons i’m not good enough.  and in about five minutes i had myself talked into what a terrible leader i am.  what an awful christian i am.  how badly i fail at just about everything. and then in about two more minutes i was resolved to the fact that all of my friends would stop loving me.  my family would pretend that i don’t exist.  and these poor kids that are stuck with me for another five weeks.  i felt back for them.

and then.  then i got real pissed.
because all of that is bullshit.  nonsense.

none of those things are true.  not even a little bit.  i am loved.  i am a good leader.  my family knows me and appreciates me.  i have people that fight for me. god isn’t mad me – he’s really, really proud of me.  i’m not forgotten.  i’m not a burden.  there is a plan for my life.  i’m not really lacking anything.  and the list goes on.  

so, in the span of about ten minutes i had had it.  i was so upset that after all of my battling and my fighting and my struggling an email could send me into such a tailspin.  so i decided to get a tattoo.  a prophetic act that all of the things i’m declaring are indeed true.

it’s the hebrew word for “enough.”  it can also be translated as “satisfaction.”

so that’s it.  enough is enough.  i’m enough.

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.

kentucky fried crying.

i’ve shed my fair share of tears in public places.

over coffee with people who asked hard questions.  in hotels and restaurants around the world when i missed my family.  in kelly’s office more times than i can count.  one night during a class in college i was crying so hard i had to leave.

i guess it’s just kind of my thing. i cry. good things. bad things. happy. sad. angry. it’s how i emote and how i process.

this week i parked myself at kentucky fried chicken a few times.  i’ve been catching up on blogs, emails, finances and facebook.  i’ve talked with some of my favorites and caught up what life looks like both here and there.  yesterday i hung up with one of those favorites and i burst into tears.

i’m not entirely sure why.

there’s nothing wrong.  things in honduras are great.  my squad is amazing and i’m absolutely loving leading them.  the lord is taking me to new places in him, continuing to remind me that i’m a daughter and that’s enough.  things with my co-leader are good.  i’m not upset about anything.  i’m not missing home any more than i normally do.  i don’t feel (too) stressed about the future or unsure of what’s going to come next.  i don’t feel particularly overwhelmed by things.

and yet, the tears still came.  but in a cleansing kind of way.  in a way that brings release and actually helps you breathe a little bit easier.  it was the refreshing kind of cry.  the kind that reminded me that i’m loved and missed and known.  the kind that makes you thankful for the people waiting for you.  the people you can count on.

it was a good cry.  even if it was in kentucky fried chicken.

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.