coming upon the seams.

i guess not all transitions can remain seamless forever.  if the seasons of our lives are patches, the quilt is woven together by many a seam.  seams that are made of heartache and tears and some kind of deep trust we’re not sure where exactly it comes from.  my quilt has lots of seams and a frayed edge or two.  it’s been fashioned with a lot of “whys” a few “are you kidding me’s” and i suppose some “yes’s” along the way.

i said yes to south carolina because i wanted to.  it is absolutely the promised land i [along with faithful friends and family] have waited for, prayed for, hoped and believed for.  i want to be here.  i want to do this.  i am thrilled beyond measure about the opportunity.

the transition felt relatively easy.  i packed, movers came, we drove eighty miles north and in a few hours i was mostly settled.  i was greeted with banners and gifts and a dozen people to help carry boxes.  i’ve never felt so welcomed into a new place.  i shed a few tears when they left, but mostly i was fine.  i enjoyed the few days of down time romping around town and catching up on my hulu.  i started working on monday morning and could hardly sleep the night before.  this.  this is what i have waited for.  i had lunch with new co-workers and began making plans for my staff that comes in a few weeks.

and then. i ran smack dab into a seam.  the frayed edge.

i started missing my friends.  i felt out of place.  lonely.  the job started to seem overwhelming, at best.  i lasted about nine days before the flood gates opened.  it was therapeutic if nothing else.  fifteen minutes of words spilling out.  things i didn’t even realize were bothering me until it all came out.

what if i don’t fit here?  what if they don’t like me?  i’m not as educated, qualified, etc. as they are.  i’m so thankful for this, i don’t want to feel this way.  why is this happening?  i feel like i’m having re-entry all over again.  and a few more um, slightly dramatic things, that i know aren’t true – but came out in the moment.

i thought about fleeing to atlanta.  to people who know and understand.  people i don’t have to try with.  but then i remembered how i used to have to try with them.  i tried really hard, actually.  and so instead of jumping in my car i invited new friends for dinner.  i cooked and set the table and enjoyed myself more than i have since i have been here.  i felt a little more in the right place.  a little more like myself.

so, i found some seams.  for a little bit, the excitement and gratitude and goodness was clouded by the hard.  the grieving of one thing and the wondering of another got the better of me.  i’m okay with that.  because things get shaken.  but i don’t stand in my shaken-ness.  i stand in steadiness.

and today, i’m womping around my apartment, standing on my couch and declaring greatness over this season.  because deep down, it’s what i believe.  i know it’s what’s really coming.  goodness and greatness exist in this place.  however unsteadily, i’m reaching out and grabbing them.  i am also drinking a lot of coffee, writing letters to my best friends, and contemplating getting out of my pajamas.  happy saturday.

thank you for all of your love, prayers and support during this transition. i am so thankful to be surrounded by such incredible people all over the place.  south carolina is beautiful – you’re welcome here any time.

setting the table.

i’ve been away from home for several years now.  i’m pretty much on the twice a year rotation for visits.  so it shouldn’t shock anyone that life kind of moves on without me for the fifty weeks that i am not around.  parties are had, birthdays are celebrated and grandpa grills burgers just because.  it never fails that whenever the time rolls around for me to come home i’ll be on the phone with my grandma and she’ll be talking about an upcoming event, one i’ll actually be around for.  so i’ll say, “don’t forget – i’m coming home.”  it’s my implied “save a place for me.”

i don’t have to say it.  there’s always a place for me.  there’s always room at the table.  and lord knows there is always plenty of food.

Imagei’ve been invited to sit around many tables in my life.  from an early age i’ve always found myself in adopted families or with incredible groups of friends.  young life.  college.  the world race.  and now, georgia.  in this past season i’ve found myself a table to sit at.  i’ve been invited into something unique and special and sweet.  it’s been laced with tears and disappointments but it’s a table i’ve laughed at, screamed at, apologized and grew up at.  it’s one in which i’ve found myself celebrating, grieving, wishing, wondering, and praying.  i’ve been blessed, challenged, and sent out around this table.  i’ve dined with fancy napkins and plastic cups alike.  people have come in and out for different reasons or time, myself included.  but the table of grace, community, friendship and life exists here.  it’s a place i want to stay.

but i know it’s time to set my own table.  it’s time to be the creator of the space that invites people in, offers rest and life and encouragement and challenge.  it’s my turn to wash the napkins, dust off the china and get to work.  i’ve been partaking of a table for so long that this new task can, at moments, seem overwhelming.

but then i remember my place at the table doesn’t go away because i’m eighty miles further up the road.

around this time last year i was trying to make a decision about whether or not to go overseas for another season.  i was hot and sweaty running around at training camp.  my mind was spinning because it was not the plan.  i picked up the phone and through tears i asked for a blessing.  i needed to ask “if i do this – will you save a place for me?”  and through tears on the other end, i got exactly what i knew i would.  i don’t need to ask this time around.  partly because there is no conflict with this decision, but mostly because i know i have it without asking.

life is about to look different.  it’s something i’m not entirely sure that i am ready for.  but i know it’s right.  so i’m packing boxes and renting trucks and soaking up every minute with these people that i can.  i’m taking deep breaths and allowing my eyes to get wet.  i’m talking with people who i haven’t met but are soon to become new friends.  people who will come around a new table.  i’m pulling out every good thing i have to offer and preparing the table that is sure to be flooded in the coming weeks and months.

get ready, south carolina.  we are about to have one hell of a dinner party.

vending machine jesus.

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put your dollar in.  push e16.  get your snickers. simple enough.

unless it gets stuck on those revolving metal circles.  in which case you will probably try to shake the thing and curse it when the snickers is still hanging there.  you’ll either sacrifice another dollar in an effort to get your prize  or you’ll walk away frustrated, angry and swearing off both candy bars and vending machines.  forever.  because they are from the devil.  am i right?

today is good friday.

 

i sat down and read the story of the crucifixion this morning.  because good christians should do such a thing on days like today.  i would like to tell you that my heart was overflowing with thankfulness and i am completely undone by how much jesus has done for me and that i feel the swelling hope that ‘sunday is coming’ and everything that means for my salvation and for my life.

but none of that happened.  instead.  i realized i treat jesus like a vending machine.

i worship and praise and read my bible and go to the women’s group.  and then i make my request.  e16, if you would, jesus.  i’ll take that perfect job, the healing i’ve been asking for, the husband and 2.5 kids.  i’ll take the provision, the relationships, the hope and peace.  could i please have the miracle.  e16 jesus.  i don’t think it’s too much to ask for.  afterall, i just put my dollar in.  and you know, that dollar was quite a sacrifice.  so if you could please oblige with the e16 that’d be great.

but then.  the e16 doesn’t come.  and i spiral into disappointment and rejection and frustration because of course the machine would break on me.  today of all days.  because the world hates me and i will never eat another candy bar as long as i live and i hate vending machines.  they must be from the devil.

and then i take a nap and have a cup of coffee and give the vending machine another go at it.  sometimes it spits out what i’m asking for.  it’s usually pretty good to me.

so, here’s the thing that struck me today.

i hate that i still think and act this way.  i don’t want to treat jesus like a vending machine.  i desperately want the presence of the machine to be enough.  whether it ever delivers an e16 or not.  i want to be a woman who is thankful and content with the presence.  so for as much as he has already done and given, today i’m asking for more.  i’m asking for more softening of my still resistant heart.  because even that has to be an act of grace.  a labor of love.

would my heart and my life be one that puts in the dollar without any expectation of something in return.

gratitude lately.

lately, i’ve been really thankful for :

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free entertainment [thanks, bo] and a chance to be famous for a minute.

road trips with friends that give room for catching up and worshipping like fools again. for small reminders that he is indeed faithful.  for provision that is beyond what i expected and the promise of abundance.  for snapchat declarations that my kids in africa send me.  for sunshine and the warmer weather.

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and for random reasons to celebrate.  [read : eat cake] happy international women’s day!

gratitude lately.

i read a lot of blogs.  i know it’s kind of geeky but i look forward to my google reader being full and having lots of things to browse.  one of the bloggers i follow pretty religiously does a series on gratitude.  she posts about things she’s thankful for every so often.  and i like it.  so i’m stealing the idea.

lately, i’ve been thankful for :

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creative provision that comes in the form of jury duty checks and gift cards i’d forgotten about.

for road trips with friends and new sounds to worship to.

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i’m thankful for snap chats.

and skype calls with favorites [especially when african babies are also included]

i’m thankful for hot tea and rainy days.  for friends that live upstairs.  for delicious dinners and facetimes with family.  i’m thankful for a car that drives and naps in my cozy bed.

for potential and possibility and for things on the horizon.  

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.

tell them who they are.

when i showed up to training camp back in july i had no idea what i was doing.  the plan was that i would train a group of college kids for eight days.  i’d love them, pray for them, put them in teams and then send them on their happy little way with someone else in charge of them.  i remember being in worship that first night.  i was determined to not be intimidated by them.  i was determined to not let all of my own insecurities and fears get in the way of that week.  but i didn’t know what to do.  i had no idea what to say.  and clear as day the lord said to me, “just tell them who they are.”

tell them the things that no one has ever said to them.

tell the stuff they’ve been desperate to hear.

tell them what i think of them.

tell them it’s okay to be great.  it’s okay to be amazing.

so, that’s what i did.  for eight days i told them all of the truths i could think of.  i told them they weren’t alone.  they weren’t forgotten.  that they were fought for and wanted beyond measure.

i’ve spent the last fifty two days with these faces.  these beautiful, incredible faces.

and i’ve clung to that word.  i’ve told them who they are.

they are sons and daughters.

they are forgiven and whole.

they are worth more than they can possibly imagine.

they have destiny, authority, and purpose.

they are creative worshippers who bring life to dead places.

they are fun, exciting, crazy warriors who have something the world needs.

they are capable.

they are chosen. loved. accepted. wanted.

and the list goes on.  i could brag on these people for days.  and i probably will.

the crazy thing is that the more i tell them who they are, the more the same truths get solidified into my own heart and spirit.

ask of me.

several years ago i was quite the dreamer, the idealist, and the anything is possible-ist.  then i went on the world race.  and i walked away from countless situations that weren’t any different when i left than when i walked up.  i walked away from people who didn’t get healed, people that didn’t accept jesus, communities that were still impoverished. and little by little i started to get really overwhelmed by the enormity of the world and its problems.  if i started to think about human trafficking, orphans and poverty i’d be crippled in minutes.  the problems seemed too big and i hated the idea of helping one person at a time.  it just seemed extremely inefficient and ineffective.

somehow, over the past few years that mindset has made me pretty jaded.  i’ve allowed myself to focus on all of the things i couldn’t do, all of the reasons why god wouldn’t show up, every excuse for why someone couldn’t be changed.  and the more i thought that way the more i actually started to believe it.  and then i started acting out of that belief.  which, for me, basically meant i wasn’t acting on much of anything.  i showed up to my nice christian missionary job, went to church and said all of the right things.  but i wasn’t doing much.  i haven’t been doing much.

and my conversations with the lord basically revolved around the trite things happening in my life and the lives of those around me.  i wasn’t asking much of him.  probably because i didn’t really expect him to show up.  so if i stopped asking, i couldn’t be disappointed by the stuff i didn’t get.

we worshipped a few nights ago as a squad.  we were specifically praying for herman.  herman is one of the boys who has lived and worked with tony for the past several years.  we met him when we first arrived and spent several weeks getting to know him, loving him, having fun with him.  to make a long story short, herman has chosen to go back to the life he’s always known.  he left tony’s home last week and one of our teams ran into him a few days later.  he was high on paint thinner and wanted nothing to do with them.  he’s completely shut out the people that care most about him, including the lord.

we started praying for herman and the situation in los pinos and i lost it. i lost it like i haven’t lost it in a really long time.  but, i wasn’t upset because i felt the hopelessness or because i felt like god wouldn’t show up. i wasn’t crying because the situation felt like a lost cause.  my first reaction wasn’t to be upset or bitter.  my first reaction, the thing i brought people into with me, was to prophesy like crazy over him.  to speak destiny and life and truth over him.

and then the lord spoke and reminded me what i’m supposed to be asking for.  he reminded me to ask for nations.  i’d forgotten that.  i’ve been so preoccupied with trying to figure some stuff out that i stopped asking for the nations.  the thing that gripped me as a freshman in college on a spring break trip to jamaica.  the thing that wrecked me for 11 months.  the thing that has changed the direction of my adult life.  i stopped asking for it.

but a few nights ago, through a lot of tears and a few screams i started asking again.  i started asking for big things.  crazy things.  impossible things.  i asked for nations.  and i felt like a piece of me that had been missing was a little bit restored.

normal for me.

for whatever reason, it’s harder for me to blog this go around. maybe it’s because i’m not surprised by the “missionary” stuff this time.  the cold showers are still cold, the floor is still hard, and the babies are still dirty.  in some ways, the world is the same everywhere i go.  there’s always poverty, always people who need healing, always people who are desperate for hope.  you still can’t flush the toilet paper or drink the water.  so all of that missionary stuff isn’t so new.  and while it’s novel and exciting and an adventure for the twenty three kids i’m with, it just feels normal for me.

this whole thing feels eerily normal for me.

for someone who generally hates change and doesn’t always do well with adjusting to new normals, this time it feels easy.  it feels right.

one of the greatest parts of being on this side of things is that i feel like i’m getting the best of both worlds.  i get to see and hear and be a part of all that God is doing in the world when i go to the dumps and pray for people on the streets and dig up rocks on our property.  but i also get to see and hear and be a part of these young adults coming alive. we’ve only been on the field for a little more than two weeks, but already the lord has done incredible things.

chains have started falling off, freedom from past wounds and decisions has started to come.  questions about who god is are beginning to be answered.  the realization of how much the world needs hope is being met with bold prayers from the shyest of girls in the middle of plastic shacks.  the identities they’ve always known are being transformed to fit them the way it was always intended.  people who didn’t even know the holy spirit existed two months ago are prophesying like crazy people and running through fire tunnels.

it’s amazing and incredible.  and for as much as i struggled with the decision to do this, for as hard as it was for me to leave; i’m equally thankful that i’m here.  i’m here with these people, in this place, doing the stuff that flows out of who i am.

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.