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.

the next step? south carolina.

here’s how the general story of the last 18 months of my life goes.

i interviewed for what i thought was my dream job.  convinced i would get it.  so convinced, that i quit my current job.  i didn’t get the job.  but i left my job anyways because, well, it was time.  then i was asked to squad lead.  i said no.  but then i said yes.  it was the best decision i could have made.  i came home for christmas.  visited some friends and family.  went to hawaii and south africa and became very tired of plane rides.  i moved back in to my apartment and worked at finding a job.  job searching doesn’t pay very well.  i started selling jewelry.  i kept looking for jobs.  jobs that would allow me to do some things i’m good at along with some things i enjoy.  learned that people are bad at responding to emails and in the corporate world will rarely do what they say they will do.  applied for more jobs.  thought i had a certain one in the bag.  readied myself for that.  didn’t get that job, either.  cried a little bit.  drove to south carolina.  fell in love (with a job prospect, not a man – just so we are all clear).  begged.  hoped.  believed.  cried some more.  waited. waited. waited.

accepted.

celebrated.  thanked jesus for new opportunities and the lessons i’ve learned in the in between.  debriefed those people i came to love.  sold some more jewelry.  gave notice at an apartment.  and now, i’m just waiting again.

andersonin july i’ll be making the move to anderson, south carolina where i will be a resident director at anderson university.

i am beyond excited for this opportunity and could not be more thankful for the open door.  i interviewed on campus in april and came home thinking to myself, “if i get this job, everything else will make sense.”  i cannot articulate why, exactly.  but it feels like such a good fit for me.  i clicked well with the staff, loved the area, and was so impressed by the university as a whole and what the lord is doing.  i feel so blessed to be a part of it.

in the past season i have learned much about waiting.  waiting with patience and expectation.  waiting for the very best thing and not the first thing to come along.  my prayer has been that i would continue to be a person who waits well.  who trusts with full assurance but accepts with humility and grace.

it’s been a joy to share these last years as a world traipsing missionary with you.  i hope you’ll join me on the next adventure.

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?

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.