Friday, August 18, 2017


I am always prepared, and yet never really ready, for how this week and this day affect me, for all the emotions I carry around and how they spring up at random and unexpected times.

It's strange, because nothing can be harder than this day 7 years ago, so I don't know why I approach the anniversary with such dread. But I do, every single year.

It's been such a long time that my sister has been in heaven.

It FEELS like a long time most days.

This week it always feels like it just happened yesterday.

I had several new emotions this year, in the days leading up to this one. For example: I was so mad at myself on Wednesday. I kept thinking, "Why didn't you try harder to get there? If you had left on August 16th, 2010, when we all still thought it was dehydration or exhaustion or something, you would have made it before she died. Why were you trying to be optimistic? Why didn't you just GO?"

All week I have been so tired. A bone-deep exhaustion, sapping me of the desire to do anything. I'm used to that feeling, though, as the years pass, and I've gotten decent at letting myself off the hook for just a couple days.

"Yes, kids, I do know that we had frozen pizza for lunch and we are having Little Caesars for supper. I'm sorry. I'll do better next week." 

Seven years is a long time to spend walking through grief. But by the time I reach the end of my life, it will have been even longer. It seems like, in my logical brain, that I should be all better by now. That I should have figured out how to compensate, adjust, and keep on moving, without feeding my children the same meal 6 times in a 3 day span, without giving myself a stomach ache from crying.

I told that to the Lord this week, during my prayer time. "I'm sorry I keep bring this to You every year, Lord. I should be getting better at it by now."

I don't know if I can accurately explain what happened next, but I will try.

I pray in my closet. Because it's quiet, and if my kids come looking for me, they will look in my room and bathroom, but seldom come all the way into my closet to search. And usually I pray after my workout, because I'm going to be sitting down and gasping for air for a while anyway, and might as well kill two birds with one stone.

So, picture me in sweaty workout gear, face flushed and soaked in sweat, sitting in the floor of a relatively clean closet.

"Good morning, Lord. I know there are things for me to pray about. I just need to get my head in the game. Help me."

I sat and looked at the list of scriptures and prayer requests in front of me, and even though I WANTED to pray...I had no words.

"I'm tired, Lord. I want to praise You and worship You and pray for my fellow believers...but right now I'm sad. And sadness makes me tired."

And then I had the strangest string of memories and thoughts, flooding my brain in a row, like a reel of a movie.

A baby monkey at the zoo, walking along beside its parents, until it gets too tired and the mom slings the little one up on her back to ride for a few minutes.

A movie where the battle is raging and the soldier is surrounded, and suddenly a friend appears on a horse, his arm reaching out, and jerks his companion up to ride behind him through the fighting.

A toddler who walks and walks, and then suddenly can't anymore, so the daddy hauls them up onto his shoulders for a bit.

A poem about footprints, overused and cliche, but resonating nonetheless.

My 10-year-old with a broken foot, the day before we got him crutches, riding on my back from the car to the house.

My 7-year-old, toe busted and bleeding, being carried in his daddy's arms.

It took several minutes before I realized I had curled up onto the floor, in a ball, as the thoughts rushed over and over through my brain. And I was crying. And the Lord was talking to me.

"It's okay, little girl. Take a break. I'll do the moving forward for a while, and you can ride on my back. Just sit and breathe for a minute."

Relief is a sweet, precious gift this morning.

Because I am NOT advancing today. I'm sitting. I'm remembering my sister. I'm wishing I could tell her one more time that I love her. I'm missing her.

But I'm sitting on the back of a strong, swift, galloping horse. Because the rider reached out His hand and jerked me from the battle, and is carrying me forward for a while, while I catch my breath.

I'm bleeding and broken, but my Daddy has scooped me into His arms and is bandaging my wounds with His presence.

There were two sets of footprints last week, and this week there is one set. And I don't even care that it sounds cheesy.

He doesn't begrudge me the need to rest, and be sad, and need comfort. When my heart's greatest desire is shelter from the storm, relief from the battle, protection during the pain...He scoops me into His arms.

And so, spiritually, I've been curled in a ball, on the floor of my closet, all week. Still going through the days. Still having to face this one, the day my sister died...but not facing it standing up, or laying down, or alone.

He's carrying me.

"Come to me, all you who are weary and heavy laden, and I will give you rest..." Matthew 11:28

Saturday, June 24, 2017

Days 10 and 11. The wrap up.

It helps to try and look at the uncomfortable parts of any given situation as a chance to bond with the people around you, as well as grow stronger and more patient

Let me tell you…we did some SERIOUS bonding on the bus ride home from our team day outing.

Referring to my previous mention of the heat, and the lack of air conditioning…we took a large bus on our excursion, and it didn’t have windows that opened OR air inside.

AND we got stuck in a traffic jam.

For 3 hours.

With no air, conditioned or otherwise.

For 3 hours.

About halfway through the torture, we began to sing. Half Americans, half Kazakhs, all praising the name of Jesus to help us cope with the situation. It really was a special bonding experience.

The next day was labeled, on our itinerary, as “packing and goodbyes.” And that’s pretty much exactly what we did. Everyone began to throw dirty clothes into luggage, and strip sheets off beds, and pause periodically to play cards with friends who stopped by, and share songs and stories, and just be together for as long as possible.

Every friend we had connected with over the course of our trip made a smiling appearance, and they all came bearing food of one kind or another.

Because Kazakhs say “I love you” with food.

It was loud and cramped and there was always someone in the bathroom or waiting in line for it…and it was completely wonderful.

Some people slept, some people didn’t, and at 3 am we departed for the airport.

I will spare you the details of customs and security and all of the horror that those words imply. (Especially the part where 4 members of the team boarded the plane almost as late as its allowed to be boarded, thanks to the customs process.)

The crowd of Kazakh believers/friends who got up out of a dead sleep to drive with us or meet us at the airport, IN THE MIDDLE OF THE NIGHT, was overwhelming. There were as many people there to see us off as there were Americans leaving.

So many hugs.

And tears.

And hopes for reunions next year or sometime in the future.

We left a part of ourselves behind when we took off from the ground.

How fast my heart and soul bonded with the people around me. And that surprised me the most.

I LOVE them. I miss them. We all do.

We are headed home now, entrenched in the exhaustion of airplanes and airports and gross food and bad sleep and all the wear and tear of all that is behind us.

But I am excited, because we aren’t finishing a missions trip. We are continuing one. The mission now is to bring back all that God has done in us, and share it.

It is my prayer that I can take out a little bit of Kazakhstan church family love from my heart and shower it on my North Carolina church family.

Because we have been in a pressure cooker together (and by that, I mean the world’s hottest bus in the world’s worst traffic jam), and now we are bonded for life.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Day 9

A day of ups and downs, that's what I took away from yesterday.

The enemy was hard at work, as he always is, but it's much more obvious in us when we are tired and hot and lost in the city and riding on a public bus and eating every hour (with a grateful smile to keep from offending our hosts)

But the good far outweighed the bad.

Because the enemy has territory here, but we are fighting him for it. And not just for territory in Kazakhstan, but in each of our hearts and minds and spirits.

We prayed for people, and we prayed for each other, and we set our faces resolutely to do the day.

And then we arrived at the house we were eating dinner at.

The woman was shaking her head and in a flurry, trying to figure out how to seat us all around her small table. She had gone to every apartment in the building to ask for a bigger one, but nobody had one she could use.

Her son assured her that it was fine if we laid out a table cloth on the floor and sat around it. She continued to shake her head and cover her face, but eventually we convinced her that we were thrilled just to spend time with her, and we didn't care at all to sit on the floor.

She served us plates of all our favorite things. I was so surprised that every single one of my most especially loved dishes was on the table.

She told us that she had called everyone else whose house we had been to, and asked what dishes we had liked the most, and she made them all.

We were stunned speechless.

And then she began to share her testimony with us.

Her son, who was sitting beside her, wept as she spoke.

"My husband and I divorced when our children were small. My son stayed with his father, and my daughter came with me.

I didn't know how badly my son was being treated. His father drank, and beat him.

And then one night his father tried to attack him, and my son killed his father. He was sent to prison.

Last year your team prayed for my son and our situation, and two months later, he was released for good behavior.

I wanted to have you here today to thank you for praying, to thank you for the miracle of my son coming back to me.

I wanted to make the most beautiful table for you. I wanted it to be such a special meal."

I wish I could describe the feeling we all had in that moment. Only 4 people on our team had been there to pray for her the year before, but she was thanking us ALL. And not only thanking us, but yearning to thank us so desperately that she called around to find out our favorite dishes and tried to borrow a table from her whole building.

We wept.

It was the most humbling experience of my life.

GOD did that miracle for her and her son. And she was so grateful to Him that it spilled over onto us.

I will never, ever forget her face, her tears, the way she spoke lovingly of and to her son.

Thank you, Lord, for reminders of Your mercy, and for allowing us to witness Your miracles and be partakers of Your great love and grace. We can never, ever thank you enough.

"The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is upon me. Because He has anointed me to bring Good News to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim that captives will be released, that the blind will see, that the oppressed will be set free, and that the time of the Lord's favor has come." Luke 4:8-19

Monday, June 19, 2017

Day 8

I wish that I could take out my eyes and ears and heart and lend them to you for a minute. I feel that there is no way to explain with words all that we are experiencing here.

But I'm going to try. Because I've had a shower (since the water is back on for at least a few hours) and I'm feeling spunky rather than caked in sweat for the first time in 3 days.

Imagine a place where you had no access to online preachers, or devotional books, and where you were required, for the sake of your safety, to be quiet about your prayer and worship and belief in the Lord.

Imagine having minimal contact with other believers, and almost no way to get advice on spiritual struggles.

Imagine keeping a list of prayer requests and questions, and adding to it often, and then walking to a place where you heard Americans had come, and bringing that list with you.

Imagine sitting down in a circle of people who don't speak your language, and listening to them sing songs you don't understand, and feeling, for perhaps the first time in a year, the presence of the Lord in a group of believers. And you weep in the midst of it, because your soul has been lonely.

And then you are asked to share your prayer requests...and you pull out your tattered list, worn with the worry of your fingers, crinkled from being carried in a pocket or purse, damp from sweat and tears, and you share with the strangers in front of you. All the things in your heart pour out, without hesitation, without shame or pride, with only a desire for a touch from the Lord.

I can't explain it well enough. It is more than I can even bear. Their hearts are in their eyes. Their hands tremble as they share their burdens with us, because they haven't been able to share them for so long.

And then we pray.

Us, these selfish, entitled, comfortable, free Americans...we bow our heads and close our eyes and lay our sweat soaked hands on theirs, and we start out...


And the Lord is in our midst. And we weep. And they weep. And our hearts become one.

And when we finish, there is laughter among us, because how can we do anything else in the presence of the God of the world?

"Who am I, O Lord...that you have brought me this far? What can I say about the way You have honored me? You know what Your servant is really like. For the sake of Your servants, O Lord, and according to YOUR WILL, You have done all these great things and made them known. O Lord, there is no one like You. We have never even heard of another God like You." First Chronicles 17:16-20

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Day 7

So, how about some humor for a minute?

Y'all, it is HOT here right now. Really, in the grand scheme of things, its not so bad, but take a minute and digest these words...

No. Air. Conditioning. In. The. Bus.

Picture sitting for an hour, and then standing up...and leaving a butt-shaped puddle in the seat.

Yuck. (Or "Foo" in Russian.)

Also, the inability to flush the toilet paper, while not a terribly tragic hardship, is proving a challenge for the habitual among us. As least one member of our team has had to fish TP out of the toilet no less than 6 times.


The water goes on and off randomly in our apartment, and that makes it even more interesting. Imagine eating a GIGANTIC meal, which you have to eat all of because the faces of the cooks are expectantly wondering what your thoughts are, and then returning to your apartment to find that, regardless of how badly you need to "take care of business" ...there is no water to flush the business.

We have all become very familiar with each other's 'I need to poop' faces.


Yesterday we drove two hours to have lunch in homes of church members, and we once again experienced the overwhelming love of the Kazakh people. The table was so crammed with plates of food, and surrounded by so many chairs we were encouraged to occupy, that we could barely move.

And, may I refer you once again to the opening line.

It. Is. Hot. And. There. Is. No. AC.

Todd was honored with the gift of a traditional Kazakh robe and hat, which he had to put on immediately, our translator informed us, so as not to offend.

Sweat was rolling from his brow. He was poised and grateful, and DRENCHED in sweat.

I'm giggling right now, just thinking about it.

The Lord continues to move, and we continue to struggle with our selfishness in the face of it. The heat and the discomfort and the long days and short hours of rest take their toll, and we get on each others' nerves and bite each others' heads off and then we go and stand in front of people who ask us to pray for them.

I can't describe how humbling that is, and how convicting.

Tomorrow begins prayer meetings, where I am told that people will walk for miles to have us lay hands on them, and wait all year to have us pray again.

There are tears among us as we anticipate what the Lord is asking of us, and knowing our failures in light of it. Please lift us up. We are only lumps of clay, as my mama says, and we are unworthy of all the Lord is asking of us.

But we are here. And we are blessed that you pray for us.


You are great, and merciful, and powerful, and holy, and righteous, and WORTHY of the light and momentary discomfort of our days. We are so unworthy to be used by You, but we offer what we have, and we thank You in advance that you will hear us. We are EXCITED to be used by You.


Friday, June 16, 2017

Days 5 and 6

It hardly seems possible that our time is half way done here in Kazakhstan. According to our family back home, we've been gone FOREVER, but so far it has gone by quickly for us here.

ESL ended yesterday, and as expecting, we were all sad. What if we never see those sweet faces again? Can 10 total hours with a child actually impact them? Did we smile enough? Laugh enough? Hug enough? Pray for them in our hearts enough?

I felt a sense of loss, telling them goodbye. So many faces, and so little time with them, and still they knew me, and I knew them, and it was hard to let go.

Today we are traveling two hours to another town, to a Salem church plant, to have lunch with the believers there. They, of course, will be serving it to us. The excitement and hospitality and love we receive everywhere we go continues to be a breathtaking blessing.
The discomfort of the unfamiliar is a topic of conversation among the team, and while it is often comical, and WAY TMI (the food difference, for example, is having one digestive affect on some, and the opposite digestive affect on others, and we are ALL talking freely about it) the Lord reminds me daily that I am blessed beyond measure. Either through the scripture in my devotion, or a whisper from His spirit, or the conversations with the people here, I am challenged to seek more of His presence, and less of the comforts I am so familiar with.

Christianity in America is often lazy, and tepid, and habitual. Probably because we have never had to strive for it in secret, and refrain from saying words like "pastor" and "church" and "Bible" and "Jesus" the way the believers here do. We probably won't be disowned by our families for accepting Christ, and so we don't feel the urgency to press into Him the way they do here.

As we visited home churches last night, I found myself begging for some of that urgency to rub off on me. I want to take home the deep seated ache for MORE of the Lord's presence and direction and fellowship that they carry with them every day.

It humbles and convicts and inspires us all.


We worry so much that we won't be able to do Your work well, when really all we need to do is walk in Your presence, and we will leave footprints that resemble You.

We smile, and You move forward. We laugh, and You breathe out mercy. We serve, and You pour blessings. We receive acts of kindness, and You minister rewards. You are in everything we do here. Everything. How we long for it to be true in our comfortable places too. Make us more uncomfortable than ever before, so that we can long for, and run toward, more of You.


Thursday, June 15, 2017

Day 4

Today was our last full day of English classes. Tomorrow we will cram in a few more words and phrases, we will hand out balloons and pencils and bouncy balls and stickers, and we will stand up and perform, with our age group of children, a skill or song or combination of words we have been using this week. It's the big finale of ESL.

After all the lesson preparations, all the nail biting over whether it would work or not, all the excitement and terror...its hard to believe this first week of "missions work" is drawing to a close.

Our students are so smart, and so intent on learning English. They are competitive with one another, desperate to please us, and filled with laughter. Our hearts will never be the same after this week with them.

I can't pronounce many of their names, the same way they look at me blankly when I tell them my name. Instead, I am simply "teacher." And I melt inside every time one of them says it.

I know their faces, though, and each of them knows mine, and they race each other to hug me and sit beside me and hold my hand. When we say goodbye tomorrow, I will be heartbroken.

A trip outside the comfort zone, out into the world where the Light is unwelcome and the darkness is all that is known, has a way of exposing all our weaknesses and flaws and sins, so that all our rough edges are beginning to be visible to everyone. I don't know if that makes sense.

Think of it like this. Our spirits are like the wick of a candle, covered in wax. As it is held up to the heat, the wax begins to burn away. And as it melts, we see that there is dirt and grime and ugliness hidden beneath the outside veneer of the wax. And the only way to remove it from the wax is to hold it closer to the heat, so that it melts into a puddle, and all that is left is the Spirit at the center.

That's what it's like here. That's what missions is always like. That's what every day SHOULD always be like. We should crave being held up to the flame, so that all our ugliness and unkindness and selfishness can be burned away in the Light of Him, until only the Spirit remains.

But while the heat radiates, we are uncomfortable and edgy and all our nerve endings are exposed.

There is so much more in front of us, so much more exposure to the LIGHT, so many more things to melt off our lives. Pray for us. Pray that we can bear the heat, and stand beside each other in it, and come out on the other side as only the wick, only the Spirit.


Understanding Your ways is too much to fathom. To witness a woman coming to salvation, despite our flaws and failures in sharing and reflecting You, is more than we can comprehend. We can only weep out of grateful hearts. We can only ask to be Your vessels again, and again, and again, until the whole world hears of Your greatness and love.

We are in awe of You, Lord. Help us to know You better and show You better. Every day.


Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Days 2 and 3


The wifi has been down in our apartment building since late Monday night. (I know that’s actually early Monday morning to you all. I am writing on Wednesday morning KZ time, but Tuesday evening USA time. It's confusing.)

Going without wifi has further added to the “roughing it” feeling for us all, though our bags did finally arrive, and I ceased having to lend my toothbrush to a friend.

But no wifi meant no blog post yesterday. And though it is still out today, and we remain unsure of when it will be fixed, Pastor Bruce has said I can tie into his phone’s hot spot long enough to post an update. YAY.

It’s impossible to explain how it is here. The first two days at the school, I was swallowing the choking lump in my throat all day long. Little girls climbed into my lap and wrapped my arms around themselves. Little boys blushed when I winked at them, and cheered when I helped them win a see-saw tug of war, and laughed at me when I tried to pass a soccer ball and missed my intended target.

Women work all day to prepare meals for us. Every time I sit down, I am humbled almost to tears. All they want is to serve us, though we are strangers they can’t understand, westerners who take life for granted and whine about a lack of wifi.

I’ve started a list of words I am trying to master in Russian. And while I am a sad, pitiful student, the people are so helpful. They try hard not to giggle as I butcher their language, and they repeat simple words like “hello” and “good job” and “delicious” over and over until I sort of get it right.

Our first youth church service was last night, and the heart-squeezing continued. They were all so eager for us to pray for them. US, these proud, complaining Americans, who never want to ask for prayer because it shows weakness, who are miserable without access to Facebook and Instagram, who struggle not to snap at each other every day. It is HARD to not flush the toilet paper down the toilet, and to not shiver because the air conditioner is running to the temperature someone else sets, and to not snarl at the person who finished the coffee before you got any.

We are broken, selfish, regular people, and they still come up, expectation in their eyes, and ask us to lift them up before the Lord, as if our prayers are somehow precious.

It’s impossible to explain…that’s all I’m saying. And so I will leave you with more prayers from our hearts, more pleas to the Creator to come and use what He has created in order to point to Himself.

Please continue to lift us up to the throne room. We continue to need it.


It’s a floodgate of too many feelings. My heart may ACTUALLY burst.

I can see You in the smiles of the children. As they pull my hands into theirs, and squeeze tight, I am undone. I literally ache, praying that Your love will seep out of me and be absorbed into them. Because I have known unconditional love, and I even take advantage of it sometimes, but many of them have never felt it. How I long to give them some of what has been given so freely to me.

Thank you for standing beside us, for flowing through us, for sending Your Spirit to cover our mistakes and failings, so that Your fame continues to spread.


For our present struggles are small and won’t last very long. Yet they produce a glory that vastly outweighs them and will last forever. So we don’t look at the troubles we can see now; rather, we fix our gaze on things that cannot be seen. For the things we see now will soon be gone, but the things we cannot see will last forever.” 2 Corinthians 4:17-18

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Day 1.

So, I think I've decided to not only post stories and updates and play-by-plays of my trip for the next two weeks.

I know my family and friends back home, who are praying for our team and waiting to hear all the news, will want the information, and so I will still do some of that.

But this morning, I've decided to come at things a little different.

Because if you've ever been on a missions trip before, you know that something shifts inside of you, almost the moment, it seems, that you set foot on the soil the Lord has beckoned you to walk.

If you've never been on a foreign trip before...I want you to be able to hear a little bit of what it's like, from a spiritual perspective, rather than just physical.

First, here is the brief update on the physical details.

Our checked luggage, all 22+ pieces of it, did not arrive from Moscow with us yesterday. We have been assured it will come today. But we aren't holding our breaths. Instead, we are making due with the few essentials we packed in our carry-ons, and it feels quite a bit like camping.

We begin ESL (English as a Second Language) camp today. Its our first chance to connect with the kids, forming relationships and soaking up their loving spirits even as we pray that the love of Jesus will pour out of us and soak into their hearts.

Jet lag is a REALITY this morning. Many of us have been up since 2 a.m., despite being exhausted to the point of falling asleep during dinner last night. The sun began to brighten the apartment before 5 a.m., so no one slept much past then. People are freshening up, and drinking coffee, and having devotions.

Chanting from the Muslim temple sounded in the night, a call to prayer, a worship of false gods.

But this morning, the birds chirp loudly, worshiping the One True God, because man may worship other things, but the WHOLE EARTH praises the Creator.

Breakfast preparations are beginning soon, but before I put on my shoes and tie back my hair and set my face to accomplish the task of the day, I wanted to share my prayer with you. This is what I wrote in my journal. This is what is really going on in all of our hearts.


How can my heart bear it all? Just a glimpse into the faces around me, and I weep. I feel a little piece of what You feel, and I cannot even breathe. You love for them is so great. I see it now. How could I not have seen it sooner?

Here I am, weak and tired and selfish and helpless, but here all the same. I want You to use me, Lord. But I don't know, still, why I have come, why You have brought me here. Is it for me? Is it for my teammates? Is it for this country?

If obedience follows blessing, I will continue to wait, here on the other side of the world, on the other side of responding to Your call.

I'm here, Lord. So do whatever You want to."

Pray for us today, all of you at home who are missionaries too.

Pray that we will be willing and able to say YES to whatever He has for us next.

Pray for His heart to be our hearts.

Pray that we will be able to bear the weight of all He reveals of Himself to us.

Saturday, June 10, 2017

Go day.

It's funny how the sun comes up, and the birds chirp, and the sprinklers kick on in the yards, and everyone goes about their lives like normal, even though this is ANYTHING but a normal day.

I woke up for the first time at 2:20 a.m., and forced myself to NOT get out of the bed, but to go back to sleep for a few more hours. When my alarm went off at 5:15, I was glad. I was ready.

And also, I wasn't. I'm still not.

Can anyone ever really be ready for something monumental and life-changing? Even knowing it will be all those things doesn't prepare you to walk the path. All the preparation in the world is never enough. Some things are just like being hit by a bus, or thrown into the deep end of a pool and told to SWIM.

This is going to be like that.

It's going to be hard and exhausting and crowded and uncomfortable...and overwhelmingly wonderful and filled with blessings and miracles I can't even fathom.

I wonder, as I stare out the window of the plane, if everyone feels this sense of expectation mingled with terror, tumbling around with the trepidation of leaving home and the excitement of a new experience.

Probably. Our team is made up of many first timers, after all, and many (like me) who haven't been in many years. Even the seasoned pros have a twinkle in their eye.

It's going to change everything.

It does every time.

I know it does, because I know so many veterans of this feeling, this calling, this mission.

Every single time, you fight down the nerves. And you battle through obstacles. And you forge ahead, chin set, teeth grinding, through goodbye hugs and salty kisses. You push down the sense of panic, and you grip tightly to the calling instead.

People come to see you off, and they wave and they pray and they slip treats and notes into your bag, and then...then their is security and checkpoints and bathroom breaks and a crowd of people all pulsing with adrenaline. But the planes...the planes are quiet and the hum of the engine drowns out the talking, and that's when it sinks in.

All the preparing. All the shopping. All the packing. All the praying.

Its all led up to this.

And life changes forever.

It's a missions trip. Its obeying the call, the one that beats in the chest of every believer.

Go. Tell everyone. Tell them of Him. Tell them of His love. His mercy. His peace.




And so...we do. And our families step up and fill in the gaps while we are gone, and that makes them missionaries too. And it makes our hearts swell with love and gratitude.

The Lord has us in the palm of His hand. And He has our loved ones on the other side of the world in the same hand. So we are all together in Him. And we are all tellers of His story.

Missionaries. Emissaries. The GO team.

Until the whole world hears.

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

The Block

I have a "to-do" list on my kitchen counter, which I created on Sunday in an effort to feel less anxious about all the things I needed to accomplish this week.

One of the lines says, simply, "BLOG."

That's right, I had to put it on my list in order to make myself sit down and do it.

I've marked off over half of the list now, and some of the things can't be done until tomorrow, so my excuses for putting off "BLOG" have dwindled.

It's strange how sometimes I have so many words bursting inside of me that I cannot type them fast enough, or find time soon enough to get them out, and other times I have waaaaaaay too many trains of thought to narrow it down to one blog, and so I experience writer's block (if a blogger can have such a thing.)

You know how sometimes there are SO MANY things that must be done, and so you just don't do any of them, and choose to sit around watching HGTV all day? (me either...I never do that...)

This is like that, but with emotions.

There are TOO MANY this week, and so I've just been avoiding them all, and staying busy with marking things off my list, and even adding more things to mark off as the days roll on.

Each emotionally stunting occurrence could be a blog all its own, if I had time for that.

1. My son turned 13 on Monday. I am now the mother of 2 teenagers.

2. One of my best friends selflessly gave of her time to update/consolidate/revamp my blog and website.

3. My book is entering it's second print run, and copies were delivered to my house.

4. I am preparing to embark upon my first missions trip in NINETEEN years. We leave Saturday.

See what I'm saying? WAAAAAAY too many emotions.

My friend keeps telling me, "Now that the website and blog are updated, you need to write, and then share it, and don't forget to put something in there about the book reprinting."

And I may or may not throw a toddler sized tantrum every time she says it.

I absolutely pitched an internal fit last night when we went to dinner and my son had to be counted as an adult.

Every time I walk into my bedroom and see the half packed suitcase and the packing list on top of it, I get the sudden urge to come down with a very serious virus that lasts so long I cannot possibly travel anywhere.

Can writer's block be caused by too many things to say/process, rather than not enough? Because...

All mixed up in all of this, running through every vein of my body, pounding like a drum in my spirit, are reminders from the Lord. He's been giving me scriptures and revelations for weeks now, as if to prepare me for the emotional overload I am currently experiencing.

I wrote down one of the verses and put it in my car, so that I would see it every single day.

"I am leaving you with a gift - peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So don't be troubled or afraid." John 14:27

I read it on Monday, in the parking lot of Target, and then I wept the entire way home.

Yesterday I put on my Refuge Necklace, and read the verse in the box.

"He alone is my refuge, my place of safety...He will cover you with His feathers. He will shelter you beneath His wings...I will rescue those who love Me. I will protect those who trust my name." Psalm 91:2,4,14

As I read, I gripped the charms around my neck, and I gasped out quick prayer. And in my heart, I felt His presence, sheltering me, comforting me.

I m not brave. Only brave people leave home and travel to the other side of the world to share the good news of Jesus. (I might be crazy, though, because only crazy people leave their husband and three sons alone and in charge of the house for 2 weeks.)

I'm not famous or important, nor do I have any hope of ever being either one. Only famous people think its okay to attempt to become authors, and reprint their books, and ask people to care. (I might be dumb, though, because I have both reprinted and asked you to care, despite knowing I'm remarkably average. At least I recognize that I'm doing the dumb thing, right?)

I am FOR SURE not prepared for the hormones of two teenagers, nor do I feel old enough for such a fact to be true. (I am old enough, though. My body tells me so every time I work out, and my kids remind me at least a dozen times a day. Also, there are gray hairs and wrinkles...)

I'm not a good enough friend to warrant anyone spending their time helping me. (And by helping, I mean ONE HUNDRED PERCENT doing it for me.) (At least I offered to pay I am at least a mediocre friend who is aware of acceptable etiquette...)

Sigh...this blog isn't really going anywhere, is it? Which, I suppose, speaks to my emotional status. It's a giant tangled up, matted, mess. Like my hair when I wake up.

But then...then I read more things from the Word.

- I abide in Christ, He abides in me, and I bear much fruit. (John15:5)
- I am the temple of the Living God. (2 Corinthians 6:16)
- My weaknesses are opportunities for God to display His power. (2 Corinthians 12:10)
- My steps are ordered by the Lord. (Psalm 37:23)
- In Christ, I am whole and complete, lacking nothing. (James 1:4)

I could go on, and on, and on.

But I won't. Because the few that I have listed are enough. For me. For you. For us all.


The emotional roller coaster of this week continues, hurtling down hills and thrashing me around the corners and taunting me with the slow uphill climbs toward the next big drop and curve.

But I am covered by His wings, and He gave me the gift of peace.

And the gift of selfless friends. And a teenage son. And the privilege of being an author. And the opportunity to share all of what He has done for me and who He is to me with people who yearn to know.

Because He takes the remarkably average and makes it (me) remarkable. For His sake. For His name. For His glory.

Emotional writers block and all.

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Wave-tossed whispers

I don’t know why the beach always lends itself to long, contemplative blog posts.

Maybe its because, as the waves crash and the wind blows, I cannot hear any of the things my children are saying to each other, and therefore ‘mommy’ brain is on vacation.

Maybe it’s because I have to sit perfectly still in order to soak up the sun’s rays in the exact right quantity and on the exact right surfaces of my body, and so the only things that can move are the thoughts whirling around inside my head.

Maybe its because there is a well-paid staff of cleaning ladies who will make beds and empty trash cans and wash dishes when we leave the condo to spend the day in the sand, and so I can spend time pondering rather than cleaning.

Maybe it’s a combination of all of those things.

I’ve been thinking about the waves, and the tides, and the crashing surf. Their perfect harmony amazes me.

I’ve been marinating on the sun, beating down on the sand and scorching toes and shoulders and noses. It’s beautiful heat thrills me.

I’ve been carefully watching the water, looking for anything black and pointy that may break the surface. I’ve been worrying, as only a mother can, that the sinister things, lurking beyond the perfection of the playful waves, will try to take their pound of flesh from one of my frolicking, laughing, sandy, sun-kissed babies.

All of it rolls around inside me, clanging, whispering, boiling, and then finally settling, until all the turmoil becomes truths for my spirit to soak in with the rays of the sun.

God is so perfectly personal in all He does, isn’t He? When we embrace that He created the sun and the surf and the tides and even the stupid sharks, and we ask Him to reveal something about Himself to us in it…it’s easy to see.

The sun beats down, hot and unforgiving, on the sand. And it scorches out the impurities that washed up on the shore with the water. And when the tide comes in and carries sand back out, its clean again.

The waves beat on the shore, ruining sand castles and lodging silt in bathing suits and carrying off misplaced shovels and sunglasses. But they can only come in so far. They can only do so much damage.

The pointy black fins of the creatures who want their pound of flesh are a very real presence, to be sure. But they, like the waves, can only come so close. They threaten, they strike fear, they are always lurking. But often the sun itself reveal their dark presence. And the waves, so perfectly timed, break over the fins so that they are revealed, and seen clearly for the danger that they are.

Oh, soul, can you see what He’s saying?

HE is the One who scorches the impurities from our lives.

He is the One who tells the waves “this far, and no further.”

He is the One who reveals the dark things that wait to destroy us, and He is the One who keeps us from being overcome by them.

It’s Him. He is all of it. The wind and the waves and the sun and the sea creatures…they shout of a perfectly personal God, who burns impurities from my life while also kissing my skin with warmth. He holds back the crushing waves while also allowing the water to clean and wash me, and rid my heart of things not needed. He sees the dark threats lurking, and He reveals them to me, reminding me to stay close to Him, and not venture far from the boundaries of peace and love and kindness and holiness that He set up for me.

And when I close my eyes, the waves and the wind sound like clapping. They sound like worship. 

And why not? 

He planned it all so perfectly. 

So that I, so that we all, could feel and hear and see Him in every moment of our lives, in everything that surrounds us. 

"He alone has spread out the heavens, and marches on the waves of the sea." Job 9:8

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Becoming Known - Part 4

Have you ever felt like you started something, and somewhere along the way it took a turn you weren’t expecting, hadn’t planned for, and couldn’t stop from happening?

I feel like that almost every day...when I fix my hair.

Seriously, if my hair could talk, it would tell me daily: “Sorry. I realize this isn’t what you envisioned, but this is what I’m doing today. So…”

I think anyone who is a creator of anything has felt like that. A painting has a plan and vision in the mind of the artist, but it often ends up looking very different by the time he signs his name to the canvas.

A song starts out as just a melody and a few words, and even though the songwriter thinks she knows where she’s headed, it ends up being surprisingly altered once its complete.

I’ve personally witnessed a potter begin forming a piece on a wheel, and then, either from an accidental slip of the hand, or from something not quite right within the lump of clay itself, a change happened in the piece. “It was going to be a bowl, but it’s actually turning into a vase, I think.” I’ve also seen potters decide that the direction they were heading wasn’t salvageable, and so they smashed the partially formed piece of art/tableware, and started over.

I’ve done that SO MANY times in the years I’ve been writing. Either started and then decided it wasn’t salvageable, or started and ended up somewhere totally different than I planned.

A few weeks ago when Jamilla and I began a series, sparked from a revelation I had in my heart, we had a pretty clear idea of where we thought we were heading.

We talked, cried, laughed, rejoiced, and wrote our hearts. Parts 1 and 2 were shared…and then we waited.

“What else?” we kept asking each other and the Lord. “There’s more. What is it?”

And then…then she got new revelation, new words from the Lord, and she texted me in a flurry. And the same way that my first revelation sparked words and thoughts and feelings in her, her new revelation set off something in me.

She wrote about identity. About moving ahead while setting behind the things that had shaped her past. About stepping forward, with her eyes on whom she had been created to be, not on who the world had told her she was or conditioned her to be.

She’s so brave, my friend. Always willing to pull out and examine and share her scars and her journey, in order to exhort others toward something new, something more. Then she asked me what I would write about next.

“I need to marinate,” I responded.

And I did. And the Potter went to work.

He has been adding water to this lump that is ME for a few weeks now, softening me and getting me ready for proper molding…but I’ve been ignoring the direction He was taking me.

“It’s funny that you think that will do any good,” my friends said to me.

But like my hair does to me on any given day, I simply looked at the path being asked of me, and said, “Actually…I’m not really feeling like doing that.”

And the Lord just continued to mold, and shape, and pour on water for softening.

I FEEL like He’s smashed me back into a blob, to start over from scratch.

He wants me to do something. He wants me to walk His path for my life, rather than mine. And I don’t want to do it.

I don’t want to be brave. I want to be safe. I want to decide the shape I will be made into.

Except that He is spinning the wheel, not me. And His hands are doing the forming, not mine. And, unlike me, He has never been confused about what He is making me into. His plan, His creative design, has never changed. Only my understanding of it.

What began as my revelation of a bridge to understanding God’s heart for racial reconciliation…has come to a moment of clarity on another piece of God’s heart.

His plan for me…as His ambassador. As a reflector of His heart.

Jamilla assures me it’s safe to set aside what’s holding me back. She tells me God is changing her to understand His heart better, and because she’s brave, she’s saying “okay.” And she’s letting Him move her in a new direction than she thought she was heading.

I’m not brave. I’m brutally aware of my stubbornness. I don’t want to become a vase. I want to be a bowl.

But the Potter never planned for me to be a bowl. He always saw a vase when He looked at me. Even when He was speaking to my heart, giving me a glimpse into understanding the struggle of my friend’s life as a minority, He always knew that it was only one piece of what He was doing.

His revelation to me, when shared with my friend, was like a mirror to her heart, and she saw a reflection of God, and it soothed hurts in her.

And then the Potter began shaping something in her…and when she shared it with me, it was like a mirror for me, showing me a reflection of God…

…and I suddenly see the vase He wants me to be.

And, while weeping and shaking and scaring my kids with my emotions, I find that there are only a few words I can say out loud. Because where He is taking my heart is too terrifying to fully contemplate now.

“Your will, Lord. Your plan. I see it. I choose it.”

If this was His plan for me, for this day, what in the world might He want to do next?

What reflection of His heart will He show me next? And how can I look away?

I can’t. He’s the Potter. And His heart is more, so much more, than I can understand. And I want to be brave enough to say: “This is what God is doing in me” so that others can hear what God is saying to them through it.

We will say more words, she and I, and hold mirrors up for each other on this racial reconciliation issue, and the Lord will keep shaping us both, and hopefully others.

But here’s my takeaway from today…

Her heart is covered in blood red, and it bears a striking resemblance to a sacrificial love. And mine is the same. Because we both are called to resemble our Savior. And when I forget that, she reminds me. And when she forgets, I remind her.

We are sisters. And we are clay. And we are mirrors. And we are bearers of the image of the Almighty Potter.

And that’s enough to make me brave. Because I’m known, and I’m understood, and I’m loved, and I’m accepted.

And His heart is the same for you. Do you see, in the mirror, what He’s making you?