Category Archives: personal

Great is Your Faithfulness

so, i’ve been here a month, now.

 

wait, it’s only been a week and some change?!? this time has really flown by and it feels like bleaching fruit, dust storms and power outages are just a normal part of daily life.

but the week has been full. and it has been good.

before i get to my first week, i feel the need to share how i got here, because it is a story of surrender. you’ll have to check back for updates on my first week in Niamey.

 

originally, when i committed to coming to Niger for 5 months, our plan was for me to live with april so that she could finish out her Journeyman tour in her town, with the ministry she had begun. i was working on learning Zarma and coming up with ideas for my assistance and involvement in her outreach there. i was extremely excited to be fulfilling a long-term dream and calling of mine to do evangelical foreign missions- something i knew God had for my life since i first heard Him tell me in 2005.

a few months ago, the personnel here experienced a bit of a shake up and the baptist mission guest house was in need of a manager. after i read the initial email april sent me, the email discussing the critical need for someone to come take care of this compound, my heart sunk. i knew almost immediately that i was supposed to offer my service here. but, in all honesty, i did it as an act of obedience, not of desire.

i had hung up my conference center/hospitality management keys over a year ago. i was done booking rooms, making housekeeping inventories and settling bills with guests. i had put my time in. i didn’t need to worry about employee payroll anymore or about resetting the internet. i was done with that ministry.

but it seems as though God had different plans for me. today i officially started my service as temporary guest house manager here in Niamey. and while i was very reluctant to take this assignment, i am very excited to serve the missionaries and volunteers here. this is not new for me. after working up the ranks and serving for 14 years at Skycroft, i am quite adept at guest services and hospitality management.

and now i have another opportunity to organize (stop laughing, douglas), develop operational systems, oversee compound improvements and provide clean respite for missionaries and volunteers alike. i have the opportunity to plan guest house activities, cook meals for people when they return from serving out in the bush, and practice language learning with the staff that work here. so, i am excited. i’m excited that the Niger team has opened up their arms to welcome me and allowed me to easily become a servant with them. and i am in constant prayer that i stay focused on Jesus first, and the work second. it is essential.

it’s not what i expected when i initially told God i would come here and serve for a few months. but, then again, how often does our life’s path take a few roads we didn’t expect? my own life is a testament to that. there have been roadblocks and forks. dead ends and swiftly moving freeways. unexpected curves and plenty of joyrides.

and now God’s path for me has led to a new city. a city i am excited to bike around and learn its intricacies. it has led me to a brave adventure of learning a very foreign tongue and being forced to use it as i navigate the city on my own. it has led me to an awakened sense of my desperate need of a life of constant prayer. it has led me to once again trust in the faithfulness of Jesus.

 

so. though not the path i would have planned to get here, i am ever thankful that i am here.

 

	For you make him most blessed forever;
		you make him glad with the joy of your presence.
	

(Psalm 21:6 ESV)



(jeremy riddle- sweetly broken) 

our Living Hope

i’m in Africa.

 

i’ve been here for just about 24 hours now and i’m not mentally firing on all cylinders just yet. blaming it on travel-brain. or something of the sort. but i’m here and getting somewhat settled.

and i’m thinking through various ideas and ponderings, which i’ll try to make sense of.

  • a flight delay in washington gave me time to chat with a Mexican girl who is going to be spending the next 2 months in Kenya volunteering in an orphanage and an Albanian man who lived in Frederick for a few years but is on vacation to visit family back home. he says the thing he missed most about Frederick was Brewers Alley. i didn’t have enough time to clear that one up for him, but we were able to talk a little bit about why we were going to be living in Africa for a few months, as he was pretty shocked that we were both doing something he thought was “really crazy to do right now.” i know many other people are thinking the same thing. as the girl and i were talking through broken English and Spanish, we kept coming back to the same answer: we want to do something. we can’t do everything, but we can do something.  we can all do one “something,” and that makes everything a little better. it just so happens that my “something” means living and working in Niger for 5 months (whatever this may look like) and her something meant working with kids who are dying from Malaria. but we all have one something we can, should, and need to do.

 

  • as i was preparing to leave for Niger, the question i was asked most involved one word, a word that is on the tongues of almost everyone in the world: Ebola. i talked about it using numbers: “only 3 countries are affected, Niger isn’t one of them.” ” i’ll be 5 countries away from where it is.”  “the mortality rate is 55%.” “the 2 Americans in Atlanta are so very quarantined. it will not cause an outbreak in the US.” “50 more CDC workers are going to increase protection and aid.” etc. etc. but tonight i talked to a missionary who had to leave Liberia because she isn’t a medical worker. tonight i watched her fight back tears because she couldn’t go home and she can’t do anything to help the people she loves. and then i was harshly reminded how when we talk just using numbers, we desensitize and distance ourselves from the reality that almost 1,200 mothers, sisters, fathers, brothers have died because of this virus. countless more people are left orphans, widows and widowers. tonight i was reminded that people choose to do brave and scary things every day just because they have a deep care and concern for humanity in general.

 

  • i’m (finally) reading the book/pamphlet “Lord, Teach us to Pray” by Andrew Murray and i realized (actually, truly realized) that during this time here i have to slow down. i have to listen. i have to be still more, be moving less. and part of me (the part that some would argue has attention problems) is nervous about what slowing down will mean/do in my life. i’ve been feeling for years that i had to simplify. slow down. get less busy. because busyness does not equate to productivity. and maybe it’s very naive for me to just be understanding this now, but i have a feeling God brought me here to slow me down a bit. and that feels uncomfortable for this fast-paced girl.

 

  • i taught myself how to bleach fruits and vegetables today. that sounds weird.

 

  • i need to find a bicycle.

 

	Let not steadfast love and faithfulness forsake you;
		bind them around your neck;
		write them on the tablet of your heart.
	So you will find favor and good success
		in the sight of God and man.
	
	Trust in the LORD with all your heart,
		and do not lean on your own understanding.
	In all your ways acknowledge him,
		and he will make straight your paths.
	Be not wise in your own eyes;
		fear the LORD, and turn away from evil.
	It will be healing to your flesh
		and refreshment to your bones.
	
	Honor the LORD with your wealth
		and with the firstfruits of all your produce;
	then your barns will be filled with plenty,
		and your vats will be bursting with wine.
	
	My son, do not despise the LORD's discipline
		or be weary of his reproof,
	for the LORD reproves him whom he loves,
		as a father the son in whom he delights.

(Proverbs 3:3-12 ESV)

 

 

 

(bryan & katie torwalt- Holy Spirit)

a peace that lasts forever

in one month i’ll be on a plane heading east, over the Atlantic to a temporary home in Niger. lately i’ve been asked the question, “are you prepared for your trip?” and more often then not, i respond with a simple, “prepared in my heart, but not physically yet.” but if i were being totally honest, i would tell you that every day i have to rely on Jesus’ peace to feel prepared for this experience.

i pray for peace every time i think about my kids meeting for Bible study without me, my sister making coffee for one every morning, missing the moment when zoey says her name with a “z” for the first time, missing jack jack’s transformation from tiny wrinkled creature  into a baby that looks like a tiny human, my girls going to their senior year homecoming dances…. and the list goes on. i pray for peace because i know this is part of my journey, to spend these next few months in Africa, but it is still difficult to think about life moving forward without me.

it’s naive for me to think that i’m just putting my life in Maryland “on hold” for a few months because that simply isn’t possible. life will move on here. my students will struggle through AP classes and college applications. my family will spend time together and make new memories that i won’t share. my church will sing on without me and my small group will bear each others burdens as they continue living life together. and these thoughts bring an anxious weight to my chest, and a fear that i’m going to miss too much to be gone so long…

but it’s in these moments of anxiety when God reminds me that none of those things are truly mine. He has allowed me to share a part in all of those communities, experiences, challenges, moments; but they are His. and because they are His, i don’t need to fear that i am missing anything at all. because He has asked me to be a part of another community, experience, challenge and moment that is also His, for such a time as this.

 

and so i surrender to the trust that is like quicksand, allowing it to claim everything i think is my own, because i know that it will give me life. freedom. peace to walk with Him where my faith has no borders. where i can truly sink into His mercy and grace for my life. and i can know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that He is readying me for this new journey, this new season in my crazy, adventure-filled life.

and i will cling to this peace that lasts forever, that is beyond my understanding. and i will be excited to hear about how my kids are growing spiritually, how zoey is growing physically, how God is working in and through my church, how my family is growing and changing… and i will be excited to share how God is using me, growing me, sharpening me, molding me, teaching me. for such a time as this.

my heart may have to be reminded every day of His peace and His plan, but i can say that it is ready for this journey. wherever it may lead.

“grace, mercy and peace will be with us, from God the Father and from Jesus Christ the Father’s Son, in truth and in love.” 2 john 1:3

 

PRAY: peace for my family; confidence and leadership for emily, who will take over leadership in Tracer; discernment for my students as they pray for their roles in gifts; open doors for faith conversations every step of this journey, even before i step foot in the airplane; boldness and courage for myself.

 

 

 

 

(hillsong- sinking deep)

home for christmas

it’s the little things.

we don’t need the list of who gets to hang the special ornament or put the angel on the tree anymore.

we don’t check the little red ornament for the hershey kiss, knowing that it won’t be there.

we don’t watch our dad open yet another pack of tube socks and underwear while exclaiming, “socks and undies! just what i always wanted!”

we don’t watch our mom giggle anxiously to see if she finally got dad the right beard trimmer.

we don’t listen to “john denver & the muppets” while decorating the tree.

it’s the little things.

even at 30 years old, it’s hard to forget the traditions you’ve had for most of your life. it’s hard to stumble through the holidays successfully when so many things have changed. i’ve been thinking a lot lately about traditions. thinking about when something major happens to upset the little things. and i’m always thinking about change.

some change you expect. you expect to grow up, you expect your taste in clothing and movies to change with age. but those changes are gradual and you don’t really notice a difference until you look back at your middle school photos and are horrified by that crazy silk shirt and huge neon scrunchie you rocked in the 90’s.

some change you are able to prepare for, like college or starting a new job, buying a house. you plan for those things. you make arrangements, you adjust daily life or spending to accommodate those changes.

but the most uncomfortable kind of change is the one that happens fast, without warning, and forces you to leave behind important things, people, memories. sudden changes often force you to adapt in painful ways. because the longer you do something, the harder it is to let go. that’s why traditions are so easily started, but so difficult to let go of.

it’s accurate to say that the change i hate the most is the change that i don’t see coming, the kind i can’t control. i think that would resonate with a lot of people. the kind of change that hurts the most is the kind you don’t plan on, the kind you don’t choose.

so here i sit to remember the little things about Christmas’ past, the things i’ll never get back and the moments that will have to remain as memories.

but I am also thinking of the current little things. thankful for the new Christmas memories i have made as an adult and am still making.

spend some time reflecting this Christmas. appreciate your past. accept it, treasure the good parts and learn from the challenging ones. lock up those memories in your heart, not to be used as self pity in the present or future, but to hold dear as a part of your story. we don’t get to choose everything that happens to us, good or bad. but we can choose to make it all count for something.

we can’t plan everything in life. in fact, we can plan very little. so today i choose to cherish what i have now. i choose to treasure my good memories in my heart and love the best that i can this season.

because Christmas will always be about the little things. it’s just up to us to see the new ones every year, and make new ones to treasure later.


(Christmas memories, 2008-2012)

(Kim Gannon- I’ll be home for Christmas)

Could it be that I am finally learnin’

20121117-005017.jpg

They say that age is nothing but a number.

Today I want to believe that. And I want to live that.

Today, on my 30th birthday, I’m asking myself to stop being limited by a number.

Today I am 30. Today I have been breathing for 3 full decades. I’ve voted in 3 presidential elections. I’ve had my drivers license for 14 years. I’ve gotten 3 speeding tickets and when I was in college I gracefully nudged a pedestrian with a car. I’ve been to 43 states and 11 foreign countries. I’ve driven across the country 3 times and I met Leonard from Salvation Mountain. I’ve spread someone’s ashes and I’ve run a 10k. I’ve photographed hundreds of beautiful faces and old churches around the world. I’ve fought battles with teenage girls and i’ve celebrated their victories. I’ve taught numerous people how to drive a stick shift. I’ve played every position on the baseball field. I’ve taught more Bible studies than i can remember and eaten duck. Accidentally. I’ve seen more live music than I can count and I’ve invented dozens of pancake flavors. I’ve made my own clothing and my own peanut butter. I’ve painted artwork for nurseries and offices and tried to save a civil war era split rail fence.

I’ve cried a lot of tears but I’ve laughed a lot of laughs.

I want to slow down and fight harder.

I want to dream bigger and quit more permanently.

I want to listen more intently and open my eyes wider.

I want to live more fiercely and play more frequently.

I want to read more books and rely less on technology.

I want to love more intentionally and breathe deeper.

I want to take more risks and choose more wisely.

I want to study more maps and learn another language fluently.

I want to stop making excuses and wishing for a different fate.

I want to write more stories and talk less about myself.

I want to sing louder and walk taller.

I want to give even more of myself away.

I want to look at myself in the mirror and believe it when I say “your life has been fruitful.”

I want to be all used up. And I want to start again, now.

Could it be that I’m finally learnin’?
Learnin’ I’m deservin’ of love and the peaceful heart.
I’m tired of lyin’ to myself, tryin’ to buy what can’t be bought.

(ray lamontagne- old before your time)

And if I stumble

Unbelief. Desperation.

When I read this chapter of Mark, I always relate to one person in the story, and it’s not Jesus.

I’m the father begging Jesus to save his son. I’m the father who says to Jesus “if you can…” I’m the father who pleads with Jesus to help his unbelief.

“O faithless generation, how long am I to be with you? How long am I to bear with you? Bring him to me.” And they brought the boy to him. And when the spirit saw him, immediately it convulsed the boy, and he fell on the ground and rolled about, foaming at the mouth. And Jesus asked his father, “How long has this been happening to him?” And he said, “From childhood. And it has often cast him into fire and into water, to destroy him. But if you can do anything, have compassion on us and help us.” And Jesus said to him, “‘If you can’! All things are possible for one who believes.” Immediately the father of the child cried out and said, “I believe; help my unbelief!” (Mark 9:19-24 ESV)

I believe. I do. I believe that Jesus is who He says He is. But I need Him to help the unbelief I have that He is still working in my life. That’s the cynic in me. That’s the visual learner in me. The hard proof I have, the things I can see and touch and hear, have left me feeling desperate, unbelieving.

I want to believe that Jesus knows what He is doing with my life. I want to believe that He knows better than I do. I want to believe in His promises to make my paths straight. Too often I stay focused on the physical evidence instead of Jesus’ promise that He is faithful. Too often I choose to look at my circumstances and slip into an unbelief that keeps me from fully trusting Jesus.

Thankfully, I am not alone. Thankfully, God thought it a common enough human problem that He decided to show me a biblical example of my cynical self.

Through this father I am able to see that what I need to do is continually ask Jesus to help my unbelief. He gave the control of his unbelief to Jesus. And not only did he surrender control to Jesus, he was able to see his son healed. He was a recipient of Jesus’ grace and mercy and power.

But first he asked Jesus to help his unbelief.

My personal prayer is that I will always be able to turn to Jesus to be the one to help my unbelief. That I won’t turn to the people who cannot help me with my unbelief. That I will always speak out loud my unbelief, not because Jesus doesn’t already know, but because my cynical self needs to humbly approach Him in everything.

Feel I’m on the verge of some great truth
Where I’m finally in my place
But I’m fumbling still full proof
And it’s cluttering my space
Casting shadows on my face

And If I stumble, and if I stall
And if I slip now, and if I should fall
And if I can’t be, all that I could be
Will you? Will you wait for me?

Jesus, I believe. But when I stumble, will You wait for me? Will You help my unbelief? Will You be my belief when I can’t see it? Will You be all that I will never be?

(Alexi Murdoch-wait)

come rain or come shine

i don’t believe in true love. but i do believe in love.

this is not scientific. i don’t have any degrees in medicine or biology or anything that tells you how a brain actually functions. but i do know all of this to be true:

a year ago today, my brain caught up with my heart. ok, that sounds slightly ridiculous, because in truth the heart is a muscle, and it doesn’t have feelings, other than feeling blood pump through it. and technically, what i mean is the logical part of my brain caught up with the emotional part of my brain, but that sounds much less magical. regardless. a year ago, two parts of my brain started working simultaneously.  a few months later,  a third part of my brain had the chance to catch up.

and a few months after that the last part of my brain began to grow and stretch and learn in way it hadn’t before. it gave me the chance to live symbiotically within myself. for the logical to meet the emotional, and for those to meet with the most important part of my brain, where the Holy Spirit gently speaks to me. it was in this fluid relationship that God revealed so much truth about my life, His plans for me, His idea of what my marriage should look like, and His truth about what loving another person was supposed to look like.

i believe in loving people. i believe in marriage. i believe God has given us marriage as the second most important relationship to experience. and i believe that God just asks us to make a choice that will please Him. but i also believe that one of those choices is the choice not to marry at all. the bottom line is whether or not your choice pleases Him.

i don’t believe in true love. but i do believe in love. and i believe without question that love is not a feeling in one of those parts of my brain, but a conscious decision that i make every day, every minute, every second. i believe He has equipped me to love someone in that way. and the only requirement is for that person to make that conscious decision for me every day, every minute, every second. it’s just a choice.

my favorite lady, billie, sings it like this:

‘you’re going to love me like nobody’s loved me

come rain or come shine

happy together, unhappy together, and won’t it be fine?

days may be cloudy or sunny. we’re in or we’re out of the money

but i’m with you always, i’m with you, rain or shine’

 

a year ago God started me on a trajectory to really find what He wanted me to understand all along.

 

i don’t believe in true love. but i do believe in love.

 

 

(harold arlen, johnny mercer- come rain or come shine)

clarity

ever have a song that finally makes sense once you live the lyrics?

after this season, the song “clarity” by jimmy eat world does just that.

nearly 12 years later, clarity holds the words i thought and held.

maybe it doesn’t “make sense” so much as it means more. infinitely more.

 

i’ll take your words

as if you were talking to me

so say what i know you’ll say

and say it through your teeth
now in the deep and down your heart moves

now in the deep and down i don’t know how, but i know i want out

wait for something better

will I know when it can be us?
wait for something better

maybe that doesn’t mean us

wait for something better, i shouldn’t, it’s not enough

pull one excuse from another
and with pride, keep every failure in

and with pride, hold on to the  sinking

now in the deep and down, your heart moves

now in the deep and down, i don’t know how but i know i want out

wait for something better

will i know when it can be us?

wait for something better

maybe that doesn’t mean us
wait for something better- i shouldn’t, it’s not enough

pull one excuse from another

this time it means stop, stop

pull one excuse from another

this time it means stop

wait for something better
will i know when it can be us?

wait for something better

maybe that doesn’t mean us

wait for something better-i shouldn’t, it’s not enough

pull one excuse from another

this time it means stop

still one of my top 5 albums of all time. one of my favorite lyricists. and this album will never make me feel bitter. neither will this season. but it sure does feel healthily cathartic to have a way to express this season.
clarity. and growth.
and a whole lot of clarity :o)

 

 

(jimmy eat world- clarity)

a purpose worth being broken for

 

2011. it’s the obligatory end of year post. and i have much to reflect on. this is going to come in two parts.

it’s been quite a year. at the end of 2010, i was able to look back at a year of changing. and it was rough but so beneficial.

never did i imagine that 2011 would be even tougher.

this year i loved fiercely and intentionally. and it was the hardest thing my heart has ever gone through. it’s easy to love fiercely when you’re receiving love. but when you’re doing it knowing that you’ll never receive equally, it has the potential to wreck you. it would be easy for me to be bitter right now. but i started this year with one word on my heart.

 

SURRENDER.

it’s a word i prayed over and over again for myself. it’s the one word i can use to describe this year. this year i surrendered to a lot of things. i surrendered to my job. to my placement. to relationships.

but most of all i surrendered to an idea. to the idea that my life is not my own. i have a purpose and a calling on my life that i have been scared and hesitant to step into. and i know i’m scared because it is a calling that has the very real potential to bring so many blessings. but those blessings may be in equal proportion to the pain. if this past year was any indication, i’m surrendering to a life of constant giving. i’m surrendering to my “mary poppins” life.

and as much as i can feel a ripe hurt in my heart, i have never been more excited to live and to love than i am right now. for years i have been talking about being on a horizon. something that i felt was just around the corner. and i’ve been waiting, sometimes not very patiently, for a long time to have it revealed to me. but as God is wont to do, He has done everything in His own timing. and i am more thankful for that now than ever. because this year has marked the most growing time in my adult life. the most intentional time. and i know this is just a beginning.

this year was frantic. busy. overwhelming. difficult. enduring. growing. i’ve laughed a lot, but i’ve shed more tears. and truthfully i can say that i would not change a thing. i have no regrets. i am just fully content in my Maker and who He has molded me into over the year.

so as i sit here on the other side of the pain and the stretching and the growing, i am nothing but grateful. i know why they call them growing pains. i feel wiser today than i did a year ago. i feel more calm. i feel more content in the person God made me and is continuing to make me.

this year proved that i am feistier than i thought. i live more fiercely than i thought. and God has given me a resilience and a peace that i never dreamed i would carry.

 

i hope you understand that you haven’t seen the fierceness my God has given me. not yet. He’s unleashed it this year in a gentle way. and i’m not apologizing for it. here’s to 2012 and all that this night ceremoniously hold for us.

 

begin anew. it’s time.

 

(sleeping at last- noble aim)