Our Engagement Story.

Written on July 30th, 2014.
(As many things I write, this was originally written for my personal use, but obviously I have since decided to make it public. Enjoy!) 🙂 

There have been so many amazing things taking place lately – so many details of God’s provision, presence, blessing, and love – that I want to seal them up and cherish them forever. It seems too good to just experience and move on. I want to sit in this place of gratefulness and awe of my good Father and remember.

Typically, I would write in my journal, but I feel like there’s so much I want to say, my hand would tire from writing before I could finish recording details and pouring out my heart and my song.
(I think I will print this out and put it in my journal when it’s finished.) ☺

It’s hard to even know where to begin… probably because God has been orchestrating this time since before I took my first breath. (There really is no beginning as He has no beginning!) Chris and I have been through so much during the past year and a half… it hasn’t at all been what we expected when we met each other and quickly fell in love.

Entering shortly after we met into a season of brokenness in search of healing and redemption, all while falling repeatedly and being constantly reminded of our depravity and need of a Savior was the last thing we expected. After nearly a decade of running, I finally came face to face with ugly and excruciatingly painful truths about my past, including multiple abusive experiences and my battle with perfectionism. Depression, dark days full of oppression, suicidal thoughts, fights, and moments when we didn’t think we’d make it were gut-wrenching as sometimes we even considered that maybe we had been wrong in believing that God had brought us together.

But wow, He has been faithful.

We held on to Him in those dark moments and glimmers of light in-between… and when we couldn’t muster the strength to hold on, He held on to us and demonstrated His faithfulness even when we fumbled to even glance His direction.
Little by little, the glimmers of light lasted longer and longer and shone brighter in the darkness, eventually chasing it out altogether as lies died and truth reigned in our hearts.

On January 26th of this year, I had a powerful, healing moment before the Lord. It was simple, but it changed everything. It was a beacon of light that chased out remaining lies and darkness in my heart and set it so free.
I was standing in church, singing with my eyes closed about Jesus’ blood making me white as snow, and suddenly I had a vision of myself. At first, I saw myself as I believe I typically viewed myself. It was in real-time… I pictured myself standing in church, wearing the same clothes I had on… but I was weighed down with chains and scars and brokenness. Shame. Guilt. Dirty.
Suddenly, the vision changed.
I was still seeing myself in real-time, but the chains were gone. I was still wearing my same clothes, standing in the same place, but something was totally different. It was as if I was seeing myself from up above, and I looked so clean and washed, that I sparkled.
God revealed to me that this is how He sees me. Forgiven. Clean.
It changed everything.

From that moment, I felt like I finally understood grace.
I began living with a more thankful heart… because when you’ve seen what you are and what you don’t deserve… when you realize what Jesus has done despite who you are in your imperfect mess… EVERYTHING is a gift. I began looking at Chris differently. I began to really appreciate him. I began to see how he is a gift from the Lord. Walls built with bricks fired from years of abuse, mistrust, and lies began to crumble and I allowed myself to be vulnerable. I allowed myself to receive love. For years I never felt like I deserved it.
I finally understood that I could never deserve it… but because of grace, I began to accept it with a grateful heart.

Slowly but surely, we began to heal and rebuild. We began to trust each other. I began to offer more and more grace to him where he had been one-sidedly offering it to me. I began to even offer grace to myself. No one expected me to be perfect.
It shocked me that I was still loved even with my imperfections so obvious. But what a relief it was.

Since then, it has been an absolutely beautiful season of redemption and growth. More and more, Chris and I have just enjoyed each other. With a depth of life experiences, love and dedication to each other in our pockets, we built a friendship that’s deep and powerful and intense. We began laughing more and more, and learned to love each other in a whole new way. Humility, grace, forgiveness. We began having date nights, moments of uncontrollable laughter, and building trust and devotion so deep, our hearts finally began to rest.
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It’s been so beautiful between us for several months now.
Because we began our relationship anticipating marriage and had held on during the dark times with the belief that God had brought us together for this purpose, I began to wonder more and more when God would say “yes” to us being married.

On February 22nd, as I was praying and asking God when He would say yes, the date June 8th popped into my head. Even in all my anticipatory wedding planning and dreaming, I hadn’t thought of that date. Surely, I thought, it was God’s voice, not my wishful thinking. So I stopped praying and got out my calendar. June 8th was a Sunday. Interesting. Maybe, I thought, this would be when God wanted us to be married! Months passed and I held this promise in my heart as I waited for Chris to propose. As the issue surfaced, Chris gently reminded me that he was waiting for God to say yes before we moved forward. I didn’t tell anyone the date I had heard from God but quietly anticipated His “yes.” March came and went, and as the days of April faded, I began to feel more and more anxious and even irritated that Chris hadn’t asked me to marry him yet. God had told me June 8th… was Chris not listening to Him!? (haha!)

As May ended and June began, I had already settled in my mind that I had either heard God wrong, or Chris hadn’t been listening to Him. One Sunday in June, we were on the way to church and having a beautiful conversation in the car. As the conversation progressed, Chris looked at me with tears in his eyes, and told me that God had said YES.
The date? June 8th.
Beautiful. He is faithful.
He had said yes!

The waiting for Chris’ proposal began.

Ironically, the day before Chris proposed, the topic of my anticipation of his proposal came up. I jokingly told him all the silly and ridiculous times I thought he was going to ask me. For example, one time, we were at a Bethel Worship night in Nashville. I thought for sure it was going to happen during that weekend, because afterall, it was Nashville where he first asked if he could pursue me. In my mind, this was perfect! (Oh, how little I truly know about perfection!)
After a beautiful worship song where we prayed to surrender ourselves and our families to God, Chris looked at me with this silly grin and told me he’d be right back. I freaked out, thinking surely this was the moment. What was he up to?! I agonizingly attempted to worship through the next song, not knowing what he was up to, if he was going to pop up on the stage with the band, or return and propose right there in the seats. Several long minutes later, he returned… big grin on his face… and in his hands, a plate of pizza and a mountain dew!!

I can’t forget either the times he has tricked me… like when we were having a sweet moment together in his kitchen, and he suddenly dropped to one knee at my feet… and proceeded to pet Wrigley, who was lying nearby on the floor. Or when we went hiking on one of our date nights, and I was convinced that this was when he was going to ask me – he knelt in the dirt overlooking the beautiful river on a scenic outlook, then proceeded to play in the dirt and rocks. There were so many times when I thought “maybe this is the night.” “Maybe this is the date night.” “Maybe it will happen next weekend.”

I was never disappointed to a point that it stole my joy… it was always a joyful, anxious expectation. But now as I write, I look down at this gorgeous ring he had crafted especially for me… and I am so thankful that it was never any of those times. I am so thankful that it happened when I didn’t expect it. When I didn’t have an idea of “perfection.” I am so thankful that it was totally in God’s hands – that Chris sought his Father for guidance for the exact day and time. And that on Saturday, when Chris asked God when he could ask me, God said, “tomorrow.”
Because the next day – Sunday, July 27th, 2014 was perfect.
The best day of my life.
And God orchestrated the whole thing.

Chris and I had planned to visit our friends Trey and Allie since they moved away last October. We had been praying with them earlier that summer for a Freestyle event when Trey said he had a word from the Lord – then apologized to us that it wasn’t about Freestyle, but God said that he and Allie would be moving to Indiana. It was out of nowhere and unexpected, but they were obedient to God’s word and moved almost immediately to Indiana, where God began opening ministry doors and blessing them like crazy. I saw them for the first time since they moved about a month ago when they came to town for our mutual friends’ documentary screening. We talked about how wonderful it would be to get together and for us to visit them. A date was set!

Little did I know, Chris had been ring-shopping for months and a month before we visited Trey and Allie, had designed and ordered my ring. The weekend approached and we both excitedly anticipated a restful time away. As I write, I now recall us talking on the car ride there about our expectations for the weekend. We both prayed for a restful, joyful time… a time to reconnect with the Lord and with each other and our friends. God certainly answered those prayers.

Prayers were answered even in the seemingly small details. God revealed Himself by showing us that He cares about our heart’s desires and the details of our lives. Looking back now, I recall that when I was preparing to leave for our trip, I searched my closet for a dress to wear to church while visiting our friends. I recalled again a white, lacy dress I had bought nearly a year ago on clearance during the after-season. I got it knowing that I would have to be brave to wear it – it was awfully feminine with its white lace and ruffles – but I loved it and couldn’t wait to wear it for Chris. Funny now to think that soon after I bought it, it got too cold to wear it. I decided I would have to wait until spring. The long winter passed and spring and summer came. I put it on a couple of different times in consideration of wearing it on a date night, or to church, but had always taken it off and put it back in the closet. This weekend, I packed it. It may sound silly, but my thought was that my friend Allie is beautiful and tall and elegant and wears long skirts and dresses, and I would feel less awkward in my skin because of her fearlessness in femininity. I planned to wear it to church Sunday morning.
Sunday morning came, and I left the dress hanging. I couldn’t do it.

After a beautiful church service were we worshipped together and Chris and I held hands and prayed together, Allie and I headed back to the house before the guys. While we waited, I tried on the dress wanting to show it off and hear what Allie thought. She loved it and made such a fuss, I considered that I might just wear it to the beach trip we’d planned for the day. It was hot… but Allie encouraged me that its white lace on the sandy beach would be just gorgeous, especially if we took pictures. I wore the dress.

It maybe seems so unimportant… but when I look at the beautiful photos of the day that Chris proposed, I am so thankful. It was a seemingly small detail that showed me that God cares about the details of our lives and knows our hearts so well, that he loves on us even in these small things! I couldn’t have planned it better myself.

On the car ride to the dunes, none of us really knew where we were going. We found a spot neither Trey nor Allie had been to before, and we were all amazed as we stepped onto a beach with turquoise-blue water, tall sand dunes covered with trees, and a brilliant view of the Chicago skyline. The weather was warm, the sun was shining, the breeze was blowing, and the feeling in the air was of an undiscovered paradise.

We found a flat, shaded spot on one of the dunes and set out our picnic. Trey played his guitar and we listened and took pictures and videos and talked. It was so peaceful. Chris recalled how I had told him that the beach is my resting place. Where I feel renewed and cleansed. I had been wanting to go to the beach all summer… I didn’t expect it would be in Indiana… or on Lake Michigan… but here I was – on one of the most beautiful beaches I’ve ever seen!

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We knew we couldn’t spend the whole day at the beach as we had appointments to get tattoos later in the evening, so when it was almost time to leave, we decided to take some photos on the beach. I even thought it was my idea – haha – I asked Allie and Trey if they’d like for me to take photos of their family and then we’d trade. They agreed and we set off to find our perfect photo spot.

When we had first arrived, Chris and Trey had climbed to some of the higher dunes and returned to tell us that the views from up there were incredible – like you were the only people on the beach – and the water and view of Chicago was spectacular. We decided we would take our photos up there.

The climb up was difficult – the sand was scorching hot and it was difficult to get traction as we climbed in the shifting sand. But once we reached the top, it was totally worth it. Peaceful. Beautiful. A reflection of the past year and a half, really.
So difficult. Very painful at times. Such a hard climb. But totally and completely worth it in the end… and more than we ever could have imagined.
Little did I know, my life was about to change forever!

After I finished taking Trey and Allie’s photos, Chris handed his phone to Allie, and Trey continued to hold his guitar he had been holding for their photos. I thought nothing of the fact that he had the guitar – Trey is a musician. Of course he’d have his guitar on a beach picnic!

Chris and I danced in the sand as I anticipated some candid photos… but Trey began playing “On a Night Like This,” a song I have loved and has been special to Chris and me since we first began getting to know each other. I listened to it countless times in Haiti while I was away from him and dreamed of the day we would live in the same city. I laughed and apparently said to Chris, “You stinker!” upon hearing the song.

Now that I think back, it’s hard to imagine all the thoughts going through my head. It was a moment that was simultaneously filled with a million thoughts yet so wrapped up in the beautiful moment that I was simply lost in Chris’ eyes and overwhelmed with joy. It was as if my soul knew it was time, but my mind couldn’t believe it.
After all this time. Redemption is so beautiful.

Chris asked me if I wanted to dance together forever, and I responded that I wanted to dance all my dances with him.

We continued to sway and kiss in the breeze. Nothing was rushed.
He told me that he had been praying for this time, and God had said yes.
He said, “It’s time.” I laughed and cried joyfully and nearly fell over in the sand.
It was then that he reached into his pocket and pulled out my ring.
For a moment we continued to look into each others’ eyes, choking back tears. I felt like I was dreaming.

With tears in his eyes and the sweetest grin, he knelt and asked me to be his wife.
My answer? “Yes yes YES YES YES!!”

Only then did we realize a bunch of people on another dune had been watching the entire scene play out and were even taking video of us… they all began cheering, and we turned and raised our arms to the sky, cheering back as Trey and Allie celebrated, too!
The precious moments Allie captured on video are priceless. We laughed so hard.

My ring is absolutely gorgeous.
Chris told me it’s one of a kind because he designed and custom-ordered it.
It has three bands (for my love of the verse “A cord of three strands is not easily broken.” – Ecclesiastes 4:12), and each band has 7 diamonds on either side, as 7 is the Biblical number of perfection, or completion. He knew he wanted to get me an emerald cut sapphire, which God also confirmed months earlier when Chris had been praying about our engagement.
On a particular day while praying for clarity about asking me to be his wife, he said that God had clearly spoken “Ezekiel 10” to him. Chris had no idea what that meant, so he looked it up.
“Then I looked, and, behold, in the firmament that was above the head of the cherubims there appeared over them as it were a sapphire stone, as the appearance of the likeness of a throne.” – Ezekiel 10:1

He said that he then knew that God was giving him further confirmation that now was the time.
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As I look back now and try to help my mind catch up with my soul in believing this is all real, I am blown away by all the details that came together to make the proposal just perfect and this season so beautiful and joyous.
It wasn’t just one moment, it was countless moments of seeking God’s face, of God revealing Himself, and of us laying down our idols and expectations and deciding to trust Him.

I had to lay down my anxiety and my anxiousness about waiting for a proposal over and over again. I had wanted it so badly, but it didn’t come until I ceased to make it more than it was. Even in the waiting for June 8th, fully believing that God had spoken to me about that day, I finally laid it down, trusting God that it would happen perfectly in His timing. Once I was able to lay this idol down at His feet and trust Him that His timing and plan bring the most beautiful and possible scenario, it made room for me to fully live in each moment with Chris, hopefully expectant with joy, not with angst. Had I attempted to force some scenario into being, I would have robbed myself of the gifts God had in store. I would have never known the beauty and the freedom of accepting the gift of an amazingly orchestrated engagement. An engagement completely orchestrated by my Father himself.

I don’t want to finish writing. It feels like there is so much more to say, as I have not paid justice to all God did during this time. I guess I never could… I suppose I may never know all the beautiful details or understand His grace and provision in it all. His presence was all over the weekend… from an encounter with a broken-hearted old man on the sidewalk, to two tough, scary men in the grocery store, all of whom we ended up sharing His gospel with and praying for. His presence was in our bike ride Saturday; His name carved in the wooden bridge overlooking a crystal-clear stream and field of flowers. A resting bench on the bike trail was painted, “Jesus said, ‘Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened and I will give you rest.’” (Matthew 11:28). We were amazed at the spiritual atmosphere, at the peacefulness of the place, and how our hearts and souls felt as we drew near to His heart each day.

I suppose there are many powerful lessons to be learned here.
Like the power in laying down our idols and allowing only God to fill that high place of esteem and glory. Like how we can trust Him in His timing and provision and desire to give us good gifts, because He is a good Father. Like how we should allow Him to take us through difficult seasons, seasons of such darkness we can’t imagine a way out… because in the dark, He shines and makes us completely new. In the ashes, beauty springs forth. I am amazed at all God has done. At how brand new I feel. How my old thoughts and ways have been put to death and how He has made me a new creation. How He gifted me, in his grace, a man that is perfect for me – my best friend – a man who causes me to love my Creator more, and a man who allows me to live freely by offering me grace no matter what.

It may seem as if this story is ending, but really, it is just another beginning.
A beautiful beginning.
I can’t wait for the next chapter!

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I’m a Crazy, Violent, Alcoholic Racist on a Wrecking Ball

Imagine one of your shining moments: A time when you succeeded, the crowd cheered, your dreams came true, you got an incredible promotion, or you received the best compliment of your life. Maybe you imagine when you were saved or baptized or when you shared your testimony with someone and they made a decision to follow Jesus.

Great, right?

Now imagine one of your worst moments.
Ugh.

Maybe you were in a fight with your significant other.
You said something you never thought would come out of your mouth.
Threw something at the person. Punched a wall or even the person. Had an outright meltdown. Attempted or considered suicide.
(Yes I admit, some of all of these may or may not be personal examples.)

What if the person or people that witnessed your worst moment forever treated you in light of that awful moment? What if they defined you by your worst moment?
Never let you live it down? Always brought up “that time you…”

If you were dating the person, I think it’s safe to say you’d probably break up with them. It would be infinitely frustrating and suffocating to be seen for your awful mistakes instead of for who you believe yourself to be.
But what if you couldn’t leave that person or people?
What if you were constantly surrounded by people who always reminded you of your failures because of who they understand you to be?

I imagine I’d feel pretty hopeless.

Pause. Breathe. It’s okay… you can put your ugly moment away now.

I’ve been wanting to write about this for a couple months now.

It all started when I saw this Retweet on my Twitter feed by Sadie Robertson.
(For those of you who aren’t tweeters, a retweet means you share what someone else has posted, so that everyone who follows you can see that person’s post, too.)
Sadie shared what one of her fans said about ditching her former role model, Miley Cyrus, and adopting Sadie as her new role model.
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My initial thought was, “Wow… what incredible pressure that must put on Sadie now. Imagine if she ever messed up.”

…and then the floodgate of thoughts for this post opened.

(Side-note. I think writers have a million simultaneous thoughts that constantly circulate until a group of thoughts finally come together at the right time… and that’s when a written work is born. This author agrees: – read article here)


I digress.
Back to raging meltdowns.

Everyone old enough remembers this.
Screen Shot 2014-05-12 at 6.14.59 PMYes, that’s Britney Spears in her glorious, shining moment.
(…or is that just the glare from her head?)

And who can forget Charlie Sheen’s countless meltdowns?

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If you can recall how you felt while imagining being defined by your worst moment, imagine feeling that way the rest of your life. The entire world sees you as your worst moment.

That’s how I imagine how it feels to be under the constant pressure and criticism that celebrities face.

No wonder stories flood the news about overdose, drug and alcohol or sex addiction, suicide, and serial meltdowns amongst the celebrity population. Lifestyle, an altered view of reality, and other pitfalls of fame aside, people in the spotlight are surely to feel depressed and hopeless because of the inability to escape their past due to how their culture continues to define them.

One recent example of someone who majorly screwed up is Donald Sterling, the NBA Clippers’ owner who was caught on voice recording making very racist statements to his girlfriend. (He has since been banned from the NBA and fined the maximum amount allowed.)

I imagine similar to how Miley Cyrus (the poor tweeting girl’s former role model) has been imprinted in our minds as a personified meltdown on a wrecking ball, despite facing consequences for his actions, Donald Sterling will probably forever remain in our minds a raging racist.

This morning, I saw this post on my Twitter feed.

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Forgiveness?
Or forever defined by his worst mistake?

As “tweeting girl” represents millions of young girls across the country who look up to Sadie Robertson, imagine the pressure Sadie is now under not to ever mess up!
What happens if she does? Forgiveness? Grace? Or is it on to the next person who hasn’t shown their imperfection (yet) as we place them on our idol shelf?

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Here’s the issue.
I’m obviously not condoning any of the behaviors or stances taken by these celebrities. I am certainly no racist, I don’t recommend hammering away at someone’s car with an umbrella, nor do I think that swinging naked from a wrecking ball is a great way to achieve positive feedback.

But I do know what it’s like to royally screw up and feel hopeless about myself.
I have been to the bottom so many times and I have given up on myself more times than I can even count. A perfectionist that constantly fails is doomed to depression and hopelessness.

But you know what has pulled me out of that hopeless pit?

GRACE.

Someone looked at me and said, “It’s okay. I forgive you. I know who you are. You are lovely. I don’t define you by your mistakes. I love you.”

As much as I’d love to write books for a living someday, I never want to be a celebrity. There is no grace. You can’t mess up. (And Lord knows I need a LOT of grace!)

I’ve lived back in the States for nearly a year now. It’s been really, really hard.
I have suffered not only because of sins against me but because I have honestly put my heart under the magnifying glass and the operating table for a change.
I have faced skeletons in my closet and demons on my bedpost. I’ve seen the depths of my evil, sinful heart without Jesus and been scared out of my mind at the possibility of life without Him. I’ve been the worst mess I’ve ever been in my life (and I’ve been through hell in my 28 years)! At times I can’t believe the things I’ve said and done and if I ever were to listen to Satan and define myself by my dark moments and embarrassing antics, then I would certainly be hopeless and suicidal.

But thank God that no one (that matters) defines me by those moments!
More importantly, thank God that HE doesn’t define me that way.
And thank God that He gave me amazing people in my life who have loved me right through my depression, right in the middle of my panic attacks and meltdowns, and instead of defining me as “crazy” or “hopeless,” offered me grace and showed me that God’s mercies are new every morning (Lamentations 3:22).

I don’t think there is a culture-wide solution for ceasing to define celebrities by their worst moments short of salvation and grace-filled and grace-offering lives for everyone (that would be rad, though). However, much can be learned from this grace-less world and much can be applied that will literally change lives. It changed mine.
It SAVED mine.

First, we can accept grace and apply it to ourselves.

  • We can stop trying to be perfect, see ourselves rightfully as sinners hopeless without a savior but offered salvation through Jesus. It’s okay to not be okay. Jesus is perfect for us.
    And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. (Ephesians 2:1-10)

    Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. (John 14:6)

  • We can even be honest about our weaknesses, because the purpose of our lives is to glorify God and He receives all glory when we’re not trying to claim it for ourselves by putting on a facade of perfection (and thus claiming glory for ourselves). Everything good about me is because of Him!
    But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. (2 Corinthians 12:19)
  • We can claim victory over our past and our sins and step into the new life that’s offered to us through grace. Yes. A new life. You can leave all the garbage and hurtful definitions behind and claim a new life because Jesus said so!!
    Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. (2 Corinthians 5:17)
  • We can change the way we live because we know how much we’re loved and how much grace God has offered to us through His son Jesus. We never have to be hopeless because He chose to love us even before we thought about doing anything “good” for Him! He chose to love us with full knowledge of every sin we would ever commit!
    For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die— but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (Romans 5:6-8)

Secondly, as we have received grace, we can pass it on.

  • We can view others clearly as we have now seen ourselves – sinners in need of a savior – and be a steward of grace as it has been given to us.
    As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace… (1 Peter 4:10)
  • We can love others, offering forgiveness in the face of their failures and disappointments, freeing not only them from the bondage of their hopelessness, but freeing our hearts as well, as unforgiveness is a root of bitterness.
    Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. (Colossians 3:12-14)

Finally, and most importantly, we can absolutely fall in love with Jesus, as by His grace, He’s the one who makes a life worth living possible!
We love him because he first loved us. (1 John 4:19)

My prayer for celebrities and all who are facing the harsh reality of their sinfulness without the balance and the respite of the hope of Jesus is that they would know that it’s okay not to be okay. If we were okay, God wouldn’t have sent and sacrificed His son Jesus for us. My prayer is that they will trust Jesus as their savior, repent of their sins, and turn to Him, trusting Him for a new life. My prayer is that they would know that they aren’t failures, because in Jesus, God sees them as perfect and lacking nothing.  I pray that when Sadie does fall short of the ‘perfect role model,’ she will be met with grace and forgiveness. My prayer is that we would ALL learn grace – not only for ourselves but to offer to others – and that as a result, we would fall more and more in love with Jesus.

I’ve been a perfectionist my whole life.
I wanted to do things my way, and do them perfectly. I was tying my own shoes at age 3! But I’ve also been miserable a lot of my life as I’ve obviously failed at perfection and more recently, come to see more and more how wicked my heart is. This season has been so difficult as I’ve wrestled with accepting my imperfection and vulnerably allowed others to see me as such a mess.

But what rest it gives my heart to know that even though I may occasionally see myself as a crazy, hormonal maniac (on a wrecking ball), in Jesus, I am seen as PERFECT in my Father’s eyes!
And that is all that matters.

 

 

For we ourselves were once foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures, passing our days in malice and envy, hated by others and hating one another. But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life. (Titus 3:3-7)

The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases;
his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning;
 great is your faithfulness.“The Lord is my portion,” says my soul,
“therefore I will hope in him.” (Lamentations 3:22-24)

Intimate Space

Yesterday, when I arrived to my sweetheart’s house, I found him in the middle of a rescue operation.

“…you want to see?” he said, carrying a cardboard box towards the backyard.

He led me to a tiny, buzzing creature in the grass. Typically, these little guys are nearly impossible  to study up close as they move so quickly. But wow… he was beautiful. Sitting nearly motionless in the wet grass was a tiny hummingbird with dazzling iridescent green and red feathers.
A powerful storm with pea-sized hail had just moved through the area, and instead of lifting off the ground when he attempted to flap his delicate wings, he buzzed around helplessly, likely hurt in the storm.

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Chris put him in the box and brought him inside.
As always, “John Google” served helpful as Chris looked up how to nurse a hummingbird back to health.
(What did we ever do before Google?!)

While I waited, I sat on the floor peering into the box at this beautiful, mysterious creature.
As I watched his body rock with each rapid breath, he seemed to watch me, too… blinking every few seconds. *blink*  Just watching. *blink*
I know it sounds ridiculous, but my heart started to break for this little guy as his future seemed to be imminent death.

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Just moments before, I had no idea of his existence.
Birds die every.single.day.

I’m just not aware of it.

While I shared this intimate space with the hummingbird, suddenly made aware of his life’s existence, a scripture came to mind.

“Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father.”
-Matthew 10:29

A baby takes his first breath, a young girl sits lonely in her room, a college student stresses over a research paper, a wife mourns the abandonment of her husband, a young couple gets married, a family mourns the loss of their mother, a man is overwhelmed with his job, an athlete scores the winning point, a child starves with no one to feed her, an elderly person dies alone… good and bad, these things happen all the time… all over the world. From the day-to-day happenings like a person brushing their teeth to the more tragic and life-changing events like new life and death, these things are happening all the time. Everywhere.
And we are unaware.
How could we know unless, like when my path crossed with this bird, we are sharing life and intimate space with these people?

As Jesus tells his disciples in this scripture, however, our Father is aware! He’s more than aware.
Of all the birds in the entire world, not one sparrow dies without the Father’s knowing or will. And He even says we are worth much more.

But even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not, therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows.”
-Matthew 10:30-31

How awesome is that?

Our Creator isn’t just sitting back, unaware of our daily goings on, our heartbreak, our triumphs, our struggles, our fears, our thoughts… He loves us so much and knows us in such intimate detail that He even knows how many hairs are on our heads! Can’t you just see Him, His heart (in so much more magnitude than mine considering the hummingbird), aching for the sake of your life as He shares your intimate space?! He LOVES you!

Chris and I laughed with joy as the hummingbird (who Chris later named “Baxter”) drank sugar water from our fingertips.
We prayed for his healing. Chris took care of him overnight and we rejoiced when he lived through the night. Today, he took Baxter to a Wild Bird Rehabilitation facility where they gave him a good prognosis (yes… apparently these places exist. Our city is awesome).
We became aware of his life, we loved his life, and we fought for his life.

How much more does our Creator, who knows every detail of our bodies and every thought in our minds, love us and want life and victory for us?! Wow. Even more encouraging than Jesus’ example with the sparrows, however, is what he says before and after. The scripture begins with Him sending His disciples out into the world to proclaim the gospel. He reminds them of their worth, stating that not even a sparrow can die outside of the Father’s will, and that they have much more worth than the sparrow. He warns them of the persecution they will face on account of Him. And He encourages them not to fear these people, stating, “…do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell.” – Matthew 10:28

Because our Father has an intimate awareness of us, because He loves us, and because ultimately our purpose is to love Him and bring glory to Him, we can live freely, proclaiming His name with no fear of man, as HE is the one that both gives us life and has the power to take it away. “So everyone who acknowledges me before men, I also will acknowledge before my Father who is in heaven, but whoever denies me before men, I also will deny before my Father who is in heaven.” – Matthew 10:32-33

So with the knowledge and faith that our Father knows us intimately and in detail… that He loves us so much… and that our life is created for Him… let us live fully for Him, accepting the call that Jesus gave His disciples when He said, And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.” – Matthew 10:38-39


I am so grateful I had the opportunity to share intimate space with this beautiful little hummingbird, who reminded me of our Father’s goodness.
Let us live with an ever-increasing awareness of His intimate presence and His perfect love as we boldly live for Him!

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Lightning and Grace.

I am fortunate to have my very own vacation retreat.

No… it’s not a cabin in Aspen (yes please).
It’s not a beach bungalow in the Caribbean (again…yes!).
It is my humble childhood home where my parents still live in Anderson County, Kentucky.

As life goes, I think I only began to realize its value once I moved away. When I came in for respite during my time in Haiti, it began to transform in my mind from childhood home to luxury home. Hot water. Protection from mosquitos. Comfortable bed.
Now as I come in from out of state, a fresh breeze greets me and the sounds of crickets and frogs replace the sounds of traffic. Trees and ponds replace the tall buildings and highways. I love to watch storms roll in across the fields and hear the leaves make songs in the wind.
Unlike my childhood days when it was filled by the bustling noises of my three brothers and myself, it is now a quiet home where the ticking clock sounds more like a lullaby than the stopwatch we were always racing.
It’s a place where I allow myself to be quiet.
It’s a place where I shut up long enough to hear God speak.

Tonight, I was taking advantage of one of the “amenities” the retreat has to offer – the hot tub – and hoping for some quiet time with the Lord. Sitting under a dark and cloudy winter sky, I attempted to relax tense muscles as I began to pray. I prayed for my sweetheart who is currently on mission in Africa. I thanked God for all He’s been doing in my heart these past 10 months since I arrived back in the States. It’s been such a painful heart surgery, but I have been set free from burdens that I have carried for more than a decade. While I am so thankful to feel like I have been given a completely new heart, I still find myself frustrated at times at how sinful I am. I hate sin.

With bubbles churning around me and my eyes closed praying, I sensed a bright flash of light. Startled, my eyes popped open as I searched for the source. Thinking it was maybe just one of my parents turning on a light in the house, I closed my eyes again.
The flash. Again.
A couple thoughts ran through my mind: Either a perv neighbor was taking my picture, or lightning was moving into the area.

Suddenly, I felt a fear wash over me. Sitting in a hot tub during a lightning storm would be like covering myself in fish guts and blood and jumping into a pool of sharks.
Not good.
Maybe it was the fact that I had just been considering my sin, but my fear of the lightning somehow simultaneously manifested as a fear of God. Lightning is so powerful. It could kill me in an instant. And God created it! He is infinitely more powerful, and unlike lightning, has an agenda. He is passionate.

Man, I thought, if He wanted to, God could just strike me down right now. Sitting here in my swirling pool of sin. He HATES my sin!
Ugh. If only I feared God this much when choosing to sin as I fear lightning while sitting in a tub of water. My sin matters.

But wait…
I thought. He hates my sin, but He also loves me SO MUCH.
How?? What is it that stops him from striking me down violently?

As I determined that the flashes of light had come from a car’s headlights bouncing off our nearby barn, I tried to relax again, my mind swirling like the bubbles in the hot tub around how God could passionately hate my sin but love me so much at the same time. What stops the lightning of wrath against me?

He spoke the gentle name right to my heart.
I knew.

Jesus.

While sitting in my cesspool of filth, my sins swirling, and a thunderstorm of God’s wrath looming overhead, Jesus steps out of his comfortable home and into my nasty tub.

But wait, Jesus, I think. You didn’t do anything to deserve this. My sin is so gross. And God says I need to be punished. The lightning is coming… and it’s for me!

He doesn’t say a word but just by His presence, I know He loves me so much. Anyone who would abandon His comfort and step into my filth must! Gracefully, He gives Himself up as the lightning begins to come down. Somehow, as the storm roars and the lightning pierces the water, He absorbs all of the shock, His body convulsing from the sheer power of God’s wrath against my sin. My cesspool.
I am alive.

He is dead.
My sin killed Him.
And He did it willingly, stepping down into my filth.

What a love.

I look at the water… it’s clear. My filth is gone.
It’s been atoned for.

I imagine God the Father in heaven… His eyes roaming the earth. And each time His eyes pass over me, in my pool, He no longer sees me and my sins. He sees Jesus, who is now seated with Him, pleading my case.
This one has been accounted for.
No further punishment needed.

I breathe a sigh of relief.

My sin sucks.
I hate it.
But whether or not I sin, God still loves me infinitely more than I can even imagine or comprehend. And just as I did nothing to deserve Jesus loving me and stepping down into my cesspool, I can also do nothing to make Him stop loving me.

Because there’s nothing I can do, like I do when I enter my place of retreat, I can now REST. I don’t have to busy myself trying to be “good” or trying to prove myself.
Jesus did that for me.

I deserved the wrath of the lightning.
But when the wrath came down, it didn’t strike me.

That’s grace.

Living with a constant awareness of grace means that I am so much more grateful. It means that I don’t strive to please God to earn love and favor, but that with a changed heart, I do everything to bring Him glory. It means that I can live joyfully because I have been saved from death and given a second chance. It means my heart is set on fire with a love for Jesus, the one that saved me. It means that I can live in freedom because it’s not about me and my sin anymore.

It’s about what Jesus did.

So when I drive back to the big city in a few days, the place, the sights and the sounds might change, but the rest in my heart doesn’t end. It stays with me.

Lightning is powerful.
But grace changes everything.

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“But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.” – Ephesians 2:4-9

I’m not okay.

Last night, I was in a terrible funk and a dark place and my mind was reeling with the hurts and pains and the internal hell I’ve been suffocating through since I returned from Haiti. With all the words screaming to get out but muffled by the pressure to maintain this image of perfection, I began to fantasize what I would say if I could just boldly speak and write the truth.

What would I say if I admitted, “I’m not okay?”

What would I say if I could tell the world what’s going on inside of me?
What would I say if I could boldly speak up about what happened to me?
What would I say that could reveal the truth about hearts of those that have hurt me so deeply yet continue to proclaim Jesus’ name as if He was okay with trampling hearts and ignoring the cries of the innocent?

My fantasized words began to flow with the memory of a face.
The face of an innocent.

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The words that began to form in my mind were bitter and angry.
This precious child that was discarded and left to die is now a famous name amongst a certain community I was formerly associated with. His smile is plastered all over social media, and everyone who visits Haiti can’t wait to play with and hold him.

The fact that he is so loved doesn’t bother me. I [of all people] can understand how lovable he is. My heart aches for him every day. I miss him so much that some nights I just cry with heaving sobs as my empty arms cradle a cold pillow instead.
The part that makes me furious is the fact that this obsession with this little guy – this so-called “love” for him – didn’t begin until after a miracle happened in him.
No one scrambled to hold and love him before he cracked his first smile.

Where were all these people when he was dirty, with bugs crawling in his dirt-and-wax-caked ears, soaked in his own urine and feces…when he couldn’t hold down his food, heaving and choking with every bite, drenched in a clammy sweat, his body rigid with tension, screaming in frustration and battle for life?

Where were they then??

Who loved him THEN????

As these words surged through my mind and I felt my heart burn with passion, I heard what I only know to be truth in a moment of clarity.

GOD loved him then.

This truth struck and pierced my heart so deeply, I felt it burning hot, matching the tears that began to flow as I sobbed into a towel to attempt to muffle my cries.

You see… I am Frensky.
I am a mess.
I am dirty. I have been abused and forgotten. I have been painfully unloved.

The pain of such a vivid awareness of my sin combined with the cries of my soul protesting the abuse against me and the failures of those who were supposed to love and protect me have all tempted me to believe the lie that God doesn’t love me.

Sometimes it’s so hard to believe that He loves me.

What makes Frensky’s story so beautiful and magnetic is the work that God has done in him. The healing that took place. True, he’d still be an attractive, sweet little guy even if nothing bad had ever happened or he’d been born healthy to a loving mother… but his story and his life bring so much more glory to God because that wasn’t the case. Because once upon a time… he wasn’t okay.

So with that parting of the clouds for just a brief moment in time, I try to hold on to the truth that’s been revealed.

It’s okay that I’m not okay.

It’s okay that I’m not perfect.
I will never be.
I can surrender the pressure to be or speak or act a certain way and just admit, “I’m not okay.”

Because someday, when I can breathe again without the crushing weight of sins and abuse and abandonment on my chest… when the clouds have parted and I can clearly see that He does love me and did all along… when I no longer carry this burden I’ve felt my whole life to live up to this label and expectation of perfection… it will be obvious that what made me okay was not anything that I did.

It will be obvious that the only thing that EVER makes me okay is that Jesus was perfect for me.

So for now, as I trust that He’s healing and making me new, I will breathe a little easier, relax the tension in my neck, fall into His arms, and confess, “I’m not okay.”

Titus 3:4-7
But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.

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More of You: A Season of Newness and Community


For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven:

a time to be born, and a time to die;
a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted;
a time to kill, and a time to heal;
a time to break down, and a time to build up;
a time to weep, and a time to laugh;
a time to mourn, and a time to dance;
a time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together;
a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;
a time to seek, and a time to lose;
a time to keep, and a time to cast away;
a time to tear, and a time to sew;
a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;
a time to love, and a time to hate;
a time for war, and a time for peace.

-Ecclesiastes 3:1-8

As I sit down to write for the first time since entering into this new season of life, this scripture came to mind.

This season that began with stepping off of the dirt roads of Haiti and into a big city in the US has been a drastic change for me and frankly, caught me off guard. I’m sure it has seemed to many of my friends and family (especially those that typically keep up with me online) that I have simply disappeared. My Facebook has been turned off for 2 ½ months. I haven’t posted anything on my blog in 4 months. I have a new phone number and am living in a completely new city and state that I haven’t disclosed publicly.

While I admit that part of the reason for these measures has been my personal safety (due to an unfortunate and scary experience), I also believe that stepping away from the public eye has been healing for me and has created an environment of peace and quiet to allow me to hear the Lord speak as I create a new life that reflects what He’s asking of me. In this new season, I’ve been given this blank slate of life… a new state, a new city… a new church with new friends… no job, no strings attached… and I continue to hear the Lord say to me, “I’m making all things new.”
(Revelation 21:5)

This time has been absolutely overwhelming and frightening. It’s been a time when I am learning more and more of the contrast between my sinfulness and the Lord’s holiness. I have been on my face before Him countless times as He shows me my depravity – how wicked my heart is – and how much I need Him.

Although I can’t yet mention where I am, it is by no coincidence that I ended up living here. I knew while living in Haiti that when my time there was finished, I wanted to live in a completely new place. I wasn’t exactly sure at the time, however, where that would be, nor was I aware of the ways in which God would use this new place as a reflection of and component in making “all things new.”

Everything
in my life is new… including me.

While this “newness of life” seems to be a central theme of this season of my life, another theme that continues to come to mind is “community.”
Therefore, it is also by no coincidence that when God planted me in this new place, He immediately surrounded me by a community so in love with Jesus that I instantly felt like I belonged. It was like He had formed this perfect family ahead of time for me and plopped me down here and said, “Here you go. Meet your family.”

My boyfriend… my pastors… my church family… the friends I met through my boyfriend and his ministry… have all come together to create this family – this community – that has become an essential part of this newness of life. It is through this community that I have been given the eyes to see Jesus – the lover and perfecter of my heart – more clearly.

As I lay down my heart before the Lord and ask Him to make me new, He has had to – as I mentioned before – show me the stark contrast between my sinfulness and His holiness. While in Haiti, I went through a season of learning to experience His presence. This season often led to adventures (I sometimes wrote about, such as in “Life as a Movie”) of seeking quiet time away just to read His word, pray, or listen in prayer. Once, His presence even came in the form of an overwhelming, powerful vision that brought me to my knees and left me in tears simply in response to the power of His presence. But in such a place of isolation, without a church, without a pastor, and without a community of other believers pouring into my life, I now realize that I was limited in how much I could see God’s character, sovereignty, and holiness. I needed to experience that season and am so thankful for those precious times that the Lord spoke to me while I sat in the middle of a field or on the beach or rooftop.
But now I know that He’s leading me into deeper places.

My pastor quoted C.S. Lewis this Sunday from Lewis’ book, “The Four Loves.” Lewis writes of his two friends, Charles and Ronald, and how Charles had passed away. After Charles’ passing, Lewis may have thought that he would have had more of Ronald. (Afterall, he now had him to himself, right?) However, the opposite was true, because there were parts of Ronald that only Charles could bring out.

“In each of my friends there is something that only some other friend can fully bring out. By myself I am not large enough to call the whole man into activity; I want other lights than my own to show all his facets. Now that Charles is dead, I shall never again see Ronald’s reaction to a specifically Caroline joke. Far from having more of Ronald, having him “to myself” now that Charles is away, I have less of Ronald…

This concept applies so perfectly to the way that we see and experience God.

He goes on to say,

In this, Friendship exhibits a glorious “nearness by resemblance” to Heaven itself where the very multitude of the blessed (which no man can number) increases the fruition which each has of God. For every soul, seeing Him in her own way, doubtless communicates that unique vision to all the rest. That, says an old author, is why the Seraphim in Isaiah’s vision are crying “Holy, Holy, Holy” to one another (Isaiah VI, 3) The more we thus share the Heavenly Bread between us, the more we shall all have.”

Lewis was able to put into words what I have been experiencing the past couple of months but unable to verbalize (leave it to a famous author, right?). Each Tuesday as I meet with my women’s small group, each Thursday, as I sit among men and women in my gospel community group, or each time my boyfriend and I have an intimate conversation about the Lord, I experience more of God as I see how He is working in the lives of all the other believers around me.

One might think that I have more of God when I am alone, sitting on a rooftop, or on my bed behind closed doors. The opposite, however, is true. I have more of God when I am surrounded by others who love Him and whose lives He is sanctifying.

Just last night, I spent a few hours at a girlfriend’s house simply talking. As we both shared how God is working in our lives, our current struggles and heartaches, there were several moments when one of us would share and the other would say something like, “Wow… you too?!” This reminds me of another C.S. Lewis quote and the beauty in how the Lord allows us to share and carry each other’s burdens in friendship.

“Friendship arises out of mere Companionship when two or more of the companions discover that they have in common some insight or interest or even taste which the others do not share and which, till that moment, each believed to be his own unique treasure (or burden). The typical expression of opening Friendship would be something like, “What? You too? I thought I was the only one.”

… It is when two such persons discover one another, when, whether with immense difficulties and semi-articulate fumblings or with what would seem to us amazing and elliptical speed, they share their vision – it is then that Friendship is born. And instantly they stand together in an immense solitude.”
-C.S. Lewis, The Four Loves

True community gives opportunity to “walk in the light,” or bring our sin out into the open, while walking alongside people who will encourage us as we confess, repent and turn to Jesus.
In sharing our hearts, we not only see more of God in the ways that He is sanctifying the other person, but He uses the friendships to convict us of our sin, give us new ways of seeing things, remind us of Biblical truths, and carry each other’s burdens.

But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin.
– 1 John 1:7

In my new life, while I am still an unemployed (and very broke) missionary, I have been given the gift of time to truly plug in to community and reap its benefits as the Lord teaches me more and more of how much I need Him. It’s so comforting to know that during these seasons of growth, when it feels as if my heart is on fire and I’m dependent on Him for every single breath, He has equipped me with a family that allows me to see and experience more of Him – which is all that I need to become whole and healed and new.

Him.
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{{The Bible is full of references to community and the role we play in each other’s lives.}}

Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing.
– 1 Thessalonians 5:11

And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.

– Hebrews 10:24-25

Having purified your souls by your obedience to the truth for a sincere brotherly love, love one another earnestly from a pure heart.

– 1 Peter 1:22

No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us.

– 1 John 4:12

LiFE as a MOViE

(Excerpts taken from my personal journal from 3/31/13 – 4/5/13)

Sometimes, I feel like my life is surreal.
Like I’m just an actress playing a part in some Eat-Pray-Love sort of movie, chasing Jesus and frequently finding myself standing in the middle of a postcard, breathless. Or playing out some hilarious and entertaining scene with an audience of gawking Haitians.

Yesterday, four of us made our way back from the neighboring city of Gressier on motorcycles and took a detour through fields of sugar cane… the pavement turned to gravel roads and then to dirt paths carved out of the worn-down grass.
We stopped in the middle of one of the dirt roads and shut off the motorcycles.

Silence.
Breeze.
So much beauty.

Ahead was a small village. Its backdrop, crystal blue waters and outlines of distant mountains. To our right, a large sugar cane field making the breeze appear to take form. Neply, our village, was beyond that, only made visible by a few tall, landmark trees. To our left, a large, flat pasture with cattle grazing as far as each of their ropes, staked into the ground, would allow. And behind us, carved out of the grass was the path that brought us here; wedged between two sugar cane fields and backdropped by the most beautiful, majestic mountains.

I was standing in a postcard.

Maybe those few quiet minutes standing in such a beautiful place, the sunshine on my face and breeze blowing through my hair teased me with a reminder of the Lord’s presence.
If only I would just STOP.
So last night, because I knew my heart was restless and I needed quiet time away with the Lord, I planned to do just that. Stop.

The sun was setting and I had to hurry before I could stop.
I grabbed my backpack and in it, I placed my Bible, my journal, a towel… and pepper spray (hey… you never know).

After retrieving my bike, I rode through our courtyard, out the gate, and turned the corner at the end of our house to head west.

WOW.

I stopped dead in my tracks. The sunset. Was. Brilliant.

I quickly turned around, parked my bike inside the gate, and ran to my room to get my camera. Throwing the strap over my shoulder, I ran back out to my bike, and pedaled towards the sunset as fast as I could.

As typical of any time I make my way through the village, the children I passed yelled my name, but this time, I couldn’t stop to offer hugs and kisses. I had to hurry  to race against daylight and create my quiet time with Jesus. As I headed west as fast as I could, I cut through several properties, over rocky terrain, and nearly tumbled when the small path opened up to the main road and I sharply turned. I pedaled parallel to the creek, sunset to my left, looking for a place to capture the incredible colors painted above a field of sugar cane. Throwing down my bike, I quickly removed my lens cover to capture the fading colors reflected in the water of the slow-moving creek.

Mounting my bike again, I continued in search of a quiet place to seek my Lord. The church I currently attend (in a picnic shelter on the beach) is constructing a new building between the villages of Neply and Bord-Mer. Because the new building is not yet finished and nestled in the middle of a sugar cane field, I thought it might be the perfect spot for the quiet time I was seeking. I turned off the main road and followed the dirt and gravel path to the church, a concrete foundation with concrete pillars. Simple yet so beautiful. Surrounded by the beauty of God’s creation.

I noticed a flat plain beyond the church where several young boys were playing soccer. Some of them had spotted me coming and were making their way towards me. Shoot. It’s hard to blend in when you’re the only white person in sight, kicking up a cloud of dust as you ride in fury. I hated to feel disappointed that I had been noticed. I love attending to children… but the sun had set, darkness was coming, and I NEEDED quiet time with my Lord.

One of the boys asked me to take him to Neply on my bike (it is very common to see more than one person awkwardly sharing a bike). I told him that I was sorry, but that I wasn’t going to Neply and that I needed “silence with God.” As they became more rowdy and started pulling at me and my bike, I pulled away from them and pedaled as fast as I could. They chased after me for a short while, but realized this white girl had some really long, fast legs and she must’ve really wanted time away with God. I felt a twinge of guilt to leave them in my dust, but again, I knew the Lord needed to be first.

As I turned back on to the main road in search of a peaceful, quiet place to spend with Jesus, I continued to head away from Neply and towards the beach at Bord-Mer. Along the way, I noticed a small bridge leading over the creek and in to a field on the other side. Not knowing whose property it was, I decided against crossing the bridge and continued heading towards the ocean, where I had made up my mind I’d go sit. But I felt the Lord saying, “Turn around.”

I did.

I crossed the small bridge and found myself facing a huge expanse of land… sugar cane fields on either side of a path cut in the grass. I had faced this same field earlier in the day – from the other side – as I had stopped with my friends to take in the postcard view. I hesitated.
I didn’t know whose property this was and didn’t want an angry sugar cane farmer to come after me with his machete.

As I paused to look around in my hesitance, I noticed a tiny elderly man crouched in the pasture. I called out to him, and, pointing ahead to a small grove of trees, asked him in Creole if I could “sit over there.” I’m not even sure he heard me, but he waved me on like a green flag.

I rode down the worn path until I saw my spot. Just off the path was a small flat spot of grass nestled between the edge of the cane fields and a small grove of bushes. I leaned my bike against a tree stump, pulled the towel from my backpack, and spread it on the grass, making sure I didn’t sit in any natural fertilizer.

My time before dark was short, but it was so wonderful to sit in the peace of creation and just experience the Lord’s presence. I had stopped.
I opened my Bible and read the resurrection story. Fitting, as in the morning, we would celebrate Easter. I journaled a prayer to the Lord.


The colors of the sky were fading and the breeze picked up and cooled my hot skin.
So peaceful.

I felt like God was teaching me the reward of seeking Him. Of stopping.

It may be a challenge to make happen (especially with no space of my own and people constantly bustling about), but every time I purposely seek quality time with Him, I am rewarded and come away feeling so rejuvenated.


On my way back to the house, I strapped my headlamp to the handlebars and turned heads as I made my way back through Neply. I had to laugh to myself that I must provide the Haitians in my village quiet a bit of entertainment.

A couple days later, I laughed to myself again as I realized I was having another “living in a movie” moment. Because the children had spring break, I had a rare day with no therapy visits. I took the opportunity to work in the therapy rooms, painting some doors and windows I hadn’t had time to tend to yet. I had opted against make-up and my hair was a mess. My paint-clothes were covered in dust, dirt, and the sticky brown paint. It was hot and the job lasted me all day. My mind fantasized about jumping into a large, cool body of water.

As I fantasized about the refreshing water, it hit me.
I live less than a mile from the ocean… and I’d never jumped in.
On the rare occasion that we go to the beach, we usually drive an hour to go to a “clean” beach with white sand and crystal clear waters. Our beach here is a fishing spot for many locals and its black, gritty sand is often cluttered with fishing boats and trash. But suddenly, I didn’t care. I felt young and free and could only think about riding my bike to the ocean as fast as I could and jumping in.

I shared my fantasy with one of my roommates and she was sold. After work, we did just as I had dreamed about as the sweat had dripped in to my eyes. Still fully dressed in our work clothes, we mounted the bikes and pedaled as fast as we could, through the village and over the dusty, rocky terrain all the way to the beach.
As we arrived, a group of about 7 young girls gathered around us where we parked our bikes against a chain-link fence.
In Creole, they asked us if we were “going to bathe,” which is what many people do in the natural bodies of water here.
I smiled really big, and, running towards the ocean still wearing my clothes, yelled in Creole, “YES!! Right NOW!”

My roommate said that the girls’ faces were priceless. Their jaws dropped in disbelief as this crazy blanc (white person) charged full-force into the ocean still wearing all her clothes.

It felt amazing. Exhilarating. Rejuvenating. Freeing.
My roommate joined me and we laughed as we swam and enjoyed the refreshing ocean water.

I thought that biking to the beach as fast as I could and jumping into the ocean wearing my clothes had been a pretty entertaining scene in this movie I’m living. But nothing prepared me for the moment I looked back to the beach and witnessed the seven young girls excitedly stepping out of their skirts and shoes to join us. I laughed so hard as they all ran into the water, joyfully screaming and laughing. They had probably never swam in the ocean with a couple of crazy blancs before. (Blancs wearing clothes, at that!) They tried to get us to take off our clothes, but I explained in Creole that “I take my baths inside my house… where boys cannot see me!” haha!

Already feeling so free and young, my inner child couldn’t believe it when one of the children pulled a live starfish from the water. We turned it over and watched its tentacles dance in the sunlight. I wanted to keep it but couldn’t bear the thought of it dying, so after everyone had a turn feeling its smooth body and tickling tentacles, I threw it as far as I could back into the sea.

When we grew tired of swimming, my roommate and I said goodbye to the girls and pedaled away towards Neply. I could have sat on the beach with them for hours, just enjoying the freedom and the beauty of life. Who says you should only swim in the prettiest of waters? Who says you can’t just jump in, clothes and all? Who says it’s embarrassing to ride all the way back home dripping wet? Not me. Not anymore.
I’ve been given the freedom to live my life joyfully. I’ve been given the freedom to notice the beauty of creation and how it was made for me to enjoy. I’ve been given the freedom to live my life according to no one else’s standards or expectations. I’ve been given the freedom to know my purpose on this earth and to not waste any time searching for something that can’t fill the void that only Christ can fill.

Just the day before, on Easter morning, I considered how fulfilling my life has been since knowing Him. How my heart aches to worship Him because of how good He is.
The team visiting for the week went to the main church in Neply with our staff, but since Sunday is my day off, I had the freedom to go to the small church on the beach I mentioned earlier. I selected a lightweight, cotton dress with sleeves (shoulders must be covered at church), packed my bag with my Bible, a snack, and some water, and set off on my bike towards the church.

It’s about a mile to the church on the beach, most of the trek on what we jokingly refer to as “Main Street Neply.” Main Street is a dirt/rock road that runs alongside a creek and marks the border of Neply. It is, at nearly all times of the day, bustling with activity. When motorcycles, bicycles, and pedestrians aren’t making way for each other on the road, there are still always people sitting. All day long, they sit in shaded spots, just watching. Staring. Some gather in small groups and talk all day at the edge of the road. But they all sit. They all watch.

Sunday, they watched me ride all the way down the road to church. I wonder if it’s not considered rude to stare in this culture… (or maybe it’s just not rude if you’re staring at a white person. We are pretty strange looking, afterall). I felt extremely on display and out of place as, make-up and church clothes on, I pedaled my bike alone down the rocky road, my dress blowing in the breeze. (I was a bit worried the breeze would pick up a little too much and cause a scene on Main Street if I revealed more white skin than the sitters have ever seen!)

I arrived at the church and some guys who work security for our ministry offered me a seat near them. I was the only white person in attendance. As usual, the staring continued throughout church. I don’t typically like being made “aware of myself,” but in this case, the stares of the children have become a normal part of my life, and most of the adults at church are familiar with my presence there and no longer stare.

Because I don’t understand most of what is said during church, I got out my journal to begin writing. Drat. My pen was out of ink. It had run out the night before as I had sat in the pasture and journaled my prayers to the Lord.

Next to me, my friend was holding his baby and I was itching to take her from him. I did, and she quickly fell asleep in my arms. I zoned out and the unfamiliar language became like white noise to me as I got lost in thought.


It was Easter morning and I just ached to worship Jesus in my own language. It’s my favorite day of the year to worship. When considering the absence of spiritual leadership, gospel-teaching, and corporate worship, I feel like my time here has been so difficult. I miss those things so much and, when thinking about beginning my new life in the States in a couple months, look forward to those things more than anything. But even in the struggle of missing those things, I have felt so very close to Jesus and have learned so much about the joy that comes from His presence alone. Being stripped away of my American way of worshiping has taught me that His presence is real; it’s not just an emotional high during a heart-thumping worship set.
It’s the quiet peace. It’s the joy in all things because of Him.
And I hope that when I return to the States that I will experience so much thankfulness and joy in the ability and the privilege of worshiping with other believers coupled with the simultaneous blessing of knowing the reality of His presence.

I never want to forget what I’ve learned here. I never want to forget what it’s like to feel Him near, to experience His peace, His joy. I hope that whatever it was about my American lifestyle or habits that prevented me from experiencing Him fully will cease to exist. Also, I hope that as I move back to an environment that might not feel as surreal, I will still continue to seek Jesus so much that my life can’t help but play out like an adventure movie. And I hope that when people witness my story, they see that it’s different…  and that the difference is JESUS!

He has set me free. He’s the one that makes my life feel like an awesome movie. An adventure movie. Sure, some scenes are really difficult and leave me wondering how long until the scene is over. Some scenes even leave me wondering if the Director left his chair. But each scene leaves me more in love with Him as His unfailing love makes me feel like a star.
And the best part about my movie?… it never really ends!!

When the curtain closes on this life, I get to move on to a scene that lasts for eternity. A scene where the main star is Jesus, and it’s a constant celebration, where all of life has been redeemed, and the joyful adventure goes on forever.

A New Thing.

I sit down tonight to write this blog with eager anticipation to share what the Lord has been doing in my heart and my life. After months of prayer and discussions with trusted Christian friends and others in ministry, I now feel the liberty to share how God is moving in my heart and what that looks like for my future.

Several months ago, I began sensing the Lord doing something new in my heart. I wasn’t sure exactly what it was, however, so I approached it with a lot of prayer.
While searching my heart and asking the Lord to reveal any selfish or unrighteous motives, I began asking Him how long He wanted me to stay in Haiti.

When I first decided to move to Haiti, people often asked how long I would live here. I almost always (and even after moving) answered that my plan was for a year, but that I was listening to God for what His plan might be. Everyone joked that there was no way I was going to stay for only one year, and I agreed that I felt the same way. It was hard for me to imagine leaving after only a year. I didn’t know the logistics of what that would look like… the additional money that would require, the arrangements I would have to make back home – including for my dog Wrigley – etc., but I was completely open to the Lord showing me that He had a different plan for me, even if that included staying for several years.

As I continued to pray, I was wise to always answer that the length of my time here was dependent on whatever the Lord showed me. Because when He did reveal what this “new thing” in my heart was, I realized that the opposite of what everyone, including myself, thought was true.

Instead of revealing to me that He has more work for me here, the Lord showed me that the work He sent me to do is nearing completion.

The therapy clinic has been created, filled with therapy equipment, and staffed with two Haitians who are currently receiving training to carry out therapy services. Children who reside on the myLIFEspeaks campus as well as children from the community receive therapy services daily and are growing and achieving their highest potential.

Additionally, with the Lord’s guidance, I began a program named “Three Strands” (Ecclesiastes 4:12). Through this program, I taught several women to crochet for profit, and they are now making beautiful creations that allow them to be self-sustaining. We are in the process of forming ongoing partnerships with businesses in the States as well as in Haiti that will enable us to add more women to the program and create additional sustainable jobs.

In addition to these tangible manifestations of the Lord’s work, I also consider the non-tangible ways that He has worked in and through my life here. I was able to play a role in Frantzky’s rescue and new family with myLIFEspeaks; demonstrate what it looks like to love someone different than you; show a village that children with special needs have value; build friendships; and share Christ’s love with others over and over. Most importantly, He allowed me to experience His presence and fullness of joy in a way I had never experienced before.

All these things considered, I feel very confident that I have accomplished what the Lord brought me here to do, and I strongly sense that my time here is nearing an end. I admit that I am surprised that He has worked through my heart this way, but I shouldn’t be. James 4:13-15 states, “Come now, you who say ‘Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there… instead you ought to say, ‘If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.’“ Therefore, I do not want to be arrogant and believe that my way is higher than the Lord’s. I trust that He has a plan for me and that includes a new journey beginning in June.

It is admittedly a bit scary for me to face the reality of moving back to the States. At this point, I have no idea what that looks like for me. A part of me dreads re-entering American culture and sometimes I can’t bear the thought of leaving my precious family here. But on the other hand, I am confident that the Lord has exciting things in store for my future, and, just as I trusted Him when I began this journey here in Haiti, I trust Him to bring this chapter of my story to completion as He opens new doors of adventure for me.

I am so thankful for the hundreds of people who have supported, encouraged, and loved on me during this amazing time in my life. I feel like I’ve been so blessed as I have been able to witness firsthand the lives that have been changed because of all the people that came together to make this mission possible. If you are reading this, there’s a great chance that you are one of these people that has been obedient to the Lord through your support and generosity. I hope that your life has also been forever changed and that you will never forget the great things that God has done.

Thank you for your continued love and support as I continue working passionately for the Lord during every precious last day of my time here… and for sharing my excitement as each day brings me closer to this new adventure the Lord has for me!

LiFE as an ADVENTURE.

I often refer to my life as an “adventure.”

Since I gave my life to Jesus several years ago, I feel like that’s what it’s been.
By no means do I mean to imply that He’s prevented me from experiencing any hurt and my life has been a painless, carefree journey. Although the Lord promises He will never leave us nor forsake us, He does not promise a life without difficult times. In fact, He promises that we will face persecution and hardship because of Him.

Before Christ, I had many dark places in my life. I have done things and have stories most wouldn’t believe about me.
Since meeting Christ, I’ve continued to face many struggles, including being wounded and humiliated beyond my worst nightmare when abandoned by my husband… but the beauty about my relationship with Him is that He has not only completely redeemed those horrible, dark places in my past, but since knowing Him, when I have faced hardships, He has provided me with supernatural strength and hope to move forward and bring glory to Him with my life. It is my prayer that my life speaks for Him this way on a daily basis.

When I refer to my life as an adventure, I speak with a freedom and an excitement because I know that even when I face hardships, Christ is with me… and blessings are coming. There are even blessings in and because of the hardships. Blessings beyond imagination. Seeing my life this way leaves no room for anxiety, fear, or worry. He’s got me in His hands, and I experience so much JOY living in His presence!

[As a side-note, while writing this piece, it was at this time I paused in writing to read scripture before bed, planning to finish writing in the morning. I have been working my way through the Psalms. This is what I read just after writing these first few paragraphs:
“You make known to me the path of life;
in your presence there is fullness of joy;
at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.”
– Psalm 16:11.
Wow. His timing is always perfect.]

On Wednesday, I flew back to Haiti after a much-needed extended break in the States, visiting family and friends, making preparations for my next few months in Haiti, and attempting to find rest in order to prepare myself mentally, spiritually, and physically for the months ahead. I was late getting to the airport for my international flight, and was afraid I wouldn’t make it. I was leaving just my friend’s house 20 minutes after I needed to already be at the airport, and I still had to stop and fill up my rental car with gas prior to returning it at the airport.

I managed to get away with speeding down Briley Parkway in Nashville (shh!), and arrived at the airport 30 minutes after I needed to be checking in. Not too bad, I considered. However, I still had a LONG walk ahead of me and was alone to carry my two carry-ons and two 50-lb checked bags, one with a handle that didn’t work. So for nearly 20 minutes, my 130lb body struggled, sweated, and strained to carry over 130lbs that wouldn’t roll straight, kept falling over, and didn’t have a handle (forcing this Amazon woman to bend way over to reach it). My back was aching and my hands were cramping. Three ladies dressed to the nines and wearing wide-brimmed hats walked by me carrying their cute little carry-on bags and laughed at me, saying “You got enough stuff there?” If only they knew that hardly anything in the suitcases was for me, but the families in Haiti that I serve. I laughed along with them instead of allowing bitterness to creep in. They had passed me by, but I prayed that God would either give me supernatural strength to make it by myself – and in time – or He would send some help.

I finally made it to the airport building from the car rental facility and stared ahead at an escalator. I managed to push all the bags on to the escalator with my huge hiking backpack and computer case on my shoulder. Before I knew it, they were crashing down on me, and had knocked me all the way off the escalator. I had made a scene. Luckily not hurt, I picked up the bag that had fallen on me, and headed back towards the escalator, where the rest of my bags were making the journey to the top without me. Because of the scene I had just made, a couple of people gathered around me to ask if I needed help. I am sure that my exhaustion was easily read on my face, and I was breathing hard from such a grueling morning workout (this should be a challenge on ‘The Biggest Loser”). The Lord had sent help. A sweet lady took one of the big bags and helped me the rest of the way to the checkout.
I had made it. Check-in was smooth, and my bags were 50.5lbs and 49.5 lbs. Score. Right at 100lbs and I didn’t have to leave anything in the trash.

I made it to my first flight in time, and had a pleasant flight, spending most of my time with my nose in David Platt’s new book, “Follow Me.” It was another one his books, “Radical,” that challenged me in the first place to radically follow Jesus, which led to moving my life to Haiti to serve Jesus. Now, I was living this radical life, following Jesus, and so thankful for the adventure.

When I landed in Miami, I made my way to my gate. They had announced on my flight that the gate for Port-au-Prince was D-24. As usual. After grabbing one last Chai Tea Latte at Starbucks, I casually made my way to my gate. It was unusually empty. Flights to PAP are usually full, and I am always sure that I’m in the right place because American missionaries in their matching t-shirts as well as Haitians surround the gate and suddenly I always feel more at home. I asked a TSA employee at the desk if I was at the right gate, and he said yes, that the next flight out of this gate was to Port-au-Prince. I sat back down, but still felt that something wasn’t right.

I was texting a long-time friend of mine who checks on my flights for me and casually mentioned that it was past boarding time, yet few people were at the gate. Sure enough, from Kentucky, he had more accurate information than the airport employee at the dang airport! I ran to the new gate I was supposed to be boarding from, and it was already boarding! I couldn’t believe it. If I hadn’t been talking to my friend, I would have missed my flight. (Thanks, btw.) 🙂

My next flight was pretty uneventful as well… until landing. As we started our descent towards this beautiful country that has captured my heart and taught me so much about God’s love, I decided to pray. I wanted to prepare my heart for the months ahead and truly fix my eyes on Jesus… because I know I cannot face the tasks ahead of me without Him. As soon as I said “Amen” and opened my eyes, the girl across the aisle from me jumped and pushed my arm to alert me. The landing was pretty rough; the overhead bin just above my head had opened, and a bag was about to come crashing down on me. She had saved me from a massive headache.

We laughed and introduced ourselves, learning that we live just about 20 minutes away from each other in Haiti. She shared that it was a pretty eventful landing… I had missed it with my eyes closed, praying. She said that the bathroom door just ahead of us was swinging open and shut the whole time. As we continued talking, we saw a frazzled-looking Haitian woman hobble out of that very bathroom.
We weren’t the ONLY one with an eventful landing! Haha!!!

I made my way through customs, relieved that they let me back in the country, and found my two (dreadfully large) bags. Looking around at the airport entrance for a familiar face or blue and orange myLIFEspeaks shirt, I saw no one. I attempted to turn on my Haiti phone, but it was dead.

The airport personnel attempted to make me go outside. I resisted stepping out into the blistering heat and waiting for my ride alone and out in the open on the blacktop, but I went. Thankfully, immediately as I stepped out, a man that is deaf that works at the airport saw me and a huge smile filled his face. He always helps our teams and staff when we fly in and out of the country and took my bags and led me to the parking lot. What a sweetheart.  What a relief to not be alone. We looked for the familiar yellow of the myLIFEspeaks school bus with no luck. Once, we thought we saw it, so he walked all the way across the expansive parking lot for me (and saved me from having to haul my bags again), only to discover it wasn’t our bus.

I was alone, and had no way of contacting my team.
I was mad at myself that my phone wasn’t charged, but I remembered shutting it off when I left Haiti, and it had plenty of battery, so I just had to accept it as the reality of my current situation.

While waiting, the girl that I had met because of the crazy landing walked past me towards her ride. She asked if I had a ride and I told her I wasn’t sure… that my ride wasn’t there yet and I wasn’t able to reach him. She said she had to go check on something but would be back to check on me. It’s not good for a white female to be alone in Haiti.

Another Haitian came to stand with my deaf friend and me, and asked if I could call someone to see where my ride was. I told him my phone was dead. He then saw that I had the same phone as him and – get this – took his battery out of his phone and handed it to me!! I am amazed at the generosity of Haitians and their willingness to care for others. I was able to call and learned that traffic had been really bad, and no one could get ahold of my driver. No one knew where he was. My new American friend came back by, and after exchanging numbers between the staff at myLIFEspeaks and this group of Americans offering me a ride, we decided it best I leave with them and meet up with my driver along the way. At least then I wouldn’t be alone.

They led me towards their bus – which happened to be extremely comfortable, complete with shades to block out the harsh sun, and… AIR CONDITIONING!!
(Thank you Jesus that my driver was stuck in traffic, haha!!)

We were able to contact him and come up with a meeting place. It was a blessing that he didn’t end up having to come all the way to the airport. (For him and for me!)
After talking to them for a while, I fell fast asleep leaned over on my bags. My day had started at 3am and after a crazy day of travel, I was exhausted. My new friend awakened me when we were almost to the meeting point with my driver.

I was so excited to see that big, yellow school bus, and gave him a huge hug. I was home again. I was joy-filled and content. I was excited to be on this adventure with Christ.

Before my life with Jesus, my eventful day would have left me feeling frazzled, stressed out, anxious, and upset, blaming whoever I could for all the things that didn’t go smoothly in my day. But because He lives in me, I was able to face my day with joy. I realized that standing alone in Port-au-Prince with a dead phone and no familiar faces was potentially a very scary situation. But the Lord had provided – even through a turbulent airplane landing – new friends as well as protection.

I feel strengthened and encouraged that He is with me. Life here isn’t easy. Life anywhere isn’t easy. I can’t bear to think of facing it without Him.

I know that I have some major tasks ahead of me during these coming months as I continue to train my assistant to take over providing therapy services when I am gone, and as I seek the Lord’s will in making the Three Strands program all that He intends it to be in order to change as man lives as possible. I want to pour out myself and love each person here with all that I have – which is limitless when Christ lives in me. I want everyone to see that I am different because I am filled with Him, and because of Him, I face each day with peace and joy. I want to live in such a way for Him that I have no regrets that I didn’t “Live to the hilt every situation (I) believe to be the will of God” (Jim Elliot).
Most of all, I want to see others come to know Him so that they can experience this adventure of life with Jesus as well.

There’s no greater adventure.

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Shaving Cream and Simple Joys.

2/7/13

I always say that I wish I blogged more often… even if just about daily life.
Simple things.
But when there’s a long lapse between my posts, I feel pressured that when I finally write again, whatever I share needs to be profound.
I am attempting to break that cycle today! After finishing my workday just a few moments ago with a smile on my face and my heart full of love, I felt compelled to share a small and simple part of my day that left me feeling more fulfilled than I ever imagined it would.

To offer some background information to those who may be unfamiliar with the details of my life, I live in a huge house with many people. The myLIFEspeaks interns, staff members, 7 children (former orphans), and the house parents (who have become a mom and a dad for the children) all make this building their home. Because the children have all recently (within the past year) made myLIFEspeaks their home, most of them are delayed educationally and developmentally. I mean, could we have expected that an orphan would have had quality care and education? Even children in Haiti who do have parents aren’t always guaranteed an education or loving care and attention.

Because I am the occupational therapist at myLIFEspeaks, when we discovered that some of our typically-developing children were behind not only in school but developmentally as well, I began working with them a couple times a week. (As a side-note, it has been refreshing for me to work with children with a wide variety of needs.) During our time together, we focus on handwriting and fine motor skills often involving fun activities such as play-doh and crafts! (Right up my alley!) And as a bonus, all of our fine motor activities present the opportunity for learning, whether it’s colors, letters, or counting.

Today when I went to get Blenton, Brendie, and Steven for our fine motor time, I realized that it was just going to be Brendie and me for the afternoon. Blenton wasn’t at the house because he had gone to the dentist and Steven was asleep (and despite my efforts to wake him, he was dead to the world). Brendie and I made our way to the balcony where we work together, and I surprised her with a new activity for the day… SHAVING CREAM! As an enrichment activity in addition to our paper-and-pencil practice, we practiced forming letters with our fingers in the shaving cream.

As usual, from the street below, I heard children calling my name. (Honestly sometimes I think they just like to say my name, haha). When I peered down to say “Bonswa!”, I saw Rosemela (Frensky’s biological sister) standing in the road. Ever since Frensky’s mother abandoned him and he came to live at myLIFEspeaks, my heart has ached for Rosemela. When Frensky still lived at their house, Rosemela would spend hours upon hours just sitting in the house alone with her little brother. Several evenings I went to their house at dusk and their mother was still gone. Rosemela would be lying on the only bed in their house, under the mosquito net with Frensky. Some nights I would crawl under the netting and into bed with them and let her play with my hair and giggle and talk until it was time for me to go. Now that Frensky no longer lives there, I wonder how lonely she must be sometimes. How often does she sit alone while her mom is gone? Does she have food? Does she put herself to bed at night in a dark and quiet house?

So when I saw her standing in the road by herself, I called down to her. I asked her if she could come see me… and to go ask her mom. Luckily, her mom was home, and within a couple minutes, she was running back with a huge smile on her face. I let her in the gate and led her up to where Brendie and I were “working.” She stared with curiosity as I squirted a huge pile of shaving cream on her tray, but quickly realized that she was about to have a lot of fun!

I had to sit back for a moment… several moments actually… as I listened to these two young girls chatter back and forth, giggling as they drew people and shapes (including Simba from the Lion King and Frensky, haha). Brendie leaned over to Rosemela’s tray, helping her to correctly form her letters, and Rosemela proudly showed me each letter she had drawn.

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When we finished the shaving cream task, I challenged them to each complete a foam alphabet puzzle. Again, the girls worked hard and occasionally leaned over to help each other or share what they had completed.

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When our time was complete, Brendie headed down the hall to her room and I led Rosemela through the house to send her home. As we walked through the courtyard and approached the gate, I heard Brendie yell from her balcony, “Rosemela!!” Brendie was hanging over her balcony waving goodbye. She had a huge smile on her face. Rosemela waved back and then hugged me tightly as I kissed her cheek and told her I’d see her tomorrow. As she walked away, I peeked back out of the gate one more time and said, “Rosemela? Ekse ou konnen mwen renmen ou?” (“Do you know I love you?”)

She smiled really big, nodded yes, and headed home.

I don’t know why the events of this afternoon touched my heart so.

Perhaps it was the smile and laughter of a lonely young girl who misses her younger brother and receives little attention at home.
Maybe it was the fact that Brendie, who sometimes gets made fun of by other kids in the village, was able to connect with another girl similar in age.

Actually, I think the simple joy of my afternoon was just for that reason. It was SIMPLE.
I was joyful because I realized that I was able to experience joy even in such small, seemingly insignificant moments. There is joy to be found everywhere when our eyes are fixed on Christ and we set about our day to share His love with everyone we encounter. Because Christ lives in my heart, I can experience joy not only in the huge victories of life, but in these small moments… moments of laughter, friendship…
even shaving cream Lion Kings.

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But the fruit of the Spirit is love, JOY, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control…
– Galatians 5:22-23

(emphasis added)

But may all who seek you rejoice and be glad in you;
may those who love your salvation
say continually, “Great is the Lord!”
– Psalm 40:16

For you make him most blessed forever; you make him glad with the joy of your presence.
– Psalm 21:6