Monday, April 10, 2017

how high-fives & parties could help us all

Hearts that are hurting and big disappointment for the way life is turning out and confusion and boredom and other hard stuff. Life is a bummer sometimes. I get it. 

But I also know there are trees who's branches bloom flowers. There are ladies who are leaving the sex industry and getting to know Jesus as their closest friend. The sun is shining today. The clouds are moving like they know what they're doing and they feel peace about it. The Maker of life is good and He loves us.  

There's plenty of hope to go around, enough for all of us to get handfuls and heartfuls, and hope likes hanging balloons up above doorways. So that's what I've been doing. 

Celebration seems to sort of step on the pain and disappointment and squish it down a little so it doesn't seem so big and have so much say-so as to how you feel. So I've been celebrating. 

God likes celebrating. He likes celebrating visitors and little changes happening in our hearts and friendship and thoughtfulness and you and me. I don't think He hesitates before handing out high-fives or inviting a friend out to her favorite restaurant or buying a present for someone who's sad. He's eager to love us big and loving big sometimes involves celebration. 

The more thankful my heart becomes, the more I want to celebrate. I'm thinking life should be full of celebration. Daily parties. Celebrating doesn't mean we have to pretend like the hurt and bad and dark isn't there, it means we face it and just decide to cheer anyway. When we know there's a Being stronger and bigger than all of the hurt and bad and dark, we get to celebrate. 

Sadness isn't a stranger to me. I cry sad cries several times a week. I'm still homesick. I still sometimes sit around wishing I was better than what I am. During my time with God today, I got distracted and started googling brownie recipes. Last night, I was laying in the floor crying because I miss my family so bad and continuing life 8,000 miles away from them seemed like more than I could chew. 

But tonight, with my new Hong Kong family, we made a banner out of newspaper and marker that said, "CELEBRATE." We blew up a couple balloons, made an awesome dinner, baked brownies, and celebrated that God is our dad and provides for us. It was like a birthday party minus the birthday and it was fun. And it felt like He was proud of us.  

 I can find about 85,696,879 reasons to celebrate as I look around my life. I have a new washing machine because people on the other side of the planet believe in what God's doing with my life in Hong Kong and give me money (thank you, everybody). I'm living the life I dreamed about living for 10 years. I have more than enough of everything I need. My boss is also my black sister and BFF. I live in a wonderful home that I got to decorate with funny cool stuff. I'm watching God do what He wants to do inside of people's hearts and it's beautiful. God is my dad. I could keep going for a super long time. But I'll stop. 

Celebrating helps my perspective be more like God's and less like a sad little crumple crying on the floor because she's homesick.

I don't know what sort of things happen in your life to make you crumple in the floor, or maybe you don't crumple, but just live every day in a fairly boring routine and don't feel much joy about it. If you're in any kind of place that feels ugh and stuck, I bet if you looked around, you could find some reasons to celebrate. 

Let's do it. 
Let's hang up some just-because celebration banners, blow up some balloons, high-five the thoughtfully-designed person next to us, 
invite our friends over and bake their favorite dessert for them, cheer when we see how pretty the moon looks tonight, and then thank God we're alive.

"It's one of the big things. People don't stop and celebrate enough. 
I bet Heaven is full of balloons."

-Cindy Torres, 
missionary serving rescued kids in Thailand & 
one of my closest friends

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

changing flights for last days and a funeral

January 31, 2017 
4:32 pm

I'm somewhere over the Pacific Ocean. I have 4,040 miles to go until I land in Seattle.

It's my first trip home since moving to Hong Kong in August and it was planned last minute, kind of thrown together. 

My first trip home was supposed to be in March, I was going to surprise my family for my Neice and Nephew's birthdays. They're turning 1 and 3. But then my Grandma went into the hospital and they say she won't be coming out. 

I called Delta and paid a fee and got my flight changed; from a birthday party in March to a funeral in February. 

My Grandma Darlene and I are close friends. For the past five months, we've been penpals. She writes her letters on floral paper that reminds me of her pink lipstick, they're filled with who's been visiting her, who's been calling her, who's been taking her to the doctor appointments. They're filled with the connections her heart's been having with other hearts. So she'd write it down like diary entries on her floral paper, put it in an envelope with an international stamp, and mail it to her granddaughter in Asia. 

She ended each letter with how much she loved me and how much she missed me.

The letters became harder to read over the months. Then they stopped coming.

She's on her deathbed now, looking as pretty as ever. 

Celebrating a life's beginning is important. A life lived for 1 year and a life lived for 3 years; they deserve presents and balloons and a cake and fun games with Papa. But celebrating a life's end is important, too. 

Grandma wrote down the connections she had with other humans, the visits and meals and phone calls,  because those connections are what matter to her. So I'm flying across the ocean to connect with her in her last days. 

I'm not sure if she'll still be alive by the time I reach Illinois. But I hope so. I'd like to hold her hand again and tell her how much I love her letters and how pretty she looks and how excited I am for her to be in her Creator's Arms soon, in the place where everything is right. 

February 13, 2017
8 p.m.

Today I held my grandma's hand as she died. 

This morning I was on my way to the airport, going to fly back to Hong Kong, when my dad mentioned changing my flight so I could go to the funeral. I'd got to spend time with her, but it seemed that I'd be missing the funeral as the end hadn't come yet and I had a flight to catch. But today, my fly-back-to-Hong Kong-day, my aunt texted from the hospital, saying the end was very near. 

Was there any flight, any responsibility that mattered more than being with my grandma's last moments and funeral? No. Not that I could think of. I called my boss (and BFF) in Hong Kong, she said "change the flight and stay." So we drove to the airport, and $350 later, my flight was moved to Saturday and we were making the 3-hour drive to the hospital, mom and dad and me. 

She was still alive when we got there. Over the next few hours, I got to watch her move into Heaven. I got to hold her hand. I got to watch my mom kiss her on the cheek and whisper "I love you, mom."

It's exactly how grandma would've dreamed it. All four of her kids right next to her. God's kindness was on display. 

Her strong and rapid beating heart finished its task and angels carried her past gates made out of pearl, into a place where angels sing and love has won, and right up to the Man Himself. I imagine He hugged her big then kissed her, and she probably called Him "Honey."

I'm thrilled for her and waiting for my turn. 

Until then, I'm going to keep getting closer to the God who is good.  I'm going to spend a few more days on the farm, go to a funeral and celebrate grandma's life, then fly back to Hong Kong and let Jesus keep directing my days. What a trustworthy Lover He is. 

February 14, 2017
1:46 p.m.

Hanging out on my favorite farm, my heart's packed with thankfulness. God died so He could have a bride. I love that Grandma's with Him, I love that I'm on this farm, I love that He's writing my life, I love how our hearts are connected. 

Happy Valentine's Day. 

Saturday, January 7, 2017

I'm broken, confused, and going to be okay

I was laying in the floor. 
I'd just started crying a little and the words I was whispering to God were like this, 

"What I'm giving you, who I am, is barely anything."

He gently corrected me.
The Words I felt God whisper back to my heart were like this,

"It's so much. 
What you're offering is so much. 
You are so much."

He took my "barely anything" and called it "so much."

I've been looking around at my life and wondering, again, what it means. Anything? Little lies have been creeping into my thought patterns. 
"It doesn't matter. What I'm doing means nothing."
"I'm not enough. Not near good enough."
"Everyone else is better at life than I am."

Maybe a mix of relocating my life to a new continent, being homesick, and being hated by Hell; I've been having trouble remembering who I am.
I can't go eat Mexican with Maggie, go on runs with Meagan, drive to Grandma's anytime I want, have Monday night Bible studies, kiss my new nephew, workout with Candi and David, or go to the church I grew up in. The relationships, activities, reputation that I'd been working on for 27 years aren't here in front of me in Hong Kong. Now I'm trying to figure out how to build new relationships, activities, and reputation. 
Who am I? 
God is the best to go to for an answer to this question. He doesn't define me by anything I "do," and when He designed my species, He named us "human beings." He was thinking about our "being," while what we'd be "doing" wasn't anything He was concerned with. 
So, without the relationships, activities, and reputation, 
who am I?

My 27-year stretch in America was fabulous. And I still love Maggie and Meagan and Grandma and my nephew and Candi and David and my home church. But I'm not defined by people or stuff. 
Who I am is God's daughter (Galations 3:26). 
Who I am is God's Beloved (Song of Solomon 6:3). 
Who I am is God's thoughtfully (and wonderfully) designed human being (Psalm 139:14).
 He looks at my weak, confused, barely-anything life in Hong Kong and He calls it "so much."

There's messy brokenness woven throughout my days and it can make me feel ashamed. 
"Surely I should be stronger by now. Surely I should be more put together by now." 
Who says? 
Not Him. 
He loves weakness. And He likes the broken ones because He's able to hold us. So it seems like He's not waiting for me to get it together and start impressing everyone with my heroism, or to stop sobbing because I miss my mom and dad. It seems like He likes how honest I'm being with Him, leaning against Him, and offering Him my life. It's really not much, through my lens, but His lens says differently. Here He is tonight, holding my tired heart, my confused thoughts, my wanting-to-be-better-than-I-am, and He's calling all of it valuable, significant, and "so much."

If you're broken and confused, or have it all together and feeling quite happy, the amount you mean to God is "so much." Really. Like, an amount our imaginations can't even get close to. Open up to Him and He'll meet you right where you're at. 

p.s. thanks Kara, for words I need to hear. I'm sharing a few of them so everyone can read and see a glimpse of your awesome.

"Mom told me you are sad and having a hard time still. I think what you're going through is normal and there's nothing wrong with you. I know it is so, so hard and I'm really sorry. 
You're going to be okay."

p.p.s. thanks Mickey, for shipping me those books, one of which is inspiring these words. I got them today and celebrated. I love you. 

p.p.p.s. thanks Roo, for laying next to me in the floor, and speaking His truthful Words over and over again. The way you love is impressive.  

p.p.p.p.s. thanks Maggie and Meagan and Grandma (both of you) and Candi and David and my sister's kids and Crossroads Bible Church and everybody else who loves me in America. You make it hard to be away and I love you back. 

Saturday, December 24, 2016

Love loves being together

Christmas '16 is my first away from my family. 
It's my first Christmas in Asia. 

I'm feeling quite content and thankful, and that's a miracle. 

My parents were here for a month and left yesterday. God has used those two to show me quite a bit about Himself, and that's what He's still doing. 

I had a couple breakdown cries while mom and dad were here. During one of the cries, I rambled about how I was sorry I couldn't even be happy, I was sorry they had to see me cry and I knew I was disappointing them. My mom said,

"I'd fly across the ocean to be with you when you're sad. I wouldn't like it but I'd like just being with you."

They didn't come to Asia so I could impress them. They came to Asia because they love me. God's like that. 

He wants to be together.

When we're sinful, emotional, scared, broken; 
He wants to be together. 

Love looks like God becoming a human being so we could be with Him.
The Great Maker of the Stars stepped down into a barn, laid in the arms of a 13-year old Jewish girl, worked as a carpenter in the hot sunshine He made, busted through our sin with hope. He wants to be together. 

Love looks like my mom and dad pausing their lives for a month, spending their hard-earned money on two plane tickets to a foreign place, and loving their daughter and all her comrades for four weeks. 

Love loves being together. 



into companionship or close association.

 It's Christmas Eve and I'm in Hong Kong! Isn't that funny. Tonight is SonsandDaughters' big Christmas outreach; we're taking presents and the Gospel to people in Wan Chai. Wan Chai is the red light district where we spend the most time, and God's got all kinds of great plans for people working there. 
"Together" is the theme. 

Tomorrow, I'll go to my new church, then to a local prison where we'll have a church service for the inmates, then back to the red light district where we'll host another service for incredibly special women.  
"Together" is the theme.

We'll spend the day together with people. Because that's what the one we're celebrating is like.

I miss my grandmas and the cozy living room I grew up in and my sisters and walks down my driveway with my family and my funny cousins, but I'm in Asia with the King of kings. "Together" is what He wants, and "together" is what we are. 

I hope you have the merriest Christmas!
I hope you spend it together with Jesus and together with people He's given you. 

"Together" is the theme. 

“Father, I want those you have given me to be with Me where I am, and to see My glory, the glory You have given Me because you loved Me before the creation of the world.
John 17:24

Monday, December 12, 2016

Key of F (thoughts from this bus ride)

I spend a lot of time in transit. 

On today's bus ride, I'm googling facts about house flies and have read from several mostly-credible-looking articles that they hum in the key of F. 

Did you know that?
I didn't. 

Bumble bees and honey bees also hum in F. 

I love God.

The same super Being who designed insects wings to flap in tune with each other has invited mankind to hug Him. Wow. 

So I'm sitting on a bus in Hong Kong, looking at two middle school boys in front of me, as we drive by sky scrapers, feeling thankful for insects who hum in a key signature. And mostly thankful for the musical Genius who invented them.

Many of my nights are spent on the streets with people who work on the streets, offering their bodies to clients. The clients seem to be almost always drunk, and the ladies are generally on their way to being drunk. Selling your body is much more difficult to do when you're sober. That's what the ladies tell us.

There's so much hope. Hope for those ladies, hope for the little boys in front of me on the bus, hope for me, hope for you. Because the God who gives house flies an on-key hum is wanting to hold us all. He's come into our darkness and shone brightly and continues to shine where He's welcome. Wow again. 

There are a lot of nasty things going on in the world and life is hard. But God gave house flies a key signature.

I've spent my first three months in Hong Kong being an emotional mess. But God is listening to house flies hum in F and He's listening to my heart. 

Tears and homesickness and sex industry darkness; they don't stand a chance against Jesus. He sees, He listens, He wins. 

That's about all. God hears house flies' hums and He hears your thoughts and He's spreading hope in my heart and spreading hope in red light districts. 

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Getting through hard stuff

I still cry because I miss my family. But now I also cry because of how thankful I am that I get to live this life I'm living. It's not super easy, but it's a much better script than I could've ever written myself. God writes the best stories.  

The ways God has very thoughtfully blessed me during my first weeks of my first indefinite move to Asia have been impressive. 

The past month has been a challenging one, but in the middle of my crying-for-my-family days, Jesus has wowed me with His kindness. Over and over. He's totally ok with me missing my family, but He's also helping me give a joyful "yes" to this move to Asia. A joyful "yes" is a lot better than a gritting-my-teeth-and-whining "yes." 

"Am I enough?" is a question He has been asking me. This whole thing-the move to Hong Kong and settling in a new continent and my entire life and all of creation-it's about the union. Uniting His Heart with mankind's heart is His only focus. 

A union is what He and I have together, and our union is growing stronger. He doesn't invite us into situations that are hard in order to make us miserable. Or to watch us try to crawl through them. His invitations to us are always about the union; our hearts connecting to His. Realizing this brings joy to the "yes," even if it's "yes" to something sort of uncomfortable and hard to understand. Like living in Hong Kong. 

noun \ˈyün-yən\ 

an act of joining two or more things together

Living in Hong Kong with Jesus isn't a drag at all. It's, like, the opposite of a drag.

I'm currently in Thailand with two of my best friends. Sons&Daughters came to be trained by red light ministries who are bringing Jesus to sex workers. We got to come a weekend early to hangout with a best friend who's a missionary here and guess what? We just got done zip lining through the rainforest. 

"Go to Thailand and zip line through the rainforest with friends." 
I never would've even dreamed to write that into the script.  

When we lay down and surrender, He takes hold of us and shows off. I'm learning about it. He's helping me walk in surrender and the more I surrender, the more wonderful I realize He is. 

When we let Him be in control, He does a better job running our lives than we could ever do ourselves. I mean, light, joy, kindness, friendship, laughter, hope; it's all coming from Him. 

And we're invited to be connected to Him! 

This union;
it's the way to get through the hard stuff. 

"You cover grey, empty space with color from Your will."

- Jonathan David and Melissa helser, Beautiful Jesus 

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

when it's way harder than you thought it'd be

I live in Hong Kong now. 
Like, I'm not on a trip. I moved. There is no return-to-America date stationed in the back of my mind because Jesus asked me to hand that return-to-America date to Him. 

I live in Hong Kong now. 

Three weeks ago, I hugged the world's most beautiful family goodbye, traveled 8,000 miles with two crammed-full check bags, and landed in China. 

I didn't expect it to be that hard but shoot, I was wrong. I've spent three weeks crying and wondering what in the heck I'm doing in Asia and missing my family and feeling like a baby and discovering my faith is even smaller that I thought and realizing that I'm oh-so-weak and asking Jesus for huge help. 

You know what Lord Jesus has spent three weeks doing? Holding me close, smiling at me, and saying things like, 
"I love when you lean on Me."

He's stable. 
He's strong.
He's invested in me. 

I've got nothing to offer Him besides my "yes." He invited me to move here with Him and I said "yes." I'm not qualified, I don't know how to help ladies leave prostitution, I don't know how to love my co-workers, I don't know how to make someone want Jesus, I don't know how to be emotionally stable, and I miss my family. But here's what I know; I need Jesus. I really really really need Him. He asked me to move here so my only job is to trust Him. 

It seems like He loves when we're aware of our weakness, because it makes us want Him. Nothing delights His intimate heart like being wanted. To be leaned on, to be asked for help, to be embraced, to be wanted; He craves it. So He puts us in positions to get what He's craving. Sometimes, I'd even say most times, those positions are  uncomfortable, kinda scary, and make us want to squirm back to the comfortable place. But if we will choose to stay in the uncomfortable place, we give Him the opportunity to show us how wonderful He is. In the make-you-wanna-squirm place, our faith in Him grows as we see that He really is the only thing we need and His way really is the best. 
He wants to be our family. He wants to be our home. 

Jesus knows what it's like to be weak, hungry, poor, to suffer, and to be completely dependent on Father God. He chose to live His life like this. He showed us the way. 

I'm sure there are some people I'll help to know Him in Hong Kong, I'm sure I'll encourage some Christians, maybe give some nice gifts away; but way bigger and way before any of that is this;
making a home in Jesus' arms and giving Him all my love. 

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness."

‭‭-2 Corinthians‬ ‭12:9‬

That's about the best news I've ever heard. 

I'm glad to be in this uncomfortable, homesick, hard-to-understand place. Now He gets to show me how strong He is. 
I'm currently sitting on an airplane from London to Amsterdam. My teammates/friends and I are getting trained in Europe. With the words "getting trained" I mean feeling God's heart, growing together as a team (family), learning from other ministries which are doing an awesome job, and eating great food. Please ask God to help us know Him better than ever and to do everything He wants to with us. 

Thanks guys. I love you. 

And if you're feeling weak and confused and uncomfortable and unqualified, it's ok. 
The good good good God wants you to ask Him for help. 

"We love the concept of faith and pleasing God with faith; we just don't like being put into positions where faith is required. Faith is proven at the point of our weakness and emptiness, the point where all is lost if God doesn't show up. That's a place we avoid and don't naturally love to be..."
- Banning Liebscher, Rooted

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Jesus is still winning

I haven't forgotten the day I almost died. 
 Four years ago today, I flew off a motorbike in Thailand, landed on the side of the road with a fractured skull, a bleeding brain, a ripped-up face, and a few less teeth.
But the story didn't end in death. 
It ended in life. 
Because that's what God is like. 

In two days, I'm boarding a plane with all my favorite clothes, some almond butter, God's Love, and moving to Hong Kong. 

He's going to love me there. 
He's going to do whatever He wants with me there. 

I get to join SonsandDaughters in God's great pursuit:
going after people with everything He's got. There are several He's pursuing in Hong Kong who are working in the sex industry, and gosh, He and I are excited about them saying "yes" to Him. He chases us all down with mercy and I'm just absolutely thrilled to get to be part of this chase. 
His Love keeps on winning. 
He defeats our enemies and brings us to Himself (Exodus 19:4). 

I'm most definitely going to die someday, and so are you. 
But I didn't die on August 25, 2012 because God had some more voluntary love to get from me. He had some more faith dances to dance with me. He had some more sons and daughters to pursue, using my life in the pursuit. 

Maybe you're in a laying-unconscious-in-a-hospital-bed-in-Thailand sort of season right now. I don't know what to tell you except I'm sorry, Jesus is good, and if you'll trust Him, He'll be right there for you. 
He wins. 
And He wants you. 

Here I am, God! You're beautiful, trustworthy, and fascinating. 
All You want, I'll give it. 

"You have seen what I did to the Egyptians. 
You know how I carried you on eagles' wings and brought you to Myself."
Exodus 19:4