Sunday, March 11, 2018

being seen

Kids with dirty feet, broken flip-flops, over-sized t-shirts they found in the trash, and noses that never stop running; they hugged us, climbed us, loved us. 

We spent several days with people who live in garbage dumps in the Philippines.

We went into a house to pray for a widow; a pretty lady who's raising several kids, doing her best to help everyone keep surviving. The brown mud ground is the floor of the house and the walls are made of scrap wood nailed together, with old kitchen linoleum on the outside walls to serve as siding. We prayed for her, said a few words of encouragement, and left. 

But one guy, the German missionary who was hosting us, lingered behind. I was interested in what he was doing, and figured I could learn if I paid attention to him, so I stood outside the door and watched. He asked the widow to show him all the places in the home that needed the most attention. She pointed out a large hole in the roof and a structure problem with the 2nd story. He examined the problems. 

Despite having been left by his team, he wasn't in a hurry to leave. He asked her questions, he scrutinized the roof's hole, he braved the stairs to see the problem upstairs. I'm guessing as she shared with him the struggles of her house, she felt valued. He took time to see what she needed. He really cared. Like he's been caring for people living in trash for 15 years. 

As I stood outside the door and watched this German man study this Filipino mom's house, I was seeing what Jesus is like. 

When everyone else steps into your house, gives you a 5-minute conversation, then departs, leaving you out of their sights and out of their minds, He stays behind to talk with you. He doesn't depart. He looks at the leaks so He can fix them. He's not afraid of the weak stairs that lead to an unattractive and unsafe floor that you've built the best you know how.

I don't live in a house made from trash nor is it easy for me to imagine how hard this lady's life is. But I'm familiar with other kinds of trash; the inside-of-you kinds.

My heart knows what it's like to have a leaky roof and an unattractive, unsafe second floor. I need someone to see and to help my heart, always. All the time. Everyday.

And that's what God does. 

 There are some leaks and some structure problems. But Jesus is committed to making our hearts safe, beautiful places where He's at home. As He looks around and remodels, I can't even smell the trash anymore. The walls I'd thrown together with old boards and materials from the garbage, He fixes up with His own two Hands. Next thing I know, I got walls built out of gold. 

There are some 15 million people living in trash around the globe. 

Those five days in the Philippines; they were busy, full, sad, fun, hard, and good. We spent days with people in the trash, watched this German man and his wife love unconditionally, took 100 white roses into a red light district and shared Jesus with those working there, had Starbucks dates with ladies who needed some encouragement, saw Jesus and got amazed by Him in new ways.  

Kids aren't designed to live in trash. Neither are moms and dads. And men and women aren't designed to sell their bodies for sex.

 But Jesus is seeing! and He's using His friends' mouths to tell these, and people in Hong Kong, and people all over the world, the great Story that will change everything. The Gospel is being preached and where the Gospel is preached, dirty feet are washed, broken shoes are fixed, runny noses are wiped, and sex work is quit. 
And broken houses are re-modeled. 

I love the Philippines. 
I love that German man with the huge God-filled heart. 
I love Hong Kong.
I love Jesus building beauty inside of me. 
I love America.
I love the Gospel. 

Then Jesus went over to their synagogue, where he noticed a man with a deformed hand.
-Matthew 12:91-10

Friday, February 23, 2018

my family

My sister just had her fourth baby and I wasn’t there. 

I got to see the last two enter the world, breathe their first breaths, cry their first cries, my sister hold them for their first holds. But this one, Riggs Daniel Hussmann, I was 8,013 miles away standing in my kitchen in Hong Kong when he made his entrance. I was drying my Grandpa Bill's cast iron skillet when mom sent the text, "He's here." 

I got down on my knees in the kitchen floor and asked God to keep His hand on Riggs for the rest of his life. I asked God to help Riggs know His affections for him, and to fill his life with goodness. Soon, Kelley joined me on the floor and we finished simple prayers together, got up, then went and built a campfire in celebration of Riggs' life. 

I’ve been crying a little the past few days. I want to touch Riggs and see his brothers and sister hold him and watch him blend into his family. But I’m not in Kentucky. And I think it’s ok to feel sad about it. There's nothing wrong with a little healthy sadness when you miss out on important family moments. 

But I don’t think it’s ok to sit around and feel sorry for myself and let my sadness tell me how to view my life.  They look different than bringing a baby home from the hospital, but important family moments are still filling my days because the Heart that important family moments are coming out of, God's giant Heart; I'm living right in the middle of it.

I’m not living with my sister’s newborn baby, but I am living with four sisters from Africa and my best friend from Virginia and I just spent five days in the Philippines with people who live in the trash and with men and women selling their bodies and my heart is growing. And the canvas God is painting family on is way bigger than I thought. His brush strokes are broad and colorful and the paint is made out of love.

Kara Hussmann brought home her fourth beautiful baby. A lady who works in the sex industry in Manila heard the Gospel and said "yes" to joining God's family. Kids in the trash got hugs and kisses and heard about their in-love Creator. My sisters from Africa are learning more about His love for them and that He calls them beautiful. 

From Louisville to Manila, He’s bringing new members into His family. He’s loving wildly and well. And I get to be in the middle of His big giant family heart. 

God's family growing is the most important of all of life's importants.
It's why Jesus died. 

He lived, He bled, He died, He lives again; now people living in the trash in Manila get to experience hope and have warm meals brought to them and the promise of Heaven preached to them. Now my sister and brother get to raise a beautiful family up in a home consumed with love. Now I get to live in Hong Kong with a family that looks different than I ever thought my family would look. 

My African family and my biological American family and my Filipino family and my Hong Kong church family and my American church family and my brand new Riggs Daniel Hussmann; Jesus died and rose again and now we all get to be family together. 
I love the Gospel.
And I'm looking forward to the day I meet this little guy. 

Thursday, February 8, 2018

it's my last day of my twenties

I learned to ride a bike when I was 7 or so. My uncle Kent taught me in the suburbs in Indiana. This afternoon my sister from Tanzania and I went to a sidewalk outside our home in Hong Kong and had a lesson. I’m not sure I was as thorough in my instruction as uncle Kent, but “just keep pedalling and don’t fall over” is the advice I kept encouraging her with. 

It’s a fitting last-day-of-my-20’s afternoon. 

This decade has been an explosion. 

I graduated college and Grandma let me move into her little rent house in my hometown. I fed teenagers and told them they should follow Jesus. We looked like an imperfect but fun family that ate a lot of ravioli and received a lot of grace. I got hurt and I hurt, I got forgiven and I forgave. All those teenagers who treated me like I was important and that rent house roommate who kept forgiving me, they showed me family. 

I went to India for the first time. A bunch of beautiful kids without moms and dads to raise them treated me like I was a queen and let me invade their sleeping quarters with all my fancy American crap. They taught me how to play Indian games in the sand and taught me how to eat rice and curry with my right hand. They showed me that praying on your knees with eyes squinted shut must look like a work of art to the One we’re praying to. They hugged me and forgave me and celebrated me. They showed me family. 

I lived at a summer camp in Michigan. Kids from the inner city came and canoed with me and worshipped with me and rode horses with me and ate with me and trusted me and showed me family. 

I almost died in Thailand. Missionaries I didn’t know fought for my life. My Pastor cancelled his flight home so he could stay by my unconscious body and pray. My parents flew across the world to be with me as I lay broken and useless in the ICU. A missionary left her once-a-year visit with her family to fly back and help mom and dad communicate with the Thai doctors. A girl who watched me get bloodied up by that metal pole I hit, she prayed and cried and gave me her cool ring when she came to visit me in the hospital. These and the thousands of friends around the globe who asked God to please help me live, they showed me family. 

I lived with my brother (in-law) and sister and their kids for about a year. They let me live in their basement for free and they fed me all their food. They paid off my college debt and they let me play with their kids and they showed me how to move into a new city and love everyone in it. They taught me that starting a church is a hard and really good idea. They showed me family. 

I spent a summer in Mozambique. My African brother gave me a big heavy bag of peanuts right before I flew home because he knew I liked peanuts. His mama cooked for me and my friends every Sunday. Mama Heidi Baker showed me what it’s like to fall in love and stay in love with the Savior King. All those teachers at that school poured their wealth into my heart. My housemates from all over the globe taught me about friendship and culture and patience. Everyone in that place, they showed me family. 

I moved to Hong Kong to help God’s family grow in the red light districts, and that’s happening, but what’s even more apparent, I’ve found family growing in me. A best friend who keeps showing me God’s chest ripped open, “family” written big and bold right across His Heart. Ladies who feed me African food and teach about faith that’s lived out and colleagues that keep giving cupcakes to girls in strip clubs and people who are so different than me giving me their love and showing me their hearts and even though I’ve been emotionally unstable and homesick and selfish, the love keeps coming and family, family, family; they keep showing me family. 

I went to the Philippines and Thailand and Singapore and Holland and England and Mexico and Disney world in Florida and China and LA a couple times and Nepal...I went to a lot of places. But the people I went with, the people who sent me, the people I saw in each land, they're what count; they showed me family. 

I’ve cried at airport goodbyes and I’ve cried at airport reunions. My parents have travelled the world with me, playing with kids in India and building tables in the red light district in Hong Kong and feeding me icecream in the hospital in Thailand; His Big Heart on clear display.

It's been a decade exploding with family. 

And here at the end, I’m living in a house called Family Home. We’re from four different nations and it’s hard for us to understand each other’s histories because they’re so different from one another’s. But my sisters and me, we’ve all been brought out of dark places and into the light-filled place, the family place. And my sisters open their hearts and show me what’s inside and they pray for me and they forgive me and we’re all learning to love and they’re showing me family. 

“Intimacy makes family.”
God often tells me that. I’ve decided to spend my life discovering how true this sentence is. My heart is open to Him and His is open to me; I touch His and He touches mine. We share with each other and we look at each other and intimacy is cultivated and family is made. As I touch this Heart that I came out of, He builds family around me. 

The relationships--the love I’ve received, the love I’ve given--it's marked me up, changed me, fuelled meaning into life. 

From uncle Kent to my peanut brother in Mozambique, I know God more deeply because of all this family love. 

So, dear everybody, thank you for showing me family. It's been a really good decade and I love you. 

"The more Heaven comes to earth, the more heaven looks like family."
 -Jonathan David Helser

Friday, February 2, 2018


We sat together in the prison. 
The ladies in Lowu Prison are from all over the world, I'm from a farm in America. They wear prison uniforms, I wear colorful clothes I think they'll like. 

 This Sunday, the 4th Sunday of every month, everyone looks forward to. We sit together in the prison room and hug and sing and pray and learn.

 I got to share the message last week, and summed up, it went like this; God says our names. He says them, He sings them, He enjoys them, He's permanently marked them into His Hands as artwork. 

Me and my friends in prison, and you, we're all craving the same kind of stuff. Someone to know us, love us, make a home with us. 

God put that craving there. He's the one, and the only one, who can satisfy it. 

After the message, I sat in a small group with a handful of ladies from Kenya and Tanzania and we talked about names and God saying our's and their favorite name to be called and how we all miss our homes. We didn't mean to, but "home" just came up in our conversation. I think that's because when we start talking about people who know our names and enjoy us, "home" is the best way to describe it. "Home" is the craving. 

"I've not been home in five years," one of the ladies told me. 
"Can you imagine?" she asked. 
No, I can't. I went 10 months without going home and didn't know if I'd survive the ninth month. 

But God's teaching me and the ladies in prison the same things, He's made our hearts His home. He loves dwelling with us in our hearts' secret chambers. The inside of us, the place where we really live that no one else can see, it's the space God made for Himself to build a really nice home. A let's-be-together home. Cozy, enjoyable,  intimate. Whether we're in a prison in Hong Kong or on a farm in America, the home that our Maker is building inside of us, it can satisfy our cravings. 

I've been sketching cottages lately. Talking to God about the home He's building out of my heart, it's got me thinking about what it may look like to Him. It's the place where we see each other, where I hear Him say my name, where He sings over me, where He makes love grow. I think He sees it as a pretty cottage. Not perfect, not done, but pretty. And home. 

He gazes into my soul, 
peering through the portal as He blossoms within my heart. 
-Song of Solomon 2:9

* Isaiah 49:16, Luke 19:5, Luke 22:31-32, John 20:16, Luke 10:38-42
He really is the God who calls our names 

Friday, January 12, 2018


There are lots of things I crave. 
Lobster, coffee, cookie dough, my family, and recently, a whole lot of steadiness. 

I've been back in my Hong Kong home for two weeks after three weeks in my American home. Those three weeks were full of steady thankful days. My American home is amazing- the people, the comfort, the amount of love. But my Hong Kong home is amazing too, and I'm on a journey to be filled with steady thankful no matter where I am in the world. 

My American and Hong Kong homes have some major differences. In Hong Kong, I live in a home full of ladies from Africa, the local grocery store isn't ran by people who know my grandparents, I don't know everyone by first name when I walk down the street, folks around here speak Cantonese as their first language, I don't see my family every day, and I work for a ministry that's planted in the middle of a red light district. 

But in both America and Hong Kong, I have faithful friends. Those faithful friends play a pretty major roll in adding steady thankful to my days. 

"Steady" isn't a word that could describe my emotions of the past year. And "thankful" hasn't often been my attitude for these across-the-planet changes coming into my life. 

But God isn't intimidated by my wild emotions and He's really good. He's steadying me. And He's showing me how to let thankfulness fill my every day. 

He's using these faithful friends all over the world to help. 

While I was home, my Uncle Tim and Aunt Darla drove from North Carolina to Illinois, booking it, so they could sit in in my parents' living room with me for 20 minutes before I flew back. Going to Trader Joe's with my big sister was relaxing and exciting. My friend Richie was happy to see me when I showed up at his doorstep. My aunt Jill made me cinnamon rolls like she has my entire life. Meagan still made me feel important and thankful to be alive. 

These consistent relationships in the Western Hemisphere help me breathe deeply and grin. 

But returning to the Eastern Hemisphere, best friend Kelley gave me yet another grand and movie-worthy pick-up from the airport (a guitar, a song, twinkle lights, and a banner).  My Hong Kong church is still singing to God and He's still listening. My African sisters cheered when I came home, and the homemade banner made me feel warm.  

The faithful love I'm getting from people, in both hemisphere homes; it steadies me. 

And here's the best and more important; 
it's all coming from the One I'm going to rightfully call the 
Great Steady One. 

The most steady constant I have is the steady constant King who’s ruling my insides. He sits on my heart's throne and rules this hectic place with His steady constant grace, smile on His face, unmoved and completely in love. This doesn’t change. 
“I love you, you don’t have to be afraid” ringing from His Voice into my heart over and over every day, it’s my great steadier. He is my constant consistency. When my heart is bucking and my face is covered in tears and I’m wondering when the lifelong vacation will arrive, He stills me. I open the Bible and He whispers and I breathe deeply and grin. He brings the steady I'm craving. 

Me, my African sisters, and best friend; we all had a campfire the other night. We taught our sisters how to roast marshmallows, best friend boasted of her fire-building skills, and we all laughed in the backyard. He brings the steady I'm craving. 

p.s. One of my faithful friends has a birthday today. Richie Travis, I'm so thankful for your friendship. Have the best birthday you've ever had and know that your friendship means so much to me. You're my favorite bubblegum buddy. 

Monday, December 18, 2017


I picked a random aisle to walk down, one that bridged me to my destination- the glorious grocery paradise at Wal-Mart. My bridge aisle was full of cool glittery decorations and at its end were twinkle lights. Lots of twinkle lights. And different kinds. 

Twinkle lights are a pretty important part of my life. I hang them all over whatever space is my current home; taped randomly across walls is my classy technique. 

All those pretty little white lights remind me that Jesus is romantic, peaceful, and likes me.

I bought three different types that night at Walmart. Eight strands total. Then I went on to the grocery section where I walked down the cereal aisle, which boasted about 109 different options. I bought the best two kinds, some cool new snacks I found, some Lara bars, and quite a few other things. It was fun. It was my first time in 
Wal-Mart in ten months. 

America is amazing. I’ve been home now for a week and three days. A little less than two weeks to go before flying back to Hong Kong. These ten days, I’ve been in a kind of amazed daze. Walking around, filled up thankful, getting thousands of kisses from my sister’s kids, getting greeted by strangers in stores because these Southern Americans are friendly, having people who really know me hug me and love me, my Pastor pray over and anoint me, and on and on. 

The everyday normal has awed my heart for these ten days. When I live in America, I don’t usually get dazzled by the friendly cashier at Target or the options of very affordable cheese at Kroger. But coming in with a new I-don’t-live-here-anymore perspective, the result has been awe-filled days.  Amazed by by family, amazed by this country, amazed by life. And doesn't it seem like God would want to make all my days like these ten? Whether I’m in the USA or Hong Kong or some other land He takes me to; I want to savor all these moments He gives me. 

My journal has new 3 year-old princess artwork all over it. I have wrestling matches with my 1 year-old nephew everyday (he growls like a little bear). An ice cream date with my sister and all three kids feels like a Hallmark movie. Having my family sit in my bedroom with me; there couldn't be a better evening. I know these moments are coming to an end soon, so I’m savoring. 

But these three weeks in America, they're not the only moments coming to an end. This whole shebang- my life- will also have an ending. I want to live with this I'm-going-to-be-dead-soon-so-let-me-savor way of going about all my days. I know there are plenty of imperfections and hardships and wishing-things-were-a-little different woven into all of our lives, but man, there's also a whole lot of amazing. These moments God gives you and God gives me- we’re intended to enjoy them! To soak them up and savor. Let's all live like we're dying, because we are.

My 1 year-old nephew, he shares my love for twinkle lights. I’ve got several strands hung around my folks’ house at this point, so little boy and I turn them all on together every morning, his eyes big and my heart in awe as I watch him. 

How deeply intimate and far-reaching is God's love!
-Ephesians 3:19

Saturday, November 25, 2017

a place to belong

I knelt down next to the trashcan, used both arms, and scooped them up off the street. They were white and pink lilies in the biggest bouquet of flowers I've ever seen. An old newspaper wrapped around them. A few were wilting, but most of the lilies were in full bloom. Full, beautiful, let-you-smell-their-fragrance bloom. 

I smiled the whole way home. 
What someone else had gotten tired of, had no use for, was a delight to me. A treasure!
People passing on the streets noticed my enormous bouquet and my beaming face. I'm guessing they assumed I had a dedicated lover, the thoughtful kind. 
Boy were they right. 

I came into our drop-in centre in the middle of the red light district, Promise House, and I put the bouquet on the table. I searched for enough old jars, vases, bottles to hold them all. It took awhile. They were jam-packed with happy and wow of Jesus moments.
 I spread them throughout Promise House - on tables, lamp stands, computer desks - everything got covered in flowers. 

I heard Jesus whispering the whole time. 

"Lilies don't belong in the trash on the street. They belong held in arms, enjoyed. They belong in a home."

I sat down at the piano and sang Him a song of the truth He tells me about lilies. He likes browsing among them. He enjoys their fragrance, their company. He calls us lilies. He is a Lover in love with us. He has a place for us all. 

My Beloved is mine and I am His. He browses among the lilies.
(Song of Solomon 2:16)

Now the whole place smells like lilies. 

I was 15 when He started giving me a desire to be His lily. I was romantic and desperate for a man's attention so He gave it to me. 

"Like a lily among thorns, so are you, My darling, among the maidens." (Song of Solomon 2:2)

So now I'm sitting in this safe place He's made in the red light, smelling lilies that came off the street. Rescued and beautiful. He's doing it! Making life grow here. Making beautiful grow here. He has a place for all the lilies. He made happen in the physical what's been happening in the spiritual. We all belong with Him. Enjoyed. 
He really is something. 

Sunday, November 19, 2017

the right here and now (enjoying these moments we're in)

We sat at the kitchen table mom and dad built us when they were here--long, fits 6 people easy, made out of old wood pallets we drug home from the garbage pile--with homemade African food.

Stories were exchanged, lessons learned over the past week were shared. We enjoyed. My African sisters and me. 

After the dishes were washed, we sat around the living room, asked God to teach us as we read, and spent unhurried minutes in Psalm 139. We read to ourselves, living room silent and sweet. 

The tendency I have is to cry and forget that God's good- that this is good, me living in family in Hong Kong- to feel sorry for myself and wonder why moving across the world seems to be way harder for me than it is for everybody else. My tendency is to forget that I'm living in real-life-right-before-my-eyes miracles. Miracles! 

I spent years asking God for this life. I don't know how long I'll live in Hong Kong, with African family, with my best friend, with dreams and miracles happening in front of me, but years from now, as I look back on these days, I'm going to be amazed, and I'm guessing I'm going to wonder why I spent so much time complaining in my heart. I will have the "I'm not in it anymore and I can now clearly see it was extravagant Love from Heaven that was filling my days" perspective. But I don't want to wait until it's over to have that perspective. I want it now.

The right here and now is amazing. 
Not perfect. Not without a lot of struggle. But amazing. 
Right now, as I sit on a homemade quilt from India and smell a coffee cake candle that one of my African sisters made and look at artwork my best friend painted on old brown paper and am surrounded by twinkle lights on copper wire that mom gave me, I'm letting my heart be amazed. Not longing for this season to finish, not complaining about where I'm at, but celebrating it. 

My days go better when I let thankfulness drown out the wishing-things-were-different. 

If you're a full-time babysitter wondering why, a working mom missing easier days, a single guy in the midst of married friends, a high schooler dreaming of life after graduation, or a missionary living in a house in Asia with African sisters but missing your house in America with American sisters--if we'll look, we'll find the amazing in the right here and now. These moments we're in are to be embraced, not wished away. 

The more space we give King Jesus in our lives, the more we embrace these moments, the more thankful our hearts get, the more enjoyment is added to the daily. Let's give Him all the space we've got. 
And let's enjoy today.