Monday, May 14, 2018

rich, poor, and learning to share


There are these kids I got to meet who live in trash pits in India. They are really really pretty and really really dirty. They’ve never slept in a bed. Never once. Can you imagine?

Where they live is where the city dumps all of its garbage. Their houses are made out of trash, their beds are made out of trash, their clothes were dug out of the trash. It's not an easy place to visit for an hour, let alone a place to be raised. 

So what about them? They’ve never eaten Swiss cheese in Switzerland or drank coffee in Spain. How do I justify vacationing in Europe while kids live in trash and sniff glue so they don’t feel hungry? It’s something worth thinking about. So we’ve been thinking about it. 

If you would’ve told me about this trip to Europe a couple years ago, I mighta got mad at my future self, called her self-centered, then shook my head at the “waste.” But today, I’m just happy. Happy He is extravagant and likes kissing us. 

God shows me His extravagant heart. As He does, I get to help everybody else see it, too. And it’s super fun to look at. He blows me away with undeserved kindness because that’s what He’s like. And I don't keep all the undeserved kindness to myself, but let it hit all the people around me. He's got enough extravagance for everyone. 

He doesn’t love me any differently than He loves those kids in India. The awe my heart felt for two weeks in Europe, the awe He lets me feel regularly, He wants those kids to feel. He has enough awe to fill their hearts, too. How can I show them how extravagant He is? How can I show ladies in the sex industry in Hong Kong that what He offers is a lifetime of joy? How can I help them know His kindness kiss? These are pretty fun questions. And He has the answers! 

I’ve been thinking, maybe those kids in India need a hot air balloon ride. And some donuts. Those ladies in prostitution could use some ice-cream dates. People in jail cells and hospital waiting rooms and on bed rest in their living rooms, God's wanting to show them undeserved kindness and He's wanting to use you and me to do it. He doesn’t just give us what we need, He goes way above and way beyond and shouts “I WANT TO KISS YOU GUYS!” 

He is so much more than I’ve dreamt about. Bigger, better, wilder. And super in love. 
With me, with you, with all of us. 

Our last night of vacation, in a hotel in Barcelona, Kelley Roo watched street kids in India documentaries. We asked God to teach us how to share. 

 Luke 3:11 says,
 "Anyone who has two shirts should share with the one who has none, and anyone who has food should do the same."

I have lots and lots of sharing to do! And the Great Generous God is an excellent teacher. 

We've all got different amounts of money to live on. Some of us have lots extra, some of us don't have enough. God has plenty for everyone, and we need to let Him help us share. God isn't mad if you spend a lot of money on coffee. He isn't upset that I went on vacation to Europe. He just wants us to remember that we're living in His extravagance and He wants us to share. 

The same God who flies me around the world because He’s in love with me is the same God who has storehouses in Heaven packed with love-filled extravagance with your name all over it. And lots and lots of kisses. 
He's the same God who sees all those kids who live in trash, and He has extravagant plans for them.
That’s fun, huh? 




Thursday, May 3, 2018

What I know about getting kissed


When I was in seventh grade, this boy I had a crush on tried kissing me. I put my hand over my mouth and shook my head. I had a pretty big crush on the boy, but letting him put his mouth on mine seemed like a serious step I wasn't ready to take. 

I thought I may wait and start kissing boys when I was 16. But by the time I turned 16, Jesus was showing me He loved me like those boys in high school never could, so I told Him I wouldn't kiss any of those boys if He'd help me.
And He helped me. 

 Now I'm 30 and kiss-less as far as normal kissing goes. But there's another kind of kissing I'm quite engaged in and it's the God-leaning-down-and-kissing-me-right-on-the-heart kind. 

In the Swiss Alps, between sunshine and snow, He kissed me. He's kissed me in India with kids' big hugs and in Thailand with open hearts excited about the Gospel and in Hong Kong with a family made of three African nations. He raised me on a farm in the United States and kissed me with a mom and dad and sisters and grandparents and cousins and a thousand healthy relationships. He just sent me on a road trip through Europe with best friends and kissed me every mile (and kilometer). 

I’m so romantic. And the reason is this; I’m made in my Maker’s image. I’m like Him. God is romantic.

For my 30th birthday, someone bought me a two-week vacation in Europe. Why? Not because I deserve it. But because He likes kissing me. 

It wasn’t necessary to give me two weeks of nothing but fun and cheese and bread and coffee. I didn’t deserve the hike through the Swiss Alps or the all-you-can eat Brazilian meat in Portugal or the complimentary Swiss chocolate on the flights. But God likes being extravagant. He enjoys shocking us with kindness, smothering us with kisses. 

Six countries in two weeks, driving a little red rental car through western Europe with two girls who are best friends and heroes, that was His idea for us. Wow! Kisses! 

In this tiny country called Andorra (which we didn't know existed but when we discovered it, we knew we had to go), we ate in a warm restaurant with wooden walls and lots of windows and ate cheese fondue (that means lots of bread and meat dipped in rivers of melted cheese). We used the money dad gave us for “a nice meal in Europe.” Sitting there all cheesy and warm, God planted a kiss right in my heart. 

Zurich, Switzerland's train station had my favorite perfume store so we could cover ourselves in sample perfume and lotion. As we explored the city, our hearts were filled with God's kiss. And we smelt really good.

We received a half-off discount seatbelt ticket in Spain from the cop with his cheeks squished together in his big cop helmet. We were in the back of the airport shuttle van, without seatbelts because who wears a seatbelt in the back of an airport shuttle van, when the big-helmet cop pulled the van over. He peeked into the backseat where Kelley Roo and I sat seatbelt-less, took our passports, and asked if we were friends. We told him we were friends and smiled big. Then the big-helmet cop said he'd only charge us for one ticket instead of two, so he'd go ahead and take our 100 Euro payment right now.
 I handed him my credit card and Jesus kissed me. 

Going through immigration in Switzerland, the watching-the-x-Ray-screen people soon discovered I forgot my awesome (and pretty fancy) flip-blade knife in my carry-on so they called down their supervisor who took my passport and escorted me to the police station. It was kinda fun. Turns out that owning a flip-blade knife is illegal in Switzerland, and trying to carry one onto an airplane is double illegal. The Swiss police were nice and I think they liked me. After having me sign some sorta papers, they let me get on the airplane but I didn’t get my cool knife back. Hopping on the plane, without my knife and without handcuffs on, Jesus kissed me. 

Sometimes kisses from Him are covered up by my self-pity, unstable emotions, unfortunate circumstances or just downright selfishness. Everyone has hard moments and hard days, but even in the midst of the hard, if we’ll look around, we’ll be able to see God kissing us.

A kiss is intimate. To kiss, you got to get close. God wants this kind of relationship with us. 

It's how mankind got it's start, kissing. God put His mouth on Adam's lifeless body and breathed. Adam opened his eyes, saw God's big smiling mouth close to his, and probably smiled back. 
God's been kissing people ever since. 


 Then the Lord God formed a man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being.

-Genesis 2:7







Sunday, April 15, 2018

for days you feel fat, ugly, and bad


Yesterday I felt ugly. 
I used to think insecurity was only for 14 year-old girls, but I've learned that it finds its way to all of us, no matter our age or occupation or body fat percentage. 

Some friends looked at old pictures of me. I was 20, bleach blonde, all my front teeth were the originals, and I didn't have any scars on my face. They were surprised and said nice things about how pretty I was. "Was." 

"Insecurity breeds insecurity. It is a formidable saboteur of love’s potential to heal. Whether you are the insecure person in a relationship or the one who is trying to rein in that demon, it is imperative that the battle is won."
-Randi Gunther, Ph.D., 
"Insecurity"

I'm familiar with insecurity showing up, not just what my face looks like, but in my interactions with people. Am I caring enough? Am I spending enough time investing in this relationship? Am I a good daughter? Am I a good friend? 

Insecurity shows up in ministry. Am I a "good missionary?" Am I "doing enough?" Am I showing people who Jesus is? Do all the people supporting me think I'm doing a good job?

Insecurity leads me through a series of questions all revolving around one big question; "Am I good?" The series of questions always leads to the same place: insecurity. 

God is suggesting that I stop the series of questions altogether. He's digging the insecurity out of my heart and planting in its place the really beautiful life-bearing seeds called "confidence."
As He plants new seeds, He sings, "You're good, you're good, you're good. You're good because I say you're good."
I love that song. 

I know you know what insecurity feels like, too. I'm sorry. I wish we could all stay confident 4 year-olds who assume that we're wonderful and everybody wants our company and never once wonder if we're good.

We don't have to wonder if we're good enough, not when we belong to Jesus. He died to take all that wondering away, all that fear away, all that insecurity away. We get to live like 4 year-olds again.


After my feeling ugly day, I turned my attention to Jesus, 
"Do you think I'm beautiful?"
My heart heard Him assure me that He does. 
Then my heart heard Him tell me He likes my scars and fake teeth and less-glamorous-than-my-20-year-old-self appearance.

When we turn our attention to what Jesus is thinking about us, He turns insecurity into confidence. He turns fear into courage. He turns lies into truth. 

If your stomach has rolls instead of abs, your marriage has a divorce date instead of an anniversary, your kids give you cold shoulders instead of hugs, if you're a missionary wondering if you're actually helping anybody at all, turn your attention to Jesus. Ask Him what He thinks about you. 

I've really screwed up a lot. "Perfect" is a long way from what I've got going on here in my life. But He says I'm good and that's the end of it. 

I hope you let Him talk to you about what He thinks of you. If you're not used to talking to Him, or if you're not sure what His voice to your heart sounds like, you can start like this, 
"Hi Jesus. I want to hear you. Help me, please."
And read Luke 12. I've been liking that chapter a lot.  

I'm awesome. And so are you. 


Saturday, March 31, 2018

so we can all be free


It was a 12-hour flight. Usually, I enjoy those long ones, but this one was absent of peace so there was no enjoying.

It was an intense conversation happening in my head. I was flying home to see my family after only two months back in Hong Kong.

“Other missionaries-the greats-they didn’t get to come see their families whenever they wanted; I’ll never be ‘as good’ as them.” These were mixed in with a million other words which involved my future, guilt, anxiety, and I’m no good. They were thoughts that are against myself and I'm really familiar with them. 

My sister had a newborn baby and I wanted to meet him. I’d cried since his arrival on February 21, so in the beginning of March, my best friend suggested God didn’t mind if I just fly home and see him. 
So I did.

Since being here, God has let me know that He didn’t simply “allow” me to come visit my new nephew, but He invited me. The nice stuff- it’s His idea. All of it. The guilt-shame-lies in the airplane tried telling me I didn't deserve to come home again, but God made the guilt-shame-lies be quiet. That's what He's always doing. 

He’s not mean. Not even a bit. Yes, there are sacrifices He invites us to make, but at the same time, there’s kindness flowing from Him that’s so big it busts all my boxes and kills all my “I’m not good” and sets me free. 

The Freedom started at the end of that rough 12-hour flight.  The last couple hours, I directed my attention to God and asked what He was thinking about all of it. He stepped into that mind war and brought peace. He started filling my insides with the truth- He really likes me. I’m not the same as the other great missionaries I admire, but that’s ok. He hasn’t asked me to be them. He’s asked me to be me. 

Comparison is an ugly little fool that tries to come and tell us we’re no good nobodies, never gonna be. And that God isn't proud of us because so-in-so is doing a lot better living their life than we are. But comparison is a stupid liar. Whether flying home to meet a new baby or sitting in your living room watching TV, comparison tries to bring in the you're-not-good-enough lie and wreck your peace with it.

 Jesus died, went to hell, and shut that little liar up forever for His friends. I’m His friend! Comparison has no right to sneak into my head. King of kings let His skin get pierced through, His brilliant blood spill out all over the ground, His never-sinned body murdered. Now we get to be free. We get to be "good" because He says we're good. The comparison, the accusations, all those “you’re not good’s”, every ounce of shame and guilt - we get to be free from all of it. He did that for us. 

God is good, God is good, God is good. 
God is for me, God is for me, God is for me. 
(try saying it aloud a few times)

I have four days left. I’ve got to hold and kiss and sing to new nephew. I’ve got to slumber party with the other three kids. I’ve got to have coffee dates with dad, vacation at sister's new house, eat Mexican with old lifelong friends, celebrate birthdays, and freedom - “God loves who I am”- keeps growing. 

And tomorrow I'm spending Easter at Grandma's. 

I love pie and my family and new nephew's tiny toes and visits in living rooms and the Cross He died on so we can all be free. 



But believers in Him will not experience shame...and because of Him, God has transferred His perfect righteousness to all who believe.
-Romans 9:32, 10:4

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

home


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