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 

Friday, January 12, 2018

steady

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

Savor


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