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

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. 

Saturday, October 28, 2017

8,013 miles

When I was in second grade, I was in a "Little Miss Princess" contest in my hometown. They put a mic in front of my 7 year-old face and asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up. 
"A farmer," I said. 

I've always wanted to be just like my dad. 

 A few weeks ago, my mom gave him a course on sending pictures using an app on his phone. Just about everyday, he takes photos of what's in front of him, and sends them to his youngest daughter across the world. When I see I have a new photo from dad to open, all my insides get swelled up with a grin.  

Will it be a picture he snapped of a random object in our house? 
Will it be of a field he's farming today?  
Will it be a photo of his mom making sure the semi tires are ok? 
His photos are creative and thoughtful and I save each one. 

Seeing what my dad is seeing has become a highlight of my days. 

Living these 8,013 miles away from my dad and the rest of that crew is still hard and I still cry for them from time to time. But knowing we still get to share life together, even though it looks a bit different than the past, helps. 

To know he's stopping what he's doing to pull out his phone and take a picture because he's thinking about me and wants to share his life with me; this does something good for my heart. 

Like He's done so many times, God takes my dad and teaches me about His nature. The things in front of Him, He wants me to see. He pauses to send me "I love you" whispers throughout the day. He thinks of me. His perspective of everything--my life, politics, suffering, family, humanity--it's right and its good and He wants to share it with me. Even though we're not yet together in the we-can-touch-each-other-with-our-skin place, He wants our days to be shared. 

True thoughts about Heaven, delightful feelings in His heart for me, scenes of us together, the different colors of the sunset reflecting His creativity and kindness, the salty ocean waves that change in size; He has pictures He wants us to see. He's a really good dad.  

Ask God to make you aware of all the love He has for you right now, at this moment. Ask Him to open your eyes to see His love. 

photo taken by Randy Short

Sunday, August 27, 2017

one year in Hong Kong and wow

It's been super hard and super good. 

August 28, 2016, it was a Sunday, I landed in Hong Kong with my purple suitcases stuffed full of my favorite stuff. My best friend picked me up with a sign and a fresh sunflower, bought me fancy icecream, and we sat down in the airport and had a moment. I was in shock and not sure what to feel, so I ate my icecream and asked God for help. 

A year of living in Hong Kong has gone by.

During this year, there's been some Singapore, the Philippines, Holland, England, Thailand (twice), the U.S., China (several times), countless fall-apart meltdown cries, miracles, fun, confusion, and experiencing God be really really good. 

A year ago today, when I landed in my new home in Asia, I had no idea how weak I was. I thought I was pretty strong and pretty ready to take on this new overseas-missionary-living-the-dream life. 

It turns out that my heart is still quite selfish, it's incredibly hard to live 8,013 miles away from my loved ones and my sweet American life, I'm not that great at surrender, I'm spoiled, my emotions are wild and severe, my heart isn't able to love the people He's called me to love, I miss my nephews and niece, and my faith is a pitiful little barely-existing pile. 

Let's all look at God and say "wow."

He loves me. 
He still loves me. 
He still chooses me to be His girl, His companion, His lover, His prize. And when He first picked me to be His, He already knew about all of the selfishness and weakness and sobbing and tiny faith. But He picked me anyway. He's made of mercy. 

Tomorrow, August 28, 2017, on my one-year-in-Hong Kong-celebration day, I'm flying to India for two weeks. That's where I first felt Him nudging me into Asia. I love India. 

He'll love me there, and He'll let me give that love away to lots of pretty Indians. I'm excited. He doesn't let me go to India because I'm selfless. I don't live in Hong Kong because I'm an amazing, qualified missionary-sort-of-person. He's in love with me and in this messy process of becoming the kind of Bride He wants to spend forever with, He enjoys me. That truth- God enjoys me right now- is one I'll be wow'd by forever. 

I wish I could say that living my dream, it really is my dream, in Hong Kong was easy and I'm great at it and I've stopped with the sobbing. But I can't say that. 
What I can say, so truthfully, is that God loves my weak heart. And He loves your's too. And there are weak hearts surrounding me right now, where I sit in a red light district, that He's in love with. And His dream is being together with us. So I'm going to keep living in Hong Kong and letting Him make my weak love stronger, and letting Him love people here through me, however He wants. 

Yeah it's been hard. But it's been amazing. He's pulling people out of dark places and putting them in His family.

When we hold on to our lives, we get to decide what we want to do with them. But what God decides to do with our lives is way better than anything we could come up with. Hard, yes, but so good. And free. And joyful. And fun. 

If you were here, I'd give you a big bowl of cinnamon toast crunch. I've got a giant box because my best friend/boss bought it for me as a one-year-in-hong-kong celebration. Best friend/boss has been with me through the sobs and tantrums and I'm amazed at her steady love. She's patient and God-like and friendship is really important. 

Since you're not here to share a bowl of cereal with, how about you pray for me, that I'll live together with Jesus like what He wants, and that I'll help other people get together with Him, too. 

God loves us. Wow. 

Teach us to surrender, Lord Jesus. And to keep saying "yes" to You. You're big and beautiful and I love you. 
Amen. 

As the soil makes the sprout come up and a garden causes seed to grow, so the Sovereign Lord will make righteousness and praise spring up before all nations.
-Isaiah 61:11

Friday, August 25, 2017

I'm glad I didn't die

"Together" is one of my favorite words. 

August 25, 2012; it's been five years since I was bloodied up in a hospital in Thailand with missing teeth and a swollen brain and life support helping me breathe. 

When mom and dad flew to Thailand to sit with me in the hospital, 
I was unconscious. I couldn't offer them a nice Thai meal or tell them stories from the past months I'd spent in India or thank them for flying across the world to see me. I couldn't even hug them. 
I laid there bloodied and broken and offered them nothing. Days went by before I even opened my eyes. 

But, like the Lord Jesus when He came down here to show us what God's like, they didn't come so I could impress them. They came to love me. 

It's been five years- my brain has recovered and I got some new fake teeth and mom and dad are still flying across the world to love me. 

They just got back home after spending a month with us* in Hong Kong; loving, sweating, laughing, building stuff, fixing stuff, feeding us, parenting us, being so so good to us. 

I cried when they got here, I cried when they left.

Together.
That's the best part of all of it. They're so generous with their together. When they were sitting next to my hospital bed in the ICU in Thailand and when they were building a new dining room table in Hong Kong, they were giving their together. Just being with me; that's all they want, and that's all God wants, too. 

 There's something about someone wanting to be with you that brings life to your heart.  

Our friends, from South Africa to India and several places in between, got loved by them. Dad hugged them all, said, "I love you." Mom smiled and called them "Sugar." My parents are showing me and all my friends from around the world what God's like. He's wonderful. 

If you're broken, weak, have a bleeding head, or missing front teeth, God is crazy about you. He wants to sit next to you and put life back in your barely-breathing body. 

Together.
It's Who God is and it's how He made us to be. With Him and with each other, we were built for together.

It's August 25, 2017 and I'm glad I'm still alive.  


*"us" is me and my new Hong Kong family God's given me, made up of beautiful folks from all over the place 





Tuesday, July 4, 2017

an invitation to live fascinated

There's this company, iHerb, that delivers health food from America to Hong Kong for a reasonable price and ordering from iHerb is oh so fun. Last time I made an order, I longingly studied the page that was selling Justin's Maple Almond Butter. 

Justin's Maple Almond Butter is the very best of all the nut butters. Justin's is a nut butter company and everything they make is awesome. But it's expensive. I was already ordering a bunch of stuff that I didn't exactly need, so I drew the line and decided I could do without any Justin's stuff. So I didn't order any. 

A couple days later I got an unexpected package in the mail. Unexpected packages make me wanna dance. Especially this one. 
It was from my friend, Cass, in Illinois, who has cool big hair, a sweet and frequent laugh, and listens to God's voice. 

In the package was a jar of Justin's Maple Almond Butter, two varieties of Justin's Chocolate Peanut Butter candy, Justin's Almond Butter pretzel snacks, and a letter that said Holy Spirit had whispered to her in Kroger that I liked Justin's Maple Almond Butter, and that He wanted me to have some. 

My friend had to buy that stuff weeks before my little iHerb sacrifice. God knew I'd be craving it, so He talked to Cass in Kroger in southern Illinois. Three weeks later, I sat at my kitchen table in Hong Kong, fascinated by this love He's loving me with.  

I wish I could tell you I'm strong and stable and not still having extreme ups and downs and not sometimes being tempted to quit it all and fly back to America. But I can't. 

I'm still a weak mess. 

If I were God, I'd be so tired of me. But He's not.  He's holding my insecure heart and helping it to keep saying "yes" to Him. 
He sees me. He see that I want to eat Justin's Maple Almond Butter, so He ships me some. 

He cares so big. 

He's not tired of any of us. Messy, weak, failing; it doesn't matter, He still wants you. He wants to pick you up and hold you and tell you who you are. And He may even want a friend from 8,000 miles away to ship your favorite snacks to you. 

His Love for us is fascinating. 



May you experience the Love of Christ, though it's so great you'll never fully understand it.
-Ephesians 3:19