known

I value friendship. A lot. I value trust. A lot. I value being known. A lot. I value grace. A lot. And all of these things fold together for me when it comes to my best friends.

However…I am a complete asshole when it comes to maintaining long distance friendships. I hate talking on the phone. No, really…with a passion, I hate talking on the phone.

I don’t have a ton of extra rubles to spend on getting to the places they live. And it’s not that I don’t consider it a priority, it’s that time gets away from me. Completely dissipates.

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Before landing in Chicago on Wednesday, it had been two and a half years since I’d seen my college roommate in person. That’s just wrong. I am a complete asshole!

It’s horrible, because I value our friendship more than my actions show. But if the actions are lacking, and your voice isn’t communicating…how do they know we actually put value in their friendship?

We’ve come to a place in this world when Facebook trolling for information equals a ‘friendship.’ That’s not friendship! Friendship is messy. Friendship is knowing how I take my coffee…or other liquids of choice. Friendship is knowing what my response will most likely be about things I am passionate about. Friendship is conversation, actual dialogue about real life things. Its hard. It entails trust, and putting yourself out there. Sometimes it goes sideways and you have to work through crap together. But honestly the friendships that endure are the ones that last. And thankfully I have several!

But that’s also where the grace comes in…and no matter how much time has passed the jokes are still present. The ease of hanging out is still comfortable, and we are still known by someone who counts. Someone who can appreciate the path God has taken you on just as much as you can. Someone who knows the stupid shit you did, completely sober!

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The Bible talks about being known by God in Psalm 139…it’s a beautiful Psalm, and it came to my attention through one of my best friends in one of the biggest struggles my life. As intimately as God knows each one of us, its that bond that runs through the truest friendships we have. And once that bond is engaged…there’s not much you can do to cut it. Because through that bond runs God’s mercy…grace…love.. compassion and community.

Sometimes that bond has to help carry a friend when they feel beaten up by life. The don’t know what to believe. When faith has become exhausting. I’ve always loved the story when Jesus is teaching to a very crowded room, and a paralyzed man is lowered through a roof by his friends. In that moment, Jesus doesn’t say why are you breaking someone’s home. No, Jesus says HIS faith has saved him. The Bible says Jesus saw THEIR (his friends) faith…forgives the man. If you can’t lean on your friends, who can you lean on!?!?

I cherish being known, and my best friends are the ones that know my good, bad and ugly…and love me anyway! And I do my best for that to be a two-way road…but we all epically fail sometimes and grace jumps in to say, ‘It’s OK!’

Today I am so incredibly grateful for time spent with friends, long and short distances, this Spring. Go tell AND show a friend you care! And just to recap…Facebook does NOT count!

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dresses

I hate dresses. Really. Huge hatred for dresses. I don’t have good mobility. I have to cross my legs…the list could go on. I’m just a jeans and fleece girl. I remember when I was a kid, my mom and aunt were trying to get me to like a particular one that was white with big huge flowers on it, I think I was about 9 and it was for a wedding…ugh, bad memories!

I didn’t like them as a kid, and I only wear them as an adult for other people. About 1-3 times a year I succumb to ‘a dress would be best in this situation.’ Easter being one of them, and several people tried to catch photos on their phones. Now what are they going to do with that?

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In high school I didn’t go to prom as a junior, and my friends talked me into going as a senior. The last thing I wanted to do was find a prom dress…or ask a guy to go with me! But it was what was expected. I did have fun, and actually had a date who was a good dancer. But it wasn’t about the dress or how I looked, it was the friends I was with instead…

As much as I hate dresses, there are a million girls who love them, and a million girls who cannot wait to go to prom and live out the fairy tale. I’m just not a fairy tale girl. I’d prefer to watch Duke play over The Bachelor, and action/superheroes over chick flicks. When a friend was talking about the price of engagement rings yesterday, I actually said, ‘I think I’d want a big-ass TV instead of huge bling.’ I’m ‘girly’ in other ways…I’m just not a ‘frilly’ girl. I love to cook (and yes, I know boys cook, too), and don’t even get me started on my art side.

Yesterday I saw our church turn into a community center, and it was beautiful. Bus loads of girls came in to our Prom Boutique held for the first time in our Worship Center. They have been doing it for 9 years, many of those years in our gym. In one day of the 5 day boutique, they had over 400 dresses given away.

Girls were everywhere trying on dresses. The Worship Center had been turned into a actual store with several dressing rooms set up. But there still wasn’t enough space for the hundreds of girls here to find the perfect Prom dress.

Girls were in bathrooms. Girls were in the Lecture Hall. Boys bathrooms where turned into dressing rooms. Our bride’s room was a satellite dressing room, perfect with the mirrors on the walls.

IMG_9472And all of the seating areas around the WCC Café? They became waiting areas for dads, bothers and boyfriends.

Yesterday afternoon there was so much life in our church building that it was as though you could touch the energy itself with your fingers.

I cannot even imagine this week how many young ladies will come through our doors that have had a bad experience with ‘church.’  Who have been outcast for their sexual orientation, rule breaking, ‘sinful’ living or *gasp* teen pregnancy. Just because you have made a bad choice does not outcast from you a group of believers that follow a Lord who served the prostitutes, adulteresses, tax collectors, broken and poor. That should give you an engraved invitation to be loved and brought into the family.

IMG_9452The ladies serving in the Prom Boutique have a beautiful opportunity to not only provide a dress, some jewelry, shoes and perhaps a handbag…they have a opportunity to touch the life of a young teenager.

To show the love, compassion, kindness and grace that Christ desperately wants these ladies to know personally. Because the truth is you never know what a kind word or a quick smile, in a room where 825 worshipped that Jesus had risen last Sunday, will mean to someone. I guarantee you there is some Holy Spirit in that room.

Join me in praying for these servants and the lives they will be touching this week. That they may be renewed and refreshed by King Jesus, and that they would be discerning of interactions God has prepared for them to be a physical piece of Him.

I may hate dresses, but there are over 400 girls just yesterday that say I am the minority…and that’s ok because the mission of God is progressing while I’m whining about wearing heels.

pain

You would hope something as wondrous and miraculous as God’s mission wouldn’t bring hurt, pain or anger. But when you have people that are serving from a place of passion…our humanness enters in, and all hell breaks loose.

It’s ugly.

It’s painful.

It hurts.

But what can we really expect when we are dealing with sin? Because it we were all serving from the perspective of putting God and others before ourselves…there wouldn’t be pain in mission work. And at what point did we try to fool ourselves into thinking sin can bring about characteristics of God?

So how do we, as folks created by God, set ourselves aside and serve with love, compassion and kindness?

Seek God’s heart. There is a great quote from Bob Pierce that always gets thrown around, and has been a prayer of mine for well over 3 years. ‘Let my heart be broken by the things that break the heart of God.’ Imagine what the world would look like if this were truly the prayer of people who love Jesus, and choose to follow him. I know it has changed me.

Embrace your emotions. It is what makes you so passionate about those you are serving, and where you are serving. Those emotions are God-given to ignite you to action where God has called you. It is exactly what makes a person feel connected to you, because you are invested in who they are as people, not what they are as projects. It’s called relationship. And God has created us to be in those relationships with others. And the beautiful thing is when we get it right on our end, it reflects our relationship with God for others.

Risk. Did I lose you? Does risk intimidate you? Does it outright scare you? It should, because when you risk your heart to work towards God’s Kingdom restored…all bets are off. Period.

Be courageous in stillness.  Afraid of silence? Be ready to accept it in abundance, because the only true thing that can heal your pain is the loving, compassionate Father who sent his son to die on a cross to wipe away the bad you have done in our world. And that takes time…to not run away from the quiet in an effort to increase the work-a-holic in you…and to embrace the quiet stillness of God’s balm.

Grace. At times I hate forgiveness, but the only time I hate forgiveness is when I have to give it to others…not when I am accepting it from Christ. Horrible, right? But it’s 100% true. How can we truly accept what Christ gave up for us if we are unwilling to bestow that gift on others? It is as if we are saying, ‘You see, Jesus. I don’t really think what you did was all that great.’ We are completely negating His death on the cross if we hold grudges…seek retribution…deny others grace. I completely admit to being a failure in this area. But I also admit, God is not finished growing my spiritual heart. I just don’t really like it…perhaps God would make my memory shorter so this would be easier.

Pain is beautiful in the shadow of our God.

But unless we are prepared to see it that way, we keep holding onto it in all of its black, crusty glory. Nasty, at least that’s what I keep telling myself.

Everyone who seeks to serve God struggles with pain in whatever way it manifests. The true test of a servant is what they are willing to do with that pain.

overview…haiti style

Our team with the Haitian workers at the work site.

January 12, 2010 was a horrifying day for Haiti.

The earthquake killed 300,000 people, left 250,000 children without one or both parents, and displaced 1.5 million out of its population of 10 million. As staggering as that all is…it was just one in a long list of natural disasters, political unrest and a myriad of justice issues that have long plagued the country.

Before that day, 80% of Haitians lived in poverty with 54% of that living in abject poverty. One percent of Haiti’s population owned half the wealth in the country, and the largest percentage lived on less than $1 a day. Haiti is one of the most ecologically devastated countries in the world. For decades they have cut down their trees to make cooking charcoal, leaving their hillsides controlled by soil erosion.

“Compassion is the fullest expression of the luminous force of intentional love and kindness. Humanity’s survival hinges on that one word…compassion is our sole hope. Compassion is at the heart of all religious and spiritual traditions. When we enter the heart of compassion, we enter the heart of God,” from Hidden in the Rubble by Gerard Straub.

The ‘girls’ room set up with our mosquito nets.

Armed with compassion and a yearning to enter deeper into the heart of God…plus 3 shovels, random tools, a wheelbarrow, bubbles, soccer balls and jump ropes…our team of 8 was based in Mellier, Haiti, close to the epicenter of the earthquake. All of the buildings in Mellier were reduced to rubble and many families are still in tents, or makeshift plywood buildings with tin roofs. We slept on cots, complete with mosquito nets…no electricity, save for the generator we had to run for about an hour to recharge power tool batteries. Bags of water hung from a branch and buckets of water ensured we rinsed off each day, after sweat poured out from 8 am to 6 pm steadily. This trip was not for the faint of heart…but…

…we were blessed. Phenomenal food on the table 3 times a day from our cook Dina. Bug spray. Haitians that wanted to talk with us, and enjoyed laughing with us. We all stayed healthy. We had clean water to drink. Amazing workers at the construction site. Laughter…lots and lots of laughter, and incredibly blessed by each other.

I asked one of our translators if all the teams he worked with were like us…his response was a definite ‘No!’ It will depend on the team member you ask, but I believe our team bonded so well because of our common bond of Jesus and belief that we were meant to be in Haiti…mixed with the lack of electricity. At night…we played cards by flashlight, and other times of the day we weren’t distracted by the constant connect we have in the States with phones, internet and going places.

The Methodist Church of Mellier.

Terry, one of our teammembers, sent this out to us today that I think gives a pretty great picture of the atmosphere surrounding our team, “Our last night in Mellier we played cards – snacked – laughed – and sang. A young Haitian girl standing in the shadows was invited into our circle. After eating and watching for a short time she fell asleep. The light of our lanterns may have drawn her from the darkness of the neighborhood. But it was the light of our Savior shinning through laughter, song, and love for one another that made her feel safe enough to sleep peacefully in our midst. That night I watched grace extended without hesitation or reservation.”

We worked during the day on the Methodist church that is being rebuilt. We pulled nails, moved wood and spent a lot of time moving gravel from outside the building to inside so the workers could mix concrete. There is a school on the property, as well, and when it was recess time we were talking, running around and having our hair played with until it was time for class again.

Etched in our memories is also the small orphanage we visited twice. It was a 30 minute walk to play with 25 kids that live there, 16 of who are ‘real’ orphans with no living parents. They were hungry to be held, we quickly found out! We played soccer, bubbles, pushed kids on the swing set, and giggled the entire time we stayed.

Joseph is on the left, Peterson is on the right.

Each night we would have devotion time with our translators Joseph and Peterson joining us. One night, devotions started at the dinner table and went until it was so dark all we saw of each other was shadows moving. God’s presence was thick all week, but on that night it was electric. We’d been talking about our observations of Haiti, and Joseph’s words marked my soul…

In Haiti, we have no hope for tomorrow. We have no idea where food for our families will come from. We are poor, so poor in Haiti. We struggle for an education, and then there are no jobs. We want the best for our families, but where do we find it? We know that it won’t get better for Haiti. But what we hold onto is eternal life with Jesus. In heaven there will be no more poor people, no more suffering, no more pain. When Haiti doesn’t have hope, we put our hope in life after this one.

That night as I walked out of our dining area Joseph’s words rung in my ears. I understand why he feels no hope for Haiti, especially when you look at the country’s history. But what rang in my heart was my hope for Haiti. A vision that the educated will stay in the county, and kids will grow up with a desire to see their country change…that their next generation will be different. When Haiti has no expectation for tomorrow we need to see it for them through our compassion, God’s love and willingness to not forget.