simplicity

Every time I get back from a mission trip, I wonder how I look to other people.

Sun scorched? More freckles? What do they see in my eyes? Am I more serious? Do I laugh more? Less? Do they mistake my ‘tired’ appearance for the real struggle of transitioning back to the selfish culture we live in? Do I look like God has marked me?

I should.IMG_1139

Because every time…every single time I surrender to God and follow him, he marks me in the global mission field.

It does look different every time, because God needs to change me differently every time. And sometimes I’m not even prepared for what he has in store. Last year in Haiti, I was definitely not prepared. This year…I knew what I needed, and thankfully for once, God and I agreed on my opinion.

Simplicity.

Community.

And hard, sweaty work to make me forget all of the things that I need to do, are expected of me and distract me from my calling.

I needed the simplicity of no cell phone, no internet/email and no one needing anything from me…immediately. The only agenda I wanted was playing around in God’s Global Kingdom work and being with my team, my community, for 8 solid days without any of the add-ons we think we cannot live without.

Honestly, I needed a time out. And I’m starting to think it was not long enough.

That first day in the back of a pick-up truck on the way to a worksite…I took a deep breath for the first time in months that was actually healing. It cleared my brain, my heart and washed away the sticky cobwebs of frustration that like to weave into the corners of my soul. The colossal amount of sweat cleared my eyes, and flooded out the tension and stress that had gathered in my muscles.

I felt free. Finally.

Free to be me.

And I pray in the midst of that freedom those our team was around saw the joy of God in our community, instead of wacky Americans. Or maybe both. But that we shared a piece of ourselves with them, as they did with us.

217391_672439952772791_558712428_nToo often we let our culture and those around us dictate what we think is right and wrong. Too often we silence the voice of God to listen to the things that attract our attention. Too often we tie our joy and contentment to things instead of the One thing. Too often we allow ourselves to get lost in the shuffle of this blip in the timeline of the world, in an American culture that has no depth or richness of character. (Yes, I just said that, and I meant it.)

The arrogance of the American culture saddens and frustrates me. We think ourselves so much higher than ‘third world’ (I hate that term by the way) cultures simply because we have everything we could ever ask for…and more. I mean, honestly, just compare bathrooms, right? *sarcasm* It drives me insane when people rate the standard of living by bathroom standards. Get over it, people. Count yourself lucky that you even have running water, and squat once in a while.

When we let our arrogance for American culture lead our opinions of other countries, we miss out on the beauty, community and amazing ways God is moving. We miss out on the simplicity of living only for Him.

I desperately needed God’s simplicity to take over, and strip off the barriers that had been pushing me into a box to see again the reality of how God has built me.

IMG_0873God built me as a missionary. God built me to be flexible. God built me to be comfortable in other cultures…with languages that are not my own. God built me as a passionate woman who cares about those that others ignore, and who knows what it feels like to draw others to God’s Kingdom work. God built me to be stronger as a part of a team, a community, instead of alone. God built me to be stubborn so that something inside me would withstand the pressure of this world. God built me to cherish how he speaks through scripture, even in the moments when I completely geek out.

God built me with a long memory so that I would know his heart for long-term restoration and transformation. God built me to love relationships so that I would see the tremendous value in discipleship and pouring your life into another.

God built me to love in radical ways because it makes no sense for God to have an ounce of love for a sinner like me…but he DOES and it is UNCONDITIONAL. Period.

This is who I am. It’s not complicated. It’s simple. It’s a work of God.

Marked and called by the living, universal God who asks us to follow him wherever he may lead.

This is who I am.

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alone

Water swirls around me as I catch a breath then tuck my head back into the blissful quiet of the pool.

Stroke. Kick. Stroke. Kick. Breathe. Stroke. Kick. Stroke. Kick.

All alone.

When I am swimming it is one of the most peaceful times for me to decompress and clear my head. Second only to hanging out in God’s glorious nature. I may be outgoing, but God doesn’t speak through my outgoing moments. His presence is felt and he speaks through the times I am alone. Quiet. Dreams. Rest. I have to be disciplined to grab onto those moments, or suffer the separation from my Savior. Not good for me…ever.

This morning I woke up with a random song in my head, and while I was swimming the chorus was on a loop…breathing in and out of my soul as I was catching breathes between strokes.

Sometimes I need something to run like a mantra through my head for it to truly sink in.

I am set free. It is for freedom that I am set free.

I actually couldn’t remember the rest of the lyrics. But this mantra of my freedom associated with ‘it is for freedom I am set free’ was continuous.

As I mulled it over, losing track of laps…freedom to bring others freedom or freedom for me to rest in after being set free.

When we got back from the pool (and after the Duke game…priorities…) I hit the iPod.

You mend my life with your holy fire. You cover me with grace.

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It takes time alone with God for me to feel that mending with his Holy fire. And oh how it can be a raging Holy fire at times…

What this freedom, and mending, means for me is to be free of the shackles of the expectations of others.

Freedom is not suffocating in the sin my Savior willingly takes from me.

Free of the chains holding me to a person I am not.

Freedom to proclaim what I am called to and what I am not called to, and being set free to be that person.

Freedom to bask in the Holy Spirit fire that guides me, restores me and draws me to the heart of God.

Freedom to grasp with my last dying grip to the peace that Jesus freely gave in John 14:27.

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.

It is being alone with God where I feel the most clarity in my spirit, his peace and where I see most clearly my past, future and the now. Free of distraction, and my mind empty for God to fill…a woman in process and mended by his Holy fire.

(Lyrics from ‘I am set free’ by All Sons and Daughters)