anticipation

20131114-183231.jpg

Anticipation…jitters…nervous…expectations…excitement.

In Russia, on our way to the orphanage for the first morning with the kids it is always a wide array of emotions.

It is one of my favorite moments of the trip, as those of us who have been before sit up straighter and crane our necks to see out of the front window to watch the landmarks count down until we arrive. This curve, that massive pothole, the bridge…the flatland, another curve. Worship music blasts in my ears as I beg God to fill me just a little bit more so that I am ready to pour myself out for him and his kids in the orphanage. The ‘newbies’ look around in confusion as though they are missing a very important part of this bumpy, crazy 20 minute long road. What they will soon understand is that they are missing the anticipation we carry of being back home.

But this moment is about more than just our excitement, heightened nerves or having found ourselves on the back roads of Russia.

20131114-183216.jpg

It is about seeing the affirmation on each others faces that today we are not individuals. We are one. One in Christ. One community. One family crossing language and cultural barriers. Family visiting family.

This is not a mission trip. You could make arguments for it being one, and I’ve called it that many times. But as God deepens my passion and understanding of his kingdom he morphs my definitions into his kingdom definitions. And one thing is certain…’mission trip’ and all of the connotations that come with it in the Christian-ese world we navigate, is not what we were bumping along that road to do. We travel to make sure our family knows we remember them, and we hug them so they know we love them. We tease and laugh to make new memories. And we get into real conversations about life issues so that we can ask how situations are going, how their grades are and what their hopes and dreams look like. It goes deeper than a surface relationship. It is about being known and being loved.

20131114-183138.jpgAs I share my passion with the kids for justice and serving I find myself horrified when I think they might see themselves as my ‘project.’ Because they are not a project. They are my little brothers and sisters, and they happen to fall into an area of injustice with no control of how they got there. Our relationships may have started because of my passion for orphans to know love and worth, but God tends to grow us together beyond our simple human definitions, and open our eyes to his global family. Making everything change.

As we landed in New York on our way home, I had a message from a friend that the kids were sad we were gone and wanted to know my secret for being able to laugh so much. They thought knowing my ‘secret’ might help them not feel as sad. Those questions are rooted in relationship. Those questions are rooted in trust. Those questions are rooted in family. And the answer is rooted in Jesus.

It truly was a little sister going to her big sister for advice, and in that moment it was affirmed that we had been on our annual visit to family.

On that first day we drive to Velikoretskoye, the last stretch of road to the kids is the longest out of all the days we drive there…because we are knee-deep in anticipation with the knowledge that God has created a community that is stronger together. A community that travels to visit a small orphanage in a small village in that is full of humor, love and relationships. Family visiting family.

Advertisements

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.

image

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!

image

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!

kryptonite

I have a problem. Actually it’s pretty big…seeing as how it includes 8 people…not just myself…

You know how Superman’s greatest weakness is kryptonite? Well…my kryptonite would be having the support, laughter and community of a team around me 24 hours a day…then losing it once we are home. What I still miss is the walks together…you never knew who you’d have a crazy, wonderful conversation with on the way. I miss talking while falling asleep through mosquito nets…quite the experience! I miss team meals…all around one table, talking, laughing, teasing and bestowing each other with nicknames! Which technically happened the entire time…but intensified around meals! Talking over shower stalls…borrowing Chap Stick, sunscreen, bug repellant…everyone had whatever you had forgotten.

Ironically, I also miss the view from the shower…crazy, I know. It was a small cinder block room with a stick over the top for a curtain that was at its’ best while fluttering in the wind. Not conducive for showering…my best MacGyver moment was on a particularly windy day the curtain wouldn’t stay tucked into the bucket of shower water. My shower buddy, who stayed on their side mind you, kept offering possibly solutions when I realized I could thread the Duke bag I’d brought my stuff in through the end. Talk about laughter…our shower times were humorous, how could they not be with a bucket of water and a bag of water hanging from a stick. But the view…lizards climbing on top of the wall…blue azure sky, white cottony clouds, bright green palm trees waving in the evening breeze. Let’s just say, that view is not in my bathroom…

I miss knowing someone will pick up where I left off if I accidentally drop the ball. Someone constantly has your back…where my weaknesses begin, another’s strengths continue. It is one of the best aspects of being a part of a team.

Truly, I thrive on being a part of a team. I don’t like being alone. I mean, I laugh at my own jokes, but it’s so much better when someone else does, right? Eventually, people look at me weird because I am laughing randomly in public places…all alone…

I thrive on the accountability that comes with being with the same people for 7-11 days on a mission trip. Praying before a meal was never ‘normal’ for me…and I am greatly blessed by our community praying together over our meals, at devotions, team meetings…wherever it may be. There is an intense bond that ties mission teams together, and a lot of things contribute to that, but one of those bonds are intensified by the intimate act of praying together as a community…even when not every one is comfortable praying out loud. And even better…we pray with humor, and wholly believe that God blessed us with a sense of humor because he has one! It’s not abnormal for me to laugh out loud while someone is praying…not because we don’t take it seriously…but more because we do take it so seriously that we leave nothing unsaid.

I also thrive on the energy of others, and when you are with a group of people in the international mission field…we are living off a lot of adrenaline, not to mention the undulated joy of serving as a whole team that gives an electric feel to a group. Ever wonder why those looking from the outside of a mission team wonder what sort of ‘stuff’ there are on? Well…the team is feelin’ the no-way-its-human, power of the Holy Spirit and that feeling is unlike any other in the world.

And this isn’t always relegated to international mission teams…it can be a community working for the Kingdom of God, too. The other night I was a part of a phenomenal conversation with some ladies that are walking a journey of mission. We talked about how you cannot truly be used by the Holy Spirit until you are ready to surrender the part of yourself that hinders it. Mission teams have no choice but to surrender that part of themselves…not only for God to use them the way he sent them, but in order to function fully as a community in mission…as does any community working in that fashion.

One of the other things I thrive on is the wisdom of those who have gone before me. And just in case you were curious…the Haiti team had it in spades. I am a believer in multi-generational teams that form a community based in mission. I know I don’t know everything, and I know not everyone would agree with my opinions on things…but I am a listener, and I crave the wisdom that God pours from the mouths of his people. There were moments that I would look at a teammate and thing to myself, ‘Whoa…that’s not them talkin’ anymore.’

It’s been almost a month since we left…so our team finds themselves in that time frame of will we let those moments of unbridled connection to God shape us or will we succumb to the American ‘normal’? Our team is trying to find a day to get together and see each other this week…and it’s difficult once we get back. I always tell teams…say what you need to say to each other before the last flight, because once we get to KC everyone is greeted by different people and heads out quickly. I miss this team…we conquered a lot together, created bonds that will last for years and did ministry in a community that had been ravaged by an earthquake through blood, sweat…I think the amount of sweat increases the bond…and tears.

As we’ve been sending emails back and forth, one of our teammates sent out at the end of a message, ‘One of the best groups I have been with.’ I’ve been a part of a lot of groups, but few have been so equal in all aspects of a mission team. People always ask me, what is your favorite trip? Who was on your favorite team? To make a choice would be wrong…but there are pieces of trips that make up my ‘perfect’ trip, and this team made some serious contributions!

God blesses his people who are forged in relationship and focused on working for his Kingdom…and our team was blessed beyond imagination and expectation. The glory all goes to our Father who not only took us to Haiti, but spoke and ignited a fire in each of us…in so many different ways.

So to my amazing Haiti team family…thanks for being my kryptonite! I love you all, dearly and challenge you to not lose sight of the clarity Haiti brought to God’s plan for us as individuals and as a team, as well as our hearts and souls. After all…if it weren’t for kryptonite how would Superman had known he was alive at all?

sometimes

Sometimes God crashes into your world and you are caught completely by surprise. We see him. We hear him. Maybe even catch a scent of our Savior.

Other times…we ignore him. Content with our home, car, family, job, activities…we replace our beautiful Savior with the life we are living on this planet. Ironically, the life he has given us. We suffer every now and then, but rarely consistently to the point of discomfort for us Americans. If you feel differently, let’s talk…because the places God has sent me to and shown me in the last 10 years need to bust open your worldview.

If you missed it…over a week ago I left for Haiti…then came back.

Never before have I sweat so much, so often and been so physically uncomfortable than last week. But I wouldn’t trade it for the world.

Because you see, sometimes I forget. I forget what I am fighting for. I forget what really matters. I get lost in details, and lose focus of the big picture. I fight for the small things instead of the true big thing. I get frustrated. Sometimes I feel like I am losing pieces of myself to what others want, and how they view me. Sometimes I feel like I am stuck…that probably more often than sometimes.

And then…God crashes in…and floods my soul with purpose.

Renewal.

Cleansing.

Sweet freedom of the Holy Spirit.

Kingdom reality.

If we lose sight of what we are fighting for…what’s the point? How does God use that?

Haiti brought me face to face with my Savior.

Haiti brought clarity to my calling.

Haiti kicked my butt.

But Haiti filled every part of my soul that had scattered with distraction and frustration.

There is so much I want to share…and I will, I promise. But there are still moments that I need to process and cherish before I throw them out into the wind. I honestly cannot wait to tell you about a precious kiddo who wouldn’t leave my lap, even when tickled. Or Joseph, one of the wisest men I have met with a Kingdom vision and hope mindset that rivals anyone I’ve ever heard. Or the sweet, wrinkly woman who jabbered Creole while kissing my cheeks…but the message was clear, ‘I am so glad you are here.’

Or about those I was with for a week. They blessed me in so many ways that I lost count within 24 hours of hopping on a plane with them. They are laughter. They are wise. They are cool. They are tough, and most of all they are truly my brothers and sisters in every aspect of the word. God created this team to serve him together, and we served with every fiber of our being.

Sometimes we need to listen…and sometimes we’ll actually do it.

Sometimes we need to act…and sometimes we’ll actually act.

Sometimes we need to love…and sometimes we’ll actually love others.

But what if sometimes turned into every time? What Kingdom work would we accomplish then? All around us, every day?