The Day Love (almost) Didn’t Win

It is Saturday. Two thousand years and a day ago, an ordinary man was hung on a cross because of an extraordinary love. A man born to a young girl and her new husband, in a feeding trough far from home. A man who grew up with siblings, and never once made a mistake. One man, a carpenter by trade and sacrifice by calling, voluntarily took on undeserved mockery and shame as he suffered beating, whipping, public torture and humiliation. One of his best friends sold him out for 30 pieces of silver, and still another denied association three times. He went to trial for a crime he did not commit. In the tradition of Passover, a prisoner is set free; the members of his community voted to let Barabbas, a known murderer (Mark 15:7), go free, in place of a man who had done no wrong. He let the guards force a crown of thorns–not just little rosebush thorns, but big, long acacia thorns–on his head, mocking him, the King of kings. He was nailed to a cross, raw and splintering, through his wrists and feet–not by just any nail you might have lying around your garage, but a railroad spike driven through some of the most sensitive nerve centers in the body.He watched Roman guards gamble for his clothing. He hung there, bleeding and mourning for his people, calling out, ‘Father, forgive them. They don’t know what they are doing.’ Not only that, but as he hung there, he offered salvation to another man being crucified next to him (Luke 23:40-43). He hung there, suffering and in pain, and yet you and me were at the forefront of his mind. Every step of the way, Old Testament prophecy was being fulfilled, plain as day. Not a single bone was broken; all looked away from him after piercing his side and the pericardium around his heart. With his dying breath, Jesus said, “It is finished” (John 19:30). At that moment, Christ had taken on the sins of mankind, past, present and future, and God turned his back on his own son. Clouds blocked the sunlight so severely that it was pitch black at midday. We know that the veil, the barrier between the Holy of Holies, God’s physical dwelling place within the Temple was torn completely in half–there was no longer a reason for the separation between God and his creation.

And then there was Saturday. Like any other Saturday, Jewish people woke up and went about their Sabbath day business of rest and worship. And while this next little bit isn’t in the Bible, this is how I imagine it went down:

Pontius Pilate: So that darkness yesterday was weird. Not really sure what happened at the Temple…but everything else is back to normal. Phew. Good call.

Pharisees: Haha that so-called ‘King of the Jews.’ What was that guy thinking? No really. How crazy do you have to be to let yourself be crucified for something so stupid?

Disciples: …is it possible we were wrong? We’ve seen him perform miracles, and I mean yeah some crazy stuff happened after Jesus died…but nothing?

The Enemy: HA take that Jesus! I told you we would win. I’ve got the people on my side. They killed your King.  Those people that you love so much–they love me more. They mocked and beat you! I win. There is the victory. There is the sting. Death is final. It’s permanent. There is nothing you can do now. I win.

For about a day and a half, it looked and felt like love had lost the battle. The disciples were in hiding, the Pharisees were smug and no longer felt threatened. Pilate made sure that Jesus’ tomb was sealed and heavily guarded so that no funny business could take place. In shock, the disciples literally could not even…but still they waited. They knew the prophecy said three days. The man they knew and loved and gave up their lives to follow had promised them three days. Patiently, anxiously, nervously, they waited.

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An Ethiopian Endeavor: Part Two // Rest for the Weary

The first night we camped out in the village, I was dangling from an acacia tree in my little green hammock. Under my bug net, under my rain fly, in case the looming clouds decided to end their drought and pour out on us. After being awake for nearly 80 hours, I was exhausted and ready to pass out as soon as the sun went down. So there I was, dangling, my first time ever camping, totally unsure of what was to come in the following weeks. I managed to drift off to sleep in the middle of my nightly conversation with my Creator, despite the ambient sounds. You see, we were in a Muslim country during Ramadan–sleep all day while fasting, party all night with food and drink. I remember hearing the villagers laughing and cheering and chit chatting in an unfamiliar tongue before I fell asleep. A few hours later, I awoke to a silent village, and the sounds of footsteps on the compound. Not one set of footsteps, like a fellow camper getting up to use the facilities. Multiple footsteps, light and careful, but still crunching on the gravelly soil around our hammocks. I panicked. This is it, I thought seriously, not sarcastically. This is how I die. The words of Paul in his letter to the people of Phlippi ran through my mind:

I eagerly hope and expect that I will in no way be ashamed, but have sufficient courage so that now as always, Christ will be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death [NIV]. Alive, I am Christ’s messenger. Dead, I am His bounty. Life versus more life! I can’t lose [MSG]. (Philippians 1:20-21, emphasis mine)

Over and over and over, I prayed these words. I pleaded with God. To my own surprise, I was not pleading for my own life, but for the souls of those around me. I begged for the opportunity to explain why I would die for the cause of Christ. For the small chance that one of our captors might pick up the bible laying beside me in my hammock and read it, that just one of them might be changed by the willingness of my team members to lose their lives to advance the Kingdom. I found tears streaming down my face as I silently petitioned for the will of God to be done in that moment, regardless of the cost. I prayed and prayed and prayed for what seemed like a long time–probably no more than a half hour at most. I prayed until I noticed the absence of sound altogether. Cautiously, I unzipped my bug net. I pulled back my rain fly just enough to peak out at the compound. No more footsteps. No more strangers walking around on the compound. Nothing but two Land Cruisers and ten other hammocks swinging in the gentle breeze as dawn began to break on the horizon. I slid back down in my hammock and zipped my bug net and prayed tearful prayers of thanksgiving. I prayed until I fell back asleep, hard as a rock.

The next night, and each night for the following week, our team went to bed just as the sun was disappearing over the horizon. Just as I was on the cusp of falling asleep, an alarming announcement was made over a loudspeaker. An unfamiliar tongue was shouting things rhythmically–Arabic, to be exact. It was the first of five calls to prayer for the surrounding Muslim community. After a few seconds of initial shock, I gritted my teeth. That call to prayer felt like the Enemy staking his claim on the people of this village and it made me angryWho are you to claim these people? I found myself thinking. You are not their Creator. You are not their Sustainer. You are not their Protector. You can’t claim them. There is too much going on. We’ve built a school. We are building a special needs center. Our God has promised that every knee will bow and every tongue will confess that He is Lord, and there is nothing you can do about it. And so I closed my eyes and began to pray. and pray. and pray. If the Enemy thinks he can conquer these people with five calls to prayer, fine. I’ll fight fire with holy fire. I’ll have five calls to prayer of my own. Each night, there are five calls to prayer that wake me from a dead sleep, and so I will cover these people in prayer. In addition to the calls to prayer, some sort of sermon [for lack of knowing what to call it] was given over the loudspeaker as well. It lasted maybe 12-15 minutes, in a language I cannot understand, and I did everything I could to counteract whatever instruction was being given. I prayed, I recited scripture, hummed worship songs. Every night for the duration of our stay, I was awakened six times and I decided to fight the Enemy on his terms. We went on a prayer walk at the site of our new special needs facility. Rather than walking around the site, I settled under the shade of an acacia tree and assumed the prayer position used during the Muslim call to prayer. Knees on the ground, face in the dirt, arms extended. Body bowed before the one true God in absolute submission. and I prayed. I got eaten alive by who knows what kind of bugs. We had thirty minutes to pray, and for thirty minutes, I sat in the dirt and thorns begging Christ to be undeniably present in this place. I don’t regret it a bit.

I didn’t sleep well in Ethiopia. Even after we left the village and returned to the city to stay in a hotel, I had trouble sleeping. Though I could not hear a call to prayer over a loudspeaker, I still awoke five times a night and prayed for the people of the village and of the city, until I could fall back asleep. Here’s what is so interesting: each morning, I awoke, and I felt rested. I was ready to tackle another day. Yes, I will admit, that shortly after waking, I did partake of the best coffee I have ever had, but I am sure that my alertness and readiness for the day had less to do with caffeine intake and more to do with the restoration found in Christ. Over and over, Scripture promises such:

“‘Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.'” Matthew 11:28

“But those who call upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up on wings like eagles; they shall run and not grow weary; they shall walk and not faint.” Isaiah 40:31

“Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest, if we do not give up.” Galatians 6:9

“Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when we has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him.” James 1:12

Prayer becomes extremely unnerving when you take it out of your familiar context and pray in such a way that makes you uncomfortable. I recently found the following quote:

God invites us to pray in such a way that it scares what is scared within us. If you are not praying the type of prayers that scare you, they are certainly not frightening our enemy. –Lisa Bevere

This quote struck a chord within me, because this is exactly what I was doing in Ethiopia. I can honestly say I have never been so frightened by the prayers I was praying. They didn’t make sense. I was not praying for selfish provision or needs; I was praying that my death might be used to glorify God by changing the lives of my potential captors. I was praying prayers of conquering over an enemy, who is counting his chicks before they’ve hatched. I was praying in the manner of those who worship a false God for the purpose of overcoming. Prayer should be taken out of a familiar context more frequently. So frequently, in fact, that a ‘familiar context’ does not exist. The way in which we pray should constantly push us to the limitations we think we have, and turn them over to a God who has none (AW Tozer).

An Ethiopian Endeavor: Part One

The tallest mountain in Ethiopia--right around 11,000 feet!

The tallest mountain in Ethiopia–right around 11,000 feet!

I recently returned from my first trip to Ethiopia, and I have been wrestling with the experience. Just about every aspect of the trip conflicted with previously held standards, opinions, and methods of ministry. It was uncomfortable, and for me to claim discomfort…well, then it’s real.

I don’t mean uncomfortable in the way you might think. Yes, I slept outside, dangling from the branches of an acacia tree in my little green hammock (which was really much better than it sounds, after the first sleepless night. more on that later). Yes, I learned how to poop on the backside of the building (while making eye contact with nationals, I might add). Yes, I ate more goat than any one human should ever eat in a lifetime (to answer your question, it’s like eating cheap, slightly overcooked beef). Yes, I dealt with the stigma of being a ferengi, a foreigner, an outsider, and the ensuing scrutiny by tribal leaders. So maybe those things weren’t the most comfortable aspects of the trip, but they were nothing in comparison to what made me the most uncomfortable:

I couldn’t identify with my Creator.

For most of the trip, I couldn’t speak the name of Christ; I could not read my bible openly; I could not sing any of the many children’s songs I know because of their spiritual content. I could not lead worship. I had to make sure my tattoos, all of which relate back to Christ, stayed covered. I couldn’t live out loud the way I am used to, or be myself “in the One who makes me who I am” (Philippians 4:13, MSG). I had been warned that we would have to censor some of our ministry…I guess I didn’t understand that we would have to censor our entire ministry not only for our safety, but for the safety of the children with whom we would be spending our time. I don’t think I have to mention the fact that, if it were only my safety in jeopardy, I wouldn’t have censored a dang thing. The Gospel would have been proclaimed far and wide at the top of my lungs…but, since the lives of innocent children were at stake, I gritted my teeth. clenched my fists. and loved with open arms. I taught English–the parts of the body, various animals (taught by playing charades! so fun), articles of clothing, the literal way in which light pierces the darkness of this world. We taught songs, we played soccer and dodgeball, we painted a giant picture on a canvas drop cloth.

The language barrier was far greater with the tribal kids than I’ve previously experienced with the kids at Njojane, so fortunately for me, I didn’t have to answer questions like, “Why are you here?”…however, it was still incredibly painful to see beautiful smiling faces and squeeze tiny hands and hug malnourished bodies without being able to whisper in waiting ears that Master of the universe, the Creator of the world loves you so very much. Unfortunately, upon my return, I cannot give specifics about the tribal area in which we worked; I cannot post pictures of the children’s faces due to the unique bone structure of the tribe…doing so would give away the location of our ministry and put the safety of the children in jeopardy.

Never in my life have I had to keep quiet about my faith. Sure, as a child and early pre-teen, I was not so boisterous and boastful about the grace and mercy I’ve received at the hands of my Father; in fact, if you told little Joey that I would one day be traveling all over the world to preach the Gospel, I would have laughed in your face. Since my initial collision with Christ, I have found the strength to boast in my weakness and I can’t stop. While I was in Ethiopia, I discovered that not only can I not stop, but I don’t want to stop…but more on that next time.

2 Days // I didn’t ask for this.

My trip has been 100% covered in your contributions, and for that I am so, so grateful.

In the interest of transparency: I didn’t ask for this.

Just like the human body, 1 Corinthians 12:12-30 tells us that each part of the body of Christ has its own unique purpose, different gifts and talents and abilities in order to complete the mission for which it has been appointed to do. One body part cannot function without those around it, and without one part, the whole body cannot complete its mission.

There are some days where I look at this earthly body of mine and think to myself, wow. I am uniquely qualified for the assignment I have been given. More often than not, however, I look at this body of mine and think to myself, I did not ask for this body of mine.

I did not ask for a mind that keeps me awake at night, trying to think of ways to logistically house and feed every orphan in Swaziland. (I mean, come on, the military can house and feed hundreds of thousands, why can’t I?)

I did not ask for eyes that are drawn to the outcasts, the lonely, the ones most in need of attention and affection.

I did not ask for eyelids, the inside of which are indelibly inked with the images of painfully beautiful moments with my babies.

I did not ask for ears to which the sound of children is like the most beautiful of songs, ears that hear the cry of one child over the laughs and cheers of others.

I did not ask to find my heart walking around outside my body (click here) so, so far away.; a heart that is broken over watching these sweet babies fend for themselves, and grow up feeling unloved by parents, siblings, their Creator.

I did not ask for an immune system that might kill me in the US, but save me in a third world country.

I did not ask for a voice that does not shake when asked to speak in front of large crowds.

I did not ask for arms that can rock colicky infants to sleep.

I did not ask for hands large enough to hold that of three or four children at once, because there is a shortage of such.

I did not ask for fingers that could pluck guitar strings and teach children to sing of the Happy Day when Christ came alive.

I did not ask for a stomach strong enough to withstand the smell of un-bathed children, urine-soaked clothing, burning trash and feces.

I did not ask for long legs that can play soccer as easily as they can provide seats to two or three children at once.

I did not ask for feet that feel at home wrapped in canvas TOMS, stained red with Swazi soil, impervious to rocks, thorns and sticker plants. Feet that knew I was home the moment they touched Swazi soil.

I am clumsy and uncoordinated with these things that I have been given. Sometimes I get too wrapped up in what’s happening in front of me to see the ones most in need, or enjoy too much the sound of laughter to hear the cry of a child. Sometimes my heart aches more for my own circumstances, those that keep me up at night. Sometimes my immune system knocks me flat on my back (pun intended), and sometimes I can’t use my voice to speak up for my babies. Sometimes, my arms and legs and hands shake so much that I can’t hold a glass of water, let alone hold babies or play guitar. Sometimes, my feet get tired, and the Swazi soil washes away. Sometimes I forget the beauty of the sights, the strength of the smells, the depth of the feels.

It is on days like today that it is the very hardest to cling to the Cross, when I feel weak and powerless, undeserving of the gifts and talents I have been given in order to complete my mission as a part of the body of Christ. As a missionary, I have been warned that the enemy attacks when we are closest to Christ, when there is the most at stake, when we have the most to lose. It is in those moments that the enemy finds us the most vulnerable, because we never see it coming. Today is one of those days. I know the enemy is attacking, but knowing doesn’t make it easier to face. It is days like today that I think that this body of mine is more a burden than a blessing.

And then I remember: this body of mine is not mine.

I may not have asked for these things, but God did. Not only did he ask, he commanded them. He commanded ME. To go, to do, to love. To use this little ol’ speck of his great and mighty body to be a light in the darkness, so that his children might rejoin the Kingdom of Heaven.

On days like today, straight out of Ephesians, this is my prayer: that I might live a life worthy of this calling I have so graciously been given, even when—especially when—I fall short of the glory of God. So here I am. Lord, send me.

2 days, 14 hours, 21 minutes until I go.

Here I am, Lord. Send me.

17 Days // at the foot of the Cross

17 days. There are only 17 more days until I leave for Swaziland.

The word ‘transparency’ is a big church buzzword that has a tendency to get thrown around casually in conversation without, unfortunately, always being demonstrated or explained. People like me, meaning those of the Jesus generation who want more on Sunday morning than a mega-church with an awesome light show during worship, tend to shy away from this type of word. It is overused, and thus loses its meaning; however, there is something to be said about transparency in the proper use. When a person is transparent with another, he or she is giving full disclosure, typically about things done wrong, failures, shortcomings, etc., to another for the biblical purpose of confessing one’s sins to another, in order to be held accountable (yet another church buzzword) and continue to grow. In my opinion, it is one of the most crucial responsibilities of anyone who desires to work in ministry, whether voluntarily or vocationally, because it does more than keep us honest–it forces us to deal with our own mistakes and grow through them, while our coworkers do the same, so that we all grow together and there is no comparison of dirty laundry because everyone has it. This being said, I need to be transparent with you, to confess an area in which I fall short.

First, it is important you know that I am struggling to fundraise for my trips this summer. Ethiopia will be paid off after I transfer some money out of my savings account, but I still have a large sum to raise for Swaziland. Even after nearly 150 letters sent out, very little has come in. With only 17 days left until our team departs, I am getting very nervous.

I got up early this morning to take my younger sisters to get donuts before dropping them off at school. Afterwards, I came home and sat down at the kitchen table to work on a blog post for today and hit writer’s block. I decided to skip ahead to my pre-Swaziland mission devotional, a fantastic book by Jack Hempfling called, ‘Before You Go.’ I’ve read the book before, but we read it annually as a team, and today’s devotional hit me right between the eyes: today’s devo was entitled ‘Losing to God Will Help You Win,” paired with a passage from James 4. It is not a long chapter, so I pulled out my bible and read the passage in its full context. By verse 3, I felt as though I’d been slapped in the face.

When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.

Ouch. It stings to hear read such things, especially when you are hopeful of being filled up and encouraged. I read over Hempfling’s devo for the day, and sat back to think. Have I really been asking for financial provision with the right motives? In my heart, I want to answer yes, because the money I have been trying to raise is for a philanthropic purpose. It’s so I can go out into the world, to see my place, my people, my babies in Swaziland. .

Even as I type this now, I flinch. MY place. MY people. MY babies. I know that I am not the most humble person in the world; I think it may be a common misconception that missionaries don’t struggle with the same sins that everyone else deals with. After all, I take pride in the work that I do and the things I am passionate about, because God has gifted me in ways that call me and set me apart, and I don’t think there is anything wrong with taking pride in that. The problem comes when I am prideful in that. I have concentrated my focus far too much on the necessity of ME going to Swaziland, not the gift of GOING to Swaziland. I think back to last year’s trip, and realize that my pride got in the way then too. I was so excited that  got to go back, that I lost a small part of the joy that comes in serving. I took a step back to let others, those who had note been before, serve first, experience first, love first, which I thought was the right thing to do, seeing as how I have had the chance to experience this before; let the newbies do it. If they need help, I can step in like the pro that I am to bridge the gap. Only now am I realizing how wrong this thought process is.

It hurts my heart to think that I missed out on some of the joy, but, as much as it stings, I am glad God has called this to my attention now, rather than a month from now when it is too late. I refuse to let my pride get in the way of the joy God has in store for not only me, but my team as well. Instead, I will cling to the words of Paul, at the start of Ephesians 4.

Walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called with all humility and gentleness.

So there you have it. I have removed the plank from my eye, confessed my sinful nature, admitted defeat. I ask for forgiveness from God and from you, for not properly conveying the joy that lies in a cheerful heart with the right motives. I am on my face at the foot of the Cross, praying that Christ might change my heart in order to prepare me for the experiences that lie in wait.

17 days. I go home in 17 days.

10 Days // Prayer

In Honor of Maya Angelou:

If you have been anywhere near the internet or radio today, you have probably heard about the passing of the acclaimed author Maya Angelou. I first encountered her work as a sophomore in high school, after stumbling upon her book, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings. It was a difficult book read, due merely to the content, but I love the outlook Ms. Angelou has maintained throughout her life, despite the struggle, pain and, if we’re going to be honest, unfairness found in her life.

She is on the list of people, living or dead, I would invite to a dinner party. I wish I could have met her; she has so much wisdom to pass on. I’d like to start tonight’s post with some of her words: 

“I know that when I pray, something wonderful happens. Not just to the person or persons for whom I’m praying, but also something wonderful happens to me. I’m grateful that I’m heard.”

Prayer is a vital aspect of mission trips—both in the preparation and in the going and doing and in the coming back and choosing beauty over heartbreak. It’s important for our team to be in prayer, but it is also important for us to have a team of prayer warriors Stateside as well. I have loved hearing the kind words of readers, words of encouragement and love and understanding. You have all been such a blessing, but I need to ask one more favor of you:

I need your support. 

I am a broke college kid, and I totally understand if you are unable to support me financially. [but if you can that would be awesome too and there’s a link to your right] Either way, I’d like to ask you to pray for me and for my team. We are just 10 days away from getting on a plane to the other side of the world, and we need prayer now more than ever. As a group, we have been struggling to raise the necessary funds for the trip. We have each encountered road blocks—sickness, nerves, fear of the unknown, difficulty in preparation—and it is crunch time. I hate using words like spiritual warfare because it makes me sound like one of those crazy Bible-thumping Christians that don’t like dancing or necklines that fall below the larynx and I couldn’t be farther from one of those if I tried…but spiritual warfare is a real and actual thing. I have seen it happen, and I have heard stories. The issue is addressed in scripture. The best example I can give is in Matthew 4 (verses 1-11), where Satan appears before Jesus in the desert. It’s very literal compared to the spiritual warfare of today; today, it can be difficult to see the difference between blessings from God and intentional harm. For example: I had to go to a doctor’s appointment and pick up a prescription last semester, and it took far longer than I anticipated. The line at the pharmacy was forever and a half long (read: 4 people in front of me, with only one worker). It maybe took ten minutes longer than normal, but when you are late to Dr. Sharp’s Intro to Student Ministry class every second counts. By the time I left and hit every red light between the pharmacy and the high way, I was extremely salty and extremely late. I was on my way to a freaking MINISTRY class. Surely, this is what spiritual warfare is, yes?

No. As I approached the ramp and sat at the red light (because of course), I watched a first responder team rip a person out of a car crash just before it rolled off the hill of the ramp. Someone had run a red light and hit the car turning left onto the I-26 on ramp, roughly ten minutes before I needed to make the same turn. It could have very easily been me, rolling down that embankment. But instead, I was only 5 minutes late to class.

This is just one example that blows my mind a little bit and is seriously humbling. Getting sick on a mission trip, cancelled flights, insufficient funds, broken down buses…any number of things can happen, and this is why we need you. Pray for safety, pray for peace, for health, for provision, for clear and distinct guidance.

Each day in Swaziland, I will try to provide a specific topic of prayer. I am not the best pray-er, and sometimes I don’t always know what to say. If you are the same way, do not fear! God accepts all kinds of prayers, no matter how unskilled or plain or short. Please keep us in you prayers in the next three weeks, until we are safely on the ground in the US. Thank you, thank you thank you.

10 days. 16 hours. 38 minutes. 

Tonight

As I type, I am sitting on my kitchen floor, in front of our sliding glass door watching a thunderstorm. And I am crying.

I am crying, because I leave in 17 days, 15 hours and 47 minutes.

I am crying, because I am experiencing major writer’s block when it comes to the message I have been given the blessing and privilege  of delivering to the older students, parents, community members…anyone who will listen. I am crying, because this is all I want out of life.

I am crying, because the voice in my head is telling me I cannot do it, that I should tell our trip leader that I don’t feel comfortable doing this, that my message will be no good and no one will come and those that do will walk out saying, ‘What a waste of time.’

I have spoken in front of people before…but no more than seventy at a time. I have sung, alone, in front of hundreds of people. I have even gotten up on stage during chapel at my school, while the campus pastor told two-thirds of our student body my testimony. But teaching Swazis about their self-worth in their identity in Christ? This should not be difficult, but I am drawing utter blanks.

I have been told that if the church doors are open, the people will come. They will come and they will fill the seats. And the aisles. And the foyer. And they will be spilling out into the outside of the church. I know this, because I saw it happen a year ago. Even if only a few show up, I am a vessel for Christ. And thus: the pressure to be perfect sets in.

I paused to take a drink and I remembered that a friend of mine posts a piece of scripture as a Facebook status  a few days ago that I knew would be useful in terms of identity in Christ, so I went searching for it again. The loving words of my friend Sam, speaking not only to the Swazis but also to my heart tonight:

1 Corinthians 1:27- “But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong.”
He chose you. Stop saying that you’re not capable, because He makes you ready, and will prepare you. He has a plan for you.

And I am crying, because my God is so good. Even when I struggle, my cup overflows.

This post isn’t really going anywhere, and neither is my message, so I’m going to sign off for the night. Before I do so:

1. If you have any biblical input in terms of self-worth and/or identity in Christ, PLEASE comment below, email, text, call, tweet, etc. Clearly, I need help. If nothing else, please be praying for me specifically to speak light and truth into these lives.

2. A huge blessing has befallen me–my fundraising account has been enriched to reach $590 out of my $3,200 goal, which is incredible. If you are part of this, thank you thank you thank you. If you haven’t had a chance to donate, you can go to http://www.cpccweb.org/globalgiving to make an online contribution.

For your help and support, I thank you from the bottom of my heart.

I leave in 17 days, 15 hours and 6 minutes.

20 Days // Confirming the Call

Twenty. The big 2-0. The number of miles between my driveway and my parking spot at work; the number of hours I will spend in transit between the Indianapolis airport and Johannesburg. The number of sticky fingers and toes each of my sweet babies possesses; the number of days until I will be holding those sticky fingers. It is a number I can understand and wrap my brain around.  It’s beautiful and frightening, because this is really happening. I am really going back and soon and it’s making me nervous…which, to me, is the best and greatest indicator that this is what God wants me to do. Which leads me to something people ask me a lot: how do I know this is where I am called and what I am called to do? There is the obvious answer–the Great Commission, Matthew 28:19 where Jesus says, “Go and make disciples of all nations.” He’s pretty cut and dry–but why me, why Swaziland, why now, why kids, why Njojane? In all total, complete honesty, I have no idea why and I’m not going to pretend I know. All I know is that I am and this is how I know: The fact of the matter is that I am slightly crazy. The plan is to forfeit a life of comfort and luxury in the US to live in the bush country of Swaziland, where the most reliable variable in life is that nothing is reliable; to give up Dr. Pepper and weekly sushi runs with my best friend for Tang, pap and sour porridge; to trade everything and everyone I know for that which only God knows. Well before Africa was on my radar, someone told me “If your dreams don’t scare you, they are not big enough.” It has been proven over and over and over in the Bible–God continually calls people to leave behind what they know to follow him: Abraham and Sarah to venture into Canaan, Moses to liberate the Israelites, Peter to walk on the water, Paul to spread the Gospel all over the Roman Empire. But I don’t get scared about things. I don’t get test anxiety, I’m not afraid of needles or climbing tall ladders to change display case lightbulbs. I excel at killing bugs and speaking and singing in front of large groups of people. I’m not afraid of flying, nor do I get homesick, or really even miss the conveniences or luxuries the US has to offer; and yet, going to Africa a second time makes me nervous. I am anxious because I am well behind the mark on fundraising; I am nervous because I woke up two days ago with a horrendous sore throat, which means my immune system is bottoming out a mere three weeks before departure. I am fearful about the sermon I will be delivering to the older students and community members because what if it doesn’t reach them. I am terrified that I will fall even more in love, and that leaving Swaziland for the second time will be even more painful than the last. There is some beauty in this fear. I serve a great and mighty God who can (and does) make amazing things happen. I know financial provision will make itself evident, and my immune system will rebound–because I watched God make it happen last year right about this time. The little bit of nervousness that has burrowed itself deep in my heart is nothing short of confirmation that this is what I am called to do and nothing can stop me.

24 Days // What Will I Make?

I leave in 24 days. 2 hours. 14 minutes.

I had a job interview today, at a local clothing store. The interviewer asked me about what I’m studying at school, and what I want to do with my life. In case you haven’t noticed…it’s kinda my favorite thing to talk about. After I finished explaining, he looks quizzically at me and asked, “There’s a need and all, but why would you pick that? You seem smart. Why not choose to be a doctor or a lawyer? What are you going to make, anyways?”

This is a question I get a lot. I’m not sure why it struck me as it did today; it could be the condescending tone, or the lack of professionalism, I don’t really know. Needless to say, I was livid. I don’t think I have ever been so angry. I wanted to choke him and yell, “YOU ARE A MANAGER OF A TEEN CLOTHING STORE. DON’T JUDGE MY CAREER CHOICE.” right there in the break room, but because this was a job interview and not some televised fight, I couldn’t. Instead, I took a pause. And I thought about 1 Corinthians 12:

Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ…If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be? If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be? But in fact, God has placed the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be. If they were all one part, where would the body be? (verses 12, 17-19)

Here is what I am NOT saying: my calling is better than yours.

Here is what I AM saying: my calling is just that–mine. It is personal, just as yours is personal. And whether you are called to missions, or being a manager of a clothing store, your calling is equally important to God’s plan as anyone else’s. Please friends, do not belittle the ambitions of others…especially with trivial questions like what will you make.

I took a deep breath. And I smiled. And I said, “I will make enough. Aren’t there more important things in life than money?”

He nodded in agreement and quickly moved on to the next question.

I thought about it through the whole interview and my whole drive home: What will I make? I thought about Winston Churchill’s famous words, “You make a living from what you get, but you make a life from what you give,” and I have decided that I have a whole mouthful for him, whether the Lord calls me to Africa permanently or keeps me stateside:

What will I make?

I will make kids feel loved. I can give hugs and kisses and smiles and kind words.

I will make my kids understand that there is a God who made them, who loves them, who died for them.

I will make my kids believe in themselves. I will give my kids a reason to believe they are worthy of being loved.

I will make parents and guardians believe in their kids. I will make my kids give others a reason to believe in them.

I can give the support and encouragement to make minor triumphs feel like winning an Olympic medal. I can make major obstacles feel like pebbles on the side of the road.

I will give my kids cause to think and question and wonder.

I can make kids believe they are part of something bigger than themselves. I hope and pray every day that I make myself an example of what it looks like to live a life that demands explanation. I can give them proof that if they love God with everything they are and everything they have, nothing is impossible.

I get to give my kids a chance.

If I am to be really honest, you (and just about everyone else in the developed world) will make more money than me. That’s okay, because I get to make something better:

I get to give everything I have for my whole life. I get to make a difference.

If that isn’t the best dang job in the whole world, I’m not sure what is.

 

I leave in 24 days. 1 hour. 46 minutes.