a body that quits & a God who doesn’t

I had a nice long post written under this same title, talking about how the enemy has a tendency to attack right before big things happen for the Kingdom: one of our sponsor children, a little boy we’ve met and invested in, has left our care pointe, and we won’t be seeing him again; I broke my tailbone the week before our wedding, and the 16-hour flight and dirt roads will not be kind to that injury; one team member’s father broke his back just a week before our departure; a missionary friend miscarried today; another team member lost a close friend today. A young boy was dragged into a lagoon by an alligator. More than 100 people were injured or killed in Orlando this weekend.

It was a beautiful post, and I spent a lot of time working on it. And while it’s the least of our problems, the post has simply vanished. I saved the draft multiple times, but there is no record of it anywhere on my computer. (the irony is not lost on me.) I’m choosing to look the other way–maybe Jesus is trying to humble me, or maybe what I was trying to say isn’t what needs to be heard. Instead of sharing my words with you, I will share someone else’s.

Today on the radio, the DJ shared a statement from Ann Voskamp:

The world needs prayer warriors who don’t see prayer as the least we can do, but as the most we can do.

I will sit here with a busted tailbone and eat my words and my humble pie as I ask for prayer for H and I, and really for our whole team. There are teenagers leaving home for the first time, and parents leaving small children behind. There is a young woman who recently got engaged. A newlywed couple, and a brand new husband who is getting ready to leave for boot camp. I am in the midst of a fibromyalgia flare up that meds can’t keep under control. And, with just 3 days until we depart for Swaziland, we still have a need to raise $1300. Our God is good, even when our circumstances are not, and we know that God will be glorified regardless of what is required of us. We kneel here and pray confidently and expectantly that God’s will be done by the time we get on a plane Saturday afternoon.

My body might want to quit, but my God never will.

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The 5 Things My Dad Did Wrong (and why that makes him the best)

Today is Father’s Day, and too often I think we use days like today to celebrate the things our dads have done right, and totally disregard all of their mistakes. Or, conversely, focus solely on the things our dads have done wrong. This morning, I listened to a sermon about the pressure that dads face, and how we are to respond to both their successes and shortcomings. As I sat down to write something in honor of my dad, I struggled with the inability honestly celebrate my dad while simultaneously taking into account that he is not perfect. My parents started out really young; dad was 22 when I was born and my mom was only 18. My dad has told me time and time again he made mistakes when I was little, and how sorry he is. He did a lot of the things a lot of dads do wrong…but somehow, my dad is still the best. I was trying to figure out how that is, and this is what I came up with.

1. He told me, “No.”

No, you can’t have another cookie. No, you can’t go see that movie. No, you can’t go to that concert. No, your boyfriend can’t come over while you’re home alone. No, you can’t go to that party. No, you can’t quit studying. No, you can’t take the easy way out. Hearing the word no is something I’m used to, and as a kid, it was hard to deal with. It took me a long time to realize it, but each and every one of those no’s was my dad protecting me, teaching me how to make wise decisions, looking out for me…for my health, for my relationship with God, for my earthly relationships, for my education, for my general wellbeing.

No, you can’t go to Africa. My dad and I are a lot alike in many ways, but primarily in that we don’t like being told no. As soon as we hear the word no, a little voice in our heads accepts it as a challenge. This was the hardest no I have ever had to deal with. My Father was telling me to go, but my dad was saying no. My dad’s no forced me onto my knees before my Father, forced me out on a limb to apply for my first trip to Swaziland, forced me to trust my Father to provide. Even if my dad didn’t realize it, he allowed himself to be used as a tool of the Lord to trust my faith, to see how far I was willing to push the envelope on behalf of my calling to Kingdom work. We have both had the chance to grow…in fact, my dad was the one to inform me the Swaziland application was available for my second trip.

2. He didn’t treat me like a girl.

There are 15 years between my brother and I, so growing up, I was the oldest of three girls. Not only that, but growing up, I was a daddy’s girl. Because of that, he didn’t treat me like a girl. Dresses were for church and special occasions only; gym shoes were my go-to shoes. My dad grew up with a brother, and had all sorts of manly information to pass on to someone…me. I know how to change a tire, how to parallel park almost anywhere, how to change the oil in my car, how to strategically pack everything I own into my car, how to shoot a gun, how to defend myself (and someone else) if necessary, how to win almost any argument (except with him, of course), how to lead others and take people by surprise in doing so, how not to take no for an answer. He taught me how a man should treat me, and how to stand up to any man who treated me poorly. He taught me the things that a man should do for me, like opening doors and walking on the outside of the sidewalk, but more importantly, he taught me how not to need a man to do those things for me. He taught me how to be independent and that’s the best gift he could give me.

3. He’s never around. Prior to 9/11 and for a short while afterwards, he worked in the airline industry. During the crash following 9/11, he was unemployed because airlines were laying people off left and right, going bankrupt, and no one was hiring. He started working in other fields because they paid the bills…he sold cars for awhile. Worked at some security/safety consulting agencies. Worked nights and FedEx for a long time because it paid well and provided our family with medical insurance. He taught night classes at a local community college after his day job to bring in extra income to help make ends meet. He joined the Air National Guard shortly after 9/11, and committed to one drill weekend a month to serve our country. He’s missed choir concerts, soccer games, plays, show choir competitions, birthdays…all of those things dads should be there for, he has missed because he was always trying to provide for our family, which is far more important than showing up for a two-hour choir concert.

4. He’s left my family behind.

He has been deployed 3 times and been assigned to more long-term stateside trainings than I can count. There was one time we added up all the months he’s been away from our family, and while I can’t recall the exact amount, it was multiple years of time. He is getting ready to embark on his fourth long term deployment, and will once again be leaving us behind for six to seven months. This is the hardest one to explain to people, and the hardest one for others to understand. It took me years of being an Air Force brat to understand that sometimes, there are people in the world that need my dad to fight for them more than I need my dad here. He taught me how to take care of my car, how to defend myself and my siblings, how to take care of myself and my mom, how to be independent when he can’t be here. There aren’t many things he could teach me than how to be there for myself when he can’t.

5. He told me I wasn’t good enough.

I remember getting B’s in a few English classes in middle school, and my dad lecturing me for it. You speak English. There’s no reason to get a B. That’s not good enough. I distinctly remember the first time I came home with a C+ on a report card. It was the first quarter of the eighth grade, and my 78% C+ was in geometry. I brought it to my parents after dinner, and in return received a lecture on how I wasn’t trying hard enough. I need to apply myself. I need to study harder, talk to the teacher outside of class, ask friends for help. C’s are not good enough. I remember trying to pick classes for my freshman year of high school, and contemplating leaving the honors program I had been part of since the fourth grade. Taking the easy way out is not good enough. As I mentioned before, that little voice in my head hears things like “You can’t do that” or “That’s not good enough” and replies, Challenge accepted. My dad held high expectations over my head so that I might exceed them.

So yeah, my dad isn’t perfect. In fact, he’s not even close. He’s made mistakes. He continues to make mistakes. We hold him accountable, but hold him in grace so he might continue to grow in Christ and as a father. He might be sorry for his mistakes, but I’m certainly not. If it weren’t for my dad, I wouldn’t be where I am today, and where I am going with my life. Thank you, Daddy. Happy Father’s Day.

Love, Pumpkin

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.

Days 1 and 2: In Transit

From the plane: 8 hours and 47 minutes to Johannesburg

I am sitting now in the dark as most of everyone is asleep, save for a few night owls like me, and we are nearly halfway across the Atlantic Ocean. Earlier, before the sky had evolved into a pitch black dotted with innumerable stars, it had been a deep, deep periwinkle color that reflected into the clouds and water below me. It blended so well, in fact, that I could not tell where the horizon fell and where the sky began and it made me feel so very, very small in the hand of our Father.

From where I sit, I can see Orion, his belt sparkling brilliantly at this altitude. I looked up just in time to see a falling star streak across his chest in the same manner a hand would to sign the word Lord in sign language and I do not feel so small any more. As I sit here and stare out my little window, I catch a glimpse of the fullness of God’s creation that is awaiting me on the ground. The sun is just barely starting to think about rising; I can see some pink tendrils of light poking through the horizon. The anticipation is keeping me awake. I can merely sit here with eyes closed, burning from exhaustion, unable to do much else but count down the very minutes until I land. I am coming.

After touchdown in Johannesburg, Monday, May 19, 2014.

22 total hours of transit and a six hour time change. An hour-long adventure trying to find out hotel in the dark.

257 songs. 6 movies. 3 meals. 2 sleeping pills. 1 trip to the bathroom.

I do not sleep on planes; I have been awake for nearly 60 consecutive hours. I am tired. The silence as we stood in line at a busy airport in Joburg struck me as eerie as it did one year ago, but is oddly comforting. I keep finding myself smiling like an idiot for being so excited. I’m getting weird looks from strangers and it’s official: I’m a weirdo on two continents. The man who checked me through customs said to me, “You are 18. When are you going to have children of your own?” …what.

Thinking about this time one year ago makes me laugh: I was super salty after being awake for so long. Dinner was great, but I nearly froze to death because I didn’t come prepared for African winter without heaters, which added another sleepless night to my tally; I took a cold shower during a blackout….all within my first 12 hours in Africa. It was not a good start. 

It drastically improved the next day, but I needed to be taken down off my American high horse and Jesus really knows how to push my buttons and he’s doing it again. I watched the movie rendition of one of my favorite books, The Great Gatsby, as I ate a dinner on the plane and during my initial period of almost-sleep and something odd happened: the grandeur and opulence of the Gatsby lifestyle, the attractive nature of 1920’s life that so often leaves me with a sense of nostalgia for a time I wish I’d known instead left me with a sense of disgust. I realize the movie was incredibly over the top and that life was not as lavish for the vast majority of the world in the 1920’s…but I still found myself shaking my head, thinking Really? A strand of pearls worth $350,000? That could send me to Swaziland 100 times with money left over.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

The last two days were very long, sleepless days; we have already had our first adventure, as it took us an hour and a half to find our hotel (which is only about 15 minutes from the airport…oh well!). Upon arriving, we stuffed ourselves with pizza and retired to our rooms. It was another long, almost sleepless night…luckily I got in about 3 hours and then 3 cups of very strong coffee at breakfast. I am more than ready for the drive to Swaziland. Let’s do this.

Day 1: Before I Go…

It’s today. So many feelings this morning. So many instances of nearly crying in the middle of church or driving home or talking to people, asking me how many hours until I leave, because they know I am keeping track.

I have eagerly been counting down the days since I last found myself in the Indianapolis airport. My mom came to pick me up, and she asked how my trip was and I broke down crying. The only words I could fathom were, I have to go back. I have to go back I have to go back I have to go backI am going back. It’s right now. This is happening. I am sitting in the Indianapolis airport waiting to board the first plane and it is taking everything in me to not jump up and down and yell “It’s today it’s today it’s today!”

Just this morning someone asked me if I was ever afraid to go. I have heard a lot of variations of this question: Isn’t it dangerous? Isn’t there disease? Isn’t it weird to have strange children crawling on you? Doesn’t it make you uncomfortable to be stared at because you’re white? Do they have real toilets or are you going to use squatty potties? What if they don’t like you?

Doesn’t it scare you?

The answer is yes. Yes, it scares me very much. It is terrifying to be so incredibly in love with something that I can’t get it off my mind and to know I am risking my life. It is terrifying to be so scared of this passion so deeply rooted in my heart because I don’t get scared of things. But I know that God’s power is made perfect in my weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9). It is one of the most elemental truths of my entire life, and I am so, so grateful for this.

However: the people I am leaving behind don’t feel this. They can’t understand how fulfilling it is to rock a colicky baby to sleep while her mother cooks, or the overwhelming feeling of having kids fight over who gets to hold your hand while walking from place to place. They haven’t experienced this raw, unadulterated joy; they see only the risks. I have several friends and family members that adamantly oppose this trip and the plan to go back long term, and I can appreciate their opposition. It is out of genuine concern, and lack of understanding. It is for them I have these words:

“And I will be to her a wall of fire all around,” declares the Lord, “And I will be the glory in her midst.” Zechariah 2:5

“God is within her, she will not fail.” Psalm 46:5

I’m a little nervous to step on this plane, but I’m not afraid for myself. I know that I will be taken care of, that I will be safe, that everything that happens on this trip will be nothing short of God’s glory and his plan for my life.

Goodbye, America. See you later.

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.

Little Infinities

So fun fact: John Green lives within a half hour drive of my house. If, like me, you are a proud member of the Nerdfighter fandom, you will know that The Fault in Our Stars movie comes out in just 28 days, which is super awesome because it means that I get to see it before I leave for Swaziland, and cry my eyes out two days before returning to Swaziland.

I was in a job interview today, and the interviewer asked what I’ms studying in school and what I want to do with my life. After I told him, he asked me a question I don’t get very often: why?

Why do I want to I want to spend ten days in Africa over the summer, instead of going on vacation or hanging out with friends? Why do I want to spend every day of the rest of my life dealing with teenagers, instead of making lots of money elsewhere? Why would I voluntarily give up the conveniences and luxuries of life in the United States for the primitive lifestyle Africa endures?

If you have read the tFiOS book, you’ll remember this little excerpt:

“There are infinite numbers between 0 and 1. There’s .1 and .12 and .112 and an infinite collection of others. Of course, there is a bigger infinite set of numbers between 0 and 2, or between 0 and a million. Some infinities are bigger than other infinities.”

I like this because I’m kind of a nerd and I like thinking about things my brain can’t actually comprehend, but also because of how true it is. Some infinities are far greater than other infinities. In the United States, we (myself included) get far too wrapped up in our lives to pay any attention to living. We don’t live in the moment, because our ideology says that if we want to be successful, we have to be constantly thinking, planning, looking ahead. We look to the best interests of ourselves, and we will fight for it. It’s in our nature; we create these lives for ourselves that are great while we’re alive, and do very little once we’re gone (but who cares? we’re not here to enjoy it!). We have the little infinities that are our lives.

But the Swazis….they know how limited their time is here on earth. They are categorically terrible timekeepers, never rushing from one place to another because they are too busy living in the moment to pay attention to the time. They don’t plan for the future; the future is usually too uncertain to plan for, not to mention the lack of resources with which to plan. They are all about living in the moment in every aspect of their lives. Each moment to be lived in becomes an infinity of its own–one to replay over and over and over in your mind and it is because of this Swazi infinities are so much greater than American infinities. Each life is made up of an abundance of infinities.

Some of my favorite Swazi infinities:

  • The time between the moment Benele, our translator, told sweet Kheto that I was her sponsor and the moment it clicked in her mind that 1. she had a sponsor, and 2. I was sitting right in front of her. It was a little infinity, but a beautiful one. We started sponsoring Kheto only a few days before we met, and a lapse in communication meant I was lucky enough to experience her emotional response.
  • The first time Kheto said, “Thank you for loving me.” My heart is trembles to think about it.
  • The time one of my babies spent her morning washing my hands.
  • The time I played catch with a group of schoolgirls and tried to learn their names…and they thought my petty attempts at speaking Siswati were worth laughing at (secretly, they loved the attention).
  • The time I could bless one of the bomake (boh-mah-gay, the women who cook and take care of kids at the care pointes) my holding her three-month-old daughter while she prepared lunch. Her sweet baby fell fast asleep on my chest while I sang.

My words do not do justice to the fullness of my heart in each of these moments. It is the little things that made me fall in love with the Swazi people. These little things are my little infinity, and my biggest why.

 

(Nerdfighters: Don’t Forget to Be Awesome)