Free Life Chapel: Intentionally Spiritual

 

Is it an oxymoron for a church staff to make an effort to pray together on purpose? Well, we are.

It sounds contradictory to your perception, right? Hate to burst your bubble but praying together is not on our weekly office priority list from Tuesday-Friday… we work, and lots of it.

However, this week at Free Life, we are going intentionally spiritual – as a staff and personally – to remember the why: why we are each here, and why we are here serving this city for the purpose of Christ. We’re starting our work day off as a group, praying with each other and over each other, and discussing the why of what we do here each week.

peace-it-does-not-mean-to-be-in-a-place-where-there-is-no-noise-trouble-or-hard-work

It has been exceptionally necessary for me, as I have recently forgotten, and remembered again, why I am here instead of somewhere else. Somewhere that may seem more enticing, more fun, easier, more perks, and in turn more distracting. I know this season is strategic, as was the one prior to that, and the one prior to that. Foundational. I know that God is, as always, trying to speak to my heart about something. The problem is when my heart becomes so heavy with other things that I cannot hear him. It’s seriously the worst… like trying to run in thick fog.

Yes, exactly, can’t breathe.

When I was in Haiti I would think sometimes that if I could just get a moment in an American church, with English worship songs, then I could certainly more easily connect with Jesus. Now I find myself, not only in America, but on staff at an incredible church – yes, on staff, which is like as much in an American church as you can get – and I find it so distracting at moments that it all just translates as chaos in my head .

However, I have heard the contrary from others before – feeling like if they could just go out into the mission field, do something seemingly more tangible, then certainly their passion for Christ would truly be ignited. To you, dear person who thinks that, let me help you with something – it won’t. You will just be hot and irritated, on top of all the stuff you arrived with. Not a good combination – trust me, I’ve seen it.

All in all, the ‘God life’ is in the heart, not in the life, at all. It has nothing to do with where I am or what I do each day for work. It is all a matter of my heart, and how my heart seeks the heart of the one who saved me.

There are so many times where I have a though of a different path that would be so much easier, and this week I am reminding myself that I didn’t ask for easy. I don’t want easy. I want worth it. And I know in the deepest part of who I am that the lessons I am learning right now, the distractions that are in front of me, the sacrifices that I am making in these years, are more worth it than I could ever pay for.

And for that, I am grateful.

I’M OVER THE HILL! What 25 Taught Me & Starting 26 Off Right…

A quarter of a century. Done. Wow.

If I sat and told you the stories that consume the last 25 years we would be here all day, talking and listening. And well, who has all day to be here. Unless you’re getter paid the big bucks to sit and listen, and in that case, I don’t have those big bucks so don’t waste your time, but I’m sure I could use your assistance sorting it all out. It’s pretty messy in there.

In short: I could never say enough as to what god has taught me. A lesson isn’t really a lesson unless it’s learned, right? More like a statement. Unless you take it into your heart and process all its messiness and change your life accordingly. And always, always, always be mindful of the strategic hand of our Lord in your life – even when you don’t see him. When you can’t hear him. When you are certain he has walked away.

25 has wrapped up a quarter of a century more beautifully that I could have ever imagined. No, I didn’t do anything super glamorous. I didn’t get the corner office. I didn’t claim great success or novel romance. Even better. I learned more about this life, and what is important, than I ever knew I could in a year, much less in a lifetime (so far.) I loved selflessly, I lost painfully. A lot. And I saw how God sits so close to the broken hearted. How he is present in the simplest of moments. How he works it all out on our behalf.

Most of that was learned through this family.

8568_10101654065162190_1466767610_n[1] 599784_10101942223091390_1913459227_n[2] 1385822_10101942265825750_2080868499_n[1]

Elydia was 26 when she passed away. I was honored to spend the majority of 25 with her each week, and especially in those last two weeks, watching 26 years of shame and heartache be replaced with an undescribable joy of the Holy Spirit. Her life taught me more during 25 than I could have ever learned in a classroom.

All in all, I experienced the lesson that God is simple. It’s not that deep. And in the greatest pain, in the greatest joy, in the hardest of trials, He is present. In that, there is rest. Outside of control, of choices of others, there is rest.

I don't always turn 26... but when I do I wear hot pink tights and cowboy boots! Let's go.

Today I end the first quarter of my life. And feel as if I am so much older in my soul. The journey is truly the destination and 26 is just the beginning! His promises are true and I’m gratefully staying in the process. Great things are yet to come!

 
I don’t always turn 26… but when I do I wear hot pink tights and cowboy boots! Let’s go.

Signs of Life: Welcome, Baby Christla!

IMG_4192

Her eyes lock in when I hold her. Her little hands are so tight they are grey when she is hungry. She sucks on her first two fingers to fall asleep. She began her little life growing inside of her mom who was homeless and forgotten. IMG_0834 Elydia would arrive with her malnourished son – Bergly –  for Baby Rescue, always with her oldest (when I say oldest I mean 7) son carrying their possessions – a red water jug and a tiny black tote for Medika Mamba. When her son Bergly passed away she stress delivered her baby girl, Christla.

IMG_2241  IMG_2397

I’ve always loved the redemption she held in her mother’s grieving, and I love how sweet Christla would, against all opinions, fight for signs of life in those first weeks. It’s been 5 months since Christla stole my heart and I continued to care for her, her mom, and the boys.

Today, Elydia is saying her goodbyes to this world and joining Jesus and her baby boy in the next. When I look at Christla sucking her two little fingers all I can think about is God’s incredible destiny for her: 5 months ago she was struggling for life and God’s perfect plan has strategically placed her in the arms of grace – anchored to hope and a future. She will never know the life of an orphan, she will never know the pain of rejection, she will never wonder who her mother was or if she loved her.

My heart cannot even comprehend. More on this on the other side of processing.

  Photo on 11-4-13 at 11.53 AM #2

I would like to take this moment to officially introduce the newest member of the Danita’s Children family – Christla Francois!!

Easy to say (and I won’t deny it) I’m obsessed. God has heard one of my deepest prayers.

Plenty of amazing pictures to come. Trust. Plenty.

Remaining Aware

This bracelet was a gift after four years of driving myself crazy with late nights, text books and exams. It is now beat up, tarnished and scratched beyond belief; however, it remains on my arm each day to remind me that I am in this moment on purpose and to look for the beauty within it. For those moments hold the essence of my life.

It is so easy sometimes to become consumed with the anxieties of this life that we forget to remain aware of what God is doing. He is writing a beautiful story within those seemingly crazy  moments.

Don’t miss it. Enjoy the ride. Embrace the journey.

So, a friendly public service announcement: Have a great weekend and always remain aware of your journey!

Dwelling On The Beatitudes

MOUNT OF BEATITUDES

Capernaum, Israel

Matthe 5:3, “Blessed are the poor in spirit,  for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”

 One of my favorite places in the whole world.

Whenever my heart is conflicted or I’m feeling overwhelmed with this life, it is this place that I think of.

This place, where it is believed that Jesus taught to many, saying things, such as, “… blessed are those who hunger and thirst after righteousness, for they shall be filled.” Where He called me blessed and said that I would inherit the kingdom of heaven.

So grateful for these words in Matthew 5 and love remembering back to the moments when I sat on this mountain, in front of this gate, dwelling on these words and imagining what that moment must have been like, reassuring myself that it’s all gonna be okay.

And to all who are overwhelmed in this life (and to myself in particular), take a deep breath, and remember… you are blessed. Seek His kingdom first, and EVERYTHING else will be added unto you. [Matthew 6:33]

Side note: Which means, if you are seeking His kingdom first, and you don’t have what you think you need, then it’s not for you yet – because when it is – he will add it unto you. He promised.

Many days my actions (or just plain human stupidity) may not always reflect it, but I am so grateful that God sees my heart and that I truly desire after Him. Sometimes – and when I say sometimes I mean like every, single day – I make a total mess out of myself. It amazes me that God carries this abundance of grace that is renewed each morning, and that He can see the promise in me, even when I can’t see it in myself.

An Honored & Slightly Exhausted Perspective

So, talk about blogging much… or the lack there of!

Sorry, folks.

There are so many moments that need to be shared, it’s sometimes hard to decide which to dwell on or even if I have it in me to process through it instead of accepting that it happened and continuing on. Lately, I haven’t found time to gather a simple sentence in my brain, much less put down those amazing, extreme, never-the-same-day-twice, life altering moments onto digital paper.

The past few weeks I’ve been running the girl’s house at Danita’s Children. A never ending mix of girls and teenagers and a whole heck of a lot of  hormones – my own included.

And, lucky for me, our girls are amazing.

They’re conscious of God and of others.

It’s an honor to hold the pressure of who these girls are becoming.

I can’t even get into their backgrounds and what they have overcome and how they still smile and press on.

It’s hard sometimes because I do what I can on such a lack of sleep, but wow. Life is very different in the disciplinarian’s shoes. I am good at being the “cool Aunt”. The “responsible, safety conscious, look out for their own future good” one… wow.

Ahh, Girls.

God knew what he was doing.

The worst part is, I see myself – my 12 year-old self, my 16 year-old self, my current self – in all of them.

Which makes the words “just trust me” weigh so much more.

Sigh.

The things that college doesn’t prepare you for…

That being said, and in light of the past few weeks of my life, I would like to state the following:

I get it now. I have had the epiphany of a parent’s perspective.

To every person who has ever has or is parented/ing: Props to you. Major, massive, props to you.

To My Mom: I’m sorry for calling your name or knocking on your door or looking through the crack to see if you were paying attention (or all at the same time) 18,000 times a day, everyday for the better part of about 14 years. I’m sorry for not doing it the first time you asked and for not realizing the extreme amount of strategic effort that it takes to just make a day with children happen from rolling out off the mattress at the sound of an alarm clock to falling back onto it at the bedtime that never seems to come.

To My Middle School Friends: I would like to acknowledge each and every very intense moment of our dramatic 12 year-old lives that we encountered together – boys, cheerleading, the works. Big shocker to us now – it all turned out all right. And when I say alright, of course I mean transitioned from 12 year-old intense moments to 20-something year-old intense moments. Such is life – surely in 20 more years I’ll be writing this same thing about today.

So… it is safe to say that I am now re-living those moments from a different perspective, being re-paid for the ones I thought I got away with and feeling like my mother on so many different occasions that it is scary!

All those parent-isms aren’t just for something to say after all.

From disciplining for things that are hilarious just to prove the principle while trying to keep a straight face, to buying an abundance of chocolate and Oreos when there is rumor of a potential heartbreak, to using the sandwich method at all times (something soft and sweet, then the harsh middle, then something positive again) to dodge any major potential meltdowns. With ages ranging from four to 20, you could get any thing at any time.

As you can imagine, I have found a whole new level of respect (if that is possible) for Brenda, our house mother, and her never ending amount of grace and patience, and a whole new appreciation for moments of silence.

I got to Santiago yesterday to pick up some visitors and the room they put me in is on the inside of a hallway so there are no windows. I’ve never loved a three hour taxi ride more. I literally – literally – walked into the room, put my bag on the foot of the bed, turned off the light and fell fast asleep for the next two hours, in a wonderfully freezing, dark, cave, where you never know exactly what time it is because there are no windows.

Bliss. Pure bliss.

… and if I haven’t said it lately: Thank you to all of you who make this life possible. I may be exhausted, but couldn’t be more content and honored to be living this life.

Not My Will…

“The pain of sacrifice is far less than the pain of regret.” – Christine Caine

The desire of my heart is to spend my twenties serving, sacrificing and learning the big lessons in life, no matter how hard or what the cost. To connect with people, hear their hearts, see the world for what it truly is and realize that we’re all the same, in our nature, even if not in our lifestyles.

However, I never saw myself in ministry. I never wanted to work at a church. I have always been burdened by church and culture in America. It’s a mission field just as much, if not more, than many other places in the world. We (Americans) miss the point so much. We are so easily distracted. So easily tempted. We are so easily personally defeated. Young girls so often view themselves with such low regard. These are

problems that burden my heart.

My plan was to be the cute girl. Work a job in corporate America – kickin’ butt and takin’ names – and use it as a platform for people to watch a balanced and consistent lifestyle and say, “Wow! And she’s aChristian? I want that, too. And omg, her shoes are so cute.” In the mean time I would be helping make my church go round, and I would be doing super cool stuff all at once. I would fit that lifestyle well, enjoying all of God’s abundance. And the cute shoes wouldjust be a bonus, cus you know, God cares about the little things…

Side note: more Christians in America would do themselves a service by strategically attracting secular society before delivering a life changing message, rather than just spewing views and opinions and hoping that someone is in their line of fire. Job well done, Tim Tebow.

But then there is this heart in me that yearns for those who are forgotten. That sees adventure in going to places less desired. That is fulfilled with compassion. That is bored with convention. That is restless in tradition. That is in no way impressed with keeping up with the Jones’. This heart beats for the love of Jesus to overtake my surroundings the same way that He has overtaken myself. And that is something that won’t let go of me.

At this moment, the serendipity that I share with these alternate universes is one that I will never understand. As if I am standing in the middle of the Great Divide. Torn between two separate worlds. One full of expectations and deadlines, and the other dusty feet and border crossings.

In all of my desires there comes a tiny window of opportunity where I have to take that plan that I had, as confused and blurry as it is, and lay it down. Go all in. Not knowing what the future holds, not knowing what is next, not knowing how it will all play out. But knowing that I trust Him, knowing that He will lift my head and steady my heart – I had to lay down my plan, along with every ounce of who I am, at the feet of Christ, and declare, “Nevertheless, not my will but Yours be done.”

Even when it’s hard. Even when it hurts. Even when I say it kicking and screaming.

I know that in time life will come. Money will come as I need it to fulfill God’s plan for His people. Success will come (whatever that looks like) from being obedient in the little things. A wedding and forever best friend will happen when/if He feels like I need a partner. Whether it’s in a foreign country forever or not, those things will come, but those aren’t the things my heart craves.

My heart longs to be more giving like the children I see sharing their only meal. To be stronger like the women I watch work 20 hour days to send their child to school.

To remain grounded in the spotlight and overlook jealous criticism- and not only to overlook it, but to truly love those who are spiteful – like my pastors who pour so much into me. To be more patient and compassionate like the friends who I work along side of in Haiti. Because once my heart learns these things, all the others things will be added unto me – both worlds, in abundance. Which is definitely only something God can accomplish!

Nevertheless, not my will….

And, as God is the faithful God that I have learned that He is, I am going to remain in the middle of the Great Divide, with a content heart, continually watching Him keep His promise, and make everything that I thought I wanted, more than I could ever dream of or imagine for His glory.

 

I say all of this, not to you, but to myself – somedays I get so consumed with life that I forget that I have barely even begun my twenties. I’m not even to the halfway mark yet. In those moments it’s good to have a reminder – to go back against everything and everyone who is uncertain and unsure and confusing, and read the things that I know to be true and unchanging – and declare them out loud.

Thanks For Reading.

 

Learning to Listen

I was woken up this morning by a brown foot kicking me in the face and two others running in to beg for more Nemo on the laptop. I love these morning. I’m sitting on this Saturday, thinking about life. About sacrifice. About uncertainty of the future and trusting in God’s promises that come from obedience.

I cannot speak to what the future holds, but I do know what God is doing right now. And I am choosing to hold onto to that.

My life… so far… is a story about change, mostly. About the adventures of steering through my twenties learning, loving, forgiving and growing up. Learning to adjust. Learning to dance in the storm. Learning to continuously look for the rainbow. To continuously keep my heart tender toward humanity.

During this chapter, in Haiti, it’s about learning to hear God. Just to listen to the things that He has to say about the world. He was saying all the same things in Florida. But there I just listen differently. Distractions are more apparent.

When you’re in a place where God’s provision is the only resource, His voice seems louder, but really it’s the same steady voice – small and still – and the more I am learning to listen, the more I want to be silent so that I can hear.

I’m learning to see people for people. To look for their story. To find the beauty that Haitians see everyday within their indescribable surroundings. To understand their personalities. Not as just a taxi driver, or hair lady or waitress. But as specific people. Living life. Trying to figure out tomorrow, just like me.

Look around you today and find God in a few areas – His beauty, His grace, His provision. Be grateful for those things and I guarantee you it will make you smile a little bit more. And in the mists of your crazy worlds, stop and listen. You may be shocked at what you hear.

Have a great Saturday, folks! XOXO