Friday, December 5, 2014

Where to find Hope


Have we lost it?

The month of November started with the death of a beautiful, young woman. While many applauded and spoke of a courageous victory, I ached.

News of suicide attempts over the Thanksgiving weekend. While many shopped for the latest and greatest, I wept.

I read a book, while fiction, still represented so much of the “right to die” acceptance that I felt heavy from it. At the end while others said, “What a great book,” I raged.

People resorting to violence because their sense of justice wasn’t satisfied. Women being told that giving life to a child who may have a “defect” is unloving… and it goes on and on. I prayed.

I still can’t let it go.

Honestly, I know a little bit of what it’s like to feel that desperation to have some control over the pain, especially in November. I clung to hope.

And here we are now in December. A month to celebrate the Life and Hope that came into the world.

With all this in my heart, I wonder… Is this happening because we have lost hope?

When did we toss aside the only real Hope for a get-what-you-want-right-now gumball machine that will run out?   

Hope didn’t come into the world in a box with pretty tissue paper and a bow. He came amidst a mother’s pain. He came bloodied and weak and crying. We will find the seed of hope in the very place where it hurts. It’s the only place to find it.

Hope is not in the boxes under the tree, we must look up and see Hope hanging from it.

As I pass the lighted houses and bell ringers at the beginning of December, I hope.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

The Journey Towards Home - A reflection of the last year

Almost exactly a year ago, I spent a week in Romania. The trip was supposed to force me out of my comfort zone and be something like a life-reset. I anticipated an experience where I saw the hand of God at work through me, soaked in his presence, was given revelation and I expected to be re-filled with joy. That wasn’t what I experienced. Instead I felt physical and emotionally alone, led to the wilderness and left there.

 Romania was my desert journey.

He rebuked the Red Sea, and it dried up; he led them through the depths as through a desert. (Psalm 106:9)

The sand dune days that followed sifted by.  Like the unbelieving ones who died in the wilderness, old thoughts and patterns had to die in the desert. Remember this post. There were still things I was holding onto. Sometimes it takes the slow process of wearing those desires down with sandpaper. Eventually they become so smooth, they slip away. When you reach an oasis, you discover you've left them behind

Six months ago, I found an oasis. With fresh water, I regained strength and life. The joy I had been searching for was poured in. The sand of the desert had blasted off the old layer, leaving a new empty heart to be filled. With life and joy, hope and new dreams were able to thrive. The parched land of my life was flooded.

South Africa was my crossing of the Jordan.

Now the Jordan is at flood stage all during harvest. Yet as soon as the priests who carried the ark reached the Jordan and their feet touched the water’s edge, the water from upstream stopped flowing...So the people crossed over opposite Jericho. The priests who carried the ark of the covenant of the Lord stopped in the middle of the Jordan and stood on dry ground, while all Israel passed by until the whole nation had completed the crossing on dry ground.  (Joshua 3:15-17)

Since then I've been watching God win the battles before me. Giving me a place to make a home, a family, a future. I am not the same person who was crawling through sandstorms alone on her knees a year ago. Today I am a desert survivor, river crosser, giant defeater, milk & honey savor-er, so very thankful daughter of the Universe Maker.

I’ve entered the Promised Land... home.

But he brought us out from there to being us in and give us the land that he promised... (Duet 6:23)

Stay tuned because next year will be a crazy brave adventure!

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Never Joke About Snakes

The idea was to get some good shots along the water, but when we finally found a place to stop there wasn't anything interesting to photograph. Still, I didn't want to come away without a picture as I had been the one to push for us to keep driving out further along the peninsula.

I spotted a little outcropping of rocks down near the shore and asked my sister to carefully climb down and pose on them for a photo. Despite the look that clearly indicated she was not enthused by the idea, she proceeded to try and make her way without falling into the water. With some help from Dad, who was more appropriately shoed for this little rock climbing adventure, they sat and posed for my photos.

While not the beautiful landscape I had planned for, a wonderful photo of daddy and daughter to commemorate the visit was success. I walked toward them as they stepped off the rocks. I noticed in the grass a large brown lump. At first I thought it was just more goose droppings, but for the size it would have had to been a pile of goose poop. Then I realized it was a snake, coiled up in the grass.

And so, as my sister was about to cross the grass back to the path I am standing on I warn her. “When you step, watch out for the snake right here.” (you know where this is going, right?)

She steps right in the direction of the snake, the snake moves and lifts its head. My sister screams and jumps several feet in the air and lands on the path.

“I told you to watch out for the snake.”

“I thought you were joking,” she says.

For the life of me, I can’t figure out why she would think this. I know I’m funny and enjoy teasing her, but snakes… I never joke about snakes.

In life, there are all kinds of hidden snakes, many whose bite are toxic.

There have been times in my life that someone has called out to me. “Hey, there’s a snake over there. Avoid that direction.” Ignoring them, I continued heading toward danger. Often I've been bitten, and the "anti-venom" has been a painful process and never a quick fix. 

Why does it often take the stinging bite or the scare of a near miss for us to heed the warning? 

People who've been bitten before… they never joke about snakes.

Friday, August 1, 2014

Thoughts from a Family Reunion


A word, concept and people that have brought much joy, sadness, confusion, support, and love throughout my life.  Somewhat unexpectedly, God has been reshaping me and rebuilding family around me. Life is always moving forward. We joyfully welcome new generations at one end and wonder how long we have left with the generations beyond us. There has been reflection on past memories and a look toward the changes coming in the future.

Last weekend I attended a family reunion with my dad and granny. As the oldest one there, Granny seemed to be the one everyone wanted to meet. I was proud to be there with her, to hear her say, “This is my granddaughter Tia.” One day she may not remember. I got to hear stories from her cousins about growing up that she can longer remember. But I can remember them. Once again I was reminded of the power, purpose and love of family. 

I have so many wonderful memories with Granny, some big events and others just little moments.

I remember… she always called me Alice because of my long blonde hair. It always made me feel special and incredibly loved. (I asked her last week if she remembered that. She said she did and that I was still Alice to her and still in Wonderland.)

…when she gave me my stuffed dolphin for Christmas (his name is Bubbles and I still have him)

… the Christmas we had up north with everyone. It made her so happy to be in her home surrounded by her family.

… I went on a road trip out east. One afternoon her and Auntie told me stories of their teens and early twenties and gave me (unsolicited) advice. At 19 some of the conversation seemed a bit awkward at the time, but what a gift to be poured into and loved like that

… the trip to Vegas and the Grand Canyon where we saw a coyote and Tiff and I took a different trail than we expected and weren’t sure we’d be found. 

… the back and forth banter between her and Grandpa that sounded harsh, but in a weird way expressed their love for each other

… being able to spend Christmas Eve with Granny and Grandpa in the hospital, our last Christmas with him. Back at the house that night, Granny, Tiff and I put on trash bag dresses and modeled them, laughing hysterically.

… while driving Granny home from a doctor’s appointment asking her to tell me honestly if I was the favorite grandchild. She replied, “If I say it’s not you, you’ll drop me off and leave me. Of course you’re my favorite.”  No offense to you other grandkids. I hope you can accept your fate ;)

and so many more…

I have to admit, these days it can be a bit draining to spend time with Granny. Sometimes I still see the sassy, spunky grandma I knew and sometimes I only see the woman in a fog surviving day to day. That’s what makes it hard and hurts my heart. God alone knows the number of our days, both hers and mine. As long as there are days left, I want to make the most of them. Every opportunity I have to honor her, respect her and show her I love her I want to choose to take no matter what it cost me. The sacrifice is temporary, but the memories last. 

I may have over 30 years of amazing memories already, but I am not done making them yet. 

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

It could be better

I watched a recent episode of Extreme Weight Loss. At the beginning of the episode the girlfriend was not happy about her partner losing weight. She was comfortable the way they were and afraid of what else might change in her partner. She was more concerned about her own status quo than the health of the one she claimed to care about. Perhaps she couldn’t fathom that beyond the unknown of change could actually be something better for the two of them. The fear of losing what she loved is exactly what caused her to lose it in the end.

I’ve been there probably more times than I’d like to admit. I wonder how many people have watched me make decisions based on fear that ended taking me right down the road I had been trying to avoid. How many times has God reached out his hand and said, “Trust me. You can’t see the other side, but I promise it’s better” and I’ve pitched my tent right at the bottom of that mountain only to get pummeled by the avalanche? How long have I wandered in the wilderness when a little more faith than fear would have taken me into a promised land long ago?

I’m learning.

The other day I had a conversation with a friend about a lack of deep friendships, distant family members and feeling lonely. She admitted that while she desires meaningful relationships she often pushes people away and keeps them at arm’s length. Being asked to open the door, she responds politely through the screen. Perhaps she doesn’t see her value. She could have more but stays with none.
I’ve been there too. How many friends have I lost out on by living in fear of losing? Wanting to be loved and known and yet the fear of being not-enough, not-chosen or rejected was stronger. The known comfort of being alone and in control kept me from risking something momentary for something amazing.

Still learning.

Saturday, July 12, 2014

The Victory Lap

A theme phrase? A mantra? A goal? I'm not sure what to call it really, so I'm calling it my life theme for the rest of this year and hopefully the rest of my life. It was so obvious when I was running this morning.

Across the street is a bike path that leads into a park. At the fork in the road, I can continue on the path that goes out 4 miles and back or I can choose to run into another park that has a loop around a lake that is a little over 8 miles. Something in me wanted to push myself to do complete both. But with a knee that had given me on again/off again pain even on much shorter runs over the past 3 years, I was hesitant to try.

Photo credit: JD Last (2010)

This summer, I noticed I was running better and longer without tiring than I ever had. A few weeks ago I completed the loop around the lake in a decent time and ran the majority of the distance. Then I began to consider attempting to compete the 16.5 miles.

I finally got my allergies back under control and decided to do the run this morning. I had almost everything ready to go the night before and had planned to start my run about 7am. Perhaps, I was a little anxious and excited because I didn't fall asleep until 1am. Sleep is just as important as other factors, so I allowed myself to sleep in until almost 7am and was on the trail just before 8am.

When you know you will be running for several hours, there isn't much to do to keep your mind occupied other than mental math games (i.e. I'm halfway through the first quarter, I think I can run this next mile in 10 minutes) or letting your mind wander. For me that usually is prayer and listening.

It got hot pretty quick and I was wishing I had slept better and started that hour earlier when it would have been cooler. About the halfway point, I began to wonder if I really had it in me to do this. I was alone, no one would know I gave up. No one would be affected if I ran back to my car. My legs already felt tired and it was only going to get hotter. But I was still making decent time (based on all the math I had done to meet my personal goals). Then... I heard it. Or maybe felt it is a better description.


I had already come halfway. In just 2 more miles, there was a cold bottle of water and granola bar awaiting me. I could at least make it that far. And so I pressed on. And I kept thinking about what it means to persevere, and what it means in my life.

Persevere:  continue in a course of action even in the face of difficulty or with little or no prospect of success.

Yea, that's about how I was feeling in this run, but not so much in life lately. Perseverance often makes us think of suffering and plodding along. Lately, life has felt more like the endorphin high they say you get from running (still waiting to experience that!)

I kept on running.

I kept on listening.

The farthest I'd ever run is a 13.1 miles (believe me its more than far enough). There was a chance I could hit that mark on this run ahead of my best time. It was getting harder and harder to get my legs to propel me forward in even a slow run pace, but I thought with such a short distance to that 13 mile mark and a few precious minutes ahead of pace I could muster enough oomph to get to the marker. I made it over a minute faster than I ever had. The rest of what God was telling me popped into my head.


I was actually going to finish this! (I must admit I hit the wall between mile 14 and 14.5 and walked most of the rest with a few short jaunts of jog in there.) But I persevered... not just today, but over the last couple years when I didn't want to get out of bed, when I lost sight of my God-given identity, when I kept praying, when I chose to let people in, and even when I kept running short distances. Today I persevered until victory!! 

Life has a way of distorting, thwarting and sometimes aborting our dreams. I've been guilty of letting that happen and settling for the security of settling for what I have. I may have been physically running for years, but I wasn't running towards anything in life. Now, I am. There may be days I want to quit, think I won't be successful, I'm not prepared, or that reaching the finish line doesn't really matter. On those days, I hope God (and you, my friends) will gently remind me to persevere until victory.


Saturday, June 28, 2014

Broken Yokes

I've been on several trips over the last couple years, and each one has taught me and changed me. Each one a stepping stone to greater trust and greater love, in God, in others and even in myself. But this last trip was extra special. There are so many reasons why it was an amazing trip, yet there was something more that I've struggled to put into words, a giant leap into greater contentment and feeling more alive.

I finally realized heaviness was broken off me in South Africa.

Lev 26:13 ...I broke the bars of your yoke and enabled you to walk with heads held high.

When I arrived in South Africa, I was still carrying around the charred remains of things I knew were dead and gone, but wouldn't leave behind due to pride, perhaps? Feeling the need to continually suffer the consequences, my own version of a scarlet letter? Whatever the reason, by the time I left, the yoke had been broken, and I didn't even know it was happening.

That is, until I felt the lightness of freedom!

Gal 5:1 It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.

Looking back I see God's hand at work, gently lifting the weights off. Being able to share my story without motive and be  validated and accepted the way I was, caused guilt and shame to crumble to ashes. They're gone. There is less need to have people in my life and more enjoying of those that choose to be. Friendship is a fine art and not everyone is an artist. Even my longing for a sense of family feels less acute and is shifting into something new and bigger. A knowing that as a child of God, he will always provide the right family members at the right time. They might not always be the same people, but He is always the same God.

God came to break us free.

Isaiah 9:4 have shattered the yoke that burdens them...

Friday, June 20, 2014

Please God let him be good looking

With my hopes and dreams going through a re-awakening lately. I've also reopened the door to the dreaded idea of dating. But again and again I run into the same wall it seems. And I admit, I'm a little frustrated.

Last weekend I had the strangest conversation with my granny. She has dementia, but there are moments of clarity. I haven't decided yet on which side this falls.

Granny:  You don't have any kids?
Me:  Nope. No kids
G: Well, we all know how you feel about marriage and about kids. It's okay, it's not for everyone. (huh? what are you getting at granny?) But you could adopt. If you wanted to have kids you'd have to get married first.
Me: God hasn't provided anyone for me to marry.
G: Yes, He has (when was this?)
Me: Well then I must have missed it because I've been looking, Granny.
G: Yep, you missed it.
Me: Okay (thanks for the pep talk granny)

I've been "on the market" (who came up with that term anyway?) for what we will call an extended period of time. I haven't gone from one guy to the next. In fact, I've had fewer relationships than some people have had marriages. Perhaps my standards are high, but there are just a few basics I require.

1. A Godly man. Not just someone who says they are but who's actions and life reflect trust in God, knowledge of His word and prayer.

2. The ability to carry-on a conversation. The kind where both people take turns talking and listening. 

3. The ability to write sentences in correct English. This may not be important to many, but as a writer and administrator it is to me. There are enough things in relationships that can be irritating to work through. 

4. That I find him attractive. No one else has to think he is, but I do. Looks aren't the most important thing, and I know that as we get to know people our perception of how they look does change, but when I look at him I shouldn't feel disappointed. Right?

That doesn't seem to be like a lot to ask for. Does it?

Instead I typically find myself in the following scenarios:

An attractive guy, solid christian, very easy to talk to with a lot in common. Looks hopeful?  Nope... he's not interested. (and either was the other cute one, or the other... you get the idea)

Or a guy who looks good on paper, but when questioned deeper doesn't really have the faith he professes. The latest example said he desired to keep sex for marriage, but would agree to whatever his partner wanted. Somehow that doesn't really scream good leadership or conviction for that matter.

And then there is the guy who I enjoy emailing with (he writes well in English - check! carries on a conversation - check! demonstrates genuine faith - check!) but I don't know what he looks like. And so I ask for a photo and then begin to pray.... Please God, let him be attractive. I open the photo and ...

Now what? 

I am left thinking. Am I just shallow? I learned in a college class that people tend to marry those about the same "attractiveness" level. Am I as equally unattractive? I know I'm not the only one who thinks these things, but it doesn't really make me feel any better about it.

 What's a girl to do?

(disclaimer: please take this post in the tongue-and-cheek manner of which it was intended)

Sunday, June 8, 2014

I.D. Please

IDENTITY: Who someone is.

TRUE IDENTITY: What God sees I am.

I attended a conference over the last two days where I was reminded and challenged to live out my true identity. There is an inheritance of promise and provision for who God created me to be. Everything God has for me (he has everything and is for me!) is to make me see past the distortion to the truth. To see and more importantly know my true identity.

ImageChef Word Mosaic -
(present and future identity)
I sat down and asked God to help me come up with 50 characteristics of my identity. The first half came in a gentle rolling wave. Then a couple more. The last 10 came painfully slow. Occasionally, a negative would pop into my head like "selfish" or I would disagree with the word I had thought of, "Humble... yeah humble sounds nice. God wants me to be humble. But if I type that then I'll have to remove honest..." The point is - the negative isn't my identity, but it does point to parts where there is a disharmony between what I see and God sees in me.

As each negative arose, I thought of its opposite and metaphorically set it ahead of me. This is the identity I am headed towards.

Identity is defined as who someone IS... not WAS. I am sooooo glad about that. Somewhere along the way I started believing that certain things had become a permanent part of my identity, like a branding that scarred me for life. Guess what!?! It isn't part of my identity anymore. Instead of looking back and seeing "soiled", God said to look ahead and I saw "pure". Where it once said "fearful", now says "trusting".

So many new features it was time to get a new id card - the old one didn't look anything like me anymore!
I'm still heading towards the finish line, but I know what He's promised and that He will be the provision.

Monday, June 2, 2014

Monday Morning Psalm

Your beauty amazes me.
Your stars shine by the tens of thousands.
You care for all the birds and flowers. 
And yet...
Oh what a joy to my heart!
and yet you care, nay love, 
with a love beyond measure someone like me.
In your presence, I would've crumbled from my shame
but just as I thought it would take me down you removed it
and instead I crumbled with gratitude.
Only you, God.
I worship You and praise You for all your beauty in the heavens 
and your handiwork in my heart.

(written while watching a Monday morning African sunrise) 

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Something to Hold Onto & Something to Run Towards

As my time in South Africa was winding down, I was feeling less wanting to leave. I was afraid of coming home to a sense of “nothing.” I wanted to come home to “something.” Something of meaning to get me out of bed each day; something that builds into others and not just builds into me; something that doesn't feel like the same dreary circle month after month.

Sometimes seasons of nothing are needed. I needed to once again be stripped of everything I depended on to be reminded that only One is always dependable. But, it’s just a season and as our seasons change, so should we. I had gotten comfortable with nothing, when my Father is the God of everything. The wall of my Jericho didn't fall after the first few times around and like the spoiled child I am all too often, I plopped myself down and prided myself on defeat.

I specifically asked God to give me something sustaining to hold onto when I got home.

Later it was prayed over me that I wouldn't try to hold onto anything, but keep my hands open. I admit my heart got a little defensive. “Of course I’ll keep my hands open to you God… as long as you put something in them. I've learned how to let things go that you want to remove haven’t I?”  The problem wasn't in what I was asking, but the reason. The past (in this case what I’d lost) should never be a motive for a present or future blessing.

The following morning my new family prayed again before we said our final goodbyes. The words that stood out were that God would provide something to run towards. This time my heart replied, “Yes! Yes! That is what I am longing for.” I am ready to run (in a similar love/hate way I feel about real running) toward the best things - though the final destination is still being unraveled.  

This past weekend, I spent some time reflecting. There were places in my life I saw tremendous growth; amazed by the person I've become. I also recognized areas that are still a struggle. There were times I stepped out in faith and times I've let fear win. I doubt myself and then turn around and trip over my pride. I thought about old dreams I've buried and I’m finally starting to see new shoots emerging.

Somewhere in there, it hit me…

While the dreams hover on the horizon, God has also given me something to hold onto (with open hands of course) – each day’s gift. Like manna it falls fresh daily. Yesterday’s gift won’t be of any use today. Some days might be as simple as knowing He is for me.    

Whatever the route ahead brings, it will be hard and discouraging at times. I will need my friends and family to push me forward when I want to quit. There will also be times of celebration and great joy (maybe even dancing!) Jericho’s wall is going to fall. Time to claim some new land. 

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Hard Days and Happy Meters

Six of us umlungus (white people) walked into the children’s ward of a state hospital in the afternoon. Four of us entered somewhat hesitantly as we had no framework of experience to know what to be prepared for. The other two, staff of Ten Thousand Homes, didn’t know yet how we would fare. Up the stairs past the drab colored walls that made it look even dirtier than it likely really was and through the door. The hall had the same dingy hue as if the light was somehow being pulled back outside instead of streaming in.

While the nurses and staff went about their work and a few children met my gaze with uncertain eyes, I ghosted my way past each room holding my breath as if my exhale might somehow disrupt the eerie quiet. At the end of the hall, a young girl sat in a chair. With a shy smile and a gentle touch, we found the doorway between our two worlds; no longer suffocated by the lonely ward, but breathing laughter and love. And other curious faces migrated over. 

Before arriving we learned that the hospital was designed to work on a sliding scale, but most of the families can’t afford to pay and therefore most of the patients receive free care. Visiting hours are short and strict, leaving some children alone for the duration of care as the parents are unable to take time off or get to the hospital during the day. In addition to visiting with the kids, it was equally important for us to encourage and appreciate the staff. Thankless jobs are often hard to do well. Since TTH has been visiting and thanking the staff, they have seen an improvement in the care provided.

 It was still emotionally taxing. In each moment, I focused on connecting, touching, loving, and praying over these small ones. The processing came later, and is still working from my heart out onto the page.

I stepped inside a room of boys. An external fixator and badly wounded leg was in juxtaposition of the smiling face looking back at me. He had a bunch of playing cards all over his bed. I remembered I knew the word for ‘king’ and picked up the card and said, “kosi.” A bigger smile. I gathered the cards (only about half a deck) and began to teach them the game of War. When the nurse came in to administer medication, I slipped out of her way. 

 A little thing in a crib, clutching a small stuffed elephant sat expressionless. Nothing engaged her. Nothing changed the indifference on her face. I picked the wounded bird up (it made no difference to her). Her gown, robe and bed were drenched in urine. My own shirt was getting damp, such a small inconvenience. Then a woman stood in the doorway and the little bird’s spirit came to life. Reaching out her arms to the woman, finally a smiling light in her eyes… “Mama!”

Two times burned with scalding water, another baby slept in bandages and charred skin. In yet another room, a young boy slept, body contorted in obvious pain. How does one pray? What words can one use other than a deep groan? In a quiet moment alone standing bed side, a collision of horrific love and beautiful sorrow threatened to overwhelm. I sank to my knees on the holy ground of the hospital floor.

A good party always attracts a crowd. By the time we left, us four umlungus had congregated in one room along with the children that could get out of bed. There was jumping and hand-clapping, Eskimo kisses and chipmunk noises. Best of all squeals of delight and laughter.

A hard day for my heart, but awed by love. Not understanding, yet knowing God is still good. We didn’t change the world that afternoon, but the value of every smile (ours included) is priceless. As we walked out the door, the hall behind us felt brighter with the light of just a bit of joy.

Some days came heavy, but others were lighthearted. Life balances both everywhere.

While I enjoyed our day in Krueger Park, the following day was even better. Brett and Wendy (staff at TTH and now precious friends) took Kevin and me out for the day to some of their favorite spots. The beauty of the relationships was just as spectacular as the views.

The day kicked off officially with breakfast at the infamous Harrie’s for pancakes. These are not your ordinary pancakes. We each ordered a ‘meal’ pancake (mine, sticky pork with peaches and spring onions) and a dessert one (dark chocolate mousse). I’m not sure I’ve ever tasted something so good.  When Kevin asked Wendy what her milk tart custard was, I naturally reached over and took a forkful off her plate for him to taste and smiling at her said, “It’s okay, we’re family.” Then I took another bite for myself.

We had become family, offering our real selves to each other, quirks and all. My heart felt safe, alive and at home. We weren’t a “team” being entertained, we belonged.

God’s Window looked out over a vast expanse all the way to Mozambique, so they say but I couldn’t see the welcome sign. In the rain forest, we pretended to be wild animals we didn’t see in Krueger and we cheered on the people huffing their way up the path. While Kevin and I practiced our bargaining skills to acquire souvenirs, Brett appreciated the classic cars and Wendy… well… A bus load of African woman was having a party in the parking lot. When Y-tjukutja started blasting from the bus, like a moth to a flame Wendy was drawn in. The white woman started busting loose right in their midst. They hooted and hollered, took photos and video, shook and gyrated right beside her. Like I said, a good party always attracts a crowd. Kevin and I watched in amazement and laughed our a**es off. 

We had just enough time to squeeze in one more waterfall. I had just enough time left to free fall over the edge of my own fears. Truth took it's brave dive. I spoke, she listened. The words fell and then disappeared into surrounding moments like ripples. There was nothing to mark the moment as significant, but I believe heaven was applauding for us both. The words continue to humble me, the transparency encourages me and the freedom inspires me.

I used to say that my happy meter was broken; it hardly ever went above 80%. It was hard to truly let go and embrace experiences instead of waiting for disappointment to follow. That has been changing. Headed back towards home as the African sun sank towards the horizon, my joy could not be contained. Surrounded by beauty both in landscape and company, my happy meter hit 100% and busted for good.

God had more. Perhaps 100% was a limit too low for such a great God.

I went to dinner with Kacy (another TTH staffer) anticipating conversation to be about singleness and love of children as our most obvious connection. I spared her my harder questions and simply asked her story. She shared the basics of her life journey like a well-rehearsed script. When asked to reciprocate, for a moment I felt my story wasn’t important enough to tell. My life came out in spits and starts it seemed. Little steps of faith soon became dares to take bigger leaps. Doesn't God know I'm afraid of heights? Dreams once again pressed against the dam of my heart to be loosed. I wasn’t sure I was making any sense, but the walls were down, left open from earlier in the day. Once again my ashes brought something and someone beautiful into my life. A silent barrier dissipated into a knowing that someone else understands. 

Basking in exquisite grace, we arrived back at base and the joy I felt was more than my body seemed able to contain. I think if I had tried, I would have been able to fly…

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Rebuilding Broken Hope

There is so much I could share about my time in South Africa. I am treasuring so many moments in my heart that it’s bursting in overwhelmed amazement and gratitude. In the brilliant words of Kevin, I can honestly say:

I am thankful for blessings disguised as hardships.

Recently my life felt like a desert journey. Day in and day out, trudging through barren wasteland looking for hope on the horizon. When I left for Romania last fall, I was anticipating something great to happen… that God was leading me there for something new. I went and came back, and nothing appeared to have changed. 

HOPE was disappointed and broken.
Photo Credit: Kevin Kollar
But God…

In Romania, I met a South African couple who recommended Ten Thousand Homes (TTH) ministry for Kevin and I to serve with. Are you catching this? God put South Africans in Romania, and sent me to Romania in order to send Kevin and I to South Africa, where God was waiting with eager anticipation to pour out His love on us and through us. 

HOPE was dawning on the horizon.

We had many opportunities to experience what TTH does to lay foundations of hope in the communities surrounding it. After school programs allow the children a chance to just play, get a meal and most importantly to be known and loved. Relationships are built with and between parents and volunteers breaking down the walls of independence and mistrust. 

Building a community of HOPE.

We saw the desert soul first hand when meeting a woman whose dream was for someone else to raise her children. Two of her babies were sick and appeared as if she had just been crying. The youngest, just shy of a year old was the size of 5 month old. After an emotionally hard home visit, with hurting heart Kacy said about her friend, “She’s so broken.” 

Holding onto HOPE for the weary.

I stood on a hillside by a waterfall and let the dry cracked ground of my own heart be watered. I sat across the table as transparency overcame acceptability. Sharing how my broken was being rebuilt, God gave me a front row seat to watch truth bring light to some dark corners in the lives of my beautiful new sisters.

Carrying HOPE to the kingdom.

I am so thankful that we serve a God who loves to rebuild the broken, whether in Mbonsweni or Michigan. Perhaps I am drawn to Africa, because they too are a people on a desert journey. Yet, oases of dreams are being discovered. Love is coming up out of the dry ground.

The beauty of hope is no more vibrant 
than when it blooms in barrenness. 

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Dead and Wasted

These thoughts have been rumbling around in my head for a couple weeks now. Much of it comes from books, music, and conversation all continuing to teach me to ask an important question.


Not, am I being satisfied by what He allows me to have. Not, am I satisfying Him by what I am trying to do for His glory. But... Am I allowing God to satisfy Himself through me? And what does that look like?

This year I joking said I was giving up "trying" for Lent. The joking part was that I gave it up for Lent. I want to give it up forever. I knew what I meant on an emotional and mental level, but I wasn't sure how to quite put it into words for others to understand. It didn't mean I was going to give up trying to be healthy, or trying new things, or even trying to make good decisions. I gave up trying to be what I thought God (and in many ways others too) wanted me to be and instead let God actually DO through me. 

If I don't die, then there cannot be any resurrection life in me. Mostly dead (yay Princess Bride reference!) still means somewhat alive. If I am somewhat alive I only need resuscitation, not resurrection. Why would I want to bring back to life the flesh in me which can only keep trying and failing?

I heard recently of a christian who was feeling convicted in her relationship as they had crossed some lines. She realized that she had been making choices that slowly led her away from keeping her heart and mind centered on Christ. So, she confessed and surrendered her life back to God including the relationship she was in. Shortly after this, the man proposed to her. She was ecstatic as she felt God had returned her relationship to her and made it better because she willingly surrendered it. I'm not saying that isn't true. God is a good Father who loves to bless us, but my own personal experience of surrender has been different. 

At times, I have begged and pleaded for the things my heart desires. The bible says "you have not because you ask not." Well, I've asked. Other times, I've taken things into my own hands. God helps those who help themselves, right? (btw... that option never worked out well). I've gone through the motions of surrendering in hopes that God would then bless me. No such luck. Until finally, I stopped all that trying and really surrendered it all. (I'm sure I'll have to come back to this place again and again, perhaps even before the end of the day). Until He is my single desire, I'm still trying to stay partly alive.      

I can't help but wonder how often we surrender something and the enemy flashes a mirrored reflection of our own desires back into our face and we are deceived into thinking it's God's desire for us? How DO we tell the difference?

Do you know what is universal about dead people? They don't care about what might happen to them.

I want to live like I'm dead, so Christ's death can become my life.

The last chapter of Watchman Nee's book The Normal Christian Life focuses on the story of Mary of Bethany anointing Jesus just prior to his crucifixion. It is here we are taught to ask "Is God being satisfied?" Mary didn't care about the monetary worth of the perfume, she only knew it was the best she had, her earthly treasure and she spent it all on the One who was worthy of it all. The disciples appeared to have watched the scene seeing all the could have "been doing" with the earthly value of the perfume. "Oh... think of all we could have done for the poor. What a waste!" Jesus was more satisfied with Mary's actions then the disciples response. What satisfied God's glory the most in that moment was His Son being prepared for burial through treasure that appeared to be wasted. 

Oh to be wasted for God's glory! 

As these thoughts were coming together, one thing that struck me was that Mary had to break the box in order to get to the perfume. The alabaster box probably wasn't anything special, just the container for the treasure... yet it too became waste in the process. Jesus didn't miraculously unseal the box so Mary could pour out the perfume, although He certainly could have. Nor did he replace the perfume so she would still have something to fall back on if times got hard. He could have done that too. Mary was left empty handed for a time. 

God did fill her empty hands with blessing for her act of surrendered worship. Mark 14:8 says "She poured perfume on my body beforehand to prepare for my burial." (emphasis mine) Mary was one of the women who went to the tomb to anoint the body of Christ. She already had and was the only one who would because He had risen. Who was the first to see the resurrected Christ? She was. She surrendered. She poured out. She was willing to be wasted. She desired to satisfy Him. She was the first to experience the blessing returned for her surrender... Resurrection! 

Our surrender is answered with resurrection not resuscitation. 
My prayer continues to be "I want to live like I'm dead, so Christ's death can become my life."


"You weren't there the night He found me
You did not feel what I felt
When he wrapped his love all around me and
You don't know the cost of the oil
In my alabaster box."
(CeCe Winans Alabaster Box)

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Everyone want to be free, but...

"Everyone wants to be free from their Egypt. But few want to be delivered from their wilderness."

Those Israelities were ready to get away from those Eygptian taskmasters. No one likes being a slave. So much so, they didn't even think or care about what was on the other side of that sea. They would be free!

Fast forward a bit and there they are wandering in the desert; content with life (except when it doesn't go the way they want). God is ready to fulfill his promise and complete their journey of freedom. Except.... well.... wait, maybe we misinterpreted....

"Everyone wanted to give up making bricks, but who wanted to give up free food and water in the wilderness?"

They left Egypt without a care other than getting out. They crossed a sea! God provided again and again. Now... they had doubts about crossing a river, about what was on the other side, and how they might have to provide for themselves.

And here we are, with wisdom and understanding (so we think) looking back and wondering how those ungrateful, clueless Israelities didn't get it. How could they not trust? Yet, we too often flee our Egypt and then make permanent camp in the wilderness.

"The problem is that you left what you openly hated and despised when you went out of Egypt, but now you must leave what you secretly love, what you secretly crave, in order to enter the Promised Land... We all want to be free from drugs, but who wants to be free from gossip or lying or lust or envy? We all want to have our lives changed, but not so far as to give up anger or bitterness or revenge."

Maybe you are like me and read that and deny it... for a minute before it sinks in that you too have been stuck in the wilderness. The beauty of grace is that I can pack up my tent and cross the river right now. It doesn't matter how long I've been in the wilderness, hanging on to the things I thought were comfortable.

"Everyone wants to be free from their Egypt. But few want to be delivered from their wilderness."

I want to be one of the few.

The excerpts from this post were taken from the book Romancing the Divine by Don Nori. Reading this book feels like looking into the eyes of God and really seeing His love. Check it out here.