Monday, May 30, 2011


     "You can only offer someone freedom in Jesus Christ if you are being continually set free yourself..."

     It seems like freedom has been the theme of the day today. Kind of appropriate considering today was Memorial Day, which I had completely forgotten until I got on Facebook. I began my time with Jesus this morning by reading in Galatians. In this book, Paul is consistently reminding the people of Galatia that because of Jesus Christ, we are no longer bound as slaves to the law. Instead, we have freedom as children and heirs to eternity. Then today in devotions, Beth spoke the words quoted above as she read from Psalm 125 and spoke from her heart.  
     The more I am immersed in this culture, the better I understand just what that means to be called heirs and no longer slaves. In India, your father's name means everything. You cannot get a ration card (which is like the government saying "Hey you exist"). You have no standing. On a side note, we have been told when people ask why we are in India to say "My father gave me permission". This shows that we respect our parents and that our father's have authority over our lives. Your identity is in your father.
      As a result of God claiming us as heirs and no longer as slaves, he gives us an indentity and no longer are we slaves. I am no longer a slave to my flesh. I am no longer a slave to the law that exposed my sin and filth. Rather, I am set free by Jesus Christ who came to take the punishment my sins deserved.
     Yet, like a caged bird who has been set free, I forget about that freedom. I run back to the things I was bound to... fear, lust, anger, pride, expectations... and I forget that I can walk in newness and hope. Not only can I walk... I can fly.
      Today we watched a documentary called "Born into Brothels", filmed in a red light district of Calcutta. The movie follows an American woman as she teaches several children how to take pictures and tries to help them get an education. I highly recommend the movie because it gives an insight into life inside the brothels, but at the same time, it must be watched with caution. The film does nothing to disguise the reality these children face, and therefore, is not a family movie. Also, the documentary won an Academy Award, but there was a huge backlash because it exposed the lives of men and women who did not want to be exposed. As a result, ministry inside the red light district was closed for a while. Dear friends, no photograph, film, or story, regardless of the good that might come from it for a few, is ever worth compromising a chance to share the Gospel. Even as I share with you, I must be extremely careful that I not exploit those I am working with for the sake of a good story.

     However, while watching the film today, I learned that one of the girls, a girl who believed she had no hope for a future, has since accepted Jesus and is working to help other women from the red light district. This girl was not allowed to go to school, and it seemed as if she was destined to sell her body for the rest of her life. Yet, she has found hope. In contrast, another little girl in the movie had a chance at an education and a way out. Unfortunately, she is now one of the most popular and well known prostituted women in Calcutta.
      Two girls... one has found freedom, and the other is still enslaved. It is easy to be overwhlemed when surrounded by constant poverty and oppression. It is also easy to think that I have nothing to offer these people. I can't give them an education. I cannot offer medicine. All I have to offer is Jesus. But He reminded me today that is all I need. One girl had a chance at an education, something we are so guilty of placing trust in, and it did nothing for her. The other girl had no chance at hope, and she had since found real and lasting life.
        The only freedom that will last is freedom in Jesus. While I may not necessarily be in physical chains, I am in spiritual ones... enslaved to the guilt of my past, fears of the present, and worries over the future. It is only though the redemptive power of Jesus Christ that came to bind the brokenhearted and set the captives free that I can truly have life as his child.
        It is only when we have experienced freedom that we can offer that freedom to others... and whoever Jesus sets free is free indeed.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Two Scoops

Brown feet, caked with brown mud... so unsure across the white tile. You looked at me through the window, motioned with your hands pressed to your mouth. What do you want sweet girl? Money? Food?

So many questions enter my mind... Where are your parents? Where are your shoes? Who is that man with his arm around you? Is he friendly? Does he love you? Are you safe?

I can't give you money, but I can give you ice cream. Come inside. Yes, inside... with me. You walked with me to the counter... and in less than five seconds had your ice cream picked. Have you tasted this before? Were you just desperate to get out? Have you been staring at the window looking and imagining its flavor? Eight years old. Beautiful smile. So small. What did they say to you as they gave you the treat? Did they tease you? Were you embarrassed? I wanted to fight for you, but I couldn't. Maybe my presence was enough.

You walked outside... your friend? Yes, she can come in too. Nine years old. Same unsure brown feet. Same beautiful smile.

"Thank you auntie".

And then you left, taking a small piece of my heart with you. Who is going to hold you tonight? Did that make you feel better? Are you safe? Why are you on the street? Who loves you? I want to....

I wish I knew your language. I wish I knew your story. But for ten minutes, your life was intersected with mine. I walked away changed. Did you walk away better? Did your ache go away? Even for a little bit? When will the world become so harsh that your smile is gone?

Jesus, give her what I can't. Please.

Why is it the dirtiest children are always the most beautiful?

Friday, May 27, 2011

Foreign to Familiar

     I need to buy a clock. My phone, which has served as my watch, is utterly useless in India. As a result, I have no concept of time, and for someone like me who finds solace in a schedule, this is annoying. For example, jetlag makes you do weird things... like wake up at 4 am starving. Every morning, a man comes and knocks on the door at 7 am to collect laundry. This morning, I woke at 5:30 am to the sounds of the Muslim call to prayer... kind of haunting yet beautiful at the same time.
     After a few minutes I fell back asleep, but I woke up again when I heard a knock on my door. Not wanting to get out of bed, I yelled "No thank you" to the person I thought was the laundry man. He knocked again, to which I responded "No!" with greater force. And then the man said something to me about my karma being closed because I refused to bring my laundry. I fell back asleep, not thinking much about it, but then woke up a few minutes later, had my time with Jesus, and then got ready for the day. Strange thing is, the laundry man came a little while later. I'm guessing that I dreamed the whole scenario about some random guy thinking laundry affects my karma... Geesh.
      Jet lag is almost over though... I am believing that in the name of Jesus. The past two days have been spent in orientation. Beth, Janelle, and Emily have done an awesome job of showing us around, introducing us to coconut water and other delicacies, as well as teaching us about Indian culture.
     We also went shopping yesterday for our new wardrobes called a salwar kameez... I'm not sure if that's spelled correctly. Anyways, these outfits consists of pants, a long shirt, and a scarf. I have to say that I think American women have been getting it all wrong. These clothes are so bright and colorful with beadwork, embroidery, and intricate designs. Compared to Indian clothes, our clothes look pretty boring. Indian women are also just georgeous. It's not just a personal choice, but absolutely necessary that we wear these clothes, especially when we go to see the women we will be working with. We have to do our best to fit in, adapt to their customs, and earn their trust. Every little thing we can do will move us closer to building relationships.
     We have also had the awesome privilege of attending a youth conference at our church for the past two nights. It has been so cool to worship God with my Indian brothers and sisters, and I have been challenged by their insight and commitment to Christ. Our pastor tonight was a man from Singapore who spoke about the women with the bleeding disease who was healed by touching the hem of Jesus's cloak. I had never notcied this before, but when Jesus speaks to her, he calls her "Daughter".
     You see, in Jesus's time, a woman such as she would have been cast out from society due to her condition. She was no longer known by her name but rather as "unclean". When Jesus speaks to her, he doesn't just use her name but uses the word "daughter". In a culture where you are defined by your relationships, this is huge. Jesus is claiming her as his own... this woman no one else had wanted for the past twelve years. Jesus establishes this intimate relationship with her and declares it before everyone. In claiming her, Jesus is taking responsibility for her, protecting her, showing everyone else that she has value.
      This is what Jesus does for us... he claims us. To him we have value and he claims responsibility for us. These women who have been exploited and broken deserve to know they have value. The man begging outside my gate deserves to know he has value. The person God is bringing to your mind right now deserves to know he or she has value.
     That being said, I need to explain to you there are things I will not be able to share with you... pictures, stories, names, faces. I have to be extremely careful. In an effort to preserve the dignity of a man or woman I am working with, I will have to be vague and will not be able to give details. I will explain more in coming posts, but let this serve as a pre-apology if you read a post that is less than satisfying.
     I am excited though to share with you everything I can in the hopes God is glorified. I just have to exercise extreme discernment.

**The man giving the sermon tonight was a hilarious speaker from a church in Singapore. He had several people act out the scene of the woman, Jesus, and his disciples. He played the woman, and as he was narrating to the audience, he demonstrated how this woman could sneak up on Jesus because she was a ninja. Definately didn't know that had ninjas back in Jesus's time... I guess you learn something new every day :)

Is it Weird...

Is it weird that I walk beside goats tied to a crosswalk?

Is it weird that I can eat with my hands?

Is it weird that I am drinking water out of a coconut in a bazaar?

Is it weird that there is a gecko in my shower and I don't even flinch?

Is it weird that I must walk with focus, yet must carefully avoid eye contact with men?

Is it weird that I walk beside an idol on my way to church?

Is it weird that I must take extreme care to be modest while men bathe on the street?

Is it weird that I am awoken by the Muslim call to prayer?

Is it weird that there are leftovers in my fridge, air conditioning in my room, and hot water in my shower... yet just outside the gate a little girl is sleeping on a sidewalk with her family?

Is it weird that every decision I make will reflect the group and not just myself?

Is it weird that I feel overwhelmed?

Is it weird that I must rearrange my focus, my thoughts, my opinions, my rules of personal space, my concept of ministry, my Western perspective in order to move an inch closer to the person beside me?

Is it weird? Or am I perhaps discovering a new normal... or really, what has been normal for the rest of the world. Maybe I have been wrong this entire time. Maybe, instead of dying to myself, I am really discovering life. I am learning what normal really is... not comfort and convenience but rather justice and survival. Maybe in giving up my Western perspective, I am opening my mind to the people I am growing to love and in the process, learning more about the God who created them. Maybe I am learning how to be a part of a family, rather than an individual. Maybe... but for now, it's still weird.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011


After flying and traveling for about 48ish hours, I can finally breathe in the hazy Calcutta air. First impressions of India? It's hot! But other than that, I am really excited. Due to the craziness and chaos leading up to this trip (graduation/my best friend's wedding), it was hard to mentally focus on this adventure. I think in the back of my mind, I knew I was going to India, but the reality had not yet sunk in. Even in my jet lag induced state, I am not quite sure if it has fully sunk in yet, but nevertheless, I am here.
My flights were relatively easy and comfortable... and there was very little turbulence, so praise God for that. For anyone flying overseas, I recommend Continental airlines. As far as 14 hour flights go, it wasn't too shabby.

I flew Monday morning from Jacksonville to Chicago and then Newark, where I met the two other girls on my team. Chelsea is from Missouri, and Carolina is from Florida (another UF graduate). From Newark, we flew to Dehli where we stayed overnight with a wonderful American woman named Gina. I was able to get a few solid hours of sleep in while at her apartment, so that was a blessing and gave me the energy needed to make it through one more flight.

Our last air excursion took us from Delhi to our final destination... Calcutta. We were met by three Americans who are in charge of us-- Emily, Janelle, and Beth. From the airport, we made our way to the Baptist Guest House where we will be staying (which is a block away from Mother Theresa's place--heck yes!) and then on to lunch and coffee.

Beth, Janelle, and Emily are absolutely wonderful. They began sharing their ideas with us about this summer and what all they have planned. I know my glazed over expression doesn't really convey the depths of my excitement, but I really can't wait to see what all God has in store.

My goal tonight is to make it to 6pm, and then sleep... and possibly take a Benadryl so I will stay asleep (and maybe knock out any possible allergies I could have developed). Tomorrow morning we have orientation, shop for Indian clothes (!), and will be  going to a youth conference.
Things I have learned so far...
*The red dot on an Indian woman's forehead is for decoration, and there are distinctions between married and unmarried women.
*Cows like to run in the middle of the road... I'm assuming they think it's fun... kind of like a "Hey, welcome to Calcutta. I am the sacred cow and I own this road" message to the new people. Really they do because cows are so revered that if you hit one, you're in big trouble.
*Indians are quite friendly and will quickly return a smile and hello.
Things to pray for...
*Unity among myself and my teammates.
*The ability to quickly defeat jet lag so we can be effective in ministry
*Wisdom and discernment from the Holy Spirit

On the plane on the way from Delhi to Calcutta, I sat beside this sweet little Indian woman who was obviously Hindu and spoke little English. Given my obvious lack of ability to communicate with her, I smiled and tried to help her as much as I could. But then I realized something... the one thing I truly have to offer her ... the Gospel... I couldn't. It broke my heart, and as I began to pray for her, it struck me. My mind likes to wander into all kinds of insane scenarios, but then it just hit me... what was I willing to do/go through so she could hear the Gospel? My mind instantly flashed to the plane crashing and all of these things happening and I began to wonder "Am I truly willing to do anything for her to know Jesus?" Chances are, she has never heard his name. Yet, do I really believe that the Gospel is important enough that I am willing to risk-- even give up-- everything. Fortunately, my plane did not crash, but still as I prayed for her, all I could do was pray that God would shape my heart. I am a very weak person. I like comfort. I like safety. Yet, when will Jesus truly matter more than anything else?

I am praying for a changed heart... to stand before my God and be humbled by His power and grace. I am praying for divine appointments. I am praying for that woman. God please, somehow, let her know...

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Ready or Not, Here I come?

 I can't really believe this day is finally here. In approximately 11 hours, I will board a plane from Jacksonville to Chicago, and thus begin a journey that will end in India. It's still very surreal, and I am not sure that I will even fully realize I am on my way to India until my final landing.
  I have to first and foremost just give God all the praise and glory because I have raised the full amount of support needed for this trip. Anyone who has ever had to raise support knows that this is the most nerve wracking process of any journey. And God, who is faithful to supply everything for what he calls us to do, has completely satisfied this need. Thank you so much to everyone who was willing to give! God has definately used this to bless me and prepare my heart for this trip.
  Also, I have the best family in the world. I have been prayed over five times today by members of my church and family. You honestly have no idea just how valuable your prayers are to me and how much God uses those prayers as a source of comfort and protection. He is so good.
   The next time I write, I will be in India. I can't wait to share what God is doing with each one of you! Believing in a big God....

Ask a simple question... Get an honest answer

   I have a confession to make:
Telling people about going overseas makes me nervous. I would almost rather slip away quietly and then slip back in without anyone knowing I've been away. Why? Because I feel as though I am not very good at explaining things. I can give you the basics of where I will be going, flight details, who I am going with, but often I cannot tell you more. Most of the time, those are the only details I know myself. For example, while I am in India, I will have orientation for a couple of days, and there are three different locations we will be working with (a vocational school, daycare, and Home of Hope for rescued girls)... but I don't have a clue as to my specific tasks.

It never fails... I will be asked one of the following questions while preparing for traveling overseas... which I will now attempt to answer for you now, and these questions make me nervous because I am not sure how to completely share my heart without offending:

*Are you afraid/What are your fears?

Let me let you in on a little secret: Yes. To be honest, one of my biggest struggles in life is fear. In preparing for this trip, I have had to fight the urge to panic and give in to those fears. I would be lying if I told you that I am not afraid. I am afraid of planes. I am afraid of something happening to loved ones while I am away. I am afraid of something happening to me. I am afraid of clowns (not sure how relavent this fear is, but you never know).

I am also afraid of making mistakes, of allowing my own selfishness to take over and missing out on a chance to minister to someone. I am afraid of getting in the way and not being effective. And more than anything, I hate being the foreigner.

I'm also afraid of you. Not that anyone reading this is big and scary, but I am afraid of your reactions. When I write, I am able to express my heart in a way that I cannot do with words. For an intensely private person who hates being vulnerable, this is a painful process. I could just give you small bites of what is going on, but that would be doing you a disservice. If I do not share my heart, then I am not being completely honest. That honesty may offend people, and it may lead to rejection (scary things for a people pleaser). I am also afraid that you just won't get it, and after I write this intensely personal response, you will close your computers and think "That was nice", rather than reflecting on the power of God. But I can't control those reactions. I can't do anything beyond sharing what God has done in my life, and I have to leave the rest to Him. Just please be merciful in your responses and remember that ministry does not equal perfection. I am very human.

*Are you excited?
I love the Geico commercials that always ask such deep and thought provoking questions such as "Does Elmer Fudd have a speech impediment?". If you have ever asked me this question and I have smiled at you while responding, 9 times out of 10 I am fighting the urge to respond with a question such as this.
 That being said, yes I am very excited. I am excited to finally be going to a country I have been dreaming of for 13 years. I am excited to meet new people, try new foods, wear Indian clothing, and be asked a million times "Like Michael Jordan?" after I say my name. I am ready to be stretched, broken, humbled, and to have my mind completely blown.
   I am unsure of what to expect in so many ways. Will the food make me sick? Will they like me? Will they have shoes big enough for my feet? For that reason, I am taking this one day at a time. My emotions are not to the level that I am bouncing around all over the place. Rather, they are resting in quiet expectation. I hope this changes... but it might be a good thing, so we'll see.
*Why go overseas? Aren't there people in America who need Jesus?
This question deserves a post all on its own, which I will do at some point. But for now... He called. God said go and tell them. And I said yes. I don't dream of a life in America. I dream of the Philippines/Cambodia/India/Somalia. Have you ever done something and your heart and soul felt like they were set on fire because you were doing what you were created for? I have. I have seen Jesus in the face of the woman with tuberculosis, the drug addict's bloodshot eyes, and the baby girl with sores on her head. I have been given the gift of eternal life through Jesus Christ. He said to share this with the world... and so I am.

** As a side note....
I would just like to briefly mention a few questions that, although the person asking might mean well, are not helpful to a person preparing to go overseas or the parents of this person:

*Isn't it dangerous?
Yes it is. So is driving a car. Once again, I could let fear control my life, or I could trust God and follow His heart. I am not naiive enough to think there is no danger whatsoever. I watch Law and Order. But it is more dangerous to be disobedient to God than anything man could ever do to me. And besides, my God is bigger.
*You're letting her go over there?
This is an interesting question/statement. My parents have made the amazing sacrifice of trusting God with me. They know God has called me, and they know they cannot tell me to disobey God. I have so many friends whose parents are unsupportive or say no, and my parents have the willingness to say yes. Please do not give them statistics, tell them the latest news reports, or give them weird looks. Just give them hugs and pray with them.
*You're not going to come back with some foreign boy are you?
First of all, the phrasing of that question is just awkward. Second, I am trusting God with every aspect of my life. If the man He has planned for me happens to be in India/Slovenia/Antartica, then so be it. But it's just a weird question, and my purpose in going overseas is not to find a husband.
*You know you're going to be eaten by cannibals don't you?
I presonally have never met a cannibal, but if I ever do, I will be sure to tell them about you. Just kidding...

Those are just a few questions I have been asked. I have friends who have been told their marriage will fail because they are going to be missionaries. I have also had friends who were told they were dillusional, they would never make a difference, and God really can't be asking them to go overseas... Oh, and they would die.

I love questions, and I love advice. But if your questions are not going to build someone up and encourage them in their walk with God, then please leave them unasked. Often times, we limit what God can do in our lives because we let our questions become bigger than our God, or we take our answers to others rather than to the One who has the answers.

I hope this post has not been offensive to anyone, but once again, I am sharing my heart with you. Feel free to ask anything, and I will do my best to respond in a non Geico-like manner :)

Friday, May 20, 2011

Let Me Explain... Part 2

    My decision to follow Jesus was the important decision of my life, but it wasn't very dramatic. I have always been slightly jealous of those who would come speak at church and tell stories about how they were freed from drug addiction, gambling, abuse, the mob, etc. I have fallen into the trap of so many others, believing that because my story does not include a dramatic climax, it is not worth telling. But by believing this, I am diminishing the power of God's grace in my life. I am robbing Jesus of the glory He deserves. I firmly believe that God allows us to go through circumstances because our stories will be able to help others. Maybe you are like me... the good kid who has everything together by all appearances. You may not even feel as though you are missing anything because life has always been easy. Yet, for all of your successes and awards, at the end of the day, you are just a living corpse. If our hearts have not been submitted to the very One they were created for, than we are really no better than dead men. Jesus died for every story. He rose again for the happy ending that leads to eternity.
      I would love to tell you that following Jesus made me an even better kid, and that I never made another mistake ever again. Although Jesus did take away the punishment my mistakes deserved, I am still a very flawed human being, and I am still very much a people pleaser. Middle school and high school were difficult years for me. I was often picked on towards the end of elementary school, and the wounds from those experiences left some pretty deep scars. I made the conscious decision that middle school and high school would be different. I would be liked, have lots of friends, and hopefully be popular.
     My quest for acceptance led me to develop Chronic Over Achiever Syndrom, a disease that caused me to be involved in every club, and run for every office possible in order to be the best/ have the most friends/ make everyone proud of me. Unfortunately, my formula for perfection and approval didn't work. Of course, my parents and family members were proud of my successes in and outside of the classroom. I had friends, and I was a role model for those younger than me. On the outside, life looked pretty darn phenomenal.  But inside, I wasn't at peace.
      After my high school graduation, I went to communitity college for two years to earn my A.A. It was during this time that my wall of prefection came crashing down around me. From an early age, I had my life planned: After high school, I would go to Chipola (community college), then to the University of Florida, followed by medical school to become an OBGYN. I would get married right out of college or after med school, have kids, and somehow manage to be a soccer mom and have a thriving medical career. Beginning my freshman year, I had everything lined up: the classes, extracurriculars, boyfriend, etc. I had everything planned out.
     Unfortunately, my cleverly constructed fortress turned out to be a castle of sand. Class work was more difficult than I anticipated, and so when my grades were not as stellar as I was used to, I panicked. People I believed I could count on let me down, and my relationship with my boyfriend ended. My sophomore year of college consisted of a desperate attempt to salvage my sad little sandcastle, and I will be the first to tell you I was nothing less than a jerk who hurt a lot of people in the process.
      My spiritual life at this point could best be described as a yo-yo diet. After I amde the decision to follow Jesus, not a lot changed. I didn't have to go to rehab or escape from a gang. Life went on as normal. I read my Bible, went to youth group and youth camp, prayed on occasion, and even went on mission trips. In my heart, I sincerely longed to follow God and be used by Him, but I couldn't figure out how to translate the passion I felt at camp or in church to the rest of my life. I would go through binges of reading the Bible and praying consistently, and then when I decided I had my fill, I would lay off for a while. The main reason why I fell apart at the end of my freshman year was because I was filling my life with the things of this world that I though would satisfy my soul: popularity, friends, possessions, grades, relationships, etc.
      But guess what? In the end, I had it all, but I didn't have peace. My decision to follow Jesus was not being followed up by actions. I had simply looked in his direction rather than turned compeltely and begun taking steps after Him. I had given up on Him, but my dear sweet Jesus, He had not given up on me. My heart was restless and unsettled because He was stirring me, calling me to come closer.
     The summer before my junior year, God brought me to the Philippines and compeltely wrecked my life (but in a good way, and I promise you there will be many more stories in the future). I would love to give you more details, but I can't give away every good story now... so please be patient. My prespective on life was transformed, and, needless to say, I was forever changed. My junior and senior years of college were spent at the University of Florida where I majored in English. During this time, God compeletly fulfilled my desire for friends who would love me unconditionally and accept me for who I was. I didn't have to fight my way in... they just loved me. He also provided a way for me to be discipled by two amazing women, and as a result, I was able to pour into others as well. By far I would have to say the greatest lesson I learned at UF was how to be a disciple of Jesus and not just a convert.
     I am still very far from perfect, and that is ok. I don't have a set plan for the next phase of my life... but that too is ok. My story is one of grace. I am neither the heroine nor the star. I am simply  loved by a God who saw my imperfections, flaws, and disgusting pride and wanted me anyways. He is the hero, and without Him, I would still just be a corpse.
     We all have a story... and the theme of my story is not about me. It's about Him.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Let Me Explain... Part 1

     I feel like I should explain myself... and by explain myself, I should tell you my story. if you're going to read anything I write, then you should know who I am. One thing I have learned to appreciate while in college is the importance of someone's story. We all have them, and too often I have found myself caught up in the heat of a discussion or casting judgments far too quickly without first pausing to discover just why someone holds that particular opinion. We are shaped by our circumstances and rarely ever do our ideals just spring out of thin air.
But enough rambling. This is my story:

     I was born to two of the most wonderful human beings on the planet. Some people genuinely believe their parents are good people. Fact: Mine are saints. My childhood was as pretty close to perfect as you can get. I took ballet classes, played dress up, and with three younger sisters and lots of cousins, I never found myself with a shortage of playmates. I was a princess, adored by the king and queen of my home (mom and dad) as well as my loyal subjects (dogs, cats, stuffed animals). Life was a fairytale in which my sisters and I fought to slay dragons, rescue our people from invaders, and planned our future careers as pop stars.
     Yes, childhood was good, and I have nothing I can blame my mother for one day. But that is not my complete story. As I said before, I was born into a family of saints. In fact, I was born on a Wednesday, and I was in church the following Sunday. A people pleaser at heart, I have always been a good kid with this strong urge to make sure everyone is proud of me. As a result, I was always in children's choir, the very best at Bible drills, knew every Sunday School answer, and can even remember most of the VBS theme songs from the past 15 years. I knew everything about God and the Bible. And from an early age, I was very good at having everyone fooled into thinking I had life figured out.
     But I was very wrong. Something was missing. I was ten years old when I allowed God to break into my heart. You see, it wasn't enough for me to be a good person, or to have this massive wealth of Biblical knowledge. I have to know Him.  It's like my relationship with my favorite basketball player, Joakim Noah. I could tell you all of his stats, or where he played in high school, or his point total in last Monday's game. But I have never met him personally, and if I were to see him today, he would not recognize me as anything more than just another body in a room.
      You see, I have to know him personally.The only way I could ever meet Joakim Noah is if someone introduces me to him. I am not important enough that he would ever see me upon my request. In the same way, I need to be introduced to God in order to have a relationship with Him. There is nothing I could ever do on my own to be good enough to be with Him on my own.
      And that's where Jesus comes in. In order for me to have a relationship with the God of the universe, He came to earth in the form of a man, lived a perfect life, died a horrible death on a cross, and then defeated death by resurrecting from the dead three days later. He is my mediator. Yet more than that... I learned that I do not follow a God who is unjust or unloving, but a God who sees my flaws and loves me anyways. Not only does He love me... He wants me, and He cares about the details. He sees me.
      I have never been the same since I made the decision to allow God to be my Savior and to surrender my life to Him... trusting His will over mine. He has made all the difference.

And So it Begins...

     I love looking through old pictures and scrapbooks. Every photograph holds a memory... some bring joy while others bring pain. For me, pictures often give those "What was I thinking?' moments as I look at hair that needed a straightener and makeup that needed to be a little darker so I could resemble a human being and not a pale ghost. It's a weird feeling when I look at myself in pictures. Sometimes I am proud of the girl who looks so happy at this point in time. I remember the excitement, the feelings of joy, the moments that brought the laughter captured in the frame. Yet, sometimes I feel sorry for that girl... the girl who lived in fear and wanted so desperately to be liked by those around her.  I wish I could go back and hug her, tell her not to try so hard, and to pay attention to the people in the background as much as the people in the pose. More importantly, I would whisper in her ear that it's all going to get better... in fact, it's everything she dreamed of and so much more. 
      This afternoon, I was going through old pictures in an attempt to clean and organize, and I discovered a picture I had drawn when I was eight years old of several girls in Indian saris, and one was telling the others God loves them. While it's not the most beautifully drawn picture in the world (although my saris were quite lovely), it perfectly captures my heart.
     I was eight years old when I first heard that there are 2 billion people in the world who have never heard of Jesus Christ. For a good little church girl attending a Christian camp at the time, this posed as a serious problem. I remember a missionary coming to my school and telling a story about a huge flood that had occurred where he was serving. He was excited when he shared that no Christians had been killed out of the thousands who died, and I couldn't understand why he was so happy. Didn't it mean all of those who died didn't have Jesus? I would watch missions videos at church and inwardly be screaming "Someone needs to tell them!"  Very gently, God began whispering to my heart "Why don't you?". And thus, the dream began. 
     At eight years old, I came home from camp and informed my mom that I was going to be a missionary, and I was going to India. Since then, my heart has been waiting anxiously as God has been leading me throughout the world and preparing my heart for what He has in store. He first sent me to Honduras, then Peru, and for the past two summers, the Philippines... a country that has captured my heart and refused to let go. This summer (actually in one week), God has given me the amazing privilege to travel to the place I have only dreamed about until this point... India. And yes, I am beyond excited. 
     I have been debating creating this blog for a long time. Is anyone even going to read this? I guess if anything, Mom will have some great entertainment. I will always write better than I speak, and I want you to travel with me through this amazing journey that God has created. I will not always include every detail, because some dreams are being held securely by God until the time is right for them to be revealed. I will also change names to protect privacy when the situation calls for it. But, you can always be assured that I will be honest. I will speak from my convictions, and hopefully with grace and tact. My prayer is not that you will read these words and think "Oh, what a wonderful little life she leads". Rather, my prayer is that you will read these words and be inspired to follow Jesus in whatever journey He has for you. It will not be easy, but I promise you dear friends, it will always be worth it.