Wednesday, January 25, 2012

From my Heart

     "God, thank you so much that I am not married right now?"

      Wait a second.... did I just say that?

      I have debated sharing this with you, because when talking about marriage and singleness, there is always controversy. How do I, as a single woman, share my heart without seeming desperate or too independent? How do I share my heart when I am terrified of pity or sympathy?

      To be honest, I am not sure. But this is my heart.... so here it goes.

      Growing up, I had it all planned out. In my perfect world, I would have been engaged by now.... picking out colors, altering my dress, planning the perfect day. I thought I would meet someone in college and get married shortly after. And why not? It happened for my parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, and many friends... so why not me?

      Time past through college.

      Sophomore year.... ok, there's still time.

      Junior year.... he's got to be here somewhere.

      Senior year..... Maybe?

      I really struggled with this during my senior year. At first, I talked to God like a spoiled three year old, stamping my foot and screaming, "I deserve this". And then, that attitude shifted to one of self doubt. "Of course no one would want me", and then I would list my flaws. Self doubt then transformed itself into pride. "Well, she's married and has to take car of her husband. I on the other hand am free to do whatever God wants me to do".

      None of those attitudes really served me well.

      Ever so gently, He spoke to my heart, captivating me as He always does.

      "Do you trust me?"

       Hmmm... do I trust You? Funny God because You and I have had some serious trust issues over the past few years.

       "But haven't I always proved myself faithful?"


        "And have You ever been abandoned?"

         Well, no....

         "Do you believe I am enough?"

          Ouch. There in lies the kicker. Do I really believe He is enough? Because if I believe that God is who He claims to be, then yes, I believe He is enough. My belief should then result in action... trust.

          But God, You know I want this. Didn't You give me this desire? What am I supposed to do?

          "Beloved, I have something better for you. Something different, and something so beautiful. You want this, and it's good because I created marriage, but let me give You my heart for something else."

           Gently, slowly, I released this dream to Him. In exchange, He gave me this gift... His heart for the hurting.

            Today, I thanked Him because His ways are higher than mine, and His dreams are greater. Because my response to the heart He gave me... moving to the Philippines and living at Gentle Hands... could not have happened if I was married. There is just no way.

            I am where He wants me to be. I know that with all my heart, and I have never felt more alive, more settled. I would not trade this for the world.

            Maybe you are like me, desiring something that has yet to be fulfilled.

            Let me assure you... you are ok, and you are not crazy.

            And let me ask you this: Do you believe Jesus is enough? His love, His grace, His joy... is it enough for you? Because if it is, then trust. Just let go, give Him those dreams, and trust. It may not be that easy for you. It certainly was not for me, but I can promise You, He will exchange your dreams for something beyond belief. He may soon fulfill those desires. You may find yourself like me, waiting. And that's ok.

             Let me also assure you that just because those dreams have been surrendered, that does not mean they are gone for good. The desire still surfaces. It is still very real, very present.

              One thing I have found that helps me is to find what I am grateful for in this moment and focus on the gifts God has given me in the present. I read His Word and record His promises, His character. And I rest.

               So today, I am grateful for red gatorade, cheddar cheese cheetos, Manila sunsets, and snuggling with my little ones while watching The Little Mermaid. I am grateful for praying family, mint flavored lemonade, and the sparkle in their eyes when we talk about ballet class.

               And today, I am grateful that for now, it's just me. Me and Him. 

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

The Delightfully Sweet

     She didn't like me last summer. Really, she only liked one or two people, so I wasn't too offended. But I wondered if I was there, deep in the back of her mind.

      The first day she arrived, the summer of 2010, I walked up and down the hallway with her for three hours, trying to get her to quiet and fall asleep. She threw up blood and other things, her little body filled with tb... a disease I really, really hate. I went to sleep every night wondering if she would be alive the next morning, and by the grace of God, she was.

     She is so big now, with dark curls and those same big eyes. But now, she smiles at me.

     Her little personality has come to life. I sat on her bed today, tickling her and kissing her cheeks, listening to her delightful little giggle... the sweet I have been praying to hear.

     "Who's my girl?" I would ask her.

      "Me!" She replied.

      And we cuddle more, my little girl kissing my cheeks now.

      God really is good. Even when the day is filled with chaos, and I am pretty sure my head is about to explode, He gives me these moments... reminders that He is here. He performs the miracles.

       This is how He romances my heart, filling my life with these beautiful moments of joy, moments I have waiting for.

        And He is sweet... and so are her little kisses. 

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Fighting Together

Sometimes I think God delights in the ironic.

I couldn't help but think this today was we paced back and forth at the hospital, holding hands and waiting once again to see another doctor. It had been a long day, beginning with the loud screams of the little boy who did NOT want to go anywhere with me.

I wonder if i am in there, deep in the back of his mind. I fell in love with this little boy when he was 9 months old, sleeping in my arms on the way to his new home at Gentle Hands. I have carried him in my heart ever since.

My mind kept wandering back to that day as I watched him, his eyes filling with tears when confronted by new situations and new environments. Oh, my sweet boy, I understand those tears. I understand that fear.

Fear has been my constant companion these past 22 years. We are close friends. Clowns, darkness, new situations, moments when I need to express myself, certain animals, and even certain people.... and my dear friend fear comes back with a cold, cold hug.

But, by the grace of God, fear is slipping away. Because I am learning that His perfect love casts away fear. I am learning to dwell on his promises, to fight the lies of fear with His truth.

Recently, I found myself in a terrifying situation... one that left me very shaken. Had I dwelt on my fear, I would have fallen apart. But I couldn't. Instead, I opened my Bible to Psalms 1 and began to read, listing promises of God and facts about his character. As I did that, my mind began to fill with truth, and the fear had no place to stay.

Fight fear with truth.

I say that God is ironic because the girl who is terrified of everything is now teaching the little boy to overcome his fears. I held him in my arms, singing the words of Jesus and praying over him, memorizing his perfect features once again.

For this dear little one, there will be many more days where fear will appear. Tomorrow, we have tests. Soon, surgery. And one day, this little boy will be released from my arms and what is familiar into the arms of a new family.

But until then, we will fight our fears together, hand in hand, with the help of a very big God. 

Sunday, January 15, 2012

You See Me

El-Roi... the God Who Sees Me

Sometimes I feel like Hagar, wondering in a desert. Broken. Alone. Afraid.

We don't talk about her a lot in church... we don't mention her name very often or the name she gives God. Her background maybe? The fact that, in our minds, she isn't a very important part of the story.

But to Him, she had value.

This woman who was used and then unwanted was found by the Lord, wandering through the desert and about to die when He brings her water. And when she doubts His presence, when she doubts His grace, His mercy, His love... He is there.

Water in the desert.

In the past week, He has sent me water, life.

... In the encouraging email of a friend in India.
... In the words of wisdom from Sean.
... In a picture from Alice.
... In a Skype date with my sister just when I needed her the most.

He send water, reminding me that I am not alone, that He who calls is faithful, that He is true, and He did not bring me this far to abandon me know.

I can trust Him. I will trust Him. I will declare His goodness and sing His praises until my heart can finally believe with everything I have.

Gratitude... that place when you recognize the gift and grace of God in this present moment; the joy and fellowship of being intimately connected with a God who knows, loves, and gives us a taste and a hunger for more.

More of You, Jesus, please. More grace. More words. More hope. More truth. More life. More water.

He sees me. 

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Cambodia is Magic

     Before I left, the phrase had been running through my mind every time I thought about this country.

     Cambodia is magic.

     I wasn't quite sure what that meant, and to be honest, I still am not sure.... but I have been given a taste. It's a culture trying to preserve itself while also trying to move forward. Amidst beautiful architecture and beautiful smiles are the painful strongholds of a religion that cannot save and a past that has yet to heal.

      But there is beauty here.... there is promise.

      "God, will you write your name on his heart?"

      It's hard to pray for everyone. It's hard to really know how to pray or be specific, so as we passed people while driving down the street, I would look. Sometimes their gaze would meet mine, sometimes not.   But I whispered those words on their behalf.

      And then I began to wonder where in the world I got that phrase. I've never prayed that before.

      So I asked Him, and this was my response:

      "'This is the covenant I will make... after that time', declares the Lord, 'I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts. I will be their God and they will be my people... they will know me from the least of them to the greatest', declares the Lord. 'for I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sin no more.'"
                                                                                       Jeremiah 31:33-34

       To be honest, I had asked Him that question earlier in the day and then forgot about it. During my quiet time that night, He led me here. I read this verse and was blown away. It was one of those moments when I just stop and think, "Really God?"

       It still blows me away to think about it as I write this. I wanted to share this with you so you may know and understand that God is here. Even when things look impossible and it seems like these people will never get better, He is here.

      Oh, He is here.

      Remember Cambodia, that the Lord will continue to write his name on their hearts and move with His Spirit.

      In a few minutes, our tuk-tuk driver will be here to take me to the airport, and tonight, I will be in the Philippines. I don't know what to expect, and honestly, my heart has been filled with fear throughout this week at the unknown.

       But I believe, and I will rest in His promises. And I will remember the faithfulness he has already shown me up to this point. I will remember His perfect love, and that love will cast out my fear. 

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Little Friends

     We had just been talking about being in a place where we feel God's pleasure. I've always believed that meant being in the center of His will, and I believe it does. I've often equated it to that feeling a parent has when your child does something right or obeys a command.

     But maybe, just maybe, it's more than that.

      We drove up after an afternoon running errands and enjoying Phnom Phen, and there they were.... four little Cambodian children, three girls and a boy, playing with the Collier children in the front yard. They came with their father who was doing yard work.

      For the most part, the Cambodian children I have seen have been well dressed in school uniforms, with hair brushed and shoes on their feet. Not these little ones.

      Their smiles.... maybe I am a sucker for smiles. Maybe it's because we can communicate through smiles. They were unsure of us, laughing and playing but keeping their distance, unsure of our skin and clothes.

       I ran inside to get Mrs. Betty's teacakes, little sugar cookies from home, and with those cookies, I made  four new friends.

       Smiles and cookies... bridging language barriers :)

       We play tag and throw a ball. Swing them in the air, and soon, we can high five. Soon, we can hold hands.

       In the back yard is a broken down swing set and slide. Rusty, barely holding itself together, but we play. I'm wearing a nice shirt and their dirt rubs off on me.... but I could care less. I feel almost desperate. I am desperate to hold them, wash their feet, kiss their cheeks. I am desperate to love them, know them, proclaim truth over them. I want them to know I think they're beautiful, worthy of love.

       And I can't help but think that's what Jesus wants from me.... to take my rags away, wash the dirt from my face, heal my cuts and scrapes, love me. He is desperate for it. He craves it.

       Each child has a red string tied around wrists. Buddhist symbols to keep away evil spirits. We pray over them, that the God who is greater than any evil spirit will demolish strongholds and write His name on their hearts. Pray with me.

       Swinging and laughing with them, I feel His pleasure. Not just that He is pleased with me, but He is here.... laughing and delighting in this moment. This moment where one broken human being meets another. This moment when skin and language don't matter. This moment when I would give anything to take their dirt as my own. He is here.

      He delights with us. His pleasure comes by rejoicing with us. He laughs with us. Emmanuel... God with us... breathing, playing, living in this moment.

      Sun sets, and my new little friends leave. We blow kisses and I give them little hugs... their arms stiff, unsure how to receive it, but they giggle regardless. I am unsure of their names, but He knows them. Their faces imprinted on my heart now.... written on His long ago.

      I don't know where they are, what their lives are like, if they are safe now. But he does, and I thank Him for that, grateful for just an hour, I am able to be a part of their stories. 

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Light in a Dark Field

I went to the Killing Fields today.

I wish there was a more poetic way to say that. I wish that I didn't feel like such a tourist, exploiting a very broken past. I wish there was a better way to understand a culture without having to see it first.

People have questioned me, wondering how I can go to such dark places. Really, it's the grace of God, and a gift I believe that comes from Him. When I am walking through somewhere like a slum, red light district, or like today, a genocide memorial, I shut down emotionally. I go numb, and I feel nothing. Maybe it's a survival mechanism, but it keeps me focused on the present. It also keeps me from falling apart.

Then, I file away whatever I have just witnessed for later processing. This is my first attempt at processing.

Cambodia is a dark place. You can't go more than a few blocks without seeing a Buddhist temple. Nearly every house has a small monument in the front for burning incense and prayer. It's known for poverty and trafficking. It's known for a corrupt government. Not even outside of the city limits is a field where 9,000 men, women, and children were killed for now apparent reason except for the fact that someone else said they were unfit to live.

3 million total. Names never recovered. Stories never told. Families never reunited. Brutal. Senseless.

Where were we? Why did we do nothing?

Where was the Church?

Cambodia is a place with a gaping wound. Those responsible still have yet to be prosecuted and brought to justice. The leader of it all was able to die at the ripe old age of 82. There is no closure.

But it is also a place of light. The light of Jesus is breaking through. Even if I can't see it yet, I believe it... because I know that He has not given up on Cambodia.

One day, this place known for killing fields and genocide will become a place of peace and joy. Forgiveness, healing, restoration. The King of heaven is writing His name on their hearts. He is sending His Spirit.

And where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.

I believe this with all my heart.

As I stared at shelves lined with unidentified skulls, I heard Him saying, "In me there is no darkness at all".

Praying for his light. 

Monday, January 9, 2012

Four Year Old Lessons

I could learn a few lessons from her...

She eats her strawberry ice cream slowly, savoring each bite. She licks her lips, rescuing every taste that seemed to miss her mouth the first time. Life, for this four year old girl, is just like strawberry ice cream.

When did I stop thinking life was dessert?

In her mind, every day is a grand occasion. It should be greeted with a princess costume, lip gloss, and a ballerina bear.

Snack time is a tea party where everyone is treated as a special guest.

Naps are short because we have to make sure all little girls become fairies and the boys become princes, and there is simply no time to lose.

A ride in a tuk-tuk is an occasion for singing.

Why walk when you can dance from place to place?

She makes friends wherever she goes with a beautifully innocent trust.

Why am I always so suspicious?

Her world is filled with pink and purple. It's a world where her big brother is her prince, she knows she is always safe, and her great big God delights in her.

In her eyes, life is magic.

I tend to rush.... running to my next destination, staring at my clock. Always in a hurry, always anxious, trying very hard to be perfect.... and missing it.

Every day is a gift. Every breath a second chance. I am so busy asking God for grace for the next moment, the past moment, never really enjoying the grace of this present moment. I miss the beauty. I miss the joy. I miss Him.

May my heart always be like hers, resting in the beauty of where I am. Grateful for the chance to just be here.

Life is magic. May I always see it. 

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Alive in this moment

Once in a while, I have one of these moments....

We rode today on a tuk-tuk (took-took) through Phnom Phen to find a place for lunch. Past the open shops selling bicycles, rugs, haircuts, etc., past hundreds of drivers on motorcycles, past several Buddhist temples and little monks in orange robes.

I don't know how to explain it. Maybe I am secretly Southeast Asian. Maybe I'm just a girl who's been awakened to a secret, giggling with delight at new surroundings.

Their smiles... once in a while, I catch them looking at me, wondering why I'm here. And I smile, and realizing they've been discovered, they smile back. In that moment, it doesn't matter what skin color, background, language barrier we have. They see me, and I see them.

With every smile, the feeling grows stronger. the excitement, the wonder, the sheer joy at the place I am right now.

It's that moment when I just sit back and say, "Really God? Wow". A moment of gratitude and disbelief. A moment where all fear is erased, all worry, all anxiety about the unknown and the unexpected. Instead, there is only joy.

Welcome to Cambodia. 

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Running Forward

I think I am ready for this....

I mean, I've waiting for this, praying for this most of my life. My bags are packed (praying they meet the weight limit). I have said good byes. But I know the hardest good byes will come tomorrow.

I'm not very good at good byes.

I say I will be gone for two years. Really, I have no idea because I don't know what God will be asking of me. I know that I will be in Cambodia for a week. I know I will be at Gentle Hands in Manila, Philippines after that. I know that my master's in social work program is a two year program. Beyond that, I have no idea. And if I dwell on the unknown for too long, I will panic.

Elisabeth Elliot once said that when she was courting her husband, Jim Elliot, she wrote letters, but she was always careful never to write about feelings or emotions. Rather, she wrote about what she knew.

I know that God is faithful. I know that He who calls is faithful to lead.

I know that He never lets go.

I know that He is strong.

I know that He is loving.

I know that the same God who spoke my world into being, who breathed and scattered stars into the sky is the God I serve.

I know that I can trust Him with my heart.

Everything inside of me desperately wants to give in to fear. Fear of the unknown, fear of airplanes, fear of flying, fear of being homesick.

But I can't.

Because I believe in a God who died to give me victory over fear. I believe in a God who is freedom. His Spirit dwells in me, surrounds me, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.

So here I am, stepping into the unknown, following an incredibly big God, running after His heart.

Here it goes...

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Raindrops on Roses and Whiskers on Kittens

Here are a few of my favorite things in 2011:

     *Deitrich Bonhoeffer:Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy by Eric Mataxes
           This guy is incredible. Bonhoeffer lived in Germany during World War II, and was a well respected pastor. He was eventually murdered for his involvement in a plot to assassinate Hitler. It's a long book, but definately a must read.
      *Hinds' Feet on High Places by Hannah Hurnard
            I feel like this book is one of those hidden classics. It's the beautiful story of Much Afraid, on her journey to follow the Shepherd from the lowlands to the high places. Through difficult experiences, she eventually reaches her destination and is given a new name... Grace and Glory.
      *The Great Divorce by C.S. Lewis
            Kind of like Hinds' Feet, The Great Divorce is an allegory about the Christian Life, except this one is more about heaven then life in general.
       *The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
            Technically, this is a series and not just one book. It is also pretty epic, and I am slightly excited about the movie coming out soon.
        *One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp
             I read a lot of book... rarely has one ever changed my life like this one. Voskamp walks the reader through her own journey of anxiety and the restoration God has done in her life by teaching her to give thanks. Gratitude changes everything, and gratitude always preceeds the miracle. Not everyone can really dive into her writing style, but you feel as through you are in her mind, reading her thoughts. I love it.

          *The Civil Wars
          * Florence + the Machine
          *Mumford and Sons

           *Sherlock Holmes:Game of Shadows
           *The Help

            *Black skinny jeans
            *A purple boyfriend cardigan
            *A charm bracelet from Angelica
            *Toms shoes
            *My flipping awesome Indian sari