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Growth Journey Life Missionary Life

“Give her grace.”

October 4, 2017

Today was supposed to be a rest day.

With a busy week, today was going to be my day to rest and relax and recharge. Ever was working with a friend today and I was going to have the day to myself to read a book, bake a pumpkin roll (yes, I even picked out a recipe!) and to work on a personal passion project (more to come on that ;)). But today did not go as planned.

Last night I got in an argument with Ever and I let my anger carry over to today and then when he didn’t say what I wanted to hear this morning, I kinda sunk into self-pity. I stayed in bed and let Gilmore Girls drown out my thoughts. As if that weren’t enough to make for a crappy day, I opened Facebook. That alone should let you know how the day went from there. I saw a post that felt like a slap in the face. I know the intentions of this person was not to hurt me nor did they realize it would but gosh, it did.

It felt like I was being told that the work of this year didn’t count. That it had no value.

And y’all, that hurt.

More than that, it made me want to throw in the towel. To say, ENOUGH! I’M DONE!!

My anger with Ever quickly disappeared as it was replaced with anger for someone else. I called him. I vented. He spoke calmly and we considered what we should do. As I hung up the phone, I was still hot with anger so I texted my mom.

“Do I have the right to email this person and let them know how they’ve hurt me??”

She said to let it go. I wasn’t satisfied. I let her know that I expected this from other people but not from this individual. And my mom said something simple but totally profound.

“Give her grace.”

That kinda took the steam out of my angry little engine. So I decided to go for a walk to clear my mind. As I walked, I talked with God. I told Him how of all people I didn’t expect this from her. She’s someone I’ve always had a great amount of respect for and looked up to.

I told Him how sometimes I just wanted to gather those I love close to me and shut the door on the world so it couldn’t hurt us anymore. Or God forbid, that it be me hurting someone else in the world (which unfortunately is a given.)

I told Him how I hurt and how I couldn’t understand how someone couldn’t see how their actions and their Facebook post could be hurtful to me. Don’t they see!

I see. I hear you. God said in that still quiet voice.

I told Him how tired I was of this…

Of feeling like we take two steps forward and three steps back in ministry.

Of hearing the comments from other missionaries who should feel like a team but instead feel more like they’re just trying to break us.

Of being completely confused by when those same people refuse to even communicate with us.

Of giving grace.

I thought back over my mom’s simple text…”Give her grace.”

And then the truth of it rang out, BUT I DON’T WANT TO!!!!!

As soon as I thought that, another thought quickly followed. But what if Jesus had said that on the cross. What if He had said “BUT I DON’T WANT TO!”? Where would I be right now? I don’t know.

But I do know I wouldn’t be here. I wouldn’t be forgiven. I wouldn’t be loved. I wouldn’t be strengthened. I wouldn’t be picked up when I fall down. I wouldn’t be held close in the Father’s arms when I realize how ugly my sin is.

Years ago, I remember going to a Sunday School class taught by former missionaries to future missionaries. One Sunday, Kelby Carter, former missionary to Peru, started the class and said, “I know we were supposed to talk about this but the Lord has laid on my heart to talk about grace.” So many times over the years, I have thought back to that specific class. The message Kelby shared that day has served me well. He shared with those of us, sitting in that class eagerly awaiting to hear more of what it would be like to be a missionary, a lesson that without it, I truly believe I would have thrown in the towel a very long time ago. Kelby told us that on the mission field, the people who will disappoint you the most won’t be the people you are trying to lead to Christ; it will be your fellow missionaries and partners in ministry and you will have to learn how to give grace. Oh how I wish his words weren’t true but they are.

Over the years, my heart has felt like a punching bag more times than I care to admit. Fellow missionaries have hurt me deeply. It’s one of the reasons I’m not fond of referring to myself by that word. I talk with others and find out my story is not too unusual and that the missionary world is quite often a dog-eat-dog world. And I’m sure you’ve experienced it too.

Maybe it wasn’t a missionary but maybe it was your pastor who let you down. Maybe it was the woman who led you to Christ. Maybe it was your small group leader. Or maybe just a Christian friend who you never in a million years thought would have hurt you so deeply.

Take some advice from my mom and “give them grace.”

Because maybe not today, maybe not even tomorrow but next week, you’ll–I’ll be the one in need of grace. So even if your heart and soul is crying out “BUT I DON’T WANT TO” and maybe you have every right to say that but grace is not something we deserve. It is something given freely. So give it. Give grace.

And then remember.

Remember how God has given us grace. Remember the woman who sends you links to blogs to encourage you as you battle homesickness and who makes the effort to come see you when it’s been years since you last saw each other. That’s God’s sweet grace.

Remember the person you send a text to asking about some urgently needed medical supplies for someone in the community who immediately jumps into action and says don’t worry about the cost, she’s got it. That’s God’s grace.

Remember the friends who check in on you just because. Just because they love you and want to encourage your heart in the journey. The friends who give and pray and encourage. That’s God’s grace.

And remember the mama that challenges you. Who doesn’t just say you what you want to hear but what you need to hear. That’s God’s grace.

He gives us His grace every day. Freely. Beautifully. Let us learn how to give it to others.

Grace: the free and unmerited favor of God, as manifested in the salvation of sinners and the bestowal of blessings.

 

Okay, now I’m off to make that pumpkin roll! 🙂

Growth Life Women

Pretty purple flowers.

September 27, 2017


I’ve wanted to write for some time. But honestly there’s so much swirling around in my mind, I don’t know where to start.

Do I share how returning to Honduras was unexpectedly harder than I was thinking it would be after my extended trip to the US?

Or do I tell you about this book I’m reading that’s making me realize how desperately I need to put down the never ending to-do lists?

Or do I recount how one of the teenagers in our youth group startled me by hugging me like a mama?

Or do I try to explain how I’ve been stressing (okay, worrying) about the direction of SoloHope?

But yesterday, I took some time to FaceTime with my friend, Ashley Stephen, who is so often so full of wisdom and insight. For so long I felt like Ashley and I did a season of life together. I remember sitting down with Ashley in the Atlanta Bread Company in January of 2014 and sharing my heart and vision with her about SoloHope. I knew what I saw in my mind but I struggled to communicate it but this girl caught the vision immediately and truly helped me grow SoloHope visually but in so many other ways as well. But it was more than that, it was a time of offering each other friendship in a really hard season of transition where neither one of us were sure of “home.”

As we’ve both transitioned to different seasons, we have begun to realize life never gets easier.

Well how’s that for an uplifting thought?!

But it’s true. I have friends who are single longing for a husband but it seems that pray has gone unanswered. Friends who are married longing for children but instead facing infertility. Friends who never in a million years thought they would be divorced but now that’s where they find themselves. Friends who have facing chronic illnesses, job losses, broken families, adoption challenges, strained marriages, lost homes, aging parents, unfulfilled dreams, and so much more.

And it’s hard.

Some seasons are definitely harder than others but ultimately every single season of our lives offer challenges.

Challenges that can force us to grow. Challenges that can cause us to be more intentional with life. Because life is a gift even in the “hard.”

A few months ago, I was standing by the road waiting for a bus. My mind was so full and stressed and burdened. It just felt heavy.  As I glanced behind me, I saw this mass of vines, tangled and just a mess and that’s exactly how my mind felt. But then it was as if the Lord beckoned me to look closer and what I saw was these pretty purple flowers peaking through. And I knew God was showing me something special. He was showing me the beauty.


Beauty exists even in the “hard,” friends.

Beauty exists in the midst of the trials and pain. Sometimes the beauty is harder to see. Sometimes you have to consciously look for it but it’s there. Those pretty purple flowers are there. You just have to look for them.

There’ll be those seasons where it’s so hard to find them and it will take much more intention but they’re there. The pretty purple flowers are there. The beauty is there because life is there.

So often I let my mind become so oppressed by the vines that’s all I can see. But that’s not all I want to see.

On the days I get in a fight with my husband, I want to see the pretty purple flowers.

On the days when I get my feelings hurt by another person in ministry, I want to see the pretty purple flowers.

On the days my heart feels like it has broken into a million pieces due to disappointment, I want to see the pretty purple flowers.

On the days I am stressed and things are not going like I planned, I want to see the pretty purple flowers.

I want to see the beauty that God put here for us.

I want to pay attention to that beauty like God did when He created a simple but so detailed blade of grass. I want to see that beauty in a passing smile or even a curious look as I walk down the street.

I want to see your beauty, Lord, in all your creation.

I want to see it as I watch the ladies’ hands craft intricate baskets and jewelry. As they laugh together. And even as they cry together. I want to see it when Brenan is jumping on bed with pure childlike exuberance and even when she’s knocking on the bathroom door when I just hoped for a moment’s quiet. I want to see it in muddy roads and rainy skies. I want to remember to see the beauty when my husband worries about me riding the bus alone. I want to embrace it when he gives me an extra long hug.

The pretty purple flowers are there. Beauty is there.

Lord, help us–help me to remember to look for it and embrace it each and every day. On the good days and on the hard days. Let me see your beauty.

 

“Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?”  Matthew 6:26-27

 

Growth Journey Life Marriage

Loving broken.

September 1, 2017

A couple weeks ago, I was chopping veggies to cook supper while I was chatting with Ever. As we talked, one thing led to another then to another until we finally ended up in a conversation I didn’t at all expect. As Ever opened up and shared something from his past, I was shocked at what I was hearing. I was hurt he had not told me before. And I was broken. I started crying and it wasn’t from the onions. He had no idea by revealing this part of his story that it would affect me so and break me deep down.

I was crying.

I was upset.

I was without words.

And Ever had no idea what to say. He walked to the bedroom. I pulled out my phone and found Tamela Mann’s song “Take Me to the King” and just blasted it while tears poured down my face. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw Ever pull the front door closed. In the moments I had with just me and God, I prayed. I asked God “why?” And I prayed. And I cried some more.

The words from the song seemed to express exactly how my broken heart felt.

Take me to the king
I don’t have much to bring
My heart is torn in pieces
It’s my offering
Take me to the king

As I prayed and listened and cried, I sat down at the table and found a letter from my husband…

“I’m sorry, truly. I never meant to hurt you. I hope you can forgive me…”

My decision to forgive had already been made but I was still broken. But as I read his words, I saw his brokenness as well. It was in that moment the Lord began to speak to my broken heart.

Will you love broken? You know the good, the bad, the ugly. Will you love broken? Because loving broken is the truest love. It’s saying even though you’ve failed, even though you have screwed up BIG, even though this hurts like hell, I will love you. Will you love broken?

I did.

My heart was shattered to pieces as I hung on that cross. I knew, truly KNEW every sin. The weight of it. The hell of it. The betrayal of it. My heart was crushed, broken as I watched my friends turn away, as I saw all those who would reject my gift, but I chose love. I chose to love broken.

And when you shouted in my face you hated me. I was broken at your words. Every time you turn away from me and think you know best, I am broken. But daughter, I love you broken.

Will you?

My husband and I come from as different pasts as night and day. I grew up in a Christian family and came to Jesus at a very young age. He did not and for years walked in the world. Our sins may look different in human eyes but let me tell you, they all nailed Jesus to the cross. They all broke Him. And He still chose to love broken.

Will you?

It’s no accident that as I prepared to write this blog, I received a message from a family member and again I was broken. I cried (still no onions involved.) I asked God “why?” And again the Lord asked “Will you love broken?” My temptation is to say NO!! But I want to grow in His love. And to do that it calls for loving broken. Because that is true love. Unconditional love. That’s loving like Jesus and y’all, I want to love like Jesus even if that means being broken over and over again so I can learn to chose a love bigger than myself. His love.

Will you love broken?

Will you chose to love broken when your husband leaves you shaken to the core? Or when your wife betrays you? When your children hurl the “I hate you’s” in your face? When your friends in ministry fall miserably into sin? When your dad never said he was proud of you? Will you choose to love broken when you feel your heart can’t be broken into any tinier pieces?

It’s not easy. But you know loving broken does something incredibly unexpected.

Loving broken restores.

Since Ever and I had that really hard conversation, I have seen the Lord to take us to another level of love and trust. Isn’t that just like God? To use the very thing that has broken us to restore us. Y’all, none of us are perfect. None of us have it all together. None are righteous on our own.

We need to experience the love of the Father God to restore us. He loved us broken until the point of death. Oh how broken He was, but still He chose to love. And by Him loving broken, He has restored us.

Now we have a choice. Will we love like Jesus did? A love that cost everything.

Will we love broken?

Growth Journey Life Missionary Life

Disillusionment.

August 22, 2017

If I had one word to describe this year, it would be “disillusionment.” It’s been like being handed a cup of steaming wonderful smelling coffee only to take a great big sip and find out it has no sugar! (To you weird people who like sugar-free coffee, just forget the analogy.)

But it’s true. I have no other word to describe this year but disillusionment. The truth is I thought I knew but I have realized I really didn’t know at all. And it seems to apply to almost everything in my life…

Marriage

Honduras

Ministry

Friends

Culture

Okay, like I said, basically everything.

But if I had to tell you what I’ve been most disillusioned by would be pieces of the culture in Honduras. Now listen, I’ve been coming to Honduras since I was 16. I’ve lived here at different times and honestly considered myself more immersed in the culture than most expats. (If you’d like to call that arrogance, go ahead…there’s probably some truth to it.) But I’ve realized something since marrying my muchacho. Before when I would come to Honduras as a single woman, I had the luxury of drawing lines in how far I would go with the culture. If there was something I didn’t wish to do or even God-forbid, didn’t wish see, I had the luxury, yes the luxury of turning back, of saying no. But now the culture lives in the house with me and there is no running from it. Now there’s only learning from it.

And let me tell you, there’s a lot to learn.

This country has many intricate problems. Where one may easily stand on the outside looking and say “Why don’t they change this or that?”, standing in it, you began to see such black and white solutions are really not available. Oh how we wish there were but the simple truth is there is not. There’s “un monton” (a load) of superstitions and strange beliefs and witchcraft. There’s drugs and violence and gangs. And really in my completely simple (and quite possibly, wrong) opinion, I believe these two things impact the country like nothing else. Honestly it has surprised me how much so…

B.E. (Before Ever) when I would come to Honduras, I lived in a bubble. Oh yes, I heard people talk about the drug problem. I heard of people going to visit brujos (witch doctors). But I never NEVER realized the impact.

Now I realize how normal and totally accepted it is for someone who is sick to go visit a witch doctor. No one thinks a thing about it. It is culturally accepted, even if you are Catholic and often times, even if you are an Evangelical Christian.

Just this last week, a young lady who we had been praying for and was showing much improvement was taken to a witch doctor by her parents. They paid top dollar–money that they did not have but found (or borrowed) to visit this “really good witch/healer.” Afterwards, this young lady quickly began to go downhill. She died Monday and all I can say is how much I absolutely HATE the devil and his evil schemes. The parents of this sweet girl thought they were doing the best for her. They were desperate.

The word says “My people perish for a lack of knowledge…” 

I felt like saw those words come to life this past week and it truly saddens my heart. Oh how I long for this family to know Jesus. To know His freedom. To know they don’t have to pay for His gift of salvation.

But it’s not just this family. It’s families all over Honduras, rich and poor alike. They visit these witches in hopes to cure a terminal illness or to fight a curse from another witch or to bless their home or business or to create a special potion for love. And friends, it’s big business. These witch doctors make bank.

This darkness covers the land and it brings great sadness to my heart but I am having to remind myself…

          “This battle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers              of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.”  Ephesians 6:12

Every day I see how much more real this spiritual battle is than I ever thought.

And that’s just the witchcraft. That doesn’t even touch the drug problem.

Oh yes, I knew there was a drug problem here in Honduras. How can you not? But I had no idea how it impacts each and every person in Honduras. No one is exempt. I have come to believe based on conversations I have each and every day that every person in Honduras knows at least one person killed in this drug war. Yes, I called it a war and that’s exactly what it is.

There are barrios in the larger cities that if you don’t know someone there, you don’t dare step foot for fear of losing your life. The drug lords or as they are referred to here the “narcos” run this country. They are in the government, the police, the businesses, the neighborhoods, the prisons, even your pretty little “housewives” parties.

I could not understand why so many Hondurans walked with such fear but then I began to have my eyes opened. And now, I understand.

You hear stories of 8-year olds picking up arms and joining gangs–babies, y’all, joining this crazy war. Business owners are forced to pay “war taxes” to the gangs so they can continue their businesses. Oh and if you don’t or if you try to stand up to them, it’s almost guaranteed that they will be reporting your death on the evening news. Drugs are trafficked through Honduras and moved onto the next country to reach its final destination. Anybody want to take any guesses where that final destination may be? If you guessed the US, you’re absolutely correct.

And again it breaks my heart. That the people of my home country are trying so desperately to fill the empty spaces in their hearts with anything but what it truly craves (Jesus) and in return are causing not just hundreds of deaths but thousands.

Y’all, do you realize that if the war in this country that is stealing the lives of so many young men and women would essentially be over if the United States stopped consuming drugs? Yeah, I know, not likely but all the more reason to pray to God for Him to bring revival to the people of the US too. The sin of the US is killing those in other countries too. It doesn’t just hurt the person using. Don’t allow yourself to believe that lie. And if you’re using, don’t buy the lie that your habit only affects you. Mentira! (Lie!)

You may be reading this and think “Wow, thanks, Emilee, for this super uplifting blog post…”

And all I can say is “Awww…you get it! You get exactly how I’ve felt for the last eight months since saying yes to God to make Honduras my home. You get it!” You get the depressed days. The confused days. The sad days. The days I just want to get on a plane and go cry to my mommy.

Now I hope you’ll get this too.

Yeah, I’ve been disillusioned. I’ve lived in a fairy tale land where things were bad but you know, over there, not near me. I lived in my safe little world ignoring all that was around me. Ignoring the cries for help. Ignoring the cries for prayer.

Friends, why would I sit down and write a blog about all this negativity? Well, the answer is simple.

I need you.

I need you to pray. I may be foolish but I believe things can change. You know why? Because I believe in the transforming power of Jesus Christ.

Listen, economic development can make some changes but it can’t transform. Education can make some changes but it can’t transform. Rehabilitation can make some changes but it can’t transform. Government can make some changes but it can’t transform.

The only one who can transform lives and thus a country is Jesus Christ.

Yes, Jesus!

So I need you to pray. Pray for Honduras. Pray for the Christians of this country that they will stand for Christ culture and not just intertwine Jesus with the cultural norms. Pray for men to stand up and say I will stand for Jesus and all that means. Pray for freedom from sin. Pray for the USA. Pray for men and women to repent and turn back to Jesus. Pray for freedom from drug addiction. Pray for revival to steal across the nation and for the drug trade to dry up with it. (I know, but we can pray BIG, y’all!)

Pray, my friends, pray. Stop playing games with Jesus. Get serious. Let others see Him in you. Who the heck cares if they ever know your name?! Let Him transform your life so you can show others that He can transform theirs too.

Sometimes we have to be disillusioned so we can see fully the desperate need for Jesus.

And that is exactly what my disillusionment has done for me.

 

Growth Journey Life Missionary Life

Everything.

August 10, 2017


A farm house.

That had always been my dream house. You know, Joanna Gaines style. A dreamy farm house with an enormous front porch. That was the dream.

When I got married and moved to Honduras, I did so because I knew that’s what God was saying to do. But I also did so thinking that one day we would return to the States to live in my pretty farm house.

But I’ve been thinking a lot about Ruth lately… I’ve been thinking a lot about “everything.”

The realization of giving everything had already started to hit. And then I read a blog by Kristen Welch who I swear reads my journal. She is currently writing a new book. She said in her blog, she was telling someone about the topic of this new book. Once she took a breath, they responded with “Oh so it’s a book about giving back.” And she said, “No, it’s a book about giving everything.”

And that’s where Ruth comes back into the picture.

Ruth gave everything.

She left everything she knew to go to a place where she had nothing. Her whining mother-in-law even insisted that she turn back. Insisted that she not give up so much. That she not give up EVERYTHING.

But with a determination that could be nothing less than God-given, she said,

“Wherever you go I will go,

and where you stay I will stay.

Your people will be my people

and your God my God.”

Ruth gave EVERYTHING.

And I know too that God is also calling me to give everything as well.

But it’s not easy. To lay down your dreams. Your plans. Your decorating ideas. It’s a steep sacrifice. One that ultimately to serve Christ is required but how it hurts.

For me, it’s realizing that my farm house may never happen. I may have to settle for the Spanish-style adobe house instead. For me, it’s realizing that home may never again be the US. It may always be this place called Honduras. For me, it’s realizing that most of my conversations will be in Spanish for the rest of my life. Even though my heart speaks English. For me, it’s realizing I won’t even share the same skin color with my babies and that I’ll always have to field the question, “Is he/she yours?”

In February, a wise woman told me to mourn the loss of those dreams so I could pick up the new ones. This path truly wasn’t what I expected. I had told God, “never.” Hilarious, right?

But am I willing?

Are you willing?

To give EVERYTHING.

To sacrifice EVERYTHING.

To give up your dreams for His plans. To lay down your will to pick up His. To love so deeply you’ll go wherever He says go and stay wherever He says stay.

Are you willing?

To make every sacrifice necessary so His name may be known knowing that yours may never be. To give until hurts. To lay aside pride to give forgiveness. To delay that new car or phone to sow more into kingdom work. To open your home to a child knowing your heart may very easily be broken when his social worker comes. To remember hope in the midst of fear.

We live in this world where we’re told we can have it all. But that’s a lie. And the Christian version of that worldly belief now tells us we can serve Christ without having to sacrifice. But it’s a lie. We can have it all and have nothing at all or we can give everything and have the All in All.

Just being super real for minute, I have fought hard this year. Not to give everything, but to hold onto it. I have clung to old dreams and missed out on seeing the beauty of the new ones the Lord was laying before me. But it’s been exhausting. It’s been tiring and frustrating. And I can honestly say I don’t want to hold onto everything anymore. I want to give Him everything so that He can be my EVERYTHING.

Will you join me in giving everything?