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growth

Growth Journey Missionary Life

Resting in Home

November 15, 2017

As I write this post, I sit in the middle of a food court surrounded by people who look slightly different than I do all speaking a language that is not my native tongue. But today I don’t feel like a fish out of water but rather someone who is at home.

Most days I am the only pale face in the group. Sometimes I get lots of stares especially in places I’ve never been. It can be a little unnerving. But it can also be hilarious.

Sunday night, as we sat around a table eating fish for our Christmas dinner with the artisans, I realized how at home I felt.

Do you know how beautiful of a feeling that is?

It may be one of the most wonderful feelings in the world—belonging. Knowing right here in this moment right where you are is where you belong. I’ve struggled so long with that. I’m sure I’ll struggle with it again in the future but today I’m resting in this peace of coming home.

Resting in the peace that home looks different for us all. Resting in the fact that for some of us, our moment is in the car pool line. Others in the office. Others in Honduras. But God uses each of our moments. Nothing is lost on Him.

Because there’s a mom in that car pool line that needs to know Jesus and you are the person to share Him, not the person in Honduras. There’s a client on the phone who needs prayer and you are the person to pray, not the mom. There’s a brother who needs a ride to the hospital over mountainous roads and you are the person to give that ride, not the person in the office. Our moments are beautiful. They are each needed and perfect.

They are where we belong because ultimately if we are seeking Him in genuine, we are in the center of His will. We are home.

In a few short hours, we’ll board a plane to the USA where we’ll be for the holidays. It will be a good time. A sweet time with family. But already in my heart of hearts, I know I’ll be ready to come home by the end of it, maybe before.

Because this, Honduras, is home now.

The truth is I’m not sure I would have dreamt this life for myself but our Father knows so much better than we do.

His thoughts are higher than our thoughts, His ways are higher than our own.

Some days we curl up in a ball crying for home but sometimes when morning comes we realize, we’re already there.

We’re already home.

Journey Missionary Life

Invited.

October 10, 2017

Roni is the guard of our “gated community.”

Now being a guard entails making the rounds a few times a day on foot, carrying a gun (or a machete) and of course, his most important job, lifting the gate. Yep–up, down, up, down, making life easier for us lazy car drivers.

We’ve gotten to be friends with Roni. He’s a hard worker. He loves his family. And he loves Jesus.

Last week, when we got back from church, we invited him to come join us for supper. It’s become somewhat of a normal thing for us now to invite Roni over to eat when we’re home for a meal and it’s his shift but last Sunday was different.

It was different because Roni shared something with us that left my mouth on the floor.


As we all talked over some yummy barbecue chicken, he told us that we were the only people in the whole “colonial” that invited him to sit at their table to eat.

What?!

I was a little confused and thought maybe I had misunderstood. No one had ever invited Roni into their homes to share a meal? That couldn’t be right. He has worked as a guard here for over two years. But he confirmed it again.

Our home was the only home he had ever been welcomed into to share a meal as a friend, as an equal.

It’s one of the ugly sides of Honduras–classes. Unspoken but they are definitely there.

As we talked on, Roni shared a story he had heard from a pastor in San Pedro Sula. The pastor shared about a rich man who was told the Lord was coming to visit him. The man prepared his home and a yummy meal for his Lord. A sick old man stopped by and asked for something to eat but the rich man said “I’m sorry, I can’t give you anything because I’m waiting for my Lord.” Then a poor child in rags knocked on the rich man’s door and asked for something to eat. The rich man repeated the same, “I’m sorry, I can’t give you anything to eat because I’m waiting for my Lord.” It got later and later and still the Lord had not come to the rich man’s home. He thought perhaps he had confused the hour so he gave his Lord a call. The Lord told him, “I’ve already come by twice and you refused me both times.”

Isn’t that just what the Scriptures teach? That when we serve one of the least of these, we are serving Him. Now I’m not in any way saying Roni is one of the least of these because he’s not but he is my brother and he is welcome at our table.

Do you know the following Sunday after that conversation when we invited Roni and his family to join us at church that they said yes? Even though they haven’t been in church for some time, they still accepted.

We all piled into the car and the back row Sunday, together. #backrowbaptists (But actually there just wasn’t another aisle with enough seats for us all.)

 

All this has got me remembering…

Remembering when I was new to Albany and April Brown invited myself and a couple other girls over to her home for dinner and a movie. She put out such a beautiful spread for us. Her sweet kiddos helped serve us gals. Then her husband walked in from work. He looked at the table and immediately said, “Are those new plates?”

April was mortified. She said “Here I’ve told the kids not to say anything about the new plates in front of our guests and you walk in and that’s the first thing out of your mouth.” It was really quite comical. We assured her it was absolutely fine and we loved the plates.

But what she didn’t know is that night after we left her home, tummies full from yummy lasagna and hearts full from watching Return to Me, we talked about those plates. We talked about how special we felt that she would go out and buy new plates just for us. We felt loved.

And that’s what all this is about, that we can be welcomed to the table and feel love.

The love of Jesus.

The events over the last few weeks have made me realize how much value there is to opening our home and inviting someone over to break bread. How that alone can minister deep down to someone’s soul. It doesn’t matter if they are rich or poor. A security guard or a bank owner. An indigenous Lenca or a university graduate. It doesn’t matter. We are all the same in the Father’s eyes.

We are all made in the image of the Father.

We all have value.

We all feel honored and loved when we are welcomed to the table.

So I want to invite you to the table. I want to invite you to share in this blessing of welcoming others to the table. I want to invite you to be a part of the work here in Honduras. Sometimes that work is just cooking a meal and inviting a family over to share it with us. But I want to invite you to be a part of that. You may not physically be able to sit at the table with us here in Honduras but you can through your prayers and support. You can through your financial donations.

We’ve got some special things up our sleeves for our financial donors coming soon. (Hint: ornament!) But most importantly we want to invite you to be a part of what is happening here on the ground in Honduras. We want to give you the opportunity to sow seeds and reap the blessings that comes with inviting others to the table.

You are invited to join us in this work. You are invited to the table.

Will join us?

Donate online at solohope.org/pages/donate.

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?