PB&Jesus

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     I do not often associate my identity with food. And I certainly don’t try to spend so much time with any one food that it becomes synonymous with my name. A food becoming your nickname… Think about it. But this summer entailed that and so much more.

    I spent a month at K-Kountry, one of Kanakuk Kamp‘s kick-bumper kampuses, with hundreds of 7-11 year old kampers coming through the barn doors each week. (And yes, the more k’s you can use in a sentence, the more hype you acquire.) K-Kountry is known as The Happiest Place on Earth, and after my time there, I couldn’t agree more. Forget Disney!

    While I was at kamp, I had the joy of serving K-Kountry’s kitchen staff as a kitchikomo. This word “kitchikomo” actually means “glamorous kitchen girl with beautiful hair” in some lost Native American dialect. And boy, I milked that title for all it was worth, considering that my hair was usually thrown up in a rather haphazard ponytail and then crowned with a baseball cap. (See above photo, featuring some of my favorite people in the whole world, the blonde kiddos of fellow blogger, Kelli Stuart.)

     As a part of my daily job, I was assigned the role of trip kitchie. This meant cranking out multiple loaves of PB&Js at a time for kids going canoeing or tubing all day. It was a blast! Once I tied my tie-dye apron on, I could make sandwiches like there was no tomorrow. Humble brag: I can make a loaf of PB&Js (i.e. 12 sandwiches ) in less than three minutes. I’m sorry, but if that doesn’t earn me a ridiculous amount of woman points, I don’t know what will!

     Aside from making around 4-8 loaves of sandwiches every morning, I took over the PB&J station at lunch and dinner. I would whip up whole sandwiches and half sandwiches, with everything from peanut butter and honey, to just jelly, to PB&M. That’s right, peanut butter and mayo… It was a dark day.

     Somebody asked me at one point whether I wanted a break from my sticky station after I had been plugging away at it for about a week and a half. I did take a break from sandwiches for the day, only to have a kuk (a.k.a. a boy kamper) rush up to me after lunch and practically yell at me for not being there to make him his customary plain PB. I know it may sound like I was being admonished for not “makin’ him a sammich,” but it hit me then that I could actually use my platform as a sandwich-making machine to connect with the little hearts that were walking into the dining hall every day. All of the sudden, sandwiches became a ministry. Don’t worry, I laughed, too!

     I made a point to learn the names of all of the kids that came to visit me during meals. And by the end of their time at kamp, I had their favorite sandwich combos memorized. One little boy with the biggest blue eyes in the world deemed a PB&J with honey, ‘The Belle Special’ “Because it’s sweet, like you,” he’d said. And I think my heart grew three sizes that day.

     This blog isn’t really about sandwiches, or how fast I can make them, or that I got a t-shirt reading “PB&J for Life” from my fellow kitchies at the end of our session for being “dedicated to the art.” This blog is about serving where you are placed. If I had been given the option to choose where I would work at kamp, I don’t know that the kitchen would have been my first choice. It wasn’t glamorous. I lied about the Native American dialect bit. But from my vantage point behind the counter, I got to watch the Lord work through conversations and jelly-smothered crusts. I built relationships with the tiny 7 year-old komo, who only wanted jelly on half of her slice, all the way up to the 11 year-old kuk who came back for a sandwich three or four times every meal! (To his mother: I do apologize!) And it was awesome! I got to serve kids by enabling them to have open hearts instead of hungry tummies. And that was humbling and exciting all at the same time.

     There are so many more stories that came out of my month at kamp that have nothing to do with bread slices or butter knives. But they all pointed to the same conclusion. God works in mysterious ways. He takes normal, maybe even mundane things, and turns them into implements of glory. He takes 20 year-old college girls and gives them opportunities to love on His kids in really practical ways. And in doing so, He blesses them with one heck of a summer.

Eastside! Westside! Get yo’self to the Kountryside!

Eastside! Westside! Get yo’self to the Kountryside!

It don’t matter if you walk or ride,

just get yo’self to the Kountryside!

That mean ole Devil better run and hide,

‘cuz Christ is King at the Kountryside!

“When I grow up, I want to be comfortable.”

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Childhood was the best. Truly. I say this in nostalgia-tempered honesty. There was nothing I could not be. In fact, there was nothing I did not want to be at some point or another. Astronaut, veterinarian, pilot, actress; the list goes on. And when I grew up, I was dead set on being each and every one of those things. The future seemed truly limitless.

But somewhere between losing my two front teeth and driving for the first time, someone had dimmed the sunset and obscured the horizon. Culture had handed me a fist full of the revamped American dream, and I was given a nice box into which I was to put my “childish dreams.” To replace my wild imagination, I was given an unforgiving status quo, and a new dogma to follow unwaveringly. “Repeat after me: When I grow up, I want to be comfortable.”

I’m not aiming to sound preachy or naive. Whether I end up coming off that way is another thing entirely. But I guess I have begun to wonder at the way we live. We, as a culture; a coexisting lot of sinners. When did life turn into a race to become shock absorbing? When did we all decide that we wanted to jump into the daily grind the day after graduation and run, run, run, until it spat us out on a golf course at around 65? We placed ourselves within the machine, and we agreed to its terms. And that’s scary to me, plain and simple.

We were made to be wild. I know that because God is wild. He’s a yelling, dancing, laughing God. And the day we decided to try to tame him was the day we were forced to tame ourselves. We were crafted by God to look like him on purpose. And that out of control craze we sometimes attribute to teenage angst or a mid-life crisis sounds a lot like God-instilled wildness that we’ve forgotten how to embrace. Eden was wild; Eternity will be wild. But we have made our travels on this earth the exception.

I don’t mean wild as in The Jungle Book, I mean wild as in the redeemed and set free. I mean wild as in willing to go, and do, and be whatever it is the Lord would ask at any given moment. That sounds crazy to me!

I’m not saying abandon your job, or your college education, or your family and responsibilities. I’m not suggesting you wear bear skins or just your bare skin. And since I’m working through these thoughts myself, I don’t have some neatly cross-referenced memoir on living wildly with the Lord. But I do have thought: let’s at least try!

Blood Drive

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Last week, the blood drive bus came to my college campus. My first thought was that the Red Cross had made a mistake. Don’t get me wrong now; I think blood drives are an awesome way to give back to those who are in serious need. And if continuing to circulate typhoid vaccinations through my own arteries didn’t disqualify me, I’d be first in line. But I mean, I know some folks who have some rather crazy stuff running through their veins. And no, I’m not referring to their blood type. At any rate, the Red Cross seemed to be taking quite a gamble.

As I sat in the cafeteria, watching folks file in and out of a separate room, a tad bit paler as they left than when they’d first walked in, I started thinking about blood types. I listed out the various kinds, pulling out biology factoids that had been in storage for some time. I reminisced on how I had learned as a kid that O type was the best because it “got along” with the other types fairly well in terms of blood transfusions, and red cells, and such. I think I had referred to it as the “obedient blood” because of this peace piece of knowledge. Yes, when you’re home schooled you come up with some quirky ways to remember stuff like this.

But then it hit me that there’s a lot more to the blood in my veins that I realize. There’s war in my blood, as Mr. Foreman puts it. There’s passion for justice, there’s fire, and a heck of a lot of discontent with the way things run sometimes. Blood is the most concrete thing I can point to that contains life. There’s raw essence within it that not only is delivering oxygen, it’s pumping desires and demands through our very souls. I don’t want to get so grand and poetic that what I’m trying to say becomes irrelevant or romanticized, but as I sat there, and as I write this out, I am just struck by the fact that when I asked Christ to renovate my heart, he poured out that life-giving blood.

The blood of Jesus is not something that should merely be poured out over us. It should be pounding through our veins. And with it, the character and life of Christ himself. His dreams and desires for Kingdom issues to be resolved demand to be heeded. And his passion to love every lowly sinner was not only extended to me, but it should now influence me, too.

I don’t know how well the blood of a Savior (who owned his polarizing nature) would “get along” with other types. I guess that’s a personal matter. But suddenly I realized that giving blood could be considered something pretty spiritual. But at the risk of polluting the supply or poisoning my fellow man, I now might be unable to give for good.

Homecoming

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Puerto Barrios in Izabal Department, Guatemala was once called the City of God. The large sign that boasted this name has been torn down from the street corner where it had stood prominently for so long. The darkness in that place lays thick, seeming to stifle hope itself. But I walked the streets of that town. And that town, those people, and the time I spent there have been running through my mind ever since returning home.

I have to be honest, I don’t really know how to write about coming back to America. Yes, I’ve been back stateside for over 3 months now, but I’m still a wreck. I’ve been such a mess on the inside that I haven’t even known how to put it into words. A couple of folks that I’ve talked with who have gone through similar experiences have admitted that they nearly lost their faith when trying to readjust. And if anything terrified me, it was the thought of all of it slipping through my fingers completely. So I didn’t talk about it, at least, not really. Because that way I wouldn’t have to confront all of… that.

But I want to tell you about all that I saw. I desperately want you to understand that it wasn’t a stint in Guatemala that changed me, it was God out there. And it’s not that God isn’t in America. But I met him in the truest sense I’ve ever experienced. I saw him in people. I felt him as he breathed life into the dead. I witnessed miracles, things that “don’t happen,” that you don’t notice, until God himself opens your eyes. And even then, I was still shielding my eyes so as not to be blinded by what I couldn’t comprehend.

I am overwhelmed by God’s redemption sweeping through Guatemala, and I was only there, in one little port city, for a semester. I was only feeling the tremors before the earth splits; I’m bracing myself, but I’m still reeling. And now I’m trying to look at my life through the new lens I’ve been given. I’m trying to integrate the wild and unpredictable God that I fell for into a structured society where we often don’t have time to act when God says “go!” And I hate it.

Now don’t get me wrong. I don’t hate America. I am blessed to live here. Truly, I’m floored by the blessings that have been handed to me. But I realize now that I had misplaced so much value, so much love, in places where it didn’t belong. Trivial things were my idol. And I am done serving those gods. They’re pretty stale in comparison to what I’ve seen of our God.

I don’t want to rant. I don’t want to become your friend Belle, the girl that went on a missions trip and came back brooding and bitter towards, well, everything that wasn’t in Spanish. But I am sorry because there’s a large part of me that never came home. And due to my intentional forgetfulness, I won’t be able to fill all the roles that I did before, you know, the not so great ones. Hopefully I left all of my sinful baggage that I felt obligated to take along. And I tried to leave behind my silly worries about the future, and I feel that I did mostly. In exchange, I attempted to bring back a new perspective, a new dedication to honesty, wholesome love, and a new, fiery zeal for the Word, and just talking with and about Jesus in general. And I brought back a ridiculous amount of stories; really funny, truly heart-breaking, genuinely God-written stories.

Maybe we’ll sit down one day, and I’ll unlock the chest where I carry these stories, and just tell you all of it. And I’ll try to help you understand. But you’ll finally agree: you won’t be able to understand until you go.

Blog Squared

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11 days and counting… We’re on the home stretch towards the beginning of my adventure in Central America. (In my house, we’ve taken to pronouncing it “AM-air-EE-kah…” Hooked on Phonics worked for me!) Guatemala, here I come!

As I’ve hopefully communicated to you all more than once, I will be able to access the internet every so often from the field. So please drop me a line via email, Facebook, or right here! I would love to hear from you all. I promise to do my very best to respond in a timely fashion.

One of the things that will be changing a bit is where I’ll be blogging over the next three months. I’ll be sharing stories, thoughts, struggles, victories, etc., on my Guatemalan team’s blog, http://guatemala.adventures.org/. You’ll not only be able to keep up with what the Lord is teaching me on this site, but also with the 6 other people on my team. Currently, there are posts from past team members up on the site, which I’ve found to be pretty darn cool. It hasn’t done much to still my restless heart. If anything, the posts I’ve read have only added to my excitement!

Anyhow, I’ll try to give you all a heads up here whenever I post something new there. But you are also given the option to sign up for blog updates in the top left-hand corner of that blog’s homepage. I highly encourage you to do that, too!

The Mossrock Queen meets Guat Girl

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Growing up in Connecticut, far away from my relatives, one of the highlights of my year was getting to spend a week or two in Greensboro, North Carolina each summer with my mom’s side of the family. With lots of crazy cousins always filling up my grandparents’ house with laughter, it was loads of wholesome hick fun.

But when the cousins left for the day, and it was just Gracie and I, I couldn’t help but let my imagination run wild.

My grandparents both loved to tell stories. My grandpa could scare us silly with his off-brand monster stories about the Abdominal Snowman. And if you really asked the right questions, all of a sudden you were on board one the ships that he manned during “the war.” For years, I didn’t know which war that was as he never said. The mystery only added to the suspense.

My grandma was more of the fairy and talking furry creatures brand of tale. She really knew how to weave together stories we loved, like Peter Pan, into the woods surrounding her house. She had commissioned my grandpa to create little areas throughout her gardens and wooded areas that surely held fairy kingdoms in my mind. He had even built a tree mansion out in the forest away from the house. It was so, so quiet up among the trees next to the pond. I was beyond enchanted.

Just across the pond were these massive boulders that had captured my imagination. Covered in moss, standing one atop the other, you could look out over the water once you climbed to the top. Clearly, this fortress was meant to be called Mossrock. It was my kingdom. And with my BB gun to fend off the snakes and “predators,” Fly, my grandma’s faithful border collie at my side, and a paddle boat to ferry me back and forth when it was time for lunch, I was more than set. I spent hours walking through the woods with Gracie who, for lack of magical motivation, always seemed to be lagging behind. But we sang, we whittled sticks because that’s just what you did, we wore my grandpa’s old cowboy hats, and we searched high and low for adventure.

As I was talking with my grandma on the phone the other day, she reminded me of the many, many afternoons I spent out wandering the woods with my sister. She pointed out that for a string of summers, I would consistently wake up each morning and ask her to take me on an adventure. “You were dead set on finding one,” she laughed.

I remember those summers. While it was wonderful to spend all day running around, doing whatever you liked, I couldn’t help but feel somewhat dissatisfied. I wanted to do something. I wanted to experience something that I’d never been a part of before. And I wanted something huge to sweep me up into a story like Peter Pan. I couldn’t even name what I wanted out of this unreachable adventure that tantalized me, much to my dismay. And my grandma, ever the whimsical soul, seemed to understand. And much to her credit, she whipped up some pretty fantastic adventures in those days. She still does. And yet the next day, after the adrenaline had left my pint-sized body, I was roaming again. As much as I’d like to “blame” my grandmother for the overactive imagination that haunts me to this day, she wasn’t the one who truly placed that within me. In a way, I feel like I was being shaped even then for what lies ahead of me now.

A month from today, I’ll be boarding a plane to Atlanta, Georgia to start training before I leave on the greatest adventure of my life thus far. I’ll be living in a foreign land, ministering and being ministered to in return by people I’ve yet to meet, and waking up each morning in the midst of something so much greater than I’m even capable of crediting to it. As my grandmother pointed out, that desire for the unimaginable that remained ever constant in my heart is finally coming to fruition in the midst of the Lord’s perfect timing. Whoa. I’m being handed the adventure that I wanted for so long as a gift from Almighty God. Maybe that’s why it still feels so surreal to me.

As I head out to live in Guatemala this semester, I expect adventure. I don’t think that’s asking too much of such a creative, uncontrollable God. When I think about it, it actually makes me a bit nervous. I’m giving God complete control to create the ultimate adventure? What am I thinking! He’ll probably do it, darn it! At least in the woods I had my sister… and a BB gun. But now I’m stepping out into the unknown without those that love me best so that I can embrace people who don’t know me from Adam. Wow, Lord, you’ve got one crazy definition of adventure.

The language will be difficult, the food will be spicy (?), the bugs will be giant, the weather will be unpredictable, the land will be unforgiving, and the beds will be hard. The people will be hurting, the darkness will be overwhelming, the brokenness will be heartbreaking, and the circumstances will be bleak… But the reward will be unimaginable, the scenery will be beautiful, the joy will be a wellspring, the light will be heaven-sent. The battle has been won, the Lord will be ever near, this semester will be life-altering, the adventure will be real, the Gospel will go out, and it will not return empty. Hallelujah!

As the rain and the snow
come down from heaven,
and do not return to it
without watering the earth
and making it bud and flourish,
so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater,
 so is my word that goes out from my mouth:
It will not return to me empty,
but will accomplish what I desire
and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.
You will go out in joy
and be led forth in peace;
the mountains and hills
will burst into song before you,
and all the trees of the field
will clap their hands.  – Isaiah 55:10-12 (ESV)

A HUGE Thank You!

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Wow! God is so good! Thanks to His ability to provide, and the generosity of so many, I have met and exceeded the $4,000 goal for my trip to Guatemala this fall. I cannot thank you all enough, although I’m certainly going to try. With the extra funds that were raised, my team will be able to make an even greater impact during out stay in Guatemala. It’s crazy how God is able to go above and beyond what we ask for and shower us with good gifts we never would have dared dream up…

For those of you that are still looking for a way to support me, I still have two plane tickets to purchase that will get me to and from Atlanta, GA where I’ll be training and debriefing on either end of the trip. I also have to cover the cost of international traveler’s insurance that is mandatory for a trip like this one. Ultimately, these expenses will be coming out of my own pocket. But if you feel led to lend me some unused frequent flyer miles, that would be a huge blessing to this broke college kid.

Again, thank you so much for partnering with me in this incredible journey. If the Lord is already paving the way now, I can’t imagine what awaits me there!

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This verse has challenged me to no end over the past year and a half. And it really reminds me why I felt the call to give up a semester to serve in the first place. I hope it sparks a blazing fire in your heart the way it does in mine…

However, I consider my life worth nothing to me; my only aim is to finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me —the task of testifying to the good news of God’s grace. – Acts 20:24 (NIV)

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