Tag Archives: God

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.

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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)

Drop the Bass and Move Me

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I like music that moves me. That overarching statement easily includes most genres. But some really move me on a different level.

Dubstep is a genre of music that can physically move you. If you’ve ever black-jacked a drop while speeding down the highway, then you know what I’m talking about. If you haven’t… you need to listen to Cinema by Benny Benassi on volume level 21. It’s a personal favorite… Turn your bass up; break out the falsetto. Consider yourself dared.

Eventually though, even the feeling of a bass line resonating inside your chest cavity starts to lose its sparkle. After the fourth or fifth time, that sudden shift in the song doesn’t seem quite so intense; now you’re left wanting a new song. At least, I am.

I feel like that’s something I’ve been trying to understand lately. Why can’t I be content with the same place, situation, and circumstances now and for the rest of my life? I’ve got it pretty good compared to the majority of this world. Doesn’t constancy equal stability?

But I looked a bit deeper to find that I wasn’t attempting to shake things up in my life to keep myself occupied. While I enjoy thrills, that’s not all I’m seeking. I want to be moved.

I don’t just want to move in order to say that I am, or to wander aimlessly, hoping to stumble across something meaningful. I want to invest my life as I go. I want to grow through moving. I hope to understand myself better as I move. I long to see new facets of God as I move.

But I can’t move myself.

I’ve been reading Radical by David Platt. I’m not even half way through it, but already it’s been challenging and incredibly eye-opening. One thing Platt wrote that resonated with me is that we aren’t moving towards God; God himself has to move towards us. I always turn my relationship with the Lord into something I’ve initiated. In reality, I wasn’t even capable of wandering in circles to look for him; I was unable to move at all. I was completely stagnant in my sin. He chose to move towards me, pick me up, and move me himself. That’s crazy!

I want to be moved by God. I don’t want to move on my own. I need him to guide me. Physically, the Lord is actually moving me to Guatemala for 3 months. (Whoa.) But I know that unless the Lord has his hand on it, I’ll physically be on the move while sitting spiritually still.

I read a blog posting from a missionary team that went with Adventures in Missions to Nicaragua. The author talked about how these trips change people for the rest of their lives. God moves in amazing ways, and these college kids come back completely wrecked for the better because not only did God move towards them, they fell in love him along the way. This post really captured my heart’s cry as it got me to thinking about December 14th, the day after I’m “released” to my family. I will have seen, tasted, smelled, touched, felt, experienced, loved, and connected to things, people, places, and moments that will alter the way I look at the world. I will have been utterly moved. There will be something else resonating in my chest. There will be change there, and I’m eager for it! I’m excited for the good, bad, and scary parts of this experience because God will be moving. It’s not that he isn’t moving in my life now, but I’m rejoicing at the opportunity to let him take control of every aspect of my life for 3 months. Honestly, it’s a bit of relief. He can move all around me and within my heart however he chooses. I’m there to simply be moved. And I know that I’ll find complete contentment in knowing that he’s all I need… and he’s there!

Treasure Hunts

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Treasure hunts really messed with me as a kid. While some children saw them as a fun way to end up with oodles of “goodies,” (just that word made me edgy!) I saw competition where the only option was to win… I was an incredibly driven child.
In my mind, Easter egg hunts fell under the Treasure Hunt heading along with birthday party treasure hunts, Halloween candy scavenger hunts, and Christmas Eve stocking-stuffer hunts. I remember one egg hunt in particular that haunted my young mind for years.

I couldn’t have been much older than 5 or 6, and it was a sunny Easter Sunday afternoon at our pink house in Connecticut. Yes, the house was in fact pink. It really explains a lot. Anyhow, my parents released Gracie, William, a few of our small friends, and myself out into the arena yard. I ran from tree to tree, knowing that my gullible parents had placed the easy eggs at the bottom so that my then roly-poly brother could reach them. I out-distanced him easily and giggled to myself as I placed the pastel colored gems into my basket. It was taking candy from a baby in every sense of the phrase.

As I dashed here and there, I noticed Gracie toddling along behind me. She seemed innocent enough in her frilly white dress. But I didn’t trust her or her little cherub face. Nevertheless, I pressed on.

When I discovered a cluster of three eggs lying in the middle of the yard, I paused to collect them. And my, what a find they were! One of them was even shaped like a bunny. I shook it, listening to the rattle of jelly beans within. I didn’t even like jelly beans, but it was more about candy quantity than candy quality in those days.

Since my hands were fairly small, I could only grab one egg at a time. It was then that I felt it- a giveaway nudge. I whirled around to see Gracie pulling her hand out of my basket and placing its contents in her own. Oh the fury! How dare she! According to the home video that I referred to as evidence for this injustice, I shrieked and demanded that she give it back. But while she had me distracted, William proceeded to plunder my treasure trove from behind, unbeknownst to me. Clearly they were working together all along… I’d been had!

While the point of that story isn’t to frame my siblings as the egg thieves that they clearly are, it got me to thinking about treasure itself.

In Matthew 6:21, Jesus says that where our treasure is, our hearts will follow. It is good that we were created that way. For those who are walking with the Lord, their treasure is Christ. And how wonderful that our love, our adoration and desires, and our devotion would follow quickly after.

As a kid, I put all my eggs in one basket; my treasure was momentarily all secure in one place. But as soon as thieves (W. and G., please see Matthew 6:19 & 20) took all that I had collected for myself, I was devastated. How often is that the case in my life today?

In reflecting on this verse again, I stumbled across a new way of looking at it that I hadn’t thought through before. I love that God’s Word is so alive!

God considers us his treasure. He says so time and time again throughout his love letters to us. (e.g. Exodus 19:5 & 6) So when we take ourselves out from under his wings, when we remove ourselves from his guidance and ultimately throw ourselves out of the basket, how devastated do you think he is? The thing he loves the most – you & I – aren’t being snatched away so much as we are choosing to walk away. If your “treasure” has ever walked away from you willingly, maybe even defiantly, I’m sure you can relate. But as the Lord loves us with an unfathomable, incomprehensible love, I don’t think we can fully grasp it even then.

I know I don’t fully understand how I affect God’s heart. I know that I can make him disappointed, or happy, or even proud. But I don’t often think about my ability to break the heart of God Almighty. That’s mind-blowing! Why would a self-sufficient God choose to love, knowing that he would face rejection at times while attempting to pursue the lost? I think some of us would choose to not love at all some days. It can be painful to love. But in spite of that, God chose love. But he didn’t just choose to take part in the action, he embodied it to become love itself!

Ultimately, I guess that treasure hunts still mess with me… especially this one. But when someone loves you that deeply, that selflessly, that perfectly, it should be enough to make us all pause and consider why that person hasn’t become our treasure yet.