The One

Today I found myself in Little India.  It was just a quick stop before heading over to the prayer room.  There’s this little shop I get where I get my eyebrows and upper lip threaded.  No pain no gain with that apparently.  Anyways, I was rushing to leave that bustling and somewhat chaotic part of town when I flew right by a man on crutches who was begging.

Honestly, I barely looked at him and told him no, even when he continued to call out to me, and continued to rush away.  I rounded the corner, hidden by an oversized truck and about a half block from my parked car, and came to a stop.  In that moment of decision I had a question come to mind.  “Am I willing to stop for “the one?”  I had 5 ringgit in change from the recent beauty venture.  Should I give it to him?  Instead of taking too much time to overthink it, I went back around the corner and approached him.  He eagerly received me back.

His left foot and calf are turning black.  He’s a diabetic.  From his broken English I gather he has no family and sleeps on the streets.  I gave him the money and asked him if I could pray for him.  He readily agreed.  As I prayed and asked Jesus to fill him with His love and bring healing to his body, I was stunned when I saw a tear fall to the ground out of the corner of my eye.  This man is real flesh and blood, full of emotions and needs.  Beaten down and broken like all of us.

I looked at him more closely as I prayed, trying to see him more as the Father sees him.  When I finished, he thanked me, with a peaceful and grateful look on his face.  I told him that God has not forgotten about him, that Jesus loves him.  He mentioned that he goes to the homeless drop in center a few streets over, and I excitedly tell him that I have friends that help there.  We exchanged some thank yous and God bless yous, and then I was back on my way.

The entire episode took me less than 10 minutes, and I almost missed that opportunity because I was too busy rushing to “ministry.”  How does that even make sense?

I recently listed to a sermon from Bethel about how our “ministry” is meaningless if we’re not willing to stop for “the one.”  This is why this question and them was fresh on my mind and heart.  If the gospel is only relevant in Christian worship circles or mass conferences but doesn’t apply to every individual then something is seriously missing.

These opportunities to minister the love of Jesus and the love of the Father are everywhere, but we must be sensitive to stop and respond.  We must be willing to be inconvenienced, to be in awkward situations.  Loving people isn’t always easy and fun and convenient.  How many of these moments have I missed over the years because I’m consumed with MY plan, MY agenda, MY schedule, what’s convenient for ME?  It was a convicting moment for me.  I easily brushed by him, avoided eye contact, actually said no and initially felt no compassion for this man.  Where was the heart of the Father in me at that moment?

Oh, how I need the love of Jesus to wreck my heart once again and give me His eyes and heart for the hurting and broken!  Lead me to the cross, that place of blood-stained, selfless sacrificial love.  May my eyes always be on the lookout for “the one” and my heart filled with love to pour out.

We can change the world just by loving on one person at a time.

“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be My witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”

Acts 1:8

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This Crazy Little Thing Called Love

My perception of love gets blurred sometimes by romantic comedies, fairytales, country music and maybe even One Direction if I’m being honest.

In our highly sexual culture the meaning becomes watered down and about as deep and dirty as a mud puddle.

This past Valentine’s Day, the day that celebrates love, I was reminded of a few characteristics and expressions of authentic love.

Of course this isn’t all-inclusive. It’s just a bit of what I’ve drawn from my experiences and how I view it through my lens.

Love

Love is deeper and wider and higher than we can ever imagine it.

I believe it’s more than a fleeting feeling.

I know for certain that it’s more than infatuation.

Sincere love isn’t dependent on circumstances or behavior.

Enduring love, that deep kind that makes your heart ache with pain or joy, is willing to make sacrifices.

Love gives without agenda, expecting nothing in return.

Love is committed. Steady. Unfailing.

Love doesn’t have to understand.

I don’t think that love is blind. I believe when someone truly loves you it’s because they see your weaknesses and your strengths. They’ve seen you at your best and at your worst, and in the end they’ve decided that you’re worth it.

Love is considerate.

Love isn’t inconvenienced by sacrifices but is always seeking the good of the other person.

Love always forgives.

Love calls you out and up into the person you were created to be, even if when it’s uncomfortable.

Love is mysterious.

Love is always watching, always waiting, always longing for the wayward and lost to return.

Love doesn’t define you by your past but sees your story as a window to your soul.

Love never manipulates, condemns or tries to control.

Love works long hours and takes risks for the benefit of others.

Love doesn’t pacify for the sake of keeping a false peace.

Love is patient and kind.

Love holds back your hair when you’re throwing up in the middle of the night.

Love challenges you and spurs you on.

Love is an action verb.

Love listens.

Love slips a note in your suitcase before you leave.

Love always has your best interest at heart.

Love wakes you up while giving you a kiss goodbye before leaving for work in the morning.

Love is longsuffering and steadfast.

Love covers over a multitude of sins.

Love never fails.

Today I am more thankful than ever for the ways that my family and friends and my Creator Father have loved me & for what they’ve taught me about love.

As long as there is love, we have the inspiration and the strength we need to keep hoping and living abundantly.  As long as there is love there will be joy in this journey.

“And if I give all my possessions to feed the poor, and if I surrender my body to be burned, but do not have love, it profits me nothing.”   ~  I Corinthians 13:3  ~

6 Months

Yesterday marked 6 months since I arrived in Penang.

So much has happened.  So much has been stirred.  So many tears have been cried and moments celebrated.

This season has been unique, as each new season usually is.  There are familiar aches and growing pains that come along with moving to a new place.  This I knew.  It takes a while to settle in.

I know that I still have a lot to process.  As we look back weeks, months and even years later we can usually see more clearly what the Lord was doing in each in season.

Yesterday as I was reading Bittersweet I began to reflect on particular seasons in my life.  I began to remember the emotions and experiences and most of all the people that came along with each one.

The one I reflected on the most was my season in Lake City, Colorado.  

When I first went to Colorado back in 2008 “just for the summer” I had absolutely no idea what the Father had in store and what He was preparing me for.

1915677_1276897004878_3478632_nThat first month was filled with tears and homesickness and fear and almost everything just seemed to be too difficult.  It was the hardest summer of my life.  I stepped out of my box in so many ways. Part of the time that was due to just because being pushed out of it by my circumstances.

It was also one of the most life-altering summers of my life.  The raw community that I was grafted into took me by surprise, and I got a taste of something real that would leave me satisfied with nothing less from that point forward.

I was having a particularly tough time one week as a camp counselor.  Everything seemed hard and overwhelming (and it was only day one if I remember correctly).  I stepped away from my kids for a minute to try and gather myself and most likely shed a few tears before sucking it up and getting back out there.

As I sat outside the mail hallway one of the full-time staff that I didn’t know came over and prayed for me.  Rebecca, (who would later become my housemate) simply took a few minutes out of her day to care for me, speak some life and encouragement, and pour the Father’s love over me.

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This simple act impacted me to my core, and it’s something that I’ve never forgotten.  At that point in my life I couldn’t understand how a complete stranger could be so loving and concerned with how I was really doing.

This was my introduction into authentic community among the family of believers.  It was one of the things that drew me to stay in that special little nook in the mountains for the next 2 years.

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During that time I developed some of the deepest relationships that I’ve ever known.  I found more freedom to just be me than I ever had before.  It was a time of exploration and discovery and of diving deep.

We had late nights of games, good food, hot drinks, movies and the most interesting conversations during the long and sometimes lonely winter nights that only 9,000 + feet up and freezing temperatures can offer you.

1625800_1198104235108_5587383_n We would drink in the mountain views and bubbling streams while hiking or taking someone’s 4-wheel drive vehicle over the passes during the summertime.

We would enjoy the local live music at Mean Jean’s while sipping hot coffee on the back patio huddling around heaters but loving being together.

We laughed and cried and worshiped and just lived life together.

1918588_372721457153_8329265_nPeople came in and out of our little circle over the years.  Life as well as death touched us all and knit us together the way that only deep joy and unexpected tragedy do.

At that time my friends and I would talk about how unique and sweet of a season it was, and we knew that it wouldn’t last forever so we tried as best as we could to savor the moments and write the memories on our hearts

I am truly grateful for that season, even though at the beginning I desperately wanted to run back to Mississippi and hide under the covers of my comfy bed.  I’m thankful that I didn’t.

My loving Father took my hand and led me every step of the way. I know that His hand is still present where I am today, and I fully believe that He is very present in your life, whether you can feel His presence or not.

It can be hard to appreciate a season when you’re in.  It’s a challenge to stay engaged and not wish the past back into existence or on the flip side want to rush ahead into the future.

I’m finding a simple sweetness in just being present lately.  I’m trying to enjoy each moment as it comes.  I’m taking time to watch the sunset and actually see the people in front of me for the special gift that they are to me in this season, whether they’ll be there in the next or not.

At this 6 month mark I am filled with thankfulness for the goodness of my Father.  His provision is overwhelming and His love is deeper and wider than I could’ve ever imagined.  I sure don’t know exactly what’s ahead, but I know He’s going to be with me.

Cheers to the next 6 months!

What do You do with a Broken Heart?

I want to talk about broken hearts today.

Not in the romantic sense of a broken heart, but what feels like happens to your heart when you live different places and do life with many people.

For me it all started when I left home in 2008. My whole world was in Mississippi and Alabama. Most of my life experiences. All of my family and friends. Pretty much everything.

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But I had this feeling in me. I’d even go so far as to say it was whispered in my ear for many years. The life that I was living wasn’t satisfying me, and I just knew in my depths that there had to be more to my life than what I was currently doing with it.

After much prayer I quit my job and a new chapter began. I moved to the beautiful San Juan Mountains of Colorado and fell in love with a sleepy little mountain town called Lake City.

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I found people that loved me, and I loved them back. My eyes were opened to so many things that I’d never seen before. I had many new experiences. My world-view was shifted and expanded in ways that I never expected.

Cruise 2It was also one of the hardest times of my life and one of the most intense seasons of growth for me. It was a crazy mixture of pain, peace and joy.

I did not know that the decision to move would position for me for many more moves over the next 6 years. Each one would be significant and seem unconnected, but it was all a part of the Master’s plan for my life.

As I’ve moved from state to state and country to country I feel that I’ve left at least a small piece of my heart that I will never get back.

I ache for people and places that I may never see again. I long to reminisce with friends that will probably never be altogether in the same place again.

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It’s a bittersweet thing to be honest.  My heart feels like it’s been broken to pieces and scattered across the globe, and I truly don’t know how to handle these feelings and emotions sometimes.

Because you see, there’s a piece of my heart in Chicago. There’s a piece in the jungle in Honduras. Part of it’s in the San Juan Mountains in Colorado. A large piece is in Delhi, New York. Another big chunk is in Mississippi and Alabama with my family and grandparents. What about the piece in Georgia? Then there are all the other little pieces in the different countries in East Africa, Asia and Eastern Europe and the U.S.

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I don’t feel like I’ll ever get those pieces back…and I don’t think that I really want to.

Even though the heartache is hard to take at times I believe it’s a result of love between people, investments made, things experienced together and lots of pain and growth along the way.

Sometimes I’m tempted to put up walls and keep people at a distance, debating whether or not it’s going to be worth the effort and the risk. The pain of loving and then leaving is a familiar one. The longing to be in 15 different places is strange and something that can never be satisfied.

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The only common denominator in the memories and people and places is my Father and I. No one else seems to fully get it. So sometimes I feel left feeling alone and very unknown by those around me even though I love them very much.

Even though I feel all these crazy emotions and can’t make sense of it all in my head I’m learning a lot in the process. I mean I haven’t figured it out yet, but I have learned a few things so far.

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I’ve tasted and seen that Lord is good, and there’s no turning back. I’ve been marked by His love and His creation. In the midst of my heart being broken I believe that it is also being enlarged.

If I had to do it all over again, I would, and I desire to continue to live my life in a way that will keep growing me.

Now this means risk and pain and stepping into the unknown, but with this comes great reward.

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I’ve experienced love in ways that I never dreamed existed though travel and people and places. It has caused me to be dependent on Him to a depth that I’ve never known until now.

The truth is that my life is turning out pretty much completely nothing like I had planned.  If you would’ve told me at 18 that a couple of weeks before my 28th birthday I’d still be single as ever and living in Malaysia as a missionary while partnering with a house of prayer I pretty much would’ve freaked out.

But looking back at the journey so far, the friends made, the experiences – both hard and easy – the failures and successes, I wouldn’t trade it.

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You see, it’s all boiling down to this one thing.

It’s worth it.

 He is worth it.

I don’t feel that I’ve “arrived” in any sort of way.  I feel like this is still very much a journey that I’m on.  I don’t know if this broken feeling will ever go away, but it reminds me of where I’ve been and who I’m becoming as it causes me to continue to trust my Father for whatever’s ahead.

There is joy in pouring out and investing.  There is a harvest and much fruit that comes from giving your love away.

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Loving is risky business as we all know.  We’ve all been hurt by people.  We’ve all given parts of our heart away that we can never get back.  We’ve all experienced rejection.  Things haven’t worked out like we hoped. Sometimes we feel left with absolutely nothing in return for opening up our hearts, and it leaves us wounded and scarred and wanting to self-protect.

So what do we do with our broken hearts?  Do we build higher walls to keep us isolated and others out in order to avoid any pain that might come?

I think not.  I mean, you can if you want, but I don’t think that you will find true life there.

I think that we need to keep pressing in.  We must keep loving and risking and investing.

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The greatest things in life will come from risk.  Yeah, you don’t know how it’s going to turn out, but if you’re trusting in the One who created you then you can know that in the end it’s going to be worth it.

Through the pain and the love and the heartache I’ve been transformed by His love.

I know I’m not the only one that’s experiencing this. It’s very hard to put into words and summarize, and I know I don’t have all the answers.

But here’s what I suggest we do with our broken hearts today and in the days to come as we keep learning.

Let’s decide to keep on loving.  Let’s continue treasuring the memories while moving forward.  Let’s decide to keep risking. Let’s be teachable through the ups and the downs instead of becoming bitter.

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The joy and hope and love and peace that we’ve found far outweigh the heartache.

We know that it is worth it.

He is worth it all, and that’s all that really matters.

Love Goals for 2014

I was having a lovely dinner out by myself the other night, just me and Jesus.

I love to people watch and was enjoying the sweet smiles of the timid servers and the way they kindly asked me if if everything was okay.

As I was eating, I was thinking about how many people go throughout their day without ever really feeling seen or heard by someone else.

I thought about people in my life who have made me feel seen and heard and valued.  I thought about people who have never made me feel small and always treated me as an equal.

I want to be like that.  This year I really want to focus on the individuals that the Lord places in front of me and make them feel special.

That’s what the Lord does for each of His children.  He looks us straight in the eyes and takes us gently into His arms and offers us love.  He sets us a place at His personal table.

Come to think of it, Jesus paid attention to individuals that no one else wanted to – the lepers, the woman at the well, children, the blind and lame, the adulterous woman, the rich young man.  It didn’t seem like they inconvenienced Him either, but that they were a part of the main reason He was here.

I’m really not a fan of New Year’s resolutions, but I do have something I want to focus on this next year.

I want to love individuals.  I want to honor every single person that I come into contact with.  I want to make people feel special, because we all are in our own ways.  I want to be kinder and more thoughtful and intentional with my time and resources.

I know this is not possible on my own.  I can only love because He first loved me.

So I challenge myself and all of you reading – Let’s get out there and love on some people this week!

“We love because He first loved us.”  I John 4:19