The Sound of Goodbye

We spent the day exploring Sydney and feel as though I could be woken from this dream world at any moment.

I let that sink in as I realize the beauty of dreams coming true. Little dreams (like traveling the world) matter much. Though not quite as much as the big ones (like leading women to know Christ more).

Getting to this point, on the other hand, wasn’t so sweet. Our last few days in Fiji loomed with the pending goodbyes and saddening reality that this couldn’t last forever. We will return to our corners of the globe, likely to never see each other again. (On better days I’m more hopeful.)

Goodbyes began Friday night and continued until we boarded the plane. Fifteen hours of sucker punches that made me wish I could shrink the globe.

Before that, however, were wonderful weeks of teaching and learning. We spent a week equipping Fijian believers in how to share their faith and train others to do the same. The privilege of sharing a devotion and teaching on discipleship that week brought overwhelming affirmation from my team. There are few things sweeter than doing the thing you love most and then being told you were made for it. And the truth of that further renewed the vision that Yahweh has sweetly spoken into my heart.

This was, perhaps, one of the most impactful elements of my time here. Unintentionally, I had in many ways stopped believing in the vision. I wouldn’t have ever admitted so, but the act of renewal that took place this summer revealed that I had stopped actively chasing it. What good is a vision that remains in your mind? The unrealized joy of a stagnant dream threatens my resolve. And more often than not this year I let it win.

The week after leading the clinic was a week of theology training with an Aussie mate called Nello. Spending time in such study sparked my mind in a beautiful way! It made me realize how truly excited I am for grad school. Though I didn’t agree with all of his theology, it was fun to study and discuss again after a year out of the classroom.

I’m astounded that this chapter of life is over, yet wildly grateful for all it held. I’m better now than ever at living in the moment and loving it for all it’s worth. There is such beauty in being where you are. There is joy to be found in every moment and so much is often missed.

Thank you for carrying me through this journey with your prayers. Thank you for believing in, supporting, and loving me when I’m far away. Words can’t express the comfort it has brought through the course of this summer.

May you ever be delighting in where you are and what you’re doing. May your heart find true contentment in the chapter of life that is being written with every breath. And may your passion for life make it impossible for you to ever remain stagnant.

Cheers to life, adventure, and unwritten chapters yet to unfold.

xox

When Yahweh Makes Me Coffee

One of the unrivaled joys of my life is the way that Yahweh makes me coffee.

You see, my Maker has crafted me to simply love a hot cup of joe. My addiction to the bean first started while serving on mission in Brazil. I can still smell the rich blend and see the liquid, black as the starless night, pouring from the pot to fill my mug in the morning. I didn’t drink coffee before that… it’s a life I try not to remember. 😊

Since that trip in 2009, I have grown to deeply love the way that coffee brings people together. Over coffee I have reconciled friendships, grown giddy with unexpected affection, written papers, read theology, watched movies, talked about Jesus, and shared stories. With laughter and tears, with new friends and old, in the morning, afternoon, and evening.

While in Malta last year, on one of my hardest days to date, my students invited me to her room at the refugee camp. She made me coffee and we talked about Jesus. It was a sweet way that Yahweh unexpectedly gave me that which I love most. {You can read more about that day here!}

Now in Fiji, I was struggling again, as I did in Vanuatu, with the way some of the methods we were teaching were playing out in the community. I confessed my frustration to my King, and my longing to see methods played out appropriately and effectively – something I had yet to see.

My prayers were expressed in conversation with Adina, my beautiful fellow intern from Romania. As we set out in the afternoon for our intentional gospel sharing time, we told each other of our struggles thus far. I said how much I wanted to see a relationship built with a family. She said how badly she wanted to see someone respond emotionally- not for the sake of tears, but because Jesus genuinely moved in their heart. We wanted to meet someone whose day would legitimately be better because we talked with them. Not an inconvenient nuisance, or burdened interruption, but a true blessing. Unimportantly, I mentioned that I was hungry. And off we went.

Totally by God’s leading, we ended up on a street and at the first home we passed, we saw a boy in the driveway. We told him we were helping with a church down the road and wanted to get to know some people in the area. He eagerly invited us inside where we met his brothers and grandmother, Kalo. We learned that Sam’s family had just returned to Fiji after living in the States for two years (which explains his incredible English!). We quickly discovered that Kalo is a strong believer, and she shared her beautiful testimony with us. We learned about her life and family, and she told us specific things that she needed prayer for.

When we finished praying, we opened our eyes to see Kalo weeping. She was so moved by our time together and so encouraged by our faith in Yahweh. She wiped her eyes and asked if we would stay for afternoon tea. She sliced bread and brought out butter and peanut butter.

We built a relationship. We saw true emotion and gratefulness… even in tears! She fed us. Every longing in our hearts was met in a stunning way.

Adina and I sat smiling across the table. It was easy to see Yahweh’s hand at work and hear His gentle whisper. Though it was tea instead of coffee, it was my King. Knowing what I love, seeing what I need, and stirring them together like the milk and sugar in my mug.

xoxo

23.

Sitting in a cottage in Fiji, I’m astounded at the way that Yahweh has sweetly spoken over my heart throughout the past year. A year full of challenge, lessons, and uncertainty, I have grown more in year 22 than in most. As I begin 23, I find myself thankful that 22 is ending, and anxious to see what is yet to come.

I desperately want to live a life that glorifies Jesus Christ and draws the nations to Him. I want to know Yahweh more and love people better. I want to live passionately and impact the people around me. I want to make the most of the opportunities that I have to talk about Jesus, love the unloved, and laugh until my stomach hurts.

I don’t ever want to stop learning. I want to be better every year than I was the year before. And I want people to be better, and to know Jesus more, because they’ve known me.

Yet for every immeasurable goal, I want to set some that are measurable.

So, here’s to 23!

23 Goals for my 23rd Year

Writing:

1. Blog consistently & honestly.

2. Rewrite Roots curriculum.

3. Write bible study on memory…

Ministry:

4. …and lead a group of women through it.

5. Lead a small group of freshman girls.

6. Disciple 3 younger girls.

7. Support a missionary family with love and finances.

Walk with Jesus:

8. Memorize the book of Ephesians.

9. Spend weekly time in disciplined prayer (for the nations & the ones I love).

10. Reread through the Bible & journal as I go.

11. Intentionally pursue friendship with those who don’t know Jesus.

12. Lead 5 people to Christ.

Academic:

13. Maintain above a 3.5 GPA in grad school.

14. Study the Greek and translate Ephesians.

15. Take advantage of the resources available to help me learn – literature & people.

Abstract:

16. Run a 10k.

17. Cross-stitch pattern for Mummy to quilt. :)

18. Go snorkeling.

19. Smoke a cigar with my brothers.

20. Travel overseas.

21. Read at least one challenging book per month.

22. Read Harry Potter series.

23. Make a budget & maintain it.

Nabila Village & Climbing The Sleeping Giant

This past weekend we had the delightful privilege of living in a village among the beautiful Fijian people. The Nabila Village welcomed us not just with smiles and empty schedules, but by donating mattresses, opening their homes for us to use their toilets (the church doesn’t have any), and cooking the best food.

Let’s back up: the church is a humble, one room building that sits near the edge of the road in a village that borders the mangroves and beach. The land is not owned by the church (or even the pastor) but rather, it was donated by one of the families. When we arrived on Friday afternoon by bus, we walked into the church and found nearly 30 mattresses neatly lined and filling up the entire church. This can only mean one thing: team sleepover! We found both humor and adventure in the lack of privacy that came from sharing a room with married couples & singles, guys & gals, ten different cultures spanning forty years of age. It was so fun.

We had the afternoon to explore, so a small group of us found a few locals to lead us up to the top of a mountain. After over an hour of hiking through the most beautiful wheat field, we reached the top where we found a small building. We climbed on the roof and discovered that we could literally see everything. Islands in the far distance, mountains the opposite way, Nabila Village, and everything in between. The sky was teeming with the most perfect clouds and a delicious breeze cooled us off. We watched the start of the sunset before we had to begin our descent to make it home for dinner! Culturally, it is inappropriate for women to show their knees, so we had to hike in our long skirts… which, if I may say, is likely the most inconvenient thing I have ever done.

Friday night we had a service for youth from several churches. Several came from hours away just to hang out and worship with us. Our intern leader asked if I would be willing to recite a couple chapters from Philippians during the service, as several team members would be sharing a testimony. This was the first time I’ve shared something from memory overseas, and doing so challenged me incredibly. My instinct was to say no for fear of language barriers, nerves, and disbelief. It was sweet to acknowledge and remember that the Word of God is true for every person in every culture. It is living and active and the freedom that I have found in my mind because of the Word that is hidden there is not an American privilege.

I was so humbled by that opportunity, and was blown away at how many people shared with me that they were impacted. Not just members of my team, but Fijian youth. To think that fear almost kept me from being an encouragement and challenge to them is simply embarrassing. To think that I make things so much about me is equally so.

I was captured by the unassuming, simple life of the Nabila Village. From growing their own crops to raising the chickens and pigs that supply their food, village life is pure and organic. It is not uncommon for one to live in the same village for their entire life. They marry and raise families just around the corner. They break every morning and afternoon for tea and treats. They eat together, worship together, and grow together in every way. It was wildly unlike anything I’m used to, and yet everything I crave in community. To know, love, and live is such a blessing and my western culture misses the depth of people more often than I’m willing to admit.

I was laying on the beach during our free time on Saturday when I heard the oinking and squealing of a pig grow from a soft to loud like the siren of an emergency vehicle on the street. Next thing I know, sweet little Fijian boys are making their way onto the beach with a wheel barrow holding a pig, tied at the feet. Not far behind was a great crowd of onlookers and I quickly connected the pieces.

Lunch.

I jumped up from my towel and wandered over with the crowd. I’ll spare you the details, and will only say how fascinating of an experience this was for me! I have never known my food while it was alive. I’m certainly an eater of meat, but observing the process changes things! I think that now, having seen the process, I have a legitimate chance at survival should I ever find myself stranded on an island. We ate the poor little guy in the feast they served us after church on Sunday.

Monday was our first day off since we’ve been here, and we were delighted at the chance to explore the beautiful land we currently call home. Garrett, a fellow American intern, did some research and found a fantastic adventure for us to embark on! So, bright and early on Monday morning, Garrett, Sabrina, Olivia, Adina (from Romania), Nathan (from Australia) and I took a taxi into town, exchanged money, and caught the bus to Wailoko!

We arrived at Sabeto Springs and were greeted by wonderfully friendly Fijians. Two men with a machete led us up the mountain, called The Sleeping Giant, as there was no existing path from where we started. We hiked for almost two hours through lemon grass (which we took a handful of to make tea when we got home!) until we reached the top. Encountering barbed wire, incredible amounts of burrs, mud, and critters, we arrived at the bottom quite dirty.

Our guide led us over to the mud pool where we covered ourselves with the mud and took silly pictures. As instructed, we spread the mud was EVERYWHERE – making our hair thick, matted, and disgusting. After the sun dried it on our skin, we climbed into the pool and washed it off. This mud pool is essentially a natural pool filled from the ground with volcanic mud and hot water. In one corner we could feel the heat of the water coming from underground – pretty amazing.

After the mud, he we went to the hot springs – another pool of natural hot water flowing from beneath the earth. It comes up at over 140 degrees Fahrenheit and is filtered to a separate pool at just over 100 degrees. We climbed into this natural hot tub and rested until they led us to the bora for the massage. On our way home, we got off at the bus stop by McDonalds for ice cream cones and french fries. It was a truly delightful day of adventures and laughter spent with new friends and old. Today we were back in the training room preparing for the clinic we will lead next week. Church leaders from all around Fiji will be joining us in Lautoka to learn how to share the gospel, and train others to do the same. I was asked to teach the session on discipleship and to share a devotion with the group one morning. What a privilege! I can’t explain how refreshing the last several weeks have been for my heart, mind, and soul. This family we have created continues to surprise and encourage me through conversations, worship, laughter, and prayer. We are blessed.

xoxo

Mangrove trees on the beach in Nabila Village
Mangrove trees on the beach in Nabila Village
Pig Roast!
Pig Roast!
from the top of the mountain
from the top of the mountain

 

Volcanic Mud Pool
Volcanic Mud Pool
Hot springs... aka: homemade hot tub
Hot springs… aka: homemade hot tub
Massage hut!
Massage hut!

A Lovely Start.

I find it delightfully sweet when Yahweh takes my meager expectation and lavishes glory wildly upon it. That is the best way my jet-lagged mind can wrap around what I am currently experiencing.

We arrived in Fiji at 5am on Monday morning, and made it to the training center around 7:30am after customs, baggage, etc. For the sake of teaching our bodies to adjust, they (our leadership) encouraged us to stay awake and push through the exhaustion (by filling our day with activities).

When we first arrived at the training center, several of us noticed an adorable cottage just a few yards away from the main building. We commented on how cute it was as we followed the group up the main steps. It was here that they were sorting luggage and giving room assignments. All the other names were called and I was left standing with Sabrina, Olivia, and Charlene (a new friend from North Carolina). Langdon (intern leader) says that the four of us will be living in the cottage out front.

Umm. What? All summer? No way…

Yes way. And it’s every bit as adorable on the inside as we thought it might be from the outside.

The intern team is amazing. We have ten countries represented among us – USA, Australia, Romania, China, India, Mexico, Fiji, Vanuatu, Kazakhstan, and England. Conversation often becomes giggling about the differences between the English pronunciation of various words in England, Australia, and home. We’ve all acknowledged that we wish we had someone else’s accent and that our own is just boring.

We spent some time playing volleyball at the beach on our first day, and so the staff built us a court in our backyard. The food is delicious, the conversations are rich, and we feel God’s presence in everything. I have never in my entire life seen a more beautiful sunset than in this place. There’s a cool breeze in the morning and at night. We take morning and afternoon breaks from the schedule to have coffee, tea, and cookies. They have adopted dogs that live around the training center and one of them just had puppies. You see what I mean? Everything is simply lovely.

This week will be full of training: personality, giftedness, evangelism, and more. We’re learning from incredibly gifted people who are exceptionally passionate about seeing Yahweh become famous all over the earth. We leave for Vanuatu on Saturday and will be teaching and training church pastors and working with a team of high school students from Australia.

This is, hands down, one of the most humbling communities I have ever been a part of. I’m so grateful for your prayers and look forward to sharing more. Now while you greet Tuesday, I will bid it farewell. I hope it’s as sweet for you as it was for us.

Goodnight.

xoxo

More Faithful than the Morning

Exactly six months ago, I sat wide-eyed at my computer as I read about Evangelism Explosion and the internships that they offer abroad for young adults pursuing full time ministry. I grew hopeful as my heart did the thing it does when peace is brought to my entire being. Something in me knew this was it, yet I was tentative to really believe so “just in case”. I prayed over my restlessness and deep desires and submitted the primary application. In a way that only Jesus could orchestrate, I progressed through the application process and was offered a spot on the team of interns.

Ah, yes. God is faithful.

Mind you, this time six months ago was right smack in the most challenging season of my life. I won’t hesitate to say I questioned where I was, what I was doing, and why I was doing it. I spent countless hours begging Jesus for answers and insight. I petitioned that He would somehow make beautiful what I felt had come to dust. Like a broken record, I was reminded:

God is faithful.

The internship that I’m participating in is a beautiful combination of training, evangelism, and pursuing the heart of Christ. The goal of the internship is that while we minister to the people around us, we would also come to understand a little bit more about what Yahweh is calling us to in a big picture way. Through evangelism, training church leaders, and being poured into – we will have ample time to learn, grow, and discover what comes next.

I’m clinging to the promise: God is faithful.

On adventures like the one before me now, I find it exponentially more important to remember this truth. He will finish what He promised. He will go before me. He will not leave me empty. He will be faithful.

It’s a truth I must remind myself of regularly, for I ashamedly trust more in the sunrise than in His word. How ironic that in counting on the sunrise, one of the most majestic of His creations, I forget to count on Him- the Creator.

There’s something easy and comforting about something you can see and feel. For every day that I have had breath on this earth, the sun as come up in the east and tucked away in the west. Not merely “like clockwork” – it is the very thing that gives us clockwork. It allocates hours for our work and ensures that it will not be hidden for long. I can see it come up in the morning as I watch the sky fill with colors like an artist meticulously fills a canvas with paint. I can feel the warmth it gives as it turns my skin golden brown… or cherry red. I can shelter myself under an enormous oak tree, and find rest in the gentle breeze that surrounds me. I can watch it set behind the Gulf of Mexico as the sky again lights up with glory.

And just like the sunrise, I see His faithfulness echo softly, yet triumphantly, in my life. I’m coming to sense His Spirit as He begins to stir like the gentle breeze that keeps me company under the oak tree. I crave it more than I crave ice cream and a hot cup of coffee. Oh, that I would crave it more and more.

And oh that we would rest in His faithfulness, counting on it more than the morning.

I treasure your prayers and look forward to sharing with you all that Jesus does in and through my team! Thank you for believing in me and in the mission that Yahweh has set before me.

xoxo