Sunday, January 29, 2012

On Dying and Loving: [Kisses from Katie]

the Journey

 Today I spent most of the afternoon reading “Kisses from Katie,” a book that will mess up your life in more ways then I am yet to really understand. Katie was a typical teenager who simply did what God commanded. A few years later her life is half-way across the world, a mom to 14 beautiful Ugandan daughters.
I have been following her blog, for some time now, and I am always both encouraged and challenged by her words. Katie will be the first to admit that not everyone is called to sell their livelihood and move to Africa to mother a dozen babies.

And yet, God does command us of the following:
  • You are to find me in the least of theses.
  • You are to leave your earthly possessions and come follow me.
  • You are to love and serve the Lord God with all your heart and love your neighbor as yourself.
  • You are to go and make disciples of all nations.
  • You are to entertain strangers and leper and tax collectors.
  • You are to show mercy.
You are to live a life of mediocrity and abundance, holding tight to your comfortable lifestyle, lest you lose it. No, He never says this.

I will be the first to say from experience, a life of mediocrity and abundance is comfortable—it’s safe. I would even say in our culture it is most accessible and acceptable. People question deviance from this norm. Giving up everything, opening our homes to strangers, and following Christ when you can’t see the whole plan—that is scary—and crazy in the eyes of our culture.

“But what if, just beyond that risk, just beyond the fear, is a life better then anything we have ever imagined:  life to the fullest. (John 10:10)

Not everyone has to pack up tomorrow and jump on a plane. Not everyone is called to the life of a missionary. But every day, we have a choice to make. Where we are it does not matter. We can stay nestled in our safe comfortable places and allow the fear of something that really is small compared to the greatness of God cripple us, or we can take a risk, do something to help someone else, change someone’s world.”

Katie’s words have been a gentle push in the behind, a gentle whisper in my ear, a not so gentle tug at my heart, a tug that is compelling me to die more and love deeper, right where I am at. It is compelling me to be unashamed of speaking the gospel message every time I have a visitor in my home. To cook bigger meals and welcome more international students into this apartment each week. To turn the car around and run into Walmart to get some food for the man standing on the street corner. To offer to babysit a couple times a month for the single mom struggling to make ends meet. To drop the things I think are more important and run my one of my daughters to Walmart at 10 o’ clock at night without complaint. To wash the dishes my roommates left in the sink with joy in my heart. To cut back on eating out once a week and give an extra $20 a month to the least of these.

I may not be a mother to fourteen in Africa (though I often wish I could carry such a title) but in His abundant grace, God has allowed me to play a tiny role in His perfect plan—He has allowed me to love like He loves, He has blessed me to give more, He has broken me apart, that in my weakness His glory will shine brighter then me.   

I refuse to be afraid to love…to give…to submit my control beneath the perfection and beauty of the plan He has for me and the things which He has commanded me.

“And gradually they realized their fear of death had brought them closer to it.”

I don’t want that to be me—to get so caught up in myself and my fears and my need for control that I am suddenly on the brink of death as a result. I desire to live the abundant life. That life comes most alive for me when it is in fact not about me. God, I pray that you show mercy in the messiness of my selfishness, that you would use me in spite of all of it, that you would allow me to represent you to the least of these, every day, wherever you have me, that I would gravitate towards loving selflessly and farther and farther away from myself.

Here is the promo video for Katie's Book which can be found at many local book stores or on Amazon!

Monday, January 23, 2012

Receiving What We Don't Deserve

There is a sign hanging on my wall that says Grace is when God gives us what we don’t deserve. If that is true, then everything in my life is simply by grace.

So last week, as I sat down to pour out the messiness of my life before Christ—and more so the messiness of it with Christ—I began to see that even my mess is simply by grace. I deserve death. But instead I am just messy. Grace.

I listen and watch, as a mom full of wisdom and steadfastness counsels me in my mess. It is not over the depth of the pit I am wrestling within, but rather the grace of God found at the bottom that causes a steady stream of tears to flow down her cheeks. As she weeps over the weightiness of this very word in her own life, the sweetness overflows. This moment is etched inside forever.   

A week later, I watch this very same mom mourn the loss of a child. There is nothing that makes sense about such tragedy, and yet at the bottom of the pit all I can hear are her cries of His grace in her life. I watch closely as she holds onto a hope in something she does not deserve, something lavished upon her in spite of it all. I check in to see how her family is doing—we are holding onto grace, are their exact words.

I could understand clinging to anger…bitterness…confusion…fear…doubt, but grace? Clinging to what they have been given that they do not deserve when it seems something so very precious has been taken (unjustly at that). Did they deserve to go endure such loss? No, certainly not. A God who loves deeply would not permit such pain? And yet—it happened.

Grace. Getting something we do not deserve. None of us deserve to lose a loved one—we deserve to lose our own lives, but we don’t. Grace. Oh He is good, not in spite of the pit but BECAUSE of the pit. We deserve so much worse then the deepest, darkest pit we have ever known. I see grace in the pit…in the grief…in the fire.  

Ironically, this happens to be the very first verse of scripture that I fell in love with when I first became a believer. Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. [2 Corinthians 12:8-9]

I am learning to be content in the sufficiency of His grace, especially in my weakness—not just in the blessings He provides, but in the pit and in the fire. For it is ONLY by such grace I even have the ability to be standing there [in the flaming pit] in the first place. The pit…the grief….the fire…[the weakness we all try to mask]; they really do point back to one thing, crippling us to the point of dependency simply to rise—oh, Lord teach me to boast in Your Grace made loud through my weakness. [That your power might rest upon me.]  

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Extreme Room Makeover: Roommate Style

To say the least, I have been a little pinterest-obssessed lately. Over Christmas break, my sweet roommate Mandy celebrated her birthday. Conveintly for me, she was out of town the entire month, giving me free reign to work out my free time and pinterest-craze on her (very bare) walls! Let's just say she came home to a bit of a birthday surprise!!      

Here are a few befores and afters...

 BEFORE                                                                                  AFTER

I loved getting to spend time on the details of this room. Both the desk and nightstand I found at thirft store and just spray-painted them olive green and brown.

Before spray-painting


I also loved getting to use more earthy tones and decor, something that is outide of my own comfort zone but perfect for my sweet roomie. I bought a few of these things at Hobby Lobby and made the rest (from Pinterest!)
Mandy is getting married in June and will soon be Mrs. Jones!
This is just cardboard covered in fabric and burlap with buttons.
The frame on the right is just hemp inside a glass frame. I love this because
you just take a draw erase marker and can write whatever you want on the
glass and then erase and write something new!
Pinterest of course...this is just a painted canvas with sticks hot-glued
and a flower to add a little something. The candles are just inside
Mason jars for a little added color.
This is just a mason jar covered in fabric and burlap with
a few buttons.

This was my favorite project. I just modge-podged these 11X14 pictures onto
four canvases. I edited the photos before printing and actually put the words
that my roommate's fiance said to her when he proposed. All of the photos
are from the day he proposed as well. My favorite is the last one...he actually
wrote on his paper at the bottom (Don't forgt to kiss her!) in case he got so
nervous that he forgot! Precious.

All in all, this was so fun for me to do and she loved it! I am so incredibly blessed to get to do life with Mandy this year...she is such an encouragement to me and I am so excited to watch her enter into married life soon!!!

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Human Sex-Trafficking Awareness Day

Today is human sex-trafficking awareness day across the country.

I want to tell you a story.

A man was visiting a brothel. He was actually an undercover cop, but no one knew it. He was walking through the building, getting the lay of the land within this prominent Red Light District. As his eyes darted from room to room, corner to corner, he took up notes in his head as to the placement of everything. He knew in a few months he would be back here; the next time, he wouldn’t be undercover.

A few weeks prior, the authorities had several reports of possible cases of trafficking. It led to the discovery of a large trafficking ring, actually over 30 brothels intertwined, in one way or another. This was one of them. He was here on a mission; one which he could not act on until it could all come down at once. He was doing justice. It took time. But the payoff, well, the payoff would result in the HUNDREDS being set free.

As he finished up touring the inside, he noticed a door leading out back. He had come in broad daylight, so many of the young girls, free from the demand of their clientele, were playing outside on this sunny day. The door banged shut behind him as he took several steps out onto the back patio. His eyes skimmed the surroundings, as he immediately envisioned the troops surrounding the tall wooden fence, which currently served to lock these girls into this hellish nightmare. His plan of action was just about complete.

As he turned to head back into the darkness of the brothel, something caught his eye. Slowly, he rotated his body back in the direction of the east end of the yard. Much of the terrain where the little girls were playing was sheeted in lifeless brown grass. Then there were certain parts of the ground encompassing the fence that were simply covered in dirt. Sitting deep in the shadow of the fence, he wonders how he even noticed her. Her skin was a light hazelnut, her tattered brown curls fell well past her shoulders. She was hunched over a bit, sitting in the dirt.

He watched her for a few long moments, as his mind struggled to accept the vision seeping through his eyes. After all, this wasn’t the kind of thing they prepared you for in the force. This wasn’t the kind of thing they prepared you for in parenthood. This was just not something you would ever think you might need to be prepared for.

She sat back a bit, her bottom gently landing in the little pile of dirt that she rested on. He watched as she took the handful of dirt she had just picked up from the ground and proceeded to dump it right onto the top of her head. He watched her pale face expressionless face as she continued reaching forward and sweeping up large handfuls of dirt into her palms, and then piled it atop her curly locks of hair. It began to sweep down over her eyes, some piling up atop her sharp shoulder blades. Her white tank top was completely dusted in the russet dirt, its red undertones disguising her lighter complexion.

After an hour or so, of just being glued to that spot, one of the girls who had been playing with a ball walked over to the man. She followed his eyes which were still glued to the little girl covering herself in dirt. She tugged on the bottom of his shirt, breaking his trance and getting his attention. He looked down at her, her big brown eyes gazing up at him. Broken from his state of denial, he hesitated before proceeding to ask the childlike teenage girl what exactly that young girl was doing over there by fence.

Having already seen the child of whom he was speaking, the girl refused to unlock her eyes from his. She solemnly replied, looking straight into his eyes. "She was taken from her maw when she was five years old.  She eight now. She new here. Last night, madam asked me to take her upstairs and get her ready for her debut. Her whole body, it was shakin’ as I applied the pink blush and dull lipstick. I tried to tell her she had to stop those tremors or they were gunna beat on her, but she couldn’t. I sat outside the whole time.  I talked to her afterwards, told her it was all gunna be okay. Her mind seemed to be somewhere else. 

Now she over there trying to bury herself in that dirt pile. She done can’t handle the pain. She tryin to go on disappearing. I guess we all try to one way or another—you have to to make it round here. She just out here makin it happen in the physical."

He stood, perfectly still, the tears pouring down his cheeks, as he realized that this one, this precious little girl, did not have enough time for him to do justice. What if this was his daughter? He could not wait a month, a year, for the go ahead to save the hundreds. This ONE would not make it til then. The ONE needed him today, right now. He was overwhelmed by mercy. As he began striding towards her dirt pile in the corner of the yard, he decided that in this moment, right now, SHE mattered more then the hundreds.

Let’s rise up and come together to make a difference for the ONE today.

Not all are called to jump on the next flight to a trafficking hub across the globe, nor are all called to commit years to the pursuit of these girls freedom. However, we ARE each called to “Learn to do good, seek justice, help the oppressed, defend the orphan, and plead for the widow.” Isaiah 1:17 We are called to share the hope to which we have been called. We are called to love our neighbor as ourselves. We are called to lavish grace and mercy and love upon those in need.

You might not ever see one of these precious girls face to face, but just imagine all the eyes she might look into—and into the brokenness she can speak of a God who met her right there, a God who made her new. She can share of HIS love and grace and redemption in her own life. Let us rise up, generation, let us fight for these beloved daughters of our Daddy.

What that looks like is different for each of us. I pray that the Spirit would lead you to rise up according to His glorious will. Here are some resources that offer lots great ways to unite in pursuit of freedom for these women and children.  

The A21 Campaign

The Not for Sale Campaign

The Polaris Project

International Justice Mission

Mercy Ministries of America

The Home Foundation

International Crisis Aide

"Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born, I set you apart; I appointed you as a prophet to the nations." -Jer. 1:5

Thursday, January 5, 2012

For the 27 Million

Did you know that over 27 million people are living enslaved in the world right now?

IN 2012.

What do you do with that?? I honestly don't know. Here is what I do know—each of those 27 million matter. They are someone’s daughter, sister, brother, father, son, friend, aunt. Each of these individuals were created in the image of God—they matter to Him.

This year, Passion 2012 has begun to peel back the curtain and allow 40,000+ college students to see the reality of modern day slavery. In the span of just 72 hours, these broke college kids have given over THREE MILLION DOLLARS to fight the enslavement of brothers and sisters from the city of Atlanta (where the conference is being held) to the ends of the earth.

Louie Giglio, John Piper, Beth Moore, Francis Chan, and Christine Cain are coming alongside Hillsong, Chris Tomlin, David Crowder Band, and Lacrae to bring Truth from God’s word and time to worship and praise His glorious name. This is the first year I have not gotten to be at Passion in real life, but I have been blessed to watch it all via simulcast this week and the Lord seems to be breaking my heart for His enslaved children all over again.

Praise Him, that He would give me a hope and a future beyond my past—oh, I do not deserve it. And He will do the same for them.

As I have been listening to these men and women speak the Truth which has been placed upon their hearts, I consistently see a theme which is this:  who am I, that HE would CHOSE ME?? And yet, in His floods of grace and mercy, He has done exactly that. He has called each of us to proclaim with boldness the Truth that sets the captives free. And yes, that was us—that was me—apart from Him, that still is ME.

The line between us and them is getting slimmer and slimmer for me. The line between the 27 million and myself, that is.

This week the reality of slavery has resonated in my heart deeply. Lord, why not me? Why was I born in America, in the land of the free? Why was I not sold for money as a little girl? Why did you guard my life in such a manner? Why am I able to afford an education? Why do I have freedom to follow after you?

This week, my “daughter” has gotten to come home with me to St. Louis. As we have spent lots of time with my family and friends, there have been many questions she must answer over and over again. The fact that she is from South Korea has consistently brought up questions and discussion about the recent death of the dictator in North Korea. It was through these conversations I realized just how real this 27 million really is.

Sometimes, I think it is easier to ignore the world outside of my own (which has enough problems of its own) then to even attempt to rationalize the enslavement across the ocean.

In North Korea, men, women and children are starving to death. If a man or woman does not express their deepest sorrow at the loss of their dictator by shedding tears, they will be imprisoned. There is no way out—they cannot escape the borders of the land. Not by place, train, car or even by foot. From edge to edge, they are walled in. Women and children are being sold into the trafficking ring for $40 so that their families will not starve. In fact, women are selling themselves—selling their bodies for food. Over 80% of North Korean refugees are victims of human trafficking in China. There is no option to worship freely—men and women must raise their children to place all of their hope in a man on a throne, a sinner at that. All of their hope is in a man who busies himself with training up an army while his own people are being bought and sold, oppressed, and dying of hunger. My brain begins to shut off. Then it hits me—

Had my precious, beautiful “daughter” been born merely an hour north, this would be her that we are talking about. Starving. Selling her body night after night. Sold for a few dollars. Unable to escape. Hopeful in a fallen humanity. Enslaved. A matter of minutes difference, and this would have been her. All of a sudden, the oppressed people of North Korea are not so distant and no longer can I ignore their enslavement.

The 27 million people enslaved in our world today are not just a number we read about—she is someone’s daughter, of great worth in the eyes of our heavenly Daddy.

So now do we even begin to combat the enslavement of 27 million??

I don't kow. I am wrestling through that myself.

However, of this I am sure:
"Wake up, O sleeper, rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you." -Ephesians 5:14


Monday, January 2, 2012

In Anticipation of the Year to Come

Usually, I am not a huge fan of making New Years Resolutions, simply because I usually don’t keep them, but in the spirit of the season, I figured it could be helpful to establish some dreams and desires and vision for the year to come.

This year:
I want to read the bible in Chronological order.
I want to study the Old Testament.
I want to run a half marathon again.
I want to make it to the beach.
I want to go a whole month with no sweets—yes even dark chocolate. 
I want to build relationships with girls.
I want to travel overseas on a mission trip.
I want to have more wisdom in what to pursue in life after college.
I want to give away a lot of my stuff.
I want to memorize a book of the bible.
I want to know scripture—continually flowing from my lips.
I want to be less in control of my life.
I want to disciple a young woman.
I want to be more intentional about staying in touch with my family.
I want to share the gospel with someone everyday.
I want to maintain good grades.
I want to research natural medicine and really begin to apply what I learn.
I want to cook—a lot!
I want to eat healthier.
I want to witness a miracle.
I want to continue to do something in the battle against human sex-trafficking. 
I want to succeed on a budget.
I want to give more and buy less.
I want to blog every week.
I want to journal—everyday!
I want to have a Sabbath day every week.
I want to forgive those I still hold unforgiveness towards.
I want to become a member of a church.
I want to continue making and selling cards.
I want to be a better friend—die more and love more.
I want to become completely financially independent of my parents.
I wan to dissapear for a few days with Jesus--no phone or computer.
I want to learn to do the dishes and empty the dishwasher without complaining.
I want to begin writing a book.
I want to learn how to sew—with my new sewing machine.
I want to know Him as my best friend and the perfect Father.
I want to continue building relationships with international friends.
I want to wrestle some things out with the Lord.
I want to join a women’s bible study.
I want to eat something I have never had before.
I want to start reading the newspaper.
I want to complete 50 Pinterest projects.
I want it to be normal to pray hours each week.
I want to worship fully.
I want to meet my husband... :)
I want to be broken before Him.
I want to see my mom accept Christ as her Savior.
I want to see Jesus face to face.

Come Lord Jesus, Come. To another year of getting to know you more as I am humbled by my desperate depndence upon you and you alone.