Friday, August 31, 2012

My week in review

My Aunt Dean has been here; that has been great.  A huge blessing!

Dad's melanoma has been removed successfully and he is recovering.

I have felt the peace and presence of the Lord time and time again.

I bumped into an old co-worker last night.  Good to catch up.

It rained so hard in Charleston one day I seriously contemplated making a boat out of card board to get home.  There were kyakers in the Market!

Krissie has made me laugh and cry -- in the best of ways.

Wednesday night services at my church started back up; time of worship was great.

I went for a 45 minute run to clear my head the other day.  I can never run that long, but it was great.

I have been eating terribly and need to start eating salads next week.  Ask me how that's going next week!

I'm still rocking out with my egg shaker.  Thanks, Weston.

A few good cries.  

Long stretches of dry eyes.

Fighting for peace rather than understanding.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Comic Relief

Saturday night while I was sleeping, I missed two calls from a number I don't know.  I also received a text from the same number saying, "rave tonight, down?"

Interesting.  Right?

Clearly, I didn't respond.  However, I did relay this information to Maggie this morning.  Together, our investigative skills deducted:

  • he sells quite a lot on Craig's list
  • we think it is likely he helps his mom sell her goods on CL
  • he's a high school kid in the Charleston area
  • he isn't too active on Facebook
What would we have done before the internet?

Friday, August 24, 2012

Hope deferred

Proverbs 13:12

Hope deferred makes the heart sick,
but a desire fulfilled is ia tree of life.

We long for things...we all have hope for __.  True, some things are more noble than others; yet, our hearts long regardless.  Eternity has been set in our hearts (Ecc. 3:11).

I don't know about you, but today I am taking great comfort that my God knows I hope and knows that my heart can ache/be sick over the deferral of things I hope for.  

And then I read this and it puts things into perspective all the more...

When in doubt, dance it out!

Our last evening in Chinandega, we were waiting around to load up the vehicles to head back to the barrio (neighborhood) for a revival.  Our drivers/friends/ministry companions/hosts were late (something we were accustomed to), which left us hanging out in the hotel lobby.  

When there I spotted it - perhaps the greatest discovery in Chinandega!  This picture won't do it justice, but it was a disco joint.  A few of us walked over and started dancing.  One wall was lined with Shakira posters; another had CD labels with things like Romantico #7 and then 12 songs.  Hilarious!  We loved it.  Somewhere there's a pretty cool video of us dancing floating around.  :)


This is when my motto was born, "When in doubt; dance it out!"

And, I'm still dancing.  Currently to a playlist entitled "therapy" and using an egg shaker to hype the jams up a bit.  

And...since I'm talking about dancing.  This is a true story that happened to me Tuesday.  I was having dinner with my friend, Heidi.  We had some time to kill prior and stopped in Kudu.  A chill coffee house/good beer shop where our friend Drew works.  

A dude walks in and I say to Heidi, "if that guy's British, I've totally danced with him one night while our friend Jay played.  He's a great dancer.  Let's try to hear if he's British."  Hahaha.  We make eye contact and he says he knows me but from where?  Dancing!  Yes!  Of course!

My British buddy also knows Drew.  Small world, no?!

Drew:  How do y'all know each other?
Brit: We danced together one night in a bar one time.
Drew: Gotcha.  We (he and I) danced together on top of a bus one time.

Oh, how I wish there were pictures of Sweet Drew and I dancing on top of this: 


in this parking lot: 


Good advice.

I would love to claim these thoughts as my own; however, they come from Todd - Year Team leader and pastor here.

I emailed him the following:

If the heart is deceitful above all things (jeremiah 17.9) - how do we make decisions that aren't clear cut?!

This was his response:

Society says, "Go with your heart" or "Follow your heart." It is one of the
great lies. However, like any lie from the enemy, there is an element of
truth in there that has been perverted.

What I think is a MUCH better filter for discernment is Colossians 3:15-16:

"And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were
called in one body. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you
richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms
and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God."

So you're not trusting your're trusting the peace of Christ. If
a decision is hypothetically made, is there peace that comes with it. That
word 'rule' in the Greek is probably better translated 'referee.' So I like
the image, "Let the peace of Christ referee in your heart."

Second, Paul is reminding his reader they have been called to one body. How
does your decision sit with the community of believers around you? This is
why it is important to have people speak the HONEST truth to us...not just
tell us what we want to hear.

Last, how does it align with the word of God? It drives me crazy when I hear
people say, "God doesn't speak to me." He's given us an entire book of words
through which He desperately wants us to seek Him and know Him. So does a
decision line up with Scripture?

Trusting your heart is emotion and feeling. What happens when the feeling
changes? Trusting your heart rests entirely upon ONE individual's moral
compass. Not good.

Discernment is filtered through 1) the peace
 of Christ, 2) community and 3)
the Word.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Good folks

I started a note on my phone for things I am thankful for.  Throughout the day, I try to jot things down -- anything from my Nalgene to having healthy lungs to the rain and fun music.  And throughout the list there are people.  People I talk to all the time and some not so much.

I got an email from a long time buddy yesterday.  Tyler's got this way about him that brings comfort and encouragement, coupled with truth.  He's always had the ability to make me cry.  As we exchanged a few emails, I grew increasingly thankful for the people in your life that know you.  That you can pick right back up with.  That don't think you're crazy because they've seen you in many facets.  

I talked to a child hood friend last night on the phone and was again grateful for those in your life that continue to be woven in - the bond is tight even if it's not relied upon often.  

As I type this, a Phil Wickham song plays on Pandora.  It's called Safe - this line provides truth: when everything is falling apart, you will be safe in His arms.

Praise the Lord for that!  And praise Him for being a relational God - using people to challenge and encourage us, to remind us who we are, and who we belong to.  

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Meet Jerrell.

I went to ATL this past weekend and seriously y'all, it was great.  I think I needed an escape from my reality and it was just that.  I ate way too much, laughed really hard, and danced like a rock star.  Also, have you had a Moscow Mule?  Go ahead - give it a whirl!

Leigh and I headed from Charleston and somewhere out of town I realize we could pick Weston up saving him a trip alone.  He takes us up on our offer and the three of us share our current ups and downs and laugh and realize that life is hard, yet humorous.  We stopped at Wal Mart in Madison, GA so that Weston and I can use the restroom.  Leigh can get razors, Weston needed deodorant, and we all needed M&M's.

We make it to ATL in good time and go our separate ways.  Well, Weston and I both went to Maggie's.  Again, the weekend was incredible filled with many friends, Yacht Rock, and Waffle House.   Need I say more?  Oh, we also got to see Mary Alice and Stephen's beautiful home and watch Andrew try sherbet for the first time.

We celebrated Maggie's birthday well!  And today is her actual birthday.  HAPPY BIRTHDAY MAGGIE!

After a brunch at Goldberg's, Weston and I met back up with Leigh for the trip home.  We were all excited to de-brief our weekend and continue our "car therapy" session.  About an hour out of ATL, we heard a funny noise.  Leigh asked if it was her car.  I said, "No; I don't think so.  I think it's an airplane."  Really?  An airplane?  Yes!

I roll down the window to find the plane...still searching...

Weston rolls his window down and says, "Oh, I know that smell anywhere; it's a flat tire."  Leigh pulls off the side of the road.

We all empty out of the car.  Weston is right.  About the tire: it is flat.


 And the smell: it is tragic.  At first I thought it was the tire...but was a large decaying armadillo!  Gross!


Weston immediately goes to work to change the tire.  Only Leigh's fancy Volvo is different than typical cars and so it isn't working.


At some point, flashing blue lights come up behind us.  I'm excited because if we can't figure this tire thing out, surely the patrol officer can, right?!  Wrong.  SC offers tire changes as a service; GA does not.  Homeboy knew less about changing tires than I did.


At one point I had this thought: why are we here?  On the side of the road?  It is taking forever.  I really really want to get home to go to downtown ministry, but that is out.  There must be a reason.  The cool thing is that none of us got frustrated.  We kept our cool and pressed on.  {I think God knew we needed more time together or something?!}  Leigh is on the iPhone reading about tricky Volvo tires.  We are trying everything we can.  Then Leigh starts calling tow trucks.  Weston and I are praying over the tire...


This picture isn't great, but that is her in the cop car making calls.  At one point, I got in, too, to see if Dad's AAA would work for us.  It would not.  I called dad to let him know that and he said, "just call the highway patrol; they'll come take care of it for you!"'m in the highway patrol's car and they won't.  GA is different.   I have to go.

The patrol officer found a guy that would come change our tire.  He'd be there in 45 minutes minimum and would charge us $85 to $95.  To change the tire!  None of us wants that to happen.

I keep praying.  Leigh and Weston keep kicking the tire (per Google).  Just as we are about to give up and do something else, Weston gives that tire one last kick.


I wish we were on video.  The three of us jumping up and down on the side of the highway!  Thank you Lord!

The doughnut is put on.  And we're not sure where to go in small town GA on a Sunday.  Wal Mart; of course!  And what do you know?  We're in Madison -- the same Wal Mart we went to on Friday.  The patrol officer followed us there as we cruised at a mere 50 MPH down the highway to the next exit to turn around and pull into our old stomping ground.

This is where we met Jerrell.


He's 76.  Loves the Lord and used to say the opening prayer at his church, but now he has to work on Sunday's.  He was such a sweet dude.  I told him he was cute; he blushed a bit.  :)

While the Volvo got two new tires, we got Magnum ice cream bars.  Why not?!


The tire situation added two hours to our trip.  But you know what, it was still a good time.  Good friends.  Good conversations.  Good reminder for me that life doesn't always go accordingly to plan.  We can't control that, but we can control our responses.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Valley of the Dry Bones

I went on my first mission trip when I was 16 - spring break of my sophomore year of high school.  My church youth group went to Mexico.  I would become a Christian a few months later.  Though I didn't know Jesus personally, the trip was still meaningful.  And as I've gone on more trips the past year or so, I keep thinking back to Mexico.

We were each given a little journal - a green spiral notebook with a picture of a skeleton on it that said, "The Valley of the Dry Bones."  Ekekial 37:1-14.  I can still picture the notebook now and it may be buried somewhere at my parent's house...

Through my Bible in a year reading plan, I read that passage while in Nica last month (I can't believe I left a month ago today, ps! Where does time go?  I miss it!):

The hand of the LORD was upon me, and he brought me out in the Spirit of the LORD and set me down in the middle of the valley; it was full of bones. And he led me around among them, and behold, there were very many on the surface of the valley, and behold, they were very dry. And he said to me, “Son of man, can these bones live?” And I answered, “O Lord GOD, you know.” Then he said to me, “Prophesy over these bones, and say to them, O dry bones, hear the word of the LORD. Thus says the Lord GOD to these bones: Behold, I will cause breath to enter you, and you shall live. And I will lay sinews upon you, and will cause flesh to come upon you, and cover you with skin, and put breath in you, and you shall live, and you shall know that I am the LORD.”
So I prophesied as I was commanded. And as I prophesied, there was a sound, and behold, a rattling, and the bones came together, bone to its bone. And I looked, and behold, there were sinews on them, and flesh had come upon them, and skin had covered them. But there was no breath in them. Then he said to me, “Prophesy to the breath; prophesy, son of man, and say to the breath, Thus says the Lord GOD: Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe on these slain, that they may live.” So I prophesied as he commanded me, and the breath came into them, and they lived and stood on their feet, an exceedingly great army.
Then he said to me, “Son of man, these bones are the whole house of Israel. Behold, they say, ‘Our bones are dried up, and our hope is lost; we are indeed cut off.’ Therefore prophesy, and say to them, Thus says the Lord GOD: Behold, I will open your graves and raise you from your graves, O my people. And I will bring you into the land of Israel. And you shall know that I am the LORD, when I open your graves, and raise you from your graves, O my people. And I will put my Spirit within you, and you shall live, and I will place you in your own land. Then you shall know that I am the LORD; I have spoken, and I will do it, declares the LORD.”

I am pretty sure I've only read this passage those two times: in Mexico and Nicaragua.  SO much has changed in my life in the span of 13 years.  Not only did I come to know and love Jesus, but now I truly believe in prophesy and that God can raise the dead through the power of the Holy Spirit.  I have seen the Lord do crazy things and things like this make me incredibly excited!  Parts of our trip felt like we were in the valley of dry bones - be it the dust or spiritual darkness we encountered.  Yet we watched the Lord restore and revive and bring new life in - no matter how dire circumstances may appear.

I am broken.  And messy.  And sometimes my bones feel dry.  I have had life breathed into me...and I constantly need new life breathed into me.  Today, I told Courtney that I was tired of crying in my office.  {Yet, I'm thankful I'm not in a cube so others don't have to see me.  There's always something to be thankful for, right?!}

So much has changed in 13 years and so much of me is the same. At the end of the day, we are all broken and messy folks who's bones need to be revived by our savior.  The last verses of that chapter say:

My dwelling place shall be with them, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. Then the nations will know that I am the LORD who sanctifies Israel, when my sanctuary is in their midst forevermore.”

The Lord is in my midst.  He's in my mess and my brokenness.  He is with me in the darkest of times.  As my heart teeter totters between peace and anxiety these days, I am thankful I can rest in the truth that God is mine, I am His, and He's not going anywhere!

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Understanding v. Peace

Is it an Allstate commercial that says, "Life comes at you fast," ?  I can't be sure, but I think so.  I've definitely been feeling that way these days.  Personal issues.  Family issues.  Work issues.  Is there an end in sight?  I don't think so...not because I'm being a pessimist, but because life keeps going and that inevitably means there will be mess and hardship along the way.

However, this morning, in the midst of troubles, I am thankful.  Thankful for a friend that woke up at 5:00 am and felt the Lord call her to pray for me and my family.  Thankful for support from friends.  Thankful for people coming alongside me and loving me in the middle of my junk.  I'm thankful for Psalm 27 as I read it over and over this morning while IT worked on my computer...again.  Thankful for the book Jesus Calling.  Though I don't own it (yet), the Lord keeps using it to challenge and comfort my soul.  

Maggie sent me this from August 7:

"Understanding will never bring you Peace. That's why I have instructed you to trust in Me, not your understanding. Human beings have a voracious appetite for trying to figure things out in order to gain a sense of mastery over their lives. But the world presents you with an endless serious of problems. As soon as you master one set, another pops up to challenge you. The relief you had anticipated is short-lived. Soon your mind is gearing up again: searching for understanding (mastery), instead of seeking me (your Master). 

The wisest of all men, Solomon, could never think his way through the to Peace. His vast understanding resulted in feelings of futility, rather than in fulfillment. Finally, he lost his way and succumbed to the will of his wives by worshipping idols. My Peace is not an elusive goal, hidden at the center of some complicated maze. Actually, you are always enveloped in my Peace, which is inherent in my Presence. As you look to Me, you gain awareness of this precious Peace." 
I love to understand.  I love to figure things out: what's the problem?  What's the solution?  Let's make it happen.  Sometimes that works; sometimes it doesn't.  When the solutions aren't clear cut and when things are out of your hands, it can make you (me) grow anxious, fearful, and the likes.  But you know what?  

The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear?  The lord is the stronghold of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?  ...  I believe that I shall look upon the goodness of the Lord in land of the living!  Wait for the Lord; be strong and let your heart take courage; wait for the Lord!  
Psalm 27:1,13-14

That doesn't solve anything; it solves everything.  I can't understand or fix, but I am with the Lord in the land of the living and he is in my midst.  He is worth waiting for.  And I  

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Beautiful Mess

Sometimes life is a mess.  Mine sure seems to be one these days.  I'm reminded of a few things:

A friend told me you get to decide who you invite to dine with you at the table: hope, despair, joy, fear, etc...  Who have I been inviting?  Whom would I prefer to dine with?

I read The Shack a few years ago and was shocked at how much I adored it.  I couldn't find the exact quote I was looking for, but found this summary here.  What I see as a mess, the Lord sees as a beautiful work in progress.

Sarayu (the Holy Spirit) shows Mack a messy, fractal garden. The garden is full of colors, herbs, flowers, plants. Mack describes it as a “chaos in color”…”confusing, stunning, and incredibly beautiful.” As they walk, Sarayu picks various herbs and plants and flowers, giving them to Mack and creating a bouquet.
She then gives Mack some garden tools and leads him to a secluded patch of absolute beauty—breathtaking. She asks for his help in clearing the patch because she wants to plant something else here instead. Stunned at her request to destroy something so beautiful, he joins her in clear-cutting the beautiful patch of garden. Their conversation turns to the topic of Good and Evil where Sarayu makes the comment, “You humans, so little in your own eyes. You are truly blind to your own place in the Creation. Having chosen the ravaged path of independenc, you don’t even comprehend that you are dragging the entire Creation along with you.” She also states that “humans have a great capacity for declaring something good or evil, without truly knowing.” She begins to question Mack about his ability to really know what is good for him or what is evil. He says a lot of it is based on how something or someone effects him…that somethings he thought were good turned out to be bad, and visa-versa. They continue to work and dialogue together.
Sarayu tells Mack that Evil is simply the absence of God, much like Darkness is simply the absence of Light, and Death, the absence of Life. That Evil and Darkness can only be understood in relation to Light and Good..that they do not actually have any existence. Light and Good actually exist. So by Mack removing himself from God plunges him into darkness. That is death because he has separated himself from God: Life.
The conversation turns towards Mack daughter, Missy, and he asks if she had the right to be protected. Sarayu says, “No Mack. A child is protected because she is loved, not because she has a right to be protected.” This floors Mack. She continues, “Rights are where survivors go, so they don’t have to work out relationships…” that “Jesus didn’t hold on to any rights; he willingly became a servant and lives out of his relationship with Papa. He gave up everything, so that by his dependent life he opened a door that would allow you to live free enough to give up your rights.”
Papa then arrives. Mack says how, though the garden is a mess, he somehow feels strangely comfortable in it. Papa and Sarayu smile at each other. Sarayu says, “And well you should, Mackenzie, because this garden is your soul—thismess is you! Together, you and I, we have been working with a purpose in your heart. And its wild and beautiful and perfectly in process. To you it seems messy, but to me, I see a perfect pattern emerging and growing and alive—a living fractal.” Mack crumbled. He looked at his garden and it really was a mess, but incredible and wonderful at the same time.
The chapter ends with Mack walking up to the workshop to look for Jesus so they can go for a walk…

Friday, August 10, 2012

My most favorite Nica story July 2k12

I wasn't supposed to go on this trip.  The trip was technically full, but Edy told me I could buy my own ticket and tag along.  I did exactly that!  Three of my four flights were with the team, but I'd be solo from Miami to Managua.  Initially, I was pumped about the alone time.  However, I was having a great time with the team and when we landed in Miami, I decided to ask the airline folks if I could get on with my buddies.

Since I checked a bag, I could not.  I turned to Rennie and said, "I'm not in a good place.  I love alone time and the idea of having four hours alone with me, my thoughts, and God scares me right now."  Yikes!  We grabbed breakfast (second of the day) and then some friends came with me to my gate to hang out while I waited to board.  Typically, I'm an eager beaver to board, but not this day.  I waited until I was one of the last.

Some things going on personally and being scared to come face to face with my thoughts and what I'd been avoiding/trying to hide from the Lord, I started crying as soon as I was out of view from my friends.  When I stepped foot on that plane, I KNEW beyond a shadow of a doubt, way down in my gut, that I'd ride in first class.  My ticket said otherwise, but the Lord whispered to me that I'd be in first class that day.

As tears quietly rolled down my cheeks, a flight attendant asked if I was ok.  I said yes and then made eye contact with a boy in first class.  After a minute he said, "take my seat."  "No!  I'm not taking your seat!"  He said, "no, take it.  Give me your ticket."  We switched seats and for the first time in my life, I was in first class.

LESSON ONE.  Just as I didn't deserve first class, I don't deserve salvation and a relationship with Jesus.  Jesus switched places with me -- took death so I don't have to -- as this kid switched seats with me.

Turns out, there was a group of 80 Catholics heading to build water wells.  The kid in front of me turned around and said, yeah, Alex is really nice; he's like a Catholic Catholic.  {Note to self: he's a Christian.}  The flight attendant brought over a tray of mimosas and waters.  I went to grab a mimosa and knocked the entire tray over.  Yes, of course I did!  I'm now covered in orange juice and a crying mess.  She brings over a towel with club soda and I have to chuckle.

Y'all, if you ever get to ride in first class, DO IT!  They bring you a warm towel to clean your hands with.  Then I received a warm bowl filled with warm mixed nuts.  They were yummy.  Then I had a glass of red wine.  Then they asked if I wanted chicken or filet for lunch.  Really?  Filet was the easy choice.  As I sat there, awaiting my food, I started feeling guilty.  Alex wasn't even getting a snack in coach, yet I was about to eat a delicious meal.  I didn't deserve this at all!

LESSON TWO.  The Lord spoke to me and said, "Just accept this.  Let me love you."  I needed to be reminded that the Lord loves; He is love.  He pursues.  He cherishes His children.  I try to run and hide, but he will always seek me out.  He is the greatest lover and pursuer of all time.  And I needed to receive His love.  His love doesn't always come in the form of first class and lavish amenities, but it does always come.

The first course was a beautiful salad of arugula, shaved Parmesan, and balsamic.  Second course was filet with fancy cheese on top (I don't remember what kind), awesome mashed potatoes, creamed spinach, and a balsamic roasted tomato.  There was caramel cheesecake for dessert.  And I had a second glass of wine.

I had fun talking to the kid next to me and the dude in front of me.  Dude in front of me needed a life change; in a huge way.  I hope and pray that his time in Nicaragua changed his life forever as he had a real encounter with Jesus Christ.  I also had good reflection and time alone with my thoughts and the Lord.  And, I was able to write Alex a thank you note for giving me his seat.

I got off the plane and waited for Alex, saying thank you and handing him my thank you note.  He looked me in the eyes and said, "you're welcome.  I could see that you were in pain and I wanted to do whatever I could to take that away from you."  Y'all!  This kid was like 18 years old!  How great is he?

LESSON THREE.  I think that's how the Lord looks at us.  He sees our struggles and our pain and he wants to take it away from us.  It doesn't mean life will be smooth sailing or perfect; it doesn't mean we won't struggle or be in pain, but it does mean that He will walk with us through those times.  And, when we submit to Him, we will be released from the things holding us in bondage.

I was able to speak publicly three times during our trip and twice I shared this story.  Most of the people I spoke to haven't left their country, let alone been on an airplane, or in first class.  However, the lessons don't change.  We all fail and make mistakes and get hurt and are broken in certain places.  We all need to be reminded that God is love and when we know him, we encounter his love in real and tangible ways.

It certainly was a plane ride I will never forget.  I'm so grateful for Alex and his generosity!  AND the most amazing thing happened.  The way home -- my actual ticket from Managua to Miami was in first class!  Can you believe it?!  I did the best thing I could do and traded seats with someone else...

Time flies!

Do you ever have one of those moments where you just don't know where the time went?  Jenn just told me I hadn't blogged since June and I could hardly believe it.  I checked and what do you know?  She's right.

I have had many thoughts over the past month and a half or so, but haven't had the discipline to put them on virtual paper.  Here are some things I've been up to:

  • Forth of July was a blast.  Had a grand time eating Bojangles, making friends, and acting like I was a college kid again.
  • Courtney and Krissie came for a visit! 
  • Work has been insanely busy.
  • Visited the Thain sisters and their families at Edisto!
  • Went to Nicaragua.  
Y'all, I left part of my heart there.  Again.  This was likely my most favorite trip of all.  We got to go to Masaya -- where our fearless and faithful translator, Melvin, is from.  It is a gorgeous part of the country.  I laughed and danced more than I have in ages.  I felt and saw the Holy Spirit move in some really powerful ways: people were healed, people came to know Jesus Christ as their personal Lord and savior, some really personal prayers were answered as I got time with Hazel and Jilman.  I thought it would be impossible to see Jilman, but with God, nothing is impossible!

I have a favorite story from the trip that I'm hoping to share sooner rather than later.  

As for me today, I'm trying to get through month old emails at work and make to the end of the work day.  Dinner with friends in Charleston then driving to Edisto for some quality time with the Sheltons!