Birds, a Clinic, and Me.

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For those of you who know me, you know I don’t like birds. Due to a few childhood experiences of angry birds and being chased, I’m leery of them and they may or may not elevate my heart rate in their presence. But this morning, during my personal morning devotion, Martin Luther took a well-known passage of Scripture that uses birds to illustrate just how concerned God is about us and he spoke straight to my heart. Maybe it will to yours as well.

“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?

-Matthew 6:25-27

And again we read:

Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground outside your Father’s care. And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.

-Matthew 10:29-31

We see how God cares for birds, knows what they need, and are reminded just how much more He is concerned about us–those He has created in His image, sent His Son to die for, and who He provides for and dotes over like a proud Father.

Sometimes I forget just how concerned God is for me though. I read those Scriptures above and I agree, but I don’t always let it speak to me. Familiarity can cause me to miss the gold mine of meaning and keep me from exploring how it personally applies to my life. But then other times God graciously brings it up and it is as if I am reading those words for the first time. I’m wondering if you can say this too?

Martin Luther begins his exposition on Matthew 6:26-27 by saying, “You see, He is making birds our schoolmasters and teachers.” In other words, as many birds that are in the air singing away at the top of their lungs and unconcerned about where their meal will come from even if they have a family to provide for, they are preaching, teaching, and challenging us like preachers and teachers. They are calling us to put our hope and trust in a God who knows.

A God who cares. A God who provides. A God who delights in caring for His children.

Luther tells us that when we hear birds chirping, we are listening to “an excellent preacher” who is exhorting us with the Gospel not by words, but as a living example. He follows that by driving it home in this way:

“Every day you see before your very eyes how the heavenly Father feeds the little birds in the field, without any concern on their part. Can you not trust Him to feed you as well, since He is your Father and calls you His children? Shall He not be concerned about you, whom He has made His children and to whom He gives His Word and all creatures, more than about the little birds, which are not His children but your servants? And yet He thinks enough of them to feed them every day, as if they were the only thing He is concerned about. And He enjoys it when they fly around and sing without a care in the world, as if they were saying: ‘I sing and frolic, and yet I do not know of a single grain that I am to eat. My bread is not baked yet, and my grain is not planted yet. But I have a rich Master who takes care of me while I am singing or sleeping. He can give me more than all my worries and the worries of all people could every accomplish.'”

Now since the birds have learned so well the art of trusting Him and casting their cares from themselves upon God, we who are His children should do so even more.

So I read those words and intentionally stopped to listen to the song being sung around me this morning (click the link to hear that song).

I let the birds minister to me and there were a multitude of them chirping away. Some more fervent and frequent, and others more calm and steady. They all had a reason to sing and they do this every day whether or not I am listening. They are not singing for me, but today they were singing a song I needed to hear.

I also heard the murmurs of people coming and seeking care from the clinic on the compound where I live. People who have come to a place in hopes they can find relief from their physical ailments and who are also being met with the gospel and care for their spiritual ailments.

Both the people and birds are doing what they know to do, and God is concerned and meeting their needs. Both have a reason to sing.

And then there’s me.

Lately, I’ve lived in the upper echelon of stress that is not maintainable. I become so tunnel-visioned that it has become difficult to take anything else into consideration other than the work, projects, and needs that are looming overhead. I’ve grown weary and tired and somehow have forgotten that God cares and is beckoning me to cast my anxieties on him (1 Peter 5:7) and to draw near to Him so that He can give me the rest I am longing for (Matthew 11:28-30). I’ve become so consumed with what I can and cannot do to the detriment of my own mind, body, and soul. I’m aware of this and this is why I’m taking a few days to get away (not geographically) with God. To retreat to the One whom my soul loves. To quiet my mind, refresh my heart, and relax my body. It’s not easy, but it is vital to my life, ministry, work, and schooling. Self-care these days has become an urgent need because I’ve lived too long on the opposite end of that spectrum and it shows. So today, I’ve begun reframing my view on birds and I thank God for using them and the people at the clinic to remind me of His love and concern for me as well. Their song and their trust are pointing me heavenward and I’ll never stop needing this reminder. Thankfully, all I have to do is stop and listen and I’ll hear this same song day in and day out.

I have a feeling I’m not the only one in this boat though. Maybe you’re in this place too. The stress and worries of life have squelched any ounce of joy that you may be able to muster up and the war within is exhausting. You are desperately longing for relief yet refuse to lower your defenses for fear of losing your perceived control. Maybe you need to hear that you’re not in control and that God is and He can fight this battle better than you can. Maybe you need to start following and stop trying to lead. If that’s you, you’re not alone. I get it. But even more than that, God gets it. And the good news is that only He can provide all that you need in a way that is specifically tailored to you and your heart.

There is peace to be had.

Seek the Lord.

Stop and listen to the birds.

Breathe deep and repeat.

Repent.

Return to the One who is your source of life and peace.

And trust.

In closing, I’ll leave you with an exhortation from Luther:

“Since you are Christians,” He says, “you dare not doubt that your Father is well aware of your need for all of this, of the fact that you have a belly that needs food and drink and a body that needs clothing. If He did not know it, you would have reason to be concerned and anxious about how to provide for yourselves. But since He does know it, He will not forsake you. He is faithful and willing to take special care of you Christians, because, as has been said, He cares for the birds of the air as well. So forget your anxieties, since you cannot accomplish anything by them. It does not depend upon your anxiety but upon His knowledge and concern.”

We cannot accomplish anything with our anxieties, but we can offer them up to God and He can remind us of just how faithful, loving, and concerned He is, has been, and always will be for us. We are worth more than all the birds so take heart.

Also, if you’re needing a great devotion for the morning, check this out:

Spiritual Classics by Renovare (where this mornings reading came from) and Devotional Classics by them too!

 

Weird Places.

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I just want to start out by saying that I miss blogging, journaling, thinking about things I want to think about, reading the books I want to read, not stressing, starting and ending sentences with prepositions, and using contractions as I write. There. Now I feel like I can move on and write the way I want to.

Since January and the start of grad school, I have morphed into this person that oscillates between the top left photo and the top right photo. Maybe oscillates is too smooth of a word…it feels more like… being tossed to and fro…except not in the Ephesians 4:14 context of that phrase because I am actually anchored through it all. I am anchored in Christ and know that I am doing what I am called to be doing now. However, that doesn’t stop the waves from crashing all around me and keep me from praying that life would chill the mess out soon.

I’m living in this weird place of:

chaos and peace

frustration and hope

sadness and joy

anxiousness and hopeful expectation

loneliness and thankfulness for all those around me

questioning and confidence

hurry and wanting to slow time down

and to be completely honest, I’m exhausted.

You too?

That is, until I can find a few moments where I can steal away somehow and quiet my soul for a few. In those moments of quieting, I feel like I’m in the eye of a hurricane…or tornado for us Kentuckians. At that moment, with everything swirling around in the background, as I connect with Jesus, my soul is quieted and I am grounded. We lock eyes and I am reminded that He is with me. Not only is He there with me, but He is sovereign over the storm. He knows the chaos I’m living in. He knows what I’m thinking…what I’m feeling…what I’m doing. He sees that I’ve grown weary. And all the while, He’s standing there in front of me…with no expectation to have it all figured out. No frustration because of how long it took me to come to him. No condemnation because I tried to muscle through everything on my own. No doubt as to whether or not He wants me there. I hear him saying, “come to me, Jessie, you are weary and heavy-laden and I can give you rest.” He’s saying the same thing to you. His eyes are full of love and concern. His hands are open to receive all that we are carrying that we should not be. His presence is calming. He is good. He is near. He will never forsake us. He does not delight in our anguish. And He is able to meet our every need.

These moments of connection are what my heart longs for…what it needs. This is what we all need. And the cool thing about Jesus is that, unlike all other gods, He is accessible. He freely offers Himself. His eyes are on us and his ears are bent towards us. He is sympathetic and empathetic. He loves us unconditionally and He is concerned about our affairs…all of them. There is peace in Him and as we stand on holy ground before Him, we feel it.

His peace quiets the chaos.

He brings hope in the midst of frustration.

His joy triumphs over sadness.

Hopeful expectation replaces anxiousness.

His provision of friends, family, and various Barnabas’ in our lives drive out feelings of loneliness.

Our confidence in Christ answers the questions and silences the doubts.

This quieting…this slowing down…this change of pace works against the hurriedness of the world that constantly tries to drive us away from our one true source of life–Jesus.

My life is full of many juxtapositions. Many paradoxes. Many highs. Many lows. Many victories. And many learning opportunities. I would venture to believe that many of you could say the same. There are so many things in our lives that stand in contrast to one another and sometimes it’s hard to make sense of it all. Life is not all rainbows and butterflies and it’s not all death and destruction. For believers in Christ, everything will not be perfect until we step into the inheritance that is awaiting us in heaven. For nonbelievers, this world is the closest they’ll get to heaven. For Christians, when we face death and experience the consequences of sin, we know that it does not have the final word and we grieve with hope. We’re on to the enemy and Jesus says in John 10:10 that “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” Jesus came to give us abundant life…and that abundant is understood as we find ourselves in Him. He knows that this world is not an easy place to live and that is why Jesus’ words in John 16:33 speak straight to our souls. He says: “I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.”

When I look at life, I am quick to see black and white and I am idealistic to a fault some days. My moral compass is consulted throughout the day and sometimes wish others would let me calibrate theirs. My inner critic is loud, opinionated, and annoying, so if I do not get away and spend time with Jesus, I become jaded and feel like I’m about to blow a gasket. I write all of this to say that sometimes I struggle to live in the in-between…the grey if you will. Being able to live in the tension of two contrasting realities–the now and not yet–earth and heaven–is a lifelong struggle. Thankfully though, I don’t have to go at it alone. WE don’t have to go at it alone. Charles Spurgeon said that he “learned to kiss the wave that throws me against the Rock of Ages” and that is what I am striving to be able to say. I’m trying to thank God for the trials and painful experiences in life because I know that He is doing a work through them. I’m there and understand this some days. But other days? Not so much. And you know what, there’s grace for those days.

For anyone else who may be in this weird place too, I’m saying this to you as much as I am reminding myself–TAKE HEART. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus–the author and perfector of our faith. May we turn to Christ sooner and more often–especially when we are feeling the weight of our fallen nature. May we ride the waves knowing that they cannot overcome us because Christ is near and we are anchored to Him…the Rock…the unchanging One. Let us trust Him with all of our life no matter how calm or scary the waters are in which we reside, and may the peace of God transcend our understanding along the way.

Words I Strive to Live By.

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Before I share more about the words I strive to live by, I just want to start by saying that:

I AM GLAD NOT EVERYONE IS LIKE ME.

If there were 7.53 billion Jessie’s, it’d be one boring world. We’d only eat chicken, cheese, and chocolate, have as many dogs as people, wear Columbia brand clothes every day, love basketball, football, and softball, and be morning people. We’d all have old souls, old knees, and old friends. We’d all be one-wing-nines for you Enneagram people and INFJ’s for you faithful Myers-Briggs believers. Our love language would be “Words of Affirmation” (shoutout to Love Language knowers) and we’d all be bookworms who only read books that make us think and cause us to examine our own hearts as we seek to align them with God’s heart seen through Jesus and guided by the Holy Spirit. For me, that world sounds ideal. For others, you’re over there feeling boxed in and claustrophobic…and extra thankful that the world is not full of me. (You can thank God for that.)

As I’ve lived and even more so as I’ve been working on my grad school stuff, I’ve grown in self-awareness. As I’ve examined my own motives, beliefs, culture, and values, I’ve come to appreciate the diversity that exists in the world…although I think I’ve always had a natural bent in that direction–but nowadays it’s just more pronounced.

I am thankful for those who are like-minded and share the same faith as me. I’ve grown, have been encouraged, loved well, and corrected by those in the household of faith. I’m thankful for those doctrinally different than me but who choose to see past the secondary issues and strive to keep the “main thing the main thing.” I’m thankful for the charismatic as much as the conservative. I’m thankful for those who have different giftings as me and who choose to use them to encourage the body of Christ and draw others into the kingdom of God. There is beauty and necessity in diversity.

For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and all were made to drink of one Spirit.

For the body does not consist of one member but of many. If the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body.  If the whole body were an eye, where would be the sense of hearing? If the whole body were an ear, where would be the sense of smell? But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose. If all were a single member, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts,yet one body.

-1 Corinthians 12:12-20, ESV

(emphasis mine)

I’m thankful for unbelievers and those who have yet to come to the faith. I have the opportunity to share the good news and grow in my own faith and boldness. I see the brokenness of the world clearly through them and they serve as a reminder of myself when I was just as broken, lost, and apathetic towards God. I see how far I’ve come, how gracious God has been, and how much further I’ve got to go. I’m thankful that God uses us and calls us to love and serve those who are not like us. I am challenged by them and I learn because of them. The harvest is plentiful and not barren. My work, alongside the other few workers in this world, is important and not in vain. There is still a need and room for more workers–come join a work that has great reward not only for yourself but for others. Unbelievers and those who have yet to hear the Word of God are waiting.

I write all of that above to bring us to the words that I strive to live by in a world full of those different than me. These words challenge me when I start to become egotistic. When I begin to think that everyone should think like me and act in ways I think are right. When I begin thinking thoughts that stand in stark contrast to the Word of God and are prideful, arrogant, and selfish. When I start putting up walls and begin looking down on others from atop every block I stack in building that wall. When I get so caught up in social justice issues that I start thinking negative thoughts about people created in God’s image and start belittling them to the defamation of God’s character and good design.

These words are humbling. They’re grounding. They’re convicting.

Do unto others as Jesus has done for you.

-J.D. Greear taken from this sermon (Go listen or read it after you finish reading this post)

Nothing humbles me quicker than those words that are constantly brought to mind when I begin to stray. Oh to have a heart so bound to thee that I would not be prone to wander so easily! These words level the field, take my eyes off of others, and remind me that apart from Christ, nothing good is in me–I am sinful to the core BUT GOD is faithful to the end despite my momentary failings. So I look to Jesus to help me respond in a way that honors Him and His creation. I am reminded that I have to first deal with the log in my own eye before I can rightly help with the speck in another’s. These words knock me off the high horse I have no business trying to ride. They convict me to the core because by choosing not to treat others the way that Jesus has treated me, it is an affront to the gospel and the Creator who sent His only Son to die for them as much as He sent Him to die for me. Self-righteousness is ugly and causes great grief to not only yourself, but to everyone else who is around you.

To do this isn’t easy, but it’s right. And good. And honoring to God. And it is what He’s asked of me and all of those who are believers and followers of Jesus. Scripture isn’t just nice words written on a page we should leave there. These words are living and active and sharper than a double-edged sword. They are words that require hands, feet, open minds, and willing hearts. We’ve been called to so much more so let us soldier on–refraining from being entangled in civilian affairs and striving to please our Commanding Officer. Have nothing to do with foolish, ignorant controversies; you know that they breed quarrels (2 Timothy 2:23). Recognize that what causes fights and quarrels among us is our passions that are at war within us so therefore, let us submit ourselves to God so that the devil may flee. Let us draw near to God as He simultaneously draws near to us. May we, who are double-minded, cleanse our hands and purify our hearts. Let us grieve over our sinfulness and fully recognize that we need Jesus to help us live in a way that is glorifying to Him. Let us humble ourselves before the Lord and trust that as we do, we will be exalted by the only One who matters (paraphraising James 4:7-10).

In light of this, let us strive to do unto others as Jesus has done for us:

If forgiveness is needed, let us forgive the same way the Lord has forgiven us.

If grace is beckoning, let us extend grace.

Because love covers a multitude of sins, let us love and let it cover offenses.

Tear down the walls of hostility in the same way Jesus did–destroying barriers and making us one.

Refuse to speak poorly of those who are different than you.

Be merciful.

As far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.

Be kind and tenderhearted–just as God in Christ is towards you.

Consider the inherent dignity, value, and worth despite our differences.

Be patient.

Be humble.

Be generous.

Look past your own selfishness and do what is best for all.

Speak up for those who cannot speak and defend the rights of the poor and needy.

Be an advocate, not an adversary…unless it’s satan you’re standing against.

Support and be near to the broken in heart & spirit

I could keep going. But you get the point. Jesus did all of this and more for us.

And He asks us to do the same for others. 

As followers of Christ, let us follow His example and seek His presence as we flesh this out. When we mess up and don’t get it right, let the Spirit that dwells within us convict us and move us to make right our wrong and humble ourselves before God and others. As followers of Christ, we should never do what we want, say what we want, and live how we want no matter how old we get or what nation God graciously chose for us to be born and live in. Everybody, everywhere, for all time, deserves our respect–not because they’ve earned it, but because God loves, cares, and calls us to extend it. I’m thankful that I didn’t have to earn God’s respect…I would never measure up. It is only because of His great love for me, that I am able to know what love is and extend it to others…freely. Love is always respectful and it’s always the better way. We should strive to do what God wants, say what He wants, and live in the abundance of life He created us to live in for His glory and our good.

And now I’ll leave you with the other words I strive to live by–maybe they’ll challenge you too:

We are not accountable to God for what others say and do.

We are, however, accountable for what we say and how we respond to others.

Let us be found faithful.

Loving.

And doing unto others as Jesus has done for us.

 

 

 

The Next Thing.

48328459_289623155229656_7354761813679931392_nElisabeth Elliot’s writings have been influential in my growth as a believer and many moons ago, she popularized an old Saxon poem. I was reminded of this poem not too long ago and it was brought to mind again the other day. In light of the direction my life is taking right now, it has been of comfort.

As you read the poem below, take a moment and press in–there might be something in it for you too.

From an old English parsonage down by the sea
There came in the twilight a message to me;
Its quaint Saxon legend, deeply engraven,
Hath, it seems to me, teaching from Heaven.
And on through the doors the quiet words ring
Like a low inspiration: “DO THE NEXT THING.”

Many a questioning, many a fear,
Many a doubt, hath its quieting here.
Moment by moment, let down from Heaven,
Time, opportunity, and guidance are given.
Fear not tomorrows, child of the King,
Trust them with Jesus, do the next thing

Do it immediately, do it with prayer;
Do it reliantly, casting all care;
Do it with reverence, tracing His hand
Who placed it before thee with earnest command.
Stayed on Omnipotence, safe ‘neath His wing,
Leave all results, do the next thing.

Looking for Jesus, ever serener,
Working or suffering, be thy demeanor;
In His dear presence, the rest of His calm,
The light of His countenance be thy psalm,
Strong in His faithfulness, praise and sing.
Then, as He beckons thee, do the next thing.

-Anonymous

Just do the next thing and trust the Lord with it all. Those are the words I’m having to remind myself of about a thousand times a day right now.

So what is this “next thing” you ask?

Grad School.

This past Monday I was informed that I was accepted into the Professional Counseling program at Liberty University.

*cue wanting to vomit while simultaneously freaking out with excitement.

If you’ve been around me, you’ve probably heard me say before that I couldn’t/wouldn’t ever go back to school…and that’s probably one of the reasons I find myself where I am now. Ha! This has been a quick turn of events but when the Lord takes hold of that deep “soul-knowing” place, He doesn’t relent until you take a step of obedience in faith. I’ve had this similar feeling a few times in my life and it has always preceded a leap of faith. This feeling was present when I finally accepted Christ, when I moved to Haiti, when I changed organizations in Haiti, and now when I applied to graduate school. Through all these leaps of faith, God has been faithful, and because of that, I am now stepping out in full confidence that He who began this work in me will see it through to completion. While the initial leap feels familiar, where I’m landing is uncharted territory and that is the terrifying part. I’m jumping off into the deep end of life both personally, spiritually, emotionally, and professionally… for the rest of my life.

I shared with you on my last blog, which you can read here, that something was stirring in my soul and I couldn’t yet speak to what it was at that time. THIS was what was stirring.

We (my missionary community) recently had a team of counselors and others who loved and cared for us well, down in Haiti for a week. Little did I know just how life impacting their trip would be. Haiti is a tough country to live and taking care of our mental health is something we know we should be doing, but the resources are limited and unfortunately, more often than not, it falls on the back burner. Personally speaking, I do my best to process things, but the speed at which things are constantly being fired at me only leaves time to halfway process things…if at all. It’s unfortunate, but I’m positive I’m not the only missionary that feels this way.

During their week here, apart from group counseling sessions, we had a time set aside for individual counseling. This might come as a surprise for some of you, but about six months ago I began looking up grad school and seeing what was out there. I looked up education and guidance counseling and even sent a few inquiries to a couple universities, but there was never any peace so I stopped. I shared this with my counselor during my individual counseling session and after I told her that, I said, “who knows, maybe I’ll do something like what you’re doing…”

No sooner than those words escaped my lips, the Lord took hold of that deep soul-knowing place and He didn’t let go. I wrestled with it for the rest of the week in hopes that He’d relent and I could go back to my “normal” life. He never did. I talked with the leaders from the trip and my closest people here and there was nothing but excitement and a resounding “YES!” from them. This just seemed to make sense.

It wasn’t until I was writing my Statement of Purpose to go along with my application to Liberty that I began to see just how much sense this made. I look back and I can see how God has been perfectly orchestrating absolutely everything in my life from childhood to right now and my work in Haiti for this. I can see how my undergrad degree in exercise science and my work as a personal trainer was preparing me to work with people to develop and meet personal goals. I can recall phone conversations I’ve had with people who were at the end of their rope and said they had no reason to continue living. I’ve walked alongside friends who are/have been grieving losses. I’ve been one that many have reached out to for biblical advice and guidance. I’ve been a soft place to land for many people. I’ve been an ear to listen, a shoulder to cry on, a hand to hold, a voice of reason and assurance, a confidant and a friend. I’ve been in so many situations where I didn’t really know what to say or do and somehow God has always worked through me in those moments and for that, I am thankful.

This has all transpired in a matter of weeks and while it’s been crazy, there has been this sense of complete peace from the moment I filled out and sent in the first document of the application process. Isaiah 30:21 says, “Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, “This is the way; walk in it.”–and this where I find myself right now. I have a few hopes and dreams as to where this might lead, but for now, I am looking forward to the learning process and starting to apply what I am learning in my everyday ministry here in Haiti for God’s glory and the good of those around me.

Thankfully, my classes will be online so I will able to stay in Haiti and continue the work that I am doing now for the time being. There are a few semesters when I will have to go to Virginia for a week long intensive, but everything else for at least 2 years can be done from Haiti. After those 2 years, I will then need to transition out of Haiti because of practicums and internships that can’t be done here. For the life of me and my sanity, I cannot even begin to think about that day and the ramifications of this decision, but I know without a doubt it will be the most bittersweet day of my life. We’ll just cross that bridge when we get there and try not to think about in the meantime. However, I’m pretty sure I’ll need counseling myself when that day arrives! Haha!

But anyway, that’s my news.

This the “next thing” in this little ol’ life. January 14th is the starting date of this new journey for the next 3 years and I couldn’t be more excited to see how God uses this.

So here goes something! 

 

Look Him in the Eyes.

I’ve had this mental picture emblazoned on the forefront of my mind the past couple days through personal experience, and I thought I’d share in case anyone else needed to see and hear this too. So picture this with me:

When you hand somebody something, normally you don’t just blindly stick your hand out in their direction and drop whatever you are holding in hopes they catch it. When you’re receiving something from someone, you’re usually looking at them at the moment of exchange and it is there you get the confirmation that they’ve received what you were holding out thus signaling you can now let go. When handing or receiving something, you both make a move in the same direction and reach for the same thing. For the one who gave something away, they have now been freed and no longer carry the weight of what they had. For the one who received what was given, they are now responsible for what happens next.

This is what Jesus asks us to do in 1 Peter 5:7 when he beckons us to cast all our anxieties (NIV) on him because He cares for us. He cares for you. He cares about the things you care about. He wants us to hand him the things we care about that cause us anxiety and stress. He wants the things that make us lose sleep or sleep too much. He wants the things that seem petty as much as he wants the big things that happen in our lives. He wants the things you don’t think he wants. He wants the things you are trying to hide and cover up. He wants the good, the bad, and the ugly. He wants the things that hurt you and cause you to fear. He wants the things that bring you shame and make you doubt your worth. He wants to replace the lies and fear. He wants the counterfeit Jesus you sell yourself to come face to face with the real Him, the real Jesus, so that you can see the love, the grace, the mercy, the kindness, and the truth in His eyes. What you find when you look Him in the eyes draws you in and as you are drawing near, He is drawing even closer to you (James 4:8). He’s there. He cares. He loves you and there is nothing you can do to make him love you more or less. There is nothing you can confess to Him that makes Him cringe and second guess whether or not He should have chosen you. He remains faithful even when you aren’t. He loves you when you’re seemingly unlovable to others and towards yourself. He pursues you today and every day that follows for all the days of your lifer because He wants you. All of you. He wants you to live like the lavishly loved son or daughter you are–the son or daughters He loves so much that He sent his one and only Son to die for so that you may be ransomed and saved. The son or daughter who has been reconciled with God which means that you can live at peace with Him, yourself, others, and the rest of creation. The son or daughter who now in turn makes it your business to be about the Father’s business here on earth. We strive to make known the salvation, freedom, healing, grace, kindness, and love God has for each and every person who has been created in His image.

When we are casting our cares and anxieties on Him, we can’t do it blindly. I admit though, sometimes I feel like I’m throwing things at Him like some sort of Hail Mary pass hoping He’ll catch them and do something with it from a distance because I feel like I have 499 other things I’m juggling and just don’t have time to deal with that one thing. Other times I’m closer and it’s more like a shovel pass (for you non-footballers: a short toss) but there’s still a disconnect because as I’ve learned this past week, He wants a handoff. This week I was brought to a new place of intimacy with Jesus as I was led to Him through some of the most incredible people and I had the time and space to sit with Him. I personally handed Him each thing that was weighing me down one by one and I looked in His eyes with each thing. As I was handing him each and every thing, He was receiving it with so much care–treating it as if it were the most precious and fragile thing He’s ever received. There was so much love and concern in His eyes and with every thing I gave Him, He was reassuring me that this wasn’t a burden to Him and that He had been longing for me to give it to Him for quite some time. With every thing that I handed Him, I was able to breathe a little deeper and feel the tightness in my chest loosen. I was being freed.

This is what He wants for you too and when you are face to face with the real Jesus, not the counterfeit one, I can almost guarantee you’ll experience many of the same things. There is freedom from fear. Freedom from condemnation. Freedom from the enemy who thrives on filling your mind with lies and who comes only to steal, kill, and destroy every single thing in your life. Freedom to walk as the new creation you became when you accepted Christ. Freedom to live as one who is deeply loved, seen, and cared for by the Creator of the universe. You have been set free and by giving Him the scariest, the most painful, the biggest, the smallest, and every thing in between, your healing has begun.

But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed.

-Isaiah 53:5

This is where I challenge you. Take your mess to Jesus. And don’t just stop there–I challenge you to take this process one step further. I was just challenged with this this past week and God did something in that sacred space that caused me to spend even more time with Him that day. When you’ve handed Him every thing, spend time looking Him in the eyes. Put on a worship song (not a Christian radio song but an actual worship song–I have recs for days so if you need some of this genre, shoot me a message because I’ve got you) and look Him in the eyes. What do you see? How does He look back? How do you feel? Can you even do this? If not, why? In that space ask Him why you can’t look Him in the eyes. For others who can look Him in the eyes, spend time there worshipping Him. And after you’ve spent a good amount of time looking Him in the eyes, what does He want to say to you? Sometimes we are so busy talking that we don’t give Him time to speak to us. So quiet your heart, look Him in the eyes, and listen to what He has to say.

What happens next is on Him but this I know to be true:

God is good. He has His glory and our good in mind so we can trust that whatever comes to pass fits into a bigger story that we might not see clearly at this moment in time but we know that it will come full circle either in this life or the next. We also know that whatever He has will be far better than we could ask or imagine. There is only good that can come from giving Him the things only He can handle instead of trying to handle His things.

He is God. We are not.

And that in itself is freeing.

So take heart:

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us,  fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.

-Hebrews 12:1-2

And spend time fixing your eyes on His.

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*Also, I’m ridiculously thankful for the group of counselors who came down the past week to pour into my missionary community and myself–they lovingly pointed out and helped us throw off some things that have hindered us. The work isn’t finished but God definitely started something through them while they were here. I’m better for the past week and thankful that I not only saw, but felt their hearts and the heart of Jesus. I love the body of Christ and the beauty that exists within in it.

And just for good measure, this song has been on repeat today while writing so you should go on and listen to it while you’re here:

 

Golfing in Haiti.

Golf.

You either love it or hate it. Or in my case, you might have a spent a few high school years making fun of the game and cheapening it as a sport. That was, until I actually tried to play.

After I graduated high school and was not playing what I called “real sports” (read: basketball and softball), I decided I wanted to see what golf was all about. I asked those couple of friends (shout out to Todd and Wes) to whom I had spent all that time making fun of the game they loved, if they’d teach me a thing or two about golf and thankfully they agreed. In my athletic arrogance, I always thought it couldn’t be that hard, but once we started playing, it didn’t take long to realize just how hard it really was. I learned that I should have been cheering them on and in amazement of their skills. I then spent my days apologizing for ever thinking it was a “sissy sport.” It might have been sissy in contact, but it was seriously one of the hardest games I’ve ever tried to play…next to tennis and racquetball.

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That summer you could find Todd, Wes, and I at any number of courses in our area. Every opportunity we had to play, we took it. Through it all, Todd and Wes were so gracious and  insanely patient with me when I wasn’t patient with myself. I wasn’t used to not being good at a sport because they had always come easy to me. Learning to swing a club was way different than swinging a softball bat and I blamed my muscle memory for my handicap and most of my frustration. I spent a lot of money that summer on golf balls because I’d lose at least half a box during our game. Many balls would end up wayyyyy off course, in a pond, never found, lost in a cornfield, or left behind because there were people coming behind us so we’d have to move on. We played best ball anyway so my ball never really mattered. Todd and Wes gave me more mulligans than anyone should be allowed to take in the course of 9 holes…and yes, we played 9 holes because I think my patience and their sanity was on the line. I still wanted to be friends afterwards so we did what we had to do to maintain that. I learned a lot that summer and gained a newfound respect for the game. I vowed then and there to never make fun of something until I have tried to do it myself. Todd and Wes were good men and they still are to this day. I am forever grateful for all our golf shenanigans we had that summer and the lessons I learned.

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I am asked often what it’s like working in Haiti and a couple years ago I made an analogy between golf and Haiti that I’ve been using ever since:

Working in Haiti is like playing golf…especially for people who aren’t professionals. You get a good hit—a good conversation, a good program, a good meeting, a salvation—and you’re excited. Things are going well and life is good. Then it’s very well possible that your next few balls don’t end up where you envisioned or wanted them to go. Conversations don’t go well, programs don’t work out, meetings are stressful, and things are tough. You’re frustrated and sometimes culturally perplexed but you keep going. Before long though, you get that next good hit and you’re back on the mountaintop. You play the game always hopeful that the next hit will be better than the last. The next outreach will go smoother and the next conversation will be well-received. You recognize things that you might need to change in your swing to change the projection of the ball—the projection of the conversations, relationships, and programs. You are always learning, adjusting, and trying again. Sometimes you lose balls—relationships—and other times you find more than you were looking for. Sometimes you’re given a mulligan and other times you have to make what you have work. There are no perfect games and because you love the game, you take the highs and lows in stride. You keep playing. Keep loving. Keep serving. Keep mining for the gold. Keep holding onto hope.

Working in Haiti does differ on these two points though:

1.) When the golf game ends, what happened on the course stays on the course for the most part. You enjoyed (or were frustrated) the time playing for a few hours but beyond that, things that happened during those hours don’t weigh much on your everyday life. The work in Haiti never stops—its like one never-ending game of golf—which doesn’t exist. Everything that you say and do rolls over and has ramifications for what is to follow.

2.) Playing golf is usually a sport that is done selfishly. You play because you enjoy it and unless you’re playing in a charity event or on a team, you’re usually playing for yourself. Working in Haiti is quite the opposite. I am not here for myself. I’m here for the Lord and for others. Along the way though, I have learned a lot about following Christ and serving others. I know the things I have learned have further refined and sanctified me and for that I am thankful. It hasn’t always been easy but it’s been worth it and will always be worth it. There is a reason for the work here and the main reason is to glorify God and to point others to Him. That same reason applies to you and the work God has called you to wherever you are and in whatever work He has given you to do.

In Christ, nothing you do is in vain. Without Christ, everything you do is in vain.

“For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven
and do not return there but water the earth,
making it bring forth and sprout,
giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater,
 so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth;
it shall not return to me empty,
but it shall accomplish that which I purpose,
and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it.

-Isaiah 55:10-11

Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.

-1 Corinthians 15:58

So onward and upward my friends. Let us live well and love better. Let us work hard and keep our eyes fixed on Christ. Let us enjoy the work of our hands and see the fruit of our labor. Let us sow in hopeful expectation and reap with joy. Let us have open eyes, ears, and hearts to those around us and may the Lord be magnified until earth looks like heaven.

You should click and listen to this just because it’s that good.  You’re welcome. 

Before Coffee.

I have a routine every morning:

Wake up.

Let Cherie out.

Get ready for the day.

Arrive at the Coleman’s at 8:30 a.m.

Get my coffee.

Grab my Bible.

Start morning devotion with our team around 9 a.m.

Begin our work day and the seemingly hundreds of things we get to do.

But this morning was different .

 

Hopefully by now you know and realize that I am not this “perfect little missionary.” I am just like you. Except I live in Haiti and might have a few more cultural hurdles to cross daily with the grace of God. And if you’re anything like me, you probably have a daily routine that you prefer and you feel my pain when the morning routine gets interrupted.

 

You would think by now that I’d be this ridiculously flexible person who can adapt, adjust, and advance no matter what is thrown at me. You would think I’d be used to not having my days pan out as planned. You would think I’d just give up on even trying to plan my days and happily go where my day takes me every day. You would think that after 4 years of living here, I’d know better. While I like to think I’m a fairly flexible person, there are still some things that I like to be fixed…like my routine of coffee and morning devotion before my days work starts. If nothing else can be controlled, at least I could have that little portion of my day, right?

 

Wrong.

 

And I know that. However, I think my morning routine was due for a shake up and today was that day. I should have known it was coming when I didn’t fall asleep until 1 a.m. and was up every other hour after that. My morning routine was off because I wasn’t as well rested as I normally am and I was looking forward to that cup of coffee a little more than usual. (Side note: this is why I am THE BIGGEST advocate for making sure missionaries invest in doing whatever they can so they can sleep at night. If you can’t sleep, it colors the rest of your day and all subsequent days. Compound not sleeping well over time and you turn into a bitty—I’ve seen it happen and I know how it affects me personally. So people who support missionaries, show them a little love and help them invest in sleeping well—they need it.) To be honest, I didn’t want anyone or anything to impede my route to that cup of coffee this morning so when a lady approached me asking for help before I had time to get off the moto, I ashamedly had made up my mind I couldn’t help in that moment and she’d just have to wait and come back after coffee and devotion was done.

 

As I was getting my keys, she asked for some help for a child. With it being school time, I am being hit up to help pay for kids school left and right and that’s what I thought she’d be asking me to help with. I was ready to tell her I can’t help because I am maxed out, but she was insistent on showing me the child. I told her that wasn’t necessary and trying to end the conversation, I asked what “kind” of help she needed. She then called someone to bring the kid over. I turned to unlock the door somewhat annoyed because I told her I didn’t need to see the kid but she was bringing the kid anyway. I was more than ready to make my way towards that cup of coffee I had glorified only to turn back around and see a malnourished kid who needed help right then and there, coming towards me. I told them to give me a minute and I walked inside because this was a momma Rachael job. Usually at this point in her morning routine, she has downed a few cups of coffee herself and is already doing school with Levi. That means she’s unavailable until they’re done around noon. However, when I walked in the house, surprisingly (and thankfully) she was sitting at the kitchen table and available.

 

We walked back out, called them in, asked a few questions, and then sent a message to another missionary friend in our area who has a malnutrition program she has been doing for years. We knew she’d been in the States so we were initially sending out a message to see if she could even help us with this situation. As God would have it, she had just returned to Haiti the day before so she told us to come on over. Praise. God.

 

So we loaded everyone up and Sally did what she does and the child was admitted into the program. Another praise! However, the circumstances surrounding the malnutrition are what broke my heart. Our heart. The mother is a 17 year old who lost her father young and her mother a few years ago. She had been living with an aunt after her mothers passing and then that aunt died when she was pregnant. She went to live with a sister and her husband who have 5 children of their own and she gave birth 4 months after her aunts passing. Here recently, her sisters husband told her she couldn’t live with them anymore because they had too many people in their house. It was then she sought out another sister who graciously took her in. That sister was the one who came to us this morning. The 17 year old mother and almost 2 year old son have been living with that sister for the past 22 days and the sister knew that this child’s malnutrition was serious and they needed help.

 

I am so thankful that she came to us and because of that, we get the privilege of walking alongside of this family in the coming days. I’m thankful she was persistent and brought the child despite me telling her not to. I’m thankful she came to me when she did this morning and that God changed my morning plans. What happened this morning was definitely better than that cup of coffee I was after.

 

However, upon seeing the child this morning, I immediately started wrestling with the fact that I had been so unwilling to deal with what was in front of me before I had my coffee and spent time with Jesus. I was convicted that I wanted my routine before I wanted to help. Ouch. I mean, what kind of missionary thinks those thoughts?! I told you I am just like you. Believe me yet?

 

There are still things I’m working on and will be working on the rest of my life on this side of heaven. I’m thankful there is grace and that His mercies are made new every morning. I’m thankful that God interrupts my best laid plans and throws my routine for a loop every once in a while. I’m thankful He reminds me what is important in this life and took what I considered a momentary “inconvenience” and gave me a great opportunity to be the hands and feet of Jesus to a broken and hurting family. I’m thankful for people like Sally and organizations like Kay Timoun who are here fighting for better tomorrows for so many malnourished children in our area. I’m thankful to live where I live, do what I do, and serve with incredible human beings in the Coleman family. I’m thankful that God still chooses to use me despite myself.

 

The family we helped today are our neighbors so we will be keeping up with them through this journey. We are looking forward to standing with this mother who is a child herself. We look forward to seeing the transformation in this child and his health being restored a hundred fold. We are looking forward to getting to know the sister who took her in and developing a relationship with her. We look forward to seeing what God has in store for us all through this journey.

 

So the lesson that was learned that I pass on to you:

When God interrupts your smallest and best laid plans, know that He is going to give you something better and more impactful to do for His glory and your good.

Receive it and then walk in it.

It’s worth it.

And I ask that you be praying for this mother, child, and sister.

Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.  Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do goodto all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.

-Galations 6:9-10

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P.S.

I was able to have my morning coffee in a gas station coffee cup with a broken handle as I was spending time with Him while serving another this morning. And I couldn’t have been happier.