Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Wednesday's Words: Week 2

If you didn't read last week's post, I explained that I would write a weekly short about coming home from the mission field. An insider's view on what their missionary friends are going through as they return. Go read it right quick. Then pick up here.....

This week, I wanted to mention the "What now?" factor. 
Often times, when returning home from the mission field, it's because we've finished a season of some sort. We are coming back to rest and to seek out our next step. It may be tempting as a friend to be asking about our plans, what may be coming next. What have we looked into? Applied for? Where are we headed? What's going on in our lives? There's not something inherently wrong with this. At some point, it's good to ask this. We need to know you care. The struggle comes when we've just returned home and are trying to catch up with everybody. We have several people a day to see, and often, every single person immediately begins asking these questions. This is hard for several reasons:

1. We may have returned home because a project was finished or a lack of funding. This means we were probably pulled out of a place we loved deeply and felt at home in. We may be mourning that loss and needing some time to learn to love being back again. Being asked what's next can be a bit like rubbing salt into that wound. Our hearts are tenderly missing those we just left and we may not be *quite* ready to picture a new place and new faces. 

2. Even though this is never the intention, when friends automatically begin asking about your plans as they see you, it can sometimes feel as if it's not exciting just to have us home. When returning, we need to know we were missed and that we are desired right where we are at this moment. Just for being us, not for what we can do. When we know what the next step is, believe me. We'll tell you! We'll be so excited, we'll be shouting it from the rooftops. (Well, tweets and status updates.)

Ways to be a good friend with the "What now" factor:

1. Understand that we may not have wanted to come home at exactly this time and that we may be a bit sad about it. Ask what activities we can do together to ease this. Ask us about people we worked with. Let us tell you stories. They're usually quite interesting and fun!

2. Simply celebrate that we are home right now. 
 Focus on the current moment with us and make the most out of the time we are here. Have some fun. Celebrate. Plan nights out, roadtrips, and adventures!

Stay tuned for more next week.....

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Wednesday's Words: Week One

It looks as if I shall be returning home in roughly 7-10 weeks. For how long I do not know.
As I've been thinking about this, the first thing that comes to my mind is a strange kind of unsettledness-almost a fear-of trying to re-enter the world I once lived in after being gone for a year. And after the kind of living I've been doing. I may not have been out of the country during this time, but the things I've done and the way I've lived very much reflect that kind of experience. (I work for a missions organization, I live on raised support, I spend every day at the mercy of bus and train schedules, I live in a low-income area, my housing is an old church building, and I spend my extra time in a former brothel learning how to fight trafficking.) 

I have so many friends all over the globe who've done this for years. Missions. Ministry. Moving. Coming and going. I've barely begun and I can't imagine what it's like doing this long-term. 
So I had an idea. 
I'm going to write a post each week about these issues. Short installments. The whole point is for those of you at home to get an extra "insider's view" into this whole world. To truly have a view of what your friends and loved ones who do the missions thing may be going through as they return home. And to be able to support and love them well. 

With that, I will dive right in.

Issue #1: Identity/Reverse Culture Shock. When a friend has been working in missions for any period of time, regardless of whether it's stateside or global-they have gone through a deep time of change. As they depart from the season they've been head-first in, they are not the person that left you. Inevitably, they will be very different. And they will have some culture and re-entry shock coming back to you. Just like they did when they departed for this journey, they are quite literally exiting one world and entering another one completely. It is a hard mix of mental, emotional, physical, and spiritual challenges to return home after working in these environments. Things that used to be normal are suddenly a luxury. Your friend is not trying to be snobby or "better" than they used to be, but the way of recent life has just caused a shift in the way they are used to doing things now. The habits, pace, and focus of those around them at home-even if they are the same as when your friend left-may suddenly be a very different culture than what they've been doing. And may be hard to adjust back to. This is often referred to as "reverse culture shock" by missionaries. Being removed from the place they were staying may begin a delayed process of realizing how different, hard, or amazing certain parts of life "in the field" were. A process that will need to be walked through. 

The best way to be a good friend and to love on them is to:
 1. Understand that they won't be the same person and embrace it. Notice the beauty in the changes! Learn from the changes. Glean from the things experienced.
 2. Be graceful and gentle rather than demanding. Don't push for instant or large amounts of time with them because they happen to be home. They will probably want to process things a lot at first. Sometimes that means a lot of alone time. Sometimes that looks like spending time on the phone or visiting with other people in similar fields. This doesn't mean they've suddenly made new friends and want to be with or speak to them more than you. It means they need to walk through a hard transition with someone who's physically done it. And don't be surprised if they seem less excited about doing things you may have once gone crazy over doing together. It may take time for their emotions and mind to adjust to the environment they have suddenly found themself thrown back into. They are going to need time to figure out how their new identity fits into their old life. They'll need time alone to process what's going on inside as they transition. Ask them questions. Try to understand what things were like for them. There were probably things about living situations, the job, and being separated from home that have left a mark on them. That hurt. Get to know this. Pray for them and with them as they work through what they've been through. Find out where they are experiencing "dryness" as a result and be an advocate for them filling those areas again. Also, notice the new things they may have discovered and grown to love. There may be a new item or habit that they are now into or interested in that may be foreign to you. Learn about. Take the opportunity to learn something new and beautiful. 

Stay tuned for more weeks of thoughts! 

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Check Engine Lights

It's 4:00am. I can't sleep because my world's been simply exploding.
Let me just talk about one of the revolutionary things that happened this weekend.

I attended a conference with some of the people from Elijah Rising-the anti-trafficking ministry I'm interning with. I didn't want to go. I didn't even wake up that morning planning to go. I was just pouting to myself because Miss Beth was doing a conference in Lubbick, TX and I wanted to be there and only there. But, the ladies talked me into attending. I went the first night thinking that it would be sort of weird and that I would just go for the one evening. Little did I know it would bring me total freedom.

Among the many things that happened, one big thing stuck out to me. I guess I've heard it many times before. But for some reason, it totally sunk in this time. The speaker was talking about a check engine light in a car. And how a person deals with it in one of two ways. They either see it and stop to figure it out, or they ignore it and pretend it isn't there as long as everything seems to run okay. Most likely because they don't understand it all and they're afraid to diagnose and asses things. They don't want to face the problem. Of course, that's the route I take. In fact, for a year before I left for Houston, my little red 1999 Nissan has had a check engine light on. And there were no good explanations upon examination. It ran fine. So I ignored it. I did nothing. I didn't want to face whatever the problem was. The thing is, the check engine light is a warning signal. It goes off to tell us that something deep down in the flow of the car isn't healthy. And while you can plow forward with the light on and keep going, you'll hurt things in the long run. You see where this is headed, right?

You know that we have some form of a check engine light in our lives or our spirit. And when it lights up, how often do we stop to examine it's cause? Or do we keep plowing forward because we're afraid to face it? I had a big blaring light on in me for several years. Something was never settling. Something was always screaming inside me that I should halt the brakes and pop the hood for a good deep inspection. But I didn't listen. I felt the pressure of making ends meet and taking care of myself financially, figuring out a path and plan because that's normal, and trying to be put together and involved in ministry enough to make God proud. I was utterly exhausted and worn out. I honestly thought that I wasn't allowed to slow down. That slowing down and saying "I need to take a while to breathe and be lost and deeply question what's wrong" is not okay. To me, that meant weakness. Or being a waste of space and time when God needs me to minister to others. Anybody else relating? This problem is why Jesus plopped me in the middle of Houston, Texas before I knew what hit me.

If I would've considered the ramifications of giving up my income (even though it was practically nothing) and car to come live on support in an old church building and tromp all over town alone on hours of bus rides, I would've run the other way. This is NOT what someone pictures for herself, and at my age. But as the year has progressed, I've had my heart opened to the depth of my works-based mentality and wrongly painted pictures of what ministry and serving Jesus look like. It turns out the check engine light is on for a reason. And this weekend the diagnostics team went to work. I realized I have been operating completely on a system of always having a plan or a back-up that I'm considering at every moment in the back of my head. There's hardly a night that passes where I don't lay my head on the pillow and immediately think "I could always go back to _____" or "if things don't work out I will just go _____ and do ______". And I am not pleased with myself at the end of the day unless I've poured myself out hard in ministry.

Elijah Rising's DNA is justice prayer. Surprisingly their success in fighting trafficking isn't usually tied to physically going in and acting at brothels. No. Their heart is to minister to the heart of Jesus Christ-who alone can right all wrongs. This is a wildly new angle of ministry that I have honestly never experienced. To spend the majority of my time and energy ministering to the heart of Jesus? Praying? Praising? Exalting? Worshiping? Loving? Seeking? Learning about? Sitting with?
Being present with Jesus and focussing on Him as my ministry?
"Yes. But how is this doing anybody any good?"
First, Jesus is worthy of ALL honor and praise all the time.
We could never even grasp the extent of that truth.
Second, through prayer and petition we may just move the heart of God and angels. No. I don't totally understand how this works. But it's talked about a lot in scripture. We are called the Children of God and Brides of Christ for starters. That's literal and means we are handed the sword and power of the courts of God Himself. This is something that should be blowing our minds and changing the way we walk and operate in everything. Why we choose living in defeat all the time instead is baffling to me.
Thirdthe more time we spend on Jesus, the more filled with His heart, mind, and power we become. And then when we interact with others, we are able to much more clearly and effectively serve and minister to them. In so many ways the American Church has got this all backwards. We are taught the urgency of being signed up for enough "ministries" at church to fully be pulling our weight. I used to spend all my time at events. Now I don't even go to church often at all but I spend all my time with Jesus. The more I study and worship Him, the more in awe of Him I become. And out of that, I sense when my bus driver, clerk at Kroger, and coworkers are stressed out or sad and I can stop and offer them the hope I am overwhelmed with. That is justice work. Bringing all things into redemption and reconciliation with their creator. Not beating down doors. But being present and willing to usher people into the Throne Room of Jesus. Facilitating an encounter with Him that will leave them forever changed. THAT is what I want to be about and only about for the rest of my life.

Monday, June 30, 2014

To listen.

There are a bunch of blogs out there lately that have spoken about the whole singleness thing. Most of them are written quite well. Almost too well. This is NOT going to be another one of those.
In fact, I'm even surprising myself here in what I'm about to say...

I love reading the points that are made. I agree with just about everything said. And I'm the first to admit I too share in some of the bitterness that comes with being single and hearing the cliche lines over and over from well-meaning women in the church who are honestly trying to help and encourage me but don't realize by their words they are telling me it's my fault in various ways. Sure, if one more person tells me this time is for the Lord preparing me for marriage (I'm not mature enough yet), it always comes when you aren't looking (Stop desiring what God wired you for), or I'm fortunate because I can go anywhere and do anything (Yes but I've actually been told I can't move to Africa because it's too dangerous for a single woman. Besides, you have no idea how haunting it is to do life completely by yourself. For YEARS), I just may scream. But I'm seeing a pattern emerging lately that I want to stand up and speak against. 

The reason I said these recent blogs are almost too well written is because in the name of discussing current relevant topics, people have become very crafted at wording things with an angle of cleverness that disguises the thread of bitter judgement that has begun to spin into some ugly cloth. I actually see a pattern evolving of young adults beginning to judge the older generation and the youngly married. We begin to think we are the ones who truly "get it" and are going to go change the world. We're the ones going to African orphanages and working in Indian back-alleys and rescuing the unseen and unheard. They are the ones living their entitled lives in the white picket fences. I can say this because for years, I've been that young embittered 20-something who thinks I have this thing down while everyone else chooses the easy route. But I couldn't be more wrong. And the quicker I admit this the quicker I will learn to see the beauty all around me. I would never be able to go all the places and do all the things that I have if I didn't have friends who are at home with careers. Working "normal" jobs and living "normal" lives. I may have all the drive in the world. I may truly have the ability to go start my own ministry in another country. I could even have the most brilliant plan in the world to end injustice and hunger. But without those who are PAs and nurses and homemakers and teachers and accountants at home fervently praying for me and cheering me on and believing in me with their financial support, I can do absolutely nothing. And if I judge them for staying where they are and doing what they're doing, I'm saying that I don't need or desire their support in my life. I'm claiming that I don't see the beauty in what THEY do and stating that it isn't good. Romans 12 and 1 Corinthians 12 both talk about the necessity of each person being a unique part of the body of Christ. If you're an ear, don't try to walk. If you're a hand, don't try to smell. Just be who you are and flourish in that! It's not as if God made a mistake when He created you. He didn't. He can't.

So many of my friends are moms with young ones at home. You know what? That's the hardest job in the world. I have NO EARTHLY IDEA how difficult that is. And some of my friends are nurses in a fast-paced and high-stress environment. I can't imagine what that entails on a daily basis. My "adopted" older sister in Jesus is a missionary in South Africa. There's no way I could grasp what that contains-even after both my trips. One of my closest friends is married and a homemaker. I didn't have any opinion for several years, and then one day I began to see how much my view of marriage and homemaking and ministry to ones community had changed. I had somehow begun to look at marriage differently. I had begun to ask for different things when praying for my husband. And I had started to be okay with asking for specifics. With looking for a certain future. Just by being married and doing life and making her home, my friend and her husband have been teaching me how amazing and beautiful it can be. What to ask for. And that if you wait for the right one, he won't slow you down in your dreams but propel you forward.

All of this to say, we are too quick to judge those around us. Too quick to think we know what they should do different. What they need to hear. Instead of trying to give advice or just shooting for the common ground when hanging out, why not ask genuine questions? It's the places that are tough for each person that they really need conversation, love, an ear, and a shoulder over. I should be asking my friends what the hard and painful parts of their lives are. What is challenging about parenting? About being married? About South Africa? What hurts deep down in that one spot that never gets talked about and makes you feel alienated? And instead of trying to sooth it or flounder around for a word that seems to sound nice, why am I not praying with them and for them. For those things specifically. Why am I not saying, "I have no idea what it's like to be you. Tell me what you wrestle with. Tell me what hurts. I want perspective. And I want to stand tall beside you and pray loudly and with passion over you." The way I understand it, if we're all different parts of the body, we may have some spiritual authority over the part our dear friends are struggling with. An authority to speak new live and breath over and into that area of their lives. That's WHY we're all woven into such unique tapestries. To be strong where our sisters are weak. But instead we avoid those conversations and stick with all the safe topics that don't require the vulnerability to ask someone what's really going on. 

I'm interning for an anti-trafficking ministry. And I haven't spoken about it in detail because the place we're at, the things we do, and the experiences I'm having are intense. And hard to explain. The office was a brothel a year ago. The kind of work done is deep. When you're literally fighting evil and praying down satan's army, you begin to come up against all kinds of crazy. You'd better suit up because you've entered a roar of war going on in the Heavenlies. One that doesn't push a pause button when you leave for the day. In fact, it often acts up more in the non-work areas of your life. You have headaches. nightmares. I've literally had a vision hit me out of nowhere involving a prostitute. Your mind and emotions can be shaky from the demons that are now after you. You begin to learn that this is now daily life for you. You're in. You know too much to walk away. And you don't want to. But you also realize most of the stuff happening most people don't and won't understand unless they're doing this too.

A friend from Modesto recently moved to Houston. Through church she was told about our organization and the things we're doing in the city. She immediately messaged me and said "I was just informed about all you do. Girl, you are in a dark place and I want to know how I can support you." She then proceeded to take me out for a beautiful day in the city in which we enjoyed each other's company and spoke about the heartache we each deal with. She just moved to the 4th largest city in the country. She's a mom of 3. She is trying to establish her family here while missing home and church and family. It was so beautiful to hear her heart and to have her care and listen to me as I talked about the struggles I'm dealing with. She teared up and told me she could never understand what I go through every day. That moment touched me so deeply. And I realized that is how it's supposed to be. That is the attitude we ought to take with each other. Rather than thinking we understand where others are or what they want to hear, let's just listen to their story and their heart. Let's get uncomfortable enough to simply pray with them and over them. Let's be different from everyone else. They have enough everyone else's, they don't need more. 

Sunday, June 22, 2014

The update and stuff.

Time for an update. Here's a quick 5 minute nutshell.

And here's the links I talked about:

For my fundrasing page:Gofundme
To purchase my paintings: Lizeesline


Thursday, June 12, 2014

Arise.

For years, I've struggled with feeling like I'm too much and not enough all at once. 
Even and sometimes especially in ministry. 
And I think we all experience this. Some more often than others. 
Feeling these things isn't a sin. Not at all. It's what we do with it that matters.
I got so tired I began throwing a fit. Sorry if that's too much for some of you to handle. I'm just being real here. And really? I'm a mess. We're all a mess. I began kicking and screaming. I spent at minimum several years telling the Lord I didn't want to feel that way. And I didn't want to change who I am. I wanted to be able to be fully me and not ashamed. Not too much, too loud, too big. And not feeling as if I'm falling short, either. I don't know that I've ever been in a situation in life in which I felt comfortable to be fully me before. Something always makes me feel I have to rein it in or strive to be better or more.

And then.  (Oh, how I love a good "and then." You know what I mean?)
And THEN I found Elijah Rising
I get to work in a building that was a brothel last year. 
I get to help with van tours that educate our city about trafficking.
I get to assist in the organization of what we believe is the first trafficking museum. 
And I get to be me. Here, they would never feel as if I am not enough or coming up short. 
And being too big or having too much muchness? Not a possibility. 
I wish I had time to tell you everything about this place and this internship. 
But for now I'll just share what they've been teaching me.....

You are not too much. No-you're not.
You are enough. 
Jesus designed you with the gifts and the personality you have. The last thing they are is a mistake. Too often we feel we have to tame ourselves to avoid making others uncomfortable. To be normal. To fit. 
Listen: Would He hand design you with a personality that'd need to be tamed? No. He doesn't make mistakes. It's society that makes us feel the need to pull back from flowing in the fullness of how much we are. Jesus wants us to move freely in our muchness. He intended on it when He made you. 
We aren't ultimately made to be what the rest of the world has become. Therefore, if we are all we are designed to be, we will look weird to the world. We will make others uncomfortable sometimes. But that's okay. Do you think deep down they're looking for the same thing they see everywhere else? Or perhaps, just maybe, they are looking for exactly the difference you have. 

What would happen if we refused to be put into a box? If we all realized that whatever we've been doing hasn't been working and we took that step forward? If we were willing to throw up our hands and completely let go of our ideas and plans of who we are supposed to be? If we stopped worrying over what our friends will think and allow the Holy Spirit free rein? Yikes. Did I just say that?! Did I just talk about the thing we all skirt around? Yep. I went there.
Guys. The Holy Spirit real. He's so powerful that Jesus said once we had Him we'd do even greater things than He did. Y'all- GREATER THINGS THAN JESUS?! I'm not making this stuff up. He has gifts for each person. It doesn't need to be an argument. It's in scripture. Let's just let Him at us already. Don't you think He's worthy of letting go of everything and just saying "Spirit, come!"Let's allow Him room to make us who He wants with whatever the heck gifts He so chooses. As long as we realize we can literally heal disease and move mountains with our words and our fingers. Let's cease being afraid of Him and be excited about having these abilities instead. Let's stop making excuses and become the person we're meant to be. Bold. Powerful. Undaunted. Not like this broken world. But like some Kings and Queens who know in the future they'll rein over this earth. And in the meantime, get to rein with their King over the powers of evil that are roaming so heavily over it. Kicking them out. Tearing them apart. In the business of redemption of all things. Because they can. And with that power, have decided not to go back to settling for less. 

This is Him calling you. Step away from whatever that reason is that keeps you from the big huge dreams you once had about changing the world. That reason? Whatever it is, it's a toxic poison. Turn. Walk the other direction. Be brave. Be big. Understand the totality of who you are in Christ. Let the Holy Spirit have full rein. And go start shaking the Earth with His power. There's a reason you always dreamed those huge plans to be a world-changer. Before adulthood drowned out the voice, you knew you could. That hasn't changed. Arise and go. 

Friday, May 30, 2014

The whys.

Today was tough. Some days and some circumstances often have us asking "Why?"
That why can be about the smallest detail all the way up to the biggest injustice life can throw at us. 
And we can spend an entire lifetime asking that why about that thing if we aren't careful. 

Today I was reminded that there is an ultimate answer to every single why. And that it's much simpler than we make it out to be........

It takes the lowest points to see the highest points. A light doesn't shine during the day. Without the harder moments and seasons, we don't get to experience the high of something being resurrected or redeemed. Period.  Seeing things redeemed and resurrected? That's the language of the Kingdom. That's how our King operates and why Jesus came. That is a fact. Next time we ask "why", let's remember the answer he gently whispers over us: "So I can show you how much I love to make things beautiful for you."