Sunday, August 24, 2014

The thorn in my side.

The other day yet another person made a comment to me that I'm just so positive and happy and my life is so fun. I hear that a lot. In that particular moment, the comment hit me in the gut like I'd been punched. While I'm madly in love with Jesus & He is my everything, I don't get that way by having some sort of glamorous life. It's quite the opposite. Ministry, singleness when I want a family, alone-ness, working in deep and dark places, financial strain. These things are daily life for me. One doesn't fall madly in love with Jesus & get to know Him intimately without going through trials that equal that depth. So while I may have an adventurous life, it doesn't always feel that way. I have in fact had a hellish week and my emotional and mental state at the moment is, well, mud.  Oh, don't get too worried. That's the drama queen in me talking. (I lost count of how many versions of me live in my head at any particular moment. Welcome to womanhood and a former crazy.)

Here's the thing. I'm mostly a sanguine. I'm mostly ridiculously joyful. Now.  That wasn't always the case. That wasn't always me. Besides, y'all know how social media works. You show the good and never the hard. "Hey-look how amazing my life is! Look at all the cool things I'm doing!" Lies. Why? Why do we do this to ourselves? We'll post about every little good thing but Heaven forbid we speak up when we're a mess. We're only causing isolation and false representation of ourselves with that process. So, I have to say right now that I'm sorry for any way in which I have represented myself to be doing so so great and just skipping through the year like I'm in a musical. That's a lie. It's been beautiful but also one of the hardest years of my life. One that's left me exhausted & even wounded. Maybe that's why they say when you're a missionary you're "on the field." 

This week. This week was difficult. Very very difficult. Rather than posting pictures of the skyline or sunset or whatever, I'm going to be totally real here. I'm exhausted. I'm emotional. I've spent days painting some rooms in the former brothel that I work in. Things happened in those rooms. I had flashbacks of these things even though I couldn't have possibly known what they were. Yes-yes I'm serious. This is a thing! It happened.  This coming week I am ending my year-long apprenticeship with a missions organization and staying in Houston a bit longer to help the anti-trafficking ministry with some projects. I'm figuring out when I'm moving home. I miss friends. I'm lonely. I'm worn. I'm trying to let go of some things. I fight constantly not to work too hard for the approval of others. I still mess up and fail at a lot of the things I do. My past is being brought back up with full-force and I'm facing it, hurting, dealing with it. Yet again. It's exhausting. I'm dealing with a large array of emotions about that and leaving "the field" I've been head-first in. I'm trying to find where to go and where I fit. I have so much to process. Many people from one side are taking the "God says do anything as long as you are saving people" mentality.  People from another camp are steadfast in their "God has a specific design and purpose just for you" belief.  I'm pretty sure I know which opinion I'm going to cement myself in, but there sure are a lot of voices everywhere to wade through. 

Today was beautiful. I didn't even want to go to church because I'm a bit of a mess. And honestly? After being so involved at BVG for 17 years, one of my biggest pet peeves in having to be a newbie at church. I kind of butt against that with everything in me. But I went this morning. The greeter found out I've podcasted for 3 years but am new on campus and just enveloped me. She insisted I sit with her. And then the message. Oh, the message! I'm pretty sure Vernon followed me around with a camera before writing that. It took every ounce of energy I had to keep from sobbing all over the place like a baby. What a view! He talked about Paul and "the thorn in his side." He dissected what the transliteration meant. And he explained WHY the Lord didn't remove it. The thorn keeping Paul from being proud or boastful. And he speculated that maybe-just maybe-the reason why God doesn't just take away that one thing we're constantly wrestling with is because in it, we become desperate for Him. We long for Him. We need Him with everything in us. In a way we wouldn't if we just stopped struggling. Before Jesus radically rescued me, I was crazy. I was severely depressed and unstable. I ruined relationships. I was unhealthy. I lied all the time about everything. And that's only the beginning! I'd have to be a fool to expect that I will never struggle with falling back into any of this again. Many times I begin reverting back into a behavior of old. But now I see it. I recognize it. The Spirit doesn't let me go live in it. And as painful as it is, I'm thankful for my past. Because without it, I wouldn't see how beautiful Jesus is. How much He's redeemed. And while they're humiliating, without the occasional slips back in that direction, I wouldn't remember how human and frail I am. I need that reminder. It keeps me tender and real. Grace is God's kindness descending upon our midst. And if we aren't functioning in that spirit, we best be checking ourselves right quick.
Yes, talk about it. Yes, work hard towards a correction of it. But don't allow the setbacks and the slip-ups and the rejection you receive to dictate anything. Because they will only show His glory  even more.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Sunday's Super Simple Secret Summer Skin Saver!

Sorry for the dorky title. I couldn't help it!

Earlier this summer I was in LUSH drooling and dreaming over all I'd purchase if I had a job and normal income. On the way home, I realized that I've been studying herbalism for a while now and I could start making more of this stuff on my own. I came up with this mask recipe and have been using it lately and it's one of the things that has truly helped my skin be healthier. I believe in it because all of the ingredients have amazing benefits on their own. Together they are kind of a powerhouse. 

Anyway, I wanted to share it with you. 
Try it a few times a week.
Tell me what you think! 

Raw unfiltered honey. 
Raw unfiltered Apple Cider Vinegar 
Calcium Bentonite Clay. (Healthfood store, Sprouts, Online.) 
Blueberries ( I like frozen during the summer. Feels good.)

Place ingredients in blender until consistency is able to be blended. 
(Like making a smoothie.) 
Blend in a blender. Done! That simple. 
Make sure you wash your face well before putting it on. 
Let it harden/dry. 
Wash off.
Place remainder in tupperware in fridge. 

Happy Healthy Skin to you! 

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Silver Linings.

Without beating around the bush, I'm just going to come out a say it. I deal with significant loneliness and deep heartbreak off and on. While I don't doubt in God's perfect plan for me, being a nomadic bohemian woman in her 30s and never having really even dated is not what a lot of my friends and acquaintances picture it to be as their minds paint a life of unusual glamour.  It actually can be severely painful and strangely isolating. Even when I'm at home, somehow it always feels like being a fish out of water. Now, I'm not saying this to be depressing or claim I go through things nobody else could possibly understand, blah, blah, blah........if you've read my recent series of shorts you'll see I am keenly aware of the fact that I am not alone in all this. (And the irony that I am saying that when speaking about loneliness is not lost on me either.) 
In fact, quite the opposite is true. Whether you are a globetrotter or a beautiful mother who rarely leaves her town and kid's schedules, we all struggle with these things and almost all of us have a strange sense of shame over speaking up about it. 

I was ranting this morning. I often wake up way earlier than I'd like because my mind clicks on and I begin obsessing and psycho-analyzing everything. (I can't help it. I was actually only a few classes away from a Psych degree before quitting college. Yeah. I'm deep, guys. Now give me some Disney!) I was telling God this morning that I really hate it when entering a season of specifically feeling like you are invisible. Of questioning whether you really even matter to the people in your life. Of seeing their newsfeeds and wondering whether they ever wish you were in that picture with them. (Yeah, it's lame. But we've ALL been there-fess up! Social Media is such a double edged sword. Great for communication. Horrid about making us insecure.) 
And I was kind of knocked breathless by what happened. 

He gave me a picture in my head. An imaginary scenario. In it, I was working for Him. He was my boss. We were at the office. He had handed me a certain job to manage. It was perfectly tailored to my gifting and talents. I loved it! There was beautiful chaos at work. People and noise everywhere, getting things done. It was a delight. 

One day, I arrived at work. Nobody else was there. The hallways were dark, quiet, and eery. I began wondering if I missed something. If everybody was off doing something I wasn't let in on. I tried to call some of my friends. No answer. I texted. Nothing.  I began feeling hurt. As if nobody cared about this work set before me. As if nobody wanted to hear, see, know, be a part of this thing that was extremely important to my life. This thing I felt my identity was kind of wrapped in. I got angry. I yelled. "Lord! Nobody cares! Nobody's around. This hurts. A LOT. I expected more from people. I expected to matter more.  And not one person shows up to work with me! I want who I am and what I do to mean something!" And you know what happened? Jesus quietly and gently sat down across from me. He listened completely. And He didn't say anything for a minute. Then, He leaned across the table, took my hand, and said "My Darling. I gave you charge over this task. You love what you do. And you love everyone buzzing around. But I told everyone not to come into work today.  Because I long for you to learn that waiting on and looking to those around you will not fulfill anything.  They are empty and human and looking to be filled too. They do not have the answers. They don't know anymore about what you're doing than you do. They don't really have anything to offer. You need to see me and me alone. I have every drop of whatever you need. And by not allowing others to be here right now, I get to have you all to myself. I get to renew you. Fill you. Love you. Be overjoyed by you. You are too special for me not to get you to myself for a season.  Can you be okay with this? Can you stop fearing? Can you believe that I am enough? Trust me. I have more for you than anybody else ever will." 

Well, that's one way to look at a season of loneliness! 
He's wild. 

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Wednesday's Words Week 4: Social Entry

And we have yet another week of what I truly hope is something helpful for somebody out there. As I contemplated today's entry, I asked the Lord what I should share.  What other issues am I beginning to struggle with or worry about in regards to moving home? What do people in missions or ministry experience as they come back home from the field? As I walked the hallways of our offices this week, listening to the coworkers I adore, laughing with them, loving the crazy chaos, seeing them do things that endear me, I realized how comfortable and in my skin I feel here. And how I suddenly don't feel that will be the case back home. And there births our 4th issue:

Social anxiety. With this one, I will go as far as to say I'd put money on it. If you've been out on the field in a very different environment and you're returning home, you're feeling it. There's a sense that where you've been is "you." You are deeply connected with those who're head-first in this too. Everyone's worked together in something that only that group will understand at the core. Everyone there gets each other. They've laughed and sobbed and fought and prayed together. They've become a family. A strange one, maybe, but a close one none-the-less. And the person these people have influenced us to become is understood here. At home? Well, at home people are probably not going to realize at first that we are a completely different person. That we will be feeling more connected to the place we just left than the people we come back to. That we're going to think a bit different or respond to things in a way that's a bit un-orthodox from how we have in the past. We've talked through, grown in, and learned about things with a group unlike any other, so we're going to have moments of reacting to something and suddenly realizing nobody around us understands our reaction. It will be a bit unsettling. Old friends who are very familiar. New reactions and understandings. It's a strange dissonance. We're also going to experience a bit of anxiety over fitting back into circles we've been absent from. It's hard to see that everything has just gone on without us. That some of our friends are either closer or have grown away from each other. Circles that we once were intricately woven into look a bit different from the outside, and we may wonder if we're going to be able to find our way inside again. We may fear that we are forever to feel like an outcast. Getting back into the social world already buzzing around us may be daunting.

I have one word to offer. One word that will be of great help to those trying to love on us and be a good friend as we return: Patience. Please have patience as we navigate a muddy road of returning to a social life. Patiently allow us to weird out over things that seem insignificant. Patiently invite us to things until we're comfortable enough to say "yes." Patiently give us permission to messily re-integrate in whatever way we need. It will take time. But we'll eventually find our groove again!

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Wednesday's Words: Week 3

Welcome to week three in the installment of shorts about missionaries coming home from the field. This week I am going to talk about an issue that is big with every person serving in ministry or missions: The Pedestal.

It is extremely common for many people to have a rise in friend requests, followers, and communications from people back home once they are on the field in missions or hardcore ministry. It's hard to decipher whether people really want to love you and be your friend, or whether they are enamored because you're doing something so unusual, "cool", "amazing", etc....

Once home, people often approach or speak with missionaries as if they are some kind of special big deal. Almost like a person interacts with a celebrity. This is very difficult for several reasons:
1. Just as any "famous" person will tell you, we're just people. We don't have something incredibly amazing about us that makes us any different than you. We just got told to go somewhere else and do something a bit different. And we chose to obey. (Sometimes we didn't even do that but were dragged into it!) That is all.  We don't have some magical power or insight. We don't have a super-connection with Jesus that isn't available to you.  We often begin to hear things like "You do so many crazy things. I'm just stuck here and don't do anything amazing." Or "I wish I was powerful and had gifts like you do." This is so hard for us to hear, because you don't have to live in Africa or work in a brothel to have your days filled with stories so wild you can't even share them. You don't have to be "specially called" or anything weird to have a connection with Jesus that enables you to see or even be a part of things like prophecy, knowing things you humanly wouldn't be able to, sudden insight into the redemption you have authority to speak onto a person or place, just need to realize He wants to hand you these things and ask the Holy Spirit to anoint you. Then you need to carefully heed the anointing and walk under it. That's it. Period. We're not special. We just walk with Him. (And really probably because we're desperate for His presence and healing in our lives.)

2. We need healing, not draining. Being immersed in another culture or serving in full-time ministry means we're worn. It means you pour your whole self out every day. It means you get up early to inconveniently be the first one there. It means you stay late and work when nobody realizes how much you have to do. And it means you've had to fight some huge emotional, mental, and spiritual battles on a daily basis. Often for others who don't see or appreciate it. The nature of this work is completely exhausting. (I don't mean to sound negative. I pop out of bed every day giddy like a little child over what I get to do.)  Sure, we wouldn't trade it for the world, but we're tired.  Often, friends of people in ministry seek to spend time with them because they hope they'll have some kind of deep insight to offer about their life. Some wisdom and help. 
But when we're returning from a season of being knee-deep in this stuff, we've just come out of battle. We may have some PTSD. I'm not saying this flippantly. I mean it in all seriousness. We need permission to be a mess as we heal. We need to know it's okay not to be this wise, put-together spiritual guru with deep insight for your lives. 

Ways you can be a good friend: 
 There's some themes here among all the weeks: 
1. Protect us. The best way to be a friend is to stand up and protect us from people who may be draining and not quite understanding. Be our advocate. 

2. Remind us from time to time that it's okay to need some time of healing. Remind us to be human and not to act as if we're not. 

3. Help us plan some fun, refreshing things. Movie nights. Drives. Beaches. 
This will help us breath and restore.

Stay tuned for more next week.....

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!