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Sad

And today I feel sad. There have been so many good days lately. So many highs, and really not many lows at all. But as has always been true for my heart…. sometimes I am just sad. Sometimes there is just too much sadness in the world to ignore, and there is nothing to do but cry. Hurricanes, fire, goodbyes, anger, earthquakes and cancer…and my God that declares his everlasting goodness. Sometimes it’s too exhausting to think about, and It’s just time to cry.    

Wise friends were talking to me about “with” yesterday. The idea that being with God is an all but lost concept in the sea of religiosity around us. I needed those words today. When I am sad I usually don’t want to pray. Kinda like that feeling when you are at a party and you see someone you know you need to talk to but for some reason you don’t. So you avoid eye contact and pretend that somehow amongst the 20 people in the room you managed not to notice each other. Until one of you caves. And there you are. Confronted with the person you need and want to talk to so badly but are desperately avoiding for one reason or another. God is in the room with me now, but I’m not brave enough today to say what needs to be said. To say, “Um… God…. the sky, that big thing you made… it’s really out of control — just in case you didn’t notice.” Or “You do know about cancer, right? Because it’s awful and it feels like you missed it somehow.” God can handle those angry words in His direction… but I can’t today. Today I am just sad. So that leaves me with “with.” With God and my glass of sangria, my yoga mat, and really long shower. With is okay too. Maybe God and I are that pair at the party the just kinda calmly sit next to each other on the couch, exchange a head nod and pretend to watch the game while the with does it’s healing. Because my rules tell me I should do this or that in order to get my faith act together.  But today I am too sad. Not for any reason that affects me personally….I am not sick or in danger of hurricane… but good grief so many people are an it’s just too sad. So being with God is all I can manage. And I don’t think God minds. 

My earthly dad is the most patient man I know. Growing up (and now) if I sassed at him, got angry and overreacted or lashed out…. he didn’t run from me. He didn’t hit me with rules or punishment. Often he didn’t confront me… he would just wait. Wait for me to come out of my room, or to pick up the phone. And he let’s me talk to him about nothing first… until I am ready to say, “You know what? I am hurting.” He would just let me be with him until that time came. Never getting mad or impatient. And my God’s love is like that too. He isn’t tapping his foot going, “Really? You ran out of faith again? Nothing has even happened to you.” He is just sitting here with me… waiting until I am ready to talk about how I feel.

Dads… the way you love your daughter teaches her (right or wrong) about the voice of God. Go tell her how beautiful she is, and how proud of her you are. 

Daddy, thanks for always showing me the gentle and patient love of God. I love you with all of my heart. 

IMG_4341.JPGMe and Dad last weekend. He was teaching me how to look for and plant buckeyes.

If you’ve never planted a tree, go do it. 


*photo credit- @ZackRogers

*The book my friends and I were discussing is called “With” by Skye Jethani. I haven’t read it  and don’t know if he would agree with my use of “with” or not…but they highly recommend it and I highly recommend them.

Just Be

 

I have always had trouble getting my mind to calm down. Call it anxiety, ADD, enthusiasm or free spirited– whatever it is that’s racing in my mind in that moment, it’s difficult for me to make it stop.  Having moved out of our house in the beginning of June, and now finishing week one of a 7 week trip in Europe… there has been no lack of things to think about.  Our last day of work was last Friday and we are officially in limbo. And that is a really strange feeling. We have gotten rid of most of what we own, and stuffed the rest in boxes and suitcases. And suddenly someone asking me for my address or where I live has turned into a stress inducing moment. 

The “war” I had been feeling for most of the year continued for a while.  Our car was stolen right before Easter, and I just lost my dear friend Sanna to stomach cancer. I have never been really close to someone with terminal caner before, and being with Sanna while she was facing the end of this life was without a doubt one of the most painful, and maturing things I have experienced.  In February, we planned my trip to visit her in May, and communication had been tough leading up to the visit so I really was not sure what her condition would be upon my arrival. I was able to be with her for a week, and she went to be with the Lord 4 days later. As painful as it was loosing my friend, I feel overwhelmingly honored to have been with her and her family  in that time. The last thing I got to say to Sanna is that being with her made my faith stronger. 

Sanna was an incredibly strong woman. Independent, smart, faithful. She knows who she is, and she’s good with who you are too. And I believe that she reflected so well the love Christ has for us. I always feel extremely welcome in her home…. but not in a southern hospitality kinda way…. more in a – “this is my life, come join if you’d like”-  kinda way. Our friendship has always been filled with deep discussions about all the countries Sanna has lived in, cultural nuances  and new things she has learned (Sanna is originally from Finland but lived/ traveled in many countries). In a time when I desperately needed someone to give me a little elbow nudge towards marriage, Sanna outlined what being a incredible wife looks like, and is all of my mom goals. When I called and told her I was moving to Greece she was the friend that was able to tell me with actual experience what it might feel like to move to a different country. 

Now we are in Brussels at a month long training, followed by apartment shopping in Athens. We just finished our first week. We have talked about ethnography, culture shock, and learned how to get around on public transportation in a big city where you can’t read the language. Its been helpful. We are here with about 35 people, some in the training with us, and some here as staff/ trainers. After our first week I feel tired, and excited. I think there is such an interesting phenomenon with travel where you think that every second has to be exciting, and the fear of missing a chance to do something/ learn something/ or experience something is brutal. However, it’s really important for us to know when we move to Greece it’s not a “trip.” Its just our life going on in another place. I think that’s one reason the training is a month. Sharing living space and bathrooms 100% of the time with a bunch of people for a whole month… you can’t fake it through that. You won’t last. If you’re me you’ll have a break down on the first day and just get it over with. 🙂 I am trying to keep the perspective that this kinda crazy next couple months is just life. It’s in a new place, and I am experiencing new things, but I really believe that if we (all people) wait for life to “settle down” and for things to “get back to normal” we will never get to that mythical place, and we will completely miss the beauty of life in front of us that each day presents all its own. 

My experiences in the last 6 months have taught me to see people in a different way. There were days when I was so broken, that I was shocked that I could make it through the day without people noticing how badly I was hurting on the inside. I was not resisting being honest because I was scared of people’s reactions, or felt like I wasn’t in a safe space— on the contrary, I felt very loved and supported. But sometimes it feels like in order to just make it through the day you have to keep your head down and keep moving. “How are you doing?” answered with complete honesty has the potential to completely derail a day. And sometimes it did.  

I am excited to be at training, but honestly it feels like our training started a long time ago. We are so thankful for everything we learned at Perimeter, and in Clarkston. For what our parents, teachers, pastors, siblings and friends have poured into us along the way. And that absolutely includes all the painful experiences of the past six months. I have a whole new set of experiences to help  me empathize with other people, particularly in grief. I really had not experienced much loss at all, and given a focus of our work in Greece being with refugees, it is important to able to empathize with our friends fleeing the middle east. Not that my loss is anything like theirs, I know that. But I now know what it feels like to not think you will make it through the day, and having to trust that Jesus will get you there. I can now relate to what it feels like to leave the house with your smile plastered on just trying to pray your way towards bedtime. My eyes have been opened to the reality that I never— NEVER — know what someone is going through. They might seem completely put together on the outside, or maybe they seem really mean and impatient, either way  I just don’t know. The more I live the more I learn to fight to give others the benefit of the doubt… because you just have no idea what their background is or what they are going through. This is something I see in Jesus. He is great (well, perfect) at seeing us as whole people. He doesn’t shame me for my mistakes, and cast me out when I can’t get it together. I think He says, “Come to me, my child. I see you, I know you, and I love you. You don’t have to explain, defend, or preform. I’ve got you covered.” We are free to fall at His feet, and be. Praise the Lord.

Here are a few pictures of the past few months, and us in Belgium. Enjoy! 

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These are Sanna’s beautiful daughters Freja (9) and Esther (4).

IMG_2623And her awesome son Elijah (8).

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Freja and Elijah in their element- outside and total focus on for their version red-light-green-light.

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It as sad to leave our sweet little Clarkston home. Thank you SOOO much for all our friends and family that helped!

 

fullsizeoutput_40dfAt a training we went to in June called Living in Grace
with our new friend, Maya (MTW Staff).

IMG_2785Celebrating sister Emily and her fiance Rob! This was at their first wedding shower- it was a fun fiesta! We will celebrate their soon-to-be marriage in September!

 

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Joe and I went with some friends to Bruges and Gent over the weekend for a little exploring, and break from our training. You simply MUST go to Bruges!

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Standing in the North Sea with friends Kelly and Andrew- they are on their way to serve in Bogata, Columbia!

IMG_0039Just be!

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While we were in Gent Joe somehow became part of a scavenger hunt in a bachelorette party 🙂

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While we are here for the month we are part of a church that is Armenian/ Turkish. We went for the first time this morning and the pastor asked if Joe would say something to the congregation. He shared encouragement about trusting in God and did a great job.

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Not gunna lie… Brussels is not exactly sunny ha. Thank you Debra for our rain jackets! We NEED them!

Bittersweet

I have never more fully understood the sensation of bittersweet until right now. A few weeks ago Joe and I got approved to attend a training in July that we had been praying we could attend for months. Getting to go to this training affects our timeline in moving to Greece in what feels like a big way, and means we will now spend 7 weeks in Europe this summer, and move out of our house in three weeks. This a huge praise, a huge relief, and a really unrelenting kick to the gut. This is the most “real” that our journey to Greece has felt thus far. There’s about a million things I could list out that feel bittersweet… but one recent weekend it was four little faces that I will treasure forever.

These precious humans I introduce to you now are children that have blessed me beyond words- when I am with them I experience joy from God. We met them here in Clarkston through a mutual friend. Our relationship started out with Joe tutoring their teenage aunt and from there grew to a joy filled friendship with their family. They had a bad week. A really bad week. And I have never felt more choked by our language and cultural barrier. When we lose loved ones in America, we bring food and flowers and send a card…. I have no idea what Central African’s do… and therefore felt helpless to love my friends. So, Joe and I did the only thing we could think of and offered to borrow their kids for the weekend. It was far and away one of the most joyful weekends of my life. I can’t put to words how much these precious children mean to me. It only comes in tears. And as I was laying, holding Joseph (2) as he took a nap and snored away, I questioned (as I do a dozen times a day), “What am I doing? Why would I leave this?” And in the same breath, his little snores were my answer. He made it. His family persevered and ran for their lives. They lived in a refugee camp (where two of the kids were born) and got resettled to Clarkston after a number of years. And I am SO glad. However, there are thousands and thousands and thousands of refugee children that may never know that kind of safety again. And that is not something that I can stand by and watch… and by the grace of God He has called us to go… so we are. It’s not because I don’t love my life here-my family, my friends, these children. I love my life. But the way God has called me and Joe has been unmistakable… so how could I stay? I have to think of all the children that instead of going to sleep being held by a someone that loves them in a big comfy bed, will fall asleep again on the floor of a tent in a refugee camp in Athens. I am not going to save the world, save Greece, or save a refugee child. But I like soccer. And I like tea.  And I like naps. And  you’d be amazed how much you can love someone with only that in common.

Enjoy theses pictures of my favorite people and pray over them. Praise God they are being raised by their mother and father to follow Christ, and pray they would each in their own time fall in love with Him. Pray for the children of our world that won’t have a safe place tonight.

Special thanks to Joshua for being the best big brother ever and letting us come visit him at the fire station. Once the kids realized there wasn’t going to be a fire when we got there, they loved it. 🙂

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This Feels More Like War

*** This post was written on January, 28th. It took me a little while to work up the courage to post it. Since it was written there has been more sadness I could add… but also more healing… life goes on, doesn’t it? Thanks for reading.***

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“I don’t think I can…” I stammered, after barely trying to read Colossians 3:16 in my small group last week. The verse reads, “And let the peace of Jesus Christ rule in your hearts…” Does it really? The deepest darkest parts of myself wonder. Will the peace come? Because it feels like a far off stranger right now — who is drowning, like I am, in a sea of sadness. Then it was my turn to prepare to share the story of how I came to know Jesus…  and I had to take a passon that too. How could I talk about how Jesus is my Hope and the Redeemer of my life when I can’t even utter the words to admit that he has the power to bring peace? I can’t bring myself to fully acknowledge that Jesus could bring peace because if thats true then where is the peace? This feels more like war, not peace. I have Jesus…. but I was feeling anything but peace in that moment.

The month started with me and Joe’s little house getting broken into. Support raisng for Greece has been going so well, I knew that if I believe the Word of God, then I should know hard times were coming because the enemy is close at hand. This was my immediate thought when I was told of the break in… and honestly the bad news barely affected me. I hear of people feeling very traumatized and unsafe… but I think the Lord protected me from that and I just took our now very messy bedroom as an excuse to clean out. I was feeling proud of myself, probably a little high and mighty, rejoicing in the face of turmoil and kinda like, “Oh yeah? That all you got?” Stupid. No. Thats not all the enemy had in store for our start to 2017. A few days later I traumatically lost a dear Uncle to suicide on January 5th. It was awful. January 6th, my 26th birthday, I think was probably one of the worst days of my life. My family is suffering the aftermath of loosing him, and the trauma of the whole experience. It has been stressful, overwhelming, sad, and unlike anything I have ever experienced. God gave me strength I didn’t even know I had to put a pause button on my emotions until there was time for me to grieve. Having a meltdown in the middle of Staff Prayer at work wasn’t exactly what I had in mind, but it was okay. And we thought maybe that wasenough of the load for now, but we were wrong. Soon after loosing my uncle a dear friend tragically lost his mother, and in an unprecedented act of strength and bravery he then spoke at her funeral. Where is the peace? This feels more like war. Is that all the burden? No, bring cancer with us too, as I beg the Lord to heal a dear friend who is suffering and in pain. Where is the peace?? This feels more like war. A friend told me that tragedy highlights disfunction, and I couldn’t agree more. Yeah, these things that all came up in January are brutal. But the stress and tension they bring is in some ways worse. The enemy hates my marriage, and stress loves it. The enemy wants to isolate us and make us separate from the body of believers. Loneliness is haunting. Lord, this doesn’t feel like peace, it feels like war!!

But here I am. Sittingin a strangers house. My sweet husband knew my heart was so tired and orchestrated this get away for us. I cried/sang/prayed myself to sleep last night weeping for my dad who lost his brother, and for my friend who lost his mom. I had never heard this song until yesterday but it pierced my heart and broke down part of my shield I have been hiding behind. Here’s the lyrics:

“I can’t see
What’s in front of me
Still I will trust You
Still I will trust You

Steady heart that keeps on going
Steady love that keeps on holding
Lead me on
Steady grace that keeps forgiving
Steady faith that keeps believing
Lead me on

Though the sky is dark
And the wind is wild
You’ll never leave me
You’ll never leave me

Though the night is long
There is a coming dawn
The light is breaking
The light is breaking

Steady heart that keeps on going
Steady love that keeps on holding
Lead me on
Steady grace that keeps forgiving
Steady faith that keeps believing
Lead me on

And as the dawn breaks
And the clouds clear
In an open space
Together we will run”

The lines that got me- “I cant see what’s in front of me…Lead me on…Though the sky is dark and the wind is wild, You’ll never leave me…Though the night is long there is coming dawn…Steady heart that keeps on going, Steady love that keeps on holding, Lead me on. Steady grace that keeps forgiving, Steady faith that keeps believing Lead me on.” This is how I feel. I have no idea what is going on, there is wind, and darkness, and night. I feel my youth so evidently as I have NO idea how to navigate any of this. All I know is I wish my uncle was here, I wish my friend was with his mom, and that I am NOT AT ALL interested in my friend having cancer. No. Not at all.

Lead me on, Father. Lead me on. In the midst of all of this I met with a woman who asked me if I had talked to God about being mad at him yet. This took me off guard a little bit because I had not told her that I was mad at God. I said… “No, I am trying not to be.” She said, “You don’t need to try not to be mad. You need to be honest with God, and honest with yourself.” She was so right. The war in my heart… so much of it was anger at God, clashing with believing the lie to be angry at God is to not believe in His sovereignty. Thats not where I wanted to be. But thats not it at all, I absolutely believe in God’s sovereignty— thats why I am mad at him. Because it’s confusing how a Sovereign God is with me even now.

So I have learned a couple things:

  1. I am not going to understand.
  2. The peace of Jesus is real. Despite not being able to claim it in the moment of reading with my group…. I know it is real. The hope of heaven and the hope that somehow all this catastrophe does not mean that we are alone and forgotten by God… I don’t know how people make it through things like this without that hope.
  3. The enemy wants more than anything to isolate us. I go to a really big church, and have been there for about a year and a half. Practically no one that I know there knows my family, or much of my family story. So when all this happened I felt like I had to have a friend that knew my family in order to love me. But when I am far away from all my friends that know my family…. that leaves me thinking that must mean I don’t have friends. Stupid. No. Just another lie. I have amazing friends. The ones that live near me now don’t know my family, and parts of that are weird for me. But I am about to live in a place where I am really far from anyone that knows my family at all… But that doesn’t mean they couldn’t love me well. For those of you reading this who did step into my mess despite really knowing what it even looked like, I thank you and I love you.
  4. Going to Greece is not a game. I knew that. Obviously. But having to swallow not being here with my family is not easy. And it just got harder. The enemy wants to make me believe that they will separate from me if I am not here physically, or they won’t believe that I  love them if I live in a different country. Stupid. No, they don’t feel that way. They love me, and they know I love them.

I don’t have a nice conclusion. For those of you who just signed up to follow the blog that I haven’t met…. don’t worry. They aren’t all like this. I felt the need to tell all of you, my friends and family that are praying over our journey to Greece, where we are. Because in Greece, I’m going to need to do that same thing. I think the enemy LOVES to make us feel alone by telling us we have to carry our burdens alone. Especially in ministry. So Im trying to start now. Trying to really tell you where I am, so that in the future I can continue to do so. So… where am I? I am in a strangers house, and I am resting, and recharging. I am praying and sleeping and reading and crying and laughing and being with the Lord. Because I’m mad at him. But I know He loves me. So I want to be with him. Walking with Jesus is not about feeling. The Holy Spirit is with me regardless of whether or not I am aware of His presence, and praise God for that. So in this time I will lean into the foundation of my faith, instead of in my emotions. I will gather with other believers in the morning because I need to be reminded that I am not alone — I will not give into isolation. I will rest in the embrace of a Savior who cries with me. And I will spend time with God, who I will never fully understand.

You Mean…Me?

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Joe & I at Lineville Falls a couple weeks ago on a fun get away for his 26 birthday.

I’ve wanted to be a missionary for about as long as I can remember. I feel really embarrassed admitting that… I think that’s because for a long time I felt like I would never be worthy to be a missionary- I thought that is something only super humans do. I remember the first time I learned what a missionary was in elementary school. Pretty much from that point on I thought that everyone that believes in Jesus secretly wanted to be a missionary like I did… and I thought that literally until this year. It took our team in Greece giving us a good little shoulder shake to say, “Ummmm NO. Not everyone secretly wants to live overseas. Thats a calling.” And even when we were at our training someone said, “Will all the missionaries please stand up so we can pray for you?” And I thought, “Ooh yay! There’s missionaries in here! I hope I get to meet them” …. And then I realized he was talking about us. So I have come to two conclusions 1) that missionaries are not super humans. 2) I do have a calling.

Its super scary to put one of your dreams on the line and tell everyone you can and then deal with that deep, pit-of-your-stomach fear that, “Maybe I shouldn’t tell them I’m going cause what if it doesn’t work out.” And then there is the whole amazing aspect that people actually also think that this is a good idea, and are even willing to give us financial support to show it. Leaving work yesterday Joe and I walked by a good friend and we stopped to chat and she just casually mentioned that she had decided to join our monthly support team. I immediately hugged her (which her not-so-touchy self loved, I’m sure) and thanked her and thanked her. She said, “Stop, its not that big of a deal.” And I couldn’t find my words at the time but… yeah. Its a big deal. Its the biggest deal. Joe and I truly feel that the Lord is calling us to move to Greece, and she has decided to say, “Yes, I agree with that. I want to help you pursue your dreams, and pursue your calling.” I mean… that’s love, isn’t it? When someone says, “I see you, and I believe that God’s got you in a good spot. So here, let me join.” What?!?! Its crazy. Me? I get to do this? I know that support raising is going to be a journey full of ups and downs but right now I’m just beyond grateful for God’s provision, h0w he has given people extraordinary generosity, and that He is letting my calling also be my life dream. I am so humbled. So blessed. And so excited.

Where you go, I will go

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Just over a year ago Joe and I made our vows, committing to each other for the rest of our lives. I vowed to Joe that where he goes, I will go, where he stays, I will stay. And perhaps sooner than we were expecting, God has given us the chance to go. To go to new places, new people, new challenges, and new joys.

In January 2016 Joe and I had the opportunity to travel to Athens, Greece on a two week trip to work with disaster relief efforts with the refugees in Athens. This short trip impacted our lives in ways we never saw coming, and God has given us the opportunity to go back for a longer period of time.

When we were in Athens we connected so well with the missionary team that was there, and the work the Greek church was doing. It felt right, it felt natural. Near the end of our trip, the team there asked if we would be interested in coming back and we have been praying about it since.

Thousands upon thousands of refugees have been moving across the middle east, into Europe – a lot of them traveling or stopping in Greece. The Evangelical churches in Greece have come together to start a support center for refugees called The Center of Hope in Victoria Square. The center is one of the only UN declared safe spots for refugees in the entire country of Greece. The Greek believers also hope to plant a  new church in order to continue to welcome the refugees and immigrants into the Greek culture, and the church body.

When we were there Joe and I got to go to the port, where massive ships full of refugees were docking. It was the most chaotic, overwhelming experience of my life. But even in that moment, as families were rushing past me, freezing, hungry, and trying to get their families to safety, I knew that God had something in mind for me and Joe beyond our short trip. We are in an unprecedented time in world history for so many people from countries closed to the Gospel to make their way into countries where there is freedom of religion. How can we turn down the opportunity to be part of that story?

Joe and I have a heart to move toward people that are hurting and walk with them towards hope and healing, and the Lord has opened this door for that to be possible for us in a way we never saw coming. About a month ago we committed to join the Mission to the World (MTW) team in Athens, Greece led by Philip and Joy Kirkland. We have made a 2-3 year commitment. We have money to raise, visa’s to apply for, and logistics to navigate, but Lord willing we will leave when we are fully funded. I am honored to the point of tears to share this news with you. This site and blog are meant to share our story, and how we see God in the world, in ourselves, and in you if you want to join this journey with us. There is nothing we love more than to tell people about our mission to Greece. If you want to hear more about it- please reach out. You can also choose to follow our blog to stay up to date on where we are in the process.

Isaiah 6:8 “Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?” And I said, “Here am I. Send me!”