Resurrection Power

After 6 flights and 2 trains in 5 days, we arrived, and India is so much more than I could have dreamed of… 

Hanging out of the open train door as we go over a river, with a new brother from the streets of Kolkata laughing above my head.  Waking up to fresh chai handed to me by the same brothers, whose language I’m still no where near grasping. Midnight dancing to shared worship songs. The thrill of watching God heal.

 On our last leg over here, our  host’s two year old daughter fell from about twelve feet to the concrete train floor below, and stopped breathing for 10 minutes roughly. We all were praying. She awoke. The rest of the night, she showed mild signs of trauma, but after more praying all symptoms have fully disappeared. Our God still moves in radical ways. 

Christmas involved more chocolate than we needed, and climbing a cathedral steeple to see the city below. Today we had a picnic by the river side. And in ever moment, singing and dancing and falling in love with the nation, as well as my amazing team. 

Now, all of us except Rosie (the lovely face on the post header) are getting over the seemingly obligatory cold every international adventure begins with. I’m relaxing in bed on my wooden mattress, more in love with my sleeping bag than I thought possible. Slowly, my bones are making the adjustment though. Wood is a lot softer today than it was at the beginning of the week. God is faithful. 

Well, this was week one of outreach, and there’s not a thing I would change about it. 

Until next time.

Xoxo

   


   

 
   
        
 

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Outreach: the Beginnings

Week 11.

Honestly, I barely remember lectures this week. My mind was already on outreach, and so much happened this week which I am not yet at liberty to talk about, but I can’t wait to share with you guys when the time comes. Let’s just say God is good and He moves in amazing ways. 

This may be one of my shortest updates ever, because this week flew by. Packing, hugs, joy, airports, and buses are about all it’s consisted of so far. And this is where I’m most content. In the air. Crossing the dateline for the first time. Wandering Japanese suburbs at midnight with beloved ohana. Hot cafe au lait from vending machines while we wait for the train. 

The delirium of being awake for over twenty four hours. The hustle to make the flight. So it begins. And I am content. 

   
  

  

    

Ruined for the Ordinary

It’s Saturday of week ten. I forgot to write week nine’s update, so this will be a mixture. However, I was sick for most of week nine, so there isn’t much to tell, besides the weekend.

After eight of weeks of living without a car, on the weekend of the ninth, we rented a jeep. Hawaii is beautiful, but living in the same five mile radius was becoming claustrophobic for all of us, so finally we decided to explore the entire island.

Mud Lane was probably my favorite, along with the little town of Waimea it resides in.

 

And so we arrive in week ten. The Father heart of God. The last full week before outreach. I don’t even have words for this week. Breaking through the last of my walls, God opened my eyes to everything that’s been going on these past three months in my life and in my heart; things I was too overwhelmed to see fully as they were happening. He finished the job, to where I know that I know that I know that I don’t have to strive to win His love, and that who I am as Serenity is enough both for Him, and the people around me.

In this, as much as I know I’m desperately going to miss this community living, my bones are aching for flight again. Over the past few years, I truly  have “been ruined for the normal,” as Loren Cunningham would say. When the time comes for me to return to Miami, if the Lord wills I remain there, it will have to be with constant short term missions. Before I ever left, short term missions was a passion of mine, but it’s time to take it to another level. I want to train others in short term missions, help prepare them for what they may see and how the Holy Spirit may work within their own hearts and minds.

However, spontaneous adventures across the island we’ve been calling home, nights spent laughing, crying, or debating with each other the strangeness of the outside world’s society will be dearly missed. Random spurts of insanity bringing about strips of pink hair on four of us (of course I am one of them), all because one had the beautiful idea of doing her whole head. Understanding in just a glance. Divulging age old secrets and fears with the ease and grace of dawn overtaking the night.

From this week on, I may have to do updates every other week instead of weekly, due to the insanity of outreach. If I fall behind, forgive me. I can’t believe Lecture Phase is ending, but I’m stoked to see what the next season holds.

Until next time.

XOXO

Hello Winter.

Some nights we all just need some cozy, Christmas love. And November 30th is, in my opinion, the day to start.

As a suite, we have officially decked out our common room in full holiday charm, and I’m glad that I won’t have to be here when it all comes down (yay for being the first to leave on outreach!). The past eight weeks have been extremely and beautifully emotional, and every now and again it’s time to break. When the Christmas bulb bombs dropped towards the guys downstairs broke next to them instead of sweetly landing in their hammock, I broke as well. Not because of the Christmas bulbs, but because it was simply time.

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About two minutes into the worship/ministry night with some of my suite mates, it was clear God was calling me away somewhere to be simply with Him. No Bible, no music, just He and I.

Over and over again He whispered reminders of what He has been speaking to me throughout the entirety of lecture phase: I am chosen, and I am His. There are plans just around the corner for me He is even more excited to bestow than I am to receive. He plans to outdo Himself.

The reality of this left me in a mess of glorious, cathartic tears. While processing all of this, I returned to my room and made some decaf, which I am now sipping out of my snowman mug as I watch an old favorite indie flick which introduced me to some of my favorite music. Somehow it feels like home.

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I hope you have an equally wonderful evening, in its own beautiful way.

Until next time

XOXO

Grey.

Coffee shop laughter
Evening skies taste cold
We are just merry outcast stones
Reminding you of lonelier souls
And so we left home.

The world turns
Meet under trees
Soon we’ll all leave
Find those lonely souls
Say you’ll remember me
When the day is done.

Left all to come here
The future’s road remains unknown
Meet me under the banyan tree
We’ll laugh at the days to come.

Mercy bearers born
Out of hometown misfits
Midnight escapades formed
Joy for endless journeys.

The world turns
Meet under trees
Soon we’ll all leave
Find those lonely souls
Say you’ll remember me
When the day is done.

Ice in the bones
Clouds overhead
Pray for rain to cool
Burning souls fighting for more.

Coffee shop laughter
Evening skies taste cold
We are just merry outcast stones
Reminding you of lonelier souls
And so we left home.

On Sisterhood.

Genuine sisterhood is still a new thing for me. Coming to YWAM and the prospect of living with about twenty girls, as I’ve mentioned in previous posts, scared the daylights out of me. Despite my fears, though, it has become one of the most beautiful times of my life already.

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Taken during portrait practice. This is Hannah, my lovely Norwegian suite mate.

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Jadon capturing Fernanda, my beautiful bunkmate.

Tonight we were invited to join the amazing Abby Beard and celebrate Thanksgiving by making cookies and laughing a ridiculous amount.

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Tonight with Abby was a clear example of a principle God has been impressing upon my heart a lot lately: most of the discipleship happens in those tiny moments when you make yourself available. It’s a concept I’ve always known in my head, but as I’ve been considering the prospect of leading teams in missions myself on a smaller scale than what we do here at YWAM, it has truly sunk deeper into my heart. This is when the magic happens, over too many cookies and coffee brewed to perfection.

Having grown up with a more conservative background and a love-language of donuts, I found in Abby a spirit I immediately admired. Prior to coming to Youth With A Mission, she never considered being a missionary, but now she epitomizes what it means to be a strong Christian woman on the field. Her life is a testimony of joy, which she brings with her wherever she goes.

And she is just one of the women here, and the one I’ve known for the least amount of time; literally less than five hours. My beloved sister-in-law Isabelle has always been an amazing advocate of sisterhood, and while I would agree with her in all her views, women still scared me. While the amount to have wounded me are few, the knives were deep and consistent. Thus, I’ve been more jaded than I would have ever liked to admit before coming here.

But God is good. He placed me in a suite with twenty girls, where I couldn’t run from my social anxiety or even cover it; for the first time I was forced to truly face it. Perhaps that’s the main theme of my YWAM story; conquering the crippling crutch of emotional seclusion I’ve always leaned on. Even if my separation from my peers was never seen outwardly, in my head it was always them and then me. I was never joined with them. Until now.

In these girls I have witnessed such grace, beauty, love, forgiveness, strength, and passion. They have wiped my tears, called me out, cheered me on, and utterly welcomed me when the entire time I was honestly terrified of them for no other reason than that they’re female and within my age range. Words cannot begin to describe the love and respect I have for the women of Voice for the Voiceless DTS. All my life I mourned not having a sister. Now, I have over twenty.

So, specifically to the girls of K 203 and 204, thank you. I love you.

Until next time.

XOXO

Break My Jaw, Give Me Life

Realizing the girls sipping coffee beside you are suddenly some of your dearest friends as gently as the sun slides into the Pacific’s blanket of blue. Giggling about the boys you secretly (or not so secretly) admire. Dreaming of weddings and shores yet to be kissed by our nation-worn feet. Writing letters. Discovering every flavor of Top Ramen. Waking up at 4:30 AM for morning yoga in Himalaya hiking prep. Phone calls to home. Redefining “home.” Realizing it’s a concept none of us will ever see the same again. Tears on staircases. Sins confessed over lunch. Broken stories and shattered hearts shared as the evening’s breeze drifting from the ocean chills our bones. Discovering our rythms have suddenly found us.

Faith being stretched in ways I could never have imagined. Miraculous healing that could never be faked. And over and over again Christ whispering in my ear “I love you, I love you, I love you.”

Outreach is getting closer, and I feel the Holy Spirit working overdrive in all of our hearts. How is this already the end of week seven? While sometimes it feels like I’ve only arrived yesterday, others it seems like YWAM is eternal and home was only illusion. And yet the first quarter is already through. And I’m not sure how I feel about that.

Old, weary relationships rebuilt and restored. Shaking in my Birkenstocks one moment, the next utterly wrecked by God’s exquisite purpose for the lungs wrapped inside these ribs. He has expressed and confirmed to me several times now that I am to go home after outreach. Somewhere in my innermost heart, part of me had firmly believed that wasn’t going to be the case, at least not for about a decade or so; that first my ministry would be brought to some unknown nation where I would reside with only the one my heart loves, the people we are ministering to, a camera, and a Bible. But no. I am going home. And I am so stoked.

Until then, I am here, and there is no where else I would rather be. Discovering the reason I have such a hard time with regular photoshoots is because I am built a photojournalist, and that’s simply different. These thoughts are a tangled mess, and I’m having a hard time unraveling them. Through prayer, nineteen years of liver issues that had crippled me in so many areas were healed in five minutes. Insight was given through the Spirit as to why my jaw refuses to heal: it’s my broken hip, so to speak. I’ve used my mouth to speak so much death, and words are my main form of ministry. It’s time only life flows from these lips.

Thus was week seven. Sorry there are so few pictures; it was an insanely busy and beautiful seven days. Until next week.

XOXO

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Return to the Garden

Here You find meweek five (7 of 33)
Broken and restored
Here You hold m
Wholly abandoned to Your love

Fighting and tired
I lay in the mire
You rescue me, wash me clean
Till I am white as snow

Striving against gloryweek five (5 of 33)
Giving fear my soul
On silver plates of agony
Feeding deception’s monster

In righteous fury
On clouds of fire
You race in, a rushing wind
Of jealous adoration, pure and holy

In Your arms I find myselfweek five (2 of 33)
Clothed in righteousness not my own
The beast is slain, set in dust evermore
And You carry me Home.

Here You find me
Broken and restored
Here You hold me
Wholly abandoned to Your love

In Your arms I find myselfweek five (22 of 33)
Clothed in righteousness not my own
The beast is slain, set in dust evermore
And You carry me Home.

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You Are a Garden Enclosed, My Sister, My Bride…

The rain gently dances on my cheeks to the music of the girl singing below. The balcony has us lifted above the earth, beneath the stars. In a bag riddled with memories, I let her worship lull me to dreamland. With morning’s light I’ll waken, prepare the coffee, and enjoy Hawaii’s Saturday with women becoming sisters.

Legs are soaked. Drizzling turned to rainstorm, and the sleeping bags weren’t as waterproof as we thought. Open door couch dreaming is chosen instead. Except the fan, all is silent. In the morning I’ll wake with the same sisters, prepare the same brew in the same morning light. All is well with my soul.

Monday morning. Lectures begin, and I’m grateful for the ever-present Kona coffee. Within fifteen minutes I’m in near tears. It’s as if with the dawn, anxiety also wakens. Where do I fit here, I wonder? Am I getting the full experience? What if my lecture phase isn’t everything I dreamed of? Am I doing something wrong? And then the speaker states: “It is not about you. It is about serving Him for His sake.” 

A few days later, “It’s not a task of something we need to do, but a revelation of what we have.” When the speaker said this, it pierced deeper than I could have expected. I thought I understood the depths of Christ’s love for me, at least as much as I could. I thought I had grasped that it would never fail me. Until he said this.

All week we have been learning about how the fear of the Lord is entirely intertwined with intimacy with Him, and how it’s not a “check yes if this applies to you” type of thing, but rather it’s area-specific. While I may fear Him in areas of my physical well-being, but I didn’t in the area of my emotional well-being. Thus, there was a blockage of intimacy within that realm of my heart.

However, it still isn’t about me “doing” anything. In a room full of political activists and injustice fighters, this was hard for all of us to take in, it seemed. Instead, it’s about recognizing He is Lord in every area of my life, and accepting the love He has freely given, along with all the connotations of what that means. If He loves me, He will fight to protect me from utter emotional ruin. I may get hurt, yes, but then He will be there to comfort me and carry me through it. If He loves me, then I must be as intricate and beloved as He says I am.

“You have stolen My heart, My sister, My bride; you have stolen My heart with one glance of your eyes, one jewel of your necklace.” Song of Songs 4:9

“The Lord your God is with you, He is mighty to save. He will take great delight in you, He will quiet you with His love, He will rejoice over you with singing.” Zephaniah 3:17

“This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down His life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers.” 1 John 3:16

“As the Father has loved Me, so have I loved you. Now remain in My love.” John 15:9

This is a shorter post, but it captures the essence of my week: basking in the love-light of my Redeemer. Take some time to let these words soak in and over you. Remember how intensely and entirely and eternally you are adored by a relentless God.


Unfortunately I didn’t get any pictures this week besides the cover photo, but I promise I’ll get more next week!

Until next time!

XOXO

Making My Bed in the In-Between

Sometimes I just sit here and realize I’m living the life I dreamed of. As I write this, I’m sipping Kona coffee (hello, hazelnut latte!) in a little local cafe at a window overlooking the Pacific ocean as her waves crash into the lava rock. Depending on my mood, their interaction will either remind me of faith and flesh’s tug of war, or that moment when I can finally fall back into the arms of someone I love. Surrounding me are fellow students, each working on their own memoirs or photo series. Faintly familiar music hums in the background, overpowered by the sea’s song. The lack of air conditioning is slowly growing comfortable, perhaps even preferred. Birkenstocks have gone from relatively new to well worn in a matter of weeks. Glasses are scratched, watch broken in, and hair raggedy. And I have never been more content.

The dichotomy of adoring my present state and missing home is as present as ever, but I’m learning to find peace within that. My heart will always be half here, half somewhere else, but I suppose that’s both the beauty and struggle of being a traveler.

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Having my father come visit me this past week for my birthday confirmed that even more. Home is no longer concrete: it is purely at Jesus’s feet. Life is no longer concrete, so I lay that at His feet as well. While my father was here, Darlene Cunningham, wife of the founder of Youth With A Mission, Loren Cunningham, was speaking to us each morning. Perhaps the most impactful lesson she gave was that Jesus will always give grace right when it’s needed, not before, not after. Because of this, I refuse to worry about tomorrow. My flesh may yell and scream otherwise, but His Spirit in me is stronger and I refuse to give in to the subtle yet pervasive lie that God is not mighty enough to handle the life He gives me.

So I’ll take it all in stride; leaning into it, as my father would say. I’m learning to love this in between state of planning for the next adventure while gleaning as much as possible from the current. My God is able to do “immeasurably more than all we could ask or imagine (Ephesians 3:20),” so I have absolutely nothing to fear. Instead, it’s a wild adventure with the One who formed my soul.

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Until next time,

XOXO