Pride’s Seduction

I had a dream the other night about a man. Specifically, Gatsby, but this time he was Marylin Monroe’s murderer (you know how dreams go).

He ran a little enclosed kingdom, with him ever at the center. While there was an overwhelming awareness that he could kill them at any moment, the people threw themselves at him. Something inside prayed he would. Somehow, somewhere deep inside myself, I was one of them, desperate for him to want me, yet aware it would end in death. There was a man working for him, reduced to a dunce from his abuses. Though he loved his master, he fought to help us escape this society of grey. 

I had just been outlined for reconstructive surgery, as women were expected to look a certain way there and I, apparently, had the audacity to break the mold. At the last moment I said no. The doctor was angry. The building was blue and made of glass. 

With a blink I returned to the city below. It occurred to me, then, how a boy can become a dictator: he had been given all he ever wanted. Like a mirage in the corner, his parents could be seen, terrified at the moment their smiles would waver, causing him to throw another tantrum. You know the look in their eyes: that scared, nervous smile, the too-quick, harried response of “He’s so smart. Look at him, such a good boy…”

He had killed Marylin  one night after dinner. Elaborately, with a set of wine, coffee, and her latest script to practice together. Something in all his subjects wanted desperately to be killed by him. It was glamorous. It made you someone. Walking around his house, a girl couldn’t help but dream of being loved by such a man of luxury, even if the one night stand ended in death. Tragedy made the story more romantic.

Every girl knew the outcome of a night with him, yet every girl begged he choose her. Every man envied him, prayed for his camaraderie, all the while knowing it would leave them as vegetables, walking round and round the ditch he drops all his old servants in. 

He survived off the women’s beauty, the men’s vitality. One kept him eternally attractive, the other eternally young. 

I looked back once more before jumping the wall. I knew the other side held life, truth, and my love. Devilishly handsome as ever, he returned the look, but this time the snake inside was clear. He was maniacal, hopeless, selfish, and alone. He wanted nothing of us but his own immortality.

Turning my head, I made the leap, and as feet met ground, I awoke.

Until writing this all out in my morning pages, it didn’t occur to me that this was my subconscious’s way of processing everything we saw in South Beach on Memorial Day Weekend. Throughout the rest of this week, the Lord showed me how my “seductive dictator” is pride, but we all have one. We all have our little hidden sin we keep quiet, letting him pump us full of the pain meds we crave as he digs the knife deeper into our backs.

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I say pride because that’s my struggle, but yours could be different. Idolatry. Lust. Laziness. Selfishness. Whatever it is, it’s never too late to release it to Him and jump the barricade.

“Though the lips of the forbidden woman drip honey and her words are smoother than oil, in the end she’s bitter as wormwood and as sharp as a double-edged sword. Her feet go down to death; her steps straight to Sheol. She doesn’t consider the path of life; she doesn’t know that her ways are unstable.” ~ Proverbs 5:3-6

“Don’t abandon wisdom, and she will watch over you; love her, and she will guard you. Wisdom is supreme, so get wisdom. And whatever else you get, get understanding. Cherish her, and she will exalt you; if you embrace her, she will honor you. She will place a garland of grace on your head; she will give you a crown of beauty.” ~ Proverbs 4:6-9

 

 

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So What If It Hurts?

Lines of black
Lead to where
Visions fall flat
Folks forget to care

Lying hazily
In fields of white
Voices scream for meaning
Wishing for wings to take flight

All is starched clean
Perfumed with bleach
While underneath
Rotting sewage lies unseen

Can you taste the disease?
She’s coming on the breeze

Like bitter gall on the tongue
She’ll arrive with the setting of the sun


We’ve become so afraid of getting hurt we’ve boxed ourselves into little white-walled, cushioned caskets of what we think is safe. Minds overflowing with concerns for propriety, we can no longer enjoy the very people we got all dolled up to see and are trying so desperately to impress.

Dear Miami, I watched it happen. While we may have been the city of failures and dropouts, we were also the city of relentless dreamers. Having seen the worst come true, we could stare fear back into her prospective corner because so what if it hurt? At least we lived. There was the mettle that comes with knowing that no matter the outcome, the alternative of living wondering, wishing you had done whatever it was, or perhaps stood against the grain of whatever it was you felt pressured into, was worse than the initial trepidation.

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Beyond this, though, how often are we afraid to speak up or get close and open our hearts because of the mountains of what-ifs? What if (s)he gets offended or takes it the wrong way? What if when they see my heart, it’s too much for them or they criticize it?  What if I get hurt?

While some of these questions do help in building the boundaries necessary for any healthy relationship to flourish, if carried too far they become walls against intimate fellowship in a way that truly is detrimental to our emotional well-being and our Christian walk.

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But still so often we let the fear win. We box ourselves in, and then from that fear, as a mode of both protection and justification we start looking for all the sharp pieces in others that could possibly wound us, neglecting to realize the barbed wire fence we’re slowly building around ourselves. And discontment is birthed.

Darling, don’t let discontment steal your joy in community. We’re all imperfect, carrying residue of our old selves. Look past mine, and I’ll look past yours. Give grace to the ones who’ve hurt you, whether intentionally or not, and return to your circle. Even if they be scattered about the country or globe, return to them. In the Age of Technology, there’s no excuse for scorning community. Granted, be prayerful about the companionship you choose, but when the Lord directs you to a person or people, don’t neglect that, especially not because of pride.

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On Pride&Bitterness

It’s a cancer; she lies within
Stroking her prey with whispers of when
Her arms lay not about their lungs
Their glory was equal to the sun

Slowly then, she sinks her teeth
Insisting you’ve marched “Once more
To the breach,
Dear friends, once more!”

But your friends wouldn’t march along
So you went it alone
Saving, you think
This ship about to sink

Or perhaps you chose to flee
Solitary in your “glorious wisdom”
Nursing the hurts
Of when body met sea

While left behind
Laid passengers crying
“Ungrateful,” you whisper
Under your breath whilst swimming to closest shore

Then there she is
Happy as can be
Her prey returned of his own volition
Resting in the glory of his “glorious wisdom”

You don’t see her talons
The venom seeping from her lips
As you run to her embrace
Beg for a kiss

Which ginergly she places
Upon cracked blue lips
Before returning to the waves
A body limp from poisoned bitterness

And the passengers of that sinking ship?
They reached back to Ithaca
With splendor and joy at overcoming hardship
But your fate was chosen at Anthemoesa

In the name of glory
You wrote your own story
Deeming the Author too distant
Because home’s shore was hidden
Beyond the curtain
Of arrogance’s abdication.

 

Isaiah 40:10-11

“See, the Sovereign Lord comes with power, and His arm rules for Him. See, His reward is with Him, and His recompense accompanies Him. He tends His flock like a shepherd: He gathers the lambs in His arm and carries them close to His heart; He gently leads those that have young.”

I would be lying if I said coming home has been painless. Within just this month, I’ve had more than one breakdown, days that felt like dreams, times of denial, complacency, and sheer rebellion against both what happened and the reality of the riches of America. Everything feels so shiny, covered in glitter and wrapped in celophame, not meant to be touched or enjoyed but simply seen.

That’s so much of what we care about isn’t it? To be seen, to have some ounce of glamour and fame. Why?

But that’s not the point of this post. The point is, the Lord is faithful. Before outreach, I was still drowning from miles and years of unprocessed emotions burying me under my own glitter and celophame memories of euphoria sought out to cover up those tears. I called it “joy in the Lord.” No. I was simply running. Yet when my feet landed in India, He caught me. I had to process the events in my life I had simply left, having explored to a point, then fled from. When you’re bent over on a tiny toilet in a third world country with a bucket in your hands and barely any strength to move back to your sleeping bag, there’s not much else to do but think and pray. So I did. And I met His faithfulness and love in a way I had never before. I saw Him there, waiting, letting me play it out and run and run and cling to my youth and freedom until I was ready to sit and dig into the realities of my cousin’s suicide, of my own social anxieties.

And now I’m home, and certain inevitable things remain. Life is still hectic and busy. The dark forces of this earth are still fighting against all my family has ever lived for, all I ever want to live for. I still live in the midst of an intense spiritual battlefield. But now, I’m choosing it, knowing the cost and knowing how it will end. Because my God is faithful, and He will carry us, His children, through. He will tend us as a Shepherd, because He is God, and He comes with power.

I’ve watched so many now run from this, or fight in an attempt to water it down, make it more Instagrammable. But that’s not the life we were called to, ohana. We were called to a life of war, as well as a life of intense joy. And loves, that’s the life I choose.

Where Muffled Voices Fade

The weeks escape me. I hear it’s the seventh, so let’s go with that, shall we?

As this week was for the most part more of the same, this post will contain an obscene amount of photos, and not many words, I’m expecting, but we’ll see what happens.

Thursday morning we set out believing a prayer walk was in store, and instead found ourselves at a fort. I guess our hosts thought we needed a break, or exercise, judging by the size of the place.

Half of me wishes I had brought my camera with me (these are all iPhone pictures), but the other half is grateful I was free to climb and explore and see, beyond the viewfinder. Everything was magnificent, from balancing on the divider of an auto as we race down, then up the mountain to the trees sparkling like diamonds in the afternoon sunlight. Heights allowing hawks to fly below our eyes wide with wonder. The mountains calling my name, whispering His wondrous love. Tales of an age gone by. Temples still burning with incense to a god who will never hear them. Through it all, beauty like I’ve never imagined, and fragrant freedom.

The joy of adventures with souls I hold dear. Voices joined in illegal worship to the God who Sees. Citizens stop and stare, listen a while, never interrupting.  Soaking in the glory of His creation… And this is but a taste of earth, and earth but a shadow of heaven…

Finally, pictures from the slums. Throughout our past times there, I’ve abstained from bringing my camera. I didn’t want to give any room for the people there to think I care about them only for their stories, for their media values. However, on this our supposed last day (we’ll now be there tomorrow for church, as well), from the moment they spotted my camera the poses and “sister, my picture’s” began.

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This little guy’s legs were burned worse than anything I’ve ever seen a few weeks ago by a kitchen fire. The entire time we were there, he stayed on Rosie’s lap. When another child tried to come between them, he made his point clear by a quick smack, then nestled in to her even closer.

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I’ve fallen in love with each of these children, but is that any surprise? We leave tomorrow, and again I’m left wishing there were no language barrier between us. As these children are some of the leading Christian influences here, I worry not over what the world will do to them, but marvel over what they’ll do to the world.

Until next time

XOXO

Slum Chai and International Smiles

Wiping faces, trimming nails, cutting hair. Get pulled into a group of young mothers. Giggle about language barriers, hair colors, and upcoming weddings. Hold their babies. Comb my fingers through the lice infested hair.
Child comes up with typical Indian meal: sweet boiled grain of some sort, similar to quinoa. Mother, smiling, tells me to try some. Fully aware that travelers often get terribly sick from just this, that I was sick from less than this, I said a quick prayer and took a bite. Some experiences are worth it, but more than that showing them that I don’t see myself as being above them, especially in a culture of castes, is worth getting so sick I’d maybe have to be sent home, as we were debating the first time around. To refuse would be to convey that I am higher than them and their way of life, especially given the lack of translation. It would say their food is dirty, that while I will sit and chat with them and play with their kids, I will not go that extra mile of intimacy and break bread with them. I couldn’t do it; I simply could not.
Smiling through the almost immediate nausea and heartburn, I sat with a woman whose young son (between four and six years old) we had prayed for a few days before. His legs were burned by a cooking fire about a week prior to our arrival, and he could no longer walk. As her kids ran back and forth, we laughed instead of talked, playing with her kids as they came by. Two of the four are in the picture with me. Through it all, the little family had such joy. I ran into her on the bus today, and was once again shocked by her immaculate beauty. However, beyond the mirth, beyond the elegance, there’s more pain in her eyes than many of the other women I met there. She’s one I dream of taking out to coffee and just chatting with, with no language barrier to this time curb our conversation. Perhaps on the nearing Other Side.
About a half hour before we left, one of the couples I was sitting with invited me into their home for chai. Again, to refuse would be more damaging to them and to our witness here than any bacteria would be to me. I can treat bacteria, but the wound of offense takes much longer to overcome. Having watched it boil, though, I knew this one was safe (and delicious).
Upon stepping into their home, the first thing I noticed was the purple and gold scarf hanging as tapestry. Catching my breath, I whispered to the wife that it was beautiful. Seeing as how she couldn’t understand my words, I hope the smile conveyed it.
These two families, both believers, were some of the most fascinating to me. While I hunger to know the full stories of the first (why did I never see her husband? Was she married? What was her daily life like?), the second was the only couple I’ve seen here who appeared genuinely in love. Teasing and laughing with each other and their children, it was clear they truly enjoy each other’s company.
I hope to return soon, to continue to love on these people and experience more of their way of life. Despite the poverty, there is such exquisite glory. Each time we’ve visited this slum our cameras have stayed home. On our final day or two with them, I hope to capture each rubble covered rose lying hidden there.
Humans like these families, like the children of this little Indian tent-town are why I’m here. Their smiles, their laughter, their joy. All they ask of us is prayer and a hand to hold. Gladly, my darling.
Until next time
XOXO
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Photo Credit to Chris Park (IG: @chrispark01) 

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

Frye.

I keep trying to write this precious boy’s story, but every time I simply can’t. Within a matter of days this boy became like my son. When we first arrived in the Peruvian jungle, we all believed him to be about seven years old. Towards the end of the trip, we learned he was actually a malnourished twelve or thirteen year old.

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Picture Credit: Carlos Paillacar

When I first met him, the fierceness in his eyes, with such humorous joy hidden underneath, was all I noticed. Part of what we were doing there was running a Vacation Bible School of sorts for the kids, and my job was to choreograph little hand-motions and dances for each of the songs and teach it to them. From the first day on until right before we left, the moment our eyes locked, he would come up and dance with me. Energetic, full of spunk and mischief, as well as genuine love, this boy captured my heart within days. It’s been over a year, and I still think of him almost every day. His passion for learning both about the Lord and regular, straight forward academics is beautiful. With a single glance, the next prank on his silly gringa friend is planned, and when I stumble into the trap, his good natured smile lights up a room as he helps me out of the mess he got me in.

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Frye is on the right, Junior on the left.

What none of us realized until the day before we left was that, at least at the time, he was raising himself, living off what he could find. When I learned this, my heart broke in a way it hadn’t ever before for this amazing young man. His home village of Juancito is known for its hostility towards outsiders and drunkenness in the male culture, but you would never know this from watching Frye. Such effervescent joy in every circumstance, such hopefulness, willingness to learn…
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So this is my request to you, dear reader: pray for him. Pray that he maintains his hope in the Lord as he continues to grow and be discipled by the church there. Pray for strong, righteous male influences to come into his life. Puberty itself is hard enough; I can’t imagine it without someone there to look up to. And please, pray that he never loses sight of his joy-Giver. And whoever in your own life this post made you think of, take a moment to pray for them, too, and maybe even reach out to them if you can. 

“But Jesus said, ‘Let the little children come to Me and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of Heaven.'” -Matthew 19:14

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