Sandcastles versus Marble Palaces

There is an undeniable scream inside all of us crying out for something more, a meaning beyond the world behind our eyelids. Like stormclouds gathering, we let the emotions roll in one after the other. Insecurity. Disappointment. Hurt. Bitterness. Perhaps they don’t always arrive in that order, but arrive they do. All are symptomatic of the same thing, what my brother calls “sandcastle pride.” We stop trusting entirely the Lord’s plan for us, and start searching out ways to make our dreams happen on our own. True, any dream worth anything at all requires work, but at what point does work transfer into idolatry?

In the words of one wise nine year old, “Start reading your Bible so you can learn how to get your life back on track!” We are desperate to be alive, yet terrified at what that would mean. Authors make millions off self-help books, either about gaining control or letting go, or doing one to achieve the other. We all dream of a higher existence of some sort, but only once we seek and pursue the Lord’s vision over our lives will we find any sort of the divine calling we crave.

“‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ – this is the Lord’s declaration – ‘plans for your welfare, not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.'” Jeremiah 29:11

It’s not about the work itself. It can never be about the work or else we’ll fall into either a cycle of obsessive over-achievement or bitter resolve to press on. Neither can it become about whatever earthly outcome, money, or fame, for in the end, once it’s been realized, there will be an inevitable sense of “that’s all?”

I’m not saying we all need to jump up and become ministers; He did make some doctors, filmmakers, musicians, or writers, etc, but there must also be some eternal goal for our lives or else what’s the point?

We all have some daily burden; what’s yours? The daily awareness of what is, and screaming response of what should be? This is your battleground, so wage war! There we find our sense of purpose, of vitality- there we bring bits of His kingdom to earth. And it is in this process of fighting for the “should be,” of fighting for some necessary change weighing on us so heavily it seems that to not strive to bring it about would be a moral slight, that we being to trade the sandcastle for the marble palace.

 

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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

On Cafe con Leche and Emotions.

I’ve officially reached that point in outreach everyone talks about where stuff has happened and we’ve witnessed things I don’t feel comfortable sharing with any of the outside world just yet… I think part of me thought this was a myth, this outreach climax, but here we are. And I find I’m most content in this state.
This state of sleep without rest, because my rest comes in the day, face buried in Bible, teammates voices lifted in worship around me. The love I have for these incredible humans is beyond what I can express. I only wish the beloved could be here. But until he and I can experience this sort of thing together, I’ll savor this continued honeymoon with Jesus.
We’ve arrived in Dharamshala, a beautiful mountain town. However, because it is a beautiful mountain town, my wifi and data usage has been massively restricted, which is why I’m a week late with this (sorry fam). Last week was a week of goodbyes to souls reminding me of how large and terrifying the world sometimes is, as well as how communal and lovely, and the power of redemption.
While I’ve been able to write about them before, today I’m too overwhelmed to process it all onto this digital paper. Each day, each thought, would require a post of its own. Of these boys’ lives before. Of who they are now. Of the secrets their eyes allude to. Of their joys, their hopes, their dreams, their talents, their possible futures. Hopefully within the coming weeks I’ll be able to get two or three of the stories down, but we’ll see. I’m still debating which of the stories I even have the right to share… My life was so privileged. I’ve always known this, always felt this, and seen the truth of it before. But today it’s hitting me freshly again as I re-read the lives of these boys I so deeply adore and will likely never see again.
Breathe in. Breathe out. Sip the tea from an adventure-worn straw in a Hydroflask tattooed with their handwriting and imaginings, scarred with the remnants of paint battles.
Hop on another plane. Contemplate for how many years airports have felt like home. Exhale the tears into a secondhand Bible, my sanctuary held together by tape. Allow my heart to break into His, realizing He knows so much more than I, His heart is hurting beyond what I can imagine, and that through it all, He is gloriously faithful, that He has a plan for each boy.
Land in Dharamshala. Settle into an apartment cozier and homier than I remembered being possible. Use the last of the data to call the beloved. Break. Soak in his voice, his encouragement, his words reminding me of the Truths so easily forgotten in exhaustion. Regroup. Step back inside from the balcony where snow-topped peaks and fields of green are all that’s visible. Realize yet again that this is the life I’ve always craved and dreamed of, and through the disease, the sleep-deprived delirium, the insecurities of making art out of it all, the agonies of seeing all we can’t change, and backlashes of the enemy for all we do work to change, I could not be more content or fulfilled. Because through it all, He is faithful to remind me of His exquisite love and beauty.
With all the gentle tears and bittersweet farewells of Week Four, Week Five was equally filled with unadulterated joy. As eyes turned to waterfalls, I took my turn at sharing pieces of what makes my heart ache, face buried into the shoulder of friends close as family, sisters who inspire me to be everything I can be, to chase after everything I dream of becoming. Hold the same sisters as their turns came along. Legs folded on crimson rugs, chai in hand, we lift our voices in holy adoration of the One who brought us here, allowing the worship to drift like sunlight out the windows.
Soaking in their laughter, we played with village children on the side of the mountain as the fog rose below us and we marveled at the exquisite art of our Maker’s hands, and how somehow He still deems us as more beautiful even than this. As a friend of five minutes who reminds me of myself at ten years old slides her hand in mine, I watch as the Hindi praise unfolds to the God of Abraham in a little house church. Two days later we’re back at the same church, and I’m sharing bits of my testimony, eyes on the same girl. Precious Abigail. Who will she become? Will I come back one day and find her grown, with Kingdom passions of her own?
After driving further up the mountain, to a tourist town known as Mcleodganj, we visited our first Indian temple. Beauty filled with dark emptiness. We strolled up and down the marketplace, marveling at the skill so rampantly alive in this nation. Naturally I couldn’t resist picking up a nose ring and anklet, because India. As twilight began whispering hello, we slipped into a friend’s home for some of the best coffee I’ve had in months and some brownies. Needless to say, it was a good day. Since then we’ve been working on some stuff for the community center we’re teaming up with here, exploring the city, and going on various prayer walks. As I’ve been falling in love with the country, I’ve been falling deeper and deeper for my team. Our leaders are relentlessly faithful, working so much harder than any of us see. The five I get to call my teammates are all so encouraging and insanely talented, gifted with such unique skill sets. There are several instances proving that I literally would have died without them, especially during our time in Kolkata. In them I’ve found an extended family, and I’m dreading the day we have to say goodbye. So I just won’t think about that yet.
This is the gist of the past two weeks, majorly condensed. Thank you guys all so much for supporting me through everything; I can’t tell you what it means to me to read your sweet messages and prayers forwarded by my parents. When I was sick, had it not been for your prayers I very well might have gone home. You carried me through it, and I’m extremely grateful. Also, I tasted the closest thing to a cafe con leche that I’ve had in five months (Indian milk coffee), and I honestly cried a bit. It was pathetic, but so beautiful. God is good.
Until next time.
XOXO

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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

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

Harvest

Stil
Quiet
Peace
The storm has ceased
I can finally
Breathe.

Life’s a tornado
I’ve been knocked to the ground
All is steady now
Still, I’m scared to stand.

So I lean into You
Let Your words rush over me
Fall asleep
To the rhythm of Your grace
At last, I’m safe.

I’m being ground
That the spices may come out
Though the winds assail me
And oceans as bullets
From the heavens fall,
Still I rejoice
In my only God
With each earthly blow
Let the blessings flow
That all may see and know
The beauties of
Your precious Name.

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A Teeny Little One

On my way to YWAM, I stopped in California to see my boyfriend. In short, it was amazing. Spending time with Jonny and his family provided some much needed refreshment, both in physical rest and spiritual rejuvenation after what has been, and now continues to be an insane season.

I had been to California twice before in early high school, but seeing it as a local felt so different. The juxtaposition of old, beautiful, rich history and fresh opportunity with dusty sins and barren, shallow hopes is astounding. Although the drought is fierce as ever, signs of life still remain in hidden corners.

While all of this was lovely, the most touching part of the trip was by far the Monfredas. I can’t begin to express the love I have for and felt from this family. From the moment I stepped off the plane, their hearts were open to me, showing me the purest, most generous tenderness of Christ.

Anyways, here are some pictures from the trip 🙂DSC_0192DSC_0191 DSC_0187DSC_0178DSC_0174DSC_0168DSC_0162DSC_0145DSC_0033DSC_0026DSC_0020DSC_0016DSC_0015DSC_0304DSC_0300DSC_0297DSC_0010DSC_0009DSC_0309DSC_0308DSC_0307DSC_0281DSC_0278DSC_0277DSC_0270DSC_0266DSC_0265DSC_0264DSC_0262DSC_0260DSC_0259DSC_0258DSC_0257DSC_0254DSC_0247DSC_0238DSC_0237DSC_0235DSC_0231DSC_0229DSC_0208DSC_0217DSC_0218DSC_0220

There are probably some repeats from a previous post, and it’s probably pretty clear what my favorite view from the trip was, but either way I hope you enjoy!

XOXO

because cliche mush is allowed.

And so it begins: the fearful process of farewells. Six months doesn’t seem like long, but it feels like an eternity. In six days I’ll be on a plane to California to see my beloved boyfriend and meet his family, and ten days after that I’ll be on a plane to Kona, Hawaii for a missionary training program called Youth With A Mission. With my parents having met there and being continually involved as I grew up, my life has been planned around these six months. While ideas for what would come next perpetually changed, as they do with any kid thinking of the future, YWAM remained constant. And now it’s here.

Last Sunday marked my final escapade with the humans who have become family; the ones who are brutally honest, can irritate the daylights out of me and are the most welcoming shoulders when life becomes grey and fuming red with pain’s knife. From midnight drives so we can scream at the stars and yell promises of who we’ll be to the passing cars from hideout vantage points, to nights spent in hotel rooms and around familiar coffee tables processing the glory of who God is, they’ve been there through it all.

Things will be different when I return. Time changes almost everything, and I know we all will have grown in such unique and different ways. But they will remain constant. The ones who make me feel all cliche because they make the stereotypes of beloved friendship true, the ones who give me freedom to discover myself while they discover the intricacies of their own souls, my motley crew of wild wallflowers, will remain constant, each with their own adventures along the way. And when we reconvene, older and wiser, it’ll be as though nothing has changed.

See you on the other side.