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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Moment by Moment

This past Thursday, over a picnic at our favorite hideout, my beloved Jonny asked me to be his wife. And of course, I said yes.

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Now as I write this it’s Saturday, and I’m laying on the couch in what feels like an exhaustion-induced paralysis. My mother said I shouldn’t think myself so invincible to jet lag, but of course being her headstrong replica I didn’t listen. And of course, Momma was right. After hopping between twenty-one time zones, perhaps sliding back into my old schedule right off the bat wasn’t the best idea.

But my gosh it’s worth it. I’m home.

For the past six months I’ve been dreaming of this life, and now I’ve returned to it. As incredible as traveling through southeast Asia was, my heart and home and ministry is here in Miami.

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Fast forward a bit- it’s now Tuesday, and I’m just alive enough to deem myself awake, and about to consider my second cup of coffee. The laundry is finished, and though the dress I’m wearing in this picture is now a shirt, as I looked up just now the missing sock was spotted. One task down, coffee in hand, and I’m ready to take on the day. It’s a slow climb, getting back to normality here. With the residue of things experienced still beautifully imprinted upon my mind, I’m gently coming back to the pulsing reality of the life I dream of.

Airport Floors and Midnight Muffins

It feels so strange to be back in Kona. Almost like coming home, but not quite. When I left for outreach I swore I’d never in a million years come to this island ever again. Now I have to- part of it is home to me.

Sitting at the Banyan Tree Cafe, sipping coffee and people watching. Counting the hydroflasks and Birkenstocks- the ywamer uniform (yes, I am proudly one of them. It seems we all showed up unaware of the cliches we were subconsciously fulfilling). Gasping at the sight of the sea, more gorgeous now than ever before. Soaking in every breeze. Listening to the constant prayer rising up from all around.

With the dawn of a fresh quarter, herds of new students are all around. I so desperately want to pick their brains, see what’s going on behind the scenes…


Flash forward. Graduation was so much more emotional than any of us expected. Goodbyes to the ones who have become family; the thunder signaling a new season. Again I think of this new crew of YWAMers flooding the campus, a feeling kin to that of thinking of my coming nephew one day being held to my mother’s chest. There’s so much he’s yet to know, so many tears he’s yet to cry there. He may think he knows how much he adores that place of safety, but he doesn’t yet…

I watch their faces. So full of expectation for the coming six months. They may think they know what they’ve gotten into, how they’ll be changed. They don’t, not really. Not yet.

Throughout all the tears and farewells, joy ran thick. We did it. And now we’re on to something even better, even more challenging. For one, it’s fighting against sex trafficking. For another, it’s studying to become a film-maker (and what an amazing one she will be). For me, it’s returning to the city my parents came to as missionaries to continue the work they started, to carry on their vision along with them.

Flash forward again. Sitting on the airport floor, adjusting to what is now a 23 hour jet lag. Listening to Blink-182 in my favorite hoodie I’ve waited three months to return to. Waiting to board my red-eye. One flight down, two to go. Let’s do this.

I’m still processing DTS. All I learned, felt, thought, experienced, witnessed. But I know that I grew, and that I’m grateful. That this new season will be one of extreme joy and thanksgiving. That when I get off that third flight, the man I love and haven’t seen in six long months will be there waiting for me. That I can’t wait to see what the Lord has next in store for all of us.

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

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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Taking Flight

October 2nd

As I write this after having missed my first flight yesterday evening, spending countless tears with my incredible man trying to get this one worked out, nearly giving up, sprinting through LAX, and finally finding my seat on the aircraft, it hits me: this is it. Life as I always dreamed of, as cliche as it sounds, is beginning now.

When I arrive in six short hours, I will be headed to University of the Nations for my first Discipleship Training School with Youth With A Mission. My feet only touched the plane after an eventful and completely wonderful ten days with Jonny and his sweet family. Long distance is a beast, but trips like these make it well worth it.
When your eyes first scan this post, the first few days on this honeymoon with the Lord will be through. Chances are, the rhythm will have been discovered, and I will be dancing along with it.
Currently, I am firmly planted in seat 12B, with fellow passengers soundly sleeping beside me.
Window’s wide open. Clouds look like the sea. Blue, green, orange skies, but the orange that is almost pink. His jacket around my shoulders, drenched in his cologne, reminding me of my second home. Assailing my mind are constant questions, vague condemnations. “Was this right? Even in the frustration, how could I allow that word I prayed I had forgotten how to say slip out? Will six hours feel like six hours, or twelve? Or two? Who will I be at the end of this? How much will have changed? Have I already forgotten my first Love?”
No. 
Grace covers all, so no more second guessing. Those words will not be allowed to escape my mouth again. The time will pass second by second, moment by moment, as it always does. I will be who the Lord intends me to be. Nothing will have truly changed, because Christ will still be sovereign. And though in the turmoil I have spent less time with my Beloved than I would have preferred, still, He carried me. Looking back on the summer, on September, I see His holy hand in everything. I see Him using Jonny to help be my stability. I see Him allowing certain stresses for the strength they produced. I see Him removing certain people for the sake of pruning, to produce more and healthier fruit. As I take flight with a happy heart and tired spirit now refreshed, I see His continued faithfulness.
October 3rd
Luggage left in LA. Wake up in a foreign bed at 6AM. Feels like 9AM. No clothes. No shampoo. Sunshine smiles from sweet roommates. Flowers as random welcome gifts (the little things really do mean the most). Breakfast overlooking the sea on one side, volcanoes on the other. Rhythm being found; no, I am being swept into it’s ocean tides. Fast friends from foreign cultures. Separate backgrounds, united purpose.
Bags are returned to me, unpacked, and I begin to feel more settled. Evening goes on. Among Christians numbering over one thousand, we break bread. Laughing as old comrades, we descend the hill to the city for some evening exploration. Night wears on. Feet find their way to what is becoming home.  Debating on the couch as sisters, precious hearts are revealed, and the array of rare flowers forming this bouquet starts to bloom. As wind in trees by a river of love, the Holy Spirit whispers into each of our souls. It is beginning. We are each on our own separate paths to discovering His purpose for our lives, and we are blessed enough to be able to watch as He does the same in those around us.
Pictures to come soon, I’m just having trouble uploading them since I forgot the cord back in the 305, in true Serenity fashion 😉 

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.


  

September Sunrise

It’s a farewell season
On to new horizons
Heralded by autumn’s fire
With each hello this
Summer is demanding a goodbye
It seems, if not to faces
Then phases
But I’m learning
I’m okay with it.


In the quiet
Fear assaults
Ferocious doubt, like a lion
Will tear me to shreds, if not
I take the plunge, over the deep end
Into the blue abyss, swim until
My feet find land.


It is time to leave
My feet are aching
For unknown shores, dreams unseen
I will return
But for now, I must leave
This town feels small
It’s only shrinking
It is I who must grow
My feet are aching.