One Post Short

There we were.  A hot, June evening in Ukraine spending time with precious women and girls in a small room, while young men played a serious game of soccer outside.  We had gathered to enjoy female fellowship.  Jazz music, coffee, finger foods and candles help set the mood for a cozy night to laugh and share our hearts with beautiful Ukrainian women.

On one table, my daughter set out nail polish to paint anyone’s nails who felt like be pampered.  At another table, members from our team made a knotted blanket together while enjoying great conversation.  Little girls ran around the room giggling.  The occasional male peeked inside, only to quickly leave the estrogen-filled atmosphere once he realized he was a fish out of water.

At our table, another teammate and I helped women and girls make earrings.  My daughter loves to make them, and is very good at it, so we thought bringing tons of colored glass beads and all sorts of earring posts might be fun to do at our girly event.  The first night, she helped make countless pairs of earrings.  By the next day, the palm of her hand was quite bruised from repeatedly squeezing the little pliers for hours.  She could barely move her hand, so she asked if we could switch and I help with earrings and she paint nails.

Sure!, I thought, though I wasn’t nearly as good at helping with the earrings as she was.  So my teammate and I tried our best to help.  Supplies were running really low.  In fact, although there were plenty of beads, the earring posts were gone.  I began to pack up supplies since we were now out of business without more posts.

A woman approached the table and wanted to make a pair despite my cleaning efforts.  She held a post in her hand and was looking for its match.  We looked everywhere, and I mean everywhere.  It was the last post we brought out of 350 pairs including 4 different styles of posts.  Her sweet smile and tender heart made my teammate and I want to help her so badly.  In fact, a few moments prior, another woman approached us with a different, single post and asked for the match.  We couldn’t find one, so my teammate took the pair off that she had made for herself the night before, unassembled it and gave the match to her.  I was so touched!

But, this woman standing before us had no such success.  Her post was different.  We searched under mats and in plastic containers.  We sifted through beads and backs and extensions.  We looked under the table’s flower centerpiece and on the floor.  We scoured every inch of the table.  We searched our pockets, our laps, and lifted cups of coffee, napkins and food plates.  We searched everywhere, everywhere, everywhere.  There simply wasn’t a matching back.  The woman looked very disappointed but didn’t leave.

This was our gift to the women that night, and we felt terrible that we couldn’t deliver.  The language barrier made it difficult for us to explain why we were telling her she couldn’t make a pair.  She just stood there with her hand held out with the small post in it, waiting patiently to receive its match.  We searched at length again to no avail.

In the surprisingly wildly popular activity of making earrings, we came up one single post short out of the 700 cumulative posts we brought.  God, we need another post.  Please!  Just one more.  Tell us where it is, please, I prayed, Just one more, God.  I can’t tell her no.  You can do this, God.  Give us the matching post.

My teammate looked down at the place mat directly in front of her, and sitting in plain view was the matching post!  We froze as chills ran all over our bodies.  It was the exact match – and it wasn’t there one second earlier.  Seriously, it wasn’t there before.  It appeared out of nowhere, because we had looked everywhere.  We stood there for several seconds dazed in amazement.  We looked at each other with wide-eyes and jaws agape.

It was a miracle.  A real miracle.  There is no other explanation for it.

There was a reason why it was important for this woman to make a pair of earrings; and only God knows what it is.  It was so important that, while running the universe, He took the time to stop and produce an exact match to an earring post on a hot, June evening in Ukraine for a woman whose name only He knows.  She is that important to Him.  The details of her life mean that much to Him.

The Bible is full of Scripture about how much God loves us and cares for us.  I think sometimes we assume that only applies to the big stuff  like health and safety issues.  Marriage and life and death.  Yes, it is true for those times, but it is also true for the quiet moments when only He is able to read between the lines of what is happening.  Moments when we don’t, or can’t, express why something is important to us, but because He knows us the best, He understands us the most.

Perhaps we miss His miracles.  We are too busy, too tired, too self-consumed, that we don’t see the help He offers, the goodness He gives to us or the small miracles He performs in our daily lives.

I often pray, Give me eyes to see, God, because my body’s eyes miss so much.  I am guilty of tunnel-vision and hyper-focus and can miss the bigger picture if I am not looking for it.

Once, I was walking across a parking lot at sunset when the most brilliant fuchsia and orange colors flooded the sky.  I stopped in my tracks and simply stared at one of most beautiful sunsets I have ever seen.  It was all shades of pink – something no hand could recreate with a paintbrush.  God whispered to me, This one is for you, Kristi.

His words sent chills down my spine.  He knows I am a beach girl who spent half her life watching the sun set over open water.  It is one thing I miss about where I live now.  This resplendent sunset made me feel like I was back on the sand with salty air blowing through my hair as rhythmic waves stumble lazily upon the shore.

I didn’t even know I needed that memory at the moment as I weaved my way through parked cars.  I was simply traversing the hot pavement in my running shoes making my way toward home.  God knew.  He knew I needed a moment to stop.  To gaze in wonder at a beautiful sight I have not seen in a long time, and hear that I was remembered by Him who made me.

This Ukrainian woman needed to be remembered, too.  God saw and acted on her behalf.  Just to comprehend that His presence was with us as the perfect earring post match was placed mere inches from us took my teammate’s and my breath away.

We joyfully gave her the earring, telling her it was a gift from God.  She sat down and thoroughly enjoyed making her pair of dazzling earrings.  John 6:1-13 tells of the time when Jesus fed more than 5 thousand people with only 5 small barley loaves and two small fish.

Yes, He can make something from nothing as well as increase short supply.  He can do anything.  Do we ask?  Do we have faith to ask?  If not, why not?  What is holding us back?  There is nothing too small to ask God.  His answers are simply yes, no or wait, and they are always for His glory and in our best interest.

If you could ask Him anything, without any fear or doubt, what would it be?

The Flying Diva

There are circumstances that happen in life which are only humorous after-the-fact.  Our return flight from Ukraine was one of those times.

On our last night in Ukraine, I felt a weird scratchiness in my throat.  Oh, great, I thought.  A cold is coming on.  I began Airborne and Cold Eeze and didn’t sleep very good that night.

We woke up to breakfast, packing and a lengthy drive to the airport.  I thought the bus felt especially warm, but then again we had endured sweat, heat, humidity and body odor often in that bus so I shrugged it off.

Arriving at the airport, there was a whirlwind of activity to get 30 something people’s baggage checked, then go through security and customs.  At long last, we were in the terminal waiting to board.  That’s when it hit me like a brick.  I was sick!  And hot!  Being a mother, I probably bring more than necessary to travel with for all of the just-in-cases that can pop up.  It really pays off!  We’ve been very stuck before in the mountains, at the beach, in Africa, and everywhere in between with strep throat, stomach bugs and even a serious head injury.  So as I sat slumped in a hard, plastic seat, I put down the awful sandwiches we bought (at exorbitant prices!!) – which I thought one more bite would come right back up – and quietly slipped out my handy dandy thermometer.  I thought no one I knew was looking.

As I sat motionless, dying to lie down across the row of merciless plastic chairs, thermometer sticking out of my mouth like a cigar, I glanced up to see two of our team’s college guys sitting across from me staring wide-eyed at me.  They looked at me like I had the plague.  I couldn’t blame them.  Who sits in the smack middle of the terminal, a full-grown adult, with a thermometer sticking out of their mouth!  I felt too bad to explain.  And, explain what?  I had no idea why my body was breaking down by the minute.

Yep.  Fever.  It was 100 and was rising by the hour.  After the rhythmic chirping of the thermometer alarm sounded, it was time to board.  I nearly had a panic attack as I visualized all sorts of scenarios of the 10hour flight that awaited me as if I were a piece of bait in shark territory.  Ten hours of getting sicker and sicker.  Trapped over open ocean on a plane where English is not the first language spoken and with no option to stay behind.  I imagined passing out in the aisles.  The attendants strapping me in the jump seats with them as my fever spiked to seizure proportion.  Being wheeled off on a stretcher not knowing my name from delusion.  After a week of long hours, little sleep, physical excursion and being emotionally drained, on top of a climbing fever and a head that felt as though it would explode, there was not a rational thought in my head about my state of affairs.

I said not a word to my team but only told my husband what was going on.  In a daze, I passed through our final security check and was in line to board the plane.  I was burning up inside.  All I knew is that I needed to remove as many layers as possible as I thought about the stale recirculated air I was about to inhale for the next 10 hours.  I had a cami under my t-shirt…yes!  I could take that off discreetly.  Then I realized I was wearing compression hose (very attractive – NOT!) that I must wear for medical reasons on long flights.  It was like wearing leg warmers under my yoga pants.  I could slip those off, too.

Lo and behold, of all of the people on the planet, take a guess who stood directly in front of me in line to board.  A monk!  A real, honest-to-goodness monk in full garb complete with a long, hooded robe and large wooden cross hanging from his rope belt.

You’ve got to be kidding, I thought.  I don’t want to do this in front of him!  I’m not polished on monk protocol, but watching a woman take off under layers is, I’m just guessing here, probably not in their manual.  However, I had no choice.  I knew all too well that it would be impossible to maneuver those horribly uncooperative hose off in the little airplane seat.  They make pantyhose feel like comfy, rainy-day pajamas.  And so there I was, hoping he wouldn’t turn around.

I slipped my arms out of the cami and fished it up through the neck hold of my shirt.  One down, two to go.  I pulled up my yoga pant legs, one at a time, and unrolled the compression hose ending with the wide, lacy band that I desperately tried to shield from the monk standing one foot from me.  I quickly stuffed them into my purse, hopefully with him none the wiser, but I must confess I didn’t look at him to find out (nor to all of those standing behind me).

Taking a deep breath, I stepped onto the plane.  The day thus far had exhausted my weakened strength.  I shoved my carry-on above my head and my purse under my feet, fell back into my seat, closed my eyes and breathed.  It was a 2-3-2 seater plane.  Our kids were in the middle 3 seats and Bruce and I were on opposite sides of the plane.  I was seated next to a woman who sat speechless and still.  I didn’t want to chit chat.  Oh my no!  And, in all likelihood, we probably didn’t speak the same language.

Still panicked over how I was feeling, I made the mistake of asking our resident medical person on the team, who sat near me, what the normal range for fever was for an adult.  Everyone around us heard me, and I’m telling you it was though they all took a proverbial step backward from me – though we were all trapped on the same plane.

If I were a betting woman, I’d bet the lady I sat next to heard us as well, because when I sat back down in my seat, she was hugging the wall like wallpaper!

Oh, it gets better.

I needed Motrin and calm and peace and quiet and some sort of hope that I could make this flight despite being sick.  I dug through my bag of tricks (my purse) and found all of the elements I possibly had to seclude myself from the reality of what I was about to endure.  My sinuses were stuffed, my throat hurt, my right ear felt full and I felt like 1,000 degrees inside.  However, when traveling in a group, what is one to do?  We had a second flight in NYC to make and you do what you have to do.

With eyes closed as the rumble of the engines flared up, I reassured myself, Just 10 hours.  That’s all it is.  Ten little hours. Then, I’ll be back in the States where I can go to urgent care, or at least have the ability to use my insurance card.  This pep talk sort of worked as long as I didn’t open my eyes.  Boy, I was praying hard!  Please Jesus, get me through this!  Please don’t let me get worse on the plane.  Please get me home!  No one else on the team was ill, nor anyone we had been with all week.  Just me.

Ever since I took a flight, many years ago, when upon descent my sinuses freaked out and they became so pressurized I thought they would burst, I guess I had a back-of-the-brain fear that will happen again.  The pain and pressure was so bad I couldn’t even call for an attendant.  I sat paralyzed feeling like a hamster being squeezed really tight – eyes bulging out and scared stiff.

Here I was.  In the exact predicament I had always dreaded.  Stuffy head.  Ringing ears.  Plugged nose.  And a 10 hour flight for the first leg, then an overnight layover and a second flight home beginning at 4am.

As the plane began to roll down the runway, I broke out all the stops.  If I were going to get through this, it would be with every possible aid.  Mind you, this poor woman sitting next to me is stuck against the window for a long time with me.

It began to dawn on me that my ailment was a sinus infection.  Not contagious, but tell that to someone who feels like the most unlucky person in the world to sit next to the likes of me, and the diva I was about to become.

First order of business…Afrin.  Shot that sucker up my nose.  Next, I took my temperature again as it had been a while.  Oh how embarrassed I was to do this in public!  I watched out the corner of my eye to try to catch the poor woman with her eyes closed.  Not so.  So how would you feel sitting next to someone who just broke out a thermometer?  I know I would want to be anywhere in the world except near me.  Ug.  Okay, next…Motrin.  Swigged it down.  Then I pulled out the economy-sized bottle of Airborne and package of Cold-Eeze.  Got a round of each in me.  Check.  Next, find the Mucinex to help with the fluid build-up in my head.  Done.  Next, sift through my cami and compression hose filled purse for my blow-up neck pillow.  Blew it up and hung it around my neck.  Done.  I can feel my airplane buddy staring at me out the corner of her eye.  However, I must continue to survive, or so I felt.

Pressure point wrist bands – just in case – because the airport sandwich was that gross (not even my teenage son, the human disposal, could finish his and described it as 95% salt).  Slipped those babies on.  Next, my beloved eye mask.  I put it around my head, but wasn’t quite ready for total blackout so I propped it on my forehead.  Gorgeous, I know.  Next, noise reduction ear phones.  I needed to find my happy place, and the loud static of the engines wasn’t getting me there.  I positioned those suckers on tight.  With a loud sigh, I pulled my eye mask down and crossed my hands in my lap under a blanket of total darkness.

What in the world must I have looked like?!?!  Yes, I do carry these things with me, but never to use all at the same time.  I’m not that high-maintenance!  They are also for my entire family to share.  But, I believe I would have growled at any hand that came near my airplane survival stash.

There I was.  Thermometer, Motrin, Airborne, Cold-Eeze, Mucinex, neck pillow, wrist bands, headphones, and a black, satin eye mask with my undergarments peeking out of my purse.  Sheesh.  The poor soul beside me looked horrified.  She all but sat sideways in her seat to get as far away as she could from me on this full flight.  I was, in fact, a flying diva.

This, from a girl who doesn’t even like to wear shoes much less a jacket if it’s chilly.  I don’t like fussing with myself and find accessories other than my wedding ring, a watch and lightweight earrings, maybe a simple necklace on a rare day, to be all I can stand weighing me down.  I looked like a hybrid of an aviophobic and a hypochondriac .

I soon passed out, well, okay I probably fell asleep, but I don’t remember the first several hours of the trip.  Then, without the compression hose that I should have been wearing, once I regained consciousness, I needed to walk – a lot.  Delirious with the day’s events, I began to stroll the aisles with the eye mask propped up on my forehead and headphones bulging over my ears like Princess Leia.  I didn’t even realize (or care) what I looked like until I found my husband’s seat and squatted down to say hello.  He took one glance at me and said, Nice look.  Yeah, whatever.

On descent, my right ear filled up so much I thought it would burst.  I couldn’t hear anything out of it for 2 solid days.  After day 8 it is almost better but still crackles and pops.  I survived the rough overnight in NYC as well as the second flight home.  A round of antibiotics knocked out the sinus infection, praise God.  Being home made me feel better and my own bed was simply heaven.  However, I haven’t found a remedy to regain my dignity for partially undressing in front of a monk nor horrifying the passenger next to me with the many apparatuses I had clinging to my body and the semi-conscious state I stayed in for those long 10 hours.

That, my friends, is the metamorphosis of how an average girl, who despises a scene, transformed into a diva for a day.  The only comforting thought that carried me through the flight was that I will never see the monk or the lady next to me again.  And, I’m quite sure they were thinking the same thing about me.

Home (Bitter)Sweet Home

Wow, it seems like forever since blogging on this site!  I went offline for over a week as my family traveled on mission overseas.  I had great aspirations of blogging while there (sigh)…

I cannot wait to post some of the pictures from the beautiful city of Kiev, Ukraine.  As pretty as it was, the people are what truly make it special.  We went to Kenya last year on mission and had no idea what to expect this year in Eastern Europe.  A different team of people, a different part of the world, a different set of goals – just entirely different.

As much as I don’t want to admit it, my body doesn’t handle jet lag very well.  I am still getting up in the middle of the night and can’t sleep during the day.  It will be fine, but until my inner clock resets, I am tired.  However, I couldn’t wait one more day to get back online.  So today’s post are some travel pointers I’ve learned over the years in hopes they may benefit you as well.

All-time necessary travel item (besides a passport):  Water.  Airports, planes, buses, hotels, and constant lugging of luggage really dehydrates the body.  I keep water with me at all times.  I will guzzle a bottle down before having to ditch it at security, then buy another as soon as I am able.

Favorite travel accessory:  Eye mask. I can pull this handy dandy item out anywhere, anytime, and instantly seclude myself from the outside world.  It is very helpful to sleep with, but I must confess I wear it sometimes just to give the illusion I’m asleep so I can grab a minute of peace and quiet.  (Shh, this is a secret!)

Favorite luxury item:  Noise reducer headphones.  A teammate on this trip had a pair, and as soon as our first flight landed, I bought some (albeit overpriced) in the airport before making our connection.  I compromised on a pair that was less than $100.  They are noise reducing, but also have a jack to plug into an iPod and give great sound.  So to accomplish almost no noise, I also used a pair of foam earplugs.  I must admit, as long as the Lord continues to let us travel on mission, I may get a part-time job to earn the money for the Bose 100% noise eliminators.  Those, coupled with the eye mask, would be one awesome ride!

Something to schlep stuff in: Eddie Bauer “Daypack.”  It’s smaller than a backpack, but is made to handle the tough stuff and didn’t count as a carry-on (it was in the laptop, purse category so I could still have a carry-on).  It has all of the same cool compartments of a regular-sized backpack, but it’s much more easy to manage.  I’ve tried packs that look like purses and the straps broke from either too much weight or overuse.  I’ve tried traditional backpacks and they are too big and my small stuff sinks to the bottom.  I’ve always said the perfect job for me would be a quality control tester for purses, etc.  NONE have withstood my use.  This EB daypack is the only thing that hasn’t surrendered to my wear and tear.  It has nicely padded straps to wear when you need to be hands-free.  I bought mine at an outlet store on sale.  Okay, I’ll confess.  It was originally a gift for my husband, but now the whole family wants to use it. 🙂

Pack reasonably.  Really think about where you are going and what toiletries and cosmetics you will need.  Creature comforts are great to have on hand, but not at the expense of so many things it’s a scavenger hunt every morning just getting ready.  And, if on mission or active travel, probably half of what we usually use isn’t needed because it’s all going to sweat off anyway.

Use the bathroom!  If one is available – use it whether you think you need to or not.  There is a good chance there may not be another one for a while and that is a miserable situation to be in.

On that note, the Go Girl is a nifty product.  Guys, you may want to skip this part.  Girls, it’s a porta potty – basically a silicon funnel with biodegradable baggie.  My family laughs, but when it’s the only thing available for miles around, and not even ol’ fashioned nature is an option, this is worth gold.  Then who’s laughing?

Journal the journey.  Whether in the notes section of your smart phone, via photographs, or notebook and pen, capture not just the experience but your reaction to it.  Just a few words or sentences or photos.  Enough to be able to go back and fill in the blanks later.  But, assuming you’ll remember every moment is simply unrealistic and unnecessary pressure on oneself.  Personally, I journal through photos.  I’ll snap a picture of something that I connect with or want to expand on later be it a person, place, food, activity, brochure, anything.  It jogs my memory once I’m home.

Avoid ice.  Just a personal tip from someone who learned the hard way.  We made it all the way through Kenya without any digestive issues at all.  Then, on the ride home, both my husband and I had ice in our drinks on the plane.  BIG MISTAKE!  We thought we were going to die we were so sick by the time we got home.  Not worth it.  Unless you are in a familiar place that you know you can tolerate remember this – if you won’t drink the water, don’t eat the ice!

Pack snacks.  Whether traveling with kids, special dietary needs, or just yourself, packing snacks if a real lifesaver.  We pack things that can travel well (peanuts, dried fruit, freeze-fried fruit, protein bars, trail mix, etc.).  More than once these have wound up being a meal when caught in unforeseen circumstances such as harvesting corn in Kenya or tied up in a layover, flat tire, etc.  Most airports have food, but some make you pay dearly for it.  We were charged $5/person for a bottled water or soda on this last trip. Pfft! :O

Travel pharmacy.  It’s very important to take your usual meds as they may not be available where you are going.  However, we go a step further and bring a sampling of popular OTC meds – especially for digestive systems.  Foreign food, little sleep, and hard work can tear up a body and weaken the immune system.  We pack items such as Airborne tablets, Cold Eeze lozenges, Immodium, laxatives, Tums, cold meds, Afrin (for the plane if you have a stuffy nose), pain relievers, vitamins, and a first aid kit.  We filled 2 gallon-sized bags going to Ukraine, granted we are a party of five.  Always bring a thermometer, too, and if traveling really far or foreign, perhaps a round of antibiotics just in case.  We saw strep throat in our team in Ukraine.  It happens!  Keep reasonably necessary meds with you en route (plane, bus, etc. – anywhere you cannot get to your luggage).  Better to curb a migraine at the onset than have to wait hours before your luggage is in your hands again.

Shower shoes.  Buy a cheap pair of flip flops for the shower.  They can cost as little as dollar, and that is far less expensive than paying for treating foot fungus that is very easily contagious.  Every doctor I know travels with them – and so do we!  Like they say, an ounce of prevention beats a pound of cure.

Records.  Depending on where you are traveling, make copies of your health insurance card, immunization record, birth certificate, passport and driver’s licence and securely store them.  The last thing anyone wants is to be far from home and legal documents get stolen or go missing and there is no way to prove who you are.

Well, I will stop here.  I hope some of these are helpful to you.  Can’t wait to blog more of the heart of our journey.  So much to share!  Have a great day, Kristi

The Cure for a Mid-Life Crisis

Photo via Pinterest

I dreaded turning 40 my entire life.  That number always seemed like a lifetime away! Well, it came knocking on my door, and I have to say I didn’t handle it very well.  Okay, I freaked out.  I tried to hide it on the outside, but on the inside things changed.  Wow, I never thought I’d be a cliché, but so much of what people say about turning 40 is true!

I began to look back on my life – the good, bad and the ugly.  I spent quiet time alone reflecting on the way things were and they way things are now.  I noticed physical changes (oh joy!) as well as a shift in my attitude – for the good, I think.  I became less concerned with what people think of me.  I’m not motivated by people’s approval nearly as much as I used to be.  I began standing up for myself.  I realized that I cannot be everything to everyone all the time…and that’s okay.  I’m a lot more relaxed because I see things from a different perspective – hopefully a little wiser than before.

After pondering the past, I turned my focus to the future and joke that I’ve got one foot in the grave.  Well, based on statistics I do!  This weird sense of, I have to do all the things I’ve ever wanted to because, tick tock, time’s a wastin’!, crept into my thinking.  I felt a surge of self-imposed pressure to fulfill dreams and finally write and complete my bucket list right now.

At the same time, my husband is a few years older than me, and he has been swept in the undertow of being the primary provider for our family for so long he just doesn’t know any different.  He likes his position in life, though he stays continually tired.

He was a bit numb to a mid-life crisis because that takes extra time and energy he doesn’t have. On the contrary, some strange alarm went off inside me and I felt like a racehorse just waiting for the life’s gate to spring open.

What was I do to with myself?  I had a bad case of mid-life crisis!  What in the world is the remedy?  We’re not “stuffy” people so buying stuff isn’t going to fix it.  I’m not going to do anything foolish as the cliché goes.  But where would I be able to put all of this electrified energy and sense of urgency to do something completely out of my norm?

Enter…a mission trip to Africa.

I never saw that coming!  Who knew God had been working behind the scenes for many months to prepare our family’s hearts to go on mission.  We were as surprised as the friends and family we told.  But, we could not deny that this was exactly what God was sitting on us to do.  So we did.

Let me just say that when I look back on who I was pre-Africa, and in full-blown mid-life crisis mode, was utterly resolved in 2 weeks.  Just by reading the above of what I was feeling, it was all so self-centered!  A mid-life crisis usually is.  After all, it’s all about us.

There is nothing wrong with wanting a change in one’s life.  No one can blame someone for wanting shake up the norm a bit or fulfill a life dream.  But, the entire difference rode on the fact that a mission trip is designed for us to serve – not be served.

If we are to live like Christ, we must think like Him.  Matthew 20:28, “…the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

I was standing at a crossroads in life and was tempted to make the second half of my life all about me and my time and what I wanted to do.  My human nature was screaming its demands!  But, then we stepped onto the plane bound for Kenya.  I left my home, family and friends behind.  I also left part of myself.  I stepped off the plane in Kenya and, from that moment on, everything changed.  Not just for me, but for my husband, too.

For two weeks I watched my man of 22 years be on the verge of laughing or crying 24/7.  A part of him awakened – the part that craves life.  He rediscovered a passion for being part of something larger than himself.  A passion for helping others, sharing Jesus’ love, and living life to the fullest.  He also emerged an entirely new husband and father.  We all liked the former one, but this one has zeal for godly leadership in all ways of daily living.  Even his physical countenance changed.  I could not stop staring at him the entire trip, because I watched him morph from tired to totally alive.

I shook off my mid-life pity party over everything I haven’t been able to do, and saw, without blinders, this great big world God holds in His hands and the possibilities it possesses.  I fell in love with the Kenyan people and created bonds with our American team that will last a lifetime. Where my previous focus began to shift on myself, God used this mission trip to gently turn my face back toward His Kingdom work and toward the life that is waiting for me after this one passes.  I have always loved people and diversity, but serving on mission exploded in me a passion for others.  I LOVED serving, helping and assisting the Kenyan folk and our team.  Although I had no idea what I was doing, I was willing to do whatever was needed and we made memories that will carry me the rest of my life.  On the flip side, my heart utterly broke over the poverty Kenyans endure every single day.

Serving on mission was not something we sought out so much as it was what God called us to. God calls all believers to serve in some capacity, and we should all be seeking opportunities.  This was a huge lesson I learned.  It is the most humbling work I’ve ever done.  We serve locally as well, and that is also needed, but there is something very different about  leaving all of our creature comforts, language, culture, everything we understand as our normal, and go somewhere we don’t fit in, yet are so warmly welcomed by those waiting to greet us to work together for a common good – God’s will.  It is a truly unique experience that simply cannot be replicated at home.

A vacation trip of a lifetime is an incredible experience, and there is nothing wrong with that. We’d all love to take one!  But, I saw how vastly different vacations are from mission trips.  I’ve never been so tired, so drained, so energized, so alive – all at the same time – in all my life.  Our trip had purpose and meaning.  The work we began will long outlast the memory of us being there.  I like to watch the Travel Channel with Samantha Brown, Anthony Bourdain and Andrew Zimmern.  I’ve learned a lot as an armchair traveler about the difference between simply being a tourist and immersing oneself in a different culture and experiencing it from the inside out.  I’ll take immersion any day.

We are gearing up for our next mission trip this summer, and I can hardly wait to get started.  I left a piece of my heart in Kenya and will again on this trip I am sure.  When we look at the world through God’s eyes, and see His unconditional, relentless love for it, we must simply be a part of what He is doing no matter where or when.  There are so many bad things happening in the world right now.  But, traveling with God on mission allowed me to see there is a whole lot of good being done as well.

I may have left part of my heart on mission, but I brought back hope, empathy and an intense desire to serve those who need a helping hand. It’s how Christ lived.  He commands believers to do the same.

(Jesus) said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the good news to all creation.” 

~ Mark 16:15

My only regret is that we waited so long to go.  If I could rewind time…but I can’t.  However, serving on mission is something I really look forward to doing as long as I am physically able, and that gets me really excited about the next half of my life.

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