Favorite Thanksgiving Moment

After a week full of Thanksgiving festivities, I am feeling quite bloated with great memories and good times.  Nuked leftovers cannot compare.  However, there is one moment that stands out as my all-time favorite.

I could tell you it was…

* Holding hands with my man while strolling through Rockefeller Center

* Playing games with the entire family clan

* The first snowflakes of the season dancing on our windshield

* Everyone gathering around to watch Charlie Brown’s Thanksgiving

* Our trek to NYC and walking for hours upon hours despite foot surgery just 7 weeks ago

* Lots of laughs, smiles and hugs

* Enjoying my favorite pizza in the entire world – Lombardi’s!

* Going to church together

* Taking the traditional after-dinner walk with my kiddos and nephew

* Black Friday shopping with my sister-in-law who is one of my closest friends

* Cold turkey sandwich using only bread, turkey, mayo and pepper – don’t mess with a classic!

* Watching the kids ice skate

* Tucking in sleepy kids after a good day of playing

* Endless jokes!

* Going to a matinee with the whole crew – on a work/school day!

*  Traveling with my family of 5 plus the dog and a hedgehog.  Just being in the same place at the same time even if it’s stuck in a van from sun up to sundown.

* Watching how excited our dog gets to see that famous red chicken outline or those golden arches while traveling on the highway.  She gets grilled nuggets or a hamburger patty and loves to help with the drive-up window ordering.

* Saying grace before the Thanksgiving feast with everyone holding hands

* Admiring beautiful blue rocks the kids found in a nearby creek

* Having friends come over for Thanksgiving dessert to catch up

* Showing some family folks Pinterest for the first time!

* Long talks with everyone

* Football

* Macy’s Parade

* Not setting an alarm clock for an entire week

As much as all of these (and more) meant to me, there is one moment that will stay with me forever.  It was Thanksgiving morning and I had slept in a bit.  Sounds around the house told me I was one of the last to wake up.  I hustled through a shower and all that jazz – feeling like I needed to join everyone.  After all, the parade had already begun!

I knew my brother-in-law was preparing the turkey, bed-headed kids were sprawled on the floor playing games and adults were bustling about getting everything ready for a great day.

Feeling hurried to join in and help, I abruptly stopped.  One important step in my morning routine had been overlooked.  I had not said Good Morning to God.  Every morning I pray to God and tell Him I love Him.

I had packed my devotion, but honestly, with a house full of people and a calendar of fun to be had, it is difficult to squirrel away and have quiet time.  Nonetheless, I stopped and prayed and put on the armor of God (Ephesians 6:10-19).

The clock was ticking, and because I overslept I felt like I needed to get moving.  But, I wanted to spend time with my Abba Father who gave me every reason to be thankful on Thanksgiving.  Torn between God, family and what I felt was my contribution to help out around the house, I literally stood frozen in the middle of the bedroom and didn’t know which way to turn.

In a quick moment, I turned, left the room and headed for the stairs.

As I walked toward the stairs, I felt a strong pull on my heart.  It was odd.  I took more steps toward the stairs, but with every one, I felt like I was pushing into a force that was stronger than me.  A hesitancy.  Lagging.  Drawing.  I couldn’t figure it out.  I was torn between being a wife, mother, daughter-in-law, sister-in-law, aunt…and child of the King.  I thought perhaps it was the guilt I felt for not spending longer with my God who deserves more.

Just as I stepped onto the top step, the morning sun brightly shining into my eyes, God spoke ever-so clearly.

He said, I love you, too.

My breath caught as I gripped the handrail.  In four words, He changed me.  In four words, He told me He understood.

Yes, God always deserves our best, our most.  We often fail to give that to Him.  I am guilty of putting others before Him, people-pleaser that I am.  Ug.  I get caught up in projects and deadlines and busyness.  Double ug.  But, this morning, it was my heart – not my head that was torn.

I wasn’t avoiding Him, hiding from Him, angry at Him or anything else that would keep me from staying with Him longer.  I just didn’t know how to be all to all and caved in thinking pleasing people was momentarily more pressing.

You know what God did?  He cut me some slack.  Gave me grace.  Met me where I was. He simply loved me.

An action we could apply to all of our relationships.

He read my mind and heard my heart.  He, God of the universe, time and space, turned His face toward me and spoke to me.  That was the draw.  His presence was almost tangible. That is what I sensed.  It was as though He stood on the step in front of me, gently placed His hand on my anxious heart, and made me stop to hear Him.  All that was missing was eye contact, and that I felt through the blazing sun shooting through the window.

It was a miraculous moment.  A private moment between the Almighty God and me. I was undeserving.  Lavished on.  Humbled.  Loved.

I love you, too played over and over in my heart for the rest of the day.  He knew I felt straddled between two worlds and instead of judging me – He joined me on the journey.

I will never forget the magnetism that drew me to Him on that stair.  The electricity of His presence.  How incredibly and deeply loved I felt.

This was my favorite moment of the whole week – and it will be one I carry with me for the rest of my life.

When I grow up…

Do everything without complaining or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generation, in which you shine like stars in the universe as you hold out the word of life… ~ Philippians 2:14-15

As our family, along with thousands of other families, adapts to the newness of the start of another school year, my mind drifts back to Kenya – to a special young lady who lives there.

Travel with me today, up a rocky mountain on a small bus with no air conditioning.  All but a few seats are taken by our teammates who are going to hold a soccer clinic with hundreds of Kenyan children who live on this mountain.  Many of them have never seen a Caucasian person before and almost all do not speak English.  This is surely a first for my family and we are excited!

The scenery is breathtaking.  Such beauty envelops us on every side.  After quite a long, slow drive up, we stop.  There, some local children are waiting.  Clustered together, they giggle as they look at us. We smile real big and wave.  That makes them giggle more.  They are shy. Meek. Kind.

We are just about to continue our journey to the top of the mountain, when a young lady, probably 13 or 14, spontaneously steps onto the bus and sits down next to me.  I am delighted to have her company, but am perplexed as to why she got on.

I asked her if she spoke English.  She replied, A little.  I was thrilled!  That was more than I spoke of her native tongue.

She sat quietly, holding onto the seat in front of her as our bus rocked side-to-side up the stony incline.

Curious, I asked her why she hopped on the bus.  She replied, I want to know what it feels like to ride one.

I was completely taken back by her words.  She’s never ridden a bus before – or any transportation.  The 2,400 families that live on this mountain never leave it.  They farthest they go is a very long hike down to reach extremely contaminated streams at the bottom to fetch water.  A trek they make every single day up and down the entire mountain.  That is one reason we are there – in addition to presenting the Gospel and running soccer clinics – to help dedicate two rainwater catchers past teams of ours helped build with the locals at the very top of the mountain so no one ever has to die from water-borne illnesses again.

Wanting to let her enjoy the ride, I didn’t speak much, though I had a thousand questions about her, their way of life, their thoughts on things.  I am always full of questions, and sometimes it drives my family crazy! 🙂

However, I had a question burning the tip of my tongue.  If I didn’t ask it, I thought my tongue would catch on fire or I would burst.  So I asked it.

What do you want to be when you grow up?

She did not hesitate with her answer.  A doctor or a teacher.

You can be anything you want to be.  Go for your dreams, I replied with a smile.

She sheepishly smiled back.

As we continued up the mountain together, I couldn’t help but stare at her out the corner of my eye.  She is beautiful.  She has dreams.  Aspirations.  And, they begin with wanting to know what it feels like to ride man-made transportation.

Her inquisitiveness is colorful.  Her courage to get on the bus with a bunch of foreigners is inspiring.  She’s already unafraid to chase her dreams and go for it.

A doctor or a teacher.  Why?  On this mountain, it really is all about daily survival in the most primitive of estates.  They have one school and there are many cultural superstitions involved in treating their medical ailments that oppress the one government-ran clinic staffed by two nurses that service this clinic twice a week.

I believe it is because she sees firsthand, the difference one person can make.  She is surrounded by her village of family and neighbors.  Not too many doctors and teachers.  But, oh what an impression a nurse here, or a teacher there, has already made on her.

Someone has made such an impact on this young lady’s life that she believes her life is bigger than the mountain she lives on.  For instance, I met one woman who is incredibly talented.  She is a Kenyan college graduate who has devoted her life to giving these kids an education.  She is jaw-dropping impressive, because despite her tireless efforts and huge impact on the community, she one of the most humble, soft-spoken and unassuming people I’ve ever met.

My young friend has already realized that her purpose is more than daily survival.  She owns nothing of value to this world, yet she possesses a spirit rich in hope and determination.

All because someone, a doctor or teacher or both, has touched her life in a unique way, sparking a love for life that God placed inside her when He breathed life into her.

As a new school year begins in places all over the world, my first thought is of this young lady. If she can have such amazing aspirations, so can other children who live in a longitude and latitude with ample resources available.  It literally pains me to see kids nowadays sluff off school and whine and complain about it like they were being asked to donate a kidney just by showing up.  It is a cliche to complain about waking up early, school bus rides, school rules, cafeteria food and homework.  What privileges these are!  And, this is not being said by a middle-aged adult who has forgotten how much homework can consume an evening, or the obnoxious pitch of the alarm clock screaming in my ear way before I’m ready to here it.

No.  I say this because there are countless children all over the world who would give anything to have the resources other kids have – like my bus-buddy.  They would give anything for someone to take a chance on them and let them learn.  To give them the resources they need to chase their dreams.

How many poverty-stricken children in this world are being born, living and dying without one day of their life being given a chance to make a contribution to this world? How many of them have already died (26,000 children die every single day from preventable diseases), or are living now in a life shackled to grim, unforgiving circumstances, have the ability to learn and grow and accomplish miracles like curing cancer, finding new energy solutions, becoming agricultural geniuses, outstanding political leaders, pastors, ambassadors, surgeons, pediatricians for the 26,000 children dying in mothers’ arms every 24 hours, and teachers who train up another group of kids to chase their dreams and show them they are priceless, they count, they matter?  It is well worth investing time and energy into these kids so they can understand the world around them and have a better quality of life right there in their own communities and beyond.

It saddens me to see slothful, whining kids portrayed in movies, in books, on tv and in person take such an incredible gift of education for granted.  Would they want to trade places with the young lady I met on the bus?  Not for one day could they handle her life.  She is a survivor. Strong.  Driven.

Will she have the opportunities needed to fulfill her dream?  Only God knows.  How I hope so. And how I hope other kids will mature to a point where they see their education as a gift and are thankful for it.

May this new school year be a turning point for children every to embrace their potential.  And, may teachers be refreshed in knowing that they do make a difference.  It’s not about numbers. It’s about lives.  And making a lifelong difference in one child has the potential to change our world.  Run your race strong.  These children are the future of our world, our countries, our states, our communities, our neighborhoods, and our families.  You, in fact, hold the future in your hands.  What impact will you determine to have this year?

Here are some of my photographs from the mountain.  May the images be etched in our hearts to never forget this young lady, or the many other children in this world she represents, who dare to look beyond their circumstances and chase their dreams.

Our greeters! 🙂

A typical home

Of one my children meeting new friends!

School uniforms are required, regardless…

We brought oranges as a gift of friendship

Harvesting tea leaves

Sand and Water #3 Perspective

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”  Jeremiah 29:11

Sitting on the beach, I was quite content to people watch for a while.  My youngest son and I had finished playing a fun game of frisbee and other beach games, so he set off to try to make a home made kite from a plastic bag, 2 boogie boards and red plastic string.

A family nearby had also enjoyed a full day playing in the sun – mom, dad, toddler and grandparents.  Nearing late afternoon, the mom, grandmother and daughter ventured into the surf together – hand in hand.  I watched them with curiosity.  Then, it happened.

My heart sank, and I instantly knew why I felt like my heart weighed a 1,000 pounds.  There were 3 generations enjoying the beach together.  Something I will never have with my mom and children.  Once again, reality has a way of sneaking its way into a dreamy moment.  One moment, the grandmother and mother were swinging the toddler above the waves with me blissfully watching on the sidelines, then, in the next breath the stark reality of what I will never feel, hear, see or experience hit me like a roaring wave of sadness.

However, what happened next totally caught me by surprise.  As fast as my heart sank, it was as though a life preserver had been thrown my way.  With fresh eyes, ones given to me by believing God in all things and living by faith, what I watched through a grieving filter of a hollow past was now something I could look forward to enjoying in the future.

I may not be able to have this kind of beach moment with my mom and daughter, but hopefully I can have it with my daughter, or daughter-in-laws, and grandchildren.

Ah ha!  Everything looked different.

It is our choice to walk backwards on the path of life on which God has allowed us to journey.  It is also our choice to walk forward.  I was caught up in a moment of walking backwards over things that have already taken place, and in doing so I temporarily forfeited the opportunity to get excited about what I hope is to come.

Is there a guarantee that I will ever get that moment?  No.  But, without hopes and dreams, the reality of life can mercilessly pound us like relentless, crashing waves.  For today, I look forward to the many moments God will prayerfully give me with my family – but I will also treasure the ones He’s given me right now.

Yesterday, we had an awesome day together.  In the sand, sun and water, we made the most of the day and went to bed delightfully exhausted and a little sunburned.

I snapped a photo (above) of the family, our sandy neighbors, whom I had the pleasure of watching. Instead of bringing despair, they offered me hope.   Instead of walking backwards, I will walk forward to whatever awaits on my path.  And, I will soak in every laugh, every hug, every tender moment with my family that God gives me right now.  They are balm to my heart and water to my soul.  I have a smile on my face this morning, over precious memories made thus far on this trip and with hope for more special moments to come.

10 Things I Love About Summer

I absolutely refuse to realize the new school year is around the corner.  It’s lurking, stalking, hoovering, looming – but I purposefully turn a blind a eye and choose to enjoy the beautiful state of ignorant bliss of summertime.  Therefore, although we’ve shopped for new clothes, pencils and backpacks, all of which are intentionally hidden from our every day view, I remain in a honeymoon state of summer.  Ahh…

10 things I love about summer:

1. Nuzzling my nose into my children’s hair and breathing in the smell of pool chlorine.

2. Thunderstorms – any time of day, preferably at night (we are praying for rain for neighboring dry states!)

3. Flexible plans or no plans – it’s so refreshing to fall off the grid for awhile!

4. I have more of myself to give my husband.  His work cranks right through summer, and I so appreciate his efforts so I can be home with our kids.  During the summer, I have more of myself to give wthen he comes home by way of flexible dinner hours, evening walks and long talks.  I get way too rigid during the school year with schedules, so it’s really nice to toss it all in the wind and enjoy him.

5. Time with my kids.  I make intentional efforts to connect and reconnect with my kids whether we are doing something big or just hanging around the house.

6. Doing things we don’t always take time to do during spring, fall and winter.  Bowling, matinees, breakfast for dinner, long bike rides, and house cleaning projects that have waited the entire school year (or longer!) like gutting our garage and tackling the dreaded our “project room” a.k.a. office.  Okay, so maybe my husband and I are the only ones who enjoys this in our family, but we can live with that. 😉

7. Opportunities.  Summer brings opportunities for misison trips, escaping with the family to our favorite respite, exploring our state and sometimes a new part of the country, taking up a new hobby, rekindling a love for old hobbies, sef-introspection, ministry and personal growth.

8. Time with my girlfriends.  I LOVE it when I receive a text or phone call and it’s a dear friend asking me to go for a walk, have lunch or go for coffee.  The school year is so busy, and it’s great to steal some downtime with my friends to recharge our batteries and stay connected.

9. Dreaming.  Summer allows time and energy to dream.  Making lunches, signing permission slips, volunteering at school, etc. are a distant memory, if just for a season (all of which I love to do and am thankful to do it).  I can use that mental energy to dream and follow my dreams.  It’s like catch-up for the part of me that lays dormant in other seasons of life.

10. Nothingness.  I don’t know about you, but I need time alone.  Time to be and not do.  Time to absorb and not expend.  Time to listen and not speak.  Time to reflect and not project. Time to be still and not move. Time to Hear from God what He is saying and not me always the one doing the talking. Time to sleep.  Time to laugh.  Time to cry.  Time to breathe.  Time to do absolutely nothing.  No other season gives me that time.  So thankful for summer.

I Have to Tell You What Happened!

Okay, remember my post Really? written before taking our mission trip to Ukraine?  I read back through it today, and feel compelled to tell you the sequel to the saga.  If you haven’t read that post, I encourage you to or today’s post may not make much sense.

It’s been a month, and here we are teetering on the cliffhanger…what happened when I spoke to the ladies?  This is absolutely not about me, rather it’s about what God did.  This was a ladies-only event, but He bucked the system and showed up!   I am so glad He did.

It was time to face my Goliath in the privacy of just God, me and the issue at hand only hours before the event.  In an arm-wrestling battle with this giant that I’ve never won against, this time God grabbed my hand and slammed that monster’s knuckles to the table.  I was the winner, hands-down (pardon the pun).

What was different about this time, versus the thousands of other times I walked away from the table in defeat?  It’s so simple it’s complicated.  It’s so complicated it’s simple.  Ready?  I listened.

That’s it!  That’s all I did.

Listened to who?  God.

Who was I listening to before?  The world, the enemy and myself.

We are creatures of habit.  Habits produce patterns.  Patterns affect our way of thinking.  The way we think affects our beliefs – positively or negatively.  For 25 years, everything about me was negative in this area.  Reading back over the post Really?, I see a person so sick and tired of being defeated in an area of her life, that she would rather admit final defeat and taboo it from her life than allow herself to be vulnerable to what God had to say about it.

I had beat myself up so badly with negative thoughts and behavior, and allowed the enemy to do the same, that I became hypersensitive to the touch of my heart and couldn’t even fathom letting the hand of God heal me.   Self-hate set in.  A longtime battle that left me utterly exhausted.  This is not the same as self pity.  With self-hate comes a level of despising that is hard to describe into words.  However, the enemy found lots of words to speak in my ear to keep the hate spinning like a top in my head.

Because of God’s perfect will and timing, He chose this year to be the final, epic battle over me.  Why?  I don’t know.

He knows us best and knew it was time. I have been so humiliated for so long about this pattern of self-hate in my life, that my own embarrassment was easy harassment for the enemy.

It’s as though God stepped down from heaven, met me right where I was – in a dorm room in Ukraine – alone with only my Bible, and said to me, Just give me a chance.  You’ve been dooped for so long by so many people, including yourself, you’ve forgotten who you really are; who I made you to be; and most importantly, you’ve forgotten how I see you.  You see yourself as hopeless. I see you as helpless.  You see yourself as defeated.  I see you as wounded.  You see yourself as beyond the point of help.  I see you on the brink of a new beginning.  One thing we can both agree on is that you cannot do this alone.  But, can you trust Me that we can do this together?

That was the moment.  If a soundtrack had been running in tandem to the movie of my life, a simple heartbeat on the drum would have pounded.  It was a physical moment of spiritual decision.  I sat on the edge of the bed next to my closed Bible, and felt God literally wait on me for a  response.

I looked around the quiet room, fidgeted with my hands and shuffled my feet.  On the outside I was silent.  On the inside, I watched a flashback of all my years from the time my issue began.  I heard all of the hurtful words people have said to me about this over the years.  I saw their faces and felt the sting of pain as if it were the first time all over again.  I heard everything the enemy every told me about myself and I felt myself beginning to fold.

My chest was heavy and it was heard to breathe.  Palms sweating, the back of my neck prickly, and my heart beating fast, I was in a war over who to side with.  This was God’s work, but He required one thing from me.  An answer.

How did I get to that answer?  The ONLY thing that persuaded me to side with Him that day was this question God prompted within my heart…Who has God been to you, Kristi?  Over all of these years, who has He proven Himself to be to you?

When I began to recall His sovereignty, His power, His grace, His mercy, His love, His faithfulness, His tenderness, His discipline, His consistency, and His miraculous presence in every moment of my life, the tall, thick walls around my heart (which stay heavily guarded by the way), began to fracture.  A 25-year old wound is very sensitive.  It’s never stopped bleeding the pain of my issue.  I had built such heavy defenses around it that I didn’t even realize I had shut God out until that day I told my friend I didn’t want His redemption in this area of my life.  My plan was just to privately, secretly nurse this wound until I died.

I sat on the edge of the bed in a quandary.  Do I trust God, who has been completely faithful and loving my entire life, even through the darkest of times, or do I continue in a self-destructive pattern that I know is harming me inside and out?

Could I take that first step and say to God, Alright.  You can have a go at my heart.  I trust You.  Or, do I tell my mission teammates I cannot speak to the ladies and retreat further into myself than I ever had before – this time with the strong possibility of never following my bread crumb trail back to the surface.

Sometimes, when we are at our weakest, our darkest, and in our deepest pain, all God is asking of us is to trust Him.  We get tangled up thinking we have to do something courageous or smart or skillful.  We live in a world that tells us we are only what we can produce.  Well, when we cannot produce anything beneficial, then who are we?  Nothing.  And I had felt like that for 25 years.

God knows this.  In Psalm 103:13-14, David understood.  He said, As a father has compassion on his children, so the Lord has compassion on those who fear him; for he knows how we are formed, he remembers that we are dust.

Even if our pit is one we dug ourselves, God will still search for us and reach down His hand to pull us out.  Will we take it?

Part of the difficulty I faced in that moment was realizing that a new pattern would be established.  Great, but I didn’t know how to do that.  I didn’t have the strength to push back this giant.  Again, trust.  Perhaps God will help me? I thought to myself.  After all, He promised to help Moses lead the exodus out of Egypt.  He promised to fight for the Israelites time and again from Joshua at Jericho to Nehemiah rebuilding the wall of Jerusalem to Mary & Joseph, Paul & Silas, Peter and so on.

Why would God help?  Isn’t He as frustrated about this as I am?  Hasn’t His patience run out?

2 Chronicles 16:9 – For the eyes of the Lord range throughout the earth to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to him… 

So God is actually searching for His children who lost their way be it in one area or many.  He searched for me and found me in a room alone in Ukraine.  He traversed the world and caught up to me.  I can almost see it.  Just as I am deciding whether or not to cancel the ladies event, a knock on the door.  I’m not expecting anyone.  Who could it be? I wonder to myself.  I stand up and slowly walk to the door.

Who is it? I ask.

It’s Me, comes a reply from the other side.  I gasp!  There is only One who sounds like that.  He is my Groom.  My Savior.  I turn the key and pull down on the handle.

What are you doing here? I ask in wonder.  Jesus’ face lights up when He sees me.  I just stand there, jaw agape in awe that He is actually here, on my doorstep in Ukraine.

May I come in? He asks with a broad smile, slightly out of breath from running up the 3 flights of stairs.

Oh, I’m sorry.  Yes!  Come in!  

Thanks, He replies.  I’m glad I caught up to you.

Why?

Because you are about to make a really big decision, and I want to be part of it if you’ll let Me.

But, why is this so important to You?

You are important to Me.

Why?

Because I love you.

But, I keep failing in this area.  How is that lovable?

You are lovable.  God the Father made you, and He made you lovely.

But, I’ve failed so many times before.  I have no confidence in myself with this anymore.

That’s okay.  Put your confidence in Me.

But, I am tired, Jesus.  I don’t want to, can’t, fight this anymore.

He takes my hands in His and sits down with me.  He looks at me with eyes that make time stop, heartbeats still, and breath shallow.  His love permeates the room.  I cannot hear anything else, see anything else, feel anything else, but his warm, tender, and gentle hands holding mine.

I love you with an everlasting love.  Don’t you see, it’s not about what you can or cannot do.  It’s not about who anyone, including yourself, has told you who you are.  Isn’t not about your track record.  It’s about who you are in Me.  I complete you.  When you asked me into your heart, I made you whole.  I make you strong.  I heal your hurts.  I am your breath.  I am life living in you.  You have, for so long, lived in defeat.  But, like every other time in your life when you leaned on Me, will you do it this time?  I’ve got your best interest at heart.  Our Father is always working for the good of those who love Him.  You are tired of listening to everyone else, including yourself, tell you who you are not.  Will you listen to Me tell you who you are?

A lump swells in my throat.  Tears stream down my face and my nose begins to run.  Eyes sting from salty tears, my bottom lip quivers at the thought of perhaps listening to my Savior, my best friend, my groom.

I furrow my brow in deep decision.  This is not easy.  Every ounce of self-hate has risen to the surface.  Every hurtful word is screaming at me.  The enemy is beside himself that Jesus has locked him out of the room.  I hear him furiously pounding on the door.

Christ leans and whispers so close I feel His breath.  His hands holding mine.  Will you listen to Me tell you who you are?

My head drops, and through stinging tears and a runny nose, I ever-so-slightly nod and utter beneath my sobbing, Yes.

He leans toward me even more, resting His forehead on mine, noses almost touching, and through tears of His own, He smiles and says, You are…My beloved.

I fall into His arms.  It is enough.  It is more than enough.  I breathed in those two words and they entered my body.  They shot straight to my heart, my spirit, and began their healing work.  Like a physician’s hands performing delicate surgery, those two words healed my heart from the inside out.

Did that encounter physically happen?  Yes and no.  No, Jesus did not come in tangible human form, but He did come by way of the Bible.  As I sat on the edge of the bed, I came to an answer.

Yes.  I would listen.  Yes.  I would open myself up, become vulnerable, and listen to what He had to say.  He led me to Scripture after Scripture telling me who I am to Him and in Him.  It was one of the most precious hours of my entire life.  With every verse, scars disappeared from my heart.  The voice of Truth eradicated the lies that have plagued me for over two decades.

No other god would, or could, do this.

I stood that night, before beautiful women and shared.  I shared from the depth of my soul words He had for them…and for me.  Their tears were my tears.  Their Truth was my Truth.

I returned from Ukraine a different person.  God asked me to leave all the hurt and pain with Him, and I did.  I left the self-hate, too.  I physically felt the weight of this lift from me.  Physically.  Crazy, huh?  I feel a peace from the inside out.  Peace that is not of this world.  My good moments before were only that – moments.  This is 24/7.  He healed me.  I am at peace with Him and with myself.  His words of who I am are the only sound I hear in this issue that no longer has a hold on me. I am free.

I am whole.  I am at rest.  I am victorious.  Because of Christ’s victory over death, we who follow Him are invited to have victory in our lives.  Our entire lives – every area.

I am eternally grateful He didn’t leave me in the pit in which I was trapped.  I am so humbled He sought me and deemed my problem worthy of His time and effort.  He did a mighty work in me and all He asked of me was to let Him do it.  I didn’t have to prove anything, be of eloquent speech or show my own strength.  I simply chose to trust Him.

God is on our side.  He is a good God.  He is faithful.  God is love.  Jesus, indeed You are the Prince of Peace.  Thank You.  I love You.

A Must See!

Last night, one of my best friends sent me an email with a link to a time sensitive premier of a movie coming out.  She told me I HAD to stop and watch it as it was going off-air within the night.  What began as a typical evening in our home was totally derailed and we were completely captivated by this movie!

It had us totally speechless the entire time – past midnight.  I went to bed thinking about it and woke up thinking about it.  It’s a documentary.  It’s real, raw and utterly astounding.  At one point, my entire family shouted out in shock.  I won’t give ANY spoilers, but trust me, you have to watch this.  It will change your life forever.

Okay, the the title is “Father of Lights” by Darren Wilson.  They held the premier in CA – which is what we watched.  It comes out October 16th.  We are absolutely going to buy this.

I still get chills when I think about several parts in it.  Honestly, I’ve never seen anything like it.

I hope my teaser has peeked your interest.  We had so much trouble getting it to play last night (Bruce thinks their server was hammered by heavy traffic due to the free premier) as we tried it on our laptop , iPad, tv, you name it.  At one point, I was so frustrated I said, “Why did I ever look at my email?  This was going to be an early night!”  Oh am so glad her email came to me.  I am so glad we dropped everything and watched it in its entirety.

October seems like a long ways off.  When it comes out, watch it, then post here what your thoughts are.  I can’t WAIT to talk about this movie because life is indeed stranger than fiction.  Oh my.  Still thinking about it today…

Have I driven you crazy yet? 🙂  You just have to see it!

Click here for the link!

Kristi

Flash Mob Mission Theory

Sing to him a new song; play skillfully, and shout for joy. ~ Psalm 33:3

Since my family began taking mission trips last summer, many people have asked us all kinds of questions.  One question I have asked myself over and over is, “How do I describe what it feels like to go on a mission trip?”  There are simply so many feelings and thoughts, I don’t know where to begin or end.

Expressions used in every day genres such as: too beautiful for words, or words can’t describe, or I’m at a loss for words – come to mind to describe going on mission.  However, people patiently wait for an answer they can keep.  Something they can wrap their heads around to either be more informed, or perhaps, encouraged.

This morning, I had the delightful surprise of an email sent to me by my mother-in-law.  I often don’t have time to read forwarded emails, but this one caught my eye.  It is a YouTube link (the link is at the bottom of this post).  As I watched it, tears streamed down my face, and I didn’t know why.  Emotion swelled up in my heart and I didn’t understand.  I’ve seen many flash mobs and am always amazed at their creativity.  It would be so much fun to be a part of one some day.  I’ve seen many styles and themes and have enjoyed them all.

Oh, but this one was different.

This one caught my heart and I couldn’t figure it out.  Then, the Lord showed me the reason for my tears.  This particular flash mob describes how I feel about going on mission, though the flash mob itself has nothing to do with it.

Allow me to set the scene.  People, all over the world, are going about their daily lives. Without any hullabaloo, grand entrance or proud proclamation, a single person steps forward and does something out of the ordinary.  They begin to do what they do and people begin to watch.  One by one, people emerge from the crowd, from around the corner, from inconspicuous places, and join.  What appears to be completely spontaneous is far from it.

But, they look just like everyone else standing around!  They are.

Why do they do it?  They are called to and love what they do.

It is the same with missions.  Ordinary people come together, each with a different set of strengths and weaknesses, gifts and talents, and together they serve united with one voice to the world – Christ’s.  Individually, they cannot play all instruments in the symphony.  They have been given a specific set of tasks, and they do them with all their heart.  Unlike the flash mob below, short-term missionaries are not professional missionaries.  Rather, God equips them for the task for such a time as this.

Consider the sequence of events in this overture: they pray over the opportunity; begin all necessary paperwork, shots, etc.; meet regularly to discuss the overall plan as well as individual tasks each person will have; they continue to meet for months, all along gathering supplies and traveling sundries; they pack and hug family members and friends goodbye; they are off.  Oftentimes, traveling with people they have never known before this journey began.

They arrive in a land which may be foreign in landscape, language or culture.  They are the minority.  Settled into their temporary home, they continue to meet and go over details, supply lists, and prayer requests.

The time comes to serve.  As I watched our team in Ukraine recently, indeed, a flash mob began.  What looked like a motley crew of disjointed ages and seasons of life, we came together in perfect tune to make a joyful noise for the Lord.  We were a band of unlikely people, coming from various backgrounds and unknown futures, but when God, the Master Conductor, tapped His baton, all of our attention and eyes focused on Him.  We set aside our lives, schedules and agendas and took our place in His company to play for Him as best we can.

After a two-day flight and a long bus ride; after security and customs and baggage claim and a good night’s sleep; after attending Ukraine’s Sunday church service and meeting many new precious faces – in an instant, right after breakfast, on a sunny, warm Monday nestled comfortably on the calendar, we broke off into our musical suites – soccer, basketball, Bible, arts & crafts, volleyball and music.  We were not travelers.  We were on mission – with a purpose.  We weren’t there to put on a show.  We weren’t there for applause.  We weren’t there for recognition or reward.  Like a flash mob, versus the limelight of a well-publicized event, we were there simply because we were called to be, and wanted to be, to hopefully please God our Father and be a blessing to those around us.

We wanted to bring spontaneous joy.  We wanted to break out of the ordinary and let the extraordinary hand of God brings smiles, hope and strength to beautiful hearts.  I remained wide-eyed throughout the week, over what felt only to be somewhat organized beforehand, was really something God had a well-thought out plan for.  As the Master Conductor, He directed every moment, every step, every word – to stay in perfect pitch with His plan and for His purpose.  Whether in loud allegro moments of organized chaos, or in soft adagio moments of prayer and friendship, the tempo of our mission’s symphony stayed in unison for His glory.

We were imperfect people banding together for perfect purposes – to draw others into His symphony of love so that they might find their instrument, their God-given gift, and play it for Him in chorus with us.

A short-term mission trip is an amazing wonder of which to be a part.  Like watching a flash mob, and the faces of those participating shine with joy and enthusiasm, so we also felt the anticipation build from the inside out.  One major difference between a flash mob and missions is that we encourage others watching to jump in and join us.  Children, teens and adults played in harmony with us for a week of blessing.  We got dirty playing soccer, got sweaty playing basketball, got creative making earrings and crafts, and had way too much fun dancing.  Who was blessed more? Dare I say I went hoping to be a blessing, but was blessed beyond measure.  Our new friends’ voices filled the gaps in our choir.  We weren’t just a team united, we were one body united – no matter the language or cultural barriers.  We were one.  It is, in fact, how eternity will be for those in God’s cantata.

The flash mob below carries a tune for missions that I am unable to express with words.  Like music of the heart, going on mission touches the goer as much as the receiver.  One is never the same when it is over.  Memories roll around in my mind like a melody I can’t stop humming.  People there have changed my heart here, and God used them to write scores of new music for my life to dance to.  Missions has a secret that nothing else in the world can offer.  No amount of money, fame, or fortune can compare to a new reason to dance, a new song to sing, and new friends with which to enjoy it.  There is no greater feeling than to accept new brothers and sisters in Christ, from all over the world, into my life…forever.

There is nothing more satisfying than dancing in step to the rhythm of God’s heartbeat – which is His love for the world.  It is exactly why, for as long as He allows, we will continue to go.  To sing.  To dance.  To work. To play.  To laugh. To cry. To cheer. To love.  Christ is the reason, His salvation the melody, and the people we welcome in our family, both on the team and at our destination, motivate and inspire us as the harmony of their friendship hums in tandem with ours to the music God is playing around the world.  Stop and listen.  Do you hear it?

Click here to let this particular flash mob play the music my heart feels about missions.