the long walk

Someone asked me if I missed Honduras the other day… and I still struggle to know how to respond. This life is a strange thing, isn’t it? Time passes and phases fly faster than your ability to enjoy rightly while you are inside of them, and before you know it you are talking about 10-year-old memories.

It’s so strange to talk about things as though they have happened in a chronological sense. It is for me, anyway. Because Honduras, college, Austin, Ames, Des Moines – these phases are happening to me and in me all at once, presently. There are moments when I crave people and cities like homesickness, but there are other moments when I feel like I’m walking inside those memories again – close enough to touch.

I don’t miss Honduras like nostalgia. I miss it more like… like wishing it was one my errands today. I wish I could hear the crackle of the loudspeaker announcing early morning produce for sale out of the back of a truck. I wish I could meet up for coffee with students this afternoon. I wish I could worship in the courtyard tonight with the most beautiful ragamuffin group I’ve ever met. But I don’t wish it more than I wish to be in the present moment.

It’s been a long walk of three years, my coming back Stateside, but chronology does nothing to help in understanding the journey. I’ve always thought it was so funny to want to be anywhere different than where you are. I get it, a certain amount of discontent stirs up healthy ambition and productivity, but too much discontentedness makes every moment almost unbearable.

Do I miss Honduras? I suppose the best answer I can give is this: I love right now. I love the way the Lord writes a story and the way He opens our eyes to see bits of the masterpiece. I love His sovereignty. I love that I can believe in His moment-by-moment provision. I love that He surprises us with gifts of grace that we would never imagine.

I love thinking about His delight as He watches us delight in good gifts.

I love right now.

I can not believe the blessings that burst the moments of right now. And even when belief is impossible, God overcomes to grant me belief so that He is glorified as a promise keeper.

In this moment and the next, God is accomplishing a work of grace that confounds the wise. And if His grace confounds the wise, I am definitely bound to a constant and glorious state of blessed confusion.

let LOVE fly like cRaZy

keep your heart young

 

Just do it.
No, seriously, just keep your heart young.

Today, I’m celebrating so many things:
Dia de Independencia with my Honduran family and friends,
Iowa State football (expected) victory
my Dad’s birthday
tailgating with friends and family
the changing colors of falling leaves
coffee
pumpkin cake with cream cheese frosting
bike rides
mo-peds
cardinal red and gold

And, I’m remembering all the ways Jesus encouraged the disciples to be like children – to blurt things out and come to Him messy, injured, and out of breath. Children are precocious little bugars, but they don’t mess around with pretense. And I think this is why they can delight in the wonderful, little things and be so transparent about their tantrums. They’ve got nothing to hide – and they’ll tell it like it really is.

This is a young heart. And I’d like to keep mine that way.

 

Bible literacy, Must-see films, short-term missions, and Micah Project

Hey, friends! Here’s another short-list of things you should read/click/watch/do. I hope this Monday is anything but manac and everything wonderful!

  • This series on short-term mission trips from the Gospel Coalition is extremely helpful in giving some understanding to a really hard topic. Short-term missions is just something Western churches do, even if it doesn’t need doing. Read the first article, “Celebrating the Short-Term Missions Boom ” and then the second, “Why You Should Consider Canceling Your Short-Term Missions Trip .” There is a third on the way.
  • So, my favorite film critic Brett McCracken, has a list of Best Films of the first half of this year. Take a look and see what you think.
  • How many of you start books and never finish them? How many of you are “reading” 5 books at the moment and a few of those you’ve been “reading” for 5 years? This article, “Biblical Literacy Begins with Reading,” reveals a problem we may have thought little about. It’s not about getting the Bible into the hands of more people. It’s about teaching those people to obey (Matthew 28) by actually reading and understanding the Bible in a way that translates into life.  But not the kind of reading that we do haphazardly – intentional, focused reading with accountability.
  • There are a lot of Christian books out there about how to be radical today – how to live simply, be significant, make a difference, and all that jazz. Micah Project, an organization I worked with while I lived in Honduras, is not a tagline, but a transformational ministry. Take a look at this video to see their story (narrated by a boy who went from street kid to professional through the power of Jesus).
  • And, just because I don’t want your Monday to drag, check out this article on the “awe of God.” It puts theology and Mondays in their rightful places.
  • Here’s some background music for your morning:

Have a great day, my friends!

let LOVE fly like cRaZy

couches and cardigans

I stood there staring at the beaded bristles for probably five minutes.
I don’t think I’ve ever purchased a brush in my life and I hope I don’t have to return to the hairbrush aisle for a long time. But, as I was standing there, in the middle of my rare grocery run, I realized the weight of receiving.

Since returning from Honduras in June, I’ve tried to stay out of the giant aisles of excess in supermarkets. It was a mixture of solidarity with a country I loved and a complete necessity to spend nothing (unemployed for 6 months) that kept me a safe distance from materialism… or so I thought.

The real reason I rarely ventured inside Walmart or Target (or stores in general) might explain why I got a bit emotional when I shrugged into my sister’s rust colored cardigan today after work.

I’ve done a lot of receiving since June.

I’ve crashed on couches and crawled under comforters and cozied up in cardigans that are not mine. I’ve talked a lot about the a la orden philosophy – how God asks us to make every bit of our gifts, talents, and treasures available to Him in our service to others. What I haven’t really talked about is how many times I’ve been the recipient. For six months, I lived under my parents’ roof once again, but this time as an adult. I ate their food, used their washer/dryer, drove their cars, and kept on receiving. Never did I see a tally or hear what I owed, but I kept on receiving. I made almost every Christmas gift with my grandparents, using wood and tools and raiding the refrigerator. The conversations were even more delicious than the meals; and I kept on receiving.

Every day I look down at my outfits and realize how much I’ve received. Boots from my mom, sweater from my sister, coat and jeans from my dad… every day I wear blessings. Every day I receive.

Last week, right when I realized scruffy skater shoes from high school may not be “work appropriate,” my co-worker plopped a paper bag at my feet.
“See if you can find anything in there you like,” she said.
(wide eyes)
I couldn’t have picked a more work-appropriate pair of clogs if I tried. That afternoon, I wore a new striped sweater home from work and ran in a fancy Nike running shirt before going to my second job.

And I keep on receiving.

Generosity has a fine aroma in the house where I now live. From dinner conversations to the open cupboard, it’s hard to spit out thanks as fast as the gifts pile up. So many times, I don’t know how to say it – don’t know how to speak my thanksgiving for all the blessings I wear around. From the bed to the thick comforters, the sack lunches to the family meals, the seat in a familiar row at church to the books on loan…

and I keep on receiving

Truly, too much.

Last night, I got back from work and my brother had pizza ready to go into the oven. Later, my sister walked in the door with several things on hangers.
“I brought these for you. I thought you might need something new in the rotation.”

and I keep on receiving

Truly, too much.

I put on the beautiful, rust-colored cardigan today and almost wept. God is so good to care for us so completely… even down to couches and cardigans.

oh that I would
let LOVE fly like cRaZy

my Saturday sountrack: Josh Garrels, Love & War & the Sea In Between (download for free)

this & that

It’s raining/snowing and the murky sky suits this Thursday.
I don’t mean that today is despairing, but I do mean that today seems like one of those days where weighty thoughts find a rightful place in the front of my brain. Maybe it’s the ushering in of the Lenten season or perhaps the strange, brown winter we’ve been ambling through… but today is full of weight and maybe you’d like to carry it with me.

Honduras never left my heart, but these past few weeks it’s been intense with two huge fires. You might have heard the news stories about the prison fire and the central market fire. The fire in the market was 5 minutes from where I lived a few short months ago. My sister in Christ tells me to pray for open doors so ministries can reach out during this time. My heart is heavy.

As I try to reflect in prayer during Lent, this blog post by Brett McCracken with Lenten Prayer requests is especially helpful. Oh, that my heart would be situated in a place where I can hear from the Lord.

Now that I’m living in the States again, this whole season feels different. There is something about a Catholic/Latin culture that surprised my spirit around this time. Apart from soccer, the religious traditions surrounding Easter always caused my heart to slow and consider the cost. This blog post by Russell Moore, “Always Mardi Gras, Never Easter” reminds me I must readjust my cultural lens to understand how to engage in conversations with Catholics/Protestants here.

I thought this article “Give up the Gimmicks, Youth Pastors” was an excellent read. I struggle seriously with all the games/programs/bells/whistles that make up our youth outreach programs in the US (and to Christian youth in general). I just don’t know what the best method is to effectively “speak their language” without sacrificing the content they are more than ready to receive.

I know I’ve certainly wrestled with “Why?” questions when it comes to God’s sovereignty. Just last night, I met up with some friends and before I could sit down they told me they were arguing about reincarnation. Before the conversation got too far, I found out the one guy’s mom was a Jehovah’s Witness and he knew his theology. At one point, he looked at me cynically and said, “Oh, sure. It’s about “sovereignty” isn’t it? Right. God is “sovereign” and that’s why it’s okay to say He created everything only to let it go to crap so that He could save it?” Whew! I tried to meet him where he was at and encourage his questions, but when I read this article from DesiringGod.org, “Why Did God Let Paul Become a Murderer?” I thought about all the answers that are foolish to those who don’t believe in the cross. I need serious grace and faith to believe God will give the words that make sense in the right time to the right people.

Well, folks, that’s a lot of reading. I’ll repeat the challenge from my last “this & that” post: How can my knowledge of God inform my obedience in a way that leads to actions full of love in reponse to these things?

Last night, I spoke with one of my dear friends who is still living and working in Honduras. She shared about a time recently when she was so full of sadness – days of heavy, unrelenting sadness because of the brokenness she sees. We agreed that sometimes – precious, painful sometimes – God responds to our prayers to, “break our hearts for what breaks Yours,” by allowing us a sliver of His pain. We couldn’t handle any more than that, but if we are fervently praying, we shouldn’t be surprised when our hearts start to swell inside our chests. We shouldn’t wish it away either. Those moments are precious – gifts to draw near to Him and grieve all the ways we’ve mangled his magnificent design. And then, to pray for His purpose to be realized through us – that every nation, tribe, tongue will hear the glorious news of the Gospel. The news that sets the crooked straight and the broken mended.

even with heavy hearts, in the power of the resurrected Savior, we can

let LOVE fly like cRaZy

Occupy Life: Spanish at an Irish pub

This is another in a series of posts called Occupy Life. Each day you and I occupy physical time and space, making bold statements about what is most important in this life (whether we’re holding picket signs or not). Other entries: pancake battertying ribbonsAlejandra,  Lunch HourDelaney and Roland or the original post Occupy Life: Things One Might Do While Unemployed.

The scene is an unlikely one – Iowa’s attempt at a small Irish pub – but as good a place as any to brush up on my rusty Spanish skills. I’ve given up thinking my heart is capable of uprooting and replanting an endless amount of times. Instead, I believe my heart has magical roots that span states and countries and oceans. And maybe for that reason, I still kind of introduce myself as 100% catracha. If you don’t understand, then you probably aren’t Honduran. But, it might explain why the invitation to tell stories of Honduras in Spanish made my skin tingle.

The excitement came like a flood as I talked about all the faces and places and valleys and mountains that led me to discover a fuller picture of my God. And then I realized my words tripping over words may not make any sense to my friend – especially in Spanish. I offered to switch back to English, but my friend said my blabbering was preferable to Rosetta Stone.

And then it hit me. The words flew out of my mouth accompanied by hands waving and another wild (probably unflattering) smile stretched across my face, “a la orden!”

“A la orden” is a Spanish phrase that means, “at your service” and it was thrown around as often as Midwestern “hellos” when I was in Honduras. I noticed whenever one of my high school girls complimented another on an outfit, the response was always, “a la orden,” which meant that the outfit or shoes or whatever could be borrowed at any time. It was “at their service.” I started to think that we should have the same response whenever anyone compliments our talents.

My friend looked amused. I was trying to gather my jumbled excitement and put it into words… words that could somehow communicate how passionate I am about this idea that NOTHING I can do/say/sing/write/give is mine. Nothing. I don’t own my talents. There is no Caroline Copyright on my abilities. It’s ALL the Lord’s and it is ALL on loan for the purpose of loving God and serving others.

Right there in that cozy, Irish-looking booth I gestured and exclaimed and squealed and probably got more excited than the average, sober Irish pub-goer. But it was like re-discovering this beautiful Truth in a new context called Ames, Iowa.

I live here. I work here. I serve here.
How can I love God by making my every talent available to others?

Oh, you like my whimsical bubble letters? Let me know when you need a poster made.
Oh, you like the way I chase your kids around? Let me know when you need a night off.
Oh, you like my acapella singing at work? Let me know when you need a karaoke buddy.
Oh, you’re looking for a Spanish speaking buddy? Let me know the time and place.

Seriously, just TALKING about a la orden makes my heart sing.

let LOVE fly like cRaZy
by turning compliments into acts of service

one FINE day

Remember that movie, One Fine Day?

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Well, yesterday was about as FINE as it could get! I spent the whole day laughing with and talking and listening and dreaming with a very special Honduran someone. She reminded me of all the reasons God filled me up to be poured out during my time in Honduras.

It was amazing to introduce her to a few aunts and uncles and cousins and see her fit right in. She sensed right away our bond through Christ and His love and I’m so thankful! My family does an AMAZING job of showing love. I can’t wait for the big thanksgiving extravaganza in a few weeks! This was ONE fine day – imagine what several will be like with friends and family gathered up to celebrate the many blessings we have!

let LOVE fly like cRaZy

a la orden: iowa

Okay, let me give you the skinny:

a la orden (in spanish) means at your service

In some Spanish speaking countries, you’ll hear it as much as you hear “Hola,” which was the case when I lived in Honduras for the past three years. Bus drivers, taxistas, people in cafés and people on the streets – they all say “a la orden” for one reason or another. But it wasn’t the common-ness of the word that got me hooked, it was a few particular instances.

I noticed, when I hung out with my high school girls, they would ALWAYS compliment each other on the clothes they wore. The girl wearing the complimented clothes would nearly always respond with, “a la orden.” After a little investigation, I found that this translated to, “Oh, thanks! If you want to wear it – it’s yours anytime! Just ask!”

This was their way of saying thanks for the compliment:
Girl 1 compliments Girl 2 on her blouse
Girl 2 recognizes the compliment and then makes the blouse available to Girl 1
Girl 1 could then ask to borrow the blouse if the need came up

Pretty simple.

So, I started wondering what would happen if we did the same with our spiritual gifts AND the material things we own. I wrote about it here and here and here. What would happen if we offered the things about our lives that draw out compliments? Because, generally, the things we are complimented on are things we get pretty excited about. A shirt, a car, an art project, guitar playing skills, hanging out with kids… you can fill in the blank with a possession or talent that has sent some compliments your way.

THEN, you take that compliment and turn it around to say:

a la orden

Yep. You make that gift, talent, or possession available to whoever recognized it was good in you.

There is nothing good in me (I know that for certain), save Christ. So, whatever is good about what I do, think, say, or have is only good because of Christ in me and I can’t be selfish about Him.

This is the a la orden philosophy that I realize is not anything new or revolutionary (my friend and I found GOBS of a la orden examples in the Old Testament). But, it was something that put flesh on the bones of “put others ahead of yourself” and has kept me accountable to keep at it.

In Honduras, my friends and I kind of went crazy. We made “a la orden” a verb and a noun. We would have a la orden parties, a la orden discussions, a la orden clothes (if you so much as mentioned you liked it). We carried food and toys and clothes in my car to a la orden to the kids at stoplights. We tried to remind each other of the things we needed to make available to others – that we shouldn’t and couldn’t hoard the good things God has given us.

Now, I’m taking this sweet Spanish phrase to the great plains of the Midwest.

It’s been interesting, but I guess it means helping with wedding plans, talking beside a campfire in the middle of the night, babysitting, meeting for coffee, calling my Honduran students who are now in college, talking on skype, driving to Colorado to encourage a sister who is struggling, functioning as a taxi for church events and a shuttle service for a mission conference. It means farming (and providing some un-farmer-like comedic relief) and writing and jumping like popcorn during game time at AWANA. It means letting a future missionary take me out for coffee and answering all her questions about “how to get there” with “Trust in the Lord, my dear.”

It means a lot of things I never thought it would, but it always means thinking less of me and more of others. If I’m holding on to something to tightly, it might be something I should try to give up – like time and physical treasures.

I’m excited to find out there are OH-SO-MANY ways a la orden lives on here. I do miss doing a la orden lifestyle with my community in Honduras, but I figure we’d better spread the love around and what better place than Iowa?

Here are some of my favorite a la orden buddies.

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Here is a beautiful tune for your Tuesday! Enjoy!

one step at a time

When I was somewhere in the range of seven years old, I remember performing in a Psalty musical at my church. Don’t laugh … it was really cool back then. Well, I felt cool to be in it, anyway. Probably because I was so small (and a bit of a troublemaker) I was cast as the girl who got lost in the woods when we went in search for firewood. I’m not sure, but I think the rest of the cast sang this little number when we were lost and they were discouraged. Once you get past the bizarre, over-sized singing songbook, I’m sure you can appreciate how sweet this is!

Then me and my other lost buddy sang this song:

Oh! The memories! I don’t think it’s a coincidence that 16 years later I ended up lost in a cloud forest on top of a mountain in Honduras singing that same song!

La Tigra cloud forest... the sunshine is swell, but being lost at night is a different story!

That right there is proof positive that we store all those childhood lessons somewhere deep in our hearts where we will one day need to retrieve them.

Right now is a 1 Peter 5:7 kind of time and (no matter how silly that man looks dressed like a book) I’m humming this tune as I live believing God is big enough to handle every last one of my cares. Not only that, but He takes my burdens and turns them into blessings. I’m praying something very simple over my students tonight… that they would have this kind of song etched deep in their hearts, so when they go away and get lost they will be able to reach down and find the only place to put their cares.

What an absolutely beautiful thing!

let LOVE fly like cRaZy

the crazy ride begins

Wow. Yesterday I thought it almost impossible to gather the team before leaving (4 were coming from San Pedro and one was en route to the hospital after a soccer injury), but somehow we were ended up around a campfire to talk about our hopes and fears for the week. We were all in agreement that God has some pretty amazing plans set out for this time.

I won’t blabber much, because Carlos wrote up a little reflection to share… but I do want to mention that I was the brave one to hunt out a mouse this morning in our dorm, which sprinted up my leg. We still haven’t found it, so I might have a sleeping buddy. Today, we gave a cultural seminar and the PCA staff/students spoke in chapel. Then we went to admire the city from a lookout point on the way down the mountain before we headed to the orphanage for the afternoon. Okay – enough details. Here’s Carlos and his reflection:

God calls his servants to aid others in any way we can. There are numerous ways we can do this. For example, we can donate to good causes, give money to our church, go to orphanages, give food to the poor, go on mission trips, and many more. This week our school, Academia Los Pinares, has joined Prestonwood Christian Academy, for a second year in a row, to do a mission trip. A mission trip is defined as a trip with specific plans to benefit specific people or groups, outiside your culture.

So, we, the ALP students, are on an outreach project or service project in our country, Honduras, while the students and staff from PCA are on a mission trip; they are serving outside American territory.  Anyway, whether you participate in a mission trip or outreach project, the goal is to spread God’s Holy Word, the gospel, to others through acts of service. Also, another goal is to help the individuals, spreading the gospel, to draw closer to God by sacrificing their commodity, work, money, etc. and just focusing on what God has planned for them. For example, sacrificing luxuries (hot water, good food, cozy bed, etc.) allows you to see that earthly things are not essential to your spiritual life. Sometimes, it is easier to see God’s work in your life and how He is working in it. Also, it lets you realize that all the things you have aren’t your,s but are from the Lord. The things you have, are lent to you by the Lord, who can take them away whenever He wants.

During the week of the mission trip, both ALP and PCA students and staff have decided to give up many things, such as luxury, to be able to come to Valle de Angeles and Tela to preach about God’s free and eternal gift of salvation.  Finally, by sacrificing ourselves to serve others, we show love. In John 15:13, it says “Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.”

So, that’s the first of many students to share. I hope you are encouraged tonight! Tomorrow is a big day, so keep us in your prayers.

May the Lord strengthen us in His WORD and guide us in His light!!

let LOVE fly like cRaZy!