upside down at the ankles

When I was little, I was thrown around like a toy amongst the brothers and men in my family. I don’t mean that in a bad way (because my mom would say I “asked for it” almost every time and I probably did). But let’s just say it wasn’t strange to walk into our living room to see me hanging upside down with my brothers’ hands at my ankles. Now, I could incite trouble like any good tomboy could, but I wasn’t one to give up once I got in the middle of it. So, even in that helpless upside-down-at-the-ankles state, I would be jerking and swinging and doing any kind of acrobatics to get free. And it was always when the boys got tired of the game that it was over – not when I accomplished something with all my thrashing. They would let me go (probably by the surprise release method) and then I’d catch my breath long enough to go at them again, sure that this time I could somehow swing an underdog victory.

(Sigh). Right now feels a lot like upside-down-at-the-ankles. I realize I haven’t written since those last days in Honduras and I can’t quite decide if it’s shock or pain or laziness or a dreadful combination of all three. I had all sorts of ideas about what life would look like back here in the States. I still have that tomboy-ish mischief in me that looks at trials and says, “Ha! You can’t get me!” and then scampers off knowing full well that trial is a-comin’ at full speed to pick me up by my ankles and shake all my independence out (oh, and every little bit of loose change). And that, folks, is exactly what happened.

I stepped off the plane in Omaha after one of the most emotional departures of my life in Tegucigalpa to blaze a trail that only made sense in my mind. It looked like this:

I was applying for jobs in those places, but I was also picking up the pieces of my stateside self – trying to figure out what it would mean to live in this skin – and I ended up back on the good ole family homestead thrashing and resisting the attack I provoked on my pride and independence. I am not one bit regretful of my galavanting, though. I’m kind of a face-to-face girl and I needed the time walking on beaches and sitting on couches and chasing kids around houses to remind myself that God has called me to let love fly just as crazy here.

But, when the dust settled from the adventures and I started getting used to painfully pleasant rejection letters and emails, I started to feel the weight of “missing” the ministries and people and crowded streets and fried corn tortillas. It was sure heavy.

God is so gracious to give me community in this time. I was ready to pack my bags and move almost the minute I got back, but He hasn’t let me. No, I think I needed to get some thrashing out, upside down, before I could move on and He was gracious enough to let me do that in the midst of canning salsa and playing nertz and hiking timbers and harvesting soybeans. I am so very thankful.

Last night, when I was babysitting some imaginative munchkins, I scooped up Dari and flipped her upside down and said, “I’m going to shake all your sillies out!” I shook and shook while she giggled until I said, “Well, I think I got ’em all!” to which she promptly responded by scooping all her sillies from the air and then touching my knees, saying, “Now all the sillies are in your knees!”

Oh, what beautiful perspective innocence brings! My knees have never had such a party!! It reminds me of Ecclesiastes 5 and verse 20 more specifically. Solomon is going on and on about what is/isn’t important and what we can/cannot hold onto in this life. Then he arrives at this verse that has nestled its way into my favorites,

For he will not much remember the days of his life because God keeps him occupied with joy in his heart.

I want so much to forget my days, for the joy in my heart! How wonderful a thing – to be SO AMAZINGLY FULL of joy that there is no room for anything else.

So, I guess I’m back at this blog thing again. There is too much inspiration in this season to find excuses not to express it! The changing leaves, the baking spices, the conversations, and the endless times I find myself in the upside-down-by-the-ankles state … they all want written about and I think I’ll finally give in.

maybe you’ll help me remember how to

let LOVE fly like cRaZy

learning to live “a la orden”

where the JOY happens

In the mess of emotions and energy and exhaustion of the past week, I’m breaking mental ground for a new life motto. Up until this point, I’ve stuck with “Love God, Love Others.” I know, I know – it’s nothing mind-blowing. It’s as old as Deuteronomy 6 and Matthew 22:36-40.

It seems like we shouldn’t really have to improve on what God explained so clearly. This bold declaration to love God with all my heart and love others out of that love will always breathe life into whatever else God is teaching me. Lately, it seems the lessons in my conversations and experiences have me searching for words to explain how my theology informs my philosophy of living.

So, this past week, I started taking my joy pulse. I was intentionally on the lookout for those times when there was “fullness of joy” in my life, because those moments found me in the presence of God (Psalm 16:11). So many things triggered this crazy feeling of joy bubbling over the flimsy walls of my heart – laughter on the bus ride, children on top of high school students’ shoulders, serious late-night talks, watching a drama acted out to the glory of God, hearing stories of evangelism teams, playing in the ocean in the rain, singing/rapping, sunshine and clouds – all these things amounted to an emotion I can’t explain.

One of the beautiful moments where God arrived in splendor happened the last night before we came back. We were all sharing and reflecting about what made an impact on us, where we felt we made an impact, and what God is leading us to do as a result of our experiences. One of the students mentioned how wonderful it felt to just share. She mentioned that normally all her friends would be very possessive of their “things,” but this week she experienced how cool it was to share.

Something clicked while she was talking… something that I am learning as I live here in this beautiful country: “a la orden.” I can remember so many times when I’ve made a comment to one of my students about her outfit and heard this response, which means, “at your service.” It’s like saying, “Oh? You like it? Well you can wear it whenever you want!”

I love this.

I realized my joy pulse goes crazy whenever I think of ways I can live a la orden… and I truly believe this is how we live out Philippians 2:1-4. The idea is WAY bigger than offering our clothes. When someone compliments us about our gifts of leadership, encouragement, organization, creativity, laughter, work ethic, prayer, or ministry, our response can and should be, “a la orden.”

Can you imagine what would happen if we made our best gifts available and “at your service”?

Person 1: Wow, you really have an amazing way with children!
Person 2: Thanks! God is so good! And, well, I’m at your service whenever you need.
Person 1: (confused) Oh, cool… what do you mean by that?
Person 2: Well,  I mean that what good is a “way with children” if I don’t use it? So, please let me know the next time you have a need involving kids!
Person 1: Whoa. That’s kind of crazy. So, you mean you’d be available to fill the open spot at the after-school program I work with on Tuesdays?
Person 2: That’s exactly what I mean. Let’s talk details.

Obviously, this scenario can’t play out perfectly every time because our days will fill up and we will find it difficult to make ourselves “a la orden” all of the time. But, the point I’m making is a mental shift. No longer am I guarding my time and treasure for myself. God blessed me and saved me for His purposes, not mine. When people point out beautiful things in me, it is only a reflection of my God who formed me in my mother’s womb. My gifts aren’t meant to bring me glory, but they will bring me joy if I make them available to others through my service.

Very few of us wear clothes that we’ve designed ourselves and our spiritual gifts are the same way. We wear them and get compliments on them, but we did not design them. When we receive compliments they should be re-directed to the Designer and He promises the MOST joy will happen when we aren’t promoting ourselves with our gifts, but instead looking for ways to elevate others.

I have SO MANY STORIES and ways God has blessed this philosophy. The joy seriously multiplies! I love looking into beautiful brown eyes and saying, “Whenever. Wherever. You name the place. I know God has gifted me for such a time as this and such a person as you.”

That’s what makes my joy pulse go crazy! And that’s how I know making ourselves available by putting others first is the biggest blessing we could receive.

another reason to

let LOVE fly like cRaZy

things are not what they seem – including Mondays

I started a mental list awhile back, because I always happen upon the strangest things. I realized, they might not be strange after all, just bad assumptions.

Before I get into my somewhat silly list, let me be serious for a second. Three things happened today that made the world shine like a candle at a Christmas Eve service. 1) phone chat with my mom and grandma, who came through surgery like a champ 2) a skype call with a dear friend that made distance feel like “just around the corner” 3) the most GLORIOUS reunion of baking goodness with my favorite high school ladies…

this combo is the BOMB!

AND bonus number 4) students huddled in my office for the first mission trip meeting with excitement practically bursting out of their buttoned up uniforms.

These things prove again my belief that any “case of the Mondays” can surely be cured – Mondays do not have to be the dreadful thing they seem. My favorite scene from the day involves: one student working through a series of facial expression while texting, another student busily finishing college applications, and myself dancing around the kitchen to Mariah Carey’s “All I want for Christmas,” while piping hot Nutella-Peanut Butter brownies cool on the counter. Mondays? Yes, please!

Okay, here’s a few examples of bad assumptions:

  • A sign that says “maquinas trabajando” does not necessarily mean machines are working… it could also mean men with pickaxes and shovels.
  • When you see sewer covers in the road, don’t be fooled – they may not have a long life as a sewer cover. Chances are, you will soon have to swerve around that spot with great skill because someone has swiped it to make a buck.
  • Those silly yellow and white lines on the road are not to indicate to drivers what should and should not be done in traffic. Nonsense! They are to decorate the otherwise dull streets!
  • Whoever said there is such a thing as “too much of a good thing” has obviously never tried the nutella + peanut butter combination.
  • That terrible cliché about “dancing like no one is watching” is horribly misguided. I think it should go something like, “dance like everyone is watching… and just keep going!”

Okay, that’s all for now. I hope you bursting with joy tonight – don’t forget to

let LOVE fly like cRaZy!

Monday are YUMdays!

MONDAYS are YUMDAYS

I love Mondays. No, really. I LOVE Mondays.

You think I’m kidding, but today sealed the deal. Here are some of the things today that overflowed my cup:

 

 

  1. I drove to school instead of rode the bus, which perfectly placed about 8.5 extra minutes to spend with David in 1 Samuel
  2. I ran out of coffee filters at my house, but savored a Vanilla Chai tea… delicious start!
  3. I met the day with uncharacteristic (before coffee), silly joy and greeted students with grand gestures and lopsided smiles.
  4. During our mid-morning break, I was heading back from an errand in the administration building, secretly hoping two certain, special students would be waiting in my office… and THEY WERE. I think I scared them with my loopy-ness and laughter, but I don’t care. I love it when I find students in my office… especially when the special ones appear!
  5. CHAPEL happens Monday and today was such a blessing! I am sure many of the seniors won’t admit it, but they want to know about hearing God’s voice. That was exactly the message!
  6. Then, I got to counsel one of my favorite students using a SWEET analogy about records playing in our heads. Sometimes we’ve let the record of lies steal the show and we listen to it over and over and start to believe all the foolishness it plays. We’ve got to put that sweet record called Truth on stat and then you better believe we’re gonna speak and act out of that life-giving overflow! I’ll admit, my favorite part was connecting it to a Corinne Bailey Rae song, “Put Your Records On” because every time I saw her I broke out into singing.
  7. I love that THIS was shown to remember our time at the SLEEPout!
  8. then…(drumroll) it’s MONDAY so that means culinary collision with two of my favorite ladies! I seriously can’t explain how beautiful and brilliant these girls are… so I won’t try. Just read this blogpost and you’ll get a little taste of the night (not a real taste, but a cyber-ish one:).
  9. I love praying in my car on the way back from Monday baking dates. Shoot, and I just have to say again how much I love these amazing high school girls. They may/may not be changing my life (mostly may).
  10. I may/may not have consumed too much caffeine today (mostly may), which means I might be up writing for awhile!

I hope you are going to

let LOVE fly like CRAZY

Bonhoeffer, Baked Cookies, and Bible study

Dietrich Bonhoeffer - among others - lecturer ...
Image via Wikipedia

What could Bonhoeffer possibly have in common with baked cookies and isn’t the Bible a bit of a stretch?

Well, for starters – the letter B!

They all draw a crowd… they are all misunderstood (Bonhoeffer for his theological views and stubborn opinions on Truth and baked cookies for the way they almost always promise to satisfy a sad heart, but only reach the tummy and the Bible for its claim at absolute that is rejected)… they are all a wonderful addition to any evening, especially with a cup of tea… they are all enjoyed with friends…

If you are still puzzled, let me explain.

Bonhoeffer
Lately, I have been reading the biography of Dietrich Bonhoeffer by Eric Metaxas. I first read Amazing Grace by Metaxas and, by the end, felt I had walked alongside William Wilberforce as he painstakingly claimed ground for abolition of the slave trade. When I heard he’d written on Bonhoeffer (Cost of Discipleship and Life Together), I couldn’t be more excited to know more about the life of the man who was a scholar, pastor, theologian, spy, and conspirator.

I love it. I can hardly put it down. What I keep finding so amazing is the way the Lord allowed this willing servant to understand so much and be rejected so often, yet remain determined to preach Truth without fear. To read some of Bonhoeffer’s sermons, written on the brink of Hitler’s propaganda-run takeover of Germany, you would be convinced the man had insider information. His background as a scholar and a pastor allowed for his pragmatic presentation of the Gospel Truth (to everyone from impoverished confirmation class ruffians to some of the most influential leaders of the Third Reich), while his pleasant demeanor made it difficult for anyone to find fault with him. Not unlike many of the Old Testament prophets, Bonhoeffer really was a lone voice crying out against the injustices of a nation and pointing to the Truth that exposed it. Also, like many OT prophets, he was rejected by the people. My favorite part is the way God used the people’s rejection to allow for a Confessing Church to emerge and doggedly fight in the midst of a monster that was Nazi Germany from the inside.

Baked cookies
Fresh-baked cookies are infamous for their mesmerizing effect on a person. Most notably as of late, is the effect they have on my students when I bake and bring them to school. No matter what the occasion, at the sight of anything carried in tupperware, a crowd instantly appears (all of whom have not had anything to eat in days). The strangest thing is, after several periods, the very same students who devoured the freshly-baked goods are back snooping around my office for more of the same treatment.

Interesting, I say. Very interesting…

Bible Study
Tonight was the first night two friends and I met for a Bible study (which, in itself is extremely exciting for me to be engaging with peers). As we worked through the first couple lessons in Beth Moore‘s study of David, I realized how much I missed reading the Word in community.

I recently watched a John Piper sermon called “The Sinful Origin of the Son of Man” and I am so thankful for the way it prepared me to see Israel’s demand for a king as sin, but God’s mysterious ways of revealing Himself (even choosing to reveal Himself) by way of man’s “great wickedness.”

I loved examining the Scriptures and returning to the same Scripture in community to really unpack the meaning. There are so many things to digest – from Samuel’s obedience and patience to David’s ruddy and handsome features (at age 12?). If I could write one take-away, I would refuse… and then I’d give in and talk about 2 Chronicles 16:9

For the eyes of the LORD run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to give strong support to those whose heart is blameless toward him…” (2 Chronicles 16:9 ESV)

After God calls Samuel out of his grieving to go and appoint a new king, and after Samuel obeys but assumes wrongly the next king would look the king’s part, and after Samuel finally waits for the “okay” to appoint the most unlikely of candidates… we realize that the heart God has found to be “blameless” (ESV), “completely His” (NASV),  and “loyal” (NKJV) is a heart that will soon have the weight of a nation on its shepherd shoulders.

What blows my mind is that when God searches the earth and finds hearts that are “fully committed” (NIV) to Him, it does not result in a first class ticket to heaven or a get out of jail free card or a receive a life of rest and relaxation pass. God finds those hearts and then gives great responsibility and even allows great burden in their lives. God promises to strengthen, encourage and hold up these hearts. If we are faithful in our full commitment, God will be faithful in equipping and strengthening us for the great tasks that lay ahead.

Bottom line (totally unintentional use of the letter B here)
We (humans) have an appetite. Bonhoeffer’s appetite for Truth led him to a deep love of God and a deep conviction for Truth to be preached without shame or censor. Our insatiable appetite for cookies reveals our deeper desire to be FILLED with something that does satisfy. Bible study is what APPETITE is all about. We are meant to be FILLED with the Word – the Bread of Life. The more we eat, the hungrier we are. That’s the beauty of Truth… it is at the same time the most filling and the most appetizing thing we’ll ever taste.

Mmmm… this Tuesday is tasting SO GOOD!

let LOVE FLY like cRaZY

this is what I LOVE

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I just wanted to post a few visuals so you can see some of what I’ve been up to since returning in August.

Laugh Circle
If I haven’t mentioned it yet, it is a completely unintentional oversight. I love to laugh. Thankfully, these girls humor me and also enjoy the laugh circle from time to time! The second week of school we went on mini-retreats for one day at a nearby camp. It was a time of fun, fellowship, laughter, and getting excited about what God will do this year!

A tree grew in my room
I have had this idea for a long time, but apparently all it took was a good two weeks of sickness for me to get the creativity on the wall. The idea is that everyone who visits this year will hug the tree and I’ll capture it on camera.

Bible study begins!
One of my favorite things these past two years has been the relationships I’ve made with these now senior girls. They have taught me SO much about what it means to love without condition. My excitement is hard to express in these mechanical typing strokes, but it’s safe to say this year might be the best yet!

Angel food cake with strawberry whipped topping
If I have learned about my Bible study girls, it’s that they love to eat anything sweet (okay, let’s be honest – that’s all girls!). Ever since I made the first angel food cake, the girls have gone crazy for it! That led to both from-scratch versions and stuffing my suitcases with mixes to bring back from the States. The result: our first Bible study was complete with angel food cake and a new whipped cream/frozen strawberry topping. Mmmm good!