Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Restoration of Voice

Words have always been important to me.  Part of the reason is because I can't see very well so I need words.  A picture might be worth a thousand words, but if nobody tells me those words that picture doesn't communicate much to me.  For me a picture is usually just lots of color unless there are some words to go along with it! My brain also just works best in logical, articulate ways.  I appreciate when things are described or explained well.  So, me and words have been friends for a long time.

Words can be given life through one of two ways- writing or speaking.  Obviously I enjoy writing and I've always liked to write ever since I was a kid.  Speaking though, this is a different story....

There were attempts by the enemy of my life, Satan, to steal my voice before I was even born.  He wanted my mom to have an abortion but she didn't.  Then I was born 3 whole months early and by all statistical measures I should not have continued to live but I did.  And I do.

I had a stepfather who lived with me from the time I was 5 years old until I was 13 and for the first 4 years we had a very sweet relationship.  He didn't have any children and he absolutely adored me! He taught me how to ride a bike, we would read stories together before bed and he was always bringing home "surprises" of toys and trinkets for me.  Then, just before I turned 9, my younger brother was born and this caused my stepdad to kind of lose his mind because he went from absolutely adoring me to absolutely abhorring anything about me.

One of the things he began to do to display his hatred was any time I said something when he was in the same room as me he would cover his ears, make a miserable high pitched sound and say that my voice was the worst thing he'd ever heard and I should never speak. As a 9 year old being told these things by my hero I began to do just that, I stopped talking. Almost completely for 4 years.  When I did talk to my younger brothers it was in whispers.  And at school I would only answer questions when I was called upon but I would never volunteer.  I began to believe that I truly had nothing to contribute to the people around me, ever.  

Another piece of this very strategic plan of Satan was that there were times when I was supposed to speak at home.  When social workers or police would show up at our door I was expected to tell them that everything was tine.  I was terrified that if I didn't say the right things my brothers and I would be taken away from our mom and so I knew how to speak lies.  My days were full of believing lies and speaking lies.

My voice had been stolen from me.
But the God I know is a God who restores what is stolen.
"I will give you back what was lost..." Joel 2:25
"I hate robbery...and will faithfully restore..." Isaiah 61:8
"We are glad when we are weak and You are strong. Your restoration is what we pray for." 2 Corinthians 13:9

In order to receive restoration we must be willing to look at the damage.  When something is restored there is a combination of pieces of the original with new things that have been brought as enhancements.  Something cannot be restored until there is a vision for what it can become.  

Restoration in God's Kingdom honors what once was while at the same time moving forward into what will be.                 

It has not been a simple journey to figure out what my voice sounds like after those years of being silent.  One of the truest things I know though is that I value things that I have put effort into, things that I have gained with Jesus despite Satan's attempts to stop me from having all God desires for me.  I have spent LOTS of time with God and with the people He puts in my life figuring out how to verbally communicate my thoughts, opinions, likes, dislikes, sarcasm, hopes, dreams, fears, gratitude and so many other things.  And, as a result I cherish moments when others are listening to me.  I choose my words carefully never wanting to miss out on what might happen because of them.

Proverbs 18:21 tells us that there is power to bring life or death in our tongues and I know it.  My stepdad used the words that came off his tongue to try to kill my spirit and I have a feeling that Satan thought he had victory when for so many years I didn't speak and then for years after than I was afraid to speak even as I was surrounded by ones who encouraged me that they wanted to hear my voice.  But, Satan doesn't win because there surely is power in the tongue.  Power to bring LIFE and the more I trust God the more He brings that life through the words of people around me, the Bible and the Holy Spirit in me.

Today God not only empowers me to use my voice to bring life, hope, joy, destiny, encouragement, sometimes correction and ultimately His character to those around me in one language,  butt in two languages! He really does give a double portion for what has been stolen (Job 42:10)!

And, the power in my words is not only to be used for others.  I am constantly learning more and more that the words I speak have enormous influence over my own life.  I used to spend so much time just thinking thoughts in my head and not speaking them out.  This allowed me to create my own beliefs and ideas about the world and people without ever being challenged on them because I didn't share them.  Now, speaking out loud the thoughts that run through my head has become a vital piece of the process that sets me free from deception that Satan still tries to keep me trapped in.  When I speak my thoughts out loud I am confronted with either their validity or their falseness.  Maybe you are too...?     

God knows us better than we know ourselves and He gives each of us the tools we need for restoration as long as we are willing to be honest about what was lost, stolen, broken...

God, would You reveal to each of us the amazing power You have entrusted to us through our words? Give courage to those who need courage to speak, hope to those who feel as though their voices have been silenced and restoration to those who have been silent for too long. 

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Live Loved

There are those times in life when God teaches me something brand new about something that I thought was so simple.  Recently, this has happened with the idea of being loved by God as opposed to pitied by others.  

What does it actually mean, actually look like to live as a person who is fully confident that they are loved by God?  Always.  No matter what else is going on around us.  Regardless of what ANYone tells us or says about us.  Whether we feel loved or not in any given moment.

I think the words, "any given moment" are key to this thing.  At least for how my journey with being loved by God is taking shape.  Many days I can only live loved (with any type of confidence) on a moment by moment basis.  And those moments are so full of power!

A few weeks ago God helped me discover, quite unexpectedly, the biggest lie that sets itself up every day to oppose the Truth that I'm loved by God.  I was sitting with one of my favorite friends on my bench swing on the front balcony of my 4th floor apartment here in Phnom Penh.  It was a really beautiful Friday morning; there was a breeze and birds could be heard singing instead of construction noise or wedding/funeral music and I was totally delighting in it! We began to talk about identity and the conversation progressed into the question, "Why don't you fully believe you're loved by God?" My answer came with such speed that it kind of shocked me. 

"Well, usually what stops me from believing I'm loved is the thought that I'm only pitied by people, not loved." Whoa.... Wait.... Did I really just say that??? So fast??? Yikes.  I didn't really know that was in there....  And so we talked about it a bit, me and my friend.  

Pity is defined as, "A feeling of sorrow for the misfortune of others, a cause for regret or disappointment."  I do not like pity.  I do not like others to define my circumstances as misfortune.  I've never liked pity and even more so since I have been following Jesus. Me and Jesus get to decide what my circumstances are and He never tells me that they are, "misfortune"

According to the standards of this world I have a disability.  I'm legally blind and have been since I was 2 years old.  And, reality is, it does limit me- I cannot play any contact sports (basically all this leaves me with as options are bowling and golf....super cool when you're a kid in school!), I can't speed read (I really wanted to take that class in high school, seriously, I thought it would be an awesome skill to have! But, I failed that and art 3 times) and I can't legally drive (although, I might have some friends who've let drive in parking lots...). Okay, so limitations, right? Well, I grew up quite determined to not live as if I were limited in any way and the pity I felt from other people only added fuel to that fire.  I saw friends' parents pity me because I wan't included in lots of the "fun stuff" of recess games and bumper car birthday parties.  I saw teachers pity me because I never could fully learn to write in cursive and couldn't copy my own notes from the blackboard and couldn't watch movies with the class when they would roll that tiny tv in on a cart.  They felt disappointed because I didn't fit the expectations.  But, if I hadn't picked up on their pity I would have been quite content.  Instead, I became very aware that I couldn't do this or that.

This played out in other areas of my life as well.  For example, I come from a very unstable home life- people pitied me because I didn't have clean clothes (they didn't help, they just talked about it above my 7 year old head as if I couldn't hear them), pitied because my parents were divorced and couldn't act civil in public and pitied when at 15 I finally became a foster child along with my younger brothers because our mom wasn't being responsible.  

I was always making lots of efforts to live in a way that wouldn't give others reason to declare my life "disappointing" or to feel "regret" over the "misfortune" of my situations.  Which leads us back to that morning on my bench swing a few weeks ago... 

I told my friend these things.  I told him all the lies the enemy of my soul has made me believe all these years. I told him how each time someone does something caring for me I still would wrestle with the question, "Do they love me or pity me?" He listened. He didn't argue with me or try to prove God's love to me. He didn't pity me by saying how disappointed he was for me or how sad this was... Instead he gave me options.  

He encouraged me to action.  He told me I could change the way I doubted love and called it pity.  He empowered me by drawing me closer to Jesus.  

"For I have drawn you with loving-kindness, I have loved you with an everlasting love," says the Lord." (Jeremiah 31:3) are the words my friend read to me right before he asked me if I wanted to pray. He had no idea that verse was the verse from 14 years ago that caused me to begin to believe that God could actually love me in a personal way.  He wasn't asking me to pray just any prayer, this was very intentional.  He asked me to pray how I feel when I live in the lie of being pitied and then to declare the Truth.

I found myself saying things like, 
"God, when I believe I'm broken and pitied it makes me doubt Your goodness."
"When I believe I'm pitied instead of loved it makes me doubt Your plans for my life."
"It makes me doubt who You are." 
"It makes me doubt the people You've placed in my life"
"It makes me doubt who You say I am"
"Doubting leads me to pity my own self..."

And then, then the Truth came....
"God, I want Your help to believe I'm loved"
"I want to see You in people first. You are in the people You have put in my life."
"God, You set up circumstances in my life because You love me. When people are at the right place at the moments when I need help it's because You love me, not because they pity me"
"When I choose to live out of being loved I see You in every part of my life."  

Jesus changed me during that time of prayer.  Not because I woke up the next morning and every thought I had was grounded in His love for me.   That's not what happened.  Sometimes, that is what God does but not this time.  That pity lie has been comfortable for almost 30 years and it is taking some W-O-R-K to get rid of it.  I ask God to help me recognize when I'm about to believe pity and then I make a real choice to let go of that assumption believe love instead.  It's an every moment kind of journey for me.  And, I'm being set free each time I choose to live loved.

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Waiting With Jesus on Easter

"The Lord is good to those who wait for Him, to the soul who seeks Him.  It is good that one should wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord." Lamentations 3:25-26

During the past 17 years of knowing Jesus Easter is still my very favorite holiday.  It may have been my favorite as kid, too because it was so full of FUN- coloring eggs together on Saturday night (each person would get an egg with their name on it, even our multiple pets!), waking up on Sunday to discover an Easter basket full of jelly beans, chocolate and marshmallow Peeps and then the hunt to find all those eggs that had been hidden (Mom always had to write a list of where they were because there were so many!). Later in the day cousins and grandparents and the drug dealers who had become like family would all come to our house and we'd eat a big meal and....well, things usually went downhill after that. There was always all the fun first though and each year brought with it the hope that the holiday would end differently than the year before. 

And now, even more as an adult, I love what Easter means! A day set aside to celebrate what Jesus has done for us, WOOHOO!!! Literally, I can not and do not even want to imagine my life without Him. He CONQUERED DEATH and went through such extreme torture and torment to do it. I can only find hope and love in Him because of that.  He endured pain to the point of sweating blood and I have never experienced that kind of pain, this tells me that He understands pain that is more unbearable than I can conceive which means that He certainly understands all of the pain I go through.  That's comforting.  I really, really, really love Jesus and celebrating Him.  

So, I go to church on Easter and I worship, sing victory and shout hallelujah with all of my very being because I get what He has done for me! I know without a doubt that my life is worth living, that He is worthy of praise, He deserves glory that compares to none other!!! He lights my paths, He gives me deep rooted joy, He reigns over my whole life so I can experience peace, He sees me as holy and righteous because of who He is!!! 
Yes, let's celebrate Jesus!!!

And yet... I'm still waiting for more.  And so is He.  It's Sunday, He rose from the grave, He is alive, alive forevermore and I will be with Him for eternity.... But, there's more... Jesus and me, we are waiting. Together. For more. 

We, me and Jesus, are waiting on this day of celebrating His resurrection.... 
We are waiting for loved ones to recognize the gift He gave.   
Jesus' loved ones who He gave His life for. 
My loved ones.  
And perhaps you are waiting with Jesus too for some loved ones to recognize the celebration.  
The sweet, good news is we don't wait alone you and I... 
We wait with Him. 

My heart aches so much on Easter.  Seriously aches, like the kind of ache you get from wisdom teeth times infinity.... I long for the ones close to my heart, the ones God designed to be so close to my heart, to know Him.  If only they would choose to taste for just a second how much better He makes life, they would not be able to deny Him so easily.  "Choose", though, that word is important for my heart to remember this Easter.  Jesus gave this gift out of love, He doesn't force anyone to take what He offers.  Instead He waits for each person to look at Him and receive the best gift ever.  Receiving involves choice.  And, just as my heart has that wisdom-tooth-times-infinity-ache His heart aches even more because He knows fully and completely what He has given.  

It's so comforting to know that He waits, He understands the pain, He has His own longings for the ones I love because He loves them.  He won't quit waiting either. He will never give up, He has already proven that through His suffering.  I don't wait alone and when I'm weary from waiting (like today) He encourages me through His own waiting.  

So, yep, me and Jesus we will wait together for our loved ones to join us in celebrating resurrection.  Jesus waits with you too.  He knows your longing, He knows your aching (maybe yours isn't like wisdom teeth but maybe you describe it as bumping your funny bone or stubbing your toe or maybe even a migraine....whatever the pain is like He gets it and He aches too) and He is with you in it.  

"The Lord is good to those who wait for Him, to the soul who seeks Him.  It is good that one should wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord." Lamentations 3:25-26

Thursday, January 21, 2016

First Field Trip = A Good Day

***Please note: I have permission from Place of Rescue to post these photos

Today was a really good day.
And I'm really glad for it because, lately the days have seemed kinda long and a bit hard and they just don't fit comfortably yet....

This morning I met my 5 students who I teach for two full days each week at New Life Fellowship (my home church here in Cambodia) and we piled into a tuktuk and drove an hour outside of the city to our first field trip! During the past 3 months we have been studying together about communities, Shalom, God's throne being built on a foundation of justice and righteousness and how the choices we each make have an effect on His heart.

As we step into this new year will continue studying about His character, especially as it relates to the oppressed and victimized, but we will also begin to learn from various organizations that are already working to bring His Kingdom realities to fruition here in Cambodia. My goal is that each month we will have visits from Khmer staff who work at varying organizations focusing on issues such as caring for orphans, education improvement, anti-human/labor trafficking, refugee assistance, disability advocacy and whatever else I can find connections to.  Then we will go to visit each site and see for ourselves what it is like to be in the middle of these things on a daily basis!

So, back to today... We went to Place of Rescue which is indeed a safe haven for orphans, people who are infected with HIV (and their families) as well as elderly widows.  I had visited before and was excited for this to be our first field trip! One of the great things that is done at Place of Rescue is that a visiting group can be no larger than seven people which I think is beneficial for both the people who call the place home and the visitors.

As soon as we were finished with introductions we were being led to homes of some of the adults who have HIV.  I began to pray for God to touch the hearts of my students and for them to step out in courage as we began this first of many experiences.  Before I even knew it, they were being asked to pray for a woman whose husband left her after he gave her HIV and got her pregnant.  She now lives in safety and her two year old son also lives at Place of Rescue.  I watched as two of my students got right in the middle of things and prayed with compassion and love.

As we walked to the next place I gently reminded them all that our words really do have power when we are praying so there is no need to be shy about it because we are bringing life and joy through Jesus in us.

The next house was a preschool classroom full of sweet 3, 4 and 5 year olds who belonged to the adults who have HIV! To my complete delight all five of my students immediately got down on the floor and began playing and talking with these persons ones! The room was full of laughing, hand games, hugs and praying!

It was so much FUN to watch my five throughout the morning as different ones' eyes lit up and came to life during different moments and interactions. I was so intent on finding the moments for each of them and then walking with them one on one to the next place so I could whisper to them about how I had just seen Jesus being displayed through them.

As we rode back to the city the conversation in the tuktuk was truly confirmation for me about why I am doing this... They asked questions about things they had seen. Questions like:
-why don't the staff wear uniforms? To which I replied, "Let's think about this, they said they want a family atmosphere so why do you think they might not have uniforms?" 
-Why were there no physically challenged people there? To which I  replied, "Good question, tell me what you think about the situation concerning physically challenged people in Cambodia..."
-The woman who started Place of Rescue (an 80+ year old ANOINTED Canadian) really hears from God, how can I know if I'm hearing from God? To which I replied, "Great question! Let's talk about that for a minute....do you think God was with us during that visit? Why?"

They were thinking about it, really thinking about it! They are being allowed access to something they haven't seen before and they are being told they can, they must make a difference.  They are beginning to understand what it really means that we can do nothing on our but must partner with what Jesus is doing around us....

I love my job.  Thank you to each of you who make it financially possible for me to be here and to those of you who faithfully pray for me! Can't wait to tell you more stories...! 



Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Christmas Tree Redemption

The western holiday season officially began last week with Thanksgiving! There are some things I just love about this time of year- extra time to spend with people I love while we all have a bit more free time as we have off from work, the opportunity to buy gifts for people (and receive gifts! It's always been my top love language, in case you were wondering), quite often there's more chocolate around at the holidays and watching Christmas movies!

However, this season also carries some things that make my heart ache. Each year I find myself un-excited as I think about many of the things that used to give me warm fuzzy feelings. Things like traditions being passed on in families, conversations my friends have about which family members they will spend Thanksgiving or Christmas with, conversations about buying gifts for family members and decorating for Christmas... 

Although I grew up surrounded by people using and selling drugs, adults using money for their own addictions before the needs of the kids in their lives, lots of verbal/emotional abuse and a bit of physical abuse....still, until I was about 10 years old my mom made sure the holidays were special. We decorated our house for every holiday. We had massive Thanksgiving meals at our house, Christmas eve was alwasy spent with family coming to our house and there was always a real, taller than 6 feet Christmas tree piled underneath with gifts! As kids, my cousins, siblings and I were able to obliviously have fun during these times while adults got high and drunk together. When you're a kid you don't care that the gifts came from church charities, they were awesome gifts! 

But, as I got older 
                            I began to realize that every holiday was visited by police officers due to family violence that disturbed the neighbor's holidays....
                           and I began to realize there were other people whose families were really poor and we were taking their spot at those Christmas charities...
                            and I began to realize what hangovers and coming 'down' after a Christmas eve of being high looked like....

Even as I began to understand these not so festive things about my family, decorating the tree was always my favorite part of the holidays because since my mom was an only child we had all the ornaments my grandparents had saved for years.  We would dig into boxes of ornaments that were carefully, individually protected in layers of newspaper and tape. As we unwrapped each one there would be the "ooohhh" and "aaahhh" as the memories were discovered once again.  Glass icicles, tiny bibles with gold lined pages, beautiful bells that we hung on the doors, a full nativity set... I loved that these things were ours, I loved that I knew the stories so well I could recite them, I loved that it was something we all did together each year!

Then there was my 11th Christmas. That year we got the boxes down after the lights had been put on the tree, we opened them and found only about a third of the ornaments and none of the really good ones.  My stepdad had been selling them throughout the year.  
We didn't decorate a tree after that.  My mom went balistic, the police came and decorating a Christmas tree has never been the same again. The rest of the ornaments stayed in their boxes for 3 years and then we were evicted and the landlord burned our stuff. 

Oh, but Jesus is a God of redemption.... Like, really good, sweet, unexpected, amazing redemption! And, I have been made for capturing moments of redemption in my own life and the lives of others.  

 This year I had created a plan for redemption-I would get a small tree and have my friends come over for a meal and they would each make a paper ornament for my tree.  It would be a great way to catch up with lots of people I love and include them in my own new tradition! 
I also know the fact that paper ornaments aren't expected to survive through years so it would be normal to just have new ones each year.  
                        No holding onto things, 
                                                            no getting all sentimental, 
                                                                                                    no chance of things being destroyed. 
I could safely keep my distance from tradition and things mattering to my heart.  

Then, a freind gave me a real ornament before she left for the States in October. I put it in a drawer and thought about it.  
Then, other friends sent me 2 real ornaments  and I kept them in the package hidden from view and thought about it.  
Then, I saw some ornaments at a store here that I thought were beautiful- simple gold and red glittered balls and I didn't buy them but, yep, I thought about them.  

I couldn't bring myself to get past the pain and fear of becoming attached... It felt safer to just do paper and think about the real ones.

On Thanksgiving last week I had plans with 2 of my favorite people, my Khmer brother who has been part of my life for almost 6 years and his girlfriend who I've known for almost 6 months and I love already!  They knew I wanted to make ornaments with them during the day, he even offered to make the star! We went to lunch together and as we returned to my house he said he'd be back and got on his moto and drove off. No big deal, us girls went to my apartment and talked about our upcoming plans to go shopping together.  

After about 20 minutes he returned carrying a plastic bag from a nearby store.  He stood there holding the gifts, looked right at me and said, 
"You deserve real ornaments. God is a giver of good gifts and He has only the best for you."
Then he pulled out the exact ornaments I had been looking at a few weeks ago.  
Seriously-the. exact. ones. 
And a gold star. 
And even a Merry Christmas bow with bells that are now on my door. 

I feel so seen and loved by God through their actions.  He knows our hearts, His timing in our lives is perfect, He delights in restoring and redeeming.  I look at that Christmas tree, my Christmas tree, and I cannot stop smiling, every time! 

God has begun a new thing in my heart and decorating a Christmas tree will never be the same again. 

There are times in life when we experience pain and awful loss of hope but He really does delight in giving joy instead of mourning, beauty instead of ashes and restoring what's been stolen.  

Oh, and I'm still making paper decorations with friends and they are being used to decorate walls and windows :-)


Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Prayers of Heartache

Disclaimer: I'm a verbal processor and this post is about me figuring out some things that I thought maybe someone else might benefit from too. I don't claim to have it all figured out, this is only my journey... 

The past two days I have spent time praying for one specific situation as if it was the only thing I have had to do.  Generally, I really enjoy praying; I like being able to verbally pour my heart out to the only One who can actually orchestrate change, I take real joy in being able to participate with Him in the lives of others through my prayers for them, I value that prayer is often my offering to people in times of need and I think it's loads of fun to help other people experience what prayer can really be! So, in one sense it shouldn't surprise me how miuch I've been praying for this situation.  

But, I found myself a bit taken aback at the depth of emotion in my prayers for a situation of the men I count as my "for real Khmer brothers"-yes, we're family through His blood, of course, and we're family because we've chosen to be for each other.  I've known these two (who are biological brothers) since my very first day in Cambodia more than five years ago and we have grown, experienced and learned so much together over the years.  Truly, my life and who I am today would not be the same without their influence.  

Their mom has been in the hospital for more than two days and is in fact currently on the way to Vietnam in an ambulance with these brothers of mine, her two oldest children. 

While I haven't spent lots of time personally with this amazing woman (No, really amazing-she survived the Khmer Rouge killing of more than 2 million in the 1970's and has raised four of the most creative, loyal, hope-filled, influential young men many have ever met) I have heard and seen the love her sons have for her during the years. Their love for her has made its way into my own heart. 

And, my prayers for her healing (wait.....I'm praying, intently, for physical healing...? Yep.) have been fueled by that love. It surprises me, in such a beautiful way, how their love for their mom combined with our love for each other has brought me to tears over and over again.  Not just quiet tears either, but the loud snotty messy kind of tears. The ones that require multiple tissues during and after crying.  

The more I've thought about it, mulling over the silly questions of, "Why am I so emotional about this? What is going on?" the louder I hear Jesus tell me, "This is what My heart for my family is like."

Oh.....I'm beginning to get it.... It's been a long time since I've been in a situation with my biological family that has caused me this kind of immediate heart-ache.  They don't yet know Jesus and one of the effects of that is that we don't keep in touch very well. Add to that the fact that they live in America and I live in Cambodia.  Plus, well, a whole bunch of other factors about their lives that kinda hinder us from being in consistent communication...

Jesus is reminding me that I do have His heart of love for family regardless of the state of my biological one, the kind of love that actually hurts with those you care for and do life with, the kind of love that sits with people in the middle of pain, frustration and confusion that can't be solved, the kind of love that offers only concern and care without any judgement... And, He's also reminding me that this kind of love is very sweet, very generous, very meaningful and at times it costs the price of tears with each other.  

I've experienced this kind of love before.  And, I've had to work through the deception of the enemy when he tries to tell me that I'm only experiencing "borrowed" love from other families.  Now I know that is not the truth at all. Jesus doesn't do "borrowed love", His love, that He pours out through each of us, is meant, fully intended for each of us.  

I've experienced praying for people with compassion a lot.  I think God can give us compassion for any of His  children.  When His heart is hurting and we're in tune with His Spirit in us our hearts will hurt, too.  I also think compassion is different than love for brothers and sisters.  They are different words in many languages including English, Hebrew, Aramaic and Khmer... That kind of love, I think, is built over time, through experience and comes with a knowing-being-known familiarity among each other..  

And, this love makes me cry for days as I pray for healing for the mom of my Khmer brothers.  

Friday, September 11, 2015

Emotions Can't Be Everything

There are so many things I could write about at any given point, usually one of the things that stops me from writing is that I can't choose a single topic to focus in on! And then there are days like today, days when I deliberately decide I'm going to finally sit down and write....and can't think of anything that I feel is worth saying! Sheesh.

Right now though I'm deciding that my feelings aren't going to dictate whether I write or not today.  Sure, I might not feel like what I have to say is worth being written but, so what? This is a blog! People read it because they choose to read it not because they're paying to read it (because, if you were paying to read it, I'd surely put more thought and effort into what I post. Just so you know, for like that one day in the future when I write a book and do ask you to pay to read what I wrote).

If we let our feelings dictate what we choose to participate in and to exclude ourselves from we take the risk of missing out on a lot and, on the contrary, sometimes end up in situations we were never meant to be part of.

For example (ahem...) if you feel unworthy of having an option about a topic maybe you will let that feeling stop you from writing or speaking when in reality what you have to contribute no matter how small or big could be exactly what someone was needing or hoping to hear.
And on the other hand maybe you feel like you really need to be part of something so you jump in when in reality you could have held back from that one and things would have been just fine and maybe even better.  Nobody is supposed to be everywhere and do all things.

The important thing is to be able to know how to communicate with God and to know ourselves well enough to recognize the difference.  So that we don't get held back by our emotion or allow them to pull us into things we shouldn't be involved in.

And, that's all I got today! My obedience of keeping myself in the game of putting my thoughts to writing.  Every post makes it more and more normal. 

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Every Yes...

Just two days ago a close friend of mine here in Cambodia, an American, lost her brother. She sent us a text message early Thursday morning to ask for prayer for her and her family.  During the past few months more than one of my friends choosing to live in Cambodia instead of their passport country has received news that a loved one has passed away.  Some have been able to travel to be with family while others have not.  I have felt compassion for each one of them and prayed for the Comforter to be with them.  This time though, it's a bit different.... 

This friend lost a brother.  A brother who, as far as she knows, had not yet discovered the promise of eternal life offered in Jesus.  A brother whose story reminds me a lot of my own... and of the stories of my brothers... I feel so much more than compassion because my friend is literally living through what is my worst nightmare.  

Tonight I'm reminded that following Jesus is a daily sacrifice.  I'm reminded of the many times I've made the "BIG" (really, nothing can actually be called big when seen through the sacrifice of the crucifixion along with the promise of eternity) sacrifices concerning my family who don't yet know Jesus.  They began as sacrifices of my own self because I thought I could save them; living a life of lies never telling the truth as a kid about what really happened at home because if anyone knew we would be taken away from mom and my brothers and I would be separated. 

But, the sacrifices have changed since then.  Once I began following Jesus' voice in my life He asked me to sacrifice my sense of control (which was false anyway, He's sovereign not me) and my desire to be the one who saves them.  

Would I for the first time ever leave my ten year old and eight year old brothers living in unspeakable circumstances without me while I went to college so I could care for them even better? 
Hesitantly, tearfully, only one hour away... yes Lord.  

After four years of college, would I, instead of going back to my brothers, move to Kansas City because I knew I had just begun to allow God to do the major work of removing my heart of stone (turned that way over years of hiding, being defensive and just surviving day to day) and giving me a heart of flesh?
Devastated at my own ideas not aligning with His, not fully convinced of the good yet somehow expectant... yes Lord.

After the agreed upon nine months in Kansas City would I completely relinquish the thought of ever having custody of my brothers so I could walk forward into His plans for my life and allow Him to reign in their lives as well?
Anguished, lethargic from trying so hard to keep it all together, completely misunderstood by my family yet FULL of knowing deep within me that God was in this.... yes Lord.  

After five years in Kansas City, years where I came alive like never before, would I move to Cambodia giving up any thought of being daily involved in the lives of brothers I would die for because the hope of Jesus shining through me in this place was the most abundant life feeling I've ever had?
Terrified of what I would be letting go of, with an understanding of the real possibilities of not knowing life or death situations of ones I love so dearly, without phone numbers, email or physical addresses attached to my family members yet.... yet.... constantly choosing to trust His sovereignty.... yes Lord. 

And, here I am tonight walking with a friend who is living my literal worst nightmare and the emotions of sacrifice are all very raw and on the surface again.  Following Jesus is a daily sacrifice... And needs to be a daily remembering of the promises, a daily standing in the gap for those who haven't seen the Hope yet and a daily constant trusting that His plans are always better than our own.... 

So, I'm hopeful. I'm trusting with expectation (no need to worry friends, I know His promises for me and for those who I love!).  And I'm also crying.  Me and Jesus we're crying together over the sacrifice... Because with every "yes" comes more fulfillment of His promises in so many lives. 

The first day of school for all 3 of us 1998
Still praying for them! 

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Part of the Making of (His)tory

Last night I had the great pleasure to attend the live recording of the 3rd album produced by LIFEband here in Cambodia. The singers and musicians happen to be some of my closest friends and I was more than excited for this event! For the past three years this group of friends have been meeting together once a week to write and put to music original worship songs for the Khmer church, they have already produced 2 albums and tthe 3rd will release in September. 

God had promised through His word and through a vision given to one of the band members, that His presence would be with them during the night of the recording. And He's faithful to keep His promises. And so as a roomful of people stood and sang, worshiped and declared statements such as, "Give to the Lord blessing, glory, honor and power", "have no fear, God is here" and "God restores all that has been lost" we knew that He was certainly with us.

I believe, with many others, that the songs written for this album, titled, "Bold", are filled with an anointing that will release something into Cambodia. Not really release something new but rather release something that has been held in for far too long... The courage proclaimed in the lyrics to these songs will give the ones who hear them the freedom to walk in ALL the fullness of His Kingdom as it is here in Cambodia. These songs will relaese people to grab hold of what is already theirs-not things they have to wait for but ALL that is already given for them to experience now.

No more waiting for Him to restore all that's been lost.....He is doing it already!
No more waiting for Him to receive blessing from Cambodia....He is being blessed by this nation already!
No more waiting for Him to be with us so we won't fear....He is with us already!

This morning during worship at church (a mere 14 hours after the recording ended) God's presence was with us in such a tangibly powerful way!  Declarations were being made about ALL that God has in store for Cambodia as we sang that we wanted to see revival and His Kingdom come to this earth.  We want more of Him...and that's what it takes, more of Him and less of us (John 3:30).  I am so ready to keep walking forward into what He already has for us here in Cambodia! The Khmer worshippers have been realeased from their fear and silence and satan better watch out because they won't be stopped again!

I LOVE being part of the church in Cambodia during this season of its history. It is a season of realizing His truth, a season of receiving new revelations of Who He is and a season of rapid restoration of all that the enemy thought he stole!

Here's a video of one of the songs from the live recording of the 2nd album, last year. As you listen to the words agree with Heaven that Jesus will continue to be exalted in Cambodia, that chains will continue to be broken, hearts healed and dreams and visions set free over this nation!


Wednesday, May 20, 2015

5-5-5 Full of Grace

May is the 5th month of the year, this May I've been in Cambodia for 5 years and it is 2015! 

The number 5 has been one of my favorite numbers for a long time now (the other is 3, and the 5's above make a set of 3!). 
I've been taught and have come to believe that the number 5 represents God's grace upon humans.  God's favor, God doing for us what we cannot do in our efforts alone, God's goodness towards us to display His character so He can receive glory.  There are three biblical instances that I've come to view as backing up this idea.

First, is the fact that the 5th commandment is the only one given that has a promise attached to it (Exod. 20:12). This promise is not anything that we could bring about on our own-it's the promise of long life. Only God determines how long our lives on this earth will last.  Second is the strategy that God used in having David prepare for his battle with Goliath by picking up 5 smooth stones (1 Samuel 17). There was no chance that David would actually be able to kill the 9ft. giant Goliath with only 5 smooth stones-they weren't even jagged rocks that could have cut the enemy! In the end, David only needed to use one stone but, God had him take 5-maybe God knew this would feel the tiniest bit more realistic to David, I mean, if God said, "Take one stone" instead of, "Take 5 stones" it would have taken longer for me to agree if I were in David's place. God's goodness was in the preparation for David and shone through in the results as well.  Lastly is the story of when Jesus fed the 5,000 (which is really probably more like 12,000 when you add women and children to the number) with only 5 loaves of bread and 2 fish (John 6:1-14).  The disciples were fairly certain that they were not going to be able to feed the crowd that had gathered but with just 5 fish and faith in God Jesus was able to feed the crowd and even have baskets full of leftovers! The disciples could tried all they wanted on their own to somehow conjure up enough food or enough money to buy enough food and it wouldn't have worked-this is something only God, in His grace, could do for them.

Now, I find myself having been in Cambodia for 5 years and being amazed by God's grace throughout that time.  When I first left America it was all a great big adventure and going to be so much fun! My first 4 weeks was completely that (and grace filled from the moment we arrived in Cambodia and the 17 year old on our team who lost his passport between America and here was allowed into the country!).

After that first month though, I found myself in some desperate need of His grace. I couldn't just force new friendships, I couldn't simply snap my fingers and be fluent in Khmer and I couldn't deny the need for Hope I was seeing all around me everyday.

His grace was the only thing that would make a lasting difference for me.
And, I still rely on His grace everyday.

I have wonderful, deep friendships here now and I need His grace to continue investing in them even though people come and go about every 4 months here.  I can understand Khmer REALLY WELL now and I need His grace to keep me learning in an attitude of humility.  I know the names and stories of some people who are bound by hopelessness in their lives and I need His grace to continually speak and offer Hope... Continually. Over and over and over and even over again....

So many things I can't "just make happen", His grace is a sweet necessity in my life.
Just as it was in Paul's life when he asked the Lord to remove a pain he could not remove himself and this is what God replied and Paul's wise response,

"But He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me." (2 Cor. 12:9).

Where do you need His grace in your life? God really enjoys pouring His grace out, give Him a chance and He might just surprise you with His grace for you.

Monday, April 20, 2015

Waiting Awhile

Tonight I posted this on Facebook right after watching the sun set:
When God paints the sky in brilliant colors and the sun is already gone it reminds me that sometimes He asks us to wait so long that everyone else tells us the good stuff has already come and gone, we've missed it and should move on... And then He gives us the best.

I wrote those words after watching the descent of the bright orange ball that illuminated the sky surrounding it with a much paler shade of orange.  It was pretty, as I think all sunsets that aren't covered by clouds are.  But then, I lingered a little.  I was hoping (okay, there wasn't a lot of expectation....) that the sky would become more vibrant and rich in color as sometimes happens after the sun has disappeared from view.  

And it did! The sky became an increasingly richer tone of sunset orange....the photo doesn't nearly capture it well enough. 

I hoped (even a little) so I waited... and He came through.

I'm not telling you that EVERY time we hope and wait God will come through in less than 15 minutes... 

Earlier today I sat with 3 different scenarios that all ask me and my colleagues here in Cambodia to choose to hope and then wait. And continue waiting. And still wait.

A young Khmer couple I've known for 4 years now who were married before they knew Jesus and now have a 1 and half year old son together are considering divorce. Today, I just wanted to shake this guy awake, tell him to grow up and start being grateful for all he has in his life.  His social workers and I talked a lot today about the Kingdom value of marriage and covenant, the enemy's desire to destroy family, our privilege to stand with God in helping others to experience Kingdom values in their lives and our responsibility to love this couple and not judge their choices but to be honest with them at the same time... In the end, we prayed. We know these 2 have to make their own choices, stand their own ground and we hope for God's best and we wait..... 

A 17 year old boy I met when he was 12 found himself standing in front of his social worker again today.  He's walked a loooong road in life already-parents both dead, brutally sexually abused, survived through gang fights and police brutality on the streets.... Then last year, he chose to go to a Christian drug rehab, he completed their 9 month residential program but received no help at all for his sexual abuse and had a very poor support system set up to receive him after graduation.  Today, a year after his release from that program, he is using drugs again, still hasn't addressed his sexual abuse, sleeps around, steals to eat.  He sat with his Khmer social worker, only a few years older than himself, and he said he needed help.  He wanted food, clothes and a house.  He's not ready yet to accept the real transformation that awaits him in Jesus.  We gave him some food, some clothes, told him he is always welcome at our center and we will keep hoping for God's best and waiting.....

There's a group of boys who have been repeatedly sexually abused by a foreign man.  They range in age from 5-13.  These boys are living in a residential facility not meant for boys and not meant for any victims of sexual abuse let alone male victims.  But, such places don't exist in Cambodia...not yet anyway. Their journey has been loooong and it is not over yet.  They will testify against their abuser, then they will return to homes where their family members don't believe they've been abused and eventually they will have to choose for themselves if they want lasting healing and freedom from torturous pain they walk around with.  One of these boys, a 10 year old, has begun to act out his abuse on others.  Tomorrow our counselors will go to see these boys as they have done twice each week since September.  We will continue to go to them as long as they will receive us, even after they are back at 'home' on the streets of this city.... And, for now, we are hoping for God's BEST for these boys and we are waiting for Him to act!

We don't only wait, we wait in expectation and we do what we can.  
-Sunset-I waited because I continued to hope it would be pretty. There was NOTHING I could have done to make that happen but I waited.
-Married Couple-we are waiting and speaking truth and love over them while we wait.
-17 Year Old-we are waiting and we give what we can when he's ready for it.
-Brave Boys-we are waiting and stand with them and tell them they are not alone and that we believe them.

How can I say we are hoping and for best and waiting for it even when these stories are so filled with injustice, mistreatment and evil? Because, I have lived through some injustice, mistreatment and evil and I know that God chose some of His faithful ones, even then-before I knew Him, to hope for His best in my life and to wait for Him to act.... 

And, truth is, I'm more than convinced that it's not uncommon for God to give us the most beautiful, the best parts when we will treasure them most....after waiting a while. 

Monday, April 6, 2015

When Painful and Favorite Collide -Easter

Easter is my absolute most favorite holiday of the year! Setting aside time to specifically be able to celebrate the resurrection of my Redeemer means so much to me.  Since giving my life to Jesus when I was 15 I have been so completely aware that my life is what it is only because of His power and grace.  

Worship sets that are full of songs declaring who He is, proclaiming the miracle that He lives today and inspiring a congregation towards going out and telling the world around them who He is and why He’s worthy are my favorite kind of worship! 

The story of His resurrection is one of my favorite examples of the esteem God has placed on women.  It was women who went to that tomb early that morning and because of their sacrifice (hey, early in the morning is synonymous with sacrifice to me!) they had the privilege of being the first ones to proclaim that He had risen!

Victory is one of my favorite things to participate in and Easter is so much fun because it is a day when the focus is on the already won victory of Jesus! Who doesn’t like to be part of righteous victory??? 

There’s SO MUCH to enjoy about Easter and I do every year. 

Yesterday was Easter and here in Cambodia it gets a bit overshadowed by the traditional Khmer New Year holiday which usually falls during the same week.  This year though, there is a week separating them and we got to CELEBRATE at the majority Khmer church I go to here!!! It was full of all of the things I just told you are my favorites and was probably one of my (wait for it….) FAVORITE Easter worship services ever!

There’s more to Easter though and this next part catches me off guard each year.  

I go home from church and am struck in such a tangible way with the fact that my mom and brothers haven’t celebrated with me.  Yes, I now live in Cambodia and they are in New York but even before the distance prevented us from celebrating together I’ve never had the experience of rejoicing over salvation and transformation with them…. They haven’t yet realized the gift given for them in His death and resurrection.  

So yesterday, as with many years past, I returned home from having lunch with friends and it hit….hard.  I sat alone on my porch swing, on the balcony of my 4th floor apartment in this hot, humid city where 97% of the people don’t realize the gift given for them either and I prayed a lot and cried a lot.  

I cried because I want my family to know Him.
I cried because I long for them to know who they are because of Him.
I cried because of cherished memories of Easter’s long ago… Family gathering at our house, coloring eggs for each member of the family (pets included!), waking up the next morning to discover that Peter Cottontail had left a huge basket full of candy and then hunting to find all those colored eggs mom had hidden while I slept... So many more, so much laughter, so much joy... Sweet, sweet moments!
I cried because of painful memories of Easter’s long and not so long ago… Police coming to break up domestic violence between grown ups, wearing outfits I knew had been stolen from a store the night before, visiting Gramma in the hospital that Sunday before she died the following Friday, that one Easter when on Saturday night I begged and pleaded for the drug dealers to be kicked out before the morning when my brothers and I would wake up but they hadn’t been… And others that carry hopes that weren't realized, attempts to make things that were not out to be as if they were.... The pieces of life His resurrection redeems and restores!
I cried because I sat on a swing in a place I love after a morning of rejoicing and I knew His perfect love for me while they don’t know if for themselves.  
I cried because I know that He loves them even more than I do, He gave His life for them….

This time of crying, those moments when I’m struck with how much Easter hurts- these are my own “Saturday before Resurrection Sunday” moments.  I know what’s on the other side and oh gosh am I waiting and hoping for the day those I love (and all those He loves) to recognize that Sunday is for them too! 

Friday, January 23, 2015

Showing Up

This morning I had a Khmer lesson. I knew the lesson was going to happen. I knew what my homework assignment was from last week's lesson, 7 days ago.  I thought about doing that assignment multiple times during the week, I was aware that it needed some focused time on my part if it was going to be done well.  I was supposed to speak about HPC and what we do. "I want you to tell me about HPC as if you're in America sharing with a group of people. I want to know about the vision of HPC and some of the testimonies you would tell.  I want to hear your heart for why you are with HPC" is what my teacher had said.  Well, it takes me a good while to prepare for that kind of thing in English so I was well aware that I needed to give this thing some effort.

I really enjoy assignments that require real effort, hard work. After learning for 3 years with the same teacher he still knows how to make me go a bit farther each time. It's a great feeling when I know I've accomplished an assignment in Khmer and I gave it my very best.  I can tell and so can my teacher.  Those days make us both happy.

Yet, there I was last night chatting with my roommate, answering phone calls, scrolling through Facebook and only absent mindedly putting together Khmer sentences about HPC.  At the end of the night I already knew that today's lesson wasn't going to go over very well.  Going into a lesson and feeling like I don't know exactly what I'm going to say and how I'm going to say it feels really vulnerable to me.  Some days are harder than others when I'm trying to communicate in someone else's language and I know I haven't mastered it yet.  I want to feel adequate, competent, like I'm on top of things and oh my goodness do I learn so much from this whole speaking a second language thing!  Most times I probably just need a little perspective... I work with 25 Khmer colleagues who speak English as their second language almost every day and I think they're so brave, so smart and amazing simply because they're not afraid to show and try to have conversations in English, so why I can't I see that for myself about Khmer?   That's another post altogether, for now back to my unprepared for Khmer lesson...  

"Yvonne, tell me honestly, how long did you spend preparing this?" was his first question after my teacher listened to me stammer through 25 minutes worth of very little about HPC.  So I told him.  Next question, "Are you satisfied with this?" to which I again honestly answered no.  "Okay, so next week try again, I know you can do better" he said.  I was frustrated.  I like to move on, I don't enjoy feeling stuck.  I would have much rather just bombed and quit, moved on to something else next week so I didn't have to do a better job.  I did learn a few words and phrases today that I needed in order to better communicate about HPC and my heart.  I also got a new memory verse (because I did manage to memorize Romans 10:17 in Khmer!) which is always fun, 2 Timothy 1:7 in Khmer, woohoo!!

I knew going into this morning that I wasn't going to do my best and I really considered just canceling the lesson.  I'm glad I didn't.  I chose to show up instead.  I chose to beat my pride back with humility and fumble through a jumble of words that was my own fault for not investing in it the way I could have (and I really could have, it wasn't a week where I didn't have time, I just chose other things...). I showed up and was held accountable as I was forced to be honest.  I showed up and was given grace as my teacher patiently listened to sentences he knows I could have said more accurately, quickly and with much more ease than I did.  I showed up and heard words of mercy and encouragement as I was reminded that students are students so that they can learn not because they already know it all.  I showed up and was challenged (which, once I've let go of my frustration and accepted things for what they are, is motivating for me!) to give it my all next time.

Brene Brown writes in her book, Daring Greatly, "Rather than sitting on the sidelines and hurling judgement and advice, we must dare to show up and let ourselves be seen.  This is vulnerability. This is daring greatly." During today's Khmer lesson I was seen, it wasn't my best but I was seen. I was vulnerable and had the opportunity to be met with grace, patience, accountability, honesty and motivation to keep going!

And, this blog.... I didn't write when I wanted to this week but I'm writing now. I'm showing up.  I can be seen.  It's vulnerable, it's a risk.  It motivates me because if I can do it tonight then I can do it next time, too.  I'm choosing to see this morning's Khmer lesson as a victory because I really could have backed out, cancelled and gone to pick up a friend from the airport, but I didn't.  And this writing, right now, is an even bigger victory!

Jesus showed up for me, He did not sit on the sidelines and judge where I was. He walked the earth, He died on the cross, He was vulnerable. And, I certainly see Him, I honor Him in the ways He has showed up and how He'll continue to show up. So, yeah, when He asks me to show up for a Khmer lesson in honesty instead of backing out and letting shame and pride win, I will.  When He asks me to show up and start writing again, about things that matter to me, about vulnerable things, I will.  I will continue to dare to show up because He continues to meet me every time.

What did you show up for?  What will you show up for?  

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

He Remains

One of the things that is most consistent as I’ve been living in Cambodia is that people are always on the move! Teams coming and going, joyous trips to the airport to meet friends who have packed up their lives in other countries and moved here, farewell trips to the airport as friends embark on new parts of their journeys, interns who are kind of on in-between ground-they come for more than two weeks but have a definite departure date. So many people always moving!

If you’re familiar with the DISC personality test I am an SI type which means that I really enjoy people and stability could be my love language. I like to know what to expect. I like to be able to prepare emotionally for changes.

I think there are two major factors that contribute to my deep desire for stability. First would be my childhood. I grew up in a home where very little was predictable. I never knew if the adults around me were going to be happy, hung over or high. When they were happy life was pretty great…when they weren’t it wasn’t. Now, as an adult, I really like predictability, I like having control over my environment, it makes me feel safe.

The second factor is the fact that I am visually impaired. I have adapted throughout my life so that I learn and remember things quite differently than fully sighted people. When I walk into a room for the first time I immediately begin mentally mapping it out as far as things that will stay consistent-how many chairs are there? Where are light switches located? Is there more than one entrance/exit? And this mental map will be filed away very exactly for future reference. I also make short term notes about things that change-what color shirt is she wearing today? Where exactly did my purse, jacket, shoes (I live in Cambodia, we take our shoes off inside!) get placed? If we’re eating a meal together, where are things located on the table and how can I tell them apart from each other? In this sense, predictability and stability make me feel safe and confident.

Due to my need for feeling safe and confident in my physical surroundings I have come to feel the need for those things in my relationships as well.

So, sometimes, living in a city where lots of people come and go gets exhausting. About a year and half ago I decided to invest more deeply in my friendships with local Khmer people. After all, they’re more than likely not going to leave after a few weeks or months! It’s been so good to be intentional about this. I have a few people who are real friends.

Then, last May, some of my closest Khmer friends that I work with began quitting their jobs. And I hated it.

In fact, the past few months have been full of people moving. The normal interns and teams (I’ve learned to accept this, embrace them while they’re here in the capacity that I can and say goodbye when they leave), my roommate of the past three years got married, the worship pastor and his family at my home church in America moved and two of my closest Khmer colleagues left for new opportunities. It’s (mostly) not been a lot of fun at all. I have cried a few of those cries that make your throat hurt and your eyes burn with hot tears. I have tried to convince myself that it doesn’t really matter that things are changing. I have asked God why He made me to care so deeply that it has to hurt when relationships change.
And through it all… 
Through the past few months... 
Through the past few years with some new challenges visually... 
Through growing up and learning to find Him and trust Him… 

He remains. 

He remains faithful; always providing roads for the old relationship to grow and other roads for new ones to begin. 

He remains wise; always having the greatest possible plan for me. 

He remains present; always ready to listen when I turn to Him. 

He remains patient; always letting me question and even grumble a bit about the changes. 

He remains loving; always reminding me that He created my heart to love deeply and He’s glad I do. 

He remains hopeful; always seeing the best for all involved.

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Secure Next Steps

This morning I met with one of my favorite Khmer women who has become a great inspiration, partner in ministry and she provides a place where my heart can be known. We have worked together during the past four and a half years and this Thursday we will go back to work at Punlok Thmey after two and a half weeks off for Christmas celebrations and some much needed rest.

We spent time well this morning. Together with our iced coffees, notebooks and lots of laughter. As she prepared to put her outside shoes back on for the moto (mo-ped/scooter) journey from my house to hers she suggested that we pray first. I’m always up for this idea!

So, we began to talk to the King who loves us and greatly desires that we come to His throne and share our hearts with Him. We talked with Him about our hopes and desires for this upcoming year. Desires to see specific clients healed from heart disease. Hopes for certain staff members to learn to walk in their Kingdom identities instead of what their families and society lie to them. Desires for His name to spread throughout Cambodia.

We also told the loving King about things that weigh heavy on our hearts… The names of little ones who are still being sexually abused even as they leave our programs, the complications of overcoming a mostly corrupt government in order to stand up for justice, the difficulty of trying to speak hope into situations in which the people involved haven’t met Jesus yet and so they don’t understand what resurrection means for each one of us… So many heavy things on our minds and hearts. And, He listened to each one of them. He acknowledged our frustration, validated our anger and anguish and then He reminded me of such a simple truth that I just forget most times…

When we live our lives with Him we can completely trust every single next step we take. Every. Single. One. He already knows the future He has for us. He always has the very best in mind for each of us, He created us and a Creator values what He has made. So, we can walk secure and confident because He really only has good things in store for us.

When we know that at the core of our hearts, when our spirit resonates with The Spirit, we will not even think about worrying about the heavy things because we will know that He is good.

We won’t worry about the heavy things. We will engage with them though. We will partner with the good He wants to bring. We will speak life. We will validate the pain, the anguish, the losses. We will validate them because they are real in this world. Without them, what would our hope be for?

This morning’s time with my friend and my King was soothing to my heart. Hurts, uncertainty and frustration were validated. Then we were able to securely take just the next steps towards going back to work on Thursday. We will meet every situation with validity and hope because we know He is good and so we will follow Him.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

The Discipline of Slowing Down

Life demands that we slow down and even stop sometimes. We stop at certain traffic lights and signs, we stop when the batteries die in electronics, our bodies even naturally slow us down as we sleep.  God has created rhythms and slowing down is part of His plan. I'm not talking about Sabbath- that's a whole other kind of stopping.  I'm talking about a slowing down that allows us to shift our focus from one thing to another.  There are at least two major kinds of slowing down in my life. The first is on a daily basis and the second kind happens after a longer amount of time-sometimes every few months, sometimes every few years.

I am currently in America where I have been for the past six weeks and will be for the next seven weeks.  It is good to have a change of scenary, different pace of life for a bit.  During what has become my "normal" life in Phnom Penh, Cambodia I am met daily with the reality of sexual abuse, exploitation and trafficking of children, women and men.  Along with each new story that we become part of at our center for prevention and restoration comes the chance to believe a victim, form a strategy to help and pray for God's favor and wisdom as we go forward.

And then, at the end of a workday, I am presented the tasks of leaving the office and focusing on other relationships, to-do-lists and outlets in my own life.  It takes a lot for me to be able to treat what I do at our drop-in center as just one part of my life.  Everything in me doesn't want to stop thinking about, talking through, strategizing a case until it is in the best possible place it can be, until we have completely spent all of our energy and resources-beyond what is expected- so that a child is safe, a family has a plan for financial success, a teenager understands and can apply principles to give himself a bright future, a mother is given the best medical services we can find so she can continue to care for her children, a father is taught about the consequences his choices have on his family...... I don't want to stop, even though it's 4:30 and time to go home.

I know though that if I chose to keep going I would have nothing to give tomorrow. And tomorrow will come with its new stories and new opportunities for myself and our Khmer employees to help.

So, as I live in Cambodia I do choose the discipline of slowing down and shifting my focus so I am filled up by lighter things because I know it is what will help me keep going tomorrow.

But right now, tonight, I sit here in America with LOTS of time on my hands because I don't have daily committments or to-do-lists.  I've chosen to stop for longer than I'm allowed in Cambodia.  And as I live in this strange place of 'in between' where I don't have the same demands/opportunities that have become normal I find myself with different opportunities being given to me by my Creator.

Some days I'll see an article (or five) on Facebook about pedophiles in Cambodia and I have the opportunity to pray my heart out...His heart really.  I can just sit with the pain, the anger, the hope for transformation....all my thoughts and emotions can be what they may for as long as it takes for me to feel satisfied that I have given my heart, my attention, given my all emotionally to this thing that is so complicated and can never be wrapped up in one workday.

Other days I can't stop thinking about those I've grown to love in Cambodia. Literally, can't stop. I know what their days look like, I know when to pray and what to pray for because I'd usually be there with them.  God's heart of intercession blows me away when I slow down so much that I can feel what He feels, hope what He hopes and declare what He has already done and is yet to do! Allowing myself the time and space to partner with Him in this way is completely refreshing to my soul.

I don't want to leave my everyday life, it's not natural for me to walk away from things I'm invested in. But, I choose to seperate myself for a while slowing down and shifting focus because I know I need the things I gain here so I can be reconnected to His heart for me and for those around me. It reminds me of His character and I continue to follow Him.

I can't do this slowing down thing alone. In Cambodia I have friends who remind me (without even knowing it most of the time) that it's time to slow down and shift the focus to other things so we can continue well tomorrow.  There's a need for us to help each other slow down and shift our focus...

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Apology for Not Writing More Often!

I am writing this post simply to apologize for not writing more during the past year! I know that many of you who read have been receiving my email updates so you're pretty much up to date on all important things.

I do want you to know that I still operate this blog and the Donate link is correct and your gifts will certainly get to me :-)

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Thoughts on Heaven

I've been thinking a lot about heaven lately.  With little Sok being so sick in Cambodia I've found my thoughts wandering to my sweet friend, Jenn.  We met in college where she majored in Missions, taught me about kayaking and she'd bake blueberry muffins when she was stressed. Sophomore year she was diagnosed with cancer and 3 years later she died.  Before jenn died she would always talk about heaven and what things would be like in heaven when she got there.  She'd tell us not to be sad because she was going to be so happy-she'd have new mountain bike tails to explore everyday and she'd get to hang out with Jesus! 

In an email abuot Sok (a 6 year old boy in Cambodia who has been very close to dying a few times recently), a friend of mine wrote about how this sweet, precious boy wanted to ride a bicycle.  He's not had ample opportunities to do that as 6 year olds should.  Another friend told me about sitting in Sok's hospital room with him while the two of them shared a white board and some markers to take turns drawing pictures of heaven.  The thought of this scene brings a huge smile to my face every time!

In the middle of what could be seen as and understood to be some of the most sad, hopeless and painful hours of life both Jenn and Sok have shown me that Jesus offers a living hope...even to the dying ones. When we know Him and believe His words that tell us that He has gone to prepare a place for us we are blessed.  Not only are we able to hope  in what He's prepared but we can take it a step further by choosing to dreeam of it now.  

As Jenn told us of all the things she looked forward to about heaven we were able to rejoice with her. We didn't stop asking for her healing, we wanted her here, with us! But, we knew she'd also be just fine there.

As we teach Sok and countless others how to look forward to what awaits us in Eternity we offer freedom for them to have faith in something more than what the doctors and tests can tell them.

More importantly, we offfer freedom for those who are sick -and for those who love them- to let God be sovereign.  His thoughts and ways are higher than ours and we can't begin to understand why He does things He does.  But we can choose to believe that, just as He says, He has the best in mind for each one of us.  I really do trust that.  

The Bible tells us that heaven will be a new earth.  That makes me think that we will enjoy the types of things we enjoy now except they will be untainted.  And, we will be constantly in His presence, uninterrupted companionship with our Maker!

I don't know about you, but personally, I love thinking of Jenn enjoying those new mountain bike trails! And, I can't wait for the grandeour of heavenly sunsets... 


Thursday, June 6, 2013

Memorizing God's Word With a Grateful Heart

I found this article this morning and it reminded me just how grateful I am for the freedom I have not only in the U.S. but, also in Cambodia, to read and carry around a physical copy of the Bible.  Today, I will indeed find a verse that speaks to me and begin to memorize it :-)


All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right. God uses it to prepare and equip his people to do every good work. (2 Timothy 3:16, 17 NLT)

When China’s best-known pastor, Wang Ming-dao, was finally released from prison, he stated, “In these past twenty years, I have not had a copy of the Bible. Happily between the ages of twenty-one to twenty-four, I spent my time at home doing the housework and studying the Scriptures. I memorized many passages. These passages in my heart came out one-by-one and strengthened me. Had it not been for those words of God, then not only I, but many others, would also have been defeated.”

Pastor Lamb in southern China was in prison for many years at that same time. “I understood then why I had memorized so much of God’s Word while in Bible school,” he says. “I kept my sanity only by repeating Bible verses over and over.”

The best way the church can prepare for trials and persecution is by seriously studying and learning the Word of God. Christians need an overview of the whole Bible. Understanding God’s outline for mankind in the Bible aids in memorization as well.

What is the right attitude to bring to Bible study? Some read and study the Bible with the intent to get something from it to teach to others. But first, we should approach the Bible with the desire to see the goodness and loving-kindness of God and understand how “wide and long and high and deep” is His love for us (Ephesians3:17-19). Let His love show you His supply for your own need and then you are better able to meet the needs of others.

Second, approach the Bible with humility. Study the Bible to discover what God has said. Bible study is meant not merely to inform - but to transform.

In restricted countries where Bibles are in short supply, pastors are often in a quandary as to which of the many spiritually needy he should share these precious books with. Progress in Bible memorization is one method they can use for determining who will receive the available Bibles. One house church group in Vietnam decided to give them to the believers who were most determined to use them. The criterion used was memory work. So Bibles were shared only with those who recited flawlessly Psalm 119—all 176 verses!

Open Doors is committed to provide God’s Word to those for whom it is not available. “It is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes....” (Romans 1:16)

Today I will memorize a new verse from
God’s Word, the Bible.

Pray for the Christians in restricted countries
where there is a shortage of God’s Word.

Standing Strong Through The Storm (SSTS) 
A daily devotional message by SSTS author Paul Estabrooks

© 2011 Open Doors International. Used by permission"