in which God is good, and you are generous. [East Africa update]

thank you.

That’s all I have to say, really.

Not really. I have a lot more words waiting – this is me here – but I think that sums it up.

My support deadline for Africa is today.

Not only has it been met, it’s been passed.

You all gave $4,069 to send me to Africa.

I’ve overwhelmed. I really don’t know what to say except thank you, thank you, thank you. Over and over again. There were times when I doubted this, doubted that the money would come, doubted my decision to go on this trip. Raising $4,000 from another country? I must be crazy.

But as it turns out, my God is kinda crazy too, and He provides. Oh, goodness, He provides.

You have no idea how many times I sat in front of my laptop, my fundraising account open on my screen, my eyes full of tears. The first donation I received to cover my trip deposit, from a dear friend who texted me 30 minutes after I announced that I was going to Africa to ask how she could support me. The very last donation I received, the gift that pushed me over my goal. Every single time I met a deadline that I thought I wasn’t going to make.

Large donations came in, and I was absolutely amazed by yours generosity. Thank you. Small donations came in, and I was blessed by your willingness to give what you could. Thank you.

To those of you who donated anonymously – I can’t tell you this in person, so an extra thank you in this space. Your desire to support me secretly humbled me time and time again. Thank you.

To family far and near, friends new and old – every single dollar you gave taught me about trust, about gratefulness, about God. He truly used you to show me who He is. Thank you.

So here I am, fully funded. Back when this whole adventure began, I could never have imagined how fast the time would go. I leave in two weeks, flying first to Atlanta to meet my team for a brief training session, and then flying out to Africa. I’m going to Kenya, by the way. It all still seems so surreal, especially as I’m still sitting on a rock in the Mediterranean right now, that in two weeks’ time I’ll be flying (back) across the big pond to spend a month in Kenya. I’ll have a week at home to unpack, find some ankle-length skirts and a mosquito net, and repack before I jet away again. And goodness, how that terrifies me, for a multitude of reasons. I’m excited and nervous and scared and overwhelmed and apprehensive and a whole long list of adjectives. But God has been good, and you have been so incredibly supportive with your words, finances, and prayers, and so I can go forward in faith.

Thank you.

listen | five minute friday

I don’t listen well.

Well, sometimes I do. In some ways, I do.

I’ve learned how to be quiet, how not to speak over and into the conversation. I’ve learned that sometimes you just need to let someone talk. I’ve mastered the art of sipping my tea and nodding along, of just being and hearing and understanding.

I listen well to others, usually.

I don’t listen well to God.

I talk too much, stumble and trip over my words, coming out by mouth or pen or keyboard, I scribble them out and type them down too quickly. Rushing, as if all I have is now and I have to say it all.

I scrawl pages of my journal full, full of questions and doubts and worries and uncertainties.

But I’m no good at the listening part. I don’t like the silence, the stillness, once the pages are full and the pen is put down. I’m not good at the waiting, at the quiet, at the calm. If God’s not saying something now, He’s not gonna say something in the next five minutes, right? So why am I still sitting here?

So I shut the pages on my questions without really listening for answers.

——–

Lisa-Jo Baker hosts a virtual writing party called Five Minute Friday, where she throws out a prompt and you write – just write – for five minutes. No editing, no changing, no thinking. Just words. I’m joining in this week, and hopefully for many more to come. Check it out, set a timer, get in on the fun. You know you want to.

 

when I am wordless, I will wash the dishes.

I actually like doing the dishes. Sometimes.

In a flat full of nine people, there is an abundance of dishes and a shortage of people who want to wash them. There are nights like tonight, when everyone is making dinner at the same time and in a rush and just tossing their dishes in the sink to deal with later. Then in the morning there’s an overwhelming stack in the sink, pots and pans and plates and forks piled so high there’s not really room to wash anything. That sink of dishes seems like a chore some days, something you just need to do and deal with and be done with. But some days, I don’t mind.

And so tonight, when everyone is gone and the house is quiet, the whole residence is quiet, and I’m enjoying the peace, the stillness and calm that are so rare around here, and I see the dishes sitting in the sink, I don’t mind.

I turn on the water and pick up the sponge, find the rhythm of soap and scrub and rinse.

——–

I’ve been quiet in this space lately. I haven’t felt like I’ve had a lot to say, not sure if my words are worth listening to. Wondering if I’m just one more voice, just another girl with a blog insistent on adding the clacking of her keys to the noise.

We don’t need more noise.

And I’ve felt lost, in this big wide blogosphere. Not really sure where I fit in. There’s all those blogs, all those bloggers, with the perfect  hair and the quirky smile, with the slightly hipster style and the twitter followers. The bloggers with words of wisdom and pearls of truth, the bloggers with book deals and camera skills and cute shoes. There’s words like marketing and branding that make me want to run for cover because I ain’t a brand and how the heck do I market myself when I don’t even know who the heck I am yet?

And I’m not sure where I fit in. Some days there’s a thought rattling around in my brain – you could be a writer – tantalizing and tempting with visions of being a capital-b-Blogger, brand and everything, being someone who does this as a thing. a real thing. and even beyond that, you could be a real writer. an author. but let’s not even talk about that, because up until a year and a month ago I didn’t even know I liked this whole writing and sharing and words thing and goodness gracious, what the heck could I ever even write a book about?

but it’s the thought – the possibility – the just maybe – that sits there. just out of reach. because I remind myself that I am just another girl with a blog. another girl with words. a girl who hasn’t felt like she’s had much to say the past few months.

——–

There’s something so calming about washing dishes. Something in the repetition, something in the simplicity and the beauty. Something in the labor, the working with your hands. The sink empties and the clean dishes drip beads of water into pools on the counter and my mind clears.

It’s a never-ending task, admittedly. Your dishes will never be clean long. They’ll just keep on getting dirty, and they’ll just keep needing to be washed.

isn’t that how it always is?

and maybe it’s sacrilegious, but just then I can see my soul as a plate in my Father’s hands. don’t bother, I want to say as He scrubs it sparking white, it’s just going to get dirty again.

——–

He’s been quiet lately.

Maybe He hasn’t, not really, maybe it’s just easier to say that He has been quiet than to point the finger at myself and say maybe I haven’t been listening.

Maybe it’s both. I’m not really sure. All I know is that He’s felt gone lately.

And I know He’s not gone, not really, because He promised. He promised to never leave, never forsake me nor abandon me, and I believe that. I trust that.

He’s not gone. But He’s just not here right now.

And I’ve found myself without words. Not knowing what to pray, only knowing that I need to. That I need Him right now. Because I’m trying to figure out who I am and what I want and where I’m going and Lord, a little guidance would be good but it’s all quiet on the heavenly front.

And so I am directionless. and planless. and wordless. I don’t know what to say to Him, and I don’t know what to say to you.

——–

I stare down at the plate in my hand. I scrub, rinse, place with the others to dry.

I’m just going to get it dirty again.

I’m sorry.

Thank you.

——-

He’s still quiet. I still don’t know what to say.

But tonight, doing the dishes feels like praying. And tonight, that’s enough.

[may 2013]

goodness. is it that time again?

May has flown by and I can’t believe we’re hitting June already. where. did. the. time. go.

this month, WordPress informed me of the one-year anniversary of this little blog. I can’t believe it’s been a year since I carved out a space on the blogosphere and started pouring my heart out into it. it’s been quite a journey, with lots of lessons and tears and new internet friends. A heartfelt thank-you to those of you who take the time to read my words. In honor of this first birthday, I’m gonna drop a link to my most-viewed post right here. in case you missed it.

reading (on kindle)

  • I picked up Barbara Kingsolver’s Animal, Vegetable, Miracle after it appeared on a few April What I’m Into posts, and loved it. It’s a fascinating and informative read on the food industry in America. If you’re interested in where your food comes from – and you should be – give it a read.
  • Lauren Oliver’s Delirium series (Delirium, Pandemonium, Requiem). Guys, I read these books in about two days each. So good. They fall into that strong-heroine-screwed-up-utopian-society-teen-romance category that I’m a sucker for (see: The Hunger Games; Divergent). This is a perfect summer beach read series. You won’t want to put them down.
  • Also finished the Percy Jackson series and am almost done with Inheritance, the last book in the Inheritance cycle. Basically: lots of YA fantasy.

reading (online)

(I wrote this whole section, complete with blurbs about why I liked all these blogs, and then WordPress didn’t save it. And I’m lazy. So: just read them all.)

listening

  • Flaws, by Bastille. on repeat. for hours. no joke.
  • also: Brave, from Sara Bareilles. I have such a girl crush on Sara Bareilles and this song is just so good. and true. be brave, friends.
  • Emeli Sandé’s cover of Crazy in Love for the Great Gatsby soundtrack. can. we. just. what.
  • anything Spotify plays on a radio station based on Ben Howard or the Lumineers or Mumford and Sons. good stuff.

watching

  • gave Hannibal a try, and while it’s brilliant and well-done, not sure I can handle it. It’s a little gory, plus there’s the whole cannibalism thing.
  • I am, however, newly addicted to Elementary. I’m also a huge Sherlock fan, but this is so different that they’re not competing in my head. Love it.
  • working my way (slowly) through Season 2 of Arrested Development. I’ve heard mixed review on Season 4 so we’ll see how I feel…when I finally get to it.
  • Doctor Who, of course. Still underwhelmed by this season – not really loving Clara? She feels a little underdeveloped as a character. Hopefully that changes next season.

loving

  • watching my countdown to home tick down the days. I cannot wait to be back in the States, but leaving Malta is going to be bittersweet.
  • I’m getting really good at cooking without accurate measurements. And also, frying things (churros? funnel cake? check.) Life skills, yo.
  • sweet potatoes. like, I really really love sweet potatoes. someone explain to me how sweet potatoes aren’t actually candy.
  • late nights full of laughter. we have good times around the kitchen table.

Linking up with HopefulLeigh, of course! Now tell me – what have you been loving in this month of May?

note to myself, but also to you too.

calm your heart, darling.

just breathe for a minute. calm your heart and clear your head.

because it is overwhelming and it is busy and it is too much and you just want to cry, I know. oh, I know.

but calm your heart.

because it’s hard to let Him in when your heart is a raging mess. He’s offering peace, but you can’t see it right now. so calm that heart of yours and force that head of yours to just. stop. for a few minutes.

and here you are, and it feels like too much, but He is here too. and He is good and He is kind and it’s all in His hands anyway, so you just let it go and calm your heart.

because this world is going to keep going, and no one’s going to hit the pause button for you. so find time, take time, make time. carve out silence, create space in that chest of yours.

calm your heart.

and curl up inside the stillness. for an hour, for ten minutes, for five. for the time it takes your tea to steep or for that red light to click over to green.

so calm your heart, and know this: He is in control. calm your heart and breathe, calm your heart and trust.

calm your heart, my darling. calm your heart.

——————————————————-

the phrase “calm your heart” was shamelessly stolen from Sarah Bessey’s One Good Phrase post and has quickly become part of my daily life. read her words, learn from them, and remember: calm your heart, love.

when this abundant life seems much too empty.

what do I do when there aren’t words?

when I don’t even know what to pray for. when I can no longer whisper faith and hope and trust to myself like a mantra. when peace is always just out of reach. when His voice is silent, or maybe just lost in all the sound. when this abundant life seems much too empty.

life to the full.

wasn’t that the deal? isn’t that how it’s supposed to work? surrender and submit, repent and be renewed. be healed. be filled with joy.

Joy has been playing coy lately. Healing clocked out and took a vacation. Renewal is just straight-up AWOL. and I’m feeling lost. feeling alone. feeling still broken. still anxious and still controlling and still hating these thighs and still unworthy and still and still and still and where in the heck is that abundant life I was promised?

’cause sometimes, it feels like I’m getting the short end of the stick.

and I keep trying. I keep striving. be good, say your prayers. be patient, be kind, bite your tongue when those harsh words want to roll right off. love and forgive, two words that take “easier said than done” to a whole new level. just keep trusting, just keep believing, it’s all part of this plan.

when do I get to see the plan?

and I admit to waiting for it all to just work already. for everything to be fixed. thinking that one day, I’ll wake up and everything will have clicked and then – oh, then. then I’ll be better. I’ll be courageous and strong. I’ll be gentle and kind. I’ll love my body and maybe I’ll even love running, too. I’ll trust unwavering and I’ll follow faithfully. I’ll love and forgive with grace and ease. I’ll won’t need to choke back swear words and I won’t be cursing at you in my mind, either. I’ll have it all together. I’ll always be rejoicing. I’ll bake perfect gluten-free cookies and I’ll write the best blog posts and I’ll be well-read in all the theologians and I’ll actually make those crafts on my Pinterest board.

that’s not how it works, is it. life doesn’t magically fall into place. it’s not always easy.

I will never be Perfect Christian Blogger v2.0. I like my cookies full of gluten and I have a love/hate relationship with running on the best of days and these thighs aren’t going anywhere and, well, I’ll try to keep the cussing to a minimum at least.

and I’ll keep struggling to trust. struggling to find hope. struggling for peace and patience and strength, and all those fruits of the spirit that far too often become a list of everything I’m not.

because this is who I am. beautifully broken. crumbling at the edges. and faith is a fight for me, sometimes. and I don’t read my bible, sometimes. and I post about my loving my body and then spiral into a battle with self-hate, sometimes. and I cry in the bathroom because I’m homesick sometimes.

and this is okay and this is good and this is beautiful. because we are none of us perfect. I don’t care what their instagram feed seems to say, each one of us has known mascara-streaked tears on the bathroom floor.

and the fruits of the spirit are that: fruits. of. the. spirit.

not a checklist. not a measuring tape. and I am no less of a Christian because my faith is a daily fight. no less a believer because I doubt,  sometimes. no less beloved because I feel unworthy.

I’m struggling to trust and believe and walk this path that I can’t even see. and that is okay. that is good. that is beautiful.

and maybe that abundant life is right here, if I look for it. because life needs to be lived, in the day-by-day, in the struggle and the mess and the broken-but-healing. in the being made new, slowly, painfully. maybe I can’t see it, but there is hope for me and I’ll cling to that, hold that truth tight to my heart. trust that there are seasons, seasons of struggle and doubt and searching and questioning. and they are seasons and they will pass, as the seasons do. but this is my season right now.

and it is okay. it is good. it is beautiful.

[april 2013]

HopefulLeigh has been hosting these monthly What I’m Into link-ups for a while, and I’ve been reading (see: stalking) them for a little bit now and decided to finally get in on the action. Why? Well, why not? I’ve enjoyed getting to peek into other bloggers’ bookshelves/ipods/brains, plus I like the idea of taking some time at the end of each month to look back at what I’ve been loving and gather it all up into one place. Hey, I’m a hoarder. Better on the internet than my desk drawer, right?

So here we go…what I’m:

reading (on paper):

  • A Song of Ice and Fire (aka, the Game of Thrones series). My lil bro got me into this series and I’m hooked. I’m halfway through the fifth book, and then – gasp – I’ll have to wait for the next one to come out.
  • Finally got into the Eragon series (The Inheritance Cycle). Can I just say, I totally thought this series was a trilogy and was confused when the third book ended without coming to a conclusion? Turns out there’s four books. Surprise.
  • 99% of the time, I am not a devotional person. However, Cory Copeland’s We Are Not Hoodlums is changing that. I’ve been taking in an entry a day with my breakfast, and it is so good. We’re talking simple, straightforward truths that manage to rock my world. Sometimes you need to go back to the basics and remind yourself what redemption is.

reading (on screen):

listening:

  •  newly obsessed with Emeli Sandé. girl can sing.
  • also obsessed with “Cups (When I’m Gone)” aka That Song From Pitch Perfect That Everyone Is Obsessed With. Anna Kendrick’s acappella version is fantastic, but this director’s cut music video was recently released and now I can’t get enough of this version, either.
  • discovered Gregory Alan Isakov, and let’s just say “3 a.m.” has been on repeat for a while.
  • I’ve been listening to needtobreathe’s “The Heat” over and over again. this album is just too good, guys.
  • here’s this month’s Spotify playlist for your listening enjoyment. it’s a little random.

watching:

  • my TV-watching has been a little sporadic, and I’m behind on my usual shows: Once Upon a Time, Parks & Rec, and Bones all have some episodes sitting waiting for me. I’ll get around to it…eventually.
  • Doctor Who is back! I’ve managed to see three episodes so far. Honestly, I’m a little underwhelmed by this season’s DW. Here’s hoping I start to like it more.
  • been catching up on Psych. let’s talk about how I am Burton Guster. I even drive an Echo. Sadly, it’s not blue.

loving:

  • my Kindle, aka my baby. When I said reading, on paper? That’s a lie. It’s really all e-ink on my trusty little Kindle, which goes everywhere with me (including all over Europe) and miraculously hasn’t gotten broken yet.
  • my Chacos. guys. CHACOS ARE THE BEST. breaking these suckers in was possibly the most painful thing I’ve experienced, but it’s totally worth it. I’m gonna be rocking the best/worst z-tan by the time I get home.
  • getting out + about in Malta. I’m in class all day erry day, but there’s been some adventuring happening on the weekend. Jumping into the blue blue Mediterranean? Visiting the Malta at War museum? Loving the sunshine? check, check, and check.
  • friends, late nights, silly and serious conversation. countless cups of tea around the table. lazy mornings. s’mores.
  • was able to meet up with a good friend in Florence and spent four delightful days walking, seeing, eating, and just being with her. the food. oh, the food. Europe knows how to do pastries.
  • letters from home. with everyone thousands of miles away, getting a card that’s traversed the ocean can make me smile like nothing else.

 

remember what I said about pastries? (Budapest)

 

what have you been into this April?