my God provides. [East Africa update]

There’s something you should know about me. Something you maybe (probably) already know.

I am afraid.

Of lots of things. (Spiders.)  I’m anxious about showing up in a new situation and having no idea how to behave. Nervous about traveling alone. Worried beyond belief about life in general, as the title of post-grad-job-searching-20-something looms on my horizon.

And let’s talk about how I worry about Africa.

The overwhelmingly daunting task of raising the $3,995 I need for this trip. The idea of flying to a brand new country, with a group of people I don’t know, to participate in some form of ministry. Having to talk about my faith and my life with strangers, whether one-on-one or (ack) in front of a group.

What if I don’t raise the money? What if my team doesn’t like me? What if I’m bad at the ministry? What if I get sick? What if I say the wrong thing? What if I pack the wrong clothes? What if there are spiders?

I’m anxious about everyday life in Greensboro. I’m a basket case when it comes to international missions.

But something happens when you spend two weeks traveling around Europe – which, by the way, I just did. One week with a friend, four days on my own, and then another four days with a different friend.

You better believe I was anxious about this trip. 15 days, 3 countries, 5 cities. I did my research, I wrote down directions, I Googled everything I could think of (“how to use the bus in Italy”), printed off all my hostel reservations and plane tickets, crammed my belongings into my backpack, and prayed. A lot.

I prayed for help when we were lost outside Venice. I prayed that I wouldn’t miss my shuttle to the airport in Paris. I prayed that I was getting on the right bus every time I got on a bus. I prayed for good hostel situations, and sunshine during my days. I prayed for guidance every single time I looked at a map. I prayed safety over my entire trip.

And oh, He provided.

We traveled by plane, train, bus, boat, subway, taxi – and all was well. Hostels were found. Planes were caught. I never got lost. All the things that could have gone wrong – nothing really went wrong. And I was blessed in so many little ways on that trip. The woman who overheard us talking waiting for the boat in Venice, and gave us walking directions to Piazza San Marco, which we wouldn’t have seen if not for her. The incredibly kind metro officer in Paris, the third one I spoke to when my 5-day ticket wasn’t being accepted by the machines, who replaced my ticket for me where the others hadn’t helped. My friend April’s host mother in Florence, who invited me over for a home-cooked Italian meal – three nights in a row. The owner of a cafe in Budapest who handed us free slices of cream cake after we had finished our pastries. Hundreds of little things, little provisions, that left me with a smile on my face and a heart rejoicing thank you, Lord.

I learned so much during those two weeks. Traveling Europe is a crash-course in life, and easily one of the most intense growing experiences I’ve had so far. I expected to face my fears of traveling alone, but I didn’t expect to learn so much about trust, provision, and prayer.

These truths I learned: There is no worry too small to take to Him, and no gift so small it doesn’t deserve praise. And in ways great as well as small, God provides.

My God is God in Venice and Paris and Budapest and Malta and Virginia and North Carolina. My God is God in Africa, too. My God listens, my God protects, my God guides. And my God provides.

What then have I to fear?

East Africa update time!

July is getting sooner and sooner. It’s surreal, because here in Malta I’m so focused on the rest of the semester and the end of the semester and going home…and then a week later, I’m gone again and off to Africa. As the trip grows closer, I’m getting more excited – but also more nervous. I’ve been telling myself on a daily basis that God is good and God provides.

I’m so, so grateful to everyone who has donated to my fundraising and continues to bless me with prayer and encouragement. I couldn’t be doing this trip without you, and your love and support mean the world to me. My 75% deadline is coming up soon! I need to have raised $3,000 by May 1, which is just a week and a half away! I need another $655 to meet this deadline. Please, if you haven’t yet, prayerfully consider supporting me on this trip. Any donation, no matter how small, makes a difference. And I promise donating is quick and easy! All of the details can be found on my support page. Or you can click this, which takes you directly to AIM’s donation page! Just fill in my name, select “The Passport”, and you’re good to go.

As always, thank you. From the bottom of my heart.


when this is about you and me and our bodies.

This, oh this – this is something I get up in arms over.

My heart aches and breaks for you, you who hates what she sees in the mirror. You who wishes that this here was a little less jiggly and that there was a little more curvy and all of this was just  a lot less.

I want to rant and rave at this world for making you buy into the lies, scream and shout about the head games and the judgemental words and the impossible standards.

I want you to know that you are worth more than your weight, your body is so much more than a size, and you are beautiful in ways that you don’t even know. Girl, you need to own that skin you’re in like it’s a custom-made couture gown, because it is, and it was made for you by a master tailor who deals in muscle and bone, hearts and souls instead of silk and satin. You might not know it yet, but he sewed strength into your limbs and grace into your lungs, and he measured you for patience and kindness. He wrapped you in dreams and hopes, and they look better on you than sequins and lace.

You’d better own that skin you’re in, because it’s the only one like that in this world and no one else could ever make it look as good.

My heart hurts from all the hate that’s been thrown around. All the hate you’ve been thrown and all the hate you’ve been throwing back at yourself. Girl, there’s a whole world out there and you ain’t got the time to waste with all that.

And if I could, I’d invite you over. I’d bake you cookies and we’d eat half the dough before it went in the oven, and the other half as soon as it came out, and there would be no talk about regretting or running off those cookies. I’d make you a cup of tea, strong and sweet, and I’d make you space to be. Just be. Be full of thoughts and secrets and desires and all those things that give you your you-ness.

And in that space, maybe you can find the courage to claim beauty. To believe that the words I’m and beautiful could snuggle together in the same sentence without that cold hard not shoving itself in between. To slip on confidence like your favorite pair of jeans and wear it out the door and right into the world.

Because maybe, maybe if you can start to see the beauty that you have, if you start to believe it – well, maybe then I can, too.

Because the truth is, as much as I rant and rave, scream and shout, I buy those lies. Because as much as my heart aches for you, it has little forgiveness for me. I can’t find grace in the mirror, only thighs.

Because I can tell you to love yourself all day long, but I talk the talk a whole lot better than I can walk the walk.

And I’m tired. I’m tired of constantly being at war with myself. I’m tired of not liking what I see. I’m tired of wrapping myself in insecurity and doubt. I’m tired of hating. Cause there is a whole world out there and I ain’t got the time to waste anymore.

Here’s the thing about loving yourself: loving. In the verb sense of the word. Loving yourself is not a magical state of elevated being that you somehow achieve. Oh, no.

Loving yourself is work. Loving yourself isn’t easy. Loving yourself is waking up in the morning and claiming beauty. Loving yourself is telling your tummy that it is fearfully and wonderfully made. Loving yourself is running because you want to, not because your mental calculations of cookies consumed + calories burned aren’t equal. Loving yourself is eating peanut butter straight out of the jar sometimes. Loving yourself is a daily decision to walk out of those lies and walk into the truth and work that custom-made skin of yours.

Loving yourself is stubbornly, persistently, consciously believing that you are Beautiful. and Strong. and Worthy of being Loved.

Because oh, you are. and so am I.

love like fools.

what if we ruin it all, and love like fools, and all we have we lose?

Because I love like a fool. I love imperfect, messy and broken. I love by halves instead of wholes, I love hesitant and questioning.

I love failing. I love holding grudges and withholding forgiveness. I love in words but not actions.

I love full of doubts. I love only a little bit. I love protecting myself, I love without vulnerability.

I love impatient, I love unkind. I love selfishly and faithlessly.

I wish I could love better. I’m trying to learn. I’m trying to wrap my head around how perfectly God loves me. I’m trying to figure out how to accept that gift. Accept that love that I think I don’t deserve. Because that is the way I want to love others – the way He loves me.

Without measure. Without end. Without holding back.

I want to love with a wild love, a relentless love. I want to be loved with that love.

And it’s being offered to me. It’s been offered to me since I first heard “Jesus Loves Me”, since the day I was born, since the day a man hung on a cross that my heart might be His. Since before time and space even existed, I have been offered a perfect love.

So I’m saying yes. I’m chasing that love. I’m letting myself be loved. I am not going to run anymore, not going to hide. I’m going to seek it out and I’m going to soak it up, I’m going to breathe in that love and learn how to breathe it out.

Day by day I’ll try to love a little bit more wildly, a little bit more relentlessly. Because that’s how He loves me.

on words and this writing thing.

Words fail me often.

I try to write it down, try to explain the complicated mess of emotions I feel, but it rarely comes out right. How do I explain what’s truly in my heart? Are there even words to describe the depth of a human soul? We can hide behind words so easily. Telling you that I’m stressed doesn’t capture the tangle of fear, anxiety, and uncertainty that sits heavy in my stomach. Happy seems inadequate to declare the deep joy and peace within me in those moments when I am resting entirely on God. And love – oh, love gets thrown around like a bouncy ball from a 25-cent machine in the front of a grocery store. I’ll describe my feelings towards my Chacos with the same word as my feelings toward the Lord. While I am a huge fan of my Chacos, that word means so much more when I’m talking about God – and it comes nowhere near to the magnitude of how He feels about me.

I can write it all out. I can pull out a dictionary and a thesaurus and spend my days trying to put all the parts of me down on paper, and it will still fall short. but I’ll keep doing it.

Because sometimes, putting it down in black and white is the only way for me to make sense of it. Because sometimes, pain needs to be expressed. Because sometimes, I’ll write myself into a corner of my heart I’ve never seen before, and I am surprised by what I find there. Sometimes, the words are right. Sometimes it works, sometimes I can sift through subject and verb and adjective and come up with a sentence that sparks with a bit of my soul inside.

Those are my favorite writers. The books I turn back to, the blogs I keep reading – it’s the ones who weave themselves into their words. The ones who leave bits and pieces of their heart scattered around the screen or page. The ones who open up and let me see inside.

Because the words aren’t always perfect, but neither are we. And I think our broken hearts are always reaching out to one another – to be seen, to be known, to be understood. So I’ll keep trying to write my heart out for you, and I’ll keep reading after yours, and maybe it’ll work.

Maybe I’ll catch a glimpse of who you are, and maybe you’ll accept me. Maybe we can share our stories and hopes and dreams. Maybe we can help each other heal. Maybe we can sort though all the mess together and come out a little bit stronger together. Maybe we can find the words to speak hope and faith and life into each. Maybe in all the wrong words, there will be a few that are right.

I’ll writing and I’ll keep reading. I’ll keep trying to see you and letting you see me, the good and the bad and the ugly and the awkward. And together we’ll find the words and we’ll talk through the hurting places, and we’ll start to see it all as beautiful.

just one of those days.

I wasn’t going to blog tonight. I don’t have words of wisdom, no nuggets of truth to dole out tonight. It’s been a long week, a hard week, a week full of ups and downs. A week full of early mornings, waking up stiff on a hard mattress and wishing I could sleep a little bit longer. A week of staring at my reflection in a leotard and wishing that reflection took up a little bit less space in the mirror. A week of standing freezing by the bus stop and missing the days when classes were a 5-minute walk from my dorm room. A week of sore muscles and hard work. A week of searching for joy in the little things and finding it in the steep streets of Valletta, in a hazelnut latte, in pink clouds, in fruit salad.  A week of my heart longing to be home with friends and family and familiarity, but also starting to put down little roots in Malta. A week of crying out to God for strength, peace, rest, courage. Sometimes just plain crying.

Most of today has been of the crying variety. I went to church for the first time I arrived here this morning, at St. Andrew’s Scots Church, a Church of Scotland and Methodist church in Valletta, and spent about half of the service blinking back tears. It’s a good thing it wasn’t a Communion Sunday, because I probably would have started sobbing over the wine chalice. Being there made me miss the traditions of the Anglican church that I’m so accustomed to. I missed The Falls Church and it’s familiar voices, the pastor I’ve heard preaching for years. I missed Church of the Redeemer, and the new family that I’ve found there in Greensboro. I missed being surrounded by friends during worship. But even sitting alone in that pew, singing hymns I didn’t know, surrounded by people with unfamiliar names and faces – it was so good to be in a church again. The Lord’s Prayer is the same, whether you say Your will or Thy will be done, and joyful noise includes both organ and djembe, and He is present no matter the building or country or denominational flavor.

So it’s been a day of tears, of homesickness and loneliness and worry and fear. It’s been a day of crying during church and in front of my laptop and onto my journal pages. It’s been a day of talking to friends, wishing I could hear their voices and see their faces in front of me, but grateful that I can at least have their words. It’s been a day of finding rest in good music and worship songs. A day of catching up on the blogs sitting in my reader, and finding quiet strength in the words of the other. A day of scribbling words into a notebook, crying out with pen and paper and soul for God to come near, now, please, because I have need of You. A day of clinging to His words and His goodness, wrapping my fingers around His promise to never forsake me and holding on so tight. A day of reminding myself that He sees me, that He knows where I am and where I’m going, that His plans for me are good.

A day of reminding myself that sorrow may last for a night, but trusting that joy comes with the morning.

unexpected lessons/East Africa update

Despite the fact that it’s impossible to expect the unexpected (and 95% of this semester abroad so far has been unexpected), there are some things you expect when you leave home.

I expected that there would be culture shock. I knew that there would be an adjustment period. I knew that I would eventually grow used to being surrounded by a different language, that I would figure out the bus systems. Maybe on day I’ll actually be able to identify euro coins by their shape and color instead of having to flip everything over to check the money amounts.

Basically: you expect study abroad to be one big huge learning experience. But it’s turning out to be a learning experience in some ways I didn’t expect.

I figured I would learn about Maltese culture and history. I would learn the euro coins and the bus system. I’d learn my way around campus, around town, around the island. I would learn how to be independent, how to be on my own the farthest away from home I’ve ever been.

But as it turns out, my semester is going to be a crash course in all those things I don’t like to learn.

Patience, when the buses are never on time. Service, when that means washing a sink full of dishes that I didn’t use. Love, even for those yelling outside my window at 4 a.m. Kindness, when all I want to do is snap at the people driving me crazy. Humility, because the wind here makes good hair an impossibility.

Here, asking God to guide my footsteps takes on a new meaning when I’m lost in the turning, twisting, unfamiliar streets. I’m learning how to find peace in the Lord at times when it doesn’t exist in my surroundings. I’m asking for strength to the face the day, every day, because there are times when all I want is to not be here.

I’m learning how to depend on God completely and wholeheartedly, because there’s not much else to depend on. I need Him to be my guide, my protection, my strength in ways that real and raw and entirely different from at home.

Over the past three weeks, two thoughts have stayed in my mind.

  1. I’m so much more excited to go to Africa.
  2. I’m so much more terrified to go to Africa.

Now that I’ve had a taste of life outside my comfort zone, and all the joys, challenges, and lessons it involves, I’m looking even more forward to a month dedicated to serving the Lord and growing closer to Him. And I’m scared of it, because being out of your comfort zone is plain and simple uncomfortable. The lessons I need to learn usually aren’t fun ones. These five months, and that month in Africa, are going to change my life in ways that I can’t expect. That’s overwhelming, and thrilling, and nerve-wracking, and lots of things besides.

but God is good, and He is dependable, and so I am depending on Him to change my life for the better.

and now…update time!

while this isn’t 100% set in stone, I am most likely going to be in Rwanda or Uganda come July. I’m excited. time to start Wikipedia-ing those countries.

as of today, I’ve raised $1,583.51. this is just under 40% of my total. thank you, thank you, thank you from the bottom of my heart to everyone who has donated towards my trip, has prayed over this adventure, or has offered encouragement. I couldn’t be doing this without your help, and I’m incredibly grateful to all of you.

if you haven’t donated – would you prayerfully consider supporting me financially? I still need to raise the other 60% of funding for the trip and deadlines are going to sneak up on me. all of the nifty information and links can be found here on my support page.

once again – thank you. I can’t say it enough.

so let me be weak.

being broken isn’t fun.

I know this all too well. there are days when I feel shattered. moments when the cracks form in my soul and my fingers aren’t strong enough to keep it together. times when my delicate glass heart gets dropped onto a concrete floor. there are hours of tears, salt water dripping onto the shards of my heart that surround me.

do you have these days? I can’t be the only one.

I can’t be the only one, because we are all breakable and this world has a tendency to break things. so time and time again I fall apart, time again I find that my fingers were too clumsy with the Elmer’s glue and somehow my heart is breaking again.

and I know that I talk about this a lot. I’m sure you’re tired of the constant steam of synonyms for broken that appear all too often in this space.

but it happens all too often.

sometimes it’s because my life seems too overwhelming for me to bear. sometimes it’s because I don’t know what I’m doing or where I’m going. sometimes it’s because one of my friends is hurting and I am hurting for them. and sometimes – frequently – it’s because there are times when I realize just how big and messed up and yes, broken, this world is.

can you see? do you see how broken we all are?

and I am broken by the largeness of it all. broken for every teenager that feels a need to buy into someone else’s definition of beautiful. broken for every little boy that spends their days working in the fields or the factories, next to their parents who will never make enough to buy their freedom. broken for every that don’t know where their next meal is coming from, if there is even a next meal. broken for every college student that sits lonely in the dining hall. broken for every girl denied an education because of her sex. broken for every one that doesn’t have friends they can call family. broken for everyone without hope, without love.

does it not break your heart, the amount of pain in this world?

it’s not fun.

but it’s only when I am broken, broken by the weight of the world, broken for all those that are broken, that I am able to love them.

only when I am unable to hold my heart together myself do I hand the pieces to the Healer. only when I realize how badly the world is broken do I pay attention to those hurting around me. only when I see how desperately we all need the Lord that I ask him to let me help make His name known.

being broken hurts, but only in my weakness do I let the Lord be strong for me.