Accidentally Beautiful

November 2, 2010

I am a huge Derek Webb fan. I love his music. I love the truth that’s behind it. So it is no wonder that I bought his new album, “Feedback”, as soon as it came out. I love the way that he did this album. As a response. As worship. As nothing more. He also chose to collaborate with two other very talented artists. And not in the way you might expect. In the digital booklet there are beautiful paintings by Scott Erickson and amazing photographs taken by Jeremy Cowart. All three artists wrote brief paragraphs in the booklet about worship and the record and all three had incredibly notable things to say. But I was most stricken by what Jeremy Cowart wrote, mainly because I love the way he put it:

” One of my favorite things in the world is when something becomes accidentally beautiful… like the shadows of a junkyard, the remnants of a stripped billboard or the abstract pixels of a non-functioning television. It’s in these moments that I’m reminded of God’s beauty in all creation, both purposeful and accidental..”

Accidentally beautiful. Those words lead me to look at what God is doing in my life. To look at things in my life that seem hideous, like junkyards, and remnants, and non-functioning televisions, but that are really beautiful things. Ugly things, such as my flesh, that he has managed to revive and bring about beauty, such as His glory. Wow. I think that God is intentional in all things. It’s one of the many things that I admire about Him. But to think that He can take life and things and situations and turn them into what seems like accidental beauty is astounding. I guess, when I hear it put like that, it makes it a lot harder to despise the flaws and the rough patches. Because I know that my King is taking those and making them something accidentally beautiful. Something that, when looked at in the right light, can cause me to prayerfully consider and worship.

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Hurricane

September 26, 2010

I haven’t written since I was in Brasil due to lack of time.. Or maybe lack of, in my opinion, “worthy” material. But, in any case, I felt the need to share some stuff.

I am an emotional person. I know this about myself. But I haven’t cried in a while. I mean, the good, let-it-all-out kind of cries. Apparently my emotional self could not hold it in any longer because last night, after work, I got in my car and broke down. God is good but lately He has been throwing some hard stuff my way and I am tired of acting like I am taking all of it in the great way that I appear to be taking it.

So I am home this semester. Not back at ACU, the place that I absolutely love with the people that adore. To be honest, the tuition was too high and my grades weren’t high enough to get me the financial aid that I needed. But that isn’t what I have been telling people. I have been telling them simply that “It was God’s will that I leave.” And of course it was God’s will but I almost feel as if there was more to it than that. So there it is, couldn’t stay at ACU and so I am back home, sleeping in my old bed, seeing parents of my old friends, and, to be honest, feeling like a failure. As silly as it sounds, even being on Facebook is getting to be hard. It is so painful to me to see my ACU friends going through things that I should be going through with them. I miss them. I miss Abilene. But, what’s done is done.

In our society today, there always has to be a plan. You know, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” or “What are you doing with your life?” That sort of thing. And, right now, I can’t fully answer that question. I think I know where I want to end up, but as far as how I am getting there and in what time frame, I have no idea. And that is embarrassing to me. I feel like I should know that. I want to know that. But I don’t think I am supposed to. In fact, I know that God doesn’t want to me to know what’s next because He has it under control.

One of the things that I have gained in this move is time. I have more time than I know what to do with. I am using this time in order to get back to the basics. To bring it back to Him and His plan first and foremost. There is a song that I heard in Brasil called “Viver Coisas Novas,” Which means “to live new things”. The whole song is basically a huge metaphor. It talks about getting rid of some old things. Letting the wind come in and air out the house. Cleaning out the entry hall. And I feel like that’s what this time has to be. It is a time of restoring and renewing and living new things. It is a hard time but a necessary one.

I have heard the song, “Hurricane” by Jimmy Needham a million times. I have always thought that the lyrics were beautiful and I have sung along willingly but it wasn’t until I was listening to the song last night, with tears in my eyes, that I fully realized what I was praying for God to do. The lyrics are, “I need you, like a hurricane, thunder crashing, wind, and rain, to tear my walls down. I’m only Yours now.” Hurricane. Not sissy little rain shower. Hurricanes are powerful things. They absolutely devastate. They rip apart things. So to pray for God to completely devastate is a BOLD thing. There is another line that says, “If destruction’s what I need, then I’ll receive it Lord, from thee” and another that says “let me be Your casualty.” The song was a lot harder to listen to when the weight of that prayer set in. But, none the less, that is my prayer in this time.

I need You to devastate me, Lord. Humiliate me for Your sake. Let me die to myself and live for You daily. It is gonna be hard. In fact, at times I am going to be utterly miserable. But, as much as I forget this fact, it will be worth it. You will rebuild.

I was hoping to be able to update this thing more often in my time here but do to constantly being on the go and do to the fact that I would much rather be out experiencing than writing down past experiences, I have kind of let writing on here go neglected. But I have some free time today and God has done so much that I had to reflect.

This trip has been… unexpected. I am learning lessons here that I had no clue I would be learning. Lessons that God has been trying to smack into my head for years and lessons that He will continue to smack into me. In a loving way, of course. 🙂 This has not been a mission trip. I mean, I suppose I will tell people that I went on a mission trip to Brasil but it is different than that. This has been missional living. I haven’t been doing anything short-term here. I have been entering into ministries and relationships that have already been present and that will continue to be present long after I am gone. I am just getting to witness God working here and maybe, every once in a while, do something to aid that work.

The thing about mission trips that I have found to be true is that, in most cases, there is always something more to be done. On other trips I have been on, there is always a schedule and a medium through which ministry to another culture is made easy. Not the case here. I was thrown into a world of people I couldn’t understand and, as a result, for the greater majority of the first week I was here I felt helpless. I had no idea what to do. The way that I have always ministered was with my words. And with listening to peoples’ stories and praying over them. I can’t do that here. I mean, I can listen all I want but I have no idea what is being said or how I can pray for that person. And so I have had to use my presence. My presence has had to be my ministry. And that has been humbling.

The first week that I was here, I went to a bible study with the young adults from the church I go to here and I can honestly say that I understood maybe three words the entire time. And yet, despite a language barrier, both in the words spoken and sung, I felt the spirit. It was then that my God reminded me of how big He is and of how He transcends languages. Something I knew but when you don’t understand anything EVER it is a little hard to keep that fact in mind.

Still, somehow, through the grace of God and through me asking how to say every word in Portuguese, I have managed to get a bit of a grasp on the language. I am able to basically communicate. And I mean BASICALLY. But I have formed relationships that I would have never dreamed of with people who I cannot carry on a conversation with for more than 5 minutes. And that, I feel, can only be described as God.

And so what have I done in Brasil so far? Nothing  it seems like. God has humbled me. God has taught me. God has formed relationships that will not soon be forgotten. And God will continue to do just that. We are finally entering into the week of camp here. Which means a hundred or so kids that I firmly believe God is going to transform and mold. And I cannot wait to sit back and let God do what he does best.

 Vem, Senhor Jesus. Vem.

Brasil #1 (Futbol)

June 15, 2010

So, after 10 hours on a plane, I arrived in Brasil yesterday morning to one of the warmest greeting I may have ever recieved. I immediately knew that I was going to love this place. This being only my second time to leave the country, I had no idea what to expect. I have never been to South America,  I had barely heard an entire sentence of Portuguese in my life, and I  felt as if I had no idea what to expect. Basically, I thought I was going to be completely and totally thrown out of my comfort zone. And I was right. I have been here for less than 48 hours and, already, God has ripped me out of my comfort zone and thrown me into something wonderful.

Basically yesterday was just a rest day. I got to know the people that I was going to be doing ministry with for the next month. And they could not be a better group of people. I am pumped.  Today was even better than yesterday. The morning started with a meeting about what to expect for camp and then I got to experience the watching of the first Brasil World Cup game in Brasil which was kind of awesome. The entire country shut down for 90 minutes to cheer on their team. It was, in my opinion, community at it´s finest.  And I love it.

Within minutes of the futbol game starting, I had developed close friends and community just over the fact that we were cheering for the same team. And that only lended itself to deeper community. The hardest part about living in Brasil is the language barrier. I have learned some Portuguese but I still have, in no way, the ability to hold a conversation by any means. This proves difficult in communicating but somehow, during the futbol game, I forgot that we were speaking two different languages and instead just got to bond over a common interest. I love it when God breaks down language barriers.

Then the real pleasure of the day came. After the game and after hanging out with some of the kids from the youth group, I got to go to my home for the next few weeks and meet my new family. They are wonderful. My ´father` and the kids speak English pretty well but my ´mother` struggles with a lot of words and so all through dinner they were translating and making sure that everyone at the table could be apart of conversation. It was so cool. My ´father`started out the dinner praying both in English and in Portuguese. I felt welcomed and learned so much from this family in just one night.  I am a stranger from another country and the first thing they told me is that their house is my house.

Before she went to bed my mother came upstairs to me and, though it took awhile, searched for the words in English to tell me how glad she was I was there and if I needed anything at all to ask her. There is love here. I can already tell that I am not going to want to leave in a month. I am already praying that God brings me back here one day, maybe even to live.

I can´t wait to see what tomorrow brings.

Change

June 12, 2010

I have never been a fan of change. I think most people are this way. Most people, to a certain extent, are okay with things staying the way that they are. Most people, of which I am foremost, hate change. I get in a routine and I want to stay in that routine. Any change that may upset that routine, whether it be good or bad, is not welcome.

Unfortunately for me, change is inevitable. And usually it ends up being a good thing because I see what God is doing through it but at first, it flat out sucks. There has been a lot of change happening recently. I feel like the way it always goes is, as one thing changes, more and more things start to change. Or at least I become more adept to seeing those changes. I even saw change in the cups that Potbelly uses today and reacted slightly.

I think the thing about change that I have always hated is that, most of the time, it means goodbyes. I have always found it weird that people can come into your life, impact it, and then leave, sometimes before you even realized what that person taught you.

I am good with people and I am typically good with words but I can never seem to find enough of the right words to properly thank a person for the impact that they have had on my life. Heck, sometimes that person doesn’t even know that they did a thing. I feel like lately, as I go from college to home to summer job at Ozark to Brazil, the rate at which impacting people come in and out of my life is alarmingly fast. I went to orientation and worked first session at Ozark, formed awesome relationships that totally pushed and encouraged me toward the Lord, and then was gone, never to see some of those people again, before I knew it.

I guess all of this goes to say this: In a world that is constantly changing, where people are constantly coming in and out of my life, where sometimes I feel like I don’t have one second to catch my breath before moving onto the next big thing, and where sometimes I make a mistake before even realizing it is one, I am thankful for a consistent God. I am thankful that my Savior is the same today as he was yesterday and as he will be tomorrow. He loves me the same. He does not waiver. Does not change. Does not leave for a season. It reminds me that He is merely using those relationships to help me to grow. He is using those people only as supporting players but He is desperate to show me that He is the star who maintains throughout the entire show.

I am thankful for at least one constant in this world: A God who loves me more than I can fathom.

My little sister is my best friend. I love her more than I could describe. She is the coolest person and daily I get to see her turn into an awesome woman of God. I love getting to watch her grow. This is why I was so excited when I heard that she was going to get to go on a mission trip to Prague during her Spring Break. This was to be her first long distance mission trip and I knew when she first told me about it that God was going to use her in powerful ways. On Friday she left for the Czech Republic and, while I miss her like crazy, I cannot wait to hear the stories that she will bring back.

My little sister going on her first big mission trip reminded me of my first big mission trip to Africa. I thought of my prayer during that trip and I prayed a similar one for my little sister. When I was in Africa, John Hull talked to us about being the “Aroma of Christ” while we were there. 2 Corinthians 2:15 says, “For we are to God the aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing.” That verse was a reminder for us throughout the trip. And that is what I am praying for Stephanie to be.

The words that Paul chose are key. Aroma. An aroma can not be avoided. You can try and cover up and aroma but it still remains. It fills every crack and every crevice. It is all-encompassing. And that is what I was in Africa. That is what Stephanie is in Prague. And that is what we both should try to be daily no matter where we are.

Lord, Allow me to be Your aroma that I may fill every place around me with You.

Lent Blog #29 (Identity)

March 17, 2010

As much as I sometimes hate working in the food service industry, it has it’s pros. For instance, I love that I get to interact with so many people in such a short amount of time. People that I might have otherwise never talked to, I have to talk to because of my job. In my four years of working at a restaurant, I have had some of the best conversations with customers.

Last night, when I was working, we were just about to close when a group of three teenagers walked in and sat down at the counter. None of us really wanted them there at first. I mean, the sooner the restaurant was empty, the sooner we could close and go home. But, they were there none the less and so I struck up a conversation with them.

I didn’t know much about my mother’s dad before he died but my mom once told me that my grandfather would strike up a conversation with anyone and everyone and by the end of the conversation, he would know their entire life story. I guess I inherited that trait from him because I love to strike up conversations with just about anyone. After talking to these teenagers for a short while that night, I soon knew so much about them. Where they were from, what they liked, what they wanted to do in life. It was then that one of the boys looked at me and said, “I love meeting people at work because they are in their work uniforms so they are stripped of all identity. It makes it so that you actually have to talk to a person in order to know what they are like.”

I loved that he said that. I started to think about how many times I do learn about people based on what they look like or what they wear. But there is so much merit in talking to people. In asking them questions. As I went home that night, I wondered what was the identity that he saw in me by talking to me. I wondered if those teenagers could, by my words and, more importantly, by my actions, tell that I was a follower of Christ.

When I was in high school, my youth pastor asked us to think about what word people would use to describe us if they had to. I knew that I wanted to be known for my faith but I wanted to see if that’s what people actually knew me for. So I found several people throughout school and I asked them what word they thought of when they thought of me. And, for the most part, I was pleased with the results. So many people knew me for my faith. And I was happy about that. But those people knew me. I want to know the word that people give me within the first 15 minutes of knowing me. I hope that it is the same.

God, Let I be known solely for me faith in You. Nothing else matters.

Last night was an adventurous one. I was visiting a friend in Houston and, as I was on the way home, my car broke down. Doesn’t sound that eventful. But, as I am driving home at almost 2 a.m. on I-45, the side of the highway is the last place I want to be stuck. As the car broke down, I was able to pull over to the median on the side of I-45 and I immediately went into panic mode. First, it was late and I was ready to be home. And second, I had no idea who to call. It was late and I knew that my mom and sister had work the next morning so I wasn’t going to call them. I also thought that it was a lack of gas issue at first so my immediate thought was who I was going to call to come and bail me out.

After thinking through every person that I know that may have already been up at that time, I finally called my older sister who, by the way, is the best. I don’t give her enough credit. Erin, at 2 in the morning, drives out to I-45, I hop in her car, and we go grab some gas. We get back to my car, still stranded on the side of a major interstate highway, and, after filling it with gas, we discover that it is not a gas problem. This is when we decide to call my mother and wake her up.

At this point in the night, I feel awful. I have woken up both my older sister and my mother, who both have work early the next morning. My mom drives out to meet us, we call a tow truck driver, and then the three of us sit and wait on the side of a freeway until 4 in the morning. At one point, I turned to my mom and sister and asked them why they had driven out to help me. I mean, they just as easily could have left me to wait for the tow truck driver by myself. Her response was this, “You are my daughter. Of course I am going to come help you.”

I thought about what she said later that night as I was falling asleep. “You are my daughter.” I thought of how many times I get stuck in life. How many times I need help on a day to day basis. And how many times, without me asking, my God comes to my side to bail me out. I imagine that if I were to ask Him why he comes to help me out every time, His response would be, “You are my daughter. Of course I am going to come help you.”

Daddy, Thanks for Your constant help. Without me even having to ask.

Lent Blog #27 (Brazil)

March 15, 2010

Well, as of today I am officially going to Brazil this summer. After praying for weeks about it and then spending about the same amount of weeks trying to convince my parents that the whole thing was a good idea, I am finally going. The ticket has been bought and I will be spending 3 and a half weeks of my summer in Itu, Brazil. I could not be more excited.

Basically, what I am going to be doing there is helping to do camps for kids in the youth group at a church down there. I will be living in the home of one of the Brazilian families and forming relationships daily. And I already feel so blessed and so unworthy to be there.

I love how, when you are sure that something is God’s plan, I mean, absolutely positive, the element of worry kind of disappears. When I went to Kenya last summer, I was a bit worried before I left. I am not the least bit worried about Brazil. The whole thing worked out so perfectly that I know God had a hand in the whole thing. There are a lot of things that I could be worried about. Going to South America for the first time, living in a house with a family that I don’t know, not having the slightest clue how to speak the native language. But none of those things scare me. I know that my God works despite language barriers. I know that He provides. And I know that He is already working in Brazil. He is already laying out the groundwork of the things that will happen in my time there. He is preparing hearts, both in Brazil and here. I cannot wait to see what huge things are going to happen. I cannot wait for God to give me a heart for Itu and the people there. What an adventure.

Dad, Let me love Itu like You do. Guide me every step of the way.

I was upset with my mother for the greater part of the day today. She, my sister, and I drove down to spend the day in Houston and on the way we got into a little fight and I spent the entire rest of the day wishing I was anywhere but where I was. I suppose my thought process was to remain as quiet as possible for the rest of the day and cause her to feel bad for the whole argument. Apparently I am six. I was throwing a tantrum. It may not have seemed to have been that on the surface, but, underneath, it was a tantrum.

My family are some of the hardest people for me to love. I do love them and I always will but, it is so hard to handle every situation with them in a loving, Christ-like way. I mean, they see me at all times. It’s not that I become a different person at home but, the slip ups that other people may not see, my family sees. And that is rough. But, halfway through my pity-party of a day, I reminded myself of what Jesus would do. He had a family too. And I am sure that He and His mother disagreed on a thing or two. But, He did not falter in His love for her. He did not desire to serve her any less than He did anyone else.

1 Corinthians 13:5 says that love “is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.” And I did all of those things today. I am called to love but I was so easily upset by an argument that I held a stupid grudge all day.

As crazy as it may sound, God shows me what unconditional love looks like daily through my dog. Yeah, a dog. Due to us being out later than we thought tonight, we didn’t feed Boomer until a good 5 hours after he is used to being fed. And after he was finally able to eat, he wasn’t mad at us for taking so long. He didn’t hold a grudge because we didn’t feed him on time. He went right on loving us. It might seem like a unlikely teacher but that lesson was one that I needed today.

God, give me strength to love like you love. Especially when it is hardest to.