Wednesday, February 13, 2013

I Have a [God-given] Dream.

[Ahem. Do you know how difficult it is to put an incredible, God-given dream into words?! Consider this my heart version, not the professional one.]

I have a dream journal.

It’s a small, unassuming notebook where I scribble down my dreams. Only a few people know about the journal, and only my eyes have read the pages. It’s a place that feels secret and safe; a place shared by hearts--mine and God’s. It’s full of ideas, quotes, names, prayers, lessons, wisdom, brainstorms...all of it. The pages are coated with deep desires, creativity and agonizing prayers. I pull it out, jot down something, and place it back on my bedside table. On days when I feel like I need to be reminded, or whenever things seem impossible, I pull it out and read over the promises, ideas and dreams.

Today, I want to give you a small taste of my dream journal. You can’t read the pages, but I will let you venture in a tiny bit.

God has given me a dream for Liberia. A dream to impact the lives of individuals, and in turn, change families and communities. A dream to empower and educate. A dream to walk this road of life with the poor, broken, orphaned, oppressed and hurting. A dream to cultivate Hope in those around me--my neighbors and friends that share in this journey.

God has given me vision. The vision to intentionally love and serve. A vision to bridge the 5,000 miles that separate Monrovia from Atlanta; bringing everyone together. The vision to have a place where people can gather. The vision to make an impact, both big and small.

These are big things. Possible things. God things.

How do I plan on doing this? Well, first of's not me, it's HIM. God has given me the dream to use a community center as a ministry tool. This community center would be a place of hope and healing for the people of Liberia. Through education, training and empowerment, coupled with mentoring, prayer and Bible study, life-change will happen! 

Imagine a struggling mother finally being able to write her own name and knowing that she is fearfully and wonderfully made. Think about a child who doesn’t receive love at home, but can come and feel love from others, while receiving the gift of education. What about a man who has a heart for his community, and he invites other men to gather and pray for change. All of these are possibilities at the community center.

More than anything, my deepest desire is to live life with the people around me. The community center would be open to anyone, and the children in the orphanages can also come. I want provide a safe and welcoming place, while the community benefits from educational/empowerment tools and Christ’s love can freely flow. By having a relationship with the people in the community, I will have a clear understanding of the needs, and can then make better decisions on the best way to meet those needs. My dream is that there will be a building full of laughter, friendship, fellowship, love and hope. Hope for a better future and a brighter tomorrow. Hope in the One who created each of us and faithfully loves us. Hope that life, and Liberia, will change and that progress will come.

Now I am inviting you to join me! I will be traveling to Liberia in mid-March for three weeks, and will be on a scouting mission. I need to continue conversations with people, look for a space, create a budget, figure out logistics, seek out information, prayer walk in potential communities and of course see the children! It’s very difficult to do most of these things from the comfort of my home (there is no Liberia real estate website), so that is why I need to travel. Also, my Liberian residency expires April 14th, so I need to go and come back before then. After I return from Liberia, it will be time to start things on this side of the ocean--fundraising, paperwork for a 501(c)3 status, planning, collecting and shipping supplies, and preparing myself to return to Liberia full-time.

There is so much more to the big picture (you should see my diagram!), and I hope to reveal all of those things to you over time. Right now, I simply need your prayers! This is one big and scary leap of faith! I need continued direction and guidance. Also, if you are interested in making a donation to help with the cost of my trip ($1,000 is needed), you can donate through PayPal (the button on the right hand side), as well as with cash or a check. Please contact me if you have any questions, or if you’d like to sit down and hear more about this incredible dream. I love you all and I am so honored that you have joined me on this journey. I cannot say it enough--this simply wouldn’t be possible without you!

A reminder in my journal from Theodore Roethke.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Journeying Back to the Heart

The journey begins with the first step...and don't forget to enjoy the scenery! 

A cold and rainy day. I was up early for an airport run, but found it necessary to get back in bed under the warm covers. I’ve been reading, writing,  worshipping and talking to God. Today’s weather reflects my heart’s deepest thoughts.

I have been back home for 8 months. This is the longest amount of time that I’ve been home in nearly 5 years! I have a love/hate relationship with home, just like I have the same type of relationship with Liberia. It’s been difficult. It’s been challenging and lonely. There have been so many thoughts and prayers to God about this season. It can be confusing. There are frequent feelings of grief, sadness and doubt. On the one hand, I don’t get it--I don’t understand what the whirlwind of emotions are or where they come from. But deep down, I just know that it’s ok, but I also know that these feelings need to be dealt with (whatever that looks like, I don’t know). 

I’m good at keeping things inside, and stuffing things down; this can be dangerous and destructive. Sometimes it’s easier to ignore things, try to forget about them, hope and pray that they go away, or think things have been dealt with. Sometimes I think I try to trick myself. And then there are days that I know it’s just better to cry. That’s a good method for when I’m in Liberia, because sometimes it’s all that you can do. 

I’ve been trying to put my finger on what exactly I’m feeling, and it’s quite the challenge. There is grief--grief because of loss--the loss of Liberia, life as I knew it, friendships, purpose, community, constant dependence on Him. There is numbness--numbness to daily’s hard to see purpose sometimes. There is confusion--what the heck am I doing, where am I going? There is self-pity--there are plenty of days that I feel like a loser. There is heartache--heartache for Liberia, for the children, for Momo and Ma Mary, for laughter, for the ocean breeze and sunsets, for feeling a huge sense of helplessness. There is fear for what’s to come. I think most of all, I feel incredibly overwhelmed. You know that feeling when you just don’t even know where to begin? That’s me.
Holding on to Hope.
Now that you think I’m a very depressed person, let’s talk about the good! I am clinging on to Hope. Some days are more difficult than others, but Hope is still there. Deep down, in my bones, I feel it. But there are so many days when my flesh (and the enemy) tries to tell me otherwise. I know that God has me right where He wants me. No, it doesn’t make sense to me right now, but I know that one day, I’ll be able to look back and know exactly why He has me right here for right now. Yes, it is a lonely road...but I have to keep reminding myself that He is with me every step of the way! Some days I just can’t believe it because it doesn’t feel like it. But whether I feel it or not, He is here.

Lately I have been challenged with spending my time wisely. I have decided that my biggest enemy right now, other than myself, are distractions. Our world is so full of distractions! It’s actually pretty ridiculous to think about. If you take a minute and think about how you’ve spent your time today, what do you come up with? Did I spend more time watching TV or looking at Facebook than I did walking and talking with the Lord? Did I make a difference today? Who did I live for today--myself, others or Christ? All of these questions are challenging, and all too often, we try not to think about them because we know the ugly answers. We spend so much time doing things that don’t matter--as a culture, we are serial time wasters! I truly think the enemy has us right where he wants us. Distracted, hurting, disconnected...that’s the worst place to be, and the place that makes us totally useless for the Kingdom. We begin to only think of ourselves, and we live our lives that way. We loose His love, joy and peace. Our light begins to dim--sometimes without us even realizing it--and we enter the danger zone of being snuffed out. 

I’m saying we, but I really mean me. 

I have lost joy. I am distracted. I think about myself quite a bit.

I am simply trying to be real with myself. This, after all, is my safe place. But my hope and prayer is that by sharing my struggles and feelings, that you can relate (we aren’t meant to be in this life alone!) and be encouraged and challenged. What if each of us begins a journey back to the heart of Christ? What if we all live in His joy? What if our light burns brighter? What if we lay ourselves down and begin to clothe ourselves with the love of our Father? What if I extend His grace to the world around me? What if I open my hands, bend my knees and fling the doors of my heart wide open to ALL that He has for me? What if I walk in His strength? What if I served and loved like Him?

Imagine how unbelievably reckless we could be? And when I say reckless, I mean utter abandonment to this world and total surrender to His calling. I don’t know about you, but I’m tired of reckless spurts--I want the ultimate-dependence, total-surrender, most- incredible, reckless-to-the-bone life! Why in the world would I want that? It’s not glamourous. It’s dark and lonely and painful. But I’ve tasted it, and it is good! It is heart refining, soul stirring, joyful living, fellowship filled goodness! I’m telling you, it’s incredible! That is what I want. That is what I long for.

The next step of the journey is about to begin. I am nervous, excited, scared, overwhelmed, and expectant. It’s going to be incredible...incredibly difficult, but incredibly beautiful! I cannot wait to share it all with you very soon!

With shaky steps, a grateful heart, and the desire to give it all.