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  • In Pursuit

    It's not uncommon for me to get a little personal on my blog. If you've followed it for a while, you've seen a fair share of my deepest thoughts and desires. I am coming to the close of a season soon - finishing BSSM first year. I can't believe we graduate May 9th. That means it was a whole nine months ago, I was leaving England and preparing a cross-country trek that would change my life forever. 

    Many of the people I have met and come to cherish will be going back home for the summer, whether that be some other state or international location, but David and I will be staying in Redding. Though our surroundings will remain the same, our season will be different. We're changing up our living arrangements moving in with another couple, so we will go from a house of 6 (plus everyone's visitors) to just 4 (with more control of visitors). I am happy to have experienced living in community this year, but I will be equally happy to settle back down to fewer people in the place we call home. 

    For me, the summer will look like a full-time job (please, God, provide a job! I'm still in the application process), pursuing opportunities at the church as a local instead of a student, and writing. The thoughts proceeding these pursuits, though, are a combination of heart ponderings and prophetic words. (I didn't mean for that sentence to have so many Ps in it, but it turned out quite cool.) I'm preparing for something new and big, some aspects of it I know clearly, others are less tangible. What I mean to say is that David and I have been thinking of our future, and it more or less looks like this: completing second year, getting pregnant during second year (you probably know this has been a long time coming - just the idea of us actually beginning to try), moving back to North Carolina after second year (May 2015), having a baby, staying in NC through Christmas, and then heading back to England early 2016 (yes, with a young infant).  I've wrapped the scenario around my heart and mind dozens of times, and it feels right with my spirit. It feels right with what I've heard the Lord say to me, too. 

    I'm also wanting to finish my book as I have my first child. I think God is on this project. It might be naive to imagine my first novel actually being published, but it's my dream - so I can't think that aim is too high. I've been trying to sort my thoughts on the matter, and it's hard when I live in such an encouraging culture here at Bethel, but beyond kind words from my writing group here or my obvious hope for this thing, there is a calling I've accepted to be in the coming media and arts reformation for the Kingdom. My biggest desire for my words are to be culture shifting - words that are read and then spark discussion and heart transformation. The subject matter of my novel is certainly something the world is currently craving, and I want to impact both a Christian and non-Christian audience. 

    It is all so massive seeming. I'm clinging to this prophetic word I got while I was in South Africa. One of the pastors at one of the churches we ministered at spoke to me of an acceleration in my life. Like something I might think would take five years, for example, would take 5 months with God, and that I was going into a scary season - not fear, he clarified - but that scariness with the Father that blows your mind, and you feel like you might not be able to handle it, but then it just becomes fun, fun, fun. 

    There are other words I've received that reiterate this new season of taking care of myself - seeing to my own heart's needs and desires instead of just everyone else's around me. What joy this brings me as David and I prepare to embark on something very new and not altogether understood by some closest to us. But it is this walk that we take with God, and it is Him alone who we answer to, and so we shall always consult His desires first and then our own. He likes to hand it right back to us, though, in my experience, and He happily asks me what is it that I desire. This things listed here are those I desire greatly. May God blow His abundant grace on them. 

  • On Writing

    I sat down with a coach today to get my butt in gear. I mean, if you don't, your dreams will sit on the back burner untouched for who knows how long? I've written 65,000 words of a novel so far. That's a dream I don't want sitting on the back burner anymore. 

    So, this coach, a fellow classmate of mine, sat me down and got me talking about my goal with this novel. It was a dream to sit for an hour and half and have someone listen to me about a huge passion and this little baby of mine the book has become. In brilliant coaching style, he affirmed my dreams and told me it was certainly possible. 

    I have a plan now - at least a plan that's forming. I have a goal for this week even, and that's one step closer to achieving the ultimate goal of finishing this first draft. After it's all written, I can start working toward getting it published. But for now: write, write, plan, write, outline, pray, write, plan, write, outline, and write some more. I'm so hopeful about it I'm writing a blog about writing my novel. I don't think that's a waste of time. This is building anticipation for both you and me. 

    More than anything, I'm going to need support. I have quite a few writerly friends that I know will offer me guidance when I ask for it. I'm going to need readership, though - like when it's all said and done. I hope that anyone reading this write now would actually be willing to buy a book I wrote. 

    Here's to the next 14 months or so of seeing this novel come to fruition in its entirety. Oh, God, breathe on it! 

  • I Found the Lion - Part 2

    I found the Lion in the healings that took place as we said simple prayers of faith wherever we went. For me, personally, it was the first time someone's ear opened after I prayed for them. It was so casual, too: "Jesus, we release healing to her ear in your name, come and open the ear now," I prayed. "Do you feel anything?" "Yes, it's opened. I can hear out of it now," she said. No exclamation. No surprise. Just a smile as wide as her ears.  "You can? Oh my goodness!" I cried. "Praise the Lord!" And she praised the Lord, too, then got so happy - the kind of delirious joy that makes you laugh and sway. We just happily praised God in that moment for what He does. All smiles.

    There were many healings and salvations just like that throughout our trip, and countless people were encouraged and strengthened by our pouring out of love and individual ministry. It's a wonder how many people just need to hear that God knows them and loves them. Even people in the church. 

    The Lion was perhaps a bit more discreet at times. Our second night in South Africa, my world was turned upside down. That was the first time we went to a township, which is where the poorest of the poor live. It's literary thousands of shacks for homes lined up on top of each other with dirt roads in between. We met up with a pastor who has a church in the middle of it, and he took us through narrow alleyways and dirt pathways to the place they pitch their tent to have church. As we walked along, hoards of children - barefoot and smiling - came and grabbed our hands to walk with us, ready to follow us wherever. Some as young as 2 or 3 walked with us. I had no idea where their parents were. Somewhere nearby, I supposed, but that is life there. I was seen throughout our trip with a nice camera around my neck, courtesy of one of my teammates who let me use it to photograph our journey, but it was suggested that I not bring it here. We captured some moments on our iPhones, but I wish I was more aware of what to take shots of that night. I was more inwardly processing as it was my first time being in such a place - a real third world type environment in the midst of a first world country, which blew my mind. My friend Ciani noticed I was one of the only ones not holding the hand of a child as we walked through, and she encouraged one of them to take my hand. I gladly accepted the little one, but I was just undone. I began to see the Lion more clearly as we got back to where we had parked our van. A team from the church had brought their sound system and keyboard, and we were led in a time of true South African worship - fast paced and fun. 

     

    That guy on the keyboard wasn't holding back, huh? From there, we spoke the message of God's love, and we saw people healed and saved that night. When some of the men asked for prayer, it was for a job. I guess anyone anywhere wants to get out of poverty. Knowing I was only there to bring a bit of joy was hard, because as the sun set, we couldn't stay. For our safety, they said, we needed to get out of there before dark. But those children were left there. What of their safety? I shuddered to think that bad things happen there at night. But I had to move on. I knew on a trip like ours, we wouldn't be rescuing anyone out of that life. But we shed light on the ultimate Savior, and I believe the Lion waits there and shows himself to those who will see. 

    I saw an actual lion (and lioness) on safari halfway through our trip at Pilanesburg National Park. It was a lifelong dream to go on safari (although I'll have to go again since I experienced this one without my husband). We also saw giraffe, zebras, an elephant, hippo, warthogs, black rhino, wildebeest, springbok, kudu, interesting birds, and monkeys. We slept in a "tent" on a concrete slab with a bed, refrigerator, and tea kettle in it, but we were out in the wild. On the way back from the bath house once, we saw a zebra and countless springbok just hanging out. I kept waiting for Timon and Pumbaa to come and sing to me. Although, we think Rafiki visited one of the guy's tents overnight hitting the side of it and making noises! These were certainly memories I'll cherish with my team. A huge storm rolled in the night we arrived at the park. By the time we hit the sack, huge thunder and lightning strikes sang us to sleep. But Ciani and I were awake chatting about life and love and God and BAM! A thunderclap seemed to hit right over us. "Wanna push our beds together?" she asked. "Yes!" I replied. Even grown women get a fright in the middle of the South African wild at night! 

    A safari sunrise: 

    I'll post the other safari photos in an album. 

    The last thing I'll share about my experience in South Africa is the personal breakthrough I received in going on a trip without my husband. The first thing to note is that it will never need to happen again! We missed each other so much, but we both received revelation about our union as we ministered separately. For me, when it comes to ministry or stepping out in faith, I have often hid behind David. I put myself in his shadow in the name of godly submission. Never did he ever put himself over me, but I would gladly choose to see Him be the one to do or be in front. I've done my fair share of ministry, don't get me wrong, in our youth ministry or when we were house parents, but I knew in my heart, that I had come to a place of settling in my heart: if it was David who saw big and amazing things happen for God then no need for me to go after them, because I'd get the side effect anyway. Part of my whole journey at BSSM has been to rid myself of this sort of thinking.

    But I found the Lion once more within myself, his roar a little more ferocious this time than ever before. I saw myself show up and be powerful on this trip to South Africa. I saw what I can bring to my marriage and our ministry together. There's no more need to hide! I've got everything it takes to be a Kingdom-bringer, too. David is thrilled I've caught sight of this new confidence, because it's only going to empower him all the more as well. In short, my faith has risen to a more equal playing field with my husband's. I can't wait to see how much fun we have from here. 

    I thank South Africa for all it brought to me - the new experience, culture, and self-confidence. In many ways, I found home there, a place I know I could belong. But that's always the case these days. Each new place the Lord takes me to, I see His heart for that place, and I fall in love. 

    I reserve a special thanks to those who supported me in this journey through donations and prayers. As I've said before, I was completely overwhelmed by the financial support raised. Back in November, I really wasn't sure I'd be on this trip, but when it came down to it, the money came through. What a blessing to know so many people wanted me on this journey as much as I wanted to be. Thank you, God - it is all because of You!

     

  • I Found the Lion

    I've been back from South Africa for over a week now. I'd be there again right now if I could, but I'd have to take my husband with me this time. I've been ruminating about my trip processing what all took place. Let me tell you about the Lion who showed up there. I had said beforehand that I was looking for Him, remember? 

    I found Him first in the sunrise on the plane. 

    We had spent the night in the skies above almost the entire length of the continent of Africa from Frankfurt, Germany. I would look at the map and see where we were: the Sahara, the Congo, Botswana, and finally South Africa. I thought about how thousands of feet below me there were things happening that I had heard about: starving children, murders, rapes, human monstrosities. I am not so naive that I don't recognize that those things are actually happening all over the world wherever I'm flying above (even in my own country of America), but this was my first time to Africa. How many stories and images in the media have I been bombarded with of these things as a definiton of Africa? It was only natural of me to think of these things. However, I could not deny that as the sun rose as we neared South Africa, a different brilliance and warmth filled the cabin than I have ever experienced before. It was the Lord's presence welcoming me. He goes before us, and He was already there - that Lion. He gently spoke to me of how He hasn't forgotten of the terrible things that happen in Africa, or anywhere else, he just sees them from a higher perspective where there is light and hope. 

    Now, having been to at least South Africa and having conversations with one of my fellow teamates who is from Nigeria, I now see the beauty and light that is Africa. As this friend, Niyi, said in his talk to university students our first Sunday there, "It's time that the continent of Africa not be called the 'Dark Continent' anymore but the 'Light Continent!'" It was such a priveledge to get to be even a tiny part of what God is up to there. I don't want to downplay my individual or team's impact in those two weeks there though. I'm still understanding in part and probably won't ever understand the full scope of influence we had on the churches and people we ministered to in that time. More on that later.

    I found the Lion again in the food, sweet Jesus, I found him there! We were fed so incredibly well while there. The conversion rate of the South African currency is roughly 10 "rand" to 1 American dollar. So a meal at a nice restuarant - I mean a meal that would cost us close to $20 - would be something like 70 or 80 Rand - $7 or $8! So we were able to eat out alot on our trip. These were the times I felt like I was actually on holiday and not on a mission trip. I also felt like that when we'd come back "home" to retire in the evenings. We stayed at guest houses (more cozy, home-like motels) our entire stay instead of host homes, so a breakfast of fresh fruit and juice, yogurt, cereal, tea, and coffee was always laid out for us in the mornings. Each guest house we stayed at had hired maids that would tidy our rooms and for a nominal fee wash/iron our laundry. But back to the food: South Africa loves their meat. Beef, Springbok, and Ostrich steak are like staples it would seem. I tried to bring home some famous 'biltong' (jerky), but customs wouldn't allow it in the USA at the airport unfortunately.

    In many ways, this country reminded me of America: meat lovers, similar gun laws (they also love to hunt - comes with the meat loving, right?), wide open spaces and no major public transit system (you basically have to have a car to get around), the European migration and influence in history, and the racial tension issues between whites and blacks. Don't get me wrong, America and South Africa have had very different struggles in this issue, but struggles all the same. Obviously, for both countries, immense victories have been made, and I believe they will only continue with how God is moving. 

    I also found the Lion in my teammates: The solid, strong men who always looked out for us women and led us into impactful times of ministry; My fellow women who nurtured and took care of hearts, sensitive to where the Spirit was moving; My roomate throughout the trip, Ciani, an intense, compassionate, and absolutely legit woman of God who brought me laughter, peace, and true friendship as I got to know her and do ministry together; Our team leaders, Rich and Danielle, who navigated the waters whether they were smooth or tumultous; Our liason, Liliana, a former BSSM student herself, who guided us through the cultural differences with insight and enthusiasm; Our bus driver, Bruce, who was hired to get us where we needed to be everyday - he was a real highlight to me as he was totally accetped as one of us, his heart opening more to more of God, his back getting healed - he is a Father and a beacon of light to his sphere of influence. I think I might miss him the most. 

    I definitely found the Lion in the churches we attended. South Africans know God in a way I still pray Americans can accept Him. Of course there are plenty of people who say they know God but don't actually know him personally, but I never met anyone there who would block me out or shut me off when I spoke God or even Jesus' name. Even the university students I spoke to were interested and open. They were all so polite, too. Some probably polite to a fault in that they'd let you speak, patiently listen and then walk away seemingly untouched. But they would listen. That's a top notch quality. South African churches are also largely charasmatic, and beyond that, native culture has always had a place for the supernatural, so words of prophecy, speaking in tongues, prayers for on-the-spot healing are quite normal, which obviously made our ministry come more naturally - or I might say SUPERnaturally. Anyway, the Lion is strongly roaring in a married couple who leads worship at His People Church, WITS University campus. We heard a song played our first Sunday in South Africa that basically blew our minds. We were all like, "What song is this?" We found out later it was one they wrote themselves. I am all about churches writing and playing their own worship songs, so I was thrilled. They haven't recorded the song yet, but we got video of it, and our team would often be found singing it or humming it along our journey. I heard the Lion's roar in another song sang in the Zulu language: "Malibongwe." You can listen to it here: 

    The girl in the video is the wife in the couple I mentioned above. The words of the chorus mean "Let your name be praised." We'd often be heard singing this song throughout our trip, and as I listen to it now, I get tears in my eyes thinking about the joy I experienced there. 
  • In Search of a Lion

    I leave for South Africa on my BSSM mission trip on Wednesday. I have this feeling in my gut. I can only describe like this: it's like walking a path toward a destination I know nothing about. All around me are beautiful trees and lovely flowers along the walk. It's been some time on the path, and I turn a corner. I have to duck through a thicket of trees, but as a come through, the ground beneath me becomes sand instead of dirt, and as I lift my head, I realize I'm on a beach with the crashes of mighty waves before me. The surprise of this ocean overwhelms me, and all I can do is run toward the waters and jump in. 

    The sound of the sea is like the roar of the lion I'm out to find on this trip. I will have the opportunity to see a wild lion in person, as we're most likely going on safari for our free day, but I'm ever so eager to  see the Lion of Judah come alive to me like never before. 

    My spirit is making declarations in these short hours before I go. I was given a word today that encouraged me in seeing new things and iradicating the "I can'ts" and "that's impossibles" during this venture. I'm in the middle of reading GOD'S GENERALS for school, and today I read the chapter on a man called John G. Lake. I read about how he went to South Africa to live and minister there, settling in Johannesburg (where I'm going.) He said this about his time there: "From the very start it was though a spiritual cyclone had struck." This is a statement I'm making for my team and our time there. The cyclone, the ocean, the lion - the power of God in all its forms be displayed for His glory! 

    ~~~~***~~~~

    “He'll be coming and going" he had said. "One day you'll see him and another you won't. He doesn't like being tied down--and of course he has other countries to attend to. It's quite all right. He'll often drop in. Only you mustn't press him. He's wild, you know. Not like a tame lion.” 

    From THE LION, THE WITCH, AND THE WARDROBE

  • Saved, Healed, Delivered

    That's what the greek word 'sozo,' which is used in the New Testament for salvation means - that every part of you is saved, healed, and delivered. At Bethel, they have a whole ministry team dedicated to this. It's called having a "sozo" session where you sit down with a trained individual who fascilitates you in a specialized session of prayer where you ask either the Father, Jesus, or Holy Spirit certain questions (depending on your situation) and you are led through breaking ties with old mindsets and set free into truths God has to replace them. 

    I've been here a whole six months, and today was my first sozo session. I guess I was a little intimidated by the idea. I mean, shouldn't I be able to hear God for myself on my own? While that's true, it's remarkable how allowing someone who is listening to Holy Spirit to guide you through things can change the way you hear God speak to you. You wouldn't get certain answers unless you knew the right questions to ask. 

    So, David and I decided we'd each have a sozo. And I'm happy to admit that it blew away my expectations. I left feeling a lot freer than I did when I came in. Though I won't go into detail of all that was discussed in my session, I did want to share a few beautiful images the Lord gave me. He speaks to me often through visual images in my mind's eye.

    I was guided to ask the Father how he sees me. I've seen the picture before: I'm a little girl in a dress frolicking in a field. Then I asked where the Father was in this scene. He was off to the side a bit, away from me, but only so that I could run to him and he could pick me up to play with me! Later in the session, I asked Holy Spirit where he was in this field. To my delight, he told me he was the butterfly fluttering about. He came and rested on my hand. In asking what this meant, he reassured me that he comes and goes and rests where he wants to. No one can control him, conjure it up, or decide where he will land. In a school of supernatural ministry, it's easy to get caught up in Holy Spirit power like it's a magic, at our disposal to do with what we will. But he isn't so commonplace actually. Not totally unpredictable or too ethereal for us to experience either, but nonetheless, to be revered. I thought he so beautifully expressed his nature to me. I was so inspired by the experience. In this same vision, he revealed that it's this butterfly-like guise of his that is my creative inspiration and muse. 

    God is undeniably real. 

  • The Social Scene

    I'm talking about the online social scene. It's tricky, isn't it? So much fun AND functional, but it has the potential to literally take over your life, right? 

    It had for me - I woke up instantly connected. Went to bed browsing everyone's life. A bit detrimental as it took away from time I could have been doing much more productive things, or connecting with the people right in front of me, including my husband. That one struck a cord with me, as David had let me know how often he saw me on my phone. So one day a couple weeks ago, I decided I was going to take a little break from the posting and browsing. Here's what I learned in those 10 days:

    1. It doesn't actually change much in my life to not be constantly aware of what everyone else is up to. It's great, don't get me wrong. But it's really not as necessary as I thought it was. 

    2. There are some people I actually do think enhance my life in this way. These are the people that I will keep following. I hate to say it, but it really comes down to that. So I'm going through and actually unfollowing people or organizations that have just cluttered things up a bit. I know that sounds harsh, but no one can keep up with so many people and stay sane. At least not me. 

    3. I have a really weird, anal-retentive habit of browsing through until I finish seeing absolutely everyone's posts since the last time I got on. This is only for twitter and instagram, but it was seriously intense. I would spend an hour going through it all if it took that long. And that HAS to stop. 

    So now I'm giving myself new rules when it comes to social media: 

    1. Resist the urge to post EVERYTHING. I will stick to the important and/or proud moments of my life that are actually worth posting. We all know those posts that are seriously ridiculous. Who needs to know that I am listening to a cool, new band I found? Or that I'm currently eating some amazing pizza. Not really anyone. I was only doing it to look cool. I had to be honest with myself. 

    2. Browsing through should only be during truly free times when there isn't something else I should be doing or when I'm giving myself a break from life - because that is valid for short periods of time. 

    3. No comparing my life to others when I see something that makes me feel jealous. That's the worst thing that has come out of social media, and I'm just done with it. My life is amazing, and it's time that I quit thinking "they are so much better than me." Also just being really honest with myself here. 

    I believe I'm on the road to a much healthier relationship with my iPhone. Here's to balance and moderation!