Why I Went Silent

It turns out that it's not easy to hide in today's world.  

 

It's incredibly difficult to go from plugged in on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat, answering emails, phone calls, voicemails, and messages to disengaged and seeking solace within the deepest places of the soul.  What's even worse is the guilt I feel when I unplug.  It's a sense of responsibility in the most unhealthy of ways.  I have a responsibility to check Facebook, reply to messages, check voicemails, snap back--or at least that's what I've become accustom to.  We're all well aware that it's not healthy and I could go on for the next hour typing the ways in which it has impacted the way we function.  However, that's not why I'm writing this post.

 

I'm writing because in July God was telling me that my life would be much different this year.  He was ushering me out of the ministry that I was in, FCAV, and into a very scary new career path.   Coming off of an emotionally and spiritually exhausting summer leading five amazing chicks, I didn't want to fathom entering the biggest challenge of my life.  

 

Feeling as if I was the worst Christian to ever exist, I heard a sermon on Jonah.  Turns out when we were learning about that hero in Sunday school, the only part I retained was that God liked him a whole lot and then God saved him from a whale.  Boy, was I misunderstanding and keeping the story PG.

The word of the Lord came to Jonah son of Amittai: ‘Go to the great city of Nineveh and preach against it, because its wickedness has come up before me.’

But Jonah ran away from the Lord and headed for Tarshish.
— Jonah 1:1-3

Sometimes I read the Bible like I would read an instruction booklet from Ikea.  Other times, I realize that the greatest heroes that ever existed are actually just as broken as I am.  I can confidently say that I don't feel like I'm equipped or confident enough to be going after what I believe God has called me to, but I can tell you that I'm going after it.  Every day I'm doing all I can to remain faithful in my pursuit of what He called me to.

 

Instead of running to Tarshish, I went silent.  I over-spiritualized this time as "processing" or "seeking the Lord" when in all reality, I was hiding because I was scared.  I was frightened that I might have to change my life to follow God's calling. Turns out that the guilt I felt by unplugging was because I tried to flee.  I let a few people into my broken spirit, but I tried to hide in a world of friends and family who wouldn't let me--Praise God for you!  

 

Now it's time to publicly run after God's calling on my life and possibly fail trying, knowing that nothing is more worthy of pursuit than the Lord I love.

My Host Family

As we sit down to dinner I notice how the meal has been tailored to fit my special needs and desires—gluten free and vegan.  Already my heart is warmed. 

Seated at the table are three of the sweetest little girls.  Charlotte, an 8 year old brunette with the biggest smile, talks about her day and how she has suddenly decided to become vegan.  Less than two minutes later this decree is quickly revoked by a strong desire to eat ice cream.  Seated across the table is Audrey, also 8 years old.  She has the most beautiful blonde hair and hopeful eyes.  Audrey has cerebral palsy, which keeps her from verbalizing words, but doesn’t stop her from communicating through sign language.  She is incredibly smart and knows exactly what is going on around her.  Audrey’s smile and laugh are pure joy—absolute, perfect joy.  Finally, in the corner high chair playing with plastic forks and spoons, little Ruby grins.  Ruby is 6 months old and is constantly smiling.  Having very little experience around kids, I have gotten used to crying babies.  As if Ruby knows, she offers grace in the form of a big toothless smile and sweet attempts at words.

Dave and Marni, the loving parents of these girls, sit down to eat with all of us gathered around.  During dinner we get to know each other and discuss the epic adventure that led me to Newport Coast.  I am suddenly faced with the reality of how much I miss the family dinners I had growing up.  Every single dinner, until volleyball started.  As I drift away from memories and casually slip back into the conversation, I notice that Audrey has spilled her full cup of almond milk.  Without hesitation Marni stops eating, comforts her, and grabs a towel off the counter.  After gently cleaning the spilled milk, she returns to the refrigerator to fill her cup.  Marni greets Audrey with a full cup of almond milk.  Audrey smiles, signs her appreciation, and continues her meal.  She spills her milk a few more times and is relentlessly met with love and a full cup.

I stop eating and realize what a beautiful picture of grace is before me.  Little Audrey might not realize it yet, but her parents are teaching her the grace of God.  Audrey would have been fine with less almond milk, probably the amount that she could logically handle—but Marni’s grace is greater than logic.  She wants her little girl to be taken care of and know that she is loved.  She doesn’t give Audrey the half-full cup she deserves; she gives her more—the full cup.

Dinner with my host family for the first time was the perfect preface for the relationship we share.  Already they have given me more grace, love, and trust than I deserve.  They took me in as a perfect stranger and have made me feel welcome beyond anything I could have imagined.

The way they handle their lives, from raising their girls, to making Jesus their highest priority, is incredible.  Like every other person on this earth, they are not perfect, but they have been placed perfectly in my path by a loving and intentional God.  For that, I am grateful.

Please join me in thanking God for my host family and asking Him to continue to bless them.

"Rule 17: Don't Be a Hero"

If you're one of my close friends you know that I've been struggling.  I've been trying my hardest to raise support for my position with California FCA Volleyball.  I've been working at it for weeks and trusting God to reward my faithfulness. (Psalm 37:34Philippians 4:19, Matthew 6:31-32, Matthew 7:11, etc.)

Through this process I've noticed a trend in those I've asked for support.  I have been asking people to pray about how much God wants them to give.  I want them to get an amount from God, not from me or from their guilt.  I want the process of giving to ministry to be a positive one.  I want the process to be beautiful and blessed.  I do not want it to be selfish. That is exactly what I don't want.

The trend is that people have been committing to donate a certain amount per month and they follow it with, "I'm sorry that's all I can give right now."   The Lord knows I'm downright ecstatic for any amount.  However, I understand this mindset.  I think we all have this inner drive to save the day.  We all want to be the person who makes it happen.  We want to be the hero.

Truthfully, I'd have a hard time giving someone just $10 a month.  Even as I write this it seems like such a small amount.  That's about $2.50 per week.  Or realistically, that's half of a Starbucks latte per week.  To me, that's not enough to save the day.  That doesn't push that person over into meeting their goal.  It doesn't make me the hero of that story.  But that's a selfish mindset.

The reality is that $10 a month is the difference between me going to California or staying here to continue fundraising.  $10 each month from 200 people would send me on my way.  That's only 15% of my Facebook friends.  That's nothing.  However, that's everything.  200 people could get me to California and allow me to serve high school girls.  But those 200 people would have to have the mindset that I am solidifying in my own heart, "Every little bit helps.  Every little bit honors God."

A few days ago I turned the TV on and caught the epic film Zombieland at its beginning.  The movie is funny, gross, and full of zombies.  Throughout the journey, Columbus gives his rules to living in a zombie-infested world.  One that stuck out to me was Rule 17: Don't Be a Hero.                 

See, we already have a Hero.  We don't need to be the hero because that's not our role in this story.  We're already safe and saved.

 

Please pray for me as I continue this journey.  I need all the love and prayers I can get. 

 

You're Not Following Me on Instagram

"Why should we follow you? You won't follow us back." 

 This was the response I got when I told my campers that we could all stay in touch via social media.  While it was a very simple and completely honest response, it was truly profound as well. 

What they're referring to is the fact that I don't follow anyone on Instagram

 

Notice that Instagram claims I follow 4.

But I truly do not follow a soul.

My campers did not know why I don't follow anyone and I simply did not have time to explain myself.  However, what they said still shakes me.  They wanted someone who would follow them.

That very word is eerie.  It creeps me out that we all use the word follow  so loosely.  When Jesus used it, he meant it:

"Jesus said to them, 

'Truly I tell you, at the renewal of all things, when the Son of Man sits on his glorious throne,  you who have followed me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.'" -Matthew 19:28 (Emphasis mine)

Today, however, we follow people left and right.  Can they inspire me to be more fit? Follow.  Do they post a lot of inspiring quotes? Follow.  Do they post cute pictures of dogs? Follow.  Do they post every day? Follow.  Do they post recipes of healthy food? Follow.  Are they pretty? Follow.  Do I want them to follow me? Follow.

Truthfully, it's way easier to follow all of those people than Jesus, but that's a different blog for a different day.  

The real issue at hand is that these girls wanted to be followed.  They wanted followers. They wanted to know that someone wanted to see what they posted.  They wanted someone to like their pictures and comment on them.  They were craving relationships in a society that counts them as follows.

For me, this means that how I disciple young women must change.  We live in a society that tells us what to do, what to like, what to wear, and yet we crave someone who will just come with us.  We want to be accompanied by someone who will just be there.  Not necessarily someone who wants to tell us what to do, but more someone who will just hang out and be there.  Someone who will laugh when something is funny, cry when the moment is sad, and smile when something extraordinary happens.

Let's redefine the way we disciple high school girls.  Let's let them be heard, liked, and followed.

 

A Biblical Mindset in a Postmodern America

Just recently I accepted my dream job with Fellowship of Christian Athletes Volleyball (FCAV).  I am getting the opportunity to mentor high school girls and solidify the foundation of who they are in God, not our culture.  It has the potential to be the most amazing endeavor of my life.  However, I haven't started yet.  In fact, I don't know when I'll start.

I've always known that all employees of FCA had to form a support team and build their own income.  This was a part of my decision in taking the position with FCAV, but since I have a "starter" mind, I would have been prepared to raise a million dollars that first day out of pure excitement and passion.

The difficulties came after I was about one week into fundraising.  I was overtaken with the mindset of fear and guilt.  For some reason I thought that I was asking people to take their hard-earned money and invest in Lisa's idea.  That's not it.  I pray that it's never it.  With this mindset I was feeling guilt when I talked to people about money.  I wanted to jump out of my skin or hide somewhere because I felt so bad asking them to invest in me.

Part of this was rooted in how I was raised.  I was raised to never ask anyone for anything, especially money.  I was taught that at the drop of a hat I must be willing to give the shirt off my back, but also that I should never be asking for anything.  This mindset I harbored was completely wrong and it hindered my submission to God. 

After praying and repenting, I realized that I am not asking anyone to feel bribed, guilty, ashamed, or pressured.  I am asking people I love to pray and ask God how much He wants them to give to this mission.  They are not investing in Lisa's idea.  They are giving back to God's Kingdom from what God originally gave them.  This is not only Biblical (Numbers 18:19aLuke 8:1-3, 1 Corinthians 9:13-14, etc.), it is also necessary for this high school ministry to begin.  For these girls to be mentored and coached, I must look to the Bible and believe that this is truly how God provided for the apostles, priests, the Levites, and for Jesus Christ.

Fundraising for ministry work is Biblical and I cannot be successful at it unless I maintain that mindset.  Once I get all of the funds raised I can start my job with FCAV planning and developing the structure in which the girls I mentor will be forever changed.  I just need to fully submit my mind, heart, and every breath to Him.

I would be honored if you would take a moment to pray that I will view this as the beautiful opportunity it truly is. 

 

My Mother's Journey to Heaven

Recently I have had some beautiful experiences.  I graduated with my master's degree, I turned 24 years old, and I accepted my dream job.  It truly has been a wonderful time to celebrate with friends and family.  However, this life is not a series of constant highs, void of lows.

Amongst the joy of these past few months I have experienced a vivid heartbreak that never really leaves me.  This pain is caused by the increasingly rapid decline of my mother.  

A few of my friends will remember who my mother was: a beautiful, caring, loving, woman.  She wanted the best for our family and for our future.  She loved us so much and with so much depth.  When we lived in Delaware and took the bus to school, she would walk us to the end of the driveway where the bus picked us up and then she got in her car and followed the bus to school--just to make sure we made it safely.  To my sister and I, she was heaven sent.

When I was in high school my mother started behaving in a way that puzzled me.  She would make comments and ask questions that were socially unacceptable.  Questions that could have been passed off as her being a mom and not being "cool" to us teenagers.  I didn't think much of it because she was still mom.  However, when she decided that she wanted to divorce my Dad, I had a horrible feeling.  It felt like something she would never do.

In the year after they separated and divorced, I was able to spend a lot of time with her.  Since my sister had been the girly girl growing up, she had the opportunity of hanging out with mom while I tried to catch frogs in the creek with all the neighborhood boys.  After my parents divorced, I was able to spend some quality time just being with my mom because she got the family house in the divorce.  My mother and I lived there while I finished high school.

This all changed when one day she decided that she wanted to move to California to be with her then boyfriend.  She wanted to do this right before my senior year of high school.  She told me that I could go with her and just finish my last year of high school in California.  As a young girl who just wanted her mother's love, I agreed.  After attempting to tell my high school coach, I was told that it would be unrealistic for me to move across the entire country with my mom and her boyfriend.

I then told my mom that I might be able to move with her after the volleyball season was over.  She thought that would work and she waited.  She stayed until half way through my senior year when she sat me down at a local restaurant and said, "You don't love me enough.  I'm moving to California without you."  She had her mind made up, and I was left with no choice.  She was leaving.

The house that only the two of us lived in was packed into a Uhaul and shut for the night.  Our last night in our family home was spent with her asleep on the couch and me on the floor of her bedroom.  I laid where the bed had been and stared at the ceiling.  After finally getting to sleep, I woke to an empty house.  She was gone and hadn't said goodbye.  I clutched the blanket on the floor, grabbed the pillow, and left my childhood home for the last time.

Later that afternoon I called her and cried.  Even being a teenager who thought it was uncool to cry, I broke down.  I begged her to come home and told her I'd do anything to bring her back.  She explained that she was already well on her way and that I had my chance to love her when she was there.  I was broken.

Years passed and I visited her in California when I could, but I started to notice more and more changes.  She started to forget words.  I was unable to have conversations with her without her having to point to an object in order to say its name.  My sister and I were concerned and tried to help her as much as we could.

Fast forward to June of 2012.  Her fiance kicked her out of their house and told her to move back to South Carolina.  At this point she was so mentally gone that she obliged and decided to make several trips across the country.  With no job and very little money, she rented an apartment in the ghetto of Greenville.  She remained under the illusion that her apartment was nice and that she was going to get a job so that her and I could live together when I graduated.

In the Spring of 2013, after months of her struggling to pay rent and her bills, she hit her low.  She was unable to pay for anything and she refused to go to a shelter or food bank.  By an absolute act of God, my sister was able to take her to a hospital, get all legal papers taken care of, and receive a diagnosis within days.

Finally, after years of wondering, heartbreak, pain, and tears, we had a diagnosis.  As it turns out, none of this was her fault.  She just has a form of frontotemporal dementia.  This condition has been stealing her social functions, her words, her memories, her rationalization, and is now currently stealing her ability to perform simple daily tasks.  Her brain is deteriorating at a fast rate.

This obviously hurts me.  It tears me apart and every single day follows me around like a cloud hovering above my every movement.  But God has a perfect way of using everything for His glory and for the good of His children.  So I will wipe the tears from my eyes and push forward towards the purpose God has for me.

He will never stop being good.  He will never stop loving us.

Lake Trail Miracle

Some days I live a comfortable life, just talking to God and enjoying Him. Other days He forces me to desperately chase after Him as if my life depends on it. Today was a day of desperation.

To give you a little bit of background, I did a killer leg workout two days ago that consisted of walking lunges, squats, and plenty of sprints. My legs have been on fire and I've been waddling at best. So naturally, I decided to go for a run today. I figured I would just run that lactic acid right out of my legs.

I decided that the lake trail was a perfect place to connect with God while running. So off I went. After parking my car I grabbed my headphones, ipod (old iphone), armband, and key. I tied my key securely to my shoelace, locked the car, and began to walk towards the intercoastal. It was one in the afternoon and the sun melted the cool breeze. Hot, yet perfect.

I started my run and was joyful that I had already had a wonderful day. I listened to music that made my heart happy, the sun was shining, and I was outside. To add to the beauty of the day, my final master's degree class was only five hours away. With a great mood and a fun day ahead, I went on running for 45 minutes.

My legs were killing me and I was beginning to feel the toasty 82 degrees my phone had warned me of in the car. Earlier I had been determined to make it to the very end of the trail so that I could sit on the dock and watch fish swim below me, but my body told me otherwise. I turned back, still overjoyed.

15 minutes into the jog back to my car I looked down to find lonely shoelaces. My key was gone. As I felt a pain in my stomach, my brain alerted me of my circumstance. I had covered roughly three miles, turned around, gotten almost half way back, and then realized the key was missing. Immediately I turned back toward the furthest point, because that's what my head told me. No more than two seconds later, I stopped to pray, "God, please help me find this key."

To understand how I felt, you have to understand the weight of losing this key. If the key was lost I had no resources. I only had with me an unactivated iphone, headphones, and an armband. I had no identification, no way of getting in touch with anyone, nothing that would help. To top it all off, I was losing strength to keep going. My body was telling me I was done.

I was frantically running back to the furthest point repeating this one phrase, "Father, please." It was as if I couldn't even process other words. After about five minutes of running towards the furthest point, I knew I was going the wrong way. Trusting that the feeling was from the Holy Spirit, I quickly turned around and sprinted toward my car.

As I looked up, I saw two men holding leaf blowers, courteously waiting for me to pass. The look on my face had to have been shock with a hint of despair. I hadn't thought about my key being blown into the intercoastal or under some well-manicured shrub. I ran faster. As I sprinted I quickly scanned back and forth across the asphalt for a sign of my key. I was 12 minutes in, sore, tired, and still had nothing.

As I slowed to a walk, I stopped repeating my phrase and said to God, "I'm hot, weak, lost, and desperate. I can't do this if You don't help me." As soon as I said this I looked up, and there was my key. Just laying perfectly in the middle of the path.

I picked up my key with a huge smile, walked three steps, and landed knees-first in the grass. I covered my face with my hands and thanked the Lord for the desperation He let me feel. I also thanked Him for helping me.

God doesn't just love me, He cares enough to listen to me.