Really Living

I wonder, at the end of my life, will someone say of me that I had reached my death by really, truly living?

Because we will you know. We will reach the end of our lives and fade away in death. And I wonder if people will believe and know that I really lived well – that I gave everything I had in this life to make it more beautiful and full for those who know me… I’m reading a book right now with some great questions to ask:

“How fast can we run? How deeply can we laugh? Can we ever give more than we receive? How much gratitude can we show? How many of the least of these can we touch along the way? How many seeds will we get into the ground before we ourselves are planted?” – Death by Living, N.D. Wilson

photo source: Found on weheartit.com

photo source: Found on weheartit.com

With questions like these, how can we care about missing suitcases on a trip or flat tires when we’re in a rush or plugged sewer lines that take a week to fix (yeah, that happened)? How could we ever think that our lives were so consumed by these small and insignificant happenings?

LIFE IS SO MUCH MORE THAN THIS.

Life. Like my tiny new niece, Averi Sue, who I will pray over and watch grow and invest time and energy and lots of sore knees as I crawl around with her on the floor… I will watch her as her whole life unfolds – and I think that sense of awe and wonder makes life more precious. More finite. More amazing…

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I want to run to the end of this life with everything I’ve got. I want to be spent for the Father, for the Kingdom that He’s allowing me to be a part of. And I want to invest deeply in the life of little Averi, of those God continually places in front of me. For at the end, I want people to truly say that I died by really living.

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From Where Does your Strength Come?

When you’re on the edge of the cliff, where do find the courage to leap?

When you reach the top of the mountain and you see a journey you’ve survived and the breathtaking view at the top, who do you praise? 

Path taken

When world falls apart where do you land?

When you’re stumbling and struggling to take even one more step forward, where do you find the energy to walk on? 

You don’t really know the answers to these things until you’re staring them in the face. They come in the throws of it, as you’re hiking the mountain and you’re feeling every painful step up. If you’re a believer, I hope those questions all point you back to God. I hope you have seen that and felt that in your life. I hope you find that the inner strength that pushes you forward comes from the Spirit at work inside of you, often in the mundane everyday when we’re faithfully ploughing forward with hope and great expectations.

Path in Haiti

I’m seeing that with a bit of awe in my life right now as I watch some big things in life made somehow holy and peaceful – because there’s been a lot of the everyday time poured into it. I’m seeing it with a great sense of wonder in the life of a friend who is facing one of the toughest times of her life with a grace and peacefulness that is undeniably not of herself.

The ups and downs of life can’t just be avoided. But how we respond in the middle of them can be beautifully transformed. And it can, I think, be redemptive to many others too.

Ambiguous posts are often a little hard to follow, but I think what I’m trying to say here is just… “Carry on, Warrior.” Carry on in the everyday times with God, in the building up and diving deep and searching and committing a life to God. Because when we do it – and continually do it well – that foundation is there when we need it most. And the answers to those questions will flow off our lips with pure focus – “God.”

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Steps of Faith to Another City

I love Hebrews 11. It feels the greatest pep talk for Christianity I can imagine, and simultaneously the greatest paradox of our faith because it’s also the worst pep talk ever. The whole chapter recounts unmet promises, tragic separations and loneliness and persecution.

Sounds terrible, right? Not really. Because at the same time, there’s a beautiful story that is weaving in each man and woman’s life. Faith – this great and mysterious element to Christianity is something they are ultimately rewarded for. In fact, it says simply “the world was not worthy of them.”

photo source: cherokee-days.tumblr.com

photo source: cherokee-days.tumblr.com

“All these people where still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance. And they admitted that they were aliens and strangers on earth. People who say such things show that they are looking for a country of their own. If they had been thinking of the country they had left, they would have had opportunity to return. Instead, they were longing for a better country – a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them.” 

I love this. Like as believers in Christ, we live with a tangible knowledge that we are just passing through. This is NOT it. Burlap to Cashmere sums it up well in this song (which also happens to be one of my all-time favourites):

I think one of the things I love about this message is that it remains the same whether things are good or bad in life. In high times – when life is full and rich – there’s this promise of purpose and something greater. And when things are really low and hard and we’re weary in the trenches – that same promise helps us cling to a life after this one… and reminds us that “God is not ashamed to be called our God, for he has prepared a city for us.”

I take great comfort in this chapter, and it spurs me forward. No matter what physical country we find ourselves in, no matter what emotional state we are in, if we cling to the faith in a God that is bigger and doing something bigger than ourselves, we can have great hope.

What a powerful thing that is.

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PS – Check out the new page on my site called “Quotes” for some ongoing inspirational snippets!

Five Ways to Get Involved Internationally Right Here

I’ve been blessed with opportunities to travel around the world. Those experiences are rich, both in the new experiences and perspectives and the relationships that are formed. I look forward to many more trips like this throughout life – but you certainly don’t have to leave the country to experience at least a taste of the same!

Here’s a few ideas of where to start right where you are:

1. Go to your local Ethnic Restaurants and meet the people!

Ethnic Restaurants

You never know what doors can open up as you hit up some of the best restaurants around you. Traditional joints are usually small, run by a family with people who are friendly and would love new friends. Gather a couple friends and make it a point to bless those international families!

2. Join your local International House or ministry to refugees. 

Some cities have a plethora of ministries and ways to get involved with internationals. In my city, there’s I House, which offers support and community to women and children coming from overseas. Look in your city and see where you can plug in!

3. Find ways to cook together! League of Kitchens is a great example.

I just read about League of Kitchens and think this idea is awesome! We all connect over food, right? What opportunities and friendships can open up as we gather to cook together?

4. Pray with your friends.

prayer nights I’ve talked about this before, but the Ethnic Prayer Nights we do has just been incredible. Gather around with your friends and make it a fun night – but be intentional about praying for the nations. We’ve done a lot of new research through that, pulled out Operation World, and been so blessed by these experiences.

 5. Host exchange students! 

This is a new one for our family, and it’s been the best journey so far. What a powerful chance to share love with students around the world – and learn to embrace other cultures right in your home. I cannot describe how blessed we are by this experience.

There’s many other ways you can tangibly make a difference in a family’s life who has just moved to the States or who might just have some real practical needs you can help meet. But regardless, I think I can safely say that those experiences are some of the richest and most eye-opening you could have. You might even find that we’re not as different as we might sometimes think…

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Weaving Our Pain Together

“Compassion hurts. When you feel connected to everything, you also feel responsible for everything. And you cannot turn away. Your destiny is bound to the destiny of others. You must either learn to carry the universe or be crushed by it. You must grow strong enough to love the world, yet empty enough to sit down at the same table with its worst horrors.” – A. Boyd

Have you ever felt the pain of another’s journey etching its way onto your life? The kind where you’ve bared your soul and seen another’s and somehow become intertwined in a way that leaves you hurting and tasting something richly of relationship? I’ve been thinking about that, and some of those personal experiences – and wonder if it isn’t a bit like weaving…

In the traditional Ethiopian process, a weaver begins by painstakingly threading the loom. Threads are stretched and snapped and strained against the metal to fit in the groundwork for what will come. Stories of great pain, loss and tragedy are like that. Left individually, they seem to join the masses of nondescript thread, overwhelming to look at on its own.

Individual threads

But under the weaver’s skilful touch, it can become much more. You see, all along, the weaver has a plan – a beautiful design in mind. The base threads had to individually be in place for the fabric to come together. Eventually, other threads are brought in with different colors and textures, weaving in, crossing, slamming, colliding into a beautiful tapestry. And in the mesmerising rhythm of the loom, something far different than individual threads starts to take place.

Weaving

Weaving

I can get swept away watching a skilled weaver move pieces up and down – all while knowing there’s an end product in mind. And while I’m not very talented at the traditional loom, I am confident in the Master Weaver’s ability to make something beautiful out of our shared pain and victory. Perhaps there’s a richer tapestry in the making each time we sit down around those tables together. 

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A “Sun-Scorched Land”

Sometimes words don’t suffice. But what I lack in words, my heart sings with love. This beautiful little family we’re creating is knit together from great pain… and great hope. It is my privilege to journey with them and be a part of their lives today.

Moriya Women Each of these women have a very painful past of sexual exploitation, abuse, deep and the ravaging effects of desperate poverty. But as I see hope weaving a new chapter in their stories, real smiles are breaking forth. Is there anything more rewarding to witness? 

Beautiful colors of culture

Moriya Women with LSM

An Ethiopian friend shared this scripture with me, and I’ve thought of it often over the last few days as I navigate two worlds and think of the immense weight of the work still ahead.

The Lord will guide you always;
he will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land
and will strengthen your frame.
You will be like a well-watered garden,
like a spring whose waters never fail.
Your people will rebuild the ancient ruins
and will raise up the age-old foundations;
you will be called Repairer of Broken Walls,
Restorer of Streets with Dwellings. -Isaiah 58.11-12

LSM is helping vulnerable children become all they can be!

I am comforted and challenged by so many believers in Ethiopia (and across the globe) who carry on, often with heavy burdens of their own to overcome. It is humbling and inspiring to be a part of this work with them, and to be invited to share in the struggles.

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This journey to understand and serve my Master comes with a tension I gladly embrace. And like this friend reminded me, God will always be there to “satisfy our needs in a sun-scorched land.”

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PS – If you aren’t familiar with what LSM is doing to combat exploitation in Ethiopia, please learn more here! And if you haven’t checked out the purses these women are creating, you won’t want to miss this! 

The Depth of a Simple Thing

Ethiopians have this beautiful tradition of a coffee ceremony – a ritual woven deep into the culture where neighbours, friends and new acquaintances find a common bond. Already in this trip to Addis, I’ve shared in several ceremonies and fall deeper in love with the people I’m surrounded by in the process.

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Learning to roast the beans

Learning how to properly roast the beans Habesha (Ethiopian) style.

In the lengthy process of a coffee ceremony, there is an intimate bond of unhurried conversation, meaningful friendships that form and deepen amidst the smoky beans roasting, and the sense of elegant tradition weaving a common thread across cultures. I think Ethiopians have caught on to something important. They know the art of stopping, shedding life’s distractions and being present with those around them. And in the process of learning to properly roasting beans, I feel that deeper lesson sinking into my soul. This is community. 

Coffee ceremony

Community is being present to hear their stories, learn from each other and bridge a gap between cultures, experiences and all ages. It’s the power of shared life.

A traditional Ethiopian jebena is made from black pottery.

A traditional Ethiopian jebena is made from black pottery.

In a full ceremony, you’ll receive three cups of coffee (bunna). The first round is called Abol. Many add two to three small spoonfuls of sugar and powdered milk (making a macchiato that’s to die for) or just drinking with sugar (my favourite). Two more rounds follow, Tona and finally Baraka, which seals a blessing for all present. Learn more about the traditional ceremony here.

Brewing the coffee

Brewing the coffee

Coffee from Ethiopia is the best in the world. (If you don’t believe me, listen to the experts.) But the people that I’m blessed to share those ceremonies with are even better. Over the last few days I have shared many cups of this dark espresso with inspiring individuals who have endured much and overcome through the power of Christ.

Coffee Ceremony with family in Ethiopia

In the simple act of shared coffee, the fragrance I think reaches to the heavens because I believe that “where two or three are gathered in His name, He’s there with us.”

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