Beyond Borders

courage. faith. action.


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God gave you the sun.

The sky has been gray and dark and the rain has fallen for days. I am not sure when we last saw the sun cast shadows. It feels like Seattle with the cold and the rain and the dark. Except it’s not. And seasonal affective disorder might just being setting in, or maybe I am just weepy. And the last thing you said last night before bed? “I wish the sun would come out for my birthday.”

And then here it is, the morning of your birth.

It is still early and you are still sleeping, but you have to know that God brought the sun. It was only for a moment, but the sun glowed through the clouds and the fog. I didn’t know if it would last and I wanted you to see. I grabbed my phone and snapped some pictures right through the window. But they just dId not do it justice. The brilliant glow and the brightness that was spilling through the cracks of the blinds and dancing across the floor. I almost woke you from your dreams so you could breathe it in. But you were so peaceful.

I sat down next to you on the bed and brushed the hair from your face. I watched as your breath came and went. A steady slow rhythm. Memories of how I used to watch you breathe as a baby, how tiny you were, how I held you in my arms, how I could not believe that you were mine, how deep a love could really run, they all raced through my head.

Today, you are thirteen. If you want to be technical you won’t be thirteen until 4:45 pm, and yeah I am going to do just that. Be technical. Hold you to these last few hours of being twelve. Because I have to. Because once you turn thirteen I think it might all just be downhill. That i just might blink and you will be eighteen. The state will consider you an adult. We are closer to that than we are to you being that little baby that I held in my arms and watched breath. And I am just not ready.

I can’t help but wonder where all these years have gone. And what if I got it all wrong and what if I missed something, and that clock is about to roll over and you will officially be a teenager. Officially thirteen. Then what if it will be too late?

But there you are.

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This amazing young lady with more wisdom and grace than thirteen years can carry. I could tell you the obvious of the beauty that you are, but you can see that in the mirror. As you grow through your teen years I pray that the mirror does not become your friend. Because that mirror is a lie. It distorts and misaligns. And it’s all a lie. The only true beauty is that of your heart. And your heart sweet girl is full of beauty.

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Your heart is pure. And it shines. And this is not my doing, but God’s. You invited Him in and let Him fill all the secret places. You etched His words on your heart. And you trusted them.

And now I see you brave.

Conquering fears that once crippled you. Trusting that perfect Love that casts out fear and jumping in.That time you stood and sang His bow is on the strings… the time you sat through a thunderstorm without ears plugged tight with fingers… the time you danced in the puddles after the storm… that time you danced across a stage… It was right there on your face. A smile. The confidence. The brave.

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I pray you remember this feeling. I pray you always jump!

The clock is ticking and there is no stopping it. It’s not mine to stop. Time is always moving forward.

And there you are thirteen.

sydney

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And on this morning God gave you the sun.


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I tasted the Grace and it was good.

I left my home on Thursday morning an Allume Newbie and in just three days I returned home an Allume alum. What I learned in the days between went far beyond anything I could have imagined.

Nearly a year ago when I felt God saying He wanted me to go to Allume, I thought He might just be thinking of the wrong person. Why would I, a girl who plays a writer on a blog, need to go to a blogger’s conference? A girl who has not been away from home in over 12 years without her husband and kids in tow? And not to forget that I would be going to a conference in which I did not know a single person that would be attending?

I didn’t have the answer, but I listened. I bought my ticket. Booked my room. And I waited. I waited seven months for this conference. As I followed Allume on Facebook and Twitter, I quickly identified myself with the hashtag #allumenewbie. Social media became my friend, and I began to learn what this blogging conference was all about. Or, so I thought.

In the weeks leading up to the conference, schedules were announced, twitter parties were had, and it became a reality. I was headed to this conference and I was in over my head, because these women were rockstars and I was an impersonator.

In a meager attempt to plan my weekend (you can read that as control it) I selected the sessions I would attend, bought more than enough food just in case I could not eat anything, you know, because of my multitude of food allergies. I packed piles of clothes. Clothes for when I felt good, clothes for the migraine days (because, well, I left my house with one) and clothes for the in between for when I was just felt blah. But most importantly, I planned to be inconspicuous. Just to blend. If I blended then no one would realize I was not a writer, and the writing police would not find me and quickly ban me from this event.

headed for allume road to allume

The morning of the first day, migraine raging, I left my house with just enough time to make it for registration. I rushed in franticly. Found my room. Dropped off my bags and out the door to the welcome mingle I went. It was kind of overwhelming, in fact, I must have had a neon sign flashing over me “Allume Newbie!” Because the ever amazing word weaver Jennifer Lee meets me in the hall and asks if this was my first year.

Of course, when I opened my mouth to speak, my words sounded kind of like Charlie Brown’s teacher… wha wha wha wha wha wha… yeah like that. Then I might have even said I have your book, The Best Yes, insert foot in mouth here, this is so not her book! Love Idol! It’s Love Idol! I have it on my bookshelf waiting to be read. I knew those writing police were on to me and would only be a matter of minutes before I was tossed out onto the street. Yup. Allume newbie I was indeed.

Jennifer, she was ever so gracious. She smiled and nodded at my sheer embarrassment, took my awkwardness in stride and led me to the welcome mingle. She even told me that if I found myself without a dinner partner to come find her. She is a Jesus rockstar.

In the hours to come as I sat at dinner and listened to Logan’s opening keynote, my world turned upside down. God did not bring me to Allume to become a better blogger or writer, He brought me there because He loves me. He wanted me to feel that deep in my heart, to never doubt my importance to Him.

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He wove that thread through every keynote, every session, every chance meeting with another blogger… He loved me. At times I could not feel my breath, the weight of His love was somewhat overwhelming. Sometimes it’s hard to look real love in the eye without looking away. It is a love so holy, it seems shameful not to avert the eyes. But He would not have any of that, He was chasing me, pursuing me. He wanted me to see, to feel, to breath in His love. He was not going to let me go engrained in my soul.

He sought me through the sessions and keynotes to come and I scribbled notes in my notebook, trying to hang on to every. Single. Word. Why is it I do not know shorthand?

Here are a few of my favorite quotes from the weekend…

Rachel Jackson – We need to live everyday as if we are killing the enemy, even if that means just getting up.

Annie Downs – Lies – I have nothing to offer, no one is following me. Truth – Even if you have one follower you are mentoring them!

Sara Hagerty – God says I see your hidden moments and I like what I see. We have stories you and me, let’s build a history of just you and me.

Emily Freeman – (my paraphrase) Embrace wonder – as image bearers of a creative God we are called to fight for wonder.

Emily Wierenga – You are not defined by your story. You are not denied by who people say you are, but rather, by who God says you are. And He says you are loved. God does not allow Pain in your life to you there. No, He allows pain because it is the secret to your purpose.

Timothy Willard – (my paraphrase) Live in the new Narnia, because the further up and further in you go into God, you discover there is no end to Him. So choose each day to live in the hope of glory, to live in the magma of Christ who is in me and to tell the most dynamic story which is the gospel. It is what is making me beautiful.

But don’t get me wrong, this conference did not disappoint. In that notebook with notes scribbled long, amongst all the love notes from God, there are words upon words of tips and advice for writing well. For loving my audience, no matter how big or small, for showing them hospitality. 

It was bittersweet driving away on that Sunday morning. As much as I longed for home and my husband and girls, a part of me wanted to stay to soak it all in. Let it all break through my skin where the words of the weekend spread like salve on open wounds, strike straight through like arrows to my heart. To let it all become my heart.

I lingered in the hotel drive in the traffic jam that filled the circle. I watched as some of the speakers gathered on the shuttle to the airport, Logan walking to her car. We were all suspended in this circle waiting for the lead car to move on. It seemed a little surreal. Crowder was playing in the background, his voice breaking the silence “There’s hope for the hopeless and all those who’ve strayed, Come sit at the table, Come taste the grace, There’s rest for the weary, Rest that endures, Earth has no sorrow, That heaven can’t cure…”

I sat at that table and tasted the grace. As I watched and listened and spoke, the grace washed over me. It filled holes that had gaped for years. I gained a confidence that had vanished long ago. I found that I am not just a mom, I am a writer. I am a writer because He gave me a story to and He wants me to tell it. He wants me to tell it well. It is gospel.

 


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Falling into yes.

Today I don’t want to talk about autism, and migraines, and no sleep. I wish we could live without them for just one day. But I really don’t. I wouldn’t trade anything in our lives, not even for one day. Because all of it brings us closer to God. And that One thing alone makes it all worth it.

That is why today I am talking about yes. Yes to God. In the big. In the small. In the beautiful. In the ugly. Saying yes right now. Whatever your circumstance. Whatever the request. Opening your hands, letting go and saying yes.

Saying yes through all of the the not enoughs. The I am only 1 persons. The fears of what? If? I? fail? Just opening your hands wide and letting go. And when you do, when you finally unclench that tightly formed fist, when you let that yes go…

There is a falling.

A falling. Like falling from a cliff kind of falling. The falling as you sit in wait. You feel the uneasiness. Your heart flutters in the uncertainty of when the falling ends.  When your yes becomes a reality.  Will it become a reality? In the wait you watch others doing the same and you hold the measuring stick. You wonder if you are left wanting. The comparison it is unavoidable.

Measuring-Stick

In the falling you question was this me or was it God? You feel the nakedness of baring your soul. The vulnerability. What if I got this wrong? What if I miss the mark? What if I do not measure up? What if I am not chosen? What if?

The truth is there is a risk in the yes. The opening of hands. The falling. There is a risk because of our humanness. But never in God. Because every step of faith. Every unclenched fist. Every yes. Whether it was His calling you, or you just feeling you need to do something. He is holding you. In the falling, He has you suspended. And He is proud of you. You can feel Him smiling. You hear Him whispering, “That’s my girl.”

And as your thoughts are spinning and you feel soul bared to the world and standing naked before everyone. And the doubts are coming. You are afraid of the disappointment that might come. He is holding. Because whatever the step whatever the yes, whatever the reason may have been. It is all for His glory. HIS glory. And He uses it. 

And yes you just might see the answer to your yes here on earth, in this life, but sometimes the answer seems to never come. And we wait for eternity to see it fulfilled, to know why He asked for that yes. Because there are a million little things happening and your yes maybe one tiny little piece in a working puzzle. But He is using it.

My sister is sitting in wait as I type. She knows these feelings. She has said yes. And this isn’t the first time she has said yes. I have watched her struggle with the yesses. Her unclenching of fists. I have watched as fear has fallen away and His glory revealed.

I watched her pack up and head to Joplin, Missouri after the town was leveled by tornadoes. I watched as she left her children and husband at home and went to help them rebuild because God told her to go. He told her let Me take care of your family and you go. And she did. It was a struggle. The letting go. She slowly unclenched those fists. She slowly gave up control. And He was faithful to His promise.

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Not long after I watched her say yes again. This time her family packed up and headed to Jacó, Costa Rica. I watched from a far, through scrambled Skype calls her heart breaking for two boys from the INVU neighborhood in Jacó Costa Rica. I watched her as she boarded a plane broken, knowing she was heading home to a life that would seem would no longer fit. Not now. Not after seeing what she saw. Because it was God breaking her heart. It was Him opening her eyes to see beyond what the normal eyes see. The supernatural eyes that see what God sees. The broken. The ones living in poverty, trafficking, drugs. The eyes and heart that know only love. And these people need love. They need to know how God loves, How He redeems.  That is when the yes came. When He called her out and said this is not enough. These two boys. Not enough. There is a whole neighborhood of children born into poverty. There are children that are going to grow, never experience love. Never get an eduacation. The girls most likely would end up in slavery, the boys in drugs. And it needed to stop. Lives needed change. And it starts with you. And she. Said. Yes.

Out of this Hearts for Jaco was born. A sponsorship program for children of INVU. That was just 2 years ago. Today twelve children are fully sponsored. The are receiving an education. And most importantly learning of Jesus, His love for them. How it is unconditional. And even in the midst of their struggle He is with them. And they are loved.

This past week she said yes once again. Yes to enter a contest for a trip to Rwanda with Noonday Collection and IJM. If you have never heard of these companies I recommend you check them out here and here.

Melissa with Hearts for Jaco children

children of Jaco

Her entry another bold yes. I see her questioning why. I see her reading the other entries, recognizing some. Knowing they have blogs and followers. Know their circles are big. I try to remind her yes, but God is bigger and if it is His will she will be on that plane to Rwanda.

Add if she does not win, there was a purpose for her entry. She may not ever know this side of heaven. But there is purpose. And I know God is smiling and whispering to her, “That’s my girl.”

And I get to say, “That’s my sister. Melissa Huey. I am so proud of you.”

I hope you will join me in voting for her. Voting is open until May 30. And you can vote once a day.  Here is the link to her entry.


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Shoes for the Shoeless

The seed was planted in April 2009. All of us. Me, my husband, my daughter, hovering around a tiny screen, scrolling through pictures of children needing sponsors on the Compassion website. How do you choose one child over another? When each ones eyes burn right through to your heart, and all you want is to scoop them up and bring them all home. Here to our home. Then my daughter speaks it, “she has no shoes. That little girl right there. No shoes.” She’s pointing at the screen. My daughter just 7 years old at the time, her heart breaking for the little one on the other side of the world who has no shoes. She wonders how she walks around in the gravel, in the garbage that she sees lying all around as we read about her country. She decides it right then. She wants us to sponsor those that don’t have shoes. Because in her mind of 7 years old, that would be the worst thing ever.

Fast forward to today. 2014. And this post falls across my screen, Losing My Religion, and Logan’s words paint the reality she is living right now in Uganda. I see it through her eyes, and I cannot NOT unsee it. And how did I not know that in Uganda,  “if one parent dies or leaves and the other parent remarries, it is the new spouse’s prerogative whether or not to keep the prior relationship’s child as their own?” Or this, “Parents can’t afford to care for their children, so they drop them off in baby homes where at least they will be fed?” Me. A momma of a little one that we fought so hard to keep. In all regards an orphan herself, she is now ours, and we are humbled that God would choose us to be our parents. These words they break me. As I just can’t see how someone could abandon their child. I don’t understand why I keep going back and reading the post. But I do.

How do I become so comfortable in my little world that I don’t see the big picture? When just a year ago, I spoke the words, of doing right here from my home, because that is all I can do right now. Why I am not doing? What am I not doing?

Logan she is in Uganda with a team of bloggers on behalf of Sole Hope. “A group of passionate, committed people who are putting closed toed shoes on African children, one pair at a time. We are also holding medical clinics, providing education, and jobs for and with the beautiful souls in Uganda. It all started with an encounter with a YouTube video–a video that broke Asher’s heart, took us WAY out of our comfort zones, and led us to Uganda.”

And I still don’t see the connection. Until I do.

It’s a no brainer. Logan lays it wide open right here. She tells of her holding these children, jiggers being pulled from their tiny feet. The pain is unbearable and she feels right there with them. I feel it too. And its a no brainer how to stop this pain.

Carey is right there with her and she says this “What I absolutely love, love, love about Sole Hope is that they have invented a way for you, right where you are, to make a difference AND create community. It is so very simple.” and this, “You may not be in Africa but your jeans can come. Send them on over.”

Now I see it. The connection. And God is whispering it. And I do it. Right then and there. I order a kit. A kit for 50 people, to cut shoes out of jeans from a pattern. Simple. A no brainer. And I don’t even know 50 people. But this is what God is telling me. My daughter and I we commit to ourselves, to God, to these little children… 100 pairs of shoes. One hundred pairs of shoes by the end of April. How do we make it happen? I am not sure. But God knows.

Maybe you want to participate? Bring your friends? Send your old jeans? Supplies? Maybe? God knows. And I wait on Him to fulfill it. In the meantime, the kit is on it’s way and we are planning a party. A shoe cutting party.  And it will be grand.

And I pray it…

Break my heart for what breaks yours, Lord.


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Thirty-one Days Walking Through the Dark :: Defining the Dark

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Darkness (noun) a place of little or no light.

It sneaks in and robs us blind. It binds our steps. It threatens to swallow us whole. It robes itself in depression, illness, broken relationships, financial distress, anxiety, death…

Darkness.

It can shatter our faith. Make us question the fact that we ever believed. That God truly is with us. And loves us. And is for us. Its goal… to drag us to desperation. To the place called midnight.

 

Midnight (noun) period of intense darkness.

Midnight.

Our deepest darkest hour. We teeter here. Walking the line. Faith faltering. Grasping. White knuckled. We question where is God? Has He left me? The darkness engulfing. Wanting us to believe we are alone.

But God is calling. You can hear His whisper, “Right here. I am right here.”

 

 

When you pass through the waters, I will be with you;
And through the rivers, they shall not overflow you.
When you walk through the fire, you shall not be burned,
Nor shall the flame scorch you.
Isaiah 43:2

 

 

 

Dear Me

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Dear much younger me,

I see you standing there in cafeteria. Your eyes desperately searching for a seat. One you can slip into and try hard to swallow the food that sits like a rock because you eat in fear… so afraid of being noticed. Afraid someone might just realize you are alone. All this seems like a foreign land. This school. 3,500 kids. You long to be back home in that little town. That summer spent romping through woods. Having friends. Belonging. You take that last bite and it sticks right there in your throat.

I want you to know each one of those girls that seemed to have it all together, have all the friends… they are just like you. They are all desperately seeking just like you. They all struggle. They all fear. It looks different to each of them, but still the same. The desire to belong. To fit in.

In about five years you will see proof of this fear. You will see one of the popular girls in a store, (you will be surprised to realize that she remembers you, you were not invisible after all) and she will apologize to you. She will tell you she always liked you, but you could not be friends. That would have jeopardized everything… She will say to you, “you understand how it was?”

I wish I could tell you it was sunshine and butterflies after high school, but that would be a lie. But the pain and hardship you will go through, they mold you into who you are today. If I could whisper one thing in your ear to never forget it would be God is always with you.

Even when you turn 18 and get sick with the undiagnosed illness. The one that brings scorn from those at church. Words that cut you wide open. Lies that take many years to heal. Pregnant. Drugs. Eating disorder. The words swirl in your head and you run fast. And you feel alone. And you believe God has left you. Because if these were His people, how could they treat you this way. I want you to know He never left. Never.

As you walk out the door of church and don’t look back because it hurts just too much… He is walking right there beside you. He is fighting for you as you try to find your way on your own. To belong. He is holding you as your heart breaks over and over again searching for someone to love you. And He greets you with arms open wide when you go running home nearly 20 years later.

All of this may sound a little scary right now. And you are probably thinking,”No this is not my life. It is not what I planned.” But I promise… it all works out. You find the one with the tender heart. The one that loves you like Jesus. You have a little girl that turns you inside out. You get two amazing girls by way of marriage. And later God brings a little one to your doorstep that needs a home.

And you have God.
And Joy.
And life is good.

Love,
Your much older self

Emily Freeman has released a new book, Graceful. It is written for teen girls. What I would not have given to have this book when I was just a girl. Emily encourages us not to forget, because they need us to remember. These girls, they need us.

You can purchase Graceful at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, or anywhere books are sold. To learn more about Emily, check out here at Chatting at the Sky.

Want to read more letters, or maybe, write your own? Go here. Be warned, bring tissues.


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Dear God

Dear God-
I think I have forgotten. In all the words whispered over the children, the pleas for health, protection, eyes to see You, that they may come to know You… never have the words thank you been uttered.

Perhaps it is because I did not have eyes to see, I mean really see. Yes, I have always counted it a privilege and a blessing to be in a position to provide support for our children. We send the check each month and we know Compassion uses that money wisely and these children are forever changed and we can rest in that.

But in the last few months, you have opened my eyes and I see that it is so much more than a check. It is us helping them and them helping me. The joy that comes from reading their letters. The thank you for gifts sent. The telling of stories of how they spent their gift. The smile on their faces in pictures. Words from their family that melt me to a puddle. Watching them grow, knowing they are healthy. Knowing they are learning about love and a new way of life. Learning about You. And I get to be a part of all this. That I can love from a far and they feel it thousands of miles away. Your love through me.

Your love through me. I love because you first loved me. How it takes a little child half way around the world to make that sink in… You love me. What greater gift could I be given.

Thank you, God, for this gift of Compassion. For these little children that have made their way into my heart. For teaching me through them what love really is… thank you.

In Jesus’ wonderful name, amen.

September is blog month over at Compassion. The goal 3,108 children sponsored. If you fell God leading you to sponsor a child, I encourage you to start here. Or maybe you could just pray for these children for a sponsor to come along side them.