Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Ever Before Our Eyes: Five Social Media Follows For Those Fighting Slavery

Credit The Exodus Road
Trafficking. Commercial sexual exploitation. Modern day slavery. However you choose to label it, I think we can all agree that the atrocity of human beings bought and sold for the satisfaction of others is a great evil. And the fact that it exists in a day and age with adequate social and legal systems to stamp it out completely is unfathomable.
It is easy for us to shake our heads in pity over the statistic of between 10 and 30 million people trapped in the conditions of slavery today. Easy for us to voice that something must be done to stop the atrocity. But it is more difficult to know what to do. Read the rest at

Friday, May 23, 2014

On Co-laboring and Having a Soft Place to Land


This Scripture was the first reading read at our wedding almost seventeen years ago. Its last line is engraved inside our rings. I fell in love with its imagery and the truth I perceived in it the first time I heard it. And I have learned just how true it is in the seventeen years I have endeavored to live it, sometimes succeeding and sometimes failing miserably.

Ecclesiastes 4: 9-12: Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil. For if they fall, one will lift up the other; but woe to one who is alone and falls and does not have another to help. Again, if two lie together, they keep warm; but how can one keep warm alone? And though one might prevail against another, two will withstand one. A threefold cord is not quickly broken.
And I love the connotations in this version from The Message:
It’s better to have a partner than go it alone.Share the work, share the wealth.And if one falls down, the other helps,But if there’s no one to help, tough!11 Two in a bed warm each other.Alone, you shiver all night.12 By yourself you’re unprotected.With a friend you can face the worst.Can you round up a third?A three-stranded rope isn’t easily snapped.

The lovely ladies at Velvet Ashes have been talking about marriage this week. And they have had some really good stuff to say that has had me thinking. Actually, I've been thinking a lot ever since I read Amber and Seth Haines' letters on co-laboring a couple of weeks ago. This business of making one life out of two is interesting stuff, no? The way we all go about it differently, the way there is really no formula for making it work other than making it work, the way it is so hard and yet so beautiful at the same time. Its seasons and transitions and ups and downs all shaping us into better versions of ourselves if we let them.

In my ponderings, I have come to see a pattern that emerges in my married life. It is a rotation that marks our days and seasons as either co-laboring or being the soft place to land. In our life of parenting, ministry and work, I find that we have seasons where we as a couple have a shared goal and purpose and we dedicate ourselves fully to making it happen, dancing the dance of how to work together well and leverage our collective strengths against our collective faults. They are intense, focused seasons geared toward a particular goal. Sometimes they last months, and sometimes they are days. It might be the month of planning and execution we just had to coordinate a full scale medical mission or it might be a day when we commit ourselves to getting the yard raked. Or it might be a week where we huddle and commit ourselves together to the hard work of grieving or forgiving or repenting. Surely, the whole of marriage and family life is one long season of co-laboring to get to heaven.

On the Indian Ocean in Tanzania in March

These times where we co-labor, sometimes they come easily. We shift responsibilities seamlessly, we each seem to understand our part and shoulder it well, and we can see the reward for our labor right there in our reach, so we work with energy and strength.

Other times, shared work is not as simple. We hit fits and starts, not able to figure out who is pulling from the front and who is pushing from the back, ramming into obstacles and stubbing toes on rocky paths. We co-labor through sweat and frustration and sore backs and scraped arms and lots of slip ups. Words fly that would have been better left unsaid and unthought. The shared reward seems far away and vague and not all that worth it. And yet, somehow, in the economy of grace, we keep working. And in the end, I have found that the greatest reward of this kind of co-laboring is who become in the process. Not who we are in the moment, mercy, no, but who we become when fight on until the end, snap open a cold beer, celebrate with a high five, put our feet up and apologize for our behavior in the midst.

After a season of co-laboring, I find we often hit another stride, a routine where we grant each other space, where one flies the coop for a while and the other stays back to guard the nest. Each of us finding rest and liberation in our solitary pursuits or cocooning into ourselves to process and rest. Then, we become for each other a soft place to land. 

Oh how I need soft places in my life. I am not a naturally soft person. I am an achiever, a doer. I prize competency and strength. I am openly vulnerable only insofar as it shows that I have triumphed, that I have overcome, that I have it together. It is easier for me to lay my mess out there to a crowd than to look one man in the eyes and say that I need him. But I must. Because that place, where I admit that I am not capable not competent nor able to go it alone, that is the place where God meets me. In my deepest fears lay my deepest needs. And God knows the way to meet them if only I will lay them before Him. And the man he has given me to keep warm with.

And when this man curls into me and just needs me to be his safe place? It takes my breath away. It brings me to my knees. And honestly, it scares me to death. Because who I am? Really who am I to be worthy of that responsibility? That kind of trust? And it is a holy fear, the way my voice cracks and my hands tremble in those moments. Because in knowing that he knows my unworthiness and keeps coming back to me anyway, keeps trusting that I will soften to his need and cup his sacred needs in holy hands, I hear the call to become. To become the one who is worthy, who is faithful, who deserves to be trusted.

That, friends, is holy ground.

And I am blessed beyond measure to get to walk it every day. To see its physical and spiritual fruit. To experience its physical representation in satisfying embrace. To weave a cord with the Master Weaver that in its beauty and brokenness will not be easily broken.

Velvet Ashes: encouragement for women serving overseas
Join us at the Grove at Velvet Ashes for more.

Monday, May 19, 2014

When Women Reach Out

I cannot tell you how many times over the last few years that we have been living overseas that I have found myself battling back the gathering clouds of loneliness. Perhaps a stretch of days or weeks when I just felt so isolated from family or friends or maybe even just a moment in the day when an idea popped into my head and I wanted to throw it out to someone and it wasn't possible. It can be hard this part of living as a missionary.

On the other hand, I also cannot possibly begin to count all the ways I have been blessed by women who have reached out beyond all the challenges of a friendship with someone with a sketchy Skype connection, and chaotic life and ride the emotional roller coaster of this journey with me. Some of them have shown up as strangers and left as friends. Some walked into a conference with me and now walk through life with me. Some are old friends that have had to figure out a new plan for maintaining closeness in this phase of life.

We've had to work through stuff. I've gotten it wrong more than a couple of times. But some very beautiful life-giving relationships have been born in these years and I count them among my greatest blessings.

I know social media and the blog world have their flaws, but for me, they have been a sanity saver. I have met and also maintained relationships with some amazing women that could have only been possible through their help. One of the ways I have found sisterhood and community online is through the the (in)courage community groups.

They are small groups of women connecting over something that draws them together. And oh the connections I have made! If you are looking to dig into relationships and find a safe place to reach out to other women, I strongly encourage you to check out this list of groups for the spring session and join one. Registration starts today and goes all week. If you happen to be a fellow missionary or someone working in or interested in global care, I will be co-leading a group just to encourage you! You can join us here!

Today, in the aftermath of a full scale medical mission that now looks like it blew up in my kitchen, and a house full of kids with scratchy throats and stuffy noses, I would like nothing more than to sit down with a friend over a warm cup of joe and make it all make sense. Won't you join me at our virtual kitchen table? I'll be waiting with warm Costa Rican coffee. Now that's an offer I know you can't refuse.

Friday, May 9, 2014

Because She Loves: A Tribute to the Moms Who Inspire Me

I am thinking about Mother's Day coming to you mamas there in the States this weekend (and to my own -- Happy Mother's Day, Mom! I love you!) this morning as I sit in the quiet of having sent my crew on ahead of me to the site of our medical mission while I await the arrival of the team from the States tomorrow. This year, I think the crazy state of things this weekend will cure me once and for all of double-dipping on Mother's Day. I'll just have to wait until August and celebrate it with all the Costa Rican moms who only get to do so once a year.

But what I am thinking about most is the amazing company I stand in. Y'all, moms are out there doing some of the most incredible things. And you probably have no idea because they just do it. Like it's their job to make the world a better place and love ALL the people and get tired and then get inspired and then keep doing it.

On any given night, I can scroll my Facebook feed last night and find posts from moms performing the most incredible feats of love and grace:

Grandma Rose in Tanzania, 87 and still going strong, because she loves.

  • Moms building a maternity clinic in Sierra Leone together, because they love.
  • A mom holding her daughter tight through her battle with seizures and loving her in all the hard moments of a warrior life and changing diapers and still lacing her up in pretty Chucks and a flower in her hair for outings, because she loves. 
  • Motherless moms who find this day so hard to celebrate yet accept the crayon cards and burnt toast breakfast through the tears of missing their own mamas, because they love.

    My mother-the-law, the mom we'll all be missing this Mother's Day, because she loved.

  • A mom packing up her family and finding a home for her cat as she makes the move back to SE Asia to set captives free from slavery, because she loves.
  • A young mama to many pulling night shifts at the hospital and coming home to cuddle in front of cartoons with twin toddlers and a preschooler as she waves the rest of her crew of eight off to school, because she loves.
  • Moms with bald heads wrapped in scarves and swollen faces and a mental countdown of days too short who get up and make breakfast and go to end-of-years school performances, because they love.
  • Moms capturing stunning moments of motherhood with a lens like pros and making us all remember why we do this, because they love. 
  • Older mamas still feathering their nests to welcome grandbabies and whole families born from their family into their lives, because they love.
  • Moms who are midwives catching babies and loving mamas in Haiti in the middle of the night, because they love.
  • Moms stretching budgets and still not making ends meet and humbly asking for help and accepting the judgement of others and the all the weight of the label of "poor" for a voucher for milk and peanut butter, because they love.
  • A mama crying at the cemetery for the baby she didn't get to hold and waiting for travel dates to fly across the ocean to pick up the teen-aged boy she'll call her own soon, because she loves.

My brave, beautiful mama cutting my older brother's cake in the ICU waiting room the day before she let him fly home.

  • Moms managing to get dinner on the table and kids to ballet/soccer with a husband deployed across the oceans, because she loves.
  • Widows homeschooling kids and doing all the stuff every day, alone, broken-hearted, but so, so brave, because they love.
  • Moms sitting beside sick babies in a hospital and smiling and singing and touching gently because they refuse to be helpless for their little ones, because they love.

    I am in awe that I get the crazy wonderful unconditional love of these boys in return, because I love.

  • Moms ironing caps and gowns and smiling wide enough that the tears slide away before their grown up babies notice them, because they love.
  • Nigerian mamas crying out the names of their daughters and wondering why the world doesn't hear but standing strong, because they love.

A mother's blessing, because she loves.

    • A mama lawyer writing and then lobbying through to law a bill that will protect the lives of thousands of unborn babies in her state, because she loves.
    • Moms running orphanages and sponsoring medical clinics and writing books and empowering women and praying Nigerian school girls' names into the heavens, because they love.
    • Moms I love in Africa and Costa Rica overcoming obstacles of poverty and lack of education to become warrior moms who love fierce and find a way no matter what, because they love.

      Noemy dreaming dreams for Baby Sabrina, because she loves.
    • And moms finding socks and telling bed time stories and teaching someone to tell time and to share and to blow kisses and holding the grief of empty arms and the doubt of insecurity and if they are enough in their hearts, but begging grace and mercy and clinging to One who has them to give away in abundance, because He loves.

    This. This is the wonder and wild grace of motherhood. And these are the women making it beautiful every day in the quiet corners of their homes and the ends of the earth and the neighborhood parks and the hospital bed sides and the Senate floor and the mud huts of Africa and every single, corner of the globe. Lights that make the world's darkness bearable for humanity. These are the hearts of mothers. Broken and beautiful, all of them in their own way, because they love.

    Esther and Lupina working to fill mouths day after day, because they love.