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Thursday, August 14, 2014

Not Your Typical Mission Trip Recap

I've been back from my mission trip to the Dominican Republic for over a week now, and every day I've delayed writing this blog post. It's not because I don't want to tell you all the amazing experiences I had - because I do. I just don't know how to craft the right words to make you feel like you were right there with me. And honestly, I'm having lots of feelings about being back home. Sad feelings. Lost feelings. How can I make this trip matter feelings. To be fair, I was warned that this would happen. That people would ask about how the trip was, but in reality they don't want to hear the stories of life change. They want a simple answer - an awesome,  an incredible or just to see the pictures. And they want to pat me on the back for going. So that's what I've been spouting off for over a week now. Simple answers. I've told short stories about the heat, the lack of wifi, the food and the overall culture shock. The things I feel like people expect to hear.
 
But I have yet to sit down with someone and just pour my heart out. Tell someone how many countless times I cried because I saw God moving in this community. About how every single night I prayed to God that He would use me, and everyday He delivered. Tell someone how I so desperately want to live like these people - putting God before everything, no distractions in life and using every breathe to praise Him. That's not even an exaggeration, they use every ounce of energy God gives them to praise Him. I have never felt more loved on and accepted in my life.
Our first time seeing the Greenhouse Project area, where we would work together with the people in the community to complete the greenhouse. And hearing Pastor Daniel's vision that God was bringing to life.
 
Tell my stories about Anyi - a fierce, joyous woman who loves nothing more in this world than her Savior - a woman who hugged me for 20 minutes while we both cried as she continually said to me "I love you" & "God bless you" - a woman who I was forever changed by knowing for only a short week.
 
I changed my profile picture on Facebook to one of myself with one of my favorite little guys that I met, Wine (pronounced Win-nae). So people have seen his big gorgeous smile, but they don't know how much he touched my heart every time he hugged me and how we laughed together when I taught him how to wink. Or how we prayed together for both of our families.
 
I haven't told anyone how I was overwhelmed with emotion when I was speaking at their church, and telling a testimony of how God even brought me to their country in the first place. How blessed I felt in that very moment. Blessed to feel so connected with our God, blessed to have the chance to meet these people who wanted to pour out love all over me, pray for me and accept me as part of their family. Blessed to feel like I was making even the most tiny of differences for one moment in time. Not because of my work, but because I had been obedient when God called me and he was using me in ways I never imagined.
Pastor Daniel's Church in El Carrizal
The guy on the far left, Zacharias gave his life to God while we were there. It was incredible to see him surrender control and lead the way for his younger brothers.
This beautiful little girl, Angela, prayed for our team after we hosted VBS. She thanked God for bringing us, she prayed for our mission, for God to stir deep down in our hearts once we were back home, and she prayed that God would one day bring us all back together because we are forever family.
3 Community Pastors and our team leaders praying over them. The girls in yellow walked for 2.5 hours to come and sing at our community picnic. They wanted to see the people from America that God brought to serve the community of El Carrizal, and more importantly they wanted to pray over us and sing with us.
I've been internally battling with how to apply everything I felt while I was in the DR. I spent my time there thinking that I was missing the comforts of home, only to come home and find that life feels different. It feels cluttered and I'm finding myself distracted all over again. I've been playing catch up at work. I've spent a lot of time sleeping. This was all time that I could have spent praying for what's next, and telling stories that glorify God. Then yesterday, I read this post from my sweet friend Kenzie, about her similar struggle coming home from a trip to Africa. I'm borrowing her words right now, because I can't seem to find the right ones of my own.
 
"I wish someone would've told me that every time I now go to my closet, all I really want to do is throw everything out. That my style will never be the same again because the maxi skirts and t-shirts I lived in during my time there now hold a whole new meaning.

I wish someone would've told me that every time people ask how my trip was, I would daze off for a solid five minutes and still struggle to utter the words: "It...was...uh...perfect. It was perfect." Only to be disappointed with my response because HOW? How do I even begin to explain the way Jesus shattered my heart during my time there?

I wish someone would've told me I'd want to punch a wall when the response is, "Oh Kenzie, you are such a good person!" or "You have such a big heart!" or "You are a brave soul!" Because I'm not. I'm not any better than Abraham and Sarah's doubts or Rahab's lifestyle. My heart is the size of everyone else's and I am anything but brave. What I am is real. I'm afraid. Of being where God wants me to be. Of not being where He wants me to be."
 
All I can do is trust that I am right where God wants me to be. I don't want any recognition for doing what I feel like God called me to do. I want Him to glorified through this trip, through my stories and through the work we did in El Carrizal. If I learned anything at all while I was gone it was that I want to love bigger. Love like Jesus does. And loving can be hard for me. I'm sure certain situations will bring feelings of terror as I attempt to put these words into actions. But what an amazing feeling, when we just let go and let God do his thing through us. That's ALL I want my life to be about.

I know that as long as I am willing to let Him guide me, He will continue to amaze me.
 
Matthew 5:16 (NIV) 
In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.

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Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Speak Life

I am such a words person. If you offer me words of affirmation, you are definitely speaking my love language. I'm an overuser of "I love you". I want people to overuse it with me. Plenty of times I've had a bad day and someone will speak words of encouragement to me and instantly I am lifted. In the same way that words can easily fracture our self esteem and hurt our hearts, they can also heal and uplift.

Source
The first couple of times I heard the Speak Life song by Toby Mac, I thought it was a little cheesy. Catchy, but cheesy. But right now, the words seem appropriate. Not only because of Robin Williams. But he is a part of my thought process too. Depression is real. It's serious. I've talked before about my mama's own struggle with addiction after addiction and the pits filled with depression in between. My worst fear has been getting a call that she's committed suicide. I have an ex-boyfriend who did commit suicide. I have friends who have told me they wanted to commit suicide. A man from my church committed suicide just a few short weeks ago.
 
Everyday people feel worthless. They feel unloved and alone. They don't know how they can survive the darkness they feel.  They become consumed with negative thoughts. It becomes too hard/to scary/too overwhelming to ask for help. And honestly, some days we are too wrapped up in ourselves to put ourselves in everyone else's shoes. But speaking life is a powerful thing. I'm certainly not a counselor, and I've never personally struggled with  a lot of these feelings, but I feel like it has to be said. I need the reminder myself to stop thinking so inwardly.
 

I think about a time when I felt lifeless. The people who used their words to comfort me became the people who helped heal me. And I thank God so much for sending me those people. I will never forget their words, their effort and how much it meant to me. It might not be enough to snap someone out of their sadness, but it matters. Loving people like Jesus does is not an easy task. I constantly have to remind myself that it's not my place to judge people's struggles, behaviors or stories. It's just my job to love them and be kind to them - no matter what. My good words have the ability to influence someone's heart, and that matters in this world.
 
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Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Steps of Faith - Guest Post

Howdy Lovers! I'm home safe and sound from the Dominican Republic! I don't even know where to begin with all my stories for you!! For starters, the lovely Ms. Erin over at This is my Life invited me to do a guest post as part of her Steps of Faith series. Of course, coming fresh off my mission trip from the DR gives me the perfect material for my post today. Go on over and check it out and get your first recap on my incredible experience!
 
XOXO
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Monday, July 28, 2014

Blessings From Abroad

Howdy from the Dominican Republic! (I actually wrote this post last week before I left, but since I'm currently in DR, it works.) Thank you SO much to everyone who donated to my funds for going on this mission trip, for everyone who has sent up even a single prayer for us and for all your sweet emails/texts to wish us well! I don't even have the right words to tell you how excited I am to see how God really turns this into a life changing experience - for everyone involved!!
 
Earlier this week, I got to thinking about how things happen at JUST the right times in our lives. This is hard to see sometimes, especially in the midst of a tough season. But just in my own experience there are so many examples of how God was truly the one in control - even before I realized the power in that. One huge example, is for me to think about what would have happened if Skye and I hadn't called off our wedding? I don't think I would have ended up at OneLife Church, my heart probably wouldn't be so on fire for serving Jesus and I definitely wouldn't be sitting in the Dominican Republic on a mission trip right now. I couldn't see then that the past almost 2 years would take my life down this unexpected trajectory. But I felt deep down in my heart that God had something better. My story was meant to be so much more than just a broken engagement. I couldn't believe it everyday at the time, but on the really low days I always knew. Trusting in that can be so hard, but I'm living proof that it can be rewarding beyond your wildest dreams. Some people call it fate, karma or luck - but I don't believe in any of that. I chose to believe that God saw me through that season of change, and He continually promised me that better days were to come. Better days are here! It's pretty awesome to recognize God at work in all the big moments - but even more in the everyday little decisions in our lives.

 
Who knows maybe I have a future in mission work? I will definitely have the bug after this trip, I'm sure of it. I already have it and we aren't even home yet.
  
If my prayer warriors would continue to pray for us on this trip, I would really love that!
1. Pray for our hearts - that we will be open to letting God lead us into conversations and using us however He can. Pray that we truly believe & seek to make our one life make a difference.
2. Pray for a safe trip down & back home
3. Pray that He will use this experience to bring us closer to Him and ultimately we'll be able to tell stories of change - either in our lives or how we had influence over others.
4. Pray for this community we will be serving - we will be building a greenhouse for them to make their community more self-sustainable, and we will be helping them do a VBS program for all their young people (I can't wait to hug on some sweet babies!!!!).
5. And a selfish one, please pray about the weather. I am so worried that the heat indexes and high humidity with no air conditioning will distract my focus.
 
One of my favorite walls at my church - this idea is what our whole church is built upon.
Your support means the world to me, and it really keeps me going sometimes. THANK YOU! I can't wait to share stories of life change with you when I get home.
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