Brokenness, Passion and Hope

March 12, 2015

'Break my heart for what breaks Yours'

That's a powerful line. So much so that there should probably be an asterisk beside it leading to a footnote. Because I've decided when we prayerfully sing that line and mean it, we should get the same warning people quickly give you whenever you start to pray for patience. You the know the be careful what you prayer for because God answers those prayers.

Hear me out I'm not saying not ask God to break our hearts for what breaks His. What I am saying be ready for the reality of what that means.

For the last 6 months I've really struggled to have passion about life in Tremorfa. When called to a place we all go through moments where passion ebbs and wanes. There are reasons I feel like my passion has waned and I working through those, but this isn't the place those. The bigger is issue is feeling the loss of passion and how to be faithful in the call when your heart doesn't feel there. Last year the stuff I was doing in Tremorfa was the stuff that I felt brought me to life. This year the role has switched and the office based stuff feels more life giving. I don't want to exchange one for the other. I want to be passionate about both and feel both being life giving. I find myself daily reminding myself that I am called to Tremorfa. I guess it's the idea if you say it enough maybe you'll believe it. Again the being faithful even when you don't feel it.

As 2015 has progressed this 'break my heart for what breaks Yours' keeps popping up. This concept that being close to my Father's heart involves being close to the things that matter to Him, the things close to His heart. This idea that to have passion I have to feel and sometimes feelings means having your heart broken for the place you're called to.

You see in some ways it's easy to become numb living in Tremorfa. Because every young person has a tragedy. Every boy and girl has faced something too horrific too young. And the more you hear the more you have to fight against the numbness. Or even worse the feeling of hopelessness.

But I don't want to be numb. I want to feel deeply for Tremorfa. And the last few days I have.

I've felt when mentor on a Friday morning. And my one girl is so closed off and guarded. In some ways what she doesn't say speaks louder than what she says.  In the mist of the silence I know she has known a life of pain, rejection and instability. She carries too much baggage at 13 because the people who should be there for her aren't. She has already decided that there is no she can trust. And honestly who can blame her if rejection is what she knows?

I've felt when I spend time with these absolutely crazy teenage girls who do the strangest things but then let slip so casually that their mums or dads have abandoned them, they've been in foster care or that lack of fear they display when they casually go off to meet boys in the park. These girls are so value and too precious, and yet they don't believe that at all.

I felt yesterday when I look up my street and saw over 10 police men raid a house, only then to realise it was the house of the sweetest girl in our kids' club. She's one who played the angel Gabriel the last two years in the nativity with her arms raised high to heaven, and she's the most interested in Jesus in Sunday club. She's the kid I'm slightly convinced is perfect. And today the police raided her house for drugs as they targeted locations across the city known to be selling heroine and cocaine. She's eight and there are three younger siblings. She was probably at school when this happened but what will she come home to now that school is over. They made over forty arrests across the city. Was her dad one of those arrested? Was her mum? Did social services decide her house wasn't safe for her and her siblings? Is she now in care? When I was telling Michael about this he said she was the last kid to deserve this. But does any kid deserve this?

My heart and my head don't seem to live in the same place at the moment - to be honest I'm not sure they ever will again. I've grown up in church. I've been told since before I went to elementary school that Jesus is the answer. And I know He is. My head knows the right answers - I know this is a broken world. I know this all because of sin and one we'll go to heaven and this stuff won't exist. I know this. I've heard for as long as I can remember. I believe it to be true.

But knowing all this doesn't stop my heart from aching and crying out, "This just isn't fair!"  Please don't give the me life isn't fair argument because it's not fair that an 8 year had her home raided for drugs. My life hasn't been perfect but it's been good. My childhood and teenage years weren't without hard things and pain - but I knew I was safe, I knew I was loved. That was totally because of where I was born. These kids and young people - they may not be perfect - but so much of what they deal simply has to do with where they were born. A lot of these guys deal with thei product of their parents' bad choices. Even their parents a lot of the stuff they do and deal with again has to do with where they were born. It's a cycle. I'm not saying we don't have choices. But think about how much your life especially your childhood has been dictated by others. How much of it is about the family and community you were born into?

My heart breaks and the tears fall. And I'm okay with this. Because it feels like passion being restored. It's the reminder when I look at these seemingly hopeless situations - that there is Hope, that I carry Hope.

I've been in Tremorfa for a year and half now. And one thing I am convinced of so many of the problems we see, the cycles people are chained stem from one thing they have no hope. Girls have no hope that they are worth something. At 13 so many young people have lost of hope that anyone can be trusted. There's no hope for a child to know she's safe at night. And that's the lie that's been believed that there is no hope. And without hope the true life ceases.

But I know there is Hope. And I know His name is Jesus.

I imagine when He met Mary and Martha as they mourned the death of their brother they had lost hope, certainly that he would live. Jesus felt their pain. Jesus wept. I fully believe Jesus is that great high priest who sympathises with us. He understands. He wept with Mary and Martha. He wept for His friend. He weeps with me as I weep for Tremorfa. He weeps for this precious little girl who had her house raided. He weeps for the abandoned girls and boys in the estate. He weeps for the broken. He weeps for us. We are close to His heart. We matter. We are not forgotten. Tremorfa is not forgotten.

And then He responds. He does the impossible. Wept and then He brought Lazarus back to life. When I claim Him as my hope, when I claim Him as the hope for Tremorfa. I believe He does the impossible. I believe He weeps and then He will come to bring Tremorfa back to life.

And I carry this Hope. These last six months have felt quite stale. But I as I cry for what's happening in Tremorfa I reminded that this is what I'm called to. I am called to carry Hope to the hopeless. I love the story of when Jesus meets the Samaritan woman at the well. I love that it says that He had to go through Samaria. He had to meet this woman who I also think didn't have much hope. When she met Jesus, she encountered Hope. She was never ever the same. I was called to this estate. It's not easy and it will break your heart. But that's okay because I have to be here. I have to carry this hope. I can stop because of fear. I have to bring Hope.

It's easy to see the hard stuff and distance yourself. It's easy to become numb. But I know I'm called to the brokenness. I know I need to bring Hope. I need to be here in the mist of this place because their are kids and teenagers and adults who need Hope. 

Jesus comes into the brokenness and restores. And that's exactly why I need to be in Tremorfa. Hope is here. Hope is coming. Hope will be restored. 

Imagine the wilderness whooping for joy,
    the desert’s unbridled happiness with its spring flowers.
It will happen! The deserts will come alive with new growth budding and blooming,
    singing and celebrating with sheer delight.
The glory of Lebanon’s cedars and the majesty of Carmel and Sharon
    will spill over to the deserts.
The glory of the Eternal One will be on full display there,
    and they will revel in the majestic splendor of our God.

So, with confidence and hope in this message,
    strengthen those with feeble hands, shore up the weak-kneed and weary.
Tell those who worry, the anxious and fearful,
    “Take strength; have courage! There’s nothing to fear.
Look, here—your God! Right here is your God!
    The balance is shifting; God will right all wrongs.
None other than God will give you success.
    He is coming to make you safe.”

Then, such healing, such repair: the eyes of the blind will be opened;
    the ears of the deaf will be clear.
The lame will leap like deer excited;
    they will run and jump tirelessly and gracefully.
The stutterer, the stammerer, and the tongue of the mute
    will sing out loud and clear in joyful song.
Waters will pour through the deserts;
    streams will flow in godforsaken lands.
Burning sands and hardened wastelands will become pools, shimmering with life;
    the thirsty ground will drink deep from refreshing springs.
Abandoned villages where predators once lurked will become grassy playgrounds.
    Dry, arid land will turn lush and green.
Isaiah 35:1-7
My prayer & hope for Tremorfa

Comparison Kills Contentment

January 18, 2015

I have often (or maybe always) felt like a bit of an oddball. And by oddball I don't mean weird, though that adjective might also serve as a fitting description or at the very least awkward would also work.

But no by oddball I mean I have always felt that I stood out. Often like a sore thumb.

I have insanely curly hair in a straight hair world (let's just say I spend the only decade that embraced big hair with no hair)
Caitlin in the 80's - rockin the peach fuzz
In elementary school I wanted to just be able to wear it down without it going big and poofy or know how to do it on my own without my mother's help to make it look good. My independent streak lead to a lot of brushed straight back low ponytails (insert cringe moment here). I longed for the Jennifer Aniston haircut in middle school but let's just say middle parts aren't the friend of curly hair girls. In university I was introduced to straighteners. For four years I tortured my roommate and hall mates with the smell of burnt hair. To honest I'm surprise they still speak me after all that. 

And then I spend a hiatus in Florida. AKA humidity central. Hair straightening + humidity + insanely curly hair = giant frizzy mane. 

Due not to wanting to look like a lion and being sick of the burnt hair smell and seeing how damaged my hair had become I decided to embrace it these curls of mine. And at 26 I can confidently say I love my hair. (I also love my hair dresser and Moroccan hair oil!) But I spend a load time wishing it could just be straight or go at least go straight easily. A lot of time wasted on comparison. 

Along with the insane curls I have always felt slightly out of place wherever I have lived. In Miami I wanted to speak Spanish and felt like I wasn't part of some elite club due to the lack of Spanish speaking ability. In Lake Placid I lived in a small town I wasn't originally from; that's harder than it sounds when you're in high school. In university I was one of the few who was from out of state who didn't play a sport. Let's just say I got really tired of the question, "So how did you get to GWU?" In Spain, well, it was the wasn't Spanish and didn't speak the language all that well. Though I can order off a Spanish menu like nobody's business. And now I live in Wales. I might not look as different but as soon as I open my mouth it's pretty obvious I'm not from around here (though I keep getting asked if I'm from Scotland lately).  I spend a lot of last year trying to not have to speak unless I knew the people - not the most helpful when you're trying to live intentionally and build relationships. All this to say that I can't remember living in a place that I didn't wish I was somewhat different. Spoke a different language. Was somewhere else. Had a different accent. 

With where I lived, with what my hair looks like, with how I look, with what I do, with this or with that...I have spend a lot of the last 26 years of my life comparing. I would even go as far to say have lived in a constant state of comparison for these 26 years. Spent a lot of time saying, "if only I had/I was/I looked like..."

Facebook and pinterest and wedding planning only add to the comparison crisis. And what does comparison do steals joy, takes away confidence, causes jealousy, hurts relationships (or doesn't even allow them to form). Comparison is truly like a cancer for the soul. 

Comparison kills contentment

Let me repeat comparison kills contentment.

For all the time I have spend wishing I was something else or someone else, I have missed out on a lot to be content about. A lot to be joyful about. A lot to be thankful for. 

I am fearfully and wonderfully made. I am made in the image of God. And I don't want to spend another second not embracing the woman He's made me to be. I don't want to waste the time I've been given not celebrating and loving the people in my life, where I live and what I have been called to do. 

And as long as I live in state of comparison I can't embrace this. 

I don't want to be about comparison. Except for comparing myself to Jesus. I want to be like Him. I want to about His love. I want to be about mercy and justice. I want to be about compassion and encouragement. I want to be about generosity and grace. I want to be joy. I want to be about contentment. 

So comparison - I'm done playing your game. I'm not playing anymore. Hands up, surrender not playing.

I'm reviving my contentment instead. 
Quote by Theodore Roosevelt

Musings about Goodbyes

January 7, 2015

I've been thinking a lot about goodbyes this week. I've been thinking primarily how they never get easier. And to in some ways I feel like I should be a pro at them. I'm not. I actually think I'm getting worse at them. Or at the ripe old age of 26 I'm becoming a sap.

Though it's not been quite a decade yet, I think I can call the decade of my life since graduating high school the decade of goodbyes. 

At 18 I was eager for those goodbyes. I was ready to wave goodbye to Lake Placid from a rear view mirror. Even though we teared up as they left I was ready to leave my family behind for new adventures. I craved the independence that came with goodbyes. 

Now at 26 I still long for adventures. And I love a visit to LP but I still need to leave it in the rear view. But it's those goodbyes that get me. The goodbyes always loom over, waiting to pounce. I'm never ready for them and they always come too quick.

Between university, moving abroad to Spain and then to Wales I've lost count of how many times I've said goodbye to my parents, my brother and the rest of my family. 

The goodbyes to friends knowing it might be years or never in this life that I see them again. It the goodbyes knowing the challenge but necessity to keep in touch (the struggle that comes knowing you're not very good at keeping though all the while vowing to do better). 

It's only been a year and four months since Michael and I quit saying goodbye at airports every month. 

Living in Spain brought new meaning to goodbyes as it felt a bit like a revolving door, never knowing who was coming or going and when. I have to add an aside and say how much respect I have for those who commit their lives to missionary care especially to missionary kids - providing stability for them but also the strength they exemplify to endure goodbyes.  

Wales has brought about less goodbyes than Spain. I now have partner to navigate them with and to whom I don't have to say goodbye to. I have family here. I have a stable community. The goodbyes within Wales aren't as constant as they were  in Spain.

Expect for one type of goodbye. The goodbye to my family. The tears that still well up at airports as we wave to each other through security until we no longer can see each other. The knowing those goodbyes mean missing birthdays, milestones and everyday life. 

Those who are called to far away places know this is the reality and the sacrifice. Being called makes it worth it, but it doesn't make it easy. 

And Michael and I know without doubt we called to do life in Tremorfa. We aren't called here for a year but called to the point that this might mean forever. And even if God one day does call us to the US for us there will always be one side to say goodbye to. We will always have goodbyes. The goodbyes to family are the cost of the call that Jesus has placed on Michael and I. But as Rend Collection sings, 'I'm counting up the cost and You are worth it.'

And Jesus is worth it. Because Jesus is better. Hard to say but true. 

And in the goodbyes I have learned a lot.

1. Goodbyes make you cherish the time you get when you get it. You laugh more, argue less. Or at least you try. You make more time to just be together. You look at things differently. You try and capture moments in your mind. You try to make them last. Goodbyes mean you try to be intentional and make the moments matter. I'm not the best at this and am still learning how to do this both when I'm with family and just in everyday life. And one day I might just be good at keeping touch and make those most of those moments, too.

2. Goodbyes also mean hellos. If I can this the decade of goodbyes I have go also call this the decade of hellos. And where would I be without those hellos. Those hellos have brought me incredible friends (you know the type that you can just pick up where you left off). The hellos introduced me to the man I now get call my husband. Even though our relationship consisted of a lot of goodbyes the excitement of the hellos were always better. Especially the that hello September 2013 that meant we finally lived in the same country. Hellos have brought me two incredible countries. Hellos brought me to an organization that allows me to be apart of what God is doing in South Wales and used passions. Hellos brought me to Tremorfa, a diamond in the rough when it comes to communities but I love it. Hellos have brought me a new family in Wales, friends across the world and to a church I love. Yes, goodbyes are hard but hellos are so beautiful.

3. We weren't made for goodbyes. I've started reading through the Bible with the goal to read it all in 365 days. It means reading Genesis and I have a funny relationship with that book. But something really struck me as I read about Adam and Eve. Eating that fruit, that sin meant goodbye. It meant goodbye to that complete relationship with God. They had it so great - I mean they literally got to walk around with God and completely hang out with Him and be in His presence. I imagine they got to have deep chats with Him but I bet they also got to hear His laugh. How amazing to get to hear God's laugh?! 

But sin changed that. Sin forced a goodbye upon them and to that relationship. It meant separation and death. It meant pain. I think that's why goodbyes are so hard because they weren't intended. In the perfect world God created there weren't goodbyes. 

Thankfully, my God is about hellos. Jesus said goodbye to His Father and said hello to us. Which had to be hard, knowing perfect love with God but coming to embrace our rejection to give us a way to God. But Jesus decided we worth it. He did what He came to do, embraced us, taught us how to live, let us reject Him, murder Him even. And He conquered death, He conquered sin, He conquered goodbyes.

He conquered goodbyes.

We weren't made for goodbyes and because of Jesus and living in Him means one there will be no goodbyes.

And this girl is thankful for that. 

{The pics might seem random but they're all from my trip the visit my family over the holidays - the inspiration for this post}

Love Tremorfa - 26 April 2014

April 27, 2014

What joy is there in litter picking? In painting play equipment? In pruning plants? Oh there is a whole lot. 

Yesterday we donned shirts saying "Love Tremorfa" because we genuinely do love Tremorfa. We love this neighbourhood, and we love these people, most of whom we haven't even met. We don't love for what it is, not for what it is or isn't doing, but rather because Jesus has called us to love this place, these people and has overflowed us with a deep love for them. 

And we wanted to bless, to serve this place. We want to bless and serve this place. 

We wandered one day looking for people to pray with...and turned up empty (that's another story though). But we saw this ugly wall in Tremorfa Park - it needed some colour. So we thought, "We could paint it!" A week later I wandered Tremorfa taking pictures for Gary's America trip and low and behold the wall had been painted. 

A bit shocked by how quickly that wall had been painted since we had just thought about, we realised we had to move onto something else. God had something else for us to do in the estate.

So we prayer walked around Tremorfa park. There is one part of Tremorfa weighing heavy on our hearts. This part is where a lot the young people we know live. And we saw the play park. It's tiny just two swings, a slide and a rocking horse. But the paint is chipped. There are brambles surrounding the back of the park. Some serious litter is needed to be picked up. And a dad and his child are using it. This park is used, especially by the part of the estate weighing on our hearts. 

So we start praying for God to open the door for this to happen. We contact Cardiff Council and get an almost immediate response and go ahead. We gather the people. We want this to be something that joins local churches in the community to bless the area.

People gathered from different churches, different nationalities, different ages to paint, to pick up litter, to bless this community by doing something so simple. 

We made new connections with people. We were able to get know one of the lads who comes to club on a Thursday better - he even said he would come to church tomorrow! We met people who were curious. Three curious little girls said they too were coming to church. Another lady said she would join us if we let her when we did it again. Two lads spend the day with us - they didn't really help - but they spend the day with us associating with us. That's a big step. 

We didn't see in big conversions. But our God is faithful as we follow Him. He held the rain. He brought the people. He made this happen. And we believe more is to come as He is faithful and does big things. 

Michael and I took a 5 minute walk and were reminded that what we feel called to here is long term. It will take time. We have to not just say but also be willing to accept and commit to Tremorfa may be our forever home. And we commit in the day by day, to be obedient day by day, loving these people day by day. 

Love Tremorfa yesterday I believe is just the start of something. So join us as we pray for more opportunities like yesterday. More ways to go beyond the church to meet people, to love them. We want people to meet Jesus. We don't want to give them another church (though we love and value the church), we don't want to give them religion or even another movement. We want to point them to Jesus. Because meeting Jesus changes everything. Jesus sets free. Jesus brings hope. Jesus is better than anything the world can offer, than religion can offer. Jesus is who I need, you need and they need. So pray that they would meet Jesus. 

House Hunters International: Tremorfa

January 19, 2014

Five houses. Five places that represent someone's life. Five places that we have to consider if they could represent ours.

Yesterday, we ventured into five houses. Tremorfa doesn't have a lot for sale at the moment. Currently, there are seven properties available for sale in Tremorfa (actually, if you do an online search you'd get ten but two have already been sold and one is currently on hold). That's not a big selection. And what comes on the market, goes quickly.

On a side note I have to be careful in my search to not go in with an American mindset. I can't look at what I could get for the same price in LP because that's not what I could get here. We know we are called to Tremorfa. So we know that means giving up a lot of those American standards. We will have one bathroom. Bedrooms will likely not have built in closets. American sized appliances will likely not be an option. One living room will be the norm. It will be a bonus to look at a house with an extra room for a dinning table. If you're in America, you probably don't believe me, but this is standard. I'm okay with it, but I have to keep my mindset that I am not buying a house in America. I'm buying a house in Wales. I'm buying a house where God has called Michael and I to do life. We love it here, and are content. I don't want to be envious or discontent by looking at houses where I haven't been called to live. With that being said...

Upon entering these houses, we knew three would immediately be crossed off the list. We couldn't live in them. One offered a backup option but we hope it won't come to that. And one is to be strongly considered.

One offered us the space I would love to have, but before we even went we knew price would keep this house from being a realistic possibility. This was the only house were we had decent space for a table. But once we saw it though we knew the location would drive us insane - no parking and the narrowest street I've been on in Tremorfa. We couldn't live here; it wasn't our house.

One smelled of curry. Curry is my favorite spice, but do I want my house to smell of it? And one thing I know about smells is you never know how long it will take for those smells to disappear. The house was dark. The house was damp. The house needed a lot of work. Emphasis on a lot of work. It's more than we can afford minus the work. We don't like it enough to under take that. We couldn't live here; it wasn't our house.

One was small, but realistically priced. It would need work. The kitchen was tiny; this gallery kitchen became tinier when passing the huge American sized refrigerator. I love an American sized frig as much as the next person, but I also like to be able to move in my kitchen. The local high school was our view - though it was green. Priced right...for someone yes. But for us? We couldn't live here; it wasn't our house.

One was nice. It was missing the third bedroom we would love, but the rooms were a decent size for Tremorfa. The gallery kitchen wasn't ideal, but it could work. The living room was a good size, despite the lovely lime green and blue flowered wallpaper. But wallpaper is minor and can easily be changed. Though  it's not our favorite and we don't think it's our house, we wouldn't entirely rule it out.

And then there was one. To be honest this house was perfect. Move-in ready. Great floors. Except for the entrance and the stairs it's paint and not wallpaper (I have a strong dislike of wallpaper ever since the removal of the fuzzy wallpaper in my parents' house). An amazing backyard - where I could see an outdoor table and possibly a fire pit. A beautiful kitchen - much nicer than I thought we would find and could afford. It has the third bedroom we wanted. And the shower isn't electric (they have those here, and while they aren't the worst they aren't my top choice). More storage than I've seen. The living room is small but very nice. But what's the problem...the table. I want a decent space for a table, and this doesn't quite have it. You might think, "Caitlin, it's just a table, look at all the other amazing things." And I would say, "You're right. But I feel we need to have that table space." We might be able to make it work by moving the frig to the pantry but we would lose a lot of storage. It could be our house, but I'm struggling to picture myself in that house. I want to use our house to host people and I'm not sure this house would serve that purpose. Everyone has said it will feel right when you go into your house. And honestly something doesn't feel right.

But I like too much to want to lose it...and that's the struggle. Do we wait and hope something better comes? I have felt my word for this year is trust. And right now it's trusting God with moving forward in the house hunt.

Do I trust Him that if this is the house it will stay put for the mean time?

Do I trust Him if it's not for something better to come along?

Do I trust that even if this house doesn't quite have the space for my table, He has a higher purpose for putting us there?

Do I trust to risk this house and see Him provide?

So we move out this week in trust. Knowing we can't jump into this if one of us doesn't have peace about it. Knowing we can trust God, knowing He provides. So we wait. We pray. I am planning to visit the house again this week; I need to see it again before Michael and I can make a final decision either way.

Join us in prayer this week for this house hunt. Pray that God would confirm whether this is the house He desires us to do life in. Pray if it's not for something else to become available. Pray that we would have peace. I know we can trust Him. I know He is calling us to live in Tremorfa and I know He has a house of us.

So I will trust Him.

And you can trust Him, too. Whatever the challenge you face, the areas you need the Prince of Peace to meet you in, He will come. He promises that just as the lilies and the birds are cared for by our Father, so will we His children be cared for.

You are cared for.

You are loved.

You are His beloved.

And then it was 2014...

January 13, 2014

2013 brought in quite a bit of change, and I anticipate that in 2014 I should be ready for even more. I think like most people I have a love/hate relationship with change. We are all cringe away from unwanted and forced change, the change you can't prepare for and simply want to avoid. Other changes excite us and we long for them to come quickly, even to the point where we wish life away a bit. 
The changes 2013 brought mostly wanted changes. In complete honesty, I needed and wanted to leave Spain. I knew with complete certainty that the life I had there was not what God was calling me to, and it was turning me into someone I didn't want to be. Walking away from Spain was hard, because there were people I loved there and things I had grown comfortable in. But I knew God beckoned me to leave, and I knew it was time to go. 

Moving to Wales was a change I longed for since 2009, when I left Wales after a summer mission. A wanted change which I knew God was ordaining. This change, though challenging because, let's be honest, change - no matter how wanted - is not easy, has been worth it. It's been what I needed. I see in just the few months I've been here, God breaking down some of what formed within me in Spain. I see healing coming, redemption erupting, and passion reviving. God is at work. 

The first Sunday of the new year this verse was shared at church...

"Forget the former things;
    do not dwell on the past.
19 See, I am doing a new thing!
    Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?
I am making a way in the wilderness
    and streams in the wasteland."

Isaiah 43:18-19

It is easy to dwell on the past. To get caught up in the hurt and the things that didn't go quite right. It cripples us in the present, preventing us from fully living out the abundant life we have been promised in Christ. I don't advocate repressing memories or pretending like something didn't happen, because lying to yourself never fixes the issues or restores you. But I don't want to wallow in the past because I know in Christ I am restored and renewed. I want to claim the promise of God that He is doing something new. We cannot even begin to fully comprehend what it is He is doing, but He is doing something. This is my verse for 2014 because I believe that our Father is doing something new, both in my life and here in Tremorfa. 

Tremorfa is not the sought after estate in Cardiff.  It's small, it's rough...echoing in my mind is the question, "What good can come from Tremorfa?" because that is often the impression I get when people find out where Michael and I are planning to do life. But the same thing was said about Nazareth and look who came from there. Jesus opted for the village missing the best reputation. He choose that place, knowing what people thought of this village. Nazareth may not have been a lot of things, but it was where God ordained Jesus to live. It was anointed, and from there a man would come who would change our world.  Tremorfa may not be a lot of stuff. But it is a place I believe to be anointed by God. He has called us to live here, and I believe God has big plans for this estate. 

This week we get mostly back to the weekly routine. Youth club resumes this Thursday evening, and I won't lie about how excited I am and how I want it to hurry up. I can't wait to see and connect with our young people again. Toast and Tots also starts back this week and I am really looking forward to catching up with the mums and grandmas again. In both of these groups, we have witnessed some incredible changes. And claiming the promise that God is doing something new, all of us on the team eagerly anticipate what God has in store this term. 

Girls' Group with our younger teenage girls will start back next week. This group is heavy on my heart and I think it's what I'm most excited about right now. To be honest I should be scared out of my wits because I am fully sure what this group needs to look like this term, but I firmly believe God's hand is on it. I know He is going to give inspiration and creativity to Hannah and I as we lead this group and deepen relationships with these amazing girls. 

Wedding bells will ring for Michael and I in August, and needless to say that's a change I wish would quicken the pace a bit. But there is still lots to do, so for now I'll just savor the planning and prep. I'm excited because we have chosen to get married at our church in Tremorfa. It's never what I imagined for a wedding, but I love that we are committing our lives to each other and committing to the call to do life and be apart of this community in Tremorfa. I want it to be a wedding where the community helps us celebrate as we enter into this covenant of marriage.

And last Thursday Michael and I officially began the house hunt in Tremorfa. After a lot of prayer and consideration we are seeking to buy in Tremorfa. Rent is very high in the estate and there is very little to rent here anyway. After meeting with a  mortgage advisor, we know we will be approved and make less in our house payments than we would in rent. We've seen one house which definitely was not the house we felt God calling us to, and are scheduled to visit five, maybe six, this coming Saturday. We want our home to be a place that God can use to bless this community. I really want a house where we have room for a decent size table, so we can gather people - whether it be youth or friends from the estate - around it to share a meal. I love cooking and I love eating with friends and family, and I also believe there is something sacred about sharing a meal with others. Look at the many times it's noted that Jesus shared a meal with people. I don't think you sit down for a meal with Jesus and leave unchanged. And while we are so far from Jesus, we believe God still uses conversation around a table to bring change. Please join us in praying for God to give us wisdom and discernment about which house He has for us. And please pray that God would give us a house that has room for a table (you'd actually be surprised at the number of houses that don't have sufficient space for a table). 

God is doing big stuff, the Holy Spirit is moving, and Christ is bringing in His upside down kingdom into Tremorfa. Something new is happening in this estate. And something new is happening in your own lives. Wherever you are, wherever God has placed you, there you are to bring His peace, His love. Proclaim that this something new is occurring because of Him. And remember the God who made jalepeƱos spicy and honey sweet, has made you and loves you. He's creative, and you are His creation. 

Laying Down Roots

October 10, 2013

The autumn air has finally become crisp. The chili bubbles in the slow cooker. And as I sit here on my sofa waiting for Michael to come for dinner before youth club and questioning where the property managers are going to show for the inspection they are now two hours late for, I guess I should take a moment and gather my thoughts.

It's a bit hard to fathom that just over a month ago I landed in Heathrow and took the bus over to Wales beginning this new chapter. There are days when I feel I'll be hopping on the next flight back to Madrid and other days when my heart aches for the ease of life in the US or even Spain, but the honest truth is there is nowhere I would rather be. I can't say I have fully found my nitch or can see clearly what God has in store. But I have never felt so at peace with where I am. So even in the moments when I feel rather silly for not knowing something that feels like it should be so natural and basic, my hearts rests that God has brought me here. Settling takes time, and roots don't grow overnight, but they will.

Before leaving for Spain I read a book about third culture kids seeing as I would working directly with TCKs there. I remember part of the book spoke of putting down roots and planting trees. Sometimes we fall into the habit of short term living, and in short term living we sometimes don't want to put down those roots because the deeper the roots go the harder it is pull them up when you leave. In a sense I've spent the last seven years in the short term. Leaving for university, back to LP, on to Spain, back to LP again, and now to Wales. This final move marks the only one where there is not an end date. But this short-term mindset I have found myself in has often caused me to not lay down roots. To not want to fully settle because the thought of pulling up those roots will hurt. It will rip, tear, and cause a bit of me to be left behind if those roots have to be uplifted.

But the fact is you have to lay down roots to thrive. You have to plant yourself, invest, and grow. My life might have been in the short term the last few years, but when I reflect back I can see what I missed by not putting down roots. And the fact is moving to Wales is not short term, it very well might be life term. But even if that changes, my heart desires to live fully. God calls me to live abundantly. And that involves roots. I want to thrive, make the most of, live intentionally, and make Christ known. I'll need roots for that.

So here is to laying down my roots in Wales. I can't fully state what that will look like yet, but I know the Creator, the Author of Life will reveal that in time. But for now, I'll trust Him to show me how.

September 19, 2013

Where to do I even begin...

I live in Wales. My heart has longed to say that for four years. And now I can. After a week and half the reality of this is settling in. For the last two years I've spent little snippets of time in Wales visiting Michael, but I never stayed longer than a week. Michael and I had never spend more than 12 consecutive days together in the same place in the two years we've been together. And now I live in Wales. My mind is still wrapping itself round all God has done to make this desire a reality.

In many ways it feels like I have been in Wales for ages, rather than just twelve days. I was encouraged yesterday at the church's mothers and toddlers group, when one of the ladies from church said it felt like I had always been apart of the church. For me that was so confirming.

I moved into my new home on the 8th. In the last three years, I've called a lot of places home. But today is the first place I have felt at home. I expressed to Michael now wanting to live out of suitcases when I arrived in Wales. Michael took that to heart, and a few days before I landed him and his dad were at my house putting together an IKEA wardrobe and dresser (and if you've ever put together IKEA furniture you know exactly what a blessing it was for someone to come and put it together). I moved into a room where all I had to do is unpack my bags, put my things in drawers and on hangers, and make my bed. Both my housemates have been such a blessing to me. They've made me feel so welcome and apart of this house. So from my arrival I have seen God's blessing.

My week at the moment looks like this. Monday morning is planning and prep in Tremorfa followed by prayer time. Monday afternoon involves prep as well. Hopefully in the next few weeks myself and one of my housemates will begin meeting with some of the younger girls in the youth group Monday afternoons. Tuesday is a full day at the Ignite office. I have to say I have been so blessed by my time at the office - from the encouraging people who are there to beginning the day with prayer. Wednesday is the mothers and toddlers group. Yesterday we had a Bible study with a couple of the older girls from youth group. I'm not sure as to whether or not I'll continue with the older girls once we get the younger girls' group going. We also had some of the youth for pizza last night at the church, which is hopefully to become a weekly thing. Thursday and Friday mornings are in the Ignite office again. Thursday evening is youth club.

The biggest encouragement in being here is prayer. My first week and half has been so filled with prayer and it is beyond amazing...

I'm excited to see what God has in store and how He will grow His family in Tremorfa!

One Busy, but Beautiful Summer

August 10, 2013

Planes, trains, and automobiles.  Add boats to that phrase and you have my summer pretty summed up. This summer has by far been one of the most transient summers I have ever experienced, and I backpacked last summer! But I think it is safe to say this has been one of my greatest summers.

June brought the end of my time at ECA and Spain. Goodbyes filled many of my days, but also laughter and new memories. I ventured to Southern Spain for a few days after school let out. Malaga, Gibraltar, Ronda, and Nerja confirmed that I needed time with just me and Jesus, but I am also an extrovert. I was so excited to return to little Camarma and see people I know. I also advise anyone moving - especially moving across the ocean - pack a few days before moving and spend your final days with loved ones. Best way to close out my time in Spain was spending it with people I love and not my suitcases!

My final week of June reunited me with some of the greatest people I know - the World Witness European missionaries! Our week in the Ukraine was nothing short of amazing. Wonderful teaching and learning, sharing, praying, and fellowshipping. I think my weeks with that team is one of my favorites for the entire year.

I flew through London on my trek back to Florida. And an overnight layover brought a visit by my favorite guy.

June 30th I landed in Miami to be greeted by my amazing parents. The first week back in LP was nice to simply relax and get back into the correct time zone, which I needed in preparation for the last few weeks!

Here's remainder of my July and the start to August looked liked. Ready...

Florida to Glade Spring, VA (with a overnight in South Carolina), Glade Spring to Charleston, SC, Charleston to a cruise in the Bahamas, back to Charleston to go to North Myrtle Beach, SC, North Myrtle to Wytheville, VA, Wytheville to Boiling Springs, NC, Boiling Springs to Durham, NC, Durham to Lewisville, NC, Lewisville to High Point, NC, High Point back to Wytheville, Wytheville back to Lewisville, Lewisville to Cherryville, NC, Cherryville back to Lewisville, Lewisville back to North Myrtle, North Myrtle back to Lake Placid, FL.

Whew! I'm tired just from writing that. Despite the long hours in a car, I wouldn't trade any of it for the precious time with family and friends I was given this past month. Seeing friends and family that I haven't seen in over a year and half and the ability to pick up where we left off is worth far more than gold.

And while I was away...drumroll...

Ignite became a recognized sponsor by the British government. So what did that mean? This girl got to fill out a lot of forms, mail off her passport to get pages added, pay another visa fee, book a plane ticket, set up a fingerprint appointment, change the appointment...twice, gather documents, take passport size photos, retake those photos because I smiled in the first ones, and finally...

mail my application, passport, and other required document to the British consulate in New York.

And now...I wait. Normally, I am not good at waiting. But it's out of hands into the hands of the One who is always in control. So I wait, but enjoying the present and cherishing these weeks with my family and friends.

Excitement does fill me as I think about what God is calling me to in Wales. He's brought so much together and orchestrated so much. My heart yearns to be back in Wales. I can't wait to start work with Ignite and live in Tremorfa. I would be lying if I didn't say how much I'm looking forward to being where Michael is.

This year I'm going to learn and do whatever the Lord asks. I don't what this first year in Wales will bring...but I know He has great plans :)

May 21, 2013

On the top margins of my teal Bible where pages are worn and the imitation leather is peeling away, on the page containing Luke 9 written in black ball point pen are the words:

No Reserves. No Retreats. No Regrets. 

These are not my words. 

Honestly, until today I haven't thought much about those six words on the top of the Bible in several, even when reading verses on that page. 

But today they came resounding back to me. 

Killing time, I scrolled through my twitter account and came to a tweet reading, "There are worse things than dying for Christ. Chiefly, living without Him." Liking the quote, I retweeted it before noticing the link that followed those words. I clicked and ended up reading. 

On the blog the writer wrote about living a safe life. Choosing the safe path rather than choosing the path Christ calls us to. Choosing that means I'm living for something other than Christ - myself. 

As I read her challenge, the Spirit brought those six words to mind along with Luke 9:23, the reason those six words are written on that page. 

I grew up in church, I grew up in a Christian school. I know I heard Luke 9:23 read, preached, and given as a challenge. But those words never struck a chord with me. I took them as take up your burden, your hardship for Christ. Which yes they are...but they are so much more. 

To me those words in Luke 9:23 meant simply take up the hardship within the confines of American middle class reason. Don't venture to the rough areas. Don't go here or there. Don't talk to that person. Don't live in that country. You might get killed. You might die. You might get hurt. You might not be comfortable.  

Then I went to college. New Testament 101 with Dr. Williams rocked my world along with his Synoptic Gospels class the following year. My comfortable Christianity did not mix well with what he said as lectured on Luke 9:23.

"Then He said to them all, 'If anyone wants to come with Me, he must deny himself, take up his cross daily, and follow Me.'"

As he read those words Dr. Williams looked at us and said, "Take up your cross. Let's think about this in the context the disciples would have heard it. Take up your death, your humiliating, degrading death sentence and follow me. He - Jesus - is telling them to pick up their torture and follow Him. And you know what, the majority of them did."

Somewhere along the line I missed what Jesus was asking those disciples, what He asks of me. He doesn't ask them to follow Him to a life of comfort and ease. He doesn't ask me to follow Him to prosperity. He asks them to come, deny themselves - their wants, their dreams, their lives - and follow Him. He doesn't sugarcoat it. He is brutally honest in His words, "Take up your cross and follow me." I live in the US where capital punishment is ever present but in the form of lethal injection and before that electric chairs and hanging. I can't fully imagine a death by those means, let alone the brutality and humiliation of being crucified. 

As an 18 year old what baffled me most as I tried to work all this out compared to what I had always thought, the disciples followed. They saw what happened to Christ, and yet they knew going with Him was better than their safety. Their comfort. Their life. 

Bringing me back to those six words. No Reserves. No Retreats. No Regrets. 

A few years later in college our campus pastor preached on Luke 9:23 and the verses around it. As Tracey spoke he shared with us the story of William Borden, the one who wrote those six words in his own Bible about 100 years ago. Borden, the heir to a family fortune, forsake the comfortable and eventually his own life to share the Gospel of Christ. He wrote those words in his personal Bible as his own challenge. To live without reserves - holding nothing back. To live without retreating - saying yes to Christ, and no to self. To live without regrets - living a life worthy of Christ's sacrifice. 

As I think about those six words, I know that's where I am today. 

Right now the Lord is not calling me to a place where I will be in daily life threatening danger. But the decision to say yes to go to Wales was not as easy as many might think. 

Yes, Michael is there and to be in the same place with him right now does involve me making the move due to his job. In the beginning when Michael and I started talking about such things, it was easy to say yes to move to Wales. But that's when it was hypothetical. When there was no reality yet or set plans. When I was seeking as to what would even be the next step after my commitment to ECA ended. 

Funny how things changed when reality set in. Part of me thinks I went into culture shock before there was any concrete way to move to Wales. But I must honestly admit, I cried a lot last summer and early in the fall about the idea of moving to Wales. When it was a dream I longed for it daily; it seemed perfect. But when it became real, the realization of what this would mean set in. 

Suddenly, returning to the US or even staying in Spain had a new appeal. 

Why? To be honest living abroad is not as glamorous as it seems. Wonderful and amazing, absolutely. Easy, heck no. In your home country, you take for granted simple things like knowing how to properly enter and exit a grocery store. I never once thought about how to correctly enter and exit Publix or Ingles or any grocery store in the US. But in Spain you do. You have to learn how to do things differently. Living abroad has many blessings, but it is also exhausting. And the idea of learning how do all these simple tasks again when I was just finally getting the hang of them in Spain left me not really wanting to go to Wales. 

In September, despite clearly knowing God was telling me to leave ECA, I started debating as to whether I should stay another year. With some gentle prodding God opened my eyes to heart longing to retreat to the easy. When the news came that my teaching license would expire at the end of the year, again I questioned but God said to live no reserves, putting all of trust and security in Him. 

As I prepare to go to Wales in a few months, going to serve in a way I never imagined, but am so excited for. My prayer is to live by those six words. 

No reserves. No retreats. No regrets. 

To Him be the glory.