Monthly Archives: March 2012

Summer Plans

When we left Peru last year, I cried harder than I had any other year.   I’ve never been a quiet crier, and I vividly remember leaning against the window of the airplane, sobbing far more loudly than was appropriate, watching as the orangey-yellow lights of Pucallpa faded from view.  Mama Rosy had pressed one of baby Fabiano’s (clean) burp rags into my hand as I crossed from the waiting area to the airport gate, and it was absolutely soaked.  Eventually my heaving sobs subsided, but tears ran down my cheeks for most of the hour-long flight to Lima as I sat hunched toward the window, pretending to sleep.  While I hoped to return to Pucallpa the next year, I knew a lot was going to be changing in the next nine or so months, and I truly didn’t believe I would be able to.  After all, I was moving away from home, starting college, and hoping to get a job, and the following summer seemed an eternity away.  Besides, no one from Sister Lakes had plans to continue construction or seminars at CEMY.  Though I wouldn’t have said it aloud, deep down I believed that this was truly goodbye.

Throughout much of this year, I was filled with stress about the upcoming summer.  Should I go back to Hiawatha? Should I consider interning at Crossroads again?  Should I work?  Did I dare even dream of returning to Peru?  I prayed, I asked others to pray, and I begged God to make His will unmistakably clear.  A couple of options for Peru budded, then shriveled and died before they could bloom into full-fledged plans.  I grew increasingly sad as I feared that the door to Pucallpa was closing entirely.

One night, I was fairly frustrated as I prayed.  It seemed there was no clear answer for summer.  I know that sometimes God doesn’t always give us “neon signs” telling us where He wants us, but I was at least hoping for SOMETHING in one direction or another… some sort of clear “NO” on one option, anything.  I wrote the following in my journal:

“God, I have NO IDEA what you want me to do this summer.  Whenever I think about it, I get a panicky feeling in my chest.  When people ask what I’m doing, I just want to run away.  I want to be where You want me, even if it’s not where I want to go.  Please, God, PLEASE, just make it clear.  I’m asking a lot, I know.  I’m asking You to leave no doubt in my mind as to where You want me.  I’m sitting here admitting that I’m not understanding what You’re saying to me right now… I’m asking You to yell, not whisper.  Please.”

I fell asleep that night still praying for God to make His will clear.  The next morning, I woke up a few minutes early and had time to check my email and Facebook.  My grogginess soon gave way to sheer joy when I saw not one, not two, but three separate messages from three separate people in Pucallpa, talking about how much they hoped I could come this summer.  I immediately emailed an American friend in Pucallpa (what up, Monica), asking her thoughts on the possibility of me teaching English there this summer.

The moment I began truly dreaming, truly allowing myself to take steps toward the burning desire God had placed in my heart, things began falling into place. I exchanged emails with a few more people, started searching travel sites, and continued praying.

Fast forward a few weeks, and I am thrilled beyond WORDS to announce that I will be spending June 14- July 20 in Pucallpa, Peru, once again. I’ll be living with the same family, teaching English at the church, and immersing myself in the language and culture for five whole weeks.

Your prayers are coveted as I continue to plan this trip. It will be different than other years, but I am eagerly approaching the plans and opportunities.

#springbreak2012

Things I Love About Spring Break: A List in No Particular Order

  • Sunshine and temperatures above 70 degrees
  • Finally seeing Bo again
  • Snuggling with Ian and Avery (my small cousins)
  • Nightly frozen pizza
  • Sleeping in a queen size bed
  • Continuous spray tanning oil
  • Flip flops
  • Actually processing and learning from the book I have to read for class, and only reading a couple chapters a day, as opposed to reading all 240 pages AND writing my report in one night
  • Fresh fruit and real Mexican food
  • Naps by the pool
  • Spending my ca$h money (I’m so sorry I just used that phrase, but I’m too lazy to go back and change it. I’d rather type two whole additional sentences.) on fashion/celebrity magazines, sunglasses, the aforementioned tanning oil, and candy
  • Hearing Spanish everywhere we  go
  • Food Network
  • Reading for fun, a phrase which here means “Reading a book, finishing it, and then reading another… in the same afternoon.”
  • How much everyone from school loves each other and keeps in touch, even though we’re so glad to be home
  • Twitter. It helps me keep up with everyone.
  • Going shopping while the kiddos are sleeping
  • When someone tries to pick Avery up and she says “No, Ah-Ah!” and runs to me and snuggles down into my shoulder
  • Watching Ian love things… LegoLand, jumping in the pool, etc
  • Not having an ethernet cable attached to my laptop. Ahh, the freedom!
  • Horchata
  • Listening to sermons and journaling on my own time
  • Going to bed when I want to, taking naps, sleeping in
  • Home-cooked meals

Afraid of Grace

While reading the prayer of confession at church last Sunday, these lines jumped out at me, and set my mind into a rapid spinning pattern:

Why would we shut our ears to this triumph? Why would we crawl back inside demolished prisons and drape chains across ourselves to pretend that slavery remains? Why are we so afraid of freedom? Why are we so afraid of sunlight and this new kingdom without walls? Why are we so afraid of grace?

My mind continued spinning all week, wondering why those words had hit me so hard, until last night at Gospel Community.  15 or so of us gathered at Thomas and Tiffany’s apartment and focused again on the prayer of confession.  As we reread it together, in this smaller setting, the same words jumped out at me again.  Why am I so afraid of grace? Why would I crawl back inside the prison Christ demolished?

Having grown up in a Christian home, I’m no stranger to the concept of grace.  I’ve heard all the definitions (God’s Riches At Christ’s Expense, etc), listened to probably hundreds of sermons on the topic.  Yet, when it comes to accepting grace in my own life, I tend to balk.  See, accepting grace means admitting that I have no control.  It means stepping off a cliff with no idea if there’s anything to catch me.  It means going running even though the very thought sends me into distress.  Accepting grace means all of these things, and I like control.  I like plans.

So, scared, I find the remnants of my former prison.  I crawl back inside.  Sure, it’s crumbling and dark, but at least there’s a solid floor.  I feel around for the chains of guilt, loneliness, distrust, and I drape them back over my arms and legs. There, I think. Now I’m safe. Now I’m in control again.

After a fitful night of sleep on the hard floor, I’m awakened by the light streaming through the cracks in the walls.  I open my eyes, terrified at this change.  I’m used to darkness, see, and the light is new and scary.  I stand up and peer outside, seeing freedom.  My heart longs for this freedom, my soul cries out for it.  I venture out a step or two, and feel control beginning to seep away.  Unable to handle it, I run back to the prison.  This repeats throughout my life.  I venture outside, sometimes even for a few weeks, getting closer and closer to abandoning myself fully to grace.

It never sticks, though.  I always get scared.  Things start going the wrong direction, the light becomes so bright that I can’t see the next step, the freedom so free that I feel myself falling, and I run back inside the prison.

But the confessional prayer doesn’t end with being afraid of grace, and neither does my story.  The prison is damp and my allergies are getting unbearable.  The chains are rusty, I don’t want tetanus, and I’m getting really tired of bread and water.

I take a deep breath, throw my chains off one last time, and spring headlong out of the prison.  I don’t know what I’m running into, but I know He’ll be there.  Even when it’s scary, He’s promised to lead me.  I finish the prayer as a feeling of freedom springs into the core of my being.

Lord Jesus, are you safe? Will I be okay if I follow you into the sunlight? Can I trust you to lead mee by still waters? Do you promise to never leave me alone?  In faith, I put my hope in you. Forsaking all else, I fix my eyes on you.

 

Prayer of Confession from The Painted Door, March 4, 2012 and copied from: http://thepainteddoor.onthecity.org/groups/3173/topics/657842

A Long Journey Home

It’s funny how much I took having a church home for granted, that is, until I suddenly no longer had a church home.  I never realized the subconscious feeling of comfort and “home” that came from knowing I had a church family behind me, until that feeling was gone.

Last spring, my family left our church of over seventeen years, after encountering irreconcilable doctrinal differences.  About a month after this, I boarded a plane for Pucallpa, Peru.  I was returning to people I knew and loved, but knew I would have to bridge the language and cultural gap to somehow explain why we didn’t have the support of our church that year.  One day before the rest of the team came, Pastor Daniel came and sat down next to me at the church.  He asked what had happened, and God gave me the Spanish to explain to the best of my ability.  Having just gone through a church split at CEMY, Pastor Daniel listened seriously, contemplating each word and tearing up with me.

When I finished talking, he sighed heavily. “This is not God’s plan,” he said. “Everyone needs a home church, just like they need a home.”  I nodded, and a smile spread across his face as he continued, “Well, this is your home now. No need to fill out membership papers, you are home.”

This was a huge blessing, and a wonderful, emotional thing for him to say.  I was truly touched by this statement, and it was exactly the comfort I needed at that time.  However, when I came to college, answering, “Centro Evangelico Misionero de Yarinacocha,” to the “what’s your home church?” question didn’t make much sense. Almost too obviously to mention, I couldn’t fly back to CEMY each Sunday for worship, and I wouldn’t be going there when I went home for breaks.  Increasingly, as people talked about financial and emotional support from their churches back home, I felt homeless.

When I came to Chicago, I began searching diligently for a home church.  I visited 4 or 5 churches before “settling” on one for three or four weeks.  However, there were several things about the church that I found less than ideal, so I began to search again.  The search was incredibly frustrating, and I felt entirely alone.  I’ve never had to make that kind of decision without my parents.  My standards were nothing out-of-the-ordinary: solid biblical preaching, contemporary worship, small congregation, outreach focused.

I grew more and more frustrated as I searched for a church.  Desperately, I wanted to have a place.  I wanted somewhere to go each week, where I knew people and they knew me.  I wanted to work in the nursery and be part of a small group.  I wanted to worship with the same congregation every Sunday, wanted to hear consistent biblical preaching.  When I went home on breaks, I attended my parents’ church – which, for the first time, was not also MY church.  I wanted a home, because I didn’t have one anywhere in North America.

Initially, I refused to consider The Painted Door.  I had visited there one of my first weeks in Chicago, and been less than impressed with the guest speaker I had heard, plus I was disillusioned by the number of Moody students who went there.  However, after several weeks, my friend David began urging me to come back “just to hear the real pastor.”  I finally gave in and boarded the bus down Chicago Avenue.

On the walk home, I was speechless.  The pastor had spoken hard Biblical truths directly into my heart, and I had been truly touched by the worship.  I decided to go “just one more week,” to hear the pastor again, before continuing to search.  That week turned into two, and soon I had decided to regularly attend The Painted Door.   Each week, I walk through the (ironically unpainted) door, pour myself some coffee, take several pages of notes, and sing my heart out.  I go to Gospel Community (our version of small groups) on Thursday nights, and I’ll be helping with children’s ministry pretty soon.  Last week, I began reading through the constitution as I work toward membership.

It’s a routine, now, just like getting in the car and driving down Irish Road used to be.  It feels so normal, so right, to take the bus to and from church, to sit with my “family” (the four guys I go to church with each week), to talk to the people from Gospel Community, and to go to the front for communion.  As I stood in worship last week, with tears threatening to spill out of my eyes after a particularly convicting service, an overwhelming feeling came over me.  At first, I couldn’t identify it, but after I thought about it for a while, I realized what it was.  As the realization hit, a smile spread across my face and a few of those tears found their way out of the corners of my eyes.  I was finally home.