Paper Cranes

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I don’t know how to write this. I’ve been trying. Trying to put into words what exactly my heart and my head since I got that call.

I’ll write the words I said over and over and over: it’s not fair, it’s not fair, it’s not fair. 

When we’re sad, we revert to childlikeness, I think.

I don’t get homesick. I hardly ever have. Never have I wanted to be home so bad.

I’ve been told since the internet existed that what I put on it exists forever.

In this case? Good.

Kyra, you were one of the best people I’ve ever known. In a way, I’m angry, because I thought I had longer to know you. I should have had longer to know you. And yet, the impact, the love you left in your wake makes me feel like I had known you for longer. I tried to watch your memorial last night, and I couldn’t. I couldn’t mourn you alone, and yet couldn’t let anyone else into that.

Becca said there were baskets of your paper cranes. Like the one I have in my Bible, made out of a miniature Cadbury egg wrapper, from the time we raided Walgreens the day after Easter. I sat next to you, amazed as you folded, without tearing the thin paper. It’s almost been lost to me a thousand times, but in this moment, I’m glad I have it.

Your parents said to wear vibrant colors, that black isn’t what you would have wanted, so I wore my Minn-eh-snow-da sweatshirt all day yesterday. The one that I have on in every picture of us, from Galentine’s Day at Chipotle, to Shamrock Shakes at the McDonald’s in Columbus. I’ll remember you in Katy’s Very Special Grandma sweater.

The night Jenna called me, I cried so hard I couldn’t breathe, and then called Becca, and from 4,003 miles away, and we cried so hard we couldn’t breathe, except long enough to tell our stories. We laughed in the middle of grief, and your life gave us that.

I had a community to lean into. That was your greatest gift to me, the only way I could think of to honor you, was to not be alone in this. You gave me that when you reminded me people were still good, still worth trusting, that new life could come from the blackest day. That I could always rise and start again. That it’s always worth it to make someone else smile, or laugh.

You loved China and your family, and music I never understood but laughed along with as A Boy Named Sue came on for the hundredth time on the way to church. You were a storyteller.

The first thing that came to my mind once the tears subsided a bit, or maybe while they were still coming, I remembered the thankful game. That there was always something to be thankful for. I was back in a room in Baltimore, with mysterious substances on the counter, laughing as we tried to sleep.

I miss you. I didn’t want to play the thankful game then. I still don’t. Just wanted to know that I could call you again.

I crammed this full of every memory I could think of because I have this compulsive need for people to know just how good you were. How good you are. I need to remember you.

You read my poems, and I loved your drawings, beautiful and intricate. More gifted than you’d admit. Writing this was the only way I could think of to honor you, that if I couldn’t tell you how much you meant, I might as well tell the world.

I love you. I miss you.

 

 

 

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Shalom.

Shalom was a 2-year old little girl I met in Uganda. Shalom was the daughter of Justice and David, the sister of Hope. Hope used to sit on my lap during teachings, wrenching my head to the side to run her little fingers over the semi-colon tattoo behind my ear.

I have a video of Shalom singing the next room over.

I woke up last Saturday to find out that Shalom was gone. We were told cancer. We were told of multiple hospitals, and of multiple weeks.
I sat in bed crying, and then called my mom. I wasn’t sure if grief or anger was appropriate. It didn’t feel like I had any right to feel either.  I am hungry to see all of this made right again, but some mornings I wake up downright ravenous. I feel it every bone, in every breath, dreaming of a feast when all I see is famine.

The hungry are never alone, are they?

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.

Daughter of Justice. Isn’t shalom always born out of justice? We learned last week that it all starts with the individual, it all starts with us choosing to do more justice. Shalom is born of everything wrong made right. Shalom is born when we all have eyes to see things like Jesus does. Shalom, the daughter of justice, we will make this broken world whole.
Sister of Hope. Isn’t she always? Hand in hand with the stubborn belief that none of this is how it should be. Isn’t it hope that sees the shalom in everything? It is hope that dares to believe shalom even exists. And hope isn’t gentle? Hope wrenches you to see, hope holds your attention, hope compels you to enter into the emptiness, in the hopes that your presence might lessen the cavern.
I’ve spent the last few months wrestling with God, over justice. And this world, and justice in a world so broken, not even the smallest among us are exempt. At the core of how I defined justice was ultimately vengeance, but what does vengeance ever make right?

What vengeance would ever bring Shalom back? When does vengeance ever bring shalom? I am not angry because she is gone. I am angry because there’s nothing right about the fact that she is.

I haven’t found an answer yet. Because nothing will bring her back, no one else will sing her songs, dance her dance, smile her smile.

In this season, I’m clinging to the promise, that someday this will all be new. God doesn’t need vengeance, to make it all whole again. Our consequences are bad enough most of the time anyway.
On earth, as it is in heaven.

I am white-knuckled onto the thought that restoration is coming, and I am mourning because it is not yet here. And neither is a contradiction. So for now, I’ll write what I know of Her. Of Shalom. Because I refuse to give her over to the god of sad stories and statistics. She’s Jesus’s.

Shalom and Justice will reunite.

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Justice & Shalom

Congo.

There’s more forthcoming than what I’m about to write. The thing being I’m still so tired that it never seems to ever come out like I want it to. People ask and the words that come out feel just that-tired. Amazing, life-changing, incredible, beautiful are just too simple. For every person who asks me, I feel like I could sit them down for coffee and still stumble over how simplistic everything out of my mouth feels. It feels like it isn’t over, even though I can see my empty suitcase from where I am in my bed. It still has red dirt on it, but it snowed here in Maine the other night.

It took malaria to give me words.

I still miss it like crazy. After all this, if you handed me a plane ticket right this second,  I’d pack my bags. Malaria taught me to pray for Africa. And trust me, I’m not that much of a saint, I prayed plenty for my own healing. But it taught me to pray against the anxiety and hopelessness, and the exhaustion. The fact that this wasn’t a death sentence for me is a matter of my privilege, and it’s that privilege that makes the injustice make me more angry.

I won’t ever have to worry about dying in a waiting room because I don’t have the money. 

Malaria taught me how much my God loves Congo. Malaria and a travel show on Netflix on the Congo. I tell my mom, it still feels like it wasn’t real, like it was all some dream. And as I watched this show, from the border crossing to the distinct French, the color, it all came back and I cried.

God, it’s so beautiful. It’s so beautiful, isn’t it? 

God loves the Congo. Like he loves me. Like he loves his bride. That’s all I could think of as a watched last night, this is what God’s love looks like, seeing beauty where no one else would. Seeing hope where no one else is. I realized his justice even more as I sat there looking and listening to what felt like.

Remembering that hope is the most stubborn force in the planet.

to be continued. 

 

Prince of Peace: Outreach

 

Your love surrounds me when my thoughts wage war

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When night screams terror, there your voice will roar

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Congolese flee the eastern town of Sake, just west of Goma, on Friday. Fighting between rebel and government forces in the east of the Democratic Republic of Congo has displaced at least 100,000 people.                   

                      Come death or shadow, God I know your light will meet me there

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And my soul will know…
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    This beautiful nation that God is already speaking to me about. This beautiful nation that needs God’s words of life to roar into the midst of war and into the midst of fear. In mid-January, I’ll be headed to the Democratic Republic of the Congo, to bring these words. When we learn of who God truly is, we just can’t keep it in, can we?

I’m looking at about $2500. The first installment will be visa fees in the beginning of November. I’m overjoyed to get to witness how He provides over and over again, and know he will this time, but I would love for you to be apart of it. I’d love for you to go with me. Over the next day or two, I will put out a video update, and something with a few more details. Thanks for reading and please comment or email with any questions.

Tag, You’re It

Hide and seek. It’s like hide and seek. It’s like follow the leader. It’s wild and crazy. It’s terrifying, because what if- oh, there you are.

Following after Jesus is like this. Like the wildest game of tag you’ve ever played. When I came here, it’s like God said to me

Tag, you’re it.

And I finally caught up to him, laughing, in awe of how he never really left. Jesus is really not great at hide and seek, he’s like that one kid you can hear giggling, arms and legs sticking out from behind a tree. They aren’t hiding to hide, they are hiding to be found. 

And sometimes you get scared, because he found a really good spot this time, and you get a little nervous, and then you hear a chuckle from behind the shower curtain.

I couldn’t stop playing if I wanted to. This is missions for me. Jesus says, tag you’re it and there is a compulsion in my soul that needs to find him.

I am captivated. 

I was talking with someone here in Kristiansand, the brother of one my roommates’ boyfriend. And we began to talk about what brought me here.

The short story? Madison and Kristiansand are connected by a lot of people who recommended it, I didn’t wanna wait.

The long one? Tag, you’re it.

God is moving here in Europe. You can taste it, you can feel it, it builds every time I talk to someone. We are collectively hearing a giggle from behind the tree and Jesus, we want to be where you are. We don’t want to miss it, we don’t want to ignore where you’re moving. Europe is reviving, and I don’t want to miss a second of it.

There are refugees in the farmland of Sweden who need to see the love of Jesus in a way that they can touch, taste, hear, see, because they are waiting and no one is coming. Girls in the red lights of Berlin, literally living in hell on earth. I hate to paint it so negatively, and don’t get me wrong, there are people going. There are people to whom this is ludicrous, who are radically following Jesus, desperate to find him where he is. Psalms says it like this:

“He raises the poor from the dust And lifts the needy from the ash heap, to make them sit with princes, With the princes of His people.” Psalm 113:7

“Because of the devastation of the afflicted, because of the groaning of the needy, Now I will arise,” says the LORD; “I will set him in the safety for which he longs.” Psalm 12:5

“Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me. Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you? The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.” Matthew 25: 34-40

Jesus identified so closely with the poor, with the needy, he says do it or don’t to those who need it, it’s as if you were doing it to me.  Jesus says, meet me here. Meet me among the poor, among the needy. Meet me here.

God is here, in Scandinavia, reviving hearts, changing minds, awakening souls.

God is here, in Europe, awakening new life. I don’t want to miss a second of it. I don’t want to miss a second of what he’s saying, what he’s doing, where he’s moving. It’s coming alive, and I couldn’t bring myself to be anywhere else.

“The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me, because the Lord has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,to proclaim freedom for the captives;” Isaiah 61:1

There is so much more to that verse. All of the good things the Lord has to proclaim over those he loves. Because he loves us, so, so much.

Tag, you’re it.

God is inspiring some cool things here, so look for a few announcements over the next few days. Thanks as always for reading. If you’d like to partner with me, in what God is doing here in Scandinavia, head here to financially partner with me. Your money goes directly to personal expenses while here in Norway, as well as some exciting opportunites to reach out into Scandinavia as a whole. More on that later. 

You Go With Me.

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When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written:

“Death is swallowed up in victory.”

O death, where is your victory?

O death, where is your sting?”

1 Corinthians 15: 54-55

   Sometimes, as I talk about what I’m doing, what God is doing, I use this phrase:
You go with me. And it’s true. I remember being a little girl, listening to preaching and missionary stories, and hearing of a woman that had worked her whole life to be a missionary to China, and ended up not being able to because of her health. She spent the rest of her life supporting those who could go. And her reward is the same, because while her feet never touched the ground, those missionary’s wouldn’t have without her either.

    Every time I say that phrase, that was the story I thought of. It’s a different story now. Because there was one time I said it and I had no idea.

      It was the day I got back to Maine, after six months split between Wisconsin and Europe, we had arrived back at one o’ clock that morning. I was slated to share with my home church (Machias Christian Fellowship) that night, and I was underprepared and thoroughly exhausted. I shared stories of dancing in the rain with refugees in Stockholm, praying peace over Syria, and praying through the red light district of Berlin. I talked about Kristiansand, about my next steps. I couldn’t fully picture the crowd that was there today, but I remember taking note of all the new faces. Despite my exhaustion and under-preparedness, God moved. Isn’t that just who he is?

      God spoke to the heart of Jon Popham that night. I didn’t know Jon well, just as the husband of friend. They hadn’t been married long when I left. I had held their little one at my friend Emily’s wedding. Jon told Melinda a few times that he wanted to give something to help.

     He went to be with Jesus three weeks later.

His wife showed up at my house late last night with a card. And that something he wanted to give. From me and Jon.

     You go with me.

Jon goes to Norway with me. Never had that phrase I’ve said a thousand times become so clear to me. That even in death, even in tragedy, the legacy of a life redeemed. What I did know about Jon is that he was a man who loved Jesus, who loved his family. He was a silly guy, I remember learning as I went through pictures of him with his wife.

      Oh death, where is your sting? Oh hell, where is your victory?

And that’s the thing: I had never put together just how defiant that statement is. Death, you don’t get to win this time! You don’t get to have this one, even in death, Jesus wins! Where Jesus is, he’s knocked the teeth straight out of the grip hell and death had over us, and we get to have a redemption that lasts even beyond the grave.

    So Jon lives on, Jon goes with me. The work God had done stand more powerful than even death. Our story never just ends here. When we pour into others, when we stand obedient, when Christ choses to redeem something, even in death, it stands redeemed.

     So thank you, Jon and Melinda. As I get on that airplane in a few days, you go with me

                                           Jon and Min

                                                         Jon and Melinda at their wedding.

Just Like Riding a Bike

 

And the risk of falling never stops existing, you just get to a point where you realizefalling and dying aren’t the same thing.

This is the truth. It started as something polished, even pretty. I originally wrote this like an FAQ. It was like Mom and Dad wrapping a bike, and underneath all the pretty paper, you can still see it’s a bike. Like why bother wrapping it?

Exactly.

The more see-you-laters, the more bye-for-now’s that I have? Oh boy, is this scary. Much like the first time we took the training wheels off my own bike (I was like 8, it was sad, I was THAT uncoordinated), and I scraped up my ribcage. And swore I’d never ride again, through yells and sobs and a fair amount of drama.

Once I got over the gashes (scrapes), that bike was the catalyst for adventure and imagination, for freedom. I remember riding around my neighborhood, popping in on family member unannounced, or into the woods, cruising down the hill towards the lake and seeing how quick I could stop.

Exactly.

These preparations for Norway feel like scrapes on my ribcage right now. They aren’t debilitating but boy, do they make themselves known. But all they are is a reminder of a Thing I still haven’t conquered. A Thing whose gashes prove I’m at least giving it a solid try without training wheels. A Thing that exists, and is real, and is waiting for me.

See, I love this. I love traveling, and culture, and different people, and my people so freaking much. I get a little itchy if I’m in one place for too long. I’m so, so excited.

I’m so, so, so scared.

I’m learning quick that the doing of the thing, doesn’t make the thing any less scary. I’m still scared, I’m just- LOOK, DAD, I’M DOING IT! I’M DOING IT!

Nothing changed, I just started moving. And panicking. But mostly moving. Like that weird sense of terror that happens just after the adrenaline wears off and you become self-aware?

That is my emotional state right now.

When I got on a bike again this past year (literally, no metaphor), I was in Sweden, and was not entirely sure I knew what I was doing. I was 99.9% sure I would fall off (in front of my team) and look like a fool (I talked in my sleep, it was too late for that one). And with that in my mind, I got on. And it hurt (at first), but after that? I wanted to go everywhere on it. It’s not to say I didn’t fall (I made sure I was alone), and that my thighs weren’t hateful of me (I DIDN’T KNOW THESE MUSCLES EXISTED), but I was ten again. It restored something. I remembered something:

I like doing hard things.

It feels too easy if I’m not really scared. I have no satisfaction unless I’m 85% sure I CAN’T DO THIS.

But God never changed his mind no matter how many times I said I can’t do it. God hasn’t changed his mind on me yet, on this adventure yet, and I’m me, so I’m in shock.

But I trust him, a lot. Sometimes I don’t think I should, because I use my eyes. But when I use my brain, and when I exercise my faith, not just my anxiety, I usually make the right choice.

I move to a new country (temporarily, but still for a while) in a week.

And I’m really scared.

But God isn’t. I think he’s standing there like my dad was, waiting for me to do the Next Brave Thing, to just get on the bike, learn how it balances, see how it rides, how to hold myself.

I might even fall off a few times. I might throw the bike back, tell him I hate it.

And he’ll chuckle, pick it back up, because we both know I’m gonna get back on.

And like my real bike, once balance kicks in, and I learn, and I fall a little less. And the risk of falling never stops existing, you just get to a point where you realize
falling and dying aren’t the same thing. If you aren’t falling, you aren’t going anywhere.

This whole thing?

It’s just like riding a bike.