The Blessing of Uncomfortable

My husband and I decided to go camping for our anniversary a few years ago in March. When someone says they are going “camping,” it could mean many different things. When I say camping, I mean grab the tent, air mattress, some blankets, the propane camp stove, an ice chest with food, fire starter, and the “chuck box” with everything we need to cook and clean dishes. With packing complete, we headed a few hours out to a State Park, found a great spot to reserve, and set up camp. This was going to be amazing!

As we started setting up our tent, I began to get cold. It was nearing the end of the day and the sun was setting. When we finished, I was ready to find some heat so we went to a nearby town to have dinner. I hadn’t thought about the temperature much before this trip because during the day, it had been nice! I now started to realize what lied ahead of us… COLD.

As we drove back to camp that night, we discussed how cold it was going to be and how to handle it in our tent. We had no heat source other than the warm bodies of each other, some clothing, and a few blankets. When we arrived, we immediately went to our tent. The wind outside was a little too chilly to even sit around a fire. It had been a long day and we were ready to go to sleep anyway. 

We crawled under our blankets and held each other tight, waiting for the night to pass. 

That night was absolutely miserable, reaching a temperature in the low 20’s. I was so cold I couldn’t sleep. I didn’t want to move so my body started hurting from laying in one spot for so long. I had a thought to get up and put on more clothing. I had a nice soft jacket that was really warm across the tent in my bag. But I didn’t want to get out of the only warmth I had to go get it. So I laid there for hours, in my misery. Around 4am, something else forced me out of bed. I needed to go to the bathroom. So I got up, put my soft jacket on and some other clothing, and made the trek outside to the campground bathroom. Brrr……

When I returned, I crawled back into bed and snuggled next to my husband who’d been patiently putting up with me all night. I begin to feel a bit warmer. In fact, the extra clothes I had retrieved during my brief trip across the campground made me more comfortable. I still wasn’t as warm as I would have liked but it certainly was better than it was. I wondered why I hadn’t taken the step to become more uncomfortable for the chance at finally being able to rest.

Recently, our Life Group has been doing a study on the Holy Spirit and I’ve realized that I will do just about anything to create a comfort zone. But you know what? My comfort zone is not where I’ve heard from the Holy Spirit most clearly. It’s in the moments that I’ve been uncomfortable. It’s in the trials of life. It’s in the times that I choose not to let fear smother me but rise to overcome it with Jesus’ help. It’s in the cold nights and hard seasons. 

So why do I resist moving so much? Why do I nestle in, satisfied with where I am? 

Do you experience this as well? When is the last time you stepped out of your comfort zone:

  • to reach for a lost soul?
  • to listen to someone who needs you when you are busy?
  • to do something for your health that is hard but beneficial?
  • to step out on the stage and sing praises to Him?
  • to volunteer to help in your church even though you’re busy?
  • to start writing from a prompting in your spirit?
  • to pray with the lady at the restaurant who is crying even though you don’t know her?
  • to walk into a Life Group or join virtually even though you don’t know anyone?
  • to tell someone about what God has done in your life?

And those are just the little things. You could be called to sell all you have and follow God’s leading full time into missions, or quit your job to follow a different calling He has on your life, or something else. Whatever it may be, big or small, there’s one thing we can be sure of – If God calls you to do something, He will equip you. And when you start living this way, you will see that in the middle of the uncomfortable is where you will find the greatest reward.

Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. Matthew 16:24-25

The Strength of Togetherness

It was just one of those weeks. A hard decision, season of change, tears shed, past mistakes showing up again, people hurting, depression looming, sleepless nights. I sent a text to a few friends that I was not well and to pray for me. I also told them I couldn’t talk right now. You know that feeling? To talk means to face my feelings and lose control of the emotions I’m trying so hard to keep in check. At this point, if I do that, I might fall into that abyss of depression and never return (dramatic huh?). I don’t know about you but when I am struggling, my first natural reaction is to isolate myself. 

“Come on Angie, pick yourself up. The enemy is fighting you and you need to stand your ground. Arm yourself with My armor. You’ve seen Me perform miracles time and time again and I will do it again.”

I meant to look up the verses on the armor of God but was in the middle of work and had to get back to it. So thinking I would do that later, I dismissed it for now. 

A few days later I was preparing for my Life Group and I opened my Bible. Guess where it opened to? Exactly on the page where it lays out the armor of God. I had forgotten to go back to it but apparently this is really important for me to get right now. 

I read through it a few times – belt of truth, breastplate of righteousness, feet fitted with the gospel of peace, shield of faith, helmet of salvation, sword of the spirit. And then I saw what He wanted me to see – there was no protection for my back. So, no turning and running away from the battle at hand. Face it, stand firm, armed with His armor, and He will be with me.

But I also noticed something else too as I read about the breastplate. It protected the chest in battle and Roman soldiers were to face forward, side by side, so that the armor only needed to protect their front. 

Not only do I need to stand firm and face the enemy to protect my back, I also need to have my friends beside me, locking arms, armed with the same armor. Otherwise, I’m still vulnerable to attack from behind.

Whoa.  

As I consider this passage in Ephesians 6, and what I am learning, I realize again how important it is for us to have a tribe of believers around us, locking arms, fighting with and for us. Our strength comes when we are together. It’s important to not isolate yourself when times are hard but to reach out to those you know will lift you up in prayer and stand strong with you. When we become isolated, separated from the church, is when our backs are vulnerable and our weak spot exposed. 

God created the church for many reasons. One of them is to do battle together against the evil one. Despite all seasons, good or bad, let’s hang tight together! We need it perhaps now more than ever. 

My One Word for 2019

Life for me is a whirlwind of emotions. 2018 held its fair share of laughter and tears, joy and sadness, hope and despair. I drew closer to Jesus. But the closer I draw to Jesus, the more I am attacked. The more I am tempted to worry and become anxious. The more my past is thrown in my face. The more I am tempted to be self-centered, afraid that if I don’t speak up about my own needs, they will get lost in a sea of servanthood. And I will be lost forever.

It sounds dramatic, doesn’t it?

And though it sounds ridiculous as I write it, this is why I do what I do. This is the whole reason I started writing about transparency. Let’s just all be real. Because the struggle certainly is.

As I considered my One Word for 2019, I thought about this turbulency in my life. I wanted an all-encompassing word to describe letting go of what is wrong in my past and the current pain it still causes others, what is wrong in my family and marriage, serving others when it seems I don’t receive anything in return, releasing the struggle to get everything accomplished that is on my list, praying to let go of worries and trusting the Holy Spirit to prompt me if and when I need to act, in His time.

That is a big list. What word could possibly address all that’s messed up in my inner world?

As I shared with my oldest son my dilemma and described to him this list, as soon as I finished he simply said “Peace.”

Could this be? I hadn’t even considered this particular word. But as he said it, it settled deep in my soul. I felt tears sting my eyes at the truth of it.

I need more peace. My emotions, inner battles, thoughts. They need a huge dose of the peace that passes understanding.

“Thank you son. That is exactly what I need.” And I remember how God can use the youth of today just as much as He can use us.

Matthew 8:23-27

‘Then he got into the boat and his disciples followed him. Suddenly a furious storm came up on the lake, so that the waves swept over the boat. But Jesus was sleeping. The disciples went and woke him, saying, “Lord, save us! We’re going to drown!” He replied, “You of little faith, why are you so afraid?” Then he got up and rebuked the winds and the waves, and it was completely calm.The men were amazed and asked, “What kind of man is this? Even the winds and the waves obey him!”’

As I started reading passages that address peace, I came across this often-read story of Jesus and his disciples. A few things stood out to me.

  1. These are Jesus’ disciples. They’ve followed him into the boat. They trusted him to lead them. And still, at the first sign of a storm, they faltered in their ability to trust him. The storm was sudden and their first reaction was fear and unrest. Isn’t that how it usually is in our lives too? I want better. I want peace to rule so deeply that the sudden storm doesn’t worry me at all. I’ve followed Jesus into the boat and I’m trusting Him with the storm.
  2. Jesus slept and didn’t immediately act. The storm doesn’t mean Jesus should immediately take action. It also doesn’t mean we should immediately take action. Sometimes, He just wants us to be at peace despite the high waves, swirling winds, and rocking boat, understanding that the winds and waves obey him. That he is in control.
  3. Jesus calmed the storm after their request. I wonder what would have happened if the disciples would have had faith. Was the request wrong? Absolutely not. We should always bring our requests to Him. However, the motive behind the request was to calm the storm so they would be safe.They didn’t think they would be safe in the middle of the storm.  It revealed a lack of faith. I want my prayer to be more on the side of “Father, help me to trust you. Help me to grow through this storm. And if it be your will, it would be great if you would deliver me from it. But above all, may your will be done.” And I want to truly mean it. I wonder if I can ever get to that point. It’s easy to think I can when the waves are calm. But what happens when they’re not? I’m trusting God this year to help me grow in this area.

When life becomes turbulent, I’m going to be seeking PEACE. I can already feel the difference God is making in my life this year simply from the first few weeks of praying and reading about it.

What about you? What word do you want more of in your life this year?

Return to Haiti – Part 3: Just Build the Road

Shoni Glasscock has been a close friend of mine since we originally embarked on our first mission trip to Haiti last summer. As bunkmates and morning devotional partners, we formed a bond that would not be broken and have continued growing in Christ together in ways I can hardly believe since that first trip. God used her to speak life and leadership into my life and I am changed for the better because of her presence. I asked her to write this section of our story and she so beautifully articulated what ended up being the theme of our week – Just Build the Road. This theme, spoken by the Holy Spirit to Grant Jones, another of our team members, will stick with us for a lifetime and be held as one of those moments in time that can only be explained by encountering the authentic, sweet, presence of God. Using an excerpt from Grant’s journal, please welcome Shoni to the blog today.   ~Angie


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“Ladies and Gentleman, now that we have you onboard and seated we regret to inform you that we have been notified by the tower in Dallas that we will be in a ground stop upon arrival there so our takeoff time has been delayed by one hour…”

You have got to be kidding me.  That was the thought running through all twelve of our minds as we sat on the plane at the Fort Smith airport.  Quick calculations in our heads told us what we already knew in our hearts – an hour delay would mean that we would miss our connecting flight to Miami which meant there was no way we would make our flight the next morning to Haiti.  This was just the latest of what seemed to be a never-ending string of battles trying to keep us from reaching our final destination – a tiny village on the coast of Haiti where many of us had left a piece of our hearts just a year before.

Our hearts were ready, our minds focused. We’d built prayer teams, and support groups and bonds among ourselves. Yet while we didn’t speak it, there was something else building within us that we wouldn’t fully acknowledge until we finally made it to Haiti…

Fear and Doubt.

It had been 100 days since we had our hearts broken. 100 days since we sat in a room at the church and were told, “I’m sorry it’s just too dangerous for you to go right now.” Civil unrest in this country we loved had forced the cancellation of our mission just 2 days before we were to leave and there was no timetable for when or if we could return. 100 days of uncertainty and wondering if we’d ever get to go back and build upon those relationships we’d formed with families so near to us.  100 days that seemed like an eternity because we had already been preparing for this trip for 7 months.  Then word came that yes, FINALLY, we were cleared to go! Dates were set, a week in October where somehow it lined up that all but one of our original team was available to go.  Our spirit was renewed as we started to pack and plan. Then the attacks came.

For one of us it was a family health crisis, one the painful resurfacing of past mistakes.  One of us was dealing with a move, a new job and trying to find their way in the world, one of us wondered if we were even qualified or equipped to do God’s work.  Some of us were just wondering why – why am I going on this trip? Is it just an excuse to “go do something for God”? Among the questions asked of us were “why don’t you just send money?” and, “Are you actually making any difference?” Then on October 6th, another huge blow, as a 5.9 magnitude earthquake rocked Haiti just days before we were scheduled to leave.  We were left wondering yet again if we’d get to go, what we would be facing when we got there, and if this would change our mission. As we faced every one of these battles, many of us found ourselves asking if we should even be going.  Fear and doubt crept a little deeper into us, slowly and almost unnoticed, until we found ourselves sitting on that airport tarmac thinking, “you’ve got to be kidding me!”

After what seemed like an excruciating amount of time on the runway, our captain announced that we would be departing Fort Smith. One ungraceful sprint through DFW and a very uncomfortable few hours of rest on the floor of Miami International and we suddenly found ourselves on a bus, departing Port au Prince airport headed for the Mission of Hope campus in Titanyen.  The excitement was palpable – we’d actually made it to Haiti! After our long bus ride, made longer by a roadblock, we arrived at the MOH campus sweaty, tired, hungry, and most of us wondering if the scheduled strategic village time was even going to happen. Once we were settled in and fed, it was decided that we would indeed head into Labodrie to begin our ministry.

We entered our village with excitement and anticipation. Those of us who had been here before eager to see the changes from last year, hoping to see familiar faces of families we loved. The new team members just ready for whatever God laid before them with open hearts. What we encountered was far more than any of us expected.

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As we moved toward the back of the village where many new homes have been built over the last year, we encountered a group of Haitian villagers working with shovels and they asked if they could share their story with us.  It was explained that just that week, the road we were on had been expanded to allow for more homes to be built. While this was a blessing the road was just a simple dirt road so when it rained, it became muddy and impassible making it impossible for people to get to work, school, or to see doctors if needed.  They told us how as a village, they had pooled their resources and funds to purchase truckloads of rock mixed with more dirt to pour onto the road in an attempt to make it better. They asked us if we had any ideas on how to fix this problem.

The truth was we didn’t – not here in Haiti. In the US, the solution would have been simple. Have the road paved, add concrete, rent a road grater; the solutions and resources would have been endless. But here on this dirt road in an impoverished country the answer wasn’t that easy.  Yet standing there before this group of villagers, as the guys in our team picked up shovels to help ease the burden of the work, the purpose of our battles and the timing of our trip suddenly became clear.

Just Build the Road.

Just as almost none of our original plans to get to Haiti had been carried out as we had planned, our initial plans for the afternoon was diverted in an attempt to meet this village’s needs in a real way. We didn’t have the answers for them. We weren’t sure how to best help them. But we knew in that moment that we would do whatever we could to walk beside them in their struggle and help however we could.

How often do we, as Christians, feel that we are inadequate because we don’t have all the answers? So often we forget that the problems aren’t ours to solve and the battles aren’t ours to fight. We consistently look at the end product and think we’ll never be able to achieve that, realizing that we don’t in our own strength, have all the resources to get there. We do not know how to solve or heal the hurt within people, but we can place their interests above our own and we can know it’s not up to us to solve.  It is up to us to let God’s will and work within us. It is our job to give Him room. To pick up a shovel and help someone build a road. Whether that road is a physical road like the one we built that day in the village or a spiritual one to the Fathers heart.  Let God bear the fruit, let us pick up the shovels and find our contentment in all He has already done and promised to do and nothing less. The gospel is our Hope.

It’s not our job to bear the fruit.

Fight the battles. Build the road.

Let God carry people across it to schools, to churches, to conversations that may alter the course of their life and in some small way the course of eternity. Always remembering that our “not enough” in the hands of our God who is more than enough will achieve victory. You just have to be willing to pick up the shovel, and build a road.

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Return to Haiti: Part 2 – the Reunion and the Road

Anticipation rises as we land in Haiti. We are arriving early so they have agreed to let our team go ahead and make an unscheduled visit to Laboderie that afternoon, the village we love so much. It takes all I have to contain my excitement. After 16 months, I would get to see Biance and her family again. Would she remember me? Would they recognize us?

We grabbed our luggage and scurried out of the crowded airport behind the man Mission of Hope sent to bring us back.

Mission of Hope was a machine. It were founded in 1998 by Brad and Vanessa Johnson who had a vision to meet the physical and spiritual needs of the Haitians. They had been doing this a long time and knew what needed to happen to whisk us quickly out of the Port Au Prince airport without incident. It’s different there.

As we loaded the old, worn down school bus with a cracked windshield, torn seats, and open windows, I smiled. I was back.

The rules of the road are suggestions only, if they exist at all, and a broken down vehicle blocked the road causing a traffic jam for about an hour while we sat still, waiting in a hot bus with no air flow. We were finally here though and nothing was going to dampen our spirits.

When we arrived at the Mission of Hope campus at Titanyen, we drove through the tall concrete walls with barbed wire at the top as they opened the gate for us. Security was tight and though it made you feel more comfortable, it also made you keenly aware of the need for such extensive measures. When we finally stopped near the top of a steep and long, bumpy road, we were met with friendly interns ready to show us where to put our things. This was a different campus than last year so a new experience for all of us. We were shown to a bunk room and chose our beds, made them, set our mosquito nets and fans, and settled in. We then made our way to lunch.

The anticipation rose higher.

The time was near. And I couldn’t wait.

We gathered to discuss our afternoon plan which consisted of visiting Laboderie for Strategic Village Time, which I will explain later because all the plans we made were halted as soon as we arrived in the village. We noticed a group of men gathered discussing something and we drew near to see what was going on. They shared with us that they were waiting for a big load of dirt and rock to spread out over their washed out road. This road was the only means of access to the back part of the village and every time it rained, it became impassible. They had pooled together their money to bring in the trucks of dirt and rock to try and at the very least, make the road more reliable.

The men in our group immediately agreed to help, and armed with only shovels as the truck came and dumped in one location, started spreading out the dirt and rock. It was hard work and the sun was bright as the afternoon wore on. The women played with the children nearby.

Except for Shoni and me. Nickson, our local Village Champion who works for MOH, offered to take us to see Biance and her family. We quickly agreed.

As we walked back to the front of the village where they lived, I felt it again. Anticipation.

Ahlmon, Biance’s grandfather, was outside when we arrived and started smiling and hugging us. As he called for Biance, I stood and waited. And just like that, our time of waiting was over. She ran to me and I scooped her up in my arms and held onto her while the tears ran down my cheek. I kissed her cheeks and told her how happy I was to see her as Nickson translated. She couldn’t stop smiling and didn’t leave my side the rest of the day. She remembered me. She loved me. I loved her. There was no language barrier that could keep either of us from knowing this deep in our heart.

I had made a little photo album of our pictures together from the summer before and I gave it to her. She loved it and showed everyone. It was such a sweet moment. Sweet reunion with my Haitian girl. This girl that won my heart and held onto it tightly for all those months. This girl that many say looks like me, aside from skin color.

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Her dad Jimmy was there too and we had a great visit. He explained that Biance has been very sad about her Mom not being around – she died when Biance was young. I was so thankful to be able to bring some light and joy into this girls life.

Our day was beautiful, in so many ways. As we were reflecting on it a few nights later, Grant, one of our team members, shared his revelation of helping build a road that day. It quickly became the theme of our week. My next post will explain what God showed him and how it deeply affected all of us. It was truly powerful and something I will never forget.

 

Return to Haiti: Part 1

IMG_3020Obstacle after obstacle was encountered as our mission team prepared to go to Haiti this year. Originally planned for July, civil unrest caused us to postpone the trip. Personal spiritual battles were fought by most of the team members. Attacks were hurled at us from multiple sources in different ways. Though not always perfect, we fought back in the only way we knew how. On our knees.

Personally, one of my biggest internal and even spiritual battles in several years began 3 weeks before leaving. As Satan waged war against my mind and what God has done to transform my life throughout the last 6 years, for a moment, I began to doubt that I was capable of ever being all He has called me to be. I was tempted to believe the lies that I would always be the person I once was.

But God is so good – and He can use even these battles that seem to come at the most inconvenient times – to strengthen us for what is ahead. To work to solidify a resolve through which He can work, a story through which He can move, an outlook and passion for Him through which He can love others.

God can and will work all things, good or seemingly bad, for our good and His glory. We just have to allow Him.

As I prepared to leave and throughout the trip, words that didn’t need to settle in my mind about who I was threatened to take me down. But I continually took them back to God each and every time. And He reminded me again that I am a child of God, bought by His blood, and covered by His wings of protection. He reminded me to never let my actions and thoughts diminish what He did for me on the cross.

October 20-27, 2018 was our week this year to be in Haiti. It didn’t make sense why our trip was postponed but as we return to normalcy upon return, my mind swirls with how faithful God is to work His plan out in our lives and that His plan is always perfect. And I wonder – Why do we ever doubt?

I’m excited to share with you the story of our week. Last year, I was wrecked upon our return and struggled to say anything at all without crying. This year, I am still deeply moved but more emotionally stable. And I will do my best to share the highlights of our trip with you.

Just as I anticipated, another week in Haiti was good for my soul.

 

 

Short Term Missions – Long Term Changes

An old, worn down school bus with cracked seats and open windows awaits our team as we leave the dirty, crowded airport. We load the bus and secretly hope for the driver to start moving quickly so the airflow will cool us down. It is so hot. It’s our first day in Haiti and the views as we drive are eyeopening. Shacks, barely standing it seems, surround us as the homes of Haitians are laid bare for us to see without the privacy that we are so accustomed to in our own homes. Open spaces where we would see glass are the windows for air to move through. No air conditioning. No electricity. No running water. Just a barely surviving structure to find at least a bit of refuge from the elements.

This was just the beginning of the week that changed my life forever. Last summer, Lance and I joined a team from New Life Church Fort Smith and embarked on a journey far away from the comfort and familiarity of home.

That week, we met a family. Ahmond and Michelin were the grandparents and housed around 12 people in their small 3 room home. Biance, an 8 year old girl, latched onto me the 2nd day we were there and held onto me the rest of the week. The bond was strong and the goodbye heart wrenching when we told this family goodbye.

So much happened that I was going to write about, but it seemed I could never find the right words. I was broken, returning to the U.S. where we take running water, drinking water, and food for granted. I realized while in Haiti that the Christ followers had something we didn’t because of their strong need to completely rely on God for even the most basic necessities. It seemed that while we are blessed with these things and don’t even realize it, they were blessed with the true understanding of faith in its simplest form. I struggled, and still do, to find the words to describe all I saw and learned. 

This summer, 2018, I’m returning for another week with some of the same team and additional members. My amazing husband Lance has been called to serve in Peru this year so we will be separated physically for a time.

To say I’m excited is an understatement! I cannot wait to see Biance and her family again. I look forward to sharing Jesus with even more people and continuing to serve the village of Laboradie. A short term mission trip during the summer of 2017 caused long term changes in my heart and I’m expectantly waiting for God to move again in me through the trip this summer.

There are three ways you can help me:

  1. PRAY from now until we leave, that God prepares my heart, soul, and mind as well as the rest of our team.
  2. Commit to praying during certain times while I am there. Go to www.tinyurl.com/AJMission to sign up for a time. I will remind you of your selected time(s) prior to leaving.
  3. Help contribute financially. The total amount needed for my trip is $1,800. I’ve raised almost all of it! We would love for you to consider helping fund Lance’s trip. If you would like to contribute to, go to www.tinyurl.com/LJdonations. His cost is $2,700 and we are still needing to raise around $2,000.

Thanks friends! I will try to keep you updated from now through the trip. Lance and I love you dearly!

~Angie