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

What Comes out of my Mouth

IMG_6255

A good person produces good things from the treasury of a good heart, and an evil person produces evil things from the treasury of an evil heart. What you say flows from what is in your heart. Luke 6:45

The server didn’t deliver my food as I had ordered. I wasn’t too upset… I mean, he left the bacon on my salad! I love bacon! But I was trying to eat healthier that day. I chose not to say anything about it and go on. Surrounded by some of my favorite people, we were meeting to discuss ministry matter with two of our Pastors, and the ReEngage leadership team – a marriage ministry that my husband and I help lead.

When everyone had their food and after we had given thanks, one of our Pastors made a comment about how amazing the server was, that he had remembered everything we ordered without writing anything down. There were 10 of us so this was quite a feat! This next moment I keep replaying over and over in my mind, as I blurted out “He didn’t remember everything!” while oozing contempt if only for a second. My friend next to me kindly pointed out that he was right behind me, with the dressing I had asked him to bring.

Open mouth, insert foot.

I’m certain I turned all shades of red as I realized what happened and everyone at the table just sat there momentarily in silence, not knowing what to say or how to react. My stomach was sick and I was stunned at my outburst. I didn’t think about it before I spoke. I just spoke.

Management found out about it and came to apologize, offering desserts to our entire table. I politely declined and explained that I was not in the least bit upset. I’m not certain anyone believed me. In fact, I wasn’t certain what I felt at the time either. After our lunch meeting continued on, I struggled to focus. I genuinely felt bad for the server. I’ve been in those shoes and that job is NOT easy. So near the end of the meal, I excused myself from the table and talked with him, apologizing for what I said and explaining that I was not mad and he had, in fact, done a fantastic job serving us.

Fast forward 12 hours to smack dab in the middle of the night. I was awake after only getting 2 hours of restless, dream-ridden sleep. As I lie in bed staring at the ceiling, I start thinking about it again. I pray, asking God to show me why I was so critical. You see, God’s Word states that what you say flows from what is in your heart. I said a very critical, piercing statement about the inadequacy of our server. It may seem to many of you that it isn’t a big deal, but I’ve been generally working on finding out what’s in my heart and how that is a direct correlation to what comes out of my mouth.

I wrestled with it for a little while before finally crawling out of bed and heading to my chair – the chair where I spend time with God most mornings – the chair where I write and study writing – the chair where prayers have gone up for my family and many of you. As I sat and prayed, then listened, I felt God working on me and my critical spirit. Critical spirits come from being arrogant. If you feel you would do a better job, then you can easily become critical of others when things aren’t done as you think you would do them. So as God spoke to me about my root of criticism, I prayed. I prayed that He uproot it, that He remind me of the grace I need every day so that my first response anytime someone else messes up is also grace.

What comes out of my mouth is a direct reflection of what is in my heart. I don’t want to simply watch what I say, even though at times that is needed. I want the contents of my heart to be so pure, kind, humble – that the first words that come out of my mouth are filled with sweet goodness and grace.

What I’m learning is this: It is good to control my tongue, but what if my focus switched from trying NOT to say something to focusing on the cause of it so that the thought never crosses my mind? I think I’d rather spend the time necessary searching out the root of ugliness and allowing God to pull it up so I don’t have to continue trying to watch what I say.

Every time I say an unkind, inconsiderate comment that slips out, I’m going to seek God in understanding why I said it so I can allow Him to get rid of it. I may never be perfect but I can continue to keep going back to Him, seeking His guidance, and living within His grace.

If we can focus our attention on the root of the matter, rather than only controlling our tongue, we will make strides to not only keep from saying something ugly (that we actually want to say) to being a person above reproach, full of grace, authentically showing the love of Christ to others. Don’t you want that too?

When Sadness Hits

I’m sad, heartbroken, and my emotions are once again balancing on the scales between out of control and covered up. The heartbreak of my life has struck once again and my defense was down. The pain came searing through me like a knife through my heart. Why do I ever let my guard down? I’m so much stronger than I used to be but occasionally, when I get too relaxed, it gets through to the depth of me. And knocks me down for a few days.

I’m in the middle of those few days now. The fight to hang onto my sanity is strong as I wonder if this will ever get any easier. I feel as if I’m on the edge of falling into the abyss of heartache, never to recover again. I’m fighting to just hang on. And I haven’t told but one person until now because I’m afraid if anyone says anything to me about it, I’ll start crying and not be able to stop.

As tempting as it is to not write these words because of how crazy I sound, I peck at the keyboard anyway. The words coming out are like balm to my soul as I release some of the pain I feel. I know Jesus is here with me, using this for His good, somehow, someway. But it doesn’t take away the fact that sadness is overwhelming me in this moment.

So how can I shift my thinking? How can I allow God to use this exact moment in my life for His glory? How can I encourage someone else even though I’m broken myself?

Let me shift my mindset:

I want to learn more of God’s heart through even the tough parts of life. In fact, I think we have a more clear picture of His heart during these moments if we take the time to open our eyes and see things beyond ourselves. We can’t see God if all we’re looking at is our pain.

He pursues us. He pursues our hearts. Even when we reject Him. Even when we’re hurt and we are struggling to see beyond our own situation.

There have been many times I’ve rejected Him. He has leaned into me, pulling me to Him, trying to show me that I was pulling away from Him, only to be pushed away even further. I have turned my back to Him, stiffening myself to His love, grace and mercy. I wanted to do things my own way. I wanted to continue lying to myself about how “good” I was and following Him but not really let Him take complete control of my life.

And HE NEVER STOPPED loving me.

It comforts me to know that He knows the pain I feel.  He has been in my shoes and knows the pain of rejection from even His own children. He knows the pain of rejection from me.

Despite not wanting to admit it today, I’m thankful for the lessons I learn through my pain.

From what heartache in your life can you take a step back and look at in a different perspective? Can you alter your perspective to see God’s heart through what you may be experiencing today? Can you shift your mindset with me?

It’s never easy to overcome sadness and pain. Let yourself feel it, walk through those emotions, ask God what it is you can learn from it. Then let Him pick you back up and keep right on going with your head held high.

I’ll be there soon… 

“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.” 1 Corinthians 13:4–8

Stop Telling What God Has Done Through You

IMG_6195.PNG

I sat there as he talked about how great God was and all He had done through him. Story after story, I heard of how He heard the Holy Spirit, followed His direction, and how God had worked through him.

What I felt surprised me. It made my story of transformation pale in comparison. And I wanted to shrink into my seat. I felt as if I had nothing to contribute to the conversation.

I left with a spirit I can’t explain. It wasn’t positive and uplifting but like a dark cloud hanging over me. And I wondered why.

Why was it I didn’t celebrate and joyfully accept what God had done through him? There was something that didn’t set right and I couldn’t put my finger on it.

I prayed, asking God what I could learn from the experience. He gently whispered, “Daughter, your story, your testimony, should be more about what I’ve done inside of you than what I’m doing through you.” As I begin to think about that, it made perfect sense. There’s a humility that comes with admitting how God has worked in your life, chiseling the sharp spots and fine tuning me into the woman He created me to be. People respond to humility, identify with the struggle to truly follow Christ, and they can put themselves in that same position.

Telling of how God has used you to reach others doesn’t necessarily have the same positive influence. If done in a spirit of haughtiness, it actually can turn people away even though it’s not our intent. Or it makes them wonder why God isn’t doing the same through them.  If God is working THROUGH your life, others already know it, they SEE it. The fruit of His hand is on display for all to see and rarely does anything need to be said about it.

Many times, when God is working inside of you, it isn’t seen. There’s an intimacy in this relationship experience and some of these moments are meant to be private, viewed as a personal experience with God that only you share with Him. For instance, in your relationship with your spouse, if you shared every meaningful moment you had together with others, it would cheapen the value of your experiences together. What makes a relationship truly intimate are those personal, private moments that only the two of us share. I view that to be true in our relationship with God as well.

But I have no doubt there are times when He wants us to share with others what He is doing in our life. He wants us to be vulnerable and real with them in a way they can relate. When this is shared with a spirit of humility, everything you say points back to the Holy Spirit at work in your life.

There is significantly more power in a testimony that is wholly about God and His hand in your life than in a testimony that is about what you have done.

I’m not saying that I think you should never tell others what God is doing through you, but I believe there takes a considerable amount of wisdom when you do. This is not at all about us and there never needs to be any hint that it is.

God has worked both inside my life and through my life. But what I have learned recently is that I am going to focus on sharing what God has done inside of me. I’m going to use my life stories, experiences, and heart talks with Him to show others what a deep relationship with our Father can be. I’m going to admit my shortcomings and tell of times when God used scripture, other people, or situations to speak directly to my heart and what I learned from these experiences. And in an effort to protect against pride, both real and perceived, I’m going to pray and seek His wisdom before I talk about what He has done through me.

Before you speak, always ask: Is what I’m about to say going to focus so much on my life of obedience that Jesus is overshadowed? If so, Stop. Tell them instead about what He has done inside of you.