Re-receive

After stepping out of the “regular world” and immersing myself into the wild abandon of the lifestyle Jesus had, I came back really different. Maybe it was the selling of pretty much all my stuff, watching my washer and dryer get loaded up on a dolly and wheeled out. Watching my couch get carried away. Loading up my big flat screen into my car and then putting it in a friend’s car, never to be seen again. I didn’t realize that I wouldn’t purchase another tv for the next 4 years and counting. I didn’t know I was done watching “all my shows” and that I was done collecting crosses to put on the wall. I thought those things were really important. Then it was all gone and I realized they weren’t important.

I used to feel super entitled to my paycheck. I thought there was a separation between ministry and “work” and I didn’t see my job as holy. Which is a problem, because then I didn’t see my check as “provision” but as my earnings. My money. As if. As if! As if God wasn’t sustaining my every breath, my every scientific thought while I made decisions at work. As if God hadn’t breathed on me so I could have enough strength to get out of bed every day, as if He didn’t guide my car on the highway, as if He hadn’t held me together 24/7. My Sustainer. If He ever was uninvolved, I would cease my existence. I didn’t know that. I thought I was independent.

I came home from my trip and lived in abandon for a while longer. Community house with 25 roommates. Volunteering my time at a nonprofit. Learning in every way and shape possible. Living on sheer kindness and whispered prayers for paychecks.

Now I tell you, it was so worth it. I learned to see my day-to-day as holy no matter what. I learned to recognize Jesus in every situation, the Source of my contentment in the “even so” scenarios. I’m a full-time Medical Laboratory Scientist again, and I’m getting blown away by Jesus showing up at work.

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I see His reminders around the hospital all the time. He’s all over it. He’s doing heavenly things in the midst of my earthly things. In the blood bank, I used to stamp with bright red letters “RELEASED” on forms for returned blood. And I saw that Jesus stamped over me with crimson as well, that very word. I used to allocate the due portions of blood to patients, and I saw that Jesus was faithfully allocating to me what was due me, according to my needs. I used to have to look in the microscope to confirm a result, to see cell by cell flowing freely so I could be sure my eyes weren’t fooling me. And Jesus looks into our hearts to the cellular level, and He sees everything so clearly. He set us free, cell by cell, and we must agree with that freedom.

As I put on gloves and a coat and pull shields to separate me from the things I am examining, I am humbled that my God does not feel the need to separate Himself from us any longer, that our problems and our failures do not make Him wince or shrink back from us. Jesus reached into our world, without gloves, without a coat, and got messy with us. He got infected with our death and our sin, and He indeed died from it on our behalf. Yet He conquered it all, so that we might not ever feel disgusting or separated. We are no longer infectious with death, but LIFE. We are no longer offensive to God’s holiness, but carriers of it. That’s crazy.

As I put tubes of blood in the centrifuge, they spin and spin for a certain amount of time, at an exact amount of revolutions per minute, and they come out separated: the plasma/serum stays at the top, which is the part of the specimen we use for our Chemistry tests. As the Lord places us in difficult situations, we emerge more sorted out. He uses the things that rise to the top. That part of us is able to receive fresh revelation. What rises to the top of you when you’re spinning? Is it a strong faith? Is it persevering joy? Is it a patient grace? Is it a wise word? He uses these things to give you holy answers to questions you’ve been asking your whole life. What rises in you when you’re centrifuged?

And the latest Jesus moment I had at work, out of many many many ones, was this morning. So, all the computers and analyzers are constantly talking to each other, relaying information. When we receive a tube of blood on a patient, someone scans it in at the front and “receives” it. It goes on record that we have it, and now the clock is ticking for us to test it and result it. This one particular test goes on a certain analyzer called the Architect. The Architect talks to the computer up front, and gets a list of all the tests that are coming its way. It makes a to-do list on the screen. You following? Okay. So this morning I had a tube in my hand that had been received. I walked up to the Architect and checked the to-do list and: uh oh. That patient was not listed! That meant that 1) the Architect didn’t talk to the front computer about this tube and 2) the Architect wouldn’t know what to do with that tube if I loaded it in. So I asked my coworker what to do, and she said in a nonchalant way “Oh, just re-receive the specimen.”

Um what? What’s re-receive?

And she said “you go back in like you are going to receive it for the first time, and you change the receiving time by one minute, just to make the computer think again. And voila, the Architect picks it up. It’s a glitch.”

And so I did, and it worked. I checked the Architect screen and there it was, the patient I had in my hand had “come across” the system after I re-received the specimen.

So what’s the holy point?

Sometimes we receive things and we have them, but part of us still doesn’t RECOGNIZE what we have. It’s a GLITCH of our earthly nature. We have something wonderful and we don’t understand it. We don’t know what to do with it. And we have to RE-RECEIVE it, as if for the first time, so that we can align ourselves with the reality of having it. Because we so have it.

I wanted to remind you today that you HAVE God’s approval. You HAVE His permission. You HAVE His love. You have TONS of grace, for yourself and for others. You have enough grace to forgive everybody who has ever wronged you, big and small. You have been forgiven for your mistakes. Yes. And you HAVE peace. Patience. Kindness. Self-control. Goodness. Faithfulness. Yes, you HAVE them. You don’t have to ask for them any longer. You have a peace and patience factory bubbling up inside your heart, called the Holy Spirit. And you have His fire and His power.

If you don’t feel like you do, you might need to re-receive it all. Re-receive the Holy Spirit. Get Him like you’re getting Him for the first time, just so that you can grasp the reality that YES, He’s all YOURS, along with all His benefits.

These are the kinds of thoughts I have at work. This is why my journey was worth it. I came back different. I stepped away so I could see Jesus. And now I see Him everywhere. You can take the girl out of the “mission field” but you can’t take the mission field out of the girl. I pray for your eyes to pop open to every little piece of Jesus around you. And if you must, I pray you go on your journey to seek Him, as far and wide as you need to go. You’ll find Him.

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photocred Dura McKnight

#11n11 worldrace.org

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Life #After11n11

It’s been just over two years since I finished the World Race, and got back home to America.

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Fresh from the field in 2012.

Before the World Race, I had a great job and I was considered a responsible adult. I was making more money than the average American, because I had finished my degree and joined the full-time workforce, working for a hospital. When I was given the opportunity to go on the World Race, I told everyone I was going to be quitting my very secure and respectable job. This is when my character was questioned by people who didn’t quite understand.

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People who didn’t get it, including my parents, felt that I was being irresponsible. Throw out years of great responsibility out the window, my perfect grades in school, my effort 😉 in college, and that I had been working through school since it was legal. All quickly forgotten when I was quitting my job to do missions? Wait a minute. The responsible one was quitting her job to do something that was even more responsible: obeying God’s call. It’s okay when people don’t understand that at first. They don’t have to understand because it’s not their decision.

Fear and pessimism had to hush when the Lord provided the money for my mission trip. Thousands of dollars. Fifteen and a half of those, precisely. I sold my furnishings, appliances, and decorations. Afterwards, all I had fit in my car and it took me 20 minutes to load it. I chose to start over reaaaal light.

My lease ended 3 months before my trip, and I moved into my friend’s house. She graciously let me stay in her spare bedroom rent-free for 3 those months, in exchange for me cleaning the house and babysitting her two little boys in the evenings, doing dinner, homework, baths, and bedtime. I saved up. I did two fundraisers, a garage sale, and I wrote my little fingertips off about the passion in my heart to go to the nations and figure out more of who God is by experiencing His creation. My church helped me make a video, and aired it during two services. I visited almost every church community group with my prayer cards and fridge magnets, just to tell people what I was doing, how to keep up with me, and ask them to pray. It was not about the money. The money wasn’t the most important thing. And in 11 weeks, all the money came in. Why? Well, I had rallied an army who was excited about my trip, lifting me up in prayer. That’s priceless. Check out the video my church helped me make.

The World Race was amazing. It forever changed my life. I experienced almost every kind of ministry there is, every kind of loving others. Different places, languages, cultures. It gave me a broadened awareness of how BIG our family is in the Kingdom, and how beautifully different we are. It broke me from thinking that my way to connect with the Lord was “the right way” to connect with the Lord, as I saw different churches and cultures engaging Him in various ways. Some quietly, some like my-ears-are-bleeding loudly, some with covered heads, some dancing, bowing, weeping, laughing, singing, clapping, screaming (sweet Africa, my love), and some standing completely still with hands by their sides as if no music was playing whatsoever. I saw a lot of the Church, as in people of God coming together. It was not comfortable, but I didn’t want comfortable. I rode in pretty much every kind of transportation, and hugged babies and comforted the weeping. I got to attend weddings, speak on the radio, preach on television, be on the newspaper. We were like celebrities sometimes. We drew crowds, like it says that Jesus did in the Bible. And to imagine that this is irresponsible? Nah, bro. Not even a little bit. It was a radically responsible choice. So many people got saved, hugged, kissed, loved, fed. Also, amused by my cat shirts.

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So now I’m home and I’m 658 words into this to tell you that there’s life after #11n11.

I came back with a ministry dream in my heart and all these plans to do this and that. Most of my plans fell through during that first month back home. It was horrible!!! BUT I ended up moving to Georgia, having the cheapest rent of my life to live in a mansion. God provided in grandiose fashion. On top of that, I was making room in my schedule to be primed for leadership, so that I could start and lead my ministry well. This was why I moved to do the internship I did, the Center for Global Action, instead of jumping back into a full-time job at the hospital. There’s responsibility laced in there. I worked part-time as well. And I starred in the CGA video with my roommates. Winning.

I launched the ministry, and it’s still going. Slowly but surely, Phylla House is going! Phylla House is launching new groups in September, and if you’d like to be in one or involved with one, send me a message here.

And now I work full-time at a hospital [again] in Atlanta. I also attend Bethel Atlanta School of Supernatural Ministry part-time. I’m a ministry director. I traveled around the whole world.

My life is looking all kinds of “responsible” now, but don’t get it twisted. I wouldn’t be where I am today had I not taken the road less traveled and chosen to trust that God would be Faithful.

I’m a different person clocking in at the hospital. The work doesn’t suck the life out of me anymore. I get to bring joy to a really hard place, where people are suffering and dying. I pray for their healing, by name. I’m paying things off again. I don’t hate my life or my job. It’s absolutely okay to minister at the workplace, and to be a World Racer in America. Jesus has us doing Kingdom life in all kinds of ways, and yes, He pulled me back into the hospital workforce. Not everybody that has a non-ministry job is unhappy or missing their calling. Some could be resisting His nudge to fresh endeavors, but not all.

It’s okay to come home. It’s okay to rebuild community, to have Skype dates with your WR besties wherever they live. Jobs will hire you. Churches will make room for you. But my friend, you go back different. I realized that I influence the people around me, and I use that. I influence joy and peace. I influence faith in miracles. I influence shamelessness where I dance silly and make cheesy jokes and walk in confidence of who I am, and others get free to do so as well.

The World Race taught me not to care so much about what people think, but to figure out what Jesus thinks and let that influence me. Then I turn around and do exactly what I see my Father doing: I give, I serve, I comfort the broken, and I laugh at the days to come. I’m the daughter of the All-Consuming Fire, and my burning passion is the healing of the nations.

What’s your #after11n11?

No Place Like Home

Most people don’t stammer as much as I do when asked where they’re from.

Honestly, God has made it plain clear that home is not a “place” for me.

Is my home my place of birth, Brazil? At one point, yes.

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At age 11, I experienced the wonderfully traumatic thing that is immigration. My mother married an American and so we moved to a place that was markedly gray in comparison to my green home. The roads were wide and gray. The sky was wide and gray. The people never got too close, as they pushed their carts along giant, shiny stores, with shelves to the ceiling. More things than anybody could need. “Excuse me,” they would say if they ever came too close, where they had to look us in the eye.

I remember my mother, brother and I would walk hand in hand to the K-mart near our apartments in Dallas. We were so used to walking to the store. This was way before my mother knew how to drive, and we just didn’t understand the concept of staying home when a store was just around the corner. Somedays, I’d get a five dollar Barbie doll. I remember they didn’t sell the Barbie clothes like they did in Brazil, at the fair in the park every weekend. In America, things weren’t that personalized.

I remember crying in frustration when I couldn’t understand the Mickey Mouse Club on the Disney Channel. It’d come on at night, in black and white, and the English was still too complicated for me. I could only watch Blue’s Clues and Bear in the Big Blue House. I also liked the Franklin cartoons, because they were, for the most part, self-explanatory.

I wouldn’t say that Dallas was my home. At one point, yes.

scan0034In the summer of 1999, we moved to Gordonville, TX. Oh the horror. It was both horrible and wonderful. We lived in a haunted house, with a huge yard and a horse apple tree. The horse apples would drop on the ceiling right above my room, the thuds always unexpected. Many t-shirts ruined by the goo from those things, but they were fun to kick around. My favorite chore was mowing the lawn, because I never had one of those before. My brother and I would run with plastic bags, to try to catch dragonflies. In the summer, we couldn’t walk in the grass without being pelted by grasshoppers. Huge ones! We used to collect them in an old fish tank. We had our first dogs, Cookie and Candy. They looked, respectively, like a cookie and a caramel candy. But we knew they wouldn’t taste like that, so we never even considered it. Dogs aren’t dessert.

In that house, I had my first private bedroom. I’d always shared it with my mom and brother, and then in Dallas with just my brother. But this one was all mine. I covered the walls with Avril Lavigne, Eminem, Backstreet Boys, No Doubt, and awkward emo bands. I had Christmas lights all year round, and one of those infamous black lights, duh. I had glow-in-the-dark stars in the ceiling, and I always slept with the radio on the local rock station, The Edge. In that room, I played Barbies and prank-called boys. I rebelled against authority, practiced my bass clarinet, did millions of crunches. I used to sit with the radio and record my favorite songs on a cassette tape. I remember recording “Baby Got Back” and rewinding it until I knew every single inappropriate word in it. Bless my heart.

I endured terrible leadership, yelling, and failing glimpses of parenting from an abusive, mentally unstable step-parent during that time. Now that it’s been 10 years since I left that home, it’s safe to say the best thing that ever could have happened was us packing up that U-haul truck. It took years to fully undo the emotional damage, but just in that next year it was evident that I was gonna be okay. I started my first job, had straight A’s, perfect attendance, and lettered in five different things my Junior year, the year we left. I thrived. Also, that just so happened to have been the year Jesus came into my life. Glory to Him, the ultimate Rescuer of Rebel Teens.

Would I call Gordonville/Whitesboro my home? Nope. At one point, yes.

6211_694876709580_23912664_40127476_2422223_nI went off to big college with funds provided by God Almighty Himself via scholarships and grants. I moved to the University of North Texas, into the dorms at Clark Hall, in the Honors wing, back before the Honors Hall was built, 2 years later. I also got to live at Honors Hall once it was ready. I marched in the band, and I loved every minute of being part of something bigger. I loved being inside the music, and getting to illustrate it in synchrony with others. I knew almost every nook and cranny of that big campus. I knew where to park for free. I spent countless hours in Club Willis aka the library, pulling all-nighters in the computer lab. I’d worked desk for every single Hall, except Legends, and I voted to name Sage Hall… well… Sage Hall. I knew the bus stops, when to go to what cafeteria for the best paninis or the best milkshakes. I loved that place, but would I call Denton home? Nope, but for a little while it was.

I’ve changed, and so has Denton.

I’ve also lived in Temple and Lorena, TX. Neither are home. I prayed for a Wells Fargo and a Chipotle to come to town, and they sure did. Within a year of me living there, Temple had both. I worked at two hospitals in that city. I attended two churches, and got attached. Yet Jesus knew that it wasn’t my home. It was too small. He knew it before I did.

And so He moved me. Around the world.

In 2012, I went on the World Race and I left pieces of my heart in way too many places. I knew the damage was irreparable. That’s when I realized that I might not have a home after all.

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Photo cred: Dura Knight

 

Because my home has a volcano in the backyard, just like in Nicaragua. It has a beach and mountains like Brazil. It has a big yard, like in small-town Texas, where the dragonflies fly wildly and the fireflies dance in the night. My home has my grandma’s singing in the background, and my aunt’s laughter. Home has the red dirt of Uganda, along with the freedom and joy that place holds in my heart. Home wouldn’t be the same without Kenyan afternoon rains. I’d sit on the roof in Honduras and pray and watch the shooting stars, and connect with God like that. Smoothies from Zion Cafe for breakfast, and I’d have coffee from Kathmandu brewing on a constant drip. I’ve been ruined for life, you see. Ruined in the best way. I’ve had too many experiences, and they’re all scattered around. I’ve arrived at the conclusion that this is exactly what God wanted, because now both He and I know that He knows better.

He knows me better than I know myself. He knows my favorite things before I know about them. My knowledge is as limited as my experience, unless I tap into His knowledge.

I keep changing, and so do the places I’ve lived and loved. The only unchanging part of all this is the heart and nature of God. He put all His favorites in one place, and now we’re becoming more and more aware of the STUFF He put in it, and the more aware I become of the stuff all around this globe, the more it all points me back to Him. His presence, therefore, is the only thing that can carry my sense of home. He is all my favorite things combined, my favorite places that I’ve been to so far and the places I’ve yet to go. He knows my favorite color, and it might not be blue. Maybe I’ve yet to see it. Maybe it’s a heavenly color I can’t yet see with these eyes.

stnmtnFor now I live in Atlanta, and I enjoy the sunrises and the skyscraper views. I enjoy the hipster scenes and looking up at night to see the airplanes near the airport. So many, going in different directions, but for that moment they’re all in my sky. I love Bethel Church and the community where I belong. I like the part of life I’m in, that I’m 27 and a young professional with big dreams who sleeps in a hammock. I have mentors and I also mentor others. I fall somewhere in the middle, and I’ve come to realize I hope to always be in that healthy middle, both giving and receiving.

Someday I’ll move again (Cali!) and find my favorite things about a new place. Will I call it home? Probably not. But they say that home is where the heart is, and my heart has been to too many places. The only way to mash it all together is with the One who made it all. His presence is my home, and there’s truly no place like it.

Now I’m a Warrior

Love has carried me a long, long way.

I noticed one day how far I’d come, because her name was on my lips but I didn’t flinch. Nothing in me felt unworthy at the thought of her. You see, it was easier to forgive him, because I pitied him. It’s easy to forgive someone who has a hard life. You can barely help it, really.

But her? I forgave her, but I related with her. Most of all, I envied the part of his heart that she had received, the part that was vowed to be mine. We spoke on the phone, believe it or not, and I loved her. Her honesty, her kindness, and the way she spoke with me as if I were a friend who could be trusted–all most unexpected. I couldn’t hate her if I tried. She didn’t know. She didn’t lie to me, even though she had been with my husband. That kind of love marked me. I wanted to be that gentle and kind, desperately, as I compared her tenderness with my heart of stone.

I used to cry when I’d hear the songs he played for her. I used to flinch when so
many women had her name around me and forced me to say it. It all made me feel so unworthy. When you lose hope, sometimes you walk away from someone, fully expecting them to surprise you and fight for you. You choose some space to try to process the confusion, to see if all your hypotheses were true. It’s a big risk that I took, and I couldn’t have foreseen the consequences: that I’d be sensitive to a woman’s name, instead of his.

I’m happy to report that the triggers lessen with time, if you suffer from similar experiences. You’ll hear the names and songs, and it will not bother you. Give it time and give it to Jesus. I promise it gets better. Why else would I be writing this blog?

Thank God that I went on a journey, long and far, after the divorce. I went around the world and out of Temple, Texas, the black hole I was living in (no offense to Temple residents, it’s a decent city, but my emotional hades). If you’re 21-35, divorced or widowed with no kids, go on the World Race. For the love of God, ask Him if He’ll take you long and far to heal you.

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God asked me to have a greater perspective and accept that there would be more to my day-to-day than flinching and shame, like say… kissing orphans. I stopped comparing my heart and surrendered it. I stopped thinking about a temporary problem and started thinking about eternal solutions to the world’s problems, to the broken hearts of women all over the nations.

Love had knocked me down and out, but Jesus gently brought me to my feet. It wasn’t what I expected, at all. He dusted off the ashes from my face, and told me that I am a Mighty Healer. He gave me a purpose. He gave me a new heart of flesh.

Though I had all the equipment to start over in love, my standards were all messy. I still didn’t fully understand my worth. I remained quiet when I should have stood up for myself. I accepted walls I should have marched around. Every time, I learned. The first time I truly stood up for myself was a hack job. I beat myself up for a long time for not knowing how to graciously call it all off. But for once, I was making mistakes in the right direction. It’s okay to make mistakes in the right direction. That is to be expected, right?

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The pain I felt has turned into trust. I share my story with women and they let their guards down. I have been entrusted with the treasure of the deepest, unedited stories. It seriously brings me tears to think back on all the times when I was the 2am phone call, or I was the shoulder someone felt safe to cry on. I know how much that means to someone who is healing. I know the great need that Jesus met through my hands, and it is the most glorious honor on earth to love the broken. Oh how I love the brokenhearted. How I long to help bind up their wounds with Jesus. I was made for this. I was made to teach others how to be healers. I was made to instill hope and joy into the hopeless with my story and the Holy Spirit. I was made to say

There is so, so, so much more for you, darling. You are a chosen beloved, and there is goodness in store for you. My heart aches in the best way, just at the thought of the tears of joy you will cry. And I will be standing there. I will be there with you to see it. We will pray and wait for it together, and see it through. 

If I can tell you what I learned, it’s that I gained nothing from being afraid. I gained nothing from selling myself short. My heart was not made to hesitate.

I was made to fall headlong, to dive deep, and to allow myself to be happy. Maybe you can relate with me in this, but don’t restrain your happiness. When you feel it rising up in you, let it. Don’t be afraid to laugh, to hope, to say bold things. Don’t be afraid to tell someone you love them, and don’t be afraid to receive their love.

When you read about a great love story, you see that they didn’t kill the spark with fear. They let it happen and it unfolded to be even more wonderful than they had imagined. I am walking in that kind of story. I am claiming the greatness of love. I have seen a Love that is Unfailing, and I have Him. My Jesus had no reservations in showing His love to me. He never hid me. He never left. He never had the heart to lie to me. He saw my worth. He waited for me. He kept me in utmost purity. He pursued me, and sat with me when I was broken. He longs to do the same for you.

I learned that if someone wants to be with me, he’s gonna have to love like Jesus, and see me like He does.

Like I said, Love has carried me a long, long way. When I look back, all I see from the struggle is that through it, God built a warrior. Brave in love and fierce in battle, bringing glory to His name. Jesus sees a world full of up-and-coming warriors, the heirs with Kingdom keys to set the captives free. From the hill I’m standing on, the hill I’m willing to die on, I can see the rising army. Their march shakes the foundations of the world, as they fall into step with the heartbeat of the King.

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Places To Visit in 2014

In no particular order, here are some places I want to do my very best to visit, so help me God, in 2014. Yes. Within the next 9 months.

  • BRAZIL. It’s overdue time to visit my amazing family. I’m due to have a new baby cousin super soon, AND there’s talk of wedding bells in my immediate family aka I need to be there. Hoping that I won’t go alone, ay?? Let me take you to Rio, Rio…
  • UGANDA. My yearly visit to see my people I love so so much, visit my church families and friends and the beautiful ladies of Dorcas Widows. Hoping and praying that in July there will be 5 of us going. We have a meeting on the 11th to plan this thing. Prayers appreciated!
  • CALIFORNIA. I’ve been before, but this time I feel a divine appointment to meet a few sisters in Christ and set up Phylla House in a new location in the Fall. Oh and visit my teammate from the Race who just had the cutest baby boy ever aka hopefully I’ll have a daughter and they’ll marry.
  • THE GRAND CANYON. Come on. How have I not seen this before. Let it be this year.
  • NASHVILLE. Never been. My next getaway destination.
  • TEXAS & ALABAMA & MYSTERY LOCATIONS. Visiting the familia, floating the Guadalupe, hey Summertime road trip to see my besties and stuff. 😉

We will see…. this is a hopeful list, some is certain, some is still up in the air. I’m excited to see what God makes happen in the meantime, and how He puts it all together. He’s the best Dad ever. He’s still gonna take me all over Europe, to Haiti, to the UAE to see Dubai (world’s largest performing fountain, I will be weeping), to Mozambique (again, weeping), back to Asia, and wherever else He sees fit. I rule nothing out, I just know the journey will be incredible.

ImageWhere do you dream to go? Where will you go?