6:42

Stumbling into the door of the bathroom was not the best start to the day. But it is dark at 3:45am, and sometimes you don’t see doors you know are there.

Coffee started.

Stare in the mirror.

Brush teeth.

Drink coffee.

Stare in the mirror again.

Drink more coffee.

Think about brushing hair.

That was the morning’s routine.

I walked across campus in the dark, offering a sip of my bold coffee to the security guard at the gate who without fail greets me with a smile and calls me Princess. He’s a favorite.

No one else is around on arrival at the rancho. This is a typical consequence for my tendency of always being early.

More coffee made. Knowing I was not going to be the only one needing it at the early hours. Slowly, one at a time, everyone arrives. Fifteen of us, all men except for me, and I began to wonder what I had signed up for.

The numbers varied as we talked, “Maybe 12.” “I heard 8” “No, there are at least 9”.

Going into the day, there is little known, and expectations are nearly impossible to have or maintain.

It’s nearly a 2 hour drive before we even reach the foot of the mountain we are about to traverse. Gives a girl plenty of time to think…

When you look at the mountains driving into Chiquimula, it is hard to see the fine lines that make up the dirt paths to small villages, but they are there… just behind the curling morning fog.

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Looking at the clock, it’s only 6:30.  The sun is barely up and thoughts start rushing.

“I wonder if they know.”

And I do, I really wonder about what is happening in the homes we’re speeding to at that very moment… 6:41am.

Do they know that 15 people woke up before dawn and decided to come searching for them? That these 15 people are traveling more than 4 hours to find them? That they’re important enough to eventually spend thousands on their rescues?

Do they know we’re coming for them?

The foot of the mountain looks like the entrance to a construction site, dust and dirt everywhere and no real road- just a dusty path that shoots straight up immediately. It is well past half an hour of traveling up this dusty path before we even reach the first child.

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A few of us follow Carlos up a small trail that seems nearly vertical, slipping a time or two I wonder how I would actually climb this with a baby in hand and a basket of corn or other burdens, much like the woman of the house probably does numerous times each day.

There is enough smoke in the small house to choke us all and in every corner I look, there is another child. 

The next child is found in nearly the same scene.

The third one meets us on the side of the mountain, the mother hiking 2 hours already that morning to reach us.

The story goes on.

It goes on for another 8 hours this day.

And it will likely go on for weeks or months more.

Child after child was picked up, loaded into the vehicle with a mom or dad and a small plastic bag for one change of clothes. Each one, seemingly more severe than the last… two month old babies that should be twice the weight they are- at birth. They barely tip the scale at 4 pound and your really question how they have even survived for this long. Ventilators, machines, and medicines keep children in these conditions alive in the states- yet somehow, in these distant mountains, in these dusty villages and stick homes- these little ones are still fighting on their own.

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It was more than 10 hours, and with little more than coffee in our stomachs, there were some very real hunger pains by the middle of the afternoon. And for me, it became a little clearer. The smells of the day, the smoke, the hunger, the ache and tiredness… I saw and felt the rescue in a deeper way yesterday, and I shared in their stories more than ever before.

Do you know what I love about sharing in their story though?

My thought at 6:42am, the minute directly after I wondered about whether they knew we were coming…

“It’s just like the Savior, in so many ways, we never see Him coming for us in the midst of our suffering.”

Rescue.

New life.

It is a clear picture of salvation.

It makes God look glorious.

The Unromantic Adventure

Last week I spoke briefly with a man on the edge of a river I was boating through with a group that unexpectedly had an extra day for sightseeing.

Traveling the few hours to Rio Dulce, we loaded into a few boats and spent some hours on the river. We walked through small marketplaces, consumed authentic dishes for lunch at a waters-edge restaurant and slowed down the day by slipping into some hot springs that have indiscriminately made their home in one of the tiny coves.

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It was at the hot springs that I stumbled upon this weathered and leathered man. I have a feeling he was only a fraction of the age he looked- the years of sun and travels not being kind to him, this thought exacerbated by a pair of walking canes accompanying him and his wisp of a woman joining as a lunch companion. Long blonde hair barely a breath above his shrimp and rice, I received a slight “Buenas Dias” complete with a sideways grin. His Spanish was perfect, and in our insignificant 2 minute conversation where he actually hailed from was lost on me.

“Where are you from?”

“The states, New York and Virginia.”

“Ah, you are a long way from your home. What kind of adventures are you looking for here?”

“Well, I’m actually living in Guatemala for some time, I know I’ll be here for a year. I’m working with a Christian aid organization.”

And here it is….

“Well that’s quite romantic. I wish you many good things on this journey of yours.”

You know what struck me about the conversation this man and I had?

That little word… romantic.

I can’t tell, even now, if he was being snide- or if he truly intended his “romantic” sentiment.

Time and time again I have heard people romanticize the idea of leaving all behind- people, things, success, money, relationships… abandoning ship and running off on an adventure to the wildest of places to change the world.

Don’t get me wrong, I love this new chapter for so many reasons.

But it’s hard, and far from a romantical, idealized perception of adventure.

Instead it’s many things that are much more than idealistic…

Sweaty.

Hard.

Lonely.

Overwhelming.

Demanding.

Scorpions?

Difficult.

Hot.

Tiring.

I’m going to take another step.

There’s nothing romantic about dying children, poverty, and a world without Christ either.

That’s the most challenging piece- the fact that there is serious work that consumes everyday life. It takes the dreaminess out of the ideal. Granted, there’s a magic that will always be within ministry, it would be impossible to do Kingdom work without feeling that. But I don’t think when Christ prayed for His disciples and those to follow them (us), that He prayed for us to take off on romantic adventures.

Instead, He prayed for us in light of the fact that we would be sent into the world filled with challenges, persecution, and hate.

We’d be sent into the same world that He was sent into… 

So while this is not a particularly romantic adventure, the greater love at work in the daily ministry adventures; it is the most pursuant romance of all…

This is the reason for joy in our work.

It’s what wakes us up every morning. 

It is what energizes us when we’re working.

It is what helps us see past dirt, scorpions, and sweat- to the joy beyond… the romance that drenches the Gospel as we live it out.

Life-giving

These days, I’m soaking in every life-giving word I can find.

I can feel it in my bones, I’m thirsty…

The reminder of my friend Lauren’s words that were spilled out months ago is so refreshing though…

The wrong words spoken over you, or spoken around you, can bring death to your spirit. They can squash who you are and who you are meant to be.

But life-giving words can do just that: Allow you to blossom and live fully as you were meant to live.

I’m remembering to soak it in- the truth, and the hope, and the Gospel that sneaks its way into my everyday life and conversations.

Finding rest in the life-giving words of my recent days….

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“We can only keep on going, after all, by the power of God, who first saved us and then called us to this holy work. We had nothing to do with it. It was all his idea, a gift prepared for us in Jesus long before we knew anything about it. But we know it now. Since the appearance of our Savior, nothing could be plainer: death defeated, life vindicated in a steady blaze of light, all through the work of Jesus. This is the Message I’ve been set apart to proclaim as preacher, emissary, and teacher. It’s also the cause of all this trouble I’m in. But I have no regrets. I couldn’t be more sure of my ground—the One I’ve trusted in can take care of what he’s trusted me to do right to the end. So keep at your work, this faith and love rooted in Christ, exactly as I set it out for you. It’s as sound as the day you first heard it from me. Guard this precious thing placed in your custody by the Holy Spirit…”

(The Message, 2 Timothy 1:8b-14)

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I’d give my life just to be with You
And I’ll search for You as silver
You are more precious than anything
This world could offer me

So I’m selling everything I have
To gain the only thing that’s worth anything

I’d leave it all in a moment
I’d drop my nets and follow You
And You are the only one who’s worthy
Of everything

You’re fairer than the sons of men
Chief among ten thousand and
There’s never been another one greater

State of Being

I moved to a different country.

Sometimes, I truly do not realize that.

Hope of Life is like another home to me, a place I love and feel comfortable at… so at times I have this illusion that I’ve just moved a few hours or a few states away from home.

It’s so not the case.

Trying to balance cultural differences, language barriers, and new relationships is a challenge in a league of it’s own.

I find that I’m praying against an anxious heart, a lot.

Not because I have anxiety about being here, or that I fear this is not the place I’m supposed to be, and not even because it’s not where I want to be… because, truly, I want to be here.

But simply because uprooting, it’s hard.

These first few weeks at Hope of Life have been challenging, exciting, painful, and satisfying- all at once. Even within the first week, there were battles. Each week I’m learning more, growing more, and developing deeper relationships.

The physical, emotional, and mental exhaustion I have been experiencing is difficult, but I wouldn’t trade the worst days here for wonderful days anywhere else.

It’s a new and exciting feeling, the peace and satisfaction in the Lord that comes with knowing you are exactly where the Lord has been preparing to be.

As I left a few weeks ago, I started a book in the airport called “Love Does” by Bob Goff, he shares a perspective that has been a launching point for my year-

“…we need to land the plane on our plans to make a difference by getting to the “do” part of faith. That’s because love is never stationary. In the end, love doesn’t just keep thinking about it, or planning for it. Simply put: love does.”

This is how I’m trying to live each day: taking action with my love towards others… living out my faith in love.

1 Thess 2:8 “Because we loved you so much, we were delighted to share with you not only the Gospel but our lives as well”

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The Hard Days

It’s like they are invited dinner guests, showing up as if you’ve been expecting them all along, maybe even sending the invitation yourself. Hard days don’t announce themselves, they don’t make excuses for their appearance, don’t care that they’ve interrupted life.

They appear in every form imaginable:

Sickness

Challenges

Hurt

Loss

Conflict

Death

Destruction in tow, and life torn apart in their wake, it is hard to know where to start cleaning up after them.

Today, a world away from a best friend who reels from the loss of her Dad, I’m a little angry with the Hard Days. I’m less than willing to accept their inevitable presence at our kitchen tables, or in our living rooms, feet propped up on the ottoman.

The loss that punctuates daily life, they’re mean, and they’re ugly.

I’ve said it before, there are no pretty words for loss.

The loss takes your breath away, and you think about the good times, you think about the bad times, you think about how it could be, should be different. 

Friends reach out, families spill together… gathering in familiar places to ease the pain of loss and regroup for the new, uncharted phase of life without him or her.

Everyone seeks to honor the memory of this life, to find something to be thankful for in the midst of the harsh reality.

Seeking comfort, and answers.

However, at the end of the day as your heavy head hits the pillow, mulling through the memories and conversations of the day, the answers are a little out of reach.

No one has any pretty words.

The Hard Days don’t just disappear and pretty words don’t create a magic salve… but each day, little by little, we find healing in truth.

That this body, and this earth, it is not the end. 

Legacy lives on, in children and grandchildren. In words, in works, and in love.

But even greater still, the soul lives on. 

“So we are always of good courage. We know that while we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord, for we walk by faith, not by sight. Yes, we are of good courage, and we would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord.”

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