Michael.

What I love about short-term missions is not the work done there, but the people we meet, the stories they share with us and the stories we create together. Stories allow us to share experiences and celebrate the work of Christ in community.

Most recently, I traveled to a village outside of Champerico, Guatemala with Living Water, International to install a well funded by 160,000 recycled water bottles. Each morning we would wake up at 5:30am, travel ninety minutes passing village after village after village to the end of the paved roads, and then kept going to the farthest community established. Not only did we literally go to those in need, we went to the farthest margin. In three days we busted 200 feet deep into God’s earth, found an aqueduct that would feed a water pump for the next 100 years and provide a village of 80 families clean water. Not only did we provide clean water, we also provided education about sanitation, hygiene, and how annoying glitter can be to any culture. That’s just what we did. It was good, there is a difference in this community, but it’s not why I went. I went for Michael. Michael was one of the men of the community, and a leader who spent every day helping us build this well. Michael’s commitment to this project was easily seen on Wednesday as we had to fill the filtration holes that were dug prior to our arrival (which he probably did himself). In the 110 degree heat our team was taking 3 minute rotations shoveling the dirt to fill the hole so no one passed out (a few of us were close) but Michael held onto one of the shovels from 7am till we left at 6pm shoveling constantly. His dedication and heart for his community wasn’t why I went. It was encouraging, but not why I went. The day after Michael broke through four blisters on his hand from shoveling, we arrived after our long and bumpy ride to find him wearing his best clothes and a huge grin. We spent two hours participating in a dedication ceremony as the men made the finishing touches to the well and then everyone moved over to watch us cut the ribbon and watch as the children took turns pumping clean water. I had my back to the children, I couldn’t look away from Michael’s face. There was a simple grin on his face, tears in his eyes, and his blistery hands gripped the Bible he just received as if it was gold. He was witnessing the catalyst change of health for that community, he was experiencing the love of Christ extended through tangible needs met, he was witnessing Christ. Michael’s reaction to his daughter pumping clean water is why I love short-term missions because in that moment, I could not deny Christ’s presence in that man. Nor could the other men around him. We are called to meet the tangible needs of the marginalized and it serves two purposes: their daily health increased drastically, but more importantly, Michael encountered the love of Christ and that deserved to be celebrated.

Psalm 71:15-18 reads, “My mouth will tell of your righteous deeds, of your saving acts all day long— though I know not how to relate them all. I will come and proclaim your mighty acts, Sovereign LordI will proclaim your righteous deeds, yours alone.

I cannot relate to what Michael experienced that day; I do not know what it’s like to not have access to clean water, let a bunch of foreigners serve my most basic needs, and understand that all of it was done because Christ died on the cross. I don’t understand, but oh how I will celebrate those fifteen seconds where I was able to witness the joy of the Holy Spirit in Michael. I’ve shared this story so that you, too, can celebrate God’s saving acts and worship Him.

What stories should you be sharing so we can celebrate and worship God with you?

Roomies

There were a few things that I was scared about when entering the Sunnyvale Intern Program (and will refer to it as SIP from here on out). One of them was the roommate situation; there were a lot of perky girls living in this house; and I’m not exactly perky. I mean I have a skull art piece on my wall… dunnn dunnnnnn, clearly a sinner over here. But really, the roommate situation intimidated me because it’s not just roommates, the program wants us to live intentionally in community in these homes. How I interpreted it was, “you’re forced to be friends with these really perky jesus loving blondes from SoCal.”

I’m sure Jesus laughs at our worries sometimes thinking, “do you not trust me? I know what you need.” Because after just a week, Chloe had been such an amazing blessing to my life. It’s been quite some time where I got to live with someone in the same season as me who loves Jesus, and it’s a breath of fresh air. I love laying on her floor talking till 2am, eating dinner together, laughing while we work side by side on the couch, and our simple saturday morning coffee routines. She’s pretty great.

A month after living here I noticed a friend whom I knew from serving together a few months ago post a status on Facebook reading, “anyone in San Jose have a place for my [newly married] wife and I to stay for a few weeks?” Hmm… well, we have a giant house with two girls and an empty master bedroom. It’s paid for by the church, it should be used for the church, these are missionaries asking for the church’s help. Alas, Jeff and Jessie moved in. They’ve been married for a whopping five weeks and are in the midst of doing some fundraising till they head to their new assignment in San Diego with Cru. They bring laughter and fun into this house. So, now it’s me, Chlo, and Cru.

Coming soon will be another intern! YAY! Sarah just finished her application, is hanging with the gang tonight, and will be moving in soon. And she just happens to be my best friend’s girlfriend, so I’m pretty excited to have her around.

On Saturday, we had our first of many  BBQs where we had a dozen people over for tri-tip, veggies, and a LOT of chocolate chip cookies. Man, I haven’t laughed this hard in a loooong time. There were discussions of theology, silly games, and the love of Jesus and community reached every corner of this house.

A month ago, I spent most of my time in this house alone (Chloe is a busy gal), and now the rooms are all filled, there’s crumbs on the floor, and I am delighted. This house is a house of the Lord used for His glory. And I’m stoked he’s letting me be a part of  it.

Ecclesiates and Me.

This is the transcript of my time sharing with Cornerstone Church in Palo Alto on September 13th, 2015. For your understanding, I was referencing Ecclesiastes 1:12-2:26 and any reference to”Q” is speaking of the author of the book.

Hi, I’m Katie. Thank you so much for allowing me to be a part of your worship time. I’ve loved getting to know you all over the past few weeks. One thing I’ve really enjoyed about the first month of being part of the Sunnyvale Internship Project is the stories I’ve heard from everyone. There’s power in a story, and that’s exactly what Q is doing here- He’s sharing his testimony, the story that’s brought it to the conclusion that “everything is meaningless.” As I spent more time in Ecclesiastes, I saw more of my own story in his experience. Q’s testimony runs parallel to mine.

At 15 years old, mid-soccer game I broke my ankle and tore my ACL which turned into a chronic pain disease called Complex Regional Pain Syndrome. I spent the next three years in and out of Stanford Hospital where I spent weekends, holidays, and even prom. At fifteen, I thought my life was wonderful- I was on my way to the Olympic Development Soccer team, an athletic scholarship to a top tier college, and I had great friends, great family, a great life, really. Then everything changed- I was a depressed high school kid living in a hospital without a future. I shared my hospital room with a five year old girl who was struggling with Leukemia; she would get up, read her bible and pray, eat breakfast, and then get sick for the next few hours as chemotherapy ravaged her body. But she was happy. One morning I asked her mother why they were both so happy, and her response was, “We have hope and know there’s someone else who’s in charge of our lives.”

By my 18th birthday, I was able to make quick visits to my high school where a fellow classmate asked if she could pray for me. I said yes assuming she would walk away and pray on her own time (in my mind, probably never actually do it). Instead, she placed her hand on my shoulder and began to pray. A few minutes later she looked up and asked me the simplest question that changed my life. She asked, “Why are you trying so hard?” I answered, “because I had to.” I had responsibility to keep my family together, I had responsibility to fight this disease, I had the responsibility of figuring out a way to not falling victim to this disease. She then explained the Gospel, the heart of Christ that He is the provider and orchestrator and simply that my life his responsibility, not mine. With that, I told the God of the Universe that I admit that I don’t have the strength to carry the responsibility, I told him that I can’t do anything without him and my only chance is if He can help. And oh, how he helped. There was a warming through out my body and I was pain free for the first time in years and walked out of school without a wheelchair.

In chapter two of Ecclesiastes, Q speaks of how wisdom was better than folly- but in the end both people end up in the same spot. Stephen Bennet speaks to the hebrew word for wisdom, Hokma, not as intellectual ability but on prudence in the sense of making an appropriate judgement and choosing the best course of action. I was chasing after making the right decisions in treatment, I was chasing pain management. I thought if I had enough wisdom, I could do this on my own. But in the end, all that wisdom was meaningless like chasing after the wind because it was only God who changed my situation.

I had the blessing to return to “normalcy” by setting my sights on college and after 7 months of physical therapy I walked onto a college campus in search of some good ol’ education with a side of folly. I went to parties, I played in some prank wars (all done in good fun), I ate my way through the San Diego restaurants. It was a good plan until October 2010. In the fall semester of my third year, a migraine led to the eventual diagnosis of Multiple Sclerosis.

REALLY? I thought I got the sick and diseased part of my life out of the way. I learned that trying to figure out how to do it on my own wasn’t good, looking back I learned the folly of my college years didn’t really matter either. And now I’m sick with a disease that doesn’t have a cure? Again?

Chapter 2 verse 17 reads, “So I hated life, because the work that is done under the sun was grievous to me. All of it is meaningless, a chasing after the wind.” When I read this I thought, “Q gets it.” Life is exhausting. Now this isn’t despair over life itself but over the orientation to the pursuit of wealth, wisdom, and pleasure as the ultimate good. Nothing on this planet leads to lasting satisfaction. I have spent the past 11 years maneuvering two different disease; and as of May, I finally finished the pursuit of an undergraduate degree. After this, I looked around and asked myself, “now what?” I probably need to get my master’s while figuring out how to get a job that i can handle with the stressors of Multiple Sclerosis… If I’ve learned anything in life, it doesn’t really stop. I’m on this hamster wheel, it spins in circles, I keep running, but I’m getting nowhere and I have to keep running. and running. and running. Then of course, I look to my friends who have a successful career, nice car, nice house, loving family… and I’ve got nothing. It’s not fair. But what Q is trying to get at is regardless of what it looks like, we are still all on our own hamster wheel; some may be gold coated wheels and some may be like a rickety old wooden wheel. But in the end, we are all running and running and running.  Verse 1:18 says, for with much wisdom comes much sorry; the more knowledge, the more grief. 

Everything is meaningless when you start to look around. Everything under the sun is meaningless. But then why was that little five year old girl so happy? Why am I content with a body that literally attacks itself? When you look at your own life, study your testimony, look at the life of others and realize we all end up six feet under, it causes you to look up. It moves you to ask the question, “is there something above the sun that is meaningful?” Q looked up and found that, “a person  can do nothing better than to eat and drink and find satisfaction in their own toil. This too, I see is from the hand of God, for without him, who can eat or find enjoyment?  The hamster enjoys the wheel and running in place simply because that wheel is what was given to him in his cage, he is content. I have joy because I have found contentment that God has given me this broken wheel to run on because he loves me.

The Franciscan blessing starts as,  “May God bless you with discomfort, at easy answers, half-truths, and superficial relationships, So that you may live deep within your heart. Once we figure out everything under the sun is meaningless, we start to look beyond the sun to the creator and sustainer.

A Franciscan Blessing.

As I prepare for my sermon on Sunday, I was led to this Franciscan Blessing. He knew what is up.

May God bless you with discomfort,
At easy answers, half-truths,
And superficial relationships
So that you may live
Deep within your heart.
May God bless you with anger
At injustice, oppression,
And exploitation of people,
So that you may work for
Justice, freedom and peace.

May God bless you with tears,
To shed for those who suffer pain,
Rejection, hunger and war,
So that you may reach out your hand
To comfort them and
To turn their pain to joy

And may God bless you
With enough foolishness
To believe that you can
Make a difference in the world,
So that you can do
What others claim cannot be done
To bring justice and kindness
To all our children and the poor.

Amen

 

Social Media Confessions.

This post doesn’t have to do with the internship. This doesn’t have to do with the Sunnyvale Church. Today’s rant is brought to you by the lovely diagnosis of Multiple Sclerosis and 104 degree weather. It’s sponsored by my bestfriend who knows the stress I feel to be put together and inspire others through my disease.

I love social media. A student I used to mentor five years ago just visited from LA because she tagged me in a random Facebook post.  Last night Facebook hosted a great conversation with another student I used to know during my times volunteering at youth group. She’s moved across the country and is navigating the high school classroom with boldness in her faith. Oh, how our short conversation encouraged me and I was able to share scripture with her- blessed is Facebook Messenger. Social Media has its place in the limelight for great things like this. Of course, we’ve all witnessed/participated/caused/cheered/shamed in the terror of social media as well- I personally know of how online bullying has led to suicide. It’s not pretty.

On a statistical note, TODAY did a study coming to the conclusion that, “42 percent [of mothers] said that they sometimes suffer from Pinterest stress – the worry that they’re not crafty or creative enough.” If parenting wasn’t hard enough… let’s just throw a social media stress on there! All this information brought me to a conversation with my friend (and biggest support when I’m sick), she pointed out that Social Media only shares part of the story. On Pinterest you read about the successful recipes or currently on my Facebook feed is a constant stream of engagement pictures (odes of being in your mid-twenties). Then I looked at my Instagram- I’ve got cannolis (and mainly just a lot of food), snapshots of the wine harvest, exploring fun places with friends. Of the 214 posts spanning four years, only 1 mentions Multiple Sclerosis. JUST ONE. And I made this video with the purpose to inspire, but that’s not my every day. My every day is a lot uglier than that.

So here is my confession:

Yesterday, I was carried into the house after crying in a grocery store because the nerve pain was so bad. I smoked enough [medical] marijuana to fund my own collective in addition to covering myself with CDB cream, ice packs, and sorrow. I picked a fight with my best friend because I was actually just scared of the consequences that might come from this flare. Last month, I dodged making plans with people 19 times because I felt like they wouldn’t understand the embarrassment of having trouble finding my words due to MS. I cancelled a trip to Scottsdale with friends because the forecast was over 100 degrees and thus my vision would probably be blurry.

At least once a day I feel the following: misunderstood by people because of this disease; scared of my future; a failure because I’m unemployed, unwifed, undereducated; alone; thankful for God’s faithfulness when I doubt him; angry that I don’t “look” disabled (ironic, I know); joyous because Christ is in this with me. There are times I don’t feel like I can ask a friend just to sit next to me while I cry because it “doesn’t fix anything.” I take it on myself to always spin the story to be positive even though sometimes I just want to drop a giant f bomb.

I’m not saying this to get your sympathy or empathy. I am saying this to say you have mine.  Hear this:

Life sucks, sometimes. And that’s ok. Your recipe can fail. You can stub your toe and curse. You can go without folding the laundry and just pull what you need off the floor. You can ask the question, “what the Heck, God?” Because, I can guarantee you that he is more faithful than you could ever imagine, He is 100% on your team and determined to love you through whatever crap you may be trying to get through. I hope you are not satisfied with the easy answers, half-truths, or the idea that you’re failing according to everyone else’s social media accounts. I hope you know it’s going to be okay. I hope you take to heart that what you see is not what you actually get, or need to be. I hope in the midst of these hard questions and lack of answers to understand the brokenness of this world you are pushed to understand Christ’s love in an incredible and new way.

Book Review: A Year of Biblical Womanhood

Oh, Rachel Held Evans, as my roommate would say, “you’re a hoot.”

Rachel’s book, “A Year of Biblical Womanhood” is “how a liberated woman found herself sitting on her roof, covering her head, and calling her husband, ‘master.” She spent a full calendar year focusing on different aspects of the Biblical Woman and following the directions quite literally. She camped in the front yard during her period, covered her head every time she prayed, cooked and cleaned through the Martha Stewart books, and even mothered an electronic baby.

She cried a lot, she laughed a lot; she made me cry and laugh, too. She got flustered about not making the perfect meal. Been there! She  researched different ways of living as a “Christian.” Been there! She wrestled with the boundaries of modesty, submission, valor, and obedience. Been there! She pretty much was a bad ass to take on this project.

These are my biggest take aways from the text:

  1. The view of fighting to be to be the Proverbs 31 woman is not to actually make clothes myself (thank goodness) or be the woman according to that list (which is freaking impossible), but to be called an eshet chayil. The hebrew word, Eshet Chayil, is translated to ‘a valorous woman.’ “Eshet chayil is at its core a blessing– one that was never meant to be earned, but to be given, unconditionally. It’s a Jewish version of, “you go, girl!” Get good grades? Eshet Chayil! Finished that work project that’s been stressing? Eshet Chayil! Did the laundry and made a craft with your kids? Eshet Chayil! It is a celebration, not an expectation.
  2. I’m not terrible for being scared of having kids and it’s ok that I’m 26 and pursuing a career rather than a husband. She writes it best, “As a Christian, my highest calling is not motherhood; my highest calling is to follow Christ. And following Christ is something a woman can do whether she is married, or single, rich or poor, sick or healthy, childless or Michelle Duggar.”
  3. Submission is not as the church has taught me it should be. “In the biblical narrative, hierarchy enters human relationships as part of the curse… But with Christ, hierarchical relationships are exposed for the sham that they are, as the last are made first, the first are made last, the poor are blessed, the meek inherit the earth, and the God of the universe takes the form of a slave.” This points to the fourth take away…
  4. A lot of what the church culture and community has taught me has bound me more to rules and regulations rather than delighting in Christ. I got a kick out of the books she quotes saying she needs to take her husband’s shoes off because he’s been grinding so hard with horrible people at work all day. HA, me too, buddy, me too, and no one is bringing me a drink on the couch. As a woman, it’s ok that I don’t serve in children’s ministry, it’s ok not to be married, it’s ok not to agree with someone about tattoos, modesty and how to fight for justice. It’s about Christ. “No text [explicitly about telling us what/when to do certain things] exists because faith isn’t about having everything figured out ahead of time; faith is about following the quite voice of God without having everything figured out ahead of time.”

Rachel, thanks for taking on this project, thanks for sharing your thoughts, thanks for creating a space where it’s okay to ask questions, wrestle with ideas, and lovingly disagree and then hang out and eat store-bought cookies together.

 

Reaching the Margins.

To be honest, sometimes, it’s really hard not to get disappointed when thinking about the church. It’s frustrating and heart breaking to see the margins untouched by the community that was instructed to care for them. I shake my fist at the organization that has a pretty easily understood handbook about what it looks like to make a difference and doesn’t do it. If the church acted like the church, I think this world would be a brighter place.

I’m sure I’ve said it here before, my passion is to create an atmosphere where real needs are met by real people in a tangible, efficient and Christ-like way. I have a passion on connecting those in the margins with those who have the means to help them. It’s easily translated to my career, my education, and my friends but that passion is lit on fire when it’s placed in the arena of the church meeting needs.

Enter the internship, more specifically, my internship project. The details are fuzzy still and will be sketched out more over the next few weeks as I meet with a team but this is what we know: missionaries need their story to be shared; local compassion ministries need their story to be shared; the local church wants to hear, support, and participate in these stories.  If we got these groups on the same page with effective communication and organization through marketing strategy and media training, there will be a bigger buy-in financially with more boots on the front lines and individual lives changed by encountering Christ.

My goal: To remove the statement, “I’d love to get involved but I don’t know enough or know where my skills can be used” from the church.

Daring? Sure. But daring is the business of God. I’m excited to take on these questions, issues, and road blocks in the name of Christ. I may fall completely flat on my face with a big “FAIL” in my pocket; if so, I’m excited for that too. This blog is the place where I am wrestling with the intellectual unknowns, the interpersonal relationships, the church, and how I am experiencing the living God through this internship. From that perspective, there is no fail, only faith.