This Is Why We Are Here

The hot June sun made the small musty apartment mustier.

The ladies were already waiting on us, in the dim room, clutching their bags, yarn spilling out. Within minutes, more than 40 women, not counting children packed into the crowded space.

I flipped on the lights and began dragging chairs around tables, the only furniture in the room, saying my good mornings to the refugee women relocated to my city from Burma, Bhutan, Nepal and Thailand. They nodded and smiled, waved in return.

It was my 15th Friday to drive an hour each way to oversee an art business class for refugee women. And somehow with 6 languages in the room, vast cultural and religious differences, these ladies have become my friends.

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I sent my kids to one of the back bedrooms to help Katy with her preschool class and we started working on the purses they have been crocheting for a couple of weeks. We had the four new ladies fill out an information sheet and then took pictures of them for their name tags, a key to starting a friendship.

Each week, after we introduce the day’s project, we pass out donated yarn. Towards the end of the class, the women line up to sell some of their creations and we try to stretch a generous donation from a friend who helped us get started. We buy two items from each lady, sometimes it’s hard to choose because they have a bag full of items.  The volunteers work to sell the items during the week so there is money to buy more at the next class.

The women live below poverty level and need toiletry items and diapers for their babies. But they don’t need a hand out. Instead of giving them stuff every week, we offer them opportunity, so they can buy their own items. We’ve traded enablement for empowerment and I’m sure it’s a road that leads to Jesus for these ladies.

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Because the room was so crowded, on an impulse, I opened the door to the third bedroom of the apartment and pulled my chair to the wall and sat down with my notebook and handed my friend the bag 0f cash.  The women followed and lined up patiently. We recorded every purchase, offering praise for their hard work. The women smiled, some glowing, nodding their heads because they understood we valued not only their art, but more importantly, them.

We’ve done this for 15 weeks. But this time was different. When the room emptied down to the last lady, a woman named Sancha, I smiled, relieved we had enough money this week. She is one of two ladies that speaks a little English. She is one of two ladies I have prayed for by name. After I recorded her purchase, she asked me where my friend Suzanne was. I told her she was bringing home her new son and 5th child from Ethiopia. She said, “She likes a lot of children?” I laughed.

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“Well, she likes to help people.”

Sancha smiled. “I won’t be here next week because I’ll be in Africa, too,” I tried to explain the work of Mercy House.

“You are a good person,” she said.

“I just want to help people, too,” I responded. I tried not to think about the frustrations helping people had brought me the past week. I tried not to let my face show the worry that I struggle with, the burden that comes with empowerment when enablement would be so much easier. Again, she smiled and turned to leave.

But when she got to the door, she stopped and turned. She looked like she really wanted to ask me something, but she also looked uncertain.

I leaned in, encouraging her.

“Are you a Christian?” she asked in a hushed, holy whisper.

My throat caught. All this time, and never once had we mentioned God or Christianity.

“Yes, I am.”

Sancha’s face broke into a huge grin and she said excitedly, “I too, am a Christian. I follow Christ now.”

I was shocked. “What? When did this happen?”

Last night, she whispered and tears pooled.

I jumped from my seat and hugged her hard.

“This is why we are here. We want to show you and your friends the love of Jesus. He compels us to come. He is the only one who can heal the hurt in your heart,” I said, crying now.

“You are a Christian,” she stated again, relieved. It dawned on me that she must be terribly alone in her new faith. She confirmed it and told me that she was the only one in her family and in our class who was a follower of Jesus.

“You are not alone, Sancha. The women with me also follow Jesus, but more importantly, Jesus will always be with you.”

We hugged again and she left my friend and I in the room. We both burst into tears and hugged.

“This is why we are here,” she said. It was holy ground.

My yes is still unfolding. Last week we brought in six new pregnant girls into our new Mercy House residence. My family will be flying around the globe next week and we will get to meet them.

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Long after people read the story of my yes, I will continue to live it. I think most authors are relieved at this point that “it’s over.”

But I feel like it’s just beginning.

Because here’s the deal: Saying yes, stepping out in obedience, doing whatever God tells you—it is just the beginning.

When I fall into bed every night, I’m generally exhausted and overwhelmed. Yeses will do that to you, but I’m more content and alive and I’m giving this life everything I’ve got. That’s a combination I’ll take any day.

We don’t say yes because we are good or because we are good enough or because we know what to do next. We say yes because somehow in our meager, inadequate offering, Jesus is glorified.

People have asked me, “What do you hope people will feel or do when they finish your book?”

And I have one answer: When you’ve turned to the last page of my untidy and messy yes, I pray it isn’t the end. I hope it’s a new beginning.

A new day to live generously. A new chance to ask yourself hard questions. A new opportunity to touch another person. A new perspective on how what you do day-in-and-day-out matters so much. A new yes.

Because one refugee named Sancha from Nepal reminded me why I’ve said yes to God.

And I will remind you, it’s worth it.

Because this is why we are here.

The True Secret to Discovering What We Are Supposed to Do Next

I used to call them my wasted years.

That season where I did nothing for anyone.

Not even myself.

I felt like I lived in circles. Doing the same thing I did the day before. And just thankful to get through it.

I was tired and life was hard.  I was stuck in a job I hated. Struggling in a broken marriage and the monotony of motherhood. I was always looking for the next “big thing” in my life, which usually meant a trip to Target alone, meandering around the store, buying things I didn’t need for a high that was temporary. Maybe you know these long, unappreciated days, too?

Now when I look back, I don’t see wasted time. I see fertile ground.

Because sometimes you have to get so sick of your life, your mess, your perspective, yourself, you risk it-step into the unknown-and say yes to God because you cannot keep living the same empty way.

But where do you start? I’ve talked a lot about saying yes lately and I hear this so often. “I know there’s a yes in me, but I don’t know what it is. I don’t know where to start.”

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This might sound too simple, too easy, but here’s the answer:

Do the last thing God told you to do.

When we left full time ministry, God provided my husband with a sales rep job. We knew it was from God. We knew it was His will. But we thought and hoped it would be a short season. He’s on his 11th year. And for many of those years, he’s dreamed of a different yes.

But sometimes our yes is continued faithfulness.

And faithfulness today–right where we are–always leads to the next yes.

And the next. And before we know it, we are standing at the door that opens to more.

How do we know what God is telling us to do? I’ve discovered that when an idea is for me, it’s probably by me. It benefits me in some way. But those little thoughts and desires and ideas to do something for someone else? Those are most likely from God. When I do them, I find Him in the middle of it.

The truth is, it’s not a secret at all to discover what God wants us to do next. Because really what we are talking about here is obedience. It’s not necessarily a big yes, although it could lead to that. It’s daily, faithful obedience to do whatever God tells you.

We find the next step in the Bible: “Trust God from the bottom of your heart; don’t try to figure out everything on your own. Listen for God’s voice in everything you do, everywhere you go; he’s the one who will keep you on track,” Proverbs 3:5-7

Send that note. Take that meal. Hug that child. Serve that neighbor.

When you don’t know what to do next, do the thing that’s right in front of you today.

It will open the door to tomorrow and you just never know where it will lead.

How To Wake Up From the American Dream (You Might Not Even Know You’re Sleeping Through)

You don’t always know you’re asleep—until you wake up.

And then you see the world in a completely new way.

Two years after that first life-changing trip to Kenya, I brought Maureen, Compassion-sponsored-child-turned- fearless-Kenyan-leader who rescues girls from unthinkable situations to America for strategic planning and fundraising.

I will never forget the moment we pulled into the driveway of my nice two-story brick house and I saw my home from her perspective.

I will never forget the first question she asked as the garage door opened and she got a first look at my life in America.

“Oh, do you also sell bikes?” she asked innocently after seeing the five bikes hanging from my garage for my family of five.

Y’all.

Waking up from the American Dream

That one question has haunted me.

Because sometimes we don’t always see how much we have until someone who doesn’t have as much sees into our lives.

Do we sell bicycles? Because there isn’t another reason why we would HAVE SO MANY if not. Because in her country one bike is a luxury. One bike is shared by dozens. Five bikes is a bike store.

But I think we all know this isn’t really about bikes. It’s not even about wealth and the world’s poverty.

It’s about waking up from a dream that is never satisfied. About being grateful for what we have and about sharing some of it with others.

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Hey.

I know it’s not easy to talk about waking up from the American Dream. I know reading this might be uncomfortable. I understand it’s more fun to read new recipes or how to’s on rearranging furniture or encouraging mom words.

I get that. I know clicking here requires something of you. I know buying my book about trading in safe comfortable faith for something more authentic and dangerous will cost you more than the $12 price tag.

I know because waking up has been hard for me. I still struggle.

I like the idea of the . A·mer·i·can dream

1.  the idea that everyone in the United States has the chance to achieve success and prosperity

What could possibly be wrong with wanting success and prosperity? We all deserve it, right? We are entitled to it.

No.

It doesn’t take more than a long look at how 3/4 of the world lives to realize, we are not the norm and the only real difference between the poorest of the poor and the guy driving the $100,000 car is where they were born.

“I think with the way we have unprecedented material blessing, with the way we have a culture built on self, self-esteem, self-confidence. All of these things we begin to twist the gospel into something that it is not. We make it look like us and fit into our lifestyle instead of adjusting our lifestyle to the gospel. In the process we make following Jesus more American than it is biblical. As a result there seems to be a major disconnect between what it means to follow Christ in the first century and what it means to follow Christ in our definition in the 21st century,” David Platt.

To be honest, for every yes I’ve said, there have been at least a hundred reasons to say no.

It is too risky.

What will people think?

I like living this way.

I deserve nice things.

I’ll give to someone in need as soon as I finish building my dream home.

“Believing in the Jesus of the Bible makes life risky on a lot of levels because it is absolute surrender of every decision we make, every dollar we spend, our lives belong to another. And so that is relinquishing control in a culture that prioritizes control and doing what you need to do in order to advance yourself.  The call of Christ is to deny ourselves and to let go of our lives. To relinquish control of our lives, to surrender everything we are, everything that we do, our direction our safety our security is no longer found in the things of this world. It is found in Christ,” David Platt.

So, how do we wake up from the American Dream? I often feel myself being lulled back to sleep by it.

  • We stop comparing ourselves to other people. I often don’t know I want something until I see someone else enjoying it. If I’m going to compare myself to someone who has something I don’t, then I also must compare myself to someone who has less than I have.
  • We commit to doing what God tells us to–when He says it. That prompting to give isn’t from you. It goes against our nature to take care of someone else’s needs before meeting our wants.
  • We become wildly generous. Give your life away. It’s easy to give when we have a lot. But when we give and it costs us something–that is true generosity. I’ll say it again: There is nothing more gratifying than giving someone something they need instead of buying something we want.

A generous person is always ready to spontaneously give to those in need. It’s usually inconvenient and unplanned. It will probably cost us comfort, even pride. It won’t be easy or bring us fame.

This is Christianity.

It’s easier to keep sleeping. Living different than the world will cost us something.

But my life is proof that waking up is an open door to living wide awake. And that’s so much better than a dream.

WFMW: Say Yes to Rest

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I’m happy to welcome this week’s guest post from Kris for my new Wednesday series Yes, Works For Me! Please welcome her and be encouraged by her yes to God and continue to link up what works for you.

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When God asks you to be quiet, is there any other answer than to say “yes”?

It’s been a month since I hosted Refine {the Retreat}. I knew the week before I left for it, that upon my return home, I would be entering a quieter season.  Exhausted, I looked forward to the promise of rest.

For the last 3 years I have been hard at work. Between writing and publishing 2 books, and planning a retreat, all while homeschooling my 4 children and serving in my role as wife, mom, chauffer, chef, and laundress, there has been little quality down time. I have poured out in every capacity and the reality is, I am crazy-tired, and spiritually thirsty.

As inviting as it sounds, as writer, quiet seasons can be a bit scary. Writers write, that’s how they can call themselves writers.  In this fast-paced, never sleeping world of social media and lightning speed technology, there is great pressure to produce. Now. And often.  But God has clearly spoken to me on this, and asked me to take several steps back, to lay my pen down–to listen for His words, rather than spouting my own.

All I can say is “yes”. My saying yes to God’s invitation to rest is scary because I fear being forgotten in the circles I’ve worked so hard to be a part of. When one disappears from the frantic clamor of the online world, it can sometimes seem as if they were never there in the first place. It’s like a hole that just closes over and leaves little trace of their previous presence.

I’ve spent 3 years connecting with people, building and investing in relationships, trying to find a community to call “home”. Saying “yes” to being quiet feels like walking away from all of that.

A friend reminded me the other night that God’s call to rest is a gift. She said this isn’t punishment, but reward for my labors.  The serpent tells me that if I’m not out there laying planks in a platform, that I’ll never amount to anything as a writer. The enemy would have me burn up and puff flat out of breath, while striving to achieve by my own strength.

But God has another plan.

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God asks us to say yes to the things that ultimately are for our best interest–no matter how counter intuitive they may seem.  God’s plans are for kingdom glory, not personal gain. God’s invitations are for prosperity and proclamation of the gospel, however unconventional His methods. His ways are not our ways.

I’m saying yes to obscurity and silence, because whatever God has to teach me is more important than whatever I think I need to say.

I’m saying “yes” to listening, to resting, to a new kind of quiet. I don’t imagine it will be easy, especially for a do-er like myself.

But I want God more than anything.

So, yes, Jesus. I’m listening.

 

Author Bio:

Kris in red2

As a sequin-wearing, homeschooling mother of four, Kris is passionate about Jesus, people and words.   Her heart beats to share the hard, but glorious truth about  life in Christ. She’s been known to take gratuitous pictures of her culinary creations, causing mouths to water all across Instagram. Once upon a time, she ran 10 miles for Compassion International, a ministry for which she serves as an advocate. Kris is the author of, Holey, Wholly, Holy: A Lenten Journey of Refinement, and the follow up, Companion Workbook. You can read more from Kris at kriscamealy.com

The Difference Between Their Daughters and Mine

She is 14. She longs for adventure and freedom. She loves to learn and is at the top of her class. She helps her mother with her siblings and she doesn’t mind it. She snatches her mother’s bright shirt from the laundry and twirls as she holds it to her chest. She has dreams.

She is not my daughter.

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But she could be. 

The only difference between that girl and my own is where they were born.

One was born into freedom. The other oppression.

My daughter will live adventure. She will know freedom. She will continue in school and work to stay at the top of her class. She will help with her brother and sister and she will dream.

The girl born in the red dirt of Africa will be kidnapped from school in the middle of the night and held at ransom, probably abused or worse. 

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Every time I read that females are the most oppressed people group in the world my stomach knots and I feel sick.

Because I have daughters. And I am a mother. And I love God and He loves them. And I long for things to be made right in this world. For the girls to come home, to be free, safe. It’s the compelling force behind Mercy House. It’s the story behind the story.

In our world of sky scrapers, hand-held computers, busy schedules and lovely Pinterest, it’s too easy to think this good life we lead is normal. It’s not. This is not how most people in the world live.

And my girls painting their toenails and giggling in the bathroom is a luxury. They do not know oppression. They do not fear being taken in the middle of the night.

Do you know what the number one fear in the slums of Africa is? It’s not starvation or lack of water. It’s not provision. It’s violence. Girls fear being violated. Because the odds are they will be on their way home from school…by strangers, by their fathers and uncles, policemen. It’s a thought so sickening, it keeps me up at night.

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How do we help these girls?

How do we stop the oppression of women and girls?

How do we put an end to the violence against them?

We pray.

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And we pray some more.

And we continue to pray until they are rescued. Until they are redeemed. Until they come home.

I was sitting in church the other day. My eyes were closed as I sang. I lifted my hand in surrender and when I did, the twine on my prayer bracelet snapped and the little heart fell onto my lap. How fitting. Holy hands. A Holy God. A Holy Fight to remember girls all over the world from Nigeria to Kenya to South America to the brothels in Thailand to the elusive massage parlors in my city, to the refugee moms we teach to crochet.

We feel helpless. But when we pray we unleash the Great Helper.

We feel inadequate. But when we pray God is more than adequate.

We feel defeated. But when we pray Jesus defeats the enemy.

This week, today, now, the staff at Mercy House are talking to helpless, hopeless pregnant girls who will be our next in-house residents. They are setting up a mentoring group in a nearby slum for those who won’t be residents. We are taking Mercy House to them. It’s overwhelming, heart-breaking work. The stories-oh, Jesus-the pain the girls in our world endure. We pray. It’s the one thing we can do.

3 Things We Can Do Today For the Most Oppressed People Group in the World:

  1. Sure, go ahead and light up social media with #bringbackourgirls. But at the same time, do battle. Shine a light on the darkness of terror that will draw attention from every corner. It’s time we fight on our knees.
  2. Wear a love mercy prayer bracelet. Every time you see it or touch it or feel it on your skin, whisper a prayer. It’s a constant reminder not to forget them and to pray for oppressed girls everywhere.
  3. Most of all, pray. Right now, wherever you are. Whisper this prayer to God on their behalf:

“God, we humbly seek your face and lift up the girls and women in our world who suffer in bondage and fear violence. We ask that you would set these captives free. We pray they would feel your strong arm of love in the midst of their suffering. Please give me the courage to stand against oppression. Bring back our girls. Amen.”

Do you know what the difference between their daughters are and mine?

Nothing.

 

[Does your church have a bookstore, coffee shop or do you own a restaurant, boutique or know someone who does? We are now offering our love mercy prayer bracelets at a low wholesale cost to help spread awareness. Please email for details.]