That Time I Learned to Take a Vacation

My family didn’t really take vacations growing up, so it wasn’t a habit for me when I went to the field. My teammate and I pushed hard until we figured out we needed to create some better rhythms. It started out by taking Saturday mornings off of language study, instead sipping lattes in an air-conditioned coffee shop and talking to our families on good internet.

Several years in we realized that we needed to actually leave the country every once in awhile. Sure, we went back to the States for home assignment but those weeks were full of travels to visit supporters and fill every moment with precious family time (and important grocery shopping to pack those suitcases for the return trip!).

About two years ago, my teammate and I intentionally left Cambodia and flew to Bangkok. We stayed in a five-star hotel, the kind with a big bathtub and fancy breakfast.

I’m almost afraid to admit this out-loud. I want to give you all the justifications—it was a sweet discount on a booking site, during a hard season. We needed to be in the big city anyway to meet with doctors, and our usual guest house was full. We had to stay somewhere, right?

But honestly, it was glorious. We walked to Starbucks and people-watched, marveling at the way our names written in Thai on our cups matched the language we had grown to love. We walked through the large park nearby full of green grass and tall green trees, watched runners and walkers and weight lifters and cyclists. All things absent in our little rural Cambodian town.

After mornings drinking decaf coffee with a view of the city, sleeping in icy AC, and celebrating successful doctor’s appointments, I found myself echoing the words of David Tenant’s 10th Doctor: “I don’t want to go”. That’s a Doctor Who reference, in case you’re curious. I wanted to stay in the comfort, stay in the place where life-giving activities and amenities were easily accessible. Getting back on the plane was hard.

But that’s the thing with vacations. They should be refreshing and fun and lovely, and then they are done. They don’t last forever and that’s a good thing. We step away for a time, find space for our souls and our bodies to breathe. Then we step back into the fray, into the battle, into the ordinary.

I hear justifications related to periods away from our fields all the time. And rightly so, we all want to be good stewards of the caring financial support of our partners. The time is short and we want to do our very best for the people we have come to serve.

But we need a different model, and Jesus gave one to us. He got away. Mark 6:30-32 says, “The apostles returned to Jesus from their ministry tour and told him all they had done and taught. Then Jesus said, ‘Let’s go off by ourselves to a quiet place and rest awhile.’ He said this because there were so many people coming and going that Jesus and his apostles didn’t even have time to eat. So they left by boat for a quiet place, where they could be alone.”

Not every attempt for quiet was successful, and Jesus was full of compassion even when his alone time was interrupted. But I think in his humanity, in the need for sustenance, he gave us a pattern to follow.

Our souls are precious and they need to be fed and nourished. Introverted or extroverted, in a hot or cold climate, in a place you love or a place you dislike, we all need this space. We all need to experience rest, to find those places where we can do all the life-giving things and have fun and laugh and sleep.

We are better Kingdom workers because of it.


Photo by Jessica Da Rosa on Unsplash

  • I’m joining in the discussion this week on Velvet Ashes for the theme of Vacation

When My Yes Impacts Others

Last year, I wrestled with the Lord over what He was calling me to do. It involved major changes, shifts to what I thought I would be doing for the long haul. The process was unlike any other move of obedience I’ve experienced. I had to open my heart to say yes to whatever He had for me, which meant letting go of dreams and watching doors close. Slowly He showed me the next step, and little by little, what He had next for me emerged out of the fog.

Saying yes meant a lot of goodbyes. It meant closing out a house, selling furniture, and even the end of some really sweet relationships. It meant that some things were left undone. Promises of my return, of what I hoped to accomplish next were not kept. This was difficult.

My yes to the Lord, my obedience to Him, in some ways meant suffering for others. They didn’t ask for this goodbye. They didn’t ask for the challenge of finding someone to take my place, for the holes that were left and the projects they had to take on themselves. Perhaps these changes were for the good as they had to watch the Father provide someone who was an even better fit, or trust Him for their own next steps as things shifted.

I’ve been in their place too. I’ve watched others in my life obey God with their whole heart, seeking to honor Him and glorify Him. Sometimes this has meant a painful goodbye or a change I wasn’t anticipating.

We take these steps of obedience as we keep up the lines of communication between the Father and ourselves, but we are not alone in this life. Our decisions, our actions, impact those around us. This is the joy of life in community, but it is also the messy, crazy and sometimes painful part.

How can we encourage each other when our yes or someone else’s yes impacts the relationships with those around us?

God is their God, their leader and director too. I can trust that even as I take a step of obedience, He will also show them their next step.

We can be open in our communication about how our decisions might impact someone else. We can listen well and ask questions to invite honesty. Inviting others into our grief or joy over what our obedience means, and sharing in their grief or joy, can be a sweet gift we give to each other.

Allow the Father to take care of the things we cannot. I don’t need to control or micromanage every aspect of change. I can take responsibility for my part and trust God to work in the ways I can’t.

We can remind each other, challenge each other to look through eyes of faith and expect God to move. When doors close and we walk through painful goodbyes it can feel like God is finished with us. We can feel overwhelmed by a sense of abandonment. But God is still at work, even when things feel dark and still. He is at work in the foggy, murky middle of transition and He is there when we come out on the other side. Sometimes we need that nudge from a friend when we can’t see His goodness for ourselves. We can be that voice of truth for each other in each step of obedience in this journey.

Impact of My Yes

Image by Pexels from Pixabay

Happy Birthday, Kristin!

Today is my teammate Kristin’s birthday! I won’t tell you how old she is, but people are often surprised to learn she is older than me. 😉 Most of our birthdays the last five years have been spent trying to find air conditioning and a few treats to enjoy while far away from family in Cambodia. This year is different, but I thought I would post some favorite memories and blessings for this new year.

We’ve shared so many adventures over the last 5+ years! These have included exploring different countries:





Every kind of creature you could imagine:




And opportunities to fall in love with a new culture:



2018-08-20 (6)

We’ve squabbled and hurt each other’s feelings, worked through clunky conversations to fight for understanding, surprised each other with gifts, cried in sympathy and compassion, celebrated and cheered each other on. We’ve leaned hard on each other when there wasn’t any one else, praying like crazy and pushing back the darkness that pressed in heavy. There were probably days when we wanted to give up on life overseas and each other, but I’m grateful for the deep friendship forged and strengthened by the joys and sorrows and trials.

Happy birthday, Kristin! I’m grateful for you and the ways you challenge me, encourage me and help me learn more about who God created me to be while you dive into that discovery yourself. May you continue to know God’s tender care for you in the hidden places this year, as you are amazed at His sweet gifts and challenged by the leaps of faith He calls you to.


The Gift of the Middle

The summer before my junior year of college (yikes, 12 years ago!), I traveled with a group to Ecuador for a summer study abroad experience. We were mostly based in Quito but spent almost every weekend visiting the coast, the jungle and exploring other parts of this beautiful country.

On one of our adventures, our group crowded into a little suspended cable car to take a ride over a valley. Halfway across as we enjoyed the gorgeous views, that little car stopped.

I am NOT a fan of heights and really have a very small heart pocket that thrives on adventure. Stepping into that cable car and leaving the safety of the canyon edge was pretty risky, and getting stuck part way across was not exactly my idea of fun.

I’ve been thinking an awful lot about transition lately. In many ways I have left the safe and predictable edge of life as I’ve known it the last few years. Most of my ministry commitments and relationships have paused or ended, leaving me with a blank slate and a lot of unknowns. But I haven’t gotten to the other side of the transition where I can put roots down again and establish routines, finding the stability that steadies my heart. I’m right there in the chaotic middle, and it can feel pretty scary.

I’m learning that this messy middle of transition can also be a gift. Even though I knew how to handle the stability I was leaving, it was also becoming unhealthy and I know that this change has been really good. I have no idea what is coming and yet I have been granted a season of rest. I don’t yet have new responsibilities and demands on my time. I can seek God’s heart for this season and the one to come, letting His peace reign right there in the middle. In His perfect timing, He will lead me to the other side and establish His purposes for me there. In this, I can rest content, safe, held.

That cable car in Ecuador eventually began moving again, but while we hung suspended over the valley, my fellow classmates and I were able to laugh about the situation and enjoy the view. While I’m here in the middle of the transition process, I can strive to do the same.

Middle cable car

Lesson from a Twisted Clump of Wires

I want the beautiful without the messy.


Like this picture. Poofy, white clouds were building up over the palm trees and we were getting ready for a non-rainy season rain. Humidity was thick and the air desperate for just a little relief. I love this view, and I stood at our front door trying to imprint it all on to my memory.

I tried to capture this scene, but all I could see was the messy tangle of electrical wires and the sharp barbed wire and glass on top of our fence. They are reminders of some of the things that frustrate me the most and steal the beauty of the creation around me.

I’m getting ready to say goodbye for awhile to the place that has been my home for the last five years. Part of me wants to say, “So long and good riddance.” The last few months have been hard and it is easy to zoom in on the messy. Hot season has been in fully swing, dehydrating both my body and my soul. We’ve had some crazy electricity issues (remember all those clumps of wires?), and through different situations I have been reminded that human beings are far from perfect, myself unfortunately included.

Yet, just like our life, the messy and the beautiful come all together in one package. When I take a moment to look up, the tangled wires are still there, sure, but I don’t want to miss the brilliant colors of bright green against pure blue sky. I don’t want to miss the fact that even when we were trying to navigate how to fix our electricity at 7:00 pm, God sent a man we hadn’t met to be waiting outside our gate so he could make calls and explain complicated concepts outside our vocabulary bubble- and who knew those words in English too so he could help us feel more at ease. When my heart felt desperate and dejected this week, God breathed life again with a story of hope, a story of a part of our labor bearing fruit in souls transformed by our Father.

So I can’t separate these two, and together, they are a sweet gift, one that I will carry with me as I say goodbye, for now.

The Story Isn’t Finished

I’m not sure I have the best track record when it comes to perseverance. Speaking of track, I could never run the whole mile at our homeschool track and field day. I studied violin in high school but never actually learned to read music and haven’t played much since my last lesson before heading off to college. I have attended graduate school but will probably never get my doctorate, I studied ballet for a whole 16 weeks, split between when I was 10 and my senior year of college.

My organization has audacious goals and big faith to see God work in the hard places around the world. I get to hear stories of those pushes of the Spirit to birth disciples and churches and movements. They give me goose bumps and fill up my hope tank. But I live in a difficult place. Nothing is happening yet. I feel like I try and fail, give up, beg God to send me home or give me an out so it doesn’t look to the whole world like I have been unsuccessful. Perseverance is hard.

One thing I realized recently though, is that all those amazing stories started somewhere in darkness. The beginning was messy and uncertain, and the middle was long. I get to hear the end, the summary, and I can marvel and praise my Heavenly Father. But the story was pushed forward with perseverance, with seasons of joy and hardship. In those moments before the breakthrough came, I’m sure there was hesitation and despair. Or boredom. Or disappointment.

On an ordinary night near Bethlehem, a bunch of shepherds were going about their business. I don’t know what they were waiting for, if they were happy in their work or longing for more, looking for a way out or a better life. Maybe they were sad or just tired.

But then God showed up. He came in bright lights and angels singing, His glory brought forth in the most amazing proclamation. And He came as a little baby in a manger, when no one on earth could have known all that was still to come. The wait for the Savior spanned centuries, and the story wasn’t even finished yet. Yet everything changed because God moved and He moved in to the space that felt heavy with a reminder to never give up. The story wasn’t just about those breakthrough moments. It was about the waiting, the preparation, the darkness before He came.

My story, the story of the place I live now, isn’t finished, praise Jesus. Someday, and oh I hope it is soon, the light will break through and the unfolding account of glory and transformation will be told. Do I have to wait to share until it’s all over? Can I reveal the story right where it is now, unfinished and broken and beautiful?

I hope we can do that, all of us together in the beginning and middle and end of the stories God is writing in our lives. I think it will help us to persevere as we hear the stories that are ongoing, the glimmers of hope that shine because God is faithful in the darkness too and we can trust that He will show up. The story isn’t finished yet.

Story Isn't Finished

Surviving Christmas Overseas

I love Christmas music. I mean, who doesn’t, right? As I was assembling my playlist of favorites for this season, I just couldn’t include one particular song. When I hear the words “I’ll be home for Christmas… if only in my dreams”, I normally dissolve in a puddle of tears or start making a list of all the things I’m missing at home, turning my heart into one big discontented mess.

I’ve spent 4 of the last 5 Christmases thousands of miles from my loved ones and snow and favorite traditions. Honestly, those first couple of years were pretty miserable (due in part to bouts of food poisoning on Christmas Eve. Twice.) I’ve learned a few things, though, and want to share some ideas for not only how to survive when you’re on the other side of the world, but how to hold tight to joy and Jesus too.

DO decorate. It might take a lot of creativity, and keeping things simple but take the time to make your home festive for the holidays. My first year in Cambodia my teammate and I couldn’t afford a big tree (although there were actually some available!) and we lived in a tiny apartment. We settled for a little one-footer, and got busy with scissors removing the gaudy gold decorations that were glued to the branches. We visited a few local NGOs that had ornaments for sale, grabbed a red scarf from the market to use as a tree skirt, and made one corner of our living room as beautiful as we could.

Make new traditions. One of the hardest things for me has been how much I LOVE my family’s traditions and yet most of them are impossible to carry out overseas. So, my teammate and I have put our heads together and mixed elements from both our families’ traditions, then brain stormed ways we could actually make some things happen and become traditions from year to year. For several years we made a Christmas vacation trip to the coast and dipped our toes in the frigid water- definitely not something that happens in Nebraska in December!

Set aside extra money in your budget. It might be to get that nice tree, or to have a few special treats shipped over. Or if you’re in the tropics like me, it might be cranking up the AC so you can sip hot chocolate and put together a puzzle without dripping sweat all over. Intentionally plan ahead for ways to really make things special.

Don’t forget special scents. It’s amazing how many memories are triggered by specific smells, isn’t it? Stick a pine scented candle in your suitcase and pull it out when you decorate. Or, have a friend send you the Christmas Spirit essential oil from Young Living. Diffuse it, add a few drops to a cotton ball and tuck it on a shelf in the bathroom, or just inhale it straight out of the bottle (um, that would be me).

Don’t be afraid to invite friends over. I was usually afraid of letting my local friends know I wasn’t being totally immersed in the culture and bringing in traditions from home. But I’ve found my friends love learning new things! Use it as an opportunity to share the true meaning of Christmas.

Share specific ideas with friends and family. It is hard for them to know what might be the most encouraging to you, so go ahead and be specific! Ask them to scan their Christmas card and email it to you if you’re afraid the snail mail version might get lost somewhere over the ocean. Amazon, iTunes, and other gift cards make wonderful gifts and are something easy and cost-effective for friends to send (and are a great gift for you to give as well). It’s okay to let people know!

Let Jesus be your comfort. Sometimes when we are lonely and longing for home, it can be a reminder of our true home and the reason we celebrate a baby born thousands of years ago. When my heart feels anything but peaceful when I’m overseas at Christmastime, I need to turn my focus to the Prince of Peace.

If you are living overseas, what are some ways you have found to truly seek out joy in the Christmas season? 

If you know and love someone serving overseas, do you have any fun ideas for how you encourage them?