Bye Felecia

WordPress friends,

i thank you for your time, your words, and your follow. However, because life has seasons, i must say goodbye to WordPress. Adventures in Grace has moved elsewhere.

i have moved to another domain, with the same title, writing style, and purpose.

Keep reading, keep writing, keep being wonderful.

Ashton

my new domain

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Thoughts on Twenty

It’s a Friday. This morning i took a test, a friend made me banana pancakes, and now i’m doing what i love most: drinking coffee and writing. Happy birthday to me; i am no longer a teenager. i am a twenty-something (for the next 365 days, that “something” just happens to be zero). This is, as people have said to me a million times in the four hours i’ve been awake, growing up.

Twenty years ago on some kind of Tuesday, i made my entrance. God said, “Ash would be a good idea.” and here I am. Twenty years, 240 months, 1,040 weeks, 7,300 days, and probably less than ten haircuts later, and I’m still here. I’m glad about that. My dad said some dad-ish thing about how i will “never have a one in front again” and how “i’m growing up and it’s a good thing.”

i don’t disagree.

The reality is that i am a person who will never really grow up but has been “becoming grown” for a long time. The only difference now is that I am no longer a teenager and I now fall into the category of a “twenty something” and that’s it. There is no big party, no gray hairs (if there were, i’m sure i wouldn’t be able to find them), no man at my father’s door offering him a sheep for my hand in marriage. i’m twenty years old. i’ve lived a lot a life, had a lot of bad days and even more good days. i’ve laughed a lot, cried a lot, and slept too much. i haven’t seen enough of the world and i’m anxious to see more of it. i’ve lived twenty years and learned a lot of lessons.

Because lists are fun, here are twenty things i’ve learned in these endless numbered days. I’ll only elaborate on a few, I promise.

1. Haircuts are overrated. // You don’t need to wash your hair as much as you probably thing you do.

2. It’s okay not to be okay.
Somedays, you have to skip class to sleep in. Some days, listening to a sermon and painting is what you need to do. Some days, you have to say “no,” and that’s okay.

3. i can’t do anything without Christ, but with Him, i can do everything.
John 15:5 // Philippians 4:13

4. Dogs are great. Cats are better.
example a:
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5. Calling my dad my best friend is always good.
Earlier this week, i called my dad. i wasn’t having the best day and he could tell, with 253 miles and five hours in between us, that i wasn’t myself. Three hours later, i had sunflowers and snacks waiting on me. He said, “You sounded like you needed a pick-me-up.” The man sent me flowers. i am thankful that my Heavenly Dad knew exactly what i needed in an earthly dad.

6. People need other people.
We can’t help this. Don’t fight it.

He’s given me really great people to learn this lesson with and i’m thankful.

7. Caffeine addictions are real.
As i type this, i’m on my second cup for the day. i love coffee something fierce.

8. Books are important.
Read one. Write one. Study one. Share one with a friend.

9. Find something you’re passionate about and do it.
i have a lot to say about dreams. Check it.

10. Guatemala smells bad.
i promise. take my word for it.

11. Adventure is necessary.

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12. American Eagle belts are forever (forever = seven years and running).

13. Sunshine fuels joy.

14. No one else can play my part.

15. You can never be “too happy”
i struggled with this for a while. Once i got to a place where i experienced real, genuine, smile building, laughter driving joy, i wanted more. That’s because that feeling is from the Lord and we were designed to crave it. However, sometimes i feel bad for being happy. i look at people who are struggling and feel bad that they’re sad and i’m not! But friends, we can’t let that happen. We have to realize that happiness is a gift, it’s not something we should feel bad about. We should take our given happiness and allow it to be the thing that inspires us to help those who aren’t happy.

16. i am worth, “Because i want to.”
My counselor said this to me last spring and it was so powerful. i used to have this habit of justifying every little thing i did. i thought i had to have a valid reason to take a nap, go home for the weekend, or buy myself chick-fil-a. i didn’t get that i was worth little happy things throughout the week; i would always treat others and encourage them to treat themselves, bit i didn’t understand that “because i want to” was a good enough reason to fuel an action. i was wrong. i am worth, “because i want to” and so are you.

17. “Learn to love yourself first and everything else falls into place.” – Lucille Ball

18. I can’t be all the things.
Jesus is all the things. Not me, not you, not your mom, not your best friend– Jesus. He is all we need. He is all the things we try to be to other people and to ourselves. You and i, no matter how hard we try, can’t be all the things. Don’t exhaust yourself by attempting to be.

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19. Speak truth to others, let them speak truth to you.
Everyday, i text one of my best friends and remind her of some easily forgotten truth and she reminds me. Whether it’s remembering that it’s okay to skip class, not wash your hair, or solid truth from the Word, it happens. We declare it over each other and ourselves. It’s becoming a sweet habit and i love it. Yes, sometimes truth is hard and almost unwanted, but it’s always truth. Sometimes the hardest thing to hear is the thing we need to hear the most. Let it happen.

20. Don’t build so many walls up that others can’t get in and you can’t get out.
i would like to think this is self explanatory, but unfortunately it isn’t. Earlier this week, i stayed up until 4am with two of my favorite people in the world and we let it all out; the fun things, the scary things, the things we hadn’t told anyone. There were no walls except for the four that made up the dorm room. Last spring, the Lord revealed that i had put myself in a box. An unhealthy box that i will eventually write about. Long story short, the freedom from this box is what has paved the way for me to live the beautiful free life i do today. Some walls are necessary, but you don’t need to build a frickin fort around yourself to shield from the world. Life isn’t a war of you against everyone else. Let others in. Do life. Share life. Live free.

One to grow on: follow your dreams.
Here’s to the mistakes, the successes, the “could be” and the “will be” that comes along with this one.

Twenty will be a year of adventure. A year of finding more of myself and living this crazy story that the Father has written me. i hope you’ll be a part of it. But for now, i have an informal to get ready for so i can go dance my face off with my best friends.

 

Stay wonderful.

Inspired by Brokenness.

Last week on the way to dinner, i was sitting in the passenger seat of my friend’s car and the title of this blog hit me. i tried to write on it earlier this week, but then i started writing about dreams and freedom and this came out. Now, i think i’ve gotten my thoughts together enough to write out why i live a life that is inspired by brokenness; it’s because i’m broken. it’s because brokenness is the gospel.

i’ve known for a long time that that i want to spend my life helping people. When i’m asked what i want to do with my degree, i respond, “i want to love people, help them, and show them Jesus” because that’s all i’m sure of. i’m studying Interpersonal Communication, which is one-on-one communication. i’m getting a degree in how to connect and communicate with people because all i want to do in life is love well. It wasn’t until i was in the car last week that i realized that i want to do the things i do because of brokenness. i’ve struggled a lot in life, making me outrageously aware of not only my brokenness, but the world’s. After spending my summer in Guatemala, i would be living lie to act like the world is alright because if it were, Kevin would have parents and Alexander and Darwin wouldn’t live in the garbage dump. The world is broken, but it’s okay! It’s okay because we have a Savior who came to fix it.

Talking to a friend last night, i said, “i was looking at my blog and i realized that most of what i write, if not all of it, are stories of ‘i was there and now i’m here. My first hand version of i was lost but now i’m found.'” She quickly said, “It’s the gospel. It’s your story, your gospel.” and it is!

i am inspired by brokenness because it is the gospel!

We were made in the image of God (Genesis 1:27). God loves people. God loves love. God loves service. God loves redemption, healing, miracles. He loves bringing us closer to Himself. So in praying that i look more like Jesus, doesn’t is make sense that i would love all of those things too? That i would not only want those same things for myself, but also for everyone around me? In asking Him to make my desires that which He desires, wouldn’t it make sense that He answers that prayer by putting a burning desire in my heart to love people well? In singing, “Break my heart for what breaks Yours” wouldn’t it add up for me to be inspired by brokenness to do something? i think the answer to all of these things is “yes.”

i live because of His grace. Every single day, i pray, “(Heavenly) Dad, my life is yours. My hands are open.” and every day, i fall more in love with Him and deeper into His grace. My heart is inspired by brokenness not to live a normal life. My best friend always says, “i want to live radically different, right where i am.” and because of my brokenness, and your brokenness, and his and hers and everyone else’s, i do too! If we live like we’re perfectly okay, we’re kidding ourselves! Jesus didn’t die for us to act like we’re okay! He died so that we may live an abundant life, one where we do things for Him and we love loudly!

Our brokenness won’t go away until He returns, but until then, why not let good things come from it? Let it inspire you. Let it drive you to change the way you live and love. Share your story with others. Heck, start a blog and share your stories with everyone! Look at your brokenness and allow it to drive you to do things for others that may be broken in the same ways. Because of your brokenness, buy someone coffee and make them smile. Love is louder than brokenness. Our God can fuel the drive we have to do great things in His name. It’s not “We’re broken. That sucks. The end, now we all die.” It’s “We’re all broken, but we don’t have to live like it! Let’s take our brokenness and let God us it!”

We are not coffee mugs. Being broken doesn’t mean that we’re finished, it means that we’re just beginning.

“Do small things with great love.” -Mother Teresa

Stay wonderful.

Freedom in Dreaming.

Today is Sunday. i woke up this morning with every intention of writing my thoughts. i’m sitting in a room by myself, light filling every corner and music slowly leaving the speakers of my computer. i’ve been awake for a a little over an hour and i’m already quite fond of today. The sun is shining, the weather is enjoyable, and my heart is full. Today is a day where my dreams feel close.

i’ve realized lately that i have a lot of dreams; i want to travel across The States and around the world, i want to drink a lot of coffee, i want to own a corgi, i want more tattoos, i want to work for a nonprofit, i want to write a book, i want to climb mountains! i have things i want to do, stories i want to write for myself.

The beautiful thing about it is this: i can.

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i’ve spent a lot of time on this earth telling myself that dreams are impractical and risky. Because of the story our Creator has written me, i’ve experienced a lot of hard things. Dreaming to me was setting myself up for more disappointment, which is the last thing i wanted. For five years or so, i didn’t allow myself to want things. Wanting things scared me, wanting things meant allowing my heart to desire something that it potentially couldn’t have. i protected myself and locked myself in a theoretical box and closed the theoretical lid. No risky dreams. No big desires. Just safe, reachable, small, reasonable potential dreams that i didn’t let myself think too hard about.

Thankfully, that’s not a problem any more.

After last semester, after this summer, after this crazy season where i’ve grown and healed and experienced more than i could have imagined, i view dreams differently. Before this season, i knew i was broken, i knew that you were broken, that the world was broken, and that my favorite coffee mug was broken. i knew that i had a Savior that had fixed me (and you), that He had come to offer us a life that isn’t broken. It just took me a while to really get what it meant to walk in the freedom that He gives us.

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Liz and i were talking the other night and we almost got to the point of screaming because we were so excited about all of the dreams that we have. i loved sitting her car listing the things that the world makes seem out of reach and hard and risky, but that we want any way! Yes, going out there and taking risks is scary, but it’s what makes life an adventure, friends. We have a  God who has given us grace, freedom, love, peace, comfort, and a million other things. He is there when we are chasing our dreams, He’s there to celebrate with us when we reach them, and He is there to hold us when we don’t. He has given us a life that makes going after our dreams possible. His grace is an adventure, so let’s explore!

Let’s stop telling ourselves that what we want is impractical and let’s go out there and do it! If it’s in the Lord’s will for it to happen, it will! So make a bucket list! Look up cities that you want to see, and go see them! Go hiking, adopt a dog, see the world! Take risks and experience things you’ve never thought you would.

We deserve to dream.

Stay wonderful.

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A Story of Self Hate & Love Himself.

Life is hard.

But Jesus is good.

This is a story about His goodness and grace. This is a story of His victory in my life.

i remember the moment as vividly as i remember getting dressed this morning. i remember looking at the picture and thinking, “i’m not pretty enough.”

It was all down hill from there.

The initial thought was followed with a “Wait, what? I think that? What?” and i genuinely did. Every bone in my body was convinced that i was worth nothing, wanted by no one; i convinced myself that i was not beautiful, i was a failure, a no body who people only spoke to out of pity. i remember being asked if i could see myself as someone that someone could love or want and believing that i wasn’t.

i remember realizing that i hated myself.

At the time, last spring, my life was dramatically being shaped and molded by The Father. He was walking me through a lot of healing, starting with depression, ending with self love. When He revealed to me that i thought about myself the way that i did, i knew that He was going to heal me, i just didn’t know how or when. i craved His healing, i craved the resolution to this problem that was absorbing my every day.

There were nights that i would sit in my dorm room and just think about everything i saw wrong with myself. After every conversation, i would tell myself that it wasn’t worth having or that the person i was talking to didn’t actually want to talk to me. i would point out what i did wrong and ignore anything i ever did right. i would get dressed in the morning with an attitude of hopelessness at the thought of feeling pretty. i couldn’t even admit it if i was having a good hair day because i thought i had to be seeing myself wrong. i wouldn’t ask people to hangout because i was convinced that they would only say yes because they felt bad for me. i told myself that stupid, silly things like my food choices influenced what people thought of me. i stopped wearing a lot of color so that i wouldn’t draw attention to myself (i’m still not a big fan of attention, but that’s just cause). i only left my dorm room if i had to. i was sick, i had put myself inside of a prison of self hatred, and i didn’t see the way out.

The thing is, i knew there was one. i knew that The Lord was going to heal me of this in His perfect timing. i knew what He said about me, i just didn’t believe it and i didn’t know how to believe it. i was stuck, trying to climb out of this deep, dark hole that i had put myself in. i tried to find beauty, find worth, in my clothes, makeup, friends, anything. i needed hope. i needed to believe that it was possible for me to love myself. Yes, there were good days, where i maybe felt a little pretty or thought myself a little successful, but they were very rare and when they did happen i very quickly convinced myself that i was wrong.

Then, i went to Guatemala and everything changed.

i got on the plane with a big, full suitcase with no makeup, none of my normal clothes (Jesus specifically told me not to take jeans… i love jeans), no hair product. i had a lot of self worth and nothing with me to try to find worth in (yes, this is me publicly admitting that i have tried to find worth in this crazy head of hair that Dad has given me). The Lord knew what He was doing when He helped me pack. He’s funny like that.

A month into the trip, i had convinced myself that every member of my twenty-five person team hated me. i thought they only spoke to me because they felt like they had to. i didn’t think my team leaders wanted me on the team. i didn’t see myself doing anything productive or worth while. i was in a foreign country sweating my face off and hating myself every second of every day.

i spent an entire week crying out to God to help me, to fix it. i couldn’t do it anymore. i couldn’t live in self hate anymore. it was exhausting, spending every minute of every day that you aren’t worth anything.

He told me to talk to one of my leaders, and i, being the stubborn daughter that i am, said “Only if you make it happen.” and He did. i ran into Mae when i was going to my room and she, in the most random way, asked me, “How’s your heart?” and then, we had a conversation that changed my life.

After i hesitantly told her every detail of every bit of where, when, and why i hated myself, she asked me a really, very important question. She said, “Ashton, have you ever asked God what He thinks about you? i’m not just talking about what the bible says, i’m talking about a one-on-one conversation with Him, you asking Him specific things about who He has made you.” and i realized that i hadn’t. i had never even thought about doing so. i had never thought myself worth asking the Creator of the Universe about. So, she said, “Well, why don’t you do that?”

And that night, sitting in a plastic lawn chair at our house in Guatemala, i did. And that night, i began believing His truth, and the chains were broken, and i was healed. After months of self hate, after a lifetime of convincing myself to believe lies, the Ultimate Healer, our Heavenly Father released me from my personal prison. He set me free.

It’s funny, isn’t it? Months of struggle taken away in seconds. Funny, yes, but mostly a perfect picture of the power of God. It is the gospel. Truth has power. The things that are the hardest for us, the things that weigh the most are so easily fixed by Him. He is a miracle maker.

i would be lying if i said it isn’t still a struggle. i’m still learning. No, i do not hate myself, i no longer live bound by chains of worthlessness. i am learning to live the life of someone who loves them self, who knows the truth about who God has made me, one who is confident in that. It’s a process, like anything else. i know that i am worthy, that i am lovable, that i am beautiful. i know His truth and i believe it. It is all just a matter of changing the way i have thought about myself for a majority of my life. i am proud of the person i am, i am proud of where God has brought me from and i am living a life that reflects that.

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The enemy has no victory, his lies no longer hold weight in my life. This is not a story of how bad i used to think about myself and how sweet my life is now, it is a story of Jesus winning in my life, which is why i am able to tell it. My willingness to open up and share this is only by His grace.

My favorite part of all of it is that what He says about me is also true about you. He has made you worthy and loved and forgiven. He has made you new. You are His child, you are so beautiful and so pursued by your Maker. You are so loved, friend, and so am i.

He has overcome.

(also super photo creds to zoe sturges for the top photo)

No One Else Can Play My Part // WSPD14

i am wearing my favorite pair of jeans, my hair is still wet from my shower i took an hour ago, and i just finished my first cup of coffee. i am listening to the new Judah and the Lion album and ignoring the fact that i have to go to class in a few minutes. The sun is shining and i’m sure somewhere a bird is chirping. i am not sure what my life holds for me once i leave this booth, but i am glad that i’m here to find out. 

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Today, September 10th, is World Suicide Prevention Day. i am sporting a shirt with an orange emblem on it, with the words “No one else can play your part” written across it. This is the shirt sold by To Write Love On Her Arms as a part of their campaign for National Suicide Prevention Week, which started Monday. Suicide prevention and mental health awareness are things that i’m really passionate about (ask any of my close friends) and it’s something that i feel like a lot of people are afraid to talk about. Honestly, it’s something i’m often hesitant to bring up in certain company. i’m done with that. 

So here’s my story. 

i’ve struggled with depression for seven years. It started when i was thirteen. My dad had cancer and my family was falling apart and all of the sudden, getting out of bed wasn’t as easy as it used to be. i distinctively remember the day that i decided that life wasn’t worth living anymore; the day that i almost ended my life permanently. The details of that story aren’t important, because the only important detail is that i didn’t commit suicide. i am still alive. No, that wasn’t the last time that i contemplated suicide and my depression wasn’t gone when i put the knife back in it’s holder. Choosing life that day was one of the hardest decisions i’ve ever made. Choosing life meant continuing to walk through the pain. It meant having to force myself to get out of bed. It meant that it wasn’t over, that i was still alive, my story was still going. 

Flash forward six years to this past spring. i was depressed, again. Not many people knew, but i wasn’t hiding it. i struggled with seasonal depression; it is a fact, not some kind of classified information that i am going to hide from the world. My battle with depression isn’t a secret to be kept, it is a disease to be fought. It absorbs your thoughts, actions, words. It is a fierce, ruthless, evil disease that tries to take over every ounce of my life. Whether i am thirteen or nineteen, depression will never be an easy battle to face. i will always have to convince myself that i want to win the battle. i will always have to convince myself that getting out of bed, smiling and laughing with my friends, and finishing my story is worth it. Depression sucks and i hate it. 

More than 350 million people struggle with depression worldwide. In the US alone, there is one suicide about very fourteen minutes. It is the tenth leading cause of death for Americans. Depression itself is the leading cause of disability worldwide but almost 80% of people who suffer from depression can be treated. Depression is strong. Suicidal thoughts are strong. i know what it’s like to want to end it all. i know what it is like to want to take away the pain. i know what it is like to feel like life isn’t worth living. But i also know that life is stronger. i know that tomorrow can always be better. i know that life is worth living, even on the darkest days.

i am so glad that i am alive. i am thankful that i am here to finish the story that i have been given, because no one else can play my part in it. No one else can play my part as a friend, a sister, a student, or a daughter. No one can make my friends laugh just like i do and no one knows how to love my family like i do. i am the only one in the world with hair like mine. i am the only one with my laugh, my smile, and my story. My life is worth living to see what the next chapter holds and my life is worth living because other people need me. Yes, sometimes it’s overwhelming and sometimes there are days when depression may win. Yes, feeling too much is scary and people aren’t always nice. But in the end, there is always coffee to drink and Jesus to love and sunsets to watch. It will be okay, even when it feels like it won’t be. 

i’m extra glad that i chose to live today. It’s hours after i started this blog (life, school, naps, and coffee dates happen) and today has been a great day. My life is worth living and so is yours. Depression can be beat. Help is out there. Counselors are great and helpful and can be life changing (i call mine homegirl). There is a light to be found at the end of the tunnel, even if you can’t see it now. Suicide is not your only option. Hope is real. Help is real. You matter. Your story is important. No one else can play your part. 

Kevin // Part Three

i miss Kevin.

The last time i saw him, a little over a month ago, it was the same thing in a totally different way. We played and laughed and he screamed and when it was all over, Jesus taught me another incredible lesson. i have been home for four weeks, i have been thinking about this “last lesson” for five, and now it’s time that i share it with you all (once again, if you haven’t read the other posts about Kevin, i would encourage you to scroll down and read the other two before reading this one.)

When we went to the orphanage that last Friday, it was raining, which was inconvenient. Rain meant staying inside, staying inside meant small space, small space meant a bored Kevin. i walked inside and found him sitting at a little table eating rice pudding. He smiled as he saw me, i kissed his little cheek, and he gave me one of his sweet hugs. i asked him about his rice pudding (it’s an exciting conversation topic) and tickled him and took his picture. i was well aware of the fact that i needed to cherish every minute that i had with him, so i did.

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Within minutes of arriving, he was on my shoulders. We played like always, until he was bored. He left my arms and didn’t look back. He chose someone else.

i was heartbroken, frustrated, and confused. i couldn’t believe that after weeks of letting him crawl all over me (literally) and playing with him nonstop, he would chose someone else over me. i wanted so badly to explain to him that it was so important that he played with me until the very last second, but i couldn’t make a five year old understand that if they spoke english. i was mad at God for allowing him to chose someone else, and confused as to why it was happening. It was supposed to be a sweet time! It wasn’t “supposed” to be this way!

But it was. Kevin was playing with someone else and i was spending my last afternoon at the orphanage watching it happen. Watching him love and laugh and semi-abuse someone else. i just wanted him to love me and want me as much as i love and want him.

Then that familiar voice spoke gently and said, “That is how i feel about you. I want you to love and want me as much as I love and want you too, daughter.”

My heart ached in wanting Kevin. Even as i type this, after not seeing him for five weeks, it still aches that i cannot be with him. Just as The Father aches for me. i was no longer confused as to why the events of the afternoon had unfolded in the way that they had. Though it was bittersweet, The Lord changed my heart that day. He showed me His heart for me, His heart for you. He showed me what i feels like when i choose other things, other people, over Him.

Coming home, i know exactly why i learned that lesson in Guatemala. In The States, i have a million options of things to choose before i choose time with The Father. It is so easy to avoid Him here, while in Guatemala He was everywhere, He was my everything, if i chose something over Him, my world shattered. i hate how easy it is to live life in America. i hate that i can easily get through the day, getting caught up in errands, friends, school, naps, whatever and crawl into bed at night realizing that my bible hasn’t been touched. i’m just being honest here, y’all. i have to choose Jesus every minute of every day.

If i hadn’t met Kevin, i wouldn’t get it. i wouldn’t get that choosing Jesus is not only something that brings me joy, but it also brings My Creator joy. He wants me more than i could ever want Him, more than i could every want Kevin. He longs for us, for His children to want Him and love Him. i’m glad.

Though that last afternoon wasn’t what i pictured or wanted, it was needed. One of my friends once said to me, “The truth is that we can plan all we want and have all these goals to accomplish, but The Father’s sovereign plan will be what happens, and a lot of time it doesn’t line up with our itinerary.” My plan was to play with Kevin, to do the monkey-bars a million times and take a hundred pictures. i planned to spend every minute of time i had at the orphanage with him on my shoulders or my hip or holding my hand. However, The Father’s sovereign plan was different. He threw my plans out the window, His plans happened, and it was perfect. My goals weren’t met, but my life was changed. It’s funny how Jesus does that, huh?

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All this being said, i miss Kevin every day. Some days, well most, i miss him so much it hurts. The Father used him to teach me, to love me, to grow me closer to Him.

i am so thankful for the stories i have about Kevin. i am so thankful for the memories i will hold forever of him climbing and screaming and running and being his crazy little Guatemalan self. i am thankful that my Creator wrote my story to intersect with that of the most insane little boy i’ve ever met. All of this, ever detail, every minute i spent with Kevin, have spent thinking about him, and will spend missing him is a reminder of my Heavenly Dad’s love for me.

i am thankful for Kevin.

Kevin // Part Two

Last week i met a little boy named Kevin and he changed my life. If you’ve been keeping up with my blog at all, then you already know this. If you haven’t been keeping up with it, i would encourage you to scroll down and read the post titled “Kevin.” before you read this one.

i am not a mom, which i think, well i know, is a really obvious thing, but also a very important detail in this post. We all know those girls who have been moms since the moment they were handed their first baby doll, the ones who are the mom of their friend group, who is loved by every baby they meet, and makes friends with kids everywhere they go. Yeah, those.

i’ve always been a little confused by and jealous of those girls because children are weird and babies are weirder but i love them. i always want babies to love me but they rarely do and a lot of the kids i meet are unpleasant and up enjoyable but these girls never seem to notice or be bothered by these things. Babies love them, they love babies. Kids find them fun and they find kids fun. For them, that’s the end of that. For me, it’s a constant evaluation of “Is this kid cool with me or no?” and “How long can i hold this baby before it starts crying?”

Then Jesus started changing and softening my heart.

And then, two weeks ago, i met Kevin and i became one of those girls.

The first time we played together, he was sweet and lovable and anything i would look for as i am typically “not a kid person” and it was great. This week, Kevin was in a different mood. i’m talking a hair pulling, head hitting, shoe throwing, screaming kind of mood.

We did the monkey bars thirty times, he did that walk up my legs and flip thing at least ten, we were on the see-saw for four different times for at least five minutes and when i left i looked (and felt) like i got beat up. However, while i was there i thought nothing of it and i loved him like he was my own son.

A few months ago, if you would have told me that i was going to allow a small brown child named Kevin to crawl all over me and that i would be okay with it, i would have laughed at you, but i also secretly would have wished it were true. My time with Kevin on Friday is a tangible example of the work that Christ has done in my heart this year.

Like last week, when i was leaving, Kevin fought me and The Lord spoke to me. This time there were tears and despite his ridiculous mood, it was harder for me, too. As i kissed his little cheek and said goodbye, i heard The Father say to me, “Well done, daughter. You loved him as I love him. You loved him as I love you.” and i was once again overwhelmed by His perfect timing.

Yesterday i had it pointed out to me how different my love and pursuit of Kevin was, which is what inspired me to write this. My God is a God whose love doesn’t make sense, and Friday, His love came though me to a little boy named Kevin. My God is bigger and His love is stronger than the fact that i’m not one of “those girls” and His love is big enough to give me the patience to love a little boy when He pulls my hair out of my braid. His love is strong enough to love us in our failures, our brokenness, and our humanness, which is pretty cool, i think. i’m glad about it.

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Kevin.

Yesterday i went to an orphanage for the first time. Before we left i wasn’t excited. On the way there i wasn’t excited. While we were waiting for the kids to come play i wasn’t excited. i was tired and impatient and not in the mood for cranky kids to crawl all over me. Thankfully, Jesus doesn’t work according to the mood of a tired, nineteen year old missionary (you should all be thankful for that, really).

We were sitting outside, waiting, my team talking and laughing and making jokes as always. Questions such as “Why did we just come to wait around?” and “If they didn’t need all of us, why did we all come?” arose in my mind and i quickly prayed for a changed heart, asking for a new perspective on why we were there and what we were doing.

Then, i looked up and saw two little boys sitting sticking their heads out of a window, doing what all Guatemalan kids do best, staring at the gringos that came to play with them. Seeing them, a smile quickly came across my face and without thinking twice, i walked towards them. That’s when i met Kevin.

He hid as soon as he saw me, which started an impromptu game of “peek-a-boo” and choruses of laughter from me and the boys. i feel in love with Kevin without a second thought, and i think he felt the same. When he decided he was done with peek-a-boo, he climbed through the window, despite the open door two steps away from him, and into my arms. We were best friends instantly.

Kevin doesn’t talk much. In fact, i only know his name is Kevin because the woman who runs the orphanage told me. i only know that he is five years old because i asked one of my team members. i can’t tell you what his favorite color is. i can’t tell you what toy he likes the most or if he likes the swings more than the see-saw. But i can tell you that he loves riding around on my shoulders and laughing until his little brown body shakes from joy. i know that he loves to go down the slide and to look at babies, that he loves his black high tops and he smiles wider than any child i have ever known. These things are proof that i serve a God who is bigger than any language barriers, or even silence. He is a God who can change lives through a language of laughter and smiles.

From the moment he climbed through the small window and into my arms, the only time he left me was to go down the slide. Even then, i was at the end of the slide waiting to catch him to celebrate the victory by throwing him into the air and laughing with him until he decided it was time to slide again. He wouldn’t dance with his friends because he didn’t want me to put him down. He didn’t run with his friends because he wanted to be in my arms. He wanted to be held and i wanted to hold him. For the little time we had together, we were inseparable and we were happy.

i’ve been blessed to love on a lot of babies in my life time. From sweet kids at home, LFR, in Ecuador, and the ones i’ve met here, i have had my heart captured by handfuls of Our Father’s sweet children. Kevin was different. Kevin’s love was louder, faster even. i didn’t know i could fall in love with a child this quickly and this deeply. Never have i felt so wanted, so needed, so loved, by someone who barley spoke to me. It was incredible and it was obvious that it was coming straight from my Creator.

When it came time for us to leave, Kevin latched on tighter and i didn’t fight it. He climbed on my shoulders and i walked him to the farthest point i could take him. As i was told for the hundredth time that we had to leave, one of my team leaders offered help in getting him off my shoulders. She grabbed him and his knees quickly tightened around my head, his way of protesting the separation. After a number of tries, he was on the ground, arms in the air asking me to hold him. i quickly picked up his sweet little body one last time, hugged him, tickled him, kissed him, and said goodbye. Walking away, i was fighting tears and praising God for the opportunity to know and love and feel wanted by sweet Kevin.

Then i heard my God, my Creator, my Father gently whisper to me, “I want you more.” and i knew it was true. i knew why The Father brought me to the orphanage and i knew why He wrote my story to intersect with Kevin’s. i loved Kevin the moment i met him and i wanted him to ride around on my shoulders forever as much as he wanted to be there, my God loves and wants me (and you) a million times more.

As much as i hated leaving Kevin, as much as i wish more than anything that i was able to see him everyday, i am thankful for how our stories intersected. i am thankful for the temporary hurt i felt walking away from him because it caused my heart to be open to hear eternal truth from my Father.

My God is in the details. He is my Dad and he knows me; He knows how easily and openly i would give and receive love from Kevin, so He brought me to a place where He could show me His unending love through a little brown orphan. He knew what i needed to hear, what i needed to feel, and He put me in the right place with the perfect little Guatemalan boy for me to hear and feel those things. For this, for Kevin, for truth, for my Heavenly Father, i am thankful. 20140713-080007-28807111.jpg

Hope & Garbage.

The God i serve is a God of hope. He is The One who came to save the lost, set the captives free, and beat death itself. He offers us a life filled with living hope, because He is living hope Himself!

1 Peter 1:3 sums it up pretty nicely, “According to His great mercy, He has caused us to be born again into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ Himself.”

I think I’m getting ahead of myself. Let me explain.

Every Thursday we go to the city dump. We serve lunch, we wash the kiddos’ hands, we give out more tortillas than I can count, we laugh, we sing, and we pray. I am constantly praying that I never become accustomed to the heartbreaking reality that is the garbage dump. Though I have only visited three times, The Lord has been faithful in answering that prayer. Every time I visit, my heart breaks all over again.

This week I met a little family for the first time. Peter and his precious four year old son quickly grabbed my heart and attention. Seeing dads at the dump is rare itself, but seeing a dad with his son and loving every minute of it is something I never thought I would encounter there. Yet there they were, smiling and laughing together. Christopher refused to leave his father’s side and Peter didn’t attempt to make him. As Christopher was playing with his friends, Peter’s smile watching him was just as wide as his son’s. I watched them as Christopher got his lunch literally all over himself, and Peter just laughed as he brushed him off. Their joy was contagious And their love for each other was obvious.

Spending just five minutes with them and I couldn’t help but wish that they had a life outside of the dump. I wanted Christopher to have everything that any little boy could ever dream of having and I wanted Peter to be able to give it to him. It broke my heart to know how far fetched of a dream that was. I was confused, sad, and a little angry at the situation. Then Jesus stepped in.

As the wind blew and I felt His presence, He whispered to me, “I am enough.” and I knew He was right. He reminded me of the hope that He holds for all of us, for you, for me, and for Peter and Christopher. Letting my thoughts wander to a place of hopelessness is letting my thoughts wander to a place that is not of Christ.

He is bigger than than the sadness that is the garbage dump. As He has dug me out of the filth that is my sin, which is dirtier and more repulsive that even the biggest pile of garbage, He has the power to give Peter and Christopher a better life. He is our hope! He is why Peter and his son are able have the joy they do!

I am thankful to serve the God that I do. The God who delights in watching Peter and Christopher as much as I do. He is the God who wrote my story to intersect with this sweet little family’s. He is the God who gracefully and joyfully reminds me of the hope that He holds for me, for you, for the people at the dump. He is the God who is also my dad, who’s heart breaks for these people a million times more than mine does. He is the God who is hope, who holds hope, and who offers hope to all of His children.

“Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for He who promised is faithful!” Hebrews 10:23

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Peter & Christopher