Tag Archives: hope

Things I’ve Learned From Refugees

“I think about the trees, the flowers, the brown grass in the fields.

They can all be patient, Certain that spring will return.

They don’t have to hope, They can be sure.

Hope is a thing made only for people,

A scrap to hold into

In darkness and in light” Home of the Brave, 246

I'm standing in "the cage," which is where we put together Good Neighbor Kits for newly arriving refugee family. I'm holding a welcome card made by a little girl.
Here, I’m standing in what we call “the cage,” which is where World Relief puts together Good Neighbor Kits for newly arriving refugee families. I’m holding a welcome card made by a little girl; welcome cards are included in every GNK that we leave in their apartments.

The other day, I wrote about things I’ve learned about refugees from my work at World Relief. There’s been a lot of new information circling regarding resettlement, refugees, and statistics regarding the growing displacement crisis. While facts are important, especially true ones and ones written from a personal connection, ultimately I wrote down things that you could find elsewhere on the internet.

At the end of the day, they’re still just the facts.

And these people are so much more than facts.

Interacting with people who have literally been forced to leave everything they know and arrive in a foreign land, often alone and not speaking the language, has done more than just teach me a few important tidbits about the refugee crisis. They have taught me about bravery, resilience, humility, hope, and hospitality. The people, not the facts, have chipped away at hardened pieces of my soul and shown me more of the grace and love of Christ.

They aren’t just numbers, pieces of the resettlement system, or the faces supporting the new refugee olympic team. They are some of the strongest, most courageous, most genuine people I’ve ever met. And here’s just a brief glimpse of some of the things they taught me this summer:

 

• Our presence is always communicating something – through our smile, our eyes, our body language, and the emotional state of our hearts. 

I couldn’t speak to most of the people I’ve picked up from the airport. I couldn’t tell them how to buckle their child in the carseat or that it’ll probably take an hour until we get to their new apartment. The point of translators is to help fill in those gaps and make the experience, at least on some level, a little less overwhelming. While it can be frustrating to have so much you want to say and find yourself unable to, especially as someone who likes using words to communicate, it has given me a new and profound appreciation for the presence we carry simply in our being.

Eye contact. Smiling. Nodding. Whether we like it or not, how we carry ourselves genuinely reflects our emotions. And when our emotions are overwhelming love and care for these people we’ve just met, it makes it easier to submit each encounter to the Lord and trust that His Spirit is saying more than you ever could. However, when emotions harbor a little more frustration, distraction, or selfishness, then spending ten minutes with the Lord before you step out of the car to greet a U.S. tie can be the most worthwhile thing you do all day. Because, like it or not, our very presence carries something with it – safety, welcome, warmth, compassion, annoyance, apathy. The question is, do we emanate the love of Christ, or something else? Because we’re always communicating something.

• There’s a resilience, bravery, and courage that we bear in our human spirit; it’s our choice to embrace it or not.

As part of my internship, I wrote weekly reflection papers. Week 4, I picked up two large families from the airport, accompanied only by a U.S. Tie. It was my first solo airport pick-up and the size alone was a little daunting. I agreed, but my mind was not without hesitation. Are we sure I was capable of getting these families to their new homes and making sure they would be safe for the night? What if something went wrong? Despite preemptive fears, the pick-up was incredible. After I got home, I wrote the following:

“Not only did I navigate the whole evening successfully and alone – getting everyone safety to their respective locations, including their luggage and food – but I had the humbling privilege of hearing pieces of their story through the U.S. Tie. Knowing that his wife came to the US alone, as a refugee, empowered me in some small way. Watching the older couple try to figure out seatbelts, knowing they couldn’t understand anything I was saying, as I helped pull the band across their bodies, I saw a bravery and resilience in their eyes. Everyone that World Relief resettles knows they are coming into a place that is literally worlds different than what they’ve known. Yet, they chose to do it  – for safety, for a better life, for a future, for protection, for hope. If my motivation is the love of Christ, literally the Hope of the world, what fear could hold me back from choosing all the plans He has for me, no matter how different, distant, or daunting?”

Because of the a lot of the built-in comforts of our American life, and our innate desire to run from situations that are uncomfortable or uproot deep seated fears of loss, loneliness, or failure, it’s easy to forget that there is strength available to us. Comfort doesn’t breed growth; challenge does. The thing about challenge is that while it may feel like it’s killing us, most of the time, it’s not. We have strength in who we are as human beings – we were created to be resilient, for bravery and the ability to grow. As Christians, we also have a strength that is inbred into our relationship with the King of Kings. It’s no wonder He continually reminds: “For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline” (2 Timothy 1:7). Do we tap into that power and resilience on a daily basis?

• Don’t underestimate the small things and the need for flexibility when it comes to hospitality.

The more I think about it, the more I think that hospitality isn’t the kind of thing that makes up best-selling biographies. No one really wants to read about people washing dishes, sending emails, or spending extra time to pick out matching blankets for a family. Acts of hospitality typically aren’t the documentary-worthy moments of serving others. Hospitality often looks more like Jesus washing feet or the woman on the side of the road wiping Christ’s brow. It’s small, insignificant, things that put you in a place of submission and humility as you choose others over yourself. The moments that don’t gain accolades, or may not even be noticed or remembered, but plant the seeds of love and care upon every place you tread.

Because, at the end of the day, people may not remember you and they may not remember the little things you did for them, but they’ll remember the feeling of being loved, served, and cared for. Isn’t that ultimately what Jesus did. To serve with humility; to love without pretense?

Things like welcome cards made by elementary school classes, picking out matching blankets for a family, or being willing to cut your lunch break short to drop a DVD player off for a family, so they can watch ESL videos with a volunteer. These are the things of hospitality. These are the things that make life a little more beautiful for someone else and when done with a heart of humility and love, ultimately please the Father’s heart.

On Waiting, Advent, and deja vu. . .

I don’t know what it is about Advent that seems to bring me back to the idea of waiting. There must just always be something in the air, because the things the Lord was speaking during my quiet time yesterday seemed incredibly familiar. After typing “waiting” in the search bar of this blog, I realized they were.

I wrote this post almost exactly a year ago, but it could have just as well been written yesterday:

On Waiting, the Incarnation, and 27 Drafts

Except the fact that I only have 14 drafts right now, everything else I wrote a year ago resounds in my heart today. Because I’m still waiting. And the point is that until the day I die, I will be waiting.

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I’ve reflected recently on the fact that I don’t know what the Lord is doing. And when we don’t know what the Lord is doing, we must learn to be good at waiting. That’s what life is. We will never stop waiting until we reach heaven. And how appropriate is it that that is the very thing Advent reminds us of. The paradox of waiting is that we are called to hope for the things that Christ does “far abundantly beyond we could ever ask or think,” but also within realistic expectations. We can’t idealize our future but we must be present and content where we are. And where we are is a place of waiting. And here’s the kicker: just because our hearts know that the Lord is trustworthy, doesn’t make it easy. It makes it easier, sure, but waiting is never easy. And so we’ll do anything to get away from the tension and frustration that is waiting. We develop patterns of thinking that say the waiting, or at least the big waiting is going to end when. . .when I get married, when I graduate college, when I have an established ministry, when I know the Lord’s plans for my future, when. . .

Waiting for the next step. The next season. The next thing. My dreams, the Lord’s dreams.

We try and escape the pain and frustrations of waiting because it’s uncomfortable. It takes away whatever sense of control we think we have. We want to reach the place where we feel we’ve arrived, where we aren’t waiting for the next thing – good or bad. The next diagnoses, the next phone call, the next date, the next bill, the next direction, the next conversation. It’s like the waiting place in Oh, the Places You’ll Go!. We like to pretend we don’t live there, and sometimes we assume we don’t live there because we just choose not to focus on the things we are waiting for. We believe that waiting is inherently wrong, unbiblical, and displeasing to the Lord.

for people just waiting.
Waiting for a train to go
or a bus to come, or a plane to go
or the mail to come, or the rain to go
or the phone to ring, or the snow to snow
or waiting around for a Yes or No
or waiting for their hair to grow.
Everyone is just waiting. 

During my time with Jesus, I started humming the Toby Mac song “J Train.” We’ve got a ticket to ride to the other side, that is, heaven, and we’ll be in a constant state of waiting until the train drops us off on the shores of Eternity. The Lord designed it that way. We are waiting for unbroken intimacy with God; we were created to wait, to yearn, to long for Heaven. And so the things we think we are waiting for in this life are just a shadow of the greater, perpetual waiting of our hearts. When we are focused on the temporary things we wait for, it is only a problem because it often leads us to discontentment and causes us to miss what the Lord is doing in the present. The waiting itself is good. The Lord is with us on the “J Train,” empowering us in whatever car and with whatever people we may find ourselves around. He is also the conductor of the train and we aren’t entitled to information about the tracks He chooses to run it on. But, we can’t forget that God is also the final destination. The One we are ultimately waiting for. I think we are fighting something beautiful that the Lord gave us when we dismiss the tensions of waiting in our heart. We struggle to wait for the next thing, the next dream because we are ultimately waiting for the one thing our hearts were created for – Jesus.

But this isn’t an excuse to live focused on the future. The art of waiting is that the waiting we are called to, the waiting of the men and women in Scripture (like I’ve found in my recent reading of Ruth) isn’t passive – it’s an active waiting. Waiting often requires strength and grace because it is so dangerously easy to slip into distracted, discontent, temporal waiting. The kind of waiting that leads to the idolatry of earthly things and the dreams of my flesh.

As we are reminded through Advent of the waiting for the birth of Christ at Christmas and our continued waiting for the return of Jesus, let us rest in the beauty that is waiting. We were created to wait. To wait upon the Lord. To wait in the hope of Heaven. All the things we are waiting for in this Advent season of 2014 should be a timely, blessed reminder of how our hearts were created to wait in, upon, and for the One who is eternally worthy. Our waiting is not in vain because He has already come – as the squealing baby in Bethlehem. He lives in us now. And we wait for the completion of the love and joy we have in life now, in our broken, changing world.

The other thing that goes along with waiting is what we are waiting for. Are our dreams also God’s dreams – and what do we do when God’s dreams don’t come or go or look the way we expect? I’ve been wrestling through that with the Lord this semester. . .but that’s another post for another day.

“For he knows our frame; he remembers that we are dust.

As for man, his days are like grass; he flourishes like a flower of the field;

for the wind passes over it, and it is gone, and its place knows it no more.

But the steadfast love of the Lord is from everlasting to everlasting on those who fear him, and his righteousness to children’s children” Psalm 103:14-17

What’s He Up to?

“When an answer I did not expect comes to a prayer which I believed I truly meant, I shrink back from it; if the burden my Lord asks me to bear be not the burden of my heart’s choice, and I fret inwardly and do not welcome His will, then I know nothing of Calvary love.” Amy Carmichael

I’ve started 4 different drafts with ideas about what the Lord has been doing in my heart lately. Funny stories from the past few weeks at Wheaton. Pieces from my journals, quotes that I’ve found. Usually when I sit down with my journals and Bible notes from the past few weeks, a blog post flows naturally from the recorded thoughts. They click together; writing it here gives it clarity in my heart. But seriously, none of it is coming together in a blog post. I’ve started and given it a few days to process, and even coming back to it, nothing seems to fit. I don’t know what I want to say because at the root of it, I really don’t know what the Lord is doing.

So that’s what I’m going to write about. That’s what this first semester has been. Pieces, fragments, lessons, moments that don’t always seem to fit together. It’s like my heart and emotions and desires are doing summersaults – and as much as I’ve fought for consistency in them, it hasn’t come. I wake up thinking one thing, and I go to bed excited about another. I go from content to confused, frustrated to satisfied, excited to anxious, and back again.

Don’t get me wrong – it’s been a wonderful semester. But it’s been wonderful within the tension. . .I have been both incredibly challenged and blessed by the nearness of the Lord. I’ve never been more grateful for my family, friends, and Wheaton, while simultaneously being grown in ways I didn’t really choose. I’ve never been more excited and content, but also confused and unsettled about my future.

I just don’t know what He’s up to.

Here’s what I’ve got: seldom do we know the will of the Lord. Sometimes it bothers us and we find ourselves wide eyed and demanding answers, sometimes it doesn’t and we ride the waves of trust. Sometimes the Lord graciously increases our faith and decisions, like coming to Wheaton, ones that just don’t make sense, are filled with incredible peace. And sometimes, it just doesn’t happen that way. Sometimes He asks us to cling to Him in the silence and unrest.

I’ve found myself forced to cling to the daily bread of Jesus, because yesterdays is literally not enough. Because day to day, I really don’t know what He is doing. And it’s not like I ever really know, but lately I’ve been very aware of just how much I don’t know. It brings me to a place of living in the present, and I’m not always entirely comfortable with that. My pride likes to think I could handle knowing His plans for my future. . .but when it comes down to it, I’m not always at a place where I want to hear what the Lord has to say about something. Sometimes it’s because it is too hard or too much and sometimes because it would distract me from what He is doing today. It’s like Amy Carmichael said: He’s molding my heart to look more like His and I’m not always the biggest fan of the process, even though I can’t imagine anything greater.

We only ever see the “tip of the iceberg” (gotta put my new knowledge of Geology somewhere) of what Jesus is doing. So why am I often so obsessed with figuring the rest of it out?

I know that Jesus is sovereign; I trust that. Or at least, I want to. But how does that look practically when He’s being silent on the questions I am bringing to Him? And beyond trusting Jesus with my heart, why is it so hard to trust Him with my family and friend’s? I have to trust that others are walking in step with the Lord – that they are noticing, learning, and responding to His guidance. I have to trust that Jesus is bigger than the surface that I see.

The Love that conquered sin and death on Calvary is infinitely bigger than my circumstances and my wandering heart. The massive, metaphorical “tip of the iceberg” that I’m seeing is unfathomably bigger, and just because I can’t see it now, doesn’t mean it’s not there. It’s seen by the very Creator of real icebergs. And yet, our God chooses to know our hearts intimately. Jesus became man and chose finite understanding. He’s gets it, and He still did it perfectly.

Today, I rest in the fact that not only is He worthy of my trust because He is sovereign and loving and omniscient and good, but because He knows what it’s like to not always know what the Father is up to. He let’s me come wide eyed and searching for answers, drawing me into greater dependance and love when He knows it’s not time for them yet.

I have to choose daily bread. I have to choose trust. In choosing those things, I choose Jesus. And that’s the only thing I really know for sure.

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The Gift of Hope

I’ve written here about hope before. It’s been kind of a theme this past year and a half. But when I started realizing the necessity of hope in ministry and just life in general, little did I know of how big the Lord’s vision for it could be. This isn’t just about my hope in the Lord. This isn’t just about my family’s trust in the Lord’s provision. This is about the eternal Hope for the nations!

I’m sick of Dad’s job. I’m sick of Dad’s complaints about it. I am sick of Dad’s workload. Jesus, You have to have a better job for him. You have to have a job that glorifies You.” September 5, 2010

Little did I know how He’d answer that prayer I desperately journaled a little over 4 years ago.

I can’t pinpoint where this work of the Lord in my family began because I don’t know that it even had a “start.” I do know that something shifted in my heart when He made it clear that He wanted me at Wheaton.

Wheaton never made sense. It’s far. It’s cold. I didn’t know anyone who was here or had ever been here, outside of Billy Graham and the guys from End of the Spear. But most of all, it never made (and still really doesn’t) sense financially. The Lord’s direction in telling me to go to Wheaton was so clear that I sent in the deposit before we got financial aid information back. I knew He would provide.

So when our need-based aid came back a little dry, I inquired of the Lord. Why would you tell me to go to Wheaton and then not provide? Loans don’t make sense if you want me on the mission field, Lord. You get that right? I love how He lets us come to Him with such honesty. And I love His answers even more.

Faith, hope, and love are eternal. My degree from Wheaton isn’t. My finances aren’t. The Lord is using Wheaton to cultivate things in me that are going to last long beyond my Wheaton education. He is giving me a gift in teaching me how to trust Him as my provider. I prayed for stories of His power. . .I guess I just forgot that meant being put in a place of desperation for Him. The ways the Lord has grown my faith in His faithfulness and hope in His provision at and through Wheaton has been more of a blessing than I could’ve ever imagined. From finances to my freshman year roommate, Jesus has clearly had His hand in growing me and drawing me closer to His heart every step of the way.

Little did I know that He was doing this same work in my family.

I’ll never forget wandering up and down the sidewalk in front of Fischer lawn, soaking up the still warm air last October, listening to my parents on the other end of the phone. They tried to explain to me how my dad had lost his job, through a series of crazy events that I still don’t understand. It was too crazy not to be the Lord. It’s what I’d been praying for years – that Jesus would lead my dad out of his corporate workplace into the Kingdom work that I knew the Lord had gifted him for. I just didn’t anticipate it feeling the way it did that day. And the months afterward.

Hearing it all second hand, I wrestled through the idea that my family was secure in the Lord but also without an income. I knew my parents were both being brought to new spiritual depths but I could also hear them struggling with some of the practical aspects of losing a job, seeking the will of the Lord, and reaching out to others. And I was 11 hours away. At a school that was just sucking away more money than I cared to think about.

I don’t know that I realized until a few months later (probably around when I did the blog post on the necessity of hope) how vital hope was, for me and my family. I never doubted that the Lord would uphold us. That He was leading us. Though I may have let worry slip in on occasion, I never gave into the doubts that my family was truly alright. That Wheaton will somehow get paid for. That all the closed doors with jobs was really the hand of the Lord. The gift of hope sustained us.

And then, so did Hope Products. Though at first it was just the dream of Hope Products.

The whole thing is crazy. My mom’s unused degree in international marketing, my parent’s prayers to do sustainable ministry together, the connections through our church and other crazy outlets. I think Hope Products is one of those dreams that Lord put into my parents hearts a long time ago that they never even realized was there. It wasn’t what they expected or pictured, but then again, no one anticipated that I’d be at a college in Illinois and my dad would lose a job that he’s had since as long as I can remember. I love it when Jesus just does His thing and blows our minds.

And Hope Products is continually surpassing our wildest expectations.

Seriously, I can’t even get into all the too-crazy-to-be-coincidence things that have happened in the past year. Connections, relationships, provision, answered prayers. It’s been amazing. Hard. Challenging. Testing. Stretching. At times, downright uncomfortable, especially for my parents. But so filled with Jesus.

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So, it’s with incredible gratitude and excitement that I introduce you to Hope Products International.

Go peruse the site to see the products and read what it’s all about (if you want to see some of the fruits of my labor from the summer, you can watch the vision video here). In short, it’s just the really exciting beginning of what the Lord is doing in a lot of people’s lives. He’s connecting people to each other and to the nations through this new business called Hope Products. We would love for you to join us on this crazy adventure in following Jesus. We don’t know where He’s going, we certainly didn’t expect Hope Products to be a stop along the way; yet, it is and now I can’t imagine the past few years looking any different.

Also, I’m a little biased, but you should totally buy something too. Or lots of things. And tell your friends! Also, feel free to ask me about it! I kind of like sharing the stories of Jesus, the exciting ones and the hard ones.

We serve an incredible God. We are loved by an amazing Savior.

And we are carriers of His hope. How can we not share that with the world?

The Necessity of Hope

Doing my “monthly recap of the movement of God,” I noticed a trend between February and March. . . Hope. I think this is one of those I-grew-up-in-the-church-and-I’m-pretty-sure-“hope”-was-one-of-my-first-words kind of things. We’ve become numb to the true reality and necessity of what hope is, and the actual depravity of those living in hopelessness. Feeling like… Read more. . .