Transitions and the Heart of a World Changer

In the words of the great Olan Rogers, “It’s been awhile!” Unfortunately, there’s no hilarious story to follow, except that a deer ran into my car. What? I didn’t really think that was a thing outside of a really great Gilmore Girls episode. This is real life.

So I moved home from Utah, spent a glorious few months at home with the fam and my adorable nephews, and then ended up being blessed with a job at a camp near Williamsburg, VA. So here I am, directing the retreat and summer camp programs here.

TRANSITIONS!

I’m not going to lie, as you’ve heard from me before, transitions aren’t always the exciting adventures you think they’re going to be. They are exciting, but sometimes, it feels like Christmas. It’s literally the best, until the sparkle and shiny parts dull and fade. Sometimes I feel like that’s how life is. We get really excited about where God is leading us, and as great as it is, sometimes those places are hard places to be.

Personally, transitions always come with elements of extreme isolation, loneliness, and general feels. I think this one has been especially moving because I spent 2 years in the mission field trying to make as much of an impact for Jesus as I could, and then it was over.

Then, I transitioned into a ‘new’ ministry that my heart has always been a part of, but it doesn’t always look like what I imagined it to be, and it’s never easy to cease comparisons to old places where God has spoken so loudly into my life.

But, there is beauty in that, isn’t there? God leads us in, around, through, and back to. I have no idea what He’s doing most of the time. A lot of times, I feel like there is a lot of surrender involved in this. A lot of surrender, and a lot of grace.

For those of us He has blessed with the heart of a world changer, I don’t see things getting easier. I see us walking together through a lot of dark nights and climbing up a few mountains to get where we’re going, but I think there is beauty in our fighter spirits. As Dorothy Day once said, “Don’t call us saints, we don’t want to be dismissed that easily.”

For those of you working on your nomad life, trying your best to make Kingdom impact in the world, keep your head up. Sometimes, when I imagine that I am standing on a trail in the middle of the forest of life and it’s the  middle of the night, I hear this:

I’m wide awake, drawing close, stirred by grace
And all my heart is yours
All fear removed, I breathe you in, I lean into
Your love, oh, your love

Your love so deep is washing over me
Your face is all I seek, you are my everything
Jesus Christ, You are my one desire
Lord, hear my only cry, to know you all my life

As hard as it is to convince yourself of sometimes, God knows where He’s taking  us. We will make it to the other side. Our journeys are not finished yet. Do not be discouraged.

A Life Worth Living

This is a post I would rather not write. I wish I didn’t feel like I need to write it. I am not a confrontational person, and this is about to get pretty confrontational. I write this not to start a heated debate, but to offer a new perspective.

Over the past few weeks, there has been an uproar in our nation over the issue of abortion and the illegal selling of aborted baby body parts. I am not big on taking to the internet or any form of social media to express my views on anything political. This blog is the first place I’ve ever attempted to do so in what I hope is a grace-filled way. But the more I interact in the day to day goings on of social media, the more I see friends, neighbors, and fellow Christians defending a woman’s right to abort a child, the more I realize that I have to raise my voice.

This is where it goes beyond politics and gets personal for me. It gets personal for me because I am adopted. I do not know the circumstances surrounding my biological mother’s decision to give birth to me (although I will be eternally grateful for her bravery) and I have no idea if abortion was ever considered. But I want to call on others, specifically other Christians who are pro-choice, to consider a few things:

Firstly, when I hear you say things like:

  • “Well what if a woman is raped?”
  • “What if the parents cannot afford to care for the child properly?”
  • “What if the child has a disability?”
  • “What if the child is not the gender that a couple wanted?”
  • “What if it was really bad timing” etc.

Then you’re telling me one thing. You’re telling me that if those were the circumstances surrounding my birth mother and father’s decision to place me up for adoption, then my life is somehow less. Because I was born and I do have a disability. But I deserved to be aborted for the “suffering I might endure in life.”

If you, as a Christian, truly believe that Scripture is true when the Psalmist writes in Psalm 139:

“13 For you created my inmost being;
you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
14 I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
your works are wonderful,
I know that full well.
15 My frame was not hidden from you
when I was made in the secret place,
when I was woven together in the depths of the earth.
16 Your eyes saw my unformed body;
all the days ordained for me were written in your book 
before one of them came to be.

then how can we put a timeline on when a life becomes a life, or when a circumstance gives us ‘permission’ to end one? I cannot speak for those who do not follow Christ. But I can say that I do not  understand how someone who does follow Him can decide that what the world says is okay is acceptable.

I, for one, am thankful that somehow, some way, a woman decided that despite the fact that I may be ‘stuck’ in ‘the system’ until I age out and become some kind of tragic case of a ‘wasted life’ I deserve a chance. All life is precious and everyone deserves a chance to see the world, to live out their purpose. To me, it doesn’t matter how brief that time may be.

Think about what you, as a Christian, are saying when you take a stand as pro-choice. You may be saying something about an unborn life, but you are also saying something about hundreds of thousands of lives that were born out of unforeseen, perhaps unfortunate circumstances.

I, for one, am thankful that my birthmother, whoever she is, saw that all my days ordained for me were written in God’s book before one of them came to be. Whether she knew it or not. 

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This is Amazing Grace

Driving home tonight, I had a lot on my mind. I was thinking about a lot of things, praying over some stuff and talking with God about some friends of mine who are in the midst of big life transitions. At the end of thinking through it all, I kept coming back to the whole concept of grace.

Grace always makes me think about second chances. I so often take for granted the unthinkably large amount of chances God gives me. Carrying the title “missionary” does not automatically elevate me to some higher plane of non-sin, and it really does not help me to see myself in any new light…if nothing else, it tends to magnify my spiritual failures in my mind.

But God allows us to start over, and over, and over, and over…because grace is this incomprehensible, miracle of a thing. We walk in light, and the darkness cannot overcome us, because the light always wins again, and again, and again.

It is also my hope that I continue to learn how to extend that grace to others. What does that look like for our lives here on earth? Sin isn’t going away, and the darkness of the world is still going to be present. Therefore, how do we bring the same light that Christ has used to overcome in our spiritual relationship with Him, into our relationship with others?

I think it’s an interesting balance of extending grace fully, and knowing when we are called to speak truth in love. That is a huge challenge for me in so many ways. A friend of mine recently put it beautifully. He spoke of offering peace and grace before bringing any kind of truths into the situation that may be harsh or hard for a person to hear. I am so much more willing to listen and trust the words of someone who has bothered to invest in my life.  That being said, it’s a balance I still think about and work through daily.

So I will leave you with these final thoughts: What are ways you see Christ extending incredible grace to you in your life? Do you struggle to accept that grace? In what ways do you struggle offering grace to others? When do you find it most appropriate to speak the truth in love?

I would love to hear your thoughts on these questions and more down in the comments section! Until next time,

Grace and peace,

Molly

Praise His Name in the Dance

How will the people know if we don’t tell ’em? If we fail ’em, They’re stumbling in the dark,  But the lighters that we carryin’, Don’t have to wonder your purpose,  Or what you’re here for,  Reflect his image And show the world what he cares for…

Calling all the messengers.

– Lecrae

Last week, I had the privilege of spending my days with my fellow US-2  Class of ’13-’15 reunited, laughing, crying, and talking about being missionaries in the United States. It was joyful, painful, stressful, and exciting. Passionate world changers have a contagious spirit, I think.

My friend, Katie, put together an incredible highlight reel of our week together. Lecrae’s song, Messengers, followed us as we laughed, cried, and danced our way through the week. There is a lot of embarrassing footage of me breaking it down. This video sparked something inside me. It made me remember that on the last full day of our time together, we had a worship service. At the end, we were singing a lot of upbeat praise songs and several of us just started dancing.

Dancing at the end of a week filled with conversations about a world so in need of God’s hope. A week where we talked about real pain and suffering. Honestly, a week that I’m still processing. But we were dancing. We danced our way through that entire week. We danced because we are a generation filled with hope. Dances throughout history are born from many places. Some come out of places of pain, some out of joy,  others are meant to tell the stories of a people group.

I think our dances do all of that. We dance out of pain for the people in our world on the margins. We dance out of joy for what God is doing in the lives of those in our placement sites. We dance to tell the stories of those in the communities we serve.

We dance because we are filled with hope about what God is going to do in and through our lives and the lives of those around us.

We are messengers of hope, dancing our way through the pain, suffering, joy, and gladness that we experience as a missional people. God is already at work in those communities, and we have the privilege of carrying a torch to shed light on the work He is doing all around us. Pick up your torch and join in the dance. There is plenty of joy, sorrow, hope, laughter, and stories to be told. Calling all the messengers…

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“Let them praise his name in the dance: let them sing praises to him with the tambourine and harp.” – Psalm 149:3

Redefining Missionary: What About the US?

Missionary. When you hear that word, what do you think of? My guess is that most people picture someone in another country, probably a third world, doing some kind of relief work or evangelism. I say this because I could say the same thing for me, until recently. However, God called me into something a little different when I said yes to mission service.

I walked in to this call expecting to go somewhere overseas and fulfill this picture in my head of “missionary.” However, in spite of my plan, God made His own. I ended up entering into the GMF US-2 program, and was placed in Salt Lake City, Utah. It was a little hard to get excited at first, because people would ask me where I was headed and I could always see them deflate a bit when I told them I was going to Utah. It did not seem like quite the adventure, staying in the country for two years.

So where does missions in the US fit in to this definition we have of “missionary?” I think that if one really considers the concept, it’s a no brainer. We deal with issues of poverty right here in the US. Sure, it doesn’t look the same here as it does in the third world. I completely agree with that. But I have met hungry people: A father who was grieving that his daughter had to stay home from school because he had only been able to feed her tea and crackers for a week, homeless veterans, families who worked but couldn’t quite make ends meet. I have heard plenty of stories of communities in rural areas without access to clean water and medical care. And I know for a fact that there are plenty of Americans who need to know about Jesus.

In Acts 1, before He ascended to Heaven, He left His disciples with this: “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” A lot of people may see this as a call to go to the “ends of the earth.” I see it as that and so much more. I see a call to start right where you are and let God lead. 

God calls missionaries from everywhere to everywhere. From Virginia to Salt Lake City, from South Carolina to the Philippines, from Arkansas to Miami, from Texas to South Korea…God has a bigger plan for our lives than we will ever know. He is moving in our communities in powerful ways no matter where we are. So whether you are called to Jerusalem or to the ends of the earth, God is already there waiting for you to join Him on an incredible adventure. I challenge you to rethink your definition of missionary. It becomes so much more powerful and beautiful when we realize its full potential.

365 Days Later…

I can’t believe that it was a year ago today that I stepped on to a plane and began this crazy journey. It still feels like I just got here yesterday, except I know all the best places to eat tacos.

Seriously, though, where has the time gone?

I’ll be honest, I still don’t see Salt Lake City as “home,” and maybe I never fully will. But I have found a sort of home here for the time being. Jesus never really had a home, either, right? I guess He did the same thing by finding His brothers and sisters in faith along the way. I’ve met so many wonderful people all working to advance the Kingdom in their own way.

When I first got here, I don’t think I would’ve been able to believe someone who told me that I would have ‘too many’ social obligations here in SLC. But lately I’ve really had to balance my need for alone time with several invitations to do fun things. (I have a geocaching problem. And a taco problem.) God has really blessed me with family here, and if that hadn’t happened, I don’t know how I would have made it this long.

My supervisor has mentioned to me a few times that this could be the most isolating US-2 placement in the country in some ways. I could say that I think that’s true, one year later. This culture can be very isolating to an ‘outsider,’ and that’s something most SLCians have told me. I have found that to be true in many ways. It has been especially difficult to find a young adult community of Christians that I feel welcomed into. It took a lot of hard work to find and build those relationships, but it has made a huge difference in feeling like I am a part of the community.

My placement site has grown me in many ways. I’ve learned a lot about community organizing and low income/homeless communities. Days are never really ‘the same’ so something new is always happening. I’ve never been a huge fan of politics, so learning about navigating politics and faith will be a continual journey during the next year. I have seen the ins and outs of running a food pantry which is always a crazy adventure. The fast pace and unpredictability keeps things fun and interesting.

I think one of my favorite things we’ve done so far are our huge holiday give aways and pretty much any big event where I can organize volunteers and take on a leadership role. That’s probably because it reminds me of my roles in camping ministry. It’s awesome to be able to help people, help people.

With only a few minutes left in the 365th night, I’m not sure what people are curious about regarding my mission service in SLC. (Who even reads this, anyway? …Besides you, mom.) I would love to hear your questions in the comment section. I’ll try to do some kind of a Q & A post about serving here in Salt Lake City, if I get any questions/comments.

Thanks to all of you who support me in prayer and financially. It truly means the world. I look forward to hearing from everyone below!

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Clearly we had no idea what kind of adventures we were about to embark on after this, commissioning day.

Not Every Panhandler Owns a BMW

In the spirit of all the award shows I’ve seen and/or heard about this year, I think I’m awarding myself the “Worst Blog Updater Ever” Award. Alas, in the spirit of Nicaragua Always Wins, even when we mere missionaries had the best laid plans…Salt Lake City Always Wins also holds true. I can go weeks with incessant calmness and a schedule as clear as the Virginia sky…or I have an event on every tiny square of my calendar. The latter is definitely the case for May and June. Holy traveling Batman!

I digress.

I wanted to take a few minutes to talk about something that has been on my mind lately, the cycle of poverty.

I was recently reading a news article that was written by a local paper on panhandling. I don’t even really want to talk about the ins and outs of what the article said, to be honest. What really shocked me (and it probably shouldn’t have), was the comment section underneath the article. I found a small section that sort of illustrates my point without all the foul language on the rest of the thread:

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Let’s go back to the “cycle of poverty” phrase that I used earlier. What is it, and why should we care? Simply put, the cycle of poverty is the vicious circle that you, I, or anyone could fall into at any moment to create a perpetual cycle of poverty that is incredibly hard to escape. I am going to attempt to create a scenario for you to illustrate why I would like to let my inner Ted Mosby out and kick some of those commenters.

Let’s pretend for just a minute that you made it through high school and got your diploma. Good job! You decide that college isn’t really for you, at least not right now. You really love cars. Your dad has taught you about automotive repair most of your life and you’re pretty good at it. A local mechanic decides to hire you and you start working there the summer after graduation. You’re still young enough to be on your parents’ insurance so you’re not worried that there is no benefits package at this job. Fast forward 20+ years. You stayed on at this mechanic’s shop and became a respectable auto repairman. However, you’re from a small town and business is slow. The owner has to lay off pretty much the whole staff, you included. Without a college degree, no one really wants to hire you. There aren’t any other mechanics in the area looking to hire more staff. You find a construction company that needs help, but only occasionally. Winter comes, and the calls to come in to work are fewer and far between. You apply to the food stamp program to help with your grocery bill. The situation causes some really strange mood swings to manifest. You know something is wrong, but you have no insurance and no way to afford a visit to the doctor and get medication or counseling treatment. The manic depressive mood swings cause you to miss several shifts at the construction company and so you are let go. You’ve also started turning to alcohol to try and suppress your mental illness. Eventually your utilities are shut off in your apartment and you receive a three day eviction notice from your landlord because you haven’t been able to keep up with the rent. Eventually you are evicted from your apartment and have nowhere to go. Your father passed away from a sudden heart attack a few years ago and your mother lives in a retirement facility. You’re now a homeless alcoholic who has a mental illness. You still don’t have health insurance so you cannot see a mental health professional, and even if you got a free screening, how would you pay for the medication? You could panhandle for it, maybe. Even then, you need to go through a detox program for the alcohol you’ve turned to in order to self medicate…

 

I don’t even know if I’ve done this scenario justice, but this is the kind of story that exists in the Crossroads food pantry every day. I’ve heard stories of people panhandling to help pay for their diabetic insulin, stories of people who had held down a job for 20 years at the same place, only to be let go due to downsizing. I have seen people with serious mental health issues suffering on the side of the Salt Lake City streets while the passersby just stared or averted their eyes.

We treat the poor, and more specific to this conversation, panhandlers, like they are fully capable of “pulling up their boot straps, working hard on that job application, and finding work.” They are “lazy, druggies, alcoholics, cheating the system so they don’t have to work…” Okay, that makes sense. I don’t want to come to work if I don’t have to, either. Let me go sit on the side of the street with a cardboard sign and beg for change. That’s not humiliating.

Sure, you are going to find the lazy homeless person. Undercover Dateline captured some rando on the side of the road get into a BMW. “They take the money I give them and run straight to their drug dealer!” Okay, yeah. I’m sure that happens sometimes. But I would be willing to bet you my pint of Ben and Jerry’s Half Baked that it is more often than not the person really has just fallen on hard times. They are a part of this vicious cycle of poverty. They’re not begging for drug money, or if they are, there may be a deeper reason why other than getting wasted for fun.

Maybe you don’t agree with me. That’s fine. I just want people to think more deeply about the things they say in regards to people in poverty.

There’s a video out on YouTube that I won’t post due to some language, but a guy is holding a sign that says “F the Poor.” People confront him, outraged, about how heartless and careless he is. “We should be thinking about better ways to get them off the street,” says one woman. “A guy’s cold down there, go and get him a blanket,” says another person. Yet, when the guy changes his sign to “Help the Poor” and walks around with his collection cup again, not a single person stops.

Think about it.

I’m interested to hear your thoughts! Leave them below!