But He Came

I wrote this a couple weeks ago, and have been thinking it’s too personal to share. I’m afraid it will make people uncomfortable. Readers might wonder, is Amanda ok? She sounds depressed. I like to call it being alive. I’m feeling the wind batter me around and some days I don’t want to go outside. Does that make me depressed? I don’t think so. I feel the sun’s rays more strongly than ever, even if it’s not out as often these Oregon December days.

Yes, this is personal. But I want to share. I think being a bit uncomfortable is good for us.

But He Came

He could have sent money so I could see a counselor to help me with the bitterness and skepticism. He could have sent a letter telling me how much He loves me so I could read it every night I couldn’t sleep with the lies screaming in my head. He could have sent a package full of chocolate so I could have a pick-me-up every time I feel useless and out of control. He could have sent a prescription for medication that would numb the ache deep down and calm the anxiety racing just under my skin. He could have built a big house full of locks and keys where I’d feel safe and no one could get in and find me.

But He came. He came through the window when I didn’t realize the door was locked and He knew all the hiding places I’d been using for decades. He sat down with me. He didn’t drag me out kicking and screaming, although I did do some kicking and screaming. He didn’t bring a motivational tape or self-help book to get me back on track. He just stayed there with me. Eventually I started talking, and He listened. He didn’t say a word. But He felt every word I said. I could see it in His eyes and feel it in my bones. He knew. He already knew.

He knew every memory that hung me up and tripped me on my face. He was there. Because He came. He didn’t just send a letter (although He’s written me numerous letters), He came and talked with me, telling me all the most important things I need to know -I love you. You are mine. You are beautiful. You belong to me. I’ve got you. He didn’t just send me a counselor to guide me, He is my Counselor and He only takes me to places He’s gone before and made a way out of. He sits with me in the bathroom when I’m drowning in dark doubts. He sits with me on the couch when my head won’t get out of my hands. He says, it’s ok. You’re ok. Everything’s ok.

He’s already here, bright as day, warm as the sun touching my bare shoulder. He’s already here, His voice ringing out surer than any church bell, more loving than a mama singing to her baby. He’s under my skin, in my bones, pumping through my veins. He’s right here sitting with me at the kitchen table.

He’s with you, too. He says, I came for you. I came as a helpless baby so I could know you. I came as a boy so I could grow up and feel joy, anger, hurt, just like you. I came as a man so I could understand loneliness, jealousy, doubt, despair. I came to be with you. And I died so that you could be with Me. I took all your anger, hurt, loneliness, jealousy, doubt and despair with Me so you don’t have to carry it. I already did. I came and I never left. I’m right here. I’m in every breath you take, in and out. I fill your lungs and know what every one of your sighs signals. I’m here. I’m with you. I’m always with you. Let’s hang out.

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Feasting on Thankfulness

Solomon was on to something when he said, “All the days of the afflicted are wretched, but the cheerful of heart has a continual feast.”

Lately I haven’t been very thankful. I’ve been focusing on what I want or need and what I’m not getting, and my days have been pretty wretched! I complain, I’m resentful, I don’t celebrate the little things, I talk about worries and wishes and concerns – I get bogged down and end up pulling my dear patient husband down with me.

A few days ago I started a thankfulness journal just about Joel. I’ve written down all the gifts and joys he fills my life with – like buying floss for me and hiding it with a love note, making bacon for my salad after the cafeteria ran out, and getting my journal from the living room so I didn’t have to get out of bed. Just look at how he serves me! Taking time to note both the small and big joys helps keep me focused on thankfulness, and it really does fill my heart with cheer! I’m not talking about a fake kind of overly-happy, but a genuine joy that fills me with peace.

As a wife and friend, I want to be continually feasting on the joy that fills my life, so it overflows onto my husband, family, friends, strangers. I want every day at our house to be a feast in the great love of our Father – a feast that never ends and is always new and delicious.

Here’s to feasting not just at Thanksgiving, but all year.

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refugee status

I feel a lot like a refugee here. I don’t fit in at all. But in a country where 90% of people have settled here after having to leave their homes for different reasons, it’s an amazing way to understand the people more.

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[The view from our window – amazing!!]

Here are a few things I’ve learned about Arab culture:
-You can have only 4 wives
-This is a shame based culture, so if you see a friend on the street and don’t remember their name, ignore them and just keep walking (it would be shameful to not greet them by name – you can’t get away with “Hey man!”)
-Don’t drink the tap water
-As a girl, your shirts must be long enough to cover your rear end and you shouldn’t wear your hair down unless you want to be stared at (most Muslim men don’t see their wives’ hair until their wedding)
-Honoring God (Allah) is very important in Arab culture, this means responding with “Ilhumdillah” (To God be praise) when someone asks, “How are you?”

I’ve been reading Isaiah lately and something new has struck me – Jesus was also a refugee. Instead of going home at Christmas, He left His home and came to live with strangers. In some tiny way, I can relate, and I understand a little more of what He did for us. My eternal home is in heaven, and my earthly home is in Washington, and right now I’m displaced from both. Yes I’m a refugee, and yes, I’m lonely without the people I love, but my heart is at home no matter where I am – in God’s hands. Cliche? Maybe. But true.

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[ got a Christmas tree!!]

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Oh God, where are You now?

I get up this morning and come to the cafe and sit with my coffee by the window and pull up my homepage – bbc.com.

Egypt bus crash kills 50 children.

Fresh fire traded in Gaza crisis.

My stomach sinks and I look out the window at the sun trying to get through the grey clouds. I know it’s there, but the clouds are especially thick today.

Sometimes that’s how I feel about God. It’s hard to find Him.

My friend showed me a worship song this week and the main line is, “I want to know Your heart, I want to know Your heart.” (https://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=jas8siNG3Bo ). I’ve been praying this for the last few months.

I don’t even know how to pray. God, where are You? God, what are You thinking about all of this? God, I don’t know what to do with this. What do YOU do with it?

This is when it clicks.

This is My heart.”

“Where am I? I was on that bus. I heard each child’s cries. I was with the driver when he saw the train. I was holding the little girls and boys as they were thrown from their seats. I was with the parents when they heard the news that their sons and daughters had been killed. I am in Gaza. I am in Israel. I was with each family last night as they heard missiles crashing around them. I was in the planes launching the missiles. I heard the soldiers crying out. I am there now in the chaos and confusion. I am in every hospital. I hear every cry of pain and anger and sorrow. I see every tear fall. My heart hurts and aches for every pain more than you can imagine. I love each one of those bleeding hearts and bodies. I created them.”

“That’s where I am. That’s where I always am. I am.”

Wow. In some way that I can’t fully grasp, I just got to know a little more of God’s heart. This is where He lives. He isn’t in heaven far away organizing our prayer lists and prioritizing what He should work on first. He is here in this cafe. He is there in Egypt and Gaza. He is with my family at home. The more I am aware of the suffering and pain in the world, the more I am seeing what God sees every moment. I am sharing in what is on His heart. The more I know the world – which is His world – the more I know Him.

I want to know Him more, and part of that means being with the least of these, wherever I am – in the Middle East (we leave in 3 weeks!), India (oh how I miss it), or here in Salem.

“For I was hungry, and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not clothe me, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.”

“Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to you?”

“Truly, I say to you, as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it for me.” [Matthew 25:44-45]

God, I want to know your heart.

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The ABCs of DTS

ImageI love to learn, so I am super excited to be back in class as part of YWAM Salem’s Discipleship Training School. Here are some of the things I’m learning…

-The Middle East, where I get to spend ten weeks this winter, is home to millions of refugees. I am excited to know God’s heart for people displaced from their homes.

-Fear is an invitation to run to Jesus, which creates dependence on Jesus, which fosters a closer relationship with Him, which is the goal of my life. So…facing fear is a good thing? Sounds like it.

-When I am tired enough, I sleep soundly even surrounded by 20 girls in a dorm room.

-Relationships are about the little things: a five minute walk to stand in the sun with Joel, sitting in the grass for fifteen minutes during lunch, holding hands while walking to class, a note passed between hands as we say goodbye make all the difference in the world (a whole day together is amazing, too).

-The world is made up of all different spheres, and they are all saturated with God – the sacred and secular converge at every point.

-God created us because He wanted someone to love. The end-all of life is being loved by God, then responding by loving Him and loving others. So simple!!

-The gospel of Jesus has the power to transform the world – communities where Christians live should be full of proof that God is real, because Christians should be living out Jesus’ commands everyday.

-According to pre-marital counseling session #1 (woohoo!!), Joel and I need to “write our own story” and not compare our relationship to anyone else’s. Best news: God is committed to us today, tomorrow, and forever.

-God is my Provider. The only one. Today when I got my weekly donations receipt, there were three anonymous gifts toward my school fees!! I was floored. Ok God, I’ll stop worrying. πŸ™‚ (But you might have to remind me tomorrow).

-I don’t think of myself as a leader, but whether or not I realize it, people are looking to my example. I was reminded of this last week when several girls told me I was like their big sister and they look up to me. Wow, I need to watch myself. πŸ™‚

Thanks so much for your support and prayers! May you know God’s love in a new way today.

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It’s about time…

“We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars.” -Oscar Wilde

I’ve gotten to be out under the stars a lot over the past couple of months – Washington stars, Oregon stars, Colorado stars, Wisconsin stars, Ontario stars, Chicago stars, not to mention all the moons I’ve seen!

Yes, it’s been a crazy few months since I got back from India in May. I’ve spent lots of time journaling, processing with family and friends over coffee, skyping with friends still in India, looking at pictures and remembering, and often wanting to get back on a plane to a place that still feels like home.

But it’s been so good to be back in my U.S. home. A few highlights include:

-Working at CareNet Pregnancy Center and getting to love on girls in really difficult situations.

-Being a part of my friend Laura’s wedding in Salem, OR, and being with great friends from college.

-Meeting (in person) this really cool guy, Joel. You might have heard about him. Today marks 2 months that we have been together. πŸ™‚

-Drinking coffee, river floating, yardsaling, hiking, roadtripping, jogging, playing guitar, sharing meals, etc with lovely friends and family in Ellensurg.

-Traveling around Wisconsin, Canada, and Chicago to be with Joel’s family and friends. Boating, swimming, hiking, camping, dancing, a wedding, church services, reading aloud, playing music, holding hands, driving, and eating meals together are just a taste.

Things I’m looking forward to…

-At the moment I am sitting in the Seattle Airport ready to fly out to Hawaii with my sister Katie, to hang out for a week with my sister Carrie, my brother Nate, and sister-in law Laura. It’s about time we were all together.

-Last week I found out I was accepted as a volunteer at the Youth With A Mission (YWAM) base in Salem, Oregon! So I am moving (back) to Salem and as of September 13th, I will be serving full time on the base. Joel will also be working at the base (did you guess?) leading Discipleship Training Schools, which are intensive 6 month courses that guide students ages 18-30 into knowing God deeply and making Him known in the world. Depending on how God guides us, we will probably be serving at the base for over 2 years. Please pray for us! And you should plan a trip to Oregon and stop by and see us. πŸ™‚

Positions at Youth With A Mission are entirely volunteer, so Joel and I will both be dependent on monthly support from God’s people. If you would like to partner with us, email me at mandalun@gmail – I would love to talk to you more!

-At the end of August, Joel and I will be road-tripping from Wisconsin (his home state) to Salem. We will be making lots of stops to see friends and family along the way – hopefully we’ll get to see you. If not this trip, there will be many more to come, I’m sure. And like I said, you can always come visit us in Oregon.

Thank you so much for your interest in my life and your constant encouragement and support as I follow God and learn more about His heart and His plan one step at a time. I’m so glad to be journeying with all of you!

Check out the stars tonight. I’ll be out there.

PS – I will be updating this blog regularly, so don’t be a stranger. πŸ™‚

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Auntie

One of the things I love about India is that everyone refers to each other by family names. You call a lady who is older than you, “auntie,” a peer, “sister” or brother,” a guy who is older than you, “uncle.” It creates a beautiful picture of a huge family, all connected and caring for one another (and yes, getting in each other’s business). When you buy milk from the old man at the corner shop, you say, “Thank you Uncle” and when your landlady unlocks the front gate for you, you say, “Thank you Auntie” (and she looks at you like, what are you doing out so late, it’s past 9:30!) I love being called Auntie by the kids on my street. Even I, this white girl who sticks out like a sore thumb, am enveloped in the warm folds of the Indian family. I love it.

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Hope on the floor

I couldn’t stop looking at her. Her brown eyes tugged at me stronger than any hand.

…Should I be scared of you?

…Can I sit by you?

…Will you take my picture?

…Am I beautiful?

…That’s my husband.

…Will you take his picture?

…Doesn’t he have a great smile?

…I love him.

I don’t know what she was saying -but I spoke to her as if I did.

…I’m here because you are loved.

…Yes, sit right here.

…I would love to take your picture.

…You are one of the most gorgeous women I have ever seen.

…You and your husband are very cute together.

…You are so strong. How do you do it?

We just sat there, her knee touching mine, there on the cold government office floor.

I felt strength and hope surging from her eyes, finger tips, and baby toes. And the floor wasn’t so cold after all.

I told her that I pray she and her husband have a beautiful life away from the kiln that was not meant to be their home.

She just looked at me with those eyes. Those eyes that even now hold on to me tighter than any fist.

 

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India’s crammed with heaven

I am sitting on my bed surrounded by things that make me feel loved, secure, ok. I am wearing sweatpants that I stole from my best friend, Rach. Around my neck is a scarf I picked out while shopping with my sisters. The shirt I’m wearing was picked out by my friend Jesse for my birthday. On my feet are slippers given to me by my roommate, Lizzie. Next to me is a teddy bear Jesse gave to Rach when she was in India, and I inherited when she went back to the states. Laying on the other side is my Bible -with the cover falling off and pages wrinkled from a Mexico trip where our tents got flooded -which my parents gave me for my birthday 8 years ago. I don’t know why such details stick with me and why they bring such comfort and well-being -but they do.

Ok, I am very sentimental. And yes, you could call me sappy. But these little things keep me sane sometimes. And constantly, they remind me I am loved -by people near and far, and more importantly, by God. God who comes near. As near as the scarf around my neck and the slippers keeping my toes warm.

Earlier today I was walking down the street back home from a coffee shop where I spent the afternoon reading. I was reading “Disappointment with God” which has entirely revolutionized my view of God as I’ve slowly digested it over the last few months. But back to the street -I was walking along zigzagging through cars and motorcycles and people and cows -and I was thinking: How is all of this important to God? What does it boil down to? How does all this chaos somehow find meaning in light of God?

As I was thinking and asking these questions, apparently I looked rather intense, because when my friend Vicas pulled up next to me on his motorcycle, he said, “Amanda! Why so serious?” I laughed and immediately switched from philosophy mode to friendly “how are you and how’s your mother?” mode. After catching up on life for a few minutes, we said goodbye and went on our merry ways, promising to hang out later this week.

I walked off, dodged a bicycle, and thought -maybe that’s part of it. God meets us in the streets -He’s there in the talking and caring and loving each other amidst the chaos. The kids running and parents screaming and old men watching are all part of it, too -part of God’s grand scheme to come near, to mesh the natural with the supernatural.

Philip Yancey puts it this way –

“Whereas we cleave natural from supernatural, and seen from unseen, God seeks to bring the two together.”

“We look for ways to re-enchant or “hallow” the world: to see in nature an engine of praise, to see in bread and wine a sacrament of grace, to see in human love a shadow of ideal Love.”

“Fath…sees natural acts as hallowed carriers of the supernatural. From that perspective, the world is not impoverished, but graced with miracle.”

I don’t quite know how to explain it -but at that moment as I was walking away from running into a friend unexpectedly -the world was graced with miracle. God came near. And as I sit here in my love-worn scarf and slippers, I know God is near. And I thank Him for coming in the natural because I don’t know how to enter the supernatural. And it seems that maybe I don’t have to -He’s already come.

Earth’s crammed with heaven

And every common bush afire with God:

But only He who sees, takes off his shoes,

The rest sit around it, and pluck blackberries,

And daub their natural faces unaware

More and more, from the first similitude.

-Elizabeth Barrett Browning

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all the small things

You know that saying “don’t sweat the small stuff?” In a strange way, the small stuff is what makes me sweat -not in the Bangalore humidity sense, but in that it keeps my heart beating and in tune with the world around me.

Yesterday I was out walking and I decided I really wanted an apple. I stopped to see Mr. Shoba at his fruit and veg stand and he picked out a bright red-yellow one for me.

Mr. Shoba

Then without knowing why, I asked him for a second apple. I walked off eating the one apple and stuck the other one in my bag. I wasn’t halfway down the block before I saw why I had gotten the second apple -an old lady curled up on the sidewalk with her weathered hand outstretched repeating “ma, ma, ma, ma” as people quickly passed her by.

Apples aren’t the only thing I crave. My friend Rachelle and I had heard about a temple where they sell organic raw milk (pretty amazing, considering the milk here doesn’t have to be refrigerated and all the cows I see are grazing in fields of garbage).

cow's grazing ground

The other day we set out in search of this creamy paradise. We arrived at the temple and stood in line with hundreds of men, women and children who I’m pretty sure weren’t there for the organic milk. We walked along in the streams of devotees through the temple and low and behold we came to rooms filled with organic goodness. Rachelle and I tried everything from chocolate cream pastries, and spring rolls, to lemon rice, somosas and lemon ginger juice. We never did find the milk, but nevermind, we explored, tasted, and got to be part of something beautiful.

A few weeks ago in Sri Lanka, we stopped along the side of a huge canyon to admire the view. A couple of cute old ladies flew down on our group of whiteys trying to sell their spices. I didn’t need spices, but the ladies were just too cute. I forked up my 200 rupees and they told me about their grandchildren who needed new clothes.

spice ladies

Along with the spices they handed me a business size card with their address scribbled on it and asked me to send all my old clothes to them. I think I will bring the spices home and put them out in the kitchen to remind me of these lovely ladies. The best 200 rupees I spent that whole trip.

Last month I went along with our Community Relations team, Harrison and Miguel, to an IJM Pastor’s training in a rural community a couple hours outside Bangalore. I didn’t feel comfortable speaking to the group of pastors (the role of women is different here in India, and especially when it comes to our work, I don’t want to present any kind of hindrance), but I went along to take pictures and run the Powerpoint. At the end of the training, a pastor’s wife and her sister came up to me with huge smiles and told me all about a tailoring class they have started offering at their church, to give women in the community a viable skill. They asked me to pray for them and their families and the women they minister to -ME -a young girl with Powerpoint skills. What a joy.

My dad is a master of the small stuff. When we were all traveling around North India, he was constantly taking advantage of the little joys -bicycle rides, tea at every stop, street food, pictures with scooters and motorcycles, rickshaws, etc.

ooh, look at this one

When we were in Jaipur, we hired a driver to show us around and quickly become good buddies with him -Saileem.

his pimped ride

In the morning on the first day, Saileem’s seatbelt wasn’t working, and my dad noticed and tried to help him. Saileem just grinned and shrugged it off, but dad isn’t one to give up. By the end of the day when Saileem dropped us off at the airport, the seatbelt was working perfectly and Saileem wouldn’t stop talking about his great “uncle helper” who would be his forever friend. We said that he has a home if he ever comes to Washington and shook hands and namaste-ed all round. Nothing small about that.

I just finished reading “City of Joy,” and no, it’s not a small book, but it’s full of what would appear to be small people doing small things. But it’s anything but. Mother Teresa said, “Do small things with great love,” and that’s just what the men, women, and children living in the “City of Joy” (aka Kolkata’s biggest and poorest slum) do every small day of their lives. And it’s huge.

I want to get smaller every day.

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