friendship

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There, in a chair with wheels, sat my answered prayer. A heartfelt cry to know Jesus more, to love supernaturally, and to be unafraid and undaunted.

I’ve walked foreign streets that praised evils, and imprisoned innocents. I’ve played pool with prostitutes and hokey-pokey’d with rescued children, but the simple life of mission in my day to day had scared me silent. I walk past many opportunities to interact with “the least of these” regularly. I excuse myself because I’m busy or not equipped, or I feel these people did this to themselves, or “what if they buy drugs with the money I give?”, or because I’m female, or because there must be a better solution…

I don’t know anymore.

Why is it that I am so easily intimidated? My heart is heavy with the desire to make change, yet the doubt that I can. My childhood of attempts to rescue an ill mother left me with sore shoulders, for there I carried the burden of her trauma. I lived to save that which was never mine to save. And as hard as I would try, I saw no change. Defeated.

So then why try?

Ha! As if it were that easy to not love. As if the Spirit doesn’t live in me. As if I haven’t the hope of the world. A genuine faith cannot be so easily contained.

So I tried. On Friday night.

Anxiously I met with some new friends to pray for people in the streets. Inspired, I put one foot in front of the other. Panicked, I did so slowly. God had clearly gifted these people to do this sort of thing, but me? One of my friends pulled me aside and suggested we pray for the man in the wheelchair. With 1/4th of a mustard seed, I said yes.

My instinct: common ground. I got on my knees and prayed with this tearful and laden man. It was as if I tested the weight he carried, and it was unbearably heavy. There was no end in sight. Restless wandering. I think the enemy steals dreams and calls it “survival mode”. My prayer sounded desperate because it was. I was crying out because that was my only response. I felt helpless, faithless, as I walked away. It was as if I put the weight back down onto him.

“God, I wish I could do more.”

A while later, we bumped into him again. He humbly and gently asked for food. And my heart leapt. Was God answering my prayer? The opportunity to do more? So we grabbed some pizza and shared a meal together. We were able to meet a physical, spiritual and relational need. This man was no longer “the least of these”, he was image-bearer. We were equals, we were friends. His tender heart amazed me. His love for his daughter inspired me. I walked away from him truly, unbelievably blessed. I pray we see each other again soon, for in our exchange, I got to see the heart of God.

Now, I find myself thinking on the friendship of God. You know the song:

“What a friend we have in Jesus
All our sins and griefs to bear
And what a privilege to carry
Everything to God in prayer”

“Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.”- John 15:13

It is never my burden to save anyone, but it is a privilege to love the world. As a friend of Jesus, I have received great kindness, true sacrificial love. What pleasure it brings me to offer that to others, and to introduce them to a better friend than I. A faithful friend who can bear all burdens, and still find joy in sharing a meal with us.

If this is your prayer, to love like Jesus loves, to make a difference, to be a friend to people that aren’t like you, don’t be surprised if He makes you uncomfortable to answer it. Lean into it. He reveals His heart for you just as much as He allows you to impact others.

I don’t share this to brag or to spotlight myself. This is not my natural gifting, this was and is the Lord at work in my life, preparing me for mission. This is the faithfulness of God, answering prayers of a lifetime. This is the might of God, awakening His people in this generation. This is what He will do and is doing in our midst. And with just a teeny bit of obedience and courage, God allowed me to join His work. This seemingly small victory, is only a foreshadowing. Just wait, the best is yet to come.

-Laurinhunter

 

 

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I did a thing.

I jumped on a plane and moved to the PNW, the least likely place to find me. I love the sunshine. Like LOVE. I have a tattoo of it on my leg. My ideal location is the beach. Or any tropical-type oasis. The heat doesn’t bother me much, and I am a self-proclaimed “Winter Wimp”. So moving to a notoriously cold, grey and rainy part of our nation was seriously the most questionable choice I’ve made in a long time.

And I am amazed at how much fun I am having! Exploring and discovering a new place is fuel for creativity, gratefulness, and for me, it feels like a reset button. Living in Texas for the last several years has been great! In fact, it’s the most still I had ever been. My roots grew, and I’m proud of that. Roots are underrated. Texas felt more like home than most places, but even still, my nomadic upbringing leaves “home” a very relative term.

So now I am mastering public transit, hiking in the snow, and thrifting my way through Olympia, Washington. People have surprised me with their warmth and general interest in connecting with me. The coffee is PHENOMENAL. There are lots of folks standing up for what they believe in. It’s refreshing to see people living their convictions, even if I don’t always agree with them. The trees grow tall and green, the lakes are numerous. And if you’re on a special diet, this place can likely accommodate!

I spent the morning exploring downtown, viewing political statements posted in nearly every shop window. The big ones so far are: Black Lives Matter, various LGBTQ causes, Planned Parenthood, and Shop Local. Earlier, a couple of guys stopped me to talk about the dying bees and harmful pesticides big corporations are using that disrupt nature’s cycle and are making earthworms endangered. I do quite enjoy that so many here are interested in conservation and eco-conscious living, and I found the conversation pretty interesting.

Everyone talks about the summers here like Christmas is coming. Apparently I’m in for quite the treat when it warms up. It’s nice to have something to look forward to, but I’m finding myself enjoying my snowy strolls. The rainy grey will take some getting used to, however, the sun has peeked out almost everyday since I moved here! I take them as little gifts from the Lord.

I took a leap of faith to come out here. I decided and moved in just 2 weeks, via airplane! Let’s have a round of applause for fitting 100% of my belongings in 3 suitcases and a backpack! Many have asked “why Washington?”. The answer is complicated, or maybe its just really simple that it doesn’t seem to make sense. 2 years ago, a few of my dear friends moved to this area to work at a church. And over the past 2 years, the rest of that particular friend group, followed suit. I stayed behind, as moving to WA was not at all appealing to me, not to mention, Thailand was my top priority.

Fast forward through some difficult situations and intense heartbreak. After visiting Thailand for the second time, I knew that things were going to shift at home. It was confusing, because I assumed that if I was leaving Texas, it was to go to Thailand more permanently.

Surprise! A detour!

I realized that I am not healthy. Mentally or spiritually (or physically lol). I wasn’t “far from God” or “backslidden”. I was lonely, burdened, and dealing with an intense feeling of betrayal. I stopped believing that God was good, a belief I never thought I could doubt. I had seen the darkness, and though my head knew God was able to change it, my heart doubted His willingness. I grieved my Father in agreeing with this disillusion.

After 5 weeks of witnessing dehumanization and exploitation of children and women, I came home to a broken church, a broken home, and many broken hearts. I didn’t fully process, because I was thrown into survival mode. I didn’t feel anything until at least a month after I got home, and it came in spurts. I couldn’t control when it took over, and it affected my work and many of my choices.

I started to escape my funk about a month ago, but I recognized that something needed to change. I needed community again. Don’t get me wrong, I made many friends in Texas, and loved being a regular at a few establishments downtown. But I wasn’t being pushed or challenged or encouraged in my faith all that much. That’s not a dig at anyone, it was just my reality. I made an effort to visit churches and go to prayer meetings, but I was still dealing with significant church hurt. Even those new people who were truly reaching out and being so kind toward me, I couldn’t connect with. I guess starting over in your own town is just really hard. It’s like being a stranger at home, and it feels…sucky.

So I prayed about potentially moving to where many of my old friends lived. Friends who I knew always pushed me toward God. I feared I would look pitiful and desperate if I moved to be closer to them. I feared I would be perceived as foolish, a follower, not a leader. This fear was rooted in fear of man.

My landlord/roommate/friend decided to sell her home, and I knew I would need to find a new place to live. I had a few months notice, but I was nervous! I don’t have a car, and I have to live within walking distance from my jobs. That’s why I’ve had so many jobs, because I had to move so much! The housing costs had skyrocketed in that area over the last couple years, but minimum wage was still only $7.25. I was lucky to find a $9/hr job. And of course, would have to keep at least 2 jobs at all times, seeing as full-time labor is virtually non-existent anymore. My credit took a hit, and without making triple the rent, I wouldn’t qualify for any apartments. Rooms for rent started at almost $700 a month and finding anything less was going to be a task. So I freaked out. I texted my pals up north to put out feelers.

A few weeks later, my friends Andrew and Anya connected me with a guy named Jason. He and I talked on the phone and he made an offer I couldn’t refuse, (but still I was hesitant)! He rents out a 4 bedroom house to to 4 tenants of the same gender and calls it Discipleship House. It’s a personal ministry of his. He devotes time in prayer for each tenant and is well-connected, so he helps anyway he is able. The rent was extremely affordable and the house is in a safe area. The ideal tenant would be a believer who has a disability or is financially struggling and otherwise wouldn’t be able to qualify for housing. In the backyard is a wetland trail and a lake, and there is public transportation everywhere. It sounded pretty great, and with peace, I said yes!

What about Thailand?

Well, I assure you, I am still on that path. And fun fact: Seattle is listed as having one of America’s largest Thai populations. (L.A. is number one). I can take Theravada Buddhism classes at the local temple (this is for educational purposes, to learn the origins and core beliefs of the religion). I am looking for a Thai Language tutor, and there is authentic Thai cuisine on nearly every corner! An amazing “coincidence” is that Jason just happens to be the chair for Thurston County Trafficking Prevention! I am also planning on meeting a missionary family to Thailand this weekend! It seems God is lining up all the details, and I am pretty much just watching.

That’s how this entire move has been. Me just watching God do what God does. No striving, no stress, just letting Him guide me. As for a job, I was offered a job working with a local marketing team that wants to transform into a business as mission. The pay is fair, the hours are easy, and I will be learning a new skill! Let’s see how it goes!

I feel lighter. And in just 5 days, I have felt encouraged and challenged in my faith in ways that I can’t explain. It has been great seeing familiar faces and being part of bible study and worship times. My intellect is being engaged, as well as my heart. There are some details that I can’t yet share, that also have reassured me that I’m exactly where I need to be for now.

I have such hope for this next season. God is making me whole. He is preparing me to be sent out. I can finally breathe. I don’t have to fight… He’s just drawing me in, transforming me into the person I’ve always desired to be. I am no longer stagnant.

I am new!

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Committed

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I’ve never been married, but I often liken my love of Thailand to a marriage. We’re past the “honeymoon phase”, and now my love is maturing. I’ve seen the ugly side of my field (and I’m sure there’s probably more). At first it discouraged me. Questions like “How am I going to be strong enough to commit to this long-term?” and “What do I possibly have to offer?” would repeat in my mind. My fear froze me and instead of being diligent in awareness, advocacy, fundraising, preparing, and team-building, I was stressing myself out! How could I ask others to invest in something that I, myself, wasn’t as enthusiastic about? How could I attempt to explain the burden I carry, while not making potential and existing supporters feel discouraged? People aren’t as excited about obedience as they are about passion. Although, I am extremely passionate, I find it hard to explain that perseverance is a much more valuable characteristic.

After a much needed conversation with a mentor, I realized that I wasn’t as crazy as I thought! I am not losing passion, I am growing! I’m not not excited, I’m sober-minded! I have seen the non-Pinterest parts of Thailand and have experienced (still only a portion of) the heartbreak that is so common there. I’ve held the hands of the rescued, looked into the eyes of brave but hurting women doing whatever it takes to provide, and felt the spiritual heaviness of idol-worship and fear-based living.

But it was in the in the midst of the ugly parts that I saw the truest beauty of God’s grace. His unfailing, unmerited grace to live my life for His purposes.

Deciding to follow Him, and offering my “yes”, has made me fall into a whole new bracket of love with Thailand. It’s no longer infatuation. It is commitment. It isn’t going to be easy, but it will be worth it!

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I’d like to invite you on this journey with me! I am currently looking for 100 people to commit to a monthly $20 partnership! By investing in the vision, you are helping me get necessary training and head to Thailand to start a business as mission that aims to prevent the trafficking of women and children and to bring the Gospel to unreached people groups.

Visit HERE to give a one-time donation or become a monthly supporter!

Thank you for your sacrificial giving and heart to see the nations know Him! Contact me if you’d like to learn more!

 

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Internal shifting. Foreign thinking. Foreign doing. Freedom in one hand. Chaos in the other.

Strange sense of loss intermingled with excitement of the new. Is this called grief? Tempted with destruction, grounded with Holy fear. Trip, fall, get up.

Take my honesty or leave it.

Judge and be judged, this I see. Shaken faith, confusion. With expanded mind comes more responsibility, I guess.

I am preconditioned to feel alone. I am not alone. I am not alone. I am not alone. I am… alone with my thoughts. My internal discussion between the left and right brain. Self-talk that murders. or worse, causes indifference.

Reality is swayed by my emotional outfit of the day. My know-it-all self says. “That is why we anchor ourselves in Truth.” I should listen to her. But grief is like earmuffs. And they match so well.

She’s so dramatic. But let them never say I wasn’t honest.  This is real life. This is the “working out my faith.” Let’s not pretend this is easy. It was never meant to be easy, okay? 

Not easy. But simple.

“You will call and I will answer You; You will long for the creature Your hands have made. Surely then You will count my steps but not keep track of my sin.” -Job 14: 15-16

Even if I lose my grip, I will fall into loving hands. I type these words in faith and pray my heart aligns with the truth I know. Peace is my promise.

Healing is on its way.

 

Dual Reality

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Vulnerability is a rush. It’s the delicate balance of fear of rejection and not caring what people think. It’s taking these intangible realities that so many of us know, but rarely express, and bringing them to light. It’s bridging the divide between “us” and “them”, between me and you.

Yet shame is so often there, mocking our attempts to translate our inner realities into outer ones.  Maybe I just desperately want to connect. Maybe I’m just an expressive person. I string together words that resonate with so many of you, because I’m honest. I’m transparent. I like this quality about myself, but I can see that it’s a tool that loses it’s effectiveness if I poorly steward it.

I have told very few the full extent of my circumstances and the depths of my emotions. I am trying to navigate difficult terrain with grace and love and maturity. Humbling. Heartbreaking. Confusing.

Pressure from all sides. Contradicting views. I cannot seem to get anything right.

Even as I write these vague thoughts, I am fearful that I’ll be misunderstood. That I’ll be viewed as dramatic, immature, and unwise. Am I sharing too much?

This is my art. This is my expression. It is reflective of my feelings, not my truth. My truth is that Christ knows all of this. That He desperately wants to connect with me. He Himself has experienced these things, as He was fully man. He has felt alone, BETRAYED. He has been tempted. He has been under a microscope, a public figure with mixed ratings. He must truly understand more than anyone else can. He has been disappointed. He has been hurt by those He loves. He created feelings, these crazy emotions. He has lived them.

I honestly haven’t felt this dark in a long while, yet I see myself picking up new behaviors   and challenging old ones. When the hopelessness hits, I start audibly saying truths from His Word about who He is and what He promises. When I get that chasing-my-tail exhaustion, I take a break and worship in song. When the memories spill out, I resubmit them to the Lord. I am fighting. It’s just not a battle you can see.

In the midst of my grief, and the overwhelming fear, and the constant sick feeling in my gut, I somehow find little jewels of joy. Reminders of God’s faithfulness. Though I am forgetful, He so graciously reminds me of His love. He is so generous with me.

I have found encouragement in the strangest places. I’ve experienced kindness from my boss, my barista friends in downtown, and even a missionary from Budapest that prayed for me! I am truly blessed with many caring people that I do not take for granted.

Even though my feelings are intense (and valid), I know that God is with me and that He is holding my hand, every blind step of the way. I hope that I’ve painted a proper picture of being a child of God and yet still having day-to-day struggles. That it is true, I have tasted and seen the goodness of God, and still live with real pain. That at the end of the day, we are all broken, but He is infinitely good.

 

 

“So How Was Thailand?” (A Summary)

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Let me try to sum up my time in Thailand.

I come home and curious minds want to know, “So how was Thailand?” With each inquiring mind I try to quickly construct a suitable answer. Some people want to know the nitty-gritty, and some may not be ready to hear the truth. Some people are polite, and get a long-winded answer that they weren’t too interested in. Some want to hear that it was an amazing-super-fun-awesome-rock-and-roll-rainbows-and-unicorns-trip.

Here’s the truth: Thailand was hard. One of the hardest things I’ve done. The sex industry became normal for me. It was normal to hear a man bargaining with a woman for a lower price. It was normal to see children in unsafe places. Pollution, neglect, litter became normal. The heat was unbearable, the food was limited, the beds as hard as rocks. Getting around was a nightmare and prices were marked higher for us westerners. Men stared. They gawked, some angry that we came to end their fun, some lustfully, as though we were a harder chase. Beggars with missing limbs were frequent. Foreign men with (purchased) Thai women were frequent. The smell, OH GOD THE SMELL! My sciatica made it extremely painful to walk or do anything. My room wreaked of mold. My butt was too big for the asian standards, so travel was cramped. Strays, bugs, and lizards made themselves welcome near and in our home. I had experienced the beauty of Thailand before, but this was not it.

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I know it sounds like I’m whining, but remember that the work I was doing was quite taxing. There is no real comfort after working with trafficked women and children. Also don’t forget that the Russian Mafia and other organized crime have a considerable presence in Pattaya. It was unsafe and hard. But so incredibly worth it.

 

As for the educational portion of my trip (I was attending a 5 week anti-trafficking training program), I was left wanting. I think my expectations were incorrect, and yet I walked away with experience and knowledge that I’m incredibly grateful for. God told me to put my expectations on Him alone, and after that first week of realizing I wasn’t going to walk away with the answers to my questions, I obeyed. I wonder if my disappointment would have been less had I obeyed God before I tested the waters… Anyway, to be completely fair, God wasted nothing. I did consider it a great privilege to hear from a successful social entrepreneur and also many law officials. There are lessons that I will use to help educate others on human trafficking prevention.

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The ministry made the entire trip worthwhile. I didn’t see anyone come to the Lord, but I know we made a difference. We spent time in the bars being friends to girls who make a living by selling their bodies. Those relationships were pure and redemptive and safe. What’s more is that the organization continued those friendships after we left, and one of the girls decided to leave the bar and be free! God is at work in the darkest places!

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The children we spent time with were unbelievably precious. They had lived through trauma and yet had the softest hearts. They were so full of love. I don’t know what we did for them, but they certainly left their mark on us. A room full of little redeemed souls singing Jesus Loves Me is a snapshot of Heaven. They are real blessings.

We visited local government initiatives for child advocacy and helped with statistics research by doing counts and compiling data. We also worked with a local church on a community service project. God is working through the higher-ups and there is progress being made!

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It wasn’t all work; a few of us managed to go to the island once a week. It was exhausting getting there, but worth the hassle. Just two songthaews, a ferry ride, and another songthaew ride away were unique beaches with monkeys and coconuts and memories to be made. One day a week we had complete freedom and I chose to spend them soaking in the overcast sun and laughing my face off with my girlfriends!

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The friendships I made with the other students are undeniably special. Parts of my personality came alive again as I was surrounded by fun and sassy world changers! When we worshipped together, it was so real and full of power! I mean these girls (and guys) were so life-giving with their words, and even just in the way they would laugh…the joy was contagious. I didn’t know God would give me a strong community in such a small amount of time. I really miss them.

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After spending 5 weeks with 27 people in one home, I spent 9 days solo in Chiang Mai. Chiang Mai is like a different world compared to Pattaya. I did try to enjoy myself, but the weight of the previous weeks really consumed my energy. I managed to meet with some local missionaries and a fair trade factory as well as play with the elephants. I made some good connections there.

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Perhaps the best part of Thailand wasn’t really Thailand at all. God moved in me and changed me. He gave me faith. I didn’t do a thing to deserve it, He just gave it to me with open hands. That is the best thing about this trip. He is moving across the world in ways you cannot even begin to imagine!  Do I still feel heavy? Yes. Do I still mourn those I couldn’t help? Yes. Am I a little overwhelmed? You bet. But God is so good. I don’t care how cliche or whatever that sounds, it is true. And in the midst of depravity, I can still sing a victory song. Praise is my weapon, after all. I can still rejoice and declare His goodness because I’ve seen it. I’m living it. It is not explainable or tangible to my flesh, but my spirit knows it! He is so good!

As to what’s next…

Well I’m not sure. I do still feel called to long-term missions in Thailand, but suspect that it will involve other nations in SE Asia. I still have vision, but I know that God can change  it as we go. I am taking time to figure out some stuff in my personal life, but trust that another door will open, whether that’s in Thailand or someplace else. I have some practical things to work on in the meantime.

I’m still support raising and moving intentionally toward the call. I’m looking for people to join my prayer team – a commitment to pray for myself and the mission a minimum of once a week. You can contact me to join the team. I’m also looking for both one-time donations and monthly supporters excited about what God is doing in Thailand and SE Asia. It is sill my goal to work full-time on the field, and I will need resources to do so. If you feel led to give please visit here.

 

 

Home

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Home is not a concept I’ve ever felt completely sure about. Having somewhat of a nomadic childhood and a free-spirited mother, being still just wasn’t our thing. Even though as an adult,  I have let my roots grow, and have created wonderful friendships and community, the true feeling of “home” is still foreign to me.

Last summer, I traveled to Chiang Mai, Thailand for the first time. It was a dream long awaited for; an empowering, romantic, wonder-filled experience. I remember distinctly walking down a particular road next to Ping River, and the words fell out of my mouth: “I feel like I’m home.”

This was a big deal. Too big for me to ignore, and yet I tried not to think about it. How could I feel at home in foreign nation, where everything is so different? What are the implications of this feeling? Is this where God is asking me to be?

Fast forward one year later. After praying and preparing for several months, I had come to the conclusion, that God was indeed calling me to Thailand again. I was excited to spend the next 6 weeks in the land that truly felt like home.

And then I arrived.

Little did I know that Pattaya was nothing like my beloved Chiang Mai. The charming river and countryside was substituted with skyscrapers and littered beach. This was not it. This was heavy, and dark, and sick. This wasn’t what I was expecting.

Each day, I kept looking for beautiful things. I kept searching my soul for that reassuring “home” feeling, but it never came. So, I decided to lean in and walk closely with God. I suspect this was His intention the whole time. I did find beauty. I did see His ability. I did  have pockets of joy and hope. It was a life-changing experience!

But I didn’t feel at home.

I headed up to Chiang Mai after my stay in Pattaya. The weight of the work I had just done, the spiritual warfare, and the heartache was still with me, and yet I hoped that my experience would be the confirmation I needed. I fully expected doors to fling open, and peace to flood my mind. Surely, I would feel at home at last! I walked down that very road next to Ping River, and instead felt like a foreigner. As if the idols of the land would whisper, “You are not one of us”, and “This can never be your home”.  I pushed on, tried to enjoy myself, and visited some elephants. I made some cool friends, had some lovely God conversations, and met many inspiring people.

But I didn’t feel at home.

It was time to fly back to the States. I knew that it would be a weird adjustment coming back to an American life. Jet lag and overwhelming emotions would soon ensue. I came back to the people I know and love, I hugged my kitty really hard, and smiled at familiar things.

But I still didn’t feel at home.

It is this through the discouragement that I began to really question if I could ever truly feel at home. Here is what I came up with:

“For this world is not our permanent home; we are looking forward to a home yet to come.” – Hebrews 13:14

“In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you?” – John 14:2

“But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself.” – Philippian 3:20 -21

I believe God was romancing me with that first trip, and challenging my commitment with this second one. Don’t misunderstand, He wasn’t testing me to see if I would fail or give up, but instead showing me (in a loving way) how much I needed to depend on Him. He was allowing me to prove to myself that I am still committed. To the call and to my God. I do hope to have that feeling again, but whatever “home” feelings I do get to experience here, they are merely a preview of what is to come.

May I never stop longing for my real home.