Monday, November 10, 2014

[He is hope] #onthemove

"I was given a gift on this tour. The tour itself is a gift wrapped in strange packaging. Tied up in merch bins and cash boxes, gas stations and confused looks, literal bumps in the road and tents with old water that splashes out on your head when you set up the day after a rain storm. 
Tour took me to states I had been to before, and states I never thought I would be in, and states I have wanted to return to with an aching in my heart for months. And within those states, wrapped up in that giant red bus, hidden behind signs for social media and payment options, we visited campus after campus."

There is something about being on the road for a month which feels as if you've been tossed head-first into a washing machine and spun through permanent press. A month later the door opens and you fall on your font porch wrung-out and washed clean. The air is cold, the leaves are turning, your host family's dog is your new best friend and you lie on the floor while he licks your face, four weeks down.

No weeks to go.

It was the quick cycle, and it ended with a beep. No fanfare, no parades, which is not what we hoped for or wanted at all. Our work may be loud, gaudy and obnoxious – the rumble of a double-decker bus sitting in a quad, the chattering of voices for hours a day, the hauling of boxes and clicking of tent legs. Our work is rich and long, working on too many cups of caffeine, eating in restaurants we have never heard of, sitting in the quiet light of laundromats and sorting through Red Bus tee shirt after Red Bus tee shirt.

But our work, most of all, is hopeful. And our work is not about us. It's about them...ALL OF THEM. Any of them. Anyone in need of hope. For four weeks rolling down highways and hitting branches with the top of the bus, we were able to meet souls who did not know orphans existed, who did not know how to speak out. But we serve a God of hope.

He gave hope to a chief cup-bearer, sharing a prison with a man named Joseph. He gave this man a friend with a God. A man who worshiped and served the God of hope.
“When Joseph came to them in the morning and observed them, behold, they were dejected...'why are your faces so sad today?' They said to him, 'we have had a dream and there is no one to interpret it.' Then Joseph said to them 'Do not interpretations belong to God? Please tell me.'” Genesis 40:7-8
Joseph knew his Father could interpret what he could not.

He gave hope to a woman who had waited for years upon years to be healed, who knew within her heart that God could save her.
“For she thought, 'if only I just touch his garments I will get well.'” Mark 5:27
The woman knew her Father could heal what she could not.

He gave hope to a boat rocking with shaking men, terrified of death, of the waves of the storm. Men who knew and loved their Lord, men who had seen miracles and listened to the words of Christ and yet - still - needed hope.
“They came and woke Him saying, 'save us Lord! We are perishing!'...then He got up and rebuked the wind and the sea, and it became perfectly calm.” Matthew 8:25-26
The disciples knew their Father could calm what they could not.

God does what we cannot.

God gives hope to the hopeless. This is our name, this is our mission. He gives people what they don't have, and it can be small and beautiful, like hot hotel cookies and a gas station on an otherwise empty road. His provisions come in little packages and big packages. He gives people big and beautiful: the blessing of being able to go to college, the joys of a circle of faithful friends, a giant Red Bus from England. A front porch to fall onto once the cycle spins down.

And he gives giant things, things we only dream about. Things we fight for and proclaim – things he taught me it's NOT too big to dream about and it's NOT too big to speak up about. 
He gives families. He opens hearts.

He puts the lonely in families.

And it wasn't until a four week tour, talking to thousands of college students, gas station workers, hotel receptionists, cleaning ladies, faculty, children, Show Hope adoption aid grant wasn't until I saw the sea of hope that God can create that I understood the God of hope I serve.
I don't know if I will ever fully understand the depth and richness of hope God can provide. But for the hopeless, He fights.
And so I will fight, too. Even if sometimes it feels like spinning in circles, being wet and cold and smiling with the strength of a God who never fails. Because tour will do that to a person.

It will give them a reason to show hope.

Red Bus Project

Sunday, September 14, 2014

[every 18 seconds] #onthemove

There's this statistic we use with the Red Bus Project. It doesn't really change your life.
At least, it didn't change mine. At first.


That was before our director poured out an entire gallon of milk in front of a highschool classroom. I was standing against the back wall, figuring I knew the discussion he was about to give to these youngsters. Oh, silly youngster myself. It took him 18 seconds to empty that gallon. 16 cups of smooth, skim milk from a plastic container flowing into a bucket. The silence sank around us as candy wrappers, backpacks and the number of pens sitting by the white board which I had been assessing almost became obsolete.

Every 18 seconds, somewhere in the world, a child becomes an orphan without a mother or a father.
About as long as it took me to write that last sentence.

It's a statistic in a line of statistics that can be pulled from all corners and public squares of knowledge. But there's something in the physical representation of passing time which causes you to stop chewing at your gum for a moment and watch what's unfolding in the rest of civilization. That's what it did to me. We take common groceries and attach to them the weight of over 140 million abandoned children, and oddly, it makes sense. Taking something we know well and using it to communicate things we know little about. People don't associate with statistics because they don't mean much, usually. Statistics are as common as refreshing our newsfeeds and they're usually being replaced by bigger and worse statistics, and eventually, we lose interest or become too jaded to notice.

18 seconds. No one pays attention to the passing of 18 seconds and so its worth is lost. We watch 6-second vines and 2-minute microwave popcorn and tutorials on how to create a smokey eye in 15-minutes or less. But within all those, the mundane 18 seconds is lost.

We're not in the business of shock value. But it shocked me, and I've been the one folding tee-shirts in the merch closet with that very phrase printed across the front. I helped place the order for more. I've been staring at #every18seconds on Instagram and listening to strategies of gaining leverage on a college campus with that phrase as our backbone. I suppose you could say that every 18 seconds is our motto, and yet I hadn't stopped to contemplate why. It existed, I existed. All the things existed and that was that. All the existences.

Dear world, if your name was a verb, what would the action be?

They asked me that. We play this game called Hot Seat in the office to keep our minds moving and learning through the simplest, stupidest of means. It takes 1 minute of our lives. “To Myra,” they said, “is to over-analyze and think deeply.” But it seems there are times that I don't think enough, or perhaps I'm just thinking too much of the wrong things. Or perhaps our human minds can't bear the extremes. There are those ends of the spectrums we don't deal in every day, which is why they taught us to use scientific notation in math class so the impossibles made sense. 18 seconds aren't dealt with and neither are over 140 million. One's the footprint of an ant, the other are elephants measuring from your house to heaven. Too large. Too small. Too inconvenient.

Convenience sends one into some interesting situations. I've had oatmeal for dinner for a very long time, now, even though I have chicken in the freezer waiting to be cooked. Pretty sure I wore black on brown last week to avoid doing an extra load of laundry. My suitcase doesn't know what it means to be organized, and I'm afraid to show it or it'll start expecting that from me on a regular basis. And sometimes caring is inconvenient and I stop caring.

We all stop caring.

Because when did 18 seconds become something to care about?
That one time a gallon of milk was poured out. Then. That day, I started realizing how much more caring we could all be doing. How much more caring I needed to be doing because I have a lot of space in my heart, going up for sale and sitting inexcusably empty, in desperate need of souls while there are souls in the world in desperate need of hearts.

In 18 seconds I will be drinking the end of my Arnold Palmer and hitting save on this word document. 

Go sell your heart, and sell it for free, and let's make our hearts homes to things that matter. Let's make the houses of our hearts the homes for a world who needs to delve into extremes all over again.

Notice the blue tee shirt? The first run of the bus this season.

Red Bus Project

Saturday, August 30, 2014

[grace?] #onthemove

this is about grace. i think.
This is about the realization that I am not who I thought I was, and yet everything I could ever imagine. Plagued by the flesh but alive with a savior.

this is about the fact that I'm not really living according to what I just said above on an internet blog page.

Boxed up. Boxed in.

We are a culture of sub-cultures. Born and suited towards tastes and differences and personality traits which automatically separate us from the group which wears dark-rimmed glasses and enjoys the higher fineries of life disguised as simplicities, or attaches us to them. I think this sub-culture is known as Hipsters. (I'm still trying to figure out exactly what a Hipster is.) And they can be cut further down the middle based on religion. Environmental pro-choice hipsters and 21st century evangelical hipsters are instantly divided. Those quarters can further be cut into eighths based on tattoo convictions, the number of piercings considered healthy or sinful, and whether or not they will formula-feed their infants.

I've been called a lot of things, and I call myself a lot of things. I have been called a hipster, when I'm caught messing around with my nerd glasses or wallpapering my back bedroom wall with hundreds of oxygen-stained book pages. And I have called other people hipsters based on their Instagram pictures or the amount of coffee they consume in a day, as if he consumption of caffeine instantly pegs them into one subculture box or another.

(Caffeine has become a dear friend to me of late. Starbucks and office kitchen Keurig, let me hug you.)

We like boxes. Boxes are dark and warm. Boxes can only fit a few people and those few people don't come in unless invited – which must mean that we want them in there with us. Boxes are handy for hiding in because cardboard has the unmistakable ability to conceal the true colors, shapes and forms of what has been packed within. Boxes are nice. They make moving easy; they make it acceptable to carry awkward, harmful or shameful contents without the fear of discovery or rebuke.

And boxes are safe.

I found a box this week. I found it and I jumped right in and closed the lid, and I think I taped it shut with duck tape and shrapnel. The box was called “Golden Retriever/Beaver.” Also known as the Animal personality test results, taken in the intern office at work. As soon as I discovered I was a Golden Beaver I glared around at the Lion/Otters and Beaver/Otters and Golden/Lions in the room with me and slapped a badge on my chest written in blood and bought with my first-born son.

I AM a Golden Retriever/Beaver: "look on my works ye mighty and despair." Change me not, change me never! 
(I've been known to have this sort of response to personality tests before.)

And day marched into day of me taking test after test, writing up page upon pages of documents entitled “Myra,” filled with all the results and definitions of how my personality should act.
Me. I was defining myself based on some fill-in-the-blank-boxes on the internet, because, obviously, the internet is infallible and omniscient. Obviously. And everyone else taking the tests with me were becoming their name on a document heading as well. They were becoming test-results as I labeled the heck out of my co-workers, my family and my best friends.

I told you this was about grace.

Grace. It is this thing, according to all my personality results, I'm not very good at. Result after result listed my “weaknesses” in similar terms of critical (Beaver,) judgmental (Golden Retriever,) stubborn (Melancholy,) and struggles with close-mindedness (INFJ.) These are the awkward and shameful contents I put into my boxes and hide and carry around in my wounded heart. I'm all about being honest with ourselves and others, I'm all about justice, I'm all about standards.
But what about grace? 

I ask you: "How many times will you pick me up,
When I keep on letting you down?
And each time I will fall short of Your glory,
How far will forgiveness abound?"
And You answer: "My child, I love you.
And as long as you're seeking My face,
You'll walk in the power of My daily sufficient grace."
-Laura Story “Grace”

This is about the fact that I'm not left to my boxes because I've been redeemed by a God who takes those boxes and burns them in the fire of his perfect love. He takes my stained, cardboard, lock-down and gives His free and unmerited favor.

Let's redefine us. What's our true identity? Christian. Child of God. Loved. Redeemed. Chosen. Paid for.
Let's write those in blood, sweat and tears on the doorposts of our hearts and then let's sub-categorize ourselves and be the redeemed hipsters, beavers, INFJs, homeschoolers, mothers, bosses and interns of the world. (Or let's try.)

I'm going to jump from box to box, alternately fighting labels and loving them, because that's life. I'm going to tape things up and hide and I'm also going to embrace the person I was created to be and I'm going to do it all imperfectly. I'm going to believe God knows what he's doing with all the boxes I change like clothes which are stacked by my bed every morning I wake up and role-play.

When God called Jonah, Jonah ran away. Lazarus was dead. The Disciples fell asleep. Zacchaeus was greedy. Paul was ingrained in another religion. Jeremiah was depressed.

We are in good company.
Our boxes can't stop God.

The interns getting their job titles, not their identities (as I have to remind myself.)

Red Bus Project

Friday, August 22, 2014

[just a step] #onthemove

this is the story of how God brought me to The Red Bus Project. 
one step on a life-journey of millions.

The Red Bus the first day I saw it this spring.

I was asked for my heart.

Not parts of it, not corners I could live without. But my whole heart, with every faithless thought thriving. Imperfect, dank and doubting, it was requested. It was overcome. Stand up and walk: your faith has made you whole.

But on that March day as I walked blindly around the brick buildings which held so many well-adjusted, comfortable students, my discomfort pulsed. I felt corned as I stood between the iron mascot and the road, looking onto the quad of a campus I was loathe to step back onto.

Fear pulsed through my blood-stream like life. I was a Red Bus nobody; another girl working another nanny job in a sea of young women all saying they loved children. Fear had taken my car from one end of the campus straight to the other as I kept driving minutes before I found myself on the sidewalk. I had reasoned that I did not need to visit this cause – my life was comfortable. A thousand causes would arise in a thousand more comfortable ways than this one, and there was no need for my drop to fall into the bucket of Caring.
And I had kept driving. The fear of having to drop something in the bucket kept me going while fear of missing the chance made me call my mom and proclaim, as I validated my actions to myself, that there was no need to visit the Red Bus Project. But mothers are wise. They are the wisdom in our stubbornness because they know something sweeter waits for us on the other side. They give us what is best instead of what is easy.

“Go back.”

“Mom, there's no point. I'm coming home. You know, they'll come here again, I'm just not ready to go up there. I can't walk out there alone. I can't go to a campus I don't attend and barge my way into what's probably a sea of people. I hate crowds. I hate meeting new people. I'm coming home.”

“Go back.”

“No, Mom. No. I'm already on the main road.”

She broke my stubbornness the only way she knew how, her second daughter once again putting up a fight just so she could get out of something. The way she got out of everything uncomfortable growing up from dentist appointments to Sunday School. Her second daughter was bucking against God. And so with a voice I wouldn't have responded to at any other moment, my mother pushed me. She commanded me. She spoke life with fervor.

“If you don't go back, you're not welcome home for dinner. I love you, but you have to go back. You will regret it for the rest of your life and I won't let you do that.
Go. Back. Now.”

I went back. And there I stood, between the iron mascot and the road. A sea of details from the Red Bus Project website flooding through my mind, the fingers of my brain thumbing through the files of evenings spent pouring over a cause that loved children as much I did. I stood and breathed in the afternoon air, my coat in the car, my backpack hanging off my shoulders so I could disguise the fact that I didn't attend this school. All I wanted to be was a girl in the sea of a thousand girls, a nanny of many, just another voice saying once again that children were worth sacrificing our lives for. That we were the next generation of parents and that if we pushed away the children now, we were destroying a lifetime of tomorrows.

“Let the little Children come.” Christ said.

I didn't want to come. Tiny and afraid. The parts of me that wanted to join in and speak louder than the silence were being silenced by fear. Fear that I actually would stand out. Fear that I would have to talk with strangers. Fear that I'd be called upon to do something about the fierce love I harbored for children.

Fear that I would be arrested for not being a student at this campus. 
(A valid fear.)

I was afraid of being different. Yet I was too afraid to stay the same.

So I decided to take a step, knowing I couldn't go home proudly or face myself that night. If I didn't go, I would - once again - be giving up a dream. Knowing for another time in my life I would be backing out of ballet class the first day because my leotard didn't match the other girls'. Staying on the edge of the wedding dance floor, wishing I didn't care if I knew the YMCA or not. Watching the volleyball game, too intimidated to learn to serve. Closing the RBP intern application late at night, again, convinced I would never find my own housing in a city foreign to me.

Prayers flowed through my nauseous mind. They flowed through phone messages I hurriedly left for my best friend informing her I was about to walk across a quad. One, single, quiet, college quad. And for some reason it felt like a mountain of thorns and not a bed of soft grass.
Christ took the hand I jerked away all those times growing up, and he led me onto the blustery campus. He led me to the smiling face of an unknown worker, who I immediately confessed to – as if I were carrying a million dollars in my boots – that I didn't attend this school, I had come from somewhere else, and I needed to know it was alright. I needed to know I was allowed, accepted, admitted, alive.
He assured me it was alright.

Fear binds where Christ sets free. Fear takes captive where Christ breaks shackles. Fear stings. Faith hugs. Faith hugs unknown strangers. I was taken into the literal arms of a family of interns, directors, coordinators and volunteers. Orphan care was already in my bloodstream, and so entering where the Red Bus was set up was not walking into a group of strangers but into a circle of family. They did not present to me orphan care as a task to be completed this afternoon if I only wore a bracelet or band. If I only liked a Facebook page. Because it's a larger crisis, it's a longer crisis. It is more than dollars and cents.

It is hearts and hands and cries and laughs. It is smiles and giggles and sacrifice and labor.

It is a way of life, a way of Christ. It's relationships, and relationships are hard and they require decisions I had almost been too weak to make that afternoon. It's borne of a relational God who seeks our own hearts. For show me your faith without works, and I will show you my faith by my works. Show me your heart flowing out.

Show hope.

I was shown their faith by their works. I was shown and not only told. The Red Bus showed with their actions and words, with their hearts and their hands. They showed the sea of a million children. The sea of a million people in need of a Father. They left me with a heart bursting, each intern encouraging me to not let my fears destroy my faith. The housing would come. The daunting application could be filled out. The money would come. The fears would fade. I could be an intern. It was alright.

Be free, my soul. Be free from fear.

I could walk across a quad.

I could move to Tennessee.   
the fall interns ON the bus

The Fall interns today, in front of the Red Bus with the amazing owner of Hemphill Brothers Coach Company who takes care of our bus off-tour.
Each girl took a step outside of her comfort zone and trusted God. Just a step.

On the move for orphans

Saturday, August 16, 2014

[sometimes] #onthemove

Sometimes you want to dance waltzes. Waltzes that encircle all the gas stations you stopped at, all the new people you smiled at awkwardly as you ordered the pork chops with a local sauce you hoped wouldn't taste like smoke. You want to surround all the highway lanes which skimmed past, the white dotted lane boundaries folding together like the pages of a flip book, becoming one line. All the state signs, state boundaries. States - including Illinois.

(Dear People Who Live in Illinois,
I don't know how you do it. It is very flat. It is very, very flat. And the clouds made faces at me and pretended they were whales smoking. It made the road trip more interesting. But it was very flat.)

And you get the end of the road, and snuggle down in someone else's house on white feather-beds resting beneath zebra pillows. The brick neighborhood sits quietly manicured on the doorstep of the place you now call home for 14 weeks.

You want to sing “is this home, am I here for a day or forever?” but then you realize that song was sobbed out between chattering teeth of a prisoner named Belle. You are no prisoner! Not spiritually, not physically. You're here to fight for those imprisoned by injustice. And so, even though the first line seems to fit (because this is home – but home with smiles, not with tears,) you more have to belt out old Godspell standards and dance through the streets with the neighborhood dogs following your new boxer named Rocky, making friends with the trees and the polished street signs and the natives who wear a southern flair like jewelry as they wish you good mornings between sips of coffee.

This is Tennessee. This is where the adventure starts. Here in a city not so unlike my own, eating food exactly like the food I ate yesterday when I sat at my own wooden kitchen table. Except I do not know the wooden tables here. I haven't memorized the bubbles underneath the polyurethane or walked the cobblestones to and from work yet. I haven't met but one soul by name – but I will. I will meet a thousand souls in a thousand different places in life. Because they say life is what happens when you're not looking, and yet I desperately want to start looking.

We're here for the the voiceless, working above guitar shops in office suites so that orphans can be brought home. Running thrift stores as we run our mouths, being talkers because the talkers aren't heard. We're obnoxiously vocal and wordy sometimes because anyone who ever had something to say and couldn't say it needs to be heard through us. Interns for orphans, but going through life fighting the battles worth fighting for anyone in need of advocacy even as we struggle with the pointless battles in our own lives. Humans loving humans because we serve a relational God. 

Hello, my name is 2014 Fall Intern, and I like words. I recently used a lot of them and cried because I have never been an intern before, and sometimes when we go outside of our comfort zone so someone can have a comfort zone, it makes our words muddled. I also am not that upset about having to drive through Illinois for 5 hours, because it was actually very beautiful. And sometimes I make friends with Red Buses and Boxers and fellow interns I've never met. On Monday I may even hug them just because I finally get to meet them. 

These are the thoughts of an amateur intern, sitting on leather couches and in hipster-insipred coffee shops pretending that she frequently smells musty books and often wears gray Keds because gray is her favorite color. Gray is her favorite color. 
But red makes a statement. 

These are the first words of many words.

On the Move for Orphans 

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Quoted: Little Pirate Man

Sunday, June 23, 2013


Before God could bring me to this place 
He has broken me a thousand times.
- Smith Wigglesworth

We want to avoid suffering, death, sin, ashes. But we live in a world crushed and broken and torn, a world God Himself visited to redeem. We receive his poured-out life, and being allowed the high privilege of suffering with Him, may then pour ourselves out for others.
Elisabeth Elliot

               When you sit quietly and listen to the world, you hear the grief of breaking hearts being borne in utter silence as a fake façade puts up a front and says,
                “No, I’m okay.”
                They lie. But they are so longing to be vulnerable, and so longing to know truth. 
                And yet they do not speak……until they want to. And when they speak, it rains. And when it rains, it pours. But sometimes rain is good because it causes me to stop cold in my own self-serving path and listen to a person tell me how painful was their break.
                Breaks are never clean. The heart is like a window-pane that shatters in a thousand tiny spider-webs when life hits it with a force.
                I think I have it hard sometimes with my own heart, you know. I sob a lot over Poor Old Me who thinks she’s just stepped across the line to the point of no return. And "poor old me" commiserates with "poor old me" a lot, not remembering that "poor old me" was purchased on the cross.
                I’m hit with utter mourning, realizing just how blind I often am. How blind and deaf do I have to be – how blind and deaf have I been – to fail to see or hear the corpse-like, crying, living dead the world around me is?
                They’re looking for an answer. They’re begging me to hear.
And where am I? Am I involved? In tune? Alert? Or am I with my own agendas, selfish purposes, and fears that keep me far away from hearing all the breaking hearts around me that are longing to finally speak. Finally cry. Finally bare their broken soul to someone – anyone – who is willing just to nod and hug and shout in quiet urgency:                                             
                “There is hope, God is alive, and healing happens even here!”
                When I sit quietly and listen, I hear my own heart beating, and I so long to hear the hearts of every person I hold arms-length, far, or dear, beating through the healing grace Christ has showered down on me.
                So many want to talk. Want to know. What to hear what is the answer for all the hope and all the seeds we try to sow. How much then do I hate them to know the answer and to hide?
                Hide away where I am safe, where I am happy, where the troubles of this world don’t touch or pull upon my heart.
                For how much, how utterly much, do we have to hate the world to know there is eternal life and not to tell the wandering soul?
                There is a way to heal all the spider-veiny breaks.
                So don’t lost heart, and don’t resign to the hiding of your faith. 

“Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have.” 1 Peter 3:15