Thursday, August 22, 2013

All Comes Back in Moments.

My little Caren 

"You will never be completely at home again because part of your heart will always be elsewhere. That is the price you pay for the richness of loving and knowing people in more than one place." -Miriam Adeny.

Everything comes back to me in moments...

Moments of bittersweet joy, joy so bright and bold that it could keep the sun ablaze for years to come.

Moments of deep sadness, sadness so deep and tears so wet it could fill the seven seas.

Moments of hardening struggles, struggles so tough it could wear down the strongest man.

and Moments, moments of overflowing love, Love so indescribable, love so high, so deep, so wide that no one could grasp onto, no one could reach out without feeling it wash over them in waves of mercy, waves of grace. Love that only Jesus could give and fill. Love that doesn't come from this world.

Everything comes back to me in moments.

Her little ebony legs hugging my hips tightly as she climbs onto my back and the green and orange conga gets wrapped around her tiny little bottom. She's too big to be carried on my back, but neither of us care, we are laughing. A laughter echoes through the Tanzanian sky, laughter that cause heads to turn to look at the Mzungu and the little African girl. Pure laughter. Her little 5 years old hands are already calloused and tough as they grab my neck and she pulls herself up. Her chewing gum, smacking in my ear, would typically drive me insane, but today it's a sound I take deep within me, to remember this second, this minute, this hour with her. I bounce up and down, and her head hits my shoulders and her sweet high pitch squeal echoes through my ears and fills my heart with so much love and so much joy. We're running around the compound. My sweet little sister, my sweet little Caren. And as we laugh, as we dance, and as she grip my neck so tight, trusting me to not drop her. I think this is what I must look like with Jesus. Clinging to his neck, tied with a conga, dancing and laughing and His heart is filled with joy, the way mine is carrying one of His children, the way He always carries me.

Moments. Beautiful moments.

And I can't believe it has almost been a year since I departed for that country. Since I set my feet on that ground and buried my heart deep in the soil. And everyday is reminder of these moments. Everyday is a transition into the person Jesus is making me to be and what's He teaching me about Him and myself and the people He surrounds me with. Everyday is filled with new moments for me to take down deep inside of myself and remember. Always remember.

But with these moments and with talking with friends and family about transition, those who are struggling same as me and those who don't understand, God has been blessing me and teaching me more about Love. I never knew, seriously, how important love is. People say we throw this word around too much, that it has lost it's meaning. But I think love is to be thrown, to be cast out like a fisherman's net, to cascade over people and draw them in. Love is meant to be spread.

The truth is that the more intimately you know someone, the more clearly you'll see their flaws. That's just the way it is. This is why marriages fail, why children are abandoned, why friendships don't last. You might think you love someone until you see the way they act when they're out of money or under pressure, or hungry, for goodness' sake.
Sweet girl and I in one of our giggle fits

But Love. Love is something different. Love is choosing to serve someone in spite of their filthy heart. Love is patient and kind, love is deliberate. Love is hard. Love is pain and sacrifice, it's seeing the darkness in another person and defying the impulse to jump ship. 

And that is Jesus. and that is who I want to be.

Saint Augustine says it like this "Attract people by the way you live."

I want to live like Jesus, every day, every single moment, hour, minute, the rest of my life. I don't want people to be drawn to me, I want people to be drawn to Jesus in me. that I would throw His love over people and bring them into a big bear hug, that Jesus would use my hand to hold the hurting and my arms to wrap His arms around them. That I would be patient, that I would be kind, and I would be deliberate. Through the hard and pain and sacrifice and through the darkness.

Because He sees the darkness in me and yet He still lets me climb onto His back, wraps me in a conga and carries me through.

I desire to choose each day to serve someone in spite of the filth. I've seen messy and I've fallen in love with it, because in the messy God meets us. He's there. Always.  And in each transition I'm learning to love different people in different ways. I'm learning that the moment I open my heart and my arms God enters in and I am His vessel. And what else in life could be more glorious.

My life was not made to be something pretty. I was not made for storybooks, and princess poems, and easy living.

My life was made to be messy. I was made to enter into the darkness and shine His light. I was made for the roughness and tough love. I was made for reckless love, for dirty hands and dirty feet. Though I feel unqualified, He uses me and it's an amazing thing.

I will not live my life trying to stay squeaky clean to this world. I make mistakes, I get dirty, but God is with me and He dusts me off, puts me back on my feet and leads on. And I will follow.

We are all a bit messy, we all are struggling. And yet God is giving us piggybacks, wrapped in congas, carrying us to where He wants us. Because despite the filth and the mess, He does want us. No one can tell you differently.

Throw out your net, let love overflow. His love. Great, grand love. Be messy and know God is there, always dusting us off and leading us home.

Taking in the moments,

 HIS and yours,


Friday, August 16, 2013

Customer Service Experience Jesus...

I hate retail.

Okay, sorry not an upbeat way to start a blog post but I just needed to get that off my chest, because I do I really hate it.

But let's be honest, Somedays, like today, are full of testing. And somedays, like today, I just seem to fall short.

Sometimes work just doesn't go the way you plan, such is with life. And I thought maybe by now I would have grasped a hold of that and realized that somedays things are going to go wrong. But I haven't. I'm still learning. And like today, I let myself get worked up because things went wrong and I let myself get cranky and short with people. And as I sat in the office thinking about how I had just snapped at one of my co-workers, I thought. I just totally failed today. I totally failed at being Jesus.

So right then and there I stopped. I stopped counting money. I stopped stressing out over things that weren't working out. I stopped thinking. and I prayed. Prayed that God would turn my heart around. That I would stop praying the day would go faster, and I would stop thinking of ways to get out of the things I'm doing and instead that I would have open doors and opportunities to reach out and to be His hands and His feet. to be Jesus in this retail world.

Retail is hard, and dealing with people is even harder, especially in retail. People want and want and want and they'll do anything to get it. In the store we have something called an OSAT score, basically it's an overall satisfaction of the customer's experience in store. Sometimes we do good and sometimes we don't do so hot. And I think the reflection of that OSAT score kind of reflects the way my life has been lately. I'm never at 100% and I don't think I ever will be, because there is always more to do. There's alway further to walk and further to reach and more room to love. OSAT or not, my score will always have room to grow, as does our stores.

They now want us to greet every customer we pass, it's kind of exhausting to be honest. Because some people just do not want to be bothered, they see you coming and they duck into a aisle to get away. Or there are the one's you greet and they jump about five feet in the air because they didn't know you were there. So I got out of the office, apologized to my co-worker for snapping at her and went on my way to do some good old Customer Service.

As I walked around, the store was crowded with people digging through racks of clothes, I greeted people as I walked picking up clothes tossed on the floor and over the racks. And I saw him, wobbling through the aisle. His mullet like hair kind of haphazardly pulled back into a ponytail. There was some sort of air about him, and you could kind of suspect he has some sort of illness. He approached me and asked me about headphones. He had put a pair over his hearing aids and they squealed something fierce.

He began to explain to me this, which I totally understand coming from the girl who wore a hearing aid in middle school and high school and anytime the basketball buzzer went off, I thought I was going deaf all over again. So we browsed the headphone section up at the front and he talked and talked and talked asking me questions, talking about school, and his life and just talked. And co-workers were giggling and saying things over the headset as they watched me walk the front aisle with this older gentlemen just listening to him talk. I had plenty of other projects to do and customers to greet but I just continued to nod and listen to this man talk about being out of school for 40 years and how when I get to be his age I'll need hearing aids too and headphones that won't make them squeal. He laughed and talked and talked and laughed.

And as I stood there listening and smiling and doing "customer service" I couldn't help but think. When was the last time someone really listened to this man talk. This is not customer service, this is not my job. This is being Jesus, this is being His hands, His feet, His ears. because I really am beginning to believe that customer service, the right kind of customer service is just that. Serving. And that's what God has made me to do.

Granted it's not the ideal place I want to be serving. But it's where He has me right now, and I am obviously being taught valuable lessons. Because like my managers, Jesus wants me to pass every person and greet them in Him, love them through Him, reach out His hands, His feet and be Christ. That not one person would be missed, that there overall satisfaction when they see me, will be that they saw Jesus. That's what it is all about.

He is turning my heart around. Yes, I don't like retail, retail is not my passion and my heart and my suitcases are just waiting for the day when God decided it's time for me to leave retail behind. But right now I have things here and I have much to learn.

So I'm working on that. I'm praying about that. That customer service will bring about a bigger end to a far better means. More than store OSAT scores, or customer returns, or number of sales. But that Jesus would be known through me, in just a simple hello, in just a simple gesture to stand and talk to a man, in just a simple hand reaching out to carry things or offer a cart. In even just smile. That Jesus's light would shine and reflect Him.

That there customer service would experience Jesus. Because I know the He reaches further than I could ever imagine and all I need to do is reach out my hands.

Working on my Jesus Service,

HIS and yours,


Saturday, August 10, 2013

Pieces of Love. Pieces of Me.

I was running today.

Wait. What.

Cami... Running.

Yeah, I know those words don't fit in a sentence together. Like ever.

Cami hates running. I do, I literally hate it.

I run better alone. Actually I do a lot of things better alone. But running is something I prefer to do alone. I'm an ugly runner. Literally i look like a baby deer learning how to walk, and I wheeze and cough and trip over my feet. I run ugly. So I like running alone... there's more freedom to run ugly. But there's even more freedom to think clearly.

Lately I've been running a little after work every day. And I've notice my mind is a little clearer when I finish than when I start. And for me that's saying something. I find I have time to think. to reflect. to listen to the constant beating of my heart and the shallow wheezing of my breath and my feet hitting the pavement and my mind churning and thinking. Thinking of things upon things. Of places. of people. of pieces. Pieces of me and pieces of love. and what those pieces really mean.

If I can be honest for a moment, my heart is scattered in so many different places. There are kids who hold my heart in Alaska and the Yukon, there are prisoners in Texas who hold my heart. Kids in Haiti, kids in Uganda, in Tanzania, in Kenya. Friends in South Dakota, Minnesota, Europe, Nebraska, California, Virginia, Florida, Indiana, Iowa, the list goes on. My heart is scattered across lands and country-sides and airport terminals. In dirty hands and prodding fingers, my heart has had it's share of bumps and bruises and flips and flops. But I wouldn't have it any other way, I wouldn't change the hands that have reached out and touched my heart. I wouldn't change it because that's the way God made my heart to be. Soft and Strong. Soft enough to care and love deeply, but strong enough to withstand the exchange of hands.

Amazing, actually is the word to describe. God is the ultimate carrier of my heart and HE has allowed pieces of me to be scattered all over the place all in HIS name. It's amazing. Amazing Grace, and Amazing love, that's what it is. You see Those pieces are Jesus. Jesus teaching me how to love deeper and reach further and grow stronger. He teaches me and I scatter them. I reach out wherever I am, and I pray that Jesus is the one being seen.

You see, I want pieces of my heart, pieces of me scattered all over this place. All over this state. All over the country. All over the world. And I want all those pieces to be JESUS. Every last one of them.

I lodge pieces of myself in every place I love. And I have loved deeply every place and every person I have seen. They have carried my heart, even without knowing it. I have lodge a piece of me with them. A piece of love. and love. Love is God. And the more I live radically, the more I love recklessly, the more pieces of Jesus they will see.

And that is the end goal. To love and to make Christ known.

That when I come to the end of my life people aren't remembering me by the clothes I wore or the jobs I worked, or the nice things I did. But that they would remember how I much I loved them and how much more I loved Jesus. That I would have scattered HIS love so vastly and so deeply, that there would be no words said, no songs exchanged, but just love, His glorious, graceful love.

I guess love is what I'm learning and I don't think I will ever be done. Just scattering HIS love and HIS word any chance I get. To love when it's easy and when it's hard. To love when there's light and when it's dark. To love with no regrets and no worries. Because God ultimately carries my heart, and He's placing it in spaces I have yet to even dream about.

Scattering Love,

HIS and yours,


Wednesday, August 7, 2013

inexpressible joy, inexpressible love.

  Lately I've been missing East Africa more than my heart can contain. And lately my heart feels as if it can't contain very much. I've had this immeasurable amount of feelings overwhelming my entire body. I can't even contain it in my chest. This inexpressible joy.

Which is strange, real strange. When all that surrounds me and friends lately seems to be tragedy and death and struggles. In the past weeks I've notice this inexpressible smile just hanging out on my heart. This feeling, this emotion, this joy I thought was so unattainable, I haven't been able to shake. And I don't want to.

Granted there are days I am still stressed out at work and people frustrate me and bad things happen, but this feeling in my heart, this emotion of joy and knowing that God is preparing something awesome for me has kind of been blowing my mind as of late.

He's showing me that in HIM no one can take this joy. That there will be dark days, but He's always shining through, like the sun through the clouds. He's showing me to get close to the things and the people I care about. That yes, these things and these people will come and go. And some people just learn to stop caring about them, but that I need to keep reaching out.

That when I keep reaching, God gives me opportunities to share Him and share my passions. Like today, simply bringing Africa shaped cookies to work caused co-workers to ask me why Africa and what I do and why I do it. And yet another answered prayer of God moving in my life and opening doors for me to share HIM and the things I love. It's amazing. He is amazing.

And I've realized that when I don't try to contain, when I don't try to bottle and push down this joy, it helps me love more. It gives me this inexpressible love for the people around me and the task I have to do. In work, in conversation, in whatever. When I let God's love and joy flow from me, it does things. it changes things. it changes me.

It opens my eyes.

It opens my heart.

It opens my ears.

It moves my hands and feet.

Inexpressible joy that bubbles over into inexpressible love. No words can describe the beauty and the feeling that comes from it.

It's easy to shove it down deep. Especially when there are so many other things going on. But there is nothing that can put out this light, God's light once we have it. No darkness is too dark. No ocean too deep. No storm too strong. No river too wide. No mountain too high. HE shines, HE swims, HE calms, HE stretches, HE climbs. it's beautiful.

Don't try and hide the light. It's a beautiful thing. It's a marvelous thing. Shine. Shine the joy of Jesus so bright that others will be blinded by your glow and ask where it comes from. this Joy, this Marvelous Light.

Inexpressible Joy leads to Inexpressible Love. Love that can move mountains. Love that causes blind to see. Love that helps ears to hear. Love that helps mouths speak. Love that can cause a cripple to walk, and a dead man to rise. Love that is God's, Love that He has given us. Take hold of it. Tight with two hands and never let go. Hold it high above your head let it shine out, reach out to others. I promise you, this joy is something that causes change.

Yes I still miss Africa and there are days I cry and scream and just want to go. But I'm seeing through this joy, through these lessons. That everything right now is preparing me for what is to come. So maybe I won't return to Africa in two years like I planned, it may be longer. But I'm learning that Love lets go of its plans, to reach out and hold on to what is right in front of it. So that's what I'm going to do. Let go of my plans and reach out, who knows where God is going to take me.

I'm all in.

Letting Go and Reaching out,

 HIS and yours,