Wednesday, December 28, 2011

My First Love

When did I lose my first love?

It didn't happen overnight; I didn't see it coming. But recently I've found myself feeling extremely homesick for God. Of course, He is always there. But I easily find myself slipping farther away from Him and getting lost in my own world of comfort and self-reliance. Some days I don't think much about Him until I'm crawling under the covers at night and remember to read a few Bible verses as I quickly fade into a deep sleep.

The other day I was at my parents' home and I found my cherished box of old journals hiding under my bed. I sat on the floor of my old room for hours and read through the pages of all 20+ journals while laughing, crying, and marveling at God's hand on my life through the years.

Reading through some of the things I wrote in middle and high school made me miss the faith I had back then. I trusted God completely and had such a pure passion for Him. I wanted more than anything to share His love with others. When I first realized my deep love for God as a young teenager, I couldn't get enough of Him. I would sleep with my Bible tight to my chest every night, wanting to soak up all that I could. I beamed with joy when my friends at school would ask me about my faith, and I didn't care about money or possessions or anything (for the most part :).

I know that the core of me still has those same desires. I still love Jesus so much, but I guess my light just feels a litter dimmer now. As I'm becoming more of an adult, my focus on Jesus has been clouded by the need to make money, get a higher education, make plans for the future, etc. These things are not bad, but I have gradually allowed them to replace my first love without even realizing it.

As I read Revelation 2:1-7 tonight, I was convicted of my sin:
"...I know your works, your labor, and your endurance, and that you cannot tolerate evil. You have tested those who call themselves apostles and are not, and you have found them to be liars. You also possess endurance and have tolerated [many things] because of My name, and have not grown weary. But I have this against you: you have abandoned the love [you had] at first. Remember then how far you have fallen; repent, and do the works you did at first. Otherwise, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place- unless you repent..."

How easy it is to go through the motions of serving God simply out of habit rather than out of love for Him. I want to return to my first love...I will return to Him.

I'm tired of pretending to love God more than I actually do. I'm tired of using empty words with no actions to back them up. I'm tired of intending to spend more time with God, but never following through. And I'm tired of depending on my past experiences to define my relationship with God today.

I desire to have a constant, daily, exciting relationship with the Lord. I want to hunger and thirst for His Word. I want to sit at His feet and marvel at His beauty. I want every breath that I take, every word that leaves my lips, and every dream that I have to glorify God. Even if it means giving up my possessions or my comfort or my reputation. I would rather give up everything than abandon my first love.

Father, forgive me for fading into a state of complacency. "Restore the joy of Your salvation to me, and give me a willing spirit." (Ps. 51:12)

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Reality of Rwanda


A place so distant, it hardly seems real to me. I've heard the horror stories of the Rwandan genocide and couldn't eat for days after watching the film "Hotel Rwanda." But still, it all seemed like a terrible, made-up story. Something too horrible and far away for my mind to comprehend.

That was, until yesterday.

Last week, a couple from my church stood up on stage with a young Rwandan boy named Jean Claude and told us his story. Jean Claude was born with a facial deformity. His mother is dead and his father is in prison. He grew up in a village as an orphan. He is now 15 years old, but already dropped out of school because the other children made so much fun of him.

This couple from church had been to Rwanda on several mission trips and was impacted by Jean Claude's story. They worked it out for him to come to America for 3 months to have a surgery to fix his nose and recover before returning to Rwanda. Since Jean Claude does not speak any English, they also brought a young Rwandan pastor, James, to travel with him and be his interpreter.

When I saw them at church on Sunday, I just felt so compelled to hear their stories. So yesterday, I took the two of them to Muir Woods so they could see the famous California Redwood trees. From the moment I met Jean Claude, he completely captured my heart. Though he only knows a few words of English ("okay," "good," "hi," etc.) he has such a sweet spirit about him.

At the beginning of the day, he was very shy, but as time passed (and he realized how silly I am), he loosened up. I told him he was going to be our leader through the trails, so he took it as his responsibility to lead us in the right direction. He would run ahead, look in every direction, then point in the way we should go. He was several steps ahead of us much of the time, but I could hear him just laughing as he looked up at the enormous trees! He couldn't believe how BIG they were! Though he said to James that it would be even better if there were gorillas in the trees :)

I was able to talk to James quite a bit on our hike and his story completely floored me. He is 35, so the genocide is very much a part of his past. Three of his siblings and seven of his step-siblings and step-mother were all killed. He has seen so much death and hatred and injustice. What really amazed me was when he told me that he went back to the village where his family had been killed and befriended those who had killed them. He forgave them and shared the Gospel with them. Many of them accepted Christ. They said they just couldn't understand how he could forgive them when they had done something so terrible to his family.

I had such a wonderful time with James and Jean Claude. When I dropped them off that afternoon, tears began to stream down my face. I can't even really explain why. I guess spending time with them just opened up my eyes to see the realities of the difficult life they face every day in Rwanda.

I have been so blessed, yet I find myself complaining and sulking over pointless things. Seeing the outlook Jean Claude and James have on life was refreshing and inspiring for me. They are both so strong and rely on the Lord with everything within them.

What a blessing it was to spend time with them yesterday and to get a small glimpse of what God is doing in a country on the other side of the world. Rwanda is on my heart today and all the little boys and girls like Jean Claude.

Please be in prayer as he has his first surgery next week.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

The Spiritual Glasses

I still remember the day I got my first pair of glasses. I was in the 8th grade, and though I wasn’t blind, I was starting to have trouble seeing the board in my math class. I could get along just fine without glasses, but anything in the distance was definitely blurry.

I went to the eye doctor and I remember him saying, “Wow, you’ve been missing a lot of cute boys at school!” I had no idea how bad my vision was until he handed me a pair of glasses with my prescription. I was in Walmart and as soon as I put those glasses on, it was as if everything came to life. It felt like the scene in the Wizard of Oz where Dorothy lands in Munchkinland and suddenly, everything goes from black and white to color.

The colors seemed brighter, I could see the features of people’s faces, I could even read signs all the way in the back of the store! I remember saying, “I can’t believe this is what I’ve been missing!”

Once I had seen clearly with those glasses, I refused to take them off. Life was so much more vivid when I could fully see and experience it. How could I return to a vision that was so blurry and unclear after experiencing something so much greater?

Coming to know God is like putting on a pair of glasses for the first time. Life that was once bland, aimless and blurry is suddenly transformed into a rich, fulfilling and vivid adventure. Once you’ve experienced God personally and tasted His goodness, you will never desire to return to your previous life.

Let’s walk daily with our spiritual glasses on, remembering that without Christ, we will miss out on so much!

Thursday, November 3, 2011


"I think I met the Mexican Jesus today!" I exclaimed to my dad on the phone.

Well, not exactly Jesus, and maybe he wasn't really Mexican...but God spoke directly to me through a stranger last week. Let me explain...

So for the past month I've been wrestling through options of what to do after I graduate in May. I had narrowed it down to two really great options. Both would be doing ministry I love. The big difference is that one is very close to my family and the other is very far away. After much prayer, I felt God leading me to the job that is a day's plane ride from the ones I love the most.

I felt a peace about the situation...and still do. But I also realize that there's despair that comes with any decision. Last Wednesday, I was particularly in "the depths of despair" (as Anne Shirley would say). I felt guilty for always choosing to live far away from family and wondered if I had really made the right decision.

So I got off work at 10am and had an hour or so to kill, so I decided to get a cup of coffee. When I got to Starbucks, the line was out the door. I didn't feel like waiting, so I drove around to a local cafe, but of course there was no parking. So I just decided to go to the gas station and get a cheap cup of coffee there.

I started filling my car up with gas and walked inside the old gas station. After walking past the tempting aisle of day-old doughnuts and chewy sprees, I put my $1.39 cup of coffee on the counter and waited for the man working to ring me up.

He was a Hispanic man and was very smiley and friendly. He started some small talk and I told him I went to the seminary right down the road. His eyes lit up and he said, "Oh, so you're a Christian too?!" Knowing that the county I live in is 97% unreached, I was surprised to hear that he accepted Christ a few years ago and is a committed follower. He introduced himself as Juan Carlos.

I didn't say much in our conversation, but he started quoting scripture to me. He knew absolutely nothing about me, but the last thing he said to me was, "It says in Mark that any man who leaves his father, mother, sister or brother for God will be blessed." Then he drew a picture on my receipt. He said, you are down here, with your family and friends. Then he drew and arrow up to God and said, "You need to be up here with God. No one else."

Bam. Smacked me in my face. I'm pretty sure I had to pick my jaw up off the floor before I could mutter a confused, "Uhh...thanks," as I realized that God had just used this man to confirm my decision to move away.

I walked away in awe. God seemed so personal and so tangible that day. He knew that I was doubting my decision and He spoke directly to me in an audible way. It was through Juan Carlos (who's initials just so happen to be J.C. :), a man who I wouldn't have met if the first two coffee shops I went to hadn't been too crowded. Praise God for being real and personal and for continuing to speak to us through unique experiences and conversations.

I have a feeling that whenever I start to doubt my decision again (which I'm sure I will), I'll be able to look back on this day and say, "Oh yeah, remember what the 'Mexican Jesus' said? Okay...I'll start trusting God now."

Oh, and if you're curious about where I'll be moving, here's a little hint:

Sunday, September 11, 2011

The Lord Will Provide

Do you ever have those "God moments" where something happens that's too crazy to merely be coincidence?

Last night I was driving back to school with a good friend of mine and she said that the day before, a passage of scripture had come to her mind and she felt like the Lord was impressing it upon her to share it with me. I was eager to hear it.

She opened her Bible to Genesis 22 and began to read the story of Abraham and Isaac. This is one of those stories everyone has grown up hearing. I listened intently to see what God was trying to teach me. I left the conversation encouraged, but still not knowing exactly why God wanted me to hear that passage.

I came into my room and immediately began to prepare my Sunday School lesson for the next day. I began by praying, then opened up the lesson guide. To my dismay, it said, "Turn to Genesis 22:1-18)...the story of Abraham and Isaac!

I smiled, but I wasn't too surprised. God seems to always have a way of doing things like this when He is trying to get my attention.

So this time as I read the story, I tried my hardest to really focus and put myself in Abraham's shoes. And y'all...the story completely came to life!

For those of you who may not be familiar with the Bible, the basic story of Abraham and Isaac is this: Abraham and his wife Sarah had prayed and waited for a child for so many years. When Abraham was 100, God blessed him with his son, Isaac. But then God tests Abraham and tells him to sacrifice his son and offer him as a burnt offering.

Hold up. Sacrifice his only son? The one he had waited his whole life for? And now Abraham is just supposed to kill him?!

Instead of reacting in the way I just did, Abraham doesn't question God at all. He gets up early in the morning and takes young Isaac with him up the mountain. I imagine it was a somber, quiet walk. He took the wood and placed it over his boy.

Isaac says, "Father, the fire and wood are here, but where is the lamb for the burnt offering?"

Abraham replied, "God Himself will provide the lamb for the burnt offering, my son." He had full confidence that God would provide.

Now, I don't have any children and can't even imagine how much a father must love his son. But as I was reading this passage, I replaced Isaac with someone I love very dearly. I tried to visualize myself in Abraham's place, holding a knife over my little brother (sorry Tate, I promise I love you). The image was too terrifying for me to dwell on for longer than a few seconds. But I got an idea of how difficult and heart-breaking it must have been for Abraham to raise up that knife.

Though I had heard the story so many times, the suspense made it difficult for me to breathe as I read what came next. Just as Abraham was about to slaughter Isaac, an Angel of the LORD called out to him. He told him not to lay a hand on the boy for "now I know that you fear God, since you have not withheld your only son from Me." At this point, Abraham saw a ram in the bushes and went and offered it in place of his son.

Can you imagine the relief he must have felt?

Some people may think it was cruel of God to ask Abraham to do such a terrible thing. But God never intended for Isaac to even have a scratch on his body. He simply wanted to test Abraham's faith to see if he would be the one to be the father of many nations. He tested him by seeing if Abraham was willing to give up THE most important thing in his life.

...and he was. I wish I could have faith like that!

I love that after God provided the ram, Abraham named the place "The LORD Will Provide." He wanted people who came to that mountain to be reminded of the Lord's faithfulness.

How cool is it that the God who was faithful to provide for Abraham is the same God who is always faithful to me? I tried to think of a time that God had not provided for me...and I couldn't think of one! No matter how discouraged I get sometimes, He always, always, always provides.

And He will provide for you too. Are we willing to step out in faith?

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Me? Homesick?

I've never really been the type to get homesick.

For as long as I can remember, I've had an adventurous spirit that always seemed to take me to far-away places.

You know how some girls get giddy with excitement when they walk into a store with pretty shoes and cute accessories? Yeah, I've never really experienced that, but that's how I feel when I have a plane ticket in my hands. Sometimes I almost think I can hear the pages of my passport scream, "Stamp me! Stamp MEEE!"

I had a light-up globe in my room at home and sometimes I'd look at it at night and just imagine what it must be like in India and Zimbabwe and Lebanon, and other far-off places. The thought of traveling and experiencing the world was exhilarating to me.

Because of my dad's job (which involves a lot of travel), I was able to travel a good bit as a kid. Each time I went overseas, I felt like I was in my element. Some people want to stay in nice hotels and have a luxurious vacation, but I loved the excitement of living like a local.

Some of my fondest memories are of digging wells in hot, humid Sri Lanka. Each day I'd come back looking like I had taken a mud bath. After making sure there were no snakes or spiders in the shower, I'd get clean in the freezing water and sit on the porch of our bungalow with a cup of tea, soaking up the simplicity of life over there. I. LOVED. it.

Through all of my travels and time away from home, I never really experienced being homesick. I missed my family, of course, but I knew they would always be at home and never really thought twice about leaving.

But for some reason, at the age of 24, I feel a strange longing for home. I can't even believe I just wrote that! You'd think that I would have felt this when I was a 6-year-old kid on an airplane all by myself. But nope, crazy me has it all backwards and had a delayed reaction I suppose.

I think that I'm beginning to see the realistic side of living far away from home, while it used to just seem romantic and exotic. Going on a short-term trip is one thing, but missing out on holidays, and graduations and weddings...that's when it starts to hurt. And not even just the big stuff. I miss the simple things about being at home with my family. Just going on walks and sitting around the dinner table and hanging out with my friends.

When Jesus called the disciples, he said, "Come, follow me, and I will make you fishers of men." Without hesitation, they dropped their nets and immediately followed him. They didn't have time to say goodbye to their families or anything. They dropped everything to follow Him.

The message of the Gospel is becoming much more real to me now that I'm living on the opposite side of the continent. I'm understanding the weight of the sacrifice it takes to follow Christ to the ends of the earth. It doesn't just mean going on a fun trip and getting a stamp in my passport. It means giving up time with the ones I love the most. So am I really willing to do this?

There was a day last week when all I wanted to do was get in my car and just start driving home. It's tough to be alone, especially when I can't clearly see how God is using me or where He is leading me. BUT- I know God is faithful and He loves each one of us more than we can even begin to fathom. He loves me. He loves me. HE loves ME.

Silly me for forgetting that.

When I answered the call to missions as a young teenager, I may not have fully understood what that meant, but I don't doubt that God really was calling me. So even though it's tough and confusing and all I want to do is go home, I know I need to persevere.

God is faithful. He always has been and I know He will be this time too.

How have you experienced His faithfulness?

Monday, April 25, 2011

Memories of Lori

Three years ago today, one of my best friends went to be with Jesus. I wrote this collection of memories of Lori after she died to give to her family. It's long, but hopefully after reading you'll understand why I miss my dear friend so much.

I can still remember the very first time I met Lori. It was January 5, 2003, and I was in the choir room at Highland practicing with the youth choir. We were in the middle of one of our songs and the door opened and this beautiful girl with blonde hair and sparkling eyes walked in. I knew instantly that whoever she was, I wanted to be her friend. My mom and I had to slip out early that night so I wasn’t formally introduced to her, but while we were walking down the hallway I asked my mom who that girl was. She told me that we had just had a new family move into the missionary residence and that was their youngest daughter. I was thrilled to know that for a short while, I would have a new friend at Highland.

The next time I saw Lori we formally met each other and I was so intrigued by this girl who had grown up in Africa! She seemed so cool to me. A year older, a perfect smile, and a cute and bubbly personality. Not long after that first encounter with Lori I asked my parents if we could please invite the Morrisons over to our house. They said of course, they were wanting to do that anyway. So one night Uncle Charles, Aunt Kaye and Lori came over. I can’t remember if it was for dinner, or just to visit, but I know that Lori and I let the adults talk downstairs while she came up to my room. I remember we laid down on my bed and had our first real talk. It was like we instantly became close friends. She brought a photo album and showed me pictures of her family and her friends in Ivory Coast. We talked about everything from our families to the kind of music we like to boys. We laughed so much that night and I was so sad when she had to go home.

I didn’t have much time with Lori because in May she had to move back to Africa, but in the 5 months that I knew her, we became so close it seemed that I had known her my whole life. We had many sleepovers and hung out as much as possible. I remember one specific time when Lori and her parents came by the house because they wanted to introduce me to Lori’s older brother Marc. Lori had shown me his picture and I thought he was so cute and she promised that she would introduce me to him! When he walked in the door I’m sure my face turned all red and Lori just gave me this silly grin that screamed “Told ya so!” I was so embarrassed but Lori thought it was hilarious that I had a crush on her big brother!

For Lori’s 17th birthday, the youth at Highland decided to throw her a surprise party. I was so excited about this! I went to Target and bought her all kinds of stuff- especially lip gloss- she loved that stuff! All of the youth sat back in one of the Sunday school classrooms with the lights turned off. We were trying to keep from giggling so she wouldn’t hear us as she walked down the hallway. When she opened the door we turned on the lights and yelled “Surprise!” Lori’s face was priceless. She got all red and started crying, but she was laughing at the same time! Everyone had bought her presents- mostly stuff to take back to Africa with her. Though Lori was only in our youth group for a short time, she made such an impression on everyone there and we all grew to love her.

When it came time for Lori to go back to Africa in the end of May of that year, I was devastated. My friend whom I had grown to love so much was leaving for an entire year! I didn’t know what I was going to do without her! On my last day with her, Marc took us to the mall. I think Lori had to get some last minute items for the trip. We were all a little down that day, knowing that goodbye was quickly approaching. We got back to my house, took a picture on the couch together and then stood up to hug each other and say goodbye. I hugged her so tight and tears instantly began to pour down my face. I told her how much I was going to miss her and she assured me the year would go by fast and we promised to e-mail each other as often as possible. As soon as she walked out the door I ran up to my room and collapsed on my bed and just sobbed. A year seemed like such a long time to me at that point and I couldn’t imagine not seeing Lori for that long.

The year did go by somewhat fast though. Lori and I kept in touch through e-mails. She told me secrets about boys that I wasn’t allowed to share with anyone else. I felt so important to be worthy of hearing her secrets! She told me about her school in Senegal and how she really liked it, but missed her school in Ivory Coast. She told me she was starting to look into colleges and I asked her to please come to Campbell because I knew that’s where I wanted to go. She told me funny stories and things she was struggling with. I did the same for her. Though we lived thousands of miles away, I think that the year we spent apart only brought us closer together.

When Lori came back to North Carolina in the summer of 2004 I absolutely could not wait to see her. After a whole year apart, I was finally reunited with one of my best friends! We were so happy to see each other that day! We laughed and told stories and she showed me videos from her graduation. I couldn’t stop smiling because my friend was back for the whole summer!

We got together as much as we could that summer. One funny memory I have is of us trying to learn the VBS dance moves. My mom had a video of this funny man dancing, so Lori my mom and I all spread out in my living room and danced along with this strange man. It was a Japanese themed VBS and the dance moves were hilarious. We were laughing SO hard at each other and couldn’t even sing because we were laughing so much! Lori helped out at VBS that year and the two of us taught the second grade class together. Though VBS only lasted 3 hours a day, Lori and I would just look at each other like “When will this day be over??” Those kids wore us out! But we had a blast singing, dancing, and telling Bible stories.

In June Lori came to the beach with my family for several days. Some friends of ours have this huge beach house down in Beaufort and I was so excited to take Lori with us. The whole 3 hour drive down to the beach was filled with laughter- mostly my mom and I laughing at Lori’s hilarious stories- she always found something to talk about! And at one point my mom needed something from out of the trunk and Lori was in the back seat, so she pulled down the seat and crawled into the trunk while we were riding, looking for whatever it was. All I could see was Lori’s back side sticking out and I was afraid she was going to get stuck! After a few minutes of searching she finally came out with the item in hand and said, “Phew!!”

We had such a blast that week. We stayed in this really fun bedroom with all these bright colors and we had a big bathroom to ourselves, plus a huge front porch with white rocking chairs. We went swimming and kayaking, and laid out on the deck. We stayed up late talking- catching up on the whole years worth of girl talk we had missed. We explored Beaufort- walked around downtown and took a bike ride one day. I have never been much of a bike rider, so why we thought it would be a good idea to ride bikes down the busy sidewalks is still a mystery to me. So I was leading the pack and Lori was riding right behind me. At one point I was riding through a crowd and I got really nervous, so I flung my foot over the bike and nearly kicked a woman passing by. I looked back at Lori with a “oopsies” look and Lori could barely ride because she was laughing so hard. She said that woman gave me the meanest look ever! We pulled around the corner, hopped off of our bikes and laughed and laughed!

Lori was so sweet to my whole family. Some of my friends don’t really take an interest in getting to know my brothers, but Lori always did. She would tease Taylor just like he was her little brother and she always treated Nathan like a friend. My whole family adored Lori and she felt just like one of us- like the sister I always wanted but never had.

When we were at the beach, we decided to be really girly, so we went to the grocery store and bought facial masks and a manicure set. She did my nails and we put on the bright green masks, but Lori and I forced Taylor to do it with us. He was about 11 at the time and he agreed to do it. I have a picture of me, Lori and Taylor sitting down with our masks and cucumbers over our eyes!

Before I knew it, the summer was over and it was time to tell Lori goodbye once again. Lori was headed off to her freshman year at Campbellsville University in Kentucky. I was sad to see her go again, but at least this time we would be in the same country! It was easier for us to keep in touch while she was in Kentucky. We chatted regularly on the phone and online and as soon as she came home for Christmas break I was there at her house hearing all about her first semester at college. I was so excited for Lori- she was starting this new independent part of her life and she seemed all grown up. She was meeting new people and learning new things. On Christmas Eve, Lori and Uncle Charles came with my family to do a mission project in Grifton, NC. We put insulation in a house. Lori and I wore these big white body suits and thought they were ridiculously funny. We felt so cool doing construction and we had a blast serving together!

When she came to NC the summer after her freshman year, I went to her house in Coats to spend the night and she gave me advice before I started college myself. She encouraged me to stay strong in the Lord and to meet as many people as possible.

One thing I loved about Lori is how honest she was. When she was struggling with a sin, she didn’t try to cover it up. In fact, she confessed it to people- and that’s what we’re supposed to do! I tend to hide it and pretend that it doesn’t exist, but not Lori. The Lori people saw was the real Lori. She was open about her struggles and her weaknesses and she wanted to use those things to help others in their walk with the Lord and hopefully prevent them from making the same mistakes that she did. I always admired this about her and still hope that I can be more like that one day.

When I started my freshman year at Campbell, I talked to Lori as much as our busy schedules allowed. Every once in a while I would talk to her on MSN and she would use her webcam to show me her room. Even watching her on my computer made me feel like we were together. Sometimes she’d just play a cd and we’d listen to it together and not even say a word. Lori loved music and we really wanted to sing a duet together. We wanted to find the perfect song. We were sure that with her soprano voice and my alto voice, we could be a hit! Lori had such a beautiful voice and I loved to watch her praise the Lord. I think she was always a little confused about why most Americans are so “stiff” when they worship. Lori wasn’t afraid to sing at the top of her lungs and lift up her hands and maybe even dance a little! Her worship was pure and genuine and she was so sincere when she talked to the Lord.

While we were in college, I didn’t get to see Lori very often, but I don’t think that hurt our friendship. I’d always see her when she came to NC for a visit. She came to Campbell two times to visit and I enjoyed showing her around my campus and proudly introducing her to all of my friends.

I regret not spending more time with Lori. At one point we thought we might work at Mundo Vista together, but I ended up taking a summer missions position in Sri Lanka. Lori had a blast working at Mundo though and became great friends with the other counselors. I know God called us in different directions, but part of me craves to have that summer back so I could spend those two and a half months with her.

The last time I talked to Lori was on April 19th, 2008. She called and left a message saying that she was thinking of me and wanted to see how I was doing. She said I didn’t have to call her back or anything, but she had some free time and just thought she’d touch base with me. I called her back that night and we talked for a while. I hadn’t talked to her on the phone in several months and we had a lot to catch up on. She told me about her recent trip to Africa and how she was back in Campbellsville trying to find a job. She was frustrated because she couldn’t do much without her masters in Social work and she really didn’t want to go back to school…I don’t blame her! She said she was ready for some man to come and marry her so he could take care of her and she wouldn’t have to worry about paying the bills! Lori and I used to always talk about getting married one day and how it seemed like all the good guys were taken. I’m sure Lori could have had any guy in the world, but they were all probably way too scared to ask her.

She said she had no idea what she was going to do next. Her friends were all still in school and she felt kind of distanced from them because they were in different stages of life. She was considering going overseas for a year to teach English, but wasn’t sure if that would work out. She loved helping people and was so compassionate. Whatever she ended up doing, she wanted to help others. She said she hated living so far away from her nieces and nephews while they were growing up. She adored them so much, like she adored the rest of her family.

She told me she had been sick for a while, but she didn’t make a big deal of it. She always brought the conversation back to me and asked how I had been, how my family was doing. Lori was so concerned about other people and even though she was sick, she didn’t spend time complaining about it.

I told her I was coming to Campbellsville May 18-21 for training for a camp and she was so excited. It had been over a year since I saw her last and I was so excited to see her in a few weeks! We giggled and talked about how fun it would be to be reunited, but this time it would be in Kentucky! She said she would make sure that she was there on those dates so we could be sure and hang out.

We talked about how the thing we love about our friendship is that we can go months without talking, but when we do talk, we just pick up right where we left off and it’s like no time has passed at all. She is one of the few friends I have who remained constant throughout time and distance. For the majority of my friendship with Lori we were not together physically, but we felt just as close as ever. She was a true life-long friend…one that would have for sure been in my wedding one day!

As the conversation ended that night we were still excited about seeing each other soon.

“I’ll keep those dates open,” she said.

“I can’t wait to see you Lori!”

“Me too, it’s been too long! I hope you have a good night, Meredith!”

“You too, Lori, and I hope you feel better soon!”

“Thanks, me too! Bye! Love you!”

“Love you too! Bye.”

If I had known that would be the last time I would hear her voice I would have never hung up that telephone. I would have talked to her for hours and days and told her how much I appreciate her friendship and what an amazing young woman she is. But I didn’t know.

My parents called me on April 26th and told me the terrible news about my dear friend. She died unexpectedly during the night. I can’t describe the way I felt at that moment. I was sitting outside studying in the middle of the academic circle. It was a beautiful day, but suddenly everything started spinning. I felt sick to my stomach and couldn’t speak, couldn’t move, couldn’t do anything. For several hours I couldn’t feel anything. It was like all of the emotion had left my body and I was left feeling like I was in a terrible nightmare. I called Lori’s cell phone and as it rang I prayed that she would answer. I just knew it had to be a misunderstanding. She couldn’t really be gone.

Throughout the next day the reality began to sink in and that’s when the overwhelming grief came. I cried until I had no energy left in my body. I looked back over our old e-mails and in my mind I replayed all of the memories I had with Lori. I’ve never lost someone this close to me before and it was difficult to know how to even begin to handle it. On top of the sadness I was feeling, I was even more overcome with sorrow for the Morrison family. Lori adored her family so much and was so close to them. My heart went out to Uncle Charles and Aunt Kaye and Angela, Mary, Jeff and Marc. I cannot imagine the amount of pain and grief they are experiencing and I hurt for them all so much.

It’s hard to look on the bright side of a situation like this. It seems so unfair and so wrong. 22-year-old girls are not supposed to die like this. Not when they are loving and compassionate and kind and full of life. But I can’t change what happened. It is so wonderful to have the assurance that Lori is with Jesus now. I can’t grieve for her because she is so happy now! I can just imagine Lori up in Heaven right now. She’s probably sitting on Jesus’ lap staring at Him in awe. I bet she’s dancing and singing her heart out up there, completely satisfied and care-free. She doesn’t have to worry about her future anymore. No more worries about being jobless and all the good men being taken. She is at home. I guess I’m a little jealous of her. I can’t wait to see her again. I am going to miss her so much. Maybe God will put our mansions right next to each other so we can still have sleepovers!

Lori Anne Morrison was an absolutely beautiful young woman. She touched my life in a special way and I treasure the memories and the friendship that I shared with her. Lori touched so many lives- people all over the world were impacted by her big smile and her friendly personality. I will miss her dearly and I will never ever forget her and the legacy of love she left on this earth.

Sunday, April 3, 2011


The other morning, I had to be in San Francisco super early, so on the way back I pulled off at a look-out point by the Golden Gate bridge to watch the sunrise. I hopped out of the car with my cup of coffee, grabbed my Bible, and sat on the ledge in anticipation of witnessing the beginning of a new day. Though I’m not usually a morning person by any means, sunrises will almost always get me out of bed. My heart was still that morning
and I had a strange sense of peace as I sat out there all alone.

As the sun began to rise, I prayed for that city. For my city (still getting used to saying that). I was somewhat overwhelmed when I looked at the tall buildings and thought of the hundreds of thousands of people living there- 97% of whom don’t know Jesus. My eyes filled up with tears as I begged God to revive this place. As I was praying, I realized that though I was praying for revival, I wasn’t really believing it was possible. I mean, we’re talking about San Francisco- one of the most “pagan” cities in the world. How could this sinful place ever be radically transformed by the Gospel? But despite my doubts, I continued to pray. I know in my heart that with God all things are possible and that he really does have the power to do the impossible, even when I can’t wrap my mind around it.

Then my prayer shifted to Japan. We hear about it on the news, but then we go about our normal lives. But for those people, every day is still a struggle to survive. A dear friend of mine who is studying in the States is from Fukushima, which is close to the nuclear power plants. She is terribly worried for her family and has asked for prayer for them and for her country. Sometimes I don’t know what to pray in situations like that, so I opened my Bible and began flipping through the Psalms. I ended up in Psalm 46 and was shook by the words I read:

"God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging. There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God, the holy place where the Most High dwells. God is within her, she will not fall; God will help her at break of day. Nations are in uproar, kingdoms fall; he lifts his voice, the earth melts." (v. 1-6)

It was one of those moments where I could sense the Lord's presence so intimately. I was reminded that even when I freak out about life and even when there are wars and earthquakes and all kinds of crazy things that I can't understand, God is our refuge. He's on our side and will fight for us.

My heart was heavy as I felt the weight of the lost city I was looking at, and the suffering country a few thousand miles across the water. I struggled with how God could sit back and allow these disasters to happen and how He could let an entire city perish without knowing Him. But as I lifted up my cries to God, I felt like He was saying, “Trust me.” Even though I was overwhelmed and confused and anxious, I was flooded with peace as I was reminded of God’s faithfulness. He sees the big picture. He has a good plan. I need to trust Him more. I want to truly take refuge in Him.

I wish I had mornings like that more often. It wasn't a "feel-good" quiet time or anything like that, but I feel like I truly encountered God that morning. I didn't get answers to all of the questions I asked, but as I drove back to school, I knew without a doubt that God had heard my prayers and that He will answer them in His own time. Until then, I've got to take refuge in Him in these crazy times.

Monday, February 28, 2011

Then and Now

Two years ago, I was in Mill Valley, CA visiting this seminary called Golden Gate. I was sitting on this white couch downstairs in the girls dorm and I wrote this blog.

Two years later, I'm in Mill Valley, CA and I'm in my second semester at Golden Gate Seminary. I'm sitting on that same white couch downstairs in the girls dorm and I just had a serious case of deja vu.

It's kinda crazy to think about how much things have changed since that night two years ago.

Then I was a 21-year-old college senior, excited, but very uncertain about the future.

Now I'm a 23-year-old young adult, learning to accept the fact that I may never be certain about the future...but that's okay.

I remember the excitement I felt that night in 2009. The thought of moving to California and going to Golden Gate seemed so far off.

But here I am, living in Mill Valley, preparing for a life of missions and ministry.

Sometimes I just have to take time out of my busy schedule to stop and remember what I'm doing with my life and how I got here. I can see how God's hand has guided me and I am so grateful.

I have been learning so much since I came to seminary. Yes, I'm getting some "head knowledge," but more than that, I guess I'm just learning more of what it means to truly trust God and to be content in where I am.

I tend to stress out about the future sometimes, but I'm slowly learning to follow the words of Jim Elliot when he said, "Wherever you are, be all there."

I have no idea where I'll be in another two years, but for now I'm just gonna sit on this white couch in the girls dorm at that seminary called Golden Gate and make the most of the time I have here.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Adventures in Malaysia

As the airplane made its final descent into the Kuala Lumpur airport, I excitedly lifted the window shade and peered down into the green forest of palm trees a thousand feet beneath me. The land looked lush and beautiful, just as I had expected. For years, Malaysia had been one of the top countries I wanted to visit and finally, my dream had come true. My eyes filled with tears as I took a deep breath and soaked in the thankfulness of being there, along with the anticipation of what was about to take place over the next two weeks.

I was coming to Malaysia to take a couple of classes about Urban Ministry through Golden Gate seminary. But my desire to go to Malaysia and passion for its people took root many years before I was a seminary student. In the late 1950s, my grandparents first came to Malaysia as missionaries. They served there for 10 years and worked among the Tamil speaking Indians. Malaysia is where my dad spent his childhood; so I’ve always felt like part of my heritage is in Malaysia. Though I was thousands of miles away from home, I felt strangely connected to my family as I looked out of my little window and imagined my dad landing on the same runway when he was just a little boy.

I snapped back into reality as the plane came to an abrupt landing and I stepped foot into the hot, humid air. As I made my way through the crowded streets of Kuala Lumpur, I encountered people from all different cultural backgrounds. Not only did I notice the three main people groups of Malaysia (Malay, Chinese and Indian), but I also saw people from Africa, the Middle East, Europe… nearly the whole globe seemed to be represented in this urban city.

The scent of incense weaved in and out of the air while mixing with the smells of sizzling meat from road-side stands and diesel fuel from the busy roads. I heard voices all around me- I couldn’t distinguish the difference between the Tamil, Chinese and Malay languages. They all seemed to blend together into a conglomeration of syllables that were foreign to me. Colorful fabrics were draped along the walls of small shops. The vendors beckoned me to “come have a look.”

I felt like I was in a wonderful dream, only it was real! I was really making my way through the colorful, crowded, chaotic, cultural streets of Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. And my journey had only just begun! Over the next two weeks, I would have many eye-opening experiences and be reunited with some of my dearest friends from college. I would learn things through our class activities that I would never learn in a classroom. My eyes would be opened to ways that God is working in cities all around the world and I would be exposed to ways that God could potentially use me in the future. Adventure was beckoning me, and I couldn’t contain my excitement.

Over the course of my trip, my eyes were opened to see the rich, unique culture of the Malaysian people. In my classes, I learned about their customs, their religions, and their lifestyles. As a class exercise one day, we sat at separate tables at a road-side outdoor restaurant. Our task was to observe the people for an hour. We were to record what they looked like (What were they wearing? What language were they speaking? What noises did we hear? What did it smell like?).

So many times I am in such a hurry that I rarely take the time to stop and observe those around me. I walk past people every day without even looking at them. But this particular day, I looked deeply into those people. So much so that I began to feel like I knew them personally. I watched as Chinese women shopped for fruits and vegetables in the market and Indian men cooked roti canai at the restaurant. I saw people offer fruits and candies at the Buddhist temple and my heart ached because they didn’t know the truth of Jesus. Though this wasn’t necessarily a “mission trip,” God was still working in my heart and giving me a passion for his people.

Sometimes when I go on trips, I enjoy myself, but by the time the 10-days is up, I’m ready to come home. But every now and then, I am deeply touched by a place and its people. This happened in Sri Lanka and again in Hawaii. And now I can say Malaysia impacted me in the same way. I guess it’s just one of those places where I feel like I “fit.” I felt totally comfortable there and as I was walking through a busy street in the city one day I thought to myself (or maybe God nudged me), “I could totally live here.”

I can’t predict the future. And I have no idea what God may have in store for me. But if He called me to live in Malaysia, or a place like Malaysia, I would be more than willing to go. My heart was singing the whole time I was there. As I imagined my grandparents serving in that same place decades before, I was filled with awe and thankfulness. God is so faithful. How cool it is that I was able to go to the same place and share the same passion for its people that my grandparents had.

Another highlight of the trip was being reunited with my Malaysian friends who graduated from Campbell. In 2005, when I first arrived at Campbell, I went to the International Student Office and told them that I wanted to meet international students. The first students that I met were five girls from Malaysia. We began a friendship that year that has continued until today. Each year after that, exchange students would come to Campbell and I would always be excited to meet them. By the time I graduated, I had about 20 friends from Malaysia who had come to Campbell. Many of them live in the states now, but I was fortunate to be able to meet up with several of them on my trip.

Again, I was reminded of God’s faithfulness. When I said goodbye to these friends 3 or 4 years ago, I wondered if I would ever see them again. But here I was, years later, in their home country, sharing a meal with them. And now I was the international student! We sat around the table late at night, laughing and reminiscing on our memories from our time at Campbell. We talked about the first time I met each of them, and I’m just surprised I didn’t scare anyone off! One guy said, “You just showed up in my apartment my very first morning in America and I had no idea who you were but you were so excited.” Another girl said, “I was in a car and you ran after me and introduced yourself because you knew I was Malaysian.” Thank goodness they weren’t too afraid of this crazy American girl!

My good friend Jamie is from Malaysia and though she’s still in North Carolina, I was able to spend a day with her family. I had talked to them before and heard all about them for years, but had never met them. It was such a joy to go to Jamie’s hometown and sit in her house with her family. Her dad brought out his guitar and as we sang praise and worship songs, my eyes filled up with tears. I was flooded with memories of my time at Campbell with my sweet Malaysian friends. Part of my heart ached to go back to that time when we were all together. But then another part of me was just extremely joyful and thankful for how God has been at work in all of our lives over the past few years. Being in Malaysia was a great reminder that even though my friends are scattered all over the world, God is just as real over there as He is in America. He’s working all the time, even when I can’t see it. But I’m so thankful that for those two weeks in Malaysia, He allowed me to see a small glimpse of His plan for my dear friends there. What an incredible journey.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Real life Tower of Terror

The Tower of Terror is one of my favorite rides at Disney World. The ride takes place in an elevator in a haunted hotel. Once you get up to the 13th story, the doors open up, revealing to the passengers the height of which they are about to fall. Then without warning, the elevator drops. Everyone screams as their stomachs go through the roof. But after a few seconds, the ride is over. No one is actually ‘terrorized” by the experience, and most walk away thrilled rather than traumatized. It’s a fun ride.

I learned the other day, however- that real life elevator mishaps are not so thrilling. Though it’s a comical story to tell now, I was scared out of my mind at the time. It all started when I went with my class to the Kuala Lumpur communication tower in Malaysia. This is the 5th largest communication tower in the world. Its 260+ floors offer an impressive (yet overpriced) view of the city.

Our elevator ride up the tower was great and took exactly 58 seconds. After spending some time up top, Dr. Pate, Michael, Bekah, Alan and I got on the elevator along with 3 Chinese Malaysians. It was 3:00 in the afternoon. As the doors closed we were all laughing and Alan joked about how he was going to jump and make the elevator stop. We went down, down, down, until all of the sudden we heard what sounded like emergency breaks. “Boom! Boom! Boom!” The elevator shook and I gripped the handle as it came to a sudden, unexpected stop. We were all still laughing and I was having a flashback of my childhood memories at Disney World.

As the laughter died down, reality began to sink in. The doors were still closed, there was no “ding” to tell us we had arrived at the ground level, and worst of all- there was no airflow. We hit the intercom button several times and finally a voice came through the speakers.

Yes! A connection to the outside world! Unfortunately that connection was not very comforting or helpful. In broken English, he asked how many people were in the elevator and how many of us were foreigners. I’m still not really sure why that mattered. Do they rescue one nationality more quickly than another? We told him there were 8 of us and 5 were American. The voice told us “Rescue coming” and then disappeared, leaving us alone in our confined little box.

At this point, we’re in high spirits thinking that if rescue is coming, it will be soon. But as minute after minute ticks away, my imagination gets the worst of me and I begin to picture every scenario that could take place. We realize that there are no vents in the elevator and it is HOT. Very hot. In my mind I’m thinking “There are eight of us in this confined space. We are going to use up all of the air and I’m going to suffocate!”

Sometimes I think about the way I want to go out. If I don’t die in my sleep, I guess I’d at least like to go out while doing something admirable or exciting. Suffocating in an elevator is not the way I imagined leaving the earth at the age of 23. Everyone is still talking and laughing. I, on the other hand, am sitting on the floor, knees glued to my chest, eyes squeezed shut, all the while thinking, “They need to stop laughing…they are using up valuable oxygen and we need to conserve it!” (pretty sure it doesn’t even work like that…but still).

I start wondering how they are going to get my body all the way back to America. Should I scribble a farewell not to my loved ones on the back of my receipt? It doesn’t help that my jokester professor is recording a message to his sons on his flip. He starts out by saying, “Boys, if you’re watching this alone, that probably means it ended up poorly for all of us.” Awesome. Thanks for the encouragement, Dr. Pate.

About 30 minutes have passed now and there’s still no sign of rescue. I’m really sweating now, but I’m trying to save the last few gulps of water I have in my water bottle in case times get worse. Someone makes the comment, “Do you think we’re on a Malaysian game show?” Maybe they will open up the doors and have a camera crew filming us, waiting to see how we interacted as a team. If only it was a joke. We put our brains together and think that there must be a way to crawl out of the top. I mean, that’s how they do it on the movies, right? But alas, there’s no secret escape up top. We are closed in from every angle. At about 3:35, Michael has the brilliant idea none of us had thought of before. We can manually push the door open! Without much effort, the door opens and my spirits soar. It doesn’t matter that we are against a concrete wall and still have no way of getting out…we now have airflow!

I make a comment that now the worst case scenario is that we’re trapped a few more hours, but now at least they could lower us some water in through the door. Dr. Pate bites his tongue thinking that there are much worse scenarios (aka plummeting to our deaths- I didn’t think about that one).

The voice enters the box we’ve come to call “the sauna” again. It’s been over an hour now. To our surprise, instead of giving us an update, asks again, “How many people are in the elevator?” Seriously? Did you forget this already? And why does it matter? Or is he checking to see if anyone has died since he last checked in on us? We are getting frustrated with the voice now. He says, “Rescue coming from outside.” He tells us we need to keep the door closed. Dr. Pate informs the voice that if the door is closed we can’t breathe and we are going to die. In hopes of speeding up the process he adds, “We have four ladies lying on the ground fainting. You need to hurry.” I cup my hand over my mouth so the voice won’t hear me laughing at my professor’s exaggeration.

After an hour and a half, I start looking for entertainment. Bekah and I play a few rounds of tic-tac-toe. We get to know our Chinese neighbors (Yap, Tan and May). I’m trying to do anything to get my mind off of the obvious. I’m no longer worried about suffocating. Now my mind is on the more pressing matter…the fact that I most definitely have got to go to the bathroom.

You know, through my travels, I’ve had some unique bathroom experiences. In China, I used a hole in the ground with no stalls separating me from the strangers beside me. In Sri Lanka, it was a wooden shack on the side of the road with mud and bugs. Either one of those options now seemed great compared to the predicament I was in. Not only was I in mixed company, I was also in a very confined space.

I began weighing my options. “Maybe if I move around a lot, I can sweat it all off.” Not likely. I suppose I could use my water bottle- but that would mean sacrificing the sacred final drops of water- not sure I want to do that. Then I had the most brilliant idea of all…the shaft! I was already sitting closest to the door, so if I told everyone to turn the other way, I could position myself directly over the shaft and hope that the inside of the elevator stayed clean. At least I was wearing a skirt.

I’m already preparing myself for the utter humiliation that I’m about to experience when, as if from heaven, we move an inch down. Everyone starts cheering! The voice was right- after 2 hours and 15 minutes, rescue had finally come. Slowly but surely, we are lowered down inch by inch. As I peer down the shaft I still see nothing but concrete. But then, I see it- an eyeball looking up at me from a hole in the wall! It was the most beautiful eye ball I had ever seen. It represented hope and freedom.

Soon we saw light coming in from the 4th floor and heard clapping and cheering. They lowered us until we had enough room to jump out of the elevator into safety. I have never been so relieved in my life. It was like waking up from a really terrible nightmare.

Everyone was laughing and hugging each other. They greeted us with bottles of water. I raced to the bathroom before I could do anything else and kept thanking Jesus for getting me out of that trap! Once my bladder was relieved, I could truly join the celebration. I took deep breaths- appreciating the endless supply of fresh air around me.

They treated us to smoothies and gave us a full refund. They also said we could go up for free the next time we came back. I smiled and thanked them, but was really thinking, “Now way, Jose! I have no desire to ever go up that tube of death again!” The view from the bottom will be just fine for me. I think I’ll stay on the ground where there is plenty of life’s 3 essentials: Water, Oxygen, and toilets.