Tuesday, March 22, 2016

{{the traveling scrapbook continues...}}

I'm currently sitting in the Philadelphia airport. I've been traveling since about ten this morning, with a few more hours ago. This adventure is a longer one, a whole week in Dallas, plus a few days vacation. Right now, I'm working part-time for Compassion International, and I travel just about every other week visiting different stops on the Compassion Experience Change Tour and helping with Compassion Sunday events. It's an amazing job...and definitely not what I thought I'd be doing if you'd asked me this time last year.

from my last gig in Chattanooga, TN

When I flew away from Denver for the last time exactly seven months ago today, I really had no idea what I was going to do. I had no plans, nothing lined up, and only about a day to process the fact that I would be living at home again indefinitely, till I was actually there.

My heart was tired, and my soul needed a breather. I basically slept for two months straight as I adjusted from the fast paced, hectic life of a tour schedule to the quiet life at home. And honestly, I'm still adjusting. I still wake up in the middle of the night looking for my girls, I'm not used to having my own room, and I'm basically either the best or worst house guest ever since whenever I spend the night in someone else's house, I switch into "host home mode" - which can either be super helpful or super weird. Ha. 

I had to process a lot. I spent soooo much time with Jesus...because I really didn't have anyone else to turn to with the burdens that were weighing on my soul. I had to make some pretty big decisions almost right away when a job in Europe came available...and those weeks of interviews, and ultimately having to decide by myself whether I was going to go or not drew me closer to the Father's heart than I've ever been before.

One opportunity I *did* say yes to was the assistant coach of our public city high school swim team for the winter season. And while it was such a learning curve and pushed me beyond what I thought I was capable of, I was back on the pool deck, coaching my favorite sport, and I'm so ridiculously thankful I said yes. Those twenty-seven kids....*shakes head*. I don't even have to words to describe them. Except that even with all their drama and attitude and excuses, they're some of my favorite kids I've ever met and I miss them every day. Beyond teaching me self-control, patience, and how to better articulate instructions (you know who you are), they taught me that everyone has a story, that listening sometimes is the best answer, and I was blown away by the example of endurance and perseverance I observed. I've also never laughed harder daily in my *life*. I'm serious. These children. They drove me crazy and kept me sane, they teased me and laughed with (and at) me, and were excited for me, and their excitement was an incredible encouragement. And I know they're reading this, so hey you guys, YOU ROCK. (and I'll see you next week and I'm super excited!)

And now, with my job with Compassion, I'm either traveling and working long days on the job, or I'm at home and not working at all. It's fantastic. Week on, week (or two) off - it's exactly what I need for where I'm at in life right now, and gives me some much needed family time with my siblings and parents. From driving the Middles to and from school, spontaneous McDonald's runs with hungry siblings, play dates outside with the Littles, adventures with the older girls, and dates with my parents...it's so good to be home.

It's been such an incredible year so far. 

And the biggest lesson I've learned is identity.

That I'm loved. I'm cherished. I'm valuable.

Because when you're confident that you don't have to be anyone or anything but yourself, that you are loved beyond comprehension, you can do *anything*. ANYTHING.

My favorite t-shirt right now says, "Go Be Love." My swim kids asked me about it one time, what it meant. And I loved being able to sit back and think a minute, realizing that because I'm so secure in my identity, so confident that I'm loved, that I'm FREE to extend that love to everyone around me. I don't have to prove anything, I don't have to be anything, I can just love people. That's it.

This has been seven months of healing. Of forgiveness, surrender, and letting go. And out of that, out of that healing, has come immeasurable joy. Lively hope. Renewed vision. Nothing that has happened before defines me, nothing matters except the Love that is so freely poured out on me.

This year isn't over yet. Faaaaar from it. There are many more adventures ahead. More plane flights, more people, more conversations, more life-changing events. Life is getting exciting, and I'm trembling with joy just thinking about it.

There's been a verse that's been a favorite of mine for just about exactly a year. It's 1 John 4:18.

"Perfect love casts out fear."

If any verse summed up my past five months in five words, it's that one.

"There is no fear in love, for perfect love casts out fear."

Dear ones....Jesus loves us perfectly. He pours out His love over us. And because of that, we don't have to be anything but His children. You don't have to prove anything, you don't have to be someone you're not, you don't have to be afraid of failure, or being left behind, or forgotten. Even if your life doesn't go exactly the way you plan, you can still walk in completely confidence into the great unknown *knowing* that You. Are. Loved. And because that Perfect Love is being poured so freely over your life....you can then love others perfectly, because it's not just you on your own strength, it's HIS love, HIS strength. 

And that opens doors for a kind of love and trust between each other that isn't humanly possible...and it's pretty much the most beautiful thing you could ever experience on earth. In fact, I'd say it is.

This is a song that my dear Courtney gave me back in October...and it's pretty much become an anthem of mine.

"So let my heart tell You again when seasons change and stories end
Your steady love it will sustain me through it all,
Jesus, Your Love....
...There is a strength that rises up in me
to know that You've been here before me
A strength beyond what I can see
Jesus, Your love, Jesus, Your Love..."

So friends. I'm back. It's been months since I wrote, honestly because I just couldn't write. There was too much bottled up inside of me that I couldn't share...and now that I've had time to process, Jesus gave me my words back. He is faithful. And this little journal of life that's stuck with me through thick and thin since I was fifteen years old is back again - if nothing else, to proclaim a testimony of perfect love and faithfulness that's only possible because of Jesus.

Let the adventures continue!