Thursday, December 15, 2011

Old Stories in a New Way: Creation

"Old Stories in a New Way" is a series highlighting Bible stories that most people have heard from the time they were infants. Teenagers especially have ceased to see the magic and wonder in the Bible simply because the stories have become so predictably normal. What people forget is that the Bible is anything but normal: the Bible is the world's greatest story, an adventure beyond anything we could ever imagine. It's time for people to hear the old stories of the Bible in a new way.

Recommended reading before the article: Genesis 1. I don't care if you've read it 3 million times. Read it again.

The creation of the world is one of the hottest topics for debate in the world today. People who don't want to believe that what's in the Bible is true come up with explanation after explanation of why Creation is not a plausible way to look at things. Mainly because in order to acknowledge Creation by a higher being, one must then, in turn, acknowledge the existence of a higher being, i.e. God. And they really don't want to accept that.

However, what many don't realize is that the majority of the evidence in favor of Darwinism has been disproved. The diagram with all the monkeys? Doesn't work. The one with the little buggish organism turning into a baby? They found out that it was never even thought to be true. It was fake. Completely fake, known to be so even by its creator.

In fact, much of scientific evidence today points to Creation, though the majority of scientists would choose to ignore it.

But, all this aside, Creation is, first and foremost, a story. One that we've heard so many times that we almost groan at hearing it again. We have stopped seeing how amazing it is because we've heard it so much. But, when you really think about it, the majority of the things in Genesis 1 are so incredible, so preposterous, so unbelievably incomprehensible that we can't even begin to wrap our little minds around it.

Most of us can't grasp the thought that in the beginning, there was nothing but darkness. That doesn't make any sense at all. Not to mention the fact that God was already there. God was there before the earth, before the heavens, before everything. God had no beginning. He simply is. In our minds, things absolutely must have a beginning and an end. But God doesn't. And it puzzles us exceedingly. Where did God come from? He must have come from somewhere.

And while we brush over the creation of the sun, the stars, the oceans, land, and animals, listing them off like something we had to memorize for a test, we skim over the fact that God created something out of nothing. For us measly humans, that is literally impossible. You cannot create something out of nothing.

Turn of all the lights in the room so that it's completely dark. Sit in the darkness for a moment. Then without moving at all, without lifting a single finger, just say, "light." Does anything happen? No, of course not!

But that's exactly what God did. He could utter a single word and something that was previously nonexistent would suddenly appear. How can you not be amazed at that?

Lastly, we forget so often that our God is an artist. We think of God as distant and standoffish. A rather boring, legalistic presence.

Our God is the most creative person that ever lived. He's like Picasso times a million. Do you realize what we do when we skim over the story of Creation like it's nothing new, like it's old information, like we've heard it once and we don't care about it anymore?

We discredit the greatest artist who ever lived. That would be like looking at Van Gogh's greatest painting and saying, "That's absolute crap. It's not even worth me looking at. I don't care about how long it took him to paint it. I don't care that he meticulously chose each of the colors to make it the most pleasing to the mind's eye. I don't care that he took the time to paint it for others to enjoy."

Our God created the world for us. He told us the story of Creation in Genesis so that we would be in awe, so that we would fully appreciate the effort and thought He put into making it for us. He made light because He knew would we delight in the sun's rays on our faces in the summer. He made the moon and the stars and the constellations knowing that the study of them would intrigue and inspire His children for centuries. He created the oceans and the streams so that we could take joy in the sound of rushing water and the feel of the ocean breeze and the sensation of wet sand squishing between our toes. He created the mountains and valleys, the great ruts and majestic landmarks of the earth so that we could look upon them with wonder and think of the God who made them. He created multitudes of animals and fish and other creatures so that we could see them and never have a doubt in our minds that there is a God.

How sad it must make Him when we don't even want to hear about it. When we don't want to take the time to appreciate the work He put into creating this for us. When we can't even take a few minutes of our lives to take in the beauty that He so purposefully placed around us. It makes me so ashamed that I can't appreciate the incredible gift that my God has given me.

And if our refusal to appreciate the beauty of the things He put around us makes Him sad, can you even imagine how devastating it is when we speak or think badly about His masterpieces?

When we gossip about other people or even think badly of ourselves we are discrediting God. God created us in His image, perfectly formed, the way we are supposed to be. When we call each other or ourselves ugly or make comments about our hair, our face, our bodies, we are telling God, "You didn't do a good enough job. You messed up."

God doesn't make mistakes. He knows that. But, oh how it must hurt Him to think that we think His greatest creation is a mistake. When we talk badly about ourselves or other people, we don't even stop to think about how it makes God, our Creator, feel. Maybe we should.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

No Words

I haven't written in a long time.

For once, I am finding it hard to express myself in words. Perhaps because it is the rawest feelings that are the hardest to express.

My life has been frustrating lately. It has been for a while. But I try to hide it, of course. I try to laugh it off. When everyone says they feel sorry about the way things are at home, I tell them I know God's got it under control.

And I do know. I know without a shadow of a doubt that He has some kind of plan here.

But sometimes I just want to bang my fists against the wall and scream, "WHAT IS IT?"

Because I sure as heck can't see it right now.

Before Evan came home, my home was my "happy place." It was safe, comfortable, filled with joy.

And as an idealistic person, I had built up huge hopes of what it was going to be like when Evan got home. Everyone would be happy, Levi and Evan would play together all the time, and our house's joy would double.

Oh, how those hopes came back to haunt me. Oh, how they crushed me. The first few weeks of Evan being home was just as I'd imagined it. We were all in a sort of daze, disbelieving that she was really there in front of us after waiting so long.

But poor Levi. His little world was turned upside down. As he's mostly nonverbal, he has no way to express what he's feeling. So he did what probably anyone in his situation would do. He got violent, aggressive. Mostly towards Evan.

And the next months were filled with this uncontrollable chaos that no one in our family could have ever expected. Months of hitting, spitting, pushing, yelling. We saw behavior therapists, we saw attachment doctors, but no one could deal with everything. Levi has behavior and attachment and special needs. It's hard to find a specialist in that narrow of an area.

And I watched my hopes get slammed to the ground one after the other. There was not the happily ever after that I had been expecting. There was no Evan and Levi playing together happily. And even more than that, my home was no longer my safe place.

My home was a place of chaos. Where disappointments hit me head on. Where everyone else was so stressed out that it automatically made me stressed out. Where none of us knew what to do.

And the deepest hurt of all of it was the loss of my best friend. My Levi. Where had that happy, joyful little boy gone? The little boy who would dance with me? The little boy who made silly faces in the mirror? The little boy who gave kisses to random people? Where did he go?

It's getting better, but slowly. Inch by inch. Month by month. We see glimpses of the old Levi now. Times he'll laugh his silly laugh. Dance around. Make us all go to sleep so he can yell at us to wake up.

But for the past few months, I've just had this sadness. Every time I get in my car to head home, I don't expect my happy house anymore. It could be hitting and spitting and yelling and stress. It could be happy dancing and singing. But it's not likely. And my hopes have been dashed to the ground too many times for me to want to build them back up again.

These words are hard to write. It's hard to come to terms with the sadness and the pain that seems to have settled over my heart. This perpetual hopelessness, like a rain cloud over my head that I can't seem to shake. It's hard to talk to people about my family, my home, because I want them to remember what it was like before. I don't want them to see Levi as he is now. Because I know the old Levi's in there, it's just gonna take him awhile to come out.

I know God has a plan. I know He does. Oh, but I'd really, really love to see it.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

His Grace Alone

A year and a half ago, anxiety controlled my life.

Crippling fear and panic attacks were a part of life. I was shy, reserved, and didn't have enough self-confidence to initiate friendships. I was scared of everything and everyone to some point, terrified that I would make a bad impression and that someone wouldn't like me or would be disappointed in me.

Something changed that. And that something is God.

When I went to Peru for the first time last summer, I was pushed out of my comfort zone more than I ever had been before. I was forced to see children like my brother and sister in awful, heartbreaking circumstances. I had to speak in front of hundreds of people and give my testimony. I had to teach a Bible class to girls who were my age or older.

And the speaking. The speaking was the worst. Being in front of people terrified me. It triggered my anxiety like nothing else. I wouldn't be able to eat for hours beforehand because my stomach was already churning. My breathing would be heavy and my heartbeat rapid. Often my mind would go completely blank.

But something changed in me. Some part of me realized that when I spoke to people, it didn't have to be me doing the talking. If I allowed God to speak through me, I had nothing to worry about.

Since then, I have spoken so many times, it has almost lost its effect on me. It hardly makes me nervous anymore. You need a speech about orphans? I can pull it together in less than five minutes. Talk about how God changed me in Peru? I could do it on the spot.

But tonight challenged me. I've been memorizing the book of Philippians. On Monday morning, I had the first two chapters down. I was about six verses into the third. And, truth be told, I had kind of slacked off on it. I hadn't really worked to memorize the verses in weeks. But that changed with one single text from my youth pastor.

He wanted to know if I could recite the third chapter of Philippians at youth church on Wednesday night.

My heart froze up. Recite the third chapter? I wasn't done with that one yet! My first impulse was to say no. But I paused. I could do it. I knew I could. I could have the rest of the chapter by Wednesday, no problem. And quickly, before I could have the chance to change my mind, I texted back a "yes".

All day Monday and Tuesday and today, I recited the verses as often as possible. Over and over and over again. In my room by myself. Every moment I was in the car. Say them over and over and over. As many times as I could. But I was still a little shaky. In my heart, I knew the verses.

By myself, I could say them fine. But something about being in front of other people makes my mind disappear. And verses were different than just speaking. If I was just talking about something on stage, I could wing it. If I didn't say exactly what I had thought before, nobody cared. Because nobody knew what it was intended to be.

But every single person in that audience had a Bible or had one close and could look and see if I was doing it right. You can't wing Bible verses.

It was with great fear that I walked up on that stage tonight. My friends all cheered loud for me, and had encouraged me beforehand. But I was nervous. So, so nervous that I would mess it up.

My youth pastor gave me the microphone. I took a deep breath, and I was off. My mind was frantic and scattered, but most of it my mouth knew. I had said it so many times that I simply knew what to say on impulse. But I got to a part in the middle, and my mind went completely blank.

I had no idea what was next. I was mortified. But someone in the audience gave me the next word and I was back on track. After getting through the rest of the chapter and shakily completing the last verse, I exhaled.

My entire body slumped and I felt cold relief and exhaustion rush over me. I thrust the microphone into my youth pastor's hand and was off the stage before he could say another word. I barely noticed the standing ovation. My one and only thought was to get to my seat and not collapse.

The crazy part was all the people that came up to me afterward, though.

"That was amazing!"

"How did you do that?"

"I could never do that!"

"You were incredible!"

While I was thankful for the support and the encouragement, the comment I hated most was the, "I could never do that."

Because you could. There was nothing special about me memorizing Philippians. I don't have special memorization powers. I'm not exceptionally good at speaking. In fact, anyone could have done what I did, and probably would do it better.

What people don't understand is that the only reason I was able to stand up there and recite Philippians 3 is that God allowed it. God allowed me to soak in His word and know it, and then share it with others. What I did, I did by the grace of God and the grace of God alone.

Can you see how He uses our weaknesses to showcase His glory? He chose a girl who has an anxiety disorder, who a year and a half ago would have had a panic attack doing this, who was so insecure that she couldn't ask people to hang out - He used that girl to show His people that they too can know His word and have it in their hearts!

There is no power in me. No glory. No honor. All honor, glory, and power is to God. The God who gives us strength to do things we never could have dreamed of.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

As For Me

I love going to church on Wednesdays. I love it that a group of high school students can come together and worship and learn about God. I love the relationships that are built through it.

Wednesday nights are my weekly pep rally. My one thing that gets me through the week. My reminder that I am not the only one struggling, and I am not the only one who leans on God. My time to be encouraged in the Lord, and filled with His Spirit.

Tonight we were singing one of my favorite songs - "As For Me".

The chorus says,

"As for me, I will raise Your banner high.
I will shout aloud Your name; I won't deny.
Jesus, You have given all, so I give You my life.
I will raise Your banner high."

As I was singing and raising my hands and shouting these words to God, though, I found myself convicted.

"I will shout aloud Your name."

Was I doing that? Sure, I talk a good game about orphan care. At church. With my friends who feel the same way I do.

But, when I'm at school, I don't bring up how excited I am about what we're learning in Philippians. I don't talk about what God's doing in my life. I don't gossip much, but I listen to it. I participate in it. I don't stop it.

The truth is that at school, I try and blend. I don't compromise what I believe, but neither do I proclaim it. If someone asked me if I was a Christian, I would reply with an emphatic yes. But I wouldn't just tell someone.

When people in my classes go outside and smoke or talk about sleeping with their boyfriends, I don't object. I remain silent. I choose to say nothing, not out of sympathy or concern for them, but out of fear of what they'll think of me.

When they ask me about my life, my family, my extracurricular activities, I find myself responding like any normal teenager. And as I replay my responses in my mind, I realize that there is no way to tell the difference between me and a normal teenager.

There is no way that the people in my classes would be able to tell that I was a Christian.

And it makes me ashamed. How dare I raise my hands in worship? How dare I sing the words, "As for me, I will raise Your banner high"?

I sing those things in church, but I don't live them.  And I'm tired of it. As a follower of Christ, I am commanded to proclaim Him to a fallen world. I am told that people should see that I am different from the way I talk and act and walk with Christ.

If people can't tell that I'm different, am I really different? Can a Christian be a Christian and not tell the world about Jesus?

The way I act to the world, regardless of what they believe, should reflect what I believe.

And as a transformed daughter of a risen God, I am ready for my life to mirror that.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

He's Coming For Me

Do you ever have those days when you just lose hope?

You feel like you have no purpose, no motive. What are you working toward, really? You feel so beaten down, so stuck in a rut, so sick and tired of the mundane that you just don't want to go on.

That was my day today.

It was cloudy and humid. I'd just watched a horribly depressing video about death in anatomy class. I felt swamped with school and, though I needed to do the work, I didn't want to. Everything felt pointless. Meaningless. I felt like I had lost my hope.

During study hall, I left campus, feeling desperate. I pulled into Sonic, turned off my car, and moved my sit back as far as it would go. And, searching for something, some answer, some message of hope, I opened my Bible to a random page, praying that God would lead me somewhere in His Word.

I opened up to John 14, and skimmed a few verses before finding one that seemed to stick out to me.

"I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you." - John 14:18

I could feel in my spirit that it was important. It was something I needed to know. But, I couldn't quite tell what it meant yet. I still felt dejected. I still yearned for that hope.

Praying again that God would somehow make clear what He was trying to show me, I opened my Bible randomly once more.

"For who is our hope or joy or crown of exultation? Is it not even you, in the presence of our Lord Jesus at His coming?" - 1 Thessalonians 2:19

A sudden thought hit me like a plank of wood.

He's coming for me.

Jesus is coming for me.

My God is not going to leave me here, without hope, without cause, without purpose. He is coming for me.

What is my hope? My joy? My crown of exultation? He is coming for me!

Can you feel it!? The insurmountable joy that comes from this? Every day of our lives we have something to look forward to. We have a reason to live. We have a purpose.

It is the rock we build our lives on. The truth that we can stand on. The one thing in this world that was, is, and always will be certain.

Jesus is coming for us.

He will not leave us on this earth as orphans. He's coming.

I went back to school, having to reign in my spirit, because I wanted to shout it at the top of my lungs. I wanted to tell everyone I saw:

Do you know!? Have you heard!?

He's coming for me.

And He can come for you too.

Friday, September 16, 2011

I Deserve

Pride is the sin of sins. The one that everyone struggles with, but no one likes to confront. Pride is what brings down the best of the best. It ruins those who would otherwise be considered saint-like.

Pride is something that I struggle with a lot. But it's not the normal kind of pride. My pride comes from a different angle, a different area.

I don't brag a lot. I don't accept compliments easily. In fact, I despise flaunting my talents, even going to the point of hiding them because I don't want to be considered arrogant. All this to show that, in general, I probably would not be considered an excessively arrogant or prideful person. But, this is where my sin lies. I have pride in being humble.

I take pride in not accepting compliments. In people thinking, "Oh, Tori, she's so humble." I take great pride in that. And that is a hard kind of pride to overcome, because while I want to be humble, I want to do it for the right reasons. And my motives are not pure in any way. Sometimes they are. But more often than not, I have an ulterior.

Another area of pride that I struggle in is entitlement. Especially in Worthday, or in orphan care. That was my idea. I deserve the credit for that. I deserve the glory. Even in my life. God, why am I not in Peru? I deserve to live a more meaningful life than this. I deserve to know what I'm doing here. I deserve to know what Your plan is.

The truth?

I deserve nothing. Absolutely nothing. In fact, if I deserve anything, it's a painful, bloody death. When I think of all the sins I have committed today, let alone this week, this year, or in my lifetime, I realize that I am worthy of NOTHING. No praise, no glory, no knowledge, no nothing. And I am absolutely ashamed of my pride. I am embarrassed to look at God, to talk to God. My sins are overwhelming. How can I even turn my face to Him?

This is why God's mercy never ceases to amaze me. How did He find worth in me? How did He see worth in someone like me? Someone who sins every day, spat in his face, denied His goodness to the world? Why would God have mercy on me?

The best part? There is no answer. In this life, I will never know what God saw in me. Why He saw fit to pull me up off the ground and help me learn to walk with Him. Why He thought I was worth it. I will never know.

And I'm learning to realize that I am not entitled to know. I am not entitled to anything. Any pride that I have, I want it to come from the Lord.

"Tori, you are beautiful." - Praise God.

"Tori, you're so smart." - It's all thanks to God.

"Tori, you're such a good writer." - It's all God's words coming through me. I thank Him that He allows me to write them.

"Tori, you're so great! You started Worthday!" - God started Worthday. He just brought me along for the ride.

I want all the glory for everything in my life to go to God. Because, without Him, I would be worth nothing. So let's point people to the one who the glory really goes to. He deserves it far more than I ever will.

... and I said, 'O my God, I am ashamed and embarrassed to lift up my face to You, my God, for [my] iniquities have risen above [my] head and [my] guilt has grown even to the heavens." ~ Ezra 9:6

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Lights in the World

Recently, I've been memorizing the book of Philippians. Yes, the whole thing. No, I am not a particularly incredible Christian or anything like that. I was challenged. And I could not turn down the challenge. Therefore, I am memorizing it.

But this challenge has really opened me up to interpreting Philippians much deeper and paying much more attention to what Paul is saying in his letter than I normally would have. Trust God to use something as trivial as a challenge to reveal more of Himself.

Philippians 2:15 says, "... Prove yourselves to be blameless and innocent, children of God above reproach in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you appear as lights in the world."

Immediately this verse caught my eye. Crooked and perverse generation? Sounds familiar. We live in a world where homosexuality is being widely accepted as a lifestyle rather than a choice (albeit a difficult one). Where there are over 140 million children without a family. Where there are children taught to use guns and forced to kill each other. Where young girls and women are forced into the sex trade and made to give up their innocence in order to save their lives. Where there are billions of people suffering in poverty and starvation every single day. We live in a generation that is crooked and perverse.

But as I read it, I thought more. We are supposed to "prove ourselves to be blameless and innocent." This conflicted to me. I, certainly, am not blameless and innocent. I have sinned. Bad. And I continue to sin every day. So how can I possibly prove myself to be blameless and innocent? The only man who was every innocent of sin was Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ became sin so that we could be seen as what He was - innocent.

So in order to be innocent, we must take on the person of Jesus Christ. We, obviously, could not have accomplished this on our own, and so Jesus took the liberty of making a way for us. In order to take on His person, we simply must accept that He took on ours.

When we become Jesus, when we accept what He has done for us, we become children of God. And as children of God, we no longer are in sin, but are in Life.

We are to be above reproach. And I ask, "How can I be above reproach?" If a non-Christian came up to me and accused me of sinning, I could not deny it. Yes, I am a Christian. But, yes, I still sin.

So how do we become above reproach? I think it is key that in the verse, "children of God" are "above reproach". It does not say that unsaved people who try and have high morals and get to God on their own are above reproach. It does not say that only people who never sin are above reproach.

It says that "children of God" are above reproach. Simply because they are children of God. They have made a conscious decision to take on the person of Jesus, and allow Him to take on their person. Once we have done that, our hearts strive to be Jesus. To embody the one who has embodied us. So even when we sin, we fight it. We struggle. We wrestle with our sin and we repent and fall at our Father's feet. And because of our repentance, because of Jesus's brave, noble act in our defense even though we did not deserve it, we are above reproach.

And we are, indeed, in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation. It's not popular to be against homosexuality. It's not normal save sex for marriage. It's seen as strange to believe that there is only one way to Heaven and that way is Jesus Christ. It's absolutely insane to want to give your life for what seems so otherworldly and unrealistic.

But because of the world we are in, we must appear as lights. If we hide who we are in Christ, we add to the darkness. If you're standing in a dark room full of people who need to see where they're going and you're holding a candle, but you refuse to light it, you are not only doing an injustice to yourself but to all the people around you. No one sees unless you light your candle.

You cannot wait for other people to do it. Because if you do not add to the light, then you are adding to the darkness. Believing in Christ and becoming a child of God is a decision. But so is lighting your candle afterward.

If you keep it out, it will make no difference. It will add to the darkness that already encompasses the world.

But if you light it, it spreads light farther than you could ever see.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011


amiga = friend: one attached to another by affection

I had a friend go to Peru this June and visit the Sagrada Familia orphanage where Carmencita is.

Being fluent in Spanish, she talked to Carmencita and asked her if she remembered her friend, her "amiga" who had come to visit her a few months earlier.

Carmencita's face lit up. "Mi amiga!" she exclaimed. She insisted over and over that, yes, she most definitely remembered.

And when my friend left, Carmencita clung to the fence and looked after her asking, "Mi amiga?" She wanted to know if I was there, if I was coming. My friend insisted that I'd be there next time.

It is amazing the joy that this little story brought me today. It was so good for me to know that I had not imagined the recognition in Carmencita's eyes. Carmencita knows me. "Tori, she loves you," my friend had said.

But it also brought a great longing in my heart. How long before I see her again? At least a year. Will she still remember me? Her amiga?

Merriam Webster describes a friend as someone who is attached to someone else. If that is the truth, then I am most definitely Carmencita's amiga.

I firmly believe that we are attached, Carmencita and I. I believe that we were put into each other's lives for a reason. I believe there's a reason that the hour I spent with her has impacted my life infinitely. I believe that there is a reason that not an hour goes by that I don't think about her.

And I honestly think that God helps her to know that. Because I don't know how else a five-year-old child with special needs who spent one hour with someone, out of many people who visit that orphanage and that baby house, would remember that person so well. Would remember me so well that she would recognize me instantly after nine months.

Carmencita and I are attached. We are friends. We are amigas.

I pray with all of my being that Carmencita will know that I will always be her amiga. That I would fly to Peru in an instant if she needed me. That I love her with all of my heart.

And I pray that God will further our friendship, our attachment. Maybe we don't speak the same language. Maybe we don't live in the same country. Maybe we don't get to see each other very often. But we love each other. Deeply, fully.

Because we are amigas.

July 2010

March 2011

July 2011

Friday, August 19, 2011

God's Little Girl

When Evan came home from the orphanage, it was clear that she had not been taken care of as she should have been.

She would carry around anything that she could call her own, even a baby wipe, and hold onto it fiercely as if she were afraid someone would take it.

She would cry when Mom was cooking dinner because she was afraid she wouldn't get to eat.

Most of the time, she wouldn't even chew before swallowing because she was scared her food would be taken away.

And she was so small. So tiny compared to Levi. In 24 month clothes and she was 4.

But she doesn't even compare to this little girl.

This is Liliana. From the picture, it is painfully obvious that she has not been cared for the way that she should. That she is not getting the nutrition or care that she needs. But Liliana is not 4 like Evan. No.

Liliana is 11. She weighs 10 pounds.

These pictures make me physically sick to my stomach. They make me so mad that I shake. Precious Liliana. That precious little girl. That could be Evan.

There is absolutely no difference between Liliana and Evan, except that Evan has a forever family. In fact, if we had given it 7 more years, Evan probably would have looked like that too.

And what I want to know is how they decide that Liliana is not worth it. That Liliana is not worth feeding, not worth pouring into, not worth being loved.

Is it because she looks different? Is it because she functions differently?

Honestly, the reasoning doesn't matter. A child is a child. And a child deserves to grow up knowing how much they are loved. Has Liliana ever even left her crib!?

My gosh, she is eleven!!!

She is eleven and she's no bigger than a baby.

And this is when I cry out to God. God, please!!! Please, save Liliana! Oh, how I wish I could fly to her country right this moment and grab her and scoop her up and look into those beautiful, big eyes and say, "Liliana, I love you! I will keep you safe. You are beautiful. You are precious. You are worth so much."

And, God speaks back. His heart is aching for her. Oh, how it pains him to see his daughter in such a manner as this! And it is then when the responsibility falls on us, His children.

Save her.

My God looks at me with tears in his eyes, begging, pleading, and says, "Will someone step up and save my daughter? My daughter who is suffering, who has done no wrong, will someone rescue her?"

The God I pledged my life to has a daughter who is dying in Eastern Europe. How can I call myself His follower and do nothing? How can I call myself a daughter of Christ, and not work to save my sister, His daughter?

Liliana has a family. A brave, brave family has stepped up to rescue this precious child of God. The money is provided for. And, so I ask God, but what can I do?

How can I help to save this child?

His answer: pray.

Pray that she will survive until her family can bring her home. Pray that she will not only survive, but thrive at home. Pray that she will grow and flourish in her new environment. Pray that she will know how much she is loved and how much she is worth.

But she is not the only one. There are seven other children like Liliana at her orphanage. And countless hundreds more all over the world that we will never know about. Will you join me in praying for her and for them?

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Worthy to Suffer

My favorite book of the Bible is Acts, at least of those that I've read all the way through.

I'm drawn even to the title of the book. Acts. It implies action. It implies that you cannot remain in your faith, but rather you must act on it.

I love reading about how the church was started. About how a small group of people literally changed the world because they were so passionate about what they believed.

I love to read about the martyrs, about the many times Peter and John go to jail for preaching and doing miracles through Jesus' name. About the miraculous things that the disciples can do through the Holy Spirit.

I love reading about how Paul comes to know Christ. It amazes me that someone as "bad" as him can be placed in the Bible as one of our biggest role models today.

But my favorite part of Acts is their radical faith. Those men and women love Jesus. They believe in Jesus with every fiber of their being. And because of their love and their belief, they receive the Holy Spirit. And through the Holy Spirit they speak in different languages, they make paralyzed men walk, they lead thousands and thousands to the truth of the Gospel.

One of my favorite passages in Acts is chapter 7, verses 17-40.

It tells of the apostles being imprisoned for preaching in the name of Jesus. But during the night, an angel of the Lord came and freed them. Amazing as this is, it is not the most amazing part to me.

For the apostles are brought to the Council a second time, because in spite of their imprisonment, they are still preaching in Jesus' name.

And when asked why they had continued to preach in Jesus' name, the apostles even shared the Gospel with the Pharisees! The men who killed their Lord! The men who would sooner see them killed than convert to Christianity!

Finding no reason to condemn them to death, the Pharisees settled with whipping each of them, and ordering them not to preach in the name of Jesus.

And, this is the amazing part. When the apostles left, they still preached in the name of Jesus! They told everybody! They didn't move away, they didn't try and be more discreet about it, they just kept preaching the gospel!

And the best is verse 41.

"So they went on their way from the presence of the Council, rejoicing because they had been considered worthy to suffer shame for His name."

The apostles rejoiced over the Pharisees scorn. They rejoiced over being sent to jail, over being flogged.

Because they were worthy to suffer for God.

How much our lives would change if we thought that way!

Levi is aggressive all the time. But, thank you God for considering us worthy to handle it!

I'm not in Peru. But, I praise you God, because you consider me worthy to be here instead of where I desire to be!

I don't want to go to school. But, O God, I am so grateful that you consider me worthy to deal with something I don't want to do.

It's backwards from today's thinking. Our world is completely focused on what we feel at the moment. This is what I want. This is how I feel. This is what I'm experiencing right now.

But if we look with God's eyes, we see that everything we suffer, everything we enjoy, every mundane detail of our lives is a gift from God.

Whether it be school, a glass of juice in the morning, or even doing chores, it is what God intended for us. I have a decision every morning. I can wake up and be upset that I have to get up for school, or I can understand that God thought I could handle this. God wants me to be here, and He wants me to be there for a reason.

I can walk through every day understanding that, yes, I do feel called to Peru. But God wants me here. God considers me to be strong enough to stand not being where I would rather be.

I am learning, slowly, to trust that everything I go through, I go through because God considers me worthy of it. Because God considers me strong enough to handle it.

Although, it's somewhat backwards. I, by myself, am able to handle nothing - no struggle, no temptation, no trial. But, if I lean on God's strength, I can handle anything.

When God measures our strength, He is not measuring any willpower of our own, but rather our tendency to lean fully and completely on His strength.

For me, I want to rejoice because I am worthy to suffer. Because the more I suffer, the more worthy He considers me, and the more I am learning to lean on His strength.

Monday, August 1, 2011

The Devil's Plot

I told myself I wouldn't let this happen. That I wouldn't let myself become so focused on the past that I couldn't live in the present. That I would be strong. I would take what I had learned, and apply to life here.

How foolish I was to think that by preparing myself, I could just jump right back in.

There's an empty, achiness in my heart that refuses to go away. I constantly feel tears spring into my eyes at the thought of anything to do with Peru or Sagrada Familia. And I find myself being listless. There's plenty to do with school starting soon, but I don't want to do any of it.

The only thing I want is to go back to Peru.

It started earlier this year. Earlier than it ever has. I think because I wasn't sick. While that was a blessing, it has made the return much more difficult. I wasn't ready to leave. Before, I had been ready. I was ready to come back to the United States. I was tired and I was sick and I just wanted to get home.

But this time I felt fine. I felt like I could stay for much longer, and be fine. Honestly, I didn't even miss home very much.

I miss the smell of Peru. The feel of the cool wind whipping around the hills. The view of the majestic mountains that you get from anywhere. I miss driving past the hills and seeing shacks that are precariously built on the sides of mountains. I miss hearing everyone talk in Spanish, whether I can understand it or not. I miss my friends. I miss the raw emotions that are shared in Peru. I miss waking up every morning in the same room with girls who I love dearly and getting to spend all day doing what we all know is God's work together. I miss the deep friendships that are formed.

I miss Sagrada Familia. The place where God changed my life forever. The paintings on their walls. The joy in their faces. The way they all want you to hold their hands and look into their eyes. I miss having Carmencita's arms wrapped around my neck. I miss her touching my hair and then hers and saying, "pelo". I miss her saying my name. I miss seeing her smile, hearing her laugh.

And I just feel angry. I feel lost. I feel alone. Like no one quite gets it and the people that do don't want to talk about it. I feel like I'm trapped inside a tiny box and I'm pushing so hard to get out of it, but the iron bars don't budge.

I miss my Peru team. I miss having someone there every second of every day to hear and understand. To comfort you when you need comfort. To give you a hug when you really need a hug. To listen when you need someone to listen. And to encourage you when you need encouragement.

I seek solitude more than ever, which is not good. The only people I want to be with are people who have experienced the same or similar things that I have. I get so frustrated and beat down being at home surrounded by people who are younger than me, people that I have to pour into, that I just leave.

I went on a 4-mile walk and listened to angry Lecrae songs today in 90º heat. I just feel out of sorts and angry and alone and worthless. Which is ironic because not even a full week ago, I was sharing with 900 orphans how much we're worth in Christ.

Make me to hear joy and gladness,
Let the bones which you have broken rejoice.
Restore to me the joy of your salvation
And grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.
        - Psalm 51:8,12

Sunday, July 31, 2011

The Hardest Part is Coming Home

Coming back from Peru never gets easier. The first few hours I was home, I was just happy to see my family. But then I started to feel that familiar pit in my stomach, that familiar ache in my heart.

What was it? Sadness that such an incredible experience had come to an end? A longing for Carmencita and Sagrada Familia? Missing my team members, who I had grown so close to? Feeling completely useless and out of my element now that I'm not spending every day tangibly showing the love of God?

All of the above. But I am trying to allow God to lead my heart and patch it up this time. Last year, I dwelled on the past for far too long. And that showed in my grades in school, my interactions with my family, and even my relationships with friends. I let Peru define who I was, which was a good thing, but I forgot to hold onto the good parts of myself from before.

I am trying to go to God with my broken heart that screams that I wasn't ready to leave. I wasn't ready to come back to "reality". That He wasn't finished with me there. That I could have spent months more at Sagrada Familia. That I want to wake up every morning surrounded by people who are just as passionate about God's work as I am.

My heart is aching right now. But I know that God has me here in the United States for a reason. That His work here is just as important as His work in Peru.

While I truly, truly enjoyed the entire trip, every activity we participated in, these are a few of the highlights.

Maybe some of you remember Cesár, the little boy with cerebral palsy I met last year? Well, I saw him again! Words cannot express how much joy that boy brought to me. You might also remember that he was in a wheelchair last year, and this year he was walking! God truly is performing miracles in that boy's life. I got to meet his mom and his little sister, and his mom said they got the box of goodies and the children's Bible I sent him! Oh, how I love that boy!

The single most incredible day of the trip, and one of the best days of my life was Worthday at Sagrada Familia! Seeing something that we'd been planning and working toward for months come to life was just indescribable. But the best part of that day was, by far, seeing Carmencita.

When we went to the baby house early in the morning, they were sending the kids down the stairs one by one as they got their baths. I knew Carmencita would be last because she can't walk down the stairs by herself. But I waited. I'm not really sure why. Maybe because she's so often last in that place, I wanted her to be first for something.

It was worth the wait when she came down the stairs. I looked into her eyes and said her name and her face lit up! She jumped into my arms and held on tight, grabbing onto my hair, my clothes, anything, and saying "Mi amiga! Mi amiga!" over and over again. Oh, how I love that girl. I got to spend more time with her than ever before this time. Although, saying goodbye never gets easier. She was sobbing so hard I think she almost threw up, grabbing onto me with a death grip so that she was nearly dragging behind me. She even bit me a few times she was so upset. I miss her like crazy already.

Another highlight was meeting a little boy named Davíd. He was the son of the woman we shadowed for a day, who was a single mom. This three-year-old boy goes to work in the market selling trinkets every day with his mom. After we were done shadowing, we took "our Peruvians" back to the church for a lunch and ceremony. The majority of the three-hour ceremony, I was in the back with Davíd, playing with bubbles and playdoh. That little boy was so sweet! I loved him so much.

All in all, it was an incredible trip. By far, my favorite of the year. It made me want to pursue staying at Sagrada Familia next summer even more. If you could keep me and my team in your prayers now more than ever, it would be greatly appreciated. Coming back is the hardest part of the mission trip. It's hard for us to move on.

Dios te bendiga!

Monday, July 18, 2011

Preparing for Peru

As I prepare to leave for Peru, once more, on Saturday, many different thoughts and topics race through my mind.

First and foremost is the magnificence of my God. A God who, despite all reasoning and all statistics, provided $1600 in 4 days, putting me $700 over the required $1920 to go to Peru. Why do I worry when God always provides? You'd think after so much time, I'd have learned to trust Him.

Following my period of anxiety about not getting enough finances and Worthday not going right, I've finally  acquired a sense of peace. While I still dread getting sick or not getting to see Hectór and Carmencita or even not connecting with people on the team, I have this peace in me. I'm going back to Peru. I have to trust that no matter what happens, God is going to transform me.

My familiar enemy jealousy returns now, as well. As we near the outcome of literally months of hard work and preparation for Worthday, I can't help but be jealous when others get most of the credit for what has been accomplished. Because I'm not a very vocal person, people don't see me as a leader of Worthday, or as the one in charge. And, while, in some ways that's a blessing, it can also be very frustrating to see other team members get the credit for Worthday, when I have also helped craft it. It has taken much prayer and self-control to try and make myself be happy for others when I hear people praising what they've done with Worthday. I hope that in time, this will become second nature to me, and that God will teach me to be more like Him in this way.

In fact, God used a comment at tonight's final Peru meeting to shift my attention and conviction from others and onto myself.

We were sharing with each other what we were looking forward to most about having each other on the Peru trip. I struggled with jealousy as other team members got comments about Worthday. About how they had been such a brilliant leader and headed it up. About how their drive and passion were inspiring. Brimming with jealousy, the comment aimed at me slowly shifted my thoughts. They mentioned about how they couldn't wait to see me with "my babies". To watch me love them with a contagious love.

And I stopped. And thought about it. Why had I done Worthday? What had Worthday started out as?

Love. It all started with me falling in love with a little girl named Carmencita in an orphanage in Peru. And I just couldn't let her go. I hadn't started Worthday because I wanted people to think I was so awesome. Because I wanted all the attention. I started Worthday because I loved Carmencita. Because I wanted all the other kids at that orphanage to be loved the way I loved Carmencita.

What should it matter if I don't get all the credit? If I don't get any of the credit? If just one of those precious orphans understands how much we love them and how much God loves them, it will be worth it. It would be worth having absolutely no credit. No attention.

So I've decided instead of focusing on the faults of others for not noticing what I've done for Worthday, I need to abandon my selfish thoughts and focus on what needs to be fixed inside of me. I need to focus on preparing my heart to love my team, the people of Peru, the rest of the orphans, and all the other people we encounter with the love I've shown Carmencita.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Trust is a Command

It cost $1100 to go to Peru over Spring Break. It took $3500 to get to China. $1940 more to go to Peru in two weeks.

That's a collective $6540 on mission trips in one year.

Thanks to the power of my God and the generosity of many friends, family members, and people that I've never even met, I have had almost no trouble getting the money needed to do this.

But it's down to the last. I have approximately $1100 of the needed $1500 to go to Peru. Our money is due on Friday. All of it.

My parents say that they will loan the money if they have it then, but there is no guarantee that they will have $400 to lend me at the end of the week.

As I sit and think about the possibility of not going to Peru, I am devastated. Would my church take me off the team if I couldn't pay for it? As fear and anger go hand in hand, I felt anger bubbling up inside of me. How could they say I couldn't go? I started Worthday. I've been planning it for months! And to not see the fruit of my labor? And there I find the root of the problem.

I am afraid of not seeing what I have worked so hard for. Of not doing what I've been looking forward to for nearly a year. And, most of all, of not seeing my precious, precious Carmencita.

But, no. I'm not at the root quite yet. It is not enough to simply accept being afraid. You have to understand that fear is a sin. Fear is not trusting God to provide for your needs.

When confronted with this uncomfortable truth, I squirmed. I trusted God. Didn't I?


Not when I thought about it. I am in a constant state of fear. Worried about speaking at Worthday. Worried that it won't go the way I envisioned it. Worried that I won't get to see Carmencita. Worried that I won't get to see Hectór. Worried that I'll get sick.

All of those fears, all of those anxieties, were thoughts that I was choosing to think. And in choosing to think those thoughts, I was disobeying a direct command of God. Do not fear.

Look at the birds of the air, that they do not sow, nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not worth much more than they?
                  - Matthew 6:26

What a dishonor to God, to my Father. Even after He died for me, I refuse to trust Him.

I've realized that trust is not a special possession or an inherent tendency. It is a command. We are told that if we are truly followers of God, we have to trust Him. We have to let go of fear.

So it is with great difficulty and much trepidation, that I let go of my fears about Peru. About getting the money to go to Peru.

I serve a great God. A God who is capable of parting seas and bringing the dead to life. A God who is far more capable than I of getting $400 in five days.

Our God is greater. Our God is stronger. God you are higher than any other. Our God is Healer, awesome in power - Our God, our God. And if our God is for us, then who could ever stop us? And if our God is with us, then what could stand against?

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Won't Rest

I will say that I had been considering staying in Peru next summer before, but for some reason it's never been as strong as it is now.

I learned a few weeks ago that there is a possibility that I could not only work with the Sagrada Familia orphanage, but even that I could live at the Sagrada Familia orphanage while I was in Peru.

Immediately, I want to jump up and scream, "Yes!" Living at an orphanage has been my dream for years. And to stay at Sagrada Familia? The orphanage I fell in love with last year? The one that I simply can't forget? To see Carmencita every day? It's like a dream come true!

But then I feel like a semi truck has run into me as I get slammed with all the practicalities. Would anyone go with me? Would I be allowed to stay there without another person I knew, especially an adult, an American? What if something happened to me at the orphanage? Who would I contact? What if I starved? Those kids don't always get enough to eat, and I'm not gonna be the loser who sits in an empty room eating granola bars while there are 900 orphans around me starving. What if I can't get purified water? Will I get a parasite? And if I do get a parasite, how am I getting to a hospital? Will I have internet access to be able to contact my parents?

So many questions race through my head, but they stop at one image. Carmencita. Every day. I'd get to spend every day loving on and playing with 900 orphans.

Maybe it's just me dreaming. Maybe this isn't what I'm meant for. Maybe I have a ridiculously romantic idea about what it's like to live at an orphanage. In fact, I'm sure I do.

But I can't let it rest. There's this urge in my heart saying, "This is it. This is what you need to do."

And honestly, the only reason I wouldn't do it is because I'm too afraid. And I certainly don't want to let fear run my life.

I am thinking about it and praying about it and digging into God's word trying to find some answers. But maybe, just maybe, I'll find myself in Peru next summer. Maybe that's why it just won't rest.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Nobody's Favorite

Sometimes I throw myself a pity party. Not consciously, really. I just feel sorry myself.

Sometimes I feel like I'm nobody's favorite person. That the only person who would rather be with me than with anyone else on the planet is my four-year-old brother. That I'm nobody's best friend. That nobody likes me best. I'm always second best. Or even last.

And then I catch myself. I have a ton of friends. I have a family who loves me. I am blessed beyond measure. I am blessed more than most people in the world. In fact, I am first.

But that knowledge doesn't necessarily take away the feelings of self-pity.

I'll tell you what does.

Thinking about the different definitions of nobody's favorite. To me, nobody's favorite is having nobody come up and talk to me at church. Or not being the first one to get a hug from Evan when she wakes up. Or not being the one that somebody has to talk to.

But I think about Carmencita. She's nobody's favorite. She's the one that nobody understands. No one wants to take care of her, let alone talk to her and know her. She doesn't have a best friend, a confidante. The other kids don't want anything to do with her. She's nobody's favorite.

I have friends. I have family. I have so many people who love me. And Carmencita? She has no one. She is nobody's favorite.

Sometimes I wonder if she feels alone. Does she feel helpless? Like she's swimming in a deep, dark pool and no one is there to help her stay afloat? Does she want to have friends, want people to understand her, want people to know her? Does she feel like she's nobody's favorite?

And it is then that I miss her so much it physically hurts. It is then that I want to get on the next flight to Lima. It is then that I want to go and live at the orphanage.

Because Carmencita deserves to be somebody's favorite. She deserves to have someone be proud of her and proud to know her. She deserves to have someone tell her each and every day how much they love her. She deserves to know how much she's worth.

When I feel like nobody's favorite, there's always someone to speak a word of encouragement, to make me feel better.

But does anyone encourage Carmencita? Does anyone tell her that she's their favorite? And it is then that I hold onto God with everything in me, and pray that somehow He can show Carmencita that she is His favorite.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

A Calling

Written while I was in Luoyang, China, staying at Maria's Big House of Hope and had just visited a place where the children, especially kids with special needs, were in dire conditions.

Almost a year ago, God placed a calling on my life. He said,

"You will fight a battle, and you will fight for the children who cannot fight for themselves."

Until now, I never thought I'd question that calling. Orphan care was always my haven. The place where I was most comfortable. Where I felt God move most powerfully. I felt next to no discomfort because, in a sense, orphan care was just "who I am".

This week at Maria's Big House of Hope in Luoyang, China I have been challenged more than ever before. Looking into the faces of these precious children who have cerebral palsy, Down syndrome, and other special needs and knowing that they will not always be in such kind and loving environments, where there needs are met. Knowing that they most likely would not live long after they left Maria's, let alone into adulthood, broke my heart more than anything before.

As I watched the smiles and saw God's light in the eyes of Gianna and Tabitha and Audrey and Bryan and Charlotte and countless others, my heart felt like it was going to explode and tears ran freely down my face.





Would none of them live? My body was literally clenched and racked with pain because the thought of these precious children that I had fallen so hard for would not live simply because of a deficiency in their care and an ignorance in the world of their beauty simply crushed me.

And I struggled with my calling. Was this what it meant to fight for those who couldn't fight for themselves? To watch the ones that I love the most die untimely deaths or waste away in places where they were not loved or cherished? I didn't want that. I didn't want my calling anymore. Not if it meant so much pain, so much anguish. So much of my heart feeling like it was going through a garbage disposal.

Then He spoke to me again. He said, "You will be hurt deeply by the losses, but in the end all losses will be turned to victories."

I was comforted by that, but I still struggled. Just because pain was turned to victory didn't mean that the pain wouldn't be just as devastating. And I pushed back at Him. I wrestled with Him. I argued with Him.

Why me? Why did I have to be the ones to feel the losses so deeply? Why did I have to be the one to fight for the ones that were the hardest to fight for? Why did I have to be the one to love them even though their lives might not last long?

And He spoke to me on the roof of Maria's Big House of Hope, as I was looking over the city of Luoyang, surrounded by the names of all the children that had passed into the arms of the Father at Maria's.

He said,

"Look up! Look up, my daughter! Can you hear the orphan's cry?"

As I felt the wind through my hair, I could distinctly hear a single cry on the wind. A heart-piercing cry. One that cannot be ignored as hard as you might try to ignore it. How could I? How could I turn my back on such a voice? A voice so pure, so helpless, so in need of the love of a Heavenly Father?

"Do not turn your back on the work I have given you. Do not turn your back on who you are."

I understand that watching those I love most pass before my very eyes in conditions that are destitute will be gut-wrenching. I understand that it will be a life-long struggle. I understand that it will be the most painful and yet the most joyful thing I have ever experienced.

Pain and all, I have decided to accept my calling.

And when I hear that orphan's cry...

I will be ready to run in with the sword of God in my hands.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

God's Faithfulness in China

About three days into our stay at Maria's Big House of Hope, I started feeling dizzy. I'd be standing up, and I'd feel like I was going to fall over.

I excused myself from a few team activities just in case, but dismissed it as being really hungry from not eating a lot of the Chinese food.

I woke up the next morning completely congested with a pounding headache. As I laid in bed in the early morning, watching all the other teammates go and play with the kids, I thought, I'll just rest for this morning. Then maybe I'll feel better this afternoon.

We were going to Downtown Luoyang that morning and, despite my protests, our team leader sent a nurse to check on me and make sure I was okay to go. While I adamantly said that I was fine, he told the nurses and the other team leader how I had been sick for two days in Peru, and hadn't told anybody. I gave up. I couldn't argue the truth.

Thankfully, the nurse said I could go as long as I didn't push myself too hard. Excited, I left and went to visit the beautiful Downtown Luoyang. But about halfway through, I started feeling worse. It took all my focus and energy to walk. Just get to the end, I thought. I took a nap when we got back, and was feeling somewhat better, but still didn't want to play with the kids if it meant them getting sick.

When I woke up the next morning, I felt like death itself had come for me. I was so congested I couldn't breathe through my nose. I was coughing so much I was having trouble breathing. My throat hurt so bad that I had to clench a pillow tight in my fists to offset the pain every time I swallowed.

And silent tears dripped down my cheeks.

Why me? Why me, God? At this beautiful building where I can care for special needs orphans all day, every day. Where I'm living out my dream. Why now? We only had a short time here, and God had made me sick.

Suddenly I felt completely useless. Why would God want me on this trip if I was only going to get sick? If I wasn't going to be of any help to the team or to the orphans?

It was then that God revealed to me a truth that I had refused to see for a long time. Simply because I hadn't wanted to see it. Physically loving orphans isn't the only way to love orphans. I realized that because my only way to love the orphans of Maria's while I was sick and weak was to go room to room and stand outside, praying over each of the children individually. And it struck me that I was loving these orphans. Maybe they couldn't feel it. Maybe they couldn't see me. But God could. And God could use my prayers to love these orphans.

I was laying in bed, sick, for two days, and by the time I was sort of well enough to play with kids, it was our last day.

I had to be very careful not to breathe on them, and I had to wear a surgical mask. I sanitized frequently. With my mask on, and my voice completely gone, I realized that the only way I could communicate with these kids was through my eyes. I had to convey all my love and joy and passion through my eyes.

Would my kids recognize me? Would they be scared of me? As I visited my little boy Bryan, I could see the confusion in his eyes at first. But as I looked into his eyes, and focused all my love for that boy through my eyes and into his, his face lit up. His smile covered his entire face, and his eyes returned the love.

While I was angry at God while I was sick, I am learning to realize that getting sick in China was God's faithfulness to me. I needed to be taught a lesson, and through His Hand in my China experience, I was able to learn it so that I would never forget it.

I think about how much it pains me when I have to hold Levi down at the doctor when he gets a shot, and how much it hurts me to watch him scream in pain, not understanding that I'm doing it because he needs it and because I love him.

How much more must God hurt for us when He has to do things to us that we don't like or understand in the moment. So I thank God for being strong and "hurting" me when I didn't want to be hurt. Because through that small amount of pain, I have gained a small amount of wisdom.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

The Bright Side of Orphan Care

China exceeded my expectations in every way.

I went expecting to be broken beyond belief. To fall so deeply in love that I sobbed my guts out when we left. To feel like my heart had been ripped out and stomped on.

While I did see things on this trip, situations of orphans that broke my heart completely, I didn't leave crying.

I left laughing, and full of joy.

All through the trip, I kept wondering what God was teaching me. I didn't feel broken. I didn't feel like I had received some kind of huge calling like last time. What was God showing me?

I took me until the very last day to find out.

For once, God was showing me that I could focus on the bright side of orphan care. Every mission trip I'd been on, I'd come back complete devastated for the plight of orphans.

But this trip gave me incredible hope! Seeing Maria's Big House and the joy of all the orphans there, gave me such hope for orphan care!

Who's to say that Maria's is going to be the only bright side in orphan care? Who says Maria's has to be the only place like it? Who's to say Maria's is going to be the only Big House of Hope?

It was unbelievable how much hope I was given through this trip! I was full of such joy the whole time! I thank God for the opportunity to go to China so that He could show me that just because I work in orphan care, doesn't mean I have to be continually devastated, but that I can be equally filled with joy and hope for these precious kids!

This song was stuck in my head and on repeat on my iPod all week long!

What joy we have in orphan care if our hope is in the name of the Lord, and what peace if our confidence is Him alone!

Thursday, June 2, 2011


It seems surreal that I'm leaving for China tomorrow.

Six months ago, I didn't even want to go to China, and now I'm getting ready to board a plane to Beijing!

It was the thought that I could meet another Levi or another Evan or another Carmencita that initially made me say "yes" to the trip.

And, over time, that yes grew and grew and grew until I had absolutely no doubt that God wanted me to be in China for a few weeks.

But, what scared me more than anything else was the thing that made me the most excited.

What if I met another Carmencita?

What if I met another precious baby that stole my heart, ripped it out of my chest?

Loving people is hard. Especially when they live across the world. Loving Carmencita has been incredible, but it has also been difficult. Difficult to know that she might never have a mom and dad. Difficult to know that she could be suffering and there's nothing I can do about it.

In some ways, I wish I didn't love her so much. It would take away so much heartache. It would take away so many moments of embarrassing tears. It would take away hoping for something so hard, and that watching it get smashed to pieces over and over and over.

But I just can't help it. I love her, and I will never stop loving her.

And part of me is absolutely terrified that this will happen in China too. Some little boy or girl, probably one of the shy ones that people aren't normally drawn to, is going to steal my heart right out of me. And then I'll have loves on opposite sides of the world. Peru. China. How will I balance it out?

How can I show my love to each child when they're so far apart?

So as I leave for China tomorrow, I pray that God will give me a heart that is open to love these children. That my heart won't close simply out of the fear that loving people hurts sometimes. I pray that God will force into me the knowledge that, yes, love is hard sometimes, but it is full of laughter and joy and so much more. And every single one of those children is worth being loved. I pray that He will lead me to the children that need me to show them that love. The love that I have in my heart, placed their by God himself. I pray that I will be only the instrument of this love, that I won't choose to hold it back or give it to whom I want to give it to, but give this love to whom God wants me to.

Mostly I thank Him for giving me the incredible opportunity to go to China and to be His light to the special needs children there. Please keep my team in your prayers for the next two weeks.

I may or may not be able to post from Maria's Big House, so keep checking the blog for possible updates!

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

What Is Life?

As an aspiring writer, I have to practice my use of words and the English language daily to improve my skill... and just for fun too! One of the ways I do this is through a book that I have that gives me a writing exercise for every day. Today's asked me to answer the question "What is life?" I decided to share it to take a short literary break from the usual blogging tone.

Here follows a short poem I wrote in response:

What Is Life?
Tori Hook

Life is
God's breath
In an early morning breeze,
Scattering dewdrops
Of love and laughter.

Life is
God's tears,
Drumming down into the earth,
Forming tiny imprints,
Where pain can be ignored but not forgotten.

Life is
God's wrath,
Echoing through the skies.
Unable to subdue itself,
It leaves behind a catastrophic trail.

Life is
As long
As a scorching summer day,
As short
As the flicker of a firefly.

Life is
When joy meets tribulation
And no one knows
Who will
Emerge victorious.

Life is
Being given a chance
And making the wrong decision;
Where you learn that
Consequences cannot be bargained away.

Life is
What you choose to make it.
Choose wisely.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011


Beautiful baby Angela is the child who first started us on our adoption journey again. We honestly thought that we were done after Levi - until we saw her beautiful face. After prayers and discussion, we decided that we would pursue her adoption.

But Kenya's adoption regulations were difficult. We realized that in order to make Angela, who had Down syndrome, a part of our family, it might be necessary to move to Kenya and live them for up to two years.

It seemed daunting at first, but we were determined. She was meant to be with us.

Then Kenya refused to comply with the Hague Adoption Convention, and so it's adoptions to America were closed.

While we were obviously very sad, we knew that if and when adoptions opened again, she would come to be with us.

Without Angela first opening our eyes to another adoption, we would not have pursued Evan. And I would not have a sister.

But Angela is never going to come and live with us. She will never be my sister. Not here anyway.

Angela has gone to live with her Heavenly father. Where she will not be discriminated against for having Down syndrome. Where she will be loved day and night for all eternity by her Daddy.

While I am devastated that I will never have the joy and privilege of knowing and loving her here. I am overjoyed that she is now in Heaven. Where she will be loved and cherished forever.

I pray that God keeps his arms constantly around her, and lets her know that her family who never got to become her family here on earth cannot wait to meet her in Heaven. She is truly an angel.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Without God

Have you ever thought that without God we are everything we despise?

If God is who He says He is than He is the definition of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self control.

Can you imagine being without any God-given qualities? What if you were devoid of love. You had never experienced joy. You were never at peace. You were impatient at all times. There was never a time that you were kind to your neighbors. You were not a good person. You didn't have faith in God, let alone anyone else. You were rough instead of gentle with people. You never exercised self control, but instead lashed out at any and everyone and gave into temptation always.

Everything that makes you glow, that makes you beautiful, that makes you who you are - gone.

See, when we let God take over our lives, God doesn't just give us salvation, He gives us a new self. Our hearts are replaced with God's and we become like puppets.

If we were without God, our lives would be a blank. No purpose and no direction. Searching mindlessly for something to fill us, we would be overcome with sin and the world. We would be destroyed from the inside out. We would live a painful life and go on to live a painful eternity.

But the reality is that we have God. We have a God who loved us in our brokenness and gave us a part of His own heart. So that instead of hating we can love. Instead of being overcome with sadness, we can be overcome with joy. Instead of being anxious, we can be at peace. Instead of demanding immediate answers, we can be patient. Instead of being cruel to those around us, we can be kind. Instead of being inherently bad, we can be inherently good. Instead of relying on ourselves, we can have faith in God. Instead of acting roughly and inconsiderately around others, we can be gentle and graceful. Instead of falling into temptation, we can exercise self control.

But if our heart has been replaced with God's, how come we still hate? How come we're still overcome with sadness? How come we're still anxious? How come we still demand answers? How come we're still cruel, we're still bad, we still rely on ourselves, act inconsiderately, and fall for temptation?

Yes, God replaced our hearts with His, but that heart is still in a body of the world. The heart is the epicenter of the body, it provides the rest with life. But even the heart cannot erase all the effects of a diseased body. Our bodies are diseased, but God's heart is fighting back. But unless we force our worldly bodies to fight with it, it cannot win.

God's heart has replaced yours. The question is: are you willing to fight alongside it to cure the disease of the flesh?

Monday, May 9, 2011

New Life

Life is like a roller coaster. There are magnificent highs and devastating lows.

I feel like I'm at the top of the roller coaster right now. Life couldn't get much better. Evan is home. We're all adjusting nicely.

We've already made so many memories with Evan. It feels like she's been here forever, but at the same time it's hard to believe she's been home for three weeks.

I feel like I'm living in a dream. School is out for summer so I don't have to worry about grades or homework anymore. I watched Disney's Tangled with Evan. I think she's going to like princess movies! We played football in the yard with Evan and Levi. They laughed and laughed and laughed! It's like we're catching up on all the time that she should have been with us.

I leave for China in 24 days. I'm very excited, but I'm also curious to see how it will compare to Peru. I've only ever been one place on a mission trip, so I have nothing to compare it to. I will discover now whether I love Peru, or whether I just love the mission field.

In the midst of all this, though, there are still days when I feel like breaking down because I miss Peru so much. But I don't even think it's the actual country of Peru. It's the friends I've made there. The children I've fallen in love with. The feeling that this is what God has called me to do. I'll hear a certain song or watch a certain video and my heart will feel like it's being ripped in half because I want to go back so bad. I especially miss Carmencita.

But through the goods and bads of life, it goes on. God has seen fit to bless me and my family immensely. Why, I can't say, but He has. And we are so grateful for it.