22 October 2015

on my bucket list

I've been wanting an African name for years. Or even just an African nickname would suffice. Yet, my ASL sign-name stayed even after several years and multiple Deaf language communities. After a text message yesterday, I was struck with the realization that I DO have a spoken language African nickname... and have all this time... I've just been in staunch denial of what it is. :-p "Beti."  #Bettyisanoldladyname #washopingforsomethingelse #certainlynottribal #ohwell #winsomelosesome

My Amharic name is Betaniya  - which is really not that different, but has emotional roots now when I hear it in a different context. :-)

18 September 2015

endless transitions

To adjust --> "familiarize oneself with; to acclimate; become accustomed to; come to terms with..." And in our case, to adjust to rapid change & constant transitions.

There are some days I mentally tick off the list of major transitions in my life over the last two years, just to remind myself that I'm not losing it, and having days of just be-ing are ok... needed, even. It's not to applaud myself or give excuse for laziness. It's just the reminder that this is NOT normal life for MOST people... and to give myself some necessary grace on the days I just can't seem to tell up from down.

Just coming back from 3 months Stateside. Coming back to a sink that isn't draining, a toilet that is leaking, and feeling the squish of water that has seeped under the kitchen flooring and will need to be replaced. Coming back just to throw down our bags and run to our teammates' house to help them pack up their lives to go home... for good. Coming back just to say goodbye again.

Yet also coming back to elated neighbors... the smiling faces of the kids in our complex who have mastered the word "Chocolate??" :-) Coming back to warm wishes of "happy holiday" and "happy new year" as we rung in 2008 on the Ethiopian calendar. Coming home to the hugs of friends who pretend their eyes are not misty from missing us. Coming home to relatives who try not to call us to give us time to rest and settle back in.

Transition. Job changes. Home changes. Relationship changes. Marital status changes. Team changes. Physical social network changes.  Weather changes. Visa status changes. Yet... I am reminded I have a loving, faithful, sovereign Father who is UNCHANGING. A Rock. Yesterday morning, as I sat in my corner chair, morning sunlight peeking through the curtains, He lead me here in Isaiah 44, verse 8: "Do not tremble and do not be afraid... ... Is there any God besides me, or is there any other Rock?" No, Lord, there is not. You alone. My Rock. And then this beautiful promise in Isaiah 43, verse 15-16: "I am the LORD, your Holy One, the Creator..... who makes a way through the sea and a path through the mighty waters." My Rock. My Anchor. The Sea-ruler, Way-maker, & Storm-calmer. The Holy One, my Creator. You alone.

And I opened my laptop to find what tasks awaited me, and found hope, encouragement, affirmation, and challenge from others who walk this journey - so very different, and yet parallel my own. I am convicted to re-think ministry when local partnerships just aren't working well. I am validated and heartened by those who know the heart-rending of adjusting to constant comings and goings of teammates and friends. I am strengthened by women who understand and know the weight and indignity of harassment in our daily environments and refuse to be quiet about it.

And I am struck by how very odd it is, that those who ministered the most to me yesterday, were not even people I have ever met in person or would venture to call my friends. But they are brothers and sisters who know my journey struggles and joys, perhaps better than those who know me well. And I am reminded that I am part of something so much bigger and grander than this little chaotic world of my own. And this thrills and burns my heart to praise and rejoice. For He is the author of the story. And we serve the same Father. And He knows the end from the beginning. He is the Rock. The Anchor, in a life of endless adjusting, changing, and transition. And you, fellow bloggers and writers, have touched my life, and spoken into my story. Thank you.

Linking up with Velvet Ashes today, on the theme: "Adjust"

21 April 2015

Will you trust Me – for today and for tomorrow?

 It was a hot July evening in 2012, sitting on the grassy bank of a stream, as the evening light began to fade and the mosquitoes started making their presence known. It was a quiet place to think. A place to get away and alone with my thoughts... which, this particular evening, was a scary prospect.

I had been away from East Africa for a year now, yet I was still awaiting the morning I would wake without a heaviness in my chest and an ache in my heart of missing Africa with every fiber of my being. I was back in the States on purpose, to further my education, and prepare for a move to SE Asia. That had been the plan all along. At least, that had been my plan. In fact, I had spent the last year reminding myself of this. And I was no further along this evening than I was the first days of arriving "home" to American soil.

My heart was in knots. My spirit in turmoil. And to add to the plot, there was also this one guy... the one I kept resolutely factoring out of the equation when his name was whispered continually through my mind. After all, we were just friends. We were of different cultural, linguistic, and social backgrounds. We lived on different continents. We came from very different communities. And yet, my mind (and my heart) were continually drawn back to him. Despite all my denial, we were skyping on a weekly basis and corresponding even more frequently.

I was a mess. All my "well laid" plans and expectations were now a complex ball of limbo. Internally, I was battling fear of being my own worst enemy and making the wrong choices and the wrong decisions and royally messing everything up. So, that night on the bank of that stream, I was too consumed with swarms of fear and confusion and questions without answers to even heed the swarming bugs.

As I poured my heart out into a journal, hoping the verbal processing would bring some sort of order to my mental chaos, I wrote until I could no longer see the page through tears. I finally dropped the journal into the grass and cried out, "Why are You silent!? I NEED answers. I need to KNOW what You want me to do. I don't know, and I need to know. Why won't You just tell me??"

As the words faded into the buzz of mosquitoes, His voice gently flooded into my agonized spirit, "B, do you trust me for today?" Still in an attitude of frustration and impatience, I irreverently snapped back at Him that since it was already night time, that was a dumb question. Unfazed and ever patient, He whispered, "Ok then, will you trust me for tomorrow?" Realization flooded through me, that this was about to be a significant decision point. Mollified, I said yes. "That is all you need to know. Trust me, love." He finished tenderly.

Each morning following that evening encounter, He whispered the same two questions to me when I woke: "Do you trust me for today? Will you trust me for tomorrow?" He was asking me to surrender my need to know, my need to plan, my need for the answers... to, rather, trust Him, and His love, and His sovereignty, and His goodness and guidance. Yes, Lord, for today and for tomorrow, I will trust You.

And I discovered that in trusting Him--one day at a time, and walking in trust and obedience THAT day, and then the next day, and then the next--I found peace in His capable hands. He shifted my focus from the problems, the confusion, the limbo, the questions, to His heart.

Today, almost 3 years later, I am amazed to see what God has done with that simple trust. You know, that guy--the one on a different continent who I kept factoring OUT of the equation. He is now my husband. And I still wake up each morning with a love and ache for Africa, as I wake up on her soil;  she is now my home.

Linking up this week with The Grove @ Velvet Ashes.

"to be a help" or just "to be"?

THIS. I have been looking for THIS quote for over a year now. It is one of those that has shaped my own view of "ministry."

"I found a very subtle snare... I sought their fellowship in order that I might minister to them, 'be a help,' you know, to these 'weaker' ones. What a rebuke came when I sensed my real motive--that 'I' might minister. Love hacks right at this, for she refuses to parade herself. I learned to recognize no 'spiritual planes,' but simply to LOVE, purely, in every group. Trying to 'be a help' even has a smell of good works in it, for it is not pure. Our motive is only to BE--do nothing, know nothing, act nothing--just to be a sinful bit of flesh, born of a Father's love. Then you see, Beloved, there can be no defeat." 
(Excerpt from "The Shadow of the Almighty: The Life and Testament of Jim Elliot")

What do you think?

04 February 2015

a decade of (single) ministry: standing at the edge of what's familiar

In less than 3 weeks from now, I will stand before a gathering of witnesses and formally commit my heart and life to my long-awaited Love. Our meeting, friendship, courtship, and engagement stretched across 4 years... with great chunks of time spent in different countries, continents, and timezones. In these past 6 months especially, however, the theme of this post has been winding its way around my heart and mind.

You see, I've spent the last 29 and a half years of my life single. I didn't date in high school or college. I did have a ridiculously dramatic & immature "more than friendship" in college which ended (by God's mercy), albeit with a broken heart. I did have one courtship with a good friend after college, which was brief and successfully showed us we weren't suited for marriage to each other. Yet, the majority of the formative years of my life have been as a single woman - high school, college, career, ministry, and then moving, living, and serving in multiple countries and communities.

This past summer, as I co-taught a summer course at a Stateside University, I was asked a couple times by other faculty members (wholly unaware of my pending nuptials) if I would teach the young ladies on what it is like to live and serve overseas as a single woman. In the past, I have happily accepted; but after a draining and overwhelming year for many other reasons, I declined. Only hours after saying no, I realized... I was standing in the last window of time where I could feasibly talk to fellow single women about the struggles, joys, and challenge of living and serving overseas as a single woman. Because in less than 3 weeks, my credibility goes down to almost nil. Not because I haven't served as a single for over a decade. But because I will be married. Married at younger than 30 (just barely!).

My voice will soon be added to the dismissed voices of other married women who "don't understand," or "don't know what it's like, because you married 'young'" (which really just means younger than the person who is being "advised"). I know, because I've been there on the other side, and I've said these same things. (Examples: When I am 26 and told I should talk to another young woman who recently married about "how to wait gracefully" because "she waited so very long for the right guy too" and come to discover she is 21 years old. When I read books on how to patiently trust God to script my love story by someone who married at 18 years old. When another authoress writes on how to find the right guy and yet she is still single at 40.) Credibility, for singles, is kinda (very) important.


Someone once said the present is really just a thin line which is constantly translating the future into the past.

Living life as a single woman is easy for me. Singleness is familiar...comfortable even. I know its ins and outs, both Stateside and overseas. I know what to expect, what not to expect, and all that is in between. I know its joys and its sorrows. I know its versatility, its unique opportunities, its special challenges. It is safe, predictable, assuring. No, it hasn't always been easy, but it hasn't been all that terribly hard either. Yes, making decisions as a single woman can be overwhelming... finding someone to process with can be hard... but it's still just me calling the shots for, well, me.

And yet this morning, I stand on the ridge between a familiar place called singleness and an unfamiliar realm on the other side called marriage. In less than 3 weeks, I will be transferred to inside the boundary lines of that new world. So, as I stand, still on the edge of this familiar territory, I have a few things I want to say.

I am grateful, appreciative, and so thankful for the beautiful gift of singleness for the last decade of ministry. And for the blessing of un-attachment in my formative teen and early college years as well. I would not be who I am today nor in the place I am today, had the Lord not thought it good to give me this precious gift of undivided attention and focus. Thank you, Jesus. It has been an incredible, beautiful journey with You alone as my Lover, Companion, Provider, and most Intimate Friend.

I have been able to do things that only a single person can do... make spur of the moment decisions to go last minute places and meet unexpected people and do unplanned things. I have done countless back to back trips, sometimes without stopping to rest in the middle. I have met so many people and found new family in friends in far off places... people who loved me, cared for me, and took me in... because I was single, and they knew I needed them.

I have been able to pour out and spend myself, my life, my energy, my attention -- fully for Christ, and for others... that they might know Him and understand His heart better. I'm so thankful for friends, mentors, and a God who all urged me not to put my life on hold and wait... but to get out there and live it to its FULLEST with the glorious gift of singleness. I have been able to live undistracted... unattached... with a sole focus and purpose... and I am so, so, so thankful beyond words.

I love my fiance. More than any person on this planet. I am SUPER excited about the journey that lies ahead, and having him be the one at my side to walk the way with me... the ups and downs. TOGETHER.

But, for these remaining weeks, as wedding planning takes over our lives, we remind each other this too is just a season and the real deal lies on the other side of the necessary evils of invitations, clothes fittings, shoe shopping, decor choosing, and car rentals.

In the meantime... I am enjoying stretching out and having the entirety of my queen size bed all to myself. I am enjoying the remaining days of doing whatever I want whenever I want (well... within the reasonable hours of a given day and time not already eaten fully by aforementioned wedding preparations). I am enjoying cooking and eating the things I like, having the early morning hours all to myself, only washing one person's clothing, only factoring in my own movie likes/dislikes when I choose something to watch, and not feeling guilty spending a couple hours online reading facebook, email, or blogs in the evening. Because... very soon... that is all going to be a thing of the past.

Already, it sinks in. As every future decision now factors in TWO personalities, TWO plane tickets, TWO nationalities, TWO perspectives on where to live, TWO peoples likes/dislikes factored into every equation, and so much more in dual.

As I said. I am excited. It is right, and good. But it is also different. Unfamiliar territory. Anticipated. And yet... still much of an unknown learning curve, as we are ever continually woven into ONE.

I relish the journey with this incredible man holding my hand and Christ as our Faithful Guide, no matter what terrain we traverse together. Yet, this morning, and also during the last few months, I have been reminded of HOW very, deeply grateful I am to have had this beautiful, FULL, blessed, precious gift of a decade of singleness to have be given by Him, for Him, and back to Him.

God gives good gifts. May we be fully present to receive them and enjoy them in the today.

10 January 2015

rain clouds & thunder

I was flying to Kauai, for a mental health break. Flight paid for by colleague-friends who recognized I needed some much needed breathing space before returning to my home and work overseas. We took off from Portland, the rain and the muck. And it was really coming down.

Thunder, rain, lightening... all things I don’t really mind if I’m warm, safe, and dry. In fact, I have come to truly respect and appreciate  powerful thunderstorm. But I don’t like flying through them… not so much. Because they always mean something scary: turbulence.

Now, turbulence while flying is normal. And as much as I’ve flown in my life, it is something that isn’t really all that bad anymore. I’m more likely to die in a car accident or crossing the street. But ever since a flight from Philippines to Thailand, and a very scary swing and drop turbulence moment… which forever has imprinted itself on my stomach in particular… I’m not as big a fan as I used to be. Severe turbulence these days can bring me sweaty palms, shortness of breath, and a pounding heart.

But this day… I was so overwhelmed and exhausted… it didn’t so much matter anymore. It had been a whirlwind trip to the States, home, working, and teaching at various organizational events. Things were stressful in both my personal and public life, filled with tension and stress. So Hawaii had been the answer and solution to my needing a few days … just … away.

As we started to ascend, the wind and rain and thunder and lightening pummeled us. I stared out the window, in awe of what we were courageously, stubbornly attempting… to ascend and soar in the midst of this crazy weather. The turbulence, even taking off, caused us to shimmy back and forth on the runway as we lifted off the ground. I was listening to Tenth Avenue North’s album “the Struggle” and “Worn” on my iPod again and again, repeated.

The storm, as we climbed, actually became worst. I could hardly see out my window, as rain pummeled against it – gray and wearying. The clouds became, darker, blacker. The thunder became louder. The lightning even more bright and ominous. And then, not knowing how many minutes had really passed, we came soaring out the other side… and the beautiful, unworried sunlight burst forth against a vibrant blue sky, blinding me. Once I regained my eyesight, I looked down at the other side of the clouds… and how very tame and mellow they looked from the other side.

Spiritual truth revelation: There is a place we can dwell in Him, above the storms of life. From our perspective, they can be terrifying. Looking only from the lowest point. But when we let Him lift us into the place of His love, His grace, His mercy, and His goodness… we are reminded He is Lord OVER the storms, and He is sovereign. And we are being carried in His arms.