power in the story

Tuesday, November 29

{Our tree decorated for Christmas}

Today marks day 3 of eating on $2 a day, and already sacrifice has yielded a harvest of increased focus on the eternal. When hungry hands extend toward beloved almonds, I recoil, acutely aware that delicacies such as these do not fit into our new eating pattern. Nor do they fit into the pattern of the millions of people who struggle to live on $2 a day for the rest of their life. But life sans almonds has churned beauty in my life, for it is brought me back to the story.

His Story.

Committing to Love in Action for Kev and I wasn't just about eating less food. No, it was pledge to dive deeper within the journey of discovering the roots that changed the trajectory of interaction between natural and supernatural. Put simply, it was a desire to return to the story of Jesus. Savior. Messiah. Emmanuel.

3 nights and counting, Kevin and I sit hands held and hearts open. Be with us Lord.

We take turns letting holy scriptures roll off our tongue, recounting the stories that surround His birth. Teach us Lord.

Minds moving as we read the devotion and answer the questions. Mold us Lord.

"For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to diving soul and spirit, joins and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart" -Hebrews 4:12

Powerful. I cannot explain it. For years, I have not focused my heart on the Christmas story in such a pointed way. And what a shame, for the power in God's word is a heavenly kind of lovely- it is overwhelming. The treasures of teaching layered into the advent scriptures has already bent my heart toward HIM. Mary's deep trust, Joseph's obedience, Elizabeth's blessings. Ordinary people whom God used to showcase deep Kingdom truths. Human hearts in obedience to the King set the stage for Heaven to break into the world.

And that is the beauty of this story. It moves us. It changes us. No matter how many times eyes have scanned the birth narrative, God's power projects through words and penetrates our heart. He teaches. We learn. He molds.

If you want to journey with us, I have added a tab to my blog titled Advent Devotions. (if you want them in a document to print out, ask me and i'll email it to you!) I have written 14 devotions to coincide with Love in Action. There is a passage of scriptures taken from the Christmas narrative, the actual devotion, questions, and then an ELI staff member or child you can pray for in Kenya. Setting aside intentional time to walk through these passages has already brought Kevin and I closer together as we move towards the truth and beauty of this season. Will you too find time each day to find power in HIs Story?
{ Snuggling up for devotion time }
And if you are wondering...we are still enjoying our food (it hasn't become too monotonous yet! but of course...we're only 3 days in, haha!). But I do miss my almonds!

How do you celebrate Advent?

love Katie

advent...join me, I dare you!

Sunday, November 27

{ LOVE these globe ornaments my mama bought me last Christmas! Now I have a tree of my own to put them on! }
{ putting together my $3.42 split pea soup...lunch for the entire week! }

Today begins Advent...the beautiful season of anticipation where we wait to celebrate the birth of our Messiah! As a girl, mom and dad and 3 siblings would round the wreath and light candles and read the sacred story of our Savior's magnificent decent. We would pray and then excitedly fling open tiny doors on advent calendars, gobble chocolate, and then four sleepy children were off to bed.

a season to remember his love.
a season to learn his love.
a season to give his love.

God calls us to love Him with everything in us and to love our neighbors as ourselves. But what does it look like in a world where 25,000 of our "neighbors" die from hunger each day, while our refrigerators and cupboards overflow with excess food? How do we love our neighbors as ourselves? How do we keep from falling into the sin of Sodom explained in Ezekiel 16:49? "They were arrogant, overfed and unconcerned; they did not help the poor and needy."

Empowering Lives International, the organization I work for, is challenging us to put sacrificial love into action by living on a food budget of $2 a day for 2 weeks. You can find out all the details for LOVE IN ACTION here (there are some amazing resources, like menu options, ideas for families with kids, etc) but below I am going to start documenting the LOVE IN ACTION journey Kevin and I embark on this season:)

This Advent, Kevin and I have committed to eating on a food budget of $2 a day for 2 weeks.

We want to love and pray for our neighbors in East Africa (Kenya, Congo, Tanzania, and Kenya).

We want to give out of sacrifice, not just of excess.

But bottom line, we want to be obedient to our radiant Savior who came to love and serve the poor.

If you want to join in the fun I will send you a 14 day advent devotional that I wrote (one devotion for each day), AND you can post your experiences either here on my blog OR join the event on the Empowering Lives facebook event called Love in Action- Advent Experience.

so....here goes our prep:

Kev and I pooled our entire budget for the week....at $2 a day we both have individually $14 for the week, or a collective total of $28 for both of us for the week.

Between La Bodega (our little Mexican market down the street), Trader Joe's, and Ralph's, here is what we came up with for the week:

$2.50 - Big box of Oatmeal
$1.49- Carton of eggs

$3.42 - Split pea soup
  • $1- bag of split peas
  • $0.50- bag of carrots
  • $0.69- bag of celery
  • $0.23- one onion
  • $1- ham hock

{Kev chopping the carrots for our split pea soup }
$2.49- bag of 8 apples
$1- bag of popcorn
$1.14- 6 bananas
$1.99- bag of spinach

{ Excited that my favorite snack (popcorn) only costs $1 and will last me for both weeks, woo hoo! }
{ beloved (reppin' Indo) with our yummy/healthy snacks! }
$2.99- bag of basmati rice
$2.67- 3 cans of black beans
$2.20- salsa
$1.99- chips
$3.99- smoked apple chicken sausage

For a GRAND total of $27.87....JUST under our $28!

we are so excited to live and pray for our brothers and sisters in East Africa, and begin to live out more of the Father's heart for the poor. Will you join us in focusing your heart this advent season?

Love Katie (and Kevin too!)

spontaneous love

Thursday, November 24

{ kevin and I at ca adventure...my favorite part is watching kevin laugh hysterically when he rides ca screaming...seriously I get a belly ache from laughing watching HIM laugh. Don't you love to laugh? }

Happy Thanksgiving! Ohhh how I love today...the essence of gratitude and joy seep forth - love as palpable as the turkey roasting in the oven:)

God has filled my heart with blessings beyond compare, a list far too long to even fill the blog. 2011 alone has brought a trip to Indonesia, the most wonderful husband I could fathom, a beautiful and welcoming new family, and a sweet apartment with lovely neighbors. And of course, God has brought me to new places (some hard and some wonderful), and his GRACE and HOPE continue to extend into my life.

But today, I find myself so thankful for those small spontaneous moments, where you look around and tears fill the eyes and you know that God loves you so deeply. Last night Kevin and I had one of those profound moments, and while it may seem silly, I felt wrapped in the Father's arms....

Last night Kev and I wandered to Disneyland, excited to taste and feel the Christmas spirit with all the decor and lights and music. After a ride on California screaming, and a yummy dinner at the Fortune Cookery, we meandered into the California Grand hotel. "Grand" just doesn't do it justice. That place is like walking into a palacial hunting lodge fit for a king. The Christmas tree was the tallest i've seem in a building, twinkling and glittering in full glory. And slightly to the left a huge roaring fire place in a nook, cluttered with art deco chairs. The fire's roar was enough to tempt me to perch myself against the grate, and Kevin followed suit.

{ lobby of the california grand hotel! um...does it make you feel like you are in beauty and the beast? }
{ seriously, is there anything better than a fire place on a cold day }

We smiled and inhaled the moment. Happy families strolled by, bellboys aflutter, delicious scents coming from the restaurant next door. Divine.

And then in an instant, it all started happening. A man donning a guitar sweeps in, sits down, and the next thing we knew, we were a part of a massive sing along 'round the fire at the happiest place on earth. Kev and I caught eyes, and giggled hysterically. And then we sang.

{ guitar man in full strum...can you see me in the background clapping along? I was seriously getting into it }
{ my view from the fire place...does it get any better? }

Zippa-dee-do-da, Home on the Range, You are my Sunshine, Thank God I'm a country boy. And we sang some more. Red faced and rosy, strangers together lifting voices, while lights danced and sang along beside us. I'm not sure how long we were there, but we savored every last drop, like the remnants of a peppermint slowly melting on the tongue.

{ love of my life }

And in that still frame, I felt so loved. It was unexpected, but God knows how I love all things nostalgia- singing and being together round a camp fire like in the old days. God surprised me, and it was holy (and hilarious).

{ ok, ok, ok....we had to take the classic Christmas pic! }

So today amongst everything else I have to praise the good Lord for, I am so beyond thankful for surprises and God's unexpected ways of loving us.

And...Kevin just told me a baker at Avalon made a gluten and dairy free cake for me. So thanks again God...wasn't expecting that!! Happy Thanksgiving, and may God surprise you and love you today!

love Katie

when a house becomes a home

Sunday, November 20

{Getting ready for the special night...gotta LOVE scented candles. Don't they just make everything feel warmer?}

{Does the banner look familiar? It hung at our wedding. I bought the peace dove at a second hand-shop last summer in Sweden..I just couldn't resist a hanging dove, even if the plug is European and doesn't fit into our plugs here, haha}

{Another wedding piece recycled into home decor! We used these old postcards to put at each setting and the guests wrote us love-filled letters to read and re-read. I clipped them to an old frame and fabric! Couldn't resist}

Friday night we warmed our house, that is, we threw a 'lil party to welcome our friends to the new place. And it was wonderful.

Days prior, in the bustle of cleaning and hanging and purging, my my mind churned words round- tumbled thoughts of house vs. home scattered across beginner wife's slate. House, as I reflected, seeped meaning of "building" or "structure". The physical. As dimensional as a house is in brick and stone, Home carries a higher dimension. Home breathes life and warmth and welcome. "Home sweet home" not "house sweet house", and the point is diffused.

On August 13th I inherited a title- a powerful one that I do not take lightly. Wife. Ah yes, the illusive label with connotations to boot. The world reduces four letters to a domestic lunch box with servings of cleaning and housework and children. Oh, but to Abba "wife" is a sacred task. I see sparkle in the charge, twinkle in the good Author's eyes. Yes, being a wife is about being a caretaker of home and family- but mere mobility does not make a home.

A house becomes a home when love saturates, when encouragement fuses with the banal, and light shines bright HOPE into damp corners of fear and trepidation. Home is rest, a place to shed all anxieties upon entering the threshold. You are you- home is where someone believes in you. These reflections bear not as much on my limited experience as a wife, but find vibrant truth and life thanks to growing tall in a home where my own dear mother poured heart into her charge. Marrying my best friend, I wanted that for him. I wanted to prayerfully fight for a space where Kevin walks through the door and his souls tastes freedom. Enveloped by a warmth of love, known by a woman who's heart beats belief in the man she loves.

So yes, of course we painted, and decorated and arranged. But HOME could not be bought by gift cards or found at the be-all-end-all Bed Bath and Beyond. No, the home I wanted to create could only be built with prayer. Prayer that God would lay foundations of love and welcome, of light and hope, of hospitality and warmth.

Last week I stumbled across a letter that Catherine Booth wrote to her husband William Booth (the founder of the Salvation Army). In it, she declares her intent that their home will always be a place sensitive to his needs and concerns. And if you ask me, it is dripping in a deep and holy love.

"I am delighted; it makes me happy to hear you speak as you do about home. Yes, if you will seek home, love home, be happy at home, I will spend my energies in trying to make it a more than ordinary one; it shall, if my ability can do it, be a spot sunny and bright, pure and calm, refined and tender, a fit school in which to train immortal spirits for a holy and glorious heaven; a fit resting place for a spirit pressed and anxious about public duties; but oh I know it is easy to talk, I feel how liable I am to fall short; but it is well to purpose right, to aim high, to hope much; yes we will make home to each other the brightest spot on earth, we will be tender, thoughtful, loving and forbearing, will we not? Yes we will."

Moved. Home is not WHERE, we dwell, but HOW we dwell. Oh, and don't you love her conviction at the end? "Will we not? YES, we will". Beautiful. Prayer moves us to conviction that being a wife stands at a forefront of Kingdom work. About creating a space where saints and sinners can be trained, a resting place for the weary, a beacon of light.

and yes, much like Catherine..."I feel how liable I am to fall short" BUT.... (and I love that there is a "but")

It is well to purpose right.

To aim high.

To HOPE much.

And our home was warmed well by dear friends. Sweet souls who gathered together and prayed with conviction that we would fulfill God's great Kingdom work for our lives through such a sacred space. And I continue to pray- to aim high- to hope much.

Love Katie

{Gluten Free brownies! Can't leave anyone out}
{Some friends had left, and some hadn't arrived, but a sweet shot of those that warmed our home}
{Some picture on the wall...love love love sharing our lives and stories through pictures}
{Got this chair FOR FREE...makes it even more delicious, right?}
{And my favorite place to spend time the God! I got this one for free too (on the side of the road...yes I am my mother's daughter!). The color was too perfect and matched our bedspread so I claimed it for our room! SOOOOO cozy!}

love and good deeds

Wednesday, November 16

Tonight in the waiting room, I started to cry. Little pools of hope and conviction brimmed over hazel eyes. Stories of deep faith in the midst of deep darkness ignited the light burning within. Last summer, Kevin and I visited 19 Barteljorisstraat, Haarlem, the Netherlands- otherwise known as the house of Corrie Ten Boom. For hero Corrie, I shall save another blog post, for there is too much to say.

But tonight, I want to share a small pocket found deep within Corrie's story, that spilled the tears onto faded jeans. It was 1944, and the Ten Boom family had been found by Nazi gestapo to be helping Jews escape. Papa Ten Boom, a lover of God for 84 years, and his family of 8 were being seized and transported to a concentration camp.
At the last minute, the Nazi commander took pity on 84 year old Papa and said "Old man, if you promise to behave yourself from now on, we may leave you here". Papa, to the suprise of no one who knew him, looked at the agent and replied clearly "Young man, if you leave me here today, tomorrow I will open my door to anyone who needs help".

Sniffle, Sniffle, tear, tear, chills of courage ran down my spine. "I will open my door to anyone who needs help" And it cost him his life. And yet he gained everything.

Tonight when I shuffled laptop, purse, papers and one frazeled girl through the front door, I saw it. A small post-it note on the mirror, scribbled in his familiar handwriting, that read "Hebrews 10:23-24 Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds".
Tonight I was spurred on by a great man of faith, who in the face of death, never gave up the cause of love and good deeds, even at the expense of his life. I want that faith, that conviction, that love, that compassion. I want my home to be a place where we NEVER turn anyone away who needs help (regardless of nationality, documentation or appearance).

Thank you Casper Ten Boom, and my beloved Kevin Cook, for reminding me that no matter how hard it may get, the mandate to spur one another on in love and good deeds remains our task at hand.

Be encouraged...
Love Katie

Identity, it's thieves, and living free

Tuesday, November 15

{random side note, I LOVE these picture above...Kev, Izzy and I went mini golfing and found these glasses...oh the fun we had!}

A few weeks ago I was working a booth for ELI at Global Vision Week at Azusa Pacific University. I was in my element, connecting with students and telling and listening to stories. Don't you just LOVE stories:) But the most hilarious slash embarrassing part of the week, was the fact that after 27 years as a Katie, it was apparent that I have a speech impediment when it comes to saying my name, and only my name. It's true, for some reason "Katie" evidently comes out sounding like "Ketty" or "Casey" or "Callie". You might think i'm joking, but almost 80% of the time, people had to crane their ears my way, and ask me again what my name was, almost always insinuating it was something other than Katie. I wasn't sure whether to laugh or make an appointment with a speech therapist.

But as I was reflecting on my apparent lack of name pronunciation, I started to think about how our name is the doorway to our identity. I mean, the most basic form of Identification really just has your name on it, right? Identity is a strange beast. In childhood, we seem to just be completely free with who we are (for more on that, see my post on children here). We inherently move and think and breathe and laugh, oblivious to making a wrong move or saying the wrong thing.

And then the awkwardest stage alive hits us; our hormones start to party, and we finally realize that Payless Shoe source just doesn't cut it if we want to be cool. It's like the scene from Genesis when Adam and Eve realize they are naked for the first time, and cover up with fig branches (which I always thought was random). But for us, it's make-up and zit cream, and bad bangs, and airwalks (for my generation). But mostly it's the hard part of realizing that you are being judged and having no idea how to deal with it all. For me, seventh grade is when I began to lose that childlike confidence and wonder. I had a friend, who at times was a gem. And then at other times, was extremely sarcastic and hurtful. Whether or not she realized it, her cutting remarks and cold shoulders began to push me to live out of fear. I was fearful of saying the wrong thing, or worried that I wouldn't be funny if I tried. I began to think and re-think the things I wanted to say, timid that I would be shot down by her. My identity soon became marked by a crippling fear.

{see, now is this picture not awkward? what the heck am I even doing?}

And soon, like most insecurities and fears, we develop some way to compensate. For me, I replaced my personality with personal accomplishments. I thought that if somehow I was able to engage in enough applaudable endeavors, or travel to the most exotic destinations, people would pick out those treasures and consider me a person of value. But that gets tiring, when all we are is reduced to a resume or a superficial conversation that finds its foundation in one-uping the other person. Whew, tires me out just thinking about it. But to some degree, i'm sure you all can resonate with the futility of this exchange.

And then I moved to Garnet Lane, where people didn't give a darn about what the heck I had done with my life. No one dealt in resumes, or cared what University I went to. I don't think anyone even knew where UC Davis was. I was away from everything that I knew, and in the middle of the 'hood, where the tamale man was more common than the mailman, mariachi music was the disc of choice, and walking past the shrine to Mary became old hat. I was no one special, just a girl who began to "be" and not "do", to "observe and learn" and not "divide and conquer".

And then God began his business of undoing the skewed identity that had grown layers of peels around my fragile heart. He worked with hands so soft, bringing dear souls into my life to teach me what it looked like to just BE. In the past, my inner-multi-tasker would sound the alarm that I was invariably wasting time. But as God began to pump his likeness through me, he would gently whisper “Katie, as you look to ME for guidance, I enable you to do less, but accomplish more”. My eyes began to see the beauty in just sitting with a neighbor, or playing cards with a child– even if I felt like it was wasted time. I began to realize that God wants us to waste precious time WITH him, and with his people. No longer was identity in the doing, but in the being.

And then came a taste of freedom- of catching that vision that my identity was no longer rooted in fear, or driven by accomplishment. My identity blossomed when God taught me the beauty of obscurity that took eyes off ME, and on to HIM and his people. Freedom is when we live like Jesus, with a love so deep for Father and people that it burns with no competition in our hearts. I admit that I am only a student and that my great Rabbi is still teaching me daily. But I take steps, and my master guides my way.

And even if I can't pronounce my name, whatever! I don't care if you call me Ketty or Casey or Bertha....my identity is in Christ, it is no longer I who live but He!

Happy Tuesday!!
Love Katie

around the world in one county

Saturday, November 12

Kevin and I would forgo fancy smanch furniture, new clothes, expensive accessories, movies, music....well, pretty much anything to tango with the world. Quintessential traveling defines itself best by the essence of discovery, wide-eyed curiosity, and flavors that make you wonder where you have been all your life. I mean, you REALLY begin to feel like you are living. The beauty of this dance is that sometimes you don't have to go far to find it.

Kevin and I gave ourselves the challenge to see if we could discover the best little ethnic food restaurants in and around our hometown. Leaving behind just the idea of simply "eating", we wanted to experience the heck out of each venue, like we were occupying space in that country. So we pulled out our 5 senses, and with the help of our keen intuition (err, I mean google), we randomly stumbled across each place in a different way!

The Jagerhaus

Kevin and I were gifted with season passes to D-land (thanks Mama Cook), and every time we exited Ball Rd en-route to the happiest place on earth, we drove past this janky strip mall and a huge sign that read Jagerhaus, Authentic German Cooking. We were intrigued, for depite it's delapidated appearance, the place looked legit. From the minute we walked in, something about the wood paneling, the vintage chairs, and the walls adorned with shelves upon shelves of beer steins and family crests, we knew it was safe to pretend we were yodeling with the best of them in Germany. We were greeted by the owner herself, a Mrs. Sandra Shweiger, a plump German grandma head to toe in purple, and a smile as wide as the Rhine. Eyes twinkling, she confessed multiple times that she was "nosy", but in this day and age, we'd take nosy over a cold or indifferent waiter any day! "Bratwurst, cabbage rolls, shnitzel, sauerbraten, you will not go wrong with any of them" she mused excitedly!

And she was right, Kevin and I left completely satisfied and surprised how much we enjoyed this place. Amidst Polka in the background, abundant mustard and Hofbrau House Beer, and Sandra's stories of life in Germany, magic wafted in the air. Walking away, we both bid Grandma Shweiger Auf Wiedersehen, and agreed that we'd be back again:)

Kenyan Cafe and Cuisine, Anaheim Ca

Two years ago, I was embarking on spending a month in Kenya with the organization I work for called Empowering Lives International. Admist packing and preparations, I was hopelessly trying to study and learn as much Swahili as I could. Kevin and I were dating at the time, and his current way to impress me included learning Swahili in tandem. So to test out our newly acquired skills, we found this hole-in-the-wall place and said, "twende" (let's go!). Walls painted like the Masai Mara game reserve, we dined next to zebras

and giraffe's, and after a few minutes had quite a few Swahili teachers. Julius, the Kenyan owner sat down at the table with us, and gave us some new phrases. Two Kenyan ladies overheard us practicing while we waited for food, and laughing, offered to give us a hand. Even the cook from the back came out and taught us a song in Swahili. And what would a Kenyan restaurant be without a tv blasting Kenyan gospel music in the background? Kenya isn't know for having the most rich and delicious dishes, but as Kenyan food goes, this place was great. I wouldn't go here necessarily for the food (however it's fun to try dishes i've never heard of), but the familial ambiance and relationships we made at this place rocked! We've actually been back a few times to hang out with Julius!

Supatra's Thai Bistro

After spending a chunk of my life teaching English in Thailand, I had sworn off Thai food for a good year and a half. It's not that I didn't like Thai food, it's just the opposite. I loved it so much I ate it incessantly in Thailand, and overconsumption of anything can have negative effects! Which is why I was so pleasantly surprised when Kev took me to Supatra's for Valentines day last year, and I gobbeled down everything we ordered. This place is amazing, and the ambiance great. The curries and any dish with their peanut sauce is to die for! Plus, the waiters and waitresses humored me as I practiced my Thai, and soon a whole group of them were gathering around asking questions about where I lived and what I did. They even gave us a rose on departure, in which Kevin "the bachelor" gave me his rose at our impromptu "rose ceremony" in the parking lot. Yum-O! If you love good, authentic Thai, you will LOVE this place:)

Tana Ethiopian Restaurant

Tana is right next to the Kenyan Cafe, making it like a whole strip mall filled with African restaurants:) I had eaten Ethiopian once with childlike instincts....anything different tasted icky. But thankfully as I grew, my taste buds grew up too, so I was ready to venture onward and upwards to Tana! And I can't say enough about this place. The food was fabulous, and the culture seemed to seep from the tables and walls and kitchen. Tunes of Amharic bantering in the background, our waiter shared stories of Ethiopia, and it's flavored cuisine. Typical of Ethiopian food, all of our dishes were served on one huge platter made out of Injera (which is a spongy breadish pancake). I haven't the slightest idea what we ordered, but it was all insanely delish, like fireworks in the mouth. Just ask the waiter what he recommends and get that!

Warung Pojok
I tell people that if my husband hadn't been engaged to me while he was in Indonesia, he would have never come home! He's obsessed! Loved the people, loved the food, loved the language. He spent 7 months in Indonesia, coaching a University basketball game, and loving people well.
 needless to say, when he returned to the US, he was hankering for some nasi goreng and ayam. Mission accomplished, we found Warung Pojok. Settled between the classy venues of Chuck-E-Cheese and the 99 cent store, the placed lacked all curb appeal imaginable, and I was afraid that if Kevin and I BOTH went in we'd be breaking some fire code. But enter we did, and in a matter of minutes, the entire family running the place had mobbed Kev learning that not only had he lived in Indo, but spoke Bahasa as well. For the next hour my husband and his new Indo fan-club laughed and talked, while I sat on the side-lines and observed and ate, cracking up inside. Too funny. However, let me give this disclaimer that while Kevin ate to his hearts content, I was not a huge fan. But, it definitely has the authentic Indo vibe, so it's worth checking out.

Bottom line: eating hole-in-the-wall ethnic is about much more than the food. Much like life, it's all about the relationships. Bar none, at every single one of these eateries, we not only met, but walked away feeling like we knew the owners and families. We LOVE that! I want my life to be like that. To let people in, to make them feel welcome and loved. Food has a way of bringing people together, and love has a way of bringing people back! And even though we didn't leave the county, we feel like we entered numerous worlds through the medium of food and relationships! 

Happy weekend, and happy eating. Let me know if you have any don't-miss places to add to the list! Buon Appetito!
love Katie

intended unity

Tuesday, November 8

Last night I experienced the kingdom of God. It felt warm and inviting, a sense of togetherness was palpable. It tasted like spaghetti and pumpkin pie and coffee with cream. It sounded like laughter, and delight. Like English. Like Spanish. No bright heavenly lights. No booming voices from above. Just an apartment with people and food and God and Catch Phrase. Holy.

And so it was that we rewind to a place of inspiration. Francis Chan spoke at our church a few weeks ago. He said a great deal of wonderful things, and as most sermons go I retained an earful of 10%. But within that small margin, great thoughts of God began to stir. Stories of Jesus engaging with people, stories that pointed to purpose and community, a story that far outreached individuality. A match was lit and two excited pilgrims began to dream about what it would look like to go deeper with our neighbors- to know them, and allow them access into the deepest reaches within our soul.

Enemy tactics charged against us planting thoughts such as "You don't speak Spanish" or "what if they think you are those weird white people" or "what if we invite them and they say no". And since God isn't safe, we could not count on him to relieve our sissy spirits that all would be well and perfect. However, more important than our insecurities, we knew relationships and community are important to our Abba, so take the risk we must.

On Sunday night the beautiful family that lives below us rang our doorbell. Until this moment, they'd been a voice we had seen from the window, an exchange of "hello" in the courtyard, or a quick wave in the alley. And now we faced them eye to eye sitting in our dining room about to break bread together. Their open hearts and spirits ministered to us as we ate. We shared of our wedding day, pictures of white dresses and suits and flower. We savored their stories of geography and culture. They complimented my unrefined cooking skills. High fives passed liberally to Miguel who scored a goal in his game that day. Shared food, laughter abundant, conversation flowing.

But games...oh how games have a way of bonding the soul, and so it was that catch phrase made it's appearance. Split teams- a cacophony of English and Spanish. Competition raged, acting and charades at an all time high. Back and forth we battled, words overshadowed by rising octaves of laughter. Age, nationality and gender were obsolete.

I closed my eyes and took a still frame. Bubbling souls spoke one language of love. And isn't that the kingdom? No longer are we known by color or language or age or occupation. We are known as children of God, coming together to praise him in the form of relationship. And so it was that God showed me a glimpse of what he intended. Demolished in our home that night were social constructions of race and gender. Down were the lines of geo-political boundaries, of "us" vs. "them", and no importance was put on passports or papers that make no difference in heaven. And from the dross, what mattered to God arose so perfectly in the shape of friendship and love and glory to Him.

Heaven came to Topaz lane that night. And while my appetite and longing for heaven has increased, the realization that the here and now is important to our Father remains etched in my mind. To be loving here, to be peacemakers now- to call out friendship, to fill chaos with encouragement and dark places with kindness. But mostly to be armed with courage and a humble spirit that continue to hold hands out raw, and say "here I am Lord, send me".