One year ago tomorrow I boarded a plane from El Salvador to the USA for the last time, as far as I know. It was an extremely fast and completely unexpected transition. It was a shattered dream. It felt like a betrayal. It was confusing. It was so painful. It felt hopeless. But it is being redeemed day by day. I thought I would take a minute to reflect on some of the lessons that I have learned over this past year.
- Forgive in real time. This lesson came from a very wise woman in my life after a conversation about a month after I returned. She listened patiently as I told my story and shared my heart and then she said, “Kelly one of the most healing things you can do is learn to forgive in real time.” What she meant was that when all of the memories and accusations and conversations start playing in my head, I can either feed them or I can diffuse them. So in those moments when I would start remembering and thinking the “how could you’s” I would forgive. Right then. In real time. It completely diffused the ugly thoughts that could easily become sin. For awhile forgiving in real time was literally every five minutes. But it was very healing. And the reality is, a lack of forgiveness doesn’t hurt the person I’m not forgiving. They don’t care. They are over it. It only hurts me. One of my favorite quotes is “Forgiveness is setting a prisoner free and discovering that the prisoner was you.”
- God works most profoundly in the midst of shattered dreams. One of my favorite verses comes from the book of Proverbs and it says “Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but when dreams come true there is life and joy.” And that’s the thing. You’ve got to wade through that hope deferred. You have to go through it, push through it, nearly drown in it sometimes. You have to do it though, because life and joy are on the other side. You have to go through it, not around it. I have seen God move so profoundly in my life this year. He has brought healing, hope when there was none, renewed my calling, taught me how to love better and deeper, given me a renewed love and desire for the Gospel…I could go on and on. Shattered dreams are neither surprising nor troublesome for God. They are his most unique canvas.
- Just because it didn’t turn out the way you thought it would doesn’t mean that you weren’t called to do it in the first place. Man, I struggled with this so much. Because my time in El Salvador ended so abruptly and painfully, I started doubting whether I was supposed to even go there to begin with. That’s where the enemy attacks us, isn’t it? He takes our pain and turns it into insecurity. But that’s not what God does. He used another wise woman in my life to remind me that my calling wasn’t to El Salvador or to the children of La Casa. My calling was and always is to Jesus. Wherever he takes me. She also reminded me how certain and clear my calling was to go. Not just to me but to everyone around me. My job is to obey, God’s job is everything else.
- Sometimes I feel like a sailboat. And that’s ok. I posted this post about a sailboat soon after I returned. Sometimes I still feel like that. Drifting, depending on a wind that doesn’t seem to come, looking for the shore, feeling like I’m talking but no one is listening. And that’s ok. The thing about sailboats is that the wind eventually picks up and that shoreline eventually shows itself. And God is always listening.
- Hope does not disappoint us. I didn’t really believe this until recently. More on my story of losing hope and finding it again in the next few blogs!
I started off 2014 reading the book of Ephesians and was drawn in to two powerful prayers in this incredible book. The more I read them, the more I felt like God was calling me to pray this prayer regularly for the girls at La Casa de mi Padre. So, I took the prayers and made them into one, and wrote it out with a blank where the name would go. Every day I pray this prayer for whomever God places on my heart. Sometimes I pray it eleven times, one time for each of the girls. Sometimes it is one specific girl. It just depends. I thought I would post it here in case any of you would like to join in praying for them. It’s also a great prayer to pray for yourself and anyone in your life.
A Prayer for the Girls of La Casa de mi Padre (from Ephesians 1:17-19, and 3:16-19)
I ask that you, the God of our Lord Jesus Chris, the glorious Father, may give __________ the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that she may know you better. I pray also that the eyes of her heart may be enlightened in order that she may know the hope to which you have called her, the riches of your glorious inheritance in the saints, and your incomparably great power for us who believe. I pray that out of your glorious riches that you would strengthen __________ with power through your Spirit in her inner being, so that Christ may dwell in her heart through faith. And I pray that __________, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge- that she may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.
I’ve recently experienced some conflicting emotions. On September 7 I boarded a plane to fly “home” and I was so excited! I was excited to see family and friends, for rest, for familiar and favorite foods, and to sleep in my own bed. Home was calling to me!
Tomorrow I board a plane to fly “home” again, but this time to El Salvador, and I am so excited! I am excited to hug “my kids,” excited for the familiar and simple food, for a routine, to sleep in my own bed. Home is calling to me!
Throughout my visit people have asked me how it feels to be home, but then corrected themselves immediately and said, “Well I guess El Salvador is home now.” That’s so true. El Salvador is home. Atlanta is home. Home is where your heart is, right? And my heart is in two places at once. The more I have reflected on this thought over the past three weeks, the more blessed I have felt. There are two places in this huge world where I feel right at home. God has woven my heart with people in both places. Two places that I am always excited to go back to. Two places that will always be hard to leave. Two places where I have “family.”
Tomorrow I leave my home to go home.
Sometimes I feel like I’ve always been here. Sometimes I feel like I fit right in. Sometimes I love pupusas. Sometimes I think if I have to eat another pupusa, I’m going to throw up. Sometimes I feel like I am making huge strides with the girls. Sometimes I wonder why I am here at all. Sometimes I look at the beautiful mountains surrounding this valley and feel incredible joy, peace, and thankfulness. Sometimes I miss GA 400. Sometimes I just really miss Chick Fil A. Sometimes I feel like I could spend the rest of my life here. Sometimes I feel like jumping on a plane back home. Sometimes I feel so full. Sometimes I feel so lonely that I cry while I’m driving around. Sometimes I wonder how Coca-Cola can be so bad for you (even in a glass bottle), when it tastes to good and reminds you of home. Sometimes people talk about Chick Fil A on Facebook and I get super jealous and usually mad at them for posting that. Sometimes I feel like I am missing out on the lives of my nieces and nephews. Sometimes I am overwhelmed with gratitude while surrounded by sweet girls snuggled up to me watching a movie. Sometimes I feel forgotten. Sometimes I feel remembered. Sometimes I feel so overwhelmed by the hurt that sits down deep in these little hearts. Sometimes I feel encouraged by what God is doing through the pain. Sometimes I feel like I’m right where I’m supposed to be. Sometimes I wonder if I made the right decision. Sometimes I speak great Spanish. Sometimes I get made fun of for my Spanish and then I cry in my car on the way home and wonder if I will ever fit in. Sometimes I forget words in English. Sometimes I don’t want to leave La Casa and wish I lived there with the girls. Sometimes I am running out the doors of La Casa for some alone time. Sometimes I feel like part of a family. Sometimes I feel very very alone. Sometimes I really want some Chick Fil A sweet tea.
All of the time God pours down his kindness and love and the reminder of his calling.
All of the time I love these kids with all of my heart and pray for them continuously.
All of the time I am grateful for those who have sent me and continue to pray for me and encourage me.
But sometimes a girl just needs some Chick Fil A.
I love this place. I love the children that live here. I love the staff that work here. I love the verse behind the mission (He will turn the hearts of the parents to their children, and the hearts of the children to their parents… Malachi 4:6). I love that the goal is to restore. I love that the focus is Christ. I just love this place! I am a part of the story because I live here and work here…but you can be a part of the story too! Here are a few easy ways to get involved!
- PRAY!!! We need a lot of prayer. Seriously…a lot. There are 29 kids in our care who have been through a lot and who are growing up…many of them into the adolescent years. Those are not easy years…enough said. We also fight spiritual battles on a daily basis. Why wouldn’t Satan want to steal the hearts of these kids? We are fighting for their hearts every minute of every day…and you can be a part of that. For the most up to date prayer needs, “like” us on Facebook. Here is the link.
- Sponsor a child. Have you been to La Casa de mi Padre and connected with one of our kids? Or have you seen a picture posted and couldn’t get enough of that sweet little face? I have good news for you! We have a great sponsorship program that allows you to contribute monthly towards the cost of housing, food, medicines, counseling, clothing, etc with amounts ranging from $15-$100 a month. In addition to monthly contributions, you will also get to build a relationship with one of our kids through letter writing (emails really), which the kids absolutely treasure! And who knows? Maybe you will come down and visit them someday! If you would like to sponsor a child, please send an email to email@example.com.
- Give monthly (or one time) to operations. The monthly cost of running La Casa de mi Padre is $35,000. Yep. That’s right. $35,000. We are not supported by the government, so we rely fully on private donors. To donate, please send a check written to My Father’s House International with “Operations” in the memo line and send it to: My Father’s House International, P.O. Box 20673, Roanoke, VA 24018.
Well, there you go! Three great ways to get involved with La Casa de mi Padre. If you want more information, feel free to email me anytime at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Mother’s Day is a very big deal in El Salvador and is celebrated each year on May 10. So this year it fell on a Friday, which meant it was celebrated all weekend.
At the risk of being too transparent here on the internet, Mother’s Day has been a tricky thing for me over the last few years. You see, it’s always been a dream of mine to be a mother. Some of my earliest memories involve playing house with dolls and dreaming of the day when I would be a mother. And yet here I am, 31 years old, and not yet a mother. Don’t worry, this isn’t a rant, and it’s not something I am bitter about, but I have been broken hearted about it sometimes. And I have wondered why. So as you can see, Mother’s Day can be a little tricky for me. Celebrating and mourning all at the same time.
This year it was even trickier because now I work with a bunch of beautiful kids who were without their moms on Mother’s Day. As I walked into La Casa de mi Padre for the celebration on Friday, I knew that we would be celebrating all of the mother’s on staff, I just didn’t know that included me. The photo you see above is my very first Mother’s Day gift. To these kids, I am a mother, and they were so excited to give that to me! I love them and care for them as a mother would. I laugh with them, I give and receive hugs, I get angry with them, I catch their tears with my hands and my heart, I listen to their hopes, dreams and secrets. I try desperately to show them the extravagant love of Jesus. And something has shifted in my heart. God has made me a mother. It’s not like I had always thought it would be, but it is a deep, fulfilling, and sometimes painful love that I could never have imagined. But this weekend, as I was showered with cards, hugs, “I love you’s,” paper flowers, and love, I couldn’t help but be grateful.
So here I am, 31 years old, and I’m a mother.
Hope postponed grieves the heart;
but when a dream comes true, life is full and sweet. (Proverbs 13:12)
Sit here with me and tell me your story
Even if it breaks my heart, let me see your scars
Shame will whisper, but we can’t listen
‘Cause these are the stories that make us who we are
And I love who you are
Beautiful scars, your beautiful scars
Reminders of the wounded love that has carried us this far
Beautiful scars, your beautiful scars
Turning the marks of our pain into beautiful scars
(“Beautiful Scars” by Steven Curtis Chapman)
I am amazed and truly overwhelmed everyday at how faithfully God restores broken things. We are all so broken, so full of scars and pain, and yet God makes us new. He turns our beauty into ashes. I have never seen this more beautifully displayed than with the kids of La Casa de mi Padre. They still have a long way to go, true. I still have a long way to go. But the marks of their pain are truly transforming into beautiful scars and I have never been more privileged than now to sit and listen to their stories. Even though it breaks my heart, it is the greatest privilege of my life.
The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me,
because the Lord has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
to proclaim freedom for the captives
and release from darkness for the prisoners,[a]
2 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor
and the day of vengeance of our God,
to comfort all who mourn,
3 and provide for those who grieve in Zion—
to bestow on them a crown of beauty
instead of ashes,
the oil of joy
instead of mourning,
and a garment of praise
instead of a spirit of despair.
They will be called oaks of righteousness,
a planting of the Lord
for the display of his splendor.
Today I was over at La Casa hanging out with the girls for a little bit. I have to admit, it’s pretty frustrating not being able to really communicate properly. I want so much to be able to jump in and start building trust with them, but when you can’t understand their 1000 mile/hour Spanish, it can be a little tough.
So today I was “talking” with one of the teens who speaks absolutely no English. I mean none, and we decided that we are going to help each other out with our languages. She is fourteen and pretty new to La Casa, so I am excited about getting to know her better. So I taught her how to say “cool” because it’s pretty useful. And then she said asked me what the word “cake” meant (she said “cake” in English), so I told her, and then she said “cool.” I said (in Spanish) “two words in English!” and we high fived.
Let the connection begin.
There is a tide in the affairs of men.
Which, taken at the flood, leads on to fortune;
Omitted, all the voyage of their life
Is bound in shallows and in miseries.
On such a full sea are we now afloat,
And we must take the current when it serves,
Or lose our ventures.
– Brutus (Julius Caesar)
It’s that time. It’s high tide. On such full sea I am now afloat. Today I leave for El Salvador, to take the current when it serves. I couldn’t be more excited! No looking back…no regrets…no wondering what could have been.
It’s time to go!
This time of “in between” has been surprisingly difficult for me. It’s kind of hard to explain because the excitement of moving to El Salvador and getting to see the kids of La Casa everyday is still very much there, but each day my sadness increases.
Going is great! I really can’t wait to be there! For so many reasons, but mostly because I know this is exactly where God wants me to be. I genuinely feel like my life has built up to this moment. I am prepared, I am called, I am ready. I am so ready!
But I will tell you what, leaving is hard. I didn’t think it would be easy, but I didn’t expect the huge sadness that I feel right now. I am grieving…and that’s ok. I was in the car yesterday and an old Rich Mullins song came on with the lyrics “hold me Jesus, cause I’m shaking like a leaf. You have been King of my glory, won’t you be my Prince of Peace?” Oh man, those lyrics hit me hard. I had no idea how much I was shaking. How much my soul is longing for my Prince of Peace. I am so accustomed to going at things alone. I’m a fighter, so I was fighting alone. But I so desperately need my Prince of Peace now more than ever.
My friend, Christine, describes this time as a paradox. She would know because she is going through the same thing right now. She told me yesterday that she is praying 2 Corinthians 4 for me, so I went and read that today. I think the last paragraph of that passage is the best way to describe what I am feeling right now.
16 Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. 17 For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. 18 So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.