The Birth of a Story

I sure spend a lot of time clinging to my safety nets, for one who talks so often about living God’s great adventure. Although, I do eventually drop them, and take that next step, and then the next, though my hands might be clammy and my legs may quiver every step of the way.

This was me, when our family joined our former church for a week-long mission trip to El Salvador back in 2011. My biggest angst? I hated flying. I’ve gotten much better, but back then, every trip felt like torture. While the other passengers slept or read books or chatted with one another, I’d obsess. On every plane crash I’d ever heard of, on every bump or dip as we soared through the sky, on how high our plane flew and how long it’d take us to spiral to our deaths.

Ah, the joys of the writer’s brain.

If only I’d been more diligent to “fix” my thoughts on truth, as Philippians 4:8-9 puts it. But I wasn’t. Instead, I fixed my thoughts on potential catastrophes and what-ifs, and instead of experiencing the peace that “surpasses understanding,” I worked myself into a near panic.

And let me tell you, fear is exhausting and self-defeating!

It didn’t help that our descent into the country was horrendous! Flying over the mountains and through a storm, it felt like someone had strapped us onto a roller coaster and were tossing and shaking us about.

That first night in the hotel, tired, and pushed out of my comfort zone in numerous ways, one thought dominated: “I want to go home.”

By the end of the week, with my heart full and broken simultaneously, another even stronger thought took hold: “I never want to leave.”

Saying goodbye and stepping back on that plane, with my pockets stuffed with letters from sweet orphan girls, was so incredibly hard. Our family returned to the states convinced God wanted us to go back, so we began making plans. My husband would take an early retirement, we’d sell our home, and we’d rent an apartment in El Salvador so we could help the orphan girls we’d fallen in love with learn English (a quick ticket out of poverty in that country).

But then I got sick. For a while, really sick. And suddenly, our plans were flipped upside down and inside out. Our hearts still ached for those precious girls. We still deeply loved El Salvador, its people, and their culture. I could’t believe God would stir then break our hearts for nothing, but I had no idea what He was up to.

He’s since shown us there’s a lot of ways one can become involved in His mission to heal, save, and restore. Some are called to go; others to support those who go. Some are called to adopt; others to support those who do. Some are called to raise awareness or work for life-transforming organizations behind the scenes.

The ways one can help, can be a part of life change, are as endless as God’s love for each and every orphan crying out to Him each day.

I write. That’s what I do. And so, that’s what I did–not about my adventure though an experience or two from our trip might have found its way into the story. But instead, I wrote about Brooke’s, a woman I can relate to in many ways. A painful event in her past has caused her to form a near-impenetrable safety net, one that has caused her to strive and grasp and fight for control.

But God has so much more planned for her.

Here’s the back cover text:

A news anchor intern has it all planned out, and love isn’t on the agenda.

Brooke Endress is on the cusp of her lifelong dream when her younger sister persuades her to chaperone a mission trip to El Salvador. Packing enough hand sanitizer and bug spray to single-handedly wipe out malaria, she embarks on what she hopes will be a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

But Brooke is blindsided by the desperation for hope and love she sees in the orphans’ eyes. And no less by the connection she feels with her handsome translator. As newfound passion blooms, Brooke wrestles with its implications for her career dreams.

Ubaldo Chavez, teacher and translator, knows the struggle that comes with generational poverty. But he found the way out – education – and is determined to help his students rise above.

When he agrees to translate for a mission team from the United States he expects to encounter a bunch of “missional tourists” full of empty promises. Yet an American news anchor defies his expectations, and he finds himself falling in love. But what does he have to offer someone with everything?

Can you relate to any of what I shared? When has God pushed you out of your comfort zone, and what was the result? When have you been convinced His plan was X, but He later showed you it was Y, and how’d you process that?

Share your thoughts with us in the comments below, because we can all learn from and encourage one another!

Forging Past Phobias

Why is it whenever I write a blog post on something, a life-situation slaps me in the face, forcing me to choose between eating my words or living them out? God must have a sense of humor. It’s almost like He’s sitting up in heaven saying, “So you’re going to tell others about obedience, huh? About staying on track even when the climb hits a thirty degree slope? Let’s see how well you handle this one.”

Okay, so maybe God’s not quite so sarcastic. Perhaps challenging would be a better word. Or maybe He’s just trying to hold me accountable. There’s nothing like sending your “ought-to’s” across cyberspace to keep you on the straight and narrow. (I’m sure it won’t be long before that fit I threw in the Apple Store comes back to haunt me.) And lately, God is reminding me of all the lofty things I said about obedience.

Our church is going on a mission trip to El Salvador. I know, I know, most of you have probably been on a zillion mission trips. And I’m sure you had the time of your life. I’m a bit too reclusive-obsessive-compulsive-neurotic for those kinds of things. Give me a computer tucked in a far away bedroom and I’m good to go. Send me on a plane, to another country, to experience who-knows-what, eat who-knows-what, and sleep who-knows-where? Kinda gets my stomach churning.

For starters, I hate to fly. Like makes-me-wanna-vomit hate it. I haven’t flown in over seven years. So how did we get to Florida, Utah, South Carolina, and Washington D.C.? We drove. All nineteen or twenty-four, or whatever hours. And I’m sure my husband’s willingness to drive with me verges on enabling. Although we both console ourselves with the fact that we are saving three plane tickets, a car rental, and whatever else they’d charge in suitcase handling. Oh, and we don’t have to tip the baggage guy. Nope, still enabling.

And then there’s the whole food thing. I’m a recovered bulimic/anorexic. Started shedding the pounds when I was twelve. Didn’t stop dancing with the scale until my twenties. And although God’s done some amazing things—hmm, is gaining thirty-five pounds amazing? Okay, yeah, it is. Better to have a tire around the middle than chains around my neck, which is what an eating disorder is—self-imposed bondage. And although I no longer count calories or weigh food (oh, my. I’m getting a bit too personal here.) I still avoid hot-dogs and fried chicken like the plague. Unfortunately, I don’t think El Salvador will have chicken salads with low-fat dressing. (Would it be selfish to pray for that?)

And then there’s the whole anal-retentive side of my personality. Yes, I carry hand sanitizer and a tide stick in my purse and I’m all over those nice little wipies at the grocery store. And I could go on, but I’d rather not have a bunch of mental health professionals knocking on my door. (Even though I know your intentions in calling them would be good. Done in love, right?)

Now I bet you’re wondering, if this little jaunt causes me such heartburn, why am I going? Why not just write a check and call it good? First and most important reason—because my husband wants to go. Now, that may sound a bit 1920’s to you all, but I strongly believe my husband is the spiritual leader in our home. Not that he hoards this over me. Quite the contrary. My husband is the most loving, supportive man I have ever met. He continually puts his needs on the back burner to shower my daughter and I with love. But I do believe God will guide and protect our family through him. So when God speaks to him, I’m listening. With both ears.

The second reason? Because I recognize my fears to be petty. Here I’m freaking out about not having sanitizer, while the people we’re going to love on worry about whether or not they’ll have a meal the next day, or weather their rickety house will cave in on them while they’re sleeping. And it’s easy to remove myself from these people, or to justify my lack of action—whether they live in Haiti, El Salvador, Ethiopia, where ever—but God sees them. His love for them, each one of them, drove Him to the cross.

So today I’m taking that first step. I’m going to start working towards my passport. And I’m determined to follow this obedience thing to the end. If only my decision would make it to my queasy stomach, I’d be good to go.