How 8 Days With College Kids Brought Me Back to Life

“Breathe. You’ve cried only twice today, Carrie, that’s improvement,” so the self-pep talks go these days.

Costa Rica

Wake up. Go to work. Sit at desk. Computer screen, internet, email. Meetings. Go home. Repeat. That’s been my version of “keeping my head above water” in the last couple weeks after returning back to Georgia from two of the most emotional weeks in Texas.

I was ready to give up on just about everything.

Then I boarded another plane and things changed.

My ticket read Guatemala City, Guatemala. Everyone who had been to Antigua before could speak only of their love affairs with her and her cobblestone streets, bright-as-the-sun hues, and magnificent landscapes. If possible, I would call it, “love before first sight.”

Fall in love I did. And, in only the way love can do, I awoke from my slumber.

When I look back on my time in  Guatemala and Costa Rica, I will remember more than delightful coffee.

I will remember the 25 teens and 20-somethings who reminded me of some truth I had lost sight of, some faithfulness I’d forgotten, and some hope I’d given up on.

antigua

In eight days, these college-aged Passport participants took me back to the heart of why I do what I do. Why I packed my bags, left my family, and moved across the country. Why the tears and heartaches and disappointments are all worth it.

They are just like me and yet so different. But our hearts are the same: we have all chosen to ditch the status quo for a God-adventure. We have all been wrecked by the fierce love of Jesus and want to share that love with the world. We want to bring kingdom wherever we go.

We have stood up, stomped our feet, raised our hands, and shouted from chairs that God is good, God is love, God is worth it. God has a plan.

I just needed a change of scenery and fresh voices to remind me.

When I arrived I was pale from a dark, cold winter. While here in Central America, sun-kissed by students’ zeal, color has returned to my cheeks after what seemed to be months of lifelessness.

My feet are dirty. My face is sweaty. My hair is a hot mess. I am believing God for big things and resting in his presence, finding satisfaction there.

I am living like a real missionary again.

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(Don’t) Save it for the Honeymoon

How’s Bora Bora sound?

Very sexy sexy. –Serendipity

Here’s a confession — I may be a hoarder. I try saving up:

  • creativity, because I am convinced the stream will run dry, and I will have nothing left to offer.
  • big asks, like collecting gold coins at Chuck E. Cheese to buy the bright neon stuffed bear rather than a whole lot of silly bandz.
  • words from the Lord, for myself or for others, as if he only speaks every once in awhile and I want to make sure I have it just right before I share it with anyone else.

Today is about the big ask.

My dear friend is moving to South Africa soon. She’s been there and other places in Africa before, but never on a safari. This is an adventure she’s been dreaming up for her honeymoon for years. Such an epic event should happen on such a momentous occasion, no?

Turns out, her future casa in Mafeking, South Africa (go ahead and giggle) backs right up to the wildlife reserve. That’s right. Safaris everyday, right outside her backdoor.

While we’re in America with our domesticated cats and dogs, she will have zebras, lions, and rhinos in her backyard.

Grinning ear-to-ear with excitement, Sara told me how she’d been asking God to one day let her go on a safari for her honeymoon, and instead, he is giving her a safari everyday.

She’s thrilled, and it got me thinking.

I save up my requests for when I will really want them, as if God only gives us our desires once in a blue moon so I shouldn’t risk asking for just any day, but a truly special one. I save up hopes and dreams for a special occasion like a honeymoon or retirement or just someday.

Why can’t I go and do these things now? Why should I wait for my honeymoon when I can have backyard safaris everyday?

God’s goodness is not some pie with only so many slices.

A piece of inheritance today does not leave me hungry tomorrow.

I think I am going to start asking God for some big (and little) things today, for today. Not for years from now, or when I am married, or when I live here or have this job. No, it’s safe to say I am ready for his goodness today.

And I’ll trust his goodness will be there tomorrow too.

What are you asking for today?

(Coffee Bay, South Africa. Photo credit: Brittani Dunlap)

Kick Drum Heart {11n11 Throwback}

It was 7:15, still another twenty minutes until our tuk tuk would arrive.

My belly was stuffed  beyond contentment with chips and salsa. Yes, Mexican food in Cambodia. Some of my teammates were anxious to get home for toilet’s sake. Others wanted to take advantage of the shopping opportunity the street vendors boasted. We crossed the busy street and strolled by the river.

My senses at full attention, I took in the city life, flashing lights, smells of food, trash, and everyday living. As Westerners, we were targeted by the children selling trinkets and souvenirs.

“Lady, lady, you buy book from me? Give you special price for scarf!”

I was annoyed and angry. Annoyed to deal with them when I was fully set on enjoying my tourist moment in peace without having to fend off hagglers. Angry that someone forced these children to spend their nights on the crowded streets of Phnom Penh.

“Just let them be children!” I screamed on the inside.

I knew buying something from them would be fueling the industry, but if I didn’t the children would suffer for it later, most likely through physical abuse. Lord, what do I do for the least of these?

Within seconds, I found myself in camp-counselor mode, asking names and ages, performing silly handshakes and high fives. We heard some music from a nearby bar. I couldn’t help but dance and the kiddos joined me. I taught them everything from the cabbage patch to the fist pump and even threw in some swing dancing just for kicks.

Their laughter made my heart flutter.

The dancing continued as sounds of Justin Bieber filled the air. Baby, baby, baby, ohhh! I realized I was having more fun in this moment than I have in awhile.

It is all too easy to brush these people off as pests getting in the way. These kids are God’s workmanship. We are called to serve the ‘least of these’, but we don’t have a time card to punch when we are on or off the clock. And it service doesn’t always require money, love will do.

While on his way to restore the life of a synagogue ruler’s daughter, Christ stopped to ask his disciples who touched his cloak. The disciples thought this a silly question considering the size of the crowd closing in around him. It is like walking through Times Square on New Year’s Eve and saying, “Hey, somebody touched my jacket!” Really, Jesus?

Christ took note of everything around him. While the death of the righteous ruler’s daughter seemed to be the top priority to everyone else, he stopped to heal a woman who had been told her sickness was incurable. Everyone had given up on her, everyone but Christ.

Until that night, I honestly didn’t care for Cambodia. I was there because it was the next country on the list, my heart still beating for Thailand, fast and strong. But each time I leave a country a piece of my heart stays there. The Lord continually fills me up with his love, restoring me, allowing me to give my heart again. As I pour out, he fills up. So my heart turns within me and I am ready to love Cambodia.

There’s nothin like finding gold between the rocks, hard and cold. So surprised to find more, always surprised to find more. –Kick Drum Heart, Avett Brothers

Want more stories from my World Race experience? Check ’em out here.