Something True

This blog has been a few weeks in the making. When you don’t have anything especially nice to say, it’s tempting to say nothing; however, I’ve decided that whether or not I can come up with anything nice, I’d like to at least say something true.

The truth is, the process of moving to and living in Mozambique has been one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. The reasons are multiple and intertwined and somewhat still undefined.

It’s not that there is nothing to find joy in but almost every day I’m faced with my own inabilities and the feeling that I’m in over my head. Every day I’m presented with the option to retreat and wave the white flag or to brush it aside and keep going. It can come in the guise of a cultural frustration, a botched attempt at Portuguese, a glimpse at the steep learning curve I’m on, or scrolling through my pictures remembering when I used to have good hair and didn’t sweat so much. The list goes on and the reasons to agree with failure are valid. While I haven’t gotten as close as researching plane tickets home, there are plenty of nights I go to bed certain I’ve gotten it all wrong.

It’s in these moments that I’ve learned and truly felt the power of thankfulness. When everything here seems overwhelming and completely out of my hands, I can thank God for the fact that He opened the door for me to be here in the first place. That He actually followed through and brought me back here and has provided for me each step of the way.

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The other night I was staring out at the city from my new balcony and contemplating life (it’s kind of my hobby). I was talking with the Lord about faith and being here and in a moment was flooded with emotion at the honor it is to be in a hard season. Because here, in the midst of uncertainty and your flesh screaming no,  keeping a soft heart before the Lord is a costly thing. Your ‘yes’ becomes that much more valuable and it does not go unnoticed before Him. What an honor it is to be able to offer God something of worth, something that He treasures.

It doesn’t feel good, but I’m finding that some promises worth attaining don’t come easily. Even after the Israelites made it into Canaan, they still had to till the soil and go to war to clear the land. The process after receiving the promise doesn’t mean it wasn’t meant for you in the first place. It just means you have to keep going. The sweetness you’ll discover along the way will be that much tastier because of what it took to get there. Or at least I hope so…I’ll let you know when I find out. Or maybe you can let me know when you get there.

Either way, no matter what happens, DON’T QUIT.

If you’re called there, the land is bound to bear fruit eventually.

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A Christmas Prayer: You Came

A little prayer I wrote for a gathering of friends this month. May it stir hope in your heart this Christmas.

 

You came.

Where we had not even looked for you, you chose to reveal yourself.

Where we thought we were furthest from you, you chose to dwell.

Upon us who lived in darkness, suddenly, a light shone.

You came.

 

You who calls brokenness, full; dependence, glory.

Only you write this kind of story.

 

Why do we ever doubt you?

You are the God who breaks in.

Who has,

And who will again.

 

May it be to us as You have said,

May we find our yes in your amen.

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Success. Or something like it.

As the eve of my 29th birthday fast approaches, the yearly pensiveness and intensified self-reflection has set in quite nicely. The subject of this year being: my definition of success.

I’ve never really been able to meet society’s neatly bulleted version of it. The education, the spouse, the house, the kids, the job. By the time I figured out what I wanted in order to commit to any of those things, I’d developed different priorities and was already headed another direction.

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As I began my 20’s, I made a decision to “always be living the best year of my life.” Success meant going on new adventures, having more fun, and progressively moving upwards in career choices and financial stability. It was all going really well until I came back from adventuring around the world and had a couple rough years in a row. Transition, instability, the opposite of a career, an inability to meet others’ expectations, little travel: in no way could those years be defined as my best. They certainly didn’t feel best.

I needed a new version of success so I went with the only fruit I could see at the time- that I had learned obedience from what I suffered and had grown closer to God. If I felt I’d followed God’s directives, had stuck out hard times, and had grown in spiritual disciplines, I could check the box and move happily (or rather, somewhat miserably) into the next year. Not too bad.

Enter this year. 28. The year of not hearing the Lord tell me anything directive at all even when I had a clear crossroads on my hands. The year of discovering what burnout feels like. The year of stepping back and forth over the line of apathy and surrender in my walk with God. The year of learning that suffering isn’t the only way to know I’m being obedient. The year of learning that acknowledging my humanness makes salvation taste that much sweeter. The year of learning that brokenness, loss, loneliness, fear, beauty, love, and friendship can all be intertwined and experienced at once, making the phrase “I’m doing good” that much murkier and harder to explain.

It is again a year for redefining success. Even though most of 28 felt like playing Marco Polo in a pool of jello, I actually get the sense that it was still a successful year. Why? Because I stared down all of the things I mentioned earlier and kept moving. Because I became acutely aware of my weaknesses and even discovered a few strengths. I didn’t accomplish much on the outside but I learned, I healed, I grew, and I am once again redefining success.

So here goes, for processing’s sake, a few of the ways I plan to measure success from here on out…

Whether I’m currently in a high or low, am I more dependent on the Lord than I was in the previous season?

Am I being more intentional to express love and be fully present with friends and family?

Do I practice sacrificing my own wants or preferences for people I love and perhaps even for people I don’t?

Am I living more fully from my heart? Am I experiencing joy and pain progressively deeper?

Am I having the hard conversations and holding myself accountable to the things I say?

Am I stewarding my gifts and talents well?

Bottom line, if love is more prevalent in my life than it was before, I’m calling it a win.

Cheers to 29!

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It’s Time

I’ve started and stopped this post in my head about 426 times. For the oddest reasons, it’s been hard for me to accept and announce this fact: I am moving to Mozambique in 5 months.

There. I’ve said it out loud. Digitally at least.

As most of you probably know, I visited Mozambique in April of this year. At the time I had no plans or speculations to move there. It had been a huge chunk of my heart ever since I left Maputo back in 2011 and I simply wanted to go and see if it was still there or if I had perhaps imagined it all. Surprise, surprise, it was right where I left it.

Processed with VSCO with hb1 presetSomewhere between handing out laundry, deep conversations, trips to the gym, and exploring the grounds of the Polana Serena, a part of me that I thought was gone came alive again. By the end of my 3-week stay, I knew I had some serious decisions to make.

The last few months have been a discipline in taking one step at a time and moving forward while simultaneously dragging my feet. Packing up and moving to a different continent has a different ring to it at this stage in life and it’s not been the easy decision I imagined it would be 5 years ago. But, the decision is made and final as of about 2 weeks ago. In January I will take as many suitcases as is reasonably affordable and check in at the airport with a one-way ticket to Maputo, Mozambique.

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I will be working with Masana, a ministry that works with boys who live on the street in Mozambique’s capital city, Maputo. Masana operates daily as a drop-in center/church/school/cafeteria/safe place/dr.’s office/rec center/home for the boys who frequent it. My role with Masana will have a focus on staff development, prayer, and being a point of contact for visiting missions teams. There are many, many other aspects to the ministry and I will be sharing more information over the coming months and in a support letter I will be sending out shortly.

This whole process has me amazed at the Father’s kind intentionality with our lives. A dream planted in me 5 years ago that I thought was dead is now peeking above the soil. “No eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined, what God has prepared for those who love him…” No part of our hearts is insignificant or ignored by Him. He sees it all, He created it, and He desires us to be living fully alive.

Thanks again for following along on my journey. I believe one of the most powerful ways God chooses to work is through family. Not only do I want to be a part of creating and sustaining family for the boys and Masana staff in Mozambique, but it means everything to me to know I have family behind me and encouraging me in different ways as I go. I will be raising support for my position and if it brings joy to your heart to support me financially, you can find more information below. Thank you for your thoughts and prayers!

Masana’s missionaries raise support through a stateside organization called Abba’s Ambassadors. My goal is to raise $1200 in monthly support that will cover things like visa costs, rent, travel, daily living, etc. Donations are tax-deductible and 100% will go towards my fund, no fees taken out. Visit their website for all the ways to give and make sure to include my name on any memos.

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Maputo, Mozambique

 

Here’s To The Journey…

Well, an 11 month long break in blogging this year is definitely not what I intended. If you are a regular follower of my journey, I hope that through social media you’ve at least been able to tell that I am in fact, alive.

The last blog that I posted before this hiatus was titled Beauty in Bareness. I talked about appreciating the beauty that comes through bare and winter seasons. I think it’s quite fitting because much of these last 11 months has been me pushing and testing out that very idea- savoring life and finding beauty in hard seasons.

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It’s been a challenging year in almost every aspect. Being stretched in leadership, wrestling with God over matters of the heart, encountering strains in relationships and work to a degree that I had not previously experienced.

Amidst this, I determined to press into searching out beauty and savoring life. I celebrated when I had a Spirit-filled reaction to a problem, I joined a book club of aspiring Jews, I re-discovered my love of creating art, I went on late night ice cream cake runs for no reason with my roommates, and I continued to commune with the One who created me. I have truly seen and experienced the goodness of the Lord in bare places.

During one hard week this summer I made the choice to fly to Spain for 2 weeks in late July, my only clue from the Lord being one word: rest. I’d been feeling something akin to a holy discontent for a while and I was desperate to figure something out. It felt kind of silly to cross the Atlantic when there are beaches only hours away from Gainesville, but I felt the Lord was offering me a gift and an invitation.

The word I had was rest, but what I really wanted was answers to the unsettledness I was feeling. I had no idea if either of those things would get accomplished in this trip, but I went anyway. I decided to not make any plans besides when I would fly in and out of the country and who I would stay with. It sounds adventurous but it was a little intimidating, honestly. To fly into a foreign country alone, with no plans, for no reason. I’ve become pretty comfortable with venturing out on my own, but I have a hard time with it when the reason isn’t clear to me and I have to admit that to other people.

Turns out that trusting the Lord to know what would give me rest and answer my questions was a good idea.

I’ve never experienced the Lord caring for me and giving me gifts in such tangible ways as I did on that trip. I planned nothing but ended up going to random fun events almost every night. A friend singing in a piano bar on the port, biking through the city to an all-Spanish house of prayer meeting, dancing at a Christian dj event, and exploring the Luna Mora festival by candlelight in Mijas. I made new friends from Germany, Spain, and the U.S. and spent quality time with old friends. I read the Psalms while walking old castle walls and gazed up at cathedral ceilings. I looked out over the glorious Med, savored coffee shops on Spanish squares, and spent countless hours staring out a window at the most beautiful view of Malaga.

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I encountered rest. My mind stopped trying to solve all my problems. I drank deep of beauty and savored life. And through that resting and savoring, the Lord revealed the answer to my questions and the reason for my discontent-

It’s time to move.

I’ve been at Adventures for about 3 years now in non-official and more official positions. I have been a part of start-ups and stops, ups and downs, stages & prayer rooms, and it’s time to move. There’s more.

It’s a step of faith to leave without knowing what I’m headed into but if my past is any indication, I think that trusting the Lord will turn out to be a good idea.

It’s still hard to grasp but come the end of this year, I’ll officially be leaving my home and my tribe of the past 3 years in Gainesville, GA. I’ll be spending the month of January in Kansas City, then transitioning home to VA. At some point I’ll also be looking into spending some time in Mozambique with the ministry I was with on the Race. After that, who knows? Maybe I’ll finally go study dolphins or join an archeology dig like I meant to before the World Race.

Either way, whether I find out my next step before or after I leave, I know what I’ll be carrying with me. Deep growth in my identity & giftings, life-giving friendships, experience in pioneering & leadership, recognition of my worship DNA, fresh dependence on God, and a straggle-toothed dog named Spock.

I will be updating with more thoughts and details in the near future and quite possibly an e-newsletter, so sign up here if you’d like to stay posted.

Thanks for reading and joining me along the way, I am truly honored.

Here’s to the journey!

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Beauty in Bareness

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If you follow me on Instagram or facebook, you may have seen my recent posts on #BeautyInBareness. Besides rest and inspiration, the Lord has been really refreshing my view on winter in this past week or so at my parents’ home in VA. Previously, I have not minded sharing my opinion that a winter without snow is just pointless. I get why we need winter, I just hate how it looks and feels.

Harsh sunlight highlighting bare, brown trees.

Cold, silent winter.

The only thing that saves it is sweaters, fog, and the occasional blanketing of that pure, white delight called snow.

Last week, as I was driving through the countryside on an overcast, foggy day, I felt the Lord whispering that perhaps there was some beauty to be found in this season.

This season so far where nothing has been hidden.

The last leaves begin to fall.

All your glaring faults and limitations are in full view.

A season you hope to God that you will eventually see fruit from even though there is no proof your eye can see.

You will your roots to grow deep.

A season of silence.

You strain to hear if in fact you are not alone.

Where is the beauty in this?

I asked.

He showed me.

The way the fog moves through the valley.

How stillness calms my roaming mind.

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The difference in myself since the beginning of the year.

Areas of my life where I’ve lost fear.

Enchanting silhouettes of bare trees against the sky.

How vulnerability has bred life and friendship.

The wonderful people He’s brought alongside me.

That brokenness precedes healing.

That hope doesn’t disappoint.

That bareness ultimately heralds life and fruit.

Beauty.

And then He said

He finds beauty in my bare heart and unflinching honesty.

That the songs I sing in the wilderness are His favorites.

That my heart is worth more to Him than a teaching experience or completing a mission.

That silence is where I get to listen to His heartbeat.

That my human-ness, my fruit, my faults, my growth, and my good hair days are all bare in harsh sunlight before Him and He calls it beautiful.

Nothing hidden, unashamed, full of hope.

Beautiful.

And in that knowledge I am now free to call other bare things beautiful too.

Even winter.

Join with me in asking Him to show us the warmth in the coldness of this winter.

The heartbeat in the silence.

The growth in the stillness.

The hope in the unseen.

The beauty in the bareness.

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Of Mint & Old Containers

When I moved into my new house back in May, my mom gave me a cutting of my favorite mint tea from her garden in Virginia. I was so excited to begin a tea bed in my new backyard and plotted with my roommates about the best location to plant it. I got busy though and as the days passed, my little tea plant sat in it’s Breyers icecream bucket on my kitchen windowsill. I watered it every so often and despaired a little every time I noticed another inch of brown creeping up its frail, once-green stem. I knew the amount of days my little mint could stay alive in its current container was running out.

I came home one afternoon and before I could think of one more thing to work on, I grabbed the Breyers bucket and marched outside.

It was time.

I took a shovel from the garage and hacked at the hardened ground, creating a hole deep enough to plant my little mint. I sprinkled it with water and patted the ground around it, hoping the sudden, rough transition would work.

For a few days nothing changed and it lay brown and wilted on the ground. A little time and a few more rainstorms went by and I checked it once more. One sprout lay dead on the ground but sure enough, the other one was green and standing up! My little mint had weathered the transition and could now begin multiplying.

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Three weeks ago I was hit hard with the realization of just how small my container holding the Father’s love was.

I realized how limited my capacity is to love people, minister, or do anything meaningful, without the love of God burning in my heart. How my desire to even want to do any of those things dims if I’m not experiencing the love of God in my personal life.

Facing life knowing I barely felt that love brought to question everything I’d done or was currently doing. Add to that some organizational shifting going on around Adventures and you have a very uncomfortable and upset Sheila.

I like to call this kind of season a funk. Eloquent, I know. I’ve felt it before but never quite at this level of intensity. I sat and stewed in it, frustration boiling over. Why wouldn’t God just fix me and download a new heart in me? Isn’t that what He wants? I had no desire to do anything; my normal passion for ministry & people faded. I was miserable but continued going through the motions.

 

The number of days I could survive with my current container were numbered.

Then, God, in His endless mercy, tore up some hardened ground and tucked me into it.

 

My old container is no more. It’s taken a little time and a few more rainstorms but I’m starting to stand a little taller. The new ground feels rough but it was time. I couldn’t continue to grow if I’d stayed where I’d been with the Lord.

In order for me to experience more of His love, I needed to be moved and parts of me needed to die. Independence had to go, commitment had to thrive. Doubt and fear had to go, trust and faith needed room to breathe. Love needed no limits. The process isn’t over but it’s a start.

 

Does God have you in a process right now?

Do you feel your current experience of God is too small? 

It’s a dangerous prayer, but if you want, you can just ask Him to change you.

It’s time.

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