Sugar Brown’s and Bike Rides – Lubbock, Texas

Today, one of my closest friends and I biked to Sugar Brown’s coffee shop, which is one of my absolute favorite places in Lubbock. Every Tuesday this semester, my sister and I and a couple of close friends go to sit down with a cup of coffee, work on homework, and talk (I must admit, we usually do more talking than homework). People watching is often an accidental means of distraction during this time as well. People are so fascinating to watch as they go about their daily lives. So, we are often caught in an unattractive trance as we take in the bustling activity of those around us.
This afternoon, we were working on homework with surprising diligence at a long wooden table. At first it was just two of us, but a few of our other friends mentioned they might meet up if they got the chance. Slowly but surely, my sister, her boyfriend, and our three close friends trickled in to join. Our group filled the long wooden table. Never had such a group formed on a Tuesday afternoon. This was the coffee day! Everything happened so spontaneously and naturally. We all had different projects and assignments to do, but it was such a gift because we were all together laughing and enjoying one another.

On the bike ride back after coffee, I was pondering the little gathering and began listing in my head all of my favorite things and a couple of words that best define this place of Lubbock, Texas:

Lovely:

Lubbock is lovely. Now, let me define what I mean when I use the term “lovely”. Lubbock is dry, flat, and you could probably count the number of trees we have on your fingers. Springtime brings days of dust storms (Or, “haboobs” as we call them) that leave the teeth gritty and the skin grimy.  These are the obvious characteristics of Lubbock that make people cringe, halt, and turn a complete 180 direction. Yet, many people neglect to see the beauty in this place I call home. No, we don’t have many trees…however, we have the biggest sky that forever sings joyful praises to the Lord. There are no trees to stifle its sweet voice. Wherever you find yourself in Lubbock, look out and take in a sea of vibrant blue speckled with white, cottony billows. In the morning, the horizon looks as if it is ablaze with flames. The evening sunsets are a water color painting of shades no one even knew existed.

Yes, we have dust storms and winds that quite literally might blow your socks off…however, the very next day brings the clearest, cleanest air that speaks of the pure nature of the Lord. Breathing deeply of this air, fills the lungs and soul with a cool refreshment.

Friendly:

My most favorite thing of all about this place though, is the people. Lubbock is a friendly and inviting town. A place where you can make friends wherever you go. Whether it’s with the grocery store worker arranging tomatoes in the produce section or someone standing in line at the coffee shop, there is a loving and neighborly feel to the community. The warmth and love in people is other-worldly and comes from a Divine presence. There is a lightness in the air – a feeling of safety and comfort. The Lord is truly in our midst and it is evident in the sky and the air, but most of all in the hearts and eyes of the people. These are just a few of my favorite things about the place I love and call home.

“May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you the same attitude of mind toward each other that Christ Jesus had.”   – Romans 15:5
At Home in the World

Tell Your Heart to Beat Again 

The buzzer sounded. The last basketball game of my career had ended. I felt numb all over. We filed in line to shake hands with the other team. I searched the face of each opposing player as I went down the line. Did they have a clue of the magnitude of this moment…that they had just ended the basketball career of five of our seniors, me included? The reality of the ultimate end came so sudden and abrupt. The moment I had been dreading my whole life had finally come. Now, I had to deal with it and the emotion that came with it, but I had no clue how to begin to cope with such a loss.  

Yes, I know there are good things ahead. I know there is more to life than basketball. I’m thankful for how God used this sport to challenge and shape me to be more like Him. The Lord provided opportunities to shine for Him when things were going well or not so well. But the pain is real. It hurts. My heart aches. 

In the locker room, I didn’t want to untie my shoes. I didn’t want to take my jersey off. Because I knew once I took them off, I would never put them on again. It would never be the same. 

I’m not sure how much time passed before I began untying my first shoe. Most of my teammates had already left the locker room. Reluctantly, I began to untie the first shoe with precision and purpose. Once untied, the reality set in and I broke down. Am I really taking these off for the last time? It took another few moments before I could start on the second shoe. Then, I simply sat there looking at my feet. Over the years, there were countless times after a hard shooting workout, practice or game, that I would just sit and stare down at the basketball shoes on my feet. I wouldn’t move. I would just think. This moment was no different. It was just like any other day of basketball…except today I knew it was my last. 

I removed my shoes, then took off my jersey shorts and laid them on the chair in my locker spot. I just looked at them. I took my jersey top off and laid it on top of my shorts and stared at the last jersey I would ever wear as a college athlete. There was something sacred and ceremonious about the process. I had to let it all sink in slowly, savoring the moment as painful as it felt. 

My sister and two close teammates, Bailey and Caitlyn, were patiently waiting as I packed up. Together, we soaked in the final moments we would ever share in this setting that had become so familiar — an experience we shared for years. We huddled together and embraced. Each of us feeling the heartache and heartbreak of the last of the lasts. Our last game together. Throughout the years, we were usually the last ones to leave the locker room together. Today was no different. We all linked arms and held hands as we departed. I was so thankful not to have to carry this burden alone. I had three sisters by my side.

On the long van ride home, I could only sit and ponder it all. My jersey sat folded in my backpack at my feet. I didn’t want to think about taking it out or washing it. I wanted to hold on to the sweat and tears enraptured in the fabric that symbolized so much. My mind played pictures and scenes of times in practice doing drills, the many hotel shenanigans with teammates, bus rides, story telling, game day rituals, and yelling for one another during a hard post season weight lifting session. 

Then, I felt everything all over again– an overwhelming sense of loss. It truly is over. 

It feels like a loss, but not just a loss of a game or season. It feels like something has died. It is gone forever and I will never experience or enjoy it the same way here on this earth. There is heartache and pain. The feelings are so deep. Life is going to be different from here on out. Even though there are good things ahead, it does not take away from the fact that there are good things being left behind. Similar to climbing the monkey bars, I must let go of the bar behind to reach for the bar ahead and move forward. 

There is joy in every season. The Lord has shown me to search for it. When it seems hard or impossible to find, He tells me to ask Him and He willingly provides true joy. This is a gift. The season of basketball has come to an end, but these memories and relationships are gifts that will be treasured forever. 

I’m so thankful for the people and relationships the Lord used to make this an incredible and glorious journey. When discouraged, He used someone to provide encouragement. When there were tears, the Lord used someone to provide laughter and smiles. When there was weakness, He used someone to provide strength. When confused, He used someone to provide wisdom and perspective. He kept my feet on solid ground and used the people around me as an anchor. 

There is more to come and more life to live. The journey to glorify His name and put Him on display continues. Although the basketball chapter has come to a close, the journey of love, trust, and worship continues.

Only a few weeks have past since I played my last game and I am still dealing with the pain. As I am driving in the car a song comes on the radio by Danny Goaky, Tell Your Heart to Beat Again. I have heard the song before, but this is the first time I have actually felt the words and lyrics. The tears pour out and stream down my face. The truth of the words set in, the shadows are still present, but I take the next step forward. It’s a new adventure beginning…

Listen: Tell Your Heart to Beat Again

You’re shattered
Like you’ve never been before                                                                             
The life you knew
In a thousand pieces on the floor
And words fall short in times like these
When this world drives you to your knees
You think you’re never gonna get back
To the you that used to be

    Tell your heart to beat again
    Close your eyes and breathe it in
    Let the shadows fall away
    Step into the light of grace
    Yesterday’s a closing door
    You don’t live there anymore
    Say goodbye to where you’ve been
    And tell your heart to beat again

    Beginning
    Just let that word wash over you
    It’s alright now
    Love’s healing hands have pulled you through
    So get back up, take step one
    Leave the darkness, feel the sun
    ‘Cause your story’s far from over
    And your journey’s just begun

    Tell your heart to beat again
    Close your eyes and breathe it in
    Let the shadows fall away
    Step into the light of grace
    Yesterday’s a closing door
    You don’t live there anymore
    Say goodbye to where you’ve been
    And tell your heart to beat again

    Let every heartbreak
    And every scar
    Be a picture that reminds you
    Who has carried you this far
    ‘Cause love sees farther than you ever could
    In this moment heaven’s working
    Everything for your good

    Tell your heart to beat again
    Close your eyes and breathe it in
    Let the shadows fall away
    Step into the light of grace
    Yesterday’s a closing door
    You don’t live there anymore
    Say goodbye to where you’ve been
    And tell your heart to beat again
    Your heart to beat again

    Beat again
    Oh, so tell your heart to beat again

    Finish Well.

    The candle flickers in the morning light. A wad of tissue paper hides underneath the bookshelves in the living room. The Christmas tree skirt is slightly disheveled and sprinkled with pine needles. All bits of evidence remaining from yesterday’s messy Christmas morning. The morning after Christmas brings a hint blue. All the excitement and magic of the joyful season begins coming to a close, and the inevitable schedule demands and responsibilities start to loom overhead. Life starts back tomorrow. And I am not ready. I dig my heels in, catch my breath, and desperately try to  hold onto the laughter and joy of having the whole family together for a spell. Drinking hot chocolate, reading by the fire, baking, decorating cookies, opening presents, worshiping, and dwelling in the gift of Jesus with the ones you love is a gift. Time together without distractions. A true gift. A gift that provides the opportunity to breathe and relax my mind.

    Having a break from the everyday responsibilities and demands of this season of life brings about a hope for the next season that is soon to come. I am ready and wait eagerly for something new, yet I am still in the middle of the old. I value and cherish where I am at. I hold the memories and time dear. But I grow weary. I grow anxious. There are moments when I do not want to continue on, I just want to move on. As I battle these longings within, I hear the faint whisper of the Lord, “Finish the race. Finish it well.” He has called me to run the race and finish it. So finish it I will. Not by my own strength but His. Not for my own glory, but for His alone. In the weariness, He brings refreshment. In the pain, He brings joy. He fills our emptiness with His fullness. He gives the gift of Himself. Is that not what I just acknowledged at Christmas? I am reminded again. Jesus came for me. Every day is a chance to relish the gift of His presence. In every moment there are gifts. In every season, there is purpose. My goal: find the gift of joy in every moment. Praise Him in every moment. In the pain, in the discouragement, in the weariness, there is always an opportunity to glorify Him. More often than not, our hardest and most painful moments are the moments when He is most glorified.

    “And the grace of our Lord was exceeding abundant with faith and love which is in Christ Jesus…Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners’ of whom I am chief…For this cause I obtained mercy, that in me first Jesus Christ might shew forth all long-suffering, for a pattern to them which should hereafter believe on Him to life everlasting. Now unto the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only wise God, be honor and glory for ever and ever. Amen” 1 Timothy 1:14-17.

    The Christmas tree gleams with warmth and my family is eager to bake cinnamon rolls together. I hold onto these moments of Christmas. As life starts back tomorrow, I treasure the precious gift of Christ within me and find purpose and joy in the season of “now”.

    Finish this season well.

     

     

     

     

    Dirty Feet, Messy Hair, and Sparkling Eyes

    The sunlight pours in through the tiny window across from my bed and I open my sleepy eyes as I feel it splash across my face. My body is begging for more sleep, but my heart and mind are ready for exploration and new experiences. I am in Tabacundo, Ecuador at the Hacienda of Hope orphanage for a mission trip with my university to teach, tutor, and play with the children at the orphanage, as well as in another private school in the Tabacundo community.
    I stir a little as I begin to wake myself up. Callie, my basketball teammate, is lying next to me and says, “My eyes physically cannot open.” She spoke my exact thoughts at that moment. Our flight arrived in Quito, Ecuador at 11:00 the night before and we didn’t get to bed until almost 3:00am. After a full day of travel and not much sleep, we all woke up feeling exhausted, but there was a whole day’s worth of work calling for our attention. Groggily, I rolled out of bed, made myself look somewhat presentable, and straggled downstairs with the hope that a steamy cup of Ecuadorian coffee would do the trick to revive me from the jet lag. After several sips (okay, gulps) of coffee and spending some time in Scripture, I felt more alive and ready to face the day.

    We began by organizing and unpacking the supplies and crates we brought to donate to the orphanage and the school where we would be teaching. We aired up soccer balls and unpacked an assortment of American snacks for the directors of the Hacienda orphanage who were also the missionary family we would be working alongside. We gathered our lesson supplies and each of us sat down with our designated teaching partner to revise and organize our lessons for that afternoon. Of course, Callie and I were partners and had prepared two lessons a few weeks earlier. One of the lessons was for 3rd and 4th graders and covered the basic 3D shapes. The other lesson was for 1st and 2nd graders which covered the different layers of the Earth. The only experience I’ve had “teaching” has been giving presentations to my fellow classmates in my education classes at school or tutoring individual students in a local elementary school. I’ve never actually taught a classroom full of elementary students, so this teaching experience in Ecuador was completely new to my world. *Deep Breath*
    After we touched base and reviewed our lessons, we had a little chill time. I was thankful for an opportunity to catch my breath. I decided to walk around the Hacienda, exploring the land and drinking deeply of the beauty around me. The air felt so crisp and fresh entering my lungs. The rolling hills that seemed to never end, took my breath. God’s grace and abounding love shouted from the mountaintops singing songs of praise and glory to His name.
    Once we had some time to rest and catch our breath, we headed up to the Hacienda of Hope Academy (HoH) for lunch and our first round of teaching. Of course I must not omit my first experience with an authentic Ecuadorian meal. Made by the hands of two sweet, servant hearted women, our lunch consisted of baked chicken, wholesome rice, cooked vegetables, and a thick smoothie type juice. Everything was authentic and delicious.

    We finished our lunch and headed to our designated classrooms for our first teaching lesson of the week. As Callie and I nervously entered the classroom, all the children stared at us with expectant eyes. We both were a little flustered because we expected the teacher to introduce us to the students or something, but once we realized that she wasn’t going to make an announcement, we jumped right into the lesson. The students were so enthusiastic and involved in all of our activities. Their faces lit up as they set to the different tasks and mini-projects of our lesson. I could see Jesus in their sparkling faces, all alight and full of life. I was wonderstruck, soaking it all in and tasting every moment of the hour and a half long lesson. My mind was spinning, taking everything in. My first experience teaching in an organized classroom also happened to require a translator. And what a wonderful, terrifying, challenging experience it was.

    sweethearts_n

    Later that night, we had dinner in the different Casas at the Hacienda orphanage. After dinner we filed into one Casa for an evening devotional with all of the children of the Hacienda, their house parents, and the Hacienda staff and directors. As someone once said, “At the end of the day, your feet should be dirty, your hair messy, and your eyes sparkling.” That is exactly how I felt at the end of my first day spent in Ecuador. Although I could not speak fluently with the children, it did not stop me from running, chasing, tickling, and giving piggy-back rides to them all. None of the children care what language I speak, what culture I come from, or what I look like, because at the end of the day all we are doing is laughing together, eating together, getting dirty together, and most importantly singing and praising Jesus together. Our souls united through a bond found in Christ – a blessing no money can buy. These are the most precious treasures in life: dirty feet, messy hair, and eyes sparkling with the joy of Jesus.

    dirtyfeet

    meandibon_n

    Your Hands and Feet

    I am sitting on my front porch deeply breathing in the fresh air, feeling the soft West Texas breeze, while my mind is in a far away land. I’ve always wanted to go on missions, travel, experience other cultures, foods, and people. Since I was young, my heart filled with wanderlust. Yet, there was a longing deeper within me…a tug on my soul for the people far away, lost without hope or promise of a future. People without Jesus. People who have never even heard His name. Jesus. I have grown up in a home, in a culture, where Jesus’s name is praised, He is the focus, and I know nothing without Him. He has always been present. His name has never been foreign. His name is such the norm that it is sometimes taken for granted. I have a desire to share what I sometimes take for granted with others who have never even experienced it. Jesus’s last command to the disciples was to share the good news, the joy, the hope of the gospel. We are not exempt from this command to spread this message to the ends of the earth. We are on a mission wherever we call home.

    feetforHIm_n

    My heart’s fervent prayer: “Lord, let me serve you. Send me! I will go. Allow me to share your love with the unreached peoples. Make me your disciple. Pave the way so that I might disciple others in your name. No matter what, Lord, this is your mission. So, let your will be done. I will follow your direction and trust You regardless of the circumstances. You are in control. God, I ask you to make your heart’s desire my heart’s desire, so that I may take part in fulfilling Your ultimate purpose. Allow me to be a servant after your own heart, your hands and feet.

    iamyours_n

    “For the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord as the waters cover the sea.” ~Habakkuk 2:14