04 October 2014

What I learned about Jesus from the Mangy cat

I should start this post by saying I hate cats.

Like really.

I don't like them at all.

My Mom is allergic and we are dog people. Dogs you can train. They obey. They protect. They appreciate.  I'm a dog person.

For three years I've lived in Oxford, New Zealand. This tiny little farm town. Tiny is not dramatic, even people in Christchurch don't know where Oxford is.

But farm town it is. There are stray farm cats around, they occasionally mess around in the garbages and get shooed off our property. Just part of life here, nothing notable much about them.

Last year though one of the strays ended up having kittens on our property. Or at least very shortly after they ended up making home under one of our apartments. Within months we had a major cat problem. They were getting into our garbages, they'd run out at night and scare people, they'd get into the houses, they were just a nuisance. At leadership meetings they started talking about humane ways of "dealing with them."

Nothing ever got done, natural kind of took it's course and a bunch of cats turned into 3 or 4 that were still hanging around.

March of this year Soph and I were having lunch in the yard when one of the young cats, a skinny little red one got real bold. He started inching himself closer to our table. Sophie and I were done eating but had a few scraps left on our plates.

Soph is a cat person. Mostly Soph is just an animal person. We have an hour long video of her coaxing a wild seal pup into rolling over on it's back and letting her stroke it by the seas side once. (Yea...for real).  Let it go on record she made the first move...

Soph put her plate on the ground and made the clicking sound.

I don't know what that clicking sound activated in my head. Whether it was love, a scholars desire to learn, my stubbornness seeing a challenge but whatever it was I was done. This cat was suddenly...mine.

Our base has had a long standing No-Pet policy. My old mentor tried to make Soph and I get rid of a spontaneous gold fish we bought last winter but he only ended up lasting a weekend so we never had to cross that bridge. It's understandable, most staff are pretty seasonal, here for 6 months, gone for 6. We used to have a primarily American staff. No one actually lived here. I get it.

(But since I'm in confession mode, we also kept a snail for a few weeks last year...)

Anyways, to my cat. From that day on, occasionally I would throw a scrap or a bit of fat to the cat. About a week after building his confidence that I could be trusted I began to only give him bits of food on my front porch. He started realizing that was my home,  his source of food came in and out from that door.

In the mean time I started forcing myself to get over my fear of cats. My goal was to love that cat. I didn't know why. I still don't know what it is about him that solicited love, sympathy, protection?

It was about this time that he was starting to take up room in my heart that another guy came along to steal my heart all together. This one was a human though, Mitchell was the one who started calling him "Mangy Cat," and somehow when he said it it sounded loving and so it stuck. Mangy had a name.

About a week after he learned to come to the porch to be fed I realized he'd mostly stopped digging in our garbages. (Mostly...because c'mon guys he's just a baby).  Now when I would come to feed him I would stand on my step and say "Mangy be sweet." He would come and cuddle up against my legs and I would put his food down.

The next week I would sit down once I put his foot down. Forcing myself to be brave, risk those sharp little kitten claws and begging him to be sweet I decided to start stroking him. And it worked! This wild cat was letting me pet him! People starting joking; oh my gosh, Mandi is domesticating a feral cat! Grace who worked in our kitchen would give me tuna or scraps bound for the garbage because of expiration dates for him.

It just made me want to love him more. Shortly after that he started trusting other staff, Sophie could sit and he'd come over wanting a pet. He'd rub up against Mitchell wanting a stroke. The snowboard girls would coo over him, the boys made a sport of catching mice for him.

He would follow me to our backyard and watch while I hung up clothes. He would jump off the porch and come up to me if he saw me headed towards my front door. As one of the snowboard girls said, "He knows who his Mama is." Mangy trusted me. Sophie once dropped a shirt while doing laundry and he found it, carried it to his spot on the front step and curled himself up in it.  If that wasn't a sign of his territory the sudden disappearance of the other cats was. One night we saw Mangy on a death race chasing another cat off our property. He knows he gets fed and loved here and he's not about to share that.

It was a reluctant win for my case that we should officially keep the cat. One that we feed keeps all the others off our grounds is worth it. Unfortunately for Mangy being allowed to "keep" him means a very unfortunate surgery for him next week....I'm sorry about that buddy...

Mangy offering his comfort in exchange for mine yesterday.

I take it as a badge of honor that this cat trusts me. I don't know what it's been but a weird and random desire to love something small that hit my like a ton of bricks. I will still claim I'm not a cat person- I just love this one.

Maybe in the cheesiest of forms, Mangy reminded me of myself not so long ago. So desperate for love, to be held, to be feed, to be protected but so desperately scared. That happens to the best of us when we've been hurt. We pull away from people wait them to drop the food and back away.

But God's different. He's got something way better for us. I had something way better for Mangy than fighting the other cats for the scraps out of our garbage.
If that's not domestic I don't know what is...salad, cat food and energy drinks/ deodorant for my guy. 
Mangy was born a stray but he didn't need to stay one. I wanted him to be mine. I wanted him to belong to me, at least temporarily. I wanted to love him. 

It's a lot like how God feels for me. He's got such bigger, better plans for us. There's really no reason to keep fighting others for the scraps this world has to offer us when Our Father is offering us the best of the best. 

I just ran to my room to get my computer charger and there he was, cuddled in his make shift bed on my front step. More domestic than wild now- I got half an eye open and a bit of a head nod. Thanks bud- you just keep on being a cat. Eat. Lay in the sun. Enjoy being loved by me. 

And I'll do the same.

25 March 2014

Noah, Noah, Noah.

While my legal employment status is still "volunteer non profit" most people venturing far enough into my reality to land here would know me as most do, as a Christian missionary living in New Zealand. As such, similar to most people in full time ministry my life often feels like a fish bowl. I'm the orange little goldfish with massive eyes swimming around eating rocks while the rest of the world stand as spectators outside the glass, with a view a very unique view into my life. Thanks to social media, not only do I live in a fish bowl to the other staff and students around me but also to countless friends, family, supporters, church leaders, former employers and ministry contacts in numerous countries, time zones and places around the world. With this understanding I try (with a fair amount of self control) to not post statements on politics, global crisis, cultural discussions, etc. Nor do I usually post on other people's sometimes bold statements. This does not mean that I refrain from these discussions completely I just choose to have them privately and in person with the full acceptance that; sometimes I just don't know that much. (James 3:1).

Within the next few days my Facebook will read something along the lines of "Night in the city. Movie time!" So today I want to try and write a quick bit about why I will be going to see the movie "Noah."

The past many days I've seen a lot of friends post things on Facebook and Twitter about "boycotting" the movie "Noah" that will hit New Zealand theaters tomorrow. Something about it just didn't sit well in my spirit about it so I spent some time in prayer and reflection as I ran along the beach yesterday. (Get the irony there with that water????) So here's what I've come up with;

1. Frozen (x2), Catching Fire (x3) Justin Beiber, 12 Years a Slave, Give me Shelter, Madea's Christmas, Walter Mitty, The Book Thief. That's a list of the movies coming to mind that I've seen in theaters in the last many months.  A lot of Christians I know have seen those movies, most people I know saw "Frozen" and didn't think twice about boycotting it. It's sweet and innocent. Whether every lesson in Frozen is something we want our little girls picking up and acting out. (Clearly I don't want Isabelle or Faith coming home with a fiancĂ© a day after meeting him, or consulting rock trolls after a major injury!) but the over all message of the movie was sweet. I've had multiple discussions with my 8 year old niece about the topics of fear, love and redemption because of the movie Frozen. If an eight year old can find glimpses of Jesus in Disney, I am convinced an adult can in Noah. At the end of the day I believe all things belong to my God and all things point to Him. And if it's not obvious, as a Christian it's my job to find him, to point to him in all things.

2. "It's not theologically sound." This is the argument I hear the most. I have a hard time thinking of a movie that's been made in my life time (or that ones I've seen made before that) that have been incredibly theologically sound. In all honesty I just think there are very few people on the planet today who can make that claim. Most of us can say the words correctly and sound good but your average person has a very, very loose grasp on theology. At the end of the day, I believe scripture is living and breathing. John 1:1 says God IS the word. That means scripture is alive! It's living and breathing, it's moving! If this were just a book maybe we could know it completely and fully grasp it's entirety but it's not. This is a person. I cannot and will not make an absolute statement on a real person. Until heaven as much as I want to, I cannot know the depths of His heart, I will spend my life searching for them but I just can't know it all and retain my humanity.

3. This is the part that prickled my spirit the most, Christians? We're just notorious for this nit picky judgmental behavior.  Do we have to take a moral and ethical stand on things, YES! For me personally this has meant major decisions about what I put in and on my body this year.
(And I am writing this still never having seen the movie, there is a point when I am very comfortable walking out of a movie theater even after having paid for a ticket. But I also am walking into this knowing that during Noah's day even God himself was horrified by the state of the world. I expect it to be artfully shown that the earth was disgusting!) Is this a Hollywood movie? Yes. There's a lot of people who stand to make a lot of money from us going to see this. Will there be parts that I wish they'd left out or added? I'm sure. But will God be mentioned? I bet He will! And unlike most movies I've seen this year I'm betting he's going to be an active part. I bet He's going to hold power. I bet he will demand something of Noah's life. And that's a heck of a lot more credit that He got in Frozen. I've just seen in my own life in the last many years a lot of times where I argued, I "took a stand" and was right and correct and moral and ethical and I hurt a lot of people. (My own family included). I tarnished my ministry. I turned people away from the truth. And I made Jesus look like a judgmental jerk! I've learned that a lot of times my best ministry is to just keep my mouth shut and love someone.

4. At the end of the day my God is creative. A few weeks ago I spent a week doing a "Noah and the Ark" unit in the daycare I run. I spent a week teaching really little ones that our God is a redemptive artist both in history and in them. We spent days finding things in creation, things that God created that we could create with. (Similar to my grasp of the flood and the earth post flood). I'm one of those things. I'm one of those things created in the hand of God that's been made dirty and gross by this earth but through great pain, violence and sacrifice I've been made new. Whether they get all the details right or not, I'm going to celebrate that. I'm going to celebrate a God whose in and through out art, music and film. I believe this could be a tool; a tool for conversation, for social interaction, for bridge building and at the end of the day a time to love. It's Hollywood guys, whether we like it or not people are going to see this movie. It's not the "unsaved' who are going to boycott this movie but Christians. Their going anyways, why not find a friend and take em to dinner and a movie and get the conversation going? Get them talking, save a few things and than shut your mouth and love em.

16 March 2014

Last post from the old side of a new year.

Didn't realize we're already at the half way point of the first quarter schools. It's been over a month since I've been back in New Zealand. I've been busier than ever running our child care program and Friday night Outreaches. Quicker than ever I'm walking through my last day as a 28 year old.

It's an odd anxiousness this year. 29 is big to me because it ushers in the next year..... The years go by faster and faster the older I am. This has been a year of high highs and sometimes life altering lows. I wrote in my journal today, "as anxious as I am to turn another year old, I will be glad to turn the page on what has felt like a "Job" year.  But in the spirit of perspective and in honor of the ones fighting for me I'm choosing to recount the top ten moments of my 28th year before an update on the last month.

In no particular order the "highest highs" of the last year:
1. Surprising my family by flying back to Minnesota for 2 weeks in May. Keeping that secret for as long as I did and pulling off that surprise was a once in a lifetime opportunity.
2. Finally finding a medical reason behind my health crisis in April-May of 2013 and seeing really quick reversal of damage.
3. Onething 2013 in Kansas City, Missouri.
4. God through generous supporters providing the finances to get back to Minnesota and family for Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Years' 2013.
5. Meeting Judy and Natalie Lomax and Steph Carmack (3 of the 4 most amazing roommates), getting to spend the bulk of this last year living with them and my best friend.
6. Along with my Mom taking BOTH nieces to Disney On Ice. (A fourth trip for Izze and I and a first for Mom and Faith).
7. "Angels and Mortals" during the 2013 Snowboarder Discipleship Training School.
8. 40 Day Daniel Fast through the month of August and September. The lessons I learned through that journey with God changed the course of my year.
9.  Watching my amazing little sister decide to live a sober life.
10. Being in Minnesota during the Polar Vortex and 5 SNOW DAYS! (Which means lots of sleepovers with my niece and LATE night t.v. binging with Mom).

Photo's of some of the things I've been doing for the last month.
3 yr old Miss Mira (my only full time girl) and her "Mandi Hair Do" Apparently I can rock a messy bun. 

How you can find me most days: crayons, stickers and glue in hand.

Our converted garage classroom. We love having our own special space. 

Reading animated stories on the iPad. (Our favorite apps? Endless Alphabet, Duplo Trains and Circus, Reading Rainbow, Max and Ruby Science and Wheels on the Bus piano player)

During "Color Week." We had a "color of the day" that we would wear and look for. Each day the kids would cut, paste and color in books I made them that said "God's Colorful World." Here is almost two year old Sparrow using glue and scissors for the first time on "yellow day." 

We've had a rainy few weeks so here's the kids with our "indoor sidewalk." I collapsed our snack table and covered it with butcher paper. The rain can't keep us from having fun with chalk.

Jonathan's portion of the sidewalk. (He is so proud of the rock he broke while we were working on David and Goliath).

One year old Benejah's first time with Play-doh. (Mostly successful in keeping it out of his mouth).

A last minute DIY painting smock for Sparrow. (I cut a scrap of fabric into a baby sized poncho to use over her diaper)

Finger paints. One of the lessons I've learned is that although the prep takes a long time and the messes seem endless, these are special memories that kids will have forever and little moments to help them remember big lessons are always worth it.

Finger painting during Color Week.

Three in my lap, sharing my snack and reading Toy Story.

What a typical "To-Do" list looks like for me. (Reminding myself to shower and  eat. With some last minute add-on's by my best friend who found it. Reminding me to spend time with God and her ;) 

Ice cubes dyed with food coloring for non-toxic messy fun.

Getting a 6, 3, and 1 year old on a schedule that's successful for all of us has been a challenge but we've finally found our niche. One of my little world changers during his morning nap. 

Messy fun with ice cube paints. 

A messy art activity even the youngest can enjoy.

Benejah is an outside boy. There is nothing wrong in the world if he is in his pouch and we're headed out. I spend a lot of my mornings with him strapped to my chest or back. (And you won't catch me complaining). 

Our treasures during "Creation' week. We were finding new art supplies that God created that we could use to create something new. The sticks became mobiles along with the leaves and pine cones were painted.

"My Little Book of God's Big Creation" A new page for each day of creation, a week long project.

Reading time, cuddled around the heater.

My blue eyed boy. Not so impressed with my chicken noises.

Mira's creation mobile.

Our signs to help cheer on Xavier's basketball game. (There is a family here with three school aged boys I watch occasionally).

Our classroom rules.

Zack and I cheering on his younger brother Xavier at last Friday's basketball game.

09 January 2014

"I'm convinced most people have no idea how beautiful their stories are." -Donald Miller

"Everything in life has a cause, and everything that has order and beauty has an author or an originator." 

- Taken from "What is the Point?" by Misty Edwards.

It's crazy the way our taste for things change. A popular Christian artist, Josh Garrels seems to be the odds on favorite musician for any given person at my home in New Zealand. I've made snarky comments that anywhere you go on our base 24 hours a day you can hear him playing but in all reality I'm probably right. In New Zealand I usually don't listen to him just because of how often I hear his music, but here as I attempt to make it through the deep freeze in Minnesota his "Love and War and The Sea In Between" seems to be the only thing I play.

"So much more to life than we've been told
It's full of beauty that will unfold
And shine like you struck gold my wayward son
The deadweight burden weighs a ton
Go down to the river and let it run
And wash away all the things you've done
Forgiveness alright."

-Taken from "Farther Along." by Josh Garrels

I've struggled a little bit with this time at home. As Josh plays through for the third time this morning and I've just come downstairs from heating up my second cup of tea I battle the rest this time is supposed to be for me. We are such a generation of instant satisfaction brought on by constant production. My conscious mind tells me I am supposed to be doing something with my day. I am supposed to have something to show for my time here on earth. I need to be working for something. What the something is, I'm yet to find out, but at any given point but that's what the world tells me.

As a missionary I can struggle with those same thoughts. I am a second quarter entrant of Gen Y America, even more so 2000's American Christianity. I'm a product of mega churches, mega conferences, mega conventions. Adulthood has ushered in the social media apocalypse birthing a generation with unrealistically high expectations of our own humanity and an unspoken need to document all of it. I want to show and give results. I want to produce. I want to have lists and testimonies of the villages struggling to survive that now all have iPad's and TOMS because I showed up with the saving message of American provision and production. WAIT- I mean the simple, saving message of grace...and love...and a peace that passes all understanding.

For me this has been a year of change. This has been my first full year "in the field." My expectations for what being a real life missionary have changed. Continue to change. After a year in the field I can see what has been my biggest challenge: Expectation

"When I say I 'wrestled with God,' I say it with great reverence and fear. He doesn't owe me the answers I seek, but in His generosity and His eagerness to be known, He answers me." 

-Taken from "What is The Point?" Misty Edwards.

Last night I was preparing to speak to my sending churches missions board, reviewing the last year and looking forward to 2014. It was incredibly difficult to try and fit a year's worth of life, ministry and stories into a twenty minute powerpoint. (They were gracious and gave me twenty nine minutes including a hilarious question and answer time).  As I sorting through scores of beautiful photos I have of the last year; the faces that have came and gone in front of me, the hands that have held mine, the laughs, the tears, the memories and the moments that paste together to illustrate a journey I could have never imagined I was reminded of the times in the last year that I had been overwhelmed by unmet expectation.

There are no photos of me holding malnourished infants. There are no photos of us digging wells for villages without water.  No one has been rescued out of sex trafficking or slavery by my hand. It hurts to say it out loud as my expectations shatter all around me.  I've been a full time missionary for the last year and as far as evangelism goes, I have not gotten one person "saved."

If you looked through my photos you would see a lot of kids. You'd see Joshua, the son of missionary couple near and dear to all of our hearts who were in ministry transition this summer. I homeschooled Joshy and learned more about God's heart and unique plan for each of us. You'd see the Kindergarten classroom that I am in weekly to teach Bible to five year olds, where I've learned the power of attention and patience. The sons of our base director who I've spent large amounts of time with in the last year, watching Zephyr learn to walk and Titus learn to speak and learn, Leeland enter this world.

You'd see a lot of photos of food. Evidential remnants of a 40 day Daniel Fast I went on through the months of August and September. Intentionally withholding artificial foods, flavorings and interactions from my body with the dead set purpose of interaction with the heart of a living and breathing God.

You'd see a lot of photos of my roommates. Four beautiful, challenging, surrendered women of God. Living in community sharpening my heart, my soul, my attitude, and my mind like nothing I've ever been a part of. You'd see photos of Sophie, one of my best friends who in another life had been one of my students: the breathtaking girl whose fierce obedience to the call of Christ in her life will set the whole world on fire.

You'd seen candids of the students that have come through this years schools; Around the World Discipleship Training School, Father's Love Crossroads, Snowboarders DTS, Justice, Backpacker and Climbers DTS'. The heart's that have found freedom from false identities and ideas. Hearts that have been set on fire for the "upward call of Christ.' Students who will go out and touch the nations, students who have laid hands on people and seen them healed, students who have interacted who those enslaved to the sex industry, students who have dug wells and held malnourished infants, students who have ushered the lost into new life through Jesus Christ.

"You should live like you are going to die, because you are going to die. (...) Let me tell you, you will die, and you don't really have a lot of time to figure out what life is really about." 

-Taken from "What is The Point?" Misty Edwards.

In the last year I have had to come to terms with what my expectations for what a missional life looks like. I have had to come to terms for what others expectations of my ministry look like. I have had to adjust my expectations of myself and my God. I have lived the last year as a missionary in a first world country.  My expectation as a little girl, dreaming of being a missionary someday was that I'd be going the third world countries a few times a year.  Living in mud huts, adopting lots of swollen bellied orphans, shaving my head because of the lice, eating lots of crazy foods. I'd see people jump out of graves like they do in Africa. I'd learn three new languages and write lots of books about the journey.

My desire and expectation to produce something that the general public can consume has been crippling at times this year. It took a long road with a lot of bumps to come to the conclusion that I'd created a life and ministry in my head out of false expectations. False expectations of my God, myself, my heart and those around me.

Expectations that have been/are being shattered this year: 

1. The road will be easy. I don't know how long it will take a human being to understand that's just not the case. From attempting to find a way to life on faith financially to dealing with the deep recesses of my own heart and spirit; this has been a year of challange. God never promised that the road would be easy,  but He did promise that it would lead to life and life abundant. THAT I have learned to a whole new level this year. The hardest roads have often lead to the most life in my case.

"And I will put this third in the fire, and refine them as one refines silver, and test them as gold is tested. They will call upon my name, and I will answer them. I will say, 'They are my people' and they will say 'The Lord is my God.'" 


2. Ministry is going to look a certain way. At some points this year I was inputting spread sheets, welcoming new students, mixing chemical cleaners, rubbing backs, teaching children, leading prayer, being silly to make a friend laugh, going on walks with students, buying another staff person dinner, praying with best friends under a million sparkling stars. Ministry has never looked the same, it's never looked typical but I've learned that the best ministry I will ever be a part of is a humble heart doing everything as unto the Lord. If I'm called to play in the dirt with kids one day and asked to lead a safety briefing the next all the Lord is asking me to do is to do it with my whole heart. So I'm going to, it's taken me a while to get there and quite a few slices of humble pie but I'm excited for the places God is bringing my heart when it is willing and passionate to follow after Him wherever he may lead.
3. You can know or control how this is going to turn out. Anyone who knows me personally will attest to the fact there are few things in life I hate as much as I hate change. I really love routine, I love knowing what's coming next. I'm not a huge fan of surprises. (Unless their birthday parties-love those). In this life routine is rare and change is common. I've spent long portions of this year dreading the new and different and God has constantly allowed it in my life. Slowly but surly I'm learning who is in control of this fickle thing we call life. And thank goodness it's not me! I'm learning through perspective and retrospect that my dreams are far too small. The God of all creation has much bigger, better and more magnificent plans for my life, my loves and this world than I ever could. When I let Him take the wheel, our relationship is so much more seamless.

"For I know the plans I have for you,' declares the Lord, 'plans to prosper you and not to harm you. Plans to give you a hope and a future." 

-Jeremiah 29:11

4. My life hangs in the balance of what others think of me. This has been an expectation and a false belief I've struggled with for years. Living cross-culturally in the digital age it has threatened my heart more than once. I had someone give me a scenario recently; I love to write and so they said, "Mandi, what if so and so famous author read something you wrote and loved it. Just raved about what an amazing writer you are. You would be SO confident. You'd tell everyone about your interaction with them, you'd update Facebook and Twitter and blog everywhere about how awesome they thought you were. And now if Jo-Schmo average person complimented your writing, you'd be gracious and say "Thank you" but for the most part you'd go on with you life. This is how we view God. He is the ultimate creator, author and perfecter of EVERYTHING! He's not the average Jo-Schmo opinion of you! Do you understand who it is that says your beauty is breathtaking? Do you understand who it is that says you are unconditionally loved? Do you understand who it is that is completely pleased with you?" This has not been an easy one for me, I'm a provider and people pleaser by nature. But I have begun to taste what life is like when I'm living for an audience of one. When I begin to live from his approval and applause instead of for the applause of those around me. (Thanks Lady Gaga for the perspective shifter!)

A New Year, A New Hope.

And so I find myself at the dawning of 2014. I rang in another New Year at the International House of Prayer with those nearest and dearest my heart. I've spent a lot of weeks looking very deep inside of my heart and processing through the last year and looking forward to the next.

(This isn't always an easy process. Here are two very well written articles I've read about missionaries both coming home and dealing with grief that I've found helpful:
http://www.alifeoverseas.com/outlawed-grief-a-curse-disguised/ )

So I sit once more at the bottom of a mountain, the summit? 2014.  I stand at the beginning not knowing what they all are but knowing that there will be climbs this year. Massive and marvelous climbs that will require all of me. All of my patience, all my faith, all of my hope, all of my endurance. Mr. Garrels continues in the corner as I drown in the hope that with my God the victory is already won.

"Stand on the shores of a site unseen
The substance of this dwells within me
Cause my natural eyes only go skin deep
But the eye's of my heart anchor the sea
Plumbing the depths to the place in between
The tangible world and the land of a dreams
Because everything ain't quite as it seems
There's more beneath the appearance of things
A beggar could be king within the shadows
Of a wing." 

-Taken from "Beyond The Blue." Josh Garrels


Prayer Request: I am currently in need of massive amount of prayer as I fundraise $500 to process my Working Holiday IEP VISA so I can get back into New Zealand legally. Hopefully as soon as possible.

Feb-May. I am excited to be running our child care program for our Father's Love Crossroads DTS. This is a school that's targeted towards the 35+ crowd with families. Prayers have been answered and we have them coming! God has asked me to take care of the beautiful little ones as their parents are going on a great adventure into His heart learning to know Him more as Father and make Him known in the nations.

I'm also excited to get back into my classroom at Oxford School and continue teaching Bible in Schools.

I'm also ready to get back and start organizing and co-ordinating our Friday Night Evangelism/Outreach for the new quarter schools. Giving us another opportunity to work with local ministry, non profits and friends in bringing practical help, good news and the hope of Jesus to people in Oxford, Christchurch and beyond.

"Christianity is not a blind faith; it is the wisest conclusion you can come to." 

-Taken from "What Is the Point?" Misty Edwards

In hindsight I don't have a product to offer anyone. I've got a lot of really beautiful pictures. An almost complete journal. A lifetime of stories. I have a heart, that's been battle tested, bruised, bounced back and finally ignited for this Man Jesus. I may not have walked anyone through the "sinners prayer" in the way that we expect missionaries to do. Maybe that's not what I am called to do in this life, but I hope that as I learn to love the Lord more, I'll inspire others to do the same. I've seen it happen in my life. When the people near me get set on fire for the Lord and His purposes in this world I can't help but want the same. I hope my struggle has brought a momentary relief, I hope my failures have brought realization, that my successes have brought hope. That my small life and the huge plans God has for it have brought hopeful assurance in a Father who loves us, even the messed up, emotional, confused, happy, goofy ones.

Be blessed in the New Year. Be overwhelmed by His peace. Consumed by His joy. Undone by His love.

17 October 2013

Extra Prayer

Extra prayer would be helpful today as I found out that a $5800 medical bill that was supposed to have been paid by my insurance company was not paid.

This just brings up all sorts of fears and insecurities from past medical trauma and even harder to deal with financial trauma and turmoil that comes with it.

Extra prayer would be nice as I try to wade through the paperwork, contact the right people, make the right choices and try to stay calm.

And I thought fasting was going to be easier the second time around...

15 October 2013

The Challenge has been laid...

So Tuesdays around here are "BLS Days." BLS stands for "Basic Leadership School," and it's a two year school that all our staff here go through. Tuesday's we meet as a group with speakers and members of our training department. It's a time of lecture, discussion, etc. We have journals, book reports, final projects. Oh, and we also are required to staff  a school and lead an outreach. ;) BLS is so much more than a class for me, BLS is the two years I've been here. It's the people I've met, the ones I've lead and those who have lead me.

It was at BLS last week that I was sitting after lecture was over. Len had just finished talking about upping our faith a notch. He told this story of a time in full time missions when he was praying and trusting God for a very specific car.  He'd had to wait for years to get this car, but he was finally blessed with the exact vehicle he and his son had been praying for. During lecture I was talking with God about my finances. While I've blogged and started a fundraising website for support this season, I've started to target in on just one thing: getting home for Christmas. I've been praying daily for the support and gifts to be able to go home during the holidays. I sometimes struggle with nervousness and anxiety about not having a ticket yet. Those around me seem to be a little more convinced than I am. Sophie watched as thousands of dollars came in in minutes last year to support my outreach to Malaysia. Becky saw similar miracles with my huge medical bill earlier this year. Isn't it easy, when you're in the middle of a pressing situation to forget those times? God has always come through for me financially. That's one of the things I'm thankful for in community, when I am tempted to forget the times of God's faithfulness the ones that love me are there to remind me.

Anyways, during Len's lecture I was struggling, was my faith meant to be upped a notch that I'm not going home? That I need to trust God's plan if the finances don't come in to buy a ticket? There was just a big internal struggle going on because I absolutely believe God has given me the green light to go but the finances just aren't reflecting that. It was literally during this internal monologue when a friend and fellow staff member came up to me and told me point blank: "Mandi I want to give you $500 to get you home for Christmas."

Let me pause the story one moment...

Friend and fellow staff member means something: this is another self supported missionary who is not making any "income" for the job she is working right now.

And she wants to give me $500! I couldn't help but tuck my head into my shirt and cry.

Than she added something, "I want you to put it online, so your blog followers, facebook friends and everyone can see it. I want to pose this challenge: I want people to match my gift."

There's another thing about community: It's challenging.

And so I'm posting this. One to honor my friend; you know who you are. Thank you so much! Thanks for tipping me from fear back into confidence.

As well to honor her request: Will you pray about helping to match her radical gift? I have friends waiting to get me the best deal on a ticket and gift me their airline miles for the domestic portion of my flights as soon as the money is in. We're budgeting $1800 for the round trip travel home for Christmas in December and than back to New Zealand before the next schools start. If God leads you to donate any amount there is a link to donate through my Paypal on the upper right hand corner of this page, as well as a link to my fundraising page. Thank you so much for your prayer and support. Thanks for taking up this challenge with my friend.

09 October 2013

Little Boys: Noise with dirt on it.

What a special evening I had.

Dear friends of mine (and leaders in this ministry) went into the city last night to check on the progress of Baby #3's entrance into the world. They had asked Sophie and I to stay with their two oldest last night. What a special time. It was both a challenge (in the best way) and a blessing to be able to spend the evening and night with those sweet boys. Trying to keep dinner cooking, the fire burning, laundry going, boys from biting (or playing in the toilet) was an adventure. What an insight into the lives of Moms: intentional, intentional, intentional. It took me close to an hour to get a load of laundry on the line because while I wanted to finish my task, stopping to gently correct a three year old when he had been too rough with his brother was more important. Just as important was interrupting myself to celebrate him when I saw him help his brother into their imaginary fire truck made out of a card board box. When the oldest didn't something I did approve of I would get down on his level and ask him for his eyes and wait until he'd given me eye contact so I had a better chance of the few seconds of attention. It made me laugh out loud by the end of the night when I knelt beside him after pushing his brother and he covered his eyes.

And I loved every minute of it.

I loved chasing pretend monsters. I loved sticking a plastic hook into my sleeve and chasing "Jake" (check out Disney Jr. "Jake" is the new Peter Pan). I loved making a hot chocolate for the oldest and laughing with him as I held him up to the mirror to see his "mustache." I loved getting drenched during bath time. I loved watching them scream with laughter when I would growl and roar over top them. I loved the diapered bottom hoping into my lap for stories. I loved watching little fingers and noses press up against clean windows waiting for Sophie to come sing to them. I loved watching the boys hug after I let them be in the same room again after a particularly nasty "wrestle."

I loved sitting down to watch a movie knowing that two little boys were happy, safe and fast asleep. That although it was work to keep my eyes open at ten o'clock that the boys had felt love all night long. That although maybe we had one too many special treats. Ok, maybe they got to leave the table before they should have, and we did lose quite a bit of bath water to splashing. They were loved, they were happy, they were cared for.

And for me? That's missions.

14 September 2013

Day 40

Technically today is Day 41.

I realized that last night. I'd "broken" my fast momentarily. In a moment of temptation I consumed something that is "non Daniel Fast approved." And I thrashed around last night not able to sleep because of guilt. It was a in the middle of the night that I felt God whisper to me to count back my days. Indeed last night had been 40 days.

Regardless I argued with Him, I set in my mind to fast until noon on Sunday.

Funny how a fast, a time set aside to draw into the heart of God can come down to my own stubbornness and desire to control my own plans.

"God let me tell you, how my service to your heart is going to look."

Silly girl. I remind myself the woman in Song of Songs sometimes. "He is mine and I am His." First comes my plans, second His. Oh wake up!

This morning I woke up early (sleep was not sweet last night) and felt like God was telling me to "steal away with him."  So I threw on some shoes and headed up to the look out over our little town.

The walk up the hill I was still trying to beg God forgiveness. (But let's be real, forgiveness from Him is instant as soon as we repent. I was asking to be released from my guilt.) I was sitting at this little table up at the top and praying. Asking for God to take over my mind. I had previously planned to spend today in the city celebrating forty days. There were moments in the last few hours that I've asked God if I should still be celebrating.

"God is celebrating your heart, your work in my life, is this something I still deserve? Do I deserve to laugh, smile, play, eat, drink, enjoy your creation today after letting you down last night?"

I was listening to my favorite worship song up there and asking God to be near me.

He didn't call to fast for forty days to fall into religiosity and legalism. He didn't call me away for forty days to get lost in a puddle of guilt that my humanness still existed. He called me away for forty days to show me who I am, to show me who He is, to show me His power, His gentleness, His joy and His grace.

He called me away for forty days to remind me I am human. I make mistakes and I will continue to make mistakes but His grace is new every morning. His joy for me is immense and un-containable. His plans for me are immense and un-containable. He is God and I am not.

Every day that a treat, a piece of cheese, sugar, coffee, a glass of wine, were said "no" to for the sake of laying down the things I like to press further into Him joy was added to His heart. Every time I stayed in my apartment to make a vegan meal instead of joining with others in the Dining room and stayed in the quiet with Him joy was added to His heart.

For the first 21 days of this fast I was reading Daniel every day. And this verse still stands out to me,

"As soon as you began to pray, an answer was given, which I have come to tell you, for you are highly esteemed." -Daniel 9:23.

Daniel's been fasting for days. His heart is breaking and he's crying out for God to move. An Angel appears to him and speaks these words.

I love this, from the moment Daniel decided to fast and pray the heart of God had been moved toward him.

I fasted for forty days because God has 'given me greater joy than when the grain and new wine abound". I fasted for forty days because I knew there was something for me in the center of His flame and I needed to get there.

I fasted because I wanted to learn to love God with all my heart, my mind, my strength and my soul.

I fasted because I wanted to learn how to look at myself like He does. That I make mistakes, I'm so completely, uniquely and perfectly human.

And He still loves me.

So in a moment I'm going to celebrate! I'm going into the city; to laugh, to eat, to drink, to enjoy this beautiful sunny day, to enjoy it all with one of my best friends in the whole world. Later my roommates are coming into the city to meet us for a nice Italian dinner.

Because He still loves me.

He still loves us.

29 August 2013

Help me get home for Christmas!

Quick update on me if you haven't been getting my support newsletters and emails... (If you have my apologies in repeating some of the info, but keep reading...there are some new nuggets :) 

If you've been following along on my facebook (I had been "fasting" Facebook during the first portion of the Daniel Fast. Friends had been posting blog links and other important information for me. As of yesterday, I was back on at a once a day basis, in order to keep proper communication. But have still not reinstalled the facebook app on my phone in order to avoid distraction).  Or if you're on Instagram you'll know I've extended what I had intended on being only a 21 day Daniel Fast to at least another ten days. There are a couple of reasons for that; one I feel that there is still more God intends to impart on me in this time. My time in the word, in worship and in prayer during this fast have been intense and life giving. I've found so much new meat to my prayer life, so much fervency in devouring the word and renewed focus in worship. Also the last week has been a substantially hard one. I had to say goodbye to another sweet child in my life as God's direction for his families life took him away from me, my schedule changed drastically now that I'm not homeschooling and a primary relationship in my life came to a close. Satan just found sneaky ways to attack my identity and my heart;  a scary interaction with a man in the city and unearthing old lies that I'm not beautiful or valuable.  As much as I would like to believe as a missionary constantly surrounded by God loving, love sick worshippers I'd be immune to such attack I'm not and the enemy has had a field day with my heart this last week. I feel like intentionally pressing in for even more of His heart is a wise road to take. 

Secondly after the first week was past, eating the way the Daniel Fast requires. (Only foods that once came from a seed. No salts, sugars, dressings, meats, dairy, etc) has benefited my physical body and life in profound ways. While there has been small weight loss, the real benefits are how I feel. Most days I have much more energy than I did previously. I sleep better and have an easier time both going to bed and waking up. I feel in overall better shape, I last longer snowboarding and running. My hair and nails have been growing faster than I've ever noticed them to do. Skin issues I'd still been having from being sick in April and May are almost completely gone. People have commented that my eyes and skin are brighter. I feel lighter and more present in my day to day. One of the best things is I have not had even one allergic reaction to anything I have eaten in the last 25 days! No itchy mouth or swollen lips, nothing! Praise God! The Daniel Fast has also seemingly coincided with a huge release in creativity in our apartment. It seems as though every night my roommates and I are writing, painting, making music, crafting or in my case making food. I've found this insane love of preparing food.  I find huge joy in finding news ways to combine fresh fruits and veggies into beautiful and tasteful meals. Almost daily I'll have Sophie come look at some "pretty" new combination of foods with the same pride she displays new paintings. Even after the fast is done I'm praying about continuing a vegan lift style. The verse from 1 Cor. "Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit?" has new meaning in the past twenty some days, I feel like I'm starting to understand and respect that reality in my life. I want to continue to treat my body as a temple, the very house the Holy Spirit is choosing to reside in in this life. 

I was hit with that reality today, that this is the best way. That when Jesus was getting ready to leave the disciples he said he was going to send the comforter and the helper and that it would be better that way. So often I yearn for heaven, I just want to be with Jesus now! I just want him to show up in my room now! I want him in this coffee shop with me, at this beach with me, in the car with me. But Jesus himself said, that is this reality it is better for me to have the Holy Spirit in me, that is the greater help right now. I want to continue to live in that reality, that I am housing the very Spirit of God in me. That's a big job and I want to treat myself and my body as a proper place for His Holiness. 

So where am I now?

I have a meeting set for this weekend to discuss how my roles will change after the snowboard school leaves for outreach and the new schools begin. At this time I know that I will still be teaching Bible in Schools weekly. (I've been asked by the classroom teacher that I work with if I'd be willing to come in and teach some art classes with the kids which will start next week as well).I have absolutely loved being in a classroom again. I've loved seeing even the shyest kids start to come out of their shells and volunteer to play the role of Pharoah or Moses in our stories. To see them all bolt their hands up to remind me what we learned the week previous.  I've also been asked to take up leading our bases weekly intercession times. This is the time our whole base comes together, staff and students to pray and interceed for other peoples and nations. I'm really excited to be taking this over and finding creative ways to engage with the heart of God for the world. 

I'm excited for what God is doing in this place. We've found ourselves in a massive time of transition but God is continuing to show up, continuing to make himself and his plans known, continuing to change the lives of everyone who comes through this place. 

As I feel it continues to be God's plan for me to be here for an extended period of time my financial needs change. While this time last year I was fundraising to be able to lead the team to Malaysia right now I'm fundraising for different needs as living and staffing this base becomes career. 

1. The financial need in the forefront of my mind and heart right now is for a plane ticket to go back to Minnesota for Christmas. When I came to New Zealand in February I came on a one-way ticket because it was what I could afford at the time and did not know exactly what God's plans were as far as when I would be going home. In May is became apparent I should go to Minnesota for a short time for medical reasons as well as being refreshed by family and I was gifted the money to do so. I still do not have a ticket back to Minnesota. My prayer and my families hope is that I could come to the US for a month over Christmas and New Years.

If I can go to the States for a month I can work for a good three weeks with my Mom and attempt to make a little bit of my own money to continue to support myself. While three weeks of work does not sound like much income, take into consideration that my room and board is paid for with only $90 US/week. Working in the states for three weeks translates into a few months of my own support.

But obviously the biggest reason I want to go home for a white Minnesota Christmas is my family. Having little ones that I am so close to so far away is incredibly difficult at times. I believe that I am following God's will for my life and I know that someday Isabelle and Faith will understand that. But it's important for me to be in their lives as often as I can however I can, often that is Skype calls home, Voxers (a walkie-talkie app on our phones) and photos and packages exchanged back and forth. But my heart yearns to be with them a few times a year. To hear Faith learn to say my name in the flesh, to take Isabelle snow tubing, keep her up late with hot chocolate and Christmas movies. After the New Year the plan is that it would be at least another 9 months before I would be in Minnesota again. I believe, and am part of a community that believes it's important to go on furlough a few times a year, I would love for Christmas to be one of those times for me. A time to head back to my family, my church and friends and be reconnect, share about all the work God is doing here and in my life and share in the amazing time of the year. The time we celebrate the Savior that draws me into this crazy life being born and starting this whole thing in motion. 

I am obviously in financial need for the ticket. The reason I am writing about Christmas tickets while it's still August is that there is a massive sale going on right now and a round trip ticket is only about $1000. (Which is an INCREDIBLE deal when it comes to international flights). Through fundraising and gifts of people through out the last season my room and board expenses have been paid for the next few months but the money I had brought to New Zealand with me from savings and working while I was home in the winter has dwindled down from day to day living expenses, health care, (I have insurance but have to pay the first 20% of any medical expenses), gifts and blessing others, etc. 

I am praying that supporters, family and friends would be lead to help "bring me home for Christmas" and support me in what I'm doing here. It is often hard for those of us in this community to write these kind of letters home; most of us are working a pretty typical 9-5 job be it in the office, the kitchen, or a little of everything like me but having to raise our own salary to live. God always makes a way around here and I constantly find myself walking in His blessing. Would you pray about helping me raise funds to go home for Christmas in Minnesota? If you are a monthly supporter, if you helped me with medical expenses earlier this year, if you've have sent me a gift last year and helped me lead our Malaysia outreach, if you've laughed, cried, or been encouraged with me through this blog, if you've been thinking or praying about donating to missions; would you consider praying about investing in me here? 

If you feel lead to give I have a link at the top of this page on the right that goes directly to my paypal. Otherwise you can send check to me at PO Box 47 Oxford, North Canterbury New Zealand 7443. 

Please feel free to send me a letter to that address at anytime letting me know how you're doing, what God's doing in your life, how I can pray for you. As the seasons change and I spend less time on social media I find myself falling out of contact with people which is not my heart at all. I want to press more into the heart of God but don't want to lose touch. Real letters force us to slow down around here. :) 

I had a small list of things I needed to fund raise for but I feel to stop the email there. This is my heart and I absolutely believe in the power of God's provision and the trust and faith in builds in me. Thank you for joining me in this journey. 

21 August 2013

Insight into my homework.

This is a small portion of a journal I had to turn in for our leadership school that I thought I would share about the work God is doing in my heart in this time.

3. What has been a joy this week? What are you excited about? A joy has continued to be God's prescence during this fast. I was at the lookout a while ago heaving I was sobbing so hard to worship, "Oh death where is your sting? Oh hell where is your victory? Oh church come stand in the light our God is not dead he's alive He's alive." And I just am weeping my eyeballs out because I've been up there praying and crying out to him and journaling and these wounds are coming out of my confusion and I can feel him replacing them with his truth and it's like this searing pain. And that line comes on and it's just like "Oh death where is your sting?" And I know it's talking about physical death but what kept coming to mind was this spiritual death of my flesh and this false identity I'd put on and clung to because of this wound and I'm just crying out as I'm turning it over, "Oh death (of that identity) where is your sting?" He is bigger. He is bigger. Yes, His prescience has been my joy this week. It has continued to be a stingy process as my flesh comes to the surface and is dealt with through this fast but every day there is something more of His heart for me to walk into. This has been some of the hardest heart work God's done in me in years but it has just been so powerful. I found myself in tears (Gee that's shocking) a few days ago as I was processing through relationship stuff with Sophie and she said, "Mandi, you're falling more in love with God than you are anything else, that's a good thing!" And that is where His joy has brought me this week, I am starting to finally with my heart and not just my head scratch the surface of what it means to be chased and love struck for my heavenly bridegroom.