Guatemala :: Because He Was and Is Enough

I have so much to share with you about my time in Guatemala … and the more I process, the more I want to share!

guate1

I wanted so badly to express some of what the Lord did in and through this trip last week, but I ended up sick promptly upon my return home and just didn’t have it in me to do much more than work and then plant myself on the couch before crashing for the night and pushing through the next day. Forming coherent thoughts that captured the trip or the Lord’s hand at work with any sort of justice seemed near impossible.

My energy level has been slow to return, and I’m still processing, but I couldn’t let another day pass without entering into this space to say thank you. For praying, for encouraging, for supporting … both me and the team I was privileged to serve alongside.

But really, how do you begin to express or explain something that you can’t quite even label or name yet? I know the Lord did something, and is still DOING something, in and through this trip and this heart He’s given me for Guatemala. But putting that something into words?

Well, it’s challenging … almost as if it’s still partially veiled. As if I’m not even supposed to be able to put it into words just yet. As if there’s something still being formed.

And while my eyes have been opened to it and I’ve been given a front row seat to it, I’m still watching the first act. There’s still some ground to cover before the characters fully develop or the plot begins to make some sense.

But oh, I saw the Lord move on this trip. I never expected not to, but I also want to intentionally stop and take the time to say it, to praise Him for it, to acknowledge that those prayers I prayed, those requests that had been on my heart for weeks, if not months – that I asked you to pray along with me – He answered! Not necessarily how I would have expected. But He answered.

God is so faithful.

And He so graciously honored the step I took in obedience and faith to go.

Because that’s this God we serve!

guate2

Before I left, I knew I needed to let go of the expectations I was bringing along, which in and of itself was hard since the last trip in February had been so powerful.

And this trip was certain to be different.

But I also knew that the door had been so obviously and creatively opened for me to go back that this trip needed to be all His.

For whatever reason, He wanted me there. And even though that reason was unknown to me, there was freedom in knowing that I could follow Him back to Guatemala, be fully present in each moment, and trust Him to do the rest.

guate3

But honestly? That is still not my default. And that was not easy.

I didn’t want this trip to be about me, but at so many points, I found myself desperately seeking and searching for a reason, for an emotional connection, for an obvious and out-loud purpose for being back in this country that I have come to love so dearly.

As a result, the Lord and I had an ongoing conversation – a sort of internal wrestling and crying out on my part and truth-filled, yet gentle and loving replies on His – for the majority of this trip. I wanted a reason. I wanted to understand my place and my purpose. And I wanted to not react so negatively to the uncertainty around and within me.

I felt emotionally disconnected. The culture shock was gone this time, and as I walked around Antigua on the first day, everything seemed so familiar. Even the smell at the Guatemala City dump the next day didn’t overwhelm all of my senses in the same way as before.

guate4While part of that was okay, I didn’t expect to feel quite so detached. I watched as my team reacted to all of it as I had before, as I would have expected to react again. I watched the tears and the brokenness and the feelings of helplessness come over them, and I couldn’t help but think something was terribly wrong with me. How could I not react with the same level of emotion? How could I not feel more?

I didn’t want to come across as uncaring or lacking in compassion … because that’s not what was going on, either … but nothing was coming out in the way of obvious emotion or reaction and it could not be forced.

So I found myself getting quiet and still before the Lord. I found myself hanging around the edges of the group at times to process the lack of emotion and to continue this conversation with the only One who knew my heart and thoughts even better than I did. The only One who could really see and speak truth into what was going on inside of me.

And as we continued this conversation that literally lasted for days, as I talked and as I listened, I sensed the Lord saying,

“Am I not enough?”

guate5

Even in the way I heard it, in the negative form, had to be Him. Because only He would know that’s what would best get my attention in that moment.

Because I wasn’t acting like He was enough. I was so focused on figuring out why I was there that I was missing the part about just being obedient in following and being with Him, in His presence, in Guatemala.

That’s all He ever asked. He never promised an obvious reason or that I would know another specific purpose … or that there would even BE another specific purpose.

And no matter what story (or straight up lies!) my emotions tried to tell, I could rest in that. Knowing that following Him to the place where He leads is always the right place.

Jesus was already in Guatemala.

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He didn’t need me this time any more than He needed me the first time, but He invited me to join Him there again. To join Him in doing the work, to be His hands and feet, to partner with ministries who had established and long-term relationships in their respective communities, to humbly enter into the lives of others – if only for a brief moment – to love and serve them well and to be fully present in each opportunity.

And in that place, I saw Jesus move in blue paint, in blowing bubbles, in big brown eyes that held your gaze, in smiles and much laughter, and in holding hands. I saw Jesus in small moments that somehow weren’t small at all.

Because He was and is enough.

And those are the stories I will be sharing with you here over the next few weeks.

Because those stories matter. Entering into the lives of others, even for the briefest of moments, makes a difference … to you AND to them. And the small moments that make up our everyday realities are never wasted when they are fully surrendered to Jesus.

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I’m Headed Back to Guatemala … in Less Than 12 Hours!

That’s right. I’m headed back to Guatemala … and my flight leaves crazy early tomorrow morning.

I’m so looking forward to seeing and hugging some friends from the last trip in February, reconnecting with some ministry contacts on the ground, and meeting and serving with this whole new team that the Lord has brought together (seriously, we have prayed HARD at several different points in the process for this specific team that the Lord has gathered!).

But really, I’m mostly looking forward to just being in the Lord’s presence in Guatemala again and to joining Him where He’s already at work there.

headed back to guatemala

A few weeks ago, I began to feel incredibly uncertain about this trip. I could not for the life of me think of one good reason why I was going. I have no doubt it was the enemy attempting to get in the way.

But the Lord has been so faithful to remind me in small and subtle ways … through His word, through prayer and communion with Him, through His people … of exactly why I’m going. As if I should ever expect anything less.

When I left Guatemala in February, I knew I was leaving a piece of my heart and a piece of myself there. I fell in love with that place, and more importantly, with its people. I had no idea if I would ever have the opportunity to go back. But the impression on my heart the whole way home was that if God opened a door for me to go back, I needed to walk through it. I just had no idea that door would be flung so wide open so soon!

So, I still don’t know the specifics of why I’m going to Guatemala for the next five days. But who needs that anyways? I know without a doubt this trip is a step taken in both obedience and faith. And that’s a pretty sweet and freeing place to be.

I’m expecting God to work in big ways … in HIS ways … even if they aren’t big by my standards. And I’m expecting to serve Him according to HIS plans … even if they aren’t at all like my own.

This trip is His, and I can’t wait to see how He furthers His kingdom in and through it.

Would you join me in praying for this trip?

that this team the Lord has gathered would serve as one,
that the Lord would go before us and walk beside us the whole way,
that we would have eyes to see where the Lord is working and willing hearts to join Him there,
that we would love and serve those around us with Christ’s perfect love and servant heart,
that in the moments when we fear our own inadequacy and weakness we would immediately lay our fears at the feet of Jesus and press on in His strength and power,
that lives would be changed, that souls would be redeemed,
and that the name of Jesus would be boldly proclaimed in all that we say and do!

Thank you so much for partnering with us in this way. Prayer is so powerful and it truly means more than I can adequately express to know there are so many people lifting up this trip who are equipped with that sort of power!

I am not planning to blog while in Guatemala, and internet access will definitely be limited, but if I’m able, I will post updates on twitter (@emily_gallimore) and/or instagram (@egallimore), and I will look forward to sharing more in this space once we return home.

Jesus > Religion

I don’t remember exactly where or how I first came across it, but it must have been within the first 48 hours of it going viral and I do remember my first reaction after watching Jefferson Bethke’s “Why I Hate Religion, But Love Jesus” video.

And that reaction? Well. Honestly, it was mixed.

But before I tell you more, if you haven’t already seen it, you should watch it for yourself:

{Side note: for those reading from a feed reader or via email, you may need to click over to the actual post to view the video.}

I liked a lot of what this guy was saying. I liked the medium he was using. I liked the art he was making. I liked the audience he was reaching. But I didn’t like exactly how he chose some of his wording.

Mostly because I thought he had the potential to spread a really incredible and truth-filled message (um, straight up Gospel!) to a generation that desperately needed to hear it. But I was afraid he would be just another voice coming across as negative and critical of The Church. And that just wasn’t okay.

Even at the time, though, I didn’t necessarily think the heart behind the words was that of a critic, I was just afraid that’s how it would come across, how it would resonate with a generation already prepped for attack. But as he was immediately thrown into a larger spotlight than he (by his own admission) ever expected from one video, and as he handled it with humility and grace well beyond what I would have expected from someone his age, it became pretty clear pretty fast that he had a lot more to say about the truth of the Gospel and walking with Jesus.

And that is where this book comes in. In Jesus > Religion: Why He is So Much Better Than Trying Harder, Doing More, and Being Good Enough, Jefferson Bethke gives context to the poem as he tells much of his own story … parts of his past and his journey beyond the shame-inducing rules of religion into a freeing relationship with Jesus.

My story is very different from Jefferson’s. Our backgrounds, our childhoods, our growing-up locations and cultures, our church experiences, and our faith journeys really couldn’t be more different.

And from that perspective, there is much of Jefferson’s story that I just can’t relate to very well. But because of that, he can also speak to a completely different audience than I could ever hope to reach – a young audience who is searching and skeptical and absolutely needs someone who gets them in a way that Jefferson most certainly does – and I love that! This is what being a part of the body of Christ is all about. Because even though we’re speaking to different audiences with different interests and we’re using different language and experiences to do it, at its core, our message is really very much the same: it’s all about Jesus Christ. Who He is and what He’s done.

Through this book – and from what I can tell, through his life – Jefferson starts a conversation with a new generation in a new way of an eternal truth that is not only relevant, but essential. He unashamedly points to Jesus who satisfies our every longing. He passionately talks about radical Grace as someone who has experienced it first hand and knows of its amazing power. And he unapologetically encourages getting past merely following the rules and traditions of religion to actually know the person of Jesus Christ.

To know Him. To follow Him. To trust Him. To live for Him.

To experience the pure freedom and joy in walking out the Gospel.

“That is the scandal of grace. I fully believe that as a Christian you can take advantage of grace, but when you’ve truly tasted it, you never will. When you’ve experienced the joy and life of Christ in you, then nothing is as satisfying anymore.” – Jefferson Bethke

No matter how differently we spread that message to our respective audiences, that is a message I will always stand behind!

If there’s a young person in your life struggling to figure out what living out the Gospel in their everyday is really all about, this book would be a pretty great place for them to start. You can find the book and more info here.

And it would be hard to beat Jefferson’s recommended reading list at the end!

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*note: I received a free copy of Jesus > Religion in exchange for an honest review. All thoughts and opinions in this post are mine.*

Let Hope In

When I first heard about Let Hope In by pastor/author Pete Wilson, I thought it sounded like a solid, Gospel-centered, and timely message for this generation – any generation, really – about hope, a message of truth that I wanted to be a part of sharing, but I didn’t think it was necessarily for me because I just couldn’t identify a particular hurt from my past that was stopping me from living fully in the present.

Let Hope In

But I was wrong. My perspective was too narrow.

My past is no where near perfect. It has its own set of hurts and regrets. But beyond that, over and over again as I read, I saw just how relevant this message is for my present circumstances and how necessary this message is to continue walking with Christ in the unknown of my tomorrows.

We’ve all either experienced some sort of pain in our past or we’re going through something in our present or we’ll come across a new hurt in our future.

But the one constant, the one thing that remains central in every such hurt (and just for the record, every joy, too), is the same: The cross of Christ.

“God has come in the person of Jesus to set you free. There is no story in the world like the story of redemption, and it can be your story.” (p. 53)

So, this message of hope and freedom as only found in the person of Jesus Christ? It’s for everyone.

My life seems to be a mess more often than I’d like these days. But what I think I’m realizing (yet again) is that the mess is just part of my flesh and every time it’s in conflict with the Spirit (which is often), it’s going to get messy. But it’s in that very place where God’s strength is made perfect and where His grace abounds … in the weakness, in the uncertainty, in the sometimes getting it wrong, in the mess.

And there’s such a gift in this realization, even in the mess, because it reveals just how desperate and in need we really are. We have to understand the reality of our mess – our hurts and sins – to see the radical beauty of God’s continual presence with us made possible only through the cross.

“He is not like us. He is faithful even when we’re faithless. We can trust Him. Especially in our brokenness.” (p. 72)

I’m dealing with perfectionism-driven insecurity affecting at least a couple of different aspects of my life right now, and this book has not only helped expose some of that, but also directed me towards the freedom and courage to move beyond it. To walk in victory over the try-harder, perform better, pretend more mentality. Before its grip is any stronger or its roots are any deeper.

I’m not saying it’s an instant fix and I’m not saying there won’t still be some struggle, but it’s a step towards leaning further into Christ and trusting Him more and finding my identity in Him, and that’s stepping in the direction I want to go.

“He [Jesus] clearly says, “In me.” When you immerse your current reality into my reality, that is where peace is found.” (p. 74)

And reaching that? Walking in healing and wholeness from that? It’s only in and because of the person of Jesus Christ. Our hope is in Him alone.

In the book, Pete takes us through four choices:

Choice One: Choosing to Transform Instead of Transfer

Choice Two: Choosing to Be Okay with Not Being Okay

Choice Three: Choosing to Trust Rather than Please

Choice Four: Choosing to Free People Rather than Hurt Them

And through these four choices, we see that this message…

It’s about letting go of the pain and regret from the past and letting go of the worry for the unknown future.

It’s about the freedom of walking in our identity as found in Christ alone.

It’s about walking in victory over sin. Yes, as believers we still make mistakes and sin, but it no longer rules us. Its power is gone. And that doesn’t mean we don’t repent of the sins we commit. We most certainly do, but then we walk in the freedom of what’s already been done on the cross, knowing that we’re forgiven, we’re covered, we’re redeemed.

It’s about walking with Christ and trusting Him more and experiencing the beauty and fullness of His presence.

And it’s about fully receiving this freedom and grace, so that we can love others well.

“You can’t breathe out what you haven’t breathed in. Breathing grace totally hinges on your moment-to-moment dependency on God.” (p. 154)

This message of hope and grace – it blows me away!!

But isn’t that just God? Isn’t that just grace?

It’s shocking and surprising and stunning.

And for some reason, maybe because of this recent battle with insecurity, it hit me with a such a freshness and newness and I am undone and overwhelmed.

I come away from this book grateful and humbled and amazed. Knowing more deeply that I am loved. I am forgiven. I am free.

“The goal here is to fully trust God in this moment. To trust in his grace. To trust that you are forgiven. To trust that this very moment, as imperfect as it might be, is actually a gift.” (p. 130)

So why do I think you should read this book, too?

Because read prayerfully with a heart seeking Christ, this book is a burden lifted.

It’s one more step on this road of walking with Jesus Christ in grace, in freedom, in fullness by choosing Him and trusting Him and hoping in Him.

So much truth. So much freedom. So much Jesus.

“All of Scripture points to one man, one God, not because he gives us everything we’re hoping for but because he is the One we put our hope in.” (p. 196)

So yes, this message is solid, Gospel-centered, and timely.

And this message is for you.

But this message is also for me.

Because this message is for everyone.

Let Hope In.

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*for the record: I was a part of the launch team for Let Hope In, which means I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. this post reflects my honest thoughts on how the book impacted me and why I believe this message is important and worth sharing.*

5 Things I Learned in September

5Things - student ministry

1. I can survive a high school ministry lock-in as a leader. And though I may be a little more tired than usual for the following few days, I can love every minute of it because I love them. From the Amazing Race to the GaGa ball tournament to the straight up Gospel presentation at about 1am to the fabulous conversations, we couldn’t have asked for a better night!

2. All “Johnnies” pretty much talk the same. I’m reading “Notes From the Tilt-A-Whirl: Wide-Eyed Wonder in God’s Spoken World” by N.D. Wilson (who obtained his masters degree from St. John’s College in Annapolis, MD) and it sounds just like having a great conversation with my big brother (who obtained his undergrad degree from St. John’s).

3. Speaking of reading, I’ve discovered how much I really enjoy being a part of book launch teams. Three books in about six weeks (just wait. two more book reviews are coming over the next couple of weeks.) may have been a bit much, but still, all kinds of fun. Working with such generous and genuine authors and having the opportunity to read and share about good books is pretty much a win all the way around.

4. All of my commitments have come under serious scrutiny this month. Basically because I may have slightly over-committed and needed to scale back before I burned-out. So I’ve learned (or maybe I’m still learning…) that what I say “yes” to is important, but what I say “no” to is often equally as important.

And so although it makes me feel a little sad and a little left out, I’m saying no to writing another 31 Days series this October (previous series can be found here and here).

I’ve got a lot going on right now (including going back to Guatemala for a 5 day mission trip next month. woot!), and this is a necessary “no” for my sanity and restedness.

5. And this became one of my favorite songs:

“Our Deliverer. You are Savior. In Your presence we find our strength. Over everything. Our redemption. God with us. You are God with us.”
– God With Us (by All Sons and Daughters)

What did YOU learn in September?

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*linking up today with Emily Freeman at Chatting at the Sky as her community shares different things we learned in September*

When You Realize Writing is Not Actually Your Dream

I saw the invite – a save the date, really – and immediately checked my calendar to make sure the day was still free. It was the last time I checked (when there was only the hint of an event), but I had to be certain.

Because when Emily Freeman started talking about this Barn event – an afternoon At the Barn with her family and a relatively small gathering to spend time in soul-encouraging conversation about art, dreams, goals – all I could think was YES.

I’m in.

when you realize writing is not actually your dream

But as I purchased the ticket, I couldn’t help but also stop and think about how I now find myself taking all kinds of risks (of the best kind) with community and events and opportunities – like spending an afternoon with a bunch of fellow blog readers or spending five days getting Wrecked in Guatemala with complete strangers … and then doing it again six months later. All because of this gift of blogging which began as an extension of this gift of writing.

And it’s all in the very same season that I find myself pulling back on the frequency of posts and re-evaluating the purpose of this space.

A couple of months ago, I wasn’t even sure if I should continue blogging. This community is small and I’m not always convinced my words are necessary additions to the noise of this world.

But this community is also growing, and opportunities keep crossing my path to connect with other artists and other Jesus-followers as a result.

And I just know.

It’s not time to give-up this blogging thing yet.

Someday, God may ask that of me, but as I’ve been praying over and carefully considering whether or not that time is now, although the sitting-still long enough to think and write has been hard lately, I find I’m not finished here yet.

I want this space to be a place of restful harbor, filled with peace, where God speaks.

And more than anything, I want to honor and glorify Him in and through it.

So this community is small and the growth is slow.

But it’s His. And it’s good.

I began this blog a little over three years ago with a thought in the back of my mind that someday I might like to publish a book of some sort, but I could go ahead and start blogging without knowing if that would ever happen. I could begin sharing the message that the Lord had placed on my heart. I didn’t have to wait for that.

But somewhere along the way, I began to realize that while writing is a part of me and is a craft that I both love and enjoy, writing (or perhaps more specifically, publishing) wasn’t actually my dream.

The only problem? I didn’t know what was.

But all I knew to do was to keep writing, to keep taking small steps in obedience and faithfulness, and to keep seeking the Lord’s face.

Because that’s always right.

And through the writing, I kept sensing that there was something in all of this, something that I couldn’t quite figure out, something that I still needed to learn.

So now in this season, as my dreams and goals for this life are shifted and refined, I’m beginning to see at least a part of that something.

I’ve sought hard and waited long for the sort of dream I’m now beginning to consider. The one that in intentionally broad and vague terms revolves around orphan care (and no, I don’t know exactly what that means or what it will look like), the one that is so far beyond me and my ability, the one that scares the heck out of me, and the one that feels more like a God-whisper than anything I could dare to imagine on my own.

I’m not against the idea of publishing if that’s where the Lord leads and I suspect this won’t be the last times my dreams undergo some refining, but I also know this dream that’s slowly unveiling finally feels like mine. Like something only the Lord could have orchestrated and begun to reveal. And that makes it worth wanting and working toward and continuing to figure out … because it’s really only just a glimpse of a fuller vision. A hint of what could be.

So I’ll continue to write and I’ll continue to blog in this space.

And I’ll continue to lead and encourage this community to draw near to Christ.

To seek Him more. To know Him more. To trust Him more. To rest in Him more.

Because nothing – no amount of dreaming regardless of how right the dream seems – in this life matters more.

Finding My Way Back Home

“For we know that if the tent
that is our earthly home
is destroyed…”

I’ve been in this new place for a little over six weeks now.

I knew going into this move that I don’t handle change well, and for a variety of reasons, this change seemed particularly hard and challenging and uncomfortable.

In some ways, I’ve settled into the new routine of it all much faster than I anticipated and have been able to get rid of far more [ultimately meaningless and non-essential] possessions than I thought my heart could handle.

After reading and pondering “Packing Light”, I might even consider giving up my couch when the time comes … I’ll officially cross that bridge when I get there. But the giraffe-print chair is staying. Period.

finding my way back home

But in other ways, I’m still fighting a constant battle.

I miss home. This house doesn’t feel like home yet. And as hard as it is to admit, I think there’s a big part of me that doesn’t want to make this house my home. Because it’s not exactly my home. It seems all too temporary for that, and I’m not sure I like what calling it home would represent. The duration and future at this house is just still so unknown. In all fairness, life in general is much that way as well.

But I’m willing to consider that perhaps that is exactly why I still feel so restless (of the entirely unhelpful and I-just-can’t-sit-still variety) in this new place.

That perhaps I’ve been fighting so hard against the idea of making it home that I’m winning this battle in my mind that never should have been waged in the first place.

That perhaps I have far more control over the way I feel and react towards this house than I realize.

That perhaps there’s a better reality – a truth, even – that I’m blind towards at the moment.

That perhaps I play a part in the unveiling of that truth by choosing where (and on Whom) to set my mind.

That perhaps it’s perfectly acceptable for this house that’s not mine to be a home for a season, no matter how short.

That perhaps home has far less to do with a physical house than with a state of my heart and soul.

That perhaps home has far more to do with resting in Christ where I am in this moment, wherever that happens to be.

“…we have a building from God,
a house not made with hands,
eternal in the heavens.”

I crave stability and security. I crave the comfort and familiarity of home.

But although I’m most definitely still a work in progress, I’m learning that apart from Christ, such things that I want and seek and crave just plain don’t exist.

While these things used to exist within the confines of a physical place for me, in this season of transition and a whole lot of newness, I find that the definition of home as a physical location having these characteristics is severely lacking and incomplete. This place I live isn’t my home. At least not in the sense I’ve known it before. At least not yet.

And all of those definitions of home floating around on Pinterest (you know, the ones that claim home is with the ones you love, or some variation thereof…) don’t hold up all that well for a single person with no prospective significant other.

So at its core, home must mean something else entirely.

I won’t claim to have figured out the best or most right definition for this thing we hold so dear and call home, but I suspect it has more to do with finding contentment of mind, security of heart, and comfort of soul in the person and presence of Jesus Christ than in any physical location or material thing.

And that’s not to say that the physical place we call home and those we share it with on this earth don’t matter. I think they do to some degree. A home (which looks very different person to person and culture to culture) is important. But the truth it represents is even more important. By extending the definition of home beyond my external circumstances, the transient nature of this life doesn’t dictate the settledness of my soul.

Whether I have one house or one room or nothing at all to call my own, I can find home wherever I am. Right now. Today. Because my Rock never changes and my Foundation is eternally secure.

That’s what home is really all about, isn’t it?

A constant place of haven and rest, a quiet place to dwell, a familiar place for our hearts to settle, a place where there’s freedom to just be, a place where we can be restored and renewed away from the world with all of its unending noise and demands.

So I’m finding my way back home, and as I am, I’m realizing that the place my soul is searching for can never truly be satisfied on this earth. But until I reach the completeness, the fullness, and the perfection of my eternal home, I more desperately seek Him and more tightly hold onto the promise of His presence with me always. Here. Home.

“He who has prepared us for this very thing is God,
who has given us the Spirit
as a guarantee.”
2 Corinthians 5:1&5 (ESV)