Wednesday, December 11, 2013

The Recollection of [Missing] Thoughts

Over the past few months I have been mentally preparing myself for one of the greatest life changes I will have yet;
No longer calling Amsterdam my home.

For a while I was in denial because how could my life be moved so greatly by one city? Why am I having such a difficult time saying goodbye to the people, culture and architecture that I have only lived in for a short season?
I realized a lot of this had to do with the mental planning of coming here. Just about all my adult life has been focused on moving to Amsterdam. So although I have only lived in Amsterdam for a few years it seems more like 8.

God spoke very clearly that I was to come to Amsterdam when I was 19 years old. He then spoke again saying that I would come back to [help] pioneer a ministry [The Lighthouse]. What I had interpreted through this was I would come to Amsterdam for the rest of my life. It didn't occur to me that the word "pioneer" usually refers to beginning, yet not always remaining. Shortly before I made the official move to this city God spoke again. 
"My time in Amsterdam would be shorter than I expected."
That took me off guard.
However, throughout my time here this is the reoccurring set of words that people have received from God and spoken to me.
I know I have to trust God, even if it threw my organized-planning brain for a loop.
Earlier this year I prayed about my next steps. If I should continue in Amsterdam for another couple of years or end my commitment in December. His words were clear: it was time to start phasing out.
It's quite interesting how many people have stated that The Lighthouse seems to finally be out of "that pioneering stage." The timing really does seem right.
It's a unwise when you "overstay your welcome" and I feel like I would be doing that if I continued here. It's not like it would be the worst thing to do, but it just, for reasons I can't fully explain, wouldn't be the best.

Beyond saying goodbye to my season in Amsterdam I know there is a new and beautiful season beginning to bloom back in America.
The second part of what God has been saying not only to myself but to many others [even to people I hardly know] is that my work will not end once I leave Amsterdam. But it will continue, and multiply.
Many people ask me what my next steps are, and to be honest I haven't the faintest idea. I think God is doing that on purpose. Right now all I can foresee doing is taking some time of rest and reflecting on what I have learned here. This season has definitely been a time of growing and learning and I believe I need to mull over the last few years first before moving into my next direction. Once I feel ready, I will start seeking the next steps God has for me. I have a few desires, however I am not sure which to begin with.

To end my time here well, I have been thinking of what I will miss the most. And to welcome myself back to San Diego I've been remembering all the comforts that await me. So here is a little list I have compiled:


1. Biking everywhere
Whether you are the one pedaling or on the back on someone else's you really won't get this sort of atmosphere anywhere else. Although I have a few scars from some accidents, I got right back up and kept going. I am quite proud that I have biked in extreme wind, hail, snow, rain and of course beautiful sunshine. I'm also pleased that I can move a great deal of stuff on my bike, seriously like things that would take up your entire trunk. These last few weeks I have been biking slowly through the city to take it all in. The architecture and surroundings are truly breathtaking. I am so glad that I got a bike tattoo to help me remember my beautiful time in Amsterdam.

2. Friends
This is kind of a given. But truly I am so blessed to have gained some incredible friends here. Ones that challenge me, encourage me and teach me. In Dutch culture it takes a while to really become true friends with someone, but once you are, they are loyal friends for life. I gained the beauty of learning how to invest in people and seeing the results. I plan to forever carry these friendships with me.

3. A50
Although my brain was half dead most weekends I love my church family here. They showed me what it was like to be in a community, even when my broken self couldn't give back that much. They were a small family and not only had a love for theology but also for humor. I don't think I have laughed as much with any other group than them. 

4. Shine Seminar
I am so grateful for YWAM for entrusting my young self to lead a 6 week seminar on the global sex trade and how we as Christians can respond. It was a lot of hard work, but I am very pleased with the outcome. And want to see more in the future.

5. Coffee
I can walk 2 minutes and be in at least 4 nice cafes [note: coffee shops are places you smoke weed, cafes are places to get coffee in Holland] so to get coffee I go to cafes. Most are so "gezellig" as we say, which is more than cozy, they are warm and inviting. And the coffee is small, simple and usually pretty good [depending on where you go]. Literally though, its about half the proportion of Starbuck's Short or Tall sizes and thats all you need.

6. The Lindy Hop Scene
My favorite part of the dancers here is they are always taking classes and practicing. You see their love and passion all the time. The scene may be a little smaller but it's made up of excellent, energetic dancers. It's a great group and community. I will definitely plan my trips back to Amsterdam around Smokey Feet or Lindy Swop.

7. Intellectual Conversations with Different Perspectives
Especially with Saskia. But with a few others as well. I have a lot of friends from all over the world, but never have I been in one place for a given amount of time with so many different surrounding cultures and views. I've heard perspectives of human trafficking, prostitution, the Church, ministry, family life, politics and more from many different points of view. It has been quite challenging as you realize your world and everything you knew and grew up with is being shaken. But when you take a step back and realize just how vast our world is, and how artistic and philosophical the people are, you begin to see the beauty. A lot of times, when Americans come to visit I hear "why do they do that, it's so weird!" But in fact they are looking at us as being the strange ones. You learn quickly, with so many different cultures around, that you really can't agree on everything, and that's ok! I used to think of myself as one who saw different sides of situations but my ability to do that has strengthened greatly because of the wonderful people I have been surrounded by and their beautiful different mindsets.

San Diego

1. Mexican Food and Cheap Sushi
Yes. These are my priorities. But seriously, you get deprived of spicy food here and sushi is so expensive it's a rare treat. But I did learn to make it myself which will also come in handy! 

2. Driving Howard [My first Car; a 72 Dodge Dart Swinger] 
Some days you just need to go for a drive with the windows down, and depending on the weather, heat up. Although I can do much on a bike, I have a lot more freedom with a car and calming drives are converting to me.

3. Thrift Stores
And with my car I can drive to awesome thrift shops with 20 dollars in my pocket and find so many hidden treasures. This is somewhat therapeutic. I love going alone with even 5 or 10 dollars and spending hours just going through second hand items to find the ones that you love. I cannot justify spending a lot of money on clothes, so this is my happy balance.

4. Friends and Family
Although a lot of my friends live all over, my two best friends live in San Diego or at least on the outskirts. Still it's much closer than Amsterdam is and I look forward to spending time with them and their families. Also pretty much all my family lives in San Diego or California so it will be nice to be around them again. And I can give thousands of kisses to my nieces and nephew who are growing up way too fast.

5. My Family's Cabin in Idyllwild
I have never been in such a beautiful and peaceful place. It is so calm with pine trees everywhere, I almost forget how much I love the forest and nature until I'm surrounded by it all. I expect to spend a lot more time there, just resting, praying and enjoying life. 

6. Language
I realize how friendly I am to strangers, but here I feel almost like it's a slap in the face if I speak only in English, even though Amsterdam is quite diverse and the majority of people don't mind it. But when I can, I try to speak in Netherlands while out. My Dutch is not great but I like to practice when I can, and that leaves me only being able to say a few small statements. Back home I can freely ask how the grocery clerk's day is going or where people are going on the train and I miss that side me. It comes out occasionally here but not enough.

7. Sunshine
Need I say more? I grew up loving cold rainy days because we always got clear sunny ones. But when you have the wet cold days more than the sunny, and have to bike in them, you start to miss the perfect San Diego weather. So yes, I will bask in the sun with a much more joyful heart from now on.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

She Loves Magazine

Last  week I had the honor of writing an article for one of the most amazing  Online Magazines called She Loves Magazine. Here is the link to read it:

It's a rewrite of an entry I posted a few back but it better, edited words :)

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Restoring My Family's Historical Past

A few months ago a friend of mine who writes for She Loves Magazine (Shelovesmagazine) and I were having a reading/writing day in the sun at Sarphatipark. She was looking for inspiration, and I verbally processing like always. I have recently began reading a Trilogy based during the Civil War and it's been stirring up the Abolitionist in me. As I was sharing with her about my new read I mentioned a story that I had only shared with one other soul before her, and now I feel compelled to share it with the rest of the world.

Last year I became very interested in my family heritage. I know thats a hype nowadays and also wanted to jump on the bandwagon. I knew coming from a white family in America that there was the possibility of finding out an ugly truth regarding my ancestors. Slavery. But naively, I assumed because this area is so dear to my heart that my family would be excluded from this horrendous, inhuman act. I think we all would like to believe that. But as most of us know, the truth can sometimes be a gruesome thing to bear.

My ancestors had owned a plantation in the South and it just seemed inevitable. I remember the moment I read the words. I had come across a will, and it was dividing up which "negroes" would go to who once they passed on. You know that feeling when you're woken up to a foreign noise in the middle of the night and that instant fear runs through your veins? That's exactly what it felt like. My stomach knotted and I just felt so ashamed, so embarrassed. I didn't want anyone to know. How could my family be apart of something that was so evil? I kept it hidden for several days just internalizing it. Then, I just needed to share it with someone and my colleague/roommate walked in the room. What she said in response gave me the first hope since reading the news.

"But the work you're doing now [as an abolitionist] is restoring the wrongs your ancestors had done in the past." 

Whoa. Talk about redemption. I instantly remembered one of my favorite passages in scripture: Isaiah 58. If you're passionate about justice, you love this chapter. Verse 12 stood out to me in that moment:

"You shall raise up the foundations of many generations;
And you shall be called the repairer of the breach,
the restorer of streets to dwell in."

It's not about what your family has done in the past. Yes, we suffer from their choices even choices made from many generations back. But the beautiful part of this story is that we can be the ones to change it for the generations that come after us. Let us not look to the past wrongs that have been done, but to the here and now, to the future that will affect us, those around us and our children's children. God loves to restore. His entire plan was based around redemption. And He also desires to use us to redeem the shadows of our past; both from the wrongs we've done, and the wrongs done by our ancestors.

Friday, July 5, 2013

A Tweak in Perception

"Have you ever been in prostitution or committed 'any other criminal offenses?'"

Last night my eyes were opened more to the place I call "home." The place my understanding and perception to the rest of the world was birthed. On the day we celebrate our freedom, our liberation. Now, I don't mean to sound like a typical cliche pessimist, but though we may live in a "physically free" country, there are still so many people mentally trapped with a very slim understanding of freedom for others within our country.

I was helping someone apply for a tourist visa and it started to ask some intense questions, which is understandable. But the way they were presented just irked me some. "Do you plan to work in prostitution while you are here? Have you ever been in prostitution or  committed 'any other criminal offenses?'" Then, the next questions rolled right into "Have you ever trafficked or been involved with trafficking a human?" and then several more regarding human trafficking.

It was as if the two subjects were so separate, as if they didn't collide. So then, hypothetically, if a girl had been trafficked and forced to work as a prostitute she still would have to check that box (alongside "any other criminal offenses") to remain honest. But the black and white answers just unsettled me. How can one come to the "land of the free" when her past choices (whether forced or not) still hover over her? Did Jesus not say that "if the Son makes you free, you are free indeed?" (John 8:36) If Christ makes man/woman free then should we not also see them as free? See them as a "new creation?"

My heart is not just with the injustices of human trafficking but also loving those that people (and whether we like to admit it or not, the church) tend to have a hard time loving. When you're driving and see a lady in a short skirt and high heels walking down say El Cajon blvd. (for those San Diegians), do you think to yourself "oh look, there is a prostitute" or do you think "I wonder what has happened in her life to get her to this place, is she is here by her own choice or is she controlled by someone else exploiting her for gain?" When we hear "I am a victim of human trafficking" our hearts go out to them, but when one says "I'm working as a prostitute" our judgment eyes suddenly go up. Whether we like to admit it or not. Even if it takes a split second to realize this and take them down, naturally we judge them first. I urge you my friends, to work at changing your perspective. To not separate "prostitute" and "human trafficking" so quickly, but to think that the two just might overlap. Now I want to state, of course, that some women do choose this job, but it's usually after having some intense journey that has brought them to that choice.

A major difference living in Amsterdam compared to San Diego is the culture does not quickly judge a woman if she is working in prostitution since it is legal here. Not that I stand for legalized prostitution, but I do see the distinctions in the Dutch perceptions vs. the American. The Dutch police and investigators look past the fact that s/he is working in prostitution and goes straight to the investigation of if s/he is being exploited or not. The sex industry world is so completely gray and we cannot expect black and white answers. I have been feeling slightly uncertain about moving back to America but yesterday, ironically on our Independence Day, I gained a new eagerness to go back with this different perception of the matter and share it with others. I long for the church to naturally love the easily judged. And for the law enforcement to not automatically think that a women is prostituting herself so willingly but to look deeper within the gray areas, in between the lines.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

God in a brothel

"He drew me up from the pit of destruction, out of the miry bog, and set my feet upon a rock, making my steps secure."

Christians love traditions.

We don't like to admit it, but it's true. Traditions can be good, it can keep some order to our wild tactics. But sometimes we get caught up in the legalism instead of listening to the still small voice that goes outside the traditional box.

I'm so grateful our ministry leader, Elisabeth, didn't take the easy route that night. You see, we have a mandatory community dinner with our missions organization but it falls on the night we have outreach. She knew it was important to continue being faithful to the ladies behind the windows, but wanted to honor the leadership as well.

It was in December, and there was snow on the ground. We left early because we knew it would hinder us some since we weren't biking. The first shift of women were friendly, but there weren't really any breakthroughs. We walked to the tram and headed to the community dinner. Right as it ended, Elisabeth and another team member, Marleen, walked back (in the snow) to continue doing outreach to the ladies in the windows who work the night shift.

There,  in the hot confines of the brothel room,  they met her. She went by Lucy, although it was not the name her mother had given her. She wanted to know more of this "Jesus" and ended up giving her life to Him right there in a room many consider unclean.

A hard, yet necessary step when working with broken people is walking alongside them, empowering and validating them, rather than dictating how they should live. We loved "Lucy" and walked alongside her. Not too long from that December night she called us and said "I cannot work this job anymore, God doesn't want me to." We cried in joy, she was making her own
 choices, and they were heading towards a life of freedom.

Westernize Christians forget that it's not about making converts, but disciples. We continue to walk alongside them.

Here is the baptism of our beautiful "Lucy":

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Spring 2013

I cannot believe Shine 2013 is right around the corner! I am so beyond blessed to be leading it this year, and so slightly stressed as well. We have accepted 27 students so far and I am still sending out applications. We will be at our limit this year, and its so awesome! Please continue to pray for the Seminar as we will be super busy and I'm sure at times overwhelmed. Pray for students to really grasp the understanding that the solution and focal point to everything we do is Jesus. Always is, always will be.

Something I am so blessed with is a friend of mine with the Mallorca, Spain CCBC invited me to join in with their retreat on the beautiful beach this weekend. No internet or distractions, only Jesus, fellowship, worship, the word, and sun. I am so looking forward to this! I have missed CCBC so much, it will be so nice to study the Word with them again! I am kind of anxious because the dates are so close to Shine, but I really feel God saying to go, and my wonderful team supports me in this too. So I am choosing not to worry and just enjoy Jesus before all the crazy things start to pile on!

I want to share a story that happened a few days ago. I had lunch with some of the ladies from Not For Sale. NFS has a business called Home soup where we go window to window and sell healthy, organic soup to the ladies here in the RLD. NFS also has a program with victims of human trafficking in teaching them how to make the soup that we sell. A couple of them were at the lunch table with us. One of the victims is pregnant. It was her birthday or something and some of the team had gotten her a sweet gift of some lotion and girly smelling things. Her reaction moved my heart greatly. Before she even opened it she started to cry and thank us. The tears started to flow as she held the gifts close to her. She just kept repeating "Thank you, thank you! God bless you!" Her joy and tears were so tender. Naturally, while observing this, emotions began to rise up. Not just joy, warmth, and love for this sweet, sweet woman, but also fury. How could someone harm a beautiful lady like this? I really try to see the best in everyone here. Knowing that the Lord is jealous for each and every one of them. Whether they be clients or pimps. Prostitutes or tourists. Jesus longs for them. But there in that moment humanity really disappointed me. No disappointed doesn't even come close. They disgusted me. I was so appalled. Usually when we hear stories, we try to not dwell on the details, as many times some stories are too overwhelming, resulting in secondary trauma. So because of this, I think sometimes the realization that we humans have fallen SO far hits me like a ton of bricks. It was very intense. Thankfully, the emotion left as quick as it came and I was able to think straight. But did I realize just how much grace we really need to work in this area. Please continue to pray for us, for our team, for our community, for our ministry.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

All I hath needed Thy hand hath provided

I absolutely love hymns. They are deep and rich. Nothing watered down or repetitive about them. One of my favorites is "Great is Thy Faithfulness"

Great is Thy faithfulness, O God my Father;
There is no shadow of turning with Thee,
Thou changest not, Thy compassions they fail not,
As Thou hast been, Thou forever wilt be.
Great is Thy faithfulness!
Great is Thy faithfulness!
Morning by morning new mercies I see
All I have needed Thy hand hath provided
Great is Thy faithfulness, Lord unto me!
Summer and winter and springtime and harvest,
Sun, moon, and stars in their courses above;
Join with all nature in manifold witness,
To Thy great faithfulness, mercy, and love.
Great is Thy faithfulness!
Great is Thy faithfulness!
Morning by morning new mercies I see
All I have needed Thy hand hath provided
Great is Thy faithfulness, Lord unto me!
Pardon for sin and a peace that endureth,
Thine own great presence to cheer and to guide;
Strength for today, and bright hope for tomorrow
Blessings all mine, with ten thousand beside.

Obviously, pointing out that my favorite line is stated several times above. I am amazed at God. He called me here to Amsterdam and told me He would provide. I stand here doubtful at times but truly EVERYTHING I have need He has provided. In so many ways too, some though hairdressing, others through wonderful people who support me. He takes care of me. I will never look back and think "oh man, I didn't have much money at all" I will look back and see how I had only 25 yet could pay 50. What's exciting is this is only the very beginning to an incredible life lived for God. I look forward to the things to come.