live a page-turner;
leave a legacy.
Flight arrangements are made, bags are packed, rides for pickup are set, appointments upon arrival are made.
Everything is in place. For something new.
I'm traveling to Biola University to teach a continuing session on legacy writing and memoir at the Southern California Christian Writers' Conference.
Teaching at writers' conferences is a new thing for me.
So is flying to them.
So is having an agent, hanging out in publishing circles and shaking hands with authors and speakers I've admired from behind the pages of their books.
Brian and I have sent our kids all over the country and to different countries on mission trips. My daughter went to Spain for a semester without really knowing the language until she was submersed in it. We have a son who has had several random opportunities to attend things like national leadership conferences and presidential inaugural balls. One of our sons moved 14 hours away to follow his dream. We have seen each of our kids roll with several risky and exciting opportunities. Probably a little bit afraid at first. But always with our encouragement.
It's my turn to do a big-kid thing. They are sending me off, encouraging me, reminding me that this and the potential for what could happen has been a dream on my heart for a lot of years.
I don't know what is going to happen when I land at LAX. But I do know that there is a new thing just around that corner. For the people who attend the conference. And maybe even for me. I'm excited to be a part of both.
It's one of those Holy Spirit Adventures. One that I couldn't have predicted even a month ago.
"For I am about to do something new. See, I have already begun! Do you not see it? I will make a pathway through the wilderness. I will create rivers in the dry wasteland."
When I picked up the phone to tell my mom the news, I thought it was going to be as simple as just, you know, telling her the news.
Until I said it all out loud.
I wanted to let her know that I will be starting a new job, one that my agent thought would be a perfect fit for me.
"Oh, so ya..." and I proceded to tell mom that I finally got around to submitting my book proposal to an agent who offered to represent me and my work. I would have mentioned it sooner, but I couldn't say anything until the paperwork was signed and she introduced me to her Bookies.
"Right. Sounds wrong, but..." and I told her about the group of authors who are all represented by Books & Such Literary Management. They call themselves "Bookies," but not to worry, I don't plan on placing bets with them or anything like that.
"So, new job?"
"Yes! That's actually why I called!" And I explained the job in journalism I'll be starting this summer.
After all the talk about proposals, agents and "bookies," I think mom might have found that one a little hard to believe.
After saying it all out loud, I'm actually finding it hard to believe.
We returned last week from our mission trip to Guatemala. Without fully understanding why God had called us to go on this trip, we stepped out into the uncomfortable zone of obedience, believing that God knew what He was doing, even if we didn’t. This obedience was a test and Guatemala was one of the steps.
If you missed that post about how we even signed up to go on this adventure, you can read about it HERE.
We were told that a trip like this would be hard. It would challenge us in ways we had never been challenged before. From a practical standpoint, we would have none of the comforts of home. Beds, showers, heat at night, toilets, safe roads, clean water, and electricity are topping the list of things that I can think of now that we take for granted in our everyday lives and were put on hold while we were in the remote village of La Reforma, Guatemala. I will never forget wearing 2 pairs of leggings, sweatpants, a long-sleeve shirt, a t-shirt, a zip-up sweatshirt, hoodie, winter coat, gloves and hat, while tucked into two sleeping bags, and still shivering myself to sleep each night. I cried because I was so cold and I just wanted to sleep. And then I cried because I realized this is how the people in this village lived. I got to go home in four days. They were home.
We were told that a trip like this would change our perspective. It would change our marriage. It would change how we viewed our current lifestyle. We were told that we would experience God in ways that we never before have. Brian and I are still wrestling with these things. They are all true.
Let me tell you a little about our trip:
While in Guatemala, Brian worked on a construction crew where they poured a concrete floor and altar in the church at the village where we stayed. Since he grew up working on concrete crews, he knew his way around this process. Each day he witnessed the work ethic of the people in Guatemala, saying that they worked harder than anyone he has ever seen on any of his concrete crews growing up. At one point, he saw a mom with a baby wrapped around her back start carrying rock from the bottom of the hill to the top to prepare for the next day. It brought my tough-guy-husband to tears to work with this team of hard workers and devoted worshipers. Even when he didn’t understand the language, he understood the love, heart, and center of it all.
Our medical team saw a record number of patients. Some of the patients walked hours to get there and waited hours to be seen. Our medical team of doctors, pharmacists and dentists worked morning till evening, not wanting to send anyone away. Each morning before the clinic opened, one of the pastors would say a few words and the crowd present would pray and worship in a way that I have never before seen or heard. I guess you don’t have to understand the language to feel the love of Christ moving in your heart.
I was on the “swing team” which means I did a little bit of everything. I got to hang out with kids, paint some fingernails, blow bubbles, make bracelets and try to talk in Spanish—which only made the kids laugh! I also spent a morning assisting our dentist. But mostly, I made lunches for our team members and delivered them to the right places. I have to admit that it didn’t feel like I was doing much. Many others on our team were really seeing and hearing from God at work in what they were doing. I didn’t have that experience, and I kept asking God “Why am I here?”
Then I received some horrible news from home. My uncle had taken his life. I was sick about it and I wanted to be home with my family. I wanted to have time to grieve. I started arguing with God, like I was pointing my finger at his chest and saying “Why am I here? Why am I not at home? We came here out of obedience and you said everything would be okay.”
It took a day or two of keeping busy with tasks that needed to be done before I would even open up to how God wanted to work in my life through a mission trip in Guatemala. As I shivered myself to sleep, I felt him gently whisper to me: “I did not say everything would be okay. I said you would be okay.”
So why did God take Brian and I to Guatemala?
Now that we are home and kind of going a million miles an hour, we are figuring out how God wants us to apply what we had to go all the way to Guatemala to learn. At this season in our lives, in our marriage, and in our family, ministry isn’t about doing more, it’s about being more real right where he has placed us.
Brian was deeply moved by what another team member had said to him. They talked about the importance of being a leader in the home, as a husband and father, and not burn out on doing more and more “stuff” for God. To do the work that God has placed before him in obedience and with heart, and to worship even when it would naturally seem hard. The way he saw the people of Guatemala work and worship. And to lock arms with the church family God has provided to be about the business of reaching out in His name.
God kind of turned my insides all out on in this trip. When I was consumed with sadness and wanting to be home with my family, He gently reminded me that I had Brian and a team of 23 other people that He chose to be my family for this week in Guatemala. It was okay to reach out and be vulnerable. To not be “okay.” To be authentic. This is something that God has been working on in my life and heart over the last year. I’ve attended the same church for 19 years, and gotten by without hardly knowing anyone, or letting anyone really “know” me. I think I will see Guatemala as a turning point in my life in which God knew the only way I would be “okay” would be to let my guard down, and not be “okay” in front of other people.
He also showed us the difference between knowing the stories and experiencing them.
We learned that the heart of serving isn’t just knowing what needs to be done and doing it. I mean, that helps! But serving in obedience with heart happens when we get real with the people around us who look different, live different, speak different, and worship different. It happens when we choose to engage with and let ourselves be inspired by each other and our differences even when we don’t understand each other.
Traveling to Guatemala taught us this, but as I glance around our lives and where we live, it is clear that we don’t need to travel far and wide in order to experience stories like this or serve with a heart like this.
I need to wrap this up and say a huge “thank you” for supporting us through your prayers and financial support. Your gifts helped to change lives in the small village of La Reforma, Guatemala.
And your gifts changed our lives as well. While we are still taking each step of faith out of obedience, we’ve added a little bit of heart, trust and expectation to that equation, knowing that even if everything isn’t “okay,” we are.
Thank you for being a part of our story.
~Robin & Brian
That's My Story.