You just gotta be there...

It happened one February night almost exactly 17 years ago.

I remember being in the 15 passenger van, filled with eagerness at the destination, fear over whether or not we were going to even make it there alive in the blizzard, and nervousness that maybe I didn’t belong in that van in the first place.

When we finally arrived, over 2 hours past the event start time, our only choice was to sneak in and find seats in the very top section, also known as the nosebleed section.

I felt frustrated that we were so late, but also a wave of thankfulness swept through my body knowing that we really could have gotten stuck on the side of the road some place. The conditions outside were that bad.

The song the band was playing was familiar.  The band in our youth group played it many times on Wednesday nights.  I decided to just forget about how out of place I felt amongst all these youth group regulars and try to just enjoy the moment.  Because really the only reason I was there was because I thought it sounded fun and because my Sunday School teacher, who also happened to be a good friend of our family, had said it would be a good way to make some better friends with the other kids in the youth group…the kids who had all grown up together in youth group and all had already formed their groups of friends.

But somewhere through about the 4th song, I noticed all the youth that were on their hands and knees on the stadium floor.  They were still singing the same songs but they had tears streaming down their faces.  They looked absolutely heartbroken. It was like collectively they had all just broken up with their boyfriends or girlfriends. 

I couldn’t understand how the songs we were singing produced that kind of emotion.  They were just songs for crying out loud.

I went back to my room quiet and pensive.  I still felt incredibly nervous about being there and especially about sleeping in the same room with a bunch of other girls I didn’t even know very well.    My only saving grace was that our room mom for the weekend was the mom of one of my sister’s good friends from school/church.   At least she wasn’t a stranger.

The next day produced similar results in my heart as I tried to process all I was seeing in the other students as well as all I was hearing from the speakers.  I was too shy to actually talk to someone about what I was feeling, but I remember asking our room mom a vague question to which she responded, “Well it is about a relationship with Christ.” 

A relationship.

What did that mean?  I had accepted Jesus in my heart and prayed the famous prayer.  I had asked him to forgive me of my sins.  I had been baptized. I had done all the things I was supposed to do.  Why wasn’t I crying?  Why didn’t I feel anything?  What had I “done” wrong.

A relationship.

And then during the last session, it all made sense.  Christ wanted a relationship with me.  He wanted a relationship with me!  He wanted to know me, and in turn, I was going to know Him as more than just my ticket to heaven. 

That is what those other youth I had seen the first night on their knees understood.  They had a relationship with Christ.  They were in a way heartbroken…just not over a boyfriend or girlfriend. 

As I went back to my room to pack up my things, I did feel changed inside.  I wouldn’t have been able to put it into words, and I certainly didn’t really understand the fullness of what God had shown me, but I felt changed. 

As I started out of the room with my bag, I realized I wasn’t wearing my cross necklace that my sweet grandma had given me for my birthday the year I was baptized.  I had worn that cross faithfully everyday since, but that day I felt like I finally wanted to wear it because of what it represented to me on the inside and not just as some show on the outside.  But when I went to grab it, I couldn’t find it.  I searched and searched, but it was nowhere to be found.

The longer I searched the more hysterical I felt.  I needed that cross.  I had to have it. I couldn’t leave without it.  But it was time to leave.  I was the last one to get on the bus. They were waiting on me.   My same sweet room mom promised me that she would keep looking. I am not sure if she had driven separately with her husband or was just in a different vehicle, but for whatever reason, she was going to be able to stay behind and keep looking. 

And she did stay behind.  And in a way that to my 15-year-old heart felt nothing short of miraculous, she found it. 

That weekend changed every single part of my life.   I know that at that time, while it did feel huge, I never understood its magnitude.  It wasn’t until several years later that I was able to look back on it and realize what great work God had done that weekend.

Then, three weeks ago something else happened.  Something that I have been thinking about nonstop but until this week, I couldn’t find the words to write about it.  It made me teary just thinking about it, but like that weekend 17 years ago, I couldn’t really process why until I stepped away from it.

Three weeks ago my home church from the states came to Guatemala.

While that may not seem all that grand to most, it was the culmination of 12 years of praying for me. 

I had seen team after team come through our ministry here in Guatemala.  I had hosted them, walked with them, prayed with them, led them, worked alongside of them, but never once I had I been able to do that with MY CHURCH.  MY PEOPLE.  MY HOME.

And then they came.  They finally came. 

It was all I hoped for and more.  It was amazing.  I didn’t want them to leave.

But of course all good things do come to an end eventually (here on earth anyway), so they did have to leave.  However, even after they were gone, I still couldn’t shake it.  I couldn’t stop thinking about it.  

And while even today I am still not sure, I can properly put into words everything that it meant to me having them here, one thing I know to be certain.  It meant so much to me because this couple came. 

That is sweet Karen and her wonderful husband Don.

Karen was my room mother on that snowy, February weekend 17 years ago.  She was the one that whispered the words that changed my life.  She was the one that miraculously found the cross that meant so much to my 15-year-old heart.

And she was in Guatemala. 

We talked and laughed and shared in Guatemala.

Karen has a servant’s heart as it is.  I have seen her throughout the years pouring into the lives of many throughout my home church and my community back in the states.  But there is a little part of me that suspects that part of why she came to Guatemala is because of me.  I live here.

And it breaks me.

That sweet lady and her dear husband, whom I love just as equally, were a part of almost every major event through my youth.   I can’t remember the words to most of our conversations.  With the exception of that famous weekend, I can’t even remember most of the events surrounding our times together. 

But I remember that they were there.

Now as a 32-year-old missionary in Guatemala, I can also say, “They were there.”

They were there that first time my beloved home church stepped foot on Guatemala soil.

They were there the first time people from my home church ate in my home.

They were there to give hugs and kisses to all my new little friends here in Guatemala.

They were there when we inaugurated our new school building.

They were there.

And it breaks me because I realize that so many times it isn’t about the words we say or the events we plan or the lessons we teach. 

It’s just about being there. 

It’s about being a part of the big and the little. 

I get so discouraged sometimes in my ministry here because I feel like I am not making a bit of difference in these kids lives.  I feel like my words truly do go in their ears but never penetrate their hearts.  I go to bed feeling like I messed up more than I got it right.

But God used my sweet friend Karen to remind me that I just have to show up. I just have to be there.

God can use me just by being here.  I can be a vessel of comfort and love even if I don’t always say and do the right thing. 

I just have to show up.

Just show up.

You don’t have to be the best.  You don’t have to say the right thing.  You don’t always have to do the right thing.  But decide to be there.  Just be there. 

You have no idea what young girl or boy is going to be impacted just by you being there.   Just by you showing up.

So today show up.  Be there. 

You have no idea who might be watching and needing that reminder that someone cares enough to be there…to show up when they need them the most.

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Some bits and bobbits about this blog...

This blog is mostly just ramblings by yours truly. I talk about my ups and downs being a wife, mother, and missionary in Guatemala. I have a tendency to get off on "soapboxes" as those who love me say but it is my desire that this blog can be a place of encouragement in each of your pilgrimages with Christ. At any moment if this blog becomes more about me than about Christ, than it will be done and please help me stay accountable. To God be all the Glory, Honor, and Power!

Books I am currently reading...

  • Eight Twenty Eight
  • Interrupted
  • The Connected Child
  • This Momentary Marriage
  • Unbroken

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