one pillow away

Bulgaria: 5.7.2018, month 8

“You know where i live.”

“Yea, one pillow away.”

#worldracenorms

.

.

.

This post is dedicated to those who have supported and have continued to support me: for your prayers, your interest (as you follow my journey you allow me to have people who can comprehend and understand this year and meet me where i am at), and your financal self-sacrifice:

To Jackie, Meliss, the anonymous ones <3, Janelle and Jesse, Kayla, Haley Lowe, and Sindy:

How can i thank you enough?!?!?!

My feet have rested in beautiful little nooks because of you. My soul has breathed. My hands have found their voice…

From carolynrmiller.theworldrace.org

From the bottom of my heart, i extend my gratitude!

I could not have imagined the last 8 months without the green pastures He lead me to through you.

.

.

.

A special post-Romanian shout out to my Hyungboo and Aunt JoAnni! Im not sure if its the same orphanage – and although i myself wasnt able to go – a friend and squad mate of mine went to one in Bucharest and wrote about it here:

The heart behind:http://cassiewalton.theworldrace.org/post/my-dream-for-the-world-race-came-to-fruition

The experience itself:http://cassiewalton.theworldrace.org/post/when-living-the-dream-is-actually-excruciating

Thank you for what you have done in supporting me this year! Thank you for your love and prayers and financial support so that we could be here. So that these little abandoned ones could be held, wept and prayed over, and loved – if even for these small moments. Your support allowed this, as i did my part last month in ministry, it allowed others to do this part of ministry.

.

.

.

When i see eyes come back from some unknown place, and the small worn face crack a smile of being seen and acknowledged, then my heart finds its rhythm.

.

We have been cleaning the neighborhood and going to rest homes and spending time sharing our stories and hearing theirs.

It sounds more glamorous than it is…

Strange and unwelcome smells and feelings meet you as you step over the threshholds of these concentration camp like atmospheres. Their bodies have become the cells and gaurds, hindering their escape.

.

I got a message from my sister that my grandmothers health was faltering…she has stopped eating.

My heart tears in a way i cant explain. I know, the last few years that i have become her best friend.

And now i hold this privilage.

And I am so honored.

And i am so scared to lose her.

Sad – grieved – to think of her there in the kitchen, alone, sitting at the table without me…

And now she is waiting for me to return.

I called her around midnight the other night. She sounded barely alive…so weak…

After a while of our conversation i audibly heard hope and life creeping back into her, so that when i finally had to let her go, the spunk had returned to her voice.

At one point in the conversation we got disconnnected and i thought id lost her and broke down sobbing…

How can life be so complicated?!?!

Its is so painful to have disconnection with just my teammates – and to sit with these dear old people i have no idea about, to see their tears, to hear of their lives, to know most of their families are all in America, or another country – to have a dear old lady clutch my hands and cry out, “My names Christina and im so lonely!” all her wrinkles wet with tears…

And at some point i have to wrench myself away, say goodbye – devestating to do this to her after all the others in her life have already done this – climb into a van and speed off down a dirt road with painful potholes for an hour….

clouds of dust rutted into my soul.

i dont even know what i am trying to write. I just wanted to share with you what im swimming through emotionally in regard to ministry/what we are doing here in Bulgaria…

.

Ministry??? 

Real life. REAL LIFE. That’s all this is.

Real life, with the ability to help others on a more consistent intentional way – with some wierd conditions, like living with 5 or 6 strangers and making life work with them…

Like college all over again – but for me – like college dorm life with high school students.

(OK, DO NOT TAKE THIS PERSONAL TEAMMATES! Geeze…)

And living out of a bag…

I cannot express to you the joys and sorrows, the annoyances and at times anger of all of everything. You know, real life.

And i cannot convey to you how literally unremarkable the race has been in a very specific way:

the way this is SO normal life for me.

(PLEASE DONT MISUNDERSTAND!!)

I dont feel like anything on the race has been too much out of my comfort zone or how i havent had the culture shock others have…

I feel like waking up and being in a different place every few weeks is so…normal.

…and I dont feel like i have to adjust at all.

And the part thats not: being forced to live with people (i may not always want to be with):

– living with this, “you know where i live”-“yea, the pillow next to me” lifestyle has become normal too.

Like a marriage…and i know that when “this” stops, i will … miss it.

I will feel the loss.

but…ministry…will i ever be able to callthis ministry again? I think its normal life – or should be. Loving people, serving people, helping people – wherever i can, however i can – when i see a need: Should be normal life.

ok. Prayer life.

i have this very normal way of talking at -or with- God throughout my day. And ive found it increasingly hard to make specific time to just push everything else aside, drop everything, and focus wholey on the Lord alone, and ask specific questions. Like, “what do you have for me after the race?” – which is an important question that i wasnt planning on leaving until now. But suddenly theres only three – THREE – months left.

…wow.

And then this thought:

I have 5 team members. And then of course, all of you my squadies, and then – thinking of it – the 7th member of our team: Christ.

Christ who walks with us, according to psalm 139, in the highs and the lows and till the end (matthew 28th).

one pillow away…

Jesus is just one pillow away…

So why am i so hessitant to just turn my head, ask the questions that raid my sleep at night, and shut up and listen?

I am still too full of my own sufficiency.

I still live as if it all depends on me…

In some aspects, i still lack so much in how i choose to live my life.

I’m struggling with my own lack of self control in my daily habbits.

Please pray for me to have strength to live out more of how i actually would like to…

Im sure my spirit is willing, although my flesh is weak.

.

.

.

2 ticks.

one pillow away.

crawling across my teammates mattress…

THIS IS THE RESULT OF MINISTRY!

 

From carolynrmiller.theworldrace.org

Ug….

…what spiritual ticks have i gathered in life, and on the race, that i need to pluck from my life so it can stop sucking blood from me?

.

So many questions as i live this life.

What questions has my journey/writing invoked in you? Any?

I’d love to hear!

.

checkout my nail polish painted glasses! =D

From carolynrmiller.theworldrace.org

Advertisements

second by second assault on the soul

Bulgaria: May 2018, month 8

We arrived in Bulgaria by car… our Romanian host took care of bringing us to Romania and also taking us to our new host!

It was only a few hours drive,… but it ended up being a bit longer since our car broke down twice….meaning half way through our drive we switched cars.

Thankfully, a ministry partner lived in a city on the way and he generously took us (the second car full)-(shout out to Lucian!!)

From carolynrmiller.theworldrace.org

the rest of the way in his car…which was dying everytime we stopped for gas, and had to be jumped….

As you can see from the following picture, it was fun…

From carolynrmiller.theworldrace.org

At one point, having passed the border and entered our town for the month – Vidin – we pulled over to the side of the road and a man (who i thought was asking for change) spoke with our lead car.

Ends up he was our host waiting to take us to our new home for the month!

.

We are staying in a poorer (but actually really nice looking) part of town, in a little complex built by the government where poor people can get housing. One of our hosts church members vacated their house for us for this month!

From carolynrmiller.theworldrace.org

Our host is a funny down to earth guy -…who we were pretty excited to work with after we met him the first day.

We had some orientation and a brief tour of the main part of the city, (so green and beautiful!!!!)

From carolynrmiller.theworldrace.org

and then some of the church members had a party for us by cooking traditional/normal Bulgarian food for us!

From carolynrmiller.theworldrace.org

It was really nice to meet some of the people there – and a delicious dinner that spoke of a generosity & kindness we didnt exppect!

From carolynrmiller.theworldrace.org

– although our host had to do a lot of translating for us since he is the only one that really knows any english. We were grateful to have him and sorry we couldnt communicate otherwise.

Sometime during that first day (while being shown around the beautiful little town), we realized due to some out of the blue comments by our host that he might be on a slightly different theological page than us…but we decided it might be a language barrier thing…

Day 1 of ministry we spent the morning weeded the compound we are living in for the month. We hung a speaker on the fence and enjoyed some good music while we weeded into the afternoons hot sun. It was a good morning!

From carolynrmiller.theworldrace.org

Later that afternoon we went to the church to participate in a bible study/go to participate and encourage the bible study members.

It ended up being rather interesting, and clarified our earlier curiosity about where our host was theologically.

Prayer Request #1 for our time in Bulgaria:

pray that we would love well, serve well, and that when we leave our host would have a better understanding of Gods love.

Unfortunately, our host has strong ideas which were shared in a way that was honestly incredibly hurtful.

Not expecting this put a temporary damper on our eagerness to form a deeper relationship with our host and caused a lot of good conversations within our team.

It helped us to realize again how everyones on their own journey with the Lord – not everyones in the same place – and that grace and patience and service are really why we are here.

We are here learning how to work together and still be who we claim to be.

I also personally realized that this culture we are coming into has also lived through a hard history – both physically and spiritually – and they are fresh out of communism, now thrust into a progressive and feelings first social world with little room for God and the way He’s created the world to be.

Somewhere in this jumble of pleasure and pain chaos – that can confuse peoples ideas – the gospel is flashing out hope…and taking tentative root.

A gospel of freedom in Christ can be fearful in a world where so many restrictions has become security.

Continuing some sort of walls can feel safe – and right.

That doesnt make it right – but it also doesnt mean that their need for security is wrong. Not now. Not till God himself tears down those walls.

.

I am reminded of one of the main reasons i wanted to come on Adventure’s World Race program: We dont come to bring a ministry program. We come to serve existing, national (born in country by natives) ministries. We come to serve in their programs in order that we can learn, encourage, and really be effective in a way that will truly bless and help the people in the country we are in!

.

Our host from last month was contacted by one of our team for wisdom on our situation and he really encouraged us; God bless him.

We spent time praying as a team, and out of all that i’ve come to these few thoughts (a few shared above):

Perhaps, what Vidin Bulgaria needs right now, is this guys theology. Perhaps as he grows in his faith, so will they. After all, we all grow in stages and those stages must be directed by the Lord. Even my own. And i still have a lot of stages to grow out of, and into!

And all we can do is love as Christ did.

Which honestly, i am not the best at…

.

The next day we cleaned the church with the same energy and joy as we’d weeded the day before. I plugged my earphones in and hit my spotify list (created by my sister)-(shout out: Thanks Jay!)

Then later that evening we went to a retirement home…just to talk with and encourage the old people there.

They were so sweet…and it was also sad.

One dear lady told us her family was all in America and had left her behind.

She was 94.

From carolynrmiller.theworldrace.org

When we left she clutched my arms weeping, and looking up into my eyes (as her child) asked me pitifully, “Why? Why aren’t you taking me with you to america?!” And the tears streamed down her face breaking my heart.

.

All of their families were elsewhere. Mostly other European countries.

There was a train opperator, chauffeur, cow maids, factory workers,…lives now almost gone.

“Some of these here we will not see next time we visit,” our host said.

.

How am i doing?

God is so faithful.

God is faithful.

He keeps working, although somedays i wonder what the h***  i am doing, He continues to surprise me with unexpected little things…

Like a simple look from a teammate that disolves into moments of laughter in a normal feeling day that follows one after another … a small red poppy, so perfect and delicate letting its pedals loose in the breeze… an unasked for cup of tea from a teammate … satisfaction of a job well done – dirt beneath my nails and goodness in my heart, a feeling inside of being alive –  a feeling of being deeply known…words entering my mind from nowhere… hope. Unexpected and unbidden hope or joy. Suddenly. Unexplainably.

Wind.

The snap of wind that gusts across the ground, through the trees, the air filling with seeds, the sky going grey as clouds scuttle across the sun.

From carolynrmiller.theworldrace.org

Icecream in hand, i walk across the streets of Bulgaria.

Never in my wildest dreams did i think that id be here.

Grasping to understand what God’s doing, and where my place is in all of His plans.

Desiring to find healing and hope – and give healing and give hope…

.

And how does this – all this fit in?

This second by second assualt on my soul?

.

Serbia was overshadowed by a spirit of disunity, and our team shared that – it tore us apart in the rudest way…and we faught to come back to a place of laughter.

Romania was overshadowed by an orphan spirit and we left Romania each with our own stories of lonliness that we fight to undo with attempting to remain honest with eachother about where we are.

So now, here we are in Bulgaria. And what is it? This overshadowing spirit? Despair? Insecurity? The need for power?

Prayer request #2:

Please pray that whatever it is we would be more united than ever as a team.

We are finishing our fourth month with this team, and as always, we never know if another team change is on the horizon.

.

Thinking that the world race would be something other than “real life” has consumed me in a way I hadn’t even recognized. I know its ignorant to think that “you can have it all!” if you just…whatever. We’re not often allowed to stop life to follow our dreams, so normally we put our dreams seven layers deep while we slave at our responsibilities and duties….

Life, time, is ravenous…and it’s the path of least resistance to let all my have-tos swallow me whole, simply because “I’m an adult” and that’s what i have to do..

Ive always known I couldn’t say yes to everything; I would have to choose: Gods way or my way. And in general i feel like ive spent my life choosing God over whatever else i might have wanted to do with my life. What’s funny is Ive never struggled to choose Him in the big things. Saying no to schools or jobs or whatevers in order to obey what i felt God was saying to me always seemed a no brainer.

Coming on the race was a struggle for reasons other than obedience to go. Going was a dream come true for me…it was how i came: Surrendering to God providing for me.

…its been the little daily yeses when i just want to say no…. It’s always been the little things that have been my undoing.

I’ve said yes to myself/my own way a thousand different ways, all insignificant on their own—but when stacked up and added together, it’s enough to bury the me He made me to be for the me i think i should be.

The list of things I could be doing better is neverending. There’s always more to do/be/become; someone else always seems “more than,” and I always resolve to be better, try harder, never give up – never surrender! But im not as strong as i like to think i am. Im just not. Im more lethargic and unwilling and tired than even i want to admit…

It’s a humbling thing to admit: I thought I went into the race with fairly open eyes and i was prepared to make changes in my life (some that i knew i was unaware of and others that i only had inklings of) – and say yes to God and no to myself – …Still somehow I underestimated the number of times I would choose myself over Him….

How my feelings would cripple my attempts…

I came on the race feeling more whole and healed than ive ever felt in my life …yet now, im not sure how i feel. In guess Ive allowed myself to become somewhat lost on the race…

 

Prayer request #3:

As always God has growth and revelation for me in everything: to help me know more of who He is and who i am. I want to gain the growth and revelation. I want to be aware and willing to accept and move into it. I want there to be fruit.

The race is going quickly, and almost over.

I am not always the most receptive to change or desire. I dont always know what i really feel or have the humbleness to acknowledge it if i do.

I am assaulted by my own weaknesses constantly. I want to come out of the race more confident and kind.

Please pray for this for me.

Thanks :’)

the mud or the stars?

Romania: 4.30.18, month 7

Don’t misunderstand the following story i’m about to share.

Don’t misunderstand, because honestly, there’s so much i’m struggling with – and what i’m struggling mostly with is me. And choosing to do the right thing over what i feel like doing. Choosing my teammates – to keep on trying and to keep on caring when honestly, most of me is over hanging out, smiling, forgiving, and pouring into them.

I know that its impossible for me to honestly pour into other people i dont know with any real care, if i cant even pour into my squad/teammates with real love. So…i can’t even get myself to fake it.

Part of the reason its becoming harder and harder is all my selfishness coming to the surface. And i’m tired.

I’m not necessarily tired of what i’m doing, i’m just tired in general. When i’m not cleaning something, or playing with someone, or writing something, or praying about something, or listening to someone, or preparing something, or walking somewhere or so many things… – then im processing something or trying to rest to get energy to do all that all over again….

i know it sounds like im complaining. I probably am a little bit. And im sorry because honestly i came on this volunteer thing to do just this: get exhausted beyond reason and serve my guts out to see what God would show me, and to become a better, more understanding person.

.

Anyway. Somehow, God is still doingcrazy things that i could not have planned even if i tried.

Here is a story of something kewl that happened this month:

———

 

She was holding her arm, her dark hair flowing over her shoulders, and i could see her mentally biting her lip.

We had just finished a long week and wrapped up an international event called PVT – Parents Vision Trip, where parents from all over the USA flew into the foreign country their World Race child is doing ministry in to join them for one week. We sat outside in the dark waiting with some of the church people for the pastor to come. It was late and pleasantly cool.

“She just got out of prison, and needs a place to stay for the night.”

She walked through Hope Church Romania’s front gates into the church courtyard, and she walked without hessitating, but her eyes betrayed her: she was afraid.

Instantly i felt the Lords deep love for her. I could not keep my eyes off of her, nor forget what i’d been told earlier by a PVTer, “You have a special gift for connecting with people”. I decided i would try and see if i did have this gift, so i greated her and got a smile. Then i felt a nudge to bring her water. So I did.

Then after some time passed in conversation between the people around me and the man who’d brought her, i reached for her, and she allowed me to pull her into a hug. “Dont worry about anything,” i told her and my Romanian friend translated. “You’re going to be fine!”. She hessitatingly hugged me back and then – suddenly, gripped me tightly.

Then she was invited into the church to eat. “Up until yesterday she prayed only to Allah, she prayed for him to get her out of jail. Yesterday she decided, Allah wasn’t answering, so she decided to ask Jesus.”

With 8 months still on her sentence, this young muslim girl prayed, “Jesus – if you’re really God, then you have to get me out of prison tomorrow. Not another day, it has to be tomorrow, if you’re really God.”

.

The next day she was released.

Needing a place to sleep before being reunited with her parents in another city since it was late, she was brought by a prison ministry partner of Hope Church Romania to Draganesti-Olt, on the way to her family – to sleep at the pastors house.

Sitting in front of her hessitatingly nibbling at the food she was offered, tears trembling in the edges of her eyes, i heard the Lord say, “Give her something.”

“What should i give her?” i asked.

“Give her your key,” He answered.

My key had been with me for the last 7 months. I had just literally finished the 7th month of ministry. And i’d been given this key right before leaving the states. I was given it by a stranger who id never met and who had prayed over the list of World Racer names and asked God to give us a word that He wanted for us this year.

Each of my squad mates had gotten a different word based on his prayer and what he felt God reveal to him for us.

My word was ‘Courage‘.

I reached into my collar and pulled off my necklace holding the key. Then i explained the story of the key to her and added, “Now that Jesus has proven He’s God, you have to decide if you’re going to follow Him or not. That’s going to take a lot of courage – so Jesus wants you to have this. This courage is for you.”

Then i asked if i could pray for her and Jesus told me to pray for her feet.

I felt foolishness crawl towards me and take hold of my ankles, but i knelt anyway. How could i not?

I placed one hand on each of her feet, i told her Jesus said he considerd the feet as the most beautiful, and then i prayed for her life and for protection for her and for her to feel confident that her choices are her own, and that He would woo her as only He knows she needs, and that she’d have courage on the journey He has for her.

And that’s how i met Julij*, just fresh out of jail. A girl who will be forever in my heart.

Please partner with me in praying for this dear girl! – pray that she will meet a woman who is a believer who can mentor her, pray that she can decide to follow Christ, pray that she will be physically protected – but that whatever happens that her faith and peace in Christ would be strong-, pray that she can be a light and witness to her family, pray for her families salvation, pray that she would continue to see and feel Gods love for her, and pray for her to have unexplainable courage.

.

Look up into the heavens.

Who created all the stars?

He brings them out like an army, one after another, calling each by its name.

Because of his great power and incomparable strength, not a single one is missing.

O Jacob, how can you say the LORD does not see your troubles? O Israel, how can you say God ignores your rights?

Have you never heard?

Have you never understood?

The LORD is the everlasting God, the Creator of all the earth. He never grows weak or weary. No one can measure the depths of his understanding. He gives power to the weak and strength to the powerless.

Isaiah 40:26-29

.

I feel like Gods telling me that i will find strength in obedience if i have more of a thankful heart.

…it’s not easy. At all. Not even a little bit.

And where to even start?

.

The bible says that if we do not praise Him, the rocks will cry out.

It also says that the heavens declare the glory of God.

So will you join me in praising God for the things – big or small – that He is doing?

Who will praise Him?

The mud? or the stars?

.

(*To protect her identity/safety her name has been changed)