The children from the missionary training had piled into the back of Gustavo’s pickup truck for a ride to the end of the lane. Though they had enjoyed the ride, they knew it was now time for the LONG (not really) walk back.

Little Micah came to me with shoulders hunched over and in his cutest 6-year-old-voice he told me “My legs are too tired to walk back.” I chuckled at him while Satomi suggested that if he couldn’t walk then maybe he could run. But he wasn’t buying it. “That’s more tiring than walking!” he exclaimed. And there he stood, determined not to take a single step.

“Do you want me to carry you?” I asked him. His face immediately brightened (as if he wasn’t FULLY expecting me to offer.) He jumped up and down and squealed with excitement when I told him I would put him on my shoulders.

I moved him to stand in front of me and instructed him to jump high so that I could hoist him up.

“One, two, THREE!” And up he went. He squealed again, but this time in fear rather than excitement.

The anticipated adventure had suddenly turned uncomfortably scary.

The moment his bottom landed on my shoulders, he clutched his arms around my chin with a death grip. I could feel the tension surging through his body.

“It’s really high up here!” he shouted. “You sure you can hold me? Am I going to fall?” he asked, his voice shaky. His feet dug into my armpits, and for a brief moment I considered putting him down. But I knew he was safe; I knew I had him, even if he wasn’t so sure. And so we continued on.

As we walked forward slowly, I reassured him. “I have you, Micah. You’re okay.” I put my hands on his back, holding him as tightly as he was holding me, not of necessity, but for his own peace of mind.

“Look at those trees!” I said, trying to draw his attention away from his fear. “Do things look different up there?” I asked.

“Ummm, yeah they do,” he answered. “I can see a lot from way up here.” We continued to walk forward and I felt his grip begin to relax. “Can you see all the way to the beautiful lake?” I asked.

He hesitantly removed one hand from my chin and pointed to it. “I can see really far. I think I like being up here!”

We laughed together.

I could feel his body slowly relaxing. He slouched down and rested his chin on top of my head, his arms wagging loose. Gradually his feet came out from under my arms.

“You can let go of my back,” he said, “I know I won’t fall now.” With that, he began to direct me to walk this way and that. Once again he was happy, he was comfortable, and he felt safe.

In that moment, Micah showed me something about transitions, and taught me a little more about God.

On Monday morning, I said farewell to Micah and his family and fifteen other missionary families. All of us are in the midst of transitions. We’re feeling excitement and fear and anxiety. There might even be some clutching and grasping, and probably lots of questions.

So my prayer for you Micah, Jin, and Kay; Reina, Serena, Andrew, and Janice; Jonathon, Satomi, and Yuka; Keihwan and Misook; Lily, Gustavo, Lilia, and Savi; Joanne; Janet; Luis Daniel; Lulu; Jean Paul; Carmen; Erica; Tazionepi; Sonia, and Quest is this:

May this time make you squeal with excitement and jump up and down. But when you clasp on in fear- may God reassure you with his strong arms and magnificent love. May your time of anxiety pass quickly. And may you very soon find yourself resting your chin, knowing you’re safe, and enjoying your new view.


The Wilderness

The wilderness. We read about it in Scripture and we think we know it. The dry land with no food. The bitter water. The wandering and the complaining. The loss of hope, and the desire to return to slavery, because that would be more bearable than the wilderness. The fear of hearing the Lord, and the refusal to let God speak. The impatience and the golden calf to worship. We think we know the wilderness.

The faithfulness of God. We read about it in Scripture and we think we know it. Manna and quail; the cloud of smoke by day and the pillar of fire by night. The promise land. The shining face of Moses. We think we know God’s faithfulness.

I thought I knew the wilderness and thought I knew God’s faithfulness.

But I didn’t; I didn’t know either until yesterday.

Yesterday morning I woke up at the foot of Mount Sinai, in the wilderness that the Israelites wandered through. I have been in many desserts, but never had I been in a place like this. Jagged mountains were all around us, the sun beating down on the rocks and the sand. Nothing but jagged rocks and burning sand could be seen for miles in any direction. We drove and drove and drove and it felt like we would never get out of that dry and sweltering place.

As I looked out the window I kept thinking “this is nothing like I expected.” The wilderness never is.

I have just come out of one of those wilderness times in my life. It was awful. I had no idea where I was going or what I would be doing. I was bitter and I was angry. I complained and lost hope. I was afraid to hear the Lord.

But in January of last year, the Lord used an obedient man of God to speak to me.

As we were worshiping, Bob, a virtual stranger, placed his hand on my shoulder and said “Elizabeth, I have a word for you, you might want to record it so that you can hear it again.” I pulled out my phone and pressed record. I’m glad I did, because those words from the Lord became my manna and sweet water.

“Elizabeth, I looked over at you and it was obvious that God was really touching you. What I felt like the Lord said is that he has put you in a straight place in this season. It’s not like you’ve been off the rails or anything, but actually He’s putting you in a straight place for this season because He’s taking you deeper not only into His heart, but into your purpose and understanding your call and what He has for you. I felt like the Lord said that there’s a real shift taking place in your ministry, even that to which you thought you were going back to will shift. I even feel like there will be a geographic shift, but the Lord wanted you to hear this “for out of Zion the Lord’s voice goes forth,” so whats been put in you in that place has helped bring you to this place where you are now. You’re in a bit of a confining place, but the Lord says it’s a good place because on the other side there’s a broad path. I just see this opening up, this brightness… I don’t know if you like the beach, but I see you on the beach and it’s sunny and it’s warm and it’s radiant. It’s broad up and down the beach and you’re no longer in that confining place. But for now you’re still in a season where God’s going to keep you in that narrow place, but it’s for the greater purposes that He has.”

The promise sunk deep into my heart. It reminded me that my suffering was not purposeless and that it would come to an end.

This morning I woke up in a hotel on the shore of the Red Sea. I stepped onto the beach and had to shade my eyes from the bright, radiant sun. I turned to look down the coast and a rush of emotion hit me like a tidal wave.

I was literally standing in His promise; no longer confined, no longer struggling.

By His faithfulness He had delivered me through the wilderness. He brought me out and has placed me once again on my broad path.

I laughed and I cried. I praised the Lord!

The Tantrum

I heard the child’s voice before I could see the child’s face.

“Daddy, I don’t want to wait. Please, please, please?”

It was obvious that this wasn’t the beginning of the conversation, nor the first time the request had been made. The voice was full of sweet pleading.

Their faces came into view and I saw the small one’s eyes were large and longing. The man’s face kindly imitating the child’s- his brows furrowed and his mouth in an empathetic frown.

“I know, my love, but I need you to wait.”

“But Daddy, I don’t want to wait.” The small face with the big, pink cheeks was both adorable and sad. The bottom lip protruded in a pout and began to quiver. “I can’t wait, Dad, I just can’t wait anymore.” Crocodile tears filled the little one’s eyes, spilled out and ran down the plump cheeks, dripped off the wrinkled little chin, and plopped on the ground. I felt my heart break. “I can’t. I want it.” The child burst into loud sobs and, just like the tears, fell into a puddle on the ground.

“I know it’s hard, but come with me,” the Father said patiently and encouragingly, his head tilted to the side to meet the gaze of his broken-hearted child.

The sobs stopped and there was a moment of silence, maybe a moment for contemplation.

I felt an instantaneous change in the eyes that had been so full of sweet longing; they were suddenly small and angry.

He saw it, too. The man knelt down and extended a hand; the child swatted it away. I knew the melting point was being reached.

“Leave me alone! You know what I want and you won’t give it to me.” The tone was sharp and bratty, the words accusingly being spat at the man.

He took his cue and a deep breath and stood up, his face still surprisingly unchanging. I could tell this wasn’t the father’s first rodeo.

“You won’t, you won’t!” Another outburst of sobs overtook the small body, and a moan that sounded strangely similar to that of a demon escaped from deep inside. “It’s not fair! It’s not fair! You know I’ve been waiting. It’s not fair!” Fists and feet pounded on the floor. This wasn’t just a meltdown, this had turned into a full-fledge tantrum. I wondered if anyone else was watching.

I studied the man for his reaction; I wanted to know if this wild display of unchecked emotions was getting to him. Part of me waited for him to yell back, and all of me wondered if the child would get what was being asked for. But he remained calm and collected, seemingly not sucked in. He nodded, the nod somehow full of wisdom and love.

The voice peeked at an all-out scream “Why? Why? It’s not fair! You don’t love me!”

The man was saying something, but I was too caught up in emotion and couldn’t hear his words over the wailing.

And then, with lungs at what must have been maximum capacity, “DON’T YOU HEAR ME?!” Each word articulated more sharply than the last.

“Yes, my love, I hear you.”

The next came in a mimicky, grown-up voice dripping with condescension “But are you LI-STEN-ING?”


The little one stared at the Father without a single muscle moving, daring him to answer. I knew the child’s whole world hung on what he would say next.

Gently and unruffled he responded. “Yes, my darling, I’m listening.”

Almost magically, his words caused the storm to subside; the anger waned but the deep sadness returned, tangible in the air around us. “You promised. You said you would. It’s not fair. You promised.”

Once again he knelt beside his child.

I heard him say “Yes, I promised, and I keep my promises.”

Another small sob and a big sniffle and a last plea “But I want it now.”

“I know you do. Come with me, let me show you what I have for you.”

“Will you give me what I want?” the child asked cautiously.

“If you trust me and walk with me, I’ll give you more than you could ever ask for.” Again, he extended his strong right hand.

I wiped the tears from my cheeks and felt myself take a deep, calming breath.

In my mind’s eye, I watched the small child place my small hand in his. Warmth and peace spread through my body.

“I’m sorry,” I whispered, having finally composed myself. “Do you think I’ll ever mature out of those tantrums?”

“My child, never stop crying out to me.” I felt his smile and returned it to him. We were walking together once again.


But in my distress I cried out to the LORD; yes, I prayed to my God for help. He heard me from his sanctuary; my cry to him reached his ears. Psalm 18:6

Storm Walk


Who would have imagined that those five digits could be so motivating? During the last few days the heat has been brutal and it’s been increasingly difficult to make those numbers on my fitbit click up to my goal. I had been pacing back and forth in the air-conditioned living room for too long and the steps just were not accumulating fast enough. So yesterday afternoon I made up my mind to brave the heat and take my stepping outside.

I was a little over a mile into my walk and was grateful for the cloud-cover that had moved in to protect me from the sun’s blazing rays. Remembering that I am trying to be more mindful, I slowed my pace and was intentional about noticing myself and my surroundings. I could feel the sweat under my sunglasses and could taste the saltiness on my lips. I took note that the side-ditches had recently been mowed and breathed deeply to take in the scent of the cuttings. As I did, I realized there was more in the air than the grass. I smelled rain. Continue reading

What I Learned in Speech Class

My family was sitting at the table eating pizza. My older sister, Angie, had a couple of her friends over and the room was lively with chatter. My dad turned to me and said “Hey Lizard, hop up and get me a napkin.”

I froze. I felt blood rush to my face and I was certain that the fourteen-year-old girls sitting around the table were all laughing at me.

“That’s NOT my name!” I spat, full of the rage and embarrassment typical of a sensitive and insecure sixth grade girl. I glared at him, using my angry eyes as a defense against the tears that were welling up inside me. When I saw the shock on his face and realized that all the attention was on me, I fled from the kitchen. I made it to the safety of my room before the sobs began.

The nickname had been mine for years. When I was small and learning to tell others who I was, my name came out of my mouth as “Lowi Lizardbreath.” Of course everyone thought it was cute and for my dad, even though I had outgrown the mispronunciation, the name Lizard stuck.

I spent years in speech class learning to say my ‘r’s and ‘l’s, and essentially my name, correctly. This learning took a lot of work: hours of listening and repeating, of hearing and saying it back. It required me to take notice when I got it wrong and humility and honesty about my mistakes. It took a patient and kind teacher and a committed learner. Eventually, I was capable of correctly telling everyone who I was. “Lori Elizabeth” I could say with confidence.

There are times, though, that even now I second guess myself, wondering if I got it right.

Unfortunately, this second-guessing doesn’t only come when pronouncing my name; sometimes I am attacked by doubts about who I am at my core.

The ruler of this world, feasting on pride and power, loves to tell us lies about who we are. Sometimes he speaks these lies from the mouths of our colleagues, sometimes he whispers them subtly in our minds, and sometimes he even hides them in the questions of our friends. These lies, no matter how they enter our being, can be deadly unless they are carefully sorted out from the truth and removed.

I have been practicing sorting out these lies by asking my Lord the question that Jesus asked Simon Peter: Who do you say that I am?

This learning takes a lot of work- hours of listening and repeating, hearing and saying it back. It requires me to take notice when I get it wrong and humility and honesty about my mistakes. It takes a patient and kind teacher and a committed learner.

With this kind of hard work, and with the Lord as my teacher, I know that I won’t need to tell anyone who I am. When someone gets it wrong, I won’t have to fight back the urge to spit “that’s not who I am” and run off embarrassed and holding back tears. I know that who I am speaks, and that truth speaks with confidence.

The Backpack

I rolled over.

‘I have to make a Geometry quiz and give them their papers back. Why wasn’t she at school again today? Tomorrow I’ll make that appointment, but when am I going to have time? Did I send the email? Why hasn’t I heard back? I need to write that paper.’

I reached for my phone, checked the time and did the math.

‘Five hours, twenty-one minutes. I should have gone to the gym. Crap, I left my lunch bag at school. I don’t have any vegetables. Did I turn off the hot water?’

I opened facebook and skimmed blindly.

‘Why did he say that? Did I make her angry? He’s going to hurt her. Should I talk to her? What if she gets mad at me? I shouldn’t have said anything.’

I put down the phone and rolled over again.

‘Those kids! They swarmed out of the elementary school carrying those backpacks that were every bit as big as they were. How cute it was to see the older kids take the hands of their brothers and sisters. The little one stood there looking like he needed a bathroom, impatient for his sister’s bubbly teenage conversation to finish.’

The scene from after school was bright in my mind.

‘What a chaotic mess! Cars were everywhere, little kids running through the street, dodging cars and looking for their rides.’

I chucked.

‘That little girl flung her backpack into the car and hit her mom square in the face. It looked like it took all her strength to get it through the window before she opened the door and plopped down in that seat. The mom didn’t miss a beat. In one motion she moved the heavy bag to the back, gave her daughter a hug, and called to her other son. What a good mom. That’s just how little kids are, aren’t they?’

I fluffed up my pillow.

‘How many times have I seen kids at the end of a school day unload the burden of their bags on their parents? And off they go to play, not a care on their minds. All that had been done that day forgotten and their homework left for later when mom or dad reminds them, after they’ve played, after they’ve rested, after they’ve eaten, when they can get help if they need it.’

I smiled.

“Come to me like little children.” “Cast your cares on the Lord.” “My yoke is easy; my burden is light.”

‘They’re doing it right.’

I rolled over again. I shoved all those thoughts in my mental backpack and handed them over, taking care not to smack my good father in the face.

‘Thank you.’

And I fell asleep.

Silent Night

I heard the sound of my FaceBook messenger ding and rolled over to look at my phone.


It was 5:03 in the morning and the message was from my roommate Anna. I laughed and wrote back ‘DO IT YOURSELF! I’m BUSY folding the pastries!’ I then pulled the covers over my head, hoping to catch a few more minutes of sleep before I started the day.

This messaging back and forth, from one room in the house to another, was a little game Anna and I had started back in August. When the bakers working below us yell back and forth in Arabic, we translate it for one another. When a semi-truck’s loud engine keeps us from being able to sleep, we tell each other what goods the truck is hauling. When cars squeal their tires over and over and over around the roundabout or drift down the straightaway of the main street or blare their radios to an appalling volume, we tell each other how macho they are or all about the girl they are trying to impress. This banter back and forth is our way of coping with the truth that keeps us awake:

There is no such thing as a silent night in Bethlehem.

I’m sorry to dispel any imaginings you might have had, but the images of a quaint little town of Bethlehem that we have sung about for decades is a lie. Bethlehem is big and bustling; its full of loud street vendors and pushy tourists. Traffic is slow moving with big busses and taxis hauling people into Manger Square by the hundreds. Long lines are always flowing out of the Church of the Nativity where people who have traveled thousands of miles wait, sometimes impatiently, to behold the place of our dear Savior’s birth. As they make their way down into the small cave there is not enough room for everyone, which often leads to elbowing and shoving- not exactly conducive to a tranquil moment of awe and wonder at the birthplace of our Lord. Pilgrims are instead subject to stares of “hurry up it’s my turn” and “get out of my way, I want to take a picture.” It’s not exactly peaceful.

It’s not only the noise and the physical crowdedness that inhibits the ability to experience peace in Bethlehem. The feeling of peace is also mightily squelched by the occupation. A 20-foot-high separation wall looms over and closes in the little town of Bethlehem, soldiers armed with automatic weapons drive armored vehicles through the streets, the smell and burn of tear gas hangs in the air, the spirit of oppression and hopelessness and sadness is pervasive.

Peace seems like a far-off idea.

The little town we sing about is not the Bethlehem of today. However, it wasn’t the Bethlehem of Jesus’ day, either.

Mary and Joseph returned to the City of David for the census; we would be naïve to think that they were alone. Hundreds of other families returned to the town as well. The streets were crowded, full of donkeys and carts and people. The town square was packed with loud merchants selling their goods and travelers who were pushy and anxious to buy what they needed. Homes were bursting with family members and guests; there was not enough room for everyone. Many were left without a place to stay and were forced to take residence in caves with the livestock. Not exactly a tranquil place to give birth to a child. The city was occupied under Roman rule with soldiers continually in the streets. Then, too, the spirit of oppression and hopelessness and sadness was pervasive.

Peace was a far-off idea.

But then, in the midst of chaos and commotion, in the crowdedness and the noise, in the anxiety and unease, Peace was born. Not effortlessly, but through great struggle, past fear and doubt, with patience and trusting and persistence, Mary and Joseph gave birth to the Prince of Peace. At first small and helpless, in need of protection and nurturing, but full of the promise of hope, joy and love.

The Silent Night that I sing now, with this new picture, is different. For me, it’s no longer a song about the past, when out of great necessity and longing peace entered the world. Instead, it’s a song about our call- when we, as followers of Christ, give birth to peace. It’s a reminder that in the midst of chaos and commotion, in the crowdedness and the noise, in the anxiety and unease, we have been chosen. The song encourages me that through this struggle, past fear and doubt, with patience and trusting and persistence, we usher in today’s silent nights full of the promise of hope, joy, and love.