Not My Perfume

I started wearing the scent when I was about 14. It was popular and lovely and made me feel older than I really was. And after wearing it for years, the smell, self-labeled “Heavenly”, began to carry and hold it’s own memories. With two sprays I was in the backyard with my best friend from childhood who once carried all my secrets. I could breathe slow and deep and hear the Dixie Chicks sing a throaty melody about wide-open spaces and nights under the stars with a bright-eyed cowboy. I could close my eyes and settle into the thoughts of big moments on both ends of my emotional scale: high-end joy and life-altering trauma.

And eventually, after years of spritzing my neck and wrists with the same bottle of secrets, I realized it had become a habit of self-inflicted bondage instead of a natural feminine moment. This act, that tends to be quite normal for many men and women, had developed into a daily routine of living in the past.

It wasn’t until this spring, while on a very unexpected home assignment, that I realized what I was doing. I was headed into town for a dreaded Wal-Mart trip, fighting an extremely heavy headache for the third day in a row. The day before I had a feeling that my headaches were related to my perfume, but I didn’t want to admit it yet. I wasn’t ready to let go of the scent that carried me to far off places. But I was only one block into my drive to town when I was hit with an idea, a thought, that I couldn’t shake. At the entrance of my parent’s subdivision is a small, gated, upward slope holding some of the oldest gravesites in town and as I stopped for traffic, I made a connection between my headache, my perfume, and the finality of the cemetery outside my driver’s window. I gazed at the grey, broken, cement markers for people long past gone and all I could ask myself in that moment was, “Meg, do you even like your perfume?” 

That may seem like a strange question to ask right then, but after staring at the final resting places of so many once loved men and women, I couldn’t help but wonder why I clung to something so superficial when our lives, in the end, are so short. I realized I used to love the sweet, angelic scent, but now? That just wasn’t true anymore.

“Then why are you wearing it?” ……I thought.

Why was I wearing the perfume? Why was I allowing this trivial, first world beauty product to bring pain to my head and strife to my heart? Why couldn’t I let go of this fleeting, sensory appeasing product that represented not who I am, but who I was? By refusing to let go of a decade long, daily tradition was I disassociating from things in my past that I honestly needed to process through and release? Why couldn’t I accept that the perfume was the cause of my headaches? My answers weren’t positive.

Because I’ve always worn it. Because it’s a part of who I present myself to be. Because it reminds me of days long gone and of important people from the past. Because there’s a boy out there who still likes the smell of my skin when I wear it. Because the name itself symbolizes the very thing I think I have to be: perfect. Because…..what happens if I start wearing something else? What happens if I let go? What happens… if I change?…

I haven’t used the perfume since that day by the cemetery. In fact, I threw the entire bottle in the trash. And the next week I spent a ridiculous amount of time in the essential oil and natural perfume aisle of the health food store with my mother picking a new scent. I picked one that had nothing to do with anything or anyone in my past and I picked one that felt more like “me”. I picked a perfume that, to me, symbolized a strong, feminine woman who strives to be quiet and submissive yet loud and untamed. A woman who longs to have a heart of discernment, feet of beautiful fortitude, arms of empathy, hands of grace, a tongue of kindness, eyes filtered in peace and a mind founded in truth. That may seem like a lot of pressure for just one bottle of roll-on perfume. But to me, it was a personal statement. It was a way to let go and embrace positive change.

I don’t wear the old perfume anymore because, quite frankly, the girl who wore it isn’t the woman I want to be. She was a girl drowning in unattainable perfection and hidden hurts. A girl unable to participate in authentic, raw conversation, hiding behind biblical band-aids and lofty pedestals. That girl, while just as precious and vital to the Lord, is no longer who I am. So it’s not my perfume. It’s hers. And I gladly gave it back to her.

Sometimes, many times, we must let go of the past, in order to grab hold of the future. We must release ourselves from our own handcuffs, and allow ourselves to be who we are today. And then we must refuse to accept the guilt that can come after letting go.

Maybe this seems simple or silly to some of you who have already moved forward from things long past, but for those of you who still wear the trapping scent that brings pain and sorrow, I encourage you today to throw it out.

Because, “since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of our faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.”

Women, we’re not who we once were. And even if you feel like you are and you don’t want to be, read that verse again. Throw it off, toss it out, and run hard after Jesus. With Him is where you’ll find the person you want to be. And maybe even your own perfume. I know I did.

Expectation Is A Four Letter Word

It’s been a very long time since I’ve written anything. In fact, the entire time I was in Nigeria, I didn’t find myself able to write anything at all. My lack of words while in the field, was definitely not an indication of the work or experiences had there. And honestly, my absence in writing was not due to just one thing or one reason.

My time in Nigeria, while full of adventure, love, and enlightening experiences, was not what I expected. It’s amazing to me that we as humans truly believe we can enter into any kind of experience, or even conversation, without even the slightest form of expectation. Even when we try to eradicate any amount of expectation from our preconceived notions of how life, or an event, will unfold, we are unsuccessful. It’s simply impossible to not expect something. Good, bad, exciting, devastating, or even “nothing”, we will still expect something.

My expectations: I believed the Lord was calling me to Nigeria for a longer period of time than just over three months. I expected to settle into life in Jos for at least two years, if not a lifetime, if the Lord would’ve allow it. I expected hard times, sure, but I never imagined having to survive a nearly fatal case of Malaria or trudging through relational turmoil as soon as I arrived on the field. I expected so many more things in and for Nigeria than what the Lord had in mind.

And that’s my take-away from my expectations. Although I still have zero doubt the Lord called me to Nigeria in the exact time He did, I know now it was for reasons beyond my view or imagination. And admittedly, some of those reasons are still unknown to me. And in that space of uncertainty, grief, and pain, I must choose to trust His timing and His ways. Because my expectations were not, and rarely are, His plans.

Do not misunderstand me. Although my time in Nigeria was difficult, I am not for one second sharing regret, anger, or bitterness. Because my three months in Nigeria were also incredibly beautiful, in almost every single way.

Nigeria reminded me to live in joy, to stand resolute on right and wrong, to laugh at myself often, to slow down and take in every moment as a precious memory, and to love as fully as I possibly can. And the ladies of the ministry I was working with, taught me more about grace than I even realized I needed education in. They loved deeply and honestly, and showed me how to do the same.

In 2 weeks, I will be returning to Jos, Nigeria to pack up my home there, and say goodbye to a place and people who managed to change my life and heart in just three short months. It’s a little crazy to me that one place could imprint itself on my heart so deeply in such a short amount of time, but it’s true. Nigeria was my home for just a short while but I believe she will remain with me for a lifetime.

When I return to the states in June, while I know I will most likely be hit with a wave of intense grief once again, I plan to carry it into what the Lord has next. I hope to use it for His story in my life. For me, that’s the only way to survive it. I have to let the Lord have the pain, let Him use the raw ache in my heart, and lean in to Him so that He may slowly heal the bleeding places of my soul, as He works for my good and His glory.

Giving the pain and leaning into the Lord is one of the scariest things for me, but I trust and know it will be so, so, SO good in the end. I love the line in C.S Lewis’ book, “The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe”, when one of the children asks Mr. Beaver if Aslan (written to portray God) is safe. Mr. Beaver looks up and says,“Safe? Who said anything about safe? Course’ He isn’t safe! But He’s good. He’s the King, I tell you!”

With faith in that good King, I move forward.

A Normal Life

There are times in my life when I think I’ve really grasped an idea and then it hits me again and I REALLY get it. Like, Jesus. Jesus and I met when I was five years old but I didn’t really get Him until I was 25. I thought I knew who He was but I was SO off. Thankfully, He met me in my misconceptions and graciously showed me who He was EXACTLY, making me fall in love with Him deeper than I ever imagined. But that’s a story for another time!

The other day I was at my local bank, visiting with a very friendly teller when I was struck with a spontaneous thought that gave me such reassurance for the road ahead, “I could never live like this.”

The air conditioning was on full blast, the car arrival bell was dinging every minute, and the workers were only speaking to each other regarding business. It was a normal day in a small town bank. As I stood at the teller’s window and watched her count the bills in her left hand as she licked the tips of her fingers of her right hand, I got a chill from the current of the a/c unit I was standing directly under. That’s when it hit me. She does this every single day. Every morning she puts on dress pants, (which are arguably the most uncomfortable thing for a woman to wear), does her hair, makeup and grabs her 3 inch pumps on her way out the door to stand in a box for 8 hours counting money under a impossibly strong a/c unit.  Normal. She does “normal” everyday. It was in this moment that I really understood, again, what the Lord has been trying to tell me for many years. I was not created for normal. I can’t do normal.

Don’t get me wrong, there is absolutely nothing wrong with banking or any chosen “normal” career path, really. But there is something wrong with spending your days at a job that makes you less of the person you were called to be. Because I was not made for “normal-suburbia living” it would be wrong of me to try to live that way.

I was made for adventure. I was made for surprises. I was made for spontaneous trips to my hometown just to have coffee with a friend who needed it. I was made for late nights and early mornings of my choosing. I was made for hot, sweaty days full of hard work and finished projects that allow me to be thankful for the wind. I was made to live a life not dictated by time but people; real people and real problems. I was made to make memories not necessarily governed by my culture’s standards. I was made to make my own culture! I was made to live my life to the fullest, trusting in the One who made me and who conducted a plan for my life that will continually challenge my heart and possibly change the world. I was made for different. I was made for new.

I read a book recently that said, “Where your passion meets purpose is where your destiny lies.”  That hit me like a ton a bricks. My passion is telling the world about the redemption of Jesus and I’m just now discovering that it’s my purpose as well. Therefore, who’s to say it’s not my destiny?

There is such freedom in redemption and living the life YOU were called to live. It took me longer than I would’ve liked it to to come to that realization. But now that I have, I can fully accept I was not made for “normal”.

 

Lessons I Learned From A Horrible American Tradition

I partook in a time-honored American tradition this weekend. A tradition where friends gather to sit in a chair made out of fabric in order to empty their junk drawers and fill their pockets while discussing the weather, mutual affection for specific beverages and planning the afternoon recovery period caused by the morning’s event. We Americans call it “The Garage Sale.” Or as I like to call it, ” A visit to the 8th floor of Hell.” (Parking was NOT validated.)

Can we all just agree on one thing? Garage sales are the WORST. The absolute worst. Especially if it’s before you move halfway across the world and the sale consists of 90% of your belongings. Which I understand, is a lot of stuff! (I’m still a little concerned how I acquired so much in the first place. Sleep shopping? Hoarder status? Thievery??) In a garage sale, first comes the sorting. Then the decisions of what is stored, what is sold and what is given away. Then the moving. Then the emotions. Then lather, rinse, and repeat until it’s all over and you find yourself bartering with an old man about the price of a bookshelf that was ALREADY marked at a VERY reasonable price, Sir! (I won. Sort of.)

Saturday was a very hot and very difficult day, both emotionally and physically. I live in the MOST humid state in AMERICA. (I’m sure of this. Google it. Just kidding, don’t do that.) It was REALLY hot. And while preparing for the sale I found myself being flooded with memories of the past and questions of the future. So, in the midst of moving all of the boxes and furniture across town in 90 degree-but-feels-like-1,000-degrees weather, I began to doubt.

“I’m selling everything. Antiques, trinkets, furniture, pots, pans, blankets, clothes, shoes; even Grandpa’s candy dish! EVERYTHING. But I’m not even at 100% yet. What if I can’t raise the money? What if I’m making a mistake? What if this doesn’t even bring any money in? What if God doesn’t provide? What if this is all for nothing? What if I never make it? What if, what if, what if?!?!”

I was doubting myself, my community and God. But then I remembered a conversation I had with a friend just the other day. It was directed towards raising support but the message remained. When asked if asking people for money was hard I replied, “No”. There are very strenuous steps in raising support but asking for the money is not the hard part for me. Because it’s not “asking for money”. Raising support is choosing to believe in the people God has asked you to love; believing in them enough to humble yourselves before others asking them to care just as much as you do. If I struggle “asking people for money” then I am doubting the value of the ladies of Grace Gardens. I’m doubting God, His call, and His power to provide. This garage sale was no different.

I’m not at 100% of my monthly goal or even my one time goal. I’m not financially ready to go. So selling all of my belongings was, for me, another huge, scary step onto a fast moving train bound for Jos, Nigeria. But having the garage sale was one more leap of faith. It was one more opportunity to make the choice of trusting God even when I couldn’t see what was ahead. It was one more opportunity to believe in the women of Nigeria and to put their true value ahead of my own comfort level. It was one more opportunity to humble myself before the Lord and before my community. It was one more opportunity to learn from and grow in The Lord.

It was one more opportunity. 

So what did I learn? I learned that God works best in the last minute. (Probably because my stubborn self learns best at the last minute!) I learned that people will continually surprise you. I learned I still worry way too much. I learned God will offer peace if I will take it. I learned God continually asks us to trust Him. I learned I still have a LOT to learn.

And I learned, once again, I have a ridiculously wonderful community. If it weren’t for my INCREDIBLE friends, Jess, John, Dede, Cass, Josh, Erin and Paul, the whole thing never would’ve happened. These people seriously love the Lord and show it best by loving others. Thank you, dear friends, who have become family, for loving and serving so well. I couldn’t do life without you!

And I learned garage sales are still the WORST. Never again, people. Never again.

But the biggest lesson I learned from Saturday was God never stops working, never gives up, never gives in, never lets go and always shows up.

“What prostitutes?”


Oh, but that my eyes might see Your face;

to look at You whilst I swim in grace.

Once drowning in waves of sin’s attention,

Yet now held freely by the Man, Redemption.


Redemption: I’ve often said that redemption not only speaks of freedom but offers a Hope only the once enslaved can understand. A Hope that shouts, “You are worth so much more than you can ever imagine. You may not believe Me now, but trust Me. You are set free; really, truly FREE.” But, sometimes, it’s far to0 easy to forget how free we really are.

Forgotten: As brutal words and punches of anger were thrown back and forth across the meeting room, in walked a missionary to Grace Gardens. The missionary separated the women and asked, “Why are you fighting?! What has happened?” The women explained, “We were fighting about our pasts. We are all prostitutes.” The missionary, confused, asked, “What prostitutes?” The ladies replied, “Auntie, it is us. We are the prostitutes.”  The missionary then looked into the faces of five beautiful women and with the truth of Jesus said, “I see no prostitutes here.”

Forgiven. When the ladies of Grace Gardens left their lives of prostitution and accepted Christ as their Savior they were instantly forgiven. Not only forgiven but made a new creation in Christ. They are no longer prostitutesThey are daughters of the Most High King; prized treasures to be LOVED not sold.

Us too. The same goes for every believer! We’re promised in scripture that when we are forgiven, we are separated from our sin. We are “removed from our transgressions.” And because of that we are no longer enslaved to our sin; we are set free. We are redeemed!! We are invited to sing a song the angels themselves cannot sing. A song of redemption.

Defined. Webster says the definition of redemption is this: “the action of saving or being saved from sin, error, or evil” or “the action of regaining or gaining possession of something in exchange for payment, or clearing a debt.” Redemption is an action; just as love is an action. While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Christ DID something for US. Redemption is much like that. Once we were a broken down, secondhand, piece of trash, but Jesus bought us “as is” and made us new! He turned our lives of prostitution into a lovely story of redemption.

But not all the same. It is true that none of our stories are the same. One can argue that’s what makes them each so uniquely beautiful. Sometimes our stories of redemption are short and fun to tell. Sometimes they are full of deep wounds, huge regrets, angry grief, and sorrowful remorse. My redemption story, should the Lord ever give me the courage to share it with the world, is full of the latter. But no matter what my story is, and no matter how it differs from yours or the ladies of Grace Gardens, the theme and outline of each story remains the same: once a secondhand ‘prostitute’, bought by loving God and redeemed by the Savior of the world.

Remember. Redemption stories are one of my most favorite things. I believe it is because they often speak of people once enslaved in immeasurable pain who found the freedom of Jesus Christ in His eternal hope. Because of this we cannot forget; We are THE REDEEMED. If the God of all hope, the God of all love, the God of all peace, the God of ALL, can redeem us from our sin, from our pasts, from our old selves, surely we can strive to remember one thing: We are no longer prostitutes.


A Life Well Lived

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A few months ago my pastor preached a sermon about a life well lived. Pastor Scott’s words had such a profound influence on me that day. So, I tucked away his message for safe keeping for the day I could share my thoughts. Well, I can’t imagine a better time than today as I sit in the Frankfurt, Germany Airport awaiting my flight to Abuja, Nigeria.

In 18 words, Pastor Scott summarized the depth of my passion for ministry in Nigeria and how I want to live my life.

“I don’t want to be standing in front of Jesus with my hands full of burnt up life.”

As I sat in service that day and heard those words being lovingly shouted from the pulpit, I pictured myself standing before the Lord with my hands full of useless trash; feeling inadequate before the Lord. NOT because of His opinion of me, that was still and always will be filtered through Jesus, but because of my own lack of trying.

1 Peter 1:17-19 says this:

“Since you call on a Father who judges each person’s work impartially, live out your time as foreigners here in reverent fear. For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your ancestors, but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect.”

I was bought secondhand, in all my sin, and redeemed by the sacrificial death of a perfect and pure Being. So, if Redemption Himself calls me to do something, and I do not even try to live “in reverent fear” of Him, will I not surely find myself standing before the Lord one day with my hands full of ash? Ash that could’ve easily been delicious fruit, promising adventure, redeemed souls and new names?

This doesn’t mean that being obedient to the Lord or trying to live your life with a sacrificial heart isn’t downright terrifying.  Like moving to Africa as a single 28 year woman who has never been away from her family longer than a few weeks. But when I think about my other option; turning around, going home with my folks and trying my best to live life in the states, I have to ask myself the question:

“If I give up, if I choose to go against God’s plan and even my own dream, what will I hold when I stand before Jesus? What will I have to give to Him?”

*Before I go on, let me clarify something: God does not ask, expect, or demand ANYTHING when we come to Him. That’s the beauty of being a child of the One true King. Because of Jesus, our debt is paid, our mistakes are forgiven, and our lives are no longer made up of works. God has no more wrath to pour out. We can come to Him empty handed and still be welcomed in with joyous shouts of celebration. So my point is not to say that I must work and create good things before I stand before my God. That is not what I believe nor what God represents. But as His daughter, His mouthpiece, His hands, His feet, His heart, I want to love Him and serve Him as much as I possibly can while I am here on this earth.*

I believe my life was given to me to be of use. It took me a long time to figure out what that use was but now that I have, I do not want to waste one minute of it; even knowing God will accept me empty handed.

I want to move to Nigeria. I want to have adventures every day. I want to love the leper and kiss the blind man. I want to hug the orphan and pray with the prostitute. I want to hear the stories, live the memories, tell Truth, spread Hope and be remembered as a daughter of THE King. Not so that I will gain glory or be patted on the back by God. My goal is not to work and work and work so that I can present my Lord with accomplishments or completed goals, but rather to serve His world in a way that allows me to slide into Home plate knowing my hands are not full of ash. I want to finish the game with my hands overflowing with life! A life well lived.

May I not burn up this life.

 

Into the Dungeon

A woman I love very much once told me my greatest strength and greatest weakness were one in the same: righteous anger towards injustice. Those words have stuck with me for many years now. I had mixed feelings when I first heard this. I had always been told righteous anger was a great sin. In fact, I had even been told anger itself was a sin. So I couldn’t understand how this weakness could also be a strength. But my self-proclaimed godmother then explained that my inability to keep quiet when justice goes unserved will be used for God’s glory one day. Little did either of us know I would be called into missions; into a ministry that refuses to shut up when women are trampled on and served cold plates of rotting injustice day after day. 

Earlier today I sat at my kitchen table and wept as I listened to a woman talk about the massive failings of christian culture. I felt her righteous anger as she said, “Following Jesus Christ does not look like silence or complicity to a system who butters our breads and fills our coffers while we stand on the necks of those created in the image of God. It does not look like praying and singing and giving money on top of screams and suffering and filth.” She had just told the story of her visit to Cape Coast Castle in Ghana. She spoke of how she stood in the deep, dark, low dungeon of the castle, surrounded by the ghosts of slaves who had been beaten, abused, sold, and killed. What stuck with her most was not the proverbial haunting of these souls but what sat just one floor above them: the chapel. Directly above the tortured souls of African men crying out for help and mercy were “christians” worshipping in the name of god. As the speaker stood there in utter shock and disbelief, the tour guide said, “Heaven above, Hell below.” But the speaker disagreed. She said, “Heaven was not above. Because staying above is not what Heaven does.” Heaven plunges into the dungeon.

Often times I struggle to find the appropriate amount of anger I’m “allowed” to feel towards injustice. And I believe the portion of righteousness she saw in me, is where I must be careful. Later on in the tour of Cape Coast Castle, the speaker comes face to face with the tour guide. The guide tells her, “Diane. Do not just blame yourself or your people alone. Because we sold our own.”

So many times we categorize people into an ‘us’ and a ‘them’. But there is no ‘us’ and there is no ‘them’. We were and are all created in the image of God. Therefore every time we bury our heads in the sand and pretend to believe the horrors of this world do not exist we sell our own. And, We are selling our souls as well. We sell our own when we protect our christian system and deny or ignore sexual abuse or rape or domestic violence because exposure would threaten the work of God. We use the name of God to justify the dungeon of our decision…..Many have thought that if you avoid the dungeon you can keep yourself clean. But to do so is to fail to follow our Savior out on to the dungheaps of this world.”

I am not too naive to think that I am above those who have created dungeons. I am, however, redeemed from the dungeons I was thrust into and the dungeons I created by way of silence and complicity. And I believe that’s what my godmother meant when she warned me of my strength and my weakness. I have vowed to no longer stay silent. I have sworn to plunge into the dungeons with the anger and love of my God steadily by my side. I have promised to help rescue those who cannot rescue themselves from the depths of hell by introducing them to the Savior. But I must not be blinded by the truth:

The despicable dungeons I want to tear down are the very dungeons I helped create. And so did you. 

 

 

To hear the entire speech by Diane Langberg titled, “As He Is, So Are We In This World”, please click here. I strongly encourage you to take 19 minutes out of your day and walk into the dungeon.

 

You Are Not a Mass Product

I’m not sure she fully believed me when I told her the truth: She was not and is not a mass product. She had not been created by a tired father of five who was too exhausted to notice he missed step 18 while standing on the factory line during his 13th hour on the job. She had actually been formed intricately, intently, passionately, and lovingly by a Maker who CAREFULLY put each piece and characteristic together until she met His design perfectly. She is not perfect. But His design of her IS.

Every day I sit with girls who just assume and believe they are merely a replicated product created by an absent maker, or worse, a chemical experience no one can really explain. But this is not truth! This is a lie. A lie I am fighting to snuff out of the minds of women everywhere. I wouldn’t call myself a feminist but I would call myself “pro-woman”. I believe in the power of the heart of a God-fearing woman. I believe women, the gender as a whole, were created for reasons beyond marriage and childbearing. I believe we were created to show the sincere, loving, compassionate, emotional, discerning heart of the very God who put us together. But society and history has been very harsh to women. Women have fought for decades just to be heard, to be taken seriously, to be accepted as a vital role in humanity. On any given day we can be told we’re nothing special, we’re only here for one purpose. But, again, this is not truth!

Look at Psalm 139:

“For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. 

(This does not say, “You shoved my arm into my shoulder socket like Mattel does to Barbie and then passed me along to the next handler for my legs to be done.”)

I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;

(Fearfully: carefully, with intention. Wonderfully: done very well, A++ rating.)

Your works are wonderful, I know that full well.

My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place,

(A secret place suggests this was an intimate, private event. The Lord guarded the process of your creation from those who might not deserve to see it. He protected you and safeguarded your heart to Him in that moment. This was an act of intimacy, your first moments with The Carpenter.)

when I was woven together in the depths of the earth.

(The art of weaving takes time, skill and effort. The Lord took His time with you. He enjoyed the moments with you. This was not a process He rushed through.)

Your eyes saw my unformed body;

all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.”

(Yahweh, Abba Father, God Almighty, The Maker of all Creation SAW you. He saw the very depths of your soul – the good, the bad and the ugly. He saw your days and mapped them out. He planned and prepared a life for you. A factory worker will never think of a single product ever again as it leaves his hands but our Maker never stops. He doesn’t quit and He doesn’t give up. Ever.)

Of course, this passage applies to all of God’s most prized creation; male and female. But today, in light of the End It Movement, I felt pulled to share the heart of The Father with the hearts of His daughters. You are not a mass product!! Do not for one second believe you were created to be owned, abused, mistreated, pushed aside or forgotten! You were created for nothing less than to shine as the brightest glory of the One True King who took His time putting you together. My words are pointless, meaningless and utterly stupid compared to the love God has for you! You are treasured, adored, loved, cared for, protected and safe in the arms of our Father. Lean into that!

Sharing the love our Father in Heaven has for His children, specifically His daughters, is something I am incredibly passionate about. And the lie that women are worth more in gold than they are in character substance is what I hope to snuff out while working at Grace Gardens. Humans owning humans is absurd. Women and children being sold for sex is disgusting. Humanity closing their eyes to the truth is infuriating. Reality doesn’t just go away if we shut our eyes. And women will never know they are NOT a mass product if we shut our mouths.

My name is Meg Smith and I’m in it to end it. For good.

Photo on 2-27-14 at 9.35 AM

A Night Full of Blessings

A Night for Nigeria turned into A Night Full of Blessings! The Lord poured Himself out on us in a such a sweet way. It was wonderful to see people so excited about a ministry I am so incredibly passionate about. Here a just a few pictures for those who couldn’t make it out!

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Hope Community Church of Rensselaer, Indiana hosted the event and recently named me one of their monthly supported missionaries! It was SO neat to see them stick that orange pin on the map!
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One With Nigeria coffee mugs and handmade Africa ornaments were for sale to help support my One Time Needs goal. We still have some of these left! Contact me if you are interested in purchasing one or both of these items!

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So many desserts! Desserts in every color, flavor, shape, size and nutrient!

This was my favorite area 😉

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A slideshow of Grace Garden’s residents played while my incredibly talented brother and I sang “Called Me Higher” by All Song & Daughters.

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The Lord’s ministry of Grace Gardens is something I am incredibly passionate about and, I believe, the Lord is incredibly passionate about. It was so exciting to be able to share it with new and old friends! I was honored to see so many faces willing to listen to what God has called me into!

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I hadn’t seen the ladies below in such a long time! Two of them made a long drive with little ones in tow just to be there for me! It was so fun catching up for even just a few minutes.

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Even my uncle and cousin (I’m sandwiched in between them) made the drive from Kokomo, IN to hang out with us for the night! Just a portion of our family below!

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Decorations were simple and perfect- focusing on the women and children of Grace Gardens. I wanted to be sure visitors saw the faces of the very people their support helps share the Gospel with!
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Each table had a picture of a resident of Grace Gardens with their story behind it. Grace Gardens houses SO many stories that scream to be told. Below is a picture of my teammate, Sarah, loving on a Grace Garden kiddo. She’s really good at it 🙂Image

A Night for Nigeria provided 7% more of my monthly need! I now have 27% of my monthly support need met! I think it is absolutely insane (and so incredibly cool) that God provided an additional 10% in a matter of just 5 days. What a testament of His goodness and faithfulness! Thank you to all who attended, helped set up, baked goodies, played in the band and prayed over the entire evening! I am grateful for everyone of you and honored to have so many of you on my team!!

Love, Meg
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If you are interested in partnering with me financially follow this link to give electronically.

If you are interested in becoming a partner by prayer, you may email me your information at meg.smith@sim.org

Get To Know Your Local Missionary!

Ever since I announced I was going to Nigeria I’ve experienced two things. One, lots of questions!! Two, kind-hearted misunderstandings of who I am and what I’m really about. So, I wanted to take advantage of the Midwest Winter Death Storm of 2014 to answer those Frequently Asked Questions and to try to explain myself and my story as best I can. I’m all about good communication so my hope for the post is to answer your questions as best I can and let you see a little bit more of me in a true and honest light! Here goes!

When did you realize you were being called into missions?

As most of you know I am the child of a super weird, oddly funny, very kind, incredibly loving, a little eccentric and tremendously hard-working Pastor. (No one try to debate these facts because they are, in fact, facts!) Growing up in a minister’s home I saw the pros and cons of being in full-time ministry. So, for many, MANY years I literally rebuked the idea of missions, in Jesus name! (I still think God laughed every time I said it!) But almost 2 years ago, while living with and caring for a precious family member, the Lord really started working on my heart and molding for a passion in missions. It all started when a kind, compassionate, loving, intelligent, hard-working, old farmer named Paul, whom I called Grandpa, asked me what I planned to do when he went to be with Jesus. At the time, I had no answer for him. Sure I had ideas about what I COULD do with my life but I didn’t know what I SHOULD do. So I began a time of intentional prayer- asking the Lord what HE wanted me to do next. My grandfather’s push for answers forced me to pursue God’s calling on my life. One day I stumbled upon a YouTube video of a young, single, female missionary living in Uganda, raising 14 children, saying, “Yes!” to Jesus everyday. Immediately I felt the Lord say to me, “That’ll be you one day.”  I wish I could say I jumped from my chair with a smile on my face and determination in my heart. But that is not what happened. Instead, I said, “Oh heck, no!” (I can be a major brat sometimes, y’all). But because of the Lord’s great love for His children, for me, and His unending patience, grace and kindness, He continued to pursue me and melt my heart for missions. One night I had reached the end of my rope and found myself on my knees praying to God in desperation for an answer. I was Samuel saying, “What, Lord?! Your servant is listening!” (Am I the only one who thinks Samuel had to have been frustrated that night?! I mean, come on, wouldn’t you be frustrated if you were woken multiples times in the middle of the night to a voice you couldn’t find? I’ll admit I would! And I was.) But, again, God found mercy on this sinner’s heart. That night, as I prayed in desperation for direction, for purpose, for meaning, God slowed everything to a halt. He calmed my heartbeat. He quieted my mind. And He spoke a solid truth in my soul as He told me, “Megan, the desires you have in your heart to see the world, to make a difference and to be remembered as Mine are not your desires, but the seeds of My plan for you I planted long ago.” While that should’ve freaked me the heck out, it didn’t. Somehow His words gave me the courage to ask the question I had been hiding for weeks. “Lord, am I to go to Africa?” And the answer I’ve been putting faith in for the past two years was, “Yes.”

Why did you say yes?

That’s easy. “Jesus doesn’t ask us to love the least of these. He demands it.” -Katie Davis

While I technically have a choice to say no, when I signed on to follow Christ, I signed away my “rights”. I signed on for a full and intimate relationship with Him, eternal life with Him and forgiveness only He can offer. But in return I willingly gave Him my life. So I don’t see it as saying “yes” to missions but instead, saying, “Yes, Lord. Anywhere. Anytime. Anything.” This time, “yes” has led me to Nigeria.

Why Nigeria?

I have always had a love for Africa. Even though I wanted nothing to do with missions or ministry as I teenager, I loved to read about Africa and learn about the atrocities that people were encountering all over the continent. I think I felt that if I at least knew about the horrors that war and HIV had done over there, change could start to happen. So when God called me into missions, I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that Africa was where He wanted me. At the beginning, I thought He wanted me involved in direct HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment ministry, and while that’s still near and dear to my heart, I now see how God used that passion to lead me further into His Will of women’s ministry. While I am BEYOND excited to be serving in Nigeria, it is not the country itself that brings me there, but the ministry I have been invited to work with. Grace Gardens is a place of love. A safe haven for ladies who have never heard how precious they are to our Father. It’s a ministry I’m all about. I’m about the Gospel. I’m about the heart of a woman. I’m about emotional healing in Jesus Christ. I’m about friendship and discipleship. I’m about building up women’s ministry. I’m about speaking truth into the Western and Eastern Church. I’m about showing the world who women are, why they were created and why they are vital to the Kingdom. I’m about the work of my Father and I believe Grace Gardens is, too.

 What about your health? Your diet?

Almost every one I have spoken with has asked me this question. First let me thank you for your concern. I know this question comes from a place of love. Second, let me apologize for my possible frankness in the past. This is a hard question for me to answer sometimes since it has the potential to damper my zeal. The good news is I am as healthy as I have ever been! The past three years I have taken major steps in my life to accomplish healing in many areas and because of God’s grace and purpose, I have been granted that. My diet is very strict but from what I can gather, there will be plenty of food in Nigeria that I will be able to eat! And who knows, maybe I’ll be able to eat even more over there since there is zero genetically modified ingredients in Africa! I might do a fancy-dancy dance if I can eat real bread again! I am being as smart as I can about my health, here and over there, and I trust that the Lord will take care of me no matter the circumstances. He is good whether I feel good or not.

 What does your family think about this?

I have a pretty cool family, y’all. Even though my parents, brother and future sister-in-law are admittedly terrified, they are incredibly supportive. I’ve seen them live out a piece of the gospel by balancing joy and sorrow at the same time. (Hebrews 12:2)

 Who pays for your trip(s)?

As a missionary with SIM I plan to be fully supported by people and churches who have committed to joining my team as either financial partners or prayer warriors. Going to Grace Gardens is a team effort. It is something I cannot do alone. That’s why I am currently seeking people, churches, organizations, and the like to partner with me to help proclaim the gospel in Jos, Nigeria!

 Don’t you feel guilty living off of other people’s income?

Honest answer: No. Because I don’t see it that way. Just as I don’t think Paul the Apostle saw it that way when he was living off of support and the kindness of strangers. I do not feel as though I am taking friends’ and loved ones’ hard earned incomes to send me on a vacation to a warmer climate and I hope to express myself in a way where my supporters do not see it that way either. When someone makes a pledge to support me and the ministry I am called into, it is more than just providing for me financially. When you give to a missionary you are telling a child about Jesus. You are hugging a mother who just lost her only son to war. You are bandaging a man’s burns in an understaffed hospital.  You are handing out Bibles in a closed, nearly forgotten country. You are praying healing over a a baby girl who has less than a day to live before AIDS wins. You are playing soccer with the kids in a nearby african village just to show the kids someone cares. You are teaching English to a old man who never had the time or money to go to school before. You are standing in a brothel in the heart of Jos, Nigeria telling a woman she is worth more than what her body can do. When you give to a missionary you are investing in hundreds of lives. Not because of the work that one missionary will do, but because of the work that God will do through the ripple of that one missionary, the ripple of your gift. But the truth is this: nothing can be done by that one missionary without the work of the Holy Spirit and the support of a solid backing team. So no, I do not feel bad being financially supported by other people. Those other people are the reason I, and other missionaries, can do the things we’ve been called to do. Supporting a missionary means joining a team of believers passionate about proclaiming the gospel to the nations. Does that sound like something I should feel bad about to you?

 How long do you want to do this?

Right now I am committed to SIM for two years with the hope of becoming long-term. I plan to use these next two years to pursue what God wants and to listen to where God leads. But I do not enter into this light-heartedly. My prayer is to be obedient to the Lord no matter what His calling for me may be and no matter where.

Don’t you want to get married?

Nope. Never. That’s gross.

Just kidding! 🙂 Of course I do! Many people have seen this decision as a final conclusion for my future love life. I do not see it that way. God knows the desires of my heart and I trust Him with them completely. If it be in His plan for me to get married, then I will. If not, I will be content with a life lived with, and for, only Him. And maybe the five cats I’m destined to own!

Are you scared?

Terrified! Truthfully. But my trust in the Lord far outweighs my fear of this world. He is my Guide, my Protector, my Shield, my Provider and my Rock. He will not lead me where He cannot go Himself. In that and in Him I will place my trust.

 How can I help?

In so many ways! I need people like YOU on my team! As I said before, the only way I can get to Nigeria is by having financial backers and prayer supporters! I need people on my team who believe in the truth of the Gospel and want to see it shared in all corners of the world. I need people who believe in the redeeming power of Christ and believe it can and should be spread like wildfire until every tribe and tongue has heard The Good News. Does this sound like you? Then let’s talk. Because you’re needed and there’s plenty of room for YOU in this adventure!

 You’re giving up so much, don’t you think? What are you gaining?

“I eagerly expect and hope that I will in no way be ashamed, but will have sufficient courage so that now as always Christ will be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death. For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. Philippians 1:20-21

Simple answer: so much. I am gaining so much! I gain experience. I gain adventure. I gain knowledge. I gain friendships. I gain blessings. I gain hardships. I gain tears. I gain sorrows. I gain laughter. I gain trust. I gain love. I gain triumphs and wounds and scars and stories and victories. I gain, life. And I gain Christ.

My prayer is that by you reading this post I accomplished two things:

1) I was able to give a you a greater depiction of my heart and what I am all about.

2) God was glorified in every word.

Still have questions? Email me, call me, text me, Facebook me, tweet me, Instagram me!

I’m about questions.