You get what you get and you don’t throw a fit

I have never had reason to describe myself as a “morning person”. I have re-arranged my schedule at various times of my life (including this one) to be up early but it’s never been my natural rhythm. So when my wide awake brain popped my eyes open at 4:30am (30 mins before my alarm), I jokingly thought to myself “Well…this is an act of God.” However, when I sat down with my Bible app for an extra half hour and “randomly” stumbled upon a verse that I’ve read a million times but suddenly jumped out at me with different implications that spoke directly to something that has been nagging in the back of my mind for a while now, that thought suddenly didn’t seem so much like a joke.

Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you your heart’s desires. Psalms 37:4 NLT

I had been wrestling a bit with this concept that God should be enough, that my joy and contentment should come from my relationship with Him, that if I never board another airplane or my body never cooperates again, I can be okay – even happy – in those circumstances. Except I wasn’t. I’m not.  I want lots of travel and supernatural healing, just to name a couple of things. And doesn’t the Bible say right there in Psalms that I can have what I want? I’m not sure how to “delight in the Lord”. Some days I “get it” better than others and it’s something I pray for daily but some days, delight is not the word I would use.

But I realized that morning that the verse isn’t saying I can get whatever I want. It’s saying if my focus is on my relationship with Jesus, He will give me the actual desires. Not what I think I want – He will actually give me the desires that line up with Him.

Now I’ve HEARD that general concept before. I’ve heard it preached from the stage and in various podcasts and in this devotion and that study and blah blah blah. But for some reason, it made sense this time. And there was a bit of a relief in realizing that it’s okay to “give up” a dream or desire. I don’t have to keep striving for something just because I “always have” or it’s “my thing”. God might, quite literally, be removing a dream or desire from my life and replacing it with something else. And that’s okay. It’s good.

That being said – I still wouldn’t mind a plane ticket and supernatural healing.

Let it Go! Let it Go!

Last year “on this day” (such a fun feature!) I posted on Facebook: NineTEEN days from now I’ll be on a plane to the Philippines! We’re in the teens people!

After that last trip, I finally admitted that my heart and passion is really with the people and ministries in Navotas. I still LOVE my sisters in the Wipe Every Tear safe houses and the ones that haven’t made that choice. My thoughts, feelings and opinion of the Wipe Every Tear organization has not changed. But I’ve always been drawn to hungry/homeless ministries. Drop that in the middle of Manila (figuratively speaking) and I’m smitten.

Tomorrow, at 5:00am, a team from World Family Missions start their first flight to Manila. The leader, a wonderful woman by the name of Sarah, mentioned the possibility of this trip to me back in March. And I was certain – CERTAIN – I would be on that plane. No doubt in my mind. I was SO sure of this that I basically informed my husband instead of asking his input and I didn’t even really pray about it…unless you count telling God all about my plans.

Obviously there was a different future in store for me and I will NOT be on that plane tomorrow. I’ve cried…buckets. I’ve been mad. But in the end, God always puts together the perfect team. As much as the “Mama Rhoni” side on me wanted to be on the plane to help a pregnant leader with her toddler, God had other people – the perfect people – in mind for support. As much as I wanted to snuggle a particular little girl and her sisters in Navotas, there are other people that God wants there. I will be praying for this group, but they are not “my” team. (But I’ll probably still cry when I see updates and pictures or even when I just think about them. So apologies to everyone who crosses my soggy path over the next week or so.)

I am reading a book by Shauna Niequist titled “Present over Perfect”. Early in the book it asked the question I’ve often seen in various forms- if you had a bottomless bank account and empty calendar, what would you do. The answer is supposed to highlight your passion. My answer rang through my mind almost before I finished reading the line. Travel. Duh. But a few pages later, she asks “What are you unwilling to let go of?” That answer rang clearly and just as immediately…Nothing! But as I tried to read on, my eyes kept drifting back to that question. It continued to nag at me until I stopped to mull over it for awhile. Quietly the real answer rose to the surface….travel. And my health.

I’m not sure if I can fully explain this recognition but I’ll try. I still cling with an iron grip to the idea of being my version of healthy. In the depths of my being, I have this notion that if I just check all the boxes and follow all the rules, I can control how my body will respond. That theory has been debunked more than once and yet, still I clutch that belief. Letting go does not equal a disregard for all healthy practices. It simply means doing what I’m supposed to do, what I can do without an expectation of results.

The travel piece is easier. As soon as I realized I really was NOT going to be able to go on this trip, I immediately started thinking about and saving for the NEXT possibility. I never asked God if that is an option. I just assumed I would return. I’ve always had the intense desire to travel. That’s been a part of me for as long as I can remember. But once upon a time, I was in a place where I balanced that desire with the desire to be obedient to where God called me. And as I told Sarah the other day “I think that the desire to go back <to the Philippines> is starting to supplant the desire to be obedient.” My first step was donating money I planned to save for my own trip. That’s not a humble brag on generosity. My heart was not fully happy with the decision and I most certainly did not feel generous. I needed a physical action to go along with the emotional response. I could not mentally “let go” without mirroring that physically.

This whole “letting go” thing is not a one and done act. I don’t know exactly what that process will look like but I have a sneaking suspicion it involves re-learning how to truly “be still”. That, however, is another post in itself. Because “still” is not the most accurate descriptor for me. And neither is laconic.

Thanksgiving?

I think I’ve mentioned this before but I live a charmed life. Seriously. But I don’t participate in “30 Days of Thanksgiving” or anything like that because history shows, if I commit to do something like that, I am less likely to do anything even slightly resembling my commitment. I will take pictures daily and be aware of beautiful, wonderful moments in my life…but the moment I sign up for “100 Happy Days” or whatever the flip it’s called…pft. Pictures? I have a camera?

I have been slowly becoming more aware of moments of thankfulness and more conscious of actually including God in those moments with quick prayer of thanks instead of fleeting thoughts of contentment. But recently I’ve found this dangerous irritating little voice whispering in the back of my head.

Me: “Gorgeous sunrise. Thank you for a beautiful start to this clear day. I love driving in clear weather.”

Dangerous whisper: “Yeah…but would you still have a thankful heart if there was a foot of snow on the ground and nothing but gray clouds overhead?”

Me: “I love my home so much. Thank you for providing this beautiful shelter and the opportunity to indulge in Thanksgiving cooking!”

Dangerous whisper: “What if you were spending Thanksgiving in a hospital? Or a homeless shelter? What would your attitude be like, your prayers sound like?”

This voice is dangerous because it’s prompting me to start adding a layer to my conversations with God. It’s causing me to start asking, not for more moments of contentment, but a heart and spirit that is prepared to be thankful and content in situations that aren’t beautiful, warm & cozy.

20151124_193906I am still incredibly grateful for the plethora of warm fuzzy moments that I’m experiencing. I mean seriously – this was my view while baking pies this week. A cat napping near a fireplace…it doesn’t get more warm & fuzzy than that. At the same time, I am aware that my comfort isn’t what is important…and it’s definitely not guaranteed. Would I still maintain a grateful heart and deep rooted joy even in the midst of hard times?

Getting to Know Wipe Every Tear a bit better

A friend texted me from Les Schwab yesterday. She found this article (link below) in a magazine called “Christian Living”…a magazine I didn’t even know existed. Anyway – I found it online (YAY Internet!) and shared it with Facebook yesterday. If you haven’t yet, please take a moment and read it for a better understanding of who I’m working with.

http://www.boisechristianliving.com/highlights/item/400-beautiful-feet.html

I don’t think I’ve ever really hidden my beliefs on here and obviously Kenny and D.A. don’t either (The same could be said for everyone on staff.) That being said – I also understand not everyone out there identifies the same. I, in no way, think that being a follower of Christ is a prerequisite to have a passion and heart for justice work, nor is it a prerequisite to DO justice work. One thing I really enjoy about working with Wipe Every Tear is the focus on caring for the girls, right here, right now, as they are. There is no pressure for them to “convert”. There are no stipulations. The focus is simply to provide and care for them, to show them respect and honor and love.
And yes, I am still in need of major funding. I’ll be sending out more details later on fun ways to get involved. But if you just have an urge to give right here and now, my PayPal address is rhoni.wilkins@gmail.com OR you can give at https://secure.paperlesstrans.com/WipeEveryTear(Choose general giving and put “Rhoni Wilkins Dec trip in the comments”)

Returning home

My husband has commented before that I live in two time zones. Half of my heart is here. The other half is in the Philippines. (If you have not read that story, you can start HERE.)

I have the opportunity to return at the end of this year with Wipe Every Tear & continue to assist with the work of providing freedom and hope to the precious girls trapped in slavery. It’s an amazing and overwhelming mission and it’s one that many people work tirelessly at both here and there. In fact, a miraculous movement has started. Teams have visited from the U.S. and encouraged girls to take a leap of faith and move into a safe house. And then those very same girls, the ones who just WEEKS and MONTHS before felt hopeless, those girls are returning to the sites of their enslavement to provide hope to friends still trapped.

I can’t speak for those that have gone before and since my initial trip. But I believe the difference for these girls is relationship. My team was able to spend time demonstrating love and friendship like some of these girls had never experienced before. We were able to show them what it looks like to be truly valued as a sister and friend, not as an object. We were able to guide them towards Jesus, simply by being with them. But even with the amazing technology we have today, long distance relationships are HARD. Facebook does not replace a real hug. Skype does not replace sitting shoulder to shoulder. And that’s why I’m going back. To hug my sisters. To encourage them. To look them in the eyes and say “Mahal kita” (I love you) and listen to them GIGGLE at my atrocious accent. I am going to strengthen those relationships so they can establish and strengthen relationships that will change more lives.  And here’s the really cool part. This mission doesn’t just change these girls’ lives. It changes the lives of an entire family line. We are affecting the course of history for generations to come.

This trip we’re going to focus on outreach in the slums*. The poorest of the poor are the ones at risk. So we will focus there for a couple of reasons. One – it will be an educational trip for the Americans who have not experienced that environment and show them where many of these girls often come from. (I got to have this experience last year and it was AMAZING.) Secondly (but most importantly) – our Filipino sisters will be leading these outreaches. These are their people. It is their society and country that is affected. They will be able to use their freedom and strength to start making changes at the earliest points in this horrible poverty cycle. They will get to practice leading by leading us. And when we come back here, they will still be there. Changing lives.

I am so excited for this trip and the impact I know God is going to make through it. But I do need your help:

Prayer. I don’t put this first because it’s expected or to soften the request for money (because that’s next). My last trip brought into sharp relief that without prayer, everything else we do is…flimsy. You pray and crazy miraculous things happen. I’ve seen it. So – if you would like to be on my prayer team to receive specific requests and praises, let me know. Either comment here, Facebook me or email me (rhoni.wilkins@gmail.com).

Money. I’m trying to raise $3,500 $3,300 for trip expenses and plane tickets. There are a few options for this.

  1. Donations (of course!) Any amount is appreciated and I know God will use your sacrifice far beyond what we can imagine. There are a few options for donating:
  • Paypal** – funds can be sent with my email address: rhoni.wilkins@gmail.com
  • You can donate directly at the Wipe Every Tear page. Choose “other” in the drop down menu and put “Rhoni Wilkins December trip”  in the comment section. This will be tax deductible for you. However, they will be charged a fee. (You can also mail a check made out to them with my name in the comment line.)
  • You can mail me a check directly (email me for my mailing address) or a check directly to Wipe Every Tear. If you mail a check directly to them, please put “Rhoni Wilkins December trip” in the notes line. This will also be tax deductible. (Though please keep in mind, I will need to purchase my plane ticket from my personal account so funds sent directly to Wipe Every Tear, while greatly appreciated, cannot be used towards that portion.)

2.  Hire me! Do you need pictures? A babysitter? Your lawn mowed? All money raised will go directly to fund this trip.

3. Tell your friends and family. Do you have a group that might be interested in hearing about my experience last year and plans for this year? Small group/Life group/Community group from church, dinner club, book club, Bunco group, beer drinking buddies…whatever…I would love to come talk to you. There are so many amazing stories to share that sometimes words on a screen cannot fully convey them.

Thank you for reading this far and for considering supporting this trip. I am happy to give you more details or answer questions either via email, comments or in person.

*I personally don’t like the word “slums”. There’s such a negative connotation for places where I have met the most remarkable people. However, Merriam-Webster website gives the definition of “an area of a city where poor people live and the buildings are in bad condition” or “a very untidy place”. The area(s) we will be visiting definitely fit the first definition. And they are very dirty and crowded and, well, untidy in general. But I have also seen some very tidy residences within those conditions.

**I’m not using GoFundMe or a similar site because of the fees involved. I know many people who have used them very effectively but I felt very strongly that it was not a responsible use of funds donated for this trip.

 

You should seriously consider this…

Remember how last year I went to the Philippines with Wipe Every Tear?

They’re taking another team back for the Second Annual Girls Getaway! There’s not much that motivates me to take the time to post in this space this semester…but this is worth the time to write. And read. And consider. Unless you’re male…this is a GIRLS getaway after all. Don’t get me wrong – men are definitely welcome on other trips. It’s amazing for them to demonstrate the love of Christ, to be the pure brothers and fathers that are needed. But for now, I’m talking to the women out there.

Last year, God put together an amazing team and then proceeded to blow our minds with what He was doing. We called ourselves “the Dream Team”. And we were. I love the women from my team and if one of them were to text and say “I need to talk to you but can only meet at 3am.”…guess where I’d be at 3am. We were exactly what was needed for that trip, for those girls. We originally prayed for 50 girls to go with us and I was SO VERY NERVOUS. I mean, what if no one showed up? What if only a handful came? We had been talking about how big our God is. How He could overcome and make this impossible idea possible. What if…He didn’t? And then I realized, He doesn’t need me to defend Him. If only one showed up for the trip, then one life was touched and it was a success. HE was in control. HE had a plan. Our plans didn’t matter, only our obedience.

God showed up and did amazing things. You can read all about it in my posts about the trip. But YOUR trip – the one you’re considering for this year – it will be nothing like ours. And it will be everything like ours. God will put together another Dream Team. It will be completely different than the group that went last year. But it will be a group of women carefully assembled specifically for what He wants to accomplish. When we left in 2014, there was one safe house of wonderful girls. Now there are three houses full of vibrant, diverse girls. You will have the opportunity to meet them – and girls not yet in the houses – and develop relationships that will look nothing like the relationships I have…and yet will be filled with just as much love. You will watch in amazement as God works miracles, miracles He has designed specifically for you & your team to experience. You will cry and wonder what the bleepity bleep you are doing halfway around the world in the infernal heat and humidity. You will stand in the quiet moment, awe struck. You will witness despair and pain…and hope and joy.

I don’t know the details. Only God does. But I can tell you with complete confidence that if you even have an inkling that you might want to go, you should absolutely pray about this. I made the decision not to go this year. It was not a decision made lightly and involved many tears. The trip coincides with my son’s high school graduation and family events. And my wonderful son encouraged me to go, stating that he would understand me missing his commencement. But no. We have fought for twelve years for that day. Blood, sweat and tears…and yet he was born into privilege. There has been very little doubt that he would finish school. He has the opportunity to do ANYTHING he wants. Many of the girls you will meet in the Philippines don’t know what that’s like. They can’t even comprehend it. You will have the opportunity to give them that hope, to change not only their lives but entire generations…an entire family line. Think about that for a moment. By touching one life, you can be the instrument God uses to revolutionize generations to come.

Consider this. Call me, text me, email me, chat me, comment here. Let’s get together. Ask your questions. Listen to my stories if you want (how long do you have….?) Let me pray for you to have clarity if this is the right decision. But don’t, do NOT shrug it off.

Philippine Trip – May 29

(Previous posts are here here here and here)

It’s interesting trying to reconstruct the trip. I vividly remember events but can’t always recall immediately what day it happened. I did not journal as regularly or in as much detail as I should have. While there, I couldn’t imagine that any of it would fade, would feel any less vivid. But it does. Thankfully I posted pretty regularly to a private Facebook group. Between that and my journal, it’s all starting to come back to me.

After the amazing first night, it was easy to bounce out of bed with the super early rising sun. I was eager to see team members from other groups and hear their stories. After breakfast and debriefing, an unscheduled day loomed, open for us to process our first night and recover. I wandered for awhile, bouncing from one already well formed group to another. As the high from the night before ebbed away, I began to doubt my place on the team. I wondered if I had made a mistake in signing up, if I was just dead weight. I could clearly see the gifts shining from my team members and the connections they were forming with each other and I felt increasingly lonely, isolated and useless. I wanted to go home so I messaged a good friend in Boise even though I knew she was  asleep then went back to my room to listen to worship music & try to journal. (“Dear God – I don’t want to do this anymore. This hurts. I’m uncomfortable. For all the amazing stories last night & the obvious cover you had over us, I still feel lost & discouraged and well, yeah. Lost. I am surrounded by these amazing women with amazing gifts and I…I’m just…me. With nothing to offer.”) It didn’t help much at all. One of our worship leaders was holding a worship/prayer session in her room before dinner so I found a spot to sit on one of the beds for the last half hour and at least felt like I could go to dinner without sucking the life out of everyone around me. I put on my happy, team player face and joined everyone to celebrate a birthday

When we finally finished dinner, we formed small groups to visit the bars. We did not necessarily end up the same as the previous night but I had Melissa as a leader and Kaylee was with us again. We added two other girls and started walking towards the main strip with another group. As we navigated the dark, trash filled sidewalks, I found myself walking alone and becoming swamped with negativity & doubt. Suddenly a woman from the other group, Anjel, appeared beside me. I absolutely adored her (still do) but we had not spent much time together on the trip. She was part of the small group that left ahead of us and they were pretty tightly bonded. Regardless, she showed up at my side and said “God put you on my heart during worship. He said to tell you that you are unstoppable. You are a vital part of this team. We need Mama Rhoni & so do the girls. You’re here for a reason.” I had told no one on that side of the globe the thoughts & feelings I was battling. And yet God used her to speak EXACTLY what I needed to hear, at exactly the right moment. We walked a little further together, me sobbing-ly telling her what I had dealt with all day* until her group leader stopped at this little hole in the wall bar, several blocks off the main strip and announced she felt like we needed to go in. All 8 (10?) of us piled in. I think there were more of us than girls working. There were definitely more of us than customers and we crowded the place. But lo and behold, on stage stood one of the girls the long term missionaries had met and had been trying to find since. They reconnected while the rest of us drank mango juice and learned how to request the check Filipino style.

Our groups went our separate ways after that. We went to a night club and danced with some girls before going to the second largest club on the strip. Somehow we ended up with 5-7 girls clustered around us, talking and laughing. There were some heartbreaking moments of conversation (“What do you do for fun?” Girl – “Well. Sometimes work is fun. My friends are here. But mostly I don’t like it. Some other bars are boring though.”) (After talking about Wipe Every Tear and the opportunity to go to school, the question “What would you like to study?” was met with a blank look and shrugs…they had never even considered it. Why bother?) Somehow we all ended up hand in hand with a girl, being pulled downstairs…and then up on stage, center of the bar, to dance with them. It happened so quickly but as my new friend tugged me up the stage stairs, grinning with a honestly joyful smile, I felt a moment of trepidation. Surely the manger and/or owner wouldn’t allow this? We were about to be kicked out and the girls punished. Would there be consequences for us? But we danced. And we slipped invitation cards to other girls. And we whispered hope and options to them as we clumsily moved about the stage, giving them the chance to dance – not for the pleasure of someone else – but for pure fun.

Nothing happened.  We did not gyrate. We did not dance in any way that could be considered suggestive. We were all hyper aware of that. But the customers either ignored us…or cheered. The manager watched us but did not intervene. The waitresses actually lit up and laughed. We only stayed onstage that one song and left the bar soon after, a trail of invitations to the Getaway in our wake. We stood outside for a moment, soaking in what had just happened. Melissa summed it up with a stunned “Well. That was a first.”

I honestly can’t remember if we went elsewhere after that. I messaged my husband when we got back “Home from the bars. Danced on stage.” and found it incredibly humorous. And then I slept, hard, until the sun rose again, incredibly early.

*We quickly learned if one of us was struggling, someone else in the group was having the exact same doubts, fears and negativity. We learned we suffered most when we started comparing our gifts and purposes with those who seemed…MORE (usually EVERYONE ELSE ON THE TEAM) and when we compared our experiences with those of others (“She had more of an impact/touched more hearts/etc etc…) The lies were insidious and I am thankful for a team that was willing to be open and vulnerable to combat them. Twenty plus girls worked together for two weeks and there was absolutely zero interpersonal drama that I know of.