I've often heard that the English language falls particularly short to adequately describe many human experiences. I have tried to sit down at my computer countless times and begin the process of shoveling deep into my heart and soul to get the words out . . . only to sit there staring at a white screen. What could possibly explain the magnitude of this trip for Ryan and myself? Ten years of prayer, yielding to the difficult and wonderful classroom of our lives, watching God reveal this vision for ministry for our marriage, and then actually doing it . . .together! Words are failing.Stinking English language.
So here we are. Four weeks since Slovenia and I am finally able to quasi-collect my thoughts well enough to share the lavish and personal ways that the Lord revealed Himself to us. Am I exaggerating about the "lavish" part? Not even remotely.
A former pastor of ours once said, "Every human being has three basic desires that drive them: to believe, to belong, and to become in this lifetime" It's why we pour our hearts out for a cause, choose the friend group or spouse we do, or dedicate our life to a particular vocation.
But I want to add another basic human desire that I think could trump them all: to be considered. (syn: thought of, regarded.) Think about it for a moment.
If we could unpack the greatest wounds of our lives, the moments of extreme loneliness, the times we have felt misunderstood or passed over . . .We—the eternal "we"—might be able to see that at the heart of these wounds is the reality that we didn't feel considered, thought of, or regarded in any way. We instead felt abused, forgotten, mistreated, run over, dismissed, and alone. If only someone, anyone had considered us. There is a sad epidemic at play—we are "consideration" blind. We have long, LONG lists of our wounds, people or situations where we were shown or perceived no regard, and we hold on to them, stroke them in our self pity, and we allow them to become the lens through which we view God, life, others . . . and even ourselves.
Original lie anyone? "God's holding out on you, God is not good, He doesn't care", whispers the evil one.
It's actually a beautiful word to do a Bible search on "consider", "considered." (Double dog dare you to do it!)
Oh how the Lord has considered us, ALL of us, His precious children, with grand regard and lavish love. How do we smash the false lens we filter life through?
Now you may be thinking, geez Kelly, little heavy handed here . . . I thought we were going to see pictures and hear fun stories about Slovenia, and now I'm wondering why I clicked over here.
Hang on dear reader. I would be doing you a disservice if I did not introduce this post in this manner.
Ryan and I have gone through an incredibly difficult year. Particularly myself. We have faced and are still facing one of the greatest financial trials of our life. I have had numerous health issues on top of old health issues, we have had a huge relational loss of two of our closest families in our lives when they moved to the middle east to serve with ReachGlobal.
LORD . . . have you considered that maybe I don't want to be sick, lonely, sad, financially burdened, and feeling like we are running on a treadmill in the fog all the time? (lots of effort, seemingly going no where.)
There has been much sorrow that I've had to grapple with and push through to get my theological head screwed on straight about God’s unchanging character, it's often felt like a full time job.
But joy comes in the morning . . .
I can't bring myself to just bullet point what we did in Slovenia and leave it at that. I just can't guys. (Although some of you are thinking you are quite satisfied with bullet points, in which case read the next paragraph and have a wonderful day!)
This trip was way more than Ryan and I traveling to a missions conference, taking 45 portrait sessions, teaching two 90 minute classes on communication strategies, networking, meeting with some of the directors for ReachGlobal to discuss a possible partnership, and coming home to work with some of our Ambassadors on 30 prayer cards. It's true, we "did" all those things and they were incredibly rewarding, INCREDIBLY! You will see snapshots of this wonderful service project throughout this post.
A sampling of some of the tremendous individuals, couples and families we were able to photograph.
It's always good to have parental back up!
This was a vision trip for what it could look like to take our budding ministry and partner it with an established missions agency. The hidden surprise—like a toy in a Cracker Jack box—was how the Lord would also give us a deep, personal vision for how intensely we are loved by Him.
When asked how Slovenia was, I find myself using the same analogy over and over. I feel like the Lord threw the best Kelly Portnoy party of my entire life. Everything, I mean everything, without exception, that speaks love to my soul was given to me.
I was handed a delicious sundae and God plopped cherry, after cherry, after cherry on top until I literally thought my soul would explode from joy. These words do not come out of exaggeration or for effect. The Father is always good but there are times He ushers us into a special inner chamber, the "thin places" where heaven and earth collide and our soul is filled in an almost supernatural sense.
I am weeping just writing this again. I can't get through this story without hot and heavy tears coming. I am so grateful that He chose to consider me: a weary, often complaining about my circumstances, overwhelmed, sinful, woman. He regarded me as his most prized Daughter. He does this EACH AND EVERY DAY, mind you. However, for this trip, He made it so obvious that He is madly, completely and forever in love with me that for eleven whole days it was without ceasing. Can you even imagine?
What my eyes beheld was sheer, awe-inspiring creation. God is such a show-off and I love him for it! I was left speechless and crying on more than one occasion staring at the sea, walking in the quaint cities surrounding the hotel after a long day, thanking the Lord that He made all of this to show us His magnificence. I was reminded at church recently that this is a cursed world we are living in and it is this breathtaking! CAN YOU EVEN IMAGINE HEAVEN? I PRAISE the Lord that these weary missionaries could come to such a beautiful place with their kindreds, that serve in the same spiritually dead and cold trenches of Europe with them, and enjoy the majesty of Portoroz, Slovenia (a hidden gem of a country!). I LOVE that ReachGlobal so thoughtfully and tenderly prepares this week every two years to refresh their missionaries. Cherry, cherry, cherry, cherry....
What my mouth enjoyed from amazing food (Thank you Europe for my three favorite P's: Pizza, Pasta, and Pastries) to the soul renewing conversations and prayer times. We handed out 75 prayer cards for TGS while we were there. That wasn't shoving a card in someone’s hand; it was 75 conversations about this little ministry the Lord is growing. That was 75 conversations about what ministry they were doing for the Lord. You can't talk to that many people and hear their story and share yours without your heart being changed. We have conversed, eaten with, prayed with, worshipped with, and laughed with Saints in the kingdom. Regular, sinful people that live missionally, right where they are in the world. How do you eat dinner with a couple that have been married for 53 years and on the mission field for 50 years and not walk away wanting more of Jesus? The husband actually told me through tears "You guys are special and God is going to do something great through you". I can not digest that compliment. Where do you tuck those generous words spoken over you? They are a deep buried treasure in my heart. We love them, we love all of them. Cherry, cherry, cherry, cherry....
What my ears listened to in song and story and prayer. Not only did we have the great privilege to be invited to Slovenia, but our worship team was also invited. My church of 20 years! The soundtrack of my adult spiritual walk was belted out twice a day. This music and our worship team means so much to us. There were 22 of us from our home church in Slovenia together!
The president of the Evangelical Free Church, Kevin Kompelien, was there leading our large group teaching time. He was excellent. Testimony after testimony was shared about how God IS bringing His kingdom back into hearts of stone throughout Europe. We were prayed over and had hands laid on us in one of the most extraordinary times of intercession I've ever experienced. God speaks through His people then and NOW! Cherry, cherry, cherry, cherry....
What my arms held. Gosh, here come the tears. My best friend and her family were there. I haven't seen her in 16 months, along with one of our other dearest friends and their children. People who are "home" to us. The history is so long established you don't remember life without them. To be in their presence again, to tell stories and laugh and pray together and to worship shoulder to shoulder to shoulder. We were blubbering messes during worship times. We all sat together in the front row at our home church for years! You can't imagine how difficult it was to when they first moved to stand in that front row without them. Took months not to cry. We reunited the front row again with the music of our souls. It was too much. It was too good. Cherry, cherry, cherry, cherry....
I could literally hear the Father say:
I have considered everything that makes you, you, Kelly. The Shepherd knows his sheep. I know the marrow of your soul and what speaks unconditional love and regard for you. I know this because I designed you this way. Enjoy everything at my table during this trip. I have withheld nothing from you so that you would know how personally I love YOU.
Do you see why I can't give you my top three favorite moments, or my high/lows? I can't answer the question, "Was it everything you expected it to be?" I have been guilty of asking these innocent questions to people who have gone on trips too. The answer is NO. It was everything and nothing I expected, because my vision for my life is too narrow and God's is all knowing. He goes beyond my expectations.
Of course we would love to share specific stories from our time there, please ask us more! Let's build upon this foundation. If you prayed for us at any point for this trip, if you gave even a dollar to our travels . . . I hope with my whole heart that you feel a part of this story . . . this lavish love story of eternal consideration and regard.
We have been set ablaze to continue on with this ministry as long as the Lord asks us to. It was overwhelmingly validated by each and every missionary. Not only are these services imperative, but training must be developed. We need MORE LABORERS (Ambassadors) who are willing to take their creative and technology proficiency and donate their services and time to support missionaries pre-field and on the field. It is our only purpose on this earth to make Jesus famous, to love Him with an undivided heart and love others more. We won't rest until we have created a movement amongst creatives in the kingdom to see this VITAL gap filled.
We are just nine weeks away from going back to Europe where we will serve two ReachGlobal city teams in Toulouse, France and Budapest, Hungary from October 27- November 3, 2015. Please join our newsletter team or check out our 2015 Trip page for more details on how you can follow along or support us.
Let's start a movement . . .