Love and Valentine’s Day

I used to hate Valentine’s Day.

I have the Timehop app on my phone that shows me what I posted years ago to the day and lately, past-Tat has been posting a lot of Valentine’s Day hate.

I think that maybe I hated it because I was single and alone and in today’s society, being alone and single on Valentine’s Day is detrimental.

I also don’t think I really understood Valentine’s Day. Not that my interpretation of it today is the real reason for it, it’s just what I’m choosing to believe.

I think we can blow Valentine’s Day out of proportion. Sure it’s nice to receive love but I want to be in a relationship where I receive love every day, not just on one special holiday.

While I do think Valentine’s Day can get a little crazy, I also think it can serve as a great reminder of love and who loves us. I’ve been thinking a lot about love lately and what it means to fiercely love others unconditionally.

So here’s my Valentine’s Day reminder to you;

Dear friend,

You are so loved.

By your family, your friends, me and the most important man to ever walk the earth.

Jesus loves you deeper and wider than any human ever could and I hope that you know that today.

I hope you know that He loves you intimately and fully. He knows you deeply, He knows things that you might not even know yourself and to know someone like that is to experience a whole different level of being deeply, intimately and passionately in love.

He loves you.

His love is never going to stop, it’s never going to give up, it’s never going to run out or dry up or get old. It is a constant and it will always be there, that you can count on.

When it feels like you’re all alone, or when you feel like hope has run out, He is there and He loves you.

I hope you know that this Valentine’s Day.

To My Sister

Growing up I had two little brothers. Those brothers still exist today, one is 14 and sassy and becoming a man and the other is 8 and crazy and loud.

They’ve been around for my whole life but when I was in my 17th year of life, I started to accumulate more and more brothers and sisters.

These kids were the kids we welcomed into our orphanage. There have been 17 new brothers and sisters in my life in the past two years. Some of them I have known extremely well, some of them are a bit distant from me because I live so far away and I love them all with the same wild and fierce love that I love my biological brothers with.

I feel so lucky to have so many people to love. I feel lucky to have such a big family and blessed that I get to be apart of everyone of their lives.

But today doesn’t feel like a lucky day.

Today, I am sad and I’m learning that it’s okay to be sad in public sometimes and today is one of those days.

Today, my one-year-old little sister got taken away and my heart is broken. There’s a whole back story into why she was taken away from us but I don’t want to get into that, I just want to write about my sister.

Dear Yuri,

I only really got to know your for two weeks, that isn’t a long time. And yes, maybe you weren’t the biggest fan of me and that’s fair, you had no idea who I was.

I had fun with you, Yuri. You are such a sweet girl. Full of smiles and that cute little chuckle.

You know eight words and they melt my heart every time you say them.

Mama

Dada

Chickens

Eggs

Hola

Ciao

Night night

Bubba

You sleep with your eyes open, you love riding around in your big stroller and pushing other people in your little one. You love the cats and try to hold them despite their desperate protests. You love cuddling and just being near people.

For a one-year-old, you’re so good at loving people.

You help calm people down if they’re crying and give them kisses if they’re hurt. You give hugs and smiles that could heal any wound.

Yes sometimes you can be gross, like the time you peed while walking down the hallway naked or them time you stuck your hand in your diaper to reveal that you had pooped.

We thought we’d have you forever, Yuri. But sometimes things change unfortunately so in that case, here are some things I want you to grow up knowing.

You are loved widely and oh, so deeply. You have people all throughout Peru, Canada and the US that love you and want you to succeed. You are loved by our little family more than you could ever imagine and most of all you are loved and known by the maker of your heart. He loves you and knows you deeper than any human could and I pray that you grow up knowing that.

I hope you hear the words, “I love you” every day.

I hope someone reminds you that you’re so, so beautiful.

I hope someone encourages you and reminds you that you are capable of anything.

I hope you know Jesus intimately and fully.

I hope you have a relationship with Him and that you walk with Him daily.

We miss you, Yuri, and because of that, my greatest hope is that we meet again some day.

All of our love forever,

The Blackburns

 

The Worst Form of Torture

I said good-bye to my family today.

Sometimes being a missionary or being connected to people who are missionaries sucks.

Being involved in any type of missions work requires a constant string of awful, heart-wrenching goodbyes.

I’ve decided that saying good-bye is a form of torture.

I’ve been involved in missions for nine years now, I’ve said hello and goodbye to hundreds of people who all have a piece of my heart.

I used to think that leaving and saying the lethal word, “goodbye” would be easier by now but I’m realizing that it always sucks.

Leaving the people you love always hurts you deep. It pierces your heart and makes you feel like the only way to express how you feel is to cry. But you don’t want to cry. You want to be strong for the people you love and let them know that you’re okay.

When I left Cuba for the first time, I sat on my bed and cried for a long time.

When I left Haiti, I cried for a week straight every night.

When I hugged my best friends and left for Peru, I cried as I walked away, forcing myself to not look back cause I knew how badly it would hurt.

When I left my family in May last year, I cried on the plane as I read the letters they had written to me.

When I left Canada two weeks ago, I cried as I walked away from my boyfriend.

Today I cried as my family hugged me goodbye.

Goodbyes never get any easier. We can trick ourselves into saying the cheesy line; “well it’s just a ‘see you later!’” But that doesn’t actually make anything better, it doesn’t take away the pain and the sadness of not being able to see the people you love, to hug them and hear their voice.

For missionaries or for people who have family and friends as missionaries, it’s just as hard to leave and say goodbye on the hundredth time as it was on the first time.

This is my goodbye to you this time Puerto Maldonado, Peru. I love you and I love that you hold my big, wild, crazy family. Until next time.

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Family
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Mom and Dad
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Dad
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Mom
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Little Brothers
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Caleb
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Jaxon
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The Littles: Maricielo, Ruth-Dany & Arnol
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The Big Girls: Cinthya, Aymee & Naisha
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The Babies: Yuri & Stephanie

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Generosity and Christmastime

I’ve always thought that I’m a generous person.

I believed that I could freely give up my time and money without any complaint or struggle and for the most part that’s true.

It wasn’t until earlier today when I realized that sometimes I lie to myself.

I think we all like to make ourselves out as a good person. We never want to see the evil in ourselves because we want to feel good and that would make us feel awful.

Recognizing the bad parts of ourselves makes us feel uncomfortable and inadequate and sad. Unfortunately, as I realized today, this is something we must do in order to love others well.

I’ve been tight on money this year. The reason for this probably being because I’m a college student with no job. I’ve watched the money in my bank account slowly deplete over the past four months.

I’m going back to Peru tomorrow to visit my family for two weeks so this morning I was out buying last minute things that I needed to pack.

I pulled in the Walmart parking lot and was going through my mental list of everything that I needed to buy while in the store when I realized that while I had bought things for my immediate family, I hadn’t bought anything for the kids and other people who are living with us.

I got this sick feeling of guilt in my stomach.

I think giving people gifts is a really good way to show them that you love them. It shows them that you’re thinking about them and that you care enough to go out and buy them something.

I want to show the kids that live in our home that they are deeply and fully loved. I want them to know that there are so many people who love them and that even though they may feel abandoned or wronged or unwanted that there are people who will never leave them and that there are people who desperately want them.

So through that sick feeling of guilt, I decided I would get them all something for Christmas but immediately after, the evil part of me kicked in.

It’s so awful to admit but as soon as I decided I was going to buy them something, I started thinking about how I don’t have a lot of money and how I didn’t want to spend my money on that. I became selfish and thought maybe I could get away without getting them something.

Whenever the evil parts of me threaten to take over, it’s so easy to want to give into them, it’s much easier to just give in than use my limited strength to push through those evil thoughts.

But I didn’t want to give in today.

Be generous, I said quietly in my head.

Be generous, I whispered to myself.

Be generous, I said firmly and aloud.

I kept repeating it over and over again until I won and I walked into the store and went Christmas shopping.

I’m learning that it’s not easy to love others. It takes effort and humility and strength that I don’t have.

It takes the supernatural strength of a divine begin who is better than I could ever be. And that’s why I’m so thankful that Jesus has my heart and that it’s not me who directs my paths and decisions but that it’s Him.

Keep teaching me, Jesus, keep teaching me.

Struggling

I should be studying right now, I should be reading the countless pages of textbooks that are due in a matter of days but instead I’m struggling with the idea of love.

It seems that this is something I always struggle with. Maybe it’s because my goal in life is to love people, maybe it’s because so often I fail at that goal, maybe it’s because I’m still learning how to love people and maybe it’s a mix of all three.

I started at Bible College in September. I’m studying theology and missions and while my brain is continuously filling with new knowledge and facts, the greatest thing I’ve learned about missions is that we need to love people.

I’ve learnt that lesson time and time again and not only in class. I learn it in living in community, in living far away from friends and family and having to make an effort and I learn it in the relationships in my life that are constantly growing and developing.

I know I need to love people, I just don’t know how to and I know I don’t do it properly most of the time.

I think love and selflessness are the same thing. I think love demands selflessness. I think of my parents, giving up their time, sleep and money just so they could raise me. That’s selflessness, that’s love.

Being selfless is the hard part of loving people. I think we are so naturally inclined to think of ourselves first that we have to force ourselves to be selfless. It’s on the days when I’m sick or tired or angry that this is hardest but it’s also on the good days where I’m really happy, I don’t want to give that up to show someone love.

But then I think of my Jesus. The perfect, spotless, righteous King. He gave up His throne in the heavenly realms to come a seek me out. That’s love.

He endured the worst death so that I would never die. That’s love.

He gave up everything just to show me He loves me, so why shouldn’t I do the same for the people He loves?

We love because he first loved us.

“If a person owns the kinds of things we need to make it in the world but refuses to share with those in need, is it even possible that God’s love lives in him? My little children, don’t just talk about love as an idea or a theory. Make it your true way of life and live in the pattern of gracious love.” ~ 1 John 3:17-18

When You’ve Been Home for Three Months

I’ve been “home” for three months. That’s such a hard thing to believe, it feels like a million years have passed since I left Peru but at the same time it feels like the past three months have completely flown by.

Being back in the place you used to call home is a whirlwind of emotions.

On one hand you’re so happy to be back, you love the little things that you never appreciated before like hearing English all the time and drinking tap water and going to Walmart and having hot showers. You love seeing your friends and the family that you missed. You love being at the place you are, at camp and at college, and meeting the people there and just having that whole experience. You love the relationships you’ve built and deepened. You love being “home”.

But you’re also sad. You long for that familiarity of your house and your family. You realize that your passport country isn’t really home anymore, everything and everyone has grown up and is so different from when you left it. So you feel homesick and while you really do want to be right where you are, you also yearn for the comfort of home which you come to realize is the place you left three months ago.

You feel torn.

You feel like your heart is in one million places all at once.

Sometimes it’s exhausting and overwhelming and hard to deal with, and it’s hard to imagine a time where living in Canada felt completely normal.

But even through these feelings you know you’re right where you’re supposed to be. It’s hard to explain but that’s what the peace of God is, unexplainable.

You feel like you’ve been given that peace and even though you feel overwhelmed sometimes you know it’s okay and that God’s got this, and that’s enough.

He is always enough.

When You Get to Worship Again

It’s not that you haven’t worshipped for the past nine months, you have, it’s just been different. Something was missing.

And then it starts and you realizing what you’ve been missing.

Your knees go weak and you try not to cry cause if you start, people will ask why and you want to keep this moment between you and Jesus.

You realize it’s not that you weren’t worshipping, but that it is a lot harder to worship in a language that you’re not fluent it.

You see, when you worship in a different language, it doesn’t come as natural because not only are you trying to pronounce the words properly, you’re also silently trying to figure out what the song is saying and sometimes you just don’t know. So you still sing, but not whole heartedly because how can you when you don’t know what you’re singing?

And so you’re in this moment, you can’t really believe it’s happening, you fully understand every word and you are so filled with joy you could start dancing around the whole room.

You sing with a huge smile on your face, as loud as you can, finally getting to worship your first love in your first language and you don’t think it could get any better.

And then they play your favorite song.

And you exclaim (accidentally) out loud that this is your favorite song.

And the words float through the air,

“You’re the Lion of Judah, the Lamb who was slain…” 

And you stand, but you really want to drop to your knees because the sheer weight of God’s goodness is just too much.

And you think to yourself that you always want to feel like this, so filled with joy and humbleness and awe for this man who loves you unconditionally and without limits and who blesses you in the most unexpected ways.

When You’ve Lost Your Identity

Going back is weird. I don’t really think we were ever meant to go backward which is why going back to the place you once called home feels so overwhelming and strange.

Before I came back to Canada, I didn’t think about how I’d feel when I couldn’t say, “I live in Peru” or when I couldn’t speak Spanish to people or take pictures with my monkey; all things that made me special and different in the eyes of my friends and people from North America. I didn’t think about how that would affect or bother me. But now that I’m home, I’m realizing how much hope I put in those things.

I put so much hope in being “different” that now, being normal makes me sad. This may be conceited but not having those things that make me different is hard to get used to and I’m slowly realizing how unhealthy it was for me to put so much hope and importance onto those things.

My identity should be found in Jesus, I know that in my head and in my heart but time and time again, I find myself putting my identity into other things, things that go away, things that don’t last.

I’m constantly learning that I can’t earn my worth, there’s nothing I could do to make my worth more or less, ever.

The only thing that gives me my worth is Jesus and his unchanging, unconditional, perfect love for me. That is the only thing.

It’s not the wealth I could acquire.

It’s not the things I have.

It’s not the moments I experience.

It’s not even the people I meet.

Because all those things will eventually disappear.

The only thing that will last is Jesus, only Jesus and that’s what I’m holding onto.

So This Is Love

Love.

Love used to be a hard thing for me to understand.

I thought I knew love when I fell head over heels for a boy when I was 12. I thought it was love because I liked the way he looked and because I wanted to hang out with him all the time, but that’s not love.

I thought it was love when I got new clothes or gadgets because I wanted to take care of it and use it all the time, but that wasn’t love either.

I thought it was love when I saw a commercial of a poverty-stricken place and my heart broke, but that wasn’t love because after the commercial ended or the picture passed, I’d go right back to my normal life.

This year, for me, is about grace but I’m learning that love and grace go hand in hand. You can’t have love without grace and you can’t have grace without love, it’s just not possible.

As of Monday, we have 6 kids in our home,

G, an 11-year-old girl,

L a 15-year-old girl,

R, a 9-year-old girl,

A, a 3-year-old boy,

K, a 17-year-old girl

And S, a 2-week-old baby.

We’ve been open since April 5th when G arrived and in this short month, I have learned so much about love and grace.

When I was young, I only knew how to show selfish love, or in other words, show love when you can get something out of it and I think it’s apart of our sinful nature to think this way.

When I met Jesus, I learned about selfless love, love that gives everything up just to make sure others are all right. Since then, I’ve been trying to learn it and practice it.

I’ve seen it in my parents who work tirelessly for my well-being.

In my brothers who defend me and protect me.

In my friends who stay up late just listening to me vent or cry when I’ve had a rough day.

In my Jesus who gave his very own life just to save mine.

But this past month has been wild and it’s shown me, more than ever, what selfless love really looks like in myself and in others.

Selfless love is treating lice and spending hours upon hours picking it out. (Not just once either, over and over and over again.)

Selfless love is washing the sore, covered feet of a child.

Selfless love is waking up in the middle of the night because the kids still aren’t sleeping.

Selfless love is waiting until they fall asleep because the jungle is a scary place if you’re not used to the noises.

Selfless love is still choosing to love even when they do wrong and hurt you.

That’s what love is, it isn’t an emotion like my naïve, young self thought. Love is a verb. It demands action be taken. It requires that something be done or said or practiced. Love is choosing to love every single day, even if you don’t feel like it, if you’re tired or if you just plain angry. True love is fierce and wild and has no restrictions or limits, it just keeps going.

This kind of love is so amazing to me because it doesn’t mean that your life will be sunshine and rainbows, it means quite the opposite really. This kind of love means risking your health, safety, even life but still doing it anyway just because you so desperately want that person to know that they are loved and valued beyond belief.

Selfless love.

I’m still selfish, I’m still failing but I’m also still learning. It may take me my whole life, but for right now I want these kids to know that with every little nit I pull out of their hair, with every foot I wash, with every ridiculous story I listen to that I am doing it because I desperately love them and because I want to show them that Jesus loves them even better than I ever could.

 

 

When “What If” Threatens To Take Over

I live my life in fear of “what-ifs”. I’m sure this isn’t new to anyone, we all wonder about the “ifs” in our lives, and we are in constant fear of them too.

What if I get sick?

What if I get rejected?

What if I get hurt?

What if, what if, what if.

I’m realizing that continually worrying about these situations doesn’t make our lives any better. Worrying about “what ifs” doesn’t protect us from those scenarios, it just makes us more scared. Worrying about the next danger lurking in the shadows makes our lives harder, not easier. It makes it harder to live a full and abundant life and it makes it harder to serve Jesus whole-heartedly.

A majority of the time, I worry about getting some weird illness and sometimes that stops me from loving like I should. But I’m learning that it’s silly to worry because I’ve already been saved. Jesus saved me by His grace when he died on the cross and that isn’t just a one-time thing. He knows about those dangers I can so easily preoccupy myself with and he is going to keep saving me from them through his grace.

Its’ through his grace that I’ve never contracted a parasite when I’ve gone to a foreign country.

It’s through his grace that I’ve never gotten lice while being in such close contact with children who could have it.

It’s through his grace I got accepted into college.

It’s through his grace that I wake up every morning alive and healthy.

His grace isn’t just in the good things either, it’s in the bad just as much as the good. Without him saving me from things I perceived as “good,” I would be in some big trouble right now.

He loves us and he knows us and he’s going to keep saving us.

In light of all this, I’m gonna stop worrying about the “what if’s.”

There’s this quote from my favourite book that I love, it says, “He didn’t love people the way that Hallmarks says to love people, he loved them linebacker style, in a full contact way.”

That’s how I want to love and help people. Full on, without fear of anything that may happen to me because the truth is, when we can fully forget ourselves and our worries and love others first thinking about their needs above our own, beautiful, significant, life-changing things happen and that’s better than any “safe” life I could ever imagine for myself.

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