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.

When Bible College Wasn’t What You Were Expecting

I haven’t really written much of anything in a long time.

I never write during the summer because days at camp are just too long and too busy to sit and get anything down on paper.

I promised myself I would start writing once a week when September came around but that didn’t really happen either.

At first, it was cause I was just a whirlwind of emotions and thoughts and business. My job was ending, I was moving into college, my mom was back visiting, I was going on my first date ever and starting my first relationship ever. They’re all amazing things but it just kept me busy.

And then college started and holy, I didn’t understanding the meaning of the words homework or busy until the beginning of September. The readings and the assignments and the essays that are required is enough to make your head spin. Then add on all the social events then you’re expected to go to and sometimes it’s more than I can handle.

(Don’t get me wrong, I love college now but honestly, it’s been a struggle to get to this point.)

I got so sad and frustrated around October. I was in the midst of Bible college but my spiritual life was lacking more than ever.

I found it hard to read my Bible for my personal life because even though my professors had warned me, it was becoming my textbook.

I found it hard to actually retain anything and instead of learning I felt like I was just studying to pass the exam.

I found it hard to make friends and balance my social life with my school life.

I thought coming to Bible college would put me on a spiritual high that was better than any I have ever experienced when in fact, I have just been struggling in my personal relationship with God.

I felt stuck, like I was at the bottom of a deep hole with no way to get out and back to reality.

And then, one night after crying to my boyfriend and him affirming me that everything was gonna be alright, I went to small group.

One of the other girls raised her hand timidly and said, “Does anybody else feel like you’re in Bible college but your spiritual life is declining?”

My soul screamed, “YES.” I wasn’t alone, I wasn’t the only one struggling. In fact, most of the other girls voiced the same opinion.

We talked about why this was happening and how we could change it and we realized that sometimes we have to be so, so intentional and creative with our relationship with God.

I have to carve out that time just reading my Bible with Him or I’ll just be drained.

I have to carve out time where I write about what He’s teaching me or I won’t remember.

I have to be creative and find other ways to be with Him and worship Him and go deeper with Him.

I have to be intentional with my relationships with my boyfriend and my friends. I have to make time to hang out and know them or else those relationships will fizzle out.

Yes studying is important, but it can’t take precedent over these other important things or we’ll just be drained and lonely.

So, I finished most of my studying today in between my two classes today.

And now I’m sitting here writing at exactly 9:30pm, just like I planned.

My Spotify playlist of Jesus music is playing in the background which is also what I use to worship Jesus on the drives to Hamilton or Brantford to be with friends.

I’m still learning and most days aren’t as organized as this one was but that’s the beauty of grace. I’m allowed to constantly be learning, I’m allowed to mess up. Jesus still welcomes me back, broken pieces and all.

 

 

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’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.

 

 

Why I’ve Become To Hate Three Little Words

I’ve become to hate the words, “it’s not fair.” Before I became a missionary, I probably said them a lot – more times than I’d be able to count. But now that I see what’s really unjust, I realize that I never had any right to say those three words because I had it good.

(Some serious honesty is coming up so if you’re offended, I apologize in advance…)

In North America, we can be so dissatisfied with our lives. We think we deserve every single good thing, and when we don’t get it, it’s automatically unfair. Who’s to say we deserved those things in the first place?

But now as my sweet new friend is sitting beside me sobbing, as I drive by houses made out of tarps, and as I see kids starving, I’m realizing what is really unfair.

Not being wanted by your family is not fair.

Not having enough money to put lunch on the table is not fair.

Not having proper healthcare is not fair.

Not having clean drinking water is not fair.

These are just some of the things that are realities for many people in developing countries and while we’re in North America, sitting in our Lazy boys, complaining that we can’t reach the TV remote, these people are experiencing real unjust because they don’t have access to the basic necessities of life.

(Maybe this isn’t a reality for all North Americans but I know this was my reality before moving. I didn’t understand and I took everything I had for granted.)

It’s not fair that the things I listed above happen, but they do.

Maybe I won’t make a significant change in my lifetime. But I’m going to try, I’m going to keep doing things and pushing on. If I only change one life, so be it but maybe, if we all just do one thing, we could bring more justice to this world and make the lives of those whom we’re helping a little bit better, a little more fair.

 

When No One Raises Their Hand

You just finished explaining everything. You just finished telling the group of kids that you’ve come to love so deeply, how much they are loved and wanted by the creator of the universe and you asked if any of them would like to join his family. Then you wait.

And wait.

And wait.

And wait.

Until you realize that what you desperately wanted to happen, isn’t going to happen; no one is going to say, “yes” at this moment, no one is going to raise their hand.

There’s a sadness inside of you that overwhelms you in this moment and your first typical, human instinct is to look inward, selfishly. You think that you screwed up, you didn’t explain the story of Jesus well enough, like it was your job to change their hearts and make them believe in something they didn’t before.

I’m pretty sure this is something that’s happened to everyone who has ever shared the gospel a few times and I believe that it’s something we need to experience at some point, it taught me a lot.

I’m gonna be 100% honest here so watch out.

I want to see people want to follow Jesus and for about an hour after no one raised their hand, I thought it was completely my fault that they weren’t moved to want to follow Jesus. To me, this is inconsiderate. I should have been consumed with sadness simply because they decided not to follow Jesus, I should have been sad because they didn’t accept the incredible gift of grace. I should not have been too wrapped up in myself and “what I did wrong” to ignore these other things and pray that they would decide to follow Jesus some day in the future.

I think this is something that happens all too often, we want numbers, we want to see “the fruit”, we want to know that Jesus is moving in the lives of the people we’re preaching to, but sometimes that’s not the case. Sometimes Jesus makes us wait. He makes us sit there and trust him to do the work. This kills us because we want to do it all by ourselves, we want control, we want to change hearts and minds and the world and do something incredibly significant but the truth is, we can’t. Only Jesus can. Sure, we can be the messengers and we can tell people about God’s grace until we’re blue in the face but only Jesus can change hearts, only Jesus can make someone believe and only Jesus can make someone raise their hand.

So stop beating yourself up while your waiting to see results. It seems that most things I learn come down to this one simple thing… Trust Jesus and know that He is good.

 

When You Can’t Stop Thinking

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Hi, my name is Tatiana Blackburn and I am a professional over thinker.

I like to think I’m quite good at it actually. I stay up all hours of the night, replaying situations (ones that hurt and ones that make me feel warm inside) over and over again until I fall asleep due to exhaustion. I easily get caught up in the web of my own thoughts and go through every single “what-if” that could be possible.

My thoughts consume me. Most of the time it things I hate thinking about, things that make me wish those memory eraser things from Men In Black actually existed because I desperately want to forget.

I think way too much and the problem with over thinking is that when it happens, I begin to doubt God and the promises he’s made with me.

I doubt that he loves me, that he’s saved me, that he’s given me grace and I get so wrapped up in thinking about myself and my problems that I forget what Jesus has told me in the Bible.

That’s the biggest problem with over thinking – it’s selfish and it gives birth to doubt.

I think that’s how the devil tricks us, by planting seeds of doubt and not just planting the seed but by cultivating it and helping it to grow, doubt completely consumes us until we begin to see the lies as the truth.

I let lies consume me when really Jesus and his love should overwhelm me. This web of “what ifs” is spun by the devil and his elaborate scheme to trick me into thinking I’m not good enough.

I let it happen so often and it actually scares me. I start to believe the lies when really, I need to cling to the truth the Jesus has for me.

The truth that I am loved.

The truth that I have worth.

The truth that I can receive grace.

I am definitely a professional over thinker but I’m learning to “set my mind on the things above” and the beautiful truths that Jesus whispers to me rather than the dangerous ramblings of my own mind and I think you should choose to do the same.