How The World Race Changed My Life

It started with the quietest of whispers, “Go.”

Slowly… over days, weeks and months… it grew into a shout.

“GO!”

My curious fingers clicked on the tweet that changed my life.

I saw the World Race website for the first time…and I haven’t been the same since.

The World Race was the catalyst…IS STILL the catalyst. Well, actually, Jesus is the real catalyst. He drew me toward this for years, and still keeps drawing me back toward the community, the intentional, sweet time with Him, that I experienced on my Race.

Even now, a short yet very long 3 years and 4 months after I returned home from my Race, I’m still figuring out all of the different ways that I’ve changed.

I still remember hundreds moments like they happened yesterday.

Like being mobbed by dozens of kids in Tanzania
From jesseischens.theworldrace.org

Like eating the spiciest food I’ve ever tasted in Thailand and laughing and giggling until I couldn’t breathe with the sweetest boys
From jesseischens.theworldrace.org

Like getting to know 5 of the best women on the planet and experiencing a miracle as the Lord turned 6 strangers into family…
From jesseischens.theworldrace.org

Like doing this crazy photoshoot in the middle of the streets of Malaysia and wearing more makeup than I ever have in my lifetime, and YES it happened on the World Race…
From jesseischens.theworldrace.org

Like praying over the sweetest lady named Dora in the Dominican Republic…
From jesseischens.theworldrace.org

From jesseischens.theworldrace.org

Like teaching English in several countries to crazy kids who became our instant best friends…
From jesseischens.theworldrace.org

From jesseischens.theworldrace.org

From jesseischens.theworldrace.org

Like finding out my grandpa died during my month in Romania, and having several close friends on my squad crawl onto my bed and hold me tight and grieve with me.

Like holding Slapping Grandma’s hand as we walked down the dusty dirt road at sunset in Cambodia…and later finding out she had passed away, and grieved as my heart broke for this sweet woman who I desperately wanted to know Jesus’ love.

From jesseischens.theworldrace.org

Like termites eating my pants in Thailand

From jesseischens.theworldrace.org

Like digging up bricks and heaving giant rocks on my birthday in Transnistria

From jesseischens.theworldrace.org

Like hearing the words spoken over me at our first debrief in Haiti (where a LOT of crazy intense things happened that broke everything I thought I knew and created space for the Holy Spirit to move mightily…), words that resonated deep within my soul and have embedded themselves permanently there, “You are NOT a timid spirit.”

Like chopping down the jungle with machetes and axes in Thailand

From jesseischens.theworldrace.org

From jesseischens.theworldrace.org

There are so many moments where time stands still in my mind and I’m transported instantly back to this life-changing, pressure-cooker, sand-paper trip of a lifetime.

I’m not the old me anymore.

I see things differently. I see people through a different lens. I see myself differently.

Before I went on the World Race, I knew it would change me. I knew it would be a stepping-stone for me into full-time missions. I just knew it. It was the craziest, hardest, most difficult, challenging, horrible, hilarious, incredible, spectacular, delightful, joyful, radiant, moving, frightening, eye-opening, chain-breaking, sandpaper year of my life.

When I faced coming home afterwards, I knew I couldn’t “go back to normal.” What IS normal anyway?

God had placed within me this desire for MORE. A desire to use the gift of writing He’s given me for MORE. A desire to follow Him into MORE and seek His face MORE. And while I fail at all of these things daily in one way or another, He still keeps calling me into MORE. He’s so amazing.

Coming home was way different than I anticipated. I struggled with things I just couldn’t put my finger on. I hated being home but the next day I loved it. I was depressed one day and the world was full of vivid color the next. I had so much passion one day and absolutely no motivation the next. I certainly felt out of control, but didn’t know how to put it into words. My brain was a puddle. I was fully in the midst of transition and culture shock. It’s normal, but it didn’t feel normal.

I didn’t expect to be home for long.

I expected to join a wonderful missionary friend and serve with her in a ministry that pulled on my heart.

Everything seemed to point to “yes,” until suddenly all of the doors slammed shut and told me, “No.” I was confused and heartbroken. I desperately didn’t want to stay. And I didn’t know why God did that. He knew my heart. So why stop me from doing what I felt like He had called me to do?

I had amazing family and friends here, but America didn’t feel like home anymore. I didn’t feel like I fit here anymore.

I cringed at America’s affluent way of life. The thought of working in a cubicle in corporate America made me sick to my stomach—it literally made me want to throw a temper tantrum, curl up in a corner somewhere and scream.

With a very dramatic turn of events, drastically shorted for the sake of time (ask me about it!), God placed in my lap an amazing job I never saw coming.

He answered one of my prayers, to write for a purpose, for MORE. I now work as a writer for an incredible food relief non-profit to share stories of how lives are being saved and transformed all around the world with nutritious food and the love of Jesus.

I didn’t know God would close the doors on “going” and call me to stay here in Minnesota for now. And this hilariously means I am working in an office…and I’m actually surviving ;). God’s grace. He provides. With a little sense of humor, of course 🙂

I’m learning to be faithful where I’m at. To be planted and rooted. To make a commitment and be reliable. To serve when it feels good and when it doesn’t. To say yes to things and stick with them, and say no to things I can’t do, even if I want to.

The transition hasn’t stopped. There aren’t enough words to tell you the whole story…because so much has happened between the time I found out about the World Race and now. God keeps calling each of us into more, if we’re willing to listen and let Him catch us when we fall again and again.

But getting out of your comfort zone, experiencing other cultures and ways of life, living life for Jesus and seeing Him work miracles and answer prayers and making Him your focus every day…there’s nothing like it.

If you’re reading this and you’ve made it this far…and you’re still paying attention…and if you haven’t gone on the World Race yet…please, go. It’s one of the most amazing and one of the most challenging things you will ever do. But it’s also one of the most life-changing decisions you could make. Choose in. Choose yes. Ask yourself if you would regret it if you didn’t go, and when you decide that answer is yes, then go.

The World Race changed me in innumerable ways.

The journey is still continuing.

I know I will process the Race for the rest of my life.

I will remember how I lived with intention, and it will motivate me to be intentional here, wherever I am.

I will remember how incredible and incredibly difficult living in community is, and it will remind me to carry this into my friendships and life here, wherever “here” is.

I will remember how “no day is normal,” and it will remind me gently that God is in control and not to walk blindly throughout my day, but instead focus on Him every day and see where He takes me.

I will remember how God answered prayers for healing, and it will increase my faith as I walk the streets where I am.

I will remember how I learned to hear God’s voice, and it will remind me of my identity in Christ – that His promises are good and true. He is faithful.

I will remember how I learned to pray, and it brings clearly to mind the authority I have as a daughter of the Most High, to live with Christ’s authority in me, and not back away.

I will remember I have a voice and it is valuable and deserves to be heard.

I will remember His words, “I am not a timid spirit.”

I am HIS.

And whatever comes next…He will be with me.

This is the longest blog of my life…because how do you answer the question, “How did the World Race change your life?” and it not be the longest blog ever? 🙂

To those of you who are still subscribed to this blog, thank you for following my World Race journey. You are an amazing blessing to me.

 

[You can read the original post here on my World Race blog.]

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Hardship and Perseverance

Hardship—it is a force of nature. It delights in creating problems.

Strife, Anxiety, Frustration and Fear are Hardship’s trusty fellows. They council each other and decide the best methods with which to attack the unsuspecting, the weak, the weary.

Hardship then descends onto the scene suddenly and without warning. Its sole purpose: to overwhelm to the point of certain disaster. It is most successful when the subject is completely thrown off guard. Surprise attack.

Yet there are times when the Hardship hits its own wall. When Perseverance stands guard—this is when the battle begins.

PERSEVERANCE
Steadfastness in doing something despite
difficulty or delay in achieving success.

Perseverance’s friends, Truth, Faith and Encouragement stand to each side…and Hardship is faced with its first difficult challenge: a sure loss, if Perseverance is allowed to prevail.

You see, Perseverance’s success is marked by the person it represents. If that person sees the battle cannot be won, and thus refuses to listen to Truth, Faith and Encouragement, then Anxiety, Frustration, Fear and Strife are able to rush in and take over. But if the person chooses to listen and take the first step toward Perseverance, then that is all the room needed for Hardship to be overthrown.

There is a Reward at stake. The Reward is worth it. It is strived for, fought for, cried for, yearned for. Whether it is a mighty dream or an unexpected mountain, the treasure that Reward represents, as a result of perseverance in the face of hardship, is beautiful. It is a place of Contentment, Peace and Joy.

Perseverance is well-equipped to fight the great fight against Hardship and is able to prevail at all costs. Because the prize is worth the battle. And the prize was promised from the beginning. It has been assured. It has been won.

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Perseverance wins neither easily nor swiftly, but with great deliberation. It is only by the person’s choice that Perseverance is allowed to win.

Note: the use of the word, “allowed.” Perseverance was always created to win. But Hardship is a devious and devout liar, trying to stifle whatever forward progress is made through the aid of Perseverance. Yet with the help of Truth, Faith and Encouragement, Hardship is guaranteed to be pushed back—step by step—until it can stand no more. This is a Reward in itself.

When affronted by Hardship’s deception, each person must choose to allow Perseverance to win the battle with Truth at their side, trusting their Maker to make all things clear one day.

This promise is for all mankind.

Perseverance

Photos from Pinterest.

The Chase Is On!

“Don’t let the worries of tomorrow chase you through today.
Just do what I’ve told you to do TODAY.”

Cambodia

You know those things the Lord whispers into your heart...that sink deep into your soul? Yeah, those were His words to me this morning.

Oh how my mind can run in so many different directions!
It leaps and bounds this way, then that way.
It stops for a second, as if to catch its breath…than rebounds with increased frequency.

No wonder I am so tired by the end of the day. My thoughts twirl endlessly inside my skull, bouncing and spinning and running over each other until I don’t know which way is up anymore.

Talk about a big headache.

“Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him…do not fret—it leads only to evil.” -excerpts from Psalm 37:7-8

DSC02856 - Version 2I have a love/hate relationship with being still. I yearn for it when I’m in the middle of crazy. Yet when I finally get there, I find myself wanting to find a distraction because I know I have deal with myself and come before God to apologize for not trusting him, again.

Stillness brings focus. Suddenly the stuff I’m worrying about
(aka “not trusting Jesus about”) I am more able to lay at His feet.

My brain is on overdrive and it cries for rest. It needs to peace of its Creator. We weren’t meant to deal with stress. Our bodies protest. Things like pain and sickness and exhaustion all are a result of stress.

Stress doesn’t trust the Lord. Stress strives.

The perfectionist in me comes out this time of year. I want to be intentional. I want to get the right gifts. I miss my friends because I’ve been so busy these past 6 months with travel and settling into work, and at the same time I want to spend all the time with family that I can, because in the coming years, being together will look much different.

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I’ll be honest. It’s just a very weird season.
God never stops changing us, and I love that about Him.

I think I didn’t expect this to be so hard. It’s starting to sink in, the fact that my parents are leaving.
I’ll blog more about that later, so stay tuned.

God has been whispering to my soul.

Grace. Rest. Peace.

I need to accept the fact that rest is okay. This season is okay. I need to have grace for myself, too. I’m not going to let my worries chase me. Instead, let’s chase the worries back with grace.

“But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.” – 2 Corinthians 12:9

As I am constantly reminded of this Christmas season, “Let it GO!”

These are Transitional Years

tran·si·tion

noun: the process or a period of changing from one state or condition to another.


The beginning of a yearning…
…a yearning that burns, leaps at the thought of the World Race.
Oh to be there again.

Memories of ages past. No, not ages, just years…but it feels like ages.
Ages gone; ages home.
Time flies, yet inches along.

When I returned from the World Race, I thought I’d never want to go again.

I was tired. No, exhausted. Longing for the embrace of family and all familiar things.

1077061_10151987629756747_700969046_o - Version 2
Family is beautiful, and I’m so grateful.
Memory tricks us, lures us back to comfort.

But little did I know I would jump right back home into the familiar, but soon into transition. Changes came quickly, and I was swept along in the current. A beautiful, fast-moving, white-water rapids current, splashing me rudely in the face one minute and rushing over me and calming my fears in another.

I was left with little time to process. Or maybe I am a terrible processor. It takes me forever to figure out what I learned from something. Maybe this is a good thing. Maybe this is normal.

I’m still processing the World Race and feel like I will continue to do so for a very long time. I think, that this is ok.

Change comes for all of us. Transition is inevitable.

>>Fast forward to a year after I returned home, and I’m longing for it all over again. The World Race.

TNZ_TTCP1100093 - Version 2DSC_0098
This must be what mothers experience after giving birth to their child…they say they will never do it again, then time forgets the pain and you remember only the joy and long for it again.

Pain is what grows us, challenges us, changes us.

P1100017 - Version 3(the day my Thai pants were eaten by termites…)

Pressure cooker, that was the World Race. We hate it and we love it.
Oh…to be that close to the Lord again. Oh to feel His presence with every breath, every step.

He is still here. Oh so close. Right here.
Just, He feels different.
Grown closer, yet feels farther.
As if that is possible.

I have thought and thought about how these past 2 years have gone since I left for the World Race.

I began a life of transition that has never stopped. Oh how my life has sped through many twists and turns since September 2012.

I should be used to transition by now, but the thing about transition is that each new one brings new challenges. You can get used to moving but constant change brings uncertainty. It requires great trust in the Lord.


 These are transitional years, but these are defining years.
I am learning who I am–who He has made me to be. This is EXCITING, AMAZING, THRILLING, TERRIFYING, WONDERFUL.

Life as I know it now, is not how I thought it would be.
This is okay.
I trust the Lord. He is faithful.
He provided an amazing job and a place to live.
He is making a way for my family.
He will lead us and guide us.
He hears the longing of my heart. He knows it better than I even do.

cropped-cropped-copy-Cambodia2.jpgAnd so I trust Him with my future and the future transitions.

All of the growth and challenge and pain, that will bring more growth and challenges and delights and failures and laughter and hugs and tears and struggles and LIFE, which causes me to go back onto my knees in prayer, giving thanks to my Father for His GOOD gifts, He has given me life and breath and these struggles are momentary.

Our lives are meant to be lived for our King.

I will keep lifting my eyes to Him. Transition means stepping closer to Him.
Focusing my eyes on the Giver of Life.

I trust in the most Trustworthy One. He is my Faithful Guide.


I see these transitions continuing, and though I know it won’t be easy, I’m not worried or afraid.
Instead I am confident in what my Savior will do, in the plans He has for my life.
Transitions require us to move, to take a step, to ACT, to obey.

Transitions move us closer to Him, because they shake us from comfort.

He didn’t say it would be easy, but He said He’d be right here with us. That’s a promise I’m holding onto.


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So do not fear, for I am with you;
    do not be dismayed, for I am your God.
I will strengthen you and help you;
    I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.
-Isaiah 41:10

———-

The Lord makes firm the steps
    of the one who delights in him;
though he may stumble, he will not fall,

    for the Lord upholds him with his hand.
I was young and now I am old,

    yet I have never seen the righteous forsaken
    or their children begging bread.
They are always generous and lend freely;
    their children will be a blessing.
Turn from evil and do good;

    then you will dwell in the land forever.
For the Lord loves the just
    and will not forsake his faithful ones.
-Psalm 37:22-28

A Waiting Hope

Wait on the Lord;
Be of good courage,
And He shall strengthen your heart;
Wait, I say, on the Lord!

-Psalm 27:14

There are certain things that settle me down. Like an oversized mug of piping-hot coffee in hand as I sink into my maroon leather couch and gaze out the window at the fluffy, lazily falling snow. Or as I allow myself a nap, cozying yet again onto my couch under a fleece blanket, nestling in-between two gigantic, soft pillows, and let my eyelids close in blissful slumber.

From jesseischens.theworldrace.org

 

 

 

 

 

Peace.
[a resting place]

 

 

 

 
It’s in these places, away from the busy-ness and stress of this American dream life, that I am met by my heavenly Father.

As I sit with Him, He doesn’t require me to do a thing. He loves me.
It’s here that I discover a quiet in the waiting.
A calm amidst the storm.
A joy regardless of the stress of the unknown.
A place where striving stops and a gentle assurance of purpose and a perfect plan remains.

There is a deep work happening in my heart. It’s a slow process.
A relinquishing.
Letting go.
Release.

A painful yet necessary season where the Lord is tinkering around with my thoughts, my dreams, my desires, my expectations—He’s doing so much that I can’t tell if there’s been real progress made yet, but I know He’ll accomplish the task.

There is a passage in Isaiah written as a song composed to the Lord, created as a proclamation throughout the land of Judah. It’s beautiful.

“You will guard him and keep him in perfect and constant peace whose mind [both its inclination and its character] is stayed on You, because he commits himself to You, leans on You, and hopes confidently in You.
So trust in the Lord (commit yourself to Him, lean on Him, hope confidently in Him) forever; for the Lord God is an everlasting Rock [the Rock of Ages].”
Isaiah 26:3-4 (AMP)

All of this I am mulling over, pondering, wondering about.
My heart is assessing the deep places.
Searching for the things I am still holding onto, the things I need to let go of in order to allow the Lord to move.

From jesseischens.theworldrace.org

My frustration with where I’m at shouldn’t doesn’t matter.

My hope comes from the Lord.
He is my Rock, my Strength, my Redeemer. He will make the path straight for me.
Not all is obvious right now and it doesn’t need to be.
There is a balance between striving way too much and waiting for just the right word from the Lord.

I am moving forward regardless, knocking on the doors and opportunities presented to me, and as I keep stepping forward, He will make my paths straight.

From jesseischens.theworldrace.org

That is a promise.

Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.

-Proverbs 3:5-6

I am so tired, but God isn’t. He never grows weary. He knows exactly where I am. I am not here by accident. This season of waiting will not last forever, and in fact as I write this I realize this is absolutely necessary (thought I don’t yet know why) to walk through, so I learn what I need to learn for where He’s taking me to and what He’s calling me into.

From jesseischens.theworldrace.org

So then I will choose to hope when I can’t see, and trust when I don’t know the way. He will strengthen me.

“…those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength.
They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary,
they will walk and not be faint.”
-Isaiah 40:31

From jesseischens.theworldrace.org

I need You

I’ve been struggling a lot lately because…
…I think I’ve been realizing over and over how much
I NEED GOD
every
single
day.

And it drives me nuts, because the ME inside of me just wants to handle things on its own.
But the Spirit inside of me…
…KNOWS…
that looking to Jesus is best.

But this is not easy.
It’s really really hard.
Because this comes with trusting God…
…to speak through me…
…when I have NOTHING.

Sometimes I wonder what others see in me
because it’s hard for myself to see ME the way they do…
(I know this is a lie by the way, but still…)

Every time I speak I see ME struggle to be confident
the struggle to cover up my insecurity
the struggle to put it in Jesus’ hands
…but why is this so much easier said than done?
I hate that phrase.
Because it’s true.

Public speaking, even to kids, is nerve-wracking.
Yet this is what God has put in my lap without
even me asking.
Opportunity.
To tell of His love and speak of my heart for missions to the precious children who are rising up in the new generation to GO.
Whoa.
Incredible.

Lord, please speak through me.
Please give me wisdom beyond my years,
yet wisdom as a child,
to speak life, love, passion, of You and Your mission to rescue the world
and show them how much You love them….

I need You. Desperately.
I can’t do this on my own.
You bring life, your words sustain and renew.
I feel dry right now.
I need You.
Come, fill me so I can pour Your living water into others.

I can’t believe I’m doing this most of the time…
…the World Race thing.
It messes with your mind, because it’s there constantly!
Like whoa.

Lord, all I can say is…
I need You.

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