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God is moving, can you see it?
August 25, 2013 2:22 am
Published in: On the Field Tags: , ,

Here’s a few videos and articles that have stirred up my little heart lately.  I love feeling stirred.  At first it’s a little panicky, like “whooooooa wait I was so comfortable”, but then its that satisfying feeling of a whirring brain and a pondering heart.  So here yah go…


Judah Smith, of The City Church in Seattle, talks about Jesus encountering us and making everything new.  He uses the event of healing the lame man at the pool as a BEAUTIFUL in John 5.  It made me cry.


Jamie the Very Worst Missionary

Jamie’s writing always makes me laugh, cringe, and most importantly THINK deeply about my life and my faith.  This is one blog post that I loved recently, but really her whole archive is FULL of gems.  This one is entitled “Fortune Cookie Faith.” In our culture of Tweets and short attention spans, we have less and less patience and attention for things that require immense time and effort… like reading our Bibles.  Here is a little excerpt from the post.

I’m pretty sure I’ve never read a life changing tweet. Not one. And I’m certain I’ve never written one. That’s because the fullness of the Gospel will never be captured in a single sentence. Or a paragraph. Or a clever blog post. Or even a tacky three page Bible tract. Instead, it lays itself out over a lifetime; threading its way between morning and night, quietly abiding our self created chaos and gently bearing our indiscretions. It seeps into our bones over time. It nurtures us slowly, whispering light into our dark places and shoring up our weak spots. Grace doesn’t fit in a fortune cookie.”


Happy Sunday.

December 19, 2011 11:41 pm
Published in: On the Field Tags: ,

I’ve been feeling thankfulness well up in great springs lately.  It’s overflowing actually.  I’m sitting here in my little apartment on a Sunday evening, tea in hand, just thinking about how well I have been taken care of.

I have a home with windows, doors, a bed and a proper toilet.  I have running water AND electricity.  I have trees and flowers right outside.  I have neighbors who know my name, and even want to know my story.  They invite me over for home cooked meals AND send me home with Christmas decorations to put up in my place.  I even have a cat.

I work with people who are so passionate about seeing others come to know the love of God, that they left everything easy and familiar, and came to this foreign land.  To Africa.

Living here is hard.  It just is.  The power went out for 12 hours yesterday, I still can’t figure out where all those ants are coming from, and the crappiest blender here cost me $42.  I keep stumbling over simple Swahili with the gate-guards, cab drivers, new friends, waiters, my host family, anyone Kenyan really.  I always have a nagging sense of being seen as a walking $ sign, which is confirmed by the street kids who follow me to the grocery store asking for money/candy/my shoes/anything they can get.  Last weekend I had to say goodbye to one of my closest friends out here before she walked into the airport to catch her flight back to the States.  And to top off my pity party… Christmas is only week and I will be an ocean and several time zones away from my family for the first time.  Yeah, it’s hard.

But it is also surprisingly beautiful.   Shaking your fist at traffic on a busy highway leading out of Nairobi only to look to your left and see 11 giraffes just munching on acacia trees. Being the only single 20-something at a salad-potluck (with just lame carrot sticks to offer), only to be embraced, included, and loved.   Running through the rain in downtown Nairobi with a Kenyan friend, and not being able to describe why you can’t stop laughing and why you don’t care that your shoes are soaked. Tagging along on a random road trip, and finding yourself on a red dirt road in the middle of nowhere watching nearly 100 rural Kenyan kids running toward you, screaming and giggling. Holding hands with women who had served long, tough years in creative-access nations far away, where they couldn’t even breathe the name of Jesus, and watching them cry as they were able to freely and loudly sing O Holy Night in a safe living room.

Count your blessings, name them one by one,

count your and see what the Lord has done.

Count your blessings name them one by one

And it will surprise you what the Lord has done.

We sang that song in church today.  It was hot, 80 degrees in December, and the building was overflowing with hundreds of dancing, praising Kenyans.  Swaying shoulder to shoulder with them, I wondered why I got to be there too.  Small town, middle class, 5’5”, 23 year old, Caucasian-as-they-come Bess Brownlee… sweating, singing and dancing in a huge African church.  Why do I get to live this story?


Lord you have assigned me my portion and my cup

You have made my lot secure.

The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places;

Surely I have a delightful inheritance.

Psalm 16:5-6

I don’t know why I get this opportunity, but I do know that I could never say thank you enough times.  It is a privilege to be here.  Even when street cats fighting outside my window again, and my tap water comes out slightly brown.  Thank you for this life Lord, help me not to waste it.



Merry Christmas everyone, I love you and miss you very very very much.


November 8, 2011 11:07 pm
Published in: On the Field Tags: , ,

“Give us today, our daily bread…”

I have literally prayed this prayer for years in church (you know, as part of the Lord’s Prayer) but have had literally no idea what it meant until I got to Africa.  Well hold on to your baguettes, things just got gluten-y over here!

Food goes bad quickly here in Africa.  I think is must be the lack of preservatives and processing, because my milk got lumpy within 4 days.  Whew, that was a lovely surprise.  This reality, on one hand, makes food much better for you.  It is fresher, and hasn’t been messed with as much.  But on the other it means you have to be a smart shopper and use the fresher stuff up within a few days, unless you really like moldy cheese…and meat… and bananas.  I’m not used to weekly, and sometimes daily shopping.  I like to stockpile, to only worry about groceries a couple times a month.  Well that just won’t fly here… I’ve got the chunky milk to prove it.

The future tends to freak me out, yet I choose to let my thoughts reside there.  I start thinking about tomorrow, which turns quickly into the following week, next month, and before you know it I’m agonizing over what is going to happen 10 years down the road.  Who needs a time machine when you have my grey matter?! My mind easily rockets to the future, or slips into dwelling in the past, yet it seems unsatisfied to abide in the present, in the moment, in the good stuff goin’ on right now.  I try to spiritually/emotionally/physically stock-pile for the future and become blind to how God has been providing for me, day by day.

Coming to Africa was hard.  There were (and still are) so many unknowns.  What will my home be like?  Can I really do this city thing?  Will I fit into my team well?  What about living alone?  Driving on the other side of the road?  A new language?  Malaria?  Water?  Is that a slug?!  It’s a lot for a girl from rural Montana to take in.  But everyday, there has been exactly enough bread.  Just what I needed.

When pulled up to my apartment for the first time, this hand-drawn sign was on the door…

It’s the little things really.  Small bursts of God’s goodness and love for me, presented in new ways each day.  A quick encouraging email.  An invite to go play volleyball, eat pizza and meet new people.  A verse on a slip of paper addressing just what I ended up needing later in the day.  A backyard BBQ complete with sloppy joes and sodas in glass bottles.  A handmade red-beaded bracelet from a sweet child.  Staying up late and talking about tough but beautiful times in life with a new friend.

He has proven Himself enough, every day… often in unexpected ways.  I am learning to relax, say thank you for my bread, and enjoy it with my God.

 “Two things I ask of you, LORD; 
   do not refuse me before I die: 
Keep falsehood and lies far from me; 
   give me neither poverty nor riches, 
   but give me only my daily bread. 
 Otherwise, I may have too much and disown you 
   and say, ‘Who is the LORD?’ 
Or I may become poor and steal, 
   and so dishonor the name of my God.”

Proverbs 30:7-9

May 8, 2011 6:29 pm
Published in: Pre-Field Tags: , ,

Well, that’s not entirely true… I can generally make a sloppy twist out of my hair, that started out with the best intentions of being a beautifully symmetrical french braid, but ended in a sad tangled mess.  This must be remedied.  I cannot possibly hope to be a thriving missionary in Africa if I can’t even braid my own hair, right?!

Ha.  The things that whiz through my ever active mind these days.  It gets a bit ridiculous sometimes.  But there is something down there, at the root (follicle?) of it all.  It is my need to feel well prepared.  My desperation, rather, not to be found wanting.  Especially in a new place.

This is my first big move away from the home I have known for 23 years.  Sure, I moved away for college… 20 minutes away to be exact.  But, by the end of this year I will be more than 20 hours away!  Go big or go home, right?!  Speaking of home… I am going to miss this place so much, my roots run ever so deeply here.  This is looking out over our back pasture of my childhood home.

I know myself here.  I know my place, and what is expected of me.  I know how to speak, eat, travel, interact, work, and behave here.  I am well equipped for life here… I am prepared.

Soon I will be failing the Boy Scouts’ mantra, and find my self un-prepared.  My life will be roughly ten time zones, one hop over the equator, several languages and many cultures away from everything I have ever known.  How do you prepare for Africa?

There are the practical ways… vaccinations, visas, international drivers license, head lamp, and a sturdy pair of shoes.

But what about my mind, my heart, my soul?  How do I prepare them?

1. I am taking my armor with me… even if it sets off the metal detector in the airport.  Without it, I am like a Boy Scout without his pocket knife, a Girl Scout with out her cookies, uh, er, her crafty nature and knowledge of the 52 uses of pipe cleaners.  Ok, so I was only in Girl Scouts for a few months… but the POINT is, I would vulnerable to all sorts of crap without my holy armor.

14Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, 15 and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. 16 In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. 17 Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.

Ephesians 6:14-17

2. I am anticipating hard times.  I am expecting to be challenged, misunderstood, annoyed, home sick, and painfully stretched beyond myself.  But through that, God has promised me that I will grow.  I cling to that.

2 Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, 3 because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. 4 Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.

James 1:2-4

Not lacking in ANYTHING.  I like the sound of that.  I have the feeling that I am going to like the reality of that even better.  I am coming to Africa with four bags, bright eyes, and a heart that is ringing with a call… comeFollow the sound of my voice, come forward, come deeper, bring everything that I have been equipping you with all along, I have more for you, I have a life that you could never have dreamed up on your own… come.

My friend Kate told me, “God doesn’t call the equipped, He equips the called.” Take the disciples.  One day, their hands touched damp nets, the smooth scales of fish, and the rough wood of boats… but then Jesus came.

18 As Jesus was walking beside the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon called Peter and his brother Andrew. They were casting a net into the lake, for they were fishermen. 19Come, follow me,” Jesus said, “and I will make you fishers of men.” 20 At once they left their nets and followed him.

Matthew 4:18-20

He called, they answered.  He walked beside them, taught them, and grew them up into the men they were meant to be.  Then their hands touched people… Jesus changed everything.

I’m coming Lord, I know you have what I need.

7 Then I said, “Here I am, I have come
it is written about me in the scroll.
8 I desire to do your will, O my God;
your law is within my heart.”

Psalm 40:7-8

Engrave your word upon my heart, refine me through fire, even though it will burn.  Give me grace as I venture out, and perseverance that I may endure.  Continue this work you have started in me.

And if it’s not too much trouble, send me a friend who knows how to french braid 🙂

April 24, 2011 10:43 pm
Published in: Pre-Field Tags: , , ,

This has been one of the most beautiful Easter Sundays of my life.  Sunrise hymns, blue skies, blue birds, fresh perspective, tasty benedict, laying the the grass with eyes closed and letting the sunlight make my eyelids glow, dancing to worship music with my mom, laughing with my family… I am alive, because He is alive.  Incredible.

As much as I try, I simply can’t describe Jesus… or the magnitude of what He has done for me, in me, with me, or what He will do next.  The grave is empty, the curtain is in tatters, and I will never be the same.  This is the greatest day in history, oh joyous Easter.

“I saw the Lord always before me.
Because he is at my right hand,
I will not be shaken.
26 Therefore my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices;
my body also will live in hope,
27 because you will not abandon me to the grave,
nor will you let your Holy One see decay.
28 You have made known to me the paths of life;
you will fill me with joy in your presence.’

Acts 2:25-28

March 17, 2011 9:22 pm
Published in: Pre-Field Tags: , ,

No, not the side of my head… the temple of the Holy Spirit!  ME!

Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit,

who is in you, whom you have received from God?

You are not your own; you were bought at a price.

Therefore honor God with your bodies.

1 Corinthians 6:19-20

I remember when that truth finally sank in for me… that I am the new house of the Holy of Holies.  The Spirit of God no longer lives in a private part of the temple, only accessible to high priests, He lives in me.  WHOA.  This is so wild.

I don’t know about all you other temples out there… but I feel like this kind of raises the bar for our lives.  We can’t just get away with being a regular old tent of flesh, blood and bones anymore.  We were formed, grown, redeemed and transformed to house God.  That is pretty stinkin’ majestic!

The thing is, I forget this sometimes.  I get caught up in slingin’ coffees 40 hours a week at work, doing busy little things on my days off , not to mention planning, prepping, and tweaking all the details in my life to feel like I am in control.  I am forgetting about that majestic truth.  God is inside of me.

So I’ve decided it’s time for a temple scrub-down.  Physically, and spiritually.  I mean, this is the only temple I’m gonna get… so I’m breakin’ out my Jesus Brillo-pad!

I’ve started going to Zumba and Oula classes!  Oh-mylanta, is it ever FUN!  For an hour three times a week I get to dance around (like a HUGE dork) and exercise the temple.  Ole!

In celebration of the loosening grip of winter in Montana, and the promise of a balmy 50 degrees tomorrow… I’m going for a bike ride! I’m gonna bust my trusty turquoise road bike (her name is Gwendalyn the Road Warrior) out of the garage and go for a pedal, yay!

I just completed a gall-bladder and liver detox cleanse.  I survived one week without (beloved) dairy, and delicious meat. I gagged down several servings of Epsom salts, and had one whole day spent in close proximity to the bathroom.  While sparing you the gory details, I can tell you that I feel like a million bucks, and am host to many less stones these days!  Sha-zam!

I’m jealously carving out time for Jesus.  I am coming to find that the days and nights in which I honor that time with Him, are indescribably better than the ones I choose to fill with busy-ness or, or quite often laziness.

On a backpacking trip last summer, my friend Jill asked me to picture a place where Jesus and I get to go together, where it is just He and I.  She asked me what my special and unique sanctuary and sacred retreat with the Lord looked like.  I had honestly never thought of that before.  Mostly I had just been seeing the dark insides of my eyelids when I prayed.   So I stilled my thoughts and opened up my imagination.  Where would my perfect retreat with the Lord be?  What would it look like?   I pictured a sun-lit clearing in the woods, a flowering hill (I can have flowers, I’m a girl!), fresh, earthy, and calm.  It was a place of peace, and safety, and seclusion.

Now believe me, I don’t physically get to zap to a meadow every time I pray.  While that would be totally rad, teleporting isn’t necessary.  You see, God is offering us unrestricted access to Himself 24/7/365.  He beckons us into the folds of His deep peace, unfathomable love, overflowing joy, and inexhaustable strength.  All we have to do is but arise and answer His gentle call.

My beloved spoke and said to me,
“Arise, my darling,
my beautiful one, come with me.
See! The winter is past;
the rains are over and gone.
Flowers appear on the earth;
the season of singing has come,
the cooing of doves is heard in our land.
13 The fig tree forms its early fruit;
the blossoming vines spread their fragrance.
Arise, come, my darling;
my beautiful one, come with me.”

Song of Solomon 2:10-13

Jesus is calling to us, from within our own restored hearts.  Come away with me! I just have to ensure that I give myself space and time alone to answer.  Ok, Jesus, let’s feel the flowers beneath our toes!

Scrub, scrub, scrub…

Because of Jesus, I have been given a new heart, and a been turned into a sparkly new temple.  Bling, bling!

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ,

the new creation has come:

The old has gone, the new is here!

2 Corinthians 5:17

It is my prayer that I will remember what Christ has done for me.  May I never let the walls tarnish, nor allow the lights grow dim, or ever let the temple fall into disrepair.  Squeaky clean, and lemony fresh, I am making time to dwell.  Lord, help me to honor you with this temple.

February 15, 2011 11:04 pm
Published in: Pre-Field Tags: , , ,

I just going to be honest with you, John Piper gives me headaches… and I LOVE it!

It’s a good kind of headache, you see, the kind you get when your brain and heart are so overwhelmed with new revelations that they actually hurt.

I have been trying to read John Piper’s book Let the Nations Be Glad since July, and I am only half way through the first chapter.  Now don’t get me wrong, I looooooove me some books, and usually I whip right through all kinds of lovely literature, but with him… it is different.

This writing is heavy!  JP has a way of packing the pages with scripture and ideas about God that are so simple and astounding at the same time that you want to smack yourself repeatedly on the forehead for not seeing all this before.

Exhibit A… from the FIRST page.

“Missions is not the ultimate goal of the church.  Worship is.  Missions exist because worship does not.  Worship is ultimate, not missions, because God is ultimate, not man.   When this age is over, and the countless millions of the redeemed fall on their faces before the throne of God, missions will be no more.  It is a temorary necessity.  But worship abides forever.

Holy guacamole, John Piper… I think I just had an aneurysm.

There will be a day when missions don’t exist.   On that day the heavens will be rent with the glory of the Lord, and the praise will NEVER end.  Oh my.

This is such a needed and refreshing perspective for me.  I have been so focused on the goal… getting to Africa to do MISSIONS, support raising so that I can go do MISSIONS, getting shots and medical clearance so that I can go and do MISSIONS, finding a dang detailed map of Nairobi so that I don’t get lost when I go to Africa to do MISSIONS… and on and on.  In all the bustley-bustle of getting ready for Africa, I easily lose sight of the main goal…

Worship.  White hot, pure, unabashed, unrelenting, uncontainable worship.   Letting that worship of the Lord characterize my life in every way.    Worship must come before missions, because it is the FUEL of missions.  How am I supposed to invite the nations into worship if my life doesn’t reflect His all comsuming glory within me?

“Passion for God in worship precedes the offer of God in preaching.  You can’t commend what you don’t cherish.  Where passion for God is weak, zeal for missions will be weak.  Even outsiders feel the disparity between the boldness of our claim upon the nations and the blandness of our engagement with God.”

I’m going to take some Tylenol and turn out the lights,  my head and heart are aching with sweet, sweet overwhelming truth… thank you Jesus and John Piper.

Consume me Lord, like fire and wind and a great flood.  Knock me over with the weight of your glory.  Let me just but touch your hem and feel my heart burn.

“My heart rejoices in the LORD;
in the LORD my horn is lifted high.

There is no one holy like the LORD;
there is no one besides you;
there is no Rock like our God.”

1 Samuel 2:1

“Give praise to the LORD, proclaim his name;
make known among the nations what he has done.
Sing to him, sing praise to him;
tell of all his wonderful acts.
Glory in his holy name;
let the hearts of those who seek the LORD rejoice.
Look to the LORD and his strength;
seek his face always.”

1 Chronicles 16:8-11


January 16, 2011 8:47 pm
Published in: Pre-Field Tags: , ,

The action of trusting has always been a difficult one for me… especially in regards to God.   And when I really think about it, He is the ONLY one I really can put every particle of my trust in.  Then why don’t I?  It’s because I think I should be able to do it on my own, of my own strength, by my own power and might.  Ha!  Good try, Bess.

I’m human and I live amongst humans, and well, we really aren’t so trustworthy.  We aren’t very strong.  We fail.  ALL the time.  In my own life I have failed my friends, my family, and myself.   I’m not strong enough.  But I know one who is.

The song Too Proud by Enter the Worship Circle has always struck me, right to those sensitive heart strings.  It’s a song about pride, weakness, release of control, and finally trust…

“I’m too proud to ask, too broke to eat
Too weak to bow, too strong to bleed
Can you sing over me words of comfort?
Can you satisfy me, sweet honey?
Can you break through me, with your strong hands?
Can you undo me, enough to heal me?

You take the weight from my shoulders
My hands were clinched now they’re open!
I’ll take your goodness, pour it from the sky
Food from the ravens, water from the dry well!”

The process of support raising has really showed me how much I don’t trust the Lord.  I find my self agonizing over the what if’s…. what if I worded my letters all wrong, what if my letters got lost, or were sent at the wrong time, what if I offend someone, what if I start working an extra shift, what IF?!?!  And on and on.  It’s exhausting.  But, God is showing me, everyday, that it doesn’t have to be like this… I don’t have to carry this all on my own.

As soon as soon as I release control and begin to trust the Lord I see His goodness revealed everywhere.  When I stop building layers of safety nets, and stop making 100 back-up plans just in case the Lord doesn’t come through for me, I find myself in the present, on firm ground, with a promise of the Lord ringing in my heart.  You can trust me, my love will never fail you!

10 Many are the woes of the wicked,
but the LORD’s unfailing love
surrounds the one who trusts in him.
(Psalm 32:10)

5 But I trust in your unfailing love;
my heart rejoices in your salvation.
6 I will sing the LORD’s praise,
for he has been good to me. (Psalm 13:5-6)

8 Let the morning bring me word of your unfailing love,
for I have put my trust in you.
Show me the way I should go,
for to you I entrust my life.
9 Rescue me from my enemies, LORD,
for I hide myself in you. (Psalm 143:8-9)

I want to know that it was not by my power that I made it to Africa, but that it was only by the hand of the Lord.  I want to be rooted and established in deep unshakable trust.  I want to see, more clearly everyday, the unfailing love that surrounds me.  I want witness the movements of the Lord, the wind made visible!

8 But I am like an olive tree
flourishing in the house of God;
I trust in God’s unfailing love
for ever and ever.
9 For what you have done I will always praise you
in the presence of your faithful people.
And I will hope in your name,
for your name is good. (Psalm 52:8-9)

Everyday I have to release going to Africa to the Lord, and trust.  He has good things for me, and his UNFAILING love surrounds me… ha, not bad for a simple girl from Montana.

“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” (Romans 15:13)