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Me, in front of An Cuan.

I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about hospitality lately. What does it mean to be hospitable? When I am working in Hospitality (the department I oversee), is that me being hospitable, or the outworking of the practical aspects of this job something else entirely?

Some of you may know that a few months ago (about the time the Discipleship Training School I was staffing left for their outreaches) I became, officially, the Hospitality and Housekeeping Coordinator. This sounds like a fancy job. When I imagine it in my head, I see myself sitting in an office, looking at spreadsheets and calendars, answering important telephone calls, ordering bellhops and maids this way and that, and demanding that the linen delivery arrive on time or else! I don’t know whose job I am imagining, but it certainly isn’t mine. I do occasionally sit in an office, though if I happen to be looking at calendars and spreadsheets, it is usually on the couch in my kitchen. I don’t tend to order many people around, considering that I am the bellhop, maid, and laundry service.

When I started working in hospitality, my role was mainly to organize our DTS students in their hospitality work duties. All the students had a daily two hour period in which they did practical work that helped keep An Cuan running. When I started doing this, the three girls assigned to hospitality had already been doing it for several weeks, and to be honest, they knew more about what to do than I did. I was the liaison between the person who really knew what needed done, but only came in for the morning, and the students who just needed instructions in the afternoon. My job was mostly communication at that point. As the months went by, however, and I became comfortable in what we do and how we do it, I started remembering the visions that God had given me about my time in YWAM Ireland.

God had specifically called me to build up the foundation of the house here. The vision is to be able to fulfill its purpose of being a safe harbour, a creative place of renewal and reconciliation. God’s presence is truly here, inviting people to come and rest with Him. That makes my job much easier, as He takes the initiative to make folks welcome here. That being said, we as YWAMers tend to be busy, creating many things and going many places all at once – which is completely part and parcel with our apostolic calling. However, when it comes to long term projects like the maintenance of a building, sometimes we can be a tad short-sighted. So many extremely visionary people, dreaming with God about big projects happening in the future can sometimes find themselves merely putting out fires when it comes to day to day projects like keeping toilets clean, staying on top of laundry, and taking care of guests.

I felt specifically called to come and work in the house, not just to be a housekeeper for the length of time that I am serving here, but to create an environment where the work can grow naturally from our love for the people coming here, and be sustainable regardless of the amount of people that we have serving here.

That being said, there is always so much to do here that to take the time and space to create means I have to first let things fall into some amount of disarray. A few months ago, this seemed impossible. I refused to let it be, and I demanded that I extract the most possible work out of myself. My slave driving self insisted that I make sure everyone had the best possible stay here by living in a spotless house, doing every task perfectly no matter the time it took or what it cost me. Not only was I backing myself into a corner, creating a job that only I could fill, and a standard that no one could ever live up to, but I also was robbing people of what they truly were longing for – relationship.

Over the past few months, whenever people have left thank you cards behind, I’ve saved them up and kept them. And the majority of people who were impacted enough to say something say these two things.
1. Thank you for making the space for us to find God here.
2. Thank you for spending time with us, whether it was a coffee, dinner, or just sharing your life.

They didn’t write, “Thank you for the lovely stay, but I’d make sure you dust inside the dresser drawers a little more thoroughly,” or, “We felt so relaxed on account of how there was not one speck of dirt in the entire house!”

I’m not planning on letting this glorious house fall into ruin, or never cleaning another toilet again. But the longer I do this job, the more I understand that true hospitality isn’t about having the nicest things or about the cleanest house. It’s about inviting people into a relationship, with God and also with us. If all the jobs don’t get done today because I felt God prompting me to make a cup of tea for a guest and listen to their story, then it’s simple: God values this person before me more than my to-do list.

I already “knew” that, but I am learning both to live with it, and to live it, and it’s a beautiful thing.

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“If you do away with the yoke of oppression, with the pointing finger and malicious talk, and if you spend yourselves on behalf of the hungry and satisfy the needs of the oppressed, then your light will shine in darkness, and your light will become like to noonday.” – Isaiah 58:10

Before I came back to YWAM Ireland, a lot of people prayed about this time in my life. I certainly spent much time in prayer about it. I took a two week trip here a year ago to seek the voice of God in this land, to put aside my own wishes and to unite my vision for my life with His.

In all of these prayers, there was a consistent theme – that my ministry in Northern Ireland would be a cycle of brokenness and healing. That pouring out of the brokenness of myself as a person, that healing for others, and then myself would come.

Considering I felt like this is the exact theme of my life of ministry, I was neither surprised nor concerned. When I got into a car accident several years ago and then became sick for a long time, I was so angry with God for allowing that to happen, and “ruin me” when I was planning on spending my life in service. During my Discipleship Training School (DTS), God talked to me a lot about this very issue. He said, “Kayla, if you had not experienced the reality of death, how could you comprehend the sacrifice of my death on the cross? How could you really love broken people if you don’t understand the depth of brokenness?” I started realizing then that every part of my heart that is stirred up with love and compassion for others stems from a place of knowing their pain all too well.

This proclamation of my brokenness being healing didn’t really faze me, considering all this. What I didn’t count on was that I am daily, continually facing my weakness (and having to lean on God’s strength.) I am living in a community of people – wonderful people, but people I don’t know all that well yet. I am with these people ALL THE TIME. If it were up to me, I would have liked to keep  a lid on my humanity for a while longer, till I felt safer. But that is not what this journey is about.

It is not about keeping up a facade of always being lovely, always serving, always saying or doing the right thing until everyone was so convinced of my perfection that when I finally messed it up, my mistakes would be overlooked with a kind of disbelief.

It is not about keeping silent my own heartaches or frustrations so I can properly disciple those who I am meant to disciple. I am always discipling them, and I am always being discipled, regardless of whether I am trying to or not.

This is not easy, but the path is a beautiful one, and I learn as I walk.

This is a blog I wrote February 22 of this year. I stumbled on it today, and it still rings so true today. I’ve been mulling on the idea that to understand what I’m doing in life (not only as a missionary but also in regards to my vision and purpose),  it’s important to understand who I am. For a while, I’ve felt specifically that God was telling me, “Kayla, you are a healer.” It took several years before I admitted that to another person. Right at the beginning of my DTS, we had a speaker ask us what kind of person God called us to be, and I said “Healer.” I didn’t want to say it. I argued with God about it right up until the time the speaker came to me for my answer. It sounds so… presumptuous. But I said it, and later, two of the staff members told me, “We don’t really know you yet, but when you said that, we knew was so true.” I’m still learning how to walk in that part of my identity, and this is just a little piece of that story.

I love working at the spa. To be more specific, I love giving massage.

I wasn’t sure if I was brave enough to give up a predictable and steady income, but I knew if this job wasn’t enticing enough to go for it, there wasn’t going to be another better one to win me over. I don’t want to spend my life hemming and hawing and changing my mind, especially since I know that this is part of the plan that God has for me.

I told one of my coworkers today that I don’t want to give up the glorious (if unknown) plan that God has for me, in order to grasp desperately at the tiny sliver of happiness I can imagine for myself.

I’ve realized recently, through a conversation with a friend, that what I love about giving massage, and also about my job at the nursing home, is that it is an amazing gift to be able to minister to people who are in a very vulnerable position. I know that often defenseless people get taken advantage of, bullied, abused, mistreated, and injured. So every time I go to work, and there are people in this situation, I have the choice to treat them kindly and respectfully, or take advantage of them. And every time when I make the choice to be as compassionate as I can be, and respect their vulnerability instead of exploit it, I’m aware that this is what it means to be a part of the kingdom of God. I’ve always loved that about the nursing home – that I have an active role to make someone’s life more full of dignity, respect, and love. One of the things I am growing to love most about my job as a massage therapist is that in addition to choosing to protect instead of take advantage, I get to participate in the amazing power of God to heal.

What’s been incredible is letting go of the need for me to fix people and yet at the same time, make an environment where God can work with me, and God can heal. For example, when I was in school, I always wished that I would pray during massage – I really love praying for people, and why not add that “extra special healing power” to it? First of all, I was too distracted by what techniques I was using, and what muscle I was on, and how I was going to chart it, and what assignment it would fulfill, plus checking in with the client, palpating the tissue… I didn’t have any room in my head for anything else. Plus, I was coming at it completely from the wrong direction. Like, “I have this great massage that’s going to fix people, and for an extra $10 you can get a dash of God!”

Now that I’ve started working and doing this as my job, my perspective has shifted. I realize I am, by myself, not very capable of helping people. Sure, I WANT to help them. But who can know what is really going on inside of a person’s body? If all I have is the desire to help that person heal, then God is going to outshine me on that front every time. He will ALWAYS win if He and I compare how much we want good things for this hurting person. So it’s been really neat to start by before even going in the room, just asking God to show me what He wants to do with this person today, to help me to be kind to them and their body, to be respectful and to use the right techniques to help the person the most. What’s been amazing is every single time, He shows up… So often what’s happened is that God starts whispering things to me that He wants to tell this person. “This is my daughter. She is so beautiful and I love her. I want healing for her. I want her to run into my arms.” So I pray about it, and as I am massaging them, I’m doing my best to express that nurturing care. God can do it, I know… I am not worrying about how the message gets through, I’m just giving a massage. But I have the best partner anybody could have.

 

There are several things you should know.

1. I am moving to Northern Ireland to work with Youth With A Mission (YWAM) for the next two years – in five weeks.

2. From my human perspective, this is impossible.

There’s nothing like quitting my jobs, selling most of my belongings and storing the rest, being humbled by my own vulnerability and warmed by the generosity of others, plus being overwhelmed by the unknown to really wear me out.

To give you a little history: I have always reacted to big changes in one way. SHEER PANIC. Imagine an open door. Now imagine that someone being dragged through backwards by the ankles. Yes, that’s me clinging for dear life to the door frame. I’ll admit it.

It took about 15 years from the time I told God earnestly that I would NEVER be a missionary, to the time I agreed to do one six month Discipleship Training School (DTS). It took about four years from the time that I decided to do a DTS until I actually got on a plane. You could call me a slow mover, and that would be fair.

However: It took about three days of being in Belfast, for God to break my heart for that country, show me my own brokenness, and promise healing for us both in the future. Over the last three years, I’ve begged God to let me continue my life and work in Ireland – and SOON PLEASE. As much as I have ached to come home to Northern Ireland, God has been clear about the timing. This is the first time I’ve ever been the one pulling at the bit! Even so, the time at home has been needed and valuable in so many ways – God really knew what He was doing when He asked me to stay home for a while.

And for the first time, as things look more scary and impossible, I’m beginning to feel “the peace of God, which transcends all understanding.” (Philippians 4:7) I anticipate this month will be full of challenges of many kinds, but I’m so grateful that no matter what comes up, I can rest on the promises and faithfulness of God.

So tell me… What’s going on with you this week?

Welcome, friends.

Welcome all, to my brand new blog!

I’m hoping to make this the spot to find all the information you need to keep up with the life and times of Kayla.