The view from the top

There’s something about standing at the summit of a mountain and screaming with joy that makes all the agony of the ascent worIMG_2877th it.

Maybe it’s the 360 degree panoramic view that comes with being thousands of feet above your surroundings. Or the way that view causes the adrenaline to course through your body, momentarily allowing you to forget the pain in your exhausted legs. Perhaps it’s the feeling of accomplishment that comes along with conquering something that seemed “impossible” at least once on the way up the trail. Or maybe it’s the dizzying feeling of intimacy with the Creator that comes with realizing how minuscule you are when compared with the mountain you’re stand on… and that the God who created that very mountain is infinitely bigger than it is. (Say what?!)

I don’t know which of these things it is that causes me to shout, “HOOOOOOOLLLLYYYY CRAAAAAAP! JESUS! WHO ARE YOU!?” at the top of my lungs everytime I stand on top of a mountain, but I do know that all of those factors add up to create the “climbing high” I’m so love with. It’s the euphoria that leads so many of us to attempt ridiculous feats and turns so many Coloradoans into “14-er junkies”.

I may not have “14-ers” accessible to me these days, but oh do I feel like I’ve climbed my fair share of mountains lately. (Some literal, some metaphoric…)

My students and I climbed the mountain at the base of our village the morning after our Tanalian Leadership Center graduation. As I watched them cut trail and post hole through the snow ahead of me, I was struck (again) by the similarities between ministry and mountain climbing.

I’m pretty sure that to be either a climber or a follower of Christ, dedicated to raising up disciples, you have to be a little crazy.

Both tasks are difficult, but incredibly rewarding. Both require you to keep your eyes on the High Place you’re striving to reach. Even if you’re in a ridge or valley, you have to keep looking Up if you want to continue moving forward. On the climb, you learn to endure sore, aching muscles, battle wounds, blisters, and exhaustion beyond what you thought was humanly possible. Like I said, you’ve got to be a little crazy (and a lot fixated on the euphoria of being at the High Place) to be willing to suffer through the pain of the ascent and the disappointment of false summits and trails that lead you down before they zig-zag back up.

Both in ministry and on mountains, I’ve hiked a few grueling miles with students only to realize we’d hit a false summit or a plateau that turned into a valley of sorts. More often than not, this realization lends to all of us hitting frustration and being tempted to take our eyes off the High Place and quit. But this year I’ve watched as my students have learned that when they do that, they settle for so much less than what they know they’ve been created to be able to do.

That Saturday morning as I climbed Tanalian behind the students I’ve come to love, I saw the courage and tenacity that the Lord has grown in them over the past 8 months as they grappled up rough terrain, refusing to give up. Even when they were tired, I watched them take short breaks, look up to the peak above us, and keep trucking forward. As I hiked behind them, a proud “mamasita” (as my boys call me), I was reminded of the speeches and charges each of my students gave to the community and one another the night before at our TLC graduation.

Their words contained the power of the Holy Spirit– the truth of the transforming power of our King. They urged one another on toward the Lord and thanked those in the community who had pushed them to where they stood at the top of the “TLC mountain” with their diploma in their hands.

The students who got off the plane in Port Alsworth on October 5th of last year are not the same students I heard speak at graduation or that I climbed that mountain with on Saturday.

In October they were all a bit timid and unsure of who they were created to be and what they were capable of doing.

But as we stood on Tanalian, waist deep in snow, looking out over our little village and Lark Clark, I stood among “different” young men and women who are now confident in their identities because they are more confident in the Lord and Who He says He is. As I stood with them, I realized I was no longer standing with “my students”– No, I was standing with fellow ministers of the Gospel who are all excited to share what the Lord has done in their lives this year.

I stood in the company of future counselors, preachers, teachers, and missionary pilots.

To get to where they were that morning, or at graduation the night before, they all had to climb a mountain or two of their own with the Lord and I will never say the climb was easy… But by the grace of God, they never took their eyes off the High Place and they learned that while climbing mountains is difficult and exhausting, it didn’t kill them.

As I watched my students board my boss’ plane and take off to their respective villages later that week, my heart overflowed with joy knowing they’ve been equipped, and now sent. I know our paths might not physically cross in the foreseeable future, but I look forward to the day in heaven when I get to hear their stories of the mountains they climbed with Jesus after leaving TLC and the ways they were able to watch the Lord show up in their own “students” lives and hearts.

As for me, all I want to do is rejoice– scream out in joy and praise at the top of my lungs on this Tanalian Leadership Center “mountain”, for the Lord is good. GradHike

He keeps His promises, one of the most beautiful being,

“‘Anyone who believes in Him will never be put to shame.’ For there is no difference between Jew and Gentile—the same Lord is Lord of all and richly blesses all who call on him, for, ‘Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.’

 How, then, can someone call on the One they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the One of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them?  And how can anyone preach unless they are sent? As it is written: “How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of those who bring Good News!”

(Romans 10:13-15)

My sweet students know the One who saved them. They know in the depths of their hearts that He will never put them to shame, so long as they keep their eyes on Him. They’ve been sent out to declare the Good News and have the opportunity to do so at the very ends of the earth this summer, in Cambodia and in the Alaskan island village of Little Diomede (where there is only one known believer, ps.).

Would you join me in praying for my students as they’ve now returned to their villages as witnesses to the glory of God and as they travel the world (this summer and for the rest of their lives) declaring His powerful name? 

Sweet Jesus, would you build Your Kingdom here.

~

Exciting life update: Joey and my missions trip to Cambodia is over 95% funded and we’re expecting to hit the 100% mark in the next week or so! If you’re interested in supporting our team in prayer or financially, feel free to shoot me an e-mail at KacyLouLeyba@gmail.com.

Or! If you’re interested in spreading the Gospel throughout Alaska, you can support Brandon, Emilyn, Trevor, and our staff as they prepare to go to Little Diomede. You can make a contribution here and earmark it “Little Diomede” in the comment section.

Rising: Post-Alaska plans

Can I just say, I’m astounded by the amount of food that teenage guys and men in their early twenties can eat without it affecting their waistline at all. Sometimes I sit at “family meals” here at TLC and just laugh to myself as my boys, fresh from their carpentry and aviation jobs, scarf down plate after plate of dinner.

To keep up with their voracious appetites (and because we don’t have the luxury of buying bread from a grocery store) I spend one, sometimes two afternoons a week baking bread for my students and staff. My students have gotten spoiled with homemade bread for sandwiches, toast, and to eat with the copious amounts of homemade soup that Tom and I feed them, and as much as they joke about becoming addicted to my “white people” cooking, I absolutely love having the time to spoil them a bit by baking them bread “with love”.

On a more selfish note, I love that my afternoons of baking give me an excuse to blast my worship music and twirl in my oven-warmed kitchen like a fool while breathing in the sweet scent that reminds me of my Tia’s kitchen on holidays. Baking has always been a stress reliever for me and I absolutely love that it’s become a part of my job description for this season of life.

RisingThe alchemy that occurs when I pour the ingredients into a mixing bowl, knead the dough that subsequently forms, and watch it rise in the ancient metal pans I found at village swap-meet astounds me. It just doesn’t make sense to me, this magic of baking, but it’s taught me a lot about life over the years. And if I’ve learned one thing this year through baking enough bread to feed a small army every week, it’s that you can’t rush the process.

When I try to hurry through my “memorized” list of ingredients, I inevitably forget the salt.

When I get over ambitious and try to make all six loaves at once, at least two somehow get screwed up.

When I convince myself that I need to rush, I don’t let the dough rise for long enough and my bread loses its beautiful, smooth top and its light, fluffy texture.

For someone who is, in the words of my car-obsessed grandfather, “All gas and no breaks”, spending time allowing my bread to rise seems like a waste, but it’s essential. The sitting and waiting, the patience, the “down time”… it’s essential in baking bread and I’ve been reminded that it’s essential in my walk with Christ.

In the last week or so, the Lord has brought me to a place of “rising”.

Since roughly December I’ve felt like someone put my brain inside my Kitchen Aid and turned it on high. As March has approached (aka the time of year when teachers usually begin signing their contracts for the next school year), my post-Alaska plans have been at the forefront of my mind. And in the last few months, the Lord has dumped what feels like nine million opportunities in my mixer with me and watched as I’ve spun and stressed and struggled, trying to figure out which is the “right choice” for the next season of life. Stressing and edging God out of the equation is so often my default reaction to seasons of change, even though I know deep in my heart that all I need to do is quiet myself before Him and ask (slash trust Him) to lead me.

I debriefed all of this with one of my most dear friends today (while our day’s worth of bread rose). She laughed and fed me the exact advice that I’d given her last summer when she was stuck on spin-cycle with Jesus.

“I don’t think God is going to tell you where He’s leading you, Kacy. I think He’s just going to let you sit and enjoy your time with Him, and then He’s going to take you there. I think you just need to wait and see; be silent and follow as He leads, one step at a time.” (Ironic advice given the number of times Exodus 14:14 has come up in our conversations with and prayers for each other throughout the last several months: “The Lord will fight for you; you need only be silent.”)

As I sit at my kitchen table this afternoon with pans of bread slowly rising next to me in my window sill, I know this to be true. This is to be a season of patience and listening, waiting and “rising”– not hurrying to get to the next thing on my to-do list or rushing my proverbial “baking”process… (or running full speed ahead into the obscure darkness, which almost seems like a shame because I’m SO much better at all of those things. #sarcasmfont)

I’m not gonna lie—I’m hungry and am anticipating eating the magical smelling bread next to me, almost as much as my heart is anticipating seeing what the Lord is going to do with my life next. As it currently stands, there’s a very good chance that three new countries and the ability to help found a non-profit that Denver drastically needs are in my immediate future… But all of that seems to be another blog for another time. Plus, I need to get off my tush and put this next round of bread in the oven before no one has anything to eat for dinner tonight.

I would love it if you would join your hearts in prayer with me as I wait and “rise”, sweet friends. Jesus is up to something… I have no idea what it is, but in the words of the United Pursuit song that I love so much, I know “It’s gonna be wild, it’s gonna be great, and it’s gonna be full of Him.”

PS: If you need to find yourself needing to breathe and pray, to quiet yourself and bake some bread today, here is the recipe that I’ve fallen in love with, courtesy of the lovely Mrs. Sarah Wardell.

Basically Manna from Heaven Recipe

  • 3 c. warm water
  • 2 tbsp. active rise yeast
  • ¼ c. agave or honey
  • ¼ c. coconut oil
  • 1 tbsp. salt
  • 5-8 c. flour

Mix warm water, yeast, and agave in your mixer for roughly a minute. Let the mixture sit for a few minutes to allow the yeast to proof. Slowly mix in the flour, oil, and salt until your dough forms. Mix/knead the dough with a bread hook for five-ish minutes. Spray your bread pans with non-stick spray and allow the bread to rise for thirty minutes. Bake at 375* for thirty minutes. Makes two sandwich loaves. (Disclaimer: This temperature and time works well here at sea level; you might need to adjust it a bit if you’re baking in the high-altitude promise land of Colorado.)

Oh Lord, when I wander…

Bindmywanderingheart

The trouble with being a wanderer is that you weren’t created to sit still. You were created for climbing mountains, trying new foods, and hurtling through meadows on horseback.

When you’re a wanderer, you always know somewhere in the back of your mind that every moment of happiness where you are, with the ones you love, is fleeting because you were created to GO.

In one regard, this knowledge makes each of these moments more precious; in another, each of these moments becomes a heartbreak. A heartbreak that this–whatever “this” is– is but a mere season of life.

For the last year and a half as I prepared for my now non-move to Texas, I was reminded of this– the specialness of every Friday night campfire with friends, every roommate breakfast on the porch, and every family dinner.

Somehow these special moments are easier to recognize and appreciate when you are the one leading the change of seasons and going to the “New”.

But what about when you are the one sending the people you love into the New while you stay in the old?

How do you deal with the goodbyes and final in-person chats when you so desperately want to Go too, yet know in the pit of your stomach that now is a season of staying and sending…not a season of new cultures, new foods, or new mountains? How do you send your fellow wanderers well?

~

I’m an emotional human being; always have been, probably always will be.

I cry out of joy when I’m happy. I cry out of frustration when I’m stressed. I cry out of panic when I’m overwhelmed. I cry out of sorrow when I’m sad. (Being such a sap isn’t exactly my favorite quality of myself, but it’s how God designed me and I’m learning to embrace it as I age.)

Monday was one of those crying days. I fell asleep crying Sunday night and woke up crying again Monday morning.

Monday was the day that Amy– my roommate and fellow wanderer, one of my best friends, my sister-in-Christ who has become like a real sister to me over the last two years– moved away in preparation for her journey to live life overseas.

This is the woman who God originally used to dupe me into somehow leaving my heart in countries that I have never visited; the one who I so lovingly say “ruined my life” by dragging me to Perspectives where God broke my heart for the Nations.

And now, after what seems like a long wait (but what has really only been about a year) God is moving her overseas to do His work for the next eight months.

I’m overjoyed for her, really I am. Yet I am so incredibly heartbroken for myself and my community as we essentially mourn the temporary loss of a sister, a roommate, a gospel community leader, and a dear friend.

I admit, the wanderer in me is jealous. Jealous of her leaving. Jealous that she is the one moving into the New. Jealous that this season of her life is becoming what the two of us have prayed about for so long.

I am overwhelmed. Overwhelmed by our empty white bedroom. Overwhelmed by the barrage of emotions that we so intentionally put off until the moment it was time for her to pack her truck and move away. (Literally, the last moment. We suck at goodbyes.) I am overwhelmed by my selfishness in that I want to keep her forever and not share her with the Nations, even though I say that “I would give up everything” if they only could come to know Christ. Hmmph.

I am sad. Sad that I don’t have my sister-girl to giggle with at night before we go to sleep. Sad that I perfectly quoted a line from Bad NFL lip reading last night and no one seemed to get the hilarity of the situation. I am simply sad that this season of life is over.

As we laid in bed Sunday night before she left, I jokingly told her that when she woke up in the morning, that I would be the one who would be gone, and that she would have to deal with me leaving her. It was my faint wanderer attempt at being the one in control here. The one leaving and going into the New, not the one being left here in the old.

I long for the New. And just like my desire to control this silly situation by being the one to leave, I know that this longing and the way I continuously idolize Going and place it over God is the sickening, sinful junk in my heart coming out yet again.

I long to long for God, and God alone. But oh man, is it hard when I am one who is prone to wander, both physically and within my own heart.

So while the Yarrow Homestead and our group of friends learns how mourn and adjust to this new season of life, while I redecorate our my room, while I find other people to quote stupid Youtube videos back and forth with, I am left with these questions:

Do I trust that God has given me this urge to Go for a reason?

Do I trust God with the life of my wonderful sister-girl, even when we can’t talk about the highlights and struggles of our days each evening?

Do I trust that there is purpose in this season of staying? In the weird conflicted pain of sending my loved ones away when all I want to do is Go myself?

Do I believe that God is Good, even when I don’t get what I want, when I want it?

~

“Jesus, sought me when a stranger
Wandering from the fold of God
He, to rescue me from danger
Interposed His precious blood

Ode to grace, how great a debtor
Daily I’m constrained to be
And let Thy goodness like a fetter
Bind my wandering heart to Thee

Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it
Prone to leave the God I love
Here’s my heart, Lord, take and seal it
Seal it for Thy courts above”

(Come Thou Fount)

Adventure & Aspen Trees

LetmebeyouradventureI’ve become a bit of a rambling soul. I think the last several months worth of posts serve to prove that point.

In just the last year I’ve been to eight new states, which translates to me having seen thirty of the fifty United States in my relatively short lifetime.

I know that God has created me to be hungry– hungry for more depth, more adventure, more knowledge, more of Him– as I said in my very first post on this site almost two years ago.

And for that hunger, I am eternally thankful.

It partially pleases me that I’m a hungry rather than a content person because to be entirely honest with you, becoming a content person scares me a wee bit.

In my mind “contentedness” has always equaled an ungrateful heart or a heart that has said, “Welp, that’s enough,” and stopped seeking more, regardless of what that more looks like. I don’t know where the connection came from but contentedness seems like settling to me… and settling seems like stopping the adventure and the life giving joy of the more. Yuck. Who would want that?

But if there was one thing that God taught me on my journey to the bush of Alaska, (one of my ultimate bucket list adventures and by far the traveling highlight of my summer) it was that I can be content in Him because He is my More.

When I am walking through life with Him by my side, God becomes my greatest adventure, my source of joy, knowledge, and depth.

Hiking Mount Tanalian and flying in a tiny 2-seater airplane were both thrilling, yes. But those moments were simply moments, which have now turned to memories: I will always treasure them, but I have become keenly aware that I will never be able to fully re-experience them.

This summer, God has taught me that destinations are just destinations, but walking with Christ is the adventure and journey that has never ceased nor stopped filling my heart with butterflies and joy in the almost eight years that I’ve been walking with Him.

So, for those of you who have asked me the inevitable question that I get asked anytime I get gung-ho on one of my adventures, no. I’m not moving to Alaska either. (Although I definitely wouldn’t be opposed to living in all that beauty at some point. *ahem, God I know you’re listening…*)

Nope. I’m not moving to Alaska and I have officially said no to Texas. So, I‘m putting down roots in Denver.

I don’t know exactly what that looks like right now, but I do know that I have signed a lease and have committed to making this beautiful city my home for another year.

And in true God fashion, once I began to loosen my white knuckles off of grad school and that mis-adventure, He began to open wild amounts of doors for the TeenMOPS program and an art therapy program that I’ve been dreaming of starting up at the Denver Street School this next school year.

So no, as I said two posts ago, I don’t have a plan, but He does and after weeks of wrestling with that fact, He has given me a stupid amount of peace to be able to trust in Him for what lies ahead.

Actually instead of a plan, I continue to have the vision of the beautiful Colorado Aspen trees in my mind’s eye every time I think about where I’m headed in life.

aspens

After doing a ridiculous amount of research about trees, I learned that the Aspen’s roots grow shallowly under ground– just deep enough to keep it stable and receiving the nutrients that it needs to thrive, but shallow enough to where God can scoop ’em up and move them about in times of avalanche or transition without causing much harm to the tree itself.

The other beautiful and unique thing about these shallow roots are that they spread for miles and become interconnected with others over time. As new trees grow, they link roots with their neighbors and shoot out their own little tree sprouts sporadically.

These little tree communities share resources, grow together, and even change their pigments all at once in the fall, creating the gorgeous Autumn colors that so many flock to Colorado to see.

After reading all of these weird tree facts, I don’t think that it is a coincidence that I have wandered into such an absolutely amazing community here in Denver over the last year; between Scum of the Earth and Park Church, I am overwhelmed by the amount of people in my life that bear the image of Jesus and share His Love.

I can’t wait to see how God intertwines my roots with those of the beautiful people that He has already placed in my life and those who I have yet to meet. I pray that all of the little communities that I am so blessed to be a part of would continue to shoot out roots into our city and share our resources with those in need.

I pray that an unprecedented number of young men and women would come to find healing and Love through the redemptive power of Christ at the Street School this next year.

I pray that the colors of our city would change to become more vibrant and that people would see the stunning change that can occur when just one small group falls in love with God and trusts Him with their entire lives…

“Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, whose trust is the Lord. He is like a tree planted by water, that sends out its roots by the stream, and does not fear when heat comes, for its leaves remain green, and is not anxious in the year of drought, for it does not cease to bear fruit.”

(Jeremiah 17:7-8)