Serving in His Backyard

The Kingdom of Heaven often turns everything upside down, and Robbie Smitskamp’s life is no exception.

Robbie has run around the world hoping to escape a broken past that stuck to him in his hometown of Emmeloord, the Netherlands. But through an altering encounter with Jesus and a short-term service trip with OM, the road would lead him back home. He wouldn’t have it any other way than God’s.

Born to a Turkish Muslim mother and Dutch Jehovah’s Witness father, Robbie never quite felt he fit in to either side. His parents split when he was four years old, and he didn’t see much of his father. While raised with a more atheist mindset, Robbie’s mother still instilled a secular Islam into the family, with verses from the Qur’an sewn on pillows and other items around the house.

Amidst further family struggles, he eventually went to live with his father. The relationship was rocky as a young Robbie continued to struggle with his identity, unable to embrace his roots.

As a teenager, he started staying out late with friends, breaking into cars and drinking, and other kinds of trouble. His life quickly began to unravel.

“I started praying to Allah, but Allah never came to me,” Robbie said, noticing the actions of his Muslim friends showed no real-life change and disinterested him.

One day, his father noticed Robbie cooking and suggested he be a chef. Robbie saw this as a way out of the tailspin he was headed and dove into the culinary world.

Robbie worked his way up through the rankings of the hospitality industry, into fine dining, and eventually wound up at a top-end Michelin star education. He was on a reality chef’s competition television show and found work at a 2-Star Michelin restaurant. A good job in the capital city of the Netherlands, a girlfriend, and access to top parties–for the outside world, it looked like Robbie was living the dream. But inside churned an emptiness that wouldn’t go away. He had reached the peak but wasn’t happy.

He spent his mid-twenties living from rave to rave, and when an opportunity to move to Australia presented itself, Robbie went, hoping the environment would change him.

However, he soon found himself in the same lifestyle as before: an endless cycle of drugs, girls, work, and an inability to forgive his father for past relationship fissures. Robbie fell into a heavy depression full of anxiety and exhaustion, and tried a Buddhist meditation to calm himself.

On a day in January 2016, Robbie met a lady at an outdoor techno festival and sensed something soothing about her. After sharing about his struggles, the woman asked to pray for him and invited him to a house group of Jesus followers. While visiting this group a month later, Robbie closed his eyes and had a vision of a man in white robes with a face like the sun.

**Read the rest of the article I wrote about the great work going on in the Netherlands over at OM Stories!

Riding with Jesus

Daniel Iuras trained for months for Romania’s national cycling tour, Tour of Romania. He’s cycled in years past, and as a character coach in Romania, prayed this year would be no exception. Iuras trained for months, as this was prime time to share the Gospel with fellow riders.

But when the Romanian Cycling Federation decided to break the tour down into certain town clubs due to COVID-19 regulations, his town of Cluj didn’t make the cut. Iuras would not race. His hope deflated, but God soon brought him in on a bigger plan. He would find a way to ride, though not how he originally planned.

Iuras reached out to the federation and asked to be an assistance car during the race driving up and down the mountain and give water to the cyclists. The federation couldn’t believe he was asking to serve, but quickly accepted his offer.

On race day, Iuras filled his car with water bottles and other fuel for the cyclists and spent the next six hours handing out supplies and speaking words of encouragement to not just the cyclists in the lead, but those in the back. They were grateful for the water yet surprised by the support. Iuras was asked why he volunteered to serve when he couldn’t race, and this opened a pathway to share exactly the reason why.

“When they asked, I said, ‘My Father sent me,’” Iuras noted. “It’s a way to open their minds, a way to talk about God.”

The federation, coaches and riders couldn’t believe Iuras’ desire to serve without receiving anything in return. But the heart of Iuras is to serve, however that looks. It’s what brings him joy, and a way to live out the example of Jesus.

“Jesus loves to be famous with small things, like water,” he said. “All day long, God gave me this huge honor and privilege to see Him this way.”

Although most Romanians are Orthodox, many of them only acknowledge God and believe He stays in Heaven and the church but not in the everyday. “They think it’s just prayer in church, but I show them we can talk to God right here,” he shared.

 

**Read the rest of the article I wrote about the great work going on in Romania through cycling over at FCA!

 

New Year Wide Open

Snow shakes from the tuft of clouds like salt falling from its holder. There’s a freshness in the air that’s breathing quiet, steady. Cold is smooth, like satin on my exposed skin. And above in bare branches, birds speak with one another, their whistling coos calm across the trees.

This white-painted world washes this new year wide open.

We believe the burning hope within to start again.

But I, I wonder.

Where am I beginning?

Do I reset and start from scratch? Or simply continue in new cadence, found rhythm? I am still experimenting with the intricacies of this unexpected life.

To embrace the uncertainty and rest in what I cannot see. Stir with hope a resilience that balloons my chest for reasons unexplainable. Revel in wonder and unlatch “What if?”. Step into my destiny and approach it, not with fear, but anticipation. And truly let my belief bloom. Believe God to be bigger than my mess, bolder than what makes me afraid, and working beautifully on my behalf.

**

Read the rest of my essay over at Awake Our Hearts!

Steadfast in the Seasons

I the Lord do not change.

-Malachi 3:6

The sky has hardened into an iron atmosphere, layering itself with blankets of clouds thick and full of snow, which will no doubt spill to earth within days. As I inhale the heavy air into my lungs, it no longer soothes; it stings. I dig my hands deeper into my pockets, attempting to corral the last remnants of autumn that have slipped into the seams of my coat, clinging for dear life.

Bare branches. Signs of the color that once graced the world mere weeks ago, now turned to an ashen state that cowers close to the ground. Empty parks, void of laughter and light. Waking and falling to sleep in darkness. And that endless chill that tears right through the seven layers I use to line my body. Farewell, fall. Welcome, winter. 

Yet with the exit of harvest season enters the dreams of December. Silent, snowy walks. The scent of crackling wood exiting through brick-laden chimneys, filling the already spice-spilled space in my heart with an aroma of warmth and kindling excitement. Cookie decorating that ends with most of the frosted sugar treats in my mouth instead of the storage tin. With the dip of the temperature, so comes the rise of star-studded nights and cozy couch sittings where I can sprawl with a cup of hot chocolate and let melodic Christmas songs bathe me in the comfort of our coming King. 

Seasons change. It’s inevitable. We can prepare ourselves and hold onto the memories of warmer, brighter times, but change will still greet us in the morning, when we slip outside to take on the day and a billow of crystallized breath erupts from our lips. 

**

It’s a joy to join The Mudroom family today. Read the rest over on their site HERE.

To Bleed and Break

Sometimes all I can see of my heart is red.

Red for the bleeding, the breaking, the pain. Red for the sorrow, the wonder at the way I’m wired. It takes a lot to hold out my heart. To bleed for others, their hopes, their suffering, a relentless concern for those who repeatedly break me open. How can I possibly continue to pour myself into the lives of those who keep brushing mine away?

I don’t know how to live any other way. Is there beauty in this broken? Is there purity in the pain? Is there a white shawl of grace for my upended heart?

I hold out my heart to a man who came to me unexpected, to patch apparently more than my kitchen ceiling, but my broken heart as well. My loyalty-induced DNA and mercy makeup keep me on my knees, grateful at the unexpected gift, feeling every aspect of both our healings as we receive God’s pure, patient, gentle, selfless love again and again. As we give, we receive tenfold, my heart expanding to sizes I never expected it to reach. I love without end.

Who will hold me when my heart lies burdened and expanded? Am I enough?

***

Honored to have an essay on Red Tent Living–want to read the rest of it? Visit the page here.

Come To You

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

-Matthew 11:28-30

 

You tell me to come to You.

Me, worn and weary, fall into You, and You will give me rest.

 

Just come to You.

Simple.

Straightforward.

Just come.

Am I that brave?

Do I trust You enough to just come?

Leave my worries at Your feet?

Give You my troubles? The uncertainties of my life? Not knowing which way to turn, job elusive, a permanent place or residence aloof, my fears for settling and giving in to mediocrity?

Can I simply let my burdens fall from my heart and take Your yoke, which You promise is light?

Just come, You beckon. As if it’s the easiest solution and I should have thought of it in the first place. Abide in You so our heartbeats are one, steady cadence.

You promise rest. Rest that my soul craves, is parched for. Rest is a given if only I come. Wherever I am, as I am. You want me as me.

Surrender starts with rest, with giving up and letting go. Loosening the hold I have around my heart, the worry in my head. Abandon all to fall into You.

Release and surrender to the current that has already swept me up, I have been fighting.

Cease striving and be still.

Come to the calm. Submerge my spirit in Your quiet strength.

I cannot work my way to You. Cannot strain to see what’s down the road when the road is swathed in darkness. You give me the light enough I need for the moment, and I should fall into that soft light with grace.

Grace to slow, grace to come. Grace to submit and release. Surround my soul with Your gentleness, cool waters drenched in deep rest. Rest upon the waves. For Your burden is easy and yoke so light.

Come, You tell me. As I am. Leave my troubles with You and relax in Your embrace. Bask in Your beauty, Your soothing guidance. Trust that You are enough.

You are always enough.

Awakened

We are all meant to be.

Someone.

Something.

A flash of light through thick, syrupy darkness.

We have been fastened together by dreams and shapes and symphonies, formed in the secret spaces of the deep. Intentionally. With fervor.

We are silhouettes made of stardust, given faces and smiles sewn on our porcelain skin. In the moon-speckled night, our deepest longings were whispered delicately into our ear. While we slept, we soared.

And then, slowly, with sensation sweeping from our eyelids, we awoke. To colors drying and chipping from the sky. With our faces, our lineage, our stories, muffled against the exhaust of nameless fumes, toxic and telling us to move along. They invaded our invincibility, our homes that hooked us to our cotton clouds and pulled the string. We slipped and stumbled to the ground, no longer aware of the way we floated. Instead, the sharp realization of reality jabbed us in the jaw, and then we knew how much the fall would hurt once our brittle bones hit the earth.  Huddled around us, voices hissed, full of doubt and fear and cruelty. The voices grappled for the shine in our eyes, tender from the blistering light that led us for so long. They took the glow and hid them in shadows, where we could only hear the faintest whimpers as they wailed at our separation.

We were tried and tested, bruised but never fully bleeding. This new world sneered at the likes of us, the dreamers who had dared to believe we were made for more. So they kept us cowering, crossed up in lies that we don’t deserve delight. That we cannot claim a life of our own.

Yet.

A seed, small, insignificant to the outside eye, has been planted.

Many years ago.

Many miles from this world.

And it has grown, quietly, in the concrete corners of our heart.

There is something inside of us that cannot stay hidden, cannot stay sleeping. It is dangerous, it is explosive, it is the greatest instrument we can possess. And with it comes the living rush of wind that sets our sails to travel the sky. To once and for all search the sands and find the perfect space to insert our own shell, unique and exquisite in a sunrise’s surprise.

This is the time.

We are formed from the hands of mercy, of beauty, of light and love. These hands that formed the heavens, formed us. And within our private precincts, they placed a voice, a vision, a task entirely our own and utterly under our command.

We are to set fire to the fabric of our beings. We are to answer this call abundantly and unabashedly. And we are to savor each second the sunlight sweeps over our face.

Because in our breath, we taste our Creator. In our skills, we see our Mentor. And in our depth and width and luster of this fading world’s wonder, we see Him who lifted us from the cradle of conformity and set us high upon the hill of hope, His light bathing us in such a glory all who look upon us burst forth in choruses of admiration.

How they shine, their reactions echo. How they radiate with the touch of His approval.

All other voices are silenced.

Rebuild The Jagged Edges

Too early to rise, yet I am lulled out of bed, wide awake and aware stars still gleam in the sky.

Coffee quickly brewing in the kitchen, my lifeline. This is how I arrive today—heavy eyelids, leaking heart.

This is a lonely season of my life. I am weary from holding back this truth.

Tell me that the night will end. Tell me that the light will come.

Teach my heart to wait in You, to be still and trust.

 

All that is within me wants to see the other side right now, to know the goodness comes my way, that what I sow in rows of tears will reap an abundance of joy.

You are always good, but this does not feel good to my heart right now. How do I hope when days stretch to weeks, to months, and then I somehow notice it’s been years?

You alone know the ways I am to walk, where each step leads, the trails, the turns, the unmarked maps.

How do I listen through the din of despair, when I stare it straight in the eye, stand at its edge, rock my toes over the ledge? How do I be still to see You go before me to make a way where there is a wall?

 

 

It’s been awhile, but I’m back over at ALTARWORK! Head over to read the rest of the post.

Blessed Silver Lining

Trail of rain pulls down the sky like tufts of seagrass before a storm. A shift in water’s hues—silver to steel to aqua. Drops fall through tree branches, splattering my porch roof, the yard. I tuck my arms into my sweatshirt, huddle my body warmth as close as possible. This is the underside of autumn, shadowed spaces sprawled across the sky. The pieces no one leans in to examine closely. But these details—the sodden trails, hiccups of gray along a color-stitched lawn, bite of wind snapping at my skin—are part of the shift of seasons, necessary for the earth to evolve as it is meant to in the swing of spring to summer, summer to fall, fall inevitably into winter.

Seasons shift in my own life as well. One full year has passed since I moved from Kansas City to Wisconsin and back to my hometown, where I fought tooth and nail to stay away. It’s hard to believe I’ve been back for a year, on top of four previous turns of the earth that tightened my chest and tested my will, molded my spirit and made me wonder how in the world the struggle could make me stronger.

I’ve been sad, afraid and discouraged more times than I’d like as I fought the calling to stay in Kansas City and work for an international sports ministry. It was a beautiful place, but I was barren inside. How many months I railed against God at my discomfort, my unhappiness, the unraveling of my well-tended dreams for life that gave way to guttural growing pains tending a path I never saw as part of my story. Each time I couldn’t stand the strain, he’d bring a little consolation and larger confirmation that, yes, I was indeed meant to be smack dab in the middle of right here, right now.

 

**Read the rest of my essay in the Redbud Post!

 

 

 

Serve Small

It starts with a smile.

To look someone straight in the eyes, see into their life, and welcome them to yours.

It’s a simple hello and follows with an honest ask: “How are you?” Then, taking the time to look and see as they tell you. You remember what they said, follow up with another question, ask them again about it next time you two run into each other.

Something so small, which may at first be perceived as insignificant, quite possibly makes all the difference in the world.

Hospitality reaches beyond our homes—it’s bred in the tiny details of the day. Opening doors, sharing a smile, complimenting a jacket or eye color. It’s spreading wide our hearts to all those we rub shoulders with throughout the day. It is seeing someone—really seeing—with a deep soul-eyed stare. Noticing the person—not the problem, not the situation—but deciding to invest care into the stranger, approach them as someone created in God’s image and sharing in their value.

Listening instead of lecturing.

It’s the little things that make a person feel seen, set apart, welcomed and connected, embraced right where they are, as they are, in that moment.

 

 

**I’m delighted to be over visiting Leslie Verner at Scraping Raisens blog today. Read the rest of my post here, then stick around and read some of her work!