31 Days · Intentional Living

Standing in Vulnerability {#write31days}

When I was in high school, I went on two service trips to Reynosa, Mexico with my church. I never viewed these decisions to go as brave because it was in the safest way possible. We were just hopping the border into Mexico, and we didn’t even need passports. I was going with my church, with people I had grown up with (including my sister). And, besides the drive, the trip was only 4 days long.

The summer after my freshman year, a good portion of our youth group hopped into vans and off we went.

As a side note, I have to say that the braves ones here were the chaperones…Keeping track of 20-some teenagers headed to a foreign country? Yeah, that’s brave.

Anyways, we spent 4 days hauling dirt, painting walls, playing with kids, sleeping under the stars, and eating new foods. It was eye-opening, and it was a fantastic time. I barely had to step outside my comfort zone, and my 15 year old self was okay with that.

Two years later, I went again to Reynosa, and though the group was much smaller and included an entirely different group of people, I was excited to go again. However, over my head loomed this thing I had agreed to…giving a short devotion in front of a church…in Spanish.

Three years of high school Spanish, and I was asked to give a devotion in front of an entire church in Spanish. I agreed to it not realizing how woefully unprepared I was to do such a thing, and being 17 years old, I procrastinated and finished it just before we left for the trip.

I remember sitting in the front row of the pew in this little church in Mexico, barely able to think, consumed with nervousness. I am not one to get nervous speaking in front of a large group of people, or any group, and prior to then I had spoken to an groups of teens, legislators, rooms full of adults, and even an entire high school…

standing in vulnerability

This was entirely different.

The pastor finished speaking and called me up, and shaking I stood at the podium and stumbled through a rough devotion on not judging people from the outside, but instead being willing to walk with them and crack open what’s truly inside. Then the kids came forward and cracked open geodes with a hammer, illustrating my point.

Y’all, it was awful. I am so glad there is no video of this moment (to my knowledge), because I don’t want to know how badly my three years of rural Iowa high school Spanish came out. At the end, I collapsed into the pew as the pastor got up and explained everything I had been unable to say eloquently (bless him).

I was relieved when it was over, and had learned two things.

  1. Never agree to speak publicly in another language (time would prove that I failed to learn this lesson)
  2. God can do so much with so little.

When it came time to speak, I wanted nothing more than to run out of the church and disappear. But I knew doing so would disrespect the church that had asked us to come, and show that I cared more about myself than about the others. As I leaned into God for strength and peace, I saw Him calm my fears enough to allow me to speak.

Was it beautiful? No. Eloquent? Ha! But did it show that church the we cared? Yes.

And the kids? They had a BLAST breaking open geodes (which were unknown there). An ugly little rock on the outside that revealed a stunning array of glittering crystals on the inside.

When we find the courage to push through our fears and trust in God, God will meet us where we are and show up in a big way. Better yet, He’ll take our feeble offering and turn it until something we couldn’t even imagine. But we have to commit and trust, and that’s scary.

[bctt tweet=”But it starts with one brave decision to embrace vulnerability.”]

That decision is a stepping stone to the glorious things God can do through you.

What is your next brave decision?


This post is part of my #write31days series for 2015: Living Brave. Each day in October, I will be posting about living brave and what that looks like in everyday life. Curious about 31 Days? Check out the website and the hundreds of other bloggers joining in this year: 31 Days.


8 thoughts on “Standing in Vulnerability {#write31days}

  1. I went to Apizaco, Mexico in high school with a group from my church. We flew though and did have passports. I remember that trip fondly except for the going to the bathroom in coffee cans part. I also had to bravely use my Spanish with the host mom because she spoke no English.

    Wow! You did a devotion in Spanish! That’s brave in my book! I have never spoken more than a short conversation with a Spanish speaker. I think my next brave thing to do will be to attend the intensive feeding clinic with our six year old for the month of November without losing my patience. I’m sure it will be rocky and amazing, but it will require him and us to be be brave and trust the experience professionals to lead our son into eating a balanced diet! Prayers for that please!

    I love your photo here of you!!! Lights on your love of Christ. Jenn Cook

    1. That sounds like a scary thing to endure with your family, but I’m praying it helps your family immensely. Definitely will take a whole lot of brave, but I know you’ve got this (after all, God has your back).

      And goodness, coffee cans and non-English speaking host parents. Sounds like a true adventure,and definitely a brave one!

  2. I’m facing vulnerability. I am finishing the final edits/formatting on my second book. I find myself procrastinating, but it has a very tight deadline. Thank you for you post…knowing God can do great things with a little bravery and vulnerability reminds me that all I have to do is step forward…He does the rest. Thank you.

  3. My next brave decision is going to ALLUME. So outside what is comfortable – meeting 400 new people. Yikes! But I’m going to do it and be brave.
    BTW, Jen, my hubs grows grapes and does make his own wine! #countryliving
    I want to come to your tiny house and break bread with you, I will bring the wine!

  4. So far I have not visited a foreign country, but God has often put me in positions where I did not feel I had any ability (and a few times ended up crying in the restroom beforehand), but it’s true that when His ability meets our weakness, He can do marvelous things.

  5. I’m sure they loved your vulnerability and willingness to speak in Spanish. I am a Missionary’s Kid and speak fluently. The Latin culture is so gracious and loving toward those who are willing to take the chance. Way to go! I loved your quote that embracing vulnerability starts with one decision. I will make many of those today! You inspired me to do that.

  6. Embracing vulnerability is so hard but can be so worth It. THIS: “When we find the courage to push through our fears and trust in God, God will meet us where we are and show up in a big way. “

  7. A summer immersion in Quebec taught me big lessons about fear and doing hard things in the face of fear. Those lessons have stuck with me for 20 years. I did a lot of praying in those weeks of French-only living. Thanks for sharing, fellow 31 dayer!

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