I was 14 the first time I encountered the Holy spirit and asked if I could take Jesus to dwell within me. It would be a heart wrenching, 15 more years before I asked God if he would take me too, and I could dwell in Him. Suddenly I was undone. From a religion to a relationship. It was night verses day, confusion into peace. I gave up the foolishness of control over my life and let God do what he does best, be Almighty. Places deeply broken were healed. Walls I had put up around myself, as well as the box I had put God into, were blown to less than ash. God wasn't ever going to let me go back, so I began to search for a new path. That's when I found that God is a light unto my feet, not unto my street. Only taking one trembling step at a time would illuminate the next foothold. I couldn't see any essence of direction, just moment by moment, living each day to it's fullest, taking risks I never would have imagined, all the while believing the unworldly Love I now knew was enough to carry me into and out of anything this world had to offer. The rules no longer applied to me, and I was overwhelmed living inside of freedom without fear. I became addicted to closing my eyes, stretching out my arms and falling back into the trust that was building in God's grace. By the time I opened my eyes I had been living for almost a year, by myself in central Africa. I had liquidated all of my assets and given everything I had to the poorest of the poor. I now had a 12 year old Malawian foster daughter, 3 dogs, and $1.99 in my bank account. No savings, no back up plan. It suddenly occurred to me that I had to feed this daughter, as well as a never ending line of suffering at my door step, that I refused to refuse. Let alone, my poor mother whom I'm sure (because I know her, and because I read the messages she sent me) was a bit unnerved upon discovering I didn't have a way to get back to the US.
I had looked into the unknown and stopped looking at the one who knows, consequently I began doubting everything. I hit my knees on the concrete floor in my bedroom. I sobbed to God, explaining how I had clearly messed it all up. I begged for guidance. I begged for assistance. I begged for mercy. Lastly after digging deep within my own feelings, I begged that He wouldn't make me send away my beloved daughter, appropriately named Gift. As if a powerful wave on the ocean had been swelling since the moment I began my prayer, peace crashed over me. It ran through me, so strong it pushed me from a posture that I thought was appropriate to true humility. There is one God, He was with me, He had heard me, and He was going to respond. If kindness, gentleness, and power were One, and that One had a voice, this is what it sounded like, "Don't send her away, I will take care of you both." It was some time before I realized I was breathing, and had the thought to gather myself. The journey of faith had truly begun. To this day, more than a year later, it is only God who knows where he is taking me. Each moment is it's own story.
God tells us that we are to be the salt of the world. Salt, He says, is good. Used to preserve the things that matter, used to heal wounds, used to keep the world from growing back, used to add flavour to the otherwise bland. After 2 years now in Malawi, I have found a passion for helping our least fortunate brothers and sisters to become self sufficient, "what do you need to get to a place that you can take care of yourself?" Sometimes that means prosthetic limbs, small business start ups, school loans, clean drinking water, rebuilding houses or making homes handicap accessible, new roofs, surgeries, solar system installs, and any number of other things. Sometimes it's simply advice, prayer, and encouragement. Because I'm not partnered with any church or organization I'm free to help whoever, whenever, and without limitations. Even more than all of that, my deepest desire is encouraging my own American family to trust God, to listen, to explore the freedom we've been given, to live fully in the moment, to freely give, to freely love, to seek with all our hearts, to stop assuming, to forgive without holding something back, to take risks with God. For me to live in a real genuine relationship with the Creator of the universe regardless of my own imperfections, to not be ashamed of my shortcomings but honest in my pursuit, to live out loud my response to the offer freely given to me by Love itself.
I don't come from great opportunity. I'm a master of nothing. I was raised with very little money and never grew out of that. Just a regular small town girl. There isn't anything special about me. The only thing I have ever done that made any difference in my life was move over and let Jesus take the lead.
Stay salty my friends.
If you would like to read more about where Teneil is from and her personal life experience, please check out the story in the link below from her blog.
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