But Was It Life-Changing?

I returned from Guatemala late Sunday afternoon. My first stop was the laundry room to erase the undeniable evidence from my trip, the stench of poverty.

I showered and went to church. (I can’t tell you how much I love that evening service. I was desperately needing the worship and fellowship.) I grabbed yogurt with a close friendI crawled into bed and slept.

Monday morning arrived and I was instantly jolted back into “normal.” A day full of meetings, knocking out emails, and tying up loose ends. Finally home from the day-turned-into-evening’s events at 10 PM, I folded my clothes and carefully placed them back in my suitcase.

On the road. Again. It sounds overwhelming but truly, it is a sweet relief.

I treasure the hours of alone as I make my way to my destination, the Pacific Northwest. The hours to reflect. The hours to process. The hours to write. The hours to answer the two questions that everyone has asked since I returned to America.

How was your trip? Was it life-changing?

Questions that don’t just make me uncomfortable, questions that make my skin crawl in conviction. Questions that have made me realize how recklessly I have come to use the word “life-changing.”

At least once a week, something is “life-changing”… a sermon, a book, a song, a word of advice, a fish burrito. All inspirational in their own right, but seldom a catalyst for authentic life change.

And I don’t want this trip to savored and then slowly forgotten like a “life-changing” piece of pie.

I want this trip to be a seed planted deep within my soul that with the proper care will bloom, grow, and bear beautiful fruit.

I want this trip to be a recognizable turning point in my life. I want this trip to be a recognizable turning point in my heart.

So to all of you who are wondering, “How was your trip? Was it life-changing?”

All I can do is shrug and say, “I sure hope so. Will you please pray that it will be will be?”

What was the last thing you described as life-changing? Was it really…life-changing?

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Lindsey has a sincere love for her precious dogs Molly and Maisy, a good red wine and the Delta Sky Club.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

  • cmnb

    Oh, Lindsey, I know exactly how you feel. I went to Nicaragua a few months ago and have struggled to talk about it and tried to dodge that inevitable question, "how was your trip?". Time and space just could not seem to offer what was needed to explain exactly what was in my heart so I avoided saying anything at all. I appreciate this post because I have felt convicted to share what I saw and felt and hope that in doing so, I will be taken back to that place again and again, and hopefully…eventually…I'll be able to look back and say, "Yes, it was life-changing!" I will be praying the same for you.

  • I served a bottle of Earthquake Zinfandel at dinner on Sunday night. I said to our guests, “This will change your life.” How shallow. The wine was inspiring but hardly life-changing. I am guilty as charged.
    My recent post An Interview with Max Lucado

  • Charley Cameron

    Hi Lindsey,
    Having been to Guatemala a few times, I have struggled to express just what it does to my life. Life changing? Of course! Still, a few months later, I seem to sink back into a life that worries about all the wrong things. You and your fellow bloggers have stirred those things inside of me that is reminded of the wonder in the eyes of a Guatemalan child, which in turn, re-awakens a deep abiding love for them. When I go to Guatemala, I have a sense that it's where God lives. Of course He lives everywhere, but you know the feeling. So, thanks! I have a Compassion child in Solola Guatemala. Someday I will meet him. Welcome home. Thanks for sharing your journey!


  • rebeccannb

    I have said that about so many things that are trivial but there is something that was life changing I talk about to others and that was my time in India 8 years ago. I truly have never been the same since that trip.
    I have loved reading your posts about your trip! I pray that once you process all that you went through you will see it as something life changing.
    My recent post Essential Tremors

  • Lindsey, I pray your trip will be life changing as you process all that you have experienced. Thank you for sharing your journey. I just returned from Sweden and saw the graves of the Vikings, a Bible from 600's, Cathedrals from the 1300's. I thought that was life changing except for the thought of, how did those dead folks and dead things impact the world for Jesus? Apart from His impact, I suppose that nothing else is really life changing.

    • Yeah, been thinking a lot lately about what has eternal purpose.

  • Was it life changing? You’re right, time will tell. I spent a week in a refugee camp in January of 2009 and I was asking similar questions for over a year. The answer finally came together in the nonprofit Hope for the Orphans of Burma that is beginning to take shape. I’m still praying and asking questions! Your answer will come to you in due time. I’m guessing though it was a life changing trip!

    Grace and Peace

    Mike Lane

    Hope for the Orphans of Burma

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  • I love your response to that question! Praying that your trip will prove to be life-changing.

  • Just like the Kenya trip last year, images and words from your Guatemala trip have left indelible marks on my heart. Thank you for all of your hard work.
    My recent post Even More Letter Writing Ideas

  • Lindsey, I totally understand what you're saying here. "Life-changing" is a huge term, and I truly think the biggest "life change" that's ever taken place in me was when I opened up to my group as a senior in high school about some secret sins I'd been hiding. Truly life altering. Nothing's been the same since. Yes, there have been other things in my walk that have definitely produced fruit, changed my perspective and maybe even my direction. Praying for y'all as you return to "normal" life. Thank you for sharing your heart and words with us! You left an impression on Guatemala and our hearts.

    P.S. I also understand what it's like to go from one trip to another. I had a one day turn around for 2 mission trips I went on. Crazy! I was exhausted! Praying for energy for you.
    My recent post George- the Curious One

    • Thanks Lindsee. I got a great night sleep last night so feel a little more energized today.

  • Use of the term "life-changing" has been a pet peeve of mine for years. That and when people habitually type "LOL" at the end of a statement that isn't all that funny, LOL. See, just like that…

    It is not the event or experience that is life-changing, it is the attitude with which we receive it. Whether your Guatemala experience can be considered life-changing or not lies in what you do with it. We need to stop seeking out "life-changing" events and experiences, because they are really not the source of change. We need to stop putting the responsibility on our outward circumstances. If we truly want our lives to change, we need to go no further than our attitude.
    My recent post Jake’s Sammitch

  • God’s given you a gift, Lindsey — to boil everything down to it’s essence.

    And you did it again here for me.

    Has this trip changed my life?

    Oh, I am praying so.

    We just sponsored our first LDP student — and the kids and I picked out another 5 children to sponsor…

    That you’d take time in the midst of travelling to share this, Lindsey — to help us all process — you amaze!

    Thank you. *Thank you* —- you and Guatemala and the time we shared will always have a piece of my heart.

    And yes — I’m praying that we are all forever changed — for real 🙂

    All’s grace,


    • You AMAZE. I learned so much just watching you. Thank you for coming on this trip and opening your heart. You are beautiful. I feel blessed to call you a friend.

  • Ian

    Wonderfully said Lindsey, great wisdom – I am far too flippant about the use of '"life-changing". I pray that what you experienced in Guatemala takes deep root in your spirit and the Lord sprinkles his wonder on it to fertilise something glorious in your heart.

  • That is a great distinction. If something is truly life-changing, your life will show evidence of the change. I think I will be much more careful about using that phrase! From reading your posts this past week, I believe a seed has definitely been planted in you and I'm excited to see how it grows!
    My recent post Sunday Sentiments- Sanctification

  • Your trip was life changing for our family. We got to see poverty through your eyes and it prompted us to act. We've been on mission trips; led mission trips in fact; but God used you, Shaun, Compassion to change our hearts and we are praying that we in turn can change the life of one little girl. Thanks Lindsey!

    • Thanks guys. (I never know if I am responding to Justin or Trish.) Love that you guys sponsored a child and took action to get several more sponsored.

  • I say stuff like this often. And it often has to do with food. I am so guilty. Thank you for this post.

  • Honestly, a person has to make the change themselves. The place where you say:

    And I don’t want this trip to savored and then slowly forgotten like a “life-changing” piece of pie.

    I want this trip to be a seed planted deep within my soul that with the proper care will bloom, grow, and bear beautiful fruit." is so very true. But it requires hard work and action on your part. You will need to nurture that seed, water that seed, protect that seed so that it will bloom, grow and bear fruit for many generations. I think you might already realize this.

    I know, because I lived in Kenya in 1995. Today I like to think I have a different mindset because of that year. But most of my activity activities have proven that thinking is not doing. It is a great challenge for us, living in the rich Western world. When we are confronted with extreme poverty, we are shocked and appalled, then go back to our same old same old life. I pray that you make this experience the life-changing defining moment of your life.
    My recent post the age of social justice

  • Eve Annunziato

    Oh, I needed to read this, Linds. I'm now motivated to redefine my own life-changing definition… Thanks for making me think – it's good for my spirit as I give myself a healthy heart-check!
    My recent post My Fabulous New Ministry Venture!

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  • Africa (Burundi in may of this year).

    Yes – completely life changing as I witnessed the Divine intersection of third-world need and my years of training experience.

    So life changing that Lord willing, two of us will be returning in November… it can't come soon enough.

    Love how you are grappling with this stuff Lindsey… in so many different ways… praying God breaks in to your processing and shows you how you can continue to impact hearts long after your journey.

  • Sharon O

    I pray you can relax and write and focus on the 'heart' lessons you learned from your trip. The pacific Northwest is where I am… Good old Oregon. Enjoy the beauty. Hope you get to the beach.
    take care Loved your sharing of the journey along with the other compassion writers. I had my box of kleenex near my computer every day.

  • I want to respond to you because I think I had a life changing trip this summer, but I don't think it has processed yet. It feels like some of it is still seeping into my life and absorbing into my soul.

    The short story is my husband and I took all three of our kids (ages 6,4,2) to Cornerstone Music Festival for a week. All six of us lived out of 1 tent and our minivan for a week and immersed ourself in an environment of worship through arts and music.

    Honestly I was beyond anxious because this was our first ever family vacation and we were camping to boot. But it was one of the most amazing weeks ever. Both for me personally and for our family. The kids did great even with the loud music and tons of people. There's just too much that I learned and saw and experienced to even list, some things that I'm not even aware of yet.

    Your post inspired me to work out some of what I'm processing and try to share it. But I think you're right in our over-use of life changing. And how we even expect something truly life-changing to change us overnight. I know I am so very impatient in life, but some of these things that I felt convicted to change after our trip have been slow going. I feel confident in making these changes because no matter how slow it seems to be going I am finding myself encouraged by the small steps (which is something God is doing in me and contrary to my impatient self).

    Thanks for posting. I pray that God will allow a little bit of your trip to absorb each day and that you'll continue to be refreshed or convicted or comforted or whatever you need from God each day.
    My recent post Generosity Challenge from The Orchard

    • I think the working out and sharing is important. We need people to ask us the hard questions and challenge us to change.

  • Thank you for investing your time and talent to go to Guatemala with Compassion and blog your experience. I enjoyed reading the different perspectives from the 4 of you on the same experience and sharing what you learned from them. I encouraged others to follow your blogs and compiled a short list of what I learned from you on my blog today.


    • Wasn't it fascinating to read 4 different accounts of the same day. Love the unique perspectives.

  • Thanks Kristy. Those are great prayers.

  • Yes. Losing a job would be real life-change. Glad you are clinging.

  • Love that Foster quote. One day when we visiting with the family of a sponsored child, the mother said
    "thank you for taking time out of your BUSY lives to come to Guatemala." She was being kind but I felt so conviced. Our American busyness is lame. So lame.

  • I am going to go back and read those verses in The Message. I love. Thanks for sharing.

  • Sallye

    Lindsey, Yes I will be praying that this is life changing for you. Fruit you are already seeing is how it has changed the way you pray, for yourself, for others, and for your Compassion Child. This was the trip that took the blinders off of your eyes in the first person, and ours in the third person. Hopefully we will all began to use a different scale to measure want against need in all area's of our lives. Sad thing is we could no more survive in their world they they could in ours. Look at what James has to say about orphans and widows and pure religion.


  • One of the most life changing books I have ever read is Dale Carnegie's "How to win friends and influence people." In his book he talks about things we can do on a daily basis to change the lives around us. Like giving compliments to the waitress at lunch for good service, lifting people up with a positive comment, or writing a heartfelt thank you note. Sometimes it's the little things we remember. Thanks for sharing your adventures with us. You are truly making a difference with your writing!

  • Joe S

    I am guilty of doing the same thing. When I visited 2 orphanages in Bolivia 7 years ago, I swore I never wanted to forget what I was doing and how humble and efficient their lives were. I wanted it to stick with me forever. Now it feels like a distant memory – more like something I'll need to do more often than just once in my life. Perhaps rather than seeing it as an isolated moment, we should look at these trips as regular "retreats" we should be doing?

  • Praying for it to stick, Lindsey….and I'm praying with expectane that it will.

    For me, a life-changing moment happened Tuesday. We had chapel as usual (I lead worship for all of them at an eating disorder treatment facility), and the topic was being silent and listening to God. I can honestly say that in my almost 30 years of living and breath I have never felt the presence of God in that way. When our time was up, no one said anything and no one wanted to leave. Several ladies came to know Jesus in the last couple days because God made himself known to them. Un.be.lievable.
    My recent post Story Behind the Song- “Take Me Away”

  • I'm not sure why this post brought tears to my eyes, but I guess it's because I get it. We got back from Cambodia 2 months ago tomorrow, and I know it changed my life. But how is it changing my life? What a wonderful thing to ask prayer for!!

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  • I tend to think I'm careful with this phrase. However, the past two years of my life have been undeniably life-changing…from the miraculous birth of my son to leaving the church that had been our family's spiritual home for the past five years.

    There is no doubt that life has changed. My hope is that it has changed for the better.

    I will be praying for you as you jump back into "normal." Praying that the Holy Spirit leads and guides you to what your new normal should be.

    Thank you for taking your time, talent, and heart to Guatemala and sharing them all with us. It is very truly appreciated.

  • BillSpinks

    Hi Lindsey,
    …have to confess, not much life-changing going on for me, lately. I've had them, but it's been a while. But since you've asked for prayer about it, I'll do that for you. Lots of good comments…I like Mike Lane's…it might take you some time to process.

  • What a wonderful concept and thought process… I believe so often people quickly state that we are life changed by dramatic events within our lives but don't stop to truly reflect on what that could mean.

    However, when it comes down to it: aren't we all a collection of the experiences that we have? Even the smallest encounters on a daily basis shape the people we become and the discipleship we're able to offer.

  • My heart breaks. My soul aches. My head spins. And I don't know how to answer your question about reconciling wealth, life-change, and seeing poverty.

  • But do you really want to "wash away the stench of poverty"? Okay, I'll give you the physical evidence of that could be quite uncomfortable, but I'm glad that you are allowing this trip to effect your life.

  • Adrianne

    Hi Lindsey, I was linked to your blog through Patricia with Compassion. I actually just returned with her from Ecuador where we worked at the local Compassion project for 4 days helping to bring them clean water. I, too, was able to connect with a little boy named Oscar and will be his sponosr for as long as he is in the project…it was indeed a once in a lifetime experience. This post along with the others you have posted before and after this one have put words to what I was feeling…and honestly, I'm not 100% sure what that is except that a piece of my heart has been left in Ecuador. Something happened to me on that trip and I'm still trying to proces what the Lord allowed me to experience. Thank you for sharing your heart and what the Lord is doing in your life. I couldnt agree more with asking the question, "What am I going to DO, now that I KNOW?" So grateful for your words…

    • Love Patricia! You guys' trip looked amazing. Thank you for stopping by here and sharing! And fyi…I am still struggling with this. What do I do now that I know?

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  • Seth M Haines

    Yeah, Lindsey. These are really wise words.  Learning to use our vocabulary carefully and with measured hope.  That’s a trick I wish I could learn.

    I like your place here.  

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