Saturday, December 1, 2012

Answered Prayers


We prayed aloud as our far from 4-wheel drive sedan slowly crept along the rocky road. The car we had traveled in was not even close to being equipped for this journey, and the same glaring ill-equipment was heavy on my heart as well. So we prayed.

"God we love babies and we would be honored at the opportunity to love these twins in whatever way You allow us, but we don't want that to be the reason for anything. We believe and trust that You care for their best far more than we do, so lead us to Your will. Keep us from our own. We are yours. Use us as You see fit here, if at all. We trust you."

It was all that came out of my mouth because I didn't know what to pray for, I didn't know what to do, I didn't know what to expect, I didn't even know what to hope for.

As we left the house 15 minutes later--completely overwhelmed, empty-handed, eyes holding back tears, breath still lost--Sister Helen looked at me and said "wow. the prayers you just prayed have been answered!!" I looked at her in aggravated disbelief. Had I really prayed to see such a heartbreaking story unfold before our eyes? I pondered her comment for the rest of the day, as the faces of the twins and their brother raced through my mind every second of the 24 hours before we returned for them. I would never, ever have prayed or hoped for a situation so desperate to require immediate intervention like this. Never. If I had prayed for this (whether to fill our beautiful baby home, or to feel useful, or to become a temporary mama to gorgeous twin girls), God please forgive me.

It took several hours before one of my very favorite pieces of Scripture broke into my mind. I love it so much because I am simple-minded and this is about as clean-cut as it can get, yet I still forget it and am re-amazed constantly!

"This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. And if we know that he hears us—whatever we ask—we know that we have what we asked of him." --1 John 5:14-15
Praying for His will means being heard and His will being done means we get what we asked for, whatever it is. It's just easy. I love it. Sister Helen was right, God did answer our prayers. We prayed for His will to be done and that's where we are and man oh man, where else can I get confidence like that? Nowhere. When the "what the heck are we doing?" questions arise, a quick look up to the Leader of all of this brings solace. This is His thing, not ours. As we continue to ache for His will done, we have immeasurable confidence that it will be done and we get to go along for the ride.

Several days before we met the twins, I was reading Psalm 90:17. It led me to stop and take a painfully close look into my heart before I could even meditate on it. "Let the favor of the Lord our God be upon us, and establish the work of our hands; yes, establish the work of our hands!" ~Psalm 90:17 Before I could pray it, I needed to confirm my hands were being directed by Him. Though I don't think He'd even answer the prayer of establishing the work of my hands if they are not working solely for His glory, it was something I had to get straight on before the same plea exited my own mouth. It has since become a daily prayer... a daily trust, rather. First, a prayer for His will to be done, for His glory--second, a trust that He will establish the work of our hands when these are our aims (and only then).

We can take heart in trusting He will establish the work of our hands when we are truly working for Him. I am so very thankful we are not in charge and that the work He has each of us in right now, He promises to make it count long after we are gone from this earth.
"Good men are anxious not to work in vain. They know that without the Lord they can do nothing, and therefore they cry to him for help in the work, for acceptance of their efforts, and for the establishment of their designs. The church as a whole earnestly desi
res that the hand of the Lord may so work with the hand of his people, that a substantial, yea, an eternal edifice to the praise and glory of God may be the result. We come and go, but the Lord's work abides. We are content to die, so long as Jesus lives and his kingdom grows. Since the Lord abides for ever the same, we trust our work in his hands, and feel that since it is far more his work than ours he will secure it immortality. When we have withered like grass, our holy service, like gold, silver, and precious stones, will survive the fire." --Charles Spurgeon

Friday, October 26, 2012

Bring on the ringworm


I was wearing a dress that was tooshort by Kenyan standards, but our walk was unexpected and it’s just too hotsometimes to dress conservatively when you aren't planning to leave the house. They called out to us andasked me in Swahili if I knew how to farm. It was a joke, obviously. Theylaughed, assuming I didn’t understand what they said; and because I don’t lovebeing the object of jokes unless I can join in the laughter, I took off my redleather ballet flats, waded through the freshly plowed field and picked upthe hoe. They held my baby as I swung with all my might and dug up fresh groundwhile we all laughed together at my skills (or lack thereof).

Caleb was wearing one of the shirtshe “came with.” I am not sure of it’s original color, but by now it holdsstains of every hue and the neck is stretched out so that one of his shoulderslays bare. I had meant to get rid of that shirt, but it somehow remained in hiswardrobe of bright, fresh blues and greens and reds. He greeted them with akindness that made time stand still for a moment as I looked on with pride.They were dirty. Their two children sat under the shade of a tree nearby. Thelittlest cried when I approached, as if I was dressed in a frightening costumeinstead of just the white skin I was born with.

I talked with the ladies who wereworking to feed their children while Caleb sat down in the pile of dirt rightbetween Kevin and Mateo, our new friends. I eventually sat down with him, afterthe laughs from all of the “mzungus are lazy jokes” had ceased. I had missedthis. I watched him gently run his fingers over Kevin’s head, covered in whitespots from a fungal infection that is pretty rampant among kids here in Kenya. Partof me wanted to pull his hand away because bringing an easily-spread fungusinto our house didn’t sound like a great idea. Not today. Instead I let hishand remain and felt an undeniable confirmation from the Holy Spirit that thisis good.

I suddenly found myself in someways wishing that Caleb’s pants had holes in them just like Kevin’s and hisface had a stream of thick, gunky snot like Mateo’s. I wished for a moment thathe smelled like soil and mold and old urine instead of Johnson’s Lavender babylotion and my perfume this fancy stuff called Febreeze.  I wanted to take off his shoes andremove the socks (that I had just previously replaced when he spilled porridgeon his others) so that he would be more of the same as these other two boys. Idon’t know that that is what the Lord would want, but I do know that He doesn’twant us covered in gold while our neighbors roll around in the mud. There ismiddle ground, there has to be.

One thing I pray for (without theexact words, oftentimes) is that my children will always run their fingers overfungus-covered heads, even when they know the risk. I pray that we pick up andcuddle babies who are soaked and soiled and stinking from no diaper with thesame ease we pick up the babies who are dressed neatly in a matching BabyGapensemble. I pray that we kiss our HIV+ brothers and sisters as long and hardand mushily as we kiss any of the others. I pray that we can forever squeezethrough the small entry and into the darkly lit, scrap-metal houses that areteeming with bugs to visit friends in the slums. I pray that when those mamasand their kids come over for chai later today after their long day of work, wetreat them as if they are queens and princes, because they are. And I pray thatit slowly becomes less forced or painstakingly intentional and more natural,like breathing. 

Yes, the freshly cleaned floorswill have red footprints when they enter and more when they leave and yes, someof their soil, sweat, susu (sorry, had to keep with the s’s…susu = peepee inSwahili) scent might linger on our couch for a couple of days and yes,sometimes we might even pick up some pretty nasty illnesses, but I need that.Caleb needs that. I think I will be prouder of my kids getting ringworm from ourfriends in the slums than I will be of my kids making honor roll.

 So then you are no longer strangersand aliens, but you are fellow citizenswith the saints and members of the household of God, built on the foundation ofthe apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, in whomthe whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in theLord. In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by theSpirit.” ~Ephesians 2:19-22



Wednesday, October 24, 2012

on loving HARD


I have been in this position before… it is not altogether new and uncharted territory for me. Being entrusted with a child for an unknown (but always sure to seem “too short”) amount of time, asked to love them with all I have (by the Lover Himself), filled with unequivocal joy during the loving, but then left with a deep, open wound (on top of other wounds that are still healing) when the subject of the loving is no longer present in my day-to-day. The loving never stops; the ability to love in flesh, unhindered, is just removed in some way and man, does it sting. To this day, they are still "orphans" as defined by the world. They still lack a mother.

            When the wounds are still fresh, I promise to never walk this road again. I will give my heart to no other transient visitors, only those who are sure to linger long enough to make the loving “worth it.” Carol. Pinky. Mercy. Obama. David. Abigail. I said “yes, God” to doing life forever with each and every one of them. Lots of times my “yes’s” were delayed or spoken through quivering lips, but they were all spoken aloud by His grace. 

            Sometimes I think that’s all He wants (our yes’s) and maybe that’s love, but when I’m hurting, it feels like a trick. Trick us into saying yes to hard things and then You’re not even going to follow through? My finite mind looks for someone to blame and He is the only one in the picture who is big enough to carry it.  I feel like the joke is on me sometimes. The Deceiver loves when I give these thoughts the time of day—He loves for me to doubt that God is working for my good--to think He is working for everybody else’s, at the expense of my own. 

Sometimes I feel like that. Could I simply be a sacrifice for someone else’s good? At first I’m indignant, but gradually that idea starts to sound good to my “leave it all on the field” personality. I can get on board with that. Let me die and let others live, somehow. But oh geez, that is not Jesus… He wants (and works hard for) MY good as much as He wants (and works hard for) the orphan’s good. And it’s all grace.

            This time is different from all in the past because this time I know what I am getting into. I know (and pray, in a weird conflict-of-interests kind of way) that Caleb and all the other babies who come through these doors, lay in my bed, and poop on my hands, will be removed from my life after a year or two—they will be entrusted to a new family who signs up to love them forever. Forever, forever. The thing is, I will do it. Happily! I want to do it. If Jesus said I could keep Caleb forever, I would without a doubt. What an honor. But He hasn’t said that yet, so I am asked to keep on loving and trusting He knows what He is doing here.

            I’m sure I’ve posted it before because it is probably the most solid, necessary-for-life wisdom I cling to, outside of straight Scripture. I need to read it almost every day to be reminded that I want this.


“There is no safe investment. To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything, and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly be broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact, you must give your heart to no one, not even an animal…We shall draw nearer to God, not by trying to avoid the sufferings inherent in all loves, but by accepting them and offering them to Him; throwing away all defensive armour. If our hearts need to be broken, and if He chooses this as a way in which they should break, so be it.”~CS Lewis in the Four Loves

            I feel myself already, 10 short days in to loving Caleb, wanting to pull away to lessen the pain of giving him up someday. Loving him for 1-2 years and then passing him off to someone else, when I gladly say “yes” to forever, is sure to be painful. I could wrap my heart in a casket by remaining at arms-length with Caleb and all of the other babies who enter Neema House. That is exactly what I’d prescribe for myself if this was about me and what I'd consider my "best interest". I can even twist it in my mind and believe that the babies will attach better to their future mom or dad if we don’t let them attach to any of us—if we simply care for their physical needs and pass them around incessantly, letting them wait longer to find someone who has time to let them sleep on their chest or look into their eyes for more than a passing glance or learn the ridges in their hand.  That would be easier.

            But Jesus is and always will be so faithful it hurts. I tell Him why I want to give away less than all and He draws me in closer. He sweetly promises He will never run out, so I don’t need to be storing any away in case His well of goodness runs dry. He gives the love that is poured out and He reminds in the sweetest of ways to not let pebbles of self-defense block the raging-river flow of Love that He refills for this very purpose. He is the very SOURCE of the river and when we build up dams in our own strength, they are destroying us as much as they are starving the dry riverbed that is thirsting for nourishment.

            I don’t like talking about myself so much, especially the ugly stuff, but I just want to encourage and proclaim that God gives what we need. If you don’t believe that, try Him. People who aren’t doing it say that foster care is too hard. It would be hard on the family and hard on the child and hard hard hard. I would never ever try to convince someone it’s not, even in my small and different experience with it in Kenya. But what is so wrong with hard? Hard is close to the heart of Jesus. Hard is out of your own power and strength, completely empty save that of whatever Jesus gives. Hard is constant contact with your Savior because if He doesn’t come through, you’re literally done for.

            My point is it’s more than okay to get on board with trembling knees. Do we really trust Him? Not to carry us through once we’re in the muck, but to say “yes” to jumping in, whether the water is murky or not. I just pray for all of us that we fear being disobedient to His commands more than we fear affording a college education (what I hear so often in regards to not adopting), or future tears cried into a pillow (I'd love to skip that step by detaching myself from kids who will not be mine forever), or giving our hearts to people who can’t give their heart back to us (hmm, reminds me of Jesus a bit :)) or having absolutely no idea what we’re doing 23.9 hours of the day (welcome to my life).

            Lately I have been super encouraged by a family who is doing just that… They sign up for the “hard”, even as their wounds of past hards are still healing. They do it for Jesus and they believe He is enough—I know that because they’d be straight up drowning if they didn’t. I appreciate that they sought out the difficult in their own city and then went there… not on a bus once a month, they moved in and made it their home. I can’t speak for them, but I doubt they would tell anyone what they do is easy or painless. 

           I cannot say the same for myself either, but I know that sharing in Christ’s sufferings will forever be the greatest joy. So, we love on. We give it all and trust He will follow through. We let Him carry us through the inevitable joys right up into the point where it does hurt bad, and it’s there that we let Him hold us tighter than ever.

            

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Letter to the babies

I jotted this down before I left for Kenya... before this life became real. Just thought I'd share it before formally introducing our first delight, Caleb Emmanuel. :)



Dear babies,
             Some of you have been born already and some of you are still in your mommy’s tummies and some of you are not even a thought yet, but what you all have in common is that you do not have the cognitive ability to read this. :) I am mostly writing it to remind myself that we’re in this together.

 You were each made dependent little creatures. When you first join us in the world, you can’t even hold your head up or scratch your own itches. You were created with a whole bunch of needs, but a whole lot of nothing in terms of abilities to meet these needs. Sure, you come with basic reflexes that will help you live and grow, but those don’t sustain, they just assist.  God doesn’t usually let you come out of your mom’s belly until your lungs and heart and brain work well, because those are pretty important in assisting as well. All things considered though, you need us. You need us for everything. You need us to hold you close and you need for our warm skin to touch yours and you need us to pick you up when you cry and you need us to clean up the stink you sit in until we change your diaper. You need us to clip your nails so you don’t scratch your face off and you need us to keep food in your bellies so you can see another day. You need us to tell you “no” when are getting close to danger and you need us to cover your head and ears when the wind blows cold. Above all though, you need us to help you learn how to be loved. Sometimes learning to be loved will be the hardest thing we do together.

 I’m sure some days (and many nights, if your reputation precedes you) I will hold your neediness against you, but that’s only because I’m just one big needy mess myself. Your neediness is your greatest attribute and I hate to break it to you, but you’re not going to grow out of it anytime soon (read: ever).  I shouldn’t apologize because it’s a real gift, but just wait until you start to learn how to use a spoon for the first time or how to put on your shoes. You will insist on doing it by yourself and we will certainly let you try, but we will also be there to switch your shoes back to the right feet, so you don’t fall on your face. You will learn SO much over time—even when you are old and grey, you’ll still be learning, but you will never lose your neediness. Don’t let anyone tell you that’s a bad thing either, cause it’s not.

 To be honest, neediness is something I have to pray for because I know how to put on my shoes by now and have become quite proficient at shoveling food into my mouth.  I am stubborn and independent to fault and if I had things my way in your situation, I would change my own diapers and prepare my own bottles and soothe myself to sleep and I wouldn’t even need someone like a Mom to help me. I fight hard for independence every single day. Something you will probably learn soon is that sometimes being needy hurts.  It’s difficult, but it’s oh so good because we have a big and GOOD Someone who delights in our neediness. He loves being all that we have--our everything.
 
We were never meant to function without Him in the first place. He is the giver of life! You help me remember that. I fall more in love with Him every day because of the way He cares about you… it is so much more than even the greatest mama and baba could ever offer. This God has YOUR very name engraved on the palm of His hand.  That’s love, baby. This same God is the One who knit you into your mama’s womb and the one who knows about each tiny curl on your fuzzy head. He’s been loving you with the deepest of loves since before you took your first breath. He knew you would be where you are today, in a situation that requires this unconventional love and I promise that He aches with you in your pain and loss. Isaiah 49 is the sweetest reminder that He knew this world has the kind of hurt and darkness that would require the reminder that EVEN IF we are thrown into a latrine by the mother who was created to carry and love us, God will receive us, always. He will never forsake you. Or me. We are His greatest possession. It’s the best news ever.
  Back to my neediness—don’t tell anyone, but I have no idea what I’m doing.  I’ve kind of gotten used to that by now, but I just wanted to warn you that we who are loving you are just as needy as you.  The God that never forsakes you is good to be the same strong tower for us, so we cling to Him and do our best to obey Him by loving you. Obeying Him is a joy when you love Him most, I pray you will know that personally soon. So don’t think we are doing you any favors—we are truly truly truly humbled by the opportunity. It seems too good to be true, but God works like that. More than anything, we want you to know Him. He likes that too, so He makes this “work” a joy. We are so blessed to love you! 

Friday, June 22, 2012

Still good.

Today I got word that baby Ashley, this one, died.



I didn't put in in the blog, but Ashley's blood tests revealed she was HIV+, which explained her weak state that you can see clearly in the link above, even without reading. It's what HIV does--it wreaks havoc and if nobody is trying to stop it, it will have it's way and take lives before they walk their first steps...

But things were better. She got the medicines she needed and was headed in the right direction.... gaining weight, catching up with all the developmental milestones that she had missed, and even learning to walk! It was all good news. So why had she died? Why were my eyes reading the words carrying the news that I could have read with my eyes closed as soon as I saw her name? Why does this keep happening?

I don't like this. This is the third call I've received on American soil about a baby friend dying from something that is either very treatable or very preventable. She died from an acute asthma attack. Most likely completely unrelated to her HIV. Just earlier today, I easily circled an answer on a test in my EMT class about how I would treat someone in this same situation.

I left school early and came to Starbucks to learn more about how to keep this from happening again, at least to someone I love. It was the only active, productive thing I could think to do, but the medical journals read like mockery in some ways. I skip over things like doctors having almost limitless options to try before giving up in treating your asthma attack. I skip over the assumptions that your primary care physician (what? barely exists in Kenya) has already diagnosed you with asthma and has prescribed you a metered dose inhaler of Albuterol. I skip over the unspoken assurance that you were able to get to a hospital ER within minutes of the initial onset of the attack. I skip over the big words about equipment and personal oxygen tanks and breathing machines and obscure drugs and your very own respiratory therapist who can get people out of this situation with their hands tied behind their backs and their eyes covered.

I don't believe earth was better for Ashley than Heaven is, but I do believe God is behind all of this medicine stuff and it's not so crazy to try it out. Jesus obviously agreed or would have just told the people who came to Him for healing that they can go on home because He was about to make a way for them to go to a place where they'd be way better off, no need to bother sticking around on earth. :)

I don't know why I'm still ranting. But I just want to say Jesus is sweet. It took 20 minutes of driving and listening to "I Will Exalt" on repeat before I could sing the words myself, but I believe it... I really do. I put myself into the picture so quickly though and with no other person to blame, I feel like there's nowhere else to go with it. We have been through this so many times, me and Him... by now, I have learned that there doesn't have to be anyone to blame. He doesn't have to fill that role because I can't find someone else to. He is good always, and quite frankly, shouldn't have to keep proving that to me, but He does anyways.

So instead of staying angry, I tell him all that I don't understand and ask Him questions that He lovingly hears. I don't even really seek the answers anymore, honestly. I just tell them to Him, so He remembers I want to know and that it's all kind of confusing, I guess :) and I accept the grace He gives to TRUST. To keep trusting. I thank Him for anything I can think of, even if it takes a lot of digging to find (it's never really buried deep, this is just me fighting me). Thanks for using the Holy Spirit to even let us meet. Thank you for teaching me so much about obedience and faith and trust in those first few hours of our friendship. Thanks for getting me on my knees, I need to be here. Thanks for the relationship with her mom, Mercy because I'm not quite sure how we would have even met had she not had a sick sick sick baby back in February. Thanks for more determination to fight harder and with more passion to make stories like these less and less prevalent. Etc Etc Etc.

Just as with baby Marion who died from whooping cough (something our babies are vaccinated for at their 6 week appointments) after thousands of dollars of unsuccessful treatment... this was still successful loving. God makes it that way. Please pray for Ashley's mom, Mercy. I can't imagine her pain, but know God is right up in it with her, so I will thank Him for that as well.


"He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away." He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” Then he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.” --Revelation 21:4-5


Thursday, May 31, 2012

Go after them.

For the last several weeks, I have been able to view this city I love from a new vantage point: one I had read a bit about and sought to know more of, but one whose faces I did not yet know. God has used it to churn and twist and bend my heart in new ways and like anything else that is good, I just want to share it. I hope you know that is where my heart is in writing... When God pokes and prods and teaches and refines and convicts, I just want to bring others into it. Maybe so I am not alone, but mostly just because I want us to act together as an army. I believe that when we operate as He created us to, in dependent communion with each other, His glory is achieved and we are one step closer to Heaven on earth. I ask the same of friends and family and people I don't know so that we can learn from each other and go after knowing the heart of our King and living to honor Him together, as one.

It was my first ambulance ride-along.  As a student, my abilities were limited but I was so eager to see what all of this was about. I had considered and wondered how I would respond to the difficult--the types of things that I'd heard make or break you in this world of emergency medicine. Will I freak out if I see something really gross? Will I be able to maintain composure during an intense call? Is there anything that will send me into the fetal position and thumb-sucking mode? Do I know this stuff well enough to remember it even in a stressful environment? None of those possibilities had been left unconsidered in this ever-wondering mind of mine. But God brought something different. 

Patient after patient after patient that day... chief complaint? Tired of living. Weary and weighed down from the world. Exhausted and "out of options." Bearers of burdens that were crushing their frame as minute succeeded minute. Their tears first gathered in the corners of their tired eyes and then fell long, hard, and unhindered. My eyes ached to join them in their tears. Instantly upon looking at their faces and holding their hands, their trouble felt to be my own. Jesus does that. He lets us get into the muck with people and hurt with them because it helps us love them a bit more like He does, I think. The God of all comfort and compassion comforts us so that we can comfort others. As with everything we receive from Him--our testimony, spiritual gifts, joy, comfort, they are for a greater purpose than simply our own benefit. They are for the good of the church-the world-and well ultimately and above all--HIM!

Each of these sweet new friends had different stories, varying ways of acquiring this pain that was now crippling them to what seemed to be the point of no return. More than performing any medical intervention or procedure, I wanted to cup their faces in my hands and tell them that this is not all there is. Something better is available to us. In this world we will have trouble, but our hope lies in the unshakeable truth that He has overcome it all and has prepared a place for us where our pain will not even be remembered, because we will see His face! I did get to tell them a bit of that but I hope and pray for the opportunity to continue the relationships and walk with them through the hard and the happy too. So far I've been unsuccessful in finding them, but I am not giving up easily. 

But here's my point (I am such a rambler, thanks for bearing with me) .... God showed me in these moments, they are there. People who are hurting are all over the place, especially in Atlanta--specifically the parts we try to avoid. I think God wants us to go after these people. I think it's cool and awesome and beautiful when we can attribute those "coincidental" meetings and friendships to His providence and guidance and all of that pretty stuff. But I think He wants more of us than to just let Him interrupt us. I think He wants us to be a more active participant and go after these people. I think the Holy Spirit is eager to guide us in the freedom of following where He is faithful to lead.

I wondered about how ambulance dispatching worked in this crazy busy city and now I know. We split up and go all over Atlanta to specific "posts" where the emergency stats are high. We don't wait around in the station and hit the accelerator when we hear that somebody needs our services. We go out there where people are prone to needing us and sometimes we just wait. Sometimes we drive in circles. But we are waiting or circling with purpose. We are waiting with our eyes open. We are circling with a trust that when something happens, we will be ready to quickly come to their aid. 

I think God is using all of this to continue showing me how He wants us to live, which I am grateful for. Honestly, before now I was content with the chance meetings and cool relationships that have seemed to have come out of nowhere--just simply Him interrupting my daily living to add someone into the day who needs some loving. Those are great, but He is convicting me that that's not enough. He wants us to use our brains and to go to these places where we can guess that darkness is thick. Sometimes we might just be circling for a little while. We might not be welcome there and we might spend more time waiting than we do in activity... but I think this is still right and good. 

Atlanta is aching for Jesus. Drive around with your eyes open if you need confirmation of that. Pass by the intersection of Peachtree and Pine after dark one night. Read the newspaper when you wake up in the morning--I can guarantee a lot went down while you were sleeping. Check out the high school drop-out rate at schools around our city. Visit the Fulton County Jail. Drive on Metropolitan Parkway in broad daylight and try to avoid hitting any of the drunk/high people who accidentally find themselves in the middle of the streets. Sit for 3 seconds inside the Emergency Room of any local hospital. Look under the bridges for the people sleeping as you drive under them. Check out the tents set out under overpasses that serve as a community for some of our Atlanta neighbors. Notice all of the cars in the parking lots of strip clubs and "massage parlors" that are spread all across our city. Go spend time in the Intensive Care Unit and meet all of the people who are on their last days of life and do not know Jesus. Recognize that your neighbor with 8 of the nicest cars money can buy has more than just a healthy love for something worthwhile. As thick as the darkness is in the brothels of Mumbai, the same darkness rules in pockets around our home city... 

Some mornings I pray that God will put someone in my path who needs to be loved or needs to hear the gospel. Sometimes those opportunities present themselves and I thank Him for them. But He is adding to that in my mind and heart and He is telling me to go look for them myself. To seek them out. To go where I can guess to find them instead of just waiting for them to come to me. Like the ambulances intentionally place themselves in areas where they can be of service, let's do the same. And let's remain faithful in the waiting and circling that might come along with that, too. Because Jesus is the kind of guy that went after people... He sought them out and came to them in their distress... He came after me and He used others to do the same and the result is His glory. Let's do it--they're everywhere. Let's get up in their business and give ourselves to them generously, in love. 


"Some wish to live within the sound of a chapel bell; I wish to run a rescue mission within a yard of Hell." ~ C.T. Studd



Tuesday, May 8, 2012

two letters

This is gonna be quick, but I feel a pressing to say it, so I will ... I have been encouraged and want to encourage others in the same way I've received and I want to charge you to do the same.  Because we have power. What we do here carries weight because Jesus decided it would and we can do small things that God can make big things, if He wants. And that alone is a big thing. A really big thing. 

Someone said a two-letter word that almost instantly took my breath away today. If she could have seen the tears spring to my the eyes when she said it, she probably would have been caught off guard by the seemingly out of the blue response to a simple expression. It was a woman I did not even know minutes prior and it was over the phone, which was being pretty uncooperative in keeping a signal strong enough to let our sentences connect. 

As happens quite often in this following Jesus adventure, He has led me to a place where I am utterly clueless and not only 100% dependent on Him (as should always be the case), but beautifully in need of counsel from people who have walked something that I have not. Honestly, my reaching out usually requires the prompts of others who might be equally clueless, but have the wisdom to offer at least the advice of seeking out assistance. I want really badly to walk this life with others, but most of the time all I really have is that desire and a prayer for His love for them. What I mean is, I don't know much about much. Hang out with me for more than 30 seconds if you don't believe me. I have walked this earth for a bit, but most of the time my landscapes have been flowers and fields and blissful ignorance and a good majority of the way, my eyes were not even opened. 

It still doesn't make sense how we were connected, but when her calm and steady voice met my quivering and exasperated attempts at communicating a big mess of words and pictures and thoughts and ideas and emotions that were somehow supposed to be transferred from my head and dreams and heart and mind into sentences, I could feel the grace in my bones. 

I laid my burden on her table... my rambling, 5th grade vocabulary, way too easily distracted, disorganized mess onto her and there was no hesitation in her voice when she responded with "Okay, we......." We. She said "we." ................referring to her and me. And these people that I have no idea how to love. Does she even know my name? Who cares. She said "we." She signed up to go along for the ride. 

The rest of our conversation included a lot of Jesus and a lot of the people He loves and a little of us (thank God for that). In the moment she linked arms and said "we", she became community that does not need to know anything about the other beyond the fact that we are on the same journey and that means we're in this together. That means He created us for each other, because He knew we'd need each other as bad as we do. And also because He thinks we're great and wants to love us more through each other. 

I am yelling this, so be glad you have the buffer of a computer screen (and miles) between us. WE is how He wants us to live with each other!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! He wants you to look at your hurting sister and say "Yeah girl, I am with you." To man-pat (you know the hug with firm back pats) your struggling brother and say "We are going to get through this, man." To nod your head-still digesting all that your friend just shared but saying "Ok. We will figure this out together." Save the advice. The knowledge on this "subject matter" as I so often seek. The experience to claim empathy, even. It's not a requirement. Go with them. Walk. Do. Be. Weep. Rejoice. TOGETHER.... as was His plan all along in forming us to operate as a body. No part is meant to work to full potential without the other.

God can do so much with your little. The little you have to offer to someone--give it freely. Err on the side of giving too much (it's supposed to hurt), even when what you have to give seems like a drop in the ocean... He is able to make big things. Move huge mountains. Dry many tears. Heal deep wounds. All of it. It's His business. Link arms with those around you and walk this stuff out together. It's beautiful.


Thursday, May 3, 2012

Following

Kids are my jam. I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that they are my people... the ones He created me to pour my life into day in and day out. I like them all, but most especially the ones whose bodies are fighting sickness or whose hearts are fighting deep hurt or whose minds are fighting the lies the world has spoken to them. The majority of my most precious encompass all three. I don't have huge and lofty aims of rescuing them from these battles, but I do have huge and lofty aims of walking with them/carrying them while Jesus fights the battles for both of us. All of my dreams (the ones He so beautifully writes in each of our hearts) are centered around them and they are most definitely the greatest source of laughter and joy in my life.

My childhood prayers were of finding a baby in a dumpster or a bag on the side of the road. I have vague memories of crying in my bed from exhaustion of looking and not finding, as an 8 year old. (haha, makes me laugh looking back...) When I was a teenager, I remember being irrationally attracted to teen pregnancy because it seemed to be the, perhaps unconventional, fulfillment of a desire that I had felt strongly since childhood. (too bad that didn't work out, haha... i'd have a 10 year old right now!) I logged hours researching how to manage school and a child if I were to adopt as a college student with zero-source of income. (haha, another good laugh-especially for my parents) I later fell in love with Kenyan babies whose moms and dads had died/left them and thought it completely ridiculous that God would allow such deep desire to be a mom to go unmet, even when the need was there waiting to be fulfilled. And the "need" had captivated my heart in the form of tiny brown fingers wrapped around mine and little diaper bottoms scooting on the dusty floor and friends on their death beds who grasped my hand and asked me to take care of their precious ones they were leaving alone in this world and babies naming me "mama" unprompted and hearts that professed the ache for a caregiver to call their own. I remember navigating my way through Nairobi by taxi, alone and in search of someone who could answer my questions on how to make it possible to be a mom to these kids. I remember being angry that I was not yet the legal age to even be considered... because I was ready, I had been ready, why not now? The list goes on and on, but the product is the same: no children "belong" to me today. 

All that to say, where I am today, I spend less time with children than probably ever in my life. Days go by where I do not interact with even one and some days a quick grocery store run provides my only source of contact. But my point is that this is good. Not because I look back and say, "thank God He didn't let that happen... this is so much better" because honestly, I don't feel able to say that most days. With my finite mind and narrow vision, I can't really understand why I am not living in Kenya with a house full of hooligans who call me Mom and are no longer titled "orphan".... but I do trust that He is good, so this is good. 

This life is that of a follower, not of a leader. If I were the leader, I would have "my way" by now, surely. I would have fought hard enough to achieve that which I saw best for my desires to be met. The thing is, when my eyes are on Jesus, I don't trust myself more than I trust a man in a ski mask who asks to hold all of my belongings. Trusting myself is pure ridiculousness...but I do trust HIM in me. And the only way for this to happen, for Him in me to be the hope of glory as promised, is to assume the humble role of follower, rather than leader. I try the leader thing often and I can say with learned confidence, following Him is the greatest adventure that exists. No greater outcome can be reached, no more beautiful dream fulfilled, and no better story written if not accomplished by and through Him. He is the master of creativity and adventure and passion and joy and when I try to take the reigns, I am choosing the mudpies over a holiday at sea. (read this CS Lewis wisdom, if you haven't).

So today I am following. I don't enjoy the ride every day... I ask Him a lot of questions and wonder at His judgment some days... I squirm away from the painful, forgetting He does some of His greatest work in these places... I ask Him to fast forward or rewind, so that I can be back to a place of familiarity or confidence... but in all of these instances, He so graciously reminds me that following Him is believing this: 
"The Lord himself goes before you and will be with you; He will never leave you or forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged." (Deuteronomy 31:8)

He is so so so sweet for this. There is no ground we will ever step on, in following Him, that He has not gone before and prepared for us. Yes, there are times He says "go" but He is not just pushing us from behind, He is ahead of us with His arm outstretched. I miss this so many times... I envision Him pushing me off the diving board, saying "go" and cheering me on as I go to carry out the mission He has appointed me. I think my vision is distorted in these moments because His voice is never getting dimmer, as I get further and further "ahead" of Him -- eager to go out and LIVE as He asked me to. His voice is actually getting louder, as I get closer and closer to where He is calling me to. Yes, He (thankfully) pushes and yes, He (graciously) cheers, but He never leaves our side for a second.

He has led me into some pretty odd places lately--ones I never would have tried to pull Him along into... ones I would have been happy to bypass, honestly. But oh man, the joy in seeing His hand!!!! It is unreal. So many things or relationships I never, ever would have signed up for. I am pretty uncomfortable here. I don't know how to walk through life with a man (could have stopped this sentence here, ha) who has spent the majority of his life in a jail cell. I don't know how to pack four kids and a breastfeeding baby into my car and leave their mother in the dust because the children are not getting the care they need. I don't know how to be a light in the darkness of my own city where my upbringing has made me more of a foreigner than a friend. I don't know how to love (well) my family on the other side of the planet, when I do not have any idea when I will make it back to them. I don't know how to do more than just ache with people who are hurting over things I did not even know existed, like choosing to sell your body to provide for your family. I knew it happened, but by choice? I don't know how to love more than a few people well at the same time... and sleeping too. I do not understand how they can both happen. :)

This is a beautiful place to be, sometimes only because I know I followed Him here. I think that's okay. Kids are still my jam... my God-given jam. :) But right now, He's stretching me and asking me to give loving some other (larger) people a shot. It's hard, but it's good. I'm not very good at it, but that's good too. It's good because I don't have much to cling to besides Him. I got nothin. Jesus' dependence on God as HE walked this life really humbles me... "Very truly I tell you, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can only do what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does, the Son does also." (John 5:19) If Jesus knew this utter dependence so well, let me thank Him for the humble role of following... it really is the greatest adventure.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

this has nothing to do with Kenya.

I don't get it. It's beyond me, always... Every single day it brings tears to my eyes to remember His grace to me. I am HIS and I did nothing to deserve that. In my finite mind, it's the most irrational thing I can try to wrap my brain around--Him choosing me. John Piper's words speak what my tongue cannot express before the lump in my throat arrives and prevents me from finishing.
"That God in eternity looked upon ME-foreseeing my fallenness, my pride, my sin and said "I want that girl in my family! I'll do anything to get her in my family! I will pay for her to be in my family with my Son's life!""
That is Love.

I know it's a random thought, but run with me for a second. If we submitted resumes to Him in order for Him to 'pick us' or 'not pick us' for the role of being His beloved children..... can you even imagine? Maybe we'd try to pretty it up like we do with real resumes and try to use some grandiose verbiage to make ourselves and our endeavors more appealing than they are. We would put it on the finest paper and make sure the corners were crisp and uncrumpled. We would deliver it to Him in a timely manner and with the most professional, confident follow ups with His secretary regarding His eagerly awaited reception and review. While we waited, we would compare ourselves to the others who were applying and encourage ourselves by zooming in on their shortcomings and highlighting our strongsuits. We would cover up our known difficulties with colorful words that aim to prove it's actually not a failing at all, but a camoflauged strength. We would be our biggest advocates, naturally. We would stop at nothing to fight hard for ourselves so that the Interviewer would see through our same lens--we are obviously the best pick. We owe that to ourselves, right? No one else can do it for us. Read any interviewing advice, it's all there. It's rational. It's logical. It makes sense.

I don't think it's low self-esteem. I don't think it's that girls are more prone to this or that I have a negative self-image. I don't think it's something that requires counseling and a newly instated daily practice of looking in the mirror and telling myself how great I am until I start to believe it. "Love yourself" is written all over the walls of this world... maybe moreso in a female's world, but I see it everywhere. I hear it from pulpits as much as I hear it on Oprah and the Lifetime Network.

I think it's crap. Everyday I spend around myself, I am convinced it is crap. I know that is an unpopular thing to say and maybe you are all going to get together and plan an intervention where you converge to send me to a "Positive Self-Image" retreat or something. Maybe I need that, I am open to Him completely changing my heart on this, but for now--I do believe He has whispered this in my ear so I will shout it from the rooftops with confidence in His speaking, not my hearing.

The only thing I can love about myself is that He loves me and has made me lovely. Any night I am able to spend in an orphanage, my favorite nighttime ritual is snuggling up on the floor with our bare and dusty feet on the cold stone ground as we read the Bible together. I am not positive it's this exact quote, but the Jesus Storybook Bible re-emphasizes one point over and over. He loves us and that makes us lovely. We are lovely because He loves us.

I cannot convince Him to love me. I have nothing in my arsenal that makes me worthy. If you know me, you know I love a good competition. I am good at being over-confident and egotistical about my abilities (especially when completely unfounded), or more just my persistence that will stop at nothing to get my way. But listen... even if I am 'competing' with prostitutes, child molesters, murderers, thieves for His love-- not a thing in me elevates Annie Coppedge above a single one of them in His eyes. I am just as dirty and sinful and lost without Him as they are and this is the Gospel. Grace doesn't go to those who deserve it. It goes to those of us that can put up a solid argument as to why we are the least-deserving.

I could give Him a trillion reasons NOT to have picked me... it's like knowing you suck at kickball and when they're picking teams in PE, you almost want to tell the captains it's in their best interest not to pick you, you can't really add much to the team but you'd be happy to fill up water bottles. Not a day goes by that I don't question His judgment in letting me be loved by Him--in not letting me go when I prove to Him over and over again that I am incapable of deserving Him. But that has made me rejoice in Him all the more!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! My personal life and also my life with orphans is founded around PROCLAIMING His love and desire for myself and for them... I can show you verse after verse about His love and concern for you and that's the point--none of them are about our own personal loveliness, they're about HIS crazy love for us even when we screw things up miserably. We are lovely because He loves us. He is not drawn to us because of our loveliness apart from Him. It doesn't exist. We're supposed to notice this. Noticing this is not the definition of self-hate and emotional instability, it's recognizing GRACE. It's receiving Grace.

Look at the 'heroes' in our Bible. They have horrible resumes... Listen to Paul!!!
"I thank Jesus Christ our Lord, who has given me strength, that He considered me trustworthy, appointing me to His service. Even though I was once a blasphemer and a persecuter and a violent man [insert your own], I was shown mercy because I acted in ignorance and unbelief. The grace of our Lord was poured out to me abundantly, along with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners--of whom I am the worst. But I RECEIVED MERCY FOR THIS REASON: THAT IN ME, THE WORST OF SINNERS, CHRIST JESUS MIGHT DISPLAY HIS IMMENSE PATIENCE AS AN EXAMPLE FOR THOSE WHO WOULD BELIEVE IN HIM AND RECEIVE ETERNAL LIFE. Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God-be glory and honor and for ever and ever. Amen."


It's for a reason!!!! And I don't think we're supposed to forget it. Yes, I know we're made new and we're beautiful in Him and all of that. I am a girl and have had it drilled into me since I was little, thankfully. But y'all, there's a reason He saved us and pulled us out of the nasty pit we were in. It's so people in the same pit of sinfulness and desperation can come to know Him who loves to get His hands dirty in pulling us out. It's for His exultation and glory and honor. Forever. So if forever really means forever, it's not a one-time praising when people are saved. It's supposed to go on forever... and ever... and ever. Amen. Let it be.

Claim it. Go and sing it from the rooftops...in your home, in your church, in the streets of your city, in the brothels, in the prisons-- it's not a depressed, self-loathing song that is only for those with emotional stability and high self-esteem, it's a JOYFUL song. THE MOST JOYFUL SONG... sing it. We were meant to sing it.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

baby Ashley--pray please

There is a lot I've been meaning to write about but it will all have to wait because today happened and I want you to pray with me for a new friend and her baby...

Today my calendar (which doesn't really exist, rarely actually matches what the day holds, and is usually decided upon only hours before the day is reached-as anyone who has tried to plan anything with me (especially while in Kenya) can attest to) told me I'd be shadowing my friend Joseph, a medical student in Nakuru. I had mentioned my interest in labor and delivery several months ago and so he kindly offered to let me come and experience my first (and hopefully second, third, fourth, etc) Kenyan birth. We spent several hours in the Maternity Ward (which is accustomed to about 30 births a day) until we had seen all of the patients and it was clear no one would be delivering anytime soon. I was a bit disappointed that I had finally taken the time to come and shadow and of course, happened to pick the one day of the entire year that moms were not popping out babies every hour.

We stopped in several wards on our way to lunch and when we entered the 0-2 year old ward, it was clear they were overwhelmed. I have been in plenty of third-world hospitals and I promise I had never seen anything like it before. I think your stomach would turn like mine did when I entered, if only I could share the sounds of that room with you. Hundreds of babies crying sick and pain-filled tears whose different, but similar, noises echoed in the eeriest way. They were laying everywhere... on tables, in chairs, on laps, on backs, in beds with other babies. Several babies lay sprawled on top of a set of drawers, all hooked up to one oxygen tank.

My heart said to do something but my mind told me I wasn't qualified to. The heart won quickly and I found productivity in swatting flies from sleeping/oxygen sucking babies faces, removing the clothes of febrile little ones (a 2 week old having febrile seizures with a temp of 105 and no healthcare professional has told her to take off her onesie, tshirt, sweater, jacket, 2 pairs of pants, hat and thick blanket.... ah!!), rubbing heads, patting moms on the back, nagging nurses to pay attention to the ones who looked sickest, and praying for any little life my eyes found in that busy room.

As I said, the room was filled up to overflowing with desperate cries--hundreds singing distress in an unsettling harmony, so it is only God who directed my attention to the one baby in the room who was unable to make a noise come out of her frail body. The doctor was trying to get an IV started and had failed repeatedly due to this baby's critical condition. As he pushed and pulled the long needle in and out of her head, I watched in horror as her entire body cried, but no noise was released. I have never seen pain like that in my life. I cried heavy tears for her in that moment and her worried mother joined me. This baby needed help immediately. She was not getting it here.

I wrestled with the Holy Spirit for about 30 minutes, watching as my friend Joseph did whatever he could to move this child along in the process to receive the care she needed. I will be honest, the pain in my own heart was so bad at this point that I think I chose to get her out of that situation for my own benefit. I was so disturbed that I physically ached. I talked to the only doctor I could find in the large room and he agreed they would not be able to give this baby the care she needs to survive and supported our request to take her elsewhere. About an hour later (which is actually kind of fast for a public kenyan hospital), we were on our way... Joseph had gotten in touch with one of his professors (on a Saturday, Hallelujah again!) who is one of two pediatricians in Nakuru. He agreed to meet us and was able to admit us to a private hospital nearby, where he promised to provide the care Ashley needed himself.

The day was scary and hectic and I found myself praying often that He'd keep her alive long enough to reach our next destination. He did. He has, for today... I ask for your prayers that He continue to hold little Ashley tightly. She is very sick. At 10 months old, she weighs 9 pounds. She is severely malnourished and dehydrated on top of having a very serious case of pneumonia. Watching her chest rise and fall brings a new reason to rejoice 34 times per minute--she is still fighting.

Taking pictures seemed so odd and disrespectful, but I wanted you to be able to put a face with her name, a face with the statistic (15 million die of hunger each year... every 3 seconds), and a face on one of your sisters that you have yet to meet. They were taken this evening once Ashley was stabilized. Please continue to pray for Ashley and the doctors as they work to get this child back to health by re-feeding, hydrating, and controlling her chest infection. Please pray for her sweet mother Mercy whose ache for her child far exceeds my own small taste (so I cannot even imagine how bad it hurts). As the sun went down, we talked about how sweet Jesus is to have brought us all together. We thanked Him for loving Ashley more than we do and for answering her mother's wordless groans for the child He has entrusted to her. As I get ready to sleep, I am thanking Him that He lets us hear Him and never stops being faithful and true. I am thanking Him that we can say yes to Him even when we don't know how on earth it will work. I am thanking Him that we don't have to be rich or knowledgeable or experienced for Him to use us. I am thanking Him that we get to love people hard and deeply and painfully because He first loved us that way (but more) and He supplies the strength to keep on going. Thank you for praying. You are loving my friends by doing so and that means the world to me.






Friday, January 20, 2012

He is everywhere

Jesus was especially sweet to me the week leading up to my journey back here to Kenya. I crave Kenya so bad when I am not there because it is where I see Jesus the clearest. It is not hard to spot Him and whether I am rejoicing or weeping in response to where I do or do not see Him, He is close by always. Night after night in Kenya (when I am living with the kids), I go to bed completely exhausted--spent in every way and absolutely requiring the mercy waiting for me in the morning and the rest of however many hours of sleep the night holds. My daily prayer that I would be "spent" (Isaiah 58) seems answered every day, more than I'd like oftentimes.

Admittedly, I dread American life for this very reason. Maybe it's because I have to squint harder to see Him there, have to be more intentional about seeking out opportunities to serve Him, or have to be obedient to His demand to love family and friends and strangers even when they are less small and cute and innocent as my Kenyan babies. Going to bed "spent" on others is an uncommon occurrence in my American life. I am super aware that I am only taking care of MYSELF when I am in America. I am responsible for no one else and I hate it most days.

This past week was different... in preparation for Kenya, I started praying the prayers I pray when I am here. Bold prayers, though they do not seem so bold when I am in a country with so much hurt--a country where my eyes will inevitably meet a sick, hungry, poor, abandoned, unloved, orphaned, unsaved person at almost every turn in the bumpy roads. The joy He gives when we spend ourselves is an absolute gift that is intended to give us the fuel to keep going... read Isaiah 58 if you don't believe me. :) Or even if you do, it's good stuff! God answered... He showed Himself like crazy. Literally, about every 10 minutes, He did something that left me laughing and shaking my head as I looked up at Him and called Him crazy or ridiculous or some completely inadequate word to describe His goodness. I slept about 3 hours a night but had more energy and joy than ever in my life... I was afraid to stop running and take a moment to stop because I feared to remember that sinful desire to serve myself above all others.

He blew me away with the graciousness that is so much a part of Him, in relationships more than anything; people whose faces shined Him so brightly I had to squint (now for a different reason). Old familiar friends whose hearts knit together in the perfect places to glorify Him through living in community and new friendships that made me wonder how He could possibly be so good to add them to my family.

Nothing about this has ceased... He is here just as much as He is there. He was there just as much as He was here (when I believed and lived and prayed otherwise). The hurt that helped me find Him/need Him here in Kenya is just as much a part of America. It wears a different disguise oftentimes, but it is there. He is my (OUR, I pray) deepest longing and so it is our desire to see Him everywhere. We look for Him... and when we see Him, we need to jump and shout and rejoice! I am constantly hearing it and constantly asking for it myself, "Jesus, come..." whether it is us inviting Him into our worship services (HE IS ALREADY THERE) or inviting Him into our circumstances (HE IS ALREADY THERE) or inviting Him into our pain (HE IS ALREADY THERE) or inviting Him into our joy (HE IS ALREADY THERE), we should ask believing and expecting!

Seek Him while He may be found!!!!!

I can tell you from personal experience (mostly from my experience in the inverse), Hebrews 11:6 is TRUTH. He wants to be seen and exalted and is incredibly generous to give us joy and increased faith in exchange.

I always wish that a song could play in the background of life; I'd definitely pick "We the Redeemed" by Hillsong if it was up to me. Luckily, we have this to look forward to in Heaven, but until then... I know I'd live a bit differently if this song was dimly playing as I walked through life. "We the redeemed, hear us singing--You are Holy, You are Holy." Let our everyday lives sing this to Him, whether we are doing laundry or paying the tollbooth guy, or talking to our parents, or holding an orphan, or eating lunch with our co-workers.

‎"Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? If I go up to the heavens, YOU ARE THERE; if I make my bed in the depths, YOU ARE THERE. If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, EVEN THERE your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast." ~Psalm 139 : 7-10


He is there. Jesus is in the mansions on Riverside Drive and Jesus is in the slums of Nairobi, Kenya... these are some of the places I've seen Him these past couple of days:

in a game of soccer at a special needs school--where He let me be the legs and feet for an incredible soccer star who will someday walk, I believe!


in this game of Duck Duck Goose at a deaf school... the most silent game of Duck Duck Goose in history, but so much fun.


in this place where making relationships had to get creative... the comfort and ease of speaking (either Swahili or English) was stripped away with hearing and we were forced to fight hard to love each other.




in these sweet faces who exuded joy and love and were so quick to open their hearts to us.


He is everywhere. Now let's find Him and celebrate His presence as the gift that it is... glory to God that He may be found!

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

the why

why why why why why why? -- something people ask often and I respond to with shrugged shoulders. Now my answer is Jesus and I realize it always should have been...

I want them to know Him. Knowing Him is everything... knowing Him is a million times better than being cured and knowing Him is a trillion times better than a heart that rarely aches and knowing Him is a kazillion times better than having a mom or dad and knowing Him is a bajillion times better than having a full stomach and warm bed and education and clean clothes. So. much. better.

I am not okay with this earth being the best they know.

I want the things I rejoice in every single day to be the same source of praise and joy for them.

I want to sit beside them in their hurt and cling to the hope of future glory, hand in hand.

I want to be able to cry with them over the hurts of this world and proclaim the promise that the tears will be wiped from our faces when we join Him in Heaven.

Of course I want them to be fed and loved and clothed and fought for and adopted and respected and healed, but more than anything--I want them to be saved, to be redeemed, to KNOW HIM.

I think we are all called to surround ourselves with the poor, dirty, broken, hurting, and sick and if we do, our eyes will see a lot of pain. Hopefully even more than seeing it, we will feel it as our own. My prayer is that we see Him as both our chief need as well as theirs. That we would be slower to prescribe 12-step programs and faster to share the gospel. That we would be slower to hand out a quick meal and faster to sit down and make relationships over dinner. That we would be slower to diagnose their "needs" and faster to remember it's Jesus.

He answers prayers. My heart is in pieces over orphans and the sick and oppressed--He has already convinced me they are worth giving my life for, but now I am praying a bit differently. I am praying my heart aches first and foremost for the ones who do not know Him as I do.

The image of Carol, Lucy, the children that fill orphanages and others I know who have endured such deep pain on this earth rejoicing when they meet Him is something that makes my heart almost explode. John 16 is the sweetest truth--they (we!), if followers of Jesus, will remember the anguish we endured on earth NO MORE!!!! The joy will so far exceed any pain of the times before that remembering it is not even an option. "In that day you will ask nothing of me"... all of our needs will be met, forever. No more hunger, no more sickness, no more fear, no more loneliness--only joy. JESUS.

I want that for the man digging through the trash in downtown Atlanta and I want that for the orphan who silently cries herself to sleep each night and I want that for the cancer patient who suffers alone in a hospital room and I want that for the woman selling her body on the streets and I want that for the man who beats his wife and I want that for for the innocent child who inherited illness in his blood and I want that for the ones who buy and trade human lives like they are pieces of meat and I want that for the 'rich young rulers' of today and I want that for those of us who don't even know we're sick and needy.

So, that's why. No other reason.

"I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. For the creation waits in eager expectation for the children of God to be revealed. For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God. We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption to sonship, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what they already have? But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently." ~Romans 8:18-25