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.