Sunday, March 20, 2016

Trusting in princes

During times like these when we have a lot of difficult medical situations going on with our children, I find myself seeking out "princes" to put my trust in... A reputable doctor or a cutting edge treatment or a more equipped hospital or a limitless supply of funds to support the very best of care. I search for the princes whose outcomes are positive and predictable and I get frustrated when they seem to be far away and out of reach. 

I get scared when I google the type of recovery a seriously brain injured child will require because she has a name and painted red fingernails and I love her. 

I feel anxious when I read the success (or rather, failure) rates of this specific type of brain surgery because the little boy we love will find himself on one side or the other of those percentages and I want so badly for it to the the smaller side--the successful one, because I love him.

 My heart drops when see the positive HIV test result that sucks for anyone but it somehow belongs to this teeny tiny precious one who hiccups in my arms as the two lines appear. 

I am indignant because I know that if this level of medical negligence happened in another country, there would be a court case or at least an apology to the one who suffered and will continue suffering.

Defeat floods my heart when yet another friend is told to take her baby home, there is nothing they can do, when I feel confident that somewhere, there is someone who would at least care to try. 

Sometimes the princes I seek out are within reach, but usually they are far and so I am left wallowing in despair.
I now have the psalm taped to my windshield because I need the reminder hourly... 

"Praise the Lord. Praise the Lord, my soul. I will praise the Lord all my life; I will sing praise to my God as long as I live. Do not put your trust in princes, in human beings who cannot save. When their spirit departs, they return to the ground; on that very day their plans come to nothing. Blessed are those whose help is the God of Jacob, whose hope is in the Lord their God.
He is the Maker of heaven and earth, the sea, and everything in them - He remains faithful forever. He upholds the cause of the oppressed and gives food to the hungry. The Lord sets prisoners free, The Lord gives sight to the blind, The Lord lifts up those who are bowed down, The Lord loves the righteous. The Lord watches over the foreigner and sustains the fatherless and the widow, but He frustrates the way of the wicked. 
The Lord reigns forever, your God, oh Zion, for all generations. Praise the Lord."Psalm 146  

God is Himself -- His mighty, sovereign self, in world-renowned hospitals with the brightest of minds and highest levels of technology and He is Himself -- His mighty, sovereign self, in the overcrowded hospitals where gloves are washed and reused and trained personnel are few and far between. God is not restrained in arenas where resources are limited and He is not boosted in places where resources are limitless either, I don't think. 

HE is the one who gives sight to the blind if He sees it to be good. HE is the one who will sustain the children in our care because He says He will and so we trust that successful outcomes or not, He is doing His work. HE deserves our hope and trust -- all of it.

Friday, June 12, 2015

Long overdue

I will never be able to forget the night we first heard what is still too hard to believe is actually true. The way Lucy burst into my room just as I was drifting into sleep--screaming, pacing, gripping her head and unable to form the words that I was anxiously begging her to release. She finally spit them into the air and I immediately wished to return them to her mouth.

Our sweet Njeri was dead.

The first stage of grief immediately busied my mind. Surely this was a mistake. There's no way. Calm down. Let me talk to them. Did they check for a pulse? Is she at the hospital? No. Just no. Sorry, but no. This can't be true and I will not accept this. Are you sure we are taking about the right person? Not this Njeri, or that Njeri, or her mom or her neighbor or her cousin, but OUR Njeri??? The six year old with the raspy voice and constantly runny nose and the millions of questions and the best laugh ever. It couldn't be real. There was just no way.

The anger came as soon as enough people had confirmed that the horrible news echoing through the phone was real. It was not a mistake and it had already happened. It was done. There was no breath left in her lungs and the helplessness of that fact and the distance I felt from her in that moment brought on an anger I have never felt and honestly hope to never feel again. I was three hours away from the man who did this and it was past midnight, but all I wanted was to get to him and to pay him back just an ounce of what he deserved. At that point, I decided I would gladly give up my freedom and/or my life to punish him-- to stand up for Njeri in the way I wasn't able to when it mattered.

I was so angry in the beginning. I was angry with him mostly, a man I knew and actually had once had compassion for, and also angry with God for seemingly not looking out for this precious girl who loved Him. Lucy and I laid on her twin mattress on the floor (it was our first night in a new house) and tried to get a grip on this whole thing that was now a reality. Those long hours until the sun finally rose housed the most honest utterances and grumblings and grievances and pleas and confessions and frustrations that I have ever had with God. He loved me by listening to every ache expressed in every way they spilled out.

He was so sweetly close in the days and weeks that followed. I had prayed for that thick presence over many people walking difficult paths, but I don't think I myself had ever experienced the deep NEED of His nearness in such a way. Eventually the anger faded and our focus became honoring the precious girl who was no longer with us, but thankfully knew and loved God and now had no memory of the pain she endured as she left this world.

Sitting down with the kids who considered Njeri a big sister and explaining how she would no longer be a friend/sister that we could see and touch and play with and race and tattle on was one of the most strangely and unexpectedly peace-filled conversations of my life. I remember just a couple of months before when our beloved puppy died, I had to tell the children that Happy would no longer be with us and I couldn't even get through the first sentence without crying. About a DOG. A dog they had only known for two months. I didn't want their hearts to feel pain over that loss, but how could this even compare?

Telling the kids about Njeri initially and all of the little conversations that followed, even to this day, have brought me so much closer to the God that I so desperately want to trust is always good. We talked about how she had gone to live with Jesus and that is the best place to be. We talked with joy about how it is such an incredible place because the very best company, Jesus, is there. We talked about how we love Jesus like Njeri did, so we will get to go there someday too. We talked about how we won't get to play with her anymore, but we are so happy for every day we did get to play with her and we won't ever forget her or stop thanking God that we got to be part of her family. We talked about how we will miss her so much and even though we are happy for her, we are sad for ourselves because we won't get to be with her anymore.

This family we have here -- this unconventional, nobody's first choice, response to tragedy, lots of pain and lots of redemption family -- are all so very excited about eternity with Jesus. I love that about us and I never want it to change. I don't think it can ever change, considering how much pain this little family has already endured and how much pain is all around us on a daily basis and how much pain is still yet to come.

The kids don't know any of the details of her death and I know someday we will be ready to talk about it and I fear the junk out of them questioning what we always talk about -- that God is always always with us -- when they hear how she died. But that is exactly why I need to be reminded on a daily basis that He was with her up to her very last breath. That she does not even remember a bit of the pain she endured and that God is good and He is and was FOR Njeri and is and will be FOR us, too. I need to believe it because I cannot share it with my sweet little ones if I do not even believe it myself. I want to throw out all of the cliche and simply untrue junk that we like to believe about death and heaven and eternity because the truth is hard, but it is the truth. I want the three year old hearts under my care to know that only people who know and love Jesus get to spend forever with Him. It is an incredible gift that we get to thank Him for every day.

Elly and I were asked to speak at her burial and we both felt so strongly that this was to be a celebration of a sweet and precious life simply because God is who He says He is. It turned out to be a much more political, women/children's rights type of day and we actually didn't even get to share our tribute to Njeri and testimony of God's goodness, even still. I think missing that opportunity actually encouraged me even more to live in a way that daily declares His glory through pain. A six year old who hasn't even lost her first tooth yet dying in a brutal murder committed by someone she loved is one of the shittiest things imaginable ……. Yes. No one disagrees with that. But God is still good. So good. And I feel so confident that Njeri agrees. That is worth declaring daily -- more than just once at a funeral.

It was six months ago that she died and I had never been able to write anything about it publicly, but God's goodness needs declaring - even and maybe especially six months down the road. I cannot possibly end having only talked about my personal experience and really want to tell you more about Njeri's life and how thankful we are for the time we got to know her, so that post will be on it's way shortly. I worry about a day going by when I don't remember her and consciously miss her and so I keep pictures of her all over. But I'd still love an opportunity to share a bit more of her life (the small part of it that we got to share with her) with y'all so she can be honored and celebrated and God can be praised for still knitting her into her sweet mom's womb, even knowing that she would leave us way before any of us wanted. That post will be next. :)

Friday, February 28, 2014

for those of us who need our hearts changed

**Note: this is not about whether homosexuals should be preachers or should be allowed to marry or should be allowed to adopt or should have their names posted in the newspaper so that they can be publicly shamed by their country or should be served by any and every florist.

This is about how Christians are failing to love this group of people well, and it needs to change. 


I think I'd be more indignant towards the people who call homosexuals "disgusting" while signing bills to incarcerate them for life in the country next door if I couldn't remember a time when I used the exact same descriptor to encapsulate this entire group of people. 

It hurts so much to remember, but homosexuality used to make me cringe too. You can blame the media or the "liberals" or higher education or whatever you want for why it's now only these memories that make me cringe; or I can save you the speculation and tell you why. It's because now I have the privilege of actually knowing and loving people who are gay. And, I also think I know Jesus a little bit better than I did before. But ultimately, it's because He supernaturally changed my heart because I was wrong--so wrong. 

When I was a teenager growing up in a conservative Georgia neighborhood, the only surefire way to prevent anyone from thinking you yourself are gay (which was the most horrible thing imaginable at that time, in our little world) was to be dramatically disgusted by it. It wasn't that difficult. I was disgusted by it in many ways and I was horrified at the thought of anyone thinking it of me. 

I remember well the girls we whispered about in the bathrooms and the boys whose high pitched voices we didn't believe when they shouted "I am NOT gay!" to the 7th grade taunters who sat behind them in class. As long as I stayed on the side of the predators and not the victims, I felt safe. Sometimes all it took was a quick smile at a joke or silence when people were being treated like trash right in front of my eyes. Other times it meant huddling in tight and listening while the obviously-heterosexual-girl-who-had-a-boyfriend dished about her softball teammates. 

I often stood up for people being made fun of and tried my best to keep company with those who didn't thrive off of gossip and tearing others down. But there was something that silenced me when it came to people being mistreated because some 13 year old somewhere thought they might be attracted to their own gender -- I was a Christian and people knew it. In my mind and most of the minds I was surrounded by, Christians were known to be against homosexuality. If anyone were to stand up for them, let it be others who were gay or at least people who didn't consider the Bible their "rule book for life." Being disgusted by homosexuality, and thus homosexuals, seemed to be a requirement of Christianity. 

That was then, but this is now. I have seen a few changes for the better since then, but I'd still say we have a freaking ugly reputation among homosexuals and I believe the blame lands on us for that. I blame myself and I blame the rest of us who have either silently looked on as the stones are thrown or have been the ones hurling them at that scary, sinful person whom we don't understand--the person whose sin is easier to point out than the ones that are secretly rotting our own hearts. 

Even for those of us who try earnestly to ascribe to the "Love the sinner, hate the sin" adage -- I would say it is not really working for us. Sin is disgusting and ugly and messy and it deserves our hatred, but I have plenty of sin in myself to hate before I start making it my duty to hate your specific sins. And I like the way Micah J. Murray reminds us that Jesus' business card didn't read : "Jesus Christ. Hater of sin, lover of sinners." 

"They say Jesus was a friend of sinners, but he didn't describe himself that way. His motto wasn't "eating and drinking with prostitutes and tax collectors." Those were the labels used by the religious community, by the disapproving onlookers. What's amazing about Jesus is that when he hung out with sinners, he didn't act like they were sinners. They weren't a "project," a "mission field." They were his friends. People with names. Defined as beloved children of the Creator, not defined by their sins. Icons of God's image. His brothers and sisters."
--Micah J. Murray 

As I said before, being on a similar page with Musseveni is unfortunately not a distant memory for me--it is a much more recent recollection than I like to admit. But thankfully there is grace for that, too. There is grace for my Kenyan friends who think Musseveni is a hero and there is grace for Musseveni himself.  For those of you who think homosexuality is "disgusting" (though you most likely have learned better than to say it with those words if you live in the US), there is grace for you. I know because I was there a few years ago and there was and is grace for me. 

The more I get to know Jesus and see the way He lived, the more I want to busy myself with loving people--all people. The ones, like me, who have debilitatingly prideful hearts that are fairly easy to hide and the ones whose sin is on display and on whom we can easily place the one-size-fits-all bumper sticker of "I love you, but I hate your sin." Does that really work for anyone? It never worked for me. 

A few years back, I finally grew tired of making it my job to hate someone else's sin, especially my friends. So I simply asked Jesus to give me his heart for other people, all types of people who struggle with all different types of things. He did it. He still does it, and I am forever grateful. 

So yes, I am absolutely heartbroken about how people are being treated. I have cried tears over the new legislation in Uganda and have felt genuine anger about the ways I believe we are getting it so, so wrong. But I believe it is God's grace that I can still remember when I was on the other side of that line drawn in the sand. I am still somewhat new to feeling overcome with grief that these precious brothers and sisters are being persecuted by us--the ones who are absolutely, undeniably called to love them. 

My repentant tears have begun to run dry as He allows me to have real relationships with real people who struggle with real sin, just like me. Now instead of throwing hate at homosexuals, you are throwing hate at my friends. In the name of the same Jesus I call my own. It is confusing to them and it is confusing to me and I truly think Jesus is shaking His head at how we are getting it wrong, like we are prone to do. If you think you are "with" God as you hurl hate on anyone in His name (...even murderers, child abusers, traffickers, and rapists), I believe you are gravely mistaken.

The good news? There is grace. It's never too late to stop hating and start loving…Jesus is fully capable of changing hearts and he proved that to me personally. Also in my experience, the gay community is pretty darn good at forgiving us who have at one time treated them like they are somehow less worthy of love than anyone else. 

"Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments." -- Matthew 22:36-40

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Downward Mobility

This week I had the awesome privilege of writing a guest post on DL Mayfield's ever-challenging and wonderfully rich blog. Basically I am just honored to be invited into the conversation that takes place there. I strongly encourage you to check out the whole blog if you have not--you will absolutely, positively walk away with things to chew on.

This post was never really an essay, just an on-going list in my iPad notes that became a post when I decided to throw it out there and see if anyone could relate.

Below are a few excerpts, but you can read the whole thing here :

On most days, my privilege ostentatiously dances in my face and frustrates my desire to really, truly live in solidarity with the people I am surrounded by. The voices that call this pursuit of downward mobility “ignorant idealism” ring louder and surer than my unsteady, but wishful, belief that this type of living is not only beautiful, but possible.
...I sometimes I feel like I am just playing dress-up. I put on a costume and play the part of friend to the poor, friend to the sick, and friend to the orphan, but remain so far above them (much to my dismay) that it seems a laughable feat to really live in solidarity with them. If I lived in America, I would most likely be dependent on government assistance. But here!? Here I am rich. I am healthy. I have family who call me their own and always have my back. I have people who would fight for me, if I needed it.
One of the things I love most about Jesus and the way He used His time on earth to teach us how to live is how mind-blowingly clear He is. I am simple minded and need straightforward directions; He graciously made it so that we do not have to make any assumptions or decode any messages to understand His heart for the poor. He is crazy about them. He honors them and cherishes them and calls them His friends; not for charity’s sake, but for love’s sake. I love the way Father Greg Boyle defines this solidarity: “kinship– not serving the other, but being one with the other. Jesus was not “a man for others”; he was one with them. There is a world of difference in that.”
 This is what I want. And this is what God is doing, slowly but surely, and not without pain and difficulty and awkwardness and lots of fumbles.

Monday, August 12, 2013

My job

Every single night. That's how often we remind God that we really freaking need Him to work out each of their futures. They fold their tiny, chubby hands and pretend to close their eyes, carefully watching to make sure mine stay shut. And we pray. 

We pray to the God who knit them into wombs already knowing that we would be here. That we would be in this place; this unnatural, response-to-tragedy place where none of us truly want to have to be. 

I can do my part. I can hold them close for this time and love them hard and petition God on their behalf until I am hoarse; but working out their futures is not and never will be a task He gives me. He has never, ever asked me to determine their future steps. 

He hasn't asked me to stay awake late into the night, filling pages with "best case scenarios" and "plans A, B, C, and D" to keep little, tiny humans in families until they grow up and create families of their own. He hasn't asked me to pour over scientific journals and anything else the internet has to offer about mentally ill mothers successfully raising their children. He hasn't asked me to analyze every interaction with birth moms and grandmas and women I walk past on the street who maybe, just maybe, could have a role in this child's life, long-term. 

It's simply not my job. 

My job, then? My job is to believe Him for them. To teach them, in this short time we have together, that our God is One to be trusted. What we do here, in this unconventional family--what we do here is trust God to love us like He says He loves us. It's how we keep walking, how we keep following when the path is too foggy for our purposefully untrained eyes to navigate. 

The same prayer every night, aloud, and then a few million groaned ones throughout the day. 
Jesus, remember us. Work it out. Continue to work it out for us. We trust You. You are the only One for this job. 

And then all together, we say amen. We give our affirmation. Let it be, Lord. And we thank Him. Asante Yesu. Thank you, Jesus. Not because we can see it but because we believe You. We believe You hear us and we believe You're mindful of us. And so we keep on trusting. 

Asante Yesu. Because we trust You are working and need not save our thank you's until we can see it crystal clear. 

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

The post in which I try to convince everyone to become Foster parents (sorry)

((proof that i'm not a 'blogger' by trade... tried to add pictures because apparently words alone are boring and in the process made the font tiny and certain paragraphs huge... let's just take that as a sign from Jesus about what He thinks is important enough to actually read :)))

I'm not so bad at reflecting... looking back on things that are no more and seeing things I learned, things I missed, things I want to do differently next time, or things that have shaped me in ways I will cherish forever. But freezing time for even a moment and looking at what's around me now and thinking about what God is teaching me now is much harder for me. I don't journal and even though I love the question that almost always comes up on coffee dates with friends, I am not often thinking about what God is doing and teaching and disciplining and stretching and giving right now.

So, let me just talk about my journey while my tracks in the dirt are fresh and the path ahead is still long and winding, with much more ground to be covered. So much left to learn! Though my experiences with foster care have been unconventional (to say the least), they have always involved being a temporary mama to a child who is in need of just that. Most often, I would have preferred the word ‘temporary’ to not exist as a descriptive adjective in our relationship; but it always has. And I am thankful all the same for the weeks, months, or years that these children have been in my hands, even if they are now just mine in heart.

I believe so strongly that it is our great opportunity and privilege to enter into the suffering of others. That's how God led me here, before I knew anything about foster care. A child finding themselves in need of a different roof over their head is a big deal. And the thing is, it’s a big deal for everybody. We can look on, or we can enter in with humility, utter dependence on God, and a willingness to do whatever we can, at whatever cost, to love all who are involved.

You guys, I know this as a daily reality so believe me when I say Satan is after these kids. He so deeply loves a child feeling forgotten, abandoned, neglected, unworthy, and thrown away. I believe God is so clear in scripture about His profound love for the fatherless, outcast, and abandoned on purpose. He makes it simply impossible to read Scripture and not see this unfathomable love for the forgotten. He is crazy about them. As I spend my days (and nights) with them, I see Him working tirelessly to reveal this love to them—He is so faithful in that, but the awesome thing is He invites us in.

If we know this deep love to be true and we know that Satan wants ownership of these kids’ hearts, can we enter into the battle and wrap these little (or big) ones up in that love? Can we get some flesh in the game and welcome these kids into our homes, into our families, for even a brief 24 hours of love? Can we not think about ourselves for a few minutes and just trust God to use silly, small us in the lives of these kids He cherishes? Can we trust Him to give us what we need and help us to love “as much as we love our biological kids”? Can we trust Him with the hearts of our other children who we are afraid of hurting in the process? Can we believe Him when He says He is always and will continue to work for our good, even as we take a break from working to create our own good for ourselves and our families? Can we stop planning and rationalizing and thinking as if we are working in our own power and walk into this with expectancy for how He promises to carry us?

In foster care, it is so much about trusting Him to do what He wants to do in the lives of these kids (again, even for 24 fleeting hours) and letting you play a part even just by reading bedtime stories and wiping sticky hands. It's remembering constantly how deeply He cares for these kids and trusting Him to reveal that to them and to not relent in working for their good. It means trusting Him even when things don't go the way you would have hoped or thought best and continuing to pray for the children all the more when they are out of your hands/view and in someone else's. It’s saying yes to things that are likely to hurt and reminding Jesus that He needs to be so thick in this or you simply can’t walk it. 

I know that many, many godly people are of the mindset that some people are called to this and some are called to that and there are clear distinctions and it’s awesome that I am called to this and not that and it’s awesome that they are called to that and not this. Sure. I get that, sort of. But I think we are missing an important part of our relationship with God when we make our minds up prematurely about what He has or hasn’t called us to. Though it might look different for everyone, He has clearly called every single one of us to love and everyday I believe we can be asking Him who. He will not tire of our eagerness to see who He wants us to see.

In foster care, you will have hurting children (even if they are unable to verbalize the hurt, it is surely there) under your roof and you will be given the unique privilege to put your hands on them as you pray and petition on their behalf. You will be entering into the battle, undoubtedly. You will be fighting right alongside your God and with the indestructible armor that He has already won. You will forget yourself and you will have to remember Him. Your stomach will be filled with the anxious butterflies that they might not even know to have before court dates, family visits, and other life events. You will feel their heart pain and it will hurt, but doesn’t every one need that—someone to weep with them? You will pray earnestly for them and their families, often with tears, and God will so delight in hearing and answering those prayers that might have never been prayed. You will find yourselves loving their moms or dads or grandmas or siblings and that will probably be the Holy Spirit sweetly teaching you that we all need Jesus just the same.

I won’t play with statistics because I just don’t even know them off-hand, but I do know that there is a need. A real need. There is a always, always, always an opportunity for people who love Jesus to enter into the suffering of others and to allow themselves to be used however the heck God wants. As long as we live on earth, we will never lack these opportunities to enter in. When I lived in Atlanta and had thoughts of staying for more than a few months, I started the process of being registered as a foster parent. If Fulton County DFCS was willing and eager to let me join them in caring for these kids, as a 25 year old single student who had 3 roommates and would be keeping the child in a closet-turned-bedroom, I’d say there is a great need. 

I encourage everyone to pray about it… but maybe not in the “am I supposed to do foster care?” kind of way, though there's nothing wrong with that. Maybe in a “Here I am. Here is my home. Here is my time. Here is my heart. Here is the family you’ve given me. Use us as You see fit. We are here for You. Take what little we have and use it for Your glory.” And then listen. It’s not foster care for everyone; of course I realize that. But it’s something

Prayer: there is so much power in this! it blesses me (and our babies) so much when visitors who come to Neema House pray over the children, their families, their futures. Contact me and I will so so gladly match you with a child who would so greatly appreciate your prayers. Think about how you who have children pray for them and commit to pray the same way for a child who has no one to pray those bold prayers for them.

Supporting someone who is doing it: here is an awesome way to get some beautiful art AND support a girl who is fostering. I'm also willing to bet your pastor knows who in the church is involved with foster care and maybe they'd love a fresh meal when they bring home a new child, just like new moms home from the hospital love!

Learn more:

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Even there

It's quickly becoming a favorite place of mine though I've only spent 6-8 hours there in total. Honestly, my first minutes inside were full of timidity and nervous observation. As the gate was slowly unlocked, pushing willful escape artists out of the way, it was as if we were being welcomed into a cage full of lions. My eyes were busy scanning the scene, never lingering too long to avoid being surprised by an unexpected encounter.

 The noises greet you before you even cross the muddy path that brings them into sight. Screams, groans, bickering, singing, laughing, conversation, crying. This is Kenya's one and only mental institution--the "civil" women's ward.

 Wangare* meets you at the gate and squeezes you so tightly you feel like your organs will come out of your mouth. Not just upon greeting, but every few minutes. Sneak attacks from behind are her favorite, and maybe mine too. Her laughter echoes through the stale walls and urine soaked floors. She proudly buries my entire arm in the pit of her own and drags me throughout the whole ward, introducing me as "rafiki yangu" (my friend). I am blown away by the honor of her introduction. I strangely miss her in the hours I am at home, surrounded by people who respect my personal space.

 Alice* repeats the same few sentences repeatedly, sharing her desire to become a US citizen. She follows too closely for my comfort and sees a way-too-small opening on the bench as a an eager invitation to sit. After a few minutes, I lose feeling in my left leg and run out of graceful responses to her repetitious mutterings. Her husband visits her daily and I would say she is the best dressed women in the ward thanks to his faithful efforts. She treats him poorly when he comes but he keeps on coming back. This kind of love baffles me.

 Mary's* sweet demeanor meets me at the gate every time. She has more love in her frail 80 pound body than anyone I've met. Her story will cut your heart into pieces and yet she is the first to tell you that she does not doubt God and His power. She speaks so sweetly of her God and I love Him all the more. Though she was granted permission to be discharged months ago, Kenyan hospitals require you to stay until you can pay your bill in full. It is a practice synonymous with prison. She tells me she is fasting and as much as I respect her faith, I beg her to eat. Her bones protrude and her gait is weak. I tell her she needs to remain physically strong so she can care for the children who wait expectantly for her. She nods with brimming tears. I ache to erase her pain. I stand in awe of her resilient faith in the same God I call my own.

 Sarah* talks to me about the mzungu ("white person") she knows, assuming if we are both white, we obviously must know each other. I listen for a few moments as she skips sentence breaks and talks without end and then intervene to tell her to eat the food she has collected before it gets cold. I just need a small break from her incessant talk and maybe if her mouth is full my ears can have a rest. Just as her mouth is filled, she breaks into singing the Kenyan national anthem. Some women stand in respect and other just look on.

 The one I feared the most is now a friend, as I have learned the key to her heart: food. She is nonverbal, very stout, and wears only a medical gown which barely covers her front and hangs open in the back. She seems unable to recognize when her stomach is full, so roams around to each person who is eating, demanding they give her some of their portion. The wise ones have learned to quickly fulfill her request so as to avoid an altercation. She has been abandoned again and again and again until she reached adulthood and no one knew where else take her. If for no other reason, I want Jesus to hurry up and come back just for her sake.

This beautiful woman doesn't respond when I ask her name, but she yells loudly that God will come. I nod my head and grab her hand, telling her that He is already here. We both look around and say it aloud. "He is here. (Mungu ni hapa.)"

I have to believe it, though I feel my own doubt creep in as my eyes scan the scene once again. But yes, even (or most especially!) in a cage full of urine soaked and wandering women -- He is here. Women. Women who have moms and dads and childhood memories and brothers and sisters and husbands and CHILDREN and gardens and market vendors who know their name and how many kgs of flour they will buy this week and homes they wake up to sweep. This cage is filled with moms and daughters and wives, not wild animals as I had once believed.

 You can see the kindness in Jane's* eyes the second you meet her. She remains quiet, except to warn me when I am about to sit down on a bench that is covered in human, adult excrement. Though she does not join any of our conversations, I watch her and her love for others amazes me. She gently scoots down the bench to sit next to a severely ill woman who is unable to feed herself. Jane has learned that the woman just needs help getting the food into her mouth, where she is then able to push the food down her throat with her index finger. Before Jane even takes a bite of her own food, her heart beats for the others around her.

 The one most precious in my heart is the one who brought me here. She puts her limp, sedated arm around me and says "I am bad". Together we lift her chin and force her eyes to meet ours. "You are not bad." "Do you hear?" "You are not bad." "Jesus is here and He says you are not bad. You are His child." "Do you hear?" As if speaking to a child, I will her to believe me. I will not tell a lie. I also will not allow a lie to be spoken without calling out against it. Satan will not be the loudest voice echoing through this place. Not in the ears of my friend. He will not reign here. She asks to come home with me every single time we visit. I ache to say yes, but know that she needs just a little more time to adjust to the medication and be reviewed.

I cannot blame her for even one millisecond for wanting to leave. At the same time, I am encouraged to no end by the work God is doing when I see the precious friends she has made in just one week here. They are sisters. The most beautiful sisters who seem to not even imagine withholding love from someone who is different. I hide tears behind my sunglasses at the sight of their love for one another.

 I love so deeply the God who chooses to be present in places as seemingly hopeless as this overflowing prison. He pulls us out of the miry pit and even when we still feel neck-deep in the muck, He is there with us. I just love that God. I love the Jesus who tells us as He walks this pain-ridden earth that these women that fill this cage are absolutely precious to Him, a king. Giving our whole lives to them is not a waste, it is worship.

 A personal pet peeve of mine is the constant asking God to come and join us as we worship Him. Though I don't know that the invitation does any harm, can we just believe assuredly enough to skip right to THANKING HIM for being here? And if we have to invite Him even into our churches, what about the places where darkness is tangibly thick? Can we trust Him to be there or is it our duty to unlock the gate, push back the ones trying to break loose, and give Him a place on the bench?

 Is the God who lifts my head and goes before me the same God who has the same fond affections for these seemingly forgotten women, sisters, and mothers? I ask Him the whole way home. I so need Him to be and the next time I go, I ask Him to show me Himself so clearly because my eyes are new at this stuff. The recognizing Him in hurt and pain and injustice is something I am just beginning to learn. I need him to pick up my eyeballs and place them in front of His sweetness every single day here.

 Today the muddy, soiled ground where overmedicated women lay was recognized as undoubtedly holy ground. I saw Him everywhere. He was in the patient doctor (one of TWENTY FIVE mental health specialists in a nation of over 43 million people) who spoke lovingly to the hundreds of women in her care. He was with and shining so brightly from precious Mary who keeps on believing He is working for her good, even now. He was in my sweet friend who shared the precious fruits and soda we brought her with the sisters she has found here. He spoke through Margaret* as she took a weeping woman in her arms and assured her over and over again that this pain will not last forever. He is in Wangare's* laugh and tight squeezes.He is all up in the laughter that just doesn't quite make sense in the conditions these women live in. He is there -- where women and moms and daughters and sisters endure. Though most of the country, their own families included, have given up on or forgotten them, God is there and He is crazy about them and He is not going anywhere. That kind of love leaves me breathless.
"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. If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me and the light become night around me,” even the darkness will not be dark to you; the night will shine like the day, for darkness is as light to you." Psalm 139:7-12
"Lo, I am with you always, even unto the end." Matthew 28:20
He will never leave or forsake His people. Even there, He is