9.10.2016

Uganda - June 23

We did another clinic today. There was a precious little boy with malaria and a 105 degree fever. 84 people tested positive for malaria, actually. He could barely walk, he was so weak. When they gave him the malaria shot, he cried - but as soon as the needle came out, he stopped because he was so fatigued. And even when he was crying, he didn't make any movements to struggle. They hooked him up to an IV bag that they hung to a window with a latex glove that they used to tie it. Eventually, he fell asleep, on the ground, for like six hours. I just wanted to sit there and hold him. When I got back, I thought - I should have prayed with him and his grandmother. How could I not think of that?

Oh, my heart. Less of me, more of You. I need you every day. Every hour. I need to fill myself with You. With Your love. I need Your joy and the thankfulness for those things I do have. I feel like I was more emotionally moved by the things these people go through before I came, when these things were unimaginable. Now that I've seen it all - now that it's been made real for me - I still need Jesus to give me His heart for these people. I guess I'm learning that no matter where we are, we need Him. Coming here and seeing it doesn't solve the problem. I find myself thinking, "if only people could see this! Then they would understand and have perspective." But sadly, that's not true. They wouldn't necessarily feel that compassion and love for these children. They might get it, and be a little more grateful, but likely in a "I'm glad I have what I do" kind of way. We need Jesus.

What does that look like? How do we wake up each morning and remember to surrender everything at the start of the day and have Him fill us up throughout the rest? How do we let go, and let Him move? I need that time with Him. I need to be in constant prayer. God, remind me. Remind me to give it all away, because You gave it all for me. And the only way anything I can do or say is worth anything, is if all of me is filled by You. Show me Your heart, what you would do for the world. For each of these people. How you can make beautiful things out of what we see as broken.

9.02.2016

Uganda - June 18

On our 3rd full day in Uganda, we visited a home for children with mental and physical disabilities. In most African countries, children like these are seen as a burden, unwanted, and often thought to be a curse on the family. But here, I met so many joyful souls. I saw so many carefree smiles, children dancing because they were excited to have us there just to spend time with them and love on them. The ones who could walk were pushing the wheelchairs of the ones who couldn't. I was blown away at how happy they were to care for one another.


Three sisters stole my heart that day. Their names were Samal, Amali, and Misilah, and they were 10, 8, and 5 years old. They had no arms - some sort of birth defect probably caused by drugs that the mother took during pregnancy. I talked to Amali the most - she spoke English wonderfully and had the cutest accent. And all 3 of their smiles were the most radiant I have ever seen. Oh my goodness. I just talked and played with them for pretty much the whole time we were there. Amali couldn't walk, so she had a wheelchair, and at one point her sister walked over and just sat on top of her in the chair because she got tired of standing. They were so tiny. I'll never forget seeing her bend completely over so that her tiny fingers (that came directly out of her arm socket) could reach the seat as she seemed to be searching for something. I asked her what she was looking for, and in her little voice, she said "my sweet!" which meant the lollipop I had given her. My heart melted. (One of about 15 times that day.) Then hearing their squeals of laughter while we blew bubbles in their face and they all but flung their bodies to try to reach them. So I picked up Amali and helped her chase the bubbles. Before I put her down, I touched her forehead to mine and told her that Jesus loves her, praying silently that she would know this truth in her heart as she grows up.

I also talked to a girl named Phiona, who was 21. It seemed to brighten her face to find out that I am just 22. She asked me, "Are there children like this in your country?" <3 <3 Yes, Phiona. Just like this. Except they don't have 150 of their closest friends to play with each day.

I've spent some time with disabled kids before, and they've always held a special place in my heart. But something that I can't quite put my finger on was different about these children. Maybe it was the way they helped each other, maybe it was the fearlessness and gleefulness with which they flung themselves into our arms. I feel like this is how Jesus wants us to approach him. Joyfully stumbling toward Him as fast as our sometimes crippled legs will take us.

They also found it hilarious that their tongues were blue from the lollipops :)

God is teaching me so much about myself, about His love for me, and His heart for the world. Of course, His heart breaks for it. He sees the pain and abandonment in these kids' pasts, and He grieves for them and with them. But love conquers all and endures all things. He is able to restore what is lost, and heal what is broken. Where we fall short, His grace abounds all the more. And our pain never becomes too much for Him. And I know that the joy that I saw in these children's eyes was a little bit of Jesus shining through.

8.23.2016

The Now

Don't look back at what happened
or what could have been.
Look at what is, and what will be -
what has been promised.

I am loved.
I am forgiven.
I am redeemed.
He is victorious.

He
has already
won.

Everything
from before this exact moment,
before right now as God
intertwines His heart with mine
is irrelevant.

But God, being rich in mercy,
is increasingly
wonderfully
relevant.
This is what is, this
is what He has promised.
He has defeated death and sin, and

He
is coming back
for me.

7.31.2016

Uganda - June 16

I am so sorry that I have not updated sooner. I've been settling in to my post-graduation life, and it's been fast and furious. Plus I've had computer problems. But today, Sunday, I had the wonderful opportunity to just reflect and rest and be. And of course my trip to Uganda was fresh on my mind (even though its hard to believe that I've been back for a month already). And oh, the memories are sweet! Here is one of my first journal entries from my time there.

Wow. Uganda. I'm in love with this place. It's so incredible. The biggest thing right now is trying to have a "Mary" heart in a "Martha" environment. It's easy to get caught up in doing, and somewhat difficult to be bale to take a step back and just love on these kids, to recognize Jesus in a situation, to gaze upon His face. But I know that it is my heart that is important, and that all my "doing" will just follow.

Some of the people on my team were talking about how faith without works is dead. And I always hate how I feel like people use it to justify focusing and placing emphasis on works. On how we look. On how we appear to others. Of course, there is truth in the verse. But I just see so many heart problems that go unnoticed (or are excused) in the wake of all the things that we think we are doing "right," that I get frustrated when people use this verse. Anyways, when it was read tonight, I immediately thought of the great Work that Jesus did on the cross. How that out-pour of love on the world was what saved us, and is the reason we live and have hope. How me saying "it doesn't matter what I do, as long as I know that I have faith" is the same thing as Jesus sitting up in heaven saying "wow, I love them so much - I sure hope they find their way to me" and keeping that love to Himself. It was his act of love, overflowing from His heart, that changed the world. It doesn't do any good if the objects of His love don't know that it's there, and it doesn't do Him any good if our faith doesn't radically change our hearts and our lives. Of course, God can see our hearts at any given moment and knows our motives, so to focus on anything besides our hearts isn't fooling Him.
See my heart. Bare it. Continue to restore it and cleanse it and redeem it.

We went to the Akiba Home for children with cancer in Kampala (the capital of Uganda) on our first full day here. The first thing I realized is that I don't know any Luganda (the language in Uganda) and that it's at first kind of hard to love on children without being able to talk, but then I also figured out how: the eyes. They are so expressive and raw. This one little girl - probably about 14, but very small - exchanged a half eye-roll/half hidden smile with me when Sherry started singing "bye bye children, bye bye children, may God bless you!" It was like, we both weren't buying it. It was awesome. And I learned that a smile is so much more than teeth. It's the soul and the eyes shining.

The next day, we did our fist medical clinic in a Sudanese village outside Kampala. Everyone else thought this was the hardest clinic because it was so disorganized and the kids were so rowdy and energetic... and it was. But I loved it. I played with the kids and had this one little boy come and sit on my lap for a good half hour while I handed out de-worming pills. All the other kids kept coming back for more biscuits (what they call cookies), but he was just wanting to spend time with us. After that, I went outside and played with the kids for a few hours. We sang songs, I tried to unsuccessfully to teach them how to play duck-duck-goose, and they thought it was hilarious because I could pick up four of them at once. At one point, about ten of them lifted me up and started to carry me away! Literally. I'll never forget their delighted squeals of laughter.

These days were perfect. Until next time. Great things He hath done.

4.26.2016

Saying Yes

The Lord has been working on my heart for quite some time. Looking back, I realize that He has been prodding me and giving me experiences and lessons to grow from, to make me stronger in my faith. I’ve seen little glimpses and reflections of the change that was slowly occurring, but it wasn’t until recently – within the past few months – that He honestly worked a miracle on my heart and showed me how hard and callous it had become. Very suddenly, I felt as though up to this point, everything in my spiritual life that I used to call “faith” and “worship” was simply dull and stagnant in comparison to the unspeakable joy and gratefulness and adoration that I feel now. After truly encountering the great love of Jesus, I had no interest in the things that used to hold my attention captive. I wanted Him, and only Him to continue to fill me up. The overflow of this love in my life is also staggering: I now comprehend in a new light what it means to be able to love Jesus, and others, only because He loves me infinitely. (1John 4:19) He loves me in this moment, just as He loved me last year when I essentially turned my back on Him and chose instead a life of worldly, temporary gratifications. When it was my sin that put Him on the cross, his love never faltered for one second. He loves me now, just as I am, not as I should be.

Since I’ve grasped this, He’s taken every opportunity available to remind me – and I’ve taken every opportunity to listen. I’m enthralled by Him, and I want nothing else. Brennan Manning wrote, “Once you come to experience the love of Jesus Christ, nothing else in the world will seem beautiful or desirable.” And the more I open my heart to His love and His word, the more He keeps pounding home messages He’s probably been sending my way for quite some time. One of these came when I was sitting in church with two very dear friends, listening to a sermon about money and what it means to give to God our first and our best – because He has given us His first and His best. Immediately, I thought about Africa. I had thought about travelling there on several occasions in the past few years, but always wrote it off as just another dream of mine. After all, I didn’t have the time or the money... except at that moment, I knew in my heart that those were just excuses. If it is His will, He would provide the time and the finances; He would open the door. It is only up to me to act, knowing that He will make everything clear in His time. I had no idea at the time where I would go, or where to even research for an opportunity. But I just knew that I had to start somewhere.

So, one thing led to another, and I found myself using a search engine given to me by the USMA Chaplains’ office, hoping that something would come up. I instantly found several organizations that had trips that fit in the dates I was available. I reached out to about ten of them, hoping to hear back from one or two. I heard back from all of them within a matter of hours. One ministry in particular, Loving One by One, caught my attention. I read about their mission trips to Uganda and the different ministries that they contribute to, and I fell in love with it. I prayed about it, not wanting to blindly latch on to the first organization that I found. But soon, after talking about it with my mom and the two friends who encouraged me to pursue the trip in the first place, I remembered that God had led me to seek these opportunities in the first place, and orchestrated everything to His plan. Again, I trusted that if He didn’t want this specific trip to happen, He would close the door. It blew wide open. I applied, and was accepted, and I am continually astounded as everything comes together.

I cannot wait to pour out the love of Christ into the people of another country. I sincerely mean that. I think that in America, we are so content with our life of comfort and accessibility that the severe poverty of countries like Uganda becomes conceptual. This unimaginable neglect that billions of people live in has been reduced to a statistic. In our comfortable lives where we have everything we could possibly want or need within our attainable grasp, we are numb to it. But Jesus is not. He loves each of the individual human beings in the world with the same fervent, relentless love that He loves me. That love that would not let me go, holds on to them too. And now, simply because I am saying "yes" to Him - 
YES, I believe that you love me.
YES, I believe that you never stopped.
YES, Your love is overflowing.
- I now have the amazing opportunity to be the actual hands and feet of Jesus. During these two weeks, I will assist in medical clinics in slums and orphanages. I will visit and pray for children in the largest hospital in Uganda. I will care for and love on the elderly in an elderly home. I will love and spend time with children who have cancer, as well as former teenage prostitutes in a recovery home... and so much more. I get to do these things. Just thinking about it shakes my soul, because the Lord has given me His heart for the world. He is showing me a glimpse of what He sees when He looks at His children. And the astounding thing is, as much as I feel this in my heart, I know that God's love for us is so much greater than I could ever comprehend. Our God is able to do so much more than we could ever dream of asking (Ephesians 3:17-20). He will change lives, including mine. He already has.

As I encountered the very real hurdle of the financial cost, my heart consistently rested on this: I am confident that the Lord will provide for my every need. I am reminded of Paul and his letter to the church in Philippi. Thanking them for their sincere and abundant giving, he writes, “How I praise the Lord that you are concerned for me… Not that I was ever in need, for I have learned how to be content with whatever I have. I know how to live on almost nothing or with everything. I have learned the secret if living in every situation, whether it is with a full stomach or empty, with plenty or little. For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength.” (4:10-13). I’m also really excited because I can definitely see this kind of short-term trip being something that I commit to in the future. During the next season in my life that is about to begin, I’ll be able to set aside money and plan for these trips financially, which is such a wonderful opportunity.

I hesitated to write this, because I really do not want any of this to come across as boastful. I think that ultimately, God wants us to experience Him, to become aware of His love. He does this in different ways to different people. And none of what I wrote here is anything that I have achieved on my own. I did not set out to become a selfless person (and I'm really not, if it sounds like it). This whole trip is something that is completely out of my comfort zone. After all, it took me years to finally say yes to it! But the more I am aware of my weaknesses and fall on the Lord, the more He gives me the desire for the things of His heart, and following the Holy Spirit becomes intuitive. If you want to know more about the transformation that occurred in my life, or if you have any questions or anything at all, I’d love to hear from you.

You are loved by the King and by me!

2.18.2016

This Old Love

You have searched me and known me. (Psalm 139:1)

How wonderful it is that He knows me! While I’m here, trying not only to get through today, but also remain in Him, and fight for joy, and figure out who I am as I’m about to embark on the next chapter in my book. He knows me. He knows what makes me unique and whole, better than I know myself. When I long for my closest friends to understand me, and then quickly realize that I don’t even understand myself. He already does. With one glance his eyes pierce through to the deepest and darkest corners of my heart, and illuminates them.

…But this is also terrifying. There is so much in my heart that I am ashamed of. And He sees it clearly. The discontent, the pride, the unrest. When I want absolutely nothing to do with Him. When the world calls out, and I answer. When I’m flighty and easily distracted by things that have no place in my heart.

You see the depths of my heart and you love me the same.

Not begrudgingly, because you kind of have to since you’re God and all. Not as a second thought, after you welcome all the “good” people. You love me, who I am right now. Not under the condition that I finally get my head out of my ass. You love me before I even have the chance to come and express my gratitude, or flippantly brush it off – whichever my wayward heart decides to do that day.
But that’s the point. It’s not dependent on anything. I’ve heard the story a thousand times. But recently, I’ve come to listen to it differently.

“I dare you to trust that I love you just as you are, not as you should be. (Because none of us are as we should be.)”

Once my heart truly heard those words… I can’t explain the rush of joy that flooded in. But also, the sorrow for misconstruing it in my head all this time. That love… that wild, relentless, mysterious, crazy love… it’s completely unfathomable.

“Once you come to experience the love of Jesus Christ, nothing else in the world will seem beautiful or desirable.” – The Ragamuffin Gospel

This is my desire for each of you. Experience the love of Jesus. Incidentally, we have a place where you can do just that. You don’t have to travel on some crazy journey to “find” God. Just show up… he’ll meet you where you are.

If you’re looking for a place of love and acceptance and maybe just for a big hug, come to Pioneer. If you’re looking for renewal and a refreshing glimpse at the Love which used to captivate you, this place is for you. If you don’t know what you need, but you think that this can’t really hurt, give it a shot. If you think this is sounds cool for me but honestly a little crazy, come and prove me right. Because it is crazy. Friend, I assure you… the Love of God is madness!

6.24.2015

More than a Story

I got a tattoo yesterday.


"I'm not afraid of storms, for I am learning how to sail my ship." - Lousia May Alcott, Little Women

I used to be afraid of storms: the future ones and the damage from the past ones. The wreckage still stares me in the face because no one has cleaned it up. I think God offered, but I just gave Him a sad smile, and said, "How will anyone ever remember this tragedy if we don't have the rubble to stare us in the face every day?" I refused to let go, to forgive myself since He has forgiven me... to truly rest in the grace and peace of redemption. Never mind the fact that He wants me to keep moving. Anyways, I've realized: these storms, my scars, they make me imperfect and they make me "me." They are beautiful, because flaws and imperfections are beautiful. So now, I'm not afraid of the storms that are coming. They make me who I am. I will not be broken beyond repair, because of the One who carries me, and loves me, and forgives me, and rebuilds me. And cleans up my messes. He never goes away. And I am stronger and wiser (eventually) and more equipped to love Him and others because of all the shit I've been through. So, no. I'm not afraid of the storms anymore. Not the aftermath of the ones from yesterday, or the ones that are on the horizon. I'm learning this whole "life" thing, and my storms make me human. And it's beautiful.

The reason it's a tattoo is kind of similar. Yes, "my body is a temple." But some church buildings have graffiti on them, and God still abides there. Someone was telling me that it's like a three-year-old coloring on Picasso's paintings with a crayon. Our skin is beautiful, it's a creation. Why would we ruin perfection? But... that's not me. I have scars. And I don't want them to just be on the inside. I don't want to be fooling anyone, normal and flawless on the outside, but tattered on the inside. I want to be transparent. I want to be physically imperfect. And especially, I want to love my physical "imperfection" the way that God loves me, with all my blemishes. He loves me with my flaws. And I want my body to represent that.

So that's it. That's why it's permanently going on my body, penetrating my skin with the needles the way that the Spirit penetrates my heart, "with groanings too deep for words." It's so much more than a story. More than pretty words on paper about how God rescued me.

Because... it isn't pretty. It's actually really, really messy. And ugly. And definitely not a "one and done" deal. The words on my body stay there, reminding me. Even when the pain subsides, the words are still there. "Remember where you were. Remember what He did. Remember His love - in spite of your weakness."