There is no passion to be found playing small - in settling for a life that is less than the one you are capable of living.
On this, a day where many are mourning the loss of an inspirational world-changer and leader, I've been reminded for the umpteenth time this week that living a life that matters is the something huge that many people want.
And it's something that I have struggled with and doubted this week. Some days, you forget that the small every day things build into something big, and you think that you aren't making a worthwhile contribution to the world. I had one of those days, and was quickly snapped out of it by some very specific reminders that kept bombarding me from all sides.
Number 1: God loves me so much that He sent His only Son to die for me... yes, it was for all humanity, but He loves me so much, that if I was the only one to accept the amazing gift of salvation, it would have been worth it to Him. And, if He loves me that much, He's gonna have an amazing plan in mind for my life.
Number 2: God 'sees' me (if you've seen Avatar, you'll get this reference) - He wrote my DNA and imagined my identity out of nothingness. He calls me by name and when I am chasing after Him, He aligns my hopes and dreams with His plans for me, so I don't have to stress that my hopes and dreams are empty and will not be filled - because if they are inspired by Him, He'll make it happen.
Number 3: A life that matters by the world's standards is not what matters to me, when I think about it. I'd be extremely happy to be a generic development worker - one among thousands - as long as it is God's dream for me, I am making the difference I should be. Or to be a mom (a job often overlooked that I think is of the utmost importance as it shapes future generations) to kiddos that needed a family that I was able to provide.
Number 4: God places amazing friends and family in my life to remind me of what matters and to call me out when I believe lies, and to remind me of my life's purpose, and to re-inspire me with words of wisdom.
Number 5: This song:
So, I am here living in Malawi, on my way to great things... not because the world thinks so, but because my God is fantastic and personal and calls me to live my ordinary life in the extraordinary pursuit of Him - and a life spent worshipping God is one that matters.
Today was International Volunteer Day, and WUSC took us to an event at a local school... so of course we got our stereotypical 'international volunteer with local children' pictures!
I have been told by my family that I need to begin featuring more of my work on the blog, as it seems as if all I do is go on vacations! Well, I'd love to have been giving more updates on work, but it has been moving slowly, and didn't really merit a blog post.
However, this past week was the first ever special needs class held in Dzaleka, and we have officially kicked off our program! So that is super exciting and, as much as I'd love to share pictures with you of the children in class, I need to get permission from their parents and JRS prior to being allowed to post them publicly.
Looking towards the front of the classroom - the alphabet and numbers will be painted in the white space above the blackboard.
We started out with nothing. An idea for a special needs class that seemed to be needed, a list of potential participants who are currently enrolled in the special needs Respite Care program that JRS runs, and two teachers at the JRS schools who have been trained in education for children with hearing and visual impairments but currently are engaged in teaching other classes within the primary and secondary schools.
The teachers, some Respite Care workers, and myself did home visits with the children who were potential students, and spoke with their parents about their abilities. Some of the children have multiple disabilities and others were simply at a disadvantage and missed out on school. We have about 5 children with hearing and speech impairments, 4 with visual impairments, and 6 who have learning or multiple disabilities.
The back half of the classroom - we are getting curtains made because our class draws a lot of attention from the other primary school children and when we are in the room, the windows are filled with intrigued faces!
We were given a classroom to use, and my supervisor and I ordered some furniture to be made for it. A few weeks ago, we went to a local shopping centre and bought some classroom supplies and toys. I stocked up the closet, arranged with a co-worker to get some pictures and the alphabet painted on the walls, and did a ton of research on non-verbal communication.
The class is going to be an extremely fascinating experiment, as the children, if they speak, speak Swahili, Kirundi, or Kinyaruanda, or another language - whereas the teachers are Malawian and speak Chichewa and English. So not only do we have the non-verbal barrier with about half the class, we also are speaking in completely different languages most of the time! One of the items that I did a lot of research on was PECS, a picture exchange communication system, and I spent a week collecting images, printing and cutting them out, and laminating them for the class. Hopefully, the ability to choose images to represent activities and emotions will make classroom communication a bit easier.
Another exciting development is that the funding for an additional teacher has been found, so one of the special needs teachers will be relieved of his duties and our class will be able to expand from one day a week to the full week!
I think that the paintings will be completed later on this week, and the rest of the furniture will arrive, and then I can show you pictures of the fully kitted-out classroom.
The supply closet - cleaning supplies, bowls and cups for porridge and water, a first aid kit, toys to challenge hand eye coordination and use in play therapy, crafting supplies, and writing supplies.
The first day of class was small - only three children managed to come out. The teachers worked with their parents to create Individualized Education Plans, and I got out the blocks and let them at it. I wanted to see whether they would understand the potential creativity inherent in the blocks. The children built towers - one of them sorted her blocks by colour within the tower, but even when I built a house and other shapes, they simply took them apart to add to their towers. It was very interesting. Then the teacher joined us and we did some more intense learning activities with the blocks - sorting by colour and sorting by size. One of the children caught on very quickly and helped the other two to find their blocks, but the other two took a long time to grasp the concept. We also got out some pencil crayons and paper and let them colour. Two of them mimicked my left-hand writing (oops!) and they all enjoyed creating their masterpieces. The teachers and I wrote their names out on the paper and drew simple shapes for them to try to copy. Again, they were at very disparate levels, and one of the little girls spent most of her time drawing Rs and the shapes we drew for her, while the other two mainly ignored our attempts to get them to copy a shape.
The blocks on the left are what we spent most of Wednesday working with.
There are plenty of needs in the classroom still - the basics are there, but there is so much more that we could implement to further improve the ability of the children. I am searching for Braille supplies, as we would like to teach the children with visual impairments how to read and write Braille, but need the styluses, frames, and paper. We have some mobility issues to deal with, and are looking for funding for wheelchairs and tricycles for those children. We are also hoping to get the children with visual and hearing impairments to a medical centre to determine what we can do to improve their learning capabilities with hearing aids and glasses, but need to find funding and a specialist in order to do this.
So that's your update on the special needs class! The teachers and I will be running our second class on Wednesday, and are hoping to have a few more attendees.
Wow! What a birthday weekend! I don't know if it will ever be topped, as this one was just so much fun!
It started on Friday, my actual birthday, with some cards from my grandparents, parents, and aunt - such lovely reminders of home and loved ones! Thank you so much for those - I actually rationed them out over the weekend so that each time I got a little family-sick (I don't do homesick, just missing the people!), I opened one up!
I left work a little early to purchase the car featured in the last post - first car purchase of my life, and I managed to have it completed on my birthday - that's skill, folks! Then I used the oh-so-convenient ability to drive to the grocery store and purchase mounds of food so that I could pick up my housemates, Brittany and Alisha, and begin our cooking extravaganza! They worked on pizza toppings and I made dough for 7 pizzas, and a tray of caramel squares. Eventually, friends started to arrive for the dinner, and we had a blast eating and chatting (in the dark, because, of course, the power cut happened 1/2 way through the 4th pizza cooking!). Jen, my coworker and friend, made an amazing chocolate cake with Nutella frosting and cookies crumbled into it, and I was ambushed with a very loud, multiple-keyed Happy Birthday! Such a fun evening! Thank you to everyone who came out - Jo & Jo, Mylan, Ellie, Colette, Duane, Farid, and the Kande crew.
Thanks Colette for the wonderful picture!
We then all piled into various vehicles, with the group of 7 heading off to Kande in a big van that we borrowed. We drove off into the night on a 4 hour adventure on bad roads, arriving at Kande Beach at midnight, with a rowdy van full of friends! We enjoyed the night sky and went swimming, and some of us actually went to bed and got some rest!
Stormy morning skies.
It was a stormy weekend, which made for amazing photos of wind, waves, and clouds, and when the sun did come out, we took full advantage and headed into the water for hours! We also ate cake for breakfast... 'cause that's how we roll on birthday weekends!
Jen dishing out her masterpiece!
Gino wanted more than just a slice... sugar addict!
See... sun! The nice thing about the storminess was that the waves were around all weekend long, and so much fun to play in!
Gino capturing some of the awesome cloud cover!
Just gorgeous - all weekend long!
We spent most of Saturday on the beach or in the waves - it is such a beautiful place! The sand is a lot more fine than at Cape MacLear, and it is not nearly as built up, so the waterfront is very clean.
Gino, Brittany, and I, drying off in the sun after a long few hours in the water.
Alisha enjoying the sun.
View from our dorm to the beach.
In the evening, we took over the beach-side bar, Ian pulled out his DJ equipment, and we danced the night away... with a few foosball competitions and swimming breaks thrown in in between songs!
Adnaan's 'farmer' style for the night.
Ian at his post.
Sunday morning there was a serious storm, so we stayed in bed until it cleared up and the thunder disappeared (it was scarily loud... couldn't see the lightning, so I never had any idea when the next crash was coming - and got laughed at for jumping out of my skin every few minutes!). But, when the storm was over, the sun came out and the green of the plants was magnified... such a beautiful view from the dorm! We spent the morning and early afternoon hanging out on the beach and in the gardens.
Lovely gardens outside our balcony.
Oh yes - there were hammocks everywhere on the property, which made for lovely relaxing times when not in the water or sand! Jen pretty much lived in them!
Another storm rolling in in the afternoon.
Ignoring the inclement weather and enjoying the beach anyhow!
Adnaan & Ian coming to join us on the beach.
Not sure what was being captured in this shot... but that camera was out a lot on the weekend! Maybe even more than mine!
Photoshoot with Flat Sandy - she travels with me as a substitute for my Alyssa!
Housemate cuddles... saying farewell to Kande Beach.
Too tempting to not do it - the office was a fake boat, and the stormy weather just called for a TItanic shot!
A fully carved tree next to the bar area - so beautifully done!
Dodged the normal goats, chickens, and people on the way home - and a more rare pig!
We eventually all bundled into the van and headed back to Lilongwe - once again, a very rowdy crowd! The drive was rather more exciting on the way home, because most of it was in daylight, and that meant that we encountered more people and animals on the road. Thank you Gino for the very safe chauffeuring for such a long haul!
Got to watch the sun set over the lovely Malawian landscape.
Final flare of the sunset.
So that was the weekend! And of course, I can't forget to thank all the friends and family who sent me facebook messages and emails to wish me a happy birthday! I love you all!
Hi dear blog readers! Sorry for the relative silence this past week! My laptop charging cable died and the phone app for my blog posts was not working well. I now have a new charger and am off to the races with writing some catch-up posts to give you all updates on my work and the oh-so-exciting birthday weekend that my friends made happen for me! Until then, here is a blog post I stumbled across and thought was full of valuable advice and also is fitting to share, as I just turned 23!
Oh, and by the way - meet Erich, my new car! He's a Toyota Opa 2002, and so handy for getting around Lilongwe.
23 Priceless Habits That Will Make You Your Greatest Self
NOV. 10, 2013 By KATE MECHEM
1. Love yourself. If you can’t, how can someone else? You can’t truly love someone until you don’t need them in your life… No one is going to fix your problems or make you a better person but you, so love yourself and the rest will fall into place eventually.
2. Workout EVERY DAY. Embrace the pain. What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger & on top of the physical benefits, exercise has enumerable mental benefits. Excuses are merely a product of laziness, not a lack of capability.
3. Eat healthy — you can only feel as good as the food you eat and you will not be happy if you are old and get fat or have high cholesterol. Seriously, it’s not that hard to eat a salad instead of a burger.
4. You are capable of anything you set your mind to. If you want to do something, go out and do it. Failure is always better than not trying.Excuses are a product of laziness not lack of capability.
5. Look ahead when you walk, hold your head high and observe the world around you. Do not let life pass you by because next thing you know you’re going to be reading a blog (or watching on some sort of holographic projection) on things to remember in your fifties.
6. Do not hold your head so high that your nose is in the air. Be humble.
7. Always practice good manners. Address people by name. Shake hands. Say please & thank you. Hold the door for people. Say bless you. Good manners are not easy to come by lately and they will not go unnoticed.
8. Laugh often and loudly, even if you have absolutely no reason to. -Especially if you have absolutely no reason to.
9. Never take things for granted. Whatever you have is always more than what someone else has.
10. Breathe. Like really breathe. Inhale all that life has to offer you and exhale everything you don’t need.
11. Learn to accept apologies that you haven’t received. Forgive everyone because hate and anger is a weight that only holds down the person carrying it.
12. Listen to music; listen to the lyrics. Cry if they make you sad. Laugh if they are funny. Never hold back emotions your emotions or they will come out in the worst way possible (aka when your drunk).
13. You are not always right. Sometimes you will need to apologize for things. Even if you think you’re right, swallow your pride and apologize anyway. People like people who say sorry.
14. Seriously, you are not always right. Keep an open mind. Even if you disagree with someone, consider that their views and opinions might have some ounce of truth to them.
15. No one is perfect. Even when it seems like everyone expects you to be perfect, they don’t, because they aren’t perfect either. “Doing your best” won’t always be enough and sometimes people won’t accept it- move on. find someone who will.
16. Take responsibility for your mistakes. Never blame someone else & waste no time doing whatever you can to fix them.
17. You do not need to be 2 steps ahead of everyone else. Think before you make decisions and you will be two steps ahead of yourself and that’s all that matters. (Decide to eat a salad instead of a burger and you’re really deciding to have healthy arteries… See? All coming together!)
18. Always make decisions that are going to better your life. For example, don’t stay in a relationship with someone who doesn’t make you feel like the best you possible (and I don’t mean break up with someone over something insignificant, fighting is natural- verbal abuse is not.)
19. At the same time, have fun. Weekends are a really good time for this. DO NOT WORK ON WEEKENDS. Working on weekends will make you miserable and throw you into an endless cycle of working 24/7 which will not make you any better than the guy who works 5 days a week because he will maintain his sanity while you have grey hair by 27.
20. Don’t be afraid to burn a few bridges. You are going to encounter a lot of toxic people in your life. Let go. As a matter of fact, let go of anything toxic in your life. These things only harbor negativity and you do not need them.
21. If you love someone, tell them. Either they’re going to say they love you back, or they don’t and at least you will know. FYI, the people who matter WILL love you back and you don’t want to regret never telling someone how you really feel if one day it’s no longer an option. A little love goes a long way. (I know this one is cliche but it’s only because it’s true.)
22. Kindness is always the right thing to do. Even when you have no desire to be nice, do it anyway. The ability to make someone else happy is the greatest gift we have as humans, don’t waste that. Even if someone is being unkind to you, it will probably upset them more to see you continue to be kind rather than exploding and giving them the reaction they want from you.
23. Remember that not everyone is just like you, but in an eerie way we’re all very similar. We all have a past, we all have a present and we all have a future. At some point we all experience heartbreak, loss, love, stress, anger, happiness, sadness, etc. Practice empathy because while you never know what someone might have gone through or be going through, you can sure as hell understand the emotions they feel.
Today I am sharing a few verses. I love this interpretation of them!
Romans 12:1-2 (The Message)
So here’s what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him. Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you.
A view of the lake at our family cottage.
Well, that was certainly an eventful weekend! We crammed a ton of activities in, and the natural fallout of trying to move at a fast pace in slow-paced Malawi was rather humorous!
First thing for the weekend was to get to Blantyre for the night. Our friends Jen & Adnaan were driving to Blantyre and offered us a ride, so we spent a hilarious 5ish hours in the car with them, reaching our hostel in Blantyre at around 10:30 pm.
Leaving Lilongwe with Jen & Adnaan.
We joined the other girls, reaching a group total of eight: Brittany, Alisha, Mylan, Anna, Roxanne, Sam, Felicity, and I, and joined some Malawian friends to hang out for the night. We had a lot of fun… accidentally stayed out until 4:30 am, which made the idea of leaving for Zomba at 7:30 am very unappealing! Though, we did enjoy the view of the sun rising over Blantyre from the hostel patio!
Fallout Effect #1: We were dead to the world and didn’t get up until after 7:30.
Brittany and I enjoying the 4:30 sunrise and view of Blantyre before collapsing into our beds.
Alisha went to the clinic to make sure she didn’t have malaria, and once she had her negative tests back, we all met for breakfast and then headed over to the minibus stop to bargain for a ride.
Fallout Effect #3: Our previously bargained-for minibus was no longer available because we were so late.
The walk to the bus depot... so much greener than Lilongwe!
Eh – we still found a minibus and enjoyed our bumpy ride to Zomba, arriving around lunch time and getting to experience fantastic homemade pasta at our hostel, the Casa Rossa. The owners gave us the number of a guide who took us part way up the plateau and then led us on a beautiful hike through a tropical and pine forest (how strange is that!?!) to a waterfall pool where some of us went swimming (clearly, I am always in the water if it is around, so I am part of that ‘some’).
Fallout Effect #3: Because we were later getting to Zomba than planned, we weren’t able to complete the hike to the top of the plateau on Saturday, which meant that our planned leaving time on Sunday needed to be pushed back.
The view as we hiked.
Loving the water!
We came back to the hostel and ate another meal of amazing homemade pasta, and chatted until late. We were all a little worried about our safety, as for some reason, Malawians burn the brush and are working on clearing the mountainside right now, and the fire had gotten out of control and was very close to our hostel. Feeling like we were taking our lives in our hands going to sleep there, we quizzed the owners about safety and they informed us that they had a fire break around the property, guards keeping watch who would lead an evacuation if needed, and a fire truck on the mountain. They also told us that the fire was actually moving north away from us, so we felt comfortable enough to go to sleep.
Driving through a forest fire in a minibus - super safe, I'm sure!
That's the window of the hostel on the left, and the red cloud just behind the trees is the sparks from the forest fire.
Sunday morning we got going a little bit later than we meant to, and headed up the mountain and climbed for 2 hours up to the peak, enjoyed the gorgeous view for twenty minutes, and then turned around and headed back down – stopping numerous times along the way to enjoy lungozi (yellow raspberries) that only grow on Zomba mountain (they can grow the canes in the village, but they won’t bear fruit!).
Happy at the half-way mark!
Reached the top!
Some of the super tasty lungozi berries!
One of the vervets we saw in the tropical/pine forest.
We shopped at the tourist stands for some carvings and then headed back to Casa Rossa for one final meal of pasta before hopping on a minibus to Lilongwe.
Fallout Effect #4: Our late start in the morning and the longer hike meant that instead of leaving on the noon bus, we left on the 2 pm bus.
View at one of the minibus stops - beautiful sky!
You’d think that would be the end of the story… but nope, it isn’t! The minibus was fine at first – moving along pretty quickly, three people to a row. After about 2 hours, we started to stop at nearly every village, squeezing more and more people into the bus, until there were four people to each row and a few standing in between the rows! One of my seat neighbours (I was in the back row) ended up climbing out the window at his stop because that was the easiest way out, and his replacement came in through the window as well! The seat we were on had broken and been repaired, so we were sitting on a crooked non-cushioned bench of two planks that were separated by a few inches (super comfy for four hours of bumpy roads haha)! At around 7 pm, 5 hours into our journey, we reached Ntcheu (pronunciation: N-chay-o) and everyone got off the bus… including the driver and conductor. We sat and waited, figuring the bus would eventually fill again and we’d move on.
Before the bus got crowded, I took a stealth shot of the passengers!
Suddenly, a bunch of guys came over, told us we were going in a taxi, and grabbed our bags. We followed them, hollering and trying to figure out if we had all of our stuff, not sure what was going on. They stuffed everything into the trunk of a compact car, and told us to get in. Through all the commotion we managed to figure out that it wasn’t a taxi, and was rather a private car and the couple in front were the owners. As we drove away, the man explained that he and his wife had overheard the driver and conductor discussing stealing from us and then abandoning us, and had bargained with them to rescue us and give us a ride the rest of the way to Lilongwe.
Fallout Effect #5: Not speaking Chichewa and leaving too late put us in a really dangerous situation that we had no idea we were in!
We were so grateful to these Good Samaritans, but were rather squished – 4 of us in the back seat of a compact car! About 20 minutes down the road, the engine overheated and we had to pull over at a police checkpoint and sit on the side of the road for an hour, waiting for the engine to cool down. I, meanwhile, was facebooking and texting so that if anything bad happened, friends and family would know where we had last been seen! So thankful that we have such an amazing group of friends here – once my facebook post went up, six of our friends here in Malawi either texted or called us to make sure we were alright! Once we got back on the road, we drove at 60 km/hr all the way back to Lilongwe, stopping a few times so the driver could bargain for groceries from sleeping roadside vegetable sellers, and arriving at home at 11:30 pm, over 9 hours after we began our journey.
Fallout Effect #6: We are super exhausted from the long trip, and all of our hips and legs are killing us from the combination of climbing a mountain and then sitting in uncomfortable spaces for the majority of the day!
Waiting at the side of the road for the car to cool down.
The redeeming factors of the trip: Blantyre was fun, our friend group had a blast together, Zomba was gorgeous and worth every second of discomfort, the pasta was terrific, the berries were so yummy, our friends here in Malawi are super sweet, we got home safe and sound with all of our stuff, and the overwhelming majority of Malawians are super friendly, helpful, and kind. Still in love with this place and hoping to never leave! ;)
Such a beautiful landscape!
I think that if we are to really take the call of the Gospel seriously, we must be involved in caring for the vulnerable in some way or another. Of course, for many people this does not look like moving to a different country or adoption or working for a non-profit. People in need of love are everywhere! They are in our neighborhoods, at our work places, on your street corners.
Read the rest of the interview with Katie Davis here
, and learn more about her life and Amazima Ministries. I had to giggle at the last question of the interview, as it seems like it was written for me! (Though I didn't think of her life as glamorous or easy - I have been around enough mothers of multiple children to know better than that! But, it is a good reminder that the person I need to be imitating is heavenly, not human.)
What words would you share with another twenty-two year-old woman with a bee in her bonnet to imitate what you’ve done?
“Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.” Ephesians 5:1.
Sometimes the media can make my life seem glamorous or adventurous. Just the idea of so many children and so much responsibility has the propensity to draw other dreamers to think, “I want to do that.” I can promise that while I love the beautiful life God has given me, there is nothing glamorous or easy about it. Surely there was nothing glamorous or easy about the cross either. I would plead with any person, young or old, woman or man, not to follow my lead but to get down on his or her knees and ask the Father, “What could I do for You today? How could I say,“Yes”? How could I love as Christ loved and give my life up as a fragrant offering for God’s glory?” Dear friends, be imitators of God alone.
She is wise beyond her years and her views on adoption and providing for vulnerable children are a return to community-based child care - a shift that I see happening more and more in the international adoption advocacy community. As much as adoption and international adoption are beautiful rescues, sometimes they are contributing to corruption and tearing families apart. Ethics in the adoption world seem a little gray these days, and the people who doggedly pursue the truth before removing a child from their home country and possibly also their family are heroes in my eyes.
I went through a really tough year before this placement year, and came out of it feeling scarred and unwilling to open up. But, I know that when I do approach experiences and relationships without reserve I benefit so much more – even if it results in further breaking of my heart.
One of the biggest lessons I have learned over the past few years is that all humans have a huge capacity to give and receive love, and that we are all very good at also causing pain to each other… but, that on the whole, choosing to risk the pain results in greater personal growth and a much more vibrant life.
So, I walked into this placement feeling emotionally numb and drained, and made a conscious choice to live out of a place of love. And it has been amazing – sure, there are hard days, and I am already mourning the coming close of one period of time (my two lovely housemates, Alisha and Brittany, are leaving at the end of the month) – but I am so excited about the continuation of this period of my life. And no, I am not completely healed of my previously broken heart, but as I live love and build the fantastic friendships I have found here, I am finding that my day to day is becoming a lot easier. I feel alive again and it is fabulous!
As much as it seemed easier to close myself off and turn into a hermit to protect my heart and try to heal – I didn't, and I didn’t grow either. I believe that humans are built for relationship – it is so obvious in the incidences of babies passing away when they are neglected and not given love – and I have learned that even grown-ups need that to have a satisfying life. I mean, I knew that, technically, this was true, but as an introvert in the middle of a difficult time, I felt like choosing to limit my human interaction was a better choice. Well. No more – I am officially an advocate of loving even with a broken heart.
My wonderful family: Me, Kris, Mumsie, Dad, Ben, and Luke
Another lesson I have learned this year, through bloggers I follow and sermons I’ve listened to, is that God loves to break my heart – because when I break for the things He breaks for, I become more malleable and open to where He is leading. And that is something I am definitely a fan of.
When I become discouraged and want to pull away and return to my hermit-hole, I remember the wonderful and resilient people I am meeting in the refugee camp, who have been through so much and yet, welcome me with open arms and share their stories and experiences with me. I remember the fellow bloggers who share their hearts on the internet and impact my life. I remember my valiant family members and close friends who continue to pick themselves up (with God’s help) after emotionally and physically destructive experiences, and live life to the fullest in spite of their troubles. I remember the orphans that have been rescued from cribs where they were given barely enough food and comfort to survive, and how they flourish in their families and learn to love and be loved. When I think about the resilience of the human heart that is shown through these people, I throw caution to the wind and jump in with both feet.
On this journey that is blasting my expectations away, and rewriting my perceptions of the world, I am enjoying the roller coaster ride instead of trying to wrest control back into my hands – because when I am in control, I miss out on so many opportunities for growth and love.
So, dear blog readers, know that I love you and am so grateful to have you reading along!
And just for the fun of it... a Halloween picture - the Mad Hatter and my friend Alisha as the Canadian Pirate ;)
I have a worship song running through my head today - "How great is the love the Father, has poured out on us - that we should be called the children of God".
I am so blessed to not only have a Heavenly Father watching over me, but also an amazing Godly man as a dad here on earth. And it pains me so much to meet children and read of children who don't have a family and don't get to experience the beautiful unconditional love that parents give. So, today I am sharing a few blog posts and videos of modern day heroes in my eyes, and praying that somewhere today, someone will step out of the comfort of their life and ask God if He will open their eyes to the pain of the orphan and show them how they can help. Personally, I can't wait to be eligible to adopt, and hope to continue supporting adoptive families and orphan care organizations until that time.
In all honesty - I read Katie Davis' story and got a little bit mad at God that she was living my dream life and I was still stuck in school - but His plan is working out wonderfully, so I am over it! ;)
This couple shares their fantastic adoption journey so well - I can't embed this video, so you'll have to click on the link to watch it... but believe me, the passion of this father for his found children is precious to see.
And last, but not least, two posts from some absolutely inspirational women:
Ann Voskamp: A Letter To The North American Church: Because It Is Time
Dear North American Church,
After a Sunday morning in Africa, you don’t look the same to me.
You look hungry.
Hungrier than anything I’ve seen in Africa.
Because after I watched that Ugandan woman?
That one woman with no shoes and no husband and 7 kids, walk up to the front of the church and put this bag of beans into the basket as her love offering to God – my heart ached this raw conviction and I could feel it with you, North American Church, what you really wanted:
You’re hungry to love like this. You are hungry for the uncomfortable.
You are hungry to sacrifice your Starbucks coffees, your NetFlix subscription, your dinners out for something More. You’re hungry for more than vanilla services, and sweetened programs, and watered down lives.
You’re famished for More, for hard and holy things, for some real meat for your starved soul, some real dirt under your fingernails, some real sacrifice in your veins – some real Jesus in your blood and in your hands and in your feet.
When I sat under a tree in Africa for True Love Baptist Church’s Sunday School class, sat in the class with our sponsored child, Anna – a class that had no million dollar roof, no walls, no chalkboard or crayons, papers, flash, glitz or gloss — just one tree and one grinning Compassionteacher with a falling apart Bible –
I could hear your restlessness, North American Church.
When that Compassion teacher stood under that tree on a Sunday morning and told the kids dressed up in not a whole lot more than tattered rags, “God lets us all give just like the widow’s offering,” he was smiling like he swallowed the infamous, original canary. He couldn’t stop laughing giddy:
“You don’t have to wait to have more, you don’t have wait to have much, you don’t have to wait at all.”
And I’m looking into the eyes of all these African children, all these hungry, dancing eyes and theCompassion teacher’s literally dancing under the tree: “You all get to give!” It’s not just the rich who get to give – it’s all those who give who get to be rich.
You don’t wait until you have more before you give to God – you give now so you get to become more in God. The children are all smiling and singing and there’s all this light coming like dappled deliverance through the leaves.
“Bring your only mango to Jesus,” the Compassion teacher’s waving his hands in extravagant joy. “Bring your one handful of beans, bring your one heart overflowing with song.” It’s not having much that makes you rich — it’s the giving much that makes you rich. Give and you are the rich.
And I’m sitting under a tree in Africa with the richest in the world and it’s not Bill Gates and it’s not Warren Buffet and it’s not Mark Zuckerberg and it’s not the family with 2 cars, a flat screen television and one week at Disney. It’s a bunch of kids in Africa in ripped shirts and torn shoes, who have no knives or forks and sleep on floors.
It’s only the people who give sacrificially who get to live richly.
And I bow my sorry head.
The Pastor invites us to sing. I’m not sure how to find my feet. I am not sure how to let go. I am not sure how to live. The song begins a cappella, hearts the only instrument we all have:
Soon and very soon
We are going to see the King
African voices, deep and strong, join ours:
Soon and very soon
We are going to see the King …
I sing the words looking out at a congregation of worn out clothes hanging over tired backs and hungry bellies and willing hands. I sing the words looking into the whites of eyes in weathered ebony faces. And then I am only mouthing the words. Like there’s no voice left in me.
Like there’s no way I can sing that soon and very soon we’re all going to see our Father – when I’m living like this – and my brothers and sisters are living like that. When too many North Americans diet for a hobby, and too many Africans die for a meal. When our churches have building budgets and our sisters have dying children.
We aren’t playing games here. We aren’t just singing diddy choruses here…
If God is real, if the King of Kings and Lord of Lords is really on the throne, if we are all going to see our Jesus King face to face, soon and very soon – then there’s a whole lot of us who are wild to change things soon. Now.
For such a time as Now.
I am standing in Africa and there’s light in the trees and there is clarity and there are those who are saved but only by the skin of their teeth – because they cared most about the comfort of their own skin and only minimally about anyone else’s. They will have a hardly abundant entrance awaiting them in heaven.
But that is not us.
There are those who would rather turn away instead of turn around.
There are those who would rather turn a blind eye to the needy than turn to the needy and be like Christ.
There are those who would love playing at being Christian, than to actually be one and love giving.
But that is not us.
I am standing in Africa and there’s a whole Esther Generation and it is us who want hard and holy things because we want more than hollow lives.
There’s a whole Esther Generation and it is us who want our children to know the More Life, a life more than self-focus and cell phones, more than iphones, itunes, ipads and iLove, who want them to know the More Life of loving the least, the lonely and the lost and tasting the joy of God.
There is a whole Esther Generation and it is us who are done with our church buildings rising like these seemingly indifferent, polished towers toward the sky, right in the face of our brothers and sisters drinking down muddied water, crowded into living quarters smaller than our bathrooms, barely scraping together enough food to stave off relentless hunger pangs.
There’s a whole Esther Generation and it is us who are done with hardly even remembering them, let alone praying for them.
I am standing in Africa and there’s a whole Esther Generation and it is us who are done with easy, who say to the North American Church:
Be concerned for the poor – but be no less concerned for us rich who claim not to be rich so we can excuse ourselves from giving.
Be concerned for the poor – but no less concerned for us who have done just enough to assuage our consciences, just enough to pat ourselves on the back, but not enough that we’ve ever felt sacrifice.
Be concerned for the poor – but be no less concerned for us who aren’t — because someday we will face Christ.
I am standing in Africa and you can hear the whole North American Church, rising up, crying out: What if caring for the poor was more than just caring about easing our consciences? What if caring for the poor meant feeling sacrifice for the poor? What if we weren’t really feeling care for the poor – until we were really feeling sacrifice for them?
North American Church, it is time: We are all done with no-risk, no-sacrifice, no-point lives.
It is time: We are all done with the drug of comfortable and dare to live the dream of uncomfortable.
It is time: We’re all hungry for uncomfortable because we’re hungry for God – and He is outside of our comfort zones.
This. Is. What. Faith. Is.
Our Compassion sponsored child, Anna, she slips to the front of the church, before the Pastor offers communion.
She whispers the first line of a skit: “Madame, Madame – What is a Life to Love?”
I sort of can’t believe I am sitting here, hearing this. And her sister steps up beside her, “Do you not know, sister? Having many beautiful things, this is a Life to Love.” And Anna shakes her head.
“Sister, this is not it.” Anna smiles toward us and I smile back, blink it back. Her sister throws her arms back in disgust.
And Anna asks another little girl, “Madame, Madame, What is a Life to Love?”
And a girl in a brave and dirtied white dress says her piece, “Do you not know, sister? Having much money, this is a Life to Love.” And the whole congregation shakes their heads knowingly and I keep smiling liquid at Anna. And the girl in the white little dress throws her arms back in despair.
And then Anna moves her sister with arms flung back to stand in front of her friend with her arms thrown back — and there they are, on a Sunday morning in Africa: the seeking with arms spread open like a Cross.
The child we sponsored on Valentine’s Day in 2008, she whispers it on a Sunday morning inUganda in 2013: “This, my friends, this is what Love is.”
“A life laid down is a Life to Love.”
And something inside me hurts and doesn’t, and that is us, a whole Esther Generation making itself like a Cross. Time’s beating it certain, in time with my heart: Give away only a little now and enjoy most of your money to the most — and what you really get is to be beggars for all eternity.
And the North American Church stretches open its arms willingly, the way the hungry are fed when they open hands wide.
No Greater Joy Mom: made for more
I sat in our new church last Sunday listening to the message. As the worship leader shared his heart on the Kingdom of God, the Father so sweetly began to minister to my own heart. Something I very much needed reminding of in a season of uncertainty and many unknowns.
I listened as he spoke about how we, as God’s chosen people, are called to give up our lives as we once knew them and follow Him with everything that we have.
Giving ourselves away daily.
I confess. My initial (fleshly!) reaction when I hear a message like that is, “Okay, fine, I get it. But, Lord, I’m at maximum capacity right now!”
I wondered how many people sitting in that congregation felt the same way that I did.
Stretched by life’s circumstances.
Weary from dealing with our own challenges and wondering how in the world we can possibly give away one more piece of ourselves to anyone (and have it make a difference).
“You were made for so much more, Adéye.” He whispered to my tender heart.
So much more.
I have thought about that a lot over the past few days.
We’re made for so much more than we believe we’re capable of.
We’re made to give more.
Take on more than we think we can handle.
We’re called to be there for one another more, and more, and more…
…even when we feel like we’re running on empty.
Our lives are not our own. They’re His.
Honestly? I am so tired of playing church. I’m tired of visiting churches where they do all the right things, sing the right songs, play the right music, put the right announcements in their weekly bulletin, build the right buildings, buy the right chairs to sit on so that no one complains about how hard they are, preach the right message…
Not BEING the Church.
I can’t do it any more.
I long to be so stretched and challenged in my walk with the Lord until I have nothing left to give.
I long to empty myself to the point where there is so little of me…and so much of Jesus!
Emptied to the point where I am hanging on by my fingertips—knowing that the only way I can get through another day is by keeping my eyes fixed firmly on the ONE who called me by name.
We’re made for so much more than sitting in church pews, getting filled right up each and every Sunday…
…and keeping it to ourselves.
We were made to give it ALL away from the sake of the hurting, the lonely, the needy, the weak, the poor, the sick, and the world that is desperately needing the HOPE that we have found in Jesus Christ.
I cannot tell you how many times people ask us, “So, are you done with adding children to your family?” Or, “Is this it for you?”
I don’t know what God has planned for our future. I do know that four years ago I probably would have had a different response to the one I give these days. God has taught us so much about abandonment and faithfulness over the years. These days, when we get asked that question, I am always reminded of my heroes of the faith.
I think of George Mueller and Mother Teresa.
I think of Queen Esther.
I think of the family who serves so sacrificially in Uganda.
I think of a woman who has had such an impact on my own life—simply because of how she loves Jesus so passionately and serves His people so sacrificially.
I think of Amy Carmichael and Jim Elliot.
And I ask myself…
Am I not made for even more than this busy life that He has already given me?
Am I not made to give away that little piece of me that I’ve been holding on to?
Am I not made to let my life be a reflection of the ONE who pours out grace to the weary and strength to the person who lays down their life completely?
Am I not made for even more than this?
I don’t want to miss out on anything that God has for me!
As many of you know, Anthony is a hospice chaplain. He deals with death on most days. He holds people’s precious, withered hands as they reach the end of their lives. He listens as they tearfully pour out their hearts and their regrets facing their final breath on this earth. There is a common emotion that people nearing the end of their life have.
They look back over all the years that they’ve been given and very often, they regret.
They regret not doing more. Not being more.
They regret not mending broken relationships.
They simply regret.
I don’t want to be that person! I don’t ever want to feel like God had more for me, but I was too exhausted, busy, occupied with my own family, or too darn chicken to say yes. I don’t want to feel like I am ever taking the easy road—when I know with all of my heart that it is the bumpy, crazy, twisting, turning, winding road that leads to a life well lived—a life that reflects His glory in the hard times and His faithfulness when He calls us to do the hard things.
You and me…
…we were made for so much more!
What is God putting on YOUR heart to do for His Kingdom?
No matter what it is…He has put it there for a reason.
John 14:18 (ESV) "I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you."
James 1:27 (ESV) "Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world."
There are over 144 million orphans in our world today. There is so much we can be doing to help them, and today, I call out a challenge to you, to live out the love that was lavished on us by God, and take some time and find a way to make a difference in the life of an orphan. You might be someone who can adopt or foster a child, or maybe you can sponsor one, or support another person's adoption. Find a way - no child should be deprived of love, a family, and secure shelter and food.
Some organizations that you can look into are: Reece's Rainbow
, Compassion International
, World Vision
, International Voice of the Orphan
, Amazima Ministries
, and Reunite Uganda