Monday, August 10, 2015

Rwanda, Beautiful Beautiful Rwanda.

I figured by now I would have written a post about Rwanda, but the truth is, I haven't even sat down to fully process what I experienced. I think largely because processing it meant it was over, that it was a memory, that contrary to what my heart desires, I won't be seeing a Rwandan sunrise this morning.

God changed my life in Rwanda. And He fulfilled one of my greatest desires in giving me the opportunity to go there. Rwanda has had my heart since a young teen, and there are no words to describe the draw I have had to the country or it's people.

I could describe to you all of the details of my trip, the schools we visited, the genocide memorials, the children we met, and the knowledge I gained of an incredible organization that is being used by God to transform the country of Rwanda (Read more here.) But what God did while I was in Rwanda was more than working with Africa New Life. He gave me the opportunity to see the faces and hug the precious souls I have loved for so long. He let me look them in their eyes and tell them God loved them in their own language, He let me dance with them in the streets, and put stickers on their faces, and take selfies for the first time, and pray for them. He let me see, first hand, people I have loved deeply and have missed without ever knowing their names.

I love Rwanda. And I miss it, daily. I miss the calmness at night, the sunrise in the morning, the beauty of rolling hill after rolling hill, but what I miss most is beyond that. I miss the sound of God's redemption and provision whispering in the wind and glowing in the warmth of the sun.

In 20 years, God has transformed a nation of souls. From a broken ravaged country coming out of a genocide, the Lord has brought healing, and peace, and brotherhood in His name. He is bringing souls to Him and wiping away the tears of sadness from the horrific event of 1994. His redemption promise can be visibly seen in Rwanda. It leaves you longing for the same to occur in your own life...

But as He is restoring, God is also providing. Not in a Western 2-car garage townhouse and Starbucks, but a real life-giving provision. While doing a team debriefing one night after being in the town of Bugesera, a town that had been brutally destroyed during the genocide, we were discussing all that we had seen that day- the church where 10,000 were killed, the poverty of the children, the hunger of one brother who was not able to go to school, but God's provision as his brother in school snuck his meal behind the fence to him. There were so many things we saw in just a few hours, we were all swimming to process it. It was that moment on the trip where the enormity of American wealth just consumes you. One of the women, who has lived in Rwanda for a few years, said when she first experienced that same feeling God spoke to her and said, "These are mine."

God's providing for them. He is raining water to fill their wells, dirt and mud to build their shelter, animals and plants coming from the earth to feed them. God is providing for them. And for every family that Africa New Life has not transformed through education, yet (you could be a part of helping every child dream and changing those families' lives. Sign up here.) God is caring for them and sustaining them.

It is that provision that has my heart all twisted. I saw His provision first hand in Rwanda, and I see it daily in my life. But yet I always fear His goodness will falter. I always try to make my plan and my way without trusting the waves of life He has created to carry me where He wants me.

My prayer since being home is that God keeps directing my path. Showing me where I am needed and where He wants my family to serve. I pray that He continues to open doors for me to serve in Rwanda, whether that be an annual trip or a long-term trip as a family. But I also pray that He gives me the peace to rest in the knowing that the manna will come tomorrow. That He will reveal His plan, in time, and until He does, I serve whole-heartedly where He has me. The Lord is wrestling my heart, and my dreams, and my plans. But He cares for me more than sparrows, and I know He will provide.

I lift my eyes up to the hills. Where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of Heaven and Earth. 
Psalm 121:1-2


Sunday, February 22, 2015

Stuff: The Ugly Truth of Day 2

So after some revision, I decided to jump into Jen Hatmaker's chapter on giving away 7 things a day.

Day 1 and 2? Easy. Tupperware, random forks that don't match our set, an extra towel, sheet set, and a couple random toiletries.

But today I sat on my couch looked at our throw pillows thinking about the small purge I have to do again tomorrow. I have 8 throw pillows on my couch, 2 throw pillows on my floor, and one throw pillow on the floor of our room. I'm not talking tiny little wimpy throw pillows. We are talking soft, comfortable, perfect for sleeping pillows. I have so many of them they are literally piled on my floor.

But they match so perfectly. They are just the pop of color I need. What if I decide to change my living room up? What about when we get a recliner and I want a throw pillow for it? Well these 4 came with the couch. And my mom made me these. And I love the colors in this one.

Do you hear that? The consumerism in my life saying my want is greater and other's needs?

Note that this conversation came after I opened our coat closet and counted 17. SEVENTEEN jackets and coats for Lorran and I. We could wear all of them in Boston right now and still be sweating. I have students that don't have jackets. But you want me to part with my Saluki sweatshirt jacket? Surely these kids are WSU fans. You want me to give up my favorite warm white fuzzy jacket even though I spilled coffee on it and hate to wear it because of the stain? You want me to give away my Carhart? Whoa now. That only leaves me with TWO other incredibly warm winter coats.

Jesus has a long way to go on my heart.

And on my connection to my throw pillows.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

My Husband

Marriage can be tough.

And lately, our marriage has been anything but sunshine and rainbows.

But man oh man am I thankful the Lord gave me the husband He did.

The past few weeks have held lots of anger, hurt, frustrations, tears, and pain. But interwoven in that ugliness there has been a thread of hope. And my husband clung onto that thread and has made that our focus.

Ladies and gents, I have a Godly man for a husband. I have a husband who loves and fears the Lord, who seeks Him for guidance and direction, a husband who is slow to anger and fast to forgive, a man who pours buckets truckloads of grace over me- a supply that could only come from Christ himself.

In this tough season we are going through, I am so thankful that I have the husband I do. Because even when his flaws come shining through, his repentance is not far behind. I have a husband that earnestly comes to me seeking forgiveness when he has hurt me. If only I was that quick to seek his forgiveness....

I am so thankful my husband believes in our marriage, that he believes in Christ's restoration, and that he desires to make our marriage the best it can be even if right now we are in the trenches.

I am truly blessed to be his wife.

I love you, baby. Thank you for being the man, husband, and father that you are. 

Saturday, January 31, 2015

Perfect in Weakness

My grace is sufficient for you. My power is made perfect in weakness. 

Jesus, I am weak. So incredibly weak.

This past month has been a whirlwind of emotions. When the new year began, I believed 2015 was going to be the year. The best year yet. I was ready to tackle it head on. I set some achievable goals that were not only things I wanted for myself, but were aimed at serving and loving others. I prayed through my goals and remembered being so excited at what God was going to do this year.

But four weeks later I am sitting back looking at this month wondering what happened.

In four weeks, I have completely lost sight of what I wanted to achieve, have completely fell off the bandwagon of really positive faith habits like regular prayer and Bible reading, have been so broken that I couldn't tell you the last time I reached out to build up someone else, and have gone through a whirlwind in my marriage.

There were nights of spiritual attack this past month that were so strong I cried and trembled in fear through the night.

There were anxiety attacks so bad I was left helpless at caring for my son.

There were fights with my husband that trudged up hurts from the very beginning of our marriage.

I have stood, crying uncontrollably, feeling as though I have absolutely no grip on this life that has me drowning.

My grace is sufficient for you. My power is made perfect in weakness. 

My stepmom spoke beautiful words to me on the night of a spiritual attack I had. She said that I was on track.

I find it ironic that right when my world began to crumble was when my Bible reading plan led me into Job. How fitting that Satan began to tear my life to shreds right when I would be reading the story of his work on another believer's life.

The Lord said to Satan, “From where have you come?” Satan answered the Lord and said, “From going to and fro on the earth, and from walking up and down on it.” And the Lord said to Satan, “Have you considered my servant Job, that there is none like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, who fears God and turns away from evil?” Then Satan answered the Lord and said, “Does Job fear God for no reason? Have you not put a hedge around him and his house and all that he has, on every side? You have blessed the work of his hands, and his possessions have increased in the land. But stretch out your hand and touch all that he has, and he will curse you to your face.”

Job goes on to remain faithful to the Lord, and Satan continues his work. 

He endures soul crushing attacks and still remains faithful. 

Boldly, loudly, faithful. 

My grace is sufficient for you. My power is made perfect in weakness. 

I would love to say that I spoke of God's goodness and faithfulness this past month. But instead I have been weak. The proof of my faith has amounted to that of whispered prayers as I lay my son in his crib, saying, "God, just be here."

My grace is sufficient for you. My power is made perfect in weakness.

Do you know what Christ calls me to do? "...boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me." 

His grace is sufficient for me. His power if made perfect in my weakness. And I will boast of my weakness so that His power may rest on me. 

So on the eve of February, I am ready to be in God's grace and I am ready to see His power overcome my weakness. 

My grace is sufficient for you. My power is made perfect in weakness. 

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Is My Son Next?

I remember as a kid knowing that if there was ever a fire, my dad, or someone like my dad, would save me. And just as surely as I believed that firemen would rescue me, I had the surest of faith in policemen. 

But while I know that I can have faith in many, there is the ugly horrific truth that I cannot have faith in all. 

We grow up believing that these men are heroes. That they protect us from harm. And they do. They risk their lives for us daily. They work tireless hours. They sacrifice holidays, school plays, children's basketball games, and tucking their children in all so I can lay my head safely on my pillow at night.

But just as one drop of food coloring can change a glass of water, the decisions of a few have brought out my greatest fear- not the fear of criminals, but of police. And not my fear of what they could do to me, but of what they would do to my son. 

I remember vividly watching the Trayvon Martin news in a hotel room with my mom and husband. I remember fearing what the world would be like if and when I ever had a son. 

But that fear has never been so real until I held my son in my arms and had to begin making a mental list of all the things I have to tell him when he becomes a teenager. 

When you go into a store in the winter, take your hood off. 

Never reach into your pockets or keep your hands there.

If you are walking through a neighborhood on your way home, keep your phone in your hand, so in case it rings you don't have to reach for it. 

If you get accused of something that you HONESTLY didn't do, let them arrest you. Because of how you look, you are already a suspect, and it's better to be arrested than dead. 

Whether this list right or wrong, these are the truths I have to tell my son along with a laundry list of other realities that only my husband as a black male can know and understand. 

I wish I could stop here. I wish I could reference one case and just let my fear be unjustified...but it's not and I can't. Because just last week when 12-year-old Tamir Rice was murdered in the park, I yet again had to realize that someday, that could be my son. 

My husband had a toy pellet gun just like Tamir's in college. Just like it.

What if we had kept it? What if it made its way to the back of the closet and my curious 12-year-old son found it? And thinking he was cool like the people he sees on TV broke off the orange cap and headed to the park to shoot some birds? All while I'm thinking he is going to play? 

And what if out of a split second decision someone, a policeman, shot him thinking he was armed with a real weapon? 

And the worst part is- What if the policeman who shot my son then lets him lay there? Never trying to help him after realizing it was just a toy and that my son was not a criminal but just a boy making a bad, yet now fatal decision. 

....

I want to stop here. I want these to be the only instances in which I'm afraid. But just as I said before, they aren't, and I can't. 

What happens when my son gets arrested because someone thinks they saw him do something? And what if my son who knows right and wrong, who loves and fears the Lord, and has been warned by his mother and father to just listen to the police EVEN if they are wrong- what if my son doesn't fight back but tries to move away from their arrest? What if he stands up for himself because he IS innocent?

Do they choke him? Using a move that is illegal?

What happens when he pleads he can't breathe-over and over again?

What happens after he's breathed his last?

And person who killed him doesn't try to bring him back? Doesn't try frantically to save him but let's him lay there? 

....

I don't just have to fear for that moment when my son has to say, "My hands are up, don't shoot!" I have to fear so much more than that. 

And I have to face all of that in the eyes of an ugly and hateful society- one that says my fears are unjustified, one that says he should just go with being wrongly mistreated so "something terrible"-like his MURDER- doesn't happen to him.

But even though I have these fears, and even though the reality is that I have to wonder "Is my son next," I have hope. The only hope I can have- Jesus. He is my source of peace and comfort that I have as I lay my son in his crib night crying and praying that things will be different for him in the future. He is where I put my hope that someday, maybe someday, I won't have to wonder if my son is next.




Friday, November 14, 2014

A B+ Life

I listen to a lot of podcasts. In fact, I listen to so many I deleted almost all of the music on my itunes so I could have room for them all.

But out of all of the podcasts I listen to, my favorite has to be Sarah Bagley's Living a B+ Life. The truth she speaks floods over me every time I listen to it. (And for me to say it's my favorite, that means it is really, really good. Because I listen to some awesome podcasts.)

Every week I reevaluate my drive for perfectionism. My desire to have this perfect, clean apartment, to have my classroom organized and lessons executed perfectly, to have a son who is always happy and never cries, a husband who never has to lift a finger when he's home, and the perfect Pinterest crafts that I complete during my son's three-hour naps that happen every Saturday, and a prayer journal that has pages full of my countless hours in the word.

But you know what?

My life isn't perfect.

And I'm not perfect.

And my home is a mess most days, and with 27 non-English speaking students I often run around like a crazy lady, and my son cries A LOT, and my husband does most of the laundry, and I have yet to finish any of the crafts I so desperately want to complete, and the fact that I have been doing a devotion every morning for the past week and a half is a HUGE step for me

But the Lord must really be trying to teach me something; because every week I tune in, I am reminded how I am still striving for the perfect life.

Something my husband said this past week over a breakfast date has really been burned into my brain. After telling him about something I had read on one of the numerous blogs I follow, he responded with, "I want you to know that it's ok that you aren't like those women on your blogs, or podcasts, or on Pinterest. I didn't marry those people. I married you. You're the person I want. Not them."

It was as though my husband was looking into my soul and could see how much I was struggling.

Because with every podcast I have been listening to and every blog I had been reading I could feel myself getting more and more lost.

Who am I? What am  I doing? Why am I not creating awesome things like these women? Why am I not able to work and home and make money from writing? How can I make myself into a brand that other people would want to read my stuff and listen to me speak? How can I be just like these women I listen to/read about.

Here I am listening to a podcast on giving up your perfectionist ideals and embracing the life you have WISHING I could have/be/do something else because who I am and what I'm doing is not adequate enough, not perfect enough!

What a long road of redemption I have ahead of me.

My prayer as we wrap up this year and enter into 2015 is that God continues to transform my heart. Praise Him for not giving up on me so far and for weekly reminding me where my adequacy comes from. That it isn't in perfect instagram pictures or a Pinterest-perfect life, but rather in His acceptance of my B+ performance and the grace He covers me in.


Tuesday, September 16, 2014

It's Either Your Baby or Jesus.

I always knew becoming a mother was going to be difficult. Sleepless nights, emotions running wild, the constant caring for someone else. But I never would have imagined that the most difficult part was going to be the feeling I get from my church family.

Being a mother is hard.

There are no words to describe the level of difficulty.

But it seems as if the church doesn’t acknowledge it.

Instead, they toss you to the side until your young one is old enough, or until you can suck it up enough, to put them into daycare.

It’s like no one stops to think that maybe that new mama needs the love of her church family.

Instead, they see this new Mama and call her a disruption. And they give her the choice- spend time with your baby or be in the presence of Jesus.

You can be in church service- if your baby is completely quiet.

You can be at bible study- if you give your baby to someone else, even though you have been working all day and haven’t even had but a few moments to hold him.

You can serve the church- if you don’t need to stop and feed him or change him.

You can feed him- but only if you remember to be modest and cover your breasts. Heaven forbid you cause men to stumble. After all, YOU are the immodest one who is responsible for causing a man to sin. The man who is staring at your crying baby and sees you reaching up to pull out your breast to feed is the innocent one. For heaven’s sake cover yourself.

Why don’t you just go outside?

Why don’t you go sit by yourself in the cry room? You can fellowship in the foyer between services. And just ask someone after church if you can have some leftover communion.

Your lateness is a disruption. You should really be here earlier.

Your outfit is too low cut. It doesn’t matter if you have to have your breasts accessible for breastfeeding. It’s immodest.

How will anyone focus on the Lord if you have your baby?

We want people to be able to relax, not be distracted by a baby.

Just bring a pump and go relieve yourself in the bathroom.

After eight weeks of being a nursing mama to a baby, I have to say I am so glad Jesus isn’t like the church.

I am so thankful that He is with me as I sit outside every choir practice, listening to the songs from the couch down the hall, singing quietly to my boy as I feed him.

I love that He has no time schedule as I arrive places late because I had to try to adjust my baby’s schedule to I could be present for at least part of a service.

I adore that He has shown me the favor in allowing my body to be the one source of nourishment for my son. And that He is with me even when I go through the effort to make it to church, just to sit in a room by myself and watch the service on a TV screen in the back of a room facing the wall just listening.

I am so glad Jesus doesn’t make me feel like a bother. But instead gives me the peace I beg for as I am awakened again in the middle of the night.

I am in adoration at the endless love of my Heavenly Father who has wiped away my tears and held my heart in his hands as I have missed yet another opportunity to fellowship with a body of believers because I have a precious gift to care for.

But I am brokenhearted over the church. That everyone else’s comfort is taken into consideration at the expense of new mamas. That it would care more about not having a disruption than allowing a new mama to feed off the love of those in her church family. That it makes new moms have to choose between being in the presence of the Lord with her fellow believers or being in solitude.

Most of all I am disappointed that it doesn't stop to consider the eternal implications that could be had. That if a new mom who would rather go through the effort to bring her baby to the house of the Lord is better for her soul than telling her to stay at home. 


But I guess that’s why motherhood is difficult.