He'll let beauty overgrow the barren


I dreamt up the picture I thought I would see and I stepped into the house.

We went back and forth from the house and the yard to the trash pile.  And every time I returned, this ray of yellow dancing in the wind.

You can't describe the feeling in that air.  It was heavy.  It was holy.  It was brokenness being made whole.  I know I was breathing it all in.

And I stopped, because among broken despair and a children's bedroom that was empty, the Lord would choose to let these flowers grow rabid.

Hope in the storm.  Whisper in the winds.  Joy in the barren.  Roots when the dearest of your heart is ripped out and thrown far away.  Beauty amidst junk.  What You are to me.



Because I walked into that bedroom and my eyes filled with tears.  Two beds, clothes everywhere, we were there to clean up, yet somehow God touched a deep part of my heart with this room.  It was trashed - literally trashed - but I knew the laughs that were missing and the voices that were gone.

And then you haul another bag to the growing pile and you cry again because the grass withers and the flowers fade but the word of the LORD stands forever.  And they understand that.

And suddenly I get it... if He would so much as plant flowers in this junkyard to remind our souls, then how much more is He doing with what we can't see?

That if He would make a vow to them, He has the ability to allow these flowers to overgrow the junk.  Both the seen and unseen.  That when things like, "I haven't seen that in fourteen years" are said, you know the things inside that haven't been brought to mind in fourteen years are coming to surface, too.  There's beauty in that, because the God we serve heals.  And He always wins.

There is beauty in the barren.  When you are stripped raw to the bone, allow Grace to grow like flowers.  When you are ripped at the seams of the burdens we carry, allow Love to make you new.  When you are captured by despair, allow Truth to open your eyes.  Look for the flowers, because they will be there.  And smell them.  Sit and stare at them.  Relish in the fact that despair does not win.  Because dancing in a corner in the heavy parts of your story, flowers there will be.  And remind yourself, an Unswerving Love is on our side.

And always, always, always trust your heart to be ruled by the One who gives you this hope.

Our God.  He'll let beauty overgrow this barren road we walk.


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uganda 2k15



To grace, I'm indebted, don't you think?

The grace that's still there; like oxygen, I begin to expect it.

Like when you swim underwater for minutes, without breath, and you come up gasping.  The air I expected fills my lungs.

Grace feels like that, these days.

When I can finally see it at the end of the tunnel I thought would never end.  Fears, doubts, questions pummel me.

Gasping for grace, it fills me up.

And then when I feel no answer must mean no, I'm reminded.

When you're called to something, why would you ever hold back?

So I'm going back to Uganda.  January 2015. 

 It's not perfect timing.  It's never perfect timing.  But there is a distinct weight I bear and flutter in my stomach at every tiny opportunity I receive to go back.  It's complete grace.  It overwhelms me.  To say that I get to go back... oh my goodness.  The Lord is so near.

Last year, so many SO graciously gave to fund my trip.  I would stare at my email in tears multiple times.  I want you all to know I wrote each of your names down and felt so loved going knowing you were a part of it.  If you want to be a part of Uganda 2015, you can donate here
I covet and thank you for your prayers leading up to and during my trip again.  Thank you for embarking on the wildest dream of my life unfolding before my eyes!


Thank you, from the deepest parts of my heart.

I told my dear friends who gave in tremendous ways last year that, "This is not just a mission trip to me.  This is a lifelong calling that you are so graciously a part of." 

The Lord whispered to me earlier this year, 

"Do not worry. 
I will provide."

At the end of my last trip, I wrote this, tears streaming down my face in the middle of O'hare Airport:

"We sing: /why should I gain from his reward? I cannot give an answer/ and I cannot, everyday of my life I cannot answer why I gain from His reward dying in my place. I cannot answer it. But I do know that I cannot live a life of luxury for the rest of my life. It has to stop somewhere, and the raw and true love of Christ has to start somewhere. I'm back in America now, only God will have His way in my heart, in this country that I now see as overwhelming luxury. What I saw does not end here."

By the grace of God, I'm going back to Uganda.

Praise God our Father who fuels the desires of our hearts, and never, ever gives up on them.

What a joy.

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He calls me to danger.



I was wired to be safe.

Every little thing in life, it was all going to be safe, the way I did it.  Skiing, driving, relationships, every little thing.  I was going to do it the safe way, the only way I know how. 

The wheels are turning, I know they can see that in my eyes.  They’ve always been able to see that in my eyes.  The caution.  

It’s like clockwork; one minute I’m yelling, telling everyone, “I’m free!  I’m free here!” and the next, it’s closed hands, closed heart.  You can see that, in my eyes.

Since I was little, it’s always been this way.  Complete caution.  Fear in the eyes.  Why can’t I just be reckless?  

When the driver of this little car has no idea what they’re doing, driving towards trees, turning at the last second, I recall, “Reckless.  This is how Jesus wants me to live.”

When others run and laugh and carelessly dance in the dark of the night, I’m standing off to the side, eyes darting.  When just yesterday, I proclaimed, “Reckless.  Reckless for You.” 

Clockwork.  Is it not the same thing?

Open the computer, five emails.  Junk, junk, junk, junk, a thank you.  Hours later, another thank you.  From reckless livers.  Ones that offered their full and complete lives to Him.  

“I want to be like them.”


Clockwork.

Transparency is scarce, here.  And when it’s ample, it’s thick with “me”s.  Safe, secure, guarded.  I can do that, we think.  I can do “me.”  

What’s in us that digs our fingers into safe, so far that to dig ourselves out would be taking hammers to the glass that is our lives?  How did we get in this deep?

I see what people pour themselves into, and I cringe.  I see the lives we live, the things we complain about, and I quiver.  Our tight, controlled hold on every detail of our Safe lives are not very safe at all.  

I see communities dwindling, I see pain hidden, I see ministry forsaken, I see multiple generations of people rising up to say, “Me first.” 

And is it just this city?  Is it just this city that’s rotted with decaying people all running after the Safest life?  And when we finally are confronted with the truth, it’s like clockwork.

The Enemy moves in, and it’s too hard, too much work, too crazy, too much like the life that some people are called to live.  And for the first time in our life, we turn to those around us and say, "You first.  That's not the life I'm supposed to live."  

Lukewarm.  Half-hearted.  Tepid.  Unenthusiastic.  Is that us?  This country that goes on “Vision Trips.” and checks off “help the poor” on their bucket list, comes back with the same not-hard-not-soft-heart.

It’s maddening, to me.  To see an entire Church see radical living for our Savior as… too radical, for them.  

That when He Himself brings us softly to His table and feeds us His best, we push away, push away for the world’s joys.  And we encourage them. 

When in Africa, years ago, a goat was slaughtered for us to eat… their very wealth sitting on the table, smiles on their faces.  Pure joy to share with us.  And what would have become of the situation had we pushed away from the table and delighted not in their very best?  

We’re all guilty of it.  The deep, rich bread is being held before our eyes in every moment.  Yet, how often do we turn our eyes in desire to the burnt, molded bread of this world?

Maybe we stop sometimes to be honest with ourselves.  It’s just easier to be safe, we think.  It’s easier to remain where we are.  And maybe, for some of us, where we are seems better than where He is.  



But for me?  Where He is is better.  Even when His table has been turned over by me, glasses broken, straight-up running from Grace Poured Out, I’ll be reminded.  To live every hour reckless for Jesus is to witness a lifetime of the Richest Joys, Overwhelming Victories, and Vast Faithfulness that our God freely gives.  And on that day, when I see Him, I want to remember that Safe was the path I was wired to take, but Danger was the one He chose for me.

And what better way to spend a lifetime then to spend it in danger for Him.

What a God we serve.  

 “No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.  For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 8:37-39


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I asked for a sign, and He gave me a story.

Hello blog, how I've missed you!

It's been a while since I've had any urge to write anything at all.  I've had peace to just write privately and not share every little thing.  It's been so good for me, to just be still.  But oh how I've missed this space... writing in this little box is like coming home.  I've needed some time to remove distraction and certain pressures on what goes on in this space, and I'm so excited the Lord led me back here today.

So today, sweet friends, I'm going to tell you a story.  
It's a story I've had on my heart for quite some time, and I tell it to you only to recall the goodness of the God we serve!


The first time I went to Africa I was just a girl.  Twelve years old, and I thought I knew what it meant to "be a Christian."  When I left, I wasn't heartbroken, but the Lord so used it as a seed to what is to come.  

I'd journey home with the Lord ever so slowly softening my heart towards what makes it beat now: the orphan.  

My family would do foster care; hard, heartbreaking, chaotic months, and we would say goodbye to the two children that still have my heart, and hello to adoption.

Little did I know, in every major life change He was working every detail for His glory.  

In 2012, I welcomed a new brother through the miracle of adoption.  The Lord had captured my heart for good, and I wasn't ever going back.  Africa was written all over everything I saw.  I would be in church and get shivers down my spine and hear His voice on my heart saying, "I'm calling you back to Africa."  I would read books and blogs and scroll through Instagram accounts.  Until one day, literally out of nowhere, Uganda came to my attention.

I remember staying up late one night after I had seen a mutual friend had spent time at a baby home in Uganda.  "Baby Home" was a foreign thing to me.  I had heard of orphanages, but not a baby home.  I remember googling the name of this home with tears flooding down my face.  That was it.  That was where I would serve one day.

Over the next few months, I prayed every single day, "God I know you want me to go back to Africa, will you show me who you want me to go with?"  I desperately listened for His guidance as I jumped at every organization/church that was going to Uganda.  

Every morning when I woke up and every evening when I went to bed, I would pray this same prayer.  It was one of the strangest feelings, being homesick somewhere you've never been.  

Then, out of the blue, I got a friend request from someone that has now become one of my best friends.  A message appeared in my Facebook inbox; would I be interested in designing a photography blog for his upcoming trip to Uganda?  Ummmm, heck yes.  And p.s., can you tell me a bit about who you're going with?  

And there it was.


I looked around their site for some time and lost my breath a few times.  Woah.  That's kind of perfect.  Kind of what I've been waiting for.  So my prayer changed to, "Lord, will you please give me a clear sign that this is how you want me to serve the orphans in Africa?"


My dreams just beginning, my Africa jar empty, my heart just being stirred for the orphan, and I waited yet again.

A few days later, I decided to go back to IVO's site and look around a bit.  

I was shocked as I stumbled upon Linny's blog, A Place Called Simplicity.  I read her blog posts for hours.  So many emotions filled my heart.

Until finally, I saw it.  Phoenix, Arizona.  

They live in the city I've called home my entire life!  

I remember sitting dumfounded.  One day, I would journey with IVO to Uganda.  I knew that.  But to finally have my prayer answered was one of the best feelings I've ever felt.  For years I had prayed for this dream to begin, and now I had a name!  I had a name, I had an opportunity, and I had a huge calling from God.  

Well friends, if there's anything you need to take away from this, it's that our God goes above and beyond to reassure us when we obey His call for our life. 

Because now, 6 months after returning home from Uganda, He has given us a friendship with the founders of IVO.  

Dinners together, swimming, adventuring.  Everyday life.  




Seriously, it blows me away.  

I asked the Lord for a sign.  ONE SIGN.  And just when I thought He had given me that sign, He provided so much more.


Who would have thought that timidly sending this application months before my trip to Uganda would be the beginning of an answer to years of unanswered prayer?  

It's these kinds of things... the ones where you sit back and recall the way our God moves that make me love serving Him that much more.  


As a cautious person by nature, the way God wrote this story ministers to my heart on such a deep level.  It all goes back to the ever so precious fact that He knows me... my heart... my personality... what makes my heart beat faster... better than anyone ever has or ever will.  He knew what my heart needed to fully surrender to Him and say, "Not my will, but yours."  He knew I needed the constant reminder.

Words fail me... when I think that I failed to trust Him from the beginning, but that He chose to over and over again, shower me with grace and proof that He was worth trusting.  When I took things into my own hands, He would lovingly pull me back towards Him.  He didn't have to.  He didn't have to prove His love to me.  But because He did, I stand today saying no longer does anything stand before my walk with Christ.  Nothing holding me back from His unending Love. 

My dream of serving in Africa longterm one day has been so gracefully written by my Savior.  In those moments where I doubt, where I shake from fear and tremble with unknowns, I'll remember the way He began writing my story.  Captivating me with His love for me.  It overwhelms me daily.  

Oh Lord, that You would teach me to forever sing From life's first cry, to final breath, Jesus commands my destiny.



Psalm 62//
"For God alone my soul waits in silence; 
from Him comes my salvation.
He alone is my rock and my salvation,
my fortress; I shall not be greatly shaken.

How long will all of you attack a man to batter him,
like a leaning wall, a tottering fence?
They only plan to thrust him down from his high position.
They take pleasure in falsehood.  
They bless with their mouths, 
but inwardly they curse.

For God alone, O my soul, wait in silence,
for my hope is from Him.
He is my rock and my salvation,
my fortress; I shall not be shaken.
Oh God rests my salvation and my glory;
my mighty rock, my refuge is God.

Trust in Him at all times, O people;
pour out your heart before Him;
God is a refuge for us.

Those of low estate are but a breath; 
those of high estate are a delusion;
in the balances they go up;
they are together lighter than a breath. 
Put o trust in extortion;
set no vain hopes on robbery;
if riches increase, set not your heart on them.

Once God has spoken; 
twice I have heard this:
that power belongs to God,
and that to you, O Lord, belongs steadfast love.
For you will render to a man
according to his work."


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HEAVY

Lately, life around us has been heavy.  Lots of death.  Lots of wars to be won.  Still, He remains faithful, I know that for sure.

In the meantime, I have been prompted to write.  For years, this space has been my hiding place.  Lately, He has been prompting me to a different platform... Instagram.

A lot of little ideas have come to my mind... a picture inspires me... I have to jot it down... somewhere.  These days, that place has been Instagram.

I'm not exactly sure why He has been prompting me there... instead of here... but I know that He has.  He has given ideas... and with their wars in my heart, I write.  The words just come.  Putting to words grief & despair & rejoicing of other people's trials.  Burdened to put this heaviness to life through words.  It has been so good.

All that to say... follow me on Instagram... if that's your thing.  A lot more goes on there than here.

xo

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SIX WEEKS IN

You know something, sweet ones?  I still think of you.  

Six weeks in.  That’s how long I’ve been home.  Six weeks.  

Do you know that the one thing I was terrified of hasn’t happened yet?  That’s because my God is great.  He never fails. 

Six weeks.  That’s more than enough time to be all “settled in,” yes?  Because for two weeks my blinking became long and slow at 8pm and I was asleep by 9.  For a week I couldn’t even hear those names or the tears would brim.  For two weeks I was just trying to survive.  The jet lag didn’t get to me like I thought it would.  I would go to bed thinking of them and wake up thinking of them.  I had so much school to do I thought, for the first time in my life (honestly), that I might not finish it on time.  There was grace for that, it wasn’t as bad as I thought.  And for those two weeks, I begged God to not let me forget.  The emotions were fresh.  The aching for that place were realer than ever.  But still, I was terrified that over time that passion would leave.  The aching, the missing, the wondering.  

You know I still go to bed thinking of them.  I still wake up wondering about them.  I still spend every minute aching for them.  I still walk into Target feeling empty.  People still ask, and I still tell them it’s too hard to explain.  I still regret that, I still want people to understand.  Tears still fill my eyes when I hear that song.  She was still supposed to be my sister.  The days still feel empty and short.  I don’t know how to use all this in this land that is home.  I should have kissed his forehead one more time before leaving.  I still wish I knew what to say when people ask for “stories.”  I still pray for him before I fall asleep — the boy I didn’t get to say goodbye to.  

I honestly was scared out of my mind… that all of that^^ would not have stayed with me.  That it was going to be temporary… the rawness of it all.  

I was so scared I would be like so many others.  I was so scared it would be like the last time.  I did not want to see it come to a screeching halt and I did not want to see it become another thing “checked off the bucket list.”  So scared that it would just become a beautiful memory with no feelings attached. 

But He has given me prompts to pray.  He has given me “wow” moments.  He has given me emotions that are now permanently sewn onto the words of these songs and the names of these people.  And in the questions, He has given answers.  Maybe not written on a sign in huge letters, but He has answered.  He has whispered.  He has written on my heart.  And now I see, six weeks in, it’s not going anywhere.  He’s not letting it go.  And so… I’m not letting it go.  And in the moments of “really?” and the moments of “honestly?” I find another picture and I wonder.  I smell gasoline through the open window and I wonder.  I see glass bottles of Fanta and I wonder.  I miss them and I know.  

I asked the Lord to let my aching last.  Little did I know He was in the process of answering a lifelong question by saying yes.  

When it still aches six weeks in… when I still wonder six weeks in… when I still miss it six weeks in…… who would have known He would have answered in this way? 



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RUSSIA

I opened Facebook to this.

"In Russia orphans with mental and physical disabilities or learning disorders are classified into one of three categories: debil, imbecile or idiot. Those labelled as imbeciles and idiots are permanently institutionalized while still toddlers."


Slovak noun for retarded person (very similar to imbecile).
It also can be used as abuse, swear-word meaning moron. 


im·be·cile

  [im-buh-sil
noun
1.
Informal. a dunce; blockhead; dolt
2.
Psychology (no longer in technical use; now considered offensive) a person of the second order in aformer and discarded classification of mental retardation, above the level of idiocy, having a mentalage of seven or eight years and an intelligence quotient of 25 to 50.


id·i·ot

  [id-ee-uht]
noun
1.
Informal. an utterly foolish or senseless person
2.
Psychology (no longer in technical use; considered offensive) a person of the lowest order in aformer and discarded classification of mental retardation, having a mental age of less than threeyears old and an intelligence quotient under 25.

The same day I wake up to this:


Until my heart stops beating, I'll never stop fighting.  

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