Daryl Dixon Got Me Through Mothers' Day

When your zombie-eyed dog snuggles you while watching zombies....its a perfect moment. 

I've been watching a LOT of The Walking Dead lately. And by a LOT and LATELY, I mean I started at 0 and am halfway through season six, in under a month. Healthy, no way. Surviving, absolutely.

The thing is. Hope. Hope is the thing. Every episode is full of gore and pain and death. And yet, you never stop being pleasantly relieved that Rick still has Carl and Maggie still has Glenn. (not funny writers....)

But the reason I have been swept up into this show, is that, if this real life zombie apocalypse were to happen, and people were to fight.....at least it would resemble what is happening in my own heart today.

Today is Mother's Day. Social media was flooded with pictures of beautiful, strong women holding the precious babies God has blessed them with. I was joy-filled with them. I 'loved' most of the posts I saw....my dear friends so excited (and rightly so) to celebrate being mothers. These pictures made my heart happy.

So let me just get to it. The real reason I am writing this post. To share something with all of you who would know or care about me enough to read my blog. I'm not too worried about posting this, as I am sure a very low percentage of my 800+ 'friends' will click to read......

Six weeks ago, I went in for a surgery to remove some fibroid tumors. I went in with the fullest confidence, in my surgeon, the procedure that I had heavily researched, and the God who has always shown up. When I woke up, the world's worst recovery nurse looked down at me and said "they had to take it all." I shockingly responded, "they had to take my uterus?" "Yes, you can always just adopt."

They had to take my uterus.

An emergency hysterectomy.....a few friends have casually said that word...:'hysterectomy' as I have been recovering (and loved so very very well in that time)....and the sound of that word makes me immediately nauseous.

It's gone. My fertility. My hopes of experiencing the intimacy of carrying my child inside of me. My ability to do that which is definitively female. My uterus is gone.

And I'm really sad. You know, if I were a better writer, or in a more capable mood, I would find a synonym for the word 'sad'....but nothing fits it right now. It's an ache I've never experienced.

My bones hurt. And I'm far enough out of recovery to know that the pain in my gut isn't the surgery, it's the sadness.

And I'm just in the sad stage now. I've done the anger....there was another blog post I started that will forever be locked away in the world of "good thing I kept that to myself." I've also done the bargaining....can you have a baby without a uterus if you go into a coma and the placenta is the only thing to protect it? No. Have there been successful uterus transplants? No. Is there any way to have a baby post hysterectomy? No. These are all things I've googled, and the obvious answer is no. Will Megan Flinn ever give birth to her child? No.

I could go on and on. It was my only dream. I never cared nearly as much about being married as I did about being a mother. All of my friends have secret Pinterest boards planning their weddings....I only have parenting ones. Teaching kids to read early, building resilience in your toddler, how to raise independent children in a world of helicopter parents....the list goes on and on.

I've cried more than I ever thought I would cry. And I'm not a crier. And I'm definitely NOT the woman who cries in front of other people. But those walls are down. The sadness is too much.

This entry is probably a mess. And I started with a dumb preface about a zombie show, but I don't know what else to say. I feel like my world is divided into Pennsylvania and Indiana....and Senegal and Panama and China and Ukraine and Kenya. People that I love from all of those places will read this. And I'm ok with that, because I might not be the only one....

And I can't actually bear telling anyone in person anymore.

And I'm not sure when I'll stop crying. Or if I will. At some point dehydration has to be a reality.

And some day I'll be elated over my spiritual children, my upcoming adoptions, the foster kids I will have filling my house...I'm just not there today.

This just really fucking sucks.

- - - - - - - -

These are some of the beautiful things people sent me today....knowing that I have people in my corner helps me to know that I will survive this. This won't kill me....or make me bitter or steal my hope. I will be different....but I will still be me.


What about James?

"Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you. Draw near to God and He will draw near to you.....Be wretched and mourn and weep. Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and He will exalt you." James 4:7~10"

This really doesn't sound like the abundant life I've heard Jesus came to give us. But it must be. There must be something worth the weeping and the moaning and the gloom. 

I have had a lot of desires over the years. I have thrown myself into ministries and loved hard. So hard. I have had deep desires for cancers to be gone, for babies to be born, for women to be restored to who God created them to be, for marriages to be saved. I have watched the sin and brokenness of this world swallow people whole. Mental illness and the deep psychological effects of trauma run rampant here. Right here, in the great United States of America. Right here in every day of my life. 

My soul is tired. My very soul. I feel it in my bones, in my heavy breath. In my gut. Weariness and exhaustion have crept into every tiny particle of my body and spirit. I don't quite understand why it hurts like this. Why there isn't a break from it. A friend referred to it as a 'hamster wheel.' It all just keeps coming. 

For the thousands of prayers I've prayed; prayers for healing, restoration, life, joy; I've seen so little tangible answers of 'yes' from the One I've prayed to.

So I'm torn. I want to rage and be angry and throw my fists to the air and fight Him, tell Him He isn't doing it the right way. This hurt, this ache....this longing for abundance and joy and freedom, this should not be here. Not if the debt has been paid like it has been. Not if He says He is both sovereign and loving. My soul shouldn't be hurting like this. 

In moments its tempting to say the prayers and move on. But the dilemna is that my heart doesn't work like that. When I pray for the Talibe in Senegal, or the girl who is forced back into trafficking on the east side of Indy, or the friend who sits, still barren....I can't stop at the thought. My heart feels the feelings. I need to DO something with those feelings.

Most days, I just hold them. Because I'm too angry with God to talk to Him about them. 

So it comes out in a snotty mess. In a snotty, crying mess. I scream at Him. I don't understand and this life, this broken, hurting life, it isn't fair. And all that hurt in my soul, in my bones, in my breath, it comes out in the snot and the tears and the shaking. 

My prayer life isn't calm. 

And I get all the anger out. I yell and I sob and I pace around the house. And in the last moments of these prayers, I just collapse. I'm exhausted of the brokenness and the sin and the hurt and the yelling. 

And in those last moments I often hear these words from Him, "I love you and I love them."

Then James makes sense. The weeping and the gloom, they draw me to this moment. And I'm not ok with the brokenness of this world. I still have longings, I still have aches. But I am ok. 

The Creator of the Heavens and the Earth still whispers to me and loves me.

Knowing I'm loved doesn't always feel like enough, but it does make me ok enough for another day of fighting.

There is no logic to make it make sense. There is no way to give weight to why it is worth it. But to be drawn back into Him. To be a crumpled mess and know that He's holding me. He's holding all the mess of me and this world....it is worth it. 


Last Bell - Serving the Orphans of Ukraine

I wrote this entry after being asked by Last Bell to share about my trip. It will be included in their organization's newsletter.

This past July 4th I left the land of the free and the home of the brave and traveled to a much different place. Ukraine has only been free from the Soviet Union for twenty-four years, but the deep history of that place, and the even deeper pride of its people is a stark contrast to the infantile patriotism of America. It’s a place not lacking in stories of hardship and struggle.
And despite these stories of hardship, they refuse to give up hope that there is always something more beautiful on the horizon. My purpose in traveling to Ukraine was to visit with a ministry called Last Bell. They work specifically with young people who have aged out of the orphanage system. Andre and Oksana Pankyeyeva had visited the ministry I work with, Outreach Inc. (working with homeless teens and young adults) earlier this year. Andre is the director of Last Bell and during their visit, we realized that even across these very different cultures the ministries have many similarities.
Visiting Last Bell was an invaluable experience. While we were there my team, consisting of Ellen Jackson (Last Bell board member), Robert Pallikan (former Outreach Inc. employee) and Max Oglesby (son of Ellen) were able to work closely with the staff of the ministry. A three day staff retreat was our main focus, but we also were able to visit the shelter, walk the city with some of the youth, experience the moms’ group and enjoy a party with Last Bell youth that had been some of the first in the shelter. Through these experiences, my lens for how our God cares for orphans has transitioned to a global view. It’s an exciting and encouraging thing to know His hand is at work in Indiana as well as Ukraine. He is active in His care for orphans in all parts of the world.
Spending three days with the staff in a beautiful wooded setting in the Ukrainian countryside allowed me to get to see them, not just as workers in a ministry, but as people who are deeply committed to the kingdom of God. We spent the three days writing out what we called our ‘personal narratives’ with the idea that seeing God working in our own lives gives us clarity to know that He can and will work in the lives of the youth we serve. Our team encountered the expected cultural differences; Americans are much more emotionally expressive. However, after our second day and prayer for the Spirit to work, we saw such beautiful things happen within the team. As each team member took the time to share a part of their story, we saw how God has woven this team together in an amazing way. They were respectful and responsive to each other. From the youngest female staff, to the oldest male they deeply care for each other and continually point each other to God and His love for them. I was sure as I sat in that room, I knew I was on sacred ground. The team became more intimately united as they allowed the Spirit to do this work.
After the retreat we were invited to experience other parts of the ministry. My unique experience was being able to sit in on a moms’ group meeting, as I run a similar program in Indiana. The girls filled the room and every spare inch of seating was taken up. I saw the deep respect the girls had for the female staff, which is evidence of the hard work that has been done to build trust. The youth were completely comfortable sharing their stories with the staff, and the essence of something more than social work was present. There was deep love, deep care and refreshing unity. It was evident that the staff were not there to run a program, but were greatly invested in the hope for these girls and their babies. Smiles, hugs and focused, concerned conversations made this abundantly clear.
After the moms’ group was over, we were able to visit the homes of some of the girls. Outside of one of the government houses, one of the children of a mom’s group participant and I were playing and giggling and chasing the stray kitten around the courtyard. Her bright eyes and shrieks of joy were refreshing that childlike spirits are universal. The inside of the home was in terrible condition, but this little girl still knew what it meant to enjoy a sunny day with a fuzzy kitten. As we spun around and I ran out of breath from laughing, I was keenly aware of how important it is to bring joy into wherever God takes us as His children.
The ministry of Last Bell does that. They know the dark stories and bring hope. They’ve seen fears come to reality and still fight for restoration. In a world where history is filled with uncertainties in government and structure, they bring the certainty that God is real, He is loving and He is advocating for the orphans of Ukraine. It was a particularly special gift to see a glimpse into this world; a world where hope is stubborn, in the best way.


This Life....It Isn't Easy.

Psalm 13 - The Message

(1-2)Long enough, God
    you’ve ignored me long enough.
I’ve looked at the back of your head
    long enough. Long enough
I’ve carried this ton of trouble,
    lived with a stomach full of pain.
Long enough my arrogant enemies
    have looked down their noses at me.

(3-4)Take a good look at me, God, my God;
    I want to look life in the eye,
So no enemy can get the best of me
    or laugh when I fall on my face.
(5-6)I’ve thrown myself headlong into your arms—
    I’m celebrating your rescue.
I’m singing at the top of my lungs,
    I’m so full of answered prayers.

My last post was from New Years. Full of excitement and hope for 2014. 

My excitement has not dwindled, and my hope has not left. 

But some days.....

Some days are hard. Some days I walk into terrible stories and hard days and I can spot the metaphorical seedling poking through the dried out dirt. And some days I can't. 

I can't see it at all. I can't find that potential for life to burst forth into bleak situations. 

Tonight I attempted to do a Ladies Night program on the idea of "hope". It turned into many tears of girls sharing their stories of hopelessness, and their anger against the idea that hope can be just conjured up. I didn't have answers and I didn't pretend to either. I simply sat with them, cried with them and hugged them. 

It was a hard night. As I drove home my mind was filled with a million "I wish it was this way..." "Why can't this be easier...." "Please God, show her that...." thoughts. And it just feels heavy and unending.


God is still God. I am still not. Hope is still there. The seed may not have grown into even a seedling yet. But it is there, hidden from my eyes. The only answer is to wait.

These thoughts drew my mind back to a Psalm I turned to in the hard days after Ebony passed away. Back when I was so angry with God because He hadn't healed her. He hadn't healed her in a way I could see. He took me through a long journey to understand the depth of His love for her and how much it outweighed mine. And how His healing may not happen in a way that I see it, but it happens. 

Psalm 42 - The Message

(1-3)A white-tailed deer drinks
 from the creek;
I want to drink God,
    deep draughts of God.
I’m thirsty for God-alive.
I wonder, “Will I ever make it—
    arrive and drink in God’s presence?”
I’m on a diet of tears—
    tears for breakfast, tears for supper.
All day long
    people knock at my door,
    “Where is this God of yours?”

I ache to see Him show up. I wonder when it will happen. I admittedly even wonder IF it will happen. Will He still show me that He is who He says He is? As I hear story after story it weighs on my heart. He calls me to attune to their hurt, to feel it with them. I willingly and joyfully do this - but only while trusting Him to meet me there and soothe their hurt and mine. 

As they tell me their stories they are looking for that soothing, and sometimes the only thing that I offer is my own listening ear. It doesn't feel good enough. 

(4) These are the things I go over and over,
    emptying out the pockets of my life.
I was always at the head of the worshiping crowd,
    right out in front,
Leading them all,
    eager to arrive and worship,
Shouting praises, singing thanksgiving—
    celebrating, all of us, God’s feast!

I have had seasons of my life where I didn't bat an eye to assume the best result would happen. A result that would be beautifully wrapped in a bow because "God was in control." The reality is, God is always in control, but His bows that He wraps up things with - don't look good to my eye. The resolutions of situations are hurtful to my eyes. They make me take seasons away from leading the voices into saying "God is good!" Sometimes I need to sit and know it quietly. Today was one of those times.

(5) Why are you down in the dumps, dear soul?
    Why are you crying the blues?
Fix my eyes on God—
    soon I’ll be praising again.
He puts a smile on my face.
    He’s my God.

Life happens in seasons. I know these seasons will end. That doesn't mean a harder winter won't knock me down and cause me to close my windows and stay inside more than usual. It WILL end. I will have a refreshed view of His love for me, His love for these daughters He asks me to love with Him. I know it will come. It always has come in the past. And the joy will be in an even deeper recess of my soul. 

(6-8)When my soul is in the dumps, I rehearse
    everything I know of you,
From Jordan depths to Hermon heights,
    including Mount Mizar.
Chaos calls to chaos,
    to the tune of whitewater rapids.
Your breaking surf, your thundering breakers
    crash and crush me.
Then God promises to love me all day,
    sing songs all through the night!
    My life is God’s prayer.

The great testimonies of Who God is remind me that He does great things. He has done great things for me, and I will once again be able to have these things first on my mind. The aches will melt a bit and the resilient core of the truth of God's character will remain. 

(9-10)Sometimes I ask God, my rock-solid God,
    “Why did you let me down?
Why am I walking around in tears,
    harassed by enemies?”
They’re out for the kill, these
    tormentors with their obscenities,
Taunting day after day,
    “Where is this God of yours?”

Some moments it really doesn't feel like He is there. And others point to those moments and ask why He hasn't shown up. Why He hasn't stopped the hurt. I don't have answers for why. Because I am not Him. I can only learn to trust Him more as I wait. 

(11)Why are you down in the dumps, dear soul?
    Why are you crying the blues?
Fix my eyes on God—
    soon I’ll be praising again.
He puts a smile on my face.
    He’s my God.

Praise Him. He is my God.


13 Ways My Life Changed in 2013

This blog has been long abandoned this year....as I have been incredibly busy with so many wonderful things. Phew, God has turned my world upside down and made it into something beyond what I could have hoped for or imagined. Here I sit, in December, having no idea why it feels like New Years was yesterday. Here are 13 reasons that I am a different person than I was on January 1st.

1)I have survived living in my own home for an entire year.
This has been a crazy thing to learn. I have used a hammer, drill, wrenches, pliers, etc more times than I can count. Praise the Lord I had a father that let me tag along and watch him do this stuff. Despite learning how to fix a disposal, switch an outlet and replace a tub faucet thingy- the greatest lesson I learned from owning my own home was to ASK FOR HELP. Humbling.
2)I was able to see a baby being born.
If you have seen this miracle happen, you understand why it changes you. And how you look at every human being. The complete adoration I have when I look at this child is baffling. She has done nothing to please me, yet I am pleased in her existence. That's how Jesus loves us, and how He calls us to love others. Love them just because.
3. Sorry kitties, I am now a DOG person.

Welcome home, Polly Flinn. I picked this mini lady up in the Spring while working. After a crazy (and expensive) ordeal involving her permanently zombie-like eye ball, she is the perfect guard dog, and snuggle partner. She has stolen my heart. Which is good, because she has stolen...and CHEWED....every item in my home lower than four feet off the ground (such as my college graduation Bible.)

4)I have learned the reality that for every hopeless situation, God has an answer.
The picture for this one is solemn. It is from the memorial service of all of those who have lost their lives to the streets in Indianapolis this year. In the midst of hopelessness, we spoke of hope. I have walked right to the very edge of my bottom. To the place where I have thrown my hands up and said "I don't think I have an ounce left to pour out." My coworkers at Outreach, Inc. have walked with me through a year of seeing unbeliveable miracles in the lives of homeless youth, as well as many times of teary prayers where no answer seemed in sight. But God is good. His mercies really are new EVERY MORNING. And I am still in love with my job, and even more in love with Him.
5)I am no longer homesick less.
I am now a Hoosier. There. I said it. Indiana is my *home* now. I miss Pennsylvania so so much, and it will be years until I have the intimacy in friendship that I have with people back home, but this place has grabbed my heart. I am learning to love Indiana, and some days, I even delight in being here. Farmers, basketball, corn and all. Indiana's not too bad.
6)The internal work of discovering "humble confidence" is taking shape. 
Yep. That's a shameless selfie. Ha! But in the sake of being transparent, I wanted to put down a comment about the work God has been doing within my heart. Wounds from past ministry had me living life under the assumption that "if my voice was really heard, it would be bad." God has been healing this deep down to its roots. God has done amazingly amazing work in me, and its ok to say that "I am worth hearing, and what I have to say is pretty awesome." This sounds cliche or like something you would read on a motivational poster, but I am worth hearing. And when I recieve compliments, it isn't arrogant to be thankful. Every compliment adds to the crowns I get to throw at Jesus' feet. Glory Glory! I am ok with gaining those :)
7)I have discovered my undercover farmer.
If God were to tell me "Stop doing urban ministry. Right now." I know what I would do. I would be a farmer. With veggies and herbs and fruit trees. Ohhh, and have I mentioned my chickens? My mind is clear and my heart is joyful when I am out in my yard tending to my 'fields' and gathering eggs. On the third day of creation God said "It is good" twice. And THAT is the day vegetables and plants were created. It makes sense that time in the garden is healing for the soul. Ohhh, but if I were to REALLY become a farmer, I dream of owning cows. Grass fed ones of course :)
8)I know the delight of "one man's trash is another's treasure."
I took the leap this year. Right into a dumpster. Several times actually. It seems there is a whole resource at our disposal we aren't tapping into. I dipped my toe into the world of dumpstering this year and its actually a blast. And free, AND you get free stuff at the end. Just be careful to inspect everything VERY closely.
9)The wanderlust inside of me is bigger than ever!

Before this year I have traveled to far and distant lands (Africa, Asia, Central America, the Middle East) and loved every bit of it. I didn't realize the amazing thing it is to travel within the US. Now that I have seen the west coast, I am more excited than ever to spend time and (less) money exploring the states in years to come! Grand Canyon anyone?
10)I have become a part of the best neighborhood (in the 317 at least)
This neighborhood. It's so fun. My friends are here. The next door neighbor watches out for me. The children chase my chickens around and help in my garden. It's such a blessing to be here! Sure, it's not going to win any awards for "Best Place to Live in the US" any time soon (just wait...that time will come!), but it's home. And I love knowing the people that live around me. There's so great...and there is never a dull moment!
11)Every day I understand how much bigger Jesus is than my attempts to 'fix things'
It is almost laughable when I work so hard at my 'job'. It's always the moments when I am without an answer or 'getting out of the way' on purpose that God shows up and miracles happen. These are the moments when my voice doesn't break the walls down in someone's heart, but the Spirit does it...because really, He's the only one Who can. And I am learning how to shush and watch Him do it daily.
12)I have seen a dream given to me by God made real.
Four years ago, I don't know if I could firmly say "I believe God still gives prophetic words." But even then I heard one. God told me to stop teaching, and that He would give me a job in full time urban ministry. In the states. In faith (and with a considerable amount of fear) I stepped out. It's a beautiful thing to walk in the fulfillment of a delightful dream God has given you. Realized, after four years of frustration...this dream of urban ministry has been a joy each and every day. My God is good, and His love for me is as real as why my alarm goes off every morning and I get up to live out worship to Him. It's a rare gift, and I find delight in the Father Who gave it to me.
13)I am more confident that God is going to do things beyond my wildest dreams.
This year has provided me with reason after reason to know that God is real, He loves me...and He is ready to blow up my life for the kingdom, and for my own joy. I'm so excited to see what 2014 brings!!!


The Day We Spent with the Talibes

If you have been anywhere within earshot of me in the past month, you know that I am in Senegal right now. This place has overtaken so much of my heart it is ridiculous. When I think about this place, the people here, and the things I have seen God do, my heart literally flutters.

As I write this, we are sitting in the hotel Massa Massa ('sorry sorry' in French - I have no idea about the naming) and we have just finished what we call "Talibe Day." Talibe mean 'disciple'. I am without hesitation, a Talibe Yesu, or disciple of Jesus. In Senegal there is a system of sorts in place where Talibe Boys are known as the ones begging on the streets of the city. Their parents live in the villages and cannot afford to care for them, or desire their sons to learn the Koran. So they send their sons at the age of 6 (or younger) to these Koranic schools, where they learn from a Daara. They memorize the Koran in hopes of using it for ceremonial purposes later in life.

The Koranic schools used to be in the villages, where family was near by and eyes of family were always watching and those who interacted with the boys knew them. Unfortunately, in the 1970s when drought and thus famine came, it was no longer sustainable for the Koranic teachers to stay in the villages and maintain their cost of living. So, the Koranic schools moved to the cities. This caused the parents to send their children far away, some over a 12 hour bus ride to live where they could not see them for most of their lifetime. The boys graduate typically at the age of 16 or 17, meaning they do not have contact with their family for over a decade.

The disconnection from family leads to other dilemmas. The boys are not near people that they know and who care for them. This opens up the door for much more exploitation and abuse. Because the parents cannot afford to pay a tuition to the Daara, the boys are sent out to beg on the streets. In a Muslim nation, this also allows those following the five steps of Islam to give alms, satisfying that religious need. This is where they encounter the harsh realities of city street life. Most get hit by cars, many get taken advantage of and a majority get sick.

The greatest and most obvious loss for them is the loss of being seen and cared for. Its an unwritten rule in every major city in the world that when you see someone begging, you turn away. You avoid looking into the eyes of someone that your heart knows you need to respond to, but can't help. If you give money, you are supporting the Talibe system. If you don't and he goes home to his Daara without enough money he gets punished for stealing, or laziness, or disobedience. Sometimes this is harsh, sometimes it is not as bad as a similar punishment would be in the village. But without knowledgeable eyes and people that know and care about the boys, the line is crossed into abuse far too often.

So what is the answer? Simply put. We don't know. What we do know is that when Jesus was on this earth, He didn't solve every social or economic problem. He will, but He hasn't yet. He loved, He looked into people's eyes and gave them respect, dignity and truth. So today we supported that calling for us to do the same.

There is a beautiful woman named Jane Hampton who has run a ministry to the Talibe boys for over 15 years. She pulls resources together to give them a day where they can get vaccinations, a bowl of oatmeal, play soccer, and be loved. While keeping open communication with the Daaras, Jane brings the boys in to her clinics for a day where they can get the shots they need (she keeps track on very simple cardstock using date stampers and handwritten notes) and also be seen, be cared for and loved.

My role has become my favorite over the two experiences I have had with Jane's ministry. It is called 'the triage table' but how I see it is one where I get to look each boy in the eye as I take their weight and temperature. I make them stand on the scale until I see a smile (they think I am just slow at reading weight). I want them to know that I see them, that I am not afraid to look them in the eye and smile. I see how they are fearfully and wonderfully made. They are human, they are image bearers of a God I am madly in love with.

Today was an extra above-and-beyond blessing. The 'street boys' that we saw last year, from only two out of the fifteen schools Jane ministers to were the SAME ONES we saw this year. I know it was only small glimpses into their eyes and momentary smiles when we didn't understand each other's language...but there was a previous relationship. I was able to build on it this year. When the boys walked up to me, they remembered me. The smiles came quicker and the moments were sweeter.

I know this was only one day in their lives out of years full of chaos and confusion. But I truly believe God opened up a door for us to be His hands and feet in a very obvious way to them. Just as He is our refuge and escape from this fallen world we live in, the environment Jane and the team created became that escape for the boys. They were free from the stress of begging for enough money to not be in trouble, and they were able to simply be boys. Even if it was only for a few hours. They escaped the reality of their situations for a brief moment and simply were.

I squealed a little bit every time I realized the handwriting on the cards was mine from last year. It was a special gift from God directly to me. I was building on previous relationships. They were small, they were momentary, but they were beautiful in a simple way. I could not have asked for a better first day of ministry here in Senegal. My heart is overjoyed with the blessing of this day, and the loving sovereignty of my God.

One of the sweet younger boys. 
Even the older boys enjoyed the time with the team.
The CFC team preparing the immunizations. 
 One of the many boys that our team had the wonderful pleasure of seeing for a second time.
The same boy above in 2012. 
 Emily went above and beyond in her service. She did wound care, something most of us shied away from very quickly.


Oh, How He Loves Us . . .

"I just want to be loved."

These words were spoken to me by a client one day, the first day I met her actually. We had spent about four hours together talking about her life. She had turned 18 only two weeks before, and thus had been kicked out of her foster/adoptive home two weeks prior to our meeting.

This met my ears with a flood of emotion, and a flood of memories. Memories of moments where I have felt and known that I am deeply loved by a very real God. As I am writing this, I am coming to tears as I think about the depths of my soul where He has been and how He has healed those places.

Every female has those moments. Those thoughts in their heads. I'm not good enough. I'm ugly, unwanted, hopeless, and the worst . . . alone.

Throughout my walk with Jesus, trying to understand what it all means. What it means to know a God that created this world as a beautiful thing that glorifies Him, all while seeing fallness and anger and apathy all around me. How do you live that life? How do you sift through all of the crap and be joyful?

By believing truth. Not just memorizing words, not just flippantly saying "trust Jesus". . . but by taking the truth that is spoken so firmly and boldly in His Word and planting it deep in your soul so that it doesn't just touch the hurting place, but it takes root, it lays a foundation for further faith and deeper understanding to grow. And the very core of who you are - how you see everything and know everything to be is flipped on its head and you can't even view the world the same way anymore. 

God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth should change and though the mountains slip into the heart of the sea; though its waters roar and foam, though the mountains quake at its swelling pride. Selah. The LORD of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our stronghold. Selah. Psalm 46:1-3

This becomes reality. You still go through the storms, in fact - you may encounter more as your faith is refined and put through the fire of sanctification, but you see them differently. You understand them as a part of God revealing Himself to be Who He says He is. Hard days come, and as Jesus Himself wept, you weep in moments of confusion and hurt.... but your core is firm. Who you know yourself to be isn't shaken, because that truth is rooted in your core. A Heavenly Father that loves you never leaves the throne and your identity as His beloved child can never be revoked. 

My eyes see everything differently.  The very random flower on the plant I walk by on my way to work? Well, its placed there by a Creator who loves me - so why not consider it a gift from Him, reminding me of His love? For me. The unexpected trial of moving halfway across the country only to find out it was all part of a web of deception? A chance for Him to show Who He is and prove His faithfulness to me. (Which He very much did in a fantastic way.) The place where I understand who I am because of Who is in control is beautiful. 

So we live life differently from that place. The weight of addictions....be it alcohol or drugs, or just the addiction of the 'being liked' by people fades away as we don't need the momentary bliss of it anymore. Do we enjoy moments of comfort, love and just plain fun with others? Of course we embrace those gifts...but we don't NEED to seek after them. Our needs are met. We are loved. We are completed by His love great love. Even on the tough days.