Answered Prayer

May marked my three-year anniversary with Africa. Three years ago, I stepped off the plane into a big unknown, unsure of my future, and unsure what I was even doing in Africa. It turns out that God had much bigger plans for me and now that I live here, I can’t imagine being anywhere else. With each passing year, I fall more in love with God and the things He is teaching me. This year, however, there have been harder lessons but big breakthroughs. 

It’s not always easy to pack up our lives every other month to travel to different places, with different people, and build relationships just to say goodbye. However, each community I am in, and each place I go, I see God. It’s so hard  to love people with everything you have just to leave. This is something that happens at least 4 or 5 times a year for us. 

I recently have been praying a lot and being very honest with God. I have done two outreaches this year and when I first leave, I need to leave people I love so much at home. Then I go to a community, love people and need to leave them. I kept asking God “why?’ I asked Him, “Are we really doing anything?” “Does anything we do make a difference?” “What do you want for me?” 

When I first came here, I knew I loved the African people. I loved my family. And I loved the countries I was in. Their joy changed my life, the way I’ve seen prayer and seen God work transformed me. I came to a point where I wanted to tell every single person about who my God is, about a Savior that came for them too. But when you get down to the work, it’s hard, it’s messy, it brings tears. But it also brings more joy than I have ever imagined in my life. 

Back to my questioning: I think it’s OK to be honest with God. It’s OK to tell Him where we are. I’ve asked God to speak to me but was feeling pretty defeated because I wanted to know if I was doing enough for Him and if it was making a difference. On my recent outreach, I stayed in a tent for two weeks. Each morning as the chickens were waking me up, I would pray. At night when the sun went down and it was too early to sleep, I would pray. 

I came to this verse in Romans 12:11, “Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual passion, serving the Lord.” 

In different terms, “Don’t lack dedication, but keep your spiritual passion, serving the Lord.” 

This was it, this was my answer: It doesn’t matter if I don’t think I’m doing enough, God just asks me to show up and to have passion and dedication as I serve Him. What a gracious God we serve. 

I hate goodbyes, I hate having to love people and leave them. It’s always hard for me. I cry every time I leave my family. So as my last outreach ended and we drove away as the sun was setting, I could see the tears of the family I had just come to love and I started to cry. I was hurting and just wanted them to know how loved they truly were by Someone who died for them. That was the day I saw this verse and in the midst of the hurt, God comforted me. He lifted my head and made me realize serving is never in vain when He is the center. It made me know God put me here for a reason. He’s given me His dedication and passion in Him and I can honestly say I’ve seen His love in every place in Africa.  God is my foundation, and I can trust in Him to help me through each experience and each place I go. 

I love when God answers our prayers and just reminds us of who He is. He is a way maker, a comforter, a provider, our first, our last, a Savior, a Father, and a friend. All we have to do is be willing to be used and put Him first, and He will bring us through. He will use you to accomplish what He wants. We should always aim to love people like He loves us. He wants us to walk in faith and keep serving Him. That’s a truth I want to stand in today and everyday. 

Lessons I've learned from Africa

When I came to Africa three years ago, I never imagined how my life would unfold. I never imagined how much love God has for me, and I never imagined the plan He had for my life. Looking back I’m so thankful for the path that I had to walk to be here today. Despite a lot of messy brokenness, God seated me with Him to walk out a life of leading people to Him – grace is amazing. 

Over the years, Africa has become my home. It’s given me family. It’s given me love. It’s given me some of the most beautiful things I hold deepest to my heart. It’s where I feel the most like myself and where God placed me.  I’m sure there’s been things that I’ve taught people here, but the lessons Africa, the people that live in it, and the places are the things I remember most. 

 If you come to Africa, there’s four things you must always carry: toilet paper, a headlamp, bible, and a sermon. You never know when you might need one. Seriously, don’t forget the toilet paper. That’s been a big lesson for me.  There’s other ones too like pay attention to taxis because you never know where they are turning. Eat all of your food, it’s the way to relationships. Sometimes it’s five plates of food. There’s a lot of funny lessons I’ve learned but those aren’t the ones I want to talk about.  

 Africa, the people, and the places here are some of the most beautiful I’ve seen. On the flip side of that, I’ve seen some of the most hardships in my life here from death to crime. It’s a paradox to live in Africa because it is such a blessed place but also broken. Which leads me to the lessons Africa has taught me. 

Resilience: I’ve never met anyone with as much resilience as the African people. Whether it’s the farmers or a women in a remote village of Africa, you will see people who work the hardest in their entire life. I’ve been living in a village for 2 weeks now, and I’ve never worked so hard. We need to carry water for miles, crush grain for food 3 times a day, live off the land, and somehow find time to rest. The people here are more resilient than I’ve ever known, they know what they need to do to live, and they do it. 

 Faith: Africa has taught me more about my faith. Not just Africa but specifically the people. My family including other ministry families I’ve met have faith like mountains. There’s a dependence of God I’ve never seen before until I came here and it’s something I’m striving for. I see them praying for every.single.thing. And when something is wrong, we pray. It’s the kind of faith that makes change happen because there’s a belief that God WILL answer the prayer. 

 Walking the extra mile: We have a saying here that we want to always “walk the extra mile for someone.” It basically means go out of our way to help someone. A few months back, my car broke down on the a big highway from Johannesburg to Pretoria. I was stressed beyond belief. Not only did over 20 cars stop and ask for help. Someone helped us tow the car in bumper- to-bumper traffic and didn’t even think about it. It’s things like that, that make me want to go out of my way for people because some would do it for me. 

Unity: I’ve seen some of the most unifying moments in my life in Africa. Black, white, brown, and all colors coming together. There’s one of our communities that I needed to work pretty hard in to earn my right to be there. It’s a community close to my heart. When there now, they will refer to me as colleague and friend. Something very simple but it shows respect between all boundaries that hold most people back, especially in Africa. I’ve seen groups pray together, sing together, and just live life together without ever thinking twice. 

 Community: If you want to see proper community, come to Africa. Because Africans only have each other, they stick together. There’s been many times I’ve seen a death in a community and how the community reacts. For days, they will just come together from near and far. It’s not a fancy affair but it’s meaningful how they will just stop to help each other. I’ve seen adults taking care of kids that aren’t theirs and vice versa.  It’s amazing to watch how the different people groups in Africa stick together. 

 Love one another: This is something I think is the biggest lesson I have learned in Africa so far. We sometimes over complicate the gospel. We want to put it into our translation but the greatest commandment is to just love one another. Love people, where they are at, with what they have, without any strings attached. All over Africa, I see farmers helping other farmers, schools helping schools, and people wanting to help people because that’s what we are called to do. 

I think God has allowed me to see these things in order to know how to live my life, and walk my faith. I see God everyday in this country whether it’s people or places, there’s beauty everywhere you go.  There are flaws, but when it comes down to raw human moments, I’ve seen them all, and I’m thankful for a God who writes amazing redemption stories so I can experience these moments. 

“My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you.” John 15:12

Willing Heart

The last few months for me have been good, hard, and refining in my life. There are some things I’ve realized that are so important to our relationship with God, our relationship with others, and our relationship with ourselves. 

In the last two weeks I’ve started working out. Six years ago, after my last collegiate soccer game, I was so sad. For a few years after, I tried crossfit, long-distance running, and also not working out. Since moving to Africa, I maybe have run a few times here or there, but honestly hadn’t done much. Because I was an athlete for 18 years of my life, I realized that part of me was missing so I made the decision to try to start working out again. 

So the first few mornings, with a lot of motivation (and pre-workout), I started doing workouts. It felt good to be active again, and it was an important part for me to be healthy mind, body, and soul. But, by the third morning I was sore, tired, and I just didn’t feel like working out. I’ve been through this a lot of times, but I remembered in college when we would have 6am lifting (shoutout to Ramey) when it was snowing and my roommates and I needed to walk to the gym. We still got up. We still did it. So I channeled college Julia and I got up and worked out.  

After that third workout was done, I started to think. I hold myself back a lot, whether it’s working out, my prayer life,  or my life in general, I tend to sometimes get lazy and hold myself back. It was the same thing that morning but I made the choice to get up and work out. 

Honestly, most of life is just being willing to show up and God takes care of the rest. 

And that’s what I realized the last few weeks by making the choice to workout in the mornings. I physically feel better just by making a choice to get out of bed. Life is like that. We have the choice daily to do a lot of things. If I surveyed most people right now, there are things lacking in parts of their life because of lack of just showing up. 

If we are willing to just show up, God will not let us down.  

It’s that way when we need to show up to our jobs and do the work that is put before us. It’s that way when we show up to love someone that in our mind, doesn’t deserve to be loved. It’s that way when we’ve had a disagreement with someone, and we choose anyway to show up. It’s that way with your friends, family, and anyone. We need to just show up and God will use us.

When we show up, we become willing and God uses a willing heart (Psalm 51:12).  God will handle every singe thing in life: mind, body, and soul. All we need to do is choose in the morning if we are going to show up or if we are going to hide. When God asks us to have a willing heart, He doesn’t want us to have everything figured out, He just wants us to say to Him, “God I know I’m not perfect, but use me.” 

I’ve been reminded in these last few weeks that God will not fail us. God just wants us to be willing to be used and He will do the rest. When we show up for others, we are a direct reflection of the Kingdom because God always shows up for us. 

“Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever.” Hebrews 13:8

It does not matter what we go through, it does not matter our circumstance, it doesn’t matter how hard life is, all that matters is that we choose day in and day out to be used by God. It matters that we choose to have a willing heart and that we show up again and again because Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever. 

 

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Who are Your Heroes?

I was in a conversation the other day about women that other women can look up to. If you ask most people who their heroes are, it would be famous people. It would be actors and actresses, sports stars, or someone who makes a lot of money. I generalized that, so if it’s not you, then that’s okay. But, it makes me think, where are the heroes of faith? The ones who stuck life out, prayed through hard times, and followed God. Where are the women that I can look up to? Who are they?

I sat for a while and just thought. As a young woman, it’s always great to have other women to look up to. So I asked myself:

Who are my heroes?

My answered surprised myself. I didn’t think of anyone famous. Actually, you’ve probably never met my heroes, you’ve probably never heard of them, and honestly, you probably never will.

My heroes are the ones who are invisible, the ones nobody sees but who keep living life, pressing in, praying through, and hoping to plant seeds that last ages.

My hero is the mom who had three kids of her own but took in another, helped her heal, and continues to love all her children like any mom would and who always thinks of others needs before her own.

My hero is the mom who had her life planned out, but followed God and took in two young kids and has committed to help raise them while juggling different roles. 

My hero is the farmers wife who homeschools her kids, plays a vital roles as a friend and is there to give love whenever she can.

My here is the mom who beat drug addiction and has three young girls and is one of the best moms.  

My hero is the Director of a ministry who tirelessly works to make sure kids, adults, staff, and anyone in her presence is taken care of and safe.

My hero is the widow who grieves daily but continues to care for children and a people group that her late husband and her invested in.

My hero is a pastor’s wife who moved out of the comfort of her home, her state, but is seeing beauty in everyday life.

My hero is the friend whose husband left her after an affair but she continues to fight for the life God wants her to live.

My hero is a mom of five who also doubles as a teacher, coach, mentor, and friend and does it all with grace.

My hero is the mom and mentor who tirelessly works between two cities while asking God what is next, all while keeping faith.  

My hero is an advisor who took care of a young scared girl who called her from jail and didn’t leave but committed to help her in life.

My hero is a friend who wasn’t planning on being a mom but is taking the job and making it look easy.

My hero is a coach who still after ten years, invests in her players lives.

My hero is a young girl who fought against all odds and is making a way for herself in her new identity in Christ.

My hero is a counselor who sat, prayed, cried, and invested into a young girl who just needed someone.

The list could go on an on of ordinary women who make extraordinary moments happen. All of these heroes I know personally and I think they are better than the ones you see in movies because God has a hand on their lives. My heroes are the ones who you would expect but they’re the women I look up to and hope to be like someday. My heroes are the ones who live their lives like the real hero, Jesus Christ, and commit their full lives to honor Him.  If that’s not something to look up to I don’t know what is. I want to live my life so one day someone can look at me and say “she’s my hero,” and not because of anything I have done, but because of the One who lives inside of me.

 

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The Sanding Process

There’s this idea that goes around that when God comes into your life, everything becomes easy, that there is no longer any trouble. It’s true, God gives contentment and joy that runs deep but it’s never without trials.

Recently, I’ve been in a farming community in the Free State of South Africa called Frankfort. It’s incredibly beautiful and each farm, each house, and all of the people is a reminder to me that God is good. I’ve been reminded that seeds planted will harvest but there has to be proper care of those seeds. I’ve loved seeing God work and I’ve loved the reminders but the one that stuck with me the most is how God refines us and makes us new.

The team I am with and I have been working alongside the staff at Kainos: helping sand and paint Aniko place, a home for fatherless children. One of the days we were in the house and my job was to sand walls. This doesn’t sound very fun, but I was having a rough day and it was nice to pray things out and talk to God while I was mindlessly sanding.

It was during those hours that God reminded me of the process He brings us through in life. Our goal is to be more like Him and to do that it’s just like a building. Our base is Him. Everything else is part of the process He brings us through. Once the walls, roof, windows, and everything is done it seems like it is the end of the process.

But then comes the refining process.

As I stood there sanding the walls that day, God reminded me that this is what He is doing with me, with all of us. He is sanding our walls. He is pointing out in us what is not of Him and He is taking it away. This isn’t a process that can be done in a day. Sometimes just the sanding can take years.

There are things in my life that since I began a relationship with Christ I have had to give to Him over and over again. I have cried, and prayed, and cried some more and God is still sanding these thoughts and my past away. Most days, I can only pray that I know God has a plan and I will trust Him, but there always comes a time that the final sanding day comes and I can let go of one more thing that has previously held me back.

The rest of the house is just details. Paint is an important one. But usually you cannot just paint one coat. The paint is God’s promises over us. The paint is what God says about us. The paint is His truth coming over us. And it’s never just a one and done thing, it’s always multiple layers of paint, and designs. Those are our hopes and our dreams that God aligns with His.

And this is where God makes us new.

Honestly, most of my time with God has been lived in the sanding process. Most of my life I’ve been wrestling with God about things that have happened, about failures, about hurts, about pain that I think will never go away. And it’s during that sanding process that I am constantly reminded of God’s unfailing love for me, for us. He loves me too much to just leave me in my hurts and thoughts. He wants to bring us out in the paint, in the beautiful design He has for our lives. I’ve been there a few times too, little by little; God is revealing more of Himself. When I’m uncertain, I go back to God and I am back in the sanding process of God making me new one step at a time.

That’s all I need to know, that God is still working one step at a time, that He still has a plan for me. And I know He does. On the best days, I’m very confident in that, but on my worst, my first stop should always be to God, to the sanding, to the painting and reminding myself how far God has brought me.

It took a day of sanding and paint and some time crying out to God to remind me that it’s okay. It’s okay if we are in a season of sanding, of God taking off layers that He doesn’t want there and replacing them with layers of Himself. It’s okay if you are in the painting season where God is showing you His plans for you. And it’s also okay if you are on the mountaintop of living out God’s plans for you. We will go through each season from sanding to full paint often in our lives. The most important part is to remember God. Remember the Redeemer. Remember who goes before, with and after you and everything will be okay. There’s Hope in each season and that’s a truth I am thankful for. So no, when you accept God, it isn’t a “get out of jail free” card. It’s an invitation to have someone with you through the pain, through the heartache, and into the best times of your lives. All you have to do is let Him come with you. Maybe you only have a foundation right now in your house, but with God, you will eventually have a beautiful house full of His promises and love.

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Inside Aniko’s place where we are painting  

 

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Kids from the camp for the Fatherless in front of Anikos Place  

How Do You Know God is Real?

There’s a question I have been asked a few times in the last year that I keep coming back to. Many have asked me, “how do you know God is real?” The first time it was asked, I stopped for a minute thinking they want to hear about some grand miracle that has happened. But when I really think about it, my answer is a miracle. The answer is: 

Because of where my life was, to what it is now, is nearly two completely different people. 

I have the same answer today because honestly God brought me from the pit and seated me with Him. He grabbed me and pulled me up and told me “You are my child.” The last three years for me moved so quickly. One minute I was working in marketing with what people would consider a good job and the next I was moving to Africa because I knew that I knew that God wanted me here. 

 

What happened? 


Grace. Pure, raw grace. Jesus chased me down, set me in one spot, showered his love on me so I could see that this life was worth living. 

Not that there needs to be an explanation for Jesus, but many have wondered what happened to me. I was a college athlete, a party girl, I never stayed in one spot long, I had two degrees, ‘I had it all,’ people would say. I was also severely depressed and hid it by being the outgoing party girl. How did that girl go to a girl who only wants to be with Jesus and be around what He wants? 

The road leading to Africa, or better yet, where God wanted me, was long. I never knew God. I knew who He was but I didn’t know Him. I never had a relationship with Him. Throughout my life, I always made choices based on emotions. I made choices and did not care about the consequences. That’s why at the age of 24 I had been in jail twice for drinking and driving, once totaling my car. I was drinking daily, smoking, making all the wrong choices, and I didn’t care about relationships. Inside, I was just a little girl hurting from a past full of others sin and my own sin and bad choices. I thought God could never love someone like me.

When I arrived in Namibia, Africa in 2016, I wondered what I was even doing on a mission trip. Surely, I couldn’t do anything good because I had sinned so much. Little did I know how much that first week would change my life. I was introduced to the book of Ephesians by two people I now call family and I learned about my identity in Christ. I learned about the grace that Jesus Christ was. I learned that even though I had sinned, God still loved me. I learned that I was chosen, love, redeemed, adopted, and seated all because the message of what Jesus did was shared with me. 

During my first few months in Namibia, I realized how much God cared about me. Although I’d heard that before, it really came to life in the desert of Africa. God brought me out of my life in America, brought me away from distractions, brought me out of my comfort zone to make me see that He had been there all along, all I needed to do was allow Him into my life. It was during that first time in Namibia that I came to know my position in Christ, my identity had forever changed. I went to Africa lost and broken, and during that time I realized I was the daughter of  a King.   

Once I had came to know the grace on my life, I also came to the realization that I could never go back to what my life was. I could never return to the old way of living. I prayed and I sought God. I prayed with others and I cried and prayed more. I had no idea what God had for me, but I knew it was something big. A verse I’ve always held on to was Ephesians 3:20:

“God can do immeasurably more than we can ask or imagine.” 

I realized God not only brought me to Africa to heal, but He put me there to be redeemed, to taste redemption in a way that I never knew was possible. God gave me more than I could have dreamed because of His goodness and faithfulness. I can never describe what happened to me three years ago, but sometimes I say that grace smacked me in the face and I’m still not over it.

I’ve lived more life in three years, experienced more joy than I thought possible, seen prayers answered over and over again, looked back in my life and saw God was there all along and i’ve seen miracles happen all because God sent His son to live and die for us. My life will never be the same again. I’ve also seen my story used in so many peoples lives that I can’t help but thank God for allowing me to be in the position I am with the ones who’ve helped me be the person I am. So when that questions is asked. “how do you know God is real?” My answer will always be, “Because I’ve seen Him, I’ve seen how He redeems, I’ve tasted His faithfulness and now I get to live because of it.” 

Thank you, Jesus. 

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Dust

If I say the word dust, many would think thoughts of dirt. We don’t like dust. It’s a pain to clean and it’s everywhere. 

Dust: fine, dry powder consisting of tiny particles of earth or waste matter lying on the ground or on surfaces or carried in the air.

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about dust: what it symbolizes, what it means, and how I can put it in the context of life. I’m sure we’ve all heard the phrase “dust to dust, ashes to ashes.” If I’m looking at the bible, there’s so many instances where it talks about us coming from dust and to dust we sha’ll return. 

 “By the sweat of your brow you will have food to eat until you return to the ground from which you were made. For you were made from dust, and to dust you will return.” Genesis 3:19 

Yes, we start as dust. We also end as dust. But I haven’t been thinking of the beginning or the end, I’ve been thinking about the in between: The instances of dust in our lives where we think so many thoughts of failure. “I’m not good enough.” “I’ve messed up in a big way.” “No one loves me.” Most of these thoughts come after we think we’ve blown it for our lives. I’m here to say, you haven’t and we, as humans aren’t that powerful because we are not the authors of life, God is. 

I spend a lot of my time around dust these days. Every community I’ve been in Africa has some form of dust. Whether it’s the sand dunes, the dusty roads in remote villages, or the busy streets of a township, I walk on dust daily. When I think about dust, it definitely is a beginning and an end, but from the ends there can be beginnings. It’s not just a symbol for the end of life, but dust is a symbol of the grace we get to live over and over again. 

When I am walking in communities, on the dirt and dusty roads, I’m constantly reminded of the grace over my life. I’m reminded that God took my life from dust and made it something to live for Him. I’ve had many experiences with dust. From an early age, I can remember playing soccer on many different pitches, some with grass but many with dust. This symbolized a time of following a passion to lead me on a path God wanted me to be without me knowing it was Him. Then, soccer came to a screeching halt as I ended my career after two ACL injuries. It was then, that I thought I would never be remade from dust and I took it to myself to numb the pain of my identity in soccer not in Christ. All the while, God was still taking the dust I thought I was in and shaping me. 

Dust isn’t pretty. Lots of times, it’s stepped on and trampled over. No one gives a second thought to dust. And, after those surgeries that’s how I felt. But sometimes with dust, it only gets stepped on more times. A few years after my second surgery, I got arrested for a second time for drinking and driving because I was numbing the pain I was in from the past, the present, and mourning because I thought I had no future. I thought dust was where I would end. Little did I know, it was where God was beginning my redemption. 

I think that’s where we find ourselves a lot of the time.  I was there, where Job was when I was arrested. I thought God had forgotten about me. 

 “He has thrown me in the mud. I’m nothing more than dust to ashes.” Job 30:19 

Little did I know that from the ashes I was in that I had made for myself through sin and others sin, God would remake ashes. We all know how the story of Job ends. He suffers but God restores His health, His fortune, and His family with more than He had before. He still went through hard times, but even AFTER he thought he was nothing more than ashes, God restored. 

And that’s when I think about the redemption that dust offers. My next experience with dust happened in Africa. The place I now call home. The place that has made me see God’s love, God’s grace, and God’s kindness more than I’ve ever seen. The place where I’ve seen so much redemption. The place where I get to tell people about His goodness daily, and not just say it but be living proof that God creates something out of nothing. 

In the desert of Africa and in the townships I was in, I experienced a redeeming type of dust daily. After a full day of giving everything I had, crying out to God to take away pain of the past, and let me live free in Him, I would come home with dusty feet. These dusty feet didn’t just symbolize a full day, but it was one foot in front of the other of seeing God’s grace on my life. By living for Him, I was given my life back. I was brought from dust to life. 

“You make beautiful things, You make beautiful things out of dust.” – Gungor 

One of my favorite songs says it best. He makes beautiful things out of dust. Dust isn’t the end. It symbolizes the beginning. And that’s where I’ve found myself these last few years. God has restored things in my life I never thought possible. He’s restored my health. He’s restored my hope. He’s restored family. He’s restored friends. Most importantly, He’s restored my joy. And He’s not done yet. God is constantly using dust to restore us. He used His son who was in a grave full of dust yet He rose again to allow us to live. And He’s coming again! 

 "He raises the poor from the dust, He lifts the needy from the ash heap To make them sit with nobles, And inherit a seat of honor; For the pillars of the earth are the LORD'S, And He set the world on them.” 1 Samuel 2: 8 

This is hope. This is the hope we need to live in. That dust isn’t our end spot. Not in this life, or in eternity. When Jesus is your Lord and Savior, you don’t have to be afraid of dust. This doesn’t mean that the past still doesn’t come up, or that there isn’t hurt, it just means that when we reach the point where we think we are dust, we can know God is making something beautiful. If we just hold onto Him, we can be remade. We can experience grace. We can see love. We can be love. God if you’re not done working, I’m not done waiting. Let this always be the stance we stand in. 

 




 

 

 

Hope Unending

For some time now, after being in so many communities where I see absolutely no hope and I’ve lived through a lot of situations that seem hopeless, I’ve pondered hope and what it means. I think if I were to think about what hope means to many, it’s just the belief that something will happen. Everybody needs something to hope for, a reason to look forward to tomorrow. A lot of times, we place our hope in things that we know can and will happen. But I’m not talking about the material kind of hope, I’m talking about the hope that we can’t see, the hope that gives every day meaning to live no matter the situation, the hope that brings deep rooted joy into every circumstance.

 My first answer is and will always Jesus. The reason we can live with such a sustained hope is Jesus. He died the most brutal death, was buried and rose again, all so we can have hope that one day we also can live with out Father in heaven.  The Hope that one day there will be no tears, no pain and no suffering, but there will be joy and everlasting praise of the Creator of the moon and the stars is something I look forward to. Many people look at someone like me and ask why I would put my hope in something I can’t see. Often times I don’t formulate the right answer but I usually can always point to why I don’t and will never again put my hope in things of the world.

 I won’t hope in people around me because people are humans and everybody at some point will fail or let you down maybe without even realizing it.

 I won’t hope in a new job because at the end of the day we are all expendable.

 I won’t hope in my comfort, because that is always temporary.

 I won’t hope in a vacation because that is just fleeting happiness for a while.

 I won’t hope in money because that will always run out.

 I won’t hope in alcohol, because eventually I will become sober and the regret of what drinking heavily brings is inevitable.

 I won’t hope in drugs because you will always come down from a high.

 I won’t hope in things of this world, because it will always end. We all eventually die, as much as we don’t want to think about it. So what do I hope in? What do I put my trust in? What do I put my joy in?

 A Savior.

 And not the knight-in-shining-armor type savior – although God can be that too. I put my hope in a God who I can’t put in a box because He created the earth and the skies. He created the moon and the stars. He created the animals and the plants. And then, in His own image He created us. And the purpose of that creation? Is to live for Him until He dwells with us again.

 At this point, someone could ask me what that looks like and I can tell you what that looks like because I’ve lived through this type of Hope, I am living with this Hope, but daily, this Hope is tested because the world around us is ever failing.

 This hope looks like going the extra mile for someone. It means even though we are uncomfortable, to always care about the person and people around us. It means to weep with the hurting. It means to rejoice with the ones who are rejoicing. It means to love, and not just to say we love, but also to really love and be love and show love even at our own expense. The type of sacrifice with our bodies that hurts because we want to show the kind of love Christ gave for us.  It looks like pushing through each day because even if it’s hard, heaven will always be better. Hope in Jesus means that even in our hurt, pain, and sorrow, that we can smile through tears because today is not an end all be all, but another day closer to meeting our Savior.

 I’m not always the best at having this deep kind of hope. I fail everyday. I fail people around me and myself often, but I don’t have to look at it as failures, but I can look at it as places of weakness that God works in. His power is made perfect in our weakness. 2 Corinthians 12:9. It says in His word that His grace is sufficient for me, so even if today is hard, I can hope in tomorrow because of God’s grace. Grace is enough. Love is enough. Jesus is enough.  And that is what I will always choose to Hope in. Everyday, all day, until the end of my days.

You are My Friend

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Like most, if I look back at my life, I can count very few who have been there for a long time and stuck around until now. Like most things, some friends come and go. But once in a while you will find people who come into your life, and stick around, and continue to pray with you and see you for who you are.

We take people like this for granted. We take the word “friend” very lightly. I’m learning a lot about friends and also what it means to be one. On the mission field, people we meet and become very close with in a short period of time constantly encounter us. When you truly put relationships first, you become friends quickly and are bonded by not only the experiences you share but also the lifetime warranty that someone knows you, will stand in the gap for you, pray for you, and even if you don’t see each other again, will await eternity together.

Recently, in a small, rural town in Northern Namibia, among the trees and bush lies many people called the Himba tribe. Their traditions span down from hundreds of years ago. Coming from the Western World to them, it’s as if time stands still seeing their huts made of dirt, the way they cook over a fire, dress in next to nothing, and live with almost nothing. To the outside world, we wonder why, but entering into these places, you see it’s about families and traditions.

On our first week up in Northern Namibia, we traveled about an hour outside of the town we were staying in to a Himba Kraal (a communal place they built with many huts and fires and cattle). We had lived among them in the town we were staying but to truly step out of anything familiar and into their land was amazing but so different. I was awestruck that God created them knowing full well that every people and nation would be so different, yet here we were together in a bit of a stare down because of the language barrier.

I was not sure how we were going to communicate but I kept asking God to allow the doors to be open as He wanted. We walked to the top of the hill where they were going to build their church. Previously, they were gathering for church by a tree. This particular tribe is one of the few who have come to know Jesus as their Lord and Savior and you could sense Him and feel the peace there. As we were on top of the hill, the Himba women looked at us and we looked at them, unsure of what to do or say. We do not speak one word of the same language. Thankfully, one of us remembered how to ask for their names and so in the best Herero I could mutter, I asked the first lady her name. We laughed a bit but she realized I was asking for it and she told me, and we went around the circle and said our names and laughed at how they couldn’t say our names and we couldn’t say theirs.

What happened next, it something that will stay etched into my brain for my whole life. It brought the meaning of every knee will bow, every tongue will confess and the nations will come before Him. I simply asked our translator what the word “friend” was and I looked at my new friend and told her in Herero, “you are my friend.” She smiled a big smile and looked back at me and pointed at me and said in Herero and through excited squeals "friend, friend." We walked hand in hand down the hill and she took my right hand and put a bracelet on and pointed at her heart. I don’t even know how to describe such a simple gesture but I truly meant it, and I know she did too: We are friends. Not just the friends who will see each other a lot and laugh but for eternity, she will be my friend. The rest of the day we sang and laughed with them. We tried on each other’s shoes, we prayed with and for them. I’ll never get to tell you the way I saw God but I saw Him in each of their faces, I felt Him in their presence and I truly believe I will see them again.

I pray that I never forget these moments where it’s not about how much I will see people or how many words were said, but the meaning from the heart when we looked each other in the eye and said we are friends. We meant it. We felt it. And I want to be that kind of friend. I know I can look back and remember the tribe we visited and they can look back at the girl who came to them and could barely say their name but was able to pray over them. I was challenged to not just say we are friends but to be one, then and until I see them again.

God is just so amazing. While being in Namibia and taken out of the city where I live in South Africa, I was able to contemplate God and think about how big and how vast He is while watching elephants cross the road, or the sun set over the lions and cheetahs land. He is the breathe of the Himba tribe and He is the blood that makes my heart beat. We are all one body, connected through Jesus Christ and I want to be a friend and find a friend in every part of the body that I meet.  I want to remember what Christ did daily and not only just remember it but be about it. Share that love. That unconditional love that He wraps me in. Share the grace. The grace that He gives daily so we can continue to fight the good fight. Share His promise. The promise of eternity with Him and our family of believers. Share His friendship. The friendship I have in Jesus and my Father in Heaven.

Lord, I pray to always be brought to my knees from the things of the Kingdom and to share everything you’ve given me by seating me in the Kingdom with you. Thank you for your love at this moment and forevermore and when the nations will come together, I pray for all of my friends, that we will worship together in Heaven. 

Suffering With

Compassion: the humane quality of understanding the suffering of others and wanting to do something about it

What does it mean to suffer with someone? We hear of suffering every day, we see it and we sometimes feel it, but a lot of times it’s easier to say we’re praying for someone and not actually step into the situation. Don’t get me wrong, praying is absolutely necessary and vital, but what if we take it a step further?

When I look at the ultimate example of compassion, I think of Jesus. He came to earth, lived a perfect life of no sin but all the while He suffered with many. He walked beside people, He wept for death, and then gave His life. Matthew 27:50

While my team and I have been in Mozambique, we first hand stepped into a situation far deeper than our own lives. Colonized by the Portuguese, Mozambique lived under that rule for many years and when colonization ended, a 20 year civil war broke out leaving the country utterly devastated. Mozambique is unlike any other place in Africa I’ve been but it’s also amazingly beautiful. I can see God everywhere I look.

Just in the first week, we came here, stayed in town, lived with families, ate food with them, started learning their way of life, prayed with and for them, we talked about God in different languages, and saw glimpses of healing happen from just smiles, hugs or a simple game.

When love goes somewhere, it breaks down barriers.

I’ve come to know a deeper sense of compassion. In just a few days, we entered into suffering with people but also the joy that comes with it.

I usually feel like I don’t walk away with much to show. I’ll show pictures of a village, or kids, or my host families, but to really get to the heart of change and what really happens here, I need to explain how we enter into communities. I’m not here to fix them but I’ve come to suffer with them, to love them with the love God gave me, to laugh, to weep with them, to eat, pray, and worship. And that’s priceless. Every place in Africa, from my home in South Africa to the villages of Mozambique, has shown me more of God’s heart for His people and given me compassion for each one.

 

Kids running after our car when we enter the village. One of the sweetest sights for me. 

Kids running after our car when we enter the village. One of the sweetest sights for me. 

Walking to the river with a sleeping baby  

Walking to the river with a sleeping baby  

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Day time in Mocuba 

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The Chief and his family 

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City streets of Mocuba 

Heart Like an African Taxi

There’s a saying in Africa that we typically use in our family, “heart like an African taxi, there’s always room for one more.” Unless you’ve been in an African taxi, this would make zero sense. Let me break down the process with you.


We were in Lesotho at our base camp getting ready to go on a two week home stay in the surrounding villages. They told us we’d be ready early in the morning and the taxi will take us to town then another to our new homes. So we said our goodbyes and headed down the mountainous terrain. Immediately loud, colorful music with beats that could be heard for miles was playing and our new besotho brothers and sisters were dancing and laughing urging us to dance like crazy with them. We stop, pick up a person, music played and we danced. We stopped, picked up another person, music played and we danced.


As we got to town and to our next taxi, we realized, these taxis do not leave town unless they are completely full. So sometimes you’re waiting hours until the 15 passenger taxi is full. We waited about an hour before we set off to our host sister, Mpeo’s, house in a village about an hour and a half away. Music played and the same process happened: we stopped and picked up people. Everywhere few minutes, we stopped until people were literally standing in the doorway and we were driving with the door open. It’s an experience to say the least but it got me thinking.


I want my heart to always be like an African taxi. Isn’t that God’s heart toward us? He chases us down, stops, let’s us in His love and wants us to enjoy our presence in Him. I want to be the one that stops for the next person because they won’t just “catch the next taxi,” they are worth it to the kingdom of God and I want them to know.


If there’s anything that I’ve learned in my time in Africa in the last few years of any importance, it’s that love is so vast and unique. God’s Love is like an African taxi: it stops, let’s us in with all our baggage and carries us where we need to be. Love looks different and the way God shows us love is amazing.


Love looks like my host sisters who’s known me one day hold my hand through the entire village because she didn’t want me to be lost. Love is our other host sister running through a field to greet us because she couldn’t wait for her other two sisters to come. Love is our host mom bringing out an old family photo album and pictures of her husband who passed away because she wants us to know about her life. Love is our host sister dancing and playing soccer with us on the side of the Lesotho mountains in our small village. Love is praying in Sesotho or our host mom eating dinner last just to make sure we had enough. Love is five of us sitting a small room praying in two languages to the same God before we go to bed.


Love is so vast. God’s love is so unique. It stops for the passerby, the stranger, and even the friend. His love dances with us in eternity. His love radiates hospitality and goodness. I want to pray for my heart to be more like an African taxi because God’s love is just like that, His kingdom is like that - limitless and always willing to stop for you.


“If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.”

1 Corinthians 13:3 

 

 

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Kingdom Moments

Often times in working with many people, communities, and teams, there is so much wear and tear on my mind, body, and soul. By the end of this last week, I totally felt like a truck had run me over. Twice. I was sore physically from working long hours in the fields in our squatter camp of Mooiplaas. I was mentally exhausted from the relational aspects that come with dealing with many different types of people and lastly, I was aching emotionally from a hard week of battling for truth, keeping God in the center, and being in between many different facets of team and community dynamics.

I began to think in my mind how this last week was a bad week and how I just couldn’t wait for some rest at some point. But, the rest didn’t seem like it was anywhere on the horizon. I was struggling to see a point in being drained so much. While I was sitting in a meeting Friday in our community, just waiting for lunch, I wrote the questions down, “What does the Kingdom look like to you?”

I smiled.

There were moments this week that took my breath away because I realized how much I love seeing God’s Kingdom come to life but also how much I love South Africa and where God has put me. Some of my biggest prayers for working in the communities here in Africa are to see God’s Kingdom here between the blessed and broken mindset. We’ve been studying a lot about the Kingdom and I’m learning it’s sometimes in the little moments that we see God’s Kingdom in big ways.

I saw the Kingdom and faithfulness in returning to a school after two years to smiling faces that remembered me and were shocked and happy I returned.  I saw the Kingdom in seeing kids come to life by dancing and smiling as our team worked with them to show them how loved and cherished they were. I saw the Kingdom come to life in teachers and workers who do not waiver in their commitment to teach kids about life and school beyond their circumstances of living in a squatter camp. I saw God’s Kingdom come down to earth when two groups from America and Africa sang worship hymns in Sepidi, harmonizing under the sun, and singing about the love of our one, true God. I saw the Kingdom in team member’s as their worldview’s were being shattered but built back up for God. I saw God’s Kingdom in new ways in the pure joy in worshipping and through song.

These moments were more than just moments for me. They were seeing the seeds being planted; growing, and harvested in all of the people we encountered this week. As I read this week, I came across a verse that now looking back, God used to show me these moments.

“So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.” 2 Corinthians 4:18

In the moments where the days are long and the weeks are hard, I want to remember to keep my eyes fixed on the Creator of the Earth that is unseen to the blind eye, but when looking around, I can see Him everywhere; even in the mundane and the amazing moments. I want to look to the eternal to keep trudging along. While I look all around me and see brokenness, I can look to God to show me His Kingdom in whatever we are doing. This week was extremely hard, but God’s Kingdom is everlasting and beyond worth it. This week, I urge you to ask yourself:

What does God’s Kingdom look like to you?

 

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Come As You Are

 

I think if I were to poll one hundred people, most would be like me. In life, we tend to look at things that happen to us. We react. We ponder. We worry. We wonder. We change. We move. We ebb and flow within our circumstantial limits. A lot of what happens to us defines how we move forward. Something good happens, all is okay that day. If something bad happens, it affects who we are. Simple, right?

Nope.

Sometimes I feel like for 27 years of life, there’s been a lot that has happened that has directed my steps. Through others sin, hurt, abuse, and pain, it led to my reaction of my own sin cycle of addiction, cold-heartedness, and eventually jail – chains I put on myself. This cycle led to depression and an unwavering self-doubt that I had any purpose in life. Undoubtedly, I reacted in a bad way to the circumstances in my life. I was fickle in my thinking that I could handle life on my own.

You see, something happens when we rely on ourselves. We simply just cannot do things in our own strength. About a year and a half ago, my life changed. That’s almost an understatement. Through a divine encounter with broken, messy grace, God captivated my heart fully while in the middle of an African desert. I came with the pretense that I would be serving God, but really what I found out is that I didn’t really know God. But, He had other plans to save my life.

I can’t really pinpoint what exactly happened. It was a mix of having nowhere to go but God. And also, people that God placed in my life, that for the first time, spoke words of life into me about God and His love that I still hold onto today. I think God is sometimes funny like that. He knows me, His child, so well that He knew He had to bring me out into the middle of nothing to get my attention. If you know me, you’re probably laughing right now.

It was here in Africa that I started to realize that I had to face what had happened but not on my own. In Christ’s strength, He took every single circumstance that had happened to me or that I had created on my own and nailed it to the cross. The grace of the Cross is messy and beautiful. Tragic and amazing. Hard but wonderful. When I finally believed that I had worth and identity in Christ, my whole world changed. 

“You have to make what Jesus did for you bigger than what has happened to you.”

When I first heard that quote, I was so convicted. I think we tend to live our lives reacting to things that happen to us. We blame our circumstances on others or what is going on around us. For the first time in that African desert, I had to come to the conclusion that the blood of Jesus Christ took care of every pain, hurt, mistake, shame, or hopelessness that I feel. Jesus died for ME. For you. For all of us, so that we may live in freedom. There is absolutely nothing less or more I could do to be saved. Christ redeemed me.

It’s been a little over a year and a half since I first came to Africa and I find myself here again. But not here by my own effort. Only by the loving kindness and grace of God. He brought me this far to write this part of my story in using what had happened in my life to speak to others. I can walk in freedom because of Christ. I can look at the things that happened and not be completely and utterly devastated because I can look to a savior who is the ultimate comforter.

“The Lord is my shepherd. I lack nothing.” Psalm 23:1

As I sat there and read this verse this morning, one I’ve read a thousand times, I am amazed that it puts right there how we need to live. I lack NOTHING. This doesn’t mean that everything is okay but could be better. It doesn’t mean that I need to be defeated because of situations in my life. It doesn’t mean I need to worry about what is going to happen. It literally means there is NOTHING that I need more than Jesus. If I am resting in His love and freedom, my life lacks nothing.

And that’s where I find myself. God brought me out of unbearable chains so I can turn around and tell others that they too, lack nothing. On the days where life seems a little bit harder, I constantly am reminding myself that the Lord is my shepherd and I lack nothing. Nowadays, instead of singing the tune of living in the hurt, I can absolutely say that freedom in Christ is better when I truly step into it. When we fully surrender to His love, we are consumed and from that, want to love others.

I’m amazed daily that this is the story God is writing in my life. I’m amazed that God put me back in the place that is home with people who are family and allows me to tell of His life-saving love. I want to always remember that there is nothing in this world that is greater than God’s love for us. And for you too, friends, there is nothing too big that God cannot handle. He loves you just as you are.

Jesus didn’t say “come to me when you are perfect.” He simply says, “Come as you are.” Let’s come to Him today. Life may be messy but God just wants to love you right now. Rest today in that. I know I am.

 

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Positively Broken

“Lord, let me always be led to praise You with people who You care about so much.” This was the prayer I prayed at church the other day. You see, here in Darling, church looks a lot different than what we are used to in America. There’s no stage or hundreds of seats. Mostly here, it’s an old church building, a guitar, and people who are willing to love the Lord with all they have. At a farm called Klipvlei, I had a moment that I don’t think I’ll ever forget.

Often times, as someone who works in the mission field, I pray for God to break my heart for His children. Many days, I wrestle with walking out of the situations we see and leaving the kids or adults there. Not because anything was done to them, but the poverty is so high because of circumstances they find themselves in. On the farms especially, alcohol use is prominent as well as drugs, violence and more. Many times in church, the alcohol smell lingers and it’s not uncommon for someone to be drunk. It’s not a very comfortable atmosphere, but the ways God moves is always incredible.

“Love anything, and your heart will certainly be wrung and positively broken.” – C.S. Lewis

I read that this morning and can actually feel the heartache. Heartache of knowing the type of pain these people are feeling because that was me drinking my life away. Heartache for the shame that goes with it because I had to deal with the consequences of drinking. Heartache for the circumstances I see and their lack to want to rise out of it. Heartache that I can only do so little. Heartache that a hug and a prayer sometimes doesn’t feel like enough. Loving people is hard. Loving them how God wants us to love is heartbreaking.

Today as we were worshipping, I saw a lady who was crying. Our eyes locked for maybe one second but almost immediately tears welled up in my eyes. As we sang and clapped and shouted praise to Jesus, my heart was breaking for the tears in her eyes. She was very old and had a face where you can tell she has lived a lot of life. She was singing and crying and I was crying knowing her heart hurt. God was stirring in my heart for me to share how much He loves her and I almost leapt over to hug her. As the service finished, she asked the Pastor if someone could pray for her and she literally opened her arms and walked to me and I was able to pray right then and there for her. After praying, we talked and laughed and her story was as heartbreaking as I saw in her eyes.

I don’t say this story because of anything I’ve done but to show how big our God is. In that moment, a girl from America, and an older lady from Africa were able to share the love of God and how big it is for all of His children. No matter her circumstances or her past, God’s love for her was evident. We laughed and cried together. God broke my heart for her without ever hearing her name knowing that later in the service we would meet and I would get to pray and hug her neck.

I’m so thankful for a God who goes to the ends of the earth for us. I’m thankful that He is a God who loves us so much to break our hearts for what breaks His. I’m ultimately thankful for Jesus, and that through the heartache and through the pain, the love of the Father is so evident that I am allowed the opportunities to share His love. There is something so special about Africa. The way people worship. The way people depend. The way they praise without abandon. The way they love. If there’s anything I am holding onto, it’s the grace of a Father who knows my heart so much that He allows me to share a little of my story each passing day here. I’m able to love and positively have my heart broken in the best possible way. Thank you, Jesus. 

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For the One

Continually people ask me about the mission field. I hear questions of “what’s it like?” “Is it amazing?” “Do you tell so many people about Jesus?” “What do you do?” Mostly, along with each of these questions there’s a statement of resounding, “That’s so cool.” “I would love to do that.” “You get to travel to so many places.”  And I normally smile and laugh and agree. It is amazing, and I do get to go to some cool places, but that’s not the reason I love and am thankful to do what I do. The funny thing is, part of me laughs because most of the people I’m talking to also do these things, but in a different capacity.

 Over the last two years, my faith journey has been tremendous by nothing that I did. To say it was or is ever easy would be completely smashing the immeasurable grace God has poured out over my life. He allowed me to be saved from sin, other’s sin, bad choices, bad consequences, and overall has been in a process of redeeming so much hurt from my past. Recently in a sermon from someone who I hold very close to my heart, we were asked, “Who is Jesus to you?” I immediately said “Savior.” And he continued to press in after a few more answered and said, “if Jesus is all the things we say He is, we need to live that out.”  If Jesus is my Savior, how can I not walk around with joy in my heart wanting to give that gift to every single person?

Therein lies the answer to the questions above about what I do and if it’s amazing. It’s all those things, and more. But, I didn’t have to come all the way to Africa to do it. I’ve learned a lot in the last few years about being faithful where we are. Pressing in. Doing the hard work to love others and really love them in any season and any place of life. It’s hard. It’s uncomfortable when our plans don’t line up with what we expected out of life. But one thing I do know about Jesus being my Savior is that He died for my sins, so I could go on living life and loving people how He would have wherever I am.

I’m amazed at grace and redemption every time I open my eyes in Africa.

Immediately when I landed, I felt home. Peace washed over me like waves in the ocean and I felt renewed, amazed, and incredibly thankful of the gift of being here. I walked back into family and friends and it’s nothing short of amazing that God gave me more than I could have imagined or expected to be able to come back to Africa to spread His hope and love.

 Recently, in our farm community of Darling, South Africa we were in a small church service on one of the farms. I counted the number of people at the service that were not the missionaries, or staff of the organization we work with. 11. I kind of stood amazed because a lot of times we think of large gatherings and big buildings for church. I stood amazed that as I heard them worship the songs we know but in a way only you could hear in Africa, that the sound was loud and I could feel God was in there. We drove about 45 minutes to get to this church and it wouldn’t have mattered if it were 11 people or 1,100 people – we would go for them anyway. God was with us, before us, and after us.

As I start life again in Africa and this journey God has brought me on, He is constantly reminding me to live out who I say and believe that He is.  He is my Redeemer, my Healer, my Savior, my Author, my Maker, and so many others. If I know these things to be true, I want to live that out with my whole being. I want to love others so well that they only can see Jesus in me and what He has done for all of us. I want to remember that even if it’s only for one person that I was sent to earth to spread Hope to, I will love the best I can for the one. Wherever we are, we can love. We can remember Hope. We can step forward in faith without seeing the whole picture because the One was sent for us.

 

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One of the farms we were on

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Sunrise in Darling  

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Our farm and ministry center - Jeria Sending  

Oh, He is good

I’ve only been in Africa a few days but I still have to constantly remind myself how faithful God is. I know He is.  Very few know the process of what it took to actually get here. He moved mountains, stood with me in the hills and valleys, but even in knowing that, as soon as I got the chance to sit down, I got scared. I was worried about the future, scared of adjusting to African culture (again), I missed people, my dog, my daily Texas sunset. But in all of those, I am reminded that the price Jesus paid for me is so much bigger than those tiny worries.

None of those comforts, trials, valleys, or doubts can describe what He did for me and you and how good God truly is. His love reaches far and wide even when I’m nearly out of everything it takes to feel love and love in return. God remains when everything good in me does not.

In Romans 8:31- 32 His word says, “ If God is for us, who can be against us? He did not spare his own son, but gave him up for us all – how will he not also, along with him, graciously give you all the things?”

Amazing, isn’t it? The God of the universe, the creator of the heavens and the earth gave his son for me. For you. For sinners. For poor and rich. For Americans. For Africans. There is nothing that we can do that can separate us from His love. As I sit here, trying to grasp that, the present worries seem to fade. Life on the mission field brings lots of discomforts, but the big picture of Hope is life giving.

Daily already I’m brought to praise as God shows his faithfulness to me through seeing the people I became so close to and daily I’m reminded if I don’t turn my face to God, I am easily distracted from the purpose He designed me for. God’s love is so vast and I’m so thankful I can see Him in action here in Africa.

Adjusting is always hard. If you know me, you know change is not my thing. But my thing is to follow a God who loves us so deep, cares so much, and is in every detail of our highs and lows. I want to sing of His goodness when things are smooth and I want to be brought to praise and say He is good when life doesn’t feel good.  He is good. 

The last few days have been filled with reunions, hugs, love and returning to show God’s faithfulness to others. To be the person God uses for that cannot be matched. I’m humbled, thankful, and praying to never lose my wonder in a creator who is so, so good.

My team and I are off to Darling, South Africa for a month of farm ministry. I’m thankful for each prayer and person who is there through this process. I am in kind of a twilight zone with jetlag and lack of sleep but I stand in awe of actually being here. As I enter this next month, my prayer is to remain steadfast in love and bear in love with one another – my team, the community, and anyone we come in contact with. 

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Ntombi - such a sweet reunion  

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Street view - Centurion  

3m South Africa  

3m South Africa  

Letter to Myself

The following is a letter I wrote to myself when I returned from Africa for the first time, nearly 10 months ago. I read it again today and I cried. Not sad or happy tears but tears because I'm thankful for how God works. I'm thankful that when I feel like a failure, He is there. I'm thankful that when I'm lonely, He guides my path. I'm thankful that for the unknown, He is my home. I hope by sharing this, you can be encouraged to look at what God has done for you, I know I'm thankful He is always there for me in good times and in bad.  

 

"Hey julia,  

I'm so proud of how far you've come since going to Africa and coming back. You just seem so at peace. I want you to remember some things from this experience. Always remember to carve out time with God - your relationship with God means more than anyone else. Remember how faithful he's been during this time and your whole life. Pray without ceasing - God takes care of it all. I also want you to remember to choose love. Choose love when you don't want to. Choose love when you're tired. Choose love even when it hurts. That's how God has loved us. I hope at this time in your life you've figured some stuff out (P.s. I haven't). I know you want to go back to Africa - I hope you make it back. I also hope you are bringing hope to people no matter where you are. People gave you hope when you least expected it but you most needed it. Be that person for someone. Lastly, I hope you forgive more. It hurts to hold onto the hurt. Remember how Jesus and people forgave you. Remember how beautiful you are - how God made you. Remember how much He loved you and also His grace in your life. Be kind, always smile and have joy. 

 

Love,  

Julia."

 

 

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God Just Wants Our Yes

In July 2016, I prayed a prayer that would forever impact my life today. I simply asked God to lead me to His path wherever that was. I prayed and said “God, I’ll follow where you take me.” Over the last nine months, I had a feeling on my heart that God would send me. I knew I wanted to go to Africa. More specifically, I knew I wanted to be in South Africa, working on building the relationships I fought so hard for in the communities I was in. I prayed some pretty bold prayers but over the course of these last nine months, God was doing something even I can’t explain.

I think God sometimes puts desires in our hearts for people and places to draw us closer to Him. Before leaving on my first mission trip to Africa, I had big dreams. I wanted to move to New York, become an Advertising Executive, and live the lifestyle of such. I thought that by doing that, I would have “made it.” I was striving for worldly success because that’s all I had really known; that’s how I gained love and acceptance.

Upon arriving in the desert of Africa, without cell phones, without basic amenities, I really had to come to terms with myself, my past and my future. Was I living for myself or was I really living for God? Now I know He doesn’t do this for everyone, and our stories all look different, but for me to have a wake-up call about my life, God put me right in the middle of a desert so all I could run to was Him. That first month, I spent hours reading the bible, just praying hoping that in some sense I’d find healing or a purpose. When you have nothing to run to, God is right there waiting with open arms.

Over the next 5 months in Africa in late 2016, I started to dig deeper into who I was. I started to realize my identity was not my past, nor my job, nor anything else in between. Christ is in me and that is who I live for. God brought me to Africa to realize His love for me and then sent me back after turning my life and heart upside down. Over these last six months, I’ve had somewhat of an identity crisis. I was so transformed while in Africa that I didn’t know who I was in America anymore. My desire had switched from wanting to gain worldly success to wanting to glorify God in all that I do. But what does that look like here?

Honestly, these last months have been trying. Past hurts, pain and life all happened and I was struggling without a plan or a purpose. I’ve begged and pleaded and asked God to send me but knew I had to be faithful where He put me. I had fallen so deeply in love with people and places but I knew I had to say “yes” to God and not people or places. Honestly, for a time, I wanted to go back because of my own selfish desires but over time, through God revealing my brokenness in many ways, I had to learn to say “yes” to Him and His plan. I decided to keep saying “yes.” I said yes to teach English to International students here in America. I said yes to new colleagues who have now turned into close relationships. I said yes to serving and loving right here, right now. I said yes to God. Wherever He put me, I was going to say yes to His plan. So God put opportunities in front of me for Uganda and I said yes to that too. I went as far as sending out support letters and I was all in for God because I realized I wanted to follow Him, even if it wasn’t what I wanted.

Read that last line again, “even if it wasn’t what I wanted.” I had to come to a place to honestly admit to my heart and self that I wasn’t going to do what I want but rather I was going to desire Him and have Him work on my heart. I have gone back and re-read some of my prayers and I realize how God was changing and working in my heart. He was filling me up to love and serve and all the while realizing that wherever I am, I can spread His hope and love. Wherever I go will be to serve Him and love people.

So, last week when I got a call that was exactly what I wanted, I was confused. I was so dumbfounded that God was literally placing in front of me what I had prayed about. My previous mission organization wanted me to come back to help and work in South Africa. This would mean I get to utilize my skills that I graduated with, all while leading other teams, serving in the communities I had once been and living in South Africa. I wrestled with this idea. I wanted so much to say “YES” and jump right in but I was hesitant only because it seemed too good to be true. I talked to trusted advisors and mentors in my life and I prayed for God to put a peace over which decision I would make. And through that process and prayer, I felt God giving me the choice of two places that He has led me to and would let me serve Him in. I was so amazed that this is exactly what I prayed about that all I could do was thank Him for His faithfulness and thank Him for knowing my heart.

Just like before, I will be leaving for Africa but to South Africa. This time however, God has captivated every inch of my being, He knows my desire is to love Him and serve others and in turn, He is allowing me to return to communities and use my gifts He’s given me to draw people towards Him. My heart is doing back flips with how overwhelmed I am by His power and presence. God hasn’t promised everything will be easy. He just promises faithfulness. Just like 2,000 years ago to today, He is faithful. He is faithful when things don’t go our way, He is faithful in wanting good for us, He is faithful in the trials and pain, He is faithful in knowing our hearts, and He will continue to be faithful with the seeds that are being planted.

I realized something through this process; God just wants our “yes.” I had to get to a place with God where I was all in for HIM. Not all in for what I wanted but all in where ever He led me. He could have sent me to a crowded urban city in China or a suburb in Australia or a small town in rural America. I had to take my prayer to heart and be willing to go where He wants. Something crazy happens when we make God our heart’s desire; we start to desire things that are of Him and for Him. God is such a good God. He wants to give us gifts and He wants to love us. He wants to fill our hearts so we can serve others like Jesus. He wants to do immeasurably more than we can ask or imagine. God just wanted me to say “yes” to Him, “yes” to His heart, “yes” to serve Him and to love others like He does. And through that, He actually gave me immeasurably more than I could have asked or imagined.

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Abiding in Him

Abide. To remain in place. To wait patiently for. I’ve noticed in scripture that abide is a word used when speaking about God. Abide is especially used when speaking of the promises of God. Waiting is a word we are all familiar with. But, waiting to me seems like kind of an impatient word. I don’t want to simply wait for the Lord. Waiting implies I want everything to operate out of God’s timing, for all of my desires to be met now. That’s how we live today. Everything is in the now. But what I really want is to abide. I want to remain in place, in awe of Him and wait patiently for Him to do His job.  As I’ve read and listened and prayed, the Lord has been teaching me how to abide in Him.

Over the last few months, I’ve had to learn re-learn patience. Patience and abide go hand-in-hand but with abide, prayer is involved. I’ve had to learn to have patience with a Godly mindset which to me was abiding in His word, saturating myself with His love, filling myself with joy because when everything around me is hurting, I am in need of abiding in a constant Savior.

 I’ve realized the importance of abiding in a God worldview and not the different worldviews I’ve lived in. Since returning from Africa almost five months ago, I felt God put me in a waiting pattern. I felt a desire and a strong pull on my heart to be in Africa. Most who know me, know how torn I was at returning. My two worlds were ripped apart and I was left trying to start over with no place in mind.

Now, while my world was confused and messy, God knew what He was doing and I can clearly see that now. But, rewind back to January when I stepped back into Canyon, Texas, a town I had intentionally tried to leave, and I was confused. Why had God brought me back here? What was my purpose?

Living life questioning my purpose seemed to leave me so lost. God was so patient with me as He taught me how to abide in Him. He provided a job that I have come to love working with international students teaching English. He provided a place to live knowing I probably wouldn’t be here long. But, most importantly, the Lord provided comfort. First and foremost, it came from Him, but it also came in every person and place I was. I realize God brought me back to my small town in Texas to show me His love for me through the people He has placed here. From the teachers I’ve worked with, people at my church, to new and old friends—they have all rallied around to support and love me and show me how God works in so many different ways. To say I’m thankful for all the newness is an understatement. I was so resistant at first but my heart overflows.

I was still praying for what God wanted. I took my job knowing it may have been temporary. The pull for Africa never really left my heart and I spent a lot of time searching God’s will in the situation. I prayed, fasted, cried, talked, wondered but it was still there. I had no idea what God wanted but kept praying for His will in every situation. I prayed to remain faithful where I was and to show me His path.

And show me He did, but not in the way I had thought. I had my heart set on the places I’ve been with the people I knew. But, God in His goodness had something different in store. I knew Africa was in my heart but didn’t know the plan and I was okay with that. About two weeks ago, I came to a point where everything kind of hit me hard. I didn’t know what my purpose was here and I’m sure I was being impatient. Someone close to me ended up telling me a story about letting God take control and that same day I prayed to God for Him to take the reins of my life. And take all of them. I was tired of trying to figure out what He was doing. Remember, my job is to abide and let God figure the rest out.

Over the last half a year, God has been revealing His faithfulness in my life in different ways. Prayers have been answered and a lot were not. But the open door and “yes” to a prayer I’d been praying for so long was answered not even a half of a day after I said “God you take my life and let it be yours.” The day after I prayed that prayer, I was accepted into a program to work with abandoned children and women at a ministry in Uganda for a year starting in January. My heart had been so drawn toward this ministry and God opened so many doors, I couldn’t say no.

 I think as followers of Christ we are constantly in an ebb and flow of giving God control. Even with this answered prayer, I still struggled to say YES to God. I realized how in our weakness, He is strong. I doubted whether I could leave so much support and a job. I doubted myself so much. Coming from pain in the past, through depression and anxiety, through battles I could never have imagined, could God really be answering this prayer and desire to follow Him wherever that leads? Could He actually use me? What will people say? I could have tried to talk myself out of it, but I told God I would keep saying “yes” to His plan until He said “no.”

So, here I am, nine months away from stepping out in faith again, but I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else. I will be again leaving but this time; I know I have a place to come back to. God wasn’t sending me back here without purpose. He sent me back to find Him in the uncomfortable places, to spread His message of Hope, to realize my deepest desire is to love and follow Him, and He sent people who I am forever grateful for. I want nothing more than to glorify Christ in everything that I do. I want to abide in Him well now and abide in Him well when my world is turned upside down when I leave for Uganda for a year in January. I cannot wait to be in Africa again because part of my heart is there. Part of my heart is also here. God has been so faithful to bring joy in uncertainties. He has been faithful not only in the last year but I can see His faithfulness through my whole life. I have a story to tell, His story, and I pray that His hope can be seen while I’m teaching here this year and when I leave for Uganda in January and even when I return here again. I pray to abide in Him all of my days and to follow where He is leading. I truly don’t want to miss what God is doing and I hope to play a small part in His story.

As excited as I am, I am also nervous but more importantly, I’m expectant. I’m expectant that God is going to work right now, this year, and will always be working. I am expectant that God will teach me things that help provide Hope to others.  I am expectant that He will use past pain, suffering, and hurts to help others. Last, I’m expectant that God CAN use me because even though to the world, I may be unqualified, to Him, I am chosen, loved, and redeemed.  So there’s the big news: I am headed to Uganda in January and I simply cannot wait but I also want to abide in Him while He works.  I’m speaking to myself when I encourage others to keep abiding, keep seeking, keep following Christ and keep on loving to show people Jesus. He hears you and knows your heart and what you need even through the trials life brings. Abiding in Him is worth it. Uganda love it!

I STILL Don't Know What I'm Doing

It is funny I titled this post with the same thing I titled my last post almost two months prior. But, it is true: I have ZERO idea what I'm doing, still. I've been back from Africa almost two months and my heart longs to be there now more than ever. While I pray about being back there, I know it's my job to be faithful in the here and now, which is often hard.  God is so faithful, has always been faithful and will always be faithful. But faith is SO hard to have, especially when you have no idea what God is up to. I've realized this more and more as I go about my day to day life, working, living, and continuing to pray about every decision and the future. In Hebrews 11:1 it says "Faith is the confidence that what we Hope for will actually happen; it gives us an assurance that we cannot see." How beautiful is that truth? 

The root of my Hope is and will always be Jesus and I want nothing more than to spread that exact word for the rest of my life.  It is so encouraging though that this side of heaven with all the hurt and pain, faith means believing, and I mean truly believing that what we Hope for will actually happen and that Jesus will come. God has our best interest in mind and He is a good, good father. So many times in the past two months, I've prayed, cried, and wondered what God is doing with my life and with this life. I wish I had a better answer than just to have faith but it's what I hold steadfast to. 

God didn't bring me, you, or anyone this far for nothing. He didn't die in the worst, most painful way possible to leave us with nothing. He didn't redeem our lives, bring us from our dead, sinful selves, to a vessel for His love to stay silent. While I actually have no idea what each day holds, I know who holds my everyday. And while my heart longs to be in Africa again, my heart will and always will be with Jesus first wanting to spread His love far and wide. I'm thankful knowing that our faith isn't based on anything we do, but just following, living, serving and loving like Jesus would. So, yeah, I still have no idea what I'm doing, and that's okay, but I know with my whole heart that His plan will be immeasurably more than I can ask or imagine for me, you, and all of us. And, Thank God it is.