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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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  

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!