Sunday, February 14, 2016

A Story about LOVE...

 LOVE….

Love is a funny little thing…  It’s written about, experimented with, it breaks young hearts, it drives people to do courageous things.  LOVE.  

And for a Christian, it is the center of all we do.  Love God. Love others. Love self.  That’s it.  Love is powerful. Love changes people’s circumstances.  
Love changes both the one receiving and the one loving. 

Love is crazy. It is risky. 

It is painful.

But if one thing I’ve learned, it is this: 

To hurt deeply, means you have loved deeply.  And there’s no greater privilege on earth than that. 

With one, comes the other. To accept one without the other isn’t really love, it’s just comfort.

Why all the talk about  this little thing called LOVE? What I’m about to share with you is wrapped up in love.  Love is weaved in and out and through it.  There’s no story I could share now, if it hadn’t been for LOVE. 

A long time ago… I met a young man.  He stole my heart.  
We dreamed of life together. We got married.  

We chased dreams, and dreams chased us.  
We had babies, both with surprise and plan.  We were in love.  

One day our dreams were exchanged for God’s. We adopted a little boy from Ethiopia. We moved to Texas. Hearts changed and grew through pain of leaving family, but seeing that God’s family is BIG and His love was BIG.  We made friends and loved our little life.  3 years later, God did something else. 
This love  grew in our hearts to the point of explosion. 
The burning was deep, and the calling was clear. 
We had sleepless nights, and long conversations.  Sometimes we were sick to our stomachs with fear of the unknown. . 

Somehow, HIS LOVE MADE US BRAVE. 

Without doubt, we sold almost everything we owned.  God loved us through people who went above and beyond.  Their love enabled us to go.
With tears, 3 small children and 13 bags… we walked through the security gates in the Atlanta airport and I waved goodbye to my family and everything familiar, and I followed that young man I married, who was now fully man.

While it felt scary, the LOVE was greater than the fear

HE was with us.  
I hung onto every promise and truth, and I found that it was exactly that.  TRUE.

The African dust settled, and things that were so unfamiliar and uncomfortable quickly became comfortable and normal.  
I followed this man around, and trusted him to show me the “hows” and the “whys”.  He did that.   We were able to LOVE and be LOVED.   
The people from the community began to see that our LOVE was real, and deep, and helpful, and strong, and from Jesus Christ himself.  Our love grew, and so did theirs. 

We kept loving, even when we didn’t know how.  

We made the choice to love.  

And so we did.  We loved each other when it wasn’t easy. 
 We loved others when we wanted to quit.  
He loved me when I was in despair.  I loved him when he was spent. 
Somehow, Love was also crazy.  
And this crazy love brought us the gift of 2 more sons.  Not in baby form, but in the form of preadolescent bodies.  
And Love kept us fighting for them.  
HIS love is relentless, never gives up, and is full of HOPE. 
 That’s the place we must love from.

 Together, we have loved over 370 students… their caregivers… our staff… our team.
 LOVE has come in the form of sitting with grieving parents as they mourn their children on the dirt floor of their home.  
LOVE looks like holding ones crying from the grief of loosing a brother or sister.  LOVE advocates for those who can’t… and gets them the care they desperately deserve.  
LOVE speaks life giving truth into a child’s mind, not once, but continually until they believe it. 
LOVE is allowing your family to become theirs.  
LOVE takes a risk… and forgives that child who has messed up… AGAIN AND AGAIN…
LOVE scoops up the sick off the hard ground and carries them to the doctor.  LOVE corrects and disciplines the children going astray.  LOVE forgives… quickly and fully. 
 LOVE goes after the ones who have lost their way.

We’ve seen the power of LOVE transform… hearts, minds, behaviors.  We’ve seen the courage of LOVE literally change the entire future of a person.

All of that with a little thing called LOVE.  The greatest thing about true LOVE is that it is never a ONE WAY STREET.  

The LOVE that I’ve received, is by far the most valuable of it’s kind.  

LOVE in the form of letter, or paper watch,  or art.  
LOVE in the form of a student giving me an encouraging word from the Bible, LOVE from those across the Ocean who were willing to do almost anything to love us.  
LOVE in the form of visiting and LOVING the ones WE LOVE.  
LOVE in the form of note by your own son.  
LOVE through giving whatever they have.  
LOVE through acts of service. 
And the LOVE of my husband when I wasn’t really LOVABLE at all.

Never be confused that LOVE only flows outward.  It is a continual river running, being fed by LOVE so that it can run with LOVE.  That’s God’s creative way.

And now, LOVE is asking me to do the hardest thing of all.  
5 years of deep, deep LOVE.  
Something that no one could ever explain unless you have walked it yourself.  To me, 5 years seems so small.  But the past 5 years have taught me more about LOVE than the 31 previously. 

This man, whom I adore and will spend the rest of my life with, is being led to walk down a new road.  Only, this time… He feels it, and I do not.  That is a first for us.
It is like my head knows what my heart is incapable of feeling.  

So, in June of this year… our family will once again be selling the small items we have acquired… and once again leave the place that has now become so familiar, so much a part of WHO WE ARE… The place where God did miraculous and wonderful things, and we will start to look forward to yet another adventure.

And I will follow this now life-experienced and seasoned man.  The one who kills snakes and navigates the African countryside.  This man who was so brave to say YES to God and YES to LOVING in such a crazy way!

I will follow that man.  

I will continue to trust the same God who has been with us through snakes, malaria, medical evacuations, adoption roadblocks, ever-growing and changing projects, the God who spared my sons life…

Yes.  I will trust THAT God. 

The coming was hard.  The going unbearable.   

I can’t speak for the road ahead, for it is unknown.  It is the first time we have walked this way.  We can only hold on to what we know to be true…

(HIS) LOVE never fails.  LOVE is always worth it.  








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Sunday, July 26, 2015

When the wheels fall off...

When the wheels fall off in life... we often times want to complain.  
We want to believe that we deserve better than this said inconvenience.  
Our minds want to start piling up the unplanned costs or the lost time. 

But what if the timing of the wheels falling off actually SAVED us from something worse? 



This week, my wheel literally fell off of my car.  Well, it really broke off. 
When I saw what had happened to the car... I became OVERWHELMED... 

with thankfulness. (and laughter) 

You see, I drive my kids 45 minutes one way down the most dangerous road in Zambia to school everyday.  It's full of trucks loading things to and from the Congo.  The condition of the roads are horrific, and we see accidents almost every day. Not fender benders... but take your life accidents. Speed and passing also become so dangerous.  
Each night as we pray, we thank God for a safe journey to and from school, and ask that He provide us with the same the next day. 

So... it just so happened the wheel on my car broke off on the road that Lifesong School is on.  Going slow.  Close to help. Safe

If it had broken off 12 hours earlier... going 100KM/hr... on a road packed with trucks... it very easily would have flipped and possibly ended in an unthinkable way. 

Thankfulness.  
Provision in the broken wheel. 

His protection and love shined bright on our family in that moment of "I'm sorry, did my wheel just fall off?" 

I'm thankful that my eyes were opened to the provision that day.  And let's admit... considering the day before I made a joke that "the wheels are about to fall off" ... I found the situation quite humorous. 

Grumpiness and Gratefulness can't live together in the same heart simultaneously.  
You get to choose. 
Choose what you see. 

Sometimes what seems to be a huge disaster is actually His protection from something unknown to you at that time... 
That He chose to love us in that way... 
and protect us in that way... 
that indescribable love. 
 
"Thanks be to God for his inexpressible gift!" 
2 Corinthians 9:15



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Sunday, July 19, 2015

Believe the Beautiful...

How quickly the accuser starts... He's always had a keen interest in our type from the beginning. He starts in the smallest of ways, at such a young age. 

"Do you think I'm beautiful?"  she asks from behind her bowl of mixed cookie dough.  Heart sinks. How early the doubts begin. The first signs of those awful feelings I can so easily remember...


Where did this come from? We live in a world free from the western ideas of "beautiful"...  

But its something deep inside her all of us that longs to be seen as beautiful and yet, a blockage- a lie- doubt is somehow planted into the soil of her soul. 

The accuser... the planter of lies. 


 As we get the fresh cookies out of the oven, I offer a compliment to the chef... "Great job!" The compliment is met with resistance... "you did most of it" or "they're not that great."  The inability to accept a compliment... or the quick deflection and minimization is offered.  Oh how guilty are we to not accept a simple compliment with "thank you."  Because it surely conflicts with that lie planted deep into us that says "You're really not that good... not that special." 

The accuser... the planter of doubts. 

And me- the caretaker of this beautiful garden growing in front of me.  I begin to pick out the weeds that lies have sown. Weeds that I recognize all too well. 

  I tell her of her great value... her great beauty simply because of who she is... which has nothing to do with skin color, the wave of hair, waist size, brain capacity, performance, or bank account.  

Deceiving is the only way to contain the great influence built inside of you... 

because to hold such beauty...
such love...
such compassion...
and grace...
fearlessness...
brilliance and hope...
love for the one who made you... 

it is a most perfect package for being the change...for doing great things... 

Do not be deceived my sweet girl... Hold onto truth... Know that you are enough... God's grace is enough... your life, your hair, your eyes, your laugh... it's all enough.  

Believe the beautiful He has created in you... 
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Saturday, July 18, 2015

The empty seat...

There are some things in life that simply can't be enjoyed without someone in the seat next to you... behind you... or across from you.  


"Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their work." 
Ecclesiastes 4:9
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Friday, July 10, 2015

6 months in 1 post... Highlight Reel...

How does 6+ months go by without blogging?  

Maybe its being consumed in all things Zambia... 
Maybe it's the frustration of it taking HOURS to load a photo...
the daily 8 hour power outages... 

or just plain laziness... (ok, it's probably this one)

Despite the INACTIVITY of my blog... the life is full of ACTIVITY... 

Here's my weak attempt at catching up... 

Our 3 days of Christmas before the malaria struck... ahhh...

Soccer tournaments that landed my 2 bigs in the Nationals!

Following the Soccer bus early... Enjoying the African Sunrise...

Celebrating with Friends after Z's first U13 Soccer game...

Opening our Student Life Program... 48 kids from G8-10 in boarding facilities...

Ukubyala without any power... Be the Light...

Art of Marriage at Nsobe... Good & Wild times with all our staff at Lifesong...
Awesome time with Phil & Starla... our marriage coaches!


The Purchase of this property in which my heart has desired for 4 years!  It's the new home to Girls Student Life! Ah-May-Zing! Tsangalala... Let's Rejoice!


My Friday and Saturday Nights by the fire pit... debating constellations and listening to NJ the DJ...


My G8s studying before exams in my Guidance and Counseling Class... because I'm nice the week of exams... only. ;)


The next generation of Lifesong Football... Z's best friends...

And all this activity... occasionally I steal away to my room for some juice and Jesus...

Mwaiseni... Welcome to our school... Here's a little peek for those who've never been here (which you are always welcome... )


Porridge for Breakfast... HOT... because it's winter here! 

Ukubyala... Impromtu Praise and Worship with friends near and far...

KG and Benson planning their "song"... which was indeed the CUTEST THING EVER... would love to upload the video but i'm kinda pushing it with all these photos... ha.  They sang together "Jesus Never Fails"... just the 2 of them... still.my.heart.

Us gals waiting on the frittas to finish so we can eat something yummy!  Outdoor kitchen goodness...

This boy... ahhh... how he has grown into such an amazing young man... Serious about school... serious about life...

These, on the other hand, are still enjoying boyhood... to the fullest... Pray for these boys... their smiles cover a multitude of pains...


Me and Skip Bo...


The Crew... Yes, they are out of control and one can't possibly get a decent photo...

Which requires more of this...

And these guys... my life... my heart...

How can one love someone so much anyway?


And that's a wrap...
So... that means I'm all caught up, right? You didn't miss a thing!  We opened boarding, had an awesome soccer season, fun family time, teams, growth... and so much more!  I'd love to promise that I'm back to blog land... but I might be lying.  One thing is for sure... life is full and active even if the blog isn't.  My journal is... and maybe one day I'll be brave enough to start writing again... love from Zambia... 
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Friday, December 26, 2014

And He whispered... Immanuel

You know that excitement that starts to build in a child once the tinsel hits the nearest store, or when the first advertisement of the greatest toy shows, or the first hint that Christmas is near?  We all know a little about that excitement... well... not ALL of us... but the ones lucky enough to have been born into a privileged lifestyle.  (never mind me seeing 2 boys i love dearly planting their garden on Christmas... just another day)
Its so easy for me to have certain expectations of Christmas... even in the middle of Africa.  I know what I want it to be like for my kids, how I want the house to smell... the things I want to bake, the gifts I want to give... the anticipated laughter.  
But, yesterday was Christmas... and it couldn't have been further from my childhood memories... or my expectations.  I found myself spinning in pain, high fevers, and difficulty even staying "present" (no pun intended) So I said "Shane we have to let the kids open presents so I can go to the hospital."  Because of course I didn't want to miss the joy on their faces.  Half way through, I couldn't do it anymore and a sweet friend, Kristie drove me to the hospital (at 9 am) while Shane tried to make Christmas as wonderful as possible for the kids.  (and you were awesome as usual)
After getting there and settled, it was decided that I would be admitted.  On Christmas Day.  sigh.  AFter an amazing show of affection from my friend, I sent her home... after all, who in the world wants to be in a hospital on Christmas? 
I laid there drifting in and out of sleep... there wasn't a sound but the creaking ceiling fan. (because of course there is no AC) I started to let my mind wonder "What are the kids doing right now?"  "Are they going to be sad I'm not there?"  "How is Shane going to cook dinner?" "I wish I was home (like home home... you know where I could dig into some Christmas goodness with my mom, grandmother, aunt, and 2 something like sisters)" and I really wanted to cry.  I glanced over and stared at the empty chair near my bed... and this is what happened:  HE WHISPERED "IMMANUEL...I AM with YOU."  Then I felt like the grinch's heart growing and growing.  Christmas isn't found around a table full of food, or a tree full of presents... or all the many other things we want to make it.  Christmas is about ONE THING:  God becoming our Immanuel. 
Because of Christmas, I can be in a hospital half way around the world on the best holiday ever... away from ALL my family... and still have Christmas.  Because He is with me.  He is with you.  He is ours.  And what else could I ever want?  
So then... I began to cry... not out of sadness, but out of gratefulness that my present came from HIM yesterday... He spoke to me... the most comforting words "I'm with you" and just the right time... and just the right place.  So, despite the fact that I type this with an IV remaining in my hand and my fever starting to spike once again... it's ok, because of Immanuel.  Oh how HE LOVES ME.  
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Saturday, November 29, 2014

Trading dreams...


One of the things I love about Zambia is the spontaneousness in life... and the unpredictability... We usually say that one thing is predictable... and that is unpredictability. :)

This morning I woke up and had one of team mates came in and said "the little boys are outside"... my first statement was "I told them yesterday no playing until Monday, because today is the party!"  
He followed that by... "well, they say their sister is missing. "  My response: "oh!  let me get my shoes!"  

After much search and effort... police reports, tears, and a Lifesong mini search party... She was found!  The things that go through your mind when one of your grade 2 students are missing can down right scare a person!  

I quickly had to move on to decorating and final details of our Grade 7 and 9 party... as well as send my hubs off to the Dr. as he isn't feeling well, possibly malaria.  

The party begins... music... dancing... food... and slide shows... 

I speak.  God's handprint on all of our lives is evident.  

When I first landed in this great place... they were small... dirty... rough.  What I see now isn't that.  They are clean... smart... amazing. 

 I didn't do that... God did that... through Lifesong... through teachers... through our staff families who are willing to do the hard things:  
did you know that At least 4 of our Zambian staff families are fostering kids from our school?  

That this morning it wasn't the police, but classmates who found the girl. 

 It wasn't the student's father who comforted and counseled her, but her teacher and our maintenance man?  

Did you know that we had to TURN AWAY some of our staff from being houseparents in our new boarding program because we don't have enough homes built yet?

Do you know how awesome THAT is?  

Godly Zambian adults pouring their lives into vulnerable Zambian children.  

Today the grade 9s wrote and recited a poem.  
One of the lines said "you are sacrificing your dreams to make ours come true." 

 It's true... our staff could make more money elsewhere... so could our family.  

"you are sacrificing your dreams to make ours come true. " 

Trading our dreams for God's never leaves us with regret... this is worth it.  

It's worth it to witness transformation before your eyes.  

It's worth it to hear the laughs from a classroom.  

It's worth it to be a parent in their lives.  

It is worth. it.  

They are worth. it.  

Jesus is worth. it. 



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