Tuesday, December 14, 2010
Tuesday, November 30, 2010
Oh wow, hi! This sure was a long time in coming, and I apologize for that. I just realized I left you hanging without part 2 of my story. Sorry.... I shall continue.
Remember how I wanted to be an actress? And remember that night God changed my heart? Well, it wasn't quite that simple (things rarely are, I've noticed). Looking back, I realize God had been working in my heart for quite sometime, and I just hadn't noticed. He brought His change of plans to the forefront of my mind at exactly the right time for me. My heart was ready to accept them then.
Did I still want to be an actress? You BET I did! In fact, that very summer I entered into an intensive drama conservatory with a well-known theatre company. As well as being the time that holds some of the best memories of my stage life, it was also the time I was at my lowest spiritually.
See, when I'm on stage I tend to throw myself into my roles with pretty much everything I've got. In the theatre world that's good - in fact, it's encouraged! You NEED to put all your time and energy into a role in order for it to "work". I had always done that in the past (and would continue to do it in the future) with my homeschool theatre company, and it had never been a problem. But this time it was different. I won't go into details, but some of the things I was directed to do did not line up with the worldview I had grown up in. It made me uncomfortable... and not in a good way. It wasn't the sort of situation where I felt I could speak up and not do the scenes. I was scared that I would get asked to leave the program - something I REALLY didn't want to do. And I knew the response I would get if I opted out of the exercises: reminders that the acting world was cutthroat and to "make it" I'd have to do whatever I was told to do. And I knew that.
So I went along with everything.
Don't get me wrong... I don't regret that summer. I made some awesome friends that I'm still in touch with today, learned new acting techniques, and had a bunch of fun. And cliche as it may sound, it did have an influence on who I am today. That summer made me realize how much I would have to sacrifice - both spiritually and morally - to become the kind of professional actress I was aspiring to be.
But that realization was in hindsight... as I was in the throes of theatre I became more and more aware that the things I was doing were not Christ-like. And do you know what scares me?
I became ok with that.
I was fine with looking more like the world and seeing how far I could push the standards I had set for myself. I did share my faith with my friends (I was still a Christian, after all) and we had many discussions about faith and relationships and the like. But at the end of the day, my actions were not reflecting what I was saying. I was talking the talk, and not walking the walk, if you will.
And guess what? That makes me SO SAD! I really want to go back and shake my naive, foolish, 16 year old self! Here I had this AWESOME opportunity to present Christ to my friends, and I ruined it by looking more like the world than I ever had.
Fortunately, after that summer my faith began to get stronger again. I am SO thankful God chose not to let the enemy have me, even though I was giving him so many footholds, and reeled me back in. I still had a desire to be a missionary-like person. But I really had no idea what I wanted to do or where I wanted to go. So I spent a lot of time praying. My prayers went something like this:
"God, I know you have something for me to do. PLEASE show me what it is, and give me the courage to do it!".
And slowly God began revealing His plan for me.
I don't remember exactly when the orphan crisis was first brought to my attention, but I do know that once I heard about it, God wouldn't let me forget. I read the heartrending stories of children who were starving and abandoned and unloved and I saw the pictures that were worth a thousand words. And an ache began in my heart. The more I read and learned about these children, the more the ache grew. I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that I had to find them and hold them and love them. Thus began my passion for loving the unloved of the world.
All during that time my family was in the process of adopting from Ethiopia. In fact, we had been discussing/planning/processing our adoption since about 2005 or so. Because of this, Africa was very much a part of our life already, and my heart started falling more and more in love with it. Since I already knew I was supposed to go find the children who needed someone to love them, it seemed natural I go seek them out in Africa. But where? Ethiopia seemed the logical choice, but something held me back from pursuing it seriously. I looked into orphanages there, since God had kept up a pretty consistent love for orphans in my heart, but nothing felt *right*
Then we got the referral for my new siblings.
We saw their pictures and began to look forward to the day when they would come home to us forever.
And suddenly every picture of an orphan turned into one of my siblings. The orphan crisis became very real to me, because I knew that that was the reality my brother and sister were living with at that moment. The ache I was feeling for those children became overwhelming, and Jesus really and truly broke my heart.
After that God just kept fanning the flames of the passion He had created within me. I read blog after blog of families who had adopted, were adopting, or were involved in some sort of orphan ministry. I SO DESPERATELY wanted to be a part of that, to be out there loving and advocating. But I still didn't know where God wanted me. Very frustrating.
Then one day I came across the blog of a young lady who had just moved to Uganda, East Africa to start a feeding program in a slum called Masese. She blogged about the children and the people and the hunger and the devastation. But more than that, she wrote about the hope and love and joy she saw emanating from all those she came into contact with. My interest was piqued. I started researching orphanages in Uganda, just out of curiosity, not really thinking anything would come of it. I found one and began to pray.
As I began to pray more and more over the people of Uganda, I fell more and more in love with the country. For the first time, I began to feel a certainty in my heart. I began to realize that Uganda was where God was leading me. For real. I got excited.
So I formulated a plan in my mind. I decided not to go to college right after graduating, but take a gap year to live in Uganda. Over the course of the year I would pray about where God was leading me next - whether it was to college, or to take up permanent residence in Uganda. I felt a peace about what would come next. Nothing, save the fact that I knew (that I knew that I knew) that God wanted me in Uganda, was certain. I didn't know where I would live and serve, when exactly I would go, how I would pay for it, etc.
But I felt SO at peace! God had showed me where He wanted me, and all I knew was that I was supposed to go. So I kept at it. The orphanage I found seemed like a good fit: I could live there for up to three months, play with babies all day long, figure out what came next during those three months, and ultimately live there for a year. Good plan, right?
God had other ideas.
In January of '09, I went to on a retreat with my youth group. The topic of the weekend was becoming a pilgrim Christian as opposed to a tourist Christian. As you can imagine, that REALLY spoke to my heart. I mean, that's what I was doing, wasn't it? I was really, really moved. So after the lesson the first night, I went up to speak with the preacher, who happened to be the pastor at the college near me.
I explained what the Lord had laid on my heart, and how I had heard Him speak through her to me that evening. When I mentioned the orphanage I was interested in, she told me she had a student who had been to Uganda twice, and worked in that specific orphanage. She offered to get us in touch.
As you can imagine, I was ECSTATIC! I would be getting insider information!
So she put us in touch. The young woman's name was Jenny, and we started emailing back and forth. Even though I was pretty sure of where I wanted to go, I was keeping my options open; I hadn't officially applied to the orphanage. Jenny gave me a list of people who were living and working in Uganda that I could contact. She also told me a bit more about the orphanage I was looking into. She said that it was very well run and managed, but that they always had a plethora of volunteers. Meaning: they didn't really need my help. And I wanted to serve somewhere that needed my help more than they did.
Thus, God closed that door.
I emailed almost everyone on the list... Holly from Our Own Home was the only one who responded. I looked at their website , I prayed, and I felt God saying YES very strongly. I knew this was where He wanted me. So, through a series of God-orchestrated events, they accepted me to work with them.
Thus, God opened that door, and pushed me through!
After that things moved very fast! I officially knew I was going for sure in June, and arrived in Uganda on September 10, 2010.
Thus ends my story. God was the creator of my desire to work with children in Africa, and He was the One who saw me safely through my many ups and downs. He is the One who continues to guide me now that I'm here.
So there you have it, folks! HIS story through me. I'm just a vessel. And a broken one at that! His grace continues to amaze me every day...
God is good.
Tuesday, November 2, 2010
Tuesday, October 19, 2010
And every night Moses asks to go su-su (potty).
And every night Mommy Morgan gets him out of his crib to su-su.
And he does.
But the problem is that Moses doesn't just ask once.
He asks again and again, and again.
And after about the 4th time of being gotten out and not producing anything, Moses is left in his crib.
Which makes him mad.
He cries, he screams, he whimpers, he pleads, and all to no avail.
Because us Mommies have wised up. We know that Moses doesn't really need to su-su.
He just wants to get out.
I need Africa more than Africa needs me.
I had never thought about it that way before, but when I stopped and looked around me I realized it's so true. I realized how much I can learn from the suffering I'm seeing, from the people I'm meeting, and from the children I'm loving. I realized how much I'm going to change.
I need this change. I need this break from all things familiar. I need this displacement of my comfort zone (and I'm praying that I never find it again!). I need this NEED for God!
But guess what? God doesn't need me.
Let me say that once more...
God doesn't need me!
His Kingdom is already happening here, and I'm just another tool to build it. He didn't need me to carry out the work He's doing in Uganda, and yet He still chose me.
He. Chose. Me.
ME. A broken, faulty vessel. And He, King of the universe looked down and said I want that one.
Does that give you chills? I know I get 'em every time I think about it!
Matthew 20:28 says "For the Son of Man did not come to BE served, but to SERVE."
If I have Christ as my example, then I should strive for nothing less then the extent of servant-hood He exhibited on earth. I should serve these people of Africa with my WHOLE HEART. Not because I'm a missionary. No, because I have Jesus as my example!
And guess what? I'm BLESSED! God chose me, led me to serve, gave me the resources to serve, gives me the strength to serve, and loves me through it all.
God's good, people! Amen?
And because no post would be complete without my beautiful children, here ya go :)
Saturday, October 9, 2010
I've been told that the first weeks are the hardest, and that really proved true for me. I missed my family, I missed my friends, I missed my home and my neighborhood and my city. I missed normal. And until I found my *new* normal, it was difficult for me to adjust. During those first few nights I was convinced that either it would take me months to settle, or I would never settle at all and I would be forever longing for home, for Chicago. I knew I had a commitment to Our Own Home, and I fully intended to keep it, but that didn't stop me praying that my time would go really, really fast and I would be able to leave as soon as possible. It probably sounds horrible to you, but rest assured that those thoughts lasted only a few days. There is a great team of volunteers here right now, and my roommates Anna and Morgan totally took me under their wing. They've been a wonderful source of information and support to me, and a complete God send! I’m now soaking in my time here, and although the days do go by pretty quickly, I enjoy each day as much as I can.
I now also feel settled. I know what my days look like, how things work, what I should be doing when, where things are. I know my way around town. I grocery shop, and go to the clinic, and go places on my own. I love the people here, I love the country, and I especially love my children.
And speaking of my children.... they are a delight and a joy and a challenge and an encouragement to me. They make me laugh. They frustrate me. They remind me of just exactly why I’m here. And…. they call me Mommy! If any of you have known me for even a small amount of time, you’ll know that being a Mom is one of the deepest desires of my heart. Having a large family has always been something I’ve looked forward to and wanted. And guess what? I HAVE ONE! I have a large family! I have children! 47 in fact, and they all call me Mommy. My all-time favourite quote is one from Amy Charmichael. She says, “It is a safe thing to trust Him to fulfill the desire which He creates.” God gave me a desire to care for and nurture and raise children, and that’s exactly what I’m doing with His help! Sure, they might not be *mine*, but I love them as if they are. And God brought me to where I am today. He orchestrated every moment of my journey here, and He is laying my path yet. How amazing is it to have a savior who cares enough about my sinful self to plan my future? Or better yet use me for His glory while giving me the exact thing I‘ve always longed for?!? It‘s so hard for me to comprehend! The song that keeps coming to mind is I Am Yours. The very first words are “Who am I that the Lord of all the earth would care to know my name, would care to feel my hurt?”. The phrase I dwell on is who am I? Because really, who AM I? I am a sinful, selfish being who would at times prefer to go back to my comfortable, safe life and miss out on helping to shape lives like these….
Even though life here is relatively comfortable (compared to the rest of Uganda), every day I’m confronted by these children who each have a different, heartbreaking story. Some were unwanted by their earthly families, some watched their parents die, some were abandoned because their parents couldn’t or wouldn’t care for them, some have relatives, some have no one else and were left to fend for themselves. All came here with some level of trauma, and I am blessed to try to drown out that hurt with love.
If you’ve ever been a Mom, you will know that having to constantly give attention and love can become annoying, even when you only have maybe one or two children. I find that too, only times about 10! But every time I hear “MOMMY! MOOOOOMMMMEEEEEEE!!! HUUUUUUG!”, I turn and receive what ever child decided to fling herself into my arms, and give that child all of my attention for that moment. Because guess what? I’m the best they have, me and the other Mommies. If we don’t give love and attention who will? If we don’t pour scripture into their hearts who will? If we don’t tell them they’re wanted here on earth WHO WILL? My children are wanted. By me, by the other Mommies, by the uncles, and best of all by God himself. He placed each and every one of these precious children in this home to be loved by us, and who are we to say “Um, no. I’m too busy today to love you, hon. Sorry”. God NEVER turns us away when we need love or encouragement or an ear to pour our trouble into. Who are we to give our children anything else?
I’m learning so many new things by living here. How to improvise in day to day activities, how to hand wash my clothes (you may think you know but you really don’t), how to be patient with pretty much everyone, how to have boundless energy…. Ok, I haven’t learned that one yet, but I sure wish someone would teach me!!
I want to thank each and every one of you who helped me come here, whether it was through a financial contribution or through prayer. I have been feeling God’s presence SO DEEPLY since being here, and I truly treasure every moment I have with these wonderful children. I can’t imagine missing out on this life I’m living here, and so I thank you for your support. It means SO MUCH to me to know that I have friends and family back at home praying on my behalf and on behalf of my children! THANK YOU!
Monday, August 9, 2010
Saturday, August 7, 2010
Wednesday, July 21, 2010
Yes YOU are in control."
Tuesday, July 20, 2010
Up until now, this blog has been more family oriented. But life and circumstances have changed, and this little ole' blog will be used to update family and friends about my life in... UGANDA! Yes, I am going to Uganda. Hopefully Mother will start a family blog so I can read up on my family's business while I'm away. That would be nice...
But in any case, I'm here to say that starting the beginning of September, I will be moving to Uganda, East Africa for six to nine months. Hopefully longer. I will be working in a wonderful orphanage, and learning more about myself and God in the process!
The journey to where I am now has been long and full. God has opened and closed so many doors that I think I'm too lost in Him to find my way back to the selfish person I was before. But that's another blog post :)
I will be writing more about my testimony later (I promise!), but for now I just want to sit back in awe of what the Lord has done. I'm SO excited that God is using me for His work, and I hope that you will follow my journey have your heart stirred too!
God is good!