Category Archives: Africa
The story began on Christmas 1985 when I was just nine years old. I received my first camera as a gift that year. It was film, of course. One of those old-fashioned rectangular Kodak cameras, I’m quite sure. $10? $15? $20 max? Who knows how much that camera cost. I might not have known it at the time, but that camera was undoubtedly the best present I’d ever received.
I never once stopped taking photos. I’d claim it’s the only thing I’ve done non-stop, my whole life, since I was a little girl. But that’s not really true.
The story began in 1988. July 4, 1988, to be exact. I’d just turned 12 and received my first diary for my birthday. I wrote stupid stuff, silly stuff in that diary. Like who came to our house for Easter weekend, all the shirts my crush wore to school, the grades I got in school, and why I thought people should be nicer. $5? $8? $12 max? Who knows how much that diary cost. I might not have known it at the time, but that diary was undoubtedly the best present I’d ever received.
I never once stopped writing. I’d claim its the only thing I’ve done non-stop, my whole life, since I was a little girl. But that’s not really true.
The story began some unknown year when I was a little girl watching Brady Bunch and Little House on the Prairie on burnt red couches in the family room in our basement. I ate potato chips with bermuda onion dip, and cupcakes I dug out from Tupperware in the stand-up freezer. In-between adventures with Marcia and Greg and Laura and Mary, images from a television advertisement for Children’s Christian Fund clung to my soul. A man with a white beard told me stories about children afar living in extreme poverty. He told me I could sponsor a child for just 80 cents a day and asked me why I’m waiting as I watched children walk barefoot through slums. When that little girl stared at me through the screen, my tiny heart wanted to help. I paid nothing. Nada. Zilch. I might not have known it at the time, but the continual running of those television ads were undoubtedly the best present I’d ever received.
I watched those ads intently for years, as long as they played them on TV. I’d claim I’d forgotten about those children, about my deep-seeded passion for children and families living in extreme poverty. Maybe it was just a childhood whim, maybe the nonprofits manipulated my young, tender heart. But that’s not really true. The truth is that the passion lay dormant due to a culture that doesn’t talk much about people living in extreme poverty. Thanks to God’s grace, I was exposed to Compassion International via my favorite blogger, Ann Voskamp, in 2010. In August 2012, we sponsored our first child. In February 2014, I traveled to Haiti with Compassion International. In January 2015, I was invited by Compassion International to travel to the Dominican Republic with two other writers. And in late 2015, I traveled to Kenya with a small nonprofit, Love for Kenya, to spend 10 days with widows and children in an orphanage. Writing and photographing my way through all three trips was pretty much a dream come true.
I began dreaming about becoming an author in early 2003. The dreaming was private, intense and specific for many years.
I began a blog, Perfectly Unbalanced Supermom, in 2010, but never published a post on it. I was more than ready to write publicly, but that particular blog just wasn’t quite right.
I launched this blog, Divine in the Daily, in July 2012, and have been writing here faithfully for 4 1/2 years. 439 published posts. 91 unpublished posts in the draft box. Four children’s books in the works. A heavy, but hopeful adult nonfiction is somewhere on the horizon. FOUR additional nonfiction books and TWO ebook ideas sit in Evernote as very real and viable possibilities, but they’re somewhere out there in the distance I can’t yet see. Yes, this dream is for an older and wiser woman who’s not that much interested in retirement.
Two years ago this week on December 18, 2014, I left my 14 1/2 year career as a speech-language pathologist to pursue writing, explore professional photography and be home more with my children.
I just wrapped up my second season of professional photography, and it’s been gangbusters, friends. Beyond anything I ever imagined.
This space, Divine in the Daily, has always been sacred to me. But today, I’m here to say it’s time to go. It’s time to close this space down and begin again.
For the past seven months, I’ve felt more and more clear that I need to merge my writing, photography and my passion for missions. I’ve told a few people (quite literally, a few) one of my specific and ultimate long-term visions. If, by the grace of God, I were to ever reach that vision, it would require me to have a complete MERGE of my writing and photography work with my passion for missions. In that ultimate vision, ALL THREE are working together in harmony. I can no longer pretend that my writing operates separate from my photography which operates separate from my interest in missions. As far as I can see, as far as I can perceive, the three are ONE.
Recently, I attended a writing workshop and wrote a seven-year vision. That seven-year vision ALSO requires a merge of all three, writing, photography and missions.
So. Here we are.
This is the LAST blog post I’m writing on Divine in the Daily under the domain name, www.divineinthedaily.com. Soon, Divine in the Daily will no longer exist.
I have a few more photo shoots to share on my photography Facebook page, and after that, my photography business will no longer be named Knit Woven Made Photography.
EVERYTHING – writing, photography and missions – will be merged into ONE NEW WEBSITE that will provide a foundation which will support the integrated, long-term vision God has given me.
Honestly, I might be crazy. Call me crazy way back to 9 years old when I received that camera for Christmas, or 12 years old when I began writing in the diary I received for my birthday, or crazy watching Marcia and Laura while eating chips and cupcakes on the couch while watching children walk barefoot through slums in faraway lands. I’ve spent a lifetime caring what people think and doing all the “right” things. But I kind of don’t care what everyone thinks anymore. Call me crazy. All the signs keep adding up in the land of crazy. I’ll follow these crazy dreams wherever they lead.
For now, I’m signing off Divine in the Daily. Goodbye. You’ve been good. So good. Thank you to my dear and faithful readers. You are marvelous and faithful and oh so strong.
It’s your story I’m concerned about. What I’ve learned most through this space is that it’s really not about me anyway. The story I’ve shared today? It’s mine. But it’s meant for greater good. So goodbye, farewell, Divine in the Daily. There are greater stories to tell. There’s a better, more integrated vision for the gifts God’s granted me, and that will be best served in another space, another place.
I can’t promise when I’ll launch the new site. I’ve already been working hard behind the scenes, and have much work to do ahead. I need time and space to do everything required to get another site up and ready. It might be a couple weeks, it might be a month. Who’s to say? I’ll do my part. I’ll work as hard and as often as I’m able. Yes, I might be turtle slow, but this turtle’s story goes way, way back. Turtle it will be.
God bless, goodbye and I’ll see you around the other side.
P.S. Stay with me. NO need to unfollow. NO need for you to leave. I’ll be back and will be sure to let you know when everything new is ready to go. So excited for you to join me as I journey to the next chapter of this story.
One year ago today, I boarded a plane to Kenya, Africa.
I always dreamed of serving in Africa. I always knew I’d go someday. But I never, ever dreamed it would be so soon. You see, it wasn’t my choosing as to when, how, where, or with whom I’d travel to Africa. One random weekday in early June, I looked at a poster on our pastor’s office wall and casually shared that I always dreamed of serving in Africa. He promptly invited me to join a 10-day mission trip to Kenya that was scheduled for November.
I wasn’t planning on going to Africa. Okay, let me clarify a bit, pastor. I wasn’t planning on going RIGHT NOW. I wasn’t expecting you to ask me. Give me a couple years, okay? Give me some space and time to think on this, yes? Give me a few years for my kids to get older. Give me a moment to make every detail right. Let me get the timing just perfect for my husband, my friends, my family and pretty much everyone around me. Then, and only then, I’ll most definitely say yes to your invitation. Can’t we all just agree that five or six months is not nearly enough time to prepare for a life-changing trip to Africa?
Needless to say, I spent nearly three months thinking and overthinking that trip, and finally said yes less than three months before our group was scheduled to depart.
Given my reluctancy to accept God’s invitation to go and serve in Africa, it shouldn’t have been a surprise when I found myself on the outside, watching a group of orphaned and abandoned children worship in the most authentic and abandoned way I’d witnessed in 39 years of life on earth.
I was there. Fully present. Fully immersed in their worship.
But I was sitting on the outside.
Wishing I could be one of them.
Wishing I could live and linger in a place of wild, worshipful abandon for the rest of my life.
Yes, this was without a doubt, a glimpse of heaven on earth.
But I was sitting on the outside.
I held two long-standing dreams for my 40th birthday.
- Run a marathon
- Take a mission trip to Haiti with my husband
Run a Marathon
I was going to run Grandma’s Marathon in June 2016 or Twin Cities Marathon in October 2016. The dream to run a marathon for my 40th was serious and alive for a few good years until the rubber hit the road and I realized I’d need to actually sign up and start training. When I reminded my husband that this was a goal for my 40th and told him we were approaching the time I’d need to commit, he reminded me that my plate is full, that training for a marathon was super intense, and that I also have a book writing goal, so perhaps it would be better to spend time focusing my efforts on that dream instead.
He was right. His logic made sense. I made a cold and fast decision to drop my dream of running a marathon for my 40th birthday.
Take a Mission Trip to Haiti with My Husband
My husband and I were going to Haiti to visit our sponsored children through Compassion International. Better yet? We were going to Haiti to visit our three sponsored children there, then fly over to Dominican Republic to visit our sponsored child there. It was an idyllic 40th birthday plan in my book. My husband would meet all four of our sponsored children in one week, and we’d plan some sun time for the Dominican side so my husband could get the R&R he needed. I wanted us to take our first mission trip as a married couple. I wanted my husband to see me in my happy place. I wanted him to KNOW that very best part of me. I wanted him to understand why I can’t shake my trips to Haiti, Dominican and Kenya. My dream to make this trip for my 40th was serious and alive for TWO years until the rubber hit the road and I realized we’d need to actually book the trip and start planning all the details.
We had big conversations.
For a period of three or four weeks, it was official! We were planning a Haiti/Dominican trip for my 40th, sometime in the second half of 2016.
But things didn’t feel right. I knew my husband didn’t really want to go to Haiti, and was just agreeing to please me. I didn’t want this to be a check-it-off-the-list experience. I love Haiti. I love it so much I can barely contain my tears writing these sentences. But I also love Kenya. I love it so much that I’d go back today, in a heartbeat if I could. Having said that, I know my heart and I know my current reality. It isn’t realistic to keep both Haiti AND Kenya active and open in my heart during this season of life with three children, ages 13, 11 and 4, at home. I’d consider myself ridiculously blessed if I was able to take ONE mission trip a year until our two oldest graduate from high school. But that once-a-year-dream isn’t realistic. If I returned to Haiti, I’d open my heart up wide all over again, and would want to go back for a third visit. But then there’s Kenya. If I went to Haiti for my 40th in 2016, that would mean Kenya would have to hold off until 2017, more likely 2018. Could my heart bear the weight of that possibility?
I prayed. I thought about it. I knew what was safest for my heart and the best decision given my current reality, finances, life as a mom of three, and wife of a husband who’s crazy busy with work. One late night after the kids were in bed, I requested time with my husband and told him straight up, “We’re not going to Haiti for my 40th.”
I drew Haiti a beautiful little circle on our bed sheets with my finger, surrendered the final 40th birthday dream, and left it there with God. I never said I was surrendering Haiti for good. I’m surrendering it for now.
With tears and Haiti in a bed sheet circle, that left my heart open and committed to Kenya, and Kenya only. For now. For this season. If God sees fit to open the circle for Kenya AND Haiti someday, I won’t be surprised. In my heart of hearts, I see both. But for now, one. Kenya.
And with that, both of my 40th birthday dreams died.
Four to six weeks later, we found out that my dad was approved for a lung transplant. If everything goes as planned, he will be placed on the national lung transplant registry by mid-July, just days after my 40th birthday. My mom is first in care for my dad. But my mom is also first in care for my sister who has schizoaffective disorder – bipolar type; she has two children and lives two blocks from my parents. Since I’m oldest in my family of origin, that leaves me second in care for my dad while he’s going through the transplant, and first in back-up care for my sister and her two children while my dad and mom are going through the transplant.
My husband has an intense corporate job that often requires longer-than-normal work days, occasional work on nights and weekends, and regularly takes him away on business travel.
I’m home this summer with three children. It’s only my second summer home full-time since I became a mom nearly 14 years ago. Our youngest starts kindergarten in 14 months.
I’ve written and thoroughly edited TWO children’s book manuscripts, and have a third roughly drafted. I need to write the series proposal and get it in the hands of a literary agent. After that, I’d like to tackle an adult nonfiction proposal.
I’m EIGHT pounds over my most comfortable weight, and haven’t been able to get the weight off since it first started piling on in January 2015 after my husband’s eye cancer diagnosis. I’m wearing capri leggings every day this summer because I only fit into one of my size 8 drawer full of shorts. And my well went dry last weekend because I haven’t had enough time to replenish my soul these past seven weeks.
The Lord is so wise and graceful with his gifts.
He knows what we need and when we need it.
40-some days ago when I realized my 40th birthday was approaching, my emotions got the best of me. No marathon. No trip to Haiti with my husband. No marking of this momentous occasion. 40 is big to me. If you know me well, you know I’ve been looking forward to 40 forever. I wanted to do something big for my 40th, something special, something to honor who I am and how I want to live the second half of life.
I wondered if there was a way to still pull something off that resonated with my soul. Perhaps a Facebook campaign – 44 days to my 40th birthday – in which I’d collect 440 pair of new underwear for boys and girls at the orphanage in Kenya? Perhaps a party in which we could raise funds for a set of swings and slides for the children at the orphanage?
Creating a new dream out of nowhere was crazy, impossible and possibly stupid. I had a little meltdown on my bed, then headed to the gym with my 4 year old. As I pulled into a parking spot, I looked down at my phone and noticed an email had arrived from wise counsel, someone who has taken at least EIGHT hours solid just listening to me. I hadn’t communicated with this person for a couple months, so she had no reason to communicate with me that morning besides this perfectly-timed gem.
You do not have to look for anything, just look.
You do not have to listen for specific sounds, just listen.
You do not have to accomplish anything, just be.
And in the looking, and the listening, and the being; find Me.
Ann Lewin in Celtic Daily Prayer, Book Two, p 1483
Tears. Just tears.
The timing of the email was impeccable. God was clearly speaking. I didn’t have to do anything momentous or incredibly special for my 40th birthday. I didn’t have to find a way to celebrate and express the unique heart He’s given me for life. I didn’t have to prove to anyone except myself and God that I’m heading into this second half of life with passion, fervor, grace and an open heart for whatever He has planned for me.
I don’t have to work for the world anymore.
His dreams are greater than mine.
His plans are greater than my plans.
He needed me to know this.
My job from here on out is to look, listen, be, and seek Him first.
I know I’ll run a marathon someday.
I know I’ll return to Haiti someday.
I know I’ll return to Kenya.
I pray I’ll go on a mission trip with my husband someday.
I know, without a doubt, that I’m going to keep working on those books.
I know I’m home for a reason, for this season, to help my family.
I know I need to take care of myself.
I know God’s timing is perfect.
I know His gifts are good.
I surrendered two 40th birthday dreams. But God’s filling in the gaps with gifts aplenty.
Time at home with my children this summer.
Time at home so our family has a sense of stability.
Knowing and understanding my husband so our marriage can survive and thrive.
Helping my parents with the CaringBridge and Facebook pages set up for my dad’s upcoming lung transplant.
Being available to help my parents when my dad gets called for the lung transplant.
Being available to help my sister and her two children.
Becoming a Facebook page administrator for the nonprofit, Love For Kenya, with whom I traveled last fall.
A photography partnership with a nonprofit that celebrates babies with Down syndrome.
A divine encounter with the president of MN Teen Challenge who confirmed that my idea would be an “incredible ministry.”
Joining a private writing community on Facebook.
“Yes” to an intense, three-day writing workshop in November 2016.
Two 5Ks instead of that marathon.
A compass from day camp with a message from my four year old. “If you don’t remember where you’re going, then you have that to remember. Okay?”
A perfect ending to the last night I could call myself “39” without lying, including a senior photo shoot, three end-of-season clearance outfits at my favorite store White House Black Market (so I don’t have to wear capri leggings every day this summer), and a beautifully-painted sunset to top it all off.
God’s gifts are good.
He knows what I need.
I’m 40 today.
Bring it, 40, whatever you look like.
A story’s been sitting in my heart. Deep. Within. Crying to be let out for nearly two months now.
A story of FINE.
“How are you?”
“How are you?”
This story of FINE. It’s so old. I’m so over it. So done with the mask of FINE. FINE. FINE.
Let me tell you the real story of FINE. The pervasiveness of FINE that hit home hard when I was in Africa two months ago.
One morning, our group decided we’d walk to the local village. On our way, we passed women doing and drying laundry on stones. We visited the orphans’ school. We prayed for a store owner, and a woman who’d just come from the doctor with significant chest pain. We stopped at the medical clinic, and discovered they were completely out of supplies. A medical clinic without supplies? I was floored. Unthinkable. Not okay.
It began raining.
We didn’t have umbrellas.
We didn’t have cover.
I had my camera along and was rightly concerned it could get destroyed with one swift downpour. I sent Eric, a college-educated teacher and full-time volunteer at the orphanage, with pocket change. He bought me two thin, plastic green bags with Mickey Mouse on front for protection. They worked great.
Before we knew it, we were nearing the church. The children’s church. The church the orphans attend every Sunday. Randy, our trip leader, wanted to show us. Randy wanted us to see this place where earthly FINE becomes gloriously, heavenly FINE.
To our sweet surprise, out called a group of children from the distance.
“How are you?”
“How are you?”
“How are you?”
“How are you?”
“How are you?”
Their “How are you’s” sang in harmony.
Their “How are you’s?” rang true.
Their “How are you’s?” were familiar.
“How are you?”
They were asking us. Truly asking us, “How are you?”
Out came the children from the distance.
Out, out they ran.
Out they came to greet us.
“How are you?”
We thought it was cute. It was. It really was.
They were the most adorable children.
But here’s the thing…it wasn’t so cute as it was a little bit cutting when they started answering their own question, when they started answering OUR questions…
“How are YOU?”
These precious. Adorable. JOYFUL. EXUBERANT. DELIGHTFUL children were “FINE?”
I’m so sorry, sweethearts. I know this is the English you’ve been taught, the English you know to speak to us today, but this is not okay.
You are so much more than FINE. You are AWESOME! You are truly AWESOME. Excellent. Fantastic. SO good.
And so began the downpour I was afraid of.
In we went to the church, along with the whole group of children who’d just greeted us with “FINE.”
It was chill, relaxed.
We waited the rain out.
We gave some hugs.
Laughed. Smiled. Reveled in the moment.
It was more than FINE. It was good. Awesome.
Eric explained the phenomenon of “How are you?” “FINE.” to us later. In most Kenyan schools, children are taught English as standard practice. They are taught to inquire with “How are you?” And they are taught to respond to that question with “FINE.”
I couldn’t believe my ears.
Eric, my dear African brother, was telling me that children in Kenya are taught to say “FINE” in response to the English question “How are you?”
How can this be?
Could it really be that our culture of “FINE” has become so pervasive that it’s crept it’s way ALL the way to a group of JOYFUL children in Africa?
I’m sorry. Maybe I’m off base. Maybe I’m too sensitive. But that’s totally NOT okay.
These children are NOT fine.
They are GOOD. GREAT. EXCELLENT. AWESOME.
Later that week, as a group of us were walking down the long road to the orphanage, I took the opportunity to chat with Eric about this “How are you?” “FINE.” business.
I approached the conversation tenderly and sincerely, but with as much passion as possible. I wanted him to know that “FINE” is not an accurate word choice to describe the HEART CONDITION of most of the children I met in Kenya. I hoped he’d be a change agent for this incredibly incorrect word choice. “FINE” wasn’t Eric’s fault. “FINE” wasn’t any of their faults. It’s what they’ve been taught. Innocently. Completely innocently. How would they ever know?
I explained to Eric that in our American culture, if we say “FINE” in response to the question “How are you?,” it might mean that in reality, we’re doing okay, that we’re surviving, that we’re getting by, that maybe we’re not that great and maybe we’re too busy and too masked to say how we’re really feeling. I explained that in America, “FINE” is a vague way to answer “How are you?” “FINE” is a way to mask the true condition of our hearts. I explained the words they could use to more accurately describe the condition of their lives, the condition of their hearts. If they’re feeling good, “FINE” would be at the absolute bottom of the barrel. GOOD, GREAT, EXCELLENT, and AWESOME would be much better alternatives. Eric smiled and soaked it in. I’m pretty sure he’s acting as a change agent for “FINE” in Kenya, Africa.
Friends, I know I’m edging on preaching here. But we really need to stop it with the “How are you?” “FINE.”
I’m just as guilty as anyone else. “FINE” is my default if I want to tell you my vaguest truth. “FINE.” I’m “FINE.” Yep. “FINE.” Does that work as we pass in the hall? Does that work as we have one minute picking up the kids from volleyball practice? Does that work when we greet each other in the Target checkout lane? Does that work as you’re texting me quick to check in on this or that? Yep. It does.
But truth is, inside I know the truth.
Inside, you know the truth.
Inside, we all know the truth.
Sometimes, we’re NOT FINE.
Okay. Let’s admit it. Sometimes we’re NOT. FINE.
As a solution to this problem, I’d like to propose that we completely eliminate the word “FINE” in response to the question “How are you?”
Can we do that?
Let’s be honest.
Let’s be real.
I’ve been through enough.
I’ve masked enough.
I’ve hid long enough.
I don’t want to be “FINE.”
I don’t like to be “FINE.”
I don’t find any value or reward in telling you I’m “FINE.”
What is “FINE” anyway?
Life as is?
Let’s stop the “FINE.”
It doesn’t mean much of anything to anyone.
Let’s be real, even if we don’t have time to explain the details.
Here are the words we can use instead of FINE…
“How are you?”
“I’m actually doing pretty horrible.”
“I’m feeling like crap today.”
“Sorry, I don’t have words for how I’m feeling today.”
“We’re running low on money and it’s stressing me out.”
“I don’t know.”
“I was feeling like junk this morning, but the fact that you’re asking makes me feel like someone cares.”
“I’m really feeling depressed today. The weather’s getting me down.”
“I need to get out. Wanna grab dinner tonight, or maybe coffee sometime next week?”
“I have no idea what I’m doing.”
“I’m overwhelmed by all that’s going on.”
“I’ve been better. I’d appreciate your prayers.”
“My kid’s giving me trouble, and I don’t know what to do about it.”
“My kid’s giving me trouble, and I feel like a horrible mom.”
“My husband’s requiring a lot of care, and it’s really draining me.”
“Honestly, I can’t do it all anymore.”
“I don’t have a clue.”
OR how about these alternatives…
“How are you?”
“Hey thanks for asking! I’m doing great today. Loving the sunshine and just had a big win at my son’s game.”
“I’m doing pretty well. I was feeling like junk last week, but this week I’m feeling way better.”
“Feeling much better now that I get to see you!”
“Feeling much better now that I’ve been able to workout more.”
“Feeling much better now that I’m skipping those daily doughnuts.”
“Better than I’ve ever been.”
“I’m great. So glad to be here!”
“Feeling super chill right now.”
“Excellent. This is incredibly relaxing.”
“Thanks for asking! It’s been way too long since I’ve seen you. When can we catch up?”
“Good question. It’s been a rough couple of weeks, but I’ve worked my way through it and I’m through to the other side now.”
“It’s been an awesome day! Can’t wait for tonight!”
“I haven’t felt this good in a long time.”
“I’m great! Every day’s a good day!”
Let’s be authentic. Let’s be real. Let’s stop saying we’re “FINE” when in reality, there’s so much more to the story. Let’s be change agents HERE, so when they learn English THERE, “How are you?” “FINE” will be no more.
“…all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.” –Psalm 139:16
I’ve already published 10 posts about my trip to Africa. Technically, the series is complete. But my heart knows you haven’t heard the whole story.
I’ve been holding a lot inside, handling memories tenderly, delicately and dear. I’ve been debating and waiting to discern what to share and what to guard close – for me, for my heart, for God, for always.
Africa. So many untold stories.
Africa. So much of my heart.
Africa. So NOT a passing phase or craze.
Africa. The place I found peace that passes understanding.
May I be so bold to say…
Africa. A homeland for my heart.
I was called so long ago, I don’t recall when or why I ever wanted to go to Africa in the first place. He knew. He ordained those days, these days, with wildfire in His belly, with a passion and love so beautiful. He waited this long, then brought me to and through this fast, then wrestled me to the ground this deep, then expanded my heart so big it wanted to jump out and flood all over the place.
My heart, it cries long and deep and wide, WHY?
Why this great love, this great peace, this great purpose and place?
Why so far?
Why must they be there, and I be here?
Why attach me, God, then pull me away?
Why the love?
Why the loss?
Why split my heart between here and there?
How are you going to take this heart, so full of love for Africa, and reconcile it with a heart so full of love for family and my grounding place in America?
How will you reconcile this, God?
How in the world are you going to do this, and where in the world are you going to take this next, God?
I’m not angry, God.
I’m rejoicing and mourning simultaneously.
How God, can this be?
Thank you, God.
Thank you for this, this Africa place.
Thank you for William. And Juma. My boys. My heart. What to do, God? What to do? For red shirts and orange flip flops, for long walks holding hands down the dirt road, for a head on my heart and a prayer request I can’t answer, for a hug so long and so big my heart wants to pop open, God. Oh why, God? The love so deep. The mourning so deep. When, God? When will I see them again?
Thank you for the mid-night revelation. For things only you needed me to see, only you needed me to hear. You are so loving, God. Thank you. For only a God who knows me most intimately would wake me mid-night in tears, in Africa, to resolve this pain, this unknown matter of the heart there’s only one answer to. Thank you for the words I needed to hear, the words I needed to write, the words I needed to remember, the words I needed now, the words I needed a long time coming. I understand WHY you brought me to Africa. My heart knows. My heart has peace. Thank you for a beautiful heart revelation.
Thank you for the day I felt more loved and beautiful than I had in a very long time. Thank you again for the mid-night revelation that allowed me to feel so.
Thank you for rain, pouring rain. Thank you for a preacher who preached it when I needed it. Thank you for letting me stand out there, soaking wet and not caring for a second. Thank you for forcing my guard down. Thank you for a hand to hold. Thank you for making me weak. Thank you for sitting me among orphans. Oh God, that was so good.
Thank you for sending prayers over me. Prayers I didn’t know I needed. Prayers I knew I needed but never knew how to ask for. Prayers so powerful I could feel your presence and release right there, right then, right now. Prayers I didn’t think I deserved. Prayers.
Thank you for that worship, that tender place where I was invited in, yet again, with the orphans. Thank you for frailty, for breaking me, for bringing me to a place of nothingness and absolutely everything all at once. Thank you for stripping my pride. Thank you for drawing me in and reminding me who I am. Thank you for singing over me in song I understand.
Thank you for a woman who showed me friendship, for going deep in seconds, for jumping the gun with wild abandon. “I like you,” she said, just minutes into our conversation. You saw, God. You saw. You know what I like. You know what I need. Thank you for showing me what my heart has been longing for. Thank you for putting it out there so there was never a doubt. Thank you for held hands and “smart” shoes. Thank you for verifying and double verifying your plans for me. Thank you for revealing your heart for me and women around the globe.
Thank you for fireflies in the field.
Thank you for prompting me to bring that coral dress, that coral sweatshirt, and that white wrap right before closing that last bag at home. Thank you for prompting me to pray over those clothes that last night at the orphanage. Thank you for sending the girl whose clothing it’d be, the random girl on the long dirt road between sides of the orphanage. She wasn’t from the orphanage, I’d never seen her, but I knew, YOU knew, God, she was the one. You saved that dress, those clothes all week for HER. She skipped with joy and I’ll never see her again. But you, God. Oh you. You saw. You knew her heart would leap. Thank you, God. This gift, it’s too good, so good.
Thank you, God, for drawing my attention to the hut between the two sides of the orphanage. Thank you for drawing that little girl with Down syndrome to me. Thank you for confirming, yet again, that my intuition, my gut can be trusted. Someone important was there, someone important is there, someone extra special’s there. Bring me back, God. Bring me back so I can talk to her, so I can see her again. Bring me back so I enter in, see what she loves, see what she does, see who loves her much.
Thank you, God, for Karen and Helen, for John who loves Jesus, and Godwill’s example of faith and trust.
Thank you for shoes. Thank you for providing funds before the need became apparent and pressed, pressed, pressed on my heart. Thank you for Jodi’s donation of shoes, shoes and more shoes. Thank you for another walk down that long dirt road with those old orange shoes. Thank you for showing me you’d had enough of those old shoes, God. He couldn’t walk a second longer. He had to take that one off, God. He couldn’t. You couldn’t do it anymore. Not one more step in those shoes. Thank you, God, for showing me with 100% certainty that your heart was my heart. Thank you, God, for socks and underwear, for dignity for girls in poverty, for revealing your heart to me TIME and TIME and TIME and TIME again. “I needed clothes and you clothed me…” God, thank you for making yourself oh so clear. You press and you press, and you press and press again. The gentleness and beauty with which you reveal your plans has not gone unnoticed, God. May I be your hands and feet.
Thank you for the ride back to the airport, for the silence, the music, the warmth, peace and love, the tender last grip of Shangilia, Kenya, Africa. Thank you for the song that’s on replay, the song that reminds me of the peace I felt, the place I found.
Thank you, God, for baby wipes in the airport. Thank you for tears unhinged, unbridled, unmanaged. Thank you for words whispered softly to my heart as I wiped the week’s dirt away….”I’ll never remove the Africa stain from your heart.” Never. You said never. I trust you, God. I believe you. I know it’s true.
Thank you for answering prayers for peace. Thank you for peace that passed all understanding. Thank you for bringing me to a place where I felt more comfortable and centered in my own skin than I’d ever before. Thank you for that, God. I needed to know what that felt like. It was so good, God. Thank you. Thank you for helping me acknowledge my peace out loud to three at the table. Thank you for helping me recognize peace when I felt it. Thank you and please bring a piece of that peace here, would you God?
Thank you, God, for the stories left untold. Thank you for the nearest and the dearest. Thank you for piecing things together, for revealing your truth in subtle, beautiful and bold ways. Thank you for showing me your heart. Thank you for opening my heart. Thank you for reaching across the divide. Thank you for standing with me, knowing me, understanding me, being still with me, serving me and protecting me. Thank you, God, for answered prayers. Thank you, God, for Africa.
This blog post is part of a series I’m writing about my journey to Kenya, Africa, with the nonprofit organization, Love for Kenya, in the fall of 2015. Click here and you’ll be directed to the landing page where you can read ALL the posts from the series. If you haven’t already, read the post I wrote when I announced the trip. Otherwise, scroll to the bottom and you’ll find ALL the Kenya posts listed and linked for your reading enjoyment. Thanks for joining the journey, friends.
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