Tag Archives: Fear

Perfect Love

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Sitting in a plastic chair trying not to think too much. Hospitals, pain, the unknown—sometimes I feel myself consumed by fear. I was barely showing but many of the ladies around me had huge bellies, and I thought to myself, “can I really do this.”

Fear—it’s no joke. Pain is hard to ignore. The unknown—how do you prepare when you don’t know what to prepare for?

But, as I sat there trying not to think too much the words—perfect love casts out fear popped into my head. Perfect love—love the opposite of fear.

Fear tears down.

Love heals.

Fear destroys.

Love creates.

Love gives confidence.

Fear debilitates.

It’s as simple as that.

“There is no fear in love.” 1 John 4:18 says. “But perfect love drives out fear.”

So that’s the answer. Not as much a change of circumstances, but a change of perspective—a change of attitude. The unknown, the pain, the reality of the future is still as real as it was yesterday but today, this year, this moment I want to choose love. I’m tired of being consumed by fear and things that I can’t change. This year I choose to let love get me through. Perfect love, the love of the Father. The love we can only know because He first loved us.

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Filed under Contemplations, Parenting

Take This Cup

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It’s been three weeks of teaching. Something I both love and hate. I love the chance to talk to a group of kids, telling them that they matter and that God loves them. He cares for all of their worries and sees all of their struggles.

But, I dread it. Every week I dread it so much that I can’t think about it for too long before I go or my nerves take over. I hate standing in front of a group and speaking. I feel vulnerable, small, and shaky. I’m not a natural speaker. I’m not a gifted presenter. My comfort zone is pen and paper. There my soul feels free and alive. In front of a crowd my tongue feels tied and mentally I count the minutes until I can sit down again and breath.

To get me through my natural feelings of inadequacy, it has taken a lot of prayer and an intense focus on the Bible story I’m sharing. Each story so far has included a child in some way. I want to show the class of 4th to 8th graders that I have been given the privilege to speak to that they are never too young, to small, or to weak to be used by God.

Last week focused on the widow and her two sons whose story is found in 2 Kings chapter 4.They were desperate with more debt then they could pay. They cried out to God for a solution. I told the row of intent faces sitting in front of me that the story illustrated that no situation is too difficult for God. Following the prophet Elisha’s direction, the widow and her two sons went from house to house collecting jars. Then, as they poured their small cup of oil into the jars that they had collected, God multiplied that cup of oil which they then sold to pay their debts. I told the kids that often God asks us to put feet to our prayers. The money they needed didn’t just fall from the sky, but God provided an opportunity for them and when they followed in faith and obedience their need was met. “God used the little that the widow had,” I told the kids. “It was just a small amount of oil, but from that He multiplied and multiplied. We should expect big things from God,” I concluded. “He can take our little bit, our small lives, our cup of oil and do great things.”

Thankful that the lesson had filled my allotted time I sat down and took a deep breath. God had gotten me through another week. But, God wasn’t done. He took the little that I had and multiplied it. My co-teacher jumped in. He saw the theme that no one is too young or too small to make a difference and ran with it giving a passionate speech about how God wanted to work in each of their lives. By the end of the class time (which had now run overtime) the majority of the class had gathered up front expressing a desire to have a personal relationship with Christ.

God was moving, and to be honest, I was stunned to be apart of it. So we prayed together and then my co-teacher invited those who had prayed to come back later in the day for more a more in-depth talk. I walked away from that classroom amazed, and yet I really shouldn’t have been. God had taken the little cup of oil that I had to offer and multiplied it. Why was I so surprised? Just as I told the class, we should expect big things from God. He moves in His timing and His ways, but He moves. He takes that small bit that we have to offer and when we walk in obedience, and He multiplies it. To God be the glory.

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Stillness of the Soul

Two three day weekends (thanks to a UK holiday followed by a US holiday) and a delay in the lovely process of bureaucracy has resulted in me landing in Kenya three days ago while my fiancé waits in London for his passport to be returned. The good news is that the visa was approved, but the visa process and waiting for the passport to be available for collection has been a bit of a patience game.

So, plans to jump right into ministry have been delayed; and instead I’m enjoying the hospitality of friends who run a children’s home near Nairobi while I wait. I must admit that the American side of me finds having no schedule, no job, and no responsibilities a bit disconcerting. I’m in limbo, unable to plan, unable to fill my day with things that keep me from having to stop and honesty look at my life.

Sometimes the stillness scares me.

It’s ok for a day or two. I’ve repacked my luggage twice, spent time playing with some of the kids, and have even been able to get some wedding planning done. But, as everyone else has schedules and responsibilities; I currently have none so I spend the majority of my day alone.

Today I read Henri Nouwen’s The Way of the Heart. Eighty-four pages of pure wisdom. I felt convicted, encouraged, challenged, and feed all at the same time. This slim book somehow manages to unwrap the purpose of solitude in such a simple, beautiful way that it’s hard as a reader not to be changed by its profound counter-cultural message. Stop and be still.

But we’re afraid of the stillness.

It’s easy to see busyness as a good thing, but Nouwen shows that a certain amount of silence is essential to one’s spiritual life. Yes, we may fear the silence; but we need it in order to truly understand God. “We move through life in such a distracted way,” Nouwen writes, “that we do not even take the time and rest to wonder if any of the things we think, say, or do are worth thinking, saying, or doing.”

“Solitude is the furnace of transformation,” Nouwen argues. “Without solitude we remain victims of our society and continue to be entangled in the illusion of the false self… In solitude I get rid of my scaffolding: no friends to talk with, no telephone calls to make, no meetings to attend, no music to entertain, no books to distract, just me—naked, vulnerable, weak, sinful, deprived, broken,—nothing. It is this nothingness so dreadful that everything in me wants to run to my friends, my work, and my distractions so that I can forget my nothingness and make myself believe that I am worth something.”

When it’s all stripped away—when it’s just you and God—it’s easy to see how small you are, how sinful, how, broken. But, as unpleasant as it is to be stripped of the props that we cling to in order to provide routine in our lives; it’s mind-blowing to experience that—while God is a God of order—He is not a God of routine. He has more in store then just the comfortable. He’s not interested in our busyness. He is interested in our soul, in a relationship, in more then what tradition and culture have to offer.

So I’m taking some time to stop—to ignore the nagging feeling that I must go out and do something. Time to stop and evaluate myself, my heart, my motives. It is scary because I don’t always like what I find when in the stillness I stare into the brokenness of my soul, but as Nouwen so insightfully points out solitude is the furnace of transformation. The silence allows God to shape the soul into what He wants it to be. A painful process, but one that produces eternal result. A process that transforms one from doing for the sake of doing to—being, existing, feeling life, and finding true purpose.

Be still my soul

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Reactions

Hardly anything surprises me any more—not finding two bones in my slice of chicken pizza, not the fact that the lady in front of me on the bus is holding a bag with a live chicken’s head popping out of it, not the feeling when the bus we’re in slides completely sideways in the mud as we drive up the mountain. Things like that used  to cause a reaction, but now I barely blink. This is Kenya, you just have to go with it. Like when you’re told you are getting two four year-old girls and two six year old girls come instead. You just stick the clothes that you had pulled out for them back and try to find some new ones. Or, when you realize that you ruined the days milk supply by adding some old milk (which had apparently soured over night) to the new milk oops! Some day we’ll get electricity and then a fridge. When that happens, you just head to the duka (shop) to buy more and then realize when you get there that you should have brought a container with to carry the milk home in. Fortunately, the shopkeeper let me borrow his.

Life is eventful. Like on New Years when we waited for over an hour and a half for the bus that was hired to come and pick us up to attend some New Years field events in a town about an hour away only to find that the bus was stuck in the mud about a half a mile away. So, I grabbed a stack of baby wipes, changed shoes, and our small tribe headed down the road to help push the bus out of the mud. We finally arrived (a little muddy) and just as the majority of the games were finishing, but what is life without a little excitement.

Sometimes a healthy dose of excitement turns into too much, and I end up asking God “why,” and “how in the world do I handle all of this.” Like tonight when one of our boys flipped out over something small and punched his brother—hard. I separated them, sat on the floor in front of the door to the boy’s common area so that he was contained, and tried to talk to him while he screamed in Kykuyu. After about 45 minutes, he finally calmed down. I rubbed his back, told him that I loved him, and prayed one of those desperate “God, help” prayers. By devotions he had finally clamed down, and by bed time he had almost returned to his smiling self.

It’s during those moments that I’m reminded that the kids I help take care of aren’t exactly normal kids. They all have painful pasts, come from broken families, and sometimes don’t have the words to express what is hurting them. Sometimes they over react, get angry over something small, or cry for no apparent reason. I’m not a perfect parent. We’re not a perfect family, but God works even through our brokenness, and His perfect love always shine through.

I’ve been reminded of that so much this week as our kids welcomed their two newest sisters to our family. The transition has been amazingly smooth. No tears, only smiles hugs and laughter as Elizabeth and Ruthie have been taking in their new surroundings and enjoying playing with their new siblings. Yesterday as I was mixing up a pineapple upside down cake for John’s birthday. Ruthie came in the kitchen, ran straight at me, and gave me a huge hug. I just held her and thanked God for smooth transitions. It’s amazing what just a little bit of love can do in a child’s life.

About 15 minutes later our elderly neighbor came over to get her daily jug of milk and lectured me in Kiswahili about how I hold the children too much. I smiled inside and hugged Michelle just a little bit tighter as she rested her head on my shoulder. I don’t think there is such a thing as too much love. Some days these kids from broken homes just want to be held, and I’m happy to do just that.

So far 2014 (all two days of it) has been a year of surprises good and bad. I’m learning to react and take each situation and surprise as it comes. It’s a messy, confusing, heartbreaking, scary life at times, but I’ll take it. I’ll take it because God is moving in these kids lives, and it is a beautiful thing just being involved in that.

Richelle with one of our newest girls Elizabeth

On top Richelle with one of our newest girls Elizabeth and our other new girl Ruthie on the bottom

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Since writing this blog. My small world has been shattered. Yesterday we had to give up two of our children and return them to their biological relatives who suddenly demanded them back. Sometimes you love so much that it hurts. Yesterday was one of those days. I feel helpless, and my heart hurts so much that I can’t wrap my mind around what happened. It this point as a family we are surviving but very shaken, so a blog of those evens will have to wait for another day. In the mean time everyone at Abba’s House would appreciate your prayers.

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Kingdom Work

I sat on the floor surrounded by purple walls covered in calk—drawings, encouraging words, scripture verses. It was my first week in Kenya and everything felt so right. We talked, prayed, and then a girl I’d just met read me like a book.

“I see you being a constant person in these kids lives,” she told me. “Meeting them at the door when they come home from school and creating a journal for them with a section for each child a book that will really encourage them later in life” I smiled because as a writer I liked the idea of that project and as soon as I arrive at the children’s home I know that it was the place where God wanted me to be. I had done a lot of different things in life, but now I was more than ready to be that constant person for these kids who had had so many traumatic experiences in life.

Her next words blew me away. “Don’t be afraid to ask for help,” she said. “Whether that be financial or just help with something small through out the day. It’s all kingdom work.” Her words blew me away because they cut past my calm exterior and broke me open revealing one of my greatest insecurities—asking for help. I hate asking for help I don’t know if it’s pride (I can do this on my own) or insecurity (I don’t think I deserve people’s support). It’s probably a mix of both. I don’t know, but what I do know is that one of my greatest struggles is asking for help. Maybe I try to do it on my own because I’m afraid of rejection if I ask for help and no one responds. Maybe I try to do things on my own because I feel an unwritten responsibility to solve the words problems. Irrational I know, but aren’t most fears irrational?

What I do know is that I do need help. I can’t do this on my own because the work that God has called me to do is so much bigger than myself. It takes a body. Whether that be the day to day work of taking care of 17 kids or the financial strain of taking four kids to the dentist in one week when only one out of those four kids is financially sponsored. You don’t tell the other three kids, “Sorry you can’t get your teeth fixed your not fully sponsored.” You just take them to the dentist and pray that God will provide. He does provide, and He usually provides through people because He wants to use His children. He wants them to be blessed by become apart of something greater than themselves. It’s a beautiful thing, yet scary at times when your bank account starts to get really skinny.

I’ve added a Support Me in Kenya link to the top of this blog because I do need help, and I want to allow those who God calls to help to be able to support me. I don’t even like to talk about money, but God has been teaching me to do things that I don’t like in order to serve a greater good. Thank you for those who have supported me. You really are doing kingdom work as every day I am blessed by being able to see the kids at Abba’s House live changed lives. It’s rewarding, and it’s a beautiful thing to be able to extend this rewarding experience to others as well. Thank you for investing in His kingdom.

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It Could Have Been Me

I wasn’t in Westgate Mall when terrorists took over the building, but I could have been. It’s my favorite mall. The one I usually go to whenever I am in Nairobi. I love its global feel. I love the free wifi at Arts Café (my happy place). I love the posh atmosphere. After spending time in Kenya’s more rural mountains, Westgate is always a little piece of paradise.

The last time I was there I ate spinach ricotta lasagna. It was heavenly, the first real cheese I’d eaten in three months. I caught up on emails, watched the adorable little Indian girls sitting at the table next to mine, and soaked in the buzz of life happening around me. I went to Nakumat and bought chocolate bars for my co-worker, Alyssa, as a peace offering for leaving her to take care of the kids while Ruthann and I went into the capital to take care of visa issues. I bought cute little toothbrush holders for the kids and wandered the supermarket aisles feeling like I was back in the US wandering the aisles of Target.

When I think of Westgate I think of culture, beauty, mango smoothies, family outings, and movie theaters. Now I’ll always think of grenades, gunshots, children screaming, and people jumping from the upper floors in order to get away from the terror.

I can’t wrap my mind around the thought of all those families trapped in the mall—a simple family outing turned into a tragic nightmare. What is the point of attacking a mall, killing children, and destroying a place a peace? It’s been four days now. We are still waiting to hear how it is all going to end. Every time I read an article about what is going on at Westgate the death count is higher.

What if it had been me sitting there enjoying my spinach ricotta lasagna when the gunshots started? What if it had been me when they asked the hostages to recite an Islamic prayer or be shot? What if it had been me taking one of the kids from the children’s home where I work on a special treat into town? I can’t imagine being unable to protect my child from terrorists with grenades and guns. I can’t imagine how those mother’s felt last Saturday when they had to live through hell.

What kind of person targets a mall? What kind of person attacks children simply going about their day? It’s heartbreaking. Yes, they created terror but for what? It’s sickening just to think about it.

If it had been me, I pray I would have been strong—strong enough to forgive such evil, strong enough to help those weaker than myself. But, it wasn’t me. I’m here safe in my rural mountain home away from the chaos, away from the pain of hundreds of families aching for their loved ones. But, I am not untouched even here far away from it all. My heart hurts for Kenya, for the injured, for those planning funerals, for those whose memories are forever scarred by choosing the wrong day to go to the mall.

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Filed under Contemplations, Grief, Kenya, Travel