Tag Archives: Pain

You Wreck Me

Every time I think I have it figured out—

You wreck me.

God, every time I think this is it,

The wind whips in and flips the stableness into 62 different directions.

So I stand—teetering—balanced on my toes with my arms stretched out in the air

Groping for truth,

Groping for stability.

Teach me Father

For I try to do this on my own

And I feel myself falling.

Hold me God for you are the only stable thing in this life.

I slowly lower myself back on the ground.

The shaking starts to subside.

My pounding heart begins to quiet.

 

I’m here God

 

In spite of it all.

In spite of people and their opinions.

In spite of people’s expectations.

 

I’m here God

 

In spite of the crazy, chaotic, the unknown.

Hold me Father

In your steady, stable hands.

You’re all I need.

 

I wrote this a little over a month ago, but it’s been the theme of my life this month. So many changes that I’m not sure where to begin. So much that I’ve had to let go of and give to God. But, I’m here wrapped in God’s presence, thankful for this last year, and hopeful for God’s future plans

The children’s home where I have worked for the last 10 months is now being completely Kenyan run. I’ve said bye to the kids, and in ten days I’ll be back on US soil. I’ve had such an incredible year here in Kenya that I’m almost not sure how to return “home.” I’m excited to see family and friends but not sure how much reverse culture shock is going to happen when I step off the plane. Life here is so simple. I feel so close to God here. I’ve learned so much. I’ve changed. I’ve grown.

Of course I’m looking forward to hot showers, tacos, catching up on the last season of Psych, and turning on a light switch whenever I want to. But, I already miss the kids. I already miss the feeling of riding on the back of a motorbike with the wind whipping through my hair. I already miss the ladies who work at the supermarket. They would tease me about getting lost if I missed coming into town on a Tuesday and would make me order my food from the café in Kiswahili even though I sounded like a two year old. I haven’t even left the country, and I already miss it so much.

I do plan to return to Kenya in the fall although, I’m currently praying about different ministry opportunities. I know that God has a plan, so I’m trusting Him to show that to me in His perfect timing. In the meantime, I’m spending a couple days in Mombassa processing everything and enjoying some time on the beach. Then I’ll be packing and on a plane before I know what happened.

So many things have happened this year that it would be impossible to fit it all into one blog. I made a short video (which I will post below) of some of my favorite picture just to capture some of the memories from my time here at the children’s home. As this door closes I’m lingering a bit in the shadow almost ready to take the next step, but already missing what I’m leaving behind.

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It Hurts to Love this Deeply

I woke up the next morning with a throbbing toe. That’s when I realized that I had kicked some of the loose rocks in the driveway a lot harder than I thought I had. I was heading to town when he called. “You have to let them go,” he told me.

Let them go! How do you “let go” of two of your kids? How do you go from kissing them goodnight, braiding their hair, and helping them with their homework to possibly never seeing them again? God, I’m just not strong enough for this.

We’d made an exception when a mother with a paralyzed husband begged us to take her youngest daughter along with her granddaughter who was being raised by a single mother with epilepsy. We don’t normally take children with parents at the children’s home where I work, but in this case Pastor Simon had made an exception. An exception that was now causing all of us a lot of pain.

A year later the mother changed her mind. She wanted the two girls back. She didn’t like the fact that she couldn’t come and take the girls whenever she wanted to. She was threatening to cause trouble if we didn’t return them that week so that they could start school where she lived. That’s when I realized that it’s possible to love someone so much that it hurts.

I wanted to fight. Take it to the courts. Legally the children were under our guardianship, and I didn’t want them to go back to a home where they wouldn’t be taken care of like they had been over the last year. But, the decision was not mine and while everything in me wanted to fight it deep in my heart I knew that a judge would end up rewarding the children back to their biological relatives, so was it best to go down that road?

I felt like a robot packing a backpack for Esther while Richelle packed one for Michelle. Their toothbrushes, dolls, jump rope, shoes, and clothes. This was it. Our family was being split apart. I tried to hold it together for the other kids , but I wasn’t doing a very good job. I love my girls. Sometimes when I would be cooking breakfast on a Saturday morning Michelle (who is usually very independent) would come up to me, jump into my arms and hold on to me like her life depended on it. Esther is not much of a cuddler, but when we walked down the road she loved to hold my hand and when I’d tell her that I loved her she would always flash me one of her beautiful, bright smiles. I loved her giggly laugh, her cute cubby checks, and her sweet personality. When I told her that her mom wanted her to come and live with her again her eyes immediately filled with tears, and then she got very quiet. The brightness in her eyes disappeared and was replaced with a vacant stare. How do you explain to a child that you have no control in some situations? How do you say goodbye to one of your children knowing that if you do ever see them again everything will be different. They belong to someone else now. My mind still can’t fathom that.

I cried a lot—confused, desperate, angry tears. I felt numb, powerless, and broken as I watched the car drive away. “I’ll come back when it’s over,” Michelle had said quoting a line from “The Call” one of her favorite songs.

“I hope so,” Richelle had told her.

“What is hope,” she asked.

“I want you to,” Richelle said.

Ruthann had the hard job of riding with the girls and Pastor Simon to give them back to their relatives, and then it was over. At least as over as something like that can be.

I sat with little Kevin and held him as he cried over the loss of his sisters. Later, I sat with my arm around Niko when I found him sitting on the edge of the driveway in tears. I had no words, no answers, nothing to give but my presence and at that moment it didn’t feel like enough. The rest of the day is a blur.

One of our older boys gave me a pep talk about how God sees everything and knows everything. “I know,” I told him, “But, I’ll never see them I again.”

“Two mountains never meet,” he replied, “but people, people will meet again.”

Maybe we will meet again. I have no guarantee but maybe. In the meantime we are all still praying for God to get us through this, to hold us, to bring some good from this heartache. He sees. He knows even when we don’t. That doesn’t lessen the pain, but as least it is a whisper of hope. Right now, by God’s grace, we’re surviving one day at a time. Sometimes people think that working in a children’s home in Africa is some kind of romantic adventure full of wet kisses and fun little adventures. Some days that is true, but other days it just plain hurts. It hurts to love this deeply.

My beautiful Esther

My beautiful Esther

My precious baby girl Michelle

My precious baby girl Michelle

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Some Days it Just Hurts

Nothing is normal about our family of seventeen kids, three “aunties”, one “uncle”, a cat, two Germany Shepard’s and puppies on the way. We had to say goodbye to our uncle this week as Jeremy returned to the US. Goodbyes are never easy, but they are even harder for a child who has seen too many people in their life come and go. But God calls different people to come for different amounts of time. As hard as it is for the kids to say goodbye, it is beautiful to see that even though goodbyes get messy (literally) with tears, wailing, and snotty noses. It means that the kids have opened up their hearts and let in love—a risky thing to do when you’ve been abandoned, abused, and neglected.

I start to feel physically sick when I think about having to say goodbye to these kids in May even though I’ll only be gone for a short time. They have wrapped their fingers so tightly around my heart that it hurts to think about being separated from them even if it is only for a couple of months. But, I miss my family too. I can’t wait to go home for a visit to catch up with friends and  to spend time with the people I love in the US. I just wish there was a way to be in both places at once. When I booked a plane ticket back to the US, I didn’t realize at the time that I would be leaving on Charity’s birthday. Charity, the one who sobbed when I took a weekend trip to Uganda and begged me not to go. The one whose eyes teared up yesterday when Richelle asked me what time I was leaving in the morning (she was asking about my trip into town to buy school shoes for the boys). Charity panicked for a second thinking I was leaving, leaving.

God help me. As much as I love my family and can’t wait to see them, I don’t know how I’m going to have the emotional strength to do this. I love these kids even with their off key singing, mood swings, and muddy shoes. We’re a family. An odd family, but a family still and every day I thank God that He has allowed me to be apart of helping raise these kids. Some day in heaven there will be no more heart wrenching goodbyes. God will wipe our tears and our snotty noses and all the pain will dissolve into joy. That will be a beautiful day. Until then, we have to survive this emotional rollercoaster of life; and get used to the fact that our hearts will often be left in multiple places. But, as hard as goodbyes are they show that love exists. If you never had to say goodbye it would mean that you never met anyone new or that you never traveled outside of your own small world. Yes, goodbyes hurt; but I’ll take the heartaches along with the adventure.

I don’t want to stay so safe and protected that I become stagnant. I want our kids to know that God brings you through the hurt of goodbye and adds new people and experiences to every day He gives you. It hurts, but it heals, and until we reach our final home in heaven goodbyes are going to have to be apart of this process we call life.

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Grass Circle Therapy

We sat on the grass circle in the middle of our driveway braiding hair and soaking in the warm Kenyan sun. I worked on one of the little girl’s hair while the older girls took turns braiding each other.

“Sometimes in the camps we used to not eat lunch until 4 pm,” Zippi said completely out of the blue. We’d been talking that week as a team about trying to help the kids work through problems from their past, so when this window opened I ran with it.

“How many meals a day did you receive? What type of food did you eat? How many people did the food feed,” I asked. As Zippi and I talk her brother John suddenly chimed in “My mom tried to leave me in a sewer,” he said. His ten year old eyes looked hurt and distant. “She was not a good mom.”

We kept talking. John in Swahili. Zippi in English. Zippi told the story of how when there had not been enough food in the house her mom had threatened to feed them kerosene. That’s when her aunt took her and her brother away from their mom, she said. Sadly, her youngest sister stayed with her mom. Zippi vowed to one day find her.

We talked about healing. We talked about God’s protection. We talked about how going through hard times grows you and lets you comfort others. We talked about not judging someone who has hurt you but letting God judge them, and as we sat on that grass circle I thanked God for the opportunity to see a small piece of my kids begin to heal.

I don’t have nightmares at night, John does. I don’t know what it’s like to be abused by a relative or to have to work all day cooking and cleaning then staying up late at night just to get your homework done. Zippi knows what that feels like. I don’t know what it feels like to be abandon, uncared for, or neglected; but I am happy that our kids are here now safe and loved.

“I was so excited the night before I came here that I didn’t sleep the whole night,” Zippi told me the other day. They’re here now. They’re safe. They’re loved and free to just be kids. Thank you to everyone who has supported me so that I can be here for them whenever the kids decide to share their stories. Thank you to everyone who helps support a child at Abba’s House. You are changing lives, shaping hearts, and allowing them to become the people God created them to be—loved, chosen, accepted and whole.

John enjoying the grass circle

John enjoying the grass circle

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The Absence of your Presence

A tree planted in Kenya in memory of Alice Mbugua

A tree planted in Kenya in memory of Alice Mbugua

Today marked a year. A year without someone I truly cared about, a year wishing she was still here while knowing that it is impossible to go back. I remember last year right before Valentine’s Day. I was driving down the road and started thinking about the single women I knew whose lives I admired. Alice’s name was the first name to pop into my head. She always seemed willing to try new things. She brought a sense of joy and an honest love for humanity with her where ever she went. I don’t ever remember hearing her complain about life. She just experiencing life adding a special charm and polish where ever she went. As I was driving that week of Valentine’s day, I remember thinking that I should email Alice just to let her know how much I appreciated her and how she lived each day. I never sent that email. The following Sunday a sudden cerebral hemorrhage took her life.

Today I did my best to cook Kenyan food something we used to enjoy doing together. But, as I attempted sukuma wikie and chapattis, I was reminded just how much I still don’t know. I used to help cut up the ingredients, roll out dough, and just help where needed. Alice was the mastermind who made it all come together. This time it was just me.

Food has a way of being a comfortable familiar even when it doesn’t come out exactly like you hoped it would. But, at the end of the day my attempt was more about honoring a memory then it was about the actual food, and in that sense the endeavor was successful. Alice, I still miss you. Even though you are in a place of perfect happiness the world still feels the absence of your beautiful presence.

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The Rest Are Just Curious

“Be careful who you open up to” the quote read. “Only a few people actually care, the rest are just curious.” An interesting thought. I’ve certainly felt that way when someone seems to know what I ate for supper, or where I was when, but can’t remember my name or thinks I am still in high school. A lot of times, in a small town, it feels like people know about you, where you live, who you’re related to, sometimes even what you do for a living. But, it is crazy how few people actually know who you really are, what you’re passionate about, how you see the world when the noise finally stops, and it is just you and your thoughts.

I am glad I have a job where I get to interview people, mostly local artists. Those interviews are my favorite part of writing for a newspaper. I love to find out what makes someone feel alive. Why they do what they do, how they got started, what makes their craft or hobby uniquely them. Questions like that often let you see a glimpse of someone’s soul. This fascination is also why I love blogging. With blogging, yes, you have the freedom and a platform to write about what makes you tick, but the most inspiring part is reading about other people’s passions and feelings and getting to live a slice of their journey with them.

Maybe some people do just want to know things for the sake of idle curiosity, but I believe there is more than just that. Yes, it is good to have levels of friendship and to know what information is appropriate to share and what is not (don’t post everything you think on facebook people), but there is a certain beauty in vulnerability. When someone writes or shares something in an honest, heartfelt way it draws more than just curiosity, it makes people care alongside with you. Like a blog post written by a mother who found out in the delivery room that her daughter was born with down syndrome. Reading about her struggle with intense grief and joy, pain and strength made me want to go and hug both her and her precious little girl.

It’s good to care, and even though it can be painful, it’s good to feel. Opening up is scary. Taking what is closest to your heart and holding it out to an unstable world is definitely risky, but often taking that risk can be a source of strength because other people, who have walked a similar road, will care.

While many people are just curious, I think more people care than one would think; and if people were more willing to be open and create safe environments for other people to be open, it could be a beautiful thing. There are dark spots in life and some very rough patches to get through. I know. This last year I’ve dealt with depression and more stress and anxiety than I care to relieve, but if you see me and ask how I’m doing I’ll say fine not because I am but because that is the culturally appropriate answer. I am great at turning conversations around so they focus on the other person and not on me. What this culture desperately, desperately needs is a safe community. A place were it’s ok not to be fine all of the time.  No one should feel like they have to walk through pain or depression alone. Take a risk. Be yourself. Open up and share your passions, dreams, and even some of the pain. Some people may just be curious, but others might just join you on your imperfect journey.

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Beautifully Painful

During the recent Hunger Games movie craze I talked my dad into going to the movies with me not to watch the Hunger Games but to see October Baby. I had planned to go with a friend but due to some bad planning on my part it didn’t work out, and at the last minute my dad graciously agreed to go with.

I’m the kind of person who believes that watching movies should be a shared experience. On occasion, I’ll watch one by myself, but generally I want to talk about what’s going on, and if you talk to yourself people tend to give you strange looks. I have a bad tendency of talking during movies usually asking questions and occasionally threatening to throw a pillow at the screen if a character becomes particularly aggravating. My older brother and one of my friends from college hate watching movies with me because of my tendency to ask questions. “I don’t know what’s going on either,” my brother will say. “I’m watching this for the first time too. Stop talking and just watch the movie.” I’ll be quite for about five minutes before blurting out “What did he do that for.”

My favorite movies tell a good story preferably one based on a true story like Miss Potter or The Pursuit of Happyness. Although with true stories, I tend to get so interested in the person’s life  that I start reading up on them and often end up disappointed when I find that my favorite part from the movie never actually happened.

But back to October Baby. It was an extremely well done movie and what piqued my interest was the fact that the movie was inspired by the story of abortion survivor Gianna Jessen. What made me actually go watch the movie was seeing an interview with actress Shari Rigby who plays the role of the mother who attempted to abort her child. When the film’s producers asked Shari to play the part, they had no idea that she had had an abortion earlier in her life. She said she got the script and was just stunned at the similarities between her story and the one she had been asked to play. Shari said the movie turned out to be a healing experience for her as she journeyed with her character who ultimately receives forgiveness from her daughter and comes to forgive herself as well.

It was a beautifully painful movie to watch, but those are the kind of movies I love the best because life is often beautifully painful. Sometimes I get annoyed when people try to give simple answers to everything that happens in life. The older I get the less answers I see and the more brokenness I encounter. But there can be a beauty and growth in brokenness and a sense of maturity developed during times of pain. Of course we all wish life wasn’t so  painful and that situations like abortion, genocide, break ups, and terminal illness didn’t exist, but often it is the things that we want the least that, as humans, bring us together the most and develop us into the person we seek to be.

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