Saturday, December 31, 2011

His forever


"God once said, "Let the light shine out of the darkness!" This is the same God who made his light shine in our hearts by letting us know the glory of God that is in the face of Christ." ~2 Corinthians 4:6

This past semester has been full of some major ups and seemingly even bigger downs. Right after I arrived back in Fort Wayne from three weeks of post-Africa vacation at home in North Carolina, Connie was hospitalized and ended up having a really close shave of it, and my Great Grandmother died at the age of 96-all within the first week. And that was on top of financial issues as well as other stuff-needless to say, I was an emotional wreck! If it wasn't for the prayers of many and the friendship of girls like Amy and Sam, and Connie's positive attitude, I don't think I would've made it through those first weeks back!
If there's one major lesson that stands out from this year's events, it is that God reigns. That is all. No matter the problems, God has already won the battle. 2011 has been a year of big changes and huge victories in my life and the lives of those He's surrounded me with, and with that has come bigger battles, bigger challenges. It's frustrating sometimes, but He keeps reminding me that they're really pointless attacks because He's already declared me to be His. Just think on this:

Now this is what the Lord says. He created you, people of Jacob; he formed you, people of Israel. He says, "Don't be afraid, because I have saved you. I have called you by name, and you are mine. ~Isaiah 43:1

Doesn't that just fill your heart with peace and joy? And what can separate us now that we are His? Nothing! Battles will come-thats a guarantee. But He is still God, the One who set me apart for His service, and the One who wants to do the same for you. I can't wait to see what He has in store for 2012 (I will laugh if it's NOT the end of the world! :P), to see what even bigger and better things He wants me to be a part of! And I don't want to forget this lesson He's spent 20 years patiently teaching me. May God bless you and show Himself victorious in your life this year, too!

7 We have this treasure from God, but we are like clay jars that hold the treasure. This shows that the great power is from God, not from us. 8 We have troubles all around us, but we are not defeated. We do not know what to do, but we do not give up the hope of living. 9 We are persecuted, but God does not leave us. We are hurt sometimes, but we are not destroyed. 10 We carry the death of Jesus in our own bodies so that the life of Jesus can also be seen in our bodies. 11 We are alive, but for Jesus we are always in danger of death so that the life of Jesus can be seen in our bodies that die. 12 So death is working in us, but life is working in you.
13 It is written in the Scriptures, "I believed, so I spoke." Our faith is like this, too. We believe, and so we speak. 14 God raised the Lord Jesus from the dead, and we know that God will also raise us with Jesus. God will bring us together with you, and we will stand before him. 15 All these things are for you. And so the grace of God that is being given to more and more people will bring increasing thanks to God for his glory. ~2 Corinthians 4:7-15 (my favorite passage this month)
My partner in 'crime' for the year <3

Thursday, October 27, 2011

‘Your love is extravagant,
Your friendship, it is intimate
I find I’m moving to the
   rhythms of your grace
Your fragrance is intoxicating
   in our secret place’

We sang those lines over and over last night as our spontaneous worship session took us deeper into God’s presence. It was a sweet time of fellowship with some dear brothers and sisters in Christ-some truly stellar individuals who ‘could sing of His love forever,’ and do. Our precious time praising our Jesus was wrapped up gently, properly, with Kevan, Connie and Hayden praying and thanking God for surrounding us with His spirit, and for His stirring in our hearts a yearning for the coming day when we can experience the most precious worship time there will ever be! His peace stilled our hearts and souls, and the reminders throughout each song of His love thrilled and comforted us until we just couldn’t help but sing praise to His glorious name!
There was a line in one song, which sadly doesn’t come to mind now, that just formed in my mind this progressive vision. I saw what I imagine it must have looked like when Paul gathered with one of his planted churches for a time of fellowship. And then I remembered back to this summer, in Africa, when the Amani volunteers gathered for a sweet time of worship with the Mamas and a visiting team. From there, the image of a youth group worship night from 6 years ago (a defining moment for me…the night I decided I was actually going to live the life Jesus wanted, not just claim His name), with the songs that aren’t on mainstream radio, but to this day remain in my heart and are more highly favored in my mind than most popular worship songs. Last Saturday, when we visited a local church for their evening service, and the awkwardness of being in a new place alongside complete strangers just melted when we began to sing familiar praises. And last night, with my fellow travelers for this time of my life, the free worship that brought tears to our eyes. In each of these blessed times, the key factor was not the songs, or the time, or the length, or even the people I was with (although the Connie/Kevan duo is pretty essential, in my opinion…just saying). No, the magic of each encounter with our great and mighty God is simply…

Monday, October 10, 2011


Today I've been missing my African loves intensely, so I thought it high time you get an overload of photos. They say more than I could ever try to about these amazing women and children I was so blessed to live with for 2 months.

Mama Santa...I miss her joy and her sense of humor

Mama Night...I miss her indestructable smile

Mama Claire...I miss her sweet, gentle spirit

I really miss Mama Santa <3 

Mama Catherine...a woman of superior strength and character. Mama Catherine totally trumps Mother Theresa, any day!

Auntie 'Emmy'....I miss that girl!!!! 

Auntie Amy!! and the favorite child. <3 

And I miss this little boy...

And I especially miss this little guy :(

I miss this dynamic duo <3

And these two beautiful girls

And this sweet little guy


These boys...oh how they made me stop and think...and then smile...and love Jesus

And this girl!!! and her sister....I want them for my sisters <3

And I miss this face...



Mama Grace...I miss her crazy, fun lovingness

Mama Lucy...MY Mama...her sense of humor, her love, her laughter...nkwagala nyo Mama Lucy!!!!

Oh these two <3

And this little girl....

And I'd probably better stop before I drive someone crazy with all the pictures. These and many more African beauties are forever in my heart...and I miss them like crazy. Please pray with me about when I can go back, because being away from them is super hard. <3

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Here I am at JFK airport getting ready to take my final step on this amazing summer adventure God has had me on for the last 2 months. Amy and I took a couple extra days to adjust to being back in the States and today we parted ways as we go back home. We’ve both said how strange it feels to be back in America, like our time in Uganda was all just a dream, but I know it’s not. It still feels weird, though-I’m happy to be back and ready to see my family again and then get back to my work at I-House. But at the same time I am so sad to be gone from Amani, to be missing out on the kids’ and Mamas’ lives and just all that I was involved in there. I’m so grateful for the experience, but to have it end is so unreal and depressing.

My boy! Just a couple days before I left...isn't he FAT?!

 I know some people will think that it was just one of those mountain top experiences, and I can see how a mission trip could be that. I saw so many teams come to Amani/Uganda for a couple hours to a couple weeks, and walk away saying they were changed forever by their experience. But I don’t feel like it’s been that for me (my journal is proof of this, but no way are ya’ll getting a glimpse of that!). I struggled with different things and it was definitely not some sort of spiritual utopia for me-it was hard, and it was real life. I learned so much while I was there, but living there for two months was just, normal. Getting to experience real, everyday life at Amani was such a blessing-yeah, I got to do some pretty cool tourist-type stuff, but mostly I just got to live. And that’s what I want to do everywhere God takes me-to serve and live and just love and BE with the people God places around me. I didn’t get to do half the things I had wanted to do while in Uganda, but there was so much freedom in just being with my kids and Mamas.
With 3 of the amazing God-Followers I was blessed to serve beside

I thank God so much for the opportunity to live in Uganda, serving the children and Mamas with the other volunteers at Amani Baby Cottage for 2 months. What a blessing it was! And now I'm off to spend 2 1/2 weeks with my family and friends in North Carolina before heading back to Fort Wayne for the next several months. Please pray for me as I travel and move onto the next steps of this journey that God has called me to! Thank you all so much for your prayers and love and support!

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

There are crickets even in Uganda...

At least, I think they are crickets. Whatever they are, I'm going to miss the music they make once the sun goes down and all is still and quiet. I have 7 days left in this beautifully filthy country, and I'm just soaking up all the little things about life here that make me consider this place a part of my earthly home. Things like
::Every dog in Jinja letting out a blood-curdling howl every so often between 11pm-2 or 3am each night.
::A pack of little kids yelling "Auntie Hannah! Auntie Hannah!" and running to give me hugs when I come back from town or enter their rooms
::Feet always stained red from the dirt, no matter how often I scrub them.
::Creepy huge birds being as normal a sight as a cardinal would be back home in NC
::Trash burning on the side of the road, wherever...whenever...
::The stampede of goats and cows that goes past the compound every day between 5 and 6pm.
::Dashing under the 'poop' trees on our road
::Mama Lucy asking, "Daughter, how are YOU this morning?"
::Mama Josephine's rich laughter, beautiful smile, and joyful love.
::Mama Regina's constant teasing
::The boda man that always smiles cheerfully and asks Amy and I how we are, every time we tell him guiltily that we are 'footing' rather than riding his boda. Countless times he's come halfway down the road to pick us up only to be 'rejected'....and still he smiles. God bless that man for his patience.
::Little Joseph's slobbery dog-like kisses...and numerous bite-marks.
::Witnessing Enoca's redemption on a daily basis. People who say miracles don't happen anymore have not watched a severely malnourished, fearful, unhappy 4 pound six month old flourish into a giggly, peaceful, CHUBBY baby boy in just 7 weeks! Mama Lucy said, "I did not think he would survive...but Jesus proved me wrong." :)
::Mama Catherine's excited, "Ah! Auntie, you sit like a Ugandan!" as I knelt while folding laundry-made my heart happy!
::The hilarious and unexpected things that come out of Mama Susan's mouth.
::Susan. Oh Susan. I want her to be my sister. I've been gaining lots of older sisters this year...
::Sleeping on a bunkbed
::Sleeping under a mosquito net
::Trapping mosquitos under the mosquito net and failing to kill them...and therefore making said mosquito net quite a joke...
::Having more roommates than I have siblings....definitely a first. You should try it!
::Walking anywhere and having random children yell "Mzungu! How are you!?" When adults do that, it's just annoying.
::Walking to the grocery store and anywhere else I need to go
::African rain
::Wide open spaces
::The huge sky and dinosaur sized clouds
::The chaos of putting 16 boys to bed by myself
::The lack of chaos when putting 5 girls to bed
::Having my laptop snatched from me and my personal FB chat conversations invaded by Tori and Amy. <3
::Puno, Apples to Apples, Idiot, Nertz, and Skip-bo with the roomies
::White paint smeared on my clothes and covering my hands
::Struggling for hours to remove said white paint.........
::Fresh pineapple, mango, and avacado always available...and totally organic
::Eating lunch on the floor with Mama Josephine and Mama Grace
::Posho, lentil soup, g-nuts, rice and beans, fried chicken and tilapia...pretty much anything from Mama Cook's kitchen
::Moses asking if he can play with my hair, and it sounding more like "Aun-tie, I wan do you ay-yah!"
::The kids calling me Auntie Katie or Auntie Tori or Auntie Amy and then giggling uncontrollably when I say, "WHAT is my name?!?"
::Hearing Precious do her fake cry
::Simon's HUGE grin and unbelievable energy
::Being asked if I've 'gone for prayers' on Sunday instead of 'gone to church.'
::Riding bodas everywhere...funny, because I always said I would never ride a motorcycle, and now I love it.
::Piling 13 people into a van meant for 8
::Singing patriotic songs with Diane and Amy while standing with our heads out the top of the van as Emily drove us around Jinja
::Finding things to do when the power and internet go out...and having them go out regularly
::I will NOT miss rude men and occasionally women bugging us when we're out walking.
::Making sure water is filtered before drinking it
::Showering in smelly water
::Watching the Mamas roll their paper beads, and occasionally being allowed to help
::The grateful smiles and praises given to God when I get to buy products from the Mamas I love so much.
::Meeting the Mama's families
::Bumbo chairs. They're amazing.
::Wearing the same few outfits over and over...and no one minding, because they do the same thing
::Cokes in glass bottles...never plastic.
::Eating supper while my family back home is just getting ready for church or beginning their day.
::Seeing Lake Victoria and the Source of the Nile every time I walk down the street
::The laid-back, peaceful lifestyle

This place has become home, and I will miss the people here until I can come back. But I'm thankful for many exciting things going on back home in NC and IN that I'll get to be a part of in the next year, and I'm ready...oh so ready, to dive right in and get to work. Please pray for me this next week though-leaving is going to be harder than I thought! I've made lots of friendships and come to love so many people here-God's blessings have been abundantly more than I ever imagined they could be!

Me with my boy!

Some of the amazing friends I've met while here: Tori, Lindsay, and Diane <3

Monday, June 27, 2011

Do Everything

Discouragement was Pastor James’ topic for yesterday's sermon. “Discouragement,” he told his congregation, “is simply the lack of courage. A discouraged person is a defeated person, someone who has lost heart. And let me tell you something-Satan is the one who causes discouragement. He cannot discourage us when we remember the One who has called us to follow Him, the One who is in control of our lives.”
Bonfire time with the toddlers!

 It’s so easy to become discouraged with where God has placed us in life, if we don’t see immediate results from our efforts. And sometimes we don’t even see that He’s given us opportunities to serve, because we have our own ideas of what God will and won’t use to draw people to Him. I like to place unnecessary stress and worry on myself by thinking that I must do as much as I can right now, while I’m young, or I won’t ever be able to be used by the Lord. That is false, and more than that, it is sin. God does not ask us to be world changers or well recognized examples of Jesus followers, though that may be the result of doing what He HAS called us all to do-to love and obey Him in all that we do. We don’t have to be quoting Bible verses or traveling to foreign countries with the Gospel in order for Jesus to work through us-whatever we do, whether it’s changing 50 diapers a day, eating lunch with a friend, or sharing what God has done in our life, if it is done for the glory of God and not man, God will use it to show His love.
Bujagali Falls

Who are we to decide what God can or can’t use to draw someone to a relationship with Him? Have we forgotten that He is God, that He made us and planned out our lives so that we would be right where we are RIGHT NOW, doing exactly what we’re doing RIGHT NOW, all for His glory??
While there I was convinced white water rafting is NOT for me ;)

Have you lost heart in serving God with your life? Are you lacking courage to serve God in a different avenue than you thought He was calling you to? May I just encourage you to rethink your ideas of what it means to live your life for Jesus-sometimes I think we place more emphasis on sharing our spiritual relationship with others than on building up that relationship with Jesus. It’s good to be intentional in sharing Jesus with the lost, but sometimes He can better use us when we’re not trying too hard to be anything but in love with our Savior. We waste so much time trying to figure out what our calling is in life-let me save some of us lots of time by revealing that to you now. It is simply this, to bring glory and honor to our King of Kings: “In all the work you are doing, work the best you can. Work as if you were doing it for the Lord, not for people. Remember that you will receive your reward from the Lord, which He promised to His people. You are serving the Lord Christ.” (Col. 3:23-24
Teaching Sunday school at Susan's church

“Only one thing concerns me: be sure that you live in a way that brings honor to the Good News of Christ. Then whether I come and visit you or am away from you, I will hear that you are standing strong with one purpose, that you work together as one for the faith of the God News, and that you are not afraid of those who are against you. All of this is proof that your enemies will be destroyed but that you will be saved by God. God gave you the honor not only of believing in Christ but also of suffering for Him, both of which bring glory to Christ.” (Phil. 1:27-29)
'I saw the face of Jesus in a little orphan girl...'

So relax! Enjoy the journey He’s placed you on! Because that’s just what your life is, and always will be until He brings it “to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” (Phil. 1:6)

"Little stuff big stuff in between stuff
God sees it all the same
And while I may not know you I bet I know you
Wonder sometimes does it matter at all
We’ll let me remind you it all matters just as long as you do
Everything you do to the glory of the One who made you
Cause He made you
To do every little thing that you do to bring a smile to His face
And tell the story of grace with every move that you make
And every little thing that you do"
~Steven Curtis Chapman

Friday, June 10, 2011

He chooses the incapable

It all started when my parents dropped me off at the RDU airport bright and early on a Tuesday morning. "Ok, so...what do I do?" I asked, looking around the terminal for some sort of sign to tell me where to take the next step of my journey to Uganda.
My parents looked at each other-worried glances-and then laughed nervously. "Um, are you sure you can do this?" Dad joked.
"YES I can do this...I just don't know what to do first!" It was my first time flying since I was 5 years old-I was clueless, as you might guess. If there was a book called "Flight Travel for Dummies" it should've been given to me. In fact I really wish I'd read that-I like to know what to do ahead of time so I don't HAVE to look stupid and ask questions that raise eyebrows. Sorry...that's beside the point.
Eventually I found that I love flying, and my fears of emergency crash landing subsided. But that initial feeling, that "I'm in WAY over my head" realization, didn't. On that plane ride to Philly to wait for another plane to take me to my Amy, I did a little reality check.
"I'm crazy!"
was the conclusion. But then God reminded me that although I am far from qualified for this work here in Uganda, much less the work I want to do after this, He doesn't choose me because I'm able. He chooses those who are willing to follow Him anywhere-especially when where He takes you doesn't make sense.

Took my buddy Jonah to a local restaurant <3

I didn't have a clue about flying. So He let me experience it solo-and I loved it.

I definitely didn't know how to navigate through an airport. So He led me by the hand through 3-didn't even have to ask for help!

International travel was certainly beyond my intelligence, but He's helped Amy and I through every single step. Getting Visas here in Uganda was a concern for us, but He provided us with a seasoned missions team from Ireland to show us where to go!

The poverty and despair here is so heavy that I just can't even cry. This girl that barely remembers whether her car is an automatic or stick shift hasn't the faintest idea what to do to make a difference here. I laugh when people say to me, "Oh working with orphans is perfect for you! You're so experienced and good with kids!" I'm so incapable of knowing where to even start with these kids! Everywhere I turn I see more that needs to be done, more lives that just need someone to show the love of Jesus to them, and I can't. I'm just not Jesus.But He can use me to show love to a handful of orphans-and it's only because I can't help everybody that He can use me to help anyone at all. I'd like to be SuperGirl and do something for every single hurting person I come across, but that's His job. My job is to be one part of His arm that is stretching out across the globe.
The arm can't move without the brain. I can't do anything without Him behind it. And I'm so glad He's with me.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

I have...

There aren't words to describe what the past five days have been like here in Uganda. If I've not been communicative to anyone, it's simply because I don't know what to say. I'm speechless and amazed that I'm HERE, so explaining what HERE is like is practically impossible. There's so much going through my mind, so many thoughts and experiences that I want to share with everyone. Since arriving here on Friday I have:

:Kissed 34 babies over and over
:Cuddled a little boy sick with malaria for a few hours
:Held the hand of a clingy little girl while she swung, 'til my arm felt like it would fall off
:Told Rabies Boy 'NO BITING' about a gazillion times
:Told Mama Josephine that she makes the BEST JUICE EVER four times
:Been to town too many times to count
:Finally gotten sunburned TODAY! ;)
:Danced with Ugandans during their church service
:Been told I'm moving to Africa by a four year old girl
:Eaten tilapia Ugandan style
:Learned the Black Mambas aren't
:Ridden bodas several times
:Put 14 toddler boys to bed (almost...Tori came to my rescue towards the end) by myself
:Been scared waaaaaaaay too many times by Crazy Cat Susan (our House "Mama")
:Was one lady's first customer for the day at about 3:30pm
:Sang Justin Bieber karaoke at a local restaurant with my roommates
:Listened to a Mama tell me about her grandmother who died a week ago
I. Am. Blessed.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Do you know where we're headed?

After months of prayer and preparation and waiting, Amy and I arrived in Uganda this morning! Our flights both went really well, but neither of us got much sleep and by the time we were getting off the plane in Entebbe we were both going a little stir crazy. We napped this afternoon (it's almost 8pm here; about 1pm on the East Coast back home), but I think we're both still really tired-should sleep really well tonight!
There are so many thoughts running through my mind, and not enough brain power to process them all. God has proved Himself faithful to us in so many ways throughout our trip thus far, and we're only just getting started. We serve such an amazing, loving God-I mean, He blessed us with WATERMELON with our breakfast on our Thursday flight!! Such a small thing...but I love watermelon and wasn't happy about missing out on it all summer, and He treated us to a true British breakfast with watermelon on the side. Now try telling me God doesn't care about our very wants. ;)

We found our driver to take us to the orphanage very quickly, and he and his friend acted as "tour guides" for our three hour drive. Uganda is so beautiful...hills everywhere, beautiful green forests and fields, Lake Victoria...just breathtaking. David and Andrew pointed out different towns, the biggest forest, the Nile River, the sugar cane fields and the abundant supply of bananas. At one point we had a communication problem with figuring out what one type of crop was, 'cause Amy and I were sure he was saying and spelling "den", but we had no idea what that that I think about it I think he was actually saying "tea", but I can't be sure.
And at another point Andrew turned to ask us, "Do you know where we're headed?" and for a moment my thought was "oh good grief! Please don't tell me you have no clue where you're supposed to take us!" But of course he was only asking if we were aware of where the orphanage was. Lack of sleep does something really crazy to you.
Driving through the towns was really eye-opening...seeing all the crowds of people, the cramped marketplaces, the emaciated cows that just mingle with the people, the tiny little shacks that so many Ugandans call 'home', the awesome make-up-your-own-road-rules driving (so not scary like people said it would be! it was FUN!), the kids that smiled and shouted "HI!" as we drove past...I love the culture here, and I can't wait to go into town more. Emily (the current director) took us to town when we got there to get money and to buy some food, but we were too tired to decide on anything other than pb&j materials. The girls went to town for dinner, but I decided to stay here at the Cottage to rest and have some alone time. I helped with the babies for awhile, but then Mama Regina wanted to put them to bed so I came to our room. Sleep sounds really good right now.
Oh! Before I forget, one little thing from our trip that made me happy. During our layover in London, we met a team from IRELAND who were coming to Uganda, and some of them had been before so we were able to ask them tons of questions, and when we got to Entebbe we just followed them to get our visas. I was expecting the visa thing to be confusing, but we had experts to follow-and they had wicked awesome accents to boot! :) It's the little things in life, ya know....

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

The Love of God

This post started out with an analogy about how dandelions are like God's love-so abundant and beautiful, and impossible to kill. But I couldn't find the words to finish it, so it sat incomplete in my Drafts for a week. Then I was inspired by a Burmese wedding, where Connie and I sang one of our favorite hymns, "The Love of God," before a couple hundred Burmese friends. I thought then that I'd found a way to convey what I wanted to say, but after that attempt this post went back into the Drafts, barely a thought added to it. Other little reminders of His love have also looked like the promising flashlight that would give me the end to this struggle with words, but still the verdict was 'wait.' Who knows-maybe this too will end up in along with the rest of my Drafts, lacking the ability to communicate a coherent thought. Let me try anyway.

Sunday was a glorious day-I was back amongst my home church family, the weather felt like a good ol' North Carolina summer day, and I just felt the presence of God's peace in my life in a very real way. As we prepared to sing the last song before studying the Word together, I was tickled pink that it was chosen for us to sing "The Love of God." Whether or not that happened due to the fact that our worship leader faithfully keeps up with Connie and I on facebook and our blogs, I don't really care-I just think it's neat that God ordained things to work that way.
As we sang, it got me thinking about a conversation I'd had with Mama Odette last Tuesday, while my friend Amy was out to visit me in Fort Wayne. Mama Odette is well known for her boldness and authoritative ways, and for her strong faith and love of Jesus Christ. Whenever you ask her how she's doing, she always answers with "good by the grace of God!" And she always asks you, with an eager curiousity in her eyes, what you've read in your Bible for the day-not because she wants to check it off on a list of things you have to do in order to remain in good standing with her, but because she genuinely wants to learn from what God has taught you, and wants to encourage you with what she has learned as well. I finally realized this a few months ago, and as I've mentioned before, I usually try to make especially sure that Tuesday mornings I start my day right. Last Tuesday, however, that didn't happen, and I had to confess to Mama Odette that I had skipped reading that morning. I offered a lame excuse when I saw the sadness in her eyes...something about having had a good talk with Jesus instead. The good woman shook her head adamently. "No no no!" she said loudly in her African way. "You must read! You must talk and read to communicate. Talking is good, but to hear God you must read His Word! And you must read it in the morning-Jesus prayed and spent time with the Father in the morning, so we must do it, too." As I read out those words written in Times Roman font, they look so cold and flat, but to have an African Mama speak them powerfully they are full of truth and the Holy Spirit convicts you in a way that makes you squirm. I knew immediately that she was right, but like all mamas, she continued her lecture to make sure the words sank in.
"See that is how you have joy and peace-to communicate with God in the morning is how you can have a good day. It is only through Jesus that you can be happy and free from worry. Jesus said to cast all our cares on Him! But then we need to share that joy, we need to tell others about God's love! You know why no one gets saved? It is because no one shares God's love with them! But how will they know if we don't tell them what He tells us? God is so good to us, and His mercy is new every morning."
If you read through that in 30 seconds or less, stop right where you are. Imagine the best African Mama voice that you can, and read through her words again, slowly, like you've got a Mama Odette saying them to you, lingering as she watches your face absorb and ponder her words. Then proceed to this next paragraph.

In the days following Mama Odette's little sermon, it was like I was reliving all the days where I haven't started my day with Jesus, and all the times where I could have shared God's love with someone but didn't. Can you imagine the impact that could result if we all took to telling others about what God teaches us each morning? It gives me chills just thinking about it! It's sobering realizing how much time I've wasted, but it only serves to show how amazing and steadfast God's love is. One of my favorite lines from that song goes like this:
When men who here refuse to pray,
On rocks and hills and mountains call,
God’s love so sure, shall still endure,
All measureless and strong;
Redeeming grace to Adam’s race—
The saints’ and angels’ song.

In her book "Not Good if Detached," Corrie ten Boom shared the story of how she was on a plane ride that very nearly ended in a fatal crash. While in the last moments of uncertainty, she felt compelled to stand and speak to the other passengers, to tell them of how they could be eternally secure. But fear got in her way, and she failed that test. When they arrived safely at the airport Corrie was distressed to have missed such an opportunity, but within minutes God sent her a Jewish doctor to share the Good News with.
"Found worthy to evangelize, after all! In this world to be acceptable we must pass examinations. God sometimes requires we fail the examination, and only then will He use us. Paul says, 'When I am weak, then am I strong' (2 Cor. 12:10). Thus one learns that without Him one can do nothing, but 'I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me' (Phil. 4:13).
The great sin of negligence I confess to Him who is faithful and just to forgive our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9)."

Praise the God who never throws His hands up in exasperation and stows us in a Drafts folder, but who continually picks us up and plugs faithfully away at the stories of our lives!

O love of God, how rich and pure!
How measureless and strong!
It shall forevermore endure
The saints' and angels' song

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Not prefix or suffix

"Prayer is not a prefix or a suffix; it is central." -Corrie ten Boom, in Not Good if Detached

"Pray in the Spirit at all times with all kinds of prayers, asking for everything you need. To do this you must always be ready and never give up. Always pray for all God's people." Ephesians 6:18

I woke up yesterday in a fussy mood, having a bad attitude about everything (mentally, if not outwardly), so after breakfast I decided the morning needed to be spent alone with God. After a couple hours of wrestling in prayer and pondering the crazy story of Judges 19-20, I pulled out Not Good if Detached and picked up from where I'd left off about a month ago-the page with my favorite Corrie ten Boom quote about prayer.

Perfect timing on a Tuesday, especially this particular Tuesday. Childcare downstairs on Tuesdays is always crazy and exhausting, but this week we knew we would be missing two of our main helpers who are always there. And I had to help with transportation to get the women here, so that meant Jeanine would be the only adult helper for almost an hour. And, Moi San had been crying inconsolably all morning, and for some reason his behavior is like a foretelling of the attitudes of all the children that will be downstairs. I was very thankful God allowed me to have a few hours of uninterrupted prayer time!

I prayed for good conversation with the women I was picking up-one of the women who last week basically ignored me, opened up about her struggles both here and back in Africa and listened intently as I told her some of my story. It was thrilling to have her just bubbling over with things to say, and to find some common ground in our beliefs.

I prayed for joy amongst the helpers no matter what the kids were like-when Mama Odette asked me, "Do you have the peace of Jesus sister?" in her bold, African way, I was able to give her a hearty yes! Even in the moment where I was holding two screaming little boys who pulled my hair and slobbered all over my sweaty face, the joy in my heart wouldn't leave. And the other helpers were patient and overflowing with love for the kids even through the chaos of 24 infants and toddlers screaming.

I had looked all week at the chaos that was just bound for yesterday with dread-but God turned it into a beautiful lesson of the importance of bringing all my needs to Him. The only reason I am ever joyful is because of the work the Lord is doing in my heart, and that work requires dying to myself. I'd wanted to spend my morning checking email and facebook and any other number of selfish things that would have kept me from surrendering my attitude to Him-so He decided to keep my internet off.

Saturday, April 30, 2011

There is no need to fear...

"God's word is true,
       and everything he does is right." Verse 4

And God's word says that

"He spoke, and it [the earth] happened.
       He commanded, and it appeared." Verse 9

God made the world, and He commands all the workings of it.

"The Lord upsets the plans of nations;
       he ruins all their plans." Verse 10

What is happening right now is not the result of any human's plans. No sir-ee Bob.

"But the Lord's plans will stand forever;
       his ideas will last from now on." Verse 11

HIS plans. The only ones that turn anything into something amazing.

"The Lord looks down from heaven
       and sees every person." Verse 13

Amy and I are part of "every person." Connie is part of "every person." And so are you.

"He made their hearts
       and understands everything they do." Verse 15

I'm so glad Someone understands our hearts. 'Cause I certainly don't.

"Horses can't bring victory;
       they can't save by their strength." Verse 17

Neither can guns or pepper spray. Or karate. Or bodyguards.

"But the Lord looks after those who fear him,
       those who put their hope in his love." Verse 18

He's so much better than gunsorpeppersprayorkarateorbodyguardsoranythingelse. Yeah.

"So our hope is in the Lord.
       He is our help, our shield to protect us." Verse 20

I'm so glad He's my Protector. Africa in 33 days, peace or unrest.

"We rejoice in him,
       because we trust his holy name.
  Lord, show your love to us
       as we put our hope in you." Verses 21-22

Psalm 33

Sunday, April 17, 2011

The Fox and the Hound, or Faith Like a Child

Last Monday night I found myself in the basement at I-House with two little Burmese boys, watching a Disney favorite of mine: The Fox and the Hound. This classic animated film about a dog named Copper, a fox named Todd, and their journey from friendship to learning to be enemies was cause for a lot of deep thought and reflection.

For those who don't know the story, Copper and Todd met when they were just babies-innocent, and unharmed by the expectations of the animal kingdom in which they dwelt. They were carefree and happy to play together-why on earth, they wondered, was it so wrong for them to be friends? Copper's older companion, an experienced hunting dog named Chief, told him that he ought to think of Todd as the enemy. After all, dogs hunt foxes-it's simply the natural order of things for them. But that prey/preyed upon relationship had to be learned-the young ones couldn't see beyond their pleasant, playful friendship. They were different, but who cared? Not them, certainly.

So Copper and Todd were separated for some time, and during that time, Copper was taught the fun of hunting. When he finally saw Todd again, he was torn between his feelings of friendship for him and duty to his master as a hunting dog. Fortunately, for the sake of all children everywhere, Disney kept the story safe and Copper made the right decision to let Todd run free.

For some time now, I've been replaying a scene in my mind over and over, pondering and savoring a precious moment of a gift from God. It was a Tuesday afternoon at Women's Club, and I was downstairs helping with the babies. I had a little Asian girl in my lap, and in an attempt to pull her out of her shell I grabbed a little table that plays music and has lots of interactive gadgets that for whatever reason interest babies learning to stand. She was immediately enthralled, and began pushing buttons and spinning balls, fascinated by the sounds which her actions produced. Within seconds, an African boy was standing on his wobbly legs next to her; close at his heels was a Latino boy, and our one and only American girl. The four adorable babies played together, smiling and cooing at the ruckus they made, and in that moment it struck me how precious and beautiful it was: four completely different nationalities interacting peacefully. There were no barriers of language or culture or religion or personality for these children. Hate and fear of each other was as foreign from their minds as the idea of eating poison willingly is to mine. It was like a glimpse of heaven, so beautiful and poetic and moving.

And I now feel like I have a better idea of what it means to have faith like a child. In a child's world, there is no notice of differences, no fear without purpose, no social or political or religious boundaries hindering them. I want to be more like them. I want to learn how to be as a child again-both in faith and in interpersonal relationships.

 At that time the followers came to Jesus and asked, "Who is greatest in the kingdom of heaven?" Jesus called a little child to him and stood the child before his followers. Then he said, "I tell you the truth, you must change and become like little children. Otherwise, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. The greatest person in the kingdom of heaven is the one who makes himself humble like this child. -Matt. 18:1-5, NCV

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Reason #55 for Eating Chocolate First

"Coooonnie!" I scolded my dear friend as she bit into her brownie the other night. "Meal first, chocolate afterwards! You're so rotten..."
Connie just gave me a look which said she didn't care how much I scolded or threatened-she would eat her brownie and get to the soup later. By now I knew not to argue with her-to just laugh and go along with it. And I did-just not to the point of eating my chocolate first, too.
"But you know," she reasoned, attempting to convince me that it's a good idea, "Jesus is coming back soon, and what if He came before the end of the meal? That chocolatey goodness is just left there, gone to waste! It's a sin to waste chocolate!"
I grinned. I couldn't resist getting saucy- "And what about all the cocoa trees, and all the chocolate in the process of being made? What about all of that?"
She just looked at me like, "Shut up!"

Pam's response to our conversation, though, puts a different spin on it all together, leaving me with a dilemma.
"Oh no-chocolate is going with us to Heaven," she said matter-of-factly.

So what is your take? Should we eat our chocolate first, in anticipation of Jesus' swift return? Or should we be good children and eat the healthy stuff first, and rest in the assurance that chocolate will be in Heaven with us for eternity?

Either way, I'm glad for chocolate and I'm glad that whether or not it will be in Heaven, eternity will still be extremely amazing because we'll be with Jesus! And I'm convinced that every day in Heaven is a sunny, warm day with a gentle breeze to play with our hair and fill our hearts with the joy of our King. I can't wait!

Thursday, April 7, 2011

"It's just AWESOME!"

After an awesome 5 days at home in North Carolina, what's the best way to get back into life in Fort Wayne?

Take our girls bowling, of course! And bowling we went, with our biggest crowd of girls yet. With 18 volunteers and youth sharing two lanes at the craziest bowling alley in FW, some epic music videos displayed on huge screens at the end of our lanes, and tons of energy, it was quite an amazing night. We had a few really talented bowlers, but most of us (hint hint: ME) saw gutter ball after depressing gutter ball. You know what, though? We all had fun in spite of our bad bowling skills, and it was great just to spend time bowling badly together. We even added some Chinese girls to our mix, which was an answer to a prayer we've had for awhile that more Asian girls would join us. Several of us were feeling tired before our evening started, but God gave us the energy and passion to serve our girls and encourage them. I'm so amazed by this group of volunteers that He's put together, and the girls He's placed in our lives-we may not know exactly what we're doing, but He's guiding our steps and is doing some amazing things in all of our hearts. I can't wait to see what the next couple of months hold in store for our group!

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Sunday afternoons are great for writing

“If you say the ‘F’ word ONE more time, Hannah Vincent, I WILL push The Button!” Connie threatened. To come into the room on this note, one would suspect that I’d said a horrible word, and was about to receive due punishment by the ever patient Connie Chandler.
My reaction to her fearsome claim was to nearly spew my mouthful of water all over my laptop-she should realize she is a very blessed individual because this did not actually end up happening. But it almost did. And therefore she should be more careful in her outpouring of witty remarks.
Fractions. That is the word which pushes Connie to pressing The Button, lately. Or prime numbers, or anything math related for that matter. Kelsey drove her to it the other night, by watching one too many online videos for help in tutoring 6th grade math. Every time Kelsey mentioned it, no matter how much we begged and pleaded, Connie faithfully fulfilled her promise and pushed The Button.
Play. That is The Button that Connie pushes in response to our “delinquent behavior.” But I suppose the more important information that you should know is exactly what pushing Play means. It means we have to listen to Justin Bieber’s “Baby” yet again-out of the three of us, Connie has Bieber Fever the worst, and “Baby” is her favorite go-to at the moment.
Back to the scene of the crime-after coming very close to soaking my (not so) very expensive electronic device, I caved and said the ‘F’ word on accident…and while listening to “Baby” sung by a cutesy 16 year old kid, exclaimed that I was going to blog about this painful moment. And now I have. So there.

On a more serious note, this past week has been one in which God reminded me in a big way that He is my provider, the one with the money in the first place. After hearing of three close friends receiving large gifts that will help them financially in their various ministries, I spent a day having a spiritual pity-party, reminding God over and over of my own financial needs (which really haven’t been so very pressing as they might be). On Tuesday at Women’s Club, Mama Odette helps downstairs with the kids, and she always asks me what I’ve read in my Bible for the day. Most days I wait ‘til the afternoon to do my reading, or whatever free moment pops up, but Tuesdays I’ve learned that I’d better do it in the morning. ;) And this Tuesday I read 2 Timothy. Yeah, the whole book. It’s pretty short, and I’ve been reading it over and over lately, soaking it all in. But 4:5 really stuck out to me this time, as it says, “But you should control yourself at all times, accept troubles, do the work of telling the Good News and complete all the duties of a servant of God.” It was as if God was telling me, “Hel-lo! Don’t you trust me? Get ahold of yourself, girl, and let me take care of this-you just focus on the work I’ve given you to do here.” I committed my pathetic little “problem” of finances to God, and my heart was light and ready for an afternoon caring for little ones. Mama Odette further encouraged me when she shared Ephesians 6:10, which says, “Finally, be strong in the Lord and in His great power.”
To make a long story short and keep details out, things happened that Tuesday afternoon, and I now have enough funds to cover 2/3 of my Uganda trip! God’s timing is perfect, and my head has known this my whole life…my heart, on the other hand, is a little slow in catching up. I’m so glad He is patient and willing to teach the same lessons over and over to such a slow learner as I. And I’m also glad He likes crazy people, like Amy and me.

Speaking of crazy people, on Thursday, Connie and I leave for a 5 day weekend at home! I get to have my friend Hannah Fodrey come along to stay with my family and I, and when I get home I have my new camera waiting for me-I can’t wait to get back to taking pictures to share more of my life here with you all. I’m better at communicating through writing when I have pictures to go along with my posts! A cell phone camera is so depressingly incapable of doing the job.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

The whole world in His hands...

God is my shepherd
I won't be wanting
I won't be wanting
He makes me rest
In fields of green
With quiet streams

Even though I walk
Through the valley
Of death and dying
I will not fear
Cause you are with me
You are with me

Your shepherd's staff
Comforts me
You are my feast
In the presence of enemies
Surely goodness
Will follow me
Follow me
In the house of God forever.

Kelsey introduced Connie and I to this song several weeks ago, and as we sang our favorite praise songs together this afternoon, we ended with this one. It's such a peaceful and comforting reassurance of Whom we have put our trust in-and with all that is going on in our world today, that's a much needed thing! I talk with my international friends, and hear of how they've not seen their families in years-and many of their families are seriously ill, and separated from them by thousands of miles. I hear of the strife in Africa, and think of how in two and a half months, I will be entering that region. I hear of the suffering in Japan and Haiti,and think of the friends and acquaintances I have there. I hear of the unrest in so many other parts of the earth, and grieve for the lost there who are enduring such hardships as I will only ever have to imagine. My heart is bleeding for the hurting, the sick, the dying, the grieving, the lost...and yet we're all held in the same Hands. The Hands which made every particle of this fallen planet in which we dwell, and the Hands that keep it from crumbling into nothingness. The Hands which will one day (very soon!) wipe all the tears from our eyes, will banish suffering and pain, will heal all wounds, and will make all things new. And knowing this gives me such joy-I want to dance and sing and shout and tell the whole world of the hope which we can all have, for I know that,
"The sufferings we have now are nothing compared to the great glory that will be shown to us." Rom. 8:18

He's got the whole world in His hands,
He's got the whole world in His hands,
He's got the whole world in His hands,
He's got the whole world in His hands.

He's got my brothers and my sisters in His hands,
He's got my brothers and my sisters in His hands,
He's got my brothers and my sisters in His hands,
He's got the whole world in His hands.

He's got the sun and the rain in His hands,
He's got the moon and the stars in His hands,
He's got the wind and the clouds in His hands,
He's got the whole world in His hands.

He's got the rivers and the mountains in His hands,
He's got the oceans and the seas in His hands,
He's got you and he's got me in His hands,
He's got the whole world in His hands.

He's got everybody here in His hands,
He's got everybody there in His hands,
He's got everybody everywhere in His hands,
He's got the whole world in His hands.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

The joy of spring

"For everything can be redeemed, we can be redeemed, oh all of us-oh happiness!"

I don't care that it's not "officially" spring until tomorrow-I'm standing on the idea that spring has already arrived! Wednesday started the streak of beautiful, warmer weather here in Fort Wayne, and so far each day has been warm, sunny, and full of the promises of Spring. It couldn't have been better timed-not just myself, but so many people around me I'd noticed were beginning to be depressed and down-trodden, weighed down by worldly cares. I know such menial things as the weather should have no play on our outlook on life, but the human soul can only take so much before it gives in to it's surroundings. And when those surroundings are grey and lifeless...I think everyone has experienced the kind of dull feelings that winter deadness can bring on.

So, as soon as the weather turned cheery, what did Connie and I do? We blasted David Crowder's "Oh Happiness" as loud as we could with the van windows rolled down, singing along at the top of our lungs-full of joy and happiness to be alive and under God's grace! The song makes you want to jump and shout and scream and dance and cry and just praise God for his grace-'cause "there's enough for us and the whole human race!"

Have you ever really thought about that? How deep and wide and never-ending is the love and grace of God? There are almost 7 billion people on this planet at this moment in time, and countless others who have lived before us. We are all such fallen, sinful creatures, and yet God's grace is greater than all of our sin. Even if all 7 billion of us repented and allowed Him to redeem us, He would eagerly welcome us all in with open arms. I don't know about you, but forgiving 7 billion people who have wronged me, and eagerly entering into relationship with each one doesn't sound so appealing to me. Realizing how great is God's love for mankind just makes me want to sing!

Connie, Kelsey, and I went on an adventure to the Botanical Conservatory this morning, and soaked in the warmth and sunshine while surrounded by all kinds of exotic and beautiful (and some rather creepy) plants. I think that growth, and the sign of things actually happening is part of what I really love about spring. I like to get things done and see progress being made-spring is my season. But even as I rejoice in the beauty of the turn of seasons to brighter days, I'm reminded all over again how equally important the dormancy of winter is to the cycle of life. Without the dark days of Winter, how can we truly appreciate the wonders of Spring? And to parallel that, without the hard and frustrating situations in life, how can we truly praise God for the blessings He gives us? If life was all roses, it'd be nice-but there wouldn't be much meaning in that. To have this constant reminder of redemption, whether you see it in the annual change from winter to spring, or in the daily changes from frustration to little or big blessings, should make us all the more excited to see others around us enter into this great roller coaster ride adventure called faith in Jesus Christ!
I pray that He will open my eyes to opportunities to share my ride with others, and that somehow He will use this broken and incapable vessel to excite at least one person about the Gospel-for we can all be redeemed, all of us-oh happiness!!!

Monday, March 14, 2011

Sweet Mousy

The big white van pulled into the parking lot behind 711 house, and I braced myself to be run over by 4 preteen boys, 15 year old Rahmo, and Hawa and her brood of six young'uns. It's this way every Monday night at Computer Cafe, where we help students with homework, their parents with English, and the little ones are loved downstairs by Mama Linda or I (or both).
But not tonight! Tonight I was prepared-I had the sign in sheet all prepared to check each of the boys off quickly as they would dash past me up the stairs to snag a laptop before the rest of them could get up there, and had all Hawa's children's nametags ready to stick on their backs.
Imagine my surprise, then, when each of the boys stopped politefully and made sure I checked them off the list, "You know I'm Ahmed, right?" "What's MY name, Hannah?"
"Wow, that was easy!" I thought to myself. "What's got into them?"
Eldon explained when he came in and asked, "Did they give you a hard time with check-in, Hannah?" wonder they were easy-Eldon had commanded politeness towards "Miss Hannah" this Monday. Thanks Eldon. :)
Hawa's kids all helped each other with their stickers and headed themselves down to the basement to play with "Linda."
Usually I find myself helping three elementary school-aged girls with their homework on Monday nights, but tonight they finished it super fast. Then word reached them that Linda was having a cookie-decorating party downstairs, so we dashed downstairs to join in the fun. As soon as I came in view, sweet little Hamdi (1 year) got a huge grin on her face and ran to me, arms outstretched. I swung her around and around while she giggled and clapped her hands. Dahabo, Hamdi's 4 year old sister, with hands covered in frosting and sugary sprinkles, noticed us, and ran over to grab my legs in a tight hug as she exclaimed, "I love you, Sweet Mousy!"
Awww. I don't know where the nickname came from, but in that moment I felt incredibly loved. :) Dahabo and Hamdi, I love you both, too!
Some moments on Monday nights, when it feels like we could really use an extra pair of hands or an extra brain much better at math, it's easy to feel like no progress is being made. But then God sends moments like these-boys shaping up at the request of their elder, and little girls overflowing with love-and it wipes away all doubts of His hand at work in each and every life that comes through these doors.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Sunday afternoon ponderings which are keeping me from taking a nap

This year is just flying by-so much has already happened in my life, and there is still much more ahead of me. This afternoon I was reading in Proverbs 20 for my bible study with Amy, and verse 24 resonated with the theme that has been weaving it's way through my thoughts lately-
'The Lord decides what a person will do; no one understands what his life is all about.'
I don't understand all of the things God has led me through or why He is leading me where He is. But He is teaching me to trust Him for all my needs, and to realize the lack of true value in most of my wants. He is showing me how perfect His timing is, and that His answers to my prayers aren't always what I want but exactly what I need. He is leading my heart away from it's fearfulness and into a place of trusting Him as my only true safe refuge. He is my closest friend, my comfort, my peace, my guide, my discipline, my counsel, my advocate, my reward, my reality, my savior, my wealth, my all-waking up each day and getting to serve such an amazing God is an honor I am humbled to have! My life is nothing without Him, and my life is His to use as He will.
Sometimes I feel so frustrated not knowing more of God's plan for my life-I love to imagine all these grandiose scenarios, and it'd be great to know ahead of time exactly which (or if any) of these will actually come to be reality. I'd be able to prepare better, right?
But I also somehow feel that if I truly knew every step that God is going to guide my feet through, I'd give up and run the other way! And I'm learning to be content with that-with only knowing just as much as I need to know for the moment. It's truly better to simply "trust and obey, for there's no other way to be happy in Jesus but to trust and obey!"

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

He will carry you

So yesterday was quite possibly the scariest day of my life thus far. I drove all the way back to Fort Wayne from Kernersville, and the first two hours were amazing-sunny, warm, just beautiful weather all around.
Then I hit rain through VA, WV, and most of OH. We're talking torrential downpour material here-with windshield wipers that need replaced, my visibility was pretty bad.
I talked to Connie around 2pm, and she told me to expect some pretty bad snowy and icy conditions closer to FW, so, realizing I hadn't brought ANY winter clothing with me besides the pathetic jacket on my back, I made an emergency stop at a Wal-Mart for some gloves, a scarf, and some decent socks. The cashier thought it was pretty funny...
While on a back road in the middle of farm country Ohio, I caught up with the snow. It just kept getting worse and worse until I finally had to just roll down my window, stick my head out, and attempt to see where I was going. There was one point where I literally could not see anything but white-it was like being in a snowglobe. After a few moments of going, "Ok, I'm NOT going to die. This is NOT the end of the world. It's just snow-I can make it!" I remembered a verse Connie and I had read together about a week ago:

"And in the desert you saw how the Lord your God carried you, like one carries a child. And he has brought you safely all the way to this place." ~Deut. 1:31 NCV

I wasn't exactly in a desert desert...more of a snowy desert...but that comforted me and reminded me: God has brought me safely all the way here-why would He abandon me now?

There is no need to fear anything of this world with Him to carry us through it. He will carry you through all the ups and downs of life, both big and small-He cares about every detail of your life. He planned it all out, afterall! :) After my little adventure in the blizzard, my mix cd played one of my favorite Mark Schultz songs, "He Will Carry Me." Let the words encourage you today! :)

I call, You hear me
I've lost it all
And it's more than I can bear
I feel so empty

You're strong
I'm weary
I'm holdin' on
But I feel like givin' in
But still You're with me

And even though I'm walkin' through
The valley of the shadow
I will hold tight to the hand of Him
Whose love will comfort me
And when all hope is gone
And I've been wounded in the battle
He is all the strength that I will
Ever need
And He will carry me

I know I'm broken
But You alone
Can mend this heart of mine
You're always with me


And even though I feel so lonely
Like I've never been before
You never said it would be easy
But You said you'd see me through
The storm


Saturday, February 12, 2011

Miss North Carolina

I dearly love my Rahmo, one of the girls who comes to Youth Night on Wednesdays. Last night we had the girls over for Girls' Night, and we all made Valentines for each other. Rahmo was the first girl to really welcome me and make me feel at home here, and she's given me the nickname "North Carolina Lady."
Rahmo is a strong, funny, and loving girl destined for great things. I teased her while we made Valentines, "You made one for me, right Rahmo? 'Cause I made one for you! You better make me one!" She came back in classic Rahmo fashion with, "Girl, you my friend-you know I love you! You don't need one from me."
Nevertheless, she made me a Valentine and addressed it to "Miss North Carolina." I know I'm not the beauty pageant type, but that made me smile. I'm so blessed to know Rahmo!

Me and Rahmo
I think the girls enjoyed themselves-we played Wii bowling (thanks Brianne for bringing that!), ate pizza and cake (Corrie was our amazing chef), and watched "Step Up" until it was time for the girls to head home. Fun times! 

Girls' Night Gang

Friday, February 11, 2011

The Best Adventure

On Wednesday I had quite an adventure taking Lian to Wal-Mart for "medicine for Moy San." Lian's niece, Esther, was at the house and begged to tag along, and as I couldn't resist the cute 8 year old's pleas for an outing, she went along as well.

So we found the medicine for poor Moy San, and I'm thinking, "Awesome! That was quick!" Oh, I forgot to mention that this was an hour before Youth Night was supposed to start, and I needed to get our dinner in the oven half an hour before that!

Then Lian said, "Oh Hannah: veetemins for JoLien! You help me find?"

Then it turned into hair coloring, and getting two WIC coupons worth of food. All the while, Esther, bless her heart, keeps stopping to look at things, ignoring her Aunt's threats and commands to "follow."

I think we were both getting frustrated with her-it's only by the grace of God neither one of us lost it with her (ok, so I can only speak for myself, since I don't know Zho and consequently I don't know what Lian said to her).

I finally said something about the teenagers, and right away she was like my little puppy dog close at my heels the rest of the way, peppering me with questions like "What are teenagers? Can I see the teenagers? Are YOU a teenager? Why are they called teenagers?" I think she learned a new English word. ;) And her fascination with "teenagers" made for a focused little girl. Boo-yah!

Amazingly, we made it back with a few minutes to spare. Poor Esther didn't get her glimpse of the teenagers, but she did get a heart shaped lollipop from her Aunt Lian, and a big hug from me. :)

Esther reminded me of me, actually. I love to linger behind, and my attention gets caught by the most mundane things that end up distracting me from my original purpose in life. I often get caught up in my own plans and ideas for my life, ignoring God's gentle voice calling to me, "But Hannah, that's not what I want you to do. Remember? You agreed to follow Me, and this is My way. Leave your petty substitutes behind, and follow me on the Best Adventure for your life."

The adventure He has in store for you probably involves a lot of road blocks and mountains to climb over, a lot of pain and confusion involved. But He has promised to be right there with us, and to give us joy through the suffering, and a light heart through the pain.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Bubble and Squeak!

Today I decided to be adventurous with dinner and make something completely new from one of my cookbooks. The name jumped out to me, being British (and I love British things...most of them), and Connie and I decided it sounded like a yummy thing to try. Our Cheese Bubble and Squeak turned into a hearty Mashed Potato dinner when the patties started to fall apart during frying, but they tasted amazing anyway. Made with potatoes, spinach, one egg and some cheese, followed by a secret ingredient-I want to try making them again!

This afternoon we spent a couple hours reading together from Mr. Darcy's Daughters (Austen fans-you'll love this!) at DeBrand's Chocolate cafe, while sipping our special hot chocolates. We took turns reading the chapters, and just enjoyed a relaxing afternoon together, surrounded by chocolate. :)

And the big news? There's still mountains of snow on the ground. Ok, so maybe that's not news, but it's worthy of being noted! I finally unburied my car from the Saturday snow-fall, but I managed to get a shot before:

I'm constantly amazed at all the white, wintery wonder that surrounds us, and, according to all our Northern friends, won't leave for another couple of months. Despite getting a bit frazzled when it causes trouble getting out of the driveway, I do really love the snow-it's beauty never gets old! And I agree with a new International friend who, this morning, called it "very romantic!" :)
The icycles are a source of enjoyment and worry. They are so pretty, but walking under them while everything is melting a bit in the afternoon feels very much like playing a game of dodgeball, especially after seeing a few broken icycles on the ground here and there!

The snow piles are getting pretty high!

Connie wrote a post about our adventures with the Zo church yesterday! You should go read that, and watch the cute video she posted. :) 

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

The dance

Written Monday, January 31st.

This morning started an on-going thought of the day for me, and it has to do with expecting the unexpected. Let me set the stage for you:
Its 8:30 in the morning, and I'm in the kitchen getting a drink of water. I finish my water, and go to the sink to wash my glass, when I unsuspectingly glance up from the water streaming down to the drain and look at the faucet.
Bad idea.
Just chillin' there-all non-chalant, wrapped in shrink wrap, and undoubtedly frozen solid-was a big fish. Staring at me.  

Now, I'm not the screaming sort (normally), so there wasn't the melodramatic meltdown of female renown when such things occur. But there was most definitely a wide-eyed, surprised expression on my face, and I admit that a very sharp gasp could be heard escaping from my mouth. Afterward, when re-telling my little "welcome back to Angaying Inn" experience to Connie (after letting her get a view of our fishy friend), I said something like, "I should totally have expected that, but yeah...did NOT expect that!"
And so the day went: the unexpected but normal interruptions that throw you off but shouldn't.

::Instead of opening the van door I set off the alarm,
:: took a wrong left when trying to get us home from the library which set us on a couple extra miles adventure through Fort Wayne,
::had the fire alarm telling us very loudly (while I was on the phone, and walking right underneath it) that it’s batteries were dying,
::and then tonight ended up helping a young girl with her math homework (my weakest subject).
And that’s just a few of the things that, today, have caused me to be reminded once again that I can’t control my life-and I’m glad of that! God is a God of surprises and spontaneity, a God of mystery and wonder. If we had control of our own lives, I’m sure it would be nice: we’d have everything as we want it, and no unplanned hurdles to jump over. But wouldn’t that be so boring? The unexpected is what makes life fun and interesting, and though sometimes you have to wonder why on earth God would allow some surprises, we can rest in knowing that He works all things for good for them who love the Lord. For Him, nothing is unexpected-it’s been perfectly planned out since the beginning of time.
It’s like the song “Through Heaven’s Eyes” from The Prince of Egypt;
No life can escape being blown about
By the winds of change and chance
And though you never know all the steps
You must learn to join the dance
You must learn to join the dance

So come on and join the dance! It’s not always easy, but it’s beautiful, full of joy, and we have a perfect Dance Teacher to show us how to handle the hard steps!