Monday, April 21, 2014

{adventures in africa} from the home visits

"Pure religion and undefiled before our God and Father is this, to visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unspotted from the world." - James 1:27

Sunday, April 20, 2014

thankfulness {resurrection sunday}

Christos Anviat!
Christ is Risen!

I'm overwhelmed with thankfulness today - just basking in it. It should be Thanksgiving today. I guess every day is a "thanksgiving day" of sorts. Hm.

Anyway, obviously today I'm thankful for Jesus. I'm thankful that today we're not just celebrating His miraculous resurrection from the dead, but also *our* deliverance for the slavery of sin and burning torment of hell. It's a wonderful, humbling, thankfulness-inspiring thought.

On that note, I thought I'd share of the things I'm thankful for from the past ten days. Be ready, there's quite a few!

I'm Thankful For...
...the beautiful seventy-degree weather that greeted me when I arrived, as well as the snow that dusted everything last Sunday, and the return of the seventies (haha) this week. Gotta love Colorado weather!

...the way God has used every session I've heard, even before the semester started, to press me deeper into Him and reveal things in my life that I didn't even know were there.

...getting to spend my first week on campus sleeping in Grammie's room. Jesus knew I needed her! What a precious time.

...the grace given to stay on top of the homework *and* apply for a job for this next year at the same time.

...Jesus' faithfulness even when I was stupidly stressing and allowing fear to get in the way of trusting in His timing and will. Praise the Lord for the joy in my soul this weekend as I sheepishly saw my foolishness in light of His sovereignty.

...the way not being home for Passover and Resurrection Sunday has challenged me to focus on Jesus when my heart aches. This is part of growing up, and He's going to be with me even when I feel alone.

....Morgan and Carrie and the precious way that they are family to me. Spending Thursday night in their room with Janna, eating matzah and charoseth, drinking grape juice, and sharing stories about what's God's doing in our families was such a sweet way to pass an evening that could've been very hard for me.

...being able to sit with Morgan and Corbin and Carrie and Travis during worship today and "be family" for each other. So, so, so blessed by them all.

...the teachers and staff here at Ellerslie who press us into Jesus, and encourage us to push ourselves harder than we thought we even could - all without losing sight of our ultimate goal: to be conformed to the image of Christ.

....the birth of Mike and Christa's precious little girl the other night - oh, how I love celebrating new life!

...all the lovely reunions the past week as sisters and brothers in Christ from my summer semester arrive on campus, or come visit. It's beautiful to see that even after an eight-month separation, we're still just as close as we ever were.

...spending hours talking with dear people about their lives and how God's working and moving, and practical ways we can be preparing ourselves for whatever He calls us to next.

...watching the sun set over beautiful Ellerslie lake. It never, ever, EVER gets old.

...the memories that wash over me as I walk this campus. So many amazing life-changing moments have occurred here for me - it's such a joy to be back.

Just a little of what's been filling me with joy. The homework is intense - we're memorizing Scripture, reading Scripture and studying Scripture - but it's making us think, stretching our minds and enlarging our understanding. That's what homework is for, right?

Study to shew thyself approved unto God, 
a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, 
rightly dividing the word of truth. - 2 Timothy 2:15

Saturday, April 19, 2014

{adventures in africa} tigist.

Tigist is my sister Caroline's age. Actually, they remind me of each other. They both have spunk, they both love crafty projects, they both are leaders in their circle of friends. They're both young, with their lives ahead of them. But honestly, it's hard to realize just how different their lives are. 

It's hard to look at these pictures from the clean, air conditioned window of the Lake House and think of what Tigist is looking at each and everyday. Not the Ellerslie Lake...that's for sure. Right now {her time} her "neighborhood" is lit up with dull red lights about every eight to ten feet.

That's enough to make my stomach churn.

But she's still got that irrepressible smile, because she has HOPE. 

My sister is her sponsor, and the program is changing her life. She couldn't ask me enough questions about Caroline - hanging on every detail and asking over and over again when she was going to come visit. She prays for my sister every night, and has her letter carefully saved away. 

That's humbling. Who's sponsoring who, anyway?

I want to be there when they meet for the first time. I'll probably cry. They probably will too. And there's beauty in that - and there's beauty in the unity they have now, even though they're thousands of miles, an ocean, a sixteen hour plane flight apart.

I can't emphasize enough - it MATTERS. Relationships matter. "Sacrificing" time, money and energy matters. Every child in these photos is a real, live little person with a beating heart, an active mind, and an eternal soul. Once you see it, experience it, hug these precious ones and hear the'll never be the same again and you won't be able to shut up about it either.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

first weekend {HLF 5K}

Well, I can hardly believe I've been at this dear place for a week already! Time truly flies here like no where else. 

It's funny, I thought I was coming early just for the 5K and graduation...but God had SO MANY other plans for these early pre-semester days that I'm a little stunned and overwhelmed. The amount of truth, conviction, and blessing that has been poured out on my little life by so many people I know and love, not mention my beautiful Savior, has filled me with such joy that I can't explain it coherently.

BUT, all that said, the 5K was *incredible* and I enjoyed every single minute of it. I love supporting this ministry (as you know) so being there in person was lovely. And of course, the fellowship time with long-lost roommates, friends, and spiritual family was unparalleled. Joy, joy, JOY!

I spent yesterday in the airport, getting incoming students on shuttles and enjoying many happy reunions with dear, dear basic semester friends. Orientation was last night, first classes and homework assignments were today. It's going to be a challenging semester, but in light of eternity, it's all worth it! There are a lot of things on my plate, but because it all points to Jesus, it's happiness.

Here's to an epic, Jesus-filled, spiritually and emotionally stretching seven weeks!

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

shameless plug for my kiddos

(I'm trying to get back into Colorado lingo - hence the "kiddos"^ I refuse to say "what-not", but I'm sure it'll worm its way back into my vocab soon enough)

Remember these precious faces?

I thought so. They've made multiple appearances on this here blog, and have been a sweet and powerful part of my life for almost eighteen months - starting before they even arrived in the United States.

These children are part of this year's choir for His Little Feet - a ministry based out of Ellerslie. To quote their website:
His Little Feet is a registered 501(c)(3) non-profit organization based in Windsor, CO. His Little Feet International Children’s Choir has consisted of children from China, Ethiopia, Haiti, Honduras, India, S. Korea, and the United States, all of whom have traveled the United States being the voice for orphaned and vulnerable children worldwide.
As a part of the choir, the children participate in a culturally unique experience, while at the same time, impacting others in need around the world through the His Little Feet nationwide campaign called “(be in on it) – give. sponsor. go. adopt.” These four practical response opportunities impact thousands of orphaned and vulnerable children worldwide.
While the children are in the States, they also participate in His Little Feet’s Life Training Academy (academics; performing arts; and life skills training). The experiences these precious children have over this short season of time changes their lives forever. 
In a nutshell, that's HLF. ^

The Lord has been so gracious in not only allowing me to pray these particular children to the States over a period of eight months, but they also were on campus during my Basic semester, *and* have been in my hometown TWICE in the past six months to sing and share their testimony. I have been blessed to see first hand how HLF has impacted these seven children, and they are so very, very dear to my heart.

This Saturday, I'll be participating in a 5K walk/run in Windsor to support His Little Feet and raise money to bring children over for the 2013-2014 choir. As heart wrenching as it will be to say goodbye to Eni, Chhuani, Vena, Zuala, Dami, Kima and David, I know God has *big big* plans for their lives, and He also has a plan for the next set of children - wherever they are from, whatever their background - and I'm excited to open my heart to them when they arrive.

The neat thing is that y'all can be involved in this too! There's a couple ways you can do this.

~ First (quickest and easiest), you can sponsor me in the 5K by donating to His Little Feet {}. Every little bit counts, blessings on you if you feel led in this way!
~ Secondly, you can host a HLF concert in your area - it's a bit more work, but I cannot even BEGIN to tell you what a blessing it will be to you, your church and your church family to have these precious ones in your homes and lives for a few days.
~ Thirdly, if you can't host a concert, attend one! You'll be encouraged, challenged, and walk away with a smile on your face and a song in your heart. Check the schedule and see if they're coming near you!
~ Finally, and Most Importantly, PRAY. Pray for God to work in mighty ways, drawing people from every tribe and nation to Himself, and opening the eyes of His people to plight of the fatherless. The Lord Himself has promised to be the Defender of the widow and orphan, and a Father to the fatherless - and if we are His hands and feet, His body, it's part of our ministry to serve those who the Father loves.

So there's my plug - I love these children, I love this ministry, and I love y'all, so naturally I want y'all involved in any ways you can be :)

If you give, attend, host or pray, I thank you for opening your heart to these children. There's no regret in giving our time and resources to things nearest to God's heart.

With love,

Saturday, April 5, 2014

life captured // 4.5.2014

I'm sitting in the family room, enjoying a cozy fire, pleasantly listening to the hum of activity around me. The boys and Susannah are in bed, Catherine and Alicia are working on math, Dad's filing his nails (??), Caroline's working on her Camp Nano book, and I'm playing around with/configuring my new baby 11" MacBook Air - affectionately dubbed "Agnes" (think: "It's so fluffy I'm going to DIE!"), and Mama (planner extraordinaire) and Dao are working on his and Alicia's wedding plans - with everyone else putting in their two cents and saying random things. Just a happy family evening - made more special with the "big kids" staying overnight...older siblings rock, just saying, and I miss them when they're not here.

We've been a little preoccupied with Captain America over here as well, since the four of us girls and Dad with a posse of friends went to see The Winter Soldier on Thursday night. More on that later, as I process what I thought of the movie. I hope to give it a pretty in-depth review on here in the next few weeks - I just want to wait till more people have a chance to see it so the discussion can be multi-sided.

And I'm feeling reflective. And my heart is feeling a little achy. In just three days, I'm switching my Virginia home for my Colorado home - and while I'm actually more excited about this semester than I was about my Basic semester - it's going to be harder to leave.

It's been seven months since I graduated, seven sweet and life-filled months here at home with my family. I knew the time would fly - but not this fast. It's not been easy, but the blessings FAR outweighed the struggles, and I wouldn't trade any of it for even a year at Ellerslie.

The Lord taught me dependence on Him. He's showed me that there is great joy and peace in waiting. I've spent many a late night on my knees, resting in His presence, filled with His grace and blessed to be His child. My Mama taught me to cook a chicken, plan meals in advance (harder than it sounds, folks), teach little people in a way that they respond, and helped me manage my time better. We've grown closer, not just as mother and daughter, but as sister and sister in Christ. She's a gem. My Dad taught me how to cut my brothers' hair, manage my time, turn everything over to the Lord and wait on Him with hope and expectancy, encourage my siblings and look for the best in them.

The beautiful truth is that I'm closer to each member of my family. I know my siblings better, we have more fun together, home life has a decidedly positive atmosphere for me. Some relationships have been harder than others to rebuild, and healing is still taking place, but the Lord is so merciful to us all.

God is doing great things and will continue to do great things in my life - and this semester is going to be no exception. Honestly, I'm struggling some with the thought that this seven month season is practically over and a new phase of my life is beginning. I'm not one to be daunted by change, but I do sometimes have a hard time moving on - I hold onto things, people, events, ideas. Even though I'm thrilled, giddy actually, and filled with joy for these next two months - leaving is bittersweet.

I'm loving these last few days at home - living them for all their worth, enjoying every minute. I've spent priceless time with friends and family, including a night with my older sister enjoying quality sister/bridesmaid time - since by the time I come back, she'll be two weeks away from her wedding day (!!!). So it's little things - movie nights with church friends, spontaneous hoedowns, coffee dates, relaxing evenings at home, wedding discussions and planning with Dao and Alicia, quiet devotion times with Mama and Dad in the morning - that I'm soaking up right now.

Do you ever get that feeling that you're living a story that ONLY GOD could be writing? That's the feeling I have. And it's better than a feeling, because it's true.

For the Lord God is a sun and shield;
the Lord bestows favor and honor.
No good thing does he withhold
from those who walk uprightly.
O Lord of hosts,
blessed is the one who trusts in you!
- Psalm 84

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

{adventures in ethiopia} countryside.

An assortment of photos from our drives through the Abyssinian countryside. It's a strikingly beautiful country - I love the hills rising up out of the ground, barren of trees but covered in grass. I can only imagine their loveliness right after the rainy season when everything is green! 
{all pictures by yours truly}

Friday, March 28, 2014

it's been three years.

This morning, Maddie and I spent a few minutes at the graveside of one of our childhood friends who died tragically three years ago today. It's the one event I can trace that forced me to "grow up" in so many ways, and changed my perspective on life and Jesus. I got a grasp on the fact that life is truly fleeting, and it's your relationship with Jesus and the way you love others that really counts in the end. Today, I am almost the exact same age my friend was when Jesus took him home…and I have to ask, if I died today, what kind of story would I leave behind?

I've also learned that time does NOT heal all wounds. Jesus does. And He sometimes He does it in such a way that it hurts - but it makes us stronger. I still get a hard achy feeling in my stomach when I think of Tommy, but I also have hope - and the knowledge that he's with Jesus. And I know that with all my heart. Nothing like having dear ones waiting in heaven to turn our eyes upward!

Tommy's testimony challenged so many - he was a dearly loved member of his close-knit family, and a dear friend of not only our family, but many, many others. The Celebration Service for his life was attended by hundreds of people, and was one of the hardest, most powerful, moving and spiritually encouraging days of my life.

Every day, I find more comfort in Christ on a deeper level - because He is an ever deepening ocean of mercy towards us. He grieves with us, hopes with us, encourages us to the higher road. He's there with us every step, and when the Valley of the Shadow seems to smother all light, He's still there.

I left a little index card at the graveside with some excerpts from Psalm 84 - a psalm I claimed earlier this month when the Lord was walking me through dependence on His sovereignty and teaching me joy during the waiting seasons of life. Here are the verses I chose:
"How lovely is your dwelling place, O Lord of hosts! My soul longs, yes, faints for the courts of the Lord; my heart and flesh sing for joy to the living God...Blessed are those who dwell in your house, ever singing your praise! Blessed are those whose strength is in you, in whose heart are the highways to Zion...They go from strength to strength; each one appears before God in Zion...For a day in your courts is better than a thousand elsewhere… " - Psalm 84
Yes, I still cry. Yes, I still wish the "big brother" of my childhood days was here. I wish he was graduating from UVa this summer. I wish he could've lived a long life. But this year more than ever, I'm learning how to process this Jesus's way - and trust Him to work it all for His glory…even when it's still hard to see how.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

{adventures in ethiopia} coffee ceremony.

The coffee ceremony is a fundamental part of Ethiopian culture. It is an honor to be a part of, and a sign of respect from the host to the guest.  The morning of our first day on site, the women of the church prepared coffee for us while we talked over our plan for the day.

Ethiopian coffee in this particular form is basically like an espresso - and about as caffeinated as it gets. A few of us *cough* graciously accepted their offer for a second cup...which ordinarily would be fine, except that just thirty minutes later, while visiting the home of one of the children, we were served coffee again. Let's just say that three strong shots of espresso in the space of two hours can mess with you a little - not to mention the full cup of coffee we'd had with breakfast. Shaky hands, rumbling stomach, headache, etc - that was afternoon. We learned our lesson, and from then on, I only took one cup wherever we just never know when you'll be offered another one. *rueful grin*

We were also served popcorn - and lots of it. Ethiopians love their popcorn. It's plain and simple, nothing on top, just popped corn…and it goes well with coffee. *grin*

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The yellow fish is Buttercup, the green one is Rush, the pink one is Elizabeth, and the purple one is Zachary Moon

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