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*

Sunday, March 23, 2014

{adventures in ethiopia} greetings.

Our trips to Ethiopia each year are in part about fellowship and relationship building. These are "our" children, and this church is made up of our brothers and sisters in Christ. When we visit, it's the same children - they are special to us…and we, as humbling as it is, are very special to them. For several of our team, it was their second (or third) trip to Merkato, so relationships were not only being built, but strengthened.

There were many moving moments during those ten days, and one of them (for me) came the day after we arrived. Monday was our first day in Merkato itself, and the day that we were going to do activities and a lesson with the younger half of the children. We were waiting in the church, prepping for the afternoon, and the children were coming into the courtyard to get their name tags, then going up to the community center. As we talked, I heard someone say, "Ben!" and this precious little boy came running across the room and wrapped his arms around Ben. It was Nathan, one of "his boys", who was overjoyed to see him again. I immediately teared up, and couldn't do anything but just watch and smile. A chance to see first hand exactly why we come to visit and hug these children *in person*.

My sister had a similar experience as we walked into Merkato the first time. She heard a little girl call out, "Maddie!" as she passed. It wasn't the girl she sponsors, but another one who remembered her from last year. 

If I came away with anything from the trip, it was the reality that behind every picture on our church bulletin board, behind every sponsor card on church members' kitchen walls - behind them all is real child, a real heart beating, a real eternal soul. They are children, God's children, and He is using us as part of His plan to draw them to Himself. ]

Like I emailed to my sister after I met her sponsor girl, "It matters what we do."

Friday, March 21, 2014

why oreos and horned lizards can be distracting a.k.a. life with brothers

the boys don't sit still enough for me to take their picture. so here's susannah <3

Breakfast is over. The children put their dishes up on the counter by the sink - and promptly disappear. I start tidying up, and then I hear the first shriek. The boys come careening in with Susannah behind them, some form of chase game I presume. It ends in a pile up on the floor of the hallway, and the noise reaches a decibal level that - while ear splitting - is not uncommon.

I finally persuade Susannah to go listen to an audiobook in her room, and Josh finds something to amuse himself, and I settle in to trying to get the kitchen clean *and* keep Michael and Luke semi-focused on schoolwork.

Two minutes into the quiet, Luke has a petition:

"There's something we need to do today."
"It's not good to let food go to waste. I think we should eat the Oreos before they go stale."
"I will take that into consideration, thank you."
"Does that mean yes?"
"I agree with you that it would be a waste of food and bad stewardship of what the Lord has given us to allow the Oreos to go stale."
(whoops and cheers from all quarters)
"Alright, focus on your work - don't leave anything undone that you'll get busted for when Mama gets home."


"When are we going to eat them?"
"After lunch."
"How many can we have?"
"As many as there are."
Luke starts to get up, but I see what's he up to and stop him:
"NO. You may *not* go count them."

Pause. Then Michael exclaims while reading a book:
"AHHH!!! It shoots blood out its EYES!"
Luke jumps up immediately and runs over to read the chapter over Michael's shoulder. Because lizards that shoot blood are waaay more exciting than language arts. Thank you, A Beka Science Reader.

"Luke! Back to work!"
"Okay, okay, I AM working!"

Of course.

Five minutes later:
"I'm done with all my school for the day."
"For real?"
"I started before breakfast."

He's right.

"Would you like me to go outside and work off some energy?"
"Luke, I would LOVE that. You're dismissed."
"You just LOVE babysitting us, don't you."
"Actually, yes I do. Y'all are the best."
Life has it's hard moments, but there's actually waaay more fun moments.
Being a big sister has it's hard moments, but there's waaaay more fun moments.
Having three younger brothers - two of whom are only sixteen months apart and currently age 11 and 10 - has it's hard moments, but there's waaaay more goofy moments and I love it.

And I'm getting all kinds of practical experience in how to school two middle school aged boys who just want to be outside all day :) They don't teach you that in college. *cough*

Anyway, just wanted to give you a snippet of my day.

But I will say - horned lizards are actually pretty cool. And I'm looking forward to the Oreos after lunch. :)

Thursday, March 20, 2014

awkward and awesome // 3.20.14

Considering how long it's been since I did one of these, this should be good. *wink*

- telling someone at church that typhoid is a verbal vaccine. Close enough.
- later that same evening attributing my difficulty skiing to my lack of hand-eye coordination. Well, that would explain it, I guess. Who skis with their hands anyway?
- successfully blowing out the side of a squeezable ketchup packet onto my clothes *while driving* and onto the seat belt…oh, and the chicken nuggets. Clean up involved me sponging myself off at a gas station while filling up the car, and shortening my purse strap so my bag covered up the tomato stains on my shirt while I was in Whole Foods. Just a day in the life, folks.
- dropping off Michael for piano and forgetting to pick Luke up simultaneously. Poor guy. Had to sit outside for fifteen minutes on his lonesome waiting for me to come back. *sigh*

- sharing with the church last night about our trip to Addis Ababa. Such a sweet time, marveling over what the Lord is doing and bringing back so much love to all the church families from their sponsor children.
- my favorite Little Feet came to visit their Auntie Liza last week. We had a big lunch at my house with everyone (choir, staff, host families), and even though it was a little chilly, we were outside most of the time. I don't think they have any idea just how much they mean to me…so blessed that the Lord brought them into my life these past eighteen months. Jesus has big plans for these lives!

- only *twenty* days till I leave for Ellerslie! I can't believe it's been nearly seven months since basic graduation…time truly flies, and God is so very, very good.
- The Secret Garden. Did I mention I love my theatre family? Truly have an ache in my heart that this is over…it was a joy to work on, perform, and the experience was unparalleled. Who knew I'd love the Ghostly Life of the Adult Deceased Ensemble so much? <3
- having a little date with myself and my favorite mug (which someone people *cough* recently accused of being my idol. watch it, guys) watching The Princess Bride. "The minute his HEAD is in view - HIT IT WTIH THE ROCK!" It doesn't take much to please me, folks. *chuckle*
- Spring weather today! If only it would promise to stay, and NO MORE SNOW!
- straightening my hair and finally recognizing myself in the mirror. :) Many of y'all think of me as a curly top, but I grew up with straight hair and only in the past two years has it gone kinky wild. I think of myself with straight hair, so it's fun to have it sometimes.
- several super encouraging (separate and unrelated) conversations with Alicia, Stephanie and Ben about what the Lord is working in my life, and in theirs. I'm just blown away how the Lord has given me these special "older siblings" to draw me closer to Him - so grateful!
- playing with markers and crayons. Once again, I'm easy to please - never happier than when I'm working in a coloring book with a four year old, or doodling around poems and quotes in my notebook.
- sorting through pictures for the Africa slideshow and reliving the memories. 

…and I'm so happy, so very happy, 
I have the love of Jesus in my heart!

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

{my heart's too full for words…so here's a song}

go light your world by chris rice

There is a candle in every soul
Some brightly burning, some dark and cold
And there is a spirit who brings a fire
Ignites a candle and makes his home

Carry your candle, and run to the darkness
Seek out the helpless, confused and torn
And hold out your candle for all to see it
Take your candle, and go light your world
Take your candle, and go light your world

Frustrated brother, see how he's tried to
Light his own candle some other way
See now your sister, she's been robbed and lied to
Still holds a candle without a flame

So carry your candle, and run to the darkness
Seek out the lonely, the tired and worn
And hold out your candle for all to see it
Take your candle, and go light your world
Take your candle, and go light your world

'Cause we are a family whose hearts are blazing
So let's raise our candles and light up the sky
Praying to our Father, in the name of Jesus
Make us a beacon in darkest times

Carry your candle, and run to the darkness
Seek out the helpless, deceived and poor
Hold out your candle for all to see it
Take your candle, and go light your world
Take your candle, and go light your world

Carry your candle, run to the darkness
Seek out the helpless, confused and torn
Hold out your candle for all to see it
Take your candle, and go light your world
Take your candle, and go light your world
Take your candle, and go light your world

all photos by Daniel Dubois

Friday, March 14, 2014

there and back again.

Yes, I'm home again - safe and sound - full of memories, experiences and stories. I hit the ground running once we were back on American soil, what with my favorite Little Feet invading my house and heart for the week, and a show to jump into (tonight, actually) and Ellerslie planning kicking into reality, so cut me some slack as I pick up loose ends and figure out how to articulate what happened in Africa. I promise, I won't leave you hanging too long.