Thursday, December 4, 2014

Confessions of a Non-Profit Leader: Rollercoaster Emotions

"God's got this! Can't wait for the miracles!"


(with tears streaming down my face) "Oh sweet Jesus, I know mamas who literally aren't eating because they need the money for school fees. 900 kids - waiting to know if they'll get to go to school. I don't know if I can bear this weight"

This is my swing.

Back and forth.

Back and forth.

Sometimes I stay in one place for a day...sometimes just minutes.

I think, if most leaders were honest, they would share the same thing.

Wanna know why I think this happens? (and no the answer isn't just that we are all a bit mentally unbalanced).

This is battle.

The Bible says that "our fight is not against flesh and blood" and calls us to "loose the chains of injustice." Those chains - the chains of slavery or poverty or defeat or the endless amount of lies that have been spoken into and over those we serve that leave them broken and wounded - they are the enemy's playground. He loves these chains. He wraps them tightly and expects them to stay put.

enter: us. fighters for justice. 

We charge in wanting to bring light to dark places, wanting to loose those chains, wanting to change communities with HOPE and opportunity.

Guess what? He's not too thrilled with this plan.

Therefore, we have a battle to face.

For me, right now, it's school fees. They are always an uphill battle. Or maybe better put, I feel like we are crawling uphill in battle, while carrying a weight which cannot be measured, while dodging people throwing things and bullets whizzing past our heads.

It's hard. It hurts. We see little rays of miracles popping through and get so excited. Then, someone comes with a little bullet - an unkind word, a note that we are failing in the expectations they had of us, a thoughtless action, a mean FB message - and we crash all over again.

This battling thing - it isn't for the weak at heart - it's hard. Hard. It hurts pretty much on an hourly basis. It's exhausting. I guess all things you should expect of battle, huh?

But they are worth it. Stella, who's been choosing to not eat so she can send her kids to school, is worth it. Scoviah, who never thought she'd have the opportunity to go to school because she's a girl and one of many, is worth it. My sweet girls, Anyait and Auma, who felt like no one would ever see them and love them are worth it. The battle is worth it. I will charge into this battle every day, all day...but it's still hard.

So if you see a non profit leader today - tell them it's ok to swing from faith and tears in a few hours time frame. Tell them you know the burden they carry is oh so heavy. Hug them and tell them they are doing a great job (even if you can think of 10 ways they could improve). Pray for them. Pray over them. Pray with them. Share their stories and help shoulder the burden a little. Oh and write a check - that always helps too :) (kidding...kind of...ok not really).

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Confessions of a Non-Profit Leader: I do NOT do it all

I get asked pretty darn regularly, "how do you DO it all????" between running 3 non profit projects and being a single mama to 3 littles, people act surprised by what I can do.

Honestly, sometimes I probably love that. It feeds into my secret wish to do it all.

I want to be able to do it all.

I often push myself. shame myself. blame myself for my inability to do it all.

I wish I could cook amazing dinners, design pinterest worthy craft projects for my kids, keep a perfect house, have a rock solid body, run 3 non profits, change the world, walk with the wounded and be a fabulous friend, sister, daughter, granddaughter and eventually wife.

Wanna know the truth?

I can't do it all.

I don't do it all.

In fact, I eat ChickFilA a LOT instead of cooking dinner.

My kids don't have amazing, healthy, beautifully packed lunches. They eat at school (gasp, I know).

No crazy pinterest projects around here (unless, of course, I am doing it to raise money for Uganda).

And today...I bit the bullet and really began to walk out the truth that I am not even supposed to do it all.

For months, my parents have been practically begging to help me in this one area.

My mom and dad have both told me over and over and over again, "there are things that ONLY you can do, Brandi. Everything else, let someone help with those things."

Still, I hesitated. Wasn't I SUPPOSED to do it all?

Wasn't I supposed to be able to do whatever was on my plate + keep a clean house + make dinner every night + be an amazing mama?

nope. I can't do it all.

So today, wanna know what happened?

Someone - actually 4 someones - came and CLEANED MY HOUSE.

Yep. My parents hired a housekeeping service.

I am beginning to sink into this truth that I can't do it all. That what I enough.

I can't do it all. And I shouldn't. I should only do what I am called to do and give up what I can give up or what I'm not called to do.

So, yep. I will run 3 non profits. I work nearly 16 hours a day on this (yeah, I know that isn't super healthy). I will be an amazing mama. I will walk with people in hard places. Everything else? I'm going to let it be ok that I'm not the best at those things.

Someone else cleans my house.
My laundry is in a basket waiting to be folded.
Dinner is often take-out.
I didn't work out today.

And that's ok.

I will do what I can do. Nothing more. Nothing less. Because guess what? It's enough.

No super heroes here. Just people - doing what they can with what they have. And that's enough.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

#sorrynotsorry // a post about being me

I love this quote. It makes my heart soar. I am a girl who LOVES freedom. I want to run hard after freedom for myself, I want to fight for freedom for others, I want to create free spaces and celebrate freedom every chance I get. I love freedom from oppression of all kinds – freedom from slavery, freedom from dysfunction, freedom from chains of injustice that have held people back. Big huge freedom like rescuing slaves from brick factories and little girls from brothels makes my heart soar. Know what else makes my heart soar? Men and women leaving abuse. People confronting the chains / wounds of their past and walking towards healing. Chains are not just physical and they aren’t always crazy obvious. Chains are things that hold you back from LIVING, from SOARING from BEING who you were created to be. And I want freedom from alllllllll chains. In fact, when I think about freedom and talk about freedom, I’m pretty sure I look like this to some people….

Some people LOVE this about me. It encourages and challenges them to be free. In many, many cases, it means I get to watch and to walk closely with people seeking freedom. I get front row seats for what God is going to do and how He will heal. It’s freaking amazing. It’s breath-takingly beautiful.

However….one step comes before the healing and beauty and freedom: The moment when someone recognizes their chains. This just plain sucks. It’s painful. Excruciatingly painful. Many people have lived fairly well and thought life was going on just fine as they’ve avoided their chains and all the painful wounds and pretended like life was just plain peachy.

Then I come along. Oops. Unfortunately (fortunately?) being FREE and talking about freedom a whole lot can sort of crash into other people’s boxes and chains. It seems that freedom shines a light on chains. It’s the “rebellion” part of the quote above. It reveals other people’s chains and dysfunction and wounds that might still need healing. The more I talk about wanting people to live and soar, the more they seem to examine their lives and find chains that hold them back from doing just that…and it hurts. It is a deeply painful process.

I have had friends say they never knew they had chains before they hung out with me. They didn’t realize their trauma before becoming close to me. They tease that people need to watch out before getting close to me because it means healing and freedom may be on the horizon…and lots of pain before that. They didn’t realize there was any other option other than stuffing their pain, living with the mediocrity of life or invalidating their own wounds. Now they do…and choices stand before them. Hard choices about what it might mean to walk to freedom and painful choices about diving into their own trauma for healing.

I’m so sorry.

I’m sorry that who I am causes you to see your own chains. I know it’s painful. I’m so sorry. I’m sorry that who I am makes your boxes not make sense any more. I know how confusing and frustrating that process is. I’m sorry that my healing and me talking about healing made you realize you still have wounds to be addressed. I know that realization sucks. I’m sorry that my calling you to soar and live made you realize you weren’t doing that yet. I know how painful those moments are because I lived them 4 years ago. I’m so sorry.

I mean, I’m not sorry because identifying the wounds/chains is the first step towards freedom and healing so I’m actually quite excited for you! But on the other hand, I’m also sorry because I know the pain and because I really hate being part of the pain.

So Sorry/Not Sorry for being who I am and calling forth what I tend to want to call forth in others. I apologize for the pain you may face in this process, but I celebrate what God is going to do if you face it head on, fight through the pain and find the beauty, freedom and healing waiting on the other side. You’re worth it. I promise.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Understanding my "power"

"This mama keeps hugging herself over and over. She says she never thought she would be hugged by a white person in her life. Now that she has, she keeps hugging herself and remembering what it was like to feel so very loved" - Rita (our Ugandan Field Director)
**note: mama pictured is not the mama who said this***

 Reading that report made my heart soar, while also sobering it. We carry the weight of others with us everywhere we go. For some, we represent all the white people in the world. For others, we represent the rich. For others, we may represent our gender, our nationality, our socio-economic class, our occupation, our religion or any number of things. Is this fair? Nope. 
It may not be fair that we sometimes represent entire people groups and carry the weight of all that people have done before we ever arrived, but it's still fact. 

This fact can either annoy us or embolden us to be vehicles of healing to the world around us.

So often, when it comes to Uganda, I want to ignore the fact that for reasons I find repulsive, I bear the weight of representing something powerful. I represent white people, rich people and people of power. While this doesn't feel fair and I don't ever want to be seen as "more" powerful than any of our mamas, I also choose not to ignore this fact. I want to understand and carry with great humility the responsibility of what I bear. I want to let it sink deep into my soul that my words count. It doesn't matter why my words count, it simply matters that I take that very seriously. I want my words, my touch, my every action to convey powerful truths when I am with my mamas in Uganda. Knowing my words mean something there makes me want to run back to Uganda and hold each and every mama and speak words of truth and hope over their souls. 

I saw the men on our trip exemplify this as well. With many of our mamas have been exploited and abandoned by men, they had great reason to shy away from every man on our team. The men on our team, following the lead of Pastor Moses Okwi, took on the responsibility of representing men to a hurting group of women. They knew their meager interactions wouldn't heal all the hurt the mamas had endured, but they still walked forward to do their part. They knew they carried the weight of horrific things done by men and even though they, themselves, had never committed these crimes against the women, they chose to be men of healing. 

it. was. beautiful.

I wish you could have seen the looks in the mamas' eyes as Ashton took their photos and gently spoke to them "You are so beautiful" in Ateso. Their eyes shone with the long held desire to be seen as beautiful and yet not exploited. 

You should have seen Branden, fully of silliness, making both mamas and children giggle uncontrollably. So often these mamas work so hard that play seems unfathomable.

You should have seen the mamas beam when Justin took their babies into his arms, setting work aside at times and continuing to film with babies in his arms at other times. So often they have been told their children are a burden.

You should have seen the mamas laugh while Canaan ran through the fields with gaggles of children following him, laughing with all of their beings. To see a grown man stop his work to simply play with their children was a force of healing.

This was not a responsibility any of asked for....we didn't ask to represent all the white people to villages who said to us, "we NEVER thought the white people would want to visit our village!" or the rich and powerful to the poor. We never asked to represent our gender, our race, our wealth or even our religion, but we chose to do everything in our power to wield that "power" wisely. 

I wonder how we can do that here in our normal lives as well? How can we recognize who and what we represent and wield that responsibility wisely? 

Even if it's not my fault that the people I interact with have wounds I have not inflicted that make them look at me with wary eyes, I want to be a vehicle of healing, mercy, love and truth. 

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Who told you that?

***note before you even start reading. This is not about health. I support all of my friends finding health in whatever way works best for their bodies, their lives and their priorities. I have lots of friends who teach exercise classes, sell nutritional products, etc. This isn't about that. This is about image and shame***

I am disgusting.


(turns to the side to look in the mirror from another angle)


I hang my head and step into the shower. Frustrated once again with my body. I continue to assess my stomach....oh my dreaded stomach. The part I hate most about myself. Really the only part I ever see....funny how it works that way. Oh wait, sometimes I see if I have a double chin or maybe if my arms look flabby. Yes, sometimes I can see those things. But mostly, it's my tummy.

I straighten up in the shower and look down again at my stomach. Finally, dejected, I kneel to spend time with my Jesus and this is what I hear,

"Who told you that, sweet B? Who told you that your stomach was supposed to look any different than it does right now? Because it wasn't me. I don't speak shame over you. Who told you that?"

This is a subject I've been processing a lot lately. If you are my friend (in person) we've probably discussed this. My friend, Alicia, even made a declaration that she was going to wear a bikini to the pool every day this summer - to encourage other women that yes, this is what women's (especially mamas) bodies really do look like and we should no longer be ashamed.. She's brave and she teaches me so much.

Today I read an article by Momastery where she notes "Your body is not your offering....your life is."

My body is not what I have to offer to this world. My life is.
My body is not what I have to offer to a man. My life is.
My body is not what I have to offer to my friends. My life is.
My body is not what I have to offer to my friends. My life is.

And the chains fall.

Yes, my body is a tool. It is what my soul lives in right now. I want to take care of it. Heck, I just got back from a 10 mile run and am making a salad for lunch! I do not, however, want to work out or eat right because it will help me look a certain way. Oh Jesus, I don't want to have that be my motivation! I want to work out because it makes my body and my soul feel good. I want to run and do yoga because breathing in and out reminds me of my God and settles my soul. I want to run outside because I can breathe clean air and look at those mountains and pray over the people I love. I want to do yoga because it's time by myself, taking care of me. My prayer is that my motivation is never so that I can have a "perfect summer body" because

my body is not what I have to offer to this world. My life is.

I want to spend my time, my energy, my heart and soul on pouring out into this world. I want to lead others to freedom and healing and beauty. I want to be a voice of truth that shouts out the lies in my world. I want to boldly and gently walk into the darkest places on the planet with light and hope.

THIS. THIS is my offering to this world.

Honestly, a little pudge around the middle....that simply reveals my offering. It's a part of it. My pudge is because I drink a tad too much coke and I eat ChickFilA (also because its genetic and I've had 2 babies). I drink more coke right now because I work 18 hours a day because I'm a single mom and I run 3 non profits. I eat chickfila some days because I'm tired after spending hours upon hours in conversation with people about their hardest, deepest, scariest wounds.

Maybe, just maybe....this is EXACTLY what I'm supposed to look like.

And maybe, just maybe....when I wonder more about what I'm supposed to look like than who I'm supposed to be, it breaks my Jesus' heart.

Oh how my heart would break into two to watch my little girl look in mirror with a critical eye. Oh how I would want to take her face in my hands and say "that is not your offering!!!! Who you are, sweet baby girl, is what matters. You are kind and you are brave. You have an emotional intelligence that outweighs almost every 8 year old girl on the planet. You are compassionate. You know your voice and you use it. You speak life into others" I would whisper with tears running down my face. I would beg her to please never look at her body like that again. I would beg her to see her beautiful soul every time she looks into the mirror because that is what I see.

Your life is your offering to this world. Make that beautiful. Pour into that. Spend time processing that. Evaluate it and pursue change if necessary. Speak hope and life into this world. Be YOU.

You are beautiful, dear one. Go look in the mirror right now and ask Jesus to hold your face and tell you what HE sees when He looks at you. 

....and now I'm off to put on my bathing suit to head to the pool in a bit. And I will wrestle. I don't have this figured out by any means....but I will work on not judging my body for it is not all I have to offer. I am so much more and I am going to choose to actually believe that. Will you join me?

Friday, May 30, 2014

Confessions of a non-profit leader

"This burden feels crushing" - what I texted a friend this week.

I want to tell you the truth. The real truth of what it means to lead a non-profit (or 3). Except I also don't want to tell you. Part of me wants you to think I can do all of this with a smile on my face at all times and a happy spring to my step (while also keeping a perfect home and raising perfect kids and being a pinterest-perfect mama). Part of me wants you to see me as professional and polished and nonplussed, taking on the world's burdens without a care in the world - confidently striding about knowing God is in control.

But that would be a lie. (hmmmmm to really correct this lie, I may need to do a whole series of posts!)

I'm exhausted. I've spend a good portion of today crying my eyes out.

Sometimes the burden feels so heavy.

212 kids who need school fees or will be sent home (school has already started).
**approximately $7,700 still to raise

villages that need clean water.
**approximately $4200 needed just to have enough wells for all of the people of Olusai

100 mamas who want to be trained for business.
**approximately $9,000 left to raise

2,500 women who want to come to a women's conference
**$2,500 still to raise

4 professionals who will willingly donate their services to our trip, if I can raise the funds to send them
**$12,000 left to raise

Add to that hearing today the stories from the ground of Richard, who at 18 is the head of his household. His mama, Lois, died last year from cancer. (She's the reason we started raising money for all the mamas who are sick). Richard now is in charge of his siblings (3 years, 5 years, 9 years, 11 years and an older brother who is mentally disabled). They are what we call a child-headed household. They are sleeping in the dirt with no bedding and very few clothes and the elementary kids aren't going to school. We need to raise $500 for their basic

I hung up from the call with Rita, in Uganda, and I just cried. No problem. Let's break from the fundraising that feels like it's breaking me already and raise $500 today. But I surely can't say no. They are children.

"Hand it back over to Jesus" people say when I share how heavy my heart is some days.

honestly? I sorta want to slap people when they say that. (it's ok if you've said that to me though :)

Not because I don't think there is truth to that statement. I DO believe I need to continually bring these burdens to my Jesus and remember that He has unlimited resources and He loves them more than I do and He can be trusted.

But I also think this burden is heavy and He knows that

I don't think he would have looked at Simon, who carried his actual cross for Him and said "I bet that feels light." I think His statement about His burden being light was about salvation; about how He doesn't require people to jump through hoops for salvation.

But this burden? In my best guess based on my relationship with Jesus, I bet He would instead say, "I know how heavy this is, sweet girl. Oh how I know. I have carried it and continue to carry it now. I am here. I know this burden. I'm proud of you for being willing to bear this and to witness a part of the heart of God in the process. You are not carrying this alone, dear one. I am here. I am present. I am working. Watch me work."

You see, when someone says for me to just give it to Jesus, it feels shaming. As if my burden only feels heavy because I can't quite figure out how to be spiritual enough to get out from under it. And don't worry, no one needs to shame me....I do enough of that myself. Constantly wondering if it's too heavy because I took on too much, if I'm not giving it to Jesus enough, if I am doing enough of my part and being a good steward of my part of the responsibility.  (PS: I KNOW that people are really only just saying the thing that has been said to them and are doing it out of pure love for me and how painful it is to see someone you love in no shame for you if you've said that to me!)

Today, I go back to my Jesus and I hear that it's ok that it's heavy. Yep. It's heavy. These are real people with hard problems and deep pain and entering into their world can be hard. It can hurt like hell. These are big issues. Big pain. Big burdens He's asked me to bear with Him. "Bear one another's burdens" He asked us.....I'm just bearing the ones of 1,000 mamas half a world away.

It's hard. But it's also worth it. Please know that even in the moments when I'm scared and it hurts and I'm out on the deep water and waiting for more miracles than I could care to count, I am still so very thankful to have the opportunity to do this. I love what I'm permitted to do. I love these mamas. I love being used by God to be a part of putting kids in school, bringing clean water, caring for orphans and a whole mess of other things. It is worth it....but it's also hard and it's time we started telling the truth about that at times. 

Monday, January 14, 2013

me. being brave.

Today has been a day of bravery for me. Fearful, knee-shaking, thrilling at every turn bravery. When God calls you to something big, when He deposits a dream in your heart, it is a beautiful, scary thing. I start to dream about the hundreds of thousands of dollars that could be raised with this project. I start to dream about standing alongside so many different organizations and getting to be a small part of their work in the world. I dream about the girls that could be protected, rescued, restored and reintegrated through this. I dream about Him using my crazy little brain and these crazy little campaigns that I dream up to really make a difference in the world. 

Then....the what if's start flowing....what if it's a failure? What if no one gets this vision? What if I can't do it? What if I let people down? What if I get all excited and then it falls flat? What if..... 

(truthfully, I even got scared WRITING out those dreams in this post! What if you thought I was crazy? Or dreamed too big? What if you thought I shouldn't think so highly of myself that the God of the Universe would want to use ME? What if....

this is where trust comes in. A whole heap of trust, a big dash of hope, a crazy amount of courage and the choice to be brave.

It was a choice to be brave today as we launched I had this idea in early 2010 and it is now coming to fruition. It's my baby and it's being born :) I get excited. I start dreaming. But then the what if's start in. The fears that I will bring this baby of mine into public and end up falling flat on my face. Is that a possibility? sure. always is really :) But I'm choosing to be brave anyways. To walk forward in what I believe God is calling me to. To live in the dreams that He has given me. To try. To "chance". To take a risk.

Because I know the heart of the God I serve. I know the truth. This project doesn't define me. If it falls flat on it's face, I still have my Jesus. He loves ME, not what I do for Him. He delights in my heart to serve, not the number of FB shares I get. This is His deal anyways. If He wants to use this little idea to raise money for His work around the world, so be it. If He chooses not to, that's His choice too. This is about HIM. He gets the glory...and He would gladly take the fall too. 

Because of the strong shoulders of the one who carries me, I can be brave. Because of the unconditional, crazy love of the God I serve, I can dream big dreams. Because of Him, I can walk forward in trust, courage and a whole lot of HOPE. 

Am I still afraid? yeah...probably ;) I realize, however, that this life of bravery that I'm living, is the life I want to live. I want to be the kind of girl who loves big, dreams big and steps out on crazy limbs with her God in grand adventures. So today. I will be that girl. I will be brave because of who He is.

How will you be brave today? How will you scoop up all of that trust, hope and courage and choose to live the brave, beautiful life that He has for you?

PS: let me know if you want to join our brave adventure with me? :)