Tuesday, August 28, 2012

oh, let 'em talk.....

We are very aware of our reputations these days. Ok, maybe not just these days. In fact, my Granny used to tell me that when she was little that she wasn't allowed to walk on the same side of the street as the movie theater, just in CASE someone thought that, God forbid, she had seen a movie. We avoid people of ill repute. We make sure to avoid scandal at all costs. We protect our reputations because your "name" is all you've got, right?

The more I read about Jesus, the less I see Him doing any kind of reputation protecting.

He hung out with prostitutes, tax collectors and just sinners in general. He didn't apologize for it either! He didn't offer mercy to the woman caught in adultery and thrown before Him and then turn to the pharisses and say, "I mean...we are friends and all....but I surely don't condone what she has done.  Maybe I'll make sure she knows that."  What about when He was having dinner with the religious elite and a woman of the night walks into the house, directly up to Jesus and begins washing his feet with her tears and hair. Oh the scandal! Do you see anywhere in this story where He pulls Himself up, coughs a bit, looks around nervously and says "uh, yeah, I don't know her from her job or anything.....I don't know how she even knows who I am.....don't touch me girl, we know where your hands have been"? Nope. He loves her. He offers her grace and mercy. Heck, He calls out Simon's judgment even though Simon hadn't even said it aloud! He affirms her for her faith.

We never once see Him apologizing for who He is spending time with. We never once see Him make SURE that everyone knows He doesn't approve of all of His friends choices. We never once hear Him say "i love these sinners, but I hate their sin". We never once see Him tell others that the reason He is hanging out with this crowd is for ministry sake.

He simply loves.

"Let 'em talk" He must think.

He's used to the talk anyways. When the God of the universe looked around and determined the best way to enter the world, He chose to come in scandal. I know that today we look back at the immaculate conception of baby Jesus in the virgin Mary as a miracle, but I'm pretty sure that the people of the day just saw it as a scandal. You think they believed Mary or Joseph when they said, "We didn't have sex. God impregnated her!"?  yeah right. This baby had to have been the talk of the town.

He entered into mess and scandal. He chose to enter the world, innocent, and yet being gossiped about.

He chose throughout time to use the messiest of the messy for HIS glory. Mess and scandal don't bother Him a bit. He's not ashamed to be called my God b/c of my mess. Not one little bit. And He's not afraid of your scandal or mess either.

I see this in how He chose to use Bathsheba as the mother of Solomon. Rahab as the mother of Boaz. He saw their hearts. He loved these women. He chose to use them to parent some of the greatest men of all time. (and as for Bathsheba, to be loved by one of the greatest men of all time. Sure their relationship didn't start out right....but the Lord never walked away from them and instead blessed their union beautifully).

I want to love like that. No apologies.

Because people know if you love them .... even though. We feel it. I have felt it. I have known people who wanted to stand beside me even though they didn't agree with my choice to leave. They loved me even though....but it didn't feel like love.

If you know that someone is embarrassed to be your friend, it hurts. We don't want secret friends. I have a few actually. People who I am friends with in private, but who I can tell don't want to let the whole world know we are friends. That kind of love isn't freeing. That kind of love doesn't make you feel safe to be fully yourself.

The kind of love Jesus gave accepted people FULLY. He loved them completely right where they were at. This is the kind of love that frees. Being fully loved makes you feel safe enough to want to get rid of the chains. Being fully loved allows you to put down the weapons you have used to protect your heart. Sin is bondage. Being fully loved makes you want to be free from all bondage. He didn't need to tell them about their sin always. Loving them well allowed them to want to put their sinful ways aside so that they could live in the fullness of love.

I want to love like that.

I want to enter the mess of the world with no apologies and without fear for my reputation or what people may think or say.

I want to love people with the kind of love that can only come from Jesus and that frees them to be more them than they've ever been....with the kind of love that allows them to feel safe enough to put aside their weapons....with the kind of love that heals wounds....with the kind of love that calls people to live the great adventure with Jesus, allowing Him to change us and then to use us to change the world. 

So if you see me in the mess. If you see me being friends with people you don't understand. If you don't understand me or my story. If you think I get too close to scandal and choose at times to walk into it. Go ahead and talk I guess.....because this is where I find my Jesus.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Dancing in the Dirt

**2nd post this weekend....similar subject. Yes, when I process one analogy and lesson it tends to pop up all over the place...sorry about that :)

It can be a tricky thing to come into a war torn, third world country to talk to women about brokenness.... All as a white woman from America. On the first morning of the conference, I started off by telling them that I knew they were probably thinking "what could this Mzungu possibly know about brokenness and healing? She doesn't know my pain." I shared that they were right... I haven't lived their lives or known their pain, but I do know pain. I know brokenness and abuse and abandonment. I know what it's like to be treated like trash more than treasure. I know what it's like to have really good people with great reputations want to throw you away. I know what it's like to be violated. I know loss. I know what it's like to feel so broken that you don't think you'll ever be whole again."

Jesus ran into a woman that I'm guessing felt the same way. When Jesus decided to hang out at the well in the middle of the day while His disciples went to town, my guess is that He knew He had an appointment to keep. It was here that He ran into "the woman at the well". A Sanaritan woman, going to the well in the middle of the day.... Most likely because she wasn't welcome in the early morning when everyone else was fetching their water. She had a reputation. She had wounds and issues.

Can you imagine the pain that brought her to going to the well mid-day? Can you imagine the days before she made that choice? The mornings spent standing in line to fetch water while her supposed friends talked about her? Her downcast glance as she avoided people she used to spend time with? Or maybe shed always been the outcast? The bad girl? Maybe she's never truly felt welcome during the girl time at the well first thing every morning? No matter how it came to be, we see her wounding when her very first statement to Jesus is a question "why are you talking to ME?"

But He does. He met her there. Right in the middle of her pain. Right at her well of shame.

And I wondered aloud to the women of Uganda about what He was really intending when He told her that He knew the truth about her.

Remember that this encounter changer her life. I am guessing that this is NOT just bc He told her about her sins. My guess is that she had no lack of people willing to tell her that they knew what she had done.

My guess is that is was all about the WAY He told her. My guess is that it was with gentleness and tenderness. My guess is that what He really conveyed here spoke to the doubts and questions of her heart. My guess is that He knew her first thought was "why is He talking to me?" and after He offered her living water she thought "yeah right.... If He knew who I was... What I've done.... What's been done to me.... He would never make such an offer". My guess is THAT is why He said that He knew. He was saying in essence "I know your story, baby girl. I know your life and yes I am STILL offering you living water"

He knows. He sees. And still... There in the dirt, He offers living water.

I've been talking a lot about dancing lately... It seems to be a metaphor for many things in my life. The same was true in Uganda. He offered to "turn your mourning into dancing".

When people told me that right after my life had fallen apart, it felt cruelz I felt like a woman who's arms and legs had been brutally cut off.... And here people were telling me to "get up and dance". But that's not how Jesus did it. Nope, He laid in my dirt with ms. He

I am under no illusions that the hurts and wounds of the women of Uganda can be healed overnight. Healing is a process. Healing comes in layers, especially when you are healing from MULTIPLE traumas like so many of these women are. So often, the church tries to offer a quick fix. Get up and dance. Turn your frown upside down. Just trust Jesus.

Sometimes, it's not that easy.

Instead, I told them what i had learned.... That it's ok to be scared, scary things have happened. It's ok to be wounded. It's ok to lay in the dirt with Jesus.

Right there, in your dirt, Jesus will lay down and gently begin to tend your wounds. One. By. One.

Later, when you're ready, He may offer to help you sit up in that dirt. But don't worry, He will be there to steady you.

A little while after that, He may gently take your hands and help you to slowly stand to your feet.

And then... When He has tended to those wounds and carefully helped each one to heal, He may take your hands... Right there in the dirt... And twirl you in circles as you dance together.

Dancing, in the dirt, on her hands and knees

It's a beautiful dance.

It's a gentle dance.

It's a dance done in dirt and grime, with scars covering your body. I used to want to clean all of the dirt off and cover up those scars. But they are there and it is how it's supposed to be.

It's beautiful. And it's possible, no matter how wounded or dirty you are.

And one of the most beautiful things, is that if you'll let Him, He will use that same dirt to invite others to dance in theirs.

Later on during the conference, one of the Ugandan organizers of the conference overheard a few of the village women talking about what I had shared that first day. "We can listen to her," they said, "she knows our pain"

My dirty, grimy, scarred up dance was, in fact, being used by Him to invite others to allow Him to heal their wounds and to eventually dance in their dirt with their Jesus.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Dry bones dance

Post 1 of 2 on dancing.... This part is my story.

A few years ago, when I was first realizing how broken and wounded I was, I had a friend who would regularly say, "I can't wait to see you bloom. I can't wait to watch you heal. I want to see you dance." (not literally necessarily :-)

This friend's comments were probably inspired by the story of Ezekiel (in ez 37) when he was told to prophecy over dry bones in a vision. He is told to speak life over them and tell them to come back to life. Desperation Band turned this into a song "dry bones dance". I remember singing this over the past years with tears streaming down my face. Would I ever dance? Would I ever feel whole? My friend had believed that one day I would "bloom, blossom and dance"..... But some days it felt hopeless.

2 years later.... I feel whole. Sure there are parts of my life that lack, areas that sill ache, wounds still needing healing... Being a single mom is still hard and I still long for my partner in life.... But for the most part.... I feel whole. My counselor and I look for areas that need growth now instead of me coming in already in tears with 100 things to discuss. I feel peace. I feel loved. The lies have been replaced. I feel safe to be ME. I feel loved as me. I feel sure that Jesus made me unique for His purposes and I no longer despise that. I am me and I feel really really content in that.

And in Uganda.... I think I may have bloomed at bit :) for some strange reason, I think I kind of shine there. I felt like I was perfectly who I was supposed to be and perfectly living in His pleasure. I was doing what I was meant to do. Not only was I living in the healing freedom of what He had done in me, but I was watching Him once again use my wounds in the lives of others. It was amazing and such a moment of deep thankfulness for what He has done.

There was a time when I thought I'd lost Uganda....after a week with the 360 women already in our program (it'll be 450 within the month!), 1500-2000 women at the conference and knowing we are launching our program for another 2,700 women, my Ugandan friend reminded me of the night I called him in tears thinking I'd lost Uganda. Oh how Jesus might have smiled as I cried that, knowing that He was about to give me more than I could ever imagine.... More women and children, a deeper understanding of Suffering that would allow me to minister to not just their hungry bellies, but their hurting hearts. Oh He had some dancing planned even when I was lying in the dirt feeling like I was just made up of dry bones.

Last week when I saw a few of these pictures of me dancing, those memories and that song came back to me. "Dry bones.... Dance"

And they did.

These dry bones danced and danced and danced.

If you feel like you are so broken that you'll never dance again..... I know that feeling.... And let me tell you again, I danced. And you will too. Just keep seeking His face for healing. Healing will come.... And one day, your dry bones will dance.

These dry bones danced.

I danced.
I bloomed.

And I don't plan on stopping :)

Saturday, August 18, 2012

My Victoria

I once co-wrote a book about Uganda. In this book, the lead character meets and falls in love with a precious 9 year old Ugandan girl. She loves this girl and this girl adores her and never wants her to leave. When the lead character gets on the bus to head out of the village, she weeps.

I wrote that - their mutual weeping - 2 1/2 years ago.

I lived it on Wednesday.

One of the great surprise joys of the conference was our gaggle of kiddos. They came out of the woodwork almost immediately and each one of our team ended up with a special little buddy for the weekend. Abby had sweet precious Rhoda.....Kylie connected to Rhoda's big sister Amina Doreen....my mom had Aaliyah - one of the cutest little ones ever - who quickly asked "Will you be my new mama?"

I....had the most wonderful 9 year old little girl in the entire world....Victoria.

Victoria is the 3rd born in her family, but both of her older brothers have left home leaving her as the oldest child in the home. She told me that her mama wasn't at the conference because she is "lame" - meaning that her hands and legs are both damaged, leaving her unable to do any of the work in the home. All of that is left to Victoria. She cares for Aaliyah and her other siblings, fetches the water, cooks the food and does the cleaning.  Where is her dad? Victoria tells me with a shaking but resigned voice "he is not a nice man. he is a drunkard" She tells me that he doesn't hurt her physically but is very unkind to her and makes her heart sad.

She is by my side at all times. The only time we are not together is when I am speaking. When I arrive at the site, I am greeted by the fiercest hug one can even imagine.

Victoria asks me in a quiet voice if I could be her mama or at least her auntie. I say that I'd love to be her auntie and lead her away to a quiet spot to pray together. She weeps the entire time but says that Jesus wrapped her in His love.

As the days go on, we draw closer. I look forward to arriving to my hugs from Victoria. I look forward to how her face just lights up when she sees me.

She is a precious. She finds babies around the site and carries them around causing them to giggle in her arms. She watches a blind man sings and leans back in my arms, asking if I will please help him. She hears a speaker comment that she'd love flowers and immediately asks if we can go pick flowers in the field for her. She has a servants heart and a strong exterior that cracks during worship causing her to weep before her Lord.

On Wednesday morning, we settle into our spots on the ground....Victoria in my arms sitting in front of me....other littles surrounding us and creeping under my arms so that I might hug multiple kids all at once. I see that she is struggling. Finally, she looks up and hesitantly asks "When do you leave again?" I remind her that this is our last day and then I have to head back to America. She pulls herself up tighter, breathes deep in an effort to control her tears and nods ok. "When do you come back to Uganda?" she asks with tears in her voice. "Probably about a year" I say with tears already streaming down my face. She nods and leans back into me, pulling my arms tightly around her.

I keep her near to me throughout the day on Wednesday. Touching her head, whispering truth into her ears at any given chance, praying over her. I tell her that she is beautiful and loved.

When she wants to leave early so as not to cry, I tell her that if she will wait, she will be the last one that I say goodbye to before boarding the bus. She stays around.

Finally, I know that it can't wait any longer. It's already 4 hours after we had planned on leaving. Goodbyes are taking place all around me. People are pulling me by the hand for one last hug, one last whispered need, one last prayer for the suffering of their families. I find Victoria and pull her to the side, tears streaming down my face uncontrollably by now.

I hold her and tell her that if she EVER needs a hug, if she needs to feel the love that she has felt this week that she can go into a quiet place with her Jesus and ask Him to remind her of fierce hugs and of truth that is true even if I am not around to whisper it.

Pastor Moses Okwi (not sure how to spell that :) walks over, places his hand on her shoulder and mine and says "Brandi, I take responsibility for this girl. I promise to follow up with her". I nod and smile and offer tearful gratitude. I call Rita over and tell Victoria that Auntie Rita lives in Soroti and will check on her too and that she can talk to Rita about anything.

She shakes as she sobs in my arms. I lose it completely. People are watching us with compassion. I vaguely think to myself that I should try to compose myself a bit. I know it's futile and give up trying. I am weeping. I am holding her and not knowing how I will let go. In the back of my head, I remember writing about this in my book so long ago. I remember weeping as I wrote it, imagining the pain. I am living the pain.

Victoria holds tight for another minute, asking me to come back, telling me she loves me. I tell her the same.

Right before we said goodbye...my eyes ringed red with tears
Eventually, she lets go and walks away - her shoulders shaking as she heads towards her painful home.

I board the bus, weeping. I know I should be a strong leader and help the others process as we drive away from the city and the people we now adore. I can't. All I can do is weep. I have no clue who will take care of her tonight. I don't know how she is treated or spoken to. I don't know how much work she has to do. I don't know how protected she is. All I know is that I love her and I am driving away.

This never gets easier. How do you walk away? I cling to the truth that my Jesus is still with her.

I know Rita and Pastor Okwi will follow up. I know I will do whatever I can to help her. I am comforted by the fact that we are buying Rita a printer and she can print letters off and bring them to Victoria. I am anxious for the day when I will hold her again. Today, however, I cry as I write. I cry and ache to hold her again and tell her she is loved. I beg the Lord to speak loudly to her of His joy in her and how much He cherishes her. I ask for the Lord to bring others into her life to protect her and speak of her value to her. And then....i cry just a bit more.

This isn't easy....but I do know that it's worth it. My heart may be broken, but it's worth it for a little girl to have spent 3 days getting her little love tank filled, hearing from Jesus and knowing that she is loved.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Free to dance....

Henri Nouwen talks about hospitality as something that not only makes someone feel welcome....but free and fearless.

This describes my experience in Uganda completely.

I am free here.

I am me here.

I have no fear.

I can be as "big" as I need to be.

I dance....like crazy here. In front of 2,000 people. Making a fool of myself. But in Uganda, when they laugh at you, it's not the same. They are laughing with you and honoring you in the process. And so I dance. And dance. And dance.

I plan nothing that I will speak. I pray and ask about my topic, ask for a scripture and then just start talking. He meets me there. He teaches me AS I teach.

I love big here. (ok, I want to do that everywhere :)

Apparently, I speak like a Ugandan here too :-) Rita told me last night "You changed how we think about white speakers......you speak LONG"  This probably comes as no surprise to you guys!

I love it here. Welcomed, free and fearless.

Monday, August 13, 2012

The best and the brightest of Uganda, sitting at home instead of becoming doctors

Daniel is the brightest boy in Aloet High School. He is 15 years old and wants to be a doctor. His smile is contagious and you can see the pride of his accomplishment all over his face. His brother is actually in first place in his class as well. There is another set of brothers that offer a bit of competition to these boys however. In fact, these 2 brothers continually go back and forth for first and second places in their classes. 4 of the most handsome boys with brilliant minds, hopes for great achievement and a humble desire to serve their nation with whatever they do.

A few months ago, all 4 boys dropped out of school because they lacked the funds necessary to continue. $165 for an entire year of school stood between the brightest of the bright and the education that would enable them to achieve these dreams.

Some of the kids you have sponsored! Thank you!
We issued a call for people to step up and support these kids.

You listened.

You responded.

You gave.

 They are back in school.

It’s really that simple. They dropped out because they lacked funds. We found out. You gave. They are back in school.

The words “thank you” fall flat. How can 2 words communicate what it means to a child with dreams of a doctor getting to stay in school? It was $75 or $45 or some number for you. To them…..it was the world. To them it was God giving them their impossible dream.

We toured their school, listened to a performance of plays and danced the day away in the falling rain. It was nearly perfect and absolutely heartbreaking all at the same time.

Perfect because of their joy. Perfect because how could dancing in the grass with African children EVER be anything else.

This is Scovia with Abby and I
Heartbreaking because sweet Scovia wants to be a police officer so that she can arrest the men who rape women in her country.

Heartbreaking when Judis said,  “THANK YOU SPONSOR because my dad told me that it was a waste to educate a girl and he wouldn’t pay for it.”

Thank you. Two words. That’s all I have. I wish I had more. I wish I could scoop up their joy and bring it back to you. I wish I could allow you to wrap your arms around them and hold them when they cry.  I wish I could communicate what it actually means to these precious children that you believe in them, that you are proud of them, that you care enough to give so that they can stay in school.

We have 50 kids and need funding to keep them in school this last term of the year. $45 per child. You can pay on the paypal button on the side of my blog and put “school fees” in the comment section.

Next year….I am thinking that if you are willing….we may need to send some more of Uganda’s brightest back to school J

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Words do not suffice....

Yesterday was indescribable.

My mom is asking me to update this site for so many of you....but words seem to fail me. I wonder if my choice is between not saying a word because words do not suffice or using more words than you'd ever want to read :-)

We started the day, Abby and I, in our rooms at 5:30. After washing each other's hair by laying in bed, putting a bucket under us and stretching the shower cord :-)  We were cracking up and soaking one another by 6 am. After that, we spent an hour on Ugandan radio. Yes, you read that right! So fun!!!! Anne, Rita (an amazing woman I can't wait to tell you more about) and I spoke for an hour about the conference and about healing and hope. Most of the Teso people listen to the radio in the mornings, so it was an amazing opportunity!

After organizing donations for hours on end, we headed to the villages. But first....a word on donations. I cannot possibly thank you enough for what you have sent. If you could see their faces when we give out your gifts....you would want to give gifts every day for the rest of your days. They mean the WORLD to these ladies. Thank you doesn't seem adequate.

The village experiences can hardly be described in the 5 minutes I have left before we leave....

Village 1 included groups 10 & 11. We were greeted with flags and shouts and dancing from the moment our bus pulled into the road leading to the village. It was precious. We were all crying before we even got off our bus! At this village, we were able to give out COWS!!!!  These were the cows that my Uncle Barry and Aunt Shannon provided! Such a privilege! To see their faces. To hug their necks. To see their joy. To hear their stories. I wish only that you could have been here to experience it yourselves. The women of the village performed a play for us - acting out the whole cooperative process. It was PRECIOUS!!!  I'll go into more detail later :-)

Village 2 included groups 4 & 5. This one was a tad more somber, but still included dancing, (lots of dancing), singing, presentations from the group and presentations from us :) We all felt the pain of this village in a heavier way than the others....I think a blog post for each village is in order :)  It was SO much fun to give these ladies their presents from you guys! Viviane and Dawn...these girls got your gifts! And they loved them....and I told them all about you girls and your love for them. :)

Village 3 included groups 1, 2, 3 & 9. This place could receive an entire book of blogs and still not explain the joy. We never wanted to leave these people especially. The party we entered was truly a picture of what heaven will be like! We were swept up in the party as soon as we stepped off the bus. This included being surrounded by dancing, singing, beautiful african women. They had bells on their ankles and sticks with flowers and flags attached to them. One woman had a drum and the others used the instruments of their voices....alternating between singing and shouting "aye, yi, yi, yi" (just like you imagine!). They picked me up and held me on their shoulders while we sang and danced. During our presentations, we got to meet each of the cooperatives. Oh my DEAR! These women have already done SOOOOOOO much!!! They are helping one another, focusing on making sure their children stay in school, protecting their girls from early marriage and changing their own communities. They are more than incredible.

When I got up to speak, I just cried. I cried to meet Adeke Loy (I will share her story later). I cried to watch the beauty. I cried to see what these women had done. I cried that I am actually allowed to be a part of this. I am absolutely amazed that God would choose to use me in this way. absolutely amazed.

Then....I got to introduce the team. When I introduced my mom, they immediately surround her in a circle and danced around her in a dance of honor. It was PRECIOUS!!!!  They called her mama and celebrated her to a level that most people never experience. They ended up doing this for each of our ladies!!!! Oh my. There is video and will be pictures....but until them, just know that this experience will remain one of the best experiences of all of our lives.

The joy of these women is overwhelming. We seriously PARTIED!!!!! We danced and danced and danced until our legs hurt. We smiled until our faces hurt. We cannot even speak of the experience without both tears and smiles.

One thing I can say is that we LOVE the Ugandan women. LOVE them. I mean....I already loved them, but it was PRECIOUS to watch all of my team absolutely fall in love with them too.

We debriefed last night and discussed the emotions we experienced.....love, hope, joy, sadness, overwhelmed, faith, amazement. But the greatest emotion was unworthiness. How oh how could WE have been chosen to experience this? We are unworthy to receive and experience such joy. To receive the gifts that we have received. Oh yeah, I didn't tell you about that!!! Each of the villages brought us gifts....gifts upon gifts....eggs and chickens and greens and baskets and wood carvings....bounty from their hearts and their villages. Bounty beyond what we deserve. Bounty that brought tears to our eyes every single time. Bounty that showed generosity beyond what any of us had ever experienced. Bounty. And WE were the recipients....and all we know is that we are both humbled and amazed.

Today....church (I am preaching...PRAY!), visiting the school for the kids we sponsored and helping with registration for the conference!  Love you guys. Sorry we haven't posted much....I've had less internet than ever before. But we are thinking of you guys and SO very thankful for your prayers!

Thursday, August 9, 2012

We are HERE!

We've arrived and I am one happy camper :) tears just spring to my eyes in gratefulness.

Awakened to sunrise over Lake Victoria and a walk and prayer time with Abby.... Then breakfast and feeding the monkeys outside! Now off to Kampala and then Jinja!

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

10 hours. No joke.

Bags are packed.

House is clean.

I leave in 10 hours.

How is this possible? After 3 years, I am finally going back. I don't even know if it'll fully sink in until I'm on the plane. I am going to Africa.

Yes, Africa. A place that I ADORE!!!!!  I am going. I get to go. I get to go love on these mamas who have stolen my heart. I get to actually speak and teach and share how God heals the broken.

I am so humbled and amazed that the Lord has chosen me to be a part of HIS movement. I just get teary thanking the Lord for these moments.

I am pretty darn sure that with a few little tweaks, my life would be just about perfect right now :)

Next time I update.....It'll be from Africa. And I'll be happy.....seriously happy....possibly beaming :)

PS: Follow or friend the other girls on my trip!!!

Abby Mortenson aka LoveRoots Photography (follow her on instagram too!)
Kim Marchese
Lisa Stepp
Nancy Cox
Kristin Walls
Kylie Walls

and of course... my mama....but she's not on FB :-)

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Honor or Charity?

There is a difference between bestowing honor and giving charity.

Last week was Nat'l Hot Fudge Sundae Day. I know, a big holiday, huh? :)  For my family, it was. It was our first annual, nat'l hot fudge sundae delivery day. We spent the afternoon buying supplies and hosting ice cream sundae parties at a safe house for abused women, a church housing homeless families and then a home for at risk youth. It was a SUPER fun day. But during the day, one of the women who finds herself homeless right now said something interesting to me.....she said "will you and your friend (Alicia and her kiddos came too!) come back and do this again? The churches that host are nice, but the people don't really talk to us."

No offense to those running that program....I'm sure they were trying to serve the Lord well by serving others. But I think they missed an opportunity here. You can easily serve someone and give to charity without bestowing honor on that person.

Yes, I believe we should give to those in need. Heck, if you'd like to...I'm still in need of just over $2,000 to fund some training and a few group loans :)  Click on the paypal button to your right :)  But more than that....we have the unique opportunity in this world to see people. To truly see them. To see their pain and cry with them, hurt with them, mourn with them. To see their value and to bestow honor on them.
Viviane's purchases for her mamas!
This is what is happening all over the US as I prepare to leave for Uganda. I am not getting email after email about how sad life in Uganda must be and how they just had to give to these poor people. Nope. I am getting emails about people shopping for women who are dear to their hearts. I know have 7 or 8 women across the US who have purchased cows in the past, now going to buy gifts for their mamas. These women bought cows months ago and received the life stories of the women who received those cows. This united these women who have never met and who live thousands of miles apart. My friends here in the US have cried tears of joy over the pictures of their "sisters" getting their cow. My friends have prayed over the names and stories of the women in Uganda. And now...they are shopping. Chantel and her girls went and bought soaps and beautiful pins and lovingly wrote cards and prayed over their mamas.  Viviane spent today shopping for earrings, lotions and more and was practically GIDDY! Her friends from FB got in the game and want to check their homes and do shopping too. Becca emailed me tonight asking if she could buy things online and have them shipped to me. My friend Bobbi is sending cards and some money for each of the mamas in her group! My mama, Granny, Lisa and sister Brittani went shopping yesterday and had a blast picking out gifts for the children we will see as well as the mamas....taking care with every single purchase to make sure the mamas would feel absolutely special and the kids would know they are loved.

For EACH and EVERY person, their desire has been to bestow honor. So many people tell me "please go hug our mamas and tell them how much we love them". These friends of mine see the difference. They realize the opportunity we have in life to bestow honor like our God would do. That was His specialty. He took the woman at the well and bestowed honor on her by speaking to her when others wouldn't dare. He knelt in the dirt with the woman caught in adultery and took away her shame and her accusers. He bestowed honor on the women who served Him by showing Himself to them first. He bestowed honor on the woman of the night who covered His feet with her tears and her hair. He spent His days truly seeing people and bestowing honor on them. He showed them through His actions how He saw them, through eyes of love. And love changes everything.

Join me in choosing to bestow honor on the people around us by seeing them, truly seeing them as He does and loving them like crazy.

Simply Overwhelmed.

I am just overwhelmed. Like tears rolling down my face overwhelmed. In awe. Amazed. I'd say "there are no words"....but let's be honest, we all know that I'll just keep using words until I feel like something is expressed :)

I recently listened to this song again (video is just song with lyrics, so just press play and keep reading if you want ;)
She lists saint after saint...but when she gets to:
"i see the long quiet walk along the underground railroad
i see the slave awakening to the value of her soul
i see the young missionary and the angry spear
i see his family returning with no trace of fear
i see the long hard shadows of calcutta nights
i see the sister standing by the dying man’s side
i see the young girl huddled on the brothel floor
i see the man with a passion come kicking down that door"
I lose it. EVERY single time. I am overwhelmed that HE would choose to use me. THIS is what I get to do. I get to watch people come alive. I get to watch women who were in chains awaken to the value of their souls.

Yes, it's hard. Yes, I cry a LOT. Yes, I am sometimes overwhelmed by the pain, burdened by the stories, hurt by the flying accusations of unkind ex-husbands or misunderstanding family.  But truly, what I am is humbled. I am humbled that the God of the whole freaking universe would choose to let ME watch Him heal. In so many ways, all across the world, the Lord God allows us to be a part of His work.

Last night, I got an email from Chantel, the group leader for the girls I told you about yesterday. She took them out last night and they bought beautiful soaps for their "sisters" in Uganda. Fancy soaps, because these girls have lived in group homes where soap was a special treat. Chantel then printed off copies of my blogpost yesterday and read it to the girls. She said that they read and reread my words. She said that they cried. She said that MY words touched a part of their soul and gave them honor and dignity. I weep even now as I type this.....the Lord allowed ME to speak into little girls who He adores halfway across the US. I am humbled. I am amazed. I am so very, very, very thankful.

And next week I get to head to Uganda. So often, when people ask what I'm involved in and how I spend my time, they respond to my answer with a sort of "you are such a good person" type response. But the truth is - I am PRIVILEGED. I am HONORED. I am BLESSED to GET to do what I get to do. I am absolutely overwhelmed that God has chosen me to speak healing to 2,000 women in Uganda. I am blessed that He might use a portion of my pain and brokenness and journey to healing to speak His words of truth and love and healing to another hurting woman.

I know I talk a lot about fundraising and the needs in Uganda and elsewhere....but can I tell you something? It's not because I want to guilt you into giving. Nope. Not at ALL. Actually, I just want to invite you to the party. I want you to sit at your computer with tears streaming down your face next week when I share the story of a woman who has known only suffering so far, but for whom YOU provided a loan. I want YOU to get to feel this same humbled sense of blessing. I just want you to be at the party with me because this party sometimes hurts, it often costs me a lot financially and emotionally, but it is the best thing I have ever done. The opportunity to see a slave awakening to the value of her soul is priceless. Whether she was a slave to poverty, to abuse, to abandonment - whatever chains she had - the opportunity to watch the chains disappear is unmatched.

When those saints go marching in.....I want to be in that number. I want to pour my life out so others may live. I want to live in extravagant love to the world around me that they may see the healing love of my Jesus. I want to lay in the dirt with people who are broken and whisper in their ears, you are loved, you are worth it....beauty is coming.