It’s about the journey, not just “getting to” the destination…

           

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            While running with a fellow missionary (a few life stages ahead of me, that I met a few weeks ago) here in Jinja last Saturday morning, we were sharing our stories and bits and pieces of what God is doing in our lives. And she, without even realizing it, shared some of the most profound words with me, that have honestly stuck with me ever since…

“You know, something I’ve learned with the Lord through all these years, is that, well, it’s not just about ‘getting to’ the destination…it’s about letting Him teach us along the way what He wants us to see and learn…

It’s about the journey, not just “getting to” the destination….”

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            Later that morning, at the new BSF (Bible Study Fellowship) bible study I have started with a group of women in the surrounding Jinja area, we just so happened to be talking about a similar topic…because the study we are going to be going through is, of course, “People of the Promised Land.” Story after story of God’s people, traveling the long and hard journey to the Promised Land, learning, again and again, that “there is no one holy like the Lord; there is no one besides you. There is no rock like our God” (1 Samuel 2:2).

It’s like God was trying to tell me something….

            When we began talking about how our final destination, as believers now in Jesus Christ, is heaven, one of the older women in the group so beautifully added in,

“And while here on Earth, we have to look after and lock arms with our brothers and sisters, and bring them along on the journey to the final destination with us…”

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            So, all of this got me thinking…what am I doing here on Earth to bring brothers and sisters along on this journey with me? Yes, I love Jesus with all of my heart and soul, but I am a broken sinner, just like everyone else, and the only true hope I have is Jesus Christ.

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            He is the reason for my joy. He is the reason for any strength I have. And His grace is the only reason I am currently living and serving Him here in Uganda, halfway across the across the world from the love of my life and everything that has always provided me worldly security and comfort. And, through some really special conversations with my precious fiancé (over Facetime, of course), I felt like these verses just kept coming up, again and again:

1 Peter 3:15 – “But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope you have…”

1 Peter 1:3 – “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.”

            …The same message that brought me to fall in love with the Lord all those years ago. The same message that keeps me coming back to His word each morning for more and more, because as I grow in my walk with Him, I realize how desperately I need His grace…day by day, hour by hour, minute by minute. The same message that I have to keep reminding myself of, as my flesh wants to run the other way and after worldly desires, and Jesus so lovingly welcomes be back…every single time. He never gives up on me, and He never gives up on you… and never will. His grace and His forgiveness is the reason for my hope. The reason for our hope.

            In my favorite devotional, My Utmost for His Highest by Oswald Chambers, I read the following words and have been chewing on them all week…

“Jesus says, ‘You did not choose me, but I chose you” (John 15:16). That is the way the grace of God begins. It is a constraint we can never escape; we can disobey it, but we can never start it or produce it ourselves. We are drawn to God by a work of His supernatural grace, and we can never trace back to find where the work began. Our Lord’s making of a disciple is supernatural. He does not build on any natural capacity of ours at all. God does not ask us to do the things that are naturally easy for us – He only asks us to do the things that we are perfectly fit to do through His grace, and that is where the cross we must bear will always come…”

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            As I have been learning to trust God on this journey, I am learning that His grace is enough…truly enough. And there is absolutely nothing I can do to make God love me anymore or any less. He loves me. He loves us. And He wants a relationship with us all. And it is this same grace that compels me, and compels us all, to love and serve those around us. People who so desperately need to be shown the same grace and love that we have been shown. As the pastor at the Amazima church spoke about last weekend, we are no longer living under the law, but under the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ…

Romans 6:14 – “…for you no longer live under the requirements of the law. Instead, you live under the freedom of God’s grace.

Romans 8:1-2 – “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free…”

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“Walk with me in the freedom of forgiveness…If you carry a burden of guilt on your back, you are more likely to stumble and fall. At your request, I will remove the heavy load from you and bury it at the foot of the cross. When I unburden you, you are undeniably free!”

– Jesus Calling Devotional

            My best friend here, sweet Grace (and mother of Baby Malachi) and I were talking during lunch today about life. As she shared some things that were going on, I asked her how she keeps her radiating joy, day-in and day-out. And she just stopped me, mid-conversation, and said, “Oh Emily. Heaven is the only thing worth fighting for. It is the reason we have hope…it is our only hope. When you get a chance today, I want you to go look up these verses in 1 Peter that have spoken to me and been what I have needed all these years…”

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            So, as soon as I got back to the classroom, I whipped out Teacher Rebecca’s Bible and read the verses she told me to…and was just blown away…

1 Peter 4: 14-15 – “But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you will be blessed. Have no fear of them, nor be troubled, but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect…”

1 Peter 4:8-11: – “Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins. Show hospitality to one another without grumbling. As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace: whoever speaks, as one who speaks oracles of God; whoever serves, as one who serves by the strength that God supplies – in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ. To him belong glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.”

            These words (above) are just some of the verses Grace spoke about….and I don’t think it was a coincidence that these very verses were the exact things God had already been laying on my heart and teaching me during my time here….

             I have been so blessed by the Lord’s gracious love through this journey of coming back to Uganda to learn so much more about His character, through His word and through precious time with Him alone. Through this journey of drawing closer to Him than ever.  I may technically be the one over here “serving,” but really, I am being served and loved more than I could ever deserve by my Heavenly Father and His beautiful people here.

            My students bless me each morning with the biggest hugs and smiles, and reminders of their love for me, throughout the entire day. As I lay them down and tuck them in for nap time each day, I am just in awe at the Lord’s grace in bringing me here. To love and be loved by His precious, adorable little children.

            We even got to take them on a little field trip to the local Ripon fishing village today, so that our little ones would get to go look at boats…since we have been studying the letter “B” this week…

            …And their curious little hearts just had the sweetest time. The whole time I was there, I couldn’t help but think of one of my favorite verses in the Bible about what Jesus calls us to do in this life…

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Matthew 4:19 –

“And he said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.”

              My friends, like Betty and Grace (who I got to visit in Masese Slums last weekend), who welcome me into their homes and families and treat me like one of their very own…

…Friends who, honestly, feel more like family. They are my family here.

            …The faces I so look forward to seeing each and every day at the James Place, and the hugs I can’t wait to give and receive. The smiles of pure joy that cross not only their faces when I walk up, but sweet Baby Malachi’s too…who has just completely stolen my heart…if you can’t already tell…

            My fiancé , sweet John Wesley said something so stinkin’ wise, and right in line with what my friend Grace and I discussed, when he said, “the world around us doesn’t need to hear stories about great faith, they need to hear, see, and experience the reason for the hope we have, no matter what is going on and no matter the worldly circumstance.” He even sent me this amazing sermon by a pastor named Charlie Dates (who pastors a church in inner-city Chicago), where he was talking about the mystery and beauty in the gospel…

“Not only that, Christians were viewed a strange people. I mean they were calling one another brothers and sisters, even though they were married to one another, and in family with one another. Because...the gospel of Jesus Christ transcends the barriers of age and ethnicity and of blood lines. It does something, by making us a family, even though we come from different parts of the world, and different parts of the city, and other sides of the track.”

            …My friends and little students here in Uganda have become more like family, as we share in our love of Christ, our living hope. His love unites our hearts like none other, and it is such a beautiful thing to experience.

            I am so thankful for this journey the Lord has not only called me on, but called us all on… To fall more in love with Him as we journey to our Heavenly destination, and lock arms with our brothers and sisters all around us, big and small, on our way there! Sharing in the hope, love, and grace that only His Presence can bring…and inviting others in along the way!

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“Live first and foremost in My Presence. Gradually you will become more aware of Me than of people and places around you. This awareness will not detract from your relationships with others. Instead, it will increase your ability to give love and encouragement to them. My Peace will permeate your words and demeanor. You will be active in the world, yet one step removed from it. You will not be easily shaken because My enveloping Presence buffers the blow of problems. This is the path I have set before you. As you follow it wholeheartedly, you experience abundant life and peace.”

-Jesus Calling Devotional

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“Behold, I am doing a new thing…”

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“Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.”

Isaiah 43:19

            To say that this verse has been an anthem for the past week (and past few months, unbeknownst to my little self) of my life would be a vast understatement. I stumbled across this verse in my quiet time about a week ago, and the Lord has continued to speak it over me…through devotionals, His soft whispers, glimpses of His beautiful creation, and encouragement from friends (this exact verse…which of course they had no idea at the time), and it has honestly been so overwhelmingly comforting to my heart and soul. It felt like God was reminding me, over and again, “Hey little one. I see you. I am with you and I am for you…”

This week was the first week of having my precious preschool students back after their three-week “term-break,” and man was it sweet to be able to hug and love on them again! We spent this week adjusting back into our classroom routines and even wrote this verse on our little whiteboard, as we are entering into a new term, with endless possibilities, dreams, and “new things” to be accomplished. Dreams of being able to write our names, to correctly write our letters and numbers, and for some, to read sight words!

I know it sounds crazy, but in just three short weeks away from them on term break, it is mind-blowing how much my little ones have seemed to grow up right before my eyes. Not only physically, but maturity-wise and academically as well. Some students, who before could not even write the first letter of their name without guidance, are all of a sudden now able to write almost every letter of their name correctly and seem to have this new excitement and motivation to learn! And it is so beautiful to be a part of!

           But in this season of serving the Lord across the world, it has felt a lot like letting go of control and holding my hands open to God and what He has for my life. Having left my community of friends in Greenville to not only move here to Uganda, but also just closing on a house with my fiancé (eek! – while currently on opposite sides of the world) in a new town (where I will have to start over and make a whole new community and find a new job), while entering into a new season of preparing for marriage… I have had no choice but to live my life fully surrendered. Learning to truly believe that God has it all under control, and He is doing a “new thing” in my own life as well…

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            But I think this crazy season is honestly the most beautiful place to be. Because I have been so sweetly reminded, over and over again, that my life is not my own. That I am a daughter and servant of the King, and I can trust Him…with all that I have and all that I am. When the world around me is changing, Jesus is my constant. He always stays the same.

Hebrews 13:8 – “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.”

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             He may be leading me on a whole new path, full of unknowns and so much change, but being in His will is the safest place to be of all…

“Safe? ‘Course he isn’t safe. But He’s good. He’s the King, I tell you.” – C.S. Lewis

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            It was a blind leap of faith to say yes to Jesus in this season…having no idea how hard and trying it would be at times to leave everyone and everything I love and know for 6 months of serving Jesus in Africa…maybe some would even call it naiveBut no doubt it was God’s plan all along. He made it clear before I committed, and has continued to affirm, through both the highs and lows of being a missionary in a foreign country, that this is His will for me. I am right where He wants me…and this is just the beginning of what He is doing in this “new thing” ahead of me…that I can’t even begin to see or comprehend, because He is the guide…I am just doing my best to follow Him one step of obedience, one “yes,” at a time.

Philippians 3:13 – “Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead…”

            Sometimes, actually a lot of the time, I think our culture has a way of inadvertently teaching us to “play it safe,” and follow the “cookie-cutter American Dream.” But you know what? I don’t want to play it safe. We aren’t promised tomorrow, or even the next hour…so I want to make sure I am walking in steps of obedience to my Heavenly Father during my time here on Earth, because His will is the safest place to be.

            In one of my daily letters from Wesley (yes, he made a journal for me with 158 letters, one for me to read every day during my time overseas in Uganda), he wrote,

“But can you believe God is going to use us for His kingdom one day?!” 

            And you know what? Yes. Yes I can believe it. If I have learned anything in my 24 years of life thus far,and especially during my time here in Africa, it is that God is all that truly matters. My faith is my anchor. It is the basis of my time teaching here in Uganda…the basis of my upcoming marriage…and is going to be the basis and foundation for the rest of my life.

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The new little home we just closed on in Spartanburg, South Carolina! Eek! 🙂 

            Whether God calls my fiancé and I back to the international mission field one day, or to stay put in our new little house in Spartanburg, South Carolina, and faithfully love and serve our community there, I trust that He will use us to build up His Kingdom, but it doesn’t mean it will always be easy or comfortable. And that’s where we want to be. Living for God’s glory, not our own. It’s not about where you are or what you do…what matters is the why. And, as believers, the why should always be the same… Jesus Christ.

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Psalm 139:5-10 – “You hem me in behind and before, and you lay your hand upon me. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too lofty for me to attain. Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there. If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast.”

            This past week, our living quarters were heavily infested with termites, so we ended up having to pack up everything we own and move out for the next week or so, while the termite men literally spray down the entire house and get rid of the termites that have slowly been taking over the house, and would have, ultimately, destroyed it. But isn’t that how God works sometimes, too? He has to literally uproot us out of our sin and what seems “comfortable” at the time, in order to “make all things new” and restore fullness to our souls. He will “make a way”…always. It just may not be “the way” we would have picked, but since God is the one behind and before it, we can trust that it is best. His ways are always better…

Isaiah 55:8-9 – “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the LORD. “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways.”

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            Whether it is moving to a new place, a new home, or a new season, we can trust God when He says, “Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.” (Isaiah 43:19)

I read in a Proverbs 31 Email Devotional the other day something so powerful…

“The battle plan for Joshua to take the Promised Land was as simple as it was strange, complete with marching for seven days around the city of Jericho, a whole army shouting and priests blowing trumpets. (Read more in Joshua 6:1-21). Now, that was a strange plan. God’s infinite ways often don’t make sense in our finite mindsSometimes you have to be willing to look ridiculous and be radical to live a remarkable life. The choices you make when you feel God’s nudge will become the hinges on which your destiny swings. Jericho was “tightly shut” (Joshua 6:1). Sometimes it can feel like our promises are “tightly shut” as well. That doesn’t mean we give up. That means we suit up, step up, and keep moving forward.”

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            Following God into a season of change may be scary, and not always “safe” or comfortable, or even always make sense, but it is worth taking the risk. Worth stepping out in faith. Because it is in these leaps of faith, following God in obedience and letting Him do this “new thing,” that He can work the most in and through us…because He is the one directing our steps.

Jeremiah 10:23 – (Jeremiah’s Prayer) “Lord, I know that people’s lives are not their own; it is not for them to direct their steps.”

            When I said “yes” to leaving my fiancé and everyone back at home to come here and serve in Uganda, I had no idea how God would use this time to grow me and bless me beyond measure…through the people I would develop relationships with and give my  whole heart to, while at the same time, learning how to place Christ’s desires above my own. But I am thankful. And if I hadn’t taken the risk, I would have never seen the fruit that has come from this leap of faith…fruits of the spirit that not only affect me personally, but affect those that I love and care about as well. 

            When we let God do this “new thing” and make us who He created us to be, we are able to accomplish far more, because it is the King of all Kings doing all the work..not us. We are not our own…

Isaiah 64:8 – “Yet you, LORD, are our Father. We are the clay, you are the potter; we are all the work of your hand.”

            No matter where we go or what we do, we have God on our side when we trust in Him. He will never leave us or forsake us.

Joshua 1:9 – “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.”

            So I choose to trust Him with both this season serving His people here in Jinja, Uganda, and the “new thing” He has up ahead on the horizon…

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“Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.”

Isaiah 43:19

But the greatest of these is love…

1 Corinthians 13:13 – “And now these three remain: faith, hope and love.

But the greatest of these is love.”

            Every week here, during quiet times and just day-to-day life in Jinja, I try to sum up what I have been learning into a collection of words. But this week, I feel like God has just been overwhelmingly present…and honestly blowing my mind with just how good and how real He is. In particular, though, the Lord has laid the following words on my heart:

Faith, hope, and love

            My whole life, and especially in my walk with the Lord, these have always been three of my very favorite words. They elicit so much joy, and bring to mind so many beautiful images and memories. But during my time here in Uganda, learning to rely on the Lord like never before in my entire life, these words have taken on a whole new meaning. If anything, I think I am learning, for the first time, what these three words really mean – through both my own experiences here living in Africa, and my time searching God’s word for the strength to serve Him and His people each and every day.

Faith….

Hebrews 11:1 – “Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.”

            In the midst of falling more and more in love (and missing) my fiancé, while also falling more deeply in love with the beautiful land and people of Uganda, I have had to surrender my heart to the Lord like never before.

            A lot of the time, it has felt like my heart is torn between two different worlds. But, the Lord is kind, and a sweet friend gave me the wisest words when she said,

“You know, Emily, I think that you are getting to experience a tiny taste of how God feels all the time…to have your heart torn between two places and people that you love with all your heart. It’s actually the most beautiful place to be…and God is just growing your capacity to love all the more, beyond what you ever thought or imagined you could…”

            While this season may look different for me, being engaged on a different continent than my fiancé, I have fallen in love with the beautiful women and children here like I never even knew was possible. The thought of going home to America in a few months breaks my heart, because I know that I will be leaving a huge part of it here in Uganda, forever. This place has been so special to me, in ways I can’t even begin to describe. As I attempt to explain to people at home whenever they ask, Jesus has this beautiful way of using Africa to heal me, wreck me, grow me, and adore me all at the same time. And it is beautiful. Only Jesus could plan a story like this.

            With Hurricane Florence crashing into the Carolina shores (where my family vacations in Oak Island, near Wilmington, NC…where the eye of the storm apparently hit the hardest) and flooding across North Carolina (where all of my family is from), I have had to completely surrender control to the Lord and trust that He has it under control. With my upcoming March wedding, I have honestly not done any wedding planning while I’ve been here, but trust that God has it under control, and have realized preparing for a lifetime of marriage with sweet John Wesley is way more important than simply a “day” in my life. And I have had complete peace…that only God can give!

Romans 15:13 – “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” 

            On the days here when I have dealt with sickness or the power going out (constantly) or simply desiring biblical community and spiritual guidance, I have had nowhere to look but Jesus. And you know what I’ve learned? He really is enough. He is trustworthy…with every emotion, with every joy, with every tear, and with every fear. He loves me better than anyone else ever can or will, and I am so thankful for this season of being forced to learn that like never before.

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            I have never in my life uttered the words “I trust you, Jesus” more than I have during these past few months, and before I try to run to someone or something with whatever I am going through, I have been learning the discipline of truly running to Jesus first, in prayer. Because that’s the way I think He wants us to be…

Just like watching Baby Malachi *attempting* to learn how to walk this week, Malachi has to let go of my hands at some point and have faith that his little legs, eventually, will be able to hold him up. It doesn’t happen overnight, but after time and time again of seeing, even when he falls down, that I am still there to help him back up, his faith and confidence will grow.  I think this is pretty similar to how God teaches us to have faith too…

2 Corinthians 4:17-18 – “For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.”

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Hope…

Romans 5:5 – “And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.” 

             Hand-in-hand with the act of faith, in my opinion, comes hope. In order to have the kind of faith in Jesus that He desires, we must hold on to hope. Cling to it.

            Spending all of my time here loving on and pouring out my heart and soul to the women and children at the James Place has been such a blessing, but when you are constantly giving and giving, it is important to make sure you are finding a way to get poured back into, as well. Something that I was really praying for the past few months was older married women to pour into me and speak life into me as I prepare for marriage in a few short months.

             Even when it seemed impossible (all the way here in Uganda), I believed that God could and would provide. He would make a way. He has been faithful in every season of my life, and I knew he wasn’t going to stop now. So I prayed and prayed, and held onto this hope… because I knew this was a prayer that God not only could, but that He wanted to answer for me.

Romans 8:24-25 – “For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what they already have? But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently.” 

            And you know what? Out of nowhere (literally), I got invited to participate in a BSF (Bible Study Fellowship) small group that meets every Saturday morning. It consists of 15-20 missionary women from all over the Jinja area, and I was just blown away. And, to show God’s faithfulness even more, I met the kindest woman recently who just moved here with her family (her husband is going to be the Bible Teacher at the Amazima School) and she wants to start meeting with me one-on-one to pour into me and speak scriptural truth into me as I prepare for marriage (and to make it even more wild, she and her husband have been in marriage ministry for the past ten years in the States….).  And…she and her family live about a ten minute walk from the James Place, where I work every day. Talk about God answering prayer!! 

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            God knew all along that He had this blessing in store for me, but I think He wanted me to cling to hope and trust that He would provide exactly what I needed, just when I needed it. And as I clung to this hope, my faith has only grown that much stronger. And all I want to do is shout Jesus’ love and faithfulness from a mountaintop – because HE IS THAT GOOD!!!  

Romans 4:20-21 – (speaking of Abraham) “No unbelief made him waver concerning the promise of God, but he grew strong in his faith as he gave glory to God, fully convinced that God was able to do what He had promised.” 

Love…

            This week, I was introduced to Carrie Underwood’s new song, Love Wins, and I have literally been listening to it on repeat…over and over again. I love it so much, and can’t get the lyrics out of my head, so here are just a few of my favorite lines (you can thank me later when you go listen to it for yourself):

“I, I believe you and me are sisters and brothers

And I, I believe we’re made to be here for each other

And we’ll never fall if we walk hand in hand

Put a world that seems broken together again

Yeah I, I believe in the end love wins

 

Sometimes it takes a lot of faith

To keep believing there will come a day

When the tears and the sadness, the pain and the hate

The struggle, this madness, will all fade away, yeah

 

I, I believe you and me are sisters and brothers

And I, I believe we’re made to be here for each other

And we’ll never fall if we walk hand in hand

Put a world that seems broken together again

Yeah I, I believe in the end love wins

 

Love is power, love is a smile

Love reaches out, love is the remedy

Love is the answer, love’s an open door

Love is the only thing worth fighting for, yeah.”

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            In this season of learning to trust Jesus more than I ever have before, I have learned the the importance of love. Yes, everyone talks about love, and the “rainbows and roses” aspect of it. But, you know what I’ve learned? Love is messy. Love is hard. Love sacrifices. But love is always, and I mean always, worth fighting for. As I mentioned above, the whole time I have been here (as any engaged person would be), my heart has been torn between longing to be with my fiancé (who has been my absolute BIGGEST cheerleader) and longing to stay with the women and children here forever.

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            But I have been learning the beauty in letting love not always make sense. When you truly love, and pour all that you have into those near and dear to you, you will feel their pain. You will feel their joy. And that’s a beautiful thing.

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1 John 4:16 – “So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him.” 

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            In having my heart in two places at once, I have learned that only Jesus can truly take care of those that I love. And that He is just using me as a vessel of His love here on Earth, and that’s the way it’s supposed to be. My heart was made to love, because I am known and loved fully by the Creator of the Universe.

As C.S. Lewis, in all of his wisdom, so beautifully wrote:  

To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact you must give it to no one, not even an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements. Lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket, safe, dark, motionless, airless, it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. To love is to be vulnerable.”

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Let Us Rejoice!

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Psalm 118:24 –

“This is the day that the LORD has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it!”

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            I was not planning on posting a blog today, but this Sunday afternoon was filled with so much pure joy and abundant life that I couldn’t help but want to share a tiny taste of it through pictures and a few words!

            Alice had invited me earlier this week to come visit her beautiful home in Walukuba after church, and I am so grateful I was able to come today! My cough has slowly been getting better and better, thanks to lots of prayer, extra “dodo” (spinach-like vegetable here) and TLC (tender love and care) from my sweet friends at the James Place, like Alice (who is a heavenly angel, I truly believe), so I am rejoicing in that! 

            Alice has been blessed with the ten most radiant children I have ever met, and when you are around them, you can’t help but see Jesus in each one of their eyes. She and her husband (the Pastor of their church that I was able to attend with them a few weeks back) have raised such incredible children of God and have set their family on such a firm foundation of loving God and loving others.

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             It is honestly breathtaking how beautiful their entire family is, both inside and out. Such pure, precious spirits, and I have honestly never felt so loved, welcomed, and accepted in a home like I was today.  

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            As soon as I arrived, I was welcomed by hugs and handshakes and the happiest little squeals from the little ones. My heart was so full I could explode!!!

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            We spent the afternoon singing worship songs, dancing, playing with little toddler Leviticus (Alice’s first grandson), eating sugar cane (that they chopped down in front of me with a “panga” and showed me how to prepare) and bananas, and just laughing and enjoying sweet fellowship with one another. 

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Alice had even made me the most beautiful bracelet and necklace that her family was so excited to give to me as a gift of their love, and I was so blown away by their kindness. They are truly the most selfless, generous, and kind family I have ever known.

            All of Alice’s children were constantly walking around and getting chores done (like hanging the laundry on the line, feeding the pigs, bathing the little ones – both their family and neighbors), while spending sweet fellowship with one another and playing all at the same time. It was so beautiful to see the way a family can be when it is functioning the way God intended – in perfect unity and uplifting one another, full of abundant life and joy in the midst of mundane, everyday life. Being there for and loving one another, and graciously welcoming all of those that God brings into their home (even a “Mzungu,” like me!). 

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Philippians 4:4-5 – “Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near.”

            At work and at home, you will never hear a complaint or grumble come out of precious Alice’s mouth, or a single member of her family. They embody the meaning of joy like I have never seen lived out before, and no matter what life throws their way, or what they may be lacking in material wealth, they are full of unwavering light, love, and hope. They live out their faith and anyone who meets them says the same thing – “Wow…I think I just saw more of Jesus today…”

            One of Alice’s daughter, Joy, has the most beautiful voice I have ever heard. And she kept asking to perform, lead and sing songs for us, and boy did we have a blast! We spent the majority of the afternoon singing worship songs – in both English and Luganda – and laughing as sweet little Leviticus played the “drums” on an empty water jug. It was the cutest thing I have ever seen. And I don’t think I have ever laughed or smiled so big in my entire life. Or experienced so much pure joy.

            At church earlier this morning, the pastor talked all about how rejoicing in the Lord is a spiritual discipline, and that rejoicing produces joy…not other way around. Because whatever you give your attention to is what is going to drive your attitude. Attention determines attitude… and I would say that Alice’s family definitely has this spiritual discipline ingrained in their walks with the Lord. 

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            The pastor talked through the book of Philippians and how Paul, though he was in prison (of all places), was full of more joy than ever before. Paul wrote, while sitting in this same prison cell, the most beautiful verse that encompasses what it means to count your blessings and constantly look for what is good, no matter what season or trial you may be walking through. He preached the importance of keeping your mind preoccupied with all of the things that are beautiful and worthy of praise in your life – just like Alice and her family exemplify so well!

Philippians 4:8-9 – “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is excellent or praiseworthy – think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me – put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.”

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            I don’t think it was a coincidence that the Lord had me visit Alice’s family and see such pure joy today, of all days, after listening to a sermon on rejoicing in the Lord…. Because there is always reason to be joyful, because there is always somebody who cares and loves you more than anyone in the world ever could – our Lord Jesus Christ!!

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            Like we learned about at church this morning, and like Alice and her family exemplify in all that they are and all that they do, we can always practice the spiritual discipline of rejoicing… in all circumstances. Rejoice that one day God will provide. In the middle of a struggle, we can rejoice that we get to be counted as one who suffers like Paul.  Rejoice that there is healing on the way. Rejoice that none of what you do with, through, and for Christ is ever in vain. Rejoice that we are loved, adored, and accepted by the most wonderful Father and Creator of the entire universe! It doesn’t mean that our circumstances will necessarily change, but our attitude and perspective always can. But, like the pastor taught us this morning, rejoicing is a spiritual discipline that does not always come naturally, and we must learn to train our minds to do it more and more, as followers of Jesus Christ.

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Philippians 4:10-13 – “I rejoiced greatly in the Lord that at last you renewed your concern for me. Indeed, you were concerned, but you had no opportunity to show it. I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength.”

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Like Alice teaches me everyday, there is always joy to be found. Always reason to rejoice and be thankful. Every day is a precious gift from the Lord and something to rejoice in!

Psalm 118:24 –

“This is the day that the LORD has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it!”

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“Grace carried me here and by grace I’ll get through.”

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“Grace Carried Me Here and By Grace I’ll Get Through…”

            One of my friends showed me this quote a few weeks ago, but I didn’t realize, really, until this week, how much it encompasses my time here in the beautiful land of Uganda. I am only here serving by God’s sovereign grace, and I will only make it the remainder of my time here, by God’s sovereign grace. He is the reason for everything I do, and He deserves all the praise, honor and glory. Forever. The end.

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His grace is my anthem. His love is the only reason I can love. I am nothing apart from Him. And if I have learned anything here, it is this: if we are ever trying to love or serve out of any other motive or any other source, we will always come up short, and not be able to accomplish what God has called us to do. But when we continue to run back into the arms of our Father and let His grace and His love wash over us as He delights in us, “we can do all things through Christ who strengthens us…” (Philippians 4:13).And He deserves all the glory, because He is the only reason we can do anything of eternal value.

Isaiah 40:31 – “Those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not grow faint.”

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There have been so many moments here where I have just seen so clearly the image of the woman laying herself at Jesus’ feet, pouring out her perfume and the tears from her eyes for Him, while being scoffed at by the “religious” onlookers. But she just kept on doing it. Kept on pouring out her perfume on her Savior’s feet, and not caring one bit what anyone else thought, because she knew she was doing exactly what Jesus wanted her to do. And she was confident in that. His approval was all that she needed. She had waited her entire life for this moment and had put all her hope in her Savior’s redeeming love and grace. She knew she had nothing apart from Him. She gave up everything she owned and, in the world’s eyes, gave up her “worth,” and laid it down (literally) at Jesus’ feet. Poured it out, willingly.

Luke 7:44-46 – “Then he turned toward the woman and said to Simon, ‘Do you see this woman? I came into your house. You did not give me any water for my feet, but she wet my feet with her tears and wiped them up with her hair. You did not give me a kiss, but this woman, from the time I entered, has not stopped kissing my feet. You did not put oil on my head, but she has poured perfume on my feet. Therefore, I tell you, her many sins are forgiven – as her great love has shown. But whoever has been forgiven little loves little.”

            …Because there are so many times when I feel just like this woman. I have nothing left to give the Lord but my devotion and my adoration, because He is all that I am and all that I have. I am a sinner saved by grace and can do absolutely nothing to earn His love. But I run to Him. I run to the loving arms of my Savior. And Jesus has met me there – every single time.

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In my Jesus Calling Devotional the other day, it said so beautifully:

“Do everything in dependence on Me. The desire to act independently – apart from Me – springs from the root of pride. Self-sufficiency is subtle, insinuating its way into your thoughts and actions without your realizing it. But apart from Me, you can do nothing; that is, nothing of eternal value. My deepest desire for you is that you learn to depend on Me in every situation…

Many people view dependence as a despicable condition, so they strive to be as self-sufficient as possible. I designed you to need me continually – and to delight in that neediness. Delight yourself in Me more and more; this increases your joy and glorifies Me.”

After a really hard last week of being sick and stuck at home (away from all the women and children at the James Place, and really missing spending time with my wonderful fiancé, friends and family back at home), this week I have just been overwhelmed by God’s love. For all of you who have been praying for me relentlessly, God has been listening. He has heard your prayers. I was so incredibly blessed by God’s grace and love this week and I am just so grateful. I couldn’t help but see His care for me in so many little things.

 

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When we rest in how much we are loved and adored by Him, we are all the more able to see glimpses of His love in every hug, every child’s eyes, every sunset, every breathtaking view of nature, and so much more.

So here are just a few little glimpses of God’s grace and goodness that I can’t help but share and praise the Lord for  –

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When I came back into work Monday morning, I was just filled to the brim with joy, when I was greeted and hugged by my best friend (and basically my “Ugandan Mama” here) and her precious little baby Malachi. I don’t think it is a coincidence that her name just happens to be Grace…. God really does have such a beautiful sense of humor, sometimes, and has such a unique way of piecing our stories together just so we can see His hand in it all.

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Grace has treated me like her very own daughter since the day we met, and cares so deeply about how I am doing. When I was sick, she said her family had been praying for me every night, asking that Jesus Christ would heal me. And to see the way she rejoiced upon my return to work that morning, I knew that she meant it with all her heart.

The next day, there was a precious note and gift  left for me by my sweet friend here, Rema. Like Grace, she and her family had been praying for me to get well.

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Reading her note and words of encouragement, I couldn’t help but, yet again, be overwhelmed by God’s grace and love through something as small as a note and the thought she had to send me “Tangawuzi” roots, to help my nasty cough go away. This kind gesture by Rema was just another way God chose to use the body of Christ to tell me, “Hey little one, I really do care!”

A few hours later, a letter arrived for me from one of my dearest best friends (and one of my future bridesmaids), Abby Carpenter. She had sent me scripture cards with “fighting words” to help me draw on the Lord’s strength during this time serving Him overseas.

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When I Facetimed Abby later to thank her for her thoughtfulness, we both couldn’t help but just praise sweet Jesus for His timing and provision, because Abby had sent this letter over six weeks ago, having no idea if or when it would ever show up here in Uganda. But God knew. And, by His grace and kindness, He purposely had it land in my hands this week, of all weeks.

And my fiancé, Wesley Mabry, who always makes me laugh so hard all the way over here in Uganda with his quirky and adorable #adventureswithemily posts. He shows me more grace than I have ever known and is such a picture of Jesus’ love for me, daily. I can’t sing his praises enough, but I am grateful. God is such a gracious giver of gifts we don’t deserve.

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All week, my sweet friend Alice (who works in the kitchen at the James Place) has been making sure I get served “lots of vegetables” with my rice and beans at lunch, so that I will “grow extra strong again.” She was concerned about my cough and that I was “looking a little thin,” so she had someone bring me an extra plate full of “dodo” (basically a form of spinach here in Uganda) at lunch. And as silly as this was at the time, it really was so kind how much she cared, and I was just so grateful, for yet again, an example of God’s grace and love to me, through sweet Alice. I am going to visit Alice this Sunday at her home in Walukuba and I am so excited to meet her older children who are home from boarding school for their “term break” right now.

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Alice is such an example of a Godly woman, and everything I aspire to be one day. She loves her family so well and has the most beautiful servant heart in all that she does. You can always catch her hiding out and diving into God’s word whenever it is break time, and she is such a role model to me here.

Yesterday morning, when I was boiling water to make my coffee, my phone fell off the table and broke the camera. I was upset and honestly a little stressed because I love taking pictures and being able to capture memories of my time here, so I had to just come to terms with the fact that I was no longer going to be able to do that. But, thanks to God’s grace, a friend of a friend at HEAL Ministries was able to fix my phone and restore it back to normal later that afternoon. It honestly just felt like a miracle (due to the fact that I am in the third world country of Uganda and iPhone stores/help desks are not exactly an option here…). But God showed so much grace through this kind man who was able to fix my phone (for next to nothing here because of the exchange rate) and I am just so grateful. In awe, actually, of the Lord’s gracious provision.

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We even had a little “praising God” party at the Ugandan mobile devices store that we were sitting in as He fixed my phone (packed like hot sardines in such a tiny room, because, it is Uganda…for crying out loud). We have to celebrate the little things, you know?

And really all week, with it being a “term break” for the preschoolers at the James Place, I have had time to just play with the little ones in childcare and spend time with my friends in pottery, particularly Grace and baby Malachi.

The Lord knew that I needed this week, and next week, to just rest in His love and enjoy time with sweet baby Malachi and be loved by all the other little babes at the James Place.

This week I was covered in the hugs and adoration of so many of His precious little ones and felt His love for me through each one of them. Seeing His face in every one of their little eyes. His grace and His unconditional love in every cuddly hug and hand that reaches to hold mine.

For me personally, Uganda has been such a place of experiencing God’s grace. Both last summer and these past few months, I have been so humbled and in awe at how God chooses to grow me and make me more like Him in this place. I may not be able to understand why or even how I got here (only God knows), but I am grateful. For the good, the hard, and mostly, for His grace in it all.

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God has a unique way of relentlessly pursuing each one of our hearts just how He needs to, so that we will come to the end of ourselves, and realize His grace really is enough. That He alone is all we need. Sometimes it may hurt and not necessarily be comfortable, but as I mentioned above, that is really His grace and kindness. Because if we didn’t come to the end of ourselves at some points in our lives, how would we know we needed Him?

Sometimes, God’s blessings are so so obvious. But sometimes, I think, God’s greatest gifts and blessings come in disguise. In the heartache of missing those we love. In the loneliness of being out of our comfort zone or maybe not “fitting in,” no matter how hard we try. The exhaustion of feeling like we have nothing left to give. Because it is in these places, that we realize how much we need God, and in return, can see just how much He delights in us and experience His unending grace.

1 Peter 5:6-7 – “Humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time, casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you.”

Hebrews 4:16 – “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”

Just like any good parent, God wants us to trust and rely on Him. And He wants to delight in us, most of all. But for Him to be able to do so, we must have a humble, childlike dependence, and learn to let Him carry us through whatever we are going through. Not rely on our own strength or might to do it, but on His loving grace and His strength to sustain us.

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I can’t help but think of one of my favorite poems, titled Footprints in the Sand, so I will leave it for you right here:

“One night I dreamed I was walking along the beach with the Lord. Many scenes from my life flashed across the sky. In each scene I noticed footprints in the sand. Sometimes there were two sets of footprints, other times there was one only.

This bothered me because I noticed that during the low periods of my life, when I was suffering from anguish, sorrow or defeat, I could see only one set of footprints, so I said to the Lord, ‘You promised me Lord, that if I followed you, you would walk with me always. But I have noticed that during the most trying periods of my life there has only been one set of footprints in the sand. Why, when I needed you most, have you not been there for me?’

The Lord replied, ‘The years when you have seen only one set of footprints, my child, is when I carried you.’”

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“Grace Carried Me Here and By Grace I’ll Get Through…”

Be Still…

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For almost a year now, I have been wearing a small copper bangle around my wrist with these simple words engraved on it – “Be Still” (on one side) “And Know” (on the other side). I bought this bangle to support a ministry that works to empower women around the world through the word of God, and it has been such a sweet tangible reminder to me of one of my favorite verses in the Bible –

Psalm 46:10 – “Be still, and know that I am God.”

            When sweet John Wesley and I were taking our engagement photos this past May, our photographer kept pointing out how beautiful this bracelet was (hence, the close-up shot of us at the top of this post, holding hands and the bracelet’s simple words, “be still,” easy for the eye to see).

I have always loved this verse, but if I’m being honest, I am not the best at actually living it out in my everyday life. I have no problem waking up at the crack of dawn to spend time in God’s word each morning with a cup of coffee in my hand, but hardly, if ever, do I slow down throughout the rest of my day until I literally fall into my bed at night. Whether it is serving others, working extra part-time jobs (like I did this past year to raise more money in order to come here), talking or spending time with people I love, or finding a million and one things I feel like have to be done before I go to bed (don’t we all?), I tend to have a hard time being still. And anyone who knows me, especially my close friends and sweet fiancé John Wesley, could easily attest to this.

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I find it interesting that a different translation of Psalm 46:10 is written as, “Cease striving and know that I am God.”

God has a funny way, though, sometimes, of forcing us to be still. Even when we don’t think we want it or necessarily need it. But, as always, He knows what we need before we even ask for it. And He always knows what is best for us.

“…for your Father knows what you need even before you ask him.” (Matthew 6:8)

The past two months here in Uganda have been filled with story after story of God’s love through both serving and being served and unconditionally loved by the beautiful women and children I have developed deep relationships with here. It has been a whirlwind of teaching, playing, visiting dear friends in Masese (the local slum where many of them live), exploring the Nile River, and trying to soak up (and write about) every lesson God has been teaching me here.

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….But, coming down with both bronchitis and sinusitis at the start of the week, and after being told firmly (by a local doctor here in Jinja) not to be around the kids for a few days, kept me home from work pretty much all week, except for a short halfday at the end of the week, just to say hey and check on my sweet friends at the James Place.

The Lord was really kind, though, and it just so happened that these next three weeks (including this week, half of which was spent resting at home), the preschoolers are on their “Term Break” (Ugandan schools run on a very different calendar and timeline than American schools, hence, the three-week break in the middle of August). So, thankfully, I really wasn’t missing much and did not have to miss a single day of class with my little ones. Praise the Lord for His perfect and gracious timing.

But, as I mentioned earlier, I have a hard time slowing down. And throughout the ebbs and flows of the day, this does not come easily to me.

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Most of you have probably read the verses in the Bible about Mary and Martha –

Luke 10:38-42 – “As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him. She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said. But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, ‘Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!’ Martha, Martha, the Lord answered, ‘you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed – or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.’”

I feel like this story goes hand-in-hand with Psalm 46:10 – “Be still, and know that I am God.”

On one of these “sick days,” I really wrestled with not feeling like “enough.” Not being able to be there for the women and children at HEAL Ministries, but also not home to help my fiancé with the house-buying process and other things pertaining to the life we are trying to build together upon me returning home to America. In certain moments, it felt like I was stuck. God was making me stop and be still. He was making me release all control into His mighty hands. And I was resisting. Hard.

But, in the midst of this, you know what a friend spoke to me that was pretty life-changing?

“Oh, dear Emily. Maybe God used this whole day (sick and home alone) just to teach you that your usefulness is not your worth. You are so, so very loved, just as you are.”

Your usefulness is not your worth.

Wow.

As she spoke these truths into me, it immediately expelled the lies the enemy had been telling me. Telling me that I was weak, inadequate, and not good enough to help anyone – not the children or the women (because I was stuck at home, sick), but also, not able to be there to love on or encourage my sweet fiancé, Wesley (well, physically, at least, because I am on the other side of the world…in Africa, for crying out loud.) I felt defeated and useless. And not worthy of being loved.

But maybe, just maybe, God took this week of me being sick and forced to stay at home (so I didn’t spread whatever sickness I had) and, in all terms of the word, “useless” (in terms of tasks and serving others tangibly) to teach me this lesson. When I can’t be there for the women and children at the James Place, God can. When I can’t be there for Wes (that is, physically, at least), and to help him with planning for our little future back in the states, God still can. And when I feel at my weakest and like I have nothing to give anyone around me, God still loves me. There is nothing I could ever do or not do that would make God love me any less or any more. I don’t have to earn His love. His love never ends. All He wants is for me to delight in Him and Him alone and let my life stem from that.

I think God was teaching me a valuable lesson, through this hard week of being sick at home, that, like my sweet friend said, “your usefulness is not your worth,” but even more so, that He is in control. Of everything. And there is absolutely nothing I could ever do to change that. He doesn’t need me. He chooses to let me be a part of His plan. But, with or without me, God is still moving. He is constantly at work. And He is in control.

Psalm 46:10 – “Be still, and know that I am God.”

           So, amid life’s craziness, He wants us to listen to His words and, like He taught Martha in the story above, “be still and know” that He is God! He wants to come first…in all that we do. He wants to be the first thought that crosses our mind…always. He wants us to trust Him enough to be able to stop, be still, sit down at His feet, and soak in His love for us. Like Mary does in the story.

Another lesson I think I was learning this week was the beauty in waiting. Waiting on getting to (in 7 months…eek!) marry the love of my life. But realizing, amidst this season of great anticipation and excitement, that God has a purpose in the waiting. In all of it. Every aspect of our lives. But sometimes, instead of making ourselves busy and finding other ways to fill our days, God has to force us to be still…so we will be reminded that He is the one in control. That He is the one who can sustain us, in whatever season (waiting, anticipation, grief, confusion, the list goes on and on) we are walking through. That He has a purpose for it and wants more than anything for us to reach out for His helping hand and lean on Him, alone, through it all. He has greater plans in store up ahead, but in order to get to that “promised land” (like Abraham and Moses in the Bible), we must stay faithful in the here and now. Faithful in the waiting. Have faith, even when we can’t necessarily see it for ourselves. Isn’t that what faith is, though? Believing when we can’t see. That God will make a way. Always. That He will carry us through. By His grace. By His love. By the daily bread he provides.

In a Desiring God Devotional by Jade Mazarin, he wrote:

“Believing God is powerful means that we know He is in charge of what’s happening; things are not arbitrary or out of His control. He is capable of both helping us and changing things. Much of our anxiety in waiting is because we forget that “God is able to make all grace abound to you” (2 Corinthians 9:8). You are not at the mercy of your circumstances.

Believing God is loving means that there is care and purpose behind all that He does. It means that He is faithful to help us right now and bring us blessings later. It means that His judgement and timing is always perfectly good. True, he owes us nothing, yet He has promised to give us everything we need (Philippians 4:19).

Even during that long road of silence, God cares deeply for us. We can be like David and remind ourselves, “Wait for the Lord; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the Lord!” (Psalm 27:14).

Some of the greatest figures in the Bible – Abraham, Joseph, Moses, David – had to wait for many years for God’s promises. Everything that happened in the meantime was used to prepare them, inwardly as well as outwardly. Then, when they reached their promise, they were blessed beyond measure.

God invites us to trust in His goodness today and His faithfulness tomorrow. Relinquishing control to Him is the main route to experience His love and peace. It unites our hearts with His. It creates a level of maturity and character that we will take with us into the future, and it enables us to enjoy His future blessings all the more.”

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At the end of the week, I was finally feeling well enough to be able to go back to work for a half day, but the day was still so much slower than usual. Without all the preschoolers at the James Place, there was a quietness to the day. A new calm. Instead of being in the classroom all day, I was in childcare, watching over the little ones and children of the women here on staff at HEAL.

I got to spend a good portion of the day visiting my sweet friends Grace and Teresa in pottery, too, and simply “be still” and admire them as they diligently molded their clay into the most beautiful of creations.

Essentially, this week (and the next two), I just get to “be.” Be with the children. Play. Laugh. Feed them. Help bathe and carry them across the red dirt to naptime, so their little feet don’t get dirty.

After the past 2 months of go-go-go, this week was slower. A lot of it was spent resting in His love for me and spending time being still. Reflecting in gratitude on the past two months I have spent serving God here in Uganda. And a lot of it was spent learning how (and being forced against my will…) to slow down and enjoy the things I would usually overlook. Taking the time to thank God and recognize Him in the little things.

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Looking out the window, seeing our laundry hanging out on the line to be dried by the sun, and hearing little birds chirping in the trees.

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Noticing His beautiful creation, in the smallest details.

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Taking the time to walk outside to pick a pink flower to bring the beautiful nature of Uganda right beside my bed, to brighten up my day of being stuck inside the house.

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Seeing the most beautiful Ugandan sunset covering the sky, reminding me of Jesus’ sweet love and tender care for me.

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When God forced me to slow down, literally, I had time and energy to just be. To soak in His love and His gift of being exactly where He wants me. To soak in His presence.

To be fully loved by Him.

To believe that I am worthy just the way I am, that I don’t have to earn God’s love. He gives it freely.

Ann Voskamp wrote in a foreword for “Survival Guide for the Soul,”

“Habits are the small gears that leverage your life – and if you change your rhythms, you can change anything into possibility.

You change your life when you change how you meet Christ every day.

Our rhythms become our everyday liturgy, the sacred cadence of the hours that reorient our tired souls.”

And later, she wrote,

The way to survive waves is

to keep the beat of your heart

in rhythm with the One

who walks on water

Your guide awaits you.”

And just like this week of stillness and slowing down was, surprisingly, a gift, so is the process of learning new rhythms. New rhythms of meeting Christ in the quiet. In the mundane. In the stillness. Letting Him be my first and only thought, before letting the distractions of the world take my eyes off Him – the author and perfecter of my faith. The King of all Kings. The ruler of the universe. The one in control.

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            Making a new habit of seeing God in every good, bad, or seemingly insignificant part of my day. Because He is sovereign and in control of it all. Every breath is a gift from Him, so I want to live in remembrance of this. That I am His, and He is mine. To take time to be still and remember that He is God.

Thank goodness, for times (and weeks) of stillness that remind me that, thankfully, I am not the one in control. God is. And that’s the way it has always been and always will be.

Praise God.

Psalm 46:10 – “Be still, and know that I am God.”