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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