"But if from there you seek the Lord your God, you will find him if you seek him with all your heart and with all your soul." - Deuteronomy 4:29

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Adoption From a Different Perspective

As many of you already know, my family adopted Mary Alan from China four years ago. With that, we have gotten to see adoption in a little bit of a better perspective. In the book of John, there is a verse that says, "I will not leave you as orphans, I will come to you." For our family, this verse has a completely different meaning than it used to. We get to have a different perspective on our adoption into God's kingdom. The love that our Heavenly Father must have to accept us at our worst and most insecure selves, then love us so well and give us all we ever need. This past week we got to celebrate the anniversary of having our little China doll. Our whole family has been so supportive of accepting our little Mary Alan, and that in itself is one of the absolute most beautiful pictures. While being home for Christmas break, Mary Alan and I got to decorate the house for her Gotcha Day and for Chinese New Year! We also let a lantern go every year on her Gotcha Day to mark the start of another year as one happy family. Mary Alan has blessed our lives with more love and life than anything we ever could have imagined. We are so blessed to have another year with our favorite baby sister. 

For anyone who may be on the fence about adopting, all I can say is that from personal experience, it is the greatest thing that has ever happened to our family. It is a blessing in more ways than one. Yes it definitely has it's challenges, but it is SO worth it. Please please please everyone consider the blessing of adoption, and if you feel called to do it please do not hesitate, but instead follow the path set before you with boldness as The Lord has already prepared it for you.

Friday, July 31, 2015

In the multitude of my anxieties...

"In the multitude of my anxieties within me, your comforts delight my soul." As it is written in Psalm 94:19, it is also written in my heart.. Tattooed deep within the chambers. This verse has been a life cry this past summer. My heart has been on an emotional whirlwind from going to Africa (where I left parts of my heart behind) to preparing to move to college, which is also preparing to move out of the house I have lived in for almost 16 years and into the new farm house. I want to share a little about this past summer and the different things I have seen and have changed my life and that I will never forget.

     I left the Monday after the Fourth of July weekend where my family went to the Braves v. Phillies baseball game in Atlanta on the Fourth. The game was filled with patriotism and fireworks as we celebrated our great country's independence. Emotions of gratitude and love for a nation were obvious as we all wore red, white, and blue and shouted USA USA and sang the Star Spangled Banner and My Country Tis of Thee. All of this to say we are extremely blessed to live in a nation where we have everything at the touch of a button and freedom beyond belief.
    Africa, however, is a little different. From the second I boarded the 13.5 hour plane ride, I knew immediately that I had no clue what was in store for the next 2 weeks. We landed and drove to our first guest house in a bus with no air conditioning for 4 hours. The ride was actually not half bad because we were all so excited to be in the land we all knew was prepared ahead of time for us to travel to. My team was incredible. We were from all different states and of all different ages but felt like a family by the bond of Christ that we all shared. From the first moment we met, we knew God wanted us all to be together  in this place and at this time. It was kind of magical. Our first organization we worked with is called Sole Hope. This ministry is absolutely amazing and works to create shoes for people who can't afford them as well as treat and educate people on a specific problem.. I'm sure about 85% of the people reading this right now have no idea about the problem they are working so hard to fix; jiggers. A jigger is a parasite that digs deep into the feet of these people who walk around in the dirt barefooted all day because they have no money for shoes. The jigger then lays eggs and dies, still in the body, as the eggs are in a larva that then will burst and spread. Some had few, others had hundreds, and one had thousands (most people who have jiggers have them in the feet, some also get them in their hands, and this man had them all over his entire body). We helped and blessed as the hands and feet of Jesus, but they will never ever know how much more they blessed all of us.
      Joy, pure joy. That is the emotion I remember as I looked into my sweet little Jaine's eyes seconds after she had her jiggers removed from her feet. I was holding her hands so tightly as I watched this sweet, beautiful girl have these flesh eating parasites dug out of her foot with razor blades and safety pins. She looked at me with the absolute biggest smile I have ever seen right when she was finally finished (about 2 hours). We danced, played with bubbles, and laughed as she stole my heart. I told her to keep it after she looked at me when I said "I have to go now, I love you," and she replied "I love you." I do not know if she even knows what 'I love you' means since she spoke primarily Lugandan, but I can hope that she does know what it means and I can hope that she is going to go home to someone else who loves her and cares for her too. But that's all that I can do for my sweet Jaine girl who I couldn't bring back with me. I asked.
   One day working with Sole Hope we had the opportunity to go into the village school and have a jigger clinic there. As Drew, the husband of Asher, the woman who started this amazing organization, asked who wanted to wash feet, I raised my hand not knowing what was in store. I put on my latex gloves and sat at the bench with a water bucket, bar of soap, and scrubber brush in front of me. The faces of the kids and adults who's feet I washed will never escape my memory, and the feeling of pure joy inside of me will never be forgotten as one of the greatest feelings in life. These people. They are incredible. Having the opportunity to scrub and clean people's feet, who I think for most ,this was their first time ever having them washed was the biggest blessing. Needless to say, pedicures will never be the same, as I cried through the first one I got when I got home. Getting to love and be a part of God's big picture and story for Africa was all I could ever want. Dancing with an old man who was mentally ill in the middle of Africa is a memory that I will be reminded of every time I dance (not actual dance because I'm not the most coordinated person, but swing dance which I LOVE). These people have forever changed how I view life.
    The next stop was the Nile River where several of us were baptized. I have been baptized before, but I was 8, and I knew but at the same time I didn't know. I knew that "Jesus loves me" because "the bible tells me so" but I didn't know that the same God who loves me also cares so much about me that he wants an intimate relationship with me and he wants me to be a part of his unfolding story. This God is incredible, and I wanted to be baptized again because I felt like I wanted to be washed clean of my sins and weary thinking, and live life like I knew He wants me to live. To start fresh, straight out of the water in this place that so many are afraid of, the big, scary, and dirty Nile River that's infested with fish and snakes and other unknown creatures. I believe the reason I was not afraid of this nasty river is because people were praying for me. They were praying for safety and for God to be my protector, and in the multitude of my anxieties, my soul was comforted and I was not afraid.
    The next place we went was a baby cottage. We got to hold and love on babies that don't get love much, if ever. The little girl that I fell so fastly in love with was named Hannah. Hannah was abandoned in the hospital when she was 6 months old. She had TB and was HIV positive. She was treated for TB and is now a year and a half old. This sweet baby would probably never have someone who would love her. I pray she will and that one day she will have a mommy who loves her and that she will live long enough to know her heavenly father, but if not, I know the Lord will take her to live with Him forever, and there, we will be reunited and I will love her so much. She also holds a chunk of my heart.
    The last place we went to we are not allowed to share much about on social media. All I will say about this is that these kids who are in prison worship harder and more real than any worship I have EVER been apart of. Here they are with absolutely nothing except the tattered rags on their bodies, yet they fall on their face praising Jesus. They rely so completely on Him because they simply have nothing else. They trust in Him with everything they have, and in the middle of prison for goodness sake. Flat on their face. Praising the God who created us to do just that. To praise Him. These kids,  too, were fearfully and wonderfully made. Just like me and just like you. They want so much more of God to be lifted "higher higher higher higher higher higher higher higher higher Jesus higher." This one along with about 3 others are songs they sang that will forever be stuck in my head, and I hope they never escape. What gets me is that we sit in our big houses, with our tons of pairs of shoes and more clothes than we can wear, with more food in our pantry and fridge than we can eat, yet we are still unhappy. We lack the fully reliance on God that these kids have. They get to know God like this and we don't because we think we've got our lives under control. We plan what we want to do next and how our lived will pan out, and these people don't even know where their next meal is. We take life for granted and they are just glad to be alive for one more day.
    In Africa, I learned things we take for granted, such as using our running water to brush our teeth or get water to drink, showering in hot showers, getting to wear shorts in public, not having to sleep under a mosquito net or take pills to prevent from getting the dreaded disease of Malaria, sleeping in a bed where I can sprawl out, having air conditioning and generators for when the power goes out making our one little fan in a room with 6 girls (2 triple bunk beds, I was on top) also go out, and having wifi to call, text, and contact whoever we need, wherever we need. These things are not necessities. I lived without them for 2 weeks and know that it is possible. We are so fortunate and most do not even know how fortunate we are to have all that we have. It's simply not fair that we live here while they live there. Our fearless leader, Callie, told us this when we all broke down because of how mad we were at the life we were born in:
      We were put in the family, country, and circumstances that we were so that we can help those who are not. We are now aware of the poverty and need in other places and now can spread the word and help more. If we were not here who would be to help these people? Jesus has given us opportunity.
      It is not because of us that we are here or because of our own self pride to do "good things" and be "good people", but instead it is because the Lord of all of the earth has called all of us to go and we were the ones who he called at this time to this place. We will never be the same and for this I am grateful. I don't want to be comfortable in my life because how can I be after seek what I did? I hope every Sunday in church I break down because of the lack of realness in worship. I hope I have to close my eyes and see my sweet kids on their face crying out to Jesus because if not, I would go  crazy and start screaming because nobody gets it. We are so blessed in America, and because of that, we need to submit our lives to Christ and follow Him where He leads us. If that's down the road or across the oceans, He has called us all to GO and to LOVE. Listen and obey.
     As I prepare to go to college in one week and move into a new house soon, I feel like I am prepared for the journey ahead and that the Lord is continuing to call me to different places. I'm excited to see where the next place is, and even more about what the future holds for my life, for Africa, and for the world. The Lord is doing great things, I pray that he will use you in His big unfolding story so you will know a little more about life and love, and most of all, pure joy.

 The whole gang at the Braves game!

 these are the shoes that Sole Hope makes, all by hand. (message me if you're interested in hosting a shoe cutting party or learning more about this!)
 Zoom in a little closer to see the jiggers buried in this man's feet.
 This is my sweet and happy "joyful Jaine".

 This is my precious little girl, Hannah, from the baby cottage.
 Did I mention we got to go to the equator?! 
 The man who so desperately wanted to dance; I took his hand, he took my heart.
Washing feet at the school in the village of Jinja.

Monday, January 19, 2015

Come to Me, Forever.

Well friends, I'm back! With more pictures of my favorite little sister. This little ray of sunshine keeps our whole house alive and entertained.. Not just because she woke me up at 8 this morning wanting to play (and does every time I get to sleep in), but also because she is so sassy and LOVES to model and pose. She never fails to make us laugh.


 Mom has taught Mary Alan how to fix her hair before taking pictures.. She has MASTERED it. She paused me before I took more pictures and said, "Ivy, wait just one second. Mom told me to make sure you can see my hair so I can look pretty." Then she started making adjustments...

I think after being around all teenagers plus all 
of our friends, she has got the hands-on-hip pose completely down solid. She is constantly wanting to be around all of us and be just like us in everything we do or say.. We all have to watch what we say because this little sponge soaks it right up. The other day mom and I were in the kitchen and MA was playing with her toys and started singing Uptown Funk by Bruno Mars. I had to tell her that that song is our secret song and we can't sing it in front of anyone because we can't let them hear our secret song just so she would stop singing it. 

These pictures below of MA reminds me of Psalm 100. She laughs constantly and it is contagious as anything. She is always jumping, skipping, running, and hopping all over, well, everywhere. In psalm 100, it says to come in to The Lord's presence with singing, to serve The Lord with gladness and make a Joyful noise over all of the earth! Mary Alan reminds me that in everything, I need to have joy and be glad because no matter what, laughter can make any situation better.

      I will be going to college at Auburn University this upcoming fall, and ever since I told Mary Alan that, she asks me every time I leave the house if I am going to Auburn. I tell her that I won't be going until the end of the summer, but some things just don't stick because the next morning when I leave, she asks me again. I am so excited for college, but I am so sad whenever I think about leaving my favorite little nugget. I tell her everything (even though she is 4 and forgets within five minutes) and we hang out all the time. When people confuse her as my daughter, I just play along because why not! She's adorable and I hope to one day adopt from somewhere because it has been such an incredible experience.. and great conversation starter! 
      Lately, I have been taking time to sit back and think about what I believe and why I believe it, especially since college is coming up and I want to be sure in my convictions. My sunday school has started going through different religions and comparing them to Christianity. I think it is so interesting and very convicting to think about. Many religions are completely devoted to what they believe and will do anything to defend their god/gods. I think about our country and how we have become so desensitized to this. Our nation is predominately Christian, yet we allow for so much corruption and bashing of The One True King who died to give us these freedoms that we have, and so blatantly take advantage of. He was beaten and nailed to a cross with the weight of all of our sins, every sin of every person, and God turned away from him. Jesus did this for us to have the opportunity to live a life and share his word with everyone. He didn't die on the cross so we can stay glued to our phones all day, barely talking to anyone, taking selfies on snapchat and trying to get more likes on our instagram picture than we did on the last one. No. He did it so we would be able to have a relationship with Him and live freely in the spirit of the God who created us. He wants us to be bold and share the good news of what He has done! We can't do that if we are stuck to our cell phone constantly. The song 'Forever' by Bethel Music has been stuck in my mind lately. I encourage everyone to go look up the lyrics and listen to it because it will give you a new perspective on the crucifixion. He is calling us to step out of our comfort zones and let the spirit lead us! Also the song 'Come To Me' by Bethel Music has completely convicted me. This song is about The Lord proclaiming to us who He is and what He wants of us. He wants us to not look to the right or to the left but only to Him; to cling to Him and not let the desires of the flesh sway us off of the narrow course of life. I strongly encourage everyone to think about the thing or things that have been the greatest barrier blocking you from The Lord. What is keeping control of your time and building the brick wall that you feel is unbreakable between you and The Lord? Good news! He can break it. Pray that He will convict you of what is consuming your time and try to give it up for a while. See what He can do in that time!! Listen to Him and don't be swayed to the right or to the left. Keep your eyes on Jesus. 

Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow is the road that leads to life and few find it. Matthew 7:13-14