Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Trust Me.

What a terrifying command that is. Trust Me. "You mean You want me to let go of EVERYTHING?" Trust Me. "But what if it doesn't work out?" Trust Me. "I am only a teacher, God, I don't make a lot of money." Trust....Me.

I am about to move out in about a month. My roommate Lauren is marrying her best friend... so I am getting the boot. haha I am excited for her. I am thrilled she has found the one her heart desires to live life with and further the Kingdom with. I know that Mark makes Lauren happier than anyone else could. But... I have to move out. haha I have only lived with a handful of people and Lauren is the one roommate I have lived with the longest. We met at a bible study me and a friend started and it kinda just went from there. I tell people that because we didn't really know each other, and weren't good friends before, that's why it worked so well. There were no expectations. There were no requirements. She had her life. I had my life. We shared a dwelling and bills. But I didn't go in looking for deep, lifelong friendship. However, that is what I am leaving with.

We went from not knowing each other to being inseparable. You knew if Stephanie was there, Lauren would be too (and vice-versa). We began to realize that we were so alike in so many ways. Yes, we have had our rough patches (and when they were rough... they were rough). But, we lived life together. We grew in Christ together. We saw each other in rough times, heartbreak, death, loss of jobs, diagnoses. But we were also pivotal in the good times that came into each other's lives. We went on mission together; traveling to Uganda and Kenya, Africa, and loved on orphans, widows and the "least of these".

I was there when Mark E. Cohoon literally walked into her life. I was there when the flirtation began. I helped her get ready for their first date, let him use my key to get in and decorate her room for Valentine's, cried when he called me and told me he was meeting with her dad and planning to propose, sat and talked and searched for hours helping him find the perfect ring, planned and schemed on how he should propose and how to get her out of the house and now watch as she is planning the most important day of her life.

I have not been the best friend or roommate. I am selfish. I am stubborn. I am messy (both spiritually and physically... I AM an "artist" haha right Lauren?). I have let past hurts and insecurities prevent me from being vulnerable and opening up or intentionally investing whole heartedly at some points. I, in return, have hurt her. But I am thankful for grace. Grace, that because of Jesus, she has given me. Grace that the Lord has given both of us.

I don't like change. I don't like not being in control. I don't like feeling alone or uncertain. But all of these things are about to happen. And it's for the good. It will cause be to grow up a bit. I will have to learn to rely on Jesus more, instead of myself. I will need to become more intentional and outgoing. I will have to invest and invest well in friendships if I want them. I will have to TRUST. Trust that Jesus is better.... which He is. Trust that Jesus is in control... which He is. Trust that if all else fails and I am poor that Jesus will be completely sufficient for me... which He will.

One of my favorite songs right now is by Aaron Keys called "Trust You, Jesus"... which is completely fitting for this season of my life. The lyrics go:

"Father of Heavenly Lights... Fount of wisdom and love. All is laid bare in Your sight... You know my ways. I believe You will provide... all I need in my life. And I will not fear anymore... for I will ever... Trust You, Jesus. Trust You, Jesus. Trust You with my life.

You hold the world in Your hands... God of mercy and life. Knew me before I was born... called me by name. How could I ever respond... but to fall and adore. I live to know you more... Lord I will ever... Trust You, Jesus. Trust You, Jesus. Trust You with my life.

Let not the wise.... trust in their wisdom. Let not the strong... boast in their might. Let not the rich... glory in riches. I will trust You. Let not the wise.... trust in their wisdom. Let not the strong... boast in their might. Let not the rich... glory in riches. I will ever...

Trust You, Jesus. Trust You, Jesus. Trust You with my life."

Here is the video on YouTube to watch and hear it...

So I don't know what this next season of my life will look like. It is scary and exciting. It is unseen and yet planned out already. So all I can do right now is humbly fall on my knees, with my eyes facing upwards and cry out I will "Trust You, Jesus. Trust You, Jesus. Trust You with my life..."

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Oh how I long to be sanctified rather than comfortable...

"You make known to me the path of life; in Your presence there is fullness of joy; at Your right hand are pleasures forevermore."  -Psalm 16:11

God, you offer me eternal joys and pleasures. You are better than anything this world has to offer. You provide more satisfaction than anything I try to fill my life with. So, why do I worry? Why do I get anxious or stressed? Lord, I try to take You and put You in "my world" and act like I am such a great Christian woman. However, I shouldn't be trying to fit You into my life. I should be revolving my life around everything You are. Using this temporal time on Earth as a ministry and an opportunity to make Your name Famous! Beloved, I want to be so incredibly saturated and filled with You, that I can't help seep You. I want You to naturally come out of everything in me. Not forcibly so I am perceived as a woman fearing and seeking You... but authentically.

Father, I try to radiate You so boldly that I turn it into being about me. I try to manipulate and trick people into thinking I have got it all together, when really... I am such a screw up and am ridiculously broken. But you find that beautiful. So instead of me trying to be perceived as "perfect', Lord, I ask that You allow me to be keenly aware of my need for a Savior. To pray fervently... rely fully... Seek You wholly... and desire You intimately. God-- allow me to learn how to be fully dependent on You. Open my eyes to see how it looks to follow submissively. Whether that means to learn so I can be prepared for the future or simply for the now. Make me YOURS.

I want to experience the riches and beauty of Salvation. I want to experience true and pure Joy that only can come from being loved perfectly by You. I want to enjoy the freedom of Your Presence by continually trusting You at all times. So Lord, cultivate these things in me. Grow and mold me into a woman who is fearing You. Remind me that I am nothing apart from You. That the characteristics of goodness and beauty that people are attracted to, are only glimpses of You in me. That I am seen not as a "good girl", but as a woman who whole heartedly is seeking Your face daily and is doing all I can to point others back to You. Because this is my desire, Jesus. I long to lead others to Your feet and love people well like You called me to do. Humble me daily--hourly--minutely--secondly(??haha) Constantly chip away the bad. This is a painful process. I understand that. But oh how I long to be sanctified rather than comfortable.

Sunday, July 7, 2013

My Heart's Story

This time last week I had just gotten home from Kenya. This week has been a whirlwind of things to do, family activities, hanging out with friends, fireworks and parties and scary surgeries for my papa. I literally haven't stopped all week. While seeing friend after friend I have had the question, "So how was Africa?" I find myself saying "It was really good."but then nothing else. I have gotten the same look over and over and it kills me to see this look come across my loved ones faces.... disappointment. They want deep conversation to follow. They want to hear about the ones I loved, the adventures I experienced, the way the Lord revealed Himself to me and the miracles of His power. But I stop. Not because He didn't show up.... He did! He was so incredibly evident. Not because I got nothing out of the trip... because I did. My life has been forever changed by these people and my love for them (and their loved that was reciprocated to me).

The things I have seen and heard are hard for me to put into words right now. I fell in love with these babies. My heart will never be the same and part of it will always be in Kenya. Those two weeks were so amazing and fulfilling and beautiful. So why can't I tell people what I saw? Why can't His story come out in verbal form and spur people on for His kingdom? I don't know... Maybe I haven't fully dealt with being back yet. Maybe I have been so busy I haven't allowed myself to decompress and comprehend what has happened. I saw and experienced so much during my time there and it is quite overwhelming for me to try and verbalize everything that occurred. Or maybe I just have to figure out and pray about what I need to share. I know that I was called to Africa and that the Lord has placed this love for people, and especially children/orphans, in my heart to love on them and share about my love for them. I completely believe that this is a huge part of my "life story" and that it will continue to build and grow as I age. I don't think this was my last trip to Africa and I know that I was chosen to do some major work for the Kingdom. So I will pray for the words to say (something I have never done before). I will ask the Lord to show me what I need to say and how I need to say it. I will ask for clarity and for smoothness in speech. And most importantly, I will ask that the Lord uses me as His voicebox and that nothing that comes out of my mouth is apart from Christ. That He is reflected in everything I say and that the people that hear about this experience will be forever changed by the love of our Father.

I love Africa.... I love Kenya... I love Nakuru... I love Fiwagoh. Our Beloved knew this and wired me to fall in love with precious babies half way around the world. He orchestrated me to develop this desire to care for them and pour into them. He yearned for me to love them hard-- to the point that I feel completely empty and broken when it is time to leave. But that same God has also reminded me that He is my loving kindness, my heartbreak healer, my comforter, my romancer and my strength. So when I am weak, I count it as beautiful... because that allows Him to reveal His might and power. Selah.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Broken Heart

Have you ever had a broken heart? Like hurts to breath, makes you cry, gives you a sense of feeling lost and helpless, nothing seems to be able to soothe that deep, embedded pain? This is how I am feeling right now. Not because of a man... no I haven't given one my heart fully before, so the Lord has been really sweet to guard me from that. Yes I have some chips and nicks in it... but it has not been hurt severely and will be pretty whole and full whenever I give it to the man that the Lord has prepared/or is preparing for me. No... the reason for my broken heart right now is because I gave it to 200+ children in a little town in Kenya, Africa. It was given out through smiles, hugs, kisses, encouraging words (both spoken and written), laughs and winks.

Years ago I felt a deep burdening for Africa. This confused me since I had only been on an airplane for the first time two years before. Also, Africa seemed so distant and unreachable for a little small town Texas girl who had just finished her first year of teaching. I mean money wasn't an issue since I was banking educating the youth of this nation (sarcasm) but the thought of flying to an unfamiliar, possibly dangerous land just didn't seem like something I was going to do. Even though I heard the faint whisper "Go." I pushed it aside and moved on. I met my roommate at a bible study, we became fast friends and decided to move that summer. I finally had a friend that was passionate about the Lord in town with me... and later I would find out, about Africa and adoption as well. The thing about the Lord that I love is that He is what I like to call the two C's.... consistent and constant. He doesn't ambush or override... but He gently whispers and spurs. With that spurring I realized I HAD to do something. So I began sponsoring a child from Lesotho, Africa. I thought, as any oblivious, bible belt, Jesus lovin' Texas girl would, "I am making a difference." And I was... but my ridiculousness and pride were so loud I couldn't hear the sweet whisper of my Beloved saying, "Go." So another few months went on and I still felt like something was missing. One day I was so confused and uneasy I began painting and ended up making a HUGE canvas with a picture of Africa on it and the words "Pray for Africa." So I did. I began to pray for this "random" continent that for some reason was overtaking my mind and thoughts. But... it still wasn't enough. I mentioned it to my roommate... you know the one who I had just randomly met and decided to move in with a few months before... and she said, "Let's go!" Now here is something about Lauren Benesch. Her middle name is impulse. She thinks and does. I think... and sit for months and argue back and forth and freak out and get nervous and then usually don't. I thank the Lord for putting Lauren in my life. Not that I wouldn't have eventually listened and obeyed and gone... but having someone I knew go along with me and even say it wasn't crazy, was doable and go made it easier.

So after months of searching we found out about Visiting Orphans... the rest was history. It was tough... my parents (ahem... mostly my mother) was scared. But I ended up going... I spent a week in Uganda and a week in Kenya. I was on 9 different airplanes, went to multiple orphanages, remand homes, villages and churches. But I came back with one thing forever branded on my heart.... DANIEL. An 8 year old little boy that grabbed my heart and did not give it back.

My heart was broken coming back. I never thought I would see Daniel again or get to go back to this country that ripped my heart out. I prayed for, talked about and looked at pictures of him daily.

Two years later, June 14, 2013, I stepped on an airplane that was headed for Nairobi, Kenya. I was going back to see Daniel. I was humbled by the fact that I was headed back to Africa-- a place two years before I thought was an impossibility-- to see Daniel. Fears of him not remembering me crept into my mind. Would he know me? Want to see me? Care to even give me another chance? This is part of my journal entry from the night I arrived at Fiwagoh...

"Finally we got here. I was moved to tears when the gates to the compound opened and the children came sprinting towards us. All the kids were hugging and grabbing at us... but then I looked up and saw him. Daniel. He was looking at me... and smiling. My heart flip flopped. I bent down, set my stuff on the ground and smiled at him. He ran to me smiling and hugged me. Obviously I began crying. I had dreamed about how that moment would have been and it was just like it. Amazing. The Lord was so sweet to allow that... and abundantly so much more. Child after child approached me.... excited to see me and remembering me. I was so fearful that no one, especially Daniel, would remember me... and in fact they all, remembered me."

I long to be back in Africa. My heart misses Daniel so much. The sound of his voice. The warmth of his hands. The beauty of his dirty feet, laying on top of mine. I miss the others too... all the way from a crazy little 4 year old to a mature 21 year old. I miss them all... I miss hearing them sing out "Emmanuel... our God is with us!" I miss everything about them. They are my heart... and this is just the beginning. When the Lord whispered "Go." He didn't just mean back in 2011. These kids have become apart of my life... they have become my family. I care for them with all that is within me. We are told not to make promises to the kids that we cannot keep. They take things literal and wouldn't be able to understand if we weren't able to follow through with those promises. So as Daniel was sobbing on my chest I was searching for what I could tell him that I knew I would be able to truly mean. So this is what I told him...

Me: "Daniel... baby open up your eyes and look at me. Look at me. I LOVE YOU... with alll of my heart. You know that right? I tell you that all the time... everyday. Yeah? Right?"

Daniel: "yes."

Me: "Then listen... I am going to do everything I can to come back and see you. This isn't goodbye... this is I will see you later. Because Daniel... I WILL see you again. I love you too much to not come back. I will be here playing with you, holding your hands, kissing your cheeks and saying 'Nakupenda Sana, Sana, Sana, Sana' (I love you so much, so much, so much, so much). I don't have any kids... but I love you like you are my son! So don't cry... because we will see each other again. And I will be praying for you everyday and write you and send you pictures. Because...."

Daniel: "I will miss you..."

And then I lost it. But our God is so good that I trust in Him and His promises for my life... so I don't have to worry. Because He has put this love and desire for Africa in my heart... and He will bless my yearning and desire to do His will, make His name famous and love on His children!