Tuesday, November 29, 2011


Disease is a thief. And this one steals your mind. Steals your memories.

She was my grandmother with the eye for fashion, lips always perfectly tinted to match her outfit, and rows of high heeled shoes that fit my feet when I was just a girl because they were so tiny. She was the one who smelled like flowers and had every color of nail polish imaginable. She is the reason my mom puts lotion on her feet every night, wears a silky robe in the mornings and likes her coffee black with just a bit of sugar.

She is still beautiful and beautifully dressed. Her feet are still tiny and soft after years of nightime lotioning. Nail polish still abounds. She still smells like flowers. But now, she is confused. She isn't sure who that lady is painting her nails. She isn't sure why she's dressing up today and who all these people are coming in and out of her house. She isn't sure where home is. And the man who cares for her every minute of every day? Sometimes he seems familiar and she knows they love each other, and sometimes she's scared of him, scared he's gonna take her away, or leave her. And why does he seem so sad?

We sit around and whisper about how sad it is. Tears come easy and we can't help wondering what her last memory of each of us was. Or will be.

This Thanksgiving, I should have spent more time just loving her, instead of wishing it was different. More time praying for her peace. More time loving on my grandfather who shoulders the lion's share of the load and whose heart breaks at the loss of her memories. All those years they shared...gone. I should have spent more time listening to my mom and my aunts and letting them say what we all feel. That we are already missing her and she isn't even gone yet.

But today I choose to be thankful. I am thankful for Meme. That she was the valedictorian of her high school graduating class. That she ran off and married my Dada without permission. That she stood by him while he was away at war. That she raised three beautiful daughters and taught them a thing or two about mothering, hard work, sass, and shopping. That she knew how to put together a killer meal. That she welcomed each grandchild and great grandchild with great joy. And that she loved Jesus.

She may not remember any of those things today. But those of us who love her do. And we're grateful.

Linking up with Just Write today.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

The Coffee Shop

A coffee shop is not a place for kids. I just took them in cause we had some time to kill before an event we were early for. Being early isn’t cool. I’ve been that person putting on the event when the early birds show up. Then you have to juggle frantically getting everything ready and also maintaining some kind of polite chit chat with the early birds. Not cool. But I’m getting off track.

I took them in just so we wouldn’t have to sit in the car. But, as soon as I said they could have a drink to share I knew I was in trouble. The stand-off that ensued was not all that unusual but today it was infuriating. Why can’t they be empathetic with each other. “What would you like to have, sister?” “Well, that’s not what I would prefer but I don’t always have to have things my way. Let’s have what you want this time.” Is that too much to ask from a 7 year old and 4 year old? Yes? Oh alright.

Then, the little one has her hands on everything. Perrier. Straws. Cookies. “Just stop!” I whisper yelled. I’m pretty good at whisper yelling. It is not my best feature.

Finally, we sit, and I realize that there is not one child, besides mine, in the entire shop. Instead it is filled with students. College students in study groups and adults who can’t be much older than the students, meeting together to have meaningful conversations, I’m sure. Occasionally they glance over at me and I try to play it cool. “Here I am with my kids. Totally not frazzled. Totally in control. Just having coffee. How sophisticated of me.” They aren’t buying it.

And neither am I. “We’ve got to get out of here," I say after the third potty break in 15 minutes. “Let’s get back in the car.” Cause our minivan is a haven for our crazy. And I'm not that sophisticated anyway.

Linking up with Just Write again. Loving the free writing exercises.

Thursday, November 3, 2011


She reminded us once that God's plans are always bigger and brighter than we could ever imagine. And that hope is the gift He gives when we look up from our brokenness. So that's what we named her. Hope.

She's the big sister. Always the teacher. The one who is more like a super hero to them. They bask in the light of her attention and she guides their way into fairy tales and bits of trouble. She is a born leader, and though it's clear she would prefer a dictatorship, even she has learned the art of being a leader people want to follow.

Her natural talent is astounding, her drive...eerie for a 7 year old ("almost 8!", she says). She attacks a hobby and masters it. Soccer, piano, gymnastics. She finds it hard to settle for less than the best and I admire her work ethic. But it also makes failure a hard pill to swallow. And I know we'll spend a good bit of her life assuring her, in ways that are subtle and in words that aren't, that her value lies in who God made her to be, who she already is. And praying...praying hard that she believes us, believes Him.

Cause who he made her to be is incredible. A little girl who knows what she wants and goes for it, but who also has eyes to see those who are ignored or overlooked and a heart to do something about it. She has her daddy's sense of humor and my love of the dramatic. And some crazy wicked dance moves to boot.

She was my first little girl, the one who taught me what it meant to be a mom, the one who continues to teach me what little girls need. Only she's not so little anymore. And apparently 8 is the new 10, and even my lack of clocks in the house won't make time go any slower. So instead I walk alongside her after school as she fills me in on her life apart from me, happy to be the hand she still holds on the way home.

Halloween 84,000 years ago. 2 yrs old

Lookin a little more like this now.

Thursday, October 27, 2011


Whoosh. Whoosh. Whoosh. Our feet kick at the piles of leaves as we walk hand in hand up to her school. She smiles at some thought she's had and I notice again that she is a miniature me. She looks like a child I could have carried in my womb. I'm struck again by the wonder of that.

But there are other things, too. Her heart mirrors my own in so many ways. Her love of books and music. Her domestic streak. The way she wears her feelings on her sleeve. Her penchant for lying to get out of trouble, which is really more about being afraid to disappoint than it is fear of the consequences. Hers is a heart that will be broken because she dares to share it. I just know it. And my heart winces preemptively at the thought.

She has grown up this year before our very eyes. Limbs have grown long and lean, a ballerina's body, and in her face we have started to see glimpses of the grown up girl she will be. A girl who moves into life slowly, more thoughtful, in a way that makes room for the hopes and dreams of others.

Sweet Bella, we've called her. A name that means beauty. She wears it well.

Linking up with Just Write this week. Trying something new! You should too!

Wednesday, October 26, 2011


Her name means breath of life. And that's exactly what she is.

I love every bit of her reckless heart and the way she grabs at life with all the delicacy of a UFC fighter. I love that she has a soft spot for the curve of my neck and whispers, "I lub you, mama" like it's a secret just between us.

She is full of words now. Full of songs, even. And full of mischief, as always. Those eyes tell me, have always told me, she knows more than we think. And her pace tells me that our days of pretending she is a baby are numbered.

Nothing but gratitude for the extravagant gift of Ava Elizabeth Marey.

Friday, October 21, 2011


Apparently, Hope has been teaching Bella after they go to bed. "School" they call it. Today at the breakfast table they were explaining it to me. When the door to the stairway shuts, that is the bell for their school to begin. They work on numbers and letters. Last night they talked about the number eight. Then, at recess, they draw pictures (on each other's backs) and try to guess what they are. And then, because Hope is always ready for sleep sooner than Bella, they have a little ritual. Bella gets scared after Hope falls asleep, so she is allowed to pick either Hope's arm, her hair, or her back to play with until she drifts off.

How long will these games last? THIS is why I wanted the girls to share a room, even share a bed. I can remember doing things like this with my little sister long after we were supposed to be asleep. Tent making with the bedspread, trying not to laugh while she poked at my ticklish armpits, and making words on each other's backs. And even though my parents may have preferred that we go straight to sleep, they are memories that have lasted over the years. Such sweet moments to remember again and again.

I'm so thankful they have this time with each other and I promise I will try and remember that when I have climbed the stairs once again to tell them to go to sleep.

Monday, October 10, 2011

My Soul Finds Rest

This is my new favorite song. For one thing, it is a modern hymn, and hymns have a special place in my heart. I love the deep truths they convey and the simple structure of their composition. And, in a lot of ways, they're like old friends. I grew up with hymns and singing them now reminds me of where my faith in Christ began.

But I also love this song because it speaks to that deep ache in me for rest. The imagery that David uses in Psalm 62 of God as a fortress, a mighty rock, a refuge, reminds me that I can rest in him, the One who can't be shaken. For me, in the midst of all that competes for my attention, the call to rest in God alone faithfully finds its way to the surface again and again. In this song, I hear His call again, loud and clear. An irresistible invitation.

So, as I start a new year (35, in case your wondering), that's what I wanna be about. Finding rest in God alone, My Delight and My Reward.

Psalm 62 (My Soul Finds Rest)
My soul finds rest in God alone,
My Rock and my salvation,
A fortress strong against my foes,
And I will not be shaken.
Though lips may bless and hearts may curse,
And lies like arrows pierce me,
I’ll fix my heart on righteousness,
I’ll look to Him who hears me.

O praise Him, hallelujah, My Delight and my Reward;
Everlasting, never failing, My Redeemer, my God.

Find rest, my soul, in God alone
Amid the world’s temptations;
When evil seeks to take a hold
I’ll cling to my salvation.
Though riches come and riches go,
Don’t set your heart upon them;
The fields of hope in which I sow
Are harvested in heaven.

I’ll set my gaze on God alone,
And trust in Him completely;
With every day pour out my soul,
And He will prove His mercy.
Though life is but a fleeting breath,
A sigh too brief to measure,
My King has crushed the curse of death
And I am His forever.

O praise Him, hallelujah, My Delight and my Reward;
Everlasting, never failing, My Redeemer, my God.

Listen here if you want. You'll love it!

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Thankful Tuesday

It's Thankful Tuesday again! I think this could become a regular thing. I'm thankful:

  • for the two littlest ones playing upstairs for an hour with no incident (i.e. mischief or fighting).
  • for a new dining room going up next door at my friend's house. Evidence of the Lord's provision and his understanding of the desires of our hearts
  • for friends who are committed to praying for me and my family
  • for Gaby, Hope's new friend, who, "is super fun and the same color as me, mom! And has awesome hair." And for many more play dates to come.
  • for sweet muscles appearing on my arms and legs thanks to Crossfit and my friend, Ian Sturgeon
  • for my husband, who started researching calcium rich foods when the doctor told me my bones could use a little help
  • and for Isaiah 40, read in it's entirety in church on Sunday which reminded me of so many things, not the least of which was, "he gently leads those who have young." Thank goodness!
What are you thankful for?

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

On Homies and Homeschooling

Last year, two of my very best friends started homeschooling their kids. I tried to be supportive and very "you have to do whatever is best for you" on the outside. On the inside, though, I was panicking. What did this mean about me? If God called them to homeschool their kids, what did it mean about me that I didn't feel that calling? If they gave, as one of their reasons, a desire to spend more time with their kids, what did it mean about me that I chose to send mine to school every day? And the truth is that for a while there, I wanted them to send their kids to school so I didn't have to question my own decisions. (It's possible that at this point you might see how self-involved I can be. It's not pretty, people.)

In the end I learned a few things, though. First, there aren't decisions in life that shouldn't be questioned. I had to take a good long look at why I would choose to put my kids into public school and I found that knowing the reasons why gave me a greater sense of purpose. I'm not just picking up Hope from school anymore. I see her playground as a place to connect and interact with people who need Jesus. I'm trying to use every experience that Hope has with "worldly thinking" (and they are plentiful!) to teach her about Jesus' counter-cultural message. I'm talking to her about how important it is to know that each person she meets has value bestowed on them by God, regardless of how similar or different they are than us. And we're talking about seeing the beauty that God has placed in each person and how it tells us about Him. Each interaction we have at school, or regarding school is infused with an opportunity to glorify God. I'm not sure I really understood that before.

I've also learned how precious to God my desperate cries for protection and boldness and mercy are on behalf of my kids. He knows about letting a Son go into a world that would seek to trample on the truths he clung to. As my friend, Amy says, "It's no small thing to send your kids off to school." It takes some guts to send your most precious gifts off to interact with people who may or may not see all the beauty inside of them, who may or may not see all that is fragile, too. But, I am learning how to pray and, with knuckles sore from tightly clenching that which is not mine, open my hands and give them over time and time again to the God who created every part of who they are. I am grateful for this opportunity to remember that they are His.

And I've learned all of us are afraid we're making the wrong decisions. We all worry that our kids will be bruised and battered no matter what we choose. And we're probably right. Almost no one gets through childhood unscathed. But, no matter what we choose, we get to look into the eyes of these we call friends and tell them that God's grace is sufficient. That he can redeem it all and use it all to draw our children to himself. And that's all any of us really wants for our kids.

And being friends means that we want it for each other's kids, too. So we get the responsibility and the privilege of praying for each of these little people who are growing up with our own. We pray hard that they will each find their way to the arms of Jesus, and would follow him with everything they've got. And in a way that only scheming mothers are familiar with, we pray that they might get to enjoy the journey, together. Just like us.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Thankful Tuesday!

In the tradition of my friend, Micha, over at Mama Monk it's Thankful Tuesday. And I could use some thankfulness in my life. How bout you?

  • I'm thankful for fresh peaches, bought at a roadside stand yesterday, so good that half the box is gone this morning.

  • I'm thankful for cooler temperatures..the coming of fiery colored trees and fresh apples and bright orange pumpkins.

  • I'm thankful for impromtu family dance parties where the seven year old schools the rest of us in some fresh hip hop moves.

  • I'm thankful for a desire to write and the feeling that soon I will have something to say.

  • For weddings, and the reminder they are of my own vows and the beautiful life I have with my beloved.

  • I'm thankful for my four year old who counts, "1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7,8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 14, 18, 19, 20", reminding me that she isn't quite grown up, even though the sight of her with a backpack on makes my melodramatic heart scream, "It's happening too fast!!!!"

  • I'm thankful for friends who call to remind me that parenting requires courage, heart, and lots of prayer. And that it does not have much use at all for the approval of others.

  • I'm thankful for an almost 2 year old who believes that every loud noise is a reason to bless someone. And I'm thankful that today, when she said, "Bless you, Mama!" God clearly said to me, "Yes. Bless you, Mama."
What about you? What are you thankful for?

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Summer Camp Wrap Up

For some people, it's hard to understand why we would pack our little family up and move for three weeks into a one room apartment (minus the kitchen) an hour and half away from where we live. And then watch our husband/daddy work his little buns off being a goofball and a song leader and a part of the amazing team of people who pull out all the stops to put on an awesome camp...over and over and over and over. And I can understand that. There are things about it that are hard. Well...mostly just the one room part. But, you will always catch me saying that it is one of our favorite times of the year. And this year was no different.

I knew it would be great, like always, but what I didn't anticipate this year was how much fun it would be to see our kids really start to get it. I mean, sure, there are plenty of reasons for them to love camp. It's a fantasy land for them! (well, let's be honest, it is for me to...no cooking, very little cleaning, nothing but time on my hands...dreamy!) They have dessert at every meal, the enraptured attention of every high school and college student there, a party every night, a swimming pool, a giant sand pit (er...volleyball court), and three times a day a group of crazies dressed up in costume come out and entertain them, one of them being their rock star dad. My kids are famous at camp by proxy. What's not to love?

But, what was neat this year was seeing them begin to understand why it is the way it is. Why all the fuss? One day I found Hope and Bella working at the welcome. They were welcoming kids to camp, giving high-fives to everyone as they got off the bus and then helping to carry all their luggage to their rooms. It was such a precious sight to see them serving kids and such a great opportunity to talk about how serving others shows them a little bit of who Jesus is, and how much these kids need to know Him.

During the first week of camp when kids got up on the last morning to share that they had decided to follow Jesus, Hope turned to me, wide eyed, and said, "Look at them all mom. All those kids are following Jesus?" I told her yes and she shook her head and said, "Wow!" After that, we decided to work on meeting a few kids each week and begin praying for them by name. It was so fun to watch her looking for those kids each week on that last day. Looking to see if they would get up and then catching my eye every time one did and pointing them out. It was so cool for them to see God working and to feel like they were a part of that.

I'm so grateful for this time. Grateful to be together, loving and being loved on by people we are only connected to through Christ, but who become like family for three weeks. Grateful that every year it reminds me to be awake to God's heart for the lost and his pursuit of us. And so grateful that my kids are experiencing the joy of watching someone else meet Jesus for the first time.

We came home with happy sighs of contentment. Happy to be back in this lovely place where God has called us, and happy to have spent three weeks in the mountains meeting new friends and watching him turn hearts made of stone into hearts made of flesh and full of Him. And, I'm not gonna lie, kinda happy we don't have to see Loren dressed up like a pirate again any time soon. Ava was especially happy for that. :)

Thursday, June 16, 2011


We've been hanging out this month at Quaker Ridge WYLdlife camp in Woodland Park, CO. You may remember that we spent June here last year as well. We are already halfway through our assignment and it's been as fun as always. Here are some pictures to give you a glimpse of our time.

We've been doing lots of dressing like pirates...

lots of swimming...

lots of helping...

lots of laughing...

lots of karoke...

lots of hanging upside down...

lots of watching and waiting...

and lots of napping...(although some of us haven't had nearly as much as we needed)

What a gift it is to be a part of this ministry! More to come on what God is teaching our family this month as we get to be a part of reaching out to middle school students on his behalf.

Saturday, May 28, 2011


I have done enough gushing about my amazing kids on this site that I have no doubt you know how much we love them. With that in mind, let me just say that my youngest is about to do me in. All along we have said that she is...ahem...an independent child. Let me just cut the crap and tell you that what that honestly means is that for a good part of each day...meaning the part that she is awake...we are in constant disaster prevention mode. Or, if we aren't thorough enough in that mode, disaster clean-up/discipline/prevent the next disaster mode. All with a grand helping of fit throwing, foot stomping, scowling baby syndrome. Ava...not me.

Now, don't get me wrong. We have plenty of hugs and kisses and it is no exaggeration that Ava is, quite possibly, the funniest person in our house...which is saying a lot! And, not accidentally funny. She is hilarious on purpose and has a kind of charm that is both delightful and infuriating when you are trying to discipline. She has such a big personality and is such a fun little girl. But she is also stubborn and LOUD and kind of mean sometimes. (She's a hitter, folks, and I have no idea why she thinks it's okay to regularly smack people on the head! We do not smack her on the head.) I am at my wit's end so often that I had started to believe that my wit's end is actually where I live. And then...I had a memory. It was of me 6 years ago, calling Loren one day in tears. And what I managed to squeak out was my fears that I was an awful, rage-full person and a terrible mother. That my one and half year old (Hope, in case you haven't figured that out)was driving me crazy and that I felt so angry that she would never listen and that somehow her little brain already knew where all of my buttons were and she took sick pleasure in methodically pushing them until I was at the brink of insanity.

Thankfully, he laughed. And told me that I wasn't a rage-full person. In fact, I think he even told me I was a very patient mother, which I did not feel at all at the time, and that we had a very "independent" little girl who just needed consistent, loving discipline. And he assured me that one day she wouldn't be so unreasonable all the time. Then I felt my insides unclench and relax as he assured me that I was perfectly capable of raising this child because I had Jesus and I had him. We could, the three of us, do it together. I knew that was true.

I am immensely comforted by that memory today...as it is only 10am and Ava has already spilled cereal all over the floor, dipped her toothbrush in the toilet and then sucked the toilet water off of it, and screamed at me half a dozen times. I can do it. Cause I have Jesus and I have Loren. And cause, come on....look at this face.

She is totally worth it!

Friday, May 27, 2011


Last night I went to Canon City's high school Baccalaureate. (Who can ever spell that word without looking it up?) It made me proud to see some of our Young Life kids who are graduating up on stage. Because, gone are the days when Baccalaureate is a required part of graduation week. Now, it is entirely student led (heaven forbid the school system would allow a teacher to get involved) and entirely voluntary. And really, it's probably better that way. These students are declaring to the few of us that come (mostly parents a few youth leaders) that they follow Christ and that they want to depend on him even after they leave the nest. They lead us in worship which, to me, is a really cool symbol of them taking ownership of their faith and a really good reminder that they have as much to offer me as I have to offer them in this journey with Christ. And then someone, a trusted mentor, gets to stand and speak to them and encourage them to pursue Christ and find life in him alone. And we all get to pray over them. I try not to miss it.

Yesterday, I sat in the auditorium and watched as the kids came and gave their parents flowers as a way to say thanks for all you've done to get me to this point. And I remembered that two years ago, I watched as several boys came over to my husband and handed him their flowers. They were joking and laughing like high school boys do when they are embarrassed, but I sat beside Loren misty-eyed. Because I knew that these boys didn't have parents who cared about their faith. And they hadn't come to this service. For these boys, Loren was the one who told them about Jesus. And it made perfect sense to make a bee-line to him when it came time to thank someone.

It made me thankful for Young Life and a ministry whose mission is to reach out to those kids who don't even know they need Jesus, until they find him. And it made me thankful for my husband, whose heart can't help but love those kids. And mostly, it made me thankful that Christ doesn't need anything but a willing heart to redeem a broken story.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Just The Two Of Us

A couple of weeks ago, my husband caught me totally and completely off guard. He told me on a Sunday that we were leaving that Friday for a 5 day vacation. Just the two of us. Did you read that right? Just. The. Two. Of. Us.

He had it all planned. His parents were coming to watch the girls. He had the mysterious vacation all set up, and my friends would be packing for me. I needn't worry about a thing. I had no idea where we were going. I sent a text to one of my friends that day and told her what was happening. "Yay for romance!" she texted back. Indeed!

On Friday we drove to Denver, and Saturday morning we caught the red eye to Houston. Now, I love Texas as much as a girl from there should, but I remember thinking that if we were spending our vacation in Houston, Texas, I was gonna have to seriously work hard on finding a little enthusiasm. Luckily, as I came around the corner in the airport, I saw a sign for the shuttle to Carnival Cruiseline and I figured it all out!

Loren and I had always wanted to take a cruise so I was super excited. But, I have to say, I was way more excited just to be with my man for 5 days straight of uninterrupted time together. That, my friends, is luxury enough when you have kids.

It was so great just to be together and have conversations and relax and remember that there is so much to enjoy about each other. And when it was over, we were ready to come back. In fact, on the fourth night I told Loren that one thing I was thankful for was that we don't have to take trips like this as a way to escape our life, because we love our life. Instead, we get to take this opportunity to get away, and connect and remember why we love it in the first place.

Yay for romance!


Saturday, April 23, 2011

Holy Saturday

This book has been an amazing meditation for Lent and I would highly recommend it for anyone next year. Here is an excerpt from today's reading of Reliving the Passion by Walter Wangerin, Jr.

Mary, do this:

Even in your despair, observe the rituals. It is the Sabbath; then let it be the Sabbath after all. Pray your prayers. However hollow and unsatisfying they may feel, God can fill them. God is God, who made the world from nothing--and God as God can still astonish you.....

One story is done indeed, my Magdalene. You're right. You've entered the dark night of the soul.

But another story--one you cannot conceive of (it's God who conceives it!)--starts at sunrise. And the empty time between, while you sadly prepare the spices, is in fact preparing you! Soon you will change. Soon you will become that holy conundrum which must baffle and antagonize the world: a saint. Saint Mary Magdelene.....

Come again on Sunday, Mary, and see how it is that God makes saints.

Come, follow.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Africa -Post 6

I'm home!!!!!! And there is no place quite like home. I got a great greeting from my family and it was so good to see their faces and hug their bodies. Hope told me she muscled up just so she could give me the tightest hug ever. And she did.

And, I just have to say, while I was gone, there weren't any more well cared for kids on the planet. They had a great time with their daddy and told me all the fun things they did together. I prayed a lot that this time together would be a blessing for them. And it was! Then, Grandma and Grandpa came, and totally spoiled them. And, our friends stepped in and took turns having them over, making them dinner, and loving on them. We are totally blessed.

Now...for Africa. The last part of our adventures in Africa were the stuff of movies. We went to Zanzibar which is this beautiful little island just off the coast of Tanzania. It's a big touristy place for a lot of reasons, but one of them is the East African Slave Trade Museum. It was kind of unbelievable to walk through that museum and hear details about the slave trade in East Africa.

The next morning we got up and flew to Arusha in Northern Tanzania, where we had reservations at a safari lodge there. It was a beautiful place, very cool (which was such a nice change of pace) and very tropical. There were tea times mid afternoon, slippers to jump into at the door, a shower inside (and one outside if you choose!), etc. You get the idea. Not your everyday kind of place. It was a great place to hang out and process a little of what we had experienced.

And, of course, then we went on safari! We went to Ngorogoro Crater, which is a lovely, very green, conservation area where there are literally thousands of wildlife. I had to keep telling myself that these animals were not brought in, like at the zoo, that they LIVE here for real! Giraffs, elephants, hundreds of zebras, lions (and cubs, too), wildebeest, impala, rhinoceros, hippos, storks....and on and on. We spent all day in the crater and saw so many animals. It was amazing and I so wished my family could have seen it, too. They would've loved it!

And then, it was time to go home. And I was ready to be home.

What an amazing opportunity it is to experience another part of the world and to see how God expands your heart for people. I told Dyan before we left that, before this trip, I almost didn't have a category in my brain for Africa. It was filed somewhere under miscellaneous, along side investment banking and topography. And part of what this trip did, was make it real to me. Seeing the landscape, learning about the culture, and hearing the stories about how God is moving gave me a connection. And it'll change how I think and pray and live out my calling.

I was struck by something over there. As Americans we do a lot of work in Africa. There are thousands of missions trips, lots of world relief-type things, lots of ministering that goes on. And those are usually good things. There is great need and we are called, as believers, to help. The words that have followed me home, though, are this: As believers in America, we need believers in Africa. We need their freedom and joy in worship (how is it that we can worship without smiling?). We need their boldness and their willingness to give all they have to share the gospel. We need their deep understanding of need. They have so much to teach us. And I'm glad I get the opportunity to learn.

I really am gonna put some pictures up, but I'm trying to put them in a slide show....we'll see how that goes. :)

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Africa - Post 5

April 3

It has been an incredibly full two days. And tonight was all about celebration. The women came to dinner in their national dress and it was amazing to see them all decked out. Matilda, from Kenya, put a scarf on my head and wrapped it all around like they do. Then, when I tried to give it back to her she said it was mine to keep. Such a sweet gift, and it is seriously beautiful.

At the end of club tonight, Shelley and I taught the women the song we always end with at our Women’s Young Life retreat in Colorado. I don’t know what possessed me to think I could sing that song in that particular room full of women and not cry my eyes out. But, what a holy moment. The song, if you don’t know it, talks about how God changes our names. That we are no longer called Wounded, Outcast, Lonely or Afraid. And to look out and see these women, so many, if not all, who HAVE been wounded and cast out, and certainly are lonely and often afraid. Well…it was just a powerful moment.

Then, after we had the “say so” (don’t forget we are basically at a Young Life camp), where the women shared how God had spoken to them this weekend, they prayed for us, the American team. They put us in the middle of the room and all prayed at the same time in all their languages and it was BEAUTIFUL! Then, they started singing in Swahili, “May you be blessed.” And they sang it over and over and over. I forced myself to open my eyes and look into the eyes on each of these women as they sang, even though I knew it would make me cry again. And it did. :) I will never, ever forget it.

And then, like any good Young Life camp, we ended with a dance party. Glow sticks, rockin music, and some of the best moves I’ve seen in a long time.

So much has happened in the last two days. Good conversations, new friendships, and encouraging one another in ministry. Tonight, so many of the women said to each other, “I thought I was alone. I thought the problems we had in ministry were only my problems. Now I know that I am not alone. That we can work together to solve our problems.” That is huge, and really the purpose for this whole weekend. That these women would connect and build these kinds of friendships that will encourage them in ministry. Thank you so much for your prayers!

The stories I have to tell are incredible. These women are crying out to God on behalf of Africa. They are in the trenches and reaching out, across cultural lines, across races, across traditions for the sake of Christ. They are heroes. No doubt about it.

Tomorrow, we head to Zanzibar and Arusha to do some touristy things. I can’t wait to sleep in a bit and just be with my buddies as we process a little of what we have seen and felt this weekend. We’re not taking our computers, so this is probably my last update til we get home.

Ahhhh….home. I can’t wait for that either.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Africa - Post 4

April 1

Wow! Wow! Wow! All of the women are finally here!!! And I think today I may have seen the best Young Life welcome ever! We greeted the buses of African women with a local wedding band, a parade of their national flags, a Young Life bag full of goodies, cookies and punch, and hugs and high fives all around. And they greeted us with a dance party that went on for 15 minutes, despite the crazy, sun beating down, sweat pouring down, heat. They were so excited to be here, to see each other, and to soak up this time. We just tried to jump right in and hold on!

Not long after everyone arrived, we began to set up outside for dinner. We brought little treats to put on their plates every night, so tonight we put their YL Africa Women’s Leadership Summit t-shirt at their places. Then, we sat down to a catered Tanzanian dinner that was so yummy and fellowship that was even more sweet! I sat with three women from Swaziland, a teeny tiny country right in the middle of South Africa, and a leader from Zimbabwe, who is originally from South Africa. We talked really frankly about racism, way more frankly than whites and blacks talk in America, and it was such a neat thing to hear Rentia share how she felt the Lord moved her and her husband to Zimbabwe, to get rid of the racism she had grown up with. “We are all the same,” she said, “just different colors!”

Then, at our first club tonight, Benga, from the Congo, led us in worship in the style of Zimbabwe, Liberia, Ethiopia, Congo, and America. And we’re just getting started! When I say “style” what I mean is that we sing worship songs that are native to their country and they get up and lead the singing and a kind of dance to go along with it. It is worship that is so filled with joy! Then, Shelley brought back Kippy, a character she used in program for the African All Staff Conference in 2008 (where this trip was dreamed up), and partnered with Esther, from Kenya, to introduce her to YL program by making her, Kimmy, Kippy’s twin sister. They were hilarious and were able to get a few women up front with a silly game. Irene and Agnes, both from Dar es Salaam, shared their testimony about how they have served in Young Life as mother and daughter. Ann Shack, from our team, spoke tonight on the woman at the well and did a fabulous job as well. It’s amazing how, even though the languages and songs are different, there is so much that is the same. There is no doubt we are in Young Life territory. I can’t overstate what a gift it is for us to be here and hear their stories. We are in Africa, yall! And Young Life is alive and kicking!

Here’s the one major thing that has stood out to me all day. These Christian women here in Africa, are among some of the most joy filled people I have ever met. There is a sense of freedom that feels precious and rare to me amongst women. And, frankly, considering their stories of oppression, and the difficult lives that many of them lead, it is hard to understand. Except that, “he who the Son has set free, is free indeed.” These women are a testament to God’s grace and his abundant life! And I want to be more of a testament to that!

And…just so I don’t forget. Someone remind me to tell you about the problem with having women leaders in Young Life Africa and why teachers and Young Life leaders can almost never be the same person. Did I leave you with a random cliff hanger or what?!?!

Pictures to come soon....