Friday, May 8, 2009


"Then the Lord said t Moses, "Look, I'm going to rain down food from heaven for you. Each day the people can go out and pick up as much food as they need for that day. I will test them in this to see whether or not they will follow my instructions."
Exodus 16:4

I have been feeling so overwhelmed in my job at Acres of Love. There are so may things that I want to do, so many ways in which I want to share the story of what we are doing to rescue AIDS orphans in South Africa, so many campaigns I want to kick off in order to bring in funding to support the children in our care. But, it's all so big and consuming and I feel paralyzed, trapped, insignificant, powerless. I feel sometimes like although my intentions are good, I am doing nothing worthwhile.
Lately I have been trying to focus on the present, on each day as it is given to me. I have been praying in the morning that I would sincerely have an attitude that is thankful for just that day, that is open to God's leading in each moment, that will walk through every door that is opened for me, that I will take advantage of each opportunity that presents itself. I am trying to rely on God to give me just what I need to get through the day ahead, learning more to trust and obey, be intentional and deliberate.
I like the idea of "Manna." For the Israelites the manna was a gift-it came every day and was just what they needed. Christ is out daily bread who satisfies our eternal, spiritual need.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Simply True

Your kindess Lord, leads us to repentance
Your favor Lord, is our desire
Your mercy Lord, makes us bow in reverance
And your love, your love, is better than life

Not sure who sings this song, or if the lyrics are perfectly correct, but these words have been ringing in my head for about a week. I believe this to be true and am thankful for the simplicity and accuracy of the words.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

My Life Is Good

Several times a day I find myself shaking my head in amazement. I am living a life I never dreamed I would have.
After denying God for nearly 30 years, I can't believe that He so readily took me in, spent so much time and energy on me, shedding light on the dark places in my life, teaching me and allowing me to partner with Him to do the work I am doing.
This life is beyond my wildest dreams! And the funny thing is, my life is more simple and boring these days. By the worlds standards my life doesn't look too exciting or full or rich. But I have never been more filled with joy, or true peace, or purpose.
My focus is on three things, keeping my eyes on God and following Him, taking good care of my husband and children and being a voice and advocate for AIDS orphans in South Africa. When I am in this "zone," I feel amazing. This is what works for me, this is the life I was meant to have, this is where I find deep fulfillment, where I feel like I am literally in the presence of God. I am so overwhelmed with gratitude that God is using me, that I get to work for Acres of Love and use my life to do something so important and real and lasting. I can't believe that on a daily basis I get to educate people on the AIDS pandemic in Africa, I get to share the Word of God and encourage people in their faith, I get to come alongside strangers and help them to find their calling in life, I get to mobilize groups to engage in this cause and make a difference in the lives of desperate children on the other side of the world, I get to personally contribute my money to support 8 kids in South Africa, I get to be an example to my daughters of a life given over to God for His purpose and glory, I get to inspire my husband to live more sacrificially and to encourage Him in his faith journey, I get to be a living, breathing example of a life that is literally changed because of the transforming grace and love of God. I can't believe who and where I am today, I would have never imagined I would get to have a life this good.
Thank you God for your many blessings in my life. I pray that I continue to keep my eyes on you, surrendering to your plan for my life, relying on your lead, submitting to your greater purpose. May I find this joy and peace in you even if life changes, even if tragedy strikes, even if things get difficult. May I celebrate my life in all circumstances, knowing that it's all in your hands and that being in your presence is right where I need to be.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Embrace the Uncomfortable

I am still struggling with my transition back into my comfy, abundant, over indulgent Southern California life. I am still struggling to sleep through a full night without nightmares and visions of children living alone in the streets of South Africa. My head is in a constant state of "BUZZ" as I am forever trying to come up with new ways to fundraise, new campaigns to kick off, more ways to personally give my own money so that I can support the children at Acres of Love and get more AIDS orphans into the loving arms of our organization. I am exhausted, emotionally drained, burdened and a total wreck. Everything I think about comes back to the children in Africa, everything! As I go for a morning run, I think about how lucky I am to live in a safe place and how blessed I am to have a healthy and able body. As I eat a meal, I think about the hungry kids without parents, killing bugs and feeding them to their younger siblings to survive. As I snuggle up to my daughters, I think about the poor kids who just want to be held, protected, loved by their parents who have suffered and died in front of their eyes. As I pray for the safety of my kids 100 times a day, I think about the children in Africa who have been left alone to fend for themselves, who are being preyed upon and abused, who are scared and frightened. As I consider spending money on something as simple as a cup of coffee, I decide not to because it's frivolous and unnecessary and that money could be used to feed a child for a day or put towards supporting a home full of kids at Acres of Love. EVERYTHING IS DIFFERENT!!!
But this burden that I am carrying is a small price to pay to be able to make a difference for those kids over there who are carrying a much larger burden. What do I have to complain about? I have decided to embrace the uncomfortable, to welcome the feeling of my heart being broken, to sit with this anguish, because only then will I continue to be motivated to move to action.
When we feel like we have been called by God to do something that we just can't handle, when we feel like God's vision for our lives is impossible...then we have to completely depend on Him and that is exactly where He wants and needs us. We need to pushed into the uncomfortable position that forces us to throw up our hands and say "God, I know you want me to do this, but it's just too big for me, I can't do it without you. I need you to do it through me!"
John 15:5 "Yes, I am the vine; you are the branches. Those who remain in me, and I in them, will produce much fruit. For apart from me you can do nothing."

Friday, October 17, 2008

Make It Go Away

This memory, this image, of this child laying in the dirt in Soweto has become the single most motivating call to action from my trip to South Africa. For some reason, the image of this child is literally burned into my mind and I know that I wont soon forget it. This child was at the local Day Care Center. This child is considered a lucky one. This child has an adult that takes responsibility for it, that drops it off somewhere in the morning, that makes sure it has supervision throughout the day. There are millions of other children in Africa that are wandering the streets, abandoned, orphaned because their parents have died from AIDS, they are alone, hungry, tired, vulnerable, scared, desperate. This child is lucky, by Africa's standards. By my standards, not so much. I can't stand that the child, maybe 12 months old, just laid in that same spot in the dirt for the hour that we were in that area. How many babies that age do you know that just lay there, still, lethargic? Those care givers next to the baby, they are not the slightest bit interested in the 30 kids that are in their care at that center. They are not doting on the kids, stimulating them, protecting them, teaching them, loving on them. If this is a lucky child, how can I sleep at night as I imagine what is happening to the unlucky ones? I can't. I am struggling, I am heart broken, I am angry and frustrated. How can I just sit in my comfortable life, enjoying my security and abundance and go on like this isn't happening? I am responsible for those kids. I know that they are there, today, at this moment, hungry, frightened, mourning the loss of their parents or caring for them as they waste away, they are sick themselves, in pain, in agony, living in hell. How can I be here? How can let this happen? How can I not move and give and serve and help? I feel so guilty and ashamed. I feel sick to my stomach. I wish those images, that reality, the things that I now know would just go away. But they wont, and I know the truth, I am so heavily burdened with all of this. Again, I am incredibly uncomfortable, but know that this is where God needs me so that I will be moved to action for Him, to help save the children that His heart breaks for even more than mine. So now what?

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Calling, Conviction, Choices, Fear

There are a few very clear things that I believe God wants me to do now that I have been to South Africa. I have seen with my own eyes and felt in my own heart the desperation of the voiceless children who are suffering from the effects of poverty and AIDS in their nation....and the difference that love and hope can make in the life of a child through God's faithful servants at Acres of Love. Here is what God is currently calling me to do:
1. Give my own money monthly to help support the Bridges Forever Home.
2. Set aside money every week out of my personal budget to enable me to travel back to South Africa.
3. Begin the process to adopt a child from South Africa.
The problem with all of these things is that they require money, and the adoption requires a lot of money. We don't have any! Our financial situation at present does not put us in the position to do any of these things. However, I am clinging to what Gerda told me back in South Africa..."When God calls you to something...just start!"
I don't have to have everything figured out, or have all of the money lined up. I just have to respond to God's call, move forward in obedience, one step at a time, and trust that as the Lord wants, He will provide. I have to whole heatedly commit to the Lord that whatever He gives to me, I will then give back to Him.
Jesus tells us in Luke 12 "And don't be concerned about what to eat or drink. Don't worry about such things. These things dominate the thoughts of unbelievers all over the world, but your Father already knows your needs. Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and He will give you everything you need."
On the other hand, I personally have to make difficult decisions, several times a day, about how I will choose to spend my money. Because if I CHOOSE to buy some cute earrings that really are not in my budget, then I am CHOOSING to not put my money where the Lord has asked me to. If I CHOOSE to withhold my money here or there, so that I can buy things for myself, or make myself more comfortable, then I am CHOOSING not to help those children in South Africa that need me. It's really that simple.
I look around my house and I see so many THINGS. Now everything has a price tag on it. All this STUFF could be a meal, medicine, a home for a child who has been left all alone, to wander the streets and fight for their life. Just because we live in this "bubble," just because we are a half a world away from those desperate children, just because we are not seeing them in front of our faces doesn't mean that they are not there, still needing us to help them. My traveling there and witnessing the tragedies was not just some "experience" that I got to have, because those kids that I saw with my eyes are still there today, still in that situation, still hungry, still scared, still alone. I would go to the ends of the earth and back to make sure that my own daughters didn't have to live like those kids do, why wont I do the same for them? They don't have parents anymore to protect them, to provide for them, to love and hold and nurture them. Those kids are no different than mine, they deserve everything that I would do for my children. If I don't do it for them who will?
I feel so convicted, so guilty, so ashamed. I realize that I am already doing a lot and helping in many ways. But the truth is that I know I am capable of doing more. God has spoken very clearly to me and put these things in my heart and told me that there is a new way and different way that he wants me to live. I know that I need to do more. I can see those children right in front of me, desperate, needy. I know that I can do more than I am doing to make more of a difference in their lives. Why am I not? What am I so darn afraid of? Why am I clinging so tightly to the things of this world and this culture? Why can't I just completely let go and trust God and follow where He wants to take me?

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Stay Uncomfortable

Journal entry from Sept 28, 7:09am, room at Grace Hotel
This is the day we came here for. This is what all the praying and planning and preparing was for. Today Lisa and I will get to spend several hours with the kids at the Bridges Forever Home...Because we have fallen in love with these kids we have committed to raise $45,000 this year to pay for their Basic Needs, Health Care and School Tuition. We have been praying for these kids and their house mom, admiring their pictures all over our houses, talking about them, imagining what it would be like to know them, and today we will.

Journal entry from Sept 28, 9:32am, Dining Room at Grace Hotel
As Beth talks to the group about the kids we will meet, I feel inadequate and wonder how I will ever be able to muster up the energy and skills to be of any help to this organization...She talks about an 8 year old boy and his 3 year old sister who were found living under a bridge. He would find and kill "ho ho's" (bugs) and feed them to his sister. For awhile after they moved into Acres of Love, they would find bugs in his pockets and in his bed. He was afraid that they wouldn't eat and that he would need them for his sister...a lot of these kids were adults before they were kids. One girl was "mom" to her three younger siblings. Her newborn sister died in her arms of starvation. One two year old girl they rescued already knew how to fetch water, boil it and make rice...the kids stories of their past don't match who they are today...Lord, equip me!...My heart is breaking...I want to love these kids...compassion means to suffer with....compassion moves to action.

Journal entry from Sept 28, 2:39pm, Lunch
Just left Bridges Home. I am angry, annoyed, irritated. I want to go home. I can't take this. What Lord? What? What? What am I supposed to do? What? What? Tell me. Tell me.

Journal entry from Sept 28, 9:35pm, Bed at Grace Hotel
How do I put into words all of the emotions that I am managing? My heart literally hurts, feels broken. I feel like I have been exposed to a world that I cannot walk away from. How can I go on in my life with that I have now seen and witnessed? The scenes of those poor children in Soweto have been permanently tattooed on my mind and heart and that will be the reality that I now operate from. Nothing will ever be the same. Nothing will look the same, feel the same, taste the same. This is real, I have seen it and I can't go on like I haven't. To live like I have been would be like walking by and stepping over that child, lying in the dirt. Gerda says, "Stay uncomfortable!" She says from that feeling, of having a broken heart for the things that breaks God's heart, we can truly be used. I am, I am so uncomfortable. I am frustrated and I feel trapped. I want to help, to save those kids, to be useful. I have gotten to the point where I feel ready to go "all in" with God. I want to really unclench my fists and let go of all that I am clinging on to that keeps me from really committing 110% to what God wants from my life. But I am so scared about what that will mean. I fear what God will want me to do. But what am I afraid of? What could I possibly lose? If I really believe in God, really, than why can't I trust Him? Why is my faith in Him so weak? I need to rely on God. I need to stop thinking that I can solve everything, do everything, fix everything. I need to get plugged into the real source, relying on God in every moment, for everything, for my strength, to be used.
"For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength." Philippians 4:13

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Just Start

On the second day of our time in South Africa we started the day with a lovely breakfast in the dining room at the hotel. We were briefed on how Acres of Love works and told the full story of the organizations founding from the founder, Gerda. She told us about how she and her husband got the call from God to take in the first few AIDS orphans, how He made it clear they were to provide these kids with the same love, care, potential, opportunity that they would their own children, treating them no different, sparing no expense. She gives full credit to God for the success of Acres of Love and the 20 homes it now operates. She told us about the many miracles that they have witnessed in the children, about the strict mandate from God to press on and grow the organization and have faith that He would provide all they needed to care for the kids. What a blessing to hear her story and feel her deep passion.
From there we got to spend a couple of hours at the Acres of Love preschool with about 20 kids. They came running outside to see us, so outgoing and friendly, grabbing our hands, leading us to the jungle gym, sand box and swings. I was amazed at how gorgeous, joyful, secure, and trusting they were. They were healthy and happy and hopeful. What a drastic difference from the children we had seen just the day before in Soweto. How lucky these children were to be placed in the care of Acres of Love after the trauma and devastation their little lives had already endured. It was such an exhilarating time to be in their presence, to play, to laugh, to enjoy their very life with them. From there we went to an ice cream party in the park with about 50 other Acres of Love kids and had a blast with them. It was incredible to watch them all interact, the older ones looking after the younger ones, holding them, making sure they got a bowl of ice cream. They were running and climbing and laughing and playing until the very last minute. I couldn't help but remember, as I looked at them, where they had all come from, what they had been through, how much they had lost. Now they were safe, happy, healthy, playing, eating ice cream. Such simple things that we and our children take for granted, but that these kids claim as a victory.
From my hotel room that night I reflected on the day as I journal ed. It was a happy day. I smiled and laughed a lot. I felt alive and hopeful and grateful and honored to be with those kids. I felt very much aware of the contrast between the two worlds I had already seen during the short time I was there. My heart couldn't help but still ache for the kids that I had seen the day before in Soweto. There were images burned into my memory that I wished I could just get rid of, ones that I know will haunt me forever. I felt a deep sadness and desperation. My heart was aching and my mind racing over what I could do, how I could help, ways I could change the situation for those helpless kids. Then I would feel overwhelmed by the magnitude of the problem and feel defeated, inadequate, small.
I remembered something that Gerda had said that morning. When she and her husband got the call from God to open a home for orphans, they too could have felt too small, too inadequate to do anything meaningful to solve the orphan problem in South Africa. They could have just thrown their hands up, said "forget it, there is no way we can make a different!" But they clung to a quote that they had read in a book called "Acres of Diamonds." It told her that "if God calls you to do something...just start!"

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Heart Break

Journal entry on Sept 25th, 7:20pm, The Grace Hotel
" We went to Soweto today...South West Township. There are an estimated 3 million people living in total poverty and helplessness. We walked down one dirt road with shacks lining the way and stretching out as far as I could see. the children ran among us, so dirty, mostly barefoot, asking for food or money. They were friendly, playful, touchy. I held hands with a number of them as we walked along. I took pictures with them and of them. They love to see their picture in the digital camera! They were beautiful and precious and fun. I wondered how many of them were HIV positive, if they still had parents or if they were orphans, if they were starving, if they were being abused, if they were tired, scared, broken. What are their lives really like? Are they eating, resting well, being protected and loved and nurtured? Where are they now I write from this luxurious, comfortable hotel room? Are they all alone tonight? Are they in a a little dirt shack with no electricity or running water, sleeping on the dirt floor, prey to some sick predator? Are they watching their parents die from AIDS? Are they sick themselves, in pain, afraid, alone?"

After that emotionally difficult day, seeing the hopelessness of the children in Soweto, I woke up many times throughout the night. My mind would immediately start racing over all the images I had seen of dirty kids with bare feet and runny noses, of babies in a "Day Care Center" laying on the dirt floor, lethargic. It was almost too much to bare. My heart felt like it was literally breaking inside of me and I couldn't stand it. These images were now permanently there in my mind, I couldn't get rid of them. I almost wished I hadn't seen what I had because it felt like my heart just couldn't take it. I began thinking about my own children, about all that I would do to prevent them for ever having to live a life like this. How is this fair? How can this happen? How can we sit by and allow all these precious innocent, victimized children to live like this. They are experiencing pain and sadness and fear and desperation, and they shouldn't have to. What are we, as fellow human beings, doing? We are guilty of allowing this to happen to them if we are not a part of the solution to solve it for them. How can we just let it go on, turning our heads the other way because the problem is too big or the solution is too inconvenient. They may be far away from us, but it's still happening, it's still real, their pain and suffering continues and we just step over them as we go about our lives. What is this life for? Why are we here? Why are we so blessed? How can we share what we have with those who do not have? If we are Christians, are we acting accordingly? Are we being the "body of Christ" to these children? Are we using the minds and hearts and arms and legs that God gave us to reach out and be the answer to some ones desperate prayers? Or are we sitting still, hoarding, clinging, ignoring, choosing to allow this to happen?

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Unpacking from South Africa

Not only am I unpacking all the "stuff" from my trip to South Africa, but I am also unpacking all the things that the Lord taught me during my travels. I am guessing that this process will take a long time. How can I ever fully process all that I saw with my eyes, all that I learned, all that I felt in my heart and all that I heard the voice of God telling me along the way? I spent so much time writing in my journal during my trip, as I didn't want to forget anything that I was feeling and learning and experiencing. I plan to take my time "unpacking" and sorting out all of that in the coming weeks.

Journal entry from Sept 24th, 8:17pm, layover in London
"Getting ready to take off for the last leg of our journey to South Africa. Leaving Mark and the girls was heart wrenching, but I prayed diligently through it all. The vulnerability and fragility that I felt leaving them behind reminded me of how I felt nearly 3 years ago as I begged God to spare my life from my hospital bed. You realize how truly helpless, out of control, small you are. It's a humbling thing to be weeping, on your knees, before the throne of God, begging him to keep you safe. The thought that I could very well lose my life on this trip haunts me still. If that were to happen, all I could ask for Katelyn and Taylor is that they be raised to know, love and serve the Lord. That's all I want for them. For in Christ, they will find themselves, love and value themselves and find their proper place and purpose in this world. I have. For today, it's to trust God's call to travel to South Africa, to serve the AIDS orphans and to be open and waiting for God's next call."

This was the first important lesson for me...TRUST. I was so scared to make this trip, afraid that something would happen to me. But yet I was certain that God had called me to go, and so I had to act in obedience and trust that God would protect me, provide for me, guide me and return me safely home. It's hard to turn that control over, but if we believe in God as we say we do, then we have to be willing to take a huge step out and risk being uncomfortable and believe that ultimately we are not in control. We can't live our lives in fear, in bondage, trying to keep ourselves safe and comfortable. God is who He says He is and I had to trust that He would protect me for this assignment that He had called me to.

"Don't be afraid for I am with you. Don't be discouraged for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you."
Isaiah 41:10

Journal entry from Sept 25th, 1:15pm, Lobby at Grace Hotel in Rosebank
"We were greeted at the airport by Beth.. Beth invited me to go to a prayer meeting attended by all of the Acres of Love house parents. I was honored and delighted. We drove through Johannesburg and Alexandra and to a small church. We walked in, everyone was standing, praying and they soon broke out in the most beautiful african singing, they clapped, swayed, stomped and lifted their loud, gorgeous voices to the Lord. I wept in their presence. This was quite an extraordinary welcome to South Africa, to Acres of Love, on the ground level. It was like a dream...They proceeded on with more singing, 2 amazing testimonies from house moms of the miracles they have witnessed in the children as a result of fervent prayer. Then they prayed again, everyone standing, some walking around the room, some raising their arms up in the air. They were shouting, speaking in all different languages, all calling out to Jesus. It was incredible to see how invested these people were in the children and in God. They pour themselves out for these kids. THEY SAID MORE THAN A FEW TIMES THAT THE ONLY WAY THEY ARE ABLE TO PRESS ON EVERYDAY IS BECAUSE THEY PRAY AND THEY DON'T RELY ON THEIR OWN STRENGTH BUT ON GOD'S."

This would the second, and overarching lesson that I learned. This AIDS pandemic is huge, the suffering in South Africa is overwhelming and I felt over and over that I was too small for something this big. I found myself riddled with feelings of helplessness and doubt and defeat. What could I, little old me, do to make a bit of difference in this huge problem? And yet, I kept hearing God tell me that by myself, in my own strength, I can't....but He can! He told me that THROUGH Him I can do something, make a difference, change lives. I need to continually, moment by moment, draw on His strength, not my own, to accomplish this work.

"For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength."
Philippians 4:13

And I also loved being a witness to how freely and openly these people worshiped. They were filled with joy, convinced of the power of God, and unwavering in their faith. They were unguarded before the Lord, not afraid to be in the moment and act in accordance to how they were feeling. I admired the freeness of these people. I felt at home in how they worshipped. I felt sadness about how I often keep my faith quiet, how I am worried about judgement of others instead of full surrender to be who I know God created me to be. I wish that I could be as free as they are in the presence of God. Oh how I have wanted to so many times in the quiet pews of my church, stand up and lift my hands and give glory to the God who is moving in my heart in the moment. Why can't I do that? What am I afraid of?