Monday, March 31, 2014

On What I'm Learning in 2014

I'm learning a lot in 2014. I used to think I knew everything and that I had my life together and that I wasn't a hot mess. Then 2014 came and God's been showing me stuff that I thought I knew but I really didn't.

Like about how life isn't just for my comfort, and how all this stuff I'm hanging onto could be used to help someone else, and about how to really see people when I pass by. I'm not good at any of this, but I think realizing that is a good first step.

I've already talked about how God doesn't want me to be comfortable here. But He's also been convicting me about the hoarding tendencies I have. I don't keep everything, and I'm really not a hoarder. But lately I've had several eye-opening experiences that have reminded me that I am holding on to stuff that I shouldn't be.

The first thing that happened was out of the blue. I was at a friend's house, and they had just moved and didn't really have all their furniture in yet. As she was showing me around she mentioned that their dryer had just blown up and their vacuum cleaner was also broken. It didn't even hit me until about five minutes later that her vacuum was broken, and I had a perfectly brand new one sitting in my closet at home that I had been trying to get rid of. Mom got it for me at Christmas several years ago, and it was an awesome vacuum cleaner, but it didn't really work well for hardwood floors because there was no way to turn off the brush. It just spun the dirt around the hardwoods. Unfortunately, we don't have a stitch of carpet in our house, so it wasn't really working for us. We got another vacuum that we use on the hardwoods, which left that perfectly good vacuum just sitting in our closet because I didn't have anyone to give it to and I didn't want to just throw it away. So, I loaded up that vacuum and dropped it off at my friend's house a couple of days later.

The second thing happened just last week. I was visiting Jill, another friend of mine who had just had surgery (the same surgery I had twice in 2012) and we were talking about all the things God's been doing in our lives. She is such an encouragement to me because of her openness and willingness to talk about how God is moving in her life. Anyway, lately she has been feeling like God's been telling her to feed the hungry. This led her to a young woman named L who was standing with a sign on the side of the road. Jill pulled up (because she is a brave little spitball) and said to L, "Hey girlfriend, what are your immediate needs right now?"

{Can I just press pause on the story and tell you how that one little sentence has rocked my WORLD lately?! How about that for obedience, and for bravery, and for complete honesty? Just pull up to a stranger and ask them what their immediate needs are and then figure out if there are any needs they have that you can meet. Woah. I admire Jill because that is so far out of my comfort zone that I wouldn't have ever in a million years dreamed it could be that easy. But I'm seeing how easy it really is! Keep reading and you will see why.}

So Jill asked what her needs were, and L unzips her coat and tells Jill, "Well, I'm pregnant (she was due in 3 weeks!) and I really could use a car seat to bring the baby home in". This story is Jill's to tell so I won't give you all the details, but Faithful God had already provided Jill with an amount of unexpected money that she was saving to use to bless someone. So Jill gives L her phone number, goes home and gets the money, and comes back and takes L shopping so she can get the exact car seat that she needed. While they were shopping, they got to know each other a little better, and L revealed that they were living from hotel to hotel because her husband lost his job and no one would hire a woman who was 9 months pregnant. They didn't have family around, and she didn't have many friends because they had to move to a new city where hotels were cheaper.

So my amazing friend Jill, prompted by Faithful God, decided she was going to throw L a baby shower.

Yeppers. You read that right. She was telling me all this as she was recovering from surgery, and my mind started going about 100mph. Turns out, L is having a baby girl. She needed a crib/bassinett/pack and play, baby clothes, and all the stuff that you need to bring home a baby. When Jill got to this part of the story I about jumped off the couch. See, Jill and I were new friends, so she didn't know that we were foster parents. She didn't know that I just "happened" to have a Rock and Play Sleeper, a baby bathtub, tons of newborn clothes, some extra diapers and wipes, and pretty much all the stuff that goes with having a baby.

On the way home, I had a small wrestling session with God. When Jill mentioned that L needed somewhere for the baby to sleep, I thought immediately of the Rock 'N Play Sleeper that we bought when we had Hope. I mentioned it last year in a post, but basically it's this thing babies can sleep in where they are a little elevated and it helps them sleep way better (or at least it did for Hope) than they sleep in a bassinet. I've had that thing sitting in the top of the closet in the foster care bedroom for over a year now. Every time I walked in there and saw it I would get a little sad. It's a silly thing to be sad about but we bought it the night before Hope left our home, so she only got to sleep in it one time. I kept it thinking how great it would be when we had kids that I already had one. I felt like God was asking me to give it up, and to be honest I didn't want to. Somehow it had become a symbol of what we had in Hope and what we lost when she left, as well as a reminder of how much I wanted a baby of my own to put in it one day. God had to remind me that 1.) it was just "stuff" and 2.) that if I can trust Him to take care of me then I will never be disappointed.
Long story short, the Rock N Play came with me to the baby shower. I'm still not 100% sure why that particular item was so important for me to take. Maybe L will get to use it every night. Maybe it was more for me than for her, to see how much I was willing to trust and obey. I might never know.

But, I do know that it met an immediate need that L had. It didn't cost me much to let it go. And I know that it was the one item at the shower that she kept coming back to and admiring and talking about. I think it blessed her. But i wasn't prepared for how much it blessed me to be a part of that. There were just six of us there, but L left with so much stuff for the baby we didn't think it was all going to fit in her van! We actually had to rearrange stuff several times to get it all packed in. It was more than that though. I got a glimpse of what it means to be the hands and feet of Jesus.

There's a verse that has been helping me shift my perspective lately. I've been carrying it around and thinking on it a lot (although probably not as much as I should be). It's Proverbs 19:17: "Whoever is kind to the poor lends to the Lord, and He will reward them for what they have done".

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

A Piece of My Heart is in Tanzania

When I was in middle school, the Lord started working on my heart with a strong desire for missions. There are a few ways to get straight to the core of my heart, and one of them is kids from other countries. Any country. Doesn't matter. I see kids who need Jesus and I want to pack up everything and move on over to their part of the world. To be honest I feel the same way about kids here who need Jesus and who come from hard places, but if you want to get straight to my heart there's something about kids from other countries, international adoption, doing VBS on mission trips, etc. that gets me.

But I remember being about ten years old and looking through an adoption book I checked out of the library and thinking, God, I will go anywhere you want me to go, but I don't think I could ever go to Africa, and I don't think I could ever love anything about that continent.

And I think God laughed. 

Fast forward a few years, and I was in high school with my best friend Alissa. Somehow we got wind of the battle going on in Uganda for those Invisible Children. We were just two rich white kids who didn't know how to make a lick of difference, but we joined up with thousands of other high school kids and walked four miles and spent the night in a field and we still didn't understand what was going on across the ocean but God used it as a starting place.

A few years later, that same sweet friend from high school packed up everything and moved across the ocean and spends her days being the hands and feet of Jesus one country over in Tanzania. She visits seamstresses and plays with orphans and teaches students how to read and write. They teach her how to dance freely and love deeply and there are some days I'd like to pack up and go live next door to her.

Because something happened between that senior year of high school and now. In the last eight years something has been shifting in my heart. I started reading blogs, and I learned about kids in prison in Uganda for no reason other than the fact that they have no parents or no home, or both. I learned about an orphanage for special needs kids who are shown love for the first time in a society that says they are worthless because they are different. I've seen so many people bring babies home and I learned what scabies are and now I know why they say knowledge is power. Because now I know that God is doing something big in Africa. It's no longer somewhere I don't want to go. Now it's a place I dream about.

But for now, my place is mostly here. Sometimes that keeps my heart confused. But there have been ways that God has been leading me to do what I can from here. Stuff you can do too. Like pray, for one thing. That's something I don't do enough of, but I'm trying to be more intentional about it. There's a reason for that. 

Let me introduce the piece of my heart that lives in Tanzania:

Her name is Zainabu and she's 7 years old. The hubs and I signed up to be sponsors through Compassion International. I'm waiting on my packet to come through with more information, but now that I have a face and a financial commitment, you better believe I am motivated to pray! I'm working on my first letter to her, so you know I'll try to keep you updated on her as I find out more. In the meantime, if you feel like joining me, you can head over to Compassion's website and pick a child to sponsor for yourself! Maybe one day soon I'll be able to make that trip to Africa and meet her in person.