house tour.

Welcome to my new house!

Soon I can finally begin the process of making this house my own. It's completely livable - but not very pretty yet. All of the rooms and trim needs to be painted, and the floors need to be refinished. Also, the first floor bathroom and bedroom doors need to be rehung. These are the photos from my home inspection:


Front Yard/Porch
To Do: Remove the awnings, pull down the bushes, dress up the porch




Living Room
To do: Paint, dress up the fireplace, replace the window treatments and light fixtures






Hallway
To do: Definitely paint, maybe update the light?



Kitchen
To do: Paint, add a dishwasher and garbage disposal, add more storage, maybe remove the soffits?




Dining Room
To do: Paint, change the light fixture, maybe built-ins around the window?





Master Bedroom
To do: Paint, add window treatments, fix up the closet




Bedroom 2
To do: More paint, more closet fix-ups




Downstairs Bathroom
To do: Replace the walk-in (handicap) shower, replace the masonite walls and dated tile, change the window treatments, mirror, and fluorescent light fixture





Stairway and Upstairs Hallway
To do: More paint, remove the carpet from the stairs, change the linoleum hallway floors, maybe tear down one wall into a half-wall




Bedroom 3
To do: Paint, replace the carpet




Bedroom 4
To do: Paint, replace the carpet



Bedroom 5
To do: Paint, replace the carpet, maybe do some rearranging between this room and the bathroom, look into other options besides baseboard heat




Upstairs Bathroom
To do: Paint, replace the masonite walls, add a showerhead (if possible), replace the flooring




Basement
To do: Eventually, fix the ceiling, replace the floor, paint
For now: Workshop, storage, and I'm creating a spray painting corner



Backyard
(Hi Mom!)
To do: Remove the awnings, remove the outdoor carpet on the small porch, maybe eventually a deck or patio?





Carport
To do: Add some additional braces along the back wall, just to reinforce it


mary's prayer.

Cause your feet will walk on water
Your eyes will pierce the dark
Your heart will save the souls of men
Your hands will bear the scars



jake's poem.

Tonight, Jake shared a poem with me that he wrote for class. He said, "it's called a what if poem."

You'll understand why when you read it.

What if a minute was an hour?
What if there was no shower?
I would smell very sour.
What if the sun was too hot?

I would surely rot.
What if I died and couldn't say bye?
What if there was no saying hi?
I would surely cry.
What if I could not run and have fun in the sun?

What if I was not smart?
What if I had no heart?
What if I was very great?
What if I was no 8?
What if I left town?
I would leave with a frown.
What if?

an update, long overdue.

I know, it's been a while. I last posted over a month ago, when I was still living in Africa and starting to look toward home.

A friend of mine suggested I write one more follow-up post to my time in Africa. I agree, it would be a great idea. The problem is, I'm not quite sure how to write it. Living in Africa for four months and working with Hope House is like a lot of great life adventures, where they really don't end but instead continue to be a part of your life for a long time. I hope that's true for me - that God has really changed me during my time there. And I also plan to stay involved - to stay in contact with friends in Gabon, to continue to help Hope House, and one day to go back there.

For now, here is what is going on now in my life. I started working for CBN again a couple weeks after I got back to the U.S. God provided a perfect opportunity to continue to do the work I enjoy but remotely, from home. Right now I'm living with one of my sisters, but I'm in the process of buying a home and hope to settle and move in by the end of the year. It's a great house - wonderful location, a great size, and needing just enough work to keep my creativity engaged. That's a muscle I haven't been able to really exercise for the last few months, so I'm very excited about that.

This blog has always been a reflection of my life, even before I had ever considered going to Africa (back when I never thought I ever would), and I will plan to use it that way. I'll continue to talk about the things that I make, the way I renovate and decorate my house, and most importantly, the things that God is teaching me and doing in my life. I would love for you to continue with me on the journey, wherever God leads me.


Here's the story I'll tell my friends when they come to worship,
and punctuate it with Hallelujahs:
Shout Hallelujah, you God-worshipers;
give glory, you sons of Jacob; adore him, you daughters of Israel.
He has never let you down,
never looked the other way when you were being kicked around.
He has never wandered off to do his own thing;
he has been right there, listening.

 Here in this great gathering for worship I have discovered this praise-life.
And I'll do what I promised right here in front of the God-worshipers.
Down-and-outers sit at God's table and eat their fill.
Everyone on the hunt for God is here, praising him.
"Live it up, from head to toe. Don't ever quit!"

From the four corners of the earth people are coming to their senses,
are running back to God.
Long-lost families are falling on their faces before him.
God has taken charge; from now on he has the last word.

All the power-mongers are before him —worshiping!
All the poor and powerless, too —worshiping!
Along with those who never got it together —worshiping!

Our children and their children will get in on this
As the word is passed along from parent to child.
Babies not yet conceived will hear the good news—
that God does what he says.

Psalm 22:22-31, The Message

looking toward home.

One week from today, I'll be returning home. My time here seems very short. In some ways, I'm ready to go home. I feel like I've done the work I was asked to do here, and that it is time for God to move me on to a new place, with new lessons and new challenges and new ways that he will meet me. And yet, it will be so hard to leave the people that I love here, including these:



I'll be honest - I have no idea what life will look like when I get home. I know for a little while I will live in my sister's basement. I know that I will need to find a job. I know that I will need to find a place to live that is a bit more permanent. For now, though, I'm just looking forward to doing everyday life with my family, and working on being content exactly where he has me.

living at hope house - the raw stuff.

Because of the kids' school schedule and some difficulties with transportation, I've spent the last few weekends at Hope House, staying there overnight. I've had fun, and have enjoyed my time with the kids, but there have also been challenges, and truthfully, some convictions that were hard to swallow. I'm still working through them, but until I can wrap them all up into a neat little post, I thought I'd share some snippets from the journaling I did while I was there. Just please understand - this is raw, and though I'm not sharing everything I journaled, otherwise unedited.

----------

It's difficult to figure out how to navigate here, how I go to the bathroom and how I take a shower and handle trash and eat. But it's more than that.

It's feeling confronted by just how much I like my own comfort. I thought (arrogantly) that I was past that. I thought that coming here (to Africa), giving up the things I did, meant I wasn't so concerned with nice things. But there are still so many things I take for granted - a pillow, toilet paper, a trash can in the bathroom, a shower, clean water.

And yet, it's still more than that. I didn't realize how much I relied on being able to go home and forget. I want so much to go back to the Envision house where there is plenty of food that isn't rice. I want to be able to forget that fruit is such a luxury that they're so excited to get it, and that it's hit or miss when they might get breakfast. That they wash their sheets by hand every week, and their clothes every few days, because they don't have that many. That not everyone goes to church because they don't have enough money to pay for two taxibuses.

----------

There are people who work in this space, day in and day out, for years on end. How do they do it? What do they do to keep from being overwhelmed? Because there are no easy answers and the need just keeps on coming, and I'm afraid that I'll go back home and treat myself to Starbucks and ignore it all, because I don't know what else to do.


----------

So my big prayer for this weekend has not been for anything I expected - for patience, or long-suffering, or good sleep. Instead I pray for strength and courage - to stay and engage, with my eyes wide open, to learn what God has for me here. To choose to see it, and then to choose to remember.

made for more.

I keep going back to this song:


You're beautiful, you're beautiful
You were made for so much more than all of this
You're beautiful, you're beautiful
You are treasured, you are sacred, you are his

And this is the question - made for more than what?

For more than a life trapped in poverty?
For more than a life trapped in sin? In judgement and guilt and insecurity?
For more than my own ignorance?

Maybe that's what I need to be rescued from more than anything else:

From the selfishness and ingratitude that has me taking too many things for granted.
From the pride that has me thinking I've got this figured out
From the arrogance that makes me judge too many others for not doing their part
From the fear, that would keep me closing my eyes so I don't have to face truth. Because once you know, you have to do something.

spending the night at hope house.

The last two weekends, I've spent the night at Hope House - partly for practical reasons (working with transportation difficulties and the kids' school schedules) and party just to experience more of what life like there is like.

And honestly, though it's been fun, it's also been full of a lot of hard lessons. Maybe after I've been able to process them a bit more, I'll be able to share more here.

But for now, my friend Alace has a great write-up of this last weekend. She, Leanne, and Hannah joined me so that we could give Pastor Israel and Mama Nathalie a night off.

fighting injustice.

Since I read this on Twitter a couple of weeks ago, I haven't been able to stop thinking about it:

"We get to put more than just a toe in the water fighting injustice; God dares us to grab our knees and do a cannonball."

What does this look like, in real life? What does it mean to jump all in to the fight, to make that kind of splash?

when they have to make a choice.

Many of the children who live at Hope House are siblings. And some of them have other brothers and sisters, who still live with their parents.

At first, I couldn't understand this. How does a mother choose to send two of her children to live somewhere else? How does she pick who leaves and who stays? And how in the world do the two who leave, how do they ever handle this?

But really, what bothers me just as much is that a parent would have to make that decision at all. Because the reality is that here, sometimes a mother has to choose, because she simply can't afford to feed them all.

primitive is relative.

I have probably started blog posts on five different topics over the last couple weeks, but I haven't felt like I could finish them - either the words just weren't coming, or I wanted to give some more time for my thoughts to marinate a little. So, instead, for today, I'll just share a quick thought.

I'm guessing that when most American doctors first visit the Bongolo Hospital, they consider it somewhat primitive. No large air-conditioned buildings, no widespread food or laundry service, no motorized beds and call buttons for in-patients. And though I believe it's absolutely amazing what God has built here and the wide scope of services provided, they're probably right - by American standards, it is primitive.

But today I attended the graduation ceremony and reception of Jean Claude Bataneni, who just completed his surgical residency at Bongolo. He was here with the PAACS (Pan-African Academy of Christian Surgeons) program. Tomorrow, he and his wife (also a doctor) and his two children are traveling back to his home country, Democratic Republic of Congo (also called Congo-Kinshasa, formerly Zaire), to work at the Nebobongo Evangelical Hospital. Outside of the operating room, there is no electricity and no running water. Compared to Bongolo, Nebobongo is primitive:

The area served is among the poorest in the DRC. The hospital has existed for the last 45-50 years as an orphan ministry with only intermittent outside support. The fees the patients pay do not cover the basic needs of the hospital. So more often than not, the staff does not receive a full salary. Yet the indigenous Christian community remains dedicated to the mission of keeping the hospital open. The pharmacy is never fully stocked and many repairs are deferred for lack of funds. The lab lacks most basic testing equipment.

The hospital is off the national power grid. So aside from the operating room which has a solar electric unit on the roof, the rest of the hospital has no electricity. They cannot afford the repairs or the cost of the diesel fuel to run the generator they have.

There is no running water outside the operating room. The steam to sterilize instruments is generated by wood fires. There is no sewage disposal system, so the hospital uses outdoor pit latrines.
(Source)

I think primitive, like a lot of other things, is relative.

life in africa (part 3).

My friend Melissa asked a great question about the food that I eat here in Africa. And I've also gotten a lot of experience with getting around the city over the last couple weeks, so I thought I'd share about both of those.

(Want to know more about day-to-day life here in Gabon? Read part 1 and part 2.)

Food


I live with Americans, so most of the time we eat a lot of the same food I would eat in the US. It's difficult to find prepared foods (though we do have some things from the last container order) but most everything else is available, at least for a price. The only things I really miss are berries (of any kind, but especially strawberries) and tortillas.

When I'm out during the day, I'll either eat something simple like fruit (bought from one of the roadside stands) or bean sandwiches (red beans, sauce, onions, and sometimes tomatoes or avocado on french bread). When we get together with our friends from OSPAC (the medical clinic), they make dinner - rice with a tomato sauce, chicken, and this fantastic peanut sauce are my favorites. They also usually served boiled plantains (which aren't bad) and manioc (a root vegetable, kind of like a potato).

Sometimes we get street food - chicken pieces, patates (fried sweet potatoes), and banans (fried bananas or plantains), all of which are so good!


Transportation


For the first month that I was here, we hired a driver to pick me up each morning and take me to Hope House, and then to pick me up at Hope House and bring me home. Unfortunately, though, he wanted too much money, so for the last several weeks I've been using taxis and taxi buses to get where I need to go (now that I know my way around at least a little, and I can speak and understand enough French to get by...most of the time).

My roommate Hannah told me that every time she rides in a taxi bus, she thinks of Shakira's song Hips Don't Lie - and it's very accurate! Taxi buses are bigger than a minivan, but smaller than a typical 15-passenger van. Nineteen people fit in each one - the driver and two passengers in the front, and four people across the four rows in the back (including the person responsible for opening the sliding door). Each morning that I go to Hope House, I walk down the street to the taxi bus stop and take a bus to Rio, then cross the street (not easy!) and look for a bus going to PK12 (after which I can walk to Hope House). It's not always easy - sometimes there are more people than taxis, so it's a bit of a shoving match to get a place on one. Plus you have to be careful of pickpockets, especially in busy places like Rio.

Sometimes, when I need to take a few kids to a medical clinic, we'll take a small taxi. They're a little trickier, because you need to negotiate with the driver on how far he'll go and how much you'll pay. It's also not really safe for me to take one by myself, so I usually only do when I'm with one of my translators.

when it's not my story to tell.

One of the things I struggle with as I'm learning these kids' stories, is whether I have the right to share them. Some (many) of them are quite tragic, and there's a part of me that honestly wants to put them out here - to pull on your heart strings as they have pulled on mine, and to remind us all of the hard things that people all over the world face.

Yet, these aren't my stories, and so maybe they're not my stories to tell. After all, I would find it very odd if a friend were to write about the hard things of my life, even if I was willing to share it myself. It seems odd, doesn't it?

But here's the more important thing - while each of these children has a story of heartbreak, they also have a story that He has written, and that He is writing. It's a story of freedom, of redemption, and of hope. And maybe in the interest of trying to move people, to motivate them to give or even just realize how blessed they are, we neglect to tell that story.

I'm still wrestling through this one, and I'd love to hear feedback. What do you think? 

life in africa (part 2).

Here is more information about life here in Libreville (see part 1).

Climate

Right now Gabon is in the dry season. It is almost always cloudy, but rarely rains. The average temperature in Libreville for June - August is between 75-80 degrees Fahrenheit, so it's really not that hot. The rainy season starts in September. I haven't been here during that time (yet).

Libreville is a city of around 800,000 to 900,000 people, and it comes with all of things you'd expect in an urban setting - traffic, crazy taxi drivers, and pollution. In addition, there's little to no regulation or monitoring of diesel or car emissions. And, sometimes, people clear out fields by burning them. So, sometimes it kind of stinks outside.

Bugs

Before we came to Africa last year, I got several immunizations - Yellow Fever (required for entry into Gabon), Hepatitis A (first of two in the series), Meningococal, and Typhoid - and an updated Tetanus shot. Luckily, most of those vaccines are good for a few years, so I didn't need to complete any more (I had already taken care of the second Hep-A shot earlier in the year. I also take anti-malaria medication (Doxycycline) daily.

The biggest threat, of course, are mosquitoes. We have mosquito screens on all the windows at the house. I have bug spray for my clothing and lotion for my skin that I use most days. Mosquitoes are more of an issue during the wet season and at night. There are also bufudus - tiny bugs that you can't see, but that leave little bites on your skin that itch long after they've gone - but these are more of an issue in the jungle or at Bongolo.

Worms are also a common problem here. As a matter of fact, every patient who comes to the medical clinics at OSPAC gets worm medication, no matter what complaint brings them to the clinic in the first place. So we carefully wash produce, use filtered water, and wash our hands thoroughly before handling food. I also don't walk on the ground outside without shoes (to avoid worms that live just under your skin).

The estimated HIV infection rate in Gabon is between five and ten percent (ranked 14th in the world, according to the CIA World Factbook), so to be safe I also make sure any open cuts are covered with a bandage, especially when I'm going to be spending time at Hope House (at least until we've been able to get HIV tests for all of them).

It all sounds like a lot of extra work and precautions, but it's really not, I promise.

What other things would you like to know?

life in africa (part 1).

When I started making plans to come to Africa, I called Verizon to find out if my cell phone would work here. A representative told me that they had no cell towers in Africa. He said, "Think about it - who would want to build a cell tower with a lion chasing you?"

I think (and hope) that he was joking, but it is true that there are a lot of assumptions and misconceptions about life in Africa. Before coming last year, I expected everything to look like the scenery in the Lion King. But Africa is a big continent, full of cities and villages, jungles and deserts, humid and dry places. I thought I would take a few posts to write about the reality of life here in Libreville, and also to answer a few of the more common questions I've heard.

The House

I currently live in the Envision mission house in Owendo, a suburb (-ish) of Libreville. It's a big house, meant to house quite a few people (one night this summer, we had 42 people sleeping here, but that is an extreme example). Upstairs there is a big living/dining room, kitchen, office, laundry room, three bedrooms, and two bathrooms. I either have a room to myself or share it with one other person, depending on who is living here at any given time. Leanne and Hannah use the other two bedrooms.

Downstairs has pretty much the same set-up, with a (very long) dining room that we use when there are teams here, and a bunkhouse and extra bathroom for the guys (girls stay in the bedrooms that mirror the three bedrooms we have upstairs).

There is no air-conditioning, so we use fans to stay cool. It's not too much of an issue now, since this is the dry season (more about that another day). And over time, your body really does become more accustomed to the temperature, I think. I hope.

Our house is surrounded by a wall and we have a guard here most of the day and night. This isn't really so much because it's unsafe, but because we're considered wealthy (and really, we are) so this is expected. Thought I have to be honest - I find it a relief, especially when I'm here on my own. Paul (the day/weekend guard) and Sam (the night guard) also take care of the cats, the puppy we're currently babysitting, and all of the gardening (we have bananas, plantains, mangoes, pineapple, sugar cane, and avocado).

Water

There are plenty of places in Africa without running water, and many more without any access to clean water. Thankfully, Libreville isn't one of them!

We do have city water for most of the day - it comes on around 6am and (usually) shuts off around 6pm. We have a water pump and two reservoirs that we turn on when/if the water shuts off (sometimes it doesn't). When there are teams here, we ask everyone to only shower before dinner to avoid using all of reserved water, and then around midnight the guard will turn off the pump for the night.

We do have both a washer and a dryer (two of each, actually) but because gas is really expensive, we line-dry our clothes, either outside or on a drying rack. If we dry them outside, we bring them inside and run in them dryer for 20 minutes, to get rid of any mango worms. It's a bit more work, but there is something about hanging my clothes outside to dry that I actually like.

The water isn't really safe to drink (though we do use it for brushing our teeth), so we have a filter and fill bottles of water from there for drinking. Bottled water is also readily available (if not very cheap).

I've got another post planned about climate and bugs, but are there other things you'd like to know? Anything I'm missing?

pk27.

One of the most exciting things going on with the Gabonese national church is a project called PK27. This is a 25-hectare (approximately 60 acres) campus located just outside of Libreville that will eventually be the center for all of the social ministries of the church: Hope House, OSPAC (the medical clinic), RBI (the eye clinic), and many, many others. This is the master plan:


Right now, though, it's a jungle:


One day last week, I walked around the property with Pastor Israel and some of the kids at Hope House (Steve Straw and his two interns walked with us part of the way, then stopped to clear out some of the jungle with machetes).

I can't describe how thrilling it was to walk around this space and dream about what it will eventually become. The leaders of the church really believe that God will use them to change their country, and they're not afraid to attempt big things in pursuit of that. It's humbling and inspiring.

for me.

Most Africans I've met love to sing and dance, and the kids at Hope House are no exception. Every day when I arrive, after greeting me, someone inevitably asks if I've brought my MP3 player (la musique, they say, while pointing to their ears to indicate the headphones). They pass it around and sometimes share it, with each one using one ear piece.


Thursday, during what was a more emotional day for me, I was listening to the music with one ear while Naomi (age 8) used the other ear piece. This song came on:


You're beautiful
You're beautiful
You are made for so much more than all of this
You're beautiful
You're beautiful
You are treasured, you are sacred, you are his
You're beautiful

I looked at her and wondered, does she know this is true? That she is beautiful and treasured in his sight? I even thought this would be a wonderful song to use in a video, with photos of the kids that I have come to love.

Then God tapped me on the shoulder. This isn't just a message for her, he said, it's a message for you. You are beautiful. You're my daughter and I love you. I have redeemed you, I have called you by name, and you are mine.

Sometimes I get so caught up in the ministry that I neglect the relationship. I'm so grateful that he is faithful to remind me.

hope house beach day.

For the last few weeks, several of the kids at Hope House have been asking me when I was going to take them to the beach. Even though Libreville is right on the Atlantic Ocean and there are several beaches that are readily accessible, this was not an easy question to answer.

For one thing, there are currently 24 kids living at Hope House (there are several more who are visiting their families during the break from school).

Some of these kids are younger (the youngest is 4 years old), and of course, if you're going to take them to the beach, it's very important to make sure that they don't drown.

Many are teenage boys, and though they all told me that they could swim, I didn't necessarily believe them - because teenage boys are known for overestimating their athletic abilities, no matter what continent they live on.

But several of the people living here at the Envision center were willing to help, so we decided to try.

Then it was on to the next problem - how to actually transport them to the beach.

So we hired a taxi bus.

One taxi bus. Because the other one we planned to hire had some mechanical problems.

A taxi bus is about the same size as a 15-passenger van. In Gabon, these hold 19 people - 17 passengers, the driver, and the guy who opens the door. We crammed 28 people in there.

But we did it, and the kids had a blast!




how to define family.

"They're orphans," she told me. "Their mother and father are dead. Their mother's family doesn't want them, and their father's family doesn't, either. They have no one."


"They have you," I said.

we must go.



We must go
Live to feed the hungry
Stand beside the broken
We must go

Stepping forward
Keep us from just singing
Move us into action
We must go

medical care in Africa.

I've spent most of the last couple weeks focusing on the medical aspect of caring for thirty kids. That would be a daunting prospect even in the US, but throw in limited access to care, the need to transport kids to clinics and hospitals, a culture of kids that aren't really used to complaining about pain or discomfort, and limited funds - well, as you can imagine, it's a not a simple process. I thought I would document some of the specific things we've been working on, in order to give you a picture of what medical care is like here.

Sabrina is a 15-year-old girl with a heart murmur that was discovered a few months ago when a visiting U.S. medical team did physicals for all of the children. Her heart murmur might not require any extra care, but she needs an echocardiogram to be sure. We could get that done here in Libreville, but it would be very expensive. We could also get it done in at the hospital in Bongolo, where it is much less expensive, but then we need to arrange for transportation there, a place to stay, and supervision while traveling and at Bongolo. And all of this needs to be done by engaging local Gabonese volunteers, and by setting up a process that we can use as needed in the future.

Dorcas is an 11-year-old girl who came to live at Hope House in July, shortly before I came to Gabon. She wasn't here when the medical team did physicals, so I took her to the OSPAC medical clinic. One of the nurses, Paul, noted a crackling sound in her lungs, which indicates some kind of infection (bronchitis, pneumonia, etc.). Dorcas has never complained of feeling sick, so this is something we never would have discovered if it weren't for the physical. They gave her an antibiotic at the clinic, and then I took her to another clinic (SNI) for a blood test. The next day I picked up the results of that test (thankfully they were normal and her antibiotic is clearing up the infection), then I needed to take the results back to OSPAC to read them. For a Gabonese without their own car (and most don't have one), this would have been four separate taxi rides, in addition to the consultation fee (waived in this case because it was for a Hope House child) and the blood test fee.

Warel is 16 years old. A couple weeks ago, I noticed that he was keeping a little piece of bathroom tissue in his ear, and asked him about it. He explained that sometimes his ear leaked fluid, and that it had been doing that for some time. Like many of the others, he didn't actually complain about the problem, but I took him to the clinic anyway. When Paul looked in his ear, he saw a hole in his ear drum. We were able to get him medication for this, and give him some instructions for keeping water out of his ear. Without this, he could easily have lost all hearing in that ear.

Moussounda is 7 years old, and has been living at Hope House with his twin brother Boumba (along with several other siblings) for most of his life. Both twins were near death when they were found and brought to Hope House, but now they are smiling, active, and very typical boys. One day the other children told me that at some point during the school year (at least two months ago now), Moussounda stuck a blue crayon in his ear, and part of it was still in there. He didn't complain of pain or any trouble hearing, and Pastor Israel and Mama Nathalie didn't even know that he had done this. So much dirt had gathered in front of the piece of crayon, that it took quite some time to clean it all out, but luckily we were able to take care of it at the SNI clinic, rather than having to go to a hospital (again, very expensive).

Dental issues are also very common among the children at Hope House (and, I imagine, throughout the rest of the majority world as well). In June, a visiting dentist examined all of the kids' teeth and had to pull quite a few of them - in fact, he ran out of time and there are at least 6 children who still need to have that done. Like with Sabrina's echocardiogram, this work can be done here in Libreville or at Bongolo, but the cost is a huge factor. Luckily, all of the kids now have toothbrushes and are brushing three times a day (or at least as often as they are reminded to brush).

A lot has been accomplished, but there is also a lot still left to be done. Over the next few months, we're hoping to get the children that need it down to Bongolo, get full blood tests (including HIV) for all of the children, provide Hope House with plenty of first aid supplies to have on hand, and have a documented process for dealing with medical issues for both new and existing children.

one month in.

My mother tells me that I need to post more.

She's probably right - but sometimes, it's still difficult to find the words to capture what it is like to live and work here. It's been just over a month since I arrived - some days it feels like I've been here forever, and some days it feels like I just stepped off the plane yesterday.

Here are a few of the things I've discovered over the last several weeks:

  • Bean sandwiches can actually be good. My sister (who traveled to Gabon with me last year) doesn't believe me - but I think it's all about where you get them. Never get them with mayo, though - since it's been sitting outside all day.
  • I no longer feel the need to shower the second I sweat even a little. Because otherwise, I would be showering all the time.
  • I can understand far more French than I would have thought I could, and I can sometimes even speak enough French get my point across to others. This is probably due more to their patience than any ability on my part.
  • It is actually possible to be cold when living on the equator. Honest.
  • The lack of personal space doesn't (usually) bother me much anymore. So when I come back to the U.S., if I'm standing too close while we're talking, don't take it personally, ok?
  • I can manage to swallow (and sometimes choke down) lots of foods that I really don't like. I still can not choke down fish.
Help me out with ideas of more things to write about - what do you want to know?

sports day at the embassy.

I mentioned a few weeks ago that my second full day in Gabon, I happened to meet a team of people from the US Embassy (including the wife of the US Ambassador) when they came to visit Hope House. The funny thing is, I had originally planned to wait until the next week to visit Hope House, so I'm convinced that this was a God-appointment.

Last Saturday, the Ambassador and his family hosted a sports day at his residence for several local orphanages and homes for abandoned children, including Hope House. They invited me to come along with them, and I offered to bring several interns with me to help.

Hope House was by far the largest group there, and all of the kids seemed to have a blast. They played games and did crafts in the morning and pigged out on hot dogs, popcorn, fruit, and a ton of sweets at lunch. After lunch a self-defense expert showed them several ways to defend themselves (a few of them paid very close attention, so I'll be watching them!) and then they watched a dance group perform. The kids even got to perform a few songs, including one they've written just about Hope House (someday I'll post a video and translation for you). Anytime these kids get a chance to sing and dance, they love it! And it was so much fun for me to just hang out with them and enjoy them. Its only been a few weeks that I've been here, and I'm already surprised by how much each of them, with their individual story and personality, has captured my heart.

I was also able to make several contacts with people who wanted more information about Hope House and asked about ways that they can help. Unlike some of the other groups there, Hope House receives no government funding, so we're happy for any help we can get.

I also wanted to share a few praise reports and prayer requests with you. I know that there are so many of you praying for me, and I thought you might like some specifics.

Praises:
  • I continue to see God's hand each day, which is good because I desperately need him!
  • We've been able to get some medical care for quite a few of the kids, including multiple ear infections and tooth pain. A lot of people have come together to help make this happen!
Prayer requests:
  • There are some medical concerns that need to be addressed, and we need to find funding for these things. Please pray for wisdom in the best way to handle them, and for the necessary funds.
  • Though I'm understanding more French all of the time, the language barrier is still frustrating. Please pray that I will quickly be able to both understand and speak at least some French, and for patience on my part when I can't.
  • I'm continually trying to make sure that anything I do is sustainable - that is, that it will be able to continue even after I've gone. This is probably the most difficult part of my work here, so please pray for wisdom.
  • Pray for local Gabonese believers to rise up in support of orphaned and abandoned children, especially those at Hope House, and be willing to give of their time to help. Pray also for wisdom and creativity in how to engage them.

what it looks like to give out of your need.

When I worked for CBN, we held a telethon three times a year, to ask people to partner with us in the work we were doing. Always, the most meaningful responses were from those who gave, not out of their abundance, but out of their need. It was always humbling. And today I learned what that means in a new way.

Mama Nathalie runs Hope House with her husband, Pastor Israel. Every day they live on faith, trusting that God will provide the money they need for rent and the food they need to eat. The kids all pray together that God will move someone's heart to give them even the basics that they need for survival.

Today when I arrived at Hope House, a young woman was there with her two small children. Mama Nathalie explained that her husband was a pastor in a village out past Bongolo and that the family is suffering. THen I watched as she and the kids filled a bag full of clothes and toys and gave the woman money for a taxi. Even 4-year-old Kenah, the youngest child at Hope House, helped by bringing out some of her own shoes to give away. And she seemed delighted to do it.

This isn't the first time that I've seen them do this. They continue to take in more children, even though they don't always know how they're going to feed or clothe the ones that they have. They pay a 17-year-old girl from their church to help cook and clean, even though they can't afford to, because they know that she is solely responsible for herself and her three younger siblings, and because without the money they give her, prostitution might be her only other option.
Now, friends, I want to report on the surprising and generous ways in which God is working in the churches in Macedonia province. Fierce troubles came down on the people of those churches, pushing them to the very limit. The trial exposed their true colors: They were incredibly happy, though desperately poor. The pressure triggered something totally unexpected: an outpouring of pure and generous gifts. I was there and saw it for myself. They gave offerings of whatever they could—far more than they could afford!—pleading for the privilege of helping out in the relief of poor Christians. This was totally spontaneous, entirely their own idea, and caught us completely off guard. What explains it was that they had first given themselves unreservedly to God and to us. The other giving simply flowed out of the purposes of God working in their lives.2 Corinthians 8:1-5, The Message

when you need to start with the necessities.

I'm still here, enjoying being here but at the same time struggling to know how to talk about life here. The truth is, it is just so different, that its a bit overwhelming trying to figure out how to describe it.

Instead, I'm going to focus on one story at a time.

Today, after arriving at Hope House, Steve (an Envision team member) and I, along with a few of the kids and my translators, walked to the local grocery store to purchase some cleaning supplies. Here in Libreville, at least, there is a grocery store that will carry lots of food supplies, but most of the fresh fruit, meat, and bread comes from the vendors set up on the side of the road. Steve wanted to purchase gato balls (like donuts) as a treat for the kids, but they told him that they would rather have bread (french bread is a food staple here, and very often people will eat it with butter for breakfast). 

It was a good reminder for me, that while I love the idea of giving these kids something special, the necessities must come first. A child who hasn't eaten breakfast, lunch, or dinner has very little use for candy. I'm proud of them for saying so (though in a more tactful way).

I'm also reminded that too often, when we give, we want to dictate exactly how that money will be spent. Sometimes there is wisdom in this, to make sure that when we give money it is going toward the things that we want it to. I believe strongly in financial accountability. But I also believe that sometimes we can be a bit arrogant, giving and assuming that we know exactly how the money should be spent, without giving those who are in the ministry day in and day out the authority to spend it where it will be most needed.

What do you think? When we give, how much should we dictate how the money is spent?

how to tell the stories.

I have to admit, I'm struggling a bit with how to share these stories. And there are so many of them.

I could try to describe what daily life is like in Africa - about the food and the driving and the sounds and smells of the city.

I could tell you about meeting all of the kids at Hope House on Friday, one by one, and how I was just overwhelmed at the amount of loss represented there. Or I could tell you about having a team from the US Embassy come to Hope House at the same time I was there, and how I'm convinced that was a God-ordained appointment.

I could tell you about going to the village church at Okalassi on Sunday (I mentioned the story of the church, just not the name, in a blog I wrote during my trip with Kelli last year). Two years ago, short-term teams helped to dig a foundation for a church building (they previously met under a mango tree), and some of those team members came back to Gabon this year. They shared with the church about that time, and how their church had been partnering with and praying for them for two years. (Soon, Okalassi will be holdings its first baptism).

I could tell you about the teams that are here now, about their time at Hope House and how we're being very intentional about that, and how I'm so excited about what I'm seeing already.

And sometime soon, I will. I'll tell all of these stories and hopefully more. But I'm also finding it difficult to put into words what it is like to be back here, to be surrounded by these people and their dreams and their need and their strength and resilience and their big, big faith.

So, I promise...there will be more posts and stories coming soon. Right now I'm still finding my feet a bit.

day one in Gabon.

Several weeks ago, Kelly and Victor and I sat outside my house and debated whether or not the neighbors across the street were drug dealers. Two weeks ago, Katie and Vince's next door neighbor shot a groundhog out his front door in the morning. And today, I hear roosters crowing (they do it all day long) and a lot of people outside speaking a language that I don't understand. It's a bit of an understatement to say that there's been quite a few changes in the last month.

I arrived in Gabon early yesterday evening after two very long but uneventful flights, then we headed straight from the airport to Mama Janine and Pastor Jean-Marc's house for dinner and a Gabonese dance party. I got to see lots of the people we met last year (though some needed a few hints to remember me) and also meet some of the interns who live here at the Envision house. It was fun, but I'm looking forward to doing it again sometime when I'm not quite so exhausted.

This morning I met with Pastor Israel (he runs Hope House) and the man who will be my driver while I'm in Gabon, then I'll be spending the rest of the day unpacking and getting set up. Tomorrow morning I'll spend a couple of hours at Hope House, and then next week I'll start a regular schedule of being there most of the day, five days a week.

Right now I'm feeling a lot of emotions all at once. I'm excited about being back here, and overwhelmed by the size of the job that I'm taking on. I don't think the enormity of the step that I've taken hit me until I arrived last night. And though things are far from difficult here, and though I am excited about the adventure ahead, if I'm being honest there's a small part of me that misses my easy, comfortable life. And of course, I'm still dealing with a bit of jet lag on top of all of this, too.

If you think to pray for me, please pray for wisdom and discernment here. And please also pray that God would continue to remind me that I'm exactly where he wants me to be.

frederick.

I've been living in Frederick now for just over a week, and though I miss the people that I left behind in Virginia Beach, I'm enjoying the slower pace here. I'm also getting to spend lots of great time with family, which I love, since this was part of the reason I decided to move back here in the first place. I've spent the last week taking care of my nephew, wrapping up some details from the move, and figuring out the final preparations I need to make before flying to Africa. I've got a list of things to do and a list of things to buy, and am working through it slowly, piece by piece.

Yesterday I met with Tim to discuss some more details of things in Gabon, and some of the things that we talked about have shifted my focus a little. For the last several weeks, I've been focusing mostly on preparing for the next big thing. Two weeks ago, I was thinking, what has to be done before I move? Last week I was thinking, what has to be done before I get on the plane? I'm still thinking about that, but I'm also dreaming about Africa. I'm starting to be able to picture, at least a little, my time there, or at least the first few days. And its good, to be reminded of what I'm doing and why I'm going, not just what needs to be done to get there.

I'm reminded too, of how desperately I need to be pushing into Christ. Its embarassing to admit just how easy it is to get caught up in my to-do list and forget that what I need to be doing more than anything is spending time with my Savior.

So, exactly one week from now, I'll be somewhere over the Atlantic, on my way to one of the greatest adventures yet! I can't wait!

changing happy.

It's interesting, if you think about it, how much we let our circumstances determine how happy we are. Have you ever thought about that? Last night when I went to bed, I felt great. I had gotten a lot of things done, I had a great plan for the next day, and though there were a lot of things to do, it all felt possible.

Today I woke up sick and with very little energy, the buyers for my car changed their mind, I found out the moving schedule is going to be significantly tighter than I want it to be, and I have gotten absolutely no packing done. Needless to say, its been a frustrating day.

I was thinking about all this, and I started wondering why it is that I let circumstances, especially ones I have no control over, so affect my mood?

There's a great song by Jadon Lavik, called "Changing Happy." Here are the lyrics:

I've always found that happiness hides
Just around the corner, just out of my reach
And the moment its found, the next that its missing
I need to change my own definition

Cause nothing's ever quite all that it seems
And I am not convinced that anybody's ever living the dream
Expectations kill as reality plays this show of your life
It's a whole different scene

I'm changing what it means to be happy, what it means
Back to the way I know that it should be
Close to you is where I need to be

No matter how hard we push or how hard we pull
There's just a little bit more until we're full
Cause we've all tried to cover sadness and sorrow
With temporary things that never seem to last

I'm changing what it means to be happy, what it means
Back to the way I know that it should be

So explain to me why we fill up empty with empty
And at the end of day, we're confused by the longing

Change it back, change it back, change it back, change it back
Change it back, change it back, change it back, change it back

I'm changing what it means to be happy, what it means
I'm back to the way I know that it should be, the way that it should be
I'm changing what it means to be happy
What it means to be happy, to be happy, truly happy
Close to you is where I need to be

Change it back
Change it back

So this is my resolution - I'm redefining happy. I'm counting the gifts that God has given in order to get some perspective. And I'm not going to let circumstances deter me from believing what I know to be True.

update and prayer requests (#2).

It's been almost a month since I last wrote a post with prayer requests, and so much has happened in the last few weeks! Its hard to believe that in just two weeks I'll be moving to Frederick, and in just over a month I'll be flying to Gabon!

I've told a few friends lately that I feel like I have ADD because my mind is constantly spinning from one topic to the next. In the space of ten seconds I'm thinking about my strategy for packing, ny nephew's birthday gift, how much contact solution I need to take to Africa, and who is going to take care of my dogs. Moving to another state, then another continent for a few months, is a lot of work! I know it will all get done, one way or another, but boy, the next few weeks are going to be busy!

Praises
  • I found a home for Harvey while I'm gone! A good friend of my sister's is going to take her, which is a wonderful load off my shoulders.
  • I have almost a quarter of the amount I need raised! Here's the progress so far:

  • I accepted an offer on my car, which is one more thing I don't have to worry about!
Prayer requests
  • I'm still looking for someone to take care of Dakota for the next few months. This is probably my biggest prayer request and the thing most likely to stress me out. Please pray for a good home for her, and for me to trust that God has this in his hands, too.
  • As I said above, the next few weeks are going to be so busy, with packing and moving and selling things, and with saying goodbye to the friends I've made here. Please pray for energy and peace and motivation.

meet dakota and harvey.

This is Dakota:


She's a terrier mix and will be 8 in June. She's about 40-45 lbs. She's sometimes affectionate, but most of the time she just wants to do her own thing. Like any other terrier, Dakota loves to hunt small animals in the backyard - fortunately for me she very rarely catches anything! Dakota would love to have a backyard to run around in, but she's also lived in a condo where she had to be walked outside to use the bathroom. She is house-trained.



This is Harvey:


Harvey (a girl, despite her name) is a  5-year-old Australian Shepherd/Border Collie/Chocolate Lab mix that somehow looks kinda like a Dalmatian. :-) She's about 50-55 pounds and not nearly as hyper as you would think, given her breed mix. Harvey loves attention and when I'm home, she's either lying next to me or where she can see me. Harvey is house-trained, but does pee sometimes if she gets excited or nervous (she can't control it). Like Dakota, she loves to be outside, but mostly just to lay around in the sun.



I'm still looking for someone to take care of one or both dogs, starting in mid-June through mid-November, while I'm loving on kids in Africa. Both dogs are healthy and up-to-date on all of their shots. I'll gladly pay for food, any unexpected vet bills, and if you're not local, I'll transport them to you. Even if you can only take care of one dog, or even for part of the time, could you please let me know by either emailing me, or leaving a comment below?

And just remember - every home needs a Harvey.

support info.

I've written up more information about my upcoming trip to Gabon, including what I'm going to be doing and what you can do to help. Read more here.

email updates.

Did you know that now you can sign up for email updates, so that every post is sent directly to your inbox?

I'm not vain enough to think that there are many people who want to read my random musings on life and faith and decorating, but I'm hoping that there are several of you who want to follow along with me while I'm in Africa. This is an easy way to do it. Then, after you read the email, you can come back here and leave a comment, or reply to me, so I know that you're out there. :-)

There are just a couple steps:
  1. Enter your email address in the box under "email updates" on right and click "Subscribe."
  2. A window will open asking you to enter a text code, just to make sure you're an actual person.
  3. Then, you'll receive a verification email in your inbox. Click the link in that email, and you're done.
And that's it!

seeking adventure.

I wrote a guest post for E4 - kind of a summary of the last couple years. Would you visit there to read it?

why i'm going.

Something Nick said Sunday morning made me start thinking - why am I going to Africa?

If my main purpose in going is to help abandoned and orphaned children, that may be a noble goal, but if that's the only reason, I'll get weary and overwhelmed, because there will always be more kids to help.

If I'm seeking adventure, I'll be disappointed, because adventure and adrenaline highs are fleeting.

If I measure success by the number of people that meet Christ, then I've chosen an arbitrary statistic that may or may not be in line with what God has for me there.

Instead, my goal must be Christ, just more of Jesus.

But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith. I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead.

Philippians 3:7-11

update and prayer requests (#1).

Because I know that I have so many family and friends who want to pray for me (and because I know how much I need prayer!) I decided to post both prayer requests and answers to prayer on a regular basis. This is the first of those updates.

Prayer requests
  • I need to find someone who can take care of my dogs (or one of them, because I can split them up if necessary). Of course, most of the people I know who are dog people already have dogs. Can you please pray that I can find the right person, or people, and quickly? I'd love to put "Find a home for the dogs" in the Done column.
  • If you can help out, or know someone else who might be able to, could you please let me know? Dakota is a terrier mix, about 40-45 lbs, and Harvey (a girl) is an australian shepherd/border collie/chocolate lab mix, about 50-55 lbs. Email me and I can tell you more.
  • I'll start raising money for the trip soon (this week). In all honesty, I alternate between having faith that God has everything worked out, and worrying about this. So, please pray (1) that the funding for this trip will come in, and (2) that I will trust that God will provide.
  • Lastly, in the midst of all the other preparations, I don't want to lose sight of the one who called me (more about this later this week). Please pray for the desire and discipline to keep my mind set on Christ.
Thank you, friends, for standing with me and supporting me in this way.

answering questions.

Over the last few days, as I've told people that I'm moving to Africa for a few months, I've heard a lot of different comments and questions. I thought I'd post some of those here, in case others are wondering the same thing (and because some of the answers are actually requests for prayer and/or information)!

I knew you were going back to Africa.
I love hearing this, partly because it's just one more way that God is confirming his call to me. It's also funny, because for quite a while, I had no idea I was going back to Africa. And until a few weeks ago, I didn't really think that I was going back this year.

What are you going to do with your dogs?
I have no idea. Honestly, if there was something that I was going to stress about, this would be it (but I'm choosing to trust that God will provide for this just as he's provided for so many other things). So - this is both a prayer request, and a request for help - if you know someone who might be willing to host Harvey and Dakota (or even one - I could split them up if I had to) for a few months, could you please let me know?

How will you pay for this?
I have some money saved up, mostly thanks to my tax refund. I'm also selling some furniture, and I'm hoping that selling my car will net a little, even after paying off the car loan. I'll also need to find some supporters (email me or leave a comment if you'd like to help).

What are you doing with your house? Are you going to try to sell it?
If the market were better, I probably would have tried to sell it. Instead, I'm going to be renting it to good friends of mine. This is just one more example of God's provision - it's a win for both of us, and I don't have to worry about a background check for someone I don't know and keeping the house show-ready at all times.

Where will you live and work when you get back to the US?
I'll be moving back to Frederick, and until I can find a job, I'll be mooching living space off my family. Depending on how things go as I'm getting ready to leave Gabon, I'll start looking for a job. Or I'll find one when I get back. Or God will provide miraculously and drop one in my lap. Honestly, there are so many other details to worry about over the next two months that I'm choosing not to think about this yet.

Have any other questions? Let me know!

big news.

I've been fairly quiet here the past few weeks, mostly because I haven't felt able to talk publicly about so many of the things that have been going on. I'm ready now.

Below is the text of an email I sent to friends and family just a few moments ago:

Dear friends and family -

I have some news to share with you, about some exciting changes that are coming up in my life. My apologies for the mass email, but I thought it was the best way to communicate with all of you at once.

Today I submitted my resignation to CBN - my last day of work there will be on Friday, June 17. I'll rent my house to friends, move most of my things into storage in Frederick, then in July I'll be going back to Gabon, Africa, for four months. After that, I'll move back to Frederick and find a job there.

While I'm in Gabon, I'll be working with Hope House, the home for abandoned children in Libreville. My hope is to a gain a really thorough understanding of how things work there currently (how kids come to live at Hope House, how finances and other daily operations are handled, etc.) and also to help set up some processes and policies that will enable us to connect Hope House and their Gabonese supporters with North American supporters.

In some ways, these changes have happened very quickly, but in some ways they've also been a long time in coming. Its quite a big undertaking, certainly bigger than me, and still I am certain that this is where God is calling me right now.

As you can imagine, there are quite a few details that need to be worked out over the next few months. Would you please pray with me for those? God has led me so far in this process, and I know that he will continue to do so - but there is still a lot to do. (And if you know someone who would be willing to take care of my dogs for a few months, could you please let me know?)

I'm planning to post regular updates on this process (including specific prayer requests) on my blog:
http://slidingdownthestairs.blogspot.com

I'll also continue to use Facebook and Twitter (@slidingstairs) as a way to stay connected with you all.

Thank you for your support and your friendship.

Kristy

he is risen!


Christ is risen from the dead
Trampling over death by death
Come awake, come awake!
Come and rise up from the grave

Christ is risen from the dead
We are one with him again
Come awake, come awake!
Come and rise up from the grave

obedience first.

Last weekend, as I was listening to Nick preach on the foolishness of the cross vs. the wisdom of the world, I was struck by this thought: before we can see God provide, we need to step off the cliff first.

My very good friends Nick and Heather are moving with their family to Asheville, NC, to be part of a team planting a church there (Mission Asheville). They need to raise their support (and haven't yet), but they've put their house on the market, announced their resignation, and have just found a house to rent. God will meet each of their needs, but they jumped first.

I'm sure many people would say they're crazy, but often, before we can see God do something miraculous, we need to be in a place where we NEED him to do something miraculous. David didn't slay Goliath until he first faced him with only a slingshot. Moses stretched out his hand before the waters of the Red Sea parted. Peter didn't walk on water until he stepped out of the boat.

Besides, your perspective is a bit different when you know there's someone there to catch you.

past the wishing.



You've shown me my man of Macedonia
You're calling me further on
And I'm tired of saying "it's a nice idea
I wish it could be done"

I don't wish that I could go. . . I am going
I don't wish that I could be. . . I am being
I don't wish that I could do it. . . I am doing
By the grace of God I am doing


~ Sara Groves, Past The Wishing

things i love about spring.

Things I love about spring...
  • Warmer weather.
  • Backyard barbeques - someday I'll have a house with a deck and a grill, and I'll know how to use it, and I'll have people over every weekend.
  • My birthday - on Friday the 13th this year!
  • Things blooming everywhere.
  • Watching Harvey and Dakota enjoy the backyard.
  • Smoothies (am I only the person that starts to crave smoothies and ice cream when the weather gets warmer?)
Things I don't love about spring...
  • Pollen. But thanks to some heavy-duty doses of Zyrtec, I'm not letting that hold me back from enjoying this season.
What am I missing? What are your favorite things about spring?

when others don't hear the music.

Sometimes, trying to follow Christ makes me feel a little like someone who's listening to their ipod through headphones and dancing along. To everyone else, I might look kind of crazy, but that's just because they can't hear the music.

But I can, and I'm dancing anyway.

mercies in disguise.


All the while, you hear each spoken need
Yet love us way too much to give us lesser things

Cause what if your blessings come through raindrops?
What if your healing comes through tears?
What if a thousand sleepless nights are what it takes to know you're near?
What if trials of this life are your mercies in disguise?

this side.

I've spent a large part of my life desperately trying to control as much as I could. Even though I realized when I was young that I couldn't, that despite our best attempts there is still pain and people still die, I still tried. I expected life to turn out the way I wanted it to.

One day you'll see her and you'll know what I mean.
Take her or leave her she will still be the same.
She'll not try to buy you with her time.
But nothing's the same, as you will see when she's gone.

It's foreign on this side,
And I'll not leave my home again.
There's no place to hide
And I'm nothing but scared.

But life doesn't work that way, and I could only pretend for so long. I was afraid of the things that I didn't understand and couldn't control. What's more, I saw so many people around me who didn't seem to be paralyzed by fear, by change.

You dream of colors that have never been made,
You imagine songs that have never been played.
They will try to buy you and your mind.
Only the curious have something to find.

It's foreign on this side,
And the truth is a bitter friend.
But reasons few have I to go back again.

Thankfully, God loved me too much to let me hide behind my fear. The process of risking, of trying, or daring to believe there is something more and better isn't an easy one. Its painful, and there's no instruction manual or well-laid-out and clear path to take. But to my surprise, this flying-by-the-seat-of-my-pants thing? Its not comfortable, but its right. Every part of me resonates that this is the way God meant for us to live - not knowing the end, but trusting him with the next step.

Your first dawn blinded you, left you cursing the day.
Entrance is crucial and it's not without pain.
There's no path to follow, once you're here.
You'll climb up the slide and then you'll slide down the stairs.

It's foreign on this side,
But it feels like I'm home again.
There's no place to hide
But I don't think I'm scared.

That's why this song is the inspiration for my blog, because I'm not following the path that I intended, but I love it just the same.



on lent, and sacrifice.

I'm giving up TV for lent.

Actually I'm giving it up for good, just starting with Lent, but more on that in a minute.

I've done this before, for a limited time. It shouldn't be that big a deal, but it is. It's so much a habit that it's taking a lot of intention to follow through, especially now that I'm home (I was out of town all last week).

I realize that to some people this might seem a radical and unnecessary step. But I've been feeling convicted for quite a while about the sheer volume of hours that I spend watching TV shows (mostly online), and, more importantly, the things that I miss out on while I'm glued to my computer - opportunities to connect with people and love on them, work and projects that I want to complete that I think are meaningful, and sleep I'm not getting. Watching TV isn't something that I do well in moderation - so better to cut it out completely.

But the real conviction came when I read this post:

"We are commanded by God in the Scriptures that, when we hear His voice to not harden our hearts.

How do we harden our hearts? Simple…by KNOWING what God’s Word clearly says about something but refusing to obey because doing so might seriously interfere with the lifestyle that we are wanting to pursue...

My question is this…is there anything in your life that God seems to be relentless in coming after?

If so…are you repenting or defending? Because, when you defend what you are doing in the face of a Holy and awesome God who wants nothing but the best for you…then you are actively hardening your heart. AND…one day…you might not even be able to hear His voice anymore if you don’t deal with what He’s dealing with!"



To think that some day I might not be able to hear his voice, because I'm refusing to be obedient in what he's asking of me, even in this small thing...that scares me. And that's why I'm giving up TV.

Just to be clear - I don't necessarily think that everyone who claims to follow Christ should give up TV altogether. Sometimes, obedience looks one way for one person, and different for another.