His journey, not mine.

“Return, O faithless sons, I will heal your faithlessness,”  “Behold, we come to you, for you are the LORD our God.  Jeremiah 3:22

For starters -His faithfulness absolutely blows me away.  You might be thinking Stef- rando verse to pick for your blog- but this makes my heart beat fast.  He is the healer of our faithlessness- and in the midst of talking about the faithlessness is still willing to say sons.  I’m studying Jeremiah with one of my incredible Waco sisters, Stacks, and this is where we’ve been digging (by His grace) and where my heart is really sitting. He is so good, so faithful, so sovereign, and so unchanging.

 

It has been way too long since I have attempted to hop back into blogging life, but I can say whole-heartily that after skimming back through Africa blogs my heart is still in a super similar spot- and I’m ready to jump back into throw heart into typing blog life.  There is way way too much from June until now to throw into one single blog- so we’ll go in steps I guess. This one I think is just like a I’ve really been itching to hop back on the blog train- I’m pretty confident that my fingers cannot type at the rate everything is moving in my heart and life right now so we’re gonna stick with the poetry train.  This summer I got the sweetest opportunity when I came home from kamp to hang out with a kid that is so so incredible.  She rolls by the name of Casey, and I got to coach her when she was just a energetic third-grader playing rec ball in good ole Baxter Springs!  Thankfully Baxter is the kind of town, Mayberry if you will, where everyone knows everyone – therefore, I get the sweetest God given opportunities to do life with girls simply because we grew up in really similar spots getting to watch all of each others lives unfold.  That being said when the Lord opened a crazy door to come home from kamp early, I got to walk into the sweetest friendship with her.  My vocabulary is not big enough, and words are not deep enough to explain to you how the Lord is using this precious girl to absolutely flip my world on its head. Case has a situation with her health that most days I cannot even begin to fathom, and that is more difficult to walk through than I can describe.  Watching this process has been unbelievable and He really does so much more than I can ever imagine in every situation. God is so faithful, and so near to us – that I think a lot of times when our lives are turned up too loud we miss the still whisper of our Savior.  When I hang out with Case- it’s the kind of quiet in my heart that I want all the time- His Word is so clear- my heart gets to beat in tune with His.  On my own I have nothing worth saying, there is nothing I can do to fix anything- it’s all Jesus.  His word goes forth and accomplishes what He sets it forth to, He loves her well, He is Healer, He is Awesome, He is Mighty, Faithful, Sovereign, Just, Near, the Only Worthy One.  John 15 continually beats in my heart with the realization that nothing really is what is possible apart from Him.  Thankful that it will always all be by His grace, and for His glory.  His joy really is full, and He really is more than enough.  These are not just lyrics of songs we rock to on KLOVE or quickly tag to facebook posts- it’s Truth- He breathed it out- and it stands.  All this being said is that my heart is just in a really sweet place once again of just watching God do what only He can, and being blown away by the opportunities that I never would have planned because I would have never seen them with my own eyes.  His vision, His thoughts, His ways- so much higher than mine, so much better.  I’m attaching a poem that I just finished that kind of throws together my heart beat for doing life with Jesus and beside Case in this season.  Again not claiming poetry is anything I can rock well, just a way that the Lord helps me transfer the passion/pains/joys/and road bumps that daily I get to encounter as I journey with Him.  I can tell you that I couldn’t fit in a blog all that He is teaching me through Casey, but I can tell you that I am learning to watch Him move in the smallest of ways everyday, that I am more thankful for everyday’s chai teas/open Bibles/coffee dates/dances in the living room/ talking to my parents on the phone/having friends that really are iron in my life/ sisters that are not blood related but are defined as family/ a hometown that I adore/ the Church truly being the Body/ singing loud in the car/ journaling/ late night hang outs/ passion & dreaming/ waking up early/ snow cones/ heart to hearts/ …the list could go on and on but today as you have chill or crazy saturdays all over the world- man, soak it up, enjoy it- Enjoy Jesus, enjoy each other.  Stop for just a second and know that it was never promised (although entitlement will tell us otherwise) but that He truly is the giver of every good gift, and apart from Him it doesn’t exist.  So today sing a little louder, run a little slower, call someone back, hop on skype, don’t look at your planner as much, dance,  drink an extra cup of coffee, hug someone a little longer, say I love you more than normal, listen to someones response when you ask how they are, tell people why you appreciate them in your life, keep that Bible open, hit your knees in prayer- and listen for His voice, stay still for a second, the Truth is He is much nearer than we realize in our loud lives.  So here is just a little blog and a little poem that prayerfully will encourage you as you journey with Him today- and point you truly to the only One worthy.  Thanks for reading – updates will continually come – today is just more of a heart spill that I never want to clean up.  As Case would say- never, say, never- yep that is Justin Bieber and yes Case has infected me with her crazy love for this kid.  Can’t wait to continue to fill you in. Until the next blog- Grace and Grace from Waco!!  A kid named hero  you can click the link in blue if you want the poem, or just read it hear. Y’all are awesome! much much love!

 

“A Kid Named Hero”

September 2011

For Casey Nicole

 

If I close my eyes tight enough I can still hear the whistle blow

As a group of third graders run over this means more than you’ll ever know

You are only nine but you, child, are so full of life

And eight years later this is why I can’t sacrifice

Remembering

A dreamer as a kid, with the same passion still alive

It’s like the more odds stacked against you the more you re gonna thrive

This couldn’t stop you if it wanted

Simply because of Who lives inside

You

Are

No longer nine, and my memories seem faded

Like a record player spinning cd’s I think the flashbacks are dated

And also attached to many years ago

When I got teach you how to shoot and show you the meaning of x’s & o’s

Oh,

How there are days when I wish we could re-visit there

And instead of shooting baskets, I think we would talk about prayer

And joy and how life isn’t always what we make it

But more like an adventure that the Father paints

And we simply trace it

Breaths flow deeper out of my lungs when the thought draws near

That I saw you dance, walk, and run without any ounce of fear

Of falling, or failing, or running out of strength

And now there is such a different picture that the mirror paints

See

A mirror

Cannot hold the beauty that you reflect

Faith cannot be contained by the images glass projects

And what is projected is the hope of things not seen

A clear understanding of what it actually means

to call Him

Faithful

He is

In the midst of walkers, surgeries, throw-up buckets, and iv’s

As much as beside opened Bibles and prayer-worn knees

Please

Hear me

Say this

This I call to mind, and therefore, I have hope

Torn but not shattered, bruised but not crushed

While weeping remains for the night in the morning

There will be a rush

Of Joy

That lights up what dark tries to cover

In the midst of an illness we have all discovered

That it really is True

Story- Yours- is the one that has illuminated the Scriptures

The one that the Father is using to paint me the most vivid picture

Of how He carries us

And it’s not a past tense phrase because we are still learning to trust

His plan

His sovereignty

His leading of the way

His promise that the life that is to come is far more than tangible today

And I see this

Through the lens He has placed within you

A journey that the faint hearted could never travel through

While we were walking on, He willed that our paths would collide to

I thought I already knew you but He has showed me that I was so wrong

The name that I had given you would not even go along

With who you are

Which is who His hands fashioned you to be

And I may be older, but child I want to see

The way you do

While I walk with a kid named hero

You think you don’t know her but she is much nearer

Than you can dream

Because when you look in the mirror she’ll be exactly who you see

Yes, you, are the one that makes me look up

When down have come the posters that for years have covered my walls

The trophies and the dreams that have covered the halls

Of my heart

Are gone

Far away are the days where it was about the dribblers or the dreamers

Today it’s the kid who is a sweet seventeen

Though

Wise beyond her years, and by her I mean you

The kid on this journey that, by His grace, I will walk next to

As we follow the only  One worthy

Who is writing a beautiful story

Through you as His daughter

As He holds tightly to you as Abba Father

He is

And will always be

Regardless of every circumstance that longs to hinder what we see

Because when I close my eyes tight enough

I can hear the sweetest whisper

My child don’t think for a second I’ve missed her

The kid you call Hero, I call Beloved , I call my own

And remember this journey that are walking

Is simply leading

Home.

 

such were some of you…

And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God. 1 Corinthians 6:11

 

how beautiful is this Truth.  and such WERE some of you! but you were WASHED, SANCTIFIED, JUSTIFIED, in the name of the LORD JESUS CHRIST and by the SPIRIT OF OUR GOD! this makes my heart beat fast today, and will always.  As I type this in a tiny office, outside I can hear kids from all over the inner cities of the United States, playing basketball, running around, and just getting to be kids in the middle of the woods in Missouri. How Good is our God that He will use something as simple as basketball and riding boats to give kids an opportunity to hear the Truth of the Gospel and forever be changed and transformed into new creations.  For the last five weeks I have watched time and time again as God continues to do what only He can. He takes the most broken things, and makes them into some of the most beautiful masterpieces I have ever seen.  We have heard story after story this summer of kids counted out, kids that have been given up on, and those are the same kids we get to see at the foot of the Cross, coming to an understanding of the Truth, having blinded eyes open, and turning to Jesus, Messiah, Savior.  yesterday I got to watch about 20 kids ring the bell (which signifies a new brother or sister has met Jesus)–> 20 kids welcomed into the family, into the Body yesterday.  I think sometimes one of the dangers of ministry is that after our eyes see things a number of times they begin to adjust and so we just watch it like its on replay instead of it being like the very first time when we stand in awe.  This summer that has continually been a cry of my heart–I want, I long for eyes to see what His eyes see in these kids, I want to rejoice as He would when a sinner comes home, when a blind child sees, when a deaf kid hears, and when He does what only He can.  After the last year of getting to simply sit and study His Word, then onto Africa seeing God move in incredible ways in a land with the most beautifully broken and restored people I have ever met, to kamp – seeing God take kids by the hand, and more so by the heart, and completely renew them to the point that they do an absolute u-turn and go back to cities proclaiming the Gospel, and leading their families into Truth as they are led by the Holy Spirit that lives within them.  I wake up every morning understanding this, when my feet hit the floor each morning and I set out for another day of kamp- this is what is true- It’s about Jesus, all of it – from meals to basketball games to nature walks- it’s about Him- and He is faithful to do what He said He would- He is the keeper of us and of covenants- His Spirit will work and will accomplish more than we could ever ask or imagine- He finishes everything He starts (Philippians 1:6), I fully believe that God can and will change the hearts of the kids that walk through these gates, and through them will change families, that will change cities, that will change our country, that can change the world.  He is Able. More than actually. all by His grace, and all for His glory! I could type all day on this; however, it’s 5th period and I get to hang out with a sweet sweet kamper at free time so I gotta be on the hustle.  As for prayer here are some requests that I would so appreciate you grabbing hands and bending knees with us on….Next week is the fourth of July and we will have a lot of kids come through the gate for kamp- please pray for a clear understanding that true and real freedom are found in Christ (john 8:31-32) and that it really is possible in Him. Pray that chains are broken off and kids are set free.  Please continue to pray that we continue to serve unto Him in every single area, and that He is glorified in every aspect of kamp.  I continue to ask that you pray for our awesome staff and that we continue to live at Colossians 3:23, understanding this that is truly by His grace that we get to serve Him & these kids in this capacity, and that we never take for granted the beautiful blessing it is to get to wake up every morning and do life beside these kids (1 Thessalonians 2:8)…..as for the fam & the future. Huge praise is that mom & dad are back safe from their motorcyle adventure.  Thanks for praying with me for them 🙂  Continue to pray that our family continues just to be unified in Christ as I serve in the woods at kamp, and as they do life in good ole’ Baxter Springs!  Also, continued prayers for what’s next would be so greatly appreciated, I have some big decisions to make this week regarding next year –I’m so excited to jump into ministry, and just remaining on my knees as far as what exactly this will look like. Thanks so much for praying. Lastly, please continue praying A place of Hope in Nigeria and the Starling family as they serve Jesus and the people there.  Please pray for the kiddos, continued provision for the ministry and just that the Lord would continue to draw the people of Nigeria to Himself.  Anna Joy- one of my best friends, and truly my sister, who is the Starling’s oldest and their only daughter is heading to Nigeria in just a couple of weeks with one of her lacrosse teammates, as well as, a doctor and a nurse. Please pray for their trip, their safety, and just that their time their is maximized for His glory and just for the people there to be loved straight to Him.  Also just pray that this time together for the Starling family is just sweet and refreshing as they get to just serve together in the same place for a couple of weeks. Thankful for how the Lord is using this family in my life to teach me more about Himself, and just for the continual example that God trumps distance and He continues to grow and develop precious relationships in spite of great distance!! The kids there truly do still have a piece of my heart, and I don’t think I’ll get it back until my feet land again on that soil!  Ok…I wanna keep going but kamp calls and I have a free time session with a precious precious girl!  Thanks so much for being prayer warriors and for never ceasing to take it all to the Father.  Your encouragement and your prayers mean more than I know how to communicate. Know that my heart is truly refreshed through you, and beyond that He is glorified.  Look out for many more blogs to come, I’m back to writing! Will write super soon. In His Sufficient Grace….be encouraged today- He is truly doing more than we could ever ask for- by His power at work WITHIN us…..

paying closer attention…

“therefore we must pay much closer attention to what we have heard, lest we drift away from it.” Hebrews 2:1

whoa. it feels like it has been a really long time since my keys hit the keyboard, and it is both refreshing and exciting to have an opportunity to share with you all what the Lord is doing at kamp right now!  As I am writing it is currently day four which means one thing for us at kamp- Crosstalk!  Tonight every camper, staff person, and kaleo (incredible people that bring the kids to kamp) will see a re-enactment of the crucifixion of  Jesus. After four years of kamp, and twelve years of knowing Christ as my Savior and Lord, this night is fresher than ever.  Since Africa the Lord has just softened my heart in an entirely new way to the incredible grace it is just that we simply get to know Him, get to have a intimate relationship with Him, and the price that He paid to make that possible.  The curtain being torn in two from top to bottom will never again be verses that I can skim read or jump over- Jesus made a way, Jesus is the way! …the kids are so fun this week.  It is a really small group so it’s really awesome to get solid intentional time with a lot of the girl kampers, and know a lot of them by name.  A lot of the kids are new to kamp, and we love that because that means more and more opportunities to share the Gospel, to love them with His love, and remind them continually of their purpose in Him.  So beautiful to me that the Lord takes what is so broken in this world and uses it for His own glory, and by His grace uses what is shattered to draw His own to Himself.  I am often moved to tears as I consider what Jesus sees when He looks at this place, at these kids, and thier hearts.  So many times it is so easy to just see a kid externally and jump so quick to conclusions without pausing for a second and really asking our Savior what He sees, and truly being led by the Spirit into incredible opportunities to extend the love of Jesus….the Lord uses these kids every year to make my heart beat a little faster, and teach me more about Himself…I am so thankful and blown away by His faithfulness and grace in this…As for prayer please please cover us in prayer tonight as we share the true and full Gospel with these kids straight from His Word! Pray for open hearts, and for God to do what only He can in this place.  Pray for true conversion, wide open hearts, and transformed minds, as well as restored and reconciled lives.  We will celebrate tonight as Heaven does!  Continue to lift up our staff that is running so hard unto Jesus- it’s a hot hot summer, and they are going so hard unto Him.  We pray to live Colossians 3:23 in EVERYTHING we do. it’s all by His grace.  Pray that our staff will remain unified together on the frontline- fighting only with the Sword He has given us- His Word- and resting in His Victory!  So thankful that this is all by His Spirit living in us, and truly has nothing to do with us and everything to do with Him! John 15:5.  Please pray that Jesus alone is exatled in this place, and that kids leave here never the same because of what God alone has done.  I truly roll out of bed every morning believing that kids will be forever changed by Jesus, families will be forever changed by Jesus, and with that spread the hearts of the cities in our country will be forever changed by Jesus- NOTHING is too hard for Him.  Thanks for praying with us believing.  Having full faith in the only One worthy.  Also- thanks for continuing to lift up my family- mom & dad are doing awesome, and will be leaving on a three week motorcyle trip to Canada in a few days! Please pray with me that they just have an incredible time enjoying God in His creation, and nature and that they get to see Him in every part of their trip.  They work so hard, and I’m so excited for them to have this sweet time together.  Please also pray for their safety and that they will make it back to good ole Baxter safely at the end of June. So thankful for incredible parents! …Africa still is covering so much of my heart, I will never forget the way their hands felt in mine, the way they smile at the smallest things, and the way Jesus in that place and in all places is greater than every circumstance imaginable.  A sweet sweet friend of the family that I blogged about while I was there, Lucy, has passed away and we rejoice today knowing she is with Jesus, never again to experience the pain and suffering she did on this side of glory.  Please pray with me for her children, and the children of her children as well as the Starlings who continue to be blessed with an incredible ministry with them.  thank you thank you thank you for covering Nigeria in prayer.  Believing that the Lord will continue to transform that place by His grace.  So thankful for the Starling family on the frontline over there.  Lastly please be in prayer for what ‘s next after kamp. Really praying through the process of the next step to take since graduating from the Kanakuk Institute in April.  I’ll be moving to Waco, TX in August, and am still really praying through grad schools/ ministries/ and church opportunities there.  Honestly I just want Jesus to be lifted up, and want to live in a way that honors and glorifies Him.  My heart is captivated, and it is making more and more sense daily of why there is nothing else out there that is worth pursuing whole heartily except Him.  My heart beats so fast to really get to sit and listen to girls, and have opportunities to disciple them and teach them Truth.  I’ve prayed about Biblical counseling for a long time, and this still is a direction I am very excited about going in, just trusting Him with all the logisitics in the mean time. He is faithful. We get to trust in Him. Isaiah 26:3-4.  Thanks so much for praying with me, and for me, I cannot tell you how much it means or the blessing that it truly is.  Please please email/ call/ text / facebook me things I can be praying for you! I want to join hands with you, too! thanks for lifting up what Jesus is doing here at kamp, my sweet family and future, and these precious kids the Lord sends through the gates each week.  I love you dearly- and am so thankful I get to do life with you. By His grace.  & for His glory!  As I sit here in the upstairs office with sweat pouring down, and my sticky Bible, I could not be more thankful for the opportunities He gives us to share in what He is doing here.  Pray that today you are rejoicing in who Jesus is, and walking confidently & humbly in who He says we are.  One of our kampers today told our director that she knows Jesus–> and that they are similar in that they both know what it’s like to be out of place.  Her family was misplaced after hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans, and she said that Jesus understands because He too went where He didn’t belong in coming to earth for us.  Tears hit our eyes as we heard this story–by His grace, by His grace, by His grace!  Eyes are being opened, and kids really will never be the same. I pray today no matter how long it has been since the first time your eyes were opened to Jesus as Savior and Lord you take a minute to just sit and remember His saving grace, His new mercy, the wounds that healed us, the Cross that reconciled us to the Father, the love that is extended to us forever that is unconditional and eternal, and the Spirit that now dwells within us.  He is so so so good.  Thankful for each of you, and you taking the time out to read this heart ramble.  Again, cannot thank you enough for praying & will update later this week, with pictures, poems, prayer requests, and hopefully a video or two! Please let me know how to be praying for you! Hebrews 10:19-25!          In His Grace. Stef

 

ps) watched one of my best friends get married last night, and was so reminded of Jesus and the Church. So thankful today that He is so willing and chooses to call us His Bride!  Rest in Him today! He is greater & He wins. you are loved.

dancing with disease

yo from America. yes, i’m officially a blogger- it’s a habit I want to continue.  As I type this morning here are the words that are dancing across my heart — “He allowed me to see, when I danced with HIV, and held hands with Aids, prayed beside typhoid, and watched malaria get saved.” ….this is a line from the poem “African Heartbeat” that I’ve been writing since being back from Nigeria.  The poem will pop up on here so soon, as it is almost finished, but for now that is the line that keeps it going.  There is way too much emotion for my small vocabulary to hold when it comes to describing what its like being back in the states for the last week.  Nothing looks the same to me.  Everything is drastically different than the way I left it, not because it has changed, but because the Lord is changing what I see in it. When I take a drink of water without having to think about where it came from, when I leave a cut open without worrying what it will be exposed to, when I hop in my car and run an errand, when I hear “i love you”  from the incredible people that the Lord has placed in my life–none of these things will ever be the same for me. I pray. I do not wish to go back to to the day where those are simply everyday things that I feel entitled to simply because I was born on American soil…the Lord is the giver of every good gift…I don’t deserve a single thing…it is all by His grace…and He is the One worthy of praise….I can still feel Ugo’s little hand in mine, I can still hear the kids laughing as I attempt Nigerian dance moves, I can taste Nutri-C on a really hot day, and I can feel the heat of being packed in a van with about triple its size limit.  I pray I never forget.  Yesterday I was so sure that part of my pancake was shaped like Africa, and I knew it would just be a day where I really was missing the kiddos.  As it was.  In Church we sang through Mighty to Save and I couldn’t help but get really choked up when we sang “shine Your light and let the whole world see.”  Thankful that He truly is God of the nations, and that He is at work all over the globe- not limited by time, space, or distance…I am officially two days from kamp! ahhhhhh- and will be blogging all summer to keep my prayer team updated and just because it’s one thing that really makes my heart beat fast- to write as I feel- to watch through words as the Lord continues to teach me more about Himself and His people.  I’m so thankful beyond words for your constant encouragement and prayers.  they are blessings far beyond measure, and I praise Jesus for every one of them.  thanks for reading, please continue to as I head to do life in the woods of Golden, Mo with the most precious kids on the planet that dwell in the inner cities all over our country.  Will post a poem and some pics soon.  Today when you take a cold drink of water, dig deeply into the Bible, hug tightly someone you adore, walk to a cabinet full of food, feel the clothes on your back, and have sweet time with Jesus–take just a second to remember the blessing that it is, and take a minute to pray for those all over this globe that are in desperate need today.  He hears us. it’s Truth.  Psalm 65:2 starts with “O you who hear prayer….” beautiful..so thankful that He hears us….will write soon……in His grace from the good ole sunflower state.

yo from Londo!

yeah, it’s London, but Londo rhymed with yo so I thought we’d go with it!  Currently sitting in the London airport- it’s early in the morning, it’s gorgeous, and there is tea and pastry all around me 🙂  It feels really really weird to be back around this type of culture- Africa has forever left it s mark on me, I think my heart could potentially have a different beat.  If I close my eyes for more than two seconds pictures of the kids dance through my mind, and there is the sweetest ache in the middle of my chest.  I’ll never get over them, I’ll never stop being in awe of what the Lord did and is doing in that place.  It scared me today as I transitioned back into culture that is easier for me, more “normal,” for me.  There are a gillion shops in the London airport, and one that happens to be packed with headbands!  Yep, if you know me- i can’t get enough of the things for some reason. So simple.  However, as I walked into the store I was overwhelmed with the desire to want/want/want.  One thing the Lord really dealt with me on in Africa was just really showing me the heart of the temptations that I often face on a daily basis – the ones I am sometimes not even willing to look at.  One of the coolest parts of being in Africa was that I didn’t long for “stuff” the way I do in America.  I didn’t really think about money, about spending, about TOMS/headbands/cute summer stuff/ Nikes for kamp–none of that really crossed my mind- and yeah you could go with the well Stef why would you be really wanting when there wasn’t any of that there to want- however, it was also a simple change in eye sight.  When Jesus is our absolute focal point, when we wake up and lay down and breathe all day knowing that we are in  desperate of Jesus- that He is my want, my portion, my hope, my joy, peace, my everything.  Africa daily so overwhelmed me that I knew there was no point of letting my feet hit the floor if I was not going to fully rely on Him.  As I head back to America, as in will be there in like eh 12 hours will be in Dallas!- I pray my heart and my mind stay in this place of ok Jesus- all you- all day- all night- all you.  And yes- it’s always this way- however, I love those really sweet opportunities that the Lord gives us every single day to press into Him, to trust Him, to lay it all at His feet, and just whisper have your way Lord- to pray Your will be done.  He’s so so so faithful! It’s evident at home in good ole’ Kansas, it was so evident this year in Branson, these past few weeks in Africa, in London now – with this international spot flooded with His people, and it will be so evident in sweet Dallas.  It’s evident everywhere. He is made known.  gonna run for now- just wanted to blog a bit and throw out some pics!  So many more to come- 433 to be exact!  Will continue to update from the states, and poetry will be flyin out soon. y’all are awesome. thanks so much for reading.  please keep praying over the Starlings, A place of hope, and Nigeria as a whole.  Those kiddos are so faithful to be in prayer every night for those praying for and supporting them- hope we can be the same for them.  He is good & so faithful.  Will keep the bloggin up from Texas! better put my african soil covered shoes up, and get out the boots.. yeee haw y’all. In His Grace!

Continually..

This will truly be one of many many blogs that will come in these next few weeks, and I’m sure far beyond that.  I haven’t been able to blog for the last couple days and there is way too much goodness and heartbreak to pack into this one.  The rest of my blogs I will be writing from America!  I am sitting in Lagos now, and will hop on a flight to London tonight, and Dallas tomorrow- meaning tomorrow afternoon my feet will officially hit American soil. Can I just tell you God is so so good.  My eyes fill with tears, and my heart has the sweetest ache already as I reflect on what the Lord has been showing me about Himself and His people in the last 17 days…I’ll start with just a quick run down of the last couple days- man they were sweet.  Friday we went to the river and just spent the afternoon swimming.  We rode there in the A place of Hope van which I think is like a 12 person van- yes, we rode there with 36 people in in- an hour both ways- 10 of those people being adults.  It was so fun, and so different than everything I am used to.  The kids were piled in but we had an absolute blast.  The kids love learning how to swim, and were just so joyful as we tossed them around in the water.  I heard more laughs that day than probs in my life- pray that that sound is somehow forever with me.  sweet sweet sounds.  After our river adventure we headed back to A place of Hope, and just spent the rest of the day together- eating cinnamon rolls, coloring pictures, reading books. just a really simple beautiful day in the bush…Yesterday was a really sweet day of just soaking up everything the Lord has been showing me in the bush, and through those precious people.  We went to the market so that I would be able to bring a few Nigerian goodies back – well all that would fit in my mega packed bag anyway.  yes, those of you that know me well know that I am the absolute queen of overpacking! For real, I could set records!  After a typical trip to the market (which I love) we headed to take a good friend of the Starling family home.  We were traveling like normal on one of the side roads of the village and then we turned down an even smaller road to get to where His home was- and in this moment every tough wall my heart had built in the last two weeks shattered.  As we turned we spotted a little boy, couldn’t have been older than 10, wearing only a little t-shirt.  He was albino, and had open sores all over his skin.  He as completely alone and was just wondering around picking up rocks, attempting to eat them, and then throwing them.  Because there is no mental health system in place in Nigeria people like this precious little boy are often labeled “mad people” and just left as animals to roam the streets and fend for themselves.  The image of this little boy is forever burned into my memory, forever on my heart.  I was at first just really thrown off, I wanted to get out, get him, take him back , clean him up, and just tell him over and over and over that the Lord made him and He was loved.  The entirety of me aches not knowing if that little boy has ever heard in his life “I love you”  As we pulled away my lip was probably pierced as my teeth pushed through the pressure the tears that I was fighting.  I know the Lord sees that little boy, and that is where I will rest.  I long to be faithful to pray for him daily, and just trust that the Lord truly does have him.  Bev set such as solid example for me as we talked through it last night and yesterday- just in that we’re gonna continue to be faithful exactly where the Lord has – whether Nigeria or America- with every little thing He entrusts to us- relationships and all- faithful- and we will continue to pray for that little boy and know that God truly is Sovereign and in control.  I pray that little boy knows hands of love one day, that someone will rock Him, hold him, and whisper His worth to Him, even if he doesn’t understand- that he will hear over and over and over again You are loved, You were created by the Most High God, and you are a blessing.  As I type this tears pour out of my eyes, and I can no longer hold in the heartache I feel in Africa.  I know we see this place on commericals, on our televisions, and all over Christian t-shirts, but for real this place is hurting, and we have got to continue on with His call.  The Gospel has got to forth, in ALL nations, and we have got to love with His love, following in His footsteps.  Seeking His glory, not that of men….I kept telling Bev I wanted a  name to pray for Him by a name and today as I sat at the Enugu airport the Lord sweetly led me back to one of my favorite passages- Isaiah 61- as His word poured out- Beautiful headress instead of ashes- my heart went straight back to that little boy in the bush- so everyday from here on out- from now until I am old and gray- I will pray for Isaiah- and if the Lord ever allows (which I pray He does many more times) me to set foot on that beautiful Nigerian soil, I will ask to go back to that spot, and this time hold the hand of the little boy that today may seem forgotten although he.  If he woke up this morning, outside and alone, and is now wondering around in the same spot in which we saw him. Alone-eating rock- one thing remains- we serve the God who sees- and that little boy, the one I’ll call Isaiah- he is not forgotten, and he is seen, by the One of made the universe, who made us His own. By HIM, most High, this little boy is seen. I rejoice in that and I weep at the goodness and the grace of our God and Savior, who leads us by His Spirit to see both the broken and the beautiful- and the combination of the two.  There is so much more to write about- from making tortillas, to saying see you soon to the kiddos ( talk about some heart ache), to leaving Bev at the airport today (whoa buddy) – there is just a ton more to write about, and I cannot wait to continue blogging as I return to the states.  Thank you so much for reading, for praying, and for the massive encouragement.  Know that is such a blessing- for real- oh my word- i am overwhelmed by the amount of support.  Praise Jesus, and thanks so much for your faithfulness to Him, and for extending His love to me.  Please continue reading, and above that continue praying. In the days to come I’ll be posting tons of pictures 🙂 (get excited- the kids are stinkin’ adorable) and poetry that is really just an out pour of all the Lord is teaching me through Nigeria.  So encouraged by Psalm 71 today- “Be to me a rock of refuge, to which I may CONTINUALLY come; You have given the command to save me, for you are my rock and my fortress,” (71:3) …so good. His Word, truly His, this trip has been such a constant reminder that we are to breathe it….dig dig dig today!…gonna go and maybe help cut some fried okra- as I wait with good friends of the Starlings in a flat in downtown Lagos- and then will head back to the airport in a few hours! Yay London, and sweet apple bottom jeans yay Dallas!! Cannot wait to tackle Abbs as she picks me up at the airport, and just sit down and listen to hear Africa stories, and share the ones the Lord has given me.  As I fly back I am so excited to see my family and my incredible friends, my amazing parents, and the girls that are truly sisters to me- and at the same time my heart aches everytime I picture Ugo smiling up at me with his ornery smile, or the kids yelling my name as I snap their pictures.  These memories will forever be so sweet to me.  and I cannot wait to return to that soil, hopefully with Anna Joy, to really dig deep round 2 in Nigeria!  So so thankful. Rejoice in who He is today, He is so worthy !  Will blog more from my London layover and then continually from the states!  Grace, Grace, and Grace from Africa!

like a machine!

this blog will be a really fast one and then I will write much more later tonight. It’s the middle of the day here- 4:30 ish and just hopped off the back of a “machine” aka motorcycle after traveling to the local market with ThankGod (one of the guys who works at a place of Hope and is part of the Starling fam)  I hadn’t been to this local market yet so they asked if I wanted to tag along.  I’m in African adventure mode so of course I said I’d love to, hopped on the back of the bike and we went.  Now here is the thing riding a motorcycle in the bush is a little different then riding in America.  My parents have been motorcycle lovers forever and so I have grown up knowing all the ins and outs of what should happen on a bike.  Lets just say dad would have a cow if he saw the way people ride here.  There are not traffic lanes so you weave in and out the whole time, the roads aren’t paved often so you are also dodging potholes, and the only defensive driving technique you have is the horn.  The whole time I ride these things part of me is thinking “ahhhhhhh” and the other part of me is loving every second.  All the guys are awesome drivers, it just isn’t anything I am used to. As we sped through traffic today and I was just talking with the Lord, it hit me in the heart that this is so much of the time what my life feels like.  I have the option of really clinging to Jesus and trusting His lead, or just not getting on the bike all together because I fear everything that could go wrong, and am not willing to lay down what I think is my opportunity to drive.  I dug in Psalm 57 this morning and I absolutely cling to 57:2- we truly do get to call out to God Most High- and He will fulfill HIS purpose for us.  Not sure what you are up to today- but I do know that this is Truth, whether you are in the bush, at work, with your family, or on vacation. NO matter what we serve a God who will fulfill HIS purpose for us.  SO comforted and excited about that.  This was just a huge encouragement to my heart- pray it is one  to yours, too! I will write more later.  Only a couple more days in the bush- so soaking up every second. Your prayers are heard, and I am continually encouraged by all the support! Thanks so much for extending His love!  Bush bloggin be back up tonight!  In His grace- from de bush! Ride that Machine today- He is the only worthy driver- and He will fulfill His purpose!