This One is for You, Janet…

I am back in America now and enjoying this fall weather, which I talked about missing constantly while in South Africa. So I wrote a poem for my friend Janet, who inspired me during my time in South Africa and who also encouraged me to continue on in my blogging! ;o)

SO here goes…

I love fall

Because it is the greatest season of them all

I get to wear my boots around

And see the leaves fall to the ground

I get to wear my warmer clothes

And if I am really lucky, it even snows

I get to go to the pumpkin patch

And go outside to play some catch

I get to watch my football team play

And hope they win without delay

I get to enjoy Thanksgiving time

And eat LOTS of food, which is sublime

Yup, fall is just the best…

And makes me feel super blessed!

One of Those Moments…

So I am not going to lie, there are days where I question everything. I wonder what I am doing as a counselor, what am I doing in South Africa, and what am I doing for God. There are days when I wake up and want to go back to bed. I don’t want to counsel hurting kids because there are times when I feel too broken myself. I have to make myself get up and get moving. There are times when the emotions I have tried to bury deep down rise up too high, almost causing me to give way to the sadness, the helplessness that I feel being a human living in a broken world, thousands of miles from my home, where I feel safest-the place where I can curl up on a couch with my mom next to me and watch endless tv shows-shutting out the hurting world around me.

But then there are the days that I sit at the Bethany House surrounded by the most beautiful, wonderful, and loving children. There are the times when I can’t help but smile and thank God that I am able to be here and love these children, that I am able to see my relationships with them flourish. I love to see their smiles and see them from far away running to me for a big hug. I love when I get to just take life in, sitting next to the kids, usually with one or two fighting for my lap.

Today I had one of those moments as I counseled in one of my schools. I am usually completely worn down at the end of Tuesdays because I have a full day of counseling. But today was different, although I am super tired, I am also thankful. I was counseling one of my favorite kids (yeah I know I am not supposed to have favorites). We were working on an activity and I opened my notebook filled with my notes and the work of the kids I see. I opened to the page that I had written and decorated this scripture:

“The Spirit of the LORD will rest on him- the Spirit of wisdom and of understanding, the Spirit of counsel and of power, the Spirit of knowledge and of fear of the LORD- and he will delight in the fear of the LORD.”  Isaiah 11:2-3

This is my counseling scripture, one that my mom gave me during one of my struggling and down days. I try to pray through it before I counsel. The “delight in the fear of the LORD” part of the scripture stuck out to me as I glanced at the page. I felt this delight come over me; this joy and peace I can’t really explain. All the sudden while I was sitting there counseling this child, I felt like I was exactly where I was supposed to be. I felt like God was using me at that very moment. That God had called me to South Africa for moments like this. I have been struggling with this lie that God can’t use me, and it was amazing to experience this truth. Now I know I want to live for more moments like that, for moments where I know I am exactly where God wants me to be and that he is using me!

Never-Never Land

I have been in South Africa for over seven months now! With the half way mark past comes the inevitable question, “what are you going to do when your year here is over?” It feels like the question has come upon me too fast. I am getting comfortable here, getting to enjoy the great relationships God has blessed me with. Now comes the hard part, thinking about actually leaving a place that has become a home to me!

I spent the past week sick…which has been somewhat of an ordeal! I had to go to a couple different doctors and switch up antibiotics, just feeling a mess. The cool part was the number of people wanting to help me, wanting to take me to the doctor or the chemist. The people who wanted to get me food, or anything I needed. I realized just how blessed I am with the amazing and compassionate people God has placed in my life. I was talking to a co-worker about this, how although I was feeling horrible, it was good to know I had people here I could depend on. She responded by telling me she has been thinking about how I am no longer a foreigner here, but that I belong. It hit me that she sees what I have been feeling lately, that I am at home here.

I feel so blessed that God would create a home for me in South Africa. Although I do miss so many things about my home in the states and the people there, I am glad to feel so comfortable here. Instead of counting down the days to get back to the States, I am finding myself dragging my feet a little bit, wondering how I can leave this all behind. How can I leave behind the people here who have made me feel at home and the kids I have grown to love!!?

Due to being sick most of last week I didn’t get a chance to see the kids as much as I usually do. A couple of days went by without me seeing them at all. When I did see them again, they were excited because most of them thought I left to go back to America. Because I had not been around much, they assumed I left. A part of me was so saddened by this. To think they would assume I would just leave without saying goodbye, knowing this has happened to them before. The kids then asked me when I was leaving for America. I told them it would be sometime in June or July. They told me they didn’t want me to leave this year, so I asked when they thought it would be okay for me to leave. One of them responded “never,” that he wanted us to go to “never, never land, like Peter Pan.” This touched my heart, there is a part of me that wants to have this time stand still, to not have to worry about the future or leaving this home and the children, but just enjoy right now. So that is what I am going to try to start doing…live to enjoy today, live mission by mission, day by day, and love the people God has placed in my life here and now to the best of my ability!!

Sacrifice

There is something about Jesus’ death on the cross that has filled me with emotion lately. I read through the last chapters in Luke the other day and was surprised by the tears swelling to my eyes when I read of Jesus’ sacrifice. I was overcome by his willingness to give up everything and endure such pain…because of the joy he knew would be his afterwards …Let us fix out eyes on Jesus, the author and perfector of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart….Hebrews 12:2-3

He was willing to die to save me, to save us all. I can’t even imagine the thoughts running through his head. He even asked God to take away this cup of suffering from him, but then said willingly that he would complete his task if that was what God wanted. He sought to please God above all else, no matter what the pain (Luke 22:42-43). Now Jesus dying on the cross is not a new concept to me, it is one that I have learned and read about for years…but somehow lately I am overwhelmed by it. I again read a verse about Jesus’ death and found myself holding back tears…You are worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals, because you were slain, and with your blood you purchased men for God from every tribe and language and people and nation…Revelation 5:9-10. He is worthy because he was slain!

I keep pondering this, why has Jesus’ sacrifice had such an effect on me lately? Not to say that I shouldn’t always be awestruck by Christ’s death…but is there something that is making this came alive more so now than before? I think it is Christ’s willingness to suffer. He knew long before his death that he would suffer and die. He chose to continue…to love, to heal, and to live each moment to the fullest knowing his time would come. Here I am in South Africa, sometimes feeling the pain of being so far from home…missing my family and my friends. I sometimes let myself be overcome with fear…fear of bugs or of people. I fear suffering and so I find myself awestruck at Christ’s willingness to endure suffering SO that I would NOT grow weary and lose heart. I can’t help but feel emotional knowing how hard being away from home can be and yet knowing Christ gave up SO SO SO much more than that WILLINGLY…for me. WOW.

Oh America…

So I have been in South Africa for a little over three months now. Sometimes it feels like the time is just flying by…other times it feels like FOREVER since I have been home. There are a lot of things about home I miss that I expected and others that I didn’t. I realize being here that fall in America is my favorite season and time of the year. There is college football and of course, baseball playoffs. I miss being able watch my favorite teams play! I miss the smell of fall, the leaves changing colors, and the cooler temperatures. I miss carving pumpkins and handing out candy to trick or treaters. I miss getting ready for Thanksgiving and spending that time with my family, cooking for them (yes I do cook sometimes). I miss the cold…strange as that may seem. I miss being able to drive around and the freedom to go places whenever I want. I miss Mexican food! I miss my family, my friends, and my stinker cat Sammy. I miss being able to call them randomly to tell them anything and everything (minus Sammy because he isn’t old enough to have a cell phone yet). I miss getting to watch all my favorite shows. I miss Starbucks and Panera…being able to go there, get something to drink and spending time with God.

I realized that a part of me is shutting off my emotions and my feelings so that I don’t miss all these things. I don’t want to think about what I miss because I don’t want to have to feel the sad feelings that arise. BUT I am starting to understand how much I am missing out when I shut down my heart. The other day I found a card my mom had given me right before getting on the plane to come here. I read it and cried, letting myself just feel. It wasn’t that the card was sad, in fact it was very encouraging, it was just all these emotions started flooding back. I just sat and let myself experience them. Then I turned to my bible and spent some time with God. I experienced God more in that hour than I had in a long time. I opened my heart to feeling and thus to God working. What a lesson for me, if I am shutting down my heart from experiencing pain, I am also shutting my heart down from experiencing God and his joy and comfort. I am able to find new things I love, like caramel dipped soft serve ice cream! I am able to build new relationships with amazing people. I am able to learn a new culture and some of the language. I am able to love kids who are in need of affection. I am able to open my heart to God working and moving in my life…leading me on mission with him. So yeah although the missing sometimes hurts, its all worth it if God is the one comforting me, lifting me up, and using me for his great plans.

There Has To Be More

There are so many thoughts racing through my mind and so many things I experience it is hard to even know where to begin. God has been growing my heart in big ways throughout my time here. I can’t put into the words the way He has been working in me. God has been filling me with a passion for orphans for years now. I entered graduate school for counseling knowing God could use these skills to reach orphans. Now I am discovering I have a desire to do so much more than counsel. I know that counseling is very important and can make a difference in the lives of people, but I am struggling with the limitations I feel as a counselor. I get to see a child once a week for about an hour. I can talk with them through their feelings and what they can do to cope with these feelings. I can create a place for the children to feel safe and comfortable, to feel like someone is listening and cares for them, but after the session is over I am sending them right back into the place that is causing their problems. Some children are orphaned and others have parents but are still faced with poverty, some are sexually abused in their unsafe neighborhoods. I can counsel them, but I am finding this deep desire to do so much more than counsel. I want to help provide for their basic needs. To provide food for them, so they don’t have to worry about where their next meal is going to come from. I want to provide a safe place for them to go everyday after school, a place they can learn, have fun, and be a kid. I want to provide not only for their emotional needs, but their physical and spiritual ones as well.

I spent this week at a conference about walking with wounded children. I spent the week refreshed in basic counseling skills, as well as learning some new ones. At the end of the week we spent a weekend at a campsite with vulnerable children from a local shack settlement. Each of the individuals at the conference were appointed two children that would be their children for the week. I had two boys assigned to me. I was reminded of how often I take things for granted. These children were so excited to bathe, that is all they talked about. They ate so much of the food, I have no idea where they fit it all in. I counseled them, played with them, walked with them, served them food, tucked them in at night, and even told them a bedtime story. I was able to get a glimpse of providing for children beyond counseling. Both of my boys’ life stories greatly impacted me. The last day they kept telling me they didn’t want to leave, they didn’t want to go home. We had provided a safe place for them, fed them, and took care of them and now they didn’t want to leave. I felt hopeless once again. I had been able to provide for them for a weekend, but then had to send them back into their hard living situation.

Although I often feel hopeless, I know in God there is hope. After hearing the children’s story this weekend, I also saw them praising God, singing loudly to him with their eyes closed. These children may have horrible living situations, but somehow they have still believed in God, and are experiencing his love. I want to be someone who God can use to bring his love, his hope, and his peace. I want to believe God to do mighty things to help these children, and my hope is he will use me in his process.

Overcoming Evil

God has been teaching me lots of things through my time here. He has shown me his faithfulness and provision (as I have shared in previous blogs). He has continued to bless me with friendships and support here, as well as from home. I have been encouraged to hear that God has used my obedience here to give family and friends at home an opportunity to share how God is working. I can’t tell you the joy I feel knowing God can use my experience to strengthen others.

People here often ask me if I miss home, if I miss my mom and my family and friends. I always kind of laugh it off. Of course I miss home and my support system there, but I have not been overcome by these feelings. I can feel their support all the way across the oceans and countries. I can feel their love and most importantly I can feel God’s love and his call on my life. I have seen God open doors here for me and I am now praying God would further clarify what his purpose is for me during my time here.

Although I have experienced encouragement, support, and love, I have also experienced some heartache. It can be hard to hear the stories of the people I am working with, the stories of physical and sexual abuse, rape, robbery, abandonment, death, hunger, and poverty. Yesterday I let myself become overwhelmed by the evil in this world. Reading the news I couldn’t help but notice the evil that seems to be invading countries all over the world. To read about mass rapes, torture, floods, and murder. Then to experience it here…to hear true life stories of the people around me…to see it with my own eyes. I could feel a sense of hopelessness and fear take over. I not only felt sorrow for the victims I have read about and seen, but fear that this evil could tangibly impact me as well.

I came home and wanted to flood my mind with God’s word–his truth. There is so much evil in this world…but yet God has overcome this evil. He is greater! These are the scriptures I want to claim and cling to:

You, dear children, are from God and have overcome them, because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world.

1 John 4:4

Who is it that overcomes the world? Only he who believes Jesus is the Son of God.

1 John 5:5

But the Lord is faithful, and he will strengthen and protect you from the evil one.

2 Thessalonians 3:3

For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand.

Ephesians 6:12-12

But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, my dear brothers, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.

1 Corinthians 15:57-58

Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

Romans 12:21

I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.

John 16:33

No in all things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.

Romans 8:37

I am praying that God can use me to make a dent in the darkness around me… use me to bring his healing and restoration. I need to give myself fully to His work and let nothing move me…for I have victory over evil through Christ!

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