October 30, 2014

Finding Your "Africa"

Disclaimer: This is not a geography lesson. (Although we know that most of us could probably use a few more of those.)

Oh, Africa.

What is it about that place? What is it that draws you in, rips your heart to shreds, and still makes you want to go back for more?

(My version of "Art Therapy" to cope with returning to the U.S.)

Is it the beautiful people filled with holy joy (much deeper than most) amidst the terrible suffering that encourages you? Is it the sights of babies with swollen bellies sitting on mounds of trash that convicts you? Is it the lions, and hippos, and giraffes (Oh my!) that delight you?

While we lived in Guatemala for three years, I consider Africa my “first.” My first exposure to extreme poverty. My first wake-up call that the life I was living was not “normal” to most of the world. My first step into reality of what much of the world is like. My first experience of seeing the world through God’s eyes. My first realization that our lives are meant for SO. MUCH. MORE. than white picket fences.


I had the pleasure of meeting Africa, specifically Uganda, the summer after my junior year in college. I traveled with two dear friends, and spent three weeks in the Amani Baby Cottage, an orphanage located in Jinja, Uganda. (And met a few more dear friends over there.)

And as mentioned above, the trip ripped my heart to shreds. The land, the trash, the people, the suffering, the joy, the heartache. (The TERRIFYING traffic.) It captured my heart. I knew I would never be the same.

And sometimes, I wonder, where is that girl? That girl that went to Africa? That girl whose heart was so on fire? That girl who cried through a wedding the weekend she got back from her trip? (Not because the bride was so beautiful, but because of the amount of money spent on party favors and alcohol.) Where is that girl who sobbed to her boyfriend because of how messed up the world is? Who swore she would give away all of her possessions to the poor?  Who went through weeks of her own personal art therapy and tried to sell it so she could help support a family moving to Africa as fulltime missionaries? Where is that girl whose boyfriend knew he wanted to marry her when he finally saw this side of her heart? (Even with all the sobbing.)

“Vocation is where our greatest passion meets the world’s greatest need.” – Frederick Buechner

While my body might not be in Africa (or Guatemala) anymore, that doesn’t mean I can’t still find my “Africa.” That doesn’t mean my work is done. That doesn’t mean I can’t dream God-sized dreams. That doesn’t mean I can’t try to find where my “greatest passion meets the world’s greatest need.”


My trip to Africa, which was a very short three weeks, changed me. (Okay, maybe “changed” is a strong word.) But it definitely woke me up. It started a fire, a fire that was kindled and maintained through three years of living in Guatemala. A fire I hope to maintain in our new United States lives.

We all have passions. We all have desires. We all (as individuals, as families, as churches) have gifts that can be contributed to  Christ’s Kingdom.

What is your passion? What is your “Africa?” What breaks your heart in this world? What gets your blood pumping and on fire in action for Christ? What takes part in the commandment called "Love God, Love your Neighbor?"

Pray for Wisdom. And do it.


And don’t get discouraged. (Or at least, choose to have faith through discouragement.) Don’t let the Devil steal those God-sized dreams, saying “you’re just ___” (a mom, a kid, a college student) or “you’re not enough.” Don't think that your dream is too small to make any impact, or too big for God to handle. Don't think that God can't use your gifts (humble or glamorous) to do great things, and stretch you outside of your talent comfort zone to show His power.

Because He who is in you is capable of accomplishing GREAT things.

How do you “dream big” for Christ? Both as an individual and as a family?

Last night, Collin and I asked each other the question, “If there is one thing that you would love to do as a family, in selfless love, and for Christ’s kingdom, what would it be?” What an exciting time of dreaming, hoping, planning! (And in case you're worried, no, I don't think it includes moving to Africa.)

What is your “Africa?” As Kristen Welch puts it in her book Rhinestone Jesus, what is your "one thing?" 

(It might be a job you want to pursue, but don’t get “job” mixed up with “calling.” Sometimes they overlap. Sometimes they don’t.)

What is your “Africa?” Your “Guatemala?” Your “Calcutta?”

“You can find Calcutta anywhere in the world. You only need two eyes to see. Everywhere in the world there are people that are not loved, people that are not wanted nor desired, people that no one will help, people that are pushed away or forgotten. And this is the greatest poverty.” – Mother Theresa

(The few more dear friends we made.)

Is it adoption? Is it sponsoring kids in poverty? Is it encouraging women to choose life over abortion? Is it buying or selling free-trade goods to support sustainability in poor countries? Is it planning gatherings that encourage women in their roles as Wife, Worker, and Mommy? Is it selling crafts for a good cause? Is it taking the opportunity to share your true joy in Christ with the women whose hair you cut every few months? Is it teaching overseas? Is it literally moving to Africa? (Warning: you might actually get your heart ripped out in the process...but you might also find your greatest joy in the pain.)

You were given your passions and gifts for a reason. "You were placed in your specific corner of the world for a reason, with your specific experiences and perspective for a reason." - Aubrie Benting

If you haven’t found it yet, I pray that you will ask yourself these questions in a quest to live intentionally. Talk about it with those kinds of friends (and family) who know you and “get you.” Dream about it with your husband. Share it with your church.

If you have already found your “Africa,” don’t weary in doing good! The Devil is tricky, and is great at messing with your mind. The narrow road is hard, and it will probably require patience, suffering, and discouragement.

But as Scripture reminds us, life is found in death. True joy is found in trials. God draws near to us as we draw near to Him.

Carry on, Friends of Faith! Find your “Africa!”

Grace and Peace,
Kendra



P.S. Are you wondering, where is this coming from?! I highly recommend reading the book Rhinestone Jesus, by Kristen Welch. If any of this message is convicting or appealing to you, this book will go much more in depth and give much more guidance about finding your “Africa,” finding your “one thing.” Do it. Right now. Look it up on Amazon. Or if you have a Nook, become my “Nook Friend” and borrow it from me. :)

October 12, 2014

I Thought I Was Proud of You

My Dearest Child,

I thought I was proud of you. 

Because since you turned one a few months ago, you have become unstoppable.

You are walking, starting to run, and even trying your best to jump. (You haven’t quite left the ground yet, but the motions are there.)

You brush your teeth at least six times per day. (I’m pretty sure it’s because you think your strawberry-flavored toothpaste is a snack.)


You take random paper towels and scrub the kitchen floor, the carpet, the rug, and the wall. (You are indeed a tidy girl after Mommy’s own heart.)



You sit on Grandpa’s lap and let him teach you all the tricks of the trade to playing cards with the Broekhuis family. (Believe me, it will take a lifetime of training to fully understand.)


You talk on the phone with Grandma and tell her all about your day. (Your stories are magical, even if we can’t understand a word you are saying.)


You sit and look at books on your own, and you bring books to Mommy and Daddy and ask us to read them to you. (The adorable way you bat your big brown eyes and say “pease” is hard to say “no” to.)

All of these “firsts.” All of these “firsts” developing into your everyday “normal.” All of the things you are learning. All of the things you are doing.

And I thought I was proud of you.

I thought I was proud of you until I saw you fold your hands for the first time when Daddy said, “It’s time to pray,” at the supper table.

You smiled and put your hands together. You folded your hands to pray.


It didn’t last long, as the bites of pizza on your plate were too tempting to wait until after prayer to eat.

But as your Mommy, your Mommy who prays each day that your heart will be the Lord’s, I couldn’t help but let my joy overflow.

As your parents, we are excited to watch you grow, to watch you learn, to watch you watch the world and interact with it.

But we want you to know that more than anything, we pray that you will love Jesus with all of your heart.

That you will follow Him wherever He leads. That you will listen to His voice and believe in His truth. It’s all that matters.

It matters more than any accomplishment you achieve. More than any point you score. More than any test score you bring home. More than any friends you make. More than any travels you venture on. More than any college you attend. More than any job you work at. More than any amount of money you make.

This matters more. He matters more.

 

And I realize that you are in the monkey-see-monkey-do stage. The tooth brushing, the cleaning, the phone talking, is just you copying Daddy and me. 

But this is something we pray you will not only copy and mimic as you grow older. We pray that someday you will embrace Christ for yourself. That you will not only confess Jesus as your Savior, but you will also offer up your entire life to Him as your Lord.

I thought I was proud of you. And now, my heart bursts with pride.

 

So, I cherish this small milestone. And I continue to pray.

I pray that as you grow you will find your wholeness in Him. That you will find your joy in Him. That you will love and study His Word. That you will follow His commands. That you will pray for His will to be done in your life and in the lives of those around you.



We love you more than life itself. And He loved you enough to give up His life for you.

I am so proud of you,
Mommy 

October 1, 2014

Dear Blank, Please Blank: Mom Edition

Have you ever heard of the website “Dear Blank, Please Blank?” Example:

Dear Noah,

We could have sworn you said the ark wasn’t leaving until 5.

Sincerely,
Unicorns


If you are not amused, stop reading now. Because here is my version. Times twenty.

I dedicate these to all who appreciate a little sarcasm throughout their day. Because we are kindred spirits probably. So, here it goes... 


Dear Daughter Talking on Her TV Remote Phone,


Expect nothing more before high school.

Sincerely,
The MEANEST Mom in THE WORLD and her friend, Sorry Not Sorry



Dear Grapes,

Go cut yourselves in half for once.

Sincerely,
So Over It



Dear Every Stranger Who Calls Our Daughter A Boy,

She is wearing earrings and a pink dress.

Sincerely,
Seriously?


 


Dear “Peg + Cat,”

Maybe with all of the problems in your life that you think need “solving,” you should just admit that it’s time for therapy.

Sincerely,
The Problem is NOT Solved


 


Dear Tinfoil-with-Paper-Inside Muffin Cups,

Do I use just the tinfoil and throw the paper one away? Or do I use both together?! Or do I use both but separately?!!!

Sincerely,
Not Betty Crocker




Dear Child in My Arms Sneaking Finger-licks of Batter While I’m Scooping the Other Way,

I thought we were having “a moment.”

Sincerely,
You’re Just a User and Abuser



Dear Poopy Diaper,

You stink.

Sincerely,
Waste Management




Dear One-Year-Old,

You put the “toddle” in “toddler.”

Sincerely,
You will Probably Need an MRI by the Time You Turn Two



Dear Mom Brain,

Some days, you are absolutely no different than Pregnancy Brain.

Sincerely,
Why Did I Walk Into This Room?


 


Dear Future Employer,

Are Hide-and-Seek, Peek-a-Boo, and Jumping on the Bed considered “Related Experience?”

Sincerely,
Stacking my Résumé



Dear Booger,

You have traveled from my daughter’s nose to her cheek to her eyebrow and now down to her chin.

Sincerely,
Too Entertained to Wipe it Off Just Yet




Dear Stubborn as a You-Know-What Child,

Did you know that the definition of “insanity” is doing something over and over and expecting different results?

Sincerely,
That Square Block Will Not Fit Into that Round Hole




Dear Stubborn as a You-Know-What Child (2),

Mom always wins.

Sincerely,
It’s a Pleasure Doing Battle With You



Dear Spot on My Shirt,

Are you milk? Yogurt? Boogers? Animal crackers? Squash? Potatoes? Throw up?

Sincerely,
Why Do I Even Bother


 


Dear Two O’clock,

You are my Happy Hour.

Sincerely,
Mother of a Napping Child




Dear Child,

I promise I don’t find pleasure in your pain. Except when it means I get to see your poop face.

Sincerely,
Your Nostrils are Flared and Your Face is a Tomato and You are Pushing SO HARD



Dear Inexpensive Diapers that Make My Daughter’s Butt Look Like Raw Hamburger,

You give meaning to the phrase “you get what you pay for.”

Sincerely,
Disappointed Dutch Girl




Dear Quiet and Out-of-Sight Child,

I know you are making some kind of mess. But right now, I just love the silence too much to go find you and the mess you are making.

Sincerely,
Conflicted



Dear Temper Tantrum,

SLKVN;LAJES[RJA’VLM!@!!AS/VM/KJ///[WJ0329FKLVN/,ADJFAJ!!!!???????????#RLSKADMVFLKJ3!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Sincerely,
How Do You Like It


 


Dear “No,”

If you could get out my daughter’s vocabulary right now I wouldn’t get mad at you or anything.

Sincerely,
Mother of a Sassy Pants


 
Dear Playground,

Who needs toys and merry-go-rounds and slides when you have woodchips, rocks, and cigarette butts to play with?

Sincerely,
Easily Amused Child












Dear Child Who Is Never Afraid to Jump When I’m Around,

You could teach me a thing or two about faith.

Sincerely,
One Grateful Mommy


 


Dear Fellow Friends of Sarcasm,

What “Dear Blank, Please Blanks” would you add to this list?

Sincerely,
Kendra

ps. Here are a few more that other mommy friends added...

Dear first trimester,

You just suck.

Sincerely, 
I thought 14 weeks was supposed to be better




Dear poopy diaper child,

I thought you were done so I changed you.

Sincerely, 
I changed you again 5 minutes later because you were not done.....




Dear toys covering the playroom floor,

Why are none of you as interesting as the dog food, the Tupperware drawer, or the tissue box?

Sincerely,
"No no, Kamryn. Play with this fun toy!"




Dear Menopause Brain,

Some days, you are absolutely no different than Pregnancy Brain and Mom Brain!

Sincerely,
Why Did I Walk Into This Room? Some things Never change!!




Dear Sisters of Sarcasm,

I love all of your ideas and encouragement. It's like we are Zac Efron and his band of Wildcats. 

Sincerely,
We're All in This Together




Dear Poopy Diaper,

I don't believe you. 

Sincerely,
You're Full of Crap