Thursday, September 30, 2010

The Love of Christ

By Mary

Usually, it would be Alanna's turn to be writing here. But Alanna and two more of my friends are in Paris today, halfway to a wonderful little corner of the world--a small farm in Eikenhof South Africa, just outside of Johannesburg and known as The Love of Christ ministries.

TLC is a children's home that exists to care for orphaned, abandoned and HIV+ babies. It was begun in April 1993 by Thea Jarvis when she took in her first two abandoned baby boys. It has since grown into a nursery of about 40 0-3 year olds supported by a small office staff and a more hands on volunteer staff of ideally 20 people.

The goal of TLC is to not only to care for the babies health and developement but to pour love and life into their lives. Pray for God to fill and use Alanna and Joshua and Kaila to meet their spiritual needs and draw near to Him.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

moving forward

By Mary

My heart is whirling through a thousand different feelings and the rain streaming down outside matches the showers on my cheeks.

I have a hard time with saying goodbye, with letting go, with moving on.

My mind wanders back to the evening one year and forty-eight days ago when Alanna and I stood in Denver International Airport with our families, tickets in our hands, bags already checked, not wanting to move towards security, give that last hug or say goodbye.

I'd already had my last phone call with my boyfriend, hanging up with tears in my eyes and wondering as I turned off my phone, leaving it on my nightstand and following my parents out to the car, just how we would do with four months of next to nothing. Long distance was already hard.

And then standing in the airport with my parents and Alanna's family who are like my hurt so much to leave the ones you spend every day with and know and love and care for.

Four months isn't long. Six months isn't either. We've sent friends off to college and out to start new careers and through those goodbyes I've realized the world doesn't end. Not everything changes. God is still in control and life can be happy. I don't worry about our friendships lasting through it all. I know they're stronger than that.

What hurts when saying goodbye is the way my heart feels in knowing the people I love most today, won't be right next to me tomorrow.

And for me, what hurts today is not just thinking of Alanna and my two other friends going so far away. It's the thought of being so far from my babies. Of anyone else showing them their love while I can't. It brings back some of the feelings of guilt for ever leaving them in the first place.

I know this time how Alanna is setting herself up to love and be hurt. She knows it. And I'm proud of her for going anyway. I don't envy that. But part of my heart cries for South Africa, just as part of it cries for Colorado and part of it feels at home here. And here right now is where I belong.

I can't live in the time that has passed. Holding it tight won't bring it back. I don't want it back because that means I wouldn't have today. Today is God's gift to me. And I'm learning still and most likely always will be learning to take that gift and move forward with it...even with my heart scattered all across the world.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

sent out with God's gifts

by Alanna

This morning in church, I was greeted by a couple who gave me data cds full of good music. They had burned them for me after they heard what kind of music I liked- something to encourage me on my trip. In addition to the cds, they'd also given my mom a book of african stories to read to the kids there. Next a lady in my church gifted me with a songbook- all the Cornerstone worship songs- complete with my name printed on the front! Then my pastor gave me the curriculum that he'd bought, with the money of willing others in the church. He prayed for me before he preached, and for the first time I felt equipped by a church. I feel sent out. It is such a motivator to me- to share the gospel in South Africa, to pour God's love into the lives of everyone there. When people have things invested in you, it makes you feel the burden and the joy that much more.

God also has gifted me- with an amazing and supportive family who loves the Lord. Last night I got to sit and look at photo albums with my three youngest sisters. It's blessings like them that make leaving so incredibly painful. But tonight, after facing more goodbyes, I was greeted by several emails by some fellow believers. God knew I needed encouragement this night, and he provided. When God calls, He will equip and enable and send out- with gifts.

Friday, September 24, 2010

a bit of home

By Mary

This has been quite the busy week. Second college class, third night of Awana, two month wedding anniversary and three days full of spending time with my newly brother and sister-in-law.

You'd think I'd know it by now, but God has a pretty great sense of timing. The moving in is over. The newness is wearing off. And it's getting to that point where I don't really have an answer for people when they ask what I've been up to all day. It only takes so long to straighten up a one bedroom apartment and cook dinner. And of course some people don't understand the fact that reading for several hours a day is actually quite enjoyable for me.

But I'm quite ready to forgive the interruption to my reading that has come along with my brother and sister moving into town.

They're a bit of the home life, that home-feel. It reminds me of last year in South Africa-possibly because Alanna is heading back so soon, or maybe just due to the fact that it's never far from my mind.

Some days were just lonely. And the best moment on those days was when someone brought the mail...and there happened to be something for you. A little piece of paper that connects you with the comfortable and the familiar, the known and the loved.

And even though this place is slowly becoming home in a way, it's a breath of fresh air to have a little bit of home this week.

Friday, September 17, 2010

half of my heart

by Alanna

In a week and a half, I'll be boarding an airplane to go back to the place I love, in South Africa. Lately when people talk to me, they ask (or more often simply assume), "you must be so excited!" And I am. Excited to be in a place where my heart can love to the utmost everyday, excited to be with babies again, to be serving, to partake in something that fills me to overflowing with joy and life. I can't wait to go back to a life of snotty noses, dirty nappies, small arms around my neck, a tiny fist clasping my finger.

But at the same time, I am scared. I am not strong enough to leave my family for so long, to miss out on the fellowship and love and opportunities in America. And most of all, I am scared of loving too much. It is the kind of love that fills my insides so physically that it hurts. Almost exactly 13 months ago, I met a little boy who God seemed to have brought especially for me to love. There was no use fighting my affections for him, my desperate prayers for him, and my mother instincts. God grew my heart and my capacity to love, and yet He asked me to say goodbye. It was the hardest thing He has ever asked me to do. Soon I will be a part of Martin's life again- seeing all the miraculous changes that God has wrought in his life. And I am so scared. Scared because Martin is not my son, and I have nothing but a "fool's hope" that he could be someday. Scared because I don't know how to be a mommy and yet not a mom to someone I love so much. And I am terrified of saying goodbye again. The thought of it twists my insides and breaks me to pieces. Is it possible to love too much?

Today I'm asking God if maybe He has the wrong person. I don't feel strong enough to have my heart so split in two. Somehow it is a comfort to me that God never changes. He is full of compassion and lovingkindness. He may dash my heart to pieces, but it will be for His glory and His plans. Surely if God could love us to the extent that He would sacrifice His only Son, then it is impossible to love too much. I want to learn to love through my fears- to love not for my sake, or even for Martin's, but for Him who loved me enough to die for me.

half of my heart's got a grip on the situation
half of my heart takes time
half of my heart's got a right mind to tell you that
half of my heart won't do

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

this or that and the most important thing

By Mary

Life is settling back down into it's rhythm like the ocean waves-always unpredictable. At times gentle and peaceful and at others swift and fierce; but always ebbing and flowing, out and in with the tides.

It's been hard to settle down since our trip back home. The cooking and the cleaning, that's all fine. But with the empty house from the kiss goodbye in the morning til dinner time at night and the weight of the miles between me and my family and my family of heart began to feel empty. And the emptiness filled me in a way--the way a hunger neglected for so long leaves room only for a dull ache in the pit of your stomach.

And it's so easy for me to wallow in that--and then turn around and put on a smiling face and all the right words to cover it up.

My husband is master of the art of "keeping it real". Sometimes it gets him into trouble. But he also helps me see that keeping it perfect is neither the only option nor the best option most times.

When I'm content to show the world only a surface perfection with the right answers given with a cheerful voice at the right moment, I also learn to look for nothing deeper. I'm content with the shallow happiness, the shallow relationships, the distant friendship with God and the quiet ache inside.

In the midst of a crazy week of long hours at work and long work related phone calls after work for my husband, we made a little time one evening to work on another lesson from our Bible study together. The focus Bible passage was Colossians 3:1-14-

If then you were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting that the right hand of God. Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth. For you dies, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is our life appears, then you also will appear with Him in glory. Therefore put to death your members which are on the earth: fornication, uncleanness, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. Because of these things the wrath of God is coming upon the sons of disobedience, in which you yourselves once walked when you lived in them. But now you yourselves are to put off all these: anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy language out of your mouth. Do not lie to on another, since you have put off the old man with his deeds, and have put on the new man who is renewed in knowledge according to the image of Him who created him, where there is neither Greek nor Jew, Scythian, slave nor free, but Christ is all and in all. Therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, put on tender mercies. kindness, humility, meekness, longsuffering; bearing with one another, and forgiving one another, if anyone has a complaint against another, even as Christ forgave you, so you must also do.

I've read these same words time after time and heard multiple lessons on them through the years. And this time around, they meant something again.

It reminded me of a conversation I had with Alanna last month about standards-not simply avoiding the "bad" things but seeing what is good and right and edifying. Getting rid of one thing and taking up something better. We aren't commanded to just stop dwelling in sin. Or to think on middle ground thoughts. Rather we are supposed to think on things that are pure and noble and good. That's the life we're supposed to pursue.

Life is supposed to be more than fine. It's supposed to be wonderful and difficult and confusing and thrilling.

I have a choice every day, every moment--this or that? Live in the flesh, and experience shallow Christianity or pursue the good things, even being vulnerable and letting others know when life isn't just good. Maybe even let them bear my burdens with me?

And through the choices and the failures and the good times and the bad, learning more and drawing closer to the most important thing--a vital, intimate relationship with Jesus Christ.

Friday, September 10, 2010


There are few things in life
so beautiful
as true friendship,
and not many things
more uncommon.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

weddings and blessings

by Alanna

Last weekend was such a beautiful time. Michael and Janelle, two of my dear friends, got married on Saturday afternoon. Also Mary and Nick were in town, which made everything infinitely more wonderful =) I am just amazed by the love of God, and His goodness demonstrated through such a multitude of blessings. Among these are the blessings of friendship, family, love, and fellowship. Also, I have been thinking about marriage and what a blessing it is. Marriage is a picture of Christ's love for the church. It is an earthly symbol of the relationship between Jesus and His beloved bride. Granted, we as the church are not a perfect bride. We mess up, fail often, and imperfectly represent our Maker. Christ loves us anyway. He loves us unconditionally and self-sacrificially. He gave up everything- His entire life- to redeem us. Husbands are to "love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her" (Ephesians 5:25). Wives are to submit to and follow their husbands' leading. How joyfully and easily we should be able to do this! God Himself has given His all for us. "But as the church is subject to Christ, so also the wives ought to be to their husbands in everything" (Ephesians 5:24).

Although I can't pretend to have any marriage experience, God has been laying this subject on my heart. I wonder how different Christian marriages would look, if husbands truly loved and served their wives without an ounce of selfishness in them. If wives submitted to and served their husbands just as we as the church are commanded to follow Christ.

That is the excitement of a wedding day! The beautiful gift and priviledge; the awesome responsibility of showing to the world a picture of Christ and His bride.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Mazel Tov

By Mary

I got to spend five fantastic days in Colorado with my husband, my family and all my best friends celebrating my brother's wedding. And since we had five days, who could blame us for celebrating the beauty of the Rocky Mountains, the wonderful inexpensiveness of the used book store by my parents house, the way God listens to as well as answers our prayers, and in general the incredible friendships He's given to us all.

The night before my brother's wedding, his best man told us he would be using the phrase mazel tov a lot the next day. Which stirred up the discussion about what the words actually meant. Congratulations? Best wishes? A blessing on your head? So I looked it up. It's a Yiddish phrase, literally translated as good luck or fortune and used to acknowledge good fortune occurring for someone--such as the blessing of marrying the person God has given you to love forever.

Thinking about that phrase makes me remember the many gifts I've been given. Life and laughter; the way I grew up and the people who grew up around me. Hope and joy; the chance to learn and travel and love and hurt.

It was even harder to leave home this time than it was last time. I don't know when I'll be coming back, or what will have changed in the in-between. And still, God blesses me here in a new home, living and learning with my man. And waiting to see what He has in store next.

Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift!

Sunday, September 5, 2010


by Alanna

I'm sorry to have not written for so long. This week has been busy, but I will write about all that another time. For now I just want to put some verses that God encouraged me with this week from the story of Hagar and Ishmael. Hagar flees from the presence of her mistress, and an angel of the Lord finds her near a spring of water. God Himself notices her affliction and promises her a son.

Then she called the name of the Lord who spoke to her,
'You are a God who sees';
for she said, 'Have I even remained alive here after seeing Him?'
Therefore the well was called Beer-lahai-roi
(i.e. the well of the living one who sees me)
Genesis 16:13-14

"Seeing the people, He felt compassion for them,
because they were distressed and dispirited
like sheep without a sheperd."
Matt. 9:36

What a God of compassion and lovingkindness we serve! That He would see us- in our brokenness and lost condition, and make a promise of redemption to us. Praise the Lord!