Day 4–Abide

Day 4 began with more water. And it sure wasn’t clean.

We traveled from the Kampala/Entebbe area to Jinja for the second half of our trip ministering in Uganda. Because of the nature of the in-between travel time, our team took our “day of rest” at a place on the Nile River.

Yes, the Nile. The same river that turned to blood, swarmed with frogs and has seen more plagues and history and sunrises than I ever will. It was beautiful. Although I effectively sanitized my hand after dipping it in.

I had the opportunity to go on a “sunset cruise” down the Nile after we had an amazing meal. Why I thought it would be at sunset and that we would be “cruising” is beyond me. We still had plenty of fun though.

What was meant to be a day of rest was still pretty full and the next morning I woke up feeling a bit empty and weary and at my breaking point. Because when you set out to love selflessly and to no end and are used to spending time with the Lord each morning and suddenly you don’t or can’t, things can crumble down pretty quickly. It was a time of feeling overwhelmed.

Am I obeying the Lord? How can I continue to give all of myself when I feel like I have nothing left to give? Will I connect with the remainder of the children and people we will encounter like I did with those we had already met?

I knew to Whom I needed to turn, but I didn’t know the sweet words He would whisper to my  soul.

“I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit…Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothingIf you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.” John 15:1-7

Apart from me you can do nothing.

This is true when you’re serving the Lord and others in Uganda. It’s also true when you’re living out life with your spouse, family and neighbors. Anywhere, everywhere, apart from the Lord we are useless. Apart from the Lord we can do nothing.

Because really, all my righteous deeds are as filthy rags (Isaiah 64) and if the Lord isn’t working in and through me what’s the point of this anyway? Anything good that comes from me has it’s origins only and always in Him alone, His Spirit at work inside of me.

And WOW. If we abide in Him and He in us, we can ask for whatever!?

An amazing promise, but God is not some genie waiting to grant us our three wishes. No. If we abide in the Lord and His living, breathing, active Word abides in us, then and only then can we ask for whatever we wish and receive it. It’s a conditional promise.

You cannot gain the ending without the effort of the beginning.

But really, whatever? How is it that we can ask for whatever?

Because when we abide in the Lord and He in us, God’s heart becomes our heart. God’s love becomes our love. God’s desires become our desires. God’s dreams become our dreams. We are praying in the will of the Father. In his character. In his Name. And this is why He answers. Not because of our righteous living, but because we are asking for the very things the Father yearns to give us, His children.

This is abiding. This is what produces much fruit.

And I for one, want to bear fruit and to be pruned so that I can bear more fruit, even when it’s painful and confusing. Even when it doesn’t really feel worth it. To come to the end of myself and the love I think I can muster and be Christ to this world and give His love which is the only kind of love worth giving.

Bearing fruit, reflecting the face of the Father, our hearts and our love shining clearly for the world to see.

I didn’t know what I needed from God on the banks of the Nile that day, but He did, and He gave it willingly. The peace, the courage, and the trust to keep moving forward, to keep dying to self and living in obedience to Him. Believing that His love, not mine, will always be enough and is exactly that this world needs.

Because apart from Him I can do nothing. Not in Uganda, not here, not ever. And I needed this reminder and I need it everyday.

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Day 3–Water is Life

When you’ve lived all your life in a country of excess, in a country of luxury, there are quite a few things you will never know.

You will never know what it’s like to fear a small insect that could bring your death.

You will never know what it’s like to not have a single pair of shoes, and for that to be normal.

And you will never know what it’s like to always, always be dirty.

There are plenty of things. But one of the biggest things you’ll have the luxury of never understanding is the necessity of water.

You won’t really ever know that clean water is absolutely vital. That water is life.

Day three in beautiful Uganda brought our team up close and personal to this reality. We were privileged to be a part of the celebration ceremony for the opening of a borehole well in the village of Mazzi. Last July, nine year old Jack with a heart like our Saviors, saw a need and decided he could do something about it. Previously, this village’s only water source was a muddy hole some two miles walking distance away.

Jack decided that wasn’t okay.

So he raised $8,000 to fund building a borehole well in the village, right at the entrance of the school. And we were there to see the fruit of the life of a little boy who understood his place in this world. And we were blessed.

(You can see more details of this story on Facebook under “Jack’s Walk for Water”)

In Africa, nothing is done well without much dancing and singing. So after programs by the children of the village, speeches from Pastors and community board members, and lots of celebrating…there was a well to uncap.

And we thought we had already seen celebration.

Because when you live in a village in the middle of nowhere Uganda in the middle of nowhere Africa, water is worth getting excited about. Clean water is worth a celebration.

It can breath life into old bones.

It was such a blessing to see all the love, support, and prayers of so many over Jack’s Walk for Water come to fruition. We did not deserve to be there. But I think the Lord had other things in mind.

I think He wanted us to see the necessity of clean water, how vital it is to life and how much we take it for granted.

I mean, who’s ever thrown a community wide party after turning on their water to take a shower. “You guys GOTTA come see this!! Look at this WATER!!”

Uh, no.

But it’s huge. And in Uganda and all over Africa and all over the world many do not know the luxury of a facet. Many do not know clean water and life.

We left Mazzi very full and very blessed. Due to the heart and action of one small boy and due to the joy of seeing the life that clean water brings.

Back to Ekubo we went for the remainder of the day. We visited the Baby Cottage that is in disrepair waiting for the funds to finish it so that Ekubo can take in abandoned children who are too young to be in normal orphanages.

We visited the foundation and walls of the Clinic that is waiting for a roof so that it doesn’t wash away and for the remaining funding to finish the Clinic which will support the people of Bugabo.

(Check out “Ekubo Ministries” on Facebook to see more of their needs and how the Lord is faithfully meeting them in their obedience).

We also tasted another side of water as we had to say our first goodbyes of our time in Africa. It seems as though I say quite a bit of goodbyes in my life (i.e. Military Spouse) and I extremely dislike them. Turns out, goodbyes in Africa are no different.

And waterworks ensued for many because how do you say goodbye to children you only knew for a few days but have touched your heart fully? Have touched the very river of your soul.

Did I mention I hate goodbyes?

And though we said farewell to George, Christie, and all the crew at Ekubo, it seemed as though the Lord wasn’t quite finished with the theme of water for the trip.

On the last and final day of my trip, apart from my team (more on why later), I spent an evening with two very inspiring and kind individuals at the Entebbe Guesthouse I was staying at, one of which was Steve Roese. Turns out Steve is the founder and president of Water is Basic (www.waterisbasic.org) a nonprofit based in Dallas that empowers Sudanese nationals in building borehole wells. The very type of well we saw uncapped in Mazzi. Come to find out, Water is Basic has already been apart of building 408 wells in the last four years.

And that’s a big deal. That’s huge.

When will our tiny and entitled hearts and lives stop expecting water to flow from a turned on facet as if that’s just the reality of all of life? Not ever seeing or knowing how crucial clean water really is, not ever seeing or knowing the faces and hearts of those who don’t know water, and may never know that water is life.

So because of this day and the lessons woven within it, water seems a bit different now. It’s much more liquid gold than I ever realized. And this awareness doesn’t lead to guilt, but to a deep and lasting thankfulness. Thankfulness that runs on and on, as precious as life-giving water.

It also leads to understanding, like Jack, what my place is in this world and how to carry other’s heavy burdens.

Thankfulness and action.

Two things, along with this day, I hope never to forget.

On being home

Thanks to our gracious Lord and your faithful prayers, I made it back home late Sunday evening after thirty-six hours of grueling travel. I celebrated a birthday on another continent and you would have thought it was a much higher marker by the way the travel affected me.

We weren’t meant to sit in a cramped chair for sixteen hours straight.

Ethiopia from the air

I am home now and even though my limbs will have worked out the stiffness in another day or so, the aching, cramping, discomfort of my heart will be a long time mending.

And I’m not really sure I want it to ever mend.

Because this verse keeps rolling in my mind, and how can I mend it all into a nice little five minute presentation and yet not forget?

“Only be careful, and watch yourselves closely so that you do not forget the things your eyes have seen or let them slip from your heart as long as you live. Teach them to your children and to their children after them.” Deuteronomy 4:9

The processing will be a long time in the making and I plan to wrestle it out here, and even there if you have a spare moment and a genuine interest in the working out of it all.

I’ll take us back through the last fifteen days and reveal the faithfulness of the Lord and hopefully uncover much more in the process. You are welcome to come along…

A few thoughts from a reading before this endeavor:

Because really, the question now is, what will you do with the pain? What will you do when your heart hurts, when it’s breaking? Will you try to shove the pain aside and pretend that everything is ok? Will you try to put patches and temporary fixes on the hurt? Or will you allow God to break your heart all the way through?

Because with change comes brokenness before rebuilding.

What will we do with the pain and the ugly and the broken? Will we embrace the things that God is doing and allow Him to remodel our hearts?

Finished with the running away. Turning and running straight into His arms and into action.

Ekubo Day Two

Where to even begin?

Waking up this morning in this beautiful country we’ve come to call home for a bit; home, because this place and this people and this joy has stolen our whole heart.

And it’s only day two.

We traveled again to Ekubo ministries to start off the day with devotions with the staff. George, the leader of the village and this ministry led us in studying James chapter 1. What conviction for followers of Christ, but especially when you have much and are sitting next to one of God’s children who has very, very little.

Really, nothing at all.

The day was filled with absolute joy. We shared music and puppets with the kids. We served their breakfast and got to interact with them over their meal. We jumped rope, played games, sang songs, taught dances, practiced English and gave hugs. Lots and lots of hugs.

And we loved.

We are in the rainy season here in Uganda and got to experience our first large shower this afternoon. And when you’re from the desert, this is a pretty big deal.

After coming home to probably our best dinner here yet (did I mention that I am LOVING the food!) we debriefed a bit as a team. And once again, I was amazed at how the Lord has tied our hearts together so tightly, both before and thus far in our trip. He is certainly up to some very significant things in our lives and we have all come here expecting to know how He plans to use us here, and later.

God is good and He always proves Himself faithful.

If you think of it, would you pray for us?

Pray that the Lord would make it clear how to use the resources we have; here and when we get home. Pray for health, safety, and the ability to clearly communicate the love of God to those we meet. Pray for Ekubo ministries (www.ekuboministries.com). For their staff and families, for the children, for a roof for their clinic, for the completion of the baby’s cottage, for the sponsorship of the many children who go without education and food. They need your prayers because they have many needs.

And consider your own heart. Pray about how the Lord is directing yours to care for the widow and the orphan in distress (James 1:27) and to actually care about the least of these. This looks differently for everyone, but actually doing something is not an option.

We are commanded to care.

If you care for a reference for that last statement, open the dusty book on your nightstand and let God change your heart for the things of His. Because your life and my life are a mist and when I stand before the Lord I want to hear a few things from Him and to know without a doubt that I poured myself out for the things that matter.

For the things that are eternal.

Because either way, we’ll have spent our lives for something. And these kids and these people and your family and your crazy neighbor and everyone in between, they are eternal.

What are you spending your life for?

Ekubo- Spreading Hope

Friends,

Thank you all SO much for your prayers! We arrived safely in Africa on Sunday, with Ethopia (literally) rising to meet us, via Addas Adaba.

Beautiful Ethopia.

And today (Monday) was our first day ministering at Ekubo ministries. We have been greatly taken care of, I’m LOVING the food and the beautiful people. Spent the day traveling to Ekubo where we were welcomed in a way that I’m convinced only Africa can muster. The bring you to tears welcome of joy and love that I’m finding is rampant in this country.

Learned about the history of Ekubo (more to come) which is amazing. They have a sponsorship program (CHECK OUT THEIR WEBSITE POSTED PREVIOUSLY) which includes feeding and education. They have a church, and are in the process of building a hospital (HUGE financial need–pray about it!) as well as a baby home. The baby home is tremendously important because if they don’t have the house they have to turn orphan babies away where they usually end up in a goverment orphanage which usually isn’t the best decision for many reasons..(explain later). We have a delicious lunch, watched another amazing cultural performance by the kids that they have been working on for a long time (they are looking to travel as a childrens chore which would be HUGE for them—let me know if you want more info about how to get them to your church). Ekubo is only 1.5yrs old. Amazing people behind it with an amazing story.

Tomorrow we head back to serve in the clinic (we have nurses on our team), the baby cottage, as well as the school. We will spend the following day there as well. The next is a travel day to Jinja.

Please continue praying for our team–for being able to spread God’s love to these people, for team unity, safety, sleep and health.

Will try to update again in a few days!!!

xoxo,

lexie

 

A day from Now

A day from now, I will be hopping on board a big bird in the sky that will take me to Washington D.C.. I’ll then hop on another with a group of people whom I’ve never met, but whose hearts are linked to mine in ways only the Lord knows.

We’ll fly to Uganda.

The weeks that the Lord has been preparing me for over the last year will have arrived, a day from now.

I am excited. I am nervous. I am afraid.

Afraid of what the culmination of this trip means in my life. Afraid I’ve missed things along the way. Afraid I won’t have a heart and arms big enough to spread the great big love of my Savior to people who are desperate for it.

And if I’m honest? Afraid I’ll be selfish and disobedient to the uncomfortable things God will ask of me.

A very dear friend of mine asked me to give Uganda a great big hug from her family, but especially from her son. It hasn’t even been a year since they adopted him from Uganda and he found his forever home in their family. It hasn’t even been a year since he was at an orphanage right where I’ll be. I plan to give Uganda a hug and much more, a piece of my heart.

How can you set out to love a people you’ve never known? To love a country you’ve never seen? How can you visit the widow and orphan in their distress (James 1:27) and go and be love when you’re wrestling out the love even here and even now?

How can you go and love the broken and ‘unlovable’ of this world, when you don’t even know how to properly love the lovable?

How to step out of the selfish skin into the uncomfortable; being the hands of Christ that actually reach out and touch the broken-ugly.

Right into the pain and the hurt.

These are challenging things. Challenging because even here and even now I am grasping for a heart like this.


And then I am reminded, there’s no need to be afraid.

Because there is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear (1 John 4:18).

I have been and continue to be perfectly loved by my Savior. There is no room for fear now. And His Spirit within me can give this fear-less love that these people are desperate for. That I’m desperate for and rely on, every day.

If it depended upon my flawed and selfish love, then yes–be afraid, be very afraid.

But it doesn’t.

My love will not be enough, but His certainly will be.

Am I willing? Will I be obedient to let Him show this hope-saturated love through my life? Will I move when he says to move and step into the broken-ugly? Will I pour myself out for the hungry, and satisfy the desire of the afflicted? (Isaiah 58)

I’m praying that I will and much more, for a changed heart and life in the process.

Starting here and now.

But especially, in a day from now.

-Lexie

 

 

*And for those who are interested, here is a basic schedule of our time in Uganda! I’ll be heading back a day later than my team though, getting back to Phoenix on the 28th 🙂

Uganda October Itinerary pdf

The Greatest Dreamer

Needing a fresh remembrance of this today, a week before I leave for Uganda. The first verse I remember knowing and believing as a child.

“No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him.”

1 Corinthians 2:9

Are you dreaming big dreams with God? Afraid you might out-dream Him?

I dare us to give it a try, for He’s the greatest dreamer of all. And He’s looking for those who know and believe this about Him, those with a child-like faith.

Need some confirmation? Just take a look at the night sky.

Ugandan Threads

In exactly ten days I will begin a journey that started nearly a year ago. Lord willing, next Friday I will hop on an airplane and make my way to the heart of Africa, a little country known as Uganda. It’s really quite a long story better told over a cup of coffee…Ground Control anyone? Here’s a few of the Ugandan threads that God has been weaving…

Last fall, the Lord began stirring my heart and burdening me with desires of things so very far beyond myself. What began as conversations, sermons, books, and research turned into prayers, passion, heartbreak, and confirmation through others and through the Word. The Lord has burdened my heart with a deep ache for the “least of these” (Matt 25) and over the course of these months, has shaped this burden into a step of obedience. What began as a heart for Africa became a heart for Uganda specifically. What began as a big question mark became a trip to Uganda ministering specifically to orphans. God has moved and worked in such a clear way through this journey and, Lord willing, I’ll be headed to Uganda next Friday for a trip with Visiting Orphans (www.visitingorphans.org) to minister to orphans and the least of these.

God has been so faithful to do a new thing in my heart and life and it has been such a joy to journey down this path with Him!

While in Uganda, our team will be ministering to the orphans and staff at six different ministries. We will spend time at Ekubo Ministries (www.ekuboministries.org) and Pillars of Hope (www.pillarsofhopeuganda.com), two orphanages with an emphasis on holistic community improvement. We will stay at and minister at Canaan Children’s Home (www.canaanchildrenshome.com) another established orphanage, Sangaalo Baby Cottage (an orphanage for younger children), as well as Ekisa Ministries (www.ekisa.org) an orphanage for disabled children. We will also have the privilege of ministering to the Karamajong women, a group of tribal women in extreme poverty. I also will have the absolute honor of spending a day with Rachael, our Sponsor Child through Compassion.

I share all this because I greatly covet your prayers. Many of you who are reading this have expressed a desire to partner with me in prayer along this journey. If you think of me in the next two weeks, would you lift me and my team up in prayer? Here are some things to take before the throne of grace (Hebrews 4):

-Team unity, safety, and effectiveness for the Glory of the Lord

-Knowing how to be the hands and feet of Christ to the staff and children

-Hearts of compassion in the midst of a lot of despair

-My time with Rachael, to show her God’s love

-Personal and group clarity on what God has for us when we return home

-My hubby while I’m gone, that the Lord would knit our hearts even though he can’t join me in Uganda

The Lord has made it apparent throughout this entire process that this journey is not just about obeying Him and going and loving, but that He has specific things for me to learn and put into practice upon my return. Would you especially pray that I would enter into this journey with eyes wide open to whatever the Lord has in store and how that connects with His kingdom-building plans and purpose for my one life? I would be ever so grateful.

I will also be attempting to update my blog while in-country (internet-pending) to post more up-to-date prayer requests and just sharing what the Lord has been up to. Thank you SO MUCH for you prayers. Seriously, they mean so much. And for those of you who have financially supported this journey, thanks upon thanks to you all. I couldn’t have done any of this without your love and support.

And really, whether we go or give or pray, none of it really matters unless our hearts are CHANGED by our action. May God bring us all beyond the brink of ourselves and into the unfathomable reaches of His Loving-Kindness and perfect Faithfulness as we pour ourselves out for this hungry and broken world. And may our hearts be tender enough to break with the things that break His and to respond in obedience when He compels us to act.

-Lexie

The Grand Weaver

Some time ago I read Ravi Zacharias’ autobiography entitled, “Walking from East to West”. Aside from being an incredible story of God’s faithfulness in this man’s life, I was struck with a word picture he puts forth that has stuck with me ever since. He repeats the illustration and (I presume) goes into further detail in his book, “The Grand Weaver”. I say presume, because I haven’t read the book yet. It’s on my never ending ‘to-read’ list.

He tells the story of witnessing a father and son team constructing the intricate design of a sari, a scarf that brides in India wear on their wedding day. (And if you know me, you know that I love this story all the more because it involves scarves). The father sits on a raised platform with huge spools of beautifully colored threads near him; the son sitting on the floor. When the father gathers some threads in his hand and then nods, the son moves the shuttle from one side to the other.

Gather threads, nod, shuttle.

Gather, nod, shuttle.

What at first appears to be nothing more than a jumble of incoherent colors, in a few months time turns into a magnificent masterpiece.

Ravi explains like this, “Throughout the process, the son has had a much easier task. Most likely he has often felt bored. Perhaps he has wished for some other calling in life-something he might find more stimulating or fulfilling. He has but one task, namely, to move the shuttle as directed by the father’s nod, hoping to learn to think like the father so that he can carry on the business at the appropriate time. Yet the whole time, the design has remained in the mind of the father as he held the threads.”

Soon this sari will make it’s way to a shop in India where a young lady will choose it to wear on her special day because of it’s particular beauty. Beauty on account of a grand weaver having purposefully designed it.

He concludes like this, “Now if an ordinary weaver can take a collection of colored threads and create a garment to beautify the face, is it not possible that the Grand Weaver has a design in mind for you, a design that will adorn you as he uses your life to fashion you for his purpose, using all the threads within his reach? His design for your life pulls together every thread of your existence into a magnificent work of art. Every thread matters and has a specific purpose.

Every thread matters and has a specific purpose.

That’s my goal in life. To believe that, to live that. What would happen if we actually did believe and live that? Would we trust our Grand Weaver a bit more when it seems like the threads are getting tangled, or are being cut out all together? Would we live our life a bit more on purpose knowing that God is a masterful designer who would never just haphazardly pull a few strings at random?

How much do we want to sit at the feet of the Grand Weaver, eager to do His bidding? Eager to know His heart and mind so well that we can anticipate His next movement, the next Gather, Nod, Shuttle.

I want that. To be a ready and eager threaded loom, anticipating with wide eyes the movement of God in and through my life. To see every thread as purposeful, developing a heart that breathes thanks to God for each moment.

Do you?