My name is Autumn Buzzell and I live and work in Ghana, West Africa with City of Refuge Ministries. Here, I run our school, Faith Roots International Academy, and get to be a part in rescuing and the healing of children who have been trafficked into the fishing trade, orphaned, abandoned, and those who just need a little extra loving. What an amazing gift this life is!

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Friday, December 28, 2012

Christmas Post...just what we all need to hear!

I love following the blog of Katie...the one who wrote "Kisses from Katie".

Here was a beautiful post I just had to share:

Monday, December 24, 2012

Some people get presents under their Christmas tree.

Me? I get a family of 5. 4 children under 8 and their mother sleep on the couches and on mattresses laid out on the living room floor.

It's 5:30 am and I find a place to squeeze in between the pile of children and blankets and attempt to have some "quiet time" by the light of the Christmas tree. I am distracted. Her kids all have a cough and they breathe heavily and toss and turn all around me. Her chest heaves and a small moan escapes her lips. The rain pounds loudly on the tin roof and we need this rain so I try to be thankful for it. I dream for her future. I dream that she'll live. I fleetingly wonder if there are relative who will raise this brood of young ones if she doesn't.

I wonder what their future will hold. I wonder what this day will hold. I watch their chests move up and down and hear my precious ones begin to stir in the other room, and I wonder if I can so it again today, the 17 children and the sick and the broken and those who will come for dinner and just all of these lives with all of their needs. The house is all a-twinkle, and I remind myself of all God's promises fulfilled in a baby and breathe it deep, Grace.

And I am so thankful that Jesus meets us in these squished places. In the stretched places. In-the-squeezed-between-the-tree-and-the-kids moments, in the desperate-for-quiet-on-the-bathroom-floor-because-everywhere-else-is-full moments.

I read Luke. I think of Bethlehem and how it had no room, and I think of how His parents squeezed between the animals to place Him in a feeding trough. The shepherds gazed in wonder but Mary held all this wonder in the silence of her heart. I bet she dreamed of His future. I bet it was muddy and loud in there, but the sky was all a-twinkle with the light of that star, the heavens bursting with joy at God's promises all fulfilled, Grace.

I look around and know: this is what He came for. The King of the universe who created all things, even life itself, clothed in splendor, took off His royal robes, laid aside His crown and squeezed all of the fullness of God into the womb of a woman and then into swaddling clothes in a manger.

He calls my name right here and how I long to recognize Him here, right here.

The squished places and the stretched places, the moments that are loud and messy and uncertain, this is what He came for. The heartaches and the doubt and the wounds that our sin carves deep, that's why He is here. And all this life hanging in the dark of the morning, isn't this why we wait, why we celebrate? Isn't this why we light up the candles and the tree and the house and say with all the longing in our hearts, "Come, Lord Jesus"?

Come, Lord Jesus.

This morning in the dark, in the rain, in whatever mess or squished place or heartache you find yourself in, all God's promises are Yes and Amen, and we can rejoice in thanksgiving! The Savior is here with us, Grace.

His promise is Yes to you, friends. "Yes, I have come, and Yes, I am coming. Yes, I am with you always, even to the very end of the age."

I pray that you'll recognize His handprints all over your day today.

Merry Christmas.
Check out more of her blog at: http://kissesfromkatie.blogspot.com/

Colorado Christmas Miracles

10 days with my family just wasn't enough.  I wasn't ready to leave.  But, these days, I'm never ready to leave the arms of my loved ones.  The opportunities to visit and share and live together...they're just too rare.  So, these moments, these opportunities--they're treasured, and lived in, and pondered.

This time with my family was awesome.  I got to spend some great time with my sisters, Brianna and Andrea.  We played games, watched movies, made trips into town together, had an amazing sister day (with Elisia, my niece), worked out together, attended school with Bri, and just had a great time.  It was a blessing to get that time with Bri.

It's weird to have a sister still at home...growing up without us siblings in the house.  The moments to "get to know each other" are few and far between.  Brianna is 15 years old...full of fire and spunk...smart and quick witted...this girl is amazing.  It was a sweet, sweet blessing to spend time with my beautiful, grown-up (though I keep telling her she isn't allowed to grow up), little sister.

And Andrea is, well, just hard-core.  She is so passionate and I'm so proud of what she has accomplished these past couple of years.  She's really been facing so much trouble, but God has given her a passion for fitness and it was great to see the positive way that she encouraged and inspired the whole family while she was there.  It was fun to get to hang out with her and hear about what has been going on with her, to get that sister time, to just laze with her.  It's a rare occurance, but such a joy.

And getting to know Markhem, my parent's youngest foster child, always busy with a new game idea, a new conversation, a new thing to play.  He was a joy.  Seeing Chris Santisteven, laughing together, seeing how he has grown and matured.  Oscar and Francisco, playing basketball, laughing together over video games.

And, of course, time with my mom and dad.   Conversations.  Pictures.  Laughter.  Music.  Sweet quality time.  I just love that.

This time around, I got to go down and visit my brother, Chris, and his family, Jenn, Kayden, Elisia, and Nick, in Grand Junction.  Their new house is lovely.  They all have space.  A sweet blessing compared to their other house.  Kayden is growing up.  I miss so many moments when little ones grow so fast.  But, he is a character.  Keeping you on your toes with funny comments, hilarious facial expressions, the essence of childlike joy.  It was so fun getting to spend time with him...a little mini-me of my brother Chris.

And perhaps one of the greatest memories from my time in Colorado would be the Sunday that we all attended my mom's church in Delta.  Chris' family came too.  Our whole family together.  It was, perhaps, the first time that the whole family has been together since my college years.  Hard to imagine.  After dinner, we took up a whole table of 14 at a little Mexican restaurant in downtown Delta.  Laughter and good food and great company.  It was a "quality time" girl's dream.  And to hear later that afternoon, that God spoke to my brother in a powerful way during the church service, well, it was a Christmas miracle.  One that came after years of prayers.  God is so faithful!  And there was such a celebration in our living room when we heard the news.  Answered prayers.  Years and years of answered prayers.

Christmas was a beautiful holiday.  Simple.  Easy.  Almost quiet.  I say almost.  I mean, how quiet can it be when an eight year old gets noise-maker toys?  But it was beautiful.  Opening gifts.  Spending time with family.  Enjoying a multi-cultural meal.  Overeating (isn't that always part of the holidays here?).  Laughing and hugging and ending the day together with peppermint cheesecake (my only dessert for the week) and Despicable Me.

And then there were the days of rest.  Where I didn't ever change out of my pajamas.  Where I read and journaled and watched movies all day.  I never get days like that. 

Bri learned to say my name before starting a conversation.  I'm so used to the noise around me that I wouldn't respond to any conversation unless she got my attention first.

And honestly, the quiet, those still days, they felt so good.

I did a little work, but had a lot more downtime than worktime.

This Christmas time with my family was filled with miracles.  Little moments and big moments where God showed up. 

I'm certainly blessed.

And I don't want to leave.  I want to stay.  I want to dwell in this space.  I want to live and breathe this rest and this sweet family air for longer.  But, I can't.  Time marches on, as it always does.

And so, I look forward to what is next.  Time in Tennessee and North Carolina with loved ones.  A friends from the Feeding the Orphans family and my Whelpleys.  Oh, I have missed my Whelpleys.

This trip, I am afraid, will always be a little bit of bitter and sweet.  Always saying goodbye, and moving into the next hello. 

So, for now, goodbye to my family, the cold, cold snow of Colorado, and hello to Kat and Isaiah and the warmth of their home and hearts.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Made to Crave, Post #8

Usually, I like to take this book one chapter at a time.  It works me.  I process it.  I chew on it.  I cry over it. 

But, travel makes you take a look at things a bit faster.  After all, it was the only book that I brought with me on my trip back, so chapters were read with relatively little emotional connection.  I mean, you can't sob about overeating while in an airport surrounded by strangers.  That would just be...weird. 

So, I read about five chapters on my trip home and have been processing them.  Digesting them.  Dwelling in the truths these past couple of days.

Here are a few thoughts that have hit home for me.

Lysa said, "If we are really going to stop circling the mountain and head north toward lasting changes, we have to empty ourselves of the lie that other people or things can ever fill our hearts to the full.  Then we have to deliberately and intentionally fill up on God's truths and stand secure in His love."

Easier said than done.

She went on to talk about identifying lies, replacing them with truth, and using scripture to back it all up.

This whole process...well, it brought me back to a time in my life where I believed so many lies about myself.

And there came a day when I had to choose to believe the truth or continue to live in the darkness of the lies.

When I finally chose the truth, God freed me.

He freed me of the lies.

He freed me of the sin that hid the lies.

He freed me of the darkness.

And I praise God for that.

But, I have to remember that this is a never-ending cycle.

Where Satan deceived before, he can deceive again.  And sometimes he deceives in completely new ways.

And I forget to guard myself against that.

And before I know it, the thought patterns in my brain that were healed, suddenly re-route and I'm stuck again.

Believing that my weight determines my value.

That my worth is given because of what I do, not who God created me to be.

Lysa's reminder was so good.  It reminded me of that place of freedom, instead of the chain of lies.

She went on to say, "My body size is not tied to my happy.  If my happy was missing when I was larger, it will still be missing when I get smaller."

And that one is a constant battle in my mind.

Particularly when I begin to think about marraige and a family of my own.  My heart longs for those things.  And yet, so often, I believe that if I looked different, I would be married.  If I looked different, I would be more content.

It's such a trap.

The lie that the way I look will determine how I feel....

The lie that marraige will solve all my issues of loneliness...

The lie that a family of my own would make me content...

"I have to learn to attach my happy to the only eternal stability there is and remain there."

The remaining is the hard part.  The remaining means that I have to surrender, yet again, these dreams and KNOW that God has a perfect plan.  HE will make me content.  After all, He is the one who created me and who could love you more than your own creator?

"We are taught to remain in Go's love so that we won't tie our happy to anything but God.  So that our joy will be complete. 
Complete.  as in not lacking anything.  Complete.  As in filled up to the brink with joy no matter if we are wearing our skinny jeans or not.  Complete.  As in satisfied with a fullness we can't get any other way.  Can you imagine how beautiful it would be to live as a complete person?"

Oh, I need that!  So often, I find my joy in other things.  I know that I need to live as a complete person, with God alone.

Lysa quotes Lamentations 3:24, "The LORD is my portion; therefore I will wait for him....
Grasping the truth that God is our portion has the potential to transform more than just our eating habits; it can transform our responses to every aspect of our lives."

The Lord is MORE THAN ENOUGH for me.  And I was created for victory.  So, daily, I need to be digesting the truth that the Lord is my portion, and dwell in that. 

The last chapter that I read, talked about the desire to eat in secret, a common train for anyone who overindulges.  And I'm not just talking about food.  Things done in secret have a way of holding us in chains.  They are done in the dark and that darkness affects the way we can shine our light.

She says, "Sometimes our brokenness cannot support that kind of freedom with food outside the boundaries of a food plan."

Sometimes the way that I respond to food, well, I have to place guards for myself otherwise choosing to overeat is imminent. 

She provides some ways to set boundaries:

1) God has given me power over my food choices.

2) I was made for more than being stuck in a vicious cycle of defeat.

3) When I'm struggling, ask the question, "How will I feel about this tomorrow?"

4) Remove the temptation or remove myself from the situation.

5) I can find ways to celebrate that doesn't involve blowing my healthy eating plan.

6) Being overweight is an outside indication that interna changes are needed for my body to function properly and for me to feel well.

7) I have these boundaries in place not for restriction but to define the parameters of my freedom.

Just such great thoughts.  Ways to set up myself for success.  On the road to health.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012


Today, my mom went to Grand Junction with Andrea for a work party.

My dad took the kids to basketball practice.

And that left me alone in the house.


I don't know when I've actually been alone.  For an extended period of time.

It's been a LOOOOONG time!

There is no noise.

No chickens crowing outside the window.

No children crying in the living room.

No noise.

Only the sound of the food I'm preparing on the stove (a Mexican casserole!!), and the tick of these keys as I type.


I needed this.


It snowed today.

And it's beautiful.

And it's cold.

Overwhelmed, but see the Hope

I have been overwhelmed by the enormous numbers of tragedies that have happened here in the US these past few days. 

My dear friend, Corinne, wrote about it so beautifully here that I just had to share it.

There is hope.  Thanks for the reminder!

Contemplating Home

Yesterday's jet lag didn't hit me at all.  I survived all day.  No nap.  Not even feeling all that tired.

This last night was a different story.

Besides waking myself up with this awful cough, I woke up bright and early at 5:00 am and just tossed and turned, hoping I would fall back asleep, but never happening.

And so, this morning, I am sitting here in the dark as I type this post, reflecting on the days to come.

It's a little surreal to go from my life in Ghana to my life here in the States.

In so many ways, life feels really normal here.  Dr's appointments, preparing sandwhiches for lunch, chatting with family over breakfast, emailing at a normal speed.  It feels really normal.

And yet my mind (and my heart) is always in two places at once. 

My friend, Robin Beebe, said last week that her family is now discovering that home is more like an "idea" rather than a place.

It's so true.

There have been so many places this year that I have traveled, seen so many different things and met so many people.  When I am in Ghana, I am constantly trying to keep up with my friends and family here.

The longer that I am away from the States, the more I begin to see that "home is an idea" thing as closer to the truth.

Home is in the heart of friendship--that beautiful bond that brings people together across the miles.  Home is in the comfort of family.  Home is in the hugs of little ones...the hands that reach out to hold yours...the laughter of pure joy.

I love that Ruth, in the Bible, says, "Where you go, I go."  She understood that home wasn't a place.  It was that idea that where the Spirit of the Lord is, that is home.  And sometimes you have to leave everything you know to understand that idea of "home".

And I love that.

So, these next two months, while I'm traveling through 4 different states and will be with hundreds of friends and family members that I love...I will always be home. 

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Mountains and Tupperware

I made it home yesterday.  A long flight...a long layover...another long flight...and a long drive home.  But, I am here.  And it is so good to be home.

I woke up to laughter upstairs and mom and dad and Andrea and Markam all chatted together. 

I looked out the bathroom window as I got ready for the day, admiring the snowy view. 

And right now, sit at our kitchen counter seeing the snow on the mountains just beyond our backyard.  The weather is below freezing and warm coats are a must.

I sit here at our kitchen counter and am reminded of life before I "grew up".  Drinking from an orange 1980's era tupperware cup, the same one I drank from as a child.  The familiar spider plants.  The woodstove pouring out hot air.  The smell of the woodsmoke.  The Christmas tree and the lights.  It's all quite lovely.

Makes me nostalgic for things of the past...

Times are different now.  But, just as sweet.

I'm looking forward to time with these memories, and making new ones, these upcoming weeks.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Gimme back my stuff...

My sweet friend, Jill Bigelow, sent me a link to a sermon by Graham Cooke.  He is one of my favorites to listen to, so I was grateful for the opportunity to listen to his sermons.

His sermon continued to just speak into this release of my worry...my striving...

Powerful sermon.

You can check it out at: http://blazingfire.podbean.com/.

In any case, Graham told of a prophetic dream he once had.

He was sitting at the top of this hill, inside of an open building.  He was waiting for Jesus to come.

He saw Jesus coming up the hill towards him with a look on his face that Graham hadn't seen before, almost a frown.  As Jesus drew nearer to him, Graham said he almost felt this "fear of the Lord" coming over him, leaving Graham mentally checking through all that he had done, wondering what had brought Jesus over to him in this manner.

And Jesus came to him and shouted, "Graham, gimme back my stuff."

Taken aback, Graham exclaimed, "Excuse me?"

"Gimme back my stuff!" Jesus said again.

"I don't have any of your stuff, " Graham said.

"Gimme back my stuff!"

"But, everything I've got, YOU gave me."  Graham replied.

"No, I didn't give you this.  You took something from me.  Gimme back my stuff!"  Jesus said.

Finally, Graham asked, "What stuff?"

To which Jesus responded, "That anxiety...that fear...that rejection...that betrayal...that worry.  I died for it.  I paid the price for it.  Gimme back my stuff!"

And in the dream, Graham sank to his knees, crying.  Suddenly, he could see it.  Jesus died for all that stuff, but he still lived with it.  Graham was acting as if it were his, but it wasn't.  Someone had lied to him about all these things...that they belonged to him...that he had to work through it...but he didn't have to.

And Jesus said with a smile, "You need to understand something here.  I was absolutely thrilled to die for you and to take all those things away from you so that you would never have to have them ever ever again.  Forever.  I was thrilled knowing that I would rob you of that anxiety, that fear of man, that striving, knowing I could take away that sting of betrayal.  So that you would never have to be under that oppression again.  And listen, Graham, if you don't gimme my stuff back, I can't give you what I want to give you.  Son, that is not yours, it's mine.  THIS is yours...the whole gospel, Graham, is about exchange.  I take all your rubbish, and I give you all my glory.  Gimme back my stuff.  Gimme back my stuff.  I am not counseling you over it.  I am not pastoring you in it.  It is dead.  It is over.  I am counseling you in your new nature.  I am pastoring the newness of life in you.  I am teaching you how to become new, not how to live in the old.  Graham, you need to gimme back your stuff because it doesn't belong to you anymore.  Gimme back my stuff.  Give. Me. Back. My. Stuff.  It's mine."







Driving in Ghana

I am now a legal driver in Ghana!

This past week, I took a day off of school to go and get my driver's license.  It's so exciting to me to hold that paper in my hand and know that the next time I get pulled over, they can't "arrest me" based on driving with my California license.

Last year, around this time, John and Stacy were back in the States and I was the chief driver around the house.

I was constantly up and about getting things done and taking people places to get things done.

One of these trips, I got pulled over by the police, who proceeded to keep me for almost 30 minutes at the side of the road.  They declared that since I was driving with my California driver's license, he was going to have to arrest my car.  In all reality, he wanted a little bribe, but I refused.  Eventually, he let us go with a promise that I wouldn't drive again.

Well, the next day, I had an emergency situation with a staff member and we were off again.  I passed by the same police office along the side of the road and knew that if he saw me driving again, I would be in more trouble.  So, instead of coming back the usual way, I made a huge loop through Dodowa to avoid the police.

I felt funny "running from the cops", but sometimes...well, you gotta do what you gotta do.

But, this year, it's a different story. 

This year, we know the police pretty well along the roadside.  We rarely have problems with getting pulled over (not quite the same story with our dear friends, the Beebe's, who get pulled over almost every time they go out).  And now, I have my license.

Here's to driving....legally at least...in Ghana!!

Friday, December 7, 2012

Santa Claus and Christmas

I love the Christmas season. 

I love the preparation. 

The smells...a Christmas tree...gingerbread...all the Christmas cooking...

The sights...the lights...the snow...the magic of it all...

Curling up under a blanket, a good book, and a cup of cocoa...

I just love it.

But, I am realizing more and more how much of that has been poured into me from the American culture for years and years.

I sit here in Ghana, surrounded by red dirt, rainy skies (though they should be drying out any day with the change of seasons), hot, sometimes oppressive heat, and misquitoes.  The laughter of children (and many times the cries of children) pierces through every minute of most of my days.

It looks different here.

The smells are different.

The sights are different.

I definitely won't be curling up under a cozy blanket staring out the window in wait for the snow to fall.

I think the biggest difference I have noticed is this issue of Santa Claus. 

Here, Father Christmas is something that maybe children might mention, but he has no job.  He has no role.

And as I look at our American culture, saturating this season with WANT...it really makes me sad.

You see, I see NEED everyday.

I see need in the actions of our little Gabriel who struggles with his behavior because he so longs for attention.

I see need in the body and health of our little Amenyo who has battled regaining his health after being malnourished for far too long.

I see need in the eyes of our schoolboy Angelo, knowing he has no one to run to in a time of trouble.

I see need in the clothes of some of our community kids, ripped and torn, yet proudly worn.

I see need almost everywhere I look.

So, when I see movies with gifts piled high under Christmas trees, I have to ask the question..."Why?".

It just doesn't seem quite right somehow.

Let me tell you how they celebrate Christmas here in Ghana.

First of all, parents will save their coins all year long to be able to buy and sew a new outfit for their child.  The only new thing that that child will get all year long.

They will kill a goat...or a chicken...or a rabbit...

Prepare food.

Invite family.

And everyone will come and celebrate the birth of Christ together.

First thing Christmas morning, the children will dress in their new clothes and shoes.  They will gather their Bibles and walk to church with their family.

They will praise God for the TRUE meaning of Christmas, that the greatest gift of all was brought to us on Christmas day, the gift that offers freedom, Christ Jesus.

And then, they will go back home and eat.

And dance.

And celebrate together.

Long into the night.

I love that.  And I think they've got it right.

Christmas isn't about what we want...honestly, we have just about everything we could possible want...it is about the celebration of a little boy who grew up to be the man that changed the world.  And celebrating that with family and friends...now that is what Christmas should really look like.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Made to Crave, Post #7

Sometimes, I feel like I come to each chapter just when I am dealing with the same struggle.  Does this book have to follow my journey so painfully close?  And that's what it often feels like, opening up these pages...painful.

The chapter was about the temptation of foods we love so much...the ones that call out to us who struggle with food addictions and bring us in with promises of satisfaction.  The temptation of chocolate.  The temptation of all things smothered in cheese.  The temptation of...well...anything besides rice and stew...

And, of course, this had to come up before I headed back to the States.  A year away from my usual cousine-faves, like all things Mexican food (chips and salsa should be one of the food groups, right?), steak and potatoes, In and Out burger, cheese, cheese, milk, and cheese, and finally any sweet thing that might even look semi-delectable.  And it comes to this chapter.  This chapter that talks about temptation.  The artistic way of dodging the diet with the one comment that clears it all away..."That's not fair". 

I often think to myself...I live in Ghana and never get to taste these things.  It's just not fair to deprive myself of them when I'm in the States.

And yet, I'm convicted.

You see, a couple weeks ago, I talked about the struggle and the battle that goes on (and continues to war) within me about exercising.

And yet, I knew it was time.  And so, Kathy, Holly, Emily, Stacy and I started working out.  The plan was 5 days a week.  That probably hasn't happened yet, but 3 days a week is definitely more than I was doing before (which was absolutely none at all).  We're working out.  We're sweating.  We're trying.

And so, the next step, obviously, is the food.

But, the battle wars on in my spirit.  This fight between my longings for food and the reality that my body does not need it.  I know that when I take this on, things will have to change.

Lysa says, "Temptation doesn't take kindly to being starved.  I don't know what tempts you today.  But I do know this vicious cycle and I'm here to give you hope that it is possible to conquer it."

Hmmm...Temptation doesn't take kindly to being starved.  It thrives on the battle of the mind...the battle of the stomach...
And I know that so well, so everything within me wants to rail against that last statement.  My battle with my weight has been something I have faced since I was eight years old.  It feels IMPOSSIBLE to conquer.

But, I also know the truth...where God calls me MORE THAN A CONQUERER. 

She says about her own struggle with choosing to not eat sugar and the lies that came, "But in that moment of temptation, I realized having a pity party was a clue I was relying on my own strength, a strength that has failed me before and would fail me again.  I had to grab hold of God's strength and the only way to do that ws in invite His power into this situation....I mentally recited my go-to script: 'I am made for more. I am made for victory.'"

And I know that.  I know I'm made for more.  I know...when my knees are aching after running down a dusty African road...I've got to be made for more than this.  When I hide my food and eat, feeling instantly guilty of the choice that I've made, I know that I've got to be made for more than this.

"They may know they are made for more, but somehow Satan dissipates this truth with the rationalization: 'Special times deserve special exceptions and anything else just isn't fair.'"

And my rationalization regarding these special time has EVERYTHING to do with living and working and eating in Ghana.  So, when a visitor brings me an extra large bag of dark chocolate peanut m&m's, I'm going to eat them, because it's just not fair that I can't have them all the time because I live and work in a foreign country where this stuff is just not available.

And my rationalization coming home is usually much the same.  Eat as much of everything.  Indulge, indulge, indulge...because this is the last time you're going to get it for AT LEAST a year...maybe more.

Because it just isn't fair otherwise.

But, is it really fair what I have done to my body.  My knees will surely tell you no!  My figure will surely tell you no!

I hide behind a job "well-done" knowing that people will maybe see "me" there, as they surely won't see "me" inside this body.  I've done a pretty good job of hiding myself away.

I've allowed my weaknesses...my rationalizations...to guide my life in this area for pretty much my entire life.

"But he said to me, 'My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.'  Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me.  That is why, for Christ's sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties.  For when I am weak, then I am strong." (2 Corinthians 12:9-10)

And that is why I post these inner most thoughts here...I want to boast about my weaknesses because I want...oh, so desperately...for Christ's power to rest on me.  I want his strength to pour into my weary spirit and change my life.  I am so weak...and I need his strength.

"Weakness is hard, but weakness doesn't have to mean defeat.  It is my opportunity to experience God's power firsthand."

And that is what I want.  I want my life to be a testimony to God's power working in me.  Oh, I long for that.  I long for that more than I long for chocolate.  And that, I hope, is where the change is going to come.

"What if this battle with food isn't the curse we've always thought it to be?  What if it's actually the very thing, if brought under control, that can lead us to a better understanding of God?  What if we could actually get to the place where we thanked God for letting us face this battle because of the rich treasures we discovered on the battlefield?"

I want to be in that place.  I am SO NOT THERE YET.

"Life as a Christ follower will always be a learning process of depending less on our own strength and more on God's power.  The Bible teaches that this 'testing of our faith deelops perseverance which must finish its work so that we may be mature and complete, not lacking anything' (James 1:3-4)....This truth should be the cry of our souls instead of Satan's lie that 'it's not fair'.  Our taste buds make such empty claims to satisfy us, but only persevering with God will make us truly full, complete, not lacking anything."

Seems to be the mantra that God is teaching me these days. 

Less of me.  More of Him. 

I long to be mature in faith, not lacking anything, and in that fullness, experience the freedom in Christ regarding my issues with food.

I would say that my challenge is in going home and trying to maintain this perspective, but I know that the perspective doesn't change here either.  It is difficult for me to say no to so much here on a regular basis.

And so it begins.  Saying no to things that I know will draw me in to the places I just can't allow myself to go anymore (with God's help), because I am made for more than this.

That part of my life has got to change.  And it's going to start now.  One step at a time.  Trusting that God will provide the strength when the rationalizations start popping up...and the cravings...and the lies...

I am made for more.  I am made for victory.

Sunday, December 2, 2012


It seems like these past couple of weeks, I have been struggling with worry.

This week it overflowed when my assistant, Ella, announced that she had to leave due to a family conflict.

I thought to myself, "How can I go back to the States with all this on my plate and NO ONE in the school." 

I was worried.

Probably unnecessarily so (as my friend Christina reasoned with me later), but in those moments, the worry was real and oppressive and overpowering.

And then, this morning, I spend the morning in my room instead of attending the usual CORM church service.  Me and my Papa. 

I entered the throneroom and worshipped. 

I felt like I had cuddled up in his arms as I prayed and talked and cried with my Abba Father.

I hadn't done that in a long time.

Too long.

And then, I turned on a couple of podcasts that a friend sent my way (Thanks Steve!) by a preacher named Todd White. 

You know when you come into the presence of God, He is going to speak.

And speak, He did.  More than even speaking, He disciplined.

Todd's sermon was on worry.  He said that many Christians live their entire life in a place of STRIVING instead of a place of REST...a place of WORRY instead of a place of CONFIDENCE.  And it's more than just living in an unhealthy spiritual place...it's a sinful place.


Jesus has already done it.  The price has been paid.  Yet, we constantly take BACK his sacrifice and say that what He did is not enough...that we have to STRIVE for more...that we have to WORRY about getting the next thing done.

It's not fair.  It's not right.  It's not TRUE.

And I was reminded again...as God showed me on Friday...that it's time for me to LAY THIS DOWN.  This burden is not mine to carry. 

I can't worry about what will happen when I'm not around.  I have to TRUST that God is in control!

I can't worry about getting everything in place before I leave.  I will do my best and know that God will provide for every need and He will fill in the gaps.

I can't worry about the students...the teachers...GES...the curriculum...

This isn't about the school at all, in fact.

It's about me...and God...and surrender.

And it's an every day surrender.

It's not easy.  But it is fair.  And it is right.  And it is true.

So, that's what I'm trying.  That everyday surrender.  That every moment surrender. 

I need that REST.  I need that CONFIDENCE.  I need more of CHRIST and less of me.


Saturday, December 1, 2012


This week has been incredibly stressful.  Yesterday, I heard the news from my newly hired office assistant that she wouldn't be returning to work for me due to some problems within the family.

Not the first time I have heard that this year. 

As a matter of fact, that is the THIRD "I quit" scenario I have heard this year.  But, this one kinda put me over the edge.

Stressed about getting everything done before I head back to the States, I had been working on training Ella, my assistant, to do much of the little day to day things that I do around here.  I got along with her so well and was so pleased to have found such a friendly and eager person to help move our school forward.

And then, tragedy struck and it left me without help...again.

And then, hearing news from home about a dear friend moving away...

Well, it was all just a little too much to handle in one day.

And so, instead of our normal Jilian Micheals workout, I decided to go for a walk.

And the walk turned into a run.

And the run turned into a race against myself...my mind...my emotions...

And the race turned into a mess of tears.

But, good tears.

Healthy tears.

Tears that said, "I cannot do this alone.  I need help.  And that help can only come from my Father."

I sat down at the end of the road and cried...surrendered...fully understanding that this mess that I was in had one purpose, in releasing myself from the burden of carrying this school, and handing it over to the Maker who had the vision in the first place.

And then, this song came on my ipod, sending me even deeper into my hurt, and fear, and insecurities.  This song, "Beautiful Things" by Gungor, brings back memories that seem to have been from a lifetime ago. 

I got to be a part of the birth of one of my nieces (I guess you could call her a niece, since her mom and I are practically sisters), and this song was almost on repeat in the birthing room. 

But, besides those beautiful memories, it also holds such a beautiful truth.

This year, I have struggled with my singleness, at times my loneliness, the burden of what we do here...

But, this song brought great truth.  He does make beautiful things out of the dust.  And those tears that flowed down my face felt like I was being molded...


made beautiful again...

And so I leave you with these words, the ones that shaped yesterday's experience and turned it into something quite lovely.

"Beautiful Things"

All this pain
I wonder if I’ll ever find my way
I wonder if my life could really change at all
All this earth
Could all that is lost ever be found
Could a garden come up from this ground at all

You make beautiful things
You make beautiful things out of the dust
You make beautiful things
You make beautiful things out of us

All around
Hope is springing up from this old ground
Out of chaos life is being found in You

You make beautiful things
You make beautiful things out of the dust
You make beautiful things
You make beautiful things out of us

You make beautiful things
You make beautiful things out of the dust
You make beautiful things
You make beautiful things out of us

You make me new, You are making me new
You make me new, You are making me new

You make beautiful things
You make beautiful things out of the dust
You make beautiful things
You make beautiful things out of us 

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Early Morning School

This morning, I made it to school early to get our attendance sheets printed out. 

I love early morning school life.

Only Rapheal Addy and Rapheal Kporti were in school.  They were busy sweeping classrooms, singing and talking with one another.

The hallways were quiet.

The sun barely touching the corners of our courtyard out my office window.

I powered up my computer and finished up the work that never seems to get done the day before.

The sound of water trickling through our water filters is an almost soothing sound.

The whole school world seems at peace.

It's lovely.

Preparing for a Month

It's only 2 1/2 more weeks before I head back to the States for TWO MONTHS.  I can't believe I'll be back for that long, and right now, it only fills me with worry about how the school will do while I'm away. 

It's been a rough couple of weeks on this muscle that I have called TRUST.

And I suppose that muscle will continue to be stretched and worked for as long as I live, especially as long as I live and work here.  Sometimes that stretching is a bit painful.  But, it's necessary.  And in the end, we all learn.  We all grow.  We all learn.

In any case, as I prepare for the month that I'm gone, I'm trying to think of the daily little things that have to get accomplished around here...the things that I run out of time to do.

...the library...well, that place is in a constant state of inputting books and shelving new items!

...the behavior management...a daily part of the job as principal, not fun, but there all the same...

...one on one meetings with teachers to mentor and disciple...

...observations in classrooms...

...the budget...

...contacting parent's about missing fees...

...comforting children who have gotten hurt...

...conducting weekly meetings (2 times a week)...

...overseeing sponsorship information...

...communicating with sponsors, volunteers, and staff regarding the school...

...weekly leadership team meetings....

...overseeing the running of the office and its personnel...

...putting together the data for the students behavior and academics...

...purchasing needed items...

...working with GES to get our licensing...

...filtering water for classrooms...

And it feels like about a million other things fill up my time here. 

How do I prepare for the unknown? 

I've been walking through my daily to-do's and trying to think of everything that could possibly be needed while I'm away, and prepare for that.

It's overwhelming to think of being away from the school that long and not know how things will go, but I also know that I am in desperate need of time away and I know this time away will be so rich for me.

Praying for God's wisdom to follow me as I figure this all out.


Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Day 2

It is hard to exercise when you are sore.

My legs feel like noodles when I'm finished.

But, I'm feeling good.

More energy.

More sore.

But good.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Finally Deciding

Today, all of us girl sat down at lunch and we finally decided that we have to work together to get this weight thing under control. 

I mean, Kathy, Emily, and Holly have no worries.  They want to be more active and they are joining Stacy and I in that journey.

So, we decided that we were going to start working out at 5:00 pm each night Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday, and at some point every Saturday.

It's just what I needed to have done to finally get rolling.  It's been months since I have made the time to actually exercise.

I think it will be a good way to build community...but an even better way to get rid of some of these extra pounds and unwanted flab.

Finally decided...it's time to buckle down and just get to it.

Tomorrow starts, DAY 1.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Reflecting on Singleness

I had a frustrating interaction with a local pastor on Friday, right near the end of our celebration time.  Coming on the heels of some really damaging information we recieved earlier in the week, I wasn't able to figure out how to deal with my emotions.  Am still figuring that out...

Yesterday, one of the local pastors came to chat with me a bit while we were packing everything up from our big celebration.  I tend to be very careful with what I say to certain people, not sure how they will handle the information, so I always try to be wise with my words when handling conversations with this man. 

Anyway, we chatted for awhile about various issues, and then he started prodding at my relationship status.  I am always careful around this issue, especially here.  When I told him that I was single, he asked me, "Why?  Don't you want to be married?" 

I know it wasn't his intention to be hurtful, nosy perhaps, but certainly not hurtful.  And perhaps that question wouldn't seem hurtful to many.  But, to me, it stung.

I responded that for now, God has called me here in my singleness.  When God calls me into marraige, I will follow after Him in that too. 

To which the pastor responded, "Then, you need to be praying for a man who has a heart that loves God to pursue you."

Another sting.  Another barb.

Not intentional, but hurtful all the same.

Of course I want to be married.  I long to be married.  I long for a family of my own.  I desire a husband that loves God and pursues him relentlessly.  I want children of my own.

I have dreams, have always had dreams, of being a wife and a mother.

I think, being here, has, in some ways, intensified those desires only because I long for someone to partner with me here.  The ministry can be extremely lonely...especially in a foreign culture and as a leader. 

Of course I pray for my future husband.  Almost daily, I pray for the man that he is now and who God is shaping him to be.  I pray for his heart, that he would be growing in maturity so that he will be able to lead well.  I don't know who he is, but I pray for him all the time.

Today, I was asked how many kids I would want when I was married someday.  I had to think about my answer, knowing that probably two years ago, I could have said my answer promptly, but knowing that I'm getting older and can't have the 5 kids that I longed for in the past, I had to answer a brief, "I'm not sure anymore."

I am busy here and this isn't something that is constantly on my mind, but I'm feeling a little raw with the emotions and awareness of my singleness today.

I pray that someday I will be married, but I know that there is a chance that I won't.  There is that chance.  And I think it's in that chance, that fear lies.

Predatory.  Filling my mind with the fear that I'm not good enough.  And so I wait in that, to hear the truth.  To believe the truth about myself again.

I trust in the promises of a Father who is good.  So, for now, and as often as I will remember, I will lay aside the fear of the unknown future ahead of me and trust that God has all under control.


These Boots Were Made for Dancing

Yesterday, we hosted our annual Thanksgiving Love Feast for our children and families at Faith Roots.  It was also an anniversary celebration of ONE YEAR, moving to the Children's Village. 

I can't believe that a year ago, we were beginning to load everything into our bedrooms here at the Omorefe house, the children were moving into their new home.  Everyone was excited about getting our own houses after crowding together in one house for a whole year.  We moved out here without electricity, trusting that it would happen in the weeks to come.  We didn't know that we would be without electricity for over 4 months.  We lived through the hot season, with the misquitoes buzzing around our faces, and we celebrated Easter weekend, when we finally got electricity into our houses.  You should have seen the dancing that day.

In so many ways, it seems like that move-in day was just yesterday.  And then, in other ways, like it happened years ago...a distant memory.  So much happens here in a day, it's hard to think that that was just a year ago when we were all living together.

And God is good.  He has provided in miraculous ways.  We have 11 classrooms and a fully functioning library at our school, compared to the 6 classrooms from last year, and the little blue school house from the year before.  We have another house with 17 new kids.  We have full-time volunteers here with us for a year.  We have a volunteer and guest house.  God has provided ABUNDANTLY in one year.  And all we can do is praise him!

And so, yesterday, we praised him in the dance!  We put on our dancing shoes and we danced until our feet hurt so bad we had to sit down.  The teachers danced, the students danced, the visitors danced...we danced until we couldn't stand, ate and drank some water, then danced some more.

It's rare that I get to have that kind of fun with our students.  They mostly see me in a different role, dealing with behavior issues or observing a teacher.  So, to get out on that dance floor, to tickle the little ones until they laughed with tears running down their faces, to soothe some of those who fell down and got a little scrape, to hold the babies when they're so tired they can't keep their eyes open.  It was a pleasure...

And I'm definitely feeling the exhaustion from two extremely busy days.  Feeling the need to withdraw and rest.

But, so blessed to celebrate with the dance...celebrate with Thanksgiving all that God has done for us this year.  Such an honor to get to be a witness to his hand at work here at CORM.

Therapeutic Thanksgiving

I love to cook.  Someone asked me on Thanksgiving, this year, if I was a therapeutic cooker.  I suppose I am. 

I love getting my hands dirty cutting fresh fruit and vegetables.  The dicing of a million tomatoes for a fresh spaghetti sauce.  The smell of garlic and onions grilling in a pan.  The special dance that Gracie does when she is helping cook something she knows is going to be "sweet".  I love kneading bread dough until my arms ache knowing that it will only be that much softer when it's out of the oven.  I love the sights.  The colors.  The smells. 
This Thanksgiving, I took the day off to prepare for our Thanksgiving day feast, knowing that we would have almost 50 people over for our big day.  After a delicious meal of chicken noodle soup and apple fritters (thanks to Stacy), Kathy and I prepared pies, apple and pumpkin, the night before.  Smells of cinnamon apples drifting through the kitchen with a little Micheal Buble Christmas, was just thing to put me in the Thanksgiving mood.
A batch of pumpkin cinnamon rolls were rolled up, baked, and frosted with a caramel frosting, ready for the breakfast of champions Thanksgiving day.
Thanksgiving day, I woke up excited for the feast, knowing that about 10 hours of cutting, peeling, baking, were ahead of me.  I put the YGAP team to work peeling sweet potatoes and potatoes.  We chatted and told stories, while I mixed up a batch of bread dough for rolls (ahhh...love the smell of yeast as it begins to work its magic!).  We listened to Christmas music as the turkeys were brined and ready for the oven.  Lydia and Lucy popped in throughout the day to taste and smell and see the goodies being whipped up.  They cut and prepped and helped with everything, lightening the load and enjoying the new foods we were whipping up (the rolls were especially a hit!).
By 5:00 pm, our friends had all gathered, the turkeys were perfect, the food set out (along with about 20 POUNDS of mashed potatoes...we overestimated on the potatoes a bit!), and it was time to taste.
Half the fun of cooking is to see the faces of those enjoying the foods.  And enjoy we did.  We stuffed ourselves silly with green bean casserole, sweet potatoes with marshmallows on top, mashed potatoes and gravy, turkey, salad, rolls, and more.  It was a holiday meal for 50 (though we could have probably fed 100 with that mound of mashed potatoes!). 
So, though I took the day off of work from the school, and even if I was on my feet for the majority of the day, walking back and forth from our outside bread oven where everything was cooking up, it was a therapeutic day.  A joy.  Family, fun, laughter, food...the makings of a great holiday!  Oh, and dancing.  You can't forget the dancing!

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

It All Makes Sense

Today, I found out some extremely disappointing information that took my breath away really.  It was overwhelming to hear of the betrayal, the trust that had been broken, the lives that have been hurt because of someone's greed.

I have yet to even know what to do with the information.  How do I process through something this huge when I placed such valuable trust in this person's hands?  How do I trust again after time and time again, false motives prove to be behind so many people's desires to come and work for us here. 

It's overwhelmingly frustrating.

And yet, all the pieces of this puzzle from the past couple of months...and even throughout the past year, has begun to come together.  It is starting to  make sense. 

It makes sense why things were stolen (and even down to WHEN they were stolen).

It makes sense why certain lies were told.

The defensive attitude.  The quiet conversations.  It all makes sense.

But, that doesn't make it hurt any less.

And I keep facing the same problem...I'm going to have to give my trust out again and again and it will probably continue to be battered and broken at times. 

But, I will learn.  I will be more careful when I tell my secrets.  I will watch carefully and see who will earn my trust.  I will, unfortunately, have to be someone who cynically looks at people's intentions.

I don't like that.

I don't like that I am becoming jaded...harder in some ways.

I don't know how else to protect myself.  I'm not sure how else to protect the work that we do here, and ultimately, the lives that we interact with and change.

And so, I pray that God will convict.  I pray God will change this heart.  I pray for God to heal the ones who have been hurt in this.  And I pray that HE will make all things work together for HIS good!

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Made to Crave, Post #6

Last week, I read a chapter from the book called "But Exercise Makes Me Want To Cry"...and I almost cried at the title!

It's almost like I've been dreading this chapter coming.

I've been through seasons where I have been motivated to exercise, I'll lose weight, feel great...and then something else sets in and it's the same cycle again...weight gain, frustration, and the motivation is absolutely gone.

It would help if I found some exercise that I absolutely LOVED to do...but there is not a single exercise that I can say that I enjoy.

And then again, many people would probably say the same thing, yet they buckle down and do it.

So here it is, in Lysa's words (italics mine):

"If I was honest with myself, my issue was plain and simple--a lack of self-control.  I could sugar-coat it and justify it all day long, but the truth was I didn't have a weight problem; I had a spiritual problem.  I depended on food for comfort more than I depended on God.  And I was simply too lazy to make time to exercise."

It's painfully true.

And I mean painful.  It makes me want to cry.  And the tears come not because I want to depend on God more, but because I have to let go of my old friend, my old habits, and I'm just not sure how to do that and feel comfortable.  THIS feels comfortable.  Dependence on God...full dependence...well, that's scary.

Psalm 86:11-12 says, "Teach me your way, O LORD, and I will walk in your truth; give me an undivided heart, that I may fear your name.  I will praise you, O LORD my God, with all my heart; I will glorify your name forever."

She writes, "An undivided heart.  That's what my whole journey in conquering my cravings was about.  When it comes to my body, I can't live with divided loyalties.  I can either be loyal to honoring the Lord with my body or loyal to my cravings, desires, and many excuses for not exercising."

I think I'm beginning to see more and more how much these things are damaging my relationship with God. 

I long for intimacy with God.  I long for that time when I can sit at my Father's feet and worship.  Yet, this thing IS an act of disobedience.  How can I enter the courts when I daily choose other things over God? 

I can say it was a difficult choice to move to Ghana.  I can say it was difficult to sacrifice my life to teach and lead here.  And yet, the harder choice, it seems, is to live my daily life by honoring the King.

I know that God is fully honored by my obedience.  Yet, I forget to walk in it.

Stress comes in.  Time plays a role.  Chocolate...yep, that's part of it.  But, really, this is an issue of the heart.  I can't live with a divided heart...choosing to serve God with my life, but not serving him with my body.  It doesn't make sense. 

And yet, the internal battle to sacrifice this, to lay this down, to be motivated to change...it's warring inside of me even as I type this post.

Years back, when I was a summer intern at Peninsula Covenant Church in the Bay area, Tony (the young adults pastor) taught us an illustration he referred to as "The Triangle".  An upside down triangle was handed to each of us and we were told to think of as many sinful behaviors as we could think of at the bottom, the point of the triangle.  We listed all the normal "sinful behaviors" that we could think of...you know, those really "bad" sins.  (I'm pretty sure I didn't write "overeating and underexercising as a sinful behavior!)  Then, Tony talked to us about how we often deal with changing behaviors when we talk about our walk with the Lord.

God, help me change this behavior.

I need accountability so I can change this behavior.

But, the behavior never changes, or if it does, it often morphes into something else.  The behavior is always a sign of a deeper issue.

At the top of the triangle, we wrote in "God's Love". 

Until we fully understand God's love for us, his children...his individual...never-ending...powerful and mighty love...our behaviors will remain the same.  But out of his love for us, we walk into the truth of who the Son of God is, the sacrifice He made for us helps us to walk out our lives in and new identity, obedient to what we are called to, which changes our character, and then our behavior.

So, when I see an issue of disobedience in my life, I can't force myself to change that behavior.  I have to go back to the root.

I have to ask myself, What don't I understand about God's love?"...and He meets me where I am and changes me.

In so many ways, I feel like I walk in the freedom of God's love concerning who I am, my identity in Christ, my understanding of his expanding love for me...

I mean, I have moved to Ghana as a full-time missionary.  I share with teachers and children, everyday, the love of the Father.

Yet, it is physically apparent that I don't fully walk in that.

I need to be reminded of who I am in Christ.  I need to be reminded that I am loved by the God of the Universe.  I need to see his love as a change agent in my life and let THAT lead my heart...not my desire to forcefully change my motivations.

Oh, Father, change my heart.  Reveal to me more of your love.  I long for change, but I know that only comes from you.  Give me an undivided heart for YOU ALONE.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

When Missing Home is Too Much

I've written here so many times about missing home and the change and transitions I am constantly going through as I live my life apart from the many that I love back in the States.

But, I often forget that this place is often nothing like home for our kids either.  Our kids were brought here as orphans or abandoned or trafficked children, taken from villages that they know and understand, to a place that is almost a third culture.  It is different.  It's not "home" in many ways.  They miss their homes and what is left of their families (no matter how they were treated) and they mourn the moments they miss, too.

This afternoon, our girl Evelyn came to me in tears.  Her teacher had said that she'd been crying all day and he couldn't console her. 

At first, she started talking and I couldn't understand her through her sobs.  I thought maybe she was talking about someone taking something from her and she was mad about it.

But eventually, I heard the words "brother" and later "I just miss home".

And so I held her.  15 years old.  Missing home.

I can't imagine.

I'm twice her age.  And I miss home.  I have a hard time controlling my emotions and figuring things out.  I can't imagine how hard it must be for her.

When Evelyn was brought here, she left behind her brothers, though she didn't live with them for much of her life.

The past few nights, she's been experiencing dreams where her brothers are killed.  She keeps waking up afraid.  And she mourns the relationship that isn't there.

And I mourn too.

I hugged her and assured her that we would get in contact with her family so she could talk with them.

That stopped the tears, but I know her heart is hurting.

And I know the enemy will continue to plague her with nasty nightmares to scare her away from relationship.

Oh, my dear girl, I treasure her.  And I will be praying for her heart...

When I'm missing home, maybe I can go to her for a hug. 

She certainly understands.

All the Clutter

I've figured out something about myself.

My external life often mirrors my internal life. 

Our school administrator left us in August due to a shoulder surgery that he is still working through.  Since then, I had moved out of my office to cover the front office and deal with all the things that came through our doors.

As volunteers continued to flood through during the summer months, my office flooded with donations, unsorted and overwhelming.

I had had my computer stolen and with that, I had a backlog of so many things to make up before school started again in September.

And on top of all that, planning a staff training for two weeks, hiring a whole new group of teachers, registering new students...let's just say that those first few months of school were immensely busy.

I was tired.

I was worn out.

I wondered if I could even continue.

My head was so full that I couldn't remember simple conversations and interactions I had had. 

I couldn't follow through with the promises I made to the teachers.

I felt impossibly overwhelmed.

And my office was this secret place tucked back in the corner that I dared not even put my head into for fear of it being "the straw that broke the camel's back".

Stacy came in to clean the office, not once, but two times, only to have it fill back up again.

Holly came in to do the same thing, only to see it covered in boxes and stuff the very next day.

And so I stayed out of there.

My office mirrored my head...and unfortunately, my heart.

For the longest time, I lived in "burn-out mode", not feeling a way to escape.  I just dealt with it.  What else could I do?  Who else could I turn to?  There was no one else who could be held responsible to run this place except for me.

And then, I got that time in Morrocco.  And then time with Marilyn and Sarah here.  And finally, Ella was hired to assist things in the office.

And if was as if I could breathe again. 

All those things fell into place so that I could do that job that I came here to do.  I have been able to pray for, to minister to, to partner with, to support--more than I have ever been able to do before during my time here.  I feel like I'm finally falling into a rhythm--a good one.  One that I can dance and sing to for a lot longer!

And it's showing up in other ways too...

This last week, I spent countless hours cleaning out my office, moving stuff to the resource room, logging stuff into the computer in the library.  And things are getting clean.

For the first time over 3 months, I am sitting at my OWN desk to type this blog.  I conducted one-on-one meetings in my OWN office...where I can see the floor...where my shelves actually make sense, and where boxes aren't overwhelming every space.

All the clutter is getting cleaned out...and it feels good.


Tuesday, November 6, 2012

A Job Well Done

Today, I set out to work on my budget.

I sat down with my books.  My black and blue and red pens.  I got out my paperwork on salaries and social security. 

And didn't get any of it done.

Today, I had one on ones with staff.

And in the end of the day, I can say without a doubt...job well done.

Tears were shed.

Burdens shared.

Life bared.

Decisions made.

Love and grace given.

Today...yes, today was a job well done.

Created for More Than This

This morning, we were confronted with a very difficult situation.  One that I cannot explain here with many words, but only to say that we have mourned for one of our staff members today.

This morning, we pulled her aside and talked with her about the situation she found herself in.  We mourned her choices.  But, I think what we mourned most wasn't her behavior or her choices, it was that she had no idea that she was created for so much more.

Sometimes I wish that others could see what God has given us eyes to see.

I wish that this woman could open her eyes, look into the mirror, and see the one whom God created.

I listened as Johnbull talked to her as a father, drawing her close to his heart, and Stacy held her hand and spoke truth.  And tears spilled down my cheeks when I spoke over her the truth of Psalm 139 which says,

7 Where can I go from your Spirit?
Where can I flee from your presence?
8 If I go up to the heavens, you are there;
if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.
9 If I rise on the wings of the dawn,
if I settle on the far side of the sea,
10 even there your hand will guide me,
your right hand will hold me fast.
11 If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me
and the light become night around me,”
12 even the darkness will not be dark to you;
the night will shine like the day,
for darkness is as light to you.
13 For you created my inmost being;
you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
14 I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
your works are wonderful,
I know that full well.
15 My frame was not hidden from you
when I was made in the secret place,
when I was woven together in the depths of the earth.
16 Your eyes saw my unformed body;
all the days ordained for me were written in your book
before one of them came to be.
17 How precious to me are your thoughts,[a] God!
How vast is the sum of them!
18 Were I to count them,
they would outnumber the grains of sand
when I awake, I am still with you.
As I read those words to her, I felt like she NEEDED to understand her identity in this.  That God is with her in every choice that she makes.  He sees even in the darkest of places. 
And most of all, that HE CREATED HER FOR SO MUCH MORE...
I talked to her about being single here and the difficulty it can be to be in ministry and single, but that God has designed a perfect plan for her life...HE CREATED HER FOR SO MUCH MORE...
We gathered around, affirming the truths of her character, rebuking the past that comes too often to haunt her, reminding her again and again HE CREATED HER FOR SO MUCH MORE...
And it was in that moment, I realized that THIS is why we are here.
It is to rescue the lost and the broken.
Sometimes, the lost and the broken look like a small and scared boy fishing with his master on a lake.
And sometimes, the lost and the broken look like a full-grown adult making choices that will forever alter her future.
And we have a choice to close our eyes to the needs in our very own family...or we can rescue.
We can speak life.
We can impart truth.
We can love without bounds.
We can speak with eyes to see God's creation...and that they were created for so much more than what they are comprimising for.
And so we do.  And I pray, we will continue to do so.  With arms wide open.  With eyes wide open.  Fully prepared to battle for the truth...for our kids, our staff, our families...

Monday, November 5, 2012

Our Library

A few years ago, I was holding school in a little blue house without electricity and running water.  I didn't have a curriculum, much less access to many books.

But, what we did have, we used! 

That year was magical!  We read books.  The kids expanded their vocabulary.  They began to imagine things for themselves.  They began to really dream and become children again. 

I knew one day, after reading that day's passage from one of the Chronicles of Narnia passages, that we had finally broken through to the kid's imaginations when outside the creaky window doors, I heard the clash of metal and "For Narniaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa...." being screamed.  When I peeked out the window, Micheal and JJ both had machetes and were using them as swords.  I put a stop to that, but laughed at the whole idea.  They were beginning to dream.  It reminded me of how it is in The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe when the snow begins to melt and Father Christmas comes with good gifts.  These good gifts were imaginations, the ability to dream and write, joy in childhood, and an understanding of a greater truth--that God is the author of all stories and He is telling one in THEM!

And when we moved here, there just wasn't a place to even put the books, nevertheless have the students and teachers handle them in a way that kept them in good enough condition for the future.  So, they sat in piles, in boxes and under mats in our teacher's lounge for over a year.

And when my good friend, Sarah Tallmadge, decided to come to Ghana to visit us here at City of Refuge Ministries, I knew the perfect project for her.

It was a culmination of so many things.

Over a year ago, we had a library program called Alexandria (an amazing software program!!) donated to us.  But, we didn't have a computer to load it on to and we didn't have the hardware to set up a library...and we didn't have a room to house the books.

Then, a friend of the ministry, Evangelist Sandra Riley, fundraised for 8 computers for our teachers to use.  Last year, we didn't have electricity here at the school, so the computers were set aside, and now, they have been taken out and put in the library for students and teachers alike to use.

And for over a year, a group of life-long learners from the Semester at Sea voyage in the fall of 2011, have been sending us small batches of books to help fill out shelves.  We have been able to get curriculum, chapter books, picture books, and so much more from these generous donors.

Kathy (left) and Sarah putting the finishing touches on our computer table before the grand opening.
And then, Sarah came and grabbed a hold of the vision of our library with two hands and ran with it!  She was able to raise support to purchase the hardware and the labels and all that was needed for our library to get up and running.  And she came and spent her full two weeks breathing life into that space. 

That beautiful space!

Now, walls covered in shelves.

Books available for teacher's to increase their knowledge of teaching.

Books available to open WORLD's for these students who previously didn't have access to anything like this before.

When Sarah spoke to the students the afternoon of our grand opening, she told them, "This library is for you so that when you read these books, you will know how much God loves YOU."

And that is true.  We prayed over the library...over the doors...over the entrance...over the shelves...that when students walk in, they would know the love of Christ that brought them to this place for this time. 

We prayed that students would have a whole world opened to them.

We prayed that students would feel confident in beginning to read, knowing the support is there for them.

Such a sweet, sweet blessing to have so many pour into this place so that we can bless GENERATIONS of children through this library.

Books ready for students to read!

Thank you that have given....that continue to give...and will give in the future.  You are an enormous part of making what we do here possible!

Made to Crave, Post #5

The past few days, I have been really struggling with my body image, and so this chapter was certainly timely in it's truth.

Entitled "Making Peace with the Realities of My Body", Lysa talks about the realities of her "tankles" and how God helped her to fully appreciate her body for how it was created while walking out her life in obedience toward good choices she made in how she fed her body.

There has to be a "shifting in motivation from the delight of seeing diminishing numbers on the scale to the delight of obedience to God."

And it's so true.

I fully realize that my issue with food...with my constant need to consume entertainment (as a way to turn off my mind)...it comes down to obedience. 

This weekend was a little weird for me.  I am trying to establish a Sabbath day for myself.  I don't do any work on Sabbath days.  I relax.  I watch TV.  I play my guitar.  I clean my room.  I cook.  I spend time praying for people on my prayer wall.  I communicate with family and friends back home.  I delve into the word.  I read.  All these things are restful to me, but I try to do it all by myself.  I know my "introverted" need to get some time alone every now and then.

Usually, I walk away from my Sundays feeling good, but this week was a bit rougher.  The night before, I had said goodbye to my good friend Sarah as she traveled back to the States.  And then, I got to talk on the phone to my dear friend Yona before she went in to deliver her baby boy, Corbin.  Both of those things, for some reason, "gave me permission" to be disobedient to what God has called me to.  And Sunday, my Sabbath day, I went a little crazy.  I ate massive amounts of dark chocolate.  I lazed when I could have been doing something a little more productive.  I struggled on the brink of depression.  And it was because of disobedience.  I know what God has called me to in this season, and yet, I chose to eat and eat and eat until I didn't feel so well because I was sad. 

So, instead of facing the scale, and the frustration that would surely follow...I need to walk in obedience to what God has called me to in this season and ask myself these questions:

"Did I overeat this week on any day?
Did I move more and exercise regularly?
Do I feel lighter than I did at this time last week?
Did I eat in secret or out of anger or frustration?
Did I feel that, at any time, I ran to food instead of to God?
Before I hopped on the scale, did I think I'd had a successful, God-pleasing week?"

If I answer these questions correctly, I will have been walking in obedience.  Because it's not about the number on the scale...it's about walking in obedience.

When I look at my week this last week, well, I can honestly say that when it came to walking in obedience...I failed...miserably.

And, I have walked humbly to the throneroom of the Father, wanting those selfish desires, that immediate rush to the chocolate instead of to the Father, to be thrown from me.  I want to talk in obedience!

I rested in the truth of Psalm 103:1-5 while I read through these passages:

"The body God has given me is good.  It's not perfect nor will it ever be....But my body is a gift, a good gift for which I am thankful.  Being faithful in taking care of this gift by walking according to God's plans gives me renewed strength to keep a healthy view of my body....God hasn't cursed your body with certain flaws.  God has revewaled the benefit [of how I've been created].  Oh what freedom!  What redemption!  What a sweet gift!... 
I've found my beautiful.  And I like my beautiful.  I don't have to hold my beautiful up to others with a critical eye of judgement.  Ralph Waldo Emerson once said, 'Though we travel the world over to find the beautiful, we must carry it with us or we find it not.'"

I want to walk the road of obedience.  I want to find the beautiful in me and carry it with me...not allowing anyone or anything take that away from me.  I want to trust that God can carry the burdens that I carry so far away from my world back in the States.

Lord, help me walk this out, trusting that what you created in me is good.  And help me to walk out in obedience the path you have set before me.

Thursday, November 1, 2012


Sammy is sitting in the middle with the funny grin!

I haven't done a blog on one of our kids for awhile, so I figured it was about time.  Today, I wanted to write about Sammy.

Sammy is an amazing little boy.  I was able to be there when he was rescued in the month of June.  Sweet, smiling, quiet, playful...even a little sneaky sometimes.

Sammy came to us because he was in a pretty bad situation in a village called AdaKope.  We were fighting for his brother, Kesse, but the fisherman refused to release Kesse to us.  Sammy was released though.

FTO volunteer, Michael Lown, made an instant connection with Sammy.  He hung out with him, carried him around, played football with him...instant buddies.

And when we finally brought him home, his face lit up seeing DK and Abigail as they were from the same fishing village.

Sammy was still concerned for his brother and asked about his mother often.  He called his mom back in AdaKope to let her know he was ok and asked when Kesse would be coming.  Little did he know that we had quite a fight ahead of us to bring Kesse back home with us, but he would come eventually.

Sammy has made incredible growth since coming to City of Refuge.  He can shout and fight like all our other boys, but almost everyday, we see new things in him!  His sweet smile, his willingness to help, and now, we are seeing his quick to learn attitude.  He has even surpassed other students in his class as he has started to grasp the English language and can now perform pretty well on exams.

Sammy loves to play football and most afternoons, he will be seen outside playing football with all the other boys.  He's fast moving, and quick to laugh.  He loves to be hugged and tickled and loved on, but sometimes hides behind a facade of shyness.

I'm so proud of Sammy.

When we rescued him, we were looking back through past pictures of him from years before when we had visited AdaKope and almost two years ago, we had taken a picture of Sammy identifying  him as a boy in need of rescuing.  Then, they had told us that he was the chief's son and so we weren't able to take him.  But, discovering the truth (that his mom had been brought into a marraige after her first husband died and now the boys worked for their step-father--a very strong and evil man), we were able to bring him out.

And he's thriving.

From a place with no school.  No clean drinking water.  No church.  No life.  No opportunities for anything other than FISHING...Sammy is free.

And as he continues to walk into who he is meant to be, I am overwhelmed...and overjoyed...that for Sammy...freedom means endless possibilities to become anything he wants to be...freedom means a chance to dream.