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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Monday, December 29, 2014

Christmas and Thoughts on being Homesick, Cookies, The Shack, and Dancing

I'm 32 years old (almost 33...shhhh...don't tell), and this was my first Christmas away from home.  In all my years, I have always made it home for Christmas.  I would miss Easter and Thanksgiving, but Christmas was the must-make-it-home holiday.  There's just something about being with your family at Christmas.  I was always guaranteed a sleeping spot on the couch, a fridge full of goodies, and so much love and laughter. 

Since moving to Ghana, my annual trip home at Christmas had become my tradition.  I would leave right after school ended and go straight home to Colorado and the cold.  I loved cozying up under piles of blankets with a good book or a movie while the snow fell gently outside.  My dad always commented that the snow knew when I was coming home and honored me with its presence, coating the ground with white and the sparkling fresh hope of all things new and clean.

But, this year, I stayed here in Ghana.  It wasn't cold and it didn't snow.  I didn't need piles of blankets to cozy up under.  I didn't need hot chocolate to warm my bones or the scalding hot showers to warm up my mornings.  A few days before Christmas, I felt the weight of it all...missing that feeling of family, of home, of security...I cried and cried and wondered why I had decided to stick it out in Ghana for the holidays.

The next day, God told me why.  Power outages came frequently with hours and hours without access to electricity.  I couldn't charge my computer, my ipad, my ipod.  I couldn't fill my hours with mind-numbing television.  Instead, all I had were the books on my bookshelf and my Bible.  So, I lit my cinnamon candle and pulled out my Bible and a few of my old devotional books and dug in.  And God began to speak.

He spoke of His love for me.  His desire for my full attention.  His pursuit of me.  And tears flowed down as I realized that maybe, just maybe, my home was fully in the center of His heart.  My longing for family and snow and that feeling...it was fully justified.  But, my longing for home...it was there...in Him.  All I needed was a little pressing in. 

I spent a day and a half re-reading The Shack, a book I haven't read since my days in University.  Whatever your feelings on the book, it rocked me as it did the first time I read it.  And it almost seemed the most perfect gift that I could have received for Christmas because it reminded me again of the true revelation of God made Man--Jesus limited to human form for the sake of you and I.  Limited, not because of His lack of power, but because He desired so much to change our relationship with God the Father and knew that could only be done through the most perfect sacrifice.  Jesus...limited because of His all-out, indescribable, unbelievable love for us.

For days, I simply felt...tender.  Understanding that this Christmas, however hard it was to be away from family, was exactly what God was calling me to.  It was what was needed.  It was what was required.  I needed to hear from the Lord.  I needed time by myself to bake cookies and pies (baking is like a healing balm to this hospitality heart) and sing at the top of my lungs and read and cry and hear from the Lord.  And God knew that it couldn't have been done any other way. 

While Christmas Day came with some expectations of sadness as I Skyped with family back home while opening gifts in our traditional fashion, it was actually filled with such rest and joy.  We hung out at home, enjoying each others company, finishing up pies and watching movies.  Then, we all got into our Christmas dresses (how we celebrate Christmas here, with new matching outfits), and hung out in our canteen eating dinner.  As soon as we finished eating, the music came and the dancing began.  We danced and we danced and we danced.  It didn't matter if we knew how to dance or if we knew the song, the sweat poured down as we danced.  We all danced with smiles on our face, knowing that THIS was Christmas.  THIS was celebration.  THIS was how we could best glorify God.  A big birthday party for our Jesus filled with the sweetest gifts of all...our laughter, our joy, our dance.  I felt the joy of the shepherds coming to see Jesus and going out into the towns and fields sharing the message of the newborn king.  I felt the awe of the wisemen as they admired the child Jesus.  I felt the majesty of the angels who worshipped in all their glory.  It was all there.  In Valentina's groove.  In Malvin's smile.  In the majesty of a unified mismatched family.

This was Christmas.

This was the heart of God.

This was HOME.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

The Wonder of it All

Yesterday was Stacy's birthday. For months upon months, perhaps even closer to years, Stacy has been coming up with hairbrained ideas for flash mobs through Accra, clown cars, balloons in traffic. It has almost been a running joke between us all.

Well, last night, a troop of British clowns came to our door wanting to perform for our kids. We talked about why they were here, in Ghana, to bring confidence, encouragement, wonder, and laughter to the children of the nations. They have performed for over 8,500 kids throughout Ghana's 10 regions. And then we chatted about us and what we do and how excited we were about them coming to perform for our kids.

Stacy was seriously almost in tears, she was so excited. She told them that they were a kiss from God on her birthday...a dream come true.

And today was magical.

Our KG's literally sat and watched them for almost 2 full hours. Without moving.

That alone was magical. 

And then there was this:

A clown named Crash

And Bash controlling all 250 kiddos with one hand 

And little over-the-top performances

And spinning plates

And magic paper

I loved watching the kids marvel. The belly laughs. The excitement. 

And isn't this what childhood is all about? That wonder. That awe. That silliness that isn't found embarrassing, but inspiring. 

Now, the question is, how do we keep the wonder?

Monday, December 1, 2014

Giving Thanks

Can you believe it? I just spent my FIFTH Thanksgiving in Ghana. Sometimes, it's hard to even imagine that I have been here that long. But, as I was skyping with my family on Thursday, I commented on that and my brother said, "Yes, I can believe it. You have been gone a long time."

Sometimes, I feel like time is only passing for me. Time flies here. I look at my little babies back home, my friend's kids or my little nephew, or even my younger brother and sister, and I see so much change. But it still doesn't feel as though it's been five years.

My first Thanksgiving, we lived in downtown Doryumu. 40 of us. In one house. With no running water. It was a miracle year! We grew as a family and we grew as a ministry. That year, for Thanksgiving, we rented a stove to cook everything. Thinking my turkey would take 6 hours to bake, we stuck it in the oven in the early hours of the morning, finding it basically turned into turkey jerky by the time we woke up to check on it. My gravy wouldn't thicken. My stuffing was mushy. But, wow! That year was a beautiful celebration with our whole Ghanaian family and the kids performing dances and songs. 

The next year, we were still living in downtown and preparing to move out to our houses at the Children's Village. Electricity wasn't installed yet, but we were moving! It was the first year our school was up and running and we cooked all the fixings! Our Ghanaian school families also prepared so much food. We laughed and ate until we were full. The turkey got gobbled up by all of our families and us Americans laughed as they frowned and shook their heads at the mashed potatoes and gravy and sweet potatoes. 

In 2012, Kathy and Emily and Holly were with us, along with a team of volunteers from Australia.  We decided against the American holiday shared with all of our school families as it was so expensive to purchase foods that they didn't enjoy. Instead, we did an American Thanksgiving that Thursday and followed it up on Friday with our regular anniversary celebration (and lots of rice). That year, we started a lot of new traditions. Chicken noodle soup on Wednesday evening, a special treat around here. Cinnamon rolls on Thanksgiving morning. And then all the fixings and the family and the music that evening for dinner.

Last year, our Australian friends joined us again for Thanksgiving, along with much peeling of potatoes and kitchen laughter! All of our missionary friends from the area came to join us as well. I was living in the Guest House at that time, so we did most of our preparing together on the big middle counter in that house. We laughed and chatted and had so much fun! Little did we know that it was the last Thanksgiving we would share with several of those families, as they transitioned back home this year.

This year, our Thanksgiving went beautifully! Pies were almost all finished the night before. The pumpkins were in the oven by 6:30 that morning and by 11, the dinner was all prepped, it was only coordinating oven times for the two turkeys, sweet potatoes, green bean casserole, squash, and mashing the mashed potatoes. It was so fun to inaugurate my new kitchen on Thanksgiving day with turkey #1! By 5:30, dinner was served with several local missionary families coming to join us and, of course, our many amazing Ghanaian staff. It was so well timed, I even got a break to rest in the afternoon! 

Stacy whipped up the meringue by hand!

And Friday, we celebrated City of Refuge's 8th Anniversary with our annual Thanksgiving Love Feast. It was a blessing to see our kids share all that they are thankful for, to see our cadets march, and our choir sing. It was a beautiful day!

Our choir sings to welcome everyone

Our littles share their thanksgiving praises

Our cadets prepare for inspection

I am in awe of all that has changed in the past five years. 

*from 19 kids to almost 60 children at CORM
*from 16 homeschooled kiddos to 250
*from a staff of 8 to a staff of almost 80
*from no running water in one small house to running water, electricity, and not 1, but 4 children's homes, and 4 apartments, and an office building, and a guest house, and a pure water factory, and...the list goes on and on! 

God has been so faithful and the only place to stand is in Thanksgiving.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Learning That I am Strong

So, working out has never, ever been my thing.

Growing up, you would find me with a nose in a book, watching a movie, or engaged in some piece of craftiness over any type of physical activity. Even bike riding, the typical childhood pastime, became a thing of the past after the bike crash of 1990.

Entering into high school, I avoided all sports but eventually joined the tennis team. This was a plus for me as we only had to make three three laps around the courts for warm ups and other than that, it was just fun on the courts with friends. In fact, when I was asked to move to the varsity team, I attempted one game and the competitive attitude that came out of me was not pretty. I went straight to the coach and asked to be placed back on the JV team so my scores wouldn't have to count (all that pressure was too much for this people-pleaser) and I could simply play for fun.

But, as an adult, I have had to seek out my own ways to stay active. I never enjoyed the gym, the feeling of being stared at was too overwhelming (whether it was true or not) to make me confident in that environment. I hated running, and after a terrible sledding accident that wrecked my knee (yes, sledding...don't ask), it didn't even feel like it was an option. There was the season of Curves, which worked for awhile, until I knew I would need something more intense to lose the weight I needed to be healthy.

Moving to Ghana, working out has definitely not been a priority. There have been short seasons of God working in me to get moving again. But the excuses were always there:
-How can I lose weight when we eat mostly carbs?
-It's so hot, how can I possibly work out?
-My schedule, how can I find the time?

But, I started working out seven weeks ago. I know that it's just the start of something, but here is what I am learning about myself:

*I am stronger than I think I am.

*I can persevere and keep this thing going, even when I am sore, tired, and not feeling my best.

*While I may only have lost three pounds this whole time, I have lost inches and that is worth it. It changes how I feel in my clothes and changes how I feel about my body.

*The physical journey is so much a spiritual journey. It is a daily battle, a daily joy, a daily pressing in.

*I sense a deeper sense of worth in this process, knowing I was created for more. That my body was actually created to be healthy and whole.

*This is not about numbers, it is about me honoring His creation, my body.

*This can't be done on my own. I have an amazing group of ladies here that keep me accountable. I have encouragers back home that write me truths to cling to. I have partners that work out with me everyday, and question me when I don't want to.

*I can do anything if God calls me to it.

I can't say that I enjoy working out or that sports have now captured my attention, but there will come a day when this process will feel normal. Where I will feel fully confident in my own skin. It's all in the process.

Friday, November 21, 2014

More Thoughts on Singleness

I was surprised by the number of people who responded to my post about singleness. I was amazed that God was able to use my experiences to minister and that many were encouraged by how God is moving in me right now. It was such a blessing to hear of the many ways God spoke through my last post.

wanted to give you a few things I have learned about singleness, and even about relationships and marriage. Yes! Marriage! Even though I have never been married, I have been given the sweet gift of access to view pieces of what marriage looks like for some of my family and friends. Amazingly enough, I have learned so much from these glimpses. 

* Marriage is hard work. I am continually amazed at the amount of work that it takes to keep marriages strong. I know, full well, God's perfect picture of His relationship with His Church. But, I see the ways the Church, the Bride of Christ, often chooses the easy way out, or forgets the love of our God and turns her back on Him. In the same way, the husband is to love his wife. The wife to respect her husband. (EPH. 5) But, wow! I have seen how hard that is, to continually lay yourself down for another. And while I do that in some ways in ministry, singleness gives me the ability to go home and close the door and be done for the day. I know there are so many rewards in those hard places in marriage. I have seen it in the marriages around me again and again. But, for now, I am grateful for this space.
So while singleness can be lonely at times and the desire to simply share my days with someone still chases me around sometimes, I know that I am in a place that is exactly right for me right now. 

* Marriage is not the purpose of life. This is something that is misunderstood by so many. Look at the American culture. While their focus on marriage might not be strong, their focus on love certainly is. I mean, consider every Disney movie. Consider the hot topics in most news headlines. Consider most songs you hear on the radio. Everyone is seeking love. Little girls dream of their wedding day, because that is instilled in our culture that that is the end all, be all. Here in Ghana, marriage is almost required before the age of thirty. I am now considered an old maid! 
But here is where we have been confused...our purpose in life is not to get married and find love, but to bring God glory. And when we do that, yes, love does come. And it is an indescribable, beautiful, powerful, never-ending love from our great God who pursues and comforts and gives joy. And there is no prerequisite of marriage for this great purpose! I know some really amazing married couples who are glorifying God with their lives, but I also know some married couples who are struggling! Marriage isn't what they thought it would be. They thought it would complete them in some way, but when it came down to it, they weren't filled. The same is true for many singles that I know. Some are living lives that glorify God, recognizing their worth is found in Him alone, and they are pushing forward to use their gifts in amazing ways. Others are pursuing love, waiting for the day that "the one" will come, merely biding their time, and forgetting that His love is all we need to be satisfied.
So, pursue God. And trust his love that never ends and never changes. Our purpose is only to give God glory, whether married or single. 

* Singles have been given incredible flexibility in the season of life that they are in. Because of my singleness, I am given the opportunity to travel, to live abroad, to do things that many with families would not even be able to consider. 
When I lived in the States, I lived in the low-income community that I taught in. This might have been a difficult decision to make had I had a family. East Palo Alto is known for its murder rate per capita. But, I could choose to live and serve there as God had called me to be a part of the community I was teaching in. It was an easy choice for me.
When I moved to Ghana, while it was a tougher decision, it was an easy move. I didn't have to raise support for a whole family. I didn't have to worry about homeschooling or medical issues or taking care of my children or ministry vs. family. It's just me. And while there have been challenges in being a single person here, the truth remains that it is easier!
I have been given amazing opportunities to travel that might not have been able to happen had I been married or had a family. I have traveled to Australia, Morocco, all over the States. It has been so much fun to experience other cultures, other families, and to have the freedom and flexibility to go when I want to go. 
But, sometimes this flexibility and freedom can also be taken advantage of. I have known single pastors who were paid less, offered less vacation, given less perks, not based on their work, but based on their singleness. I have seen singles expected to take the holiday shifts or the evening services. I have seen singles taken advantage of in ministry with longer hours and less pay. It's, honestly, not acceptable. Yes, while others might need to provide for their families and therefore require a larger salary, and while singles tend to have a more flexible or have a freer schedule, that doesn't make them any less human. The desire for time with family and friends remains the same. The desire to create a home for themselves is still there, even if they don't have someone to share it with. The Church should be able to understand this. They should be able to honor their singles in ministry with grace and understanding. So many singles in ministry burnout when they are young, used up and sent on their merry way, because the same support was not offered as those who are married or with families. This simply sends the wrong message. And more than any other place, the Church should get this right!

* Sometimes the Church paints the wrong picture of singleness. There are rarely positive messages spoken to the Church about the beautiful benefits that come with singleness. It leads to feelings of inferiority, that your impact is somehow lessened because you aren't married. I mean, Paul and just about every disciple was single and built the Christian church up after Jesus' resurrection. Singles have just as much purpose and significance as any married person! 
So when every prayer that comes, every form of encouragement, seems to be aimed not at who you are and what God is doing, but what you don't have (a husband) and who you aren't (a wife and mother), it seeps in sneakily. The lie that you aren't enough. It's not intentional by any means, but it happens all the same.
This isn't to say that I want people to stop praying for these things for me. I know that if God calls me to marriage, I would walk happily into it! It is still a desire of my heart, whether it will ever be fulfilled or not, that is yet to be seen! But, there is so much more to me than just being single!
I loved, loved loved, this blog by Shauna Neiquist. She is the best anyway, but this...she may just become my best friend! http://www.shaunaniequist.com/significant-without-significant/

So here it is, people. Let's treasure the places we are all in. Let's spur each other on to greater glory. Let's be a community that expresses the value of each person, no matter where they are in life. Because we all have something important to offer the Kingdom. Married. Single. We are the Bride of Christ. Loved and treasured, pursued and adopted.

Let's bring Him glory.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

It's Not My Plan

So, I have been a bit sick this weekend. A sore throat plagued me on Friday, keeping me home from school. But, while my throat felt a little better, my energy still lagged throughout the weekend. 

When I am not feeling well, I find that I think a lot. I get introspective. I think about my life. I think about how things might be different had my life worked out the way I had planned it.

I had it all planned out, you see. Finish college, get a job, meet "the one", marriage, children, stay at home mom, the perfect house, the garden...the dream.

Oh, how my life is so different than what I had planned when I was young. 

And I am so grateful.

But, it has taken me a long time to reach that place of gratitude. For such a long time, I felt like I was waiting for my life to be "complete" with all of these things. 

There have been years of such wrestling with God with my singleness. The struggle felt like it sat on the surface so often, bringing pain, shame, and frustration at every turn. I longed for marriage. There were seasons of such great grief over what had not been given to me. People prayed and prayed for me, always leading back to the prayer for God to bring a man into my life. I can't even count the number of people who claimed that when they "felt satisfied" with the Lord, they finally found their husband/wife. So, I would draw close to the Lord and surrender it again, in hopes that around the corner, "he" could come, only to end up disappointed again.

There have been times of deep grief over the prospect of my own family being lost for me. Every birthday meant another year when I wouldn't be able to experience that beautiful gift of life in children of my own. 

Coming to Ghana has changed so much of that for me. 

I wouldn't say that I have lost hope that any of these things might still be in God's plan for me, but I have learned to trust where God has me now. 

I have learned that God can fill me in ways I hadn't known previously. I have learned of His love as Father, as friend, as comforter, as lover, as all that He is.

I have learned that parenting is hard. There is a reason why God created families with a father and a mother, because it is hard! A child needs both to be cared for well. And parents need each other to remain sane. My experience parenting Edwin my first year here..it was enough for me to celebrate every single parent I know. Because it's hard. 

I also have learned that families look different. Right now, mine looks both big and small. My kids are the almost 60 children that live on campus. My sisters and brothers are the staff and my friends here. And sometimes, it is small, when I need to withdraw and be by myself in my little house. I know that it looks different from a nuclear family and my house is different than what my white picket fence dream was, but it is home.

And while there are times when I still long for someone to walk this road of life with me, I live surrendered to the truth that God called me here as a single person because that is how I could best fulfill His plans for this place. I honestly do not believe I would have been able to do what I am doing, what has been done, if I was married and had a family. Something would have to give, and with a ministry as consuming as this, I am afraid my relationships would be the ones left behind. I needed to be single to fulfill the call of God. Wow! What an awesome privilege. Kind of mind blowing to think about.

So, while it certainly isn't my teenage vision of "My life in 15 years"...I couldn't have planned it better if I had tried. And I guess that's how you know it's God at work. I can stand in gratitude at living life with these amazing kids and staff that I now call my family. I can stand in gratitude at the love I have discovered in the work we do here. I can stand in gratitude at my Father who fills me in every way.

My life isn't how I planned it. 

It's better.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Clear the Stage

Today, I am just stuck on this...written by Ross King and sung so beautifully by Jimmy Neeham...

Clear The Stage

Clear the stage and set the sound and lights ablaze
If that's the measure you must take to crush the idols
Jerk the pews and all the decorations, too
Until the congregation's few, then have revival
Tell your friends that this is where the party ends
Until you're broken for your sins, you can't be social
Then seek the Lord and wait for what he has in store
And know that great is your reward so just be hopeful

'Cause you can sing all you want to
Yes, you can sing all you want to
You can sing all you want to
And still get it wrong; worship is more than a song

Take a break from all the plans that you have made
And sit at home alone and wait for God to whisper
Beg him please to open up his mouth and speak
And pray for real upon your knees until they blister
Shine the light on every corner of your life
Until the pride and lust and lies are in the open
Then read the word and put to test the things you've heard
Until your heart and soul are stirred and rocked and broken

'Cause you can sing all you want to
Yes, you can sing all you want to
You can sing all you want to
And still get it wrong; worship is more than a song

We must not worship something that's not even worth it
Clear the stage, make some space for the one who deserves it

Anything I put before my God is an idol
Anything I want with all my heart is an idol
Anything I can't stop thinking of is an idol
Anything that I give all my all my love is an idol

'Cause I can sing all I want to
Yes, I can sing all I want to

And we can sing all we want to
And we can sing all we want to
We can sing all we want to
And still get it wrong
Worship is more than a song

Clear the stage and set the sound and lights ablaze
If that's the measure you must take to crush the idols

Behind the Missionary

Throughout my 4 1/2 years here in Ghana, I have come to realize that behind every missionary is a fantastic team. This has been an absolute humbling blessing to learn.

I vividly remember praying about coming to Ghana for ONE year. Sitting in my friend's living room in Portland, Oregon, I wept as I felt God saying, "TRUST and OBEY". And that was it. I knew I was coming to Ghana. But in my own selfishness, I prayed that God would take care of the money part. I didn't want anything to do with it.

"God, if you are calling me there, you have to provide."

I had raised support in the past and felt like I had possibly tapped my resources. I didn't want to be thought of as someone who was living off of other people's hard-earned wages. Oh, how the devil can distort the truth.

That year, I wrote one letter. One. And my entire support for the year was pledged. Every year that has followed, God has continued to provide in ways that I can't understand or comprehend.

But, here is what I didn't expect. 

Those who are supporting me in my ministry here, they aren't just putting their hard earned dollars towards a good cause. They are called to be a part of the work we are doing here. They are as much the hands that soothe the crying child as I am. They are as much the voice of truth as I am. They support and encourage and challenge and pray for us. This ministry would not be possible without the fantastic team that supports us here.

This past week, I spent a few days updating my donor database. I was in awe of the little God-connections between each person.

Each name, a sweet memory. Each person, a beautiful soul called into ministry with CORM through me. That's an incredible blessing! 

Sometimes I forget that I am not in it alone, but surrounded by a "great cloud of witnesses" here. And while at times, it can be weighty work, it is always so sweet to give reports of what God is doing here, the shared work of the Lord.

So, to the many who are such a part of the work we are doing here in Ghana, thank you. Your calling to serve us through your support is, through God's grace, bringing about Kingdom culture in our communities, ushering in freedom, and offering the beautiful love of Christ to so many. May you be blessed, blessed, blessed for your openhanded support. So thankful for my "team"!

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Finding my Balance

It's been a challenge to find a balance in my life here. I have struggled to figure out how to find rest amidst the work.

My people-pleasing tendencies kick in and I want to make sure my work is done well.

My desire to keep up with my relationships back home keep me attached to my phone and not present.

Being an introvert makes me feel the need to retreat instead of engage.

The 50+ kids need my love and attention, and yet, there are times I feel so empty when it comes to giving out.

But, moving into my new place, I am finally seeing a better balance. 

At the beginning of this year, God gave me three words...




I am discovering that, for me, balance is centered around these things.

Rest...it's so hard when you live in your ministry. Because of that, my favorite place of rest is usually "zoning out" in front of a movie or TV show. It is a coping mechanism for me. It shuts off the rat race that runs full-speed in my head so often. But, I am discovering that this rest is not my best rest.

Last week, we had five days off for our midterm holiday. The first two days, I literally crashed on my bed and watched movies all day. And I was still so tired. But, this restlessness began to eat at me, and I knew that I needed to dig into some real rest. 

And that real rest is the balance my life is seeking.

I think, for the first time since moving to Ghana, and perhaps even before that, I am discovering that rest.

My ministry is the fullest part of my life. It invades so much of my mind and heart...and most of my days. And because of that, I have had to find places to be me, a healthy and happy me.

So, I have started working out each morning at 5:15am. Ajata, Jackie, and Lydia join me most mornings which keeps me accountable. The early wake up time gives me at least an hour each morning to be in the Word, in worship, and in prayer. I leave for school filled instead of tired. And my weekly check-ins with Stacy, Miriah, and Brittany encourage me to fight for my health. For the first time in a long time, I am feeling good about how I look (and I honestly have hardly lost any weight!).

My guest room has doubled as my creative space ranging from a place to paint, to recording my music, to writing new songs, to scrapbooking...this space breathes life into my Spirit. My evenings are spent there, pressing in, listening to the Lord, and feeding my soul with the colors and the sounds and the beauty that is all art.

I am learning to trust others with my heart here, sharing easily the things that I previously saved for only my family and my friends back home. My weekly Bible study has been a place where I know I can come and be loved, these ladies hold me up, speak truth, and walk in grace.  I have made friends with staff here at CORM, people who see my heart and encourage and love and challenge me and make me laugh.

I see a balance developing that I love. I see the rest happening in the midst of the creative places and intimate times. And I feel like I can breathe. In and out. A wholeness.

This has been an incredibly challenging season. There has been so much opposition. So much discouragement. So many tears. But even in that place, there is so much hope. I am finding myself becoming more and more home here than any other place is this great, big world. More and more me here. 

And it is in all this, I can stand grateful in this delicate balance of life. God is so good!

Friday, October 31, 2014

The Darkness Cannot Handle the Light

My dear friends...I am coming to understand...not just understand, but I have begun to bear witness to...the forces of darkness at work in our world.

The darkness has shown up in some pretty sneaky ways here lately.

In discouragement.

In verbal attacks.

In disunity.

In arguments and misunderstandings.

In frustration.

In dissatisfaction.

But, even more so, I have been coming face to face with the darkness in a very real way. 

Last week, our JHS classes were doing their morning Bible Study when all the way from my office, I could hear shrieking coming from the class. Over and over, more kids began to scream. I wasn't sure what was going on, so I headed over to the class. When I entered the room, two girls were rolling on the floor, sobbing and crying out to Jesus. Others were kneeling down, tears pouring down from their eyes as they worshipped. As the girls cried out on the floor, Daddy Johnbull entered and pulled them gently into his arms, their cries suddenly silenced by the deep love of that touch. The tears, the prayers, the worship...it went on for over an hour and ended with many of them dedicating their lives to the service of the Lord. It was a powerful time and not a single person left with dry eyes. God was present. The room was flooded with a move of the Holy Spirit. 

Afterwards, I asked John what the screaming was all about. He simply told me, "The darkness cannot handle the light."

And I got it.

My first experience with the light meeting the darkness in my own life, it resulted in sobs I couldn't control, in the melting of a single touch, in the pouring out of the darkness in exchange for all that light. And, then, the light. Oh, the light! It brought with it freedom and grace and goodness and life.

But, oh, today, I ran face to face into darkness itself.

At the end of every month, our teachers and oldest students gather together to pray and fast. Today's prayer meeting during lunch was something I had never experienced before.

As we began to press in, one girl began screaming and rolling on the floor. Some teachers gathered around her and began to pray and she calmed. But, as we pressed in farther, praying for deeper things, the girl began to manifest in a very real way. She slithered on the floor, her eyes rolling back into her head, her voice deepening into a growl. As students began to leave for their various classes, this girl began to tremble and shake, the darkness inside throwing her around. She claimed to be over 750 in number. Her voice threw out threats, but the teachers stood strong, declaring truth over her. After almost an hour of prayer over this girl, I felt like I caught a glimpse of her in the back of her eyes. Tears rolled down her cheeks as the demons inside spoke of the places they were dragging her too. I felt the war waging inside as she tried to fight through, to be heard, to be seen. And finally, the 750 said, "We are going". And then, it was as if her chest trembled, sending waves out through her arms, her legs, through her hands, her feet, through her fingers, her toes, and finally she rested. Tears streamed down her face and all we prayed for next was grace. Grace for her. Grace for us. We stood in humble thanksgiving at her deliverance after such a battle.

I had never seen such a real manifestion of the darkness. And to be completely honest, I didn't know how to handle it. I prayed. I spoke out Scripture. I wanted her to hear truth. But, I didn't know how to handle that kind of darkness. I pictured Jesus in such a situation and he spoke with such authority. I suddenly felt so weak, so reserved. I stepped back. I doubted my authority. I watched others handle it while I stood in the background because I thought...maybe this is how it is done in this culture. 

But, after chatting with Stacy about it all, I realized that it isn't about culture. It is about the battle of light over darkness. And Jesus always wins because he HAS ALREADY BEEN VICTORIOUS! It isn't  about how Africans handle the darkness, it has to be about how JESUS handles the darkness. Because HE is all there is. HE is the only answer.

And this only begins the journey.

I think we are only beginning to see the attacks of the enemy.

Because God is moving here.

And God is light.

And the darkness cannot handle the light.

Monday, October 6, 2014

Front and Center

Yesterday's Sunday gathering was a beautiful thing. 

The day before, Johnbull had been driving to take care of some business in Tema and the car started shooting flames out from under the good. He ran out of the car expecting an explosion, and as he was crying and praying on the side of the road, the flames extinguished on their own. Every cable in the car had been burnt to ashes, the flames hot enough to weld pieces of metal to the car's frame. And still, our mechanic was able to fix new cables to the car and drove it home mere hours later.

As John came to lead the service that morning, he spoke about God's great hand on our lives. And he spoke of expecting more from God than what our limited understanding has previously allowed. He spoke from a place of such passion and love that you couldn't help but be moved.

And so we danced. And we sang and we danced.

And when it came time for me to come forward to lead a time of worship, front and center, the Spirit of God fell in such a real way that new songs were sung, some stood with arms widespread, some to their knees, and some fell flat on their faces before our Mighty and Loving God.

There were moments in that time of worship when the love of the Father was so poured out, that though there were still words to lead, tears, that threatened to run down my face, pushed the words to the back of my throat making it hard to even voice anything. All I could do was simply let the guitar speak, because my heart was too full to move past the emotion. It was such sweet and powerful worship.

After the time for worship had ended, it was hard to even meet the eyes of the others present because those moments had been so sweet and so tender and so intimate. 

It is moments like those that make me feel so front and center. Laying it all out there. Trusting that the words being formed on my tongue were what needed to be sung, that the notes played hit the right chords in the hearts of the listeners, that God was moving and not just me. It's a vulnerable thing, listening to the Holy Spirit and attempting to usher them all into the throneroom. 

But that place...oh, it's sweet.

And while I would rather lead from the back of a dimly lit room than in front of a room full of people, I will gladly lay it all down every time when Jesus takes front and center and moves in such a beautiful way.

Monday, September 29, 2014

The Tide Keeps Rolling In

I have felt overwhelmed lately.

Overwhelmed by my workload.

Overwhelmed emotionally by so many things going on with staff here and friends and family back home.

Overwhelmed by my need to rest, yet the need to "get it all done" as well.

I sense this great tide that keeps rolling in...

God is expanding us in amazingly powerful ways.

But, expansion is hard.

I mean, waves are so fun to watch, to play and splash in, to ride upon.

But, the problem with waves...they keep on coming.  Sometimes, you get bowled over, and it's hard to right yourself.

The waves happening right now are so good, so sweet.

But, I, at times, am feeling shaken by them. 

I feel like I am at the brink of getting bowled over and tossed by these powerful waves.

So, I run to the truth.

I run to the place that plants my feet firmly.

And in the midst of this tired place, I sense a deeper rooting.  As if I am becoming like a mighty oak planted right along the shore.  The waves crash upon it.  It's leaves are shaken.  The weaker branches are even cast off in the roar of the mighty waves.

But, I am not toppled.

And as the tide continues to roll in, I know there will come a day when I turn and look back at this season of expansion and I will see the fruit.

Right now, I mostly just feel the waves.

And am trusting the roots.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

I Can't Fix Them

I feel like Stacy has told me about five times this week, "Autumn, you can't fix their problems."

But, that's exactly what I want to do.

There have been several things that have popped up this week, situations that are brought to my attention through a hard conversation or a hurried note or even a worried look. 

For those of you who know me well...and those of you who have taken a spiritual gifts test...I am a mercy.  Mercy's are heart-people.  They feel the hurts and struggles and worries of those they interact with.  It has taken me a long time to sense when those hurts and struggles and worries are becoming a burden to me.  If I am not careful, I can take them on myself and they feel so heavy and hard.  I long to fix the problem.  To have the perfect answer.  To make everything alright.  To bring peace to the conflict.

But, Stacy is right.

In my need to fix the problem, I take away the one and only solution.  Full-surrender to Christ.

My advice and my comforts and my words takes away the opportunity for those struggling to engage with the Lord...the only one who actually could fix the problems, heal the hurts, wipe the tears.

But, oh, it is so hard for me to release. 

This morning, I spent so much time simply laying prostrate before the Lord, crying out for these ones who have been so heavily on my heart.

But, the answer was the same.  Just as their answer would be SURRENDER...mine is also surrender.

It's not easy.  In fact, it is almost defeating it feels so hard.  I want what is best for them.

But, maybe my best is not the best.

And so, I surrender.

I have to.  Because I can't fix them.

I can encourage and support them and lead them back to the truth when the questions come.  But I can't fix these situations.  I can't fix the problems.  I can't fix the sin issues in their lives.

That only comes in relationship with Jesus Christ.

And so, I surrender.

Again and again.

And I pray that as God hears my cry, that He will do the work.  He will do the fixing.  He will do the growing and the maturing and the stretching.

And so, I surrender.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Hanging curtains

My mom left yesterday. It was such a beautiful time with her. Long conversations. Times of laughter. Honesty. Just hearing her heart.  She got to witness all that God has done here in the two years since she last came. It was sweet, sweet time.

I tried to remember the last time that we had a whole week to ourselves before. I can't even remember a time since I was just a child.

It was like a little treasure, poured out just for us to take and hold onto and call sacred.

Life carried on as usual. I had school, so there were times when my mom had time to herself. She worked with Impact One to do a training on foster parenting, a program we would love to see get moving in this area. She also worked a little each day, when we had power, on sewing curtains for my apartment. 

It was supposed to be a water week, but for some reason, we had extremely irregular electricity and water the entire week.  Ute it seemed part of the adventure.

And Saturday, my friends here in Ghana came to visit her. I watched as we ate pizza at a super long table, the kids running around, dancing and laughing. I watched as everyone came over to explore my new apartment after Uncle Odion spent the day hanging things up on the walls. I felt the gaps...missing our beloved Beebe's and Och's...but in that moment, as I talked and laughed with friends, my mom getting to know those that are in my community here, it felt like home, perhaps in a way it hadn't felt like before.

Yesterday, Sunday, we worshipped together in the morning, the kids and staff dancing with such joy. And after I led our usual worship time, Aaron asked if he could lead us in worship and the Spirit of God fell on us in such a sweet and powerful way as he spoke the truth out over us, as every voice cried out to our Great God. And we didn't want that moment to end. Because God's presence was so thick. And because Aaron was so anointed.

At the end of the service, everyone gathered around my mom, arms reaching out to touch her, Edwin on her hip, voices being raised up in prayer. Her third trip here and she is SO loved by our kids, by our staff. I was blessed simply because she has blessed them.

The goodbyes last night were tear filled, but I was so extremely grateful for her sacrifice (and my dad's as he had kid stuff all by himself) in coming. How I longed for just one more day, but I also know that she needed to get home to the kids, to my dad.

Today, I spent the majority of the day finishing up the curtains for my apartment, sewing and hanging curtains. Kids were in and out. Ajata helped me clean my windows. And, as I sewed, I just reflected on the beauty of this past week. 

As I hung up my new curtains, lovingly sewn by my mom, I missed her. But, her presence won't be forgotten. It is in each seam now gracing my every window. It is in the flowers she planted outside my door. It is in the kid's faithful call for "Grandma Patti". 

So, tonight, as I look at my new curtains, I am simply...grateful. 

Love you mama! Thank you for coming and investing and loving on all of us here. 

Saturday, September 13, 2014

My Mom is Here

Yesterday, my stomach was filled with butterflies as I left school early to pick up my mom from the airport. Ajata and 2 of our National Service ladies joined in the journey through Ashaiman and Tema...traffic for 2+ hours...butterflies knowing my mom had already landed and here I was stuck in traffic. But, I had entertainment and was grateful for Ajata's car time with me.

When we finally arrived at the airport (after my mom had been waiting for an hour), we loaded up right away and took off.

We chatted and laughed all the way back home and my mom is just in awe of all the changes that have taken place here at CORM in two years. Not just in the physical, but the way God is moving spiritually, widening our vision, growing our kids.

And this morning, talking for hours, touring the place, seeing John and Stacy and the kids (they were away for the weekend), playing with the littles, fetching water with our loud talkative girls. 

I am loving having my mama here. Nothing like my mama...

Thursday, September 11, 2014


Can I just say how much I hate creating/changing/correcting school class schedules?

My brain hurts.

And I am sure I have at least two more hours of working on scheduling tomorrow.

That's all I wanted to say.

I just needed to throw that out there into the void of the internet.

I hate making schedules. Love the end result. Hate the process.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Starting Again

Today was the first day of my FIFTH school year here in Ghana. Sometimes, I just sit in wonder at that.

I was reminiscing with Paul and Grace and Valentina over dinner tonight about my first year here. 

Our little blue schoolhouse.

Living together in Downtown Doryumu.

The laughter...the shouting...the fun...the adventure...and yes, even the tears...especially my long sleepless nights with Edwin.

Five years.

Today, I taught English to our junior high students, the very kids I taught so many years ago.

Back then it was basic phonics and reading comprehension.

Today, it was consonant pronunciation. (GES has some interesting topics in their textbooks!)

Sometimes, time doesn't change everything. Ha!

But, oh, to remember...to reflect...oh the change.

And even with 6 teachers out today (yes, on our first day of school), and tears shed by children and teachers alike, and more scheduling than I ever want to do again...

I feel blessed.

Because, there are no words to describe how far we have come. And no words to describe the goodness of the season ahead.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Coming of Age, Post 8

I have been wanting to write this post for almost two weeks. Time has flown and when I sit down to write in the evenings, the words can't adequately express the great meaning and beauty of that day.

Last Sunday was our coming of age ceremony. It was beautiful, a completion of the vision we felt like God had set before us. 

The canteen was decked out to the nines in ribbons and balloons.

The whole place was filled with a level of expectation, a knowing that we were entering into something new...something holy.

The guys came in, dressed in kente handsomely draped over their shoulders, as the chiefs do in this place. Their feet wearing the sandals of the elders, beads around their neck.

The ladies, our beautiful girls, seemed to be floating into the place as they walked into the service. Their heads crowned with tiaras, they stood confident in all their splendor.

Our wild Mary said, "They look like angels.".

And they did.

The service was a place to honor our 12, they journey they passed through during the Coming of Age week. 

It was an honor to have 5 of our chiefs come and witness the celebration. To have Chief Opata speak into their lives the truth of the gospel instead of the traditions of old.

It was an honor to have our friends Dean and Nanama Fiavor present to pour into them on that day, to lead the ceremony in a way that encouraged the body of believers there on that day.

It was an honor to have our friends, the Sieberts, the Harms, the Okanteys, Miriah, our family, our kids and staff, present with us, to bear witness to the day at hand.

We danced. We sang. We celebrated.

And when the initiation service began, we called them all up by name. 













They stood in grace and boldness, that strange dichotomy, as they read out the pledges they had thoughtfully and prayerfully built over the course of the week. Pledges that spoke of their devotion to Christ, their promise to built the love of Christ in their lives, their homes, their future.

And then we, the leadership, were given the sweet honor of anointing them with oil and praying prayers  that come from a place of knowing them so well.

It felt like something broke free in the heavenlies. This service. There was just so much good in it. So much God in it. So much beauty and freedom and change. 

Oh, how I pray that over this community. It makes us dream bigger dreams for the future. That THIS could change Ghana.

Because, this:

They know their worth, their value as children of our Great King. They can stand in full confidence. They can smile at the days to come, because they KNOW.

Amen and amen.

Friday, August 29, 2014

Coming of Age, Post 7

Tonight's dinner was a blast. 

All day, the boys worked on building this table.

And the girls worked on cooking the food.

We brought out the good plates and forks and knives were a must.

I looked up "100 Table Manners You Should Know". 

The boys escorted the girls to dinner, lining up like a little prom, arm in arm. That was a feat not taken lightly considering the scowls of the boys and the giggles of the girls.

They pulled out chairs, pushed them in, stood up when the girls left the table.

There were no elbows on the table, no insulting or fighting, and I even had opera and classical music in the background for good measure. It was just good fun, and our fair share of laughter, with their sisters and brothers and lessons learned to tuck away in their pocket for another time.

But, tonight's topic had me running a little scared. God's Biblical plan for sex in marriage. Love the topic...just don't want to be the one giving the talk. Thank goodness we had guest speakers to take over for us, and it was pretty unbelievable!

Dean and Nanama are friends of John and Stacy's from their YYAM days, and they are amazing. Their wells run deep and we have been so blessed to have them spill over on us these past couple of days. 

Tonight, Dean started to speak and he got all the way to his first point (which was all about respect for one another in relationship)...and God stopped him. He felt like God was calling out one, if not two, women who had been disrespected by men in their life, taken advantage of and hurt. And when a couple ladies stepped forward, God began to shake the room as Dean got down on his knees and apologized to them on behalf of the ones who had hurt them in their past...as the men in the room began to speak affirmation over these daughters of our King...as tears rolled down when truth was spoken. It was so powerful, and I knew God was doing something we didn't plan for, but was so sweet. There was this sense that something was being restored to its rightful place within them.

And then, Nanama got up and began to speak from the story of the Samaritan woman at the well, desiring the living water, the deeper things of God, to satisfy the places in her that Dean could never satisfy, that friends could never reach, that any thing or addiction could never replace...

Just that living water.

That deep desire for a filling that fills every part of me. Down deep. In the lonely places that aren't often shared.

It was so good and rich and deep. I felt like I was receiving a fresh drink, something I have longed for for quite some time. Thirst quenching.

And then, we stood hand in hand as we talked about creating a culture of affirmation, a culture where we are not easily offended. And we looked at one another and began to speak and affirm those things of God in each other and the room filled with with voices and laughter and smiles and beauty.

And when Dean paused the next moment, it was as if the room took a breathe to prepare for the next move of God. Men were called forward, any man who felt that they had disrespected a woman in any way. They came forward in their numbers and as Nanama began to speak over them, there was this sense that God saw their hearts broken before Him. They were broken so He could heal.

The cries that filled the space of that room, to see these men, these boys, with tears roll down their faces...to weep for the fatherless...to kneel in conviction...to cry out for the many that will not experience the love of a father...to mourn their own places of sin, the moment can't be shared adequately with words. The air was thick with His presence. Tonight brought freedom. It brought freedom not just in them, but I believe chains were loosed tonight for many in our community, in our country, in our world.

As I stood with Miriah tonight after everything, she just asked, "Has it been like this every night?"

My answer is yes.

God is moving. He is setting free. He is loosing chains. He is making covenants. He is changing hearts.

And perhaps it's not just for these 12, but it's also for me.

Coming of Age, Post 6

Today, I had the opportunity to lead our kids in a Bible study about God's Love and our behavior. I love this talk, which originally came from my pastor back home, Tony Gapastione, and the author of a study called "Becoming Who God Intended".

It was such sweet time, talking through the gospel of Jesus Christ who came so we could stand in complete freedom before the Father...who came to give us a new identity...who came to show God's big, immense, amazing love for each of us.

Last night, as I was reflecting with our intern, Charity, about this week, I realized that this week has not been only for our kids. All of us who have spoken into these kids has recieved so much as well. I have been beyond blessed. I have seen other staff here set free. I have been able to see our kids begin the risk of stepping even deeper into relationship with Christ.

I feel lucky to have been given the opportunity to hear, to speak into, to receive.

In fact, this week, I needed to find some time to rest. It has been so busy and I have been so stressed. And even with the early mornings and the late nights, I feel as if I have found that rest.

I love that God knows what we need, even more than we know ourselves.

This morning, after everything and the kids began to filter out to seek a little time before the next activity, our tall boy Aaron pulled me aside and just said thank you, that God had really used that study to speak to his heart.

That's what it's all about.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Coming of Age, Post 5

Last night was bonfire night for our 12. They gathered around a very wet fire (it rained all day on Tuesday leaving very wet wood and a gasoline soaked fire) and braved the biting ants and hoards of mosquitos to hear testimonies of things The Lord has done in all of our lives, our little bits of truth from where God has taken us and where he has brought us.

It was beautiful and full of hope. 

When he spoke of how God surprised him with messages of encouragement after serving The Lord quietly for such a long time...that we never know who we are influencing and what we are doing for the Kingdom when we simply serve.

When she spoke of forgiveness and release.

When he spoke of being sensitive to the voice of The Lord.

When she spoke about believing the truth God speaks over yourself and having confidence that what God has called you to do, He will equip.

When he spoke about finally finding freedom in The Lord by humbling himself and crying out for a heart softened to the things of our Great God.

When she spoke about living testimonies of those who have followed God all their life, not needing or even desiring to taste from the world.

When he spoke about releasing his worry and stepping into true dependence on The Lord.

When she spoke about John 8 and God raising up in her a heart of such deep compassion that it would change the face of how this world views His Church.

When he spoke about God's great provision for his life when only he stepped back to see the bigger picture.

When she spoke about choosing God, even if it meant leaving behind family and friends.

When he spoke about God bringing him from nothing, placing the vision before himself and crying out for God to answer his deep heart cries. 

And God did answer.

And He will continue to.

Because He always wants the best for us.

So, we are praying these things will go down deep into the spirits of our 12, so that when they run into these same places, they will run to our Father because they already know the consequences of choices made wrongly; they already know God can do great things in their lives because He has done it in others; that God will move even in the midst of pain, suffering, frustration, defeat. 

We left last night truly encouraged...a little bitten up...but filled and encouraged and powerfully ready for God to continue His work in us, whatever that looks like.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Coming of Age, Post 4

Yesterday, we spent a good majority of the day in several Bible studies with our kids. We discussed the charteristics of a Godly Man and a Godly Woman. We spoke into the kids all our dreams of why we put this week together for them. And we heard from them too, how God was moving and speaking to them. And last night, we capped it all off by viewing "God's Not Dead". The kids (and the staff) were challenged, encouraged, and inspired by the story, and excited to see where they might be able to step out in faith in their lives.

But, it was this morning that I was looking forward to, worship and prayer time for their future and their lives. 

Aaron and Valentina stepped up to lead in the beginning, speaking out prayers over the kids, praying in boldness and leading worship with grace. I watched in wonder as our kids stepped up to lead. I was especially in awe of Aaron, with his soft and gentle voice, speaking boldly and words filled with truth. They opened the door for the presence of The Lord and it was beautiful.

When they finished, I brought out my guitar to begin to lead. Suddenly, the skies grew dark and the rain began to come down heavily on the roof. The guitar could hardly be heard over sound of the rain, but it almost added to the presence of The Lord that was in that room. The kids drew their chairs closer and as God began to minister through song. They poured out their hearts, some of them weeping on their faces, hands held high as they knelt in worship. New songs were created. Lives surrendered. God's presence fell in such a powerful way, it felt like God had sent a river through the room.

Before I knew it, I looked up to see our kids standing up, praying over each other. Speaking into each other. Words of truth. Words of confession. Words of ministry. I watched as one of our oldest girls cradled another girl for such a long time, just speaking truth, the truth she desperately needed to hear, into her ear. They spoke of visions The Lord gave them for each other. They asked for prayer for their families, for some of our special kids, for them as they walked out in leadership.

And it was in that moment, I had a vision of my own. CORM's campus completely covered in a layer of water up to our ankles. Curious onlookers were entering in from our entrance ways, just wanting a taste of what they saw. But, God desired to do even more. God desired for waist high waters. Neck high waters. Water that rose over our height, that we might dive in completely. Waters of God's love. Waters of God's presence. And this vision could only be made manifest if we, His people, began to dig into the depths. To not accept the surface waters as being a perfectly acceptable place to dwell. To go deep. To get serious about the things of God. And if this were to happen, it would change the face of this place...this community...these people...this nation...this world.

By the time we ended, we were full (and my guitar had suffered not just one, but two broken strings), and I wanted to just sit in that sweet place forever.

God, come. 

Pour your presence down just as these rains have been poured from your great sky. 

We are ready for more of you.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Putting Down my Dreams

Yesterday, we were asked to write down the big things that we are asking God for, those dreams we know won't be accomplished without Him. We gathered them together and we prayed over them, pouring ourselves out before The Lord, trusting that He would...in fact...He has already done it. We spoke into the future. We declared. We envisioned. 

As Stanley prayed for us as we closed, I felt a bit alone in the room. He had said that our big dreams, those things that couldn't be accomplished without Him...well, they can't be marriage and children. They have to be bigger than that. They have to be dreams that we almost can't even dream because of its outlandishness (ok, I am making up words, but that's because they needed to be God-sized dreams and visions).

For awhile now, I haven't spoken about my singleness. I have been learning so much about being fully satisfied in God, finding Him in the places of loneliness I experience from time to time. And He has met me and filled me in ways I previously didn't understand. In fact, I have found myself settling into the fact that I may never get married, and somehow, my heart is ok with that. As much as I want for that to happen, to do it outside of a God's plan and purpose for me would be unthinkable. But, for some reason, it keeps coming up.

A few days ago, one of my friends had a dream about me getting married. She said I got married and ended up moving back to the States. She didn't want me to leave Ghana. I told her that "if" I ever got married, they would need to have a heart for Ghana because that is where I am called.

And moving into these apartments, I can't even count how many kids have said that if I get married, I have room for my baby.

And when Stanley asked us to dream our biggest dream, that is the dream that came to mind, even when he said it wasn't big enough.

But, then I read this this morning and it hit me...it really knocked the air out of me. In fact, I have read this scripture so many times before, but for some reason, today, it spoke.

Isaiah 54:1-5

"'Sing, O barren woman, you who never bore a child; burst into song, shout for joy, you who were never in labor; because more are the children of the desolate woman than of her that has a husband,' says The Lord. 'Enlarge the place of your tent, stretch your tent curtains wide, do not hold back; lengthen your cords, strengthen your stakes. For you will spread out to the right and to the left; your descendants will dispossess nations and settle in their desolate cities. Do not be afraid; you will not suffer shame. Do not fear disgrace; you will not be humiliated. You will forget the shame of your youth and remember no more the reproach of your widowhood. For your Maker is your husband--The Lord Almighty is his name--the Holy One of Israel is your Redeemer; he is called the God of all the earth."

It was as if God was enlarging my dream for me. Reminding me of what He has called me to. I may be single for my whole life, but I have every confidence that these words will speak of me in the future. My children, these children, the children I have served in EPA, Redwood City, Placentia, Mission Viejo, Brea, Paonia, Kenya...they will spread out among the nations...they are my legacy.

My God, as strange as it sounds, loves me in every way. He is my God. He is my Savior. He is my husband. He fills the empty places in me that I can trust no man to fill. He is who I find my identity in.

So, here I am, in my new apartment, my tent enlarged...and I wait. I hold tight to the promise of The Lord that He will give me more than I ever imagined.

God, may it be so.

Coming of Age, Post 3

Today, instead of our normal choir performance, one of our staff, Jemima, and two of our kiddos, Rosemary and Gracie, got up to share a song. It's a song we had heard before and we all started singing along and clapping. 

I want more of you.
want more of you, Jesus.
Cause the more I know you,
The more I want to know you.
Jesus, more of you.

But as we started singing along, falling into that special place of worship, one by one, our 12 began to get up and join the three singing in the front.

I want more of you.

Our boys, now men more than boys, rising up and singing out.

I want more of you.

Our girls, bright and beautiful and confident, declaring it all.

I want more of you.

And then they wrapped arms around each other's shoulders, swaying to the rhythm as they sang it out with all their hearts.

I want more of you.

Stacy said she cried because it was so beautiful. She said it was like a worship flash mob.

We are loving what God is doing in our kids. 

And we love flash mobs too.

Bring it on, God!

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Coming of Age, Post 2

Today, we heard testimony after testimony of what we have all been hearing during this time of fasting and prayer. 

And then we danced:

And danced:

And danced:

And then we all wrote out the dreams on our heart and the Presence of God fell as we prayed. God is moving here. Be prepared for miracles next week. He is coming...