Sunday 28 August 2016

The Wooing Love of Redeemed Lists

It has been said that, you are never to old to set another goal or to dream a new dream. For some people, setting goals comes naturally. In the world of list - lovers and doers, goals are the air they breath. The wind beneath their wings, the milk in their coffee, the shade on a hot summers day (do I go too far!), well sure goals are pretty much normal to some. But not for me. 

I've become good at dreams, (although this took time as well) but as a teenager and a university student, I pushed myself too hard. Trying to achieve goals that were birthed in perfectionism meant that I developed scalp rash, twitching eye, scalp peeling and was prone to emotional outbursts. I no longer carry the fear based perfectionism around, God healed my wounded soul of the baggage I carried (for perfectionism is always rooted in fear) and I am recovered. Yet, I no longer made goals. They reminded me too much of what I had left behind. So when I stumbled on the 52 Lists project a few months ago, I was intrigued.
I grabbed hold of the fun exercise and immediately felt how the Holy Spirit was leading me in my journey with writing lists. It is absolutely enjoyable and completely a gift of ministering, or at least I experienced it as such. It was and continues to be delightful. I have gone so far as to develop some of my own lists, writing down my favourite quotes speaks to me about who I am and what I feel is inspirational. My favourite movies are fun to write about, my favourite memories, foods, songs, books, how can this not be fun! But when I finally got to "list your current & future goals and dreams." I sat there, blank stare. What!

I felt Abba Father tell me "share your heart with me, tell me about your dreams and goals, I want to hear them." Tenderly, like a Good Shepherd and a Gentle Lover, He kept affirming me as struggled to write my current goals and dreams. I knew He wanted to hear them, just like the time He nudged me to ask for french fries (you have to read about that over here - Remember those Fries?)

It was both scary, and deeply sacred to sit and right about my goals and dreams. Once I finished writing this list, I wrote a prayer with it, dated it February 2016 and closed the book. 

 I thought about that list often and knew that much of what I wrote down was actually sitting inside of me. My goals are very much a part of my humanness, it is not something I am writing down fearfully anymore, rather because I am redeemed and set free by the Blood of my Messiah and I only want to dream His dreams for my life, I find that my goals and dreams reflect His dreams for me. My goals themslves have taken on a different form, my goals are in themselves redeemed. This week I felt to pull out my book from the cupboard shelf and have a look at my dreams and goals again, so as to think about my new dreams and goals. I was amazed at how so many of them God truly fulfilled! I will share four of them that were amazing, a lot of them are personal and not up for sharing!
  • Have enough money to pay for my own bridesmaid dress for my brothers wedding (it was so short notice this wedding, I had no idea what to do! But God took care of it.)
  • To settle some of my debt (Done! A Huge miracle!)
  • To finish the movie script I was commissioned for (Done!)
  • I think I would like to be an aunt, so my brother and his wife should have a kid (They having a kid end of December, how's that for dream fulfilment!)
 I have been so in awe at how much I have grown and how much my Beloved King has done in my heart and spirit this year. Looking over my dreams and goals I have learned how precious it is to share our hearts with Father. I have always loved to share with Him but now have a deeper understanding of what setting "holy surrendered goals" looks like. It is a fun reality. I feel His deep nudge again to share my heart afresh with Him this way, to draw up a new list of what has birthed a new in my heart in this new season and I am looking forward to doing this. I will share one little dream with you, but ssshhh it's a secret :) I had my own column in a wonderful magazine, for 3 years but my season came to end there in 2014 and my husband and I started doing more outreach work and I started writing more seriously for my book. I still do freelance writing work here for magazines, but I so miss having a column. A steady place where I share Gods rich secrets and truth that He is sharing with me to give to others, I know if it is His will, this dream will find its place, anything is possible!

I am reminded of this absolute truth, how there is no fear in perfect love and how this truth exists in every part of our lives as we yield to Him. Our dreams are stain glass windows of His hearts desire for our life, shining richly coloured light all across the landscape of this earth, changing first our own walks and then the walks of others. And oh how grateful I am, for such a Love......

 Sharing with Sister Lisha
And Word of God Speak

Friday 26 August 2016

FMF - Equality and Loyalty

Five Minute Fiday, unthought about blank writing on the word Loyal! GO!~

Loyalty. It's one of my values. Back in 2011 I did an interesting course where we had to explore our values, write them on our hands and name them. One of my top 5 values was loyalty and yet we do know that loyalty is often very hard to find. People come and people go, friends leave and friends appear, seasons change and our loyalties change. Yet, I find that as long as we remain walking in integrity, loyal to our values and standards, we will be okay.

I thought about the value of loyalty this week, when I followed up on the annual Suffrage Parade and the messages behind equality day (which is today). Equality day is all about the celebration of womens suffrage and also about exploring equality and what that means. Women have had to fight for equal rights, still today we fight for those who need education, deliverance from human trafficking, abuse and the other many atrocities that women face. Half of the human race has a feminine face and yet that face is so brutally scarred and oppressed. For me, I have long felt Gods calling on my life for social justice. I read in His word how His judges will have a hunger for justice and how His people will pursue that justice. Godly justice is something we should hunger for, something we should fight for, in all its forms. That means we should remain loyal to His precepts, to His Leading and to His Will, when we remain loyal to Him and let His will flow through us, the world will change, little by little, one life at a time :)

STOP! Sharing at Kate's

Tuesday 23 August 2016

It's about Hope - Africa's Children

I am so enjoying featuring stories from amazing individuals who are doing wonderful things for others. Their stories are stories of mudslides, hope, birth, witnessing a need and responding to it and their stories are part of what it means to be human. Some of these individuals have started organisations or they work in or with organisations who are setting the captives free! As a writer, I want to be the change I want to see and as much as I sometimes want to go and be that difference, I know I can be that difference right here.... by sharing the passionate stories of others. This week I am delighted to introduce Jacqueline, a young dreamer who started a childrens home for at risk children in Kenya called Zawadi la Tumaini. Here is her story....

My love for Kenya was sparked during a volunteer trip I went on at the age of 15, with an organization called Free the Children. I had always been fascinated by the people, the politics, the animals, and the different cultures that exist on the African continent. As a child my parents would treat my brother and I to a new book from our local book store every couple of months. At 12 years old I selected a huge book documenting the history of Africa. My father told me that this book was too thick for a child and that reading about politics in Africa was too heavy for a child my age, but I insisted on having that book. I wanted to learn, I read hungrily, four weeks later I was finished that huge book, but my learning continued. I was drawn to working with children in Africa. At 14 years old a passion for assisting children affected by the conflict in Northern Uganda, rose up within me, it burned like a wild fire. Sadly, I learned that volunteering with any organizations assisting these children at that stage, would require me to be at least 18 years old. So I entered high school, got a part time job, and continued searching for an organization that would take me to Africa as a volunteer. Growing up in a small town in Northern Ontario, Canada, many of my peers, and even family members, did not understand my dream. Many people could not understand why I worked for an entire year as a barista, only to save thousands of dollars, just to volunteer for a couple of weeks, assisting a community in a country I had never been to before. It seemed a strange pursuit but I continued to pursue my dream. A co-worker of mine turned out to be a blessing by telling me about Free the Children and their overseas trips. The age restriction was 15 with parental consent. I just made it and I was set. Eight months later I was on a plane with 22 other young people, all of us eager to change the world, and bring change to Africa even though we had no idea what to expect. On arrival in Kenya, I fell in love with the warmth of the people, the landscape, and the children's willingness to learn. It was inspiring. I felt as though I was meant to be there. We spent 3 weeks in the country, building a school house and volunteering with the children in the community. It was an eye opening experience and one that I still hold close to my heart because it fuelled a love for the country I now call my second home. I returned to Canada knowing I would someday return to the arms of Kenya. The following summer, at 16 years old, I visited an orphanage in a rural community roughly 2.5 hours drive from Nairobi, Kenya. It was there where my ultimate journey assisting orphaned and vulnerable children, began. 

Now, 6 years later, I am the proud Founder and Director of Operations of Zawadi la Tumaini Children's Home. The road to Zawadi was not easy. Starting an organization at 17 years old had many hurdles to face and to overcome. Many people doubted I would be able to run an organization by myself. I experienced the corruption that exists in the orphan care world. I experienced the struggles of working with officials, and witnessing homes that are highly funded while violating children's rights and breaking many rules and regulations set out for children's homes. It has been quite an adventure. But that adventure led me to become an aunt to 27 incredible children. My kids have experienced so many hardships at such a young age, some are orphans because of AIDS, others have been abandoned because of addictions. All of my children have come from the slums of Nairobi without anywhere else to turn or to go. Abused, neglected, orphaned.... each child has a different story. Many homes take in children whose parents are simply impoverished and can't care for them. 

We do selective profiling to find the worst cases, to find the children with the highest needs and require a home to call their own, that is our selection process. We hope to change their lives but in truth, these kids have changed my life. They have taught me the definition of determination; they motivate me through all the challenging moments that come with fundraising a $100,000 + budget alone.  Every hard moment has been worth it. Seeing their transformations make those difficult moments worth it. 

In 2014 I was blessed to welcome a baby girl into the world. I am a single mother. The kids have become her big cousins, guiding her and teaching her all about life. I feel grateful to have found my calling so early in life and I am fiercely committed to continue the fight to bring orphaned children quality care as long, as I am alive. It's something worth fighting for. In addition to my work with Zawadi la Tumaini, I am in the beginning stages of starting a new social enterprise called Olive & Annie. The inspiration for this secondary project came during a research study I was conducting for a university class (I'm also a part time student online via Pennsylvania State University). So many young mothers in the slums are not educated about sexual health which leads to unplanned pregnancies and thousands of single mothers taking on parenting alone while struggling in poverty. I wanted to do something to make a difference. I created the plans for a baby / mama product line. I never expected to be able to pursue this dream of starting a business so soon but with the support of my best friend, who is now my partner, we joined together to bring my vision of Olive & Annie to life. Our focus for the charity side shifted slightly after Zawadi la Tumaini welcomed a 16 year old rape victim and her daughter Marta (4 months old) into our home. Jacqueline was raped in Kibera. Her innocence was stolen from her and she was left with no help to guide her. Her mother tried but had 9 children and therefore had no time to help her. She was out of school for quite some time and was forced to walk past the public restroom where she was gang raped every single day. It was traumatizing for her and no one seemed to care about what she had gone through. One in 4 women in Nairobi will experience sexually based violence. Her story is not uncommon. People have accepted it. I was tired of hearing stories like hers. It IS NOT okay. It prompted a new vision for our charity side of Olive & Annie. We are in the planning stages now of developing community centers for youth in slums across Nairobi. We will begin in one community and branch into others eventually. Carefully creating a model that works for youth in these areas. Our team of innovators in public health, business, and social work are collectively working together to develop programs for schools to educate young people about sexual health and answer questions they may have. I've learned over the last 6 years of working in Kenya that forming relationships with young people is the best way to guide them in the right direction. Teaching both young men and women about sexual health and empowering them to say no to sexually based violence, creates change. Creating centers for victims to receive counselling provides healing. Employing women who became mothers through rape, as well as young single mothers who were uninformed about sexual health, creates change. Ultimately we hope our programs will eventually minimize the number of young women having unplanned pregnancies and decrease the number of women being raped in the slums, and provide hope and healing to victims. 

I was just a 17 year old with a dream. Now I am a mother, aunt, advocate for orphan rights, and a business woman hoping to create change in the slums. Anything is possible if you believe.

There are many needs at the ZLT Home, and I would so love you to visit their
site where you can help.... ZLT Hope

Previous Post in this series, Go. Be. Love. Visiting Orphans

Sunday 21 August 2016

Letters to a Young Dreamer

(I recently was introduced to some young people, and in the midst of the conversation I met one child who wanted to know about writing, her question quite struck me. I saw the fleeting momentary reality of losing a dream in the wake of something else, I had to write a response, as what I saw went far beyond one childs experience. I kept my feelings along with these personal words, sealed up in my journal but kept feeling the Holy Spirit impressing it on my heart this evening, to share here it is...

I reflect with fondness on the amusing circumstances that brought us in to each others worlds. How you boldly leaned over and asked me that question about being a writer, but first you started by telling me your age, the tender sap of 12 years old and your dream of writing, one day. The question startled me however and it was tipped with a sadness that stayed with me. The only question you had about writing and it was summed up in, "what is your income like?" It was the very first thing that fell from your lips as though it were the most natural requirement to be thought of. 

At the time I could not find an answer to match neither my conscience or the situation, so you will allow me the indulgence of sharing my heart so openly with you here. 

Young dreamer, your butterfly dreams I sensed, are bound. And the answer to your question lies in a deeper question still. If it were for finances or material comforts alone, would I have abandoned the armchair of this world, in pursuit of the Cross that has taken me in to a different world? Would I have counted it all loss, to know the simple yet eternal heartbeat of the cross? As I whispered across the already finished meal, obedience is echoed in the ink of a pen, Jesus lovingly called me to write and how grateful I am that He has chosen this for me, by His great grace and mercy.

Young dreamer, I see your hesitation yet your dreams are colourful do not let them fade in to black and white. The world has just begun for you! I fear that we are all as adults, giving birth to a dead generation. Teaching comfort over compassion, teaching the armchair of a self satisfied life, over passionate advocacy for the less fortunate, the desperate and the weak. We are teaching safety over sanctity and compromise over holiness in the One True God. I want you to know dear one just how loved you are and I want you to know that you can be whatever you were created to be. Can you feel how such Perfect Love can cast out all these fears? For your fears are merely secondary voices, shadows of family members and societies spectres that haunt corners, afraid of people on purpose. 

Are you afraid? Don't be! Deep comfort and sancitifed rest come on the other side of abandoning self to the arms of our Messiah.

Young dreamer, the purest passion and the holiest purpose lies in the breasts of children. Before the age of responsibility and complexity gnaw at our most innocent, Heaven scented dreams. That purest purpose has begun to fade but commit it to memory. Conceal it in the chambers of prayer, entrust it in the open palms of our Beloved Saviour whom you have come to know and have learned about. Then find the courage to live your call, as our Father in Heaven calls to each of us but it is up to us to peer up and surrender to the bright red telephone ringing in our hearts. Answer it dear one, do not be afraid for you are so greatly loved....

Sharing with Glimpses

Friday 19 August 2016

Team Yearning - FMF

Five Minute Friday, this weeks word "Team," Let's Go!

 This week I was asked a question live on radio that I was not prepared for. It was "so what do you do on Sundays?" Haha, well, nothing. "We keep the sabbath on Saturday so that's our time to be refreshed and lifted up. On Sundays however, we do odd chores etc and then on Sunday evenings my husband and I host a radio broadcast." The host was sweet and after the interview ended, I thought about the radio braodcast and some of the people we "fellowship" with, through reaching them via streaming. Some of them, are in remote places, are in difficult situations and are the only real believers in their families. They are precious people, and they don't have a team, a spiritual team.
Today I was faced with a difficult situation in my own life. A situation where I just prayed for some comfort, perhaps for a team mate, someone to affirm my feelings in love and offer comfort. Then as I heard a familiar worship song come on, I began feeling refreshed, built up, reminded of truth. This singer was a team member, in an unexpected place. Singing for the same side. I also had some positive words offered to me via someone who does not know me. In this way I had a team, perhaps not physically but God is without limits. Spiritual, everywhere and He can use anyone and anything to built us up again. Sometimes we do need a team, it could be a team of one or many, and they come in all shapes and colours. Let us ourselves, commit to being a team. Perhaps it's a positive uplifting email you need to send, or just a text telling someone you value them. In this way, we are being a team and you have no idea how much it can refresh a weary soul.......

Sharing with the "team" over at Five Minute Friday

Thursday 18 August 2016

It's a Girl! Now What?

The Nest is growing over at the family residence! And this week I'm reflecting on my brothers reaction to finding out he is having a girl soon! Enjoy!

When my brother and his wife announced their unexpected pregnancy, my family was shocked. My brother and his now wife have been together for fourteen years, got engaged in January, and married in June. A whole two months later, the couple announced that they were expecting a baby. Timing is a strange thing in their world, and given that they are both almost forty years old, we were rightly shocked. But after the shock wore off, excitement settled in. I immediately felt a strong protectiveness over this new life. I began to think about the sex of the baby and how that might affect the baby's life and experiences.
A month later, I received a phone call from my parents, brother, and sister-in-law, all screaming into the telephone, "it's a girl!"
I was convinced that a boy was on the way, and my brother was too. We were both wrong, but I immediately felt awe at the announcement. My brother on the other hand, was somewhat disappointed. He was expecting a boy. 
His fears and doubts about raising a girl became apparent after the announcement. The thought of bringing up a girl was very scary to him....

I'm writing over at my favourite place today, the CBE Scroll! This post is really special and personal to me, so come along and read the rest with me....
It's a Girl, Now What! 

Sharing over at The Grove 

Tuesday 16 August 2016

Go, Be, Love - On a Mission

Over the next few weeks, I will be featuring stories from amazing individuals who are doing wonderful things for others. Their stories are stories of mudslides, hope, birth, witnessing a need and responding to it and their stories are part of what it means to be human. Some of these individuals have started organisations or they work in or with organisations who are setting the captives free! As a writer, I want to be the change I want to see and as much as I sometimes want to go and be that difference, I know I can be that difference right here.... by sharing the passionate stories of others. Jessica's story left me with tears, tears because missions is close to my heart, short term missions and I truly pray that her story and the work of Visiting Orphans, will perhaps stir your heart to, GO BE LOVE!

My story with Visiting Orphans actually begun when I was 9 years old. You see, it was at that age, when I felt the call to be a missionary. It was during a worship service one morning at my church when I heard God whisper to my heart “I am calling you to the Nations.” From that moment on I have felt a burning desire and passion to GO to the Nations! I begged my parents to let me go on my first trip when I was 12 but they told me I needed to wait until the ripe old age of 13. I was elated to go on my first International missions trip to Peru, when I was just 13 years old and I can truly say that my life has never been the same since! Since then I have had the honor of serving in missions in over 40 Nations throughout the world. In 2010 I married my amazing husband Chris (whom I met in an airport baggage claim on one of these missions’ trips) and together we have served in missions throughout the world since we got married. I am so thankful that God sent me a spouse who has the same heart as mine!

In 2012 my friend asked me to go on a missions trip to Kenya & Uganda with a missionary organization called, Visiting Orphans. This was a huge deal, as my husband and I were already committed to serving on a missions trip in Alaska for two months. We needed to raise a lot of funds if we were to go on both trips but I prayed about it and really felt God calling me to go. So I took a leap of faith and God radically provided the funds. I am so thankful that I stepped out and trusted God to provide for the trip to Kenya & Uganda! While on that trip my heart was truly transformed and my eyes were opened to the great need that existed in Africa. But my eyes were also opened to the great beauty that exists there as well. So many times missionaries go on trips with the single thought that they are going to “bless” the people they are reaching out to, which of course they do. Yet in the end, it is also the missionaries themselves who are blessed and their hearts and lives are radically transformed. 

I came home from that trip knowing I had to do something more and through the generous donations of family and friends, I was able to provide pillows, blankets, and mattresses to hundreds of children living in one of the orphanages in Kenya. That was a transformative life moment for me as I had the realization that if we all come together and do something, we can truly make a difference. Everyone can do something no matter how small and it’s those “small things” that make the biggest impact in the world. To this day, I still receive thank you letters from the children who received the new beds. Some had never had a pillow or blanket of their own before. Can you imagine that for a second? One girl told us that throughout her life, she  had only ever had a scarf to cover her body with. Let that really sink in for a second. Small things that add up = big changes and impact in the world in a world unimaginable.

Over the years I have learned that short term missions trips are so, so effective and powerful because it’s not just about the trip but about what happens AFTER the trip. So many people who choose the route of short term missions come home and go on to do things that leave a lasting impact. Whether it be fundraising for needs of the orphanages or ministries they worked with, becoming an advocate for a child, spreading the word about the needs they have seen, or even adopting a child that they met while on the trip! The list goes on and on! I would encourage you to see short term missions as a powerful tool that leaves a continual impact far in to the future of your own life, even after you have returned home!

In 2015 I connected with the Executive director of Visiting Orphans, Autumn Kerr via Facebook after I found out that she was moving to my hometown in Florida! We instantly hit it off and she told me that she would love for me to work with Visiting Orphans, but there were currently no positions open. I was obviously excited about the possibility but told myself to be cautiously excited as I knew there were no positions available. Just a couple months after meeting Autumn, a position at Visiting Orphans became available when one of their staff took a position to move full-time to Uganda! I could hardly believe it! It felt too good to be true that I would actually be on staff with an amazing organization that had such a profound impact on my life! I pictured God smiling and saying “See, my plans are always better and always way more exciting than you can even imagine!” Today I serve on staff at Visiting Orphans as a Missions Specialist. I coordinate several of the 15 countries that Visiting Orphans goes to and I also do administrative work such as process trip applications, manage donations, etc.! I feel like I pinch myself every day that I get to work for such an amazing and influential organization. I praise God for how He has directed my paths. His plans are always the best!

One of my favorite scriptures is Psalms 37:4 which says “Delight yourself in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart.” God has given me the desire of my heart by giving me my “dream job” working in missions as my career! There is truly nothing better than being able to work doing something you are deeply passionate about.

Visiting Orphans just celebrated its 11th Birthday and we are extremely thankful for the impact that we have been able to have throughout the Nations. We have been so blessed with amazing team members and the best team leaders! It is only by partnering with passionate people who feel called to help us live out our mission which is to Go to the Nations, Be focused on relationships, and Love like Jesus, that we are able to keep doing what we do! I am so excited about several new trips we are launching this year! We are launching our first ever domestic mission trips and locations include Florida and Alaska! Domestic trips have been something very near and dear to my heart as throughout the years I have asked myself “What am I doing in my own nation?”

 You can find more details by checking out our website: Click Missions Trips then click Where we go to see a list of upcoming trips! Thanks for helping us to GO. BE. LOVE.
Sharing at Unite