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What’s Next?

September 13, 2010

Many have been asking me, “What’s next?”

The short answer is, “I don’t know.”

Yes, I have Ideas. Inclinations. Preferences. Interests. Desires. Interviews. Referrals. Resumes sent. Job searches conducted.

But, no clear indication (yet) of what God has in store for me “post-Africa.”

This has been an exciting, but nonetheless, scary process.

As I continue to come off the “highs” of returning from Kenya, and those quiet, silent, reflective, still moments come my way, it’s easy to want to stay busy and distracted and get caught up in activities, people and tasks. Why? Quite honestly, so that I don’t have to realize that I AM weak, dependent and a helpless child in the Great Potter’s hands.

So, it’s been quite a roller-coaster. Of emotion and prayer and continual surrender, all the while resting in the arms that are underneath. On some days, I am filled with faith-filled anticipation and a strong sense of confidence in God’s faithfulness and provision. My prayers are vibrant, my requests bold, and my joy full. Other days, I am restless, discontent and anxious. I feel lonely, I doubt God’s goodness, and I begin to strive to try and make things happen. But, on this roller-coaster, God has been gracious to remind me who’s in control. Phrases/scriptures keep coming to mind, bringing great comfort:

His eye is on the sparrow.

And my God will provide EVERY need of yours, according to His riches in glory.

If God is for me, who can be against me?

Plans to prosper me, plans to give me a hope and a future…

You hem me in, behind and before

Commit your way to the Lord, trust in Him, and He will act

Tonight, I also remembered an old, but very timely song that my Mom shared with my sister the summer before she got married. I have listened to this song many times, and it just also seems to quiet my soul whenever I am at a crossroads in life.

“Hard as it seems
Standing in dreams
Where is the dreamer now
Wonder if I
Wanted to try
Would I remember how
I don’t know the way to go from here
But I know I have made my choice
And this is where I stand
Until He moves me on

And I will listen to His voice
This is the faith
Patience to wait
When there is nothing clear
Nothing to see
Still we believe
Jesus is very near
I can not imagine what will come
But I’ve already made my choice
And this is where I stand
Until He moves me on

And I will listen to His voice
Could it be that He is only waiting there to see
If I will learn to love the dreams
that He has dreamed for me
Can’t imagine what the future holds
But I’ve already made my choice
And this is where I stand
Until He moves me on
And I will listen to His voice”

– Twila Paris

So, what’s next? I don’t know 🙂 But, I DO know I can Trust Him.

Auntie Emmy

September 8, 2010

Just call me Auntie Emmy for the month of September 🙂

It’s almost been 1 week since I arrived in Mesa, Arizona to spend this month with my sister, Nora, brother-in-law, Travis, niece, Kate, and nephew, Grant. Meeting Grant was the highlight of my arrival, but in some ways, I felt like I was “re-meeting” Kate, too. She has grown up SO much since I saw her last (on her 1st birthday in June, 2009) and is talking up a storm.

So, my parents stayed for a long weekend, and have since gone home already, but I am now settling into ‘family life’…it’s quite a simple routine: get up early, breakfast, play-time, early lunch, nap-times, more afternoon play-time and usually a trip to the pool, then dinner, bath-time, bedtimes songs and stories, and early to sleep. Last night, I went to bed at 8:30pm, and then woke up at 5am to drink some coffee and watch the beautiful sunrise!

In addition to regular life, Nora and I are potty-training Kate! I made Kate a Potty Chart, and if she gets 50 stickers for going 50 times on the regular toilet, her Mommy has promised her this special Mermaid Barbie. Whoa. What a treat. Nora and I NEVER got to play with Barbies 🙂 Haha. On Day 1 (yesterday), Kate got 10 stickers, so she is a natural. Although, she DID decide to take her “long call,” as they say in Uganda, OUTSIDE in the back-yard 🙂 Whoops. We had to teach her that that is where doggies go, not little girls. Our little homemade song is also a hit (set to the tune of “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star.”

Tinkle, tinkle, little Kate,
Find the toilet, don’t be late!
Sit and wait until you see,
Poopy brown or yellow pee,
Then, wipe and flush and wash your hands –
Each day we’ll go back again!

Anyways, all is well here in Mesa. It has been so wonderful to not only play “Auntie Emmy” every day, but also to just be living life with my sister, Nora. She has become an incredible mother, and I am so proud of the way she is just so loving, patient, kind, and selfless. And, all the while, maintains a delicious menu for our dinners – last night was homemade Fish Taco’s (credit to Travis for the awesome fish-frying techniques!), green tomatillo salsa and lime chips, cilantro dip, limes, and cabbage salad.

But, even amazing mothers need to get OUT of the house 🙂 So, tonight I am babysitting the two kiddo’s while Travis and Nora go out to their Bible Study group…and I plan to take Kate next week on a special day-date with Auntie Emmy to Anthropologie. Yes, shopping + girltime with the little munchkin 🙂 Here, Anthro offers a special Wed. “arts and crafts” time for kids while mothers want to shop…so, I figured I would take advantage of THAT deal.

More pictures to come soon!

Looking for Meaningful Gifts?

August 21, 2010

I am excited to announce that I am now an Amani ya Juu volunteer and sales rep!

What is Amani ya Juu?

It’s an African boutique in D.C. that sells beautiful purses, clothes, and jewelry made by Kenyan women as part of a women’s stitching and peace-building project based in East Africa.

I found out about Amani when I was living in Kenya, because they have a local branch in Nairobi. I have LOVED the jewelry, shirt and purse that I bought from Amani, as well as a gorgeous quilt that now makes my bedroom quite bright and cheery:

What makes each quilt so amazing is that there is no replica’s of any particular one. Each one is made by one African woman who designs it herself, combines colors and patterns the way she wants, etc. I don’t know the name of the woman who made mine, but each time I get tucked up under it, I pray for her and ask God to continue to strengthen and provide for her.

So, if you are looking for meaningful gifts to give to others for birthdays, or the upcoming holidays…swing by 103 Pembrooke View Lane in Gaithersburg (my home) next Sunday, Aug. 29 between 2 and 5pm to purchase!!!

Egypt Expedition

August 9, 2010

Well, I’m back from Africa!!!

I have now been back a week, and am slowly adjusting back into life in America. It is such a strange, but equally as sweet feeling to be back in my childhood home, with my family, seeing old friends, driving around my hometown, entering familiar grocery stores, worshipping in my home church this morning… it will certainly continue to be a season of transition, (and has already been bittersweet and hard at times), but I am grateful for the daily grace and peace that God has been pouring out into my soul through His Word.

As many of you know, on the way home from Kenya, I made an adventuresome detour, shall we say, up north to Egypt. Traveling with some dear friends through the country for a week and a half, we thoroughly enjoyed our tour of both popular and off-the-trail sights. I was amazed at the diverse landscapes (mountains, ocean, desert, city, river, sea, and countryside), the multiple modes of transportation we took (plane, car, foot, train, “faluka” boat, jet, horse carriage, camel, mini tour bus, old Mercedes Benz taxi, 4-wheelers, and even our “fins” under the water), and the incredible adventures we had along the way (sight-seeing, boat-riding, four-wheeling, snorkeling, hiking, eating, shopping, photo-taking, and so much more). Whether looking UP at the great, ancient pyramids of Egypt, or peering DOWN into the desert abyss from the top of Mount Sinai, it was all quite the expedition…and the trip of a lifetime.

Here is a summary of our time.

Jul 24—25, CAIRO

Lunch at Pizza Hut, where I discovered a pickled Lemon at the salad bar 🙂
Cairo Museum – King Tut’s tomb, antiquities, hieroglyphics, artifacts, mummies, jewelry, etc.
Dinner at Local Restaurant for bean dip, hummus, fresh pita bread, cucumber & tomato salad, chicken and lamb.
Pyramids
Sphinx
Camel Ride
Overnight Sleeper Car Train to Luxor

Jul 26—27, LUXOR

26th.

Carriage Ride to the East Bank – Karnak Temple
Poolside Lunch
Faluca Boat Ride on the Nile at Sunset
Dinner at McDonalds 🙂 (which, for the record, is MUCH better abroad than in the States!)
Early Morning Trip to West Bank – 3 Tombs of Ramses in the Valley of the Kings; Queen Hatshepsut’s Tomb

27th.

Queen Hatshepsut’s Temple
Evening Flight to Sharm El Sheikh
One-night stay at a local hotel near airport

Jul 28, SHARM El Sheikh to DAHAB

Drove from Sharm El Sheikh to Dahab (the coast of the Red Sea)
Rested by the pool
Enjoyed an authentic Egyptian meal at the “Dahab Paradise” resort
Drank tea under the stars with Saudi Arabia in the distance inside a “Bedouin” tent (the Bedouin’s are a predominantly desert-dwelling Arab ethnic group).

Jul 29 – 31, DAHAB

29th.

Snorkeling!!!
Lunch at Carm Inn – Tabouleh and Fresh, Grilled Fish with Tahini dressing and limes.
Shopping along the boardwalk
Back to Dahab Paradise for evening of books and pool.
Local dinner of grapes, cheese, bread, and other fresh produce.

30th.

Early morning Snorkel at “The Blue Hole,” one of the most famous dive spots in the world.
Pool-time and reading
Illy Espresso Café for iced hazelnut decaf coffee drinks
Shopping by the board-walk
Dinner at “Sea Bride” seafood restaurant

31st.

Quad bikes (4 wheeling) in the morning around Dahab; quick dip in the Lagoona beach area
Back to hotel for amazing Tuna Salads with olives and tomatoes
Drove 2 hours to the Sheikh Moussa Boudouin Camp
Climbed Mt. Sinai from 5pm to 10pm to see the sunset from the peak

Aug 1 – CAIRO

Enjoyed green tea on the veranda at the Boudouin Camp and read from Exodus
Breakfasted with Boudouin Flat (unleavened) Bread, eggs, black tea, and crepes…
Stopped at St. Katherine’s Monastary and passed over the Suez Canal along the way back to Cairo.

Aug 2 – USA

Flew Home! 🙂

The picture above only give a tiny glimpse of the amazing sights, sounds, smells, and tastes I experienced, but if you are interested in seeing more, just check out my Facebook profile. I posted 250 photo’s there today for your perusal 🙂 Just click here.

And, so…I am now home. Yet, what is “home” anymore? That is the question ebbing me, stirring me this past week. I won’t lie. It’s been GOOD to be back. But, it’s been equally as hard. As Sara Groves puts it in her song, “Painting Pictures of Egypt,” (rather ironic title),

“The past is so tangible, I know it by heart. Familiar things are never easy to discard. But the places that used to fit me cannot hold the things I’ve learned. Those roads were closed off to me, while my back was turned.

Yet, as a friend so kindly reminded me from Psalm 91 this week, God is my eternal dwelling place. And, as I abide in Him, rest in Him, He will surely be a shelter for me in the days ahead…especially in the midst of this immediate barrage of Western society, consumerism, materialism, and fast-paced rhythm.

Everyone is encouraging me to REST. And as tired as I feel, I know I am more tired than I think…and, the restlessness that I am also feeling doesn’t surprise me. After being a sojourner for a year, I suppose it’s quite normal to feel “ancy” when there was such clear purpose and ambition in my day-to-day life in Kenya.

So, I’m still here. And, I may be out of Africa, but Africa is not out of me. And, so this blog will continue. There are still more stories to be told, more work to do, more lives to help, more fundraising to happen for various projects I have dipped my fingers into.

But, for a little while here, I think I’m going to quietly retreat into the limelight, and just BE. So, you may not see a blog post for some time, but stay tuned…because I’ve got some exciting things up my sleeve 🙂

Pray for Kenya

July 25, 2010

“Dear Praying Friends of AIM,

From time to time significant issues face a people that merit special attention and prayer focus. Kenya is heading into such a time on the 4th of August and the days following, as citizens of Kenya vote in a referendum on a long anticipated new constitution.

However the debate over this constitution has been vigorous and differing views abound. While there is potential for unrest there is potential for good as well. We ask that you join us in prayer for Kenya:

o That God’s glory would be evidenced as the Church speaks to the issues.
o That wise decisions would be made in voting.
o That constructive dissenting perspectives might be raised.
o That the voting would be fair, and results of the referendum be accepted.

In another development the recent tragic bombing in Kampala, Uganda has raised concerns here in Kenya as the source of this terrorist act comes from a close neighbouring country. Again pray that destruction of lives would be stifled here and that it would not distract people from prayerfully considering the issues at stake for Kenya’s future. AIM offices in Kenya are monitoring all of these events carefully and taking prudent precautionary measures.

Thank you for praying with us in the days surrounding the referendum on Aug 4th 2010.

Loren Fast, Crisis Consultant on behalf of the Leadership of Africa Inland Mission International in Kenya: RVA, International Services and Eastern Region.”

.Dwelling.

July 21, 2010

With just three days left in Kenya, it’s hard to feel like I have a dwelling place right now, physically and relationally. Not only do we dwell some WHERE, we also dwell in community WITH others. And, when these are both swiftly and suddenly swept up from under you in a matter of days, it’s scary.

My house is empty and echoey. My shelves are empty. The walls are bare. 5 of my bags left today to go home to the States with a family who had extra baggage allowance, and are graciously going to UPS those for me to MD from Chicago this week. My fridge is down to random condiments, jellies, and a few staples. And, what has been home for an entire year, is now becoming another young dorm mom’s home next month. She has already arrived, so her luggage is in my guest bedroom now, and I’ve been surprised at how “protective” I’ve begun to feel about losing ‘my’ little corner in this RVA world.

And, while “KUE” is just a physical place, with walls and doors and cabinets and keys, there is a real sense of loss in leaving it. It has been my first ‘home on my own,’ and I will miss its cozy corners and cheery yellow paint and my serene “Devonshire” blue-grey painted bedroom. I will miss my kitchen sink drain that randomly ‘pees’ water…I will miss the creaks of my front door, the noisy wind of the night…the bamboo floors, my back patio, my very old-fashioned telephone 🙂 I will miss the view of the mountains, watching people pass by my kitchen window, hearing the monkeys on the roof in the mornings…I will miss making fires in my fireplace, and yes, I will even miss my annoying rental refrigerator that had no side shelving all year, that I solved by extending duct tape from one side to the other to create pseudo-shelving!

I also said goodbye to some very dear friends this afternoon. People I have lived in community with for 12 months…people who have become family…people who have become my dearest companions and surrogate parents…people with whom I have truly lived LIFE. It was hard to hug them at the parking lot, not knowing when I’ll see them again in this life, if ever. There is something so incredible, though, about the power of eternal life. Thinking about seeing these people again one day in heaven is such a wonderful, comforting truth.

And, so, I don’t think it was a coincidence that the Lord put Psalm 23 on my heart this morning. Particularly, the last verse: “Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life and I shall DWELL in the house of the LORD forever.”

Dwelling. Jesus Christ is my Savior, and He has given me the gift of His Holy Spirit. And the Word says that the Holy Spirit lives inside of us, interceding for us at the throne of God. He dwells in me, as a person dwells in a home. And, as I make this transition from Africa back to the States, I am grateful that He is my abiding place ALL the days of my life.

I must admit, though. I am nervous about how peaceful this dwelling has been in comparison with what is coming my way in the States. Here, time is relationships. There, time is money. Now, I generalize when I say this. But, it is in many ways true. Marcus Hornuck developed an Antithesis for Psalm 23, which I find so incredibly interesting:

“The clock is my dictator, I shall not rest. It makes me lie down only when exhausted. It leads me to deep depression. It hounds my soul. It leads me in circles of frenzy for activities’ sake. Even though I run frantically from task to task, I will never get it all done, for my “ideal” is with me.

Deadlines and my need for approval they drive me. They demand my performance from me, beyond the limits of my schedule. They anoint my head with migraines and restlessness. My in-basket overflows.

Surely fatigue and time pressures shall follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the bonds of frustration forever.”

I’m so thankful for this fresh perspective as I make my way back. Unless we DWELL in the presence of the Lord (instead of in the continual presence of our to-do list, fears, concerns, worries, tasks, etc.), we will be in the bonds of frustration. But, if we choose to continually REST by streams of water and green pastures, we will find peace.

It’s rather ironic. I met this man on Sunday. Amanda and Jenny and I went down to visit some friends, and spent the day enjoying a three-hour church service, lunch, pictures, and fellowship with the community.

He is an old, Maasai warrior…I never even caught his name while I was there…he is the father of a son who works as a guard at RVA…a grandfather to many. He dwells in the dusty, dry plains of the Rift Valley. It is certainly not a land of flowing water and green pastures, but drought, despair, and poverty.

Yet, somehow, in this despondent dwelling, he is smiling. As we were saying goodbye, he put his hand on my shoulder, as pictured. He looked at me, and in that moment, my heart skipped a beat and a tear came to my eye. No words were spoken, but the love of Jesus spilled over from his soul to mine, and in his eyes, I saw an eternal light shining that made me catch my breath. His wrinkles, decaying teeth, skinny bones…they were just part of the flesh in which he was living. I knew where he was truly dwelling, even in the flesh. He was dwelling in Jesus. And, perhaps, in that moment, I saw what Paul really meant when he said in 2 Cor 4:

“So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self [3] is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. 17 For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, 18 as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.”

Readers, supporters, friends, family…dwell in Jesus today and forever.

.mamma mj.

July 17, 2010

The girls are gone.

Miss Emily, mother, motivator.
Arbitrater, auditor, awarder, adventurer.
Memory-maker.
Mentor, messenger.
Au pair, ambassador, aunt, agent.

Missionary, migrater.
Juggler, judge, joy-filler, and journey-er.


“The Lord has done great things for me; I am filled with joy…Those who sow in tears shall reap with shouts of joy! [She] who goes out weeping, bearing the seed for sowing, shall come home with shouts of joy, bringing [her] harvest with [her].”

psalm 126: 3-6

Today is July 17. I leave Kenya on Jul 23 to Cairo. Will be home Aug 2.

On the other side of grieving and goodbyes, are happy hello’s. And, that is something to celebrate.