Sunday, October 30, 2011

"I am Broke(n)"

Have you ever heard someone say, "I'm broke."? Have you ever said, "I'm broke."? What do those two little words mean to you? You don't have the expected amount of money in your checking account? Your savings account is looking a little low? You can't afford to splurge on some unnecessary material thing? That new pair of stylish boots have to wait until next pay day? You have to skip out on an outing just this once with a friend? You have to be a bit more conscientious of your budget for a short while?

That's EXACTLY what it means for ME.

On my last trip to Ethiopia, I had to take a few unpaid days from my job in order to be able to go back to my heart for only a moment! I saved before my trip to cover the cost of my living expenses when I returned and I didn't think much about what that paycheck might look like nor did I care. God was allowing me to go back to a place so very special to me and He had already provided in ways that I could not comprehend so I trusted that He would continue to provide upon my return.

But, then, I came home. I returned to my reality, my routines, and unfortunately, my habits. And, shortly after my return, I received that not cared about (until I opened it) paycheck. For a moment, I forgot about the faithfulness God had shown me already, and I cringed as I saw the measly amount of money that was directly deposited into my bank account. In truth, I panicked. I doubted.

“No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money." Matthew 6:24

What was I going to do? Missing about 3/4 of my paycheck, my "way of life" for the next few weeks was really going to suffer. Puhhhhhh-lease. For the first few days, I kept thinking and/or saying, "I'm broke." Then, one day, a conviction came over me so strong that it brought me to my knees. I was driving and mulling over the "state of my current finances" when a feeling of complete hypocrisy came rushing over me. "Really, Nicci," I thought. "Broke? You are so far from broke. You have a roof over your head. An excessive amount of groceries that you could live off of for the next two months in your pantry. Hot water to bathe in. You haven't missed a beat when doing the usual "fun" with friends. A family who loves you unconditionally. And, most importantly, a God that loves you enough to send you all the way to Africa where you receive the most rewarding spiritual fulfillment ever. Broke? You got a thing or two to learn about broke, little girl", I thought.

And, then, I pondered more. I am broke. BROKEN, in fact. When I am in Ethiopia, I have a spiritual nearness to God because of my infinite need for him in those moments. Moments that bring me to my knees when I reflect on my days spent with children who instantly love me simply because I'm there. Moments when I cry out to God for all the hurt that lives in that place. Moments when I don't think I can stand another minute and God proves me wrong. Moments when I have the overwhelming feeling that this is sooooo right and I am right where I should be- in the center of His will. Moments when everything else is stripped away and absolutely nothing else matters. I can't hide that being there is the toughest thing I have ever endured in all of my life, but, even better, it is the ABSOLUTE most rewarding.

But, I am BROKEN. I am distracted. I am a sinner. I let "my life" get in the way of His life for me. My focus is OFF! It's not something I like and it's not something I am proud of. But, it is the truth and it's something I am working on each and every day. When I am in Ethiopia, He is all I can depend on. I have nothing else. And, the closeness I feel is beyond words. But, then I come home. I come back to these "things" that do not matter. Everyday, I get frustrated with my reality because each day that passes, I allow a little more of "MY" world to get in the way of Him.

I guess, today, I am thankful for my brokenness. I am thankful because it reminds me. Reminds me of my absolute need to be near Him- in Ethiopia and in the United States. Reminds me that my world is meaningless without Him- here or there. Reminds me that I am so fortunate to be saved by His grace. Reminds me that I need to constantly work at giving Him ALL of my heart- not just a little at a time. He knows my heart and He still wants it. He knows that I am broken and He loves me anyway.

How great it is to serve a jealous and relentless God. How great it is.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

What I Love Wednesday

First, I am loving that this week has been fall break... My learning targets for this week include:

I can sleep as late as I want to in the mornings.

I can take time to enjoy an extra cup of coffee.

I can travel to desired locations with family and friends.

I can watch a movie I have been wanting to see.

I can go to lunch with girlfriends.

I can read a book for enjoyment.

I can go on a long walk and enjoy the cooler weather.

I can work on home decorating projects.

I can spend quality time with my family and friends.

I can sit quietly, feel relaxed, and thankful.


Next, I am LOVING cheering for the Southwind Jaguars and #4 as they make their way to the playoffs for the first time ever!!! Our church has a ministry where people can "Adopt a Player" and mentor students from a local high school. Unfortunately, I am not allowed to "adopt" a player because I am an employee in the school district and I am not married. However, my friend, Kelly, and her husband adopted #4, Terence! He is such a great kid! I am lucky enough to get to be his cheerleader not only in football but for his future. I know his future is bright and I am loving that I get to be a small part of it!

Also, I am LOVING that my baby sister is home for the week! Granted she has to work everyday, I am loving seeing her sweet smile! I can't wait for them to move back from California! The sooner, the better.....
A throwback!!! Awww.....
Sister time in Vegas!
Her wedding!

Another thing I am loving is that these sweet babies will be ONE on Tuesday! I can just hardly believe it! I am also loving that they will be home for almost a month in just two short weeks! Loving that Kiki will have all kinds of time to love on them and their sweet mama.
I mean.... could they be any cuter?!?!
Last, I am LOVING that I serve a God who loves me and I have thousands of pictures to look at when I miss Ethiopia and all of my babies and friends there. Being away from them is hard. When I miss somewhere here, I can pick up the phone and call and it takes some of that pain away. Things aren't that easy with my loved ones in Ethiopia and it makes my longing for them almost unbearable some days. But, I LOVE that our God is a faithful God. A God that fills that hole in my heart exactly when I need it. That hole appears from time to time and I am thankful for it because I have to draw nearer to Him so that He can fill me up. (and my pictures :) )

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Right Side Up!

I went to Ethiopia. That was all it took.

God showed me His whole world.

He just used a different lens.

He showed me how His heart breaks.
He introduced me to many motherless and fatherless children trying to survive on the streets.

He introduced me to a child whose face was burned severely so that he would look pitiful and he could earn more money begging for his homeless family.
He introduced me to children who have nowhere to lay their heads at night except for the cold concrete on the busy, crowded streets of Addis Ababa, where trouble awaits.

He introduced me to children who have no shoes, tattered clothing, filthy bodies, and smiles bigger than you can imagine.
He introduced me to four, sweet, 14 year-old girls who have had to endure more pain in their short little lives than most women will endure in a lifetime.

He introduced me to many children who have the hope that is found in Him and what that hope has provided them. What a blessing! With nothing, they have ALL they need in Him!
He introduced me to a group of Ethiopian believers who pour their lives into these precious children each and every day to do some small part.
He introduced me to a new world. A world I thought I knew existed and now the realness of that world, at times, takes my breath away.
It has taken me several months to blog about my time in Ethiopia because what I feel is just completely overwhelming. I had no idea why I was going there before I went. Fortunately, my heart was willing and I listened to His voice as he showed me the way. I never could have prepared my heart or my life for what was about to happen.

God has turned my world RIGHT SIDE UP! My life's dreams and ambitions are completely different. I am changed and I am thankful. It was so easy to be wrapped up in my life here and for me to think that I had things figured out! He took me all the way to the other side of the planet to show me otherwise. I didn't have things figured out. I still don't. I probably never will. I just pray everyday that He will give me the discernment to know the next step.

If Ethiopia taught me anything, it is that my life is His (always has been...just took me a minute to understand the magnitude of this) and I will try every single day of my life to illuminate Christ's love for others.

~Love ya'll!