Monday, March 29, 2010


I have possessions on Brookewind Way, Trout Court, and Fiddler's Creek.

(Do you see the pattern?)

I've done this four times before. Sifted, sorted, downsized. I throw away what has accumulated and rediscover things I've forgotten. I box up my books, take down my pictures, fold up my clothes, and pull out my pots and pans.

I will have a new home soon. Moving, for me, signifies a new season in life. A fresh start, a clean slate, a new home is ready for me to make new memories in it. Life will happen in this new place, just like it did in every house or apartment I've lived in before.

Life happens no matter what.

I never really moved into this apartment. Nine months ago I packed up an apartment where lots of life and changed had occurred. I remember sitting in the empty Pimlico living room, surrounded by my boxes, crying.

I didn't know why I was supposed to come here. There are days when I still wonder. A transition home, maybe, because I wasn't ready to go where I was supposed to yet. Maybe I lived in this apartment, on this side of town, because it gave me a chance to carpool with two people who I now love more than anything. Or because back in August a worship night was held just a block away, and because it was so close, I walked over. And I stumbled on a beautiful community.

Tonight is my last night in this apartment.

Lots of bad things happened here. Sickness, deception, temptation, insecurity, fear, loneliness. God broke me here. But God also restored me here.

So I will leave this apartment a different person. Older. Stronger. I will turn the page, repent and forget. I will shed an old skin and go and sleep in a new room.

God is doing a new thing. Even as I move boxes in, I wonder if the next time I move... it will be to a whole new country?

I must be patient. I will wait on the Lord. He has been faithful for this long. Faithful in His promises never to leave, to make me new, to redeem. So, even more than living in a new home, I look forward to dwelling in His presence and walking in His will.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Training Wheels

We have been taught God will never give us more than we can handle. You remember learning this as truth, right? Taught to us in effort to strengthen us, to give us hope. We rely on this as fact when times get tough. "Don't worry, God will never give you more than you can handle."

The past few months of my life have been a true testament to the strength of the Lord. 2 Corinthians 12:9 says: "'My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.' Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me." Philippians 4:13 says: "I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength."

God and I had a conversation the other day. I had reached my wit's end. I brought this frustration to Him in the most honest way I knew how. "Father, you have promised not to give me anything I can't handle. And I just want you to know, I can't handle this anymore. I realize how You've used this to change my life, to make me better. But can we use something else now? Can we be done with this?"

He answered my prayer.

But I don't think it had to do with anything except His love for me.

Later, remembering that prayer, I tried to look up the reference for what I thought was a Bible verse.

It doesn't exist. I was amazed. All of my life people have quoted that little phrase as if it came straight out of the Holy Bible. And I believed them. I just took it as truth, because so many people had told me so. But it's not there. I checked. The closest thing I found was a verse in 1 Corinthians, which says we will not be tempted beyond what we can bear. That, my friends, is a totally different subject.

So I started thinking and praying.

And during that time, I think God taught me something new. He has been whispering to me about trusting Him regardless of circumstances anyway. I can feel Him kick starting a lesson on witnessing. As in, making an example of our lives. Reaching out to others, bearing witness to His love.

Quietly, in a way only the Father can, He began to explain to my heart about how if He never gave us anything we couldn't handle, we would never fully understand how much we need Him. If our circumstances never exceeded our ability, we would drown in our own pride and competence. We would be able. And that's not the point at all.

So every once in a while, the Father will hand us something we have no idea what to do with. Or He will allow a situation to befall us. It will test and try us. (Not temptation. He has made that promise...) But we will be challenged. And very often, we will fall short. We will fail. We will reach and our arms will not be long enough.

He does not do this for His own entertainment. The Father doesn't like to see us fail. But He knows how we learn (He loves how we learn) and He knows what is required to get a lesson to stick. To get a truth to sink it, to grow roots. For real growth and genuine change to occur, He has to give us too much.

I watched as a dad ran down the street behind his son who had just learned to ride his bike without training wheels.

Had the father shied away from giving his son more than he could handle, the training wheels would have stayed on the bicycle. And the little boy would have never learned the freedom of riding. The son could handle the training wheels. We might even call it his comfort zone.

But one morning, either by the son's request or the dad's ambitious idea, the two went out to the garage and took the training wheels off the bicycle. It was not an instantaneous process, this learning to ride on just two wheels. I imagined what happened on their street, in their driveway, before the pair ever made it out to the street.

What has the Father handed you? Or what has the world just thrown at you? Does it feel like too much? Can you carry that weight? Are you caving under the pressure?

Go ahead. Admit it. You can't handle it.

Now ask Him for help.

Because that's the whole point of this lesson.

You aren't strong enough.

But your Father is.

And He will bend low and meet you, making up for what you lack.

Pushing you so you can ride without training wheels.

So you will grow to be more like Him.

Friday, March 26, 2010

our lives

I am resisting the feeling that everything is about to happen.

That all of this is preparation.

It's tempting to live a life of anticipation. Getting ready for what comes next, which leads to making arrangements, adjusting to transitions... setting new goals.

I catch myself thinking, "I'm almost ready".

"If only it was two years from now, three hours from now, two weeks from now..."

But this is not how we are supposed to live.

What comes next is simply what comes next. In the grand scheme of things, the purpose of our lives is to live them. To glorify God with what we do and say and how we use what He gives us. What we make and find and discover and bring to His feet. He does not hang in suspension over us, holding His breath, waiting for the next climactic scene.

Because He is here now. In every little thing you do - He is not pushing you towards a single life goal or an isolated purpose. He is pulling you closer to Him. Filling you with His son. Because that is why we exist.

We are vessels.

Not empty vessels.

Not vessels gathering dust on the shelves, waiting to be used.

We are being filled.

And we pour out.

To be filled again should be our great desire.

The Father is creative enough, delighted enough with us, to pay attention to the smaller details of our individual lives. He gave us gifts and desires, but there is a gap between these two things. Which is why we must grow. Stretch - reach out.

But the story, as Don puts it, isn't about reaching your goal.

It isn't about getting married.

Or moving to Africa.

Or finishing your degree.

Or buying a house.

Or having children.

Those actions, accomplishments, and promises in and of themselves do not make your life.

By living our lives in constant anticipation of what lies ahead, we are being somewhat robbed of our story.

Because our story is being told right now.

In this moment, you are living. In fact part of living is stretching. Stories never progress without reaching out, without forward motion, without movement, without hope or fear or loss or joy.

We just fall into this unhealthy habit of assuming life starts "when"...

Instead, we should move forward. Step out. Pray for courage and for open eyes. And realize that in the end, you'll want to tell about the journey.

You'll want to tell about how you got here - there. Where you are.

Because it was your life.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Piano Date

"I want a piano date before I leave."

There is a tradition in my family. A tradition, which requires when we all gather at Severn Way, someone plays the piano.

The sound of the instrument filling that old house is the closest thing to home I know.

And tonight, when my sister asked our dad to play with her, my heart stopped.

Our lives have changed.

We are not the same people we used to be.

And family get-togethers are not the same as I remember.

But the music is the same as it has always been.

A constant that brings my heart home.

So I cuddled up on the overstuffed chair beside the two of them who shared the piano bench.

Dad determined the key they would play in, and he started to make music.

My sister watched, listened, and began to play with him.

Sometimes she would stop and let him play by himself for a while.

And every now and then, he would let her play her own melody.

I cried.

Only a few tears. But I don't know where they came from.

Unbidden, for sure.

Then I recognized the parallel. Between my relationship with my heavenly Father and my dad's relationship with my sister.

I am sitting on the piano bench, legs dangling, cool ivory keys under my fingers. I know a song I could play. He sits down next to me and I feel my side of the cushion rise up. I begin to show Him what I have learned, and He is pleased. Listening and watching. His hands reach for the black and ivory keys and He plays a gentle note, not asking me to stop, just entering into the song. My first reaction is to stop playing. He is a much better musician than I am. But He doesn't want me to stop.

He wants to play with me.

To teach me how to make beautiful music.

Sometimes, the melody will become too intricate. I am not able to follow His fingers, to replicate what He plays. It is then I let go - letting Him play the song He wrote for me.

He has changed the song now.

And He is teaching it to me - patiently, gently. Forgiving of missed notes and bad chords.

His desire is really just to sit beside me.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

At the Risk of Sounding Crazy...

I walked back to my car on Thursday, after spending some time in the sunshine.

I had a feeling God had been listening in on my conversation. Watching closely as my friend and I ate ice cream and let our hair get blown by the wind.

My friend got in her car and drove away and I pulled my keys out of my bag.

When I looked up, I saw a big blue Chevy parked a few spots away that I hadn't noticed before. It wasn't running. But in the driver seat was an old black man with dreadlocks. He was wearing sunglasses, no ring on his finger. There was no music being played from inside the truck, which was parked so it faced the picnic tables I had been sitting at all afternoon.

I stopped dead in my tracks.

He was watching me quietly. But his stare did not disturb me. I was not uncomfortable. My defenses did not go up.

But I was paralyzed with a single thought.

A single thought I would turn over in my mind for days on end. I could not pinpoint the origin of this idea, or what triggered it in my mind.

I was looking at God.


Maybe so.

But there has only been a few times in my life when I've had this feeling.

Like I was standing in the quiet presence of God.

They have been fleeting moments. Unexplainable and surreal.

I don't know why I had this thought. What was it about the blue Chevy, the wrinkled face, or the dirty dreadlocks, which made me think I was looking at the Creator incarnate?

Maybe a little blasphemous to even say such a thing.

But my body couldn't move. And my heart was dancing.

When I finally got in my station wagon and drove away, I did so reluctantly.

With joy in my heart. With an appeased imagination - that the Almighty had come to hang out at the park with me. That His quiet presence was a gentle approval.

There is a good chance you have a hard time imagining the Lord appearing on this earth in such a way. Or envisioning God looking like anything but a big man with a white beard. That you doubt that He even moves that way at all.

But I hope with all my heart that God hangs out at parks. That His skin is weathered by the sun. And that behind those dark sunglasses were eyes so filled with glory, we couldn't stand to look into them.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Last Day of Winter

Today, according to the calendar, was the last day of winter.

This morning, I paid off all of my medical debt.


Anyone who has ever had bad debt knows what a relief it is to pay it in full.

I've been waiting for eight months to see that happen (which, I realize, is a relatively short time).

And not just because the payments drained my bank account every month.


This medical debt symbolized a season of breaking.

A season of surrender.

A season of wrecking and stretching and climbing.

I learned to trust the Father in a way that I hadn't known how to do since I was thirteen years old.

I surrendered parts of my life I had been desperately clinging onto.

I began to pray a prayer...

a dangerous prayer.

That, now, has changed everything.


And while I would never trade what I've learned...

this season has been one of the hardest of my life.

I am not who I once was.

And the path I'm headed down is a very unfamiliar one.


So this morning, on the last day of winter, I was able to pay off my debt.

To bring the balance to zero.

Paid in full.

On this last day of winter, a season of hurting and healing and hiding in the shadow of His wings.

Tomorrow, I start a new day, free from the burden of that debt.

That debt and all it represented.

"See! The winter is past! The rains are over and gone; flowers appear on the earth, the season of singing has come..."


God is faithful.

And He is good.

I think about the parallels between the debt I paid this morning and the debt the Father sent His son to pay.

And on a smaller, more selfish scale, I am amazed today at how good God is - how well God knows me. Well enough to know that I needed closure.

I needed finality.

Tomorrow, all things begin new.

Hello, Spring.

Oh, how I've missed you.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Stop the Rollercoaster

Yesterday, I felt it happen.

Stress came knocking at the door.

Everything was going smoothly - as smoothly as life can go when one quickly, dramatically changes directions.

Stress whispered in my ear. "Surely it can't all be ok. You can't really be at peace like this, can you? Nothing ever goes this smoothly. You're missing something."

So, like I used to, I found something to worry about.

But the way I started worrying was different than the way I used to worry.

This was not the panicking, sickening worry that I've always felt before. What satan had tried to instill in me, God had transformed into something productive.

What had been intended to harm, God had redeemed. And He has been using it all day to push me forward.

I got a hold of a few of my closest friends and asked them to spend the day in prayer with me about the decisions I needed to make. I was juggling back and forth between a few options - all of which now center around what I could use when I go back to Africa.

All day long I went back and forth. A mental tug-o-war.

At one point I just threw up my hands and asked, "God, what do you want me to--"

He interrupted me.

"Love my children."

There would be no signs for me this time.

No doves or windstorms.

My prayer specifically was that God would not have to resort to using visual aides. That I would be in tune enough with the Spirit and who I am within Him, that my heart would know the answers I needed.

That I would have peace and find affirmation within my soul about this decision.

So I drove home after work, strategically taking the long way so I could pass by St. Luke's.

Just to see.

Just to check and make sure.

"Stop the rollercoaster."

Good thing the light turned red. Because I stopped the car.

Not a sign.

But instructions.

A proverbial, "Get over it, Anna. You know the answer."

I stayed on the rollercoaster for a few more hours.

Up and down.

Projecting fears and anxieties onto future days, schedules.

Until tonight.

When I found myself in a bad part of town.

Carrying a loaf of bread.

And I remembered...

Jan 15, 2009:
It might be a stretch to think that a little, middle-class, white girl could cause a lot of change.
And it might be a stretch to think that this is what I will do for the rest of my life.
But this makes sense. On a level that things haven't made sense on in a very long time.
Because I just want to help people.
Sing for those who have no voice.
In twenty years, we will see if I was right. If this is what I was meant to do with my life. There's no way of knowing today.
(And you can remind me of this full feeling when thing get really rough over the next few years.)


I walked into the apartment tonight and ran headlong into the peace I'd been looking for.

What was I thinking?

I forget, sometimes, that God builds us up like building blocks.

That every season of brokenness does not tear us all the way down to the ground.

And so I expected, after Africa, for my calling here in the States to change.

I assumed that what God had been leading me towards before was not interconnected with what He's leading me towards now.

Except that, in reality, He's been preparing me for this all along.

He knew my path curved this way a long time ago.

Which is why He created me the way He did.

Why He jumps for joy when I learn not to be anxious, but to pray about everything.


So after a single day of dedicated prayer, I am reminded.

Of the refugee from the Congo who sat next to me in that social work class.

Of my passion.

Of God's goodness.

Of God's faithfulness.

Of God's love.


After a single day of prayer, the next step has been revealed.

And the Father didn't have to resort to props to get my attention.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Love Story

I am learning about His love.

About His strength.

About His faithfulness.

The way the path was set before me - but in His infinite wisdom, He did not let me see all the twists and turns.

I am who I am because of where I have been.

But I don't know yet what I may be - the concept of potential and growth.

I cannot see that far ahead.

But He is constantly refining.



And something has been ignited inside of me that refuses to be quiet.

There are moments when I am able to drown out the entire world, and my ears are filled with the sounds of His whispers.

Lately, He's just been whispering about love.

His love.

His unconditional, relentless love.

He is teaching about faith.

And how sometimes faith means trusting Him, even when He says no.

No to healing. No to leaving. No to staying.

He is teaching me about His passion for me.

And giving me a taste of His goodness -

reminding me that He doesn't have to show up.

It is not in His job description as Almighty to reveal Himself to us.

To me.

But yet there He is... everywhere I turn. I cannot hide from Him.

He has helped me learn how we talk the best - the Lord and I.

He has whispered truths to me, and put concrete evidence in my face.

He has taken up residence in between my shoulder blades, let me slip my small hand into His large one.

Encouraging me, calling me, to walk in His footsteps. To follow, to go only where He is - where He has been already.

And tonight, He's doing a number on my heart.

Convicting me.

Continuously breaking and putting back together.

In a moment of weakness, His power was made perfect.

And I realized that I had been set free.

That, if given the opportunity to change circumstances, I would stay just the way I am.

Not in the static sense of the word. Not spiritually.

But in ultimate acceptance, in embracing who I have been since birth.

I found a form of healing, wrapped in a cloak of love.

And it tastes different than I ever imagined.

I am healed because my heart believes.

I am whole because I trust.

And will continue to trust... even if nothing changes.

I know who I am.

I am overwhelmed by His love.

His willingness to fight with me.

His patience with me.

His interest in the details.

His faithful, persistent, fierce love.

I am full to bursting.

And exhausted... I know this is of Him because it overwhelms me.

I am not big enough to absorb it all.

I am loved by the Creator of the Universe.

And I am in love with Him.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010


I am Africa.

Dust and harsh sun.

Strong shoulders from carrying a heavy yoke.

I am wild.

I am resilient.

I am fire and starlight.


My heartbeat is a drum.


My voice is not just one.

I am dark.

Deep with history, scarred and worn.

Leathered by the sun, callused by abuse.

Oh, but I am lovely.

Come, listen.

I am truth.

I am perseverance.

I am simplicity.

I am not as I may seem.

I am not what the world perceives.

Listen as I stir -

as I awaken.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

eye contact

We didn't understand each other's words.

A tangled web, I easily got caught up in the way they clicked their tongues or smacked their lips or inhaled quickly.

I think we were overwhelmed by each other.

By the flow of conversation that neither one of us could decipher - a meaning we so desperately tried to get across, and yet failed.

We used our hands. To gesture, to point, to guide, to explain.

Laughter connected us when the words could not.

Shrugging, as if to say, "I wish I could understand - I wish we understood each other".

Or, "I know I sound ridiculous...."

But something was lost in translation.

Meaning was misinterpreted.

Later I would realize I didn't even learn their names.

But after a few days...

after a ridiculous ritual of flailing arms and smacking lips and fits of giggles...

the language barrier was broken.

Suddenly, I knew these children by heart.

We shared jokes and teased one another.

They taught us how to whistle.

And we taught them how to count.

It took too long for us to learn how to do this.

We wasted too many days, talking too much, trying too hard.

When all we had to do was bend low.

And look them in the eyes.

Because there, we could find all we needed to know.

In the depths of those dark, watery eyes was their joy.

And all their years.

Their names.

If we looked, the whole world was there.

Unencumbered by grammar.

Unsullied by vulgarity.

Unbridled by society.

Without formalities, without small talk, without awkwardness.

My soul calls out to theirs just as their hands reach out for mine.

Words were entirely unnecessary.

ancient stillness

How do I explain to you the way an Ethiopian child smells?

Like sour milk and grain and sweat and mangos.

The way their rough, little hands fit perfectly into mine?

What words do I have to describe to you the way the dust settles over everything, filling in wrinkles you didn't know you had, covering your feet and settling in your chest?

In my ears I still hear night falling down country. Like a top whose spinning begins to slow - the blur of colors turning into shapes.

And my heart, deep down, has memorized the sound of the drums.

Of the children's voices rising with the stars.

Words my mind cannot understand.

Words my soul knows by heart.

How does that happen?

How do I explain to you what it was to sit on the hewn bench, swatting flies, and listening as they worshipped the same God I have dedicated my life to?

To know that He heard them. That He bent low when they called His name.

Regardless of my whether my ears heard, despite my lack of understanding.


I could tell the story over and over again.

Of why I feel called to go back.

Of why, in what seemed like a single day, everything changed.

Or how, in reality, the Father has been preparing me for this my entire life.

I learned about His strength.

About discerning what is good and pleasing.

About connecting my prayers with His answers.

How good He is - even though He does not need us, even though He doesn't have to, He chooses to reveal Himself to us.

I am learning about what it means to be consumed.

And I am frustrated that the right words aren't coming.

There's so much I want to tell you.

About women at wells.

And donkeys.

Sheep and goats.

About foundations and calls to prayer.

About eyes so deep you can see the world in them.

About the Spirit within connecting with the Spirit beyond.

A place where soul meets body.


I learned what it means to live a good story.

I understood, finally, what it means to be loved by Him.

But what words do I have to explain this to you?

None are sufficient.

Saturday, March 6, 2010


Imagine you are blind.

And your friends take you to Jesus - because surely He can heal you.

And He takes you by the hand, leading you away from all the noise and all the onlookers.

All those people who stare - who have stared at you for your whole life, without you being able to look back.

He stops you on the outskirts of town. Hands on your shoulders, you can feel the rhythm of His breathing. Steady. Deep.

He calls you by name.

But you don't remember telling Him your name.

The next thing you know, He spits on you.

On your eyes.

And the world starts to spin.

Darkness coagulates and shadows dissemble.

A lifetime of sightlessness is suddenly pierced by light.

He wants to know what you see.


Your mind immediately has a name for what your eyes are trying to see.

But the world remains out of focus.


Then Jesus covers your eyes with His hand.

This time, when He pulls away, He doesn't not step aside.

Your vision is restored.

And He is the first thing you see.


Imagine you were blind.

And your eyes were opened for the first time in your life.

You had never seen anything before.

Nothing but darkness.

And when your eyes begin to adjust, to focus,

it is His face you see.

His eyes you look into.

His smile you received.


He would become your standard.

That, which all else was measured by.

Monday, March 1, 2010

18 Days Later

I feel like I woke up from a dream and moved too quickly.

Like reality is pushing out the memory to make more room.

But if I close my eyes, I'm back there.

On the compound walking down the dusty road surrounded by dark, serious faces.

Lying in bed, covered by a mosquito net, with windows open and ears full of the bark of hyenas and the frantic wheeze of donkeys and the repetitive chirp of invisible bugs.

Standing on the grassy airstrip, a small six-seater plane becoming visible underneath a settling cloud of dust. Hundreds of curious faces coming towards me - whispering words I couldn't understand. The bravest of them reaching out to touch my hand.

If I close my eyes, it's all there.

If I slow down, it rises to the surface again.

But everyday life, my regular routine, did not take its time in returning.

No mercy.

I cried myself to sleep.

Five-thirty this morning my alarm clock went off.

Eerily quiet, this sterilized world did not even rise to meet me.

And I was in the shower. Packing lunch. On the road by six-twenty.

Crying in the car as I abided by westernized traffic laws and paused in the glow of red lights.


If I keep moving at this pace, I'm afraid I'll lose it.

How, I wonder, do I propel myself forward?

How do I strive for what is next without losing today?

How do I preserve what happened yesterday without wasting this minute, this day?


I feel like I blinked and it was over.

What once was a goal, a dream, a whisper, an instruction, is now a part of my past.

Part of my story.

What if I had ignored Him?

What if I had disregarded what my heart discerned?

If I had sat still - I would have missed it all.


I will be reaping for the rest of my life.

Today, there is no way to see the extent of impact this trip has had on who I am.

On my character and the course of my life.

To try and grasp it would be impossible.

But I remain astounded at His faithfulness.

And cling to the truth about His strength -

having learned that how I strong I am is not what matters.

But in surrender, I empty myself and become a vessel.

A conduit, a catalyst, an instrument.

For Him to express His strength and might.

Which is endless.


Now on the other side of the world, the sun is beginning to rise over the mountains and the roosters are crowing.

God is there.

Moving in windstorms and doves and women in scarlet headscarves.

But God is here too.

He hears me here, in this apartment, just like He heard me in East Africa.

And if I continue to allow Him, He will continue to move.

To stir.

To awaken.


My prayer is that what happened over the last eighteen days, however, would not become a forgotten dream.

That I would not replace those precious memories with busy life.

And that in routine, I would not forget His call.

"My heart has heard you say, 'Come and talk with me.' And my heart responds, 'Lord, I am coming'." (psalm 27:8)