Saturday, January 28, 2012

One Week

For those of you that don't know, I will be returning to Liberia a week from today! I will depart Atlanta on Saturday, February 4th and arrive in Liberia on February 5th. Right now, life seems calm. I spent this morning just laying in bed under my fluffy comforter, enjoying silence (until the hammering started), thinking, praying and mentally organizing my to-do list for this week. I'm just enjoying my last Saturday at home!

So now it's time for the honesty.

It doesn't seem real. I don't feel like I'm leaving for Liberia in a week (maybe that's why things seem calm?). It doesn't seem like next Sunday night, I will be sleeping in Liberia, under a mosquito net, to the sounds of traffic, crickets, waves crashing and people yelling. Oh, and the heat! I'm really looking forward to being room temperature--my feet can't wait--and wearing flip-flops and not having to be all bundled up and still be cold. But I hope I can handle the heat...especially on that first night of sleeping. It seriously feels like I've been away from Liberia for a year! So in that sense, I cannot wait to see the kids, my friends and my ORR family! But thoughts like 'oh crap, I'm going back to that way of life' or 'time to return to the world of [fill in the blank]' (commonly filled in with ridiculousness or insanity) are creeping into my mind. And that's when that tinge of dread comes in. (See, I told you I'd be honest)

Here's the deal. Life in Liberia is hard. It's uncomfortable and it's hot. Manual labor is necessary for the simplest of tasks--flushing the toilet, laundry, getting a glass of water, cutting the grass, cooking. It's totally opposite of anything in our familiar, easy and comfortable Western world. Nothing makes sense, everything takes forever and there is alot of frustration. And it's true that Liberia is the loneliest place in the world, even when it's impossible to ever be alone. Some days are disheartening, while others are the absolute best. Some days have death, while almost every day includes poverty, hunger and hopelessness. But every day also includes joy, laughter and beauty. There's no such thing as peace and quiet, which is difficult for those of us who gain strength, rest and renewal from quiet. Liberia is like a catch-22. So much good, but also so much struggle.

Then there are all of the things I can't wait for. I can't wait for life to be simple (despite all of those heavy issues like death, poverty and hunger). There isn't so much stuff and people aren't surgically attached to their technology (and aren't surgically removed from their family and friends). People seem so far away, but God seems so close. There's no TV. Beauty--beauty everywhere you look! You go to bed worn out and exhausted because you had a full day. Daily life feels like it just has more purpose. True community. Total dependance on God. The ocean--my sanity. Ma Mary's cooking. Momo. And of course, the kids! I can't wait for life to be full of their laughter and their carefree spirit. I'm looking forward to weekends in my hammock on the porch, and after dinner walks to the beach. I'm expectant for kids 'getting it' and really understanding their worth in Christ.

When I start to think about Liberia, sometimes I start feeling overwhelmed. I feel a great sense of responsibility with the kids. I'm there to plant and water seeds. Am I saying and doing and teaching and talking about the right things? I have to rely on God SO MUCH. I don't want to miss out, and I want to be fully obedient. The Holy Spirit--my Helper--must be my best friend...there's no other option! And then, some days, there is total peace. I know I'm right where God wants me to be, doing exactly what He's called me to do. You just know when you're in the center of His will--you feel it,  your actions and words reflect it and your life fully becomes His. Your dreams become His dreams. Your heart breaks for the things that break His heart. You desire Him; nothing more and nothing less. He is your everything.

Ok, I feel like I've gone all over the place with this one, but those are just some things I'm sitting here (under my fluffy comforter) thinking about while reflecting on His love and faithfulness, and how He will supply all of my needs for the journey ahead. I would appreciate your prayers over this next week--that I would manage my time wisely and enjoy these last few days at home with my family and friends, and that I would mentally, physically and spiritually be ready to get on that plane on Saturday. I'm also looking for people who want to join me on this journey. If you would like to make a donation to Orphan Relief and Rescue to help cover my expenses (plane tickets, malaria medicine, health insurance, room & board in Liberia, etc.), then click here. I love you all and thank you so much for all of your prayers and support! I am looking forward to sharing the next chapter of this journey with you!

Friday, January 20, 2012

For Sale--Last Chance!

I have a few items leftover from the Good Gifts Market, so I wanted to give you all one last chance to make a purchase before I head back to Liberia. Prices *do not* include shipping.

The most important items to me are the things that Jogma made--I want to sell ALL of it, so that I can take the money back to Jogma in 2 weeks. Jogma is scheduled to start school on January 30th, and she needs the money to purchase text books and to take care of her son Joshua. Please consider purchasing one of Jogma's very special, handmade items--you get a beautiful item, and your purchase will impact Jogma's life.
  Clutch: $10--SOLD 
 Headband: $5 --(L-R:#6-11 available)          
Jogma and I sewing on the front porch.

The last two handmade dolls from Alfreda:
Canoe: $25
Rice beater: $20--SOLD

 LIB Bracelets: $5
Hand woven in Liberia. Fits any wrist size.

Good Gifts Market Items:
You can visit the Good Gifts Market Photo Gallery to see everything else that is still for sale--Amazing Grace Jewelry, purses, and paintings!
Amazing Grace Jewelry
Original Artwork from Liberia--SOLD

To make a purchase, please leave a comment or send me an email (ashley at orphanreliefandrescue dot org). You can pay with cash, a check or through PayPal.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Red Light/Green Light

Do you remember playing that game when you were a kid? You know, one person is the stoplight, and the rest of you are racing to see who can reach the stoplight first. The stoplight turns their back to the players, saying “green light,” so the players take off running. At any time, the stoplight can turn around, saying “red light,” and the runners have to freeze. If you don’t stop dead in your tracks, then you get sent back to the start line. We played Red Light/Green Light alot when I was a kid--you only needed a few friends to make the game work.
For some reason, I was thinking about this same concept this morning, but in reference to our relationship with God, and to being obedient to His voice. (Work with me here...)
I’ve been thinking alot lately about how Christians operate. Like when someone says, “God spoke to me...” or “He’s leading me to...”, what do we really mean?! I’m speaking from personal experience here--there are plenty of times when God clearly speaks to me, and in most cases, I am excited about sharing those whispers with others. I know that some people sit there and think, “what does she mean, God speaks to her?”, “God’s never spoken to me”, “did God REALLY speak to her, or is that her excuse?”. I know this, because sometimes I find myself thinking these same things, and I’ve also had people say those things to me. Anyway, moving on...
When it comes to obedience, it’s easy to use excuses, or to be obedient because we’ve told ourselves that God spoke, but really, our human flesh was the one speaking. It’s easy and comfortable that way. But, it gives us a false sense of direction, thus leading us away from His purposes. 
I feel like there are two popular ‘schools of thought’ when it comes to obedience. The Red Light School (this is where I’m going...) are those who stop running towards the stoplight until they hear “green light.” I am an expert in the Red Light School, especially when I’m unsure, or I clearly know that God is asking me to do something that I don’t want to do. And then, we have The Green Light School. These students run and run until they hear “red light.” Sometimes I play by these rules...especially if things are going well, things are easy or I’m enjoying life. 
Now, I’m not saying it has to be all of one way, and none of the other. And I know that probably most of us spend time in both schools (I hope I’m not the only one). Now, here’s the thing. Taking the Red Light option is fine--it’s cautious and there’s time to ‘think and pray about things’ (you know, because you really want God’s will for your life). That’s great--if you’re actually using the time you’re stopped to pray and seek Him! However, we can fall into the familiar trap of analysis paralysis. I’ve been here too many times.
Lately, I’ve been challenged with the idea of the Green Light School. To keep running towards the stoplight (ahem, Stoplight) until I hear “red light.” To run hard and fast; the goal is the get to the stoplight first, right? Instead of being paralyzed because I haven’t heard God say “Go here, do this, say this...”, I must realize that I am already called to go, do and say. If I’m not going, doing and saying then I am not being obedient. 
In this new year (Happy 2012!), I want to be running so hard and fast after God (The Stoplight...just in case...) and His heart, that I just keep running until I hear Him say “red light.” I will say, I am a HUGE fan of the ‘red light time’--silence, solitude, prayer, listening, meditation, rest, etc. I’m looking forward to mixing the schools--running hard and fast, but taking that much needed time to stop and rest. It’s imperative that you stop to rest, listen, reflect and readjust. That’s the order to know God more, we have to do both! So, here’s to a Red Light/But Mostly Green Light 2012!