Jesus Is Taking Me To Swaziland!

For as long as I can remember, I've loved children. Caring for them, encouraging them, giggling with them, and simply being around them is all it takes for my little ole' heart to be so full it's leaking out pure joy. They're my passion, my calling, and who God has called me to reach.

When I met my friend Danielle, my heart was forever changed by how selfless she is in serving Christ. She works closely with an organization called Children's HopeChest which frequently visits a small country in Africa called Swaziland. The mission to bring Christ's love to the children living there has lit a fire deep down inside of me and it's gotten far past the point of control. And so...

I have prayed over and over again about this trip over the course of two years. While my heart would be overly content WHEREVER God would choose to take me, there is something special about this place and there is a calling for me to be there. Jesus, my friends, is taking me to Swaziland!

Now, I'd be lying big time if I said I haven't had doubts about this seemingly crazy decision...

"My doctor's may not clear me to go..." 
"HOW will I come up with the money?" 
"Where do I even begin?" 

But every single time one of those ridiculous thoughts from the devil pops into my head, there is a whispering from Jesus that says, "Have faith," and an encouragement that says, "YOU are going."

I believe in this trip and the mission more than words can say. I'm filled with the excitement of how it will grow my faith and change my heart. I know will never be the same after taking this step out of my comfort zone. Never. And that excites me more than anything in the world because THAT is precisely the way I want to serve Jesus.

I've put this trip in the back of my mind lately because I'm scared that it won't all pan out the way I desperately want it to. In church last Sunday, though, our worship team sang the song Oceans by Hillsong United. This song has over 500 plays on my iTunes and it still "hits me" in a different way every time and that morning was no different. I got teary eyed singing it word for word because it solidified my faith and calling in this trip. 

"Spirit lead me where my trust is without boarders...
Let me walk upon the waters...
Wherever You would call me...
Take me deeper than my feet could ever wander...
And my faith will be made stronger...
In the presence of my Savior..."

The first step to making this trip a reality was prayer. After I received the "go ahead" from the big guy upstairs, I talked to my doctor's. There will definitely be some kinks to work out because of the medication I'm on and vaccinations I'll need, but I am leaving it all in the hands of my Savior and am moving onto the next step because I know HE is able - ALWAYS - and I know that it will all work out in a way that allows me to look back and say, "Wow, He provided just like He always does!"

While I prayerfully prepare for all that lies ahead, I'm starting to save and raise the money I'll need to cover the cost of my plane ticket. This, to me, is the scariest part. As I prepare to enter the college life at Bethel University this fall, I'm saving my pennies. Between the money I earn by working as a barista and nanny, there isn't much room for spending... But again, I KNOW God will provide, as He always does, to make this trip possible!

If you have been touched or feel so inclined to donate any amount of money towards my passion for this trip, you are safely able to do so using the Paypal widget below. In doing this, it's almost as if YOU are going on the trip with me! Above all else, though, I appreciate your prayers during the preparation for this amazing journey.

Oh, I cannot wait to see how He grows and changes my little ole' heart through the people of SWAZILAND! 


Look Out Autoimmune Arthritis...

Yesterday marked the beginning of my journey on a new, self-injectable medication called Enbrel. It took phone call after phone call, appointment after appointment, and even some weight gaining to get me approved by our insurance. The first stage of the journey was a long, exhausting one... But I'm still remaining hopeful it will be the medication that puts my arthritis into REMISSION!

The medication showed up on the doorstep on Tuesday. My mom and I had already spoken with my new home nurse and set up an appointment for Thursday right afterschool. At this point, I pretty much started to freak out.

Suddenly, I wasn't so hopeful. The pamphlets laying on the counter listing complications and side effects like you wouldn't believe began to scare me. The thought of my hair falling out or my skin getting flaky suddenly seemed to matter even though I'd disregarded them so many times before. Even though I know what Jesus says about my self-worth, those things worried me. Even though I know He created me with a wonderful plan in mind and that He bought me with a high price, some silly reason made me ignore those truths and begin overthinking all the things that could go wrong.

On Wednesday night, I literally hyperventilated myself to sleep. I was crying hysterically and my pain levels were through the roof. I started believing the lies of the enemy, of course, until I remembered all the times I'd been through something similar. 

I tried to remember all the times I'd been that anxious and overwhelmed. All the times I'd cried myself to sleep. All the times I'd felt that level of pain. I reminded myself that each time, God saw me through. No matter how difficult things had been up to that point, I reminded myself that I'd done much more than survived. I remembered that the struggle is always part of the process. I reminded myself that HE will always strengthen, hold, and carry me  through no matter what the circumstance.

I repeated those things in my mind over and over again while silent tears fell and my body went into a deep sleep. I woke up yesterday morning and I still worried throughout the day because I knew giving myself that first injection would be hard, but I also knew (and KNOW) that God has not carried me this far to forget about me now.

When I got home from school yesterday afternoon, my home nurse was sitting at the table talking to my mom. We got right down to things and before I knew it, I was holding a syringe in one hand and squeezing my skin together with the other. Suddenly it hit me.

I didn't cry right away. In fact, I laughed. My home nurse said she'd never seen anything like it. But after staring at that needle some more, my hands started to shake and the tears seemed to come out of nowhere. There I was, standing in my kitchen in a sports bra recalling all the times this disease has tried to ruin me.

I looked back to before my diagnosis when I dealt with depression and anxiety.

I looked back to the kidney stones I battled with for an entire summer.

I looked back to the nights I laid motionless and exhausted on the bathroom floor after puking my guts out from medications I was allergic to.

I looked back to the months I spent in physical and occupational therapy to normalize my life.

I looked back to every talk I'd ever had with my psychologist about how angry my pain made me.

I looked back on the ER trips, MRI's, x-rays, and CAT scans that always terrified me.

I looked back to being told I would never run again.

So many moments flashed through my mind and the tears wouldn't stop falling. I felt robbed of my childhood. I felt hurt. I felt worthless, used up, and exhausted. Any negative feeling one can think of, I felt.

Those feelings were the momentum behind that syringe yesterday. They were the reason I was able to look past all my fears and recognize that this medication just may be the answer and solution I've been searching for since day one. The hurt and the fear motivated me to do what I needed to do... And I can also apply that to my faith life.

Truth be told, I would have taken my life a long time ago had I not known that God has a divine purpose for my pain. Whether He uses me to inspire someone or simply keep it real, I know that I've been given this disease because I am strong enough to overcome it with the help of an awesome, awesome God. A God who is more than able to heal.

I feel like I got punched in the stomach today... But I made it through the first step in this new journey and that's a reminder of the warrior spirit God has given me. All I'm gonna say is look out autoimmune arthritis... Kenzie's coming for you... ;)