Thursday, February 28, 2013

Knees Hit the Tile

Tonight I am reading through my journal. I’m remembering all that God has done over the past few months. Some pages are filled with too many exclamation points and hearts, gushing about all the details of my awesome day. Some pages are filled with chicken scratch, because I was dumb enough to think I could write legibly while bumping along the dusty roads of Uganda in our bus. Some pages have tear stains and desperate prayers. Here is what I wrote in my journal one month ago:
Oh mighty God, the One who spun the stars into existence, the One who is in and through it all, the One who took on the weight of my sin, to You I pour out my heart on this late Ugandan night. Tonight my knees hit the bathroom floor, begging You to come. Come to me and break me. May I become less and less, so You can become more and more in me. And Jesus, come to my friend Babirye. Breathe Your Light into her mud and stick home and choke out all the darkness. Tell Satan that he has no place there. I believe that You are in all and through all and above all. I believe that You are much stronger than HIV. I believe and I trust and I know that Babirye will be completely healed. I don’t know if it will be tonight or in five months or in Heaven, but I know You heal. I know you are a great big God and I cannot put my hope in anything but You. Come.

That night, long past my bedtime, I pounded my fists on the tile floor and begged God to come. I was desperate. He came and He filled me. He came and He healed my friend, Babirye. In my happy ending, Babirye would have been miraculously healed of HIV and she would have raised her children and they would have moved out of the slum and lived a full and happy and Jesus-filled life. In my happy ending. Thankfully I’m not the one writing this story. Because temporary healing wasn’t enough. God wrote complete healing on the pages of Babirye’s life. Now she doesn’t hunger or thirst. Now she walks streets of gold. She’s satisfied in her Creator. She’s healed. She’s home.
One month ago, I sat on the cold tile floor and asked God to heal my friend. He healed her and took her home. Tomorrow I will put on my red dirt-stained TOMS and journey to that mud and stick home to visit the sweet HIV+ and malnourished baby my friend left behind. I will pour out Christ’s love on her and even on her drunk grandmother. Tonight I will return to knees and pray for baby Ciello and I am asking you to join me.
As you pray with me, please leave a comment and let me know how I can pray with you. We’ll build an army of prayer warriors across the earth. Webele nnyo! Nkwagala!- Thank you so much! I love you!
Let me leave you with a beautiful song I learned this week:

Monday, February 18, 2013

He Sees

Today I’m thankful for a God who sees me. I’m thankful for a God who is so massive and strong, but looks down on me and calls me His daughter. I’m thankful for a God who never loses interest in me; a God who doesn’t miss one anxious thought, one wide awake night, one desperate tear. He sees and He knows. They say God will never give you more than you can handle. Well, I know for a fact that I am not strong enough for what He’s been giving me. I’m not strong enough to be this far away from my little sister’s laugh and my Mom’s wise words and my Dad’s Saturday morning pancakes. I’m not strong enough to hear a drunk grandmother verbally abuse the malnourished baby in my lap, praying that God will protect her. I’m not strong enough to look at my friend’s lifeless body, eyes still open, wrapped up in a sheet and pushed to the corner of a back room in Mulago Hospital. I can’t handle it. But He sees all of it. He sees my broken, mess of a heart and says “Let me be your strength.” God has given me a tiny glimpse of what He sees, and now my strength is not enough. I know that as I keep choosing to take up my cross and follow Jesus, things will only get harder. God will keep giving me more than I can handle, and I will either have to give up, or surrender. My prayer is that I will always choose to surrender to the God who sees my whole heart, even the messy parts, and loves me anyway.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Take Up Your Cross

When Jesus told me to take up my cross and follow Him, He didn’t really say where we were going. I’m sure when David surrendered to God, he never saw himself standing in front of Goliath with just a sling and some stones. When my sweet friend, Ileahna, decided to follow Jesus, I don’t think she knew she was following Him to hours upon hours of classes and studying to learn how to heal God’s people. I’m almost positive that when my friend, Cory, accepted Christ, he had no idea that spending his free time with smelly sixth grade boys was part of the deal. I don’t think my mentor and nurse friend, Aubri, knew God’s call would ever be for her to send middle of the night Facebook messages full of medical advice and spiritual encouragement to a girl all the way in Uganda. When my mom fell in love with Jesus, I don’t think she knew she would also fall in love with spending her Wednesday nights at Dairy Queen having Bible study with a bunch of punk teenagers. Nineteen years ago when my dad sat in a hospital holding his newborn baby girl, I don’t think it crossed his mind that God would ask him to let her move to Africa one day. When we really follow Jesus, He takes us to places we never expect. When an eight year old Natalie Brown knelt at the alter in that tiny Baptist church in Texas and said yes to Jesus, I don’t think Africa ever crossed her mind.

When Jesus called me to take up my cross and follow Him, I didn’t know I was following Him here. I didn’t know I was following Him to unloading cabbages on a farm, where I would end my day caked in mud, sitting on the ground, eating rice and beans with my hands. Jesus never told me He was taking me to a tiny mud home where I would hold and kiss a tiny baby who is too weak to smile. I never really asked Jesus to take me to a disorganized Ugandan hospital where I would whisper prayers for my HIV+ and severely malnourished friend as she winces in pain.

Sometimes I end my days with dirty hands and a broken heart, and with tears streaming down my face, I ask God “Why?” When He said to leave everything and follow Him, He wasn’t kidding. He so graciously reminds me “Take up Your cross, and follow Me.” Natalie, leave your mom and dad, leave your sisters, leave your puppy and your Mexican food and your friends; leave everything easy and comfortable and follow Me. Follow Me to the darkness and let me shine My Light through you. Follow Me to brokenness and pour out My love. Follow Me and trust that I’m good even when you’ve seen too much evil to bear. Follow Me and fall in love with Me and let Me carry you when you can’t walk anymore.

Jesus, you are good and sovereign and I trust you, even when things seem so unjust. I will not lose heart. I will keep following you to the unexpected. I will see You in the messy places. I will take up my cross and follow, wherever you lead.