I first forayed into blogging (wow, what a pathetically dorky phrase) when I was in high school. Coming off a rather tragic year as far as family matters were concerned, I decided to inspire some laughter and share lighthearted (usually incredibly embarrassing) personal anecdotes with my friends and family on a site called Like, Really. Despite a pretty impressive readership and about two years of fun, I deleted Like, Really in a bout of impulsivity (which I am quite prone to) that I regret to this day. I recently found one of the few posts that I had saved and just had to share it. This was a real crowd favorite, let me tell you. Prayer circle that I'll stumble across another one! Without further ado.... For reasons that I have yet to discover, I am a member of the Camellia Ball. For those of you who aren't up on all things Montgomery, being in Camellia Ball is liken to being a debutante -- fun if you are cute and rich and well-liked, but not fun if you are me. Each year there is a dance held in which the members of Camellia Ball have a "coming out" (I know you just giggled at that phrase, you homophobe) that consists of the members' walking through a balloon arch in front of a bunch of our friends in the local activity center. I'm not really too close with many of the other girls because they don't like that I usually weigh more than my date does. But alas, I go to the dance every year. My first Camellia Ball was poised to be a winner. I couldn't drive. I heavily underestimated my dress size. And my bangs were at that wonderfully clumsy mid-pupil length. I was ready to party. My date and I got to the dance and were herded into the lead-out line like cattle, which actually worked nicely considering I looked a lot like a heifer. Because my last name begins with a W, I was the last in line. Couple after couple, prompted by the announcement of their names by a disembodied microphoned voice, moved through that gleaming balloon arch and into the ballroom. "Presenting John Smith III, escorting Jane Doe." I soon realized that the announcer's voice sounded familiar. Very familiar. Oh, man. How had my father gotten a hold of the microphone? I walked morosely toward my fate as the lead-out line dwindled. I pondered the possible speeches or jokes my father, milking the power of the mic for all it was worth, would make to the crowd of high schoolers that only knew me as That Girl Who Looks Like Harry Potter. The moment finally arrived. I stepped into the archway. "Presenting Benjamin Mangum, escorting THE INCOMPARABLE ALEXANDRA WOLF!" The room was silent for a full minute as the crowd tried to figure out who this Alexandra Wolf was. Finally, it struck them. Oh, Harry Potter. Gotcha. I distinctly remember hoping that there was a firing squad or a group of terrorists waiting to kidnap me at the end of the lead-out carpet. But there wasn't. And eventually scattered applause and hollers broke out to divert everyone's attention from the boy wizard standing in the archway. I hurried from the front of the room and allowed the Journey cover band and a lot of spiked punch to drown my embarrassment for the rest of the night. Hey, at least my dad is proud of me.
I've been home from Africa for over three weeks, but my mind still spends most of the day there. I had many adventures during my last few weeks in SA, so I'll just keep talking about them until I have something else to talk about! On my final day at Children of Hope we had a party and painted faces! I'm no amateur face painter (which is probably not something to be proud of), so I loved decorating these sweet little faces with whatever I wanted, rather than trying to clumsily fulfill shouted requests for "Spiderman, but in Auburn colors... and with a dragon tail and a Harry Potter scar" at a six-year old's birthday party in the States. I'm missing these baby angels today!
Our final day in Cape Town took us to Robben Island, where political prisoners (most notably, Nelson Mandela) were kept in the days of apartheid. Visiting the island was incredibly special. South Africa has been largely freed from the ugly bonds of segregation and racism thanks to brave men like Mandela. We were guided around by an ex-inmate of the island and got to see the cell where Mandela was imprisoned for over eighteen years. Sadly, we later reluctantly boarded a late-night flight back to Jo'burg and returned to reality.
We took to the high seas on Day Three for a little great white shark cage diving. Or, in the case of Hayley and me, a little great white shark sighting from a safe distance. Let's just say the experience was interesting and enlightening... who knew we all suffered from such debilitating seasickness?! Please refer to the "after" photos for our feelings about the day. Despite pretty rotten weather and getting to see our breakfast in reverse, we did see some HUGE sharks, which was amazing!
I can confidently say Day Two in Cape Town was one of the best days of my life. I have always dreamed of going to the Cape of Good Hope, so I was in HEAVEN the whole day we were there. We truly were going "to the ends of the earth" as we trekked to the southern-most point of the continent of Africa. Can you imagine the almighty hands that crafted those mountains and poured that ocean?
Day Two: Cape Point, the Cape of Good Hope, V&A Waterfront
Last week a few of us flew down to Cape Town for a little holiday. I've heard rave reviews of Cape Town, so I wasn't quite sure if it would live up to all the hype. Well, it exceeded my every expectation! I couldn't wrap my head around the fact that I was blessed enough to be alive in that spectacular city. I couldn't narrow down the photos for just one post, so I'll cover each day of the trip. The whole week was one huge "hallelujah!" as we worshiped the Creator in the midst of His finest work. My heart is so full it almost hurts.
Day One: Table Mountain, Chapman's Peak, Penguin Colony, and Simon's Town
We spend Wednesday afternoons playing with friends in a little green oasis in the center of Alex. We tell Bible stories, play cards, make crafts, and compete in some pretty heated Duck-Duck-Goose. The Lord is allowing our numbers to grow, so we now have about forty kids coming each week. These clever, hilarious, sweet children have become true friends, and I love them dearly!
Wednesdays are the best days. We do design work in the office, head into Alex to hang out with orphans and vulnerable children at a non-profit called Ratang Bana, and finally have an evening bible study with some teenage girls who live in our neighborhood. Although these girls come from more modern and affluent households than our friends in Alex, they are still plagued by very traditional problems like polygamy and deep-rooted superstition. They have a very earnest desire to follow Jesus, but have been taught many false ideas. Months ago on one of my first nights with them, Amanda said matter-of-factly that when she died she would have to watch all the bad things she'd ever done on a big television screen, and she'd get into heaven only if the good outweighed the bad. Sadly, this is the reality of Africa. Jesus is known by many and twisted by many. He comes in countless flavors, almost none of which are biblically sound. Africa believes in God, just not the one true God who gave His beloved Son to bear our sin and reconcile us to Himself. Needless to say, we parked on Ephesians 2:8 for a long while: For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith. And this is not from yourselves, but is a gift from God. We're now working our way through the Big Story, seeing how God's redemptive hand has been intervening from Creation to Christ to now. What a journey!
Yesterday, from Los Angeles to Johannesburg, we celebrated Katherine Lived Day. Most of you are well-acquainted with this story, but for those of you who are not: you need to be. Check it out here. This particularly weighty anniversary marked five years since that dark day in 2008 when life took an unexpected twist.
To adequately express my deep adoration for Jay and Katherine Wolf would require a rather long book, so this will have to do: I love you, my treasures. Our boast is in Christ for how you have journeyed these past five years. You are missionaries of hope and have accepted this most complicated call with unimaginable grace.
Jay and Katherine celebrated the anniversary with a new website, which unveils their gorgeous new short film and future ministry endeavors. I had the huge honor of helping design parts of the website (all the way from Africa... I mean, really, how amazing is the internet?) and encourage you to take a look. And if you already took a look yesterday, take another because we've worked out a few of the kinks! Visit: www.hopeheals.com
Each Friday Hannah and I hang out with a group of young orphans at a crèche in the township of Alex. Granny Evelyn, the Mother Theresa of Alex, cares for the children from 7 am to 5 pm each day out of the goodness of her heart and without monetary compensation. Many of the children even live with Granny, who offers them asylum from their atrocious family situations. My days with these kids are a life highlight, so I was very disturbed by a call I received from Hannah late one night this week. Gomolemo, one of the youngest children at the crèche, died of a chest virus on Monday. Gomolemo had been in my arms just days before. I had fed him and hugged him. And now this sweet baby is dead.
I committed to doing life with these people. This week I learned that doing life together means doing death together.
Early Thursday morning Hannah and I traveled into the heart of Alex to the home of Gomolemo's family. We were invited inside as relatives gathered to mourn the loss of this child, whose body lay in the back room, from which a stream of silently sobbing people continuously flowed all morning. Later, under the shade of a white tent, a pastor poured words of encouragement and prayer over the bereaved family, and the crowd sang hymn after hymn. The repeated lyrics were a salve rubbed into their still bleeding wounds of grief. I was struck with how the chorus of African a cappella voices, at times the world's most joyful noise, could sound so mournful. Although mainly Zulu was spoken, the sorrow of the words needed no translation.
We made our way to the graveyard and, under the white hot sun, watched as the tiny coffin was lowered into the ground. The crowd stood in silence as friends of the family shoveled dirt into the hole, then covered the mound with flowers. My heart is still heavy with the memory of Gomolemo's young mother, with Gomolemo's bright round eyes, hunched and sobbing at the graveside. As we stood on the cusp of Good Friday, I understood the despair of this day in a fresh way. But the attending pastor offered this resonant thought: When a parent buries her child, she buries that which was her future. But today we must refuse to bury our hope with the body of that baby.
I can think of a few people whose hope was sealed in a tomb with the lifeless body of that which was their future, their Messiah, their Jesus. Good Friday realized the greatest fears of Christ's followers. Fortunately, Sunday soon follows Friday.
While precious Gomolemo's death is final, our hope still abounds. In fact, it is because our Jesus died and rose again that we can even bear this baby's death. Christ's death and resurrection supply us with the gift of eternity with Him and are, therefore, the wellsprings of every hope we have in this life. I firmly believe that Gomolemo is now whole and free in the presence of his Maker. Although he was spared what likely would have been an ugly life, the loss is no less agonizing. As we mourn the life of our baby angel this week, I'm claiming the triumphant truth spoken by Pope John Paul II:
Do not abandon yourselves to despair. We are the people of Easter and Hallelujah is our song.
Refuse to bury your hope, because our Hope is alive. Today the tomb is empty.
A few weeks ago we were given the really tough job of hanging out with nine awesome missionary kids while their parents attended a retreat at the fabulous Sun City, about 2.5 hours outside of Jo'burg. Among our many adventures of the week: two game drives, one at sunrise and one at sunset. We saw Africa in all its glory, my friends.
I've been trying to form this post for a few weeks now. The experience I'm about to describe was so unique, so special that I can't seem to capture it effectively with words. Truly, you had to be here. But I'll attempt to provide you a glimpse into my time in an abandoned house on Hunter Street in downtown Jo'burg.
Some context: I've been attending a fabulously vibrant black church called Bellevue Baptist. The church is adjacent to a crumbling old house, long condemned and abandoned. A variegated group of people (ranging from infants to grandmothers) have been squatting on the property for years now, and, despite their efforts, the members of Bellevue Baptist have had very little success in reaching the residents of this home. Most notably, several young prostitutes live there. These are the women we have been called to befriend.
A few Saturdays ago we, accompanied by two men from Bellevue, decided to knock on the gate of this decaying mustard yellow house. In typical African fashion, chairs were offered from the house and we sat on the veranda in the company of four gorgeous young women for the entire afternoon. We talked for hours of their backgrounds, children, hopes, and (finally) beliefs. Without agenda, we discussed Jesus and sin and judgement and the mystery of justification through faith. The four women listened so carefully, weighed in with their own opinions, and asked lots of questions. In some of the most precious moments of my life, we were able to communicate the truth of grace -- mystifying, undeserved, scandalous grace -- to ears who had never heard. These women, so kind and charming and confused and entrapped, shed tears over this novel idea that even they could be forgiven. The fading light of evening, the shadow of the crowded clothesline striping our faces, the still summer air, our hands grasped together in prayer. These are details I will never forget because they accompanied one of the most beautiful presentations of the Gospel I have ever witnessed. I heard the Gospel with new ears that night, because I saw all of mankind represented in those four women. We are all harlots, unfaithful to the One who loves us most.
As I sat with these four beautiful prostitutes, I couldn't help but remember an encounter with four burqa-clad women during a visit to a mosque several weeks ago. Although poised at the opposite end of the spectrum, these Muslim women were as lost as the prostitutes. As different as the situations were, they both serve as such vivid portraits of entrapment. Antithetical, yet interchangeable, portraits. And the Gospel found it's way to all of them. To God be the glory for this miracle.
As I write I'm listening to one of my favorite songs, "Wedding Dress" by Derek Webb. 'Cause I am so easily satisfied by the call of a lover so less wild… I am a whore, I do confess, and I put you on just like a wedding dress and run down the aisle. I'm a prodigal with no way home. I put you on just like a ring of gold, and I run down the aisle to you.
It is only by God's unfathomable grace that I do not live in that yellow house on Hunter Street, forced into prostitution just to be able to eat. But my life -- all our lives -- is marked by unfaithfulness to the ever-faithful Jesus. Allured by the call of countless other lovers, I abandon the perfect call of Christ. Our "prostitution" may be manifested literally (as in the case of my four new friends), but probably comes as rebellion, greed, pride, or self-obsession. But as the Bible so beautifully reminds us in the stories of Gomer and Rahab and Mary Magdelene, our whoredom is forgiven and cured by Jesus. His unconditional love transcends my sedition. He has even given me the honor of inviting four lost lambs in to the fold.
I ask you to pray for the salvation of these four women. We have continued to visit them weekly, and one friend has come to Bellevue several Sundays in a row. This is huge progress and celebration is undoubtedly erupting in Heaven as the Lord draws these women closer to Himself. Pray for my friends to accept the sweet call of the one and only Lover of their souls.
Lots of good things happening on this side of the world, but there are not enough hours in the day to write about them! This weekend we had the pleasure of attending a wedding shower for Angela, a wonderful friend at our church. Now, this was not your Southern-sundresses-sandwiches-pearls-and-petit-fours deal. We began with a sermon, then spent about seventy-five percent of the party dancing. African ladies know how to celebrate. In fact, it's hard to get a good photo because of all the dancing!
My dear friend Hannah, a Journeyman who works at BIMS, ministers a great deal to kids in a nearby township called Alex. Alex is a dark place. Unemployment, HIV and tuberculosis, poverty, and rape run rampant. Hannah has news every week of some fresh nightmare that took place in the township. A six year old was raped by her uncle. Two children were locked and abandoned in their house for days. A child was covered in boiling water as a form of punishment. A pair of young sisters witnessed their pregnant mother trying to commit suicide. Could a place be more hellish?
Hearing these stories and encountering the very victims week after week induces such a strange emotional storm. Rage, incredibly deep sadness, desperation, hopelessness, confusion, pity. Where and how do you embark on conquering an Everest-sized problem like Alex? In my weak and fallen human condition, my initial reaction is to retreat into blissful ignorance. Pretend these people and problems don't exist so that I am not responsible for them.
My teammates and I have been working in Alex at an non-profit that feeds and nurtures orphans and vulnerable children. The founder of the non-profit is an amazing woman who, after nearly dying of HIV-related complications, vowed to God to use her second chance at life to make a difference in her hometown of Alex. I've been helping her apply for grants, and while we were working last week she expressed a stunning thought. She told me the story of Jesus turning water into wine in John 2. This was the Christ's first miracle -- a monumental occasion. But the Scripture says only the servants were there to witness the event. Not the bridegroom or the master or the guests. Only the servants, who at Jesus' request filled the waterpots, knew how the miracle happened and by whom it was performed. My friend told me that in this life the ones who see the Lord's miracles are the ones who obey His request to serve. Many will benefit from His miracles, but don't you want to witness them as well?
The township of Alex is in need of a miracle. Of a million miracles. I've decided that I want to see them happen. So instead of slinking into ignorance and mental comfort, I'm committing to serve where I can. Our service may not be epic, but we will fill the waterpots nonetheless. What a privilege to be enlisted in God Almighty's restorative work in a place that could appear beyond redemption. I cannot wait to see Alex's oceans of toxic water one day transfigure into fragrant rivers of blood-red wine.
This week's episode of my life featured a very special guest star: JAY WOLF! My sweet dad was in Kenya and Madagascar for IMB-related adventures, and we all decided it would be a crime if he came to Africa without swinging by Jo'burg. We only had about twenty-four hours together, but (in true Jay Wolf fashion) we wrung them dry. Best Valentine's Day of all time, hands down. There is nothing better for the heart than a dose of dad. He is a world class encourager, motivator, and listener. I am thanking the Lord for this blessing in a major way!
Happy Valentine's Day (or Galentine's Day, if you happen to be Leslie Knope)! Could there be anything more brilliant than a day dedicated to the celebration of love, in all it's many forms? I deeply believe that all love is a metaphor. Whether romantic, brotherly, familial, or otherwise, earthly love is our finite, God-given glimpse of Christ's immeasurable and eternal love for us. "This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us" (1 John 3:16). Now that is something to celebrate everyday of the year. Sending you lots of love from the Southern Hemisphere! xoxo
South Africa has treated me well this week! We had the pleasure of hanging out with some superstar kids at Lambano, a hospice center for orphans and vulnerable children in Jo'burg. Despite being significantly ill, these children were as sweet and happy as could be. We worked at a soup kitchen (more accurately, a sandwich kitchen) where stories from the Bible are told before the meal. Although there are other feeding programs available in the area, the needy men choose to come to this particular kitchen to hear the stories. On Saturday we attended a Turkish cooking class and lunch where we met new friends and ate good food, which was lovely. We then visited the Nizamiye Turkish Mosque, the Southern Hemisphere's largest mosque. We had the pleasure of meeting four young Muslim women and speaking with them for a very long while. They were incredibly kind, and I pray we are able to build a relationship with them over the coming months. On Sunday we had a wonderful time of worship at a predominantly Indian South African church called Northmead Baptist. Needless to say, the adventures and blessings continue to pile up!
Excuse the random collection of photos, but something's better than nothing! Here are a few shots from Lambano and the mosque, courtesy of Hayley.
Asking yourself "Why?" before taking any big step is usually a good idea. Motivation often weighs as much as action, so uncovering and purifying the impetus of an endeavor is paramount. Why am I going to this college? Dating that person? Praying these prayers? Living in South Africa?
By God's grace, I deeply hope we can identify Christ as the driving force of every decision, major or minor. So when asking ourselves why we do missions, do we find the Lord at the center of our intentions? I answered yes… and no.
Raised in a beautifully missions-focused home and church, I am deeply convinced that Christ-followers have been charged with communicating the Gospel to a dying, hell-bound world. God doesn't need us, but has chosen to use us as Good News messengers. He doesn't ask us to make disciples of all nations, He tells us to. But is our mission solely to rescue guilty people from a deserved eternal damnation? Are humans our motivating force for mission work?
The truth is that they shouldn't be.
The eternal fate of other people is incredibly, monumentally important; I can't express how fully I believe that. However, when it comes to missions, salvation of people is outranked only by the glory of God. Glorifying God is our absolute answer to the Why of missions… and the Why of everything else, for that matter. (Eating or drinking or whatever you do, do it ALL for the glory of God. 1 Corinthians 10:31)
God designed humankind to enjoy His perfection, to worship and glorify the One who is worthy of all praise. Sin created a massive chasm between a holy God and fallen man. As Romans 3:23 declares, ALL have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. Paul cries out that the sin and separation of even one person rob God of the glory He is due. The deepest problem is not really that man's eternity is at stake. The deepest problem is that God's glory is at stake. Our salvation, at its core, is not for us. It is for the eternal, deserved glory of Almighty God.
Scripture repeatedly proclaims that people of all tribes, tongues, and nations will one day stand before the throne of God, an idea that culminates in Revelation 7. The Lord will not be robbed of an ounce of His due glory. It is therefore incumbent upon us to deliver the Message that has the power to reconcile man with God and to return man to his rightful purpose of glorifying God, Creator and Lover of our wretched souls.
G.K. Chesterson wrote: "We men and women are all in the same boat, upon a stormy sea. We owe to each other a terrible and tragic loyalty." I agree wholeheartedly with Chesterson because I have received a salvation of which I am completely unworthy, and I feel an enormous responsibility to relay the Gospel to my fellow drowning shipmates. But I must continue to place the glorification of the Savior, rather than the fate of the saved, as the answer to my WHY. Because when God is glorified, the salvation of man is a beautiful and guaranteed consequence. And that is Good News.
As you therefore have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him, rooted and built up in Him and established in the faith, as you have been taught, abounding in it with thanksgiving. Colossians 2:6-7
I was absolutely blindsided by the homesickness I experienced the first few days of orientation. I love my home, but I also love leaving my home to visit new places, so I never expected to miss my family so intensely. The jam-packed busyness of daytime kept my mind occupied, but the quiet stillness of night allowed thoughts of home and family and friends to overwhelm me. The loneliness was a physical pain, and my short five month term suddenly seemed decades long. In a really strange attempt to cope, I pretended to be origin-less, without a home or family to miss.
The homesickness led to a lot of questioning of what home is, what home means. My home is my family, my friends, my rituals. Sleeping in my bed, taking walks with my mom, eating dinner with my sister, doing school work with Rachel and Caroline, hearing my dad preach. These are barometers to my brain that gauge whether life is okay, that all is well. When stripped of all of those signals of comfort, I felt uprooted and incredibly scared. In the middle of those dark nights inside strange rooms, I begged the Lord to bind me up and to numb the pain. But, as always, He did me one better. Instead of immunizing me to homesickness, He taught me where my home truly is.
As Colossians 2 says, when we walk with Jesus we are rooted and established in Him. A relationship with Christ provides us with roots, with a home in Him. I can abound in thanksgiving because I belong with Jesus, who does not leave or forsake me. So while the people I love so deeply are far away, I can still belong in Africa. This is the truth the Lord repeatedly whispered in my ear as I struggled to fall asleep on the floor of an African family I had met two hours earlier. This is what He told me as I boarded a crowded bus headed to a village I had never heard of.These are the words He shouted into the terribly long silences of language barriers. When you walk with Me, you are Home.
Update: My roommates and I are finally settled into a flat and a routine. We received our first big design assignment, worked in a preschool (or creche) for orphans and vulnerable children in a nearby township, and visited a local Baptist church. We even adventured to Soweto for a little bungee-jumping. Not a bad first week of work, eh?
Challenging. Terrifying. Enriching. Confusing. Incredible. All these words are understatements when it comes to describing the last ten days. I am glad they are over, but, man, am I thankful for them.
My Hands On term began with about a week of orientation with 13 phenomenal students in Botswana. I will spare you specifics of the experience, but (in the words of our Student Strategist Andy Pettigrew) "we drank in culture from a fire hydrant." Among our adventures: piles of mopani worms, an immigration interrogation, chicken beheadings, lots of public transit with very few directions, cow liver, a three day homestay with a local African family, a shameful number of shower-less days, Muslim mortuaries, 3 AM wakeup calls, and fat cakes. The really fun part? We were never told what was coming next. We were orientated through a technique called "inoculated stress" in which we are put under extreme amounts of pressure in a controlled environment. Consider me vaccinated.
Camera use was very sporadic, so here are a few shots from some of the more peaceful moments of orientation. I'm happy to have two photographer roommates (Katy and Hayley) who captured some moments with our beautiful host family, the Chitogwas. The bottom photo is the entire Hands On team, which will be scattered all around Sub-Saharan Africa. They are legendary people.
I can't express my appreciation for your prayers and support. The Lord has been faithful and good, as always. I pray that every moment of our toiling would bring glory to Him. He is so, so worthy.
I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. John 15:5 In a little under three days my life will be changing in some considerable ways. Instead of returning to school this semester, I am relocating to Johannesburg, South Africa, where I have the distinct privilege of working as a missionary for the International Mission Board. This is exciting news -- the happy kind of exciting and the scary kind of exciting. Admittedly, my decision to take this opportunity wasn't solely motivated by a desire to do mission work (although that was a big part of it). I felt it was time for me to grow up. Get brave. Overcome fears that make me weak. And I really thought that's what I was doing by moving to a country 8,000 miles from my home, family, and friends. But, as is so often the case, I had missed the whole point of this experience. I don't pretend that my semester abroad requires particular bravery for most people. It's not that big of a deal, really. But certain things I will have to do in the next six months scare me to death. I hate that. Over the past several years I have become acutely aware of and disgusted by the fears I allow to dominate my life, so I decided to kill those fears. I have become a little obsessed with bravery, to be honest. I took the advice of the incomparable Eleanor Roosevelt to "do the thing you think you cannot do." But the Lord, as He is so very good at doing, taught me how wrong Eleanor and I were.I am human. By definition I am weak, afraid, and sick. I do nothing, absolutely nothing, by my own power. I'm not making my lungs suck in air right now. I am not telling my neurons to fire or my fingers to type. So why am I under the impression that I can will myself to be brave? That's not my job. That's a job for the same One who keeps my heart beating. That's the job of the VINE. He is the VINE. I am just a branch. He gives me nutrients, oxygen, life. As I read John 15 last night, I was dumbfounded that, on one hand, I could claim dependence on my God while, on the other hand, remaining convinced that I could make myself braver. Do not mishear me: I am still certain that bravery is one of the rarest and most valuable of human traits. But real, true bravery can only be supplied by the One who overcame death (the ultimate source of fear) so that we could live life abundantly and fearlessly. It is through the VINE we are brave. And, in turn, we are brave so that we may glorify our Vine, our God. So, dear friends, as I ask for your prayers during this time, I ask for the bravery rooted in the deep peace and empowerment that comes from knowing Jesus Christ. His death means I have no fear in my death. That also means no fear in flying, no fear in injury, no fear in robbery, no fear in inadequacy, no fear in lostness, no fear in homesickness. This is good news! This is why I, the coward of all cowards, can do what I'm about to do. To God be the glory!I'm tweaking Eleanor's words a bit: I'm letting HIM do the things I know I cannot do alone. I think she would approve.
All eleven Wolves celebrated "Christmas" together this year on December 29th. A few traditions we observed: brunch on Christmas morning, sibling gift exchange, eggnog at midnight, a big fire in the fireplace, letters from my dad, and adding to our respective collections. (I collect music boxes, Sarah gets first-edition books, et cetera.) It couldn't have been a happier day!