Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Love Knows No Cultural Bounds

Saturday I took a trip - not very far from home. As a matter of fact, this trip took me 10 minutes from my apartment to a community that I have begun spending quite a bit of time in. Eight months ago I was introduced to a family that I have come to know and love quite dearly. A family of 6 (Mom, Grandma - "Maria", Mark-21, Ruth-21, Twiz-16, and Zacharia-13). They are a family that has come to know "love" intimately and have lived because of it.

For the past 13 years (all of Zacharia's life) this family has lived in a Refugee camp in Uganda. Before that, they lived in a village as farmers in the Congo. I can't even really share much of what their journey was like prior to coming to the U.S. only 1 year ago because it's a time in their lives they do not and will not speak of. What I do know is that the love they have for one another is what has brought them safely together to survive in American culture.

Over the past year it has been quite a journey - teaching this family that food MUST be refrigerated, tutoring in English so they can find employment, teaching study habits, taking them to doctor's appointments, teaching sanitation and household upkeep, manners, and all else that is encompassed in this very foreign and unique American culture. There have been times of disappointment, frustration, confusion, loneliness, isolation, devastation...but more importantly it has been a time saturated in love.

I am humbled and blessed to be a part of their journey every day I get to spend with them as I sit watching the vulnerable oblivion dance across Maria's eyes when we are sitting in the doctors office and she has no idea what is going on, when Mark downloads English study lessons off of the Internet not because he has to but because he so desperately wants to know how to be understood, and as I see this family living off of pennies going out to purchase a cable dish because they desire nothing more than to remove the isolation and match the homes of their neighbors.

Why are they here? There are here because of hatred that took place and drove them from their native land. They are here because they love one another and would not allow the US government to separate them. They are here because of an amazing woman who stepped up and said "I will teach them!" They are here because there is no where else in the WORLD that wants them. There are here - and yet we don't even know they exist.

As I went to visit on Saturday I was greeted by Maria (75 yrs old) at the door with a "Hello!" - the only word she knows in English. The others came and hugged me before I even made my way to the living room with smiles from ear to ear. After sitting down and talking about school, work, and life - I asked Mark a few questions about what he thought about "love". We had a great conversation and I wish I would have gotten it all on camera - yet they have a tendency to get a bit shy on film (Fearful their English is not spoken correctly).

I read the inside sleeve of a book that said "I don't want to know what you do for a living - I want to know what you ache for". Have we loved deeply enough to really KNOW the desires of others. Have we put sincere actions to our love or are we simply delivering the lip service that Mark spoke of? Love is much more full than the empty words we have made it out to be.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Finding the Time...

The world spins so fast - and although not yet confirmed by scientists, I truly believe in my gut that the world spins just a few minutes faster every day. That's the only reason I can comprehend as to why I can't fit everything inside of it! And yet still I know that if we decided to give ourselves 25 hours in a day as opposed to 24, most of us would not have a problem filling the extra time and complaining that we still don't have enough. In my last entry I talked about sowing my seeds in the places that I want a harvest - and that thought is still on my mind.

I know a girl that seems nearly impossible to love - not because of her personality, who she is, or what she stands for. The reason it's so hard is because she is on the go all of the time! I can't seem to schedule any time with her to even pour in what she pours out all day! We cannot give what we do not have. And I can't help but believe that as she's rushing around out in the world doing, and going, and loving - that she's missing it. That her doing could be done with so much more authenticity! Her going could be done with so much more intention! Her love impact could be earth-shaking - if only she took the time to refill all that is being poured out.

Before you begin to think I just threw some sweet girl with the best of intentions under the bus, I must admit that this girl I can't seem to get a minute alone with is me! There is such a difference between being "busy" and being "active". I truly believe that I used to be "active" - acting with intention according to what I believe to be my God-given purpose. However, this month has proven that I have taken a step backwards and I find myself incredibly "busy" - filling my schedule with chaotic tasks to complete. I'm sure you can see the difference! Does this mean everything I do is insignificant - no way! What it does mean is that my impact can be greater, my investment - deeper, my love - stronger and all working towards the purpose God desires to accomplish through me if I take the time to focus on me for a moment.

Simply loving others is one of the most significant responsibilities we have. I truly believe the seeds I've been sowing are in the right fields that are ready for the harvest and that I desire to see the most growth! The challenge is that when the sower gets sick - intentions to plant good seed in great fields won't produce anything.

That is why today is a VERY important day!!! Below you can see my calendar and just what is significant about Thursday, May 20, 2010!!!

Today is THE ONLY day this month that I have not planned to do ANYTHING after 5:00pm. After work, I am traveling home to - that's right, you guessed it - DO NOTHING! I'm going to spend some time doing the things that I enjoy, that fill me up, that give me the permission to celebrate ME!

We can only give that which we have - how much do you have to give?

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Day 3: Is Love either ALL or NOTHING?!

I grew up hearing the statement "it's either all or nothing" and I know that I understood it; I'm just not sure that I understood where to use it! This phrase - all or nothing - has continued to come to my mind throughout the day today. When it comes to loving people, is it either "all or nothing" or is there a place to sit in the middle?

I read this when I woke up this morning: "Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously."(2 Corinthians 9:6) I have this theory that we are a "closed fist nation" and what I mean by that is we have SO many resources, SO many abilities, SO many opportunities,and so SO much stuff - and yet we are SO afraid to let go of any of it. It doesn't matter if it's our left-overs in the refrigerator or the love in our heart - so help me, if anyone should dare touch what we have as excess! Although it's there, giving it away may mean we won't have it when we want it. We live with this survival mentality that if we give a little here and perhaps a little over there, that will suffice. And all though it will indeed - suffice, I want my life to be more than simply sufficient! I want my life to be full to the brim, functioning at max capacity, if not even OVERFLOWING!

The more seeds we sow - the bigger the harvest! The more love we give - the greater the impact! And yet, a completely different question (perhaps even more imperative question) seems to come to mind. Am I sowing my seeds and giving my "all" to the place where I desire to see the harvest? Do we give more of our love to our careers than we do to our families? Do we give more of our love to our activity than we do to our relationships?

What do I love - and where do I want to see my harvest?

Thanks for coming along on the journey!

Sunday, May 16, 2010

I Dare you to!

I'm going on a new journey and would really love to invite you along if you are interested in coming! Its a journey I've had a desire to take for quite a while, yet just recently developed a passion to live out! You may have heard of the "Love Dare" - a book created for the hearts of couples to really saturate and strengthen their relationship through love. And, I bet I know exactly what your thinking - Vanessa, your single! Well, beginning this love journey is really a dare I wanted to take on for me!

The truth is, I want to learn to love better! I want to be able to love my neighbor who is always in my business, the co-worker that gets under my skin at times, the guy who cut me off in traffic this morning, and the stranger I pass and don't even see. And more than anything, I desire to fall deeper in love with my God! I want to know the love that gives without expecting and the kind that pours out without ever drying out! I am taking on this dare because I believe love isn't only a missing ingredient in marriages today, but in lives today!

If I can learn to think of others at a greater capacity than I think of myself, if I can step into the life-shoes of another person without having to live in them, if I can realize there is more to gain by loving than there is to lose - then this journey will have been worth it! I'm ready to dig into a deeper understanding of this sacrificial willingness to serve called love! As I take on this dare, not only do I want to understand the hearts of others, but most importantly I'm conducting an autopsy on the health of my own heart! God said to Love, over every other command He gives - just Love!

I'm not on a journey to find love, but to embody it! I commit 1 year to challenging myself, not to live better - but to love better!

I, Vanessa Vann, take on the Love Dare!

Monday, May 10, 2010

What would happen if...

What would happen if instead of seeing our "circumstances" we reframed those into "opportunities"? We may just start actually enjoying what we get to do each day!

What would happen if those things that we "have to do" became things that we "get to do"? We may just look at our day as an amazing adventure instead of a mundane life.

What would happen if instead of walking around each day, we approached life with an urgency to change lives? We may just realize that there is a purpose for where we are and what we are doing.

What would happen if our only priority in the day was to genuinely love as opposed to "get it all done"? We may just see that we ARE truly happy with our lives just as they are.

What would happen if we played as hard as we worked? We may just understand the value of this great gift we've been given.

And then I remember, all of these things are in our reach if only we would wrap our hearts around them and live them.

What would happen if you chose to live the way your heart desires to live every single day?

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Certainty of Purpose

Today I was asked a question that continues to linger even after the question is gone. It is a question I feel we all ask at different moments in life; specifically when a season is just beginning or coming to an end. Yet,I also believe that it is a question we are fearful to answer, unsure of the truth, and get frustrated looking for an outcome! So instead of answering it, we wait for the heartburn to dissipate and go back to living life until it rears its ugly head again. The question? What is it inside of you that makes you sure you know your purpose for life?

Have you ever thought about it before? And I don't mean questioning what your life purpose is, but questioning the certainty that rests inside of you?

My response really has two answers, both of which are quite simple. I am certain that I know my purpose in life because of God's grace saturating my insides. It is only because I know that God uses the foolish things to shame the wise and the inadequate to bring Him glory that I know God can use my trials, failures, and self-righteous acts to redeem what has been lost in the world. It's nearly impossible for me to wrap my mind around the idea that when God birthed me into existence He had the world on His heart! Its humbling that such a big God would create me, specifically to be a part of His activity in the world. Jesus' sacrifice is the only justification I can fathom for entrusting any possibility of purpose to me.

The other reason for the certainty resting inside of me in the truth: the infallible Word of God. I am constantly dipping my dehydrated heart back into the water to bring life and rejuvenation! It's while I'm there, quenching my thirst, that I come to know what my purpose in the world is! Although I know that what we deem as "our purpose" is both unique and intentionally designed, the purpose is not the activity! The activity is merely the behaviors that are manifestations of an internal relationship. The way we live out our purpose is through the overflow or byproduct of an intimate relationship with God. Our ultimate purpose is not to complete an activity; it is to pursue a relationship. It is only when we spend time falling deeper in love that we can even begin to comprehend the character of God. It is as we delve into His character that we begin to recognize His voice. And as His voice becomes so familiar and His hand so evident - that is when we are living in moments that will change the world! These are the moments of purpose we long for, but so many times I believe we have missed the relationship that will guide us there.

I suppose there is really only one thing inside of me that gives me confidence that I am on purpose: Jesus. And as I continue to hear the whisper of that still small voice, feel the unconditional love of His heartbeat in my own chest, and allow myself to vulnerably sit in His presence - I will rest assured that I am in the palm of the hand of purpose.