I never, ever planned to go to Africa in the fall of 2015.
In 2023 for our 25th wedding anniversary? Yes.
In 2041 for an awesome opportunity to write and photograph on behalf of a nonprofit doing outstanding work with the least of these? Yes. Awesome. I’ll be more than ready for that.
Give me at least a couple years, okay God? Umm…I didn’t plan on this now. At all. Can I just have some time to save? Can I just have some time to plan? Can I just have some time to let my kids get older and my husband get used to the idea of me flying off to Africa? Can I just have some time to get ready for whatever it is I think I need to be “prepared” for a trip to Africa?
I was invited to travel to Africa on June 1st.
I gave a firm NO to the trip on July 7th.
Then I gave a firm YES on August 29th.
One week from today, I’ll be on the plane to Africa.
This mission trip to Africa was a weird mix of God’s call vs. the enemy’s attack from day one. I spent most of the summer of 2015 feeling God’s strong and unexpected call to GO to Africa. But I also spent much of the summer of 2015 feeling the enemy’s attack, the enemy’s every scheme and plan to make this thing fail.
It was brutal at times.
Inspiring and heartwarming, too.
As I stated in my intro post two months ago, I fully intend to guard and keep those three months close to my heart.
Sure, I didn’t plan to go to Africa this fall. Not at all.
But this trip is no mistake.
My saying NO, then YES is no mistake.
Make no mistake, I’ve been on the battlegrounds, the battlegrounds of good vs. evil, of God’s calling vs. the enemy’s plans to kill and destroy.
After I said YES to the Africa mission trip on August 29th and then made the news public on my blog a few weeks later, the attack subsided. Notably. The response from family, friends, blog readers and fellow writers was amazing. My in-laws agreed to help with child care. The remaining balance of my Africa trip was miraculously paid in full by generous and kind friends, family, blog readers, and two photography clients who gave me “extra” to go towards my Africa trip. I put out a call for supply donations on Facebook, and special friends responded with crazy generous and abundant donations of socks, underwear, clothing, shoes and kid movies. Last Sunday, our team gathered and had more than enough supplies to fill 10, 50-pound duffle bags for Africa. And yes, there will be 10 MORE 50-pound duffle bags filled by the time we leave next week.
God has provided.
God has flung open doors.
God has confirmed – abundantly, excessively, faithfully, clearly – that He wants me to go on this mission trip to Africa.
I thought the attacks were done.
Everything was going smoothly.
All the doors were wide open.
God’s provision for this trip has been ridiculously good. Up until today, the title of this post was going to be simply that – Ridiculous Provision.
But today, one week from our team’s departure for Africa, I’m feeling attacks come on again. The enemy of my soul would rather I quit, drop out, say “sorry, I’m not going anymore, this isn’t going to work.”
Last night, I had a dream (or should I say, nightmare) that five armed gunmen entered our home and were going to kill us. In the end, all I could do was beg them to spare our lives with “Please don’t kill me, I’m a mom.” And “Please don’t kill her, she’s my little girl.” I cowered and begged these things while guns were pointing at me. Then I woke up and let a few silent tears fall before moving on with the rest of my day as usual.
Two hours later, I found myself at Kohl’s department store after my morning workout. I wanted to look through final clearance racks to see if I could find ONE MORE long skirt or long dress, and ONE MORE lightweight wrap or short-sleeve cardigan for Africa. I’ve known I’ve needed at least ONE MORE outfit to bring, and the items had been on my to-do list for more than a month. So I got my three-year-old daughter a cart, and headed straight for the junior 80% clearance racks in search of $5-$10 bargains on Africa wear.
I found a white wrap with orange details on super clearance. Seriously perfect and lightweight for wearing over any dress or long skirt. Hung it over our cart. Found another loose 3/4 length shirt also perfect for wearing over any dress or long skirt. Was just beginning to look through the racks for a long skirt or long dress.
My daughter was behaving incredibly well, but wanted to get out of the cart. That was fine, but I knew she needed to stay close. I was talking to her often, and monitoring where she was and what she was doing. She was looking at some flannel shirts to one side of me, and I was looking at the clearance rack on the other side. I’d JUST seen her. She was JUST touching that flannel shirt. I JUST told her to “Stay right by me, okay?” And she even responded, “Okay.”
As I lifted a long black and white dress off the rack, something told me I needed to look back at my daughter again, even though she had LITERALLY just said “okay” to my direction to “stay right by me.”
My intuition was right. She was GONE. GONE!
I couldn’t find her!
My instinct told me to get down on the floor and search for her feet, for her little pink crocs, as I know she has historically attempted to hide in department store racks and thinks it’s so funny.
I expected to see her crocs in the clearance rack I’d been searching.
But I didn’t see her crocs anywhere. I stayed down on the floor and crawled, searching everywhere in the immediate area for her crocs, for my Maisie. I started calling her name, “Maisie.” “Maisie. “Maisie.” “Maisie.”
No sign of little feet anywhere.
No response to her name. At all.
No Maisie anywhere!
I ran over to the cashier. Thankfully, I was close. I told the first cashier I found…”My daughter is missing. I can’t find her anywhere. Please put a code up for a lost child immediately.”
The elderly woman in line heard me. In my peripheral vision, I saw her panic and stare as I ran back to where Maisie was supposed to be.
I returned and resumed calling and searching, louder and louder.
I heard “Code Adam” called on Kohl’s intercom. More than once. Everybody was staring my way. I was frantic, running around, calling her name louder and louder “Maisie, Maisie, Maisie!” I was ducking up and down, looking for those crocs, looking for her puffy little leopard coat. I didn’t care what anyone thought. I didn’t care AT ALL. My baby was missing and nobody had found her. I was crying. I had lost it and I was out of control. An employee asked me what she was wearing, how old she was. I could barely find the words, I could barely utter the words. I answered as quick as I could and kept searching. “Maisie!” “Maisie!” “Maisie!”
I was crazy loud. Loud. Louder. Even louder.
All worries about anyone else or what they thought or how crazy I was were GONE. Out the door. I needed to find my baby. And all I could think of were those evil gunmen I’d dreamed of last night, those evil gunmen ready to come and snag my baby from me in the ONE SECOND I wasn’t looking, the ONE SECOND I wasn’t fully on guard.
I was freaking out.
Going in circles. Up and down. All around. Everywhere. Everyone was staring. Employees were running all around. Cautiously panicked on my behalf.
Then I heard her in the flurry and scurry, the woman who said “Wait, I think we found her! What kind of coat does she have? What color hair?”
The woman who alerted me was around the corner, so I left my panicked post. Another woman was tending my baby, walking her towards me, down Kohl’s way. There she was. My Maisie in her leopard coat.
I ran. I picked her up. I hugged her. I cried hard. Uncontrollably. Unabashedly.
And we left the store immediately. Without any clearance clothes for Africa.
I was shaking. Crying.
I asked my baby where she went, why she left.
“I wanted to see other people, I wanted to say hi.”
All of this because she wanted to say “hi?” And I’d JUST seen her and JUST told her to stay really close to me. And she’d JUST said “okay.”
I headed straight to the car. Opened the door. And put my baby in her carseat. I was still crying notably and an African American woman wearing a pure white winter coat happened to be getting out of her car next to us. She asked if I was okay. “Actually, I just lost her in Kohl’s. They had to call Code Adam, so I’m still recovering,” I said.
She gave me a hug.
“I’m glad she’s safe, sweetheart. Jesus is good. Jesus is good.”
I felt attacked. Big time. Twice in one day.
Yet, oddly enough, I also felt incredibly protected.
Through the crazy and ridiculously scary momentary loss of my daughter in Kohl’s, I learned what it REALLY means to be CALLED.
God’s call is NOT something to be ignored.
He will go out of His way.
He will yell and search and gently “scream” until we listen, until we hear, until we FIND Him, land safely in His arms and follow His way, His plan for our lives.
This is not a joke.
This is not mystical.
This is not crazy talk.
God’s call is real and live and active.
He is CALLING each one of us. Now. Today. Somewhere. Somehow. Uniquely.
I’m telling you, friends. Today, I learned – in the most horrible of circumstances – that God is serious about His call. He is serious about His children STAYING with Him, FOLLOWING Him, and LISTENING to Him. That includes you and me, friends. We’re children of God. Don’t stray. Don’t go your own way. Don’t look left and right, worrying about “saying hi” to this person and that, doing this thing and that thing. Stick with your father, your Heavenly Father. He knows best. He IS the Way.
All of this to say, I’m going to Africa.
I’ve been called.
There’s been a battle. Oh, most definitely.
But I’m not about to turn left or right or divert any which way.
This is a matter of obedience.
I don’t know what God’s got up His sleeve for me and Africa, but I’m going to trust. I’m going to follow. I’m going to believe. I’m just going. Because He says GO. NOW. “Stay right by me.”
This blog post is part of a series I’m writing about my journey to Kenya, Africa, with the nonprofit organization, Love for Kenya, in the fall of 2015. Click here and you’ll be directed to the landing page where you can read ALL the posts from the series. If you haven’t already, read the post I wrote when I announced the trip. Otherwise, scroll to the bottom and you’ll find ALL the Kenya posts listed and linked for your reading enjoyment. Thanks for joining the journey, friends.