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Dirt, Ants, and Unity

I started sharing this as a Facebook post, but realized how long it was getting. Then I remembered a dear friend who has recently started blogging again, and feeling inspired, I opened up the blog I haven’t touched in a couple of years. So much has happened in that time, and though I can write fairly well, I speak better through my artwork. I’ll post more art later. Today I’ll start with just a few things on my mind amidst the happenings of life. If you’re reading this, thanks for sharing life with me.

Wednesday, I finished push mowing the yard–again. Living out in the country, with just under an acre of land, in the heat & humidity we’ve had, this is no easy task. For me, with EDS, POTS, & MCAS it can be even harder. Our riding mower has had issues all summer & has only worked a handful of times. It will hopefully be fixed soon, but until then, it takes me two days to mow….and get quite dirty apparently! The below photo collage is comprised of last week and this week’s mow. So much sweat and dirt, but I did it!

 

20614822_10156584777477627_736632557_nNo, that isn’t a tan line. Yes, that’s just dirt. So very gross after mowing!
The little baby robin made a game of not mowing over him last week, as he kept moving around the yard. Every time I tried to move him out of the way, mama bird yelled and swooped down on me.
 

My favorite photo though, is of the ants. I’ve always been fascinated by ants. They never stop working, lift way more than their own weight and often have to rebuild after every storm. Even King Solomon knew their importance:

 

“Ants are creatures of little strength, yet they store up their food in the summer;”
                                                                                                       -Proverbs 30:25
“Go to the ant, you sluggard; consider its ways and be wise!”

                                                                                                       -Proverbs 6:6

 

  These ants were meticulously working on getting this dead caterpillar back to wherever their nest was. They had to work together, plan, climb, and drag it over & thru the grass. It reminded me of how we need to work together in the body of Christ. One ant wouldn’t have been able to carry it, so it went and got help; a couple ants would go out ahead of the others a few inches and were, what I’d like to think, surveying the terrain, sensing out the path to their nest and ensuring no danger lie ahead before returning back to the others to relay the info, and then going out ahead again.
    In the same way, each of us have a part in the body of Christ, and no one else can fill that part (1 Corinthians 12:4-6, 12-26). Having a church body in the Fort Wayne area now is a big blessing, but I’m still working on connecting better. Connecting with people isn’t easy for me. Despite seeming to be an extrovert, I’m really more of an ambivert (it’s real, check it out here). I live just over the county line on the south west side of town, and the church is on the north east side of town, making it a good 30-45min drive, pending traffic. This can make it much harder, as most of the church members live closer to church too. There are days when I really miss my previous “crew” of believers in Michiana, miss the closer drive, the random last minute gatherings, worship nights, and fellowship. I’ve only been able to attend three gatherings here, and all of them only girls nights. These same women however sent texts when I was out of town, asked how I was doing, or just shared that they missed seeing me. Even through ants, God reminds me of the unity we have together, both my long-distance brothers and sisters, and my current ones. I’m still getting to know them better, still trying to plan better so I can attend more group gatherings, still trying to force myself to talk to more people and get to know them, not just small talk, because we’re all a part of the kingdom together.
In addition, the ants reminded me of endurance. They endured the trials they faced in dragging that bug back to their nest, just like I endured the trials (heat, pain, breathing, bad joints) of doing yard work. Despite being quite sore the day after, I love working in the yard. I feel closer to God in his creation, and it’s a great prayer and worship time. We’re called to endurance and perseverance as followers of Christ. Paul wrote, several times, to endure under trials, persecutions, and hardships, as did a few other NT writers. 

“We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance. And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation. And this hope will not lead to disappointment. For we know how dearly God loves us, because he has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love.”       -Romans 5:3-5

We put no stumbling block in anyone’s path, so that our ministry will not be discredited. Rather, as servants of God we commend ourselves in every way: in great endurance; in troubles, hardships and distresses; in beatings, imprisonments and riots; in hard work, sleepless nights and hunger; in purity, understanding, patience and kindness; in the Holy Spirit and in sincere love;”       -2 Corinthians 6:3-6

“Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart…..Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as his children. For what children are not disciplined by their father?”     -Hebrews 12:3,7

“Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him.”        -James 1:12

   There are days where enduring another minute of pain seems impossible, when persevering through extreme fatigue seems too much effort, or when simple tasks feel ominous and overbearing. It’s those days where these verses, and those on suffering, bring encouragement. Mowing may be hard; I have to focus on my breathing while trying to keep a straight line, it hurts my wrists and fingers, my back takes a beating, my shoulders slip out of joint more, and being allergic to grass, I itch so bad I bruise myself, but I can endure with the help and strength of Christ. I persevere through the pain, suffering, I thank him for every breath and step to complete the job, and I praise him for the strength he gives me to do it. Thanks to a collective of ants, I am reminded that every member of the body of Christ supports each other, and I praise God he’s provided the opportunity to know so many of those parts. Whether prayer, encouragement, or just a listening ear, I know I’m able to do my part even on bad days, because we all support each other. 
     Though you may be facing trials, pain, or hardships, be encouraged! You can endure with the strength of Christ, and persevere with the support of the body of believers. Don’t give up. Go face it with a newfound strength, only found in Him. 

New Journeys

It’s been almost two weeks to the day since I arrived in Uganda. I have come to love so many beautiful people, and I have learned many stories of heartache and struggle. Beginning my journey with The Archibald Project, I admit I was a bit apprehensive to be with a group of photographers. God however, provides so much grace and brought together an amazing team! Arriving as strangers from many different states but leaving as family, united by the blood of Christ. We all came as artists with a passion for the Lord and together we laughed, cried, and ached for his children. Currently my teammates are wrestling with the jet lag, reverse culture shock, and trying to make sense of the overwhelming emotions. I however continued on, and am wrestling with immediately jumping into another story. It has not been easy, but instead of being overwhelmed, I’ve found myself grateful. I am grateful for the way The Archibald Project prepared me to get to know people and share their stories not just glamour over poverty. I am grateful for the downtime I’ve had to go through photos and collect my thoughts. I’m grateful for these boys who have helped me in this crazy city life. And I am grateful to our Lord for protecting me in so many ways.

Photos of a few of my T.A.P. leaders and teammates:
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I have seen more in these last two weeks than I ever imagined. I’ve played games, read books, and just sat with children. I’ve held hands, wiped tears, and changed diapers. I’ve used a squatty potty. I’ve bathed with a basin of cold water and washed clothes in the sink. I’ve swallowed my stomach to clean and bandage festering wounds. I’ve washed clothes in a basin for a kid had to wrap himself in scrap material because those clothes are all he has. And I washed those clothes knowing they’d never be fully clean as I laid them on the ground to dry. I’ve sat in the dirt and let little girls wrench my hair into braids, knowing I’d have to untangle them later. I sat with a boy at the clinic while they waited for his HIV medicine. I’ve seen so much love and joy despite such hardship and trials. I’ve gotten used to adults and kids touching my pale arm. I’ve had kids follow me down the street, hold my hand, or hug me. I’ve been sandwiched between a driver and one of the boys on a boda-boda (motorcycle). And I’ve thought for sure I was going to hit the person, vehicle or other boda as I rode mere inches away. I’ve seen the source of the Nile and some very large birds. I’ve been covered daily in dirt. I’ve eaten new foods, some I’d never imagined I’d try.  I’ve loved, learned, and been broken for these kids, and still meet more of them. How will I share their stories? How do I gather the emotions I feel for these kids and put them into words? I do not yet know, but God will give me the words to do so. Until then, I trust him and thank him for the grace to continue each day with these kids.
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Last photo by Amanda.
Yes I really ate that fish.

Mzungu….Nkwenda inho!

“Mzungu! Mzungu Bye!”
   The daily greeting rang out as we walked the quarter mile or so to the kids’ house. The children along the road we walked, would run out and run up to us yelling Mzungu. Mzungu means ‘aimless wanderer’ and it was first used in reference to a white person aimlessly wandering through east Africa; the term stuck and now is generally referencing a white person. Mzungu Bye really meant hello. They were always so excited to see us, but the smiles and greetings the kids from Elpis (the official non-profit name), or H.O.P.E. Children’s Home, brought every morning was such an overwhelming feeling of joy. We arrived on Sunday night and the kids came to the house to surprise-greet us. Walking out of the front door to find us engulfed with 130 kids’ greetings, smiles, and hugs. It was beautiful! They sang us a beautiful song before leaving for the night. Already just arriving had brought such joy and love!

The next morning was the first day at the kids’ house and I was walking slower, a little behind a few of my team. The little girl I met the night before came running out from the gate to meet me. She greeted me with a huge hug and smile. I melted right there. I spent the day getting to know the kids, playing games, reading, singing, and talking. We did that everyday, lovingly befriending them, learning their stories and dreams, and photographing individuals and groups. We visited their primary school and observed various aged classes. Each class welcomed us as visitors who can help them learn. Most of the children love school and understands what a blessed opportunity it is to be learning, though there have been issues with kids who don’t want to stay in school over the years. It contrasted so sharply with the mindset American children have of school.

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(Kagoya–the little girl who ran to greet me: Photo by Ashlyn)

I talked with many of the kids, both younger and older. Many of the young women want to be nurses, but a few wanted to be teachers, accountants or engineers. They have big dreams, are very intelligent, and are overcoming many hardships. Most of the kids have parents that dies from illness, were killed out of greed or jealousy, or were abusive and sent them away. But you would never be able to tell as they are full of joy, laughter, and love. Ask any of the kids and even those who knew of God before, all credit “Babba Philipo” (Papa Phil-the director of the children’s home)  as loving them, bringing them to Christ and teaching them to live for God. They all will say that Phil is their dad and he loves them, guides them and disciplines them as a father would. They have a family now because of Phil. H.O.P.E. Children’s Home has given so many kids a second chance at life, a better future, and a life in Christ.

 

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   (Babba Philipo)
        Every night the kids have worship. To see these kids so in love with God, many on their knees and/or with hands raised to the Father, touched me so deeply. They sang, danced, and prayed in complete love and gratitude of their Heavenly Father–Katonda (God). But even more touching, and heart wrenching, were Phil’s teachings. It was not the message that would break me, but the manner he would present it for them to relate to. The first night he spoke on forgiveness and not holding a grudge in bitterness by relating it to the kids who had parents that were killed. He taught them not be bitter, but to forgive those who killed their parents and to lovingly pray for them. Another night, he explained Christ’s submission and sacrifice for them by relating it to their cultural way of greeting. A younger girl would kneel to greet a matron or grandmother and all women greet a guest or a man by kneeling. Phil had the grandmother kneel to the young girl. All of the children laughed because that would be unacceptable in their culture. But Phil used it, showing that in the same way, Christ submitted to God and before us, and we should do the same. You could see they understood. It clicked. I could feel the Spirit moving, and for a brief moment, the unseen was revealed. It was beautiful!
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(Worshipping their Lord)
    Everyday was a precious gift with these children. There were also a few matrons who live with them. They help the younger ones, supervise, and cook, aiding in homework and discipleship. Matron Jessica was with a few of the girls I got to know through the week and I got to know her as well. Wednesday after worship, as we said our evening goodbyes, she hugged me and said “Nkwenda inho (n-quin-da-i-no),” meaning I love you very much. Then several of the kids said it also while hugging. I teared up at their innocent, beautiful hearts, full of love and joy. I’d fallen for these kids and my heart will forever hold a special place for them and Babba Philipo.
Matthew 18:2-5
“He called a little child and had him stand among them. And he said, “I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. And whoever welcomes a little child like this in my name welcomes me.”

 

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Journey of Faith

Last Thursday, I had a ticket to fly to Uganda. I missed my flight.

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Everything I had planned was thrown out the window and I had to jump into a journey built entirely on faith. I felt like the Israelites in the desert crying out to Moses about bringing them to their death. Dramatic? Yes, but I panicked. What do I do? How do I get there? I have no phone! I wanted to cry but I needed to pull myself together. So many thoughts came while my heart raced and anxiety filled me. I walked to the café where I could access wifi. Suddenly, a clear word broke through my racing mind:

“I’ve delayed you for a reason. It’s ok.”

I admit, it didn’t help much at the time. But I tried to focus on it as I fumbled with my brand new laptop of just three hours. I finally accessed Facebook and messaged my sister who contacted people for me. With continued anxiety, I sat, feeling very much alone in a mostly empty international airport, multiple languages swirling around, and I waited. Now I wish I could say the airline let me on and all was well. Or that I could say I was instantly calm and I caught a flight shortly after. But no, it went nothing like I planned. I had to pay for more internet, and as I waited, I opened my Bible to Matthew 6:

“Do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.”

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I’d had enough trouble for one day! But as I sat there, occasionally messaging my sister for updates, I focused more on what God said. I didn’t need to understand it, I just needed to trust him. I shifted my thinking from, ‘What do I do?’ to “What is God doing?’ I relaxed. I found unimaginable peace in a raging storm (Luke 8:22-25). My anxiety was gone and I was at peace, knowing without a doubt, God would provide. A couple local friends drove half an hour to get me from the airport, housed me, fed me and helped me work out the details. It wasn’t until 1pm the next day that my wonderful travel agent worked out a flight for me and, he was so impressed with my attitude toward the situation, that he didn’t charge me the usual fee (for missing my flight). So a day late and a few hundred dollars short (airline charge for missing my flight and the unused ticket), I was on another plane. I only arrived about ten hours after my team and was still able to catch up with them in Jinja. They were such a blessing! The Archibald Project leaders were up late, checking my flights and making sure I was safe.

My entire plan for the trip was scrapped. I left every level of comfort I ever knew and boldly stepped out in faith. I believe Satan was working overtime to stop me. After missing my original flight, the first flight made me horribly ill. I dealt with multiple medical issues and am so very thankful for the flight attendants, on both the main and connecting flights, who were so helpful in bringing ice or finding a different seat where I could spread out to lay down. I almost wasn’t allowed to fly from London to Entebbe because I looked so sick, but illness would not stop me! God blessed my faith that I believed he’d bring me here and I felt better by the time we landed. And Oh! What a landing! The Ugandan Children’s Choir was on board, flying home after eight months in the states. They began singing when we landed and then they announced that they were so happy to be home, that they sang us their rendition of The Circle of Life. It was so beautiful to hear a plane filled with such voices!

After landing, and gratefully receiving ALL of my luggage, a native who had arrived with me, helped me to find a phone where I learned a driver was waiting for me. I then rode five more hours to Jinja. Uganda is so alive at night! People, boda-bodas (motorcycles), music, lights, food and vehicles were everywhere! I feel I acclimated quite quickly, and even in the dark, fell in love with this beautiful country instantly! Blessed be the name of our Lord, Creator of all nations and people!

You can follow more of what we’re doing on Instagram, Facebook, or directly at The Archibald Project’s website!

Praise God with me in all of the blessings that came about in getting me here!
Prayers please, for increased rest, and wisdom as we interact with these children.

Danielle’s Artistic Mission

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I have the opportunity to join The Archibald Project’s February team in Uganda in order to aid the mission to advocate for orphans and let all children know love. Through God’s love, and the art of media, our team will be able to share these orphans’ stories. The impact of these stories are what aids these beautiful children with support, awareness, and ultimately, adoption. Check out The Archibald Project (T.A.P.) for their full vision of eliminating the orphan crisis. In addition to this, I will be visiting various missionaries around the world to tell their stories and assist in aiding their mission after working with T.A.P.

So, how did I end up with the blessing of opportunity?
A friend and God’s leading.
During a visit with a friend, she asked, “what do you want to do if you could do anything?” My answer–a missionary photographer. To have the opportunity to use art in order to save the lost and help those in need would be my dream, I had just never found the right group to go with. I wasn’t expecting what came next: she told me to go for it, organization or not. She caught me off guard, but I couldn’t shake it after that. I pressed into prayer and meditated on it before I started asking around and talking to friends in various countries to see if it would even be a possibility. They all said yes! And then another friend told me about T.A.P. and that they were at the end of accepting applications for their trips. I applied, interviewed, prayed,and waited. I was accepted to their February team!

This leads me to where I am now–the support. I could use your help!
So please pray with and for me, that God grants all provisions needed for this journey and prepares me for what he is leading me into. Pray for the missionaries already serving in various countries to be encouraged, kept safe, and that spiritual and financial support are provided. Pray the doors that are needed to be open will be and that if any doors need closed, that I’ll have the discernment to do so.
Second–the funds. If you feel led to give anything, please check out my fundraising page to help send me off! Thank you in advance!

**For further info and to follow my progress, look at my Facebook page. Also, even if you don’t feel to give, check out my fundraising page for some extra details.”

“Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.” 1 Corinthians 1:3

-Danielle

Raw Honesty

Have I been on here at all? Nope. Not once in over a year have I been on my page or written a blog. However after recently reading new blog posts from a friend (you can see her work here: Beyond the Written Realm), I was inspired to begin sharing again. Though I hope to soon have frequent posts with more photos, today I will leave it short and well–not so sweet. Intrigued by another photographer’s “Flickr moment,” I’d like to share something a bit personal. I suffer from depression. Those who know me the best know this as I have discussed it with them. Those who don’t know me well, but see me occasionally, will likely be surprised at this. I’m fairly open about it but rarely discuss the details and leave it with a broad overview. Today I will share a few more details, quite literally, what led me to feeling as though I’m walking into a dark tunnel. IMG_1240

Details:
-I have Ehler’s Danlos Syndrome, type hypermobility (EDS). A connective tissue disorder I deal with daily pain, fatigue, subluxations & occasional dislocations. I’m grateful I only have a minor form and deal with less severe side effects, but it is difficult nonetheless.
-EDS triggered dysautonomia, failure of my autonomic nervous system, or organs. I have trouble with my heart, equilibrium, breathing, digestion, even depth perception at times.
-Having chronic pain often triggers depression, but I know looking back that I have likely dealt with it far longer. I feel the combination of many events and situations in my life led me to being depressed and I unknowingly battled it, likely since elementary age.
-I’m a loner, an talkative introvert if you will. I’ll talk to total strangers but avoid a group of peers.
-Being diagnosed with EDS and dysautonomia and dealing with my most severe symptoms at that time drew me into deeper depression.
-Post-college and lack of community along with other events led me to even deeper depression. I finally admitted I needed more help than friends and prayer could give me when I was never “okay” anymore. I was either in a really good place or really low; no longer was there a medium.
-Since starting medication, my friends can vouch I’m a new person.

Now, some may want to comment on how I can be depressed if I have a relationship with God, or I take medicine now, doesn’t it help? I’m not diving into these questions, however I’ll touch on them briefly. God doesn’t always provide supernatural or miraculous healing, but he always provides and that is sometimes with medical advances. Prayer, intimacy with God, fellowship, and time in the Word all help along with the medication. The medication is an aid, not a solve all. It helps me cope with it, it doesn’t cure it. As my doctor put it, “the meds will help to have a balanced medium instead of just ups and downs (paraphrased).”

        On that note, art is still my best therapy and “drug” for coping with depression. Painting is my go-to but photography is also “healing.” I draw, paint or capture what I cannot express in words. I allow images to talk for my depressed self when I am too low to do so. Christian is also a photographer who used the lens and editing work to capture his expressions. What he displays in these images I believe, speak for more than just him. I know they spoke for me. My own photos of expression will be coming soon, until then look at Christian’s work here: Photography a form of therapy.

Thanks for the Lemonade!

A couple days ago I was at a wedding where they played an adorable video of the bride and groom growing up through the photos to the song Lemonade by Chris Rice. (You can hear it here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jKiB9zs5uAs) I had never heard the song before, but I loved it! It was fun love song, but it was catchy too. Well, today I made some lemonade of my own. I had found a recipe in a Family Circle magazine for Strawberry Basil Lemonade and it sounded interestingly enough to try. I’ve been known to try new recipes and weird foods in the past.

Some work well, like allergy free biscuits I’ve made numerous times now:

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Others, don’t work very well at all, like the allergy free brownies-turned tar-like substance (I apparently misplaced &/or deleted all my tar-brownie pictures).
Today however, I learned a great lesson from these lemons. The saying goes, when life gives you lemons, make lemonade. Well, this particular lemonade uses basil and lemons to make a simple syrup with the bonus of sweet strawberries. Making lemonade is quite the work if you’re doing it all by hand! Medically, dizziness and nausea has been sticking with me like glue and I wasn’t really in the mood to make lemonade. The sour lemons of life were doing me just fine and were more than a sour annoyance! But I didn’t want my strawberries to go bad and I am growing basil, so I figured why not, right? In the process of making the lemonade I discovered the simple syrup tasted like tea. It is so very delicious! Basil lemon tea, yes please! So I just had to do another batch of the simple syrup to make tea. It is a great deal of work, but God showed me that through the sour lemons of life, the sticky sugar, the wet mess, the hard work, and the dizzy squeezing of my spirit may very well be the sanctification process to bring a sweet treat, not just once, but twice. “Life gave me lemonade and I can’t imagine why.” In the messy hardship of making lemonade I received the surprise recipe for great tasting tea. Afterward, sipping strawberry basil lemonade and pouring into Scripture, God used His word to make me lemonade. Reading Psalm 105-108 and being reminded to remember what God has done for me and rejoice and praise the Lord of the lemons and all the earth and universe, brought sweetness to my soul and joy to my heart. My dizziness calmed down and I treasured the rest God gave me in the moment alone with Him. So here’s to all the sourness of life and the sweet surprises it brings. Lord, thanks for the lemonade!

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