Certain Captain

Transitions.

Storms.

Uncertainty.

Seasons of life come and then they go.

Welcome them all with open arms, and trust your Captain.

When questions abound, and you are not sure which way to go, look up; God is always with you, and you are never alone.  He is your Captain.   He will steady the rocking ship, calm the turbulent waters, and steer you into the right direction.  He is your Captain.

Captain by Hillsong United:

Verse 1
Through waters uncharted my soul will embark
I’ll follow Your voice straight into the dark
And if from the course You intend I depart
Speak to the sails of my wandering heart

Chorus
Like the wind You’ll guide
Clear the skies before me
And I’ll glide this open sea
Like the stars Your Word
Will align my voyage
And remind me where I’ve been
And where I am going

Verse 2
Lost in the shallows amidst fear and fog
Your truth is the compass that points me back north
Jesus, my Captain, my soul’s trusted Lord
All my allegiance is rightfully Yours

 

Thank you God for reminding me where I’ve been, and where I am going.

Photo: Murchinson Falls National Park, Uganda.

#standinlove

Your Strengths Are Sufficient

“You cannot be anything you want to be,  but you can be a lot more of who you already are.”  – Tom Rath 

According to Gallup statistics, you and I may not have the athletic ability of Michael Jordan, the goat-like agility of a top-performing rock climber, or the poetic prowess of Maya Angelou, but we do have our own unique superpowers to share with the world.  In fact, when we courageously step into our natural talents, we extend blessings into the lives of those around us.

In a world that places enormous focus on overcoming weaknesses, Don Clifton’s Strength’s Finder 2.0 invites us to dive deeply into a sea of different strengths.  Through a series of 177 timed questions, we methodically uncover our natural superpowers and begin a self-discovery journey leading us closer to connecting with our life’s true calling.

Invitation to Discover Strengths

“Sometimes we feel like Harry Potter living in a world as a nobody until the owl sends us mail inviting us to be somebody.”  – Jud Wilhite

Do you ever experience seasons in life where you feel invisible to the outside world, just like Harry Potter’s solitary under-the-staircase-existence before his life-changing invitation to Hogwarts?   Does it seem like things work out for everyone else, but not for you?   Well, here’s the truth: We each have an invitation to discover our own magical powers where we walk in purpose, feel totally alive, and leverage the gifts with which we have been abundantly blessed to use for the greater good of humanity!

Simply accept the invitation.

Identifying Strengths

Research shows that working in our “strengths zone” brings us more fulfillment than our job title/ role, our promotions, or even our paychecks.   Did you know that 7 out of 10 million people interviewed miss the mark when it comes to working in their “strengths zone”?  This means millions of people wake up each day, often unknowingly, in the dark about what they do really well!  What a shame!

Untapped potential.

Underdeveloped talents.

When we identify and connect with our superpowers, we open the door to infinite possibilities in so many areas of our lives!   Doesn’t it make sense to engage with the world doing what we LOVE to do with the talents and gifts that come most naturally to us?     Imagine the far-reaching global impact we will have by simply stepping into our natural greatness, doing what we love, and blessing all with whom we come in contact!

Using Strengths

Once you’ve identified your strengths, the next step is application!   In order to leverage our own gifts, we must be willing to commit to practicing them.   This is how we magnify a talent and turn it into a strength!

Remember the formula:

 Talent x Investment = Strength.   

Talents are not magic wands, they are gifts that must be continually worked to multiply their effectiveness.  The more committed we are to our talents, the stronger they will become.  Stewardship of our gifts is also important in order to amplify the reach and impact we have in the lives of others.   One of my dearest mentors always told me, “We are born on purpose, and for a purpose.”  

My question to you is, “Have you discovered your unique talents, and if so, what do you believe you are on this Earth to do with them?”  If you are not sure, try a little Roman Chamomile essential oil to awaken the deeper sense of self or read this post for spring renewal ideas.   Roman Chamomile is known as the Oil of Spiritual Purpose, and will help connect you to your heart center, where purpose is found.

I’ll close with this thought:

When we step into our God-given talents, we have infinite opportunities to magnify and lift up others while walking in fulfilling purpose.   So what are you waiting for?!

Stand In Love,

Jennifer

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

International Women’s Day Tribute: Got Core Values!

“I want a positive, healthy learning environment for my child, and I will do anything to make that happen.  I believe every child deserves the right to thrive.” – Sandi Herrera, CEO Got Core Values!

As the world celebrates International Women’s Day tomorrow under the banner #BeBoldForChange, I am honored to celebrate the passion and vision of one relentless Las Vegas corporate-culture coach turned public school education advocate, Sandi Herrera.  Sandi is the CEO and founder of Got Core Values!, an innovative nonprofit organization whose mission is to transform the lives of children in the public school system through the development and implementation of core values and culture coaching for school administrators, teachers, and leaders.

Sandi shared her bold vision with me this week during a conversation over green smoothies at a neighborhood Starbucks.

Delivering Happiness Inspiration.

Sandi’s chance encounter with  Delivering Happiness  founder Tony Hsieh earned her the position of COO in 2009, heading internal culture and training for the organization.  Her skills in organizational and relationship systems coaching would reach new heights as she engaged C-level executives of businesses across the nation with the heart of Delivering Happiness: to inspire passion and purpose in the workplace for a happier world.  Through rigorous study of positive psychology and neuroscience research, Sandi and her team inspired the hearts and souls of workers around the world.   The world took notice, and so did the local Las Vegas community where Delivering Happiness runs its international operation.  Desiring happiness and positivity in their work environments, local schools began requesting this hybrid of consulting and coaching.

Internal Reckoning.

At the time Sandi was delivering happiness to executives in top corporations, she was pained by the challenges her own son faced in the local school system.  “School culture affects kids perceptions.  I’m not going to have my child feel like he’s a bad person just because he is not in a conducive learning environment.”   Sandi quickly found herself internalizing the core values of Delivering Happiness, whose number one core value is  “Be true to yourself. Live with passion and purpose.”  Could one mother impact the learning environment for her child and create a domino effect resulting in thriving educational environments for all children?

The answer… YES.

Leveraging her expertise and success in talent dynamics, culture coaching, and leadership  development, Sandi has worked fastidiously over the past four years introducing  Got Core Values! into six Clark County district high schools including Title 1 schools, like Mohave High School in North Las Vegas and magnet schools like West Career and Technical Academy in Summerlin.   Through rigorous piloting, testing, and measuring results, Sandi is ready to expand her culture coaching team and take on the valley’s vast network of public schools, with the goal of 30 implementing partners before the start of the school year this fall.

Ambitious Solutions.

Her passion and pursuit of transforming the public school system is not limited to coaching and introducing culture into the school climate.   It is extended to engaging local businesses to partner with schools in the district.

“Companies want to help so much, but often times they don’t know what to help with or how to help.”  Sandi’s mission is largely relationship driven: to break down barriers between schools and businesses with a focus on collaboration.  “Organizational culture is organizational culture.  There are nuances, but at the base of it all, we are all human beings.  And when we realize that we are both in the people business, that is how we will make progress and have momentum forward. ” 

Sandi believes there is tremendous power in the business community, and by partnering with a local public school, educators and business leaders will learn from each other, develop a new common language that will help them implement strategies for effective communication, leadership, culture, and relationship building from the top.  All of this will flow to the students, the future leaders and members of our communities. Sandi’s dream of core values and comprehensive positive sustainable cultures in our schools does not stop in Las Vegas.  Her sights are set on replicating this coaching methodology nationally and globally.

I have witnessed Sandi’s compelling work first hand.  Her determination and pointed focus on the goal of delivering core values to schools for the benefit of the team, students, and neighboring communities is nothing shy of remarkable.  She is living the #BeBoldForChange motto and serves as an inspiration to us all as we celebrate International Women’s Day 2017.

LEARN MORE

If you are an educator, administrator, business leader, or concerned community member inspired by Sandi’s story, please contact Got Core Values! to learn how to contribute your time and talent in the local community.

You may also follow Got Core Values! on Facebook for updates.

Happy International Women’s Day to all my beloved friends around the world inspiring change everyday!   #StandinLove #IWD2017 

3 Tips for Whole-Hearted Living

“The capacity for delight is the gift of paying attention.” – Julia Cameron

Hello friends of StandinLove!  If this is your first visit to the blog, I would like to welcome you!  So glad you popped in!
This is a creative place where people from around the world gather in connection.  It is about People | Ideas | Purpose.    StandinLove represents  3 words and 1 purpose.  The S from Stand is for Serving People.  The I from in is for Inspiring and Inviting Ideas.  The L from Love is Living your Purpose.    How do we SIL?  Connection, Engagement, and Encouragement.   On that note, I am beyond grateful for the group success of this weekend’s Share the Love connection event!

The purpose?  Invite friends new and old into the BeadforLife circle to share our hearts over good old-fashioned cups of hot Ugandan black tea.  The ambience was just right.  The rains descended from a cloudy desert sky, providing a much-needed shower to the dry and dusty landscape.  We filled our cups, and together, imagined we sat alongside the makers of the beautifully rolled recycled paper jewelry that brought us all together Saturday afternoon.   What I appreciated most about this particular small-group gathering is the realization that the women came together not just for the BeadforLife jewelry, but to connect with one another out of a deep desire to be a part of something larger than themselves.  It was beautiful to behold.  We collectively raised over $900 for BeadforLife, which will send 3.28 deeply impoverished women to the Street Business School– a 6 month entrepreneurial training program taught in mobile classroom environments in Uganda, Burundi, Rwanda, Somalia, and Kenya!

Sharing thoughts and viewpoints on subjects we currently enjoy, we practiced something friendship expert and author Shasta Nelson refers to as frientimacy.  I offered a few insights from inspiring writers who have influenced my passion for living each day with whole-hearted intention.

What does it mean to live with your whole heart? Let’s discover 3 simple ways we can start connecting with our whole hearts today, in honor of February 13th: Self-Love Day!

Live Passionately.

What makes your heart sing?  What makes it difficult to go to bed at night and makes you jump out of bed first thing in the morning?  Enjoying a favorite variety of coffee?  Spending time with friends and loved ones?   Refurbishing a well-loved piece of furniture? Organizing your ideas for a new business venture?  Checking a life goal off the bucket list?  Creating visions for future opportunities? Overcoming life challenges with bravery and courage? Learning something new? Influencing others with your creativity?

To live passionately is to live life creatively:  To unlock, unblock, and unleash your creative genius.    Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way has been a staple in learning environments around the world.  One of her many tips to rediscovering passion and creativity in your life is enjoying what she refers to as an Artist’s Date.  This solo rendezvous is designed to replenish your creativity bucket as well as connect you to the things you appreciate most in life.  A walk in the park admiring nature, a trip to your favorite shop, or maybe a drive to a remote location to experience peace and tranquility.  Cameron recommends choosing activities involving all the senses to maximize the creative potential.  Intentionally focusing on what you smell, hear, touch, see, and taste feels incredibly invigorating!

Love Compassionately.

Best-selling author Richard Bolles discusses more than just career transitions in            What Color is Your Parachute.   Whether you are embarking on a new career, entering retirement, or in the middle of a life transition, he takes you on a journey of self discovery, helping you identify your unique talents and gifts with the goal of sharing them with people at home, in the workplace, and in the world.   After completing the detailed, self-reflective  7-petal exercise he concludes with this thought-provoking observation, ” The more you ponder the mystery of you, the more you must ponder the mystery of all those you encounter; every loved one, every friend, every acquaintance, every stranger.” 

Incredibly profound if you stop to consider the implications.  The more we come to understand ourselves at our core, the better we will come to understand and appreciate others.   Why? Because if we truly honor and explore our unique preferences and creative talents, we will then create the opportunity to love others more deeply recognizing their specific talents and gifts.   This understanding of ourselves and others leads to increased compassion and allows our hearts to be full.   There is a reason this book has been a best-seller for over 45 years!

Give Generously.

In Rising Strong,  renowned author and shame researcher Brené Brown explores the concept of giving generous assumptions.  She looks at giving in terms of intangibles like forgiveness, empathy, and giving someone the benefit of the doubt.   The theory presumes  people are giving their very best at any given moment.  She says when we give someone the most generous assumption possible, we invite opportunities to connect on a deeper level.   I believe this plays a fundamental role in whole-hearted living, as it creates space for people to be human.  It grants permission to make mistakes.  It allows grace a seat at the table.  Giving generous assumptions about others helps quiet our own nagging, critical voice telling us to be perfect and releases others from expectations we have placed upon them.

When dealing with relational conflict she says, “What is the hypothesis of generosity? What is the most generous assumption you can make about this person’s intentions or what this person said?”

This notion of giving generous assumptions requires a little strength and a lot of courage.  It means we first have accept ourselves, so we understand how to practice with others.   It is difficult to give from a place of lack. When we give generous assumptions to ourselves, we silence the inner voice, we learn to trust ourselves, and we make room in our hearts.  Making room in your heart is a key component of whole-hearted living.  Creating space to love others.

Please share your thoughts in the comments on any of the reading selections, as well offer books you love that explore living and leading with your whole heart.  We all learn from each other in this beautiful circle of exchange!

Have a terrific week, and I look forward to connecting with you all again soon!

StandinLove,  Jennifer

PS.  BeadforLife is 50% off through the month of February.. if you have an idea or an event at which you would like to share BeadforLife, please let me know, and I’ll be happy to support you! 

 

 

 

 

Transitions in Orange

“We must be willing to let go of the life we had planned, so as to have the life that is waiting for us. “- E.M. Forester

Transitions

Passages. Progressions. Shifts. Changes.

Developments. Alterations. Conversions. Transformations.

A beautiful bridge connecting two spaces: Here and There.  Then and Now.

The free flowing, often times grey expanse in between.  Not black, not white. No top, no bottom.  Just in the middle.  No beginning, no end.  Just Now.

Last week at a neighboring coffee shop, as I was enjoying a piping hot cup of dark roast Papua New Guinea blend swirled with enough half  & half to soften its robust flavor, in the delightful company of strangers, I realized transitions are ubiquitous; Teaching us, conditioning us that change is inevitable.   Our minds like antennas, if in tune to receive the signals, we empower ourselves to replace old, limiting beliefs with new, empowering ones. We invite change inside, to navigate a fresh, undulating path , and welcome the energy of endless possibility to manifest in our lives.  The choice is ours for the taking, and  the decision for the making.

Is your mind awake to hear this calling?   Or are you attached securely to what you know and fastened tightly to the belief that life couldn’t possibly offer rewards for you on the other side, let alone the proverbial greener grass we are taught to fear and told does not exist?  Have you dared to step out in faith, into the deep unknown, trusting your instincts and inner voice to guide you on your path towards your passions?  What do you have to lose? Better yet, what do you stand to gain?  What will it cost you in the long run if you deny your truth?  What if instead of searching for greener grass, you dream of a future in soothing shades of limitless blue skies?  Ever thought about creating your passion in vibrant, clementine hues of orange?  Maybe you decide to plan a sunshine journey in yellow intellect.  Or meditate in circles of purple, encouraging wholeness and unity with the universe.   If the stirring is inside of you, be courageous.  Be BOLD.  Trust your instincts.  Trust yourself.   Give yourself permission when no one else will.

“The journey of a thousand miles begin with one step”, as the saying goes.  What might this 1 step look like to you?   Would it unleash incredible potential, propelling you towards your passion?  Would taking a courageous step forward into the expansive world ignite a spark that would change your destiny forever?

If there is one thing I love , it’s the simple joy of discovery while on a journey.  The anticipation inherent in every adventure- namely, the people I have the pleasure of meeting along the way, sharing  circumstances, and connecting with in plain, yet profound ways.

Take for example, Charles, pictured below, whom I encountered while on a 13 mile trek to Grinnell Glacier in Glacier National Park, Montana during the summer of 2014.   Charles’ story is incredibly fascinating, and certainly inspiring!   I intersected Charles on a few different trails while hiking in the raw beauty this section of the park afforded.  On the 3rd encounter, I figured it time to ask his name and find out his story.  He shared that he had always wanted to hike this trail, but had fears about his ability to finish.  After losing his wife a short time prior that year, he decided in that moment, that NOW was the time to make the journey.  He stepped out into fear, the unknown, while guided by an inner light that told him to trust the process during his life transition.  May you, like Charles and like me, embrace the transition in which you find yourself.   Keep pressing onward.

IMG_4875
With Charles on Grinnel Glacier Hike Glacier National Park.

We are all on this journey of life together, interconnected.   May the lyrics of this song inspire your soul and give you a fresh reminder that we are already set free by the love of our eternal Creator!

I’m painting my life transition orange -inviting creativity and feeling in, and adding long brushstrokes of purple- connecting me to oneness with humanity, and the unifying, healing properties it embodies.  What color/s will you choose?

“Hope Now” by Addison Road.  Close your eyes and let the words penetrate your soul! You are so deeply loved! Stand in this love!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Agnes and Lessons of Love

 We were together again, her dark almond shaped eyes, round dark brown cheeks and beautiful features smiling back at me….. The sight of maize growing in the fields in the distance, looking outside the window of the small brick home. The pigs tied up nearby, goats in ropes lower in the fields with their newborn babies learning to nurse. We were all together again and I could breathe.I was awakened by this dream this morning before sunrise at approximately 5:45 am. Reliving my visit with Agnes Kyarimpa in the small rural district called Lwamaggwa.
My journey to Lwamaggwa district began in the morning around 8 am when I was greeted by World Vision staff members Samuel and Barrack. I jumped into the back of the white Toyota 4 x 4 relief vehicle with a recently retired couple from New Zealand- named Malcolm and Jennifer. They were on a 10 week overland vacation through Africa and decided they would make it a priority to visit their children’s sponsored children while in Uganda and Tanzania. Jennifer, a retired 7th grade English school teacher, and her husband decided they would pack and haul over 50 kg of unused and beautiful private school uniforms to share with the two villages they planned to visit later that day. I was fortunate to have wonderful company on a good portion of this very long drive to just north of the Tanzanian border.

After a brief coffee and rest stop at the equator town of Kayabwe, we carried on to our next stop- the district of Rakai. The district was heavily impacted by the HIV and AIDS crisis in the mid 80’s, severely damaging the social fabric of the entire community. Many children are orphaned and families live in small brick homes with tin or thatched roofs. It is not uncommon to see children taking care of children in these poor rural areas. After visits with the local World Vision office and staff in Rakai, we headed off for our final destination- a tiny village in the county of Lwamaggwa. The towns grew smaller and increasingly remote, as we carried on down the red dirt pathway ahead. Looking out the passenger window, I noticed many things which made my mind race with curiosity. Questions loomed and thoughts lingered. People toting empty and heavily used plastic yellow gerry cans to bore holes to fill up with a day’s supply of water. It would be carried back home long distances at a weight of 30+ lbs to use for boiling water for beans, rice, or matoke and perhaps for a small load of washing up clothing soiled from a couple weeks worth of toiling in the sun tending a garden or other manual labor. The small brick homes and mini roadside businesses lining the streets of Lwamaggwa county along with the lush vegetation looked as though they were rendered in a sepia tone filter- the red dust applying a thick permanent copper tint.

As we drove deeper into the uneven and rolling hillside located near Lake Victoria, I became anxious to cast my eyes upon my beloved Agnes, whom Rusty and I have sponsored for a number of years through World Vision’s amazing child sponsorship program. We first approached her primary school as we climbed up on the hillside and entered her home town village. Dozens of uniformed school children carrying small plastic tubs earlier filled with the day’s serving of rice or starch, ran alongside the side of the World Vision truck waving their hands and smiling, offering the heartiest of welcome wishes!!

Running over maize fields on a bumpy forged path, we stopped in front of a small brick home about 150 yards downhill from the car. Rolling green hills dotted with banana trees in the distance, I jumped out of the truck and saw Agnes running up towards me to greet me!! We recognized each other’s faces immediately from the previous correspondences and photographs and embraced in the customary manner in this region! She is so beautiful!! “omuwala mulungi!” I exclaimed in Luganda- “beautiful girl!

She was out of breath from running and excited as she waited all day for us to arrive from Kampala! It was nearly 7 hours after our departure at this point. Her voice trembled a bit as it was a bit nerve racking meeting her sponsor for the very first time in person! I, too, was nervous and cautious not to smother her in affection- which differs in Ugandan cultures especially rural areas.

Letting Agnes take the lead, we approached her home where her petite mother in her late 40’s greeted me in the customary manner. They kneel down before guests and visitors to greet and show their sincerest appreciation for your travels and visit. This is very humbling and made me want to get down on my knees to be at the same level. I bowed down and hugged each of the family members visiting, including Agnes’s eldest sister who traveled a long distance to be part of this pre arranged special visit! I also met Agnes’ youngest sister- aged 7. Agnes, on the verge of her 13th birthday, was dressed in her special dress, as was her mother…this is the same dress reserved for special occasions like world vision photos for return correspondences, and important gatherings. I recognized the bold patterns from the previous year’s photos I received in America- it was the same dresses for the third year.

I took off my sandals at the front door and entered into this precious, most welcoming little home they had carefully and meticulously prepared for our visit. We knelt down on a dried grass covered dirt floor covered in hand woven grass mats. Two small tables covered in freshly cleaned white cloths joined us, in preparation for the feast they prepared so lovingly for me and the World Vision staff members who accompanied us from Rakai to Lwamaggwa. Daniel, and Margaret joined to translate and provide comfort for all parties- acting as intermediaries and friends. Barrack, our driver took on the role as photographer allowing me to be fully present in this exciting time with Agnes and her family.

I followed the lead of our guides and left all belongings and gifts in our truck at the top of the hill, so I would be able to receive all that this precious, deeply impoverished family desired to share with me first.

Seated on the mat, Margaret to my right, Agnes in front of me, and little sis to my immediate left, the first of many gifts began to pass through the curtain just to my left separating this recently tidied and intentionally prepared sitting room from the other mere 5 sq foot room where her mother, eldest sister, Agnes’ primary school teacher and several neighbors had gathered to prepare all the feast!

I was handed the most beautiful, perfectly arranged bouquet of wild flowers Agnes collected earlier in the day, as she stayed home from school waiting and preparing for our encounter. I loved these flowers and thought that was the end, but to my surprise- there was much, much more to come. Next through the curtain, I was handed large hand woven baskets containing the largest freshly picked avocados I have ever seen in my life!!! Rusty and I eat an avocado daily at home- and this was so lovely to receive! Another basket came through the doorway- this one containing 15 freshly picked mangoes from a tree nearby in the garden! Overwhelmed at this point, I just took a deep breath and continued to receive- something I find difficult- especially coming from a family who is literally giving me more than they have for themselves. After the mangoes, avocados, and one gigantic papaya, came another cardboard box! Out from the box, Agnes’s mother pulled out a fresh chicken- alive, legs tied together with twine, and body wrapped in a shroud of fresh banana leaves! The contrast of the chicken’s red comb with the waxy green finish of the slightly torn banana leaves made my heart melt! This is an extraordinarily generous gift. ” how can they be giving this to me, ?” I pondered. Having never been gifted a live chicken, I kept it on my lap and began to stroke its head like a pet dog. I am sure this amused the family, as much- if not more than it amused me!

Thinking the live chicken would have to be the top of the gifts, I was speechless as more gifts came funneling through the next room passing through many hands before reaching me! A lovely hand woven 2 piece basket was constructed of beautiful natural linen and dyed green colors in a typical African pattern. I lifted the top off the basket to discover nearly two dozen freshly hatched eggs! The fresh eggs here have the most subtle blush colored shells- appearing too pretty for consumption! I set the gift basket alongside the cornucopia of fresh tropical fruits, while the chicken remained in my lap still as a puppy fast asleep. The last gift to come through was an heaping sack of freshly harvested g- nuts. G nuts are a staple in Ugandan food and are the base for the infamous and savory g nut sauce often accompanying freshly steamed matoke.

Agnes’s elder sister re appeared at the front door with a basin and small water can to help us clean our hands before taking the meal they so graciously prepared with love and care. She poured water, likely pumped and fetched earlier in the day, over my hands while the trickle fell into the plastic basin below.

Our feast began with bowls of freshly cooked chicken and tomato broth into which we placed steamed matoke. As the honorary guest, I was given the liver of the chicken to enjoy as well as the drumstick. The liver and gizzards are generally served to the head of the household- or to a special guest. This was a tremendous honor. Bowls of rice, bowls of “Irish”- the Ugandan name for white potatoes- and fresh cabbage and tomato salad were also shared with all of us. It is common for this meal to be taken using the hands in lieu of silverware- hence the hand washing ritual beforehand.

Agnes was asked to pray a blessing over the food for us all. We bowed and she thanked God for all that He has blessed her and her family with. As she prayed in Luganda, I closed my eyes and enjoyed the sweet, calm presence of the Holy Spirit filling this room overflowing with love, faith, generosity, and beauty.

Agnes is 12 years old, and attends P3 class- which is about 4 grades behind where a girl her age in the city would be placed. It is commonly seen in very rural areas- as the focus is often on maintaining the garden, crops, fetching water from the nearest water hole, and attending to the pigs and goats.

Goats. Oh the goats.

The barrage of surprises and bright eyed ” you’re kidding me” looks continued to come….

As a sponsor of Agnes through World Vision- her community is funded by a pool of donors in that particular area. This way, the entire community shall benefit from the donations made by others, including the family of the sponsored child. Each Christmas and various times during the year you may make a special gift for the family in particular- and the family itself will select items based on greatest need. I knew Agnes’ family purchased a couple of pigs two years ago, as well as 3 goats this past Christmas from the photos I received. Agnes’ mother had great news for us as we walked out of the house after a satisfyingly delicious meal……

One of the goats Rusty and I gifted her delivered 2 babies just hours before we arrived!!! I couldn’t believe it!!! Fresh blood still on the mama goat… And two babies- one black, one white….. Freshly cleaned by momma and nursing as we stood by in amazement at the miracle of life! We scooped up the babies, held them close to our beating hearts as they cried out with newborn life! What a joyful occasion!!

It was beginning to feel surreal at this time. I was floating in happiness. High on joy, thankful for the blessing of coming to visit and making preparations over 4 months in advance to do so. It was worth every step of the process! To share in two hours with this family and neighbors who literally gave to me all they could possibly afford and then some. This family living in extreme poverty, who sold one of their own chickens to be able to provide us with fresh bottled drinking water. This family, consisting of all women- working the land and fetching water as the father/husband lost his life to AIDS years back. Agnes, a precious, beautiful young Ugandan farm girl- taking care of her little sister with all things at home and often not able to attend school.

As I handed out my gifts just before our departure 4 hours back into Kampala- I began to realize our visit was coming to a close. Agnes loved her new school backpack- a rare commodity in this remote village. She handed out tootsie pops, ring pops, and even tried her very first piece of chocolate. She didn’t know what it was. Neither did her mother. My precious 12 year old sponsored daughter had never heard of or tried chocolate before in her life. She carefully unwrapped the tin foiled Hershey’s kiss and removed the white and blue white tag from inside. Biting down gingerly on the tiny milk chocolate tip, her tongue and taste buds came into contact with the sweetness and she began to smile – signaling to the crowd watching that it was in fact, tasty!
“Not another goodbye,” I thought to myself. “You can do this without crying,” I repeated. You can’t possibly be attached after two hours and only corresponding via letters until today’s visit”, my thoughts continued to press…

Tears began to swell up in both eyes as I fought like a warrior to hold them back and keep my composure. “Keep it together, Jen”. “This is a happy time, not a sad one”.

Thing is, I often cry tears of joy. As the family helped me load my gifts -bags at a time, baskets of fruits on top of their heads, flowers, chicken, and all…. I became deeply saddened that it was coming to an end. As the night was drawing near, and with a long night’s journey on the road ahead of us, I was encouraged to jump in the car for departure. We took our last photos and said goodbye. Hugs, and more hugs, loving embraces and looks of sincere gratitude in all of our eyes, heaviness in our hearts.
When we turned the vehicle around and began to drive away- I searched the crowd of gazing brown eyes and brightly colored clothing covered in dust to meet those of Agnes. I saw her mom, her sisters, and the neighbors…. As I held the second wildflower bouquet she gave me just before leaving, I became fixated with locating her beautiful face one last time so I could hold it in my heart forever. Unable to do so and tears flowing like a river, Margaret pointed downhill towards the house in the distance and said “Agnes has run home already…. she is deeply saddened by your departure as well. I just wept and wept.

Agnes and I exchanged very few words- as she didn’t understand English and I didn’t want to interrogate her or interview her family like I have been doing during all my other encounters through my work here with BeadforLife.

This was different. We were just together. I now fully understand what it means to be in the “beauty of someone’s presence”. I was in the beauty of her presence for two hours- silently communicating. It was peaceful, and surely blessed by the Lord’s presence as well.

I held on to that encouragement as we drive off into the distance, children lining the corn fields waving goodbye and running alongside of us all the way to the dirt road back into Rakai.

I know I may never see Agnes again, but I am comforted by the fact that she and I shared in this precious moment with each other surrounded by her loved ones. I felt loved and accepted by her family, and I certainly felt humbled by the extent of the family’s generosity. I know God was with us, and will keep us together in spirit always.

Reciprocity.

Love multiplied.

Giving and receiving.

Blessings.

Standing…. And resting……. in love.
To learn more about how you can sponsor a child in the most vulnerable stretches of the world, visit : http://www.worldvision.org