The Place You Are In Needs You Today

This morning I woke up extremely tired. It was a different tired than the exhaustion that I had been feeling – my body was finally telling me that yes, we do need sleep! I don’t care when go to bed anymore, as long as we do, I’ll be happy! I think jet lag may finally be wearing off!

After breakfast, Lesley and I headed to the school to go through all of our supplies, sort through things, and start to set up somewhat for tomorrow. It was exciting seeing things actually happening, of toys being rolled out of bags and new pencils and crayons and paper pads for the kids to draw on. One of the kids of the workers tagged alongside us, and played with a lot of the toys we had. It was amazing to see his wonder at the simple toys that we take for granted – yoyos and noise makers for example. I’m sure he’s never laid eyes on toys like that before, and his pure joy that shone was amazing to see.

As we were going through the curriculum, it was beginning to hit us how much we would have to adjust how and what we teach – so many of our North American traditions and books can’t be used in the same way. For example, one worksheet was about Dads, and said simply how some of the reasons they love their dads is because they buy them new shoes and take them out for ice cream. Well here there are kids who don’t even own shoes, nor ever have the luxury of having ice cream. It’s these little realizations that really make you think about your own culture and the things we so easily take for granted back at home. I’ve really wrestled with that a lot – because if I’m being completely honest, I love the fact that I always having running hot water and that I have more than one pair of shoes and that my shelves at home are filled with books I so love. And with that realization comes a feeling of guilt, because shouldn’t I live my life so freely without attachments to things like that? It’s interesting, being here, I feel as if my mind doesn’t stop thinking and wrestling with my ideas of self, of culture, of what makes me me. I think that that is why culture shock is such a struggle, because it strips away things that make up our self. And that is terrifying!

While we were at the school, we had a lovely surprise – two women stopped by the school from a neighbouring town, and one of them was from Switzerland! She was probably around my age, and she is going to be here until December. She’s staying at a local’s house (the woman who was with her) and volunteering at a hospital. We exchanged numbers and she is hoping to come by and pick Lesley and I up to come to their house for a visit. It’s so nice to meet other visitors who are in the same boat as me!

After lunch, we headed to the Asamankese market again to buy a few things we were looking for at the school. I bought a few things to send home for birthdays coming up, but completely forgot to stop by the post office for stamps! Lesley and I also chose fabrics for our traditional African dresses that we had measurements for last night! I’m so excited to see how they will turn out. Today we walked to the market instead of taking a taxi like before, and all the way there we heard, ‘Obruni! Obruni!’ and kids would run from their homes to point and wave to us. I had one guy laugh at me and tell me I looked funny, which was a very interesting experience! I was walking with Belinda’s cousin, a little girl of probably about five, who held my hand wherever we went. One lady asked me if she was my daughter (although i didn’t know what she was asking me until Belinda translated) and then burst out laughing as if it was the funniest thing she’d ever seen. I guess it makes sense, they most likely have never seen a black family adopting a white child, whereas back home the idea of interracial adoptions is completely normal.

The late afternoon consisted of a nap, followed by supper and a broken up phone call from Mom. Technology is so frustrating when you are a world away from home!

Oh and exciting news – today at lunch we had a traditional Ghanian lunch (Belinda has been making us more normal foods for our sensitive Canadian stomachs!) of a plaintain in sort of a dough-y mixture, and then spicy tomato and beans. They were delicious!

Homesickness and culture shock are still a big struggle, but all I can do is take it one day at a time. For whatever reason, I am here today, and there is a quote on the wall from one of the past interns that says, “The place you are in needs you today.” It is so very true, no matter if I am here in Africa or at home. Today, for whatever reason I was here – be it to hold little Stephanie’s hand through the market, or to provide for the taxi driver the small fare he asked for, or to give the little boy at the school the opportunity to play with his first toys. My prayer tonight is for all of you to remember that – where you are needs you today. You are where you are for a purpose, always, even if it’s hard to see that.

Lots of love,

Angie

I Looked for Love in Your Eyes

I think if there is one thing that has been on my heart lately, it is how much our sin affects those around us. I think we like to live in the imaginary world that the sin we commit only harms our hearts, our lives, our souls. But what we tend to forget is that we are a part of the Body of Christ. And what that means is that when one part of the body is damaged, it affects the others. So when one of us falls, we hurt the others around us. When we sin – the consequences are not only borne on our own souls and bodies, but the consequences are passed to our siblings, to our family, and to our children.

Because sin is never satisfied. Ever.


It seeks to devour. The Enemy seeks to devour whatever it can. And because of this, sin just doesn’t stop at us. It wreaks havocs in families. It wreaks havoc in relationships. It wreaks havoc for generations to come.

Praise God that He offers us redemption. Praise God that He offers us His Spirit to protect, to guide, to lead us away from that path of destruction.

But that path is a wide one, a horrible one that we so easily find ourselves walking. And today my sister passed on this link to me, a poem that a wife wrote to her husband who is addicted to pornography.

Because pornography doesn’t just damage the one who consumes it. It damages one’s spouse, it damages the children, and it damages the woman or man who are onscreen. It’s effects are widespread.

Pornography is something which devours.


And so, with a sorrowful heart, I include her poem here. You can find the original post here.

I Looked For Love in Your Eyes

“I saved my best for you.
Other girls may have given themselves away,
But I believed in the dream.
A husband, a wife, united as one forever.

Nervous, first time, needing assurance of your love,
I looked for it in your eyes
Mere inches from mine.
But what I saw made my soul run and hide.

Gone was the tenderness I’d come to know
I saw a stranger, cold and hard
Distant, evil, revolting.
I looked for love in your eyes
And my soul wept.

Who am I that you cannot make love to me?
Why do I feel as if I’m not even here?
I don’t matter.
I’m a prop in a filthy play.
Not an object of tender devotion.

Where are you?

Years pass
But the hardness in your eyes does not.
You think I’m cold
But how can I warm to eyes that are making hate to someone else
Instead of making love to me?

I know where you are.
I’ve seen the pictures.
I know now what it takes to turn you on.
Women…people like me
Tortured, humiliated, hated, used
Discarded.
Images burned into your brain.
How could you think they would not show in your eyes?

Did you ever imagine,
The first time you picked up a dirty picture
That you were dooming all intimacy between us
Shipwrecking your marriage
Breaking the heart of a wife you wouldn’t meet for many years?

If it stopped here, I could bear it.
But you brought the evil into our home
And our little boys found it.
Six and eight years old.
I heard them laughing, I found them ogling.

Hands bound, mouth gagged.
Fisheye photo, contorting reality
Distorting the woman into exaggerated breasts.
The haunted eyes, windows of a tormented soul
Warped by the lens into the background,
Because souls don’t matter, only bodies do
To men who consume them.

Little boys
My little boys
Laughing and ogling the sexual torture
Of a woman, a woman like me.
Someone like me.

An image burned into their brains.

Will their wives’ souls have to run and hide like mine does?
When does it end?

I can tell you this. It has not ended in your soul.
It has eaten you up. It is cancer.
Do you think you can feed on a diet of hatred
And come out of your locked room to love?

You say the words, but love has no meaning in your mouth
When hatred rules in your heart.
Your cruelty has eaten up every vestige of the man
I thought I was marrying.
Did you ever dream it would so consume you
That your wife and children would live in fear of your rage?

That is what you have become
Feeding your soul on poison.

I’ve never used porn.
But it has devastated my marriage, my family, my world.

Was it worth it?”

Letting Go of Self-Made Props

“For as long as you can remember, you have been a pleaser, depending on others to give you an identity. You need not look at that only in a negative way. You wanted to give your heart to others, and you did so quickly and easily. But now you are being asked to let go of all these self-made props and trust that God is enough for you. You must stop being a pleaser and reclaim your identity as a free self.” (Henri Nouwen)


Today I met with one of my wisest professors. She has been a source of love and guidance for me through every class I’ve had with her, and she’s opened my eyes and heart to see the world and people in a different way. She’s shaped who I hope to be as a therapist, and has been an example of grace and poise in my life and in the lives of others. She has a way of seeing things before you even see them, an incredible insight into our deep, dark souls. And that to me is amazing.


So today I sat across from her in her office, and we talked about my life and my future plans. But quickly, she allowed me a space to share a huge weight upon my shoulders: I am one who walks around with much guilt. I am one who feels guilty for leaving home four years ago, and still wrestles with that weight. I am one who feels guilty when I can’t fix what I hope to; I feel guilty when I share my hurt, knowing very well that my hurt causes the person who hurt me in the first place to feel pain too. I am one who carries guilt because I can’t seem to set up boundaries that need to be in place, because God forbid, I offend the person who is overstepping them.


Guilt, guilt, guilt. It follows me.


But, my professor opened my eyes to something wonderful. “What is the guilt trying to say to you, Angie?” she asked. “It’s not telling you that you’ve done something wrong. So what is it trying to warn you? Why is it yelling at you, trying to get your attention?”


And I sat there for a moment, wrestling with that question. I’ve found my identity and role as being the solver. I’ve found my identity in being the one that holds it all together, even if this was done unconsciously. And I can’t be that person anymore. Not in my family, not in my friends’ lives. Because that role is not even really mine to take on anyway.


I can’t solve everything. I can’t be the superwoman everyone may need me to be. I can’t feel others’ emotions or pain for them. I can’t be present always, no matter if people want me to be or not. I need to remind myself: I am weak. But He is strong.


I’ve depended on others’ needing me to shape who I am. And although this isn’t entirely negative – it’s not – but as Henri Nouwen writes in the quote above, I need to let go of this role. I need to trust that He is all I need. I need to give myself the space to find out what my identity is without being a pleaser. 


And that realization is a scary one, because it is uncovering a whole new layer of who I am, an unfamiliar one. And although the journey and process will be painful, the outcome and reward will be simply wonderful.

Needing the One who Knows All

I have a confession to make.

I like to run.

Not in the “let’s-go-for-a-nice-run-outside-while-it’s-still-nice-out” kind of running, or the “did-you-know-I-burn-12,000,329,310-calories-when-I-hit-the-treadmill” kind of running.

No, I run away from the unknown. Because the unknown terrifies me.

I like safety, I like comfort, I like having answers. I like to know what I’m going to say before I say it. I like being able to offer answers in a world of unknown. Because here, in the world where I have answers and knowledge and all those lovely things, it is safe. It doesn’t require much of me.

But it’s in places of unknown where much is required of me. In those places I am most vulnerable, offering up a humble reply of, “I don’t know,” and trusting that in my weakness, He is strong.

But I still do it. I run away from the topic of homosexuality, because I just want to avoid the inevitable question, “But doesn’t the Bible say that because I love another man I’m sinning against His Word?” I run away from the topic of knowing what God’s Word says about divorce, and yet knowing that no matter what it says, it never seems the right answer amidst heartache and pain and unfaithfulness. I want to run away when a Believer dates a non-Christian, because although the Bible warns that darkness has no place with light, and that we are not to be unequally yoked, my answers seem weightless in the light of the imminent response, “But you can’t judge my relationship – who am I to judge their beliefs and whether or not they believe in God? Who am I to tell them that I can’t be with them, just because their beliefs aren’t the same as mine?”

And in those questions, in those unknowns, I sink backwards towards where it is safe. Back to my world of knowing the answers, of knowing where I stand, of just simply knowing.


But I have to think sometimes. I’m not sure that’s where God always wants me to be.

I’m not sure if He wants me to live my life in the safety of my comfortable place, in the place where I understand everything.

I don’t think He thinks less of me because I know so very little. I don’t think He’s disappointed in me, when in those times of confusion, when I just don’t know or have any answers, I surrender my not knowing up to Him.

In fact, I think He may love it. Because if we didn’t know so very little afterall, we’d never need the One who knows all.

Pornography is NOT the Problem

As many of you may or may not know, I have been researching for my Honors thesis in the area of female pornography use and its effects.  It’s been a highly enlightening journey as I’ve spent hours reading, researching, and writing. I am not done writing, although the research part is finished.

During this journey, what I have found is a heartache deep within me for the devastation that pornography, or any sexually explicit material really, causes. It destroys and distorts something God created uniquely and inherently beautiful. It dishonours He who created love, and brings shame and pain to those who walk in its path. It never satisfies what it claims to satisfy, for lust is never satisfied. It always leaves us wanting more.

And yet as I’ve read statistic after statistic, as I’ve read cries from woman who are broken by their addiction, as I’ve read the beautiful redemption stories of Christ redeeming those shattered by pornograpy’s grasp: I am reminded that pornography is not the problem.


Let me explain myself when I say this. All the research I have read is good. All of it! It sheds light on a dark, hidden area so many of us struggle with. But unless we deal with the heart, taking away the pornography will never heal anything. It’s the same when men say that if women were to be more modest, it would prevent them from sinning lustfully in their hearts. One man commented on an article that I read that men are designed with a deep desire to “see a woman naked.” (And that is directly quoted!) And therefore, “While not good for the women, the Taliban understood how to keep men from having sexual thoughts … cover the female with layers and layers of heavy cloth. The most sexually pure time I ever experienced was the summer I spent living among a strict Islamic society.” (You can read the original article and find this man’s comments here.)

And I am reminded, Women are not the problem here. 


Pornography is not the problem here.


It’s something so much deeper. So much harder to deal with. So much of a painful process of being broken and vulnerable before the only Healer, of opening our hearts up to the painful sin that resides there and letting HIM make us clean. If we forget to deal with the heart’s sin and deal only with the outward behaviour, we are missing a huge part of the picture here. We need to recognize that struggles with porn and lust and any sin is a heart issue, and allow God to cleanse our hearts and make us pure … and then the outward behaviour will follow suit.

New beginnings

Today, I woke up in my family home for the last time.
Something tells me it should be easier to move – afterall, I’ve moved to school for the past four years. But it isn’t just the moving that breaks my heart.
It’s saying goodbye to the memories that happened there. It’s saying goodbye to the last standing reminder that I once had a family, a family that included a mom and dad that loved and honoured one another, a family that was once as sturdy as the rock out front that portrayed our family name.
I know that those memories will forever be in my heart. But there is something about a physical reminder, the physical four walls that do their best to support the family that resides within.
But sometimes, those walls just aren’t strong enough.
Today I reminded of the lyrics in Chris August’s song “7×70”:
I’ve been living in this house here since the day that I was born.
These walls have seen me happy, but most of all they’ve seen me torn.
They’ve heard the screaming matches that made a family fall apart,
They’ve had a front row seat to the breaking of my heart.

This past weekend at home, I wandered through our home and memories flitted in front of me, memories I thought I had long forgotten. But it was that home that triggered those memories – the sight of the blue entrance tiles reminding me of our first puppy, the stairs making their way up to the second floor reminding me of the time Shelby fell and tangled her arm in the banister, the feel of the wooden floors on my feet reminding me of Christmases gone past where we sat gathered around the Christmas tree. How do I hang on to the memories, when everything in this world is trying to steal them from me? When time grasps at them, my parents’ divorce papers try to erase them, and the words, “forgive and forget,” try to grab them from me?
That house may only be a house, but it stands to me as a living reminder of what we once were. Now all I have are mere memories, memories that evade and escape me far too often.