Category Archives: Swaziland

Realizations

My name is Jenn and I am 21 years old.

I live in an apartment complex that advertises “Senior Discount” as a perk of living here.

I think they should advertise the fact that there are cockroaches that swarm the back lot every night and if they were larger we could say they were “guard animals.”

I used to stay up late and loved to go “out” and live a “glamorous” lifestyle.

Now my favorite part of the day is coming home to see my cat and taking my pants off.

I used to be really exciting, outgoing, and fun.

These days I’m pretty boring, and like to keep things low key.

Not long ago I thought I was moving to New York City to focus on myself and become a famous actress.

These days I find myself making the 30 minute drive almost daily to my hometown. I can’t seem to get away from it. Additionally, while I’m learning much about myself, I pray for a lifetime of humble service to others.

I used to have a lot of friends, and then I had no friends, and now I fall somewhere in between with a few great people I can almost always rely on.

I used to love big cities, nightlife,and crowds of people.

These days they overwhelm me and I enjoy weekend trips in the country.

I used to think I wouldn’t even get married until I was 30+ and would probably just marry a man for money.

Today is my 2.5 year dating anniversary with the love of my life and I can’t wait until we decide to make a life-long commitment to eachother.

I used to wake up hours early to shower, shave, exfoliate, apply full make up, and style my hair.

Sometimes I don’t remember when I last showered or washed my hair and consider it a “good day” when I don’t have to wear makeup!

I used to be in a really unhealthy dating relationship(s).

The boy I’m in love with does his best to love me like Jesus– with grace, forgiveness, and even gifts from the heart when I feel undeserving.

I used to love meat.

Now I’m a vegetarian.

I used to want to travel somewhere glamorous and romantic like France.

This past March I went to the Kingdom of Swaziland to serve HIV/AIDS orphans…. but I fell in love there too.

I used to think God was far off and distant.

Yesterday I saw myself dancing with Jesus in my mind’s eye.

I used to feel pretty alone even though I was surrounded by people and had lots of “friends.”

This summer I have been brought to tears by the community that surrounds me and the people who have invested in me.

I can’t wait for more realizations : )

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Shoulda Seen It Comin’

Welp. I finally had a good Africa breakdown tonight, although I have an inkling that it won’t be the last. I guess it’s kind of expected when you spend, oh, a month avoiding talking to God about what you saw in a third-world country. Honestly, I could laugh at myself now for thinking maybe I could just carry on with my life and God would never get to me. Hardy har har.

Tonight at Joshua House, I was mid-worship in the song “Hosanna” uncomfortably keeping this nice little wall up between my heart and God, as I have been doing for the past month, when we came to the lyrics “Break my heart for what breaks Yours…” As soon as I sang them I felt my gut wrench and my breath caught in my throat. “Oh no,” I thought. Here it comes. For a moment I tried to close my eyes and hold it in. “I don’t have to ask, He’s already shown me and I can see it all vividly right now.” I quickly decided that in the past it’s been much worse (and probably very strange-looking for those around me) to fight God than to just let myself go. I didn’t have to think twice about those lyrics. I don’t have to ask because He’s already shown me. “I’ve seen what breaks His heart, I’ve held them in my arms.” A month ago He gave me a week-and-a-half-long insight into what breaks His heart in Nsoko, Swaziland.

Tears were streaming down my face as all of the first-hand images came flooding back into my mind. Pictures I’ve taken with my own two eyes of hundreds of children in Swaziland surfaced and each one crushed my heart a little bit more. I really felt like I couldn’t breathe. (Partially because there was snot literally hanging out of my nose like a string). I had to sit down because I was heaving so hard. {Praise God for extremely loud contemporary worship bands!}

I sat with my head lodged between my hands and the seat in front of me. I half-heartedly asked God to make it stop so I could stop crying and embarassing myself. But I knew that wasn’t what He really wanted. I couldn’t stop thinking about Tmbalithle and baby Anitah and Boss Lady and all the Muchos of Swaziland. My chest hurt so bad. My heart literally felt like it was being ripped in half. This is super awkward, but I was basically silent screaming. (My emotional sisters out there know what I’m talking about, right? Like when your heart literally hurts and you’re basically screaming but it’s silent? Someone please affirm me on this one haha) God was literally breaking my heart for what breaks His. Now I know God doesn’t give anyone more than they can’t handle, so it makes me wonder: If that moment felt excruciating for MY heart, I can’t even begin to fathom what God feels when His heart breaks for orphans… for His children.

“This isn’t how it’s supposed to be,” ran through my head. “This is not what God intended for His children.” It’s not their fault and He’s not punishing them. Quite the contrary. I’ve never witnessed so much of God’s love as I did in Swaziland. His love is abundant, but so is sin from The Fall. It’s because of sin that these children have broken homes, that there’s abuse, that they are neglected and go without food or shelter. Some people might ask why, if my God is so mighty and loving then, doesn’t He save these children? The answer is because He’s God. Because I don’t really have the answer and no one does except for Him. Because if God made everything perfect here on Earth it wouldn’t be Earth, it would be Heaven. If all was right in the world, we wouldn’t need God. We wouldn’t seek Him out in times of trouble or despair. We wouldn’t cling to Him and worship Him for his majesty. We’re on this Earth to glorify God and to worship Him. We’re also called to be His disciples and that means that it’s OUR job to take care of His children. God sustains them in more ways than we’ll ever know, but in no way does He owe anyone anything. WE owe Him everything and as His followers WE are called to take care of His children….

“You’re right, Jenn. I didn’t intend for Tmbalithle’s mother to be consumed by alcoholism and abandon her with extended family. I didn’t intend for her to grow up without a mother and a father and to run around half-dressed.”

“No, Jenn, it is not what I want for Anitah or the other orphans at Eskalene to wander the countryside with little-to-no supervision collecting grasshoppers to tide them over for the day until their next meal.”

“No, it is not my intent for children to grow up in a home where the father has abandoned them and their mother; for their father to travel far away for work, to take another wife, or to die because of AIDS.”

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I guess I’m beginning the “processing-process”. More to come.

In between.

The title of this post pretty much sums up everything in my life right now, but I guess for length-of-post’s-sake I could elaborate a little.

I have been in my new apartment for about a week now and it’s finally starting to register. I’m in between being lonely and enjoying the solitude. The state of my apartment is in between since about 3/4 of it is finished being put away and decorated. However I have no living room furniture so I spend any free time laying on my floor looking out my balcony window.

My schedule and routine is all kinds of messed up and in between. If I would have moved before this quarter started this part could have just been classified “change,” but since I moved the 2nd week into the quarter, some things like classes stayed the same, but my commute has been slightly altered. I have to do everything about a half hour earlier and I’m in the in between of getting that schedule down. Same goes for my studying, but it’s in much worse of a state and for right now, I’d rather not talk about that.

I don’t have internet yet so anything (cough: homework, taxes, bills) that requires me some WiFi is also in an in between state. Bad news. I’m in between taking old routes relative to my old apartment and exploring the digs of my new one. I’m in between relationships with everyone. I have tons of things initiated and tons of catching up to do but no follow through… yet. Heavy emphasis on the large pile of thank-you’s that need written and sent out for all of my support money to Swaziland.

I’m in between social worlds. Part of me is still in Africa-mode: declaring rules to visitors in my apartment like “If it’s yellow, let it mellow” in an effort to save… what? My water supply and those in Africa who don’t have water…? Because that makes logical sense. I’m in between want and guilt when buying things that I “need” in my apartment but technically don’t need. Like a collander. Or a pizza cutter. I need it to drain my pasta, I need one to cut my pizza, but do I really NEED it? No. But….?

And I have certainly no idea how to handle social events yet. Last night I want to a concert with David and Marissa and was really confused about the whole “process” of it. Wearing a cute outfit, buying a new accessory, wearing MAKEUP AGAIN whhaaaat!, and just all the social drama in general. I felt a little bit like an imposter. Because let’s be honest, nothing about my appearance had an effect on my enjoyment of the concert. Rude attitudes about who’s standing in who’s spot are really just trivial and spread hate. Why can’t we just all hold hands and sing kumbiyah until the artist comes out anyways? We should give hugs instead of shoves! I guess I’m just having a hard time being entirely here and in the moment. For example, everyone around me last night seemed so focused on the concert, the beer, the drama, what’s going on in Columbus, OH.

All I could think about was how Veli, Cemphilo, Sanele, Simonga, Pundihle, and Mxolisi would have loved something like that. How badly I want to bring Pilo to America to hang out and show him around! I’m torn between trying to fit in here but not get lost in it all. Trying to maintain home and my experiences is difficult.

Most pressingly on the “In Between Scale” that is currently my life… is my relationship with God. SO in between. Mentally I’m craving time alone with Him and reading my Bible. Mentally I’m crying out for “more” in my life. Mentally I’m searching for His Kingdom here. I’m still mostly in my “Africa mentality.” In actuality….. I’m doing NOTHING to further any of this. I keep thinking I’m still on this kick, post-Africa, where I was getting up early and spending time in His Word before starting my day. But I’m not. I’m deceiving myself. I really haven’t opened my Bible once in the past week. I haven’t gotten up early. When selecting my reading material to take to campus for free time, numerous times this week I have picked up His Word and “thought better of it”– exchanging it for a  I know I’m behind in. I’ve literally said out loud, “Sorry, God, I promise I’ll get back to the Bible once I’m caught up on school….” Isn’t that how it always goes? The funny thing is, I’m the promise-breaker there. That’s always the beginning of my put-God-on-hold-until-I-forget-about-Him phase. I desperately don’t want to go there but it seems inevitable right now.

I know this phase of “in-between” is only temporary, and I’m assuming its cause is the move last week and trying to get aclimated to my new surroundings. You know that love-hate relationship with this phase? Agghhh. I hate it because everything is busy, mindless, and up in the air– and all I want to do is slow down, re-fuel, and focus. I don’t even have time to feel my human emotions. And yet, (sigh), you know coming out the other end of it all means change. For me, change is good. I enjoy it. It usually satisfies, entertains, or challenges me. I’m really looking forward to coming out of this particular phase because there’s no doubt in my mind that there’s growth at the other end. A lot more understanding, a lot more clarity, a lot more peace.

Until then I have to sit tight and keep up.

Music, good music, is good for the soul.

I woke up this morning and blogged a huge blog but had to leave for church and couldn’t finish it. It’s amazing how by the end of the day so much changes. I don’t even feel like posting it because I think it’s stupid. Or maybe it was just meant for me to blog and keep as a draft. Just a mental process.

Tonight was my first time back at Joshua House in a realllllllly long time. Like, I don’t remember the last time I was there because so much happened leading up to Swaziland that I couldn’t ever make it. I was kind of lukewarm about going because sometimes I feel like it tends to be more of a show and that was the last thing I wanted after spending a week in a third-world country. I walked in a few minutes late… to them playing my favorite song right now! The lyrics at the top of my blog actually belong to the song– “Your Love Never Fails.” This was really cool because I’m pretty sure they’ve rarely, if ever, played that song before. It was like I was being welcomed back. I immediately just had to worship. God knows me so well. He knows me better than I’ll ever know myself.

But it gets even better! Not that the service was outstanding or anything, but it’s amazing how much better it is when you are intentional about being there. Being intentional about prayer and about taking notes and about the words that I’m singing just totally made the service. I guess I didn’t understand that I wasn’t being as intentional before. Or maybe I wasn’t able to feel this way until I came back from Swaziland and had experienced things to be intentional about.

Tonight I’ve been really anxious. There’s just a lot coming up in the…. well, I would say next few weeks but there’s just a lot coming up in my life! Haha. I’m really trying to give everything over to God. I was sitting here trying to wrap my head around it all and I just gave up. I turned on some worship music–which I haven’t done in a long time!– And have just been blogging out my thoughts and letting Him consume me. It’s so much better this way. I could literally drive myself crazy and the crazy thing is I don’t have to! I don’t ever have to worry about anything (not saying that I won’t!) but I don’t HAVE to because Jesus went before me. He went before me and He’s with me and He follows after me. Either way I look at it, I’m covered.

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What songs really speak to you? What can you just turn on and listen to and feel completely at peace?