Monday, January 31, 2011

Uganda Update: Return Uganda

In case you missed it, our trip dates have changed and we are now going to Uganda March 11th-23rd.
We received a new itinerary for our Uganda trip and OH MY WORD. I can't believe how many different, amazing ministries we get to serve with while we are there.

I am really excited to share with you everything that we'll be doing, but I thought that instead of just listing our itinerary, I would give you a little peak inside each ministry that we'll be working with. Starting with:

Days 1-4: 
Ministry Spotlight: Return Uganda

After two and a half days of travel, we'll arrive in Entebbe, Uganda on Sunday, March 13th and take the day to settle in. We'll have some relaxing moments to exchange money, use the internet and get to know the rest of our team better before we start serving together.

On Monday, we'll spend the day with the children of Return Uganda Ministries (a part of Return Ministries International). This ministry was founded by Pastor Samuel Bubonero and his wife Sarah. To the best of my limited knowledge, I've gathered that they provide assistance for the orphan crisis by opening homes for a number of the orphans in the area along with providing education, food and Christian discipleship (which I believe they extend to some 300 orphans around the area too). They have sponsorship opportunities available as well. 

"We exist to raise the next generation of Ugandan leaders as we bring the fatherhood of God to the Fatherless, by pursuing excellence in academic and practical skills, integrity in conduct and moral values, so each child becomes a responsible Christian and a productive citizen of Uganda through fostering alliances and partnerships between Christian leaders in Africa and the rest of the world."  
- from the Return Uganda website

Another way Return Uganda helps these children is by teaching them trade skills. Apparently some of these kiddos are quite accomplished artisans and we'll have a chance to shop at their "boutique" for souvenirs. Return Uganda is also raising money to buy land and livestock for the childrens' homes in order to teach the children agricultural skills while providing a sustainable food source for the homes. They are also hoping to purchase motorcycles to bring in money through taxi services. The organization's goal is to eventually be a self-sustaining ministry. (To learn more about Return Uganda click here.)

Later that day, we'll drive to Canaan Children’s Home in Jinja, Uganda - our home for the rest of the week. While there, we will work with some incredible leadership that I will tell you more about in my next Uganda post. Until then - Siiba bulungi! ("Have a nice day" in Luganda)

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Goal #5 Complete - Yahweh Yoga

More progress on my Project 101 in 1001 list. Read about my journey here.   
Goal #5 COMPLETE: Take an exercise class 

Fact is - I'm rather skinny and always have been. In high school, I was most often refereed to by those who didn't know me as, "that tall, skinny, blond girl." In middle school, I was taunted with calls of "Hey Daddy Long Legs" by a mean girl in my gymnastics class. (It was traumatizing for a gangly eleven-year-old, but somehow I survived.) My in-laws asked Devin if I had an eating disorder when we first started dating (great first impression, eh? ;-) My whole Iife I've been thin and have had a fast metabolism. But before you go throwing stones of envy my way - let me finish. Due to the fact that I'm thin and can eat whatever I want, I have zero motivation for eating right and exercising. Not good. Regardless of my outward appearance of health, who knows what my lack of healthy discipline is doing to my insides? (hmmm... I think there is a spiritual metaphor somewhere in there.)

I put this goal on my list because I knew that while skinny, I was out of shape big time and needed to put a little (a lot) more effort into my physical well-being. So, I signed up for a Yahweh Yoga class at a local church and last night, I survived the first class. (And received confirmation that I am indeed in terrible shape.)  Fortunately, my embarrassment was shared as I was joined by my best friend and her sister (who is also my sister-in-law... I married my best friend's sister's husband's brother.)

Yoga buddies, Kristin and Megan on our first night of class
The idea of a Christian yoga class might seem strange to some, or flat out wrong to others. I can only speak from my own experience, but I've taken this class once before and was extremely pleased (and a little surprised) at how Christ-focused it really is. 

The instructors have done a great job of redeeming this very healthy form of exercise by striping away all of the self-actualization nonsense associated with yoga and turning the focus towards resting in God's presence and getting your body healthy. Worship music is played throughout the class and the instructors often suggest prayer topics or Bible verse to focus on during the workout. The yoga moves almost become a worshipful dance... a dance that just happens to involve one of the most difficult ab workouts of my life. Seriously - yoga is hard. Low impact and simple, yes. But hard physically. 

I came away from class last night feeling so refreshed, relaxed and peace-filled (all in a very God-centered kind of way.) I slept like a baby and woke up feeling rested (unusual for me). I'm so excited to be taking this class again and I'm glad that Megan and Kristin are joining me! Nothing keeps up your motivation to show up for a workout class like knowing you've got friends dragging themselves there too. Lazy Behinds Unite! 

“Beloved, I pray that you may prosper in every way and that your body may keep well, even as your soul keeps well and prospers.” - 3 John 1:2

"For everything God created is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving, because it is consecrated by the word of God and prayer." - 1 Timothy 4:4-5

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

When Things Don't Work Out Quite the Way You Planned

"Many are the plans in a man's heart, but it is the LORD's purpose that prevails." 
- Proverbs 19:21

Have I mentioned a time or two (plus twelve) that I don't do well with change? Especially unexpected change? Have I mentioned I'm a perfectionist? A planner and a doer and a Type-A(er)? Yep. Pretty sure I bring that up way too often.

Have I mentioned that I've been trying to learn to let my natural instincts of panic be replaced by a Proverbs 3:5-6 kind of trust? (Actually, I don't think I have mentioned that I've been working on that - so here's me mentioning it.)


We found out a few days ago that the dates for our Uganda trip had been changed (for a whole bunch of complicated reasons out of my control and understanding). My first thoughts were ones of panic and frustration. Followed by a whole list of things this would complicate - a week less to raise our support, having to back out on a special event/fundraiser, having to re-working our visit with our Compassion children, etc, etc, blah, blah, blah.

It didn't take me long (okay that's a lie - it took my about two days, which was way too long) to realize that, guess what? This trip wasn't about me. Which I knew of course, but this turn of events proved that while I knew it, I wasn't entirely focused on that fact. My attitude and reaction was totally off base. 

Seriously - get a grip and get over it.

Is this change of dates inconvenient? Sure. 
Am I sad that a number of our awesome team members aren't able to come anymore? Yes.
But do I still get to go to Uganda and love on some orphans? Why as a matter-of-fact I do.   
Does God still have just as big of a plan and purpose for this trip? Of course He does.

So, I'm moving on, trusting God and letting go. And it feels good.

The new dates for our Uganda trip are March 11th-23rd. Please keep us in your prayers (I'll be posting information about our itinerary as soon as I get the updated one.)

"He will have no fear of bad news; his heart is steadfast, trusting in the LORD."   - Psalm 112:7

Saturday, January 22, 2011

The Inconsistency of Feminism and Abortion

Today marks the 38th anniversary of the terrible Roe v Wade Supreme Court decision. Since that day, an estimated 50 million abortions have been committed in our country. Worldwide, the U.S. ranks third in the number of abortions performed annually with 1.3 million every year.

The "right" to abortion is billed by many as a form of woman's liberation, even a noble process of winning more freedom for women - much akin to woman's civil rights movements during the dawn of the 20th century.  

However, I find the feminist movement’s strong support of abortion to be such an ironic discrepancy of the claimed feminist values. Consider this: The early movements for woman’s rights fought against women being subjected by men; being treated as property; being treated as weaker and lesser humans

In a paradoxical twist of this movement, it is now a woman's right to treat her unborn child as lesser human. No, not even a human - as a parasitic mass in need of removal by a "simple medical procedure" compared by some to having your tonsils removed. How is this behavior not a far worse version of domination and oppression? The oppressed, now being liberated, have become the oppressors and tyrannize those far more fragile than themselves. 
“When we consider that women are treated as property, it is degrading to women that we should treat our children as property to be disposed of as we see fit."
- Elizabeth Cady Stanton, 1873
Please take a short fifteen minutes to watch these clips from a speech given by abortion survivor Gianna Jessen. I hope you'll be encouraged and challenged by this fireball of a young woman. 
“There are things that you will ONLY be able to learn from the weakest among us and when you snuff them out – you are the one that looses."
- Gianna Jessen, abortion survivor
Part One:

Part Two:

Friday, January 21, 2011

Uganda Update: "Meeting" Our Team

Last night we had our first Uganda team conference call and oh my word. I can not tell you how exciting it was - I got all sorts of tingly as we talked about our trip. God has brought together such an incredible team for us to serve with and I am amazed at how many links there are between all of our interests, talents and passions.

From what I could piece together from our far-too-short one hour conversation, our team consists of two photographers, a number of stay-at-home mommies, a couple gals who work with children's ministry/education, a couple artsy/craftsy types, three other married couples, couples who have adopted or have adoption in their future and one engineer (no doubt to keep all our artsy people grounded). Quite a few of us have been to Africa before and a number of us have a special soft spot in our heart for Uganda specially. Our team also had a few people who had their lives rocked by David Platt's Radical. We've got so much in common with these folks - God seems to have made our hearts beat for so many of the same things - and I can not wait to spend a week with them. (In just 55 days!)

And get this - one of the gals, Faith, has six kids. Four natural and two adopted domestically. Her first four were near-grown when she and her husband started over and adopted two more. Sounds a little like my family don't it?

I'm not gonna lie to you - most of our crew is from the south and Devin and I were a slight bit enchanted by all the sweet southern accents we heard. (Devin might just kill me for admitting that on his behalf - but hopefully he'll just settle for a good eye roll.) Y'all - they say "might should" which is possibly my favorite recently discovered Southern phrase (thanks Missy for introducing me to this dialectical gem.)

Seriously, this trip is going to be amazing. I can't wait to tell y'all more about it!

Financial Support Update - This week was our deadline to have enough funds raised to buy the plane tickets and the support came in just in time (as in, the final dollars came in only days ago). God is good - 49% raised!!

Monday, January 17, 2011

Goal #91: Ben & Maria's Wedding

More progress on my Project 101 in 1001 list. Read about my journey here. 

Goal #91: Shoot at least five weddings with Devin (4/5)

On December 12th, Devin and I had the privilege of photographing the wedding of his college roommate Ben, and Ben's lovely bride, Maria. The wedding was in beautiful Flagstaff, Arizona and the weather was incredible. The last winter wedding Devin shot in Flagstaff had him standing in snowdrifts up to his knees while flurries of snow whirled unrelenting around the poor, shivering bride. But December 12th dawned gorgeous and sunny with an uncharacteristic high of 74 degrees. 

Ben and Maria were such a laid-back couple who totally went with the flow all day and couldn't have been more relaxed. (Even when the groom's cake was all but destroyed because the cater didn't reinforce the three-tied confection with rods, Ben and Maria just shrugged it off.)

  © 2010 Devin Hanson Photography
When I first met Ben a few years back (when Devin was living in Flagstaff and we were still dating) he had shaggy hair died the most unnatural color orange you could imagine. I think he cleaned up rather nicely though, don't you?

 © 2010 Devin Hanson Photography

Maria was, of course, a beautiful bride. I love how classy and elegant she looks in these two shots:

  © 2010 Devin Hanson Photography

Maria's flowers were silk - can you believe how gorgeous they look? (And I imagine she saved herself a pretty penny too.)

  © 2010 Devin Hanson Photography 

Maria and Ben opted for a First Look and saw each other before the ceremony. This gave them a special, private moment together before all the hustle and bustle of the day took over and it also gave us plenty of time to capture lots of beautiful images of the two of them. 

  © 2010 Devin Hanson Photography

I love this picture I snagged of Ben trying to take a peak at Maria during the First Look.

  © 2010 Devin Hanson Photography 

Such a sweet and silly couple (please note the bunny ears Ben is giving Maria):

  © 2010 Devin Hanson Photography
 Some detail shots: 
  © 2010 Devin Hanson Photography
   © 2010 Devin Hanson Photography 

Don't let the size of the wedding party fool you, this group knew how to have some fun! 
 © 2010 Devin Hanson Photography
 Let's see that again:

  © 2010 Devin Hanson Photography
Ben and Maria - We are so happy for you two and we were blessed to be able to capture your big day. God bless your marriage as you serve Him together!

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

The Best Christmas EVER

You've no doubt heard it said "'tis better to give than to receive." This has been true in my experience and this past Christmas, I discovered a form of gift-giving that brought even more meaning to that sage advice. I discovered 'tis better to give and receive in a way that blesses the giver, the gifted and someone in need. I'm not kidding folks - I have never experienced so much joy through giving and receiving gifts as I did this Christmas.

If you read this post, then you know that Devin and I made a point this Christmas to purchase unique gifts for our friends and family that would also help someone in need. We also requested that our families give us gifts that did the same. The ones who did blessed the socks off of us (not to mention blessed someone less fortunate in the process)!

My sister-in-law, Shannon gave me a beautiful jewelry set (pictured right) from World Craft Village which helped an artisan living in India support their family.

My parents gave me some adorable Punjammies pajama bottoms which helped women in India escape forced prostitution.

My favorite gift was that my dad gave gifts to World Concern on behalf of everyone in our family. My three youngest siblings received 20 chickens for a family in need, my brother and his girlfriend got 12 ducks, Mom (a "farm girl" and avid gardener) got a vegetable garden, and Devin and I got a piglet - all gifts that help families living in poverty-stricken countries feed and support their families. (Read about the Christmas project Devin and I did for World Concern here.) 

20 chickens, 12 ducks, a veggie garden and a pig!

On the giving end of things, I had so much fun finding gifts that would help those in need and uniquely bless those who received the gifts. Over 50% of Devin and my gifts fell into this "double-gifting" category and we were honored to purchased items that benefited ex-prostitutes, kids in foster care, Iraqi children in need of life-saving heart operations, along with a number of poor artisans from around the world. This is absolutely something we will keep doing in the future - it brought joy in so many ways and opened up some really neat conversations with those we love. 
"Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you." - Luke 6:38

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Goal #8 COMPLETE: World's Best Cup of Coffee

Another goal checked off my Project 101 in 1001 list. Read about my journey here.  

Goal #8 COMPLETE: Learn how to use the espresso machine

I married a true baristia if there ever was one. Devin loves coffee - the taste, the smell, the awakening effect. He loves making drinks at our home for visiting friends as well as the social ambiance of coffee houses. He's worked in the coffee industry for over five years and that man can make some delicious coffee drinks! Which is a talent that I may have taken slight advantage of over the past fifteen months of our marriage. Because honestly - when my choices are 1) Get up early and brew a pot of coffee and add cream and sugar or 2) Have your wonderfully talented hubby home-make your most favorite coffee drink in the whole entire wide world (toffee nut latte with whip) - well, I think it is pretty clear which one I would prefer. 

As much as I love this selfless act of service from my husband, I knew that sometimes I abused the privilege due to my deranged need for delicious coffee drinks. So, I figured it was high time I learned to use our espresso machine and make my own stinkin' coffee drinks every once in a blue moon for cryin' out loud - gosh!

So, one beautifully lazy Saturday morning, Devin ran me through his "Unofficial Official Batista Certification Program" (complete with a demanding verbal exam) and taught me all I needed to know to successfully make a espresso drink. Or at the very least, all I needed to know in order to not destroy our machine. In my husband's words, "It's not so much that I'm concerned about you burning yourself, or making a mess or a bad drink - I just don't want you to ruin the machine." Hahaha - nice. 

I passed will flying colors and in case you are wondering - I did not ruin the machine, burn myself or make a bad drink. I did however end up covered in a spattering of steamed milk when I used the steam wand wrong. It was comical.

So here it is folks: my very first coffee drink created on our espresso machine. A double-shot vanilla latte and the completion of Goal #8.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Looking for Passion

Have you ever felt passionateless? It's not a word, I know, but if you've ever felt the feeling of passionateless then you know how real it is - despite the fact that it won't show up in a dictionary. It's the feeling of lethargy, frustration and all-around blah. The desire to move and do something worthwhile but being weighed down by the realization that there does not exist within you but a glimmer of fire for any one particular idea or cause to get wholeheartedly involved in.

I'm not going to get all boo-hooy (also not a word) on you, but I will say that for a long while I've been without something to be truly passionate about and involved in. I'm still searching and honestly, I'm still a bit disheartened, but some things happened the other day that gave me real hope. 

For starters, I read this post over at Missy's which completely spoke to my heart's lack of passionate feelings. I was really challenged by her statement that if I don't know what my passion is or what to do about it - I should start by vigorously searching the Bible and praying for God to show me His heart on certain matters - thus paving the way for my heart to be drawn to something worth investing my time and life into. More importantly, before I get caught up searching for a cause to be passionate about, I'd better start by first searching for and building a deep passion for God.

So, let's back up a few days: This past week I was feeling really unsettled at how long (looooong) it has been since I have read my Bible. Convicted, I got up early a couple of days to read, but as usual, was really struggling as to what to read. I also considered the fact that I've been a Christian with the gift of literacy for a good long while now and I have never once read the Bible all the way through. Shoot - I am fairly certain that there are large portions of the Bible that I have never read.

Fast-forward to Sunday morning. Our pastor, to celebrate the beginning of a new year, handed out a Bible reading schedule that would walk us through different portions of scripture every day for 52 weeks - taking us through the entire Bible by the end. How perfectly timed was that? Which, speaking of perfect, reminds me that this chart is covered with glorious little check boxes to mark what you've read each day- which I, being the list maker that I am, absolutely adore. 

(aren't those little boxes and neat little columns just so beautiful?)

So, Sunday had me all fired up and ready to get serious about seeking God with passion and then Monday came. And Monday was r.o.t.t.e.n. I woke up late and tired, I didn't read my Bible and rushed to work. Work was stressful and incredible gloomy due to the recent death of one of our former co-workers. The whole office is in a bit of a depression and it made for a really sad place to be for eight hours.

I left work that day more desperate to get away with God than I have been in a very long time. I needed to refocus, I needed to read God's words and I needed time in prayer. I remember thinking, "Shoot, I should really start memorizing scripture for days like today when I can't just get up from my desk and go read my Bible."

Low and behold, I get home and what do I see sitting on our coffee table but a little package addressed to me. And because I'm full of all kinds of fleshly nature, I sat down to open the parcel before I opened my Bible. It turned out to be an incredible blessing though that made me smile again at God's incredible timing.

My cousin Marla had sent me this scripture memory note pad:

How cool is that?

I was so encouraged by how all these events had come together and that God had provided me with two tools to aid me in my quest to seek Him more. What awesome, perfect, God timing!

After an excellent time that evening with a cup of tea, a quite back porch and God's Word, I wrote down my first memory verse into the memory booklet Marla had sent me. I chose my favorite verse, 1 John 3:16-18 (which I technically have memorized already, but I love this verse so much and I thought it an appropriate way to start the booklet).

I am ready to make God my passion and to learn from His heart what my heart should be invested in. I am so excited to see what He might show me!