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So that whole Uganda thing I mentioned in my last post? It’s really happening! I haven’t been talking about it a ton and not many people know because quite honestly, for months it hasn’t felt real. Yes, it seemed far off but I’m sure that has had something to do with Kyle simultaneously going to Officer Training School with the Air Force. However, as I write this, it is real. I just returned from a team meeting and there’s no denying this southern gal is hopping on a plane headed far, far away in five short weeks. Tickets have been purchased, almost half my funds have been raised, and I received my vaccinations today. Updated passport is still en route but I’m confident it will be here before we leave on April 2.
How did this trip come to fruition? Earlier last year I had an opportunity to participate in a leadership forum for women at my church designed to help us discover God’s vision for our lives. Sounds intimidating, right? Well, it did to me when I embarked on the journey and I never would have guessed that God would use that time in my life to teach me that my sweet spot is in relational roles with women.
And I especially wouldn’t have guessed that just over a year later our group would be stepping off of a plane onto African soil to minister to women at Watoto. Watoto is an organization that’s been close to my heart and that Hope has been partnering with for years. Their mission is to restore vulnerable women and children throughout Uganda.
Because over 50% of the Ugandan population is <15 years old there is a tremendous need for adults to step in and prevent the cycle of violence and HIV from destroying the next generation. This is where Watoto “mums” come in. These mums are comprised of more than 300 women who have each dedicated their lives to raising a group of eight children – most of which (if any) are not their own. It is a 24 hour-a-day job that takes a lot of work with very little thanks or recognition. Learn more about the Watoto village model here.
I love this video! It was filmed about a year ago when a group from Hope went to Uganda after we raised $70,000 to build a worship center – shows some of the mums rejoicing (love their excitement and just cannot wait to meet these women!) and gives you a better idea for where we’ll be going and the people we’ll be interacting with.
Our team will be visiting three Ugandan villages: Bbira, Laminadara and Suubi. We’ve been told that these mums greatest need is to know they are not alone – that we are just as lost and broken without Jesus as they are. We plan to do two seminars and pampering sessions (manis & pedis) at each village (six total). During the seminars, we’ll have a teaching session on Luke 8 followed by three of us sharing our testimonies to encourage the mums that their life story has value and can help others. We’ll then break into 11 small groups for deeper discussion and opportunities for the women to take next steps on sharing their story.
There are two ways I’m inviting people to share in my journey:
I firmly believe in the power of prayer. We cannot do this on our own and need your prayers! Please pray over our plans, that they are guided by the Holy Spirit and lives are changed; pray as I share my story for the first time within a large group and for the other women speaking/leading; that God prepares our hearts and the hearts of the mums; for our health and safety.
The total cost of my trip is $2600. Thanks to incredible support from both my family and Kyle’s family I’ve raised $1200 so far. If you feel led to support me financially in any way, you can easily give online before Friday, March 29.
I’m so thankful that our team is all on the same page. None of us think that we’ll swoop in and save anyone. We’re aware we have just as much (and more) to learn from these women as they have to learn from us. This trip is simply God allowing the children in his family to know one another and love each other better and I am so grateful to be a part of it!
Have you ever had one of those weeks when you look back and think, “this one was a game-changer”? That’s how I felt as soon as my eyes peeped open this morning. TONS of thoughts swimming around. And I immediately wanted to run to my computer and start writing (this rarely happens). I slipped out of bed and Kyle asked where I was headed. So I started talking a million miles a minute. The first thing that spilled out was out how I wanted to change my blog, starting with putting up a different bio and picture that’s more legit (because let’s face it, I just do not look like that 95% of the time). Since I blog SO much obviously this is an important task.
Poor guy, ha. Somehow he convinced me to abandon my new-found productiveness (not sure that’s a word) because the next thing I knew two hours had passed and we were still lazily cozied up in bed. No regrets here, though. With lots of changes on the horizon there will be many mornings where I won’t have the luxury of wasting away Saturday mornings with my hubby.
Back to this week being a game-changer. I wanted to take a few minutes to be grateful and remember the ways God moved …
- Receiving scary news about our future and having some of our best friends present to encourage and support us through it. This deserves a post of its own so that’s what it will get. But y’all … I’ve never seen God answer prayer and move so powerfully/quickly in my entire life. Truly amazing!
- For the past few weeks I’ve been overwhelmed by the need for another small group leader since the college group I lead is quickly growing. Last weekend I received 3 new requests from girls wanting to join our group so I was like, “okay Lord … this needs to happen quickly!” Monday morning, without any prompting on my end other than prayer, I received an email from someone I briefly mentioned leading to a few weeks ago saying she is definitely interested. We met for coffee on Wednesday and she is in! And literally the perfect fit. Love the fact that she decided this is where God wants her on her own rather than me initiating things.
- On Sunday night at church a friend introduced me to a freshman in college who was interested in getting plugged into a small group. I invited her to my group Monday night, she came, and come to find out she is new to this whole faith in Jesus thing. We ended up meeting on Friday for coffee and it was the best conversation I’ve had in I don’t know how long. SUCH a blessing to sit down with someone so curious about Jesus.
- I’ve been getting up early the past four weeks to exercise with two of my best friends (I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: I am the LEAST habitual person I know … it’s only by the grace of God and my friends’/husband’s support that I’ve been able to do this). Anyways, this was the only week that I came home and was intentional about spending time with the Lord. It wasn’t even that I forced myself … was simply desiring this, which was a huge blessing (and please don’t think this is a common occurrence for me – most mornings/days this is NOT the case). This in itself is God moving, but it goes deeper.
My small group is using Hope’s message-based study and I was reading in Galatians about doing good to all people, especially those within the body of Christ. One of the questions says, “What does it mean to do good?” Understanding our brokenness and need for a Savior is HUGE and something I’ve really only grasped over the past year or so. Most, if not all, of my girls have a relationship with Jesus but the idea of being a “good Christian” is deeply ingrained in their vocabulary (it was in mine, too). I decided to use this as an opportunity to push back against that mindset and talk about how none of us are good. We are all broken and sinners.
Eventually (thank you, Lord, for Google!!) I ended up in Romans 7. Paul clearly states that he’s aware no good resides within us and he’s battling between his desire to honor God and his inclination towards his sinful nature. I love when he keeps going back and forth and you can literally feel his anguish over his sin then all of the sudden he cries out, “Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death?” (v. 24). Here’s the best part … after Paul cries out for help he immediately proclaims his restoration by saying, “Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord!” (v. 25).
So how is this relevant? Because through his sovereignty, God led me to this scripture yesterday morning to prepare me for the conversation I would have later that afternoon with one of my college girls. One of the questions she had was, “If because of Christ’s death we are forgiven from past, present and future sins then what would keep a Christian from having the attitude of, “I’m already forgiven so I’m just gonna go live it up”? Helllloo Romans 7:14-25! Paul’s attitude in this passage couldn’t be more opposite from not caring about his sinful nature. On the contrary, he was literally tormented by his inability to keep from sinning. If you’re a believer and have a solid grasp of your need for Jesus and his love for you, it would be very difficult to live day in and day out with apathy towards your sin.
And just to be clear, this is a HEART issue. On the outside it may appear that someone professing to be a believer doesn’t care about their sin because they continually commit the same ones, but you never know what’s going on in that person’s heart (hello to my college years!). If this is happening it’s biblical and important to lovingly/gently approach them about their sin (Eph 4:15) but please do not judge someone on where they stand with Jesus (Matt 7:1-2).
Wasn’t envisioning getting into all of this so I’m going to go ahead and cut this post short. What’s pretty cool is this doesn’t even scratch the surface of God moving this past week. Did I mention I’m going to Africa in April!? Oh, and my husband has a pilot slot with the Air Force Reserve, which means we’re moving to Mississippi this summer for a little over a year while he’s in flight school. As I said … lots of changes! Looking forward to writing more.
One year ago from today
sun beamed into my room as I woke up in my childhood bed,
went downstairs to grab a glass of water
and found my precious Dad practicing his speech
(for what was probably the 100th time).
He held me close and said,
“Today is the day, Mallie.”
I tiptoed back upstairs,
cozied up in my bed
and spent some time with the One who made it all possible.
You anoint my head with oil;
my cup overflows.
(via Psalm 23:5)
I will bless the Lord at all times;
his praise shall continually be in my mouth.
I sought the Lord, and he answered me
and delivered me from all my fears.
Those who look to him are radiant,
and their faces shall never be ashamed.
Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good!
Blessed is the man who takes refuge in him!
(via Psalm 34)
Mom crept into my room and we spent a few sweet moments praying together.
Family friends brought over breakfast.
The videographer was there.
Manuel & Maria were there to make me feel more beautiful than I ever had.
Amie was awake and helping me prep.
My best friends, my sisters, began arriving.
Mimosas were poured. Laughter was flowing.
And I was freezing!
I could not get warm so I naturally
put on fleece Curious George pajama pants underneath my satin bridal robe.
My phone chimed with a message from my love.
Happy wedding day …
I love you …
you will be the best wife in the world …
I’m so lucky.
Still makes my heart melt!
The next thing I knew we were at the church
and I was slipping into my wedding gown.
This is all happening so fast, I thought.
Dad and I were able to sneak away for a few minutes so I could give him his gift.
A hankie that read
You will always be the first man I ever loved.
You are my hero.
Meanwhile Amie took Kyle’s letter and engraved cufflinks down to him.
When she returned she brought a beautiful sapphire necklace and two letters from Kyle.
One for me, one for my parents.
We both read them aloud.
I have never been more humbled than hearing the words my future husband
spoke to my parents before they gave me away.
Really, Lord? Me? You’re blessing ME with this man?
What have I done to ever deserve this?
Then his grace and love hit me harder than ever before.
Nothing. You’ve done nothing.
Before I knew it Dad and I were alone in the stairwell while my precious friends paved the way for me.
He took this time to pray with me.
I honestly can’t remember the words he spoke
but I will always remember how purposeful he was
about ensuring he prayed with his little girl before walking her down the isle.
Then we’re in front of the closed doors to the sanctuary.
I had a million butterflies in my stomach.
This was it! The moment I’ve waited my entire life for.
The doors opened and I walked down the isle as sweet Hannah played Jonathan Cain’s Bridal March.
I didn’t look anywhere except at my future hubby.
He appeared ready – I was, too!
Dad lifted my veil, kissed my cheek and handed me to Kyle.
Donnie, our pastor, spoke beautifully about what we were getting ourselves into.
He also gave us some reprieve from our tears by making us laugh (a lot!).
One of my best friends and mentors read from Ephesians 5:20-33.
We recited our written vows,
and as my friend Ashley sang “When I say I Do”
we took communion together and prayed together.
Our ceremony was the most perfect 30 minutes of my life.
And you can guarantee the reception was more fun than I’d ever had in my life!
Our closet family and friends, all together in one room.
Hearing my sister, Kyle’s best friend, and finally my Dad’s toasts,
having the opportunity to thank our parents and everyone else for their support …
The feeling was intoxicating.
Kyle and I danced to Bright Eyes’s First Day of My Life
and each word echoed truth for us.
Yours is the first face that I saw
I think I was blind before I met you
Now I don’t know where I am
I don’t know where I’ve been
But I know where I want to go …
I realize that I need you
And I wondered if I could come home
And I thought it was strange you said everything changed
You felt as if you’d just woke up
And you said “this is the first day of my life
I’m glad I didn’t die before I met you
But now I don’t care I could go anywhere with you
probably be happy”
All pictures except the first two are from Matt McGraw Photography.
Tomorrow marks one year from
the best day of my life.
The day I would marry my best friend,
my soul mate,
the one God always knew I would end up with.
The one my best friends and I would dream up in our heads from the time we were little.
Laying in bed at night whispering,
“Do you think I know him?”
“What do you think he looks like?”
“Has he been thinking about me, too?”
“What if this is the one?”
We would sometimes ask each other with new boyfriends.
I always immediately shot down that possibility.
My senior year of college
six months shy of dating
in the midst of a conversation with sweet Leigh I whispered,
“I think I’m in love.”
Which led to jumping up and down screaming,
“I LOVE KYLE RUSSELL!!!!”
At that point I knew
this was a done deal.
Shortly after this,
in the midst of our first quasi-argument
Kyle uttered those precious words to me.
“Well why would you even care?” I asked.
“Because I love you,” he answered.
Words that had only been thrown around in grade school before
carried more weight than gold now.
Saturday was Day One of The Sacred Adventure of 7 (TSA7). I don’t journal on a regular basis but we’re encouraged to during the next seven months so I’ve been keeping up with it pretty well (keep in mind this is coming from someone who cannot form a habit to save her life so 3 out of 4 days is to be commended). Part of me is hesitant to blog about this because yes, fasting is supposed to be something intimate between you and the Lord. BUT the other part of me wants to share my story in an effort to encourage others thinking about going through this adventure.
So a common question has of course been, “what are your seven articles of clothing?” Well … let me just say there are a couple of caveats thanks to my wonderful Council (aka the women I’m going through TSA7 with). First, in order to encourage us to exercise we get a workout outfit and a pair of tennis shoes as freebies. Then for each day we work outside of the house we are allowed one extra item.
I’m not gonna lie, initially I was pretty smug about the whole thing and thought, “I’m not going to even need to take advantage of the extra items because if Jen could get by with only 7 then I certainly can, too.” Umm … not so much. I definitely wasn’t taking things like the fact that shoes counted as items into consideration. Before I knew it I had spent a few hours debating on whether I should choose my teal or orange sandals (and didn’t end up with either once I realized I needed a bathing suit for the boat on Saturday and that had to count). So without further ado, here is what I’m wearing for 21 days straight:
1. Women’s Summit blue t-shirt
2. Brown cotton dress
3. Casual jeans
4. Gray t-shirt
5. Coral cardigan
6. Bathing suit
Extras for days I work out of the house
1. Green dress (for wedding + two bday dinners)
2. Black cotton maxi dress
3. Coral cotton shirt
4. Black cotton capris
5. Brown wedges
1. Workout outfit (black capris + blue tank)
2. Tennis shoes
None except for my wedding band
And to put things into perspective, here are a couple of closet pics.
I’m hesitant to say this since it’s only been four days but this has been incredibly freeing so far. I love waking up in the morning without the panicked feeling of wondering what I’m going to wear. It also feels amazing to finally be caught up on laundry. And I was talking to my girlfriends earlier and realized that for the first time in MONTHS I’ve found pure joy in reading my Bible. I’ve been involved in/leading Bible studies for the past four years and unfortunately prepping for small group has almost become more of a chore and just one more obligation to check off my list. Obviously that’s not what God intends His Word to be and it’s been so refreshing to study the Bible in a way that provides sustenance and makes me anticipate the next time I can sneak away to read more.
I’ve been pouring through Isaiah 58, which talks about legalistic, self-righteous fasting versus the way God intended. I can identify so much more with the former in the sense that fasting immediately conjures up thoughts of “going without.” But God doesn’t want us to focus on that when we fast. He says the real transformation will take place when we focus on building into the lives of those less fortunate. He says “radical” things like share your food with the hungry, give clothes to those who need them, help those in trouble. So yes, Kyle and I are going without over the next seven months in an effort to simplify our lives and refocus on the basis of our existence. But if we don’t also begin to pour ourselves out into the lives of those less fortunate and meet these REAL needs that exist all around us then it is meaningless. This is when real change will begin to take place and this is what I’m craving (but also very unsure of what it will look like and how it will pan out).
Meet my aunt, Leslie. She is literally the funniest, most down-to-earth person I know. She is, and always has been, one of my best friends. She’s been my spiritual mentor my entire life and loves Jesus with all her heart. She is 48, lives on the coast of North Carolina in Wilmington, teaches high school english, has never been married, and never had kiddos (though she loves them and claims my sis and me as her own!).
Les isn’t the most graceful and will be the first to tell you she doesn’t love spending her time making gourmet meals. And her lack of these qualities is one of the most endearing things about her. She’d rather be building into her relationships, having fun outside, or playing any game imaginable. Les could live on the water forever and she does a mean cannonball off the back of the boat!
Oh, and as gorgeous as she is on the outside she is even a million times more radiant on the inside (doesn’t seem possible but I promise this is the truth!).
And as far as “why is she still single?!” (she gets this question often … which I’m sure is a lovely question for a single person to be asked!). She’d say because God hasn’t brought the right man into her life yet. Marriage is certainly something she desires and hopes to have one day! Leslie would be an incredible wife … she would make a man laugh until he cried every single day and has such a servant’s heart.
Here is a post I wrote about Leslie for her birthday a couple of weeks ago – definitely sheds more light on her. Oh … and Les has no idea I’m linking up with Kelly’s Korner for Show Us Your Singles but she’s pretty laid back so I don’t think she’ll mind!
It’s your 36th birthday. Congratulations! You made it and did not drown yesterday.
In all seriousness … it’s my aunt’s birthday today. She is turning 48. And she legit looks like she’s in her mid-30s. And yes, she for real did almost drown yesterday in 4 feet of water on the boat with my family because she randomly decided to jump off the bow. And yes, her nickname is Stupit. Because she made prank phone calls with my mom when they were little to an old lady who called her “stuuuu-pit.” I know this sounds mean but I promise it’s just real, honest-to-goodness, small-town FUNNY.
And she goes by Maudie Finch on Facebook. And she’s single (no kids, never been hitched). Last weekend when she was in town for a conference at Hope she said she’d move to Raleigh if I can find her a man. She’s mildly obsessed with the beach and living in Wilmington so this is HUGE, people. I’m praying for a Raleigh man who loves Jesus and hilarity to swoop her off of her feet because there’s nothing in the world I’d love more than to have my precious/fun/crazy auntie les live two minutes from me instead of two hours. Heck, I’d even take 2o minutes!
Wanna know more about Les?
You constantly inspire me to live life more simply and authentically …
and focus on truth.
You’ve been my spiritual mentor since before I can remember. Christ has been and always will be your #1 priority.
You gave me the most precious gift I received throughout our engagement/wedding. I’ll never forget sitting in your car shortly after Kyle and I got engaged.
You said …
“I know I’m not the best party planner and don’t know a ton about weddings but I want you to know this is important to me and I care deeply about supporting you and Kyle right now. So while I can’t plan a great shower for you or buy you and Kyle boatloads – please know I am committed to praying for you.”
In addition to some very special gifts you also gave us a book of prayers that you wrote out for us throughout our engagement as our wedding present.
I firmly believe we’ve had such a sweet first year of marriage in huge part because of your prayers.
This meant more than anything in the world you could have EVER given us!
SO … Happy birthday, Easter Bunny!!
I love you!!!!
(YES … we are weird … and I am wayyyyy more weird because of you!).
We had a half day today and I didn’t even want to leave work because I knew what lied ahead – the dreaded cleaning weekend. We’re having company next weekend, our laundry is backed up by about 15 loads, and I would do quite a few things before allowing a guest into one of our upstairs bathrooms.
This sums up my life, especially in terms of the the cleaning aspect. Every three weeks or so I’ll spend hours and hours cleaning our place only to have it all reversed in two days (max). Unfortunately for me (and Kyle Man) this has been the story of my life since I was a little girl.
Try on outfit.
Decide it’s not “the one.”
Throw on floor.
Repeat entire cycle 27 times.
Run out the door.
So what can I do to reverse this cycle? The only thing that might work is following a cleaning schedule. But oh my gosh. Just typing those two words together makes me cringe. I’m not particularly fond of schedules in the first place and to see it right there next to that other not fun word (cleaning – ewww, make it stop!) is enough to give me heart palpitations.
For real, y’all … I need major help in this department! Do you use a cleaning schedule? If not, how do you keep your house in order?
Obviously I realize it’s not realistic for our place to be spotless on a regular basis, nor is this what I’m desiring. I simply want to find and implement something that allows us to live our lives and not have this extra stress factor from the disorder in our home. Any tips are welcome!
And yes … I realize having only 14 items of clothing circulating through our house in September will be helpful. But it’s not September yet. And my kitchen floor is scary. Gross!
The day I am unaware of my privileges and unmoved by my greed is the day something has to change.
Beginning in September I’m embarking on a seven month adventure. The Sacred Adventure, to be exact. What does this mean?
According to my handy-dandy chart from Jenni (one of the incredible women behind this madness), sacred means dedicated or set apart for the service or worship of a deity (aka: God!). And adventure means an undertaking, usually involving danger and unknowns risks.
For the past couple of weeks I’ve been a reading a book that’s the basis of this adventure – 7: An experimental Mutiny Against Excess by Jen Hatmaker. I’d never heard of Jen but I fell in love with her writing. FULL of wit, passion, hilarity, vulnerability, and raw honesty.
But 7 was so much more than that for me. I didn’t just find a new author I enjoy reading. My world was rocked, people. I found myself face-to-face with some harsh realities. I realized my cushy life and constant desire for more is robbing me of serving my Creator. I fell deeper in love with Jesus, and my world has been somewhat turned upside down.
So, for the next seven months Kyle and I are diving in to this Sacred Adventure. This means we’ll be fasting from:
Clothes in September.
Food in October.
Media in November.
Possessions in December.
Spending in January.
Recycling in February.
Stress in March.
Sound crazy? It does to us, too!
Now is probably a good time to point out that I am one of the least disciplined people in the world. Diets? Never last more than a day or two. Gym? Two days on, three weeks off. Any habit in the world I try to create? Unfortunately it’s not gonna last more than an hour.
So how in the world am I going to get through this? Accountability (lots of it!). Encouragement (absolutely necessary). But most importantly? GRACE. I’ll need this from everyone. The women I’ll be meeting with each month, Kyle (who is doing this alongside of me), and the readers of this blog.
Tonight we have our first “real” meeting for The Sacred Adventure (TSA7) and I have been (strangely) looking forward to this all week. My schedule is pretty full so as terrible as it sounds, the opposite typically happens each evening before whatever obligation/activity I have planned. But not tonight. I have a few butterflies and an odd excitement coursing through. I only knew a couple of women out of 20+ at the initial meeting. And I’m pretty sure none of them decided to do TSA7. So I’m anxious to meet these women. Anxious to share some of my ah-ha moments. Anxious to bear it all with strangers.
ps – I realize y’all still probably have no clue what I’m even talking about, ha. But I really do want to blog through this adventure so you’ll get the hang of it. The first month I can only wear 7 articles of clothing. Does that help at all? No? Ok, just read about 7 via Jen’s website!
Happy 32nd wedding anniversary to my precious parents!
While today is technically their anniversary, they celebrated this past Sunday through Tuesday by going to a little B&B in Beaufort, SC. We stayed with them last weekend and couldn’t stop laughing at my Dad on Sunday morning before they left. Mom planned the trip and Dad just could not wrap his mind around why she chose the location.
Dad and I are a lot alike … we love being around people. We’re inquisitive, constantly on the go, and have never met a stranger. My favorite quality I inherited from my sweet Dad? We always look for the silver lining.
Yesterday Dad sent the following email to Kyle and me and encouraged us with these words about my momma …
Hello Mallie & Kyle,
When we last talked I said that your Mom (Freddi) and I were going to Beaufort, SC but for the life of me I didn’t know why, but rest assured I was going to look for the “Silver Lining.” Well, guess what, I found it! It’s a strange thing about those silver linings—sometimes you never realize how close you are to them. That’s right—the silver lining in Beaufort, SC was right beside me all the time. It’s your Mom (Freddi)! We had a wonderful time exploring all the sites and hidden treasures of Beaufort, but more importantly, WE DID IT TOGETHER. Everything was new and alive because I was with the lady of my dreams who makes me feel new and alive. Isn’t God good and ain’t life grand? You bet it is! He supplies our every need exactly when we need it in just the right the portion.
So whatever your heart desires, seek Him first and you, too, will find your silver lining in all your endeavors.
I love you both…..Dad
Definitely teared up when reading this – isn’t it precious? Such a beautiful picture of what we long to have 32 years from now. We’re grateful they’ve shown us what it looks like to love each other unconditionally and fight for your marriage!