Even then, He provides.

These past couple weeks have been a whirlwind full of the Lord’s grace, love, and confirmed provision. One small step in faith produced such a bigger harvest than even I could have imagined. But that’s God, He wants the best for His children, He wants us to step into our purpose and His design to pursue a life after Him. Through the questioning, the doubt, and the lack of understanding, I took the step to resign from teaching without a plan or next step, other than a heart and bold prayer to stay in Uganda.

And guess what? God provided. He opened doors to new possibilities so quickly that it left me in even more awe of His power and love for me. How can a mighty and all-knowing God love me so? It is a love I will never fully comprehend but will forever be grateful to experience.

Here I was in the middle of Eastern Africa, and three new possibilities with local schools presented themselves. One of which continued to be brought up among conversation with friends, acquaintances and even strangers. A local school was in desperate need of a fourth-grade teacher for the upcoming school year. The school was located in a neighboring District, out at a campus among the sugar cane fields. I kindly declined each time the position was brought up. Yet the narrative continued, people mentioned the campus being gorgeous, to just take a tour, to just go. 

But I had other plans. If I was going to move here to Uganda, I didn’t want to learn a new curriculum, not another new grade. In the past four years of lead teaching, I had made four grade level transitions, I wasn’t about to do it again. So, I poured out my heart to God, not again, not here. I can’t do it Lord. And He whispered, “do you not trust me? Go and I will lead.”

 Reluctantly, I went out to visit, with my expectations low, my head and heart already set of where I would end up. And it wasn’t this fourth-grade position. 

I am so grateful for a Father who knows what is best and gently pushes me towards His will, even when I’m not quite ready to listen. He doesn’t give up; He continues to pursue. He allows me to make up my own mind, only to shatter it into a million of the best new pieces. 

My heart melted the moment we drove up the Good Shepard’s Fold (GSF) gate.

Little boys and girls, all in matching uniforms running and playing in the grass, stopping only momentarily to wave at the new found guest before returning to games. Aunties on front porches sitting with toddlers as they ran up and grabbed my hands to ask who I was. And babies, oh the sweet babies, with their unsteady walk only just discovering the beautiful world around them. 

As I walked the red dirt road between buildings and listened to Lisa and David Fish explain, GSF’s mission, overall ministry, and further dive the teaching position, I could barely listen to the words they were saying. My heart was rejoicing. This was the more. Here in the middle of a sugar cane field, with kids running, the sun setting, and banana trees rustling in the breeze. 

I didn’t tell them then, but in those first few moments, I knew this was where I was meant to be and that God had a plan. As I walked away, we agreed to be in touch and over the next few weeks, through prayer, applications, and guidance, GSF became more and more like it would be an open door. 

These are the little moments that take your breath away.

Jumping into God’s will.

Sipi Falls, Uganda

A good friend recently commented on how a spark seems to be in my eyes again, and how from pictures it seems like the happiest they’ve seen me in years.

At first, I wanted to be defensive, almost taken aback by the idea that I haven’t seemed “happy” for years. I mean come on, of course I’ve been happy! Sure, I’ve had some trials and deep valleys over the years, but each time I slapped a smile on my face and carried on.

After prayer, reflection, and some processing, I came to the realization that my friend might in fact be right. Or more like…. she was right. Righter than I care to admit. 

Not necessarily in regard to evaluating my happiness over the years, but more so in the spark that she sees, and I so clearly feel deep in my bones. That spark; that unwavering faith, that peace, that deep connection that I can’t quite put to words is there in a way that it’s never been before. 

People have always explained and told stories about how life just becomes “more” when you’re standing perfectly in God’s will. Like it’s this big thing you just cannot describe. I always questioned the concept. It never quite made sense to me, how can life just suddenly become more? Then, during my devotional time and diving deep into why my friend’s comment cut me in the wrong way, it hit me: I understood what people meant. That spark, that feeling I can’t quite put to words, that’s the “more”. 

This right here, in the middle of Uganda, is the more. 

More peace, more faith, more strength, more closeness, more, more, more… How have I missed this all these years? The more is the spark that is recognized in the world as “happiness”. It’s what people see as an overflow of my life submitted to the One who made it. It’s the fruit of following Jesus first and surrendering my wants, my desires, my plans to Him completely and fully. 

The more, is less. 

To be honest, it’s unknown territory, that’s what it is.

You see, I’m an Enneagram 3 with a 4 wing. If you know anything about the Enneagram then you know I thrive on achievement, on appearance, on looking like I have my life put together into this teeny tiny box with a big bow on top. The 3 in me wants to portray a picture of success at all costs, because that’s what matters most. Or so, that’s what the enemy would like me to believe. In reality, that is just a ploy to cover my failures, cover my wounds, cover my shame in an effort to feel even the slightest bit deserving of love. 3’s believe that success earns love, while failure becomes unlovable. I’m not worthy of love unless I’m succeeding. So, I built my life on that false belief and created a false image, striving to earn love while at the core, I really just wanted to be fully known and loved for who I am. The real and true me.

Here’s where the problem lies… How can anyone fully love me for who I am, if even I don’t know? I realized during that devotional and quiet time with God that I’d gotten so accustomed to pretending to be “happy” over the years, that I almost convinced myself I was. I put on the mask, I glued on a smile, and I carried on with every weight of shame, failure, guilt, and regret neatly wrapped in that teeny tiny box. But the box was busting at the seams, so close to giving way and exploding all over my perfectly kept life with the ugly truth of who I was and who I am. 

But, God. (one of my favorite quotes) But, God. He intervened. He healed. He strengthened, and He reminded me that all those deep dark places have purpose. Those failures became success in other ways, through lessons learned and giving me the courage to walk in faith.

Those times of guilt gave way to grace, when I admitted them out loud to my Savior. That feeling of regret, and that shame, left from choices made in my past, those were covered in forgiveness and used in a redemption story for someone else. Each of those areas that I spent my whole life clinging to, my whole life trying to cover, my whole life trying to forget and run from, BUT GOD, already forgave. BUT GOD, He continues to love. 

There I was in the middle of the floor, pouring my heart out to the Lord crying for clarity, and it became so simple, so clear. That spark. That spark changes everything. 

You see, that spark, that peace, that marks my surrender. It marks my letting go of everything that I’ve spent my whole life protecting and building up. While I built that wall up brick by brick, Jesus was slowly tearing it down. Whispering “let go”, revealing to me that to live fully for Him, I first had to give it all up. Because that spark, that closeness I feel to Jesus – that is worth giving up everything for. 

So, after four weeks of living in Uganda, fully dependent on God for strength, encouragement, safety, and protection, the message continued to be the same. “Let go”. So, I did. 

I resigned from my teaching position at a school I love, with coworkers that feel like family. I resigned from teaching a cohort of kiddos that I’ve been looking forward to teaching for the past two years, counting down the days to be their teacher again. To be close to their families again. Instead, I let go.

Without a backup plan, without a next step, without a new job. 

I let go of my plan. I let go of my title. I let go of my identity in what I do. I gave it all up to pursue Jesus first. Luke 9:57-63 speaks about how nothing should come first before pursuing Christ. Not family, not a job, not a teaching license, not friends, nothing. 

It doesn’t make sense, and to many I’m sure it sounds crazy, but honestly, to me, there’s never been a stronger sense of peace. That spark fully ablaze to keep walking in step and in God’s will. Saying yes when He calls – no matter the extreme. 

I’m not sure what this next chapter of life will look like, but I know fully and completely that God will provide in a far bigger and better way than anything I could have hoped for. 

In chapter 11, Luke goes on to talk about praying boldly, with the right motives and the right heart. To ask boldly with the right purpose in mind. 

So I am. My bold prayer is that God opens an opportunity to stay in Uganda. To make a home here. To live fully and completely dependent on Him to serve the people of this beautiful nation. To keep that spark alive and that connection deep to the One who knows and loves me fully. 

The real and true me, even with every title, purpose, style, and status ripped away, fully bearing my every mistake, every failure, with all the shame and regret, out in the open, knowing fully that God still loves me. He still forgives me.

And at the end of the day, stripped of all other identities, I’m just Blake, a daughter of the one true King, and that is the best identity of them all. 

Then he said to the crowd, “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must give up your own way, take up your cross daily, and follow me.”

Luke 9:23

Brownies, Cookies, Fractions, oh my!

As educators, we strive to deliver content in the most engaging ways possible. Lessons that are fun but also have an element of real life that provide purpose to why the information is important.

In class, we’ve been studying fractions the past two weeks. From recognizing the value of fractions by shading pictures, to equivalent fractions, all the way to adding and subtracting fractions. Basically, factions galore!

Then we took that knowledge and put it to use in a “stove off” last week, (a bake off, sans stove). The kids chose groups and without much guidance, developed a recipe. They then set the amounts needed per ingredient (hello, fractions and measurement), and lastly each group officially named their new creations.

After lots of mixing, stirring, laughing, burning, and more laughing, each group had their final products to put on display for the class to taste.

These new creations varied from “MAD Brownie Balls”, to “Extreme Sugar Cookies”, to “A Banana Lava Cake”.

And although the mess was significant – picture batter on the walls, flour on the floors, and dirty bowls EVERYWHERE, it was one of the best days watching these kiddos navigate each surprise challenge that came about and as a team brainstorm new solutions to solve it.

At the end of the day, their new recipe creations were actually good. Like really good. And I was once again reminded of how precious these day to day moments truly are.

What does Uganda mean to you?

24 days.

That’s how long it’s been since I stepped off a plane and fell deeply in love and in step with all that Uganda has to offer. The beautiful, broken, inspiring, mixture of ebony faces, foreign language, new customs, and everything in between. 24 days, and yet it took less than 24 hours to feel like home. 

I can’t quite put to words what Uganda means to me, but here is my feeble attempt.

It’s a sense of peace so deep to the core, that my body has finally found it’s normal stature free of tense muscles and headaches. It’s an inner stillness that allows for a clear mind to be present in each moment, fully aware of the sounds, smells, and colors. It’s the sweet sound of unfamiliar words being spoken at a distance, with a coo of birds, a buzz of a boda, and a long bark from a dog. It’s the cool mornings drowned out by days so hot that my sweat traps the red dirt dust to my clothing, and smudges my face.

It’s walking down main street, or walking across the football field, or sitting in a crammed taxi being the only muzungu for miles, fully surrounded by beautiful ebony faces staring back at me, questioning. It’s the long nights of conversation by moonlight comparing our two drastically different worlds, yet sharing so many similarities. It’s learning new linguistic sounds and moving my mouth in new ways to produce new words according to the Native language.

It’s greeting every stranger in passing and being fully aware to greet others before paying or asking a question, even as it pains my timid spirit to do so. It’s being fully and completely out of my comfort zone in so many ways that it’s almost refreshing. That through discomfort, God is teaching me more about myself and how to love others than I thought possible.

It’s allowing the culture and the people around me to strip me of every bias and every predisposition, to be replaced with a yearning for love, and understanding. To be fully immersed in the rich culture all around me.

It’s a constant string of questions, some answered and some still waiting to be answered. It’s all these things and so much more. Uganda is home.

It’s the place that my heart has longed for, unknowingly for so long. That missing piece that never felt quite right everywhere else. I don’t know why and maybe I’m not supposed to, all I know is that it took less than 24 hours for me to fall in love and as the end draws near, and the reality sets in that I’m nearing my half way point, my heart mourns the idea of returning Stateside. I tear up just thinking about it. These red dirt roads and beautiful ebony faces have changed me, and I never want to lose sight of today, of these lessons, and this sense of peace.

Oh how I pray that God never lets me forget!

The Journey Begins

With every closed door, comes an opportunity for a new beginning. 

Fast forward to about a week ago; I was offered an incredible opportunity to spend the summer living in Jinja, Uganda teaching and serving in ministry!

Last minute drive to Greenville, SC for the Yellow Fever Vaccine! The US is in a shortage and it was the closest location to Asheville.
Last minute drive to Greenville, SC for the Yellow Fever Vaccine! The US is in a shortage and it was the closest location to Asheville.

This past year and a half were spent focused on pursuing faith, growing in my relationship with Christ, personal inner growth, and leaning into the other side of fear. From joining Burn Boot Camp, running a Spartan (and breaking my first bone), serving in Church ministry, volunteering with foster care, to facing my fear of heights through rock climbing, each experience has taught me to say “yes” when God calls. Even when the “how” is not yet answered, and the idea may paralyze me. 

Mission work and global outreach have always been a passion of mine, which was sparked in college while working with Hope for Honduran Children. To date, I’ve always had the call to serve in some compacity in long term mission. More specifically, in Africa. 
In twenty days, I will be boarding a flight to Jinja, Uganda, where I will be working Monday through Thursday teaching English and core content to a group of local missionary kiddos (ages 6-12), while also focusing on the love of God through weekly Bible studies. During my time off, I’ll be volunteering with one or two other local ministries. Ideally, the women’s prison ministry and children’s ministry.

 I am so excited about this opportunity to serve the people of Uganda and to be immersed in their culture for the summer… stay tuned as we take on this next chapter, together!

A 4am wake up call to the Passport Office in Atlanta, GA made for quite the adventure! Same day passport application / pickup, a lunch date with a handsome fella, and a random meaningful conversation with a man named Robert who asked for a coffee. #blessed
A 4am wake up call to the Passport Office in Atlanta, GA made for quite the adventure! Same day passport application / pickup, a lunch date with a handsome fella, and a random meaningful conversation with a man named Robert who asked for a coffee. #blessed

Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?” And I said, “Here am I. Send me!” — Isaiah 6:8