Girl In the Yellow Shirt

She didn’t hold my hand for long, but she held it without hesitation. Her shoeless feet stood a few inches from the chain link fence surrounding the school we were working in that afternoon. She looked to be about 8 years old. Her yellow mustard colored shirt, what resembled a school uniform, pressed up against the fence as she took my hand and smiled. 

I don’t know her name and I probably never will, but I know she was made for a specific purpose. She was formed in her mother’s womb just as I was formed in my mother’s womb. She runs, imagines, and plays just as I did as a little girl. My purpose is no greater than hers, and to be honest, my pride was telling me otherwise before I took her hand yesterday afternoon. That somehow I might be used in mightier ways because I have shoes on my feet and a college degree. This little girl was made to be loved by her Father just like me. She is worthy of a life of learning, loving, hoping, and dreaming. 

Rewind to a couple hours beforehand, a few of our Freedom’s Promise team members took a Tuk Tuk ride to visit our construction team at a work site in the slums of Phenom Pehn. They call it “the tracks” which is an extremely impoverished area along an active railroad track in the middle of the city. The smell of fried rice searing in a large cast iron pan weaves itself into the air we breathe here in Cambodia. The people here carry everything (and I mean everything) on their small motorbikes. From live chickens to ornate rugs to crates of Coca Cola. The cars, motorbikes and Tuk Tuks here take part in a choreographed dance even the best of transportation experts would marvel at.

It took us about 30 minutes in traffic to arrive at the work site, with peanut butter sandwiches and helping hands for our construction team warriors. They were building desks and bookshelves for the school along the railroad tracks. Team members of Freedom’s Promise, Koy and Rin, started the school two years ago. The school is true divine intervention, a beaming light from heaven in the midst of extreme poverty. I saw the girl in the yellow shirt jumping side to side, in and out, of the greasy train tracks as we walked up to the school. A group of 20 children followed suit. 

That same day we went to dinner with a group of our Cambodian friends, and I had the privilege of meeting a little boy named Moses. Koy and Rin adopted him when he was 6 months old from the same railroad tracks. He is a walking miracle, close to death when Koy and Rin adopted him. He is now a tangible example of restoration. After dinner we had a worship service, and I witnessed him sitting in the midst of us all singing to our God and thanking Him for His goodness. I imagined Moses, just like the girl in the yellow shirt, playing on the railroad tracks. His life looks different now, but God’s love and purpose for him does not. 

Psalm 37 tells us, “The Lord knows the days of the blameless, and their heritage will remain forever; they are not put to shame in evil times; in the days of famine they have abundance.... for those blessed by the Lord shall inherit the land.” 

I read this promise from the Lord this morning on our van ride from Phenom Pehn to Poi Pet. Before and even during my time here in Cambodia, I’ve asked for healing and peace for the people we encounter. That they would see Jesus and experience Him in undeniable ways. But I’m slowly realizing I am the one in need of eyes to see abundance. I tend to see the lack in my life before I entertain the thought of abundance. I worry if I will have enough— enough money in my 401k, enough time to rest, enough endurance to stay in my current job, enough patience to wait.

I’m asking Him to show me the abundance in the midst of what looks like famine. To actually believe that He could be and is enough. In my own life, and in the life of those I’m meeting here. I want to see the abundance He already has for that little girl who held my hand and gave me the sweetest smile.

Brokenness is not the end of the story for us, and it is not the end of the story for the beautiful girl in the yellow shirt. I pray today she would encounter a moment of deep hope and joy. She certainly gave it to me.

There is hope here in Cambodia. It is alarmingly alive. And although darkness is also present here, and questions on justice in my own heart have flooded in, I have never been so sure of His love and power for the lost and lonely. He is the ground we’re walking on. He is here.

Eyes Up: My Future Trip to Cambodia

I don’t see the sun set often in Nashville, if ever.

My apartment is situated between the green rolling hills of this fine city. It sits at a low point which means as I look out my bedroom window right now, I mostly see the full tips of Magnolia trees reaching towards the what-is-assumed darkening sky of 7:30pm. I love this city, but lately I’ve been missing big, unobstructed skies and sunsets.

But to be honest, I didn’t miss open skies until I all-of-a-sudden realized I was no longer able to see them. Before then I loved looking at the large waxy Magnolia leaves out my window. Turns out I don’t miss most things in my life until my mind becomes aware I don’t have them.

You will keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on You, because he trusts in You. —Isaiah 26:3

What do you think about the most?

It takes a millisecond for me to know what I think about the most, and it so happens none of it actually exists.

I think about the house I don’t have, the husband I don’t have, the children I don’t have, the beauty I don’t have, the adventure I don’t have, even the love of my Father I don’t always believe I have. I look around and I see the gift of marriage and families in the lives being given to so many my age and wonder what I’m doing wrong. I wonder if God is not good. Too often I wonder if He really is withholding from me despite His character.

Author A. W. Tozer in his book Rules for Self Discovery says what we think about most often is of the utmost importance. It tells us who or what hold the affection of our hearts. It tells us who we are trying to become and who or what we believe will give us fulfillment.

I am so grateful for the gifts of grace and mercy because I am more broken than I even realize and more loved than I can understand. In the past 6 months I’ve felt this deeper than ever before. I’ve found myself living in the shadows of other stories that are not my own. My sin of discontentment and comparison have been kindly highlighted to me, and I find myself constantly dying to my own story for my life. Ah, the gift of humility!

I keep hearing my Father say, “Anna, look up. Look up.”

What happens when I look up? I stop remembering what I don’t have and instead become filled with peace and excitement for what is to come. The shadows begin to clear and I begin to dream. I believe this time of repentance for comparison has prepared me to take steps in my specific calling.

I heard about a trip to Cambodia through an organization called Freedom’s Promise (you can read more about it at my GoFundMe page) at a weekly Tuesday night dinner with my friend, Emily. Over the past 6 months or so, we’ve been having endless conversation about purpose in friendship and what it means to be on mission together. It’s been a new kind of conversation for me. It’s given me a glimpse of what God calls us to in relationship when two people are seeking Him first. Our friendship has been the big glass of cold water I didn’t realize I needed when I met her two years ago. What does it look like to join hands with the people around me and run towards my calling? What does it look like to be other’s biggest cheerleader?

As our weekly dinner began, Emily let me know the Lord had put it on her heart to ask if I would go to Cambodia. Without hesitation, I said yes. My Father was giving me a gift and all I had to do was say yes. When I called the organization, they told me they were in need of someone to help lead the children’s ministry portion of the trip. They had been praying for someone to fill this spot and believed I was an answer to this prayer. Since this point, my friend Emily pushed through fear and said “yes” to joining the trip. We will be leading the children’s ministry together.

Hand in hand, running towards Him.

On the more practical side, I needed between $1400 and $1500 to book my flight to Cambodia by the end of May. I received exactly $1500 by this point and as I sit here typing this letter, I sit in awe of His faithfulness to provide in the midst of my doubt! Now that my flight is covered, I need to raise an additional $2000 to cover hotel, food, and other travel expenses by the first week of August.

This certainly isn’t your typical fundraising post, but I also know I have been called to be honest in my story because it matters. More so because He matters. I wanted to provide insight into my personal collision with Jesus’ grace in hopes you would see all the ways the Lord is preparing me at this very moment. And that it might help you to think of the ways He is doing the same for you. I also hope you will read more about the mission of Freedom’s Promise and their incredible team both here in Nashville and in Cambodia!

Lastly, I ask if you will prayerfully consider supporting my trip to Cambodia and the greater movement of bringing heaven to earth through the prevention of sex trafficking. If you would like to offer financial support, you can visit my Facebook page for the link or click through to the donation page. I would also love prayer specifically in the months leading up to the trip for my eyes to be opened to God’s work in the people of Cambodia and for my heart to be softened towards the awful injustice of sex trafficking.

Thank you for taking the time to read this post! Let His kingdom come.

xo,

A

Jimmy & Chandler

I promise this blog won’t turn into a smathering of engagement and baby announcement photos, but two of my closest pals, Jimmy & Chandler, were in need of Christmas card pictures this year! They’re having their first little one in March before making the move to Dallas. They are cute and I am totally biased, but I’m also correct.

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New York City

A few days back I traveled to New York City with my college pal, Courtney. We stomped all over Manhattan (about 200,000 stomping steps to be exact). We saw Waitress on Broadway, the nation’s favorite T. Rex at the Museum of Natural History, and the hauntingly beautiful 9/11 memorial. We ate Shanghai street food and cornflake chocolate chip cookies from Milk. Everyday around 3pm, we would buy a singular taco from a recommended spot and rate it on varying scales of flavor, toppings, and texture. We (almost) mastered the public transit system. We visited Hillsong Church for explosive worship just before heading back home. I encountered God in ways I didn’t know I would while visiting America’s favorite city. The extravagant love He gives, even to the ones with dirt on their face, a cup of coins in their shaky and dry hands, was overwhelming at times! The privileged, proud parts of myself couldn’t believe He loves even them. But He does. There is no “me” and “them” in the kingdom of heaven. It moved me in all the ways I didn’t know I needed, and I loved every second.

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