Lessons from a brook

I went on a solo retreat about a month ago. I went to quiet my thoughts, stop white-knuckling my plans, and lay it all before the Lord. I wrestled. I put things down to pick them right back up, and then put them down again. But God is good, loving, and patient.

The place I stayed was pretty scenic. It was a cozy house tucked in a wooded area. Surrounding the property was a small brook, so one afternoon I decided to take a walk and try out a practice I had learned this summer. I purposefully slowed down my breathing and asked the Lord to draw my attention to something in nature. Naturally, my “let’s do this” attitude kicked in and I tried to focus on the first thing I saw, some bees buzzing on a nearby flower. But I couldn’t stay focused and the sound of the brook seemed to grow louder than everything else. So, I walked over and took a seat in the chair by the water. God lovingly taught me a few things as I watched the water.

The place where I was sitting was in the middle of a horseshoe bend in the brook. On the left was a rapids, the water rushing over the rocks. In the middle, the water was calm and hardly looked like it was moving. If I looked closely, I could see bits of leaves in the current below the surface. And when I threw a stick in the water, it got swept away. On the other side of the bend, the water shifted to rapids again, clearly showing the force of the current.

I had felt the rapids in my life. I had lived in the excitement of seeing God move in big ways and felt a part of his sweeping current. But for the past couple of months, I couldn’t see it. I couldn’t make sense of what God was doing and I felt lost without that feeling of movement. Through the bend in the brook, God reminded me that He is always moving, even when I can’t perceive it. Life isn’t always a rapids and it isn’t always a calm bend, but the current of His love and will is always there, working things for our good and His glory. He invited me to trust that truth.

Next, I walked to a different spot in the brook. There was a large rock, so I sat on top and put my hand in the water. The water was cool, calm, and clear. It was inviting and if it were warmer, I could sit there for a long time with my feet in the water. About ten feet away was a pond with a fountain. The fountain was pretty but the pond was green with algae and gave off that smell of stagnant water. The fountain was pretty, but I didn’t feel the need to get any closer to that water. Through the contrast of the brook and the pond, God taught me that being still is not being stagnant. He invites me to be refreshed by Him. He wants me to have rhythms of rest where I plug into Him. Because when I stay refreshed by staying in the moving, Living Water, my life reflects Him and becomes inviting to others.

As I sat on the rock, I closed my eyes and listened to the brook. I was closer to the road so the sound of cars almost overpowered the gentle babble. But if I listened for the water, I could hear it. God reminded me that He will be found by those who seek Him (Jer. 29:13). God doesn’t hide from us. He’s always there, waiting for us to turn my attention toward Him.

I’m thankful for a God who is always moving with love and purpose, always refreshing, always inviting, and always ready to be found by His children.

Spontaneous road trip with the sister!

Mackinaw Bridge

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The Ups and Downs of Transition

Hey y’all! It’s been a few months since my last post but I’ll just be real with you. I tried thinking about/writing this post many times but my mind just wasn’t there yet. I’m still not sure if it is but I didn’t want to leave you hanging. With that said, I will do my best and hope that the following paragraphs aren’t too scattered.

Transition is a real thing, people. And most of you are probably reading this and nodding your head because we’ve all gone through transition. Before leaving Zambia, I knew it was coming. I was prepping myself with, “You’ll be with your family,” “Just take it day by day,” “Be kind to yourself,” etc. I thought I would be (somewhat) ready for it. But I wasn’t. All those pep talks may have made me aware of what was coming but didn’t cover up the fact that I had to get on the board and ride the waves.

I’ll continue the surfing comparison. That’s what this summer has been like for me. Highs and lows. Ups and downs. Emotions soaring one day and dipping down the next. (OK, now I’ll end the analogy because I don’t actually know that much about surfing.)

I got to see some of them in Indy this summer!

The hard goodbyes and reality of not seeing my Zam fam in a few months made my heart raw and tears always on call. Being with family and reconnecting with friends brought joyful moments. But I felt like I was in a blender and all the emotions were whipping together. Many times, I just didn’t know how to feel or what I wanted/needed, which led to many tears on my pillow/in the car/in public places/etc.

But God, as He always does, knew what I needed. He gave me people who asked questions and let me cry. He gave me the gift of lament and reminded me that He collects every tear (Psalm 56:8 NLT)). He showed me that I was not alone and even in the times that I didn’t see Him, I could trust that He was with me and already going before.

And that’s what I feel like these past few months and next season is about. Refocusing on Him and remembering that life isn’t what I do but rather my relationship with Him. So, I keep repeating this to myself: He is faithful, His love is unfailing, and He is for me. All I need to do is keep my eyes on Him.

People like to ask, “what’s next?” and that’s great! The answer: Long term? I don’t know. For now, I know what I am doing for the next two months and that’s a good place to start. I’m working part-time for an organization called, “A More Just Society (AJS)” and part time at The Esther School. The Esther School has a fundraising dinner coming up October 22, which I have the honor of speaking at! If you want to come and hear more about TES, you can RSVP here.

I’ve also been considering grad school. I got accepted into one program (Masters of Global Leadership at Fuller Seminary) but am not sure if it’s the program I want to pursue or if now is the time to start.

I had a wise mentor say to me once, “Don’t force it, Dana. Just receive it.” So, that’s what I’m doing for the next couple of months. I’m pursuing and asking questions, but also letting God unfold what’s next. It’s a daily surrender but it’s good to live in God’s mystery. It’s not a mystery for Him.

PS – this song has been on repeat the last month. Warning: it’s 11 minutes, but it’s worth it.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Za-yGR3sbNw

PPS- Now that I’m back for the foreseeable future, I’d love to meet up! Message me on Facebook or shoot me an email (danajkrol@gmail.com) and we can find a time.

Josh and Casey got married!!!

Visiting Cath

…and Lauren in NYC. Great first trip to the city!

Finally made it to Michaela’s hometown. So fun to see her!

 

 

 

 

 

 

God is in Charge. Period.

“The Israelites who ruined their grain, cows, doves, and sheep in sacrifice did so because they believed in the craziest of all hopes–that this destruction of what is good would ultimately bring about something even better. When they sacrificed their animals and foods, it was a way of saying out loud and from the core of their being that they trusted in God, that they themselves were not capable of providing what they needed or what the world needed, but God was. They believed in a God who was so very much in charge of the universe that He would make the world a better place in spite of their loss. Sacrifice was about giving honor, about giving to something bigger than yourself in the trust that blessings come when you don’t put “me” first all the time…God is in the business of making good way better. The very best things come out of sacrifice. That’s how God works…Sacrifice is hitting a point where you see your own limits, and give beyond that. It’s saying to God, “Fine, let my life make no sense at all, let it be a failure, let it be wasted, but above all, let it be yours.” It’s throwing yourself out across a canyon you could never leap across, trusting somehow there will be a parachute, or a net, or a bridge, or somehow it will be okay–even somehow better–because of your leap. It’s knowing this: God is in charge. Period.”     Christine Jeske

A friend of mine gave me this quote a few weeks ago. A lot of it speaks to where my heart is at right now. I could have bolded the whole thing! But that last sentence really gets me:

“It’s knowing this: God is in charge. Period.”

If anything, the past four years at The Esther School have taught me that God is in charge. I can think of those times where I felt at the end of my rope and needed Him to take the rest. Or the events that seemed so perfectly orchestrated that it could have only been done by Someone who knows all of everything. Oh yes, God is in charge.

He’s gifted me with some of my deepest relationships. He coaxed out of me aspects of me I didn’t know existed, and He showed me the things I wasn’t surrendering to Him. He opened my eyes to a big world and helped me realize the things that made my heartburn. He took a suburban girl in Michigan, placed her in a sub-Saharan village in Africa and (mostly) gently broke through the box she had tried to safely keep Him in. Boy, am I glad He did. Looking back, it’s so easy to see that God is in charge. Period.

Looking forward, I know it will be the same.

After four years at The Esther School, I will be leaving Zambia and returning to the States. For a while now, I’ve felt the desire to learn more about the things God has introduced me to while at TES. I’ve felt a pull to explore and find out more about His unique purpose for me. But maybe most importantly, I’ve felt an invitation to step out in faith and trust Him.

I’ll be honest. It was a terribly hard decision. If I felt God asking me to leave something so good, something I loved, I wanted to know all the details of what was going to be next. I wanted to know that it was going to be worth sacrificing something so good. But God in His goodness didn’t show me the details – He showed me Himself. He reminded me of His goodness and faithfulness and asked again if I would trust Him. Trust that He will take what I’m giving Him – something so so good – and make it even better.

I don’t know what’s next. Maybe grad school or a move or maybe serving TES in a different way. I really don’t know. But I’m trusting in God’s faithfulness because He’s proved it again and again. He may not give me a mega light beam for my path, but He gives me enough light for the next step. He gives me my portion of grace and mercy for each day at a time, and that’s all I need. I can rest in the fact that He is in control. Period.

I ask for your prayers as I wrap up my last month here. Pray that I can savor these moments and not stress about what’s next. Pray over my heart as I experience a lot of lasts and say too many “see you laters” (not goodbyes). It’s a strange place to be – in between the “what’s next” and the “what’s been”. Even though I’m excited to discover what God has in store, I’m also mourning the loss of this place, so prayers over my crazy, swirly feelings are much needed.

Thanks for journeying with me these past four years. I’m sure this won’t be my last post, but I wanted to say it now anyway. Thanks for praying, encouraging, and joining with me.

Zikomo Kwambili. Thank you very much.

My Gram

On Tuesday, February 20, 2018, my Grandma went to be with Jesus. She was a special lady who loved her family and who was dearly loved by her family. It’s been so hard not being there with my family. To mourn and remember and celebrate with them.

But I’m surrounded by an amazing community where they let me cry, ask me questions, and do my dishes. They even came to a memorial service where I shared some stories and we ate cake. I’ve had hugs and notes and prayers and friends who watched Grandma’s memorial service with me. I’ve felt very loved and cared for.

Here’s something I wrote about Gram that was read at the funeral. I was privileged to have her as my grandma!

My Grandma

My grandma was a lot of things. She was a strong woman. I think the word “steadfast” fits pretty well. She was constant and had this quiet strength about her. Solid but humble. Revered by her family. The matriarch. Ask anyone that married in to this clan – they found that out pretty quickly. And like my brother-in-law said, when you met her, you knew that woman deserved your respect. You just knew.

Gram was a magnet that drew people to her. People knew she cared about them. I’m sure I can speak for all us grandkids when I say I NEVER doubted if grandma loved me. She would light up every time I saw her and she always had time for me when I called (even if she had a visitor. Sorry if that was you.)

Gram was joyful. She had this amazing belly-bouncing laugh and smile. She had great one-liners and impeccable timing. But more than that, she had a deep joy. The kind that comes when you face hardships in life, but aren’t overcome. Like she knew that sometimes you have to choose joy, so she chose it.

Most importantly, Grandma loved the Lord. I saw it in the way she loved her kids and grandkids. I saw it in the way she gave people dignity when she talked with them. Like most things with Grandma, she wasn’t flaunty with her faith, but kept serving Him humbly and faithfully.

Because of all this and more, Grandma was a role model to me and I loved spending time with her. I was able to be home for Christmas this year and even got an extra month home. During this time, God gifted me with a special visit with Gram. On one trip to Sunset, I asked Grandma what faith meant to her. We talked all afternoon. We cried and laughed together. Her faith in Christ and life so encouraged my own, and I was able to assure her that she ran a good race and of the legacy she’s left in her children, grandchildren, and countless others. I will treasure that moment forever.

I know this room will be filled with people who were touched by Esther Wiersma. I’m counted among them, even though I’m not there with you. I’m a better person because I knew her. So I will cry with you because I loved her and will miss her too. But I will rejoice because death has lost its sting and we know who holds the victory.

I can just picture grandma’s smile when she saw Jesus face to face for the first time. He must have shown her the full picture of her life and how He used her story to make an impact. I bet she saw a lot of familiar faces and many of those she didn’t know when He showed her those touched by her life.

And after she saw how her life – all the joy, sorrow, and sweetness – worked for His greater purpose, she must have turned to Him with that contagious smile and said, “It was worth it.” And as He looked back at her, there with Him in glory, He would remember the cross and all He did to make a way for her. With a smile to match, I know He said, “Yes it was.”

Esther Marilyn Wiersma

1932-2018

Made it back!

I’ve been back in Zambia for almost three weeks and it’s been hit the ground running since I’ve landed. We moved people after the fire and helped get the smoke smell out of clothes and furniture.

Pause.

[In case you don’t know, a few weeks ago, one of the staff duplex’s caught fire in the night. Thankfully, the missionaries that lived in that particular side of the duplex hadn’t returned yet, and the family living in the other side was evacuated. You can read her story here. It’s one thing to hear about it and it’s another to come back and witness the sagging roof, smell the strong scent of smoke, and see the burned furniture and belongings.

We’re still figuring out the best (and safest) way to rebuild and restore this home, but we know a lot needs to be done. Please consider giving so we can restore what was lost.]

Resume.

Moving people was an ongoing process amidst the many reunions between everyone returning. Joe was here for a visit before heading off to Hong Kong (he’s there now, getting settled and starting his new job!). School started and we had a trip from our executive director. It’s been a busy few weeks!

But now that I’m catching my breath on this calm Sunday, I can’t help but think it’s good to be back. I had such an amazing time home and enjoyed the unexpected longer stay. (PS – none of our students got cholera so that’s a huge praise!) But there’s nothing like being on this campus and feeling that sense of purpose pulse through my veins.

I listened to a podcast today with some other staff and it was a good one. If you have 50 minutes (it goes by fast and it’s worth it) you should listen. She talked about how God sometimes tells us to “come away from that,” because He has something more for us. Maybe He’s calling us away from something bad or maybe something good. Maybe it’s a big act or maybe something seemingly small. It’s not always a move across the world. But sometimes it is. But that’s not the point. The point is that it’s an invitation. An invitation to come away and create margin so God can move in and through the pieces of our lives. And to do immeasurably more than we could ask or imagine (Ephesians 3:20).

As I think back on the past 3.5 years, I’m so thankful for the Lord’s invitation to come to TES. But it was more than that. It was an invitation to know him more. And probably, He knew I would be so distracted by all the things in the States that He had to move me to a rural area with bad Internet connection. Regardless, I’m so thankful He did. He’s done more in my life than I could have thought up for myself. Let this be the year that we respond to that prompting He’s placed on our hearts. To do the big things and, maybe more importantly, the small things. He’s a God that’s full of surprises and He has something specific and personal for all of us.

Thank you for your support and helping me accept His invitation!

School is back in session 🙂

Seeing dear friends before Joe jumped on his plane to HK

Taught the crew pegs. My heart is happy.

Travel ready with my compression socks. So fly (see what I did there?)

New Year Update

I wanted to give y’all an update on some unexpected plan changes this year. I was scheduled to return back to Zambia on January 3 after a fun month in Michigan over Christmas. However, right before I left, I received a call from our Executive Director saying I needed to change my ticket to later. There’s been a cholera outbreak and while it has been watched since October, it was spreading at a much more rapid rate in the last month. The government made the decision to close schools for the month of January in an attempt to curb the spreading disease. In addition, churches and other large gatherings cannot meet. Market places have also been closed for the time being. Because of this, I’ll be home until the end of January.

Markets have been closed due to cholera, leaving once bustling areas deserted.

For those of you who don’t know, cholera is a water-borne disease that can brings symptoms of severe diarrhea and vommitting. If left untreated, death can occur within hours. Not everyone with the infection displays these symptoms, but they can be a carrier. Cholera is spread through contaminated water sources, poor sanitation, and inadequate hygiene.

In this case, cholera showed up in one of the highest density populated compound in Lusaka, the capitol city. It has spread to lower density areas in Lusaka and most of the recorded cases are in the city. This past week, a cholera vaccine was distributed, starting in the most affected areas.

Many of our students travel to visit family in Lusaka. As of now, we don’t know of any of our students or their families being affected by this outbreak.

Please join us in prayer over Zambia. Pray for:

  • The people infected by the disease, those who are needing treatment, and those who are recovering
  • Those who have lost loved ones
  • The government and authorities in charge of responding to the outbreak. Pray for wisdom and energy to attack this outbreak head on
  • Pray for the economic situation and people whose income is affected by closed shops and restaurants
  • Protection over our students and their families, as well as our staff in Zambia
  • God to bring His healing miracles on the people of Zambia and stop cholera in its tracks.

Here’s some pictures from the holiday!

Dad loves to ref, we love to heckle (just kidding, we definitely supported the stripes)

Frakenmuth! Now I can say I’ve been there.

Bestie love (she keeps me classy with crepes and tea lattes)

Reunited!

Oakfield for life

Prayer and worship night with TES staff in Michgan. Thanks for hosting, Lisa!

 

Thankful for a white Christmas!

Lots of quality Grandma time! How’d I get so lucky to have a gma like this one?

Detroit!

Glittery Hope

“The light shines in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it.” -John 1:5

There’s something you need to know about Esther School students. They love glitter. It’s not just a general excitement of glitter; it’s the “joy of a child on Christmas morning” excitement. I can always tell when a class used glitter in some sort of project. Not because I see it anywhere in the classroom, but because it’s on all the students of that class. The students pick up every piece of glitter and stick it on their faces. By the end of the day, the glitter has somehow spread to the majority of the students at The Esther School and you can usually see the remnants of the glitter for weeks to come.

In the last week before Christmas holiday, classes made crafts for their parents and guardians. One class used glitter. Now, when we do art, we usually use supplies pretty sparingly. But in the spirit of Christmas, the teacher bought enough glitter for each student to have a small dish. Those kids came out of that classroom shining like the sun. It was all over their face and hair, and they soon passed it on to students from other classes.

As I looked at those bedazzled faces, it got me thinking about Christmas and hope. When Jesus entered the world, it was dark. The Israelites had 400 years of silence from God and were under the oppressive rule of the Romans.

Then Jesus entered the world like a big ball of glittery hope. From that day, the hope started to infuse into the world. He talked to everyone, from the downtrodden and weary to the social outcast. And with each interaction, He left a little “glitter” with that person. The light began to spread.

When I see glitter this Christmas, I want to remember the excitement the TES students had for the glitter and their eagerness to pass it on to others, because that’s what I want to do with the hope of Jesus. I want to spread His love and hope like glitter.

Merry Christmas everyone!