Sunday, August 26, 2007


The fam celebrating Josh's birthday! Well, all except my dad who is the cameraman. Two or or three faces may be unfamiliar as part of the Hardie clan. Seated next to my brother is his fiancee, Sarah. Two more weeks! To my right is Chelsea, Sarah's sister. She was here for a week with Sarah and we all worked on painting their house. What a fun time! The guy standing is Joel, our adopted brother. He is in high school and working on the farm for the summer. I love this kid!! First of all, he laughs at my jokes... all of them. And it's never a pity laugh either (which is rare). He also is polite, fun to be around, compliments the chef, and helps with the dishes! Not to mention having a zeal for life. This afternoon we were outside lighting fireworks and just laughing. What a great guy! He can definitely stay.

Celebrating Josh and Rachel's engagement with Brad!

Good choice buddy, you better not look.

The first bridal magazine...

This is just too cute. Please notice Brad's choice of champagne glass:)...

"Informal" engagement partay with the correct groom this time.

Rachel introduced me to American Idol (aka Karaoke Revolution) on PS2. I had NO idea there was such a game, and was completely delighted with it. Simon Cowell thought we were the best he'd ever seen... especially Rach with her dance moves. YEAH!!!

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Lazarus and Jesus

John 11

I love this story. I especially love the part that says, "Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. SO, when he heard that Lazarus was ill, he stayed two days longer in the place where he was." (v. 5-6) In every effort to avoid rattling off what this verse means "to me", and risking an interpretation of the text that is not the same as what God actually intended, I will only say this... I am so comforted to know that God's timing and mine are not the same. When I'm struggling with patience I look here, and realize that just because I might think He is being slow, that is not necessarily the case. There is also the wondrous assurance that while we are waiting, Jesus loves us (as He loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus). So. That word "so" intrigues me and I think about it often. Anyway, I just wanted to put a little plug in for John 11 today, in case you need something awesome to read. It gives me the chills every time. Who is this God that we follow?!?

Today I did a mass perusal of the blogs of friends back in Africa. I check up on these dear ones from time to time, but never all at once because it is just more than my fragile emotions can handle at the current time:). Today, however, I hit them all. If you have followed along with the journey of Sarah and me over the past year, I would love to refer you to This is the blog of Jean-Aimee Gifford, who is a nurse currently working with Brooke in Mozambique. The four of us overlapped for several weeks before Sarah and I left, and the two of them are truly an answer to prayer. Reading Jean-Aimee's stories I found myself in tears... my heart breaking at times, my soul rejoicing at times, and always my entire being longing to just be there. Especially hard (and wonderful) to see were the photos... our house, a sick orphan boy named Joalinho, the land, and a shot of the two girls with Carlos and Pascua, two visiting Hands at Work volunteers, and a little boy from the mission... Callum Beecher, who was my personal best bud. At moments I feel like Africa is only a step away... like I could go around the corner and say "Mascati" and the Giuas would be there giggling... or go for a run and it would somehow be on the dusty hills of South Africa.

Shouldn't this whole "Africa thing" be working its way out of my system? It isn't. Maybe that means something... I hope so. Even if God is asking me to stay here for a while, maybe it means that He isn't finished with me there yet. To all of you treasured ones far far away... I miss you. You are deeply loved.

You may remember me talking about my patient and friend, Amelia. Please keep on praying for her... I believe God is doing a great work of healing in her life in more than one way. In the above photo she is trying not to laugh and failing miserably. I love it. These photos were taken right before we left Mozambique. The difference in Amelia from the first photos we have of her is truly unbelievable.

Wedding Bells

These two love birds are GETTING MARRIED!!!! I got the awesome news call from Rachel last night, just after Josh popped the question!!! There is nothing worse than being locked away in Pracs when two of your absolute favorite people on the planet get engaged and all you want to do is CELEBRATE! This weekend that is exactly what is going to happen.

Over the past 4 years I have had more fun with these crazies than should be allowable. I remember when they first met, their first impressions, the beginnings of a relationship, the uncertainty, then Rach went to Australia for 6 months and I was instructed to "get to know him, see what I think". I did, and it was fantastic being able to develop a friendship with the man who is perfect for my girl!!! Then another year went by, and I left for Africa. When Rach the Dach came to visit right after Christmas I remember laying awake most of the night talking. She was SO EXCITED to marry Josh, and convinced that he was the one. What an amazing and fun ride to this day!

I am just beaming. CONGRATS JOSH AND RACH!!!!!!!!! Love you guys...

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Brian McLaren, 'A New Kind of Christian'

The past 3 months or so have been pivotal in my life and in my relationship with Christ. Numerous stretching conversations and authors who I now consider friends have helped to open up my eyes to worlds of new possibilities in understanding and walking with God. I have started to see that the way I read the Bible is generally to pick it apart and put it in neat boxes, when Scripture itself was not written that way. It is full of story and mystery, song and poetry. As I begin to see it more in that light, reading it holds an entirely new magic that excites me to the core. More on that soon.

I just finished reading 'A New Kind of Christian' by Brian McLaren, and all I can say is... READ IT. The writing itself is a bit rough, but McLaren admits as much in the introduction. Read the book instead for the content, which just might shake things up for you as it has me. Depending upon your current views of God and Christianity, this book will most likely shock you and could possibly make you angry. There were many moments when I found myself appalled because what I was reading was so different from what I've always been taught... from what has always been presented as infallible truth. But McLaren does not once question the reality of God or the truth of the Bible, just our 'modern', neatly organized perception of these. In spite of the uncomfortable moments, I absolutely loved it. My comments here may cause some of you to worry that I am going off the deep end, but I can assure you that I love and desire to glorify God more today than I ever have before. It is just that there are many questions raging in my mind. There are some things about our way of practicing religion that just don't sit right, and reading McLaren's book gave me courage that I'm not alone. Others of you who have been asking these questions, reading books like this one, and discussing postmodernism and the emerging church for years are probably going to wonder, "Where has she been?" Either way, here a couple thoughts.

Without a doubt, God used this entire year in Africa to challenge my thinking in many key areas. One of the main ones was that He is a global God to the core. He created culture and diversity, and the job of a missionary is not to bring our Western way of "doing church" to the nations, but instead to just bring Christ. These are two very different things, I realized more and more as the year went on. Another concept that has always made me a bit uncomfortable is the way we talk about getting "saved" or being "born again". I agree with McLaren's fictional character, Dan, who has this to say:

"Now, the real issue isn't an emotional crisis or the stereotypical experience of being "saved" or "born again" or of "crossing a line" and then stopping there. The issue isn't signing on to a new set of beliefs alone. The issue is following Jesus, joining him in his adventure and mission of saving the world and expressing God's love. If a person isn't moving ahead on that journey, then no matter how many aisles he walks down and cards he fills out and "sinner's prayers" he says, whether or not he is going to heaven, there is still no way we can say in any meaningful sense that he is experiencing salvation." (pg. 132)

To take this a little deeper into rough waters, how exactly do we define "the Gospel"?!? It is, after all, what we are supposed to be sharing. I have always been slightly uncomfortable with the idea that every relationship I have is some sort of undercover rescue mission, with the sole purpose of the friendship being to convince the other that my ideas are the right ones. I love people, and genuinely want to know and understand my friends... both those I have now and those I will have in the future. No hidden agenda. I learned in Mozambique that love... AUTHENTIC love... really changes people. This is not in any way a new or profound idea, but I think we can too easily get wrapped up with getting someone "in" that we forget about the person. McLaren's character, Neo, uses the analogy of dancing to describe a different approach to sharing Christ:

"Instead of conquest, instead of a coercive rational argument or an emotionally intimidating sales pitch or an imposing crusade or an aggressive debating contest where we hope to 'win' them for Christ, I think of it like a dance. You know, in a dance, nobody wins and nobody loses. Both parties listen to the music and try to move with it. In this case, I hear the music of the gospel, and my friend doesn't, so I try to help him hear it and move with it. And like a dance, I have to ask if the other person wants to participate." (pg. 62)

Two weeks ago, not long after Sarah and I had returned home, we went swing dancing with some friends. I was nervous to go because I have very little experience dancing and didn't want to look like a complete idiot, something that seems to happen a lot:). Our partners, however, were excellent dancers and made me feel like I was ready for 'Dancing with the Stars'. Of all the things we have done since being home, that night was my favorite. And now I cannot wait to dance again! Because of this experience, I loved McLaren's analogy all the more.

During the past several weeks I have felt isolated, even depressed at times (something that is quite unusual for me). Alone in the questionings of my mind and heart, not knowing where I could go to talk about them. But today I feel an amazing FREEDOM that I cannot explain. It is as if God has been beckoning me to come closer to Him... to go deeper with Him... but I have been fighting to remain comfortably in my box of familiar Christianity, and to face issues and questions with my usual methods instead of letting go and letting God do a new thing. Now there are a million more questions in my mind. But I am hopeful because today, more than ever before, I am finally ready to ask them. To go there. Maybe this is crazy, but I feel peace.

I have also been wrestling with God about my future... at least, the next year and a half or so of it. But that's another story for another day...

Monday, August 20, 2007

Child-like Faith

Seven-year-old Luke is missing a front tooth and shifting his weight nervously from one foot to the other. His brown hair is buzz cut in perfect army fashion and his khaki shorts are pulled as high as they will go. He is shy, but excitedly stands on tiptoe for a moment and gives an affirmative nod when asked if school will start soon. Though he is speaking to me face-to-face for the first time, he has been talking to Jesus about me for a very long time. Ever since Sarah and I spoke to Bethel's Sunday school classes in June of 2006, a significant number of those children have been praying faithfully. Luke's mother told me that her son has prayed for us every day for over a year. I hardly knew what to say to one so young whose faith FAR surpasses mine and whose perseverence in prayer is something of which to take note and be humbled. Little more than an hour later, after Bethel's second service, I had a similar encounter. This time a proud father of three little girls wanted me to know about the persistent prayers of his youngest on my behalf. As Randy spoke, his little girl shyly pretended not to be listening.

What excites me the most about children praying is the knowledge that God hears and honors these young pleas. The only thing I remember praying for with such fervency at the tender age of seven was a sister. Even before my mom miraculously delivered a baby girl long past her child-bearing 'prime', I already knew that Christina would come. I had asked God for her! Why I still do not pray with such confidence I do not know. Over the years, I am afraid "maturity" and "religion" have flooded out the child-like adoration I once had for my Jesus. Life has stolen the sparkle of an intensely love-filled relationship with the Daddy who is always present, and who cares deeply. Today I want to jump back onto a pink Hot Wheels with a grape popsicle in my hand and start over. There are things I want to see again with fresh eyes... young eyes.

After having received the best education this nation can offer, Dr. Robert Coles still learned his most important lessons from children. Six-year-old Ruby Bridges was the first black student to attend Mississippi's Frantz School. While every other student boycotted the integration, Ruby bravely marched through hostile mobs escorted by federal marshalls. She sat alone, day after day, in an empty classroom. Shocked by the bravery he witnessed in one so young, Dr. Coles took the time to develop a relationship with Ruby. The following is an excerpt from the book 'Soul Survivor':

So what did Ruby do in such daunting circumstances? She prayed: for herself, that she would be strong and unafraid, and also for her enemies, that God would forgive them. "Jesus prayed that on the cross," she told Coles, as if that settled the matter: "Forgive them, because they don't know what they're doing." (pg. 98)

I want to pray like that.

Sunday, August 19, 2007


Have you ever noticed the beauty of tears? A good friend pointed it out to me once, but I didn't see it then. Today I saw it. Sarah and I were sharing with a group of people who came to South Africa last fall. As we shared I looked around and saw many eyes glossy with tears of sincerity... it was a beautiful thing.

This week has been busy with sharing... whether it be one on one or to a large group, almost every evening and some parts of the daytime hours have been spent talking about Africa. Discussing 'what happened the past year' inevitably leads to the 'what will happen this year' topic, one with which I am slightly uncomfortable. However, an answer I must give. My answer is that I am waiting for the Lord to speak clearly. Perhaps He is speaking clearly and I am just not hearing Him, or perhaps I cannot discern which voice is His amidst the hubbub of life. Many of you know that I've been seriously considering a return to Africa as early as January. Though this is precisely what I long to do, at this moment I don't have peace that the timing is right. Because of this I have been asking God to help me be okay if He wants me to stay for a season, and He is doing that. Maybe since He is giving me peace about staying, that is my answer? I would still pick up and go back tomorrow if that's what I felt like I was supposed to do. Jesus said that His sheep follow Him because they know His voice. I want to have the confidence 100% of the time that I am always following the correct shepherd, but this I do not think is possible. We are far too easily influenced by shepherds with a similar tone. That is why I am thankful to be spending 5 days locked away in Pracs. For those of you unfamiliar with Pracs, basically I am acting as a lab rat and getting paid nicely for it:). It's also a great getaway. I am a 'goer' and love just being with people, so days are quite easily filled and I never have enough time to sit and be silent... straining to hear the voice I so long to recognize.

I learned something today...

On my way to Bethel in Fargo this morning I was praying about what to share. Sarah and I only had 2 minutes each and we had been given our question in advance. God gave a message which, though I spoke the words, convicted me to the core as I digested them. He challenged me to be outward-focused and pray for more of His heart of compassion and servanthood, instead of lingering on thoughts of me and my best interests with such regularity. Since returning home I have spent long periods of time feeling sorry for myself... a fairly constant and unnecessary pity party. Close inspection of my heart reveals many things, high on the list being a selfishness that I long to be free from. During this week I will have lots of free time, and want to spend it praying for the people that I love instead of just about my own life. I want to pray for YOU!!! So give me a call or send me an email. I have unlimited time to talk (unless you call during a blood draw) and would love to hear from you.

God is so cool. Whenever I start feeling prideful, He is quick with reminders that I shouldn't go that way. He is patient with me. He is willing to use me even though I am a disaster almost all of the time, and He even gives joy (and often tears) to this disaster in the process. Thinking about it makes me want to go with Him on a picnic that never ends...

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Speaking Tonight

This evening from 7:30-9pm I will be sharing about our year in Africa at Faith Church in Wahpeton. If you are in the area, come on over! If you aren't, would you please pray for the event? Pray that God would speak in an awesome way in spite of me (I get nervous and start talking too fast and saying "like" and "um" way too much. Then everything becomes just one run-on sentence. But God is awesome and can do whatever He wants with my shortcomings, which makes me happy). THANK YOU FOR PRAYING!!

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Little Terrors

We had some old negatives put onto a cd for Josh and Sarah's wedding. Classics. Here are some favorites of me and the fam!!!

Believe it. My parents were (still are!!) so hip I can hardly stand it.

Few children have double chins as large as mine in this picture. It's a gift, really.


Saturday, August 11, 2007


When far away from people and places that you love, have you ever thought about the fact that life is still going on there? That those people are still breathing? It's strange to think about when worlds seem so far removed from each other, but my imagination cannot help dancing in places I have danced before... remembering. I did the same when I was in Africa, thinking about home. I am doing it again now, thinking about Africa. As time passes days seem to get easier, but the deep love remains...

Sarah & I got to talk with Carlos and Pascua on Thursday morning, and it was the BEST! Hearing their giggles and excited chatter was really wonderful. While sorting pictures and making slide shows today I couldn't help wondering, "Did Mozambique really happen?" It did, and I am SO glad. My life will never be the same...

Friday, August 10, 2007

ALMOST all together again...

Nina's back! What a delight to have her home, and to hear about all of the things God has done in and through her this summer! She has grown up a ton in the past 6 months since she came to Mozambique to visit. What a gem. Sarah came with us, and my Aunt Kirsten (pictured far right) also came to the airport to meet Nina's plane. Please take note of her earrings. They are from Mozambique! Get this. We went to Starbucks for some after dinner coffee, and they were giving out free drinks! Apparently someone had used vouchers to buy drinks and there was lots of money left. So we got to order anything and it was on the house. That, we thought, was a pretty great deal! I think the Lord wanted to bless us and we were willing to receive that blessing:).

It has been a fabulous week. God has been delighting me with all kinds of wonderful conversations and activities. I've been blown away! I feel overwhelmed and grateful for all of the love I've been shown over the past 2 1/2 weeks by family and dear friends. It hasn't just been stateside either. We've gotten all kinds of emails and text messages from friends in Africa who are praying for us and who love us. From the bottom of my heart, thank you everyone!!!

A friend sent me a verse a couple of days ago, and it was exactly what I needed. A real gift! I was challenged to really let God quiet me with His love. To let Him pour it out... He wants to do that you know... with each one of us. Here is the verse:

"The LORD your God is with you, He is mighty to save. He will take great delight in you, He will quiet you with His love, He will rejoice over you with singing." Zephaniah 3:17

We are only 2 days away from having the entire family back together! Josh went down to Texas last weekend and is bringing Sarah back with him on Sunday night. I will FINALLY (extra emphasis on the FINALLY) get to meet this woman!!! Can excitement kill a person?!?!? I hope not.

I am being summoned for a game of Scattergories... time to put on my game face.

Sunday, August 05, 2007


The girl with her sleeves rolled up is my sister. I think this photo is incredible because it is Nina to a T:). If everyone else has their hands raised, hers must remain firmly placed on her hips. She called today and is having such a great time. I'm so proud of her!! She gets home on Wednesday night around 9pm and my family and I are all going to Minneapolis to pick her up. Can't wait!!!!

Settling In

A recent letter to my prayer and financial supporters...

"I wait for the LORD, my soul waits, and in his word I put my hope." Psalm 130:5


Today is my 11th day back in the States and it is starting to feel more and more like home. I didn't anticipate the adjustment to be difficult, so have been somewhat surprised by the challenges. One thing is for sure, however... I am blessed with amazing relationships and it has been fantastic catching up face to face and over the phone. Talking with people helps a lot, so please feel free to call at any time. I would love to hear from you!! Better yet, come over for tea!!!

I must say that after a year in Africa the culture there had rubbed off on me more than I realized. Arriving in America I felt a bit like a foreigner in my own homeland. Did anyone else read Amelia Bedelia books either growing up or to their kids? In case you never have, it's not too late:)! This endearing housekeeper is constantly mistaken in her tasks because she performs them all quite literally. She makes sponge cake with real sponges and in the middle of a shower she was supposed to plan, she douses all of the guests with water. I haven't pulled anything quite that ridiculous yet, but still find myself fumbling just a little...

The first morning when I opened the cereal cupboard I stood for several minutes just evaluating all of my options! What to have? I have adjusted by putting the cereals on a rotation system. Just pick one and I can have something different tomorrow. It was such a strange feeling. Later that morning I picked up an apple and was shocked by its size! After commenting to my brother that the apple must be on steroids, he replied that to him it looked like a very small apple. Walking through the grocery store I realized that every fruit is enormous. Just eating a banana is quite a commitment:)!!

I am adjusting, slowly, to talking on the phone again. We had cell phones in Africa but it is expensive to talk so mainly we sent text messages. When making a call it was strictly business. Get to the point and get off the line:).

Driving on the right is a bit confusing, but mostly it is the blinker throwing me off. Instead of hitting the blinkers I turned on the windshield wipers for my first entire day behind the wheel.

For dinner one night I decided to make milk tart, and melted the butter on the stove as always... thinking how nice it was that I could just turn the knob to start the stove instead of lighting it!! It wasn't until after I had finished that I realized we have a microwave and I could have just used that. Oh my:).

Getting ready this morning I was delighted to find... you might think this is gross... a bug on the inside of the shower curtain. It probably was a big bug for North Dakota, but quite small for Africa... and having it there made me feel at home.

In this transition phase, probably the biggest challenge and the area where I really need your prayers is the change in lifestyle. Working as a nurse in Mozambique certainly had its trials, and there were days when Sarah and I just wanted to hide out and be left alone for crying out loud!!! But regardless of that, we still were in a position of constantly pouring out and having other missionaries and friends around us pour back in to us. We were in a position of desperately needing God every moment of every day. I must say I miss that. I miss Africa... my patients (friends)... the children... the pace of life... the focus on people... our house... palm trees... fresh fruit... etc. Basically just being a part of something so close to God's heart. Please don't hear that I am complaining, or that I don't like being home. Both of those things are not true. I am thankful for this year and I love being home. It's just going to take me a little time to adjust to the dramatic change of life.

Please continue to pray for the project in Mozambique (Rubatano) and for Hands at Work as a whole. A large chunk of my heart remains there... God is doing awesome things in southern Africa! We are so privileged to be a part of that.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Hammock in the Sun

"Every good thing given and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shifting shadow." James 1:17

Good things... perfect gifts. The past two days I have spent with dear friends and feel refreshed beyond words. Timeless moments. Last night Rachel and I could not stop talking. It was 2am and we were still going strong. Well, at least she was. I had nodded off but was still answering her questions... though my responses did not make sense. I woke up moments later to her laughter at my silly statements. What in the world did I say, anyway?!? No idea. This morning a chipmunk with half of a bread roll in his mouth hopped up onto the hood of my car as I was sitting behind the steering wheel putting on socks and shoes. He was an arrogant chipmunk, next deciding to settle on my sideview mirror and check me out. We eyed each other for quite some time, until I slowly reached for my camera. Unfortunately he was a bit photo-shy, and ran off. I was delighted with the whole thing.

There is beauty absolutely everywhere, but I think people are the most lovely thing of all. Here are a few photos from today... it was one of the unforgettable kind:)...
This is Isaac, age 5, son of my good friend Tiffany. Tif and I were best friends during high school and I cannot believe how much little Isaac has grown. We went to a baseball game tonight, then went straight home to play a game of our own. Isaac was the batter, Tiffany was the pitcher, and I was the outfielder/catcher. Isaac hit something like 100 home runs before we could move on to football, then to looking at pictures of their many excursions to the zoo. Isaac laughs at everything and is amazed by minute details of life. His imagination is explosive and Tiffany enters into Isaac's love of life right along with her son. During the baseball game he had his own game going on at the side of the spectator stand, not caring one speck about what others might think of him. I love Tif and Isaac. In the near future we have a date to watch Cars, and my dad is going to take us flying soon for Isaac's first airplane ride. He starts kindergarten in a few weeks and can't wait.

This is Rachel and Josh, two of my very dearest friends... and, I guess you could say things are getting pretty serious between the two of them. Josh, just pop the question already!!!! Josh is in the process of moving offices, so today I got to alphabetize his books while Rachel sorted through what needed saving and what needed tossing. In the process we enjoyed each others' company immensely.

Brad. There is no one else in the world like this guy... so I am one privileged cookie to be his friend!!!

Running in Fargo!!! While out on the road we saw what might have been the dearest old man I've ever seen. He was speed shuffling with an unbuttoned shirt and enormous, wrap-around sunglasses. He marched head down, leaning forward, walking so quickly that it almost look like he wanted to run. We were concerned he might topple over, since it was clear that his mind and upper half wanted to do much more than his lower half would allow. We watched after him for as long as we possibly could and would have like to spend many more hours soaking up this man's zeal for life.

I cannot wait to mention that as a welcome home gift (one of many) from my BFFE, Emma, I recieved a fabulous picnic basket complete with everything necessary for a picnic for two. There is even a kite and bubbles inside!!! Can you even believe it?!?! I still can't. Anyone game for a picnic?!? I would happily take one every single day without complaint:). Let me know. Days like today remind me that God is intimately involved in the tiniest details of our lives. He cares about the small things and He blesses constantly in ways that I often am too busy to notice. Driving home tonight, a fragile and radiant monarch butterfly fluttered briefly across my peripheral vision as I cruised down the asphalt. Beauty on concrete. God is everywhere. He is my joy... the lover of my soul. Thank you, GOD, for daily reminders of your unceasing presence and unleashed love. He is like a hammock in the sun... He beckons...