I’m super thrilled to introduce you [again] to my sister, Chloe. she is incredible friend, wife, sister, aunt, daughter, and lover of Jesus. We met on our first ever Man Up mission trip in 2011, quickly started a friendship that will last the rest of our lives. Camp, Asher + I were an honored to be in Chloe + James wedding this past summer, and miss them something terrible since Chloe moved to Florida. God has done + continues to do some big things through her and I can’t wait for you to meet her! Here’s Chloe!
Anybody can change the world: I am just a military wife.
Do not despise these small beginnings, for the Lord rejoices to see the work begin… Zechariah 4:10
When Wynne asked me to tell my story, I was surprised. What story? I thought. A story of beaten and bruised hopes? Dear reader, I do not know you, I do not know what jammies you are wearing as you read this post. I do not know what makes you anxious, what makes you cry, but I do know that you are human, like me.
Top Left? That’s me. Chloe. The Silky Silky below me is Miss Ruby Red. She makes us laugh. And that handsome fellow, bottom right? That’s James. You’ll read more about him further on down. And top right, that’s our beach house.
I could write at least 1,000 words about each and every year of my story since I met Jesus, since the Son set me free. So, here I sit, the dishwasher whirring behind me, Ruby Red sleeping gently on my legs, and all I can muster up is a story of God’s small beginnings.
Jesus introduced me to the Acholi tribe, the people of Northern Uganda in 2008 (through Invisible Children). But because I was not actively walking with Christ, it was mere fascination and purely activism. I loved the colors of their skirts, their dark, beautiful skin, their rhythmic dances and the sounding of the drums. Little did I know that God would do with this years later, after I began to walk in the joy and knowledge of my salvation.
I began to see the Acholi people, like reading for the very first time, and I told God, “if you send me, I will go.” And what happened over the course of the next year was nothing short of a God-sized miracle.
Two friends said, hey Chlo, want to join us in Africa for two weeks?
I said, sure!
Then I met Wynne Elder.
And our lives were never the same.
I returned from that 2-week Man Up and Go, Visiting Orphans trip in August of 2011 with a confirmed sense of determination that the Lord had a place for me in Northern Uganda, the land of my dreams.
(September 2011, on the blog) Africa is everything you have heard, read, and imagined, but more vivid, bright, and searing. The smell of red dust, exhaust, and burning refuse fills your lungs…They taught us how to shake our hips, to laugh, to not worry about our hungry stomachs, or dry throats, to give into love so quickly that it utterly breaks your heart when you leave hours later. Imagine the sound of the beating drum, laughter, and “I lahv yooo Jezus, Jezus een mah haut.” There was a moment as I was spinning with children on both hips that I was home. I could close my eyes and sit at the foot of the throne singing for eternity with these beautiful souls.
Months later, in January of 2012, I was en route to Gulu, Uganda to work with an organization that cares for the sexually exploited at the ripe age of 21. With the unbelievable care and support of my family and community, I boarded a plane at the Houston airport, everything I owned in five bags. I was scared, but felt like I was going home. I had every intention of staying forever, like Amy Carmichael. The Acholi were my people, and I knew that God had prepared a way. You can read more about those 6 months over on the blog, but they were the most overwhelming, peaceful, beautiful, and heart-wrenching months of my life. And after 6 months, I was on a plane, going back to Austin, Texas, with a torn and bruised heart.
What happened after my return was a blur, I continued working for a different ministry that provides trauma counseling for war-torn villages in Uganda and South Sudan. I didn’t understand why God would take me across the ocean, at great costs, only to take me home months later. I couldn’t shake the deep sadness of leaving Uganda.
But God gave me my person, and staying in Uganda was not going to allow us to become one.
I got back to Austin in May of 2012, fell deeply in love in June, engaged in November, and married on April 28th, 2013. What a story right? And I wouldn’t have changed it for the world, because it is a GOD-sized story, and James is nothing short of God’s gentle and restorative grace in my life.
But I struggle daily with my “calling”. Any military wives out there? I’m with you, sister. It is constantly a mind battle of, “God, I know you’ve called me to FIRST serve my husband, to help him, treasure him, but what about Uganda? What about a career? Why can’t I live close to my friends?” And what a sweet season of learning to trust, to wait, to think outside of self, and to keep walking. James demonstrates to me daily what it means to be present, right here, right now, to see hurting people right in front of me, even if they aren’t Ugandan. Someone recently said, being in the military is like being a missionary paid by Uncle Sam, and he was right. The military is a world of deep darkness, sadness, broken marriages, and loneliness, and God has allowed James and I the unique opportunity to be a part of His active and powerful restoration of our nation’s armed forces.
My story didn’t go the way I planned. I never finished college. I live in Florida now, but who knows where I’ll end up next. And God is ever omniscient, ever present, and magnificently adventurous, a God who rejoices in small beginnings, to see the work begin. And I know Uganda and I will see each other again soon, but for now, it’s like an old friend.
And because I like lists, here are things I am constantly telling myself these days….
#1: Don’t waste your life by always looking ahead. Look at the ground below you, then the feet around you.
#2: Say yes more often. God designed us with personality and preferences, listen to the things that make your heart beat really fast.
#3: Your husband is your first calling. “Wives, be subject to your husbands, as to the Lord. For Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior. As the church is subject to Christ, so let wives also be subject in everything to their husbands.” (Ephesians 5:22-23)
#4: Take the Word of God in like water.
#5: Be patient and revere God’s timing.