- God is so crazy good, even when you don’t seem to know or understand what He’s doing.
- People matter.
- Don’t take yourself so seriously.
- Invest in the people around you, even though it can get messy. Life-giving relationship comes out of being all-in.
- You’ll screw up, and then you’ll screw up again, and then you’ll do it some more. But God never changes his mind about you and he’ll always love you regardless.
- Learn to love yourself, even the weird parts.
- If you’re passionate about something, PURSUE IT. Pour your heart into it. Even if you fail at times.
- Comparison kills your own creativity.
- It’s okay to not know what’s next. Once you get past the overwhelmingness (definitely not a word) of it all, it can almost be a bit exciting!
- Hold your plans loosely. Seriously. Like really loosely.
- There is such great freedom found in letting go of (trying to) control.
- Ignorance kills relationship.
- Everyone is on a unique journey, so quit comparing yourself to others.
- If you care about someone, let them know.
- Dream big and leave space to let God show off.
- Take time to rest.
- Anxiety and fear will always rob you of joy.
- Don’t fear failure. Failure keeps you from taking risks, and those risks can often lead to something beautiful.
- Seek to understand others who are different from you.
- Notice the little things.
- Love others unconditionally.
Black & White
From Uganda to America
It’s been exactly 3 weeks since I said goodbye to a place that holds so much of my heart. In all honesty, I think I’ve avoided writing these past few weeks because I just wasn’t ready. And although I’m still processing everything and my heart still isn’t quite totally used to being back in America yet, I’m ready to write.
The past three weeks have been a whirlwind. The first week was incredibly rough. Tears at the grocery store kind of rough. Things were big and shiny and different and there was an overwhelming amount of options every single place I went. The amount of options and choices still continue to overwhelm me any time I go to the store. I don’t really think that will ever go away.
But even though it has been hard adjusting to the cultural differences of America, the most difficult thing I’ve faced being home is the feeling that there are two completely separate realities dancing around in my head.
My life in Uganda and my life in America.
Once I was back in America for a few days, it began to feel as if I hadn’t just been halfway around the world for 6 months. It almost felt like living in Uganda was some sort of dream and there was no proof that it really occurred. Everything about Uganda was still so raw in my heart, but everything around me twirled about in such a normal routine American lifestyle that my mind couldn’t make sense of it all. It terrified me, and it still does. I don’t want my time in Uganda to be something so seemingly distant from this life in America. I don’t want to forget. And I sure don’t want to get used to the things that are so easy to take for granted here.
I loved living in Uganda, but it wasn’t always easy. Each day was a conscious choice to believe that God is good, even in the midst of experiencing and witnessing so much heartbreak, loss and pain. But even though some days were hard, there was such great joy and raw, genuine life happening.
Although there’s no way to fully integrate the two different realities, I’m slowly beginning to see that my time in Uganda and my life in America don’t have to be so separate after all.
I want to live life here with the same intentionality and purpose as I did while living in Uganda. I don’t want to get comfortable. I don’t want to sink into routine and business. I want to stop what I’m doing when someone else needs help. I want to pursue others beyond a surface-level interaction. And I want to be filled with gratitude and joy, regardless of my circumstances.
Some days are still harder than others, but it’s a process and it’s going to take time. Even though transitioning back home hasn’t been easy, I am so thankful that God is the same in America as He is in Uganda, and that He is constant even in the midst of change.
Heart & Home
As each day passes, the dreaded date marked on my calendar creeps closer. In 7 days I’ll be on a plane flying over the Atlantic to America, and my heart is in no way prepared. I’m not even sure there is a way to ready my heart for the last little bit of time I have left.
This past week after church I was talking to one of my Ugandan friends about leaving and I told him I was flying home next Monday. His only response was, “But your home is here.”
My heart couldn’t agree more.
Somewhere along the way, my heart found a home here. In the people, in this culture. Throughout these winding red-stained roads. I know that relatively, living somewhere for six months isn’t a very long time. But at the same time, it’s felt like an eternity.
Life here feels normal now. Not comfortable or easy, but normal. I’m used to the fact that things are a million times slower here, and that more often than not my shower’s not hot. I’m used to the way that plans will always change and people are always late. It’s all become normal. And boy, there are so many things I’m going to miss about the everyday.
I’m going to miss my sweet little neighbor friends running down the road to greet me and hold my hand as I walk to town.
I’m going to miss the ridiculously loud Ugandan music blasting from the club next to my apartment (I surprisingly sleep incredibly well when it’s on!).
I’m going to miss eating local foods.
I’m going to miss the way people are so welcoming.
I’m going to miss the Arise Talents kids.
I’m going to miss my friends that have become family.
I’m going to miss my sweet Emma.
Although I’m excited to see my family and friends, I know the transition back to my other home isn’t going to be easy. I’m not sure how I’ll be able to navigate having two homes millions of miles apart. But somehow, I know God will continue to provide peace as he protects my heart throughout change. He always does.
In the meantime, I’ll be here. Soaking in every last moment I have with friends who’ve become family in a country I now call home.
If you’d like to learn more about my last bit of time in Uganda, check out http://www.youcaring.com/kaylacervenka.
Tug of War
At first it came as a little thought dancing quickly through my mind, “What if I were to stay in Jinja?” But as fast as it came, it was forced away by the thoughts that shortly followed…
I need be home for the summer to make money.
It will cost too much to change my flight and stay in Jinja.
My parents probably won’t be happy if I told them I wasn’t flying home on May 25th.
I don’t have a place to live.
The thought began to come daily, a persistent visitor knocking at the door. But my mind refused to allow it to enter. Eventually, I became aware that the idea of staying slyly kept making its way into my mind more and more often. I just hadn’t been willing to recognize it. And that’s when the real tug of war began.
Even though my mind wasn’t willing to accept it at first, I believe my heart knew I was supposed to stay in Uganda. At the same time though, the longings of home and familiarity tried desperately to pull my heart in the opposite direction. And honestly, they almost won. Whenever I’d look at Facebook or Instagram, I’d see pictures of people in America wearing cute (and clean) clothes, people going on adventures, friends eating good food and sitting in nice restaurants. Suddenly, I’d find myself irritated with the clothes that I’ve been wearing over and over (and over) again, wishing I could be sitting around the table with my family at a nice resturant eating some type of food that isn’t a starch. I missed the simplicity and ease of America. I’d think about all the things that I have been missing and all the things that I would miss out on throughout the summer if I were to stay.
Hanging out with friends
Spending time with family
Fourth of July.
The more I’d allow my mind to dwell on these things, the more going home sounded like the more attractive option. But when I’d start thinking about the actuality of if I were to leave this country, my heart would become even more unsettled. I knew I wasn’t supposed to leave. It was the things of comfort and familiarity that were attempting to divert my heart back home. But in the midst of the tug of war, I realized something. I’m not called to a life of comfort. I know that for this time in my life right now, God has more of a purpose for me here than he does if I were in America. I’m in a season of unknowns. Life is continually filled with unexpected changes, naturally making comfort and familiarity a lot more attractive, but I know that’s not where the Lord wants me. He has me here. And here is where is best right now.
God has been up to some crazy things lately. It’s exciting, scary, overwhelming and just plain amazing to see the way that He is working. As of this past week, I’ve completed my internship with Sole Hope and I have started serving with Arise Talents, a Ugandan run organization that I absolutely adore. Arise Talents is an organization that serves 25 children who are either orphans or children that come from vulnerable family situations. They are taught sustainable skills that they can use to help support them throughout their lifetime. The kids learn to draw, paint, dance and sing. They are also taught valuable life skills while at Arise. These children are some of the most talented, beautiful, God-fearing children I have ever met and I am so thankful to be a part of what God is doing at Arise.
While serving with Arise Talents, I’ll be spending a lot of my time hanging out with the kids, working on media and marketing stuff, while also creating and implementing designs for projects they can sell back in America. I’m so excited to be able to use the gifts that God has given me and to share my passion and love for art with the children at Arise Talents.
And for even crazier news, as I’ll be serving with them here in Uganda, my dad will also be working stateside for Arise Talents. He will be working along side them, helping them to gain NGO status in America. When my dad came to visit me back in April, never did I think that his connection with Arise Talents would go beyond just the week that he was here. But as I’ve been reminded over and over lately, God is crazy and works in such mysterious and beautiful ways. I can’t help but sit in awe of the way that God has connected me and my dad with Arise Talents. I’m so thankful to witness and be a part the unique and beautiful way that the Lord is working in and through this organization.
In the midst of the crazy and the unknown, I am continually reminded that He is working. Sometimes He crushes your plans to build bigger dreams on top of them. Even though I was supposed to fly home earlier this week, I know right here is where I need to be. And even though there are a lot of things I have and will miss out on, there’s no place I’d rather be but right where He wants me.
Behold the hour is coming, indeed it has come, when you will be scattered, each to his own home, and will leave me alone. Yet I am not alone, for the Father is with me. I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.
Freshman year of college I decided to get a verse scripted in ink across my back. I’m fully aware that most people are quite opinionated about tattoos, but I didn’t do it for other’s approval. I did it for myself. To serve as a reminder. And that reminder has been more significant now than it ever has before.
Stretching from my left shoulder blade to my spine are the words, “Take heart, I have overcome the world.” It is part of the verse John 16: 33 that reads, “I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” In these verses, Jesus was preparing and encouraging his disciples before he went back to be with the Father in heaven. He was preparing them for the pain and the trials they would face. And these same words have been preparing my heart as well.
It’s not always easy here. I witness such great pain and suffering in the people around me on a daily basis. There are so many times I am left simply asking God why. From experiencing the death of little Elizabeth, to seeing people I know and care about in such great physical and emotional pain, my mind is never able to fully understand. I know that tribulation will always be a part of this life, but my heart wants more. My heart longs to see restoration.
This week I was reminded of the words permanently etched across my back. Christ has overcome this world. He is not yet to overcome it, he already has. He also understands. Because Jesus himself experienced pain and suffering. In the midst of our trials, He gets it. My heart is able to find so much rest in this truth. I can find peace knowing that despite the pain and tribulation that I witness daily, there is full assurance that Christ has overcome and that his plan will prevail in the lives of those I long to see restored.
My mind may never fully understand, but my heart is beginning to find such great peace.
Photo by Dorothy Huynh Photography.
All in Retrospect
I can’t believe that I have already been in Uganda for a month. I feel like I just got here last week, but at the same time I feel like I’ve been here forever. I just don’t get it. When you want time to go fast, it seems to creep along so slowly. But when you want time to last, it’s gone before you know it. It just doesn’t make sense to me. I don’t want this time to slip away. I want to soak in every day that I’m here, because I know that these next three and a half months will pass in the blink of an eye.
Instead of writing about what I’ve been doing, I want to write about how I ended up here. It is a pretty unconventional, confusing, roundabout way of how I happened to end up in Uganda, but hey that is just how God works sometimes. Looking back, it is crazy to see how God cared so much about each little detail that brought me here. Yet I didn’t even know it at the time. Most often, I feel like it is in retrospect that we see how beautifully God works things together for good. In the midst though, it sometimes seems messy. But it’s often in the mess that God is molding us for His purposes.
It was September of 2013 when I began to feel restless and somewhat unsettled. I was a Sophomore/Junior in college (I’m doing a 3 year bachelor’s so the second year is combined). Looking back at the pages of my journal, it is clear that God was placing a desire and a stirring in my heart for something that was unknown at the time. I wrote about the conversations and chapels that were impacting me, most of them about culture and missions. In one of my journal entries during that September, I wrote specifically about how I was feeling like I was supposed to be going somewhere, but I wasn’t sure where. It is so clear to me now that God was gently nudging me. I couldn’t hear him telling me what I was supposed to do, he didn’t just hand me an opportunity to run with, but something in my heart was stirring.
One thing I have learned in regards to God’s plan is that you can’t just sit back and wait for him to drop opportunities into your lap or wait to hear him audibly tell you what to do. Yes, I am sure He is able to do that. But that’s not often how he reveals himself, at least to me. I’ve learned instead of waiting around, you need to be proactive. You have to be willing to take the first steps, to be willing to say yes, to seek out different opportunities in order to pursue the passions that God has instilled in you. And with prayer and an open heart, I had faith that God would open and close doors as I knocked on them, revealing what he wanted me to pursue.
It was in December that I was communicating with an organization about possibly teaching English in the Dominican Republic for a semester the following year. Because there was not availability for housing during the time I would be able to go, the door for that opportunity was closed. It was definitely a disappointment, but looking back now, I saw that God had far different plans in mind for me.
Time passed and I kept praying for God to reveal his plans, and for him to make a way for me to go somewhere (even though I still didn’t know where). I knew that I couldn’t just ignore the desire that overwhelmed my heart.
It wasn’t until March that I heard about a trip with We Spread the Love that was heading Uganda. I had been following We Spread the Love on Instagram and loved their purpose to serve the orphans and the community in Jinja, Uganda. The trip was to take place for two weeks in January. Immediately when I found out they were offering volunteer trips I knew I needed to apply. It didn’t matter that the trip was in January when I was supposed to be in school, I just knew in my core that I had to apply for the trip. I applied in March. Then I waited, and waited, and waited. I was constantly thinking about it, praying that God would answer the desires of my heart to go.
Two and a half months passed, and then I got an email. I was accepted on the trip with We Spread the Love. I was in shock. I had thought I didn’t get accepted because it had been so long. The news that I was accepted was almost surreal. It began to sink in and was just so amazed. I realized that this is what I had been waiting for and praying for all along. I couldn’t wait to serve and spread love to those living in Uganda and I was so thankful that God opened this door for me to pursue the passions and desire of my heart.
But then I realized there was a bit of a problem. I couldn’t just take off two weeks of my Senior year to go to Uganda. So then I realized that I was supposed to time time off of school from my second semester of Senior year. I would have been graduating and could have finished college, but God is just kind of crazy like that. He takes the plans you think you have and then he changes them all around. In the best way possible. That’s why I named this blog “a life interrupted.” Because that is exactly what he did. He took my plans of graduating Spring 2015 and he interrupted them in a big way.
Since the trip was only going to be two weeks long, I decided to look for where I could spend the rest of my semester serving, and after a few emails and interviews later I was accepted as an intern for Sole Hope (it really wasn’t that simple but for the sake of this post already being too long I’ll spare the details)! Eventually the We Spread the Love trip was cancelled due to certain reasons, and even though I was sad initially to hear the news, I was so thankful that it was through that trip that God used me to get to Uganda to serve His people.
After a ridiculously busy 4 months of balancing school, support raising, and working, I withdrew from school and hopped on a plane January 15th to spend my next 4.5 months living in Uganda. (**don’t worry I plan on finishing my last semester of school when I get back!)
It’s been about a year and a half of God getting ahold of my heart and changing around my plans in the best of ways, all of which lead me to where my feet are planted right now in Jinja, Uganda. Looking back I am just so amazed and in love with the way he knows me far better than I know myself. His plans are far greater than any I could dream up. I am continually blown away when I sit down and reflect over the past year and a half, and how he brought me to where I am now. He is so good.
The journey to where God brings you is not always clear. It’s messy and foggy and you can’t always see the next step ahead. But I can guarantee that when you are willing to say yes, and you choose to follow him one step at a time, the Lord will take you to far greater places than you could ever dream.
I was able to guest post on my dear friend Amanda’s blog about my first trip to the village! My first visit to the village was last week but hey better late than never. I met her within the first week I got to Uganda and we became close so quickly. I’m so thankful for her friendship and that she took me and Jordan (my friend and co-intern!) under her wing when we first got here, and I am grateful she let me share my story on her blog! Be sure to check it out!
A daily choice
I can’t believe I’ve already been here over a week. It’s been a crazy week of figuring out life here in Uganda. Not only have I been doing a lot in the short amount of time that I’ve been here, but I’ve been learning a lot too. So much that my brain can’t really seem to process it all.
There always seems to be lessons learned when everything once normal, comfortable, and familiar is stripped away. And this week has hit me hard with learning lessons. The other day I read a quote that has stuck with me:
“I get the invitation every morning when I wake up to actually live a life of complete engagement, a life of whimsy, a life where love does. It doesn’t come in an envelope. It’s ushered by a sunrise, the sound of a bird, or the smell of coffee drifting lazily from the kitchen. It’s the invitation to actually live, to fully participate in this amazing life for one more day.” – Love Does, Bob Goff
This quote completely wrecked me. To realize that every single morning I can choose to live life completely engaged, filled with love, and having the opportunity to act out that love towards others… It’s so simple, yet somehow I so often seem to forget this. I love how Bob Goff describes living life as an invitation. Because it is true, I have to really CHOOSE to fully participate. To fully love. And it’s not always easy, especially right now.
I love being in Uganda. In the short amount of time that I’ve been here there are so many people and places that already hold a dear place in my heart. But there has also been a part that has been quite difficult. It’s been difficult to leave the people I love from home, and it has also been difficult at times just trying to take everything in all at once here. It can be a bit overwhelming, and very tiring.
But these wise words have reminded me of something. They’ve reminded me that every day when I wake up I have the choice to fully participate, and to fully love those around me. I know that the Lord has me here for a purpose, and I want to be fully present. I want to fully love whoever God puts in my path. But I can’t really do that unless I choose to be fully present. Even though there have been moments that I have really missed people at home, I am learning that love can still stretch halfway around the world and that there is immense joy when I fully engage myself here. Being fully present is hard when I’m adjusting to a new environment where everything familiar is no longer around, but I’m beginning to realize that there is so much life and love happening right around me. And if I don’t accept the invitation every morning to live a life of full engagement, I just might miss it.
I’m not quite sure exactly where to start on this blog. I could explain the fairly long story of how I ended up coming to Uganda, but I’m already here and I would rather just write about what I’m experiencing right now. Maybe I’ll get to the story of how I ended up here later. In all honesty, I think I’ve been procrastinating in writing anything because it is a little intimidating to write my thoughts and feelings so that others can read them. And if you know me well enough, you know that I am not the best at ever explaining my own thoughts and feelings. So we’ll see how this goes.
It’s been a complete whirlwind since I’ve gotten to Uganda but I have loved every second of it. There have definitely been moments that have been hard, where I’ve been sad and have really missed home. It’s always difficult adjusting to a new normal. But there have been so many moments that I am simply in awe that I am finally here. Since arriving in Jinja, I have already met so many amazing people. It is crazy how God knows exactly what you need. Coming to Uganda I was worried about who I would become close with since I’ll be here for 4.5 months, but God has already placed such a great community around me and I am so thankful.
This place truly amazes me. In many parts of Uganda, there has been a lot of hurt. But beyond the hurt there is even more joy. Visiting the babies home for the first time was something that really moved me. At the babies home there are orphans as well as children in a transitional period waiting to be resettled with their families. As I walked through the gate to the babies home, many of the children came rushing to the muzungus (what they white people here). I was so confused how such little ones that have experienced so much hurt could be living with so much more love and joy than most people I have ever met. For a lot of the time I just sat with sleepy little Linda on my lap, observing how the children radiated so much joy as they bounced around the yard. It was a truly beautiful place. One that I will visit often while I’m here.
It’s only been a few days since I’ve gotten to Uganda and I am so amazed at how the Lord is at work. I can’t wait for the coming days, weeks, and months. I know that it may not always be fun or easy. There will be a lot of dirty and difficult times, but it will be worth it.