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I began the walk home with so many thoughts running through my mind. It was a day that I had felt almost every emotion one could feel and the sun hadn’t even gone down yet. Unfortunately, one of the biggest emotions stirring in my heart was frustration. I had just spent four hours at the doctors office with a handful of sick little children and of course most of that involved waiting (it’s no different in Africa). It wasn’t the most pleasant experience and I was just exhausted from being sick the last few days as well. So I walked…

I love my walks to and from the babies home every day. They are my reflection time, my prayer time and my worship time. If something is on my mind, I spend the 40 minutes talking to God. If I am happy, I spend the 40 minutes thanking Him. If I don’t really feel like talking to Him, I talk to others as we pass and I see His beauty in every single one of them. It’s an essential part of the day.

Today I needed this walk home. I started thinking about my day and getting annoyed all over again and just stopped and thanked God for allowing me to be AVAILABLE to help with those four little children. All of a sudden, I looked up and saw a beautiful rainbow stretching across the Jinja sky. Birds flew across it with such glee and four children ran across the street and gave me big hugs around my legs. I know I know…this sounds like a Disney movie. I seriously felt like I was Snow White for a second. All I could do was laugh and fall more in love with God.

The thing is, God is the biggest romantic there is. Think about it…what’s His platform all about anyway? LOVE. In this moment where I was feeling love all around me…God swept me off my feet again.

This past weekend, I spent the night on an island with some fellow female volunteers which meant that a big part of our conversations consisted of the male species. I asked the girls if they consider themselves romantics and a lot of them said no. That made me a bit sad. I personally consider myself romantic. It’s not in the sense that I desire flowers or jewelry or fancy meals…it’s more in the sense that I think that the unimaginable is actually pretty possible.

We watch these movies where the two ridiculously good looking actors see each other across a room and instantly fall in love. For some reason, we have trained ourselves to believe that those kinds of experiences “can only happen in the movies”. What if we aren’t giving romance enough credit? What if it is that simple and we just aren’t looking up? A lot of crazy things happen to me…running into people in the most random place possible, meeting people who know fellow friends in different countries, getting a feeling I should make a left instead of a right and then having the most wonderful experience happen. I am nothing special…I am just willing for God to dazzle me and I know He loves doing it. Don’t we love making the people we love happy? There is no one who loves us more than Him and His goal is to make us fall more in love everyday. Why can’t we embrace this concept for one another?

God is possible of ANYTHING. He created the stars, the mountains, the sea….goodness…He has the most beautiful imagination ever. I believe we have chances to have amazing stories…just like they do in the great novels and classic movies. I think it just requires us to be vulnerable to the opportunity…which is no ones favorite thing to do. When you have your guard down, you can get hurt, but you can also have the chance to experience some beautiful things.

I didn’t have to look up on my walk home today. I didn’t have to make eye contact with those children. I didn’t have to communicate with God that even though this day was hard, I was really happy to be here to help. As soon as I let the frustration melt and became vulnerable…He wooed me.

We all deserve to be wooed and we all deserve to believe in the romance that God creates. What’s so wrong with wanting our stories to start with “once upon a time?” or end with “happily ever after?”. We only live this life once! Who wants a boring, safe story anyway? I want one where my grand children sit fascinated by my feet when I am old and grey and want to hear it over and over again. I want a life that could be made into a movie or book..and so far, I love my story. No it hasn’t gone the way I have intended at ALL…but that’s what makes it GOOD. Knowing it’s never going to go my way and allowing God to make an interesting story out of my life is something so beautiful.

So please be available. Please let yourself be wooed. Please don’t give up on Love and please remember to always look up.

bda
  • February 2, 2013 - 9:41 am

    Dorothy - :)ReplyCancel

  • February 3, 2013 - 1:46 pm

    Mom - What a wonderful story. I look forward to your stories and pictures. I get so excited when you have a new post,.

    Hope all is well, and God continues to keep you in his care. Love you lots.ReplyCancel

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Dear 21 year old Mary,

I look at this picture and want to tell you so many things from your future self. Since I am turning 26 this year..you know I am full of so much more wisdom than you. 😉 I know how you are feeling at that exact moment in this picture…

It’s the first day of June in 2008 and you are celebrating your friend Bethanys birthday in a Massachusetts park. Your closest friends are by your side and you even just welcomed a cute little poodle into your family. You surprised the birthday girl with tickets to see Rilo Kiley that night and you are just so excited to go dance with your friends while listening to some of your favorite music. Your fiancé made the trip from Vermont to spend time with you all that weekend and even squeezed in some wedding planning, as the big event is only 27 days away. You are graduating in a couple of weeks and are ready to conquer the world. Your portfolio passed it’s final review and you are more than ready to walk across that stage. You are dreaming of photographing couples in California as you are moving there in a little over a month. Yes, California…no…you don’t know anyone there. Your whole life is about to change in such big ways and just when you think the whirlwind is over…God will show you He has a few more tricks up His sleeve.

You see..you will move to California. The first six months of that brand new place will be so incredibly hard. You will take jobs that you will dread going to every morning just to pay the bills. It takes some time to make friends in Los Angeles, the city of a million people just wanting to fit in. You will eat ALOT of frozen yogurt…yes it’s as amazing as it sounds. You eventually will learn to love the state you live in. You will make friends where ever you go and one day you won’t even have to use your GPS to get around. You will travel the whole state north to south and will even fall in love with a couple of places called Joshua Tree and Big Sur.

That girl Bethany that you were celebrating that day? Yes..she will become not only your best friend but your sister. She will call you every evening during those first 6 months you are in California and so very lonely. You will see her every year I promise…heck you are even going to photograph her wedding to Ryan..can you believe it? One day she will fly from New York to California when your heart is broken into more pieces then you could imagine and you will take a road trip to San Francisco together for a short getaway. You will meet in various places through out the next few years but it will never feel like a lot of time has passed. And just when you think that Bethany couldn’t be anymore awesome….she will surprise you on your studio door step the day of your organizations first event and make you bawl your eyes out because in that moment, you needed her more than you knew.

You know that poodle sitting by your feet? You ended up calling him Rilo. That dog will steal the biggest piece of your heart. You will go on many adventures and he will literally attach himself to your hip. There will be a time where you go hiking every day together and he will crawl up on your chest when the tears are falling at night. He will be patient with you, comforting and so excited to see you everyday when you open that front door. You will travel together and sometimes you will have to leave him behind….but I promise he will never forget you.

June 28th is the big day right? The sunny seaside wedding in Maine with sunflowers and picnic baskets and blankets for all the guests? Well…heads up…it’s going to rain….but it will still be fun. Your soon to be mother in law will surprise you with a horse drawn carriage to get you to the ceremony site and your soon to be father in law will help you down the steps. I know what you’re thinking…it’s raining…you’re going to probably slip on your butt and make a fool of yourself. Surprisingly, you won’t. You will make it down the aisle without any bruises to the lovely tunes of Feists Mushaboom that your friends are playing acoustically. Your hands will be shaking because of the cold or maybe just from the excitement of committing your heart to someone forever. You will be happy…really, truly happy.

I really don’t want to be the bearer of bad news on this next part my dear but you won’t even make it to your second anniversary. There will be a day that you just feel the pit at the bottom of your stomach that something isn’t right. You ask that question, wanting so badly to hear the desired answer of “yes, of course we’re fine” but alas…you hear the answer that only nightmares could be made of. It’s raining and you rode your bike to his work and you take off in the storm because this simply is not the time and place to have the conversation. Every morning you will wake up hurting and wondering “how can I make him love me again today?”. That month will be the worst month of your life. Finally, after 30 tortuous days…you will let go and accept the truth that there simply is no more “us”. Rings will come off, bags will be packed and separate ways will be had.

Oh man..I really didn’t want to tell you that. I thought that maybe we could skip over that part and continue telling you more about your future but there is just no way around it. Yes, you are a divorcee. Gross right? No one ever wants to be called that. But you know what? It’s going to be one of the best things that has ever happened to you. I know, I know…that doesn’t make sense now…but I promise you will understand it one day. Want to know something else? After some time and growing up separately, you two will actually be good friends who have forgiven and support each other to no end. He will even watch Rilo when you go to Africa for six months…

Oh right…you’re going to Africa for six months! Crazy right?! It will be your first trip overseas and in 2012 you will have gotten on a plane and headed to Uganda 3 times. You will fall in love with the people, the culture and even sleeping under a mosquito net. Your days will consist of loving a lot of children, taking pictures, telling stories and meeting incredible people. I would love to tell you more about this adventure…but to be honest, I am currently living it. Just know that Uganda will steal your heart and will always be a big part of your life.

Speaking of your heart…it will heal. You will try your hardest not to build a fortress up around it and it will actually get hurt a couple more times. Sounds exhausting right? It is..but you will always get up, pick up the pieces and slowly start the reconstruction process over agin. You will learn to be safe with it, for it is quite fragile but also because you will understand that it belongs to someone very special that maybe you aren’t even aware of yet and they deserve a strong heart that is open, forgiving, understanding, kind and patient…not scarred and wrapped in barbed wire..you are more than aware and hopeful that true love still exists. You will learn to love in a way you never thought possible…not only romantically but to everyone you meet. You will see the beauty that resides in each one of their souls and will humble yourself to them. Your life will be defined and driven by love and you will be so happy spreading it.

Yes, you are still taking pictures. You actually will travel the world and teach orphans how to do so. You will have that wedding photography business you were dreaming about night and day. It will actually involve many talented young people who truly love to capture the beauty of a wedding celebration…and you might have met most of them on Craigslist.

I know I told you that you were lonely for the first 6 months in California, but I want you to hang in there. Soon you will have an amazing group of friends that you will confide everything in. You will meet them randomly in the wedding industry but just know that they will be the biggest gifts to you. They will support you endlessly, be there through your hard times and celebrate with you in your good times. They will surprise you with not only one birthday party but two! They will pick you up and drop you off at the airport numerous times. They will support your traveling addiction and watch your dog and move your car on street cleaning days. You may even end up living with a girl you met on twitter that also takes pictures. Her name is Megan and she will be one of the most amazing people to ever step in your life. You will sit back at the end of so many days and just beam with joy thinking about this life that you live full of so much support and love from your friends…and I promise you will never feel lonely again.

You will keep dreaming big. You will desire to make the world a better place. You will stare at a map and figure out when and how you can see it all before you leave this beautiful earth. You will still have long hair and glasses. You will get braces though and will learn to love your smile. You will eat meat again…but then you will stop. Your sense of smell still hasn’t come back but who knows what the future holds. You still covet hot sauce and no the world is NOT going to end December 21st of 2012. You will learn to run to God for everything and will fall madly in love with Jesus that people will probably think you’re crazy but you don’t care.

You will be happy.

Love,

25 year old Mary

bda
  • January 11, 2013 - 9:52 am

    Natalie - Oh Mary, this is lovely. Retrospect is an amazing thing, isn’t it? Hugs from Calgary.ReplyCancel

  • January 11, 2013 - 10:04 am

    BreAnne - I absolutely love you.ReplyCancel

  • January 11, 2013 - 10:34 am

    julie harmsen - And I’m bawling again. Gosh, you’re so incredible and your story is made of pure gold. What a unique, beautiful woman you are Mary and I’m so grateful to be a part of your journey. You’re an inspiration to so many. Thank you for all that you do and for keeping your heart open and not wrapped barbed wire. That is a sometimes seemingly impossible thing to do and you embody so much grace. I love you.ReplyCancel

  • January 11, 2013 - 10:52 am

    Morgan Kidd - This was beautifully written! I really love this Mary and it made me cry!! I am so happy for you and continue to wish the best for you in all that you do. You are always inspiring me and everyone who knows you! Keep smiling beautiful girl :)ReplyCancel

  • January 11, 2013 - 12:16 pm

    RebekahJean - This is so beautiful. And to a 19 year old girl, it’s hope. I know that I may make many mistakes in the next 5 years of my life, but I hope to come out on the other end beaming with the love of Jesus as much as you do. Thank you for sharing, I am sure that wasn’t easy!ReplyCancel

  • January 11, 2013 - 12:38 pm

    ari - tears. so beautiful, my beautiful friend.ReplyCancel

  • January 11, 2013 - 1:30 pm

    Rache - I love you. like TONS. so many tears, just beautiful. xoxoxoReplyCancel

  • January 12, 2013 - 12:52 pm

    Megan Welker - and….I’m crying. YES. crying! This is so beautiful Mary!ReplyCancel

  • January 13, 2013 - 7:37 pm

    Pam Harmsen - Mary,

    This is an incredibly moving letter. I was moved to tears. Just as you wrote this letter to young Mary, your heavenly Father is writing His love letter to you in the chapter of His story (history) entitled “my lovely Mary”. How wonderful your passion for Jesus, for love, for orphans, for new life! Blessings to you as you grow in Him, PamReplyCancel

  • January 14, 2013 - 7:10 pm

    dorothy - oh mary. what an incredible blessing it is to call you a friend. this was such a beautifully written letter and so real. thank you for sharing. you are such a light and a testimony to who our Savior is. love you so.ReplyCancel

  • January 15, 2013 - 1:24 pm

    wreckless - i love you. you are a blessing to me, mary. always hoping and praying for you.ReplyCancel

  • January 16, 2013 - 12:25 pm

    Abbey - Hi Mary …
    I’ve been a long time follower to your blog, your instagrams, your photography … but a first time commenter. Your post made me tear up a little. But in a good way, because this is life. If only we could write letter to our selves, right? It would make things so much easier. I had no idea you’ve been through all of this and it only makes me love your work and you more. (Even though we have never met). The part about Rilo and him crawling up to your face even when the tears are flowing is what got me. I had one of those dog-friend-soulmates too. And they are absolutely more than just a dog. You inspire me, your photos inspire me, and your heart inspires me! Keep doing what you’re doing. You’ve got a lot of people (even if you haven’t met them yet) rooting for you and supporting you from wherever they are. (In this case, Michigan).

    -AbbeyReplyCancel

  • January 21, 2013 - 6:18 am

    Around the Web {January 2013} « Never Static - […] Advice From the Future – from  Wandering With Mary […]ReplyCancel

  • February 11, 2013 - 5:07 pm

    Dana - Words can not express how overwhelmed I feel right now. I’m 21 and moving to California at the end of this summer. I was married and divorced at 19 and every emotion expressed in this letter was once, and most days still is, felt by me. I can’t help but feel like you wrote this to me, the 21 yr old stranger crying her eyes out because for the first time in a long time she knows everything is going to be ok. The fears I have about moving to California, knowing no one, are a little more tamed knowing it happened to someone else wearing the same shoes and she is just fine. I honestly can’t thank you enough for these tear stained cheeks of relief. I am ever grateful.

    Xoxo
    DanaReplyCancel

  • February 25, 2013 - 12:52 pm

    Felicia - Tears are literally streaming down my face. And I can’t even freely cry because I’m at work. This was such a blessing to read. You are such a blessing to me and I cannot wait to be more involved in each others life. Maybe one day we will even live close to each other. If not, we have eternity. I love you sweet one.ReplyCancel

  • February 25, 2013 - 1:12 pm

    Kathrina - You are so loved. Thank you for this. Keep smiling because you are beautiful inside and out.ReplyCancel

  • March 4, 2013 - 12:17 pm

    Brigitte - This is beautiful beyond words. Incessable tears. Thank you.ReplyCancel

  • August 14, 2014 - 6:29 pm

    Blair - This is so beautiful. You are an amazing soul xoReplyCancel

  • June 23, 2015 - 7:09 pm

    Becky - Mary, I remember taking this photo of you, sitting in the park in Turners Falls by the water. I think of you often and am always so impressed, jealous, motivated, and speechless by your work and the life that you are leading. I am not sure if you will get this message but I do hope that some day soon we get to see each other. Take care – BeckyReplyCancel

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I feared this moment so badly…I knew it was going to happen during my six month stay, there was no way to avoid it. I had watched Sharons updates on Facebook about children that were coming to her under horrific circumstances. Children abused, children left behind in their homes…even two children who were thrown in a deep toilet after the mother gave birth. I had been praying for the Lord to prepare my heart to be able to stand by and be apart of something like this…saving a human life after they have already been through so much pain at a young age. These sweet innocent children who don’t have a voice or any ability to fight back had already been put in such terrible situations of pain.

We were standing on beautiful farm land in a village two hours from Jinja buying a cow when the phone call came into Sharons phone. When she hung up she casually told me that there was a baby in Kampala who had been abandoned and needed help…the hospital was ready to discharge him. This baby is 2 months old and fighting for his life. His mother died during child birth and after a month of being with his father, he became very sick. He contracted gangrene (a horrible infection) on his head, suffered seizures and even slipped into a coma for 4 days. His father brought him to the hospital and when his condition didn’t get any better and the hospital bills started racking up…he left. This child…less than 2 months old…was all alone and in a lot of pain. After a month, the hospital was frustrated and ready for the open space since no one was coming to claim this child and it was costing them a lot of money. I have no idea how the system technically works, but Arise and Shines social worker was called and this brings us back to that phone call, during that beautiful sunset…surrounded by cows.

The hospital was requesting a lot of money for the discharge of this child. If Arise and Shine wanted to care for this child…they would have to pay. There isn’t an excessive amount of funds to any organization…but being here and seeing where it all goes daily is such a crazy experience. Food, milk man, tailoring projects, rent, medicine, hospital bills, etc. Now all of a sudden a new life is brought into the picture…where does one pull that money from? It doesn’t matter…there was no way Sharon wasn’t going to help save this life.

So today, on my walk to the babies home which is around 2.5 miles…I asked God to help me. To hold my hand. To hold this childs hand. To hold the staff of Arise and Shine. I prayed for Him to heavily be present on the day, we needed Him. I walked into those gates and the usual excitement I feel daily had turned into nerves. I wanted to love this child but he is so sick…how do I not focus on the infection that is covering more than half of his tiny little head?

Sharon led me into the room with a heavy heart and I somehow found myself on the ground by baby Praise’s side…holding his tiny little hand, looking into his beautiful eyes and telling him that he is so beautiful. Yes, there was a bandage covering an awful infection but that doesn’t define him even though he has had it more than half his life. He is pure, innocent and perfect. He is a fighter. He is Gods child. He is so meant to be here, right now, with us.

I love you, baby Praise.

 

 

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bda
  • January 10, 2013 - 12:10 pm

    Dorothy - so wonderfully written and what a story.ReplyCancel

  • January 10, 2013 - 3:25 pm

    Wreckless - Sweet little angel. Always thinking of and praying for you, dear.ReplyCancel

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Here I am, after much anticipation, in Uganda, Africa. I am exactly where God has led me and with full confidence and blind faith, I did as I was told. I sit here now knowing I have many days and many opportunities to live out this adventure to the fullest. I can’t help but search my heart and ask God, what exactly is it that You need me to do here?

I could definitely live the relaxed and comfortable life in Jinja. Walking to the babies home everyday down the beautiful red dirt roads enjoying the tropical temperature on my skin. I could enter those gates and just sit with the sweet kids all day and be happy. I could go home and make myself a nice meal, crawl into my bed under my mosquito net, read my book and call it a night. Wake up and repeat. But I don’t want that. I want to live the uncomfortable life here. I want to be stretched beyond measure and be shown strength from God that I didn’t even know I had. I want to do everything in my ability to help these beautiful people however they need and let them help me in ways I didn’t know I needed.

My friend Raymond spoke over me the other day and told me that my time here was going to be used in big ways. He said this at a moment that I was searching my heart and asking God, why am I here? I have no specific assignments and no daily routine. I came here because this is where I knew the path that God has paved for me led to…but now what?

I opened my daily devotional and todays read ” I am leading you along a way that is uniquely right for you. The closer to Me you grow, the more fully you become your true self, the one I designed you to be. Because you are one of a kind, the path you are traveling with Me diverges increasingly from that of other people. However, in mysterious wisdom and ways, I enable you to follow this solitary path while staying in close contact with other. In fact, the more completely you devote yourself to Me, the more freely you can love people.”

And that’s it. This is my unique path. It doesn’t look like my neighbors, my friends or even a stranger that I have met on the street. It doesn’t look like yours. How beautiful is it that we each have been promised our own journey through this life? We have adventures waiting for us even if we are sitting in the dark in paradise not exactly sure what to do next. When we are willing to serve with our palms face up in surrender…we will be used. When we seek what God has in store for us…He will show us joyfully because He has designed an amazing adventure of each and every one of us.

Please don’t wait. If you feel something stirring in your heart….go with it. That pull is God grabbing you by the hand and wanting to show you something magnificent. Even if you don’t exactly know what to do when you are following the right path, don’t turn back. Be patient and still and know that you are about to be used in ways you never thought possible.

bda
  • December 30, 2012 - 8:11 pm

    Megan Welker - this is so perfect for today. Adam and I chatted about something like this today :) Love you Mary! SO much!ReplyCancel

  • December 31, 2012 - 3:19 pm

    2012, Thank You. « Love Roots Photography - […] My friend Mary wrote about this very thing today…I’d encourage you to check it out at  wanderingwithmary.com  In her post she quotes; “The closer to Me you grow, the more fully you become your true […]ReplyCancel

  • January 6, 2013 - 11:19 am

    Dorothy - so goood. I can’t wait to give you a hug :) love you!ReplyCancel

  • January 9, 2013 - 10:03 am

    Mary Burgio - Mary Frances: I am so happy that God has sent you where you are today. You seem so at peace with yourself. Aunt Pam has been following your stories, and sharing them with her co-workers. They too, are so happy for you and truly believe that you are a beautiful person. Miss you Lots.ReplyCancel

  • January 9, 2013 - 11:21 am

    Aunt Marge - Your writing makes me feel like I am right there with you. Keep up the good work, how much does a cow cost?ReplyCancel

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May 11th of this year I dragged my feet out of the gates of the Arise and Shine babies home in Jinja, Uganda. Tears flooded my eyes and heart ached for the distance I immediately faced upon making a left hand turn down the red dirt African roads. In a short week I had grown to love so many beautiful souls whose ages ranged from newborn to 13 years old. I promised I would be back for Christmas and as the next 6 months passed, one day didn’t go by that I didn’t think and pray for these children.

Six months later, I am reunited with this beautiful family of children. There are many faces I recognize and was greeted by shouting “Auntie Mary!” and a warm embrace around my legs upon arrival. There were many more faces I did not recognize but finally met in person and immediately fell in love with their beautiful smiles. I couldn’t help but be a bit overwhelmed instantly by the vast amount of children (43 as of right now). So many newborns and young children have been welcomed into the Arise and Shine babies home and as wonderful as it is that they have a place to call home and people to take care of them…it’s still tragic reality that these children do not have families as of right now. Each child has such a unique story…a story only God could come up with..it’s amazing think of what He has in store for these children next.

It’s been a wonderful 24 hours getting to catch up with some of the children, get to know most of them, shop and decorate for Christmas, pick flowers for the aunties that take care of the children, play on the swing set and just sit and be with one another. I am yearning for tomorrow when I will see these children again. When I can see Job ride his bicycle in circles around Dina the cow, when I can hold and snuggle sweet Stella who cannot walk on her own but loves to be held, when I can teach Sharon more about photography, when triplets Lisa, Lola and Loise yell “Auntie Mary” over and over again and when I can tickle Fiona until she smiles and giggles the best laugh I have ever heard.

I can’t wait for tomorrow.

 

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bda
  • December 21, 2012 - 1:27 pm

    Dorothy - so precious. love these mary! can’t wait to meet them in person.ReplyCancel

  • December 27, 2012 - 1:05 pm

    Rachel Banek - you capture sweet moments so beautifully. God is doing AMAZING things through you! lots of prayers for you and the children you are working with.:)

    much love, rachel
    http://www.rbanek.blogspot.comReplyCancel

  • December 28, 2012 - 9:53 am

    Jobin - You blog is such an encouragement, Mary. Thank you for sharing your life through your pictures and words. Every one of them makes me pray harder and long deeper for the same calling in my life. Praying for you,ReplyCancel