Tuesday, July 22, 2014

A Chance to Say Thank You

She is wearing a beautiful dress as we follow her down a narrow outdoor corridor. It's starting to drizzle, so we hurry. She ushers us through a courtyard and through a door. We are in her living room being invited to sit and relax with her family. She doesn't sit yet, making last minute adjustments around the room and going to check on something outside. We sit, in her home, surrounded by the people she loves best.

She is Astrida. And she is one of our beautiful, gifted artisans.

We have the honor of being guests in her home.

Her husband,whose English is exceptional, begins talking with us. He tells us that he and Astrida are Congolese refugees. They fled civil unrest years ago after his parents were killed and he was beaten so severely that he still has back trouble and headaches today. He tells us that his injuries made it difficult for him to find work and that life was very difficult. They wanted to provide for their children, but they weren't making enough to do it.

Then Astrida began working at the Umucyo co-op, the Noonday partnership.

Their children are all in school, they have medical insurance, they are saving to purchase a home, he has found a job as a teacher.

They tell us that Noonday has brought them a new day. That their life is happy. That they are proud to provide for their family.

I look to Astrida, and her face is quietly glowing. She is proud to be a woman of industry, a woman of talent, a woman whose work is known and loved and used and shared around the world.

We have a chance to introduce ourselves and share about our families and our lives. And I am so excited. You see, I had been hoping to be paired with Astrida for this visit. I have been captured by her smile and her eyes since the first time I saw her picture.and now here she is, right in front of me, and I get to tell her who she is to me.

I introduce myself and tell her about Adam. I share pictures of my husband (who she thinks is very handsome...good taste!) and my parents, my sister and Daisy. And then I get to tell her what I have been dying to say.

I tell her thank you. Thank you because we don't have any children and we are adopting. Thank you because the income I earn with Noonday is being set aside to cover extra adoption costs. Thank you because, even though she didn't know me until today, she is helping me become a mom, which is the deepest desire of my heart.

I don't know what she thought. She just smiled, took my hand and bowed her head.

This woman. This woman on the other side of the world is my partner. We need each other to take care of our children. This is the heartbeat of Noonday Collection. Women walking side by side with one another in equal partnership, empowering one another to make a difference in this world. I am honored to know Astrida, to have sat on her couch, to have hugged her children, to have had the opportunity to thank her for joining me in this journey, to know that she is part of my story and I am part of hers, to be able to share with my own children one day that this woman, and so many others like her, were instrumental in bringing us together.

Before we leave, she serves us tea and bakery bread, a Rwandan custom when guests visit your home. She is honoring us. And I tell her no, that the honor is mine.

Love,
Baylor

Sunday, July 20, 2014

At the Feet of Jesus

So much of what I am experiencing here has left me struggling for words. I think sometimes God pulls us out of our context of comfort to highlight who He is. That is exactly what this week in Rwanda has been for me. And the timing could not be more perfect.

All week, I have been hoping and praying that God would give me the courage to truly experiencing everything we are doing, to not just be a casual observer, but to be an authentic and intentional participant. So much of what Adam and I have endured over the last 3+ years on our journey to become parents has been bitterly painful, and a lot of it has left me hesitant to take a risk to do anything that might make me feel too much. Because, after so much hurt, it is easier to hold things at arm's length. It is safer.

But all of that came crashing down this morning.

We went to church. Having never been to Rwanda, I had no idea what to expect. I didn't even know whether the service would be in English. It was. Just like back in the States, we began with praise and worship. Two songs in, we began an OLD favorite of mine.

We fall down.
We lay our crowns.
At the feet of Jesus.
The greatness of
His mercy and love
At the feet of Jesus.
We cry, "Holy, holy, holy."
We cry, "Holy, holy, holy
Is the Lamb."

I have known that song for as long as I can remember. But as I was singing it today, I felt a pull on my heart.

"Baylor, you are not doing the very thing you are singing about."

And for the first time in I don't even know how long, I raised my hands up to God and let myself experience His presence. And I asked Him to help me be brave enough to lay my crowns at His feet, all the things I think I have achieved. Brave enough to let go of what I want, what think my life should look like and to fill my heart and my life with a desire to follow Him and love Him, trust Him wholly and fully and to not hold anything back.

And as my prayers went up, the Holy Spirit came down and the tears poured out. And I experienced God and His powerful presence. In those moments, I was alone with Jesus, and He reminded me that He is trustworthy, that He loves me. And that I can love Him back, even though I am hurting.

When the song was over, all I could manage was, "Thank you, thank you, thank you."


I pray that He would make me different. That He would make me better, stronger, braver. That He would remove fear, doubt, anger. I pray that I would be the kind of person who speaks joy, not just from the mountaintop, but from the valley.

I am so thankful that He did not give up on me. Even when I tried to give up on Him.

Love,
Baylor

Friday, July 18, 2014

Joy.

This, I think, has been the single most moving, overwhelming morning of my life. 

Joy. Sheer, complete, perfect, unadulterated joy. 

We step off the bus and these beautiful women are shouting, clapping and singing...for us. 

Us? 

This moment isn't about us; it's about them. 

As we walk down the steps and onto to the patio, they are grabbing us and hugging in and kissing us and thanking us. They are smiling and laughing. 

And I am crying. 

I'm crying because I can't believe their stories are part of my story. I am crying because I can't believe I am even allowed to be here, allowed to be a small, small part of this incredible story God is writing. He has taken women from opposite sides of the globe, and He has built a bridge to connect us. He has woven our lives together in this beautiful and crazy way. 

We need them in order to do what we do, and they need us to do what they do. This paradigm creates a partnership, a sustainable way to grow together and love and support one another. Meeting these women today cemented this reality for me. I stood there, enveloped by the arms and hearts of women I didn't know yesterday, and waves, literal waves, of love came rolling off of them and crashing over me.

And I saw Noonday for what it really is. 

A vehicle, a beautiful and powerful vehicle, that unites women across oceans and borders and creates a lifetime partnership, a true sisterhood of empowerment, love and encouragement. 

And I cannot believe that I get to be a part of it. What an honor to be one who carries their story forward.

I asked The Lord to refresh my spirit this week, and I prayed this morning for an open heart to receive whatever it is He might have for me. He crashed into my heart and my soul through these women today. 

It is well. 

Love, 
Baylor 

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Rwanda: Travel Day

I'm writing to you from roughly 30,000 above the African continent with just over three hours left on this long, long journey to Rwanda. In a few minutes, we are going to fly right past Ethiopia. Maybe there's a parachute on board...

And as I sit here in my little seat, with my eyelids heavy and my knees aching from only two hours of sleep in the last twenty-four, I am swept away by the reality of what we are about to do, by the fact that my feet will soon touch African soil, by the gift that God has laid before me in this Ambassador trip. A chance to live and love with twenty-three other like-minded women for ten days. A chance to meet our artisans, the women whose cause we champion through Noonday. A chance to be with The Lord in a fresh way. A chance to have my spirit refreshed in the midst of this desert we have been walking through.

I am so excited to see what God does this week. It is my deepest hope and prayer that He will speak to my heart in new ways this week, that He will remind me of His goodness and His love, that He will renew my faith and my energy and that I will come home feeling a sureness that has eluded me for a long time now.

I can't help it; this journey has me thinking of what it will be like when we are flying to Ethiopia instead of Rwanda. When we will be preparing to see and kiss the faces of our little ones. Maybe this trip is a stepping stone to get us ready for Ethiopia. Oh, I hope so. I would love to be heading back to this continent soon.

If you are one of the beautiful people who prays for us, would you pray that God reveals Himself to me this week? The last few years have been so hard, and I miss Him.

I can't wait to share this week with you.

Love,
Baylor

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Tomorrow is the Day!

Tomorrow morning I will begin the looooooong journey to Kigali, Rwanda! There has been so much I have wanted to write about in preparation for leaving on this trip, but with…

 Prepping and packing my car for 18 days away from home...
 Making the 12 hour drive from Birmingham to Ft. Lauderdale alone..
 Celebrating the birth of my niece...
And re-packing all of my Rwanda clothes…

I just haven't had enough time!! 

And so here I am. Almost midnight the night before we leave, trying to get some of my thoughts down. 

This is such a humbling thing. Being a part, a small, small part, of this incredible movement. This story that binds women around the world together. And knowing that I get to actually meet some of these women, well, it is overwhelming. To hug them, to thank them, to look into their eyes and tell them that I am honored to walk this path of partnership with them. All of these things are so much MORE than I signed on for when I began with Noonday Collection in October of last year. And I am humbly grateful. 

Beyond all of that is the resounding, echoing reality that the Lord brought this opportunity into my life at a time when joy is needed. The adoption front has just not been what we thought it would be. And most day it feels like we are getting farther away from our children instead of closer to them. The waters are rising and my arms are tired from treading. 

And I believe that the Lord knew this would be the case. So He gave me this incredible gift. A time to be away. To be surrounded by fellow Ambassadors, women who love and live in the real way. To be swallowed up by love and Christ-centered fellowship. To meet our beautiful artisans. To experience the culture of Rwanda. To set my own to feet on the continent where my children will be born. HE gave me this gift, and I grateful. 

I am hoping and praying that this week will be a time of spiritual refreshment for me. I have felt lost so often lately, and I am ready to feel found, to feel known and loved by God. To be reminded in tangible ways of His love and His goodness. To be pulled into prayer and His Word. I am on my own all the way to Belgium, so hopefully I will my solo time in the sky will be full of joyful communion with God and result in a  heart that is focused on Him. 

I am taking my iPad to TRY to blog while we are there. Not sure how it will go. But I will DEFINITELY be on Instagram a LOT for the next ten days. You can follow my journey @bayknott07 and all of us Ambassadors at #noondayrwanda. 

Here we go!

Love, 
Baylor 

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Sample Sale!!

It is time for my summer sample sale! Woohoo! This is your chance to shop some Noonday favorites at a seriously discounted price. Yay! Just click the link below to be taken to my sale document. Items will be sold on a first response basis, so let me know as soon as you decide on your order. You can leave a comment below or email me at baylor.noonday@gmail.com.

Happy shopping!


Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Ready

It has been hard for me to sit down and write lately. Not because I have been super busy, but more because I have reached a place where I am not quite sure what to say. I look at where this journey has brought us, and I am kind of stunned.

If I am completely honest, which is hard in this particular case, what we have been going through over the last 3 + years has caused me to really question things I have never doubted about God. I have always known that God is real, that He is present, that He is loving, that He is good, that He is sovereign. Yet when I hold those truths up to our lives and this path we are on, it is hard for me to reconcile all of it together.

I look at truths like, "God is real" and, "God is present," and I find myself, for the first time ever, FEELING like those truths are far from me. It is so hard to explain, and I am terrified to share these thoughts, because I don't want you to think that I have suddenly decided that God is not real. Far from it. I just feel so alone in this, and it seems like we have just been left here.

What I do believe is that this whole ordeal will ultimately strengthen and deepen my faith and trust in God. That notion makes sense to me. If my faith is never tested, really tested, then how could it ever be strong. If I can just hang on and survive this, then I do believe that I will know and love God more as a result.

I am just so beyond ready for this to be over. I am ready to not just nod and smile when friends talk about their babies and share mom tips. Ready stop wondering if we will EVER be parents. Ready to stop worrying that Ethiopia will shut down to international adoptions. Ready to stop crying. Ready to hold my children. Ready to step off that plane at the Birmingham airport and know that it is over and that they are ours and that no one can take them away. Ready to FEEL the love and blessing of God in my life again.

"I wait for the Lord, 
my soul waits, and in His Word I put my hope. 
My soul waits for the Lord
more than watchmen wait for the morning, 
more than watchmen wait for the morning." 
Psalm 130:5-6

Love, 
Baylor 
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