Let’s get to work.

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Let me start by saying that this blog is often a letter to myself—this post more than ever. It is a way of getting my thoughts out of my head and into the world. I way of telling the lessons that have been reverberating in my heart.

In this new year with new resolutions, my feed has been full of inspirational sayings and motivation. And man, I need it. Already in the third week of January, the cold dark evenings make reading on the couch seem a lot more appealing than accomplishing my goals (though I will add that reading more books is on my goal list this year). But so is running another 5K and those nights on the couch don’t help. After long days at the hospital, I just want to come home and do nothing. But alas, my future is waiting for me to become the woman I aspire to be. Let’s go.

You know, it is those undone things in the back of our mind that nag at us and keep us from peace. I came across this saying today and latched on. “Nothing will make you feel better except doing the work.” Nothing is more true.

It is never easy to make steps to being a better me. No one said I would just wake up one day and be who I want to be. It takes work. The questions is, am I willing to put in the time? There will always be excuses, there will always be better days, tomorrow will always be the temptress pulling you away from the goals of the day. Let’s go.

I could be a procrastinator as a profession, trust me, I would be quite good! But at the end of the day when I stay late at my desk after clinic has closed to organize, I remember that my tomorrow self will be so thankful to my today self if I settle down and put in the time. It is hard to get motivated, it is hard to stay late, or work hard, but the results are worth the work. And nothing feels better than going to bed with a clear head and nothing but peace in your mind.

I am writing this to myself. Let’s go. Make the effort to be my best self, not only for me, but for all of those that I love. Jump out of bed, ready for the day. Go forth with energy. Do whatever it is you have to do to get exited, to become passionate! Find what it is that makes your heart come alive, and do everything it takes to get after it.

The whole world is waiting for us to find our destiny, to make our contribution and do our part.

It’s a new year, a new season, so you and I, let’s get to work!

The Future Seems Bright

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A new year. A blank slate. A clean page. It’s my favorite, this time of year. And ever the optimist, I feel like all my dreams will come true in the 12 months ahead.

I would be remiss if I didn’t say that 2015 was a hard- as we started the year having no idea where we would live or what we would do and ended it gladly saying goodbye to 2015 and the many struggles it brought.

It has been a difficult year the world over. With new stories of violence everyday, the refugee crisis, and the fact that Donald Trump is a legitimate presidential candidate, the world seems to be in chaos. I can see and feel that fear abounds.

Today on this dawn of a new year I say to you and to myself- do not fear, the future seems bright. Because amongst the chaos and turmoil I see beauty and kindness, I see new ideas and hearts for the world. I believe so much in us all. I believe in the people I work with that have dedicated their lives to curing cancer. I believe in The City of Hope that is helping to end the orphan crisis in East Africa. I believe in the kindness of strangers, and those that donate their time and money to invest in a better world. Oh do not fear, our future is so bright.

World over there is chaos, and world over there are people in the trenches fighting to make a difference in the lives of those around them. World over their are people standing up for love, generosity, and change.

Educators who give their time to bring forth the creativity, parents teaching their children to be generous and kind. I see great courage in the hearts of youth. I see passion in the eyes of my generation. I see ingenuity and dreams higher than the sky.

The week before Christmas, Mwita and I went on a cruise with his family. It was a wonderful week full of relaxation and fun. On the last night, the cruise director pointed out that there were over 70 countries represented on that cruise and how beautiful it was that we all spent a lovely week together in joy and fun. That is the world I believe in.

This new year is about new promise, following our dreams, and becoming the people we want to be. It is about bringing forth the gifts and passions we have in our hearts and giving them to the world. The new year is a chance to be the best you can be.

Bring for the best things of last year, and leave the heartache in the past. This year is brand new

In this season, I believe in hope for the future, joy to the world, peace on earth, love over all.

Do not fear, the future seems bright

The Life You Want to Live

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Life is a funny thing. They way the clock keeps ticking and time keeps going, even if you wished for just one moment that it would slow down. When I’m worn out and wanting these weekend hours to stay just a bit longer, or when I wonder how this past year has gone so fast! I am convinced that the older I get, the faster time goes. Is the world moving faster and we just don’t know it?

I’m in that 9-5 thing now, that everyday get up, get moving and get to work. And with my commute taking me well over an hour (on a good day) I find that my time quickly disappears (though we are working on changing that whole living situation). I think right now I’m busier than ever…and I’m not saying that proudly, but just that it is a fact.

In this busyness, I’m beginning to realize that the everyday things, those small moments, make up more of our life than the big decisions. Sometimes it is those moments when our minds are still and quiet. Sometimes it the small things like pink sunrises on the way to work that count. I could work in the job I do and be the most joyful or most miserable person around, it’s the choices I make in the small moments that make all the difference. Savoring that last few drops of coffee in the morning, enjoying the friendships that have come with my new job, and the fact that I have watched fall display its changing robe of colors as I drive everyday along the C & O canal. And that is why I’m learning this word cultivate…I’m learning to cultivate a life of love and joy and peace. A life well lived, even if those free moments are few.

Taking the moments to cook when I get home from work, even though I’m tired, because it is something I love to do. Spending long weekend mornings walking around DC with Mwita, because moments with him are what I cherish more than anything in the world, or sitting for hours on the couch looking at houses as we plan for the place where we will cultivate sweet friendships and bring our children home someday. It’s these things, these beautiful moments that bring out the living of all parts of life—mind, body, spirit.

Back in the summer I was listening to a podcast (though I cannot remember which). I remember her saying “Wake up for your life, no to it.” And that has resonated with me every since. Our lives are ours to live. Ours to cultivate and to create. It’s the choices we make in those early morning hours that set the course for our day. Don’t let the tasks of the day overwhelm you or overtake you, wake up to the joy and the beauty that is around. In all the busyness, create the life you want to live.

Bittersweet

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I can’t believe that it is September already. This time of year always feels a little bit sad to me. Summer is winding down, the days are shorter and the nights are cooler, and my heart begins to feel restless again.

Summer is over, routines are back, and we say goodbye to the long sunny days that were July.

Part of me welcomes this transition. A time to get back to work, to finish the year well, to make sure goals are completed.

This time of year when the leaves just begin to change, and the sunsets feel even more piercing than before. The crickets interrupt the night with their chirping and we all know that winter will once again be here.

To be honest, this year I am ready for this. As I took a long drive this evening, windows open, heading into the sunset and the changes of fall beginning to erupt around me, I felt a longing in my heart. It’s been a hard year. I’m ok with the newness of bringing this year into its last season. I’m ok with moving on.

This season of fall is bittersweet. This year the changing leaves seem to resemble the feeling of my heart. But what I love about seasons, is that there is always newness around the corner.

Last Saturday I woke up to the news that I was an auntie again. I could hardly contain my joy! I hopped into my car and sped down the highway to Chambersburg. There at the hospital was my sweet sweet niece, Elisa Claire. As I held her in my arms, my heart broke. There she was with her perfect little mouth, and eyes, and fingers and toes. Another miracle.

My heart has been swelling with joy all week as I think of the life she will live. And it made so much sense to me as I looked down in my arms, Elise sleeping so sweetly and I thought of the life she had ahead of her. Of the amazing thing she will accomplish and of the great potential she has. And it made me so badly just want to live!

It’s been awhile since I saw new life. As a nurse working in oncology I am confronted with end of life on a weekly basis. And sometimes, like this past week, sometimes it really hurts. My heart has broken quite a few times this year, of hard things seen in Tanzania, losses in our family, and the everyday situations I deal with at work. But Elise Claire brought it full circle. A new life of beauty. A new day to live fully. Loss and life and love.

And outside as the leaves change and as my heart feels restless, there is a new tiny baby just down the road. A new miracle just starting life. And in the bitter moments of life there she is, pure sweetness and joy.

Elise Claire, thank you for waking up my heart to love and to live again. Thank you for reminding me of the newness and beauty of life. This is just the beginning of the lives you will touch and the impact you will have on the world.

As the summer winds down, a new life appears.  The days are shorter, the nights are cooler, the leaves begin to change and life comes full circle again.

Love and Joy and Light

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Today I sit her reminiscing of the places I have been and of the people I have met. Though I am still young, I have come in contact with an amazing array of different people. From villagers in Tanzania to porteños in Buenos Aires to my people in Franklin County, PA and so many people in between. Beautiful people from so many different walks of life that have deeply impacted who I have become.

As I thought of the friends that have come and gone, I thought too of the impact they had on my life. The people that we spend time with, and even just those that we know for a short time impact us more, than perhaps we may know, and we do the same to them.

I was just thinking of the people I came in contact with this past week at work —working in DC I daily am in contact with people working in government, people who are living on the streets, diplomats from foreign countries and everyone in between. It is amazing—and humbling all at once. This past week alone I can think of people from Bangladesh, Thailand, Nigeria, Ghana, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and Venezuela, just to name a few.

I cannot help but wonder about the impact that I have on these people- as a nurse, many take the words I say seriously, they probably also take the way I am loving and compassionate – or not- very seriously, too.

It is a great responsibility for all of us to hold other peoples hearts in our hands. We have the ability to heal or to hurt with our words and actions. We have the ability to call others to life or to bring them down, sometimes without even knowing or trying we can impact people so greatly. Sometimes just holding a door, speaks volumes, or letting someone else go on the elevator before you can make a difference. Sometimes it is really taking the time to sit down and listen to the struggles that others are going through, and sometimes it us just us, being ourselves, giving of our own hearts and sharing our own personal stories that can make an impact. Even just the way we smile can bring life. I know without a shadow of a doubt that kindness speaks volumes. I see it so clearly in my everyday life.

The other week I saw a lady asking for food outside of Aldi. To be totally honest and quite vulnerable here, those situations always make me feel a bit uncomfortable, out of my own judgement, I say it is because I don’t know her story or her heart. I figure though, it is better to give food to someone that didn’t need it, than to not give to someone who really does. I gave her food that day, but as I drove away I felt such sadness. I gave her food, but I did not give her humanity. I handed what I  giving to her and hurried away before I could think about it any more. My good deed for the day, but I gave it to her without acknowledging her humanity, without being aware of her as a person. Perhaps, though, what she needed more than a loaf of bread was for someone to look her in the eyes and show her love. I think I failed to give her that on that day. I failed to share what is most important, myself, my heart, and it made me wonder how often I do that in the everyday. I have been thinking of her every since. I hope she will forgive me for not sharing my heart.

All of these people I have met in my life, those I have known well or known for just a short time. I wonder what my impact was on them. Did I open my heart, give them life, acknowledge their humanity, and share of myself or did I merely glance at them in passing, just moving on to the next thing. It is so humbling, this thing called life, that we can impact others so deeply, that our words, our actions, or even just our smiles carry such weight. As I think about all of the people I have met in my life, I think about my impact. I hope more than anything when they think of me they think of love, and joy, and of light. That is what I want to leave as my legacy. My collection of memories—-Monica Chacha full of love, overflowing with joy, a light to the world. Love and Joy and Light.

This is for you.

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For the dreamers, doers, believers, the hope keepers and adventure seekers, this is for you.

It’s been a whole year now since Mwita and I set off for our adventure, a whole year now since we packed up our U-Haul, waved goodbye to the lives we knew in Lynchburg and sought out a new path. It’s been a whole year now, and my life is changed.

The places I went, people I met, and experiences I had will stay with me forever. Countless stories, images, and ideas are etched into my mind.

One such person I met just this week.

I had the pleasure of meeting a spunky lady this past weekend and I think she will stay in my mind for a longtime. A lady halfway through her trek on the Appalachian Trail- Georgia to Maine, and doing it all on her own! I am amazed.

I have to admit after talking to her, my adventure hungry heart felt so envious, as we waved goodbye to her and she set off on the trail. It was about 6 in the evening, she said she would do about 10 more miles that night until she got to shelter. The breeze blowing in the trees, the birds singing, the sun shining, and man, that trail called out to me. We dropped her off, she set off on the trail, and I longed for the freedom she must have felt.

More than just making my heart long for a new adventure, I loved hearing her stories and she taught me a few lessons, too- lessons from the trail that became lessons for my life.

She was telling us about how much character she had built in the last few months, about how many people had quit, and about how she was so determined to stay the course and then she said a piece of trail wisdom that went straight to my heart. She acknowledged that it was hard, her feet and legs would ache and she would feel tired and hungry, but she kept on. “You know,” she said, “We always say, never quit on a bad day.” So true, so true, so true.

That advice was just what I needed to hear on that day. You cannot quit on a day that it’s raining, or that you have blisters, or for me, on a day where you are overwhelmed by a recent loss, a new city and job, and a very long commute. You can’t quit on the days where it seems like too much, and emotions are high. Because tomorrow the sun might shine just right and all the world will seem lovely again and on that day you will realize what you left behind.

She continued, “You never quit on a bad day, but we know that when the going gets tough, the tough get to town.”

I loved that because it seems quite contrary to what we may think. When the going gets tough- you just push through. Or when the going gets tough you just become tougher. But sometimes, when the going gets tough, you do what you need to do to heal yourself and then you can make it through. In her case, a hot shower, a good meal, and maybe even a bed.

I can’t tell you how man times in the past few months I have been given the advice, “stay strong.” I am sure the intentions are of kindness and love, but really those words don’t mean much. When life is so sad and so scary and so hard just trying to “stay strong” doesn’t really do it. But when the going gets tough- the tough get to town- to rejuvenate, restock, and restore. Sometimes that is exactly what we need to do. Sometimes there are things you can’t just push through, and in those times a moment to stop to heal is perfectly ok. What a powerful lesson this was for me. To give grace in a moment of need, to give time to heal and restore, to realize that it is not weakness to know when you just need a moment to take a break. I’ve been pushing hard in this season. Starting a totally new job just days after the death of my father-in-law and trying to get used to everything in a place that is so new. And today just knowing that it is ok to not always feel like pushing through. Today knowing that it is ok to acknowledge that there is a “blister” on my heart and I just need to “get to town.” Get to a place of rest. Pushing through doesn’t always mean you are stronger. Sometimes the strongest thing to do is to admit that you need some time.

For any of those that know me well, you know I’m a dreamer. I have lofty plans for the future, big thoughts for tomorrow, but today I’m taking a moment to heal.

For the dreamers, doers, believers, the hope keepers and adventure seekers, the ones like me that long for adventure, but know that sometimes reality is tough. For all of those, this is for you.

To Live A Legacy

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I’m sitting here at dusk on my porch. The sounds of air conditioner units being cut by chirping crickets and the sound of airplanes heading just a few minutes east to their final destination at Dulles Airport. I sit here as I think, dream, and pray.

This past year has brought with it some of the greatest highs and lows of my life. It has not been without change, adventure, and heartbreak.

Leaving the first place Mwita and I built a home, to trekking halfway across the world for a great adventure. Seeing the peak of Mt Kilimanjaro rise among the clouds, to learning hard life lessons. Sitting around a campfire at dusk with some of the people we love most, to the loss of Mwita’s beloved Dad. We have cried, laughed, and cried some more. This year has been something, that is for sure.

If I have done anything at all, I have certainly had time to contemplate. What this life is about, what is important, and what my place is in this world. And I have thought much about living a legacy.

When people leave this world behind, we begin to talk of this word legacy. But chances are, they lived this legacy much before they breathed their last. It is something that was birthed in them years before. Something that was stirring in their hearts long ago. Legacy is not just life lived, but life we are living.

I’ve been thinking hard these past few weeks, this past year, really, about who I am, and where I am going. What is my print on this earth. After the events of this past month, it is burdened on my heart even more. What is this grand story that my life is telling?

I opened up my journal this morning to write for the first time since early April, for the first time since so much in my life has changed. There in my scrawling cursive writing, black pen on white paper it said the words, “each day is a gift.” Little did I know then how much those words would mean to me now. In light of the events that have happened in the past few weeks, life has been such a blur.

I have heard beautiful stories and read beautiful memoirs telling of my father-in-law and a life well lived. A heart for the orphans and widows, a passion to follow after the things of God, and to make a difference in the world. Much of what I now hold to be true I formed while working in the orphanage he started in northern Tanzania. It is there that I solidified my desire to help the hurting and the vulnerable. It is there that he opened up doors for me, stretched me, and taught me what it really means to serve. I owe so much to him, to the children, and to the City of Hope.

This morning when I read those words on the page, “each day is a gift” I felt warm tears on my cheeks. Sometimes life doesn’t make sense. When great tragedy falls in time with so much newness and even dreams coming true. It has been so hard for me to make sense of it all. And then I remember that who I am and what I do each day is part of my legacy, my story to the world. And us living that out with passion is a reflection of those that have gone before us and paved the way. We do not get to choose each moment and each thing that happens in our life, but we do get to choice how we go on from there. Everything in life shapes us, becomes  a part of us. Everything we experience in one way or another becomes a piece of who we are, an addition to our story to the world.

Each of us has a legacy to live, a story to tell. Today, what is yours?

I Remember

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With so much change going on in life, and the loss of our beloved Dad, I have been wanting so badly to write, but I just can’t get my feelings on the page. I have so many emotions welling up inside of me, but am struggling to put them into words. What I have been doing is reminiscing of my first days in Tanzania. Those days when nursing was just a dream, Mwita was just my boyfriend, and his dad was not yet my father-in-law, but my mentor. Even in those days my eyes were full of wonder at the world around me and my heart beat for Africa. Here are a few words from those days and really some of my favorite I’ve ever written. Here is my heart for Ntagatcha and here is me saying thanks to Dad for making it all possible.

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“If you listen hard enough, you can hear the heartbeat of the land here in Tanzania. The stories trampled into the paths, the tales whispered into the air. You can feel the heart of the people and feel their blood pumping through the veins of Africa.
The Kuria people are truly something; they are crying out for a change, yet trying to figure out how to still hold on to their past. It has proven to be a difficult road.
We have seventy children now, and I am more sure than ever that I will leave seventy pieces of my heart in Africa. I am deeply saddened by the past they have lived, but ever optimistic about the future they hold. They are beautiful and strong. They have such a desire to learn and a plan to change their nation.
I have seen how AIDs, hunger, and war have devastated this land, how they have wreaked havoc on the beautiful continent of Africa. In this, though, I have found beauty in the ashes, life amongst the dead, and a sincere prayer among the godlessness. But most of all, I have found a people with hope in all the despair, a remnant refusing to give up.
After all this, I am truly content to close my first chapter here in Ntagacha. It has been long and full. I am content, only however, because a chapter is only a fraction of a book. Until next time, these have been my dreams from Africa.”

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Since then I have added many chapters to the book, but it is not finished. For me, this is still not the end.

It’s Called Hope

I wrote this piece for Teamwork City of Hope, but I thought I would share it here, too.

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There seems to be no place as inspiring as here, a tiny speck on the map miles north of Lake Victoria in northern Tanzania. Where the rolling hills meet the dusty dirt roads and the blue roofs rise over the treetops, you will find a place like one I’ve never been, a place called Hope.

Here you will find stories of courage and hope among great obstacles. Where dreams are fulfilled and the sadness of a hard life is somehow forgotten. Here is a place of bright futures and even brighter smiles. This is a place where hope is restored, where aspirations long ago set aside are brought back to live again. It is a place where friendships are created and families are renewed. It is a place called Hope.

The day begins early here. Even before the sun begins to peak over the trees the rooster crows and the sound of joyful singing fills the air. Many little voices united together in one beautiful sound and the day is ushered in. The cows begin to pull their plows towards the fields. The huts begin to puff with smoke as each fire is lit to boil porridge for breakfast.  The children head to the fields to tend to their crops before they begin their school day. Bananas, beans, maize, and vegetables, they grow it all. Soon the children return home and the roads begin to fill with bright red sweaters, their wearers headed to school to fill their minds with knowledge and dreams. Each new morning brings with it new hope.

The drums begin to sound and the trumpets play as the children file into line, ready to learn. Their songs are songs of destiny and they believe every word. The days are full of learning as desks line up and chalk begins to fill the boards with lessons and ideas. Each little mind begins to fill with knowledge as they find out about the world around them. In the afternoon the bell will ring and the yard will erupt with children laughing, running, and playing games! They have about 100 siblings to play with, after all.

If you visit here someday you may be surprised. It’s not so much like an orphanage, to these children it’s just home. Home on a much larger scale. Each child goes about their daily chores, attends school, does their homework, laughs with their siblings, and plays soccer. Each bowl is heaped with plenty to eat and each belly gets filled. And in the evening, like many homes across the world, children sit on the floor of the living room laughing, talking, and hanging out with Dad as they share about their day. Not so much like an orphanage, but so much like home.

What is different about this place is not the fact that there are over 100 children living under one roof or the fact that come from such difficult circumstances, or that there is much sadness in their past. What is different about this place is the amount of hope. What is different about this place is the children, full of excitement and wonder, full of dreams and aspirations, leaders in their own right ready to make a difference in Tanzania and throughout the world.

Though much has been done, there is so much more to do! Many more children are living in difficult circumstances where all they long for is to come home. Come home to a place where they can sit on the living room floor laughing, talking, and hanging out with Dad. They need a home, a place of hope.

There seems to be no place as inspiring as here, a tiny speck on the map miles north of Lake Victoria in northern Tanzania. Where the rolling hills meet the dusty dirt roads and the blue roofs rise over the treetops, you will find a place like one I’ve never been, a place called Hope.

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Find out more about Teamwork City of Hope and see how you can get involved!

Sponsor a child for just $35/month!

Give a donation to help provide food and relief during this time of drought.

Be Still and Know

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What is it about being busy that makes us feel so important or so valuable? In our culture, it is as if the busier we are the better we are. For so many years I believed that. When someone asked me how I was doing, I felt really worthy if I was able to reply “busy!” Last year at this time I was working full time and taking on a full load at Liberty, I was so busy, and often proud of it, but I had lost a piece of  myself in the process. I wasn’t writing, had stopped dreaming and was spending all of my time just doing. Just going, going, going until there was no where else to go. I was fulfilled in my work and was accomplishing my goals by finishing my degree, but at the end of the day I didn’t feel anything but tired and was beginning to lose the joy in the work I loved. It was something that busyness just could not fill. I needed one thing, to be still.

Be still and know.

Today our lives command so much attention. From morning until night we are constantly bombarded with phone calls, news, and information. It never ends. And if many of you are like me, if I am not doing something, I am reading something, listening to something, or talking to someone. I found that I can’t even grocery shop without calling someone on the phone! I have forgotten to just be.

So many days start with Instagram and end with email. So many days I do not take one minute to just sit, just think, and just listen. So many days fly by and I have no idea where they went.

This past year I have spent a lot of time just being. A lot of time waiting or in transition, and honestly, a lot of time frustrated. It has become so ingrained in me, that if I am not checking off a long “to do” list, then I am not fully living. I have found it hard to believe that sometimes just being is ok. I have struggled in those waiting times and transitional moments, but this past year I have had to learn to look beyond check lists and tasks to accomplish. This past year I have spent a lot of time being, and this past year I have found my true self one again. A self that got buried under busyness has come into its own.

Many of our days in East Africa had little structure, and much of the time if we wanted to be able to send an email or check Facebook we would have to take a 15 minute drive down the bumpy dirt road until we got signal. You have no idea how excited we would get when I would yell for Mwita to stop the car, because I found 3G! Those mornings though, I would wake up with the sun, my heart full of passion and my mind full of dreams. We wrote, talked, dreamed, and wrote some more. We planned our life and gave our minds the freedom they needed to be creative. Some of our very best moments and ideas occurred during those long mornings of stillness. Dreams and ideas that will shape who we are for the rest of our lives. That was a tough season for us, but one I would never trade.

This season I am in now has been a season of waiting. I think that can be the very best season, not easy, but so good. A time of waiting, sometimes wanting, and just resting in Him because we don’t know what else to do. Those vulnerable moments. Hard moments. Still moments. Those times when our only words are “Guide me.” Those are the types of short prayers I have been saying in this season. Those prayers from the deep places of our hearts, that sometimes I can hardly find the words, but He knows. He knows my heart. He knows the place I am at, and He hears me in it.

Sometimes when my heart is burdened I cover it up with doing, but I know deep down that what I need is to come to a place of rest. Those places of stillness are where we really begin to hear and to understand. It’s where we gain clarity and where we are able to listen to our hearts. It is in the stillness that we find rest and comfort in His presence and in those moments He is able to speak. How much more available we can be to our friends and family if we are fully aware of the things God is putting on our hearts!

I know life is so busy. I know there are things we HAVE to do, lists we have to check off, but I encourage you to take some moments of stillness. Some moments just to be, to open up your minds and your hearts to the things that are being spoken to you. In those moments we gain the strength and the understanding to carry on in our hectic lives. Please don’t be busy just to be busy, but give yourself the freedom to also just be.

Be still and know that He is God.