Friday, May 27, 2011

I Want To Love Like Jesus

I work hard.  I am incredibly blessed with a wonderful job that allows me to take care of myself and my little family quite well.  There is plenty extra so that I can make sure we are as comfortable as possible.  I even have enough to help others.  We make sacrifices every now and again so that we can share of what we have and help take care of other people.  I thank God very often for my job that allows me to take care of myself.

Is there a chance that I have it all wrong?

I think so.  I think that we (especially myself) often believe that we are taking care of ourselves while God is asking us, begging us, to fully rely on Him.  Do we really trust Him to take care of our most basic needs?  I think many people do.  I do.  Do we really trust Him to be in the details of our lives?  Do we trust that He does indeed love us so much that we can step out in faith (I mean big, like when it might mean you must wonder how in the world He will pull this one off) when He asks us to? 

We are full of excuses.  There is never enough money.  There is never enough time.  Is there really not enough, or are we just not trusting Him to make sure all the details are worked out?  Is there a chance that God wants us in a place that we MUST rely on Him for the most basic of our needs?

I think we are so busy planning for our futures and making sure that our families are comfortable that we can't hear that still, small voice telling us to trust.  I don't think that God has given me all of this so that I can be comfortable.  I don't want to be comfortable anymore.  I don't think that Jesus was very comfortable for most of His life here.  I especially think that he was very uncomfortable on the cross.  He died on that cross anyway, because He loves me.  He loves me THAT much.

The reason that we are here at all is so that God might make us in to something that is like Him.  If He loves THAT much, then I am to love THAT much. 

I pray often that God will help me to live in the very center of His will.  Sometimes I feel like I'm really saying "Lord, please let me live in the very center of Your will, but please don't make me give up my fancy car (I do love my fancy car) or fancy clothes for my girl or ask me to do anything crazy."  Sometimes God does ask us to make sacrifices AND do crazy things.  I don't think we, as Christians, should look like everyone else.  I think we should look a little crazy to the world.  (Yay!  justification for my crazy self!)

Most of us do make sacrifices.  We give to our church.  We give to many wonderful organizations here and there.  Do we ever give until it hurts?  How much am I willing to give up in order to love like Jesus loves?  I think we are able to justify this comfortable life we live because we have extra to toss around.  If I throw a little bit of money at this cause and that one, I can have all of this.  Surely God didn't give me this great job so that I would still not be able to live comfortably.  Or would He?  We are commanded to care for His people.  Each other.  He will take care of me.  I think He has bigger plans for me than this life that I've  made for myself.  After all, this is all His anyway, and His plans are always better than mine.  It's time for me to let go.  To stop worrying.  God's got this.  I've got to let Him have it.

I don't want to see some of the things that I'm going to see on this trip.  The little lives that are forgotten by most, but loved by Jesus just the same as I am.  Once I see these things, my life will change.  I don't like change.  It's uncomfortable for me.  Oh yeah, I don't want to be comfortable anymore.  I want to learn what I'm supposed to learn.  I want to be able to come home and tell you about it.  I'm worried that I will have trouble processing it all and putting it here.  I think I will let God take care of that too.

There have been SO many things happen so far that have just reassured me that I am supposed to be on this trip.  God IS in the details.  Someone that reads here must have prayed for overtime too!  I get to work on Wednesday!  This is all gonna get paid for somehow.

Thank you for all of your prayers.  I'm not sure if this post made a whole lot of sense.  :-)  It's 5:00 in the morning, and I just worked all night long.  Maybe I should wait to publish it until after I've slept.  :-)  It will be ok.  I never claimed to be much of a writer.  ;-)

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Hunting and Gathering

I just got back from Mont Belvieu picking up some clothes that a friend wanted to send to Uganda.  I am definitely able to come pick up anything you may have that you'd like to send.

Yesterday I went to Dollar Tree and found a few things.  They had packages of little matchbox cars 3/$1.  So I got 45 little cars for 45 little boys.  I know they don't necessarily need little cars, but oh how I want to give these little ones the chance to just be little boys.  Little boys with their own little cars.  I also found packages of pencils and pencil sharpeners.  They do need those, so quite a few of those came home with me and made their way into a suitcase.

Another exciting thing is happening.  We found out that there isn't a flight from IAH to Dulles on the 26th early enough, so we will be flying to Washington D.C. the day before.  I've never been to D.C. and won't be there long enough this time to hit the touristy spots, but a very dear friend that I haven't seen in many many years lives close enough to come see me while I'm there (and that's better than any silly memorial.)  Some of you reading will remember Brooke Smith (Charles and Mary Ann Smith's youngest daughter.)  She lives in Maryland with her husband and two little boys.  I am SO excited to see her!

There are only 32 days left 'til I leave.  Wow.  It will be here before I know it.  I can't wait to start posting pictures for you to see.  I did learn that I may not be in any of the pictures.  The team that went in March had electricity twice. In 2 weeks.  They were able to use a hair dryer twice.  My hair is SUPER curly.  I can usually keep it pretty calm... with a diffuser.  Without it? it gets a little crazy.  This should be interesting.  I don't think I will worry much about it after I get there, but now I'm a little worried.  ;-)

For now, I'm just hunting and gathering.  Let me know if you have anything you'd like to send with me. If you have any paperback children's books that your children have outgrown, I'd love to take them to these orphanages where there are so few books the children don't even get to touch them.  I'd like to put books in their hands.  Thank you all for everything you are doing to help!

Friday, May 20, 2011

A Very Productive Day

Today was great.  After I took Brenna to school, I came home and went back to bed for awhile.  :-)  When I finally got started, I went on a hunt for some fabric paint.  We will be visiting a prison while we are in Uganda. A children's prison where approximately 200 children ages 8-16  are housed.  They really have less than nothing.  When we visit them, we will be teaching them about Joseph and all that happened in his life.  They will have a chance to make their own 'coat of many colors' of sorts by painting a t-shirt.  I found a package of 20 1 oz bottles of paint for $19.99 at Michael's.  Of course I bought them before I found and printed the online 40% off coupon, so a few hours after I bought them I returned them and bought them again with my 40% off coupon.  That $8 I saved paid for the 8 pairs of flip-flops I bought while I was there!

**Does anyone happen to know where I can get some CHEAP light-colored t-shirts for this project?  Since we need so many, each of us (the 23 on our team) are trying to pick up some.**

I've needed to get my hands on 30 rolls of scotch tape.  I went to Office Max and it was going to cost me a TON!  A friend of mine sent me a manufacturer's coupon (Scotch) for a dollar off and told me that Walgreen's had an awesome deal on scotch tape this week (ending tomorrow.)  I printed a bunch of the Scotch brand coupons and took Mom with me to Walgreen's (the store coupon said limit 3.)  The deal was buy one for $1.99 get TWO free.  So... with the two coupons together, I got 3 rolls of tape for $1.06, and the nice lady let me buy all that I needed.  YAY!!

We got 175 of the yarn/popsicle sticks kits put together this evening.  That is a craft project that is a cross necklace that the kids will make.  While I am only responsible for putting together 300 of them, there are 800 total being made.

Tonight I started thinking about how I wanted to get some bubbles.  You know the ones that have the long skinny wand that make the really big bubbles?  Doneva mentioned that she saw them at Walmart for a dollar.  So about 2 minutes later I was driving to Walmart, and now I have bubbles packed in a suitcase.

I would say that today was quite productive!!

... and just because she's cute...

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Thirty-seven Days

There are 37 more days until I board a plane in Houston to begin this adventure.  Actually, the adventure has already begun.  The dining room table at home is piled with stuff.  I am seeing just how giving and generous my friends and acquaintances are.  This is unbelievable.  So many of you are ready and willing to give out of the abundance that we all have and send it with me to give to these precious children that have so little.  I can't wait to get to Africa, but this is so neat to see how you all are so excited to get behind me and help me accomplish this.  There have been a couple of people at work that have given me cash so that, just before I go, I can buy what I still need to take with me.  Really cool stuff.  Thank you so much!

In a previous post I mentioned some of the things that I needed.  We have our popsicle sticks, yarn, and all of the ziploc bags that we need.  Anybody wanna help me put 2 popsicle sticks and 50" of yarn into 300 sandwich bags??  ;-)

At work the plant manager has sent a notice to all employees about my trip and the things I need to take with me and put a box in the security building to collect donations.  I'm excited to see what appears in the box over the next couple of weeks. 

The availability of overtime for me to work would be a good thing for you all to pray for.  :-)  There is still about $1200 that I need to somehow come up with in the next couple of weeks to finish paying for my trip.  I'm not worried.... yet.

Thanks for your prayers!   Thank you to those of you working so hard to get people involved in the lives of these kiddos across the ocean.  That is what this is all about!

Saturday, May 14, 2011

I Need Your Help

Thursday I visited the County Health Dept. to see what immunizations they had available.  I was able to get an MMR booster, the first Hepatitis A in the series, and a Tdap all for just $15.  I have decided to pass on the Hep B series.  I don't think I will be at risk if I'm careful.  So all that is left is one more MMR (available from the Co. Health Dept.), one more Hep A (also available from the health dept.), Typhoid and Yellow Fever (which will cost approx. $250 from a travel clinic.)  All in all the vaccinations for this trip will cost me around $300.  That's a far cry from the $700 we were originally quoted.  God is good!  I knew there had to be a better way.

Now I need to ask for your help.  In addition to these needs that I posted about in my last post, I am responsible for putting together some kits that we will be using for arts and crafts with the children while we are there.  If there is ANYTHING that you are able to help with, please let me know.  You can email me, send me a message on facebook, or leave a comment here.  This is what I need for the craft kits:

  • 1 box of gallon size freezer bags
  • 30 bottles (4 oz.) of Elmer's glue
  • 30 rolls of scotch tape
  • 600 popsicle sticks
  • lots of yarn (300  50" pieces) multi-colored is great (I can cut it, I just need the yarn)
  • 300 ziploc sandwich bags
I will copy the things I mentioned in my last post and put them here just in case any of you have any ideas about how I can get a hold of some of these things.  Maybe your kids have two of the same book and would like to send the 'extra' one to kids in Uganda and Kenya that don't have books.  Let me know, and I'll come get it.  If you have outgrown children's clothing or sandals/flip-flops that you could send with me, lots of people would appreciate it.  Some of Brenna's 'extra' silly bands will be disappearing to Africa.  ;-)

  • Clothes and shoes (flip-flops and sandals) for children ranging in age from 5 to 16
  • Children's books (this is my favorite!), both Bible-based and secular as it is very rare for them to get to hold a book themselves.  :-(
  • Small toys and stuffed animals, balloons, cheap toys you get at the dollar store, silly bands, nail polish
  • CANDY - it is suggested that we bring bags of individually wrapped hard candies
A cash donation to this church would be very helpful as they normally don't have enough money to pay their teachers

There are, of course, many other things the people there are in constant need of:
  • School supplies
  • Medical supplies
  • Toothpaste
  • and just general things that are required to take care of children

Just a couple of hours ago Brenna and I were at a bridal shower for a cousin of mine.  Just before I left (Brenna was leaving with her grandmother), she came up to me with her hand on the back of her head saying there was a bump there.  I checked it out and explained to her, standing there in the church building, why it was there.  I told my little one about how when she was a baby living in the orphanage, there were too many babies and not enough adults to take care of them.  The adults that were there never had the luxury of cuddling babies.  It was all they could do to keep them fed and as dry as they could.  She spent her days and nights laying on her back in a crib.  Because of this, the first time I saw her, the back of her head was pretty scabbed up.  She will have those scars forever.  Oh I thank God that my girl's scars are few.  I got to her in time. 

The hundreds of orphans that I will meet on this trip are scarred.  I can't wait to snuggle them.  I'm going to give as many hugs and kisses as I possibly can in the 2 weeks I am there.  I'm hoping to take some things to meet some physical needs too.  Do you have anything lying around your house that you'd like me to take with me?

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Nervousness, Gathering Donations, and Unaffordable Immunizations

I'm getting nervous.  I'm going to Uganda and Kenya next month.  Next month.  There is a basket on the dining room table that contains bottles of mosquito repellent, sunscreen, and other items that I will need to take with me.  Yesterday a beautiful skirt that I had ordered came in the mail.  They wear skirts in Africa.  I  usually don't.

Doneva and I have been assigned the ministry that we will be responsible for gathering donations to meet some specific needs that they have.  YAY!  Our ministry is Grace of God Children's Home and School located in Kaptagat, Kenya.  Some of the things we will be working on gathering are:

  • Clothes and shoes (flip-flops and sandals) for children ranging in age from 5 to 16
  • Children's books (this is my favorite!), both Bible-based and secular as it is very rare for them to get to hold a book themselves.  :-(
  • Small toys and stuffed animals, balloons, cheap toys you get at the dollar store, silly bands, nail polish
  • CANDY - it is suggested that we bring bags of individually wrapped hard candies
A cash donation to this church would be very helpful as they normally don't have enough money to pay their teachers

There are, of course, many other things the people there are in constant need of:
  • School supplies
  • Medical supplies
  • Toothpaste
  • and just general things that are required to take care of children
Today Doneva talked to someone at a local clinic that will give us all of the immunizations that we need to have before we go.  For $700.  I don't like shots.  They hurt.  But, oh my goodness, they are going to hurt a lot more if I have to pay $700 for them.  I still don't know how I'm God is going to finish paying for me to get to Africa, much less the orphanage and other ministry donations I need to take with me.  Tomorrow I will talk to someone at Methodist Hospital (I haven't spent enough time there in the last year and a half!) that can provide this service.  Say a prayer, please, that they can tell me it will cost quite a bit less than $700.

June 26th is sneaking up on me.  It will be here soon, and I will board a flight to Uganda.  Wow.  If you'd have told me a year ago that I would be embarking on this adventure, I would have thought it not possible.  God is pretty neat that way.  His plans are always better than mine.  I love these plans.  I'm nervous, but I know that God's got this.  He's got a plan for how I'm gonna get those stinkin' shots for less than $700 too!

Monday, May 2, 2011

I wonder how you come back...

Many blog posts written by people that have spent time in African orphanages talk about how the children 'choose you.'  After arriving, it isn't long before there are multiple little ones literally hanging on your arms and legs.  Often times there are two or three that attach themselves to a certain visitor and do not let go.  For days.  They choose you.

I'm thinking of the ones that will choose me.  I'm praying for their little hearts tonight.  I'm hoping and praying that I will know how to show them the love of Jesus in the days that I am there.  I want to love them like He loves them.  I want to hug and kiss and snuggle and rock and paint fingernails and play ball, but most of all I want to really love. 

Loving is something that I'm good at.  I would have thought that by now I would have gotten to be really good at guarding my heart.  I love fiercely.  I give freely.  And I get hurt.  A lot.  I suppose it would be easier to live with a hard heart.  Guarding it against the hurt that inevitably (it seems) comes with loving so deeply.  I've sworn I would live that way over and over again.  I can't do it.  I can't love just a little bit.  I'm an all-or-nothing kind of girl. 

So I'm getting kind of nervous about coming back home.  Of course I will be dying to see my little girl, so I will no doubt be in a hurry to get back here.  But... how will I leave those babies?  The ones that probably don't get a hug most days.  Sometimes they are hungry.  When they are sick, they lay in bed alone because there is nobody to rock them. 

I'm thanking God tonight for allowing me this chance to go love.  I'm thankful for my heart that loves BIG.  I'm praying that He continues to use it to do His work, and I'm hoping that when it's time to come back I will be ok.  Will you pray too?

Thank you.

Can I also ask you to pray for sweet Lucy?  She's a patient at St. Jude, and she's having a really rough time.  Thank you all.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Blogs, Prayers, and a thank you...

I cannot remember how I found her blog.  I am a huge blog reader.  I couldn't count the number of blogs I follow.  Sick children (oh those babies with cancer forever have my heart), grieving families, and adoption blogs.  I read many, many adoption blogs.  I'm sure somehow, a click here and a click there, I followed adoption blogs to Katie Davis.  This sweet 21 year-old girl and her family of 13 adopted daughters I will get to meet in Uganda.  I can't wait!  It was in reading her blog that it became clear that I needed to visit orphans in Uganda.  We will get to spend some time with Katie and the 400 children that her ministry sponsors.  We will be there on a Saturday.  That is the day that they ALL come to her house.  Yes, they all come for food, worship and play.  I read something like they cook 50 chickens, 100 pounds of rice, and lots and lots of beans.  Every single Saturday.  I can't wait to show you pictures.  I'm going there!

This is an entry from Katie's blog.  It's just a short summary of what she's done while she's been there. 

Friday, August 14, 2009

It is my 16th Birthday and I am eating sushi at my favorite restaurant with my parents when I tell them that I would like to explore the possibility of taking a year in between high school and college to do mission work. This is unheard of in my family and they say they are not sure and will think about it. I am nervous, but somehow I know it is right. He changes their hearts.

I have just turned 18 and find an orphanage online. I beg my parents to let me visit over break, just three weeks. A month later I am on a plane. I am so excited. I am so scared of being, but I know He is going with me. I fall in love.

I graduate high school having made the commitment to teach Kindergarten for a year at a school in The Middle of Nowhere, Uganda. In August I get on the plane. I’m apprehensive and I cry most of the way because I miss my Mommy and my boyfriend. I am eager, but so uncertain. I trust Him. I teach 138 children how to speak English and to love Jesus.

It is October and I am just not sure I can do it anymore. I live in the smallest room I have ever seen in the back of a pastor’s house. I am more uncomfortable than I had bargained for. No one understands, not people here, not people at home. I am tired. But I am prideful and I am not going to quit. I don’t like this. But I know He has a plan. I learn, I grow, He is there.

It is December and God has spoken very clearly about opening a ministry that sponsors 40 of the orphaned children in the village where I am working. This involves moving into a different house, ALONE. It is big and I cannot imagine how God will fill it up. I am lonely and I am anxious. But I am still trusting. He fills the house, and we now have 400 children sponsored.

It is January and I am looking at a little girl, crushed under a brick wall with no one to care for her or her younger siblings. I offer to take the three home with me until we find them a better placement. I am not really sure what to do with them, but I know they are God’s children. They stay.

It is three days later and the littlest looks at me and calls me mommy. My heart might break in two. Something clicks. I am even more scared than I was the day I stepped on that plane, but I KNOW. Today I have 13.

I have to deliver a baby, give a boy stitches, pull a tooth, give and injection. I am petrified. But no one will do it if I do not. He is present, He holds my hand, they are all fine.

It is August and I must get on a plane back to America to go to college, as I have promised my father. I do not remember how to be a teenager or what it is to be normal Brentwood, Tennessee. I will have to leave my babies. I will have to make new friends. I am sad and I am terrified. He wraps His arms around me. He puts just the right people in just the right places, and they help me and they make me feel at home.

First semester is over and He speaks clearly to me that I cannot serve two masters. “Go HOME,” He says, “and stay.” I am uncertain, but I want to be obedient. He squeezes tighter. I am thankful.

I have to look at my loving parents who have given me everything and tell them that I will not go to college right now, because I feel God wants me to be in Uganda. I know how disappointed and how angry they will be. I am more scared than I was when I got on the plane and more scared than I was when I took my first children. But I know that this IS the Plan. They love me anyway.

It is February and my daughter’s biological father comes to take her away. My heart breaks in half, and I am not sure I will ever be able to get out of my bed again, let alone foster another child. I am more than devastated, but I want what is best for her, what He wants for her. She comes back and her biological father learns about Jesus.

It is March and a lame little girl is brought to my gate. She is undoubtedly mine, but I am still anxious. What if I can’t do it? I don’t know what to do with a special needs child, especially as my 13th child. I am criticized and ridiculed. I wonder. I trust and praise God for her sweet little life. She starts to walk.

I find myself in a village full of starving people that for some reason seem to want to kill me. God says to serve them anyway. I am not sure how it is going to work, or if it is safe. I can’t figure it out, but I know He can. 1,200 Karamajongs, the poorest of Uganda’s poor, are now served hot meals daily.

We keep taking in more children until there are 400 in our program. There is no way we will raise enough funds, but by now I have stopped worrying. He has always provided. Blessings rain from the sky, and all 400 children go to school.

I am 20 years old and have 13 children and 400 more who all depend on me for their care. Who are all learning to love Jesus and be responsible adults and looking up to me. The reality of it all can be a bit overwhelming at times. However, it is always pure joy. There is a common misconception that I am courageous. I will be the first to tell you that this is not actually true. Most of the time, I am not brave. I just believe in a God who will use me even though I am not. Most mornings, before I even get out of bed I am overwhelmed with His goodness, with His plan for my life; I stand in awe of the fact that He could entrust me with so much. Most days, I don’t have much of a plan. I don’t always know where this is going. I can’t see the end of the road, but here is the great part: Courage is not about knowing the path. It is about taking the first step. It is about Peter, getting out of the boat. I do not know my five year plan; even tomorrow will probably not go as I have planned. I am thrilled and I am terrified, in a good way. So some call it courage, some call it foolish, I call it Faith. I choose to get out of the boat. To take the next step. Sometimes I walk straight into His arms. More often, I get scared and look down and stumble. Sometimes I almost completely drown. And through it all, He never lets go of my hand.

Isn't God amazing.  His love for us is something we cannot begin to fathom.  His love for these children is just as fierce.  We will be working with children that live on the streets while we are there.  We will also visit a children's prison.  Yes, a prison for children ages 7-17.  Some of them are there because of crimes they have committed.  Some of them are there because they were living on the streets, rounded up and brought there.  Locked up.  Forgotten.  I can't wait to love on these children. 

Please pray that God will prepare me to do what He needs me to do while I am there.  I need Him to prepare my heart for what I will see that will surely break it into a million pieces.  I am afraid, yet I have peace.

Please pray that God will make a way for the big financial commitment of this trip to be taken care of.  Of course the travel costs are large, but there is so much more I want to do.  I will be receiving lists of items that will need to be purchased to take with me to meet some very basic needs of the people there.  God is good!  He will provide what I need if He wants me to go to Africa!  (he provided 12 hours of overtime tomorrow night that I 'get' to work! YAY!)

Thank you for the sweet comments I received yesterday.  That was pretty neat!

Thank you for your prayers as I walk this journey!

Love you all!