Thursday, December 23, 2010

An Amazing Evening!!

It has been a tiring week... Last week I had a 2 evening show for my jewelry and then Monday and Tuesday this week, I did an Open House at our house...  I love doing the shows, but they can be exhausting (lots of physical labor and late hours) and draining (I tend to be more introverted) so being 'ON' for that many hours is sometimes difficult.  Add to that the emotional drain of my grandmother's passing and her not being with us for Christmas, and I'm just tired.

But for tonight, I had signed our family up to go and serve dinner at a local ministry that is a rehab facility for men struggling with addiction.  I admit, I grumbled inwardly all day because I'm so behind and Christmas is just 2 days away...  I even thought about telling my husband to go without me because I was at that place of tired where it seemed like tears would spill over at any minute...  But there was something in me that wanted to go simply out of obedience to what God tells us to do...  So I kept my grumblings to myself, put on my best face and went.

I was nervous...  I always am in new situations like this...  What would I say?  How do I act?  What if I accidentally offend someone?

We arrived about an hour before dinner and the first person I saw was a dear, sweet friend of mine and her family...  It was their first time too, what a gift to get to serve with them!  We were given our assignments so that everything would be ready and then G., who coordinates our group from church spent some time talking to us about what to expect...  All of the men are battling addiction...  So we were to serve them dinner and then get a plate for ourselves and go and sit with them. 

I had NO clue what to talk about...  But G. told us not to worry, God would give us words...  Right on schedule the doors opened and the men filed in...  They seemed genuinely pleased to see us...  They had us introduce ourselves and one of our group offered a blessing...  And then the men filed through the food line. 

And at that moment, my heart started to break...  Men of all ages...  All different backgrounds...  Addiction is color blind...  culture blind...  class blind...  It grabs hold of whoever is vulnerable and takes them captive to a life that no one would choose...  For the first 15 minutes I fought tears...  But they were so happy...  So grateful to us for showing up to serve...  I looked around and saw a room full of hope!  A room where Jesus, through His servants, is setting the captives free!  It was AMAZING!

As the line dwindled, I knew the time was approaching when I would need to get a plate and find a place to sit...  I did and it was just as G. had said, the conversation came naturally...  No uncomfortable lulls...  no awkward pauses...  The men we talked to knew the mercy and grace of God in a very real way and they were happy sing His praise...

The last man left and even though 2 hours had passed, it seemed like a few minutes...  And it was time for us to go.  I could have stayed the evening, especially talking to one very special gentleman...  There was just something about his spirit...  You could tell he had been broken, but he was a man with faith...  Faith that his Heavenly Father loved him...  Faith that he would know victory in the battle of addiction...  Faith that God had a very special plan for his life...  The man was full of hope! 

I was not ready to leave...  Tired and grumbly were gone and in their place was joy...  unexplainable...  overflowing joy!  There is something about serving those whom Jesus came to save that brings you into the presence of Jesus Himself...  I've experienced it in Africa, on a street corner in our city and tonight in rehab facility...  Jesus can always be found among those whom our society would consider "the least of these..."  And more and more I'm realizing, I just like being where Jesus is!

Africa has taught me that consistency is SO  essential...  It's not enough to go just once...  It's important to keep going back...  And so I will...  I may not have great words of wisdom to offer them...  I will most likely never change or fix anything...  But I can give them a smile...  And a word of encouragement...  And most importantly I can show them that no matter what the world may say, God sees them as His dearly Beloved children whom He takes great delight in...

Perhaps my biggest lesson of the evening...  God blesses obedience!

Friday, December 10, 2010

A GREAT Story!!

One of the things about adopting an older child that I have found to be particularly challenging is teaching her about God and Jesus...  How do you explain God to a child who has never heard of Him and (in the beginning) doesn't speak the same language?  Over the last couple of years she has asked MANY good questions like...  Is Jesus coming for His birthday party?  How old is He?  How old is God?  Who is God's daddy?  And if God made us, then who made God?  Pretty amazing questions for one so young...

But I have to admit, I've been a little discouraged because when I talk to her, I'm just not sure she really understands...

So today she came home from school and sat down with me to do her homework...  I was working on jewelry and she was supposed to be writing her spelling her words when she looks up and says, "There's a little girl in my class who doesn't believe in God."

Me...'Really?  That's pretty sad.'

Abby... "So I asked her, 'Then who made the world?'"

Me..."Well what did she say?"

Abby... "She told me it grew....  Now mommy, isn't that silly?!"

Me...  "Do you understand why it's silly?"

Abby...  "Not really"

Me...  So I picked up a bead and I said, "Abby, can this bead decide to become an earring, all on its own?"

Abby with a giggle...  "No mommy..."

Me...  "You're right...  It needs a creator, or a designer, to make something of it.  That's just like the world...  We needed a Creator...  We couldn't just make ourselves on our own."  (Now I admit, I didn't go down the path of trying to teach how God created from nothing...  I'll save that mind boggling truth for another day!)

Abby...  "So it really was silly.  Well then I asked her if she knew what the Bible is...  But I don't think she does...  And do you know, she believes that Santa Claus is God!  That doesn't even make sense!"

I don't know when these little seeds started to take root, but I couldn't be more thrilled that she feels strongly enough about the beginnings of her faith that she's willing to take a stand for it!  How cool it is to watch faith as it begins to grow!!

Since I've been very remiss in posting photos lately, here's a few from our Christmas Tree Cutting this year...  It amazes me how quickly they're growing!




That's our 12 year old daughter walking with her over 6 foot dad!

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

It's Open...

My new web boutique is open!

Keep checking back as I will be adding more over the next couple of weeks!  Profits will go to finance our trips to Swaziland...  Both of the boys want to go with me next summer, so I'll be working extra hard!!

Alexis did a GREAT job!  You can find her at!

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Sneak Peak...

I had planned to open my web boutique yesterday... But with my grandmother's home going, it just wasn't possible and really, it just didn't seem right yet.  At her funeral, one of her friends was wearing a bracelet that she bought from me years ago when I first had my business...  She said, "I wore this bracelet today because your grandmother was so proud of you for doing this..."

So as I thought about it yesterday, I decided to honor my grandmother and open my web boutique on her birthday, December 7!  I'm so excited to give her a tribute in this way...

But I thought I'd give you another sneak peak at some of the things I've been working on since I posted a while ago...  Designing a website is hard work, but Alexis has done a GREAT job, I can't wait for you to see it!

I can't promise that all of these items will be on the website since I have a show on Friday, but it's a taste of what you can expect to see there...  And if you want to see even more, you can check out my flickr photo stream at D4HopeJewelry.

The most recent additions have an order number and a price below the photo, so if you see something you love, e-mail me at and I'll set it aside for you and you can order it next week from the website...

N10-337b-$25 (I also have the keys in antique bronze)


The next necklace can be worn long or doubled...  This style is one of my favorites!  I love to wear it long with another silver pendant, or double it and even let a pendant hang below it...  The collage shows it short and long and then the beads up-close.  The beads are beautiful!  They're a turquoise/brown agate that I have a hard time finding...

N10-333 Collage

This next necklace is made from some of the most beautiful cranberry colored quartz beads I've ever seen...  I only had one strand and I'm not sure if I can get them again...  This necklace is a little over 16" with a 3" extender...
Short Cranberry Quartz Necklace
N10-360 - $38

Single Bead Bronze Necklace
N10-374 - $15

N10-367 - $22

Turqoise Bronze Necklace
N10-372 - $28

Bronze Earring Collage

Silver Earring Collage
Most Earrings Are $15 
(The black agate earrings are $18)

Well, that's a sample of what I've been up to...  There's ALOT more on my photo stream (link above), so feel free to check it out...  If you live in my neck of the woods, I'll be at a market in the area December 15 & 16, I'd love for you to stop by...  Just let me know and I'll send you the details!

Hope to 'cyber' see you next Tuesday, December 7...

Monday, November 29, 2010

She Went To A Shindig...

My grandmother loved a story better than anyone...  I think it's in all of our family's DNA because we ALL love a good story!  We often laugh about how the stories that circulate through our family get bigger and bigger with each telling (kind of like a really good fish story)...  But my grandmother left us with one last story that will never need embellishing, it is BIG on it's own...

On Thanksgiving morning she went to breakfast...  She was so excited because she was going to a "shindig"!  My mom was going to pick her up and they were joining my aunt and uncle (her son) at more of our family's house to celebrate Thanksgiving.

That morning, she went back to her apartment, put together all of her things because she was going to spend an extra night with my mom so they could go shopping on 'Black Friday.'  Pretty amazing for a 97 year old woman!  But on this Thanksgiving, God had something bigger in store for her...  She got to go home!  As she sat and finished getting ready to go, she quietly went to sleep and woke up in Jesus' arms...  My mom found her with her bags packed by the door, only where she was going, we don't need bags to travel.

My grandmother did indeed go to a shindig on Thanksgiving Day, a homecoming party beyond our wildest imagination...  She went to heaven.

I am sad, probably the saddest I've been in 12 years since my grandfather Pop died, but I'm so thankful for the years that God gave me with them...  I am thankful for the example they set for me, I am so grateful for the love they poured out into my life...

My grandmother taught me that people love in different ways...  With her, it was always a hot pan of biscuits, and fried salmon patties (some of my favorite)...  Often there was a big pot of green beans and some fresh creamed corn...  I never remember a time that there wasn't a bottle of Karo Syrup to eat with my biscuits and when she learned that Bama Grape Jelly was my favorite (and we couldn't get it where we lived) she always had an 'extra' jar waiting in the cabinet for me to take home.

None of the grandchildren ever have to wonder if she was proud of us because when we would go to visit, all of her friends knew who we were and EVERYTHING we were up too...  And I LOVED that!! 

My grandparents blessed me in so many ways...  My heart is so full of incredible memories of times spent with them and the people they loved.  Not only did I grow up surrounded by a wonderful family, including aunts and uncles and cousins...  But my grandparents also filled my life with wonderful people from their church and community who lived and loved like Jesus... 

As the memories roll past the window of my heart, there are so many that I wish I could grab hold of for a while and go back and visit...  Mayfield Chocolate ice cream in the evening... stringing green beans... roasted peanuts... My grandfather shooting pecans out of the pecan tree and then sitting around and cracking them in the evening...  'Styling' my grandmother's hair on the nights before she went to the beauty shop...  Manicuring her toe nails...  Dipping my fingers in the buttermilk and patting it on the biscuits (my small contribution to the best biscuits ever)...  Hanging out with my granddad at his grocery store...  Family reunions that were full of fun and laughter...  Trips to the beach...  My granddad teaching me to parallel park...  Running to watch the trains go by their house... Playing Skipbo with my grandmother... Hanging sheets on the clothes line and then running through them...  I could go on and on...  My grandparents left me with a memory full of smiles and laughter and legacy of love and faith that I pray will be passed on to my children.

I will be sad for a while...  Christmas will be hard without my grandmother...  Our next family trip to the beach will be difficult too...  But today, I don't grieve without hope...  Hope that because my grandparents knew Jesus as their Savior (and because I do too), I will see them again in heaven someday...  And until that day, I have great comfort in knowing that I'm surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses cheering me on to finish the race well...  And when that day comes, we'll have another 'shindig' that will go beyond anything we can dream or imagine possible!  To borrow the words of an old hymn...  "When we all get to heaven, what a day of rejoicing that will be...  When we all see Jesus, we'll sing and shout the victory!"

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Blogging For Hope...

I said a couple of weeks ago that I would do a post from time to time about those who are raising funds to raise hope...

My cousin and her husband will be leaving for China soon to adopt their 2nd child and today they did a Both Hands project for a widow in their community...  You can read about it here, Stitching To China.  Would you consider making a small donation to them?  Even $5 from 20 people adds up to $100 pretty quickly...  You can click here to make a donation...  Both Hands  Once you're on the page, you have to scroll down to November 20 and look for Brook and Stefanie.

I also wanted to tell you about a dear friend's daughter who is taking on the impossible...  She actually tells the story far better than I can, so I encourage you to read her words at Ghana Rock.  But this is an amazing young woman who felt the nudging of God and stepped out in utter faith and obedience...  I can't wait to see what God will do through her!  She is 16 years old and is taking on planning a concert to raise funds for an orphanage in Ghana...  I'm 45 years old and wouldn't have a clue where to begin to do something like that and yet she steps out in faith believing God for the impossible!  It's an inspiring story!

And just a quick update...  I'm so close to opening my web boutique for my jewelry!  I'm in the process of uploading my inventory, so hopefully in another week I'll be posting the first items...


Monday, November 8, 2010

Some Days I Wish I Were My Dog!

Today was one of those days...  I'm sure most of you can relate to this but today I have worn more hats than should ever be reasonably expected of one person, no wonder my brain feels like mush and I don't want to cook dinner!

As I think through my day...  I have been President of my Jewelry Company, lead designer, photographer, VP of Marketing, CFO, Accounting Specialist, Purchasing Agent, Inventory Specialist, Taxi Driver, Gas Station Attendant, Reading Specialist, Soccer Team Uniform organizer and distributor, team photographer, trouble shooter, listener, work-out mama, menu planner, master scheduler for not one, but 5 people and now I'm supposed to cook dinner and sort photos for the high school slideshow and to top it all off I need to be a maid and laundress...  REALLY?!

Well, this taxi driver is about to drive her children to Chick-Fil-A and let them be the cook, and if the cleaning and laundry fairies don't come by, then I'll have just have to have a messy house with dirty laundry...  Oh Well!

And we wonder why we're tired!

I caught this photo of our dog this morning when I was photographing jewelry for the website...  Right now, it would definitely be nice to be my dog!!

Pippin (225 of 1)

Sunday, November 7, 2010

I'm Just Not Ready!

In some ways, this post will seem completely absurd, but it's been building for a year or so and I'm just going to lay it out there...  I'm just not ready to think of Zack, our oldest, graduating from high school!

Tonight ended Zack's junior year soccer season and with it came the resounding reality that I only have one more high school soccer season left...  It leaves me wondering, will the next 18 months be measured by 'one mores' and then 'lasts?'

Somehow I think the answer to that question is a definite yes...  

I can't imagine what life will be like when he is not a daily part of it...  When he doesn't call me to ask me when I'm coming to the soccer game because somehow he's missed packing his game jersey?  Or, have I seen his shin guards because he can't find them!  (Oh yeah, sorry Zack, I borrowed them the other night and forgot to put them back... NOT)  Don't tell him, but I will miss all of this terribly!

I can't imagine a fall or spring without terrible refs...    Soccer games...  Impossible schedules...  Freezing cold and rain...  We've watched him play soccer since he was 4, it almost becomes a part of who you know yourself to be!

It is a gift to watch our children grown into adults and while I am thrilled that he is becoming the man we long for him to be, I'm just not ready!

I think the best use of my current (and slightly unreasonable heartache) is to remember to savor each moment!  I will never get back the days that lay ahead, I pray that I will savor each one with no regrets!

Friday, November 5, 2010

New T-Shirt

I'm so excited, my new Show Hope t-shirt is here!!  I bought it  from Lori at Joy Unspeakable (she's selling them as a fundraiser to bring their 3rd adopted child home!)  It's a GREAT shirt, in fact, I'm wearing it right now!!  Stop by her blog and check it out...  

Monday, November 1, 2010

Blogging For Hope...

Hi...  I thought since I was designing jewelry for hope, I could start blogging for hope too...  From time to time, if you have a fund raiser that you're doing to raise money to adopt your precious child, please let me know and I'll post a link to it...

Here are three that I know of right now... (Just click on the words in red and it will take you right to their site!)

Kirstin and her husband are adopting from Ethiopia.  I first met Rob on a trip to Africa, last November, he was one of the lead pastors and he is a full time youth pastor.  This summer I was blessed to meet his wife on the August trip!    She sews the cutest things and is selling them to help fund their adoption...  She's got some really fun things, great gift ideas!!  Here is a link to her store...Journey to Africa

A great give-away over at Suzanne's blog!  One Less Broken Heart

And Lori is selling an awesome Show Hope t-shirt from Steven and Mary Beth Chapman's organization, a portion of the proceeds go to Lori and her family's adoption...   Joy Unspeakable  Now that I've lost some weight, I'm heading over to her website right now to order one!

Please leave me a comment if you would like me to post a link to your fundraiser...  If I have enough, I'll try and do it once a week, or if I don't have new ones, maybe I'll just keep reminding you about the ones I do know of!

What better way to bring hope to a child than by helping unite them with their forever family?!

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Savoring the Moment

savor - v. "to give oneself to the enjoyment of..."

Last week was not a banner week... In the greater scheme of things, nothing too serious was happening, but some times life just piles on and it feels overwhelming...  Like the current invasion of a mouse, or maybe mice, in our kitchen and laundry room ... 

So on Friday, I had a few minutes and I thought some Marshall's therapy might help (not very spiritual I know)...

Since March, I have lost 25 pounds and I've been working out regularly, so every once in a while, it's fun to go and see how clothes look on my newly emerging figure...

I tried on a few things, but just wasn't in the mood to buy, so I decided to wander around for a few minutes...  As I was wandering, a woman walked passed me with a stroller and even though I couldn't see the child, he was just chattering away to himself with those sweet baby noises...

We passed going in opposite directions, but then ended up on the same aisle...  And her sweet child just contentedly kept making his little noises...  I almost didn't say anything, after all, even the south isn't always the friendliest place to strike up conversation with a stranger...  But after arguing with myself for a minute, I walked up to her and said, "Those are the sweetest noises I've heard in a long time."

She looked puzzled for a minute and then she said, "Oh my goodness, I had completely tuned them out."  We talked for a minute, I told her that my oldest was 17 now and that the years flew by and I encouraged her to savor these moments...  As she walked off, she looked back at me and said, "Thank you."

Such a simple little thing that made a difference in a person's day...  It took me completely by surprise.  It's sad to me how we get so busy with our lives, so focused on our task that we don't take the time to speak into people's lives, I am so guilty of that...  But it also made me wonder, how much of my own children's lives have I just tuned out?

I've been reading Mary Beth Chapman's new book, Choosing To See, and it's wonderful!  It has made me realize that I need to be so careful to savor life instead of just gulping it down and barely experiencing it, especially where my husband and children are concerned.

Funny, but one of the greatest blessings that has come out of my new jewelry business is that I sit still, for hours sometime, in one place.  I have had some of the most wonderful conversations with our kids, Mackenzie especially..  And I'm so thankful that God found a way to slow me down for a season and relish the grown people that our children are becoming...  They're pretty amazing and I don't want to miss another second of their journey to adulthood...

Is there someone you need to savor a moment with today?

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Photos... (Finally!)

So if you're new to my blog, I just recently restarted my jewelry design business as a way to earn money to continue going on trips to Africa (see the post before this one)... 

Well, we did the "Arts & Antiques Festival"...  But it turned out to be more of a flea market than how it was promoted... Oh well, live and learn...  But I thought I would still give you a preview of some of my favorite pieces of jewelry...  Before long I'll be making some of the designs available on my new website.

This first piece was one of my favorites...  A man and his wife came by my tent at the show and she loved the necklace but didn't want to pay the price.  It was made from dyed opal beads and I couldn't really come down on the price, so she decided not to purchase it.  A little while later her sweet husband slipped back over to the tent and purchased it for her...  It was one of the highlights of the weekend...  I love seeing love last! 

Rowan (54 of 152)

Here are a few other pieces...

Rowan (13 of 152)
Rowan (7 of 152)
Rowan (15 of 152)

Rowan (26 of 152)

Rowan (37 of 152)

Rowan (41 of 152)

Rowan (42 of 152)

Rowan (81 of 152)

Rowan (74 of 152)

Rowan (98 of 152)

Rowan (134 of 152)

Rowan (148 of 152)

Stay tuned...  Working on lots more!

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Designing For Hope...

I can't believe almost a whole month has passed since I last blogged, where did time go?!  When I came home from this last trip to Africa, I realized that I had to find a way to keep going.  On every trip we've heard words like, "I know God cares because you came..."  "We know God sees us when you come..."  "She has hope because of what your team did..."  "I am encouraged because you're here..."  It struck me that somehow God uses our going to bring hope to others, whether it's going down the street to serve at a local ministry or across the ocean...  Simply going brings hope, so I had to find a way to keep going.

I thought about trying to find a job, but with 4 children who would cater to my schedule?  Years ago, I used to design and sell jewelry but with small children I just couldn't keep up with it.  So I started to pray about re-opening my jewelry design business...  And as I prayed for confirmation, people out of the blue would come up to me and ask, "Are you ever going to do your jewelry again?"  So I had my answer...  I have started my jewelry business again, but this time, for a purpose...

The profits from sales will be used to travel to Africa and if God should choose to really bless my efforts, then I will put the extra money to helping others travel...

So for the last month, I have been working like crazy!  My first big show is this weekend, a local Arts and Antique Festival (it was even on our local news this morning!!) and then I have several other shows scheduled after that...  Alexis, who designed my blog, is working hard on a web boutique for me, so hopefully soon I'll be announcing the grand opening!

I've got to get back to work, but next week I'll post pictures from the festival...  The whole theme of my booth is designing for hope and as I sell my jewelry, I'll have an opportunity to tell the story of Swaziland!

I've put together a collage of photos from Africa and I'm using photos from my trips to decorate the table.  And I'm really excited that I'll also be selling jewelry that is made by grandmothers in Kenya...  God blessed me with a prime location at the festival (a last minute cancellation), so I decided to donate one of my tables to HOW Jewelry, the line that Heart For Africa sells to provide income for the grandmothers in Kenya!
Next week I'll post some photos of my jewelry to give you a preview of what's coming!

But that's where I've disappeared to lately!

Friday, September 17, 2010

God's Amazing Love... Africa, Part 6

I'm just curious, do you have any idea how much God loves you?  Scripture is full of beautiful verses that tell us that, but sometimes it is so hard to get truths of the Bible to move from the head to the heart.  For some reason, the depth of God's love for me has been one of those things that has been so hard for me to really get...  to really receive and live in the truth of it. 

On our last full day in Swaziland, we went on a safari...  It was supposed to be a fun day, but I was filled with an overwhelming sadness that we were leaving the next day.  I just couldn't shake it...  I fought tears all day long...  I just wanted to put my earphones in, close my eyes and lose myself in the music of Chris Tomlin...

As we were leaving the safari that day, we passed a market area where lots of people were going about their daily routine and I was filled with such an overwhelming love for the Swazi people that I almost couldn't bear it.  It caught me completely by surprise...  I've never experienced anything like that on my previous trips.

I thought, this is CRAZY...  How can I love people that I don't even know?  How can feel this kind of love for people that I don't even really like their ways much of the time?  I hate that they ask for money...  I don't like feeling like a vending machine...  I can't stand always wondering what their motives might be...

So I said, "Lord, how can I possibly feel this way?"

And from somewhere deep in my heart...  Not an audible voice, but a gentle whisper that was clearly not my own thought, said, "Now you know what My love is for you is like."

It took my breath away...  Because I understood in that moment that the love I was feeling for the Swazi people could only come from God, so that had to mean that I was tasting what His love for me was really like...  Only His love for me, for each one of us, is exponentially greater because His love is pure and perfect love. 

I can't even begin to describe what a gift that moment was...  I believe that for obedience to characterize our lives, it is essential to immerse ourselves in the love of God.  Yes, we can obey Him out of duty and obligation, but obedience that flows from a willing heart is what He longs for...  I've said this before, but Hosea 2:16 says, "'In that day,' says the LORD, 'you will call Me 'my Husband;' you will no longer call Me 'my Master.'"  That is a beautiful picture of obedience that flows from a love relationship!

God has blessed my heart in so many ways on these trips to Africa, but I have to say that that was the greatest gift of all!

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

I Cleaned Out My Closet... Africa, Part 5

This is one of those posts that I've wrestled with whether or not to post it...  Not because I'm worried about what you'll think...  But because the Bible tells us to not let our left hand know what our right hand is doing, to keep our giving in secret.  And yet, I really think I'm supposed to tell this story because of what God has been teaching me from it...

On our last day in the community, we handed out shoes and clothes to the children at the church.  They waited so patiently as they came up one by one and their Sunday School teacher, I'll call her MJ, helped us to know what their greatest need was...  shirt, pants, shoes or a jacket...

At one point, one of our team members came up to me and pointed to a young teenage girl, holding a baby on her hip...  She had on a pair of ragged flip flops and MJ said she needed shoes.  But the problem was that her feet were rather large and we had mostly children's shoes and smaller adult sizes, so not one pair that would fit her. 

As I stood there and looked at those worn feet, she said not to worry, just to give something to the baby...  But then I knew...  her feet looked just like my daughter's feet and we wear the same size...  So I asked MJ to ask her if she would like to have my shoes...  I left that day with my socks and a joy in my heart that is beyond anything I can describe, not because I did anything special, but because God allowed me the indescribable privilege of putting shoes on a child in need.

As I've thought about that young woman over and over, my heart has longed to live a life where that kind of giving is possible on a regular basis...  God has blessed us with SO much and yet so much of it is wasted on frivolous indulgences...  Things I just don't need...

A few weeks ago, our pastor was preaching a series on Living the Good Life and he talked about the joy of giving... He also talked about what a burden our stuff can become, how it weighs us down in life and I decided then, it was time to start clearing some things out...

So yesterday I faced down my closet and decided to lighten the burden of stuff in my life...  As the hangers piled up around me...  As the bags of clothes to give away grew in number...  As I looked up from where I was sitting and still saw far too many clothes in my closet, I thought of the people of Swaziland who have so little and my heart broke...  I have never been so sorry about my selfish indulgences...  I have never been so remorseful over my frivolous spending...  In that moment, it was so clear to me that the satisfaction of something new is fleeting...  It is truly a vapor...  That there is not one thing that I own that still gives me joy and satisfaction like the memory of that beautiful child with my shoes...

Yesterday, I cleaned out my closet, but God cleaned out my heart...  Now I must guard it and not allow the stuff of this world to pollute it again...  I'm not saying you should never purchase anything nice, but there is a BIG difference between enjoying God's blessings and allowing them to master you so that you live extravagantly and wastefully...  I want more of those moments like the one in Swaziland that become imprinted on my heart, the ones that bring true and lasting joy...

Just one more post about Africa to go...  God's Amazing Love, Part 6, in a few days...

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

It's Not About The Task... Africa, Part 4

I didn't mean to let so much time pass before I wrote part 4, but with the start of school, life has been crazy.  I have a special project that I'm working on too, but I'll tell more about that in the coming weeks...

I've heard it said before that the 18 inches between the head and the heart is the longest journey one can make... I'm certain that's true, because it has taken me 2 years and 4 trips to Africa to really GET, what I learned on this trip...

In America, it seems like we're all about the doing...  Often it seems like something is not worthy of our time unless we can say we accomplished something.  But what Africa has taught me is that it's not about the task, it's about the relationship!

On our trip, some might say that we didn't accomplish much...  We built a shed for their cook pot one day, so they would be a little protected from the elements, when they're cooking to feed the children in their community...

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It was awesome to work side by side with them!

But what was even better was the time we spent developing relationships with them!

We laughed...  we played...  we prayed... we worshiped...  It was amazing how quickly God knit our hearts together with them!

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In this last photo, the young mom came to us the day before with a very sick 2 week old baby...  I don't want to share all of the details of her life, but her husband had died 6 months before and there wasn't much reason to be hopeful...

That evening, our team got together and decided to pool our money and buy some groceries for her and her family...  It wasn't much, some sausage, sugar beans, oranges, vegetables and corn meal flour, but it was the best way we knew to show her God's love...

So in the photo, we had taken her the food...  It was the first time I had seen her smile!  Her whole countenance changed!  Later that afternoon, I was talking to her older brother and I said, "S...  Does your sister love Jesus they way you do?"  He said that he had been talking to her for a while, but that she didn't really want to listen...  And then what he said has rooted itself in my heart...  He said, "But today, she SAW the love of Jesus by what your team did.  Now she has hope, so maybe now she will listen!"

And that's when it hit me...  We aren't there to fix anything, we can't, the problems are too BIG...  On a short term mission trip, there's very little we can do to even make their lives better, but what we can do is bring hope to them and strengthen them, and that happens in relationships!

I was struck the other day as I was reading Psalm 10...  Verses 17-18 say that the LORD (when all caps is used for LORD, it's Yahweh... I Am...  God's highest name that reminds us that He is Sovereign over all things)...  He hears the desires of the afflicted...  He strengthens their heart...  He inclines His ear to them...  But He does that through us...  To say that we are His hands and feet is not a trite expression, it's what He intends...  Not because He needs us, but because He chooses to!

I've had such a hard time really getting this, but just by showing up, God can use me to bring hope and encouragement...  He can use me to strengthen others!  I've heard it on every trip...  "I'm encouraged because you came..."  "I know that God cares because you came here today..."  "I know that God sees us, because you came..."  None of those comments came from people whose physical circumstances had changed because of anything we did...  But their hearts had been encouraged, just because we went!

But you know, you don't have to go to Africa to be used by God to strengthen another...  You can "show up" to a widow...  An elderly neighbor...  As a tutor in school...  At a soup kitchen....  There are a hundred ways to "show up,"  just down down the road...  maybe even across the street!

I pray that God will give us all a person to 'show up' to this week...  There's not much that will bless your heart more!

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Desperate For God... Africa, part 3

First, Naomi, you left me a comment on my last post and I so want to talk to you, but I don't know how to get in touch with you...  Somehow I missed your blog going private, so if you read this, can you e-mail me from my profile so I can have your e-mail address and get an invitation to your blog...  I miss following along!

So back to Africa...  The Sunday morning before I left for Africa, a sweet prayer warrior friend came to me at church and asked if she could pray with me... This friend has the most tender heart and she has been such a HUGE encouragement to me through our adoption and my trips to Africa.  She is so faithful to pray for us and always listens to all of the details of my stories, I don't think she knows what a gift that is...

So on this Sunday morning, she sat and prayed with me and she prayed for boldness...  I know she prayed for other things, but it was that word, 'boldness', that echoed in my heart throughout the trip...

On the plane over, I was reading one of the best books I've read in a long time, Radical...  Taking Back Your Faith From The American Culture, by David Platt (I HIGHLY recommend this book).  One of the thoughts that grabbed my heart was how in our culture, we are so self-sufficient, that we aren't really desperate for God.  So I prayed, "Lord, while I'm in Africa, make me desperate for You."  (Be careful what you pray for!)

The first day we arrived in Swaziland, we were roaming around waiting for our orientation meeting to begin and one of the leaders from Heart For Africa came to me and said, "I hope this is just a reminder, but you know you're a team leader right?"  I had absolutely no idea...  I was completely unprepared and being in such a different culture where so many things can offend, I was terrified...  But God reminded me of my friend's sweet prayer and I knew that He had gone before me!  And clearly God was answering my own prayer to 'make me desperate!'

But He wasn't done yet...  On our last day in the community, the Pastor sat down with me to discuss how our afternoon worship and celebration would go and he said, "I would like for you to bring the word to us."  Surely there was someone else in the room that he was talking too...  What could I possibly have to say to people who live such different lives...  How could I possibly talk about a passage that I hadn't spent hours studying for (not to mention that I didn't know what verse I was supposed to speak about)?  Desperate for God was going to a whole new place...  And once again, my friend's sweet prayer echoed in my heart...  Be bold!

And God was faithful...  As I prayed, God clearly led me to a verse.  So then I tried to think through what I might say, but my thoughts were overwhelmed and confused, I couldn't think straight for anything.  So I prayed, "Fine... I'm not going to think this through, You're just going to have to make the words come out of my mouth."  And He did!  When I finished, I basically had no idea of what I had said!

But there was still one more lesson left to come about being desperate...  On our last day of service, we went to a hospital to distribute blankets and beanies to the school children in the community and to pray with the families in the children's ward of the hospital. 

It was my first trip to a hospital in a 3rd world country...  It was shocking...  heartbreaking... beyond description...  But it was here that I really understood the phrase, "desperate for God."

As we went into the ward, we took blankets to each family and offered to pray with them...  Even though most probably didn't understand our words, they all understood our touch and the act of praying.  It was a sweet but sad time...

As we finished our rounds of the children's ward, we headed back out into the main ward and were taken aback when we heard a man yelling...  As we drew closer and closer, I became more and more afraid that somehow one of the local witchdoctors had come in and that something terrible was happening...  So I prayed, "Lord, if this is a bad thing, please make it stop."  But then we begin to hear the word 'Jesu' 'Jesu' 'Jesu'...  And then we knew, this man was calling on the name of Jesus...

As we entered back into the main ward, we found this man and another, praying over a child who was probably near death...  The child had a feeding tube and his breathing was so shallow...  And these two men called out to God in a way that I have NEVER heard before...  They called on Him for life...for healing...they prayed with a faith that is far beyond where I pray...  These men were truly DESPERATE for God and my needs all of a sudden seemed so small...  I really have no idea what it means to be desperate for God...

And perhaps that's the blessing of a third world country...  Maybe that's why, when I'm there, I feel closer to Him than ever...  Maybe that's why it's so hard for me to leave and why I'm so ready to return...  God's presence is almost tangible there and I have to wonder if it's because the people there are so desperate for Him. 

I've thought about praying that God would make me truly desperate for Him, but I admit, I'm afraid to pray that prayer...  Maybe I don't want that enough for my life...  Maybe I'm afraid He'll really answer it...  Maybe I'm afraid of what that answer would like...  But for now, my prayer is that He will fill me with a longing for Him that is far greater than my desire for comfort and ease in this lifetime...  Maybe then I'll be ready for whatever it takes to make me truly desperate for God.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

God's Perfect Provision... We're Asking The Wrong Question! Africa, Part 2

As I've thought about how to tell the story of this trip to Africa, it seemed that this trip was as much about lessons for places deep in my soul as it was about the events that happened.  In Luke 2:19, when Jesus is born and the shepherds visit Him, they go out and tell everyone that they have seen the promised Christ child...  But it says that "Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart."

I think that's why it's been hard for me to begin to tell this story...  This trip was a treasure to me and I just needed to ponder it for a while.  So I've decided to tell this story by the lessons I learned...  Through it, I will tell you about the events, but the real treasure is in what God taught me!

So this trip was what you might call, my dream trip.  Since the first trip to Africa, my heart has been for the children...the people outside the gate (I first wrote about them in this blog Children Outside The Gate )

But here is a quote from that blog that seems to capture what was in my heart, "These are the children outside the gate...children, who unlike the children inside the gate of the orphanage, had no guarantee of safety...of a food...of love...of the most basic necessities of life...things that no child should ever wonder if they'll have enough of... These children burdened my heart..."

Well, on this trip, I spent all of my time, "outside the gate."  Heart For Africa (HFA) has decided to partner with community churches to help them care for the orphans and widows in their communities, so I went for 3 days to a partner church and it was more than I ever dreamed!  To get to go every day and spend time with the same people...  It's amazing how tightly God can knit a bond in just 3 days!!

The church we went to was in a very rural community...  We drove about 1 hour and 45 minutes, one way, to reach it each day.  On the first day, the pastor told me that until the week before, when HFA's  first team had visited, white men had NEVER come to help them!  Is that not heart breaking?!  How that must break God's heart!!

So, on our second day in the community, one of the young women in our group, asked me if she could give a pair of shoes to a young girl who had come from school and didn't have any...  (A little background...  I was a team leader on this trip, so I was the 'go-between' for our team and the pastor of the church...  This will be important in a minute...)  So I asked permission to give the young girl shoes and Mrs. M., the pastor's wife, said it was fine.

So J., the young woman on our team, with the shoes, went to see if she would have some that would fit her...  She was concerned that she might not have any large enough...  But wouldn't you know, the largest size she had, fit her PERFECTLY!!  Now, I've been to Africa enough times to know that this is how God works...  But I hope, like that day, that I never lose the awe of His perfect provision!

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And I will certainly never forget the wonder on the young girl's face when she understood that the shoes were for her...

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But one of the highlights of the trip was the look on J's face (who brought the shoes) when she realized that the shoes fit perfectly (I'm sorry of I don't have a picture of that moment)...  Her eyes welled up and there was no doubt in my mind that she knew she was seeing the hand of God and His perfect provision!

A little later, J came to me again and asked to give a young boy a pair of shoes...  Without thinking, or asking permission, I just told her yes!  So she went to the van and pulled out, what she thought was her largest pair, and they weren't big enough.  So she reached back into the suitcase and pulled out a pair that she didn't know she had...  And yes, they were once again the perfect size!!

Well as I stood and watched, the pastor's wife and the head gogo (grandmother) came out and as they were watching this scene unfold, they started chattering back and forth to each other in SiSwati...  I thought for sure I had made a terrible mistake by not asking permission (they know the greatest needs of the children in their community) and I was holding my breath, waiting to apologize for overstepping my bounds...

But Mrs. M turned to me and said, "His mother is so poor...  She will be so happy that he has shoes.  You (meaning all of us) are doing a good thing here."  I just smiled and said, "No, Jesus is doing a good thing here!"

And that's what struck me that evening as I pondered the events of the day...

We get angry at God and ask "How could a good God allow children to suffer?  To be hungry?  Or thirsty?  Or without clothes?"  But here's the thing...  

God chose to use us to be His hands and feet...  And I can't even begin to tell you what a privilege and a blessing that is!  He doesn't need us but He chooses to use us!  The question is not, "Why would God allow them to suffer?"  The question is, "Why do we allow them to suffer?"

On that day, I watched God provide PERFECTLY through an obedient young woman!  God knew what size shoes those children needed and He was more than willing to give them...  But it took a willing vessel to deliver them, because that's how God chooses to work!

There is no doubt in my mind that someday we (the church) will be held accountable for "the least of these" who went hungry, thirsty and unclothed...  Will you reach out to someone in need and experience the wonder of God's perfect provision through you?  I can promise, there is NOTHING like it!!

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Where To Begin?

I'm back from Swaziland, but for some reason I'm having a hard time knowing where to start to tell this story...  The beginning seems like a logical place, and yet I think I need to return to last year's trip...   Since I need a little time to think this one through, I'll start with 7 of my favorite photos and hopefully in a day or so, God will show me how to begin to tell the next chapter in my Africa story...

The first photo is a little boy at a location where we were handing out blankets and beanies...  He is such a beautiful child!  I didn't even remember taking the photo and it's probably my favorite!
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The next two pictures are of a child in the community where we spent 3 days...  Something about this child tugged at my heart, he wouldn't play with us or even smile when we showed him his picture on the camera (that always gets the kids to smile).  He just seemed to want to hide...

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I'll post more about this little boy in a few days...  His joy was so contagious!

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There was something about this gogo (grandmother) that grabbed me...  She looked so stern until she smiled...  When she smiled, you couldn't help but laugh and smile with her!

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She wouldn't smile for a picture, but she sure did laugh when you showed her a picture of herself, so I waited until another group member took her picture and did my best to grab those twinkling eyes and squinched up cheeks!

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This last picture tells such a story on it's own...  The gogos were all sitting on their mats, outside the worn church building.  Some were wrapped in blankets and others in shawls...  I glanced down and saw these worn feet that have probably walked a million miles, with no shoes, and was captured by the contrast of her feet with the beautiful fabric. 

These women, who give their lives to raise their grandchildren, because the children's parents have all died of AIDS, should all be clothed in the finest shoes and linen...  Some day they will be, with beautiful crowns on their heads and the whisper of their Heavenly Father ringing in their ears...  "Well done, good and faithful servant!"

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Sunday, July 25, 2010

Back To Africa....

I can't believe that once again, I sit on the eve of another trip to Swaziland!  I'm so excited to see what God has in store this time!  I won't be able to blog from there, but I'll look forward to telling you some great God stories when I return...

I really don't know what we'll be doing there this time, but somehow, that makes it even more exciting...  Whatever it is, it will be perfect!

Have a great couple of weeks!

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

"Learning To Love A Child..."

During our adoption process, I came across a quote by one of my favorite authors, Donald Miller (probably best known for Blue Like Jazz)...  It was in his book Painted Deserts, he wrote...

"And so my prayer is that your story will have involved some leaving and some coming home...some summer and some winter... My hope is that your story will be about changing...about learning to love a child...about learning to love others more than we love ourselves...

We get one story, you and I, one story alone. God has established the elements, the setting and the climax and the resolution. It would be a crime not to venture out, wouldn’t it?

And you will not be alone. You have never been alone. Don’t worry. Everything will still be here when you get back. It is you who will have changed."

Funny, but when this quote grabbed my heart, I had no idea how God would teach me that life is as much about the journey as it is the destination...

When we first began this journey, I naively imagined falling in love with a child from the moment we met...  I imagined a child that would love us and quickly entrust herself to us...  A little girl who would allow us to do all the things the books said we needed to do, like hug her, rock her, read to her, swing her, play with her...

Gotcha Day - July 21, 2008


But what I didn't understand at the time was this...  If all of that happened easily, if we quickly and easily arrived at our "destination" of a happy, well-adjusted 4th child, we would miss the incredible sights of the journey...  Sights that clearly showed us the love of God...  Lessons that taught us so much about what it means to be an adopted child of the King Most High...  Moments that took our breath away as we watched the breathtaking power of our great God...

I am so thankful that God moved us and gave us the courage to journey out...  To risk the comfortable place we'd reached with our family...  To sacrifice the known for the unknown...  It truly has been a journey of learning to love a child and it is a journey that has changed us forever.

2 years ago today, sweet Abby joined our family...  It was a hard day...  It was a hard first year...  I can't tell you how many tears I cried because I longed to hug her, hold her, just be her mom.  But God was with us every step of the way, He never stopped guiding us and He never stopped pouring His wisdom, grace and love into our hearts...

Learning to love a child is about learning to love with the heart of God...  It is a life changing, heart transforming journey...

If God has placed adoption on your heart, don't be afraid to step out in obedience...  It's a journey that you don't want to miss...  And as Donald Miller said, we each get one story...  How will your story read?  And will it impact, maybe change forever, the story of another?

Abby...  we are so blessed that God chose us to be your family.  Thank you for the smiles, the laughter, the joy you bring...  Thank you for opening your heart to us and letting us love you...  You are one special little girl... 

The Power of Love

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Monday, July 19, 2010

Some Things Just Take Time...

Something that I've been noticing lately is how critical people in the church can be...  Those who tithe, criticize those who don't...  Those who adopt criticize those who don't...  Those who faithfully serve the poor criticize those who don't...  Even those who have a regular quiet time criticize those who don't...  We can be a very self-righteous group of people...  And if I'm honest, I can criticize and be self-righteous with the best of them.

But something occurred to me as I've considered our journey with Abby these past two years...  She didn't come into our family automatically behaving the way we would want or doing the things we would hope.  She brought traditions, behaviors and ways from her own land and while some of them were fine, some needed to change.

Just because the adoption was final and Miller was part of her name, she didn't magically change overnight...

And the same is true for Christians...  Just because we are eternally adopted into God's family and we have a name change to 'Christian', we don't transform overnight, it takes time.

Abby had to get to know us and love us, she had to learn what it meant to be a part of a forever family and she needed to learn some of the ways of our culture (like you don't slurp your soup out loud!). 

And the same principle applies to us, as Christians.  We don't get to know God overnight...  It takes time for His character to influence ours...  It takes time to grow to love Him, to know His ways and to obey Him...  It takes time for His Word to shape our hearts...

Patience and a WHOLE lot of grace has been essential on the journey of Abby learning to be a part of our family...  I think we need to show that same patience and grace to our brothers and sisters in Christ.   No doubt God shows it to us every moment of every day.

Friday, July 16, 2010


In just a few days, Heart for Africa will host 20,000 children and adults at the stadium in Swaziland...  10,000 blankets have been donated, 20,000 beanies have been knitted for the children, it will be a day when the children hear about the love of Jesus.

Here is a link to the blog of the lady who is coordinating the production for the whole event, she is a great writer with an amazing heart for God...   (I've also put a link to her blog in the right hand column under favorite Africa blogs.)

I didn't feel called to go with the 300+ that will be there for the big event on July 23, but I will leave with the follow up team on July 26!  I can't wait to go back...

If you want to watch God do some amazing things, be sure to follow Masi's blog above...

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Beach Trip

So before I post the photos from our family beach trip, I've got an Abby funny...  For the trip, I bought Abby some of her own books, she's reading great now and I thought it was time for some chapter books.  We found some she thought she'd like and she loved them.

The other night, she was finishing up one of the books and she said, "Mommy, I really like this book, but it has a bad word in it."  I tried to be calm, but inside I was livid...  A bad word in a child's book.  I was picturing walking into the local bookstore and having a good old fashioned rant...

"Abby, what kind of bad word?"

"You know mommy, the 'sh' word..."

At this point I'm flabbergasted...  Really?  The 'sh' word in a 2nd grader's book...

"Abby, are you sure it was the 'sh' word?"

At this point she leans in and whispers...  "Mommy, they said 'shut up'"

Ohhhhhh...  The 'sh' word!  I love innocence!!

So now for the beach pictures...

A couple of weeks ago, our family (29 of us) went to the beach...  We had to try a new place because our usual location is on the Gulf and we were worried about the oil and the beaches.  But we LOVED our new location and we had a blast...  (These are a few of my favorites!!)

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(I just love seeing those sweet China angel faces as part of our family!)

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(The boys with their grandmother...  YIKES...  My babies are growing up!)

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It was truly a great week!!