Monthly Archives: November 2013

The IC

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Everyone is writing their “30 days of thankfulness” and although I’ve never participated I do have to stop for a moment and write about some people that I am thankful for and owe a debt of gratitude.

You see, I belong to an elite club called “The Inner Circle”. This club is comprised of myself, my two sisters and my two aunts. This group of women who have encircled me have sustained me for 48 years. They have loved me through my buckteeth, through my awkward years when my body had not been notified that my arms and legs were ready for a 6 ft woman even though my body was still in 7th grade. They loved me through countless numbers of no good boyfriends, and through all the really poor decisions I made without their counsel. They have kept me grounded when I’ve start thinking too highly of myself, and have set me straight when I might be veering off in the wrong direction.

They are who I call when I need recipes, have menopause questions, when I’m in trouble, traveling, or feel like sending a scary selfie because I just look really ugly…then I get 4 scary selfies back in return and I don’t feel so badly about myself.

They are the first people I call and send pictures when I fall down or have any type of hurt just because I know we’ll all laugh about it for days.

These ladies are my rock of consistency, they keep me grounded, and their presence will forever be a highlight of my life.

We’ve birthed babies together, buried husbands together, gone through sicknesses together, been to each others weddings together, traveled together, got matching tattoos together 15 years ago before tattoos got really popular, (the tattoo artist called us the housewife gang; we weren’t sure if that was a compliment but we decided it definitely was), cried together, laughed together, shopped together, played big jokes together, and have loved Elvis together.

My mom, (my two aunts sister), died when I was very young. Although tragic and we would love to take that moment back from 1970; I can see how these relationships would have never evolved into what they are today had my mother lived. My two aunts stepped into my mother’s shoes and made my sisters lives and mine, the best it could be having to grow up without our mother. And although I have no biblical reference for this, I just have to believe my mother has also somehow enjoyed the funniness and good times we’ve shared. I like those thoughts because I know if she could have picked anyone to fill her shoes it would be my Aunt Faye and my Aunt Keta.

Our husbands say IC really stands for “Idiot Cult”. We say…well we just start laughing and telling stories.

Even though Thanksgiving is over, I hope my IC always knows I am thankful and forever grateful for all they mean to me. I hope during this Thanksgiving and Christmas season you take time to let those who encircle you know how much they truly mean to you.

We ARE the IC, and we have the tattoo to prove it!

PB&J

I just returned from another trip to Haiti. My 10th since 2009. I love that beautiful island and the people who live there. One of our translators asked me on this trip if it was my first time to visit. When I told him no it was my 10th, he put his hand on his heart and in that beautiful french accent said, “You’re Haitian, you are now Haitian.” That was one of the biggest compliments I have ever received. It has nothing to do with PB&J, I just wanted to tell you that because it makes me smile every time I hear those words in my head.

I will probably write a few blogs about this last trip because it was one of the greatest trips I have ever been privileged enough to participate in. My church, CrossRoads (www.crossroadsantioch.org) took a team of 16 people. The team was actually much larger than 16 though because almost our entire church participated in this trip. We were just the 16 who got to lay eyes on everything first hand.

My friend, Dennis who was on the trip witnessed a moment all of us who have traveled to Haiti have witnessed at one time or another, just in different forms. He saw a scene play out in front of him that I can guarantee will never leave his mind. You know when you’re a child and your mom is making you eat and says, “There are starving children who would love to have that food!” When that phrase reaches from the past and slaps you in the face, it’s a moment of awakening. Dennis tried to tell our church about this scene and with tears streaming down his cheeks was finally able to relay the event. It all started with a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.

Our team worked on site at a school/church that was damaged by the earthquake. (I will blog on this location at a later date because it’s a story in itself.) We were way out in the middle of nowhere, so we had to carry lunch for the team with us. What is the easiest thing to make? You guessed it…pb&j. They were made with hands that had been in dirty water, shoveling sand, holding babies, but had been slathered with hand sanitizer. If you’re a germaphobe like me, the thoughts can make you shutter. The sandwiches were handed to us on a napkin with a handful of Pringles and 2 cookies. Several of the team members groaned at the thought of eating this after working so incredibly hard, but it’s what we had so we ate it and got back to work.

In Haiti when a team like us show up to work, word gets around in the village and people slowly gather to watch. By the end of each work day we usually had quite the audience. At lunchtime there were a dozen or so people observing us making concrete to help rebuild this school/church. As Dennis stood and ate his lunch he watched as a little girl from the village was handed a sandwich.

She took one bite, found her father and gave what was left to him.

He took one bite, handed the rest of the sandwich to his wife.

She took one bite, handed the rest of the sandwich to her son.

He took one bite, handed the rest of the sandwich to his sister.

She took one bite, and went and got her friend and gave the last bite to her friend.

Oh my heart…

You may ask why in the world we go to Haiti as much and as often as we do and it’s for that reason. God commands us to go, so we go. Was that one bite of sandwich the only food received by this family the entire day? I don’t know, but if I had to guess I would say probably. After you see something like that you can’t come home and stay the same. You can’t simply turn your head and shake away the memory. I can’t separate that image from my own family. What if those were my two boys and husband who had no food? What are the dreams of this family that are being squashed because they have to concentrate so hard on feeding their children? What is the difference between me and that mom? Why am I the blessed one who has a wealth of food, and she has to fight so hard for food? All questions I walk away from each trip asking myself. The answers continue to elude me.

God has a lot to say about the poor in Psalm 82:3, Psalm 41:1, Proverbs 19:17, Proverbs 21:13, and many more places throughout His Book. He doesn’t say it’s wrong to do it this way, or you can’t give too much, or you need to set up a system, or whatever the politically correct way to go about this is for today. He just says to take care of them. We make it much harder than it has to be.

This trip was all about service. Serving the great people of Haiti so they can share the Good News of Jesus easier. We worked and helped empower a local pastor to do his job bigger and better than before. But oddly enough, it’s myself and my fellow team members who walk away from these trips mentally shaken, emotionally and physically depleted, but spiritually empowered to come home and do greater things in our communities, and greater things back in Haiti.

 

 

 

Friends

“It’s apparent that the future is completely dependent upon the quality of the people you call friends.” A quote from a young woman with wisdom far beyond her years. Let me tell you about Emily…

I was introduced to Emily through my friend Chao. Chao was a student here in the U.S. but returned to her home in Nairobi, Kenya after receiving her education. She and her family run a marriage and family ministry which is shaping the future of their country through making marriages strong and families even stronger. Chao learned about SaveOne while she was here in the states and contacted me. We discussed how we could get this Bible study into the hands of the men and women of Kenya who are suffering after abortion.

As the discussions continued, she had an unlikely volunteer…her sister Emily. Emily understood the need for such a ministry in her country, so she volunteered to translate the English women’s SaveOne study, to the language of Swahili. If you know anything about translating text, you know this is not a simple job, even for the most able. But Emily worked on this study for months and accomplished the task. I was so incredibly excited because at the time SaveOne had only been translated in to Romanian, Slovene, and now Swahili.

Chao took that translation, had it bound, and has used it to further the gospel in Kenya. Actually, we’ve had a hard time with really getting going there and keeping a facilitator for the course. But after my last Skype session with Chao, I feel God’s timing is NOW and SaveOne is about to open wide in that region. (If God is leading you to donate about $4000 to SaveOne to send us over there to teach a training, that would be the bomb!)

But back to the subject. Not long after Emily translated the book, I had the opportunity to travel to Kenya on a missions trip. I had emailed with Emily a couple of times thanking her for her service, but now was thrilled at the thought of getting to actually meet her! I had heard through my friend Chao that her health was not the greatest due to a debilitating illness called Lupus. I had no idea to what degree Lupus had tormented her.

The day arrived and our team was at “The Java House”. If you have ever been to Nairobi you probably know this place. Great french fries, and even greater coffee. My husband and I were waiting with anticipation for Chao to arrive with Emily and finally the car pulled in the parking lot. Chao said I would have to come to the car because Emily couldn’t get out. I walked to the car and saw through the open back door, one of the most beautiful women I have ever seen in my life. The radiance of Jesus was saturating through her smile. Her small frame was in the backseat under a blanket. Without going into too much detail about the condition of her body, I want you to know, to me she was suddenly perfect because all I saw  was a beautiful child of God. You see, she was not trapped by her circumstances, but rather declared victory over her life every day; volunteering for nearly impossible assignments, and never being defeated.

As I sat on my knees in the doorway of the car I started trying to tell her how thankful I was for all the work she did on the translation. She listened to me and then told me she had a gift for me. FOR ME! Those of you who know me, know how easily I cry over stuff like this. Well when she wanted to give ME a gift it was almost more than I could take. She had laying on her lap a beautiful piece of red cloth and she asked me to lay it out so I could see what it said. There in white letters were the words, “KIDOGO CHANGU POKEA NA DUA NJEMA NAKUOMBEA” She told me those words in her language meant, “What little I have I give to you.” Not only was I a puddle in the parking lot by this time, but I knew this was a woman I wanted to keep as a lifelong friend.

That cloth is now stretched across a board and hangs in my office. photo

I’m not sure if Emily can even hold a pen in her hand or type on a computer, but she has just written her second book. The first entitled, “Outside the Window” I read a couple of years ago and was profoundly moved by it. I now have the awesome privilege of reading through her second book, not yet published, and offering my feedback. This book is entitled, “Love Songs” and is simply her journal entries over the years. I’m getting to read quotes like the one above, and learning so much from her. Here is another that stood out to me…

“He created me because He wanted my beauty to be evident in the way I live and breathe. It is not the desire for my outward beauty but more the desire to be captivating in the depths of who I am.”

There are so many more, but I realize this blog post is getting very long! I don’t have enough words to tell you how special this woman is to me and how her life sings! She is truly captivating.

Proverbs 13:20 tells us to “Keep company with the wise and you will become wise. If you make friends with stupid people, you will be ruined.” I feel much wiser for keeping company with Emily. Let’s all strive to not let our circumstances keep us from whatever task is at hand, but rather declare victory over every aspect of our lives, just as Emily has and continues to do.

So there’s my friend Emily. I think I will have her write a guest post on my blog very soon so you can get to know her better. The world needs to read her words and experience her beauty.