Wednesday, December 30, 2009

3

To you, tomorrow is New Years Eve. To me, tomorrow is Shawn's 3rd birthday.

To you, Friday is New Years Day. To me, Friday is the 3rd anniversary of the day we learned Shawn has Down syndrome. He was only about 14 hours old. I had just stepped out of the hospital room shower, with my hair dripping and my towel refusing to go all the way around my swollen body.

I will never forget those moments in the hospital. I'll never forget the threat of a heart problem. I'll never forget the confusion, the fear, the devastation, the immediate inability to speak/walk/think/rest. I'll never forget the tears and the desperation for God.

If you spend any time at all on my blog, you know how priceless and perfect Shawn is to me. You know how much I adore and cherish him on every level. You know that I'm a proud momma and that our family is more blessed with Shawn in our lives than we would ever be otherwise.

But New Years Eve and New Years Day will most likely always flood me with the frightening memories of the end of 2006 and the beginning of 2007.

Shawnie will be 3 in a few hours. He is remarkable, fantastic, glorious, beautiful and hilarious. These 3 years have flown by.

I'm wishing a very happy birthday to my sweet baby boy.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

End to End

I do not normally spend a lot of time at the end of each year reflecting on the events of the prior 12 months. I guess I just don't think that life is measured so much in years as it is measured in the whole day by day carrying out of life, from the heart. I also do not make New Years Resolutions. That just doesn't work for me. If I am going to change something about my life, I probably have to do it when my heart is severely pounding over the matter, rather than when I happen to get a fresh, crisp new calendar. A clear empty calendar of the year lying in wait just really intimidates me. Because if I know the truth about life, I know that at the end of the year, there will be some days that I wish I hadn't gotten out of bed. There will be some experiences I wished I didn't have to endure. And there will be some days that are filled more with worry than with joy. Sure, the calendar is blank today....but at the end of the year, it will tell a story. I'm just reminded that we cannot predict or control the future. Like I said, it intimidates me.

Today as we have just a few days remaining in 2009, though, I am reflecting. The past 12 months have possessed some of the most monumental experiences for me in my lifetime. In the past 12 months (including last December 08) I have journeyed on 3 International mission trips. Twice to Zimbabwe to serve orphans, and once to the Dominican Republic to help build a church. 5 1/2 weeks of the past 12 months I have been on foreign soil, in hungry nations and I have embraced countless motherless and fatherless children. It's impossible not to reflect on these things.

In March of 2009 my youngest son, Shawn, had open heart surgery to repair a defect. His tiny little heart in his then 20 pound body was removed and held in the hands of a skilled surgeon while a heart/lung bypass machine kept him alive. He had a partial lung collapse, was on a temporary pacemaker, and then was in the hospital several days for recovery. The mere hint of any possibility that would creep into my mind that we could have lost our son would cause me to vomit. The surgeon repaired Shawn's heart. God allowed a victorious homerun that day.

My faith this year has been a fantastic journey. I have dedicated so much effort and time into reading scriptures and really learning from them. I have a serious appetite for more of God's word, and certainly more of his grace and mercy.

But the end of this year is not wrapping up well for me. I am experiencing pain in more than one area of my life. I'm struggling to reconcile some things. My coping skills are declining. I am a person in need of emotional restoration and healing. I really need the God of the universe to help me out here. I want to serve Him, honor Him and glorify Him. But as this year ends, I feel like a helpless child who can only rely on being carried.

From the end of last year, to the end of this one....my life has been an overwhelming journey.

1 Thesselonians 3:12
May the Lord make your love increase and overflow for each other and for everyone else.

1 Thesselonians 4:11-12
Make it your ambition to lead a quiet life, to mind your own business and to work with your hands, just as we told you, so that your daily life may win the respect of outsiders and so that you will not be dependant on anybody.

Collossians 3:12-13
Therefore as Gods chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.

Micah 6:8
He has showed you, O man, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.

MERCY = Compassion or kindness shown to someone instead of severity, especially to someone who doesn't deserve it.

Happy New Year.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

The Christmas Moments

Some very important people in my life did not receive Christmas gifts from me this year because we just could not afford it. We also did not do the charitable giving this Christmas that we like to do. In fact...I only purchased a few very small, inexpensive gifts for my two youngest boys. That's it. Nothing else. And I love giving so much, so this has been utterly painful for me. The boys, however, haven't even noticed....which is a wonderful blessing to me. They were full of "WOW's" and every exciting reaction you hope for as a parent, when trying to fulfill even the tiniest requests.

To add to the the funk that is upon me this Christmas is the fact that I am knee deep in some relational struggles that just weigh me down and wear me out. It is not a pleasant place to be, and yet, it is my location, my season, my struggle, my suffering. It just is. This grown up stuff is really hard.

But I have moments to cherish from this season. Asher, for one, has been on an art project frenzy....filled with paints, glitter and glue. We have done several projects together. They are simple but they have been fun. He LOVES to make things for people and so we have been focused and earnest in our efforts. That boy is remarkable, in my honest opinion. I have so enjoyed these projects with Asher. He's 5 now, you know. Such a big boy.

Planning and preparing a Christmas Eve feast with my mom has been good. The food was wonderful. But the best part about our dinner was the blessing. Asher quickly volunteered to say the blessing. His readiness, his lack of intimidation....just his sheer eagerness to give thanks to God really overwhelms me. Sure, as a mommy I have instilled some or a lot of this in him, but it is so clear to me that it goes deeper into him than anything I could have accomplished on my own. Jesus has met with Asher in his heart....and I'm so thankful that Asher wants Jesus to stay there. Dwell. It's too much for words. Asher thanked God for the wonderful day and for the wonderful food. And he thanked God for helping Mommy and Nana cook the food. There was more. It isn't a rehearsed prayer. It's a moment between Asher and the Jesus that he is learning about, and the rest of us are just the witnesses to the sweetness that becomes him. Thank you, Jesus.

Shawn loves bows, tissue gift paper and ribbons. The child could be on Broadway with the way he dances with gift decor. It is graceful and precious, and yes, comical. It is joy. Joy that lights up on his face like a Christmas tree. Jolly. Shawn has the gift of jolly.

Shawnie can say "Tanta" and "ho ho". Just 2 ho's, not 3. Sorry....I had to go there. Poor Tiger Woods....I automatically just thought of him...did you?

Spencer has been home a lot. Every day, actually. I recently asked him if he has moved back in, you know, because I am just a bit curious. His response was, "yea". Well, okay then. Now I know. And it is good. Having him close makes me smile. It also heightens the necessity and the urgency to clean bathrooms, sanitize things, and scavenge the house for lost dishes...but hey, he's my boy. I'm not ready to strangle him just yet. Not quite.

I collect copper. My MIL gave me about 5 awesome pieces of copper which she has been collecting this year from yard sales and estate sales. I kinda struck the mother load. She is good to me that way. I love my new "old" copper pieces.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

BaHumBug - I Love Jesus

Shawn loves "teh-treeeeeeee", you know with "Caca" and "Melmo". (hint: Sesame Street/Oscar/Elmo). This morning, Shawn even tried to sing the theme song to Sesame Street. He made quite a large production out of the one word I could understand..... "street". I'm not sure who or why, but I really think someone needs to give Shawnie an award. If for nothing else, just being uber cute. Lawdy...this boy. It's too much.

Shawn has also discovered "Tanta" and "memen", aka "Santa & snowmen". I love that he is really getting into the Christmas things this year....it is so sweet. OH, and he loves the "wites", aka "lights".

In other news, Shawn has learned the word "MINE" and he says it exactly like he should... "M.I.N.E!". Oh lawdy...here we go.

Asher has recently disovered glitter. And tooting.

I have been channeling my inner scrooge lately. I nearly "accidentally" ran over a rude lady in the Target parking lot this week. She so deserved it....but I would prefer to spend Christmas at home than in prison. My common sense really comes in handy in times like that. In the same parking lot....I unloaded the packages into the trunk and pushed the cart to the cart corrall and was walking back to my car to drive away. There was an old man and his little old wife in their car waiting for me to pull out of my spot and he made the decision to mildly honk his horn as if to ask me to speed it up a bit. It's a good thing my common sense was working in that moment as well because he almost got a crude hand gesture from me along with a verbal "honk THIS buddy!". Instead I just gave him a long blank glare and I slowed down my strut a bit. Oh I really needed Jesus because the devil was trying hard to take over my spirit in that moment. My "bahumbug" is really getting on my nerves, by the way. Sometimes I feel like there is a sweet little angel following me around hovering above and all around me. Occasionally she floats right up to my ear and screams "GET A GRIP ON YOURSELF WOMAN! SLOW YOUR ARROGANT ASS DOWN AND FIND YOUR PEACE. IT'S IN YOU. JESUS DIDN'T TAKE IT AWAY FOR CHRIST'S SAKE". Ok, she probably didn't say "ass" and she also probably wouldn't take the name of Christ in vain. But, you get my point. But really, I'm just glad she's there.

So........Christmas is just 5 days away and I've got work to do.

Have a great week everyone!!!!!!!

God Bless You and Merry Christmas. May you be filled with the love, the hope, the peace, the JOY and the comfort of Christ! He is the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords. He IS the Savior.
And Heaven rocks.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Zim Rhythm

These are the kids that I love so much! If you sponsored a child to go to the camp, look closely because you just might see him or her dancing in this video.


I love their love for dancing. They really bring joy to me! Enjoy.



Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Treats from the Treadmill

You are in for a treat with this blog post because I might as well be stoned. I'm high. I had a great morning at the gym (my 3rd day in a row) and I've been dancing to silly songs for the past hour. If anyone of you ever shows up with a video camera to peer through my windows, I'm dead meat. I'll never show my face again.

Don't do that.

But like I said earlier this week on Facebook. I shoulda been a back up dancer for Snoop Dogg. Just sayin.

This morning I put on work out pants (the dry/breathe kind) that Shawn might have slightly pee'd on last night in my lap when I snuggled his little naked body after his bath. I was in a rush. I don't promise that I'll never do it again. But unless you were actually near me this morning in the gym, you have no right to complain. (Sorry Susan, you might actually have a right).

I had a conversation in my head this morning on the treadmill with my late Aunt Brenda. I really wish I could see her. But this morning, in my head, she told me that it is perfectly okay to like Miley Cyrus. And it's even okay to dance a little when "Party in the USA" comes on. I think my Aunt Brenda would have really liked Miley Cyrus. She woulda bought the CD. And by the way, Aunt Brenda, I dance alot. Is that still okay? (I'll let you know if she answers me next time I'm on the treadmill!)

I had a bright idea to purchase a 20 ft Christmas tree. Thank God I didn't actually go through with it. I need to scale that idea back a bit. But that's what adrenaline will do to ya.

Is it wrong that overtly sexual songs are the ones that contribute to me doing 20 extra minutes on the treadmill? I'm thinking...whatever works, right?

I'm a mess. I need a shower. I'm so hungry I could eat a moo. And I'm so thirsty I could drink a moo. A chocolate moo. But, that would be bad. So I won't.

Tomorrow is Asher's sweet Christmas program at school. His Christian Pre-K. I've got to seriously get my Bible on. Where is my holy?

Oh Lawdy, help me.

I really do love Jesus. I really do.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Zim update

Ok ok ok ok.....I have to start sharing more! I get it! (Sorry!) Many of you are filling up my email inbox with pleas and subtle hints.

I'll pick up here by telling you about a woman I have met and admire. I'm not going to share her name for now. I just really want to honor privacy as much as I can. You can understand it even with a fake name, right? So, we'll just simply call her, Miss Mother.

Miss M. to my knowledge was born and raised in Zimbabwe. She managed to make it to the United States to do her university studies. I cannot recall where she said that she studied, but I do recall it to be very well known, prestigous universities. Beyond her bachelors, she either got her Masters or PhD, or both. I cannot recall. And not sure what her majors were, but just that she went very far in her education and then she returned to Zimbabwe.

I'm not sure of her age. She is probably older than she appears. I'm guessing 50's. What she has done in Zimbabwe is remarkable. She has established several orphanages. They are grouped by ages so that all of the children are sharing homes with other kids in their same age group. Each home is an actual house in various communities. They are middle range communities, in that none of them appear to be "rural villages". Each house has a house mother and a couple of helpers. Every house appears to me to have running water, etc. They all suffer from power outages, but to the Zim natives, this is nothing they can't work around.

But, here is what is different.

Miss Mother not only provides them food, she feeds them well. She not only provides them clothing....the clothing is very nice, well cared for, clean, etc. She not only sends them to school...she STARTED a school for them that she also runs. She not only loves them, she teaches them the gospel, encouarges them daily and is preparing them for a real future in Zimbabwe...not just teaching them survival. She is teaching them that they ARE THE FUTURE of Zim.

Her next project is to start an orphange for children who are born in prisons. We spoke about this together while I was in Zim...and I am just amazed. I am amazed by what she IS doing and by what she DESIRES to do. These kids love her. They adore her. They respect her. They would do anything for her.

Miss Mother's heart is gigantic. And the most important thing about her heart is that it is filled with Jesus. She loves Him so much. She is a woman who is living her life to serve Him no matter what. She puts all of these orphans before herself. You can see by visiting these homes and talking with the kids that she is providing for them before herself, and personally she could really use some things. She has made her life about them. I saw this last year when I visited the first time.....but this year, it actually knocked me over.

She and I prayed together. When I shared with her that all of her sweet kiddos from the teen group could go to the camp in December....she cried. She has sent me an email since then with a word of prophecy for me. I do believe that this woman is annointed. And I am going to take her prophecy very seriously.

She is a special woman and I want to serve her. She is serving the children that I love, and I want to help her.

I want to raise money to help her get a truck. She needs a truck for the deliveries that she has to make to the kids on a daily basis. All of the homes are spread far apart and she cannot get everything into her car, AND her car is old and keeps breaking down. She needs a truck....but she keeps putting the kids first. You can see that the kids do not go without anything. But Miss Mother could run a more effecient ministry if she could buy a truck.

Please let me know if you want to help. I think she will have to go to South Africa to buy a truck (not sure) and she only needs a used one. I'd like to raise $6,000 and get it to her by the summer before the new orphanage opens.

Do you want to help? Do you want to involve your church? Your small group? Your bible study? Your office? Your family? Your neighborhood? Your social group? Your professional network?

I'm praying for a miracle.

Please contact me if you can help.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Not a Baby Anymore

Happy 5th Birthday Tater Tot.

















Thursday, December 3, 2009

Tid-bits

Ok.....I know I haven't posted much lately. I ran into a friend and blog-reader at a restaurant yesterday and she said something like, "did I miss the summary somehow?". Basically I think what she was trying to say is, I've left you hanging.

There are a few reasons for this, and at least one of them, I cannot go into. But, I owe you something and I'll do better.

As recently as 5 am this morning, I was vividly dreaming of Africa. My dream was not realistic to my personal experiences in Zimbabwe, but what I saw was amazing. I was in a vehicle journeying through the African landscape and everyone was outdoors carrying on their daily lives. Each wearing bright ,vibrant colors on heavy textiles, with the womens heads covered in ornate scarves. They were all happy and were all praising God. There were men beating drums and children running and laughing. It was a perfect dream that I would surely not remember at all if it were not for Shawn crying in his sleep and awakening me. I'm not thrilled that my baby is feeling under the weather, but I am blessed that the disturbance allowed me to recall my dream.

I think my dream is the Africa that God desires to see. Maybe He wanted me to see what He wants to see....so I can understand His longing for such an underresourced continent.

I just love that place. I have only been in the southern region and I do understand that the north is vastly different....in lifestyle, ethnicities, religion, etc. I'm not pretending to know everything about Africa.

I'm not in Africa anymore. I have been home for almost 2 weeks. Strange. It feels strange. Tomorrow is my sweet Asher Tater Tot's 5th birthday. I cannot believe he is 5. Strange. It feels strange. My sweet boy is just so precious. It isn't that I want him to never grow up, but I wish he would never grow up.

Since it is his birthday week, Asher is the special student of the week at his 3 day pre-K. He got to bring something special for show-and-tell and we also got to create a poster about his life. The template for the poster had a couple of fill in the blank questions. One area was for Asher to name 3 wishes.... and here they go (we did NOT guide him at all in this). Wish #1: to live with God and Jesus everyday. #2: to live on a farm (I'm assuming God and Jesus will live there too). Wish #3: to work in a zoo with koala's and chimpanzee's. (I'm assuming God and Jesus work at the zoo too). But for real....isn't this sweet? So far, at the age of 5, his wishes don't involve money or stunning good looks (although he's got that second one cinched). When Asher told me his wishes I had to struggle a little not to cry. I'm just so blessed and overjoyed to have a little boy who's little heart is becoming sweeter and sweeter. He could be the next sugar substitute. How awesome it would be to have little individual packets of Asher to add to my coffee?

Drastic change of topic: (Screech, spin, flip). I have finally received all of the final sponsorship matches between the kids in Zim wanting to go to the Christian camp and the sponsors here. I've been able to email everyone a photo of their child and all the kids in Zim have photos of their sponsor. There are 8 boys from one of the homes who decided to write thank you letters to their sponsors. I have received notes from about 3 or 4 of them and have forwarded them on to the sponsors....and waiting for the others. These notes are so precious. They are so tender, so deep, so thoughtful and so full of love. I'm hoping eventually....all 24 kiddos will write notes.... they are keepsakes for sure. I've cried at each one of them I have read and have felt this incredibly huge honor to be able to share with the generous people who sponsored them. My heart just fills up. What a gift they have given each other. I got to physically go there and collect the hugs, watch them dance and sing and even hear them squeal to the top of the Heavens when they heard of their gift....but the notes are so personal and so incredible. Soon I will post some pieces of the notes...but I will keep both the kids and the sponsors anonymous to honor what was intended to be personal and private...but to show you snippets of the sweetness that is flowing across the oceans, back and forth, like waves and undertow.

Speaking of Oceans, when God created the Earth, He sure did not make travel easy, huh? I wish my Zim kiddos were easier to get to. I wish they were down the street. I'm lying. I wish they were upstairs tucked quietly into bed, about to arise and share breakfast with me and then go off to school. That's what I wish.

Shawn is a talking fool. This boy is going wild with the tongue. I am so very proud (sinful I know) to announce that he knows all of his body parts. Except for what stays neatly concealed in his diaper, you name it and he can point to it. He can also say it. Here is the translation table for those of you who need a little giggle:

ear = eee-yur
eye = i
mouth = no sound but tongue hangs out
hair = ha (like hat but without a t)
arm = ammmmm
leg - le
hands = (see hair)
fingers = they wiggle
toes = tows
belly/tummy = no sound but drums on his tummy
nose = nooo

And for the record, "ammmmm" is the cutest one.

And for more records, Shawn will be 3 on New Years Eve. Impossible I know...but that's what the records say.

And my last report is work related....it is picking up. Thankfully.

I promise to update more soon regarding Zim, the kids, Victoria Falls, etc. I also plan to have a gathering at my house where all are invited to see my photos, my handmade purchases, etc. Please let me know if you want to come to that. I think it will be mid January.

Love to all...thanks for reading and keeping up. Thanks for caring and for investing. You are so loved and so appreciated.

P.S.. I received a surprise anonymous gift in the mail yesterday. I have no idea who you are or why you did it...but thank you. I'm deeply appreciative and it was/is much needed. Praying for your blessings!

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Nameless

Click here if you do not see photos below.

Please pray for these kids. Please pray for the authority over them, their precious little lives. That is all I can say. Thank you.
















Tuesday, November 24, 2009

See Boaz

Meet Boaz. He is a 14 year old orphan in Zimbabwe. I will soon tell you his story, but for now, plesae study his photos. Study him. Think of him. Feel something from him. And tell me what you see, or what you think you see. Mostly, know that I love him.

If you are viewing this on facebook, you'll need to go here: www.untilthejasperwalls.blogspot.com

























Monday, November 23, 2009

Home

I am home safe and happily reunited with my biggest fans. My laptop is broken and so I cannot really post an adequate update until it is fixed...but just wanted to report I am safely home.

I did receive and read every email and every blog comment. Thank you all so much. I look forward to sharing more very soon when I can add photos and video.

Happy Thanksgiving (to the Americans)..... remember that you have so much to be thankful for, i.e. socks, clean water, toys, freedom to speak & worship & vote & work & learn, washing machines, air conditioning, garbage pickup, electric or gas heat, cars, walls, roofs and doors.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Final Post from Zim

Right this very minute, I am sitting in an internet cafe in the town of Victoria Falls. I am still in Zimbabwe, but on the border of Zambia. The bus trip was better than I expected. It was air conditioned, AMEN. I got very sick in the first 30 minutes and thought I would vomit all the way. Sorry....just being honest. I prayed. It passed. As simple as that may sound, it was a miracle to me. The 12 hour trip was just a lot of the same scenery over and over. People, towns, trees, and baboons. I also so one family of little monkeys. I wasn't miserable.

The closer we got to Victoria Falls, the funkier the trees. There are some massive trees here. The trunks are about as wide as 7 adults standing side by side.

My last days in Harare were very good. Tearful. Wonderful. Solid. I got to see Felix one more time. I stained some bookshelves in the room that we were redoing. Today is the reveal. I am not there. It's fine. I left the project of selecting the final 8 boys with the missions coordinator. She knows them all personally. They will receive their surprise tonight. Suzanne will then email me all the info for me to pass on to the sponsors. There are only 4 sponsors for these final 8 boys. My generous friends. I love you.

I made a plea to the missions coordinator that I really wanted to return to the Zimre Park Rose of Sharon home so that I could see the teens one more time. It was hard to organize, but it worked out. As much as I loved our party on Saturday, my heart just really wants to know them better. On the outside, they are beautiful, joyful, happy and so full of the love for Christ. This is all amazing and a blessing.....but I wanted to hear their stories. When I think of them, I just want to know them like friends.

I showed up. They all greeted me with happiness to see me. I love their hugs. They are very strong hugs. When I visited with them previously at their school (before the party day) I shared some of my story with them. On Tuesday in the privacy of their home, I asked if any of them would share. And I made myself available to answer any questions about my life. 3 precious orphans volunteered their story. They stood one by one, in front of their entire orphanage family, and told me their plight. First was Boaz. My special one. Second was Keldon. Keldon is 19 years old. He has to leave the home forever, in December. December 18. Finally was my sweet Sarah Tendai.

I will share their stories with you when I get home. I cannot do it justice here in a noisy internet cafe where the Shona language is loud. Their details rocked me. Wrecked me. Maybe even messed me up. But their hope, the joy they have found, the King that they love........ its like a massive dose of comfort, overflowing in my soul.

I'll leave you with my journey today. I woke up early and had coffee in the rest camp in an open air restaurant, topped by a thatched roof. I walked toward the falls. I knew it would be a 10+ minute walk. I am a little intimidated here entirely by myself. The locals harrass me for money. They want me to buy the items they have stolen. I do honestly believe that God sent me an angel. His name is Evar Innocent. For whatever reason, he protected me and walked me to the falls where I entered the park on my own. He didn't ask me for anything. I spent about 2 hours inside the park. The roaring sound of the waterfalls overwhelmed me. Before I could even see them, I was in tears. I took photos, which I am sure will simply not do justice. It is truly majestic and amazing. I will upload photos and video when I get home.

I left the park and as I somewhat expected even 2 hours later, Evar Innocent was waiting for me. He actually helped me find this internet cafe. The tourism police made him leave me alone twice. They told me he is a liar and a thief. I told them he is not. He hid behind a building and when I walked past, he joined me again. When I leave this internet cafe, I am sure he will find me again. Don't worry, I'm not taking him to lunch, and the security at the rest camp will not allow him in. When he brought me here, I gave him $3 for helping me. Evar Innocent, my own personal tour guide.

I am hungry now. It is lunch time here and I haven't had breakfast. Soon I will eat and then I will rest. Tomorrow is my journey home.

I sure do miss my boys at home, and I desperately miss the kids in Zim. I just truly thank God for putting this mission on my heart, for providing funds through all the ones who have helped me get here, and for all the sponsors who are helping the kids. I am so deeply grateful, and I continue to be humbled by all of it.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

the longest blog post ever

The days since my first blog post have been full. Full of wonder, brokenness, pain, joy and much of God's majesty. I'm not sure how to describe it here in an internet cafe, in the center of Harare, surrounded by people. There is a lot of noise in my mind.

Felix

Felix is a 15 year old boy who lives in the St. Joseph home for boys. He goes to school. Our missionary volunteers are working on making over a room in the home so have been there several days painting. My job has been to sand and paint some benches. Felix spent one day helping me. I cannot begin to describe how sweet and gracious the teenagers are here. No one is spoiled. No one has an air of arrogance. Felix and I talked about everything from movies, music, life in America, Jesus, etc. I finally got up the nerve to ask Felix about his family....how long he has been orphaned. He was given up when he was one year old because his mom and dad had a fight and got a divorce. He has an older brother whom he can reach by phone. His mother is alive, as is his father. He knows where his father is but his father won't tell him anything he asks. 2 weeks ago he learned that his mom is nearby and wants to see him. I asked Felix if he would like to see his mom. Felix replied, "I would love to. Oh I would really love it. I would love for her to say something sweet to me so that I can forgive her."

Victor

Victor is another boy from the same home as above. We went by a few days ago to help the boys study and do homework. They are preparing for their exams. Let me just say praise God they are in school. Last year, there was no schooling. Can I also just shout Amen that God led me to the only boy not studying math?! Hallaluia! Seriously, we were meant for each other. Victor had the assignment to compare and contrast 2 poems. They were both about love, but very abstractly. I read the poems and nearly sank in that they were so confusing. I nodded my head and silently prayed, "Please God don't let me have come here for nothing today! I want to help him. I want to help Victor. I don't want to be useless." I opened my eyes and we began to unpack the poems. They really began to come alive on the page. I'm nearly crying now. I got to dig deep down in the well that I have in me and share some of my own love and pain experiences to help Victor understand the poetry. All I can really say is that is was amazing. God did show up. Victor and I connected. Thankfully, Victor has a family in the rural areas. He doesn't get to see them much, but he has them. He loves them. They love him. It is poetry.

A note about camp sponsorships:
I still have to organize 8 more sponsorships. They will be for the St. Joesphs boys home, so not all of the kids have been identified yet. Please pray about this. I am stressing. I need it to come together by Tuesday so I can fulfill my promises.


The greatest joy of my heart:

Earlier this week I got to go to the school that his been started this year for the teens who I fell in love with last year. The teens that really rocked my world, and permanently reshaped my heart. The home where Sarah Tendai lives, the one who sent me the letter. They are all in school now, and because of the work God is doing in their community, the school has expanded to include the local rural community kids too. I cannot tell you how much these kids want school, love school, and appreciate school. It is no wonder that they are so incredibly smart. They are brilliant really. Really. So....I got to grab hugs and kisses from so many of them. We planned a "Christmas Party" for yesterday, Saturday....just for the orphans in the home. And we partied like you have never seen. Yes, we had food and even delicious desserts. We prayed about 5 or 6 times. The kids sang and danced for us. They even honored me personally....yes they all remember me from last year. Ask me if my heart and head swelled up......massive! They had a boom box. One of the boys....I admit, perhaps my favorite...his name is Boaz. Boaz could be a superstar. He is gorgeous, smart, funny, always smiling, talented. He's a major MESS! I love him. He made me dance. Let's just say they might have been a little surprised that this white girl had some moves. I'll admit. I got down. I G.O.T. D.O.W.N. Happiest time for me. We were there for several hours. I think I hugged them all over and over. Precious grabbed me many times with her arms fully embracing me. She told me she loved me in her sweet Shona accent and she told me she thinks of me like her mother. And yes I got to spend time with sweet Sarah Tendai. There just are not words to describe my heart for these kids. They are between 13 - 18. There are 15 of them. I'm just at a loss for words, but no shortage of heart beats. I'm in love. That is all there is to it. I must come back. I must.

I revealed the surprise that they all will go to camp. I thought the roof would cave in. 3 of them cannot go because they will be taking national exams. But they understand. The other 12 + 4 of the community kids will go. I paired them each with a sponsor and told a little bit about each. Julie Harrell....you get my funny Boaz. He is special. I let God control who would be whos sponsor. The rest I'll have to follow up with when I get home.

Please remember to pray for the other 8 that need to be identified. I am worried about this coming together.

Power outages are frequent. I've had exactly 2 painfully cold showers. The food has been wonderful. My sleep is not so good. I really only have 2 days left here in Harare. 2 days that I want to matter. I want to see Boaz and the gang again. I'm praying about this.

On Wednesday, I will be on a 12 hour bus trip to Victoria Falls. Please pray for this. I will be uncomfortable, hot, squished in and I don't want to get robbed. I will spend Thursday all day at the Falls which I expect to bring me to my knees and to tears. I will start my journey home on Friday. I will arrive on Saturday. I hate flying. I'm being a crybaby. I hate it.

Today was church....and it was very good. It is a wonderful community chruch that focus on life groups, just like Cross Point. Today the message was about the purpose of the life/community groups. To fellowship, to live in the WORD, to be filled with the SPIRIT and to ALWAYS be on MISSION. Girls of mine....I think we have some work to do to be on Mission. I think we must start filling our empty seats. Please be praying about this.

Jesus is here. These people are so beautiful. The ones who know Jesus worship Him so openly. It is so freeing, so amazing, so perfect. The 2 week life I have here is perfect, despite the troubles. I miss my kids and Joe.

Dear Asher and Shawn....thank you for sharing your mommy for the mission of Christ. He loves you. I love you. And thank you Joe for letting me run away. I'm know I'm a bit of a wild one at times. Thank you for never trying to change that about me.

Love,
Melissa

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Zim Baby - 2009 Edition

I really cannot believe I am back in Zimbabwe. It blows my mind.

Let me just try and get the ugly stuff out of the way first. My flights were so long and painful. Moreso this year than last, because last year I had an aisle seat and this year I was in the hell knows as cruched inbetween sleeping people, so I couldn't even move around. I admit I came to tears more than once. Yes, I hated it. I was supposed to have aisle seats. Not sure how that went awry. But the good news is I made it with luggage intact. Blessed news....much different from last year.

I had not one moment of sleep on the planes. So I was awake in all nearly 40 hours. When I awoke on my first day, my eyes were puffy and swollen shut. Monster much? I was even horrified of myself. By now it is much better, but still not looking exactly like myself.

On to the heart of the matter. The zim babies. Here is what hurts......my favorite orphanage from last year.....the one with all the dirty little children who never have baths and who wear torn clothes, and cook their own meals over an open flame in an iron pot......they are the same. I was really hoping to see some improvement. Too long of a story....but the family in charge of this orphanage may not be of high moral standards. While they lap it up in their swanky house with new leather sofas and large TV's, the children suffer. They have even refused free medical care for the children. The HIV positive children are not getting treatment. It just royally sucks. It sucks hard core. It f'ing sucks. And to top it off, I will probably never go back. The group that lives here permanently have been asked not to return. We went yesterday just hoping we wouldn't get thrown out. We took Christmas presents and fruit....they let us stay. I was only able to take about 20 photos before I was told i could not take photos. To say that my heart breaks for them is an understatement. I suppose the donations that come in are used for other purposes. The kids are not being loved.

I took in and gave out as many hugs and kisses as I possibly could. I got to see Farri, my favorite little boy from last year. He has not even grown an inch. I think he has Aids. He looks unwell. I would not be surprised if he isn't alive much longer. He didn't remember me. That hurt. But hey....it isn't about me.

Some of the children have grown like weeds. I got to see a little girl who I met last year. Her name is Trinity. She has grown massive amounts. She is stunning. Absolutely breath taking. I'll upload photos when I get home. She is also untreated for HIV. Her face, her eyes, her smile.....no words can describe. She speaks a little English. We talked briefly....but mostly we just hugged. I bet that sweet girl really misses having a momma.

Today we spent the morning painting at a boys home that I also got to visit last year. Most of them were away in school....so i only got to see 3 or 4. I'll see them all though fairly soon. These boys are some of the camp candidates, and I'll get to select some for camp soon. I am so very excited about this. I wish I could tell you everything....but there is too much.

Later today we are going to play with little children from the Denai home. I also met them last year, just for one brief afternoon. They are all toddlers and should be very fun.

Tomorrow afternoon I get to go to the Zimre Park school and Saturday I get to spend most of the days with the teenagers that I love so much. I am planning to video some of them discovering that they will all get to go to camp. My prayer is that it is the most spectacular reacting ever, and that I can post it when I get home. 3 of them got to go to camp in August, and ever since then, they have ALL been praying to go. To think that all of these beautiful sponsors and myself get to be a part of God's plan in answering their prayers. No reason for me to have shaved my legs today....for the goosebumps just grew hair on my legs about 1/4 inch. Ahhhh...so worth it.

My accomodations are completely different than last year, which is both good and bad. The good is that I have my own bathroom. Heaven in Africa. The bad is that I am a little secluded from the other family...and the "guides" no longer stay with us....so there is no late night talks about life, love, and saving all the children in Africa. I'm pretty much on my own. Thank God for the 12 songs I downloaded onto my iPhone.

Speaking of my playlist.....I noticed something very peculiar and wonder what God has up His sleeve, robe, whatever... None of the songs that I downloaded are Christian songs. I came to Zim without one praise song. Everything I downloaded is either about love, loss or pain. Mostly loss and pain. Ok.....aside from that one Justin Timberlake song and the other Beyonce booty shaker, but the rest are totally deep and painful. Makes me cry a lot at night. Makes me feel deep. Makes me miss Jesus.

So, I'm reading in my Bible a lot. Studying Jeremiah at the moment. My friend Cindy sent me off with daily devotionals, which I am also reading everyday.

The last thing that I can think to tell you is really quite important. Zimbabwe is in a much better economic state than when i visited last year. Last year, their currency was worthless and everyone was struggling everywhere. There was no food in the grocery stores and most of the businesses were just shut down. There was no commerce at all. People were just hanging out on the side of the roads begging. They were hanging out in some places by the thousands, other places by the hundreds. NOW - Zim is legally trading in US dollars. Wow. Now all the stores are stocked and life really seems normal. This is a very wonderful thing. It is also a very fragile thing....in that the US dollar could be voided on any day. But people overall seem much better off.

Be praying for the children. Most of them are so poor that they cannot go to school because they (a) cannot afford school fees (b) cannot afford uniforms. Many of the children run around begging for school fees and uniforms. Isn't that something?

I feel like I'm in another world. Well, I am. I am in Zim.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

I Am No Abraham

So, when God called out to Abram (Abraham) to tell him that he needed to leave his home and go to a land that God would reveal to him, oh.....whenver.... Abraham said "Here I Am". And moreso, Abraham obeyed. He continued to obey when God tested him regarding the sacrifice of Abrahams only son. Thankfully, Abrahams faith and obedience determined that the sacrifice wouldn't be necessary. When God called out to Abraham, he replied "Here I Am". Faith and obedience.

Faith and obedience.

Faith and obedience.

Faith, obedience, and a lot of nerve.

I am no Abraham. Afterall, God did not call me to just go to the airport and wait until He reveals which plane I am to board. And while my journey will take a long 2 days, it will not take 40 years as it did for Abraham. And God hasn't called me to sacrifice my children on an altar, but He has asked me to break away from them to fill up the lives of other children. And He has asked me to offer my children back to Him for service to Him.

This is one of my "Here I Am" moments. I'll be honest, there is nothing in my world more thrilling and rewarding than to be obedient when Jesus calls. I wish it were a daily strength of mine. It is not. I don't always know where God is leading me. Sometimes I feel very confused and at a crossroads, not knowing which way to go. Other times, I dread going. Following Jesus isn't a simple journey. It isn't all happiness and riches. It isn't safe. It isn't free of illness. It isn't void of devastation, trauma, hurt, loss, and tragedy. It is challenging, radical and unknown. It is the adventure of a lifetime. And I believe in the final destination as much as I believe I am sitting in a chair and typing on a laptop, right now.

I am no Abraham. I am not the father of many nations. I am Melissa. Raised in a broken home, an only child, estranged from some. I spent years and years making horrible decision after horrible decision. I've abused myself in many ways. I have sinned repeatedly. The day I threw in the towel and gave my heart to Christ was the first day of my new life. It was the best day of my life. He managed to spiff me up a little bit, clean out some of the funk, rid me of the disease of myself, and pave me a new road. It's a bumpy road and it has some steep climbs. But I know where it is ultimately going. I'm on the road to my land of milk and honey, and for me, it goes through Africa.

I love you Jesus.

I'll blog more as soon as I can.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

a letter to my peeps - past, present, and future

Dear senders, sponsors and prayer warriors,

It is 3:23pm, cst, right now on a Wednesday in Nashville, TN. Today I had breakfast with a friend, took Asher to a park, took Shawn to the health department for his H1N1 nasal mist vaccine and returned home. Life as usual. Along the way, I’ve had many beverages, and 2 filling meals. I took a shower under a brushed nickel faucet with clean running water, and I got dressed in a grotesque 11x11 closet, after I walked my bare feet across lovely tile floors. I opened my trendy stainless steel refrigerator and gave my children the beverages of their choice, and sliced apples and cheese for their breakfast. Most importantly….I snuggled up with my Asher Tate in a soft oversized chair, overlooking a nice flower garden, and bundled under a warm blanket while we chatted about how much we love each other, and shared too many hugs to count. When Shawn awoke, he was greeted by ME at the top of the stairs with arms open wide and the parade of kisses that begins each morning, and almost never stops. Like I said, a usual day. A day with choices. A day with luxuries. A day with comforts. A day overflowing with a mommas’ love for her children.

I am really writing to just share with each of you that I leave in 3 days (on Saturday) to fly back to Zimbabwe. Many of you helped me go last year. Many of you are helping me to go this year. Many are praying for me. And even more, so many of you have generously sponsored some teenagers in Zimbabwe to go to a 1 week Christian camp this December….an event that should no doubt increase their hope & faith, and in turn, improve their lives. For those of you new to this news…..most of these kids are outgrowing their orphanage (age 18) and will be put on the streets. The week long Christian camp which is something they could NEVER afford, is intended to be a wonderful experience of growing in Christ and increasing their faith for survival. When I asked for some sponsorships, I could never have imagined the outpouring of support. I was initially thinking I might be able to get about 10 children sponsored, and instead, you have sponsored 20 children. Joe and I will be sponsoring additional kids, so this is a HUGE success and praise in God’s name. I am overjoyed and cannot wait to share this news with them. Thank you.

Thank you senders and sponsors. Thank you friends and family. Thank you friends and family of friends and family. Your faith in giving means so much. Even if you gave LAST year but were not able to give THIS year, I am still thanking you because THIS year has everything to do with LAST year, and I am still counting your gift as a blessing to me. I am touched and humbled. Whether you were the first domino or the last, your placement on this journey has been critical.

In 3 days I board an airplane for 2 days, where when I land, the paragraph of choices, luxuries and comforts all but fade away. But thankfully, the love and the snuggles are traveling with me. They may not be MY children, but truly in a way I feel like they are. When a little one has lost his parents to AIDS, any hug will do. And if I have pride about anything, I like to think that I have incredible hugs….and my purpose is to pass them out. Snuggle tight. Kiss those dirty little faces. Talk about life with struggling teenagers. Seriously y’all, this is my gift to give. I cannot wait. Your contributions, small and large, put me on a plane and deliver me straight into the orphanage homes of children who are starving for food and starving for love. YOU are to be celebrated and commended for your willingness to give. I cannot tell you how much I want and hope that each of you will be blessed by your giving and by your prayers. I mean that with all of my heart. Some people believe that traveling in missions is a waste of money. I see it differently, very differently. God says that we are to care for the poor, the orphans and the widows. Money certainly overcomes a lot of troubles, and it would be great if more would be done with our resources to fix the problems. But to date, there is still starvation, war, sickness, death, etc. And there is no amount of money that can stand in for a hug and a kiss. There is no amount of money that can substitute for a one on one conversation with someone who needs hope, or someone who wants to understand who God is and how we are to worship Him (real questions I got last year). A bag of food will feed their tummies (and they do need this) but 2 weeks of loving fellowship can heal a lifetime of hurt and fear. Trust me…..last year they healed me completely.

In Zimbabwe the average life expectance is 27.

I will blog while I am away, but only a couple of times as the internet café is not a daily stop. Please feel free to read about my experiences at www.untilthejasperwalls.blogspot.com

If you desire to email me while I am away (11/7 – 11/21)…please do so at my alternate email address: melissa.irwin@att.net (I cannot retrieve mail from my main account). I can receive text messages on my phone 615-497-4598 but there is a long delay (about a day I think).

I am committed to serving in Africa for the rest of my life. Annually or twice annually, God willing. Please consider future assistance.

May all the praise be to my king and may the glory be for God alone. I am just a traveling servant.

Please remember me in your prayers and please please pray for the children. My safety is not my goal. My service is. Their hearts are.

I love you.

Humbly yours,

melissa

Friday, October 30, 2009

Around

A lot of reality setting in about how much suffering there is in the world. I am one of those people who painfully realizes that there is a crisis every minute of everyday happening somewhere. Sometimes we are only made aware on the evening news. Sometimes it is closer to home.

Yesterday I received an email from a friend that said simply this, "I hurt, please pray." Those four words crushed my heart because I know that she normally has more words than that. The fact that she didn't have more strength or soul to type more than that makes me wonder if she was sobbing at the computer keyboard. Is she feeling hopeless? I prayed for her twice after that, and again today. Crisis. Pain. If it isn't your turn today, it will be soon enough.

Today I receieved a text message from another dear friend. I'll leave out names, but the text said this "I am at the hospital with my sister in law. She is 26 weeks pregnant and the baby died. They are inducing labor. It's horrible. Prayers solicited." I was driving when I received that text. My heart sank. Same day. Different crisis. This one entitled, "tragic sudden loss". How on earth does the world continue to spin when such tragic losses are taking place? It numbs me.

This past week, dear friends of mine are vacationing in Hawaii. The husband had a serious accident in the ocean. Instead of flying home, they are in the hospital in Hawaii as the husband recovers from surgery involving his back and neck. They don't even know yet when they can come home. They are still not totally sure about permanent damage, etc. Vacation - crisis.

There is so much more to life than packing for Zimbabwe, Halloween parties, my new crock pot and the piece of furniture in my garage that I am refinishing. I stated earlier this week that I feel light and that I can carry some weight, some burden. I'm thankful for the requests I have received and have already prayed for all of you. What amazes me....the 3 stories I shared above are from people who didn't even know I was lighter.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Reap

I looked out the window in the kitchen, standing 2 feet away from Asher as he intently focused on his coloring project at the kitchen table. I said "look at that beautiful tree in our front yard Asher, it is turning all red and it makes me SOOOO happy!". Asher replied, "It makes me so happy that you are my mommy!"

Shawn has given me about 5 hugs since he woke up from his nap 5 minutes ago. 1 hug per minute. That's a pretty huge return on my investment even if I do say so myself.

A couple of days ago Spencer woke up and walked into the kitchen and kissed my cheek. He quickly asked if I would make him some cinnamon toast, to which I readily agreed. His response: "I love having a mom!".

I am exhausted and out of style, but I wouldn't trade this gig for anything. I am reaping too many sweet rewards.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Carry You, Carry Me

I'm willing to carry some extra weight....some burden, if you will. I love to talk to the Lord. I just do. My best conversations with Him take place in my car, taking in the most beautiful scenery. He leads me to thoughts, convictions and revelations that He wouldn't if I didn't just take the time to talk to Him.

Weaving in and out of winding roads, praising out loud, somehow manages to straighten my path. I adore that time. It is precious to me.

I feel light after another successful real estate closing today. I feel light and safe in the travels I have ahead. I feel light in some of the decisions around me that need to be made. I don't feel like every single weight in my life has been lifted, but I somehow feel light enough to carry you...if you need carried.

Please feel free to leave me a comment here or send me a direct email and let me know if you have some heaviness I can help you lift up to the Lord in prayer. And please don't hesitate...I might need y'all to carry me someday.

Love and prayers,
Melissa

Saturday, October 24, 2009

I'm His Tree. He's my apple.

For those of you who don't know me, please sit down. Wherever you are standing with your iphone or whatever gadget you are using to read this from my blog, from facebook, or on the front page of the New York Times (okay, that was overly dramatic).... just make sure you are sitting. Many of you are going to find this repulsive and difficult to believe. Your opinion of me, if it was anything even somewhat positive, is about to be shattered.

I have a problem. I'm struggling with a 30 year addiction. Okay, about 35 years if I'm being honest. I have always managed to hide my addiction when I felt the powers of judgement might fall upon me. See, I can convince anyone that I don't have a problem. I can hide it. I can refrain in certain company. Let's just say, I've learned how to live with my addiction and how to get away with it.

But recently, I have fallen deeply ashamed that I have passed my addicition onto some of my children. Shawn is affected the most. See, he has the same love for rush of this nasty little habit as I do. For now, he is just pretending. He hasn't mastered the art, skillfully, so he fakes it. But I am well aware that someday in the not too distant future, he could lose control and even display his addiction in public. Maybe at school. Perhaps while we are having a sweet play date with other, non-addicted friends.

It is shameful. I am ashamed.

Ok, not really. I think it is hilarious. Here is Shawn, attempting to belch at dinner. Ok, there.

Enjoy the video below! (If you are catching this on a reader, you'll have to go to www.untilthejasperwalls.blogspot.com And then if you dare to be brave enough, share with me something that your child does that makes you giggle, even though it would likely shock everyone else. G'head. Be brave. I'm dying to know!

Next up....teaching Shawn how to say "excuse me".

Friday, October 23, 2009

have a heart

i heart my boys
i heart my friends
i heart the hubs
i heart the church
i triple heart my bible
i heart the combination of peanut butter & chocolate in one delectible dessert
i heart colorado
i heart horses
i heart reading and writing
i heart family
i heart serving

go ahead - have a heart

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Who Knows?

We all believe in authenticity here, right? My past transformed me. It continues to. This blog is a diary. An excavation. An unearthing and a revelation. It doesn't have to be remarkable or memorable. I just want it to be real.

When I was approximately 19 years old, the process of my first divorce began. He was the boy I broke up with my boyfriend to marry, because I was carrying his child. He was my old boyfriend. My new boyfriend was stunned. Either way, this was the path I chose. We sat in our rented farmhouse outside of Cookeville, Tennessee. Shag carpet, lousy heating and air. Mice. $210 per month. He told me he was leaving and I continued to watch TV. He would have left right then because I didn't fight for him to stay with me and our 9 month old baby. He didn't have a car. The next day, I drove him 90 miles away to his parents house.

So be it.

Soon, baby Spencer and I were living in public housing in Cookeville. I collected foodstamps and was on the WIC program. Spencer went to government subsidized daycare while I went to work at the video store. Soon, the electricity was cut off and the eviction notice came. The $800 Visa card had been maxxed out at Walmart. My car had been driven for 2 years without an oil change. Were it not for the love of that sweet baby Spencer, who knows what I would have tried, where I would have ended up. Who knows?

I have no memory of moving out of that apartment. In fact, other than Spencers tiny room with the little crib, and the view out of the top story window down onto the parking lot and the dumpster, I only recall listening to Edie Brickell and Wilson on my radio. And singing alot.

Fast forward to my next apartment in Nashville. Spencer & I shared a room. Mauve carpet...it was so en vogue at the time. Spencer might have been 2. Maybe 3. I had a job, although I don't recall which one it was at the time. I have no idea how I survived financially. I'm pretty sure I didn't.

One night on the TV, after being glued to the stories of the starving children in Africa with large bellies and flies on their eyeballs.....I sponsored a child. I could barely feed the baby I had in our one-bedroom apartment but I sponsored a little boy in Zambia. I could not wait to receive the information in the mail with his photo and a story about him. When it arrived, it went on my fridge. I have no idea how long I paid to sponsor him. I think it was several months before I finally had to back out. It broke my heart. I cannot remember his name. I have no idea what my backing out did to his life, or if someone else sponsored him right away. Who knows?

I know that I have been passionate about Africa, orphans, and starving children ever since. I can recall dreaming about going to Africa, way back then....but like the prospect of me flying to the moon feels impossible today, so did an African encounter then. It was never going to happen. Never. No doubt about it.

Stepping my middle class white girl feet onto devastated African soil last year was absolutely a miracle taking place in my physical life as much as it was a miraculous God-injected enlargement of my spiritual heart. Through His nudge and His faithfulness, without (me) ever planning a moment of that to take place in my life, He created my African encounter. I met children and children met me. Amazing things took place. What if I hadn't gone? Who knows?

If I could redesign my life today, map out my future and follow the steps, those steps would lead to Africa. My family and I would reside there and we would love on the village around us. We would share love and food. We would praise. We would teach. We would nurse wounds and heal hearts. But I'm not in control of my life. That might not be Gods' plan. Who knows?

The Lord knows.

Zimbabwe - 17 more days

Monday, October 19, 2009

The New Thing

There is a new thing going on with Shawn. He is being....well, it's hard for me to come right out and tell you this, but the bottom line truth of the matter is that, well, while he is adorable and loving and sickeningly hysterical, he can actually be....quite....b.a.d. There, I said it. He is being bad!

Shawn likes to hit, if he isn't experiencing total bliss in the moment. Now, he doesn't hit me or Joe, and to my knowledge he hasn't punched out any friends at school as of yet. But he likes to hit his brother and the dog. He also likes to make an intentional mess with his spoon and yogurt. And he likes to pull on the cords that operate the window blinds. He enjoys removing every toy after I've put them away, as well as he enjoys eating paper and crayons.

Shawn does enjoy a little romp in the dog's water bowl, and thoroughly basks in the glory of an awesome splash in the bathtub, especially when the water covers the walls, or.... m.e.

Shawn likes to profess that he is hungry by stating "BITE" and then adamantly refusing all options. Shawn enjoys saying "no" when I claim "yes".

Shawn likes to remove the bookmark out of my Bible. (ooooh....that one really irks me!).

All of this to say that I have a head strong little boy who apparantly knows what he wants in life. Given his mental challenges, I find this quite refreshing. I find it to be borderline delightful. I also find it comical to challenge this little one to time out. He does not like the time out chair and mommy's fussy voice. He is not a fan of the words, "Shawn that is B.A.D. behavior". In fact, he shoves a thumb in his mouth, tucks his chin down to his neck, hides his eyes behind his unfashionably long bangs, and pouts like there is no tomorrow." That pitiful sad lip and those painfully remorseful eyes kill me. I look at him and don't really know whether to laugh or to cry. I don't want him to feel hurt feelings for even a moment, but I want him to learn.

He sits there and remains completely quiet until I pose the question, "Shawn, can you tell Mommy (or Asher or whoever) you are sorry? He flashes me a huge smile, everytime, and says something that doesn't even remotely resemble "sorry"....and then we kiss and hug.

I love to be his warm hug after a moment of unpleasant consequences. I love to see that he has such an active personality and a strong character of spirit, and that he can even tolerate reprimand without utterly sobbing. He surprises me. He amazes me. He makes my heart leap.

Looking forward to the next new thing.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Stacking Bricks

My past and future experiences in Zimbabwe are officially racing through my blood and beating with extra power in all 4 chambers of my heart. I'm obsessed. Cannot get Zim out of my mind.

The experiences from last year flood my memory like a wave. There are specific children I cannot wait to see. They will not understand when they see me and I am sobbing because I miss them and love them. Especially the ones who do not even speak English. They will most likely remember all of my hugs and kisses, because that is what I am famous for. There is one little boy I can smell. I can smell him right now. His dirty hair and skin. His unclean sweater. I can smell him right this minute and could cry a river. When I held Shawn this morning in my garden chair, I could literally sense that in a 3 weeks, with the same love, I'll hold others. It is bizarre to say the least. But it is a love God gave me. That is all I know. And I'm thankful for it. Love in abundance.

My future experiences are meeting me in my sleepy dreams. I have no idea what special things will occur on this trip. I cannot predict, but my mind is working overtime in the expectation that I will come home more filled than I could imagine. I keep remembering the letter that I received via email, from Sarah in Zimbabwe who told me "I remember everything you told me about God". What if our conversation really made a difference in our life? What if God really worked through me to reach her? My heart could pound right out of my chest this very moment. I want more of THAT! Oh God....please.

I am continuing to raise more and more, almost having raised enough funds to sponsor every teenager in the Rose of Sharon Orphange Home, to go to a Christian camp in December. If you want to sponsor a child to go to this camp, the cost is $80. Please contact me and I'll let you know how. It is going to be an amazing, life changing, faith increasing experience for every child. I just wish I could go to camp with them in December to witness the immeasurable increase in their hope and faith. This is what they need at this time in their lives....as they are about to be too old to stay in the orphanage home. When a teen leaves their only home and venture out onto the streets of Zimbabwe...there is little hope.

So, for now....I dedicate as much snuggle time with Asher and Shawn as I can before I leave. Last year, God curbed the intensity of my withdrawals from them. He will again. But I still feel bricks stacking up in my heart and the dreaded anticipation of those tearful goodbye kisses.

Zim babies....I'm coming soon.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Making Sense of This

You can wrestle in the darkness of night with God, but the Son always comes up.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

A long overdue Video - Beware of Super Cuteness!

Much cuteness! I love the way Shawn earnestly speaks "no" when asked if he is ready for a nap? So cute. Did I mention, cute? Because, truthfully, "cute" doesn't even really begin to describe the situation.

oh.my.gaw

Yummers!

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Want Vs. Want to Want

What I want: Lots of real estate sales and large paychecks.
What I want to want: Only the work and income that I can use to glorify God.

What I want: A gorgeous car with all the bells and whistles that is super fun to drive.
What I want to want: A safe, sensible, practical car that is not going to draw attention to me.

What I want: A one level home with a massive yard in a quiet community with not too much space, but that is aesthetically beautiful to me.
What I want to want: Whatever home, in whatever community that God can use my family to minister to our neighbors.

WIW: My friends to love and adore me.
WIWTW: My friends to love and adore Jesus.

WIW: More talents and gifts.
WIWTW: For God to use my current talents and gifts to serve Him and make others want to know Him personally.

WIW: To chase after my earthly desires, to satisfy MY flesh.
WIWTW: To chase after God alone, to satisy only Him.

**Please leave a comment, and if you are comfortable, tell me one thing you want vs. what you should want to want. Please don't be shy!

Monday, October 5, 2009

I Weep With The Willow

Those cheeks. They are rosy and adorned with long lush dark eyelashes. They are plump and soft and smooth and I love them so much. Those eyes, when they contemplate and process with a focus on the inner thoughts....they look so wise, mature and sincere... but alas, they belong to a 4 year old so they are most likely only one of those things.

His lashes, so gorgeous, rest across the top of cheeks like a weeping willows' branches resting softly on the ground.

He will be 5 soon. I have no time machine. This is bad news.

He won't always be so excited to tell me every detail of his day. There will be a time when I will have to purchase heavy duty machinery to pry it out of him, or I will have to refine my skill at covering up the fact that I am dying to know...anything. Or therapy.

I ache for youth to stick around.

I grieve growth and separation.

Ouch.

Waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa.

I know he is still little today. And there are things to enjoy and relish in the witness of his every day. But I can still whine if I want to.

Oh, I weep with the willow.

Asher, I love you my little Tater Tot. You rock my world.



Sunday, October 4, 2009

My Birthday

Yesterday I turned 39. I was showered with love from my family! Asher woke up singing Happy Birthday...and he repeated it several times. He also made me 8 birthday cards, with a prominent dinosaur theme. Spencer brought me a beautiful bouquet of miniature pink roses with one larger pink Gerbera Daisy in the center. *Happiness*! Spencer also made me a cake and let Asher help him decorate it. Joe wore his chef coat in our kitchen and prepared a special dinner, and also brought me flowers. I received gifts....but mostly, I received love. I also worked all day, but that is just a minor ugly detail. Oh, and cards galore! I love getting snail mail, and e-cards. It is so nice to be celebrated.

Now my hubs is currently carrying out the stomach virus theme we've been playing in our family all week. Poor thing.... today is his only day off, and he is sick. The boys are going on day 3 without a bath, and I am walking around with unbalanced hair on my legs, as I forgot to shave one of my legs on Saturday.... it's a lovely sight.

So, in 364 more days I will be 40 years old. And I am praying that God will bless me with those days. And I'm praying each of those days is filled with smoochies from my boys and deep belly laughter. And I'm praying that I love Jesus more and more with each aging day.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Nevermind About the Vomitting

I received an email yesterday from one of my dear friends that had numerous funny comics, quotes, etc. I read them all. For whatever reason, this one struck me as hilarious and I can't stop laughing about it.

It's a good thing I had something so humerous stuck in my head, considering Shawn vomitted for 12 hours straight last night. When I felt at my wits end and near suicidie (...oh, i exaggerate)....I would just think about this funny....

"I did not hit you. I just high-fived your face."

Oh Lordy me....I'm still laughing.

ha ha

ha ha ha ha

ha ha ha

HA!

Friday, September 25, 2009

Big Picture Little Picture

I woke up early this morning and took a shower while the rest of my house remained dark and silent. Joe had already left for work, and all 3 of my sons were upstairs tucked away in their comfy beds, resting snug. The 2 little ones have sweet pajama sets and they went to bed with clean booties and clean feet. They went to sleep with clean hair and full bellies. They were tucked in with loving arms and prayed over. My oldest showed up after dark and did whatever he did while the rest of us slept. But he too, fell asleep in a loving home, where he is always welcome. When I wake up each day, they are my Big Picture. Because, in a sense, they are my whole world.

As I approach my second trip to Zimbabwe where I will reconnect with most of the same children I connected with last year, my picture starts to shift. I stand in the shower and massage my scalp with suds from a beautiful smelling shampoo. I cleanse my face and pray that it might start looking younger. I maneuver around the tufts of fat around my gut as I lean and reach to shave stubbly hair from my legs. With every stroke and movement of what amounts more to vanity than it does to hygeine, I shave and I see that I am one body, in one house, in one subdivision, in one community, in one city, in one state, in one country on one continent. I am one teeny tiny fragment of a spirit in this world. This world is so big. And for whatever reason, I think my family is the Big Picture.

It so isn't.

I'm probably about to start freaking out as I prepare to go to Zimbabwe. Why? Because I am forced in both exciting and uncomfortable ways to accept (again) that this life I am living isn't about me. It isn't even about my children and my other very treasured relationships. It is mostly about being willing to go where God is leading me, in trusting that He has a reason, and that I may never even fully know what that reason is.

It is about His big picture.

His big picture includes every peoples and every nation. His big picture is to complete every work that He has started to achieve precisely the purpose He intends. I believe that at the core of it all, is for people to know who He is, that He loves them, and that we're really all orphans, up for adoption, and He's busy doing all the Heavenly paperwork....to become our Father, forever. I can share this on my blog. I can share it on Facebook. I can share it with my neighbors and weird drugged out girls in the grocery store (true story). But for some reason.... (I don't need to know)....He is making it possible for me to go to the ends of the earth where food and water are scarce, HIV is abundant, hope is fading and love is thin...... and I get to beam with light and joy for all that He is willing to do for them. Not me, them. I get to share His light in some of the darkest parts of the world. And for the moments that He does, I am just pretty overwhelmed that He allows me to have some glimpses of His big picture. And oh how different it looks from mine. I cannot believe He does this for me. I am so flawed, so unworthy, and so small and faint....but He sends me anyway. I cannot beleive He trusts me with His word and His love...to spread it around. WOW....people, WOW.........HOLY WOW!

So, my kids are my big picture, because in a sense, they are my whole world. HIS kids are HIS big picture, because the WHOLE WORLD is HIS. We're all invited. Period. My prayer is that we could all look through His lens with His intensity to see His big picture. We might start doing life differently, everyday. Not that our lenses aren't important....just that they are only small snapshots.

Zoom out.

See more.

It's really big out there, and God cares about every square centimeter.

Oh Jesus, I want to curl up in your lap and look at all of your photo albums with you. I want to see your shutterfly photo projects. I want to see what you care about, through your lens, in full focus. I want to hear the stories of all the ways you love your children, whom you've fully adopted into your heart and spirit. I want to see the scenes that make you weep and the moments that utterly crack you up. And I want to be in your photo album, too. I love you, Lord. Thank you for the big picture.

Amen

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

I'll Go First

Today was our family flu shot day. Asher is almost 5, and he can vividly recall the past 2 flu shots. For the record, he hasn't cried during his shots in the past 3 seasons.

Last year, we talked about getting the shots for about a week before we actually went to get them. I didn't want to scare Asher, but I also didn't want to just spring it on him. I spoke of it all very light-heartedly. We discussed how we would all be there to support one another, and that it should protect us from getting sick over the winter. Other than Shawn not loving it last year, it went superbly. Asher was brave, and he got to watch us get our shots too...and that we were brave. It was great.

So great in fact...that this year, Asher wanted to go first. Would you believe me if I told you that I mentioned flu shots to Asher a few days ago and he actually got *excited*. He has been raring to go. Today was the day. He was ready. And yes, he went first. He didn't even wait to be lifted up onto the table, but instead, he climbed onto a chair and then hoisted himself up onto the exam table. Seriously.....ready. The nurse was lovely and she spoke to Asher with such calm and sweetness. As she spoke to him, he watched her prepare the needle, etc. He never made a sound, but I could see the veins moving in his forehead and his color turn red and then white and then red again. He did not want to break down, but he was really getting concerned. I asked him to look at me, but he continued to look at his leg where the nurse prepped the area and then watched the stab. He never cracked, but he wanted to. And he was SO relieved when it was over.

Shawn cried.

Joe and I were champs.

It amazes me to watch who Asher Tate is becoming. I beleive that there is a calm and strong bravery in him that is just one of the many gifts God will give him. It blesses my heart so much to see him draw from past experiences, both good and bad. He doesn't forget that the flat iron is hot, or that the flu shots aren't so bad after all. I am so deeply thankful that he accepts assistance when he knows that he needs help, but that he isn't afraid to try on his own, first.

Oh the prayers......I want so much for the prayers that we say at night or in the middle of the day, to stick with him....to be an example of how easy it is to talk to God and to go to Him for anything.....and to just be grateful.

My sweet Asher doesn't understand today that at some point in his adulthood....he might be the one taking care of Shawn. He might have to brave the storms that come with caring for a special-needs adult. He doesn't know today that maybe one day he'll have to be an advocate and a fighter. In some ways I feel really bad that all of this could possibly fall on him. But Shawn.....oh mercy........that he'll have Asher on his side. That is a thought I can rest on.

What if, when they are 40 and 42 years old, Asher takes Shawn out to get flu shots. I bet I know who's going first.

Remember this post about when Asher protected Shawn?

Sweet Jesus, thank you for these incredible boys and the blessed relationship you have designed for them. We thank you for every moment! Praise be to your sweetest name!

Monday, September 21, 2009

Hi Y'all

Wow....visitors? Thanks Lynnette!

Sadly, my blog is in a bit of a funk lately....so I'm linking you to some of my favorite posts from the past few months. Enjoy. Stick around. And please, leave me a link back to you so I can visit you too.

I have 3 sons. My oldest is in college. My middle is deliciously 4. My youngest has Down syndrome, and totally rocks the house. I love Jesus (it's true!). My blog is a mess. Enjoy!

My Fall From Cool

Lean.Stretch.Rotate.Grow

The Turtle In My Rearview

Dear Shawn

My Boobies

Sunday, September 20, 2009

life.must.be.good. (uh oh...2 posts in one day!)

I just made scones. My first ever. From "The Joy of Baking" which I googled. These scones had chocolate chips, and homemade buttermilk in them. Yep....I made the buttermilk too....sorta. It's a cheat trick, by just adding 1 tablespoon of cider vinegar to a cup of milk, and set for 10 minutes......voila! Buttermilk!

I must say......OMG these things are freaking awesome!

Last night I made homemade spaghetti. I love how Asher calls it "pasketti". I'm getting ready for my new gig of being primary cook for the family when Joe starts his new position in a couple of weeks. I'm thinking I might like it.

I also think a crock pot is in our future.

Yee Haw!

I also thoroughly cleaned the master bedroom and bathroom today. Feeling quite accomplished I must say. However, the rest of the house is a disaster. But I can still smell homemade scones.

Life must be good.

Joe and the boys just left to go to church. I'm staying back.....why? Because I didn't shower today and it's raining and I'm being a wimp and I did a few hours of bible study earlier, and well.... I'm stuffed. Asher put on a new shirt....it's a long sleeved shirt that looks like a short sleeve shirt over a long sleeved shirt. The sleeves are small orange and white striped, while the primary part of the shirt is brown with a green dinosaur. He hugged me because he loves his shirt and told me that I'm the best momma that anyone could ever have their whole life.

Life must be good.

Shawn has perfected the art of a good, solid hug. He approaches me while I am on the floor or in a squated position. He turns his head to the side and stretches both arms way out....left and right. He wraps them around me but his little hands just barely go around my arms. I feel his fingers squeeze the backs of my upper arms. It is the best hug I have ever had, my whole life. I wish you could see it.

Life must be good.

For Me?

Imagine for a moment, either a movie clip, or draw from your own experience.....a moment where you have offered something to someone, and they tilt their head sideways, give you that crinkled up expression with a look of humility and relief and state as a question..."you would do t.h.a.t., for ME?"

Shawn just gave me that precious look. All I offered him was breakfast, which ironically, I offer him everyday.

Lawdy, this boy is delicious!

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Praise Anyway

So, last week I shared my overwhelming sense of anxiety relating to financial stress.

This week is different. I'm over the anxiety and settling into the praise. Sure, I hate that it took me several days..... but that darkness has been lifted. And I am so thankful.

I paid off 2 bills in their entirety! And I paid a considerable chunk toward a 3rd bill. One of my favorite things to do was this morning, when I wrote a charitable donation to my favorite radio station, WAY-FM....a Christian radio station that survives on donations only. My other favorite was booking my flights yesterday, to Zimbabwe in November. I received exactly $1,600 in donations for my mission trip, and I am trusting God to provide the rest (through Joe and myself). But bottom line, my flights are booked and paid for. This is a precious, wonderful, exciting, blessing!

Truth be told, I have 3 more bills that are not paid off. So....we are not out of the clear. But I can see the light ahead. I have more real estate closings scheduled. It could happen. It could really and truly happen......and I am believing God for that. Not because I deserve it......because I absolutely do not. But if this past excruciating 20 months or so of near financial disaster was supposed to teach me anything.....it has. I believe with ALL of my heart that God does not allow us to go through troubled times without a purpose in His design. The Bible makes many explanations about suffering (of all kinds) to be a tool to develop perseverance and maturity in us. "Trouble" with a capital T is abundant in life. Troubles are everywhere, around every corner. Not much is easy. I want so much to be like the apostle Paul.... in the New Testament he expresses so much love and purpose and joy for Jesus. In 2 Corinthians 7:4 he says "in all our troubles my joy knows no bounds". That's the life I want to live, not for me, but for Jesus. And for anyone watching me.....joy is contagious. I don't want it to merely hover over me....I want it spreading and sticking on everyone I meet. Man....wouldn't that be an awesome reward if at the gates of Heaven, the Lord would say..."Melissa, I love the way you tried to give away all the joy I gave you so others could feel it.". Oh Lord....if that could only be true.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Changing Subject Here

* Asher loves school so much that he cries when I pick him up.

* Shawn is talking more everyday....literally. It is beautiful. I am SO proud of all of the hurdles he is working so hard to get over. My little buddy is making such progress.

* Joe got a promotion at work. I wish this meant his paychecks would be getting ginormous, but it doesn't. However, he is being promoted to Executive Chef/General Manager of the "employee only" restaurant in the hotel where he works. They serve about 2,000 meals a day. This is going to be a GREAT opportunity for Joe. His hours and days off will change, but he'll still be home by dinner time and so he will get to see the kids every night!

* Per previous update, I guess I'll have to start cooking dinner more often.... I'm embracing this new gig with excitement. I have been SO spoiled for the last 3 1/2 years of Joe cooking most dinners. I hope I can handle it. Oh Jesus.... I might need some help.

* Zimbabwe 11/7 - 11/21

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Love

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Anxiety and Praise Don't Mix

I should be so full of praise, afterall, much going on around me is so worthy of shouting out to God from the rooftops. Praising Him, loving Him, pointing everyone into His direction....and yet I feel like my vocals are completely stifled. My heart is so frigging full of anxiety.

I am already fully well aware that anxiety is not from God, and it serves me no good purpose.

Proverbs 12:25: "An anxious heart weighs a man (lovely woman) down."

Philippians 4:6: "Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God." (vs 7) And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus."

Gosh....how I really want that peace. My anxiety is in the way.

My anxiety is a result of financial stresses. We all know that Real Estate has not been booming and so my income this year has been low (so far). Joe's hours were cut back at work and so his income is reduced. We've accumulated more debt, just to stay afloat, in the past year than I ever could have imagined. When I add up the amount of this debt, it simply makes me feel hopeless. It's horrific. And it is crippling.

So, you'd think a recent turn of events would have me turning back flips. I have had multiple real estate closings recently and have a few more scheduled for the next 2 months. All at once, I am about to wipe out about 2/3 of the nastiness we've accumulated. WOW, right? So, why am I freaking out? God isn't just providing a little at a time, He is actually making it possible for me to write large checks and say bye-bye to some bills that we may hopefully never have to see again. I am so grateful but my heart is still pounding with the force of a boulder.

We were gifted with a great opportunity to go on a family vacation for a great low price....and I hated spending every penny of it. Asher and Shawn needed new shoes and new school supplies, and while I was thrilled to have the money to buy them, I nearly almost threw up in Target. (Sorry, Target). Joe needs new work shoes and a new tire, and it has me panic stricken. I spent $25 on a pedicure just before we went to the beach and I bought a couple of celebratory starbucks, and now I'm thinking..... all of those nickels and dimes were simply wasted. I might as well have thrown them in the garbage. I guess you could say that this experience has certainly changed my view of money. Having needs met is far more important than fulfilling wants and wishes.

When I return to Zimbabwe in November, I feel pretty sure I'll be swallowing another dose of reality. I'll embrace my arms around those beautiful young teenage girls who eat one meal per day and have no clue what a pedicure is. I'll share praise and love and hope with ones who have never been on a family vacation because they've never had a family. Seldom running water and electricity.

I want to be on cloud 9 about my needs being met. I want to be floating in an out of body experience in knowing the reality that my life is SO good, SO convenient, SO full, and SO frequently met with opportunity. I want my heart overflowing with joy rather than anxiety. I want the same for you.

Father God I am before you now praying for the peace that makes no sense. Peace that covers me and blots out every sense of worry, fear and anxiety that I have taken upon myself to live out. My prayer is for your spirit to move in and force all of those negatives right out. I want to feel better. I want to be free again, living in your joy, and sharing it with everyone who needs a dose. I want to be the me that you have created, to serve and honor you. I'm so sorry that I set my faith in you aside to carry things on my own. I'm sorry that I refused to trust that you are in control. Please forgive my nature to do it myself. If Satan is stirring around me attacking my weaknesses, I pray you'll stand firmly in His way and protect me from my strongholds. Release me from the pain of worry and let me live in you, to do as you have purposed. I want to praise you with my whole heart. In Jesus, Amen