Tuesday, September 28, 2010

boys irregular





The End of Me - take 17

So, I haven't updated in a solid week, and there is good reason. I have had nothing to say. In fact, I have started 2 posts and couldn't even finish them. . But I am here today because of my commitment to post something weekly about the book "Radical" by David Platt, in connection with another blog you can see HERE.

The truth is I think I am being quiet because the Holy Spirit just might have my tongue. I'm screaming on the inside, but nothing comes out.

Chapter #3 of this bold and brave book is entitled "Beginning At The End of Ourselves" The Importance Of Relying on God's Power.

I'm gonna say it again, people. This book is a must read.

This chapter was a real struggle for me because I could be guilty right this very minute of searching for, needing and relying on the strength of my own power. Both intellectually and spiritually, I would not normally be caught guilty of claiming my own strength, power, ability, wisdom, etc. In your face and out of my mouth, the words always fall "It is all from God" no matter what the topic may be. I would quickly credit HIM for my coping mechanisms, my parenting abilities, my mad negotiating skillz in Real Estate, and for my family. I will not wait to proclaim HIS name and HIS glory when I have traveled as a solo missionary into lands that I do not know. Even the relationships I have formed in Africa.....they know GOD is the reason for my love and my support. They don't credit "Melissa" any more than I do, which is nada.

but....

BUT.....

here I am in Nashville, TN working with an attorney to start a non-profit to aid orphans and what am I doing? I am relying on myself. I am trying to make myself smarter by studying more about non-profits so I can run an effecient organization that I am in control of. I am somehow thinking that I am going to have to impress people to give and blah blah blah. At exactly what point did I drop off Jesus on this path and think that I could steer? OH, this makes me so frustrated with myself. I am such a dork. The "beginning" of this is at the end of "me". I just can't jump back in and be my own idol. Seriously.........it scares me that I can be this guilty of the thing I am so turned off by.

The author does an eloquent and just hard core real job of describing the church in Acts, and comparing it with our American standards....and oh how opposite they are. He says he longs to be a part of a church that looks like the New Testament truly functioned. In one sentence alone my heart was pierced by a powerful conviction. He states that he dreams of a "scene where we refuse to operate in a mind-set dominated by an American dream that depends on what we can achieve with our own abilities."..."A scene where the church radically trusts in God's great power to provide unlikely people with unlimited, unforeseen, uninhibited resources to make his name known as great!" Ok, that was 2 sentences...but you get it.

Bottom line, we live in a society where we are taught we can be powerful, achieve successes, accomplish impressive things....and we are taught that we can achieve through education, work, etc. These things are not bad....not bad at all. But until we realize that the reality that God received the greatest "glories" through the commitments of simple, unassuming, faithful men and women....it would seem that almost the opposite of what we have believed is true. The presumably MOST POWERFUL people on this earth in reality are most likely the least. Because, if Oprah does something great....Oprah is getting all the attention. She is being celebrated, loved, adored, butt-kissed, praised....... oh my......"praised". People in the highest places do a little thunder stealing. I don't want to steal thunder. I don't want to intercept some praises. I want to want to just reach the end of me so I can really experience that beginning of craving with desperation, the power of the one true Holy God. If I could just lie down on my face and rise up with the Spirit.....then a life lived for Him can truly begin. And there is nothing I can do to assure that I lack nothing. Only He can assure me of that, and only if I duck and get out of the way of praise.

Heavenly Father I have choices in this world. I can go my own way, and even in doing so I might be successful. I might achieve and knock peoples socks off along the way. I can live large and I can enjoy fine things. You will allow me this if I so desperately seek it. Lord, I want less. I want much less. I want to not be so significant to myself when I wake up in the morning and glance at my calender. I want everything that I do to honor you. I want to be invisible when your light is shining. The children were fed, praise YOU Lord. The school fees were raised, praise YOU Lord. The mouths of the orphans spoke your great name, praise YOU Lord. The addiction was conquered, praise YOU Lord. The marriage was healed, praise YOU Lord. Shawn utters words, can draw and L and is learning colors and ABC's despite his cognitive disability.....praise YOU Lord. If there is any power in me Father, let it be Yours. If there is love in me, let it speak of You. Please heavenly Father let today be the end of me. "rid of myself Lord I belong to You.....lead me to the cross".

Praise ye Jesus,
Amen

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Trailing Behind

I have already finished the book "Radical" by David Platt. And, if I must confess, I have also started and finished "Forgotten God" by Francis Chan...all in the past few days. But I am going back each week and reading a chapter over to keep up my participation in the book club over at www.MarlaTaviano.com. This week is all about Chapter #2 - Too Hungry For Words.

- Trailing Behind -

Have you ever had to follow someone in your car because you were not sure of the directions? I bet we've all done this a time or two. But what about this? Have you ever followed someone and you discovered you actually had a better sense of direction than he/she did? You can sense you are going the wrong way, but you are still following them anyway? You are thinking that in your commitment to stay right behind them, somehow, some way, you'll all eventually end up in the right place. Even if you have to take some wrong turns, detours...and even if someone else eventually has to take on the lead. This might work if you are just trying to get from point A to point B on the map. But this doesn't work on the journey to Heaven.

After reading chapter #2 of Radical, I realize I have trailed behind some leaders who were going the wrong way. And by leaders, I don't mean my church...I just mean..anyone who I have assigned the trustworthy button to. I have read scriptures over and over and over. I have read and contemplated many verses about "falling away". I read those verses and they make me nervous. In my heart I search those things....but I rarely raise a question. SO many people who label themselves as Christians believe that if you "accept" Christ you are saved and that this is something that cannot be stripped from you. This may be true...but what is our definition of "saved"? And this is where it all falls apart. In our culture, we think being saved is making a statement, speaking an invitation, and repeating a prayer. The Scripture explanation of a true follower of Christ, is not.that.simple. Jesus isn't waiting for our acceptance. He doesn't need that. He is only leading those who are "God-centered, Christ-exalting, and self-denying". (modified from pg. 39)

I have also repeatedly read the verses in the gospels about Jesus sermon on the Mount. It CLEARLY says that there are many many many "believers" will say at the end of times, "Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles? Then I will tell them plainly, I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!". But what have I done with what I have read in the scriptures? My guilt is in going with the flow. Did I read it? Yes. Is it fairly straightforward? Yes. Am I confused? Yes. Why? Because from my observation in life with other Christians...no one ever seems concerned about that scripture. We all just say, if you accept Christ, you are going to Heaven. And we leave it at that. I have ignored those verses because I don't like them.

The author of this book has been brave enough, radical enough to say...I don't believe that everyone who believes they are a Christian is indeed a Christian. And you know what...I don't either. I haven't believed it for a long time, and it just isn't the sort of thing you can say outloud. You (I) will be accused of judging and awarding ourselves the title of holier than thou. **And please don't misunderstand this. I'm not saying I have a list of people that I don't believe are going to heaven even though they are professed Christians. I am saying that I agree with the author when he states, based on scriptures, that many will be shocked in the end to find out they were on the wide path to hell rather than the narrow road to Heaven. Not saying we can point those people out...nor should we ever try.**

I just don't want to be one of those who is shocked to land in the pit.

Faith should be radical, not minimal. Our faith should look like thirst and hunger for God. When we have been offered eternity, we should so long to receive that promise that we would be willing to abandon everything earthly and worldly to follow and experience God. No other response to the gospel is adequate. I don't want to trail behind other Christians and ignore the clear messages of scripture that are often omitted or dismissed for being too radical. If we are guilty of following other Christians under the guise of following Christ, we'll go down the wrong road without even knowing it....and it will not just neatly end up in the right place, eventually. When facing the God of Heaven from the gates of hell.....we can't use excuses like "well my church never showed me that passage" or "I was sure Paula was a Christian and I did everything she taught me". It's not gonna fly like that. We *are* supposed to fellowship, be the church, encourage one another, teach, preach, etc..... that is the church. Being the body of Christ involves the entire body of Christ. But as for scripture, the gospels, and learning to live like Christ, allowing through surrender our very selves to be transformed into His likeness...well those are things that we just can't take each others word for. There is only one Word that speaks perfect truth. "And the Word became flesh." Jesus it the Word. When you surrender yourself in radical faith and devotion to the One who sacrificed His life for your sin and the sin of the entire world, you receive the gift of His true and Holy Spirit to indwell in your being, your heart, your mind, your conscience. When this happens...when this really happens, your heart is then radically transformed. It is undeniable and it is unavoidable. You will be made new. If you are not new. If you are not changed. If you are not desperately yearning for and longing to know God, you might be an evildoer. That sayeth the Scriptures.

I would like to be able to say that at many times while I have studied the scripture on my own, I have become acutely aware of some hard truths and that I have risked everything to crusade. I haven't. I wish I could say that when scriptures push me, I move. I don't. Without even realizing it, I have been guilty of getting in my car and following in my typical, comfy fashion, assuming I'll get to point B....even when I sense the direction is a full-on error.

Am I mortified? Yea, a little bit. Because there is probably somebody following me.

A true indication of radical faith is not only you craving and yearing for God for yourself, but for the entire body of Christ. Some of our brothers and sisters haven't met Him yet. If they had, we'd all be in Heaven. Some of parts of the body are not yet born, some are living as atheiests, some are Muslims, universalists, agnostics, etc. I don't want to just yearn for Heaven for me and my family.....but for all. And this too, requires action.

Go get the book. "Radical" by David Platt. And visit www.MarlaTaviano.com for further disucssion and how lives are being affected by this powerful book.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Starts with an F and ends with a K

Shawn has learned how to say "fork". Kinda. Yea, it needs work. Let's just say I hope that his unintentional foul mouth won't get him expelled from the pre-K cafeteria. Yikes. A speech therapy intervention right about now would be *SUPER*.

My blog is quiet because I miss Zim. I have been blessed to be able to talk with some of my sweet young friends on the phone a time or two. Hearing "hallo aunti Melissa" on the other end of that phone line with NEVER get old.

My bible study group has started back up again. I am SO thankful for this. We are even skyping in one of our sweet sisters who had to move a few hours east. That technology is just super cool, any way you slice it. We are celebrating 4 years together. 4. Wow. Quadruple wow.

I have finished the book "Radical" by David Platt and have started "Forgotten God" by Francis Chan. Loving the modern day authors with an intense devotion to the church and the Kingdom of God.

My family and I went to a local African Street Festival today. Asher had his first ever T-ball game this weekend.....and we were blessed to be able to attend church today in freedom. I've also spent quite a bit of time this weekend online working on fulfilling my continuing education requirements to be able to renew my brokers' license. I have a long way to go....but enjoying my current course on "green living" and "sustainable living". It is very interesting and informative.

I thought I was signing off here...but Joe just walked in the house to tell me something. He has been outdoors with Asher, playing, while I sit here and Shawn is napping. Joe told me that Asher was talking in a very serious tone...going on and on about how he is down today. Asher is down because the Titans lost (although he didn't watch the game). He shared with Joe that he doesn't want to get too close to his daddy right now because he doesn't want to knock him down. He said "daddy I don't want to knock you down, I just want to build you up". Joe asked Asher where he learned that. He answered....."church".


Tuesday, September 14, 2010

word gifts from Zim

So, if you have been reading my blog for long, you know how much I love some kids in Zim. And one of my DEAR friends there is a nearly 28 year old Pastor. Here is an email from him to me. I am copying and pasting just exactly as it was sent to me. You can begin to experience why my heart erupts for all of them. Phillip took time to answer in this email, some basic questions I had about his family. I did not ask him face to face, but as he and I have continued our bond through email, I finally got the courage to ask him if he had ever known his parents...and how he became an orphan.

hallo beloved melissa

praise the Lord for the application letters were send to me from our mother Fatima for both the colleges..busy filling them up with all information requiered.hoping to send them back to you by next week monday and that means i will be in harare next week monday with the kids...

otherwise how are you and your dear husband and not forgeting the kids?wel,cant stop saying 'I MISSS YOUUU'.still praying that my plans of coming there wil be a success..
cant wait to mix and mingle with your family....

i have never stopped appreciating every moment you've been here.i learnt a lot from you melissa.what a wonder you are.truely you are God's messenger.time to time i always reflect on what you used to tell me and that makes me miss you more.

wel,i am a young man aged 28 though my particulars reflect 26.my parents told me that they decided to cut short my age since i had a small body stature and any other reasons that pertains to that is best known to themselves.i grew up in a family of two and thats me and Richard.was born and bred in a small remote farm where dad and mum used to be farm labourers.now,during my grade 7(primary school),dad left us due to a fatal car accident,where he died on the spot.life turned to preach othrwise because from the mention of dad's death,mama got shocked and she became bedridden since then.out of this,no one was able to catter for the family,so i had to arise,go for piece-work at the farm to get the family sustain and that me and Richard are set for school.so i hussled all the way through up until the day i finished writing my o'level when mama decided to leave us.she gave her last breath whilst she struggled to utter her last words.another war began;-Richard for two years dropped from school since i couldnt make it no more..after mamas death,me and richard where evicted from the farm since accomodtion at the farm was for those known to be employed at the farm.almost became destitutes until a friend from school gave a hand to help.after o'level results were out i opted for A'level.i dont forget my class for its been so dear in helping me pay my fees as their friend.wel after all this,got employed in a grocery shop as an assistant.then God started calling me into the ministry.it was so hard though i tried to resist til i decided to go to bible college.so it happed that one day i was invited to go preach at the children's home by one of the staff members,the;thn met our mother Fatima.she got so compelled to understandd more bout my life till i opened up to her.she has been so generous that she made a way for Richard to get started with school again May God bless Fatima indeed and we;Richard and i became part and parcel of rose of sharon till this day.
this is just but a brief account of my life.am ever ready to answere any question with regard to my life.will let you know more as go.

HOWEVER I KNOW THAT GOD IS ALWAYS BY MY SIDE,EVER FAITHFUL TO FULFIL EVRY PROMISE ABOUT MY LIFE.ALL THAT HAPPENED WASNT FOR MY DISADVANTAGE BUT FOR TESTIMONY'S SAKE!!!
feel honoured to be known to you and especilly to keep in touch with you..

WELL,WELL,WELL...GUESS WHAT....18 SEPTEMBER IS MY 28th BIRTHDAY....WOW CANT WAIT!!!!

Love you melissa,always thought of,,,,,

GOD bless you indeed.
Regards to DAD!

LOVE

Pastor Phillip

Pastor Phillip has already surpassed the average life expectancy in his country, of age 27. In a few days, he will have conquered that. I praise Jesus for Phillip. Phillip is now a treasured soul mate....a forever friend. He is HILARIOUS!! He is animated and larger than life with his smile and his ginormous heart. His momma and daddy would be SO proud of the precious man he has become.

If Only I Could Die

A bloggy world woman, Marla Taviano, is leading an online book club. The book is "Radical" by David Platt. And like an idiot, I joined.

Why idiot? As if my heart wasn't cracked enough.

Charging me to be radically committed to the great commission, abandoning the American Dream, and really get to the heart of the Scriptures.

Here is where I must admit, I'm a slow learner. See, I've read all of the scriptures. I have read the New Testament many times. I have studied. I have seen with my own eyes and read with my own heart, the verses that this book draws out. The painful ones. And I've thought to myself before (of the Scriptures) - wow that seems harsh, or exaggerated, or well maybe Jesus is just trying to make a point. I get brownie points for noticing the directness of Jesus' pointed instruction on how to follow Him. But I lose all brownies for thinking things like....well all the good Christians I know don't go to such extremes...so I probably don't have to either.

The book accuses the American Christian church of molding church to meet the American Dream. While in other parts of the world, people are worshiping and risking their lives to do so. They meet in "secret" church to pray and study scriptures all night long. If they get caught....they will be tortured. What is the risk to me to pull up at my local church in my big comfy vehicle? With my adorable little boys who will go in and be loved on by sweet people? What is the risk to me to listening to fabulous worship music by a full band with sharp instruments? Do I even understand how sweet Jesus is and how powerful His message is when I've just been present for a church show? I'm not risking my life to worship. I'm almost praised for worshiping. Other people are so radically in love with Jesus that they will risk their very lives to hear about Him, to learn deeper, and to physically praise and worship Him.

I admit that even I thought my decision to fly to Zimbabwe, by myself, hoping that I wasn't walking into a booby trap....was radical. I did that straight up for Jesus. I was obedient to the point of risking my life. I just thought I was crazy. Now I know I was just being radical....and I'm thankful for that. But radical......once?

But I haven't lost everything for Jesus. I gave up Starbucks and sponsored a Compassion child, but I didn't give up my comforts. I haven't abandoned my needs, desires, and family. I haven't put the purpose of Christ before the purpose of my life.

Here is one of the most profound paragraphs of chapter 1. "But do you and I realize what we are doing? We are molding Jesus into our image. He is beginning to look a lot like us because, after all that is whom we are most comfortable with. And the danger now is that when we gather in our church buildings to sing and lift up our hands in worship, we may not actually be worshiping the Jesus of the Bible. Instead we may be worshiping ourselves." (pg 13)

So, while I have this tiny little radical aspect to my faith....and I am sorta interested in taking the gospels to the unreached.... I'm probably mostly interested in radically transforming Jesus to looking more like me. And that HURTS.

I'm praying this book rocks the Christian World. Shake us in earthquake fashion. I am a Disciple. That is who I am designed to be. I should be more interested in reaching the lost of the world and die to myself. Maybe just die altogether. Maybe living isn't the purpose of life at all.

Visit Marla's fantastic blog here.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Just a Brief

I have been quiet. No particular reason.

My little ones are enjoying school and doing so well adjusting. Shawn looks super darling in his standard school uniform and wearing his precious little backpack. I can hardly contain myself when I pick him up in the afternoons and he is sitting in the pickup line, perfectly orderly with a smile on his face. I could lick that sweet face. No worries. I don't.

Asher is learning so much about spelling, sounding out words, and reading. He is starting to notice his site words in the books we read at home. "Look mommy, that says "the" and "to" and "and" and "he". Learning is FUN!

Fatima has finally received her computer and all the other goodies I sent her. That was a near fiasco with an unexpected customs tax....but thanks to some powerful convictions in my spirit, and some generous angels, it got remedied.

That's all I got for now. Nothing exciting. Sorry.

Love to all!

Friday, September 10, 2010

On A Personal Note

From the time Shawn was born and we were given his Down syndrome diagnosis, I have ached over his future. I don't wear this ache on my sleeve so much. It is more or less tucked neatly into my pocket. Occasionally I retrieve it in private, unfold it like a personal note, read it silently, wipe a tear, and return it to its tuck.

From about day 15 of his precious purposed life, I began the dream that Shawn would be included in a typical school, with typical peers, and only carried off with the specialists for one-on-one teaching when absolutely necessary. Afterall, Shawn was born a brother. An Asher Tater Tot already existed and he would surely lead his little brother, comfort his little brother, guide his little brother, and fiercely protect his little brother. They should go to school together.

My prayer was and is that Shawn would be enough of a challenge to help mold and shape his schoolmates to love and value on a deeper level, but not so much of a challenge that his school would appoint him to the **retarded wing and that the typical children would only see him drooling his food in the cafeteria, in the corner, waving to everyone as they pass by sneering at him.

It's pride. I know. And I'll repent for that as soon as I finish this blog post.

I was advised and even warned they may never go to school together. It might not be possible or it might not be in the best interest of Shawn.

A few weeks ago, without awakening my dream, without my nudging and without my orchestrating....Shawn was given a spot in the pre-k at Asher's school. Yes, a meeting had to occur and paperwork had to be signed......but the nudge came from someone other than me. The dream was on the back shelf getting dusty. And the orchestra was being conducted by a heavenly host of the Lord's angels. Only the Lord knows if and when this symphony will change its song. For now I'm sitting in the balcony listening to the very personal notes.

BRAVO!


(**i hate this word. i used it for emphasis in expressing the ache a mother feels to know that her son will be viewed and potentially treated with ugliness)


Thursday, September 9, 2010

Sloshed in Grace

Everyone is under the influence of something.

Today I am pondering the power of influence. The influence of people we love and trust seems to be the most powerful. Today a friend and I were discussing a hot topic. She and I share the exact same belief on this topic, as we have discussed it many times. But today she confessed that she has had similar converations with another person who has caused her to question her own convictions. Bottom line...she loves and trusts that person, and that has influenced her thinking. The good news is that this can be a great thing. The bad news is that this can be a horrible thing.

Few people actually ever draw their own conclusions. I think it's fairly common, even if not recognized, that most of us at some point and time in our lives, have made many of our decisions and established many of our beliefs, as a result of the influence of someone or many someones we have loved and trusted. Even if their beliefs have not been founded on anything solid or sturdy.

I KNOW I have been guilty of this. Probably still am to some degree. But I try sincerely and I deeply desire that the Christian that I claim to be is authentically seeking truth, only influenced by scriptures and the spirit of Christ Himself. I want to be under the influence of Christ. I love you, but I want to honor Christ. I trust you, but I trust Jesus more. I want to honor you and encourage you, but only in the things of Christ. I can't be a cheerleader for the world. I can't sign my name on a line that Jesus wouldn't sign His name on. Oh, I could, but that would be going against His grain and I want to go with His grain.

That is not a closed minded desire. If anything, it is the opposite. Because Jesus wasn't closed, He was open. He wasn't open to accepting sin, but He was open to forgiving it. All of it. Not just mine and not just yours....but the sin, ANY sin, EVERY sin, of ANY one and EVERYone who seeks Him. That to me is "open" not "closed".

Me? I'm a disciple of that. An ambassador of that. I am a cheerleader for that and a journeywoman for that. I don't want to be under the influence of the world. I want to be sloshed in grace, mercy, forgiveness and love.

The answers and the instructions are in the scriptures. Turn the pages.

Sharp and Soft

I've been learning some tough lessons with regards to my service to my favorite mission spot. First, if you carry valuables in your luggage they will likely get stolen. If you mail packages from the US to there, the shipping will likely cost more than the package itself. Whatever you claim on the contents of the package will be taxed to the recipient, and therefore inflating the values to cover the expense of losses that could not be replaced....is not a good idea.

Pain, pain and more pain.

Money, money and more money.

But now I know. When you know better, you do better.

The sad truth is the losses that have incurred (from a value perspective) since last month, could have bought me another plane ticket. Ouch. I'm just going to consider it sharpening. The Holy Spirit is showing me I need to know more to be able to do more. I can't be naieve and succeed with good intentions. I have to be sharp.

Funny irony here to me is that when I was with Fatima last month and we were discussing the first blunder, in that I managed to allow the first new laptop to get stolen, and she managed somehow to fail to warn me it would likely happen if I did it they way I did it.... she looked me in the eyes and said, "you are going to become an expert in our international relations". Little did I know I would fail so many times so quickly. I'm sure I'm not an expert yet.....but I'm WAY sharper than I was one month ago. Way sharper.

In other news..... one of the precious, lovely, outstanding, dynamic, delicious boys from the orphanage called me yesterday. We spoke for 4 minutes. We wanted to talk all day. When I hear his voice, and when I get the opportunity to tell him how much I love him.....it's hard to hang up. I want to be his momma. In my heart he is my child. I want to hear about his school day. I want to take him to football practice, take him to the doctor when he is sick, watch him open Christmas presents in front of our tree, teach him to drive.............UUGGGGHHHH!

Feeling soft again.

And holy moly go read this!

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Little Love, Medium Love and Big Love

They are ages 3 1/2, 5 1/2, and 21 1/2. They all gave me stretch marks. They push my buttons. They stress me out. They make me laugh. They make me cry. The fill me up.



Labor Day 2010.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Saturday, September 4, 2010

THEY

THEY WENT UP TOGETHER




THEY CAME DOWN TOGETHER


THEY ATE POPSICLES TOGETHER



THEY COUNTED TOGETHER



AGAIN AND AGAIN


THEY BLESS ME

Friday, September 3, 2010

Almost 40

I am not sure how it came to be September so quickly. And I cannot believe that I will be 40 years old one month from today. Normally, I do not broadcast my birthday. But dang, 40 is a major milestone and I don't want y'all to miss it. Ha! So, assuming and hoping it is God's will, in 30ish days I'll be saying goodbye to another decade and welcoming a fresh, more mature one.

Wow.

Can somebody just say "wow" for me?!

I'm excited. I do not dread 40 in the slightest. I have a 21 year old son for goodness sake....and I need to be 40. Ya hear me? It's a good thang.

Let the countdown begin.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

School Fees

I am wiring Fatima $1,500 today for school fees. It isn't enough to send them all back to school, but it is something. And I am so grateful.

Thank you to everyone who has prayed about this...given financially or encouraged me.

I also shipped the new laptop to Fatima yesterday. The package included also some photos from our time together, some neck ties for one of the boys to complete his wardrobe for the praise and worship team at his church....and some random bandages, toothbrushes, etc.... just to try to continue to meet some basic needs. I thought I was fainting when I learned the shipping expenses would cost me nearly $400. Yep....that says four hundred. Let's just say that I will not be sending them packages as regularly as I had hoped. Or maybe, never. :-(