Saturday, June 24, 2017

Starting Side. Chaotic Middle. The Other Side.

Take a good look at this picture.  What do you see?  (Seriously, play my game and leave it in the comments).

I have no clue what it is about this view, regardless of where you are around the city, you get the mountains, valley, and millions of homes sprinkling up the sides of the mountains.  It is so mesmerizing and peaceful.    

However, if you are in the middle of this city, full of 3.5+ million people, it probably isn't quite as peaceful.  The cars honking, the people passing you by, the vendors yelling out, the buses spewing black smoke, the heat, whew, talk about sensory overload!   If you think about it, isn't that kind of how life is??  I mean minus the black smoke, and maybe the heat.  We have so many THINGS pulling for our attention, it can create quite a sensory overload.  

Today I was listening to a podcast from our home church...First of all, praise the LAWD for wifi/internet, and second thanks CHBC for posting podcasts to allow us to stay a little connected. :)  Ok, so in this podcast I was reminded of what happens when we lose our focus.  Pastor Mark was actually talking about our attitude when we come to church (and in life).  You don't have to fake a smile when you show up, but if you let every. little. detail. that bothers show on your face/attitude and share it with others, you are not a ray of sunshine, and honestly-- who wants that???  We ALL go through rough days (ask me about mine), we ALL go through tough seasons, we ALL have inner battles that are continuous; but you know what?  Where we focus our eyes, our heart, our purpose, will determine our "view point".  If you have a high view point (on Jesus), you will see that you can make it thought the center to the other side. 

 Follow me here, I am talking about our days, storms, seasons- just like the picture above, there is a clear "starting side"; "in the chaotic middle"; and "the other side".  A low view point all you can see is "in the chaotic middle", with no clue what is next, continuous sensory overload.  Whew, super stressful.

I recently went through this.  I lost my focus.  I lost my "view point".  I started focusing on ME and MY problems.  When your eyes go from looking up, to looking straight, to looking down (focusing on you), your attitude changes, you start getting frustrated more, which brings anger and self pity, which can lead to destruction. Have you been there?  It is ugly.  It is hard to stop.  I was so confused, I mean I love Jesus, I know to look to him, I tried to, I prayed, I sought godly counsel, I spent time reading God's word and being quiet...and then I realized, no, actually that last part, not true.  My crazy life with 3 kids, working outside the home (1 day a week), working from home, relationship building, keeping up with friends, being a wife, and cleaning (ugh), I had slowly pushed out my quiet time.  I was praying, but I was not gleaning wisdom, truth, hope, joy from God's word being poured in my heart.  

At first I didn't want to share this, I just wanted to keep it hidden; how embarrassing, I mean part of my job description is "sharing Jesus"...but, then again I AM HUMAN, and not a super one at that!!  I am a living breathing example that God will use obedience.  God shines through our weakness (2 Corinthians 2:9), through our forgetfulness, through our overcrowding, through our kids and house that never stays clean.  He shines through whatever you have going on too!  He is incredible, and his grace will NEVER run out.  Your eyes are not a permanent fixture, just like they can start to downward focus, YOU can refocus your eyes back up, back on Jesus, back where you can see the start, the chaotic middle and other side.  

 I am growing, I am learning (praise the Lord for grace, the Holy Spirit and online courses), haha!  Don't be afraid of your mistakes, don't let shame keep you from obedience.  Check out 2 Corinthians 5:14-17.  GOD'S LOVE COMPELS US, and IN HIM we are a new creation, your past cannot be your future.  You never know who you can encourage or help out by sharing past struggles that you have overcome. Not just your struggles, burdens, fears, but how you overcame it, that is by far the best part!  :)


Monday, February 6, 2017

That time I stopped praying...

There was a time in my life where I completely stopped praying. (Gasp, I know).  I wasn't mad at God, I knew he was still there, but I no longer trusted him with things that mattered a lot to me.

You see, I started at Liberty University in 2003.  My eyes were radically opened to this amazing world of Jesus, and fun christian music, and learning and friends that didn't always want to get drunk.  It was new for me, I mean I learned a lot in a Christian home, growing up- but my previous years of college were filled with partying and bad choices.  All of this new life was really cool, and a little bit legalistic.  I didn't know that then.  So I started hard core praying for my brothers.  For them to know Jesus, mostly because I didn't want them to go to hell while I lived it up in eternity (insert "raise the roof" hands...).  Well, after a few years of no good change, actually the opposite of good change, I decided it was a lost cause and praying didn't matter.  So I stopped. I mean, I still thanked God for things, and of course said little prayers for others (because you can't say "I will pray for you" and not do it...).  I listened to others pray, honestly most people probably didn't even know this was going on.  My personality didn't change, I still served in the church, etc. I just didn't ask God for anything.

It wasn't until December 2009 that God started kindling that fire again.  We had 2 events that rocked my core, 1: this sweet girl, Carissa, from my hometown church got H1N1 (swine flu) and was so sick at one point she was strapped to a machine that would move her body to keep the blood circulating, so close to death.  She has down syndrome, and I have known her since she was 5.  I love her so much. #2 Some close friends at our current church were able to conceive, but something with hemorrhaging they had lost one precious baby, and were close to losing another.  Here I was (unexpectedly) pregnant with Brynnen, and could feel so deep the hurt that would come from either of these 2 losses.

I remember so much the pure desperation when I cried out to God, I was in the shower- of all places.  I remember my hot tears that seemed to never end.  I couldn't tell you one word that was released, but I remember feeling so much peace, just a warmth that ran through my whole body.  I remember the feeling when I heard the update few week or so later that Carissa was on the mend, and then also Eliana was going to be fine and the words the doctor told our friends!  (I need to say, I am well aware HUNDREDS of people were praying for these sweeties, I know I am not super prayer woman that without me prayers won't be answered...don't get it twisted.  This is what God used to soften MY heart as part of MY story).

It wasn't until we lived in Alabama, 5 months later, {May 8, 2010} that God really got a hold of my heart and completely changed my life.  I didn't doubt my salvation- but I had never given my life completely to God, to be used as he pleased, instead of my selfish desires.  My whole life changed, my outlook, my purpose, everything.  I knew then I had to call/talk to both of my brothers and share this change.  I was so nervous.  They knew me, I mean the bad, the ugly, and the worse.  I would argue with them about "Christian stuff"- frustrating us all. YIKES.  There was an urgency that was greater than my pride.  Their lives were too important to me.  Both of them listened, but were like "um, yeah, I'm fine, thanks."  This time was so different, I didn't get upset because they didn't immediately have their eyes opened.  I didn't try to argue with them, to change them...I just reiterated my love for them, and left it to God.

{SN: I didn't get mad at God for prompting those conversations with no "fruit"- and I didn't give up praying. I'm telling}

A few years later I got a call from my oldest brother, he had found a really good church and had rededicated/given his life to Christ. WOW!  It was so awesome to hear that!  {He actually still goes to that awesome church with his family, AND At His Feet Christian Center (the church) is one of our monthly sponsors right now! WOOHOO!}

That is not the end.  Fast forward a few years to today.  I have really been struggling with my attitude and quiet time and just why does everything seem to be 10 times more difficult in the last few months. UUUUGGGGHHHHH.  Ya feel me??  Have you been there??  It looks a lot different when you feel like you are under a hot spot light as a known Jesus lover, feeling as though everyone watching everything you do, everything you say, everything you feel.  It is hard to be transparent.  It is easy to pull away, spread your big mama wings over your nest and pretend it is fine while you TRY to figure it out.  Should we go back??  Should we stay?  Of course we should stay, it isn't really even an option- and I know deep down this is where we need to be, and most of the time, where I want to be.  BUT it would be SO much easier to move back, where I have a car, where Brynnen has friends and we have a healthy church family, lots relationships I can pour a language I do not struggle to deeply comprehend.  God made us to have community, not to struggle with being alone...right??  I am suppose to be ridiculously joyful and spewing more love and Jesus than Mother Theresa, right??? I mean, that's why I moved to paradise, right???  {Ok, Kari, that sarcasm has no place here. Thanks}

You know what I mean though, when you are going through the waves of life /\/\/\/\/\, and you are almost at the bottom, everything is going down, and you know it will start going back up, but you haven't hit that bottom-to-up point...(I am like gasping for breath thinking about how hard it can be sometimes- so dramatic, lol).  Well that was me today, I was crashing down, total pity party,  when I saw some pictures my middle brother took this weekend...from a men's retreat he went to.  He had been going to church, and I had asked him a few times over the past 6 years about God in his life, and it was always a "you have your religion, I'm good, thanks" {that was fine, I knew I couldn't change him}.  I had been at his house this past month and noticed a difference.  We talked about it a little- he was at least acknowledging God in his life, but not as God OF his life, but he was really excited to be going to this men's retreat with his church.

So, as I am looking at these retreat pictures a hashtag or quote or something caught my eye "Godskingdom"...wait, what??  Ok, um #notmybrother, so I had to message him and hear what God taught him through the conference.  He told me some cool stuff and then said "blah blah blah, I gave God direction over my life on Friday..."  Y'all.  I just had to be clear.  So I wrote back "Blah, blah, blah, so when you die, you are going to heaven?"  {Listen, I am direct and to the point}.

He.Said.YES!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!  I could not breathe.  I reached for the table and I gasped so loud then started ugly-crying so hard, Stephen thought someone died (no joke, he said "oh no, what happened?").  All I could get out was "No, it's good,"  and then I ran upstairs to cry and praise and weep tears of joy alone with the God who hears, and who answers. Who renews and refreshes.  I was happy-dance, thanking God for his mercy, and grace for a man who was (spiritually) dead, who is now filled and ALIVE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!  AHH!!!

So easy to shake of that self doubt, and pity, and blah blah after hearing that news right?????  WOOOOO!!!!!!  Y'all.  God is so faithful when we are not.  He is so loving when we don't deserve it.  He is more than I could ever expect, and so much greater than I can dream up.  He is here, he is ALIVE and he is for YOU.  {Man, I feel light as air writing this last part}.

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Fasting (Part 2)

Remember how I said in my last post (HERE) that we were not going charging up that mountain...into the dangerous lower level stratas, just the 2 of us...that God had a plan, we had brains and I KNEW God had meticulously orchestrated this, we were just waiting for HIM to reveal it.  Well, today was the day.  We crossed the smelly river.
THE smelly River.  Santo Domingo is that last row of "houses"/buildings at the top before the green.

Yes, WE did.  We went up those cable cars to the last stop.  One of the most violent areas up until the last 5 years.  However, if you are not with a local, or look like you don't belong, or happen to be out after 5 pm-ish, you will probably be questioned by local gangs.

Weird, because when I wrote that blog, I had absolutely no intention of actually going up there until we knew it was safe and I could.  I mean, God was sending us- by US he meant Stephen.  You know, the big-darker skinned man.  Well, God had another idea.

I had no clue that when we met up with our new friends (from OPEN ARMS FOUNDATION), Enoch and Cristina we would be headed up into the lower stratas.  Enoch was raised up that mountain and his wife, Cristina, was an articulate, English speaking Brazilian, with an assertive-can do attitude.  All I knew was we were going to meet Hector, a local pastor hoping to team up for outreach with ONE MINISTRY, I also knew we were in good hands.

On our way up "the other" metro cable we were talking about how incredible God is and how "crazy" it was that here we happen to be HERE (in Medellin) doing ministry together.  4 different ethnic groups, 4 VERY different up-bringings,  that happen to meet under the same canopy (Open Arms) for the same purpose.  How "crazy that these very houses are the ones I just happen to write about (I am not kidding, we got on the blue line and got off 2 stops before Bello...SAME houses), and here we are with a local that can take us into the heart of it.  How true God's word is when it says HE KNOWS us, HE KNOWS every detail before it comes to be.  Don't believe me?  Read Psalm 139:13-16.  Go ahead, I will wait.  :) 

Seriously. Do it. You DO NOT want to miss out.



Are you serious?  I don't know what version you had, but my NKJV said "Your eyes saw my substance, being yet unformed- and in your book they all were written.  The days fashioned for me, when as yet there were none of them."   (Fancy way of saying GOD knew my days, he put them together, evv-uhh-ree- detail, before I had breathed one single breath).  Let that sink in real quick.

That is our stop...

 We had a great meeting with Pastor Hector.  We learned what the people of this area really need.  FAMILY instruction.  They have no clue what the specific family roles should be, or should not be.  Satan has this area believing lies, under firm oppression- people desiring rules not a relationship.  They have too much freedom, they don't understand how God could love them THAT much.  With NOTHING in return, if fact, you can't do anything to earn doesn't make sense.  Oh, my heart aches for the way they need Jesus.  I absolutely love the overwhelming feeling I get just thinking about it.  There is not one thing I alone can do to make them understand.  I mean, come on, y'all already know our issues with the language barrier. (Refresh here, if needed).  Not one thing I can do, BUT, I know who can.  Actually the ONLY one who can (God).  I can choose obedience to be his hands and feet, to serve these people and tell them of this great love I have for my creator.  To pray that when they see these "gringos"- that they will not see a status or our differences, but they will see our heart- the NEW heart given by our creator, who is seeking after them (and YOU) too.

I want to type "This will be a long hard process"-- but truth is, I have no clue.  But God does.  I don't even know if it will change in our life time.  But God does.  I don't know their circumstances, or if we can even reach them.  But God does.

That's the best part about Psalm 139: 13-16...I don't have to know, because HE already has it laid out, it was written, completed, "the days fashioned for me, when as yet, there were none."

After our meeting, we were at the park up there, looking out over the city (it was breath taking), Cristina asked me "Do you feel safe here?"  I said, "uh- yeah, I guess so"  I mean, I had just seen a whiter-ish man covered tattoos with a big camera taking scenic pictures, unharmed.  A group of teens standing behind Stephen comparing size, while he is obliviously talking with Enoch and Hector, unharmed.  All while trying not to get high from the smothering leftover clouds of Marijuana, unharmed-yeah I feel safe...I said, "Wait, No. I don't feel safe- but I trust you.  If you tell me I am safe, then yes, I don't feel unsafe."

It's the peace God gives, his protecting hand.  I trust Him, fully, completely with total abandon...because I believe HIS word.  Psalm 139:13-16.  He already knows my days.  Besides, if I am not here, on earth...I will be in heaven, with Him.

Christina, Me, Stephen, Enoch - Santo Domingo

pictures do NOT do this city justice

Thursday, July 23, 2015

It doesn't stop...

Man.  Y'all want to know what I just did?  Typed an entire blog post, full of detail and witty comments (probably more on the sarcastic side, but you catch my drift).  I deleted it. On purpose.

Sometimes we get so caught up in us, that we lose purpose.  This is going to be short and sweet--ok we all know that isn't true, I am full of words and the only short and sweet I have is named Brynnen, Graycen and Westen.

Man, I did it AGAIN.  I just start typing, spewing the thoughts I have all over this page, even though I know in my head/heart there is one word I need to share from this (Daniel) fast.  Obedience.  Let's do that again. OBEDIENCE.

I am talking to myself here, too.  The past 2 weeks (mostly during our fast) I have been studying in depth Moses.  His obedience.  One podcast (thank you Mark & CHBC) reminded us Moses was obedient going to Pharaoh, leading the Hebrew people out of captivity, through the vulnerability in desert, even the intensity of crossing the Red Sea- where an ENTIRE army was defeated with out one person lifting a weapon...I would say Moses definitely gets a gold star for all that, wouldn't you? doesn't stop there.  Obedience didn't stop once they were all safely on the other side. It was actually just beginning. You choose obedience, and then another opportunity to choose obedience comes again.  Sometimes it's easy, sometimes it's terrifying.  OBEDIENCE DOES NOT STOP.

Ok Lord, I get it. Obedience doesn't stop. But God, we were SO obedient, I read my blog post, right?  Be obedient when it's hard, when it hurts, when it is super awkward.  Those area all good things, but OBEDIENCE DOES NOT STOP, Kari.  It wasn't something you got to check off your list once you hit that 2 month mark and didn't want to go back.  Once you found a home and started language/training.  Once you realized this next path...Oh yikes! That is the hardest part for me, I know the next is not an easy one.  It actually scares me a little.

We came here with the intention of sharing Jesus through action/lifestyle, mainly through discipleship of children who could literally be dead if not.  Well, that is still going to happen.  It just looks a little different.  Medellin (the city we live) is split into 6 sectors, called stratas here.  Primarily based on income/poverty level; 1-2 lowest, 3-4 middle, 5 upper middle, 6 upper.  Safety in general also seems to be based on strata, we are currently in 5 and we are mindful, but I can walk down to the grocery store with out Stephen.  Casa Helena (where we first stayed in Medellin) was in strata 3 and we were told about the gang violence by several people- so I did not/would not go anywhere alone.  Although, our Colombian friends (ladies and men) came and went fine, I would not.  Strata 1 & 2, well no point of talking about them, right??


We have started working with Mark at COSDELCOL (catch up here) at the soccer facility, Stephen teaches SAQ (Speed, Agility, Quickness) and has been able to share a little of his testimony with some of the kids.

Older guys...look at that view!

Random street shot.

We are going to continue doing SAQ in Bello as we build relationships with the local pastors getting ready for the road ahead.  We have been making plans to bring people (like YOU) here in January. Our partnership with Open Arms Foundation and COSDELCOL brings the opportunity to bring hundreds and hundreds of kids in from ALL over Medellin, including those lower sectors.  We are excited bc we want to love on them and share Jesus and connect them with local pastors that can disciple them.  (Hoping CHBC/and others can come in a teach the local pastors what discipleship looks like, not just rules to follow).  That is obedience, BUT...wait for doesn't stop there. OBEDIENCE DOES NOT STOP.

When we go out to the soccer stadium, we get on the blue train line.  It goes from strata 6 all the way out of the other side of the city.  I absolutely LOVE seeing the culture change the further out we get, you can almost see a change in stratas as you go.  Part of me is happy I am on this side of the smelly river, looking across at the "culture".  Part of me knows in my heart that's where we need to be.  Those are the "least of these" talked about in Matthew 25.  I can picture myself walking the narrow streets, seeing the dirty, shoe-less children- passing out hugs and candy, getting my dose of "ahhh, feel good for the day".  Then reality hits, I can't go there...WE cannot go there, it is WAY to dangerous.  I came here to serve Jesus, not to die.  Seriously, I can't be gettin' all crazy tied up in strata 1 & 2, when I need to be where God can keep me safe. In strata 5, or 3 when we have an event up at the church, and Stephen is with me....right??


Almost at the very end of the fast (Daniel fast), we were on the train, looking out at these shacks, barely livable, but clearly FULL of people; Stephen said, "We need to go up in those areas...".  I responded, "Yes, we do."  It was not at all sorrowful or even a suggestion- it was a choice.  He was saying what my heart had been saying.  God doesn't extend HIS grace and mercy to the ones we choose, in our "safe" areas.  Do I trust him enough to be obedient?  Or did my obedience stop when I unpacked that last suitcase.  When we got on that train to Bello to teach SAQ in a guarded facility.   Or was I going to follow Moses' example and not let my fear get in the way of obedience?  The bible has a constant pattern of that.  Examples in History (because, the bible is a collection of historical documents) where people had to make BIG choices, ones that if we thought through, we might not be strong enough to choose the same (hello Noah building something called a 'boat', or Daniel praying openly regardless of the consequence of lions, how about his 3 friends NOT bowing to the king and being put in a furnace, uh, David & Goliath...not choices I could say yes to.  Maybe that's why God didn't ask KARI to do those.  But he is asking me to say yes to this.  To trust him beyond MY boundaries, he is giving me a choice that I (we) can say YES to.

By the way...we are going to reach out and try to get some connection up in those outlying sectors.  But breath easy, friends...(mom), we aren't going charging up the mountain just the 2 of us.  God also gave us brains. ;)

This is something I believe God has been preparing Stephen his whole life for this...I mean, you had to know his size and skin color were a coincidence in here somewhere right?? As if in confirmation to what we both knew (know), 2 of the soccer boys had to ask if Stephen was Colombian.  It was before they heard him speak...but cute just the same.

You will have to wait for part 2 of this story...I will try not to keep you in suspense as long- but more details have to be worked out...or revealed.  We already know they are worked out, God just hasn't shared all of that portion.

What is your next step of obedience?  Some thing you know God is calling you to do?  A choice that will come again and again.  Say Yes, friend.  And your journey will just be beginning...Because....OBEDIENCE DOES NOT STOP ;)

I want to hear about it!!!!

Friday, July 10, 2015

"Welcome to Colombia"

A lot has happened in the 6 weeks we have been here. Can you believe it has already been 6 weeks? Can you believe it has ONLY been 6 weeks?? I cannot.  It seems like yesterday we were saying goodbye, but it feels like a year ago we were pulling up to Casa Helena.  Either way, today marks 6 WEEKS!!!

When we first arrived there were so many things different (besides the obvious language & culture),  life, expectations, time management are a lot different. We joke a lot about how ridiculously slow and laid back everything is, until you get in a taxi or public bus- then you better hold onto your life and close your eyes.  We have not been in an accident, but it is not for the faint of heart.  Now, when we get in a taxi I just hold on and giggle because I know it's going to be like a roller coaster, and the kids love it too.

Shortly after we got here we coined the phrase, "Welcome to Colombia." It was a catch all for those eye rolling little irks that really didn't have rhyme or reason, except, we were no longer in our home land.  However, it wasn't until the day we were suppose to sign for our apartment that this phrase really earned it's keep.

We found out Saturday we were getting the keys/signing docs at 10 am on Tuesday, because Monday was a holiday- one that most Colombians would celebrate, but they couldn't tell you which holiday it was. Tuesday at 9:55 we show up interpreter friends in tow (Bill and his wife Wanda from Open Arms), thinking by 11 we would have the keys to our sweet little "casa" and all would be right in the world.  Well at 11:30, we were told Bill would have to be our cosigner and we had to go get all of this paperwork, so come back at 3 to finish signing and get the keys.  Oh I was upset. I mean come on, in America this would not happen.  In America we would have our keys...or at least I would understand what they were saying and what was the hold up.  Bill explained to me (and Stephen) that this is Colombia, and they say what you want to hear, even if they have no intention of holding up their end. He said "Keep your expectations low, that way you won't be too disappointed." What? No, we are Americans, land of the "I will make a way-Instant gratification-If I can't have it now, I will complain to whomever I need to, until I can."  Uhhh, Little Miss I-get-things-done...Here, you don't.

Welcome to Colombia.

We go back in at 3:15 and wait until 4 pm for them to tell us they have to type up the documents, it will be at least another hour to get the keys. You. Are. Kidding.  We were told the contract was ready, it had been ready since SATURDAY. Ok, fine. What's another hour. Right?

Wrong. We go back at 5, papers signed, money paid, everything A-Ok, people there to help us move, moving truck lined up..."Oh sorry, the portero was only at the building until 12pm. You can't get in until tomorrow."  You are joking. Why?  Just give us the keys and introduce us to him tomorrow. Come on common sense.  Nope. Nada. Not gonna happen.  Come back tomorrow at 8 am.

Welcome to Colombia. (W2C)

We got our keys, went through the inspection with a lot of, W2C's in there...some include:
Cracks in several window panes. Fix it? Response: we noted it, it won't break.
No hot water, (on Wednesday) guy can't come until next Tuesday, Monday was another holiday.
Top windows in the back of apt don't close, ever.
Hauling furniture up the side of our building...
    and the guy tried to charge additional $80 bc it wasn't a standard delivery procedure. (PS Stephen and our portero did the heavy lifting).
Ordering a "queen size bed" to be cheated into one smaller than a double.
     Ok, we weren't cheated, we just didn't pay attention to metric numbers!!

Y'all catching my drift here??

Well, at least we have a home!  I had stopped wanting to go "home" and God had provided different bilingual friends right when we needed them (that alone STILL has me in awe, and ever SO grateful!!).

As we were shopping for a washer, at HomeCenter (the equivalent to Lowes in America), we were alone, no translator friend, just us.  Picture the super exaggerated "NO HAB-LOW ES-PAN-YOLL. ENGLACE, POUR-FAVOR."  Because if you say it slow and loud, they will understand. (Not true. That is not true at all. Funny, but unfortunately, not true). We didn't really do that, but I only knew a smidge more than Stephen, so I get shoved in the spot light to try to haggle and understand what on earth these sweet chicas are speaking so fast about.  So as we are not understanding each other, they call some one from another department over to translate.  I am not kidding when I say there were 10 employees congregated around the "grande Americanas" probably just to giggle at how ridiculous we sound and gawk at how tall we are.

Finally decide on a washer, it was Friday, we wanted to have it delivered today or tomorrow, since Monday was a holiday. No. Nada. No bueno. Can't do that, no delivery today or tomorrow. Ok fine, can we just hire our own delivery man and take it today (I mean, my husband did just pull our bed/base and all the big furniture UP the side of the building..pshh, what's this?)?  No. Nada. Can't get do that, has to come from the warehouse, which takes 2 days and since Monday is a holiday, it will be Tuesday afternoon at the earliest.  UUGGGHHHH.  Fine, then can we have a discount since we have to wait so long?? (Worth the shot right...).  These people just look at me like I am dumb for even asking. (The Lowes people would have said yes).   Just then. The most beautiful thing happened.  The guy that was translating for us was telling us "No, of course you cannot have a discount.  It is what it is and that is that. The earliest is Tuesday, at full price." And he said...wait for it. "Welcome to Colombia."  YES. HE. DID.

I gasp and giggled and laughed out loud so hard, I said "YES! Welcome to Colombia!!" Ha!  All of the phrases in his limited English vocab and out comes that.  The best phrase ever!  Oh, Lord, you knew I needed to hear that just like a good word from the bible. Oh my goodness, even typing this I can feel the giggles and wave of warmth, the reminder that GOD KNOWS, just like I did that day, standing in the middle of chaos, surrounded by all these people, yet still so alone. He was there.

That was the last day we used "Welcome to Colombia"- I'm sure there have been times that warranted it's use...but that was too good. It changed my reaction to the words "Welcome to Colombia."  Instead of eye rolling in dissatisfaction, it makes me smile as a reminder...GOD KNOWS.  He does, and I love him even more for it.  :-D

I have learned to accept the Colombian clock.  If they say 11, probably will be 2 (after lunch).  If they say 3, it will probably be tomorrow. And the best's ok!  I will stop looking at the clock and find something to do...even if it's as simple as reading a book to my kiddos.  Slow down. Maybe lower your don't do that- keep your expectations high, just keep control of your attitude when it doesn't go as planned.  He knows, friends.  I promise, He knows.

Monday, June 8, 2015

Where are my daises and roses??

Can I just be honest for a minute?  Well, more like transparent, because I am always honest...

First, in case you missed it, let me just catch you up...The end of April, Stephen (my handsome husband), left his job, we started clearing out our house to head to the mission field. With the help of parents and a few GREAT friends we had a moving sale, gave away some stuff, sold a few more things and gave away the rest.  So our house was completely cleared out at 1:30 am Wednesday, before we left our life behind at 10 am the next morning. May 21, 2015. I cried. A lot.  Probably because I was so tired, maybe because I was thankful for my friend, Sara, sticking with us the entire night, probably because I couldn't believe it was actually here, maybe a little fear that it was actually here. 
Our special day at Disney! Thanks Shirley & Pete!!
 Everything was great staying with family up until May 28th, when we left Orlando, FL headed to Ft. Lauderdale Airport to MOVE to Colombia...SOUTH AMERICA.  Still couldn't believe God chose us for this journey. So surreal.

We pulled up to the airport an hour behind schedule, already having argued with Budget Rental car for an hour rate instead of the $120/day rate they were planning on charging for being ONE hour late!!  Did I mention we had 2 rental cars overdue and no time to stop for gas- which if you have been to FLL, you know there is no place close to stop.   We pull up and start unloading our 2 overweight bags, 3 suitcases and 2 extra sterilite totes. Yes, it was ridiculous. Yes, people were staring. Yes, my 2 year old had an anxiety attack and pooped all over his clothes and car seat (we ended up throwing that out, I mean I couldn't be THAT lady that checked a poop seat, even though it was too expensive to leave behind...).  We finally got our bags weighed (25 mins) only to realize since we didn't have a return flight we had to be "handled" inside.  We try to go inside but the bags are too heavy.  Stephen helps the man, meanwhile, I take screaming Graycen, along with Katie (our adult helper), and the others inside to start the process.  The ticket lady asked me about return flight, so excited I said "We don't have one! We are moving there!"  She then informed me that without a VISA the immigrant agents on the other side could refuse entry to Colombia. Wait, what? (Of course I would forget something).  We finished the checked bags and decided it would be best for Katie to stay inside the airport with the kids while Stephen and I get the rest of the carry ons/personal items (including pack n play, diaper bag, kids book bags, our book bags, my purse, a duffle bag, our 5 carry on suitcases and a breast pump). Oh the looks we got.  We were "those people", the ones everyone was thinking "I hope they are not on my flight!"  (SN: the kids did GREAT on the flight, unlike some other kids...)

After building a carry-on wall around Katie and the kids (Graycen still crying), we set off to return the rental cars and be thankful we are all here and alive, not focusing on the extra $ it was costing (close to $400).  I had the Budget rental van, Stephen had the Sixt Camry.  Contrary to website and receipt, Sixt rental is NOT at FLL, but 3 minutes away.  We did not have 3 minutes.  Stephen called and told them our frustration and that he would leave the rental car, and they would need to come get it at the airport- we were getting close to missing our flight.  He was still arguing with them when he dropped me, passports and tickets in tow to get the kids and Katie through security while he figures out that mess.  I was wearing Westen, pushing our massive cart of carry on luggage, we finally got Graycen calm enough to be in the double stroller with Brynnen, Katie pushing them with a few things under the stroller.  I am actually smiling (again) bc we got this. We would be ok.  Until the man at the entrance of the security check point says "Those bags have to be down"- completely dumbfounded I asked him to repeat what he said. "The cart can't go back there, through security, you need to leave it here."  I started hyperventilating, half talking half gasping "What? Wait. I can't. I literally cannot get myself, 3 kids, all of these items through security, even with Katie." Oh, he had no clue the can of worms he just opened.  I continued crying, trying not to lose complete control and scare the kids, "I have no clue where my husband is, he is returning a rental car that we don't know where it goes, I have no idea if he is going to even make it to our INTERNATIONAL flight, I don't even know if we can make it."  Tears. Lots of them.  I knew he had no clue what to do, neither did I.  So he called for help.  The people that came brought wheelchairs, loaded our stuff, hugged me tight and said "This is not something to cry about, we are here, we will help you the whole way.  There are other things to cry about, not this. We got you."  It was too late, I couldn't stop crying.  I then turn and  see Stephen walk in the door.  (insert Hallelujah chorus).  He makes everything better.

So the ensemble continued.  They took us right to the front, got all of our stuff and us through security and to our gate with about 20 minutes to spare. They were AWESOME.  I really wanted to take a super cute "here we go" photo, but my emotions were to shot to try and pretend this was all I thought it would be.  I mean, we were choosing obedience, right- I was looking for my daisies and roses...not this thorn bush we were just shoved through.

Here is just a glimpse of the next few days...
 1. Graycen had another "bout" on the plane.  Got poop on the seat, his blanket and clothes.  Ever try consoling a tired, red-bottom toddler while cleaning him and his clothes at 25000 ft, in the 2 cubic feet of space they call "bathroom"? I didn't have any other clothes bc they let us check his bag at the gate (THANK YOU JET BLUE!!!). So I shoved him in Westen's shorts and covered him with a blankie. Priase God for Coconut oil on his bottom.
2. Same toddler, fever on the plane. Taught Katie how to "pat" a 4 month old to sleep.
3. Realized in flight we left the kids carry ons in the trunk of the rental car, along with Westen's Boppy. My clothes were also in their bags, (we condensed to only use one suitcase in Orlando).
4. Realizing in flight we left Stephens supply of contacts and only pair of glasses in the hotel, he is blind without them.
5. Still had no clue about the visa, they didn't have to let us in. Our friend Nicole told me what to say *PRAYING* the immigrant worker would be compassionate. (To ask for a 90 day tourist visa- super uncommon, normally it's 30, sometimes 60.  He was so nice!! We got the full 90 days!!)
  *Graycen was WAY too excited about not being buckled...going down the side of a curvy mountain*
6. The pool house where we were staying had a leak in the roof! 
7. It was cold. I only packed 1 or 2 cooler outfits.  Also, see number 3.

Scorpion, anyone?
8. Up all night with chills and shakes, temp reading 104.1. (Took about 24 hours to feel ok). Moved to dry room upstairs, mats on the floor (better than just the floor!)
9. Brynnen got a UTI (first ever) had to go to the ER (no insurance yet, praise God it is cheaper here!). 
10. Westen started waking up 2 times a night, and not wanting to sleep (low milk supply)- He had to sleep in Katie's room bc we couldn't fit all 5 in this room.
11. We saw our first ever scorpion, in the middle of the night (outside, see #10).
12. Killed first scorpion ever!
13. Met our friends the Montgomery's, they let us borrow their air mattress, and showed us the area...things started looking up.
14.  Living in someone's house, without the ability to speak their language to know the "rules".
15. More bumps, bruises, nicks, scratches, and bug bites than I thought were humanly possible.
 16. Getting into taxi's without an interpreter, praying we made it to our destination, and not some back alley.

During this time I cried, a lot. I wanted to go "home". A lot.  I had to remind Brynnen we weren't going "home", this was our home, and then secretly telling Stephen I want to go home.  Just when I would cry out, reminding God that HE sent us here, and I can't do this. (Where are those darn daises??)  He would grant me peace.  Not a change in physical circumstance, but in my heart.  A calm that can only be explained, "Jesus".  I still cry occasionally, and sometimes, like when I order aqua con glass and it comes out "Aqua con gas" (GROSS), or our taxi driver is lost and we have no clue how to fix it or tell him where we need to be, I want to go back to familiar. I want "normal". 

The dish we made. It was GOOD!
Then, with out fail, something amazing happens- an extra ray of sunshine.  I hear a praise song I recognize and singing along side brothers and sisters to the same God makes tears of joy well up in my eyes, or our taxi driver turns on American (pop) music, it makes me smile bc he is trying to make us feel at ease.  I love a long sip of coffee con leche while chatting with new friends.  I love hearing Brynnen speak the few Spanish words she knows and constantly asking me for more.  I love how the lady here (Lillyanna) wants to teach me to cook, and hugs my children every morning.  I love how we can wake up ready for the day regardless of how hard and sleepless the night was.  Most of all- I love sitting in "church", looking out over the city hearing God say "This city is mine.  Not the religion practiced here. Not the rituals and idol worship smothering the people. They need ME."  Yes, Lord.

This city has quickly captured my heart, and all the hard times are refining my faith, stretching me beyond what I ever thought possible and then stretching just a little bit more, breaking my will and exposing my selfishness.  Also, reminding me the God is not going to leave us down and bitter, broken or in despair.  We have prayed many times for him to take this burden, to give us his "yolk" because it is light...and HE DOES! Not all the time or right when we want it- but I am living proof, HIS WORD IS TRUE!!

Don't read this and feel sorry for us.  That was not at all my intention.  I wanted this blog to be bright and cheery and everything daisies and roses--but it's not....that isn't life.  Yes there are beautiful moments, A LOT of them, but those are weaved in the imperfections, the unexpected, the disappointments, the hard times, the exhaustion and you should be a part of those too.  We are walking this road together. I cannot wait to share what God does, here in South America...starting with me.  Please continue to pray for us, we feel it, know that God is working.  THANK YOU!

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Part 2.

So. Here I am, drinking my amazing Colombian coffee (come over sometime, we can share!). Staring at the screen.  A heart full and overwhelmed, yet no motivation for this post.  I guess like Mary, in the bible, I have been "pondering these things in my heart"-(uh, no I am not insinuating I am close to holy or consider myself like Mary...except for pondering). I want to shout and sing how excited we  are, to share with all of you the amazing beauty that is Medellin, Colombia, and take you there with us!  On the other hand, I don't want to bore you with miniscule details (although to us they are not miniscule).  SO.  Here I am, drinking my coffee-(seriously, come share with me). 

That is one part of Medellin.  I have been a few places in this world, and have never seen a more beautiful city.  So many elements I love all rolled into one; mountains, city, landscape, lots of people, fresh air, authenticity.  Thank you Lord for sending us here! 

There are several stories that gave us a general confirmation of our calling (miniscule details, in a later post, maybe), but the actual confirmation came after meeting the staff, seeing the organization and mostly....meeting the boys on the farm. 
Loved them and prayed over them before we knew them- meeting was just a formality ;)  We only knew a little Spanish, but it didn't matter.  We had  SO much fun with them.  Kids don't always need words, they need love and attention.  If my own two kids weren't in 'The States I don't know if I would have come back. HA! (but seriously). 

We saw all aspects of Open Arms, Medellin and Mr. Bill (founder) shared his vision with us.  Our faith has given him faith.  Didn't see that coming-- he has been in "the field" for over 20 years, has seen God do AMAZING things in Colombia, and yet, a young couple that knows nothing except God wants them here, working with him, has given him faith.  Pretty cool.  God's plan, not ours!  He knows what you need and when.  He knows what we need, and when.

What is next.  Fundraising, moving, learning Spanish, sharing Jesus along the way.  We know from my previous post (and Romans 12:5-8) that we are all part of one body, but we DO NOT have the same function.  We work together, each with our own task to be the complete the body of Christ- doing HIS work.  For us, our specific job is to go.  And we need YOU to work with us, to continue praying for God's good hand, but also to financially send us out.  We are completely depending on the generosity of others for this mission work. Knowing God will provide completely- if He calls, he will provide. 

I was texting with a sweet friend this evening about coffee (shock), we were admiring how God didn't place coffee trees in only one area of the world.  They grow in several different regions, and how different soil, temperature, fertilization, harvest, roasting process, etc can affect the taste...all of that goes into one tiny bean that produces a very similar outcome regardless of where it is grown (dark, delicious, easy to share no matter how you prefer to drink it...or NOT drink it, Stephen).   Think of how much God puts into you.  We are from different regions, environments, families, income levels, and I think we all have different harvest & roasting processes...all of that makes us unique.  All unique, but not alone.  Just like coffee beans work better when there is more than one (even if it is chocolate coated, more is better!), the body of Christ is BOLD, and full of FLAVOR when we work together. 

Ok, can't say I have ever been compared to a coffee bean...but I love coffee, so I don't mind at all.  Do you?? :)

We are still putting together our budget and needs- this is God's time line, but we are hoping for this fall, 2014.  When we have all our funds, we will GO!  SIDENOTE: Stephen has knee surgery, finally, at the end of the month- so we need to get him healed and rehabbed before we go. 

Give us one week and we will have an opportunity for you to give, to support us financially if God leads.  We are SO excited you are on this journey with us, to make HIM famous. 

MEDELLIN IS READY....the harvest is ripe, but the workers are few.  God could be sending YOU, too.  :-)   :-) 

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Here goes...

" in Christ we who are many form one body, and each member belongs to all the others.  We have different gifts according to the grace given us.  If a man's gift is prophesying, let him use it in proportion to his faith.  If it is serving, let him serve, if it is teaching, let him teach; if it is encouraging, let him encourage; if it is contributing to the needs of others, let him give generously;  if it is leadership, let him govern diligently; if it is showing mercy, let him do it cheerfully."
Romans 12:5-8

Here goes....Stephen and I have been called into the International Mission Field.  Not really sure why I capitalized those letters, maybe to seem more official??  Either way, we are called, and we are going! 

We are leaving a week from today (Wednesday March 5) to check out an organization (Open Arms Foundation) down in Medellin (pronounced Med-E-yin), Colombia.  Yes, Colombia, South America.  That was my first thought too.  "God, you want us to go where??  Ha, you are funny.  I think you forgot we have children to keep safe and family here, in our cozy Knoxville, TN.  We don't mind being out of our comfort zone, God, but Colombia is beyond comfort comprehension.  It's off the charts!  Try again."  Isn't funny how we think we know what's best for us and where we should go and what we should do?  More concerned with us then with people that need the love of Christ.

Well, it only took a couple days (probably less than that), for my heart to be at peace.  To know, where ever HE leads, HE will be there too.  Sure, there were times when I let my imagination run wild with all the bad things that could happen-- I mean this is third world, drug capital of the world (my own deduction), prostitution is legal and 12 children are kidnapped every week.  This can't be right.  He wouldn't call us to a place we could die, or lose our children, right?  Whenever I do indulge in these worthless thoughts, without fail hear a gentle reminder "They need Jesus, too." 

Now, I am so excited to be on this journey with Stephen, our kids and the one who goes before us (God).  He is our guide, our protector, our provider.  I have experienced this (his guidance, protection and provision) SO SO many times in my life, our life, and it NEVER, NEVER gets old.  It still amazes me that God loves us so much, he is involved in the big and small things, sometimes little tokens or notes that no one else ever sees, but it is a reminder, He is here, always.  He overwhelms my heart.  I'm also excited YOU get to be a part of this, too!

Open Arms Foundation (OAF), has a home for girls, most have been rescued from sexual exploitation or slavery.  Some have children and some do not.  They get counseling and help learning to be mothers, and members of a community, all while being ministered and shown the love of Jesus.

They also have a Farm for boys, ages 2 - 18, most of these boys are/were street kids (no home, just living on the street) or have been abandoned.  They go to school and are taught to work, along with counseling.  After their 18th birthday (if they stay that long) they move to another house to integrate them permanently into society, to get jobs and become productive citizens.  Also, the love of Jesus is shared through out the entire process.

What these kids need most (besides Jesus) are examples of godly men and women, ANNDD family life.  Most of them have never seen functional families (mom and dads who love each other, love the children and even love them too) .  That's where we are hoping to come in.  Providing a picture of Christ's love, displayed through family life.  We have never met any of these boys, yet our hearts are full of love for them.  I know it will not be easy, they probably have a lot of trust issues (among other issues).  We need for YOU to pray for us, as much as possible. 

Our pastor talks about areas in your life/ministry that are so vulnerable and dependent on God, that if he removes his hand, the whole thing will fail.  For us, that is now.  If God is not with us, if he does not go before us, I do not want to be there.  We will fail without him.  We need you as well.  So, please join us in prayer- for physical protection, continued peace, mental clarity, and victory over spiritual battles- that we will daily put on the full armor of God (Ephesians 6), that we will find rest in Him.  Let us know if you will join us in praying, we would love to thank you, and keep you updated!!

You can check them out on facebook: OAF  for more info!!  :) 

I have asked the foundation for a list of needs for each of the homes,a small token of love we can give to them.  Here is a list-- if you have anything you can send with us I know it will be a blessing.  This list is NOT exhaustive, if you have anything else you would like to include, we will graciously take it to them!  :-)  The number of kids change often- some are added, or run away, etc.  ANNND The Colombian people are a lot smaller than Americans (yes, we know we are already taller than average Americans, so this is going to be pretty interesting).  :-)

GIRLS HOME- 13 Girls, 8 Babies. 
Clothing for babies from 0 to 18 months
Towels for babies
Blankets for babies
Shoes for pregnant girls that are comfortable (Sizes 35 a 38)  - Size 4 to 7.5 US
Maternity pants and jeans (size 4 a 10)
Maternity shirts (Size Small)
Anti-diaper rash cream
Vitamins for pregnant girls (Iron sulfate, calcium, folic acid)
 BOYS FARM- 10 Boys (ages 8-16)
Flip-flop style shoes
Pants (size 26 a 30) - Size 5/XS to 12/Large in boys
Shirts - 5/XS to 12/Large in boys

SO excited to see God move, using each of you on this journey with us.  Thankful for your open hearts and willing hands. 


"May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit." 
 Romans 15:13

Monday, January 6, 2014

Teachable Moments

For a long time (probably about 3 years) I wanted to "have a job"--let me rephrase that.  I wanted to get a pay check.  Just an FYI for anyone who isn't a Stay-At-Home-Mom (SAHM), or is delusional about what really happens in a day in the life of a SAHM.  We work. Hard.  It's messy, and emotional and no set guidelines on how to do the job well.  Stephen (my sweet husband) and I had this conversation the other day (a few weeks ago), "No one in their right mind would continuously do a job over and over just to see your hard work be messed up again & again, and work with people who continuously do not listen, and often do opposite of what you ask them- [we call those "teachable moments"-- although, I'm pretty sure I get more out of these "moments" anyway].  Do all of it with no days off- often working night and weekends- no vacation time, no sick days, no paid overtime, no lunch breaks- nap time and bed time are the only rest periods, and those are optional.  Who would submit themselves to that kind of abuse stress, for no immediate return on investment???  Some people may not always like their job, but at least can relax on their days off, with that nice wad of cash just deposited.  Ugh.   I just want to go work for someone, and get a pay check, and a lunch break and adult conversation and be able to leave work at work...and not clean my kitchen 3 times a day.  Jealous of moms/people that had "a real job" - not everyday, just on the "hard" days.  

And then one day I got sick.  Really sick, for the first time ever.  I had the flu (the real flu, influenza B, not the "flu" people get every winter with their runny nose and coughing- I'm talking ER, thought I would die, cannot move flu), I also was dehydrated and had strep throat.  Sick.  3 days later, I got a 24hr stomach bug.  Worst. Days. Ever.  About the 5th day into it I was laying on the couch (as if I could go anywhere else) watching cartoons with Brynnen while Graycen napped.  It wasn't a big revelation, or flashing sign, it was at one of my lowest, weakest moments God opened my eyes.  I am so grateful I can lay here on this couch, with this little girl, wearing sweatpants, looking all kine-a crazy.  No where to go, no using "time off," no missing out on pay, or having to work late to catch up (well, besides that darn cleaning- but that will always be there).  Over the next few days God really opened my heart and eyes to what a blessing it is to stay at home with these kids.  Sitting in Graycen's room letting him crawl all over me, coloring with Brynnen, cuddling with both of them, wow, this is amazing.  I get to do this every day- uh, yes some days I wish I didn't have to get up and be "mom"- but those are days that God teaches me the most.  About me, about Him and about our purpose here on earth (for HIS glory, not mine).  I am not at all a perfect mom, most days I strive to be a "good" mom.  Honestly, Brynnen is crazy, and loud, and doesn't always listen, and has an attitude like her mommy, and a hard head like her daddy-- and I want to pull my hair out (or put her in her room and go hide under the covers until Stephen comes home), and then the most amazing thing happens.  She will say something so simple and sweet, "Mommy, I love you" "Mommy, I'm sorry I had a bad attitude" that will remind me why I love her so much, and that she is 3.  She has only been on this earth 3 years and 11 months.  I don't even have this figured out and I have been here 30 years 8 months.   Teachable moments, huh?  Graycen is still my perfect child :) for now...
I have learned the "hard" days are usually when I have an agenda.  I want to get this clean, or that organized, or if I can just finish this, or catch up on that real quick.  Most of those things have absolutely no eternal value, and will be there later, and get dirty again, and again.  I want clean house (one: I like it clean, two: germs), mainly because SAHM's are suppose to have clean houses, perfect homes- I mean honestly, what do we do all day-- besides bon bons and soap operas...those are a given.  Some where, I picked up the notion that if my house is dirty then what is my value?  If my home is a mess, I failed.  I took pride in making sure my house was spotless when guests came over.  I was under the impression that if my house wasn't clean I could not have people over, I mean- how can you minister if your house is a mess.  UM, HELLO-- we are all a bunch of HOT messes that need to see not everything is perfect all the time.  We need each other, we need kind words and hugs, encouragement and JESUS, not an "on display" type house that does not show hospitality.  This is not saying SAHM's that have perfect houses are not hospitable-I know several that do, and they are super sweet & I love them dearly--(send me some tips girls)!  I'm simply saying "Whatever you do, work at it with your whole heart, as working for the Lord, not for men..." Colossians 3:23-- So, if you clean your house, do it for the Lord (and be grateful for what you have), but if cleaning your house gets in the way of serving the Lord (raising kids or loving on others), you may need to rethink priorities.  I did and it feels great--most days I still have my inner clean freak screaming about how awful it is, and laundry that will never get folded-- I just remind myself, I'm here for Jesus- not laundry. 

SN:  This is not to be used as an excuse to completely let your housework go, I believe we should work hard with our hands, and not be lazy--but if (like me) your house becomes an idol (noun. something adored, often blindly or excessively, something seen but without substance) remind yourself- people are important, not things.  :-)

Thursday, May 23, 2013

There's no stopping it...

Well here it is. The day I've pretended wasn't coming. The day I scoffed at, promising I would avoid. And yet, in about 4 hours I'll be head to head with 30th birthday.  That's right, I'm getting old.  In years past I dreaded 30, thinking my good life, my dreams...and everything else would be gone, head south and not come back.  That was before I turned 29.  Once you get to the 1 year count down it gets real, BUT you have 364 days to figure it out.  That's where I am now, day 364, and's not that bad.

Well, it wasn't that bad until I just looked down realized I went the whole day with a huge spit up ring on my dress- right below the collar bone.  Awesome.  Not sure what is worse, the fact I didn't notice it at any point when I washed my hands/looked in the mirror--or that I never smelled that distinct musty-spit up smell.  My oh my it's glamorous being a mom...I wouldn't trade it though, even on the hard days--they soon pass, and all the "bad stuff" is forgotten...I'm sure you have a story you could share on forgetting difficult times too :)

Back to getting old, had you asked me 5 years ago on my birthday where I would be in 5 years-- it surely would not look anything like it does now.  (Thank you Jesus I did not write my own story).  Back then, in 2008, I was planning to move to Washington DC, doing marketing/event planning "stuff", making lots of money, having fun- YOLO!!! (for all of you oldies like me, that means "you only live once"- great theology huh??)  PRAISE GOD that didn't pan out.  Believe me, some days I wonder what I would be like, where I would be if that were my path, then I shudder.  No thank you, I know how different it would be. I would not have cultivated relationships with friends & family like I have/do now.  I wouldn't have the most handsome, sweet, perfect-for-me husband that I do, or my 2 crazies (Brynnen & Graycen)!!  Most importantly, I am pretty positive I would not have a deep, growing relationship with Christ my Savior.  I wouldn't know the joy of community in the church and I certainly would not know what is truly important in life-- raising my sweet babies and growing old with my hubby-- all while trying to imitate which we can't compare, and often fail- but are so grateful for the grace, mercy, compassion, love and patience our heavenly father has with/for us.

Wow, am I ever more aware how I was rescued from that to be transplanted in the south, as a loving wife and mother to the most precious beings on earth..even if it is chaotic & and I smell like spit up for a few months...

HERE'S TO BEING THIRTY!!  I am excited for the adventure it may bring!!

Our little family!

my MAIN squeeze!! 1 week before 30!

my heart...cuddling this morning :-)

crazies on mother's day!


Monday, January 7, 2013

Drumroll please....DIEGO!!

A lot of you have probably heard us or Brynnen talk about our "boy" or Diego- well it's time to get rid of the confusion.  Diego is not the name of the boy in my "belly" and is not Brynnen's favorite Nickelodeon character.  "Our" Diego also speaks Spanish (well, his nannies do), has dark hair and olive skin just like the cartoon, however, he is a two year old little boy from Guatemala.  Who has a piece of our hearts, all three of us.
Stephen had the privileged of meeting this sweet baby our second day in Guatemala.  We were touring Hope of Life  and had stopped at the Baby Rescue Center. Stephen headed to the toddler room, while I was infatuated with this sweet baby girl who was alone.  So sweet seeing giggles, smiles and just loving on her/them! Here are a few of the other babies
She has a cleft-palate, waiting for a sponsor for the surgery

Henry, a 3 y/o weighs (i think) 11 lbs.

Could not wait to get back to them!!

We were moving on to the next part of the tour (walking), I was jabbering on about how I wanted all of those babies and what a blessing this place was! Stephen was quiet, not sharing his joy...knowing something was wrong, I said "Honey, are you ok?"  He waited a few seconds...his voice cracked as he softly uttered "They put him in a trash can." My eyes filled and I started crying, not because I had a clue what he was talking about-but anything that moves my husband to tears is worth mine too.  A little louder he said "a trash can....a trash can!  Who does that?"  I could tell by his tone he was appalled, broken-hearted and angry...mostly angry.  He told me about Diego.  Someone heard whimpering coming from a dumpster, after checking it out the discovered it was coming from a baby boy, not a wounded animal.  He was brought to the Rescue Center, was nursed to health, now has a bed to sleep in and nurses who love him.  Praise God!!!

Here he is...
Sweet Diego!
Having a daughter around the same age, this hit our hearts hard.  I don't care the circumstance, Brynnen would not be left in a dumpster like unwanted, discarded trash; all alone, probably cold and afraid.  So many other options.  Cannot fathom.

We got to see and play with Diego several more times on our trip.  One of our last days, Stephen had him (of course), Diego wanted to play with a fly swatter.  No big deal, there were not a lot of toys, so Stephen gave it to him and put him down to play.  One of the nurses came over and took the fly swatter from Diego and put it back (not at all rude or disrespectful).  Diego looked at her, his face sank and he dropped to his knees in a pity party.  His world was crushed, his toy taken- so dramatic.  I started laughing.  I had watched this scene play out before.  Except instead of being in an orphanage in Guatemala, it was in my kitchen in Knoxville, it was at grandparents house, it was at the park or any other place my sweet little girl decides to have the same response. Haha, I always laugh at her dramatic style too :-)

That exact moment I realized this boy belongs at the Sene house, he fits perfectly.  Stephen felt the same.

Right now Guatemala is a closed country for adoption.  Basically Americans cannot adopt children from there (or any closed country).  It's a long story- but it involves the lawyers and doctors (among others) in Guatemala- kidnapping, lying, and forcing women to get pregnant to sell their babies to unknowing Americans.  Bad stuff.  So while they sort out all of that mess, and set up proper adoption channels, we will wait...and pray...and look at our few precious pictures.
We have no idea if God will bring Diego to our home, His will not ours.  (Lord Willing) We are going to adopt from Guatemala when it opens even if we can't get Diego.  Pray for us, for him and most importantly for the 147 million children who are without a "forever family" - also pray for the people (maybe YOU) who could be forever changed by the life of a child, through adoption.

I have one more post about adoption...coming soon!!  :-)

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Guatemala stole my heart!

I keep promising to do better about posting, and here it's been 4 months and 13 days since my last post. It seems like much longer, so much has happened.  I would say the biggest change in our life has been since we returned from Guatemala.

Stephen and I were blessed to join a group from our church on a first time mission to Hope of Life International (Clike here for info) in Zacapa, Guatemala.  We had never been to a third-world country.  What a life changing experience.  You cannot understand "needy" or "poor" until you visit outside the United States- the "poor" here do not even compare.  Mainly because of opportunity.  In America millions of people rely on the government to feed them, clothe them, pay for bills, even for job opportunities.  The people of Guatemala do not have that luxury.  I've heard/seen people say/post "They should take care of themselves," I would guarantee anyone with that attitude has not witnessed poverty on this level.

One day we got to do a TOMS shoes delivery (this does not change my views of TOMS shoes, you can read here my thoughts).  We pulled up to the village of La Laguna (no running water or indoor plumbing), you would have thought we were celebrities the way the street was filled and cheers erupted when we opened the windows to wave hello.  My eyes immediately filled with tears.  These people are so excited for a pair of shoes.  Plain black, mediocre quality shoes.  A pair most kids (and some adults) would scoff at- or possibly wear because of the blue/white label on the back.


Men who serve those that can do nothing in return are REAL men! He's handsome too huh? ;)

This is a day I will cherish the rest of my life, I don't think any of us left unchanged.  We went back to La Laguna one more day, walked around the village, saw the school building (2 rooms, no electricity, no air conditioning or fans), heart breaking, but in a way so humbling and encouraging.  Here we are surrounded by some of the poorest people in the world, and yet they wore the biggest smiles.  When you looked in their eyes, especially the older women, you could see clear to their soul.  What reflected back was something so beautiful it brought tears to my eyes every time.  Still does.  I saw gratitude, humility, joy, a pure kind spirit, sincerity, and peace.  Add to that the weathered hands and face, and you can imagine the life she has lived. So beautiful.  I can only hope my eyes speak that much depth about me one day!

Sharing clean water!

 This is the current church, as you can see around 35 people is a packed house-
 Our church Chilhowee Hills Baptist, has partnered with World Help (Lynchburg, VA) and Hope of Life (Zacapa, Guatemala) to do a total village transformation.  The first and MOST IMPORTANT is to build a well, with clean water.  The water "system" was not put in correctly, the water is mixing with the sewage- making children and people sick :-(

 My buddy Alex, in front of the new well site, and where eventually(Lord willing) the new church will go. The well will cost over $15,000 PLEASE CONTACT ME if you are able to donate, completely tax-deductible!
Some of "our" people!

The next day we went to a feeding center at a trash dump.  These people lived in or right outside the dump, they worked there (picking out recyclables to sell).

These faces are etched in my mind, so beautiful- gracious-sincere.  These are the poor of the poor, and yet, like in James 2:5 they are "poor in the eyes of the world, to be rich in faith and inherit the kingdom..." 

The kids didn't even care- didn't "know better"- they played and laughed- I loved seeing them. Humbling.
Would you let your kids be here??

There was so much more to our trip, but it would take hours and hours to record, and most of the pictures are on facebook.   Please consider a mission to any third world country, God will provide funds and break your heart in the most glorious way possible.  You will see that even though you don't have everything you are blessed with MORE than you need!   Your heart will be stolen, just as ours was!!!

PS- In my next blog I will introduce you to Diego!!  :-)