How was it?

I am home. I have been for over a week now. The suitcases are empty.  The coffee has all been delivered.  The laundry is (almost) caught up. The house is (almost) back in order. The pictures have all been printed, photo-journaled, and the photo album on its new coffee table home, a display and a reminder. And yet here I sit, still trying to figure out what happened 10 days and 1900 miles ago.  I was not even going to go on this trip and now, as it was last year, I am afraid that life won’t ever be the same again.  Then again, I am even more afraid that it will.  Does that even make sense?

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“How was it?” A question so easily asked, but the weight of the explanation that it compels me to give is so large.  A full emotional explanation would be impossible. The far reaching effects and implications of this week are continuing to unfold and make themselves just barely visible. Whisps of smoke and hope that slip through clenched fingers just when you think you are able to begin to make sense of them.

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What can I tell about this place except that it will break you. This sickening feeling of broken-hearted-joyfulness is one that I just want to hold on to, to not forget, to not let fade, even as the cover lays closed on the photo album and days turn to weeks.  God is doing a mighty work within the walls of Casa Bernabe and the walls of my heart.  I cannot escape being overwhelmed by that. This is the collective experience of two trips and many a servants’ heart, not only mine.  Tears. Lots and lots of tears. Not sweet, leaking eye tears but ugly, crying sobs. Broken hurts but broken heals. My heart has been mended back together, stronger and patched with the tapestry of this beautiful country, the smiles of a group of boys and love from this woven together family. It changes you, being broken, and not everyone will understand it.

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This shy boy, who’s simple words have shattered me has also shown me a love within myself that I don’t understand. A love I didn’t know I was capable of, a love that is bigger than me and hopes in the impossible. A love that I wasn’t looking for but now can’t imagine living without, whatever that ends up looking like.

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The pride of having his sponsorship publicly recognized at our “thank you” night.

This was a hard trip.  It was both emotionally and physically draining. My body and my heart would hurt at the end of the day.  As a team we accomplished much, crossing many items off of a “to do” list and yet barley scratching the surface. We spent a day hauling metal roofing up the hill towards the clinic, being able to take part in a double blessing as Casa Samuel got a new roof and the old roofing was to be given away to families outside the orphanage who could use it.   Painting the art room and offices were a welcome change of project after the roofing. Paintbrushes and rollers aren’t nearly as heavy as sheet metal. The monotony of a wall preferable to the monotony of a hill.

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In addition, throughout the week, members of our team took turns traveling two hours away to build a 10 x 10 block structure so that three children from Casa Bernabe could be reunited with their family. These days were tough, filled with manual labor that our bodies and minds were not accustomed to.  On my day, concrete day, I hauled countless buckets of sand and gravel down a steep and twisty path and then pulled buckets of water, necessary for the concrete, up from the well until my muscles protested and ached. As I walked the hill throughout the day, I watched young girls wash laundry by hand, young boys carry back breaking loads of wood to sell, old women cook over fires on the ground, and at the end of the day I walked away carrying the weight of their reality.  There is so much about this day that my heart continues to struggle though reconciling. And yet, there is the certain knowledge that God’s love was evident in every bucket of sand and water we hauled.

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As hard as some days were though the trip was filled with the lightness of laughter, the sheer unbridled joy from the kids that is so contagious.  It was hard, but we had fun. Be it through a mouth full of marshmallows while playing chubby-bunny with the kids on the basketball court, pitting team against team during an afternoon of paintball with a group of teenage boys, sharing a meal of a Big Mac and fries, coloring a picture, kicking a soccer ball, or celebrating the week with an ice cream party and some whip cream antics, we had fun! New relationships were built and others were grown.  The language barrier disappears in these situations – laughter is universal! Love trumps all!

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Chubby-Bunny

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It’s universal, of course the whip cream is supposed to go right into your mouth!

The highlight of my week though was not some big, sparkly, grand gesture moment. My highlight was being, not just invited, but welcomed, into a home close to my heart, given space on the couch to sit shoulder to shoulder, surrounded by family, to do something as simple as watch a movie.  As I sat there, the awkward, visiting American, who has a tendency to just smile and nod dumbly was gone. God worked this beautiful moment (with a little help from English movie subtitles) that touched the deepest part of my heart where we were sharing life, normal, everyday, life and I didn’t want it to end. This moment wasn’t planned or staged or organized and for that I am so grateful. Come in friend and share life.

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The boys with their new towels.  Thank you Love Runners community!
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I love this kid!
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Thanks to the Love Runners community for their generous giving that made this television (and so many more donations this week) a possibility!

I wasn’t going on this trip. The timing, financing, and lack of preparation were all wrong.  Saying no to this last minute opportunity to fill a vacant spot, just 3 weeks after the holidays, in the midst of moving our family of 4 and living in the mess of major home renovations, was certainly understandable. But I went and now I am home and I know that these few paragraphs and strung together words can’t do justice to what God is (and has been) doing.  The picture is so big.

More than anything, here is what I want to convey to you from this trip. I don’t want to be Jonah. Traveling in the belly of a whale, while more spacious than economy class, is not preferable to being available and obedient to God. “No” is many times the easy answer.  “No” may even be the answer that makes the most sense in our orderly lives, but that doesn’t mean that it’s the right answer. Two questions that He has asked me in my past have been resurrected and keep cycling through my head.  First, “If not you, then who?” and “Do you trust me?” Seriously God?   This wasn’t new information, just a much-needed reminder.

Physically, emotionally, and spiritually, I gave more of myself during this trip than I would have imagined possible, but you just do it.  You keep moving, hauling one more piece of roofing up the hill or one more bucket of sand down, you keep saying “Yes” to what God asks you to do.  You give until it hurts, love until you think your heart will break, and God makes it possible to just keep going, giving, moving, serving and loving.  In the exhaustion, physical and emotional,  you begin to see more of Him and less of you.

God needs you. It’s ok to be wary, be cautious, be scared. Just make yourself available.

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Take me where love is needed.

On again, off again, on again

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“I’ll go.”  “No, I can’t go.”  “Ok, I will go.”  “No, it’s just not going to work.”  This was the back and forth of my recent decision to go back to Guatemala.  I had said no to this trip at least 5 times for very valid reasons and yet the opportunity and question “Will you go?” continued to come back around. And then I got an early Christmas gift from Juan Carlos with a note that read in part “May God bless you for all you have done in my life. I love you very much.” And suddenly none of those reasons mattered anymore. The only thing that mattered was this boy.

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It’s almost been a year since I was last there and we have continue to nurture and grow this relationship despite the miles and language barriers.

Two days ago found the tipping point in my decision to return to Guatemala and I leave in less than a month.  My heart is absolutely bursting with excitement and anticipation and more than a little bit of panic as to how we are going to pull this together so quickly. I am looking forward to what God has in store for this trip.  It took him awhile for me to get the right answer to the question of  “Will you go?”  but we finally got to the “Yes.”  Last year, God rocked my world (you can read all about it and meet Juan Carlos, if you haven’t yet, here) and this year, with eyes wide open, I have put my heart on notice.

We are working to put together some really fun surprises for the kids while we are there this year – quite possibly, among other things, a trip to the zoo and a pizza/glow party for the entire orphanage!

We need two things – first and foremost – please pray.  I am much more anxious about the language barrier than I was last year and because of the timing , or lack there of, I have to pull a lot of things together very quickly.  Please also pray for the team that is going down.  We have a lot of “first-timers” and everything they are about to experience takes a lot of bandwidth to process.  Pray that we can help them to do that. And pray for the kids, that we would be able to touch their hearts in a way that lets them know they are loved. Secondly, I need to put together the funding necessary to make all of these extras happen.  Would you consider being part of this? We have set up a fundraiser through our non-profit Love Runners and Pure Charity in an effort to pull all of this off in this short amount of time. By combining our efforts, no matter the size of the donation, we will have a huge impact on the lives of the children at Casa Bernabe! You can make your tax-deductible donation here and help us reach our goal of $1500 by January 8, 2018.

From the bottom of my heart – THANK YOU SO MUCH! Have a wonderful Christmas and watch for details of our upcoming trip!

 

 

 

I have plans.

I bought this desk when we closed the store because I knew it would be perfect for inspiring creativity and calm in writing. (I couldn’t believe it’s almost been 6 mo since my last post!) I closed the store 6 weeks ago…writing desk

Monday, one week after we closed the store and moved 1100 sq ft of retail stuff home…Monday, one day after we got home from having set up for a 3 day retreat and recreated the store in a mobile site I made plans.  I was cleaning up the work room and family room (aka dumping ground of Do Good store stuff) when the phone rang.   “I know it’s a long shot but I wondered if you would consider selling your house.”  Excuse me?! What?! Ummmm, let me talk to my husband. Talk. Pray. Talk. Pray.

Wednesday – Yes, we would consider selling our house. Give me a few days to get it ready before you come and look at it. (The caller was an old friend whom we hadn’t talked with in forever so it wasn’t like it was a stranger calling.  The biggest question at that moment though was where we were going to put all of this stuff?!)

Saturday – take the kids and go look at a potential new house that had just come on the market.  Everyone loved the space (not so much the blue counters and wallpaper) but this could work.  It checked the biggest box on the list of having a room big enough to hold our growing crew.

Sunday – go back through the open house. Still like the house.

Tuesday – another call.  “You aren’t going to believe this. There is an offer coming in this afternoon on the house you looked at this past weekend.  What would you like to do?”  Excuse me?! What?! Ummmm, let me talk to my husband. Talkpraytalkpray. And this tiny whisper of a voice asking “Do you trust me?” On this day every prayer for guidance was answered with this whisper of a question.

Let’s do this.  We don’t want to lose another house (that was how we ended up here – in my Never House.)  Every door thus far has been opened for us before we even had to knock on it (including the financing for this crazy idea.)

Tuesday night – the phone again. “Congratulations! They accepted your offer.”  GULP! We looked at each other and said “I think we accidently just bought another house.” Our heads were spinning. We don’t do stuff like this! God was moving on this, and fast, affirming and shoving us through new doors (literally!)  We hadn’t even had a chance to show the old friend who set this whole situation in motion our house yet.

I made plans.  I closed the store because I have a senior and a freshman.  Since the store has been closed I have fed teams breakfast, lunch and dinner, made snack bags, created pinterest locker decorations and treats (for the girls obviously – boys don’t care about cute pinterest crafting.) I have attended games, cheered, held my breath, covered my eyes when I couldn’t stand the pressure, cried bittersweet tears over the whole situation, and prayed like a crazed mama. We have nursed injuries, had x-rays, sat out games, and had moments of glory.  We have written papers, packed lunches, visited colleges, shopped for a homecoming dress (this was a very new experience – boys and formals are so, so, much easier!)  and smiled for pictures.

Oh and did I mention cleaning and cleaning and cleaning and cleaning. This is beginning to feel like the movie Groundhog Day.  I made plans. We bought another house because our house was as good as sold. (HA!) The family whose call set this in motion came out and looked at the house. These puzzle pieces would not fit together. “Do you trust me?” Two weeks ago we officially listed our house. Within the first 24 hours we had 10 calls with realtors wanting to set up appointments. We had an open house with over 25 couples and in the last week the house has been shown seven times. “Do you trust me?” I’m more than kind of freaking out and I don’t even know my name half the time anymore and I’m flying by the seat of my pants while we’re feeding the teams and attending the games and making the beds and hiding the laundry. (How is a person supposed to do the laundry, fold the laundry, and put it all away when there is a house showing everyday? Laundry is an all day event at our house.)

And, oh yes, I closed the store. I made plans. This was the original plan.  That was how all of this got started. Yesterday, I began setting up a new “mini studio” in a new space. I was asked to be part of a brand new artesian market place. The concept and space are so cool I couldn’t say no.  Plus, the owner is generously donating a portion of their proceeds back to Love Runners as well!

God's plansI made plans. I was going to take September off and just breathe (my exact words!) I made plans. I was going to sit at my super cute new desk and write.

“For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.” Jeremiah 29:11

I made plans. My plans were safe. My plans were comfortable. But instead of my plans I am choosing trust. And, in doing so find myself leaning into these verses and coming away with the crazy peace that Jesus gives.

“Rather, cling tightly to the Lord your God as you have done until now.” Joshua 23:8

“Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you your heart’s desires. Commit everything you do to the Lord. Trust him, and he will help you.” Psalms 37:4-5

“The Lord directs the steps of the godly. He delights in every detail of their lives. Though they stumble, they will never fall, for the Lord holds them by the hand.” Psalms 37:23-24

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding. Seek his will in all you do, and he will show you which path to take.” Proverbs 3:5-6

““I am the Lord, the God of all the peoples of the world. Is anything too hard for me?” Jeremiah 32:27

“Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:6-7

“Do you trust me?” Yes.  I am trying very hard to. But some days I just want to make my own plans the agenda for the day, to make the world conform to my timeline. And that is the truth and reality in the situation.

time is right

Making the ask…Your love can bring hope

I am making the ask…please donate to Love Runners Cooperative in support of Partners Relief & Development emergency aid in Mosul. Our goal is $10,000 by the end of the week. We are already on our way…

We just need 85 donations of $100 or #giveCooperatively
Work, school, church, book club etc
10 donations of $10
4 donations of $25
2 donations of $50

My very unprofessionally done video…but it will do the job. Would you consider helping or sharing? Please don’t wait. Learn more or donate at Love Runners.

Where violence has brought suffering and despair, your love can bring hope.

#StandWithThem

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This is an extended family catching their collective breath on the outskirts of Mosul today after escaping ISIS. The white flag they take turns holding high in the air? A plea to not be shot. Fathers holding this flag over their infants and wives, over their nieces and small sons: please do not kill us. Partners, our feet on the ground in Mosul, came across them in this dry and weary land, and gave them a few bottles of water they had in the car, and some food. At this small kindness, grown men broke down and wept and our team felt their bone-cold despair.

“I’m not sure how to tell her story. She spoke, I listened. Periods of silence, followed by tears. Memories unpacked and peeled back. An open unhealed wound exposed. It had been just fifteen days since $23,500 was exchanged for her and her 4-year-old daughter. After two years and six months, they walked away from their ISIS captors for the last time. She heard we had come to provide food for her Yazidi community. She wanted to meet us. She wanted us to know about her captivity. She said it was important for us to hear. She said the world needed to know. She wanted to tell it for all the Yazidi women and young girls who couldn’t. She invited us inside where a kerosene heater warmed us from the bitter wind and snow outside. For the next several hours, over hot tea turned cold, I listened completely paralyzed for words as she spoke of rape and unspeakable abuse. This brave 32-year-old mother recounted with resolute determination the events which forever tore her life apart in ways none of us could possibly imagine.” – Partners Relief Team – February 2017. 

For the children and their families who have been living under the almost indescribable desolation and despair of ISIS captivity (also known as Daesh), stories like this are sadly all too common. As cities and villages are liberated from ISIS control, thousands upon thousands of Iraqi and Yadzidi families require urgent help for food, warmth and help to get back on their feet after years of oppression. An estimated 750,000 Iraqis remain trapped inside Mosul City alone and are on the brink of starvation. Half of these are children. Already the UN has suggested that 4,000 people are fleeing Mosul each day and we expect this number to significantly increase this month as ISIS continues to lose its foothold. To respond to these escalating needs, a Partners relief team is on the ground in Mosul and the surrounding area to provide food, care and hope to these displaced families. 

While we sip coffee and scroll through the internet, families in Iraq are walking through the desert with nothing but what they can carry. Families are walking away from their homes and tables they have gathered around and their cozy beds and everything their children have ever known; walking away from all that toward no heat and scarce food and not enough water.

Partners Relief & Development is urgently seeking $200,000 for critical food and essential supplies to be delivered in March 2017 to children and families in Iraq who have fled their homes to escape ISIS. We are embarking on our largest project to date in an effort to help them in providing aid on the front lines. 

Our goal, through our non-profit, Love Runners, is to raise $10,000 by March 31st and we believe this is totally achievable with your help. We are seeking 100 donations of $100. We understand that this may be prohibitive for some people so our challenge to you is this, do you have 3 friends who could join you in donating $25 each or what about 9 other people who would be willing to donate $10?  Can you imagine, turning your $10 into $10,000?! If you can’t donate but your heart is moved by the desperate conditions in Mosul, please help us by sharing the need, spreading the word, and praying for the people and volunteers on the ground in this war zone.

“There are still tens of thousands of people in the liberated areas and hundreds of thousands of people under ISIS control right now who are still living in their homes, and they are calling for us as the aid community to reach into the conflict so that we can serve them where they are,” Jeremy Courtney, CEO of the Preemptive Love Coalition, told ABC News in a voice recording.

The group delivered food to about 12,000 people in western Mosul on Wednesday.

Residents told the organization that Wednesday’s delivery was the first aid they had received. Some children cheered and said “We got it! We got it!” when they saw their father receive a package of food, the group said..

“We’ve got airstrikes and gunshots and helicopters overhead,” Courtney said in a video clip from inside west Mosul during the aid distribution as gunfire and explosions could be heard in the background.

Courtney described the aid distribution as “chaotic” and “representative of the chaos of the neighborhood and the difficulty of reaching people in those places.” People had to haggle with their neighbors to make sure that everyone got the food that they needed, he said.

“No aid has reached any of these people,” he said in the video, adding that thousands of people were fleeing, but that thousands were also choosing to stay in their homes.

The residents who received aid on Wednesday had been living under ISIS control for years until just a few days ago, Courtney said. Some had not had food for about a month while water has been shut off for three months, he said.

We want to start more than a conversation, we want to start a movement. We want to shout to the world that we will not ignore the hurt, that Jesus through us, in love and mercy, will prevail. Ann VosKamp said it best, I have saved and gone back to these words many, many times…

“We aren’t where we are, to just peripherally care about the people on the margins as some superfluous gesture or token nicety. The exact reason why you are where you are — is to risk everything for those being oppressed out there.

You are where you are — to help others where they are. The reason your hands are where they are in this world — is to give other people in this world a hand.

Caring isn’t a Christian’s sideline hobby. Caring is a Christian’s complete career. We don’t just care about people — caring about people is our job — the job every single one of us get up to do every single day. That’s it. Caring is our job, our point, our purpose. We’re here to care like a boss.

The world needs people who defy cynical indifference by making a critical difference — and that could be us.

Every single one of us can start changing headlines when we start reaching out our hands.”

Please consider partnering with us as we #StandWithThem. 

Donate Now

A Blind Mile

It was over a month ago that I was sitting on the floor in the back corner of a church in Guatemala City, listening to Sunday morning’s message, translated so that I could understand it.  The message titled, A Mile of Faith, it’s subject, the walk of the blind man in John 9.  It’s this muddy eyed walk that I have been thinking about. Jesus is walking with his disciples and has cause to stop, stoop down, spit into the dirt and make some mud, then smear it on the blind man’s face. He then commands the blind man to go and wash it in a certain pool of water. Unseeing, (and since he didn’t ask to be healed quite possibly thinking “Um ok, what in the world just happened?”) the blind man trusted and with mud smeared on his eyes, he walked to the pool. He didn’t get halfway there and stop deciding it was a fools errand.  He didn’t just turn and wipe the spit and dirt from his eyes, thinking to himself “crazy man.” The blind man trusted and he walked.  He obeyed and he gained miraculous sight.

How hard is to keep walking when we can’t see where we are going?  How difficult is it to be obedient when the path is long? Blind faith…it looks different for all of us.

What a path I have found myself on. Not one part of it makes sense to my orderly, obsessive compulsive mind.

In the last 12 months,

We moved to my “never house”  in an effort to “do more with less.” This was a sacrafice for all involved and required a buy-in from the entire family. Our project house is still in various forms of completion. 

We started a non-profit in an effort to love on others (LoveRunners.org, please check it out if you haven’t yet) and Do Good.

We opened a store (something I said we would never do)  to help fund said non-profit. (And having already been there 6 months have  just agreed to extend our lease another 6 months.  This is for real now…no more “playing store.”) (You can check out our online store at DoGoodStudio.org. Our online inventory is always changing as does our brick and mortar location.)

Through the generosity of others in this venture, we have funded 6 causes – in Columbia and Zambia, Guatemala, South Dakota, and locally in both Sandusky and Norwalk. And I am excited to share that we are well on our way with another 3!

Most recent, and most impactful, was the trip my 14 year old daughter and I took to Guatemala City for a week to serve at an orphanage. 


We had our eyes opened to a heartache that has changed our world.  We had to see it to truly understand it. All the reading, researching, and memorizing of statistics fall short of the reality.  David Platt said “orphans are easier to ignore before you know their names…see their faces…hold them in your arms.  But once you do, everything changes.” 


 I believe that the same can be said for the poverty that they have come from. Once you see it, everything changes.   For so many reasons, I keep waiting for my heart to settle back down after this trip, and one very special life-changing encounter, but it hasn’t.  I am not sure it ever will.

None of this is about me though. To God be the glory in all of it. He has made this possible. This is His work.  I am just trying to walk obediently, blindly but trusting. He is using my “nevers” for His purposes – His good. If this had been left up to me, if the past 12 months had followed my plans, this is not what it would have looked like.  Suddenly, a passion and fire have been ignited, fueled, as I begin to see where this path may be leading. But, it is on the horizon still, and until I get closer, until my eyes are opened to seeing the fullness of it, I will just keep walking towards it.

What does your path look like?  What would happen if you had the courage to walk blindly in the direction that God has called you to?  Where would you be standing 12 months from now?

I would encourage you to have the courage to start, and to have the patience and fortitude to keep walking when you can’t see, so that you may experience the exhilaration of first sight as you travel your own path. 
 

And oh yes, Happy Valentine’s Day!

An aching heart

At this moment in time I am struggling to make sense of what has happened over the last 48 hours. I am now 37,000 feet in the air, somewhere over the ocean and my heart is aching and my eyes won’t quit leaking. The only thing I know for sure is that God is great and He answers prayer. Often times in the most unexpected ways.
I left the orphanage on Wednesday afternoon to buy an ace bandage and a few random groceries and was thankful for a bit of a reprieve. Quite honestly I was feeling like maybe I wasn’t in the right place. Feeling like maybe this whole thing was not God’s plan for me. I had been praying that in our remaining days He would reveal if in fact I was in the right place, doing the right thing. I expected when we got there to have my world rocked, assumedly by the babies. But truly, being a stranger in a strange land where I was unable to communicate very well, I was out of my comfort zone, feeling in over my head, and even a little homesick. So, when I had the opportunity to go to the grocery store I jumped at it. 

We had been invited to take part in delivering “mail” to one of the boys houses. (“Mail” is when, a few times a year, sponsor gifts are delivered to the kids.) In going to the store I was going to miss this particular delivery but figured I would go to another one. It was Mae who needed the ace bandage for a twisted ankle (graceful is not a word I would normally use to describe her) so she said she would stay and go to the boys house. I told her to take pictures and let me know how it was. 

I got back to find her still there and the Sponsorship Director heading back to the house with a Bible for one of the boys who was struggling. She told me he needed “some love” and invited me to join them. On our way into the house said that Mae had said we would sponsor one of the boys. (We had already decided we would. We just didn’t know who.) The director assumed it would be the little outgoing ball of energy that also lives in this particular house. But Mae had other intentions. The older, quiet boy, that needed “love” was already who Mae had chosen. Unbeknownst to us this Godly young man has spent the last 3 months praying, with the director, for a family. Being 13 she didn’t have a lot of hope for finding someone for him. 

In the moments that followed the offer of sponsorship there were hugs, tears, a few pictures and a translated conversation. He has gained more than just a sponsorship though. He has a family, more I am sure, than he bargained for. I can only tell you that in the moment that he hugged me something happened. A hole that I didn’t even know was empty was filled. My heart was wrecked and overflowing at the same time by this young man who has never known a family outside of the orphanage. His, a heart-wrenching story that we didn’t know until after the fact. At a point when I was wondering what I was doing there, feeling like I was floundering, to get an answer to prayer, and be an answer to prayer…God is so good!


I didn’t go to Guatemala thinking this would happen. I would have not believed that a 13 year old boy would so capture my heart. I would not have thought that now I would worry for him, worry for his future in a country that is so poverty stricken.
We had the opportunity to make an emergency trip to the store only hours before our flight back this afternoon to make sure that he has everything (and more because Mae and I couldn’t help ourselves) that he will need as he starts his 7th grade year in school next week. Oh, the smiles and the laughter, as he opened everything and immediately began trying on some of his favorite things. I just want to keep that in my heart forever. And I just kept thinking I needed more time, and wished to be fluent in Spanish. 


And so here I sit, in the middle seat, wondering when (and if?) we will be able to see him again. Wondering when my heart will stop hurting and at the same time hoping that it never does. Hoping that people will understand in me something I don’t understand myself. Wondering what in the world God is up to but knowing that He is sovereign and has a plan. 


Oh, sweet boy, who “needed love” my heart is overflowing with love for you in a way that I cannot understand. 

Infinitely More

Today, I get a gold star for bravery. Two nights ago there was a shriek from my daughter’s bedroom and she came flying out the door proclaiming a GIANT spider had just run across her floor. She declared that until it was found and killed she was vacating the premises. Since Dad has been out of town she has been sharing my bed at night and she has been taking her phone calls in her brothers room due to the hazardous conditions of her own. GIANT spiders are serious business.  Today (only because laundry needed done I didn’t really want to find it!) I went on a hunting expedition through the discarded blankets and dirty clothes on the floor.  I picked each piece up gingerly and shook out away from my body so as not to die if touched by the GIANT spider unknowingly.   As I neared the closet I found the GIANT spider at the same time as I knocked into closet door, knocking it off the track and sending it clattering to the wood floor.  Let’s just say I might have jumped and let out a bit of a startled yell…maybe…just a little bit…before slowly backing away, finding a large wooden sign and smashing the GIANT spider. The room has now been declared clear and safe for re-entry and as I said, I get the gold star for bravery.

Seriously though, brave is a really hard thing to be some days (even when spiders aren’t involved.)  Following God in obedience is not for the faint of heart. BUT, I am seeing first hand that this is the place where the “Infinitely More” of Ephesians 3:20 lies.

“We aren’t having a store.  A store doesn’t make sense. We just can’t do it.” I can’t tell you how many times in the short span of the life of Do Good Studio that I said these words to my sister.  Man plans…God laughs.  do-good-coming-soon

Guess what is opening in less than two weeks? Yes. The Do Good Studio in their very own storefront and God could not be more in this. I just simply said “Yes” and moved out of the way for Him to work.  I didn’t make a spreadsheet and calculate the risk and hedge my bets.  I prayed, “God if you are in this work this out.” Since then, I have discovered the Infinitely More and it doesn’t look anything like I thought it would.  In just the last week alone He has used the store to answer the prayers of two different families.  Each with the same thread of obedience behind their prayers of wanting to use their gifts of furniture making for His glory, each seeking Him for an outlet for their inventory, and us, needing help to fill an entire store.  He had woven us together long before we even knew what was happening and man, do we have some really amazing pieces to compliment the rest of the Do Good inventory.

Today, on the day I signed the lease for the store, my phone rang and I said “Yes!” to speaking to a group of 250 high school students from around the state at a Teen Leadership conference the same week that the store will open.  They wanted me to share our story of turning “What if?” into “We can.” and “We have.” They want us to tell our story and show these kids how service can just look like loving on people. This group wants to know how THEY can come along side us and help US with volunteers, with collecting items for donation, with the potential for a Love Runners/teen mission trip on the horizon. I just can’t even…INFINITELY MORE.

I am humbled by a God who is so good and so big.  A God who cares so much for our hearts and our dreams.  A God who, when we get brave and follow His call, introduces us to the Infinitely More.

What is God asking you to do? What have you said “No. Never.” to? What would happen if you said yes? Can I encourage you to pray about it and if God continues to stir your heart over it put your Grown-Up-Spider-Crushing-Bravery-Pants and go for it! It’s scary but…

“All glory to God, who is able, through his mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think.” Ephesians 3:20

He just needs you to say Yes.

If you want to come visit us please do! I would love to have a cup of coffee and introduce you to the Studio.  Get all the details at our website or like us on facebook to keep up to date on all of the happenings.

Just Whatever.

Hey mom, are my socks still in your purse?

Yes.  Yes they are along with your “summer reading” book.  Maybe you would like to read some of that?

No? Yeah, that’s pretty much what I thought.

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Yep.  That is page 2, 2 days before school starts.

Doesn’t every mom need an extra pair of their children’s athletic socks in their purse? I am also carrying 18 or so football discount cards that need sold/delivered, school supply lists, a bag of trail mix, coupons I never remember to use, and a fistful of receipts that you never know if you might need. But, not one writing utensil. My purse has become the equivalent of a new mother’s diaper bag except for teenagers. I have been a mom for almost 17 years.  Where does time go? We just seem to morph from one stage to the next and they keep coming faster and faster and it’s hard to keep your feet underneath you.

Today is our 12th first day of school and this morning the only back to school tears belong to me. Maybe it is because the dog has explosive diarrhea (sorry if this is oversharing) or maybe it’s because of this.

2016 back to school

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Hoods up because jeep hair doesn’t work for school.

This is the first year that I am not the one do the back to school driving.  I am so over this. And before the day has even begun I received a text about a forgotten book from one kid and another with a question about the proper homeroom from the other.  We are batting 1000 already.

Maybe it’s because I am masochistic (like my love for the movies Steel Magnolias and Beaches) but I have watched this video year after year (multiple times already this morning) and every time it makes my heart hurt a little more…I just need to feel all the feels today. And eat more double chocolate butter braid.  Yes, definitely more butter braid.

I want more first days, a lot more. I know they are mine for just a moment, but they are yours for eternity. Keep them safe God, and if you would, just fill in the gaps with the things I forgot to say because I was too busy or too distracted. That would be great. That would be really, really, great.

Wishing you all a wonderful day no matter where this back to school season finds you.

 

Brushfires

  I am a firefighter. This was not what I said I wanted to be when I grew up. But for the last 3 weeks I have been busy putting out pop-up brushfires that just will not die. And I was not wrong in not choosing this profession.

Living on the fly and adjusting plans at the last moment to accommodate my new firefighting profession has left my pantry empty and my brain an addled mess.

Indulge me while I paint you a picture. Last Friday night we did an amazing thing. The Low Country Boil hosted by Love Runners, Do Good Studio, and Captain Montague’s Bed and Breakfast was a rousing success for the children of Casa Bernabe. (In fact, we had to put a waiting list together for people who want to be first in line to buy tickets to our Black Tie for Black Shoes Christmas event the first weekend of December. More on all of this later.)  IMG_7177IMG_7133

BUT, the days leading up to this event began the outbreak of fires, Dehydration, Faulty Alarms, and Tomorrow’s Celebration. It didn’t stop there though. On the morning of our low country boil my daughter and I ended up in a ditch with only 3 of our 4 car wheels touching the ground. After getting the tents, tables, and decorations set up for dinner a thunderstorm blew through, taking everything (tents included) and throwing them around and drenching them. The day after the dinner we were back in the ER for more blood tests after another post-football health episode. Monday afternoon got lit up when we had to abort our school and grocery shopping because we learned of a moved volleyball practice 10 minutes before it was to start when we were over an hour away (and sitting in the stylists’ chair for a haircut.) The grocery trip that isn’t to be was again thwarted Tuesday by another doctors appointment. Today holds blood tests and tomorrow two more appointments (my funny skin kid, not to be outdone by her brother, has developed a funny skin thing prompting an additional specialist to add to the week’s list.) We’ve had two check engine lights, (one on a rental car!) a leaky tire, and a partridge in a pear tree.  Even now I am forced to type this on my phone because it continues to fail to load on my computer.

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As I was making an effort to tidy the piles I have on the counters I picked up a book my two-year old niece wanted me to read to her when she visited two weeks ago, Fervent by Priscilla Shirer. (I probably need to dig out some of the kids old books.) As I absently flipped through it my highlighted passages began jumping out at me and I gained a much needed reminder of how I need to be battling these blazes.

This is war. The fight of your life. A very real enemy has been strategizing and scheming against you, assaulting you, coming after your emotions, your mind, your man, your child, your future. But I say his reign of terror stops here. Stops now. He might keep coming, but he won’t have victory anymore. Because it all starts failing when we start praying.

Success, to him, means stirring up discord in your home, your church, your workplace, your neighborhood, and doing it in such a way that no one’s even aware he’s been in the building. He knows our natural, physical response is to start coming after each other instead of him – attacking, counterattacking, pointing fingers, assigning blame-while he sits out in the driveway monitoring the clamor inside, fiendishly rubbing his hands together, admiring just how adept he is…and what easy targets we are.

If all we’re doing is whacking at the nearest, most visible symptoms every time they pop their head up, we’re doing two things: (1) wasting precious time and energy that ought to be reserved and refocused on the real enemy, and (2) trying to fight ferocious spiritual forces by using weapons that don’t faze them in the least – weapons that aren’t even designed to hurt them.  So the hits just keep on coming.

He wants you to focus on the things that are physical and visible instead of where the action really is. The enemy who’s intent on disrupting the peace in your home doesn’t flinch when you try to force your own fixes upon it, but he does start worrying when a wife, a mother, a daughter, or a sister starts avoiding the noise at the periphery and starts making some noise of her own, right outside the door to the devil’s workshop.

Last Saturday when we came out of the emergency room there was a full double rainbow stretched over the parking lot.  It was a little reminder to me that we weren’t alone in this. God hasn’t forgotten us or the periphery brushfires that keep alighting.  It was also a reminder to me that while I am busy trying to put out the fires  I need to remember Him and not get lost in it all

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Cease Striving…Be still…Know God (Ps 46:10) Sounds peaceful, right? Peace-filled is more accurate. "Still" has little to do with activity and everything to do with state of mind. Welcome to my crazy life!