About Amanda

I am a daughter of the living king seeking to follow Him in all I do. God has broken my heart for the orphans of this world. I am learning that my sole responsibility on earth is to love with complete abandon. Follow my journey as I continue to learn how to serve Him.

Read how my love story with God began...

Monday, December 6, 2010

Depraved Indifference

I want ALL of God's heart. I want to hurt for His cause. I don't want to suffer from depraved indifference. I want to be broken, and then I want to DO SOMETHING. It's not enough to see the suffering and feel saddened. I don't want to be blinded. I don't want to forget. I want to be burdened by what breaks God's heart. I want it to weigh upon me until I HAVE to do something. Watch this video. Are you willing to ask God to break your heart?

"Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it." -1 Corinthians 12:27

"Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world." -James 1:27


Thursday, November 11, 2010

Beanie Babies Take Flight

I wanted to take a break from my story of transformation, to tell you the exciting things that are happening with my old Beanie Babies! I was one of those girls who was absolutely obsessed with Beanie Babies. I had to have them all. My mom would be at stores before they opened waiting for the newest Beanie Baby. There have been so many times I've thought that I need to get rid of them. They have not done anything but clutter our attic. Yet, I have never done anything with them.

The other day this amazing woman posted on her Facebook that she would love to give all of her kiddos Beanie Babies for Christmas. Rebecca is the founder of My Father's House in Kampala, Uganda and is currently loving the kids at her ministry's children's home and school. So, tomorrow I will be hitting the road with these guys...


...We will be making the drive to Tennessee to meet Rebecca and give her the Beanies. I cannot tell you how excited I am to send all 109 (yes I counted) to Africa. I think it's awesome that God is allowing me to pass along what I once treasured to 109 precious children on the other side of the world. What is even more awesome, is that My Father's House is one of the places we will be serving with Visiting Orphans in June! You can learn more about Rebecca and her testimony here at my crazy team leader, Kari Gibson's blog. I cannot wait to hold the hands and faces that will be receiving my Beanie Babies!

Monday, November 8, 2010

Changed - Part 2

Read Part 1 here.

When the doctor told my parents of the damage my brain had suffered, I of course knew none of this. My parents kept me from the grim reality. I can clearly remember the doctor visits, but that was not the scary part.

What I remember more than anything were the nights. It was at night that my fears were at their greatest. During the day I was surrounded by people. At night I was alone. Every night when it was bedtime, the terror set in. I would cry and beg my mom to stay with me until I fell asleep. I did not want to close my eyes for fear of what the night would bring. Fearful that another seizure would happen. Fearful that I would not live to see the morning.

After taking the seizure medication for some time, doctors decided to begin to ween me off of it. Shortly thereafter, I went back for more scans and tests. Doctors were baffled by what they found. All traces of brain damage were gone. There was no evidence I had ever even had a seizure.

"...and the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well." -James 5:15

"...for I am the Lord who heals you." -Exodus 15:26

Jehovah Rapha had moved in me. The Mighty One had worked a miracle in me. God truly is so good.

Let me diverge from my story for a moment to make it clear that even if God had not healed me, He would STILL BE GOOD. He would still be the only Jehovah Rapha. He would still be mighty and awesome. He would still be the creator of the universe that longs for an intimate relationship with each of us and would still be so deserving of our praise.

Of course my parents were ecstatic over the doctor's news, but I was still terrified. The memory of that Sunday still plagued me. I still cried and begged my mom not to leave me at night. I remember my mom telling me that if I had Jesus in my heart, there was nothing to fear. But I didn't. God used my seizures to stir my heart. It was during those long nights that I came to realize I so desperately needed to be forgiven of my sins. I so desperately needed the one called Jesus to come into my heart.

When I was 13 I made a decision that changed my life forever. I prayed for God to forgive me of my sins. I prayed that He would come into my heart to stay. I promised to serve Him alone. And God was right there to answer my cry, to cleanse me.

"'Come now, let us reason together,' says the Lord. 'Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool.'" -Isaiah 1:18

God's ways are so above our comprehension. His plan so much more magnificent than anything we could ever imagine. If before the day I was born, God had asked me to write my life story, I most certainly would not have included seizures. But I am so thankful to have had them. I now have an awesome testament of God's glory to share with people. And after I welcomed Christ into my heart, I did not have another fearful night. I have never again been afraid to fall asleep. Fear had been replaced with peace.

"For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all." -2 Corinthians 4:17

"'For I know the plans I have for you,' declares the Lord, 'plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future.'" -Jeremiah 29:11

God had a plan to change me. He had a plan to invite me to become one of His own. And since that day almost 9 years ago, He has not stopped changing me.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Changed - Part 1

I don't know how many people actually read this. I know that some of the people who do, already know this story, but this is my story. The story of how God changed me. It will come in two parts, so be patient. I created this blog as a way to share my journey and passions. It's time I share me. It's time I share why I am so passionate about visiting the orphan, why I never shut up about it. It's time I share how my great, big, awesome God has worked in me. And although this is my story, it's not about me. It's about God. It's Him in me.

I had what I consider to be a pretty perfect childhood. I had a mom and dad who loved me dearly. They spoiled their only child rotten. I was at church every Sunday. I knew all sorts of stories from the Bible. I was the good girl who's biggest fault was talking too much (some may argue that to still be true!) I had everything.

One night when I was about 9 years old, I can remember my parents calling me awake. I remember being disoriented and sleepy. I did not understand why they were waking me up and making me talk to them. I did not know that their perfect little girl had had a seizure. The experience wasn't scary for me. I really didn't understand what was going on. We went to the doctor. They ran a couple of tests. He told us that sometimes this happens. Sometimes kids have one unexplained seizure and that's it. After that they simply grow out of it.

Things continued normally for me after that. I did not grasp what had happened. I never thought about it again. Then, about a year later, I was sitting in church one Sunday when something went wrong. I remember sitting beside my mom, looking at my Bible, eating a peppermint. Suddenly my body went numb. I could not control anything. I tried to reach out to my mom, but my hand was drawn to my chest. I tried to cry out, but no words came out. I was a prisoner to my body. I was trapped without any control. I was having a grand mal (or tonic-clonic) seizure.

It is hard to explain to someone what it actually feels like. It is horrifying. I compare it to what I imagine some people in a coma feel like. You are aware of things around you, but it's all sort of fuzzy. You don't necessarily hear people, but you know they are there. Inside you are screaming for someone to make it stop, but your body is not cooperating.

When the seizure was finally over, our church family gathered around me to pray for me. When we left, well intentioned people came and asked if I was feeling better. Their good intentions angered me. What sort of question was that? I never felt "sick" to begin with. If they were referring to whether or not I felt better emotionally, of course I didn't. I was a terrified little girl who although knew the stories of Christ, knew nothing of His peace.

The rest of that day is a blur to me, and for that I am thankful. According to my parents I had seizure, after seizure that day. My perfect life turned to fear. I underwent test after test. I was poked and scanned. I underwent CT scans, MRIs, and EEGs. I was put on medication. Because of the medication I had to go monthly to have my blood drawn.

My parents were told my brain had suffered too much damage from the seizures. I would never be the same. Their perfect little girl would never recover. I would never be able to drive, finish school, have a normal life. I was forever changed.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

This Christmas, Simply Love

There are 58 days until Christmas! Wow!

As I began to think about what gifts to give everyone this year, I decided I want to give with a purpose. I want to give gifts that instead of just being used for a month or so, will last a lifetime. I want to give gifts that make an impact.

I began to search for organizations and families that offer opportunities to give gifts that make a difference. While I know there are many, many more out there, I have made a list of the ones I found. Will you give with a purpose this year? Within the list below there are organizations that provide for and care for those in need. There are families raising money for their adoption. Most importantly there are people who are using their time and resources to simply love.

Of course you can still purchase your Simply Love Uganda shirt or Just Love Coffee to help fund my journey to Uganda!

I have made this super easy for you. Search through the categories to find just what you are looking for. Help a family bring their baby home. Help care for the orphan and the widow. Help society to forgive, but not forget about those in prison. Help put an end to human trafficking. Help make a difference this Christmas.

(If you are a fundraising family or an organization striving to make a difference, tell me the link to your blog or website and I will gladly add you!)

Apparel


Art



Christmas



Cookbooks



Jewelry



Totes and Bags







Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Psychics, Ouija Boards, and the Church

As I write this post, I am sure there are people who disagree with me, but oh well. I know there will be some who think I’ve lost my mind when I tell you I volunteered to bring a psychic and a Ouija board to church with me.

I am a Psychology major. For one of my electives I am taking a class called X-files. X-files is the study of why people believe in the paranormal. That’s the supposed class description at least. Often I think the class is really an hour of the professor trying to convince us that nothing exists including the power of God. I say the power of God because this professor has acknowledged God exists, but that God is a distant being with little to no interaction or connection to us. It seems that not all, but a lot of students in the class would agree. So a lot of times I find myself fighting to tell these people that our God is love, lots and lots of crazy love, because I don’t think they know that amazing truth.

In our class there have been several occasions where the professor will ask who attends church. Who has a living, breathing relationship with Christ is apparently irrelevant. On two occasions that question has been followed by, “Who would take a psychic to church with them?” and “Who would take a Ouija board to church?” Our professor makes it clear that they believe every single church would either throw us out at such blasphemy or not even allow us in the first place because they would believe we were possessed by satan.

With both questions, I volunteered. Heart pounding because I know the disbelief and argument that will follow, I volunteer. Each time my professor has been astounded and unconvinced that I would actually do such a thing. They are sure no church could be that loving and accepting.

Let me be clear to say that I do not believe in psychics, Ouija boards, or the like. I do believe however that the church is supposed to be a place of love. I believe that if a church is truly following the life of Christ, a psychic in attendance one Sunday should be welcomed whole heartedly.

Maybe some disagree with me for entertaining such things that could be classified as witchcraft which the Bible teaches against. But in Matthew 9:12 Jesus says, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick…for I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.” It saddens me each week when such questions come up in my class. It saddens me that we have allowed the church to be viewed as a place of judgment. Yes, one day we will all face our final judgment, but when Christ walked this earth He did not judge. He loved. It was the hypocrites and Pharisees that He dealt harshly with. But for the tax collectors, adulterers, liars, thieves, lepers, sinners…he LOVED them.

In Matthew 22:37 Jesus tells us, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’”

So where is our love? Why do people see the church as a place of judgment? It is certainly not God’s character that has created this image.

I am not the epitome of love. I never will be this side of Heaven. I judge just as we all do. When we find ourselves judging and forgetting to love however, we must remember we are an example of Christ. Judgment and hate is not an image I want the church to be known for. I want to be the girl who’s known for hanging out with psychics, thieves, the poor, the lost and the shunned because that’s who my Jesus teaches me to be.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Uganda Shirts!!

Exciting news...Simply Love Uganda shirts are now for sale!!! But, before I tell you the details of the shirt I want to share some things with you about them.

At some point in my many hours of blog reading, I found Kari Gibson's blog. She has set up a fundraiser to help families that are adopting and people going on mission trips. I contacted her and started getting everything set up for my own Simply Love fundraiser. A couple of days after our first communications, I found out that she is one of the team leaders for my trip to Uganda! Don't you love when God brings things together like that?

Kari and her brother Michael Smalley will be leading our team to Uganda. Follow our team at http://uganda.mycrazyadoption.org/

Now without further ado, here are the shirts!




The shirts are sage green with white writing. A blue outline of Uganda is on the back, right shoulder. They are a unisex fit and super soft. Shirts are $24.95 and all proceeds will support my trip with Visiting Orphans. You can order your shirt by clicking the Paypal link on the right or if you are in the Dalton/Milledgeville area I can take cash or check from you. Once the shirts are in I can either ship it to you or bring it to you if you're nearby!

Once you've ordered your shirt spread the word to friends and family. Wear your shirt to spread awareness and support. Most importantly PRAY!! Thank you all from the bottom of my heart for your love!

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Lessons

It amazes me that no matter how many times God reveals His wisdom to me, there always seems to be some lessons I learn over and over again. I am in the second week of my senior year of college (can you say crazy!). I really want to spend this year learning more about the love of Christ so that I would be able to better spread that love to others. It has been my prayer lately that God would place people in my path to pour that love out to.

I have prayed and I have waited. Prayed and waited. Why was God not sending anyone to me? I was praying. He should have delivered.

God had been delivering every day. I was just too blind to see. I have been struggling recently to really spend personal time with God. I wasn't spending time in God's word like I should. I wasn't truly seeking Him. And I know that in order for me to grow closer to God, I have to put in the effort. Yet for some reason, I always seem to have problems remembering that.

It is exactly .4 miles from my apartment to campus. This morning when I left for class I thought to grab my iPod. The first song to play was Shane and Shane's "Heart of Servants."

I spent the .4 miles praising my Father. Asking Him to change my heart. To make me a servant of all. Asking Him to help me surrender my pride. To release me from my selfishness. And to pour out His love through me.

When I arrived in class my teacher asked me about the shirt I was wearing. It is my adoption shirt from the Walser Family. The shirt says, "Love with abandon. Love an orphan." So I had the opportunity to share with my teacher and rest of the class the miracle of adoption and the amount of love involved.

And there's more. The class is called Creative Art Therapies. Today we were asked to draw a wall, of any kind. This is the wall I drew (please keep in mind that I am NOT artistically gifted).


We were then asked to explain to the class what our wall symbolized. I explained that my wall symbolized the walls that adoptive families have to fight through. That it is not an easy journey, but one that God has called them to and will guide them through. That these families must truly love with abandon to follow God's call. I explained that it is not just families adopting, but that we are called to love all people with abandon. I explained that I chose to make my wall out of interweaving colors because at the end of their journey, the faces of these families may be many different colors, but they are all a part of God's family.

I didn't have an in depth conversation on theology with my class. It was just a brief time of sharing. But it was something, and I am so thankful for that chance.

God showed up. He put someone in my path. But God has shown up every day. I just haven't taken the time to prepare my heart for when He does. I allowed myself to pass through the day blinded to the opportunities all around me. But oh the difference a morning of praise makes.

Lamentations 3:22-23 reads, "Because of the Lord's great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness."

God's compassions are new EVERY MORNING. So no matter what kind of day I'm having when I wake up or what trials I am facing, I have something to praise Him for.

I know I will probably learn this lesson all over again at some point. But I am thankful for the lesson today. I am thankful that God loves me regardless of the amount of effort I put forth. I am thankful that God doesn't love you more than me or me more than you. I am thankful that God loves ALL of me. I am thankful that He wants all of me.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Junk Posse Necklace!!!

Ok so I know most of you reading my blog have no idea what I am talking about. I had never heard of Junk Posse either until a couple of months ago. But then I found these wonderful families who are in the process of adopting and they lead me to Junk Posse. Tracy is the woman behind Junk Posse. She creates wonderful pieces of jewelry that speak up for the orphan. You should definitely check our her store here. She has tons of pieces to choose from and each one supports a non-profit organization or adopting family. Right now 30% of every purchase that is not already designated to a family or organization, will help support the Shubin Family. Read their story here.

I had Tracy create a custom piece for me. Believe me when I say I have been counting down the days for it to arrive. Well it came today, and I absolutely LOVE it!!



The back square pendant has James 1:27 written on it, "Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world." The front oval pendant has the word "LOVE".

I am so excited to wear this piece. I want it to be a reminder of my purpose over the coming months as I prepare to go to Uganda. May I always remember throughout every trial, that our greatest calling is simply to love.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Coffee for Sale!!

Fundraiser #1 is officially underway! You can now purchase coffee, t-shirts, mugs, hats, etc. to support my journey to Uganda at JustLoveCoffee. There are tons of coffees available and $5 from every purchase will support my trip to Africa! You can also join the "2 Buy 2 Club" so you will receive coffee every month. So spread the word and buy some coffee!!

Friday, July 23, 2010

Homesick for Africa

I am homesick for Africa. I have been homesick since this past November. But here's the catch, I've never been to Africa.

In November I stumbled upon Katie's blog (which every single one of you should read because it's absolutely amazing). Katie was an average girl from Tennessee. She had a comfortable life. When she graduated high school she felt God calling her to move to Uganda, so she did. God has since made her the mom to 14 little girls (see I told you, simply amazing). Katie started a program called Amazima Ministries International. I spent hours in November reading about Katie and Amazima Ministries. In December I searched the Amazima website for a way to go to Uganda to serve. I never could find anything, but couldn't get Africa off my heart.

From December to June I was completely consumed with planning the Nicaragua mission trip, but Africa was still on my heart. I was so excited to be returning to Nicaragua, but I felt a longing for Africa.

God's love was so evident in Nicaragua, and I returned with a greater desire to love His children. I would sit for hours at my computer reading blogs of people who were serving God in Africa or on the journey to adopt. Two weeks ago, as I was reading through several blogs, I found an organization called Visiting Orphans . As I began to read about Visiting Orphans I learned they take mission teams into several countries around the world, including Africa. More specifically, I found they take teams into Uganda (at this point I was starting to get excited). Finally, I discovered that their Ugandan teams work with Amazima Ministries!

As soon as I read it I had goosebumps all over and was in tears. I spent some time in prayer about the trip. I have no doubt God is leading me to Uganda. SO...I will be traveling with a team through Visiting Orphans June 12th to June 19th! We will be going to Uganda to simply love the orphan. We will have several projects to complete, and I will post more about the trip at a later time. Truly our greatest calling, is simply to love. I know I face a rough road. I know satan is going to do everything he can to defeat me. I know I will have to fight with all that I have to raise the money. I know not all of you understand this. I know I will come across some people who are completely against it. But most importantly, to use the words of Chris Tomlin, I know that, "Our God is greater. Our God is stronger...And if our God is for us, then who could ever stop us? And if our God is with us, then what could stand against?"

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Thirst



This is the back of my car. Almost anyone that knows me well, knows that I have a bad habit of chucking half full water bottles to the back. I will drink half the bottle, leave it in the car for a while, it gets hot, so I throw it in the back to sit until I decide to clean out my car (which is a rare occasion). Yesterday I got in my car to go work with my fresh bottle of water, grabbed the bottle from yesterday, and threw it in the back. As soon as the bottle left my hand, I was convicted by what I was doing. I throw my water bottles to the back of my car because I know there are fresh cold ones in my refrigerator, while people are dying all over the world because of lack of clean water.

I was overwhelmed by that thought. But I didn't want my convictions to end in my car. I wanted to know numbers. Here is what I found from Water.org

*1.4 million children die each year because of waterborne diseases
*Nearly 1 billion people lack access to safe water
*2.5 billion people do not have access to improved sanitation
*Improved sanitation: defined as a sanitation facility that ensures hygienic separation of human excreta from human contact
*Approximately 1 in 8 people lack access to safe water supplies
*3.575 million people die each year from water-related diseases
*An American taking a 5 minute shower uses more water than most do in a day
*More people in the world have a cell phone than access to a toilet
*Diarrhea is 2nd leading cause of death among children under age 5. It kills more than AIDS, malaria, and measles combined.
*Every 20 seconds a child dies from a water-related disease
*Children in poor environments often carry 1,000 parasitic worms in their body at any time
*In one day, more than 200 million hours of women's time is used collecting water.
*3 jerry cans or water weigh as much as a baby giraffe

Wow. And I carelessly throw my water bottles like they're nothing. I am so thankful that God continues to bless me so abundantly when I am so thoughtless sometimes.

But I don't want to just stop at being more appreciative of water. I don't want to just stop throwing them to the back of my car. I want to DO something. We can feel bad about something and be moved by something all we want. But if everyone just stops there, stops at conviction, what good is that? Change requires action. So I did my research.

I found a wonderful organization called Water is Life. WiL works to provide life giving water solutions. Their goal is to provide both short-term temporary and long-term sustainable water solutions in developing countries. They have created a Water is Life straw as a temporary solution. The straw is a small, portable filtration device that provides pure, clean drinking water whenever it is immersed into a water source. Each straw only costs $10, but it provides clean water to a person for a year. During that year, WiL works to implement a long-term sustainable clean water solution to the village. How awesome is that?!



There were 10 water bottles in the back of my car. So I have decided to purchase 10 straws. With $100, 10 people will have clean water for a year. Now I challenge you to purchase a straw. One movie ticket, two drinks from Starbucks, or two meals from Chick-fil-a. That's all I'm asking you to give up. I have 1,011 "friends" on Facebook. I actually know everyone of them to some degree. If everyone of my friends donated, 1,011 lives could be saved. Will join me?









Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Time to leave the greenhouse

I stumbled upon this from another blog. It was written by a woman named Erica and her husband have four children and are in the process of adopting a little girl from Ethiopia. Visit her blog "The Road Less Traveled." Her words are directed at other parents, but parent or not it should speak to all of us. I was always a greenhouse kind of person, until a week in Nicaragua over a year ago broke me. Now I want to explore the battlefield.

In a greenhouse, a seed is planted.
It is nurtured under the right temperature.
It's given the correct amount of light, until a seed cover pops off and a tiny plant emerges....
Healthy, strong and growing under the influence of the house it is in.

The only problem is the greenhouse has not prepared the plant for adversity.
In our community I see so many kids, my own included, that are raised in the greenhouse conditions.
Perfect amount of schooling. Perfect amount of socializing. Perfect amount of church. Perfect amount of friends and only "like minded friends".

We pay for our kids to go to the best violin teachers, voice teachers, piano teachers.
Then they will, Lord willing, get married to someone who has been raised in a greenhouse right down the road under the same perfect conditions.


They start their own greenhouse and are happy.
Of course, they're happy. Their whole life has been about being comfortable in their greenhouse.

My heart breaks when I think about all the trouble we go through raising our kids in the right conditions, teaching them Bible verses, making sure they know all the right truths. BUT...

They never feel inclined to make a difference in the world.
Sometimes it is lack of passion.
Sometimes it is lack of knowledge that there is a lost and dying world right outside their greenhouse.

But more often, it is our fault as parents. We are passing down our laziness. We struggle to LIVE out our faith so our kids will struggle.
Yes, they will thrive in our greenhouse and most of them will pass on a great greenhouse life to their children, but we have to pass on a love for ALL of God's people. We have to be willing to stand with our children and help a lost world.

We have to pass down a passion for the orphans of this world, the homeless and the widows.

Yes, we have to grow strong plants for the next generation but we cannot forget the passion of Christ.

Teaching our children to love and be keepers of the home is what I am about, but I also want them to be about the orphans and the needy that are NOT growing in a greenhouse.

I can only teach that when I come out of the greenhouse and go with my children into the battlefield. It is all in vain if we raise up an army and our army is never sent to the battlefield but only to the greenhouse next door.


Sunday, July 11, 2010

Slideshow #2

Ok here is a better look at our time in Nicaragua. Be sure you turn off the music at the bottom of the page before you watch it. Enjoy!


video

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Drowning

Late Thursday night as I was reading my Bible, I stumbled across Psalm 93. Verses 3 and 4 read, "The seas have lifted up, O Lord, the seas have lifted up their voice; the seas have lifted up their pounding waves. Mightier than the thunder of the great waters, mightier than the breakers of the sea - the Lord on high is mighty."

When we spent our evening on the beach in Nicaragua, the waves were stronger than I had ever felt. I waded out into the water until I was a little more than waist deep. Wave upon wave crashed over me. Their force was so strong that I could not stand. They crashed upon me, dragging me under, rolling me in their current. I would fight their force until I emerged, struggling for breath, just in time for another wave to drag me under. When I had finally had enough, I pulled myself back onto the shore. I was completely exhausted.

The Psalms says, "...mightier than the breakers of the sea - the Lord on high is mighty." I want to be rocked by God like I was rocked by the sea. I want to throw myself into His depths and be caught in His pull. I want wave upon wave of His love to crash upon me. I want to emerge completely spent, yet longing for more. I want to drown in His love.

But the thing about the beach is that it isn't as much fun to be there alone. It's best when you have people in the water with you. Let's all drown together, shall we?

Monday, June 28, 2010

Changed

Here is a glimpse of our time in Nicaragua. It was an amazing experience that no doubt forever changed us. The people of Nicaragua are so precious and so full of love. They have so little. So many are not only physically starving, but are starved for love. They long for it just like God longs for us. Deuteronomy 4:9 says, "Only be careful, and watch yourselves closely so that you do not forget the things your eyes have seen or let them slip from your heart as long as you live. Teach them to your children and to their children after them." That is our team's prayer. It is our prayer that God would continue to change our heart because of what we have seen. It is our prayer that the effects of our week in Nicaragua would overflow into everyone we meet. It is our prayer that God has changed you.

video

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Day 5

Today the team visited our final school. The children were precious and we had so much fun working with them. We told the story of the Tower of Babble. The kids made their own towers out of paper cups and absolutely loved it.

Unfortunately after lunch it was time to tell the El Ayudante kids goodbye. An event that I have been dreading all week. These children stole a piece of my heart last summer, and now an even bigger piece is being left behind. We gave away hundreds of abrazos y besos (hugs and kisses), but it never seems to quite be enough. I can't speak for my other team members, but I fought tears as I whispered "te amo" in the ear of each child. One little boy, Benito, saw my tears and asked why I was crying. I explained to him that I was very sad. That we had to leave tomorrow morning to go back to the states, but that I loved him and the other children very much and didn't want to go. As I explained my heartache to this young boy, tears filled his own eyes. These children hold a special place in my heart. Nothing I could say, or write, could explain that love.

After our goodbyes, David, Michael, and Junior went on to the construction site. The roof was finished on one house and two and a half walls constructed on the other! With our remaining funds we could either provide a freezer for a family to use as a means to sell things or buy a bicycle to provide transportation. Well, God is absolutely amazing. We were able to provide 2 freezers and 3 bicycles!! We also had the opportunity to deliver both freezers and two of the bikes.

It was certainly a special time for me. Francis is the little girl that I met and fell in love with last year. I became her sponsor, sending money, cards, gifts, etc. The children call sponsors "madrinas" or "good mothers." Marjorie is Francis's mother. We were able to buy her and Francis's older sister Erica a bike. I was able to spend the afternoon with Francis and her family. It is something I will forever treasure.

Our day concluded with an awesome night of worship and discussion. We serve an amazing God that deserves every ounce of our worship. Our God is love. Love is so evident here. We all have been changed because of this week. I believe it's impossible to come here and not be overwhelmed by how great God's love is. Proverbs 10:12 says, "Hatred stirs up dissension, but love covers all wrongs." Christ's love for us covers all wrongs. He cleansed every sin on the cross. What more could we need?

Thank you all for supporting our team. We could not have made it here without your love. I pray that our work here has changed you. I pray you hold your family nearer and recognize your countless blessings. I pray that you are overwhelmed by God's love. May He sweep you away so that it is only Him.

Stay tuned for more pictures from our week!!

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Day 4

Today our team conquered the volcano Cerro Negro! It was quite the challenge, but we all made it! After lunch we toured a cathedral in downtown Leon. Our day ended with dinner on the Pacific Ocean by sunset. We have all begun to realize how quickly our time here is ending and can't wait to cherish another day.








Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Day 3

Today has been amazing. First, my rash is healing!! Thank you for your prayers! We went to Grandmother Carmen's preschool this morning. The school is held in her home underneath a tin roof. The children attend class in the stifling heat with swarms of flies on them.

After lunch we delivered care packages to families near the city landfill. These "homes" are located to beside all of the city's sewage. Raw sewage flows everywhere in this village. The houses are made of newspaper, cardboard, anything the people can find. Sickness and death fill this place. We were able to deliver food, cleaning supplies, toothbrushes, toothpastes, toys, and salvation dolls there. Most importantly we were able to pray with these people and share Christ's love.

That barrio is not a place that can be adequately described in words. Pictures only scratch the surface of the hopelessness of this place. A hard, fast rain came while we were there. It only rained for 10 minutes or so, but in that short amount of time, the entire village began to flood. Small rivers of rain, sewage, and trash formed in the paths between each house. My heart is broken for these people. Those precious children are sleeping on ground tonight and every night that is soggy from rain and sewage. They don't know what it is to feel loved. I have no doubt each one of us is changed because of today. May we never forget their brokenness. May our hearts always be broken because of the suffering of God's people. May we never stop loving.











Monday, June 21, 2010

Day 2

We spent our morning at the Jardencito Preschool with Senora Romona. The children were absolutely precious. Throughout the afternoon some of the team began construction of a home for one of the girls at El Ayudante, Celeste. The rest of the team sorted clothes to donate to the children of El Ayudante. Here are some glimpses of our time thus far...








Sunday, June 20, 2010

Day 1

I'm still not feeling great, so here is a quick version of our day. The team attended a church in our neighborhood. We were able to provide snacks for the kids there. I wasn't able to attend, but everyone seemed to love it. After lunch we took the El Ayudante kids swimming and to play soccer. We had a blast loving on all of them. Can't wait to see what tomorrow holds. Keep praying for a healing!

Sometimes it takes a rash...

Most often parents start out telling their children to do something in a nice, friendly voice. "Clean your room, please." If the child doesn't listen, the parent will get progressively louder until it's, "Clean your room, NOW!" That's where I'm at with God right now.

Lately, God has gently been pushing me to spend more time with Him, to invest in our relationship. But I haven't been listening. He kept reminding me to set aside time for Him. I haven't listened.

So here I am in Nicaragua, confined to a tiny room with the AC on, taking benadryl, using calamine lotion because I have hives all over my back. I kept pushing God behind other "more important things." Now it's not that I think God is punishing me for not spending more time with Him. I think God is saying, "Here. You have been 'too busy' to set aside time for me. Let me help you with that. There. Now you have plenty of quiet time with me."

God uses all sorts of things to get our attention. Sadly, sometimes it takes a rash to get us to stop and listen. But that's where I am: with itchy hives all over me, rejoicing in my gracious Father.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Hello from Leon!

The team is safe and sound in Leon, Nicaragua! It was a tiring day of travel, but we are so excited to begin working tomorrow! Stay tuned for more!

Friday, June 18, 2010

Here we go!

The before...supplies, crafts, toys, candy, clothes, shoes, toothbrushes, toothpaste!


The after...8 ministry suitcases packed and ready to go!


It is so unreal that we are leaving tomorrow. I feel as if at any moment I will pinch myself and wake up from this wonderful dream. The team will be meeting at 1 pm tomorrow to head for the airport. Our flight leaves at 5:45 pm.

It would be very easy for me to feel completely overwhelmed tomorrow. However, I hope to remember something a very dear person in my life asked me. 1) Who's mission trip is this? 2) Who do I think I am, that I could ruin God's plan?

Our only responsibility while in Nicaragua, is to love. To share Christ's love.

1 John 3:16-18, "This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers. If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him? Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth. "

See you in Nicaragua!!



Tuesday, June 8, 2010

My impossible task

Things to do before June 19th...
  1. Jewelery party fundraiser May 1st
  2. Car wash fundraiser May 8th
  3. Send in team roster
  4. Send in team information forms
  5. Mail check to El Ayudante for team fees --> mailing it tomorrow
  6. Raise money to pay team fees
  7. Book hotel rooms for the final night --> booking rooms tomorrow
  8. Plan 3 days of Bible school for 20-150 kids
  9. Buy supplies for Bible school for 20-150 kids --> collecting donations and buying things this week
  10. Raise money to buy supplies for Bible school
  11. Get team in one piece to Leon, Nicaragua --> unable to complete until June 19th
  12. Complete items 1-11 while taking finals and studying abroad in London for 3 weeks
  13. Preferably stay sane while completely items 1-12 without driving friends and loved ones crazy --> questionable
Wow. That is all I know how to say right now. Wow. In my last post I was freaking out. Trying my best to keep my faith in God, but freaking out none the less. Suddenly, magically, miraculously, supernaturally, we have more than enough money for our ministry. We leave for Nicaragua in 10 days!

We always claim the truth in Philippians 4:13, "I can do everything through him who gives me strength" and Luke 1:37, "For nothing is impossible with God." But we all, or at least I, have moments of doubt. We think things like, "I know you can do anything God, but are you really sure this is going to happen?" Isn't it amazing when God gives us the impossible to do. That's what this mission trip has been for me. The impossible task.

I was a twenty year old junior in college with a million things on my plate when God plopped this project in my lap. How could I ever lead a team of people older and wiser than I? How could I ever do everything that needed to be done to make this trip happen? How could I possibly raise SO much money? I couldn't. I can't. I never will. This has been something in my life that I know, beyond any doubt, would have been impossible if it had not been for my Holy Father.

Now here we are, 10 days away from our trip. And while I'm pretty sure I am in fact driving friends and loved ones crazy, I am so thankful to have them as my unfailing support. God is truly amazing. There are no words to describe His wonder.

We ARE GOING to Nicaragua!!!!

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Don't freak-out

Things to do before June 19th...
  1. Jewelry party fundraiser May 1st
  2. Car wash fundraiser May 8th
  3. Send in team roster
  4. Send in team information forms
  5. Mail check to El Ayudante for team fees
  6. Raise money to pay team fees
  7. Book hotel rooms for the final night
  8. Plan 3 days of Bible school for 20-150 kids
  9. Buy supplies for Bible school for 20-150 kids
  10. Raise money to buy supplies for Bible school
  11. Get team in one piece to Leon, Nicaragua
  12. Complete items 1-11 while taking finals and studying abroad in London for 3 weeks
  13. Preferably stay sane while completely items 1-12 without driving friends and loved ones crazy
I list such as this tends to cause freak-out moments. Freak-out moments are when I have tons of things to get done and suddenly remember all of the things at once. I then become extremely stressed and "freak-out" over all I have to do. This is usually the conversation I have with myself, "Oh my gosh I have so much to do! How will I ever get it done? It's too much. This is too much pressure for one person. I'm not ready to handle all of this. This seems impossible. I'm going to have a heart attack before it's all done. There's just no way I can do this." I was having one of these moments last week, having that exact conversation in my head. And when I thought, there's just no way I can do this, I heard God say to me, "No you can't, but I can." I love when God does that. When I'm crying out to Him, saying I can't do it, wanting Him to tell me that I can do it, and instead He says, "No you can't, but I can." It's something that should be so obvious to a Christian, but yet I need to be reminded of it all the time. I am so thankful that my Father doesn't expect me to do it. I'm so glad that "with man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible."

Friday, April 16, 2010

I want to be a tree...

I was watching the show "Cold Case" the other day. I had never seen it before, but the one episode has really stuck with me. The episode was about a guy who would kidnap women and eventually kill them. (I am sure you are wondering what this has to do with anything, but bear with me.) All of the women he kidnapped, had something to live for. One woman had a newborn baby, one a fiancé, and one faith in God. He would keep these women locked in a basement. He would then wait for them to give up hope. He would even still feed them. He would wait until the women gave up hope of escaping, until they gave up hope in the thing they lived for. He would then lock them in the basements to die. He was describing this process to the detectives, satisfied with himself that they all gave up. Something he said struck me though. He told the detectives, after they asked about the woman who had her faith, that she was the one who gave up the fastest.

Now I know this is a scripted T.V. show, but does it hold some truth? I know we would all like to think that no matter what we may face, we will trust God. But is that true? If you were like these women, kidnapped, locked in a basement alone for weeks or months, would you still have faith that it was part of God's plan? Or perhaps if you or a loved one are facing a disease like cancer. If no amount of treatment is working, and the illness drags on for years, would you still trust God was listening to your prayers?

A few days after watching "Cold Case" I read in Daniel about Shadrach, Meschach, and Abednego. King Nebuchadnezzar had made a golden idol for all the people to worship. Whoever did not fall down in praise to the idol would be thrown into the furnace. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego refused to worship the golden image. Upon questioning them, King Nebuchadnezzar threatened to throw them into the furnace if they did not worship his god. The three men replied in verse 17, "If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to save us from it, and he will rescue us from your hand, O king." It is what they spoke in verse 18 that amazes me, "But EVEN IF HE DOES NOT, we want you to know O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up."

Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego were not only willing to die for God, but they were willing to die for Him even if He did not save them! Am I that devoted to my Lord? I would like to think I am, but am I? Are any of us? I am not saying you do or do not have such faith in God. What I am saying, is that it is not enough to simply hope for that kind of faith.

Jeremiah 17:7-8 says, "Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, whose confidence is in him. He will be like a tree planted by the water that sends out its roots by the stream. It does not fear when heat comes; its leaves are always green. It has no worries in a year of drought and never fails to bear fruit."

We have to stay rooted in God, rooted in His word. I don't want to just hope my faith would hold up in the fire. I want to dig my roots deep in the Lord so that no matter what fiery trial I face, my leaves are always green and I never fail to bear fruit. I want to be a tree.


Monday, April 12, 2010

More than conquerers

"For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms."
-Ephesians 6:12

We are in a war. Daily. If you are a child of the King, a disciple of Christ, a soldier in God's army, satan wants to kill your spirit. You are a threat to him. He wants to destroy you and your quest to lead others to Christ. He is attacking you, trying his best to eliminate you as a threat. But take heart! "For the battle is not yours, but God's" (2 Chronicles 20:15).

All you have to do is be like Moses in Exodus 17. Stand and lift your hands to God. As Moses stood on the hill he watched the Amalekites attack the Israelites. Yet, as long as Moses kept his hands to God, the Israelites were winning. God fought the battle for him. And God fights your battles for you. You already have victory through him (1 Corinthians 15:57). You are more than conquerers in Him (Romans 8:37). Just lift your hands to the Mighty King.

Yet, God does not stop there! All you have to do is lift your hands. Such a simple command. But when you grow weak and can no longer stand, God will send help. When Moses grew tired and could not hold up his hands anymore, God gave him Aaron and Hur to hold his hands for him. God will send you help. When you are devoid of strength, he will place a stone beneath you and send someone to hold your hands up.

So you see, you are "thoroughly equipped" for find your victory (2 Timothy 3:17). It is there waiting for you. How wonderful it is that the creator of the universe does everything for you. He simply asks that you let Him.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Workin' at the car wash!

The Count It All Joy Mission Team had our first car wash on March 27th. God was so good to us! We washed cars nonstop that day, sometimes having up to five cars waiting in line. We were able to raise about $400. God's provisions are amazing. Thank you to everyone who came out to support us!


This past weekend was Easter. There is no greater love than the love God demonstrated when He sent Christ to die for us. Isaiah 53:5 says, "But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed." It is unfathomable that the king of the universe would make himself a servant and die a criminals death for us. God is Yahweh Rophe, the Lord who heals. His death healed, cured, and restored us. His death made us whole. And He is still Yahweh Rophe today. He still longs to heal our bodies, minds, and hearts. He still wants to heal us of our sin sickness. And we so desperately need that healing everyday.

Monday, March 29, 2010

A sacred ambition. A holy obsession.

I suppose I should share with you how this mission trip came about. Let me begin by telling you an experience I had years ago. I am not sure how old I was, maybe close to 13. I was at church when a woman came to my mom and I. She told us that she had seen great plans that God had for my life. At the very moment she told me, I very clearly felt God speak to my heart that I would one day be working in missions. At the time I had never been on a mission trip and thought nothing of it.

Fast forward to freshmen year of college. Early in the first semester, I felt like God was calling me to go on a mission trip. I spent hours searching the internet trying to find a way to go. I never found anything that I felt was God's trip for me. I had no idea where God was sending me, but I knew He was calling me to go. That burden stayed on my heart for a year.

In my second year at college, I began attending something called Campus Church. Campus Church would gather on Tuesday nights and would offer college students an opportunity to join together and pour their hearts out in worship to God. Towards the end of the semester, an announcement was made that a group would be traveling to Nicaragua on a mission trip.

From the very first informational meeting, I knew that was where God wanted me. We spent the next six months or so planning. We faced a lot of challenges in those months, but God had begun a good work in us and would see it to completion.

The first week of May 2009 we traveled to Nicaragua. I had no idea that one week there would forever change my life. Even now as I remember our arrival and the rest of our time there, my heart swells with love. We spent our week working in various schools conducting Bible school. I am sure the word "school" brings a certain image to mind (concrete walls, classrooms, colorful creations lining the walls, playgrounds). School in Nicaragua is very different. Instead children have class underneath a big tree in their teacher's yard, in a house smaller than my room, or in what used to be a chicken coop. We were also taken to the local landfill one day to distribute food. The people who lived in that area dig for food in the landfill. Tears streamed down my face as I saw families living in homes of cardboard and newspaper. The poverty broke my heart.

But what broke my heart even more were the people. Despite the horrible conditions in which they live, they were so full of joy. They were so welcoming of us, so thankful just for our prayers. My heart was broken for people living in the U.S. We are so ignorant. We are all so rich. Despite your salary, the car you drive, the size of your home, you are rich enough to have a computer to read this. Yet despite our abundant blessings, so many are lacking in joy. We constantly are striving for more. More money. More stuff. We need nothing more. We only need more God.

I was heart broken to leave Nicaragua. I found myself constantly longing to return when I came home. My heart had been split. Like the lyrics of the song "Albertine", I knew, "now that I have seen, I am responsible. Faith without deeds is dead. I will not let go until you are..." I had seen, and I knew I held the responsibility to act. I could not let go of those precious people.

I began to pray for God to open a door. I prayed Isaiah 6:8 over my life. "Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, 'Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?' And I said, 'Here am I. Send me!'" I wanted to go, but more than that I needed to go. God had given me a sacred ambition, a holy obsession.

In July, God allowed me to begin forming a team to return. Over time that team has developed into nine members. Leading this team has been the most challenging thing God has ever called me to do, and the most rewarding. I suppose some would call me stubborn. So the fact that I know satan HATES what this team is doing, just makes me want to fight him all the more.

Since July, I have become more aware of the responsibility we have as His disciples.

  • Psalm 96:3 "Declare his glory among the nations, his marvelous deeds among all peoples."
  • Deuteronomy 15:7 "If there is a poor man among your brothers in any of the towns of the land that the Lord your God is giving you, do not be hardhearted or tightfisted toward your poor brother. Rather be openhanded and freely lend him whatever he needs."
  • Deuteronomy 27:19 "Cursed is the man who withholds justice from the alien, the fatherless, or the widow."
  • James 1:27 "Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world."
  • Proverbs 28:27 "He who gives to the poor will lack nothing, but he who closes his eyes to them receives many curses."
  • 1 Corinthians 13:3 "If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I gain nothing."

We are not going to Nicaragua to convert the people to Christianity. We are going simply to love. We want to show Christ's love through our actions. Time and time again throughout God's word, He tells us to love. That we will be known by our love for one another. That we are to love our neighbor as ourself. It is not our job to save the world. Christ did that when He died on the cross for us. We are called simply to love. God will do the rest.