Mercy Me-Part II

(cont’d from yesterday…turns out there are A LOT of peekers out there!)

It was just another regular day. I didn’t know when I opened the email from Maureen it would change my life and that of my family.

It said, “Last night, God spoke to me very clearly. You know the pregnant girls in the slum you asked me about many months ago? The ones we have been praying for? God told me He wants me to help them. This is what He is calling me to do. Will you help me?”

Immediately, instantaneously, when I read it to my husband, I knew, we KNEW that this, THIS was why God had dropped Africa in our heart. This was what He was calling us to do, to help Maureen, help them.

That night, I remembered reading a blog post about an American woman who was opening a maternity home in Ethiopia. I spent the next hour searching for the article and when I found it, I emailed and asked them to contact me.

Little did I know that within 48 hours, I would be connecting with American’s premiere pro-life leader, who had started more than 35 maternity homes in American and her first in Africa.

She listened as I poured out my heart about Africa and Maureen. She advised and counseled and offered to help us. She also asked for help. And that resulted in an amazing baby formula drive for starving orphans in Africa-more than 1,000 cans, $3000 and a huge shipment of 600 cans from Similac (thanks to the behind-the-scenes work from a reader)!

When we met with Maureen in Oklahoma at her Student Life camp, we met and dreamed and prayed together.

We knew that not only had God united our hearts as a family, He was birthing something new and ordained of Him:

The Mercy House.

So, this is it, The Mercy House is what we’ve been planning and praying about the last few months. The Mercy House exists to provide alternative options for pregnant girls living in the streets of Kenya. The Mercy House will aid them in nutrition, housing, prenatal care, counseling and job skills for sustainable living.

Yes, we are helping Maureen open a maternity home (Rehema House) in Africa!

We started paying Maureen so she can be the full time Executive Director of the The Rehema House in Kenya. on September 1. In January, she will travel to Ethiopia for hands-on training at the maternity home there.

You can read about the vision, the plan and the monthly budget. I’m not going to pretend that we aren’t SCARED to death! We don’t know where all the money is going to come from, but God has spoken this God-sized dream into our hearts and we are believing Him to meet every need.

Part of the proceeds from my blog and my proceeds from my  book will go to The Mercy House, which currently has  501c3 status as a non-profit organization (which makes your gifts tax deductible).

We’ve assembled an amazing Board of Directors to help us with important decisions…you might know two of them who are familiar with women’s issues and : Amber (and her husband, Seth) and Lisa-Jo.

We also have a cute Etsy store (more on that tomorrow with some fun giveaways and new items added!!) which will help offset some of the expenses.

Honestly, the last thing, my hubby and I wanted to do was start something. We’ve fought against that very thing. We thought we could appease the call in our spirits by giving some money, helping the poor, etc. But sometimes, God answers your prayer by asking you to risk it all.

The Mercy House is slated to open in 2011.

We need a lot of miracles and we want you to join us. Would you visit the site and pray about how you can love mercy?

Tomorrow, I’ll share specific ways YOU can be a part of this needed work in Africa.

Mercy Me-Part I

It’s been brewing awhile-this mercy rising.

It actually started before I went to Africa with Compassion International in March. Last year in the fall, I wanted to share my marriage testimony. I was afraid, but I wanted to pull away the mask and see if it helped people. I told my husband that I wanted to use my blog for God.

And so I did, I told the story on my 15th wedding anniversary over at (in)Courage. From that, a deeply private and emotional series was born.  My soul was stirred by the hundreds of private emails we received from hurting wives and husbands.

The Do-It-For-Others projects were born from this idea of helping people. Well, that and the simple fact that I was actually spending a lot of time and money trying to come up with new DIY home decor projects for weekly posts.

It was a quiet epiphany for me: I can spend the same time and money helping others (instead of doing for myself) and ask my blog readers to help me.

And then, I went to Africa. I’ve written so much about this trip. You’ve come along side me, sponsored kids, supported projects, and shared your hearts. Days past and the fog of jet lag and guilt faded, but I couldn’t shake Africa. It was redeeming for me and I knew I would never be the same. And that was okay, because Africa made me better.

During this time, Maureen (you can read about her here and here, in case you’re catching up) and I were emailing and sending each other Facebook messages, getting to know each other better and dreaming of meeting when she came to America for the summer to speak at Student Life camps.

I read this disturbing article from CNN right after my trip about the rampant illegal backstreet abortions happening in the very place we visited. I was so burdened for these young girls, many of whom were trading sex for food. I laid awake, night after night thinking of these girls I’d met, and of the ones who died in a dark alley from terrible infections, I thought of my daughters asleep, fed and safe in their own beds.

I thought of Maureen, my only real connection with Africa and I emailed her the CNN story and asked if it was true and if she knew of anyone helping these girls. She replied a couple of days later: yes, it’s a bad problem in Kenya and no, I don’t know of anyone helping them.

We agreed to pray for these girls and for the unborn babies.

Before my trip, we thought we would adopt. It seemed like a natural decision (one I think every Christian should consider), but experiencing Africa changed my heart. I knew that adoption would change and save the life of one child, but I wanted to help the people of Africa. It was a crazy, irrational thought, really. One I kept to myself.

Until one night, a month or so after my trip, my hubby and I were asking hard questions. Should we pick an agency and start the adoption process? How would we come up with $30,000? My hubby broached the subject first, “It just doesn’t feel right. There’s something that’s stopping me.” I was relieved and said, “Me, too.” And then I said it, “I don’t know what we should do and I don’t know if I’ll ever be the same person, but I do know what feels right: returning to Africa.”

In the foyer of our home, my husband wrapped his arms around me and we cried. We didn’t even know what it meant, but we were on the same page and we knew it meant something big.

We decided to pray and fast and doors began to open. After weeks and months, the same doors closed.

And then, out of nowhere, I got an email from Maureen that changed everything.

Part II continued tomorrow….

[I’m so excited (and crazy nervous) to reveal what God has called us to. But it’s a long story and I won’t be finished telling it until tomorrow. If you can’t wait, you can click here].

There Will Be a Response

Africa is beautiful. When people ask me about my trip, my reply is, “It was heartbreaking and hopeful.”

Wild animals roam freely (like the baboon that jumped out of the tree and stole a sugar packet from the breakfast table at our hotel!) The Compassion Kenya staff laughed at us when we asked them to pull the van off the road, so we could photograph a herd of wild zebras. (They laughed harder when I squealed and pointed like a girl at the zoo).

One of the most amazing sites was a herd of elephants near the road.

elephant3

We were told by one of our Kenyan friends that elephants love each other deeply. If one of their own dies, the other elephants mourn the loss. They grieve and can be heard crying for miles. Mother elephants are distraught over the deaths of their babies. They honor the dead by trying to bury the body with branches and leaves, so it won’t be destroyed by other animals.

elephant4

Elephants seek out the lost and even in death, they honor them by collecting the bones of the dead and place them in an elephant graveyard. Each year, around the same time, the elephants travel back to this place to mourn.

elephant2

Simply put, they remember…. so they won’t forget.

They remember the death and the time of pain. They weep for the lost. Then they carry on, but they do not forget.

This week has been a time of remembering for me. I have been reading the posts from the Compassion Guatemala Blogger Team and so much of what I felt and experienced has come back in soulful rush of emotion. I have wept for the lost and rejoiced with those found.

Ann has one line in this amazing post that rocked me to the core: “Once we have seen [poverty], we are responsible–we will respond. One way or the other.”

I’ve been out of Africa for six months. My response is coming Monday (Love Mercy). I pray you will take this prophetic word and respond with me. One way or the other.

I did more than snap pictures of wild animals in Africa; I learned from these great beautiful beasts.

I want to remember…..

elephant1

so I don’t forget.

My Big Fat Mouth

Many evenings during summer, after brother and sister were tucked into bed, my oldest daughter and I would talk. We’ve worked our way, one page at a time, though the book, Preparing Your Daughter for Every Woman’s Battle.

I’ve mentioned before that this book is not for the faint-of-heart, as would be expected with a book about sexual purity. (Yes, 10 years old is young, but I wanted to tell her before the world did. Now anything she might hear can be compared to the standard found in the Bible.)

But the chapter on how we talk really got to me:

I smiled as she squeezed toothpaste onto a paper plate at my instruction.

“Now,” I said dramatically and paused. “Put all the toothpaste back into the tube.”

She looked at me, confident, at first. But soon, she was covered in minty goo and knew the task was impossible.

After she washed her hands and snuggled back into my bed, I explained how our words, like the sticky toothpaste, once spoken are impossible to get back. And we just made a big mess trying. We talked about respect and thinking before we speak. We talked about the power of the tongue, how it can bring life or death.

She scooted off to bed and I remembered how often my mouth got me in trouble when I was her age. Talking-back and being sassy were some of my biggest struggles. (I was bestowed the gift of sarcasm at a very young age).

And then I thought about how often (EVERY DAY, it seems) I say something I shouldn’t. I’m not a kid anymore. I nag my hubby about stuff I WANT DONE. I gripe at my children for messes I don’t want to clean up. I complain to my friends about something I don’t agree with. There are a lot of “I’s” in that last sentence.

I want this: “May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, O Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer.” Psalm 19:4

It was a devotion for her.

But the words hit me in the big fat mouth.

_________________________

Do you struggle with your tongue?

Ground Beef

For months we’ve been planning a quick trip up to Oklahoma to pick up half a cow.

(Now that’s a sentence this city girl never dreamed of writing).

My in-laws raise/sell grass-fed beef and they generously set one aside for our family. Well, half of one.

It’s an 8 hour drive on a good day, so we arrived after midnight. We spent one full day on the farm-sitting in the cool breeze while my big kids played “Toss the Empty Shot Gun Shell in a Bucket” and my 3 year old “fixed our hair with spit and a stick” in her outdoor hair salon.

It hurts to be beautiful

There was a bit of horse shoe playing

Rednecks Rock

some fist-bumping among cousins

boo-ya

turtle shooting (what can I say? the land brings it out in my hubby)

I like to call him Eagle Eye

We even squeezed in some hugging

Never to big for a hug from Nanny

and time between the oldest and youngest

His Helper

Oh, the simplicity of farm life and imagination and tick bites.

The apple tree was in full bloom, so there was some serious tree-climbing and arm-reaching for the bright red juicy apple at the top of the tree.

There's not a tree she couldn't climb

I think my kids ate 3 or 4 each.

My mother-in-law spends much of her summer canning and baking and putting away food. Since my oldest has fallen in love with cooking, they spent some time making fresh applesauce.

And that was all in one day. Early Sunday morning, we loaded up the van with 300 pounds of beef and one duffle bag for all five of us. (I packed light for our quick trip).

But while my hubby was loading the car, our little one, started complaining of stomach pain. I did what all good moms do: I sent her to the potty.

But her pain grew worse and within an hour she couldn’t stand or walk. With the van already loaded, we decided to head towards town and home and see if the pain would pass.

It didn’t. We ended up at a small town hospital.

For the next 8 hours.

Can you say WE ARE THAT FAMILY?? (even without Internet).

Um, yeah.

So, they drew blood and put in an i.v.  in my three year old’s arm.

She had X-rays and was poked and prodded. The doctor was concerned about a tick bite she got at the farm the previous day. But when he discovered her white blood count was thru the roof, he felt like it was her appendix.

Long story longer….she had to drink contrast, have a Cat Scan and I’m praying the whole time we’re not looking at surgery in this nice, but very small hospital that didn’t have a pediatric needle in the entire facility.

The radiologist insisted she wear the glasses.

My hubby’s family took our beef and older kids back to the farm and we waited for the results.

Turns out it was just GAS.

Kidding. They never really found out what was wrong, but determined it wasn’t life-threatening. (Thank you, Lord for touching her!)

On the second attempt to drive home, the tickle in my 10 year old’s throat turned into a full blown case of I FEEL HORRIBLE, my son got carsick and puked all over a bathroom at a Taco shop,  only to be immediately followed by my youngest getting a rock stuck in her nose.

That beef isn’t the only thing that’s been through the ringer.

WFMW: Decorating with Kid’s Art (Update)

I wrote this post last year about creating an art gallery with kid’s art from school and home. I love the stuff my children create, but it just ended up in a giant messy pile in the top of my closet.

Our gallery has grown over the past year!

I’m so happy with my decision to frame it and create an art gallery in the entryway to my laundry room.

We buy cheap document frames at WalMart, usually one at a time (about $4 each) and trim the edges of the art to fit.

I sit down with my kids a couple of times a year and we sort the pile and save our favorite pieces to frame:

My kids help me pick out their favorite pieces a couple of times a year. We have a great sampling!

What works for you?

Her Name is Precious

My three year old picked her  pretty face out of a sea of brown faces.

“I WANT HER!” she demanded as only a toddler can.

There was smudge on my computer screen and on the face of a 19 year old girl from the Philippines. Her name: Precious.

It was just a week after I’d returned home from Africa and our family sat crowded around the laptop laboring over each face. My husband chose Mohammad from India, my son -a boy named Nad from Vietnam, my oldest daughter chose Uwimana from Rwanda and I wanted Millicent, an orphan from Kenya.

The pictures arrived and took priority on our fridge, we have monthly letter-writing sessions and pray for each of the kids.

From the moment Precious’ picture arrived, my toddler insisted on it being at the bottom of the fridge, so she could reach it. The picture is smudged with dirty fingerprints along the edge. We’ve reread Precious’ letters in her perfect English and clear handwriting over and over to our youngest.

We always laugh when we read the part of the letter where Precious has written her favorite things: “My favorite food is chicken, My favorite color is purple, etc” because our daughter pipes up loudly, “MY FAVORITE FOOD IS CHICKEN TOO! MY FAVORITE COLOR IS PURPLE.”

At bedtime and sometimes dinnertime, our little girl prays for Precious. It varies, but she prays that she won’t die, that she’ll have food, and that Jesus will live in her heart. She tells everyone that Precious is her best friend. “Pwecious lives in da Phiwapines. I’m going to Africa to meet her next week.” (She’s a little sketchy on the geography and timing of it all).

They  are an unlikely pair: a three year old American with everything and a 19 year old Phillipino young lady with very little.

But they have been united through Compassion International forever.

The other night my little girl was singing all the songs she could think of, including “Jesus Loves Me.” She ran out of songs and asked me tell her another. I sang “Jesus Loves The Children of the World.”

Jesus loves the little children. All the children of the world.

Red and yellow, black and white, they are precious in His sight. Jesus loves the little children of the world.”

She jumped up “Mommy, that song is about PRECIOUS!!”

Yes, yes it is.

—————

Today, a group of bloggers left for Guatemala to set some kids free from their devastating poverty. Will you follow their journey and pray for them? Open your hearts to the stories? Consider rescuing a child from poverty?

Compassion Bloggers: Guatemala 2010

My Kids Wrote a Book! {Giveaway}

Congrats to reader (no blog) Deborah (comment #12)! You’re the winner!

We’ve sort of got book-writing on the brain these days in our house.

My kids think I’m going to be famous for this. We’re all about false reality here.

(I did have to autograph the cover of my book the other day and I mispelled my name. So there’s that. Oh, infamy, you’re a slippery one).

My oldest daughter wants to be a writer/slash cook. (I’m leaning on my neighbor for the second part). My son loves reading, but he’d rather illustrate a book than write it-all the more reason to make him write, I say. (insert mean mom here).

So, when I got an email from Tikatok, offering to let my kids write their own hard bound book, I jumped at the chance for them (insert sweet/mean mom here-depending on which kid you are).

They both decided to write a book for their DAD!! Can you believe it? So much for their famous mother! But it is his 40th birthday this month, so a win for seniority.

Here’s a sample of what they created:

He’s going to love them.

And I’m giving away a gift certificate TO CREATE A BOOK for a lucky reader today!

Leave a comment, telling me if your kids enjoy writing and you’ll be entered to win a Tikatok book.

This giveaway ends on Thursday.