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Eyes on the Prize

Dec

03

Posted by on Dec 3, 2013 | 2 comments

livemercy-mhk-incourage

Back in September I was one of several who wrote about a bold initiative and sweet partnership between incourage and Mercy House Kenya; how, through the influence of collective voices speaking on behalf of those who have little, we were seeking to raise $74,000.  Familiar to many, Mercy House in a tiny nutshell “exists to provide alternative options for pregnant girls living in the streets of Kenya. The Mercy House will aid them in education, nutrition, housing, prenatal care, Bible study, counseling and job skills for sustainable living.”

The goal was BIG, broken down into five phases:

And now we’ve almost fully funded Phase 5–a new home that “will allow space to help more girls, and in the future it will serve as a place for classrooms, all programs and offices.”  Thanks to the generous contribution of an anonymous donor match ($20,000 when we raised $20,000), as of this morning there’s only $5,000 left to go!  Almost $50,000 was raised in a single day!  Thanks be to God for these indescribable gifts from a giving people.

Won’t you help us finish strong?  The finish line is in sight, and to be a small part of this amazing work is blessing not only for the young girls and babies who receive services and support in Kenya, but also to generous givers.

(If you’d like to read more detail, Ann wrote a wonderful explanation at incourage yesterday.)

Look at these faces–this is the result of the ministry partners before now; let’s duplicate it for others who so desperately need it.

Mercy House Kenya Babies Smiling

Thanks, friends.

 

 

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Love mercy? Love Mercy!

Sep

14

Posted by on Sep 14, 2013 |

Phase1-Van-DriveMercy

There is no greater use of words than to speak on behalf of those who have no voice.

 

While I’ve failed to practice this to the degree I believe it in recent years, I’m convinced that any persuasion or influence I have is at its best when serving others.

 

There’s an opportunity to help an organization that is changing HISTORY for the lives of the young girls it rescues.  Mercy House Kenya, a small but critical ministry in Africa that takes in pregnant teenagers (rape victims), provides healthcare and education, loves them in tangible ways, and then equips them to live on their own.

 

I’ve cheered from the sidelines as I’ve watched my friend Kristen Welch, author of  We Are That Family, imagine this ministry following her blogging trip with Compassion International.  It’s a beautiful, inspiring story of how one person with a vision can change the world.

 

She would humbly shrug her shoulders and remind me that any success is the Lord’s not hers.  But let me tell you this, 12 mamas and their 12 babies are alive and thriving because of Kristen’s (and many others) determination and perserverance, washed in a sea of tears and overcoming challenge that would defeat most of us.

 

{in}courage, DaySpring’s online community for women is celebrating its fourth birthday by championing Mercy House and throwing our all behind Kristen and her tribe of warriors (her husband, Mauren, Mercy House’s director, among others).

 

Four years ago I had the distinct privilege of publishing a piece on the first day {in}courage was launched (along with Holley Gerth and Nester).  (Woah! I just realized that means I’ve written 48 posts for incourage…not to mention a zillion for Bloom book club….but I digress.)  I had no idea what I was getting into but it’s a “yes” that has blessed me personally a thousandfold, both for the challenge of sharing my faith and because of those I’ve met along the way (online and off).  

 

Phase1-Van_BlogButton_300x300Today I’m inviting you to Kenya by boldly asking YOU to support Mercy House.  Between now and Christmas {in}courage is partnering with Kristen and her team to raise $74,000 for five specific projects.

 

Would you please consider a LARGE gift (truly, any size gift 🙂 ) for Phase 1, a van to transport the moms and babies?

 

It’s very easy to give through Pure Charity, and I encourage you to please read more if you aren’t yet convinced.

 

So often you can’t be sure of where your contributions are going; but I assure you Kristen and her team are wise stewards of the monies that come in.  Nothing goes to waste and they need outside support.

 

In addition to your financial support, there are other ways to partner with Mercy House Kenya.

  • Pray for workers’ (and the moms’) safety, wisdom and vision for their future.
  • Share this post and about our fundraiser on your social networks (Facebook Like, Facebook Share, Twitter, Pinterest, StumbleUpon–any and all!!).

 

Thank you in advance for sharing your words, influence and dollars for the benefit of others.  Is there any better use?

 

 

 Keep track of our progress–looks like we’re over halfway there!!

WAHOO!! Phase 1 is OVER-funded–

THANK YOU for your generous giving!

Please stay tuned for Phase 2!!!

 

 

 

 

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Garden + HEART = Celebration

Apr

19

Posted by on Apr 19, 2013 | 3 comments

I couldn't believe my ears.

"Would you write a post to promote our Garden Celebration?"  

It's the first time anyone in my family asked me to write about something so it must be pretty important.  I've often contended there is no great honor than using your voice on behalf of others, so I am thrilled to introduce you to a Special Place and tell you about their Very Special Event:


Garden-Celebration-HEART-Institue-FL

My girl is interning at h.e.a.r.t. Institute in Lake Wales, Florida this semester, an amazing, one-of-a-kind missionary training institute.  The first thought when you hear the words "heart institute" is cardiac care, but in this case it's an acrostic for Hunger Education And Resource Training.

Tomorrow, Saturday, April 20, h.e.a.r.t. is opening its doors to the community, offering seminars led by fantastic speakers and treating guests to authentic jambalaya prepared by a real Cajun. The day's Key Note Address will be by Dr. Martin Price, founder of ECHO, another amazing organization that equips those who give their lives to serve others.  Attendees can select three seminars, a difficult choice when you see the list to choose from:

My husband and I had the opportunity to tour h.e.a.r.t. when we dropped off our daughter in January; I've never seen anything like it.  The entire staff welcomed us with warm, open arms and we got to see some of their projects in various stages of completion.  Students learn to re-purpose everything and gain invaluable insight into "using what you've got" when working in impoverished areas.  

Though I didn't notice on the Garden Celebration schedule of events, I'm sure if you ask you can visit the goats, chickens and bunnies!  We happened to see a trained chicken when we were there–who knew you could train a chicken to sit?!

Learning is hands-on at h.e.a.r.t.  Students earn college credit and can choose between a 15-week semester program or a 3-week short course.

We would never have heard about h.e.a.r.t. had our daughter not attended a conference where they were exhibiting two years ago.  Seeing the impact it is having in her life, coupled with her desire to serve others (whether domestically or in developing countries), makes me want to introduce this organization to as many people as possible.  

With that in mind, I'm extending a strong call to action:

  1. If you live in the Lake Wales area (Polk County, central FL, south of Orlando), ATTEND the Garden Celebration tomorrow.  Up to two children are free with each paying adult. 
  2. Share this post with your friends.  You may not live close enough to attend, but maybe some of your friends do.  Pleasepleaseplease Facebook Like and/or Share, Tweet, Pin, Email, Stumble or whatever this post or h.e.a.r.t.'s site to expose their amazing organization to others.  
  3. If you're considering service abroad, or if your older children are interested in missions work, attend H.E.A.R.T.'s semester or short course. My daughter had completed three semesters of college before working as an intern this semester and she is blown away by this practical educational experience.  
  4. Donate.  While the Garden Celebration is all about connecting h.e.a.r.t. to the Lake Wales and surrounding community, it is also a fundraiser.  Your generous donation will enable them to offer similar future events and to continue their important training.
  5. Like h.e.a.r.t. village on Facebook.

Serving on the mission field is challenging; h.e.a.r.t. helps students gain a greater insight into what that might look like, preparing them in a way the classroom experience can't.  

Thank you for sharing h.e.a.r.t.'s story.  And if you live close enough to attend the Garden Celebration?  Hug my babygirl for me…this mama is missin' her somethin' fierce!

 

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Go ahead. Make my day.

Feb

02

Posted by on Feb 2, 2013 | 16 comments

It arrived in my mailbox without fanfare, and even if it was written in a foreign language, upside-down and reversed, I would have known my sister's handwriting.  

Mutts comic - spring

That's why I love handwritten anything.  Isn't handwriting an extension of our thumbprint?  As unique and distinguishable as our personalities, our faces, our DNA?  We know our people by the way they write and I love that.  

I love it.

Is it odd that I have this great affection for the way my people write?  That I recognize them by the way they cross T's and dot I's and refuse to swirl a cursive Q the way we were taught in grade school?  

What a peculiar quirk…to c a r e about and delight in my family and friend's handwriting.  

I think it must've been born the year Mama died.  She was the one who always signed my report cards to let my teacher know she knew how I was doing, and the last time she did was second quarter of third grade.  After that, Daddy took over.  I don't have anything else handwritten by my mother, so my 1st-3rd grade report cards are treasures. 

I know she held them in her hands, studied my good marks, considered where I needed some help, and signed them proud of me.  Maybe it's a stretch, but I see those report cards as a baton she's passed off to me–our fingers almost touch, only separated by time.  I'm able to hold what she beheld.

And that hidden letter I found from my father.  Every time I read it, I can see him, hear him, almost feel him.  His handwriting speaks and its sweet embrace and I can't help but hold onto it for a little while longer than it takes to read.

Gosh, all those notes passed in class among friends–I KNOW my friends' handwriting after decades have gone by!  Kimberly, Mandy, Lee, Suzanne, Cassie–it's a mental slide show as I think each name, and once I start thinkin' two dozen more click by in a snap–and I'd list them all but that would make for reading as tedieous as Old Testament geneologies.  I'll spare you because this isn't even what I planned to write about when I started!  

(Except it makes me sad for kids today because cell phones have likely eliminated this practice–remember the way we'd fold notes so they were self-sealing???)

Good gracious, sometimes my heart hijacks my brain and kidnaps my fingers for its own purposes.

What I meant to write about was receiving that note from my sister.  

It was short, maybe three lines, and folded into thirds to fit the 3"x5" envelope was the Mutts comic strip pictured above.  

It had made her think of me when she saw it.

So she took three minutes to cut it out and jot a note to tell me.  

Not a text.

Not an email.

Not a Facebook status or tweet.

Not a blog post (oh, the irony…).

Just a handwritten note, from her hands to mine, a tangible expression of thought.  

It cost her three minutes of time and the price of a stamp, but the value is immeasurable.  The gesture made my day.

Today, I shall pay it forward.  Today, I will mail a few snails.

A little thing that means so much.

Won't you join me?

 

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…and my One Word for 2013 is… (one I’d rather not choose…)

Jan

04

Posted by on Jan 4, 2013 | 16 comments

i.

It was the intensity of his gaze that held me captive, anchored to whatever it was he wanted to say.  Leaning forward, hands twined around his mug, he wrestled for words that wouldn't make him sound threatening or crazy.  

"I had a dream about you…" was an unexpected? interesting? dangerous? way for a man who isn't your husband to begin a conversation.

 

ii.

My friend has great eyes.  They're the soft kind that twinkle.  He often says a lot without saying a word, and I'm fairly certain when he was a boy his eyes would give him away when he was up to something he ought not to have been.  

Those same eyes measured me while he calculated his words, they begged understanding. 

Behind them I could see wheels turning and gears grinding, each word processed two times over before he spoke. 

Maybe that's why they were watery.

Which doesn't really explain why mine were, too.

 

iii.

He assured me this was a rare occurrence, initially dismissing it with no intention of telling me.  But, then, "out of the blue" I contacted him to help me with something and I suggested we meet for coffee to go over the particulars.

He didn't know whether it was a sign from God, but he decided it was reason enough to tell me.

He faltered over what to say and how to say it but he didn't let that stand in the way of telling.  

I'm convinced those remembered dreams are intended to be told out loud.  

 

iv.

"Listen."

What?  Are you kidding me??  You dream about me and that's it–one word?!

He doesn't know what it means exactly, whether it means to listen to God or to my husband or a friend or who or what or where.  

Just listen.

He almost seemed relieved to tell me, to push it from his haunts into mine, resolved to deliver a message given to him but not to keep.  

I didn't know my friend was a prophet.

 

v.

My One Word for 2012 was Adventure.  

And, OH-MY-WORD, two thousand twelved delivered that in spades.  I've shared a small portion of it here, surprised that I've kept so much of it to myself.  I am a blogger, after all, a word exhibitionist.

But, I've been very Ecclesiastical…"there is a time…."

and for whatever reason, I've been quieter in this space ~ 

"a time to be quiet and a time to speak…"

Ecclesiastical.

Sometimes adventures take an unexpected turn.

 

vi.

Funny, the power someone's words can have in another's life.  

A Divine word?

A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in a setting of silver.  (Proverbs 25:11, ESV)

It's amazing how much more I'm hearing since I started listening with intention, actively listening…to what's said and what is not said.

When you Listen On Purpose, you hear with your eyes, your heart, and sometimes with your spirit.

 

vii.

This year will see my 50th anniversary of birth, the year of Jubilee.  

"This fiftieth year is sacred—it is a time of freedom and of celebration…" (Leviticus 25:10a, CEV)

In keeping with that, when I was thinking about my One Word for 2013, I imagined it would be something fun like Celebrate or Dance….

But "Listen" patiently waited for me to accept her.  

 
One-word-2013-LISTEN

Sometimes dreams come true.

* * * * *

Your turn:  DO you have One Word to mark your New Year?  Please share it in comments and if you're a blogger who's written about it, be sure to link your post!  Don't have any idea what I'm talkin' about?  There's an entire One Word community that'll explain it better than me!  And several Deeper Story writers have shared links to their words and remarkably not one One Word is duplicated.  

 

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The New Year’s Eve Miracle

Jan

01

Posted by on Jan 1, 2011 | 19 comments

I had almost given up hope of ever finding it.  

Almost.  

It had been three years since I could account for its whereabouts after all.  Yet dim and hidden away in the farthest corner of my heart glimmered a tiny, inextinguishable spark of hope.  

Hope is what compelled me to sift loathsome vacuum cleaner bags when I realized it was missing…

Hope prompted me to dig deep into sofa and chair cushions, as recent as last week…

Hope begged me to revisit places I had checked a dozen times….  

My loss represented eternity, everlasting love, and though the Doubter in me knew it was gone, the Believer couldn't let go.

 

* * * * * * 

It was an anniversary gift from my husband, a rare surprise to me on our tenth, and I was impressed he even knew they existed. We aren't extravagant gift givers and this was costly and thoughtful and perfect:  a band of gold embedded with diamonds, representing ten years of marriage.  An eternity ring.  In fairy script engraved within its inner ring, careful eyes might discover our wedding date.

 

* * * * * *

My husband is observant.  If I were the type wife who bought clothes and hid them in my closet, he's the one in a thousand who would ask THE DAY I BOUGHT IT, "When did you get that?"  

I dreaded the day he would notice I wasn't wearing my eternity ring.

 

* * * * * *

It was on our 20th anniversary that Tad surprised me with a trip to a local jeweler to have my rings reset.  I rarely wear gold jewelry anymore, but my wedding band and engagement and eternity rings were set in yellow gold.  His gift was to have them reset in white gold, or if we could afford it, platinum. We spoke with a salesperson, looked at several different options, then he took measurements of my stones.  I was eager and excited to have this done–the new setting was going to be gorgeous!  He promised to call us within a week to give us an estimate.  I crossed my fingers the platinum setting would be in reach, though I expected white gold would have to do.

In the end, neither mattered.  

We never heard from him again.

 

* * * * * *

 

Initially I was angry and offended the jeweler didn't bother to follow-up with an estimate; but eventually the money we would have used for that went towards something else.  I have no idea what now, but with three kids and a declining economy, it's not difficult to imagine the money was spent on something we needed rather than on this lovely indulgence.  

Tad's thought still counted.

 

* * * * * *

 

A dish sits on my kitchen counter, a gift my daughter painted years ago.  It's salmon and turquoise and cornflower blue and doesn't match a blasted thing, but the mama-heart sees only beauty.  It's what holds my rings while I'm cooking or cleaning–I can't stand to do either with them on.  

Around the time of our wedding anniversary last year, I was cooking dinner.  Tad picked up one of my rings and observed out loud, "I can't believe you've had your rings for over 23 years…as much jewelry as you've lost, it's amazing you've held onto these!"

Cringing, all I could manage in reply was a muttered, "Yeah, I know…" but I couldn't raise my eyes to meet his.  I knew I was finally busted!  

But he didn't remember.  Somehow, he forgot about my ring and didn't even notice it was missing.

I was a tiny bit hurt but mostly relieved.

I looked for it again the next day.

 

* * * * * *

 

2010 my body rebelled against me.  Though I'm not eating more, metabolism has slowed and my shape is changing and the pounds add too easily.  My clothes scream at me when I zip and button.  

I hate it.

I'm not exercising regularly and I know I need to for a host of reasons, but I've never found that thing I love.  Still, yesterday–on New Year's Eve–I decided to do something, cause I believe something is better than nothing.

I ran my stairs 20 times, furious that that made me so breathless, so easily.  After that, I began a series of basics–sit ups and push ups and lunges, baby steps to get me started.  To strengthen my core, I assumed the plank position.

I was in my bedroom.

 

* * * * * * *

Barely 20 seconds in, I glanced to my left and saw something under the foot of my bed, a small brassy ring.  I stared in disbelief not wanting to raise hope but unavoidably, hopefully, thinking it couldn't be...c o u l d  i t?

I held position for a minute, then reached out to finger the ring.  It rolled to one side and I saw…

…diamonds.

My insides exploded, my spirit happy danced and joy-flooded tears filled my eyes.  

It fit more beautifully than Cinderella's glass slipper.

To be continued….

  DSC_0260

 

 

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