Tuesday, June 30, 2009

A Story of Hope

Last November, Reverend Okongo and Scott P. were invited to speak at the mosque in Tamale, Northern Ghana. They and the team traveled to the mosque with great anticipation of all that God was going to do in that place, the hearts that He was going to move through the message laid on Reverend’s heart. But when they arrived at the mosque, they were met with overwhelming grief that hung over the dispersing crowd like a dark, heavy cloud ready to pour forth the rain. The Reverend and his team were told to return to their lodges, as no messages would be given that day. Upon further inquiry of the happenings of that day, the team was told that the daughter-in-law of the chief of the mosque had just passed away while giving birth to a precious baby girl and that the people were relocating for mourning and funeral processions. When the Reverend asked of the whereabouts of the baby, he was told that she had been given to an old widow to be cared for as an orphan. It was unclear as to the whereabouts of the father, other than knowing that he is not present or involved.

Let us pause here for a moment to allow for some cultural understanding. Within this Islamic culture in Northern Ghana, men are not present during childbirth, nor are they allowed to see their wives or newborn babies for a variable amount of time after delivery, lasting from weeks to years. Typically, the men move out of the house after the baby is born. This is also where the taking of additional wives becomes very common, as the man is often denied intimacy with his wife for one to two years.

This baby girl was now an orphan, one of thousands upon thousands in communities across Africa who would normally be sent straight away to whichever local orphanage could accept her, sent out from her own community to be raised by other orphan children. So when the Reverend asked to see the baby to be able to pray for her and over her, it sent quite a shocker throughout the community.

But by God’s leading, the door was opened for the team to see the baby and pray over her, her provisions, and her future. A gift of $46 USD was given for the baby’s care and nutritional provisions, as hands were laid on her in prayerful intercession. And a spiritual father was born unto her, this precious orphan from day one, prayed over by the visiting preacher, provided for by the generosity of God, taken in by the community, and given the name Tipaya, which means Hope.

Precious Hope is now 8 months old and has been growing strong and healthy. She was adopted by a widow in the community and has been cared for every step of the way. Upon his last visit to Ghana this past June, Reverend met up with Hope and her mom in the market place, as word swept through the marketplace that Hope’s father had returned to see her. The community as a whole had enveloped this girl, with a man having been designated as her godfather to support them as a family. The community gave account of how the $46 has been used and stretched out over the past 8 months, and is still being used for the growth and health of Hope.

The meeting also afforded the Unite 4 Africa team the opportunity to share the God’s Word with the Muslim community, as a relationship had been established through which the message could be received. It was such a glorious reunion of this precious baby, who is no longer an orphan, but is being raised up by her community of origin in a healthy family setting.

You too can be involved in the raising up of these precious orphans in families of their own community, keeping them out of over-burdened orphanages that are not capable of teaching what a family structure should look like. With just a little help,

Unite 4 Africa is encouraging communities to take in their orphans, placing them with families and raising them with the help of the village. With as little as 82 cents a day, families are able to clothe and feed an orphan from the community and raise them up in the way they should go. Will you join us in this effort? Will you partner with us so that we may rejoice of more Hope living and growing throughout Africa?

If you would like to know more about the ministry of Unite 4 Africa, check out the website and get in touch with us!

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Monday, June 29, 2009

Thoughts on Gardening

So today I planted some vegetable seeds with my girls. Now I truly do not have a green thumb and can't imagine growing much of anything here in the desert climate of Tucson, but I thought it would be a fun little experiment to do with my daughters, so we got ome planters and various seeds, and are now anxiously waiting to see what will happen.

I've never planted a garden before. We've been here in the desert for 12 years now, so I wouldn't even know how to attempt a garden of some sort here. I have reserved some books on desert gardening at our local library, hopin
g that they will give me some insight, but for now, we have the seeds of cucumber, bell pepper, cantaloup, and green beans all sitting in the dark rich soil packed into individual planters.
So for as little experience as I have planting, I must say that I thoroughly enjoyed getting my hands dirty. The moist black soil was soft and cool to the touch and breathed of vitality and new life. Oh, the possibilities that just a little bit of dirt brings. Toria and I had just read the creation story earlier this morning, and my mind drifted back to that story as I sifted the rich dirt through my hands.

Scripture says that God created man from the dust of the ground, breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being. I just wonder what it looked like, when God created Adam. It says that He formed Adam from the dust of the ground. I wonder if God sifted the dirt through His hands before forming the man. I wonder if He was imagining the possibilities, the many different ways that He could shape this first man. I wonder if He rolled it around for a while in His powerful hands, just watching the shapeless dirt take on a form by His will and intention, by His mighty creativity.

Psalm 139 tells us that we are all formed by God's mighty hands while we are still in our mothers' wombs. Like the still lifeless dirt that formed that first man, God molds, crafts, forms and fashions each of us with purpose and a calling for that particular life. His mighty mind decides the details of our bodies, the shade of skin, the shape of the eyes, the texture of the hair. Sometimes I think that that is the easy part of the whole assembly. The amazing part happens when He takes a breath. He breaths life into each us so that our heart starts to beat and our lungs start to move in and out, in and out. He decides which gifts and talents are necessary for each body based on the particular calling that He has given, and His hands continue to shape and form.

And just as that moist, dark soil with such rich potential for life springs forth tiny green leafs, full of hope and possibility, so too do we come forth, full of hope and possibility for an ailing world. What about you? Do you know that you were created
with a calling, a specific purpose? And that you were gifted to carry out that purpose? Are you living it out? Because the world is dying to know that there is something more than just what we see. And as promising as the rich soil is, if there is no life that springs forth from it, it just remains to be dirt.

Father, breathe fresh life into us today. Renew our spirits to live as strangers in this world, with a mission, a calling to tell the world of your love.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Eyes to See the Almighty

This Saturday was a lazy Saturday morning, meaning that I got to sleep in until 7:45. I was nursing sweet Hannah while sitting in my bed, when Toria and Juju joined us in bed. Hannah finished nursing and was sitting up on my lap, hugs and strokes being lavished upon her by her older sisters. Her gaze began to drift to the window that sits above our bed until she was fixed on the fresh sunlight pouring in the room.

I was amused, watching her stare into the open space, when Toria spoke up.

"Mama, she's looking at God."

"Really?" I asked her.

"Yeah, Mama. Can't you see Him? She's looking at God."

Mercy, what do those little eyes see? What do those little ears hear? How precious and innocent is that tiny soul, that she still stares off in the distance looking unto her Creator.

Oh, that you would rend the heavens and come down,
that the mountains would tremble before you!
As when fire sets twigs ablaze and causes water to boil,
come down to make your name known to your enemies
and cause the nations to quake before you!
For when you did awesome things that we did not expect,
you came down, and the mountains trembled before you.
Since ancient times no one has heard,
no ear has perceived,
no eye has seen any God besides you,
who acts on behalf of those who wait on him.

Today, Almighty Father, You made Your name known in this simple house, through the eyes of Your babe and the mouth of Your daughter. I beseech You Father, never let that passion be quenched in the hearts of Your children. Raise up these girls to always see You, forever hear Your voice, forever follow You in obedience, that You would use them to make Your Name known among the nations, even among Your enemies. Praise You Jesus for this precious reminder this morning.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Catching up just a bit

Wow, summer is in full swing, and I have fallen horribly behind on so many things, including this blog! My husband just returned last night from spending the last two weeks in West Africa, and some of his stories are mind-blowing. God is moving and calling His people to Himself. It's just awesome!! I will try to share some stories as I am able.

My girls started swim lessons today, which was so much fun!! I was in the water with Juju, who was very reluctant initially, but then seemed to really enjoy herself. For some reason, though, Toria didn't seem to enjoy it quite as much. She was with an instructor, and several other children, but Toria seemed to spend the majority of her lesson time sitting on the wall, outside the water. And when she was in the water, she was clinging to the instructor with everything in her. Maybe she likes the idea of learning how to swim, but is not to thrilled with the actual process. We'll see how tomorrow goes. She has assured me that she will spend more time in the water tomorrow.

Hannah is continuing to do well, growing and growing. Today she is 7 weeks old, and I am just terribly in love with her. She is a fantastic cuddler, though she's about as hot as they come. Or maybe I'm just hot and she amplifies it. Either way, whenever I hold her, and she nestles in, as much as I love it, I immediately begin to sweat. And sweat. And sweat. Anyhow, next week we have her 8 week check-up, so we'll see how much my chunky monkey weighs. She has the most luscious rolls on her thighs, even down to her ankles. And her tummy is just outright kissable, which I do, often.

That's it in a nutshell. I am beside myself to have my hubby back home safe, anxious for the day that the Lord allows all of us to go back together. I am desperately trying to figure out a new routine so that everything gets done, somehow stumbling everyday to get anything done. I did manage to get a swim workout in today, though (thanks to my man being home!) and I felt so great afterwards!! Here's to reclaiming my pre-baby body, or at least a slower, slightly older, definitely more saggy version of it. Hope everyone is having a great week thus far. Happy summer!

Saturday, June 6, 2009

101 Goals in 1001 Days

So, I first saw this over at Katie's blog and was immediately intrigued. I love the idea of setting goals and planning for the future. More and more these days, I have been searching for the things that I am truly passionate about, so that I may pursue them now, rather than waiting until the end of life, looking back, and wishing I had spent the time differently. So, this was a great way for me to put down on paper the things that I truly desire pursuing, plus a few fun things thrown in there.
The list itself took a bit of time to complete, as 101 goals is actually quite a lot. Nonetheless, I am excited about getting it all done. I will come back periodically to update my progress. If you would like to create a list of your own, check out this website for hints and guidelines. So, onward and upward, here I go!
**Update: The goals in green are in progress. The goals in blue have been completed.
  1. Run a 5K race
  2. Run a half marathon
  3. Lose 20 pounds within 9 months (0/20)
  4. Get weight under 170 by end of 1001 days
  5. Complete a triathlon
  6. Finish a marathon
  7. Swim laps 3 times a weeks for three months
  8. Attend a yoga class two times a week for one month
  9. Complete P90X (4/90)
  10. Exercise 3 times a week for three consecutive weeks (1/3)
  11. Fast from fast food for one month
  12. Keep a food journal for one week
  13. Wake up at 6am everyday for 30 days
  14. Read through the Bible in its entirety (Bible in 90 Days, to be completed March 31, 2010)
  15. Memorize 24 Scriptures in 12 months (1/24)
  16. Join a small group (completed 10/09)
  17. Attend a women's conference (completed 3/30/10)
  18. Volunteer at feeding ministry once a month
  19. Teach Bridges for Women in a new country
  20. Fast once a week for four weeks
  21. Find a prayer/accountability partner
  22. Complete the apprenticeship course through Christian Writer's Guild (to be completed 9/2011)
  23. Submit an article for publication
  24. Get paid for publication of an article
  25. Read a fictional book (completed 6/27/09)
  26. Write for at least 20 minutes a day for 10 days straight (1/10)
  27. Write 10 poems
  28. Attend a writers' conference, such as She Speaks
  29. Participate in a photo meme for two months
  30. Post something on blog at least three times a week for two months straight
  31. Take a guitar class
  32. Complete sketch workbook
  33. Make a list of unread books in personal library to read through
  34. Read two books a months
  35. Make a will
  36. Go on a date with my man at least once a month
  37. Start a "Sundae Night" for family fun once a week
  38. Attend married couple's fellowship for 6 months
  39. Do not raise my voice at the kids for one week
  40. Send monthly updates to supporters by 5th of every month
  41. Read at least two stories each day with my girls
  42. Go to a drive-in movie
  43. Go to a concert
  44. Get family health insurance
  45. Get life insurance
  46. Eat sushi with my husband
  47. Fundraise for full support as missionaries
  48. Build emergency fund to 3 months' worth of income
  49. Institute allowance for girls and teach about tithing, saving, and giving
  50. Set up college savings accounts for the girls
  51. Stick to budget for 3 consecutive months
  52. Figure out how to generate income from the blog (got my first check 3/24/10!)
  53. Save up enough money for a Canon Rebel (completed 6/28/09!)
  54. Pay off home equity loan (in process)
  55. Refinance mortgage (in process)
  56. Start investing
  57. Return to Ghana
  58. Return to Ethiopia
  59. Return to Kenya(6/3/2010)
  60. Take a girls' weekend getaway
  61. See the Grand Canyon
  62. Visit Amy in NY
  63. Quit my job and become a stay/work at home mommy (completed 7/1/2009!)
  64. Complete menu plans for four weeks worth of rotations
  65. Follow menu plans for one month
  66. Follow Flylady's plan for one month
  67. Create housecleaning schedule
  68. Follow the housecleaning schedule for four weeks
  69. Finish crocheting red afghan
  70. Compile all the recipes that I use or would like to use into one recipe book
  71. Clean up front yard
  72. Finish Costco shopping list
  73. Build Flylady control journal
  74. Move all three girls into one room (2/3)
  75. Turn baby room into guest room
  76. Install a disposal
  77. Mop floors once a week for four weeks
  78. Fix vacuum cleaner (or replace it! 8/09)
  79. Hang photos in the hallway(3/25/2010)
  80. Repaint kitchen(4/12/2010)
  81. Bake 5 loaves of bread
  82. Get curtains for kitchen window (completed 11/09)
  83. Get curtains for bathroom window (completed 11/09)
  84. Get a henna tattoo
  85. Get a professional massage
  86. Grow a tomato plant
  87. Get a bike
  88. Learn 50 words in Swahili (10/50)
  89. Get potted plants for back porch
  90. Clean up papason for use
  91. Put hammock on back porch
  92. Mail 20 cards to friends just for fun
  93. Plant an herb garden
  94. Go ice skating
  95. Attend a poetry reading
  96. Get a blog makeover (done 8/09)
  97. Do one week media fast
  98. Teach girls to swim (completed over summer 2009)
  99. Deliver homemade dinner to 5 families
  100. Bake cookies with the girls (fun and messy! completed 10/09)
  101. Get a pedicure(5/15/2010)
If you've created a list of your own, let me know. I would love to take a peek at your goals!

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Friday, June 5, 2009

Being Redefined

For some reason these days, as we pray and contemplate on the plans for the future, this is a hard one for me. Well, ok, to be completely honest, this has been a hard one in general. You see, before I got married, I could easily have defined myself as a student, a missionary, and then as a nurse. I was a writer as a hobby for my own personal collection. Writing was my catharsis, forever a passion, but never pursued seriously. I knew who I was, more or less, and could have stated as much at the time. But somewhere after getting married, I got lost. I was no longer a student, per se, and my heart’s desire more and more was taking me away from the hospital workplace into the home workplace. I had become a wife, and in my pursuit of becoming a “good wife,” I neglected my own passions to follow in suit with my husband. I had actually quit writing for the first couple of years of marriage. It wasn’t a conscious decision, just neglected. Then I became a mommy, and that seems to have swallowed me whole. These days, I can’t seem to make it an hour in the morning without smelling like sour milk from the spit up I just acquired on my clean shirt. I go from crying newborn who wants to nurse to crying toddler who didn’t get her way. I seem to have forgotten how to carry on a normal conversation, as my world revolves around alphabet sticker books to Sleeping Beauty coloring books. I used to feel somewhat articulate, and these days I can’t seem to even piece a thought together.

Maybe this is all sleep deprivation and I need to just give it time, but then again, maybe I am being redefined, as I am certainly being humbled and taught on a regular basis.

The other day I met a sister of the faith, and instantly loved her. She had that aura about her…you know the one…the one where people are just drawn to her. Joy was just oozing from her pores as I watched her interact with my daughters. She made me wish I was one of those little girls getting her undivided attention. That sounds silly, I realize, but that was how compelling she was. Her gratitude was humbling, as I listened to her thanking God for the beautiful green vegetables she was using to make a salad. And it wasn’t a thanks in that overly self-righteous way that becomes a holier-than-thou issue, but genuinely thanking Him, as one would thank a friend who was standing nearby.

It reminded me once again of the nearness of God, the nearness of You, Jesus, and that You have called me friend, that you are ever present, ever listening, ever ready to lead and guide me with the desires of Your heart, if I would only slow down and listen.

It was in that moment that I was so acutely aware of my own brokenness that I just wanted to bury my head in my hands and weep. I was so completely aware of all things that I am not. For so long, I have defined my life by worldly terms. I was a student. I was a nurse. I was a wife. I was a mommy. But the problem is, those are ever shifting, sometimes changing altogether. So what happens when I am no longer a nurse? Do I lose myself? What happens when I neglect to write, or when the words dry up altogether? Does that mean I can no longer be a writer? What happens when my girls grow up and no longer need me as they do now? Do I lose myself again? How many times can I lose myself before I fall apart completely?

As I watched this sister glide from room to room, spilling out the light of Jesus from her very being, watching it splash onto whichever blessed soul happened to be in her path, I saw a new definition emerge. And when she asked if we wanted to sing worship songs together while we waited for dinner to finish cooking, I knew what it was.

Grateful Worshipper

I knew what it was, and knew in my heart how God wanted to define me, that I may cultivate an attitude of gratitude, and worship Him in all that I do.

I thank you, Lord, even now for this peaceful moment to sit and reflect, for the quiet while all three girls sleep, and for the graham crackers, peanut butter and milk to snack on. I thank you for it all.

Grace and peace as we move through this journey.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Lactation Station

So, a couple of days ago, I was able to sneak away in the afternoon while everyone was napping (my husband was home) in order to do the grocery shopping for week without kids. Yeah for that idea! So I diligently nursed the baby and put her down for a happy nap, and snuck quietly out the door. 

Now, this is our third child, so I have done the breastfeeding bit before. By this time, I tend to know my body, and my, ahem, schedule for milk production. I have never been one to leak milk. I have heard all kinds of stories of mommies who spray milk at the mere thought of a crying baby, or who are able to squirt milk with each flex of a muscle (I must admit that one is a little odd, but each to her own!). But not me. I have always seem to make just enough to get by. Even in the worst days of that initial engorgement, I don't seem to leak. With that said, I have never had the need to wear pads to absorb said leakage. It's just never really been a problem for me. And whenever I am able to sneak away from the baby for a bit, I have always just nursed her anyway, so I am usually fairly drained.

But for some reason, this particular day at the grocery store, meandering down the cereal aisle, I felt a let down as if a faucet had just been turned on, and looked down to see that my pretty lilac colored polo now had two rather large, rather dark wet spots, front and center chest. There wasn't even a baby crying! There was absolutely no reason for this particular let down! It hadn't even been an hour since I fed the baby, and I was only half-way done with my grocery shopping. Needless to say, there was slight blushing taking place in the cheeks, as I tried to now use my shopping list to as a cover for my chest, holding it very close to my chest as I checked off the things I needed to buy, and moving a little faster than I had been previously. 
Ahhh, the joys of mommyhood.

Grace and peace y'all.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

You Capture: Feel


We took a trip to the zoo, and found lots of things to feel!

Toria actually just threw the lettuce at the giraffe because she didn't want to actually touch his tongue!

For more of this challenge, check out what's happening at I should be folding laundry. Grace and peace y'all!