Tuesday, September 27, 2011

To bring you home....

I am soooooooooooooooooooo excited about these shirts!  This is our official Patterson Family adoption fundraising t-shirt.  I love them because it was Mandy's idea.  From the second we told the kids we were moving forward with adoption (and to be honest...they were ready before we were :o), Mandy got busy.  She drew the picture of Africa that is featured on the back of the shirt and said "let's make t-shirts with this!".  On the front are her words....in her writing "to bring you home".  Insert melting heart here.  The scripture we chose for our shirts is Mark 9:37 "Whoever welcomes one of these little children in my name welcomes me; and whoever welcomes me does not welcome me but the one who sent me."  This scripture spoke so powerfully to my husband John as we prayed through our decision to adopt.

The shirts will be $23.00 (which includes shipping).  We will be pre-selling them and will make "bulk" orders so we can get the best price on the shirts.  To order, please use the Paypal button on the upper right side of our blog.  In the description field, please enter your shirt style(s) & size(s).  Here is what will be available:

Junior Fit available sizes:  XS S M L XL 2X
These run 1 to 2 sizes smaller than normal fit.  So, if you normally wear a medium, I would recommend a Large or Extra Large.  I comfortably wear a large.

Unisex Fit available sizes:  XXS XS S M L XL 2X 3X
Runs fairly true to size

Mens Premium fit available sizes:  XXS XS S M L XL 2X 3X
Runs just a little bit small

Paypal ordering instructions:

The shirts are a 100% cotton fine jersey....and feel wonderful!  Super soft!

Buy a shirt and be part of the journey to bring a child home to their Forever Family.  Please share this with your friends.  There is something incredibly humbling about asking people for money.  But there is something even greater....letting others share in the joy of this journey.  Thank you for being part of this adventure with us!

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Our first official fundraiser!

I'm so excited about this item.  Although we just recently announced our plans...in my heart I knew we'd be going down this path.  So, I began stockpiling these beautiful sterling silver rectangles and started saving my nickles and dimes so that I could purchase a new, smaller Africa stamp that would fit these charms perfectly.

Well, my stamp arrived just this week!  I love these necklaces.  Perfectly simple....but they say so much.  And they will do so much.  Every necklace purchased benefits our adoption!  Every necklace purchased puts us one step closer to meeting the newest member of our family.

Each necklaces includes a sterling silver charm hand stamped with Africa.  The charm measures 6/8" x 7/8" and hangs from a sterling silver ball chain in your choice of 16" or 18".

To purchase a necklace, simply make a $30.00 donation to our adoption fund using the link in the upper right hand corner.

Please consider sharing this on your blogs & facebook pages.  Thank you so much for your support through this journey.  I have so much comfort knowing we are not doing this alone.  God is so good and I believe He's been preparing us for this journey long before we ever knew.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Where we are at.....

It almost feels surreal that we are doing this....that we are committed to bringing another child (or two if that's what God has planned for us) from Uganda into our family.

I've been asked a lot recently "so, where are you at?". So, I wanted to share. We have officially started our homestudy. We were referred to a great social worker who has helped several other families in the Austin area. We were beyond blessed by a couple wonderful friends who made donations to our adoption fund and made this possible. You know who you are and you have forever blessed our hearts. We can't wait for the day to be able to pay this all forward. Right now, we are in the thick of paperwork...our biography so to speak. Background checks have been sent off and fingerprints are next up. Well, at least the easy ones are. I am NOT, I repeat NOT an organized person so this will all be a stretch for me. But thanks to my wonderful friend Julie who provided me with the most lovely lime green filing folders, I feel that I can conquer ANYTHING. :o) Ok, I know it takes more than some fancy filing folders and I feel that God has called me waaaaaaay outside my comfort zone by pursuing an "independent adoption", but I am also thankful. It stretches me. It requires me to completely lean on Him. It requires another level of trust that He will equip me (us) to complete this journey He has called us to.

I was able to meet with an adoption attorney while in Uganda and she was a wealth of information. Again, we were referred to her by another family who recently completed their adoption.

The picture was drawn by our beautiful Mandy. She drew this for us...in her words "to help bring my brother home". My friend Kathy who I traveled to Zeway with in March is in school studying web & graphic design. She has been really helpful with coming up with a design for T-shirts and notecards.  The back of the shirt will have "To bring you home" in Mandy's handwriting.  We are so excited to get these printed up and we'll be using these to help fundraise for our adoption.

We don't have a timeline and we don't have a child identified. We are walking in blind faith right now and continuing to trust God.

Thank you for following along and walking through this journey with us.  We know we are not alone and will be coveting your prayers.


Saturday, August 20, 2011

My Samaritans purse adventure...

This has been an amazing week. I feel blessed that God would even allow me to be on this adventure. It is only by His Grace that I could be here because nothing about it makes sense. It was a jam packed week and I am going to try and detail everything here.

Our flights were perfect. Fortune was amazing. We had hardly any delays, all our baggage arrived safe and sound and we were all in good spirits. When we awoke Wednesday, we eagerly awaited the arrival of Sylvia's husband. It was such a joy filled reunion. I don't think I've ever seen Sylvia smile like she did when she saw her husband. He is such a sweet man with the most gentle spirit. He was so happy to see his son and incredibly grateful for all that Samaritans purse and everyone in Austin had done for his family. We would find out later, that behind all the joy and smiles, he was hiding something. Sadly, he had a horrible injury happen just the day before Sylvia arrived and he lost his wedding finger :o( He didn't want to worry Sylvia or take away any joy from the moment so he waited to tell her. He is in very good spirits about it though and is healing very well.

When we arrived in Kampala,we were off and running. Another child has been accepted into the program and will be traveling soon. I had the privilege of meeting his and he is a delightful boy. He is just 10 days younger than Trent so we have big plans to meet when he comes to Austin. We spent the day with him getting vaccinations, lab results & visa pictures. It was a sweet time.

On Thursday morning, I was off to Mukono to visit the Women of Destiny. As we arrived in Mukono, my heart was racing. I was so excited. When we arrived at the school, I'm pretty sure I didn't even let the driver stop the car before I jumped out and started running. It was so wonderful to see them all. I was able to deliver a beautiful bunch of clothes that Cathy had put together for Maggie, the girl who we sponsor. Maggie was so excited and promptly put on the prettiest dress in the bunch. The only thing missing was Cathy. Everyone asked about you and said they were praying for your return. They all send you their love.

After a wonderful visit and lunch, it was back to Kampala and on to meet the wonderful men and women that create beautiful jewelry for Noonday collection. It was such a blessed time. Each beader has such a unique story and they have been truly blessed by Jessica. I spent time with Jalia and taught her some additional jewelry making skills. I also delivered several set of pliers which apparently was perfect timing because they were down to one pair. Jalia went to cut something and said "we are on our last set of pliers" and I said "I can fix that!" and dropped down about 12 pair. They were so excited. I also tried my hand at making some of the large beads from the Happy Day necklace. I think I did a pretty good job! :o)

Friday morning was fun because I got to meet Mandie Joy who lives in Jinja. She had placed a special order for some jewelry and when I found out I was coming, it worked out perfectly to deliver it to her. She came to the Samaritans purse office and we had a nice visit. Then, we were off to go shopping! In my last 3 trips to Africa, I've probably had 1 hour of shopping time combined, so I really soaked it up. After 13 months and 4 trips to Africa, I finally found my lime green purse!!

As we were waiting for our driver, Samantha asked if I would like a tour of Watoto church. As we were walking around, we heard the children singing. I was peaking in and she went in and asked the director if we could watch. He said "of course". I watched them finish a song and asked if I could take a picture. He then said "we will do a special performance for you." The tears started rolling. They were amazing. Seriously, my cheeks hurt from smiling. I will never, ever forget that moment and must have thanked God a thousand times.

After shopping we headed out to Luwero to visit Sylvia and family. She had prepared a wonderful meal for us and we had a sweet time. It was very, very hard to say goodbye to Fortune, but my heart tells me that I will see him again.

Friday evening, I was blessed to have dinner with my good friend Richard and his lovely wife Grace. He took me to a wonderful Indian restaraunt and we had a great time.

Saturday I met with an attorney to discuss our adoption. It was incredibly informative and it was nice to meet with her face to face. After that, I was blessed to be able to meet Carli Traverse from Carli's kids. She also had placed a jewelry order and was going to what until the end of November to get it when she came to the US. Again, when I found out I was going, we made arrangements to meet. She was kind enough to let me visit her home that she shares with her husband, 3 biological children and 13 children they have taken in from the streets. God bless her heart! One just arrived yesterday...ironically enough from Luweero where they have purchased land to build a childrens home and school. Also, where Sylvia lives. I've always said I don't believe in coincidences. I learned so much from our time together and the children were delightful.

Tomorrow I will attend church at Watoto with Samantha, head out to Lubowa to meet Jalia one last time and end my day visiting with Leah from Cherish. Leah & her family are from Austin and they are now living in Uganda. I'm so excited to learn about their ministry and visit with a Texan in Uganda.

I've learned a lot on this trip. It's been very educational. I really feel that God has carried me through this trip. Doing things "alone" is not my gig...but He has kept me close to His heart and I am so grateful for that. I've read much more than I normally read, haven't watched a lick of TV (no Cathy, not even those crazy soap operas that we always found ourselves watching as we were waiting to leave Lugazi...LOL) and had lots of conversations with God. It's so tremendously humbling to be able to do something like this and I believe He allows these things so that we may give Him ALL the glory. So that is just what I will do. God, you are AWESOME. You are HOLY. You are THE KING OF GLORY. Without you, I am nothing and I am forever grateful for your Presence in my life.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Adoption....the ONE thing....

Recently I was meeting a good friend of mine, Matt, for coffee to discuss our upcoming trip to Ethiopia to attend the KIDMIA Seed Adoption Conference in Addis as part of our orphan care partnership ministry. He picked a great little coffee shop close to both of us off West Anderson Lane in Austin, Tx. Before heading out, I quickly programmed my internal GPS via Mapquest and off I went. As I was driving and approaching what I thought was the correct area I kept thinking, “why would Matt pick this place, it doesn’t seem to be close to both of us at all”. Instead of stopping and calling Matt to confirm, I simply kept driving and exited off on Anderson Mill Road. I must have driven back and forth on that road trying to figure out where this coffee shop was. After about 10 minutes, I finally stopped, prayed and then realized that Matt said “West Anderson”, not “Anderson Mill”. I had gone to the wrong “Anderson” part of town! So needless to say I called Matt told him I was running late and why and drove like crazy to meet up for coffee.

Well as you all know by now, Dawn and I are moving forward and proceeding with our adoption from Uganda. The funny thing is, for Dawn, she has known for some time that we would be adopting, for me…not so much and as you will see, I had to pull over and clarify my destination with the Lord before coming to that realization.

Last year, prior to Dawn and I heading off on our first mission trip to Africa, I had been humbled and broken to tears when I heard Richard from Uganda pray at the close of service at church. I had never cried so hard in my entire life and I currently understand why I was so broken. Dawn asked me what was going on but I honestly had no answer, I didn’t know. All I did know was that the Lord told me to go to Africa with Dawn and that I had broken down listening to a man from Uganda pray. Nothing made sense. A few days later, I came across a mysterious Kindred Spirit magazine in my house. Kindred Spirit is a publication from Dallas Theological Seminary. On the label was my name and address, but I had never contacted DTS nor had I ever given them any information on me. I asked Dawn about it and she had no clue to how it arrived. Obviously I was intrigued, especially after my experience at church, so I decided to read through it in hopes of making some sense of everything. As I opened up the magazine I was drawn to an article on Howard Hendricks, a professor at DTS that was retiring. I have never met Howard Hendricks and had only heard of him recently from a pastor friend at church. So I read the article and came across a “professorism”, a quote that he was famous for. It read, “You can do many things, but be sure to do the ONE thing that you MUST do.” Well that got my attention, so much so that I began weeping again and called out to God, “what is the ONE thing I MUST do?” As I prayed I opened the magazine up again and this time I came across a picture of African boys. So what? Well, this edition of Kindred Spirit had nothing to do with Africa. It was about immigration and the one article on Howard Hendricks. Nothing in the entire magazine was about African boys or orphans. So using the logic of Wiley Coyote, I calculated that Africa + Uganda + Orphans + DTS = go to DTS for seminary in cross-cultural studies. Ok, that must be the ONE thing I MUST do, that was what God was asking me to do and it was so far removed from what I would have studied, He must have been using these bizarre events to get my attention. So I applied and was accepted to DTS and off I went following the Lord, or so I thought.

Just prior to starting DTS, I was thrown a curve ball. My church called me up and wanted to interview me for a pastoral position. My dream of ministry had come true, but wait a minute, I had just committed to going to seminary. In addition, this program required that I complete 50% of the classes in Dallas, 3 hours north. Why would the Lord ask me to go to seminary, have that be the ONE thing I MUST do and then open the door to being a pastor that would require 100% of my time and was in Austin. Something was off and I began to question everything.

So I placed seminary on hold for a year and began my work in ministry. When Dawn came back from Uganda and told me about her amazing time and about meeting an adoption attorney by chance, I began to wonder if adoption was something to consider and if so, why was I so convinced that I had to go to seminary. So I decided to retrace my steps and returned to that Kindred Spirit magazine. I wasn’t prepared for what I saw.

I reread Howard Hendricks’ quote, “You can do many things; but be sure to do the ONE thing you MUST do.” Ok, Lord, I thought seminary was the ONE thing, what’s up? Then I turned to the page that had the African boys but this time something appeared larger that life that I had completely missed the first time, a scripture verse was above the picture. How did I miss that? How on earth did I miss a scripture verse when trying to sense God’s direction? Especially this scripture verse… Mark 9:37, “Whoever welcomes one of these little children in my name welcomes me.” That’s when I first had the thought, what if adoption was the ONE thing I MUST do?”

I’d love to say that at that moment I was fully committed to adoption, but I wasn’t, I was willing to begin praying and opening my mind for that possibility. Truth be told, I was mourning the loss of a dream. What dream you ask? You see, I had fallen in love with Africa and missions. It’s crazy, I know, but I felt so strongly that we were going to be involved in missions with Africa that in some small crazy way, staying in American and simply adopting seemed like a cop out. Crazy, I know.

Anyway, rather than dive right in, I took several months to contemplate everything and simply pray. Prayed about seminary, prayed about church, prayed about Africa, missions and most of all adoption. Then I finally heard that quote, but this time it was personally addressed to me. I heard in an inaudible voice, more of a whispering thought, “John, you are able to do many things. I have equipped you to be a Stephen Minister, a Peacemaker, a Sunday school teacher, a hospitality leader, a marriage mentor, a missionary and a pastor. Not only are you able to do many things but I can and will send you many places. However, John, I have one thing for you that you MUST do. You know what that ONE thing is; and now that you know, you will be blessed if you do it.”

It was then that I fully believed and confessed to Dawn that I was fully in. So here I am, arms open and heart pounding walking in faith with my wife and children in the journey of adoption. Thank you all for your prayers, they are coveted and appreciated.

Friday, August 5, 2011

How we got here....

John and I have some very exciting news.  We have officially begun the process for an adoption from Uganda!  We are so excited and our heads are spinning....all at the same time.

Although some of you may be thinking...."I'm not the least bit surprised", you may be wondering how we got here.  I'd like to take the time to share that.

I've had a heart for Africa for some time.  If you ask my Mom, she would say that God has been preparing me for this since I was a child.  I honestly never expected to "GO" to Africa though.  As I grew into an adult, and began having my own children, I could hear a voice of a child that wasn't my own.  This child would say "mama", but it wasn't with an American accent...it was different.  I never gave it too much thought though.

Towards the end of 2007, a couple brought their newly adopted son to church.  He was from Ethiopia and one of the most beautiful babies I had ever seen.  My youngest was just 7 months old at the time but I remember saying to my husband on the drive home "there was just something about that boy".  Again, I didn't give it too much thought and safely tucked it away.

In May 2009, our church was going on a mission trip to Zeway, Ethiopia to help orphans.  My heart was stirring but it wasn't "GO to Africa", rather, it was a "make jewelry".  I prayed to God and asked him if there was anything I could do with my hands to help these orphans.  By His grace, He led to the creation of the Tesfa jewelry collection.

As 2010 was approaching, I knew in my head, heart & gut that I was supposed to go on the next trip to Zeway.  Several times people would ask me "are you going to adopt from Ethiopia?" or would say "you are going to bring a child home, aren't you".  I would always respond with something like "maybe someday, but I don't think it will be Ethiopia.

Then March of 2010 came.  A gentleman came to our church to share his testimony.  He was from San Diego and he brought two of his associates with him.  One from Jamaica, one from Uganda.  We were having an event for the Zeway partnership and we were all wearing our Zeway shirts and I was wearing jewelry from our Tesfa jewelry collection.  The one gentleman, Robert (from Jamaica) inquired about our shirts and specifically asked about my jewelry.  I told him about Ethiopia and explained the jewelry and paper beads.  He told me he knew about the paper beads and that they had a ministry in Uganda with women making them.  Of course, my intrigue grew.

After John (from San Diego) shared his testimony, he asked Richard to come up and pray.  When I heard him pray, I fell apart.  That was it.  That was the voice.  I knew the voice I'd been hearing say "mama" was the same accent.

After the prayer, my husband got up immediately and left; which in itself was nothing new as he was leading our church's hospitality ministry and had responsibilities to attend to. After the service, I began frantically looking for my husband and found him in the kitchen.....weeping.  He couldn't even talk.  Neither one of us knew what was going on.  More on that later.... :o)

Richard & I exchanged emails and we'd email often regarding beads & the Women of Destiny.  One day he sent me an email and it went something like this "WHEN, you visit Uganda, I want you to know that you have been invited to stay at my parents home."  When I visit Uganda?  Thanks for the offer, but I'm knee deep in jewelry for Ethiopia, I don't think I'm going to Uganda.

"See, I am sending an angel ahead of you to guard you along the way and to bring you to the place I have prepared"  Exodus 23:20

I was wrong.  And boy am I glad I was wrong.  In January 2011, I found myself in Uganda with my good friend Cathy.  We were blessed beyond words and I fell in love with Uganda.  On our last night there, we had car trouble so Richard called his good friend, Benon, to come and drive us into Kampala.  We were asking Richard all kinds of questions and I began asking about adoption.  Richard responded "Oh, you should ask Benon those questions...he is an adoption attorney".  I had to bite my tongue to fight back the tears.  I knew God was up to something.

In March, John and I began SERIOUSLY praying about adoption.  I returned to Zeway in March and came home fairly confident that we weren't supposed to do anything...yet.  Again, we both have been open to adoption but we were never both in the same place at the same time.  Ethiopia, Uganda, now, later, before Seminary, during Seminary, after Seminary, before we move, after we move?  We also had to make a decision that was best for our family.  We couldn't decide to do this for social justice or because it's what everyone else was doing.  It had to be right for us and more importantly what GOD wanted us to do.

John was asked to return to Zeway in May for an Adoption conference for Ethiopian church leaders & pastors.  He came home very confident that we were not adopting from Ethiopia.

I wait for you, O LORD...Psalm 38:15

Then an opportunity came from Samaritans Purse to help host a mama and her sweet 9 month old baby from Uganda.  The baby was having life saving open heart surgery.  They also came with a Samaritans Purse  employee from Uganda.  What a joy it has been walking through this experience with them.  Ok, is anybody else sense a theme with Uganda?  :o)

During this time, after our morning prayers, John looked up at me and said...."no more excuses, I'm ready".  My heart jumped.  Ready as in, ready, ready.....like ready for us to take the adoption plunge?  Yes, He was ready and so was I.  I looked at him and said "Ethiopia or Uganda" and he said "it's Uganda....that is where our son is". There was a conviction and confidence about John's decision that he hadn't had until this time. More on that when John writes his side next...

"And whoever welcomes a little child like this in my name welcomes me."  Matthew 18:5 

We immediately began praying for the Lord to confirm our decision while at the same time the brainstorming process began.....how much jewelry do I have to make and sell to get back to Uganda to be able to start the inquiry process.

One week later, I got a phone call that took my breath away.  I feel like it was God's way of confirming everything.  It was from Samaritans Purse.  They asked me if I would be willing to take our Ugandan guests home.  My response "to UGANDA?.....you are asking me if I want to go back to UGANDA....in 18 days....are YOU KIDDING ME?"  Yes, they were asking me to travel back to Uganda, fully paid! Originally, they asked if I would be willing to stay "in country" for 3 days. John and I both saw this as a confirmation from God and that He was sending me to Uganda to begin the inquiry process. As I learned of the Samaritans Purse itinerary for myself and shared it with John, he kept mentioning, make sure to take time to investigate the adoption. We were a little concerned that there wasn't going to be any time left for that, so we prayed. It always amazes me to see how the Lord works to accomplish His will. Samaritans Purse called me back and explained that the cost of airfare was more $4,000 more expense if I stayed for a standard period of time and they asked me to consider staying an additional three days.  Confirmation request confirmed, and confirmed again.  And wouldn't you know it, the adoption attorney asked to meet me on Saturday.  Saturday.  If the original itinerary would have played out, I would have been on my way back home on Saturday. 

After that happened, I told John that we needed to let our family & closest friends know our plans.  I knew I needed to begin doing some research and would be wanting to ask questions to adoptive parents via Facebook.  So, we sent out a letter.  We were so encouraged by the support and outpouring of love we received....more confirmation from God that we were, indeed, following Him.

Ok, this is real now.  How in the world are we going to afford this?  How much jewelry do I need to make and sell to pay for our homestudy?

Then my phone rang.  One hour after the email was sent, once again, my world was rocked.  A wonderful friend told me to open a Paypal adoption account because she wanted to make a donation.  I was not prepared for what happened next.  We now had the funds for our home study.  I cried.  All day long.  I will never have enough words to thank her.

I was reminded of Malachi 3:10 "Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house.  Test me in this." says the LORD Almighty. "and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that you will not have room enough for it.

So, here we are.  Excited, anxious, nervous, emotional...you name it....but trusting God.  I had a conversation with a friend about this.  I said "I don't deserve this, any of this" and she replied "it's not about you".  She was absolutely right.  It's not about me.  It's about God and glorifying HIM.  He is providing and paving the way.  He is the ONLY reason we are here today, able to share this story.  I give HIM praise and I am humbled by His love and more importantly His GRACE.

Let them give glory to the LORD and proclaim his praise.....Isaiah 42:12

And our journey begins......

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

A day worth blogging about

Sometimes I'm really good at this blogging thing....sometimes not.  Right now, I'm on a not spell.  With it being summer and kiddos running around, it's hard to pull any thoughts together long enough for a blog post.  Not to mention, we started the summer running.  Fast.

But today...today is a day worth blogging about.  I have a story to share.

About 8 1/2 years ago, while we still lived in Cali...I went to have my taxes done.  My tax preparer worked out of her home and I had my 2 kids with me.  She offered to let her babysitter (who looked about 14 but was actually 18) watch my kids while she prepared my taxes.  This same girl often subbed at the preschool my children went to.  I got to know her pretty well...her name was Janelle.

When the time came for me to need a nanny....Janelle was my first choice.  My kids adored her and we started to build a friendship.  She also had a new boyfriend.  Within weeks of meeting me, he agreed to dress up as Spiderman for my Mandy's (yes, you read that right....Mandy's) birthday.  I knew he was an alright guy.

Fast forward about a year and they were engaged.  Guess who the ringbearer & flower girl were?  Yup...you guessed it...Mandy & Trent.  And boy were they ever adorable.  It was a beautiful wedding and so inspiring for John and I to see to young people so in love and so committed to Christ.  I told their parents that I hoped one day my children would grow up to be just like them.  Mandy looked up to Janelle so much that on her 6th birthday, she wanted to have her picture taken with her.  ♥

Fast forward about 8 months and God called us to Texas.  We had such a special friendship with the Wallis' by this point and it was really hard to say good-bye.  Just a few months later and they came to visit us in Texas.  They loved it and prayed very hard about weather God would call them here.

One of Janelle's deepest hopes was that we would have children the same ages.  Well...Janelle and I are like 14 years apart and I was sooooooooooooooooooooooo done having children.  Or so I thought.  God had something else planned.  In June of 2006, I found out I was pregnant.  I called Janelle and as excited as she was for me, she was deeply saddened that one...she was in Cali and I was in Texas...and two that there were absolutely no plans for her and Gary to have kids yet.

Well, guess what....God had other plans there too.  As I type, I am just smiling.  Not only did God move them to Texas but Janelle found out...much to her pleasant surprise...that she was expecting.  Ok, now I'm crying.

So here we were...her at 22 and me at 37 carrying babies...pregnant at the same time...just like she hoped for.

It really forged our families together.  We have a wonderful friendship with the Wallis' but they are truly family to us as well.  We have the kind of friendship that when my world is falling apart, I can go to her house, sob and fall asleep on her couch.  When one of her kids becomes seriously ill at 3am, we'll be at the ER together.

So, when the phone rang this morning at 9:15 and I heard "we're having a baby girl", my heart rejoiced.  I felt like someone was telling me I was having a baby girl.  Well, ok, maybe not because if someone told me I was having a baby girl right now...I'd faint.  But, you get it. :o)

We're family.  And I am overjoyed that there will be a new baby girl in our family.  Love you Wallis family.
Children are a gift from the LORD; they are a reward from him.  Psalm 127:3

Saturday, May 28, 2011

To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.

I love my Mom.  And I really love what God is doing in her life.  As her daughter, I am so incredibly proud of the path she is walking that was hand chosen for her by our wonderful Lord.

You see, at 61 years old, she is going on her first mission trip.  She will be going with Mission church & Vision Abolition to help children who have been rescued from the sex slave trade.  This will NOT be easy work, but she felt God pressing her to say YES, SEND ME! (Isaiah 6:8).

My mind immediately went into high gear.  How can I support her?  It was almost as if I heard God say "Dawn, do what you do."  So a new jewelry design was born.

My Mom's church vision for their mission program is Micah 6:8...He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.   That is why I chose Micah 6:8 for this pendant.  She is answering the call and will be doing those very things.

The necklaces are $22 (which includes shipping).  **Please note, when you are checking out, the necklace will come up as $16 with $6 shipping. **  I gave up the fight with paypal to change the shipping cost :o)  Several colors are available.  Each pendant will be matched with beautifully coordinating leather.  They are available in any length really.  Just add a note when checking out your color choice and length.  The first orders will ship June 15th.

Mom, my heart leaps when I think of how proud I am of you.

Friends, it is my hearts desire and personal goal to sell 100 of these.  Every person who purchases a necklace will also be entered into a drawing to win a $50 Funky Fish gift certificate IF we sell 100 :o)

Please considering sharing this on your blogs and facebook pages.  It would mean the world to me!!


Wednesday, May 4, 2011

It's been too long....

I just noticed that it's been almost a month since I updated anything on my blog.  Now, keeping in mind that I didn't start blogging until about 6 months ago...this shouldn't be a terribly huge deal.  But, the whole point of a blog is to write it all out.  So, it's time to get back to business!

I think after I returned from Ethiopia, I really just wanted to crawl in a hole.  Not crawl in a hole in a sad way, but crawl in a hole and forget the rest of the world was moving around me and just relive my time in Ethiopia over and over and over.  Truth is, I can't get my mind out of Ethiopia.  This was something I didn't expect.

While I was in Uganda, I LOVED it.  The climate, the landscape, the people...everything.  So much that I somehow convinced myself that my upcoming trip to Ethiopia would be my last.

I think I was wrong.  It happened once ya know :o)

But in all sincerity, I loved Uganda.  But, on this trip to Ethiopia, I fell in love.  Go ahead, you can tell my sweet hubby....he already knows ;o)  I fell in love with a boy named Johannes.  See, I met Johannes last year.  As well as many other children.  I never experienced what I experienced in the moment I saw him this year.  PURE LOVE.

We weren't scheduled to see Johannes at all.  But, because I had asked so much about him, Bezawork, one of the social workers arranged for me to see him.  He didn't tell me...he just surprised me.  I will never be able to put into words how my heart feels when I think about Johannes.  Even as I sit here and type, I get that painful lump in my throat, my eyes well up in tears and I just have to breathe.

So, what does all this mean?  I HAVE NO IDEA!!  One thing I know is that I love that boy.  I pray that one day God will allow our paths to cross again.  I have his face etched into my brain.  As I asked him how he had been and if he remembered us he looked up at me with his beautiful brown eyes and the biggest smile on his face and said "John".  I crumbled.   Marcos, the Food for the Hungry team leader said "Dawn, you never ever forget the person who led you to the Lord. 

That God allowed me to experience Johannes accepting Christ last summer was COMPLETELY humbling.  For God to have allowed me to see that beautiful boy again...I have no words.  Feeling humbled is just the tip of the iceburg.  I'll never be able to comprehend why God has allowed me to experience all He has over the past year....but I will forever be grateful.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Because I "Simply Love" lime green...

Have you ever heard the saying "when I am an old lady, I shall wear purple?"  Well mine is "when I am an old lady, I shall wear lime green...and only lime green."  I can already see my closet lined with lime green shirts, lime green shoes....it would be the best!  If you know anything about you as you read this, you are probably thinking "yup...she'd be just crazy enough to do that."

Well, I have a friend who is pretty crazy too.  In fact, she's self-confessed crazy :o)  Her name is Kari, her blog is My Crazy Adoption and she is really, super cool.  And she's really passionate about orphan care.

What does all this have to do with lime green?  Well, she started selling totes to help raise funds for her sons upcoming mission trip to Ethiopia & Uganda.  Her son has only been to Ethiopia one time...when he went with Kari & her husband to get their beautiful daughter Zoie.  He became horribly ill because of the water and realized the desperate need for water in Ethiopia.  He and several students (Pirates dig a well) partnered with Glimmer of Hope and raised $10,000 to build a well in Ethiopia!!  How awesome is that?  And now...he gets to go back to the place where he got so sick and watch this process begin.  We serve an awesome God, don't we?

Ok, ok...I still haven't gotten to the lime green part yet have I?  So the totes she were selling were cute...really cute.  But they weren't lime green.  For whatever wacky, crazy and weird reason, I will only carry lime green purses, totes, etc.  So, I casually commented to Kari about how much I loved them but I couldn't make a purchase.  Kari told me that if I ordered one...she would FIND a lime green one just for me.  Did I mention how much I love her?

So, here's the tote.  I loved it so much...I bought 2.  One for me and one for you!  Yes, you.  :o)  Whoever isn't completely bored out of their mind by this post and has gotten this far, you can with this adorable tote.  Before I go any further....here is my disclaimer.  More than anything, I'd love for you to just make a purchase :o)  Please visit the My Crazy adoption store and see all the wonderful totes she has for sale!

Here's how you win

Comment on this blog post about why you want to win and your name will be entered

If you aren't a follower on my blog, become a follower, let me know in a separate comment you did and your name will be entered again

Post this on Facebook, make a comment and guess what...your name will be entered again.

And last but not least....if you make a purchase from Kari or donate to her son's trip...I'll enter your name to win again!


Wednesday, March 23, 2011

My 40th year....

41.  Wow.  That is a big number.  In some ways, I feel very 41.  In others, I still feel like such a goofy kid.  I still love to skip over to people when I greet them.  I still like to scare people (especially my children) which makes my husband say I have a twisted sense of humor.  And I still like grape soda.

But turning 41 has really made me stop and reflect over all God has done over the past year.  My 40th year.  When my friend, Greg, talks about processing mission trips, he says to think about 3 things.  What did you see?  What did you hear?  And how did it make you feel?  I've been pondering those questions about the past year and decided to write about them.

What did I see?  Well, I think the first obvious answer is Africa.  I saw Africa.  And I saw Africa 3 times.  If anyone would have ever told me that I would visit Africa one day I would have never believed it.  Not because I didn't want to go but because I thought financially, it would never, ever be possible.  But God provided and he allowed me to visit that beautiful continent and see things I'd never seen.  Poverty, brokenness, beauty, pain, hope and Jesus in the eyes of beautiful children.  I got to see a foreign land with the man I dearly love.  I got to see another beautiful country, Uganda, with a dear friend.  I got to see Africa through her eyes which made it all brand new again.  Then I got to see Ethiopia again but with all new people and all new experiences.  I am humbled and beyond blessed.

I also saw God move a mountain in the form of a phone call after we came home from Africa.  It went something like this "John, would you be interested in coming to interview for a pastoral position at Grace?"  A what???????????????  Only God could have made that possible.  We dreamed.  And we dreamed big.  And we prayed even harder.  But when God answered that prayer, we were blown away.  And then to find out that his position would oversee marriage mentoring.  Well, if you know our story, then you know that it could have only been God to arrange for such a thing to happen.

I've also seen my children growing into their own.  They are developing their own unique ways about them and it's such a joy to watch them.  But their growing has also caused me to see where I fall short as a parent.  I'm starting to see where I need to be more intentional about parenting them and teaching them.  That I need to be as doting on them as I would an orphan on the other side of the world.  That I need to give them as much time and effort (if not more) than I'm willing to give to anything or anyone else. 

What did I hear?  I think the most profound thing I heard this past year was my mothers voice.  I know it's with my mothers permission that I continue to write this but to say our relationship was strained for a very long time is an understatement.  When we finally came to a place where our relationship felt healthy, God moved her.  WHAT????  RIGHT NOW???  I'm just starting to like "us".  It made no sense and I was not happy.  At all.  I was angry, frustrated, hurt and just knew she was making the wrong choice.  Well, I was wrong.  Her moving has been the best thing that could have ever happened to us.  I can't explain it but I can say it's all very good.  God is growing her in ways I could have never imagined and he's growing "us".  I hear her now when she talks to me.  I trust that God speaks to me through her.  She is so supportive of all my craziness (ahem...aka Africa) and has provided me with godly wisdom that has been a huge blessing.  And I heard words from her recently that I never thought I would hear "I submitted my application to go on my first mission trip".  My Mom...at 61...is going on a mission trip.  And I could not be more proud to be her daughter.

What did I feel?  There have been so many feelings that have run through my heart this past year.  I think the biggest feeling is disbelief.  Has all this really happened this past year?  What I feel most of the time is unworthy.  I also feel blessed.  Ridiculously blessed.  We shouldn't be here.  It doesn't add up.  That's where God comes in.  We can never add up and we don't belong here.  It's only by God's grace that anything in our life is what it is. 

I also feel a peace.  When I returned from Ethiopia last year, I felt myself wanting to scramble.  How will I get back?  When will I get back?  Oh God, please let me go back.  Maybe I have a peace because I'm just plain tired.  Maybe I have a peace because it's truly from God.  Maybe it will only last a minute.  But for now, I just feel peace.  I feel like God is saying "it's ok to rest now". 

So, what do I want for my birthday?  I want for every person I know to embrace some aspect of orphan care.  Pray, go, adopt, support.  We can all do something...and we are all called to do something.  James 1:27, Matthew 25:40...it's in black and white.  

What does 41 hold?  I have no idea.  But I'm going to start with loving my family just a little bit more.  Kissing that amazing husband of mine a few more times a day.  I think the most important thing I need to learn is how to have an intimate relationship with the one who loves me most...God.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Emma Kait.....

A few weeks before I left from Africa, I received an email from a friend from my youth asking me if I would be willing to do a "special project".  She had a friend whose daughter had been diagnosed with cancer.  She wanted to know if I would design a special bracelet that could be used as a fundraiser.  When I went to the blog the mother was doing in honor of her daughter, my heart swelled.  The blog is called "Face of Faith".  And when you look at this child, she radiates joy.  She has blue eyes that just sparkle.  This young ladies courage is such an inspiration to me.  I've lost parents and grandparents to cancer and I can't even imagine what this mama is going through.  You can read about her journey here:  http://emmakaitstanphill.blogspot.com/

So Africa approaches and I'm totally overwhelmed.  I'm overcommitted, tired and just plain not feeling well.  But, I still feel God pressing on my heart about Emma Kait.  I return from my trip and get a very gentle reminder about Emma from my friend and the special project.  I wanted to include Emma in the design process and when we ultimately decided on what she wanted, I knew it was an undertaking bigger than what my 2 hands could accomplish.  Ultimately, a custom stamp would have to be made for this project.  And they are very expensive.

But still I felt God pressing me to continue on and telling me to trust that HE would provide. 

I reluctantly sat down at my computer and sent an image to a stamp maker I used recently.  I said just this:

I have another project I've been asked to do for a little girl diagnosed with cancer.  I would like to get a quote for a stamp like this:
Dawn Patterson

This was his reply:

I have that font, I think it's papyrus. I'll get the artwork drawn up and sent over. I can donate this one.

Sean Broadbent
Buckeye Engraving

"I can donate this one."  I didn't ask him for that.  I felt like God was saying "I've got this Dawn" and I just cried.

I'm growing in my ability to trust God.  I share this story because even though it's a small detail, it's such a good example of how when God brings you to something, he will bring you through it.  He will provide and He will meet every need.  

And my God will meet all your needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus. Phillippians 4:19

Friday, March 4, 2011

Flat Stanley is going to Ethiopia

If you have children, you probably know who Flat Stanley is.  On Wednesday, I got an email from my dear friend in Ohio.  She hadn't been on Facebook and didn't know that I was leaving Friday for Ethiopia.  She told me that she had just placed Stanley in the mail because her son, Kyle, wanted Stanley to go somewhere far...like Texas.

In my experience....mail just doesn't move that quickly.  Ohio to Texas via 1st class mail in two days??  The chances were slim.  And, our mail arrives after I would already be on the plane to Africa.

But, I still thought it would be so cool is Stanley could go to Africa.  I started seeing pictures of Stanley in my mind with some of the orphans I know and the stories he could share.

On a whim...at 8:00 this morning, I called our post office.  Perks of living in a really small town ;o)  I told the gal my situation and asked if she would just check to see if I had an envelope getting ready to be delivered today.  She said she would check.  She came back and said "I have an envelope here from a Kyle Gregel...would you like me to hold it for you so you can pick it up before your flight?"

I was so completely excited.

So Flat Stanley is on his way to Africa with me.  I think there are some elementary children (maybe even a few teachers) who will be greatly impacted by the stories he will be able to share.   There will be an elementary school in Mantua, Ohio who will now know about the orphans in Zeway.  And that makes my heart smile.

To God be the Glory!

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Because she IS worth it....

Ethiopia is right around the corner.  9 days away.  And I am struggling.  Not emotionally, but physically.  To say the last few weeks have been a challenge in our home is an understatement.   We’ve gone through a series of medical issues that just make no sense.  I’ll see if I can sum it all up…..

My sweet husband got pretty sick last November.  We thought he had been bitten by a spider.  On his first doctor visit, that thought was confirmed by the Doctor.   After a crazy turn of events, a visit to the ER and MULTIPLE antibiotics, we found out he had staph.  The original diagnosis was wrong.  Not fun.  Fast forward a few months.  The staph returned.   They didn’t do a complete set of cultures the first time, the proper antibiotics weren’t prescribed and we were back to square one.  There was another series of mishaps with cultures, several days of fever and an allergic reaction to antibiotics.  It was crazy.  But, he’s better now.  

Moving on to me……I had some female issues that had just become unbearable.  I finally got tired enough of dealing with the issues to visit my doctor.  That visit resulted in an ultrasound which resulted in me needing a hysteroscopy, biopsy and d&c.  In the midst of all of this…I am watching the calendar.  I know exactly how many days I have until we leave for Zeway.   Adding to my issues is a phantom back pain.  I really thought it was from the procedure.  Seemed to make sense.  Now, I am questioning that.  It’s several days past my procedure and the pain is not getting better.  What is going on inside my body?

I found myself really, truly questioning if God wanted me on this trip.  I’ve even heard the words “God doesn’t need you in Zeway”.  And the truth is He doesn’t.  He doesn’t need any of us.  I've always felt a sense of peace about "not going".  I've even joked on many occasions that it should be John going...not me.  But, I believe He wants me in Zeway.  I really didn’t feel that until a conversation this morning and now the fight in me has come to life.

I was talking with my Mom this morning about everything going on.  And my heart just kept going to Eden.   Sweet Eden.  The girl who captured my heart.  The child that God used to redeem so many hurts in my own childhood.  Could God be allowing all these physical ailments in my life, our lives, so that I can share them with her and to let her know that she IS worth it?  What Eden knows is a family who when they THOUGHT she was dead only cared about her furniture.  Maybe God wants her to know that there is someone on the other side of the world that loves her enough to fight through this temporary pain just so I can hug her once more.  Just so I can kiss her sweet face.  So that I can tell her that there is ONE who loves her more than ANYTHING in this world.  And His name is Jesus.

The kingdom of Heaven is counted by ones.  And I’ve witnessed first hand the lengths at which God will go to save a soul.  

So Satan, you will lose.  I will continue fighting.  And I have prayer warriors.  Brothers & Sisters in Christ…who love Jesus, who love me and who love these orphans.  Even if I never step foot on African soil again…..Eden will know the love of Jesus.
I love you Eden and as long as God allows it, I will see you soon.

… but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance ~ Romans 5:3

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Uganda Trip 2011

We have been thinking about making a video from our trip since we came back. One morning I was listening to MercyMe's newest cd "The Generous Mr. Lovewell". When I heard the song "Won't You Be My Love" I instantly knew this was the song for our video. Hope you enjoy it! For information please visit True Vine Ministries at http://truevineministriesint.cfsites.org/index.php or Children's Heritage Foundation at http://www.childrensheritagefoundation.org/

Saturday, February 12, 2011

A Divine appointment.....

We've put off writing this blog post because we know there are not words adequate enough to do Catherine or her story justice. But we also know how important it is to share these stories. God didn't allow us to visit this beautiful woman so that we would keep her story bottled up inside our hearts (No one lights a lamp and hides it in a jar or puts it under a bed. Instead, he puts it on a stand, so that those who come in can see the light. – Luke 8:16). He wants it to be shared and we pray for His words even as we sit here and write.

When True Vine Ministries found Catherine she was hopeless and in utter despair. She had come to a place where no wife, mother, or woman should ever be....she was ready to run away and abandon her children, her home, and her life. Her husband had deserted and her heart had been shattered. She had no way to provide for her children, no way to feed them and no way to send them to school. We cannot even begin to imagine the circumstances that would cause one to feel that helpless; that intensely hopeless. In a country where the people live on so little every day, how deep the despair must have been that would bring her to the point that she would be ready to leave everything behind, even what was most precious to her.

True Vine encouraged Catherine and helped her get back on her feet. They ministered to her and spoke Christ into her life. The support she received allowed her to do something she couldn't before- she dared to hope.

Catherine also joined the Women of Destiny beading group. With the money she received from the beads, she was able to send her children to school. An enormous weight had been lifted from Catherine's shoulders.

But her heart was still very, very broken.

The Lord gave us the enormous privilege of visiting Catherine in her home. She lives in a one room mud-brick building with her 3 children Kitiibwa Jemimah (13), Dorkas (10) and Mugabi Gideon (7). As we began to speak with Catherine, you could see the brokenness in her eyes...in her heart. Her anguish was so evident in her voice and in her posture. She sat on the mud floor in a crumpled heap, head down, wringing her hands, her voice barely audible. In a gentle whisper, her voice trembling and breaking as her tears began to flow, she told us her story; the events that led her to the place she was that day. When we asked her how we could pray for her, she prayed for a bigger home for her children, that they would grow in Christ and she began to weep even more. She told us that the difficulties of her life caused her to struggle in her faith and that she was spiritually weak. She asked us to pray that God would bind up her broken heart and strengthen her faith. Our hearts ached for her and we cried and prayed with her, and for her, pleading with God, on her behalf, to heal her broken heart. The flood of tears testified to the profound grief and pain she endured.
As we sat there on the floor of her little house hugging her and kissing her, we knew this was a Divine appointment. God had arranged this meeting in advance. If we could have scooped up Catherine and her children and brought them home, we would have. If we could have given her the moon, we would have. But we gave her what God had brought us there to give. Our love, given to us through Christ, who first loved us. We loved on her and poured into her the best we could and our hearts were forever changed. Could this meeting be the one reason God brought us to Uganda? We don’t know, but we do know that He loves each one of us enough to do just that- bring people great distances for nothing more than the opportunity to show love to just one person. The question is did He arrange this meeting for Catherine……or for us?

After we prayed, she kept thanking us. We felt so unworthy of her words. She told us what a blessing we were to her and she thanked us for visiting her. No, Catherine, it was YOU who blessed us.

God wasn’t finished quite yet. Right before we left, Catherine said "I have gifts for you". She ran off to her little garden and cut two 7 foot tall stalks of sugar cane and dug up several yams and brought them to us. You could see the joy in her eyes that she was able to give us something. We were so touched and deeply humbled. A woman with so little wanted to give us a gift. Be still our beating hearts. She couldn’t possibly have imagined the enormity of the gift she had already given us. Her kindness brought us to our knees and continues to sweetly haunt our daily thoughts.

We miss you so much Catherine, our treasured sister, and we are praying for the day when we will be with you again. God will heal your broken heart, because He keeps his promises. He is faithful and loves you more than you could conceive.

The LORD is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit. Psalm 34:18

He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds. Psalm 147:3

The Spirit of the Sovereign LORD is on me, because the LORD has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners. Isaiah 61:1

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Lunch anyone?

One day we had the pleasure of dining in town with Richard and Mama Jesca.  The restaraunt was called "El Patron" and we were excited to try a "traditional" Ugandan lunch.

The waitress arrived and told us what was available.  A menu wasn't offered which is very different than we we grow accustomed to in America.  The selection was beef, chicken, goat or liver with rice, potatoes or matooke.  We hadn't tried matooke yet and we were feeling pretty hungry so we thought we'd go with the chicken and rice.

When our plates arrived, Cathy & I just stared at each other.  We weren't concerned about the "rice" part of it....but what was that brown blob of stuff on the side of our plate?  We wondered "is THAT the chicken...or did they make a mistake and give us the liver"?

I think Richard saw the concern in our eyes and said "it's ground nuts" with a smile on his face.  Just then, the waitress returned with the "chicken" portion of our rice and chicken lunch.  Insert great sighs of relief.

Richard & Jesca got a good laugh at us.  We got a good laugh at us.  The ground nuts?  Well, they taste like ground nuts!  The chicken and rice was DELICIOUS.  Of course, there really wasn't any food in Uganda that we didn't find delicious.

I find myself longing for Mama Jesca's cooking.  In the morning, breakfast usually was omelets made with fresh eggs covered in garden fresh tomatoes.  Eggs were always served with either fresh, homemade biscuits or hashbrowns.  Coffee was such a treat because our "creamer" was fresh milk from the cow, cooked with just a hint of ginger.  Who needs Starbucks?

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

A little girl in a pink dress

Sometimes you wake up knowing that this day will somehow be very different; that by the end of it something will have changed. That day was Wednesday, January 26th, 2011. We woke up to another amazing morning at the Kibirango farm. It is beautiful, rivaling any rural country landscape in America. However, the intense green and lush countryside belie the utter poverty and desperation that is so prevalent in Uganda.

On Wednesday we loaded into the van to begin our visits with several widows and their children. Along for the ride were Maggie (a social worker), Dennis (17yo son of a widow we would soon meet), & Maggie, a little 6 year old girl in a crisp pink dress (Dennis’ little sister).

As we drove, Maggie sat in the middle seat, with Jesca. Dawn & I were in the back. Every now and then she would shyly turn around to look at us and we would wave at her and smile. She seemed very interested in the both of us and of course we couldn’t help but stare at her beautiful face. Her deep brown eyes were mesmerizing and I was certain they had seen far more than any 6yo eyes should ever witness. Her little mouth did not smile. As hard as I tried to coax one out of her, it didn’t work and I wondered if she had ever had reason to.

When the van arrived at our first stop, Maggie & her brother walked us through an ally to a row of mud rooms, one of which they called home. There was a fabric curtain hanging in the doorway, the only thing keeping the outside world outside. Maggie and Dennis came in the house and sat with us as we visited with their mother, Robina, an HIV+ widow and her other 2 children, one who was also HIV+. The room was approximately 7’x7’, entirely of mud with a piece of linoleum covering the floor. There was a small bed behind a hanging piece of fabric, a bench, and a small double shelf inside. Stacked wherever possible were their water cans and other belongings. We visited for a while, listening to Robina tell her story, asking questions, taking pictures, and praying for the family. I began to see perhaps why Maggie seemed so reluctant to smile.

On the walk back to the van Maggie took my hand and was fascinated by the tattoo on my wrist (2Cor 5:17). She ran her fingers over it and turned my wrist to see the other side, tracing the tattooed vines with her finger. Again she sat in the middle seat and Dawn & I in the back. I reached over to touch her on the nose and she held my hand. She didn’t let go and as I reached over with the other hand she wrapped my arm around her chest. That’s how we rode to the next stop, Maggie & I holding hands. She looked back at me with a contented little sort-of-grin. Not quite a smile, but the corners of her mouth definitely turning up ever so slightly. Or was that my hopeful imagination?

We learned that Maggie attends school at Victors Junior Christian School and that she did not currently have a sponsor. Dawn & I looked at each other and it was clear that we both had the same thought at the exact same moment……”She does now!”

Maggie walked hand-in-hand with me to the 2nd house and sat beside me while we visited and prayed. Once we were back in the van Maggie sat beside me and I wrapped her in my arms. She again held my hands and gazed up at me. I tried to make her laugh by making silly faces and slowly but surely she began to mimic each one. Dawn took a series of pictures we call “The Faces of Maggie”.

Every once in a while I thought just maybe I saw a slight grin. She again walked with me, holding my hand, to the 3rd home and sat in my lap as we visited. I think she was almost as taken with me as I was with her. As I sat there I couldn’t help but think about my son, Clyde, and how different his life is from Maggie’s. I felt very sad to think Maggie probably didn’t have anyone who gave her “eyelash tickles” at bedtime or read her favorite story in bed.

Sweet Maggie. The little girl in the pink dress who changed so much for me. If I could have packed her in my suitcase and brought her home I would have done so in a heartbeat. I think of her every day and cannot help but cry as I remember her sweet face and the difficulties that are her reality. I can’t help but wonder what her every day is like.

Beautiful Maggie. I didn’t get to say goodbye to her on the Friday before we left. I looked around the school grounds hoping to see her, but she wasn’t there. I left Uganda that day with a Maggie-shaped hole in my heart. It’s an aching space that is filled only by the knowledge that God loves her so very much and has a plan for her. I pray that His plan includes bringing me to see Maggie again someday.

“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 hope and a future.” Jeremiah 29:11

Monday, January 31, 2011

When I was thirsty...

On Thursday, we set out to visit the farms that True Vine ministries has that grows coffee, plantains & corn to support the 800 children at Victor School in Mukono.  It was about an hour and a half drive on mostly very hilly dirt roads.  About an hour into our drive we spotted a man pushing a bike loaded with bags of charcoal.  We'd never seen anything like this.  The bags were secured to his bike and he was pushing his bike to town.  We asked Jesca many questions.  She told us that he either made the charcoal in the forest and was bring it to town to sell, or he was hired to fetch the charcoal to bring it to town.  Either way, we could see it was unbelievably hard work.

After we had toured the farms, we began our journey home.  Then we saw him.  Again.  3 hours later, he was still pushing the same load of charcoal to town.  The journey home was mostly uphill.  Cathy & I sat there in disbelief.  We whispered to each other wondering if we could stop and give him our water.

Just then, Pastor's cell phone rang.  He began talking and asked the driver to start backing up.  I asked Cathy "Do you think he heard us talking about the water?"  Pastor had stopped to show us another small farm.  He began telling us how when they plant a farm...they plant a church.  As Pastor was talking "charcoal man" walked by.  We asked Jesca "is it ok for us to give him our water?"  She said "of course".

We got out of the car and Pastor spoke to the man in Lugandan and told him we wanted to give him our water.  His eyes lit up and his smile was as bright as the sun.  He said "Webele Ngo" (thank you) several times and "Praise God".

He guzzled down the first bottle and stuck the second one between his charcoal bags and immediately went back to work.

Cathy and I got back into the car with tears in our eyes.  Pastor sat down and looked at us and said only these words "When I was thirsty".

Matthew 25:35

For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in 

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Loving Uganda!

 There is so much we wish we could share with you.  The first picture is what we wake up to every morning.  This is Pastor Kibriango and his wife Jessica's farm.  To say it is beautiful is an understatement. 

The next photo is Cathy with the children who go to school at Victor Christian school in Mukono.  Victor Christian school is also where the Women of Destiny get together to make their beads.
This is Cathy doing what she does best....loving on babies ;o)  There are just so many children to hug on and she soaks it all up.

This is me....in bead heaven!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!  Need we say more?

 This is Jonathon...the boy who stole my heart.  He was just delightful.
We have taken over 1200 pictures on this trip.  Yes, we have completely lost our minds.   And we still have 2 days left.

Today we visited three homes of women who are being supported through True Vine Ministries and the Women of Destiny beads.  Praying that God will break your heart for what breaks his can sometimes be a dangerous prayer.  Our heart broke each time we visited these women.  On our last visit we were completely humbled.  Catherine, a mother of 3 said she was so blessed by our visit that she wanted to give us a gift.  She went to her garden and cut us 2 large sugar cane stalks and yams.  We were completely overcome with emotion.  We did not feel worthy of her gift.

There is so much we want to share but we are limited on time.  We are missing our families so much.  

John, Mandy, Trent & Loralee...I love you from the bottom of my heart and can't wait to squeeze you all.

Mark, Caylor, Bonner, Tessie, Lula & Clyde....I love you and miss you.   Everytime I meet a child, I tell them about all of you.  Babe, the woman all think I am married to the most handsome man in the world.  I agree with them.  I am a blessed woman.

Love and prayers from Uganda,
Dawn & Cathy