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 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'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:

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 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 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!