Friday, February 29, 2008


Jeff Goins is wrecked...wrecked for the ordinary, that is. Several years ago he got a wake up call spiritually from God. He set out on a Holy Spirit led journey that would take him places and have him involved in things he could never have imagined growing up. And while in Mexico ministering, the Lord spoke to him about "shaking the branch" in America, "waking up the fruit that is to be used before it falls to the ground and rots". Jeff's life is now dedicated to not just following God's radical path for his life, but encouraging others to abandon it all for the sake of God's call.

I came across this at Jeff's blog:

I think we are all wanderers, searching for something.
Some of us feel like foreigners in a strange land, like the sea lion who lost the sea. Others have given up the search and camped out in a world in which their passions and talents do not fit, conforming to what they see around them, silently screaming inside.

Most of us, I think, fall somewhere in between, unsure of what is to come and discontented with what has been, desperately restless in our spirits for true adventure, beauty, and intimacy.

What's totally uncanny is how someone I've never met, only emailed, could describe so accurately the discontent that I've experienced since returning from Africa. Obviously, there are a whole lot of others out there who are no longer satisfied with the way things have been going.


For more of Jeff's writings and thoughts, visit his blog or the online magazine WRECKED FOR THE ORDINARY where he is editor-in-chief.


May God bless you with discomfort
at easy answers, half truths, and superficial relationships
so that you may live deep within your heart

May God bless you with anger
at injustice, oppression and exploitation of people
so that you may work for justice, freedom and peace

May God bless you with tears
to shed for those who suffer pain, rejection, hunger and war
so that you may reach out your hand to comfort them and
to turn their pain into joy

And may God bless you with enough foolishness
to believe that you can make a difference in the world
so that you can do what others claim cannot be done
to bring justice and kindness to all our children and the poor.

---A Franciscan Benediction

Thursday, February 28, 2008 - Custom comment codes for MySpace, Hi5, Friendster and more

Lisa Black with Adventures in Missions is serving the "least of these" in Swaziland beside her husband Gary and their 5 amazing kids. We were blessed to spend time with part of their family on our recent trip. Gary, Lisa, and their kids constantly bless me but also challenge me. This week Lisa wrote straight from her heart and said so much of what I'm feeling right now that I just had to share it here at Graceland:

"Gary and I met for coffee in town to discuss the numerous text messages coming to us from our team in Nsoko…each one more serious than the one before. I had already been feeling heavy for a few days, and finally just cried, HARD. The abuse, disease, abandonment, and poverty these precious children face everyday, is just too much. After an hour or so of venting, praying, and weeping I pulled myself together. Gary kissed me on the forehead and left in our car, I started walking towards the gym, hoping a good run would clear my mind.

Through my puffy eyes a saw a small boy approach me, he was exactly the size of our Noah. He had no shoes, no shirt and torn shorts. In the sweetest little voice I have ever heard he whispered something to me. I bent down to him so I could hear him. "Please Make (pronounced Ma-gay, meaning "Mother"); I want you to give me some money, please". I started to ask him questions about where his family was, and if he was alone.

It was my intention to buy him food and sit with him. When I failed to reach into my purse to give him money he glanced over his shoulder, to a man sitting about 15 feet behind him. I locked eyes with the man, and the little boy was gone. I knew that the child had been sent to me for money, and his man would be the one to collect it from him. The look I received from him was one I can only describe as intimidation and lust. Only I was not intimidated at all. I glared right back at him and marched past him as close as I could, willing him in my anger, "please say something to me buddy, please try to touch me"…..I dare you! He was every bit of 6 ‘1 and 220, but I was, and am still sure I would have left more damage on him than he would have on me. Rage is a powerful emotion, it can produce superhuman strength.

He wisely did not take the bait, so I ran 10 miles, and cried the whole time, taking my rage out on the treadmill. The sad little TV in our smelly and sweltering little gym flashed images from Hollywood in my face, as my I-pod pumped worship music in my ears. I wish I cared if Branglina was pregnant again, I wish I cared about the award shows, and what the stars are wearing. I don't, and I never will. I will never see life the same way. Nor will be able to get lost in a Mega-church and fool myself that it is impacting the culture, or discipling my children, never again.

I do not know what life in America will be like for me when I go back; I only know that if I did not believe in eternity, I would get swallowed up in all this pain. But I do believe, I believe one day all these little ones will spend eternity with Jesus, whole, healed, complete…..forever, I will keep believing, and until that day I will keep fighting for them. No matter what the cost.
"Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves; ensure justice for those being crushed. Yes, speak up for the poor and helpless, and see that they get justice." Proverbs 31:8,9

"I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you."John 14:18
Many have asked me what they can do to help the situation in Swaziland. First of all, please pray. Pray for the nation and pray for heart...that you will know how God wants you to act on behalf of the orphans and widows.
And then if you feel led to give financially, consider doing so through these ministries:
Children's HopeChest and 5 FOR 50
Children's Cup CarePoints in Swaziland
Adventures in Missions CarePoint Ministers in Swaziland

Wednesday, February 27, 2008


"We can admire and worship Jesus without doing what he did. We can applaud what He did and stood for without caring for the same things. We can adore His cross without taking up ours. I have come to see that the great tragedy in the church is not that the rich Christians don’t care about the poor but that rich Christians do not know the poor."

-Shane Claiborne

Tuesday, February 26, 2008


I Saw What I Saw Lyrics by Sara Groves

I saw what I saw and I can't forget it

I heard what I heard and I can't go back

I know what I know and I can't deny it

Something on the road, cut me to the soul

Your pain has changed me

your dream inspires

your face a memory

your hope a fire

your courage asks me

what I'm afraid of (what I am made of)

and what I know of love

we've done what we've done and we can't erase it

we are what we are and it's more than enough

we have what we have but it's no substitution

Something on the road, touched my very soul

I say what I say with no hesitation

I have what I have and I'm giving it up

I do what I do with deep conviction

Something on the road, changed my world

This songs says what is in my heart today and I dedicate it to those still in Swaziland who I love dearly. My life has been changed by your hopes, your faith, your trials, your courage, your love. I pray that God will provide abundantly for your every need...that His blessings will run over like flooded rivers that can't be held back. And I pray that one day He will use me to bless you...for you have enriched my life in amazing ways.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Through ministry staff in Swaziland, I've received an update on the baby I mentioned in this post:
Apparently, there was a miscommunication concerning the details surrounding the discovery of the baby. The baby's mother was not dead as previously reported but very, very ill and near to death. The staff involved have posted this report which is straight from the ones involved in actually rescuing the baby.
Posted by Aaron Bruer, AIM World Race team member
God our Father is masterful. With him, there are no coincidences. It is for this very reason that I share this story with you from my perspective.
"Though my father and mother forsake me, the Lord will receive me."
Psalm 27:10
This past Monday I visited the Mbutu Care Point in Nsoko Swaziland. This is the central Care Point in Nsoko for G42 ministries. The day started out quite frustrating as Seth, Pastor Gift, and I were unable to gather firewood for the gogos (grandmas) to cook for the children. The military had decided to deny us entry into the bush because they were afraid that it was too dangerous for us "Americans". So after a somewhat discouraging morning at the Care Point, Pastor Gift approached me about making a house visit. Of course I agreed and off we went.
The day was very very hot and we were out in what seemed like the desert. We quickly came upon a house(I'm reluctant to call it a house because it was merely held together by sticks, rocks and what smelled like dung). Once inside my eyes adjusted to the horror that most people hear about but rarely see. My worlds collided as I entered to find a young mother shriveled up on a blanket. Her body lay half-bare as 5 of her children stared at Pastor Gift and me. She could barely move. Pastor Gift began to speak with her and she informed us that she had been sick for a while. I looked beyond her for a moment and my eyes caught the form of an abnormally small infant. The infant sat resting beside his sick mother. Almost in a peaceful serene sleep he rested. Pastor Gift continued to ask her questions concerning the child.
The baby was 4 weeks old. Upon seeing the mother, it was obvious that her breasts had shriveled up and she was no longer able to produce milk for the baby. The baby had not eaten in a couple days. He had grown accustomed to the hunger and was no longer crying for food. He slept. The mother had no money to buy formula let alone energy to physically go and get it. So Pastor Gift and I prayed for the mother and for the child. I had no clue what to do. I was dumbfounded. How did our world get like this? I mean, sure we can call it sin and pawn it off, but the Lord calls us to care for the orphans and widows, right? This is how the other half lives. It is my earnest hope and prayer that we do not forget this story but that we take initiative when we hear or see these injustices occurring in our world. On Tuesday night, I sat in our team meeting just thinking about it. I told Traci about the situation since it was the Care Point that she visited frequently. Immediately, thoughts ran through her head she informed me. The next day, after a full day of serving at a different Care Point, we arrived to see Traci holding the baby. She and Pastor Gift had visited the home and Traci had asked permission to watch and care for the baby for a few days in order to nourish him back to health. The mother agreed and it became apparent that she cared more for the health of her child than she did about being with him.
So Team Ignite has taken on this responsibility because of Traci's obedience to the Lord. It is ironic that the very person who says that it is difficult for her to be with children is the very one that God chose to act. No coincidences. Currently, the baby is in bad shape. We have taken him to the clinic and he has received some medication but he is extremely malnourished and dehydrated. He is not eating much, but we are hoping and praying for the future for this child. We ask that you pray for Team Ignite as we listen to the Lord's leading about this precious one. Please pray with us against the possibility of him having HIV/AIDS and that his body would be healed. Pray that it would be a testimony to God's goodness that he does not turn a blind eye to the marginalized and the destitute who are crying out to him. The verse rings true that the Lord receives those who have been rejected and neglected by the world. For Americans, it may be easy to forget and not be affected by this story. For us, this is reality. Every day we see this suffering in its various forms. I ask that you be affected by it. I ask that your heart is broken so that you are prompted to act. May these images burn in your mind so that you will not forget. Thank you for allowing me to share this story.
Father, forgive us of our sins. Give us eyes to see the world as you see it. Forgive us for not doing something when we are able. For we can no longer do nothing as now our eyes have seen.
For more on Aaron's ministry in Swaziland, visit his blog at:

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Saturday, February 23, 2008


Tonight, I sent this out to our family and friends:

Dear friends and family---

I apologize that I've not written sooner about our Swaziland trip. To be honest, I've not known how to start or what to share and how to say what I'm feeling and what we experienced. The girls and I had an incredible experience. God blessed us so abundantly on the trip. But we're still processing it all and to be honest, I still feel "too full" to even know where to start, but I'll go ahead and begin and then send out more as I am up to it.

I've been sharing in bits and pieces at my blog, , but to try to put it all down in a cohesive narrative is just overwhelming at this point.

I can say that the trip has changed our lives. Even though I lived there for 2 years 18 years ago, I experienced things this time that I didn't experience last time....and I've reacted to things differently than I did way back when.

In many ways Swaziland has changed. There are many more modern structures and roadways. Cell phones are surprisingly common...even in MUDHUTS! The people who live in the cities dress much more "in style" and westernized than they did 18 years ago. I saw very few people wearing the traditional Swazi dress. There are internet cafes and fancy gas stations along the main highways and in the cities of Mbabane and Manzini. So on the surface, things have seemed to have progressed.

But when you get beyond the superficial, I found that as reported by so many missions and humanitarian organizations, Swaziland has changed also in horrible ways. The HIV/AIDS rate among adults is nearly 50%. A huge percentage of the children are now orphaned. Abuse and abandonment of children are on the increase. More and more elderly gogos (grandmothers) are left to raise large numbers of orphaned grandchildren. Parents die and leave siblings barely in their teens to raise younger sisters and brothers...or the orphans are split up among relatives, often becoming virtual slaves in their new homes.

The sick and handicapped are often left alone to fend for themselves as their relatives, spouses, or parents travel great distances looking for employment. Schooling has become a luxury that many can not afford and so they stay trapped in the vicious circle of poverty...often turning to prostitution or crime in a desperate attempt to survive.

But despite all these horrific things, we saw so much good. For one thing, despite the state of things in Swaziland, the people are still the warm, friendly, laughing people that I remembered. Upon arrival in Africa, my little bit of the siSwati language seemed to come back full force and I quickly got back into the Swazi groove. I felt like I was back home and had a great time singing siSwati songs with the teenagers and children at the carepoints, exploring the Manzini markets and shops, getting to know hotel staffers and craft hawkers, worshipping in freedom and joy at a siSwati church, making Swazis laugh with some of my mangled attempts at difficult words, and introducing my daughters to the land I've missed for 18 years.

But to be honest, it didn't feel like 18 years had passed. Though there were many new things for me to see there, it didn't feel like I'd been gone nearly 2 decades. It just felt so right to be back there. The majority of the time was a time of joy and excitement and feeling very comfortable in the culture.

There were rough times emotionally. Its not easy hearing of the passing of so many and fearing that loved ones are among the numbers of the deceased. I broke down one day and just wept and wept.

And I still weep. Yesterday was a tough day for me. My emotions were fierce. I have it so easy here in America. I have so much...too much. I have so much stuff it won't even all fit in my closets and shelves. Its so unfair that I have an overabundance and there are so many who are dying from an extreme underabundance.

The $5 that I spend on a pair of cheap earrings at the local Claire's Boutique would feed an orphan for a MONTH at a Swaziland carepoint. The $50 I'd spend on a couple of cute, spring shirts at Belk's will send a child to school for a year.

Just doing without some of my wants would provide children with their basic needs.

I don't know where God is leading our family in all of this. We do believe that we're supposed to be praying regularly for Swaziland and giving more financially. But beyond that...I don't know what He wants to do with Anna and Betsie;s new love for the Swazi peope and my renewed passion for them.

I just know that I'm no longer satisfied with the status quo. I can't just keep on living my self-centered, materialistic lifestyle when precious little children are dying because they're families can't even afford the barest necessesities of life.

I don't mean to be such a downer. That's one reason why I put off writing.

The first few days back I was still feeling pretty euphoric about the incredible experience despite the fact that physically I was worn out and very sick with a nasty, nasty case of sinus crud. At that time, I was just physically too worn out and ill to do much effective communication. But as I've healed up physically over the last couple of weeks, I've found myself getting more and more troubled emotionally.

I almost put off once again sending out a newsletter. Its just not fun to get a letter from someone who is in a foul mood. But I can't put it off forever. You all have been too important to me in this journey to just keep leaving you out of the loop.

We did have a great trip. Those precious smiling faces from the children we loved on and the amazing, sacrificial love and dedication of the Christians we met blessed us tremendously. There are heroes walking around that country that left me humbled.

I feel so privileged that God let me go back to Swaziland. I hope I don't have to wait another 18 years to return. But regardless of if I ever step foot on that land again, I'm forever grateful for my time spent there. I will share more of what we saw in future letters...the success stories as well as the sad ones. The hopes of the ministers there and the dreams of the children.

In the meantime, visit my blog, read my daily jottings and see some of our trip photos. And please, keep praying for us. We need your prayers. And most of all, please keep praying for the nation of Swaziland.

WIth great sadness but also with great love and thankfulness,


Other blogs related to Swaziland and our trip:

Kevin and his wife Christie were on the trip with us:

Claudia Mair Burney was one of the authors who we traveled with. She is writing a book based on our time in Africa. Her blog is:

Tom Davis is the CEO of Children's HopeChest and one of our trip leaders:

A talented Canadian blogger and writer, Erin Wilson has been sharing her thoughts and photos:

Two Canadian couples joined us for the last few days of the trip. One of them has a great detailed blog at:

Jumbo and Kriek Gerber are on staff with Adventures in Missions. They were our guides for the time we were there. What incredible work they are doing:

The Black Family is an American family serving God in Manzini, Swaziland. My girls, along with the two other teenagers on our team, got to hang out some with their teenage sons. and


So far I'm doing much better today at keeping my emotions on an even keel. Yesterday was my worst day emotionally since returning from Swaziland...actually my worst day ever in a long time. I'm still feeling a great deal of anger, frustration, guilt, and grief. But I'm at least able to function fairly normally. I stayed up late watching videos and reading blogs related to Swaziland and fell asleep praying about the situation and what God wants from us. Whenever I stay up too late, I always feel guilty and determined that my kids will not pay the price for my stupidity. I've already made the kids, my teenage niece from out of town, and our next door neighbor a big breakfast of waffles, eggs, and turkey bacon. We spent time sharing what our worst and best moments of 2008 have been so far. And we had Bible and prayer time.


Now we're all getting ready to go do fun stuff for a while...a birthday party, going to a novelty soda emporium in honor of my niece's visit, picking up books from the library, etc. The big girls will be going to a big Christian rock festival tonight and I dyed hair purple of two of their heads.

Life goes on. I know my husband and kids need me. They need a mom that is fully with them even though I feel like a huge chunk of me is residing on another continent.

I still struggle inside and find myself questioning almost every aspect of my American life.


My friend Deidra sent me an email this morning. It was so spot on. It really capsulates what I'm experiencing. I know that others are dealing with similar issues so I wanted to post it here in the hope that it will help others.

"I read your blog post from yesterday and my heart is breaking with you. It is such a tragic has to be so difficult for you to just compartmentalize all of what you experienced and move on with your life as if nothing has changed...when in fact, everything has changed. You need time to process and time to grieve for all of the suffering you have seen. Don't let people rush you into feeling like you need to "just get over it."

I don't have to tell you that your own children are your priority at this season in your already know that. That's a big part of what makes this struggle so hard for you. But if this is not the time for your family to go to Swaziland full-time, you can still be's not all or nothing. There are things that you can do from here...create an action plan. Hopefully that will empower you and help to ease the incredible pain you are feeling.

Probably the most important thing is to be the voice of those dear, hurting people. Continue to educate us all on what is going on...and specifically what we can do to help. Organize fund-raisers if what's needed most is money. Talk to others about going to serve...maybe contact some other churches and go speak to them. Stay in touch with those who are serving over there now and encourage them. You can make a huge difference even while you are still here.

God has trusted you with this burden. I know it's hard. I love you and I'm praying for you.


Thank you, Deidra. And thank you to all the others who love me enough to pray for me and walk through this journey with me.

Friday, February 22, 2008


...wondering how I can even carry on in this ordinary, American life when mothers are dying of HIV/AIDS and leaving their babies as orphans in a country besieged with this horrific pandemic. My time in Swaziland renewed my passion for that nation and its beautiful people. It also has basically wrecked my outlook on my life. I have always been a very content person. My husband says I'm the happiest, most content person he knows.

I don't feel that way anymore. My recent trip to Africa has left me dissatisfied. I can't just keep living out this too comfortable, all-about-me-and-mine life. Something has GOT to change.

I've been struggling with these feelings since returning nearly 3 weeks ago, but I just read a report from Swaziland that has left me crying and having a hard time even responding appropriately to my children and their naturally childish demands and needs. Here's what I read at Adventures in Missions staffer Seth Barnes' blog:

We have a team in Swaziland, that nation in Africa where nearly half the adult population has the AIDS virus. I received this email from Gary Black in Swaziland today and it wrecked me:
"The team found a four week-old laying on its dead mother yesterday, they kept it - we are getting it to the abandoned baby hospital Friday."

What do we do with this? That's my son's team down there. I don't know about you, but I'm outraged by a world that produces situations like this. And while that may seem like a world away to many, for my son, it's as immediate as it is heart-wrenching.

The only thing that appalls me more is that so many of us Americans who can do something about this are more interested in stuff that will only ultimately burn up in the big fire. God help us. God, help us to wake up. Help us to see how much you love the widow and the orphan. God help us to break as you are broken up over this four week-old. God, help me to lose this tortoise shell religion that sheds these kinds of tragic situations like water. Forgive me God for not praying more. Forgive me for not emptying my bank account for your little ones. God, we have lost true religion. We have sought finer sanctuaries and better parking lots. We have tried to fill our church pews with seekers, but we have not sought your children dying on their mother's chests. We need to see a way out of this mess that we've got ourselves in. God, help us in this 21st century mindset that we've acquired. I don't even know what else to pray.

Thursday, February 21, 2008


"How are we to think of the incarnation? The New Testament does not encourage us to puzzle our heads over the physical and psychological problems that it raises, but to worship God for the love that was shown in it. For it was a great act of condescension and self humbling. 'He, Who had always been God by nature' writes Paul, 'did not cling to His prerogatives as God's equal, but stripped Himself of all privilege by consenting to be a slave to nature and being born as mortal man. And having become man, He humbled Himself by living a life of utter obedience, even to the extent of dying, and the death He died was the death of a common criminal. And all this was for our salvation."

J I Packer, Knowing God.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Most evangelicals are clueless about Lent. When we hear lent, a lot of us think of dryer lint, the stuff we are supposed to clean out of our dryer's filter on a regular basis so it'll work properly. But for a large chunk of the Christian family, Lent with an "e" is about cleaning out their hearts and lives and preparing for Easter. Growing up Southern Baptist, I really had no understanding about this holy season practiced by Roman Catholics, Orthodox, Anglicans, and others who are often considered "high church" by us protestant types. Attending public school, I knew that the fish sandwiches served on Fridays had something to do with my Catholic schoolmates but had no clue to the significance. And I seem to have faint memories of some of my more dedicated Catholic schoolmates getting ashes on their face. Living on the Mississippi Gulf Coast, I enjoyed the candy, school holidays, and parades that were part of the Mardi Gras season that led up to Lent, but again, I really had no idea what it all meant.
Honestly, I still don't understand it in full. I've been part of nondenominational churches and evangelical churches my whole life. As a teenager, even though I was surrounded by peers who were Catholic, religion and faith was something we rarely discussed. Its only been in my adult years that I've begun to have the kind of relationships with strong Christians from Catholic, Orthodox, and Anglican churches that involve discussing such matters of the heart. Yeah, I was a pretty shallow teenager. God, church, and faith were a part of my life, but like most American teens, these things were not often discussed outside my own family or church functions.
Though I don't understand it in full, I'm learning more and more and beginning to appreciate the value of lent. At the rock-and-roll, non-denominational church that we've been a part of for over a year, our pastor asks the congregation every lent season to give up something that is keeping us from hearing from God or drawing closer to God. For most of the congregation, its television. Some, for various reasons, give up sweets...a stiff sacrifice considering the fact that Valentine's Day usually falls during this time. Others fast a certain number of meals or days a week.
What I'm learning about lent, is what Zihna Edwards wrote in an online article at WRECKED FOR THE ORDINARY:
Lent is a time of letting go. With Jesus we turn toward Jerusalem, and open ourselves to the miraculous things God wants yet to do with our lives. It’s a time of voluntary simplicity, making space. People who equate Lenten sacrifice with a New Year’s resolution are missing the richness of the possibility. We have before us a preparation for Life… and an invitation to die to the things that keep us dead in a little further way. We could make this out to be about chocolate. Or we could ask God what things are getting in our way.
As I seek to understand better this spiritually rich season, I'd love to hear how you and your church observe lent. And if you'd like to read the rest of Zihna Edwards' article, just go to .
Btw, the photo above is of my beautiful friend, Claudia Mair Burney, aka The Ragamuffin Diva. You can read some of her Lenten reflections at her blog .

Tuesday, February 19, 2008


Kelly over at LAUGHING ALWAYS HELPS has asked her readers to post on their blogs their favorite songs. I love music so its pretty tough for me to narrow it down to just ONE favorite...I love so many for so many different reasons. I love some songs because they remind me of my incredible husband and our romance such as DANCING IN THE MOONLIGHT and HOW SWEET IT IS TO BE LOVED BY YOU. Other songs bring back memories of dear friends from the past and fun times we shared such as GIRLS JUST WANNA HAVE FUN, WE GOT THE BEAT, FRIENDS ARE FRIENDS FOREVER, and WALK LIKE AN EGYPTIAN. Some songs I love because of their spiritual richness and grace-filled lyrics. AMAZING GRACE, BEAUTY OF GRACE, and songs by Rich Mullins, Keith Green, and Steven Curtis Chapman come readily to mind.

But my very, very favorite song? I guess I have to fall back on the very first pop song that I ever obsessed over...and my brother will testify that I certainly obsessed over it. Its a wonder I didn't plum wear the grooves thru on the 45 record I owned of DON'T GIVE UP ON US BABY. David Soul was the first celebrity crush that elicited chillbumps in my life and I can still remember as a 9 or 10 year old imagining that David Soul was singing that to me, begging me to forgive him and give our love one last chance.

Alas, our love didn't last forever. But my love for the song is still there..."written in the moonlight, painted on the stars."

Monday, February 18, 2008


I may not agree with every stance that President Bush takes on issues, but on this issue I'm very pleased...Bush's policy towards Africa, specifically economically and where humanitarian issues such as malaria and HIV/AIDS are concerned. The past couple of days have found Bush meeting in Africa with important leaders including Tanzanian President Jakaya Kikwete.

I read in an article that Kikwete told Bush, "The outpouring of warmth and affection from the people of Tanzania that you have witnessed since your arrival is a genuine reflection of what we feel towards you and towards the American people." And, "Different people may have different views about you and your administration and your legacy. But we in Tanzania, if we are to speak for ourselves and for Africa, we know for sure that you, Mr. President, and your administration have been good friends of our country and have been good friends of Africa."

In most parts of Africa, there is widespread recognition that Bush's economic and humanitarian efforts have been very successful. Bush has spent more money on aid to Africa than the previous president, Bill Clinton. His funding to help fight AIDS/HIV and malaria, wide spread killers on the African continent, as well as providing economic assistance to hospitals and schools has made him well liked by most.

Bush has also, according to the Reuters article, "stressed new-style partnerships with Africa based on trade and investment and not purely on aid handouts."

The afore mentioned news story ended with these words---

Because of the U.S. anti-malaria program, 5 percent of patients tested positive for the disease on the offshore islands of Zanzibar in 2007 compared to 40 percent three years earlier, the Tanzanian leader said.

Bush's legacy in Africa would be saving the lives of hundreds of thousands of mothers and children who would otherwise have died from malaria or AIDS and enabling millions of people to get an education, he said.

"I know you leave office in about 12 months' time. Rest assured that you will be remembered for many generations to come for the good things you've done for Tanzania and the good things you have done for Africa," Kikwete said.

I love Africa. And I for one and very grateful to President Bush for all he is doing to bring much needed help to these people...these sick mothers and poor widows, these starving toddlers and abandoned street children, these overworked grandmothers and stretched-thin pastors. There are real people who desperately need someone to step in and do something. I'm glad America and her president is on the right side of this issue.

For the complete Reuters article, follow this link:

(Top photo from Reuters story)

Sunday, February 17, 2008

4 year old T told me this week:
"I am allergic to whales. Beccause when I looked at the whales my face turned red. After it turned red it turned blue and green and brown. Very, very funny."

Saturday, February 16, 2008


...and buy her book!
My gifted author friend and fellow Swaziland traveler, Claudia Mair Burney, will be signing her newly released book this week. If you live in the Detroit/Ann Arbor, Michigan area, it will be SO worth your effort to go to this book signing. Mair's book is not only sassy and spiritually rich, but Mair is a bundle of grace and love. You'll be blessed by reading the book and talking to this up and coming writer. Plus, you'll bless her with your presence...and your cash. ;)
And if you go, make sure you give her a big ole kiss from me!
Barnes and Noble Booksellers
Fairlane Green
3120 Fairlane Dr.
Allen Park, MI 48101
And if MY recommendation is not enough, here's what the review at BOOKPAGE had to say:
Sassy Saint.
All too often, the trouble with Christian fiction is the saccharine nature of the situations and characters, who seem to operate on The Good Folks Planet where a careful screen shields the delicate reader from the harsher aspects of life. Not so in Murder, Mayhem, and a Fine Man by Claudia Mair Burney, which is witty and earthy, vibrant and fast-paced, peopled with multidimensional characters. On her 35th birthday, Amanda Bell Brown is having dinner with her sister, the local medical examiner, when her sister is called to the scene of a suspicious death. Amanda, a forensic psychologist, tags along, unwittingly slamming into the intersection of the scattered pieces of her life—Christian, psychologist, woman, survivor of a dark past. On the scene of a double homicide, she meets Jazz, the tall, dark and delicious detective, and although immediate sparks fly between them, both have a commitment to God, and plenty of baggage. Their resolve to stay celibate is continually tested as the two work together to unravel a twisted plot centered on the murky world of cults. Original, richly textured and grounded in the real world, this is nonetheless a genuinely spiritual novel that tackles the gritty questions of faith and honor, hope and despair that any person on any spiritual path must eventually face. Excellent.
To read some of Mair's rich writing outside of her books, check out her blog:
Its amazing! Truly.

Friday, February 15, 2008

TO MY SWEET FRIEND ROBIN, er, I mean RHONDA - Custom comment codes for MySpace, Hi5, Friendster and more

I'm sending you some "get well soup" and praying that you'll be 100% better in no time!

Thursday, February 14, 2008


And what better way to show how much I love my friends than with a mushy song from MY decade, the 80's....

Gosh, don't you just miss those awesomely cool blazers? Okay, so maybe not, but I do miss a lot of you on this Valentine's Day. And though this song has probably been WAY over used, its only because its words are true. A lifetime is not too long to lives as friends and my life is so much richer because of the friends God has blessed me with. I love y'all!

Alright, now that we've gotten all sad and sentimental, here's some fun happiness heading your way...

That one goes out to all of you but it always reminds me especially of my Troubadour sisters who were around during my MUW days!


TO MY DARLING HUSBAND... sweet it is to be loved by you!

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

I guess I feel like if I really try to tell all about our trip to Swaziland, I'll never be able to stop. It was such a full 12 days. We saw so much, met so many, did so much...and we'll never be the same again.
Erin Wilson over at Biscotti Brain has been sharing some of her thoughts on the trip. She did such a great job of succinctly communicating some of what we experienced that I asked her if I could share some of her writings here at Graceland. She graciously agreed.


As hot as I have ever felt.

Sun baked ground,

crubby brush with thorns,

grass laced with thorns;

thorns enough to crown every head.
Children arrive from every direction
seemingly from nowhere to nowhere.
Eight poles and the last remaining
shreds of tarp form the only shade
around for miles.
Hands of children and mothers
clutch crayons and colour photocopied sheets;
Baby Jesus' hair in waxy shades of
blue, red and orange.
And Gogo feeds them all.
She chuckles when we come near,
so glad we've come to visit.
I tell her she does such wonderful work there.
Again she chuckles.
"Nothing special" she says.
"Nothing special."
"Wisps of smoke come from
the shack of cinderblock and tin
as today's one meal cooks in iron pots;
pap and beans.
The older ones feed the younger.
A fortified orange drink
miraculously multiplied
until the last child drinks
the very last drops from the bucket.
A scrawny dog pants in the shade.


Tuesday, February 12, 2008


Four year old T has been singing, in his sweet little boy voice, "I'm Madeline, I'm Madeline..." off and on today as he builds his train tracks and plays his childhood games of imagination. I savor it. All too soon he will think he's too big to be singing such a "girlie" song. But for now, it surely does sound good.

Monday, February 11, 2008


My beloved, and ever-funny friend Kelly is having a Starbucks coffee giveaway at her blog. To enter the drawing, all you have to do is leave a comment. But if you want to increase your chances, tell her a silly story. And no insult meant toward Kelly OR her husband, but the nastier the better! REALLY! If you make her Dog House Dwelling hubby laugh out loud, you get extra credit! Just be NOT read the stories left as comments if you are experiencing morning sickness or have an overactive gag reflex. Consider yourself warned!

Friday, February 08, 2008


"We are all starved for the glory of God, not self. No one goes to the Grand Canyon to increase self-esteem. Why do we go? Because there is greater healing for the soul in beholding splendor than there is in beholding self. Indeed, what could be more ludicrous in a vast and glorious universe like this than being a human being, on the speck called earth, standing in front of a mirror trying to find significance in his own self-image? It is a great sadness that this is the Gospel of the modern world."

John Piper---Seeing and Savoring Jesus Christ

Photo by Scott Catron

Thursday, February 07, 2008


...whatever that means.

We've been back nearly 4 days now and in many ways things are settling back down. My sinus crud is going away, the kids aren't quite as needy, and I'm back to the daily routines of laundry, cooking, and homeschool lessons. But in other ways, things will never be the same. I cringe when we talk about spending money on a luxury that I know would feed a child in Swaziland for months. I mentally roll my eyes when I hear some relatively rich American complain about how hard things are for them in some area that's really not that major when I think about the life and death situations going on in other parts of the world. I feel angry when I hear my children complain about the food prepared for their meal.

So life will never be completely "normal" again...but then, I guess its a good thing. When I get too comfortable and self-satisfied, then it means I've probably forgotten that I'm not in this life to serve myself but to be Jesus to those in need. I guess the pain is necessary to keep me from being too self-absorbed. I need to keep fresh in my mind the things I saw and experienced in Swaziland. I need to remember that the $5 I would so easily plunk down for yet another pair of earrings at Claire's could instead buy much needed medical supplies for an orphan who is fighting to survive. I need to remember that I am over and abundantly blessed NOT so I can squander it on my petty wants, but so that I can be a blessing to others. I need to live more simply so that others can simply live.

We saw so much in such a short amount of time. I have many things I want to share. But right now my heart and mind are almost too full to try to put it down in words. I feel like if I start I'll never be able to stop. My days don't have enough hours to tell all the things I want to share. So for now, I'll share some of our Swazi journey thru photos and in time, share more of our story....of THEIR story.

These photos were taken at the first Care Point we visited on January 26. While there, daughter B participated in a sack race, we and the children enjoyed a meal of mealie meal (pap) and beans, we danced and sang along with the Swazi children, watched their thankful joy as they rec'd new undies, viewed the updating of profiles, observed a Bible club session, and just enjoyed their love and laughter. Despite the tragic crisis going on, the Swazi people have not lost their warm, joyful attitudes.