Wednesday, February 29, 2012

WHAT'S MAKING ME SMILE?

Remembering how 6 year old Merry, as she was pulling weeds in WE WILL GO's inner-city ministry garden, said it was her "best day ever".



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What's making you smile today?

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

SADDLING UP ANYWAY

Today I was in inner-city Jackson at WE WILL GO. My family and I try to go there whenever we can to serve and to participate in prayer, worship, and Bible study.


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I saw a quote from John Wayne on something, maybe a t-shirt in the clothes ministry? My Swiss cheese brain can't remember for sure where it was printed, but it was a strong enough message that I googled it to get the wording just right. Here's what it said:

“Courage is being scared to death but saddling up anyway”

Now I have to confess, I'm not scared to death right now, but I'd be lying if I said I never got worried or fearful about things, including things that God is asking us to do.

I've had people comment before on how brave I am. They say that they admire me because I'm so courageous and willing to go do some fairly adventurous, perhaps even downright, risky things. I've tried to tell them that I'm really a chicken at heart but they just don't believe me. Let me tell you, just ask my family and they will tell you that I'm a big-time, scaredy-cat, worry-wart. I'm the mom that carries two or three bottles of germ-gel in her purse, double and triple checks the door locks at night when Jim's not home, and used to sleep with a butcher knife by my bed when I lived in Swaziland. I make my teenagers call me when they leave someplace at night and I don't let my kids spend the night at other people's houses til I've known both parents for at least a year. I'm the woman who uses the shopping buggy seat belt to secure her purse. I always, always, always wear my seatbelt. I make my kids go to the public bathrooms as pairs til they're pre-teens and, heck, I even homeschool them.

Yes, I am that mom.

I am also the mom that is praying about moving with her family to live in the heart of a city with one of the highest crime rates in the nation. I'm the mom who just took all of her kids to Africa and zipped across mountain gorges on cables and went on a safari in a 4-wheel vehicle with no seatbelts and nothing between us and wild, threatening creatures except for several feet of bare space. I'm the mom who takes her kids into questionable neighborhoods in New Orleans and Africa, alike. I'm the mom who is moving all of her kids to live and serve in a nation that has the highest HIV/AIDS rate in the world, black and green mambas that kill you if they bite you, river crocodiles that still eat people (including children), burglar bars and alarm systems on a large percentage of the homes, and on and on I could go with the dangers. In fact, when we were in Africa four years ago, we almost walked in on burglars who were in the process of robbing our guest house.

Believe me, I sometimes freak out just a wee bit. Okay, a lot. I let my imagination start running wild and my give room for my fears to grow. I watch shows and documentaries that only feed those anxieties. I start dwelling on the horrific possibilities.

And then God reminds me of who He is and why He is calling me. He reminds me of those hurting and dying. He reminds me of those living in darkness. He reminds me of those who don't know that a savior lived and died for them and loves them tremendously. He reminds me of those precious little children who need a mama's lap to sit on and daddy's arms to swing them high. He reminds me of the heroes of the faith who have gone before me. Those Bible folks and those in modern history who've been willing to walk the hard path, even the path that lead to death, in order to set the captives free.

And most of all, He reminds me that He is worth it all. My loving Father sent His precious Son to this world. My beautiful Savior left all the glories in Heaven to walk a hard journey here on earth knowing all along that his life would end in the ultimate sacrifice on the cross.

When I remember all He has done for me, I am reminded that He loves me so much and He also loves those dwelling in darkness so very much. He has given us the task of taking His light and love to them.

Yes, I get fearful at times. I am even slightly tempted to just say "no" --- to stay living our wonderfully sweet and safe life on our little farm just serving in our local church and reaching out in non-scary ways. Sure, from time to time go deeper into the dark, but to have our comfortable place to always come back to.

But that's not what He's called us to do. He's called us to risk it all for the sake of the call. He's told us to go and love even when it is dangerous, even when it might cost us everything.

I heard a long time ago that courage didn't mean you never got scared, it just meant you did what you knew you needed to do anyway.

That's what I'm doing. I'm doing what I know I need to do anyway.

And you know what? I bet He's telling you to do the same thing.

It might not be moving to Africa or even an inner-city neighborhood.

But I bet, if you're perfectly honest, there are things you know He wants you to do but you've been letting worries and fears hold you back.

Don't say no to Him. Remember that He is worth it. And living life fully for Him, even when it is scary and sacrificial, is glorious.

Now put those boots on your trembling feet, get those shaking legs walking out the door, and saddle up that horse!

Monday, February 27, 2012

A NEW LOOK AT ROMANCE

"I don’t know about you, but when my husband sees a need and goes out of his way to meet it, I can barely contain my love for him!


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His love, lived out in practical ways, is romantic. Why? Because true romance is love lived out. And real life includes dirty dishes and piles of laundry."

--- Heidi St. John, THAT GIRL

Believe me, I still love chocolates and romantic get-aways to New Orleans but Heidi is totally solid with her point, that "true romance is love lived out." Amen!


Want to read more? Visit Heidi St. John's blog: http://www.homeschoolconvention.com/blog/that-girl/

Sunday, February 26, 2012

LITTLE HOUSE IN THE HOOD

LITTLE HOUSE ON THE PRAIRIE ain't no match to our LITTLE HOUSE IN THE HOOD life we just experienced for the last four days.


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Yeah, yeah, I know that Pa Ingalls had a panther encounter and the Ingalls were almost frozen a dozen times by various blizzards, but we not only had the excitement of a stolen bike, vomiting during worship service, a rotweiler who found my men to be more of a bite temptation than she could withstand, a dead vehichle battery, and a hit-and-run crunch in the side of our van, we also had the excitement of being a part of bringing the light and love of Jesus to a part of our state capital desperately hurting. We were blessed and honored to pray with folks, share food, paint houses, do light construction type work, and clean out the community garden. We were able to spend lots of time hanging out with the missionaries living there plus meeting folks visiting and hearing their amazing God stories.

Oh, and how could I forget the races?

Yep, the races each morning for the one toilet all nine of us shared in the yellow, restored, shotgun house.

Life is good with Jesus. Seriously, seriously good. I'm just so thankful and full of joy.

And part of that joy and thankfulness is that despite the "excitement" that could have been some "rain on our parade", instead, we all kept just being glad that we were there in inner-city Jackson. For this period of time, every single one of us was right where we were supposed to be ... and we knew it.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

ANOTHER LESSON LEARNED IN THE DIRT

Recently, my Swaziland missionary friend Jenifer Peterson, shared this on her blog:

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"A DEMON TORMENTS ME AT NIGHT"


Our family was visiting one of the widows in our community this past week. We go monthly to bring food and supplies for the homestead, and spend some time praying. As we sat in front of her home she shared her heart with us. How thankful she is that the Lord arranged events in such a way that a family from America came to Swaziland and eventually came upon this woman and the grandchildren she cares for. How the Holy Spirit pricked our hearts and compelled us to provide food and basic medical care for her and even had the distinct privilege of coordinating efforts to provide a new house for them to live in to replace a mud and stick hut that was literally falling down around them. She gave praise to God that this new house now stands firm on her homestead and served to protect her during a recent torrential downpour of rains and wind. She mentions how her neighbors often ask her: "How is it that the white people come to your house and always bring you gifts?" to which she humbly and correctly responds: "I prayed to God and He is answering my prayers." In fact, while we are sitting in the late afternoon African sun one of her neighbors wanders over with a huge grin on her distinctly lined face, hands placed together up in front of her chest as she is approaching us saying: "Siyabonga Jesus, Siyabonga Babe, Siyabonga!" (Thank you Jesus, Thank you Father, Thank you) She continues on in SiSwati and our ministry partner translates her message. "She is so thankful that you come and care for her neighbor, she is so grateful for that!" She is also a widow, left behind to care for several young grandchildren and great grand children. These women look out for each other. They share in one another's joys and sufferings. They encourage each other. Beautiful. The Church at it's most basic and organic level.

Before we leave we ask if we can pray for anything specific. Her face becomes very serious and she begins to speak and request prayer. "A demon torments me in the night..."

She proceeds to tell us that for the past several nights she has been gripped with fear and terror in the middle of the night. She has not been able to sleep. She believes an evil spirit is coming to her after dark to attack her. She knows prayer is the only way to stop it.

My heart breaks for this precious, vulnerable woman who has endured so much loss and hardship in her life. She has buried children, nursed HIV infected grandchildren, gone to bed hungry and listened to the cries of her granddaughter's as they try to ignore the empty gnawing hunger in their bellies, walked over rocky and uneven terrain to find a place in the bush to relieve herself...Through it all, she has never lost her faith. She continues to cry out to Jehovah God to sustain her. As a reward for that faithfulness He has in fact provided for her in amazing and unbelievable ways!

I have pondered this often in the days since we've visited with her and each time my anger grows a bit more. Seriously, pathetic enemy of our souls, the best you can do is harass an old lady in her bed after dark? Really? Each time it is brought to mind, I am sure to pray for this woman; asking God to bring her HIS peace and serenity. When I've woken up in the night, this woman heavy on my heart, I pray. I know that HE is greater than the one that is in the world. It just is another reminder that we are not only battling against the physical realm, even though that is so often what we are faced with on a day to day basis. Not enough food, not enough water, inadequate medical care, broken families, no money for school fees, houses literally falling down around grandmas and their kids...the list goes on and on. And over the past year we have been amazed and humbled to watch and be a small part of seeing God address and provide for each of these physical areas! With seven intense words, this Gogo serves to remind me that the real battle is in the spiritual realm.

"A demon torments me in the night..."

Ephesians 6:12 says this: "For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms." We do not have to fear this fact but we do have to understand it. It is very easy to get caught up in the physical needs of those around us because it is something we can wrap our minds around put our hands to. Often, we can do something to meet at least part of that physical need. And I'm not suggesting that we stop doing that. It is when we grow complacent in our efforts and satisfied with the fact that we have done something because what I am learning more and more is that even our best efforts are nothing apart from the touch of the Holy Spirit. We can do nothing apart from God's power; at least nothing that is of any true importance. I must daily, sometimes several times daily, lift my hands and ask God to fill them with what is eternally significant. Then and only then will I have something to deliver. In fact, it has been the times when I have nothing left to give and the Lord pours out His mercy in full that I have experienced peace in knowing that together with Him we are doing something. I have to do my part, but I must guard from believing my part is enough or even the most important thing. Of course my family will continue to do our best to connect the needs of the people we serve to the generous outpouring of provision that God allows to flow through us and others. However, at the end of the day, the most important and valuable thing I can give is time on my knees praying protection and peace over them; claiming the promises from Scripture that nothing, no thing will ever separate them from the love of God. ...neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, not any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation...(Romans 8:38)

Just another lesson learned in the dirt, under the late afternoon African sun...

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To read more about the Peterson's life in Swaziland, visit their blog: http://ericandjen.myadventures.org/

Friday, February 24, 2012

HEADING INTO THE HEART

This week, our family will be heading into the heart of our state's capital to spend some extra time at an inner-city ministry. We'll be serving and hoping to bless many but we'll also be going with another purpose in mind.


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We are praying about moving there to live and work with a ministry focused on bringing the light, love, and truth of Jesus to those who live there and those who come from other parts to serve there. Would you please pray for us during this time? Pray that we'll do all the Lord has for us during this time but that we'll also clearly hear confirmation from God if this is truly the next step He has for us on our journey towards serving in Swaziland. Living there would be a time for us to minister to the heart of our state, but also a time of transition and training as we prepare to live and serve in Africa.

Thank you!
Elysa

Thursday, February 23, 2012

MARDI PARTY MacSTYLE

My brother and his family live on the Mississippi Gulf Coast and one of the perks that coastal living is that they get an extra holiday that isn't even on the radar of most Americans --- Mardi Gras. Down there, it seems like almost everything shuts down or at least modifies a bit to reflect the carnival atmosphere whether it is blocked streets for parade routes, green and purple wreathes on doors, or grocery stores selling King Cakes.



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SSince my niece and nephews were out of school for three days this week as a result, their mama loaded them and a bunch of Mardi Gras supplies up in their mini-van and headed up here for three days of cousin-fun. Our kids decorated their own "floats", held a parade on the dead-end road next to our house, threw beads, and --- in lieu of King Cake --- decorated cookies with lots of purple and green frosting.


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So does your area of the world celebrate any holidays that most of the rest of us don't observe or maybe have never even heard of?

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

TWO DAYS LATE

I know that President's Day was two days ago, but tonight I came across this photo from our recent trip to Swaziland and wanted to post it here.

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Isn't he adorable in his "President of the U.S.A." shirt? America is well liked by most Swazis and, on the whole, they thought it was pretty great that someone of African descent was elected president of America. I think its pretty fun that somehow this little fellow ended up wearing this shirt to the Bheveni Carepoint on the day that we Americans paid a surprise visit.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

BOOKS: WAS, WHILE, WILL


What I was reading last week:


book prayers of agnes sparrow



The Prayers of Agnes Sparrow by Joyce Magnin

What I'm reading while this week passes:


book third culture kids



Third Culture Kids by David C. Pollock and Ruth van Reken

What I will be reading:


book Say Yes to God


Say Yes to God by Kay Warren

What are you reading this week and what do you want to be reading?


Monday, February 20, 2012

HOW HAVE YOU SPENT YOUR MONDAY?

A lot of folks I know, including my hunky hubby, have been enjoying a day off thanks to President's Day. Others I know, have been loving some vacation days thanks to Mardi Gras. My sister-in-law and her three kids are some of those folks.

With them being here, I've been cooking for an even bigger army, doing a 4 mile walk with Stephanie as we're both working towards getting healthier, and I'm continuing to work on editing and upload photos from our Swaziland trip.



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I can't just leave them as is or just let them show up on facebook any old way because I'm just OCD that way. I've said it before, but I'm going to be doing good to have all these pics edited and uploaded by the time we move to Africa in 2 years.




And what's adding to the length of time its taking? My dear Picnik.com photo-editing website is shutting down soon which means I'm going to be needing to find another option soon. I've been spending some time looking around the web for other offerings and have been messing about on BeFunky.com with some fun results.





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So how have you spent this 3rd Monday in February?

Sunday, February 19, 2012

ORDERED STEPS


The steps of a good man are ordered by the LORD,

and He delighteth in his way.

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Though he fall, he shall not be utterly cast down;

for the LORD upholdeth him with His hand.

Psalm 37:23-24

Saturday, February 18, 2012

MY "MADE ME SMILE LATELY" LIST

*Dark Chocolate Covered Zapp's Cajun Crawtaters from Blue Frog Chocolates




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*Listening to my kids howl with laughter as they look through photo albums showing them as babies and little kids.

*My hunky hubby getting home today from his work-related conference in Mardi Gras-crazed New Orleans.



*Our fuzzy calico cuddled up on the cracked-vinyl tractor seat.



*A nice, fun chat with my BFF Rhonda while lounging all comfy on my brown leather couch.

*A very sweet and very funny Valentine's Day video made by some Adventures in Missions World Racers: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5fH5QY_I3BU&feature=youtu.be

*My 13 year old son Patrick singing a very unique version of Lee Greenwood's I'M PROUD TO BE AN AMERICAN including "I paid my bills and taxes and now I'm eternally free".



*Running down the road to our neighbors' driveway and back just because its good for me and the weather was courteous.



*Getting to sleep extra late on a rainy Saturday while my teenaged daughter makes a big ole pancake breakfast for her brothers and sisters.

*Hearing how God is moving in the life of my Troubadour Grandbaby Stefanie and her family. God is definitely up to something as He turns the hearts of His children back to the least and the lost, even in our inner-cities that so many have given up on.

*Pictures from Thailand on my Betsie's Tumblr. Sure hope she lives there again one day so I have more excuses to visit that beautiful country.


*The antics of Fred and Lamont on SANFORD AND SON.


*Finding out that one friend is heading to a Middle-Eastern nation to show some Jesus love while a Troubadour friend, LeAnn, is heading out on her very first mission trip ever.

*Goodnight hugs and kisses from my three youngest.


*My husband switching to KEEPING UP WITH APPEARANCES all on his own...and keeping it there. Love that PBS doesn't have commercials to encourage channel surfing.


*Birdhouses painted by earnest, messy fingers.


“Withhold a smile only when the smile can hurt someone. Otherwise, let it bloom forth in a riot.” ---Vera Nazarian


So share your smiles. What's lifting your spirits these days?

Friday, February 17, 2012

LIVE IT

"Life is either a daring adventure or nothing." -- Helen Keller


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(And yes, that is this middle-aged mama riding a zip line over a mountain gorge at Malalotja Canopy Tour in Swaziland! )

Thursday, February 16, 2012

LOOK WHERE WE WENT

Look where my sweet husband took me for Valentine's Day ---- New Orleans!



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We had a beautiful room in the Marriott on Canal with an amazing view of the Mississippi River. We ate too much yummy food at Jimmy Buffett's Margaritaville and --- I can't believe I'm even saying this --- too much chocolate, as well.



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Earlier that day, we'd gone to BLUE FROG CHOCOLATES on Magazine and bought an assortment of sweet goodness. We bought some really unique offerings but the best of all was the dark chocolate covered Zapp's Cajun Crawtaters. Seriously, these little crunchies are some of the best things to ever cross my taste buds.

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The next day, Jim was participating in a work-related conference, so I ate a wonderful meal with my Troubadour Social Club gran-baby Stefanie, that I've only seen about 3 or 4 times since she graduated from college. After way too little time together over a fantastic lunch (Thai ChiliChicken Po-Boy --- Oh my!) I headed north to home.

But first I missed an exit and ended up in the small community of Gramercy. I stopped at a cute little tourist info centre, shared some of my dark chocolate covered Zapp's Cajun Crawtaters after the sweet ladies helped me with a map and gave me a free bag of Zapp's made right there in the area, and then powdered my nose in an even cuter cottage. Yep, their bathrooms are housed in an adorable, regionally-themed structure.


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After my detour, I put those chocolate covered chips in the back seat so there'd be some left to share once I got home.


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Not because I'm a nice person where chocolate is concerned but because Jim is the nice person and told me I needed to do that.


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And that's the good thing about married love. You don't just get to go on wonderful Valentine's trips together, but you help each other be better people.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

THE VALENTINE LOVIN' GOES ON AND ON

For the last couple of days, I've been encouraging my visitors to Graceland to think about how they could bless others this Valentine's Week. Yes, I love this holiday so much that one day is just not enough for me. So before I tell you how I spent my Valentine's Day --- I know you're just hanging off the edge of your seat to know --- I want to pass on this message from Damielle Brower with Bheveni Carepoint:



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A HUGE thank you to everyone who participated in Love4Lunch! The turn out exceeded everyone’s expectations.

If you go to this
link, you’ll see our thermometer is HOT and it has grown.. big time!

Hot! Hot! Hot!

Our original goal was $5,000. I chose this because… wow! Five G’s sounded HUGE… and my faith wasn’t big enough! Within the first few hours of the day, y’all proved that it was small potatoes... as was the next goal $8,500!

So we upped the goal again for a few reason:

1. Several people couldn’t participate yesterday but are giving up their lunches & donating today and later this week. You too can donate still here (without a code):
HopeChest Love4Lunch

2. Two more localized events (in specific towns) still need to report their total funds raised.

and

3. The biggest reason is because last year it cost over $11,000 to provide schooling for all the Bheveni children. THAT was before 30 NEW children started coming! So it is a realistic goal to reach – $11,000 – and it will help provide educational access to nearly all the 160 orphaned & vulnerable children who come to Bheveni for food, love, and hope for a better future! Honestly, my faith in the Lord & in our community tells me we will quite easily surpass this goal as well!

And guess where we are? 36 hours into Love4Lunch & 85% of the $11,000 has already been raised!!!!

CLICK HERE to see for yourself!
We are only $1,700 (15%) away!

The thought of each of the children being told, “YES! You ALL get to go to school this year” causes me so much joy for them that I can hardly describe it. Jesus is answering their prayers through us!!! He is making a way for them where there has seemed to be no way! If our God is for us, than WHO can be against us?

And let me remind you that your God is FOR YOU too! The seed you are sowing into their lives, is sown into fertile soil, and it will produce abundant, abiding fruit in them and in you!!!

He is faithful!

He is Jehovah-Jireh, OUR Provider!

Give Him praise, y’all and forget not all His benefits!!!!

So here’s one more opportunity to give your lunch money & share the SWEET Love of Christ!

Shine On!

Danielle
http://moms4change.net/

I also want to say thanks to all of you who gave towards the Bheveni scholarship fund. I've seen those kids, I've hugged them, sang with them, heard their stories, and I know what a difference education can make in their lives now and in their future.

And how did I spend my Valentine's Day?

Gosh, it is getting really late and I think I'm going to just have to wait and tell you tomorrow. I know, I know....you'll be tossing and turning unable to sleep til I divulge the details. I'll give you a hint, I didn't spend it in my zip code and last time I saw this city's lights, it was from an airplane.

Til tomorrow, try to get some rest and when you wake up, keep giving away the love!

Elysa

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

DO YOU DREAD VALENTINE'S DAY?

I know that Valentine's Day can be tough for some. Maybe it seems like, in the words of an old song, that "the whole world's in love when you're lonely". Even though I've been married for twenty-one years now, I get that. I remember those single years and I've seen various friends and family members struggle with that over the years.

And though Valentine's Day may be, at its heart, a celebration of romantic love (even married love when you really get back to its roots) it is also a celebration of that wonderful thing called love in itself. At least, that's what this Valentine loving girl chooses to believe.


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So if you're lonely this Valentine's Day, or even if you're not, why don't you make it about showing love to those around you and not worry about what you're going to get back from it? I can promise you that it will not only bless others, you'll be blessed back.

Here's some ways you can show love this Valentine's Day even though its last minute:

*Send e-cards or post Valentine greetings online to those who are far away from their friends and family today. Single missionaries and soldiers in other countries really appreciate this.

*Whip up some brownies or cookies, they don't have to be fancy, and deliver a couple of them to each of your neighbors. Singles and the elderly will especially appreciate the thought.

*Call your mama or grandmama to wish them a Happy Valentine's Day. Heck, if you can afford it, send them flowers. It might not be too late.

*Go grab a box of the Valentines that school kids pass out and go pass them out yourself. Its amazing how much a silly Snoopy card or a cute critter card can mean to someone.

*Buy a small gift, grab some flowers, or pickup a heart shaped cookie and take it to the widow whose spouse passed away this year. The first holiday after losing a loved one is usually the hardest.


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*Give up your lunch (or supper) and use the money you would have spent on food to donate to the scholarship fund for kids in Swaziland via Children's HopeChest. You can read more about the Love4Lunch campaign at: https://secure3.convio.net/chc/site/Donation2?df_id=1940&1940.donation=form1&JServSessionIdr004=5dwavr1j51.app331b


And let me say, HAPPY VALENTINE'S DAY to YOU! I hope you realize today, no matter the circumstances, that you are loved by our Father and His love lasts forever.

Monday, February 13, 2012

SHOWING REAL LOVE

Don't have someone romantic to celebrate Valentine's Day with? Or maybe you do but just tired of the same ole card and dinner?

Why not do something tomorrow that shows some real love to some kids in desperate need of just that?



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In Swaziland, there are tens of thousands of kids trapped in extreme poverty. For them, an education is one of the few things that offer the hope that they will be able to escape a future shaped by lack of food, limited medical access, and limited options.

The organization we are involved with, Children's HopeChest, and the community of Bheveni Carepoint supporters are offering you the chance to make a very real difference in the lives of a lot of little sweethearts tomorrow by making a financial contribution towards the Bheveni scholarship fund. Just skip lunch tomorrow (or chose not to buy that cheesy, singing, pink mouse) and instead, donate the money you would have spent.

Follow this link for more details including finding out just how easy it is to make a donation, a donation that shows real Jesus love that makes a real difference in a hurting nation:

https://secure3.convio.net/chc/site/Donation2?df_id=1940&1940.donation=form1&JServSessionIdr004=z2oi95ivd4.app331b

Sunday, February 12, 2012

LOVE4LUNCH HYSTERIA


From my sweet friend, Danielle Brower, fellow lover of Swaziland:


Hysteria is a stretch. Hysterical is not! I’m just so in awe of what’s happening that I keep catching myself giggling about it & can’t stop talking about it! Ask my husband, I’ve not shut up for several weeks now. I’m sure it’s not so hysterical to him.

As you may know, so much of what I love to do is done through Facebook. I see God changing lives, especially mine. The community of children we pray for & support from a distance through Children’s HopeChest is solely connected through Facebook. I often talk about the Bheveni Carepoint kids on my blog, but rarely do I talk about the community that loves them like family.

Children’s HopeChest has several “Connect Communities” each an online group advocating for children at a specific carepoint in Africa, but of course, ours is THE BEST – filled with the most amazing, gifted, funny, snarky, chatty, tag-happy, generous, and excitable group of people I’ve never met.

Everyday, sometimes multiple times a day, they bravely wield the sword of their hand (their mouse) to harness the power of the world (the internet), to share a contagious passion that God has given them for a group of children most of them have never met. Through stories, pictures, videos, etc we have all become one big happy Bheveni family, hearts fully connected with each other and with the 160+ children we love so dearly. Only God could’ve knit our hearts together like this!

What I love about our online community is that they aren’t just sittin’ on their bums talking about how things ‘should’ change. They are making change happen. Changing lives in their local towns. Changing lives across the world.

Don’t believe me? (Of course you do, but humor me.) I’m gonna prove my case.

Through the amazing dedication and teamwork of local Swazis, Adventures in Missions, Children’s HopeChest & sponsors, the children who are coming to Bheveni Carepoint have security knowing that their basic needs for a warm meal, clean water, basic medical care & abundant love are being met. But like any child, the goal isn’t just survival – we want them to THRIVE and be given opportunities to soar! But first their roots must be planted in a solid foundation known as education!

In Swaziland, all children must pay tuition to go to school. On average it costs about $250 per year, per child to receive an education. Every. Child.

Their school year started in January, and already children are being turned away from the school houses simply because they don’t have money.

I’d been asking God if there’s anything we should do to help. That’s where He & our Bheveni Family step up.

About two weeks ago I came across an awareness event that a missionary friend in Guatemala was doing on Feb. 3rd called One Day/One Lunch. LIGHTBULB!!! This gracious missionary said we could most certainly adopt her idea to raise awareness & funds for the Bheveni kids who were turned away from school.

Here’s the fork in the road. Some of you will think I’ve gone coo-coo for cocoa puffs, while others will think I’m suddenly somehow closer to God.

I assure you neither of those paths will explain what happened. While reading about One Day/One Lunch, the Lord opened my eyes to see exactly how to adapt it for our community of kids. The name – Love4Lunch, the date to do it, the concept for finding “Cupids” willings to take the idea into their offices, churches & local communities. All within like 10 minutes. For realz.


Bheveni Love4Lunch bus resized and framed




All God’s big idea. I’m just not that crazy and definitely not that smart.

My sole responsibility in this is to SPREAD the word. God is responsible for the results. Shew! So I can do this! (Yes another fundraiser!) I can do this because I’m not responsible for how it turns out! If it’s a colossal failure, it’s not because of me! If it’s a success, it’s not because of me! SWEET!!!

So WHAT in the blazes am I talking about?

LOVE4LUNCH!!!! L4L events are popping up all over the place thanks to God & our Bheveni community (you know, the ones who are chatty & amazing & yada yada yada…)!

- Here in Minnesota at least 3 local schools are giving their staff the opportunity to Love4Lunch.

-In Louisana, a grass-roots fashion entrepreneur who is pregnant & really should be resting, is selling tickets to a noon hour fashion show at a fancy lakeside restaurant!

-In Texas, a company is offering a matching grant simply because their best employee asked!!!

-In Tennessee, H.O.S.T. (Helping Others by Serving Together) led by a woman who MUST be the granddaughter of E.F. Hutton. (Seriously, she talks, people listen!!!) is sponsoring a pancake breakfast, auction and even a blood drive on Tuesday!

-In Mississippi, Washington, Colorado, South Carolina families are skipping a meal together!

…and the list goes on! It’s happening! Individual people are giving up lunch & inspiring others to do the same, so life can be a bit sweeter for children most have never met.

How about you?


On Tuesday will you skip lunch & give the money instead towards the education of children who have EVERYTHING working against them, except God! Your lunch may cost ya $3.00 or maybe even $10 if you & a buddy head to Chipotle for a Barbacoa (which weighs about the size of a chubby newborn). Skip it JUST once!

If you don’t have a local event, you can give online quite easily.

CLICK THIS LINK – Give using the code SZ3006000 – DONE

So I just wanted to share the love & enthusiasm that a G0d-inspired idea is creating!

Here’s to NOT having lunch together on Tuesday! XOXOXO

Shine On!

Danielle

P.S. There’s still time for you to ask your peeps to join you. Click this link to find out even more about how to spread L4L to your community of friends & co-workers: Love4Lunch Page


Bheveni Love4Lunch photo from our trip Resized and Framed


Saturday, February 11, 2012

STEPS MADE FIRM


The LORD makes firm the steps
of the one who delights in him;



P1240416 Framed and Resized


Though he may stumble, he will not fall,
for the LORD upholds him with his hand.

Psalm 37:23-24

(Photo taken at Moriah Centre, Big Bend, Swaziland)

Friday, February 10, 2012

DESPITE THE NUMBER OF KIDS WE HAVE

Though we have a large number of kids, the Von Trapp Family Singers we are not as demonstrated in this video:




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We definitely are not as coordinated or as harmonious as the real Von Trapps nor the actors and actresses who played them. My hair is certainly much messier than Julie Andrews as she traipsed across the mountains with her musical progeny.

But despite our deficiencies, we easily had as much fun as that famous singing family as we surprised our new Swazi friends with our sungs song in their heart language, siSwati.



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I never imagined when my kids were very small and I was toting them around to library story times and having them help me sing SIYA HAMBA that one day we'd be performing it at Swazi churches and ministry centers for orphans. I hope that as easily as we sing this song, that one day we'll also easily speak siSwati. It is hard to imagine that one day I'll ever be fluent in a language so full or clicks and other phonetic sounds so alien to my Southern English, but then, I'm learning that God is in the habit of taking us places and having to do things that are beyond even my wildest dreams.


Thursday, February 09, 2012

MISSING THE STARS

I've been asked what we would do if we took our kids to Swaziland and they didn't like it. I jokingly said that I'd take them to get their heads examined.



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But seriously, one of the main reasons we took our kids to Africa was because we wanted to introduce them to our new home and, hopefully, give them such a wonderful two weeks worth of experiences that they'd fall in love with it, too.

A conversation I had with my six year old tonight is just one of the many things they've said and done that communicate just how much they did like their future home.

The subject of a hotel we ate supper at while in Pigg's Peak came up after tonight's evening meal. Miss M said to me:

"Mommy, I know why the Orion Hotel is called that. Its because it is named after a constellation. Orion, the Hunter. I read about it in NANCY FANCY, STARGAZER. I want to go back to Swaziland so I can see the stars again."

Yes, the stars do shine brighter in Swaziland. And I love that my little girl is missing doing some African star gazing.

Wednesday, February 08, 2012

PRAYING FOR WISDOM AND DIRECTION

Now that we're back from our big African adventure, we've got a lot to do in preparation for moving there in two years.



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Today we ask that you pray for us to have wisdom and direction as we seek God's will for the next step in our journey towards serving in Swaziland. We are considering making a move that would make us a part of a pretty intense ministry here in our area. This idea is something I would never have even considered or wanted four years ago. It is amazing how God changes our hearts and our minds.

Part of being involved with this ministry would entail the selling of our house as this move would not just be a move in priorities and use of our time, but also a physical move.

Your prayers for us as we seek the Lord's perfect and amazing will are greatly appreciated. As soon as we know for sure God's plan about this next step, I'll let y'all know.

Wow. Serving God, at least in my life, definitely is full of crazy twists and turns but blow-my-mind blessings.

Tuesday, February 07, 2012

HORRIFYING NEWS FROM SWAZILAND

Two weeks ago, we were in Big Bend, Swaziland, exploring our future home, hanging out with preschoolers, getting to know the teachers, and deepening our relationship with Director Di Hampson at the Moriah Centre. Our kids fell in love with their new home and the children that our family will be ministering to.

Today we receive this horrifying email from Di Hampson:

Please pray for the Chauke family.

While swimming in the Usuthu River, [preschooler] Ayanda was taken by a croc. We are not sure of the details yet, but the police divers have been in the river most of the day searching for her body.

[Her mother] Nonhlanhla is one of our teachers. Ayanda was in the Lions class, prreparing to go to Grade 1 next year.

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Pleae pray for this family and all those who love Ayanda. I can't even imagine what they are going through right now.

Monday, February 06, 2012

WHAT'S UP?

We've now been back home for a week. Over that time, I've done mountains of laundry, cleaned up after lots of sick kids, tried to get a lot of rest, and edited scores and scores of trip photos.

With time, I promise to share more about the trip, but for now, I'll just share with you a few of my favorite shots from our two weeks in Africa.


P1180845 Betsie and Kids Resized



P1200024 Travis with plate on head Resized



P1210091 Jim and elephant Resized





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Yes, and as fabulous as it looks in these images, it was even more fabulous in real life! Several times through out the trip, we kept saying "can you believe this is our life?" Yes, we are truly, truly blessed.

Sunday, February 05, 2012

THREE WEEKS AGO TODAY...

...we were worshipping alongside Swazi brothers and sisters in Christ at a joint Zion church service under a big blue and white tent.

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What a blessing and honor it was to be there. I'll be sharing more later about this day in other blog posts, but for now, enjoy the joyful praise.



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And as much as I enjoyed watching Eli Manning's team win tonight's Super Bowl, I'd take a Swazi church service over a championship football game any day of the week. Hands down --- or in the case of how they worship at most churches there --- hands up!

Saturday, February 04, 2012

A MYRIAD OF REASONS WHY

Over the last few years, I've become more and more convinced that taking or sending your kids on mission trips is one of the best things you can do for them. I've shared in the past about my teenager's mission trips. And two years ago, my husband took two of our kids to Mexico to build a house while they were still pre-teens. But this trip to Swaziland was the first time we'd taken our younger kids with us on a mission trip.


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Let me tell you, I'm absolutely 100% sure that taking them was one of the very best decisions we have ever made.

During the trip and in the days since we got back, I've seen over and over again benefits to taking them to Swaziland. I want to start sharing those with you in the hopes that you, too, will decide that you need to take or send your kids on a mission trip. And if you don't have kids of your own or your kids are all grown, maybe it will convince you to support someone else's kids on their own adventures in missions.

Today, as I was lying on the couch resting up because I'm either still getting over jet lag or I'm fighting off the stomach virus that is rampaging thru our family, my 8year old said to me, "I hate HIV/AIDS".

Wow. This is a middle class kid; living in a comfortable home in a safe, rural neighborhood; surrounded by family members, who other than the occasional tummy bug or sinus infection, are exceptionally healthy; saying this.

And why?

Because on our trip to Swaziland, he met and played with children who have HIV/AIDS. Unless a cure is found, these beautiful kids will one day most probably die as a result of their HIV/AIDS positive status.

These kids are no longer just an ancedote that his mother talks about. They are no longer just faces on a computer screen. They are his playmates and companions. He has chased them and been chased by them. He has climbed the monkey bars and splashed in the pool with them. He has laughed and hollered with them. He has even bossed them around. He has tried explaining the idea of a Dr. Who "space time continuim" to them. He has just been a kid with them. Because despite their infection, they are just kids, too.


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So why is it good that my eight year old son went on a mission trip to Swaziland?

Because he is learning to hate the things we should hate, those things that hurt and kill the Lord's precious little ones, while at the same time, loving those who are suffering. And hopefully, this hatred of what hurts the innocent ones will one day result in action on his part. Hopefully, he won't grow up just hating what hurts him personally but will grow up wanting to fight against those things that kill, steal, and destroy. Because that's the heart of our Father.

Friday, February 03, 2012

SUZ'S SUPER BOWL VEGETARIAN NACHOS


It is that time of year again --- the time of year when even folks who aren't football fans can be found watching the sport and enjoying an excuse to eat lots of great food at the same time. Yep, its time for the Super Bowl. So for at least today, I'll take a break from "all things Swazi" and do a little Americana.


Super Bowl Party


Last year, I featured some healthy recipe options for munching pleasure during the Super Bowl. I won't do a whole series this year since we just got back from Africa, but I did want to share this winner with you from my Five-in-a-Row pal, Suz:

1 16oz. can vegetarian re-fried beans (if you make your own, even better)
1 16 oz. can black beans, rinsed and drained
1 jar salsa of your choice
black olives, green onions, jalapenos or chiles, if desired
1 - 2 bags blue corn tortilla chips, depending on size of bag
2 - 3 cups shredded Cheddar cheese
sour cream, additional salsa, olives, onions, etc. for garnish


Combine first 3 ingredients in a medium bowl. Add in any of the optional veggies, if desired, to your liking. Spray a 9 X 13 or larger baking pan. Put in a layer of chips by the handful (this isn't supposed to look neat and tidy, just taste good.) Spoon veggie/salsa mixture over chips. Top with another layer of chips. Top with cheese. Bake at 350 degrees until cheese is bubbly, but not brown. (Unless you like it that way, then leave it in until it suits you.) Cut into squares and serve on a plate with a fork and desired garnishes. Serves ??? depending on a.) how many squares you cut, b.) how many other dishes you have to serve, c.) how many discover these things before the rest of the crowd, and d.) how much the outcome of the game is affecting appetites....

You can serve this on salad greens for a type of taco salad, if you want to make it a full meal. We sometimes do. I use the good for you blue tortilla chips, btw, and 2% cheese, and typically skip the canned veggies in favor of homemade beans and salsa. But then I pile on the sour cream to alleviate any guilt my tummy may lay on me later.

Suz
http://www.homeschoolingonthecheap.com/cheapchickblog/

To find more healthy options that also offer winning taste, check out these blog posts from last year:

http://elysasmusingsfromgraceland.blogspot.com/search/label/Super%20Bowl

Thursday, February 02, 2012

WE'RE BACK FROM OUR ADVENTURE!

Just a quick note to let you know that we are back from our Swaziland adventure. We had a great time, God provided and protected, we didn't lose a single piece of our luggage (even though we took 32 pieces), and we didn't lose any of our kids, either!



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We were able to visit some amazing ministry sites, spend time with many wonderful people, and really get a better feel for what life will be like for our family when we move to Africa in two years.

Thanks again to all of you who have supported us in various ways during this time. I promise to post more details soon! For now, we're still recovering from jet lag, tummy issues, and trying to fix major computer issues.