Monday, November 23, 2009

Missionary Spotlight: Reece's Rainbow

This is Andrea Roberts, and her son Reece. I do not know them personally. Nor can I relate to their situation. But, as many of you know, my heart beats for orphans. So, when I heard about the ministry Andrea started offering hope for orphans with Down syndrome, something resonated within me.

There is a family in our church who was blessed with a baby boy in January. Simeon Lakes is a happy boy, full of chatter, and a FULL head of hair. He was also born with an extra chromosome. To be honest, I did not know a lot about children with Down syndrome. Even as a teacher, I never had the privilege of interacting regularly with any children with Down syndrome.
Watching Tara's passion to educate and inform others about Down syndrome, as well as her desire to see the number of pregnancy terminations due to a diagnosis of Down syndrome decrease has been so amazing to watch. Yesterday, during the service, she shared about an organization that has become such a passion to her. And after showing the video describing what the organization does, I'm almost certain there was not a dry eye in the whole church.

Reece's Rainbow is a 501(c)3 organization that seeks to promote the international adoption of children with Down syndrome. You see, in many places around the world, those who are born "different" are often viewed as outcasts with no ability to learn or be functional members of society. Often times, babies with Down syndrome are left in orphanages, and then transferred to mental institutions, where many do not live to see their 10th birthday.

Andrea Roberts started the organization to help change this. There are various ways that hope is being brought to children around the world:

1. Providing funding for adoptions- International adoptions are costly, averaging about $20,000 per child. And, as Tara said yesterday, there is no discount if the child you fall in love with has a disability. For this reason, at the Reece's Rainbow website, an account has been set up specifically for each child awaiting adoption. The money you give toward that child is saved in an account for the family to use when they are ready to adopt that child. What a gift for that family to have to make the process a bit easier financially! Their goal is to raise at least $1,000 for each of the 200 children awaiting adoption. Click the link for more info.

2. Prayer Warriors- They have a program where you can become a prayer warrior for a child awaiting adoption. Much like a child sponsorship through other organizations, only you give of your time in prayer. The Lakes have a little boy they are praying for, and are praying for a family with "a mommy, a daddy, a brother, a sister, a dog, a cat, and the guinea pig is optional." I love it.

3. Adoptions- In only three and a half years, Reece's Rainbow has been the hands and feet of Jesus to bring hope and life to 225 children with Down syndrome. And if you love a good, honest, happy ending, check out their "Homecomings" link. And this video. You might want some Kleenex handy, though.

And it all started with one family who was blessed by a precious boy named Reece. What gets you excited? What makes your heart skip a beat? Don't let anyone tell you it won't make a difference. Tell that to the 225 children who now have a loving family and a place to call home.

If you would like to read more about the Lakes family, feel free to check out their blog. And, be sure to read this entry. What a reminder to take it "one day at a time."

Thanks, Tara, for sharing your passion and your sweet Simeon with us.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Destination: Uganda T-Shirts

Looking for inexpensive Christmas gifts or stocking stuffers? Want the money to go to a good cause? I may have just the thing for you!

A dear friend of mine from Asbury has created t-shirts for me to sell, with all of the profits going to help me get to Africa.

The shirt is screen-printed with Isaiah 61:1-3 in Swahili (the language of many East Africans). The words of the verse come together to form the shape of Africa, with a star denoting Uganda's location. The verse, in English, reads:

The Spirit of the Sovereign LORD is on me, because the LORD has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners, to proclaim the year of the LORD’s favor and the day of vengeance of our God, to comfort all who mourn, and provide for those who grieve in Zion—to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair…” -Isaiah 61:1-3

It's like a job description detailing what Jesus came to do. And as I prepare to go to Uganda in June, I am aware that these are the very things we are sent to do today, regardless of where we are, in Jesus’ name. In Uganda, there are orphans, widows, college students, children and grandparents that need to know there is hope in Jesus. The same is true where you are. Wherever you are, Isaiah 61 is a call to hope. It's a call to action. It's a call for the young and old alike.

Each shirt is $10, or two for $18. The proceeds from the sale of this shirt will go directly toward paying for my plane ticket to Uganda. As I hold the hand of an orphan, as I look into the face of a grandmother raising her grandchildren because a sickness has taken their parents, and as the peace of Jesus becomes real to an individual who has only known war, I will know it is people like you who got me there. As my passport is stamped in June, it is your support that helped make it possible. Thank you, from the bottom of my heart, for your support. It means the world.

There are Toddler, Youth, and Adult sizes available.

Toddler shirts: Gray w/ black writing

Available Sizes: 2T-4T

My buddy Will, modeling the toddler shirt.

Youth shirts: light army green w/ black writing (see photo below) Sizes Available: S-XL

My friend Jill is wearing the light green color that is available in Youth AND Adult Sizes.

Adult Shirts: 3 colors (Light green w/ black (above), dark green w/ black, or light gray w/ maroon Sizes Available: S-XXL

Dark Green w/ Black

Light gray w/ Maroon

To place an order, click here.

**If you would like to place an order and have it before Christmas, I should receive your order by November 30. The money is to be sent after that date. (See link for details on payment.)**

And, for good measure, here's another picture of my cute friend Will. Love this boy!

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Thankful Thursday

I must warn you. My posts from now on could be filled with Christmas festive amazingness. So, if you are one of those "It's not Christmas until after Thanksgiving" people, maybe you can just pretend I'm talking about Thanksgiving. Or your birthday. Because both days are amazing.

So, without further delay, I'm thankful:

-that 107.9 The Track (a local Indy radio station), as of 4:00 this afternoon, has gone 24/7 Christmas music. And if you know me well, you know how that makes my heart SO happy.

-for spur of the moment outings with good friends. And free dessert that tastes amazing.

- for the gift of laughter with my friends at work.

-that I get to look forward to "date night" with my oldest brother on Saturday. Dinner and an NBA game downtown!

-that my friends Billy and Joanna (missionaries to Uganda) will be in the states soon. I've never met their daughters, and haven't seen them in over 5 years. It's been W-A-Y too long.

-that in the midst of a somewhat difficult season of waiting, I know that I am truly loved. By people near and far, and it means the world. I am surrounded by some amazing people.

What are you thankful for this week?

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Enjoying Life's Detours

My 2,220.5 mile trip concluded with a stop to see some of my all time favorite people in the world in South Carolina. (I wrote about the Brockinton's in June after my 5 year college reunion, if you recall.) This is the first time I have had the opportunity to visit them on "their turf" since they moved away from Wilmore, Kentucky. And what a tremendous blessing it was! We watched a soccer game (a first for me), ate completely local (no restaurant chains), made homemade pizza, worshipped at church together, walked along gorgeous South Carolina streets exploding with color. We were able to "just be," and it was exactly what I needed. As I said before, they are some of my favorite people on the planet. I love them so.

An interesting thing happened on the morning I was to leave. I woke up to get ready to leave the driveway at 8:00. Sometime in the night, however, there was a MASSIVE rock slide along I-40, which was the route I needed to take to get home. See how massive it was??

For the record, this is not my picture. I got it from a news website. I
accidentally left my fake press pass at home. HA

So, out came the Atlas, Garmin, and Department of Transportation websites to attempt to navigate a detour that would get me home a)safely and b)without tacking on 100 hours of extra drive time. As I began my journey with my new directions in hand, I realized I had a few options. I could choose to be frustrated and angry with the detour, or I could choose to enjoy it. Before leaving the neighborhood, my decision was made. I was going to enjoy the detour. Even if it took me longer to get home than I had anticipated, I was going to do whatever it took to enjoy the detour.

And, you know? I have a feeling that I would have missed out on some pretty amazing things if I hadn't made that choice. You see, because I was open to experiencing the "new" and "different" along my route, I feel I was able to allow Jesus to speak a deeper truth to what that detour would represent.

As I drove, I was very aware that I had set a goal to have 25% of my monthly funds pledged by November 1. And as of that moment, I knew I was nowhere close to it. My trip was amazing, to be sure, but it simply did not produce the "results" I had been hoping and praying for. And it was on my literal detour that I began to see that maybe, just maybe, Jesus is in the business of using detours to bring us closer to Himself. Perhaps Jesus would take me the long way to show me more of Himself. And as I have battled discouragement with where I am at this point in my support raising journey, I've come to understand that perhaps the very thing Satan desires to use to prove God isn't good is the very thing God will use to prove that He is.

So, as I drove, I was able to enjoy the detour. Because I chose to see the beauty in it. To see the beauty in the slow construction traffic giving me a chance to observe the amazingness that is Fall. To see the joy of a family enjoying a picnic under a tree in the Smoky Mountains. To see Neyland Stadium (GO BIG ORANGE!!!) in person for the first time.

And in the end, at 9:40 PM, as I pulled into my driveway, I was so glad I made the choice to enjoy the detour. A nine hour trip turned into thirteen hours, but I saw more, learned more, appreciated more, prayed more, and listened more than I would have otherwise. And I am so grateful.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Update With a Side of Pictures

As I said before I learned a great deal on my recent trip south. One thing I continue to learn is that people are very important to me. Friends who have welcomed me into their homes and lives throughout the years. Friends to do life with. Friends who challenge me. Friends who ask hard questions. Friends who allow ME to ask hard questions.

I realize, at the end of the day, regardless of what the economy is doing, how my favorite sports team is doing, or what my bank account says, it's the people in my life that matter. And, I am SO thankful Jesus has given me the opportunity to do life with some pretty amazing people. Here are a few more of them...or, in most cases, their children. :)

You know how you meet people and you later can't remember a time not knowing them? And then you're surprised to actually find out have not, in fact, known each other as long as you once assumed? The instant friend-types. That is the Neeley's. And, more recently, the Hughes'.

Jill and Jonathan Neeley (Jill is in the white shirt, and Jonathan is little Nathan's arm-rest in the back) and I became friends my last year in Panama City. Jill helped me through the difficult transition to teaching Kindergarten, and saw me at melt-down state quite often at the beginning of our friendship. Their boys (Will and Nathan) were dedicated at church while I was visiting. How special to be there as they committed to raising these boys to know and love Jesus. Jill's brother Brad (navy suit coat) is from Southern Georgia, and knows some of my friends from Asbury. Weird, I know. Jill's mom Sue is just flat-out amazing. LOVE her. Heart of gold. Precious. Period. I love this family.

Another family that is very near and dear to me is the Childress family. Similar situation: I only taught with Betsy for one year (at the beginning of my time in PC) but we became fast friends. And, on this trip, we decided we are indeed twins. Separated at birth. (But she's the older twin. Just sayin'.) I just love them. They opened their home to me for my entire visit, a place where I could relax, reflect, laugh, learn, and "just be." (For the record, I do not have a picture of Betsy and Richard. Only of their cute children Drew and Katie.)

Katie and I spent an evening watching the Rockette Christmas show together. Girl after my own heart. And I'm pretty sure Drew crawled for the first time while I was there. And he looks amazing in his Jack-'o-Lantern shirt. Just sayin'.

I love these people. A lot. Much more than they may know.

And tomorrow, I hope to wrap up this update with what I learned while on a detour. More fun to come!!

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Thankful Thursday

Today, I'm thankful for:

-long talks with friends I haven't seen in a long time.
-"date day" with one of my brothers. And the prospect of "date day" with the other one soon.
-a reliable car.
-Christmas music at work (though I could do without that Sheryl Crowe CD...)
-The smell of fire emerging from barely used fireplaces.
-Football season.
-a 17 month old that happens to be growing up way too quickly.
-the drop in temperature, reminding us that change is coming. And that it's good.
-the steadfast, immovable love of God in Christ Jesus. Oh, may I never get over it.

Monday, November 2, 2009

2,220.5 - Things learned along the way

I admit. Silence has become the norm on this blog over the last few weeks. If you have stuck around through this period of drought, I thank you. The lack of posts is not due to a lack of things to say, but rather, a lack of taking time to update. And when a trip is as full as the trip I have just been on, it becomes increasingly difficult to know where to begin.

As you see from the picture above, this trip added 2,220.5 miles to my car in a matter of 16 days. 5 states (6 , if you count Georgia twice), 6 different homes, and 0 new tires later, I look back and see that I learned much along the way. And I hope, over the next few days, to unpack some of what I discovered along the way. At the risk of my obsessive compulsive brain exploding, I’m going to approach the next few updates in a different way: In no particular order. I can’t even believe I just typed that. Join me on the journey from here…to there…and everywhere in between.

...College friends are amazing. I love remembering hilarious old times, and making new memories in the process. Thanks, Yvonne!
...It would not hurt my feelings if Jesus called me to work with college students one day. I spent some time with some pretty amazing students at Asbury, and was so blessed by their desire to follow Jesus and make Him famous.
...The beach in October is still my favorite. No tourists (unless you count me), too early for Snowbirds (aka: slow drivers from the North), and it's not unbearably hot.

...Three year olds are stinkin' cute. Even when they won't take their medicine. (Me and Will aka: Simba at left)
...I do not like Walmart. Period.
...My former students have grown up too fast.
...Planning on 40 people showing up to an event, and 40 people ACTUALLY showing up are very different. There were two events in Panama City, and let's just say I was 50% of the people at one, and 25% at the other. I have leftover cider if anyone wants any. :)

...Apparently, I am the baby whisperer. (See picture at right.)
...There are people who over analyze things just as much as I do. And when the two of you are together trying to analyze the same decision, it's VERY validating for everyone involved. (Love ya, Betsy!)
...There are some seasons in our lives that we simply may never understand. Sometimes, we must learn to move on, despite the massive question marks.

...Laughing with old friends is so good for my soul.
...Drinking out of Auburn and Alabama glasses is much more fun while singing "Rocky Top."
...Teaching the children of Auburn and Alabama fans to say, "GO BIG ORANGE!" is amazing. And fun. And it drives their parents crazy. And I love it.
More to come later...