Butterfly Sparks Designs

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Because I Care About You...

Hello again. I lost my voice for a while. But I’m back now, and I can't wait to break it down and share my journey with you.  But let's start here first.  

Please take a few minutes to watch this.


 
So here’s the thing. As the video explains, this isn’t about fear. It’s about awareness. It only takes a few minutes to have a skin exam at your dermatologist. Just a few minutes, once a year. And nearly all insurance plans cover the cost. And if yours doesn’t, then email me and I’ll help you find a doctor who will examine you. I’m serious about that. Because I care about you that much.

Why? Because all from one tiny mole on my leg, my life changed. With one single word … "malignant". And I never, ever want you to go through this.

If you think malignant melanoma is always some simple thing that can be sliced off in your dermatologist’s office, you’re wrong. I thought so, too … so I waited longer than I should have.

This picture is the reality of late Stage 2 Melanoma.



I lost a piece of my leg. And this 8 inch scar is only half of my story, because there is another one on my abdomen similar to this one from the surgery to remove lymph nodes.

This is serious business. Don’t put it off like I did. Be aware, and be proactive. Call a dermatologist and make an appointment for a checkup now. Right now.

Go. Please, please go.

And after you make your appointment, come back here. Because I have some other things to share with you in the days to come. Those scars have become my unexpected pathways to the peace that passes all understanding.  And I can't wait to tell you about it. 

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Caring Bridge

My surgery is tomorrow.  My family will be posting updates on my Caring Bridge site for as long as I'm unable to post updates myself.  Please check in at http://www.caringbridge.org/visit/melissadriggers.  I appreciate your prayers so very much. 

He is my Healer.


Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Past, Present, and ...

For the past two years, I’ve given each new year a word. Well, actually, God gave the words to me. In 2010, the word was “Breakthrough”. And a year of Breakthrough it was – the loving hands who hold flowers in the desert walked right into the pain that was the cancer of my heart. He healed me.

In 2011, the word is "Dreams". I wrote about it here. On the other side of Breakthrough, I found my ability to dream again. Big, audacious dreams. 

Back in January of this year, God kept showing me lions. No, that’s not a typo. Lions. For a period of several weeks, I kept hearing Him say “lion” to me during my prayer time. During that season, I was wrestling before God because leadership opportunities were coming my way and I was running hard from them. I had been running from them for years, really. If I turned the TV on, there was usually some sort of a lion in the scene playing. I even remember passing a billboard with a huge picture of a lion. I mean, come on. He might as well just have plugged in a neon sign in front of my face. I read from Daniel and spent hours trying so hard to study the Word to find what He wanted me to know.  But I didn’t get it. I just couldn’t understand what He was trying to tell me.

We had a prophetic prayer ministry from the Wesley Foundation at UGA come to a youth retreat to do a prayer workshop, and a few adults were invited. It was my first experience being prayed for prophetically. I was a bit skeptical , so I just prayed that if this was something of God, that He would give the people praying over me something so specific that only He would know. I arrived to the prayer room, sat down, and immediately one of the young men in the group (whom I’d never met before in my life) leaned his body all the way across the table, got right in my face and said “God wants you to know that He didn’t create you to be a housecat. He created you to be a lion.”  WOW.

That was the night I stopped running.

Once that happened, He opened the floodgates. I didn’t have to do a thing or make anything happen. He did, by the bucketfulls. 

Recruited by a major publisher to write a book. Invited to be a guest writer on some very well-known blogs and some ministry publications. Asked to speak at events. Leading a cluster group.  Seeing incredible growth in counseling ministry.

On October 17th, my plans were to leave work to come home to put the finishing touches on Chapter 4 of the book. Instead, I was at my parents’ house grieving the news that I have cancer.

Not now, God. Not now. You just taught me to dream. How can you give me a book deal AND cancer? Don’t you remember – this is the year of dreams. You told me that. Did you forget?

No, He didn't forget.

In Breakthrough, I gave Him my past.

I now realize that in Dreams, I must give Him my future.

Those dreams that I have? He gave them to me. They’re His, and they are still on fire and alive in me because He is alive in me. Earlier this year in Africa, He showed me that He will not relent until He has all of my heart.  So I confess that I haven't surrendered my future to Him.  The past, yes.  The present, yes.  But, my future --  I have surrendered only enough not to lose control.  This journey is showing me that.   

So I hold my future out to Him, with outstretched arms and open hands to the One who does not relent in His love for me.

It’s yours, Lord.  It's yours. 



Saturday, October 29, 2011

Cancer, Pizza, and Butt Jokes.

You know how after a bad nightmare, sometimes you might wake up relieved that you were only dreaming? On most mornings, I wake up and my first semi-conscious waking emotion is relief, as I think “Oh, thank God, it was just a bad dream.” But then as I reach consciousness (and usually the first thing I do is reach down to touch the biopsy wound on my leg to see if it is still there), I realize it was real. It is real. And then, the sense of relief comes again, when I realize that just as much as it is real, so is He. And He’s bigger than cancer.

Yeah. I have cancer.

Late Stage 2 Melanoma.  The cells have multiplied and have moved from the tumor to the surrounding tissue. 

Words I would have been happy to go for a lifetime never having to write or speak. Suddenly a member of a club that I never asked or wanted to join. So many faces with well-meaning eyes gushing with love and true yearning to comfort me, who utter things like “You’re going to beat this” or “I survived cancer and so will you”.  Or the clich├ęs that I once rolled my eyes at, like “Cancer doesn’t define you” or the perhaps the cheesiest one of all, “Cancer isn’t a death sentence, it’s a ‘new life’ sentence.” It’s all very surreal, listening to these words spoken directly to me. Or seeing things posted by friends and family proclaiming “Melissa has cancer.” “Wait, that’s not me, you've made a mistake”, I want to yell out, but just as the words move to the tip of my tongue, I realize that indeed, this is my current reality.

It’s amazing what one just blurts out when given the diagnosis. When my doctor gave me the news, I just stared blankly and said “Nope, that doesn’t work, because I leave for vacation in 2 days”. I just can’t work cancer surgery, recovery, severe scarring, and chemo and radiation into my plans, Doc. Sorry ‘bout it.

In less than a week, a large section of my left leg (calf) will be removed, and a simultaneous surgery will be done on my abdomen to remove the main (sentinel) lymph node to send off for testing to see if the cancer has spread to my lymph nodes or organs.

When I got the news, I drove immediately to my parents’ home, in spite of the fact that all I wanted to do was to go home and be alone. But as a counselor, I have enough foresight to know clinically that being alone for the next few hours was the worst thing I could do.

Only my family – my loving, faithful, awesome, believing, hilarious family – could weave belly laughs, food, and inappropriate jokes into the darkest day of my life. There were rivers of tears shed (and consistently) by all of us, but mixed with bouts of roaring laughter. My sister and nieces showed up with pizza, which upon later reflection, we found hilarious. My sister Lorri said “I didn’t know what to do, so I just thought we needed pizza. I know it’s ridiculous to have a pizza party when your sister tells you she has cancer, but I didn’t know what else to do.” As we sat around eating, the conversation turned to my instructions to family about certain aspects of what this road may bring, one of which was a lighthearted discussion of how I am to be “styled” during my hospitalization and recovery. This led to a litany of jokes about…well…butts. My late grandma (I'm seriously missing her right now), had a series of inappropriate jokes that she loved to tell about “needing a new butt because mine has a crack in it.” The darkest day of my life was spent belly laughing so hard that it hurt, to my Mama’s old butt jokes. We’re nothing if not classy. (It’s important to note that in between the tears and pizza and inappropriate jokes, we prayed and read Scripture, so I guess that makes it OK.)

So here’s the thing. In the nearly 2 weeks that has passed, God has shown me much about Himself. Much about me and how I experience Him. And now I am about to say something else that I never thought I would say. I’m grateful for the cancer. Don’t get me wrong -- I believe and pray for complete healing. I pray that the cancer hasn't spread and that this surgery is the end of the process.  I hope the journey is short and that the scars on my leg and heart are small. I pray for my joy to remain consistent through every step. But I know…and I mean I KNOW … that my outlook on my life has been forever and radically changed. My experience of Him and surrender to Him has been forever and radically changed. And those are the things I will write about. So please keep checking in here.

And...please keep praying. I remain expectant that God will be glorified through this. That is truly my deepest desire.

He is good, and He is faithful. I believe that He alone is my Healer and my Provider of all things on this and every journey of my life.   And most of all,  regardless of my circumstances, I believe that He is God and He is ALWAYS good. 

If you agree with me, say so.  Would you join me on this journey? 

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Happy Birthday, Dad!!!

Me and Dad
I have vivid memories of my childhood summers. Constantly at our neighborhood swimming pool from its opening hour until booted out by the teenage-angst-filled lifeguards at closing time, my olive skin became very dark. I would be stopped regularly by the nosy inquirer who wanted to know if I was Brazilian or from some other far-off exotic place. But no, I was merely a little small town southern girl. As I think about that memory, I find it comical. I was not an exotic foreign heir to fortune or fame. I was a simple girl from a simple town with simple taste. And I was the luckiest girl alive (and still am), because the values instilled in me by my parents were based upon recognizing the extraordinary in the simplest pleasures in life.

God has blessed me with the most incredible earthly father a girl could have. He oooohed and aaaahed when I twirled in my new dresses, he graciously pretended to eat elaborate imaginary platters of food I designed with little plastic “pegs”, and he never once forgot to leave me a beautiful heart full of chocolates on Valentine’s Day. Every Saturday morning, we had breakfast together at Kay’s Drugstore…it was our date every week. And every single day (no exaggeration), I would wake up to a handwritten note from Dad wishing me a good day, affirming me, and telling me that he loved me “very, very, very, very much”.

My most treasured memories with Dad, though, are the ones framed around those Georgia midsummer days that were so humid you could barely breathe. He and I would sit out on our deck in the hot sun, and we would share an ice cold can of fruit cocktail. Two forks. We would sit and talk and laugh with the sweltering sun beating down on us as we took turns reaching into a fifty-cent can of ice cold fruit. At the end, one lone cherry always awaited…and Dad always gave it to me of course. We would stay and talk and talk and talk until the sun came down. Dad worked hard to support our family. But he and a silly can of fruit cocktail always had time for me. From my perspective, there was no finer cuisine. The experience was not framed around an iPhone or iPad or Playstation or designer jeans or fancy trips or cameras or computers. There was just me and my Daddy, and an aluminum can of processed fruit between us. I was content, satisfied, and loved. I can’t tell you what I got for Christmas or my birthday every year, but I can tell you about those times on the deck with my Dad like it was yesterday. That, I remember. And that, I treasure.

If you look in my refrigerator today, you’ll notice a can of fruit cocktail on the top shelf. And if you know me well at all, then you know that there is always a can in my fridge. Always. Because I need to be reminded that there are opportunities every single day to find the extraordinary in the simplest of things.

Thank you, Dad, for your love for me and our family.  Happy Birthday!



Monday, October 3, 2011

Needle and Thread.






I wonder who she was. What she dreamed about. Did she have a husband and children? How old was she? Was she happy? Was she struggling to understand her life’s purpose? What did she think about? Was she tired, drained? I wonder if her hands were blistered or crippled with arthritis. Did her neck and shoulders hurt at the end of her workday?

We know nothing about her; not even her name. Yet she holds a critical place in history. Not one of prominence or notoriety, but instead behind the scenes of a story that has been passed down through the ages and will continue to be for all of eternity.
...

For the rest, go to (in)courage, where I'm a guest blogger today!

Friday, September 16, 2011

Vibrations of Worship.


In my living room. Tuesday nights with people I love. Doing life together.

Seeking, broken, flawed, joyful, forgiven, teachable. Iron sharpening iron.

The welcome has been given. In moments of praise and worship before the study and discussion begins…

“…No beginning and no end... You’re my hope and my defense…”

As the music and our voices rise, under my feet the floor vibrates. The walls shake.

**************************************************************************

In the church office on Sunday morning. The early worship service begins. Kneeling in prayer for the hearts of those who will lead and those who will hear.

The welcome has been given. The band begins to play.

“All of a sudden, I am unaware of these afflictions eclipsed by Glory…”

As the music rises, my prayers are joined with the most beautiful sound as the building shakes and dances with a force so strong that I can feel it in my chest.

The walls quake with wonder.

Ceiling tiles tremble with redemption.

The floor shakes with praise.

Vibrations of Truth.
Vibrations of love.
Vibrations of healing.
Vibrations of hope.
Vibrations of freedom.

Hearts are awakened to life in the vibrations of worship.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Messy Joy.



Joy is messy.

That’s a weird thing to say, isn’t it? But I think it’s true. 

Joy always celebrates.  But sometimes joy comes with aches.  Sometimes, it weeps.  Sometimes, it dances. Sometimes, it belly-laughs with anticipation. 

And sometimes... like tonight ... joy does all of that at the same time.  It's messy.

I got some news tonight (Wednesday).

My sweet friend whom I’ve never met is on her way to meet Jesus as I write this. While some would discount a friendship with someone you’ve never met, I would disagree. Sara Frankl has deeply impacted my journey with God through the words she has shared on her blog for the past 3 years. Her story is profound. Her pain is chronic and unyielding. But her joy … oh, her joy … it is made of something that celebrates and awakens the hearts of others to hope. 

Not long from now, Sara will leave her tiny apartment for the first time in three years.  For three years, her rare, mysterious illness has forbidden her from going outside.  But soon and very soon, she will leave her home here and run into the arms of Jesus. 

Sara often described her deepest passion that her life, her story, would not bring people to tears but would fill them with hope. In Sara’s words:

“Mostly, if you met me… if you came here to the condo I affectionately term "Gitzapalooza"… I would want to make sure you came feeling welcomed and loved. And that you left feeling more filled up than when you came. How that happens doesn't matter so much to me. What we talk about or do to make that happen doesn't matter so much to me. It just matters that you're filled.”

She did that. For so many, she did just that. Well done, Sara. Well done.

It’s hard to write this through a downpour of tears. My heart aches that her words, baked with messages of hope and grace, will no longer reach my eyes or fill our hearts. Her legacy spans to countless others who never met her, and a very, very lucky few who did. Yet I find joy through the weeping and in the ache.  Joy dances in the blessed assurance that the one day Sara lived her whole life for is coming soon. Joy celebrates that she will no longer be in pain and will again be able to lift her beautiful voice in song to her Prince. And joy belly-laughs in anticipation of the delight in her Father's voice as He whispers, “Well done, my faithful, sweet daughter. Well done.” 

With joyful tears, I celebrate for sweet Sara.

Blessed assurance. Oh, the entry into heaven that awaits her. The promise that on that day of her welcoming, the angels will sing. Sara’s faith on that day will become her eyes. What a party it will be!

As I sat down to collect myself and to pray, I received an email from another one of my dearest friends.

My friend Julie’s son Aaron, the sweetest 9 year old you’ll ever meet, accepted Christ today. He sweetly asked Jesus into his heart. I had a treasured opportunity to spend time with little Aaron this past weekend. His heart is tender and deep and generous and so loving.  Joy dances in the promise of God's amazing plans for Aaron.  Joy weeps in gratitude to a God that sent His son for our sin.  Joy belly-laughs in anticipation of how God will continue to reveal Himself to little Aaron's heart. 

With joyful tears, I celebrate for little Aaron. 

Blessed assurance. Oh, the entry to heaven that awaits him. The promise that on that day of his welcoming, the angels will sing. Aaron’s faith will on that day become his eyes. What a party it will be!

Two people whom I love are celebrating eternal life today. Two people whom I love are dreaming of heaven today.   My joy aches, weeps, dances, and belly-laughs in anticipation. 

Joy. It’s beautiful.

And messy.

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Stewards of Mystery.

I go to Starbucks. A lot. It has become my almost daily unofficial office space for ministry-related meetings. The location that I frequent most often is small, and the tables are close together. It doesn’t take any intentional effort to hear the conversation next to you. Earlier this week, it went something like this:

(Woman 1): “I’m so sorry that you are going through this. Can I pray for you?"

(Woman 2): “No thanks, I don’t need to bother God with it. I know this is as good as it gets, I just have to learn to cope with it.”

Admittedly, my first thought was to dig into my purse and whip out my anointing oil and lay hands on this woman. (OK, I’m kidding…sort of). Since that might have been a disproportional response and also quite ill-timed, I prayed silently. But her words hung on me for the rest of the evening. My heart ached for her and I so badly wanted “Woman 2” to believe the truth of the power of prayer.

Driving home, God brought down his “holy two-by-four” and knocked me over the head with it. Ouch! The truth is that I often approach my prayer life that way, too. “It’s not going to get better, I just need to learn to cope.” I am no different than Woman 2 sometimes. Sure, I pray.  But my expectations regarding prayer are often far too low. In the name of humility, have I become robotic in my response to prayer by believing that the best I can do is cope with what is? 

Do I really believe He moves at the sound of my voice?

Sometimes, the answer is no. I can sometimes forget – and even worse, doubt -- that the God of all Creation, the maker of heaven and Earth, and the Redeemer of my soul not only hears my prayers, but is moved by them.  God has not only told us unequivocally through His Word but has proven it time and time again in my own life, that He will allow Himself to be influenced through prayer. I’m certainly not saying that we are more powerful than He is, and indeed only God can bring change. He is omnipotent. He may not do everything we say or ask – He is God, and we are not. Yet His Word is clear that our prayers move His hand. Our prayers influence Him to move.
When I shut up the heavens so that there is no rain, or command locusts to devour the land or send a plague among my people, if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land. Now my eyes will be open and my ears attentive to the prayers offered in this place. (2 Chron 7:13-15, NIV)
Oswald Chambers said that “Prayer does not fit us for the greater work. It is the greater work.”

I often think of and pursue prayer as personal worship and connection to God by praying for others and myself, and of course I have long recognized the power of corporate prayer to make radical Kingdom impact. I've seen it happen and have long believed. But I think it’s so easy to miss a simple but hugely profound truth. Whatever I “do” to serve others is superseded by a greater work. To pray.
Let a man regard us in this manner, as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God.  In this case, moreover, it is required of stewards that one be found faithful. (1 Cor 4:1-2, NAS)
Do you see that? We are stewards of the mysteries of God. Wow. We have been entrusted with the secrets of God which have yet to be revealed, and we are called to be faithful to pray. What better gift can we give to one another than influencing the King of Kings to move on our behalf and to speak what is in His heart into being?

If that isn't a call to prayer, I'm not sure what is.

How can I pray for you?

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Relentless.

I haven’t been writing lately. On purpose.

I’m often quick to hear or read something powerful or profound and in my excitement immediately proclaim it as my personal truth. But historically, I haven’t often enough given new spiritual revelation or knowledge the opportunity to truly ferment in me. To become a part of me. To transform me. Instead, in my passion and excitement about it, I’m usually eager to encourage someone else with it or even rush out to teach the class about it. Good intentions but not always a great result.

So this season of “silence” here on this blog (and in my life in general these days) is intentional. The things God is birthing in my dreams, visions, desires, hopes, longings and yearnings is in a secret place exclusively designated for me and my Father as I allow it to take residence and set up roots in my heart.

I’ve learned something in the silence. That it’s harder this way. And that it’s so much better this way.

On the flight back from Africa, I prayed one very simple prayer.

“God, what is the one takeaway that You desire for me to grasp, to transform me so that I can be closer to You and serve You better?“

That was pretty much all I said to Him in my prayer. I was emotionally and spiritually exhausted and the experiences on this trip were huge. Deep. And there were many. It was too much. I was having trouble processing it all. And I figured with 17 hours to kill on a plane at 30,000+ feet, I might as well pray.

So this prayer was short and simple. For the rest of the time, I was in listening prayer. What happens when we move into listening prayer is always powerful and transformational, but it’s just so darn easy to forget to stop and just listen. In the listening , He allowed me to recall the intricate details of experiences that moved me so deeply during the 10 days before, as if I was watching an instant replay at a game.

Like the looks on the boys’ faces when they arrived at Masana. Street boys who arrived at Masana tired, sore-covered, beaten up and hungry whose eyes came alight at a mere first glimpse of Sarah, Ian, Lauren and Alexis . Those missionaries are the faces of God to the fatherless and the tangible expression of God's love every day. The boys’ faces moved from drawn, tired and defeated to joyful, relaxed, and loved as the day progressed. And then they returned to the streets, and the cycle started all over again the next day.

“If I have to show these boys my love day after day after day after day after day after day… for however long it takes, I will show up here and love them every day … I won’t relent until I have their whole hearts, because I love them that much.” 
And on the second day, when Lauren called us into the living room of the Masana house to share with us that Sarah had only moments before learned that she has cancer. The raw emotion of her colaborers in Christ filled the room, and then prayer immediately followed. And then later that same morning, seeing Sarah emerge from her room after calling her family, in such pain, and then just minutes later smiling and laughing in complete joy the moment she saw her boys. 
“I am here, My hand is on her and whatever it takes for My purpose in her life to be fulfilled, I won’t relent in my love, strength, protection, presence, or healing because I love her that much.”

And how in the middle of the street market, God revealed a part of my heart that I didn’t know existed. An unknown area of sin in my life brought to the light, something that shocked me so much about myself that I couldn’t breathe and could barely walk. Not one of those “yeah, yeah, I know that’s an area of sin in my life and I need to repent” things. This time, it was news to me. I had no idea. Something I’m not quite ready to share publicly but maybe, eventually. My mentors are encouraging me to share, but it’s dark and I’m just not ready yet. I think I need to bake a little longer.

One of my most trusted mentors asked me recently how I knew it was a “God” moment and not a moment that Satan was using to cause me to feel condemned or shameful and to throw me off track. It was an easy question to answer. Because standing in that dirty market on the other side of the world, when God revealed this unknown area of sin in my life, through the pain I felt (I’m not sure how to describe the depth and degree of brokenness I felt), I didn’t feel punished. I felt loved. Hugged.

“Melissa, if I have to fly you 8,000 miles from home to show you your heart, I won’t relent, because I love you that much. I want all of you.”

There were many more experiences that He brought back to my mind, for which there isn't space here to share.  But all of them came back to one message of the truth and hope found in His love.

He will not relent until He has it all. All of my heart. All of yours. All of theirs.

He loves us that much.


Thursday, March 10, 2011

Africa: Thursday

Thursday was a little "hazy" for me because I got a touch of "Mozambiquan Revenge" if you know what I mean. I didn't have to sit out from any of the activities, but let's just say I wasn't feeling my best!

On Thursday morning, we spent time with the boys at Masana, and then after breakfast we took them to the city beach. It was HILARIOUS seeing the boys packed in to the cars. We got to the city beach and the boys ran to the water and had such a great time playing on the beach and in the water. They laughed and played for a few hours. Their lives are hard -- and Sarah and the Masana staff is very intentional about making sure the boys have time to just be kids. They were kids at the beach, splashing and playing in the water. It was beautiful.


We got back in time for them to have their school lessons, and then just before lunch Joanna spoke to them about loving one another, and they seemed to respond very well. A few of them told stories of times they demonstrated love to one another. The streets are a rough place for them, and there is often stealing and physically beating up one another. It was a good lesson to remind them that God loves us so much, and if we will receive that love from Him, then we can pour it out to others.

After the boys left, the staff members' families began to arrive, and by about 2:30 p.m., we were on our way (in three very full vehicles) to Nascera do Sol, which is about a 4 hour drive from Masana. Parts of the drive were very bumpy. Bumpy roads + a stomach dealing with "Mozambiquan Revenge" = lots of prayer. I'm just saying...

Part of our mission for this trip was not only to minister to the boys, but to the staff as well. There is not enough time or space here, but I could fill pages with stories of how the Masana staff members have poured into these kids, and many at great sacrifice. So the idea of blessing those who bless others had been burning in our hearts during the prep for this trip, and we knew it was something God had clearly called us to do.

So each of the Masana staff and their spouses and children (Pastor Paolo, Anacletu, Ezilpa, Mama Julia, Hilario, David, Luis) were given a weekend with their families -- for some of them, this was the first time they had ever taken a vacation with their families. The beach at Nascera do Sol was not merely beautiful -- it literally took our breath away. But even more beautiful was seeing those precious families have time together for the first time in many years, if ever.

The other goal of the retreat was to create connection between the staff members and their families. Most of the families had never met before. We believe that after this retreat, Masana will be that much more effective because of the unity between the staff members and families of staff members.

We had a great spaghetti dinner together, and then I shared with them the message of the white stones (Rev 2:17), but in a different way than I had shared with the boys earlier in the week. They were reminded that as they share with the street boys their new name in Christ, that they, too are given new names. The stones were handed out with their names, and they were encouraged to turn them over and reflect on the new name God had given them, and to draw up that for strength and promise as they continued to serve these boys.

It was a long day but a great one!

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Africa: Wednesday

On Wednesday, we spent some time in the morning with the boys, and then David, Hilario, Shawn, and Jason took them to a nearby soccer field to play. While they were gone, Sarah, Lauren, Ian, Alexis, Joanna and I (with Shawn and Jason joining us later) had a time of prayer. We prayed specifically that the boys would not merely see Masana as a place to receive food and teaching, but that they would understand that Masana is only able to provide that to them because of God's faithfulness and provision -- that God loves each and every one of them to provide those things for them. Then we went around and we each shared a specific boy whom God had laid on our heart this week, praying for each boy by name. We closed by praying for the health and protection of each housemate and staff member, and we also lifted up the retreat this weekend.

After that, the boys returned and we spent time with them. Joanna, Shawn and I went to a local Mozambiquan street market with Alexis. All I can say is "whoa". It is impossible to describe it in words -- something you have to experience to understand. More on that later.

After returning from the market, we spent more time with the boys, where Manual and Chico proceeded to "do my hair". I sat on the ground while Manual "styled" my bangs and Chico pulled my hair back into a ponytail twist. They kept saying "bonita, bonita" (pretty, pretty), and even with all of the uneven and loose hair, I thought it was beautiful, too, so I kept it that way for the afternoon. =) Unfortunately, we were all busy with the kids, so no pictures were taken!

Joanna knows Spanish, so she is able to communicate pretty well with the boys (the language spoken here is Portugese), so they love trying to talk wiht her. And seeing Shawn interact with the boys is just sweet. We knew Shawn's heart would be moved and it certainly has been. This place will mess you up, but in a really, really good way.

After the boys went to their classrooms, Shawn, Jason and I hung out and talked for a while until the boys returned for church. They sang praise songs (I will never tire of listening to those boys sing and "drum" on the table while lifting praises to God). Then, Shawn taught them about faithfulness from the Book of Daniel. It was so great!

Shawn told them the story of the three men in the fire, and how even though they could have avoided being thrown in the fire by worshiping another God, they were faithful to God and to each other. They loved hearing the story, and we loved how Shawn tied in the message of being faithful to each other. The boys will often steal from each other, so this is an especially applicable lesson for them.

After the boys left, Joanna and I spent time with Mama Julie learning how to make begias (I have no idea if I am spelling that right). I can't wait to get home to make them. It was great spending time with Mama Julia -- she is wonderful. We also got to meet some missionary friends of Sarah's (from Texas) who are loaning us their van to transport the staff and families of staff to the retreat this weekend.

Then, after a little bit of downtime, Lauren, Sarah, Claire (a lovely friend of theirs), Joanna, Paito, Tilfu, and Felix (the boys who live here), Joanna, Jason, Shawn, and I spent time on the rooftop having tea and talking, while eating some of the best cookies ever made. =) Also, Paito told us his story of how he came to Masana. He is a beautiful boy who is ALWAYS smiling. I was honored that he felt comfortable to tell his story. What a wonderful boy.

Then, it was a dinner time with everyone, which is always fun. We had fun eating and telling stories. Paito, Tilfu, and Felix are so gracious and serve so sweetly at dinner time.

And then, bed. We were all pretty tired last night. What a great day. Ready for tomorrow! =)


Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Africa: Tuesday

It's bedtime in Maputo. What an amazing day. We woke up to the sound of laughs and giggles from the boys outside of the windows. I'm not sure that there is any better way to be woken up!

We spent time with the boys this morning while they washed their clothes and prepared for breakfast. After breakfast (Mama Julia is amazing), Sarah took Shawn, Joanna, Jason and I to the village where Juma and his family live while the boys had their school lessons. It was our first trip through Maputo in the daytime, and we were able to see the condition of the city. After a long and bumpy ride, we found our way to Juma's house, where he, his great grandmother, grandmother, and little brother and sister live. Sitting under a shade tree in the front of their house (which I'm guessing is about 12 x 10 feet and just tall enough to stand in) was Juma's great grandmother.
Juma's House
Kitchen
Juma's great grandmother, Luis, and silly Sarah

Juma's grandmother and great grandmother spoke a great deal about Juma's progress since returning from Masana several months ago. He returned to school, under the impression that he was at a third grade level. However, after only a couple of weeks, it was clear that he is at a fourth grade level, so he was promoted. Juma's grandmother and great grandmother said that Juma came back from Masana a different boy. That he is respectful, goes to church, and is disciplined at school. We saw a picture today of why Masana exists...of what God can do through us as we serve and invest in others.

There are so many things I am longing to share about our trip to Juma's house today. I am still trying to get my head around our experience there and will write more about it later. Our time there this morning is somehting that none of us will ever forget. You'll hear more about it later, I promise!

After returning to Masana, the boys had finished their lessons and were ready for church. Luis led worship. How amazing it was to hear those street boys sing praises to God in their native language. Wow.

I taught the boys that they have new name in Christ, with the verse in Rev 2:17. Each boy wrote his name on one side of a white river stone that we brought from the US. We talked about how people know us by our names, and I shared that sometimes when I make mistakes, I wish I could clear my name. But we read the verse and they learned that no matter what they have done, they are clean in God's eyes. So much so that God promises them a new name in Heaven. They turned their rocks over to the blank side as we read the verse, and my prayer is that they lay their heads down tonight knowing that God's love is theirs with no cost or requirement. I must say that teaching through a translator is different! But Luis did such a great job with that, and after I was done he again shared the message to be sure they understood.

Then, lunch was served. We had rice with a vegetable topping similar to spinach), peanuts, coconuts, and other spices.

After lunch, we said goodbye to the boys. Lauren took Shawn, me, and Joanna to the grocery store and we were completely giddy while looking at all of the interesting local foods. We had our first taste of Fanta Ananais (Pineapple) soda, a local favorite. Joanna and I are officially addicted. It's a really good thing that we don't have it in the US!

After our grocery store excursion, we took some of the to the city beach. Jason drove. And that's all I have to say about that. haha! Seriously, he did a great job! We only almost wrecked once!

The beach is very polluted so we didn't swim, but the boys did and had a great time. Sarah, Lauren, Joanna, me, Shawn, and Jason hung out on the beach and enjoyed being entertained, especially by Chico and Pai! Felix came along (Felix lives at Masana) and was, as always, a delight to be around.

After the beach, we said goodbye to Chico and Pai. Then we had a cookout and enjoyed some "smoky" conversation on the rooftop of the Masana house while drinking some seriously delicious hot tea. Our hosts treated us to a lovely Amerian dinner of hamburgers, potato salad, and baked beans. It was a great dinner with our hosts and the three boys who live at Masana -- Felix, Paito, and Tilfu.

The boys love touch, love to play, and love to laugh with us, even though sometimes we have no idea what they are saying!

The first day was amazing. We can't wait for tomorrow!

Thank you for your prayers, and please also pray for Shawn tomorrow as he prepares to teach the boys from the book of Daniel.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Africa Bound.

I'm on my way to Africa. I mean, literally. As I type this, I am in the plane, at 36,957 feet over the Atlantic, near Namibia, somewhere between Sunday and Monday. With three of my dearest friends at my side, we will touch down in Johannesburg in about 4 hours, and then hop on a smaller plane (much smaller) to Maputo, Mozambique. There, we will spend 10 days with Sarah Olds and her team, showing the love of God to homeless boys in Maputo.

I started praying over this trip in August of last year, when the question was asked: "Will you go?" After a quick orientation, and a couple of weeks in prayer, I knew that God was calling me to go. As I sit with three others who shared the call, I can't imagine being anywhere else with anyone else right now. God has given us, both individually and collectively, a sense of peace and joy about this trip that is ... indescribable.

We are a uniquely diverse team, with varying spiritual gifts and talents, whom God has woven together for this purpose, on this day, for His glory.

Jason's heart for loving God through loving others is contagious, and as a pastor from our church, we are so privileged to serve under his leadership. Jason's discernment and humility allows him to truly meet people where they are.

Shawn's heart for others - and I mean all others - is wired to show love and help as often as possible. I'm not sure who will cry more on this trip -- me, or Shawn! If there ever was a humble, gentle warrior, it's Shawn.

Joanna's heart for the nations is apparent in her mission experience, as well as in her thirst for knowledge and going deep into understanding culture. Her insight has been critical to us during our preparations

Sarah Olds and her team are doing incredible work and changing a nation, one boy at a time. Raising boys to be honorable, godly men. What an honor it is for God to allow each of us to be a small part of it. We are humbled, and so thankful to God for this amazing opportunity.

As we obey in the small things, may we not seek to do great things for God, but to do all things for a great God.

Peace, friends. Your prayers and support are appreciated. Here we go...


As I finished typing this post, we reached the African coast!


Thursday, January 6, 2011

Dreamy.

A few days ago, I sat down to make my list of resolutions for 2011.

I know. You did, too.

My list looked unlike any list of resolutions I’d ever made before. It was a much bolder, deeper list than my usual ones like “lose weight” or “manage time better”.  Not that those are bad...but the words staring back at me on my list not only shocked me about me, but will likely cause people to think I'm out of my mind for even daring to consider.

And then I realized:

I had forgotten how to dream for a while.

Has that ever happened to you?

Sometimes life is hard and discouragement snuffs out our dreams.

Sometimes wounds are untended and pain blinds us from our dreams.

Sometimes our lack of boundaries suffocates our dreams.

Sometimes, we give our dreams a funeral and bury them.

I did.

2010 was a year of breaking through some deep pain and finding joy, as I shared with you in some pretty heavy posts.

2011 is beyond the breakthrough.

So what’s on the other side of the breakthrough? An unyielding desire, passion, and ability to dream again. It’s like seeing the sunrise for the very first time.

Dreams are beautiful.

I have personally declared that this year, 2011, is the year that my dreams are

made,

celebrated,

pursued,

and . . . God-willing . . . realized.

Big ones. Because I refuse to dream small.

And those longtime dreams that died for a while? Jesus raises the dead.

Because those once-dead dreams are alive and smiling back at me on my resolution dream list.

I’ll be sharing some of my dreams with you along the way. I hope you’ll share yours with me, too.