Another Last…

Warren Group Picture

I am not sure how to write this post.

It seems surreal that we find ourselves in this place.

How did we get here?  Well it was peppered with laughing, first experiences, late nights, ridiculous SnapChat videos, frustrating pictures turned videos…disagreements, frustrations, clash of culture, American experiences, traveling, broadening of horizons, eyes open to the mercy and grace of God.  It was full of trips to Wal-Mart to buy yet again, another cup with a straw and pit stop to Starbucks on the way home.  One can’t forget the rushed morning routine, getting to school with 1 minute to spare and hoping that the side door would still be open! Donut Palace.  Trinity Youth Group.  It sounded like the beep of a blue-tooth alarm clock connecting to an iPhone.  It’s the sound of an alarm sounding on a Saturday morning after she stayed the night with a friend. Music.  A beautiful transition from pop music to contemporary Christian.  Homecoming with friends.  It tastes like fried eggs and pancakes.  It’s laced with failed attempts to make Belgian waffles.  Trips to Waffle House instead.  Running around the neighborhood, trips to Snap Fitness.  Factory Connection, JCPenny’s, Rue21, Forever 21.  Prom with a new-found love.  Cheeseburgers.  Loud music with the windows down.  World Outreach Church.  Sonic Facebook friends discount.  Chocolate shakes.  Shooting stars.  Eyes and heart opened to the mysteries of God.  Insecurity turned confidence.  An entire blog post could be made with such descriptions.

July 11th, 2015 my husband and I went to Outback Steak House to celebrate our 13th wedding anniversary.  While there, we discussed the possibilities of welcoming an exchange student into our home for the 2015/2016 school year.  Life-changing.  Memorable.  Gosh those seem like such cliche words to use but it’s absolutely the truth.  We knew that we would be exposed to a different thought perspective.  We knew that we would see the world through different glasses.  We knew we’d help her do the same.  What we weren’t prepared for was for our hearts to be knit together as tightly as they have been.  We weren’t prepared for the end of the line…the list of “lasts” that we would experience and the small tears in the stitches of our heart that would happen as a result.  I was just telling her last night that our agency is really good about telling you about all the GREAT things that will happen but a description of how incredibly excruciating it would be to transition from having a daughter to being without one.  How hard the last month would be.   All of these “lasts.”  We weren’t prepared for the moment when we would be face to face with the realization that in 2 Tuesdays or 2 church services or 1 month down the road of life….it would no longer involve all 6 of us, but only 5 of us.  Part of our heart would be getting on a jet plane to go back to her home country.  The unknown span of time was quickly approaching between our, “See you later,” and “It’s SOOO good to see you again!”  The intense prayers scribbled in my prayer journal that she will stay close to Christ and lean on Him when she is faced with the Babylonian mindset and that she takes tools out of her Survival Kit when she needs them.   This past Wednesday evening, we realized it would be the last dinner at church that she would be here for.  Meatloaf, mashed potatoes, green beans and a cheesecake layered desert.  Next to dropping her off at the airport, today was one of the most final things that could happen in a homestay experience.  The last day of school.

The morning went like most others.  Wake up, make breakfast, make lunch, wait for her to get done getting beautiful (even though she could totally get out of bed and take one of those “I woke up like this!” pictures), load up in the car, squeal tires to get to the drop of line by 7:54 so she could get in the door and to the gym by 7:55.  What wasn’t the same was the fact that as I turned the last left turn to head to the school, I realized that it would be the last time we would be doing that.  The last time to rush around.  The last time to say, “Have a good day, Belgian!  Make your brain big!”  The last time to watch her walking up the sidewalk.  The last time to plan my day to get everything done before leaving the house to pick her up at 2:30….wait…I didn’t even have to do THAT today because she was going home with a friend.  Yesterday she went home with Derek….that means…Wednesday was the last day for that, too.  The whole way home I was in a fog.  Could this really be coming to an end?  Is this really it?  See, in my mind, when we started, the end would never come.  That was something that would happen WAAAAaaay in the future…as in…never.  Yet, reality set in today.  The end is nigh. The end is in 11 days.  Wow…

Here’s the crazy part.  As much as I am hurting and so sad that this is coming to an end, I realize that there’s two (sometimes three) sides to every story.  I realize my pain is someone else’s joy.  Partially Audrey’s but whole-heartedly her family’s!  They have been waiting 10 months to hold their daughter/sister/niece/granddaughter in their arms.  To hold her close. To hear about her day.  To share life with her.  My selfishness of not wanting to give her back was someone else’s generosity 10 months ago.  Her parents supported her decision to pursue a homestay, spent time, money, energy and effort to make sure she had everything she need to be successful.  My tight grip was someone else’s loose hand.  They took her to the airport and put her on a plane to somewhere they had never been with people they had only skyped with twice.

Audreys Baptism
If I look back on this year, I have to thank God for putting this whole thing in motion when Audrey was just a little girl.  I believe all things that happen in life are filtered through our Father’s hands.  Do I believe her love for the USA and for the English language happened by chance?  Nope. Do I think that she was born into a family where her father speaks English?  Nope.  Do I think that it’s by chance that she mustered up the courage to apply for and actually follow through with going to a different country when she had never even traveled alone in her life.  Not a chance.  Do I think that her finding our music interesting was coincidence?  Ha!  No way!  Do I think the stars aligned in such a way that made it possible for for her to placed in our home?  Are you Crazy?  The only explanation I can find for this last year is that God knew before the creation of this world that this year would take place. That an 18 year old girl from Belgium would need to hear the Gospel.  That she would listen and learn for 10 months and then go through a complete life change.  I believe he knew that in order for all that to happen, she would need to leave what was comfortable and go to a place where she would be show the love of Christ on a daily basis.  Perfect love?  No, we are incredibly flawed to say the least.  But…a perfectly imperfect love is what we had to offer her.  It is amazing to know that I have a daughter which I have carried in my heart this year.  She came a stranger and leaves my Sister.  Oh Lord, I am so unworthy of this gift.  Thank you for bringing her into my life and allowing me to witness a miracle in her life.  You really leave me awestruck as I think about this beautiful wanderlust of a young woman.  Lord, have your way with her life.  To you be the glory.  Amen!

A Stroke of God’s Love

God is awesome.  Let me just say that really quick.  I just have to give Him so much praise.  Yesterday I lost count of how many times I cried overwhelmed tears due to the way God was moving in response to prayer.  I am still in awe of him and so excited  that so many have seen Him in big ways in the last week or so.  I believe the best is yet to come.  In advance, I apologize if this blog post is a bit back and forth and a bit long.  I hope I don’t miss any details.

Many of you already know that Josh and I have taken in an exchange student from Belgium.  She is such a great fit for our family.  She isn’t used to having much younger kids in the home, but she is patient and has adapted well.  Her spunk and sass is a nice addition to the male-heavy tone in our home.  🙂  She has been such a blessing to our family.  We decided to host through Cultural Homestay International (CHI), an organization I would recommend if you are interested in doing the same.  Our family will never be the same having had her in our lives.  She is such a ray of sunshine in our home.

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On August 25th, I logged into facebook to find a message from our CHI Tennessee coordinator saying the following:

Students and families please keep a 16 year old young man from China in your thoughts and prayers today. He is an exchange student with CHI in the state of Illinois. He is in critical condition after suffering a stroke yesterday while in PE class. He has a blood clot in his carotid artery. He is unconscious and on a feeding tube at this time. Please pray that his family will get here safe and quickly and that a miracle will happen for him.

Naturally my heart began to cry out to the Lord for healing and peace.  I instantly placed myself in the shoes of his host family and his natural parents.  My word.  I cannot even make myself go to either one of those places.  God impressed upon me to find a way to serve him during that time.  While our coordinator and her assistant were on their way to St. Louis to show support for that situation, I contact them and asked if I could organize a card shower for the student and host family.  They agreed.

This is what was posted on facebook.  This is still an option of you’d like to get involved:

CHI Card Shower

A. Send greeting cards of encouragement to his host family, his biological family and/or him. We are asking that you put “Host Family” “Student” or “Family” in the lower left hand corner on the back of the envelope so each card can get to the right person without the cards having to be opened first.

B. Send a prepaid debit card to be used by the biological/host family for gas, food and/or personal items associated with staying at a hospital and possibly rehab center for a little while. There’s no telling how long they will be here, but his biological family had to leave China quickly. Changes are they forgot things. We all know how expensive eating out can be and what a hit that can take on one’s finances. If you were a person who wanted to rally your Sunday school class, this would be a great option for a group support effort.

C. Send Domino’s, Jimmy John’s and/or Pizza Hut gift cards. The cafe on site is reportedly VERY expensive. There is a Pizza Hut on site so these could be used there or for delivery. All three of these places deliver. This would be another great option for Sunday schools or small groups to either purchase a variety of cards or one larger card to one place.

D. For those in Coffee, Bedford, Franklin, Cannon, Moore and Warren counties: I am collecting non-perishable foods (peanut butter crackers, fruit cups, pudding, granola bars, etc), gum, mints, small coloring/activity books, cards etc to for the family to use in the waiting area. I will be sending this box NEXT FRIDAY (the 7th) to give people enough time to gather items and meet up with me. Depending on where you are located, we may have to meet in the middle.

The last I heard, nearly $100 in prepaid VISA gift cards had been received and delivered to the family!  Thank you for helping!  That’s awesome!  Donations also came in locally of food and financial support for the care package.  That was shipped out today and should arrive Tuesday!

During the coordinator’s stay in St. Louis, they posted this update:

He has a tiny hole in his heart that has probably been there. The doctors believe that the long flight caused the blood clot to set up and it has just been floating around until it found the hole and that is where it lodged.

They have removed his breathing tube to see how he is going to do on his own. China will only allow one emergency visa so his natural father is getting that. The flight is so long so hopefully he will be here in a couple of days.

At this point many began to pray that God would work it out so that both parents could travel to be by his side during this time.  A time later, we were given this update:

Update: His family will arrive tonight at 9:15. His parents and little brother all got their Visas!!! He is conscious, but still unable to move anything on his left side. Thank you all for your prayers and support. We will be heading back later this evening.

Praise GOD!  God provided for his whole immediate family to travel to be by his side!  That’s something only God could do!  He went above the law of the land to provide for this student!

Upon their arrival, CHI hired a translator to help the family speak with doctors about decisions and to gain their whereabouts.  From what I understand, it is unclear how long this individual will be able to stay to offer his services.  Something in my heart just wanted to cry.  Having been to India, I can slightly relate with how it feels to look around and see VERY FEW people who look and sound like you do.  Here are these parents (and brother) plunged into a situation where their son is very sick, they can’t speak the language, are unfamiliar with the food, have no idea how to get around (not that they would probably want to leave their son’s side)…and the translator will only be available for a short time.  My heart just felt so bad for them.  I tried to think of people I knew in the St. Louis area and remembered one of my friends all through school lived in Missouri.  I contacted her on facebook and began to discuss the cards and then expressed my desire to find someone to reach out to them in person.  I began to look for Christian chruches in the close proximity to the hospital with not much luck.  I thought maybe I could help coordinate meals for the family and general outreach during this hard time.  Each time I found one which looked promising, there wouldn’t be contact information available.  SIDE TANGENT:  If you are in charge of a church website, PLEASE make sure there’s a phone number listed.  Your website is somewhat ineffective if someone in need can’t have access to you or your ministries by way of phone.  Looking back, I can see it was God’s plan though.  Just yesterday, September 3rd, I did yet again another  search for churches in St. Louis.  What popped up?  “St. Louis Chinese Baptist Church!”  I literally sat there with tears in my eyes.  I couldn’t believe what I was seeing.  I didn’t type in anything special.  Nothing different from the other searches I had done for a week leading up to yesterday.  It was just God’s timing…and it was perfect!  And guess what?  There was a phone number so I called and left a voicemail.

After a couple of hours, I called again because I figured nobody would be in the office on Friday.  The following is a bit of a summary of our conversation:

A man answers the phone: Hello?ME:  Hi this is Andrea, I called earlier about a Chinese exchange student who is currently being treated at St. Louis Children’s Hospital…”
It was at that moment my brain realized when he answered the phone he said, “Hello” and not something along the lines of, “St. Louis Chinese Baptist Church, this is ____.  Can I help you?”
ME:  I’m sorry.  Is this St. Louis Chinese Baptist Church?
MAN:  No.  I don’t go to that church anymore.  When I did attend there anymore.  How did you get this number?
ME:  *Palm to face*  I’m thinking, great….I thought this was God’s provision.  “I searched for churches in the St. Louis area whom I thought might help reach out to a Chinese exchange student who is being treated at Children’s Hospital. Do you by chance have the phone number for that church?”
MAN:  They don’t have a lanline number that I know of.
ME:  Oh boy…ok, well…. hummm.  What about an email address?  I tried to email them but the email was returned because that email address isn’t in use anymore.
MAN:  That was also my email address.
ME:  Shoot…ok.  I am looking for a church who can reach out to a Chinese student and his parents.  He is an exchange student and suffered a stroke last week.  His parents are in from China but they don’t speak English at all.
MAN:  Do you have an email that you can send?  I will forward it to the pastor of the church I go to now.  It’s called Chinese Gospel Church.
ME:  Yes.  I will do that when we get off of the phone if I can have a good address to send it to.
MAN: *he gives it to me*
ME:  Great!  I will send it to you when we get off the phone.  Thank you!

A few hours later, I got a phone call from a number I didn’t recognize.  Normally I just let it go to voicemail, knowing if it is a sales call they won’t leave a message.  Moments later, my phone beeped with a voicemail.  Because I was making dinner I wanted to check it.  When I did, I got tears in my eyes again.  It was an elder from the Chinese Gospel Church calling to get room number and additional information about the student.  Not only was I connect with this church in a way that the world would say was “by chance” but they had follow through!  I called the gentleman back and discussed the student’s and parent’s situation.  I inquired as to when this weekend he would be traveling to the hospital to make a connection.  He said it wouldn’t be this weekend, but that very evening.  Keep in mind please it’s 9pm while we are on the phone.  We prayed before we got off of the phone and looked very much forward to hearing a report.  Later I learned that he wasn’t able to visit because visiting hours ended at while we had been talking on the phone but that he and his wife had plans to go around noon the today (the 4th).  To God be the glory!  A willing and ready servant!  You know, it’s great to see someone with the shoes of readiness firmly secured.  Praise the Lord!  Not only that, he said that they would be turning this into a local mission of sorts.

We are a homeschooling family.  While I was at Co-op today, I got a phone call from a Missouri number.  I quickly answered it and learned it was an additional elder from Chinese Gospel Church wanting to clear up some communication issues.  He also confirmed that they would be working with their fellowship this weekend to make a plan to surround this family in love and service while they are here.  I was so overwhelmed by God once again.  Currently I am waiting on a report from the meeting that was scheduled to take place today.

Where does this mission project go from here?

Because of the predicted amount of time the family will be at the hospital (they should be able to check into the Ronald McDonald Home sometime soon), I am encouraging those willing to serve somehow through this situation to consider the following in order to keep the support rolling.  Don’t forget you are welcome to rally your own church/Sunday school class to get involved.

Two flatrate boxes were sent to the family of a Chinese exchange student who suffered a stroke last week.  Thanks to God for the provisions that made this possible.

Thanks to God for the provisions that made this possible.

  • Purchasing a package of blank cards from a dollar type store, stamps for those cards and go ahead and address the cards.  When God leads you to encourage the family, host family or student, please feel free to do so.  I am also giving them out to families with whom I share his situation with who want to help.
  • I will be putting together another care package shipment to the family in October.  If you would like to help provide items for the box, financial gift to purchase things for the box or pay for shipping, you are more than welcome.
  • I learned that the host family is traveling every 3 days or so to the hospital.  Their family lives approximately 45 minutes away so they are spending a decent amount on gas each time.  I plan to send a card to them also with a prepaid VISA card in it for gas expenses.  Maybe consider doing the same?  I know if our student was the one sick, I wouldn’t be able to just stay at home.  I would be heartbroken and would want to be there, too.
  • PRAY for the student’s healing!
  • PRAY for Chinese Gospel Church and the work they will be doing for this family.
  • PRAY for the peace and comfort of Christ to be accepted by the family of this student.

As of right now, this is what I know about our support efforts. Thank you for those of you who have been a part of this outreach.

  • 4 states are represented among those who have agreed to send cards to the student, family and/or host family!
  • Close to $100 has been sent to the family by way of prepaid VISA cards!  I have been notified that more are expected to be sent as well!
  • One church in South Carolina, primarily comprised of single moms, has agreed to take up a special offering for the family and to send cards!
  • Countless churches across the United States have placed this situation on their prayer lists.
  • God heard the desire of the student’s brother to have Legos to play with.  They were purchased for the care package without even knowing of his desires.

I believe that God has something bigger in store for this student and for this family.  I just can’t wait to see what he does in their lives.  His healing power, his ability to provide comfort and peace during this time of crazy circumstance…  Only He will be able to be glorified in the end.  He has already showed His power and I don’t see Him walking away now.  He is mighty to save and worthy of praise.

 

Thanksgiving Isn’t All About You, You Turkey!

Each year, my family tries to carve out time in the month of November and/or December to honor our elders.  The bible is clear that life is important and that includes the older generations.  One of my goals as a mother is to make sure that my kids know those who have gone before us are to be honored and respected.

One of the ways we do this is to periodically visit a nursing and/or retirement home to spend time with those who live there.  Typically we also take along crafts we have made to hopefully put a smile on their faces.  Check out our evening of preparations!

Jackson is drawing circles for Peyton to cut out.  He is SUCH a good big brother.

Jackson is drawing circles for Peyton to cut out. He is SUCH a good big brother.

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Peyton is cutting the white simi-circles which will become the feathers of the turkeys! He is getting pretty good with scissors.

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Gage just finished cutting out the bigger brown circles which will be the turkey bodies.

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Jackson is coloring the feathers for the turkeys.

 

Peyton is gluing the turkey parts together.

Peyton is gluing the turkey parts together.

All three boys working their tail feathers off to make turkeys!

All three boys working their tail feathers off to make turkeys!

After we got this far, we put WOW! Kid’s CD in and spent some time dancing around to get some wiggles out and to get our creative juices flowing for the next part of our project.

Oh yea!  Watch out "America's Got Talent!"  Here we come!

Oh yea! Watch out “America’s Got Talent!” Here we come!

They've got moves!

They’ve got moves!

We took the turkeys that we made and glued them onto half sheets of paper, folded in half to create a card.

All of the completed turkeys waiting to be attached to the cards.

All of the completed turkeys waiting to be attached to the cards.

It's glue time!

It’s glue time!

While the kiddos got the turkeys glued I made a batch of peppermint hot cocoa.  Its a family favorite for sure.  I only wish I had some whole milk on hand.  It is so much creamer made that way than with 2%, but don’t be mistaken. The whole pot was consumed!

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Yeah, you thought I’d miss out on the action? HA!

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In true Gage fashion, he sipped his nice and slow…enjoying every sip.

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I decided to put two ice cubes in his. Bad move…he sucked it down in less than a minute and was asking for more. Next time, maybe a half an ice cube!

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On his second cup, he is rocking out to the music still playing.

The last step was to design the insides and sign the cards.

"Coloring [his] name" on one of the cards.

“Coloring [his] name” on one of the cards.

 I guess I didn’t get pictures of the older boys decorating theirs.  I will make a follow up post tomorrow with pictures in the home and them with their cards though.

All in all we spent about three hours on this project.  We did some of the preparation work beforehand but this evening we worked for three hours.  The boys had fun, memories were made, great conversation was had.  We talked about why we were doing these crafts.  We talked about the fact that we need to reach out to the people who may or may not have family to visit them.  We have to take care of the  people who feel forgotten.  We have an obligation to make sure they feel loved, special and cared about.  I asked them how they would feel if they were in the hospital, let’s say, and nobody came to see them.  Then I asked how it would feel if they were in the hospital around Thanksgiving and nobody came to see them.  They have big hearts anyway so they totally saw the need of spending a few hours at the home tomorrow.

We also talked about Saeed Abendini, a pastor being held in Iran in a prison for his faith in the One True God.  We talked about how his family would have to be without him, and he without his family on Thursday.  I asked them if they thought it would be hard to be thankful in a situation like that.  I don’t remember which one it was, but one of the big boys said, “Yea it would be hard, but at least they know God is with the other one, even if Saeed is in jail and they are in the United States.”    Even in a situation like the Abendini family is in, there are things to be thankful for.  Our God is so amazing, He can be the glue that connects a family even in a situation like theirs.  He is so big and mighty that He can span an ocean, and circumstance, to bring hope to both parties.  Yet He is simple enough that my little boys can understand and relate to him.  We have an awesome God, amen?

I hope as this Thanksgiving season surrounds us, you can find things to be thankful for, outside of yourself.  Sure, I am thankful for my family, my house, my job, my ability to walk, talk and run.  But I am also thankful for missionaries who are around the globe, apart from their families, spreading the Word of God.  I am thankful for a reality that I can have a personal relationship with the Creator and Sustainer of life.  Thankful doesn’t come close to scratching the surface that my family is alive and well and that God has chooses imperfect people (my husband and I) to go into the international mission field to do His work.  I am thankful that He is powerful enough to soften hearts, cultivate compassion for others in those hearts and a love for all walks of life.  I find myself standing amazed and who He is this Thanksgiving season in more ways than I can put into words.

What are you thankful for?

Cheers,
Andrea

On a Mission: Rajasthan, India Fundraiser Update August Through October

Liz caught me hanging up a wreath to be silent auctioned at the Captain's Dinner on Sept 19.

Liz caught me hanging up a wreath to be silent auctioned at the Captain’s Dinner on Sept 19.

 

This month has been a BUSY month for fundraising.  As a team we all pitched in and organized a captain’s dinner and fishing tournament.  When all was said and done, we have around 200 items donated from area businesses, more than 20 sponsors and 17 boats registered for the tournament!  One of the winners at the fishing tournament returned his portion of the prize money back to LofT218 which is the umbrella which our children’s home will fall under once non-profit status is obtained!  Go God!  All proceeds were split over the families going on the trip to India and we still each earned around $1,400!  Isn’t that amazing!  Unfortunately I really don’t have any pictures of the event except for this one that my friend took while we were setting up at the captain’s dinner last Friday night.

Let me back up to August.  I was busy that month too, I guess!

It started with a Bunco! party on the 15th.  I had a total of 4 tables of people who played that night and we had a blast!  I even had a player who was almost a total loser (meaning she almost lost ALL rounds of ALL games!). She finished the night out with one single win which absolutely meant she got the boobie prize.  As far as pictures go, Jackson took most of the pictures on his camera and then lost his cord so I don’t have pictures of the winners with their goodies but everyone made out like bandits at this get together too!

Donated prizes for my August Bunco! Fundraiser.

Donated prizes for my August Bunco! Fundraiser.

Jewelry set up at my Bunco which was held August 15th.

Jewelry set up at my Bunco which was held August 15th.

We were approached by a man in our church early in August about smoking pork shoulders/Boston Butts as a fundraiser.  He has a very large smoker and said he would do the work of smoking the meat if we would buy it, bring it to his house and prepare it (season and wrap it) and then come back in the morning after it smoked for 12 hours and take it off of the smoker to deliver it all.  We priced the meant and decided that was a really good idea because we could have them delivered for the Labor Day weekend.  We ended up doing well on it considering the local football teams were also selling Boston Butts at the same time!

Pulling Boston Butts off of the smoker on August 29th.

Pulling Boston Butts off of the smoker on August 29th.  Josh is up top pulling off meat and Mr. Long is observing to make sure things were going the right way!

Pouring the excess grease off of the smoked pork meat.  Oh my goodness if you could just smell that meat...

Pouring the excess grease off of the smoked pork meat. Oh my goodness if you could just smell that meat…

Our next fundraiser was the next day and it was my cloth diapering seminar.  On my facebook event and by word of mouth confirmations, I was expecting between 10 and 15 women of all ages.  When it came down to it, four women showed up.  A month earlier I had one a private seminar for a couple who just had their baby a week ago yesterday (on the 18th!  Congrats Walkers!)  I had gotten so many corporate donations that each of the women went away with a load of gifts!  Two of the women there are pregnant and have never cloth diapered before, one woman had her baby there who hadn’t cloth diapered before and the fourth woman had just started cloth diapering about a month earlier but heard about all of the amazing prizes I had to give away so she came and helped give the other girls another perspective of cloth diapering.

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Fruit tray set up at my Cloth Diapering Seminar which was held on August 30.

Fruit tray set up at my Cloth Diapering Seminar which was held on August 30.

Cotton Babies, Snapies, Charlie's Soap and other diapering companies totally came through with donated items for my seminar.

Cotton Babies, Snapies, Charlie’s Soap and other diapering companies totally came through with donated items for my seminar.

My attendees.  I had 10 people who said they would be there but 4 showed up.  Each woman went home with so many gifts it looked like Christmas!

My attendees. I had 10 people who said they would be there but 4 showed up. Each woman went home with so many gifts it looked like Christmas!

 

That got us through August.  Then came September.  I mentioned above about the fishing tournament and the only other fundraiser we had for September was last night (the 24th).  My friend invited me into her home to share my testimony and showcase my paper bead jewelry and it went really really well.  There were five women there and the hostess.  Between all of those ladies purchasing Christmas gifts and gifts for themselves, I raised $310!  I came home and cried to myself after being so showered with support both financially and morally.  My goodness, they really warmed my heart.  Michelle took pictures of last night but I don’t have them yet.  I will update this entry when I get them.

This necklace sold last night to my friend, Lisa!  She also wants a bracelet made to match as she picked up the earrings but the matching bracelet walked out in someone else's hand!

This necklace sold last night to my friend, Lisa! She also wants a bracelet made to match as she picked up the earrings but the matching bracelet walked out in someone else’s hand!

Coil bracelet which was on sale last night at the Trunk Show.

Coil bracelet which was on sale last night at the Trunk Show.

I need to pause a minute to make a HUGE shout out though.  When I first posted this blog post about my projected fundraising events, several people spoke up and asked how they could help.  Three women in particular haven’t stopped since the day the offered.  Mrs. Barbara began helping me with cakes several months ago and then helped me finish 42 cloth diapers.  In the  middle of all of that she took the time to learn how to make paper beads and has been on it nonstop since.

Then there’s Granny (Josh’s grandmother) and Aunt Kate (I think she’s actually Josh’s grandfather’s cousin?).  I am pretty sure there are wires under their skin..those women are machines.  I have yet to take them too many paper strips.  I honestly am not sure how to pump out as many paper beads as they do.  Barbara and I have decided they have an underground women’s club who come over at night and helps.  It seems impossible the work they do, just the two of them.  They have said they aren’t young enough to “go” anymore, but this is something they can do and feel like they are contributing.  My word, they are contributing in HUGE ways.  Look at this picture:

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They have done this quantity for me twice!  One time they did it over the weekend.  If you have never made paper beads you don’t know that they work up really quick but take forever to do. It’s a oxymoron I realize but it’s absolutely the truth.  In the hours Mrs. Barbara and I have spent working on beads, together we have never been able to turn out a whole ziplock bag before.  God is working through those hands of theirs.  It’s truly God’s economy of time and favor for sure.  Their help has allowed me to focus on creating pieces of jewelry instead of making beads AND making jewelry.  I can work much fasting knowing I have a workforce behind me.  I wish there was some way to replay all three of these women.  I mean I have so much gratitude for them…they are just priceless.  There’s nothing I can do to repay their kindness and support. It’s like God’s grace.  I don’t deserve their help or God’s grace.  But there they both are.  I am blessed far more than I deserve.

This next weekend, I am setting up at Old Timer’s Day on the town’s square.  It’s basically a community festival which celebrates the heritage of the community.  There’s a parade, food, vendors, church groups who do face paintings, games for the kids and so on.   I will be there with my paper bead jewelry and cannot wait!  I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t a little nervous about it though.  It is just uncharted territory for me.  That will be October 3rd and 4th though the booth will only be open on the 4th.

Saturday, October 4th, on the square in Manchester!

Saturday, October 4th, on the square in Manchester!

Looking forward past that, Michelle has asked me to speak at her scrapbooking retreat on October 5th at a bed and breakfast called Petticoat Junction about 30 minutes from here.  There will be 10 women there whom I have never gotten to speak with before so I am very excited about that opportunity.

I get to rest until the 18th which is when I will set up at Kimbos Wish fall festival.  Kimbos Wish is a group who helps make dreams and wishes come true for local kids with severe illnesses.  They are having a fall festival at Grace Baptist Church in Tullahoma complete with music entertainment, food, games, vendors, you name it.  They are having door prizes and all kinds of cool things to check out.  It’s a family friendly environment that you should consider attending for sure!  My paper bead jewelry will be there and I’m also donating a few items for a door prize.

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On the 24th of October, I will be traveling to Murfreesboro to work a Bunco! night for my friend Tina who has offered to invite her friends on my behalf!  Do you see the types of friends I have?  Generous, loving…  My goodness God blesses me more than I deserve more times than not.  We are accepting vendors there.  Cover to play is $20.  If you would like to set up, it’s $20 and I will waive the cover for all vendors and you still get to play Bunco!  All I ask is that you donate an item to be used as a prize at the end of the night.  No percentage of sales is being requested.  If you are interested in either option, contact me via my facebook page, or if you know Tina, get with her.  Vendors are on a first come first serve basis, no double businesses allowed and we are reserving the right to limit product time (IE: jewelry, crocheted goods, etc).   Space is limited so please RSVP, ASAP!

October 24th, Murfreesboro!

October 24th, Murfreesboro!

The very next day, I will be the vendor at a team member’s Bunco which will be held here in our town.  I will be playing and selling that night.  She is having BBQ catered in and lots and lots of door prizes, just like I will have!  Nobody leaves empty handed.  Liz and her family are going to India but they are paying for THREE people to go.  Just when I thought we had a big bill to pay, shew!

I believe that’s it for October as of now.  If you need a speaker at a women’s event in the month of November or December, let me know now before those months fill up.  I’d be happy to give my testimony about how I experienced God back in March regarding India and bring my paper bead jewelry along as well.  If you would like for me to share with your friends in your home like Michelle did, I would be absolutely happy to do that as well.

I appreciate all supporters so much.  Each word of encouragement and each financial support just fills my cup more than you know.  It’s not easy following God’s calling some days.  Some days it’s downright hard and discouraging if you want me to be completely honest.  Some days I don’t think I can do it for another day.  And then I get a phone call, Facebook message or text from someone which spurs me on.  God tells us in the word that we are to build each other up with encouragement.  I believe it’s in Matthew but don’t quote me on that.  All I know is that each of you are so special to me.  Thank you for everything.

Cheers,
Andrea

 

I Refuse to be Pushed off of the Cliff of Distraction!

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I woke up this morning to my phone ringing and as I rolled over to see who was calling me at 7:15am on my first day without childcare I saw my husband’s number.  I figured he just got done with his morning routine at work and was checking in.  I answer the phone, half asleep thinking I’d just go back to bed after we hung up.  The kids were still asleep.  My bed was warm…Mmmmmm!  The only thing that could have made it better would have been if my personal barista has brought in a nice iced chai latte right about then.

I say hello and he starts out by saying that he had bad news.  I thought…hummm what could this be?  He got transferred to another station that he doesn’t care for?  You see a guy who works at the fire station he does is just coming back from medical leave so it was highly likely that was the case.  Maybe he forgot his dress blues and he needed to go to a funeral for a fellow fireman?  The list could be forever long.  Then the hammer dropped as he told me that someone had broken into our vehicle last night while we slept.  They had taken his backpack that we had taken to church yesterday evening for one of our last Haiti/Dominican Republic meetings.  At this meeting we were asked to bring our passports so they could scan and make a copy of our passport for record keeping and application purposes.  We also had to take our laptops to finish filling out an online registration form for the organization we will be assisting during our mission trip.  This bag is also the one he takes to work with his personal items in it (electric shaver, charger, contacts, glasses, etc).  It’s basically his overnight bag.  All of those items were in this backpack and this backpack was all that was taken.

We are 18 days out from our departure day for our Haiti/Dominican Republic mission trip and we have no passports.  Awesome.  The amazing thing is this…this entire situation is completely out of our hands.  We have several options, none of which are ideal.

1.  We can eat the money we (and many of you have given) paid to go on this mission trip and work on replacing the passports overtime before India.  In other words, back out of the Haiti/Dominican Republic mission trip.  NOT an option.
Haiti Dominican boarder

2.  We can dig into our India fund that we have started with raised money and personal contributions to pay for the passports to be expedited to us.  That is not an option really because our first deadline for India is the next day after we get back from DR.  There aren’t enough days on the calendar for me to re-raise that money, one week of which we will be out of the country if we replace the passports, one week I will be tied up with vacation bible school at our church.

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3.  Throw our hands up and forget everything.  Nix DR and India and just continue life as usual.  LOL  Yea that’s not an option either!

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4.  Rely on God to provide for this situation because it is completely out of our control to make these ends meet.   You know, that’s really the only option we have and it’s absolutely and by far the best one we have.  Let me tell you why!

I know that God, the one true God is capable of accomplishing all things necessary to see His Will accomplished.  In Nehemiah 4 verse 20 it says: “In the place where you hear the sound of the trumpet, rally to us there.  Our God will fight for us.”  If you don’t know the back story, Nehemiah was the cup bearer for the King in Babylon.  When he heard that the wall of Jerusalem was in piles of rubble, he, through prayer, gained the strength to ask the king to let him go back to rebuild the walls of his hometown where he had been taken when the king ransacked it years before (not why the walls were down).  God gave him favor and made a way for him not only to go but to have the supplies needed to rebuild the wall.    Surrounding armies were trying to throw a wrench into their rebuilding process by attacking them, distracting them with threats of doing so.  Instead of stopping they formed a plan that certain people would be building while others stood watch.  They also said that if there was an attack, they would blow a trumpet and nobles at that time were to run to the place where the trumpet was being blown for added protection while those along the wall fought off the attack.  Here’s the thing.  NEVER did they stop working toward the task of rebuilding the wall.  They simply armed themselves and prepared for what they would do in a situation where they had to defend their town again.  Please don’t forget, they were rebuilding the wall because they had been successfully attacked.  This wasn’t something they just decided was a good idea and that they could do on their own or in their own power.  The last part of that verse says, ” Our God will fight for us.”  In a situation where they knew they didn’t have the strength or ability to rebuild the wall on their own, they claimed that God would fight for them, to protect them, to see the wall to completion.  This is the exact place we find ourselves.  Powerless.  Unable to provide for our circumstances.  Needing God to show up and show off.  To help us to get our passports paid for again and to re-establish our India fund.

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I know that no weapon formed against us during this mission season in our lives will prosper.  I know that He will be my shield and my sword.  I know that He will be truth that gets me through these times of opposition.  I can sleep at night knowing He is the one who watches over me while I sleep, because He doesn’t.    I know that He is my strong tower when I am weak.  I know that His strength will be made perfect in my weakness.  I am comforted by the fact that He knows the numbers of hairs on my head and could see today coming before the Earth was even made.    I know he sees the end of all of this and has everything in his hand.  He is Elohim.  He is El Shaddai.  He is El Elyon.  He is Jehovah Jirah.  He is the great I Am!

Thank you Lord for seeing all of this and making a way for it all to come about for your glory.  Thank you for reminding me of who you are, your truths and Your Will for my life.  Thanks for paving a way for all things to work out in such a way that NOBODY can point to me or my husband as the source of completion, but only explain things by YOU!  I am praising you in advance for bringing the right circumstances together so the passports can be replaced and our India fund to be replaced.  I pray that this situation is used by you to encourage others not to give up in their call to missions.  NOTHING can stop you from accomplishing your Will.  Not people, money, circumstance, sickness or anything else that can beg our attention which should be on you.  Thank you for giving us eyes to see you, a heart to hear you and a faith to trust in You, Your timing and Your purpose for our lives.
Amen

Cheers,
Andrea

On a Mission: Rajesthan, India Cake Fundrasier Wrap Up!

IMG_20140511_000323_648[1]Mother’s Day Cake Fundraiser!

This past weekend, I worked to complete 18 cakes, countless cake all truffles and many more cupcakes to sell for Mother Day celebrations around the county.  Everyone who ordered cakes were very sweet with their comments and reviews of the cakes.  Above is a picture of the spice cakes I sold.  It is 100% gluten free and 100% delicious!  They are moist and PACKED with spice flavor.  I sold a total of 3 of those.

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Next comes the chocolate covered strawberry cakes!  A total of 9 of these were sold to people in my church and the 50 Cent Auction I belong to on Facebook.  Some requested dark chocolate while others had theirs made with milk chocolate.  When you open the cake box, the aroma just billowed out like the waves in the sea.  Oh my goodness!  Super yummy!

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A total of 6 white cake orders were placed.  One was personalized, two were plain, one was made into cupcakes and another was for a baby shower.  Actually the cupcakes were for the baby shower too.  I love to make buttercream frosting.  There’s something about the way it melts in your mouth when you take a bite and how moist it keeps the cake that are just so….heavenly!

The above picture is of  a baby shower cake I made for one customer made from a white cake and buttercream frosting.  The frosting was dyed pink and her cupcakes were died purple.  Unfortunately the chocolate butterfly ended up breaking in the box so I had to replace it with another butterfly which laid flat instead of it being propped up on top of the cake.  I had spelled the name wrong so I ended up removing the wording and replaced it with piped frosting lettering instead.  Perfect I am not.  I am thankful for grace on the side of the purchaser.  She was very sweet and understanding.  This was my first attempt at making chocolate detailing and I think I need a little more work before I offer it to the public.  Live and learn!

I have updated the contributor’s page at the top of my blog to reflect the latest financial contributions that came in this week.  You all are investing in something so much bigger than what you see in your day to day lives.  Children will be saved from a life of torture and slavery.  They will be fed and not abused.  Women in the snare of sex trafficking will be given a new lease on life.  They will be taught a life skill which will help them to provide an income for their families.  HOPE will be given.  Please pray for the lives whom we will touch one day.  I’m guessing we are still a couple of years off until those things will happen, but this vision trip in December, which you have contributed to will get us one step closer to opening the doors to our new facilities in India.  The final picture can’t happen without this first step.   Thank you for your support and believing in us to fulfil what God has asked us to do.

Cheers!
Andrea

On a Mission: Contributors

I have decided to make a page dedicated to Contributors.  If you, your family or your business decides to partner with us in our effort to get to Ragjesthan, India this winter, I will place your name or business on the Contributor’s page.  If you would rather it be given anonymous, that’s fine too!

If you know us personally, feel free to send your support in the mail.  Otherwise, feel free to click the image below to contribute via out Go Fund Me account.  Thanks in advance!  See you on the Contributor’s page!

 

Would you be willing to partner with us to go on a vision trip to India?  God is leading people around us to start an orphanage in Rajesthan, India and we'd like to see what God has planned for us in all of this.

Cheers,
Andrea