Sunday, November 6, 2011

Will You Feed Me?

One night, my son and I were on our way home,  and we needed to stop and by some groceries. We normally do not go to the Wal-Mart we were near. I just don't like the way it's set up, the area, etc. But that night, I told Tucker, I feel like we need to go to this one. We were not in there two minutes when an older lady, who looked, not rough, just disheveled, came almost running toward me. She said, "Will you please buy me some food? My boyfriend used all the money. He got to eat, but didn't let me. I haven't eaten in three days. " I said, "Well what do you want?" She told me she would take anything. We went around the store, and I got her some food to eat. I took her to the check out counter and told her to pick a drink out to go with her food. After the clerk rang me up, I slipped some money into her hand. I told her not to tell the boyfriend she had the money. I hugged her and kissed her cheek, then I walked off. Now, I'm a touchy kind of person, but I don't normally kiss people I don't know. (This is irrelevant to the story, but when I kissed her cheek, it was like kissing my mom's or my grandma's cheek.) I don't know why. I was very comforted by all of this. Maybe God knew she needed affection, and He prompted me to do so. She wasn't very clean, so that made it even more odd to me. (Maybe it was to teach me, to quit judging the outside, that love is love.)

I went back to shopping and she followed my son and I. She said, "Hey! Come here." She gave Tucker and I the biggest hug, then she was gone. One thing I hate about the times we live in, are that you have to wonder; are you getting scammed by someone? I told Tucker that night, whether she asked for food from just me or a 100 people, she was in a place where she needed help. I also told Tucker, when something like that happens, you help. I said, "There is no way I am going to stand before my Maker and explain to him why I didn't help her."

I felt bad after we left. I thought, maybe I should have bought her a whole buggy full of groceries, but I didn't know if she had a car. I thought, what if I should have stayed to make sure the boyfriend didn't come after her. Should I have drove her to a shelter? I played all this in my head. I was so taken back by her. I just did the first thing that popped in my head. I prayed for her that night when I got home. Don't ever forget how powerful prayer is. God whispered in my ear, just to change my routine a little, so He could show His glory and feed one of his children who was starving. Do you ever wonder what He's whispering in someone else's ear for you?
~Stacy~

Matthew 25:34-40
34 “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. 35 For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36 I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’
   37 “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38 When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39 When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’
   40 “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Talents, Gratitude & Lessons Learned

(There are so many more wonderful posts by Jenny on her blog mojennymo.blogspot.com I wanted to end with this. I encourage you to go visit her blog, look at the pictures, read the stories, and find the info you need for donations.)


TALENTS: I really was concerned about A LOT of things going in to this trip. One of the main things that weighed on me was this: I wanted to be able to use my talents as a photographer. I didn't want to spend my whole trip hiding behind a camera and not connecting and making relationships with the people I met. God showed up in a big way on this one! I made sure to not pop my camera out immediately upon arrival at any given place. When I did, I discovered literally hundreds of kids who probably never had their picture made before; many who had never actually seen themselves in a mirror. They were literally meeting themselves for the first time through my camera. Kids who are not prone to smile (this did take a little coaxing), came out of their shells as soon as they knew that my camera was not going to hurt them. I could show you hundreds of pictures like these:





These are some of my sweet friends from Pillars of Hope. Street children, but smiles so big, that if you can just get them to come out, it will forever change your heart.

I can't exactly call being a single mom a talent, however, God still used that facet of my life to give me great opportunities on this trip. I alluded to that in my post about the Karamajong women. That was not the only time I was able to use that part of my life to demonstrate God's faithfulness and give hope to some very sweet single moms.

 

The Karamajong women

My first ever sermon-all about being single moms

Teaching them how to make bracelets

When we were able to serve alongside the women at Fiwagoh, I was able to chat with them while we scrubbed shoes and floors etc. They were all stunned to find out I was a single mom just like them. I think these African women have a picture in their mind of what a single mom is. Lets just say I don't think I am in that picture.....they are. Women like them, not women like me. So when they found out that we shared that, I would hear them whisper to the other ladies "She is single mother....yes her! This one right there!" It blessed me in such a big way to be reminded that God can use whatever He wants to, anything in our lives, for His GLORY.

GRATITUDE: As you know, the other thing that weighed heavily on me was missing my kids. I was just sure that every baby that I held would remind me of my kids and break my heart over and over. It was my number one prayer request, that I would be able to be present and let my heart be open to these kids, without the constant reminder that I was missing my own babies terribly. Because of all of your prayers, I was able to do the work God called me to do in Africa, without the heavy burden. Yes, I missed my people, but I was covered with a sense of peace that can only come from God. I am so very grateful for your prayers. They worked. :o)

LESSONS LEARNED: Here are some lessons I learned while in Africa, that I shall now bequeath upon all of you. You are welcome in advance.

With the proper medication and equipment, you can sleep for many hours on a plane.
Orphanages don't have wi-fi. Or hot water
Lots of missionary type chicks have tattoos. I like that.
Granola bars and dried fruit can take the place of many meals.
Wild kittens are scary.
Friends are friends forever, if the Lord's the Lord of them.
Songs from Sister Act 2 are applicable in many situations.
It is winter in Kenya.
You can shower with only scalding hot water, only cold water, water that comes from below and water that comes from above.
Tiny travel towels are super absorbent, quick drying and convenient, but your friends will make fun of you.
Squatty potties are for the birds.
Cows and goats that are free to roam, don't pay attention where the poop.
Kenyans really can run fast.
Sometimes you just have to pee in the woods....or on the side of the road.
If you are a coffee drinker, bring Starbucks Via packs with you to Africa. They are expensive, but they will save you from being really grumpy.....and they can be used to bribe your friends.
Buses in Africa are built out of magic. They can go through mud, over huge bumps, and turn on a dime.
In June/July, it is WAY hotter in Alabama than in Africa.
African people are amazing and resilient. Americans are lazy.
Through prayer, a pack of 48 flushable wipes can multiply and last 2 weeks, with enough to share.
Don't eat any sort of meat on a plane.
Don't try to use your Southern manners in the Kenyan market. They don't care, and it takes too long.
If you don't want to buy it, don't make eye contact.
If you use the wrong the wrong combination of power adaptor/convertor, you will set stuff on fire.
Video taping friends while they sleep on a bus is funny.
Febreeze comes in a travel size and can work wonders on already worn clothes.
One person CAN make a difference. I have met many such persons.
African children's voices raised in praise to our King will bring you to tears.
A child who has nothing can still have great joy.
God cares for the orphan and the widow.
Bring many types of medications when you go far away. You and others will likely need them.
Hanging out with a bunch of 20 somethings will make you feel pretty old.....until you remember that you are old, but still awesome.
Man can live on bread alone. At least for 12+ hours on a plane.
It rains between 2 and 3 pm in Kenya this time of year every day. Like clockwork.
African women are born with a natural ability to make all things crafty.
You should never mess with women's intuition. Seriously. Don't do it.
When 22 women travel together to Africa, your bus drivers become your best friend. Abus and Daniel are the man....s.
African people think blonde and gray hair is hilarious.
Children in Africa can create games and entertainment out of literally nothing.
I think I am going to have to make a sequel of "Lessons Learned" because I could go on forever!

Blessings,
~Jennymo~

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

A VERY Emotional Day

(Post 3 from Jenny)

We tried to fit a good bit in to one day today. So, we got up and on the road early this morning, to the second prison. You probably noticed from my post yesterday, but we have to be very careful about specifics regarding these facilities, for many reasons. The main reason is that Sixty Feet is doing such an amazing work with these kids, and we don't want to do or say ANYTHING that would cause that to stop for any reason. They are giving these children hope, and for most of them, that is literally all they have.

We got a pretty good rain yesterday afternoon, so the roads were not so great on our 2 hour drive today. We went to a totally different facility that is much farther out in to the rural areas. Most of the trip was made on dirt roads, which had been converted to mud roads by the rains.


The drive was long but interesting. It was our first time to be that far out in the rural areas. We were able to see much less of the street vendors, shops, downtown etc., and much more of the mud huts, grass roofs, cows, goats and pigs. When we arrived at the facility, it was time for the children to have their breakfast. We were able to serve them some biscuits (cookies basically) with their porridge, which was a treat for these very shy and guarded kids. Then, we went into a large room, where the children that we were working with sang songs for us and worshiped. All I can say about it really is, you will just have to see the video. They sang and praised and then they all prayed, out loud together, but individually at the same time. They all were very clearly, pleading to God for hope....it was overwhelming. Most of us cried. Some of us (me) had snot and tears running down their faces by the time they were finished. When the kids looked up from their prayer time, they certainly must have wondered what on earth was the matter with all of us.

Then, we sang a couple of songs with the kids and started our t-shirt craft. It is very likely, not one of those kids have ever had a t-shirt that no one else has worn. Much less, one with their own name on it. Or, one that a herd of weepy mzungus helped them decorate. They had a great time and were all very creative.  We were very concerned from the start, about having enough t-shirts for all of the kids. We didn't want to offer something like this to some and not all. When we got towards the end of the line, the girls who were handing them out, saw about 20 more kids in line, and only 1 more shirt. They started to panic and asked Diana what to do. She said "All we can do is pray." So they did. Then another team member opened up a zipper pouch in the suitcase. Guess what? More shirts. We all cried some more.

Later, we went out in to the yard (much bigger than yesterday) and did bubbles, balloons, jump rope, soccer and just played with all of the kids. It was tough to be there. It was tough to leave.

We decided to take the other road out, which turned out to be a mistake. The mud was even worse on that road than on the first, and we got stuck. A bunch of children from the village were all out running and waving at us, and those sweet kids proceeded to push our bus out of the mud. We hydroplaned for a little while, but then we got back on track....sort of. We got stopped by the police once we got on the paved-ish roads. They probably just wanted to see what a whole bus full of white people were up to in that part of town. The officer came on our bus, said "Ha-looo" to us all, and sent us on our merry way. We got stopped again, but I don't think the officer even messed with us once he realized we were all white...and women.

We finally got back to Namirembe Guest House. We had to literally get our lunch, switch out our donations, and leave. We were already late to Royal Hope Academy, and we didn't want the children to have to wait on us any longer. So we hustled on over there, only about a 20 minute drive.

We were greeted on both sides of the road, by all of the school children, lined up singing and clapping. It was so sweet. We went in to their large classroom, where they sang and danced for us some more. We sang for them some as well. Rebecca shared a little and welcomed us all. We went out in to the yard area and just played. We were able to see the kids classrooms, play their games, and I took A LOT of their pictures. Little Ruthie, who you will see when i am able to post a few pictures, stole the show immediately! She is the sponsored child of my friend Amanda, and I wanted to keep my eye out for Ruth so I could meet her. I never imagined she would find me! She was the life of the party the whole time. We all had sweet, happy, kids playing and hanging all over us. It was just what we all needed after a very sad morning.

We had the honor of going back to My Fathers House, where Rebecca, Michael, Charity and the 16 children they have taken in, live. Charity made the most wonderful dinner for all of us; potatoes, fried rice, noodles, green peas, pineapple and watermelon, that wasn't even all of it. It was fabulous. We all began to eat and then the power went out. Without skipping a beat, Rebecca, Michael, Charity and the children just went right along with what they were doing. I am sure that wasn't a first for them! We were able to talk and eat for a while with Rebecca and the kids,  then we painted the girls toes outside, by lantern light. We gave them all the donations we had brought, hung out for a little longer, then we had to be on our way. Rebecca and Charity prayed. We all cried. The most surprising thing was, I realized that Ruthie was crying too. She kept saying " I want to go toooo America!" Bless her sweet little heart.

Can't wait to post some pics from today so you can put all the pieces together, but that will have to wait, because I have a low Internet signal, and I must go shower and wash all the caked dirt off my feet. :)

The place we are staying in Jinja for the next 2 nights, doesn't have power. I probably won't be able to post again for a couple of days. But, I will try to write the blogs and just post them when we get back to Namirembe on Friday.

Goodnight!
~Jenny mo~

Philippians 4:19
And my God will meet all your needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus.


A very warm welcome








The kids who are new to the remand centers are  not allowed to wear shirts, I think for the first 2 weeks

This little guy had special needs. We decorated his shirt for him. Broke. My. Heart.

This is the boy who almost left in tears. We got his shirt just right and he was so happy.


I don't even have words for how this moves my heart.......


I still can't believe that these kids (who did not know us) pushed our bus out of the mud.....
Hooray! We are free!

 
 Yep, that's a pink chicken.....

 

Saturday, August 27, 2011

So Many Questions.....

(Post 2 From Jenny)


(The Guys with all the questions)


Today was our first day ministering to the kids at the first remand center we will visit. They greeted us with a song that was beautiful even though none of us understood a word of it. Then we went around the circle and introduced ourselves to all of the kids. They truly wanted to know about us which was so neat.

We taught them a couple of songs with motions which they enjoyed, and then shared the gospel with them….via translation. We then split in to groups and helped the kids make salvation bracelets….I was surprised by how many of them did not even know how to make a simple knot. They really loved the bracelets but enjoyed seeing us smile and talk to them even more.

I spoke with one boy who spoke great English. He said he had been in University before he came to the Remand center. He said he hopes to go back when he gets out. I hope he does. 

Then the fun began. Boys were constantly on the drums. The soccer balls came out and we played in the small strip of dirt that they have as their “play” area. Beach balls, balloons, kick balls all were flying through the air. The kids had a great time and so did the team.

As our time began to come to a close, 2 boys I will call M and H sat with me and began to ask me so many questions.

“Why are Americans so (motions with his hand out from his hips) fat?”
“They tell us that Americans eat snake and frogs. Is this true?”
“They tell us that if we come to America they will take us at the airport and question us and arrest us. Is this true?”
“Is it possible for a boy from Uganda to marry American woman”
“How can we ever make it to America?”
“Why does America have all things and are so rich, but we because we are brown are all so poor in this whole country?”
“What are the prisons for children like in America?”

The best answers I could come up with were pray because God can do anything and work hard to get your education. I know I probably left those boys with more questions than I did answers, but I hope that I gave them at least the smallest glimmer of…..hope.

It is amazing to me what a world opens up inside of these children with a simple smile and eye contact. One asked me why we would come to Uganda for vacation. I told him we were most certainly not on vacation and that we came because we care about him and God does too. I told him we were missionaries (they knew what that meant but I just think our group of women was not what they had pictured) and we want to pray for him and tell him about Jesus.
Blessings,
~Jennymo~
(Jenny, after I read this, this is the verse God showed me)
Ecclesiastes 12:10
The Teacher searched to find just the right words, and what he wrote was upright and true.
 



 
 
(All pictures by Jenny Clark)

Thursday, August 25, 2011

I Don't Think We Are In Kansas Anymore...

~The next 3 posts, at least, are going to be from a sweet lady I met at church. She went to Africa, on a missionary trip, to visit a children's prison. Yes, you read that right. It was a great eye opener reading what she posted, and God worked through her team the whole time she was there. I will be taking these from her blog: mojennymo.blogspot.com, in case you can't wait to read what happens next!~


OK, so these Africa posts are going to be mostly me journaling things I have seen and experienced, devoid of my usual witty banter. :)


I meet up with my friend Jenny Dixon, who just HAPPENED to be not only in our same hotel but on our SAME FLIGHT to Ethiopia to adopt their daughter....what a cool God thing to see a familiar face on such an unfamiliar trip!


The air travel was actually not as bad as I had thought it would be. It was looooooong, but not unbearable. I slept a lot so that made it go by faster. Then we arrived in Ethiopia. I lost a day in there somewhere.....and I am still not totally sure what day it is now, but I know it is dark outside.


After a quick hour and a half flight to Entebbe, our air travel for the first (of 3) legs was complete! We were greeted by our friend from Cannan Children's home, with a bus to tote all us crazy women, and a truck to tote all of our huge luggage. Before I even got off the sidewalk at the airport, a car came at me so fast that I was sure he would hit me, and half my luggage flew off my cart. He hustled out of his car exclaiming "mzungus!" (white people). I knew it would happen eventually so why not get it out of the way right at the start. Then the drive through Kampala began.


It was exactly what I expected and totally not what I expected. I assumed that the "rural" areas and the city areas were separated, at least by a little distance. But that is not the case in Kampala. We saw goats just hanging out on the side of the road. A bull with horns so big I would swear they weighed more than he did. Unattended children everywhere....mostly small babies. No way to tell if they have mothers nearby or if they are street children.


Women wearing no shoes, were selling shoes on the side of the road.....not one of which had a match. Just a sea of individual shoes....I guess you just try to find 2 that sort of "go" together. Women with baskets of bananas on their heads. Women grilling corn over a grill that I am sure they probably also carried on their head, from wherever it is that they live. The mannequins in the store fronts wore African clothes, but they were all white. And all wearing very strange expressions on their faces.


And then there is the traffic. Not only do they drive on the wrong side of the road, but they drive 2, sometimes 3 deep on the wrong side of the road. And the motorbikes. They are everywhere. They just come whizzing by your window between 2 cars that were way to close together to start with. It is a wonder one vehicle in this city still has it's rear view mirrors in tact. Each motorbike 1, 2 or 3 deep with passengers. They honk their horns as if it will make any difference at all. It doesn't. The "traffic police" blow whistles and wave people to move on in LITERAL bumper to bumper traffic as if it will make someone hurry. It doesn't.


After a brief time to get settled in at the guest house, five of us went out with Michael from My Father's House, to exchange currency and get some water, bread, peanut butter etc for the team for lunch tomorrow. I didn't expect the traffic to be insane-er than it was the first time. I didn't expect the dudes with rifles outside the currency exchange place, although I was grateful they were there. I didn't expect to see a woman in the dirt on the side of the road pulling up her drawers after doing her business there in front of God and everyone.


Then we went to the market where you can buy anything from Nike soccer balls to doormats to bread and peanut butter. All very surreal.


The traffic was even worse on the way back and that is when we saw the street children. Sitting on cardboard mats, spread out at an equal distance from each other, begging. For anything. One little boy, about 4 years old , came up to our can and we have him all the peanut butter crackers we had through the window. He smiled and ate at least 2 before he even got back to his "spot". The we saw a mother who couldn't have been more than 15, set her 1 year old baby down on the sidewalk while she plundered through the trash for something to wipe her hiney with. I guess the baby had a dirty diaper.....just no diaper.


So, we are experiencing a great deal of culture shock and exhaustion. Going to bed now. We will be at the prisons tomorrow so pray for that.


Whoever has my babies, kiss them extra much for me tonight please!


Much love,


~Jennymo ~

Mark 16:15
He said to them, Go into all the world and preach the good news to all creation.

My first glimpse of Africa

We are heeeeerrrrreeee!
 


Begging street children everywhere


The sign on our house at Namirembe





 

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Angel In The Rain

As I made my way to the doctor’s office early one morning, I noticed a strange site. The skies were pouring rain and a sad man stood at the curb, staring at me. He was not a person that anyone would take notice of---he had a beard and long, wet hair.  He looked at me as if to say:  “Can’t you help me?”

I did not want to miss my appointment, so I drove on, but could not get this man’s face out of my mind.  After I finished at the doctor, I drove back to the spot where this pitiful man had been standing.  I was upset to see that he was no longer there and even wondered if I had imagined seeing him.

I drove to the nearest store, bought a biscuit, juice and an umbrella.  I drove around for a few minutes, hoping to see him again.  I never did, so I placed my plastic bag in the same spot where I had seen him at the curb.  I will never know if he found my meager offering, or not.  There was a very large tree near the curb; maybe, just maybe he had taken shelter under that tree from the rain.  I would like to think that he saw me leave the bag and that he had something to eat that day and a much needed umbrella.

Part of me wonders if this was Jesus standing there that day.  He certainly looked the way I would picture Jesus today.  Maybe it was an angel trying to tell me not to ignore “the least of these”.  I can only hope that God will continue to open my eyes to see those that He would help, and to never forget His words:  “A cup of cold water (or an umbrella) given in My name will not loose its reward”!
~Emily~

Matthew 25:34-40
 “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in,  I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’
"Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink?  When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you?  When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’
“The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Publix

At first I didn't want to post this, because I believe, as the Bible tells us, not to share good deeds. We're not to toot our own horn or brag about a tiny moment where we act as we should. So, I let this experience marinate on my mind for a few days. I then realized the story itself can show others, that you never know how something so small, can be so big to someone else. As you read, please understand that is where my intent is.

It was the morning after we had gone to see The Basement for a second time, (see The Basement testimony). My oldest, Tucker, had one of his friends over, and I was rushing in to Publix, to get some breakfast and lunch food for them. I got in line, and of course, I had to get in the line where the lady was taking forever!! I was sitting there saying to myself, "Well if there's going to be a lane that's messed up, you get in it Stacy!" Then I started saying to myself, "Hurry up, hurry up, HURRY UP!" While I was having a selfish hissy fit, I noticed that the lady was shaking trying to get her money together to give the cashier. She was trying to decide whether to buy toilet paper. I grew up very poor, and I know what that feels like. I couldn't sit there and have a woman have to decide that. I pulled a $10 bill out of my purse and gave it to the cashier. The little lady looked at me and said, "What are you doing? No, don't do that, please, don't." I wouldn't listen to her, partly because she was going to have some toilet paper, and partly because I wanted her to get out of my way! I had to tell her I was going to take that toilet paper and get it myself. I told the cashier not to listen to her to get my point across. The little lady said, "At least take the change." I told her no. The Holy Spirit then had me remember what Annette Henderson said not long ago. (Annette is a mentor at my church) I looked at her, and said, "We are supposed to take care of God's children aren't we?" Isn't it sweet that God brought those words to my mind to say to an elderly lady?

Something happened that I did not expect. This little old lady began tearing up and said, "God sent you to me! Do you know that? I know you're an angel and he sent you to me." We ALL know I do not qualify for angel status, so we don't need to address that comment. I just looked at her and smiled. Then, she came up to me as she was crying, and said, "I lost my husband a few weeks ago. I just got back from the doctor, and he told me I have cancer." Well, what do you do with all of that, while you're in line to buy food? I was taken back. She then said to me, "I prayed to God to help me, to show me He's listening and then you show up and do this." All I knew to do for that pitiful woman was grab her and say, "Can I pray for you?" She said, "Please." So we prayed right there in the line; that God would bring His peace over her and her family during this time of sorrow. We prayed that she would be healed in Jesus' name. We prayed when she goes back to the doctor, they will see no more cancer there. Amen!

She took her groceries and toilet paper and left. I turned to the people behind me and apologized for holding the line up. I explained a little of what happened, and they said they understood and figured something was wrong. When I got out to the parking lot, I saw her heading to her car with tears just streaming down her face. She looked so lost. You know that look, when you lose someone or have been told really bad news. I went home, and told the boys what had happened. You never know, and I know I have said this in other posts, how God will use you if you let him. Praise God He still used me, even though I had a bad attitude to start with.

Yesterday, I was in Publix again, with Tucker and his friends. I was about to leave, and the girl bagging our groceries said, "Hey, you're that lady aren't you? You're the one who prayed for the lady not long ago." I said, "Yes, that was me." She said, "I told my mom what happened. Did something good happen to you after that? Did God bless you for it?" I told her being able to witness what happened, was a blessing to me. We got on a conversation of how things have been changing in my life; how we are having healings and great things happen at our church. So much so, that I started a blog, so we could share what's going on. I told her, "Next time I come in, I'll give you the blog's name."

As we were leaving, the boys wanted a drink out of the machine. I told them we were almost home, they can wait. For some reason though, they had to have one, and it took forever for the drinks to come out. Once again, I was getting frustrated and impatient. Then God prompted me, "Didn't I just teach you this lesson?" I dropped my groceries and my purse, wrote down the blog name, and gave it to the cashier. The girl I was talking to had gone out to the parking lot. I have got to learn to listen more when God prompts me. I've got to stop being so impatient sometimes, and ask myself, "Why is it taking so long? Why can't I get home quickly?" Sometimes, it's just a hectic day. Other times though, there is a reason; a quiet gentle whisper, asking a favor. I pray that as I grow more, I will stop screaming in my head, "Hurry up!!" and start asking, "Did you just say something God?"
~Stacy~

Ephesians 3:7
I became a servant of this gospel by the gift of God's grace given me through the working of his power.

Monday, August 8, 2011

The Week I Walked With God

Here is another powerful testimony of when John Marc and I met for the first time...

    I had just turned 35 years old. I was sitting in my new house that I had just purchased, with my new furniture, new rugs, etc.,  but no one to share it with. I was beginning to think I would always be alone and would never meet my soul mate. That night, my father came over because I was hosting a birthday party for my mom. Before he left, I remember sobbing and asking him to please pray that I would meet my mate because I was so incredibly lonely. I had dated many men but never "just knew" as they say. He said that he would diligently pray for me to meet my husband every day. Oh, the prayers of a righteous man avails much. My dad has since gone to be with the lord; but oh, how faithful his prayers were. He was praying as a father would for his daughter to meet a godly man. He prayed fervently every day and night for the next 3 weeks for me to meet my husband.



It was a crisp Fall day in October of 2001, when John Marc Green stepped into my office. I was working as a school counselor at Epic Magnet School in Birmingham. I was in charge of our annual "Say No To Drugs" campaign and had set up guest speakers to speak on drug awareness. The principal approached me, and said that a reporter from CBS 42 News was going to be interviewing me for the story on Red Ribbon Week.  I remember when she introduced me to John Marc I thought he looked too young for me ( I thought I was an old maid) even though he is only 4 years younger that me. I remember my father was standing right next to him when the principal introduced us, because Dad had brought a friend of his to be one of the guest speakers for the program. Now that I look back, I know that was God because he had placed my father and John Marc right next to each other as we met. Anyway, I remember when John Marc started speaking, his voice was so soothing and there was something different about his countenance. His eyes had a warmth to them and I was drawn to his level of maturity. I can't say it was love at first sight but there was definitely something different about this man. The story aired that night and I thought I would never see this man again.


Instead, he called "to see how I liked the story" and the rest is history. We dated for only 5 months before we were engaged. There were many spiritual moments where we felt God was in the middle of our relationship and was confirming that he had placed the two of us together. There was one particular moment that stands out the most. We were sitting outside the church we were attending at the time, under a huge cross with a lake behind it.  John Marc had tears in his eyes as he said "Mimi, look where we are sitting; we are sitting in the shadow of the cross."  I knew then that I was to marry him and that God would always be in the midst of us. When times get rough, we always remember the time when "we sat in the shadow of the cross." 

 We were married after the next 3 months with my father walking me down the aisle in tears. He knew, as I knew, that his faithful prayer for his daughter had been answered. But that is not the end of this story. About a week before I met John Marc, after my father started praying, I experienced one week of what I now know is "the anointing of the Holy Spirit."  I have never before experienced the presence of the Holy Spirit so strongly in my life. It was as if Christ were literally walking right alongside with me. I had an unspeakable joy.  I felt love immeasurably. People were asking me what had happened because I was just not myself. I was not doing anything differently. I was not taking any new medicine. I was just filled with the Holy Spirit and could not contain it. Never before had I experienced anything like this. It felt wonderful! This feeling lasted for about a week and then I met John Marc. The timing was unmistakable. I knew without a shadow of a doubt what God was telling me. He was telling me "Mimi, I am about to bring you your soul mate, the man that your father has been praying for.  But I never want you to forget what this feels like because it is greater that what any man on earth can give you...always remember that I am the one you can turn to when man lets you down, I will never fail  you, never forsake you. I am about to bring you the man that I hand-selected just for you, but don't forget what you and I shared the week we walked together."   
~Mimi~

Psalm 37:4
Delight yourself in the Lord and he will give you the desires of your heart.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Met By Grace

A few months ago, I was walking into Target, when from behind me, came a loud, crashing, noise. I turned around and saw that a lady had just smashed her car into the back of another person's car, damaging their bumper and tail light. I stood there thinking, "Boy, I sure am glad that she didn't back into my car, and I am glad that I'm not her." I took my time walking into Target after I saw this happen. I must regrettably admit that I was being Ms. Judgment that day. I wanted to make sure she didn't drive off since she had done some significant damage to the other vehicle. I tried to convince myself that I was hanging around because it was my civic duty as a beneficial, contributing member of society, to look out for the other guy and make sure the right thing was done. I wanted to make sure that this lady owned up to what she had done. Well, she did re-park and make a phone call. This satisfied me. She seemed to be taking the proper steps to take care of it, so I went on in and did my shopping. When I came out, I saw that she was still there with the police and I knew that she had done the right thing.

A few weeks later, I walked out of Bed Bath and Beyond at the Summit. I got into my car, cranked it up, put it in reverse, looked in my rear view mirror, and backed out of my parking space the same as I always do; turning my wheel the proper amount to get out of the space and drive off. However, this time I didn't have the same result as I always do. This time, rather than being able to drive off happily, I plowed into the back of a large Ford extended cab pickup truck! The truck was hanging out of its parking space two feet more than the other cars. "Uh oh," I said, as I was in disbelief over what I had just done. I parked my car, got out, looked at my vehicle and it had a huge dent in it. Cringing, I then went over to the truck that I had hit and thoroughly inspected it. I didn't see a dent on it, not even a ding, not even a mark of paint, not even a....uh oh. There was the tee-tiniest little scuff mark in the world on the bumper. It was probably less than an inch or so in size, and it was so faint. I got my "mommy fix it bag" out, and went to wiping their bumper with a baby wipe, but guess what? The tiny little scuff mark still remained. It wasn't going to go away. I knew I needed to wait around for the driver of the vehicle to come out so I could show him what I had done (hoping he would let me off the hook of course).

After waiting around a good 20 minutes or so, I called my husband, Mike, and began convincing him and myself that there was no need to hang around any longer. I had come up with so many excuses as to why I thought it would be acceptable to drive off at that point. After all, it was barely even noticeable, and I had my little three month old Lydia in the car with me. I needed to go pick up Matthew from preschool. I needed to go get ready for a surprise jewelry party I was having at my house that night; and my husband has cancer and is going through chemo, and he said it would probably be OK to leave...you name it, I came up with it. Even though all of the things I mentioned were really going on, they still didn't give me an excuse to run from my current dilemma. After waiting this long, I convinced myself that the driver of the vehicle could have been in any number of stores; no telling where they were, or when they would be back. A handful of people had come out into the parking lot and left in their cars, but no one had come out to that ol' truck, so I left. Yes, I drove off.

 I was running. I was taking complete control over the situation by not facing the situation at all. That's when God reminded me, "Tonya, don't you remember when you saw this happen to someone else just a few short weeks ago? Don't you remember what your response was? Even though no one hung around to make sure you did the right thing, I am here and I see you." "Uh oh," I thought again, as I glided off down Summit Parkway. Even though I feared what the outcome might be if I met face to face with the driver of the vehicle, I knew I needed to go back. God told me to turn around and make just one last loop around the parking lot; watching to see if anyone came out to that truck. So, I did and when I arrived, I parked next to the truck for a quick second. I briefly considered the idea of writing a little note to the driver stating what I had done with my phone number on it. I was just about to look for a pen and piece of paper, when I noticed a lady walking out into the parking lot headed in the direction of the truck. She was the driver of that big thing? How unexpected! She passed by the faint little scuff mark without skipping a beat, and began to open her door and get in. I hopped quickly out of my car, went over to her, and told her what I had done. She took a little gasp as she headed towards the back of her truck to look at the bumper. When she saw it, she let out a sigh of relief, and told me that she wasn't a bit worried about that. She told me not to worry about it, but she appreciated me hanging around to check with her. She was so sweet, gracious and forgiving. I let out a big sigh of relief, and thanked her for letting me off the hook. I realized it could have turned out differently.

As I drove off, I began to learn a much needed lesson that I wanted to share with you. Rather than attempting to control the situation, rather than running away from my problems, rather than letting fear direct me, I let go and let God that day. I put myself out there, and made myself vulnerable and I put it in His hands. I subjected myself to whatever He would allow to happen, and submitted myself to allow for His outcome. When I did this, I was met by grace. Not just the sweet lady's grace, but His grace. He showed me that I can trust Him and that He will take care of me, but I have to give up the control. He was helping me see I needed to give up the control, not just over this situation, but over all that I had been going through and am still going through. He wanted me to see that I can give it over to Him, and He will take care of me. No matter what happens, I will remain In His Arms.
~Tonya~

 2 Corinthians 12:9
 And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness.
 Proverbs 3:6
 In all thy ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct thy paths.
 Psalm 119:133
Direct my steps by Your Word, and let no iniquity have dominion over me.

Monday, July 25, 2011

The Basement

(to visit go to: thebasementonline.com)

A month ago, I took my sons to The Basement. For those of you who do not know what this is, it's a movement started for the youth in Birmingham, which has now gone global, to glorify God. They are unconventional, loud, and anointed! I do believe my age finally came out that night. I like to think I'm still 16, but the soon to be 38 year old showed up. As I stood there listening to the music, with my ears covered, watching all of the kids, I was taken back. I realized I had never seen that many young people raise their hands and praise God. All you could see, anywhere you looked, was God's little ones singing to the top of their lungs and just praising! AMEN!

While I was singing one of the songs, God spoke to me about a young man in front of me. There were three young men, maybe in their very early twenties, praising God. Now, the boy to the left was just beyond. He was filled to the top, overflowing, with the Holy Spirit. At first, I thought I was supposed to talk with him. So, I asked God, and He said, "No, the boy in the middle." God told me to tell this young man that He was about to do something mighty in his life. When He does this, he doesn't want him to keep it to himself, but he wants him to witness it to others. Now, since the boy was openly praising God, it made me wonder, if what God was going to do would be so great, that it might scare the boy, and he would be afraid to tell people. I know I feel that way still.

Now, it's not easy, or I should say, it's not easy for me, to tap a stranger on the back and say, "Hey! How's it going? I've got a message from God for you!" As I grow in my walk with God, maybe it won't be anything to say this. But for now, I wrestle with it. In fact, when I got the message, I was upset. I really wanted to experience The Basement, the way my son did. Yes, I see now, how silly this sentence is. What I have learned, is when God gives me a message, He will just stir me up, and flip me upside down inside, till I can't feel comfortable, unless I do His will. So, I said out loud, "OK, I'll tell him!" I had to wait until the music stopped for him to hear me.

While I waited for the song to end, something crazy happened! Once I said I would deliver the message, I started feeling the presence of the Holy Spirit. I have felt that before, that's not what floored me. This is the only way I can describe what happened to me, so bare with me: Although I did not see him, I felt with everything in my spirit, there was a HUGE warrior angel surrounding this boy in front of me. It was so strong, that it knocked me back, and I fell into my chair!

Once the song ended, I tapped the young man on the shoulder. When he turned around and looked at me, he was rather rough looking; his friends were rather rough looking too. I thought, well maybe someone just brought them to this tonight. (because I don't truly see,  I'm still working on this) I told the boy the message. I told him I am very new to all of this, I don't know how it works, or if I'm supposed to say it different. He just stopped, looked at me, and smiled. He said, "Thank you for your obedience to the Spirit and God." I then told him about the presence that I felt, and how it knocked me back. I told him, he must have a big ol' angel around him. He looked at his friend and smiled.

 I went back to listening to the lesson and he did too. They sang some more songs, and then it was time to go. I was trying to tell my son what had happened to me, when he came back to his seat, but it was so loud, he could not hear me. When it was all over, I was going to hug the boy and thank him for giving me such a wonderful gift that night. Before I could turn around, he grabbed me, hugged me, and thanked me. It was very powerful. As the boys left, I looked down the row and saw that they had a man with them who was a little person. Do you remember me saying how "rough" they looked and my thoughts on them? They picked that little man up and carried him like a child. I saw them afterwards, and they carried him everywhere. For young kids, not to care what others think, and just love up on someone who has a disability, tells me they were a special group of young men.

I wish I would have got the young man's name or number to find out what God did in his life. Of course, that's what I want. We all love to know don't we? We, as humans, as Christians, are constantly asking God, why? Why? WHY? I'm sure He does what our mom's did, and what we do, and says, "Because I said so." I decided I would go back to The Basement again. I want to try to experience what my kids have received. I may bring a pair of ear plugs this time.  But, if I go, and God speaks to me again, I think I'll be alright with that experience too.
~Stacy~

John 10:27
My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Sarah Rodas' Testimony

God is a Subtle Suitor
Our world is full of high tech computer graphics, super-fast information transfer, interactive virtual reality experiences, and a constant barrage of sensory distractions. With all of this intensity, our expectations are heightened. We are disappointed if a movie looks anything but completely real.  We expect constant entertainment. We get bored easily.  Doing one thing at a time feels too slow. We skip Epcot and go straight for the newest, fastest roller coaster. We want our fries super-sized and our movies I-max, 3-D, Dolby surround sound. 
With such a world as this, we can virtually see the most exciting things from the comfort of our living room couches; just from human inventions. We expect God to be infinitely more impressive! After all, He did create all of this. He even created the ability to invent such clever things. He made the sun, rainbows, and the Grand Canyon. He made the crystal clear waters of the Virgin Islands, the mighty great white shark, the beautifully complex human body. God surely is much more impressive than anything we have seen yet.     
The truth is, yes, God is going to blow you away and completely amaze you when we are able to see His full glory.  Being in God’s presence, turned the very skin of Moses white. He glowed and had to wear a veil over his face, for the rest of his life. But the most beautiful thing about God, to me, is the humble way that He courts you. He has revealed Himself to me as a subtle suitor: willing to wait, loving abundantly, needing nothing in return, being completely there for you, and loving unconditionally, forever. He does all of this in ways most of us don’t even notice, much less fully appreciate. It took me a long time to see what He was doing in my life, but when I realized how he had courted me for so many years, I was blown away. And to think, I couldn’t even see Him most of the time! 
I was a girl who always seemed to have a boyfriend.  I had long-term relationships from the age of three, it seems.  The psychology behind that is another story, but suffice it to say, I devoted a lot of my time and energy to boyfriend/girlfriend relationships. There were few times in my life, where a boy was not the center of my attention.  (I do not recommend this to you young people out there!) But, finally, I found myself in the throes of a painful divorce and then a long dry spell of men in my life. 
Through this dry time, I began to learn about myself. I did not see God clearly, but He was there, like a parent who lets you learn on your own, but always there, loving you. These years for me were good, even though they were hard. I spent the time in reflection and growth. Still, I felt lonely. I did not fully see how God was admiring me from afar. He was there in every hard turn, with a listening ear and a shoulder to cry on. He didn’t push Himself on me. He just carefully, almost anonymously, placed lessons in my path. I could choose to step over them, and sometimes did; but He extended his hand for me to take when I wanted it. He was loving me truly- not like the men I had been focusing on. He was allowing me to be me, making my own choices, mistakes, accomplishments, and yet never leaving my side. He was there, ready to build me up, asking for nothing in return.  
I learned so much about myself in those years. I learned what I wanted in life and what I had to offer. I had spent so much time trying to be in relationships that I did not know who I was or who I wanted. God was purposeful to shelter me during this time, and He literally hid men from me. I would walk through a restaurant, a store, the mall, and try to find a man I would even consider; and there were none. It was such a strange phenomenon to me. I could do it any time. I could not think of one person I knew, or see one man in a crowd, and think, that is a man I could imagine myself with. This went on for years. I would tell people this and they did not really believe me. They would point out attractive men and my eyes were just closed to the them.  I actually wanted to see someone, but could not.  God was sheltering me from myself and protecting me, yet I did not even realize it. 
After a while, some men began to come into my life that were interesting to me.  I was cautious, but lonely and hoping to find love.  I met the man who bragged and told tall tales about accomplishments.  I met the man who was too smart for his own good.  I met the guy who thought he had it all together, the artist, the leader, the one with charisma, the good looking one, the not so good looking one, the thinker, the strong but silent type, the mama’s boy, the work-a-holic, the devoted one, the one who looked good on paper, the one who shared a chemistry with me, and wow I definitely met a few that really needed me to fix them! Through each one, I learned a specific lesson. It is now so clear how God was leading me through, but at the time, I just noticed that as the major ones moved on, I was still ok. I was anxious at times for my future to be settled.  I was confused at times. But, I was learning lessons. I was not the same, na├»ve girl, who always needed a guy to feel complete. I was more and more ok.
I came to a place in my life, where I knew I could not settle for just some guy to pass the time with. I needed the person God had in store for me or, I needed no one. I had become content with that idea. I knew God could be my focus. He had, after all, everything I needed. He would love me unconditionally, and never leave, cheat, lie. He was all I truly needed. That thought began to comfort me, and give me strength in a way, I had not experienced before. He was not telling me I would be alone to raise my daughter, or to go through life with no companionship,  just that I needed to put my trust in Him.  He would stand up to any test I gave Him.  He was loyal to me.  And still, He did not push. He let me find my way closer and closer to Him. His voice was so gentle, comforting, quiet.  I was learning to be more discerning in my choices, and God, like a best friend who secretly loves you, supported me through every heart ache.  God was slowly giving me strength in Him, but letting me find my own way.
Finally, I found myself in a class at church, about human sexuality; not sex per se, but how it is to be fully man, and fully woman, in relationships with others. God brought me so many words of wisdom in that class, until I became very convicted about where I was going.  I felt strongly that God was asking me to be a Christian woman, following His guidance, putting Him first, and yet willing to share with someone all I had to offer. Then, I relaxed. God was in control. I was to focus on this beautiful life He had given me.  When I finally gave over to His ways, that is when God showed me how much He loves me.  It was like He went down to the jewelry store and picked out the most precious ring that He knew I would love.  He seemed to have been thinking this all along, because the gift He gave me, was made by Him. It had so many special details, I knew they were crafted and chosen just for me.  It was not a diamond ring he picked out for me, but a man who was very good at showing me the love of God.    
Sal came into my life like a whirlwind and God’s voice was all over him!  This man seemed to have so many good traits that were perfectly designed just for me!  It was uncanny.  As we learned more and more about each other, it seemed that God had led us down two paths that were meant to merge.  He even took the times we had gone down the wrong paths and turned them for good.  The man God had prepared for me, wants to live a moral life; he is a man of honor. He works hard, loves family, and has musical talents to support my daughter’s gifts. He likes to build a home for family and friends, likes to travel, honors his commitments; he can teach me things in patient ways. He likes to cook and watch movies.  We value so many of the same things.  But what stands out most in Sal, is how much he loves me. He wants to love me.  He wants to make me happy in so many ways. He works hard to give me the life, God wants me to have.  Sal is a loving person, who is willing to sacrifice everything, to show me love.  He never leaves my presence without giving me a loving hug or kiss; no matter how late he is running. He carefully listens to what I say and thinks about it. He always tries to notice what I need and provide it. He is so focused on caring for me, supporting me, and making me feel safe; that it can be nothing less than God’s love, coming through this man. He is my gift. If I had asked God to build me a man, it would have been this man. 
Sal is not perfect, our relationship is not perfect. We live in a broken world and we are broken.  But, my husband is someone to share the burdens of life with, and he wants to do this with me. God said to me, that if I can see Him, who is the creator of it all, and let Him love me, He will shower me with love and gifts.  He does this in many ways, but He does it most, through the people in my life.  I truly believe that if we allow ourselves to be conduits of God’s love, we will live in a world overflowing with joy.  He wants us to live in joy!  He may have other plans for you, but He has a plan and it includes joy! 

The secret is to give over to His plan. Listen, learn, allow Him to speak to you and through you. Trust Him. Be sure, He will not push us. He is not a forceful, insistent suitor. He is a gentle, subtle suitor. He is helping, protecting, waiting, loving, even if you keep Him away, He is reaching out, trying to love you. He does not need you; He simply wants you. He wants to shower His love on you and through you. He wants to be yours and you His. He will wait for you as long as it takes, but I say, don’t make Him wait. 
Sarah Rodas

Ephesians 3:14-19
When I think of all this, I fall to my knees and pray to the Father, the Creator of everything in heaven and on earth. I pray that from his glorious, unlimited resources he will empower you with inner strength through his Spirit. Then Christ will make his home in your hearts as you trust in him. Your roots will grow down into God’s love and keep you strong.  And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is.  May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God. (NLT)