Tuesday, April 26, 2011

With Love, From Ghana

Oh what a joyful blessing it was to receive a letter in our mailbox from Ghana today!

Our Ato Sam, who will be 11 in July, has written us a beautiful 6.5 page letter in addition to the Ghana response letter form Compassion has provided him.

Ato Sam's letter gives a wonderful glimpse into the Compassion child's world. I would like to share it with you in it's entirety.

Ato Sam (aka Sam Sam) is the one holding the bags of rice, surrounded by his family.


Ato Sam says he was very happy to receive your letter which you let him know what you and his family in Canada are doing. He says he does not know what to say because you always make him feel special among his peers in the project center and at school as well.

He says by the grace of Jesus, he and his family are very well.
He says he thanks you so much for the books that you sent and he says he was grateful for that. He says it sounds like you are his special mother, that you always care for his schooling and how he should behave.

He says he was happy to hear from you how God has blessed you and his family in Canada with good health, peace and happiness. He says it is his wishes that God will do greater things in the next days to come.
He says that he thanks you for the address that you gave him as "our wise, precious and beloved son". (I had addressed his letter in February as such, I always address it to remind him of how I see him -- beautiful, wise, precious, beloved, strong, wonderful, amazing, etc) He says he appreciated that very much.

He says he was wondering how you manage to know "Thank You!" in Fante as "Meda Ase" or "Meda wo Ase"?!
(Oh, if only he knew how hard I've been working on studying and learning everything I can about Ghana as well as his local culture/language!)

He says his siblings in Canada are back to school and he prays that God should guide and protect them and give them divine understanding in their studies.

He says that he thanks you for explaining to him the difference between the soccer and the football. He says he realized that the soccer is different from the football. He says in Ghana, the football is the same as the soccer ball that he saw in the picture. He also adds that he has not seen the football before like the one in the picture.

He says he also heard from your letter concerning the question he asked about your friends. He says he learned a lot on how some of them became your friend. He says he thought Tia was your only friend, but he has got to know about Jesus who is the best friend among all. He says he now knows of (lists friends by name) and not forgetting your husband Terry. He says he heard a riddle about himself and he was proud of that and he says thank you.
(I had made a riddle about having one more friend, someone like a son, from far away but close to my heart, someone wise and kind and a great leader, someone I love.... someone he might know, because that someone's name was Ato Sam! LOL He loved that, it seems!)

He says how is the relationship between Terry and Jesus, and is it good now? He says he and his family pray for your marriage, that any promise that God has made concerning your marriage should come to pass.

He says you also requested that he should pray for (J____) and (M______)
(friends of Jillian's) and he says he had learned that God will let his light shine in the life of (J_____) and (M______) and released them from any difficulty in life.

He says that he also prays for the adoption that you are fighting for. He says that God has already done, but in His good time God will establish what you are dreaming for.
(He had no way of knowing that our first potential match recently fell through, but he is right, God will establish what we're dreaming of!)

Ato says I should answer the question myself because I know more than him.
(I had asked him to ask his project director if he was the 3rd born in his family because his name includes the name Mensah, and in Fante culture, that usually signifies the third born male.) The name Mensah has now become a general name to the children who were born a third male in the family. We have real on written without the letter "h" as Mensa, and the pronunciation is different from Mensah but I am second born in my family and Mensah is my surname. All the same, you guessed right.

Sam Sam says in his Compassion project, there are four types of season letters that they write to their sponsors. He says that these are (1) Christmas Greeting Cards (2) Christmas Thank You (3) Holiday Letters (4) Response Letters. He says that according to the Project Workers, the children must try and write letters to their sponsor to keep the relationship close.
Ato says yes, he does tell the Project Coordinator what he wants to say and the coordinator also translates it into English. He says he speaks Fante while the coordinator translates. He says he has kept all the letters at a safe place and hopes that one day, he can read all and understand by himself.

He says that the letters are received at the Project Office and they will be informed to come with their parents and reply to the letter. He says that some of the parents are illiterate and the Project Workers guide them to read the letter and reply the letters too. He says anytime that the letters will be in, he and his family come around
[to the Compassion Center] to listen to the letter while in the evening too, his father reads to the family again and prayed when there are any prayer requests. He says the other children receive some letters once in a month/while, others do not receive letters at all.

He says his favorite thing about receiving your letters is that he loves to hear from you and also learn more concerning what God is doing in your life. He says especially on Saturdays when papers are being given to the children to inform their caregivers when their letters are in and he loves to listen if you have written him a new letter.
(Even though I write at least once a month, this makes me want to write even more often... I love that he looks forward to receiving letters!)

He says that every week, the caregivers come to the Project Office to write the children letter and sometimes some of these children are too young to write or speak (express their letters orally). He says the parents assist the children to write in replying the letters and also hold the children's hands to draw (if they need help).

Ato says he was happy to hear that someday he would meet you and have face to face chat and he says when will that be?
(He has a way of asking that goes straight to my heart and makes me laugh! Nice try, Ato Sam, I can't tell you, but it's about 194 more days!)

He says concerning his English studies, he has been learning a lot from you through the books that you have been sending. he says "Nyame nhyira wo
(?)", which means may God bless you. He says his father is planning to send him to another school so that he can improve upon his studies. He says this can happen after this year's maize harvest while some will be sold for his school fees.

Ato says yes, there are some months that food finds it hard to grow, especially of November, December and January to April. He says some of the farmers including his parents do not grow crops but rather feed on previous food. He says his parents have some extra but not in all the months. He says his parents try to keep money which was [obtained] out of the selling the produce and also gather firewood for selling so that they may use it for other food items.
(His parents are subsistence farmers and Ato Sam once explained that they sometimes sell the extras to obtain fish and other foods.) He says fish are not common food in his community.

Ato says concerning Jillian's question if he should have a pet, he would [get a] dog and he says he loved to have a dog as his pet.
(His dog was stolen a few years ago, he really misses his dog.)

Ato says he prayed that God should let you come so that he may see you face to face in Ghana.
(194 more days, son!!)

He says he would reply your questions in the other letters since the time is gone.
(*chuckles!*) He says he would in the next day to continue the letter writing with his father. He says he loves you much and prayed that God should give you strength and good health to do His work. He says may God also give you all the resources that you will need to do His work and cause more workers to come in (there is only one explanation this precious child knows just how to pray... God told his heart about the Ghana project!).

He says your fish drawing was very admirable.
(I drew him a beta fish on a recent letter, LOL!)

Ato Sam Kwakwa
End Of Message

He included these Q&A's as well at the beginning of his letter:

Questions from child to sponsor:
He says, "How are you and the whole family?"

New personal information about child (Interests, family, spiritual growth, etc):
He says he will be going to witness a football (soccer) match between his school JSS team and another school at a different town this week and it is his wish for his school to win.

I would like to know more about:
How you were able to know about our Fante language "Meda Ase" as well as our local names. *gotta love Google!*

Child's prayer for sponsor:
He says he is praying for your prosperity in life and that of the whole family. (He does not yet know that my husband just lost his job... again, he knows just how to pray!)

Child's prayer request:
He says pray for his school team to win this particular match and come home with the trophy.

Memory Verse:
Psalm 37:5 "Commit they way unto the Lord; Trust also in Him; and He shall bring it to pass."

I have a child available from Ato Sam's Compassion Center in Ghana. Six and a half year old Nicholas is currently unsponsored, and as such, he does not receive any letters or the love of a sponsor. It is Ato Sam's prayer that anyone reading his letters would feel led to also make a difference in the life of his Compassion brothers and sisters through sponsorship. If you would like to sponsor Nicholas, please let me know, and I will give you the appropriate info to contact Compassion with.

(Nicholas, born on October 9th 2004, lives with both his parents (sometimes employed as subsistence farmers) and 3 siblings. He loves to play soccer. His performance in kindergarten is average and he attends church and Bible study regularly.)

A sponsor has just been found for Nicholas!! Thank you so much for your prayers!

Monday, April 25, 2011

Early Morning Adventures @ The Zoo

I stumbled a blog of another Compassion "Peep" the other day, you know the kind of blog that makes you ask yourself how you've ever missed it (and should come with a warning not to sip any fizzy liquids while reading?) Yup. Her personality is refreshing and her posts remind me of journals I have of my kids' adventures from previous years. This one's for you, Madame Bohemian Bowman!

__________ Circa 2010, Notes From The ZooKeeper *aka Mom* _____________

It's 8:06, and already, the morning has been an adventure...

Hubby nudged me awake this morning before he left. I had the day off, but had to get up to help the kids get ready for school.

Jillian had spent last evening working very hard on her first big project, "All About Canada". She was so proud to have finished it last night, she even showed it to Tia via webcam. I hadn't even had a chance to lift my head off the pillow when she came into my room with a bewildered look on her face... When she grabbed her school stuff as she was getting ready, she came across the instructions for her project.

And realized she has missed several things.

In a panic, she grabbed the first thing she could find -- a pen -- and finished off what she could on pages that had been written in pencil. There is a reason this child writes with a pencil. Have I mentioned that there is no filter between her thoughts and the things she writes? I'm not just talking about the way she feels compelled to label our new washer and dryer with "Washer" and "Dryer" in a Sharpie permanent marker without realizing that she shouldn't... this is much more fun. If she's in the midst of writing and starts to think about bunnies and rainbows, guess what appears on the page? Shoes and grasshoppers, because by the time she begins to write about bunnies and rainbows, she's onto another topic entirely, such as toothpaste and, what was that? Canada who? I'm thankful she wasn't thinking about something completely inappropriate at the time... *ahem*

The OCD in me (CDO, in alphabetical order) had to be restrained as I watched her write, cross things out, re-write, and scribble a bunch of random stuff on the pages.

I didn't have a chance to worry much about it, thanks to Brandon wandering into the bedroom and announcing that Ginger had puked all over his bedroom floor during the night. I quietly told him where the paper towel was, and explained that this would be his responsibility, since he had left stuff out that Ginger got into the night before... He didn't argue. He knew he couldn't.

I was pleased to hear the sound of paper towel sheets being torn off the roll in his room, but those pleasantries didn't last long.

Josh provided a perfect distraction for me: "Mommy, have you seen my shoes?"

"Yes, Josh, they're in the backseat of daddy's car..."

To which Jillian added "... which daddy just drove to work..."

OK, ok, I get it... it's time for me to leave the cozy warmth of my orange blankie and live up to my Mother's Day card from Brandon, which went something like this:

(Mine was more special, though, it had *glitter*!)

My first question, other than "Uhm, why were your shoes in the car?", was "Do you have another pair of shoes...?"


Wait a minute, back up... I have more shoes than one of my kids? How'd that happen? Is this candid camera?

Uhm, ok. Brainstorm.... what about the gardening Crocs, Josh, you know, the ones you leave strewn about outside and that I can't find when I need them? Yeah... didn't think so either.

Does Brandon have any shoes you could use? He needs them for gym today? OK, that won't work.

Jillian's shoes are too small at a size 5 women's, Daddy's are too big, size 12 men's...

That leaves my shoes.

Hey, you could wear my Giggle Shoes, Josh, my new Converse ones. Too happy for you? How 'bout my Sketchers, then? Yes, there is a slight bit of pale blue glitter accents on them, but no one will notice, much, right? Besides, you already know what to do if you get bullied... we practiced! Repeat after me:

"I'm so sorry that your insecurity is causing you to project pain onto others... but wait! There's an app for that!!"

"All set. OK, out you go, the bus will be here any minute! Those shoes look great, Josh, you can't even tell!"

Blur of red and tan rushes past me and out the door. OK, that's Brandon, followed by a blur of blue jeans and pale blue glitter. Poor Josh... praying for that boy today! Last but not least, a blur of psychadelic medley prances past.... That's Cindy Lauper, of course, on her way to the bus... wait, wait a minute, Ms. Lauper does not live here. Who is that?

"JILLIAN, what in the world are you wearing, dear child??!"

Ensemble du jour:

Two shirts that do NOT belong in the same zip code, much less layered together.
A see through tutu.
A suede/wool coat (it's sunny and warm).

And finally, the piece de resistance... Blue tights that have gaping holes in them in various and obvious places.

I wasn't sure what was most surprising -- that she chose to wear underwear, or that she might have worn underwear because she realized that everything else was see-through.

It's at that point that Josh and Brandon yell "BUS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!"

Oh Lord, come quickly.

I tear downstairs to the laundry room, grab a clean pair of her jeans, instructing her to take the tights and tutu off. I run back upstairs only to discover that she can't get the tutu off, it's stuck. So I haul her jeans on, didn't even get them zipped, tell her she has no choice but to keep the tutu on. She shoved her shoes back on, and ran for the bus. I did manage to give her a hug, because I knew she was feeling pretty overwhelmed at that moment. She held up well, though. Lead 'em by example, indeed.

Cindy Lauper... I might have to double check the family tree. I always wondered who Jillian inherited her style from... Off to Google how Cindy Lauper dresses these days -- I feel the need to brace myself for the upcoming teenage years -- after I clean up Brandon's room, that is... Since all he did was cover each pile with a sheet of paper towel.


P.S. Huby just called, he needs a drive to the airport in Bangor, Maine. He's on his way to pick me up... Never a dull moment at The Zoo.

P.P.S. Hubby just got home. I don't have to drive him to Bangor... but he has to drive himself to Boston. BOSTON? Really, really?? He'll be there at least a week, which means he will miss Josh's ballet recital, and that Josh's birthday party will have to be postponed.

I'm SO glad that he and I both have a healthy sense of humor: We've spent our entire morning laughing at the adventures life brings us on. Never a dull moment at the Zoo, thankyouverymuch.
Saturday, April 23, 2011

"Quilted Picker Upper!"

This time, the Happy Mail Dance wasn't caused by a letter from our Compassion children.

But our Compassion children will be excited when we write to tell them that we're one step further in our preparations to welcome home our youngest daughter.

The bedding we ordered to "match" Big Sister's bedding has arrived.

Different brand & quilt, but beautiful combination.

Now, all we need is the other perfect match :o)

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Hope Unfolding

Springtime takes my breath away.

Given the harshness of Canadian winters
and the knowledge
that these delicate plants
are subjected to the unforgiving elements all winter long...

It isn't lost on me that come Easter, like HOPE unfolding,

they rise in worship to the One who has risen to give us hope.

May our harshest seasons never discourage us from seeing HOPE unfolding.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Evidence Of Love

Although Africa has taken a front row center seat in our lives lately, it's certainly not the only adventure our family has embarked upon. As we shared in a handful of recent posts, we're smack-dab in the middle of the adoption process. At the moment, we're finishing up the home study in anticipation of the matching process. We are eager for the day that we'll be welcoming a little girl into our family.

I remember first considering adoption at the age of four, and being sure even then that I'd be an adoptive mom someday. That never changed.

It hasn't been easy. Adoption rarely is.

When we began this process 4 years ago, we realized it wasn't yet time, so we put our plans to adopt on hold, not knowing if the time would ever come.

That time did come last summer when we learned of a little girl in our community who was available for adoption. "M" was our daughter's best friend's little sister. We were familiar with her, she'd been to our house a handful of times, and we loved her very, very much. We were hopeful that we would be a great match for her, so we re-opened our file and threw ourselves into the process in hopes of having a chance to be matched.

While it can normally take a year or two to get a spot in the mandatory adoption classes since they only hold it once or twice a year and it's normally at max capacity, we were blessed to have grabbed a spot at the last minute. While we waited for the course to begin, we worked hard to complete all the necessary paperwork. We knew it was normally not required until after the course, but time was of the essence, we were fighting against time for this little girl.

We began the course in November.

Finished the course in December.

All our paperwork was finished in early January.

By the end of January, our file was declared "officially complete".

By the first week of February, we were on a waiting list for adoption case workers.

Although we've heard that the average time to be assigned a case worker was 8-9 months followed by another 2-3 months for appointments to begin for the home study, once again, things were in our favor.

In spite of a case worker shortage, we were assigned a case worker on March 14th. She contacted us on March 29th and two days later, she was in our living-room beginning our first home study interview.

Although we rejoiced in having gone through much of the process so quickly, the joy was bittersweet -- it was already too late for "M". We had learned earlier that week that "M" had been matched to another family before we had a chance to be considered, even though they knew that we were really hoping to adopt her.

We always knew there was a possibility that would happen, but it was still very difficult to hear. There were some raw emotions that week as we processed the news. While it hit me hard at first, I quickly began to focus on the positives.

All along, we had prayed for a family for "M". Yes, our hearts very much desired for our family to be hers, but in the end, our prayers were answered -- "M" had been blessed with a family.

I only had to consider was how "M"'s new parents felt at the news they'd be bringing her home, how blessed they were, and I couldn't help but celebrate alongside of them. We could understand how long and how hard the waiting period can be, and they had been well rewarded. In His time, our turn would come as well.

We believe that we would have been a great match for "M", and we love her so much... but as a mother with an intense mother's love for this child, I couldn't help but question the love I had for this child if I was so "easily" able to let her go. Don't get me wrong, my heart hurts, but my heart also rejoices, and the joy far outweighs the hurt. How is that possible?

Then, I remembered something I had read long ago...

There once were two women who both claimed one baby to be theirs. King Solomon, after praying for wisdom, told the women he had a solution: He would cut the baby in half, and they could each have half the child.

One woman accepted. The other woman immediately refused, relinquishing all rights to the child.

The act of giving up her child even in the face of difficult circumstances was evidence of the love she had for that child.

And so it is with "M".

Further evidence of love -- God gave up His only Son for us. His sacrifice in no way meant that He loved Jesus any less or that this didn't grieve Him. He can't love any less, He IS love, and we are to reflect His love in our lives.

We have since met with our case worker twice, and we're meeting with her again this week. Within the next week or two, these meetings will be over, and we will await the news that a child has been matched to our family.

Even though I realize that this can take years, I can't help but be filled with hope that not only will it not take years, but better yet, it will be a match beyond what we could possibly have asked for or imagined. That's simply how God works, after all! If our family seemed to be such a wonderful match for "M" but another family was matched to her, I can't even begin to imagine what God has in store for us.

"God sets the lonely in families, he leads forth the prisoners with singing; but the rebellious live in a sun-scorched land." Psalm 68:6

"God can do anything, you know—far more than you could ever imagine or guess or request in your wildest dreams! He does it not by pushing us around but by working within us, His Spirit deeply and gently within us. " Eph 3:30, The Message
Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Walk Run By Faith

Although I had planned to run early that morning, it was well past 1pm and I was beginning to lose my early morning steam. Would I get to run before I ran out of energy?

So eager to start my run, restless and excited, yet I knew that stopping by the store to pick up headphones first would be worth it. There's just something about having to hold headphones in your ears to keep them from falling out that just doesn't go well with running, you know? On the bright side, the brisk walk back to the car after picking up the headphones could act as a mini warm-up, gearing me up for a great run.

I got to the running trail only to discover my mp3 battery was completely dead. Nice! So that's the kind of run it was going to be, with satan obviously also warming up for the challenge, but I refused to give in before the running began. Undeterred, I drove to the nearest convenience store and after paying a king's ransom for 2 AA batteries, I returned to the beginning of the running trail and began to pray.

Minutes before 2pm, I locked the car, clipped my keys to my water bottle, and went to the starting point.

Right at 2pm, with Chris Tomlin's "Exhalted" pouring in through my new headphones, I began my first attempt at a 10K run.


The most unnatural thing about running for me is how natural it feels. Until early last fall, my body and my health were losing a battle that had lasted months and left me struggling day to day, barely able to walk without being wracked with pain and exhaustion. Over 50lbs lost, and no answers to be found.

When all else failed and the tests still showed abnormal results without further answers, we considered the possibility of a spiritual attack. I weighed the possibility and told myself that I had nothing left to lose by trying to counteract such an attack. A plan began: I would begin to walk around the neighborhood each night, an act of defiant faith that would send a clear message to satan that I wasn't going to let him win.

It might have not seemed like much, but given the condition my body was in, it would be an uphill battle. I was determined to outrun these attacks with everything I had in me, figuring that whatever I didn't have, God would simply have to provide.

Armed with a photo of my best friend Tia running on our vacation last summer, I started walking late at night on September 14th, 2010. At the end of the first stretch, when it was time to turn the corner and walk in the other direction, my feet began to jog. It was an involuntary and unintentional decision on my body's part. When I realized my feet were jogging, I kept looking down at them, and trying to understand what was happening. All I could do was laugh incredulously... jogging? How was that even possible? Talk about feeling like I was really losing my ever lovin' mind...

I walked the next block, and then considered jogging the next stretch. It seemed daunting. I wanted to, so badly, but it seemed so utterly impossible. I could barely breathe, everything hurt. What was I thinking trying this anyway?!

In the end, I envisioned Tia waiting for me at the corner, cheering me on, and somehow, God gave my body what it needed to do it. I jogged that block and a half, and walked the rest of the way home. I couldn't wait to call her to share what had just happened.

That first walk was not quite a mile.

Somehow, within a week, I began doing a 3.8 mile loop through the neighborhood. It still felt surreal. I considered the first 3.8 loop a huge success and celebrated when I finished at 1h 20 minutes.

Encouraged, I challenged myself to try to beat it. Armed with some worship music and the darkness and coolness of night, I worked hard at it several times a week, increasing the jogging to walking ratio as much as I could as my body became stronger.

Not long after I had started, my health hit a brick wall again, and I came home from work one night barely able to make it up the front steps. I crawled into bed, not even taking my shoes off, and I called Tia to let her know I didn't have it in me to run that night. I told her how awful I felt and it was then that she said something that I'd never forget... "Now that you're sick again, how will you respond, and what will you choose to believe?"

I got up, got ready to run, and bolted out the door. I made it home from the 3.8 loop in record time.

Within another month or so, I had succeeded in doing the loop in under an hour. Initially not imagining that I'd ever do this long term (I still struggled to understand that I was doing this at all!), I was running in the only pair of sneakers I had... a basic pair of Sketchers. Tia tried to convince me to buy two pairs of "real running shoes".

I knew what she was saying made sense, but I struggled with the thought of paying so much for a pair of shoes, never mind two. She insisted. I balked. She insisted some more. I rolled my eyes at her. When I found two pairs on eBay for less than half the price of one pair, I made her proud and gave her the satisfaction of saying "I told you so!" She really was right, running with running shoes makes all the difference.

Looking at them was strange, though, yet another reminder that this was real, that God has given me the strength to do this.

Two years ago, I only owned one pair of shoes in total. What a journey it's been!


Back on the running trail.... I'm still running, I don't know what time it is and I refuse to look. I only know that I've just reached the 4K mark on my 10K run.

One more kilometer, and I will have matched the distance I ran in Michigan. I was beginning to feel the physical challenge of the run, and satan knew it. He wasted no time whispering lies in my ears:

"You don't really want to do this, do you? Why are you doing this anyway? What does it matter? 10K? Have you looked at yourself? You're being ridiculous!"

"You'll never be a runner, much less look like one."

"Four kilometers is enough, it's taken so much of your time already, why don't you just pack it up and go home?"

"If you really want to know how long it takes to run 10K, just quit now and use basic math. It'll do."

"You'll get past 5K and you won't be able to finish, you really can't do this and you know it... you'll fail and feel worse in the end. Give up now."

The more he spewed his lies, the harder it was to tune him out. I defiantly cranked up the worship music and sprinted to the 5K mark, briefly weighing my options -- listen to him and quit, or believe in the God Who was breathing life in me?

As the 5K mark came into view, I increased my pace and grinned as I hit the granite marker with my hand in a "high 5" on the way by, Tia's words speaking louder and louder in my heart.

"How will you respond? What will you choose to believe?"

Looking down at the time, I realized that I had just beat my time in Michigan by a full 5 minutes.

I kept running.

With the wind pushing hard against me and my ears beginning to ache from the cold, I kept running along the harbour to the 6K marker, refusing to give in and give up. Even though it was increasingly harder with hills ahead that seemed to grow steeper and longer, every step defied his lies and spoke only of what He could do.

I kept running, at times hands raised in worship, passing by the 6K marker knowing how significant this next part would be... I had never ran more than 6km.

I. kept. running.

I ran on the slippery winter gravel covered sidewalk toward the steep hill leading up to the 7K marker. I couldn't see the marker from where I was running, but I could feel the force pulling me to it and I couldn't help but keep putting one foot in front of the other.

I barely remember running up that hill. It all seemed effortless.

Reaching the 7K marker not only meant that I got the fun of running DOWN that steep hill for a change (wheeeee!!), but also that I was on the home stretch with only 3K to go directly to the finish line.

As I reached the 8K marker and high 5'd it exuberantly on the way by, I realized something. I could no longer hear satan's attacks and lies -- nothing stood in the way of my faith in God, and more beautiful than that, I could sense God's encouragement.

"You can do all things through Christ who strengthens you."

"Doubt is the absence of belief -- by not accepting satan's lies, you are outrunning disbelief."

"Your heart beat whispers 'I love... I love... I love...' Your footsteps now have a song of their own too -- they sing 'I believe... I believe... I believe....!'"

"I can do immeasurably more than you could ever imagine or ask for. Remember this, always."

Feeling the wind at my back as I high 5'd the 9K mark, I considered again His promises of doing more than we could ever imagine or ask for, and I immediately thought of His plans to provide resources to release children from slavery in the Lake Volta region of Ghana...

"If He could breathe in me what it takes to run 10K, imagine how much more He'd do for these kids?"

In my heart, I could see the Lake Volta kids, their faces filled with hope as I rounded the corner to the last marker. I saw them with an understanding that the same God who made the unlikeliest of women run would use that same unlikely woman to provide for them. After all, the only thing He asked Moses at the Red Sea was to take a step forward in faith, and that's really all He was requiring of me as well. He would do the rest.

I kept running.

I reached the 10K marker and looked down at the time... and I immediately burst into joyous laughter -- "unlikely and impossible" was no match for God, indeed.

1 hour, 20 minutes.

In the same amount of time it took me to walk 3.8 miles last fall, I had run 6.2 miles. He shows us He loves us in such beautiful ways.

There was also something significant missing from the laughter -- disbelief -- and the absence of disbelief was just what I needed to register for the half marathon in October. It no longer seemed unlikely and impossible.

If I had walked away without finishing that run, I would have missed out on SO much. I truly believe that when we close our hand to what He asks of us, we also close our hand to what He wants to bless us with.


Wednesday, April 06, 2011

Ghana: 7 Month Countdown!

"Knowledge is power.
Information is liberating.
Education is the premise of progress,

in every society, in every family."
-- Kofi Annan (United Nations)

Kofi Annan is a native of Ghana -- I pray that his vision and wisdom on education will become a reality for the child slaves of Lake Volta.


Seven months from today, we will be flying over the Atlantic ocean on our way to Ghana, West Africa. How can time be flying by so fast already?! Seven months may seem like a long time, but it's not when you're facing a project of this size.

It's barely been two weeks since we launched our Ghana project, and what a two weeks it has been!!! It's been busy and wonderful -- the enthusiasm and support has been tremendous!! We're so blessed to have surpassed 1% of our fundraising goal for the school, and we are already approaching the 2% mark! We're very grateful and encouraged by your support and prayers. Every single dollar raised makes a difference, there is no amount too small, God will use it all!

Many of you have shared our project with friends and families on blogs, Facebook, Twitter... thank you!! An easy-to-remember URL has been created just for sharing -- www.tinyurl.com/Ghana2011 - feel free to use it to share about this project.

You have also asked about the possibility of doing monthly donations as well as donating toward the school supplies and expenses. We loved your suggestions, and have created a monthly donation option via Paypal. As of today, there are 7 months left until the trip, so this option will give you the choice of donating $5, $10 or $20 monthly for 7 months. If you'd like to subscribe for a different amount, let us know, and we will add it to the options.

Gift Options

We have also begun our local fundraising initiatives for our travel expenses. You may have wondered exactly who is going to be traveling to Ghana in November, well, wonder no more!

I (JD) will be traveling to Ghana with my son Joshua, who will be 13 in May. We will be traveling from our home on the east coast of Canada. Joining us will be my best friend Tia from Michigan, and our friend Debra from Illinois. Tia, Debra and I met in 2009 while reading "Crazy Love" as part of Angie Smith and Jessica Turner's "Bloom Book Club". The "Bloom Book Club" has since been integrated into the (in)courage website, where we have been reading Ann Voskamp's "One Thousand Gifts".

Tia is no stranger to Africa, having been there twice and having written a book about her time in Africa. She and I both sponsor children in Africa, including in Ghana, which is one of the reasons we chose to contribute to a mission project in Ghana.

Debra made the decision to join our team when she read the blog post about the children sold into slavery -- she knew she needed to do something, and for her, this meant not only joining in the fundraising effort, but working alongside side of us in Ghana.

Our theme for April is "School 2 School". We are challenging teachers and parents of school aged children to hold penny drives, sports fundraisers, skip-a-thons, hat days or various other fundraisers at their schools in order to partner together to build the school in Ghana. What an amazing teaching opportunity for the kids! Homeschools are welcomed too! Compete with the schools in your area to see who can raise the most funds during the month of April, and share your successes with us! We'd love to feature your child's class or school here in an update post.

Last but not least, please pray as Joshua, Tia, Debra and I continue to prepare our hearts for this journey. It is a heavy responsibility, one we've been entrusted with and are passionate about, and your prayers and support will be crucial in the months to come. Thank you for sharing in this adventure with us!
Saturday, April 02, 2011

Outlive Your Life (Max Lucado) -- Review

I'll be honest... the title intrigued me. "Outlive Your Life". What's that all about?

Then, the description came, and I jumped at the chance to read this book.

Remember when you thought you could change the world? You still can!

These are difficult days in our world's history. 1.75 billion people are desperately poor, natural disasters are gouging entire nations, and economic uncertainty still reigns across the globe. But you and I have been given an opportunity to make a big difference.

What if we did? What if we rocked the world with hope? Infiltrated all corners with God's love and life? We are created by a great God to do great works. He invites us to outlive our lives, not just in heaven, but here on earth.

It’s not enough to do well. We want to do good. We want our lives to matter. So, let's live our lives in such a way that the world will be glad we did.

Simply put, the description describes my lifesong and this season in my life. I live this every single day, and was eager to read a book not only because I enjoy hearing from others who feel this way, but in order to fuel and inspire me to do more... but in the end, it was as though I was sitting across from a friend who tried to convince me of something I already agreed on, and it left me hungry for more "meat". I didn't find it challenged me to the next level, it was more of a basic review of what I'm already experiencing and living. I finished the book because it was well delivered and I appreciated the stories and Biblical reference. Even though I had personal reasons for feeling this way about the book, Max Lucado is a gifted writer and I enjoyed his writing style. The only Lucado books I had read were children's books, and I would enjoy reading more adult Lucado books in the future.

My only other issue was the emphasis on World Vision. While I appreciate the work that World Vision does, I wasn't expecting this book to feel like an infomercial for WV. I sponsor 12+ kids through Compassion based on much research and personal conviction, and so much emphasis on WV made it awkward and uncomfortable for me.

In the end, I give this book 3.5 out of 5 stars, and recommend it for anyone who is at the beginning of this journey or in need of renewing the fire within.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookSneeze.com book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”