Emily Shares…….

how to PIONEER CHANGE today!

Category: Spiritual Change (page 1 of 3)

This is my journey of finding my way back to God. This is not a one time thing, it is a daily decision and the changes in my life are not of my own but of the grace of God and the Holy Spirit’s work in my heart.

WITNESS

“Stake your claim.” I say this phrase often to individuals who open their heart and share their passions and dreams with me. These individuals want to make their “dash” count. The  dash refers to the little horizontal line on our gravestone; the one between the date we were born into this world and the date our earthly bodies will leave it. The dash represents everything in between and how we choose to spend our time here on earth. I’m passionate about my dash yes, however I am really passionate about inspiring others to really take a look at how they are spending theirs. The dash matters to me and it needs to matter to you. Today I am “staking my claim” on how I plan to use whatever dash I have left and in sharing it is my hope that you will see yourself and your dash in this vision. I think it is big. I think it is big not because of me but in spite of me.

 

WITNESS is a vision from God I received three months ago and whether you are believer, non believer, a seeker or searcher, lost, confused, or indifferent I believe you will connect yourself inside of it. This vision will take a lot of people stepping up staking their own claim saying, “I am able and willing and I want to use my dash. I want to witness life change in myself and in others, I want to witness relationships being restored in my life and in the lives of others, I want to witness my community standing in the gap between the haves and the have nots and help my neighboring communities to do the same, I want to witness a world that is helping instead of hurting.” I know one thing for sure in my personal life.  I want to witness and I want to be a WITNESS. Do you?

WITNESS: Faith commanded and mountains moved.

WITNESS stands for What Is Thy Name. Empowerment, Service, Sustainability. Through this mission you will witness individuals soar, communities anchored by grace and a world where love wins. WITNESS will descend into the darkness through people like yourself saying “I’m in.”  This is darkness that is disguising itself as “normal” in today’s society. What do I mean by this?

Darkness is children fearing to go to school because they are afraid of being bullied and even worse darkness is children being so afraid of being bullied themselves that they lose their own voice and identity and follow the bullies in hopes that they will escape the torment. Darkness is our children being over sexualized daily by media. Their innocence is being exposed and exploited for the sake of ratings or marketing sales. Darkness is moms who live daily in mommy guilt because of the words other moms use passive aggressively. Listen. Women need to advocate for ALL moms. Because even if you are not a mom by giving birth I guarantee you are a mom to someone and being a mom is hard. We need each other’s support.  Darkness is blaming gun control when really we should be looking at mental illness and the medications in the blood stream of the shooters. Darkness is our youth defining their self-worth on the number of social media “likes”, “tweets”, “hearts”, and heaven help us any other symbol out there. People if you have children ages 8 or older and they are on social media this is happening in your home. Darkness is relationships slipping away from us because we hide behind a computer screen pretending like our life is that of our Facebook pictures when really we are dying inside thinking “there has to be something more than this life I am living.” Darkness is feeling the need to “photoshop”  pictures making ourselves look like the person we want to look like instead of embracing true, raw and unique beauty. Darkness is our law enforcement families having to ask the question, “will this be the last time I see them or will he/she be next,” hugging and kissing them as they leave for work.  As a spouse of a police officer you accept the first question as a reality always but the second one is now asked at the helms of a race war. I know how tough this must be, I was a spouse of a police officer. I’m not done yet.

Darkness is heroin. This epidemic is sweeping over our nation and is in our schools and communities and it is doing so right under our very noses. You know why? Because it looks “normal.” It is the drug that haunts suburban mothers and dear ladies as you are reading this I am almost positive you know someone in your life who is addicted to heroin and you don’t even know it and they are dying inside and it is very possible soon it will take their life. Trust me. I’ve witnessed it first hand and if I can use my voice and WITNESS to change just one life or family from experiencing this I will. There is a reason the pharmaceutical industry is one of the largest in America and it is ugly.  Darkness is the population living in a fantasy world addicted to porn. This is not just our men, it is women and teenagers of both sexes. It’s a problem and it is ruining authentic, real relationships every second of every minute of every day. Trust me. Darkness is addiction period.

Darkness is depression. If you don’t know or haven’t experienced it depression is a wolf in sheep clothing. It will blow down an individual, relationship or marriage built of straw or sticks and will try to take down one built of bricks. I know this first hand as I have struggled with depression in my past, watched it take down the marriages and relationships in my family and friend’s families, in my own first marriage and in the marriages of so many I love and care about. Maybe this is your own story, maybe you are shaking your head yes and saying, “I can relate.” I’m going to be really honest depression has even tried to take out my marriage to  my husband Brian. Why hasn’t it been successful? We have a marriage built of bricks and the brick layer is God. That is the one and only reason.

Darkness is that nearly half of our population lives on less than $2 a day. Let me say that again nearly HALF of our population lives on less than $2 a day. I have personally looked into the eyes of people living in these circumstances and I have been a witness to this type of poverty and my life will never be the same again.

Darkness is fear. Fear of following your dream, fear of what other people think, fear that something bad will happen, fear that you aren’t good enough, fear of failure, fear that you don’t fit in. Fear that you won’t be accepted. Darkness is fear. Period.

Darkness is real and I am sick and tired of it being the norm. Time to descend into darkness  like wildfire and let our lights shine. Each one of you reading this has a gift, talent, passion, purpose, resource or connection that can move mountains.  YOU can be a WITNESS to change. Want to know more?

If yes follow below. If not, sleep on it. If this blog rings in your ear the next day come back to it and re-read. You remembered it for a reason.

  1. Fill out the contact info form here indicating that you want to use your “dash” to help others.
  2. In the comment section type what area of darkness you are passionate about bringing light into.
  3. Share this with others. We are looking to reach as many people as possible as we breathe life into WITNESS because we know we can’t build this alone.

I do want to clarify this doesn’t commit you to anything . In the coming months we want to share the journey and if you have seen anything about the other vision God gave us (YPAC) and what happened when we stepped out in faith you know it’s something special. We are just in the beginning stages so a lot is yet to be revealed even to me but what I do know is faith commanded and mountains moved and that is the type of dash I can hang my hat on.

WITNESS: Faith commanded and mountains moved.

I’m in. Are you with me?

Emily

im in

Alive and Active

It’s the day before my 34th birthday and if I’m completely honest I write from a “stuck” place. So my hope in this blog is to get “unstuck” through my favorite outlet of external processing. Lately I’ve been feeling like a lion stuck in a cage, but don’t let me fool you this is a cage I have put on myself. The cage has been built with a thick layer of self sabotage and its time to break the walls down. It is time. Enough is enough.

Lately my questions has been full of “why?” “Why God?” “Why me?” “But why now?” “Why this?” In fact I sound like a two-year old who drives their mom crazy by asking, “why,” “why,” but “why,” “why,”….moms you get me. These “whys” have nothing to do with anything traumatic or bad though, they have everything to do with using my gift of faith to follow hard after Him so He will be glorified. You might ask your own “why,” sounding like “Why is that so hard? That sounds awesome!” ” Wish I heard from God that way.” Make no mistake, the gift I have been given is miraculous, wonderful and undeserving and I’m ashamed to admit that more often than not I self sabotage it, in fear of a lot of things.  Forgetting that it is impossible to fear at the same time as being grateful.  So that is exactly what I am going to do.  The fight between fear and truth is just that, a fight.   Welcome to the arena. I’m glad you came!

old boxing gloves hang on nail on texture wall with copy space for text. Retirement concept

Fear says: Your faith and love for God is dangerous and risky. It is not safe.

Truth says: Your right. Your faith and love for Me IS dangerous and risky. It is not safe. This is why I will be glorified through it. Keep trusting.

“My son, do not forget my teaching, but let your heart keep my commandments, for length of days and years of life and peace they will add to you. Let not steadfast love and faithfulness forsake you; bind them around your neck; write them on the tablet of your heart. So you will find favor and good success in the sight of God and man. Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. ” Proverbs 3: 1-5

Fear says: The gifts you have been given are going to break up your family as you know it.

Truth says: You are right. The gifts you have been given are going to break up your family as you know it because I LOVE you too much to leave you this way. Use your gifts. Reach as many as you can.

“Your offspring shall be like the dust of the earth, and you shall spread abroad to the west and to the east and to the north and to the south, and in you and your offspring shall all the families of the earth be blessed.” Genesis 28:14

Fear says: What you are hearing from God makes you look foolish to others.

Truth says. You are right. To those who do not know My voice you do look foolish. Keep listening.

“Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is–his good, pleasing and perfect will.” Romans 12:2

Fear says: People aren’t going to follow you because you didn’t go to bible college.

Truth says: Your right. People aren’t going to follow you because you didn’t go to bible college, people are going to follow you because you are a living witness to MY grace and mercy. You were once lost and now found. You were once Saul and now Paul. You fail and get back up. You turn to me.

“And when they arrived and gathered the church together, they declared all that God had done with them, and how he had opened a door of faith to the Gentiles.” Acts 14:27

Fear says: You can’t do all that you have vision for.

Truth says: Your right. YOU can’t, but I can.

“But Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”” Matthew 19:26

 Fear says: It’s going to take a lot of work and energy and will be exhausting to you and your family.
Truth says: Your right. It is going to take a lot of work and energy and will be exhausting to you and your family but in ME you will find rest.
Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” Matthew 11: 28-30
“Six days you shall work, but on the seventh day you shall rest. In plowing time and in harvest you shall rest.” Exodus 34:21

“For I will satisfy the weary soul, and every languishing soul I will replenish.” Jeremiah 31:25

You see TRUTH always wins. “For the word of God is alive and active.” Hebrews 4:12.

The same power that defeated death lives right inside each one of us. It is up to us to accept it, receive it and DO something with it! If your ready to fight the good fight with me, let me know.

Unstuck,

Emily

 

 

 

Humbled by my blessings.

Friday was a big day at art camp. This was the day we would head to Grace Church which is a church open to all of Titanyen and is just down the hill from Grace Village. Pastor Wesley had been inviting the children of Grace Church to come to arts camp and join the children of Grace Village. When we arrived at church there were children already sitting in the pews waiting for us and waiting to be loved on. A few of the GV kids had already come down but they were told they did not have to participate if they did not want to. I began wondering if Rosalinda would come down. We began worship with Pastor Wesley, Brian and Guy and it was beautiful and this time mostly in Creole. While singing in the pews I felt everyone scooching around and when I looked over it was Rosalinda asking them to move so she could sit by me. My heart smiled, I gave her a big huge and we began to sing to Jesus together.

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After worship we introduced the arts team and I began to teach all of the children the motions and words to “O Happy Day”. We handed out the rhythm section of boom whackers, drum stinks and tamborines and we were ready to go. Brian began singing and playing and as Guy and the rhythm section joined him the energy soared through the roof as 100 children were singing and dancing. It was awesome! We did it once more for good measure and a lot of fun before sitting down. As we sat down Miss Katie brought her dancers up to perform Blessed Assurance. This is a live performance with live music and is simply beautiful. The Haitian kids young and old alike were in awe of their grace and beauty while dancing. We were reminded what a gift we have in movement.

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It was snack and art time. Each child received a picture where written in both Creole and English said, “My favorite thing about God’s Creation is…” Then they were to draw what that was. A church in Minnesota did the same with their children and we were able to switch. The Haitian children received an American child’s picture and vice versa. It was fun to watch them receive their picture knowing they would pray over who ever’s picture they received. The power of cross cultural relationships at a young age. It was time to get on the tap tap. As I was heading out the door I noticed that Jonas and Pastor Sue were talking with the older girls in the front of the room. When I went over they said they wanted to learn how to dance like the American girls and could we teach them the dance. We grabbed Katie and of course she made it happen. We took some extra time to teach the girls a portion of the dance and merged it all together. We perform it this morning and I can’t wait to see how it is received. I know it will bring so much joy to all of us. Sharing the gift of dance, it is a powerful thing.

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We got on the tap tap and headed to our next stop which was Mass Grave. The memorial where they placed all of the lives lost after the earthquake on January 12, 2010. We arrived and as we did children started running toward the tap tap. We had extra snacks but Sue said we would do it when we got back out of the memorial so we headed in. Walking in was surreal. There were workers working as they are building to be a beautiful place where people can come to remember their loved ones. Jonas shared with us a bit of what that day was like for everyone. Since they did not have the education or knowledge of what to do in case of an earthquake he said most people went inside of their homes instead of coming out. As you can imagine once inside the home and it collapsing there was no way out. Around 300,000 lives were lost that day and that is just what was counted through Mass Grave. The air was quiet as we listened to Jonas’s story. He spoke of being trapped in his school with this friends, not being able to get out not knowing what was going on. He spoke of house after house crumbling on top of those inside and then he spoke of his God daughter who passed away that day from a brick hitting her head. We prayed in silence and then prayed out loud for those affected by the earthquake and for the city that is still healing. This by far was the most powerful experience of the day that was until we walked outside.

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All week everyone had mentioned that we would be doing Feed My Starving Children while at Mass Grave and I’m not exactly sure what I had in my mind but it surely wasn’t what was about to happen. When we came out there were three large lines starting from youngest to oldest. The last line was all adults. It started to click. We were actually going to give the Feed My Starving Children bags to starving children. Nothing prepares you for this moment. I have bagged the manna bags and listened to the stories but never in my life did I ever think I would actually be the one handing them out. There is so much that goes in to keeping this process organized and fair so that each person only gets one bag. There was pushing and shoving and yelling in creole. Our drivers kept everything under control as much as possible. We passed out bags one box at a time locking the other boxes up in the tap tap until the previous box was empty. You don’t think about these things when you are packing the bags in the states. Truly starving people will do anything for food. At one point Maxim started taking all the bags away and shouted for all of us to get on the tap tap quick. So we did. People were trying to get  back in line and get more than one bag and pushing and shoving so Maxim took them away and off we left. A little boy in a red shirt ran after us all the way down the hill and when we got to the end of the hill Maxim stopped the truck and asked for manna bags. Under a tree was a family of five and then a woman with unkept hair came over and Maxim gave her 3 bags. They told us she was mentally ill and had a son and they always take care of her. The reason they know she is mentally ill is that it is a sign in Haiti that a woman who does not take care of her hair is mentally ill. He gave a bag to the little boy who ran down the hill and we headed back to the guest house humbled by my blessings.

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On the way back I noticed something. The power of a smile. When first driving through the small towns the Haitian people may seem hard faced or angry but when you smile and wave at them their spirit comes to life and the warmest smile shines through and you see their soul. It truly is beautiful. I then thought how much do I do this at home? Not often. All it takes is a smile and a wave. Maybe say good day  or hello. Simple. Powerful.

Sharing my heart and Haiti with you all,

Emily

And she said to me…..

It’s Thursday and it’s day 2 of art camp. We have our morning routine of breakfast and jump on the tap tap to Titanyen to see the children again at Grace Village. I am excited to be greeted by Rosalinda and am having quiet time with God the entire 45 minute drive. Have you ever shut off your mind and opened your ears to God? I’d like to say I do this all the time but the truth of the matter is I could stand to do it more frequently and consistently. On the way to Titanyen this particular day God gave me a vision he had once before about 5 months ago, which included a guy in a red flannel shirt and Brian and I were both a part of ministering to him. This time with the vision I received scripture, Deuteronomy 1:8 which says, “See, I have given you this land. Go in and take possession of the land the LORD swore he would give to your fathers–to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob–and to their descendants after them.” Now I get it. I am not Abraham, Isaac or Jacob so I too am figuring out what God wants of me. All I do know is on the day it is revealed to me, I will know that God’s provision was fulfilled.

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We arrive at Grace Village and something is different as I jump off the tap tap. I did not hear the familiar voice calling, “Emmmelee.” I searched the pavilion and the playground but no Rosalinda. “Hmm? Wonder where she is?”I thought. I began preparing for the day and ran to the office to grab all of the ballet shoes that we brought which came from the past two years of donations at YPAC. I set the 40 some pairs of ballet shoes down by the supplies and continued to look around for her. She was not any where to be found. A few of the older girls had asked me to dance for them so I was turning and leaping when I saw her floral dress out of the corner of my eye, our eyes connected but today was different. Rosalinda was not in good mood today. Today was a low day. I walked over to her and she ran away and began our game of tag in which I got her to at least crack a smile and a little chuckle…until she realized she was laughing and then as quick and cold as she could she said, “not now, Emily” Today is no good…and ran toward her house. Taking a deep breath and giving her some space I sat down and began to worship with everyone in the pavilion.

She came back up during worship but sat a few seats down from me every once and awhile peaking over to see if I noticed her which of course I did and smiled each time. After worship we had to split into groups one last time to go over each of our sections. Having only a few in my last group we had some extra time at the end so I pulled any girl who wanted to try on ballet shoes over to the side and we matched shoe sizes. For the first time these girls were trying on ballet shoes, something they told me they had always dreamt of doing and guess who was right next to me putting her shoes on?!?!  You got it! My sweet Rosalinda. It was a GOOD day, just like that! Of course we didn’t stop there. I set up a ballet class right there in the pavilion of Grace Village Miss Emily style! You guys it was one of the most rewarding experiences I have ever had. To watch these girls fall in love with ballet for the very first time and to look at the shoes with such admiration is indescribable. They would ask me to demonstrate and they would copy. We did plies and tendus together and each one of them had a smile on their face that would go on forever. An imagery I will have imprinted on my heart forever.

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After ballet class it was time for snack and juice and on to Kite making. When you think of making a kite you are probably like me. Two sticks, make a cross, glue some tissue paper on, add a tail and string and run..right?! Well like me you have never seen a Haitian child build a kite before. This is serious business. We are talking symmetry, 8 sticks making spokes, plastic bags, tissue paper, saran wrap, tails, string, yarn. We are talking the whole shebang! These weren’t just any sticks either. These sticks were sticks that the children went and found on the property and made perfect to size. Kite making is a pure art form here! About 1 hour later we had the first kite in the air and I tell you what that kite flew at least (and I am not exaggerating) 1000 feet in the air. It was amazing!!!  Shortly after 4 more kites went in the air. The rest of the kids were still working patiently on their kites. I will say their attention span is something I long for in my children and something I need to help cultivate for them in this fast paced, instant gratification society we are living in. I have learned far more from the kids at Grace Village than I have taught them for sure. It was time to pack up and head out to our next opportunity which was visiting the elderly which again is very hard to capture the essence if you are not experiencing it first hand but I will try.

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We first came to Angela’s house where right away we were greeted by lots and lots of children. Some clothed some not. When I got off the tap tap instantly a little naked boy about 5 years old grabbed my arm and started pulling me towards the house we were visiting. He knew we were coming to bless his family and he was so excited and could hardly stand it any longer. We arrived and met 88 year old Angela and her daughter and extended family. Her soul was beautiful and her eyes were so kind. We asked if we could bless her with some song, and a foot bath as well as some food. As she said yes we began to sing and worship God at the same time I began washing her feet while Katie washed her daughter’s feet next to me. This was the highlight of my day. She kept telling me how good it was and saying thank you and I inside was thinking the same thing. After we were done we told her it was our pleasure and thank you for welcoming us into her home. As we were walking out I saw a young girl pumping the water well. She was taking turns with her mom to fill up their buckets, so immediately I asked if I could help out by taking a turn. So I told my mind that I was going to pump as hard as I could until everyone was loaded in the tap tap so I did. Oh my goodness their faces when the water came gushing out. They were catching their water and filling their buckets all while laughing and giggling in pure joy watching the crazy american girl pump until her arms were about to fall off. Everyone was loaded in the tap tap, my arms were still connected to my shoulders but barely and my heart was full. I take for granted so many times how easy it is for us to have clean drinking water whenever we want. God humbled me through this experience as well as gave me an awesome arm work out! I hugged the mother and told her and her daughter both that they were brave, strong and beautiful and hopped into the front of the tap tap to head over to Edmund’s house.

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Edmund’s house was different than Angela’s there was not a lot of family around and he was sick. Edmund is blind and happened to have a really bad stomach ache that day and we weren’t sure if we would be able to see him. Paster Sue opened the door to his one room 10×10 house with nothing but cement walls and floors and a small bed. Next to the bed was a small table and in the center of the room was a toilet used often in hospice situations. We were a little hesitant at first because he was ill but we went in and sang to him anyway and Katie and I  massaged his hands with lotion. He reminded me of my grandpa during his final days and I wanted to bless him in anyway I could. This was no way for a man to live let alone die. My heart ached.

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We had one more stop to make and that was to 95 year old Marilyn’s house. As we arrived her sweet daughter let us into the porch and Marilyn came out. She was so little but so graceful. We sang to her and lotion her legs and feet. Her daughter had asked if we could leave the lotion bottle so she could massage her so we did. We prayed over Marilyn and her daughter and got back in the tap tap.

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While on the tap tap I reflected on this day which was a rollercoaster of highs and lows for sure, however in each experience and each opportunity I saw God, right smack dab in the middle of it. I thanked Him for allowing Brian and I to be a part of it, took a deep breath and asked God for forgiveness for taking advantage daily of the gifts we have been given. Healing Haiti has a t-shirt printed with a dialog between two women that was actually spoken and I leave it with you tonight. The dialog was And I said to her,  “God help you in this poverty.” And she said to me, “God help you in your abundance.”

Emily

 

Dibble Dibble

Wednesday was our first morning  for Arts Camp at Grace Village and when we arrived guess who was waiting for me. “Emmmeleee” a voice came from the pavilion and out runs Rosalinda with a big hug. Today is a good day. Rosalinda immediately grabs my hand and runs me to the pavilion. She sits me down and grabs my hands. She puts two fists up and asks me to do the same. She hits my fists twice then opens her palms to clap our hands together two times as she does this she says “Dibble Dibble This This” then she continues to teach me with two fist bumps and two backwards hand claps, “Dibble Dibble That That.” Slowly she does one fist, one clap, “Dibble This”, into one fist, one clap back, “Dibble That”, then two fist pumps and a clap forward clap back in a row “Dibble Dibble This That.” “Bien?” She asks me which means are you good? “Oui” I answered…she giggled. “Go.” And we began our game of Dibble Dibble with roaring laughter over me messing it up. After a few times I got it solid and she was proud and I was thankful for the reminder of how much fun patty cake games are and I can’t wait to get home to share with my kids. It was time to start the morning with worship.

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Pastor Welsey, the pastor of Grace Church came up to lead us as Brian and Guy joined him singing and playing guitar and what an experience. I can’t even imagine what it is going to sound like on Sunday when Pastor Wesley, Brian and Guy lead with the whole band at Grace Church. We sing both in English and in Creole and the children’s voices are that of angels. After worship we broke into our groups for arts camp and I had two things on my agenda. Have the kids teach me some of their favorite dance moves and for me to bring a little bit of home to them. We started with them though so with a little beat box from Rosalinda which she thought was hilarious, we joined in a circle and they showed me their favorite moves including, Sacca, NeNe, and Ba Poul (Boppy-0). I then taught them O Happy Day, Community Christian Church Kids City Style and you should have seen the smiles. After that we collaborated with the rhythm group that Brian and Guy led to do O Happy Day together and the energy in the room was simply amazing. Worship has never been so lively for me. We finished the day with a snack and drink, headed into our second group and got ready to leave  for the day. But before we left I noticed a little girl sitting off to the side alone. She needed a friend. I introduced her to Rosalinda who is also someone who plays alone and I had Rosalinda show Dacia Dibble Dibble and as I walked away they were playing and laughing and smiling and the gift of friendship was born. Something I hope they will keep forever. Next stop would be Shalom Orphanage just down the street in Titanyen.

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We pull up and walk down a small dirt road and step up to the front door of the orphanage and reality smacked me straight in the face again. It is an amazing roller coaster ride we are on. When you are at Grace Village you forget the children are orphans because of they way they have built it and structured it around family but when we walked up to Shalom and into the modest 400 sq ft home you are reminded all orphanages are not like GV but they do have some things in common. We were greeted by two of the older orphans who were on the front porch doing laundry and asked if Emmanuela was home. Emmanuela runs the orphanage and is the mother to all of the children about 12 in total. She wasn’t there at the time but we asked the two older girls if we could come in and share some bubbles, music, snack and a story with them. They said yes and as we walked in the kids came out of a curtain one by one a little on guard until they saw the bubbles. Their faces lit up and they began to blow and catch and instantly joy filled my heart and replaced the shock I had initially felt. The guys began playing the guitars and we started singing and that is where I saw the gift of dance in its truest form. Through little Jessica. This little 4 year old had more rhythm and passion in her little body than most dancers have in their life time and she was good! She danced and danced and danced and smiled and danced and you couldn’t help but forget where you were standing. Heaven came into that orphanage that day as I believe it does everyday. God is here.

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After worship we gave the kids a snack and it took a bit for them to trust us to open it for them once we handed them out. They were afraid we were going to take it away. We finally got all snacks open and got ready to share The Giving Tree book and this was hilarious. Guy and Katie acted out as Pastor Sue read the story. Guy was the tree and Katie was the little boy and Brian played back round music with his guitar. The kids smiled and laughed and watched and the best part was Emmanuela had been given a recording device so she was able to record the worship and the story to play again for them when we are gone. She told us the children pray every night for Healing Haiti visitors to come because they have so much fun. Now they can watch even when we are not there. After the story Pastor Sue asked if they would share a song with us. This I wasn’t prepared for. All of the children along with Emmanuela began to sing and again the sky opened and heaven appeared in that little room. Their voices were unbelievable and moving. We got to sing along with them and the whole room was filled with praise and worship to our awesome God. We left the orphanage with a completely different emotion than when we got there and I believe that is God’s way of showing us that their is joy everywhere. We just have to choose to see it.

On this day I was reminded where joy and love come from and through. It comes from God through serving and blessing others. It doesn’t come from how big your home is, what clothes you wear, how skinny you are, how much money you make. It comes through God and from God.

Feeling Heaven in Haiti,

Emily

Degreaser, Buttons and Rosalinda

As I posted in my first blog from Haiti I mentioned that it takes about a full day to process everything we are experiencing so today I start with yesterday. I awoke at 6:00am and began my day outside with God. He led me to 2 Corinthians 10: 12-8 which Paul writes to the church talking about not comparing and that all work of God is important and necessary in order to spread the gospel. He talks about growing in faith and as our faith grows so does our sphere of activity which will allow the Good news to reach beyond Corinth and move into different regions reaching more and more people. It was a beautiful way to begin the morning. I was reminded that not all ministries in Haiti are the same and that they are all necessary and most of all need each other to learn from each other, apply what is learned, share the successes, grow from the failures and reproduce so more and more people can feel the love. As I finished my coffee and blog I headed into the kitchen to meet Kisnet, Ulta, and Berland.

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These three ladies work here at the guest house and prepare the food and at breakfast we take turns helping them. I cranked up the worship playlist on my computer and we got to work cracking eggs. With nothing but the music in the background I found myself being prompted to ask Berland who was cooking next to me what her birthday was. I prayed that God would help me remember how to say “What is your birthday” en Francais…..I mean after all I was French Club president lol! “Quand est vous anniversaire?” sweet Jesus, it came out!!!!  She looked at me in shock and asked me if I knew French. “Petite” was my response. She told me dix-sept de October. I then looked at her in shock! I told her mon frere (my brother) had the same birthday!! The rapport building had begun. We cooked together and sang Oceans by Hillsong together and exchanged smiles back and forth and when Ulta and Kismel came in she was excited to tell them that we shared the same birthday. We had a good laugh and went back to work. Ulta was slicing fresh passion fruit next to me and the smell was so wonderful. Instantly I had an idea! I could make a sugar scrub and scrub their feet. I asked politely if I could use some of the fresh passion fruit juices and asked for the sugar. They began to look at me like I was strange and I’m sure they were thinking what is this crazy girl doing?!? I then reached for the oil bottle on the window sill when Berland started waiving her hands frantically at me saying no, no! No, no! I gave her the motion of “It’s ok, I got this.” When she says, “No, no!” one more time to me and turns the bottle towards me. The label on the front said “Lentoil: Grease and Stain Remover.” LOL! Oh we had a roaring kitchen over that one! She asked me in creole what I think was “What are you looking for silly lady?” and I told her “Oil.” She then opened up the bottom cabinet and pulled out the cooking oil. They still were not sure what I was making and said a few things back and forth in creole which probably went a little like….”She isn’t going to eat that is she? or “If that is for us we are out!” When I finished I asked her for her hands as I thought that I needed to build a little more rapport with them for them to let me scrub their feet. She handed me her hand cautiously and I reached in grabbed the passion fruit sugar scrub and began massaging her hand and thanking her for her service and for blessing us with her talents and her hands. The smile as she smelled the beautiful aroma of the scrub in imprinted in my memory forever.  As she rinsed her hands I felt a sense of peace. My heart was full. We all then gathered for breakfast. As I was sitting at the end of the table I could see into just the corner of the kitchen and I saw something that brought tears to my eyes. She was sharing with her Ulta and Kismel and sharing the love and the service. It was the ripple affect at its finest. All three ladies smiled a little bigger that day as they sang and the smell of passion fruit around them. After breakfast I put the rest of the scrub into a container and gave it to them to share with their friends back in their community. Heart was full of love and I praised God for opening my eyes to serving those ladies who were serving me. We gathered our water bottles and headed to Cite Soleil on the Tap Tap.

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For the drive to Cite Soleil Brian and I road in the front of the tap tap with Maxim. This is quite the experience. You see first hand the despair, like I said yesterday it was unlike anything I have ever seen before. Maxim however was talking to us and teaching us how to ask “What is your name?” in Creole and how to respond “My name is…” as well. Brian and I practiced and it ended up being the best things someone could have given us for that day. “Kijan ou rele” is “What is your name?” and “Mwen rele Emily” is “My name is Emily. We pulled down a small road where we met up with our water truck (a big tank truck) and headed into the community where we would be serving. At this point I didn’t know what to expect. I truly didn’t. I’m going to be honest no one can really prepare your heart for what we witnessed as we pulled down the thin road with the Tap Tap and the water truck. Naked children running down the streets hollering and waving. People running towards the truck with buckets, and tubs, and big barrels and lining up and Creole conversations are being yelled everywhere. The Tap Tap stopped and kids came right to the door where Brian was and held their little hands up and he reached out to hold their hands not even getting the door open yet and they started climbing up the truck to get to him. This was purely in search of love and affection. We opened the Tap Tap truck started to climb out and instantly had 3-6 kids a piece, climbing, hugging, kissing, touching begging to be picked up and loved on. And that is exactly what we did. We held them as they nuzzled into our necks and squeezed tight. We smiled and bounced and tried to move towards the hose to serve their parents. At the same time this is happening the yelling continued and pushing towards the water hose to fill the buckets. Our guides Maxim and Valerie helped organize everyone in a line with their buckets and family by family the got to bring the buckets they had in their possession to get water for the day. They would swat you out of the way or give you a stern look if the bucket wasn’t full to the very top but overall they were thankful we were there. Some older children were dancing in the street with some of our team members, babies were clinging to teenagers and little boys put their mouths under the truck where the hose met the truck to have the drippings touch their dry mouth. Yes. This is their life.

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The children. Be still my heart. The most beautiful and soul filled children were all around. Some were helping in the water line but most were just searching to be loved. One little girl in a Dora the Explorer shirt found me right away and with her sweet brown eyes raised her hands in the air symboling like Haven does for “Uppy” and I swooped her up. She stayed with me the rest of the time we were there. Another little girl named Ailyiah  came up to me and held my hand and leaned into the side of my hip and we sat in silence sending each other love. It was beautiful. She then noticed my wedding ring and pointed to my friend Guy and asked if he was my husband. I said no and looked up to find Brian and across the street with a naked baby boy in one arm and a little girl in a tattered green dress in the other there he was. Tears fell down my cheeks and she pulled my arm to go meet him. We walked over and next to Brian holding his leg was a boy in a green shirt named Dedu. We was the big brother to the little girl Brian was holding. As we stood there a handsome boy walked over to us, looked straight in my eyes and said, “I have big dreams.” I looked back at him and I said, “I have big dreams too.” “Kijan ou rele?” “Stevenson,” he replied. “Mwen rele Emily.” The rapport began. He said, “Are you Christian?” “Yes,” we responded. He said “I am Christian too.” He asked us questions about Healing Haiti and how he could be a part of the ministry. For a moment when standing in front of Stevenson it felt like time stood still just like God stopped the sun from going down for Joshua. I told him I would find out some information on how to interview with the organization and our conversation turned to his dreams. He wants to be a Dr. I told him there is nothing stopping him. He said my dad is a man of poverty and does not understand and cannot support me. I told him as long as the fire is inside of his gut he could do anything. He smiled and nodded and affirmed what he already knew. He would some day be a Dr and I truly believe I will see Stevenson again. The water truck was now empty and it was almost time to leave the community but we still had one thing to see. With Ailyiah holding my hand and my precious little Dora baby in my arms and Stevenson by my side we headed up the hill of garbage to the site of the soon to be Hope Church that Healing Haiti is building right there in that community. Along with the church will come a free school! The site was breathtaking. Yes breathtaking right on top of all of the garbage and glass. The walls had already been built for the church and the school would soon be started. I leaned over to Ailyiah and I told her that when the church was built I wanted her to spend as much time as she could there and if she was there I would be back. I meant it. I will be back to worship and praise God for his work in this community and the love that is being poured out on them through the hands and feet of the Healing Haiti teams and missionaries. She nodded her head, looked at the church looked back at me and smiled.

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Taking you back to two significant stories that happened while Brian and I were down by the water truck with the children. I told you that Brian had a boy named Dedu by his side the whole time. He wore a green shirt and his sister was in Brian’s are the whole time. When I say whole time it was around 2 hours time. The reason why Brian held that little girl the whole time was because her big brother made sure of it. He knew. He knew that little girl needed the love of a dad and he was going to make sure she got it. I don’t know more of selfless act than that people. As I type tears run down my face picturing him swatting down other children who were trying to pull this sweet baby girl out of Brian’s arms and yelling in Creole to go find someone else, he was for her. Around the time of the swatting down of children a little boy with a button down shirt was standing in between us. Now had I not had children his age I’m not sure I would have noticed this but God gave me the eyes knowing what this boy needed. A minute later he tapped on the side of my belly and as I looked down, I excitedly praised him for his button work! He buttoned his own shirt and boy was he proud. I was proud of him too just as I am my own children. He smiled and I told him he was intelligent and how proud I was of him and acknowledged how hard that was for a boy his age. Stevenson helped me translate the whole thing and that little boy’s smile was bigger than Buckwheat’s on Little Rascals! As I processed the Water Truck Day I couldn’t help but think that these families get by everyday by just surviving. There is nothing extra to give because they have to spend all of their time and energy to survive. Therefor this leaves the children of the family starving for acknowledgement, attention, encouragement, physical touch, but most of all love. This is what we brought more importantly that water. We brought love in all different forms…and that was just the first half of the day.

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We then traveled 1 hour to Grace Village in the community of Titanyen which translates to, “Less than nothing.” Can you imagine living and growing up in a village called Titanyen and believing that. After the water truck I wasn’t sure what to prepare myself for Grace Village. Grace village is an orphanage supported and built through Healing Haiti and it sits on top of the mountain in Titanyen over looking the ocean. The view is incredible.  The gates opened and we pulled up in the tap tap and immediately the feel was very different. This experience would be different. Right away everyone came to greet us and hug Paster Sue and welcome us. We met Pastor Wesley who is the pastor at Grace Church. As we stood in a semi circle a girl about 10 years old comes up near the circle and as I look at her I ask, “Kijan ou Rele” She shakes her head no. She is very guarded and seems to keep everyone at arms length. I smile at her and walk closer and she tilts her head slightly to the left and peaks at me out of the corner of her eye. “Mwen Rele Emily.” “Emmmelee?” she asks. I nod my head. “Emmelee.” She says and this time smiles. “Rosalinda.” She quietly says. “Rosalinda es belle.” She smiles and runs behind a tree to hide. While at Grace Village we plan our arts camp for the next 3 days and take a tour of the school and orphanage. This is the inspiring part. In just 4 years, Healing Haiti has built a full functioning kitchen that is teaching the children baking skills and will employ 50 families in the bakery they are building next to Grace Church just down the hill. One woman, one kitchen, one heart and a HUGE ripple affect. She is reproducing bakers so that when they are old enough they can work in the bakery or possibly start their own some day. We then walked through the feeding room where they all eat meals and on the floors and on the walls there are over 5000 fish drawn in bright colors. You never forget the way Jesus lived at Grace Village. Outside we walk through the pavilion and past the most beautiful playground. Across the playground is the transition house. This is where young adults learn how to transition out of the orphanage to the community. This came because their first transition experience did not go as well as they had hoped and they went back to the drawing board. These children are also mentors to the younger children. The younger children are now behaving like their mentors because they see that some day they too could transition out and be a mentor. You all know how much my heart swelled when I saw this and heard this. From the transition house we walked down to the school where they have classrooms and a brand new library with books written in English, French, Spanish and even polish. Some children in Grace Village already know several languages. As we walked out of the school and out to a small deck area we saw the future of Grace Village. We also learned that when they purchased the land they thought they were getting 15 acres when in reality they got more like 50!! God honored their service with this awesome surprise. They are still in the dreaming phase of what will come of that. Next we walked to Aquaponics. This is something that is so progressive I was astounded. In huge blue tanks were fish. They harvest 1 tank each year and it feeds them. With any extra they share with other orphanages in the area including Shalom Orphanage just down the street. The water from the tanks is then used to fertilize the rows and rows of vegetation they have where peppers and tomatoes and everything you can imagine is grown. It is sustainability at its finest. Next to my favorite part.

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We walked up the hill to a set of 4 houses. This is where the children slept although it is unlike any orphanage you may picture including Miss Hannigan’s humble abode. These were houses. Each with a mom and a dad or two moms. The children live in this house as a family. They have responsibilities, they eat together, they do homework with mom, they play with their brothers and sisters. Kiki the director at GV made a profound statement. She said, “God didn’t create orphanages, God created a family.” They have given this to these kids. Amazing and God honoring.

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We are not done yet. After we saw the houses we walked up to Grace clinic. It is a medical and dental clinic for the entire community of Titanyen. Families come every morning to stand in line and get a number to be seen by the Dr. The side walls are open and the breeze flows through and the air is filled with worship. We got an education while standing in the clinic. A lot of the Haitian people do not understand how babies are made or how to prevent it so a lot of the times they will get a woman in the clinic in a lot of pain turning out to be pregnant. They are currently working on a Family planning education class as well as birth control for their community as Titanyen is the most populated community in all of Haiti and most of the population is children.

As we head back to the tap tap to leave I hear, “Emmelee” I look and Rosalinda is smiling at me dancing. “Emmelee, I LOVE ballet.” I smile at her and I said “Rosalinda you are in luck, Miss Emily teaches ballet!” You should have seen her face…..it lit up and she was speechless. She asked if I would teach her. I said, “better yet Rosalinda, I will teach you and I brought ballet shoes.” Oh she jumped up and down and got so excited. We had to say goodbye for the day but I told her I would see her tomorrow. Well guess who was waiting for me when I got off the tap tap this morning….Yep. Rosalinda, with a big smile and a big bear hug for Emmelee! We spent today hand in hand the whole day and it was the best day here yet. Full of love, full of joy, full of God.

I leave you with the laughter of the Lentoil: Grease and stain remover, the pride of the boy with buttons and the open heart of a once hardened Rosalinda.

Bonsoir,

Emmelee

 

 

ps..pictures will be updated to the blog after we return as we do not take our phones with us but do have a photographer on the team. Will repost again with pictures later….but I will leave you with one!

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“See you soon.”

11898603_10207672586156606_5339660685738640992_n“See you soon.” I heard it. That familiar still and steady whisper I have come to rely on. His beautiful comforting voice. For a moment I questioned what it meant and I’m not going to lie “see you soon” freaked me out a bit… “Oh God, come on. Not yet.” I thought as images of the plane crashing quickly came and quickly left my mind. I took a deep breath and began to pray and my nerves subsided as I heard, “I am here. See you soon.” I could breath, my legs were no longer numb so I turned on my worship tunes, opened my book, Jesus > Religion that Katie Owings bought me a few months ago and opened my heart and mind to receive what God had for me.

We arrived safely in Miami and made our jaunt through the airport to gate D20 where we would meet up with the rest of the team. I heard my friend Katie’s one syllable laugh and my soul was well. God brought us together to experience this together and I was thankful. I was thankful that I pushed away all doubts, all fears, all anxieties and all limiting beliefs to be at this very place at this very moment. Gratitude washed over me. We boarded the plane to Haiti.

As we landed just as I had heard the whisper “See you soon,” that morning I heard, “Welcome home!” Hmm…I wondered. I haven’t even gotten off the plane yet how could this possibly feel like I was coming home? God was about to reveal that to me.

FullSizeRender_2We hopped in the tap tap and headed to the Healing Haiti guest house. The tap tap is a truck that has a caged in back bed with benches on either side and a bar across the top to hang on to. This will be our mode of transportation for the week. While in the tap tap I couldn’t help but see the beauty around me. The beauty in the colors of the flowers, the beauty in the smiles of the Haitian people, the beauty of the community of selfless serving people I was riding with. So much beauty. I also saw the devastation. Pure devastation you cannot really describe unless you witness it yourself. I kept hearing God’s voice. “See it. Really see it.” “See my children. See my country.” I am continually seeing it and processing is unlike anything I have ever processed before. Normally it is easy for me to process my thoughts surrounding what God is giving me but this time there is so much I have had to take time with it, but the things that have been revealed, the faces and smells that are already printed on my heart and in my mind are incredibly powerful.

FullSizeRender_3FullSizeRenderWe arrived at the purple gated guest house which is simply beautiful and settled in for our first night. Every night during our circle time we give our “one word” of the day. A word that describes the day so I thought as I blogged I would share from day to day our one words. Faithful, Safe, New, Calm, Content, Excited, Lively, Anticipation, Serving, Protection, Arrived, Orchestrate, Relieved and mine was Home. Brian and I are serving alongside some incredible individuals from Impact and Healing Haiti. Tomorrow I will blog about my day today but honestly it is a lot to digest. Today’s day started with cooking breakfast with three beautiful ladies and finding out we have some things in common and also began building our rapport with one another. It was a really special moment for me in fact my “High” of the day today. Then we had Water Truck Day in Cite Soleil the poorest slum in Haiti where children and babies as young as our Gevyn run naked in the streets, play on top of garbage and glass and many quite possibly are enslaved. We then traveled to Grace Village in the community of Titanyen which translates to, “Less than nothing.” Can you imagine living and growing up in a village called Titanyen and believing that. The good news is Healing Haiti is changing that through Grace Village and Grace Church and what they have done in just 4 short years is simply amazing and only through God’s hands and feet.

I traveled with Healing Haiti but truth is Haiti is healing me,

Emily

 

Seeing beauty in the broken.

My daughter Brinlee taught me a very important lesson this past week while on vacation in Cape San Blas, Florida. The lesson? There is so much beauty, excitement and wonder in the broken. The statement that our children teach us far more than we teach them is so true and that is exactly what Brinlee taught me once again. Every other year thanks to my mom and step dad we travel to Cape San Blas for a week of family, fun and BEACH. They rent us a house that holds all 23 of us for the week and our only responsibility is to get ourselves down there and back home safely…(this part was the miracle for the whole trip). Well we made it back to our home safely so sorry to ruin it for you but now you know how it ends. This blog  is not to tell you about our wonderful vacation in the fun and the sun but IS for my husband on Father’s day.

The world is a very different place through the eyes of our children who are 22, 4, 2 (almost 3) and 1.5 than it is for us and I strive more and more to see it like they do. While walking on the beach the first night on the pan handle Brinlee goes running to a large broken shell. “Look mommy an angel wing!” She runs to the next one. “Mom, another angel wing, and another!” “Mommy, there were a lot of angels here today!” As she collected “angel wing, after angel wing” I watched her excitement grow. We put them all in a bucket so we could bring them back to the beach house..she had a plan. In this moment I was amazed and it hit me. She sees beauty in the broken. I praised God that very moment for the lesson He was teaching me through my daughter that night on the beach and the lesson that would hold me together through the next 8 days.

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My mom is an artist and has been her whole life. She is a writer, a dreamer, a visionary and incredible. She shows my girls the beauty in the little things and is the one who taught by girls to paint shells. When Brinlee found the “angel wing” she knew exactly what she would do with it. She was going to paint it…and not only was she going to paint one ,she was going to paint every angel wing she found and give to someone she loves. I think she painted at least 50 over the week! Brian, she has so much of you inside of her. She is thoughtful, loving and meaningful in her gifts and see God’s work in the small things. This is so you and for that I am thankful. This activity also gave us a 30 minute break from the constant demands of having 3 children under the age of 4 without screaming, yelling, fighting, slapping, pinching, peeing, pooping, eating or crying and for that I am very thankful as well!

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Brian, this shell represents where our relationship currently is in this journey. It is colorful…there are days when we see every shade of life in front of us and when up close it feels very cloudy but when you take a step back and look you can see the beauty. It is strong because it is made by the hands of God. Our relationship was hand picked by Him because He saw the beauty in the broken. When I remember where we were when God brought us together I am in awe of what He has created. It has another half that makes it whole. It is tossed about in the waves and the storms and eventually is brought to shore to rest. You always told me that God can make the best out of the worst and that is exactly what He has done over the last 8 years, though we may have been broken separately we were made one through Him. Today I am thankful to be the one who was chosen to be your wife. Never has there been a man (besides God) who was strong enough to love me the way that you do.  In every way I have grown over the last 8 years there is a part of you. You are in my words, in my actions, in my dreams and visions, in my patience, in my generosity, and most importantly in my love.

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This life we have been incredibly blessed with is not always easy. This past week as proved that, but I am thankful that I have you by my side for the 24 hour car rides, the marker drawing, tantrum throwing, 100 “I need a snack” saying, no napping, smart mouthing days. Without a doubt you are stronger than you think you are and others see it. God gives us those people in our lives who come up to us just when we think we can’t do it anymore to say things like, “you must be a saint” or “you are the most patient person I know” or “I hear you have an extraordinary wife”…..sorry had to throw that one in there because it’s just too good…and yes people that really happened today lol! Our life is not perfect and at times feels very broken in the chaos but never forget that God knows exactly what He is doing and is taking the broken pieces and is making them into something so beautiful. I have already begun to see it!

 
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One of my favorite things to do is walk into the unknown with you. Right now I feel like our toes are at the edge of the water and we are about to jump in. I look at the last time we jumped two feet in and moved to Yorkville to start YPAC and am amazed by the many blessings we received because of it. I look at the day we stopped everything to spend an entire day in prayer together and am amazed at what we saw and are still seeing and learning because of that day. We are now at a place again where it is time to jump and trust in God’s plan. Whatever will come from it I know it will challenge us, it will stretch us and it will grow us in ways we can not see but isn’t that the fun of jumping in?

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Thank you for being the most beautiful father to our four kids. Thank you for loving me in a way no other man can and seeing the beauty in the broken but most of all thank you for showing me what loving God looks like and becoming more and more like Jesus everyday.  I am so blessed to be your wife!

I don’t have a card, or a fancy dinner, or anything really relaxing for you today, but I have words, me and three crazy post vacation children. Words are your love language so I hope this helps fill your tank!

Happy Father’s Day sweetheart! I love you,

Em

Get There.

Today. Today was one of those days I long to live in all the time. Today I stood in the middle of God’s incredible work and was in awe. Today was one of those 5% days we grind out 95% of our life for. Today was GOOD! This morning I stood on the stage of Community Christian Church and shared our story yet one more time, which doesn’t sound surprising I know because I have shared our story a lot of times with a lot of different people but today was different. I wasn’t there by coincidence and I was there for a purpose. This morning I was supposed to be on NBC, with my students talking about our upcoming benefit show called The Brave Project, but due to some “rearranging” of the show we were cancelled. Instead of staying at my brother’s house in North Chicago like originally intended I came home so I could be at church. I had been looking forward to sleeping in thanks to the beautiful Ray family who watched our children while I was away and made it possible for Brian to worship lead this morning (which was so incredibly moving by the way). When I woke up this morning though I felt an incredible prompting to speak about tithing…I mean come on how often does this happen to people. How many people enjoy talking to people about giving their money to church? And let’s back up, ME talk about tithing. The girl who once had to sit through John Ciesniewski’s budget class twice in order to grasp the whole thing was now feeling an overwhelming nudge from God to lead people in tithing. I know…. crazy but it’s true. I got up out of bed with a feeling of urgency to get ready. Sleeping in was the last thing on my mind because God was putting something incredibly important on my heart. “You have to get there, now.” I tried to push it down, and make every excuse as to why it didn’t matter if I didn’t go. “I didn’t want to bother Aaron, (our pastor), the cue sheet had already been set, they were probably already going through the flow of the service”…..etc. etc. etc. But with every possible excuse I could come up with God pushed, “Get there.” Very simple, very direct. So I picked up my phone and texted Aaron. “What time is cue to cue?” His response, “We just started.” Again my brain went to “oh just let Brian talk as planned, it will be fine. Go to Starbucks and do your devotional. The message will be received.” Again the message loud and clear was, “Get there.” I sent my last text; “If I get there in time can we change it up and have me to Giving Back To God….feeling prompted.” Without even receiving a response yet I finished getting ready as quickly as I could and got to the church. I immediately started jotting down some notes on what I was going to say during our Giving Back to God moment and headed on stage to quickly rehearse with the microphone. Was feeling good, I had listened to God, got to the church, had a good talk track and I was ready. Well I’m not sure I was ready for God’s big reveal as to WHY I was actually there. FullSizeRender Service began and I was completely submerged in my husbands beautiful voice as he led our congregation in worship. A few comical video clips played and Aaron began the message and with the beginning of the message he pulled out a ladder and set it on the stage. Everything became clear in an instant. I knew exactly why I was there. To share our story. I will recap it quick for you here. 3.5 years ago we were attending our church, Community Christian at its Shorewood location.  We were in a series called “The Ladder” which spoke of growing in generosity.  Brian and I had been praying for God to grow us in generosity and through this series He gave us an incredible vision and told us that we would make our greatest impact and give generously through a performing arts center in Yorkville. Well those of you reading this know that God fulfilled this provision and is doing amazing work in and through the Yorkville Performing Arts Center. Before the series we were on the very first rung of the ladder of giving and working our way to the second one by giving to church consistently and by the end we were intentionally giving. We were making changes in our budget so we could be more generous and make a bigger impact for our church community and help people find their way back to God. We have been climbing the ladder every since working our way to being legacy leaving givers. We were asked why we give. The truth is we give because it isn’t ours in the first place. Everything we have been given is God’s and it’s an honor and a privilege to give back. We give because we serve a God who generously gives to us and we made a commitment to follow His example. You see, I feel we have a really big job. We have the job of leading a generation of intentional, sacrificial and legacy leaving givers and if we don’t lead by example how are they going to learn? It starts with us. It starts now and it starts by taking the next step. How can you live a life of legacy leaving generosity? I challenge you. Take the next step in your giving. It doesn’t have to be to a church, maybe its in an organization you believe in, maybe it’s a mission God has placed on your heart, maybe it is to the homeless woman you see each and everyday on your way to work. I don’t know what it is for you but I guarantee if you ask God, He will reveal it to you. Today I know God traded the NBC stage for a bigger stage. His stage, and while I don’t know the ways in which my listening and obeying will impact our church, our community and the next generation I know that I surrender all of that to the One who continues to provide far beyond what He promises and certainly far beyond what I deserve and am praying you will do the same.

8 Thanksgivings a story of hope.

Last night I sat on the couch and watched my husband dance with our 2 daughters and our son play on the floor and immediately the last 8 thanksgivings flashed before my eyes. I am not sure why 8 but it was definitely 8.  I share this for a multitude of reasons but mainly for anyone hurting this Thanksgiving, I know first hand it is not easy watching everyone around share their thankfulness when inside you are hurting but if I can give you anything it is this, the struggle you are in today is developing the strength you will use to inspire others.

2006: 6 days prior to Thanksgiving I admitted myself into Linden Oaks for an 11 year struggle with an eating disorder. I was tired, lonely, afraid and ready to break down the wall of perfectionism that I and I alone had worked day in and day out to build. Each day I would wake up and begin two full time jobs at the same time. My real job using the gifts God had given me and then my self-proclaimed “carpentry” job with a specialty in building false appearances. My life was a lot like the set designs you see on tv or movies. On the outside they look strong and sturdy built with a strong foundation, but get up real close and look behind the door and you will find there isn’t much behind it and it is a facade of sorts. Yep.  That is where I was when I walked through the sliding glass doors, I remember the chill in the air, the smell of the lobby, hugging and kissing my mom and husband at the time goodbye unsure of when I would be able to see them again and wondering what lie ahead of me.  After an intense week of impatient care, I was released on “black wednesday” and able to spend thanksgiving with my family. I was both thankful and anxious at the same time. The mixed emotions consumed me and I remember feeling guilty that I wasn’t more thankful at the time.  Looking back, I reflect  with a thankfulness that far over compensates for the lack of thankfulness I had on that day 8 years ago. I am thankful for the men and women who tirelessly and selflessly serve the E.D. unit at Linden Oaks and Edwards Medical Center, I am thankful for my support system and my family during this very tough realization and exposure in our lives, I am thankful for the dear friend that I met who is still in my life today and I am thankful that each day I have a God who tells me I am enough. Just the way He made me.

2007: Just one year had past but a lot of life. I think that will be a part of my eulogy one day. She lived about 10 years of life in each year of her life. Thanksgiving 2007 brings hope. I smile as I type remembering the night. Thanksgiving night 2007 I told my friend that I had fallen in love with him and our friendship had become so much more to me. We sat and talked on my couch in front of a fire place talking and sharing our feelings and wonders on whether or not  we should allow ourselves to feel what we felt. We had both just come out of broken marriages and honestly the odds were completely against us. Each time we questioned if we should give it more time we came back to the same thing and that was that we enjoyed each others company and just felt as though it was worth it. For us, 2007 was a roller coaster  filled with new beginnings, healing, hope and love. I am thankful God put this man smack in my face and made him so wonderfully. It takes a very special person willing to stand up for love against all odds and 2007 thanksgiving changed my life.

2008: Just one year later I married my friend in our home with our immediate family on Thanksgiving weekend.  I know everyone thought we were crazy and I admit we were but we always had an underlying belief and faith that God brought us together for amazing things. We celebrated and laughed and enjoyed each and every minute with our friends that evening and look back each year on our anniversary with beautiful memories and stories. We can bring it to life as if it were yesterday and that is a gift I am thankful for.

2009: Black Wednesday, I hit rock bottom. I fell off a bar stool, flat on my face, drunk while Brian was singing on stage. This is me being transparent. It is not easy for me to tell this story and admit that at times I have tried to forget it even happened. Leading up to this day we had spent a full year going through in vitro. We went through 2 rounds of shots and hormones only to have the cycle cancelled at time of transfer. We wanted to try again. Third round was great. We got past the point of cancellation and were scheduled for the transfer. Everything was going going great! We had 2 beautiful embryos and a hope that filled our hearts. We were going to be parents and we couldn’t wait to spend our anniversary dreaming of our life as parents of twins. Monday of that week we found out that we lost both babies. I’m not sure I had ever experienced a pain like that before. I instantly went in to a state of depression and instead of allowing myself to feel the pain and process the pain, I took on the old role of “carpenter” and instantly built the wall of “I’m fine.” Well in the coming days that wall would be torn down. I wasn’t fine. I masked the pain with liquor and ended up hitting the wall so hard in broke into a million pieces..in front of hundreds of people. Rock bottom. I realized that God was the only person who would heal my heart and if it was in His will for us to have children, He would provide. I laid it all at His feet, my brokenness, my hopes, my fears, my desires, my selfish wants…everything. I laid it down.  I am thankful for grace and mercy, Lord knew I needed it. We all need it.

2010: I am 36 weeks pregnant and contracting like crazy. Our miracle Brinlee is about to make her debut into the world. God blessed us with the news that we were pregnant on Easter Sunday 2010. We were in complete shock as we had been told that we would most likely never get pregnant naturally. She was a gift and a reminder that God is in control and the giver of life. Little did we know that in exactly one week Brinlee would be here. She was born December 2, 2010 on a Thursday afternoon at 3:32 pm.  A beautiful thanksgiving full of warmth, excitement, love. I was very big and uncomfortable but I didn’t mind. In just one year, God had turned my life upside down and I was humbled. I had given my life to Him and he had given life to me. I could never be more thankful.

2011: I am 5 weeks pregnant. Yes, I couldn’t make this up. Brinlee is 11 months old and we are a month pregnant with our new baby. I am exhausted and overwhelmed but thankful.  Haven was a gift for listening to God’s calling and following. Just 2 days earlier I had met with our pastor  John to tell him where God was leading us and that we felt called to Yorkville to start a performing arts center. He had been praying for God to grow us in generosity during a series called the ladder and felt as if God said that the arts center would be the instrument through which we would be generous. This thanksgiving was filled with sharing the vision we had been giving with our immediate family and asking for prayer. This would involve a lot of transition for our family and we knew prayer was a necessity.

2012: Is a bit of a whirlwind for me. I now have an almost 2 year old and a 4.5 month old in a new house with 6 acres of land that is covered in leaves. What I do know is that we are blessed. We are surrounded by a new community of friends from our Church who love on us each and every day. The best part of this thanksgiving though is we had our Nikki home with us and she was able to meet Haven for the very first time. I am overwhelmed by the love and blessings and know we are on the right path to something so great.

2013: I am 4.5 months pregnant. I know, I know, I know what you are thinking. We are 4.5 months pregnant with an almost 3 year old, a 1.5 year old and a new business that is almost 3 months old! We are preparing to light our 60 ft christmas tree in front of our home for our first annual Light the Tree Festival for YPAC (Yorkville Performing Arts Center). Yes we followed God’s will and built the center. It has been a thanksgiving full of thanks and praise, community and celebration.

2014: Today. I am sharing my struggle from the past eight years because that struggle developed the strength I have today to share it with you and hopefully inspire you to turn your adversities into your victories.. I think a lot of people assume that I have always had my act together and the truth is just the opposite. Today, I am thankful for YOU. Yes, you. The one who took the time to read this, the one who shares in my trials and my triumphs, the one who recognizes a little bit of your story in mine. As, we go about our day whether we are at the height of happiness or the depths of darkness, remember you are loved. Your journey and your story is purposeful. Don’t be afraid to share it. If you find yourself feeling down, give it its time and then be thankful for it knowing it is part of your story. What are you thankful for?  Please share with me!

Sharing with you in hopes you will share with others,

Emily

 

 

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