Wednesday, August 25, 2010
I was blessed to be able to travel to Liberia in West Africa with two other women in June to help lead 5 women's conferences. It was one of the most difficult and yet one of the most incredible journeys I've ever made. God blessed that trip in ways that we never could even begin to describe. But, one of the highlights of this mission trip was our ability to meet Baby Darlene (or "Dolly" or Grace...she goes by all of those names depending on who's speaking about her). Dolly was born with a medical deformity - an omphalocele - that caused her abdominal and intestinal organs to be born on the outside of her body. I had never heard of this problem before, but since then I've learned that it's not as uncommon as I might have guessed. However, in the US...it's pretty easily corrected. Trouble is - Liberia doesn't have qualified surgeons that can correct this problem. Therefore, in Dolly's case...she has no chance of survival without surgery or a divine healing.
Thankfully, she was able to receive a first surgery (to enclose her organs under a thin layer of skin) in the Spring by a Chinese surgeon that happened to be in Monrovia at the time. He has since returned to China, however, and Dolly is in desperate need of this surgery by her 1st birthday (in November) to ensure a good chance of survival.
While in Liberia, we met this precious baby girl. She is absolutely beautiful as you can see from her picture above. We were asked if there was anything we could to help her. Americans are viewed by Liberians with absolute awe and respect, and they believe Americans can make anything happen. While there, we prayed over this baby and assured them that we would do everything we could, but God was in complete control, and we had to turn it over to Him!
So...fast forward a few months...my ministry partner that traveled to Liberia with me, Ginger, made a few calls and sent a few emails to some connects she had at Vanderbilt in Nashville, TN. We had some other calls made and emails sent. Another hospital in Denver was considering her case as well. Finally...just a few weeks ago...we were given the incredible news...VANDERBILT accepted Dolly's case as charity. The surgery, medical expenses, and even some of the housing has been completely covered. Her pre-op appointment date is October 11 with surgery tentatively scheduled for October 21. Praise God for His faithfulness! We've also learned the speed at which this has happened is pretty unfounded for this type of request. We know that God has ordained and worked through every detail.
Which leads to the next piece...God has not brought this baby this far in the process to simply stop now. We still have a long way to go to raise funds to fly the family here and to possibly provide food and some additional lodging for them for up to 3 months. We're looking at needing as much as another $13K to meet all of the other expenses, but I'm not worried. I've prayed that God would start stirring in the hearts of His children so that when asked...they would not hesitate to help.
So, I'm asking...with everything in me. Please do not say, "somebody else will take care of it." Please do to discount this or simply move on to the next thing on your task list. Do you know that I raised every dime of support to go to Liberia in the first place, and not one penny more? So, the $10 gift was just as significant as the $500 gift (and everything in between). How much more true is that in this case? Some can maybe only give $5, but there are others that can do far more. Please, pray about this, but don't delay in obeying whatever God leads you to do. You may make all tax-deductible gifts payable to Speaking Thru Me Ministries (STMM) - a registered 501(c)3 organization, and you can check out more information through their website at http://www.speakingthrume.com/make-a-donation/. We are also in the process of setting up a bank account that can receive direct donations for Dolly's case as well. As more details unfold for that, I'll be sure to pass it along.
If money is impossible, then I ask that you please pray for this little girl. Pray that every dime is raised. Pray that Delta airlines accepts our charity application submitted today by another sister trying to help this little girl. Pray that there are no snags in getting this family's proper documentation to get them to the US, and that this little girl's life is spared due to God's direction through His faithful people!
Here's a little video Ginger put together of our trip to Liberia. You'll get to see more pics of Dolly on it as well!
Thanks friends! You are amazing!
(By the way...sorry the video is so small. I had to do that to keep the right side from chopping off, but to see it larger...simply click on the YouTube logo in the bottom right corner of the video and watch it directly from YouTube.)
Wednesday, August 18, 2010
I still remember the raw emotions…hopelessness, worry, sadness, exhaustion, despair, and extreme loneliness. Each minute of the day felt like hours. All I wanted was to “survive” the day and get into my pajamas and go to bed. The problem was…when I awoke the next morning…I’d have to start all over again. It was a vicious cycle that seemed to have no end in sight. Life as a newly single mom was not only hard…it was painful.
I wish I could say something super spiritual…like I allowed God to direct my every step through those early days. But, that wouldn’t be true. As a Christian, I knew He was there, but the raw pain of the freshness of that time period would not allow me to rest in the assurances I knew to be in His Word. I have no doubt He carried me through those days, because I was too weak to “walk”. But, the only thing that literally kept me going most of the time was the fact that I had a 6-year-old little girl that needed me desperately. So, for her…I “survived” the darkness. For her…I continued going to church. For her…I continued to utter words that resembled something similar to prayers. Funny thing happened…the more I did for her, the more I needed Him. Parenting is hard, but single parenting…WOW! It’s tough, friends!
As God continued to grow me during those early days of being a single mom, I realized something. I had developed a sympathy – rather, an empathy – for other women and men journeying the path of single parenting too. I’m a bit ashamed to admit that, while married, single parents were a bit “out of sight, out of mind”. Sure, whenever someone would bring somebody to my attention, I might try to help out of my “leftovers”, but my burden for single moms and dads simply wasn’t there – until I became one.
It was then that I prayed that if the day ever came that I wasn’t a single mom, that God would never let me forget what it was like to be in that place. And…He hasn’t. My single parenting days ended two years ago, but my burden for single parents has never left. I feel their pain, their struggles, their worries, and definitely their loneliness as if it were a little piece of my own. While I don’t walk in their exact pair of shoes, I can say that I have definitely shopped at the same shoe store.
Would you do something for me please? Aside from prayer (the most important gift of love you can give), would you please tangibly love on your single parent friends and neighbors today? There are so many things you can do to express love, and you have no idea what that will do for them, but trust me…it might bring the only smile they are able to display that day. Here are a few ideas to get you started:
-Send them a card with a cheerful note of encouragement
-Mow their grass, rake leaves, do general yard work
-Offer to babysit the kids (at your house) so he/she can have a little quiet time
-Give restaurant, movie theater, Starbucks, gas gift cards
-Send her flowers to say you care
-Buy them a Christmas tree
-Offer to do the grocery shopping one week – AND fund the operation, if able
-If you have a beach house or vacation home, gift it to them for a week of vacation
-Invite him/her over for the Thanksgiving, Christmas, and/or Easter (especially if the kiddos are spending the holiday with the other parent that year)
-If you’re an auto mechanic or have auto mechanic friends, help out with car repairs and tune-ups
-Buy school supplies for the kids
Lastly, pray that God would burden your heart for single parents. It matters not what brought them to that place. We are not asked to judge…just to serve.
Monday, August 16, 2010
I'm still processing the events of my first SheSpeaks Conference that I attended in Concord, NC a couple weeks ago. There simply are not enough descriptive words available to express the sheer amazement that I felt upon leaving that event. A truly wonderful experience, I can honestly say I'm forever changed - for the better.
However, anytime you attend an event that seeks to glorify God and give Him all the praise...you can bet your bottom dollar the enemy will surface as well. And...surface he did. For me, the enemy was present in words. Let me try and explain as diplomatically and succintly as I can (the succint part will be hard)...
I participated in the Speaker's Track of the conference. Additionally, I was part of a speaker evaluation group. To summarize, I prepared two short messages to present to my evaluation group and group leader (one on Friday night and one on Saturday evening). Needless to say, my stomach was tied in knots. Speaking to hundreds of women in Africa in June was much easier than speaking to a group of 11 here in America. Even so, that was my charge. Not only did I need to prepare my messages, but I had to prepare my heart...my attire...my attitude...everything! Anytime God gives me a word to speak, whether it's 5 minutes or 50 minutes, I must be prepared for Him to get the glory - not EVER me! As a result, I wanted to make sure that I chose professional clothing but nothing that would distract from the spoken message. Apparently, I failed in that area...with at least one woman in the group.
After we all finished our Friday night introductory talk, I could breathe a sigh of relief. Whew! It's over. Still standing, I made it. This was the night I was dreading. I felt so much better about my 5 minute Saturday night talk than this one, so bring it on! Friday night was over. Or so I thought. Now, before I go any further...I must stress that I simply want to state some facts and the events that followed. I, in no way shape or form, intend to bring judgment upon any person, and I genuinely love each woman in my speaker evaluation group with a Christ-like sisterly love that is unique to our little woven community. So, please hear my heart without reading anything deeper into it.
As we were finishing up on Friday evening, I gathered my belongings and was asked to wait up by one of the other ladies in my group. She wanted to share something with me in person, so we walked out into the hallway, and she began to share. To quickly summarize and paraphrase what I heard, apparently what I was wearing made me look more overweight than I was already. I. Stood. Shocked. I truly don't remember the next words out of my mouth, but I do remember thanking her for her honesty and moved on. Friends, I'm not saying she was wrong. Perhaps she was very right. I really don't know, and that's not my point anyway. The problem with this was that I am a very broken woman desiring to serve a holy God, and she nailed me in the bullseye of my brokenness. My weight is something that I've struggled with my entire life. I'm making no excuses for it...it's simply a struggle. I am a pretty tough cookie (no pun intended) and can handle just about any critical word out there, but when it comes to my weight or body image, I melt. And melt I did...
I went right back up to my hotel room and shared the events of the evening with my friend and roommate, Lorie, and simply melted into tears. At that point, I didn't want to stay at SheSpeaks anymore. This was to be the event that was to make clear for me and propel me into the next step that God has for me. Instead, I wanted to shrink back and quit this whole speaking ministry thing anyway and go home! How could God use an overweight woman like me in ministry? Would people even believe the words that come out of my mouth? I felt like a complete idiot for ever believing He could use me. I am not exaggerating friends. The enemy had me completely bound at that point.
God wasn't finished with the work He was doing in me. After a terrible night's sleep, I ventured downstairs for breakfast in the atrium. I can't even type the next sentence without crying, because I am still in awe of how God the Redeemer took the situation from Friday night and redeemed it over and over and over again on Saturday. And...it began with my elevator ride down to the atrium.
After the elevator door opened, my roommate and I made our way over to the breakfast area, and a woman walked up to me...a stranger, someone I'd never seen prior to that moment and someone I never saw again during the conference...and said, "I've been watching you come all the way down the elevator (it was glass, by the way) and just had to stop and tell you how good you look in the blouse!" Did I hear what I think I just heard? Oh my. "Thank you so much" was all I could utter. But, those words started a repair job on my heart. Again, before I left the breakfast area, another woman came up to me and complimented me on my outfit. The day progressed, and I received no less than 10-12 compliments from mostly strangers about my outfit and how pretty it looked or how pretty the color looked on me. I was gushing...not in a prideful sort of way...but gushing at how merciful and loving my precious Lord is to me! He didn't have to do that, but He loves me, and He knows that a few short words almost broke my complete confidence in the calling He's given me.
However, the compliment of all compliments came about an hour before my Saturday night talk was scheduled to begin. It had nothing to do with my outfit. But, it was about my previous night's message. A woman from my group thanked me for sharing what I shared and said that it really spoke to her heart. She even went on to say she couldn't even tell I was nervous (maybe I should go into acting instead???) and that it appeared very natural to me. God is so good! He took that whole day, building me back up, repairing my tattered heart to prepare me for the Saturday night talk I was to give. And, blog friends...I obeyed. I spoke the words He gave me to spoke, and the words written on my evaluations revealed to me that God simply used me as a vessel to reach down and swoop up the women present in that room that night and whisper to their hearts. That's what it's all about anyway. God speaks through ordinary people in extraordinary ways (thanks Angela Thomas), and ALL glory belongs to Him alone!