Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Day 3 of the Journey

Rick is in Zimbabwe, and I am eating a French Silk Pie Blizzard.

Really, I was hoping I would make it longer before I resorted to these measures.

It is not that the last 3 days have been bad, just exhausting.

When my kids ate all the food that I was planning to partake of for dinner, I just decided that was it.

Forget dinner, I am going straight to dessert.

Yes, I know I should be turning to God in my distress, not food.

Does it make a difference if I eat while I do my Beth Moore James study???


Abby woke up yesterday morning with a stomach virus.

This is no normal stomach virus.

 It has been going around our family for the last month.

The really weird part is that we will go several days(9 to be exact with this last bout) with no activity and then out of nowhere, it strikes again.

Sam has had it twice, Cody has had it once, and now Abby has had it twice.

For the love of all things bright and beautiful, can it just end?!?!?!?


As I think about Swaziland and our launch of Beyond Survival, I have two favorite Swazi memories from our team trips that I wanted to share with you.

1.  On our second trip to Swaziland, we took LOTS of shoes.  It is so heartbreaking to see these beautiful children walking miles each day on very rocky ground with no shoes.  We wanted to give them each a new pair of shoes, for some of them, their first ever.  As we were getting ready to put them on, we realized we couldn't just put new shoes on their dirty feet.  Some of them had cuts that needed to be treated.  Even if they had shoes, they were really worn out, wet, and even moldy inside.  So, this exercise of giving the children new shoes became a foot washing.  It felt like one of the most spiritual things I have ever done as I cleaned those kids feet, prayed over them, showed care to them in a way that many had never experienced and then watched them, with their big smiles, prance away glancing down at their feet as they walked.  They had a strut in their step.  It was beautiful.

2.  Also, on our second trip, we did a retreat for the Gogos.  These are the Swazi grandmothers who come to the carepoint each day to feed the children.   Many of them have taken orphans into their homes and care for them as their own.  This retreat was a chance to give them a break, pour into them spiritually, and get to know them better.  It was a lot of work, and our team of ladies really sacrificed to make it special.  On the last night, we did a big Birthday party for all the women.   My absolute favorite moment was when we gave them the "gift" that we had brought for them, a Bible in their own language.  Many of these women never owned a book, much less a Bible.  You would have thought I was Oprah Winfrey saying, "YOU GET A CAR AND YOU GET A CAR AND YOU GET A CAR!"  the way they reacted.  They were singing, dancing around the room, and waving their Bibles in the air.  Once again, a truly beautiful moment that I will NEVER forget.  It impacted me for so many reasons.

These are just 2 of my memories.  It is moments like these that fuel the fire in me to continue in this calling that God has given our family.  Some of you were a part of these moments.  There is nothing like the bond that is created when you go on a missions' trip together with a group of people.  You can't help but be changed and connected from that point on.

Thank you for investing in Beyond Survival.  Thank you for taking ownership of this ministry.  Thank you for believing in the work that God is doing and still wants to do in Swaziland, Africa!

Sunday, October 28, 2012

The Mission Begins!

I got up at 4:30 this morning to send my hubby across the world.  As if that wasn't early enough, I actually didn't get to sleep until about 2:00.  Needless to say, 15 hours later, I am exhausted.
Here he is unloading his luggage at the airport
I had to get one last pic!

As I type write now, Rick is flying across the Atlantic Ocean.  I am sad to not be with him, but see my part in this trip as holding down the fort here.  Don't get me wrong, I was desperate to go with him, but it just wasn't possible this time.  It is not the first time he has gone without me.  Actually, this is at least his 4th trip without me.  It may be more.  My brain can't calculate that for sure right now.

Most of you know that we don't have family that live nearby, but even in the last week, I have been reminded of the amazing community that God has provided for us.  I have friends, new and old, that God has placed in my life over the last 12 years.  Many have said to me that I can call if we need anything, and you know what, they really mean it.  Just today, I found out that our life group of friends that we have been journeying with for a year and a half are going to bring some meals to help me out.  I can't even express how much that means to me.  So many people near and far are praying for us and this ministry.  Even as I am typing, I got a text from a dear friend saying that she is praying for us.

That really is what life and ministry are all about.  We come together as the body of Christ to love each other and reach beyond ourselves to show that love to those that don't know the Lord.  That is what we hope Beyond Survival will be, a community of people with one heart, one mind, and one desire to reach out to those in Swaziland.  I love the words of James 1:27
"Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this:  to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world."  

I am reminded of how God put Africa on my heart.  It was April/May 2006.  Rick's dad had died 2 months earlier.  It had been a very difficult year for our family.  Rick was on a vision trip to Norway with other leaders from our church to meet with church planters when literally, out of nowhere, God began laying Africa on my heart.  I specifically began learning about the children called the "Nightwalkers" who had to walk miles each day to be fenced in at night so that they would not be kidnapped and raped, if they were girls, or turned into boy soldiers, if they were boys.  The phrase that God used to grip my heart was, "These moms have the same hopes and dreams for their children that you have for yours, but they do not have the opportunities you have."  That phrase kept going over and over in my mind haunting me to a reality that I had no idea existed.  It was at that moment, I knew I must do something.  

When we began this journey that became Beyond Survival, we did not even have adoption on our radar.  That was a work that God did in our hearts 2 years later.  Little did I know that God had that in mind all along.  The really cool part is how God worked to make Isaiah's and Laila's story one in which He could be glorified and one where they would know without a doubt that God had His Hand on their lives from the very beginning.  While I was thinking of those children and feeling this deep urgency to do something, Isaiah was conceived.  It was in that timeframe of April/May 2006 that God was knitting and forming Isaiah's little body in his Swazi Mama's womb.  That brings chills to me every time I think about it.  It is just one more piece to this puzzle that God is still completing in our lives.  

If you would like to keep up with updates from Rick's trip, go to our Beyond Survival Facebook Page and like it.  His internet access will be sporadic at best, but he is hoping to post as much as he has accessibility.  I don't know about you, but I can't wait to hear what God is going to do!!

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Beyond Survival Live!

After 2 years of praying, seeking, working, and following God one step at a time, I am excited to announce that Beyond Survival is up, running and live on the internet!!

Many of you have walked this journey with us and know the story.  For those that haven't, I will give you the shortened version here and am hoping to take a few blog posts to really share what God has done in our family over the last 6 years.  We have seen miracles that we couldn't dream up.  We have traveled to Swaziland numerous times, each trip having its own unique impact in our lives, the lives of those who have traveled with us, and the lives of many Swazi people.  We have experienced God in ways that we could have never imagined.  God has used this tiny country to bring healing to our hearts in so many areas.  This was not in "our plan" for our family, but God knew what we needed.  We have built friendships on the other side of the world that mean so much to us.  It truly has been a beautiful picture of the work of God, where only He can get the credit!

6 years ago, Rick was flying back to the U.S. from a 3-week trip in Swaziland and South Africa.  The two phrases that resonated within his very bones after this trip were, "It would have been better for me to not have seen, than to see and do nothing," and "beyond survival."  You see, Rick had been numb for months grieving the loss of his dad.  God used this trip as a sort of defibrillator to shock his heart back into feeling and his life back into ministry.

Here we are 6 years later.  Rick is leaving in 4 days for another trip to Africa.  It is the first Beyond Survival Exploratory Trip.  It is a new beginning.  I have sense of expectancy similar to what I felt as he was leaving on that first trip.  The purpose is for him to go back, view some models of ministry in Zimbabwe, visit Swaziland, connect with our friends and ministry contacts, and build new partnerships for this ministry that God has called our family to.  In order for us to move forward, we need him to touch base with those we have worked with in the past, meet some new people, and share our vision for Beyond Survival.

We do not desire to compete with other organizations or duplicate what is already being done well.  We desire to be an advocate for those organizations, support them, fundraise for projects, continue to provide ministry opportunities through team trips and internships, and work as the Body of Christ in ministry in Swaziland.

I would like to introduce you to our new website  Beyondsurvival.org.  You can go there to read about the work we have done and where we are going.  It is our goal to create opportunities for the people of Swaziland to thrive.  We hope to create conduits of opportunity for people to not just merely survive, but truly live.  We want to connect resources will real needs.  Our website explains where we have been, where we are going, and how we hope to take people beyond survival.

You may be asking, "How can I be involved?"  Our website addresses that, but I wanted to share some immediate ways that you can come alongside us in this ministry right away.

1.  Prayer support - This whole endeavor has truly been from God in our lives.  The last 2 years, specifically, we have had to completely submit to his timeframe, not ours.  He has literally only revealed one step at a time to us up to this point.  We need prayer in the following areas:
 - Beyond Survival Exploratory Trip - Pray that God will reveal to Rick the projects for us to begin promoting and the partnerships that need to be created.  Pray for safety.  Pray for our family at home while he is traveling.  This ministry really brings about a lot of spiritual warfare for our family, not to mention the exhaustion for me as I care for the kids alone for 2 weeks!

2.  Funding - Funding for Rick's trip.  Funding for future projects.  Beyond Survival is not a business to us.  We do not take income for the work that we do or the time that we spend working on this.  It is truly a ministry for us in the purest form.  Invest in Lives.  We say “invest” rather than “give” because investing denotes an expectation of return on the investment.  Donations are tax deductible.

3.  Direction - That we would be sensitive to God's leading every step of the way.  We do not want to create anything that is not of God.  We truly only desire to be obedient to Him.  We have no expectations or requirements of what this needs to become.  We are waiting on God to see what He wants to do.

4.  Join the Beyond Survival Facebook Page - By clicking on the highlighted words, you will be taken to our facebook page.  By liking the page, you will be kept in the loop on all the new happenings with Beyond Survival.

5.  Be an Advocate - Spread the Word.  If you are willing to be a part of helping others, share with those you are in relationship with about your investment.  It will take many compassionate people willing to invest in order to make a difference.

We are excited.  We are expectant.  We are overwhelmed.  We are seeking God.

Many of you are already a part of this story.  We would love for you to join us as we move forward.

For those who are new to this, but feel a stirring in your heart, welcome aboard.  We can guarantee that investing in God's people and the ministry He has called you to will result in a changed life.

"Mercy to the needy is a loan to God,
and God pays back those loans in full."
Proverbs 19:17
(The Message)

Friday, October 19, 2012

Oh, Wait

This is how I feel today!
I could fall asleep at any given moment in any given circumstance.

I am weary.

I am ready for the weekend.  Oh, wait, we have a soccer game, football game, a football party, dinner with friends, church, family pics and life group.  (All things I am looking forward to)

Okay, then, I am ready for sports to be over.  Oh, wait, the day after sports end, Rick will be leaving for a 14-day trip to Africa.

Okay, then, I am ready for him to get back from Africa.  Then we can rest.  Oh, wait, then we have Thanksgiving.

Okay, then, I am ready for Thanksgiving to be over.  Oh, wait, then it is is December and we have school concerts, open houses, Christmas parties, Christmas shopping, Isaiah's Birthday, CHRISTMAS!!

I could go on and on.  Such is my life.  I have decided that for my mental stability, I need to approach life differently.

I tend to live with this mentality that says, "When I get this project done or this date passes, I will be able to take a break and relax."  Guess what I have realized?


I live a busy life.  I have 6 children.  We are in ministry.  We have a non-profit organization.  Life is not going to slow down for YEARS. 

 I think if I can wrap my mind around that I will live with a lot less frustration.  

I have made one adjustment over the last 3 years since we brought Isaiah and Laila home.  I have to tackle one day at a time, one project at a time.  I cannot look too far ahead.  I will be buried by the weight of all that has to be done.  

I need to take that one step further.  I have to get rid of the mentality that life is going to slow down.  I have to embrace the busyness that is my life.  I need to live fully where I am knowing that tomorrow will bring new projects to complete. 

If I had to guess, I think that maybe this is how God wants all of us to live anyway.  Trusting him each day.  Not worrying about what is to come or trying to plan out every detail ahead of time.  It reminds me of Matthew 6:25-34.  This passage is a good reminder to me today to live in the moment I have been given and trust God with the days to come.

25 “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? 26 Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? 27 Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life[e]?

28 “And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. 29 Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. 30 If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? 31 So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. 33 But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. 34 Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own."

Monday, October 15, 2012

Big Weekend

We finished off our fall break over the weekend with some big milestones.  Friday night, we celebrated Abby's spiritual bday with a family dinner.
 Korean Beef over rice, Broccoli, and Egg Rolls(that she couldn't eat because they were not gf)
 She got this necklace to represent the musical abilities God had given her and a reminder to use them to glorify Him.  
 The verse that came with the necklace was 2 Corinthians 12:9 "...my grace is sufficient for you for my power is made perfect in your weakness."  That verse speaks of the last year for her.  She has finally gotten some relief from her headaches by going gluten free, but she had many days where she was very weak and only by the grace of God did she keep on going.

She also got a Dallas Cowboys hair bow because we all know they are God's team and live in the Promised Land! : ) (I wish I could see some of your faces right now.)
 This is her crazy face with her ice cream sundae
 This is the normal face
 On Saturday, Isaiah learned to ride his bike without training wheels.
 He was so proud and excited!
 Action Shot
 He also learned how to tie his shoes. 
 Shoe tying rock star
 Here is Lauren scoring a goal in her soccer game.  Look at her go!
That was a highlight for the day for sure!

Sunday, October 14, 2012

"Pumpkin Patch"

Since our attempt at growing pumpkins failed, I thought a visit to a pumpkin patch would be fun as a family outing during Fall Break.  I found a great deal through Living Social to a "pumpkin patch" that we had not been to before.  It was made clear on the website that they had not grown their pumpkins, but brought them in.  I was okay with that.  I envisioned a tractor hay ride to a field of pumpkins strewn about.  I thought we could run through the fields each picking out the perfect pumpkin.  The website also talked about all kinds of other activities that were available for kids of all ages.  I was so excited about this little family outing.  Well, in case you haven't noticed, each time I talk about this place, I use quotation marks.  It was not anything like I had pictured in my mind.  We pulled up to an open field.  with a few stations scattered about.  The big kids began complaining right away.  I will say this, we made memories that we won't forget.  We laughed a lot and left there without even a pumpkin to our name.  Oh, yeah, the hayride went in a really small circle and the pumpkins were in a big box that they had shipped in.  They even had the UPC stickers on them.  It looked like something you would see outside of the grocery store.  Here is our "Pumpkin Patch" adventure in pics:
Roping some "hay steers"
 Rick got one!
 This sounds so dangerous, doesn't it?
 Well, here it is.  Lauren and Abby living dangerously.
 Sam found  a place of peace
 The hay slide was the most fun.  Everyone took a turn.
 Cody and Laila


 Gourd Launching
 This is what they were launching the gourds at.

 I forgot to take a picture of the "pumpkin patch", I mean box.  There was also a pony to ride, but we opted not to spend MORE money than we already had.  They also had some sheep, goats, ducks to feed if you wanted to buy feed.  They had a small hay bale maze with some tunnels that the littles enjoyed.  The "big kid" maze was a roped area.  I couldn't  convince my "big kids" that they could have fun racing through it.  Cody kept saying, "Mom, what's the point, you can just go under the rope."
 Ha, Ha, Cody!
 My beautiful Laila flower
 Candy corn Lauren
 We ended the time with some planking

 To regain order amongst the natives and redeem the day, we headed to Chick-fil-a for some lunch.
 Everyone's happy now.
Truly, the "pumpkin patch" was just fine for preschoolers.  I do think Isaiah and Laila, and maybe even Sam had some fun.  The big kids asked if we could just skip the "pumpkin patch" next year and go straight to Chick-fil-a.  Next year, I will spend a little more money and go to one of the real pumpkin patches.  Now, I need to go to the grocery store and buy some pumpkins!

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

The Table With a Story

We have had our kitchen table for almost 17 years.  There is a story of God's provision for us in this table.  When Rick and I were first married, we lived in Glasgow, KY where our families lived.  We had a cute little apartment and were given a table to borrow.  A year later, we moved to Dallas and returned the table to its owner.  For 6 months, we were without a table.  We would sit on our couch to eat, even when we had guests.  We had to sit on the floor to type papers on our word processor(yes, we are that old).  It wasn't impossible, but it definitely wasn't optimal, especially the paper writing part.  I remember how sore our backs would be crouching over those papers typing while sitting on the floor.  We absolutely did not have it in our budget to buy a new table.  So, we waited and prayed. 

In January, we received a check in the mail out of the blue from a family whose son I had taught in school the year before.  The note with the check said that they appreciated the investment I had made in their son and that they felt that God had impressed upon them to give us a check for $1,000 for a need that we might have.  You read that right, ONE THOUSAND DOLLARS.  The really cool part is that we had not had any communication with this family in over 8 months.  They had no idea of this need or our financial situation.  God provided.  We not only got a table, but we got to go out and shop for a brand new table.  This table has now been in our family all these years.  So, you see, this table is really more than just a table.  

Over the last couple of years, I have been frustrated with the stickiness of the surface of the table.  No amount of cleaning that I have done to it has made a difference.  It had gotten to the point that we could not put any paper(paper plates, napkins, homework papers) on it without it sticking to it and leaving half of the paper product behind.  It was very frustrating.  I was ready to get rid of it and just get a new table. 

Then, my amazing friend, Laura Fowler(that is what Isaiah calls her), swooped in and saved the day.  She is very handy.  She grew up working alongside her daddy on various projects and offered to come over and refinish this table with me.  What a gift.  She also brought her trusty assistant, Micah, along to help.  She worked on the table with us and helped watch the little kids for us.  
We started by cleaning it really well with steel wool and a strong cleaner  
 Then, we scraped off 17 years of gunk and coating on the table.  
 I didn't think to get a before pic.  There was paint on it, marker, scratches, etc.
This is the best I have.
 Then, the sanding began
 Here is the table fully sanded
 For six days the kids ate on the floor in the kitchen.
 After staining and sealing, I present to you:
Our beautiful table, restored to life!
I cannot tell you how excited I am to have this table back in a condition that is actually practical for our family.  I really do love it, and having it look so good reminds me of that.  I have had a love/hate relationship with it for a while now.  So, the story continues and this table remains a symbol of God's provision for our family.

Thank you, Laura Fowler.  I would never have attempted this without you.  I wouldn't have even known where to begin.  I had fun doing it with you, too!!  Can you come over next week and help me clean out my basement?  Just kidding!

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Cowboys' Cafe' and a Spiritual Birthday

A week ago, the Cowboys played Monday Night Football.  It also happened to be Cody's Spiritual Bday.  We decided to combine the two.  Cody got to pick the menu for the night and I ran the concession stand.  At halftime, we had our celebration of Cody and his spiritual bday.  
The menu
 Isaiah set up the "special drinks" for me!
 My two little Cowboy Cuties
 This is not a great pic, but it is them standing in line to order.  I wanted to capture it on film and remember how they do that.
 2 of the menu items:  Pigs in a Blanket and Sausage Balls
 My view from the cafe'
 The fans enjoying their game/bday snacks
 Laila watched the game like this.  
She picked out this outfit herself, Cowboys' shirt and silver glittery pants.  Fancy!
 The grand finale' of concessions was funnel cakes!(I even made gluten free for Abby)
 The finished product
 The Bday boy enjoying his dessert
 I love the story of when Cody asked Jesus in his heart.  He had disobeyed in some way.  Rick went up to his room to talk to him about his behavior.  He was 5 years old.  His response to Rick was, "I just can't handle all the sin in my life."  I chuckle every time I think about the weight of sin that little 5 year old boy felt.  Rick talked to him about our sin and how Jesus died to cleanse us from it.  He wanted to follow Jesus right away.  Now, here he is 9 years later.  I am so proud of him.  We spent some time sharing with him the ways that we see God working in his life and challenged him with areas of growth for the next year of his spiritual walk.  We gathered around him as a family and prayed over him.  Then, we gave him his gift, the new Toby Mac CD.
Cody, God has made you into a leader.  I am so proud of you.  You are deciding what YOU believe and how YOU are going to live that out.  You have faced some trials that God has used to develop your character in a way that has brought a maturity that I admire.  I love you.  I will always love you.  I know God wants to use you in amazing ways for His Kingdom.