Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Unexpected Delivery

On Christmas morning a momma walked into the hospital with stomach pains. It must be appendicitis or ovarian cysts she thought....After several tests, the doctor walked in and told her the news. She was in labor, 3cm dilated with a full term baby. To say she was surprised wouldn't do justice to the rush of emotions and shock she was experiencing. How can this be? She was on birth control. She never had any pregnancy symptoms. She already has 3 little ones at home. Her husband was just laid off. She was having a baby and on Christmas day!
Hours later Nathaniel was born, weighing 6 lbs 14oz. Unexpected for sure, but one look at him and you know he was planned from the beginning. God wove him together miraculously and beautifully in her womb. As I sat there visiting with mom and holding Nathaniel I couldn't help but to think of how funny we must seem to God when we plan things, when we think we are in control and run around fretting about life. In just a few short hours of being in this world, baby Nathaniel is already making a difference and proving that every life matters.

Needless to say, this family could use a lot of love, support, baby diapers, CLOTHES, prayer, and basic needs.
We will be taking donations, supplies and meals to them over the next few weeks. I need help though. If you live local and would like to help this family-PLEASE CONTACT ME! They have nothing for him. If you want to help by making a monetary tax deductable donation to purchase gift cards, food and other needs you can do so through my partner Delivering Hope.
Together we can shower this sweet family with abundant love and blessings.

The donate button to contribute is on the top right of my blog

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Could it be.....

I'm sitting at my computer staring at the images of children I may or may not know. I am desperately trying to remember all the details of a moment I swore I would never forget. It has been almost 3 years since I have seen their faces, but it was only yesterday that my heart thought about them. On my first visit to Ethiopia I asked Alebachew to take us outside of Addis on show us a part of Ethiopia that a lot of adoptive parents don't normally see. I wanted to see Ethiopia from his eyes. We ended up at an old church on top of a hill. He looked at us with a look of, "are you sure?" I started to walk up the hill not knowing what to expect. I wish I could share the pictures with you, but they are on my computer that is not working...I do have a few though from FB. The first person we came across was covered in a tattered blanket and the smell of death was in the air. Alebachew did that tisk tisk head shake that Ethiopians do and said, "keep walking Steff". I stopped. Is he dead? Does anyone care? Where is his family? I kept asking questions. I started to kneel down and saw movement. Alebachew lifted the blanket. We got the man to sit up. We gave him water, a few birr for food, prayed and walked away. I looked around...I started to realize this wasn't a church, it was a place where the unloved and cast-out went to die. There were people laying around everywhere, dying most likely from AIDS. In the midst of darkness, death, despair and in the shadow of the huge cross on the building for all to ignore on a Sunday morning....there was a hint of life. Running up behind me were children. Never before had they seen someone stop to help those waiting to die. They were excited. They were beautiful. I think I counted 12 of them. I was overwhelmed and in shock. They lived there. This was their life. Why were they there? They looked healthy. They introduced me to their brother. He was maybe 16 and very obviously was mentally disabled. He kissed me. The other kids didn't know if they should beat him or laugh that he did such a thing. I kissed him back and Adam hugged him. The kids smiled. I was introduced to their momma. I wish I would have spent time with her. The smell was just so unbearable and I was overwhelmed with emotion. They lived in a concrete room off the church. It smelled of excrement and death. I hugged her and left.
That was it. I didn't even get their names. I don't know their ages or why they were outcast and lived amongst the dying.

I have thought about them so many times since then. On my last trip back, I wanted to find them. Timing didn't work out though. So, when I got back this time, I hired Alebachew to see if he could find them. I sent him a picture. I told him to look for them and if he found them, to give them the picture of us together and share with them the story of the broken woman who thinks about them everyday. To let them know....they are loved, prayed for and thought of. I asked him to get their names, ages and talk to their momma. To find out if they go to school or how many of the girls are now mommas themselves. I told him to find a school in their town and inquire about tuition ( school is not free in Africa). I asked him to find out what skills the mom has and if she is still alive. I told him to ask if I can come and see them in March....

Today in my inbox are 12 pictures. 3 years is a long time to try to recognize someone you only saw briefly. I only have 2 old pics to go by...Could the faces I am looking at, be the same children from the church? Could my search be over? Do they remember us? Through broken English Alebachew said he found 7 kids. I remember 12. Did they eventually end up being a shadow under the cross? There was only one face I recognized....

The picture from almost 3 years ago after walking past death...
You can see from my face (that doesn't hide feelings well)

The beautiful kids I met.
I so wish I had all my photos from then to study their faces...
There is one face I won't forget.
In this picture you can't see his..
(the kid sitting down)
but I will always remember his kiss:)

This is one of the pics sitting in my email.
I do know this face!
I do remember his kiss!

Could it be?
Did I find them?
Can I do what I should have done 3 years ago?
Sit down. Talk to the mom. Get to know her kids.
Look beyond the death, devastation and poverty.
To see them...really see them...know them...really know them...
To appreciate their beauty
to let them know....
They are loved.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Got Beads? Or The Orphan Bead Project

Have you ever heard of Orphan beads?

Until last week I had no clue what that meant.
I thought it was an organization that sold bead products for orphans

Then I found out what it really meant

"for those of you that bead, or craft, or even just pretend to do one of those, you know that when you string a beautiful necklace or bracelet together, you always have some leftovers. often times they get lost, or discarded, or thrown into a bowl with the other mismatched beads -- the orphan beads, never to be used again."

The orphan bead.
The discarded bead.
The bead tossed aside with no clue what to do with it...
After awhile the bowl is full of orphans ..what started out as just one or a couple
grows and grows...
My heart and mind can't help but to see the face of a baby, toddler, child, teenager in every orphan bead in the bowl.
I think about the 147 million orphans just waiting...
wanting to be noticed
wanting to be needed
wanting to belong
wanting to be beautifully strung together in a family.

but here’s the thing...
we don't believe there needs to be orphans. we believe that if we collectively bring them all together, we can make something beautiful, and they will be orphans no more.
this month we are working with Dawn from Funky Fish, an organization of mommas who believe in defending the cause of the fatherless.
we are teaming up with them, to collect as many orphan beads as we can, so that when they travel back to Ethiopia, in March, they can put these beads in the hands of the orphans themselves who will transform the orphan beads in to beautiful necklaces/bracelets, to help support their families.

The last time Dawn went to Ethiopia to minister to the orphans of Zeway and teach the them how to make jewelry that would help sustain them...it is no surprise that the orphans were drawn to the orphan beads. After learning and making several patterned bracelets with the non-orphan beads, their faces lit up when she brought out the few orphan beads she had. She said it was like a spark lit up in their spirits. To see all the different beads that were different from each other allowed them to see the beauty in their own creations.
The best part is when Dawn came home to sell the bracelets to support the orphans...
Guess which sold out first? The patterned beads or the orphan beads?

what we need from you?
Your orphans
We need every kind of bead.
and for you to help spread the word...
What's our goal?
147 million orphan beads of course. Smile emoticon

We want to send Dawn from Funky Fish with as many orphan beads as she can carry on her trip this March to show the orphans of Zeway that they matter.
Because Every Mother Matters will be there to capture it all on video:)

To learn more about Funky Fish visit their site.

To donate your orphans send them to:
Dawn Patterson
110 Lost Pine St
Elgin, TX 78621

Remembering the Why...

Do you remember the good ol' days when the Tacky 4 Africa headbands were truly tacky? I know some our first fans to jump on this train of tacky are shaking their heads and laughing. We had everything from wide headbands that never stayed on, headbands with...yes, Easter eggs on them, the lucky St. Patricks day, Fourth of July, Grandma's curtains, great grandma's polyester pants or what was left of them, strawberry shortcake and everything in between. If you don't know the story of how it got started I encourage you to read it. The thing that I loved most about that time was how much fun it was to randomly reach in a bag and know that whatever I pulled out would be pretty tacky then send it to the person who ordered it. I would visualize them opening the package, laughing their butts off and thinking..that was the best $10 donation they had ever given! Well, since then the Tacky 4 Africa headband has morphed more into a realm of somewhat awesomeness (depending on ones taste)..I can honestly say we no longer make ones that I, myself would not wear. I genuinely love them all. It seems like I always sell my favorites right off my head:) Now when I reach in my grab bag of headbands to send one to a buyer my first thought is, "Oh I hope they like it, don't care if the sewing is a little off and they think it's worth the $10".

Buying a Tacky 4 Africa headband should be fun! It should be about the fact that your $10 donation not only supports the refugee hands that make them, but amazing organizations that BEMM supports. The thing is...I don't think your expectations have changed. You all rock! It seems something happened inside of me and I forgot somewhere along the way that it is about the why and not the what. Two weeks ago I got over 60 headbands back from one of our refugees. The headbands were a mess. They had holes, back stitching, weird sizes and were sloppy. For the first time ever I didn't pay for the really bad ones. I sent them back saying they were unsellable. I paid reluctantly for the semi-okay ones and prayerfully sent them out to you all. I hoped you wouldn't notice the flaws. I forgot that you don't buy the Tacky 4 Africa headbands for the headbands themselves, you buy them for the cause. Then this week I got another batch in. They were great...except that the refugee that made them got a few of the patterns mixed up. Meaning the tie and the headband don't match at all! My first thought was to send them back and have them redone, but then I remembered the Easter egg headband, the lucky charm, the grandma's curtain...I remember how I struggled with how on earth I was going to sell them...I remember staying awake all night until God helped me come up with Tacky 4 Africa and grab bag headbands...I remember selling out of the "unsellables" within days...I remembered that it is about the $10 donation to an amazing cause and not the trinket. So here I am with a stack of Tacky 4 Africa headbands that are truly either tacky or misshaped. I paid the refugees upfront in faith, believing that I will once again have fun choosing a headband and visualizing the buyer laughing when they open their package and thinking that was the best $10 donation ever spent.

I have 30 of them. My goal is to sell them within 30 hours, to raise the $300 for BEMM to prove that why you do something is always more important than what you do...

Thursday, December 2, 2010

A Hold Out

Last night was just...well...exciting, exhausting and encouraging. By 9pm we were still about $1500 from our goal. I was tired, wanting to go to sleep. I had spent a lot of my day at the hospital with my dad who just had a heart attack, the probability of raising the rest of the money was slim. My husband and kids were asleep. I missed dinner with them. I had a conference call with 2 amazing women who want to help BEMM get organized. Um...we all know I need this:) I was physically and emotionally spent. At 10ish I put my head in my lap, listened to music, closed my eyes and wrestled with GOD. I had just gotten an email telling me a pastor from someone's church would make up the difference. I could have taken this as a "Wahoo....We did it" and taken the money, but I didn't. My response, "They can give on top of the 5k that WILL come in". My fear...maybe, just maybe I'm being stubborn. I could take it. Let go. Claim victory and go to my bed that was screaming for me. After all, I tried and did my best....I should take it..right? NO. I posted one last post. Rallied one more time. Waited for the real miracle....In less than an hour the money came in! In the last hour, while most of the world slept and when I could have taken the easy way out...THE MIRACLE HAPPENED! To be apart of the last 10 minutes was magic! I love this. Then today 15 minutes before I was to announce the winner of the REDical bracelet..I realized we were $30 from our goal. I could have ignored it and moved on, knowing the pastor would cover it, but again I knew that was not the answer. So, as of tonight..we are over $100 from our 5k goal! I feel the dance coming on. If you have read this blog for awhile you know what I am talking about and if you have no idea what I am talking about then for the sake of CELEBRATION and all things embarrassing...I will once again make a fool of myself and share-THE DANCE! (wow, just watched this for the first time in 2 years!...No words)

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Why I Don't "Pray" About It...

I set out to achieve a goal of raising 5k by World Aids Day for Project Hopeful's Sisterhood+ campaign. You all know by now... I don't plan or think things through. I don't "pray" about it or wait for a "sign". I just act. I move forward with confident expectation. I believe my God will move mountains, peoples hearts and miracles will happen. Why don't I pray about it first? Do you pray before you meet one of your kid's needs? Your spouse's needs? Do you pray if you should help a child lost and screaming for their momma? Do you pray before you call the police if your house is being broken into? Do you pray before you heat your house in the winter? Do you wait for a "sign" to go to church? If you see a baby that is crying, soiled, starving, abandoned...do you pray or wait for a sign before you reach down and embrace the child? No. You don't think. You don't plan. You act. You move forward with confident expectation that what you do WILL make a difference. You don't think about what's next? What if the child you pick up dies, what if the people who break into your house hurt your family, what if you can't meet your kid's need...The outcome is not up to you. What is up to you..is what you choose to do or not do.. right now. We are STILL over $1500 from our goal. Yesterday was a crazy, beautiful and tragic day. Within moments of each other I found out our biggest donation yet had come in ($1000 from a beautiful person) and my dad had a massive heart attack. Imagine if I was a "pray" about it or give me a "sign" type person. I would be a confused mess. The thing is...life is messy. It is unpredictable. It never goes how we plan. It can be beautiful and tragic all in the same breath. We have our agendas and picture how we see things happening...we can get caught up in waiting for the "right" time, "praying" for the next step...in truth-all you have is right now. This moment.

At my sister's funeral (who died in her sleep unexpectedly) I spoke about James 4:13

Now listen, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.” 14 Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. 15 Instead, you ought to say, “If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.” 16 As it is, you boast in your arrogant schemes. All such boasting is evil. 17 If anyone, then, knows the good they ought to do and doesn’t do it, it is sin for them.

Today we are selling our TV and entertainment center to raise the money for my 5k goal. Why am I sharing this? Do I want a pat on the back? No. I don't. My point is sometimes...we need to be willing to climb that mountain, we need to be the miracle....we are the "sign" that is needed. Instead of waiting for God to move...we need to move forward with confident expectation...knowing and believing that HE is 10 steps ahead not only waiting for us but carrying us the whole way.