Breaking Free

 

My bible study just started back, and we’re doing Breaking Free by Beth MooreI did this study years ago, and truly did break free! I can tell you where I was, the date, and the circumstances of my life …. when I literally offered it up to God, and said: “Please, Lord, break these chains.” I literally felt a weight lifted, and I’ve walked in freedom ever since! Now that’s not to say that my life is perfect; far from it!  But I did let go of self-destructive behaviors, and truly embraced and accepted that God’s ways were much better! I trusted Him, and chose to believe Him.  He saved me from myself. I still get emotional when I think about just far down in the pit He reached to pull me out, set my feet on solid ground, and put a new song in my mouth!

Because I believe so strongly in this study, here’s what I want to do. I want to give away a Breaking Free DVD kit. It comes with a full set of DVD’s, a leader guide, and a workbook. My hope is the person who registers to win this, would gather at least 5 or 6 women (they’ll need to get their member book; $15 at Lifeway) and do this study along side us!  Would you be willing to do that?

Register your name and email address in the comments section of my blog, and we’ll randomly draw a winner on Friday, February 28 at 9 a.m.

And one last note…whoever wins, I definitely wanna hear back from after you’ve completed the study!

Breaking Free

Breaking Free

 

My Favorite Things 2013

 

car-fav-things-2

Here we go! Up 1st this year….

I absolutely, positively, without a doubt LOVE my french press coffee maker! This is all I use at home! (and yes, this exact one!) I also love Starbucks Veranda Roast and I love drinking my coffee from fun coffee mugs….it’s one of those simple things in life that brings much JOY! (the cups are from Pier 1, btw).

Register your name and email address in the comments section below, and Hitch will randomly draw a name by 7pm tonight! We’ll announce the winner on my blog tomorrow morning!

Favorite Things #1

Favorite Things #1

Staying in the kitchen…my Favorite Thing #2 is The Pioneer Woman’s “A Year of Holidays” Cookbook! I love this cookbook! Ree literally walks through the entire year … New Year’s, The Super Bowl (yes, it’s a holiday), Valentine’s Day, Easter, Mother’s Day and so on … and shares her holiday inspired recipes. This is great gift for the one who loves to cook! I actually got one for my daughter for Christmas, but I couldn’t wait – I’ve already given it to her! We’ve only made a couple of things so far. But will definitely be trying additional recipes over the Christmas break!  This is also a great gift for that newly wed or newly engaged couple, too!

Favorite Things #2

Favorite Things #2

I always always have a pair of earrings every year on my favorite things list! This year, it’s a pair of Flirties from Rusty Crickett’s! These earrings are only $16! My personal favorites are the clear ones and I love them!!  I wear them at least 4 days a week; shoot I have them on right now! You can dress them up or down! Thank you, Charlie, for providing me some to give away! (BTW, if you want a pair you can call Charlie at 941.720.7677). Register in the comment section on my blog between now and 7 p.m., and we’ll announce the winner in the morning!

Favorite Things #3

Favorite Things #3

Last year it was Table Topics, this year it’s Chat Pack! Yep, my favorite thing #6 is a Christmas Chat Pack! Using Table Topics or a Chat Pack has become a staple around my table! My kids expect it, and they love it! The Chat Pack is very inexpensive; I found mine at Barnes & Noble, but you can also get them on Amazon. This makes a great hostess gift, as well, for the Christmas parties you’re attending this year.

Favorite Things #4

Favorite Things #4

One of my FAVORITE THINGS, not just at Christmas, but IN LIFE, is CANDLES!!!! I love love love candles! It’s one of my guilty pleasures, and if I’m totally honest….I spend way too much money on candles; I’ve had to go on a budget! I actually buy different candles for different seasons. I have a great Summer candle that I love, one for the Fall, etc. And this year, while it was very hard not to list the Woodwick Fireside again, I did look around and find a candle that I think smells like a Christmas tree. Nothing can duplicate the original scent of a real tree (and there are a LOT of bad Christmas tree smelling candles out there!), but, I think this one comes pretty close. It’s Yankee Candle’s Holiday Garland scent. Btw, Yankee Candle’s Vanilla Lavender is a favorite, too.

Favorite Things #5

Favorite Things #5

I wasn’t a believer, but now I’m a believer! Dave & Bill converted to a Kindle a few years before me. But my girlfriend, Becca, sold me on the Kindle Paperwhite that had the lights that went around the screen! And that meant I could lay in the bed and read!! (Reading makes me sleepy, and since I get up at O’dark :30, I need all the help that I can get to shut my brain down). I ended up getting Dave, Bill and my husband Pete each one for their birthdays last year….and all 4 of us LOVE our Kindles. I think Pete has read more books in the last year than he has in the past 10. It’s well worth the money, and you’ll certainly make up the difference because Kindle books are less expensive than traditional books. One last note, this isn’t me selling out on hardback books; I still buy them too!! I just love books, period.

Favorite Things: #6

Favorite Things: #6

“The experts” say you should walk an average of 10,000 steps per day. Of course, we had no idea how far 10,000 steps was. But we certainly found out when we ordered our Fitbits this Fall! We quickly learned we were NOT walking 10,000 steps per day….hahaha! So, my favorite thing #7 is the Fitbit! I’ve worn mine everyday since September, and it’s really motivated me to get out and get some steps in, when I might not otherwise would have. Welp, that and the fact that we’re super competitive….and with the friend feature on Fitbit, Dave, Bill & I can see exactly how many steps each of us is getting! It makes being active fun, while it holds you accountable. I’m actually getting my family these for Christmas!

Favorite Things #7

Favorite Things #7

I’m not kidding when I tell you I’ve been listening to his Christmas record since September! It’s no secret that Brandon is family to us, so it should also be no big shock that my favorite thing #8 is Brandon Heath’s Christmas is Here! Y,all!! he knocked it outta the park!! The instrumentation (especially the strings!) are top notch on this record. If you like Nat’s version of “White Christmas”, you’ll love Brandon’s! The choir in “Silent Night” feels like you should be at a Christmas Eve service somewhere in New York City, and “Just a Girl”….well, the first time I heard it, I cried. Brandon wrote this song from the Inn Keeper’s perspective, and it’s hands down, no question my favorite song on the CD. I gave the CD to the women in my bible study this year, and Pete is giving to his clients. This would make a great Christmas gift for a co-worker, girlfriends, a hostess gift for the parties you attend, or a fantastic stocking stuffer!

Favorite Things #8

Favorite Things #8

My favorite thing #9 is straight up nostalgia! It’s a light-up ceramic Christmas tree! I was having lunch with a friend a month or so ago at Cracker Barrel, and as I was leaving I spotted ‘em!! Most would say this falls in the “tacky Christmas decorations” category, but both Maw-Maw Brown & Me-Maw had one of these, and it reminded me of them! Mine is sitting on the corner table in my den and I love it!! Every time I glance over at it, I smile and think of a sweet memory I have with each of them. And, aw man, do I still miss Maw-Maw Brown’s chicken & dumplings that she made me every year for my birthday. I can’t wait to see them both again one day!

Favorite Things #9

Favorite Things #9

And lastly, my favorite things #10 is incredibly special to me. As you know, we’ve partnered with Abolition International the last few years, forming Team Freedom, to run for those who aren’t Free.To.Run….yet! Abolition International exists to bring an end to sex trafficking and exploitation. They focus quite a bit on quality care and restoration, after the rescue. This year they launched the Penh Lenh Collection. Penh Lenh means “whole” in the Cambodian language Khmer. Abolition sent a jeweler to Cambodia to teach rescued girls how to make jewelry, so that they may support themselves in a gainful way. My favorite things #10 is the whole Penh Lenh collection, but I’m specifically giving away the Dalmatian Jasper Flower bracelet. Each piece of jewelry is hand-made by a girl who was rescued from sex trafficking in Cambodia. What a meaningful gift, and what a terrific way to help fight this evil. And, if you’re interested in joining Team Freedom, you can find information HERE! 

Favorite Things #10

Favorite Things #10

Stop it!

 

STOP IT!

STOP IT!

I attended First Baptist Temple Terrace recently, and the pastor there, Paul Purvis, was preaching on Nehemiah. It was one of the best sermons I’ve heard in a long, long time. Backstory: Nehemiah was calling out some bad behavior among the Jewish people. They were charging each other interest, selling their own people back into slavery etc. Nehemiah called a town meeting and basically said to them: “STOP IT!” Both Nehemiah (and Pastor Paul) said it emphatically, “Just stop it!” Paul then drew the line from Nehemiah’s story to ours….what are we doing in our lives that we need to stop? I loved the way he delivered the message: You don’t need counseling, you don’t need to go to therapy. You just need to STOP IT!

So, my fellow sisters, listed below are a few things in which we need to say to ourselves: STOP IT! We chicas are our own worst enemies! We drive ourselves crazy obsessing over these things, and we just need to STOP IT! By the way, I am the chief of sinners.

1. Stop saying “yes” to everyone. There’s no need to say “yes” to everything! Take Billy Graham’s advice. Ask yourself: Is this event/endeavor/engagement really necessary? Is it taking me away from my family? Is it really the best use of my time? Or do I just feel guilty and obligated?

2. Stop saying “no” to yourself.  Repeat after me: Rested wives and moms are better wives and moms! Take some time for yourself. Carve out a few minutes a day for a quiet time. Think about it this way: If you had the opportunity to sit for 10 minutes with “fill-in-the-blank person you respect the most” (for me, it’d be Beth Moore or Billy Graham) would you cancel on that person? Would you walk away, and say “sorry, can’t.” No!! You’d make time! Then make time for Jesus! The one who loves you! Your Redeemer! Your Savior! The one who knows you better than you know yourself. Last thing: an occasional girlfriend date for pedis is nice too! And yes, stop by Starbucks on the way!

3. Stop apologizing all the time! I am a Southerner. It’s in my DNA to apologize and then give an explanation. For stinkin’ everything! STOP IT! Actually say it back to me…I need to hear it! “Carmen, STOP!” Of course, we need to be gracious. But it’s ok to be ok with our decisions and preferences. (I’m sorry, does this sound harsh?) Haha!

4. Stop comparing your life to what your friends post on Facebook. Definitely stop this one! With the exception of those friends who are chronic complainers on Facebook (very unattractive, btw), let’s all admit that we post “the best of the best” on Facebook.  We’re not gonna post, “Just got in a fight with Pete, and we went to bed not speaking.” NONE of us have perfect lives. We all have deep hurts and very personal stuff happening in our lives. I could write on and on about this. I could tell you about my insecurities, my fears, the times I feel very lonely…I could tell you about all of that …. but the reality is I don’t post that stuff. And neither does “she.” So stop looking at all the perfect pictures, with perfect status updates, describing the perfect vacation, with the perfect husband, holding hands with the perfect kids, having a perfect meal. These are only a glimpse of a small fraction of our lives!  Praise the Lord for families and vacation, etc etc. I love family, vacations, good meals, and fun status updates….But know this for sure: virtual does NOT equal reality. What we choose to post is not the whole picture. If browsing your newsfeed makes your feel badly, STOP browsing the newsfeed.  And just fyi, Pete and I did get in a fight on Sunday night (over a game, no less!) and went to bed without speaking. We didn’t talk all day Monday, and finally went for a long walk last night and resolved it. There were lots of tears (me) and “I’m sorrys” (both). So, there…..that’s REAL life.

5. Stop viewing food as the enemy. Read this book: Intuitive Eating. It changed my life. It’s about making peace with food. We girls tend to label foods as good or bad. We look down at our plate and here’s the internal conversation we’ll have, “Grilled chicken – good! Mac & cheese – bad. Broccoli – good! Warm roll with butter – bad!”  Here’s the bottom line: Of course, we can’t live on bad carbs. But good gravy, (pun intended) ENJOY a meal every now and then! Give yourself permission to eat a cookie. I truly feel that if we’d give ourselves permission to have forbidden fruit occasionally, then we wouldn’t be so obsessed with not having it.  I truly do try and eat healthy. But it’s my mental, negative self talk that is the enemy. Not the mashed potatoes.

6. Stop body snarking – out loud AND in your head. Again. Chief of sinners! How many times have you heard me talk about my muffin top or bra fat on the air? I do it ALL. THE. TIME!  And it’s wrong. I need to STOP IT! As women, we are socialized to believe the lie that our worth lies in our looks. This is a lie from the pit, my sisters! We need to stop putting ourselves down. It’s not good.

7. Stop obsessively untagging yourself in every “unflattering” photo. This one has been the biggest struggle for me the last several years. When I started in radio years ago, FB wasn’t even a twinkle in cyberspaces’s eye. It’s a new world, and we have little control over it. Camera phones are here to stay, and aren’t going away. People aren’t gonna stop taking pictures, and they’re gonna post what they’re gonna post. Obsessing over the pic that doesn’t capture your best side (for me, it’s my right side) is only gonna make you crazy. Remember this: your real friends will get approval first. And your very best friends will crop!

8. Stop trying to make your life or house look like Pinterest. Granted, I’ve never been on Pinterest (as most of you have heard. Bill’s our Pinterest guy).  But I’m assuming it’s very Martha Stewart-esque. I think “do it yourself” things are great. But ease up on yourself. Most of us do not have catalogue homes, with Food Network kitchens.

9. Stop being plugged in 24/7. Stop it! Take some downtime. Stop scrolling through your phone incessantly. Stop being available to your employer at all times. Stop checking and returning email at all hours of the night. Take a vacation. Turn off your phone. #1) You need the decompression and away time, and #2) You’re not that important. The business isn’t gonna cave without you.

10. Stop wearing heels everyday. Give your feet a vacation too!

11. Stop fearing being alone. I don’t know why some of us are married, and some of us aren’t. Embrace your singleness. You are perfect just the way you are! You don’t need a man to complete you! God knows the desires of your heart. Trust Him, that He has good plans for YOU!

12: Stop holding onto toxic relationships. Whether it be a girlfriend or a boyfriend. It’s true….Relationships either “life” you, or “death” you. If you’re not being lifed by a person, it’s time to prune; lose the frenemies. And there is a Christ-like way to do it.

A few more thoughts….in the same sermon, Paul, using Nehemiah as the example, finished the list of things we could learn from him (Nehemiah) this way:

1. STOP IT!
2. Start it!
3. State it!
4. Stick with it!

I think we can all apply this to our lives. Hold me accountable. I’m praying for you today, my sweet sisters. And I hope you’ll do the same for me. I love you!

{Note: This list was inspired by/taken from a Huffington Post article I read by Emma Gray. She wrote an amazing list, and I certainly want to give her credit! She really nailed it! I expounded and put my own spin on it – to make it more applicable to us – as women who are striving to be more like Jesus.}

Gasparilla Training Schedule!

Hey Guys!!

Here’s the training schedule I’ve been promising you! I’ve signed up to do the 15K
(9.3 miles). The run is February 22, so this schedule is doable. If you wanna be a part of TEAM FREEDOM, you can register here! We’d love to have you!

PS…When I get to work on Monday, I’ll get one of the IT geniuses help me make this into a .pdf that you can download.

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haley. update!

 

My daughter, Haley, blogged a few months ago about her battle with weight. If you missed it, you can read it here. I was proud of the courage she showed, sharing her deeply personal struggle. I’ve heard from so many of you…wanting to know how she’s doing, or wanting to let her know that you struggle too. And some of you simply are wanting to root her on! Both of our hearts were tendered by your sweet words. Speaking for myself only, I know all about letting the scale determine how we feel about ourselves. A few pounds up … it can bum you out for the day. A few pounds down … you literally wanna skip to the closet to put your clothes on! It’s literally a roller coaster ride of insanity! All of our numbers and goals are different, but I’m pretty sure we can all relate to the feelings and emotions.

All this said, I’ve been SO proud of Haley! She’s down 20 pounds!! I asked Haley to give us an update. Here’s what she sent me:

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For the last couple of weeks, I have been living in a weight loss haze, as I have decided to call it. I have been going through the motions of eating healthy, but feeling emotionally disconnected from the new lifestyle changes I’ve been making. I kept finding myself distracted and unfocused on my goal. One of the commitments I made to myself when I started this journey was to dive all in. I told myself that if this time was going to be the last time (meaning, my last time to truly lose the weight that I’ve battled for so long), I had to make weight loss something that influenced and impacted my entire lifestyle from the things I ate, to the things I read, to the things I thought and prayed about.

Somehow I had found myself going through the motions with an almost apathetic state of mind. I decided to have an intervention with myself. I was driving to work the next morning literally saying out loud, “Haley you have to get your head in this. You have been distracted, unfocused and unmotivated. If you don’t pull it together and get your head in it, this will be over before it even really begins.”

I thought I had taken care of my “state of mind” problem, but I was so wrong! My pep talk boosted me up for a couple of days, but eventually that faded.

Abbey & Haley

Abbey & Haley

Until a couple of days ago, I couldn’t figure out why the last two weeks have been so much harder than the first few.

But then I figure it out….

Throughout this journey, I have only been looking one week into the future. I didn’t want to overwhelm myself by the whole journey so I allowed myself to only worry about one week at a time. And it had been working, until two weeks ago. I was having some quiet time a couple of nights ago when it hit me. I had been trying to do this alone. I woke up that Monday morning and started my weekly journey without the ONE person that I absolutely need by my side: God. I didn’t realize it but I had stopped praying for guidance and support. I had stopped talking to God about my cravings and asking Him to help me crave Him more than food. I had stopped making this a spiritual journey and simply made it a physical one.

I was letting the distractions of everyday life consume me. I allowed my thoughts to be clouded and my attention to be altered. I started seeing success in my journey and I let my guard down. For me, this has always been a spiritual journey. I re-started the “Made to Crave” devotional on YouVersion. I’m on Day 1 again and I’m already seeing the impact of starting it over again. Lysa writes, “The process of getting healthy has to be about more than just losing weight and focusing on ourselves… It’s about recalibrating our souls so that we want to change for the right reasons. I’ve realized that a healthy eating plan can be one of the most significant spiritual journeys I’d ever dared to take with God.”

I am down 20 pounds so far. I am very happy I hadn’t started putting weight back on. That being said, I knew that if something didn’t change within me, I was on the brink of another failed attempt at losing my weight.

If I ride the wings of the morning, if I dwell by the farthest oceans,
even there your hand will guide me, and your strength will support me.
Psalm 139: 9-10

Buffalo Chicken Muffins

 

Dave found this recipe a few weeks ago. Abbey & I made them over the weekend for Pete’s college buddies who were in town. OH. MY. WORD!

So good!!!!

 

Buffalo Chicken Muffins

Prep Time: 20 minutes

Cook Time: 20 minutes

Total Time: 40 minutes

Yield: 24-30 rolls

Ingredients:

1 recipe Pizza Dough
1 onion, chopped
1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breast, cut into small pieces
2 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup favorite Buffalo Sauce (I used Ken’s)
2 cups fresh mozzarella

Instructions:

Sauté chopped onions in butter over medium heat. Once transparent, add chopped chicken. When chicken is done, add Buffalo Sauce and heat for 5 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside.

Preheat oven to 400. Prepare a baking sheet with parchment paper or non-stick spray, or, opt to use a prepared muffin tin.

Divide dough in half. Roll each half into a large rectangle roughly 1/4 inch in thickness.

Spread chicken and cheese evenly across each piece of rolled out dough. Starting from long side of dough, begin rolling the dough up like a cinnamon roll. Pinch ends when done. Slice into 1 1/2 to 2 inch rolls. Place on the baking sheet or in muffin tins. Bake for 15-18 minutes, or until cheese is bubbling and dough is lightly browned. Serve and enjoy!

PS… I served with Blue Cheese & Ranch dressing. Great for dipping!

 

Buffalo Chicken Muffins!

Buffalo Chicken Muffins!

not even a sparrow.

Permission to be dramatic?

Thanks!!

Y’all. OH. MY. WORD!!!!! If walking out of that orphanage two years ago was one of the hardest days of my life, today was one of THE best!!

I don’t even know where to start. I could start with the absolute THRILL of seeing Baby Carmen again (not as much a baby anymore!) Or – the absolutely awe-inspiring way our Heavenly Father reminded me today: “Carmen, I do see them.”

Baby Carmen’s parents, Jacob and Melody brought Baby Carmen to the hotel where we’re staying in San Pedro Sula. Just before lunch, I was sitting in the lobby with a few of my team members staring – anxiously, giddily, joyfully – at the front doors to see the curly-haired princess who stole my heart a few years ago. Actually I think she stole the hearts of the WHOLE JOY FM family!

I recognized her immediately as they walked through the glass doors! I jumped up and ran to her, reminding myself she didn’t know me from Eve! I certainly didn’t want to scare her, but goodness gracious I was happy to see her!

Her parents are PRECIOUS!! They are two of the most humble people I have ever met. And even though I barely know them, I do know they most likely wouldn’t be comfortable with me even saying this. But know this: They are two people who are simply living out their faith and giving themselves away…..

We visited for quite a while, giving Carmen a chance to warm up to the crazy blonde lady who kept staring at her. She was very tentative for a good long while, not sure what to make of the audience she had commanded. This gave me the chance to hear Jacob and Melody’s story. They’ve been in Honduras for four years and are parents to many Honduran children. They are missionaries. This is their home. And they are here to raise the children the Lord has entrusted to them.

Jacob, Melody, Carmen and their son, Juan stayed and had lunch with us. {Sidenote: Baby Carmen LOVES ravioli! I honestly don’t know where she was putting it!} There were 35 of us gathered around the table….our team, the Buckner in-country staff, the interpreters, and this family we barely knew, but do indeed love so much. There were two things that kept running through my head.

First, if the banqueting table is anything like this in Heaven, I can’t wait to get there! We feasted together, enjoying one another so so much! Our hearts were knitted together, in a way that extended beyond words. Truly a picture of what I believe God has invited, and is inviting us to…..

The second thing was the scripture in Matthew that says:

‘What is the price of two sparrows – one copper coin? But not a single sparrow can fall to the ground without your Father knowing it. And the very hairs on your head are all numbered. So don’t be afraid, YOU are more valuable to God than a whole flock of sparrows.”

{Chapter 10}

At the risk of sounding Christian-ese …. Y’all! this truly is HOW big our God is! And the thing I love most about Him? That while at the same time we can pray “be BIG God, we need You to be big!” {And we can all agree that He flat showed out in this story!} We can also know He will be so very personal. Personal enough to orchestrate a reunion of a precious child I met 2 years ago (almost to the day!) for 2 hours!

One last thing I need for you to know is that YOU made a difference in this child’s life. Melody said several times today, that she is “convinced it was the prayers of our community that directly changed the course of this child’s life.” I know most of you might not get to meet Baby Carmen this side of Heaven, but when we all get there one day just look for us at the bangueting table. We’ll be the ones eating the cheese ravioli.

Here are a few pics from today:

Carmen reunited with Baby Carmen

 

IMG_0239

 

IMG_0271

 

family-use

IMG_0256

Honduras 2013

my co-worker Bryan Scott, who we affectionately call Bwall, carrying the winner of "ALTO!"

my co-worker Bryan Scott, who we affectionately call Bwall, carrying the winner of “ALTO!”

this lil guy could HU.Lah.HOOP! And we were happy to be his audience!

this lil guy could HU.Lah.HOOP! And we were happy to be his audience!

Michael from Newnan had some moves too!

Michael from Newnan had some moves too!

 

Honduras 2013. Day 1

Hola!

It’s after midnight my body clock time, and I’m ’bout to fall in bed, but I wanted to post a few pics from today! The orphanage we visited today was a private orphanage that cares for children who are HIV+ or have AIDS. I was so happy to see three smiling faces that I recognized from the last time I was here!! One of them is Dania. I don’t have a picture of her on my camera, but I’ll try and grab one from another team member tomorrow. It made my day that she remembered me too! She’s as beautiful as ever, and was all dressed in pink. The team from 2011 will remember Denzel, too! He’s still here, and as cute as ever!!  Internet is more of a challenge this visit, but hopefully we’ll find some “hotspots.”

Tomorrow we’re visiting the orphanage where Baby Carmen was. Luis said we’d see about 90 children tomorrow. Definitely keep us in your prayers tomorrow!! We do feel them when you pray! THANK YOU!

I love you!
carmen

A few pics from today…..

duck. duck. goose!

duck. duck. goose!

Brandon met a new friend, Roberto, today!

Brandon met a new friend, Roberto, today!

He was REALLY ticklish!

He was REALLY ticklish!

Love this pic!

Love this pic!

This is my daughter Abbey's 1st mission trip! It was super cool that the first girl she held was named "Hailey." (Abbey's big sister is named Haley!) We love you Haleybug!

This is my daughter Abbey’s 1st mission trip!

Siebe & Francis!

Siebe & Francis!

They love when you play ball with 'em!

They love when you play ball with ‘em!

Baby Carmen. re-visited. Pt. 2

 

This was originally published on September 16, 2011

I will not leave you as orphans….

After I found more team members for the toddler room, Shaun walked me to the infant room.  There were babies everywhere. At least a dozen. There was also a boy who wasn’t a baby at all. He was special needs, still wearing a diaper, and a onesie that could no longer snap, but now fit him as a snug shirt. (in the picture I posted a few days ago, he is wearing a red shirt; that was later put on him). He waved at me as I walked in.  It was abundantly clear that of all the babies who got little to no attention, this boy got even less. If his wave could’ve spoken, it would’ve said, “look at me! I am here! please somebody see me.”  I greeted him with a kiss on the forehead.  He raised his hands and reached for me. They were all reaching for me.  Shaun & I walked through the 4 rows of cribs that made 2 aisles.  In the very first crib were 2 newborns. I immediately noticed the one on the left (remember this for later). She was BEAUTIFUL!! Absolutely perfect. Perfect lips. Perfect fingers. Perfect nose. And perfectly sleeping.  I walked though and looked at the rest of the babies.  Most were special needs; or “without potential” as they are labeled.  Their life is their crib. One little boy had a tumor on the top of his head the size of a lemon. There were dozens of others, some with tubes, some not. They were all either listless or asleep.

Like the toddlers, I wanted these babies to be held. I left the room to find more team members. A mixture of anger and overwhelming grief were my two emotions. I found Pat, Lesley, Audrey, Gwen and Marci. As much as I tried to prepare them for what they would see, there really is no way you can do that. When you enter the room and see the conditions, babies on the floor, babies in their cribs; rows & rows of babies, it simply takes your breath away.  We walked through the door, and I watched my friend’s eyes simultaneously fill with tears. Each went to a baby; some scooped up two. My friend, Gwen reached down to pick up Colvin (we later learned) as if she were picking up her own son for the very first time (she has 2 grown ones). Colvin was the one with the lemon sized tumor.  The perfect newborn in the front crib was still sleeping. Marci got down in the floor with the special needs boy and had 2 more on each hip. I joined her with 2 others.  We were all just rocking, crying, rocking, and crying some more.  After twenty minutes or so, I knew what we needed. We needed Jesse.

jesse playing for the babies

Again, like the toddler, I peeled babies off of me and handed them to my friends. I ran downstairs and said, “Jesse, get your violin and come with me NOW!”  We ran back upstairs. Jesse – just like the rest of us – had the same reaction when he walked through the door for the first time.  Seriously, it takes your breath away. Your eyes are seeing the conditions, but your head and heart are rejecting it.  You can’t wrap your brain around the fact that this really exists. Jesse, definitely still processing what he was seeing, pulled out his violin, looked at me and asked, “what should I play?” Instinctively I said, “Amazing Grace.”

When Jesse began to play, the sweetest aroma filled the room. The babies who could crawl or walk, moved in a little closer. The ones we were holding, sank into our arms a little deeper.  For the next 15 minutes, we held babies to “How Great Thou Art,” “Great is Thy Faithfulness,” “Jesus Loves Me,” and “It is Well.”  During, “It is Well,” I lost it completely.  It wasn’t  well with my soul. There was nothing about this place or this room that was well with my soul. If anything, I wanted Jesus to come back right then and there.  After a few more songs, Mike, Sam & Nate came to us. They had been playing for the toddler room.  The music continued. Music has always been a key part of these trips. Today it was therapy. If you could’ve seen how these babies responded to the boys playing, you would’ve been amazed. The calm. The peace. You could physically feel the healing power of music. I  glanced over at the crib, and the little sleeping beauty that I’d been keeping my eye on was still sleeping. After a few songs, Mike wasn’t even singing anymore. He and Jesse were just playing. They’d lost Sam to baby holding. Nate was already in the floor holding two.  I wanted to freeze frame this moment. I was witnessing pure and undefiled religion in the eyes of the Father.

Holy Ground

And then I heard someone say, “Sam, look at me,” … meaning they were taking a picture. I looked over and Sam had MY baby! :) I smiled at him, and said, “No, Sam, she’s mine!! I’ve been waiting for her to wake up for almost an hour!”  He knew it was a righteous jealousy. :)   I eventually made my way to this precious little girl, and held her as if I really could bring her home. Gwen was still holding Colvin, and we held our babies in the back of the nursery as Mike & Jesse continued to play.  We swayed and rocked those babies to the music….the thing that mothers do when we hold babies. It’s instinctive.  Almost simultaneously, we asked each other, “I wonder what their names are?”  We’d decided that if we couldn’t find out, we’d name them ourselves. Because we both needed to have a name for these babies.  Colvin was going to be Jose’ and my baby was going to be Isabella.

gwen & colvin

A little later, Shaun came in and told me we’d need to leave in about 10 minutes.  The tears hadn’t stopped flowing since I first stepped foot in this room, but they were really flowing now. I asked God, “Lord, please please please let me know who she is when we’re in Heaven one day. Lord, please let her walk up to me and say ‘I’m the little baby girl you held that day.’”  I told Mike & Jesse we had time for 1 more song. They’d been playing instrumentally this whole time.  So, with no words – only music – they began “Someone Worth Dying For.”  Oh my goodness, that song has never sounded sweeter to my ears.  Emotions were already tender, and we were clinging to the truth: one day there will be no more tears, no more pain, no more goodbyes. When the boys were finished and putting away their guitar & violin, I said to the team, “Look at this little girl. Because when we’re all in Heaven one day, I want y’all to be there when the Lord lets me know who she is.”

We only had a few minutes left. And even though Gwen and I had named our babies, that really wasn’t settling for us. We both agreed we had to know their names before we left.  One of the orphanage workers was back in the adjoining room. They’d mostly left us be with the babies.  One of our interpreters was there now, too, as we were all saying our goodbyes.  We asked the interpreter if she’d ask the worker to come over to our side of the room. She met us at the little gate that separated the rooms.  As you have read, Gwen’s baby boy was Colvin.  After we got Colvin’s name, we asked about my baby girl. The interpreter said, “this little baby…what is her name?” The worker pointed to my baby and said, “this baby?” We said, “Si. Si.”  She said, “su nombre es Carmen.”

All I will ever remember about that moment is looking at Gwen and both of us letting out an audible sob. Her name was Carmen! We couldn’t believe it. The baby that I was first drawn to when I walked into the nursery. Her name was Carmen! If ever I wanted to take a baby, it was now. I’m not sure if I know what weeping really is, but I was in the back of this nursery holding this baby crying uncontrollably.

But it was time to go. I didn’t have a choice.

“car car” has a whole new meaning

Laying her back down in that crib, was one of THE HARDEST things I’ve ever had to do in my life.  My heart wasn’t just in pieces. It was out of my chest and in the crib with Carmen.  I couldn’t look back. We walked out the nursery and down the steps. I was literally hyper-ventilating and could not catch my breath. We looked back up to see a little boy peering out the window at us. That only made it worse. I walked through the courtyard, into a hallway towards the front gate to try and catch my breath, hoping for a moment of respite. I didn’t find one. A truck had just pulled up delivering another newborn.

“I will not leave you as orphans. I will come to you.” -John 14:18.

Emotionally, physically and spiritually depleted, that was the only thing I hold onto.

i will always remember this moment

nate-o

sweet pat’s heart was breaking too

jesse & another sweet pea

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