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

Baby Carmen. re-visited. Pt 1.

Hey Friends!

We’re done with our whirlwind shoe wrap, and will be back in the studio tomorrow. While out all last week, I heard to predominant statements from you:

1) Will you see Baby Carmen when you go back?
2) Will you please tell the rest of the story with Baby Carmen?

Half of you knew about Baby Carmen & half of you didn’t. For those of you that didn’t, I’m gonna re-post the 2-part blog that I originally posted two years ago when we all met Baby Carmen….

———————————————————
Originally posted September 14, 2011

As I began to journal, I realized this will have to be a 2-parter. (I’m getting good at those on mission trips). There’s so much I want to share with you. I’m struggling with being completely honest – or – softening the truth a bit.  The reason I would soften would be filtering sensitivities to governments, government workers, and the buckner in-country staff of which I have huge respect & admiration (the work they do here is hard. they are the unsung heroes!!!)

But I am choosing to lay it out there, as I saw and experienced the orphanage we visited yesterday afternoon. But even with that said, my words will fall woefully short in painting the picture for you. It’ll end up being a black & white at best.

looking from the inside out

Hands down, yesterday was the hardest day I’ve ever experienced on a shoe trip in 4 years. If there’s a notch above homeless, this orphanage was it. When I say food, water, clothing (barely) & shelter; I mean food, water, clothing and shelter. That’s it.

Besides the one little boy with open sores from head to toe and an eye that had been severely wounded at some point in the past , we were greeted by no one when we arrived. Hear me say, we don’t deserve to be greeted, nor do we expect it. But most times the children are playing in the yard as we walk through the gate, or at least we see the director or a worker. But not here. It could’ve been deserted except for the one little boy, as far as we knew.

As we walked through the hallway into the courtyard, we entered the “prison.” We were standing in the middle of a two-story building, a perfect square with multiple rooms, barred windows, and locked doors. I walked past a couple of windows, and lots of little eyes looked back at me. The children had already been split into groups and each team was shown which room they would serve. The green team (my team, but mostly I’m a floater) went to our assigned room. We didn’t have the names or shoes sizes of the children, so we took construction paper, traced their feet, and found sizes based on the tracing. The kids were sitting on 2 sides, backs against the walls. The room had bare walls, terra-cotta tile, and that was pretty much it. Oh, there was one column in the middle of the room. I think there was a chair here or there, but I couldn’t stop looking at the kids to really notice anything else in the room. But whatever was there, wasn’t much. It was barren and sterile. The kids looked like they’d been swept in off the streets. Survival of the fittest is the name of the game. Here’s where it was equal: each had bald spots on their heads, open sores, infections, lice, rotting teeth, dirty feet….you get the picture. They had big brown eyes, but many looked dazed, hollow, and sad. I did get a couple of sheepish grins from a few of the girls. There were 3 in particular that were huddled together. Clearly, “they” were all “they” had.

We’d made the decision that the boys (mikeschair) would follow behind the shoes and play songs for each of the groups in their respective rooms. When shoes were done for our group, and the boys were singing, Shaun (our group leader) came and got me because she wanted me to see the toddler room. When she opened the door, the first thing that hit me was the stench. It smelled like this room housed the sanitation department. It was anything but. Our team was holding as many kids as they could, some double-fisted, but they were out-numbered. A little boy “toddled” over to me; his diaper in desperate need of changing. He reached out his arms wanting me to hold him. I picked him up and he laid his head on my shoulder. He smelled terrible. And not just from the diaper. He was a dirty, and looked like he’d not been bathed in weeks. I swayed, rocked and hugged him as tightly as I could. Of course, I wanted it to be a 1:1 ratio, so after a few minutes, I tried to sit him down so I could go downstairs and recruit other professional toddler holders. When I tried to sit him down, he wrapped his legs around my waist and his arms around my neck as if I was hanging him over a cliff. He did NOT want to let go. Of course, my natural instinct was to hold him a little longer. Two more times I tried to sit him down so I could go for others, but he wasn’t having any part of this. The reality of his conditions sucker punched my heart. A dozen questions went through my mind: how often is he held? what is he thinking? what parts does he understand? what must it feel like to not have daily human touch other than an occasional diaper change? does his sub-conscience kick in and say “if I hold on tight enough will one of them not let me go?” I walked over to Pam, who may’ve already had 2, and I said, “please hold him. I can’t sit him down.” Walking out of the room to go and find others, part of me felt guilty that I was yet another in his life who would let him down.

After I found more team members for the toddler room, Shaun walked me to the infant room.

And here’s where I’ll stop for tonight.

And just FYI, there’s no “rest of the story” to the toddler room. There’s no red bow. They are still orphans. And they are still there.

haley. part 2.

 

Hey JOY family,

I knew you were wonderful. But this last week, you proved it once again! THANK YOU for all of your sweet notes and words of encouragement to Haley this past week. I kid you not….Haley and I have read EVERY. SINGLE. COMMENT. Many of you have emailed me, as well, and I’ve read all of them. As a mom, thank you for showing so much encouragement to my daughter. I just can’t even believe how many of you care. Goodness, I love you so much. I really, really do.

This has become mine & Haley’s new motto:

Discipline is trading what you want now for what you want MOST.

With God’s help, we both hope to live more disciplined. And to crave Him more than anything else.

Haley sent me a blog post last Wednesday, but as you can see, I’m just now posting. Sorry!

____________________________________________

From Haley:

I am sitting in my bed reading through your comments and am completely overwhelmed by the stories, prayers and words of encouragement that has been poured over me the last week. I am truly in awe of the amount of support you all have given me and can barely read through my tears! I have never felt so loved.

Sitting at the table last Sunday night watching my mom publish my blog post was one of the scariest experiences of my life. It is never comfortable to put yourself out in such an open forum but I’ve been living in my comfort zone for way too long. Something I’ve come to learn about myself over the last year is that I have both an extreme fear of failure and an extreme fear of success. I put so much pressure on myself to be perfect while also telling myself that I’m not good enough to actually succeed. So I choose to take the safe, familiar route. I stay comfortable with where I am and tell myself that it’s good enough. However, God doesn’t want us to be comfortable. He wants us to be genuine and vulnerable and that’s where I am right now. I want to draw closer to Him and to do that I have to let go of the biggest chain that has been weighing me down. Literally! This realization is what led me to be so open with you all. I truly appreciate every kind word you have written and can feel the love you all are giving me.

I am a little over a week into my journey and I’m already down six pounds. My roommate’s dad is a doctor and he has me on a very clean diet.

For those of you that have completed your journey, congratulations! I am so happy for you and I can’t wait to be there with you! I know the journey never really ends, but you are all much healthier physically, emotionally and spiritually. Keep praying for all of us who aren’t quite there yet.

For everyone that is on this journey with me, we can do this! Everyday I wake up and turn my addiction over to God. I am learning to crave Him more and food less. I will keep each of you in my prayers and I hope you all will be praying for me and each other. This is not a battle that is easily won, but I believe that we can win it.

Jesus looked at them intently and said, “Humanly speaking, it is impossible. But with God everything is possible.” Matthew 19:26

This one helped me too!

This one helped me too!

made to crave.

 

Here’s the link to the Made to Crave: 21 Day Challenge Bible Study that we’re doing!  If you have a YouVersion account you can go straight to it. If you don’t, it super easy to create one. You can even set it to where it comes to your email!  Day 1 starts tomorrow!

Join us!

haley.

 

If you’ve listened to me anytime at all, you know I am the proud momma of 2 daughters. Haley is my oldest & Abbey is my youngest. They couldn’t be more opposite in personalities, yet they both keep me laughing all the time! I love them so much, and being their mother is the greatest JOY of my life!

Haley just recently graduated from USF. She is a bright, articulate, and talented young woman. Her leadership skills are second to none, and she’s taught me a thing or two the last few years! Seriously, there have been many times, I’ve sat and listened to her dissect or talk through something, and I think to myself, “where did she learn this?” Besides being extremely smart, Haley is the most caring person I know. She’s compassionate, tender, and loyal to all the people in her life. She’s quick on her feet, and I know if I need something done – and done right – I can call Haley.  She’s also extremely anal JUST LIKE ME, and her OCD kicks in often…which I personally think is a positive!  Because she’s my daughter, I could go on and one, but I’ll end with this: The thing I love most about Haley is how much she loves Jesus. In some ways, Haley is not only my daughter, she’s also my best friend, and my sister in Christ. Some of our best conversations have been talking about Jesus and what He’s done in our lives.

But like all of us, Haley’s not perfect, and she has struggles too. Actually, one in particular that she’s battled her whole life. I’ve invited her to share what that struggle is here on my blog. I am convinced there are people in our community who struggle with the same thing. I’ve encouraged Haley to write. I think writing is powerful, cathartic, and healing. And I’ve encouraged her to write about it as it’s happening, as opposed to looking at it through the rearview mirror. As a mom, I want nothing more than for my daughter to be free from anything that is holding her back from all that God has for her! But on the flip side, it’s also very hard, as her mother, to let her put herself out there like this (and just FYI, all negative comments will be deleted – Momma Bear says!) But for those of you who struggle – or have struggled with something similar – I hope you can encourage my daughter, or perhaps she can encourage you to join her in the journey she is beginning.

Meet my daughter, Haley…..

Haley, I am so proud of you! This takes so much courage, baby! But, I know God is gonna bring you unimaginable blessing with your willingness to be so vulnerable. As I’ve told you every year on your birthday, YOU made me a mommy! And I am so thankful God picked me to be yours!

haley & I running the princess half this past year with team freedom!

haley & I running the princess half this past year with team freedom!

I am not a writer. I’m not even sure where I want to begin and what I want to say but I am going to be completely honest. And being this vulnerable is the scariest thing I have ever done.


I’ve had one major battle I’ve fought my entire life: my weight. I went on my first diet in the fourth grade and haven’t stopped looking for the magic solution since. Over the last five years, I’ve been on several weight loss journeys that have all ended after some considerable progress. I quit on myself before I even gave myself a real chance to succeed. I would slip up and convince myself that I’d failed once again.

Another reason this is hard is that I am fully aware of the stigma that comes with being overweight. I don’t want pity. And it’s really hard to draw attention to something you’ve been trying to hide your whole life.

But as a twenty-two year old college graduate, enough is enough. I haven’t quite found my place in this world, so for now I’ve decided to focus on me. I’m finally deciding to lose the weight once and for all. It’s hard to write this number because it’s a lot of weight to lose, and I could easily get down on myself and quit before I start. But here’s the number: 130. Yep, I need to lose over a 100 pounds. It’s overwhelming to think about it, but every journey starts with one step, right? I don’t know what this next year is going to look like but I know it won’t be pretty… or easy.

Something about this time feels different, though. I’ve realized that until I deal with my problem head on and bring God into the center of my food addiction, I will never succeed. So for me, this is more about my spiritual journey than my physical one.

About a week ago, I started “Made to Crave: 21 Day Challenge” by Lysa TerKeurst. If you are struggling with ANYTHING, go and start this devotional immediately! It’s available on the YouVersion Bible app and online. From the first day this devotional has broken me. I want to share a little with you now:

“I had to get honest enough to admit it that I relied on food more than I relied on God. I craved food more than I craved God. I knew it was something God was challenging me to surrender to His control. Really surrender. Surrender to the point where I’d make radical changes for the sake of my spiritual health perhaps even more than my physical health. Part of my surrender was asking myself a different question, a really raw question. May I ask you this same question? Is it possible we love and rely on food more that we love and rely on God?”

I want to surrender my food addiction. I want to finally be free.

Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. Point out anything in me that offends you, and lead me along the path of everlasting life. Psalm 139: 23-24

Today starts my journey to freedom. I hope this is a safe place to do it. I do fear what people will say. But, I told my mom, “nobody’s going talk bad about an alcoholic who’s in rehab….” So, I hope by acknowledging my struggle, I can do two things:

1. Call it out into the open.
2. Find a community where we can encourage one another.

Thanks for your prayers. I will pray for you too!
Haley

lolol.

 
So, yesterday I had outpatient surgery for a bad vein in my leg that’s been causing me pain and circulations issues for the last year or so. I was pretty out of it yesterday and in a lot of pain, but feel so much better today! I’m laid up for a few days, so my laptop is keeping me company.  A few minutes ago, I  went through and read the text exchange between my mom (Mohair), my oldest (Haleybug),  my youngest (Abster), and my niece (Pauleener). I am laughing my head off!!

The exchange started in the recovery room, and continued in the car when Pete was driving me home. Keep in mind, I’m on anesthesia. But my mom is NOT!

Exchange posted below. I have no objectivity, maybe it’s just funny to us, but I thought I’d share nonetheless. (Plus, I’m bored!) We are crazy. And clearly, my craziness comes naturally. haha! Enjoy.

part 1

part 1

Part 2

part 2

part 3

part 3

part 4

part 4

part 5

part 5

part 6

part 6

part 7

part 7

part 8

part 8

I’m in. Again.

 
Hey Friends!

I know lots of you are starting to wonder what the plan is for Team Freedom 2014. I love that you’re so committed and want to make a difference in the lives of women (and men too) you will most likely never meet.

Welp, as of 30 minutes ago, I registered for the Rock ‘n’ Roll Half in St. Petersburg on February 9, 2014. (Note: This is a couple of weeks earlier than what we’ve done the last few years.) We’re not able to do the Disney Princess Half this next year because it is already sold out. The growing popularity of that event has made it prohibitive for us to maximize the impact of what we’re trying to do…to stand up and put an end to human trafficking.

I’m still “officially” on vacation, so I don’t wanna dive in to the logistics for the run, but I did wanna share with you something that happened in Canada last Friday that was a significant reminder of the work we still have to do…

While spending the day in Victoria, British Columbia, (btw, Victoria is one of the most beautiful cities I’ve ever seen in my life! So so pretty!) I ran into a corner market to get a couple of things I needed. I was standing at the corner paying for my items, when two young women walked in, and stood behind me. While I was organizing my change back in my wallet, I heard one of the girls ask for a pack of condoms. My heart fell, and I felt sick to my stomach. I looked over at her and there was an inexplicable hollowness and sadness in her eyes. At the risk of sounding judgmental, she looked the part of the what these items would be used for later. The guy laid the box on counter and said, “be careful out there.” I couldn’t believe what I was witnessing. Nervous and gittery, she avoided eye contact with me, and hurried out the door. I wanted to grab her by the arm, and say “No!!! You don’t have to do this! This isn’t what you were created for.” I do get what I’m telling you about here is better described as “consensual” prostitution. But regardless, it’s part of the sex industry that exploits and traps women. Of course, we tend to think more of the little girls who are kidnapped and forced to do something they never agreed or wanted to do. But three years in of educating myself (and I still have SO much to learn!), I do know that it’s ALL evil, and breaks the heart of God.

I walked out of the store, crushed in spirit, praying for the two women, I’d (providentially perhaps?) crossed paths with. Because of this encounter, and all the things I’ve learned in recent years, I will use the platform God has given me and my voice as loudly as I possibly can. And the best part of it all? SO many of you are jumping in with me. I can’t even begin to tell you what pure joy this brings me.

So here’s the deal. My lower back is giving me fits. I’m having surgery on a bad vein in my left leg in early August, and I still don’t consider myself a runner. I will complain. I will hate training. But this Team Freedom thing has legs! Pun intended. And I’m in. Again!

The Pasta Party will be that Friday or Saturday night  (February 7 or 8) in the Tampa Bay area. I’m gonna start training this week. I will post more info here soon. But this is our run this year:

Running again. For those who aren't Free.To.Run...yet!

Running again. For those who aren’t Free.To.Run…yet!

Another great thing about this particular run is there’s a 5K too! I’m registered for the half, but you can bet I’ll be wishing I’d signed up for 5K on those long run days. And to anticipate this question: “Can I raise less money if I sign up for 5K?” The answer is – lovingly! – “No.” That’s the point of Team Freedom ….to raise awareness and funds! We’ve already raised well over $100,000 the last 2 years! And we ARE making a difference. I’ll have Stacia share with you something incredibly special that’s happened the last few months. I can’t share on an open forum such as this, but she’ll be able to talk about it with us at the pasta party. Just know that if we make a difference in even one girl’s life, it is WORTH it.

So….are you in? Register HERE!

I promise, more info soon. But for now, I’m closing the computer and resuming vacation. Shoot, I may even lace up this afternoon. Thank you for your hearts. I love you all so much.

“You may choose to look the other way but you can never say again that you did not know.”
― William Wilberforce

article. part 2. {re-post}

 
Happpy Father’s Day to all of the dads today! I’m actually on a plane (love wi-fi on a plane) flying to Atlanta for the 1st leg of Summer Cruise 8! Woohoo!

Here’s part 2 of my re-post from last year:

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Yesterday I posted an article I received last May from one of my dad’s friends, Bob. Providentially, mine and Bob’s lives intersected after the tornadoes in Alabama last year.

my dad

my dad

I’ve debated back and forth whether to post the article. I actually debated even last night whether to take it down or not, after I posted it. The description of my dad is so raw. So real. So honest…

Which takes me back to the afternoon that I read the article for the first time.

I was sitting in my office at the station late this afternoon. As I read Bob’s words, my mind could see vividly the images he was describing. I’d seen the same scenes many times myself. And I had received the same phone calls, driven the same routes. It was all too familiar. As I looked over the pages, there it all was … in black and white … all of my dad’s sin. All of the filth. All of the darkness … printed there in black and white. Documented.

Still crying, I gathered my things – including the article – got in my car, to drive the hour commute home. I replayed many tapes that afternoon. One of my dad almost literally running us off the road when he got kicked out of one rehab center and I was driving him to another. He wanted to stop for beer, and I wouldn’t exit off the highway. When we passed the next exit, he literally grabbed the wheel and forced me to take the exit. Spinning at the base of the ramp, I gave in and drove him to the convenience store. At 16 years old, I didn’t know what else to do. And wrecking didn’t feel like it was worth withholding a 6 pack from him.

The next minute I started laughing hysterically remembering the story of the false teeth and my dad calling K.L. to see if he “had an extra pair laying around.” Sad. But funny!! Perhaps I get my resourcefulness from him?

My PaPa Brown had a huge barn. He tore it down, and built a newer barn on another section of his property. My dad had an RV trailer they moved onto the old slab of the torn down barn. To this day, I still remember walking up to the RV and hearing my dad sing “My home’s on Perry’s slab” to the tune of the group Alabama’s “my home’s in Alabama….” He was drunk.

I don’t have a ton of memories. And most of the ones I do have are not good ones. But one of the last ones I have is when we lived in Mobile. My dad had moved down to Mobile because he wanted to be closer to me and Haley (his first and only grandchild). I didn’t know of his plans to move south until the phone rang one afternoon, and it was my dad on the other line. “I’m here. I decided to move today. I’m at the K.” I laughed at first because the name of the convenience store was “Circle K.” He asked where my townhouse was and if he could stop by. I told him he wasn’t welcome if he’d been drinking; that he wasn’t allowed to be around my daughter in that condition. So a few minutes later, he was at my front door, everything that he owned loaded in his car.

I invited him in. It was the first time he’d seen Haley. He cried.

He found an apartment and stayed in Mobile for a while. He quickly learned our routine and knew we got home around 1:30. I was enrolled at the University of South Alabama. Haley went to Mom’s Morning Out at our church while I was in class. We like to come home and take naps. I tried my best to get him to come around 4 p.m., but he’d usually give us til about 2:30 or 3. For several months, he would come over in the afternoon, warm up my morning’s cold leftover coffee, and play with Haley in the floor. The days he didn’t show up, I knew he was drinking. I can honestly say he never once showed up drunk; he honored my wishes to not be around Haley having been drinking.

One afternoon, Haley was sick. Her prescription was ready, but she was sound asleep in her crib. My dad knocked on the door to visit. I was conflicted. I really needed to get Haley’s prescription, and she was sleeping so peacefully, but could I really trust him to stay with her?  He was sober, and I knew I could ask him to sit with her for 15 minutes while I ran to the pharmacy. I gave him 20 minutes worth of instructions, and 30 minutes worth of warnings. I literally could’ve been there and back twice by the time I was done telling him everything I needed to say. Against my better judgement, I left to get Haley’s medicine. I literally was hyperventilating with fear that I’d just made the worst decision of my life. I raced back home, imagination going crazy. I ran in the house, in full panic, expecting something horrible. And there my dad sat, at the kitchen table drinking the nasty warmed up old coffee. Haley was still sound asleep in her bed. The expression on my face said it all. “You didn’t trust me, did you?” he asked. “no, I didn’t.” I said. I don’t remember exactly what was said after that but it was a cross between, “I’ve given you every right not to trust me. But I’m grateful you did.”

Eventually my dad moved back to NE Alabama. We were in Mobile a little while longer, and then we moved to Tampa in June of 1994. It was in November that I got the phone call that he had passed away in jail. As I mentioned yesterday, I don’t remember much about his funeral. It’s crazy, really, because I have a great memory. An excellent memory! But I don’t really remember that day. I just remember feeling the finality of everything, and that it would never be the way it was supposed to be.

Reading Bob’s article brought all of this back to the surface for me. Time has a way of dulling things. Seeing Bob’s words and description of my dad in black and white made it all real again. Through tears, and with these tapes playing in my head, I told God how much it hurt.

And that’s when I heard God speak these words to my heart:

“You know, Carmen, you have an article too.”

For a few moments on I-75, God gave me a birds eye view, and I could see a glimpse of my dad’s life from His perspective. A glimpse of my life.

Looking down, I could see my dad’s article. I could see my article. All there, printed out for God to see. Nothing hidden. All out in the open.

And then I felt God say, “but because of the cross, laid over your articles, I don’t see them.” I truly had this vision in my head of the cross literally laid over our documented, filthy and guilty articles. But because of Jesus, God looks down and our articles are covered.

It was a moment. A healing moment. And for the first time in 40 years, I saw my dad as clean. I saw him whole. Healthy. Sober.

So on this Father’s Day, I can say with the sincerest of hearts, that I do look forward to seeing my dad in Heaven one day. Clear-eyes, and made new. I look forward to hugging him. And letting him know I forgive him.

 

Purify me from my sins, and I will be clean; wash me, and I will be whiter than snow. -Psalm 51:7

 

article. part 1. {re-post}

 
Hey Guys!

Last year I posted a 2-part blog about the redemption God gave me about my dad, long after he had passed away. We (unexpectedly) talked about it on the show yesterday; it wasn’t planned at all. But, since we did, I thought I’d re-post the 2 blogs today and tomorrow.

Here’s Part 1. I’ll post Part 2 tomorrow! In the meantime, I’m gonna go and see if I can dig up a picture of my dad. I don’t have very many, but I will try and find a picture to post with Part 2 tomorrow.

 
————————————————————
Tomorrow is Father’s Day.

The last few days I’ve thought a lot about an article I received last May after our Giftcards for Alabama outreach that helped a tornado-torn community near my hometown of Jacksonville. I’ve actually debated for a month or so on whether or not to share this article on my blog. The last thing I would ever want to do is hurt my family. But God has redeemed and healed a deep wound in my heart, that I really can’t not share. This is only part 1, though.

There are a thousand “only God” details I could share with you that happened this time last year, but just know for sure that through a series of well-orchestrated, providential events, Bob found me online as he was searching to hear the interview we’d done with his pastor. Bob had no idea the morning show page he was searching for would lead to me, Carmen, daughter of Ken. Bob reached out to me, and we exchanged several emails. I cried as I read each one. (for whatever reason, I don’t remember much of my dad’s funeral services; I’m blank on that day except for riding in the car with my aunt. I also remember not feeling anything.)  Eventually Bob sent me this article (I’m sharing a portion of it) he had written about my dad. I was sitting at my desk late one day, when I opened Bob’s email and read the following. Years worth of hurt, regret, pain, dysfunction, and anguish made it’s way to the surface that afternoon. Alone, I bawled my eyes out, grieving what I never had, grieving what would never be, grieving what I didn’t in November 1994.

Bob nailed my father. He captured him perfectly in this article.

Tomorrow, I will share part 2. And the “moment” God healed this broken daughter’s heart.

Meet my dad….

Ken

The Jacksonville High School Golden Eagles 1964 football season didn’t make the record books. Ken, a loud mouth freshman, was a running back. He’d run back and forth, on and off the field with an ice water bucket, ammonia capsules, and off-­the-­cuff, off color jokes.

Ken truly brought an extra flare of entertainment to the game. Ken was Dennis the Men­ace, Don Rickles and Rich Little all in one.

His impersonation of one of our beloved coaches nick-named “Rat” left us in the locker room hyperventilating from laughter before the game while our dwindling number of fans wondered how we could lose so many games with so much talent!

Hate Ken or love him, there was no way to get rid of him! I was one of the ones who loved him.

Graduating or simply turning sixteen and dropping out of school changes everything. Life gets much more complicated. The foot loose, fancy free days of runnin’ with like-minded high school buddies, locker room jokes, and competing for the girls’ attention is gone forever.

When I heard Ken enlisted and headed for Vietnam, I knew the troops over there were in for some entertainment. And they didn’t even have to wait for Bob Hope or Red Foxx! Unlike some of our buddies, Ken made it back, but like so many, not without deep personal, emotional damage and baggage. He married and became the dad of two children. He even became a preacher, a real zealot for God. The Baptist Church definitely had a spark plug!

That was until….

Ken was so outgoing that he could sell anything: Rocket Burgers, Jesus Christ, or furniture. The furniture store was his headquarters during the week. After hours, doors closed and locked, out would come the bottle, in would come the drink and out would come the demons.

Alcohol put Ken’s conscience to sleep. The Baptist Church lost him. The devil got him. He lost his family, his dignity, his self respect. Years later, a meager, monthly US Government disability check would become his enabler.

It was 30 years after our care free high school days I found Ken held up in an old dilapidated, wrecked, mobile home, electricity disconnected for non-­payment; a God awful stench from a toilet seldom flushed. A fat, fluffy smelly puppy he named, Bear, after his hero Bear Bryant, the legen­dary football coach.

Bear, the dog never went outside. Ken’s trailer was like stepping into one of hell’s garbage dumpsters: dog poop and urine, old molded cottage cheese cartons, empty beer cans strewn all over the floor; ashes and cigarette butts accumulated everywhere, and there sitting in the middle of it all, layin’ back in an old worn out, caved in, faded, unraveled, fabric arm chair, propped up against a rotten, roach infested wall under a rusty, crooked, Alabama Crimson Tide plaque, unkempt, drunk out of his mind, still crackin’ jokes was our old high school buddy, Ken.

His face was wrinkled way beyond his years. His skin was like weathered, sun baked pork rind; nicotine stained hands trembling, one holding a cigarette butt he’d gotten off the floor and relit. His hair was gray, thin and receding. The noticeable scar on his forehead was the reminder of one of the nights he took a beating. His drunken, smart mouth called for blows and another drunk beat him in the head with a pool cue and left him in an alley for dead.

I walked on in. My heart broke. I told Ken that I loved him and offered to help him clean up his place. He mumbled some smart remark about Bear Bryant and fell asleep. I put out his relit cigarette butt, took Bear outside and began some straightening and cleaning, a task impossible to finish in one day or month for that matter. I made a dent in it, however, let Bear back in, went home, threw my smelly clothes into the washer, took a shower and returned the next day to check on Ken.

I took him to meet his appointment with the doctor, health department, probation officer and anywhere else he felt he needed to go. Any where other than the beer store, that is. One day with Ken became two, then another and another. Two weeks later, Ken’s sister called, amazed Ken had been sober for so long. I was so idealistic to believe after all these years the nightmare could miraculously end and Ken could be a sober new man overnight.

One day I missed seeing him. A week went by. I stopped by his trailer to check on him and there he was the same as before. His check had come in and when you’re an addict, and you’ve got money, you have no trouble getting a ride. Some of Ken’s friends would come by to check on him only at the beginning of the month. Sounds like love with a hook, doesn’t it?

Ken was like an owl, a nocturnal creature of the night. He loved to find and stay in touch with old friends and make new enemies! Each night, drunk, he’d get a bad case of what we call “black cord fever,” getting on the phone sharing jokes and keeping the social network going. He gave no consideration to who might be sleeping.

My wife, Patti and I were awakened from a deep sleep one night, the phone blaring like a fire alarm! “uhhhh…..hello?”

“Hey Bob…” his tongue thick, Ken remarked, “me and Coach Bryant are over here talking about “the great Bob, Golden Eagle linebacker turned songwriter and just wanted to call and say I love ya!”

“Bullxxxx! NO! You don’t, Ken! You love that bottle!” Don’t you ever call here again!”

I slammed the phone down, and stayed wide awake, spending the rest of the night cussin’ Ken!

I thought to myself, “The nerve! Why did I ever give that hopeless, inconsiderate jerk my phone number? He’s nothing but a nuisance. Patti, I’m sorry.”

The next day was Wednesday, the day my friend Mac and I would work out. Mac was an old college football teammate who had become a college professor at Jacksonville State University. We’d warm up for our workout by jogging around the track above the gymnasium in the Pete Matthews Coliseum.

It was summer camp time and junior high kids from all over the county were waiting for their counselors to arrive at 9 AM to get things started. Most of the kids were crowded near the front door, excited and energetic.

However, there was a loner … a precious, little girl, no taller than 4’5″ at the end of the gym trying her best to throw the large basketball through the hoop. Never mind if anyone was watching. She’d hold the ball in both hands, stoop as low and she could and with all the energy she could muster, push upward, the ball falling way short of the 10′ hoop. With amazing tenacity and determination she’d run for the ball, move back in front of the hoop and try again and again. As Mac and I would jog by, we’d cheer her on. “Hey, try it again! You can do it!” we’d shout as we’d run by.

She began looking over her shoulder for us to come by again. As soon as she’d see us again each time getting closer and closer.

“You can do it! Try it one more time!” Mac and I would shout.

Then, to our amazement the ball swooshed through the net! We began to clap, dance and cheer!

“We knew you’d make it! Way to go! You’re awesome!”

About half a lap later, I felt a deep conviction within my heart. God spoke: “Bob, you gave up on Ken. I didn’t. Go tell him he can make it. Try one more time!”

“Mac,” I said, “see ya next Wednesday, I’ve got somewhere I’ve got to go.”

Ken lived in the subculture of alcoholics. I found him in a run-­down apartment of one of the likely crowd.

“Ken, I gave up on you. God didn’t! Let’s try it one more time!”

He smiled, totally un­offended, but drunk as usual.

A few years later, Ken was serving weekends in the Oxford City Jail for a DUI conviction. The jail was really his home base. He was a stray during the week, sleeping in corners, under trees, back seat of old clunkers, an occasional night on the ragged sofas of friends from the subculture who were way beyond being embarrassed by him.

At the jail, he could shower, wash his clothes and eat regularly so when the judge ordered him to do weekends in jail, it realy was throwing brer rabbitt into the briar patch!

After Ken had suffered a stroke, his speech was impossible to understand, especially when he was drinking. One Saturday afternoon he called me from the jail. I could understand him so I knew he was sober.

All he said was, “Bob, I love Jesus and I love you!

“I love you too, Ken.” was my predictable response.

“Listen to me! he said, “I love Jesus and I love you!”

And then, without further conversation, he hung up the phone. An hour later, while washing his clothes, Ken had a massive heart attack and died.

His sister called and asked if I would share at Ken’s funeral.

“Of course,” I replied, trying to hide my immediate since of dread.

How do you eulogize someone whose life appears to have been so tragic? What comfort can there possibly be for the grown children who had been so embarrassed and hurt, the ex-­wives who may dare to show up?
What about the subculture of addicts who were sure to come? Do you tell them it’s ok to continue to live a drunken, destructive, wasted life and continue to hurt the people who love them? And if you read from the Good Book, in good conscience, can you ignore passages like Galatians 5:19 where we’re told drunks will not inherit the Kingdom of God?

Saturday afternoon, 2:30 PM, K.L. Brown’s Funeral Home Chapel was an overflow crowd, standing room only. In the parking lot were new slick, polished Cadillacs next to rusted out, barely runnin’ clunkers with worn out, jumper cables layin’ in the floor where the back seat use to be!

From dignitaries to derelicts, Ken’s life deeply touched this community. Everyone loved him, even those who had hated him! And I had the honor of sharing publicly my own love for this colorful character and in particular, his last phone call from the jail! Somehow I suspect he knew, with that call, he was giving me “fodder” for his own funeral!

The night before, while praying, contemplating, and preparing, I felt God remind me that He didn’t check in with me when He created the Universe, and He doesn’t check in with me as to who is in Heaven or not. I’m not here to judge another’s soul. I’m here simply to be available to God’s Spirit that He might bring comfort and hope to those who remain. Only His Spirit can do that! I am nothing. He is everything!

There’s so much bad in the best of us. And so much good in the worst of us! It behooves all of us not to judge.

God put His love in my heart for ragamuffins and outcasts. One of them was named Ken, and I was honored to hare a part of life’s journey with him.

As the funeral service got under way, I shared with the congregation that I knew Ken loved
me!

“He told me enough times over the phone in the middle of the night!” I said jokingly.

Many in the audience laughed and I realized during Ken’s “black cord fever” spells, he’d been calling them too!

After the chapel service, I rode with K.L. in his hearse carrying Ken’s remains to the cemetery to continue the service at the graveside.

K.L began to laugh and told me of one eventful late night Ken had called him.

“K.L., you got any false teeth at the funeral home?” he blurted out.

K.L., half asleep, replied, “WHAT?!?!”

“Yea, I got drunk and lost my teeth. You don’t bury them perfectly good teeth do ya? Do you have some extras?”

“Yes, Ken, I do bury them. And no, I don’t have any extras.”

“Shame on you, K.L. but thanks anyway! And Roll Tide.”

I was alone driving home following Ken’s funeral service, reflecting on his life, the trail of broken relationships, the heartbreak. And the loved ones who, admit it or not, are probably relieved he’s gone.

I was grieving, realizing there’s so many more like him around us and the nightmare is escalating. Who among us, young and old alike, has not been outrageously violated by this demon called “addiction”?

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