Tuesday, December 20, 2011

"I Want Them To Have Hope"....Operation Sleep Tight: Part 6

Yes, my soul, finds rest in God; my hope comes from him.  Psalm 62:5

I doubted the possibilities of Operation Sleep Tight.  I questioned myself in allowing Josiah to follow through with his thought of providing some warmth to the homeless this winter.  Is this the right thing?  How will this work?  Can our family afford 10 sleeping bags just in case he is unable to raise support?

Because of my doubt, I've been left with humility, gratitude, and amazement at what God has done through Josiah's mission.

Instead of raising 10 sleeping bags, as was the goal, Josiah was able to deliver 25 sleeping bags to those in need on Monday night while working alongside People Loving Nashville.  Then, an additional 15 sleeping bags were given to those at Green Street Church.  And as I write this, he has 6 more sleeping bags beside our Christmas tree and a few more coming in the mail.

Operation Sleep Tight has provided at least 46 sleeping bags to the homeless this winter!  And from the mouth of one man who received one, he sang, "I'm not going to be cold tonight!  Oh no!  I'm not going to be cold!"  (The dance he did was quite comical when reenacted by Josiah!)

Josiah personally handed out each sleeping bag and greeted each person respectfully.  When the last sleeping bag was handed out on Monday night, Josiah looked up at Sergio and asked, "Dad, what else can I do to help?"  Although there were no more sleeping bags to give, Josiah's sweet heart was not finished serving.  They joined a youth group and began passing out clothing items.

Josiah has been encouraged by his friends making homemade doggy treats to purchase some sleeping bags, he's been encouraged by our realtor whom he just met on Sunday, grandmothers, my long-time friends, Sergio's co-workers, a couple in our church here, & some of our neighbors.

Friends from Joplin, MO
I'd like to share one more thing about Josiah that I think you should know.  On Wednesday night, Sergio stood up before those at Green Street Church and interviewed Josiah.  Josiah was so shy and pretty much kept his face in Sergio's arm.  However, when Sergio asked Josiah, "What would you like everyone to know that receives a sleeping bag?"  Josiah quietly replied, "I want them to have hope."

I stood in the very back keeping our 2 & 3 yr olds quiet during their interview.  I watched as some clapped, some chanted his name, & as Josiah walked down the middle aisle to me, a man gave him a high-five.

We can not simply give them a title as "homeless" and be comfortable with all that it entitles.  No, because they are not just homeless; they are men, women, teens, and children who are hurting.  So, what can be done?  I couldn't say it any better than what the People Loving Nashville have already stated:

We are all hungry, so we bring food.
We are all shamed in our nakedness, so we bring clothes.
We are all broken, so we bring ears to listen and hear.
We are all scared, so we bring comfort.
We are all guilty, so we bring acceptance and honesty.
We are all living in chaos, so we bring peace.
We are all lonely, so we bring friendship and community.
We are all hurt, so we bring love.

Josiah showed me as well as others the meaning of unconditional love.  A love that shows no favoritism based on status, looks, needs, or what someone can give back to us.  Josiah showed me how to have faith like a child and believe that God will provide for His children. 

His words play over again in my head, "That they have hope", and I couldn't agree with him more.

Mother Teresa is quoted saying, "If you can't feed 100 people, then just feed one."

I think that it can also be said in other ways.  If you can't clothe 100, then clothe one.  If you can't provide 100 sleeping bags, then provide one.  If you can't share the Gospel with 100, then share it with one. 

But God will never forget the needy; the hope of the afflicted will never perish.  Psalm 9:17-19

Operation Sleep Tight was not done by one person, but was accomplished by the generosity of many.   We are truly grateful.
Let us not be satisfied with just giving money. Money is not enough, money can be got, but they need your hearts to love them. So, spread your love everywhere you go.  -Mother Teresa


Monday, December 12, 2011

First Delivery Preparation: Operation Sleep Tight, Part 5

Before lunch last week, I asked Josiah to pray.  His prayer went something like this, "God, thank you for telling me to get sleeping bags for people in need.  I am having so much fun."

Wow!  I listened to him pray, looked over at the tower of sleeping bags, and my own heart was convicted.  Josiah has worked very hard and has done so joyfully.  I couldn't help but pray, "Lord, how many times have I walked away from a task that you've called me to and miss out on the 'fun' that You have for me and for others?  Or how many times have I grumbled over a task that You've given me?  Lord, I'm so sorry!"


Tonight is Josiah's first night of deliveries!  We are heading out to meet up with People Loving Nashville. 

Here are the plans....

I will finish cleaning out our van this afternoon, buckle in our four kids, pack every corner of the van full of sleeping bags, strap the double stroller on top of the van, pick up Sergio from work, head to pick up Dwayne (our friend who has already been blessed by People Loving Nashville), and then go to our destination. 

That's the easy part!

Here's where it gets hard.  How many sleeping bags do we take?  What will be our response when we pass all of them out and there is still someone who needs one?  Or what if there are 100 more in need?

My eyes fill up with tears just thinking about the 'what ifs'!

But let me tell you what I do know & where I choose to place my focus.  I am confident that the Lord has planned all of this and has been in charge of  "Operation Sleep Tight" this entire time.  He has given Josiah a heart of service and we are grateful for our son's love.  We have been praying that those who receive a sleeping bag will feel the love of Jesus and the hope that only He can give. 

We are grateful for all of you who have donated funds and sent sleeping bags.  The total is in the 40's and I will have a definite number in the next couple of days.  There have been a couple of families who have bought some online and have had them sent to our house.  Any bags that arrive after Wednesday, will be taken to Green Street Church the following Wednesday where they can be passed out to those in need.

I will post soon about tonight's experience and hopefully will have some pictures to share of what the Lord is doing because of your generosity & prayers!

Many will be a little warmer this winter because of Operation Sleep Tight.

Thank you for partnering with Josiah!

*Sorry about the quality of pictures, they were taken with our cell phone.*

Monday, December 5, 2011

The Need is Great! Operation Sleep Tight: Part 4

I would like to send a big THANK YOU to everyone who has sent in donations for Operation Sleep Tight.  As of today, 23 sleeping bags have been purchased and donations continue to come in, so this number is still growing.  We are truly grateful!!


Our initial plans were to take the sleeping bags to one location, a church off of Green Street in Downtown Nashville, but God has been working on another location as well. On Monday, the 12th, we will meet with "People Loving Nashville" at the Belmont Church in Downtown Nashville to deliver some of the sleeping bags.  We were connected with this ministry through our friend, Dwayne, who has been blessed by them.

"People Loving Nashville" meet at a church, fix meals for 150+ people, pray, and then deliver them out into the community.  They are meeting people face-to-face and building relationships.  Some of them already know of people who could use a sleeping bag now.

Josiah may not be able to meet one-on-one and to build these relationships, but through Operation Sleep Tight, he's able to come alongside and help meet a need of another ministry, like People Loving Nashville & Green Street Church.

Here's their mission statement taken right off of their website:

As People Loving Nashville…
We do not make assumptions about the people we meet.  We cannot know what life is like in another person’s shoes.  We do not pretend to have answers for every problem.  We do not bring judgement, control, disrespect, arrogance, or violence.


We are all hungry, so we bring food.
We are all shamed in our nakedness, so we bring clothes.
We are all broken, so we bring ears to listen and hear.
We are all scared, so we bring comfort.
We are all guilty, so we bring acceptance and honesty.
We are all living in chaos, so we bring peace.
We are all lonely, so we bring friendship and community.
We are all hurt, so we bring love.

Check out their video.  It's only 2 minutes long & well worth the time:

On December 14th, we will head out to Green Street Church to worship, serve a meal, and hand out the remainder of the sleeping bags.  Josiah will be talking about his heart to give everyone a warm bed this winter and how he could not have done this alone.

We are very thankful for all of your donations, sweet words, and prayers.  God's love has been shown through so many of you.  There have been mothers who have given on behalf of their kids, grandmothers donating in honor of their grandkids, birthday gifts being given by purchasing sleeping bags, a fundraiser ran by two siblings in order to donate, long-time friends from my childhood years, relatives, Sergio's sweet co-workers, and much more.... the list of people given keeps growing.

Thank you for your generosity!
 Thank you for supporting Operation Sleep Tight! 

The need for sleeping bags is great.  If you'd like to donate or would like to read more about Operation Sleep Tight, you may do so Here

Thursday, December 1, 2011

"No One Should Be Without A Bed" Operation Sleep Tight: Part 3

Via pinterest.com (no web address found, only image)
"I am an invisible man. I am a man of substance, of flesh and bone, fiber and liquids - and I might even be said to possess a mind. I am invisible, understand, simply because people refuse to see me.
-Ralph Ellison "Invisible Man"

When you think of the homeless, what picture comes to mind?  Is it the man walking down the street in dirty, torn clothes pushing a shopping cart?

Via pinterest.com  (No web address, only image)

Or is it a picture of an old lady sitting outside a local coffee shop begging for your change?

Via pinterest.com (No web address found, only image)

The images of homelessness do not stop there.  It has taken it's ugly face and affected the lives of not only adults, but also children.   

Via myfantasticlife.blogspot.com
"If you look at homelessness today, you will see young people aging out of foster care, runaway youth, single women with children, chronically homeless men and women, young families and single career people who have lost employment during the recent recession, and veterans returning from recent wars. Homelessness increasingly affects families. In Nashville, 2,077 school children were homeless during the past school year."  

Homlessness in Nashville has risen 30% in the past two years.  Key Alliance's Site

There have been times when I, myself, have looked at the homeless and questioned what can be done.  I have a few ideas in my head, but honestly, simply having ideas without implementation accomplishes nothing.

Shamefully, I have no good reason as to why I have done nothing.  

Via pinterest.com (no web address found, only image)

Homelessness has to end.

"No one should be without a bed.  They should not be sleeping outside on the cold, concrete sidewalks."

These last two statements are not my own.  They come from the lips of my son, Josiah.  I look at his heart for people that he doesn't even know and I am inspired to be a better person.

"Operation Sleep Tight" is his ministry this winter.  Out of his concern for the homeless, he is working on raising money to buy sleeping bags for the homeless.  Because in his words, "everyone needs to be warm this winter". 

As each box arrives, Josiah has carefully brought each one into the house and opened them himself.

Since Saturday, November 27th, he has been able to purchase 15 sleeping bags!  We are grateful to all who have given donations & words of encouragement to this ministry.

Notice the tower of empty boxes behind him?  :) 

Each sleeping bag is a great reminder of loving our neighbors as ourselves (Matthew 22:39).

Sergio and I are proud of all that Josiah has accomplished.  He is young, but he is not helpless.  He has chosen to do something.  It is up to Sergio and myself to teach him that this work is not about us, but about our Father.  And to Him, we give all the glory and honor.

"Whoever oppresses the poor shows contempt for their Maker, but whoever is kind to the needy honors God."  Proverbs 14:31

Part One of Operation Sleep Tight is located here.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Weekend in a Nutshell

"Honesty and transparency make you vulnerable.  Be honest and transparent anyway."  -Mother Teresa

These past few months, Sergio has been my faithful, bring-me-back-to-realty husband/friend.  He has held my hand, listen to me cry, and rebuke me when I didn't want to hear it.  He pushes me to grow, and I hate to admit it, but I am extremely stubborn. 

This past weekend, Sergio made reservations for me to stay in a hotel room ALONE for two, whole nights!  What an amazing gift!  I know that I've shown my ugly side to him way too many times and he knew that I needed some time to process my emotions.  So,  he took me into downtown Nashville & left me there to do just that.

I thought that I'd get a lot of writing accomplished.  I've been working on a piece about my dad and his suicide, but realized that it was time to lay that piece of work to rest.  My heart was too consumed by wanting to understand his depression and why he did what he did.  It was not good for me and as I prayed, I felt the Lord tell me that "Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life."  Proverbs 4:23. 

I spent Saturday morning walking the streets of a hip area with fun boutiques.  It was so peaceful to just look around shops and to not really think of anything.  I didn't know anyone in sight and it didn't really bother me until I was walking back towards the hotel.  This is when loneliness pushed my heart towards missing Joplin.

God gave me some special friends back in Joplin that I cherish deeply.  They have walked through hardships with me & have lowered me through the roof when I could not get to Jesus.

They have cried with me, laughed with me, and have helped me become who I am today.  

And I miss them.

God had other plans for my family, and it has not been easy on my heart.  In the busyness of life, I have pushed my emotions to the side to care for others and this has taken a toll on my behavior.  "The behavior a person exhibits is an expression of the overflow of the heart." -Ginger Plowman

It is though I have tried to stand on my two feet alone, all by myself.  But, I can't.  I have fallen hard.  God does not call us out into ministry alone.  I am too weak for that.

This weekend, I have also felt the deep sadness of leaving my family.  We had to leave at a time of chaos.  Not only was it a week after the Joplin tornado, but it was also just a few days after my mom was released from ICU and of my uncle's passing.  I have felt such a guilt of not being there to help my sister take care of mom and not being able to attend his funeral.  In these past six months, I have missed my family deeply and have longed to be with them.  

God has called us to "leave our family for a short time so that others can be family for eternity." -Sister Wadsworth

My heart has been heavy for months and Sergio knew this before I realized it for myself.  I needed this past weekend in order to rest, to be still, and to remember that no matter where I am....God is still God.

"God speaks in the silence of the heart.  Listening is the beginning of prayer."  -Mother Teresa

As for me and my heart, I have found rest in Him.  There's a sense of renewal within my soul.

"I will say of the Lord, “He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.”  Psalms 91:2

For such a time as this, God has placed me here in Nashville.  I will love others as deeply and dearly as I loved back in Joplin.  I choose love, not for my sake, but for His alone. 
And the cool thing is....is that God is already at work here.  I have seen Him working through the kindness of my neighbors and through the church.  I can't wait to share those stories of our Jehovah Jireh! 

My getaway with the Lord this weekend was absolutely intense, humbling, & freeing.  It was necessary.  Sergio blessed with me with the perfect gift.

I couldn't have asked for anything more.  Thank you, Sergio.  I love you.

Operation Sleep Tight: Part 2

I would like to thank all of you for your sweet words of encouragement and donations for Josiah's Operation Sleep Tight Ministry!  This morning, we were able to place our first order of 6 sleeping bags!!  If I could bundle up his joy & send it your way, I would do it!  Our little man is overwhelmed with excitement!  As he clicked on the "payment" option, he said to me, "Mom, we're really doing it!".  Yes, with the help of so many, at least six people will have a brand new sleeping bag this winter! 

Our dear friend, Lisa, sent us a great deal found on Wal-Mart's website.  We are able to purchase a pack of two sleeping bags for only $40!  Everest Mummy Sleeping Bags Thank you, Lisa!

What we love about these sleeping bags is that they are lightweight and cover all the way up their back & head.   Each comes with a bag and will be easy to transport from place to place.

If you have any questions, please feel free to contact me by phone, Facebook, or by email.

If you missed the first post, the link is Operation Sleep Tight: Part 1.

Thank you for giving to Operation Sleep Tight!  

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Operation Sleep Tight

Josiah at the Great Day of Service 2010

I write this post with a warm heart.  Our son, Josiah, is growing into a sweet, young guy with a sensitive soul that takes notice of people in need.  This past Wednesday, he and I were sitting at the school table watching the rain make mud puddles in our backyard.  After a few moments of silence, he looked up at me and asked, "Mom, what do homeless people do when it rains?"  I explained different options that they may have such as going into a building, under a bridge, or even standing underneath the awning of a building.  

Out of concern, he said, "What do they do when it is cold?"  Again, I explained a few options.  

I could tell that he was in deep thought, so I asked him what he thought he could to help anyone who was homeless. 

He replied, "Mom, I think we should give them something to sleep with, like a blanket.  I don't want them to sleep on the wet, cold ground."  

Josiah holding his baby sister, Clara

I teared up a little bit.  This is one of those times where I can not let this be a fleeting thought.  We must take it and put it into action.  

Sergio and I discussed our options that night.  The best option would be to give them sleeping bags.  We have done our research and the average cost would be $34.95 plus tax.  "Wow," I thought, "that could get expensive."

The next day, I decided to ask Josiah a few questions and discuss with him why sleeping bags would be the better option.

"Josiah, why do you want to give the homeless something to sleep on?"  I intentionally wanted to pry into his heart to see what he was thinking.  

"I want to give them something because they need it and I don't want them to be cold.  I just know it's going to snow soon." 

Wanting to know if he had a goal in mind, I asked, "How many sleeping bags would you like to hand out?"

"I don't know."  

"How about we make a goal of 10 sleeping bags."  

"But, Mom, we know more than 10 homeless people!"  He seemed rather frustrated with me.  I suspect it is because my husband has been attending every Wednesday night a church downtown that feeds the homeless a meal.  Josiah has attended quite often and seen the 70-80 people who come to worship and eat a hot meal. 

"Josiah, let's start with 10 sleeping bags and see what the Lord will do." I explained.  

He sat in silence for a few minutes.  

He sighed.  

"Ok, Mom, but can you tell God that we'll ask for more sleeping bags next month."

Josiah (left side) rock climbing in Downtown Nashville

"Let's tell him together, honey.  I am pretty sure that He already knows."  And with that we prayed.

Josiah is doing what he can to raise the money for the sleeping bags and I would like to come alongside of him and ask you all for any help you can give.  

We designated two weeks for his "Operation Sleep Tight" (as he calls it!).  Our family and some friends will be providing the meal for the homeless on December 14th.  Before the meal, we plan on driving to a few designated areas to deliver the sleeping bags.  

If you'd like to give to Josiah's ministry, please feel free to call me, Facebook me, or email me at jackie_rizo@hotmail.com.  

We will keep you informed of his progress and will post all about Operation Sleep Tight!  

Thank you all so much!

Monday, November 21, 2011

I Must Smell Awful!

Today's just not my day.  It's not a day to focus on me and my needs, but rather, it's a day that is meant for me to focus especially hard on my children.  You see, today, my children have their checkups and I never know what to expect.  Some days, they do amazingly well and I am so proud of them.  We sing songs, play, and celebrate their job well done.  And well, other days, are the opposite.  But, those days seem like a piece of cake in comparison of what I experienced today as a mommy.

Our day started off in a rush.  I woke up late, jumped into some clothes, & pulled my hair back in a somewhat stylish manner (isn't the messy look in style, ladies?!).  I dressed the kids and we run out the door to make our 8am appointment.

Once we arrived, I realized, my first mistake.  I didn't feed anyone breakfast!  Surely our appointment won't last but a few minutes and we'll grab something at the snack shop.  In my mind, it seemed like an unspoken understanding between me & my kids.  We won't have any issues, right?!

In reality, what was I thinking?!

At the check-in station, Eliah suddenly has to go to the restroom.  I rush him and the others across the hall and into the women's bathroom.  As I pull his pants down and sit him on the toliet, he seriously squirts his potty all over me.  It was like an uncontrolled water fountain!  It sprayed in my hair, onto my cardigan,  down my pants, and all over the floor.  I had never seen this much urine come out of such a little person before!

I am sure people heard my squeal from outside of the bathroom.  What in the world am I going to do now?  I got Eliah taken care of, washed our hands, and looked over at the automatic dryer.  That's it!  I'll just use that to quickly dry off my clothes & hair.  Mistake number 2.  Can you imagine the smell of heated pee?  I am totally disgusting!

This doesn't stop me.  I am not coming back for another appointment.  Let's just get this over with.

During the appointment, I'm sure the doctor probably thinks I need a shower.   And he's right if he does.  We are sitting rather closely in order to give Eliah the flu mist and I want to explain what happen, but just can't.  As soon as Eliah gets the mist, he turns his head and blows his nose onto my cardigan.  Nice.  It's not a small amount of clearness, it's like slime from that old Nickoleoden show!  I want to close my eyes and be at the beach, but it's time to venture out of the office.

We head over to the snack shop which is just around the corner of the office.  I grab the kids a healthy (yeah, right) breakfast of donuts & chocolate milk.  As we are walking out of the building.  I hear, "Eliah, please share the milk with me!"  "No, Josiah!  It's mine!" Eliah shouted back.

I pulled over the stroller, bent down, and was prepared to settle the dispute.  But, to my surprise, the PINT of chocolate milk fell straight to the floor and exploded like a volcano.  Luckily, my face was there to catch the majority of the mess.  It was in my hair, on my clothes, and all over my face.  I used Clara's blanket to soak up most of what was on my head.  I gently took away the milk and asked the kids to give me a minute.  Internally, I was crying my eyes out.

All of a sudden, some lady who had been watching this all happen, felt the need to tell me, "You have your hands full."

Really?!  I hadn't noticed.

I looked at her and gave a small smile, but was holding my tongue between my teeth.  At that moment, I could've given her a mouthful. 

Kids are finally strapped in and I walked slowly to the driver's side.  It was pouring down rain, but I didn't care.  It cooled me down and maybe it washed off my new fragrance of urine, snot, & chocolate milk.

In the van, I turn around and ask the kids to give mommy some quiet time.  There is no talking from the doctor's office to our home.  Mommy needs to put herself in time-out.

Silently, I let the tears fall down my cheeks and I pray.  I can't tell you what I prayed because I had no words.  It was more of just allowing my spirit to cry out for help.  

I am always amazed at how the Lord works in my life.  He never disappoints me. 

In the silence, I hear, "Your children are wonderfully and beautifully made.  Each were created by Me with different personalities.  I gave them to you to train, to teach, to love, and to guide them in the way they should go.  You can do this.  Do not fear.  I am with you.  Love them through their failures, as I have loved you through yours."


He's right, you know.  He always is.

So, yes, I do have my hands full.  My hands are filled with four beautiful children that were perfectly created by the Lord.  I have been given a great honor and task to train them in the way they should go and it's not always easy and I'm not perfect at it.  I trust in the truth that the joy of the Lord is my strength.  I will lean on Him to get me through and to give me wisdom, peace, and joy.   

(I will also be on my knees praying daily that my children do not get sick this winter.)

Now that I can laugh about today's events, please excuse me while I take a shower. 

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

A Homeless Guy, Me, & a Shameful Confession

 I really enjoying blogging although I am not consistent with it.  It allows me to process what's on my mind & heart without going crazy.  I have tried several times to enter a blog post about yesterday, but just couldn't get the words written out.  So, I thought that I would try and tell a story while my children talk during naptime. 

Friday, September 30, 2011

Comforting Josiah

Tonight, I can't sleep. My eyes are filled with tears as I lay here wondering and praying for Josiah, our 7yr old.

The past four months have been a whirlwind of dramatic change for our family. My mother had outpatient knee surgery, but ended up spending time in the ICU. Joplin, MO (our home at that time) was hit by an F-5 tornado and a week after that we packed up our U-Haul & van and moved to Nashville, TN.

Moving away from a place that we've called home for the past 5 years was difficult in itself. On top of everything else, my family is just now able to process and find some normalcy to our lives.

Josiah is our oldest. His heart is truly sincere. He is a deep thinker (like his dad) and change is hard for him.
A few weeks ago, we noticed some behavioral issues that were out of the norm. My husband asked Josiah what was bothering him and if there was anything that he'd like to pray about. Josiah gently whispered, "Dad, there's something that I need to tell you. Something that I've not told anyone since the tornado. Dad, I'm scared. What if we have a tornado here? Can we build a house with a secret tunnel so that we are able to escape when the house falls on us?"

My husband's heart sunk into his stomach. Four months have already passed and we had no idea of the post-traumatic stress that had affected Josiah.

Just last week, I went to a Bible Study and took Josiah to a friend's house because childcare only goes up to kids 5 & under. When I picked him up, I was told that he had been crying and just wanted to be with me. I had no idea what could've been bothering him.

We got to the van, and I asked, "Josiah, why were you sad? Did something happen?"

He cried in my arms and in between sobs, I heard, "Mom, you were gone. It was raining and I needed to be with you. I was scared that a tornado would come and you wouldn't be able to find me."

I held him tightly & cried, too. I began to realize one of the reasons why he has been so terrified. When the tornado hit, my husband and I were not home. We went to visit my mom in the ICU and were on the highway when we heard of the tornado. It took over 3 hours to get back to the kids whom we left with a sitter.

We weren't there and he was terrified.

I have spoken to our buddy who is a counselor. At first, I was filled with guilt and driving myself crazy with all of the 'what ifs'. Our friend assured us that Josiah is just now able to speak and understand the things that are bothering him. Like us, sometimes it takes some time to understand the core issue of our problems.

Our next step after a lot of prayer & talking with Josiah is to take a family trip. In a couple of weeks, we will be heading to Tulsa to visit family and then head our way up to Joplin, MO to see our friends. Some of Josiah's favorite places (like Chick-fil-a) have already rebuilt & are open for business. It will be great to take him to see his friends and to give him the reassurance that they are all okay.

Sometimes (okay, all the time), I want to keep my children from sadness & from feeling any fear, but I know that I can not. However, I know that when I am unable to comfort them, I rest assure in our Father who gives us peace, strength, and comfort in times of the storm. And I feel it an honor and a great task to teach our children about the One who we praise in times of raging storms and in times of still waters.

Father, I pray that they will always turn to you in times of sadness and in times of joy. May their little hearts hold tightly to Your Truth and be comforted in knowing that You will never leave them nor forsake them. Amen.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Oh, dear Pinterest!

Oh, how I love thee, dear Pinterest!

If you've not heard of it, here's the site's definition:

"Pinterest is a Virtual Pinboard. Pinterest lets you organize and share all the beautiful things you find on the web. People use pinboards to plan their weddings, decorate their homes, and organize their favorite recipes.

Best of all, you can browse pinboards created by other people. Browsing pinboards is a fun way to discover new things and get inspiration from people who share your interests. To get started, request an invite."

It is truly a wonderful resource to always keep busy, never be without an art project for the kids, and you can also spice up your dinner menu with just a few simple clicks!

Or as I have found.....

I have since decided to try my hand at making my own caramel! Doesn't this look yummy?!

Well, my pride has kept me from sharing this story with the world. I have shared it with a couple of friends just because I felt it was time to confess and to let go of my past mistake.

The directions are super simple!

Unopened can of condensed milk + 8 hours on low (completely submerged) in the crock pot + cool down in the fridge = CARAMEL!

Easy, right?!

I felt so good waking up early and getting things done around my house. I grabbed my crock pot, put in my can, turned it on low, covered it, and walked away. After about 3 hours, I heard some popping. I thought to myself, "I wonder if this is normal?". And then, BAM!

I heard the loudest explosion!! It was burnt & EVERYWHERE! I stood in shock as I looked on the ceiling, the cabinets, the decor, the floor, and the vents! I couldn't figure out what went wrong!

I cursed Pinterest thinking someone posted a cruel joke! So, I got online only to find out that I forgot to SUBMERGE the can in water!!!!

I have no more words......

Monday, July 18, 2011

Backyard Wedding

A couple of weeks ago, we found out that one kid's dad & his girlfriend were getting married. With seven kids between them, they were not able to plan a celebration.

While the child was visiting us, his Dad came over and invited us to their reception that would take place in 3 days. He said that they were just going to do some hamburgers and a few sides.

After Sergio and I talked, we decided that we'd like to help them in any way that we could. We've talked a lot about missional living and serving in our neighborhood and felt that this was our opportunity to love one of our neighbors.

Sergio got in touch with the members of our church to see if anyone was available to help set-up. Rob & Judy donated most of the meat that they had frozen & left over from the Fourth of July party. Paper goods, sides, & drinks were purchased.

For the decorations, Judy pulled together things she had in her home, fresh flowers from her mother-in-law's garden, as well as a few tables. (Thank you, Honey & Poo!)

I did not get a before shot, but we started with a blank slate. Rob set up most of the tables & helped us get things in order.

The family has 3 huge Boxers, so a few people cleaned up the yard.

I felt so blessed by Judy's giftedness of taking nothing and making it beautiful as well as Crystal's assertiveness to get the job done and to do it perfectly. I, honestly, would've stood there for a long time before making a decision! These two ladies are Rockstars!!

In the middle of one of the trees, this car hangs and is literally bolted to the tree with the largest chain that I've ever seen. It was not coming down. So, why not make it fun, right?! It was filled with ice & Capri Sun for the kids.

It was a great day as a church family. Although we don't really 'know' this family all that well, we were able to serve them with 'no strings attached'. We love them because He loves us.

We met a few of their family members and then most of us left the party. Crystal took my place (without even having to be asked!!) so that I could get back to our house guests. Sergio cooked the meat and was able to talk with a few of their guests.  They  were surprised & truly grateful.

If anything happened, it was that we served together as a family & blessed a bride and groom on their wedding day.

And you know, although Jesus did not come and turn water into wine this day....He came and turned a backyard into a beautiful reception.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Incarnational Living

These ancient words were written long before Jesus came and yet they describe in clear, and sometimes uncomfortably graphic, terms some of the struggles inherent in living an incarnational life.

My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?
Why are you so far from saving me,
so far from my cries of anguish?
2 My God, I cry out by day, but you do not answer,
by night, but I find no rest.

3 Yet you are enthroned as the Holy One;
you are the one Israel praises.
4 In you our ancestors put their trust;
they trusted and you delivered them.
5 To you they cried out and were saved;
in you they trusted and were not put to shame.

6 But I am a worm and not a man,
scorned by everyone, despised by the people.
7 All who see me mock me;
they hurl insults, shaking their heads.
8 “He trusts in the LORD,” they say,
“let the LORD rescue him.
Let him deliver him,
since he delights in him.”

9 Yet you brought me out of the womb;
you made me trust in you, even at my mother’s breast.
10 From birth I was cast on you;
from my mother’s womb you have been my God.

11 Do not be far from me,
for trouble is near
and there is no one to help.

12 Many bulls surround me;
strong bulls of Bashan encircle me.
13 Roaring lions that tear their prey
open their mouths wide against me.
14 I am poured out like water,
and all my bones are out of joint.
My heart has turned to wax;
it has melted within me.
15 My mouth[d] is dried up like a potsherd,
and my tongue sticks to the roof of my mouth;
you lay me in the dust of death.

16 Dogs surround me,
a pack of villains encircles me;
they pierce[e] my hands and my feet.
17 All my bones are on display;
people stare and gloat over me.
18 They divide my clothes among them
and cast lots for my garment.

19 But you, LORD, do not be far from me.
You are my strength; come quickly to help me.
20 Deliver me from the sword,
my precious life from the power of the dogs.
21 Rescue me from the mouth of the lions;
save me from the horns of the wild oxen.

22 I will declare your name to my people;
in the assembly I will praise you.
23 You who fear the LORD, praise him!
All you descendants of Jacob, honor him!
Revere him, all you descendants of Israel!
24 For he has not despised or scorned
the suffering of the afflicted one;
he has not hidden his face from him
but has listened to his cry for help.

25 From you comes the theme of my praise in the great assembly;
before those who fear you I will fulfill my vows.
26 The poor will eat and be satisfied;
those who seek the LORD will praise him—
may your hearts live forever!

27 All the ends of the earth
will remember and turn to the LORD,
and all the families of the nations
will bow down before him,
28 for dominion belongs to the LORD
and he rules over the nations.

29 All the rich of the earth will feast and worship;
all who go down to the dust will kneel before him—
those who cannot keep themselves alive.
30 Posterity will serve him;
future generations will be told about the Lord.
31 They will proclaim his righteousness,
declaring to a people yet unborn:
He has done it! (Psalm 22)

***Entire post taken from "The Tangible Kingdom Primer".

I'm ready to intentionalize every area of my life towards incarnational living.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Mom, Can I play with "B"?

Door bell rings. (I cringed) Josiah peeks out the window and shouts, "Mom, can I play with "B"?".

Usually, I don't mind having kids come in and out of our home. In the month that we've lived here, we've had kids over almost everyday. But, when it's "B", I tend to cringe a little.

"B" is a challenge for me. Don't get me wrong, he's a super sweet kid. We first met "B" the day that we moved in. Our son, Josiah, was thrilled. He made his first friend in a matter of minutes. I even said a silent prayer of gratitude to the Lord.

The first few times that he came over were okay. His voice is set on high volume most of the time. After spending time with "B", we've noticed some behavior that is not easy to handle.

"B" comes from a broken home. His parents are divorced and have split custody. His dad is living with his girlfriend and between them have a handful of children. It's a busy household with a lot of needs.

After speaking with his dad, we have come to find out that "B" has ADHD as well as some form of being overly aggressive and extremely disobedient.

As he gets comfortable with us, I have seen him raise his fist at my daughter, use harsh words to my son, and ignoring the rules of our home. On a number of occasions, I've had to just send him home.

In my mind, I tend to give myself a good excuse for not allowing him over. "I have four children of my own to try and raise up." "I can't have someone influencing my kids in a negative way." "I have to protect my children." All of my self-given excuses are good. We need to place boundaries in our lives, but is this the time to writeoff a 10 year old boy because of his occasional outbursts?

Two days ago, the boys in the neighborhood had a firework war with "Snappers".  "B" got upset over a Snap that was on the ground & picked up by Josiah. He began to yell & demand for it back. He stood over Josiah trying to scare & intimidate him. The 'momma bear' in me began to growl.

Lucky for him, my husband quickly stepped in. While trying to talk to "B", we could see on his face anger beyond description. He quickly went to a place far from reality. As Sergio began to grab his hand to take him home, he ran off.

Sergio walked down to "B's" home to speak with his dad who was firmly holding "B" to calm & control the episode. Sergio and "B's" dad have established a good relationship, so Sergio told him that he'd be back to talk.

We left for the fourth of July cookout held at our team leaders home. Thoughts of "B" filled my mind most of the night. What was I going to do? Josiah was scared and said several times, "did you see "B's" face". It was a difficult situation, but it was a teachable moment for our children.

After the cookout, we came home and sat outside with the neighbors during a fireworks show. The mom across the street told me that her kids are not to play with "B" and his family. She told me to be careful and that he was extremely aggressive. He has recently run over another neighbor kid with his bike, putting her in a cast from hip to ankle. He has no remorse. His response, "she should've moved."

I told her that I will be respectful of her rules and will have her kids come over when "B" and his family are not over.

There are many stories of "B" floating around the neighborhood. Should I be worried?

After a discussion with Sergio, we've decided to not look like the world. If we look like the others in our neighborhood, how will "B's" family know love? Our response is important to both his family and to our children. Our children are watching us and will know His love by the way we love.

We've decided to go ahead and continue to have this family over, but with limits. They can come over when Sergio is home. We will have extra eyes, ears, and hands to handle any outbursts that may pop up. We will not leave any of the children alone. We will stay with them while they play. If we are unable to do so, then it is not a good night for them to be over.

In doing so, we are living missionally. We are loving "B" and his family and we are putting up boundaries to protect our family.

I'm glad that we made this decision.

"B" came over today to play. But before doing so, he sincerely wanted to apologize to our family for his actions. What a wonderful opportunity to share God's love & forgiveness with him!

I'm sure that the outbursts will still come. At least now, we are ready.