Monday, June 24, 2013

God answers and then takes away...

"I am praying to you because I know you will answer, O God. 
Bend down and listen as I pray. 
Show me your unfailing love in wonderful ways. "
Psalm 17:6-7

It was a rainy night back in August 2005 when Sergio and I decided to pray for another child.

It had taken us a few years to have Josiah, and at this time, he was only 11 months old.

We knew we were ready to grow our family.

With tears in our eyes, we knelt down by our bedside and prayed.

"Lord, give us a child."

Sweetly embracing one another, we fell asleep in each other's arms.

5am came early that next morning.

We were awaken by the doorbell.

I had begun to nurse Josiah when Sergio walked out the door.

"Quien es?" He shouted.

You see, we were living in Mexico and had recently taken on the role of houseparents for 13 children.  The orphanage was inside a gated area.  The wall stood at least 13ft tall.

Sergio heard nothing.

So again he shouted, "Quien es?" or in English "Who is it?"

Nothing.

He began to turn around when he heard a whimper.

"Surely not", he thought.  For this was a sound far too familiar to him.

He climbed up the side of the wall and saw nothing.

As he climbed back down, he decided to open the door.

And there a life was laid on the rocky driveway.

A baby.

Sergio looked around and saw no one.

He gently swooped up the baby and brought him inside out of the rain.

"Jackie, you are not going to believe this.  It's a baby."

And in that moment, my heart was stolen.

He was beautiful.


I quickly noticed the afterbirth still on his head.

I opened up his thin blanket and saw his sweet (very long) umbilical cord.

The mother must of known nothing else, but to give her baby away in hopes for a better life.

I saw the bottle of apple juice with stuff floating inside.  "Did she give him apple juice to clean out his mouth?  Or to feed him?"  My chest ached as a new mother desiring to give nourishment to her baby.

Sergio made several calls that morning to see what we should do.

Since our doctor on staff was on the other side of the mountain and out of reach, we decided to take him to the clinic where Josiah was born.

It is a decision that still haunts me.

While we were there, I was able to cut his umbilical cord down and hold him as if he were mine.

But, he wasn't.

It wasn't soon after this that the authorities took him from us and placed him in an orphanage a few hours away.

All we had was his bottle & his ID number given to him by the state.


We knew of a missionary couple in the same town and asked them to visit him for us.

After their visitation, we were informed of his name, Cristian (Christian in English).

Sergio and I fought hard.  We sought out legal counsel.

Our knees bled in prayer.

After a period of time, we were asked to back off.  We were Americans.  We were stirring up things that we did not quite understand.

So, we had to say goodbye not knowing what would become of him.

We grieved.

We still grieve.

A lot.

It's been almost 8 years since that early August morning.

But, we still remember him for he took a piece of us that will never return.

We don't know what would've become of him.  He might have been given to another family on staff or taken in under the orphanage's care.  There are so many things that we do not know.

And I will be honest with you, I sometimes scream at God.

(Don't worry, in my weakness, He is made strong.)

He can handle my tantrums.

But, there are still times that I want to know why.....

Why would we pray for a child one night and the next morning a baby is placed at our doorstep?

Why, God?!

Thousands of times I've cried out to Him.

I've boldly demanded Him to answer me as if He hasn't already.

But, He has.  It just took me 8 years to hear Him.

He consistently speaks one word to me.

"Presence."

One word.  One powerful word that shouts of His glory.

For He is here.

He is present.

He is Emmanuel.

God with us to be Him towards others.

He calls us to open the door and pick up the helpless.

And in that wounded moment, He requires love.  Love others with His extreme love that begins by being present.

"Go be Me," He commands.

For I AM HERE.

And You are here.

Written & Taken By Donna Still


Be present in the lives of those who can not help themselves.

Be present in the lives of those who can not do it alone.

Be present right where you are.

You can do this.

For I am with you Always.


And I hold Cristian's bottle as tears fall from a wounded heart.

"Presence."












Monday, June 17, 2013

Beneath the Shallows...Psalm 42


"As the deer pants for streams of water, 
so my soul pants for you, O God.  
My soul thirsts for God, for the living God.  
When can I go and meet with God?"
Psalm 42:1-2

I feel it.  

It barely touches the tips of my toes.

And my soul suddenly begins to thirst for it's refreshment.

But, do I dare enter within?  


"My tears have been my food day and night, 
while men say to me all day long,
Where is your God?"
Psalm 42:3

I stand here on the shore, and loneliness won't let go of me.

Yet, the water is beckoning me to come in as if it knows my name.  

But, the fog of despair is too deep. 

Too deep to see you, O God.

My heart is heavy.  Almost too heavy to bear.

I am choking on my tears.


"These things I remember 
as I pour out my soul:
how I used to go with the multitude, 
leading the procession to the house of God,
with shouts of joy and thanksgiving
among the festive throng."
Psalm 42:4

There's a longing within that keeps ripping away my joy.

Little by little.

I search for contentment on the banks of dry land.

And then I hear my heart speak a voice that is not my own...

"Why are you downcast, O my soul?
Why so disturbed within me?
Put your hope in God, 
for I will yet praise him,
my Savior and my God.
My soul is downcast within me; 
therefore I will remember you
from the land of the Jordan,
the heights of Hermon-from Mount Mizar."
Psalm 42:5-6

Hope.  

With this one word, I step deeper into your streams of life.  

Hope.

Is it not more than an emotion?  

Can it be that hope is more of a discipline?

A discipline that determines to believe that You, O God, are who You say You are.  

That when trials come and the burdens seem to heavy to bear, that You, O God, can calm the storm.

With a single word, You can lift this fog and bring forth the sun.

In a single word, You can provide comfort when all seems lost.

Hope.

I must remember You in despair.

"Deep calls to deep
in the roar of your waterfalls;
all your waves and breakers have swept over me."
Psalm 42:7

You call me to step deeper.  

The pit of my stomach embraces the water as if Your arms surround me.

And I fall into Your embrace.


"By day the Lord direct his love, 
at night his song is with me-
a prayer to the God of my life."
Psalm 42:8

You say to me,

"I AM HERE."

But, where have you been, O God?

I have felt so alone in this world.

"I say to God my Rock,
'Why have you forgotten me?'
Why must I go about mourning, 
oppressed by the enemy?
My bones suffer mortal agony
as my foes taunt me,
saying to me all day long,
'Where is your God?'"
Psalm 42:9-10

Where were you when my heart cried until all was dried up?

And when I laid in my bed in agony, You have felt so far away. 

A whisper passes by me...

I NEVER LEFT YOU.

Lost in the fog, I don't hear Him.    

Where were you, God?

Again, I hear the voice within my heart say to me...

"Why are you downcast, O my soul?
Why so disturbed within me?
Put your hope in God,
for I will yet praise him, 
my Savior and my God."
Psalm 42:11

The fog of despair is deep and my heart is heavy.

Forgive me.

My hope IS with You, O God.

I must remember You.

For when the fog weighs heavy and all seems lost, I will look for You....

For you bring forth the light of day.

And I will praise You there.

I will praise You now.

I will praise You in this fog, my Savior and my God.




















Saturday, June 1, 2013

BIG NEWS for Operation Sleep Tight

Back in December, Josiah wanted to continue helping the homeless community in Nashville after all the sleeping bags were passed out.  I honestly didn't know where his heart would take our family.

If this is your first time hearing about Operation Sleep Tight, let me give a quick overview.

*Back in 2011, We had been regularly attending a Wednesday night church service that feeds the homeless community.  Josiah (he was 7yrs old at the time) began asking questions on where & how the homeless sleep during the winter months.   After not being pleased with my answers, he began to dream up Operation Sleep Tight.


*The first year, we discussed a goal of raising enough funds to purchase 10 sleeping bags.  Through the generous gifts of many donors, Josiah personally handed out 56 sleeping bags to the homeless community in Nashville.  When asked why he is doing this, he simply answered, "I want them to have hope."




*The following year, he partnered with 3 other families and together, the kids raised and handed out 148 sleeping bags!  That makes 204 sleeping bags since 2011!!



The lessons learned from Operation Sleep Tight have been life changing.

We have made friends with many that received sleeping bags.



One of which has become a part of our family.

We have visited two separate tent cities and learned about their culture.



Our children are learning through experience that it is better to give than to receive.



I pray we are raising a generation that seeks to change the world for God's glory.

Operation Sleep Tight is the children's ministry with parental supervision.  They raise the funds, receive the bags, and pass out each sleeping bag.



AND NOW FOR THE BIG NEWS....

A few months ago, Josiah mentioned about purchasing a camper and becoming a "mobile site" for the homeless community.  He has dreams of passing out water, lemonade, undergarments, and even putting in a generator to provide a way for the homeless community to charge their cell phones.  His dreams are as big as his heart.

As his mother, I didn't know how far I should allow his dreams to grow.  So, I looked at him and asked him to pray.  And so we did.  It wasn't a daily prayer, but we did pray often.  Josiah and I discussed options and I allowed him to dream out loud.

One of my Facebook friends that I met once here in Nashville liked a company called "Fine Designs Camper Sales".  It popped up on my news feed, so I thought, "why not?!"  and I liked them, too.

I prayed a few times with Josiah and felt the Lord saying that it was time to email this company.  After corresponding and talking to the mother of the company, we decided to purchase a 1969 Shasta camper.  However, our family did not have the funds to purchase it, so we prayed.  Through a HUGE donation from our church, Reunion Christian Community, the camper is PAID IN FULL!

And she is a BEAUTY!


Here are the plans for Operation Sleep Tight's camper:

1.  We will work on painting the outside & inside of the camper.
2.  Since it is already gutted, we will work on building shelves to hold and store supplies.
3.  Sergio and Josiah will work on a survey to ask at least 40 homeless people what their needs are and how Operation Sleep Tight can help.  Once the surveys are compiled, we will review them and raise funds for their needs.
4.  Purchase a mini fridge to keep inside the camper.
5.  We are currently praying for funds to purchase a cheap vehicle that will transport the mobile site to different locations.

We are all very excited to share this news with you all.  We would covet your prayers!

If you would like to partner with Operation Sleep Tight in any way, please feel free to email me at jacqueline.rizo@gmail.com.

If you'd like to donate, you can do so through our church's website and Paypal account.  Simply add "Operation Sleep Tight" into the memo.

Click here to go to the PAYPAL account.

All checks can be sent to:

Operation Sleep Tight
C/O Reunion Christian Community
PO Box 281075
Nashville, TN 37228

Checks payable to Reunion Christian Community with "Operation Sleep Tight" in the memo.

We look forward to documenting the camper renovations and updating you all with our progress.  It is sure to be an adventure and we are excited to see where the Lord takes us & what He teaches us.

"We love because He first loved us."  
1 John 4:19